Mr. Magoo Boxer Shorts

Just when I thought they couldn’t sink lower than Kung Fu Magoo, Classic Media surprises me with this oddball piece of merch: Mr. Magoo Boxer Shorts.

Imagine taking off your jeans and impressing your lady with a large Magoo under your pants. Not me. If I want the cartoon face of a grizzled old man on my crotch, at least I’d have the decency to wear Popeye boxers.

(Thanks, Alex Rannie)

Modern Mickey by Paul Rudnick

There is a humor piece by Paul Rudnick in this week’s New Yorker that takes a swipe at the forthcoming Mickey Mouse videogame Epic Mickey:

MEMO: To all Epic Mickey personnel
FROM: Disney Board of Directors
SUBJECT: New Mickey

Guys–we love the rethink, but we just have a few tweaks:

–When Mickey leers at Minnie in the waterfront bar, let’s have him squeak, “You know what they say, baby. Big ears . . .”
–In the “Brokeback Mickey” flashback, when Mickey makes tender love to Donald Duck, let’s have Mickey murmur, “Leave the little sailor hat on.”
–When Mickey is shown starving to death after the nuclear disaster, and he eats Porky Pig, we feel that Porky should still be alive when his feet are removed.

Visit The New Yorker website for the rest of the piece.

Phillip, the Safety Egg

Mike Owens made this at Puny in Minneapolis. “It’s our first in house short developed from a character that has lived in my subconscious for many years,” says Owens on his blog. Good stuff, says I.

Phillip, the Safety Egg
Creator & Director – Mike Owens
Developed by – Shad Petosky & Will Shepard
Written by & Voices – Eric Knobel, Hannah Kuhlmann & Michael Ritchie
Design – Mitch Loidolt and Mike Owens
Background & Audio Design – Curtis Square-Briggs
Animation – Eyo Peters, Nick Bachman & Mike Owens
Animation, Compositing & FX – Victor Courtright

Six Points Fellowship

Six Points Fellowship is looking for applicants for its 2010 cycle. The fellowship is designed for emerging artists in the New York area (ages 22—38) who are creating projects that engage with Jewish ideas, and is open to all artists (not only Jewish) working in the city. It will be awarded to nine artists who will each receive up to $40,000 over two years. Each fellow will be provided with:

* Stipend ($20k over 2 years)
* Project Grant (up to $20k over 2 years)
* Monthly Salons
* Retreats
* Coaching/Mentorship

It sounds to me like a generously designed fellowship that offers both financial and professional support. Take note any NYers who might be developing a Jewish-themed animation project. To learn more, visit SixPointsFellowship.org. They are holding application workshops on February 7 and 17th.

Whatever happened to Hoodwinked Too?

And most of you are asking “Who cares?”

The original Hoodwinked had art direction and character design that were – let’s face it – piss poor, but I enjoyed the film nonetheless. It had a funny, clever script with good performances — and took me (and a whole lot of other people) by surprise, grossing $51 million in January 2006.

The Weinstein Company has pulled the sequel, Hoodwinked Too: Hood vs. Evil, off its release schedule for the time being. It was first set for January 15th 2010, then pushed back to February 12th, and now… who knows? According to his blog, Hoodwinked’s creator himself, Cory Edwards, has no idea when the film will be released. But that hasn’t stopped Weinstein’s pre-existing deal with Burger King to offer toys from the sequel with its Kids Meals this month. Better scoop them up now, they may become quite a collectible.

Kanizsa Hill by Evelyn Lee

A man is shot and can only survive as a head and a body who exist independently from one another. The forgetful body desperately collects souvenirs, while the head is lost in a series of illusions.

Evelyn Lee made Kanizsa Hill as her graduate thesis film for the Experimental Animation Program at CalArts. It has screened at various festivals including Slamdance, AFI Los Angeles, Comic Con International and the Seattle International Film Festival. It won Best Animated Short at San Fransico International Film Festival and Most Promising Filmmaker at Ann Arbor Film Festival. And now this delightfully surreal short is online:

Cartoons of 1939 blog

Film historians have long declared the year 1939 the pinnacle of Hollywood movie making. But what about the cartoons?

Cartoon buff Ted Watts is reviewing all 158 Hollywood cartoon short subjects (and one feature) produced in that banner year, 70 years ago, one at a time in release order, on a new blog called Cartoons of 1939.

Ted provides plot information, credits and lots of frame grabs. It’s a fun idea. If you want to start at the beginning, click here.

Imagi Shuts Down US Studio

Astro Boy

Imagi, the studio responsible for the TMNT and Astro Boy features, has shut down their American studio in Sherman Oaks, California. The company, which is still working on a Gatchaman feature, has been struggling both at the box office and in its financial operations. From HotStocked.com:

Imagi International Holdings Ltd has announced large scale review of operations which has mostly negative effect towards the staff. The company has cut off their US subsidiaries from any funding, the working contracts for 30 employees were terminated and the Los Angeles based office closed. The company was left with only a few important staff members being utilized as consultants and has transferred the functions of the closed office to other contractors . . . With their US office closed the company still has two more in Hong Kong and Tokyo as well as continues trading under the Stock Exchange of Hong Kong. Their stock is poorly traded in both the exchanges.

Take-away lesson: artificial Christmas trees are easier to make than animated features.

(via TAG blog)

For the Birds Controversy

The Internet which is always looking for a good controversy is trying to stir one up over a Pixar short. Lineboil.com pointed out a recent survey on Rotten Tomatoes that asks whether Ralph Eggleston’s For the Birds (2001) resembles a CalArts student film from 1993 called Small Fry. The director of Small Fry is Stevie Wermers-Skelton, who co-directed the recent Goofy short How to Hook Up Your Home Theater and Disney holiday special Prep and Landing.

Here are the two films in question:

Small Fry

For the Birds (an edited version with different music and sound)

The basic set-up of the shorts–a bigger bird wants to land on a wire populated by smaller birds–is similar, but hardly unique enough for it to be considered, in legal parlance, “probative similarity.” From that point forward, the films take completely different paths: Wermers’ Small Fry is about how the smaller birds don’t allow the big bird to land on the wire, whereas the small birds in For the Birds move over to make room for the bigger bird to land. None of the gags are similar because of the differences in the situation; in fact, Small Fry doesn’t even have much in the way of gags until the payoff. The shorts are most similar at the end when the smaller birds get their inadvertent comeuppance at the hands (or wings) of the larger bird, though the idea works better in For the Birds because the actions of the smaller birds causes their misfortune.

There’s also another aspect to consider. While For the Birds wasn’t released until 2001, Eggleston came up with the idea much earlier. In my book The Art of Pixar Short Films, I interviewed Ralph about the genesis of For the Birds and he told me that the idea developed while he was attending CalArts, which would be in the early-1980s. Here is an excerpt from the book:

For the Birds began its life in the early 1980s, as a design assignment that Eggleston created for design instructor Bob Winquist’s class at CalArts. Fellow classmate Ken Bruce suggested that Eggleston turn his concept sketch into a film. “I actually boarded some of it at CalArts,” remembered Eggleston, “and I couldn’t finish it because I dreaded the idea of having to draw all those little birds.” Since his idea also lacked an ending, he filed the project away for another day.

If there is a concrete connection between these films, it would be that Ken Bruce is thanked in the credits of both For the Birds and Small Fry. Bruce, as mentioned above, was the classmate of Eggleston who encouraged him to turn the design assignment into a film.

Perhaps the best evidence favoring the innocence of For the Birds is this drawing by Eggleston printed in The Art of Pixar Short Films. In the book, it’s dated 1985, eight years before Small Fry:

For the Birds concept drawing

iPad as an Animation Tool?

iPad

Like so many others, I was eagerly anticipating Apple’s iPad, but the device falls shorts in many areas, including in its usefulness to the animation community. As it relates to animation, it appears to me that its two biggest deficiences are:

– lack of stylus input, which means no animating on the device

– lack of Flash support (in other words, no viewing animation on Vimeo or Newgrounds, no Flash on websites, and no ability for playback of your own Flash animation)

The absence of these two on the iPhone is inconvenient, but to have them missing on the iPad is inexcusable. Flash, in particular, is such an integral part of today’s web browsing experience that I can’t imagine owning a full-screen device without that functionality. I’m curious to hear your thoughts about the iPad specifically as it relates to animation. What are the possibilities and what could be improved upon in the next generation? Will you be buying one?

Kung Fu Magoo emerges on DVD

It’s been over a year since we heard anything about Classic Media’s attempt to revive Mr. Magoo in something called Kung Fu Magoo. Our friends at TVShowsOnDVD now report that Vivendi Entertainment will release the film direct-to-video on May 11th. (Click image at left to see box art). The 80-minute feature, produced at Mexico’s Anima Estudios, pits Quincy Magoo and his 12-year-old nephew, Justin, against giant robotic spiders, ninjas on jet skis and mutant Beasteens which are half animal and half teenage girl. Jim Conroy (Ruff Ruffman, Kenny the Shark) provides the voice of Mr. Magoo. Doesn’t sound good…

Chuck Jones Article by John Canemaker

This six-page article about Chuck Jones was written by John Canemaker in the late-1970s. I don’t remember how I got it or where the article was published (perhaps John can tell us himself), but I found the scans a few days ago and had to share them. Wouldn’t it be amazing if Chuck had written a book of drawing and animation advice like the kind that he shares with Canemaker in this piece?

UPDATE: John Canemaker informs us that the article is from the March 1980 issue of Cartoonist Profiles (#45).

Send Your Love to Disney Legend Bill Justice

Bill Justice
Bill Justice working on “A Symposium on Popular Songs.” From Miehana’s Flickr.

If you’re a fan of Disney legend Bill Justice, here’s your chance to show your appreciation. Disney historian Jim Korkis recently told MousePlanet.com:

Bill Justice is getting ready to celebrate his 96th Birthday February 9th, but he’s been in a rehabilitation home for the last few years and visitation has been tightly restricted. A good friend of mine who is a talented Disney artist recently visited him and said Bill had difficulty remembering recent events but if the artist mentioned a name from the “Golden Age” of Disney, Bill perked up and his memories were clear as a bell.

Bill hasn’t been in the best of spirits so it has been requested that it would be nice for him to get some holidays cards and of course, some birthday cards, to let him know that he hasn’t been forgotten.

For those unfamiliar with Bill’s many accomplishments, he is probably best known for his animation on the characters Chip’n'Dale and for his early work programming audio-animatronics on such attractions as “Pirates of the Caribbean” and “Haunted Mansion”. He was the one who designed the recently closed attraction, the “Mickey Mouse Revue” and painted the huge mural of characters in Exposition Hall at Walt Disney World. Basically, his accomplishments were enough to fill a book…and they did in the limited edition self-published “Justice for Disney” book he authored.

Bill has been a long time friend of the Disney fan community and has attended many conventions, cruise ship excursions, and other events often drawing Disney characters on paper plates and then tossing them like frisbees into the crowd.

It is being requested that Disney fans show their love by sending him a card or letter (remember that he won’t be able to respond or fill a request for artwork) and perhaps include a photo that may have been taken with him. Something to remind him of his impact and how he is still very much loved and appreciated.

Bill is one of the few remaining connections to people who actually worked with Walt and Bill’s contributions include not just animation but work at the Disney theme parks.

The address is:
Bill Justice
Arbor View Wellness & Rehabilitation Center
1338 20th Street
Santa Monica, CA 90404

(Thanks, Jason Groh)

Sylvain Chomet’s The Illusionist Debuts in February

The Illusionist

The Illusionist, the long-awaited follow-up feature from Sylvain Chomet (The Triplets of Belleville), will debut next month at the Berlin International Film Festival. This article from Scotland’s The Herald confirms that the hand-drawn film is Scotland’s most expensive film production ever, with a budget “significantly north of £10 million.” In US dollars, that works out to a modest $16 million, which would be considered a bargain by most studios. According to the article, the film was made primarily in Edinburgh at ­Chomet’s Django Films, with further work done by ink.digital in Dundee, Scotland and another studio in Paris. Personally, I’ve heard that to get the film done, they farmed out large parts to service studios, including around forty minutes of assistant animation and clean-up to Sunwoo in South Korea.

To take advantage of Scottish film incentives, Chomet transposed the film’s action from Paris to Edinburgh and the Western Isles, which according to one person interviewed by The Herald, isn’t necessarily a bad thing:

Film-maker and critic Mark ­Cousins, who helped Chomet set up his Edinburgh studio, has seen several extracts of the film. “We should be very excited about The Illusionist,” he said. “Even though it wasn’t originally set in Scotland, the end result really is quite Scottish. It has a real feel of the marmalade and bracken colour of Mull in the autumn. The screenplay was one of the best that I’ve seen. This could be a ­classic of Scottish cinema.”

(Thanks, Martin Gornall and Florian Satzinger)

Fantasy City by Tatsuo Shimamura

I’m not going to pretend like I fully understand what’s going on in this short–alienation and dehumanization in modern society is always a safe guess–but there are a lot of interesting visual ideas in this 1968 Japanese short directed by Tatsuo Shimamura. A bio of the prolific Shimamura can be found on AniPages Daily, while this short can be purchased on Volume 10 of Something Weird’s Classic Cartoon Rarities collection.

(Thanks, Brian Lonano)

BBC Winter Olympics Promo by Marc Craste

This spot promoting the BBC’s Winter Olympics coverage is one of the finest examples I’ve seen of an illustrative style applied to computer animation. The atmospheric Inuit-flavored promo was directed by Marc Craste (Jojo in the Stars, Varmints) at Studio AKA. Co-designer was Jon Klassen, who posted a little bit about the design process on his blog.

A bigger and cleaner version of the spot can be viewed here.

(via Motionographer)

Lucas producing CGI “musical fairies” feature

Word is spreading today of a top secret Lucasfilm CG animated musical now in preproduction at Skywalker Ranch in Marin County. All that is known about it is that Kevin Munroe (TMNT) is directing and David Berenbaum (Elf, The Spiderwick Chronicles) wrote the screenplay, from a story idea by Lucas. And that the film centers around a group of fairy characters.

The image above has nothing to do with this film – I just thought it was cute.

Thoughts, opinions, inside info? Please comment below.

Walt Peregoy Exhibit in Encino

Walt Peregoy

The Chocolate Bar in Encino is hosting an exhibit of personal artwork by Walt Peregoy. The exhibition runs February 1-27. There will be an opening reception on Saturday, February 6, between 7-10pm, with Peregoy in attendance. Peregoy is perhaps best known for his work as a color stylist on 101 Dalmatians and how he brought a strong modern art sensibility to the Disney features. He’s had an extensive animation career beyond that film, and alongside his industry work, he’s been painting and drawing non-stop. Most of his personal work has never been exhibited which is why this upcoming show sounds like such a treat. The Chocolate Bar is located at 17312-A Ventura Boulevard.

Toonstruck: Cartoons in Love

My next cartoon show at the Cinefamily/Silent Movie Theater is on Tuesday February 9th. To commemorate Valentines Day (a few days early), we are presenting an assortment of classic animated shorts on the theme of love. From the sex-starved Pepe LePew, to Avery’s luscious Red Riding Hood, our program features rare 35mm and 16mm Technicolor film prints, projected the way they are supposed to be seen – on the big screen. Suitable for cartoon lovers of all ages, for more information or advance tickets, please click the CineFamily website.

Bakshi N.Y. Art Show

Ralph Bakshi (Fritz The Cat, Wizards, Mighty Mouse) will return to New York in March to present an art show in SoHo. He’ll appear at a reception at the Animazing Gallery, with a new series of paintings in an exhibition entitled The Streets. These are mixed-media construction/paintings inspired by Bakshi’s youth in lower Manhattan and Brooklyn.

New York’s Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art (MoCCA) will present a lifetime achievement award to Bakshi at the opening reception on Friday, March 19th, from 6-9PM (by invitation.) A public meet and greet reception takes place on Saturday March 20th, 2-5PM. Admission is free and open to the public. The exhibition runs through May 15th. Animazing Gallery is located at 54 Greene Street at Broome in SoHo. For more information visit www.animazing.com.

The Match by Ken Mundie

Independent animator and producer Wendy Johnson Carmical has started a production blog dedicated to veteran animator Ken Mundie and his new traditionally animated film (still under production) called The Match.

Mundie, who is now in his eighties, directed the first Fat Albert special, created the titles for The Wild Wild West and produced a controversial Warner Bros. animated short, The Door (1967). Carmical says, “This endeavor to help Ken get his film made is inspired by a love of animation, respect for the pioneers, and regard for a really unique interesting artist.” The Match is “an animated film about an epic tennis match that represents the battle of brute force against the intellect. It will be animated entirely by Ken Mundie. We are hoping to find people interested in painting the finished animation and/or find funding.”

Below is a work-in-progress reel of the first act.

Outsider Art Becomes Animated in The Future

The video above is about The Future, a twelve-minute animated short drawn and voiced entirely by artists who are members of League Treatment Center’s L.A.N.D. (League Artists Natural Design) Gallery in Brooklyn. What makes these artists unique is that they all have developmental disabilities. The film is being directed by NY animation artist M. Wartella (Wonder Showzen, Superjail) and is scheduled for completion this summer. To help complete the project, the organization is currently accepting donations through the fundraising website Kickstarter. The art looks like a lot of fun; can’t wait to see how it turns out!

(Thanks, Christy Karacas)

Weird Al Switches to the Dark Side

As part of Cartoon Network’s efforts to reinvent themselves as a cheap knockoff of The Disney Channel, they’ve hired “Weird Al” Yankovic to direct a live-action feature film. According to Weird Al, “Cartoon Network had requested that I develop a show with a much younger protagonist — the actual star of the movie will most likely be teenage.”

(Thanks, David Blumenstein)