Cartoon Brew is Seven!

Happy Birthday Cartoon Brew

We started Cartoon Brew seven years ago on this day. It started as an outlet for the two of us to share our unfiltered thoughts about animation with like-minded friends. Seven years later, we’ve stayed true to that mission, and stunningly, we get to share our passions as a full-time job with a group of friends larger than our wildest dreams. Thank you all.

– Jerry and Amid

Zemeckis’ “Yellow Submarine” is Dead – We Hope!

Our long national nightmare is over. Whatever your opinion of Mars Needs Moms it has accomplished a major goal of all right-thinking peoples – it’s killed the present chances for a mo-cap remake of an animation classic: Yellow Submarine.

The Hollywood Reporter says:

The Walt Disney Co. has deep-sixed Mars Needs Moms producer Robert Zemeckis’ planned next project for the studio, the high-profile remake of the classic Beatles film Yellow Submarine, sources tell The Hollywood Reporter.

Submarine was already facing a few rocky reefs before this weekend. There were budget issues, and a key presentation Zemeckis was to have made before the Beatles heirs kept being pushed back. A December date for the confab was scrapped and never rescheduled. But sources say the disastrous $6.9 million opening for the $150 million-budgeted Mars, produced by Zemeckis, guaranteed that Submarine would never set sail at Disney. The producer-director is now free to shop the project to another studio.

How big a bomb is Mars Needs Moms? Brooks Barnes in The New York Times wrote:

The box office bomb Hall of Fame – “Ishtar,” “The Alamo,” “Cutthroat Island,” “Gigli,” “Speed Racer” – has a new member. “Mars Needs Moms” cost $150 million to make (excluding marketing) and managed to bring in only $6.8 million in North American ticket sales over the weekend. What happened? Unappealing alien characters, a tepid marketing campaign, family film gridlock at theaters and the movie’s antifeminist undertones contributed. But Hollywood will read this Walt Disney Studios flop as a rejection of Robert Zemeckis’s style of “performance-capture” animated filmmaking.

Mr. Zemeckis, please return to live action photography of human actors. You were great at that. Forget The Beatles, forget Roger Rabbit. Go back-to-the-future and pick up a camera.

Meanwhile animators can go back to their craft, creating “the illusion of life” frame by frame, safe in the knowledge that actors wearing ping-pong balls won’t be invading their turf – and audiences can go back to watching real actors in digital environments, with faces that won’t offend their eyes. And it’ll be safe for everyone to go back to the movies.

Comment of the Day: “Ballad of Nessie” Production Notes

The Ballad of Nessie

Matt M, one of the artists who worked on Disney’s The Ballad of Nessie, commented with some helpful details about the production of the short:

This short film is based off of Stevie’s (one of the directors) ideas she had come up with while back at CalArts I believe. The style is meant to be flat. The character animation was traditionally done on paper as well as the cleanup. The effects were done using Toon Boom and were drawn on Cintiq’s the same way we did all of the effects on PATF. All ink and paint and comp was done in Toon Boom as well. I even used maya (3d) on a couple of shots but you would never know it by the way it was treated in Toon Boom. I believe Joe Mildenberger (2d efx) used After Effects with Toon Boom for one of the sequences with art direction based of Lorelay Bove’s work. Dan Lund set up the look of the effects with some scenes he did. It is a simple story and the style is simply done. Not everything needs all the bells and whistles. Enjoy the animation and enjoy the story from this film. Both go hand in hand and neither one of them tries to overshadow the other. This film was completed at the end of PATF and was a nice way to roll of a very busy film. Andy Harkness was the art director and was so great to work with as was everyone at Disney. People who dont work there or never have need to find out facts before they bash on a place. Does Disney have its problems, yes but at the same time it employs some of the most amazing people and I believe in time things will get to where they should be at Disney.

Animated Fragments #1

It used to be that animators posted only finished films on-line, but increasingly I’ve noticed that even short animation tests and experiments find their way onto animators’ video streams. Promising ideas and techniques are often explored in these fragments, and while they don’t necessarily merit a full blog post on the Brew, I wanted to create a space to share them. And that’s how we ended up with Animated Fragments, a semi-regular round-up of noteworthy bits and pieces of animation.

Illetrisme by Phlexib and Yoann Lemoine

Stucktogether by Ian Miller

Factory by Tom Rainford

Boxin Dudes by Polly Guo

Bone Dog by Caleb Wood

Canada’s Astral Media Family Adds Disney XD To Its Slate

Toronto, March 11, 2011 - Astral Media Inc. (TSX: ACM.A/ACM.B) today announced that it will add to its slate of kid services with the launch of Disney XD on June 1, 2011. An advertiser-supported network and multi-platform brand, Disney XD will feature a range of live-action and animated programming for kids aged 6-14, with a focus on boys and their quest for discovery, accomplishment, adventure and humour, while still being inclusive of girl audiences. Distribution partners for the new channel will be announced in the coming weeks.

“Disney XD is a unique offering in the marketplace. A brand that has already proven itself in the U.S. and in international territories, Disney XD is poised to win over Canadian audiences with exciting and fast-paced shows that burst from the screen with their energy and comedic sensibility,” said Joe Tedesco, Senior Vice-President and General Manager, Astral Kids. “It is a testament to the strength of our ongoing partnership with Disney that we are set to launch another network with the Disney brand. I am confident that just like Family and Playhouse Disney, Disney XD will quickly become a must-have network in Canadian households.”

Carolina Lightcap, President, Disney Channels Worldwide, said, “As we continue to build Disney XD with great success around the world, we look forward to again partnering with the strong team at Astral to deliver Canadian viewers Disney XD’s unique point of view. Disney XD speaks to boys 6-14, while including girls, and delivers empowering stories that depict accomplishment, heroism and teamwork, reflecting core Disney brand values.”

The Disney XD programming will include hit series from Disney as well as award-winning Canadian content, highlighting the themes of adventure, action, humour and discovery. Expanding on Family Channel’s strong reputation with live-action comedy series, Disney XD will showcase brand new shows including the martial arts comedy Kickin’ It and the animated Kick Buttowski – Suburban Daredevil. Fan favourites Phineas and Ferb and I’m In The Band , which currently air on Family Channel, will also find a home on the new network. Canadian comedy Wingin’ It joins the Disney XD schedule along with other original productions such as new series, What’s Up, Warthogs!.

In addition to the linear service, Disney XD will also launch through dedicated on demand channels as well as online broadband and mobile platforms. The new network website, DisneyXD.ca, will feature exclusive Disney XD games, behind-the-scenes clips, short-form content and contests.

ASIFA-East Interviews

David Levy has launched a new monthly interview feature on the ASIFA-East website (Levy’s the president of the New York-based chapter). The first three are now posted: a conversation with Jake Armstrong (The Terrible Thing of Alpha-9), a new interview with veteran Howard Beckerman, and a discussion with independent animator Biljana Labovic. Levy’s one of my favorite writers and these interviews with the leading lights in the New York animation community are must-reading. Bookmark this.

Canada’s National Film Board launches Android App

Canada’s public producer unveils Canada’s first film application for the Android platform

Montreal, March 14, 2011 — Its iPhone app was named one of the best apps of the year by iTunes Canada. Its interactive and cross-media productions have garnered Webby Awards–the Oscars of the Internet. In just over two years, its digital platforms have racked up ten million views and put Canadian cinema into the hands of audiences in every region of the country.

Now, the National Film Board of Canada is ready with another Canadian digital media breakthrough: this country’s first film app for the Android platform.

“We are passionately committed to serving Canadians in engaging and innovative ways; as Canadians change their viewing habits we must accompany them. Making the richness and depth of the NFB collection and our startling new works available on the most popular online and mobile platforms such as the Android ensures that Canadian works by Canadian creators representing Canadian points of view take pride of place in the vast globalized range of video consumed in the digital space,” said Tom Perlmutter, Government Film Commissioner and NFB Chairperson.

Just as Android emerges as the number one smartphone platform, Canada’s Oscar-winning public producer is ready with 1,500 NFB films that Android users can watch, free of charge. The new NFB Android app gives users the ability to search the entire collection of films available online at NFB.ca, explore films by thematic channels, create their own favourites list, and share films by e-mail, Twitter or Facebook–all from their mobile phone.

To download the NFB’s Android app, visit nfb.ca/android or the Entertainment category of the Android Market market.android.com.

The NFB’s latest app builds on the NFB’s successes with its iPhone and iPad applications. The NFB’s iPhone app was the third most downloaded application, ahead of such giants as Facebook and Skype, just two days after its launch on October 21, 2009. It was hailed by cnet.com as “ingenious” and “pure iPhone gold,” and selected as one of the best apps of 2009 by iTunes Canada. To date, there have been over one million views on the iPhone app alone.

On July 20, 2010, the NFB released its iPad application, optimizing its acclaimed iPhone app for iPad. The NFB is preparing to release a major upgrade of its iPad app this spring, with improved user experience and stability, and several new features.

First art from Disney’s “The Ballad of Nessie”

Like a breath of fresh air, check out these three newly released images from Walt Disney Animation Studios’ The Ballad of Nessie (click thumbnails below to see enlarged images). This animated short will be released alongside the upcoming Winnie The Pooh theatrical feature on July 15th, 2011. Looking a lot like an unreleased segment from a mid-forties compilation film (think Make Mine Music), the short was directed by Stevie Wermers-Skelton and Kevin Deters (How To Hook Up Your Home Theatre and Prep and Landing). Animators include Andreas Deja, Mark Henn, Randy Haycock, Dale Baer and Rubin Aquino.

See the three stills after the jump:
Continue reading

Nickelodeon Announces Unprecedented Slate of 450 New Episodes of Animated Programming In Next 3 Years

Nickelodeon, the global leader in television animation, will introduce 450 episodes of new animation programming over the next three years, with nearly 200 episodes rolling out on Saturday mornings in 2012. Representing the largest amount of animation production in the network’s history, the new roster includes current hits like SpongeBob SquarePants, The Penguins of Madagascar, Fanboy and Chum Chum, T.U.F.F. Puppy, and the brand-new series The Last Airbender: Legend of Korra–a spinoff of Avatar: The Last Airbender; Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness–Nick’s latest partnership with DreamWorks Animation; a new CG series, Robot & Monster; and the Italian import Winx Club. And in fourth quarter 2012, Nickelodeon will premiere a new CG-animated version of the wildly popular franchise, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

“For 20 years animation has been a comic mainstay of the Nickelodeon DNA,” said Brown Johnson, President, Animation, Nickelodeon and MTVN Kids and Family Group. “Smart characters and great stories have made our shows number one for kids, and these pick-ups exemplify the continuing evolution of our animated programming. They complement our successful live-action offerings perfectly.”

Further cementing its leadership position in television animation, Nickelodeon will elevate its powerhouse Saturday-morning animation block this spring with a vibrant new look, including never-before-seen program content, original animated shorts, animated music mash-ups and celebrity guests. The block will originate from the Nickelodeon Animation Studios in Burbank, Calif., allowing viewers to experience the process of how animation is made today, as well as see the celebrity voice talent who come to the studio. Viewers will also be able to engage with the block’s interactive features like online games, trivia challenges and watch-and-win opportunities. Nickelodeon’s Saturday morning lineup (8 a.m.-12 p.m. ET/PT) has been the number-one destination for kids 2-11 for 11 consecutive seasons and currently delivers 3.2 million total viewers each week. On Saturdays at 10:30 a.m., SpongeBob SquarePants is the number-one program on all of TV with kids 2-11 (Source: NMR, Live + 7 Day data 12/27/10-2/20/11, Live + Same Day data 2/21/11-3/6/11, Sat 8 a.m.-12 p.m. time period).

New Series:

  • Based on the iconic hit franchise, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles has been greenlit for 26 episodes and will be executive produced by Ciro Nieli, Joshua Sternin and Jeffrey Ventimilia. This half-hour CG-animated action-comedy series breathes new life into the wildly popular band of reptile brothers. The new series begins as the turtles emerge from their hidden lair in the sewers for the very first time, ready to confront the wondrous and hostile world of New York City and face enemies more dangerous and pizza more delicious than anything they could have imagined. Funnier and ninja-ier than ever before, the show will explore the camaraderie of four teenage brothers learning to rely on themselves and one another as they unravel the mystery of their existence and grow to become the heroes they are destined to be.
  • Created by Dave Pressler, Joshua Sternin and Jeffrey Ventimilia, Robot & Monster has been picked up for 26 episodes. The animated buddy comedy is set in a unique world where gangs of Howling Cyber Monkeys roam the streets at night, everybody loves bacon, and robots and monsters live side by side, but typically don’t get along. A self-proclaimed genius and amateur inventor, Robot is convinced he is capable of great things, an opinion that is shared by absolutely no one else except Monster. Monster believes good things happen to good people and that all people are good. Together, they prove you can handle anything with your best friend at your side.
  • Winx Club (52 episodes) is an animated action and fantasy series set in the mystical dimension of Magix, where three schools educate modern fairies, witches and supernatural warriors from all over the universe. Bloom, a young fairy in training from Earth, and five of her schoolmates form the Winx Club to combat their arch enemies. Winx Club first debuted in Italy six years ago and quickly became a hit that has generated international popularity, as well as a CG feature film.
  • Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness has been picked up for 26 additional episodes (for a total of 52) and will debut later this year. Nickelodeon’s second collaboration with DreamWorks Animation, the series chronicles the further adventures of Po, the energetic, enthusiastic, always hungry martial arts panda as he protects the Valley of Peace from threats of all kind. Based on DreamWorks Animation’s hit feature film Kung Fu Panda, the Nick animated series is executive produced by Peter Hastings.
  • From Michael DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko, creators of Avatar: The Last Airbender, The Last Airbender: Legend of Korra (picked up for 14 more episodes for a total of 26) continues the evolution of the animated franchise and its mythology. The Legend of Korra takes place 70 years after the events of Avatar: The Last Airbender and follows the adventures of the Avatar after Aang – a passionate, rebellious, and fearless teenaged girl from the Southern Water Tribe named Korra.

“Lipsett Diaries” Wins Best Animated Short at Canada’s Genie Awards

Lipsett Diaries, directed by Theodore Ushev and produced by Marc Bertrand for the National Film Board of Canada, has won Best Animated Short at the 31st annual Genie Awards, presented by the Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television. The NFB offers its warmest congratulations to Mr. Ushev and the entire filmmaking team.

Lipsett Diaries grew out of a meeting between Chris Robinson, writer and programmer for the Ottawa International Animation Festival, and filmmaker and illustrator Theodore Ushev. Narrated by actor/director Xavier Dolan, Lipsett Diaries takes the form of a journal chronicling the tormented life of cinematic genius Arthur Lipsett, from his solitary childhood until his suicide in 1986.  

After winning a Special Mention in the Short Film category at the 2010 Annecy International Animated Film Festival, the Lipsett Diaries also took home a Special International Jury Prize at the Hiroshima International Animation Festival and won the Canadian Film Institute Award for Best Canadian Animation at the Ottawa International Animation Festival last October.  

Lipsett Diaries continued its successful run of festivals in 2010, winning the Grand Prix at the Rencontres internationales du cinéma d’animation in Wissembourg (Alsace, France). Earlier this year, it won Best Animation Film Award in the International Competition at the International Short Film Festival in Clermont-Ferrand, France.

The Toronto International Film Festival included Lipsett Diaries in Canada’s Top Ten, its list of the year’s best Canadian films. It is now touring major Canadian cities along with the other top ten films.

The NFB would like to congratulate the other short film in competition for Best Animated Short at the 2011 Genie Awards. The Trenches, directed by Claude Cloutier (NFB), is a remarkable film about the First World War, as seen through the eyes of a soldier. The fact that both nominees in this category were NFB productions speaks to the vitality and quality of animation production at the National Film Board.

Los Angeles’ MOCA Presents graffiti & street art exhibit “Art In The Streets”

The Museum of Contemporary Art presents Art in the Streets, the first major U.S. museum exhibition of the history of graffiti and street art, April 17 through August 8, 2011, at The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA. The exhibition will trace the development of graffiti and street art from the 1970s to the global movement it has become today, concentrating on key cities where a unique visual language or attitude has evolved. Following MOCA’s presentation, the exhibition will travel to the Brooklyn Museum, where it will be on view March 30—July 8, 2012.

Art in the Streets will showcase installations by 50 of the most dynamic artists from the graffiti and street art community, including Fab 5 Freddy (New York), Lee Quiñones (New York), Futura (New York), Margaret Kilgallen (San Francisco), Swoon (New York), Shepard Fairey (Los Angeles), Os Gemeos (São Paulo), and JR (Paris). MOCA’s exhibition will emphasize Los Angeles’s role in the evolution of graffiti and street art, with special sections dedicated to cholo graffiti and Dogtown skateboard culture. The exhibition will feature projects by influential local artists such as Craig R. Stecyk III, Chaz Bojórquez, Mister Cartoon, RETNA, SABER, REVOK, and RISK.

A special emphasis will be placed on photographers and filmmakers who documented graffiti and street art culture including Martha Cooper, Henry Chalfant, James Prigoff, Steve Grody, Gusmano Cesaretti, Estevan Oriol, Ed Templeton, Larry Clark, Terry Richardson, and Spike Jonze. A comprehensive timeline illustrated with artwork, photography, video, and ephemera will provide further historical context for the exhibition.

Art in the Streets will feature several shows within the show. There will be a special section dedicated to the Fun Gallery, which connected New York graffiti artists with the downtown art community in the early 1980s. Co- curated by gallery founder Patti Astor, the Fun Gallery installation will feature the work of Keith Haring, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and the graffiti artists who shaped the gallery’s history. A section dedicated to the seminal film Wild Style (1983), co-curated by the film’s director Charlie Ahearn, will document its influence on the global dissemination of graffiti and hip-hop culture. The exhibition will also feature a memorial presentation of Battle Station, a rarely seen work by legendary artist and theorist RAMMELLZEE, and a display of graffiti black books and other historic works from the Martin Wong Collection presented in collaboration with the Museum of the City of New York. A highlight of the exhibition will be a Los Angeles version of Street Market, a re-creation of an urban street complete with overturned trucks by Todd James, Barry McGee, and Steve Powers.

The exhibition will open with a skate ramp designed by pro-skater Lance Mountain and artist Geoff McFetridge. Skate demonstrations by the Nike SB skate team will be held onsite for the duration of the exhibition.

Art in the Streets will be the first exhibition to position the work of the most influential artists to emerge from street culture in the context of contemporary art history,” said MOCA Director Jeffrey Deitch.

“This quintessentially urban and dynamic partnership between the Brooklyn Museum and MOCA began with the 2005 Brooklyn-organized exhibition of the work of Jean-Michel Basquiat, the consummate American street artist of his generation; continued with the MOCA-organized ©MURAKAMI in 2007, defining critical elements of worldwide street art; and now culminates with a groundbreaking exhibition devoted entirely to street art and graffiti,” said Brooklyn Museum Director Arnold L. Lehman. “The partnership has, in itself, provided a major record of public art over the past half century.”

Art in the Streets is organized by Jeffrey Deitch and associate curators Roger Gastman and Aaron Rose. Gastman is the author of The History of American Graffiti, which will be released in April 2011, and was a consulting producer on the film Exit Through The Gift Shop. Rose curated the exhibition Beautiful Losers and directed the related documentary film. Ethel Seno, editor of Trespass: A History of Uncommissioned Urban Art, is the curatorial coordinator of the exhibition. The Brooklyn Museum’s presentation will be organized by Managing Curator of Exhibitions Sharon Matt Atkins.

“Rotary Signal Emitter” by Sculpture

Rotary Signal Emitter

“Rotary Signal Emitter” is a picture-disc LP created by Sculpture, the London based duo of musician Dan Hayhurst and animator Reuben Sutherland. Music AND animation is pressed into both sides of the disc:

Sutherland ‘DJs’ with home-made zoetropic discs, intricate concentric rings of illustrated frames, projecting fragments of looping images at 33, 45 and 78 rpm — pre-Edisonian imaging technology combined with a digital video camera.

The LPs were produced in a limited edition of 300 copies, which can be purchased HERE. I want one bad but it seems like ordering is a tad difficult if you’re in the US. The videos below show the mesmerizing–almost hallucinatory–effect when the audio component matches up with the animation.

Zemeckis Bombs with “Mars Needs Moms”

Mars Needs Moms

Robert Zemeckis’s animation career climaxed in a spectacular crash and burn with last weekend’s release of the Simon Wells-directed Mars Needs Moms. The $150 million folly debuted in fifth place, grossing $6.9 million, made even more pathetic by the fact that it debuted in 2,440 3-D theaters including a substantial 200-plus IMAX screens. Disney shuttered Zemeckis’s creepy nightmare factory known as Imagemovers Digital over a year ago, and the performance of this film, which Nikki Finke called “one of the biggest money losers of all time,” should finally convince the rest of Hollywood that Zemeckis is absolutely clueless when it comes to producing and directing animation.

Some more disastrous notes about the film’s opening courtesy of Box Office Mojo:

[It] was the third least-attended launch for a Disney animated movie on record (only Ponyo and Teacher’s Pet were less popular) and lowest debut yet for a broadly-released modern 3D-animated movie, replacing Alpha and Omega for the dishonor. Sci-fi animation can be a tough sell, yet Mars still had one of the sub-genre’s weakest launches ever, selling fewer tickets than even Planet 51, Space Chimps and Astro Boy. Mars was severely limited by its premise, which was better suited to a television cartoon, and its execution looked awkward, incoherent and creepy in the marketing.

Rango dropped to second place in its second weekend with a solid $22.6 million and a cume of $68.2 million. Gnomeo and Juliet grabbed $3.6 million in its fifth frame pushing its tally to $89.1 million. The Illusionist wrapped up $72,200 from 76 theaters for a twelve-week gross of $1.975 million. My Dog Tulip grossed $5,251 from 4 theaters for a total of $223,694, and The Trouble with Terkel grossed $568 from one theater for a total of $30,610.

3D Zoetrope Projection Mapping by Graeme Hawkins

Hands down the coolest thing I’ve seen in the past week–heck, in the past month! Graeme Hawkin, the mad Scottish animation scientist who I profiled last year, continues to expand his experiments with 3-D zoetropes. The evolution of his zoetrope process and the making of this piece is documented extensively on his website Retchy.com so if you have questions, go there first. The hypnotic effect is achieved through a relatively basic concept–projection mapping onto a three-dimensional model rotating on a turntable. It reminds me of some of the performances I saw last year at the Elektra festival in Montreal, where artists created visual experiences that existed in a three-dimensional space instead of straight-ahead on a flat screen.

Here is a video of the turntable zoetrope that Graeme built from balsa wood minus the projection mapping:

“Family Guy” Producer & Writer Alec Sulkin is an Insensitive Jerk

Alec Sulkin

The image above contains the response to the tragic natural disasters in Japan by a douchebag named Alec Sulkin, who happens to be a writer and producer on Family Guy. It’s the type of ignorant comment one might expect from an ill-educated fourteen-year-old, not from a working professional in the animation industry. He later tweeted, “I am sorry for my insensitive tweet. It’s gone.” Too little, too late, bro. It sickens me that people this stupid and prejudiced have a place in our community. To get the bad taste out of my mouth, I just donated money to the Red Cross. You can too by visiting the Red Cross website, or to make a $10 donation simply text REDCROSS to 90999.

UPDATE: Bleeding Cool also offered some thoughts about Sulkin’s words: “This world view, that the citizens of a nation are somehow statistics to be tallied in a historical spreadsheet of deaths, and that there’s somehow a desirable, karmic distribution to be had is absolutely disgusting.”

UPDATE #2: Toy Story 3 art director Dice Tsutsumi has started up a fund called Artists Help Japan. To donate, visit Give2Asia.org.

UPDATE #3: Gilbert Gottfried was just fired as the voice of the Aflac duck after a series of tweets about Japan, none of which were as prejudiced as Sulkin’s, who is still happily employed by 20th Century Fox TV.

“Mars Needs Moms” talkback

Disney’s Mars Needs Moms opened today. It got no love from The New York Times where reviewer Mike Hale began his critique this way:

“It seems that it’s time to admit that dressing actors in LED-studded catsuits, asking them to give performances on sterile white sets and handing the results to a team of computer animators is not a way to make a good movie. It didn’t work for “The Polar Express,” “Beowulf” or “A Christmas Carol,” and it doesn’t work for “Mars Needs Moms,” the latest product of Robert Zemeckis’s obsession with motion-capture animation.”

The Los Angeles Times was equally unimpressed. Writer Betsy Sharkey declared:

“Live versus lifelike continues to be problematic for this particular technique. Despite refinements in the years since filmmaker Robert Zemeckis – a producer on “Mars” – pushed it into the long-form, storytelling arena in 2004 with “The Polar Express,” its characters still carry the Stepford look.”

I had a chance to catch M-N-M at a critics screening (there was no way I was going to pay to see it) and – Surprise! – I didn’t hate it. I’d certainly rank it next to Monster House as one of the better of the ImageMovers Digital bunch. But let me be clear, I despise these Zemeckis films for one simple reason – I cannot get past the zombie-like faces of the human characters. When I allow myself to do so, I can see the craft involved and actually think the stories and storytelling is very good. Simon Wells directed this film for Zemeckis, and it’s certainly an action-packed, visually delightful children’s adventure. But it’s so hard for me to watch the lead little boy (Milo, acted by Seth Green) and his mom (Joan Cusack). Since the rest of the characters are “martian”, I had no problem with anything else on screen – even humanoid Gribble (Dan Fogler) who was rendered almost photo-real and was less zombie-ish than the others. This might have been an incredible film, a children’s classic, if they inserted human actors into the picture. If you have no problem with the mo-cap visual phoniness of the lead characters you may enjoy it.

But will you or any other Cartoon Brew readers see it? If so, I really want to know what you think. The comments below are open ONLY to readers reviews by those who have actually seen the film. This will be strictly enforced! I’ll be very interested in hearing your opinions.

“Sometimes In The Stars” by Ari Gibson & Jason Pamment

Check out this moody new music video for the Australian band The Audreys, produced by Luke Jurevicius and directed by Ari Gibson & Jason Pamment .

Credits
Produced by Luke Jurevicius
Directed by Ari Gibson & Jason Pamment
Production Designers: Luke Jurevicius, Shane Devries, Jason Pamment, Ari Gibson
Story by Luke Jurevicius, Ari Gibson & Jason Pamment
2D Animation: Ari Gibson
Background Art: Jason Pamment
Compositing: Ryan Kirby & Jason Pamment
Coloring: Jarrod Prince & Joshua Bowman
Executive Producers: Stu McCullough, Taasha Coates, Tristan Goodall

Serge Bromberg bringing 3D cartoons to San Francisco

French film collector, archivist and Annecy Animation Festival creative director Serge Bromberg will present Retour de Flamme: Rare and Restored Films in 3-D on May 1st at San Francisco’s famed Castro Theatre.

Bromberg will be honored with the 2011 Mel Novikoff Award for his invaluable work as “a collector, preservationist, exhibitor, programmer and enthusiast of cinematic treasures”. On Sunday May 1st at 5pm, he will accept the award and then dazzle the audience of the 54th San Francisco International Film Festival (April 21 – May 5) with his collection dedicated to stereoscopic 3D shorts. The program includes rareties by the Lumière Brothers, Georges Méliès, Norman McLaren, Charley Bowers, Chuck Jones and the Disney Studios, films from the Soviet Union and contemporary shorts by Matthew O’Callaghan and Pixar’s John Lasseter.

Films will include Coyote Falls (Matthew O’Callaghan, USA 2010, 3 min); Falling in Love Again (Munro Ferguson, Canada 2003, 4 min); The Infernal Boiling Pot (George Méliès, France 1903, 2 min); Knick Knack (John Lasseter, USA 1989, 4 min); Lumber-Jack Rabbit (Chuck Jones, USA 1954, 7 min); Melody (Ward Kimball, USA 1953, 10 min); Motor Rhythm (John Norling, USA 1940, 15 min); Musical Memories (Dave Fleischer, USA 1935, 7 min); Working for Peanuts (Jack Hannah, USA 1953); and many many others.

Tickets are $15 for San Francisco Film Society members and $20 for the general public. For tickets and information visit sffs.org/tickets. The box office is now open for members and on March 30th for the general public. For more information visit sffs.org. I highly recommend you attend this incredible screening.

Oxfam Spot by Frater Films

This Oxfam spot was plugged here a couple years back, but I only discovered it and couldn’t resist sharing again, along with some details about how it was made. The piece is by the British duo of Benji Davies and Jim Field, who operate as Frater Films and whose piece The Year of the Rabbit appeared on the Brew last month.

The PSA is anchored by a well developed visual concept that emphasizes the contrast between black-and-white characters and the colorful sounds they emit. The characters were animated in After Effects, while the sound patterns were made from rubber stamp prints that were colored digitally. Examples of the stamps can be seen on the Frater Films site. All aspects of the spot are smartly conceived including the sound and music design of Stuart Earl.

(Thanks, Gabe Swarr)

Nelvana Developing “Scaredy Squirrel” for Animated Series

Corus Entertainment is pleased to announce that its popular Kids Can Press title book character Scaredy Squirrel is starring in his very own animated series. A Canadian original production produced by Nelvana Studio, Scaredy Squirrel will premiere on Sunday, April 3 at 9:30 a.m. ET/PT on YTV.

“Corus is delighted to take our successful Kids Can Press literary character Scaredy Squirrel and bring him to life on screen,” said Ted Ellis, VP, Kids/Family Programming, Corus Entertainment. “With new comedic storylines and a fresh look for an older television audience, this Nelvana series epitomizes the quality entertainment our YTV viewers have come to expect from us.”

All 26 30-minute episodes of the series are inspired by the popular little worry wart, Scaredy Squirrel, created by author Mélanie Watt. The series follows Scaredy as he tackles life’s daily challenges and explores the world outside of his treehouse. However, Scaredy always manages to balance his job at the Stash n’ Hoard grocery store with his nervous attempts to always stay safe. While geeky at first, Scaredy is one confident squirrel, never apologizing for his idiosyncrasies.

In episode one, Scaredy Squirrel: Children of the Acorn/Awaken the Stacker Within, premiering on Sunday, April 3 at 11 a.m. ET/PT (r) Wednesday, April 6 at 12 p.m. ET/PT, after searching every dangerous corner of Balsa City, Scaredy has to entertain a little girl in order to win back the acorn hat he needs to complete his collection. Then, Scaredy meets his hero, Lars Von Stacking, and attempts to help the former star rebuild his confidence as well as his greatest achievement, the Broccolisseum.

Beginning on Monday, March 21, viewers can immerse themselves in Scaredy Squirrel’s world online. By visiting YTV.com, viewers can enjoy games, activities, show and character information, download wallpaper and stickers, and also submit their own artwork to be displayed on the site.

To celebrate April Fool’s Day on Friday, April 1 beginning at 4:30 p.m. ET/PT, YTV will air a special sneak peek episode of Scaredy Squirrel .

On Tuesday, February 1, Kids Can Press launched the fifth Scaredy Squirrel book title, Scaredy Squirrel Has A Birthday Party. This nutty adventure follows Scaredy as he plans his own surprise birthday party. When all of Scaredy’s excessive plans are thrown up in the air, he must decide whether to cancel the party or face the music.