Block Party Rip-Off?

Animation Block Party and Adult Swim Party

Speaking of things that may or may not be rip-offs, Adult Swim recently wrapped up a nation-wide block party tour that married live music and animation, kind of like Brooklyn’s quirky long-running Animation Block Party. Having never attended either of them, I can’t speak as to how closely Adult Swim’s block party mimicked Animation Block’s style, but perhaps others can. As a sidenote, Animation Block’s submission deadline is May 28.

Japan TV investigates Chinese rip-off of Gumby

Notice any resemblance between the two characters above? We didn’t either… but Japan’s NTV news reporting team did note certain similarities between the Shanghai Expo’s animated mascot, Haibao, and the USA’s own Gumby. They sent their people to interview the American owner of the Gumby copyright, Joe Clokey, about the issue. Here’s a clip (in Japanese, below) of the full report that aired yesterday (skip to 3:17 if you only want to see the part with Clokey).

(via Japan Probe)

Apple Defends Its Decision to Ban Flash

Flash versus Apple

Steve Jobs is taking so much heat for his decision to ban Flash from iPads and iPhones, that he’s published a lengthy missive defending his company’s actions, along with spreading his fair share of misinformation. I’m no fan of Flash, but I’m even less a fan of what Apple is doing. And while I’m all for looking towards the future, my current iPhone doesn’t offer a “full web” experience and lacks functionality that could be easily remedied by Apple. I’m certainly not planning to plop down more money for a larger device that is similarly broken. Jason Scott may have put it most succinctly on his Twitter feed:

The fact Jobs can banish something from his platform on the basis the thing is not “open” means the platform is not open.

La Main des Maîtres

Here’s an incredible four minute film – a student film – from France’s Georges Méliès School. The filmmakers are Vivien Chauvet (“Looky”), Adrien Toupet and Clément Delatre; their short, La Main des Maîtres (The Hand of the Masters), mixes an anime influence with steampunk and Art Nouveau. An English subtitled version is on You Tube, Vimeo version below has better picture quality:

(via No Fat Clips)

Directors of Disney, Pixar and DreamWorks Films

Pixar, Disney and DreamWorks Directors

Even though I’ve always been aware of the dominance of CalArts alumni within the West Coast industry, I was still surprised to see the above chart posted on a message board. Is there any other creative industry that is so dominated by one school? I certainly can’t think of any.

A similar chart could be made for TV series produced at Nick and Cartoon Network. CalArts alumni have created Spongebob, El Tigre, Dexter’s Lab, Powerpuff Girls, My Life as a Teenage Robot, The X’s, Time Squad, Adventure Time, Fairly OddParents, Camp Lazlo, The Regular Show, the list goes on and on.

Let me be very clear. This is not meant to be twisted into a criticism of the students attending CalArts; there is an above-average level of talent that attends the school and they obviously should be delighted that people want to hire them. But on any given year, I see just as many promising animation students graduate from other schools as I do from CalArts. So the overwhelming dominance of CalArts students at the highest creative levels of certain studios strikes me as being disproportionate to the caliber of talent spread across American animation schools. If anything, it speaks volumes about the state of our industry and its inability to look for fresh ideas beyond a single safe-and-approved farm team.

The main takeaway? West Coast animation is not a level playing field that judges artists purely on the basis of skill, talent, and ideas. If you’ve gone to an animation school other than CalArts, you probably have a better shot of winning the Powerball than you do directing a film at one of these companies.

UPDATE: Awesome Brew reader Doug Nichols is compiling a master list of animation directors and schools. If you can help fill in the blanks, please post in the comments. We’ll share the findings once its as complete as possible.

Fixed Fluid Fragmented by Michel Gagné

Trailer for Fixed Fluid Fragmented

How do you do something new when you’ve already made your own animated shorts, worked on features and TV shows,, and created comics, illustrated books, video games and toys? For the prolific and creatively restless Michel Gagné, the answer is Fixed Fluid Fragmented, a live performance piece that will debut at Vancouver’s Roundhouse Performance Centre on June 25th. The project was developed in conjunction with composer Barry Guy who will be leading an improvisational music group alongside the animation.

Gagné’s explanation of the idea sounds similar to VJing concepts albeit mixed with a filmmaker’s sensibility. He writes: “I’ve been developing techniques and technology that will go way beyond playing a movie on a screen behind performing musicians. In fact, I will PLAY the animation as if I was playing a musical instrument. I will be creating the final images, live, on stage, interacting with the musicians in a way that, to my knowledge, has never been seen before.”

Tickets go on sale tomorrow at this link. I’m intrigued and wouldn’t miss this if I were anywhere near Vancouver on June 25.

Eat Raw Meat = Blood Drool

I really love this bizarre retro-ish mixed media music video for the British indie band Editors, directed by the Lennox Brothers (Lee & Wayne) at London’s Between The Eyes. As for what it all means, the band says:

“Ultimately the video paints a truthful picture of the lies which affect our current state of existence in a (so called) free world. From the moment we’re born we are controlled, manipulated, and led astray from what really matters in life – freedom. We are orchestrated from high above; even our leaders are merely puppets/clowns with their strings being pulled by powerful groups out of sight. Conspiracy theories, Illuminati, The New World Order; the free world is no longer free, our decisions no longer our own. An Orwellian future which has come to be realised within our own lifetime – A case of the corrupt blind leading the free minds.”

(Thanks, 808)

Time Magazine’s Top Ten Controversial Cartoons

In the wake of the latest South Park uproar, Time Magazine has posted a Top Ten list of cartoon controversies.

Number #2 on their list is Warner Bros. Censored 11 – and Time embeds (via You Tube) the P.D. Tex Avery Bugs Bunny short All This And Rabbit Stew. Eight of the eleven were shown publicly this past weekend at the TCM Classic Film Festival without incident (the restored prints, particularly of Coal Black and De Sebben Dwarfs were stunning).

Disney’s Song of the South ranks #4 and Aladdin is #8. Speedy Gonzales makes the list at number #10. The rest of the list consists of TV cartoons, mainly The Simpsons, South Park and Family Guy. Here’s the complete list:

1. South Park and Muhammad
2. The Censored Eleven
3. The Simpsons and Brazil
4. Song of the South
5. The Boondocks
6. Family Guy and Sarah Palin
7. Pokemon Panic
8. Aladdin
9. South Park and Scientology
10. Speedy Gonzales

South Park backlash inspires Everybody Draw Mohammed Day

As most of you know by now, last week’s episode of South Park was censored by Comedy Central over fears the show might stoke violent retribution by radical Muslims.

Now it has inspired an artists’ movement — a national Everybody Draw Mohammed Day. Molly Norris, the cartoonist who started it, says she wants no part of the May 20 event, which is gaining momentum online.

“I made a cartoon that went viral but [this campaign] isn’t really my thing,” cartoonist Molly Norris told Comic Riffs, characterizing her cartoon as merely a personal response to Comedy Central’s censorship of a “South Park” episode last week. “Other folks have taken it over” — an appropriation she says she is distancing herself from.

Eight thousand people have already joined the Facebook page. Other media, including The Daily Show and The Simpsons (image above from Sunday night’s episode), have publicly supported South Park‘s right to parody. It’ll be interesting to see where this all leads.

Dan DeCarlo’s Jetta

Another day, another great book from Craig Yoe. His latest is a collection of Dan DeCarlo’s futuristic teenage comic books from 1952, Jetta. As usual with Yoe’s books for IDW, the production (and comics reproduction) is superb. He reprints the three hard-to-find Jetta issues in their entirety, as well as a selection of other rare DeCarlo good-girl art — and an art gallery of 37 tribute pin-ups by contemporary “good-girl” artisans, including many animation artists such as Dean Yeagle, Craig McCracken, Jenny Lerew, Bill Pressing, Katie Rice, Stephen Silver, Stephanie Gladden, Tracy Mark Lee, Kali Fontecchio and many others including our friends Bill Morrison (from Bongo Comics, above), Leslie Cabarga (The Fleischer Story) and Mark Frauenfelder (of Boing Boing).

Another magnificent package. Highly recommended and only $14.95 on Amazon.

The Difference Between Two Drawings

The Flintstones

There is a huge difference between the two Flintstones drawings above, and not just superficial stylistic differences. Animator Will Finn (Iago in Aladdin, Cogsworth in Beauty and the Beast) explores the contrast between these drawings in a monumental post on his blog:

For one thing, notice that in the more recent picture, the layout “rakes” the perspective of the floor line a bit, creating a diagonal that forces the composition elements into something of a diamond. Normally, a diagonal can create a sense of dynamism, which is often desirable, but here it is arbitrary. The figures, after all are literally, self-consciously “posed” in static positions to accommodate the idea of the whole family having their picture taken…In the first series, more often than not, the floor line is a relatively straight horizontal line, somewhat irregularly drawn. The irregularity goes with the organic feel of the concept of a largely organic world, and the horizontal quality lends maximum space for the stylized figures to appear in. It also allows props (like the piano) to have a slight diagonal witout being forced into paralell perspective like the couch.

This is a continuation of an earlier post Will wrote about the uppermost Flintstones image. There are some who might say that Will is being too picky, but I commend him for his vigilant eye. Animation has long suffered from the “it’s just a cartoon” mentality, and fundamental drawing principles are routinely ignored. As a result, amateurish and incompetent artwork that wouldn’t pass muster in any other illustrative medium is considered acceptable in our art form and disseminated to an unsuspecting cartoon-loving public. Even still single-frame artwork that is meant to be viewed for extended periods of time, such as the Flintstones image above, is carelessly crafted. Finn’s critique is a timely reminder to all of us that individual animation drawings lie at the heart of this medium, and the least any of us can do is to respect the value of each and every single drawing.

UCLA Archive animation screening: From Inkwell to Desktop

Heads up on another screening I’m involved with next month in L.A.: From Inkwell to Desktop: A Selection of Early Hand Drawn and Digital Animation.

The program will begin at 7:30pm on Friday May 7th at the Hammer Museum’s Billy Wilder Theatre in Westwood. I will be appearing with Bill Kroyer on a panel discussing how the techniques of creating animation have changed since the earliest days of cinema.

The first half of the show will highlight recent restorations of silent animated shorts (soon to be available online as part of a new website run by the UCLA Archive’s Research and Study Center), while the second half features pioneering digital shorts, such as Peter Foldès Hunger (1974) and John Lasseter’s earliest work at Pixar. The silent cartoons will include 35mm prints of: J. Stuart Blackton’s The Enchanted Drawing (1900); Indoor Sports (1920); Joys and Glooms “Her Minute” (1921) Directed by John C. Terry; Animated Hair Cartoon No. 18 (1925) and others. A complete list of the films being screened is posted here.

This program is part of a larger film series running throughout May at the Wilder Theatre, From Nitrate to Digital: New Technologies and the Art of Cinema. For ticket information and other Archive screenings click here.

Beautiful Grim

Leif Jeffers, an animator at DreamWorks, wrote in to tell us of an auction that went live on ebay today. It’s called Beautiful Grim. Here is the the description of the auction from the website:

“My name is Daarken and I am a concept artist and illustrator working for Mythic Entertainment. My friend Leif Jeffers, an animator at DreamWorks, and I are organizing an art auction fundraiser.

Earlier this year my girlfriend, Cat, was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 25. On November 3rd, 2009, she had a bilateral mastectomy after going through 16 weeks of chemotherapy. As you can imagine it has been hard for her, not only mentally and physically, but financially. In order to help alleviate some of her medical bills Leif and I wanted to throw an art auction. The proceeds that are left over after her medical bills have been paid will go to a breast cancer related charity.

We currently have artists contributing that hail from all regions of the industry: concept artists, animators, photographers, sculptors, fine artists, illustrators, you name it. The theme for the auction is “Beautiful Grim.” The interpretation of “Beautiful Grim” has been left up to the artists.”

Here is the most recent info on the first group of artwork that went on sale today. Over 200 professional artists and animators, including Nico Marlet (above) and Emmanuel Shiu (below), have contributed to this cause with some amazing work – and you can check it all out here. And here’s a direct link to the ebay page. Help spread the word.

Cartoon Brew TV: Pump Trouble by Gene Deitch

Pump Trouble

It’s time for another episode in our special film series “The Modern Art of Gene Deitch.” This week, we’re presenting Pump Trouble, an educational film for the American Heart Association that Deitch directed at UPA. This film is so rare that I was unable to find it while I was researching and writing Cartoon Modern, even though we put in a few of Cliff Roberts’ character designs into the book. It’s a real treat that we can now make this historical piece available online for everybody to see. Click over to Brew TV to watch Gene Deitch’s Pump Trouble.

Cartoon Brew TV #23: Pump Trouble (1954)

Our special series “The Modern Art of Gene Deitch” continues this week with Pump Trouble, Deitch’s second long-form directorial effort at UPA-NY following Howdy Doody and His Magic Hat. We would like to dedicate this episode to the late, great Allen Swift, who passed away last week.

Here is Gene with the rest of the story about this film:

Gene Deitch
February 2010

Steve Bosustow had no trouble whatever in luring me back to UPA in 1951, sending me to New York with the founding group of the studio there. So once again I was cashing in on the reputation established by Hollywood titans! I was coming in style to The Big Apple!

I could hardly have done that on my own. The challenge was to live up to the great reputation created by others. With that wonderful 3-egg, red, yellow, and blue UPA logo, we had no trouble getting commercial orders from the top agencies and organizations. I was soon not only a director, but a UPA director, and I had to somehow not smudge that lofty label. Soon we had two nearly simultaneous orders for iconic films–the first was for Howdy Doody and His Magic Hat. The second was for The American Heart Association, who wanted a two-reeler that would alert people in an entertaining way to the realities of heart disease. It could have been deadly…..dull.

My friend and colleague, Bill Bernal, and I were then both of the opinion that Citizen Kane was the greatest movie ever. We hit upon a story idea that would unblushingly swipe the concept and structure, and form it into a cartoon documentary of a guy whose life has led him to believe he was doomed to die of a heart attack. We named our hypochondriac protagonist “Cordell Pump,” and thus the title, Pump Trouble. I put my big guns on the project, Cliff Roberts on design, Grim Natwick and Duane Crowther animating, and found a great dynamic Spanish composer, Carlos Surinach, for the music.

My storyboard called for eight speaking parts. Our studio secretary, Hedy Cramer, put out a call to the major talent agencies to send their best voice men to audition for the parts. When the day arrived, our reception room was haunch-to-paunch with the best voice talent in New York. I ran each one of them through the storyboard, asking them to choose which of the eight characters they’d like to try out for, and they each did well with one or another of the characters. I was recording the auditions so that I could later make my choices for the various parts. The last waiting actor was a slightly pudgy gent with thinning hair, named Allen Swift, at the time doing kooky voices on the Howdy Doody Show. When Swift got his turn, he pointed to one of the characters on my storyboard that he thought he could do well. His take on the character had me laughing so loudly that I didn’t realize that he started to also do one of the other voices. It too was great. “I think I could also to this one,” he said calmly in his naturally quiet voice.

You guessed it. Allen Swift ended up doing all eight voices so perfectly that I sent all the other men and women home. That was how we met, and Allen is my best friend to this day.

Growing Up As A Cartoon Fan in Australia


Cat Piano co-director Eddie White, who is also an owner of Adelaide-based People’s Republic of Animation, is writing a series of blog posts about the different “flavors” of imported foreign cartoons they enjoyed while growing up in Australia during the eighties and early-nineties. His first post is about the colorful American product:

They were soooo cute and soooo colourful and happy that it sort of made you want to scream at the TV with happiness. It was an anxious, sugar high happiness that made you want to run around the block laughing. The cartoons were also really tight like a well drilled pop rock group. They were fast, dynamic, pulsating with energy and usually had an element of wit or slapstick humour so they never really depressed. You wanted to hug the TV when they came on and you felt like these cartoons were hugging you back and grabbing your hand and pulling you in to play in their world.

Monday: Cartoon Dump w/Patton Oswalt

As many of you know, every month (on the fourth Monday evening) I co-produce a live comedy/cartoon show, Cartoon Dump, at the Steve Allen Theater in Hollywood. If you are in the area, this month (on 4/26) will be a great one to drop in on. In addition to our regulars, Frank Conniff (MST3K) and Erica Doering, our special comedy guest is Patton Oswalt. I’ll be there, showing an extra helping of really horrible cartoons. Showtime is 8pm. Ticket info is posted here. Check out the new FaceBook page for more information and updates.

Avery in N.Y. / Sita in L.A.

Two plugs, two cities:

I think this is in conjunction with the massive must-see Tim Burton exhibit, possibly selected by Burton himself! 35mm prints of Swing Shift Cinderella (1945), Red Hot Riding Hood (1943), Little Rural Riding Hood (1949), The Cat That Hated People (1948), The Three Little Pups (1952), Field and Scream (1953) – all good ones! Saturday, April 24, 2010, 4:00 p.m. in Theater 2 (The Roy and Niuta Titus Theater 2). For more information click here.

Los Angeles, CA SITA SINGS THE BLUES at the Laemmle Music Hall

If you haven’t seen it on the big screen – or even if you have – Nina Paley’s masterpiece comes to LA for a 1-week theatrical engagement starting Friday 4/23. Do not miss it in 35mm, it’s a much cooler experience. And sing along with the Annette Hanshaw soundtrack! The film is playing each day at 5:10pm, 7:20pm and 9:30pm at The Laemmle Music Hall 3, 9036 Wilshire Blvd. in Beverly Hills, California.

Major Chuck Jones Exhibit Coming to Los Angeles

Chuck Jones Exhibit

Cleanse thine eyes, brave animation lover. As if anticipating the eyesore that was unveiled yesterday, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences just announced “Chuck Jones: An Animator’s Life From A to Z-Z-Z-Z.” The show will open May 14 at the Academy’s headquarters (8949 Wilshire Blvd) and will run through August 22. On display will be more than 150 drawings, cels, storyboards and other materials related to Jones’ animated shorts, features and TV specials. Gallery hours are listed on the their website, and best of all, admission is FREE!