Spin by Max Hattler

Max Hattler is my kind of experimental animator. His stuff is thought provoking, aesthetically pleasing and, as far as I’m concerned, entertaining. Amid posted about his earlier films in 2005 and 2008. His latest works could be best described as “mind-blowing”. Check out these two loops, created with students from The Animation Workshop in Viborg, Denmark: 1923 (aka Heaven) and 1925 (aka Hell).

Below is a 58-second excerpt from his latest 4-minute short, Spin, which is currently playing at various international festivals.

(Thanks, Marc Crisafulli)

Uncle Grandpa by Peter Browngardt

It was recently brought to my attention that we’ve never posted Uncle Grandpa on Cartoon Brew. We will right that wrong today. The artwork is funny, and the cartoon is clever and entertaining–things which can’t often be said of mainstream animation. Peter Browngardt made it for Cartoon Network’s Cartoonstitute program; he’s currently working on his own CN series Secret Mountain Fort Awesome.

(Thanks, Cory)

Happy 70th Birthday, Michael Barrier

Issues of Funnyworld

Happy birthday to Michael Barrier who is celebrating his 70th today. Many Brew readers are already familiar with his achievements, but for those who aren’t, Michael Barrier is a historian of the finest kind and a true champion of our art form.

Michael BarrierBarrier began interviewing animation artists in the late-1960s, and by the 1980s, he (along with his Los Angeles-based research partner Milt Gray) had recorded the most comprehensive collection of interviews with artists from the Golden Age of theatrical animation. To put his work into perspective, when he started chronicling the lives of these artists, few film critics took animation seriously, and even fewer regarded the classic Hollywood cartoons as a field worthy of study. In the face of such indifference, Michael had the audacity to not only interview the famous directors but hundreds of little known artists who contributed to the success of Hollywood theatrical cartoons ranging from animators and layout artists to cameramen and composers.

The research and interviews appeared in his seminal journal Funnyworld which was published during the 1970s. It was before my time, but I’ve heard the stories. As the first American publication to write about animation thoughtfully and critically, every issue was eagerly anticipated by artists, researchers, and fans, and its contributors included some of the leading researchers of the day including John Canemaker, Joe Adamson, Mark Kausler, and Bill Blackbeard. It remains to this day the gold standard for magazines about Hollywood animation.

Barrier has also written a number of books about comic art and animation. Most notably in 1999 he published his impeccably researched and feistily opinionated history of animation Hollywood Cartoons: American Animation in Its Golden Age. More recently, he wrote the noteworthy The Animated Man: A Life of Walt Disney, an indispensable resource for anyone interested in the life of the legend.

It’s safe to say that I wouldn’t be doing what I do today if not for the trailblazing work of Michael Barrier. Our collective understanding of the animation art form is richer and more nuanced because of his tireless efforts, and this is a fine occasion to acknowledge his contributions to the field of animation.

Keep up to date with his latest projects at MichaelBarrier.com.

Russian viral ads Versus

A series of Russian cartoon ads for some sort of crunchy snack called Xpyc Team have been posted on You Tube. The stick figure animation is really creative, and the minimalist sound effects are wacky and fun. The series is called “Versus”, and each one pits two fictional/nonfictional characters against each other. Russia’s Red Medusa studio made them.

Below is Neo Vs. Skywalker. Among the many others are Beetlejuice Vs. Jack Skellington, Frankenstein Vs. D’Artagnon and King Leonidas Vs. Chuck Norris.

(Thanks, Tushar)

TONIGHT IN NYC: The Films of Frank and Caroline Mouris

Tonight at 7pm, ASIFA-East and Women in Animation present a screening of the films of Frank and Caroline Mouris. The couple is best known for their Oscar-winning short Frank Film, which still looks fresh and current nearly forty years after it was made. The screening takes place at the School of Visual Arts (209 E. 23rd St. between 2nd/3rd Ave) in room 502 on the 5th floor. It’s FREE so you’ve got no excuse to miss this one.

“The President of the Universe” by Mike Carlo

The President of the Universe by Queens, NY-based animator Mike Carlo was one of the shorts that premiered last week at the Midsummer Night Toons event. The humor won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but there’s some nice cartoony artwork throughout, and animated in Flash no less.

Directed and animated by Mike Carlo
Color and edit: Al Pardo
Sound Design and musical score: Joey Spallina
Music producer: Christina Tortorelli
Voices: Mike Carlo, Christina Tortorelli
Sound recorded at Tonefarmer

(Thanks to Celia for the link)

The Last Fiction, Promising Animated Feature from Iran

The Last Fiction
Pre-production art from The Last Fiction

It’s been a while since I’ve written about animation produced in Iran–specifically, April 2004 when I interviewed director Amir Dehestani–so I was delighted to learn about a young Tehran-based commercial studio Hoorakhsh 7th Sky Studio that is producing work with production values a few notches above other animation I’ve seen from that region’s developing animation scene.

Hoorakhsh, which has been around since 2005, is currently developing its first animated feature The Last Fiction, which is based on Persian mythology. They have nearly finished pre-production and storyboarding the film. A trailer on their website (under the Reels section) gives a hint of the polished anime-influenced style they’re working towards. According to an email a friend of mine received, the studio is looking for international co-production partners because they feel “that both the story and the visual style of this project has the potential of being developed and published internationally in order to be shown to the audiences of different cultures.”

More Looney Tunes character designs

The photo above is one I snapped of the wall of the Warner Bros. booth at the Licensing Expo in Las Vegas last week. The hype for the new Looney Tunes Show was there in full force, with Jessica Borutski’s character designs taking front and center in the promotion. Several Brew readers sent in the following scans (below), which were apparently given out to licensees. The more I see of these, the more I like.

THIS FRIDAY IN NYC: The Twisted Animation of Patrick Smith

Puppet by Patrick Smith

This Friday, June 18, NY indie Pat Smith will be presenting a screening of his short films including the world premiere of his latest film Masks. Also on the program: a behind-the-scenes mini-doc directed by Lizz Lyons. Pat, Lizz, and Karl von Kries, the composer of Masks, will be available for a Q&A session after the show. The screening begins at 8pm at the 92Y in Tribeca (200 Hudson St.). Tickets, which are $12, can be purchased ahead of time at the 92Y website. Also be sure to check out Scribble Junkies, the blog that Pat co-authors with Bill Plympton.

Craig Yoe’s Krazy Kool Kids Komics

Another week, another amazing book from Craig Yoe. And another enthusiastic plug from me, because these are truly great books. This time Yoe has mined the hundreds of anonymous funny-animal kids comics of the 1940s and 50s (and beyond) to discover pure cartoon gold from animator/cartoonists like Walt Kelly, Otto Messmer, Jim Tyer, Dan Gordon, Jack Bradbury, Howard Post, Ken Hultgren and others.
This is not just some hodge-podge of old comic book stories, but a carefully curated set of lost kid-centric comics ranging from fairy-tale fables to sheer surreal nonsense – each page an unknown gem, created by an otherwise notable comic book legend. If you haven’t seen these vintage children’s comics created by Jules Feiffer, Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, Frank Frazetta, and Dr. Seuss – I hadn’t – here they are in one beautiful full color volume. Other artists represented include Harvey Kurtzman, John Stanley, Carl Barks, Vince Fago, Dan DeCarlo, Basil Wolverton, Wally Wood, Mort Walker, Mad’s Dave Berg and of course Milt Gross. That’s a helluva who’s who of funny folks. There’s probably a dozen others I forgot to mention and should have (like Milt Stein, Al Hubbard, George Carlson… and on and on).

The Golden Collection of Klassic Krazy Kool Kids’ Komics. Even if you collect this stuff (like I do), this hardcover compilation is well worth having just to have all these geniuses collected in one convenient place. Mo Willems provides a foreword to this magnificent package of non-stop fun. Amazon has it listed for $23. 09–a steal!

Quirino Cristiani documentary

A 2008 documentary about pioneer Argentine animator Quirino Cristiani (1896-1984) has just been released on DVD. Cristiani made the first silent animated feature, El Apóstol (The Apostle) in 1917, pre-dating Snow White by 20 years, and the first sound animated feature Peludopolis in 1931, beating Disney by six years. Quirino Cristiani – The Mystery of the First Animated Movies was directed by English/Italian filmmaker Gabriele Zucchelli, and is now available through this website. Here’s the trailer:

(Thanks, Giannalberto Bendazzi)

Picasso the Cartoonist

Picasso cartoons

The idea that Picasso was as much a cartoonist as fine artist is certainly not original, but it’s never been more evident to me than at the Picasso exhibition currently on display at the Met. It’s worth seeing if only for the last couple rooms which present a large selection of lithographs, etchings and drawings from his late years.

These drawings are a revelation–piece after masterful piece of stunning cartoon design with some sequential storytelling also thrown into the mix. Looking at them, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the pen-and-ink cartoons of indie comic artists like Gary Panter and C.F, and by extension, animated shows like Adventure Time. It turns out that Picasso was an indie comic artist long before the term existed, and approached cartooning with an uninhibited and expressive approach that puts most of today’s indie comic practitioners to shame.

I took some photos at the show. There’s more Picasso cartoons after the jump:

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The Sunday Funnies (6/13/10)

This week’s crop: The Argyle Sweater (6/7) by Scott Hilburn; Reynolds Unwrapped (6/9) by Dan Reyonolds; Rubes (6/12) by Leigh Rubin; Frazz (6/6) by Jef Mallett; Wulffmorgenthaler (6/7) by Mikael Wulff and Anders Morgenthaler; Nest Heads (6/7) by John Allen; and The Humble Stumble (6/7) by Roy Schneider.

(Thanks to Jim Lahue, Jed Martinez, Kurtis Findlay, Ed Austin, and David White)

Guy Wants Animation Like ‘Coraline’–Whatever That Was

Check out this request on Elance where somebody needs 60 to 90 seconds of animation in the style of Coraline for a thousand bucks. The person writes, “At least, I think Coraline was stop motion…might’ve been 4D or some new fangled technology..you get the idea.” No, actually, we don’t get the idea.

A protip: when requesting work for a low price, you should at the very least do basic research and understand the technique you need. That effort is a basic sign of respect to the artist you’re hiring.

Not understanding what you’re hiring somebody to do creates the potential for misunderstandings between the employer and contractor. The person who sent this to me, Chris S., writes, “It wouldn’t bother me so much if it weren’t for the up front ignorance and the lack of respect for the kind of work he is seeking.”

Fester Fish by Aaron Long

Fester Fish must watch his bratty nephew, on the same day he’s supposed to have a date with his girlfriend! This may not be everyone’s cup of tea… but its the perfect thing for a Saturday morning on Cartoon Brew! Animator Aaron Long writes:

“I conceived Fester as an early 1930′s-style character, but the cartoon as a whole is really more inspired by Tex Avery than Ub Iwerks. Which sort of clashes with the more 30′s-esque ‘dancing buildings’ and ‘bobbing rhythmically” bits, but oh well. All the animation was done in Flash, and the backgrounds were drawn in Flash but coloured in Photoshop. Then I put the scenes together in Premiere Elements, and added some VERY slight blur and film grain effects over top, that are probably not noticeable.”

(Thanks, R.A. MacNeil)

The Devastator #1

In this era of the websites, blogs and apps, Geoffrey Golden and Amanda Meadows are going against the trends and have started up a new humor periodical, a physical magazine, called The Devastator. They’ve sent me issue #1, and its a sweet little package of funny stuff (45 pages in color). The theme of the first issue is “Animated Cartoons” and there are some great artists and writers involved, including James Urbaniak (Dr. Venture on The Ventures Bros.), Scott Gross (cartoonist on DC’s Looney Tunes and the image above), animation artist Roger Gonzales and comedian Marly Halpern-Graser. The book will be released on June 29th – and if you are in Los Angeles, you can join the staff at a book release party at Meltdown Comics in Hollywood on Saturday June 26th. For more information visit the Devastator website.

Spotted A Few Things at the Licensing Show…

…and wanted to share them with you. As I said in a previous post, I attended the 2010 Licensing Expo in Las Vegas yesterday. Here are several items of note (click thumbnails below for larger image), each reflecting a new take on an old favorite.

Left to right: Apparently there’s a new Top Cat movie (filled with ‘tude) coming from South America; The Toon Studio of Beverly Hills is offering up this revised version of The Wizard of Oz; and King Features has a new spin on Olive Oyl.

The CalArts Story

Fascinating 1964 promotional film created by Walt Disney that lays out his vision for CalArts. Sadly, Walt’s dream never came to fruition: “The art students mingle with the musicians. Sculptors mix with singers, painters with printmakers, and between times, find opportunity to know each others’ work and informally exchange ideas.” Nowadays, a lot of CalArts animation students can’t even be bothered to use original music in their films–if you’re not going to interact with the other artistic communities, what’s the point of attending a multidisciplinary art school?

More info about The CalArts Story at the official CalArts blog 24700.

(via Drawn)