Happy 72nd Birthday, Ralph Bakshi!

Ralph Bakshi
Drawing by Jeaux Janovsky

Happy birthday to animation’s original bad boy, Ralph Bakshi, who turns 72 today! His attitude towards animation remains as inspiring and relevant now as it was forty years ago.

Check out the video below for one of the most inspiring animation pep talks you’ll ever see:

UPDATE: Brew reader Todd Wheeler says,

I just thought it would be worth an update on your Ralph Bakshi post: Fritz the Cat is today’s featured article on Wikipedia. I’m guessing someone over at Wikipedia HQ must be an animation fan.

Brad Bird in Dubai

Brad Bird and Tom Cruise
Brad with Jeremy Renner (L), Tom Cruise and Paula Patton

As we continue to stalk cover Brad Bird’s travels around the globe, here are some new shots of him in Dubai at a press conference for Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol. Brad will be shooting parts of the film in Dubai at the Burj Khalifa tower, the world’s tallest building. More photos after the jump. Click on each for a bigger version.
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“I Can’t Breathe” by Nick Criscuolo

Nick Criscuolo sent us his animated music video and is looking for feedback. As I am en route from Columbus to LA today, I thought I’d post it and ask our readers for their opinion.

He writes:

Dear Mr. Beck,
I am writing to see if someone of your experience finds what I do at all interesting. I have no formal training in animation, but I enjoy it very much. I majored in painting at school, and hope I carry something of value over to this media. That being said I realize my timing and drawing probably seem pretty raw to someone like you. Anyway, if you have the time and inclination; I would most appreciate any feedback you could offer.

This is my animated music video for I Can’t Breathe by Sharon Van Etten. I did get permission to make a video for this song, though the content was not specifically approved by Sharon and probably shares no topical similarity with the song. It’s just what it meant to me, I guess.

The video depicts and fictionalizes the story of Laika the Russian space dog, the first animal sent to space. It’s a sad story, but don’t assume you know how the video ends just because you are already familiar with the story of Sputnik 2 and Laika.

For me, for a first film, I thought it was very interesting. Quite haunting. What do our readers think?

Happy 100th, Tyrus Wong!

Tyrus Wong

Brew reader Alex Rannie reminds us that Monday, October 25, marked the centennial birthday of animation legend Tyrus Wong and we hope you’ll join us in wishing him a very happy birthday. The Chinese-born artist worked at Disney between 1938 and 1941 where he famously art directed Bambi, though his contribution was never properly acknowledged and he was only credited as a background painter.

Tyrus Wong

In spite of his contributions to the classic Disney feature, Wong considers animation to be “a minor, very small part” of his artistic life, that also included twenty-six years as a film production illustrator at Warner Bros. where he worked on films like Rebel Without a Cause, Around the World in Eighty Days and The Wild Bunch. He also worked for many years as a greeting card designer.

Below is a 2007 interview with Wong about his early artistic career:

More links about Ty Wong:
Five-part video series about his life on PBS

Appreciation of Wong’s work on Bambi by Hans Bacher

A bio and incredible examples of his art from an exhibition catalog

Video interview with Wong about growing up in LA

“The Undertaker and the Dog” by Shin Hashimoto

Among the gems discovered this year in Ottawa was Shin Hashimoto‘s The Undertaker and the Dog, a student short made at Tokyo’s Tama Art University. The story, which incorporates elements of Snow White, turns fairly weird by the end. I particularly like its flowing ink animation style that transitions smoothly from scene to scene, as well as all the idiosyncratic and humorous touches that seemingly come out of nowhere (the flies being scared off the princess, the turtle who is being beaten, the dog tits). The tags on his YouTube video give us an idea of his artistic influences: Caroline Leaf, Gianluigi Toccafondo, Ryan Larkin, and David Shrigley.

“Todor and Petru”

Todor and Petru

Todor & Petru is an unofficial music video for The Thunderclaps’ “Judgment Day” made by Gobelins students Remi Bastie, Nicolas Dehghani, Jonathan Djob Nkondo, Nicolas Pegon and Jérémy Pires during an internship at Paris-based WIZZ.

I’ll admit that I dismissed the piece as nothing special the first time I watched it, but I was quite impressed the second time around when I paid closer attention and realized what they were actually doing. The combination of drawn animation (Flash?) and pixilated live-action is mixed together very smartly. It’s done in such a way so that the piece has the cinematic bravado of a computer animated film while retaining the organic and expressive design qualities of drawn animation. It’s a worthwhile experiment that merits further exploration, and pushes Todor & Petru beyond the typical combo of 2D animation over live elements.

Their Vimeo account also features this earlier piece that appears to be a test or development for Todor & Petru:

(Thanks, DVO and Rohit Iyer)

New Fleischer Studios website

The family of Max Fleischer has set up an attractive new website devoted to the characters and legacy of Fleischer Studios — or at least the parts of it they still own the rights to. Max’s granddaughter, Ginny Mahoney, and Max’s lawyer Stanley Handeman are behind this site, which is clearly geared toward attracting potential licensees. Is there anything for the fans? Yes – a three page photo gallery of personal photos, clippings and studio memorabilia. More please!

Los Angeles Animation Festival December 3rd – December 7th

PRESS RELEASE; The US premiere of the new Jan Å vankmajer feature, Pixar’s Teddy Newton, Sylvain Chomet’s The Illusionist and honoree Will Vinton will all be at LAAF’s December program at Cinefamily!

The Los Angeles Animation Festival, goes International as it unspools Friday December 3 through Tuesday December 7 at Cinefamily’s Silent Movie Theatre at 611 N. Fairfax in Los Angeles. The US premiere of Czech filmmaker Jan Å vankmajer’s feature Surviving Life (Theory and Practice), a screening and interview with Pixar’s Teddy Newton about his film “Day & Night”, two special programs from renowned writer/director/animator and festival honoree Will Vinton and a rare advance screening of Sylvain Chomet’s The Illusionist top a bill that includes several more features, panels, competition screenings, parties and awards.

Celebrated experimental animator Jan Å vankmajer has only recently finished what he has been quoted as saying will be his last feature, this on top of a long and storied career including such works as Conspirators of Pleasure, Dimensions of Dialogue, Faust and many others created over several active decades. The festival is thrilled to provide a US premiere for Å vankmajer’s Surviving Life (Theory and Practice).

A special guest of the festival is Teddy Newton, character designer through several Pixar projects since joining the studio on The Incredibles, for which he was instrumental in the creation of several of the films memorable characters, as well as its end title sequence. Newton has recently directed “Day & Night”, a unique Pixar short film project which the festival will explore in depth as Newton presents it and is introduced and interviewed by animation historian Jerry Beck.

The work of pioneering clay animation entrepreneur and LAAF festival honoree Will Vinton will be reviewed in a program of his short films, specials and commercials and a twenty-fifth anniversary screening of his feature The Adventures of Mark Twain. Vinton will be on hand to introduce his work and for post screening Q&A’s.

In addition the festival will screen a number of current features not in general release in the US including China’s first independent feature film Piercing 1, Japanese feature Redline, Jiří­ Barta’s In the Attic (his first feature in 25 years!) and independent animator Brent Green’s experimental feature Gravity Was Everywhere Back Then. The festival is rounded out on Tuesday December 7 with a special pre-US release screening of Sylvain Chomet’s The Illusionist slated into Jerry Beck’s regular monthly Animation Tuesday program. Friday night’s screening of Surviving Life will be followed by a very special retrospective of MTV animation with some of the creators and animators who made the work present.

“We’re are thrilled to be teamed with the non-profit Cinefamily in the staging of this year’s event and happy to be once again at their venue the historic Silent Movie Theater where we staged our inaugural LAAF event in 2007″ says festival co-director John Andrews. The festival was the brainchild of animation director Miles Flanagan who partnered with Andrews, an animation producer, on the event which seeks to both expose unseen work and allow networking opportunities between rising animation talent and successful careerists. This year the non-profit Cinefamily brings its great sense of eclecticism to the process of finding and acquiring work for screening in their intimate and attractive historic venue The Silent Movie Theater.

Details and deadlines for entry in the festival’s three unique competitions are available at the festival website www.laafest.com. Tickets and passes will be available in November at www.cinefamily.org. Potential sponsors should contact john or miles @laafest.com or [email protected]

Screenings We Like

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. Join me, I’ll be screening several 35mm prints of classic cartoons on the big screen. Check the WexArts website for more information.

Two prominent events this weekend in NYC… Tom Stathes’ Cartoon Carnival Halloweenie on Saturday, and the MoMA screening of rare Disney Laugh o Grams and Ub Iwereks cartoons on Sunday. Tom’s screening is a marathon of rare 16mm prints from his personal collection. It starts Saturday, October 30th at 2:00pm in Vaudeville Park (26 Bushwick at Devoe – L train to Graham St / G to Lorimer) in beautiful Brooklyn, New York. And don’t dare miss Serge Bromberg at MoMA on Sunday October 31st, hosting rare prints and providing piano accompaniment. Go! More info here.

Bill Plympton is in L.A. to open is new feature, Idiots and Angels. Bill has a special screening/autograph signing event planned for next Monday, November 1st at the Cinefamily/Silent Movie Theatre. I’ll be there moderating a Q & A, and Bill will present a program of his classic shorts, new films, works-in-progress and a selection of vintage cartoons that inspired him! Bill’s session with us includes: Shuteye Hotel, a film noir murder mystery; Santa: The Fascist Years, which uncovers Santa’s un-jolly past (featuring Mathew Modine); clips from his forthcoming animated feature Cheatin’ and much much more. Click here to reserve your ticket.

“Animators as Artists” Exhibit in Burbank

Walt Peregoy painting
“Railroad Non-Objective” (detail) by Walt Peregoy

Opening next month is “Animators as Artists,” an exhibit at the Nan Rae Gallery at Woodbury University (7500 Glenoaks Blvd, Burbank, CA). The exhibit features personal work by eight animation artists–Rasoul Azadani, Mike Gabriel, Sunny Apinchapong-Yang, George Scribner, Margie Daniels, Mauro Maressa, Walt Peregoy, and Dan Hansen.

The reception is Wednesday, November 3, from 6-8:30pm. Make sure to attend, if only to kick it with the legendary Walt Peregoy who was responsible for color styling 101 Dalmatians. The exhibit runs through November 27. Regular gallery hours are Thursday-Sunday from 12-5pm.

(Thanks, Julie Svendsen)

“Fa Fha Pha” by Gary Schwartz

Here’s an annual tradition from the Ottawa International Animation Festival that deserves more press. Every year during the festival, animator and professor Gary Schwartz shoots an experimental short–in exactly one day. This year, Gary used the striking techno-detritus festival awards, created by sculptor Tick Tock Tom, as the inspiration for his one-day stop-motion piece Fa Fha Pha.

TrashCan Roxanne Reviews the Ottawa Animation Festival

TrashCan Roxanne

Jerry and I both attended the Ottawa International Animation Festival and, like everyone else, had a wonderful time. Everyone that is except for Canadian animation artist Roxanne Ducharme who had a miserable week and tweeted every moment of the excruciating experience on her grouchily named Twitter account TrashCan Roxanne. Here’s a list of all the things she hated and why.

The film selections:

Watching films at #OIAF is like hitting yourself on the head with a hammer. It feels good when it stops.

The festival’s artistic director:

New levels of pompousness from Chis Robinson have been reached tonight.

The films again:

Those films will suck the life out of you #oiaf #fail #ineedadrink

The closing awards ceremony:

No class watsoever here at the closing ceremony #oiaf #fail #chisrobinson

The parties:

Getting ready for another day of torture here at the Ottawa animation film festival. Even the parties are not that great.

Even more films:

I already let out a loud “F*ck” after one of the worst film today… @LittleAnimation was proud of me.

And apparently everybody else attending the festival:

In Ottawa with a bunch of lunatics

(Thanks, Dick O’Connor)

2010 Ottawa Winners

The External World

The winners of the 2010 Ottawa International Animation Festival were announced this evening at an awards ceremony. David OReilly took home the grand prize for his new short The External World while Phil Mulloy won the feature film grand prize for Goodbye Mister Christie. The members of the 2010 International Jury for the Short Program, Student and Commissioned Films were Frances Leeming (Canada), Munro Ferguson (Canada), and Maya Yonesho (Japan). The members of the International Jury for the Feature Film Competition were Atsushi Wada (Japan), Torill Kove (Canada/Norway), and Michaela Pavlatova (Czech Republic). The complete list of winners is below:

The 2010 Nelvana GRAND PRIZE for Best Independent Short Animation ($3,000 CDN):
The External World by David OReilly (Ireland/Germany)

The 2010 GRAND PRIZE for Best Animated Feature:
Goodbye Mister Christie by Phil Mulloy (United Kingdom)

The 2010 Walt Disney Animation Studios GRAND PRIZE for Best Student Animation:
Prayers for Peace by Dustin Grella (U.S.A.)

The 2010 GRAND PRIZE for Best Commissioned Animation:
Going West by Martin Andersen and Line Andersen (New Zealand)

The 2010 Best Animation School Showreel:
Tokyo Arts University (Japan)

Honorable Mention:
Rhode Island School of Design (U.S.A.)

The 2010 Best Narrative Short:
This is love by Lei Lei (China)

The 2010 Best Experimental/Abstract Animation:
Little Deaths by Ruth Lingford

The 2010 Adobe Prize for Best High School Animation:
Where is the love by Dae Woen Yoon and Joe Woo Shin (South Korea)

The 2010 Best Undergraduate Animation:
LGFUAD by Kelsey Stark (U.S.A.)

The 2010 Best Graduate Animation:
Prayers for Peace by Dustin Grella (U.S.A.)

The 2010 Best Promotional Animation:
WWF ‘Heroes of the UAE’ by Josiah Newbolt and Ben Falk (United Kingdom)

The 2010 Best Music Video:
Blockhead ‘The Music Scene’ by Anthony Schepperd (U.S.A.)

The 2010 Best Television Animation for Adults:
Midtown Twist by Gary Leib (U.S.A.)

Special Mention:
Tord och Tord (Tord and Tord) by Niki Lindroth von Bahr (Sweden)

Special Mention:
Fumiko no Kokuhaku (Fumiko’s Confession) by Ishida Hiroyasu (Japan)

The 2010 Best Short Animation Made for Children:
Cul de bouteille (Specky Four Eyes) by Jean-Claude Rozec (France)

Honorable Mention:
Diversity by Anthony Dusko (U.S.A.)

The 2010 Best Television Animation Made for Children:
The Gruffalo by Jakob Schuh and Max Lang (United Kingdom)

Honorable Mention:
Spliced ‘Helen’ by Matt Ferguson (Canada)

The 2010 National Film Board of Canada PUBLIC PRIZE:
Sinna Mann (Angry Man) by Anita Killi (Norway)

The Canadian Film Institute (CFI) Award for Best Canadian Animation:
Lipsett Diaries by Theodore Ushev (Canada)

Honorable Mention:
Playtime by Steven Woloshen (Canada)

Alex Anderson 1920-2010

Alex Anderson, partner of Jay Ward and instrumental in the creation of Crusader Rabbit and the characters of Frostbite Falls, has passed away.

Anderson, a native of Berkeley, California, came from a family of creative artists and in 1938 started working in animation with his uncle Paul Terry in New York at Terrytoons. During World War II, Anderson was a U.S. Navy spy, his wife said in Kansas City Star, and in 1946, he returned to Terrytoons to work full time. Two years later, he pitched the idea to create cartoon characters for television to his uncle.

Rebuffed by Terry, Anderson returned to Berkeley where he and childhood friend Jay Ward teamed up to pioneer animated series production for television, creating Crusader Rabbit for NBC in 1949.

Anderson was also part of the creation of Dudley-Do-Right and The Frostbite Falls Review, which included the characters of Rocky and Bullwinkle. In 1996, Anderson reached an out-of-court settlement with Jay Ward Productions over rights to Bullwinkle, Rocky and Dudley-Do-Right. Anderson spent most of his career in advertising, creating slogans for Berkeley Farms, Skippy Peanut Butter and Smucker’s. He died Friday at a home in Carmel, Calif. He was 90.

UPDATE: The New York Times printed this Alex Anderson obit in their October 26 print edition.

Here is the first episode of Crusader Rabbit:

(Thanks, Karl Wilcox)

Bert Klein’s “Candyman”

Animator Bert Klein and his wife, producer Jen Cardon Klein are hosting a free screening of their live action documentary, Candyman, about Bert’s father, the creator of Jelly Belly jelly beans. The showing is November 7th on the campus of USC, in the new George Lucas building at 3pm. This is to promote the premiere of the film on the Documentary Channel this Thanksgiving weekend. There will be a Q&A with free candy, and the Candyman himself will be there in person to answer all questions. If you live in SoCal, go! Make reservations here! For more information, click here.

MONDAY in LA: Cartoon Dump 2010 Halloween Show

On Monday I’ll be just back from Ottawa and hung over from a week of watching great animation. To get me back into the swing of things I’ll be hosting Cartoon Dump, my monthly live comedy and cartoons showcase, in Hollywood. We will have guest comedian Andy Kindler and its our annual Halloween party. There’s nothing spookier than Mighty Mr. Titan… except maybe Moodsy, the Clinically Depressed Owl, Compost Brite, and Dumpster Diver Dan.

Wanna know more about Cartoon Dump? Frank Conniff (Moodsy), Erica Doering (Compost) and I recently recorded an hour-long podcast for Epic Magazine’s This American Wife that explains what its all about.

Join us Monday (10/25) at 8 PM, for an evening of hilarious comedy, demented songs, and really, really crappy cartoons. It’s again at the Steve Allen Theater, 4773 Hollywood Blvd. (two blocks west of Vermont). Map here, see you there!

Illumination to Produce “Pluto” For Big Screen

UNIVERSAL CITY, CA October 20, 2010 — Tezuka Productions and Chris Meledandri’s Illumination Entertainment are partnering to bring PLUTO to life as a live- action/CG hybrid film. PLUTO, which has sold over 8.5 million copies in Japan, results from the union of the most beloved character in Japanese culture with the most contemporary Japanese writer, Naoki Urasawa. Meledandri’s international hits have amassed over $2 billion WBO including: Ice Age, Ice Age 2, Robots, Horton Hears a Who and The Simpsons Movie. Most recently, his new banner, Illumination Entertainment, released the film Despicable Me which has become the 10th highest grossing animated film of all time in the US.

Urasawa’s PLUTO, which he collaborated with Takashi Nagasaki, updates the characters from the legendary ASTRO BOY series, created by Osamu Tezuka (known as the“God of Manga”), brings an action-filled saga set in a world populated by giant robots and cybernetic citizens. The manga series is characterized by Urasawa and Nagasaki’s signature brand of storytelling. The combined creative genius of Urasawa, Meledandri and Tezuka guarantees an imaginative, exciting and visually stunning event film executive produced by Macoto Tezka.

Urasawa commented, “I have been a big fan of The Greatest Robot on Earth since I was a child. But I never thought I would remake the episode into PLUTO. It was a tremendous challenge for me. Now another challenge, turning PLUTO into a live action movie, has appeared. As a big fan of Tezuka, I would like to watch it with a lot of expectation.”

Meledandri commented, “With Pluto, Naoki Urasawa has defined an imaginative world full of inventive action and adventure but it was his characters and heartfelt story that compelled me towards acquiring these rights. I am privileged to be working with Tezuka, a company with an illustrious history and with Urasawa, one of our most gifted contemporary writers.”

Nagasaki commented, “In the 20th century, all the boys in Japan hungrily read “Astro boy, The Greatest Robot on Earth” by Osamu Tezuka. And I and Naoki Urasawa brought the legendary work back to the 21st century as PLUTO. It was a big challenge for us since it was considered as a taboo to challenge it in Japanese manga world. It is great pleasure not only for us but also for all movie and manga fans that PLUTO is turned into a movie in Hollywood, though I think Mr. Meledandri has undertaken more adventures than we did. I sincerely hope a great movie will be produced, which all the fans across the world will get satisfied with, excited at and touched by”

Tezka commented, “The collaboration between Osamu Tezuka and Naoki Urasawa was big news in the manga world. It was as if Takeshi Kitano encountered Akira Kurosawa or Lucas remade Stagecoach into Star Wars. If the talents of global film artists are added to the work, surely the excitement will be multiplied. I hope the movie will become an epoch-making masterpiece produced under a good partnership between Japan and Hollywood.”

Urasawa’s previous manga series, MONSTER has sold more than 21 million copies since released in1995.

About Illumination Entertainment
In 2007, Chris Meledandri founded Illumination Entertainment in partnership with Universal Pictures. It serves as the studio’s main supplier of all-audience family films and launched in July 2010 with the blockbuster Despicable Me. Despicable Me is the 11th highest grossing animated film in history and the fourth highest grossing animated film of 2010. Thus far, Despicable Me has opened in 26 international territories, and it has already made more than $360 million worldwide. Illumination is currently in post-production on Hop, which will be released in spring 2011. The company is also developing a new stop-motion version of The Addams Family with Tim Burton directing. Other projects in development include Flanimals, a CG-animated feature comedy based on the bestselling British book series by Ricky Gervais, who will also star in the film.