Tales From Earthsea talkback

Opening in several major U.S. cities today (New York, L.A., San Francisco, Seattle, etc.) is Studio Ghibli’s Tales of Earthsea, from director Goro Miyazaki (Hayao’s son).

The L.A. Times was not impressed. The San Francisco Chronicle praised its many action sequences. The New York Times found it “stolid and humorless”. The big question is, to our readers who’ve seen it, what did you think?

Warner Bros. live action/CG Bugs Bunny movie

Put down your pitch forks over Yogi Bear. We may have a bigger problem.

Nikki Finke is reporting that Warner Bros has hired Elf screenwriter David Berenbaum to write Bugs Bunny, a live action/CG feature film.

The images above are from a 1950s Viewmaster slide set. Why do I suspect these slides will be more visually interesting than this proposed film?

Report from Disney Feature studio: “Grim”

According to Local 839 business rep Steve Hulett, who visited Disney Feature Animation a few hours ago, “morale is lower than a dachshund’s belly, since most of the artists and technicians were given their notices in July, and layoffs now loom.” He also writes on the union blog that “Disney Feature Animation’s atmosphere, in fact, is a lot like it was in 2001, when hand-drawn animation was imploding and everybody working on Home on the Range knew they had four months before they got to go stand in the unemployment line: Grim.”

Tangled will surely turn things around.

HOW-TO: Combining Handmade Models + After Effects

Tiny Inventions

Ru Kuwahata and Max Porter, the cute animation couple who runs Tiny Inventions, created this video explaining their quirky work process that combines handmade models with After Effects puppetry. They applied this technique most recently to the short film Something Left, Something Taken, which is their most elaborate work to date.

(via Motionographer)

Animated Conan TBS Promo

This brief animated promo marking Conan O’Brien’s move to TBS this fall is a lot of fun. It’s a clear nod to Terry Gilliam and other Seventies TV show openings. Incorporating more animation into the show would be a great way for Conan to distinguish himself from the crowded late-night field. Was this promo done in-house at TBS? Can somebody provide credits?

UPDATE: In the comments, Amy writes that mOcean created the Conan spot above. Also, here is another animated promo for the show:

CalArts Looks East

Artwork by Phil Rynda and Fran Krause
Artwork by Phil Rynda (left) and Fran Krause

Two people doesn’t exactly qualify as a trend, but it’s worth acknowledging that CalArts’s character animation program hired two new teachers this fall who are East Coast-educated. Phil Rynda, the lead character designer of Adventure Time, announced last week on his Twitter that he’ll be teaching character design this fall. Though Phil has worked in LA for most of his career, he is a 2003 graduate of School of Visual Arts. Also joining the faculty is Fran Krause, a 1999 graduate of Rhode Island School of Design. Fran has been a fixture on the East Coast scene for the past decade, and combines a DIY filmmaking style backed with solid industry experience (including Superjail! and two pilots for Cartoon Network). He’ll be teaching intro to digital animation and film workshop classes. Both are unique artists who will surely contribute to the program.

Disney interview in TV Guide (1961)

Yesterday, I had a chance to once again plow into Stuart Shostak’s extensive archive of TV Guide back issues. This time I found two parts of a 1961 interview with Walt Disney, (The Latter Day Aesop), mainly discussing moving his programs from ABC to NBC. Walt wasn’t too happy with ABC back then. Of course, today the studio owns the network. To read the stories, click the image above to see the first part, then click the thumbnails below to read the rest.

The Music of DC Comics

Animation fans should be aware of the upcoming compilation CD, The Music of DC Comics: 75th Anniversary Collection. Why? Because most of the music (not all) comes from the animated cartoon legacy of DC characters. The compilation begins with Sammy Timberg’s 1941 theme from Max Fleischer’s Superman cartoons, then moves through the decades. Theme songs from the Filmation cartoons of the 1960s, including The Flash and Green Lantern, plus the most recent Justice League themes, Batman Beyond, Plastic Man, Swamp Thing, various Teen Titans cartoons and Super Friends. Other highlights include music from John Williams, Danny Elfman, and Neil Hefti’s 1966 Batman TV show theme. The CD will be available on September 28th, 2010. I don’t know about you, but I’m getting it.

Toby The Pup in The Showman (1930)

The Holy Grail for many of us cartoon historian-types are the lost RKO Toby The Pup cartoons. Originally released in 1930 and 1931, twelve cartoons were produced by Charles Mintz and directed by Dick Huemer concurrently with Mintz Krazy Kat cartoons for Columbia. Poor Toby’s films were never released as home movies, nor sold to television, and have been considered lost (and forgotten) for decades. The good news: in recent years several rare prints have resurfaced. Historian David Gerstein has just “restored” a large fragment from The Showman (originally released November 22, 1930) and posted it on You Tube. It was missing a few shots and its front title cards, and the original soundtrack is lost. However, David has reconstructed the opening credits, and synched the cartoon to other period musical scores, most from Mintz composer Joe DeNat. He did a great job with it – and here it is, six minutes of pure 1930s cartoon fun:

Animated Histories of Poland and the Soviet Union

What follows are two very different approaches for using animation to teach history. Both films successfully condense long periods of time and information into digestible length. While neither of these animated projects should be viewed as substitutes for actual historical study, they go a long way toward making history appear exciting and accessible.

An Animated History of Poland is an eight-minute CGI history of the country. The film’s nationalist bombast is obvious but understandable considering that the government commissioned it for the Polish Pavilion at Shanghai’s 2010 Expo. It was directed by Tomasz BagiÅ„ski at Poland’s Platige Image.

A more curious project is “A Complete History of the Soviet Union…Arranged to the Melody of Tetris”, which is a music video for Pig with the Face of a Boy. Director and animator Chris Lince uses a mixture of live-action and animation, but it is the latter animated elements which make this a memorable and effective piece of storytelling.

Grim Natwick Memorial Marker

As mentioned here last week, this past weekend the fine folks of Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin, held an event to dedicate a Historical Marker honoring veteran animator and native son Grim Natwick, who passed away twenty years ago at the age of 100. The event was attended by Natwick relatives still living in Wisconsin Rapids. Our friend Maggie Thompson took this picture of the Marker:

TUESDAY: Jerry on Stu’s Show

I will again be the featured guest on Shokus Internet Radio’s Stu’s Show, broadcasting live on Tuesday August 10th. The show starts at 4:00 p.m. PDT (7:00 p.m. EDT) and runs for two hours. Topics this time will include the just released Looney Tunes Super Stars DVDs, The 100 Greatest Looney Tunes book, the upcoming Looney Tunes TV Show, the Yogi Bear movie and whatever else the listeners want to talk about. You are encouraged to call in with your questions and comments on the station’s toll-free telephone number.

This episode of Stu’s Show will rebroadcast at the same time each day for the next week. Access to the station’s feed is free, with no registration required, and is available either by clicking on the Enter Site button on the home page (www.shokusradio.com), by choosing one of the audio player links on the site’s main page, via iTunes by selecting Radio/Eclectic and then locating the station’s name alphabetically in the list, and now via iPhone by installing the WunderRadio program available from the iTunes online store. Cell phones with Windows Mobile and Internet access can also listen to the station via the new Live 365 Mobile software available at the station’s broadcast facility, www.live365.com .

John Canemaker’s West Coast TWO JOES Tour!

Animation historian and Oscar winning animator John Canemaker is making several public appearances in San Francisco and Los Angeles to promote his latest (and one of his greatest) book, Two Guys Named Joe: Master Animation Storytellers Joe Grant and Joe Ranft. If you are anywhere near these locations, GO!

First up, Canemaker will present an illustrated lecture at the Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco on Friday, August 13, at 6:30 p.m. and Saturday, August 14, at 3 p.m., each lecture followed by a book signing. Seating is limited, so please click here to reserve online now.

Next, John will travel south to sign his book at the Barnes & Noble at the Americana in Glendale, Tuesday, August 17, 7:00 pm. There’s a good chance I’ll be in line myself to get his autograph at this event.

And last, but not least, Canemaker will be at the Happiest Place on Earth – Disneyland in Anaheim (where else?) – on Wednesday, August 18, from 9:00am to 11:00 am in the Disney Gallery on Main Street USA. This should be fun!

The Sunday Funnies (8/8/10)

This week we start with the final strip of a two week Boris & Natasha storyline in Over the Hedge. It wrapped up on Friday (8/6) with this appearance by Mr. Peabody & Sherman (you can read the whole thing starting here). Following that, we have Cul De Sac (7/31) by Richard Thompson; Ink Pen (8/1) by Phil Dunlap; and Strange Brew (8/7) by John Deering.

(Thank you Jim Lahue, Charles Brubaker, Michael Tuttle and Mark Kausler)

CBTV Student Fest #3: Artichoke Hearts by Kazimir Iskander

Artichoke Hearts may be one of the most unique selections in our Student Film festival. It was finished this year by Kazimir Iskander at Minneapolis College of Art and Design. The film’s polished, upbeat look, which wouldn’t look out of place on a prime-time TV animated series, draws the viewer in, but the content is anything but standard TV fare, instead offering an exploration of emotional bonds between an unlikely pair of neighbors. This film impressed us with fearless narrative storytelling matched by an equally bold graphic style.

Kazimir wrote some notes about the film below. If you have any questions for him, please ask them in the comments:

Being an expatriate, I was anxious to create a senior thesis film that reflected my affinity for the Midwest as well as some of the alienation I experienced there. I didn’t want to tackle a subject that I couldn’t rigorously explore in a ten-minute timespan, or that would make me seem out of my depth as an artist, such as war, religion and the construction of small motor vehicles. I decided on a small-scale, mostly dialogue-free piece, which would allow me greater focus on characters, in the tradition of Brad Bird’s “Family Dog”.

In the summer of 2007, I road tripped to Fairfield, Iowa to hear David Lynch speak. There, I saw Donovan performing “Mellow Yellow,” and immediately began creating concepts based on the song, mostly involving an awkward inter-generational crush, what Nabokov would have called a “May-December romance,” between two suburban neighbors. My original sketches resembled a David Lynch-looking auteur paired with a freckled, overdressed ten-year old girl. I wanted an odd couple who were pretty much doomed from the start, but I wanted the eventual heartbreak to still come as somewhat of a surprise.

To further push their unlikely coupling, I made the younger of the two a gay boy, and the adult, a straight divorcee. Angus and Teehan were born. Angus was based on a grouchier version of the Food Network’s Alton Brown, and Teehan a more feminine version of Hank Ketcham’s “Dennis” (which helped push the Wilson/Dennis angle of their relationship). I began storyboarding throughout summer of 2007, and began animation the next year. By the time I graduated, I had an 8-minute unpolished, inked pencil test with sound. In between its inception and my graduation, the story saw much strange iteration, including a talky, surreal version, grappling with Angus’s depression, and a version with aliens which only Teehan could see. I have Tom “Grandpa” Schroeder to thank for talking me out of most of these unnecessary additions, and Dave Novak to thank for keeping me to my sometimes unrealistic work schedule. I could not have asked for a more dedicated, honest pair of animation professors.

In February 2010, I finished adding color and backgrounds, giving the world of Artichoke Hearts the depth, detail and credence I had hoped for. The final product ended up being more of a comment of on alienation and the failure of intimacy than I had ever imagined! The one thing from the original version of the story I wish had stayed in the final cut was a slow pan-out from the gated community to reveal a barren post-apocalyptic wasteland littered with crashed airliners and destroyed malls at the end of the film, but I totally get the jarring reveal may have felt pretentious and uncalled for. I want to focus on creating more lumpy, volumetric characters in coming projects, having tired of the flatness of my style during the production of Artichoke Hearts, and now look to artists like Andrew Chesworth, Shane Prigmore, Tadahiro Uesugi, David O’Reilly and Rebecca Sugar (my heroine!) for inspiration.

Find out more about Kaz’s work at KazRocks.blogspot.com.


Artwork by Devin Clark
Artwork by Devin Clark

Tonight is the opening reception for PulpO, an exhibition featuring new work by eight animation artists. It takes place from 6-9:30pm at the Tulum Gallery (244 North 6th St., Williamsburg, NY 11211) followed by an after-party at the Knitting Factory.

Notably, three of the featured artists are show creators: Christy Karacas, co-creator of Superjail!; Devin Clark, creator of Ugly Americans; and Jackson Publick, creator of Venture Bros.. The other artists are Liz Artinian (who also curated the show), Robert Bohn, Jared Deal, Kelly Denato (who made headlines for her recent lawsuit), and Chris George. More details about the show HERE.

Artwork by Kelly Denato
Artwork by Kelly Denato

Artwork by Jared Deal
Artwork by Jared Deal

“Lucky in Love” Promo

Stephen DeStefano (Venture Bros., Sym-Bionic Titan) created this short promo to announce the first volume of his WWII-era graphic novel Lucky in Love: A Poor Man’s Biography, which he co-created with George Chieffet. The piece was directed by Miguel Martinez-Joffre with color by Carly Monardo. The book ships in September from Fantagraphics.

Bob McIntosh, R.I.P.

Bob McIntosh

Bob McIntosh passed away on June 17, 2010 at the age of 94. Born on March 11, 1916 in Vallejo, California, and raised in Stockton, Bob discovered painting at an early age. Encouraged by Harry Noyes Pratt, the director of Stockton’s then-newly opened Haggin Museum, and mentored by local painter Arthur Haddock, McIntosh applied for a scholarship to Art Center in Los Angeles. He moved with his family to LA in 1934 to attend the school, and afterwards was hired at Disney where he worked on a number of the studio’s features, including Bambi for which he painted multiplane backgrounds directly onto glass. He was drafted into the First Motion Picture Unit during WWII. Following the war, he joined Paul J. Fennell’s commercial studio Cartoon Films Ltd. where he worked on contemporary looking commercials (along with designer Ed Benedict) that prefigured the move towards cartoon modernism in the 1950s.

He joined UPA in the early-1950s and stayed there for the entire decade, primarily painting backgrounds for the Mister Magoo series. This is what I wrote about his work in Cartoon Modern: “McIntosh worked in perhaps the most simplified style of any of the UPA background painters. His ‘poster style’ background paintings used minimal rendering techniques and clean geometric shapes, recalling the work of artists like Stuart Davis and Fernand Léger.” After UPA, Bob painted backgrounds on The Alvin Show and The Lone Ranger at Format Films, George of the Jungle for Jay Ward Productions, and Chuck Jones’s The Phantom Tollbooth, among other projects, before retiring in the early-1980s.

It was a pleasure to get to know Bob while I was writing Cartoon Modern and I kept in touch with him over the last few years of his life. Bob had an admirably unwavering commitment to painting. Though his career in animation stretched over forty years, animation wasn’t his primary passion; it was painting that excited him, and animation provided a steady income allowing him to do what he loved best. He had exhibited his personal artwork since the 1940s, and his lifelong passion for painting resulted in hundreds of canvases in almost every single imaginable style. In his final years, when painting became difficult, he continued to create painted collage canvases. A wonderful life-spanning selection of his paintings can be seen at the Trigg Ison gallery website which represents his work.

Bob was an intensely private person. He never initiated contact; I always had to call him. But when I did call, he was always gracious and friendly. The half dozen or so times I visited him at his home where memorable experiences as he would speak for hours about painting and his life. Our conversations would inevitably shift back to his latest painting projects or his personal theories on painting and color. He was ever the gentleman, even in his advanced years, and dressed with class. He had a good sense of humor about himself and the world around him; whenever I asked him about events that had happened in the past, he enjoyed making jokes about his age by saying, “I think that happened in 1939…or was that 1839?” He would laugh heartily when he recalled the last name of one of his instructors at Art Center: Stan Reckless. He once showed me a collection of unused toilet paper he had gathered during a trip to Europe in the 1940s; the shortage of paper in postwar Europe gave their toilet paper a quality similar to wax paper, which had amused Bob.

Bob is one of the unsung heroes of animation; an artist who worked in the background (and on the backgrounds) while quietly raising the standards of the art form with his masterful artistry. It was a delight and an honor having known him for the short time that I did. His wife, Helen Nerbovig McIntosh, an important woman artist at Disney, preceded him in death. He is survived by his daughter Jorjana Kellaway, his grandson, Colin Kellaway, and his ninety-six year old brother, Harrison McIntosh, who is a well-known ceramicist.

Here are a few images celebrating McIntosh’s life and work:

Drawing of Bob McIntosh by John Hubley
Caricature of Bob McIntosh by John Hubley while they worked together in the First Motion Picture Unit (click for larger version)

Bob McIntosh Painting
McIntosh painting for a late-1940s commercial produced at Cartoon Films, Ltd. (click for larger version)

Bob McIntosh Painting
McIntosh working at UPA ca. mid-1950s

Bob McIntosh Painting
McIntosh painting for the 1953 Mister Magoo cartoon Safety Spin (click for larger version)

Bob McIntosh Painting
McIntosh painting for the 1955 short Magoo Makes News (click for larger version)

Bob McIntosh and wife
Bob McIntosh with his wife Helen Nerbovig McIntosh ca. early-1960s

Bob McIntosh Painting
Drawing of Bob McIntosh by Mel Shaw

Bob McIntosh
Bob McIntosh painting in his backyard

Bob McIntosh
Bob McIntosh signing the inserts for the “Inside UPA” book that I edited in 2007

Pink Panther Food animatic

I had the pleasure to meet several Brew readers at my Dirty Duck screening, earlier this week in Hollywood. One of them, Jay Sabicer, gave me a reel of 16mm as a gift (note to others, 16mm film gifts always gratefully accepted!). On the reel was this curious animatic for an unproduced 60s-era commercial for Post Pink Panther Food (did this become Pink Panther Flakes?). Could this be the artwork of storyman John Dunn?

Since we recently featured a Post Road Runner Cereal commercial, I felt it only right to upload this one as well. Bon Appetit!

Cool Advances in CG Motion Blur

Here are some intriguing animation examples from a paper delivered at SIGGRAPH 2010 about “Programmable Motion Effects.” The researchers were Johannes Schmid, Robert Sumner, Huw Bowles and Markus Gross. They experimented with different ways of adding motion lines as an alternative to traditional CGI motion blurring. Here is the paper abstract for those of you who speak CG:

Although animation is one of the most compelling aspects of computer graphics, the possibilities for depicting the movement that make dynamic scenes so exciting remain limited for both still images and animations. In our work, we experiment with motion depiction as a first-class entity within the rendering process. We extend the concept of a surface shader, which is evaluated on an infinitesimal portion of an object’s surface at one instant in time, to that of a programmable motion effect, which is evaluated with global knowledge about all portions of an object’s surface that pass in front of a pixel during an arbitrary long sequence of time. With this added information, our programmable motion effects can decide to color pixels long after (or long before) an object has passed in front of them. In order to compute the input required by the motion effects, we propose a 4D data structure that aggregates an object’s movement into a single geometric representation by sampling an object’s position at different time instances and connecting corresponding edges in two adjacent samples with a bilinear patch. We present example motion effects for various styles of speed lines, multiple stroboscopic images, temporal offsetting, and photorealistic and stylized blurring on both simple and production examples.

As sophisticated as computer technology is nowadays, it amazes me that we have trouble figuring out how to recreate effects that animators achieved effortlessly seventy years ago. In terms of graphic sophistication and artistry, computer animation has always struck me as being one step forward, two steps back…

Motion Blur

Sensology by Michel Gagné

Anything Michel Gagné does is worth a post on Cartoon Brew, but a whole new film by him is cause for celebration. His new short, Sensology, visualizes in abstract form an improvised musical session by two leaders of the avant-guarde jazz movement, Paul Plimley (piano) and Barry Guy (bass). The music was recorded on November 9th, 1995, at the Western Front in Vancouver, Canada. A 9-second teaser of Sensology, posted online in the Fall of 2006, resulted in Pixar contacting Michel to do the abstract taste visualization for the film Ratatouille. Gagné tells us:

“The film was started in August 2006 and completed in July 2010. Many months of experimentation with various animation techniques lead to a grant from Art Partners in Creative Development and the creation of the live show Fixed Fragmented Fluid which will also make its way as a film at a later date.

“I’ve been refining the animation over a four year period and finally wrapped it up three weeks ago. The completed 6-minute film premiered in Los Angeles last week, to qualify for an Academy Award, at the Laemmle’s Fallbrook 7 in West Hills, CA.”

And now, here’s the finished film: