A few weeks ago I recieved a call from the fine folks at the PBS show History Detectives. Seems they had someone who found a cache of animation cels, but couldn’t figure out who the characters were, and wondered if these cels had any historical significance. I met up with history detective Tukufu Zuberi and took a look at what they found: rare cels from the first Buddy cartoon, Buddy’s Day Out (1933). Pretty cool – and pretty rare. If you haven’t heard of Buddy, you are not alone. He’s probably the least known, and least respected, Looney Tunes star.
Next week, August 30th, the show will air on PBS stations across the U.S. (check your local listings for time and channel). Schlesinger ink-and-paint veteran Martha Sigall also appears in the segment. I hope you’ll tune in to watch the mystery unfold. Heck, this’ll mark Buddy’s first appearance on a broadcast television in over 40 years – that alone should warrant your recording this event. Click thumbnails below to see a few of the cels they uncovered. Click here to see a promo for the next episode – don’t blink or you’ll miss the back of my head!
Pdingpdoong from the National Institute of Design is one of only two films in the CBTV Student Festival that has more than one director. It actually has four of them: Krishna Chandran A. Nair, Manasi Parikh, Nupur Mukherjee, and Chewang Lepcha. We really enjoyed the film’s sweet-natured celebration of diversity along with the ability of the filmmakers to create expressive and cartoony expressions and movement through stop motion. The distinctive soundtrack is also a highlight and adds greatly to the finished film.
Here is a group statement from the filmmakers about their work:
Back in 2008 in our second year, we were all waiting for December when Vaibhav Kumaresh, one of India’s most fun animators, would come to conduct a stop motion workshop at our school, the National Institute of Design. This would be our first ever film and we all couldn’t wait to get started! Pdingpdoong is what spurned out of bouts of madness for about four months.
As we flipped through sketchbooks for ideas, an illustration of conjoined twins excited all of us at once. Research led us to twins Abigail and Brittany, who shared a body and had such fantastic co-ordination and rhythm that if we could hear it, it would surely sound musical. Inspired, we decided to create a musical that would celebrate the lives of all such twins in the world.
After storyboards, character sketches, animatic, colour keys, set building, model making and lighting, we were all set to start shooting (which commenced with the traditional Indian ritual for good luck, breaking open a coconut by slamming in on the floor!).
Our film involved eleven sets in all and we had to spend an unanticipated amount of time lighting each set to suit the day’s transition. We also had a tough time making the kids walk as they had two large heads and one set of tiny legs. The most fun was working with expressions; the twins had to get as naughty as they could! Each expression was sculpted in every frame as opposed to replacing them which gave us a lot of freedom in getting just the right one. We didn’t work with a dope sheet, and ended up working with our instincts instead! It felt nice when some audiences said they liked the spontaneity in the film; we’re glad it came through.
The next part was composing the music, which ended up being the toughest bit. We’d animated on an approximate tempo of 120 beats per second, but what were we thinking when we thought we’d manage to compose the entire music track ourselves? Frustrated, we eventually had to turn to a music composer. Usually music and animation is worked on simultaneously, but since the animation was already done we had to go through a lot of edits before the film was musically correct. The music had to be created by the things the twins did, which is why we were looking for raw sounds and not instruments. Clanging utensils, soda bottle pops, salt and pepper shakersâ€¦all made it to the final track.
In retrospect, Pdingpdoong was a very innocently made film; we don’t remember caring about anything much except having fun. Surprisingly it made it to quite a few festivals and it was a lot of watching audiences from different countries react to the film. It was heartening to see people laugh wherever it was screened. Humour really is a universal language. Presently all of us are in our fourth and final year and are working on our individual animated shorts.
There is also an informative making-of article about the film on CGTantra.com.
Bob Last, producer of Sylvain Chomet’s The Illusionist, sent a threatening email to one of the animators who worked on the movie because that animator had the temerity to promote the film on his blog. Animator Victor Ens posted a few pencil tests of HIS own work which prompted this ridiculous over-the-top letter from the producer:
You have posted a number of linetests from The Illusionist on your blog and other web sites. These posts all infringe Django Films Illusionist
Ltd’s copyright and must be removed immediately. Please confirm that you have done so.
Please also note that to have these digital materials in your possession breaks the legal undertakings you gave Django Film Illusionist Ltd under the terms of your employment. You had no right whatsoever to remove these linetests from Django Films Illusionist Ltd’s studio and you should destroy them.
I look forward to your swift compliance with our requests above and meantime Django Films Illusionist Ltd reserves its right of further action against you to protect its copyright and enforce the contractual undertakings you have made.
It angers me to see a studio reprimanding an artist who was trying to promote a low-budget animation production with a limited marketing budget. It’s the type of corporate behavior that leaves a bad taste in the mouth and makes me NOT want to see The Illusionist. If anything, Victor should be commended for being so enthusiastic and doing what the studio itself should be doing in the first place, which is sharing pencil tests and other artwork on-line to promote their film.
UPDATE: Director and producer Patrick Smith wrote a brilliant comment below where he suggests how the producer could have handled the situation with a respectful tone that showed appreciation for the artist’s contribution to the film. With Pat’s permission, I’m reprinting his alternate letter as a service to anybody who wants to see a more productive way of communicating with artists:
Hi Victor, while we appreciate your enthusiasm for the film, and posting the clips, could you please please please take them down for the time being?? you see we’re trying to implement our promotional strategy, and don’t want anything out there at this time. in a few months, let’s talk! Thanks for your great work on the film btw! and I hope you are well. if you could confirm that you have taken the clips down that would be great.. mmm-kay? Cheers- Bob
The article doesn’t actually say that anybody in Hollywood is interested–just that they’re pitching the idea around–but they already have a toy deal in place. The game has sold over $7 million worth of downloads through the Apple store and the “cinematic trailer” above has topped 5.5 milllion views on YouTube. Mikael Hed, the CEO of Rovio Mobile, the Finnish company behind the game, isn’t being modest and thinks he just might be the next Pixar: “Time and time again, they take an unknown brand and make it big,” he said. Good luck with that.
Yannick Nézet-Séguin: No Intermission by Theodore Ushev (Lipsett Diaries, Drux Flux) combines documentary with abstract animation to illustrate the work of up-and-coming conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin. Ushev writes that, “It was my first experiment with the computer programming language Processing. Basicaly all of the animation was done using it — crossing the data, and randomizing the data from the sound information and the movements of the hands of Seguin.”
A film that answers the eternal question: “Will you still love me the same as before if I was a fatty?”
This Chinese student-made short, a blend of chalk-drawing animation, 2D and stop-motion is beautifully made, and a heck of a lot of fun. The interactions of the 2D characters with the “real world” props is very good. He Weifeng is a soon-to-be graduate of Guangzhou’s Academy of Art.
Satoshi Kon passed away in Tokyo on Tuesday. He was 46–and in the middle of directing a new film, The Dream Machine. Kon was one of a handful of internationally respected directors of anime films. He started his career as a manga artist and editor for Young Magazine, and then became art designer and key animator on Katsuhiro Otomo and Hiroyuki Kitakubo’s Roujin Z (1991). He then wrote the “Magnetic Rose” sequence in the animated anthology film, Memories (1995). Kon made his directorial debut with Perfect Blue in 1998, followed by Millennium Actress (2001), Tokyo Godfathers (2003), Paprika (2006). His 2004 TV series Paranoia Agent played in the US on Adult Swim. All of his works as a director have been made by Studio Madhouse, where he was a staff director along with Rintaro and Yoshiaki Kawajiri.
Fishing with Spinoza is a graduation film by John Kenn Mortensen made at the Animation Workshop. Its droll humor and look has held up in the three years since I first saw it, and the philosophic discussion between Jude and Ruby is amusing in a My Night at Maud’s kind of way.
Buck created this commercial for Nike’s World Basketball Festival. I’m not fond of the basketball players-wearing-corsets design style, but I like the way the forms break up into abstract shapes during scene transitions. The arbitrary wiggles also seem to owe a lot to a much older animated campaign by Nike. The main reason I’m posting this though is because I’ve been seeing posters for the campaign around New York and shaking my head at how epically unappealing the illustrations are; surprisingly, with the animated abstraction, those same designs look good in motion.
Creative Director: Ryan Honey
Associate Creative Director: Jeremy Sahlman
Art Director: Joe Mullen
Character Design: Saiman Chow
Design: Joe Mullen
Modeling: Rie Ito, Ivan Sokol, Jens Lindgren, Ana Luisa Santos, Claudio Salas, Jaime Klein
Texturing: Ana Luisa Santos, Jaime Klein, Jorge Canedo, Ivan Sokol
Rigging: Joel Anderson, Jens Lindgren, Matt Everton
Animation 3D: Matt Everton, Steve Day, Alessandro Ceglia, Claudio Salas
Cel Animation: Alessandro Ceglia, Regis Camargo, Will White, Kendra Ryan, Stephanie Simpson, Jenny Ko, Claudio Salas, Jorge Canedo
Lighting: Jens Lindgren, Ana Luisa Santos
Compositing: Moses Journey, Claudio Salas, Jens Lindgren
Software Used: Maya, Flash, After Effects
Music and Sound Design: John Black / CypherAudio
A photo during the production of Disney’s The Reluctant Dragon on November 7, 1940. I hope somebody will get a kick out of it. Actress Frances Gifford, who played a studio artist in the film, is the woman in the photo. The other people are, clockwise from Gifford: John McLeish, T. Hee, Ward Kimball, Fred Moore (back), Norm Ferguson (back) and Erdman Penner. Click on pic to biggify.
If Epic Mickey didn’t rock your world – maybe this will…
Technologizer’s Harry McCracken posted this on his personal blog, and I couldn’t resist sharing it with Brew readers. It’s video of Fisher-Price’s Dance Star Mickey doll, from Toy Fair 2010 at the Javits Convention Center in New York City. It goes on sale next month.
Submitted for your approval: Medium Large (8/19) by Francesco Marciuliano; Mother Goose and Grimm (8/20) by Mike Peters; Adam @home (8/20) by Brian Basset; Keeping Up With the Sevilles (8/20) by Alex Dudley; Brevity (8/18) by Guy & Rod; and Reality Check (8/19) by Dave Whammond.
(Thanks, Jim Lahue, Kurtis Findlay, Ed Austin, Jed Martinez and Chris Allison)
Cartoon historian Tom Stathes continues to amaze me with his rare finds and research into silent-era and early talkie animation. Tom has recently begun a regular series of public screenings in the New York area, highlighting many gems from his remarkable collection. Next Friday at Attic Studios in Long Island City, Stathes is collaborating with Cinebeasts to present Travelaffs, a selection of vintage Looney Tunes, Van Beuren, Ub Iwerks, and Fleischer goodies, taking you to Italy, China, Spain, and the politically incorrect Congo. The show starts at 7pm.
Even if you think you’ve seen it all, this show is must. Tom has located a long lost Fleischer Talkartoon, Ace of Spades (1930, released January 1931) and will present its first public showing in almost eight decades. And its a good one – with card sharp Bimbo out to win a poker tournament – all done in rhyme, with the usual cross-eyed Fleischer menagerie, zany rubber-hose animation, and Mickey Mouse-like rodents running loose. Here’s a few clips to whet your whistle, assembled by co-conspiritor David Gerstein: