Walt and El Grupo opens September 11th

A release date has been announced for Walt and El Grupo, the new Ted Thomas documentary about Disney’s 1941 goodwill tour to South America – a journey which inspired the feature length Saludos Amigos, The Three Caballeros and several other animated films during the forties. The documentary opens September 11th in New York (The Quad Cinemas), Los Angeles (The Regent in Westwood and AMC Downtown Disney in Anaheim). The film will open September 25th in Seattle and in other cities nationwide in the weeks after that. I love the faux vintage one sheet poster (click image at left to enlarge) and am really looking forward to seeing this picture.

‘Peripetics’ by Zeitguised

Peripetics

Peripetics is a fantastic experimental CG short. The “piece in six acts” was made by London-based Zeitguised for the opening exhibition at the Zirkel Gallery. I love the tension that is created by placing surreal, organic imagery against formal environments and movement. This Motionographer post offers insights into Zeitguised’s creative process and there’s also a behind-the-scenes video that gives a sense of how they developed their ideas. What appeals to me most about this piece is best summed up in the mission statement of Zeitguised: “If it can be shot in camera or animated using manual techniques, why use computer graphics?”


(Thanks, Red Pill Junkie)

Dallas McKennon 1919-2009

Just got word that Dallas McKennon passed away this morning. Sunday would’ve been his 90th birthday.

Dal was a prolific voice in animation, and you’ve heard him as the voice of Gumby, Archie, Buzz Buzzard, Ben Franklin at Epcot, the fox in Mary Poppins, and in numerous Sam Singer cartoons. He was an actor in many live action movies for Disney, Alfred Hitchcock, George Pal, and Anthony Mann, but was probably best known to people the real world as a regular on the TV series Daniel Boone, playing Cinncinatus the storekeeper.

I had the pleasure of meeting Dal nine years ago and hanging out with him during one of his visits to L.A. (photo above is of me, Dal, Will Ryan and Chuck McCann, July 3rd, 2000, having lunch at the Sportsman’s Lodge) and found him to be a wonderful person. My favorite role of his was as the old sea captain, polar bear and bulldog in Tex Avery’s The Legend of Rock-A-Bye Point. So in tribute… “Sing it again for me, will ya, Charlie…”

(Thanks, Gene Hamm)

Bill Plympton’s Dog Days dvd

Dog Days

Independent animation great Bill Plympton has released a new dvd collecting all of the shorts he has created between 2004 and 2008: Guard Dog, Guide Dog, Hot Dog, Spiral, The Fan and the Flower, Shuteye Hotel, and Santa, the Fascist Years. The disc is packed with tons of extras including music videos for Kanye West, Weird Al Yankovic, and Parson Brown, TV commercials, animated documentary excerpts, and a TV special 12 Tiny Christmas Tales, as well as pencil tests, animatics, storyboards and filmmaker commentary. Animation director David Levy wrote a review of the dvd with insightful thoughts about Plympton’s work in general. Levy’s comments about the Parson Brown music video “Mexican Standoff” stood out to me:

I am tempted to describe Bill’s recent commissioned work, the music video “Mexican Standoff,” as one of those misfires in that it can appear to be an average work. But as soon as I think that, I correct myself: Average for whom? The film is full of innovative camera angles, daring animation, and enough style and ideas for 10 films. I wonder if one price Bill has paid for his productivity might be that we’ve become accustomed to his ordinary excellence. If we had never seen a Bill Plympton film before and started with “Mexican Standoff,” we might be asking, “Who did that terrific animation?” But, the value of the “Dog Days” collection is that it answers that injustice by forcing the viewer to look at this five-year period of Bill’s work as a whole.

This morning, we’re giving away a dvd signed by the legend himself. To enter, leave a comment below until 11am (Pacific time) and we’ll choose a random winner from the comments. To order the Dog Days dvd, which is $24.95, visit Plympton’s website.

SDCC ’09: The Animation Panels (Sunday)

Here is third installment of Cartoon Brew’s guide to the 2009 San Diego Comic Con. Below are my recommended picks of animation-related panels scheduled for Sunday July 26th. It’s a light day for animation panels, most of them are voice-over related. I’m not recommending the American Dad panel or the advance screening of the new Scooby Doo movie – but if you want to see them, or other stuff like that, check the entire schedule for Sunday here.

SUNDAY

10:00-11:00 Phineas & Ferb panel with creators Dan Povenmire and Jeff “Swampy” Marsh, plus the voice of Phineas, Vincent Martella, and other surprise guests — and sneak peeks of new episodes. Room 6DE

10:30-11:30 The Radio Adventures of Dr. Floyd–LIVE! Not quite animation, but a cartoon-like live radio show with Chuck McCann, Frank Conniff, and animation voice actors Moira Quirk, Alison Mork and Michael Rayner. Room 8

11:15-12:30 Cartoon Voices II Co-hosts Mark Evanier and Earl Kress discuss cartoon voices with Hank Garrett (G.I. Joe), Susan Silo (Biker Mice from Mars), Greg Cipes (Teen Titans), Tom Kane (Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends) and several more. Room 6A.

1:00-2:00 Business of Cartoon Voices A serious “how to” look at the business, telling you what it takes to get in and how to avoid getting ripped-off. Once again, Mark Evanier and Earl Kress assemble a panel of agents, casting directors and working actors for a no-nonsense look at the business. Room 2

After this, I’m goin’ home.

Wall Street Analyst Apologizes For Predicting UP Would Fail

Here’s something you don’t hear often: an analyst on Wall Street admitting they’re wrong. Richard Greenfield of Pali Research told the New York Times that he was “dead wrong” when he suggested that investors sell their Disney shares, in part because UP would flop. Prior to the opening of the film, Greenfield had said, “We doubt younger boys will be that excited by the main character,” and he also claimed the film lacked commercial appeal because there was no female lead. Now that UP has become Pixar’s second-highest grossing film domestically, Greenfield is backtracking. It’s worth noting that Greenfield has a history of being wrong about Pixar and Disney. In 2008, he’d been hesitant about the potential of Wall-E, and in March of this year, he predicted that Disney’s stock would crash to $12.50 a share whereas it has jumped to over $22 in the past couple months. There is no animation business plan more foolproof than creating work from a foundation of creative integrity. Pixar gets that; it’s too bad the analysts on Wall Street don’t.

(via Michael Sporn)

The Smurfs and Hong Kong Phooey go live action

It’s been a big week for Hollywood’s goal to turn every crap cartoon of the 1970s into live action blockbuster movies.

Take the Smurfs… Please! Raja Gosnell (Scooby Doo 1 and 2, Beverly Hills Chihuahua) was just announced as the director of the live action-animation Smurfs movie from Sony Pictures Animation. It will be released in 3-D in December 2010.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that Warner Bros. has just hired the man who brought you Carrot Top in Chairman Of The Board and the direct-to-video sequel to Inspector Gadget, Alex Zamm, to direct a live action feature length version of Hong Kong Phooey.

If any of these films were half the fun as the Hanna Barbera action figures (above) from McFarlane Toys (designed by Scott Shaw!), it might actually be worth the effort. Instead, you can throw these two in the one dollar DVD bin.

SDCC ’09: The Animation Panels (Saturday)

Here is second installment of Cartoon Brew’s guide to the 2009 San Diego Comic Con. Below are my recommended picks of animation panels scheduled for Saturday July 25th. This listing does not include all the animation panels that day, nor any comic book and movie panels, nor most of Mark Evanier’s panels (which I highly recommend) or events in the dealers room (which I still promise to post later).

I’ll be back with the animation events scheduled for Sunday tomorrow. Click these links for a complete line up of Comic Con events: All Thursday panels • All Friday panels • All Saturday panels • Just Animation Panels

SATURDAY

10:00-11:00 Writers’ Guild Panel: PG-13 Animation Alan Burnett (Green Lantern: First Flight), Matt Wayne (Hellboy Animated: Sword of Storms), Michael Jelenic (Wonder Woman), Charles Horn (Robot Chicken), Paul Dini (Return of the Joker), Greg Johnson (The Ultimate Avengers, The Invincible Iron Man, Doctor Strange), and Stan Berkowitz (Justice League) will discuss writing for animation. Room 3

10:30-11:30 Spongebob SquarePants 10th Anniversary Paul Tibbitt, Vincent Waller and Steven Banks. The cast, including Tom Kenny, will perform a live table read of a classic fan-favorite from Season 1. Q&A with the cast and crew follows, and sneak peek of a yet-to-air episode, Greasy Buffoons. Room 6DE

12:30-2:00 Cartoon Voices I The annual gathering of the cream of the voice acting business. Co-hosts Mark Evanier and Earl Kress bring you the vocal stylings of Laraine Newman (As Told by Ginger), Bill Farmer (Goofy), James Arnold Taylor (Johnny Test), TV legend Chuck McCann, and others. Room 6BCF

1:00-1:45 Futurama with Matt Groening, David X. Cohen, and stars Billy West, Katey Sagal, John DiMaggio, and Maurice LaMarche and a top-ranking FOX executive announce details of the return of this fan favorite. Ballroom 20

1:30-2:30 Extract – Mike Judge is back with his latest live action film. Judge will discuss the film with his cast, Jason Bateman, Mila Kunis, and Kristen Wiig. Hall H

1:45-2:30 The Simpsons Panel with Matt Groening, showrunner Al Jean, executive producer Matt Selman, and supervising director Mike Anderson. Ballroom 20

2:30-3:30 Spotlight on June Foray The first lady of cartoon voices! Mark Evanier and Earl Kress interview June about her career as a voice actress, author, and Hollywood legend. Room 5AB

5:00-6:00 What Is an Animated Film? In this screening and talk, Stephen Worth, director of the ASIFA-Hollywood Animation Archive, presents examples of animated films that don’t follow the established formulas; films that experiment with technique and storytelling to push the envelope of the definition of animation. Room 3

SDCC ’09: The Animation Panels (Thursday and Friday)

Here is the first of Cartoon Brew’s guides to the 2009 San Diego Comic Con. These are only my recommended animation panels for Thursday July 23rd and Friday July 24th. This listing does not include all the animation panels, nor any comic book and movie panels, nor most of Mark Evanier’s panels (which I highly recommend), nor events in the dealers room (which I will post later), or any of the parties.

I’ll be back with the animation events scheduled for Saturday and Sunday later this week. Click these links for a complete line up of Comic Con events: All Thursday panels • All Friday panels • Just Animation Panels

THURSDAY

10:15-11:15 Astro Boy The all-new CG-animated feature film based on the classic manga with director David Bowers, producer Maryanne Grager, and stars Freddie Highmore (Astro Boy) and Kristen Bell (Cora) and exclusive footage. Room 6BCF

11:00-12:30 Disney: 3D Panel Key filmmakers, select cast members and previously unseen footage from its upcoming slate, including Disney’s A Christmas Carol, Alice In Wonderland and Tron. Special guests include Robert Zemeckis, Tim Burton, Sean Bailey, Steve Lisberger, and moderator Patton Oswalt. Hall H

12:00-1:00 Drawn to Life: 20 Golden Years of Disney Master Classes Disney Animation producer Don Hahn, famed Disney animator Glen Keane, creator of Aladdin’s Genie Eric Goldberg, director/teacher/animator Tom Sito, and sculptor Ruben Procopio for a discussion of the life and influence of Disney mentor, trainer, and artist Walt Stanchfield. Room 32AB

2:00-3:00 Sony Pictures Animation: Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs Appearing in person: Anna Faris, Bill Hader, Andy Samberg, Bobb’e J. Thompson, and directors Chris Miller and Phil Lord. Room 6BCF

3:00-4:00 Bill Plympton: King of Indie Animation Plympton presents Horn Dog, the fourth smash installment in his famed, Oscar-nominated “Dog” series. Bill will screen some of his new animated shorts, including Mexican Standoff and Santa: The Fascist Years and present some early scenes from his work-in-progress feature film Hanky Panky. Bill will also be available for Q&A after the screening, and all attendees will get a free Bill Plympton drawing. Room 5AB

4:15-5:15 Cartoon Network: Chowder! Flapjack! Adventure Time!– This panel celebrates three best things about Cartoon Network. Panelists include C. H. Greenblatt (Crowder creator), Tara Strong (voice of Truffles), Thurop Van Orman (creator/voice of Flapjack), Steve Little (writer, voice of fan favorite Dr. Barber) and Adventure Time creator Pendelton Ward. “Algebraic!” Room 6A

5:45-6:45 John Kricfalusi Comic-Con special guest John K. will talk about his career in animation and what’s coming next. Room 6BCF

8:00-9:30 Green Lantern: First Flight World Premiere. Screening. Produced by Bruce Timm, directed by Lauren Montgomery and scripted by Alan Burnett. Ballroom 20

FRIDAY

10:00-11:00 Batman: The Brave and the Bold Screening and Q&A with Diedrich Bader (voice of Batman), John DiMaggio (Aquaman), and executive producer Sam Register, producer James Tucker, producer and story editor Michael Jelenic and voice director Andrea Romano Room 6DE

10:30-11:30 Coraline panel Henry Selick and Neil Gaiman discuss the making of the animated film. They will be joined by lead animator and LAIKA CEO/president Travis Knight, producer Bill Mechanic, character fabrication supervisor Georgina Hayns and voice actor Keith David. Room 6A

12:45-2:15 The Disney Animation Panel This is the BIG one… Previously unseen footage from its upcoming animated slate, including the Toy Story & Toy Story 2 Double Feature, Beauty And The Beast, Toy Story 3, Prep & Landing, The Princess and the Frog and Ponyo with Lee Unkrich, Kirk Wise, Ron Clements, John Musker and… Hayao Miyazaki. John Lasseter hosts the panel, with Patton Oswalt moderating. Hall H

2:30-3:30 State of the Animation Industry ASIFA-Hollywood’s annual overview of trends in the animation industry. Moderated by Tom Sito. Panelists include Raul Garcia (The Missing Lynx), Frank Gladestone (producer, Starz Media, Dreamworks), Jun Falkenstein (The Tigger Movie, Mulan II), Kevin Koch (Battle for Terra, Madgascar), and Danny Young (Land of the Lost). Room 10

2:30-3:30 9 – Focus Features presents an exclusive look inside director Shane Acker’s animated fantasy epic “9″ with Shane Acker, Tim Burton, Timur Bekmambetov, and actors Elijah Wood and Jennifer Connelly LIVE for this panel presentation in Hall H

3:30-4:30 Stan Freberg and his lovely wife, Hunter… introduced by Mark Evanier. Room 6A

5:45-7:15 DC Universe Animated panel with Bruce Timm, Andrea Romano, Lauren Montgomery, Alan Burnett, Christopher Meloni, Juliet Landau, Michael Goguen, Sam Liu, Stan Berkowitz and Kevin Conroy (voice of Batman). Room 6BCF

9:00-10:00 Worst Cartoons Ever! Yours truly, Jerry Beck (Cartoon Brew), returns with an all new program of some of the worst cartoons ever made. Room 6BCF

To be continued…

Van Citters’ Magoo’s Christmas Carol Book

Wow!

If you want something done right, you gotta do it yourself. Animation director Darrell Van Citters (Renegade Animation) has written and self published one of the best animation books of the year. Scratch that… one of the best animation books ever! Van Citters has documented the creation and production of the classic UPA TV special Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol with thorough details (wonderfully written I might add) and lavishly illustrated with rare production art (the book layout is superb). This is a must-have for anyone interested in animation history – and specifically, if you have any interest in UPA, animator/director Abe Levitow, songwriters Jules Styne and Bob Merrill, artists like Corny Cole, Gerard Baldwin, Bob Singer and others, not to mention actors Jim Backus, Morey Amsterdam, Jack Cassidy, Paul Frees… you will want this. Van Citters dug up rare behind the scenes photos, cels, storyboards, backgrounds, pencil sketches… a treasure trove of art material that alone justifies the purchase. It gets my highest recommendation.

If you want to see pages from the book, check out Darrell’s Magoo’s Christmas Carol webpage, where he is taking advance orders for a special edition of the book signed by the surviving cast and crew.

The book will go on sale July 23rd at the San Diego Comic Con. You can find it exclusively at the Van Eaton Galleries booth and Darrell will sign copies on Friday and Saturday at 11am and 3pm each day (animator Bob Singer will join Van Citters to sign on Saturday). You can pre-oder autographed copies here. Buy this book. Order it now!

VeggieTales’ Phil Vischer Launches JellyTelly

JellyTelly

“Is it any wonder that our kids are growing up knowing more about Hannah Montana than about the Apostle Paul?”

That’s the question Phil Vischer is asking with his new faith-based company Jellyfish. He is the co-creator of VeggieTales, an idea which had its heyday a decade ago before Vischer’s company, Big Idea Productions, imploded in 2003. Jellyfish has created a show called JellyTelly, which is designed exclusively for on-line audiences. The segments are mostly puppets, with some live-action and animation. There are a number of episodes viewable on the JellyTelly site, as well as this short intro video that explains the concept. When Vischer launched the idea earlier this year, he had started with a subscription-based model but has since moved to giving away the episodes for free. He wrote on his blog that they’re currently trying to figure out a sustainable business model, or in his words, “awaiting the new direction God has in mind.”

REVIEW: Miyazaki’s Ponyo

I just saw the most surreal film released under the Walt Disney banner since… I dunno, The Three Caballeros?

Hayao Miyazaki’s Ponyo is strictly a kids film (4-9 years old) and I think they’ll dig it. But adult viewers may end up scratching their heads and think they are stoned – or seriously wish they were. I struggled with its simplistic narrative during the first half hour, then I gave in to its child’s-eye point of view, let go of my adult expectations, and just sat back and enjoyed the insanity. There’s a lot of insanity …but a lot to enjoy as well.

At its core, Ponyo is an sweet, old fashioned fairy tale – albeit one about inter-species love between two five-year-olds (one a former goldfish-with-a-human-head who runs away from home), laced with pro-environmental messages. The animation and imagination on display is wonderful, but the characters do not have much depth, and their motivations are poorly explained. Ponyo’s “father” is an “evil Wizard” (her words) wearing a striped suit and ascot, looking like a refugee from Haight-Ashbury, 1968. Ponyo’s “mother” is a beautiful giant goddess of calm and wisdom – right out of those early Toei animated features of the 1960s, the ones based on ancient Asian myths and legends.

The artwork itself is strange – its not as sophisticated as recent Miyazaki epics. The backgrounds have a simple pastel crayon-like quality, which is cool; the character design of Ponyo shifts throughout the film from standard Miyazaki design (think Mei from Totoro) to something out of a later John Hubley/Tissa David/Michael Sporn independent films. Not that there’s anything wrong with it – in fact, I found that quite refreshing.

Going in, I hoped this feature might have the potential of being Miyazaki’s most widely accessible (to western audiences) film, but it isn’t. It seems to be even more steeped in Japanese folklore and cultural sensibility than Spirited Away, once again challenging established Hollywood “rules” of narrative storytelling.

With all this in mind, I do recommend the Ponyo experience, especially to small kids and parents of young children. The good news is that Miyazaki is still making “classic” Japanese anime features that push the medium and can blow your mind… just this time don’t forget your meds.

More News About the Network Formerly Known as Cartoon

Thurop Van Orman, the creator of The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack, posted an entry earlier this week on his deviantART page, in which he wrote the following:

NO, CARTOON NETWORK isn’t changing its name. Not anytime soon anyways—they were gonna… But I think their reality show idea didn’t go as well as they had hoped, so… they’re kinda backing out of that idea. Yay for cartoons!

His perspective on what is happening at Cartoon Network is wildly different than that of Chowder creator C.H. Greenblatt. Care to make a guess which one of them still has a show at the network and which one of them has had their show cancelled?

Granted, it’s true that Cartoon Network has removed their Andrew W.K. video from YouTube (600 negative comments will do that), but I wouldn’t read too much into that token gesture. From where I’m standing, it appears to be little more than a carefully calculated effort to quell their viewership’s outrage and not representative of a meaningful shift in direction. If any doubt remains about the network’s true intentions, look no further than this recent Broadcasting & Cable article in which the architects of the live-action strategy speak about their goals. The piece details at length why they’re switching to live-action, and describes the network’s “360 degree” marketing campaign to usher in live-action, including the distribution of 8 million copies of a free CN Real magazine at theme parks and movie theaters.

One of the figureheads in their brand-wrecking transition is Stuart Snyder, executive VP and COO of Turner animation, young adults and kids media. The article states that Snyder made switching to live-action a priority when he came on board in 2007. “I think these new shows, whether reality or live scripted, really open up and broaden the audience, so you can be thinking about new advertising categories,” Snyder said. “It opens up more categories for us than just being in shows specifically [targeting] 6- to 11-year-olds.”

Cartoon Network’s Chief Content Officer Rob Sorcher acknowledged in the same article that inserting live-action into a brand called Cartoon Network will take time for audiences to accept: “Anytime you do something new at a network, particularly at one with a very specific niche, there will be a reaction. People will say, is this appropriate? We are doing something that is very different than anything in the nearly 20 years of history of the channel. It is possible that this is going to take a while.”

Animation fans meanwhile continue to mobilize. Over 2,500 people have now joined the Boycott Cartoon Network’s CN Real Block on Facebook. A new website has launched called “Stop the Madness” that encourages people to take specific actions to protest the network. A quick search for “Cartoon Network” on Twitter also reveals a steady stream of complaints. (Cartoon Brew suggests using the hashtag #CNFail to organize all the complaints on Twitter.) Finally, if you’d like to register your complaints directly with Stuart Snyder, try sending him a friend request on Facebook. I’m sure he’d love to hear from a few fans of the channel.

More to come…

EXCLUSIVE PREVIEW: What is Torch Tiger?

Torch Tiger

Following on the heels of last year’s successful graphic novel anthology Who is Rocket Johnson?, Disney story artists and directors have teamed up once again to self-publish What is Torch Tiger? The new book will debut later this month at Comic-Con (booth #2302) and is limited to 1,300 copies. The line-up of artists is impressive to say the least, with a cover painted by Paul Felix and contributions from the following:

Steve Anderson
Aaron Blaise
Paul Briggs
Kevin Deters
Rob Edwards
Mike Gabriel
Nathan Greno
Don Hall
Byron Howard
Trevor Jimenez
Mark Kennedy
Joe Mateo
Nicole Mitchell
John Musker
Jeff Ranjo
Aurian Redson
Jeremy Spears
Lissa Treiman
Josie Trinidad
Chris Ure
Mark Walton
Dean Wellins
Stevie Wermers
Chris Williams

Pin-ups by:
Andreas Deja
Andy Harkness
Jeff Turley
Jin Kim
Shiyoon Kim

More details are available at TorchTiger.blogspot.com. Below are some exclusive preview pages provided to us by the Torch Tiger team. Click on any of the images for a closer view.

Torch Tiger

Torch Tiger

Torch Tiger

Torch Tiger

Torch Tiger

Torch Tiger

Torch Tiger

Torch Tiger

The John Basmajian Collection online

In 1984, Christie’s East held a pivotal auction from the John Basmajian Collection of Walt Disney Animation Art. No one had ever seen such an extensive collection of vintage Disney cels and assorted artwork assembled before – it was the first of many upscale animation art auctions to come.

Now, 25 years after that historic auction, the Basmajian family has launched JohnBasmajian.com which tells the story of how this former Disney animator amassed his collection, with exclusive interviews, articles, and animation art galleries. The website is still a work-in-progress, but there is a bio and video profile of Basmajian which tells his incredible story.

NY Times on Miyazaki’s US tour

The New York Times is reporting that Hayao Miyazaki will indeed appear (with John Lasseter) on July 24th at the San Diego Comic Con.

At Comic-Con Mr. Miyazaki and Mr. Lasseter are expected to appear as part of an animation presentation that will give a glimpse not only at “Ponyo,” but also at a series of coming Disney films, including “Toy Story 3,” “Beauty and the Beast 3-D” and “The Princess and the Frog.”

The only way to see this is to sit in Hall H – NOW!

Miyazaki will also appear at presentations in San Francisco and LA. Read the entire NY Times article here.

“Dirty Rom Dance” Video by Plasticflesh

A couple months back, I offered praise for Nullsleep’s music video “Dirty Rom Dance” directed by Plasticflesh (aka Stieg Retlin). Pleased to report that it’s now online. Retlin applies the visual tropes of 8-bit style graphics and glitch textures towards the creation of an energetic, propulsive piece of animation storytelling. It’s refreshing to see an honest expression in digital animation that isn’t rooted in traditional animation conventions.

The Art of Yo Gabba Gabba!

Art of Yo Gabba Gabba

This Saturday, July 11, in Minneapolis, the Pink Hobo Gallery (507 E. Hennepin Ave.) will host an art show “The Art of Yo Gabba Gabba!” featuring artwork from the Nick Jr. TV series. Among the items on display: never-before-seen original drawings and sketches from the show’s creator and lead designer Parker Jacobs, props used in the show, and original production artwork from the show’s guest artists including King Mini, Mark Mothersbaugh, Option-G, Panda Panther, Megan Brain, Aaron Stewart, Mitch Loidolt, Tim Sievert, Julia Vickerman, and Tanya Haden. The opening is between 5pm and 1am. The show will continue to run after this weekend, but beware that the gallery doesn’t keep normal hours because it’s located in the offices of the production company Puny Entertainment. More details are available on this Facebook invite.

Spongebob documentary

Celebrating the 10th anniversary of Nickelodeon’s SpongeBob SquarePants (who first appeared on July 17th, 1999), VH1 will premiere Square Roots: The Story of SpongeBob SquarePants, on Tuesday, July 14 at 9 p.m. (ET/PT). This is an original SpongeBob TV documentary from producers Creadon O’Malley (Wordplay, I.O.U.S.A).

From the Viacom press release:

Commissioned by Nickelodeon to commemorate the anniversary of the series’ first episode, the documentary chronicles the beloved character’s journey to international pop culture icon status and showcases the series’ impact on everyone from President Barack Obama, kids across the globe and San Quentin inmates who readily sing its catchy theme song. The one-hour documentary, features an opening song from Avril Lavigne and commentary from creator Steve Hillenburg, cast and crew members, industry experts, fanatics and celebrities like LeBron James, Ricky Gervais and Rosario Dawson.

It also features several comments from yours truly – I wonder if I’m considered an “industry expert” or a “fanatic”? Tune in and find out.

Films by Malcolm Sutherland

A couple years back, Montreal-based animator Malcolm Sutherland picked up a copy of my book Cartoon Modern at the Ottawa International Animation Festival. He wrote to tell me that, “A year or so later it inspired a short film as a present to my mom for Christmas, called Great Ambition.” The short is based on a vintage recording called “The Arizona Yodeler” performed by the DeZurik Sisters (aka the Cackle Sisters), and it’s a lovely example of how to capture the spirit of stylized Fifties animation using contemporary production tools:

Sutherland just completed a short called The Astronomer’s Dream, which is in a different style that is more lush and illustrative. A description of the film: “When a hungry astronomer falls asleep while working on a problem, he discovers a solution not in outer space, but in the surreal food-chain of his subconscious mind.” Viewers who enjoy the film below can purchase a DVD of ten of his animated shorts plus bonus materials, directly from his website.