NY, NY: A Day in New York by Francis Thompson

NY, NY

Francis Thompson (1908-2003) made this striking work, NY, NY: A Day in New York, in 1957. Trained as a painter, he was interested in finding a way to capture the effects of Surrealism and Cubism in photography. He achieved that through a variety of lenses, reflectors, optical effects and editing tricks. The film works both in the abstract and narrative sense, and while it’s not animated, Thompson’s creative use of the cinema medium is fresher and more emotionally engaging than many of today’s artificial worlds created through motion graphics and digital means. Thompson was secretive about how he made the film, describing the production simply as, “a magic, secret process of bending, twisting, and turning inside out. It was a self-funded project that involved my roaming about New York City with a camera over my shoulder.”

Aldous Huxley once wrote about this film:

“And then there is what may be called the Distorted Documentary a new form of visionary art, admirably exemplified by Mr. Francis Thompson’s film, NY, NY. In this very strange and beautiful picture we see the city of New York as it appears when photographed through multiplying prisms, or reflected in the backs of spoons, polished hub caps, spherical and parabolic mirrors. We still recognize houses, people, shop fronts, taxicabs, but recognize them as elements in one of those living geometries which are so characteristic of the visionary experience. The invention of this new cinematographic art seems to presage (thank heaven!) the supersession and early demise of non-representational painting. It used to be said by the non-representationalists that colored photography had reduced the old-fashioned portrait and the old-fashioned landscape to the rank of otiose absurdities. This, of course, is completely untrue. Colored photography merely records and preserves, in an easily reproducible form, the raw materials with which portraitists and landscape painters work. Used as Mr. Thompson has used it, colored cinematography does much more than merely record and preserve the raw materials of non-representational art; it actually turns out the finished product. Looking at NY, NY, I was amazed to see that virtually every pictorial device invented by the old masters of non-representational art and reproduced ad nauseam by the academicians and mannerists of the school, for the last forty years or more, makes its appearance, alive, glowing, intensely significant, in the sequences of Mr. Thompson’s film.

NY, NY

David OReilly on the making of Please Say Something

Please Say Something

One of the most interesting animated-related pieces I’ve read in a while: David OReilly discusses his technical and aesthetic approach to the short Please Say Something. His ideas are a polar opposite of mainstream computer animation:

My central idea in constructing the world of the film was to prove that something totally artificial and unreal could still communicate emotion and hold cinematic truth. The film makes no effort to cover up the fact that it is a computer animation, it holds an array of artifacts which distance it from reality, which tie it closer to the software it came from. This idea is in direct opposition to all current trends in animation, which take the route of desperately trying to look real, usually by realistic lighting and rendering, or by forcing a hand-made or naive appearance. At the time of writing, this trend shows no apparent signs of ceasing.

Cartoon Network on Craigslist

Filmmaker Gavin Freitas found this notice on Craigslist:

Cartoon Network seeks Teens (12-18) for new competition show! (Los Angeles)

CASTING TEENAGERS AGES 12-18 FOR HIGH ENERGY/POP CULTURE SHOW THAT CHALLENGES YOUR MIND AND YOUR BODY!!!!

THIS IS NOT ABOUT ANY ONE SKILL, BUT YOUR DESIRE TO WIN!!

Are you fast on your toes and quick on your trivia knowledge?
The Cartoon Network is looking for FUN & ENERGETIC teens to show us what they know in a fast paced competition show that’s big on thrills!!!

CASH PRIZES!!

Shoot Dates (MUST BE AVAILABLE ALL 3 or 4 DAYS):
TBD MID SEPTEMBER

Contestants will be paid a participation fee + a chance for CASH PRIZES!!

Participants MUST have or obtain an entertainment work permits. If you do not have a work permit we can provide you with the paperwork, but your legal guardian and school will need to approve ASAP.

Parent or Legal Guardian must accompany teens under 18 to shoot.
MUST provide age verification at audition (Birth Certificate and School ID) and a copy of current work permit if available.

If interested, please email [email protected] with a recent PHOTO, your age/birthdate, and a quick couple lines to introduce yourself

Location: Los Angeles
Compensation: daily participation fee + cash prizes

Behind The Lines podcast

We haven’t plugged any podcasts in a while. Here’s one that’s worth your time: Todd Dolce runs an animation/cartooning webcast that should be of interest to many Brew readers. Recently, Dolce has done terrific interviews with Gene Deitch (Tom Terrific), Don Bluth (Secret of Nimh), Dan Thompson (Rip Haywire), Joe Harris (Underdog), cartoonist Bob Scott, and illustrator Lowell Hess. All deserve a listen. It’s officially called the Boing Podcast and here is the link.

Fantastic Mr. Fox Trailer

Fantastic Mr. Fox

Trailer is out today for Wes Anderson’s first animated feature Fantastic Mr. Fox. Maybe it’s just me, but the dialogue delivery sounds stilted and leadfooted throughout the trailer. On the other hand, the production design looks fantastic indeed. Like Coraline, we’re seeing another stop-motion feature that is pushing the boundaries of mainstream feature animation design and searching for an original look. That’s never a bad thing.

Epic Mickey

Game site 1Up.com is reporting on an ambitious new “steampunk” Mickey Mouse game in development, codenamed Epic Mickey. Warren Spector (video game superstar behind System Shock, Deus Ex) and Disney’s Junction Point Studios are working on this secret project, in development for Nintendo’s Wii. Artists Tony Pulham, Gary Glover and Fred Gambino are said to be doing development art (click thumbnails above for larger images). For more art and info, click here.

(Thanks, Saturnome)

New Disney Strike footage

The folks at the John Basmajian Collection have just unearthed – and posted – a reel of rare 8mm film footage of the infamous 1941 Disney animators strike. This is new stuff and incredibly rare. They even did a nice job of adding sound effects to bring it to life. Tom Sito points out, when watching the footage, to look for these highlights:

• The first man shown speaking on a microphone is Animator Art Babbitt.

•We see a shot of Walt Disney standing in the guard shack, hat on head and white shirt open at the neck, watching the strikers outside his gate.

• The second closeup of a man using a microphone is actor John Garfield, a matinee idol of the 1940s.

• The next shot is Walt Disney going through the picketline in his fashionable Packard.

• The next person driving his car through the disapproving pickets is director Ham Luske.

• The group carrying the Guillotine is the Warner Bros unit, led by picket captain Chuck Jones- the young man to the left in the black shirt. The effigy in the Guillotine was supposed to be of Disney’s attorney Gunther Lessing.

The footage is posted here.

Lorax and Nimh going CG

What hath Disney’s G-Force wrought?

Thanks to its huge opening weekend box office gross, Paramount is fighting back with the Rats of Nimh. Neil Burger, who wrote The Illusionist and is currently working on The Bride of Frankenstein for Universal, is turning his attention to a CG re-do of Don Bluth’s The Secret of NIMH, according to Variety.

Meanwhile, Variety is also reporting that Universal Pictures and their animation division, Illumination Entertainment, are joining forces to turn the Dr. Seuss book The Lorax into a 3-D CG animated feature. The project will be co-directed by Chris Renaud and Cinco Paul & Ken Daurio, with Paul & Daurio writing the script. The picture is targeted for a March 2, 2012, release, which falls on the birthday of Theodor Geisel, who died in 1991.

I’ve nothing against adapting great children’s literature, or remaking cartoons based on great children’s literature, but why hasn’t the success of UP (U.S. gross $284,239,283. to date) inspired Hollywood to create something original? Oh, yeah… it’s Hollywood.

Hayao Miyazaki/John Lasseter Press Conference

I had an opportunity to join selected journalists at a Hayao Miyazaki-John Lasseter press conference held yesterday (7/28) before their appearence at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences last night. I also shot some video (sorry for the shakey hand held camera work, and the low audio) and thought it was worth sharing with our readers. In this first part below Miyazaki talks about using (or not using) CG and his chances of making a film in 3-D. Lasseter discusses the process of dubbing a Miyazaki’s films. Interesting to note they’ve already dubbed Tales From Earthsea.

In the second part, Lasseter discusses 3-D animated films; Miyazaki talks about what’s happening with his son:

In the third part, John Lasseter discusses his admiration of Miyazaki’s films, his reaction to the first one he saw, Castle of Cagliostro, Miyazaki’s influence in Pixar films, and why he wants to bring Miyazaki’s films to the US:

Beatnik Animation at the Silent Movie Theater

Next Tuesdsay night at 8pm, I’ll be presenting a program of animation reflecting the styles, language and music of the Beat Generation. The screening will take place at the Silent Movie Theatre in Hollywood (on Fairfax and Melrose), continuing my series of first-Tuesday-of-each-month animation spectaculars there. Rare film prints and video will be screened and the program will include independent films, TV cartoons (though not any Dick Tracy cartoons with Heap O’Calorie and Nick, as pictured above). We will screen works by Ernest Pintoff, Bob Clampett, Jay Ward and others. Grab an Espresso and join me next week. It’ll be cool, Daddy-o! More info here.

Born Under Fire, Documentary about War in Colombia

Powerful trailer for Born Under Fire, a documentary about the on-going war conflict in Colombia that uses voices from children who have witnessed the events and incorporates their drawings into the film. It is directed by Jairo Eduardo Carrillo with animation produced by Oscar Andrade at his studio Jaguar Digital. It was originally a short, Pequeñas Voces, that has been reworked into a full-length film. Visit the website HERE.

(Thanks, Carlo Guillot)

Mary Blair Exhibit at Tokyo’s Museum of Contemporary Art

Mary Blair Exhibit

“The Colors of Mary Blair” is a major new exhibit of Mary Blair’s artwork that has opened at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Tokyo, Japan. Over five hundred pieces of original artwork are on display, including her animation work, book illustrations, package designs, watercolors, and personal artwork. The show’s website is in Japanese, but there is an English section with basic address and admission details. These photos on Flickr (HERE and HERE) give a sense of the exhibit’s scale, and this image shows that the exhibition is accompanied by merchandise and a catalog. The show runs through October 4.

(via Disney History)

Spang Ho!

Welcome to Cartoon Brew – where rejected pilots from Cartoon Network come to play. Here’s another one:

Here is what the creator, Lincoln Peirce, had to say about it:

“Spang Ho is the latest of several pilots of mine Cartoon Network has rejected over the years. No, it wasn’t for Cartoonstitute; that program hadn’t officially been launched when CN bought Spang Ho. Frankly, I’m not sure exactly why they bought it, since nobody there seemed too sanguine about its prospects as a CN series. There was a lot of turmoil going on in the CN programming and development depts at the time (as there continues to be), and CN actually fired Spang Ho’s in-house producer when we were about halfway done without telling us. (When I say “us” I’m referring to myself, my director Rich Ferguson-Hull, and the crew of Global Mechanic, the house that did the animation.) But they allowed us to finish it, and then they focus-grouped it. The kids were only luke-warm about it, and that was the end of that. It was likely my last TV writing stint for awhile, since I’m working on some kids books for Harper Collins right now featuring my comic strip character, Big Nate.”

(Thanks, Joshua Bailey)

Happy Birthday, Bud Luckey!

As a change of pace, here’s some happy news about a veteran animation artist: today is Bud Luckey‘s 75th birthday. Luckey’s career stretches from Quartet and Format Films in the 1950s to design and story work on most of the Pixar features and the short Boundin’, which he directed. And, of course, he will always be fondly remembered for the many catchy Sesame Street segments he wrote, performed and animated, like “The Ladybugs’ Picnic,” “The Alligator King,” “The Old Woman Who Lived in a Nine,” and this one:

UPDATE: Animation artist Phil Rynda wrote a post about Bud Luckey’s influence on him and drew this birthday tribute with Luckey’s character, Donny Budd. Awesome!
Donny Budd

Vance Gerry Tribute Blog

Vance Gerry

Story artist Ed Gombert has started a blog dedicated to the work of Disney storyman Vance Gerry, who passed away in 2005. Gombert writes on the blog, “Fortunately, the geek in me started making copies of his work and instead of sitting in a folder in my personal archive I want to share these drawings with as many people as possible. If you look long enough at these drawings and paintings you will be able to see the kind, funny, humble and generous man that was Vance Gerry.”

The Gerry blog joins a growing number of blogs, sites and Facebook pages dedicated to individual artists from animation’s Golden Age, including:

Abe Levitow
Homer Jonas
Chuck Jones
Irv Spector
Ward Kimball
Claude Coats
Jack Bradbury

(Thanks, Mark Kennedy)

Little Rikke

One of the saddest things about the current deconstruction of Cartoon Network is the bits and pieces of pilots and projects being leaked that point to what could have been. Animator Stephane Coedel has posted these charming opening and closing title sequences for a CN rejected pilot created by Rikke Asbjorn.

Little Rikke was co-directed by Rikke Asbjorn and Chris Garbutt
- Character design: Rikke Asbjorn
- Storyboard: Chris Garbutt
- Backgrounds: Sylvain Marc
- Character animation: Rikke Asbjorne, Sylvain Marc, Ben Marsaud
- Compositing, animation, sound supervision: Stephane Coedel.
-Development team of concept: Rikke Asbjoern, Chris Garbutt, Alan Kerswell, Dave Needham, Charlie Bean, Sylvain Marc.

Ice Age Enters Record Books

A fact that took me by surprise: Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs is now the fifth-highest grossing animated feature of all-time at the worldwide box office. Here’s the list:

1. Shrek 2 – $919.8 million
2. Finding Nemo – $864.6 million
3. Shrek the Third – $799 million
4. The Lion King – $783.8 million
5. Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs – $673.5 million

The film has performed phenomenally overseas, pulling in excess of $500 million from foreign markets. This Variety article mentions that the film is on its way to becoming the top-grossing animated feature at the foreign box office, surpassing the current title holder, Pixar’s Finding Nemo ($524 million).

I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that the reason for the film’s box office success isn’t because the entire world loves Ray Romano, but rather that the world loves Scrat, a refreshing cartoon creation whose appeal stems from his personality and mannerisms instead of his dialogue (a virtually unheard of innovation in contemporary animation).

The episode of Simon’s Cat I posted yesterday couldn’t be more different in style and tone than Ice Age, but at its core, I think the success of both of these cartoons revolves around an understanding that audiences still enjoy watching funny and appealing visually-driven cartoon characters.

Harry Potter and the Office of Unemployment

I haven’t seen a new piece of animation by stop-motion animator Corky Quackenbush in what seems like forever, so I was pleasantly surprised to run across his latest: Harry Potter and the Office of Unemployment.

I also found this “sex and violence” reel with clips from Quakenbush’s familiar classics along with newer works that I hadn’t seen. Family Guy could stand to take a lesson from Corky about what it means to be edgy and outrageous.

For more about Corky, visit his charmingly outdated website SpaceBassFilms.com.

Cartoon Dump Tonight!

If you’re stuck in Los Angeles, and you can’t get into tonight’s Academy program with John Lasseter and Hayao Miyazaki, take heart! Cartoon Dump goes on this evening at 8pm with our gala 2nd Anniversary Show!

That’s right! It’s our second birthday (our first performance was in July 2007) and tonight we celebrate with special guests David Feldman (from Conan, Comedy Central, and Bill Maher) and Dave “Gruber” Allen (Freak & Geeks, Naked Trucker, Two Headed Dog)!

Join me, Frank Conniff, Erica Doering, J. Elvis Weinstein, and Mighty Mr. Titan (putting the spotlight on his ass, above) tonight at the Steve Allen Theater, 4773 Hollywood Blvd. • Free Parking! • Advanced Tickets here • Phone: (323) 666-9797 • Map & Directions

Juiced and Jazzed

We linked to a preview of Justin Weber’s Juiced and Jazzed a few months ago, but now the whole film is viewable online at liquorflicker.com

The cartoon began as Weber’s senior film at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. It was completed at MAKE in Minneapolis. Weber writes:

“I graduated in December 2008, having completed a black and white version of the cartoon, I was employed at MAKE, a design studio in Minneapolis that specializes in motion graphics and animation. There, with the help of fellow MCAD graduates Andrew Chesworth, Aaron Quist, and Joe Kim, we colored and finished the cartoon. It premiered at the Palm Springs International ShortFest in June and won 2nd Place in the Animation category.”

The cartoon features the recordings “The Uptown Lowdown” by Joe Venuti and “The Charelston” by Spike Jones. I always have a soft spot for “retro-30s” rubber hose tributes like this. Well done, Justin.

A New Episode of Simon’s Cat

“Fly Day” is the latest episode of Simon’s Cat by Simon Tofield, a UK-based director on the Tandem Films roster. It’s refreshing to see animation that hinges everything on the quality of acting, characterization, and observation. Tofield directs our attention towards the character’s personality to the point of not including any color, camera moves, or cuts in the entire episode. Simon’s Cat is also a fine example of an on-line animation success story. In a little over a year, the four previous episodes of the cartoon have reached nearly 30 million pageviews, which has led to a book deal for Tofield. More details on the book are available at SimonsCat.com.

(Thanks, David K.)

Nick-at-Nite animated promos

Remember when Nick-at-Nite was good? I’m feeling nostalgic for the retro-nostalgia of the old Nick-at-Nite.

Here’s a collection of N-A-N network ID’s and promo clips from the early 1990s. I believe all these jingles were written by Tom Pomposello. The animators include Marv Newland, Sally Cruikshank, Joey Album, Guido Manuli, JJ Sedelmaier, Jane Aaron, Frank Mouris, David Lubell, Colossal Pictures and I think I spotted a design by Dave Sheldon. If anyone else knows who did what, please comment below.