Hamster Squaredance

Hamster Squaredance is one of the more visually distinctive music videos I’ve run across in a while. It was created for the musician Mr. Hayday by New Zealand-based Laurent Antonczak and Patricia Burgetsmaier. The lengthy description of the project on their Vimeo page does leave me slightly confused though:

The framework of “Hamster Squaredance” explores an aesthetic and conceptual relationship of rhythm and narrative by developing a new visual approach for displaying on small screens, mainly iPHONE. Furthermore “Hamster Squaredance” explores a new narrative structure (short-duration, screen limitations, narrative synchronised with music) and reinterprets the aesthetics of computer game industry from the early 80s into nowadays trend. While using basic, modular and simple graphics, which denote the early stage of computer development and its graphics, it develops yet highly crafted visuals, using the most advantageous elements of photography, illustrations and mix-media technique.

The Office on Adult Swim

Remember they used to run “What-A-Cartoon”? Now it’s “Where’s-the-Cartoons?”

A channel called Cartoon Network continues to produce and acquire live action programming. I’m not sure why this still surprises me – or why I even still report on it here.

In case you haven’t heard: The original BBC version of The Office starts running on Adult Swim this summer. The Mighty Boosh, another BBC live action pick up, is already running on the Cartoon Network’s nighttime block.

The Milt Kahl event

Last night’s Milt Kahl tribute at the Motion Picture Academy was a huge (though a bit long) success – if you got into the theater.

Those inside were treated to a wonderful art exhibit of Kahl drawings, model sheets and cels from scenes he’d animated. Everyone got a commemorative poster and program brochure. The screening included Kahl’s finest animation on the big screen, everything from his first Mickey’s Circus (1936) to his last, Medusa in The Rescuers (1977). Andreas Deja and Charles Solomon did the hosting chores, and special guests Brad Bird, John Musker, Ron Clements, Floyd Norman, John Pomereoy, Kathryn Beaumont, Alice Davis and Sybil Barnes (Kahl’s daughter) told great stories about the man and his influences. Clips of Kahl from amateur video interviews were a highlight, as was the excerpt from the Disneyland TV show “The Story of Dogs” with Kahl himself – and Andreas, once again doing an amazing job of analyzing Kahl’s drawings, using an overhead projector to display rare examples of his work.

However, all was not well outside the Academy building. Brian Johnson, posting on my Facebook page reported:

“I have been looking forward to that once in a life time event and was pissed that (along with 150 angry people) were not allowed in even though we bought our tickets months ago!! They simply oversold hundreds of tickets and ruined a lot of people nights!”

Darrell Van Citters wrote me as well:

“It seems that the Academy deliberately oversold the event, leaving a large number of ticket holders with no recourse. They did issue refunds but you had to stand in line all over again to get your money back. When they told the crowd they wouldn’t be allowed in, they brought out two ineffective-looking security guards in case things turned ugly. The whole thing was shameful and as my Disney friend said on our way back to our cars, “I’ve never gone to one of these Academy things before and I don’t think I will again.”

On future Brew postings for the Academy, you might want to include a disclaimer to the effect that “buying a ticket does not guarantee a seat”. I know I won’t waste my time on another event there.”

I’ve rarely seen any Academy event sold out like this… and the animation events are less likely to do so. I had heard the event was sold out shortly after we announced it on Cartoon Brew last month. A huge story on Kahl in last Wednesday’s LA Times probably caused the overflow of attendees. I can only hope the Academy will continue its animation programs with a better grasp on ticket allotment and crowd control.

UPDATE: Randy Haberkamp, the Program Coordinator at the Academy, has responded in the comments below. He would greatly appreciate it if ticket holders who were turned away would contact him at rhaberkamp-at-oscars.org

“Hummingbirds” for Kopparberg Tropical Cider

Finnish studio Anima Boutique produced this series of refreshingly stylized CG spots for Kopparberg cider drinks. The director and designer of the spots, Eliza Jäppinen, tells me that they “were lucky enough to work with an art director, agency and clients who wanted something new, and also meant it.” She first created a series of illustrations for a print campaign and subsequently these spots were produced in CG. Credits besides Jäppinen include:
2D Animation: Heli Ellis
3D modeling & Animation: Olli Rajala (Anima Commerical)
3D animation: Olli Rajala (Anima Commerical)
Producer: Anttu Harlin
Sound: Timo Anttila (Humina, Agency: Zeeland
Zeeland team: Migu Snall, Mikko Vaija, Anna Korpi-Kyyny, Riitta Bergman

Cartoon Dump Tonight!

In case you thought I forgot to plug this month’s performance of Cartoon Dump… you’re wrong! Here’s the plug!

This month we will have two surprise guest comedians joining Moodsy, Compost Brite, Cue Card Goddess and me tonight at 8 PM, for an evening of comedy, songs and really, really awful cartoons. Join us at the Steve Allen Theater, 4773 Hollywood Blvd. (two blocks west of Vermont). Map here, reserve tickets here. See you there!

ANIME! High Art – Pop Culture

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, in association with Deutsches Filmmuseum in Franfurt Germany, will be presenting an exhibit of original anime art in their Beverly Hills HQ lobby and 4th Floor Gallery.

From May 15th through August 23th, the Academy will present ANIME! High Art – Pop Culture featuring collectors items and rare animation artwork seldom seen outside Japan. A portion of the exhibition is devoted to manga and its relationship to anime; the whole exhibit will provide a historical overview of the development of Japanese comic book and animation genres. Public viewing hours are Tuesday — Friday: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday — Sunday: Noon to 6 p.m. Closed Mondays and May 23—24. Admission: Free. For more info, visit the Academy website.

David Gerstein’s Blog

The blurry image above is a frame from the “lost” ending to the early Bugs Bunny cartoon Hare-um Scare-um. David Gerstein found the missing sequence while researching this title recently at a major film archive — and now he’s written a post about how he discovered it on Ramapith: The Prehistoric Pop Culture Blog, his new website.

Gerstein, whose books include Mickey And The Gang and Nine Lives To Live: Classic Felix the Cat, is one of the most knowledgeable writers and historians of animation. His new blog will be worth checking on a regular basis.

My Favorite “Hurt” Gag

It’s been acknowledged by the creators of The Simpsons that the blood-thirsty antics of Itchy and Scratchy were inspired less by Tom & Jerry and more by the violent situations of Herman and Katnip. By the 1950s, the writers at Paramount’s Famous Studios were suffering from cartoon fatigue — endlessly rewriting and redrawing the same tired stories for Popeye, Casper, Baby Huey et al. for years on end. The Herman and Katnip pictures were pure cat-chasing-mice opuses, which were by now running on auto-pilot, and got progressively more and more violent as the years went by.

The cartoons have what I call “Shemp syndrome” – it’s the same problem the Three Stooges shorts of the 50s had – they forgot what was funny about slapstick in the first place. The filmmakers just knew that “hurt gags” worked, so they upped the “hurt”, figuring it’ll be funnier. The results were less funny and more painful, and often in horrible taste.

Embedded below is the last 90 seconds from Mouseum (1956) which features my all-time favorite bad-taste ending. I love it. It makes me laugh because of how wrong it is. By this time, the animators had really lost all perspective. Here’s the set-up: Katnip is chasing Herman and his cousins through a natural history museum.

What follows next is pure genius: The cat chases the mouse into a stuffed elephant’s head. Katnip sticks a rifle into the elephant’s trunk and Herman, using super-human strength, bends the rifle to aim it back towards Katnip. His gunshot blast blows the elephant’s glass eyes into Katnip’s head! The eyes fall from his head and the cat thinks the eyeballs are his! He shoves them into his eye sockets making himself blind… he goes running into the street blindly, as Herman and the mice laugh at his handicap. Iris out.

Quentin Tarantino would be proud.

Cordell Barker on Runaway

Winnipeg animator Cordell Barker (The Cat Came Back, Strange Invaders) is back with a new film. Runaway will have its World Premiere at the 48th International Critics’ Week (May 14-22) in Cannes.

I’m a big fan of Barker’s cartoons. The NFB just post this promotional video (below) where he explains his latest film, and his creative process. More information and clips on Runaway, and downloads of his previous films are on posted here.

“Yip” Harburg at Fleischer

Did you know songwriter E.Y. “Yip” Harburg (lyricist of The Wizard of Oz, Gay Purr-ee and much else) wrote material for the Max Fleischer studio?

Neither did I.

Harburg historian Nick Markovich of The Yip Harburg Foundation has recently discovered evidence that Harburg lyrics were written for at least three Fleischer cartoons from the 1929-30 period — when Harburg was writing for Paramount-Astoria Studios on Long Island. Markovich wrote us, looking for early Fleischer films for research. He says:

“Harburg was employed by Paramount’s Astoria, Long Island studio for a few years starting in 1929 — hence the Fleischer connection. For Paramount he wrote lyrics with such composers as Vernon Duke (with whom he later wrote April in Paris for a Broadway revue) and Jay Gorney (with whom he wrote Brother, Can You Spare a Dime? for another Broadway revue). It’s possible that other lyrics or verses he wrote ended up uncredited in other Fleischer cartoons. The only way to tell definitively would be to watch every single one of them, listen carefully and compare to the dozens of obscure lyric sheets in Harburg’s collection. In the last two years alone I have discovered that several Gorney-Harburg songs were performed in two features, one featurette, and one cartoon from that era, all uncredited. So who knows what’s out there — either in animated shorts or live action features and featurettes?

In The Shade Of the Old Apple Tree — A blurb in the January 19, 1930 Film Daily states: “E.Y. Harburg…composes those captivating lines which make you want to join in with the crowd on Paramount’s Fleischer cartoon singing reels. His ‘Old Apple Tree’ number is a darb.”

Harburg also apparently provided material to the Screen Song short, The Prisoner’s Song. Also, there is a typewritten lyric sheet by Harburg entitled “Bedtime Story” — a satire of Grimm-type fairy stories that frighten children. A handwritten note at the top of this sheet says “Verse for Fleischer picture.”

The “Bedtime Story” piece, reprinted below, is obviously a first draft for the Bedtime Story broadcast at the end of Radio Riot (1930), one of Fleischer’s earliest Talkartoons. Compare the draft below with the finished film (below it). It wouldn’t surprise me if Harburg wrote all the dialogue in the film — it’s quite clever.

BED TIME STORY

Announcer: Good evening, children. This is station GORe. Tonight you shall have the extreme pleasure of listening to Uncle Grim, the author of Grim=E 2s Fairy Tales, who has a very interesting Bed Time story for you. Children, meet uncle Grim.

Uncle Grim:

Listen my children and you shall hear
Of a child named Goldy-Locks Schnitzelbeer;
Who always wore
Medals galore
For conduct, and virtues that folks all adore.

As she strolled thru the woods in her little red cape,
The clink of her medals attracted an APE!

The Apiest Ape
With unbearable hands,
With horrible ears,
And terrible glands!
His breath was fire.
His eyes were green
His claws were wire
And his GROWL WAS M-E-A-N !X!X!

And Goldylocks Schnitzelbeer said with a laugh,
“Oh Grandpa,
Vas loffly fillings your back teeth haff!”

Then the Ape he tore her from limb to limb…
‘Cause there was no monkeying ‘round with him.

He cracked her ribs
With a thunderous thud,
And crunched her skull
In a pool of blood,
And there he wallowed
In spleen and gall
Until he swallowed
Her, medals and all.

Till all that remained of Goldylocks
Was a wish bone wrapped in one of her socks.

Now dear children, go to bed. Sleep tight.
Be kind. Be sweet. Happy dreams. Good night!

Announcer: You have just listened to a bed time story by Uncle Grim, President of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

He comes to you every Doomsday evening thru the courtesy of the Sheepshead Bay Fur Co., manufacturers of Mice Skin Rugs, Bear Skin Coats and Cat Guts for Tennis Rackets.

(Thanks, for numerous reasons, to Mark Kausler)

TONIGHT: Toronto Animation Industry Night

Tonight is the second annual Toronto Animation Industry Night presented by Toronto Animation Live. I’m not familiar with the organization hosting the event; their stated purpose is to serve as a networking organization “dedicated to the growth and development of the Toronto animation industry.” This evening’s event, which combines networking, music and screenings, begins at 7pm at the Century Room (580 King St. W). Tickets are $5 at the door if you rsvp by email to info at torontoanimationlive.com. Otherwise, it’s $10 at the door for walk-ins. Their ad promises complimentary food and beverages. If you have attended the previous one, or if you attend tonight, let us know what you think of it in the comments.

How to Make a Baby

Cassidy Curtis, an animator at PDI/DreamWorks, and his wife, Raquel Coelho, created this charming pixilated short that also serves as a document of a pregnancy. The extensive notes on how they made it are worth reading:

Animating over such a long period of time, using an increasingly pregnant woman as one of your puppets, means basically throwing out everything you might normally do in an animated film. For example, early on, we had this idea that we should wear the same clothes every time, for continuity’s sake. But as Raquel’s pregnancy developed, we soon discovered that the extra effort required to change in and out of our uniforms was going to interfere with the goal of shooting as many frames as possible, and might even prevent us from finishing the project at all. We dialed down the perfectionism, and in the process ended up having a lot more fun with it.

(via A Cup of Jo)

Ten Episodes of Karnival by Jun seo Hahm

Karnival

We first wrote about Jun seo Hahm‘s series of super-short shorts Karnival back in 2007 when it was starting up. Since then, Jun has completed the series with ten episodes, all created in his distinctive hand-drawn vectorized style. Some of the later ones, like Flashlight Dog and Toaster, really make me smile with their perfect combination of the whimsical, cute and disturbing. The ten shorts can be seen at Karnival.tv.

Closed Zone by Yoni Goodman

Yoni Goodman, the director of animation for Waltz with Bashir, created this public service announcement for the human rights organization Gisha–Legal Center for Freedom of Movement. It’s a good example of how to use animation to communicate an important political issue with clarity and precision. There’s also a short making-of video in which Goodman talks about the piece, as well as a website for the film at ClosedZone.com.

(Thanks, Mats Grorud)

Mighty Morphin’ Power Peddler

In case you haven’t been following news developments in the “real world”: Gawker is reporting that the “suspected Israeli operative” whose phone was being tapped by the NSA in conversations with representative Jane Harman (D-Calif.) — was none other than our ol’ friend Haim Saban (the animation schlockmeister who became a zillionaire after dubbing Mighty Morphin Power Rangers). That’s him, pictured above, on the far left (in more ways than one). The Gawker piece has a nice profile of Saban’s illustrious career.

Upcoming Disney Books

I got a peek at the latest Disney Book Group catalog, prepared for this week’s London Book Fair. There are plenty of things coming up this fall of interest to our readers, for example:

THE PIXAR TREASURES by Tim Hauser (similar to The Disney Treasures with all sorts of removable “keepsakes”) – publication date September 2009.

THE MAKING OF DISNEY’S A CHRISTMAS CAROL by Diane Landau (based on the Zemeckis motion capture film) – publication date September 2009

SEASON’S GREETINGS FROM DISNEY by Jeff Kurtti (a collection of vintage studio Christmas cards) – publication date September 2009

SOUTH OF THE BORDER WITH DISNEY by J.B. Kaufman (major history of Disney’s South American films) – publication date October 2009

WALT DISNEY ANIMATION STUDIOS ARCHIVE SERIES: ANIMATION, Intro by John Lasseter – publication date October 2009

WALT DISNEY IMAGINEERING – a sequel to a previous Imagineering book, with a Forward by Bob Iger Intro by John Lasseter – publication date November 2009

WALT DISNEY’S PETER PAN by Dave Barry (yes that Dave Barry) and Ridley Pearson, Illustrated by Mary Blair – publication date September 2009

I was also intrigued by the catalog’s listing of two children’s books based on upcoming shorts: Pixar’s Partly Cloudy and Disney’s Prep & Landing. Click thumbnails below to see the catalog pages about these two unusual projects.

Animation with Food

Videokrauting, created by Italians Nicola Ferrarese, Corrado Agnese, Valentina Mantello and Marzia Pellegatta, is a tribute to videogames animated entirely with sauerkraut. References are made to Tetris, Pac-Man and Prince of Persia.

They’ve also made Super Mario with beans and Asteroids with tomatoes. My favorite work by these filmmakers is an original creation however–D’Altra Parte è Così by Nicola Ferrarese. This two-minute film (posted below) uses simple stop-motion tricks to transform the ordinary and mundane–a spoon and other everyday objects–into a nail-biting action-packed episode.

(via Kotaku)