A trailer for a Jimi Hendrix short

This is the trailer for The Experience, a Jimi Hendrix-themed short that was produced to commemorate the fortieth anniversary of his death this year:

In the depths of a tropical valley, an adventurous young man discovers with surprise a giant amusement park dedicated to rock’n’roll. Curious, he decides to try a psychedelic Rollercoaster haunted by Jimi Hendrix. He is greeted by a mysterious jailer, looking like a voodoo sorcerer. During the ride, entirely on the rhythmes of the song “Voodoo Child”, the spirit of Jimi Hendrix manifests in the form of a voodoo doll.

The combination stop-motion, live-action and CG short was made by the French collective Pirates Pépères whose twelve members have an average age of 22. Like Nina Paley and her film Sita Sings the Blues, these guys made their animated film without bothering to license the music. Now they’re trying to raise $6,700 to license Hendrix’s “Voodoo Child” from Experience Hendrix, the company that manages his musical estate. Afterwards they plan to release the film on-line.

“Bottle” by Kirsten Lepore

The first time we wrote about Kirsten Lepore, she was studying at Maryland Institute College of Art where she’d made an inventive hand-drawn short called Story from North America. Now she’s a grad student in the experimental program at CalArts, and she’s turning out some top-notch work.

Bottle is the story of an unlikely friendship between a clump of sand and a pile of snow–a far more engaging concept than it may sound and the type of story that can only be told through animation. Kirsten uses stop motion to create a believably bittersweet fantasy within the natural outdoors, and her masterful storytelling has the ability to make us both smile and reach for a box of tissues.

If the heartwrenching final shot of the film is too much, here’s a brilliant and funny bit of animation she did that’ll cheer you up.

“Death Buy Lemonade” by Kyu-bum Lee

Death Buy Lemonade created by Kyu-bum Lee at Sheridan College is the shortest film in Cartoon Brew TV’s Student Animation Festival. Don’t be fooled by its running time though. Within its brief length is contained a solidly constructed story, personality-driven animation and chuckles. To learn more about the production of the film and to comment about it, please take the time and visit Cartoon Brew TV.

CBTV Student Fest 8: “Death Buy Lemonade”

Death Buy Lemonade created by Kyu-bum Lee at Sheridan College is the shortest film in Cartoon Brew TV’s Student Animation Festival. Don’t be fooled by its running time though. Within its brief length is contained a solidly constructed story, personality-driven animation and chuckles. The film won the Audience Award at the 2010 Animation Block Party.

Kyu-bum, who’ll be answering your questions in the comments, jotted down these thoughts about making the film:

When the final year of the Sheridan animation program came close, I didn’t have clear idea of what kind of film I wanted to make. After watching many shorts that I found entertaining, I realized I wanted to make a film the audience are entertained from start to finish. It’s definitely easier said than done. Many of the shorts I came across relied a single gag at the end without engaging beginning and middle to really encourage audience participation. Whether I have achieved to do more than that, I am not sure, but that was my starting goal as I began coming up with a story.

The inspiration of the story was simple, I wanted to have a female character. When that character was decided to be a little girl, I wanted have a situation with somewhat morbid twist which she put herself in. So, the base idea was to have a girl causes a death of a person due to her childlike innocence and greed. Just like riding a rollercoaster blind folded, I had no idea where the story was heading but after many days of fun and frustrating storyboarding process and bouncing off ideas with others, the story just fell into place. How crazy was the ride? Well, the original cast of the film was the girl, a man and a time manipulating device.

The decision to produce my film in traditional was very clear from the beginning. Knowing the amount of time it takes to make a traditionally drawn animation film, I knew I wasn’t going to get that kind of luxury of time when I leave school. Therefore, as long as I have full eight months dedicated to making a single film, I had to challenge myself with the medium that started it all.

One tough decision that I encountered while in production phase was deciding the look of Katie’s(the girl) dress. In the pre-production phase, I designed her with intention of simply overlaying a flat cloth pattern for her dress. However, after compositing a test scene, the flat pattern overlay significantly reduced the mood of certain angled shots as well as distracted from the animation. The only solution I knew how was to draw the pattern in. The difficulty of drawing pattern was later doubled when I entered clean-up stage which was also done traditionally in pencil. Though the style of animation wasn’t full, there were enough frames to keep me busy for many nights.

I loved making this film and the process of choosing between billion possibilities I could have taken to make a completely different film. I amproud of the end result and I have many friends and teachers to thank for it. For the future, I plan to keep producing more films because to me, there is nothing more rewarding than entertaining others. But for now, I hope you enjoy my first little short, Death Buy Lemonade”.

Filmmaker website: Kyu-bum Lee

A side-by-side comparison of Disney’s “Orphan’s Benefit”

Michael Ruocco, who discovered a lost Fred Moore animation scene on eBay recently, created this side-by-side comparison of the 1934 Disney short Orphan’s Benefit and its 1941 frame-by-frame remake of the same name.

I’m sure there’ll be varying opinions on which one’s better–for the record, I think the original is more fun to watch and feels less labored–but Michael is curious to know why they did this in the first place: “Why would they put so much time, money and effort into a remake when they could use that same energy on making something original? Was it because of the big Disney strike that happened a few years earlier? Were they planning a package feature of remade shorts which never fully came to fruition?”

All I know is that my life would be a lot more productive if I could figure out how to always watch two cartoons at once.

UPDATE: David Gerstein, animation historian and author of Mickey And The Gang: Classic Stories In Verse, posted a comment about why the remake was made. The reasons are more complicated than one might believe and worth reading:

On June 27, 1939, Walt, Riley Thomson and Dave Hand screened nineteen early Mickey cartoons. The plan was to compile the best scenes from the shorts into a two-reel clip show for Mickey’s upcoming twelfth anniversary. MICKEY’S REVIVAL PARTY (as it was to have been called) would have opened with Mickey’s gang arriving at a studio cinema. As the vintage scenes unreeled on a “screen within a screen,” Mickey and friends in the audience would react in various comic ways.

There were only two problems with this. The elaborate manner in which the vintage scenes were to be reused precluded simply lifting them from old negatives and splicing them together. They would have to be reinked onto cels from the original animation drawings; repainted, retimed, and refilmed.

Another hindrance was that the old cartoons excerpted had to be from summer 1935 or earlier. Anything more recent might still be in release. This meant that there were very few color cartoons to include in the retrospective.

Walt decided to kill two birds with one stone. As the excerpted shorts were all to be reinked and repainted anyway, he decided to repaint some in color that had originally been in black and white: ORPHANS’ BENEFIT among them. Walt also saw an opportunity to retouch and improve the color in THE BAND CONCERT, the one short in the show that was originally in color. Story meeting transcripts reveal Walt repeatedly suggesting that remaking or upgrading older shorts could be an ongoing program, independent of REVIVAL PARTY.

That’s what ended up happening. REVIVAL PARTY director Riley Thomson completed a cutting continuity for use in preparing the excerpts; but for some reason, the clip show format ended up on the shelf. Instead, Thomson moved forward with remaking earlier cartoons in full-length, standalone form. ORPHAN’S BENEFIT came first. Then came MICKEY’S MAN FRIDAY, four early color Silly Symphony shorts, and ON ICE.

But then the bottom dropped out. ORPHAN’S BENEFIT, directed by Thomson, ended up the only exact Disney remake ever completed. MAN FRIDAY was shut down partway through animation; you can still see model sheets at various online animation galleries for what the updated models were going to look like.

The other remakes were shut down before animation. I’ve been unable to find out why.

Here comes The Hub

I don’t know about where you live, but popping up all over L.A. are these scary billboards (see above) promoting The Hub, Hasbro and Discovery’s new cable channel. The Good News: it looks to be another 24-hour cartoon channel (remember those?). The Bad News: the cartoons seem to be based mainly on Hasbro branded toy lines (Pound Puppies, My Little Pony, The Transformers, etc.). Apparently, upon further research, there will be live action shows on the schedule (like Fraggle Rock) and several originals (Dan Vs.), but they aren’t advertising those yet… just these creepy looking bug-eyed buggers.

Nick and Disney have nothing to fear… but Cartoon Network better watch its back. The Hub begins broadcasting October 10th.

MTV Wants to Dabble in Animation Again

Bill Plympton, who is prepping for the October 6th theatrical release of his feature Idiots and Angels in New York, has been writing a blog diary describing the tough slog of self-promoting an indie animated feature. In the course of doing so, he revealed a worthwhile news tidbit in one of his entries from last week:

Then I’m talking on the phone to Tom Akel of MTV who’s setting up a new animation web channel (he even wants to bring back Liquid Television) and wants to do some interviews and maybe show some of my shorts.

Akel’s on-line bio lists him as a supervising producer who heads digital production of shows and games across MTV.com. It’s nice that MTV is considering animation again, but in today’s bottom line-driven TV industry, don’t hold your breath for any network to aggressively embrace indie and short-form animation–even on-line.

Can anyone envision a Liquid Television-type program ever happening again, where a network would support animated programming without concern about profit or return on investment? I certainly can’t. And more importantly, in the bountiful world of on-line animation, who needs a corporate monolith as a curator of animated content?

MTV spent years cultivating an enviably hip identity through animated station IDs and short film commissions only to squander it all. If their on-line initiative recaptures some of that animation glory, nobody’s going to complain, but if they want to begin competing at this late stage in the game, they’re going to have to offer the Internet something truly special that hasn’t been seen before.

“The Lost Thing” trailer

The Lost Thing, a fifteen-minute CG animated short with a tactile, painterly feel, is based on a children’s book by Shaun Tan. It won the top short film prize earlier this year at the Annecy International Animation Festival. Co-directed by Tan and Andrew Ruhemann, the film was produced by a micro-crew of four artists out of Passion Pictures Australia. All of the animation is credited to just one person–Leo Baker–who also did most of the rigging. Lots of info about the project in this article on Screenhub. Film website at TheLostThing.com.

(Thanks, Josef)

“Cliché!” by Cedric Villain

A follow-up to his film My Chinese, Cedric Villain‘s Cliché! pokes fun of stereotypes about French people. The pacing is a bit too slow for my tastes, but the compensation is a lot of funny well-presented gags throughout. It’s designed in Illustrator, animated in Flash, and composited in After Effects. I highly recommend watching the higher-quality version on Cedric’s website to appreciate the graphics.

(Thanks, Jipé)

Sammy’s Adventures: The Secret Passage

Last November we reported on a new 14 minute Imax film from director Ben Stassen (Fly Me to The Moon) and Belgium based nWave Pictures called Around the World In 50 Years. Since then, the film was apparently expanded to feature length (85 minutes), populated with an English language voice cast (Stacy Keach, Yuri Lowenthal, Melanie Griffith, Kathy Griffin, Ed Begley Jr., Pat Carroll, Tim Curry, etc.) and released in Europe. In fact, the film was just nominated for a Euro Film Award.

Will it be released in the U.S. and be qualified for Academy consideration this year? Is it any good? Does it remind you of another Oscar winner from 2003?

“Pombinha Branca” by Fernando Augusto Dias

As long as we’re exploring student CG from around the world, here is Pombinha Branca by Fernando Augusto Dias, produced while studying at Melies–School of Cinema and 3D Animation in São Paulo, Brazil. Undeniably bright and charming, it probably makes a stronger impact on Brazilians who are familiar with the nursery rhyme on which it’s based. In fact, it won the best Brazilian student film award at this year’s Anima Mundi festival.

Director and Animation: Fernando Augusto
Character Design: Fernando Augusto and Dalton Muniz
Musical Production: Fernando Augusto and Ítalo Lenker
Arrangements: Lua de Prata Group
Sound Designer: Herbert Perez de Lima

“Manfred” by Arjen Klaverstijn

A graduation project made by Arjen Klaverstijn at the Utrecht School of the Arts in The Netherlands. One of my most frequent bits of advice to students is to keep their films as short as possible. This is a good example: a cute, well-executed concept that shows a clear knowledge of art and design principles. It may not change the world, but it showed some personality and kept it entertaining for a minute and forty seconds. Mission accomplished. Some behind-the-scenes artwork posted on Klaverstijn’s website.

Director and animation: Arjen Klaverstijn
Additional artwork & consulting director: Lois van Baarle
Music composition & sound design: Thilo Schaller

R-Rated Danish Film Gets US Release 6 Years Later

Fear not, The Trouble with Terkel isn’t an ironic Studs Terkel biopic; it’s a raunchy R-rated animated comedy based on the stand-up routines of Danish comedian Anders Matthesen. (Actually, raunchy seems a bit too generous; immature is a better descriptor.) Indie distributor Indican Pictures is releasing the film in the United States on October 15, according to Box Office Mojo.

Notably, the film is rather old; it debuted in Denmark in 2004. Directors are Kresten Vestbjerg Andersen, Thorbjørn Christoffersen, and Stefan Fjeldmark. Perhaps the original Danish version was hilarious, but the American trailer looks irredeemable. The British dub is less abrasive and makes me want to at least give the film a chance. No details on how limited the film’s release will be, but I don’t anticipate it’ll be showing up in many theaters.

Van Citters launches Magoo’s Christmas Carol blog

To support the second printing of his self-published book on the making of Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol, Darrell Van Citters has begun a blog. It will be updated at least weekly, probably more, and will include info that wouldn’t fit in the book, trivia, info on ancillary Magoo material (like the upcoming Blu-Ray DVD) and more in-depth profiles of UPA crew members. You can also pre-order the second edition of the book through the blog or the website. If you haven’t already done so, I highly recommend this superb volume.

First up at the blog, Darrell discusses the career of Phil Norman, the unsung title card artist and lettering genius of UPA in the early 1960s. (That’s one of his creepiest, above) Bookmark this and visit it regularly.

“Salesman Pete”

I posted the trailer to “Salesman Pete and the Amazing Stone from Outer Space!” last June. The entire film is now online. It’s directed by Anthony Vivien, Marc Bouyer, and Max Loubaresse, who dropped out of the French animation school Supinfocom to produce this film. The short is basically an extended chase scene, which is a common theme in many contemporary French student films, and unfortunately it lost my attention a quarter of the way through, but I do appreciate their aesthetic accomplishment. These guys approach computer animation with an illustrative sensibility, and in the service of engaging personality animation and storytelling, their style could be something amazing to watch. Learn more about their film at SalesmanBuck.com.

Roger Rabbit CG test

Someone posted a rare 1998 cgi test film for an unmade Roger Rabbit 2. If anyone has any background info on this piece, I’d like to hear about it:

UPDATE: Eric Goldberg, who directed this piece, writes in the comments:

Okay, time to put some things to rest.

Rob, Dave, Tom Bancroft, and Eric Guaglione are all correct. It is indeed CGI, from 1998. I directed both pieces, the 2-D and the 3-D, with a view toward directing the animation in the sequel, being developed by Pocahontas producer Jim Pentecost. While time-consuming in 1998 to get this effect, it was, and still is, ground-breaking in my opinion. As we were completing the 2-D with CG props test, I said to Kathleen Gavin, who was heading up offbeat” projects at the time, “Well, everyone already knows the Roger gimmick of tone mattes. Why don’t we see if we can do Roger himself in CG? If we can animate something as fluid and eminently squashy-stretchy as Roger Rabbit, then we can animate anything in CG.” I was also interested in pursuing it to solve the dreaded “foot-float” problem you get when when roto-ing planted feet to an incrementally moving camera. In this case, Roger was tracked perfectly, the same way the dinos in Jurassic Park were tracked perfectly. Whether we would use the technique or not in the sequel, it was to prove that we could do Disney quality animation in CG, which no one had ever attempted before. The Florida team proved me right, in spades, and major kudos to them all.

The next logical step for the studio was to see if we could achieve that kind of animation without pre-animating it as 2-D first. The result was Magic Lamp Theater, now a popular 3-D stereo attraction at Tokyo DisneySea. Again, expensive to do at the time, but this time I did detailed poses, while the CG guys really did the animation, supervised by Jason Ryan. Flash-forward 12 years later, and the tools to do this kind of work are most certainly available, without the need for special expense.

While the Roger sequel never got made, there were plenty of other reasons for that decision as well, involving then-current studio politics. Also, the too-expensive budget that was being considered was based on the original techniques.

Anyway, that’s the way I heared it, Johnny.

(Thanks, Matthew Gaastra)

Missed Aches by Joanna Priestley

Portland-based Joanna Priestley‘s new short Missed Aches is destined to become popular in English classes across the world. A cheeky Symphony in Slang for the new century, it’s based on the poem “The The Impotence of Proofreading” by Taylor Mali, who wrote and narrated the film.

Sound Design by Normand Roger and Pierre Yves Drapeau
Music by Pierre Yves Drapeau with Denis Chartrand and Normand Roger
Text Animation by Brian Kinkley
Character design and animation by Don Flores
Storyboards by Dan Schaeffer
Directed, produced and animated by Joanna Priestley
Supported by The Regional Arts and Culture Council and the Caldera Institute

Bill Littlejohn (1914-2010)

Word has just reached us that veteran animator Bill Littlejohn passed away in his sleep last night. He was 96.

Littlejohn was born in Newark, New Jersey in 1914. He started his career in 1934 (some dates peg his start as early as 1931) as a cel washer at New York’s Van Beuren Studio where his aunt worked as a camera person. “One of my first jobs was to hand out cels to the inkers,” he recalled. “They were so slippery in their tissue separators that when I first was handed a stack, I immediately let them drop all over the floor!” He soon worked his way up to inking, assistant animation, and later animation. Later, he worked for Ted Eshbaugh in New York.

In the mid-1930s he moved to Los Angeles and completed a degree in aeronautical engineering. “I began work at Lockheed, but the people there were so boring! They would talk all night about the qualities of a rivet.” He returned to animation working for Harman and Ising and MGM (The Captain and the Kids, Jitterbug Follies, Tom and Jerry–he was one of the few people, including Jack Zander, who worked on both the Van Beuren Tom & Jerry series, as well as the more famous Hanna-Barbara cat-and-mouse team).

After serving in the Army as a test pilot during World War II (freelancing for Lantz and MGM during the same time), he struggled to find work in the industry, and in the early-1950s, he worked at a Beverly Hills car garage that was run by Alice Faye, the wife of bandleader Phil Harris. From the mid-1950s onward, with the growth of the TV commercial industry, he never lacked for work and became recognized as one of the fastest and most prolific commercial animators of all time. He animated spots for a multitude of commercial studios including Playhouse Pictures, Jay Ward Productions, Animation Inc., Fine Arts Films, The Ink Tank, and Bill Melendez Productions, where he was a principal animator on numerous Peanuts specials.

One of his most well known associations was with John and Faith Hubley. Over a thirty-plus year association with them, he worked on their short films, commercials and features. He was the primary animator of the Oscar-winning short The Hole, and animated on The Hat, Zuckerkandl, Voyage to Next, Of Stars and Men, People, People, People, Everybody Rides the Carousel, Sky Dance, Enter Life and Amazonia, among many others.

During the production of A Doonesbury Special, Littlejohn went to New York to work with the Hubleys. He recalled:

John [Hubley] called me and said, “Bill, I want you to come out so we can go over some stuff. I have to go into surgery and, in case anything happens, I want this project to get finished.” I did fly out and we went over the schedule and storyboards with John, Faith and Doonesbury creator Gary Trudeau. I had done some test animation of Zonker putting flowers in the muzzles of National Guardsmen’s rifles. Trudeau was amazed, he had never seen his characters moving before. The next day, John Hubley went in for open-heart surgery and died on the operating table. We went on with the film and I must have animated about 12 minutes of it myself.

The special went on to receive an Academy Award nomination and won a special jury prize at the Cannes Film Festival. Littlejohn contributed to Watership Down (1978), Heavy Metal (1981), R.O. Blechman’s The Soldier’s Tale (1984), and Mrs. Doubtfire. A passionate and involved lifelong supporter of the animation art form, he was one of the founders of the International Tournée of Animation in the mid-1960s, as well as a co-founder of ASIFA-Hollywood. He was also a former president of the Screen Cartoonists Guild, and sat on the Academy’s Board of Governors representing short films and animation between 1988-2001. His wife of 61 years, Fini Rudiger Littlejohn, an illustrator, actress, and Disney artist, died in 2004. He is survived by two children–son Steve Littlejohn and daughter Toni Littlejohn–and three grandchildren.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made in Bill Littlejohn’s memory to ASIFA-Hollywood, 2114 W. Burbank, Blvd., Burbank, CA 91506

UPDATE: Charles Solomon has written an obit of Bill Littlejohn for the LA Times.

A look Bill Littlejohn’s Animation Work
Jitterbug Follies, a 1939 MGM cartoon based on Milt Gross’ comics, on which Littlejohn animated.

A photo from a 1956 story session from the production of John Wilson’s TV special Petroushka. left to right: Richard Punnett, John Wilson, Ed DeMattia, Chris Jenkyns, Dean Spille and Bill Littlejohn holding the scissors:
Bill Littlejohn

John and Faith Hubley’s The Hole:

One of Littlejohn’s most famous TV commercials for Uniroyal Tires:

A classic Peanuts scene animated by Littlejohn. “At first Charles Schulz didn’t care for all the Snoopy pantomime,” Littlejohn said. “He felt it was deviating too much from his style. He wanted the whole film to be talking heads, doing his dialogue.”

Some stills are below from a commercial that Littlejohn animated in the 1950s for Sohio Gasoline:
Bill Littlejohn

Alpha and Omega talkback

Is anyone reading the Brew going to see this?

No, I didn’t think so… and I don’t recommend it, but if you do, we’d love to hear your opinions in the comments below.

I saw the film at a press screening last Monday. It’s strictly grade-B fare and NOT up to current standards (those being the standards practiced these days at Dreamworks, Illumination, Blue Sky, Sony Imageworks, Lucasfilm, etc.). It’s filled with cliche characters, in an unoriginal, cobbled together storyline (think BOLT meets BALTO crossed with LADY AND THE TRAMP). The only saving grace: the last bittersweet vocal performance by Dennis Hopper.

C’mon Furries, I’m counting on you. This one’s right up your alley… let us know what you think.