Moonshine – a blog, a book and a gallery show

Animation viz-dev artist Goro Fujita tells us that he and 44 other artists from Dreamworks are having a gallery show at Gallery Nucleus in Alhambra, California, from August 14th through September 6th. The artists include Fujita (art pictured above), Nate Wragg, Christophe Lautrette and Devin Crane. The exhibit will feature personal works of art to be featured in an upcoming group book, Moonshine. There’s an opening reception on Saturday, August 14th, from 7 pm – 11 pm and a closing reception/book signing on Friday, September 3rd, at 7 pm. The group has also started a blog. For more info on the exhibit click here.

Don Graham’s “Composing Pictures” is Reprinted

Composing Pictures

I don’t know how this news passed me by, but Don Graham‘s classic book about composition called Composing Pictures is back in print for the first time in nearly thirty years! Graham played a key role in the development of character animation when he headed up the Disney studio’s legendary in-house artist training program during the 1930s.

This endorsement from Chuck Jones is about the finest one somebody could get:

The mark of a great art teacher is indicated by the quality and accomplishment of his students. By this measurement, Don Graham must be considered the finest teacher in America. His students range from people who have won innumerable awards in all fields and all media. … Composing Pictures. Read it. Draw it. Read it for pleasure, for reward, and for understanding. If you want to be an animator, you MUST read and draw this volume. It is not a luxury to you; it is a necessity.

Order Composing Pictures on Amazon for $30.

(Thanks, Tom Knott)

Popeye Carousel Rocket

I was hanging out with my friends Will Ryan and Tom Knott this morning and we dropped into one of my favorite places on Melrose Avenue, Off The Wall Antiques. Amongst the coolness on display there was this large object hanging from the ceiling, a Popeye Painted Wood Carousel Figure. Kids were meant to ride on his back. The proprietor told us this was part of a set with Felix The Cat and a Mickey Mouse-like figure. It’s a very cool piece, though it’s priced way above my station… Check the Off The Wall Antiques site for more photos taken at other angles. May the right Popeye collector buy it!

TUESDAY 8/3: Dirty Duck screening with Chuck Swenson

Next Tuesday, the CineFamily will present a rare 35mm screening of Chuck Swenson’s Dirty Duck (aka Down And Dirty Duck, 1974). Long before Bill Plympton and Nina Paley, Swenson convinced producer Roger Corman to give him the money to make a one-man hand drawn animated feature. The money he got was so little, the film was originally titled “Cheap” (it was also test marketed under that name). However, like Ralph Bakshi’s Fritz The Cat, the finished film is surprisingly smart, funny and original. Featuring the voices and songs of Flo & Eddie (Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan of The Turtles and the Mothers of Invention), Dirty Duck is a strikingly stylized psychedelic odyssey that perfectly embodies the raunchy American underside of the 1970s. Animation director Charles Swenson will appear in person for a Q&A after the screening.

This will be preceeded by a selection of Turned-On Toons, a pre-show of titillating short cartoons from across the ages, from raunchy XXX-rated revelries of the ’60s and ’70s, up to the perversions of now. All hosted by yours truly, Jerry Beck. The show starts at 8pm, at the Silent Movie Theatre, 611 N. Fairfax Ave. in Hollywood, California. Advance tickets available now.

Voice Actor panel and Chuck Jones cartoons @ Academy

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will be hosting two back-to-back animation events in August. The first, on Thursday night August 19th, will be a panel on the art of animation voice acting. Panelists will include June Foray, Susan Egan, Jim Cummings (Winnie the Pooh), Yuri Lowenthal (Ben 10 and anime) and Russi Taylor (Minnie Mouse), animation directors Bob Peterson (Dug) and James Baxter, and casting director Rick Dempsey. Voices of Character will be moderated by animation historian Charles Solomon.

The second program, the next night Friday August 20th, will be a screening of all nine Oscar nominated and winning Chuck Jones cartoons in 35mm. The program will include For Scent-imental Reasons (1949), So Much For So Little (1949), Mouse Wreckers (1948), From A To Z-Z-Z-Z (1953), High Note (1960), Beep Prepared (1961), Nelly’s Folly (1961), Now Hear This (1962) and The Dot and The Line (1962, pictured above).

Tickets for these events go on sale August 2nd, general admission is $5 (students with a valid ID $3). Both programs will start at 7:30 p.m. at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater, 8949 Wilshire Blvd. in Beverly Hills, California.

NBC Peacock ID by Nathan Love

Nathan Love created this uncommonly appealing NBC station ID in collaboration with NBC ArtWorks, the on-air graphics department of the network. The source of its concept is clear, so I’m glad to see that Nathan mentioned it on the YouTube page: “Inspired by the infamous Spumco promos, as well as vintage NBC logos.” Frankly, I still prefer Spumco/John K’s version, but then again, I’m a sucker for funny, skillful character animation.

UPDATE: The animation studio Nathan Love commented about the production process on Motionographer: “It should be noted however, that this piece is entirely 3D, with the exception of the paint-stroke effect for motion blur, which was added in After Effects. We wanted to experiment with South-Park style animation, so in the end, every unique shape (expressions, head/body turns, etc), were all illustrated beforehand, and rigged in 3D.” There is also a behind-the-scenes video posted on Motionographer.

Client: NBC Artworks
Director: Nathan Love
Creative Director: Joe Burrascano
Art Director / Designer: Anca Risca
Animation & Rigging: Dan Vislocky
Additional Animation: Ryan Moran
FX Compositing: Sylvia Apostol
Sound Design & Music: Drew Skinner

Animation Collective’s Larry Schwarz Sends Us Cease and Desist

Larry Schwarz

Animation studio owner Larry Schwarz (pictured above in the sombrero) wasn’t pleased with our story from a couple days ago that reported about a lawsuit against his company Animation Collective. His lawyers sent us a cease and desist letter. Here’s the letter:

Cease and Desist Letter from Larry Schwarz
(click for larger version; the reason for the black bar is that they sent the letter to the wrong email address)

Cease and Desist Letter from Animation Collective
(click for larger version)

This was Cartoon Brew’s response:

Dear Mr Feldman,

We are using the photo of Larry Schwarz and the republication of information from the Wall Street Journal in the context of news reporting and critical commentary, which are uses that may not be authorized by your client, but which serve the public interest. For this, and other reasons, we believe our use is fair. We further do not accept that we have broken any criminal laws in publishing it, and in any event, there are multiple inaccuracies in your complaint. For example, the image of Larry Schwarz was not private; it was posted in a public, unsecured website and made accessible to everybody.

We therefore believe that we are entirely within our rights to publish the photo and the news, and as such we cannot comply with your removal request.


Amid Amidi
Owner, Cartoon Brew LLC

Shirley Silvey and Mary Schuster Broggie, R.I.P.

Two important women in animation passed away recently:

Shirley Silvey

Shirley Silvey died on July 17 in Fresno, California. When she started working in the mid-1950s, she represented new breed of woman animation artist who were allowed the same opportunities as their male counterparts. Unlike the earlier days when women in animation faced a nearly overwhelming uphill battle at a disadvantage to the men, Silvey was hired at UPA in the creative role of designer on the The Boing Boing Show where she designed cartoons like The King and Joe. She was one of two layout artists working under Bob Dranko on the UPA feature 1001 Arabian nights.

She worked at studios including Churchill-Wexler, TV Spots, Warner Bros. and, most importantly, Jay Ward Productions. She worked for fifteen years at the latter studio. Silvey said once in an interview that, along with Roy Morita, she drew 366 storyboards for Rocky and Bullwinkle, as well as all 104 episodes of Hoppity Hooper and countless episodes of Dudley Do-Right, George of the Jungle and Fractured Fairy Tales. There’s a nice interview about her career at this website. She is survived by a daughter, two grandchildren and brother, David Jonas, who is also an animation artist.

Mary Schuster
Mary Schuster with Ward Kimball (l.) and animator Julius Svendsen in November 1952 during production of Toot Whistle Plunk and Boom

This one is a bit late, but Mary S. Broggie passed away on March 10 at the age of 85. When she married Roger Broggie, the first Disney Imagineer, she took his last name, but prior to that, she had been Mary Schuster, an inbetweener and assistant animator in Ward Kimball’s unit during the 1940s and ’50s. She started at Disney in 1944. In a brief phone conversation once, she told me that she had always been an inbetweener, though it’s conceivable that she also did some assistant animation. She began working in Kimball’s unit shortly after she arrived at the studio, which was a unique arrangement because my understanding is that inbetweeners weren’t assigned to specific units. She worked on all of Ward’s characters including Pecos Bill, Cheshire Cat, Lucifer, and The Indian Chief, as well as Melody and Toot Whistle Plunk and Boom. She is survived by her son, Brian; stepsons Roger, Jr. and Michael; and eight grandchildren.

Mary Schuster caricature by Ward Kimball
1946 drawing by Ward Kimball of the 1-D animation unit: (l. to r.) Ward Kimball, Clarke Mallery, Ollie Johnston, Mary Schuster and Al Bertino.

Think or Sink: The Flebus of Famous Studios

Usually, the posts about Famous Studios are reserved for Jerry, but just this once, I have to share a Famous short. I ran across Think or Sink (1967) last night and it’s a really goofy piece of animation. Shamus Culhane, the director, proudly proclaimed years later that it was the only Famous short which ever screened in competition at Annecy. The story was written by the crazy-man of East Coast animation Jim Tyer, who according to IMDB, hadn’t written a short since 1942′s You’re a Sap, Mr. Jap (can anybody confirm that?). Tyer appears to have modeled his short after Ernie Pintoff’s Flebus, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise to note that Tyer was the primary animator of that earlier pop psychiatry-themed cartoon, not to mention that Tyer also animated the neurotic Terrytoons elephant Sidney.

There’s plenty of good stuff happening in this film. The Bobcat Goldthwait-esque voice of Roscoe the elephant, provided by Lionel Wilson, is a unique and funny choice. The film has three (!) designers–Hal Silvermintz, Dante Barbetta and Gil Miret. I don’t know how they divided the work up, but it looks fresh. The animation by Al Eugster is also a treat. There are some ridiculous moments–look at Roscoe’s forehead at the one-minute mark when his hat pops up. As simple as the animation is, Eugster’s poses are expert and move just enough to get the personalities across. I won’t go so far as to proclaim this a great cartoon, but it’s better than a lot and its obscurity is undeserved. Below is a layout drawing by Dante Barbetta found in Culhane’s Talking Animals and Other People:

Think or Sink

Animation Collective Gets Sued by Artist Over “Ellen’s Acres”

Kelly Denato and Larry Schwarz

Today’s Wall Street Journal reports that Brooklyn-based animation artist Kelly Denato (above left), is suing the New York studio Animation Collective. Denato claims that they have profited from her design of Ellen’s Acres and have not paid her contractual share of the royalties based on an agreement she signed in 2002 when she developed the character.

According to Denato, she had an agreement to receive 25% of all revenues stemming from animated versions of the character and merchandising. Afterwards, when the show was sold to Cartoon Network and other outlets, Animation Collective “flat out said, ‘You shouldn’t have been given that contract–it was a mistake,’” and attempted to renegotiate a less favorable deal. In addition to Animation Collective, her suit also names Animation Collective’s chief executive, Larry Schwarz (above right, riding on top); Animation Collective affiliate Kanonen & Bestreichen, Inc.; and 4Kids Entertainment, Inc. It remains to be seen how this will play out in court, but Animation Collective’s poor reputation amongst artists and its shady history of how it treats employees lends credence to Denato’s suit.

AOS and The Bathroom by Yoji Kuri

Whereas the age of a live-action film, no matter how classic, can always be discerned by the appearance of its actors, the cinematography, and the style of acting and direction, great animation has the capacity to be timeless. Take Yoji Kuri’s short AOS. It was made 46 years ago, yet the visuals feel as raw and disturbing today as when it first appeared.

A synopsis of the film can be found in Amos Vogel’s 1974 book Film as a Subversive Art:

This extraordinary animation–already a classic–projects a universe of bizarre and frustrated lusts, in which monsters, voyeurs, and misshapen objects engage in nightmarish and often sadomasochistic outrages amongst Freudian symbols of anxiety. Max Ernst and Bosch come to mind, but the rage against repression is entirely Japanese and ideological:sexual anti-puritanism as a liberating device.

When you’re ready to take it a step further, check out Kuri’s 1970 film The Bathroom:

Cartoon Dump tonight!

It’s that time of year again. This month the gang at Cartoon Dump invites you to help celebrate their 3rd anniversary. Join Jerry Beck and Frank Conniff (“TV’s Frank” from Mystery Science Theatre 3000) with Erica Doering as “Compost Brite” and J. Elvis Weinstein as “Dumpster Diver Dan” for Cartoon Dump – for another depraved offering of sketches, songs, puppets, stand-up comedy, and the most God-awful Saturday Morning Cartoons from the 50s, 60s and 70s.

Is there any better way to wind down from Comic Con? Special anniversary guests include Duncan Trussell, Ron Lynch, Michael Rayner and Jimmy Pardo. It’s tonight, Monday July 26th, at 8pm at the Steve Allen Theater in Hollywood. Advanced tickets can be ordered here. Also join the Facebook Page.

Fantagraphics Announces Mickey Mouse Reprints

Mickey Mouse comic by Floyd Gottfredson

Big news out of San Diego: Fantagraphics announced that they will be publishing a complete run of Floyd Gottfredson’s “Mickey Mouse” newspaper strip, which he drew daily between 1930 and 1975. As Fantagraphics publisher Gary Groth says, “I think it’s the last truly great, masterful strip that has not been reprinted.” Here’s an interview with Groth with more details about the project, which begins in spring 2011.

How Animation Veteran David Weidman Became Famous

David Weidman print

Eighty-nine years young, David Weidman is the subject of a long profile in today’s LA Times written by David Keeps. Weidman began his career in animation in the 1950s working at John Hubley’s commercial studio Storyboard as well as on UPA’s The Boing Boing Show. An extensive career in TV cartoons followed as he painted backgrounds for the Crusader Rabbit revival, Calvin and the Colonel, and Wacky Races, among others.

In the Sixties, while running a vintage poster and framing shop (and still working in animation), he began to create silk-screened serigraphs in the back of his shop. He produced three hundred designs over twenty years, but few people expressed interest in purchasing them so he wound up with stacks upon stacks of serigraphs. But that’s not how the story ends. In the early-2000s, his work was rediscovered in the LA area, in part due to his nephew who was peddling the serigraphs at local flea markets (which is how I first learned about his work).

Since then, his star has continued to rise: a handsome coffeetable book of his artwork was published recently (it’s now in its third printing), and Urban Outfitters has begun licensing his work for pillows and wall art. It’s a happy story about a one-of-a-kind artist who deserves all the acclaim he’s getting. Weidman clearly loved and believed in the artwork he was creating–producing 300 different serigraphs that nobody wanted to buy is a testament to that–and it’s finally paying off forty years later.

There is a lot more information about him in the LA Times article which I recommend you check out. If you want to own one of his vintage serigraphs, visit

David Weidman print

News! by Darcy Prendergast

Melbourne-based artist Darcy Prendergast, explains that his latest film, News!, was “inspired by my constant hatred for news and current affair programs on TV. It’s essentially a film about nothing, as I find myself less intelligent, with no new knowledge acquired at the end of the viewing.”

Darcy’s multi-frame approach is an effective way of illustrating the cacophonous assault on viewers, and the short is a funny and clever statement about TV news, which is apparently just as vacuous and pathetic in Australia as it is in the US. True story: A CNN producer who was trying to get me to appear on the network once told me point-blank that they’re in the business of entertaining viewers, not informing them. That’s unfortunate because they’re not very good at entertainment either.

Animator Featured in Elle Girl

Julie Pott

In an impending sign of the apocalypse, Elle Girl magazine published a story about a female animator. The artist is Julia Pott, who provided a photo essay about a day in her life. Granted, it’s the Korean version of Elle Girl, but I’ll take anything we can get. Stories about female animators in the mainstream media are virtually nonexistent, particularly in any kind of contemporary fashion-forward context, so this can only be considered a step forward.

Job Offer of the Week: Make 500 Shorts in 90 Days

I don’t know if this is a real offer, but it’s a classic. Somebody wants twenty-five hours, yes, HOURS, of animation produced in two to three months. On top of that, they’re offering between $7-10/per minute of animation. I hope some of our readers apply for the job and have some fun with these goofballs. Here’s the listing:

We are looking for a Flash Animator to finish a project for 500 of Flash short films; each film is about 2~3 minutes long. The films are about lovely & cute characters’ cartoon. Pay $20 / per film, which is 500 films x $20 = $10,000. Please submit your Flash art works for the consideration. Thanks.

City,State: New York, NY
Salary: $10,000
Duration: 2-3 months

Heart of Refuge by Piotr Kamler

Polish animator Piotr Kamler (b. 1936) won the Grand Pix at Annecy in 1975 for his film Le Pas, but I’ve chosen to display an earlier film of his called Heart of Refuge (Couer de Secours, 1973). The visual imagery in this 1973 film is breathtaking, and it is cited by Amélie director Jean-Pierre Jeunet as the film that inspired him to pursue a filmmaking career. I discovered more about Kamler on this blog though I’m unsure of the original source of the write-up:

Piotr Kamler was born in Warsaw in 1936. He is a graduate of the Warsaw Academy of Fine Art. In 1959 he went to Paris to continue his art studies. it was there that he came into contact with Research Department at ORTF( directed by Pierre Schaeffer) and began to collaborate with “concrete” musicians such as Xenakis on experimental shorts( musical abstract films and “fables”) The ORTF Research Department which was later taken over by INA, was a hothouse for talent, enabling diverse artists such as Peter Foldes, Robert Lapoujade , Jacques Espagne, Jacques Rouxel, Andre Martin and Michel Boschet, Jacques Colombat, Jean-Francois Laguionie, Henry Lacam and Kamler to carry out a large number of bold and innovative personal projects. With astonishing regularity, Kamler came up with no less than eight unusual short films between 1962 and 1973…Kamler’s animated cinema suggests a singular variety of science fiction; it was he who provided the original idea for the Shadoks TV series. Completely unalike to more conventionally linear and text-based narratives, Kamler’s films instead explore a series of dynamic visual motifs. Typically, the conclusion of these films is less suggestive of resolution, than it is of recurring episode. What is most striking in all his films is the variety of visual invention that Kamler brings to each work.

Kamler made a feature in 1982 called Chronopolis which is viewable online in its entirety at UbuWeb. There’s plenty of information about the film on Wikipedia.

Here’s one more of his films–The Spider Elephant. The short is from 1967, but with visuals as fresh and relevant as anything being produced today.

Looney Tunes exclusive clip: Coyote Falls

We still don’t know whether the new Looney Tunes Show for Cartoon Network will meet our lofty expectations, but I was invited to a screening this past week to preview the three new CGI Road Runner-Coyote shorts for theatrical release — and my verdict is in: They’re terrific!

Coyote Falls is the first one out (it’ll be attached to Cats and Dogs 2 opening next Friday, July 30th). These are three-minute, three-dimensional cartoons in widescreen (scope). It works perfectly for these characters – the feeling of space in the vast desert only adds to Coyote’s desperation. This time he has ordered an ACME bungee cord and has set up a birdseed trap under a highway bridge. It’s a “foolproof” plan that takes everything into consideration … except oncoming traffic.

The characterizations, posing, even the sound effects and music (by Chris Lennertz) are spot on. I especially liked the explosions, which in cg have a stronger impact and thus are funnier. The 3-D is even used to extend into the audience – something most modern filmmakers are loathe to exploit. At three minutes these films really are too short (I think some trailers are longer than that), but they show real potential. This is the first Looney Tunes short produced by Sam Register’s new Warner Bros. Animation division. (BTW, the film is simply a Warner Bros. Cartoon with no Looney Tunes or Merrie Melodies designation). Spike Brandt and Tony Cervone are supervising producers along with Allison Abbate (Fantastic Mr. Fox, Corpse Bride, Iron Giant), Matthew O’Callaghan (Curious George) directed in respectful homage to Chuck Jones. The film begins with a very cool 3D CG WB-rings logo designed by Peter Girardi. Below is a 25-second clip to give you a taste. Below that are three exclusive images (click thumbnails to enlarge).

[clip removed at request of producer]