Animation by Alberto Mielgo

I’m a big admirer of Albert Mielgo‘s paintings, and have often thought of scrounging up some dough to buy one of his acrylics, which might be described as a kind of stylized photorealism. I also think it’s great that he shares his skill and singular vision with the animation industry, mostly working on various UK-based projects. Recently though, instead of just designing backgrounds, Alberto deigned and animated four pieces entirely by himself, and the results are out of this world. The cinematic inventiveness and painterly approach to lighting give these pieces a unique feel that I’ve never seen before in animation, and frankly I want to see more of it. The four pieces (three of which I’ve included after the jump) are for a project called Pinkman.TV and were created with Photoshop and AfterEffects.

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Shatner to host Annie Awards

ASIFA-Hollywood has just announced that actor/director William Shatner will host the 37th Annual Annie Awards on Saturday, February 6, 2010, at UCLA’s Royce Hall in Los Angeles, CA. Very Cool!

Tickets have gone on sale for the event at the Annie Award website. The evening begins with a pre-reception at 5 p.m. followed by the Annie Awards ceremony at 7 p.m. and post award party at 10 p.m. All events will be held at Royce Hall. The Annie Awards ceremony will also be webcast on beginning Tuesday, February 9, 2010.

Virgin Records’ Pathetic Attempt for Free Animation

Virgin Records

Take a look at this distasteful work-for-free ad that Virgin Records posted on the Anime Studio Forum under the title “Volunteer your work for Virgin’s new online music show”:

Hi, I’m one of the producers of Virgin’s new global online music show Red Room. The show is aiming to be community-based and feature lots of user-generated content. Each week we feature new titles to go over new title music supplied by unsigned bands wanting a bit of exposure.

So-oooo – we are on the look out for animators who want to create a 4-8 second title sequence in turn for full credit and something to add to your showreel. Sorry we can’t pay you – but we’ve hardly any money oursleves right now to produce the show! The show has just started so it’s early days but we are aiming to get it shown around the world on different Virgin platforms as well as YouTube etc

If you’re up for it – let me know! To prove I’m real – here we are:

The company is part of EMI, the third largest music company in the world, and not affiliated with Richard Branson’s Virgin company which owns the airlines and mobile service providers. Yet when it comes to paying a few bucks to an animation artist, they have the gall to claim that “we’ve hardly any money ourselves right now.”

The readers of Anime Studio Forum are way too smart for this, and immediately called out Virgin for its embarrassing ploy to take advantage of the animation community. Forum user Rylleman wrote, “Isn’t Virgin one of the largest music companies of the world? To ask for free work in that position sounds greedy to me. Call a school and get an intern if you can’t afford to pay people for their work,” while Parker wrote, “I dont want to be rude but dont expect users work for you for free, please offer some money.”

(Thanks, Slowtiger)

Tinga Tinga Tales produced by Kenya’s Homeboyz

This is the trailer for Tinga Tinga Tales, a 52-episode children’s series produced by Nairobi, Kenya-based studio Homeboyz Animation. It will air on Disney Channel and BBC’s children’s network CBeebies, among other broadcasters. This is a BBC video news story about Homeboyz that shows glimpses of their studio and interviews artists working there. As far as I know, this is the first 100%-animated TV series to be produced out of Kenya.

The animation world is on the verge of a revolution in ideas and content. Tens of thousands of artists from Africa, Asia, South America and the Middle East have entered the industry in the past decade thanks to digital technologies that have made animation production affordable and accessible to all. As one of the Homeboyz artists says in the BBC piece, they’re gaining experience and knowledge so they can someday start producing their own scripts and ideas. It’ll be really exciting when they do.

(Thanks, Joe Fournier)

Performance Capture Technology circa 1966: AnimaScope

Mo-Cap, Shmoe-Cap!

Move over Robert Zemeckis – your ideas are old hat. Max Fleischer invented the rotoscope in 1917 and, thanks to this newly discovered piece of film, we now know Westworld Artists conceived motion capture for animation in the 1960s. Only they called it AnimaScope (nifty title, eh?).

AnimaScope was “animation without drawings”. It was created by Leon Maurer (brother of comic artist Norman Maurer) and is related to his Colormation technique, which we posted about in 2007. AnimaScope was used in the original Yellow Submarine (ironic, isn’t it?) and several Bakshi feature films, but essentially abandoned after that. Here’s a look at the future of animation, that never was:

(Thanks, Andrew Sylvester)

Fleischer Studio in Miami now a Police Station

When the Fleischer Studio moved to Miami in 1938, Paramount built a state of the art studio building for them to create Gulliver’s Travels, the Superman cartoons and Mr. Bug Goes To Town (not to mention continuing the popular Popeye series). 70 years later, the building is still there at 1701 NW 30th Avenue (near the corner of NW 17th Street and 29th Ave. – current ariel view, above, via Bing Maps). It was, for over 30 years, a Miami-Dade County Child Development Center. Now, Brew reader Bob Frable sends us an update: the building was renovated to become a police station in 2007.

Photo’s below (click thumbnails to enlarge) shows the Miami Police Grapeland Heights Substation as it appears today (left), an overhead veiw via Google Maps (center), and a diagram of the original Fleischer Studio offices (right).

2010 Bafta Nominees

As award season continues, the British Academy Film Awards were announced today. Congratulations to Coraline (Henry Selick), Fantastic Mr. Fox (Wes Anderson) and UP (Pete Docter) for the feature animation nominations. The animated short film nominations went to The Happy Duckling (Gili Dolev), Mother of Many (Sally Arthur, Emma Lazenby) and The Gruffalo (Michael Rose, Martin Pope, Jakob Schuh, Max Lang). The winners will be announced on Sunday February 21st.

‘Adventure Time’ is coming!

I have no love for Cartoon Network these days, but I will not let that stop me from trumpeting the forthcoming debut of Pendelton Ward’s animated series Adventure Time (it’s official title is Adventure Time With Finn and Jake but it’ll always be simply Adventure Time to me). The on-air promos have started playing and the production blog is loaded with cool artwork. I’m excited!

Jason Brubaker’s reMIND

Jason Brubaker, currently at Dreamworks, has been working in the freelance commercial world, art directing, animating and toiling on a graphic novel on the side. His “reMIND” graphic novel was originally going to be animated but, he says:

“I scrapped it after doing 5 minutes because it took way too long. Jim Ballantine suggested I make a graphic novel instead and here I am now. Most of this art is what got me hired at Dreamworks to do visual development, but I still force myself to work on it at nights and weekends. Gotta keep the dream alive. Luckily most of it was finished before I started at Dreamworks so I’m more or less just finishing the coloring now days.

“I’m giving myself the goal of November to finish so that I can have it ready for the next Comic Con. Basically by the time I have most of the pages online, It should be in print. Hopefully. My site features my working pages as well as what I’ve been learning in the process.”

The reMIND blog not only previews Jason’s incredible art and comics, but offers invaluable step-by-step lessons on creating a graphic novel. Well worth exploring.

Scribble Junkies, a blog by Bill Plympton and Pat Smith

Pat and Bill

Make room for another solid addition to the animation blogosphere: Scribble Junkies is a blog by well-known New York indies Bill Plympton and Pat Smith (who is currently living in Singapore). I know them both well, and I enjoy hearing their perspectives on the art form, even if I don’t necessarily always agree with them. If it’s not clear from the name of their blog, both of these guys are driven by their passion for the art of drawn animation, and they’ve told me that they plan to have guest contributions from other artists who are similarly passionate about drawing and draftsmanship.

New from McCracken and Faust

I’m way overdue in reporting on the current activities of cartoon creator Craig McCracken (Powerpuff Girls, Foster’s Home) and his wife, animator Lauren Faust (Iron Giant, Cats Don’t Dance). I caught up with them at the CTN Expo last November where they were displaying their latest projects.

Craig is developing Wander Over Yonder (above), a new character he hopes to bring to life in animation but is only available now in sneak peek form – in a sketchbook and on a T-shirt available directly from Craig himself. The sketchbook is really cool because, though it’s a series of still pictures, it tells a little story about an appealing oddball character. Check it out here.

Lauren has developed a line of girl characters and limited edition dolls (available only at FAO Schwarz) called Milky Way and the Galaxy Girls (below). Apparently it’s catching on, and gaining quite a cult among gals of all ages. I love it when animators like McCracken and Faust use their skills to create their own properties and find ways to bypass the traditional business model to connect with an audience. That’s the way it should be.

Magic Hat Brewing: Vinyl

I figure a blog named Cartoon Brew should report on anyone who combines animation and beer. Thus, Magic Hat Brewing Company in South Burlington, Vermont, just released a new beer this week, named Vinyl. The intro to the beer on their website is done in stop-motion, old school style. Not sure who did it, maybe in-house, but thought it was cute and kitsch – and worth 45 seconds of your time.

(Thanks, Cousy Kane)

The Indie Film Distribution Revolution

Inspiring piece in the NY Times about the growing trend of indie film distribution, and its historical roots in indie filmmakers like George Lucas and John Cassavetes. With more independent animated features being made than ever before, finding ways to distribute them outside of conventional Hollywood channels is more important than ever:

In the Old World of distribution, filmmakers hand over all the rights to their work, ceding control to companies that might soon lose interest in their new purchase for various reasons, including a weak opening weekend. (“After the first show,” Mr. Broderick said, repeating an Old World maxim, “we know.”) In the New World, filmmakers maintain full control over their work from beginning to end: they hold on to their rights and, as important, find people who are interested in their projects and can become patrons, even mentors. The Old World has ticket buyers. The New World has ticket buyers who are also Facebook friends. The Old World has commercials, newspapers ads and the mass audience. The New World has social media, YouTube, iTunes and niche audiences. “Newspaper ads,” Mr. Broderick said, “are mostly a waste of money.”

TUESDAY IN NYC: Spotlight on CGI & FX Studios

Tomorrow night, ASIFA-East is hosting “A Spotlight on CGI and FX Studios.” Reps from five local studios–SpeakeasyFX, Hornet, NathanLove, Mechanism Digital and Framestore–will participate in a panel discussion about industry trends and the types of artists they’re looking to hire. It’s a positive sign to see a CG/VFX event being sponsored by ASIFA-East. These are big parts of the NY animation industry, and it’d be to everybody’s benefit if the organization incorporated them into the mix more frequently. The event begins at 7pm at the School of Visual Arts (209 E. 23rd Street, 3rd Floor Amphitheater). Admission is, magic word, FREE!

Black Lake by David OReilly and Jon Klassen

An evocative and spare exercise in computer animation by David OReilly and Jon Klassen, who previously collaborated on the U2 music video “I’ll Go Crazy If I Don’t Go Crazy Tonight”. The video is intended to be viewed as a loop, and contains a ‘making of’ portion at the end. It’s a revelation seeing how elegantly Klassen’s design-heavy illustrations work can be translated into CG imagery. I’d love to see these guys collaborate on something more substantial in this style.

UP wins Golden Globe

“Animation is not just for kids. It is also for adults who take drugs.”

And there you go. That’s how Hollywood perceives us. Paul McCartney delivered that line (and yes I know it was a joke) – and referenced Rock Band and the forthcoming Zemeckis travesty of Yellow Submarine – in his introduction to the Best Animated Feature presentation at tonight’s Golden Globes.

As one of the “adults” who loves animation, I want to congratulate our friend Pete Docter and the whole team at Pixar for winning the animation prize for UP.

UPDATE: Here’s the video of Pete’s acceptance speech: