Looney Tunes News

Here’s some GOOD Cartoon Network news for a change. The classic Looney Tunes will be returning to Cartoon Network next Sunday. They are already running promos for a six-hour marathon on Sunday, 11/15. Then starting the next day, CN is showing an hour of Looney Tunes each weekday from 11am-noon (Eastern). It’s been nearly seven years since they had a regular TV time slot – and all it took was a disastrous experiment with a live action block to get them back.

Meanwhile, a new Looney Tunes series in production at Warner Bros. has shut down, according to the Animation Guild blog. After four months in production – with a great crew at the helm (that’s a Jim Smith gag drawing, above) – the show, tentatively titled Looney Tunes Laff Riot, will undergo a redesign. Apparently, the first completed episode was screened for higher ups who didn’t like the UPA-esque revamp. The show is expected to resume production in a few months – with new model sheets.

Production continues, however, on a series of 3 minute CGI, 3-D theatrical Looney Tunes shorts – the first one featuring the Road Runner.

If any Warner Bros. artists or Cartoon Network insiders want to write in to clarify or correct any part of this post, we welcome your comments below.

(Thanks, Jon Cooke)

Ragtime and Rubber Hose

Flip the Frog, Oswald Rabbit, Koko the Clown and Toby the Pup will return to the screen Tuesday night, at the Billy Wilder Theatre in the Hammer Museum in Westwood, CA. Ragtime pianist Reginald Robinson will play in concert with a screening of 1920s and 30s animated cartoons from the UCLA Film Archive. Films will include Koko’s Earth Control, Homeless Homer, Swing You Sinners and Room Runners in 35mm. The program is being presented in conjunction with an exhibition of original art from R. Crumb’s Book of Genesis. The screening is FREE (parking is $3.). For more information visit the Hammer Museum website.

Flipos

Sometimes I think the most creative place in TV animation is in pre-school programming. Here’s a preview of Flipos from the Chile-based PunkRobot studio. Animation director Antonia Herrera says the project is “a labor of love, made with little money and a small, talented team”. A production blog features concept art and storyboards, and the trailer is candy-cane sweet:

THIS WEEKEND: Animation Seminars at the Egyptian

Sorry for the late notice, but if you are in L.A. this weekend you might check out the animation panels going on at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood:

On Saturday 11/7

1:15 PM – 2:15 PM: A Crash Course on Character Animation with Eric Goldberg.

2:30 PM – 3:30 PM: Commercial Television Spots: Shortest Shorts with Bob Kurtz.

3:45 PM – 4:45 PM: The Incestuous History of Technology & Animation with Bill Kroyer.

5:00 PM – 6:00 PM: The Importance of Story in Animated Shorts with Jim Capobianco.

On Sunday 11/8

1:15 PM – 2:15 PM: The Making of Pixar’s Partly Cloudy with Peter Sohn.

2:30 PM – 3:30 PM: Short History of Animated Shorts with Tom Sito.

3:45 PM – 5:00 PM: How MTV Rocked the Animation World with Yvette Kaplan and John Andrews.

For ticket prices and more information, visit the American Cinematheque website.

Love

The soundtrack of Fantastic Mr. Fox, like all Wes Anderson films, is loaded with great music that punctuate the situations. Anyone who combines Burl Ives, The Beach Boys, The Rolling Stones and the Wellingtons’ classic Ballad of Davy Crockett in one film is okay in my book.

Anderson also pays homage to Disney’s foxy Robin Hood (1973) by using its Oscar nominated song, Love. Huston Huddleston edited this video (embed above) using a discarded, unreleased recording which his late father, Floyd Huddleston, co-wrote (with George Bruns) and his mother, Nancy Adams, sang. Huston says:“…quite frankly I prefer this to the one they used in the finished Disney picture. This alternate country version was recorded in 1973 in Nashville and it was just released on the soundtrack of the new Wes Anderson film, Fantastic Mr Fox.”

Huston has also uploaded a rare alternate country version of Phony King Of England written by Johnny Mercer, with additional lyrics by Floyd Huddleston for this version, and sung by Phil Harris, Andy Divine and the Do Gooders.

A Christmas Carol Opens Today

A Christmas Carol

Robert Zemeckis’s A Christmas Carol opens today to a chorus of negative reviews and a rotten rating on Rotten Tomatoes. A particularly harsh assessment comes from Joe Morgenstern in The Wall Street Journal:

To put it bluntly, if Scroogely, Disney’s 3-D animated version of “A Christmas Carol” is a calamity. The pace is predominantly glacial–that alone would be enough to cook the goose of this premature holiday turkey–and the tone is joyless, despite an extended passage of bizarre laughter, several dazzling flights of digital fancy, a succession of striking images and Jim Carrey’s voicing of Scrooge plus half a dozen other roles. “Why so coldhearted?” Scrooge’s nephew, Fred, asks the old skinflint. The same question could be asked of Robert Zemeckis, who adapted and directed the film, and of the company that financed it. Why was simple pleasure frozen out of the production? Why does the beloved story feel embalmed by technology? And why are its characters as insubstantial as the snowflakes that seem to be falling on the audience?

And that’s just the first paragraph of his review. I watched this short clip from the film, and it is sufficiently inept enough to prevent me from wanting to see any more. What did it for me is the scene at about 1:15 in which a ghost floats rapidly towards Scrooge and knocks him backwards. Scrooge then does a backroll and pops up off the floor in a way that is so comically devoid of the laws of physics and inappropriate to the physical movement of a realistic human that all dramatic impact is instantly drained from the scene. This film may technically qualify as animation, but good animation it isn’t.

Zemeckis’s desecration of this holiday classic comes at a reported cost of $180 million, and box office projections range between $35 to $45 million this weekend.

Curious Pages, a blog of illustrated children’s books

Gerald McBoing Boing

My favorite site of the moment: Curious Pages, a newly launched blog about obscure but outstanding children’s books from the 1800s all the way up through today. The brief descriptions of the books are often quite funny, and the selection is eclectic, such as this Czech version of The Wizard of Oz painted in a Paul Klee style or the Art Deco-ish etching of A Head for Happy, which is about a headless doll. There are even a couple of animation-related items, like Mel Crawford’s adaptation of UPA’s Gerald McBoing Boing (picture above). The impeccable curation can be attributed to the blog owners, who are two talented children’s book authors and illustrators in their own right, Lane Smith and Bob Shea.

Five Nominees for Best Animated Feature?

Oscar contenders
The potential gamechangers in the Oscar race (clockwise from upper left): The Missing Lynx, A Town Called Panic, The Secret of Kells, Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure

As Jerry pointed out a few weeks ago, the big question for the animated feature Oscar category this year is whether they’ll reach the magic number of sixteen qualifying features, which triggers the five-nominee playing field. Fifteen qualifying features or less results in only three nominees. It will be close. One of the films that entered, Evangelion 1.0: You Are (Not) Alone was recently disqualified on a technicality, and it’s unclear whether all of the other films that have been released this year have entered for qualification. The rules are confusing and just because a film is released theatrically in LA doesn’t automatically qualify it; last year, films like Space Chimps and Star Wars: The Clone Wars didn’t bother to enter, thus limiting the category to three nominees.

A five-nominee field is beginning to look like a real possibility. Director Raul Garcia is currently in the process of qualifying his feature, The Missing Lynx: Paws on the Run, while Disney gave Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure a one-week LA run before its dvd release. Jerry reported yesterday that the French-Belgian co-production A Town Called Panic is moving through the qualification process, and Tomm Moore, director of The Secret of Kells, mentioned on his blog the other day that they’re trying to get the film qualified.

In the eight-year history of the animated feature Oscar, there have been five nominees only once. There’s a good chance that 2009 could be the second time.

Live Action/CG Yogi Bear sounds like a boo-boo

According to today’s trades, Dan Aykroyd has been cast as the voice of Yogi Bear in Warner Bros. new CGI hybrid flick, Yogi Bear, and Justin Timberlake could be vocalizing his longtime companion, Boo-Boo. Eric Brevig, a veteran visual effects supervisor, will be directing the film.

Anna Faris (late of Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs) will appear in the film, playing a nature documentarian who meets up with Yogi in Jellystone Park. The film is scheduled for release next year, in December 2010.

A Town Called Panic

Sixteen animated films are needed to enter and qualify in order for five animated features to be nominated for a Best Animated Feature Academy Award. This might be the film that tips the scale in favor of five nominees.

Zeitgeist Films is opening this French-Belgian co-production in New York next month and in Los Angeles in January. However, the distributor had not scheduled the required L.A. qualifying run, so filmmakers Stephane Aubier and Vincent Patar took matters into their own hands, filled out the Oscar submission forms and booked the film into L.A.’s Claremont 5 to play there between December 11th and December 17th.

The Film Forum in New York will play the film December 16th-29th. The Nuart in West L.A. will open the film on January 22nd. Check out the original TV episodes on Hulu.com.

Pssst! Be the first in LA to see A Town Called Panic this Saturday Nov 7 at 11am, as part of the AFI FEST at Laemmle’s Santa Monica 4.

Even Monkeys Hate Robert Zemeckis

Christmas Carol

An article in National Geographic discusses the results of an “uncanny valley” test on monkeys. Researchers showed monkeys three versions of a monkey on a monitor–one video of a real monkey; one stylized CG model; and one realistic “uncanny valley” animated face. Guess what happened? The research suggests that “given the choice, monkeys prefer to look anywhere other than at a realistic fake monkey.”

The monkeys looked more often, and longer, at the real deal and the unrealistic fake, study co-author Asif Ghazanfar said. “This is anecdotal, but they seemed to even avert their gaze from the realistic fake face, like they didn’t want to look at it,” said Ghazanfar, a Princeton psychology professor.

The article goes on to say:

The discovery may be important, for a couple of reasons. First, Ghazanfar said, it provides evidence supporting the theory that the uncanny valley is not a result of cultural preferences–it’s hardwired into our heads.

(Thanks, Arthur Metcalf)

Seventy Years On…

Here’s something the great Art Babbitt uttered in 1941.

“I look forward to the day when real artists who are more than craftsmen, who have developed their art, will come into this business, will pay it the attention it deserves as a potentially serious art medium…Disney and other studio heads have actually held the industry back by years by their ‘out-of-the-world’ fantasies, by their refusal to deal with real life and by their enchantment with ‘calendar art.’ I want to see those days go by the board. I want to see real artists assume leadership in this game.”

One could say the exact same thing about today’s mainstream animation, and sadly, it would all still apply.

(quote from Michael Barrier’s website)

Maxine Patin

As a historian, I get a real kick whenever I discover that somebody I had no idea was still alive is, in fact, alive and well. Such is the case with this article in the Monterey County Herald which reveals that Maxine Patin is still around at 95, and is even having a show of her paintings this weekend. She was married to Ray Patin, who was an animator before launching Ray Patin Productions, one of the most successful TV commercial studios in LA during the 1950s. (A lot of the studio’s art can be found online including here and here.) It doesn’t appear that Maxine ever worked in animation, but it’s clear that she’s lived quite a full life herself. I particularly liked this quote from her daughter: “She has a beauty, intelligence and a nobility that she’s completely unaware of – and that, in itself, is part of her beauty. She doesn’t know how not to be kind. She doesn’t know how to put on airs because she came from a generation of people who never learned how to manipulate. What you see is what you get.”

Rebecca Dart

Rebecca Dart

I was blown away earlier today when I discovered the work of Rebecca Dart. She has a fantastic sense for funny appealing shapes, and powerful cartoon drawing. It wasn’t surprising to learn that she works in animation, and again, no surprise to see her credits on her IMDB filled with some of the crassest TV trash imaginable. It’s hard to adequately put into words how depressing it is to know that talent of this caliber exists within our industry, and the rampant cluelessness that results in these artists producing shit like this. It’s like hiring Velázquez or Vermeer to paint the lines in a parking lot – an utter, total waste of skill and talent. Though the animation world has no appreciation or use for such skill, she’s at least able to utilize her artistic voice in the comic books she makes.

(via Drawn)

Cartoon Network Going Commando

Yeah, this is another post ragging on Cartoon Network as is spirals down the drainpipe of doom. I was at Meltdown Comics in Hollywood last night where found this flyer (at left, click to enlarge thumbnail), recruiting “male teens” for a new reality show. It reads: “Are you between 13 and 16 years old? Would you like to have a team of Former military SPECIAL FORCES train you and your friends to plan and execute real life missions? Learn how to use night vision? Hydro Reconaissance? Rappelling? Who wouldn’t!”

“We are looking for kids who have real problems that need to be solved by our team. Do you need to get something that belongs to you back from a friend? The Special Forces team will train you to get it back using all the high tech equipment available. Need to be at a family event, but want to take a girl out on the same night? Worry no more, for with this team, you will learn spy-like maneuvers that allow you to be in two places at once! Tired of being picked on? Those days are gone! The team will take you through Commando boot camp where you will transform from scrawny to superhero.”

“This is the biggest wish fullfillment reality show… maybe ever!”


Dear Producers of Going Commando,

I would like your Special Forces Team to overtake the building at 300 North Third Street in Burbank, California. A group of highly paid television executives have taken over a cable cartoon network I used to love, took away all my favorite cartoons and replaced them with a whole bunch of brainless live action reality shows. I wanna kick their ass and take over the channel. Who wouldn’t? I want Looney Tunes and Popeye (and about a zillion other things) back on the air so I can share them with a new generation of kids. This is would be my biggest wish fullfillment… maybe ever!

Thursday in Hollywood: The Telephone Book

Safety Shoes

The 1971 X-rated feature The Telephone Book screens Thursday evening, November 5, at the Egyptian Theatre. The film, described as a “biting satire on sexual morality about a girl who falls in love with the world’s greatest obscene phone caller,” probably isn’t for everybody. But it has developed a cult reputation over the years and was considered a source of inspiration for Bernardo Bertolucci’s Last Tango In Paris while Steve Martin labeled it one of his favorite films of the Seventies.

The reason it’s on the Brew is because the climax of the film is an outlandish and humorously erotic piece of animation directed by my pal, animation legend Len Glasser. Len has an illustrious history in the field. A student of Franz Kline and S. Neil Fujita, he worked at Terrytoons on Tom Terrific and designed films and commercials for Ernie Pintoff before starting his own commercial studio Stars and Stripes Productions Forever, which produced some of the craziest and most creative TV spots of the 1960s. Here’s one of his well-known spots:

The Egyptian screening will be followed by a Q&A with Len, along with the film’s director/writer Nelson Lyon and producer Merv Bloch. The film was also recently released on dvd in Europe. Ordering details can be found on the film’s official website.

Fantastic Mr. Fox

What a year. Coraline, Up, Ponyo, 9, Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs – topped off with The Princess and The Frog and Fantastic Mr. Fox.

In Fantastic Mr. Fox director Wes Anderson injects an adult sensibility, along with his usual indie filmmaking quirkiness, turning a childhood classic into a uniquely satisfying filmgoing experience. As far as I’m concerned, it’s one of the best films of the year. The animation style is refreshingly, intentionally retro: Rankin-Bass meets Willis O’Brien, by way of Ladislas Starevich. In this exclusive promo (below) we get a quick peak behind the scenes at the London studio that put it together:

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs Titles

Cloudy Titles

Todd Hemker and Soyeon Kim of Yellowshed recently directed the end title sequence for Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. Hemker discusses the process and shares an animatic in this interview with Art of the Title.

UPDATE: Designer Chris Mitchell, who wasn’t mentioned in the interview above, has written a blog post about his role on the end titles and more details about how the production happened. It’s a good complement to the interview.

NFB’s iPhone App

Ryan

Wow, how quickly times change. A few years ago, while I was researching my book Cartoon Modern, I traveled all the way to Montreal to see the NFB short The Romance of Transportation. Today, it’s available instantaneously and free-of-charge on my iPhone.

If you have an iPhone, be sure to check out the newly released NFB iPhone app. Dozens of great and classic NFB animated shorts are available on it including Richard Condie’s The Big Snit, Norman McLaren’s Begone Dull Care, Caroline Leaf’s The Street, Ryan Larkin’s Street Musique, Gerald Potterton’s My Financial Career, Peter Foldes’s Hunger, and, of course, Colin Low’s The Romance of Transportation. More recent films like Chris Landreth’s Ryan and Theo Ushev’s Tower Bawher are also on there.

The app is a bit rough around the edges, but it is well-intentioned, offers terrific content, and did I mention, FREE! One of its nicest features is a “Watch Later” option that allows you to pre-download films and watch them off-line for up to 24 hours, which is perfect for subway and plane trips.

Inspired by Pixar?

Here’s a few new 3D CGI films coming from Europe… is it me, or do these pictures have a slight resemblance to previous works from Emeryville?

Occhio Kochoi from Paris based TeamtTO is a feature film about birds migrating to Africa — the lead character looks a like he migrated from For The Birds or Partly Cloudy:

Finding Nemo with a turtle? That seems like the premise of Around the World In 50 Years (aka Turtle Vision) from Ben Stassen (Fly Me to The Moon) and Belgium based nWave Pictures. This is a 14-minute large format film scheduled for release to Imax theatres later this year.

A clip of the animation begins, below, at :34 mark and ends at 1:21 mark.

Tuesday: Tribute to Fred Wolf

A reminder that tomorrow night Cinefamily @ The Silent Movie Theatre will present a tribute to animator Fred Wolf. We’ll screen rare clips from his movies, TV shows, vintage TV commercials (like the one above), and his award winning shorts during a live on-stage interview with Wolf himself.

Wolf will discuss his career starting at Famous Studios in NYC, working with Shamus Culhane in the 50s, Herb Klynn on The Alvin Show, his collaborations with Harry Nilsson on The Point!, with Frank Zappa producing 200 Motels, and with Peter Yarrow to make Puff The Magic Dragon. We’ll also get into the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, his producing commercials, shorts and feature films – and how he ended up animating the iconic opening sequence to The Flintstones!

Join me Tuesday night, November 3rd at 8pm. The theatre is at 611 N. Fairfax Ave. just south of Melrose. The first 100 admissions will receive a free DVD of The Point!, and every admission will receive a free Tootsie Pop! Click here to Reserve Tickets.