Virus Attack

Cartoon Network may be trying to attract teens through live-action, but never fear – they haven’t left animation completely behind. Apparently in an effort to sponsor the worst animation in the world, they’ve greenlit a new sci-fi cartoon show being made by an Italian company called Mondo TV (the lovely people behind Titanic: The Animated Movie). It’s called Virus Attack and it’s about five teens who fight alien viruses who turn out to literally be aliens. It’s coming to Italy in December 2010, just in time for the holidays, before coming to Cartoon Network USA sometime in 2011. Here’s a sneak peek:

(Thanks, Liam)

Graeme Hawkins

One of the most fulfilling aspects of blogging on Cartoon Brew is every so often discovering the young filmmaker who loves to experiment with the medium and isn’t bound by conventional notions of animation filmmaking. I’d venture to say that Dundee, Scotland-based Graeme Hawkins is one of these chaps. Witness the breadth of his approach to the art form by visiting Retchy.com, which is filled with all kinds of fun animated experiments including 3D zoetropes, projection mapping and VJing, along with generous descriptions of his processes and techniques. He also worked as a digital artist on Sylvain Chomet’s new film The Illusionist.

Below is his thesis film, 5, which is “an exploration of childhood memories, combining scientific theory, the wandering mind of a child, and largely abstract sound design to hopefully evoke feelings of nostalgia, familiarity and comfort.” I was impressed by the blend of sophisticated visuals, surprising transitions, and sharp sound design, but if you want to read into it further, Graeme explains on his website that the film has something to do with Richard Feynman and Richard Dawkins.

Here’s another quickie film of his I enjoyed–McDonalds on the Brain:

Trunk Train

Zé Brandão, who runs Copa Studio in Rio de Janeiro, sent me this cute TV series pilot he made as a co-production with two Brazilian public broadcasters (TV Brasil and TV Cultura). It’s impressive to see the rising quality of children’s animation being produced in all corners of the globe. Countries with developing animation scenes, like Brazil and India, are proving that they can produce shows that are virtually indistinguishable in quality from the work coming out of more experienced animation-producing countries. As they increase their production capacities, more TV animation production will shift to affordable countries like Brazil which barely had an animation industry a decade ago. Which begs the question, if decent animation can be produced anywhere in the world at low cost, will this force animation producers in the US and Europe to raise the bar on their work or will they simply throw in the towel? It’ll be interesting to see what happens.

Bill Plympton and Pat Smith Argue About Pink Elephants

Scribble Junkies, the new commentary blog by animators Bill Plympton and Pat Smith, is heating up. Yesterday, Bill posted about why he thinks the “Pink Elephants on Parade” sequence in Dumbo is the “weakest point” of the film. Today, Pat followed up with an entry about why that sequence is “the single most influential piece of animation” that he’s seen. It’s fun seeing two solid animators duke it out over a classic piece of animation that we normally take for granted.

Cameron Bitter Because Oscars Snubbed Animated Characters

Pocatar
(Pocatar image by Chad Regan)

An article from today’s Hollywood Reporter says that Avatar producer Jon Landau labeled the Oscars “a disappointment” after none of the film’s animated characters were nominated for an acting award. He also said they need to change the term “motion capture photography” to “emotion capture” to fool people into thinking it’s something else. Meanwhile, Cameron stated recently that, “People confuse what we have done with animation. It’s nothing like animation. The creator here is the actor, not the unseen hand of an animator.” It’s always amusing how indignant mainstream Hollywood becomes whenever they get a taste of what it’s like to be treated as one of the industry’s second-class animation citizens.

SEE ALSO: Two Animated Films Nominated for Best Picture Oscar

(Thanks, Tohoscope)

HOW-TO: Big Pants Mouse Comic

Gabe Swarr, an animation director at Nick by day, is the creator of the Big Pants Mouse comic strip which appears weekly at DummComics.com. He created this two-part video that documents the process of making one of the strips. It’s interesting to hear him talk about the extensive asset system he’s created for the characters in Flash, which as he hints at in the video, would be transferable to animation should he ever make a Big Pants Mouse animated project in the future.

The Little Boy and the Beast

A delightful trailer for The Little Boy and the Beast (Der Kleine und das Biest), a six-minute short directed by Johannes Weiland and Uwe Heidschöetter at Studio Soi. Looks like it could be CG, though a lot of drawing went into its making too. It was made for German children’s TV channel KI.KA, where it debuted last November, and will hopefully be making the festival rounds soon for the rest of us.

Two Animated Films Nominated for Best Picture Oscar

Up and Avatar

News media stories about the Oscars are cropping up all over and all of them are parroting the same factoid: Up is only the second time since the inception of the award that the Academy has nominated an animated film for Best Picture. (The first time was Beauty and the Beast in 1991.) What they should be writing is that today is a milestone day because two animated films were nominated for an Oscar: Up and Avatar.

There is little doubt in the minds of both Brewmasters, Jerry Beck and Amid Amidi, that Avatar will eventually be recognized as an animated feature as more and more films are created using the constantly evolving performance capture animation technique. Within the industry, most already recognize the film as heavily animated, from top feature film animators who wonder why Avatar‘s animators are receiving so little credit for their work on the film to animation union rep Steve Hulett who stated that if, “Avatar isn’t halfway to three-quarters animation, I will eat my computer.” Most importantly, had this film been submitted to the Academy for consideration in the animated feature category, it would have qualified under the Academy’s own rules.

While James Cameron’s publicity machine may be unwilling to acknowledge the extent of animation used in creating Avatar, let us be the first to congratulate Mr. Cameron on his nomination for his groundbreaking piece of animation.

Oscar Nominations: UP nominated for BEST PICTURE

The Oscar nominations were announced this morning.

Nominated for BEST ANIMATED FEATURE were:

Coraline – Henry Selick
The Fantastic Mr. Fox – Wes Anderson
The Princess And The Frog – John Musker, Ron Clements
The Secret of Kells – Tomm Moore
UP – Pete Docter

Also: UP was nominated for 5 Academy Awards. In addition to BEST ANIMATED FEATURE, the Pixar film was also nominated for BEST PICTURE (!), SOUND EDITING (Michael Silvers and Tom Myers), ORIGINAL SCORE (Michael Giacchino) and ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY (Screenplay by Bob Peterson, Pete Docter, Story by Pete Docter, Bob Peterson, Tom McCarthy).

“Almost There” and “Down in New Orleans” from The Princess and the Frog were nominated for BEST SONG (Music and Lyric by Randy Newman).

THE FANTASTIC MR. FOX also received a nomination for BEST ORIGINAL SCORE (Alexandre Desplat).

AVATAR was nominated for nine Academy Awards, including BEST PICTURE.

Nominated for BEST ANIMATED SHORT are:

French Roast – Fabrice O. Joubert, director (Pumpkin Factory/Bibo Films).
Granny O’Grimm’s Sleeping Beauty – Nicky Phelan, director, and Darragh O’Connell, producer (Brown Bag Films)
The Lady and the Reaper (La Dama y la Muerte) – Javier Recio Gracia, director (Kandor Graphics and Green Moon).
Logorama – Nicolas Schmerkin, producer (Autour de Minuit).
A Matter of Loaf and Death – Nick Park, director (Aardman Animations Ltd.)

The directors nominated for Best Animated Feature will appear in person for Q&A with Tom Sito on at Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Samuel Goldwyn Theatre, on Thursday March 4th at 7:30pm — For more information check the Academy’s Animated Feature Symposium website.

The filmmakers nominated for Best Animated Short will appear in person for Q&A at Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Samuel Goldwyn Theatre, on Tuesday March 2nd at 7:30pm — For more information check the Academy’s Oscar Event website.

The Academy Awards will be presented on Sunday March 7th at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood.

Irish Animation Booming

Secret of Kells

Ireland’s animation industry is still relatively small, but according to this piece in the Irish Times, it is robust and growing. A few noteworthy facts and numbers from the article:

* Animation is the “star performer” of the Irish film and TV industry, and “the only independent audiovisual sector which predicts growth this year.”

* There are 337 people working full-time in the Irish animation industry making it “the largest provider of full-time employment in the Irish independent film and television sector.”

* The country doesn’t have a strong domestic market for animation (an approximate population of 4.5 million will do that) which means that for some studios, up to 90 percent of their business is export-based.

* The Irish Film Board provides around €1 million every year for animation projects.

UPDATE: Two pieces of Irish animation were nominated for Oscars a few hours after this post: The Secret of Kells for animated feature and Granny O’Grimm’s Sleeping Beauty in the animated short category.

Moonshine: Brewed on the Dark Side of the DreamWorks Moon

Moonshine

A few years ago, a group of DreamWorks artists banded together to create Scrambled Ink, an indie comic anthology that was eventually published by Dark Horse Comics. This summer, DreamWorks is releasing Moonshine: Brewed on the Dark Side of the DreamWorks Moon, which marks the first time that an animation studio has officially sanctioned an ‘art of’ book featuring the personal work of its artists. From the book description:

From forty-five talented and prolific DreamWorks Studio art directors, character designers, production designers and visual development artists . . . Moonshine features artwork that is made during the precious little time of day when the contributors are not working on stunning upcoming movies such as Puss in Boots, Shrek Forever After, The Croods, Kung Fu Panda 2, Oobermind, Guardians, Scared Shrekless and Kung Fu Panda Holiday.

The trend of studio artists self-publishing comic anthologies is nothing new. During the past few years, we’ve seen a couple volumes of Out of Picture from Blue Sky folks, What is Torch Tiger? and Who is Rocket Johnson? from Disney artists, and The Ancient Book of Sex and Science and The Ancient Book of Myth and War out of Pixar. But those were all published by the artists themselves, and didn’t have funding from their studios like Moonshine. Gotta hand it to Jeffrey Katzenberg on this one. It’s a savvy move on his part to encourage the personal creativity of his staffers beyond the creative confines of film production, and to bring their independent works under the umbrella of his studio. (It should be noted that Katzenberg provided a blurb for the back cover of the earlier book Scrambled Ink). I would be very curious, however, to find out what the terms of the deal are for the artists participating in the book: does the artwork in the book become studio property or do the artists retain copyright over their personal ideas as they do in all of these other indie book projects?

Yuri Norstein in San Francisco, NYC and Olympia

Hedgehog in the Fog

As you may have gathered from yesterday’s post, Yuri Norstein is currently in the US. He’ll be making appearances in other cities besides LA too. Let us know if you know of any other dates besides the ones below:

SAN FRANCISCO
Sunday, February 7: Balboa Theater (3630 Balboa Street, San Francisco, CA). Tickets are $25. The event will be a fundraiser to support Yuri Norstein’s animation studio in Moscow. If you can’t afford the screening, there is an artist reception beforehand that only costs $7. Ticket purchases can be made at the Porto Franco Art Parlor website.

OLYMPIA, WASHINGTON
Wednesday, February 10: The Evergreen State College, Communications Building, Recital Hall in Olympia Washington. Ticket prices are $10 regular admission, $8 seniors, $5 students. More information at the Evergreen State College website.

NEW YORK
Monday, February 15: School of Visual Arts Theater (333 W. 23rd Street, between 8th/9th Ave.) This event is billed only as a Q&A so be aware that there may not be a screening. No price is indicated so I’m also assuming it’s free. More info at the ASIFA-East website.

FRIDAY in LA: Yuri Norstein at USC

Heads up, Angelenos. The USC School of Cinematic Arts invites you (or anyone who can get to USC this Friday) to participate in a retrospective evening and conversation with legendary Russian animator Yuri Norstein. The admission is free. The event begins at 7:00pm on Friday, February 5th, 2010 in the Norris Cinema Theatre/Frank Sinatra Hall. The conversation with Norstein will be led by Ukranian animator Igor Kovalyov (Milch, The Rugrats Movie, Hen His Wife, etc.). Norstein will also present a preview of his feature-length film adaptation of Nikolai Gogol’s Overcoat. The evening will conclude with a dessert reception in front of the theater.

To RSVP and for more information check the USC Cinematic Arts website. Below is one of Norstein’s classic films, Hedgehog In the Fog (1976):