Joshua Smith, who has introduced me to lots of great anime over the years, wrote to let me know about some recent discoveries he made on YouTube: Kitty’s Studio (1959) and Kitty’s Graffiti (1957), two shorts animated by Yasuji Mori. I’ve embedded them below.
These were produced during a time in which Toei was just gearing up it’s attempt to become the “Disney” of Japan, a feat that probably would not have succeeded without the talent of Yasuji Mori. He was probably the greatest Japanese character animator of his generation, stressing the concepts of appeal, solid construction, and moveability in his character design and animation. As the most influential mentor at Toei, he passed his skills on to subsequent generations of Toei animators such as Yasuo Otsuka, Gisaburo Sugii, and Hayao Miyazaki.
Most prewar and postwar Japanese animation up to this point was rather crude, so it’s striking to see Japanese animation at a level of quality that equals or surpasses much American short animation from the same time period. These shorts clearly contain a great deal of Western influence, but have a distinct approach that makes them feel exotic. Without further context, it seems like this style of animation appeared from a vacuum. On the weekend that sees the American release of Miyazaki’s latest film, it’s interesting to ponder what the state of Japanese animation might be like today without Mori’s influence.
Josh is spot-on when he writes about the distinct approach.The filmmaking choices in these cartoons are very odd and un-Western. In the cartoon below, the face of the main character is not shown from a three-quarter or front view until well over two minutes in the cartoon, even though he’s onscreen for much of that time. I can’t think of a single example of when that’s happened in a Hollywood theatrical short.
Hayao Miyazaki’s latest feature opens today in the United States. I reviewed it here last month. Now its your turn to tell us what you think. Only readers who’ve seen the film can post in our comments section below.
That’s the cover for a new project that I’ve been involved with: A Sketchy Past: The Art of Peter de SÃ¨ve. It’s the first-ever monograph about Peter de SÃ¨ve‘s professional work and it should be on everybody’s Christmas wishlist.
A Sketchy Past is 240 pages in a 10″ by 12″ hardcover format. It’s being released in October by French publishing house Akileos. They’re putting out two versions–one in English and the other in French. It’s not available to order yet, but Akileos has posted a preview page with details about the book and a preview PDF. It will debut officially at Galerie Arludik in Paris, which is holding a retrospective of Peter’s work in October. Events with Peter in the United States will follow shortly thereafter. As always, stay tuned to Cartoon Brew.
Having been a fan of Peter’s work for years, I was honored to be a part of this project. I’m particularly proud of the essay I contributed, and hope it’ll shed new insights into Peter’s approach and style. Make no mistake though. The main attraction here is page after incredible page of artwork. The book includes a generous number of roughs, as well as comments throughout from Peter. The artwork ranges from his New Yorker illustrations to animation work (the Ice Age series, Finding Nemo, The Hunchback of Notre Dame) to book covers and everything else in-between. The book is exquisitely designed by Lori Barra, who also designed Peter’s sketchbook that was published a few years ago. Everybody labored long and hard to get the book right, most of all Peter, who has spent the last thirty years creating these illustrations. If you’re a fan of Peter’s work, you won’t be disappointed, and if you’re unfamiliar with his work, prepare to become a fan.
Here are a few spreads from the book. Click to enlarge.
Speaking of Popeye (as we were here)… his voice croons one of the greatest cartoon theme songs of all time. No, not “I’m Popeye The Sailor Man” by Sammy Lerner – I’m talking about his cover of the Looney Tunes theme, The Merry Go Round Broke Down.
CLICK HERE for a download of the track, sung by the original voice of Popeye, Billy Costello.
Okay guys, the animation-geek social event of the summer is here. On Saturday night, Meltdown Comics in Hollywood is hosting a really cool art show to celebrate the just-published 2010 pin-up calendar created by Girls Drawin’ Girls.
The Girls are a collective of over 30 female animation artists, who include animator Anne Walker, Simpsons director Nancy Kruse and designer Anand Duncan – among many others.
The opening night party is this Saturday, August 15th, 7pm-11pm at Meltdown Comics, 7522 Sunset Blvd. The gals promise an awesome show “with tons of fantastic artists, fantastic ladies, and fantastic good times”. For more information, visit the Girlsdrawingirls.com website.
El Empleo, created by Santiago Bou Grasso from Argentina, is a five-minute film that I feel should be about three minutes long.Â Usually, I find this an inexcusable crime on the part of the filmmaker, one of the cardinal sins of making a short film (to me it shows a lack of respect to the viewer and a lack of self-awareness on the part of the filmmaker).Â Â But, in the case of El Empleo, I still like the core idea a lot and find the film recommendable despite my issues with its pacing.Â It’s got a clever hook, and the filmmaker explores his idea thoroughly and structures it well.
My friend Martha Sigall is one of the last living survivors of Termite Terrace (aka the Leon Schlesinger “Looney Tunes” Studio). She’s just posted a You Tube video in response to the number one question she gets asked all the time: Who Created Bugs Bunny? Here’s her response:
And she ought to know, she was there — as a member of the ink and paint crew. For more of Martha and her recollections, I suggest you pick up her wonderful book, Living Life Inside The Lines.
There are ninety-three films competing in the various short categories. Competition selections in Ottawa are a wonderful reason to attend and always one of the highlights of the festival. The line-up is filled with challenging, progressive and interesting uses of the animation medium. Check out the list of competing films here. I’m especially pleased that they maintain such high standards because I’m on the festival’s short film jury this year alongside filmmakers Suzan Pitt and Jim Blashfield.
Feature competition is also more robust than usual with seven films vying for the prize: Henry Selick’s Coraline, Tatia Rosenthal’s $9.99, Neil Burns’s Edison and Leo, Priit and Olga Pärn’s Life Without Gabriella Ferri, Sunao Katabuchi’s Mai Mai Miracle, Adam Elliot’s Mary and Max, and Paul and Sandra Fierlinger’s My Dog Tulip. It’s nice to see a healthy selection of features, especially after the feature debacle in Ottawa last year in which the best feature prize was inexplicably awarded to Battle for Terra.
We try our best to keep politics out of Cartoon Brew, but an item reported this morning on The Huffington Post caught my eye, and I felt it should be noted here (heck, any time a classic cartoon character is compared to a current politician, I’m interested. Anyone remember when Bill Clinton compared himself to Baby Huey?).
Today, columnist Niall Ferguson of London’s Financial Times compared President Obama to Felix the Cat, saying that, like Obama, the cartoon cat was “black and lucky”. The lede of Ferguson’s column reads:
President Barack Obama reminds me of Felix the Cat. One of the best-loved cartoon characters of the 1920s, Felix was not only black. He was also very, very lucky. And that pretty much sums up the 44th president of the US as he takes a well-earned summer break after just over six months in the world’s biggest and toughest job.
Ferguson’s column was accompanied by a cartoon (above) and a caption which reads, “Felix the Cat, the wonderful, wonderful cat! Whenever he gets in a fix, he reaches into his bag of tricks!” See the original column here (site may require registration to read).
Song of the South, the one film The Walt Disney Company will not release on DVD, lives on.
There hasn’t been much to report lately on the status of Walt’s 1946 Uncle Remus classic, but I just read Jim Korkis’ outstanding “making of” article in the latest issue Hogan’s Alley (a Comic Con purchase that I just got around to reading today) and am inspired to raise the issue again. Why isn’t this film on DVD? The studio has released much more “offending material” already, without a peep from special interest groups who might object. I appreciate all the fantastic wartime material the studio has already released, and am grateful to the company for making available all the 1930s and 40s shorts, despite some dated racial stereotypes contained therein.
“Who’s Afraid of the Song of the South?” – that’s the question I’m asking, and also it happens to be the name of Korkis’ piece in the 16th edition of Hogan’s Alley. The article is an absolute must-read and, at 19 pages, is thoroughly researched and possibly the last word on the subject. Korkis documents the complete story of the project, from pre-production to latter day reissues – with all the controversy inbetween. And if this edition of Hogan’s Alley only contained Korkis’ great article it would be well worth the cover price, but there are excellent articles on Little Lulu merchandising (and animation), an interview with Popeye artist Stephan DeStefano, rare Dan DeCarlo comic strips, and a dozen other great features. Buy this today.
On a related note, Mike Van Eaton just acquired a set of Ub Iwerks notes and production boards from SotS (see storyboards below, click thumbnails to see larger images). Note the deleted sequence on the boards second row, below right. Mike isn’t selling these – but graciously allowed me to post them for our readers enjoyment.
A few months ago I shared my thoughts about the student screening at the School of Visual Arts, and in there I noted that Rebecca Sugar’s Singles was one of the highlights of SVA’s graduating class. Today we’re delighted to present the online debut of her film on Cartoon Brew TV. Frankly, I have no idea how anybody manages to become so adept at drawing and animation by the time they’re 22, but Rebecca’s done it, and the beneficiaries of her hard work are my eyeballs and yours. Click over to Cartoon Brew TV and watch her film Singles.