The only thing worse than knowing they’re making a live-action/CG hybrid of Tom & Jerry is reading an interview with the film’s producer and finding out that he’s completely ignorant about the characters and animation in general. That’s the disappointing discovery I made when I stumbled across this interview with Dan Lin. He displays his prolific lack of knowledge about the cat and mouse duo in his very first answer about the film:
My kids love the show. It’s two things-my kids love the show, I love the show. It’s really the originator of cartoon violence.
It’s hard to botch two fundamental concepts in such a brief answer, but Lin somehow manages that feat. First of all, they’re making a movie based on characters that were established and became famous in theatrical shorts. To call it a “show” displays a profound lack of context and understanding of the history of these characters. It’s perfectly understandable though how somebody who doesn’t even recognize this basic fact about the characters could then make the outlandishly stupid claim that Tom and Jerry is “the originator of cartoon violence.” Somebody get this guy a copy of Leonard Maltin’s Of Mice and Magic…QUICK! It gets better. He then says:
And the way I view it is it’s almost like sibling rivalry. It’s the way my brothers and I fought growing up, Tom and Jerry fight.
I may be an only child, but even I know that sibling rivalry doesn’t typically involve high-grade explosives, disembowelment, and attempts to eat the other sibling. Tom & Jerry is a classic predator-prey setup with the survival of the characters at stake. Diluting their relationship into a wimpy sibling rivalry is a massive misunderstanding of the motivations of these characters and strays perilously close to Tom and Jerry: The Movie territory, which we know turned out all kinds of awful:
Then again, having Tom and Jerry be friends is possibly the only route Lin can go since he appears to be willing to bend over backwards and change the personality of the characters willy-nilly to appease the marketplace and the MPAA. His last comment in the interview is the most ominous of all:
So we really want to retain the spirit of the original Tom and Jerry. We’ll see how that changes as we go through the filmmaking process and also the MPAA process.
Note that it’s not “I’m going to fight to retain the spirit of these characters;” it’s “We’ll see how that changes.” Spoken like a true producer without creative principles or vision.
The son of animation artist Tim Hodge (Mulan, Brother Bear, VeggieTales) was in an auto accident last August. The situation is difficult for the Hodge family, whose son remains in a coma today. Tim explained on his blog:
As you may not realize, our short term insurance expired in September. The rest of the family could renew, but Matt became a pre-existing condition. So Matt’s healthcare since that time has all been out of pocket. Vanderbilt Hospital was gracious to us and forgave our six figure debt to them. But Matt’s ongoing care and future rehabilitation is still in the balance.
The help the family, the comics and animation community is rallying together to stage a massive eBay art auction beginning January 21st. The website HelptheHodges.com has images and details about the donated artwork. It is an impressive collection that includes a diverse group of artists including Drew Struzan, Charles Schulz, Nick Park, Frank Thomas, Craig McCracken, and Nico Marlet (above). The list of artwork is growing by the day, and it all goes to a worthy cause so participation is encouraged. Should you wish to simply help the family without participating in the auction, the Hodges’ website also has details on how to make a fully tax-deductible donation to the family.
We posted the centerpiece of this animation back in 2006, but here is an expanded version featuring the pre-show with Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera. Boy is this script corny, but the animation is fantastic, full (maybe too full) and at this point, quite nostalgic. The character animation for The Funtastic World of Hanna Barbera ride at Universal Studios Florida was produced at Sullivan Bluth Studios in 1990, and was directed by David Steinberg. The ride ended its run at the Orlando theme park in 2002. Thankfully someone had the foresight to photograph this bootleg video:
Each year the National Film Preservation Board of The Library of Congress names 25 “culturally, historically or aesthetically” significant films to the National Film Registry, a collection of movies selected to be preserved for all time. In previous years, Chuck Jones’ What’s Opera Doc?, Bob Clampett’s Porky In Wackyland, Fleischer’s Snow White (1933), Pixar’s Toy Story and several Disney titles including Steamboat Willie and Three Little Pigs have made the grade.
The 2009 selections were just announced this morning and animation was represented by Winsor McCay’s Little Nemo (1911), Sally Cruikshank’s Quasi at the Quackadero (1975), Janie Geiser’s art film, The Red Book (1994) and Helen Hill’s Cal Arts short, Scratch and Crow (1995).
Animation is also ultilized in two other shorts selected — Sidney Peterson’s avant-garde The Lead Shoes (1949), and Chuck Workman’s DGA montage, Precious Images (1986) which contains fleeting seconds of Fritz The Cat, Roger Rabbit, Song of the South, King Kong and others.
Though not animation, it should be noted that Jim Henson’s The Muppet Movie (1979; directed by James Frawley) also made this year’s selection. Check the complete list here. For your enjoyment, McCay’s pioneering Little Nemo is embedded below:
David Levine was one of the great caricaturists of the 20th Century. He was best known for his work for the The New York Review of Books. He passed away today at age 83 and here is his obituary from The New York Times. It’s worth noting (at least on this blog), Howard Beckerman and Fred Wolf both told me that Levine began his career as an assistant at Famous Studios (Popeye, Casper, et al) in the early 1950s. A gallery of his caricatures can be found here.
It’s official. I’m hosting a regular series of cartoon screenings, the first Tuesday of each month, at the CineFamily/Silent Movie Theatre on Fairfax Avenue. My screenings will be different each month. Sometimes I’ll show classic cartoon shorts in 35mm, or maybe I’ll screen a rarely seen animated feature, or possibly do a tribute to filmmaker.
For the first program of the new year, I’m extremely proud to be presenting the public world premiere of a new animated musical documentary from HBO. Written and directed by New York independent animator Debra J. Solomon (Lizzie McGuire), Getting Over Him In 8 Songs or Less is a sexy, funny and poignant film about losing love and finding yourself. Filmmaker Solomon will appear in person for a Q&A and we’ll also screen several of her other award-winning shorts. It’s happening Tuesday January 5th – a week from tonight — at the Cinefamily/Silent Movie Theater at 8pm. Ticket info here.
JibJab has released their annual “year in review” short with a tongue-in-cheek summary of the highs and (mostly) lows of the past twelve months. They’ve supplemented it with an exhaustive set of blog posts documenting the production process scene-by-scene. This year’s edition is notable for its lo-fi aesthetic with most of the visuals created in-camera. It was surprising to learn on their blog how many of the elements that I initially assumed used digital compositing were actually made with cut-outs, replacement stop-mo animation, and puppetry.
Our weekly survey of recent comic strips and editorial cartoons that reference animation characters. Once again we begin with The Princess and the Frog being used as a metaphor to comment on the Health Care Reform Bill (via Mike Luckovich in the Atlanta Journal Constitution):
Next, Tim Rickard’s sci-fi spoof Brewster Rockit presented a Christmas Special in serialized form:
Howard Beckerman is the king of New York animation; a teacher, a mentor and a living legend. It was his birthday yesterday, on Christmas, and to celebrate the occasion we present The Trip (1967) which Beckerman wrote, animated and co-designed — another hidden gem produced during the Shamus Culhane era at Paramount. Howard recalled:
“The film was originally titled “The Vacation”, but Paramount changed it to “The Trip” and it always gets confused with the Peter Fonda live-action production.”
Here are my picks for the best animation books of 2009.
The Colors of Mary Blair –A catalog for an exhibition that happened earlier this year at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Tokyo. I don’t have a copy myself and don’t even know how you can obtain one, but this book does it right with page after packed page of animation concepts, personal watercolors, advertising art, and illustration work. It works well as a companion to John Canemaker’s 2003 bio The Art and Flair of Mary Blair.
Iwao Takamoto: My Life with a Thousand Characters by Iwao Takamoto with Michael Mallory – An entertaining, fast-paced and personal look into the life and career of now-deceased artist Iwao Takamoto that shows he deserves to be remembered for more than just designing Scooby-Doo.
Drawn to Life: 20 Golden Years of Disney Master Classes, Volume 1 and Volume 2, by Walt Stanchfield, edited by Don Hahn – A lifetime’s worth of knowledge and wisdom is contained within these two paperbacks. The material is taken from Stanchfield’s handouts used in his classes for Disney animators. These books belong on any animator’s bookshelf, whether beginner or expert.
Starting Point: 1979-1996 by Hayao Miyazaki, translated by Beth Cary and Frederik L. Schodt – I have yet to read a single page of this book, but if you ask Mark Mayerson and Richard O’Connor, it’s nothing short of amazing. It sounds like an eclectic and thought-provoking collection of opinions from one of today’s master animation directors, and it’s the animation book that I’m currently most looking forward to reading.
The Making of Fantastic Mr. Fox – This elegantly compact volume, designed by Angus Hyland of Pentagram, injects fresh blood into the tired ‘art of’ book format. I’ve personally resisted writing any more feature film ‘art of’ books, but something as original and distinctive as this one might force me to reconsider.
Feel free to share your favorite animated-related titles published in the past year and tell us why.
If you ever happen to find yourself in Hinsdale, Illinois, as I have myself, be sure to check out Zingelman’s (13 W. 1st St.). The deli is filled with charmingly incompetent murals of cartoon characters, including odd pairings like Superman and SpongeBob. Here are a few more images from the establishment:
Here’s a Christmas treat from BBC Radio Scotland. The radio network is presenting a 25-minute tribute to Jimmy MacDonald – The Voice of Mickey Mouse from 1947 to 1977. Once it is broadcast on Christmas Day (9:00 a.m. EST / 6:00 PST), everyone can stream it any time of day for seven days afterward. Here’s the link.
According to this article in Slate by Jeremy Stahl, up to half of Sweden’s population will be watching Donald Duck (or Kalle Anka) cartoons today, a Christmas eve tradition that dates back fifty years.
Animator Doug Compton used a classic 1955 Stan Freberg recording as the basis for his Christmas card this year: a fully animated version of Nuttin’ For Christmas which he drew and animated every frame of.
For reference, the song’s lyrics (written by Sid Tepper and Roy C. Bennett) are here. Enjoy – and Merry Christmas!
Ã“scar T. Pérez is a wonderful book illustrator based in Madrid, Spain. Now, Perez has posted a group of animated shorts – films sponsored by his publishers Edicions Bromera and La Galera — made to promote some of his recently published books. Below is a stylish one for The Encyclopedia of Monsters and Other Terrifying Creatures, written by Enric Lluch. To see more of Perez’ illustration art visit his blog.
This piece has been online and gone viral in the past week, but I couldn’t resist putting it here. It’s to promote ESCP Europe, a prominent business school in France. Whoever directed this piece should consider dropping out of ESCP and go directly in to filmmaking. Nice job!
Richard Graham at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln has put together an online collection of 183 government comic books – i.e. comics commissioned by the the U.S. Government to educate and inform the general public. Charlie Brown, Yogi, Dagwood and many other well known characters show up in these booklets, as well as obscure work by Walt Kelly, Dr. Seuss, Will Eisner, Al Capp, etc. All of it is downloadable via PDF files. Absolutely worth a browse during your off time over the Christmas holidays. Here’s the link.