Season’s Greetings From a Few of My Favorite Animators

No one does Holiday Greetings better than those in animation. Here’s a few I received this year at Cartoon Brew headquarters:

First up, from my friend Andrew Kaiko:

From Hans Bacher:

From Xeth Feinberg:

From John Dilworth:

From my friends at Mukpuddy Animation:

Here’s a clever one from Matthias Hoegg, currently at Beakus in London, who was in our BrewTV Student Festival:

CLICK HERE and drag the glasses over the image.

And finally, from Gene Deitch and his lovely wife Zdenka in Prague:

POP QUIZ: Megamind Book Contest!

Insight Editions is giving our readers an incredible Christmas gift: an autographed copy their latest Dreamworks tie-in book, The Art of Megamind by Richard von Busack. The book, and the production art it showcases, is very cool. Sketches, paintings, storyboards and much more from names you should know like Tony Siruno, Craig Kellman, Andy Bialk, Kory Heinzen and Tim Lamb (and many others) fill the pages. Absolutely great stuff. What do you have to do win a free copy? The first five people to correctly answer the following Megamind question in the comments section below will get it (Dreamworks/PDI employees should refrain from answering).

Here’s the Question: What is the name of Megamind’s TV reporter girlfriend?

The contest is now CLOSED! Winners are listed in the comments section below. Thank you for your participation. To all those who didn’t win… buy the book, it’s one of the best “Art-Ofs” I’ve seen, and makes a great Christmas gift.

P.S. We no longer announce Cartoon Brew Pop Quiz Contests in advance. They will appear occasionally and mysteriously. The reason: we had server overloads the last few times we gave advance notice. So keep reading Cartoon Brew regularly for your chance to win free books and DVDs. You never know.

Tron Legacy talkback

Though not strictly an animated film, Tron Legacy certainly has its roots in animation and contains some incredible CG visuals. Yay or Nay? Should our readers go see it? Those who’ve screened it should post their reviews below.

Meanwhile, for those of you who need a Tron recap, check out the cardboard version below (originally posted here back in March 2008):

Henry Selick’s New Studio Cinderbiter Hiring Head of Story

New details have emerged about Henry Selick’s new San Francisco animation studio Cinderbiter Productions. A job recruitment post on CreativeHeads offered the following details:

Cinderbiter is a new stop-motion company whose mandate is to make great, scary films for young ‘uns with a small, tight-knit crew who watch each other’s backs. Joining Henry on Cinderbiter’s first production will be veteran team members Eric Leighton and the celebrated production designer, Lou Romano. That’s right — Lou Romano!

They’re currently hiring a head of story for their first project, titled Shademaker, and if you want to work alongside Lou Romano–that’s right, Lou Romano!–here are the the requirements:
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“Yogi Bear” talkback

“Yogi Bear” gives cheap hackwork a bad name”Michael Phillips, LA TIMES

“This mostly live-action film is a bland 21st-century family comedy without a single moment that captures the wit, energy or sophistication of the original, which by now dates back more than 50 years.”Mike Hale, NY TIMES

“Dumber than the average cartoon adaptation. Yogi Bear is a big boo-boo!”Claudia Puig, USA TODAY

The critics have had their way with Yogi Bear and we’ll miss bashing this film ourselves. So here, one last time, we open the commentary to those brave souls who actually screened this cinematic travesty. C’mon – someone reading this blog must have seen it. Tell us who you are – and what you thought.

“I’m A Monster” by Headless Productions

I had the pleasure of moderating a Q&A with Adrian Garcia, Alfredo Torres and Victor Maldonado of Headless Productions at the recent CTN Expo in Burbank. This Barcelona-based trio is fighting the good fight to revive hand drawn character animation in new exciting ways. Case in point: this test piece created for their latest project-in-development I’m A Monster. We sneaked this at CTN and I’ve been waiting for them to post it online to share with our readers worldwide – now, the wait is over. Someone, please, give these guys the money to make this movie:

Original “Rudolph” GE spots

Here’s a rare holiday treat. Someone posted the original GE commercials, the open and end titles from the original 1964 NBC airing of Rankin Bass’ Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer on YouTube. It’s a black and white kinescope featuring Santa’s Elves showing off the latest GE appliances, and some bonus shots of the voice cast to wish you Season’s Greetings. The unidentified actors pictured are Janis Orenstein (Clarice), Paul Kliegman (Donner and The Coach) and Paul Soles (Hermey), then Paul Soles, Billie Mae Richards (Rudolph), Carl Banas and Alfie Scopp (Charlie-In-The-Box).

(Thanks, Mike Nickel)

“We Got More” by Cyriak

UK-based Cyriak‘s path to stardom has been an odd one. He made his name by becoming a master of one of the least glamorous yet most challenging forms of animation–the animated GIF. Today, he’s making music videos and commercials. His latest is this video for Eskmo’s “We Got More.” I’m continually impressed by his ability to create hypnotically recursive animated patterns using only the most trivial live-action footage.

The Greatest Cartoons EVER!

For the past 10 years, animator/educator Frank Gladstone has presided over a very successful big-screen Three Stooges Festival each Thanksgiving weekend at the Alex Theatre in Glendale. Expanding on the idea of big-screen movie events, Gladstone and the Alex Film Society have decided to start an annual “Cartoon Hall of Fame” to screen each year, the day after Christmas.

I was asked to be a member of the selection committee, and I’m proud to say the inaugural presentation is shaping up to be a real event. The Greatest Cartoons Ever! on Sunday, December 26th, will screen studio vault prints of eight animated classics: The Rabbit of Seville (Bugs & Elmer), The Band Concert (Mickey Mouse), One Froggy Evening (Michigan J. Frog), Snow White (Betty Boop), Three Little Pigs, Duck Dodgers in the 24th and a half Century, Mechanical Monsters (Fleischer’s Superman) and a brand new restored print of Popeye The Sailor Meets Sindbad The Sailor – all projected as they were meant to be seen, on the big screen in 35mm.

It’s going to be a real celebration of classic cartoons. On-line tickets are available now for two shows, at 2pm and 7pm, and will also be available at the door – at the historic Alex Theatre, 216 North Brand Blvd. in Glendale. If you happen to be in Southern California for the holidays, join us!

How To Create Cartoons in Google Docs

As part of Google’s Demo Slam, a team of three artists created a piece of animation using the spreadsheet program Google Docs. Tu+ Uthaisri designed and directed the piece; Nam Doan and Arthur Metcalf animated the piece. Here’s a link to their source file (BIG!) if you want to see how they made it. It makes me smile to think that some day animation schools could be teaching students Google Docs instead of Flash.

Audiences Crave “Despicable” DVDs

Yesterday’s DVD release of Despicable Me was a smash hit and the film is on track to become the “second biggest-grossing animated home entertainment title of the year,” according to Universal Studios Home Entertainment. Its home video success is counter to the general trend in animated home video; The Hollywood Reporter writes that both Shrek Forever After and Toy Story 3 are underperforming on DVD.

This press release from Universal has more details about Despicable Me‘s first day sales:

Despicable Me made off with first-day sales on Blu-ray, DVD and digital download of nearly $25 million on December 14. Fueled by the exclusive debut of three all-new mini-movies on DVD Double Pack, Blu-ray Combo Pack and 3D Combo Pack starring the film’s wildly popular Minions, the mega-hit animated family comedy sold well over one million units to consumers (excluding rentals) in its first 24 hours of release and is poised to become the second biggest-grossing animated home entertainment title of the year.

Amazon is heavily pushing Despicable Me on its site, which is reflected in their sales rankings where Despicable Me currently holds three of the top ten slots, including number one. A screengrab of their sales rankings follows the jump.
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Jason Carpenter Talks About his Annie-Nominee “The Renter”

The Renter

I’m glad we haven’t compiled our year-end list of favorites yet because last weekend I encountered one of the best shorts I’ve seen in a long time: Jason Carpenter’s The Renter.

The film snuck up on me. I only learned about its existence after the filmmaker emailed me a few days ago inviting me to preview it on-line. The Renter is currently nominated for an Annie Award. It’s perhaps a long shot against formidable competitors that include big-budget CG shorts from Pixar and Warner Bros. and an entry from perennial indie Bill Plympton, but there’s no question in my mind which of the nominees is the most emotionally captivating, artistically innovative, and viscerally beautiful. The Renter is certainly the one that will remain with me for the longest time.

Before we proceed further, here’s the trailer:

The Renter transports viewers into a rustic American landscape. Water towers and farmhouses standing in stoic isolation, lonely stretches of two-lane roads, and trains inching across rolling fields are images that will feel instantly familiar to anyone who grew up in certain rural regions of the United States. This Americana backdrop frames a story about the often overwhelming experiences of childhood. Carpenter masterfully builds the tension in his dialogue-less film while subtly revealing his young character’s feelings and experiences. He avoids filmic cliches of heroes and villains instead focusing on the humanity of the story.

The animation style and background paintings in The Renter exhibit uncommon grace and spontaneity, all the more surprising considering the short was created entirely within the computer. Carpenter’s use of color, limited in palette but rich in tone and texture, is pure visual poetry. His expert use of cinematographic techniques (staging, pacing, match cuts, and light and shadow) conceal any hints that this is his first professional short.

I conducted an interview via e-mail with Jason earlier this week. We discussed the film’s long path to completion, his personal history, how he created the film, and how he supported himself financially while making the short.

AMID AMIDI: Tell us a little bit about yourself. Where are you from? Where did you go to school? I was surprised to read on the film’s site that this was your first film because it looks like you’ve been making them for years. Have you done a lot of animation before?

JASON CARPENTER: Well, let’s see . . . my name’s Jason, my brother calls me Breamis, and I grew up in Greensboro, NC. I went to undergrad at the College of Design at NC State and got a graduate degree in Experimental Animation from CalArts. Yeah, The Renter is my first film. I’ve worked professionally in animation for a while–for TV, other people’s films, theme parks, museums, and teaching–but this is the first film I’ve made all on my own.

AA: Was there any specific filmmaker or films that inspired you to pursue animation as a career?

JC: This might sound funny, but they were all painters. I couldn’t even name them all. Some of my favorites are Egon Schiele, Lucian Freud, Francis Bacon, David Hockney, Paula Rego, and the German Expressionists. I love image making and the texture of paint. I think I went into animation because I could make those paintings move.
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“The Apple” by George Dunning

Tonight, a rarity: The Apple won a BAFTA (British equivalent of the Oscars) in 1963. It was directed by Yellow Submarine director George Dunning, and designed by some guy named Richard Williams.

CREDITS (via Ephemeral Film’s YouTube page)
Studio: TVC (London)
Production and Direction: George Dunning
Idea and story: Stan Hayward
Design and Storyboard: Richard Williams
Animation: Tony Gearty, Mike Stuart, Alan Ball, Jack Stokes, Charlie Jenkins, George Dunning
Music: Ernst Naser
Camera: John Williams
Sound and Editing: Alex Rayment

Coming: SNAFU

One more plug for the forthcoming DVD collection I raved about in our recent Holiday Gift Guide. Here’s a sneak preview, below, courtesy of producer Steve Stanchfield. It’s a little overview of the Pvt. Snafu series, narrated by yours truly, one of the bonus features on Thunderbean Animation’s Private Snafu Golden Classics DVD set (pictured at left, cover art by Eric Goldberg). It features a title sequence animated by Mark Kausler (cleanup by Patrick Stannard and Stanchfield) and lots of clips of the restored cartoons contained on the disc. If you only buy one classic cartoon collection on DVD this year – this is the one to get!

“The Art of Tron: Legacy” by Justin Springer

Art of Tron Legacy

Has anybody seen The Art of Tron: Legacy? Is it worth purchasing? It looks like Disney Editions is copying Chronicle’s popular wide-rectangular ‘art of’ book format. The book sells for $26.40 on Amazon.

Excerpts from the catalog description:

The Art of Tron: Legacy is a view into not only the creation of the 2010 film, but will also contain never-before-seen looks at the design and creation of 1982’s original Tron. Written by co-producer Justin Springer, the book will spotlight the technical wizardry, imagination, artistry, and passion that brought this project to life. From concept art and designs, to profiles on the characters and the actors playing them, to on-set photography and visuals from the movie itself, every step of the film’s creation will be broken down and laid out for the reader. In addition, this title will also have a preface by Joseph Kosinski, the director of Tron Legacy; and a foreword by Steven Lisberger, the director of the original Tron and producer of Tron Legacy. The book will use special fluorescent inks to make the illuminated world of Tron come to life, and is sure to be a must-have coffee table edition for the holidays.

“Getting Ready For Christmas Day” by Jeff Scher

Brooklyn-based filmmaker Jeff Scher created this mixed-media music video for Paul Simon’s “Getting Ready For Christmas Day.” The quirky assortment of visuals don’t match the rhythms of the song very well, but they do graphically complement Simon’s lyrics, which touch on subjects like the tough economy and American soldiers fighting overseas during the holidays. Simon’s vocals are interwoven with recordings of pre-WWII Christian preacher Reverend J.M. Gates.

Full song lyrics after the jump:
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