Send a Canadian to CalArts

A lot of young artists apply to CalArts and get rejected. But what happens if you’re accepted into the prestigious program and can’t afford to attend? That’s the situation that 25-year-old Canadian artist Dan Caylor finds himself in after receiving a letter of acceptance last week.

Dan writes on his website, “Unfortunately, my family isn’t rich, and being from Canada, I’m not eligible for any government loans or funding. With a price tag of $200,000, I’ll need all the help I can get. I’m doing everything I can to make my dream a reality, including asking everyone for anything they can spare. Desperate times call for desperate measures. If enough people can help me, I can turn my bittersweet acceptance letter into the beginning of a dream come true. Every penny counts.”

After looking at his blog, it’s obvious that Dan is not only a talented artist, but that he’s also a passionate student of animation, its history, and understanding the individual elements that comprise successful filmmaking (storytelling, shot selection, staging, movement, design, etc.). His blog is also a nice resource for other artists offering excerpts from Don Graham’s classic book Composing Pictures and high-quality video of Michael Caine discussing his acting techniques.

This is the first time I’ve ever seen a student post a public appeal for funds to attend CalArts. And it would be a shame if he couldn’t attend, especially after reading about all the effort that Dan made to get accepted into the program. So Cartoon Brew is not only going to encourage donations, but on behalf of Jerry and myself, we’re throwing $40 into the pot to get Dan started on the road to Valencia. Find out how to give a few bucks to the cause at OnAnimation.com.

The Stubborn Cowboy (1967)

When Shamus Culhane took over the creative controls of the Paramount Animation Studio in 1966, he clearly understood the opportunity he had in front of him. As head of a small animation studio, he was charged with producing a slate of cartoons for the dying theatrical shorts market. But unlike Warner Bros. who had The Road Runner and Daffy Duck, or Universal with Woody Woodpecker and DePatie Freleng’s Pink Panther, Culhane’s studio had no established characters. This handicap gave him the chance to try some original ideas, and he knew it.

Possibly the best of the shorts he produced there was My Daddy The Astronaut (1966), but the idea of a kid narrating a cartoon drawn in a child’s scrawl wasn’t new. UPA had done it (The Family Circus, Baby Boogie), Porky Pig (Porky’s Preview) and Popeye (Cartoons Ain’t Human) tried it, even Paramount under the previous creative director Howard Post did it – adapting Jack Mendelsohn’s comic strip Jacky’s Diary in several shorts.

My Daddy The Astronaut, according to Culhane’s autobiography (Talking Animals and Other People), was a success with audiences and was supposedly booked with first run engagements of 2001: a Space Odyssey. Culhane decided to do a series of cartoons based on the same kid drawn concept. In his book he says they were all popular, but in my opinion the two sequels, The Stuck-Up Wolf and The Stubborn Cowboy are not as clever as the original.

As far as I know The Stubborn Cowboy never played on TV. Nickelodeon didn’t run it due to the use of now-considered-negative stereotypes of native Americans (aka Indians), references to drinking, gun violence and a parody of a cigarette commercial. Culhane wrote it and Chuck Harriton directed it. Al Eugster animated the whole film from Gil Miret designs. Listen for a gag-reference to veteran Paramount animator William Pattingill. It’s cute and rare – and worth a look:

Oswald old and new

Our pal Ruben Procopio has just posted images of his sculpt for a forthcoming Walt Disney/Oswald Rabbit statue, for the Disney Classics Collection. Beautiful job, Ruben!

Meanwhile, Brew reader Tammy Tatro sent us this link to these photos of an obscure piece of vintage Oswald merchandise.

“My Dad brought over a box of my late Grandfathers old belongings and when my Mom was going through it she pulled out “a rabbit that looks like Mickey” to show my niece. Upon hearing that I looked over and grabbed it out of her hand and sure enough it seems to be a vintage Oswald The Lucky Rabbit Christmas Ornament. I have looked and looked on-line but have not seen anything like it but I think it dates circa 1929-early 1930′s. I also have no idea how much it is worth or when or where it was originally purchased.”

It’s a new one on me. Perhaps our readers can tell us more about this item.

Magoo’s Christmas Carol book

I’m pleased to report that Darrell Van Citters’s book on the making of Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol has now gone to press. If all goes well, advance copies will be available at the 2009 San Diego Comic Con, July 23-26 with a wide release in the fall. Darrell has been at work on this labor of love for several years and when he couldn’t secure a satisfactory publisher, he decided to go the self-publishing route. Events to support the book launch are in the works on both coasts with the intent to reach as wide an audience as possible. I will certainly keep you posted about it on Cartoon Brew — I can’t wait to get this!

New Donald Duck cartoon carton

Continuing our ongoing monitoring of classic cartoon characters on modern food products, animator Alex Kirwan sent in this image of the new Donald Duck Orange Juice carton. Says Kirwan, “They seem to be using the style-guide of a much earlier, circa 40′s Donald, complete with pie-cut eyes, white hat, and black tie. Perhaps they are conciously following the recent trend, lead by Warner Bros. and Popeye, using earlier versions of their characters on their consumer products.”

The Cartoon Modern YouTube Playlist

Since Cartoon Modern was published a few years ago, the most frequently asked question I’ve received about the book is, “Where’s the DVD?” While I was working on Cartoon Modern, we considered including a DVD that showed the animated pieces discussed in the book, but practical issues of time and money prevented it from happening. Since then, I’ve spoken to a few people about producing a DVD and while nothing has come of those discussions, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that someday I’ll put together a curated collection of commericals, shorts and industrial films related to that period.

Until that happens, let me point out the next best thing: a “Cartoon Modern” playlist on YouTube created by an awesome user who goes by the name of criticalmetrics1. I have no idea who this person is, but I want to thank them for putting so much effort into creating this playlist. They’ve even gone so far as to organize the films by the contents of my book. There are a hundred items on the list but because of copyright takedowns, only ninety-three are currently available for viewing. Still, that’s enough stylized cartoon animation to keep anybody busy for a while. If you know of other Cartoon Modern-related YouTube links, feel free to add them to the comments below.

The Cartoon Modern playlist:

Michael Eisner Career Update

Michael Eisner

Now that Michael Eisner has purchased the ailing Topps baseball card company, he’s finally in charge of a company that has to use all of his ill-conceived ideas. According to the NY Times, his latest stroke of genius is to combine motion capture and 3D technology with baseball cards. The article gives plenty of details about what Eisner is doing with Topps, a company that he views “as a cultural, iconic institution not that different from Disney; it conjures up an emotional response that has a feel good, Proustian kind of uplift.” Eisner is also developing a movie based on the company’s Bazooka Joe bubble gum and has created a seventeen-episode online comedy series Back on Topps that “spoofs his acquisition of the company.”

(Thanks, Mike Hayde)

Little Mermaid Crew Reunion

Pssst! Save the date. Mark your calendar. May 21st, Woodbury University in Burbank @ 7:30PM. ASIFA-Hollywood is organizing a reunion/panel discussion/party to commemorate the 20th anniversary of The Little Mermaid.

Character animator Tom Sito will moderate a panel consisting of Mark Henn (Ariel), Andreas Deja (King Triton), Ruben Aquino (Ursula), Tina Price (CAPS system and early CGI) and Gary Trousedale (storyboards) – with many more guests and panelists to be announced. We’ll keep you posted with updates, but mark the date now!

The Whimsical Work of David Weidman and Also Some Serious Ones

David Weidman

If you appreciate good design and color work, then you’ll want to add the new hardcover publication The Whimsical Work of David Weidman and Also Some Serious Ones to your bookshelf. While this career retrospective features mostly his silk-screened prints from the Sixties and Seventies, there is also a healthy sampling of Weidman’s animation artwork from studios like UPA, Storyboard and TV Spots (later Creston Studios). Some of his UPA art from 1955 is identified as being from the ’70s and the writing (what little of it there is) didn’t particularly impress, but the star of this show is the artwork and there is loads of nicely presented imagery throughout. To see some of David Weidman’s artwork online, visit WeidmansArt.com.

Notes on Coraline

One of the items on my infinitely long to-do list is to write some thoughts about the exquisite artistry behind Coraline. While the film is flawed, it still ranks as one of the most enjoyable experiences I’ve had in some time watching a mainstream animated feature. It pleases me to no end to see that the film has been a box office success (as far as stop-motion animation goes at least). It currently ranks as the third-highest grossing stop-motion feature of all time, trailing only Chicken Run and The Nightmare Before Christmas.

A large reason for the film’s financial success has been the deep pockets of Laika owner Phil Knight. As much as I’d like to believe that audiences will discover good films if they’re made, the truth is that despite a film’s quality, investing money into its promotion is a necessity lest one ends up with an Iron Giant. I’m not sure that Knight even understood what he was doing when he put his fortune behind this film, but I can’t think of a recent debut film by a major animation studio that has been bolder, riskier and more imaginative. Laika has the opportunity to carve out a niche as a truly unique animation studio, and I sincerely hope they continue following this path that they’ve embarked upon with Coraline.

In today’s Variety, Laika took out a two-page ad thanking the people who made Coraline. The first page was dedicated to the film’s crew, the second page thanked individuals. My digital photo of the ad is a bit funky looking but at least you can see what it looks like. Click on it for a bigger version:

Coraline

In other Coraline news, a stage musical will open this May at the MCC Theater in Manahttan. This musical has been in the works long before the film came out so it has little to do with cashing in on the success of the movie. Not to mention that it’s opening at a smaller off-Broadway theater that prides itself on taking “risks on plays that the commercial theater often ignores.” The musical version features music and lyrics written by Stephin Merrit (Magnetic Fields) and direction by Leigh Silverman(Yellowface, From Up Here, Well).

Advertise on Cartoon Brew with Reachout Media

Reachout Media

Whether your company is big or small, if you want to advertise on Cartoon Brew, there’s now an easy and efficient way to do so. Beginning today, all advertising on Cartoon Brew will be handled exclusively by the Reachout ad network. We’re especially proud to make this announcement because Reachout is an initiative of Cartoon Brew. Even better, we’ve partnered up with some amazing blogs to build an ad network from the ground-up that is geared towards our needs. It is the largest network of its kind, capable of delivering millions of ad impressions a month throughout animation, illustration, CG and film blogs.

The initial roster of sites represented by the Reachout network are blogs that we not only respect but that we’re fans of and read regularly. In addition to Cartoon Brew, Reachout now sells advertising for the following sites:

ArtoftheTitle.com
Booooooom.com
Drawn.ca
Motionographer.com
SubmarineChannel.com
TrailersFromHell.com
TwitchFilm.net

So what does this mean to the average Cartoon Brew reader? Perhaps not much except for the simple fact that we’re going to be able to continue doing what we’re doing. Cartoon Brew will remain free as always, and we will continue to expand and add new features like Brew TV. Hopefully the ads that we run on this site will enhance your experience and introduce you to interesting and relevant products. If you enjoy Cartoon Brew, the most effective way of showing your support is to click on the ads every once in a while and learn about what our advertisers have to offer. Who knows, you may just find something that you want or need.

And if you’re a company looking to reach creative people, and people who appreciate creativity in all its many forms, look no further than Reachout. To learn more about advertising on Cartoon Brew or any of the sites listed above, please visit ReachoutMedia.com. Our sales team looks forward to working with you.

Now for a couple shout-outs. First, to our webguru Rob Kohr whose tech expertise never fails us. He has been instrumental in getting the backend of the ad network up and running, as well as designing the Reachout site. Second shout-out goes to Scotty Reifsnyder who created our lovely Reachout header illo. Check out more of Scotty’s work at SeeScotty.com.

The Last Terrytoon one-shot

I’m back with another lame attempt by a classic cartoon studio to be relevant in the 1960s.

Today I’ve got what I believe is the last theatrical one-shot produced by the Terrytoon studio in New Rochelle, New York. Search For Misery (1963) is a real curio. I suspect it was concocted as a pilot, an attempt to break into prime time television. Why not? Everyone else was doing it at the time – and Terrytoons was actually owned by a major network, CBS. With other prime time animated series patterned after sitcoms and adventure shows, director Bob Kuwahara and writer Larz Bourne concocted this spoof based on TV’s most tried and true genre: soap operas.

Though years ahead of Mary Hartman, Pitiful Penelope lacks the wit and social satire this sort of thing required. The humor is labored and deliberate. When the character names (Roland Stone, Big Delia, Kay Niver) are the cleverest thing in the script, you know you are in trouble. Cosmo Anzilotti did all the animation, Tom Morrison is the narrator, Dayton Allen and his wife Elvi portray Roland and Penny, respectively. I give it points for being different, and for its attempt to appeal to adults. It’s certainly one of the oddest things Terrytoons ever produced. Because it is so rarely seen, I thought it would be worth a post.

The Electric Company (2009)

Hey You Guys!

Following will be some shameless PBS promotion, but I say that more as a fan than as a corporate cog. By now, you have probably heard that a new version of The Electric Company has premiered on PBS Kids. It’s not a remake of the show we grew up with back in the 1970s, it’s really more of a re-imagining of the show. I loved the show back when it premiered the first time. The show back then was targeted to eight-year-olds, and I had just turned eight when it premiered. As we all remember, it featured actors our parents knew, like Rita Moreno and Bill Cosby, and actors we’d all know someday, like Morgan Freeman. But what I liked about The Electric Company the most was that it was cool and it was funny, certainly to my eight-year-old sensibilities. But most importantly, it had animation in it. What I didn’t know at the time was that between Electric Company and Sesame Street, I was getting to see work from some of the most important independent animators of the time. When I finally started attending animation festivals in the early 1980s, there was a reason why some of the films looked familiar to me — I had been trained by the Children’s Television Workshop for years.

I have never been a huge fan of working on remakes. I dodged a number of Looney Tunes remakes from various WB-related concerns while I was at Cartoon Network. I guess someone was making them, but somehow I managed to escape without the taint of a “SpaceJam Babies” on my resume. And yet when talk of a new Electric Company came up back when I had first started at PBS, I was excited. The person heading it all up, Karen Fowler, was a Sesame Workshop producer, but she and I had met briefly in the short period we had overlapped when we were both at Nickelodeon, and I knew her to be very funny and very cool. I figured it would be an adventure.

In 2005, PBS, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and our various production partners — WGBH, Sesame Workshop and Out of the Blue Enterprises — were the recipients of a grant from the Department of Education and that allowed us to have enough funding to make Super Why, Martha Speaks and The Electric Company.

The Electric Company premiered January 23 and if you have had the chance to check it out, you may have noticed that Sesame Workshop is still putting independent animators to work teaching kids reading skills. The show is one part Monkees, one part Fame, one part Batman, and one part independent animation festival.

In some ways, the show is vaguely reminiscent of the old show, with sketches, animation and songs. Most of each episode is a live action narrative. A group of four friends, known as the Electric Company, each have a particular magical ability to produce, control, manipulate and play with words and letters. And then there are the neighborhood pranksters, their nemeses, if you will. Each of the pranksters has some magical ability was well, but of course they use it for evil, and then mayhem ensues. I may be a little biased, but I am pretty sure that Francine Carruthers is one of the funniest bad guys on TV ever.

Each narrative story is broken into four parts and in between these four sections is where you will find the animation.

The animation on The Electric Company actually starts with the title, which was created by the graphic design studio Plus et Plus.

And then we get to the animated shorts. In the first season, eight different studios worked on these interstitials. For a look at some episodes from the series and a look at some of these shorts, you can check out pbskidsgo.org/electriccompany.

If you are wondering who did what, here is a list.
Screen Novelties did the Jack Bowser shorts, which are parodies of “24,” where Jack Bowser must read a sentence in 24 seconds. Clambake Animation did the “Captain Cluck and the Poultry Patrol” shorts. Clambake is run by Carl Adams, who once worked at Soup2Nuts and produced Home Movies. Independent animator Pat Smith of Blend Films did the “Pet Store” and “Josephine” shorts. Stefan Bucher of 344 Design did the pixillated “Daily Letters” spots, which feature monsters that are turned into letters as an artist colors the space around them. The “Laughing Orangutans” shorts were done by Joanna Davidovich. Blacklist, a division of the animation studio Psyop did the Music Man spots. Six Point Harness did the “Odd Couple” spots. And LA-based artist Selena Kassab did the “Rally Racer” spots.

The two things you might catch in the new show that you might recognize are the silhouette blends, of course, and Paul the Gorilla, who makes an occasional appearance. And they do yell, “Hey You Guys!” This part is very important, as you know. Without this line, it’s not actually The Electric Company.

There are also a few things that are new to this incarnation of the series. Shock, the beatboxer, will help to remind you that we are no longer in the groovy early 1970s, but that we are actually nearing the second decade of a new millenium. But Shock’s turntable blending letters to make words will show you exactly how the concept of blending words works in this new era. There are also some songs and shorts performed by musicians you will recognize, such as Wyclef, Ne-Yo, and Common. My favorite segment is one that we run in meetings — a Ramones-esque Jimmy Fallon singing “Pocket Full of H’s.” You can check this one out on the PBS website, too.

The series runs on Fridays on most PBS stations and on weekends (you know, check your local listings…) It is good to know that no matter what we do to the art of animation, we can somehow still teach reading with it.

United States of Tara Titles by Jamie Caliri

United States of Tara

Stop-motion director Jamie Caliri (titles for Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa) created pop-up book-style opening titles for the Showtime series United States of Tara. The opening can be seen on the website Forget the Film, Watch the Titles and an interview with Caliri is included on the same page. The illustrations in the piece were done by Alex Juhasz, set building was led by Morgan Hay, and animation lead was Anthony Scott.

Tips From Katzenberg On Keeping Artists Happy

Jeffrey Katzenberg

The latest issue of Fortune has a short article in which Jeffrey Katzenberg offers a few tips on how he keeps his artists happy. There’s also a sidebar that lists perks that DreamWorks employees receive and a quote from animator James Baxter about why he works at the studio. The article isn’t online but if you click on the image above, you can read the entire piece.

Nobuhiko Obayashi’s Hausu

Digital effects can be wonderful but they aren’t a substitute for good old-fashioned creativity, as evidenced by the pre-digital era visual delights of Nobuhiko Obayashi’s Hausu (House). This 1977 Japanese film mixed live-action with animation and visual effects in ways that are still striking. If the clip above leaves you wanting more, try downloading the entire film on this blog. Prior to making his mainstream film debut, Obayashi was an independent filmmaker. A mid-’60s experimental work he created called Emotion can be seen on this website.

(Thanks, Christy Karacas)

Nate Theis

Nate Theis

Meet my favorite animation director of the moment: Nate Theis. He works at Madison, Wisconsin-based Planet Propaganda which is a hybrid ad agency/production house. Theis recently posted a selection of work on his new website NateTheis.com and I love pretty much everything he’s done. The commercials feel fresher, sharper and just a little more raw than the majority of advertising I see coming out of mainstream ad agencies. The Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwich campaign, which Theis helped to concept and write in addition to animating and directing, is one of the funniest collection of spots I’ve seen in some time, not to mention a perfect Roger Ramjet tribute. The Nonsek clothing and ACR Electronics spots are simple concepts executed to a tee, while the Gary Fisher bike campaign shows range and a willingness to experiment. A graduate of Savannah College of Art & Design, Theis is a director to keep an eye on.

Tytla’s Little Audrey?

J.J. Sedelmaier recently had a visit from John Canemaker at his studio in White Plains. J.J. sent them in with this note:

“We had a chance to go through some of that art I was given years ago from (animator) Jan Svochak. As we’re rummaging through the stuff John says, “Wait! That’s a Tytla sequence!” John saw Tytla’s extreme drawing “X” marks in the upper right hand corner. When you see the way he’s gesturally thrown the anatomy together so effortlessly, it becomes clearer. . . I’d forgotten he worked on Little Audrey…”

Interesting find. Thanks to J.J. for sharing these with us. These drawings are from a scene in Surf Bored — released well after Tytla left Famous Studios, in 1953. Click thumbnails below to see the drawing closer.

Update from John Canemaker: “Oh, the dangers of the instant communication age. In a casual and (I thought ) private conversation with JJ, I commented that the well-made Audrey drawings resembled Tytla’s work and — “oh look — there’s an “X” in the right hand corners, just like Tytla used to make on his extremes”. There was no further research into dates of his employment, etc. Thank you, Richard, (in the comments) for your vigorous defense, but Thad may very well be correct. I am sorry for any misunderstanding.”

Below is an actual Bill Tytla Audrey drawing:

tytlaaudrey2.jpg

In The Nicotine (1961)

SURGEON GENERAL’S WARNING: Paramount Cartoons can be Hazardous to Your (Mental) Health.

We’re ending our series of “dark, domestic” 1960s Paramount cartoons today with the most politically incorrect of them all: In The Nicotine (released theatrically in 1961). Again (like the previously posted The Plot Sickens and Harry Happy), this one was never shown on TV – and never will be. In this one, a shrewish wife commits her smoking obsessed husband to an institution. Hilarity ensues. Though most of the cartoon is taken up with lame gags of “Charlie Butts” (get it?) trying to sneak a cigarette while trying to quit, the resolution (a gag about cigarette gift coupons) is purely pro-smoking! The plot itself is a twist on Gene Deitch’s 1957 Terrytoon Topsy TV — which was ripped off and remade by Paramount in 1959 as TV Fuddlehead — switching to cigarettes from former’s TV addiction. This cartoon was written by the veteran team of Carl Meyer and Jack Mercer, though Mercer doesn’t perform any voices in it (Eddie Lawrence is doing all the male roles). For what it is… Enjoy!