Disney fans like to look for “hidden Mickeys” – but here’s one they may have missed. When Disney’s mouse became an overnight sensation in 1928, almost every competing studio included a Mickey-like mouse (or a Mickey-like fox or Mickey-like bear) in their films. Now it turns out that these ersatz Mickey’s weren’t confined to Hollywood cartoons.
Norakuro is a Japanese comic series created by cartoonist Suiho Tagawa (1899-1989), which ran from 1931 up until the early ’40s, about a black dog in a canine Army, very much inspired by the Imperial Japanese army at the time. The comic stopped when World War II broke out, but the cartoons remained popular. It was animated several times – a series of short-films in the ’30s, two TV series (1970-71 and 1987-88). This cartoon is believed to be in public domain (if you can find it) – Mickey Mouse is still protected by international trademark.
A promising first look at Tron: Uprising which will begin airing on Disney XD in summer 2012. A ten-part micro-series will precede it this fall. Charlie Bean (Ren & Stimpy, Samurai Jack, Robotboy, and of course, this short) is directing and exec producing, and the amazing Alberto Mielgo is also contributing to the project.
Yesterday, a $50 million-plus lawsuit was filed in the New York State Supreme Court against The Weinstein Company and Vancouver-based animation studio Rainmaker Entertainment. The plaintiffs, Tony Leech (co-director and co-writer of Hoodwinked!) and Brian Inerfeld, allege that they were removed from the production of their animated feature Escape from Planet Earth and that the Weinsteins, through gross incompetence, ruined the production of their film, which has yet to be finished. They also claim the Weinsteins gave them $500,000 in hush money until after the Oscars were over.
The Weinsteins, who have retained two powerful entertainment attorneys–David Boies and Bert Fields–to defend themselves, contend that it’s “a completely frivolous lawsuit” that “contains little more than false, gratuitous, slanderous, preposterous and totally irrelevant personal attacks.”
I don’t know which side is going to win the case, but every Brew reader is a winner because the plaintiffs created a hilariously detailed 60-page complaint that can be downloaded as PDF file. The torturous production process of a misguided animated feature hasn’t been this lovingly documented since The Sweatbox, the film by Sting’s wife about how Disney fumbled The Emperor’s New Groove. The punchline is that the Weinsteins have blown $19 million so far on an unproduced film with some of the most generic-looking computer animation this side of Everyone’s Hero:
The legal complaint reads like a comedy of errors–Harvey Weinstein fired his brother Bob from the film’s production; a sickly line producer was hired and died shortly thereafter; Kevin Bacon was paid $50,000 to voice a character and then paid $25,000 to not work on the film; Toy Story producer Ralph Guggenheim was hired and then fired by Harvey Weinstein for “ruining the fu*king movie.” Leech and Inerfeld also attack Rainmaker, a studio which they claim “did not have the expertise to make Escape, let alone the desire to do so within the confines of the movie’s budget.” All that may be well and true, but let’s not forget that Leech, who was directing the film in addition to writing it, is also a relative animation newbie. I’m sorry, but working on Hoodwinked! doesn’t make you John Lasseter nor does it instantly qualify you to direct a staff of hundreds, and one has to wonder how much his inexperience contributed to the film’s woes.
According to the documents, nobody could settle on a script, characters, voice actors, or even the animation studio that would make the film. That’s not a surprise for the Weinstein Company (formerly Miramax) which has a pathetic track record of distributing animated clunkers like The Thief and the Cobbler, Doogal, Freddie as F.R.O.7 and Tom and Jerry: The Movie. The lawsuit offers hints of their brilliantly poor understanding of the animation art form. One example is the “revelation” Harvey had about how pantomime acting could delineate a character’s personality–something every first-year animation student learns:
Harvey Weinstein responded by recounting something he had recently read in a book on Walt Disney, where the Seven Dwarves [sic] from Snow White are introduced to the audience for the first time. In that scene, Harvey Weinstein noted, the Dwarves put their noses on Snow White’s bed, and the manner in which they do reveals the character of each Dwarf: “And the amazing thing is, if you look at the script, it barely says anything.”
In addition to documenting a failed animation production, there is ridiculous gossip like the claim that Harvey Weinstein fell asleep during a screening of the story reels. And then, during that same meeting, he “attempted to consume an entire bowl of M&M candies despite being diabetic. When a [Weinstein company executive] sought to retrieve the bowl of candy out of obvious concerns for Harvey Weinstein’s health, he fought to keep it, and in the tumult the M&Ms scattered all over the floor. Then, instead of watching the reel, Harvey Weinstein got down on his hands and knees and began eating M&Ms off the floor.”
An anonymous artist who emailed us yesterday summed up his experience working on the film at Rainmaker when he wrote, “I had the rare pleasure of working on Escape for several years. The production itself was fodder for a movie. A true comedy of errors. Wish I had a cam rolling through it all.”
Once each year at the DeMille Barn in Hollywood, the Animation Guild, ASIFA-Hollywood and Women In Animation present An Afternoon of Remembrance, “a non-denominational celebration of departed friends from our animation community”.
This year the event takes place this Saturday, March 5th, at 1pm (A reception precedes the memorial at 12 noon). Tributes will be paid to many, including:
Alex Anderson, Frank Frazetta, Heidi Guedel Garofalo, Chris Jenkyns, Kihachiro Kawamoto, Betty Kimball, Satoshi Kon Rudy Larriva, Bill Littlejohn, Carl Macek, Robert McIntosh, Tom Ray, Pres Romanillos, John Sparey and others.
The Afternoon of Remembrance is free of charge and is open to all. No RSVPs necessary. Food and refreshments, 12 noon, Memoriams, 1 pm. The Hollywood Heritage Museum (Lasky-DeMille Barn) is located at 2100 N. Highland Ave. (across from Hollywood Bowl) in Hollywood, California.
Matatoro takes on “the hermetic world of bullfighting and its public, here reinvented and reinterpreted.” The short was made at Supinfocom Arles last year by Mauro Carraro, RaphaÃ«l Calamote, and Jérémy Pasquet. The music was composed by Pierre Manchot.
The film is ambitious stylistically: its nonphotorealistic rendering style mimics ink and watercolor to good effect, and the stylized animation and layouts emphasize the theatrical nature of bullfighting. There’s never any doubt that the film was made in CG–the smooth perfection of the camera gives it away–but the filmmakers’ application of the watercolor technique allows for some of the most exciting color I’ve seen in any recent CG short.
The imagery in Matatoro is thoughtful and thoughtprovoking. The filmmakers draw visual metaphors between bullfighting and flamenco dancing, carousel rides, and the circus, but in the end, the film asks viewers to reconsider whether it resembles any of those other less violent pastimes.
Haven’t seen Rango yet, but apparently the villain puffs a cigarette and the film is rated PG due to scenes of smoking. This has incensed the folks at Smoke Free Movies to start a campaign to get the animated film an R rating.
They took out an ad in the Hollywood trade papers last week to call attention to Rango and 21 other Oscar nominated films from 2010 (which include Alice In Wonderland and The Illusionist) that include scenes of characters smoking. Here’s an excerpt (below) from their full page advertisement published in the March 3rd Hollywood Reporter. See the full ad here.
Big news: ASIFA-Hollywood, the largest ASIFA chapter in the world, has chosen a new president and vice-president. Veteran artist and studio exec Frank Gladstone (above, left photo) will be taking over as president from Antran Manoogian who served in that role for over 20 years. The new vice-president is the world’s greatest Herman and Katnip expert (not to mention an editor of the site you’re reading right now) Jerry Beck. Congratulations to both Frank and Jerry!
The organization put out a press release today offering some clues about their new direction:
ASIFA-Hollywood has announced the selection of its new President, Frank Gladstone, at its February board meeting. Gladstone replaces Antran Manoogian who held the position for over 20 years.
Longtime ASIFA Hollywood vp [and TAG President Emeritus] Tom Sito chose not to run for re-election; taking his place is Jerry Beck. Also joining Gladstone as a new board officer is Jeff Wike as treasurer; Bill Turner returns as secretary.
“First and foremost, we owe Antran Manoogian an enormous amount of respect and admiration for his many years of selfless devotion to ASIFA-Hollywood,” says Gladstone. “Antran has seen the organization through a period of unparalleled growth and success, going from a small club to an organization of over 4000 members. During his stewardship, Antran established, among many achievements, a digital archive, and built the Annie Award into the most important honor in animation.”
Gladstone continued, “Though I’ve been part of ASIFA and the animation community for a long time, I am looking forward to being the ‘new face’ of the organization and to making some significant changes to the status quo. For starters, this includes updating our membership qualifications, establishing a representative voice for every animation studio and creative technique, building an advisory board of animation luminaries and revising the voting structure of the annual Annie Awards.”
In the next few weeks ASIFA-Hollywood will be holding meetings with executives from all the major studios to get their input on how we can improve our infrastructure. ASIFA-Hollywood will take this time to ask its members, both individual and corporate, to come together and advise them on how best to chart the course for decades to come. In addition they will invite many of its members to join the executive board.
Frank Gladstone has been a professional animator, producer, director, writer and teacher, first managing his own studio, and then working in management positions for Disney, Warner Bros. and DreamWorks, among others. He is currently the CEO of the animation consulting firm, Gladstone Film, teaches worldwide and is the ‘artist-in-residence’ for the ACME Network.
Xemoland by Los Angeles-based director Daniel Cardenas was among the selections at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. The short’s conventional cartoon style plays against the atypical autobiographical story of growing up in the early-Nineties which lends the film a unique tone.
Animation writer, musician and most notably, movie memorabilia dealer Eddie Brandt has died. He passed away week ago Sunday, Feb. 20th, of colon cancer at age 89.
Brandt was a piano player for Spike Jones and his City Slickers, who drifted into writing animated cartoons – first for Bob Clampett on the animated Beany & Cecil cartoons, then for Hanna Barbera on Frankenstein Jr. and the Impossibles, Moby Dick and Mighty Mightor and The Catanooga Cats. He was best known for the past 44 years as the proprietor of Eddie Brandt’s Saturday Matinee, the best video store in Los Angeles (Mural, above, in front of the store by Howard Freeman). His store will live on – but he will be sorely missed.
The store sells vintage movie photos and posters, and rents videos. Brandt’s is well known to have tens of thousands of movies in stock – practically every movie in existence. Mark Evanier has a nice remembrance of Eddie on his site. TCM did this tribute (below) to his store.