Kirsten Lepore Talks about “Bottle”

I wrote about Kirsten Lepore’s short Bottle last month, and enjoyed it so much, that I asked her to answer a few questions about her work. The interview, conducted via email is below. For more about her work, visit KirstenLepore.com.

CARTOON BREW: The idea of a relationship between two natural elements seems so obvious in retrospect, but I’ve never seen it before. Where did the spark for the idea come from?

KIRSTEN LEPORE: I had the initial spark about two winters ago while I was home in New Jersey.  I think I was just looking at all the snow in the backyard and thinking how cool it would be to animate a snowman.  I’d never seen it done, and it was definitely something I knew I had to try at some point — it was just a matter of having the time and coming up with the right story.

CARTOON BREW: Did you really animate all that snow? Last year, my hands froze just trying to build a still snowman. I can’t imagine doing animation with snow, and it not looking something like THIS.

KIRSTEN LEPORE: Yep! It was all real snow, moved frame by frame.  Every time I got out there to shoot, I had to rebuild the character (which was about 3 feet tall).  It was also pretty physically grueling pushing around massive snowballs (that probably weighed more than me), running back and forth between the camera and the character every frame, and dealing with wet gloves, boots, and pants.  There were too many obstacles to even name!  My brain hurts just thinking about it.

CARTOON BREW: Were you building and moving these characters by yourself or did you have help? Did you build rigs underneath? Were you able to review your animation as you were shooting? In other words, how’d you do it?

KIRSTEN LEPORE: It probably would have been much easier with a crew, but I’m stubborn so I did the whole thing by myself.  I also would have felt really guilty making someone else stand out in the snow for 8 hours a day.  In terms of the technique, there were no rigs needed for the snow as most things stuck together pretty well (or would freeze together if it was cold enough).  I wanted so badly for the beach character to be pure sand, but after countless tests, I couldn’t get him tall enough without crumbling, so I had to build a trompe l’oeil foam puppet covered with a mixture of sand and vegetable shortening. 

The puppet also wasn’t constructed very well so I ended up needing a ton of small rigs to hold up the arms and some of the objects.  I wouldn’t dare bring my beloved compy on the beach, so I had no frame grabbing software either.  I could only see an approximate review of what I shot by using the turning wheel on the back of the 7D to “flip” through the frames.  I even tried to skip this when I could (simply to avoid touching the camera) because my hands were usually either soaking wet or totally greasy with sand and Crisco.  Yum.  I just posted a micro making-of that shows other parts of the process as well:


 
CARTOON BREW: After this, do you prefer to animate outside where all of nature is your set or the controlled environment of a studio?

KIRSTEN LEPORE: I definitely prefer a controlled studio, but it was nice not having to build any sets for the piece.  It’ll probably be a few years before I can consider shooting outdoors again; I’d need time to forget how nightmarish the process was.

CARTOON BREW: You graduated from Maryland Institute College of Art a few years ago, and then decided to pursue a graduate degree in Experimental Animation at CalArts, which is where you made Bottle. Why did you decide to continue school instead of jumping straight into the industry?

After I graduated from MICA I wasn’t sure if I wanted to pursue a graduate degree, so I actually did freelance in animation for two years before coming to CalArts. I needed some time after undergrad to prove to myself that I could make a living doing animation. That “real life” experience was invaluable upon enrolling at CalArts as I already felt much more prepared and confident than if I had enrolled while I was fresh out of MICA. My decision to go to grad school was mainly fueled by the desire to make my own films again, the prospect of connecting with other animators, and to have the option of eventually teaching at a collegiate level. Also, I knew it would force me to move out to California, which is where I felt I needed to be.
 
CARTOON BREW: What are you working on right now and where do you hope you end up after graduating again?

KIRSTEN LEPORE: Right now I’m doing a few freelance projects and developing my thesis, which I’ll be working on for the next two years.  After graduation it’d be great to continue freelancing and directing.

CARTOON BREW: What are some of the things that are currently inspiring you, both within and outside of animation?

KIRSTEN LEPORE: There’s so much!  I just got back from the Vimeo Awards where I had the opportunity to meet so many creators that I respect and admire, which was totally amazing and inspiring.  So many of the films and speakers got me pumped and eager to get back into the studio to produce new work.  Outside of animation, I’ve taken up drumming again which I’m pretty excited about.  I’m also usually in the kitchen cooking up some weird concoction.  I’m proud to report I recently got over my fear of preparing eggplant, and (unrelated to the eggplant) may have mastered the art of the Vietnamese summer roll.

Announcing Cartoon Brew Biz

Yesterday at the Television Animation Conference in Ottawa, Cartoon Brew announced the launch of our new section called CB Biz. The new subsite located at www.cartoonbrew.com/biz can be accessed from our site’s top navigation bar.

As we’ve grown to become the single most heavily trafficked animation news site on-line, we wanted to fulfill one of the most common requests we receive which is to offer more coverage of industry animation news. The new CB Biz section will serve as a source for announcements and public relations messages direct from industry publicity sources. The press releases will appear unedited and free from editorial commentary. The CB Biz section doesn’t change our curated and personal approach to the Cartoon Brew home page, but it serves as an additional resource for those who desire a complete and up-to-the-minute picture of what is happening throughout the industry.

Studio publicists may submit their press releases directly to Cartoon Brew through a new e-mail address: PR [at] cartoonbrew [dot] com

Behind-the-Scenes at Pixar Animation Studios

Behind-the-Scenes at Pixar Animation Studios
Supervising Animator Bobby Podesta
at the Charles M. Schulz Museum
November 6, 2010, 10-11:30am

(Santa Rosa, CA) Supervising animator for Toy Story 2 and Toy Story 3, Bobby Podesta will teach a class about his work behind-the-scenes at Pixar Animation Studios. Podesta, who has worked with Pixar for the past thirteen years, will be at the Charles M. Schulz Museum on Saturday, November 6, from 10:00—11:30 a.m. As part of the Schulz Museum’s Master Classes for Adults series, Podesta will share his insights about animation. Podesta’s animation credits include Toy Story 2, Toy Story 3, Cars, The Incredibles, Finding Nemo, Monsters, Inc. and A Bug’s Life. Class fees are $32 for Museum members and $40 for non-members and includes entrance to the Museum.

Podesta’s class is part of a series of weekend classes called the Master Class for Adults designed by the Schulz Museum to explore different aspects of the creative process. Each class will provide an intimate environment in which budding artists and cartoonists can receive art instruction and advice from top creative minds in the field. Other upcoming instructors include: Pulitzer prize-winning cartoonist Mark Fiore and Hilary Price of Rhymes with Orange. Fees and advance registration are required. Call (707) 284-1263 for more information and to register.

About the Charles M. Schulz Museum & Research Center
The Charles M. Schulz Museum opened in August 2002 to fulfill its mission of preserving, displaying, and interpreting the art of Charles M. Schulz. The Museum carries out this mission through changing exhibitions and programming that build an understanding of cartoonists and cartoon art; illustrate the scope of Schulz’s multi-faceted career; communicate the stories, inspirations and influences of Charles Schulz; and celebrate the life of Charles Schulz and the Peanuts characters.

LOCATION
The Charles M. Schulz Museum is located 50 minutes north of San Francisco by car on Highway 101. The Museum is located at 2301 Hardies Lane, Santa Rosa, California, 95403.

HOURS
Weekdays Monday thru Friday (except Tuesdays*) 11am — 5pm
Saturday & Sunday 10am — 5pm
Closed Tuesdays*
*Open everyday throughout the summer (Memorial Day through Labor Day)

ADMISSION FEES
Free — Museum Members, Children 3 and under
$5.00 — Children 4-18, college students with valid I.D. card, and Seniors 62+
$10.00 — Adults

For more information consult the Museum web site: www.SchulzMuseum.org.

California Animation Festivals

If you couldn’t join us in Ottawa this week, you might consider hanging out in San Francisco in mid-November. The San Francisco Film Society will present its fifth annual San Francisco International Animation Festival (SFIAF) November 11—14 at Landmark’s Embarcadero Center Cinema. Highlights of this year’s event include Miyazaki protégé Sunao Katabuchi’s new feature Mai Mai Miracle, the North American Premiere of Jackboots In Whitehall, a screening of Brent Green’s Gravity Was Everywhere Back Then and a shorts program of The Best of Annecy. The complete schedule is posted here.


The 2nd Los Angeles Animation Festival will take place Friday December 3rd through Tuesday December 6th at Cinefamily’s Silent Movie Theater on Fairfax Ave. in West Hollywood. This year events include an afternoon screening and interview with Pixar’s Teddy Newton (Day & Night) and two special programs from renowned writer/director/animator Will Vinton — one a program of his short films, specials and commercials and the other, a twenty-fifth anniversary screening of his feature The Adventures of Mark Twain (1986). In addition the festival will feature screenings of several international features including Chinese independent feature Piercing 4 and the Japanese feature Redline. There will also be panels, contest screenings, parties and awards. The festival is the brainchild of animation director Miles Flanagan and animation producer John Andrews (MTV, Klasky Csupo). Details and deadlines for entry in the festival’s three unique competitions are available on the festival website. Tickets and passes will be available in November at Cinefamily.org.


Opposite the LA Animation Fest on December 3rd through 5th, and on Dec. 11th and Dec. 13th, the UCLA Film and Television Archive at the Hammer Museum in Westwood will hold A Celebration of French Animation. This will include several double bill screenings of contemporary animated features from France, including Chomet’s The Illusionist (2010) and The Tripletts of Belleville (2003), Rene Laloux’s Fantastic Planet (1973), Micel Ocelot’s Kirikou and the Wild Beasts (2005) and Azur and Asmur (2008) and Jacques-Remy Girerd’s Raining Cats and Dogs (2003). For more information, check the UCLA Archive website.

The Rent is Too Damn “Up”

Those who watched the New York state gubernatorial debate a few nights ago were treated to the awesomeness of candidate Jimmy McMillan (aka Papa Smurf) of the “Rent is Too Damn High” Party. That alone has little to do with animation, but remix Jimmy’s words with Pixar’s Up, like Joe Sabia did, and you get something magnificent.

(via Boing Boing)

“The Wrong Block” by Sam Chou

Last year in Ottawa I met animator Sam Chou who is working on an independent animated film, The Wrong Block. His film is an animated, action/thriller about a detective that takes on a kidnapping case, only to discover that his sordid past has come back to haunt him. His website for the film went live today and a new trailer has been posted. I really look forward to seeing this when it’s finished. Here’s a taste:

Who’s Going to Ottawa?

Ottawa

This week Cartoon Brew is traveling to the enchanted land of Canada, home of Officer Bubbles and many other magical creatures. Both Brewmasters will be attending the world-famous Ottawa International Animation Festival along with thousands of other animation folks. If you’re heading out, let us know in the comments and say hello to us.

The End of the Creator-Driven Era in TV Animation

The Hub, a network owned partly by toy company Hasbro, launched a little over a week ago with new animated series including Strawberry Shortcake’s Berry Bitty Adventures, G.I. Joe: Renegades, and My Little Pony Friendship is Magic. The network’s debut closes the curtain on what has commonly been referred to as the creator-driven era of TV animation, which lasted from approximately the early-1990s through the late-2000s. During this two-decade span, the balance of creative control in TV animation favored artists for the first time since the early-1960s, and artists exercised vast influence over the visual style, writing, and overall direction of TV shows. It was a fertile period that spawned dozens of lasting cartoon stars and series, many of which are still as popular today as when they first debuted ten or twenty years ago.

What clearer death knell for creator-driven animation than the reemergence of Margaret Loesch. After running Hanna-Barbera and Marvel Productions in the 1980s, and Fox Kids through the mid-1990s, her influenced waned in animation during the height of the creator-driven movement, but now she is back in the driver’s seat as president and CEO of the Hub.

Watching names like Rob Renzetti and Lauren Faust pop up in the credits of a toy-based animated series like My Little Pony is an admission of defeat for the entire movement, a white flag-waving moment for the TV animation industry. The signs have been there for a long time, however, and the Hub is but one indicator in the precipitous decline of creator-driven content, whose demise was hurried along by Cartoon Network and its decision to relaunch with large amounts of live-action programming. The erosion of support for creator-driven animation happened gradually but surely, and today networks clearly prefer established properties over original ideas, and dislike dealing with individual artists who have a clear creative vision.

Nobody denies that the Hub’s shows will perform well and fulfill the programming needs of the network. But then again, nobody suggested that Smurfs, Snorks and Pound Puppies wouldn’t do well in the 1980s either. The reason that creators like John Kricfalusi, Matt Groening, Mike Judge, John Dilworth, Craig McCracken, Genndy Tartakovsky, Danny Antonucci, Bruce Timm, Trey Parker, and Matt Stone stepped up to the plate originally wasn’t because animation was performing poorly. It was because these artists had a vision for the art form that was more inspired, more vital and more consistently creative than those of executives like Loesch; they aspired to create BETTER cartoons instead of simply acquiescing to committee-driven mandates that underutilized their skill and talent.

The creator-driven mentality stubbornly exists among a group of hold-outs and idealists (Pen Ward’s Adventure Time, Devin Clark’s Ugly Americans, Christy Karacas’ Superjail! to name a few), but their numbers will continue to shrink in the coming years. As TV audiences become more fragmented, and advertisers shift ad dollars away from TV, networks will increasingly rely on worn but reliable formulas. They will demand only the surest bets–Looney Tunes revivals, TV series based on feature film characters (The Penguins of Madagascar is already on Nick and Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness is coming soon), shows based on live-action films (Napoleon Dynamite is headed to Fox), and the toy-based ideas that comprise the largest portion of the Hub’s animation programming.

This paint-by-numbers approach to executive management guarantees consistency, but eliminates the rich rewards stemming from the breakout animation hits that defined the creator-driven era. It also explains why so many networks are still coasting on the fumes of their earlier creator-driven successes: this month, the eleven-year-old show SpongeBob Squarepants ranked as Nickelodeon’s top-rated program, thirteen-year-old South Park is still Comedy Central’s best known animation product, MTV is reviving its 1992 creation Beavis and Butt-head, and Fox would not have a Sunday evening if not for its two vintage juggernauts, The Simpsons and Family Guy, which have existed for a combined thirty years. To be totally clear too, these are not retro-fads–these shows have been successful since they first debuted, just as theatrical cartoon stars during animation’s Golden Age often enjoyed popularity over multiple generations.

Do networks and producers deserve to shoulder the blame entirely? That thought was on my mind as I read this quote recently by Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails describing his approach to creativity: “I really try to put myself in uncomfortable situations. Complacency is my enemy.” From my perspective, complacency and creative stagnation amongst creators of TV animation has been at the root of the problem.

During the past decade, too many creators compromised their vision to get shows onto air, and too many creators didn’t take advantage of the opportunity once they had shows. In the early-’90s, creators held the attitude that they had been given a once-in-a-lifetime chance to write their own ticket, and they were going to use the moment to make the most amazing cartoon series possible. That vision turned blurrier in recent years. Selling a show became in and of itself a symbol of accomplishment among a subsequent generation of self-satisfied artists whose shows consistently failed to entertain audiences.

There’s an upside to all of this. As one era wraps up, I believe we are entering a new (and even more exciting) period–that of the independent, multi-platform artist. The entire concept of creator-driven is redundant at a time when digital technology has made animation production accessible to all. Everybody creates equally today; for something to not be creator-driven is the anomaly. People make entire Web animated series from the comfort of their bedroom and become famous for it.

As more artists choose animation as a career, they will find themselves unattached to specific distribution formats as in the past. Fewer artists in the future will say, “I want to work in TV animation,” or “My goal is features.” These mindsets belong to a bygone time when television and theaters held a disproportionate sway over other modes of content distribution.

Today’s artist has become as fluid and fragmented as the art form itself. An artist might work on a commercial one month, a TV show another, a Web cartoon series the next. And then comes an animated series for cell phones, a music video, a theatrical short, background visuals for a live performance, and an insert for a live-action documentary. The scene I’m describing is one that is undoubtedly familiar to East Coast animators and many artists working in Europe, and it is spreading.

This new breed of animation artist will pounce at an invitation to work on a TV series should it present itself, but they will not commit themself to a specific format at the expense of their artistic integrity. While everybody loves a steady paycheck, today’s artist can afford to be adventurous because there is more animation being produced than ever before and opportunities lie around every corner.

At the end of the day, TV animation isn’t going anywhere, and future Margaret Loesches will still find plenty of willing peons to fulfill their orders for extended toy commercials. But the overall trends are becoming more clear every day. Current market conditions and general conservatism in TV animation continue to erode the quality of series animation, especially content-wise. The creator-driven movement has all but flamed out, and few hit shows or perennial cartoon stars have emerged in the last five years. Most importantly, talented young artists are deserting TV as a full-time career option, not only because there are fewer promising opportunities for creators, but because the animation ecosystem beyond television is healthier and more diverse than ever before.

EXCLUSIVE: Brenda Chapman No Longer Directing Pixar’s “Brave”

Brave

Crazy rumors floating into our offices this afternoon from reliable sources. We hear that Brenda Chapman, the first woman director at Pixar, has left the studio and is no longer directing Brave (previously titled The Bear and the Bow). We hear that she was pushed aside from full directing a while back, and that story artist Mark Andrews (who also co-directed the Pixar short One Man Band) has taken over directorial duties. We understand that the change officially happened last week, although it had been inevitable for some time.

These type of directorial shake-ups happen so frequently at other feature animation studios that they hardly merit reporting, but this holds special significance because Chapman was slated to be the first woman director at Pixar after twelve straight features directed by men. By contrast, Sony Pictures Animation had a woman director on its first feature (Jill Culton on Open Season) and DreamWorks had a woman director on its second feature–The Prince of Egypt. Who was the DreamWorks woman director? Brenda Chapman.

UPDATE #2: On October 20, the NY Times confirmed our report that Brenda Chapman has been replaced as director of Brave by Mark Andrews. However, the Times says that contrary to our original report, Chapman “remains on staff at Pixar.”

UPDATE: Pocahontas director Mike Gabriel posted in the comments below using his own name. His comment is worth featuring here too. He writes:

Brenda is a class act. A beautiful soul. A star talent in the industry who continues to inspire, more so in adversity than a smooth ride. The Brave release is heartbreaking from the outside but maybe a blessing from the inside. You never know.

Animation Ads

John McElwee’s movie blog is always a must-read if you are a lover of classic movies. He’s done several vital posts about classic theatrical cartoons in the past, but his latest piece is one of my favorites. He’s discussing how classic shorts of the 30s and 40s were advertised to the public, posting vintage newspaper ads that promote the cartoons as enthusiastically as the main features. Disney cartoons were always a draw, and Popeye was a bona fide star. But who knew there were press materials to support Tex Avery cartoons? Part 1 of McElwee’s research is now online. Read it.

Columbia Classics

Following in the footsteps of Warner Home Video and Universal Pictures, Sony has started a new Columbia Classics archive program, making available dozens of old movies previously unavailable on DVD. For animation fans, this could be a gold mine… emphasis on the word “could”.

The studio is sitting vivid masters of all their UPA cartoons, and their libraries of Charles Mintz Scrappy, Krazy Kat and Color Rhapsodies are all restored. The 1940s Screen Gems cartoon shorts they hold include rarely seen work by Frank Tashlin, Dave Fleischer and John Hubley, with characters such as The Fox & Crow, Li’l Abner and Tito & Burrito. Columbia also has several independent works, such as Mel Brooks’ Oscar winning The Critic and anime features like Jack and The Beanstalk (1974).

The studio is taking requests on what they should offer through this program. I’d like to encourage our readers to check out the site and offer some suggestions. The Columbia cartoon library has been neglected for far too long. This might just be the opportunity we’ve been waiting for to unlock the vault.

Toronto Cop Sues YouTube Because He Doesn’t Like Animation

Constable Adam Josephs, whose nickname has become “Officer Bubbles” after he was filmed harassing and threatening a woman for blowing bubbles (see video above), is now suing YouTube claiming that he’s the victim. What’s the cause of harassment? Animation.

Apparently, a filmmaker posted animated videos on YouTube that satirically depict Josephs abusing his power in other ways besides blowing up over bubbles. According to an article in the Globe and Mail:

In his statement of claim, Constable Josephs alleges the cartoons have subjected him to ridicule, and have resulted in threats against himself and his family. He also seeks to compel YouTube to reveal the identities of the person who created and posted the cartoon — identified by the moniker “ThePMOCanada” — and the identities of several people who posted comments in response.

The animations in question depict a policeman identified as “A. Josephs” arresting various people — including Barack Obama and Santa Claus — and beating up a news photographer while funk music plays in the background.

The YouTube account has already been shut down and the videos have been removed from their site. Whether YouTube or the maker of the films removed them, I find the situation to be unfortunate. The type of social commentary in those animated films should never be silenced under threat, and YouTube’s decision to cave in to an irrational lawsuit sends a chilling message to animators and political cartoonists who post their work onto the site.

In the 1800s, cartoonists like Honoré Daumier in France and José Guadalupe Posada in Mexico were jailed for lampooning political figures. Those days were supposed to be long gone in civilized countries, but one police officer in Canada wants to keep persecuting artists and stifling artistic expression by threats of financial harm and judicial intimidation.

Constable Adam Josephs works in Toronto’s 52 Division. You can place a complaint over his bullying behavior with the 52′s Community Relations Officer Constable Michael Moffatt at (416) 808-5291.

UPDATE: Somebody posted all of the Officer Bubbles videos onto YouTube again. They were all created with a free on-line animation program called Go! Animate. Go Animate! has also removed all the Officer Bubbles videos from their site. Crude as the cartoons are, they are quite effective works of satire. We’ve previously reported about easy-to-use web animation software, and an incident like this will only bring more attention to the potential of such products and the continuing democratization of the animation process.

More cartoons after the jump:
Continue reading

5th Annual San Francisco International Animation Festival

SAN FRANCISCO FILM SOCIETY PRESENTS
FIFTH ANNUAL SAN FRANCISCO INTERNATIONAL ANIMATION FESTIVAL NOVEMBER 11—14, SPONSORED BY ESURANCE

San Francisco, CA — The San Francisco Film Society presents the fifth annual San Francisco International Animation Festival (SFIAF), a four-day celebration of the Bay Area’s preeminence as a hub for one of the most creative forms in cinema, November 11—14 at Landmark’s Embarcadero Center Cinema. This year’s International Animation Festival ranges from FX-based features to family-friendly cartoons and includes Hayao Miyazaki protégé Sunao Katabuchi’s Mai Mai Miracle, the Decemberists-inspired Here Come the Waves: The Hazards of Love Visualized, six wildly diverse shorts programs and a live animation and musical performance by artist duo Semiconductor.

“SFIAF explores the many forms of animation as both an artistic practice and a mode of production,” said programmer Sean Uyehara. “Each year it’s exciting to discover and present a range of work from established artists such as anime director Sunao Katabuchi and this year’s Golden Gate Persistence of Vision Award recipient Don Hertzfeldt to works by emerging talents such as Brent Green and Skye Thorstensen to the unique work of the innovative duo Semiconductor.”

For complete program information, visit sffs.org/Screenings-and-Events

Thursday, November 11 Opening Night

7:30 pm Here Come the Waves: The Hazards of Love Visualized
Peter Sluszka, Julia Pott, Guilherme Marcondes, Santa Maria (USA/England 2009)
One of the most acclaimed albums of 2009, the Decemberists’ The Hazards of Love is an epic song cycle that the band has played to sold-out audiences all over the world. Inspired by the album’s heft and range, four animators with widely different approaches have created original films that together visualize the album in its entirety. Each work in this four-part series bears a unique aesthetic approach to the material and, like the album itself, communicates the joys and sorrows of being open to the world. Each psychedelic section, with techniques ranging from stop motion to CGI to hand-drawn illustration, seamlessly and breathlessly explores themes of beauty, angst and foreboding. 60 min, Hornet Flux, Capitol Records.

9:00 pm Opening Night Party with Peruvian hors d’oeuvres, complimentary beverages and gorgeous waterfront views at La Mar Cebichería Peruana at Pier 1_ on the Embarcadero.

9:30 pm Jackboots on Whitehall North American Premiere
Edward McHenry, Rory McHenry (England 2010)
Some questions just need to be posed: Does God exist? Are we alone in the universe? Will Lindsay Lohan ever pass a drug test? Yes, these are the conundrums that puzzle mankind. Still, perhaps no query is more urgent than this one: What would have happened if the Nazis had invaded England and occupied Buckingham Palace? Fortunately, this audacious puppet farce–made in glorious Panzervision–has arrived to satisfy our burning curiosity. Towering figures from the WWII era–Himmler, Goering, Goebbels, Churchill and, oh yes, Hitler–are all on hand to lend this highly imaginative film an air of authenticity. Voiced by notables such as Ewan McGregor, Alan Cumming, Richard E. Grant and Tom Wilkinson and employing a painstaking fusion of puppetry and CGI, Jackboots on Whitehall makes an absurd–and brilliant–statement. Written by Edward McHenry, Rory McHenry. Photographed by Michael Connor. With Ewan McGregor, Tom Wilkinson, Alan Cumming, Rosamund Pike, Richard E. Grant. 78 min, Media 8 Entertainment.

Friday, November 12
7:00 pm The Best of Annecy

The Annecy International Animation Film Festival is widely regarded as the most important festival for animation in Europe. SFIAF is pleased to once again present a selection of the best shorts to have appeared in Annecy this year. TRT 69 min.
Angry Man Some secrets should remain secret (Anita Killi, Norway 2009, 20 min); Don’t Go You can’t see everything, like a cat’s best friends for instance (Turgut Akacik, Turkey 2010, 4 min); I Forgive You Two wrestlers have a fight and forgive themselves (Pierre Mousquet, Cauwe Jérôme, Belgium 2009, 5 min); Jean-François Jean-François is a swimming champion nostalgic for his childhood spent beside the sea (Tom Haugomat, Bruno Mangyoku, France 2009, 6 min); Lebensader A girl finds the entire world in a leaf (Angela Steffen, Germany 2009, 6 min); The Lost Thing Bring a strange creature home from the beach and see if anybody notices. (Andrew Ruhemann, Shaun Tan, Australia 2010, 16 min); Love & Theft “And I’m still carrying the gift you gave, it’s a part of me now, it’s been cherished and saved, it’ll be with me unto the grave, and then unto eternity” (Andreas Hykade, Germany 2009, 7 min).

9:00 pm Johnny Ray and Skye: Channel Drift
Directors in person
Luminaries, artists, men about town. Johnny Ray Huston and Skye Thorstensen are two creative thinkers and personalities that help to make San Francisco a wonderful place to live. They also love animation in its many different guises. While this collection barely treads the surface of their myriad interests in the genre, it is still guaranteed to blow your mind. With experimental work and narratives, fine art and commercials, content culled from the vast reaches of the Web and some 35mm gems, this is a truly fun and eclectic program that has its share of beauty and head-scratchers. Alien abduction, Second Life, particle physics, cat food and salsa are just a few of the bases that will be covered. TRT 85 min. Includes ????? (David O’Reilly, Ireland, 1 min); Abductees (Paul Vester, England, 11 min); Adventureland (Jannes Hendrikz, Ree Treweek, USA/England/South Africa 2010, 1 min); And Then There Was Salsa (USA 2010, 1 min); Animal Companions (Ruth Gómez, Mexico, 5 min); Asparagus (Suzan Pitt, USA, 20 min); A Day Too Long (Sonny Lucarato, USA, 3 min); Energie! (Thorsten Fleisch, Germany, 5 min); The Flame and the Fantastic Flood (USA, 1 min); A Glimpse of Paradise (Samara Halperin, USA, 3 min); Hard Hat Required (Samara Halperin, USA, 3 min); Kool-Aid Man in Second Life (Jon Rafman, USA 2010, 4 min); Light Is Waiting (Michael Robinson, USA, 11 min); Light My Fire: The Story of the Doors (David Enos, USA 2005, 4 min); Liten Gyger (Keturah Cummings, USA 2006, 6 min); Plastic Fantastic #1 (Samara Halperin, USA, 1 min); Seeking to Destroy Families and Faith (Katie Bush, USA 2010, 5 min); WOFL (David O’Reilly, Ireland, 4 min).

Saturday, November 13
12:00 pm Mai Mai Miracle

Sunao Katabuchi (Mai Mai Shinko to sennen no maho, Japan, 2009)
A story about two teenage girls, Mai Mai Miracle delicately captures the strange wonder that accompanies one’s transition into adulthood. A protégé of Hayao Miyazaki and assistant director on Kiki’s Delivery Service, Sunao Katabuchi strongly echoes his mentor in this finely crafted anime. Third grader Mai Mai passes time in her small town daydreaming about the world a thousand years before. She has an imaginary friend there–Nagiko–who introduces her to a simple daily life. When a shy newcomer named Kiiko arrives in Mai Mai’s town and joins her class, Mai Mai tries in vain to befriend her. Eventually, the girls develop a bond and set off on a number of adventures, one that may even transport them back in time to help Nagiko. Written by Sunao Kutabuchi. Photographed by Yukihiro Masumoto. With Mayuko Fukuda, Nako Mizusawa, Ei Morisako, Manami Honjo. 95 min, Shochiku. Recommended for ages eight and up.

2:30 pm What You Want and What You Need
Director in person
“I do not want what I have not got” may work for Sinéad O’Connor, but most of us still function–or dysfunction–merely as a means to feed our desires. These are just a few examples of that perilous activity called yearning. TRT 77 min.
Barking Island In 1910 Constantinople, there was a decision to eradicate the dog population through deportation to Barking Island (Serge Avedikian, France 2010, 15 min); The Cow Who Wanted to Be a Hamburger A children’s fable about the power of advertising, the meaning of life and ultimately the test of a mother’s love (Bill Plympton, USA 2010, 6 min); Flawed A story that is less about whether girl can get along with boy than whether girl can accept herself, imperfections and all (Andrea Dorfman, Canada 2010, 13 min); Fred Fred is always in rehearsal for retirement (Misha Klein, USA 2010, 7 min); The Light of Life Life is transparent, warm and swirls randomly like a soft light (Daihei Shibata, Japan 2009, 5 min); A New Life! Racked by migraines, a man’s luck begins to change as he experiences new and fantastic sensations (Fred Joyeux, France 2009, 4 min); Orsolya Orsolya discovers a change in her body and must figure out what to do next (Bella Szederkényi, Hungary 2009, 8 min); StoryCorps: Danny and Annie, Parts 1 and 2 StoryCorps takes real stories and animates them for public television (Mike Rauch, Tim Rauch, USA 2010, 6 min); StoryCorps: Q&A (Mike Rauch, Tim Rauch, USA 2009, 4 min); When Herzog Rescued Phoenix Herzog happens upon Joaquin Phoenix at a car crash and tells him to “Be cool, man” (Sascha Ciezata, USA 2010, 3 min); The Woman Who Stole Fingers Are you using these? (Saori Shiroki, Japan, 6 min).

4:30 pm Good Night and Good Luck
Director in person
These shorts are real and imagined journeys–inward, outward, some funny, some painful, all animated. Go your own way. In fact, you must. TRT 80 min.
The Formation of Clouds In the midst of physical transformation, a young girl experiences the moment when one is neither a child nor exactly an adult (Marie-Hélène Turcotte, Canada 2010, 10 min); I Am Simon It’s all fun and games for Simon and his friends, until one of them is injured (Tunde Molnar, Hungary, 10 min); Lipsett Diaries The anxieties of the famous experimental Canadian director Arthur Lipsett, who died at the age of 49 (Theodore Ushev, Canada 2010, 15 min); Mobile The cow just wants some love like anyone else (Verena Fels, Germany 2010, 7 min); Muto Community animation writ large! (Blu, Brazil 2010, 8 min); Russian Mind Just when you get it, it’s gone again (Nate Boyce, USA 2010, 6 min); Topi Amidst the turbulent partition of India circa 1947, a young Hindu boy has a chance encounter with a stranger (Arjun Rihan, USA/India 2009, 6 min); The Trembling Veil of Bones Inside a darkened studio filled with the sounds of ticking gears and cogs sits a solitary clockmaker named Bones (Matthew Talbot-Kelly, Iceland/Canada 2010, 13 min); Wisdom Teeth Post-oral surgery hijinks! (Don Hertzfeldt, USA 2010, 5 min).

7:20 pm Semiconductor: Forward Looking Back
Directors in person
Exploring their nearly 15-year-long collaboration, this program presents both a retrospective and a glimpse of the current and future projects of one of the most fascinating duos in the world of animation: Semiconductor. Comprised of artists Ruth Jarman and Joe Gerhardt, Semiconductor has long been innovating the field of live cinema with their uses of specially developed algorithms, transposition of sound into image and innovations in virtual camera use. The common thread that runs through all of their work–whether moving image or sound and multimedia installations–is an extended examination of the material nature of our world and an investigation into how we experience it. This wide-ranging program offers works selected from Semiconductor’s long collaboration, including films born from their residencies, live cinema performance and new initiatives in their ongoing quest to visualize science.

9:45 pm Play It by Eye
Director in person
Each year, SFIAF presents a program of recent animated music videos. This time around there is a special focus on a phenomenon so confusing that it’s being kept secret until showtime. A hint: f**king magnets. How do they work? TRT 68 min.
Chairlift: Evident Utensil (Ray Tintori, USA 2010, 4 min); Darwin Deez: Radar Detector (Ace Norton, England 4 min); Das Racist: Who’s That? Brooown! (Thomas de Napoli, USA 2010, 4 min); Gorillaz: Stylo (Jamie Hewlett, Pete Candeland, England 2010, 5 min); The Gossip: Pop Goes the World (Philip Andelman, USA, 4 min); Grizzly Bear: Two Weeks (Patrick Daughters, The Mill LA, USA 2009, 5 min); Knalpot: Casio Halbzeit (Martha Colburn, USA, 4 min); Myles Cooper: Gonna Find Boyfriends Today (Skye Thorstensen, USA 2010, 4 min); Paul Oakenfold: Starry Eyed Surprise (Honey, England, 4 min); Rage Against the Machine: Guerrilla Radio (Honey, USA, 4 min); Mark Ronson: Bang, Bang, Bang (Warren Fu, England, 6 min).

Sunday, November 14
11:00 am Near and Far… and Animals

Suitable for adults and children alike, this shorts program probes some of the consequences of being near . . . or far. From humor to sadness to wonder, with plenty of animals. TRT 64 min. Recommended for all ages.
Cours Toujours Wicked scooter riding and music! (Olivier Barré, Elise Garcette, France 2010, 2 min); Dyslexia A decaying alphabet gives way to one monosyllabic word: No (Gabriele Gianni, Italy 2009, 5 min); The Gruffalo The tale of a plucky mouse who must use his wits to foil three dangerous predators: a fox, an owl and a snake (Jakob Schuh, Max Lang, France 2009, 27 min); Komaneko’s Christmas “A Lost Present” Koma’s parent won’t be home for Christmas, spurring a barrage of confusing emotions (Tsuneo Goda, Japan 2009, 20 min); The Legend of Geb and Nut The story of the earth falling in love with the sky (Laura Ratta, England 2010, 3 min); Mobile At the edge of society, a cow tips the balance of destiny with some serious impact. Moo! (Verena Fels, Germany 2010, 7 min).

12:45 pm The Best of Annecy see 11/12

2:30 pm Gravity Was Everywhere Back Then
Director in person
Brent Green (USA 2009)
From the unlikeliest of true stories comes this staggering, emotional achievement by Brent Green. Leonard tried to save the love of his life from cancer by building a home that stretched toward the heavens. In homage to Leonard, director Brent Green rebuilt the structure to scale in his own backyard and employed it as a set for the creation of this singular live action/animation hybrid film. Green recounts the love story as an ode to Leonard and as an inquiry into the source of faith, hope and redemption. While Green pays homage to Leonard’s hopeful quest, his ultimate reverence is reserved for the visionary art that Leonard left behind. Written by Brent Green, Donna K., Michael McGinley. Photographed by Brent Green, Jem Cohen, Pete Sillen, Jake Sillen, Holli Hopkins, Donna K. With Michael McGinley, Donna K. 80 min, Nervous Films.

SFIAF Online Screening Room
Presented by Esurance
For the first time, audiences will have the opportunity to view a selection of shorts included in SFIAF online beginning November 1. The screening room will give viewers a chance to visit the Festival virtually and sample the shorts programs. Visit sffs.org/Screenings-and-Events/Fall-Season/SF-Intl-Animation-Festival.

Film tickets $10.00 year-round SFFS members, $12.50 general, $11.00 seniors, students and persons with disabilities; Opening Night film and party $15.00 year-round SFFS members, $20.00 general; Fall Season CineVoucher 10-Packs $90.00 year-round SFFS members, $115.00 general; Fall Season CineVisa $400.00 year-round SFFS members only. Box office opens October12 for members and October 19 for the general public: online at sffs.org, by calling 925-866-9559 or by faxing 925-866-9597.

Weekend Brew Review

For some unknown reason, people are always asking me for advice on pitching a series or getting a job in animation. If I knew how to do those things, I’d have a series on the air or a job in animation myself. Thankfully David B. Levy has written the two most important books on pitching, developing and working in animation production I’ve ever read: Your Career in Animation and Animation Development. They are not only great reads, they are must-reads. Dave has been there, done that and he tells the truth. His writing style is warm and comfortable. His texts always tell it like it is. His third book has just come out and its another essential volume. Directing Animation not only draws upon his own considerable experiences in the industry, but relates a lifetime of lessons learned by animation veterans, cartoon creators and independent animators from Levy’s extensive interviews. He explains the differences between directing TV series, commercials, independent shorts, webtoons and features, going over all the details and pitfalls, in ways anyone – even a network executive – will understand. Highly recommended — even if you already have a job and are successfully directing, this is a book you should have on your shelf.


I haven’t picked up any of the previous volumes in the Disney Archive Series, but the Disney Book Group graciously sent me a copy of their latest one, on Design, and its absolutely gorgeous. It’s 256 glossy oversized pages filled with select pieces of pre-production art from just about every Disney feature (from Snow White to Tangled), several 1930s shorts and even from the Disneyland TV show. It’s beautifully curated with choice examples from the greatest talents in the studio’s history: Tenggren, Mary Blair, Marc Davis, Eyvind Earle, Mel Shaw and on and on… These books can be enjoyed simply for the art collected within, but more importantly they serve as an invaluable inspiration for animation artists working today and for generations of artists to come. For that alone, Walt Disney Animation Studios, The Archive Series: Design is highly recommended.

“The Big Winner” by Greg Sharp

Last month I wrote about a new studio in Melbourne called Rubber House which I thought was doing some fun and creative drawn character animation. The studio is run by Ivan Dixon and Gregory Sharp, and one of their former colleagues, Gavin MouldeyA, alerted me to a new piece they just completed called The Big Winner.

Directed by Sharp, and animated by both Sharp and Dixon, the film is barely more than a conceptual gag, but one that is done extremely well. I particularly like the character’s design transformation from sharp angles to bulbous, rounded forms.

CREDITS
Director: Gregory Sharp
Animators: Ivan Dixon and Gregory Sharp
Sound Design: James Brown
Producer: Ivan Dixon

“Playing With Light” by Louis Thomas and Theo Guignard

So what did you do on your summer vacation? Louis Thomas, a second year animation student from Gobelins, made Playing With Light with his friend Theo Guignard over the summer, during their two month work placement at Cube Creative in Paris.

The pair did all pre-production, storyboards, layout, animation, backgrounds and colors. In fact, if they gave awards for use of color, this short film would be a strong contender for a top prize. I asked Thomas about how the film came together. He graciously wrote back with this:

“Madeline Peirsman helped us a lot on pre compositing (colors in photoshop). Then came Benjamin Moreau for the compositing during 3 weeks. We worked with the sound designer who also made the music, Adrien Caslis, because we wanted to have a sort of clip or a short film with a stronger impact due of the corelation between music and visuals…

“We also had a lot of advice from the professionals at “Cube” from the storyboard to the render, color script… We worked in 2D, animation on paper, then scaned and colors in photoshop…we made all the compositing in after effects and some miscellaneous animation (fishes, jellyfish and special effects) on flash.”

Superb Episode of “Adventure Time” Leads Off 2nd Season

“It Came from the Nightosphere!” is an exceptional episode of Cartoon Network’s Adventure Time that combines inventive drawing and animation with funny, heartfelt storytelling. It aired last Monday, which was the show’s second season premiere. Writing and storyboarding duties belonged to Adam Muto and Rebecca Sugar, while the story is credited to Merriwether Williams, Steve Little, Patrick McHale, Pendleton Ward, and Thurop van Orman.

Rebecca, who created the student film Singles and first appeared on Cartoon Brew in October 2007 at the precocious age of twenty, also composed Marceline’s song which is heard in the episode. You can listen to the original version on her blog. Also, be sure and see these incredible drawings of Marceline made by her. She provided a few details about the episode on her blog:

I wrote a song for this episode, Marceline sings it at the beginning while Finn beatboxes. When Pen pitched this storyboard to CN, he beatboxed as Finn and I played the music on a uke and sang as Marceline. It was super terrifying, my first network pitch.

I also did all the monster stuff at the end! Adam Muto did all the meat in the middle! Generally, in our episodes, anything that is actually witty was done by Adam. I’m usually responsible for sex jokes and violence.

Also, just for fun, here’s Sneezy, a short animation piece that Adam created with Pen Ward a few years back. The stylistic evolution and growth from Sneezy to Adventure Time is fascinating to watch:

“Pillow Peter” by Nigel Clark

Pillow Peter is a junior year film made by Nigel Clark at the School of Visual Arts in New York. It’s an eccentrically drawn film about an eccentric boy who loves pillows. The droll storybook narration works perfectly as does the short’s gentle tone, which masks the heartbreak beneath the surface. Share your thoughts on the film here.

CBTV Student Fest 9: “Pillow Peter”

Pillow Peter is a junior year film made by Nigel Clark at the School of Visual Arts in New York. It’s an eccentrically drawn film about an eccentric boy who loves pillows. The droll storybook narration works perfectly as does the short’s gentle tone, which masks the heartbreak beneath the surface.

Nigel, who’ll be answering questions in the comments, made these observations about his film:

Pillow Peter starts out happy and then gets sad, very very sad. I hope you find it funny when Pillow Peter is happy; I also hope you find it funny when Pillow Peter is sad. If you cannot do that for me, I hope that you can at least find it sad when he is happy and sad when he is sad. Actually it would be even better if you find it happy and sad when he is happy and when he is sad, and then you could get hungry or something.

Aside for having once been a small boy, I have known a catholicity of small boys. This has lead me to an understanding. Small boys (and girls) don’t realize what is going on out there in that big wacky world of ours. Eventually most of these small people experience experiences that educate them as to what is out there. This painful education process may be more or less extreme than what Pillow Peter experiences, but regardless, the experience or experiences remove something from them. I am not sure if that something is innocence or naivety but what ever it is, it is irretrievable.

Filmmaker website: NigelDClark.blogspot.com

Lost Disney “Laugh-O-Grams” at MoMA

I’m not sure even Disney knows about this… Thanks to animation historians David Gerstein and Cole Johnson, The Museum of Modern Art has just finished restoring two lost Laugh-O-Grams cartoons they had long held in their archives, previously misidentified under alternate titles. International animation archivist Serge Bromberg (Lobster Films) is going to host a showing of the new prints on Halloween, Sunday October 31st at 2pm.

Cole Johnson located Goldie Locks and The Three Bears at MoMA under a 1929 sound reissue title “The Peroxide Kid” and Gerstein recently identified the lost Jack The Giant Killer, which the Museum had under the name “The K-O Kid”.

In addition to the two new discoveries, newly preserved and restored prints of Little Red Riding Hood, Puss In Boots and The Four Musicians Of Bremen will be screened at MoMA along with Disney’s original 1921 Laugh-O-Gram sample reel and several Ub Iwerks cartoons – Flip the Frog in Techno-Cracked (1933) and the ComicColor Don Quixote (1934).

Bromberg is coming in from Europe for MoMA’s annual To Save and Project festival to introduce the Laugh-O-Grams screening and provide piano accompaniment. The program will repeat only one more time, later that week, on November 4 at 4:30pm.

The two Laugh-O-Grams not being screened, Cinderella and Jack and The Beanstalk, are not held by MoMA. Beanstalk was also long considered lost, but has also been discovered by Gerstein in a private collection. This means that all seven 1922 Disney Laugh-O-Grams fairy tales – Holy Grails to Disney historians – are now known to exist.

For more background information on this incredible find, read David Gerstein’s blog for the full story.

Mickey Mash Up

Is this what Pluto or Minnie might see if they dropped some acid at Disneyland?

Nope. It’s just some more Disney merchandising goodness…this time from Hong Kong. It seems once a year we do a post featuring some way-out, way-off model Mickey Mouse vinyl toys produced by some country in Europe or the Far East. This time it’s from Bloc28 by Disney in China, based on designs from Japanese graffiti artist Suiko.

Who needs drugs with toys like these?

(Thanks, Jupey Krusho)

Thank You to our October Site Sponsors

We wanted to take a moment to thank the companies that have chosen to advertise on Cartoon Brew this month. Without their support, we wouldn’t be able to devote nearly the time and energy that we do to keeping this site growing and updated.

We make a sincere effort to partner with companies and organizations that provide quality products and services that are relevant to readers of the Brew, and we encourage you to visit and support these companies. If you want your company represented as an advertiser, please contact our friendly ad rep, Reachout Media.

October 2010 Cartoon Brew Advertisers
Animation Mentor

Pixar (job recruitment)

Chronicle Books

CTN Animation Expo

Ottawa International Animation Festival

Schoolism

Stuart Ng Books

AVA Books

Van Eaton Galleries

Cafe 615… Home of “Da Wabbit!”

We usually don’t do resturant reviews… but when a roadhouse eatery has a sign like this we can’t help but check it out. Way down yonder in New Orleans, in Gretna (near Terrytown) is a restaurant called Da Wabbit Drive In. It opened in 1949 and is reputed to have the best fried chicken in town. Our southern correspondent, Uncle Wayne (Dagriepont), snapped this photo of its vintage signage and confirmed that the food was indeed delicious – and well worth the trip.

Da Wabbit was recently renovated and reopened in December 2009 as Cafe 615 (located at 615 Kepler Street), a neighborhood diner. Not much is known about the origins of this resturant’s name, but I’ll bet it was named after a certain ‘wascally wabbit’ – or my name isn’t Laramore (and it isn’t).