Always on the outlook for animated features, good or bad, to post about – I came across this flick which was independently produced by a small post-production and animation studio in Glendale, California, Hyper Image. Animated in 3D Max and aimed towards gamers and Star Wars: Clone Wars fans (It’s rated PG-13 for “some suggestive images and action violence”), Race came out on DVD last week through Phase 4 Films after a decade of development, production, post production — and a long search for distribution. Hyper Image is now at work on their next feature, the furry-centric N.O.R.M.A.L. the Movie.

Sign Up for the John K. School of Animation

John Kricfalusi

Ren & Stimpy creator John Kricfalusi is starting an animation class in the LA area. The six-week course will include two classes a week for a total of twelve lessons. The cost will be $1200. Students must have basic drawing skills. This post on his blog has information on how to apply.

John is a natural when it comes to teaching, and having taught artists at his studio for decades, he knows how to put across concepts with clarity. I’ve suggested to John before that he should consider imparting his knowledge to artists beyond the studio setting, and now that he’s doing it, I’m delighted to recommend him. I don’t think there’s been a private animation class in LA this exciting since Chuck Jones unit animator Ben Washam held animation classes in his home back in the 1970s.

The Sunday Funnies (5/30/10)

Our weekly survey of selected comic strips that reference animated characters. This week: Zippy (5/28) by Bill Griffith; Mother Goose and Grimm (5/28) by Mike Peters; Speed Bump (5/25) by Dave Coverly; Strange Brew (5/24) by John Deering; and Argyle Sweater (5/24) by Scott Hilburn.

(Thanks to our loyal comic strip crew: Jim Lahue, Ed Austin, Kurtis Findlay, Jed Martinez and Uncle Wayne)

Get Him to the Greek Commercial

Get Him to the Greek is a live-action film that will be released in a few days. I don’t know anything about the film, but they’ve got this entertaining animated commercial to promote the film. Anybody know the credits for this spot? They deserve some recognition. And why doesn’t the movie studio have a nice version of this spot on-line? Rarely do I see animation this attractive in TV advertising nowadays.

UPDATE: A hi-res and extended one-minute version of the spot has been posted to Facebook.

Studio: Titmouse Inc
Director: Mike Moloney
Animator: Griffith Kimmins
Clean-up: Megan Dong

The Raymond Scott Doll

Need a powerhouse gift for the cartoon lover in your life? Look no further than this completely authorized (by the Raymond Scott Archives) Raymond Scott 100th Anniversary Doll + CD set. This came out two years ago, but I just discovered its existence yesterday. Designed by musician/cartoonist Archer Prewitt to celebrate Scott’s centennial anniversary in 2008, it comes with fabric cloth jacket, mini clavivox (carefully designed to look as close to the original model as possible), and a CD with 5 songs (Powerhouse, The Happy Whistler, and several previously unreleased super-rare demonstration pieces). Act fast, this is a limited edition. Apparently the first of the series, the Bob Moog doll, is long sold out.

McDonald’s Spot by Guilherme Marcondes

McDonalds spot by Guilherme Marcondes

It’s hard to make a bad commercial when you’ve got Guilherme Marcondes (Tyger) directing and Peter de Sève (Ice Age) designing the characters. Be sure to check out Peter’s blog where he posted a bunch of his character concepts.

Watch the commercial on the Hornet website.

Director: Guilherme Marcondes
Executive Producer: Michael Feder
Producer: Greg Bedard
Lead TD: Arman Matin
TD & Layout Artist: Morgan James
Lighting: Ignacio Ayestaran, Erwin Riau
Modeling & Rigging: Daniel Williams
Modeling & Texturing: Ylli Orana
Rigging: Stanislav Llin
Color Keys: George Fuentes
Animation: Ken Music, Jamie Castaneda, Bill Burg
Compositing: Arman Matin & Allison Kocar
Particles: Jaymie Miguel

Ray Lei

Above is a profile of Ray Lei (aka Lei Lei), a Beijing-based graduate of Tsinghua University, Academy of Arts & Design. I was first introduced to his work when I was on the jury in Ottawa last year and saw three of his student films. As I recall, all of us on the jury had a similar (and curious) reaction in that we admired his work and thought it was creative, but didn’t particularly like the films. Nevertheless, Lei has plenty of ideas and creativity and I’m looking forward to following his professional career.

In the video interview, Lei says something that I hear often about animation schools in Asia, India and other developing animation regions of the world: that the schools treat animation too much as a trade and overemphasize technical skills at the expense of individual expression and thinking. That will be a big hurdle for those regions to overcome if they want to compete creatively with Western animation. Lei puts it best in the interview:

“It seems to me that too many people are too focused on the technical side of their work. Because I know After Effects, or Maya, I’m an animator. But that’s only one component in this big production. The technical skill that you’re proud of now will eventually become outdated and useless.”

More of Ray Lei’s illustration work can be seen on The Creators Project. Here’s a new eye candy-filled short by Lei:

And here’s a video of him rapping in Chinese accompanied by Simpsons director David Silverman on the tuba:

Sickest. Preston-Blair-Swipe. Ever!

We’ve posted so many examples of Preston Blair art swipes in the past, the novelty has long worn off. We’ve pretty much stopped paying attention to the emails that still pour in with various sightings around the world with images ripped from Blair’s seminal Animation Book, first published in the 1940s by Walter Foster.

Now comes one I couldn’t ignore. Thanks to our ever vigilant readers, perhaps the saddest Blair swipe yet: the Ms. Piglet Party Pig

I really don’t want to know what this is, but according the the product description:

“The inflatable Party Piggie is a hilarious addition to any event. Known as the Famous Erotic Love Piggy, you and your guests will get a kick out of the fun that can be had with this inflatable novelty party toy.”


(Thanks, Chris Garrison)

Japanese animated commercials online archive

Here’s one for the history buffs: a link to a fascinating online archive of fifty vintage Japanese animated commercials.

This site is part of an on-line exhibition showcasing domestic life in Japan during the “Showa” period (the Hirohito era, 1926-89). Japan’s Research Institute for Digital Media and Content (DMC Institute) digitized of a large collection of TV advertisements obtained from the Momoya Co., a leading food company. The collection consists of 218 animated TV spots that date back to 1953. Of the 50 pieces posted on-line, the earliest one was produced in 1958. These provide a glimpse at a rarely discussed early phase of anime history.

(Thanks, Carlo Guillot)

Snoopy Flying Ace

I’m not a gamer, so I can’t speak for the playability, but the design work by Peter Wagner for the new Xbox Live Arcade game Snoopy Flying Ace works for me. I’m not thrilled by the character voices (see trailer below) but the 3-dimensional realization of the Peanuts characters is right on. Wagner writes:

Smartbomb Interactives team of artists were tasked to re-imagine Snoopy (as the WWI flying ace) and give the cultural icon a fresh new feel. My job was to capture the essence of what it was like to be the fearless beagle, piloting a little red doghouse over Europe during the Great War.

The game comes out on June 2nd.

Joe Murray’s Kickstarter Success

I wrote last month about the plan of Rocko’s Modern Life creator Joe Murray to raise $16,800 in 45 days to complete his animation project Frog in a Suit. Using the crowd-funding site Kickstarter, Murray reached that goal yesterday, with nine fundraising days to spare.

Murray’s success is significant because he’s the first creator from the established world of TV animation to appeal directly to his fanbase through crowd-funding. The money he raised will be used to produce two three-minute episodes of Frog in a Suit. He then plans to use these shorts to persuade mainstream advertisers to fund a full series on his as yet to be launched online cartoon channel called KaBoingTV.com. In other words, crowd-funding still isn’t a viable solution for funding an entire series if you intend to create the series using a traditional TV production pipeline; it is enough only to make a pilot.

For independent artists who use less traditional and more efficient pipelines, crowd-funding an entire series remains a distinct possibility, especially as more viewers become accustomed to directly supporting the content they want to watch. And there is plenty of room for indies in the crowd-funded marketplace. Even right now, lesser-known artists are reaching their fundraising goals, like Kymia Nawabi who raised $3,000 to make a stop-motion music video for the band Future Islands, and Chris Bishop and Evan Viera who drummed up $11,500 to make their hybrid drawn and CG-short Caldera.

(Thanks, Kelly McNutt)

Cartoon Brew TV: Building Friends for Business

Building Friends for Business

It’s time for another episode in our special film series “The Modern Art of Gene Deitch.” This week, we’re presenting Building Friends for Business, an industrial film for Swift & Company. The 1949 film is among the first projects that Deitch ever directed and an example of his early modernist approach to animation design and filmmaking. Click over to Brew TV to watch Gene Deitch’s Building Friends for Business.

Cartoon Brew TV #24: Building Friends for Business (1949)

It’s time for another episode in our special film series “The Modern Art of Gene Deitch.” This week, we’re presenting Building Friends for Business, an industrial film for Swift & Company. The 1949 film is among the first projects that Deitch ever directed. He made it far away from the Hollywood animation hub at Jam Handy Organization in Detroit. We apologize in advance for the poor quality of the print.

As customary, we’re going to let Gene tell you the rest of the story himself:

Gene Deitch
February 2010

Getting my start in the mid-1940s with UPA, at that time the most exciting animation studio in America, which to me seemed like Heaven stocked with gods, and was a hot bed of political liberals, Leaving there after less than three years to take up an offer from probably the most boring studio in America, The Jam Handy Organization, a massive Detroit sales film factory and booster of conservative capitalism, was a risk. It had nothing to do with politics, but was purely a career opportunity. My wartime boss at the Lockheed Aircraft Visual Aids department had become a live-action director at Jam Handy, and remembered me. Being stymied by an animation department still grinding out rubber hose retro stuff, he sold the JHO bosses on hiring me, without realizing that I had never actually animated, let alone directed anything!

At UPA in Hollywood, surrounded by titans, I was assured that I could possibly make director within ten years, but here was a chance, in a studio still in the animation stone age, to flash my UPA reflected glory and fake my way into an immediate director’s slot. No sooner had I moved in and managed to learn-by-doing on a short TV commercial, I met the nineteen-year-old Cliff Roberts, who was decorating Detroit restaurant menus with his brilliant graphics. I found him just in time to help me break new ground at the studio. I was handed a stock script, a paean to idealized capitalism, from the JHO story department, along with a recording by one of their typical announcer/narrators, and their typical stock documentary music, leaving the new-boy team of Deitch and Roberts to pep up the hack material with a saucy new look, trying to put into practice some of what I’d learned from Bill Hurtz, John Hubley, and Bobe Cannon. The final film, with its simplified UPAish style, was an internal sensation, and I was launched in 1949 as a genuine animation director and soon to be chief of the JHO animation department. Sixty years later, I’m still doing the same sort of thing.

Art Linkletter (1912-2010)

When I heard the news that Art Linkletter had passed away, I didn’t think that was something to mention on Cartoon Brew. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized I was wrong. Mr. Linkletter was one of the most popular TV hosts of the 1950s and 60s. He was a personal friend of Walt Disney’s, and co-hosted the opening ceremonies of Disneyland on live TV in 1955. His celebrity was such that he was caricatured in Warner Bros. cartoons, and Universal Pictures used him to introduce the Russian animated feature The Snow Queen in a live action prologue for their 1959 U.S. theatrical release (btw, does this footage still exist?). Charles Schulz illustrated and Walt Disney contributed an introduction to his best-selling book, Kids Say The Darnest Things (click thumbnails below).

So here’s to you, Art Linkletter. Rest in peace. You entertained the public and made many (especially us baby-boomer kids) very happy with all you did.

Animators Are God?

Jimmy Picker

New Yorkers can enjoy plenty of animation goodness this summer thanks to the Observatory, an arts and event space in Brooklyn (543 Union Street at Nevins, Brooklyn, NY 11215). They’re hosting an awesome-sounding lecture series called “Animators Are God?” Curated by GF Newland and Trilby Schreiber, the series will offer lectures, presentations and screenings by New York animators of all stripes. It kicks off this Saturday with Academy Award-winning animator Jimmy Picker who will discuss and screen his work.

Upcoming speakers include:
Signe Baumane, Animator
Kevin Brownie of Beavis and Butthead, SNL TV Funhouse
Bob Camp of Ren and Stimpy
Jonny Clockworks of the Cosmic Bicycle Theatre
John Dillworth creator of Courage the Cowardly Dog
Ted Enik Children’s book Illustrator
Nina Paley creator of Sita Sings the Blues
Bill Plympton showing his new film The Cow Who Wanted to be a Hamburger
R. Sikoryak, Masterpiece Comic and Cartoon Parodies
Debra Solomon, co-creator of the Disney Channel’s Lizzie McGuire
Mike Zohn on the History of Automata

Additional guests will be announced. Tickets are $5 per show. For more details on the series, visit the Observatory website.

Introducing: The 100 Greatest Looney Tunes Cartoons

I just received a copy of my latest book, The 100 Greatest Looney Tunes, directly from the printer and snapped the photo above for you to see (also a few sample spreads below, click thumbnails to enlarge. Forgive the blurriness of my cel phone camera). The pictures make the book look larger than it is. It’s actually a compact 7 inches tall and 9 1/2 inches wide, loaded with 216 pages of information and color images. It retails for $24.95, but amazon.com has it for $16.47.

Next Tuesday, June 1st at 8pm, I’m hosting a screening and book signing party at my usual monthly event at the CineFamily – Silent Movie Theatre on Fairfax Ave. in Hollywood, CA. I’ll be screening ten 35mm classic Looney Tunes (some in IB Technicolor) and clips from most (if not all) of the other 90 selected for the book. A limited number of books will be flown in from the printer, making this the first place on Earth you can purchase the book and get it with my autograph.

It will start appearing in bookstores and comics shops in the U.S. and Canada sometime during in June. I hope you like it. Buy two – it makes a great gift!

When I Am King by Sverre Fredriksen

This is a new stop motion video that uses an old wood burning technique called pyrography. It was directed by Sverre Fredriksen, a young animator from Norway who has settled in Amsterdam, who soldered ten tons (or thereabouts) of timber to create the images — averaging five hours of work per second shown. Everything was done analog, nothing digital. You can watch a making-of video here. It was produced by Yellow Submarine, a sister company of SubmarineChannel. The song is by Dutch singer songwriter Tim Knol from his fist album.

(Thanks, Remco Vlaanderen)