AWARDS WATCH: Writers Guild animation nominees

The Writers Guild of America, West and the Writers Guild of America, East have announced nominations for outstanding achievement in animation during the 2010 season.

ANIMATION — any length

“Lrrreconcilable Ndndifferences” (Futurama), Written by Patric M. Verrone; Comedy Central

“Moe Letter Blues” (The Simpsons), Written by Stephanie Gillis; Fox

“O Brother, Where Bart Thou?” (The Simpsons), Written by Matt Selman; Fox

“The Prisoner of Brenda” (Futurama), Written by Ken Keeler; Comedy Central

“Treasure Hunt” (Back at the Barnyard), Written by Tom Sheppard; Nickelodeon

The 2011 Writers Guild Awards will be held simultaneously at the Renaissance Hollywood Hotel in Los Angeles and the AXA Equitable Center in New York City on Saturday, February 5, 2011.

“The Pitch (Hanukkah vs. Christmas)” by Alex Salsberg

Alex Salsberg, a 2008 grad of Rochester Institute of Technology and current co-owner of Boston’s PokeGravy Studios, created this hilarious short that envisions what would happen if holidays had to be approved in a corporate boardroom like everything else nowadays. The art and animation is crude but funny as hell, and the voices made me laugh out loud.

“Meet Buck” by Team Cerf

Here’s a new film from Team Cerf, a group of animation students who recently graduated from the French animation school Supinfocom:

Buck is an ordinary guy. Well…except the “deer head” thing. And today, Buck is gonna spend this cool Sunday afternoon with his girlfriend who’s so happy to see him (she’s pretty much always happy). But when Buck find out that her father is not the sympathetic and tolerant guy he expected, the Sunday afternoon turns really bad.

Although not made by the same group of artists, the film is connected to an earlier short we plugged on Cartoon Brew called Salesman Pete.

Directed by Denis Bouyer, Yann De Preval, Vincent E Sousa and Laurent Monneron

Sound Design by Julien Begault

Music by Yannis Dumoutiers and Mickaël Védrine

French animated STD film from 1918

Your history lesson for today: Europa Film Archives is a gold mine – posting dozens of rare cinematic treasures from various European archives, including many obscure animated shorts. Lobster Films donated this one: a 1918 syphilis prevention film, On doit le dire (You Have To Say It). It’s quite effective in communicating its message – and its cut-out technique holds up rather well. It was animated by Marius Rossillon (aka O’Galop), creator of the “Michelin Man“!

Check it out here.

(Thanks, Floyd Bishop)

“The Forbidden Forest” by Keith Rondinelli

Creepy and atmospheric animation is hard to pull off, but Keith Rondinelli does it with style in his dark and hallucinatory short The Forbidden Forest. To fully appreciate its visual design, watch the HD version on Vimeo and put on your headphones because the sound design adds a lot to the mood. Intentional or not, the film has a Run Wrake influence, but that may be an inevitable comparison for any filmmaker who manipulates antique imagery in After Effects. Keith’s film goes beyond mere imitation by creating a rich and immersive three-dimensional world for its flat cut-out heroine to navigate.

Rondinelli directed, animated, scored and edited this film by himself over a period of six months inbetween client work at Woodhouse, an Ann Arbor, Michigan-based creative services studio where he is co-founder and chief creative director. I asked him to share some details about the production of The Forbidden Forest:

The Forbidden Forest is inspired by the work of Arthur Machen, who was a Welsh writer of supernatural fiction from the late 19th and early 20th century, specifically his classic tale “The White People”. I’m also a big fan of 1960s and 1970s animation and cinema, so the impetus for the piece was an attempt to marry the feel of Arthur Machen with movies such as René Laloux’s Fantastic Planet, Robin Hardy’s The Wicker Man, and the films of Stanley Kubrick, namely 2001: A Space Odyssey and The Shining.

Outsider art is another longtime love of mine, and I wanted the piece to somehow fuse a 60s/70s widescreen cinematic language with the strange, obsessive imperfectness of outsider artists such as Henry Darger and Adolf Wolfli. The collage-like aesthetic was achieved by a lengthy process of scanning antique imagery from old books and obtaining it from online and other sources, colorizing and color-correcting, and then assembling and animating the elements in Adobe After Effects. The piece was edited in Adobe Premiere, and scored by myself using Apple’s Logic Pro.

Visit the official film website.

New York Animation: 2010 Year in Review

New Years

It’s not quite the end of 2010, but ASIFA-East president David Levy has already compiled a post about 2010 New York animation highlights. It’s a fine checklist of many major events that happened in New York during 2010. The list is done from a personal point of view so there are omissions obviously, notably from New York’s VFX and CG community, which comprises a large portion of the city’s animated output.

Temple Rider

This incredibly surreal Cantonese animated film was uploaded yesterday by Hong Kong-based studio Simage Animation & Media. Temple Rider is fairly easy to understand without subtitles – and absolutely beautiful to look at. According to the studio, “the girl in our story (Yan) is a reflection of the new generation in Hong Kong. She is very protective by her family and does not even have the guts to ride on a two-wheel bicycle. One day, she finds a magic temple and her new challenge begins.”

(Thanks, Al Young at Twitchfilm)

“Keenan at Sea” by David Cowles and Jeremy Galante

This cute music video, Keenan at Sea, was directed by David Cowles and Jeremy Galante for the band The Girls. The girls are a harp and ukulele duo, consisting of David’s daughter, Alison Cowles, and her buddy Mikaela Davis. They’ve been together for a little over a year now and are building a strong following in the Rochester, NY area. The video was put together in After Effects by Jeremy Galante, with some help on the design by Janis Dougherty. David Cowles designed the characters and did all the story boarding.

A Gummie Bear web reunion

Jymn Magon has begun a series of live web events aimed at Disney fans, animation aficionados, and aspiring writers & artists. His first event is pulling together a Disney Gummi Bears reunion, as a two-hour webinar featuring photos, artwork and interviews with the creative team that brought this show to life. Basically, people register, then they log in a few minutes before the event, and once it begins they watch the live broadcast with the ability to ask questions in real time.

Guests include:

• Voice of Grammi Gummi – JUNE FORAY
• Voice of Sunni Gummi – KATIE LEIGH
• Series Director/Producer – ART VITELLO
• Layout whiz – ED WEXLER
• Original Background Designer – GARY EGGLESTON
• Title song composers – MICHAEL & PATTY SILVERSHER
• Series writer – MARK ZASLOVE
• Co-creator & story editor – JYMN MAGON

This web event will be presented next Saturday, December 11th, at 5pm Pacific (8pm Eastern). The price is $20 and is limited to 50 participants. Visit Magon’s website for more details and registration.

“Arthur Christmas” trailer

This looks exciting–Arthur Christmas, arriving December 2011 from Aardman Animations and Sony Animation. Here’s our first glimpse:

<a onclick="javascript:pageTracker._trackPageview('/outgoing/;brand=v5%5E544x306&#038;from=sp&#038;vid=78b0bed5-c9c2-43f0-a0b9-54a016bedd1a');" href=";brand=v5%5E544x306&#038;from=sp&#038;vid=78b0bed5-c9c2-43f0-a0b9-54a016bedd1a" target="_new" title="Exclusive Arthur Christmas trailer">Video: Exclusive Arthur Christmas trailer</a>

2011 Sundance Short Film Selections Announced

The Sundance Institute announced its short film line-up this morning for the 2011 Sundance Film Festival. The festival, which runs from January 20-30 will include 4 animated shorts from the United States and 9 animated shorts from abroad.


Bike Race
Bike Race
(Director: Tom Schroeder; Screenwriters: Tom Schroeder and Hilde De Roover)
Two friends decide to stage a bicycle race to determine who is the best racer of all time, Eddy Merckx or Lance Armstrong. A love triangle develops during the race and the stakes of winning grow in importance.
Link to Filmmaker Website

Marcel the Shell
Marcel the Shell With Shoes On
(Director: Dean Fleischer-Camp; Screenwriters: Jenny Slate and Dean Fleischer-Camp)
A short conversation with Marcel, a shell with shoes on.
Link to Filmmaker Website

Full list of selections after the jump.
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2010 Annie Award Nominations Announced

ASIFA-Hollywood, the Los Angeles branch of the International Animated Film Society, announced its nominations this morning for the 38th Annual Annie Awards. The award recognizes the best in the field of animation, with categories including best animated feature, television production, commercials, short subjects, video games and outstanding individual achievements. The nominations for Best Animated Feature are Despicable Me (Illumination Entertainment); How to Train Your Dragon (DreamWorks Animation); Tangled (Disney); The Illusionist (Django Films); and Toy Story 3 (Disney/Pixar).

Complete nominee list after the jump:
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Box Office Report: “Tangled” on Top

Mother Gothel

On the slowest post-Thanksgiving weekend at the box office since 1997, Disney’s Tangled unseated Harry Potter for first place with an estimated $21.5 million. Its two week total is now $96.5 million. The most concerning statistic is the film’s 56% drop from its first weekend. Comparably, other successful CG features in 2010 have dropped far less by the same point: Despicable Me fell 41.8%, How to Train Your Dragon 33.7%, and Toy Story 3 46.2%. Tangled will likely play strong through the holidays and may yet end up in the range of $160-175 million.

DreamWorks’ Megamind continued to fade fast. It plummeted 60% from the prior weekend, earning $5 million. Its total of $136.7M ranks it twelfth among DreamWorks releases, and it’ll have to work hard to pass the $155M of eleventh place Over the Hedge. Universal’s Despicable Me added an extra $217,000 in its 22nd weekend to reach the $250 million mark. Internationally, the film has grossed an additional $284.9M for a grand total of $534.9 million making it the 14th all-time highest grossing animated film worldwide.

“The Simpsons” vs Fox News: Not Really Much of a Controversy

This news piece by Taiwanese animation studio Next Media Animation succinctly points out that the feud between The Simpsons and Fox News doesn’t mean much since whoever wins, it still benefits the same guy–News Corp. founder Rupert Murdoch. It’s a depressing thought, but at least the imaginative depictions of Murdoch and The Simpsons writers made me smile.

(via David OReilly’s Twitter)

Florida Jail Inmates Tortured with Zemeckis Animation

Polar Express

Talk about cruel and unusual punishment! Inmates in a Florida jail are being forced to watch Robert Zemeckis’s mo-cap trainwreck Polar Express over and over again. One inmate is so distressed that he filed a lawsuit claiming that the experience is akin to Chinese water torture. “I hear those little kids screaming through my brain. All night long I can hear them,” he told CNN. “I can close my eyes, but I’m still going to hear them over and over and over.” To be fair, the guy killed a woman driving drunk so Robert Zemeckis’s films are exactly the animation hell he deserves.

(Thanks, Joshua Wolf)

Five Things I Liked About “Tangled”


I have to preface this by saying that Disney hasn’t made what I’d consider a decent animated feature in years. After subjecting myself to Bolt, Princess and the Frog and any number of other recent Disney features, I dreaded the prospect of handing over my hard-earned money for Tangled. That’s why it surprises even myself to write that Tangled, directed by Nathan Greno and Byron Howard, was an utterly delightful experience. It represents a fresh new direction for Disney’s feature animation department, one that is rooted in the finest tradition of Disney’s gloried past while pushing forward to an even brighter future. Despite a half-baked story that left me frustrated at many turns, the filmmakers made the audience care enough about the characters and delivered enough entertainment that I left the theater satisfied. I wanted to celebrate this achievement by highlighting five things I enjoyed about the film. Spoilers ahead.

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Magoo’s Christmas

Once again I visited with Stu Shostak this week to do his Internet radio show. During the commercial breaks I peruse Stu’s huge archive of back-issue TV Guide magazines. And, as usual, I found an article worth sharing with Cartoon Brew readers – this time a May 27th, 1961 interview (thumbnail at left, click to enlarge) with actor Jim Backus which makes numerous references to his voicing of Mr. Magoo.

Meanwhile, animator Darrell Van Citters continues to mine the rich history of Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol on his blog dedicated to the UPA holiday special. He just posted a thorough piece about director Abe Levitow. It’s a must-read, with several rare personal photographs from Levitow’s family. Darrell is appearing with layout artist, Bob Singer, actress Marie Matthews (young Scrooge) and hopefully actress Jane Kean at the Aero Theater in Santa Monica on Saturday, December 18th at 4 PM. They’ll be showing the Magoo special on the big screen where it looks particularly amazing. And if you can’t make it, buy the new DVD/Blu-Ray. If you don’t have Darrell’s book, shame on you! If you do, buy another to give as a Christmas gift. You’ll be glad you did.