The Boys

Opening today in New York, L.A. and San Francisco is a wonderful documentary on the career of songwriters Robert B. Sherman and Richard M. Sherman – the Sherman Brothers of Mary Poppins, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Winnie The Pooh, Charlotte’s Web and Snoopy Come Home fame. I saw this film the other night and it was very entertaining (loaded with their songs) and very enlightening (loaded with surprisingly intimate information about the duo).

It’s a really good film, but publicity for The Boys is not so good – and I think the film will only play for one week (in L.A. at the The Regent in Westwood, the AMC Meteron in San Francisco and Landmark Sunshine Cinema on Houston Street in NYC). Check it out this weekend – you’ll be glad you did.

2009 Sheridan Student Films

For reasons unbeknownst to me, there are not a lot of Sheridan-produced student films which have been posted online. Below are two that I’ve found so far:

The Peasant and the Root by Brock Gallagher

The Chronicles of Turghot and Dragam by Kelly Turnbull

The students may not be posting their films online, but the school is presenting a screening of this year’s work on June 9 and 10 at the Bloor Cinema in Toronto (located at Bloor and Bathhurst). Admission is $5. The screening on June 9 is at 7pm and the screening on June 10 is at 9:30pm. The line-up for the screening can be found on the blog of Sheridan instructor Mark Mayerson. The trailer below, showing snippets from various student films, offers a sense of what was made in Oakville this year:

Static: An Interactive Approach to Animation by Jack Lykins

Static: An Interactive Approach to Animation is a thesis film created by Jack Lykins in SVA’s Computer Arts program. All the video and audio playback in the film is controlled by turntable, and zooms and rotations are manipulated through a MIDI interface. In other words, the filmmaker can remix their film live and create a completely original experience each time. It’s fascinating to think of the possibilities this presents; like a DJ or jazz musician, a filmmaker can now improvise within the cartoon by remixing continuity, adding new clips, and revising ideas over time. The next Tex Avery just may have to learn to use a turntable too.

A higher-res version of Static can be viewed on SVA’s website along with all the other student films produced in their computer animation and visual effects department.

(Thanks, Kevin)

Work For Free on a “Cartoon Network Pilot”

A Cartoon Brew reader pointed out this blatant ad on Craigslist asking animation artists to work on a Cartoon Network pilot with no guarantee of payment unless the show gets picked up for series. The ad reads:

Deferred payment 1st episode (no-pay), action/adventure series, Cartoon Network, paid assignments and/or production contract after 1st episode.

We decided to take the bait and contact them to find out who’s blessing the Internet with this wonderful opportunity to work for free. Here’s the response from Associate Producer Sasha Tyler at McNeal Enterprises:

Pilot/series is being produced for Cartoon Network, deferred pay 1st-ep(no-pay), regular pay other eps and/or production contract, in moving forward contact the project’s executive producer Kenny Mack, let him know position your interested in, strengths, skills, availability, etc; [email protected] or 800 481-9754 x 4, PST.

Their website offer no information about what they do, but I found another website of theirs that displays an awfully lame and generic looking action-adventure show called The Savior Chronicles. Sounds like a good match.

The only question that remains: Is Cartoon Network stupid enough to give these amateurs a pilot deal or are they sneakily using Cartoon Network’s name to trick young and inexperienced artists into working on a lame project for free? Either way, this company’s business practices have fail written all over them.

Once Upon A Girl at the Silent Movie Theatre

I don’t actually recommend this film, but in the interests of animation history (and as a connoisseur of animation “worsts”) I must note the public screening this Saturday of Once Upon A Girl (1976) at the Silent Movie Theatre in Hollywood. The program begins at 10pm preceded by several hardcore porno-toons, including the silent-era classic Buried Treasure.

Once Upon A Girl was created in the wake of Fritz The Cat. If you ever wanted to know what an X-rated Filmation cartoon would look like… here it is. Strangely enough, it was actually made by a bunch of Hanna Barbera artists led by Don Jurwich. Larry Huber, Joel Seibel, and Barry Bunce are among the familiar names in the animation crew. And yes, that’s voice actor Hal Smith – in drag – as Mother Goose in the live action scenes. Here’s a censored version of the trailer:

TONIGHT: Little Mermaid reunion in Burbank

It’s tonight and everyone’s invited. ASIFA-Hollywood Proudly Presents The Little Mermaid Twentieth Anniversary Reunion. Special guests for the panels will include the film’s writers and directors John Musker & Ron Clements, animators Andreas Deja (King Triton), Mark Henn (Ariel), Duncan Marjoribanks (Sebastian), Reuben Aquino (Ursula) and Tina Price (CAPS system and early CGI). The panel will be moderated by animator Tom Sito.

The event starts at 7pm at Woodbury University, Fletcher Jones Foundation Auditorium. Reservations are not required for this event. Seating is on a first-come, first-served basis. Members of ASIFA-Hollywood and students of Woodbury admitted free; non-members $10. Tickets can be purchased at the door. Parking is free. Woodbury University is located at 7500 Glenoaks Blvd., in Burbank, California.

Thank You To Our Sponsors

We wanted to take a quick timeout to thank Cartoon Brew’s sponsors from the last couple months. The support of these companies allows us to devote a greater amount of our time to the site, as well as to add new features like Cartoon Brew TV and Guest Brewers, both of which will continue to expand in the coming months.

We work hard to find sponsors who offer relevant products and services to our readership. Unlike most other animation media, we are editorially independent and these companies respect our independence. That’s why we’re so pleased to have these companies advertising on the Brew, and we encourage you to learn more about them by clicking on their ads or on the links below:

Animation Mentor is an online animation school founded by industry animators. Their current roster of teachers includes artists working at Pixar, Sony, DreamWorks and Disney. The school’s eighteen-month program has a well-defined curriculum focused on teaching animation and character performance, and preparing students for careers as CG character animators. Check out some of the recent student work in their student showcases.

LA-based Gallery Nucleus chose to promote their art show for the “Ancient Book of Sex and Science,” but they’ve got excellent art exhibitions year round, not to mention an awesome store.

CTN Animation Expo is a major animation event coming to Burbank in November.

Schoolism offers online storyboarding, caricature and design courses taught by leading industry professionals

Animation legend Don Bluth is promoting a special two-disc DVD edition of Banjo the Woodpile Cat, which Jerry reviewed earlier on Cartoon Brew.

The Labyrinth is Toronto’s source for comic, illustration and animation books.

The Guys is a quirky online animated series from Finland in which the characters are animated over user-submitted home videos.

If you’d like to advertise on Cartoon Brew, especially any San Diego Comic-Con related products, please visit our ad rep Reachout Media.

Wayne Allwine (1947-2009)

Wayne Allwine, the official voice of Mickey Mouse, the third person in history to play the character in various movies and TV shows, has passed away.

According to Wikipedia, Allwine’s first appearance as Mickey was voicing the animated lead-ins for The New Mickey Mouse Club in 1977. His first appearance as Mickey for a theatrical release was in the 1983 featurette Mickey’s Christmas Carol and he has provided the voice for Mickey Mouse ever since. He was married to Russi Taylor, the current voice of Minnie Mouse. Allwine was also a sound effects editor for various feature films. Allwine died on Monday, due to complications from diabetes. He was 62.

UPDATE: Animation Guild rep Steve Hulett has written his memories of working with Wayne Allwine when they were both traffic boys at Disney in the mid-1960s.

Below is an interview with Allwine and Taylor from the Walt Disney Treasures box set Mickey Mouse in Living Color: Volume Two.

Pablo Ferro: the movie

Devin Roth and Dave Creek of Scatter Brain Inc. just produced a short trailer for Richard Goldgewicht’s live action/animation documentary on Pablo Ferro. Ferro, a former animator and comic book artist who became a legendary designer behind dozens of renown movie main titles, graphic sequences and commercials, worked with the greatest names in film – everyone from Bill Tytla to Stanley Kubrick.

The forthcoming documentary about his life, which will be narrated by Jeff Bridges, should be quite illuminating. For more information on the progress of the doc, check the movie website. Meanwhile, below is a sample of some of Ferro’s work.

Team Fortress 2: “Meet the Spy”

When will the quality of video game animation rival the major theatrical animation producers? That day may already be here. Team Fortress 2 is a multiplayer on-line game created by Valve, and while the game itself doesn’t boast Pixar-quality graphics, they’ve created an impressive series of “Meet the Team” videos that tell the stories of the game’s characters.

The latest episode released last weekend, “Meet the Spy,” boasts some entertaining animation that would appear quite at home on the theatrical bigscreen. (Then again, with cinematic waste like Battle for Terra, Fly Me to the Moon and Space Chimps, bigscreen CG standards aren’t exactly what they used to be.) I don’t know much about the artists at Valve, but I’m told that the company includes veterans of studios like Pixar, Blue Sky, DreamWorks and ILM. Their experience is on full display in “Meet the Spy,” and despite my lack of interest in playing videogames, I can’t wait to see what they come up with next.

UPDATE: The directors of this piece are Jamaal Bradley, Aaron Halifax and Andrew Burke.

(Thanks, Andy Lyon and Barry Rooney)

WEDNESDAY: June Foray and Keith Scott on Stu’s Show

I will be joining Stuart Shostak as co-host this Wednesday (5/20) on his live internet-radio broadcast of Stu’s Show. Our guests will be cartoon voice actor (Bullwinkle) and animation historian (The Moose That Roared) Keith Scott and the first lady of animation, June Foray. We will be asking June about her extrodinary career, and asking both about working for Jay Ward. Keith is also an expert on voice actors in classic animation – the subject of his next book – and I hope to squeeze in a question about his ongoing research. The two-hour show will be live on Wednesday and we intend to take phone calls from listeners. It’s broadcast from 7pm to 9pm East Coast Time and 4pm to 6pm on the West Coast. The show is not archived – you cannot download it later – but you can listen to a rebroadcast everyday the following week (Thursday through next Tuesday) at the same times.

I expect to barely get a word in edgewise – but I’m not too worried. I will be back as a solo guest on Stu’s Show in three weeks (June 10th), when I will discuss classic cartoons and forthcoming DVDs. For now, Click Here to listen!

Dubbed Ponyo closes LAFF

The star-studded English dub of Hayao Miyazaki’s Ponyo will close this year’s Los Angeles Film Festival on Sunday, June 28 at 6:30 p.m. at the Mann Village Theater.

Before you get too excited, the tickets are $100.

The Los Angeles Film Festival runs June 18th through June 28th at various venues in Westwood. In addition to Ponyo the festival will feature several animated shorts in the competition screenings. Disney will release Ponyo in the United States on August 14th.

(Via Indiewire)

The Missing Lynx

Former Disney animator Raul Garcia teamed up with actor Antonio Banderas several years ago to create an animation studio, Kandor Moon, in Spain. Their first feature film, The Missing Lynx, was released last year in Europe and gets its first commercial U.S. screening next month. It’s playing one time only, as part of a Recent Spanish Cinema series, at the AERO theatre in Santa Monica, California, June 6th at 4 PM. It’ll be in glorious 35mm and in its original Spanish language with English subtitles.

Here’s an interview with Garcia discussing the film and the origin of his studio.

Observations on Up

Had the pleasure of seeing Pixar’s latest masterpiece last Thursday — and yeah, it’s a masterpiece. They’ve done it again. An original modern day fable – a pure blend of intelligent, artful filmmaking and commercial pop-entertainment. The sentimental first fifteen minutes will touch your heart, and the rest of the film is a fast, funny visual delight. Enjoyable on every level.

Pixar leads. I’m not quite sure if others are following, but one thing is for sure: Pixar leads. One reason they stand far and away from their competition is that they take risks. Their point of view in developing story material is aimed in a different direction from the other studios. I also love how Pixar tells their stories – treating the audience, including the kids, as intelligent human beings.

That said, Up is still at its heart, a cartoon. The characters are caricatures, the situations impossible and yet – as with all great cartoons – we can relate to the characters and their motivations.

You can read the plot details and learn behind the scenes information on other sites. Here are a few odd footnotes and observations of my own… no spoilers, I hope.

• Anyone notice the similarity of between Carl Frederickson and actor Spencer Tracy (circa 1963-1967)? See photo above for comparision.

•The floating house is a lot more than a gimmick. Carl is tethered to it throughout the film (it represents his late wife). In fact, this is surely the best flying house movie since Winsor McCay’s The Flying House (1921). I didn’t once think about Zathura (2005), Howl’s Moving Castle (2004), or Danny Deckchair (2003)… until I left the theatre.

•The villian of the piece is named Charles Muntz. I wonder what inspired his name? In real life, Charles Mintz was the animation producer who “stole” Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, forcing Walt Disney to create Mickey Mouse. In Up, Muntz is trying to capture an elusive “cartoon-like” bird, and created a way to make animals “talk”. Is their any connection here? Is the animation histotian in me reading too much into all this?

•”Kevin”, the film’s gooney bird (below right), is a hybrid of a Dr. Suess creation and a Fleischer cross-eyed character (below left, from 1932′s Sing A Song,). Loved it.

I loved all of UP. It worked for me. Get out and see UP in 3D on May 29th (or that weekend) — and enjoy this current golden age as long as it lasts.

TONIGHT IN LA: “Ancient Book of Sex & Science” Show

Don Shank

Chances are you’ve already noticed the ad for this show running on the right side of the Brew. If you’re in LA, there’s one place (and only one place) that you should be this Saturday evening: Gallery Nucleus for the gallery show opening and book release party of The Ancient Book of Sex and Science. This is the follow-up to the out-of-print 2007 release The Ancient Book of Myth and War. The same four artists are involved: Scott Morse, Lou Romano, Don Shank and Nate Wragg. The only difference is that last time all four of them worked at Pixar; now only two of them do (Morse and Shank), while Lou Romano has moved on to Laika and Nate Wragg over to DreamWorks. The opening is from 7-11pm, and paintings, sculptures, prints and books will be on display and available for purchase. For those who can’t make it, you can sign up for an online artwork preview at the Gallery Nucleus website, or better yet, pre-order the book from Amazon.

UPDATE: Those who pre-order the book from Gallery Nucleus will receive a copy signed by all four artists.

Ten CalArts Student Films From 2009

Following my post about David Ochs’s short Who’s Hungry, Brew reader Marianne Hayden sent over several links to other shorts produced at CalArts this year. That made me curious to find even more student films that have been posted online, and the result is this post, which offers a collection of ten new CalArts films spanning from first-year efforts through graduation shorts. Obviously there are dozens of films that haven’t been posted on-line yet so this is not intended to be a comprehensive look at the school’s output nor a selection of the best work coming out of the school. However, it does make for a decent representation of the quality and range of work currently being produced at CalArts. Happy weekend viewing!

Continue reading

Mixed Reviews for Fleischer’s Superman

John McElwee over at the Greenbriar Picture Shows blog has posted a fascinating overview of Paramount’s Superman cartoons. Despite the wide acclaim and Oscar nomination that greeted the first short, McElwee finds quotes from regional theatre managers who just couldn’t take the character – and the idea of dramatic adventure cartoons – seriously. The piece is liberally illustrated with trade ads, pressbook pages and news clippings even I hadn’t seen before. Well worth a look.

Kung Fu Panda at Nick

I was, and still am, a huge fan of Dreamworks Kung Fu Panda. But the announcement today of the a new Nickelodeon TV series based on the movie has saddened me.

If ever there was a character with the potential to fuel a series of theatrical sequels, it’s Po. I don’t expect Jack Black to be providing the voice and personality of the character for the TV version.

A TV series poised to appear before the second film (now in production) seems like a business decision based more on a way to make some fast cash, rather than a sincere effort to nurture a worthy property. Going to series doesn’t neccesarily negate the possibility of further theatricals, but it sure cheapens the franchise.

Couldn’t Nick have been simply based a series on the Panda’s co-stars, The Furious Five?

A plug for Mo Willems

One person who doesn’t need a plug on Cartoon Brew is Mo Willems. Successful animator turned popular children’s book author, Willems now returns to animation with two new short films based on his books.

This Saturday afternoon at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst, Mass. Mo will be premiering two new animated shorts based on his books, produced by Weston Woods: Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! – animated by Pete List with Willems voicing the Pigeon and Jon Scieszka as the Bus Driver; and Knuffle Bunny Too – animated by Karen Villarreal with the voices of Willems, his wife and daughter as the family. For more info on this Saturday’s film screening and book signing, go to the museum’s website.

Fatkat Shuts Down

Fatkat

Canadian animation studio Fatkat has shut its doors. The studio employed 100 people at its peak providing service work on shows like Skunk Fu!, Chaotic, and SuperNormal. Studio founder Gene Fowler has posted a long blog entry with information about the closure. In the post, Fowler says that he and a few of his friends are gathering together to launch a new studio called Loogaroo, located in Miramichi, the same city as Fatkat.

The story of the studio’s shutdown is more complicated than it appears. In his post, Fowler blames the production of a new series called Three Delivery, calling it the “most demanding and torturous production I have ever seen,” and says his “heart goes out” to the crew that had to work on the show. That show was created by Larry Schwarz (Kappa Mikey), who runs the New York studio Animation Collective, which as you may recall, was having its own problems paying artists a few months back.

Additionally, this CBC article from a few weeks ago offers juicy details about Fatkat’s finances. It says that the Canadian government had awarded over $1 million in grants to Fatkat since 2005, but had decided to withdraw its funding in the past few weeks because “Fatkat does not have the revenue stream it had anticipated.”

Who’s Hungry? by David Ochs

It never fails to excite me when I see a student film by somebody who gets it. And 23-year-old David Ochs plainly and clearly gets it. Who’s Hungry? is his freshman(!) film at CalArts, and it’s confident to the hilt. The film, a gory take on the tale of “Hansel and Gretel,” grabs your attention immediately and doesn’t loosen its grip until the credits appear at the end. Before we go any further, watch the film:

Christopher Meeks, his story teacher at CalArts, has written a blog post with some fascinating details about the film:

One of my freshman, David Ochs, last fall had asked me one day in class what the controlling idea (i.e. theme) of “Hansel and Gretel” might be, and off the top of my head, I said something like, “With true innocence comes great power.” Little did I know David wanted to redo the fairytale, and he created a fully animated five-minute film.

Meeks also offers insights about the year-end CalArts Producers’ Show screening and the risk that David took by making the film:

Freshmen, for instance, cannot create a piece over 90 seconds, and if they do, it will not be shown [at the Producers' show], with one exception. The exception is if the student body chooses it as the best film…He knew going in that the only way it could be shown is if the student body selected it. The film ended up being so fabulous that it won the Peer’s Pick Award.

If you’re curious about how the film plays to an audience, watch this recording of the raucous reaction it received at one of the school’s student screenings. ‘Nuff said.