Disney Limited!

I don’t keep up with the world of limited edition animation art – in fact, I’m not sure how large that market is anymore. Chris Jackson of Acme Archives just sent me some information on their latest offerings and I like what I see. My favorite pieces are these two black and white silent era limiteds – the first (above) from Plane Crazy (150 of those) and an Oswald Rabbit from Rival Romeos (pictured below, only 95 of those). I can’t afford them, but they are cool.

Tomorrow, Acme is launching DisneyStudioArt.com, but the site is up and running now. There they are offering original production art from The Jungle Book, Robin Hood, The Little Mermaid and several others. Acme is also producing two extremely limited (only 23 pieces each) hand-painted cels, offered through the new D23 site. One from the 1933 Mickey Mouse short, The Mad Doctor and the vaulted Song of the South. It’s just nice knowing the company is aware of these titles.

A Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass Double Feature

In response to Amid’s earlier post on Oscar Winning shorts, Tom Knott located the extremely rare Oscar winning John Hubley cartoon, A Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass Double Feature (released by Paramount in 1966). Written and Produced by John and Faith Hubley and animated by Gerard Baldwin, Phil Duncan, Emery Hawkins, Barrie Nelson, Rod Scribner and Ed Smith. Enjoy!

(Thanks, Tom Knott)

The Warner Archive Collection

Starting today, Warner Bros. begins opening their film vaults by making hundreds of previously unavavilable movies available on DVD. For $19.95, Warner’s will ship a made-to-order DVD, in a shrink-wrapped case with cover art, to customers within five days of purchase. These films will only be available through Warner’s website, WarnerArchive.com – not on amazon, not at Wal-Mart, nowhere else. The first 150 feature films in this initiative are now listed. You can also order each film as a computer download for $14.95. More details on this “movies-on-demand” project are discussed in today’s LA Times.

What does this have to do with classic animation? Warner Home Video Sr. VP George Feltenstein is behind this project. I’ve been told Warner’s will eventually make available its shorts (Joe McDoakes, anyone?), TV series (Marine Boy, perhaps?), and cartoons (Happy Harmonies??) in this program. Plans for animation collections are being brainstormed now… Any suggestions?

Monday Morning Inspiration: Three Oscar-Winning Shorts

Here’s a delightful way to begin the week. Cartoon Brew reader Saturnome writes:

Your post last week featuring Bob Godfrey’s Great made me realize how some of the animated film Oscar winners are nowhere to be found on the Internet. I have uploaded some of the rarest ones: “Is It Always Right To Be Right?,” “The Box,” and “Leisure.” It’s all on my YouTube page. From what I know, this make “Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass Double Feature” the only Oscar-winning short I haven’t seen anywhere around.

For convenience, I’ve also embedded the videos below. Thank you, Saturnome!

The Box (1967) directed by Fred Wolf

Is It Always Right To Be Right? (1970) directed by Lee Mishkin with design by Corny Cole and narration by Orson Welles

Leisure (1976) by Bruce Petty

LA Filmforum to screen Animated Documentaries

Los Angeles Filmforum is a local organization that regularly screens experimental and avant-garde films, documentaries, and animation. They’ve just announced two programs of animated documentaries, April 5 & 13, presented in two different locations.

Part 1 is on Sunday night April 5, at 7:00 pm at the Egyptian Theatre (6712 Hollywood Blvd at Las Palmas) and deals with biographical profiles and interviews. It features recent animated shorts by Marie-Josee Saint Pierre, Nanette Burstein and Bob Sabiston, among others.

Part 2 is on Monday April 13, 8:00 pm at the Silent Movie Theatre (611 N Fairfax Avenue), and will present The Sinking of the Lusitania (1916) by Winsor McKay, Enter Life (1982) by Faith Hubley, Disney’s Toot, Whistle, Plunk and Boom! (1953), Never like the First Time (2005) by Jonas Odell, among others. More info here.

MGM Cartoons: Altered and Reissued

Cartoon historian David Gerstein has been rummaging through the Library of Congress and has come up with the dialogue cutting continuities for several MGM cartoons and has noticed discrepancies between the films as they exist today, and these original copyright documents. As noted on Cartoon Brew back in June 2005, MGM not only retitled their cartoon shorts for reissue, but would go in and edit out or reanimate topical gags for rerelease. These copyright cutting continuities are important because they describe scenes and gags which no longer exist. Due to a vault fire in the 1970s, the original negatives for the pre-1951 MGM cartoons no longer exist. Unless rare nitrate projection prints are found, these documents are now the only record of the original films.

Thad Komorowski has just posted the continuity for Avery’s Dumb Hounded. Compare it to the re-release version of the cartoon itself to note the differences. Apparently a whole new opening sequence was added. Thanks to David, for sharing his diligent research with the animation community. Now I’m wondering if that fabled “marriage ending” to Red Hot Riding Hood is in the original release?

The Dumpster Diver Dan Show

This month our foul mouthed puppet companion, Dumpster Diver Dan (above right), has negotiated co-hosting deal with Moodsy the Clinically Depressed Owl (above left), much to the dismay of Compost Brite (not pictured). Yup, this is another plug for our live and local monthly laff-fest, Cartoon Dump. We’ll have a bunch of funny skits, new songs, awful old animated films from the 1950s and 60s and special guest comedian Lizzie Cooperman — Tuesday March 24th, 8pm at the Steve Allen Theater, 4773 Hollywood Blvd. (two blocks west of Vermont). Map here, reserve tickets here.

From Dime To Dime (1960)

If it’s Saturday, it must be time for another obscure 1960s cartoon that, for one reason or other, was never released to TV. Today we have another Paramount Modern Madcap that showcases an adult vice – in this case, gambling.

From Dime To Dime is the story of a Las Vegas loser who listens to his “conscience” (personified as a little green man) and gambles his last dime, to have seemingly the luckiest day of his life. There is almost nothing really funny in this cartoon – it’s more of an anti-gambling morality play than anything else. The background designs by Robert Owen are worth noting, because that’s the best thing in it. Harvey Comics acquired this picture from Paramount for use on their ABC-TV New Casper Cartoon Show but, like The Plot Sickens and In The Nicotine, felt it was inappropriate for kids. A suicide gag at the conclusion didn’t help its chances for Saturday morning broadcast.

Only a short excerpt from this film appears on the Harveytoons: the Complete Collection dvd set – so, for the sake of animation history, here is the entire cartoon:

Chuck Jones: Memories of Childhood

Chuck Jones

Set your Tivos! Next Tuesday, March 24, is the premiere of Chuck Jones: Memories of Childhood, a half-hour documentary on Turner Classic Movies. The film airs at 8pm (ET) followed by eleven Jones shorts and the feature-length The Phantom Tollbooth. Memories of Childhood, directed by Peggy Stern, is based on interviews with Jones from 1997. The documentary also includes new animated sequences by John Canemaker that bring to life moments in Jones’s childhood, as well as clips from his films and archival materials. To anybody familiar with the Jones autobiographies, the documentary won’t shed a whole lot of new light onto his early years (the biggest revelation is that he was physically abused by his father). Nevertheless, it’s a lovely presentation that’s enjoyable to watch and serves as a solid introduction to the master animation director.

For another viewpoint on the documentary, see this review in the NY Press by C. Edwards, which says:

The scenes with Jones, which feel like snippets that didn’t make it into a larger interview, are inter-cut with simple pieces of animation directed by award winner John Canemaker. Designed to draw parallels between Jones’ words and his career, the “newly animated” segments would be overshadowed by the work of Jones, which is probably why they show so little of it.

If you go to the linked review above, there’s also a lengthy response from Jones’s grandson Craig Kausen, who offers his take on the documentary.

The two heads of Gulliver


Last night I had a great time catching up with one of my favorite animated features of all time, Max Fleischer’s Gulliver’s Travels (1939). However, it was not to the newly released Koch restored version we mentioned in this post last month.

I started watching the Koch DVD (they sent me a review copy) and I must admit, for a minute or so I was delighted with the crystal clear soundtrack and the brighter picture. But right away, during the opening shipwreck sequence I could tell something was wrong. I pulled out my one-dollar public domain copy to compare — and upon examination here’s what I concluded: #1 The Koch version squeezed the original 1:66 screen ratio to a 1:85 “letterbox” picture. All the picture information is there, but flattened – all the characters are squat, fatter. #2 The Koch restoration removed frames from the animation. The characters move less fluid in the Koch version. This is particularly noticeable in any fast moving action or dancing sequences. Like the Ladd “colorization” shorts, it must have been cheaper to “clean up” less frames, and digitize the movie “on threes” (to keep sync with the soundtrack). #3 The DVNR has softened the picture, particularly blurring the elaborate background paintings.

I don’t have a perfect copy of the film to compare this “restoration” to – but I do have production stills (in black & white). These are photographs of the original cels and backgrounds, released for publicity purposes in 1939. Below (click thumbnails to see enlarged images) compare the black & white still of a cel (center, below) with a color frame (left, below) from the Koch DVD. Note how everything in the color frame is now squat and fuzzy.

If you want to see more frame grabs and the technical specs from the Koch version, head on over to DVDbeaver/HD Sensei, or get a second opinion over at The Blu-Ray Blog. Me – I’ll keep enjoying the copy I bought for a buck, and hope that someday the original neg is restored by the corporation that holds it. In the meantime, while I’m in my Gulliver mood, I’ve taken the occasion to post an excellent four page publicity story from Good Housekeeping (click thumbnails below to read). Enjoy!

MouthOff

Lots of interesting new animation-related iPhone apps are being released, and I’m going try and write about as many as I can on the Brew. Mouthoff is an iPhone app that applies a crude animated lip-sync to voice inputs into the phone. It’s kind of like Clutch Cargo in reverse–instead of cartoons with human mouths, it’s real people with cartoon mouths. It can be downloaded for $1 from the iTunes store. Here’s an example of how it works:

(Thanks, Rob)

M. Wartella Animation on Xavier: Renegade Angel

Wartella

Cartoonist M. Wartella (Wonder Showzen, Superjail!) created a stylish Aztec-art inspired two-minute segment for tonight’s episode of Xavier: Renegade Angel on Adult Swim. The segment is previewed below. Wartella discusses his creative process and offers a short ‘how-to animate’ video in this interview on Cold Hard Flash (if only creating animation was as easy for the rest of us).

Annecy 2009: The Year Shorts Went Mainstream

Annecy 09

The official selections have been announced for the 2009 Annecy International Animated Film Festival. Of particular interest is to see how many films in the shorts category have already been hits on-line. There’s Muto’s wall-painted animation Blu, PES’s Western Spaghetti, David O’Reilly’s Please Say Something, and Takena Nagao’s Chainsaw Maid, which is probably not even eligible since it’s from 2007. The music video category also includes the Rex the Dog music video “Bubblicious.”

Can anybody point to a short film from, let’s say Annecy in 1985, that was seen by millions of people at the time of its release. This year’s competition program offers numerous shorts that fall into that category and it’s exciting as hell. Even a decade ago, animated shorts remained a fringe-culture oddity seen by a relative handful in festivals and touring-compilations. Thanks to the Internet though, independent animation has been lifted out of the cultural ghetto and is quick becoming as visible and mainstream as it was during the Golden Age of theatrical animation when shorts preceded feature films.

What we are seeing are the beginnings of a new age of animated shorts, an age where short-form animation is an integral part of the cultural mainstream. As shorts increase their visibility, more and more people will see them and be inspired to create their own, which is great news for everybody, except for animation festivals like Annecy which must begin to rethink their roles or face the risk of irrelevancy. Festivals are no longer in a position to introduce these films to the audience because there’s a good chance the audience has already seen them. Therefore, festivals must find new ways to add value to their programming, whether through creating connections between the rich history of the art form and the contemporary shorts movement, or looking to the future and bringing understanding to where all of this is headed. Most importantly, they could begin to serve as a focal gathering point for artists and businesspeople who want to help one another make money from the animation that is being produced.

The Harvey Girls

Going on sale sometime within the next month is the fifth volume (our last, for now) of my and Leslie Cabarga’s Harvey Comics Classics from Dark Horse Books. Previous volumes were devoted to Casper the Friendly Ghost, Richie Rich, Hot Stuff and Baby Huey. The latest one is entitled The Harvey Girls and features the exploits of Harvey’s famous female trio: Little Audrey, Little Dot and Little Lotta.

The book contains more great artwork from animator Steve Muffatti and cartoonist Warren Kremer. Personally, I think it’s some of the best comic art ever produced. Speaking of which, I’m coming to New York on Friday April 17th to give a lecture on the history of Harvey Comics and it’s connection to Paramount’s Famous Studios. It’ll be at MoCCA, on the final weekend of the Harvey Comics exhibit there. Mark the date, though I’ll do another post when we get closer to remind you. In the meantime, check out our great new book, The Harvey Girls.

Dance Stars of American Animation

New Yorkers, here’s a heads-up on a free program this week at The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center. Forever Young: Dance Stars of American Animation will be discussed this Thursday night, March 19, at 6 p.m. at the Bruno Walter Auditorium, 111 Amsterdam Avenue (south of 65th Street).

Mindy Aloff, author of Hippo in a Tutu: Dancing in Disney Animation, will discuss the subject of dancing in historic American animation with dance legend Marge Champion and animation historian (and Oscar-winning director-animator) John Canemaker. Among their topics will be Ms. Champion’s early work as a live-action reference dancer and choreographer for Walt Disney’s animated features Snow White and Fantasia, Gene Kelly and Jerry Mouse’s duet in Anchors Aweigh, and Betty Boop’s Poor Cinderella for Max Fleischer. Film excerpts will be shown. Admission is free and on a first come, first served basis. For additional information and program updates, telephone 212.642.0142 or visit the New York Public Library website.

Post Script: I’ve neglected to mention Aloff’s book, Hippo in a Tutu, before now – and that’s been my mistake. It’s an entertaining, excellent read and I recommend it highly. Lavishly illustrated and well-researched, Aloff focuses in on an important, but critically neglected, part of the classic Disney features and shorts. Deserves a prime spot on your bookshelf.

Executive Notes for One Froggy Evening

Toronto live-action screenwriter Denis McGrath imagines what kind of notes today’s industry executives might give to Chuck Jones’ classic Warner Bros. cartoon One Froggy Evening. They are all too real. Samples from his blog:

re: the frog. Have you done research on Frog’s lifespans? Does it track that this frog could survive from 1892 to 2056? Is his long lifespan tied into his ability to sing?

Do they allow mental patients to keep pet frogs? Is it a companion animal thing? Will have to explain this, I think. The audience will want to know.

Read the whole piece on McGrath’s Dead Things On Sticks blog.

(Thanks, Warren Leonhardt)

Up is Down by Millie Goldsholl

It’s exciting when you’re introduced to the work of a filmmaker that you’ve never heard about, such as last weekend when I stumbled upon Millie Goldsholl’s powerful and beautiful 1969 short Up is Down. Now the question I find myself asking is why hadn’t I heard of her before.

She wrote, designed and directed the film by herself. Millie, with her husband Morton, ran Goldsholl Associates, a commercial/graphic design and animation studio in Chicago. Her husband’s name is actually quite familiar to me as he was a well-known mid-century graphic designer, but I had no idea that both he and his wife were also filmmakers.

The only information I could dig up online about their animation practice was in a couple of blog posts that Michael Sporn had on his blog recently–a 1975 article from Millimeter Magazine and a few more details from a 1976 article from the same magazine.

Morton and Millie made numerous short films during the Sixties. One of Mort’s live-action efforts, about the history of paper, is also available for viewing online. From the info on this website, we can deduce that Morton and Millie most likely attended the School of Design in Chicago, which was run by Hungarian-born Bauhaus instructor László Moholy-Nagy. Together, the Goldsholls were making film experiments as early as 1942. They appear to have been a fascinating couple and I hope to learn more about them in the future.

Millard Kaufman, RIP

Millard Kaufman

Millard Kaufman, the Hollywood screenwriter who was instrumental in the creation of Mister Magoo, passed away last Saturday at age 92. The LA Times provides an informative obituary. He received a story credit on the first Magoo short Ragtime Bear in 1949, and along with John Hubley, is considered to be one of the primary architects of the character. In addition to the Magoo short, he co-wrote the UPA Fox and Crow short Punchy de Leon with Phil Eastman, and if I’m not mistaken, he also wrote a number of military training films (uncredited) for UPA during the 1940s.

In memory, here is the short Ragtime Bear:

My Name Is Dug

The Pixar “Art of” books are always a treat, and next to that the Little Golden Books and various tie-in publications always feature incredible art, frequently by Pixar artists and designers themselves.

Pixar’s Ronnie Del Carmen discusses and previews his UP book, My Name Is Dug on his blog. It looks gorgeous – and has me doubly excited about the feature film that inspired it. The book comes out on April 14th.

Where Cartoon Brew Readers Work and Study

Last weekend marked the 5th anniversary of the Cartoon Brew blog. I thought it might be fun to celebrate by looking at who’s reading the blog nowadays, especially since we’ve been experiencing record-breaking site traffic since the beginning of the year. After examining the reports on Google Analytics (something which I’d never bothered to do in-depth before), I learned that the majority of visits to Cartoon Brew come through Internet service providers, which means that we have no idea of the company or educational affiliations of those readers. However, a not-insignificant percentage of readers visit from their jobs or schools and this is the data we’ll be looking at today.

In the period between January 1st and March 15, the top private corporate network that we received visitors from was Pixar, followed closely by DreamWorks, Disney, Viacom (Nickelodeon), Blue Sky, Turner (Cartoon Network), Laika and Electronic Arts. As far as schools go, the biggest traffic came from CalArts folllowed by Savannah College of Art and Design, School of Visual Arts, Ringling and Sheridan. In this two-and-a-half month period, Pixar employees snagged the top spot by logging over 3,700 visits. Averaged out to a daily figure, it amounts to quite a few readers emanating from just one company.

Some other surprises: There are a lot more readers at videogame companies than I knew we had. There are also lots of colleges and universities on the list that don’t have well-known animation programs, but apparently have significant numbers of students who are interested in animation. The amount of traffic we receive from people working at the cable channel Starz Encore is also perplexing. I have no idea why we’re so popular over there.

The list of the top 86 private networks driving traffic to the Brew can be seen after the jump. To keep it manageable, I’ve limited the survey to only companies/schools that have logged 100 or more visits between January and March. (Note: I took the info straight from an Analytics report so I apologize that the network names are uncapitalized.)

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