Trailer for Jean François by Tom&Bruno

After graduating from French animation school Gobelins, Tom Haugomat and Bruno Mangyoku partnered up and became the directing duo Tom&Bruno. They are currently repped by Cube Creative and have been working on a short film called Jean François, the trailer for which can be seen above. The piece looks beautiful; it’s a fusion of anime filmmaking techniques and graphically inventive character design that wouldn’t look out of place in an Estonian animated short. Can’t wait to see the finished product. The filmmakers have a blog with artwork from the film.

(Thanks, Jakob Schuh)

Cartoon Network’s Death Knell Promo

Your name is Cartoon Network,
so you expect to see
nothing but animation when you flip CN on your TV.
But the times they are a-changing,
so don’t get left behind
because now we’ve got real people and
we’ve heard it blows your mind.

Those are the lyrics from an abrasive Andrew W.K. music video that Cartoon Network released online yesterday. We’ve been reporting on Cartoon Network’s slow, steady decline since April 2006. It’s fascinating to watch how clumsily the network is diluting their brand, and how tactlessly they’re integrating this cheap hodge-podge of live-action shows into their line-up. The first signs of a CN Real backlash are already forming: a Facebook group called Boycott Cartoon Network’s “CN Real” block was recently started and has over 1,400 members.

Greg Ford animates Tom Gammill’s The Doozies

When I was at Ohio State in Columbus this past weekend I had the pleasure of meeting writer Tom Gammill, who (along with his partner Max Pross) has written some of the funniest episodes of Seinfeld, The Critic, the Simpsons and Futurama. Tom also writes and draws the weekly daily online comic strip The Doozies and started an online series of humorous “How To Draw” videos (several featuring guest cartoonists and celebrity friends).

In episode 17, Gammill visits Greg Ford’s studio in New York to watch a work-in-progress of a Doozies animated cartoon. Gammill first met Ford back in 1986 when they co-wrote the Looney Tunes 50th Anniversary Special for NBC. Let’s see how Ford is doing…

Sporn on Terrytoons

Michael Sporn’s Splog is a daily must-read for anyone interested in cartoons, their history and the experiences of a life-long New York independent animator. Today, Michael posts several vintage articles on the old Terrytoons studio based in New Rochelle, NY.

I want to thank Mike for giving me an excuse to post this fun TV commercial from the mid-1950s, below, featuring future Oscar winner Patty Duke playing with a Remco toy Drive-In Movie Theatre — which came complete with Terrytoons:

Who was Walt Disney?

Forget Barrier and Gabler, I found the real deal at the Columbus airport bookstore this weekend. The haunting cover art of Who Was Walt Disney? (above) was staring at me, mocking me, compelling me to purchase it.

This 106 page paperback, “not authorized, licensed or endorsed by The Walt Disney Company or any affiliate” as noted on the cover, is simply a children’s book. Author Whitney Stewart nicely condenses Walt’s life story, but this is strictly for Disney completists only – the ones who have to have everything. Amazon is only selling a Kindle download, a physical copy is apparently only available at the Penguin Group website – or at Paradies News & Gifts on Concourse C at the Port Columbus International Airport.

El Superbeasto on DVD

Anchor Bay Entertainment will be releasing Rob Zombie’s The Haunted World of El SuperBeasto direct-to-video on September 22nd.

The film stars Paul Giamatti, Rosario Dawson and comedian Tom Papa (as El Superbeasto himself). The IMDB plot synopsis says, “The story follows the adventures of El Superbeasto, a washed-up Mexican luchador, and his sultry sidekick and sister Suzi-X (Dawson) as they confront an evil villain by the name of Dr. Satan (Giamatti). The adventure, set in the mythic world of Monsterland, also has a character named Murray the robot (Brian Posehn).” I saw an early rough cut over a year ago and it is a pretty wild ride – one I highly recommend. There are two short clips on which do not do the film justice – in fact, I think these are the only two G-rated scenes in the entire film! It’s R-rated for extreme violence and cartoon nudity. You can pre-order it at now.

The Society for Animation Studies

The 21st Annual Society for Animation Studies Conference, subtitled The Persistence of Animation, will be held July 10-12, 2009, at the Atlanta campus of the Savannah College of Art and Design.

Held under the auspices of SCAD-Atlanta’s Animation Department, the conference features over 50 scholars and filmmakers from around the world who will present papers on a wide range of topics relating to animation history and theory; in addition, there will be workshops on teaching animation history and animation production. The conference itself will kick off with a keynote address Andrew Darley, a renown British media theorist.

In conjunction with the conference, the SCAD Library will be presenting a special exhibition, Behind the Cels: Selections from SCAD’s Don Bluth Collection, featuring art work donated to the school by Don Bluth and Gary Goldman; Goldman will introduce the exhibit during the conference on Saturday, July 11th, and will also be present at a free reception, which is open to the public, Thursday evening, July 9th, from 6:00-8:00 pm.

Finally, ASIFA-Atlanta, in conjunction with the High Museum of Art, is organizing Georgia Animation on Our Mind: A Retrospective of Peachtree State Animation, which will screen at the nearby Woodruff Arts Center’s Rich Auditorium. The program features short animations, including experimental shorts, TV commercials and Avery Matthews, a never-aired Cartoon Network pilot.

For details on the SAS conference, including registration fees, check out the conference blog. You can also sign up for free tickets to the Friday night screenings at the ASIFA-Atlanta website.

Reminder: Jerry at Ohio State TONIGHT!

I’ll be in Columbus Ohio tonight to introduce a screening of Disney’s 101 Dalmatians (1961) and to celebrate the recent acquisition of Mort Walker’s International Museum of Cartoon Art Collection by Ohio State University’s Cartoon Library and Museum.

I will be doing a book signing at 6pm in Wexner Center, then at 7pm we’ll be screening Disney’s 1961 feature. The movie will be preceded by the 1938 Mickey Mouse short, The Brave Little Tailor, and the 1949 Paramount cartoon Leprechaun’s Gold – all in beautiful 35mm! For information on this screening and tickets, go to the Wexner Center website. Come by and say hello!

Tashlin Toons at the Silent Movie Theatre

I will be screening an evening of classic Frank Tashlin Cartoons at the Silent Movie Theatre on Fairfax in Hollywood, Tuesday July 7th at 8pm. This program is the first in a series of “first Tuesday” animation screenings each month at the Silent Movie.

Frank Tashlin spent the first part of his screen career as an animator, storyman and cartoon director at various Hollywood animation studios in the 1930s and 40s. In addition to a selection of his best Warner Bros. cartoons, we will be screening his earliest work at Van Beuren, his rare stop motion puppet animation and several of his Columbia cartoons (Fox & Crow in 35mm!). For more information, visit The Silent Movie Theatre website.

10 for Best Picture

It was announced yesterday that the Academy will now nominate ten films for Best Picture. From their press release:

For more than a decade during the Academy’s earlier years, the Best Picture category welcomed more than five films; for nine years there were 10 nominees. The 16th Academy Awards (1943) was the last year to include a field of that size; “Casablanca” was named Best Picture. (In 1931/32, there were eight nominees and in 1934 and 1935 there were 12 nominees.) “Having 10 Best Picture nominees is going to allow Academy voters to recognize and include some of the fantastic movies that often show up in the other Oscar categories, but have been squeezed out of the race for the top prize,” commented Ganis.

One might coin this “the Wall-E decision”, as there was much speculation and controversy last year over Pixar’s Wall-E — that it could (or should) have been nominated for Best Picture.

This move to include more movies as nominees will allow more commercially successful films (i.e. big budget Hollywood fantasies) to compete with the artier fare (Slumdog Millionaire, The Reader, Milk, etc.), no doubt to help increase the ratings for the Oscar broadcast. Ten nominees could also boost box office gross and DVD sales for twice as many films.

But how will this affect the animated features? Will Pixar’s Up have a shot to go one-on-nine against the likes of James Cameron’s Avatar, Michael Mann’s Public Enemies and Sam Mendes Away We Go? Industry pundit Jeffery Wells thinks not.

Hollywood still places animation in a ghetto and nothing is going to change that. I hope Up, Coraline, The Fantastic Mr. Fox or some animated film can somehow crack the Best Picture category – but I won’t bet on it. Until perceptions change, I’m just glad we have the Best Animated Short and Best Animated Feature categories.

Speaking of which, at the mid-way point it’s looking like a great year for the Animated Feature category. There are already 13 releases set for 2009 (14 if you count Jim Carrey’s mo-cap Christmas Carol – I don’t). If a few more “dark horse” foreign films get submitted, as they usually do at the end of the year, that could trigger five nominees (I’m rooting for Mary & Max and Secret of Kells to get a legitimate U.S. release). However, recall that last year three eligible studio films were not submitted to the Academy (Fox ignored Space Chimps, Warner Bros. withheld Star Wars: Clone Wars, and Universal omitted The Pirates That Don’t Do Anything), thus forcing the Academy to consider only three nominees. It just goes to show, the major studios still control the process no matter how you perceive the results.

The Art of Harvey Kurtzman: The Mad Genius of Comics

Art of Harvey Kurtzman

The Art of Harvey Kurtzman: The Mad Genius of Comics by Denis Kitchen and Paul Buhle easily ranks among my favorite cartoon/comic-related books of the past few years, if not all-time. How good is it? I was so anxious to get my hands on this book that I ended up buying a copy at the bookstore instead of ordering it from Amazon. The selection of artwork, the design of the book, and the print quality are all jaw-droppingly gorgeous. The text, which I’ve only begun to read, also appears to be top-notch. Kurtzman was the rare individual who was equally gifted as both an artist (Hey Look!, Two-Fisted Tales, Frontline Combat) and editor (Mad, Help, Trump, and this volume lovingly acknowledges both sides of the man. The book was published by Abrams’ promising new ComicArts imprint and is an incredible value at $26.40 on Amazon.

UPDATE: Sherm Cohen made this video preview of the book:

Beany and Cecil DVD Vol. 2

Here’s a DVD I’ve been waiting to see for over a decade – Beany & Cecil: The Special Edition Vol. 2.

Volume 1 is a must have for all fans of Bob Clampett. It was loaded with bonus material and rare footage we’d been dying to see for decades. Volume 2 promises to be more of the same: 11 classic Beany & Cecil cartoons, remastered from 35mm camera negatives, and several bonus features including rare Time for Beany kinescopes and an alternate version of Beanyland. It’ll be available September 8th from Hen’s Tooth Video.

Miyazaki in person in Los Angeles

The annual Marc Davis Celebration of Animation continues with a second helping at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in Beverly Hills, California. On July 28th, the Academy will honor Hayao Miyazaki in a special tribute which will include screening clips from his greatest films and an in-person conversation between Miyazaki and John Lasseter.

Need I say anymore? Tickets are on sale now. $5. for general public, $3. for Academy members. Seating is (ahem) limited. Go here now.

Jaime Diaz (1937-2009)

Longtime animator and director Jaime Diaz passed away this past Saturday.

I met Jaime several times during 2005-6 when I was working at Nickelodeon on my Random Cartoon, Hornswiggle. Jaime was an amazing talent and generous with his memories of breaking into the animation scene during the 1960s. You’ll see his credit on some of the last Warner Bros. cartoons of the late 1960s. From there, he worked mainly on Saturday morning shows for Hanna Barbera and Filmation in a variety of roles, from storyboard to character designer. He became a director on Duckman and on later Frederator shows like ChalkZone and Fairly Odd Parents. I really enjoyed his designs from his Random short Dr. Froyd’s Funny Farm (Diaz, pictured below left with Froyd co-creator Bill Burnett).

Larry Huber has posted a wonderful heartfelt remembrance of Jaime on his website.

Tucky Tales

Tucky Tales is a simple but inventive example of digital “cut-out” animation. The pre-school series for Baby TV was created by Israeli husband-and-wife animation team Eduard and Nurit Mitgartz. They’ve produced twenty 5-minute episodes at their studio Kipod Animation.

WALL·E End Credits

Wall-E Credits

The Art of the Title Sequence interviews director Jim Capobianco and animator Alex Woo about the thoughtful end credit sequence of WALL·E. From the article intro:

Jim Capobianco’s end credits to Andrew Stanton’s “WALL·E” are essential; they are the actual ending of the film, a perfect and fantastically optimistic conclusion to a grand, if imperfect idea. Humanity’s past and future evolution viewed through unspooling schools of art. Frame after frame sinks in as you smile self-consciously. It isn’t supposed to be this good but there it is. This is art in its own right. Peter Gabriel and Thomas Newman’s song, “Down to Earth” indulges you with some incredibly thoughtful lyrics and, from the Stone Age to the Impressionists to the wonderful 8-bit pixel sprites, you are in the midst of something special

The story behind Underdog

If Jay Ward, Hanna Barbera and Rankin-Bass rate biographical tomes, certainly the output of Total Television deserves a historical overview. Sight unseen (except for its fabulous Mike Kazaleh cover – click thumbnail below to enlarge image) I am recommending this forthcoming book by Mark Arnold: Created and Produced by Total TeleVision Productions.

Frequently compared to and confused with Jay Ward Productions, this is the company that created such characters as Underdog, Tennessee Tuxedo, Tooter Turtle, Commander McBragg, Go Go Gophers, King and Odie, The Hunter, and The Beagles. The history of Gamma Productions, the little Mexican animation studio that animated most of the Jay Ward Productions, is covered — and the book contains a complete episode listing of every known Total TeleVision production. Illustrated with storyboards and character merchandise, Arnold wrote the book using personal interviews with the four owners of TTV (Buck Biggers, Chet Stover, Tread Covington and Joe Harris) as well as voice artists Allen Swift (Simon Bar Sinister), Bradley Bolke (Chumley the Walrus), animators Frank Andrina of TV Spots and Roman Arambula of Gamma Productions. And the book promises to finally answer a question we’ve been asking ourselves for years: What the heck is The Colossal Show? Copies are now available from BearManor Media.