Disney Gives Credit, 1932

As a follow-up to Amid’s post yesterday on Disney’s Pinocchio trade ad, David Lesjak (who runs two of the best Disneyana blogs on the web: Toons At War and Vintage Disney Collectibles) sent us this double page trade ad from 1932 (click thumbnails below to read at full size).

“Attached is an ad which appeared in the October 1, 1932 edition of the Motion Picture Herald. I downloaded the images a long time ago from Steve Geppi’s Diamond Galleries “Scoop” e-newsletter. It shows that as early as 1932 Walt Disney was publicly providing the names of those who worked at the Studio, even going as far to list the names of the women who worked in the “Tracing and Painting Dep’t,” as well as staff in the “Reference Library” and “Music Library.”

Interesting to note the copy running along the bottom of the ad: “To produce a single Mickey Mouse or Silly Symphony requires full time of this organization for two weeks.” Only two weeks? In each department? Animation alone took three or four weeks, even then. Can anyone clarify what that line meant?

Anima Mundi: Call for Web/Cell Phone Submissions

Anima Mundi

The 17th annual edition of Anima Mundi, South America’s largest animation festival, is coming up this July in Rio and São Paulo. The deadline for short film submissions has already passed, but they are still accepting entries for Web and cell phone animated works.

The festival is progressive in its embrace of new media and has been running both of these categories for a number of years. Marcos Magalhaes, one of the co-founders of Anima Mundi, tells me that, “The Anima Mundi Web contest is celebrating its 10th edition (being one of the first of its kind on the Internet) and Anima Mundi Cell is in its fifth year. Both contests are very popular and disputed among Brazilian animators (open to beginners and professionals) but we want more international submissions this year!”

If you’ve created recent work for the Internet or cell phones, the festival will accept submissions until May 25. Entries can conveniently be uploaded online to their server. Rules and on-line entry forms for both competitions are available on their website AnimaMundi.com.br.

Frank Lloyd Wright’s Advice To Walt Disney

This is one of the most sage pieces of filmmaking advice I’ve ever run across:

“Don’t let this idea ‘Box Office’ and this idea of what pleases people bother you. Concern yourself with the best and finest thing, by God, that you know and do it to the top and give it to them to the hilt and you’ll go places and you’ll never lose.”

Who said it?

Architect Frank Lloyd Wright.

He offered this golden nugget to Disney artists during his visit to the studio in the 1939. Historian Wade Sampson has written a nice article–“Why Frank Lloyd Wright Disliked Fantasia–which appears at MousePlanet.com. And here is the link to the transcript of Wright’s entire Disney talk.

Milt Kahl at the Academy, 2.0

Let’s try this again.

If you were turned away from the Milt Kahl event last month, the Academy wants to invite you to an encore presentation. The screening, on video tape, will be held on Tuesday, June 30, at 7:30pm at the Academy’s Linwood Dunn Theater (1313 Vine Street at Fountain, in Hollywood). Free parking is available behind the building if you enter off Homewood. The event, of course, is free but reservations are required for the obvious reasons.

This invitation is extended specifically to those who did not get in to the initial presentation, however you may bring along as many friends as you care to invite. The videotape will feature the original event in its entirety, though it has been edited to provide the best coverage from two cameras. Andreas Deja and Alice Davis are planning to be there for the encore screening so the evening should have a nice personal atmosphere of its own. All attendees will receive the poster and program from the original event.

Reservations may be placed by emailing guest names to rhaberkamp-at-oscars.org or calling 310-247-2688 and leaving names and a return phone number. Any questions, comments or concerns may be addressed to the same above.

(Pictured above from the Kahl tribute 4/27/09, Left to Right: Andreas Deja, Brad Bird, John Musker and Ron Clements)

Great, Now We Have To Start Calling Him Dr. Lasseter

Doctor Lasseter

This photo comes from davedoo’s Flickr page. The accompanying caption:

Saturday, May 2, 2009: A lovely day as Pepperdine University graduates the class of 2009. I had only one acquaintance that was graduating but childhood friend John Lasseter, who I grew up with at the Whittier Church of Christ, received an honorary doctorate for his work in computer animation as Chief Creative Officer of Pixar Animation and Walt Disney Imagineering. Congrats John!

Pinocchio Trade Ad from 1940

Pinocchio Ad

While researching a book that I’m currently working on, I discovered a four-page ad published in the March 4, 1940 edition of The Hollywood Reporter. The ad, taken out by the Disney studio, congratulates the crew who worked on Pinocchio. These type of ads are nothing special nowadays but this particular one is fascinating to see in the context of Disney history.

One of the commonly heard lines about why the Disney strike happened is that Walt never credited his artists publicly and wanted everybody to believe that he made his films alone. This ad proves that that statement is patently false. In fact, this ad appeared over a year before the strike happened. It credits the lead animators, voice artists, background and layout crews, storymen, musician, designers, fx animators, and even the live-action models. The first page of the ad is above, the following three pages are after the jump.

Continue reading

Mish-Mish Effendi

About a year ago, Milton Knight sent us a link to a excerpt from a rare series of Egyptian cartoons created in the 1930s by the pioneering Frenkel Brothers. Knight has just found a complete “Mish-Mish” cartoon on You Tube, from a broadcast on Serge Bromberg’s Cartoon Factory a few years ago. In the interests of animation history, I think it’s worth a look.

Of this film, Knight notes “the pirating of the Van Beuren Tom & Jerry’s Wot a Night and In the Bag, both soundtracks and animation.” I’ll note (or warn you of) the ethnic and racial stereotypes — and the crude animation, which I find entertaining; strangely hypnotic and bizarre, in a good way.

If you want more Frenkel Brothers goodness, here’s a 40-second clip compiled from several other of their films.

Sita Sings the Blues: A Free Culture Success Story

Sita Sings the Blues

Nina Paley’s Sita Sings the Blues–now a film that everybody can (and should) watch–continues to make an impact in surprising and unexpected ways. Last week, the above Reuters photo by Krishnendu Halder appeared online with the following caption: “Members of laughter clubs attend a session during ‘World Laughter Day’ celebrations in Hyderabad, India.” The celebration in India included a huge sculpture of the mythical figure Ravana based on Nina’s design from the film.

Consider for a second the amazing nature of this photo’s contents. Nina Paley made Sita Sings the Blues in her apartment–all by her lone self, on a shoestring budget, using a desktop computer. One short year after its debut, with absolutely no promotional budget, no theatrical distribution and little mainstream media coverage, the film has traveled around the globe and fans are creating sculptures based on her work.

Nina has made it possible for everybody to see her film by placing her film into Creative Commons and allowing it to be shared without copyright restrictions. Conventional thinking leads us to believe that this type of distribution is impossible and that global visibility is only possible through millions of dollars worth of marketing and advertising. Paley, however, has entrusted the distribution to her audience and (surprise, surprise) people are watching her film and building a community around it. The success of her experiment proves that independent artists with limited means can indeed compete on a world-wide playing field, not by trying to mimic strategies of entertainment conglomerates, but by taking advantage of ideas like Creative Commons licensing and employing comprehensive online distribution strategies.

Alisa’s Birthday

I’ve kept my eye on an intriguing Russian animated film Alice’s Birthday, which I’d mentioned here several times last year. Looks like it’s finally coming to the US, on the festival circuit, under the title Alisa’s Birthday. A special English trailer has been created, dubbed by a British girl, but rest assured the film will be shown in Russian with English subtitles. The first US showings are at the Seattle International Film Festival next month: Sunday June 7th at 11am at the Kirkland Performance Center and two other showings at the Pacific Place Cinema. For more information go to the SIFF website.

(Thanks, Liam)

Bass+Crippen+Freberg=”Sale of Manhattan”

The animation above aired on the 1962 ABC special “Stan Freberg Presents The Chun King Chow Mein Hour: Salute to the Chinese New Year.” It’s been rarely seen since then. It was directed by Roger Ramjet creator Fred Crippen, designed by Saul Bass, and the song is taken from Stan Freberg’s comedy album “Stan Freberg Presents The United States Of America.” Another important name involved with this piece was Bass Office designer Art Goodman, who Crippen remembers working with closely and who contributed significantly to the overall look of the piece.

Let’s Do Nothing! by Tony Fucile

Let

Apparently it’s the season for children’s books by animation artists. A couple weeks ago, we wrote about the new kids’ book by Tom Warburton. This week marks the release of a title that really excites me: Let’s Do Nothing! by animator superstar Tony Fucile. Tony has created a funny animated book trailer that is viewable below, and there’s also an interview with him here (click on “download an article”).

Click here to order the book on Amazon.

Cartoons at the Academy

I previously posted about the Academy’s upcoming Monday night series of 1939 Oscar nominees (May 18th through August 3rd). With each film the Academy will screen a short subject and a Buck Rogers serial chapter. Here’s the cartoons that will run with each feature:

Stagecoach – June 1 – THE FILM FAN (Porky Pig)
Wuthering Heights – June 8 – THE POINTER (nominee) (Mickey & Pluto)
Gunga Din – June 12 – MUGS WITH DIRTY THUGS (Tex Avery)
Dark Victory – June 15 – DANGEROUS DAN MCFOO (Tex Avery)
Love Affair – June 22 – DETOURING AMERICA (nominee) (Tex Avery)
Goodbye Mr. Chips – June 29 – PEACE ON EARTH (nominee) (MGM)
Ninotchka – July 13 – THE AUTOGRAPH HOUND (Donald Duck)
Mr. Smith Goes To Washington – July 20 – SCRAPPY’S ADDED ATTRACTION (Columbia)
The Wizard Of Oz August 3 – THE UGLY DUCKLING – (Oscar winner) (Silly Symphony)

For Of Mice and Men (July 27th) they are running an Our Gang live-action short Dog Daze instead of a cartoon short. Gone with the Wind (May 18th) will have no cartoon due to length of feature.

The series ticket is $25. for all ten films (averages out to $2.50 per screening). For more information on this series check the Academy website.

School of Visual Arts Student Screening Review

I attended a couple year-end animation school screenings yesterday in Manhattan–one for NYU students and the other for School of Visual Arts students. The focus of this piece today will be on the latter school, which are called the Dusty screenings. School of Visual Arts has the largest animation program in New York. They presented forty-five thesis films last night. The films were a mixed bag, as most school programs are, but the gap between poor and well done was wider than usual, partly because of the size of the program, but also because the bad films were really bad and the good films were jaw-droppingly spectacular.

The weakest of the bunch made your eyes pop out. It made me angry to think how somebody could have just spent four years of their life and $150k, and not understand the first thing about filmmaking, storytelling, drawing or animating. (To be fair, I had the same reaction for many of the works at NYU’s screening so the reaction is not exclusive to SVA.) The bottom line is that something is clearly wrong, either with admission standards or instruction.

On the other hand, the good films coming out of SVA are outstanding. In a few cases, the films exceeded the quality of anything I’ve seen recently from schools like CalArts and Sheridan, which are considered the North American standard-bearers in traditional animation instruction. The most unique thing about the SVA films I saw is that they don’t rely on conventional student cliches like copying Disney-style expressions or Fifties-style character designs. These students have found their own groove and are exploring personal styles of movement and design not often seen in student films; their inspiration seems to come less from Milt Kahl and more from indie comic artists and illustrators along the lines of Ghostshrimp, Jordan Crane and Tom Herpich.

I was unable to sit through the entire four-hour screening, but I think I caught some of the most solid entries, which included Cat by Peyton Skyler, Metromorphosis by Mikhail Shraga, Juxtaposed by Alex (Wager) Myung, The Chicken Prince by Ioana Alexandra Nistor, and Fantastic Plastic by Lev Polyakov.

Another entertaining short, Metal Boot by Paul Villeco, has already been posted online:

There were two films in particular that floored me last night. The Terrible Thing of Alpha-9 by Jake Armstrong (first image below) and Singles by Rebecca Sugar (second image below). The visual inventiveness of both these films, and their sophisticated marriage of design and animation, was absolutely mindblowing. If Rebecca and Jake represent the future of hand-drawn animation, then the art form is in safe hands.

Jake Armstrong

Rebecca Sugar

Pixar opening shorts studio in Canada

Pixar is opening a satellite studio in Vancouver which will be dedicated to producing short subjects. According to a story in The Vancouver Sun, the new studio will not work on Pixar’s feature films, but will make shorts which, general manager Amir Nasrabadi hints, could include TV series.

“First and foremost for us is to concentrate on Pixar legacy characters,” said Nasrabadi, citing Woody and Buzz Lightyear from Toy Story, and Lightning McQueen and Mater from Cars as four of its legacy characters. “We want to keep these well-known and well-liked characters alive without creating a distraction to those working on the full-length motion pictures in California.

“The types of products we produce will be niche products, such as short films, whether they are standalone or episodic in nature,” said Nasrabadi, a 12-year veteran of the digital entertainment business. “They will be helpful to all of Disney’s ancillary businesses, such as television, compilations on DVD, Internet broadcasting, as well as theatres.”

It sounds like the new studio will be producing DVD bonus materials, at least to start with. After that… who knows?

UPDATE: Canadian animation director and historian Mark Mayerson offers his take on Pixar’s new studio. Historically, he writes, “[S]atellite studios tend to stay satellites. Rather than regard the satellites as minor league teams, where talent is developed and then moved up to the majors, the satellites are walled-off as facilities for lower budget work.”

Max Fleischer’s Screen Song Patent

Submitted for your educational pleasure – another historical find from our friends at the Van Eaton Galleries: The patent for Max Fleischer’s bouncing ball cartoons (filed in 1925, granted in 1926).

Click on thumbnails below to read the convoluted legalese that Fleischer uses to describe his new technique. Note they use Daisy Bell (“A Bicycle Built For Two”) as a sample lyric. Great find – thanks Mike!

Forbes Magazine on Animation

Forbes.com just posted a rather flimsy column about animated features, discussing how much money they make and claiming there are “45 or 50 fully 3D feature-length, computer-animated films in production today, ready for release over the next couple of years”. Really? That many?

They also posted a slideshow of 10 Animated Movies Worth a Billion. Seems to me they left a few off the list… but why quibble over a couple of billion more or less?

Celebrate 80s Pop Culture in Philly

The Autumn Society of Philadelphia is curating an art gallery show in June for the 25th anniversary of Ghostbusters and other 80s pop culture icons (animation, video games, and movies). The exhibition will go on display at the beginning of June and it will be up for the entire month at Brave New Worlds Comics in Philadelphia. Local artist Chogrin (who contributes the Transformer’s piece below) says, “animators and cartoonists from the industry will also be making guest apperances on the show. The show will have a total of 50+ pieces, all by different artists from the Autumn Society.” The Ghostbusters piece above is by Dave Perillo. Brave New Worlds Comics is located at 45 N. 2nd Street in Philadelphia, Pa.

Chogrin will be compiling another show based on the Golden Age of animation and comics in July, with Bob Mcknight, and Oscar Grillo already on board. He sent us samples from that show (below) including a realistic Betty Boop is by Jessica Tommassello and Donny the Mouse by Oscar Grillo.

EXCLUSIVE: Early Review of The Princess and the Frog

Princess and the Frog

I don’t typically republish reader comments in separate posts, but a Cartoon Brew reader named Michael saw a rough cut of The Princess and the Frog last night, and has posted a lengthy, thoughtful and knowledgeable critique of what he saw. (No real spoilers in his review unless you’re super-sensitive.) I did some digging to find out who “Michael” is, and while his identity will clearly remain anonymous, I learned that he’s not affiliated with Disney and that he works in the live-action film industry. Here is what Mike thinks of Disney’s return to hand-drawn:

Well, I saw the film at a screening (through movietickets.com) last night, of which something less than 30% was full color animation; and the rest surprisingly – given the audience – was pencils and boards. It was a lovely treat for an animation buff to be able to attend a movie in this stage of its development.

My one sentence review would be: it’s a worthy entry in the Disney canon, but they’ve got a LOT more work to do, and not just finishing up the animation.

My more considered opinion:

I think this movie has a lot of promise and in the main it was very warmly received by an audience unused to watching pencil tests, who laughed heartily throughout.

I liked a lot of the character design, derivative though some of it seemed – but I don’t know how many new ways there are to design a talking frog, for example. The alligator looks a little too familiar, though how he moves around is rather fun. The lightning bug, who was a huge hit with the audience, as he’s quite amusing, nonetheless looks, from a design standpoint, as if he has flown in from another movie entirely.

The environments and backgrounds are really beautiful, especially when the action moves into the bayou. Really, really lovely stuff, and what we saw of the completed New Orleans is really quite something.

Unlike some who have commented on the snippets above, I did not find the acting to be over the top except when that’s what’s called for. To the contrary I found it to be closer to the classic style of old than most recent Disney fare. Whether that’s a good thing or not depends on how you feel about Disney living in the past, versus pushing the boundaries. Can’t they do both? Make films like the classics, but also make more modern or challenging films? Surely they can, but since this is the first one out of the gate 2D-wise post John and Ed, it seems inescapable that it should be an effort that tries to capture that classic Disney aesthetic.

[Note: The following paragraph references a comment that I made earlier.] And Amid, as far as them being out of touch – I don’t think they are out of touch at all with what the lion’s share of the paying audience wants to see (certainly, if the whoops and cheers after last night’s screening are any indication). You can “Triplets of Belleville” about it all you want, and I adore all sorts of animation, but even the most meagre Disney grosses put the lie to this notion that the masses are thirsting for more challenging animated product and are rejecting this somewhat traditional and predictable, if beautiful, fare – no matter how much animation enthusiasts like you or I might wish that it were so.

Anyway, story-wise, there’s enough that’s “different” in there to pique the interest of those who are tired of the traditional Disney fare, but unfortunately it also treads many of the same boards as the movies we have seen a dozen times over. I suppose, alas, that given the burden of expectation – it’s going to SAVE Disney 2D animation!!! – it has to to meet the modern expectation of a “Disney animated feature.” The “I want” song lands right where it is supposed to, and so on. It seemed to me, that some of the more familiar elements don’t really sit well with some of the new, but I think there’s room, and time, to smooth this out some.

BUT, there are some pretty large story problems in the first act that loom large over the rest of the film. I won’t go into detail because I don’t want to be hatching spoilers all over the place. Suffice it to say that neither the prince’s, his servant’s or the villain’s motivations are at all made clear; their early development is rushed; they seem to be acting as they do because the plot demands it of them, rather than moving from any basis of character. This lack of development weighs the movie down horribly when it should be flying. Moreover, certain developments later in the film that should really land with elegance don’t because they are not properly set up in the first act. Tiana’s the only character who feels really fully developed, and inasmuch as she’s the protagonist that’s good news, but these other three characters and why they do what they do to each other is really a big piece of the core of the story and I fear the film will not resonate unless these issues are addressed.

It was kind of shocking, really, to see these questions of character and motivation at this point in a project that’s been gestating as long as this one, with these particular people at the helm! Fortunately, there are numerous potential solutions and ways to strengthen these characters, utilizing mainly what’s already been done, and possibly replacing one scene (one of the few which seemed nearly complete, alas) with another which could conceivably be whipped into shape in the time available.

I hope so. A success for this picture is a good thing for animation everywhere. It was a crowd-pleaser last night in its unfinished form, for sure, and if it were finished and released in its present form I have no doubt it would do well, but lots of pictures that aren’t as good as they could be do well. If they can rejigger the first act and clarify those three characters, the picture could really soar, could really stand up on its own among the other Disney classics, and could open the door to loads of new possibilities for the studio.

“Mr. Wobble’s Nightmare” by Joel Trussell

Fruit Trussell

Following this recent post, many readers demanded better animated and funnier fruit people. So I present to you Joel Trussell‘s new Kid 606 video “Mr. Wobble’s Nightmare.” Watch it here. Credits for the video are as follows:

Director: Joel Trussell
Animators: Anna & Mike Hollingsworth, Joel Trussell
DP & Editor: Michael Samstag
Camera: Matthew Rogers
Lighting: Jeff Reed

Two Books You Must Have in October

Come October, I know I’ll definitely be adding two new books to my bookshelf:

South of the Border with Disney

South of the Border with Disney: Walt Disney and the Good Neighbor Program 1941-1948 by J.B. Kaufman. The topic is fascinating, the historian is impeccably qualified. This should be incredible!

The Duchess of Whimsy

The Duchess of Whimsy is the first time that Ice Age designer and New Yorker cover artist Peter de Sève has created original illustrations for a children’s book. I’ve seen it and can say that this isn’t your average children’s book. Every page is a work of art.

White is for Witching Trailer

White is for Witching

I’ve linked to a number of animated book trailers in recent months, and the trend appears to be growing. In the overcrowded fiction marketplace, these trailers are a smart way of standing out from the pack and allows publishers to turn audiences on to books they may have otherwise not heard about. The latest book trailer I’ve found is for the book White is for Witching by Helen Oyeyemi. The trailer can be seen on the book’s website WhiteisforWitching.com. The spot’s illustrations were created by Jon Klassen and animation/compositing work was done by Julia Pott.