“St. Trinian’s” Titles

St. Trinians

The Submarine Channel’s subsite Forget the Films, Watch the Titles has posted the opening titles to the recent live-action film St. Trinian’s, based on Ronald Searle‘s classic print cartoons. Title was designed and directed by Paul Donnellon and animated by Petria Whelan. It looks like a low-budget job and points to how difficult it is to capture the spirit of Searle’s drawings in animation. Searle has been faithfully translated into animated form before, as in the 1957 industrial cartoon Energetically Yours and various commercials from the 1960s, but it requires a sensitivity for design and draftsmanship that isn’t evident in these titles.

The Life of a Disney Secretary

Carolyn Kay Shafer border=

Disneyana collector and historian David Lesjak has done a remarkable bit of investigation into the life of Carolyn Kay Shafer. Who you ask? Shafer was one of Walt Disney’s first secretaries in the early-1930s, married Frank Churchill (composer of classic songs like “Whistle While You Work” and “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?”), and died in 1977 penniless and nearly blind. There’s enough twists and turns in her life worthy of a soap opera.

(via Disney History)

Afternoon of Remembrance

Once each year, at the DeMille Barn in Hollywood, the Animation Guild, ASIFA Hollywood and Women In Animation present An Afternoon of Remembrance, “a non-denominational celebration of departed friends from our animation community”. This year it takes place this Saturday, February 7th, at 1pm. Tributes will be paid to:

John Ahern, Gus Arriola, Phyllis Barnhart, Gordon Bellamy, Harriet Burns, Greg Burson, John W. Burton, Jr., Vivian Byrne, Joyce Carlson, Bob Carr, Rose Di Bucci, Charlie Downs, Ray Ellis, Joni Jones Fitts, Etsuko Fujioka, Steve Gerber, Fernando Gonzalez, Yoo Sik Ham, Larry Harmon, Margie Hermanson, Ollie Johnston, Ted Key, Eartha Kitt, Andy Knight, Harvey Korman, Lyn Kroeger, Brice Mack, Bill Melendez, David Mitton, Gary Mooney, Jim Mueller, June Nam, Ethan Ormsby, Bill Perez, Richard Pimm, Oliver Postgate, Denis Rich, Dodie Roberts, Irma Rosien, Gerard Salvio, Gina Sheppherd, Robert Smith, Jim Snider, Al Stetter, Dave Stevens, Morris Sullivan, Emru Townsend, Pat Raine Webb, Chiyoko Wergles, Bob Winquist and Justin Wright.

The Afternoon of Remembrance is free of charge and is open to all. No RSVPs necessary. Food and refreshments, 1 pm * Memoriams, 2 pm
Hollywood Heritage Museum (Lasky-DeMille Barn)
2100 N. Highland (across from Hollywood Bowl), Hollywood, California.

Don’t Forget the Classic Looney Tunes (and Merrie Melodies)!

In case you haven’t noticed, the classic Warner Bros. cartoons are nowhere to be seen on broadcast television or on cable. It’s been that way for a while (except for the New Years marathon on Cartoon Network). Folks (like us) on animation blogs and forums can bitch about it all day long — but does it mean anything to an average person? Has anyone in the “real world” noticed their absence?

This article, written by the local movie reviewer in Great Falls, Montana, provides an answer. Listen up, network execs: People still want their Looney Tunes back on TV where they belong.

(Thanks, David Gerstein)

The Secret of Kells trailer

Buena Vista International (aka Disney division that acquires material like The Secret of The Magic Gourd and Roadside Romeo) is distributing a stylish hand drawn/2D feature from Ireland’s Cartoon Saloon (the creators of Skunk Fu):

The Secret of Kells opens March 6th in Ireland. Chalk this up as another intriguing animated feature with, sad to say, little or no chance of being seen in the United States.

(Thanks, Matthew Gaastra)

Cartoon Brew TV: Superman’s Secret Cartoon History

Did you know George Pal and Bill Tytla animated Superman during the the Golden Age of animation or that Bob Clampett was the first animation cartoonist to spoof the Man of Steel? Jerry Beck is back this week to take us deep into the “Brew Vaults” with a look at the rarely discussed animated history of the Man of Steel. Head on over to Cartoon Brew TV to hear Jerry’s thoughts about Superman’s many animated incarnations!

Cartoon Brew TV #18: Superman’s Secret Cartoon History

This week we open the Brew Vaults to examine the various ways the world’s first super-hero was animated, portrayed and even lampooned in the years between his comic book inception (1938) and prior to the iconic live-action TV show of the 1950s.

Jerry Beck first provides a running audio commentary over scenes from the classic Max Fleischer Superman cartoons, then uses rare film clips to trace how the character was interpreted by other Hollywood animators–some authorized, others unauthorized.

Superman was one of the most famous American creations of the 20th Century. The first true comic book super-star and a cultural icon, the caped character quickly leapt from ten cent comic books to daily newspaper stardom and a popular radio show. Then Hollywood called. Republic Pictures tried to license him for a twelve chapter serial, but Paramount placed a higher bid and the Man of Steel became a cartoon pioneer–the first science fiction adventure cartoon, setting the bar for all action animation to come.

Naturally, Warner Bros. was the first studio to spoof Superman. Bob Clampett painted him as a buffoon in Goofy Groceries (released March 29th 1941), a Merrie Melodies cartoon. Terrytoons came up with a parody, casting our superhero as a mouse in The Mouse of Tomorrow (1942). This proved so popular several sequels were produced, leading to a full-fledged series of Mighty Mouse cartoons. Chuck Jones kidded the Superman legend using Bugs Bunny as his Super Rabbit (Warner Bros.) in 1943.

Paramount, the studio who paid handsomely for the rights to Superman, used the character in trio of animated shorts after the 17 Fleischer/Famous Studio masterpieces. First, they created a classic Popeye cartoon, She Sick Sailors (1944), which cast a star struck Olive Oyl, smitten with the Man of Steel, as the object of affection between her rival Supermen, Popeye and Bluto. Next they allowed George Pal to use the famed red & blue costume and shield in a Puppetoon short–A Hatful Of Dreams (1945)–as little Punchy dreams himself as Superman to win the heart of beautiful Judy. Finally, a strange combination of two comic strip legends, as Little Lulu defeats a fairy tale giant as Super Lulu (1947), a cartoon directed by the legendary Bill Tytla.

In 1948, Superman was personified in a weekly live action movie serial by actor Kirk Alyn. The Sam Katzman chapterplays (Superman in 1948, Atom Man Vs. Superman in 1950) were produced on the cheap. Unable to come up with a low cost way to make his actor fly, Katzman turned to cartoon animation. Director Howard Swift (Fantasia) set up his own commercial animation studio shortly after the Screen Gems studio shut down (Swift was a director there) and was brought in to add several shots of Superman in flight. You decide whether he succeeded or not; it didn’t fool any of the kids in the audience.

These odds & ends of super-minutiae from the 1940s reflect the fame and popularity of the character’s early years. Superman has been a TV hero, a movie star and a staple of animation programming almost continuously since his creation, as this episode from the Brew Vaults aptly demonstrates.

(Thanks to Steve Stanchfield for recording the commentary track, and Randall Kaplan for sound and picture editing.)

The Annie Winners

Friday night the Annie Awards were presented at UCLA’s Royce Hall. The complete list of winners are posted here.

It was quite an evening, with Kung Fu Panda winning almost everything it was nominated for – including Best Animated Feature. Robot Chicken and Avatar: The Last Airbender were also big winners. Futurama: The Beast With A Billion Backs won for best direct-to-video. There were several memorable moments, including Billy Crystal giving John Lasseter his Winsor McCay award and likewise Henry Selick (pictured, above left) handing Nick Park (above right) his lifetime achievement statue. Tom Kenny was hilarious as our M.C. and other great presenters included Fred Willard, Brad Garrett, Seth Green, James Hong and Ahmed Best (Jar Jar Binks).

It’ll be interesting to see if an Annie sweep for Panda will have any affect on Academy voters.

Gulliver’s Travels on DVD

Though Max Fleischer’s Gulliver’s Travels in public domain and widely available on several home video formats, the film has never been digitally restored to its full potential. Unfortunetly, the company with access to the original negative and soundtrack elements is not interested in restoring it and making it available on DVD.

However, a company called KOCH Vision is releasing a “digitally restored, re-mastered and enhanced” edition on both Blu-ray and standard DVD versions on March 10th. According to their press release, the DVD will include:

…the complete 77 minute feature film, two “Gabby” cartoons edited from the film’s outtakes and a Fleischer Studios “Making of a Cartoon” documentary.

KOCH Vision attained the original 35mm film and not only restored and re-mastered the film using a state-of-the-art digital process, but also enhanced the picture to a 16×9 aspect ratio. In addition, the DVD allows for three audio options: the restored original soundtrack, enhanced stereo, and 5.1 Dolby digital surround sound. Both bonus cartoons and documentary have also been restored, making the KOCH Vision version of Gulliver’s Travels a must-own for fans of classic animation and children of all ages.

I’ll withhold judgement on whether this release is a good thing or not till I see this dvd myself… but “enhancing” the picture to a wide 16×9 screen ratio, and remixing the track for surround sound, are not my ideas of restoration. To some, this might be a desecration. And the box art, designed to resemble a Disney Platinum Edition, looks like a scam. Someone needs to revive Fleischer’s Gulliver and Mr. Bug, but until the corporation with the ability to do it correctly realizes what they own, this is all we can expect. I applaud KOCH for making an effort. Let’s hope they do justice to this long neglected classic.