“The Flintstones” turn 50

The first episode aired on ABC on September 30th 1960. Yup, The Flintstones turn the big five-o today. Everyone should sing Happy Anniversary to the tune of The William Tell Overture.

The image above was featured on Google all day. I really respect artist Mike Dutton but they should have gotten Scott Shaw, Pat Owsley, Marc Christiansen, John K… or quite frankly, anybody else to draw this tribute. Someone with some passion for the characters.

There have been many Flintstone articles posted on the web this week to commemorate this event – but the stupidest one I’ve seen was posted by The Christian Science Monitor: The Five Dumbest Moments on The Flintstones.

Here’s what they came up with:

5. The Flintstones Smoked – We know, we know. Everyone did back then.
4. The Great Gazoo – On the one hand I totally understand the hate for Gazoo, on the other hand he was a cool green space man who invented a doomsday machine!
3. Dinosaurs in The Flintstones – They are arguing science? It’s a cartoon!
2. The Pebbles and Bamm Bamm Show – I actually liked this spin-off. And Sally Struthers and Jay North seemed the right choice for the voices.
1. Sexism in The Flintstones – It was the 60s. The Madmen era. This show was portraying life in the Stone Age. Give me a break.

As usual, there’s the assumption on the writer’s part that cartoons are strictly kids stuff. What they really missed was the fact that The Flintstones was the first primetime animated sitcom, created to appeal adults and kids. And it’s done just that for exactly fifty years on the dot.

Congratulations, Fred and Barney… have a cold one on me:

(Thanks, Art Binninger)

“Nine Nation Animation” Playing in Manhattan

Above you’ll find the trailer for Nine Nation Animation, a theatrical compilation of nine indie animated shorts that opened yesterday in Manhattan at the IFC Center (323 6th Ave. at West 3rd St). It’ll be playing a one-week engagement with multiple showings a day. The show was reviewed by the NY Times and Slant Magazine. Having seen most of the shorts myself, I concur with the positive reviews and encourage readers to check it out.

The shorts in the program are:

Deconstruction Workers by Kajsa Naess (Norway)
Average 40 Matches by Burkay Dogan and M. Sakir Arslan (Turkey)
Bâmiyân by Patrick Pleutin (France)
Please Say Something by David O’Reilly (Ireland/Germany)
Flatlife by Jonas Geirnaert (Belgium)
She Who Measures by Veljko Popovic (Croatia)
Home Road Movies by Robert Bradbrook (UK)
The Tale of How by The Blackheart Gang (South Africa)
Never Like the First Time! by Jonas Odell (Sweden)

The distributor is World According to Shorts, a non-profit organization dedicated to bringing short films to broader US audiences. Over the next couple months, Nine Nation Animation will also screen at the Cable Car Cinema in Providence, RI; Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, Texas; Detroit Institute of the Arts; George Eastman House in Rochester, NY; and Cornell Cinema in Ithaca, NY. For a regularly updated list of playdates, visit the film distributor’s website.

TOMORROW: John Canemaker at MoMA

Joe Ranft drawing
If you are in NY tomorrow evening, there is only one place you should be: at MoMA to attend John Canemaker’s lecture about his new book Two Guys Named Joe: Master Animation Storytellers Joe Grant & Joe Ranft. The lecture begins at 7pm followed by a book signing. Tickets, which can be purchased at the door, are $10 for adults or $6 for students.

Also, on Saturday, October 2, there will be two screenings at MoMA themed around the book. The first screening at 2pm celebrates Ranft’s career and includes the super-rare 1982 Disney short Fun with Mr. Future, as well as Luxo Jr., Tin Toy, and Toy Story. The second screening at 5pm revolves around Grant’s work, and features Mickey’s Gala Premier, Who Killed Cock Robin?, Lorenzo, and Dumbo.

More details about the programs can be found on the MoMA website. Also, see our in-depth interview with John Canemaker on Cartoon Brew about the new book.

Scott Wills Blogs

Scott Wills

Whenever I’m feeling down about the state of the industry, I only have to remember that there are artists the caliber of Scott Wills working in animation to feel better again. Scott has started a long-overdue blog, Candy Cane Land, at AnimationBGS.blogspot.com to showcase his work, and in addition to some great behind-the-scenes photos, he’s posting artwork from all the projects he’s worked on including Ren & Stimpy, Samurai Jack, Sym-Bionic Titan, and numerous DreamWorks features.

“Me, the King & My Daddy” by Azadeh Moezzi

Great animated films can be created anywhere. Case in point: this inventive 13-minute cut-out-style short, animated, illustrated and directed by Iranian Azadeh Moezzi. Azadeh, a professional animator, illustrator and painter, recently created her first film as director, co-producing in collaboration with Tehran’s Documentary and Experimental Film Center, DEFC). The full short is online on animacam.tv (on the “Watch Videos” page of their online animation festival). The trailer is posted the below.

“El Gran Vázquez” Animated Sequences

El Gran Vazquez

Spanish Brew reader Roberto González sent in a link to these fun animated segments from the new Spanish biopic El Gran Vázquez. Roberto says:

It’s a movie about the life of Spanish cartoonist Manuel Vázquez Gallego (1930-1995), creator of characters like Anacleto, Gú-Gú and Las Hermanas Gilda (Gilda Sisters). He also used to caricature himself in his comics. The animated sequences were made by British company Espresso Animation and I think they did a fantastic job capturing the essence of the characters, which have never been animated before even though most of them were created more than fifty years ago.

The animation sequences were directed by Philip Vallentin of London-based Espresso Animation. The film, directed and written by Oscar Aibar, was released in Spain last week. This English review of the film makes me really want to see it–it describes Vázquez as a “roguish comic strip artist for whom life is a series of lies, cons and romantic dalliances.” He apparently even faked his own death in an attempt to earn more money.

How to Make DreamWorks Secretaries Not Hang Up on You

Mark Simon, an animation artist with 2,700 productions to his credit, frequently hosts Hit Makers Summits where he charges thousands of dollars to teach participants how to sell their TV concepts. In this clip from his “Thriving Artist” lecture, he shares his inspiring story of beating the odds and getting past the “gatekeepers” at DreamWorks. And even though the gatekeepers he’s talking about are the secretaries who answer the phone at the studio, you’ll find yourself cheering for Mark by the end when he triumphs over those evil phone overlords. The Dreamworks bit begins at 2:45 in the clip.

Now you might be wondering, How could somebody with over twenty years of industry experience not have fostered any professional relationships so that he could simply ask a friend who he should speak with at DreamWorks? You might also be wondering why someone who labels himself a pitch expert and charges thousands of dollars teaching people how to sell their TV concepts not only doesn’t have his own shows on the air but apparently has trouble getting past secretaries at major studios? Personally, I’d be content just knowing where he got his awe-inspiring collared Superman shirt.

Thomas Kinkade Improves the Disney Classics

Christian painter (and former Ralph Bakshi employee) Thomas Kinkade, who once allegedly urinated on a Winnie the Pooh figure outside the Disneyland Hotel while yelling, “This one’s for you, Walt,” is now an official Disney licensee who is turning out “limited edition” paintings based on the studio’s films.

Well, actually, they’re not paintings according to Kinkade. He prefers to call them “narrative panoramas” because they’re “a recreation of the entire panorama of the story. It is the narrative all told in one visual form.”

The narrative panoramas–watch the Pinocchio video above to get an idea–form his series called Disney Daydreams. “These are my daydreams of the places and the worlds envisioned by Walt Disney, but reinterpreted as a Thomas Kinkade painting.” Wait a second…he just said they weren’t paintings! What’s he trying to pull here? Whatever he wants to call them, it basically means that he’s reinterpreting Disney’s creativity into “completely worthless collectibles” with no investment value. (Update: Check out these brazen blog posts from Kinkade resellers–here and here–touting the investment value of the Disney pieces.)

Then again, maybe I’m the one who’s missing something. In this video released a few days ago promoting his new Beauty and the Beast piece, Kinkade makes a woman moan in ecstasy simply by describing the characters in the painting. Clearly, the man is doing something right.

Just for kicks, here’s another video about his Snow White painting. Kinkade discusses how he utilized “very specialized techniques” to create the painting, such as making a full-color sketch to lay out the composition. But before you complain, you should know that Kinkade makes his work for a special audience that doesn’t include you: “I always say that my paintings are for real people, people who enjoy life and enjoy beauty. Not necessarily for those who have studied art or know the traditions of painting.”

Buy Ward Kimball’s House

Ward Kimball

Here’s the ultimate animation collector’s item: the San Gabriel, California home of animation legend Ward Kimball is currently for sale for $2.2 million. Designed by Robert H. Ainsworth and built for Ward and Betty Kimball in 1939, the home has never been on the market before. It’s been put up for sale by the family after Betty passed away last July at the age of 97.

Sadly, the expectation is that the home itself will be razed, and according to the listing, “Property shall be sold in its present as is condition and mainly for land value only.” There are still some remnants of the legendary backyard railroad, but the trains have been relocated to the Orange Empire Railway Museum, and John Lasseter bought the train station for his own property in northern California. Here’s what the backyard looked like in 2009:

Ward Kimball home

Anybody who is knowledgeable about animation and trains already knows the magical universe that Ward and Betty built on this landmark property. Countless famous people have passed through over the years: Walt Disney and Michael Jackson engineered the train, Wernher von Braun swam in their pool, Rowland Emett slept in the train station, Ray Bradbury shot a TV series in their backyard, Robert Crumb jammed in their living room with his band. Every animation notable from Bruno Bozzetto to Osamu Tezuka to Richard Williams has visited at some point.

I’ve spent innumerable hours at the Kimball home over the past three years, and can attest to what a special site it is. All good things must come to an end however, and after seventy years, it’s sad knowing that the Kimball family will no longer own the place. Their decision is perfectly understandable; the place was Ward and Betty’s creation, and their presence and zest for life is what made 8910 Ardendale so special in the first place. Without them, it’s time to start a new chapter. Here’s to hoping that whoever lives there in the future will appreciate the historical significance of the property.

If you’re interested, the property is repped by Priscilla Yim at Re/Max Premier Properties.

More photos of the Kimball residence in its prime after the jump.
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“Chico and Rita” trailer

2D is not dead – at least as far as the independent animated features are concerned. Opening in the UK this November is Chico and Rita from Spanish filmmaker Fernando Trueba (Belle Epoque). Six years in the making, the film follows a pianist who pursues his true love, a Hollywood-bound nightclub singer, from Havana to New York and beyond. 93-year-old pianist-composer-bandleader Bebo Valdés wrote and performs the music and the film features “musical cameos” from Chano Pozo, Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker and other jazz greats. Here’s a brief trailer:

Video site Vimeo launches an awards show

Vimeo Awards

When I posted Kirsten Lepore’s Bottle last week, I neglected to mention that the film is one of five animation finalists in the first-ever Vimeo Awards which take place on October 9 in New York City. The other nominees are Pixels by Patrick Jean, Something Left, Something Taken by Max Porter and Ru Kuwahata, Coalition of the Willing by Knife Party, and Between Bears by Eran Hilleli. There are also some animated films in the Experimental and Motion Graphics categories.

The eclectic group of nominees in the animation category is impressive, and made more notable by the fact that the nominees were chosen from the pool of films posted to the video hosting site. They strike me as being far more representative of the current state of short-form animation than this year’s Oscar nominees.

I won’t go so far as to say that the Academy chose poor films, but nominating four (for the most part) generic CG films and yet another Wallace & Gromit short hardly represents the breadth and diversity of today’s animation scene. It also does little to boost the public’s perception of what animation is capable of as a medium. Awards can’t be expected to always honor the best, simply because “best” is such a subjective concept, but they should at the very least make an effort to accurately represent the field they’re celebrating. The Vimeo Awards have done a good job of that in their inaugural edition.

More “Epic Mickey”

I’m not sure how this 2D clip from the upcoming Disney game, Epic Mickey, fits with the rest of the game and clips we’ve seen, but it’s certainly intriguing. Here Mickey and Gremlin Gus explore Mean Street, and encounter the Phantom Blot and Walt himself (as a statue, with Oswald):

UPDATE: The 2D cut-scenes in the game were produced by Austin, Texas-based Powerhouse Animation Studios.

(Thanks, Matthew Gaastra)

CTN Expo to screen “The Illusionist”

Here’s another update from the folks at the upcoming CTN Expo: Sylvain Chomet’s The Illusionist is now set for an opening night advance screening, on Thursday November 18th. All advance pass holders will be admitted.

Also, it’s just been announced that Chris Wedge from BlueSky will be attending and speaking, as will Enrico Casarosa (story artist and illustrator at Pixar), Bobby Beck (no relation) from Animation Mentor, and HB Lewis (designer, illustrator, writer for Disney, BlueSky, DreamWorks). Pixar will host an animators panel again this year and yours truly, Jerry Beck, will moderate a discussion with the principals of Barcelona’s Headless Productions.

The CTN Expo II will be held November 19th-21st in Burbank. Word is the CTNX hotel (The Burbank Airport Marriott) is 93% sold out. Overflow rooms (at full rates) will open up, but if you are thinking of attending, book now and save. For more information, click here.

Exhibit of Warner Bros. cartoon art

Do you want to attend this exhibit of Warner Bros. animation artwork?

Roadrunner exhibit

Me too!

Too bad none of us can see it though because it doesn’t actually exist. These enticing gallery concepts were created for fun by David de Rooij who co-directed the short Slim Pickings Fat Chances. He was inspired to make these images after seeing this post on the Animation Backgrounds blog.

Roadrunner exhibit

Roadrunner exhibit

Titmouse opens a studio in New York

Titmouse East

Animation studio Titmouse (Metalocalypse, Megas XLR) has opened a New York studio in the Tribeca district of Manhattan. The image above is an announcement for their opening party which took place last Friday. The New York studio will be producing the second season of the Adult Swim series Superjail!, and is also developing future projects.

The New York branch, which follows their successful home base in Los Angeles, represents a homecoming of sorts for co-owner Chris Prynoski, who runs the studio with his wife Shannon. Prynoski established his career working at MTV Animation in New York on shows like Beavis and Butt-Head, The Head, and Daria as well as creating the series MTV Downtown.

The opening of a top-tier studio in New York is welcome news because the number of studios here that produce series animation on a par with LA outfits can be counted on one hand. I can think of just Augenblick Animation, World Leaders and Curious Pictures. Even better, Titmouse is a studio run by people who actually like cartoons, and they have solid credentials in TV, commercials, music videos, and games. If their raucous studio launch party was any indication, Titmouse’s arrival promises to breathe new life and energy into New York’s animation industry.

Jerry’s October event calendar

If you can’t find me in October, you aren’t trying hard enough. But before we discuss October, tonight Cartoon Dump (9/27) returns with its usual disreputable mix of sketches, songs, puppets, stand up comedy and the absolute worst cartoons ever made. Join Frank Conniff as Moodsy, the Clinically Depressed Owl, Erica Doering as Compost Brite, J. Elvis Weinstein as Dumpster Diver Dan and Jerry Beck as “Jerry Beck”, along with special guests Dave “Gruber” Allen and Erik Charles Nielsen, 8pm at The Steve Allen Theater, 4773 Hollywood Blvd. • Free Parking! • Advanced Tickets here • Phone: (323) 666-9797 • Map & Directions • And friend us on Facebook.

Tuesday October 5th is my 3rd annual Halloween animation screening at the CineFamily/Silent Movie Theatre. This year I’m sharing the stage with Seamus and Mark from Screen Novelties, who have curated a special spooktastic show featuring several monster movies of their own along with clips and shorts of their most dearly beloved creepy creations. The second half of the evening we’ll screen a very rare 35mm print of Disney’s The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad, featuring of course, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Join us – it should be a howl!

I’ll be showing vintage 16mm cartoons to open the Janet Klein show on Thursday October 7th at the Steve Allen Theatre. This month we are celebrating both Janet’s new album, Whoopee Hey! Hey! and my book The 100 Greatest Looney Tunes Cartoons. I’ll be signing books and Janet promises to sing several songs from classic cartoons. It starts at 8pm. Tickets: here.

I’ll be attending the Ottawa International Animation Festival October 20th-24th where I’ll be doing a book signing (Thursday October 21st at 6pm), and screening a program of vintage cartoons now deemed “Inappropriate For Children” (check the website or program book for times and places).

On Thursday October 28th I’ll be doing a book signing (at 6pm) and screening (at 7pm) to celebrate The 100 Greatest Looney Tunes Cartoons at the Wexner Center For the Arts at Ohio State University in Columbus. We’ll be screening 35mm prints of several classic cartoons on the big screen. Check the WexArts website for more information.

Oh, and we’ll have our annual Cartoon Dump Halloween show on Monday October 25th! More about that next month.

The Sunday Funnies (9/26/10)

This week, from the top, a San Diego Union-Tribune editorial cartoon (9/3) by Steve Breen; Mother Goose and Grimm (9/24) by Mike Peters; Nancy (9/21) by Guy and Brad Gilchrist; Chuckle Bros. (9/23) by Brian and Ron Boychuck; Hari Kiwi (9/20) by Steven Degryse (aka “Lectrr”) and The Argyle Sweater (9/23) by Scott Hilburn.

(Thanks to Jim Lahue, John Hall, Ed Austin, Kurtis Findlay, Jed Martinez and Uncle Wayne)

“Jackboots on Whitehall” trailer

Imagine a cross between Team America and A Town Called Panic set during World War II. Ewan McGregor, Timothy Spall, Tom Wilkinson and Alan Cumming provide voices for directors Edward McHenry & Rory McHenry’s Barbie-doll epic, Jackboots on Whitehall. Sony Home Entertainment has picked up the film, but a U.S. theatrical release is uncertain, though the film will play several festivals in the next few months (The San Francisco International Animation Festival will screen it on November 11th). Jackboots on Whitehall will open October 8th in London.

Creating Chewbacca


Great weekend read: Michael Heilemann explores how George Lucas created Chewbacca, or rather how he…um…borrowed…it from somebody else. The piece’s valuable insights into the creative process apply to all the arts, though they are particularly applicable to filmmaking, in which the final product is formed by the hands of many, influences come from all over, and authorship is often opaque:

Chewbacca didn’t spring to life out of nowhere, fully formed when Lucas saw his dog in the passenger seat of his car. That’s the soundbite. A single step. The reality is complex and human. From vague names floating around, the kernel of an idea, changing purposes and roles of characters, major restructuring, the design hopping from person to person, scrapping the existing concept and going down a different path, seeing existing things in a different light and having to conform a range of ideas to complement and enrich one another.

(via Kottke)

“Legend of the Guardians” talkback

Zack Snyder’s adaptation Kathryn Lasky’s Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole opens today. The critics opinions are mixed, the LA Times says it looks great but is too dark for youngsters; the NY Times considered this a minor release and let a C-string reviewer cover it. I’m seeing it at an ASIFA-Hollywood member’s screening next Thursday. If you’ve seen it, or are seeing it this weekend, let us what you think.

Warner Bros. cartoon murals

When the Warner Bros. Animation Department was located in Burbank in the 1980s (the period when they were producing the Greg Ford/Terry Lennon movies, shorts and TV specials), veteran animation artist Richard Thomas and background painter Alan Bodner created several murals to decorate the hallways at the studio. The murals were eventually removed by Warner’s Chuck Seaman in December 1992 when the animators were moved to new offices in Sherman Oaks (at the start-up of Tiny Toon Adventures).

Mr. Seaman has held onto them for the past 18 years and now needs to find them a new home. Either separately or all together, Seaman is looking for a buyer. They are on drywall and steel studs. Click the photos above to see enlarged images. If interested, contact Chuck Seaman wcsthink-at-yahoo.com

“Toxie” Debuts on NPR Website


When I bumped into Stephen Neary a couple nights ago, he told me about his new animated piece “Toxie” which debuted on NPR.org this morning and can be seen here. Produced for the show “Planet Money,” Toxie reenvisions a toxic asset as a cute but destructive pet creature. Stephen directed and animated, and Connie Li Chan provided assistant animation and backgrounds. The piece communicates a difficult concept quite effectively, and there’s some really nice character animation to boot–an impressive accomplishment especially considering their turnaround time was just three weeks.