Going West by Andersen M Studio

This is an impressively elaborate papercraft animation created by London-based Andersen M Studio for the New Zealand Book Council. I wonder if CG was used in the planning of this film. According to the filmmakers, no computers were used in the actual production: “The animation took 8 months to complete and is 100% handmade with a good old 10A scalpel blade.”

(via Boing Boing)

The Sunday Funnies 11/22/09

This week’s comic strips with references to classic cartoon stars. Above Mark Parisi’s Off The Mark from Thursday (removed by request from the cartoonist), and below Mike Peter’s Mother Goose and Grimm on Friday. If you spot any like these during the week let me know and I’ll save them up for a semi-regular Sunday showcase.

(Thanks, Jed Martinez and Kurtis Findlay)

Day Two: CTN Expo with Don & Gary

And on the Second Day, the CTN Expo became Comic Con for animators.

Day 2 at CTN-X was wall-to-wall with attendees, standing room only panels, exhibits, demonstrations, screenings and parties. Andreas Deja drawing in the lobby surrounded by hundreds of students and pro’s; talks by Roger Allers, Bill Kroyer, Peter De Seve, Rob Minkoff and Simon Wells; a screening of The Secret of Kells and a preview of Don Hahn’s Waking Sleeping Beauty; a party hosted by Disney Animation… and that’s not the half of it.

I moderated an interview with Don Bluth and Gary Goldman (photo above: Goldman at left, Don in center and yours truly pointing to screen at right). We only had 45 minutes, but we covered an awful lot of their history and gained new insight as to why and how they left Disney thirty years ago (in 1979). Don and Gary inspired the SRO crowd with their love of, and enthusiasm for, the future of hand drawn character animation.

In an instant, a new major animation event has emerged. The CTN Expo has turned out to be a huge success. If you are reading this in Los Angeles and have a few hours to spare today, I highly recommend dropping by the Burbank Marriott on Hollywood Way between 10am and 7pm. A few of today’s highlights include Charles Solomon interviewing the creators of The Secret of Kells, Yvette Kaplan moderating a panel on comedy writing in animated cartoons, Harald Siepermann discussing character design and Ed Gombert on The World of Appeal. See you there.

The Academy (Shorts) Short-List

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced today its short-list of the 10 animated short films that will vie for nomination slots for this years Academy Awards. Thirty-seven shorts had originally qualified in this category and were screened last weekend for members of the shorts branch. The short-list includes Nick Park’s latest Wallace and Gromit short, Pixar’s Partly Cloudy and Cordell Barker’s Runaway.

The 10 films are listed below in alphabetical order by title, with their production company and a link to their website:

The Cat Piano – Eddie White and Ari Gibson, directors (The People’s Republic of Animation). A Cat Writer tells about a fiendish piano made of cats. When the keyboard is struck, spikes go through the cats’s tales, making them “sing”.

French Roast – Fabrice O. Joubert, director (Pumpkin Factory/Bibo Films). A man in a French Restaurant loses his wallet. He sits at the table drinking coffee after coffee until a homeless man kindly pays his check. There is a subplot about a bank robber who is really an old lady wearing a mask.

Granny O’Grimm’s Sleeping Beauty – Nicky Phelan, director, and Darragh O’Connell, producer (Brown Bag Films) – see clip above! An old lady tells her frightened grand daughter of not being invited to Sleeping Beauty’s christening party.

The Kinematograph – Tomek Baginski, director-producer (Platige Image). The “inventor” of cinema has his own camera made of wood, stereo sound with two Victrolas, and a two-layer color process before the Lumiere brothers experiments, however, his beloved wife dies of consumption and he abandons his apparatus, just as the Lumiere’s breakthrough is being announced in the street by newsboys.

The Lady and the Reaper (La Dama y la Muerte) – Javier Recio Gracia, director (Kandor Graphics and Green Moon). The Grim Reaper keeps trying to collect the soul of an old woman. She is brought back to the living numerous times by her well-meaning young doctor. The old woman really wants to die and join her beloved husband however, so she electrocutes herself towards the end of the film.

Logorama – Nicolas Schmerkin, producer (Autour de Minuit). Mo-Cap. Imagine a world made up entirely of advertising characters, such as the Michelin tire guys, Bob’s Big Boy, Esso Oil Drop and an evil Ronald MacDonald who shoots everybody with a machine gun.

A Matter of Loaf and Death – Nick Park, director (Aardman Animations Ltd.) Wallace, the baker, meets his dream girl, the Lite Dough Girl, who has put on a bit of weight since her days as an advertising model for flour. She has killed twelve baker husbands and wants to make Wallace the 13th. Of course Gromit sees through her flirtatious act and manages to stop her from killing Wallace. Gromit has a romance with the Dough Girl’s French Poodle into the bargain.

Partly Cloudy – Peter Sohn, director (Pixar Animation Studios). Clouds make the babies out of bits of water vapor and give the infants to embattled storks who deliver the kids to their parents. One cloud gets stuck with making the “prickly” critters, such as crocks, porcupines, sharks, etc.

Runaway – Cordell Barker, director (National Film Board of Canada). A passenger train has a hard time scaling a mountain and runs out of coal, the passengers throw all their clothes in the firebox and half the passenger cars to get steam up.

Variete – Roelof van den Bergh, director (il Luster Productions). A man juggles plates on poles with the various elements of his life on top of the plates, such as girlfriend, school teacher, best buds, parents, wife, children, etc. Eventually he can’t sustain the numerous spinning plates and all collapse, clearing the way for the next generation.

Day One: CTN-Expo is a hit!

First a few quick snaps:

Tomm Moore (The Secret of Kells) and Donnachada Daly


Lou Romano (center) gives a young artist some advice.


Craig McCracken (right) and his wife Lauren Faust (left) look over some of their notes.

For a Friday afternoon of an inaugural event it was pretty spectacular. This was supposed to be the “slow day”, but the first day of the CTN-Expo in Burbank was a overwhelming success due to the large amount of attendees and the incredible array of artist exhibitors. In addition to the large exhibitor room, there are two rooms of informative panels which are seemingly filled at all times. An interview with Mike Mignola (Hellboy) and a seminar on Crafting the Pitch were particularly popular. The day concluded with a VIP Party which ran from 6pm to midnight.

Day two starts today at 10am. If you want to be in the industry, want to be inspired by other artists, or simply want to hang out with a who’s who of current cartoon making, check out the CTN-Expo today or tomorrow. If you were there yesterday (or today) let us know what you think of the Expo in the Comments section below.

Children In Need music video

Every year, the BBC airs a Children In Need charity fundraiser. This year they produced a stop motion music video which, especially for cartoon buffs in the UK, is a pretty big deal. It collects around 120 characters (approximately) from British children’s shows from the last 30 (or more) years. It features classics like Paddington Bear, the Wombles, Roobarb and Custard, Peppa Pig, Bagpuss and Muffin the Mule, along with newer characters like Fifi and the Flowertots, Pingu, Bob the Builder, Postman Pat and many more (including a few cameo appearances from US superstars Scooby-Doo and Spongebob Squarepants).

It took many different companies (many of them rivals) coming together to make this piece. Chapman Entertainment produced and Tim Harper directed.

Two by Two (1966)

I got into a discussion with a friend last week about the horrible theatrical cartoons of the 1960s. I call them “drive-in cartoons” because I see no use for them except to be filler at drive-in theaters, allowing time for kids to get concessions or for teenagers to make-out before the main feature. Almost all 1960s Walter Lantz cartoons, Terrytoons and later Warner Bros. cartoons (the Larriva Road Runner and Daffy-Speedy crap) fall into this definition. Most would include the Paramount cartoons into this club. I don’t, but here’s one that’s pretty bad – and a perfect example of what I’m talking about.

Two By Two has the distinction of being the cartoon that got Howard Post fired from his position as head of the Paramount Cartoon Studio. It wasn’t the abysmal quality of the film, the awful character designs or the lame jokes. It was the fact that he was spoofing a story from the bible; it offended someone (A Paramount exec? An exhibitor?) and got him canned. Personally, I’m offended that the highly creative Post – whom I am a huge fan of – conceived such a poor rip-off of Daffy Duck (aka “Quacky Whack”). At one point, Quacky impersonates God… perhaps this what ticked off the Paramount brass? Shamus Culhane (Post’s successor) says in his book that Paramount was pressuring him to create a “Bugs Bunny” type cartoon. Perhaps Post was simply trying to give his bosses what they wanted… unfortunately, he failed quite miserably. Here… you be the judge:

The 2000s: TV Animation

It’s the time again when critics start compiling their “best of” lists for the decade. We’ll probably do a few ourselves, though the roundup of American TV animation is looking fairly barren from this vantage point. How many shows debuted in the past decade that were entertaining, made a lasting impact on their audience, and have a shot at being remembered by future generations? A handful of American shows come to mind as standouts, most of which were cult favorites rather than mainstream successes–Invader Zim, Superjail, Venture Bros., Samurai Jack, Avatar: The Last Airbender, Yo Gabba Gabba. (A comprehensive list of TV shows can be found on Wikipedia.)

Compare this to the 1990s when we saw the debuts of TV shows that were cultural phenomenons like The Simpsons, The Ren and Stimpy Show, South Park, Beavis and Butt-Head, Batman: The Animated Series, Dexter’s Lab, Rugrats, The Powerpuff Girls, Spongebob Squarepants and yes, even Family Guy. It seemed like we were on the cusp of a new era of “creator-driven” shows that were free from the meddling impulses of network execs. It’s little surprise that these shows are the ones that audiences still discuss nowadays.

If the 2000s served any purpose, it was to highlight how unique the previous decade was; the Nineties were a genuine silver age of TV animation in which artists were allowed the freedom to experiment and the elbow room to fulfill their creative visions. The unfortunate byproduct of Nineties animation success was the introduction of a new breed of development and creative execs whose ignorance about animation art and process is matched only by their fearfulness of creativity and originality. These boobs spent the entire decade trying to come up with the next Spongebob, the next Simpsons, and the next Family Guy without the slightest inkling of how to foster the kind of environment that allowed those shows to exist in the first place. The dubious 2000s is their legacy, and it signals a depressing downward shift for TV animation in America.

I’m curious to hear your opinions. What’s your take on the last decade and what are your picks for the best new animated series of the past ten years?

Academy Salute to UPA in New York

I just found out that as part of its monthly Monday Nights With Oscar film series in New York, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will present eight 35mm UPA shorts, including Academy Award winners Gerald McBoing Boing (1950) and Mister Magoo’s Puddle Jumper (1956), in a program selected and hosted by Oscar-winning animator and animation historian John Canemaker.

The screening will take place on Monday, December 14, at 7:00 pm (EST). Location is the Academy Theater at Lighthouse International (111 E. 59th Street, NYC). Tickets are $5 for the general public and $3 for Academy members and students w/ID. Advanced tickets must be purchased online or at the theater box office on the night of the event (pending availability). New Yorkers, check this out.

Tim Burton Exhibition at MoMA

Last night I attended the opening of the Tim Burton exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, and quite simply, it’s terrific! I’ll be writing more about it soon, but if you are in the NY area anytime between now and next April, make a point of checking out this show.

We got in a bit earlier than most folks last night, and while we were looking at the exhibit, Tim Burton walked into the room. If you can forgive the shaky phone video, here’s a sweet little moment I caught between Burton and actor Geoffrey Holder:

ToonSeum

A new museum of animation, cartoon and comic art has opened in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It’s called ToonSeum and it just had its grand opening last weekend. Reportedly it’s not a huge space, but is nicely done. Their first exhibit focuses on animation art:

“Enchanted Drawings: A Century of Animation.” The exhibit will feature original art from Gertie the Dinosaur to Spongebob and more. On display will be rare artifacts, including an original Disney animation director’s desk from the early Hyperion studio.

It’s quite an achievement to establish a cartoon museum in such a sports oriented city — I wish it luck. The ToonSeum is located on the first floor of the Bruno Building at 945 Liberty Avenue. The Enchanted Drawings exhibit runs through Jan. 3, 2010.

(Thanks, Rebecca Yasick)

Ralph Bakshi on Pixar

We’ve already linked to this, but this interview with Ralph Bakshi has some really shrewd insights peppered throughout. One of his comments that stood out most is his opinion of Pixar:

I don’t see too many new films today as it is – just sitting in the theater and watching all of that money on the screen, wishing that I had even a tenth of it to do some of the things that I wanted. It’s just a hard pill for me to swallow. On the other hand, thinking about a place like Pixar having to spend $150 million on a film is another hard pill for me to swallow. I don’t think animation is worth that kind of money. I think it’s part of the problem. With everything that’s happened to this country, where do we come off spending that kind of money?…The kind of money they spend, the expertise, and the various departments they have is startling. Those films better be good, because basically the guys have no choice. It better be good, or they’re wasting a lot of money.

Bakshi has a point. Has all that money really made animation any better? How much better would CG animated features be if budgets were voluntarily cut by the studios and directors were forced again to make creative decisions instead of spending all their time gilding lilies. Too many computer animated films today have the gaudy feel of things created by dictators who spend tons and tons of money and still end up with aesthetic and conceptual eyesores. Hollywood is never going to return to Bakshi’s days of shoestring animated features made quickly and with passion, but reining in the ever-ballooning budgets of computer animation might result in less inflated, self-important films that actually leave a lasting impact.

CTN Expo CONTEST

The CTN-EXPO has given us a prize package to give away to one of our lucky readers. The third correct answer received below (in our comments section) to the trivia question below will win. The first and second place winners will receive an animated DVD (of our choice).

The Big Prize: A FREE 2-night stay at the Burbank Marriott Hotel (Friday and Saturday), a Free 3-Day Pass to the CTN Animation Expo, and a Saturday morning Breakfast with the Pros.

The Easy Question: Don Bluth is a special guest of the CTN-Expo this weekend. What was the name of the first feature film Don directed? HINT: Released in 1982. The Contest is now Closed!

The Fine Print: Do not enter this contest unless you can actually use the CTN prize package. Let me repeat, do not enter this contest unless you can be in Burbank this weekend to attend the CTN-X. If the 3rd place respondant cannot attend the weekend, the prize will be offered to the next contestant (5th, 6th, 7th, and so on) until a winner can be determined.

The Contest is now Closed! The Grand Prize winner is Robert Palmer. The other prizes went to George Colon and Rick Ridgway. Congratulations to the winners and thanks to all who entered. Hope to see everyone at CTN-EXPO this weekend!

The Frog Prince

The inevitable Disney knock-off DVD has arrived early this year! On sale December 1st from our friends at Goodtimes Home Video is the The Frog Prince. Yeah, we know there are dozens of live and animated adaptations of the Brothers Grimm fairy tale out there – but this new one also happens to have a black princess as its central character. A coincidence? I think not. We have no idea who produced this, so if anyone wants to spend $13.49 and send us a few frame grabs, it would be most appreciated. We just want to give credit where credit is due.

(Thanks, Kurtis Findlay)

Fantastic Mr. Fox Display at Bergdorf Goodman

Fantastic Mr. Fox

The Bergdorf Goodman Men’s Store in Manhattan has fantastic window displays this season…Fantastic Mr. Fox displays that is. The twelve windows feature character puppets, props and background elements that were used in the production of the film. The store is located at Fifth Avenue and 58th Street. My pal C. Edwards who snapped the iPhone pics above pointed out that Wes Anderson’s twee aesthetic was also applied to the Louis Vuitton display windows with The Darjeeling Limited. Better photos of the displays can be found on this website.

THIS WEEKEND: CTN Expo in Burbank

Guess who’s going to have a booth at the CTN Expo this weekend? Nickelodeon, Disney, Dreamworks, Don Bluth, Cal Arts, Sony Pictures Animation, Warner Bros. Animation, Animboom, Stuart Ng and about 50 others – including studio recruiters, artists with sketchbooks and me (Jerry Beck), where I’ll be selling old stuff like toys, comic books, maybe a few 16mm cartoons, DVDs, and fun stuff like that. Here’s a partial list of vendors.

Everyone who reads Cartoon Brew in Southern California should plan to drop in for a day or two. To help out, tomorrow morning (Wednesday), 10am, right here, we’ll have a contest. I’ll ask a few trivia questions and the prizes will be free VIP passes to this weekend’s animation event — the CTN ANIMATION EXPO in Burbank.

Mr. Lawrence

The artwork above was from a presentation I created when I was an exec at Nickelodeon 13 years ago. It was (and still is) my mission in life to revive Viacom’s Terrytoon characters, then under Nickelodeon. This Heckle and Jeckle piece was drawn and designed by my friend “Mr. Lawrence” – and I’ve always loved it, as it retains their classic look, yet feels updated in a smart, slick way.

Mr. Lawrence is one of the true multi-hyphenates working in the animation industry today. He’s been a stand up comedian and actor, he’s made live action short films and created comedy series (Lost on Earth). He’s also written and directed TV cartoons – and is the voice of such Nickelodeon characters as Filbert on Rocko’s Modern Life and Plankton on Spongebob Squarepants. What’s he up to now? In addition to his continuing role on Spongebob, Lawrence is developing for Nick a new series The Kumquat Kwadruplets and, in his spare time, boarding his own independent animated horror-comedy feature.

One of the best pilots I’d ever seen was one he created for Film Roman about ten years ago, Hairballs. It’s co-directed by Lawrence and Craig Kellman, with character layouts by Kellman, Carey Yost and Mark Colangelo, and timing by Genndy Tartakovsky. The rights to this show have since reverted to Mr. Lawrence and I’m still hoping someone (Fox? Adult Swim? Comedy Central?) will pick this gem up.

A Proper Home for Cartoon Modern

Cartoon Modern

It makes me real happy knowing so many folks in animation enjoy my book Cartoon Modern, but it’s no less a delight when I discover people outside of animation have also taken a liking to it. Above is a photo of Sandi Vincent’s perfectly curated mid-century modern home. If you look closely, you’ll see a certain book laying on her Danish wall unit. On the photo’s Flickr page, she generously labels Cartoon Modern as the “best picture book on the shelf.” Thanks, Sandi. Be sure to check out the rest of her Flickr photostream for more mid-century mod goodies.

TONIGHT: Cartoon Carnival in Glendale

Tonight in Glendale, Joe Bev will be doing a live taping of his radio show at the Glendale Library Auditorium with special guests June Foray, Bill Marx (son of Harpo); Mark Evanier; Earl Kress; Gregg Berger,and more. Tonight at 7:00 pm at 222 E. Harvard St. in Glendale, California. Admission is FREE. No reservations are required. Autographed books by the participants will be on sale – Proceeds from the sale of books to benefit the ASIFA-Hollywood Animation Archives.

Looney Tunes on Cartoon Network

Cartoon Network takes a lot of heat around here, but when they do something right we’ll report it and celebrate it. Starting today, classic Warner Bros. cartoons return to the channel in a six-hour marathon (1pm-7pm EST), and the network has scheduled a regular daily hour of Looney Tunes at 11am Eastern (8am Pacific) each weekday. You can check the schedule here. Let’s support this move. Watch some Looney Tunes today, and tell your friends. Let’s show them that cartoons belong on a Cartoon Network.

Chinese rip-off of Presto

Trying to find a free online version of Doug Sweetland’s Pixar short Presto, reader Michael Rianda instead found this: a Chinese knock-off.

Rianda writes:

Some group of people completely reanimated and remodeled, a shot-for-shot remake of Presto (except for the crucial addition of a color changing iguana). And it’s a complete testament to the power of character animation. It’s the exact same story, timing and sound as Presto, except it’s about 100 times worse because the animation is so bad. The gags don’t come across, you don’t feel as much for the characters….it just doesn’t work.

Check it out for yourself: