USC School of Cinematic Arts Unites ‘Firsts’ in Annual Festival

The USC School of Cinematic Arts has re-imagined and revamped its annual First Look Festival by uniting four separate divisions under the umbrella of one multi-platform festival. The Festival is set for May 2-5 at the Directors Guild of America.

For the first time, the First Look Festival will showcase original works from students in the Film Production, Animation/Digital Arts and Interactive Media Divisions. Each of the individual divisions will host its own exhibition over the course of three evenings during the festival to and celebrate the achievements of select students.

Kicking off the festival is the annual First Pitch event that brings together students in the writing program and industry professionals in a bona fide ‘pitch’ session.

The Festival Highlights:

· First Pitch on May 2 will provide a forum for graduating M.F.A. and B.F.A. screenwriting students to solicit or “pitch” their film and television scripts to participating members of the industry’s top production companies, management firms and agencies. This event is closed to the public.

· First Film on May 3 will present short films from six finalists in the SCA film production program; the films will be selected at the end of a two-day screening series at USC preceding the event.

· Adobe First Frame will showcase works from students in the John C. Hench Division of Animation and Digital Arts on May 4.

· First Move will offer original works from students in the Interactive Media Division’s inaugural event on Friday, May 5.

Regarding First Look’s inaugural presentation, SCA Dean Elizabeth Daley says, “As always, I’m eager to see and experience the work of our remarkable young women and men. We have made the festival a true collaborative event, which mirrors the interdisciplinary efforts of our students from across the school.”

Mike Smith’s Website

Mike Smith

The website of director and animator Mike Smith — RealMikeSmith.com — is a model for how an artist’s website should function. It’s an easy-to-navigate site packed with rare films, storyboards, line tests, commercials and music videos dating back to his earliest days, and materials from unproduced projects. I spent half an hour on the site and didn’t even come close to scratching the surface of everything that’s posted. Of course, it also helps that Mike has produced some excellent work throughout his career that’s well worth a view.

The Motion Picture Academy To Offer Seminar Series On Production Design for Animation & Live Action

The differences between production design for animation and live action will be explored in detail during the first installment of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ series Evolution or Revolution? Production Design in the 21st Century, on Monday, April 25, from 7 to 10 p.m. at the Academy’s Linwood Dunn Theater in Hollywood.

Production Design in the 21st Century will be hosted by two of the Academy’s Art Directors Branch governors, production designer Jim Bissell (300, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind) and set decorator Rosemary Brandenburg (Unstoppable, Public Enemies).  Special guests for the first evening will be production designers Kathy Altieri (How to Train Your Dragon, Over the Hedge”), Scott Chambliss (Salt, Star Trek), Harley Jessup (Ratatouille, Monsters, Inc.) and Lilly Kilvert (Valkyrie, The Last Samurai), as well as set decorator Karen O’Hara (Alice in Wonderland, Disney’s A Christmas Carol).  The session will feature film clips and open discussion between the evening’s special guests and members of the audience.

The schedule for subsequent sessions is as follows, with all participants subject to availability:

May 2 – Memorable Images: Production Designers and Set Decorators Choose Their Favorites.
Production designers can create powerful images that embed themselves into the collective cultural consciousness.  The panel will give examples of those unforgettable instances when dramatic design surges from a support role to the forefront of the storytelling process.

  • William Creber, production designer (The Poseidon Adventure, 1972; Planet of the Apes, 1968)
  • Jack Fisk, production designer (There Will Be Blood, The New World)
  • Alex McDowell, production designer (Watchmen, Fight Club)
  • Beth Rubino, set decorator (It’s Complicated, American Gangster)

May 9 – Set Decoration and the Design Collaboration.
Production designers and set decorators discuss their collaborative process.

  • Jim Bissell, production designer, and Jan Pascale, set decorator (Leatherheads, Good Night, and Good Luck)
  • Lauri Gaffin, set decorator (Iron Man, The Pursuit of Happyness)
  • Alex McDowell, production designer, and Anne Kuljian, set decorator (The Terminal, Minority Report)
  • Jeannine Oppewall, production designer, and Jay Hart, set decorator (Pleasantville, L.A. Confidential)
  • Victor J. Zolfo, set decorator (The Social Network, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button)

May 16 - The Criteria for Good Production Design. Production designers and set decorators discuss what they look for in their peers’ work as hallmarks of great creative design.

  • Jim Erickson, set decorator (Watchmen, There Will Be Blood)
  • Alex McDowell, production designer (Watchmen, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory)
  • Jeannine Oppewall, production designer (The Good Shepherd, Seabiscuit)

Registration for the entire series is $40 for the general public and $30 for Academy members and students with a valid ID.  Admission for individual evenings, if available, is $10 at the door.  Tickets may be purchased online at www.oscars.org, by mail, or in person at the Academy during regular business hours or, depending on availability, on the night of the session when the doors open at 6 p.m.  The Linwood Dunn Theater is located at 1313 Vine Street in Hollywood.  For more information, call (310) 247-3600 or visit www.oscars.org.

PBS’ “The Electric Company” Launches Animated Segment “Prankster Planet”

Emmy Award-winning PBS KIDS GO! series, The Electric Company, will re-launch its third season May 2 with an all new transmedia story, The Adventures of The Electric Company on Prankster Planet. Airing in a new segment at the end of the TV series and a new area of the website, this transmedia story engages and immerses participants in an experience through multiple forms of media, each element making a unique contribution to the story. Produced by Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit educational organization behind Sesame Street, The Electric Company uses this formula to transport viewers from the television show to the website and back again, putting kids in the middle of the adventure, side-by-side with The Electric Company.

The entire transmedia experience includes 12 new two-minute animated segments, 12 multi-level online quests, 60 mini-games, an avatar creator, a rewards system to encourage repeat play and a magazine. Coming early summer, there will also be a progress tracker online for parents and teachers to follow kids learning online.

Appearing at the end of each of the episodes in season three, Prankster Planet stars Electric Company members Jessica and Marcus as comic book heroes in a 12-part animated adventure. Their mission? Get to Prankster Planet ASAP and stop the pranksters from stealing all the words from earth!

Jessica and Marcus discover the pranksters are using Manny’s latest gadget — the Wordsuckeruppernator — to suck up all the words on earth, giving them total word domination. Upon arrival, they learn that the only way to turn off the gadget is to find the 13 buttons that Manny has hidden all over the planet. As they get close to each button, the pranksters try to prevent them from reaching their goal. The heroes need help! They turn to the viewer and shout “Hey You GUUUUUYYS!” Then, the narrator steps in asking the kids to go online and help!

“Bringing the characters into an action adventure story and gaming world that invites kids to participate is a natural progression of The Electric Company,” says Karen Fowler, Executive Producer and Vice President. “Watching children quickly take to this new section proves that we need to keep challenging ourselves to push the boundaries of media and education to serve the needs of kids in a way that reflects the world they live in.”

Each animated episode ends in a cliffhanger — offering a direct hand-off from story to game. This seamless transition is one of the signature elements that define the transmedia invention.

Online, the viewer now enters the story in the scene where the animation ended. The player boards a virtual spaceship, creates an avatar and heads to Prankster Planet! There are 12 levels of interactive game play, each level matching each of the animations. The playful, interactive games build math literacy by reinforcing and testing kids’ knowledge of word meanings like ‘graph,’ ‘measure,’ ‘scale’ and ‘prove;’ and math concepts like coin value, telling time and skip counting. The player must complete all the levels to triumph over the pranksters and save the Earth’s words. When all 12 missions are complete, the player becomes an official member of The Electric Company!

“Creating the online universe of Prankster Planet allowed us the opportunity to give kids an incredibly immersive experience – empowering them to become active participants,” adds Erica Branch-Ridley, Supervising Producer of online for The Electric Company. “The depth, however, does not stop there. Children are asked to play a role in this world that is integrally connected with the math literacy curriculum of these episodes.”

The Lost Guide to Prankster Planet magazine completes the learning experience by extending the math concepts and vocabulary featured online and in the animated TV segments – offering yet another resource to parents, kids and teachers. The magazine, distributed to PBS and other Electric Company partners, will contain secret Prankster Planet information that the reader can use to collect hidden words and save the world from becoming wordless!

The Adventures of The Electric Company on Prankster Planet will air at the end of each of The Electric Company broadcast episodes everyday starting May 2. The online adventure will go live that same day at PBSKIDSGO.org/electriccompany.

The Electric Company and “Prankster Planet” are part of Ready To Learn, a joint initiative of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and PBS, and funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Education. Ready To Learn is a national initiative focused on using public media content to improve math and literacy skills of children ages two to eight, especially those from low-income families.

UCLA Festival To Give Award to Animation Voice Actress June Foray (“Cinderella”, “Rocky and Bullwinkle Show”)

Excerpted from full press release:

Aaron Sorkin, Allison Anders and June Foray will be among those honored at this year’s Festival of New Creative Work presented by UCLA’s School of Theater, Film & Television (TFT) . The annual week-long festival showcases and screens the works of TFT’s emerging artists, and honors the work of the entertainment industry’s brightest and most respected. Honorees are chosen by students voting within their particular discipline. The festival begins Friday, June 3 and runs through Thursday, June 9, 2011.

At Animation Prom night, legendary voice-over actress June Foray will be presented the Outstanding Contribution in Animation Award, also known as The Crystal Anvil Award. Foray’s celebrated career is a part of Hollywood history. Most known for voicing the role of Rocky the Flying Squirrel in The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show, Foray also played the voice of Lucifer in Disney’s Cinderella, plus scores of popular and classic characters. Students will also be awarded for their work in animation that night, June 4th, as well.

KULT Studio Merges Modern Design with the Art of Comics and Animation

Art and design mavens Brandon Savoy and Jeff Mackey have launched KULT Studio, a new design-forward approach to viewing and shopping for artwork online. Currently showcasing the art of animation, comics and other works of American pop culture, the hand-selected KULT collection is comprised of original production art and rare limited editions from an assortment of popular comics, animated movies and TV shows. Works from both established and underground artists are represented from studios such as Disney, Warner Bros., Marvel, DC Comics, 20th Century Fox and Lucasfilm.

Visitors to the site will find it aesthetically appealing, easy to navigate and sophisticated. As part of the “Now Generation,” Savoy and Mackey wanted to bring to KULT the same type of user experience that they themselves enjoy from different parts of the web. The highly-intuitive navigation, unique visual art search, frame-style selector and vibrant high-resolution images are all highlights of the KULT experience.

The art of animation and comics seems a perfect fit for KULT’s design style, coming at a time when this genre of art is more popular than ever. Every year, several pop-culture mega-gatherings such as Comic-Con and WonderCon bring in more comic and animation art fans from the mainstream. Summer blockbuster movies like Iron Man, as well as the anticipated upcoming releases from Marvel’s Avengers franchise (Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger due out this summer) will likely catapult the comic art market to new heights. A recent Marvel Avengers art release by esteemed comic artist Alex Ross entitled “Assemble” sold out in just days.

Some incredible recent valuations have furthered the reverence toward animation art and comics as big-time collectibles, on par with the fine art market: A copy of Action Comics #1 (1st appearance of Superman) sold for a record $1.5 million dollars in March of 2010. A recent Heritage auction in February 2011 valued an original production cel of Mickey Mouse at approximately $100,000.

The co-founders seek to expand KULT’s pop culture art collection in the coming months beyond comics and animation to include rare vintage rock n’ roll and movie posters as well as more original fine art from the ever-growing roster of KULT artists.

Cookie Jar Teams With Universal Music Canada For “Mudpit”

On the heels of a successful MIP TV 2011, Cookie Jar Entertainment CEO Michael Hirsh and Universal Music Canada (UMC) President and CEO Randy Lennox, jointly announce their partnership for the exclusive distribution audio and visual product from Mudpit. The highly anticipated Cookie Jar blended CGI animation/live action series Mudpit is set to premiere on TELETOON Canada’s English and French services, this fall/winter season.

This is a partnership to exploit the home entertainment and incredible all-original music which are front and center within every episode of Mudpit. The recently wrapped production is one of the core properties Cookie Jar unveiled this April at MIP TV 2011 in Cannes, France.

Randy Lennox comments “Cookie Jar is setting a new standard and we are thrilled to see such a talented roster of musicians contributing to a TV series. The full spectrum of rock and pop music is represented and the cumulative experience of the team they’ve assembled is truly impressive.”

Michael Hirsh added: “We have partnered with Universal Music Canada because they got the concept of the series right from the beginning. We look forward to UMC applying their track record of success bringing music properties to life, to our series.”

Mudpit is a new state-of-the-art blended CGI animation/live action TV series about four high school friends who form a band and enter an on-line performance-battle competition. Sure to appeal to kids and teens alike, the show tracks the highs and lows of the challenges the attractive, talented group navigates in real life while climbing their way to the top in the intensely vibrant, virtual game world of Muzika.

Featuring fantastic, ready-to-chart tracks, Mudpit will release albums through Universal Music Canada. Viewers will enjoy hip musical productions developed by industry veterans Andrea Wasse, Patrick Pentland and Greig Nori. Nori, former Treblecharger front man, has worked with everyone from Iggy Pop to Ludacris. Considered a music industry guru, Greig was duly instrumental to the massive success of Sum 41 as Co-Manager, Co-Writer and Producer.

Wasse is a strong writer whose work has featured in many films and TV projects including Instant Star and Margaret Cho’s VH1 show. Her songs have also been released by Fefe Dobson and Canadian Idols Kalan Porter and Brian Melo. As founding member of the band Sloan, Pentland is a true Canadian rock vet. In addition to writing, producing and performing for Sloan, Patrick has worked with many others including writing music for the children’s show Role Play.

Superstar Deryck Whibley, guitarist, lead vocalist, songwriter and producer of the Juno Award-winning rock band Sum 41 jumps in the mix, co-writing the title song ‘Mudpit’.

Overseeing all music production for the TV series are Last Gang Entertainment executives, Chris Taylor (Metric, Crystal Castles, DFA79) and Mark DiPietro (Peaches, Down with Webster).

The talented ‘cherry picked’ Mudpit cast members come from across Canada and bring extensive international TV series experience with them. Mudpit lead Liam/Lamb is played by Jesse Rath. Jesse`s recurring role on CBC’s 18 To Life recently earned him a Gemini Award for Best Ensemble Performance in a Comedy Program or Series. Carleigh Beverly in the role of Geneva/G has appeared in Connor Undercover. Adding to the high caliber of this talented cast is Vas Saranga as Reese/Dodge. He is most well known for his recurring role on Disney XD’s Aaron Stone as Vas. Rounding out the Canadian cast is Daniel Magder as Mikey/Booch, best known as Edwin from Life with Derek.

Japanese Government protests Herald Tribune cartoon

Japan Probe is reporting that the Japanese Consulate in New York has officially complained to the International Herald Tribune after the newspaper printed the following comic:

“The consulate complained that it was “regrettable” to see such a comic, given the fact that the safety of Japanese food exports is being verified by customs officials in both Japan and America.”

Don Figlozzi, the First TV Animator?

Historian Harvey Deneroff has posted a fascinating interview with Fleischer Studios veteran Don Figlozzi that he conducted in 1979. In it, Figlozzi (1909-1981) speaks about working as a “television artist” at WPIX in the late-1940s. If he wasn’t the first regular animator working in television, he was certainly among the first:

“They asked to see some samples, and I realized I wasn’t dealing with anybody that had been used to looking at art samples before. I was dealing with laymen, so to speak, engineers and people like that, and Hank Ross, who was a director, didn’t know anything about the art end of it. So I figured I’d make the stuff as close to TV as possible. I made their call letters and a call background – just like an announcement background. And then I made a series of things like the Twentieth Century-Fox heading that they have now; I originated that for WPIX, where letters come over a skyline; and worked up several different things: maps, little tiny maps – I thought everything had to be drawn small, so I did them small. I worked with a magnifying glass.”

Cartoon Network Korea Appoints Chin-won Chang as New General Manager

Cartoon Network Korea today announced the appointment of leading industry expert Chin-won Chang as General Manager.

Mr. Chang will assume responsibility for the network’s revenue, ratings and brand presence; as well as oversee the strategic development and implementation of new business, including licensing and interactive.

Ron Lee, Vice President and General Manager, Turner Entertainment Networks Korea Ltd. said,  “In the rapidly changing media industry in South Korea, I am pleased that Cartoon Network is being joined by such an industry leader. With over 10 years in the children’s entertainment industry, Chin-won will leverage his experience to further drive Cartoon Network’s channel business and go beyond television, making broader opportunities for Cartoon Network Enterprises and our digital business.”

Cartoon Network Korea, which was launched in 2006 as a joint venture between Turner Broadcasting System and JoongAng Ilbo, shows a continued growth in ratings, with an increase of over 30% from last year, and strong development on the digital platform, placing it in the top tier of children’s channels in South Korea.

Prior to this appointment Mr. Chang was General Manager of Tooniverse, where he worked since 1995, focusing on diversifying the company. In this role he launched a children’s portal site Tooniland and an online game version of Keroro.

In 2000 Mr. Chang received an award from the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism in the domestic animation export sector for Lazenka and other animation works he co-produced in an effort to revive the locally produced content industry.

Toy Brand “Gogo’s Crazy Bones” Greenlit for Animated Series


Bulldog Licensing, licensing agent for best-selling collectible Gogo’s Crazy Bones, has announced that a new animated series based on the property is set for production.

The innovative collectible figures are produced by Magic Box International and PPI Worldwide Group, who have teamed up with Lima-based Aronnax Animation Studios for the series, whilst Televix Entertainment will serve as the worldwide distributor. Production on a pilot is underway for completion by October and the remaining episodes will be ready for 2012.

This is sure to add to Gogo’s astonishing popularity — it is the No. 1 selling toy/collectible in the UK, Spain, Germany, Benelux, South Africa and Australia/NZ, with the product also selling in huge numbers in parts of Eastern Europe, the Nordics and Italy where it launched more recently. Reaction to the brand launch in France last month has been phenomenal and the campaign in the US has reached full swing with huge levels of TV advertising seeing the brand already the second-biggest selling collectable in Walmart stores.

Gogo’s also enjoys a dominant position in the licensing sector and Bulldog has built up a large and wide-ranging global programme – this includes publishing, plush, celebration cakes, apparel, greeting cards, stationery, back to school, calendars and giftware, with partners including Random House, Eaglemoss, Winning Moves, SA Greetings, National Entertainment Network, Imagination Games and Poetic Gem. Advanced discussions are underway right now to bring even more new and innovative products to the legions of Gogo’s fans.

“Gogo’s is already a global sensation so a TV presence was the next logical step and this new series is set to boost the brand’s massive profile even further!” says Bulldog MD Rob Corney.

Toei Animation Announces Latin AmericaLicensing & Merchandise Deals for “Dragon Ball”, “Digimon” and “Sailor Moon”


Toei Animation has closed Latin American licensing and merchandising agreements in a number of key consumer product categories for three of its top brands, it was announced by Eduardo Lucio, Senior Sales Manager for Toei Animation.

For Dragon Ball, Toei has finalized licensing deals with RICLAN (Brazil) for bubble gum and lollypops; NEOLINGO (Mexico) for toys; PRODUCTOS ALIMENTICIOS BOCADELI (El Salvador) for collectable cards/promotions; EDITORIAL GUADAL (Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Bolivia for stickers; and  Bondyfiesta (Mexico) for bubble gum.

For Digimon, Toei has secured CAMPESTRE (Brazil) for back packs.

For Sailor Moon, Toei has brought aboard DOOBALO (Mexico) for socks.

“Toei’s renowned animated properties continue to attract blue chip licensees across the Latin American market,” said Lucio.  “We look forward to rolling out our newest licensing programs with these outstanding Latin American licensees.”

Toei will be exhibiting at the upcoming International Licensing Show to be held June 14-16 in Las Vegas.  Toei’s booth # is 1774.

“Spongebob Squarepants” Head Writer Steven Banks Jumps to Schwarzenegger’s “The Governator”

A Squared Entertainment (A2) announces that Steven Banks has joined The Governator as Head Writer for the 21st Century superhero series.

“Having Steven Banks join The Governator’s already remarkable roster of industry experts is extremely exciting,” said A Squared Entertainment co-founders and CEOs, Andy and Amy Heyward. “Steven’s signature quirky humor will provide the perfect balance to the action, creating a unique series that will keep kids on the edge of their seats while also in stitches.”

Following a six-year run as Head Writer for the international television phenomenon SpongeBob Squarepants, and previously for Nickelodeon’s The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius, Banks brings his unique writing style to the recently announced multimedia property that marks Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s return to entertainment.

“Throughout my career whether it has been in body building, movies or politics, my philosophy has always been to bring together the best specialized talent to create projects that people will love,” said Schwarzenegger. “Having Steven on board to head up the writing for The Governator series is a fantastic next step.  His expertise, along with Stan Lee and POW! Entertainment, A2, and Archie Comics’, is the perfect combination.”
The Governator stars an animated Schwarzenegger after he has left his post as Governor of California. Schwarzenegger decides to take on the global villainy and 21st century disasters that no one else is equipped to handle. With an elite team of teens to help him, he creates a secret identity beneath his home–so secret that even his wife and kids are unaware. Using cutting-edge gear, custom-made “super suits,” state-of-the-art quirky gizmos, gadgets and vehicles, he will combat evil in all of its forms as The Governator…a superhero living a double life, who’s also a devoted family man who needs to make it home for dinner every night.

“It’s an honor to be working with an esteemed group of entertainment professionals such as Governor Schwarzenegger, Stan Lee, and Andy and Amy Heyward,” said Banks.  “They have created a ground-breaking series that is going to change the superhero format and I’m excited be a part of the magic that brings it all to life.”

A2 will produce The Governator TV series and 3-D movie and manage the global licensing, merchandising and distribution.  Archie Comics will publish the comic series in print and digital forms under the new brand label Stan Lee Comics. Stan Lee, his producing partner Gill Champion, and POW! will oversee all creative direction and story development.

Call For Submissions: Animation Block Party

The eighth annual Animation Block Party will run July 29-31 at Rooftop Films and Bam Cinematek, only in Brooklyn, NY. Animation Block Party is the largest animation festival on the East Coast, dedicated to screening the world’s best professional, student and independent work of all genres.

ABP 2011 opens on Friday, July 29th at Rooftop Films, with live music, followed by an outdoor simulcast screening of world premieres, international cartoons, exceptional student films and fan friendly shorts.

Animation Block Party will continue on Saturday, July 30th at Bam Cinematek. On Saturday, July 30th, ABP will be holding its first ever animation trade show, art gallery exhibition and filmmaker-media brunch at Bam Cinematek.

Trade show attendees will include Animation Mentor, NY Bike Jumble, L-Magazine and Green Mountain Energy and many more. The ABP gallery exhibition will feature content from legendary artists such as Doug Crane and Howard Beckerman alongside work from the newest animation talent.

ABP 2011 at BAM Cinematek will feature five individual programs, each screening twice.

A special Animation for Kids Program will screen on Saturday and Sunday at noon. The Animation for Kids Program at ABP will highlight animated shorts for children from across the globe.

On Saturday, July 30th – Program One (2pm and 6:50pm) will feature experimental animation, fresh music videos and subversive design works, while Program Two (4:30pm and 9:15pm) will showcase signature student films, professional content and narrative shorts.

On Sunday, July 31st – Program Three (2pm and 6:50pm) will feature award winning independent shorts, studio animation and other standout works, while Program Four (4:30pm and 9:15pm) will mix global films with New York premieres and local animations.

An ABP after-party featuring free beer with purchase of movie ticket, caps each evening.

For more information please go to www.animationblock.com

INTERVIEW: How The Rauch Brothers Make Shorts for PBS

Rauch Brothers

Rauch Brothers Animation, operated by Brooklyn-based Mike and Tim Rauch, epitomizes all that is good about New York animation. A couple years ago, they started producing self-funded animated shorts based on audio recorded by the StoryCorps oral history project. These films inspired an entire series of shorts commissioned by the PBS documentary program POV. The Rauch Brothers are now producing their second season of StoryCorps shorts for POV.

I conducted an interview via e-mail with Mike and Tim to learn more about their unconventional background and how their passion project evolved into a full-time job. They will also be presenting their work TONIGHT (4/20) in New York at an ASIFA-East program. In addition to previewing some unaired shorts, they’ll be discussing the process of producing these shorts. The screening begins 7pm at the School of Visual Arts (209 East 23rd Street, 5th Floor, Rm 502). Admission is FREE.

——————————————————

CARTOON BREW: Tell me a little bit about your backgrounds. Neither of you studied animation in school, right?

MIKE RAUCH: We both drew voraciously in grade school, and studied animation and drawing on our own throughout grade school, junior high, and high school. Our teenage brother knew we were into cartoons, and in 1992 he took us to see Beauty and the Beast at a dollar cinema that showed movies after their initial run. When we left the theater, we were both convinced that animation was our future. 

TIM RAUCH: The more we got to know about Disney animation, the more we came to respect the role of traditional draftsmanship skills in creating hand-drawn animation. Eventually, we discovered the work of Aardman Animations and the film Going Equipped in particular. Seeing an ex-convict tell his life story through quiet, carefully observed acting was very powerful for us and we began to think about using animation to tell stories about the human condition.

MIKE: I had dreamed about going to a school like CalArts since the age of 12. However, with six kids to send off, our parents sent us to whatever school offered the most scholarship money. For both me and Tim that turned out to be St. John’s University in Queens.  
 
TIM: St. John’s didn’t have any animation courses and the focus was very much on traditional visual arts training. By the time I finally got back around to trying my hand at animation in my senior year, I had spent a good deal of time studying master drawings and sketching people in the subway. As when I was a kid, I was more interested in using small adjustments in posture or little facial ticks to act out a story than bigger, louder movements. With our current work, I am still very interested in these subtleties but we are also beginning to embrace clearer staging and broader acting when it can enhance the story.

MIKE: Self-study and self-directed work has always been a major part of our lives, so we never considered not having a formal training in animation as a limitation. In fact, I think the reverse can sometimes be true. I studied graphic design in college and enjoyed it, but after four years of school I found that all the rules and practices I learned were holding me back. When I sat down to a blank page, there was a war in my head. I found myself overly concerned with the “right way” to do things.

I eventually landed at StoryCorps, where I helped record interviews with everyday people and edit them for radio broadcast. It was a really exciting time for me because I was learning how to shape stories in a much more organic, experiential way than I had learned design. I learned a lot by simply using my ears, my intuition, and then getting feedback from my editor. While I was working for StoryCorps, Tim and I started to work collaboratively, returning to our long-running interest in animation.
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“Top Cat/Don Gato” teaser

As previously reported on Cartoon Brew, coming this fall to cinemas in Mexico: Don Gato (aka Hanna-Barbera’s “Top Cat” or “Boss Cat”), a hand drawn feature in 3D. I wasn’t going to post this teaser as there isn’t much animation in it – but what’s there looks intriguing. And I had so many friends sending me links to it, I figure we gotta give our readers a chance to weigh in:

(Thanks to Chris Sobieniak, and many others)

“The Looney Tunes Show” press release

(This post is an example of the unedited press releases we now feature every day, compiled by Chris Arrant, on our new CB BIZ page. Headlines of each post are now listed in the top box on the right-hand column. Please check CB BIZ every day for a daily dose of the news direct from the source themselves)

Animation’s most beloved characters are back in an all-new series, The Looney Tunes Show, premiering Tuesday, May 3, at 8 p.m. (ET, PT) on Cartoon Network. Bugs and Daffy haven’t changed – but their living situation has. Bugs is as brazen, sarcastic and ahead-of-the-game as ever, and Daffy, despite his narcissistic, sociopathic and paranoid tendencies, is Bugs’ best friend and seemingly permanent houseguest. No longer confined to seven-minute shorts, their larger-than-life personalities (and egos) offer an irreverent, comical take on our modern world and introduce a whole new realm of possibilities. Now Bugs and Daffy can wreak as much havoc at the grocery store or the DMV as they once did in the forest.

The premiere episode, “Best Friends,” sets the scene for this unlikely pair’s dynamic. Daffy decides the duo can make a quick buck by going on the game show Besties, where best friends answer questions about one another. However, it becomes quite clear that self-absorbed Daffy knows absolutely nothing about Bugs. Daffy wants to make it up to him with a fabulous cruise, but cannot even do that right.

Throughout the series, familiar faces from the Looney Tunes universe join Bugs and Daffy. Rounding out the cast are the eternally optimistic Porky Pig, the quick and quick-witted Speedy Gonzales, the insane but lovable Lola, Yosemite Sam, Foghorn Leghorn, the Tasmanian Devil, Marvin the Martian, Pepe Le Pew, Tweety, Sylvester, Granny, the Witch, Gossamer, Tosh and Mac Gopher, and the newest character of the bunch, Daffy’s no-nonsense girlfriend, Tina.

The series also features Merrie Melodies – animated music videos of original songs spotlighting everyone from Elmer Fudd to Pepe Le Pew, plus all-new adventures with the Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote in stunning CG. All this together in one half-hour comedy, The Looney Tunes Show delivers fresh, sophisticated humor, heartwarming moments and something Looney for everyone.

The Looney Tunes Show will join fellow cartoon icons from the hit animated series Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated on Tuesday nights. Scooby and the gang are back solving mysteries in the spooky town of Crystal Cove – including the overarching mystery of Mister E. and their Mystery Incorporated predecessors – when season two of Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated premieres on Tuesday, May 3, at 7:30 p.m. (ET, PT).

The Looney Tunes Show and Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated are produced by Warner Bros. Animation. Sam Register (Teen Titans, Ben 10, Batman: The Brave and the Bold) is the executive producer of both, and Spike Brandt and Tony Cervone (Duck Dodgers, Back at the Barnyard, Space Jam, Tom and Jerry Tales) are supervising producers.

17 Animation Projects Selected For Germany’s Animation Production Day

On the 3rd and 4th May in the Haus der Wirtschaft, the 17 animation projects which have been chosen for this year’s Animation Production Day will be presented in one-to-one meetings. Representatives of 47 participating companies will meet producers, world sales companies, broadcasters, banks and equity investors to discuss new financing channels, product strategies and possible options for exploitation, as well as the brand potential of their projects. Seven projects from Germany are among those selected, as well as projects from Great Britain, Spain, Columbia, Lithuania, Russia, Israel and Switzerland. This year, the projects under negotiation can boast a total production volume of over 65 million euros.

The industry is undergoing a period of radical change: At one end of the spectrum, a globalisation and monopolisation involving, above all, US media corporations, sees these building closed ranks in exclusive chains of distribution and exploitation. At the other, we observe the success of small, effective studios in establishing synergies between classic TV and film production and the new media of online/games. All this, together with  a general tightening of budgets and a shift towards funding for Family Entertainment, has lead to a change in the face of the market. Smaller, independent producers acting in this difficult environment are forced to re-think their approach. The APD offers a platform where these innovative approaches and strategies can be discussed, and where participants can build new networks and deepen their knowledge of the market.

The combination of the Festival of Animated Film, the FMX and Animation Production Day, has established itself as one of the most important events in the animation industry’s calender worldwide. Since 2007, the APD has been able to bring together a total of 189 international players, presenting and negotiating projects with a total production volume of 360 million euros.

On its fifth anniversary the APD will, for the first time, feature a conference which bring together representatives of ARD, ZDF and KI.KA TV channels with German producers for an exchange of ideas and a discussion of current programming challenges. The “Conference on TV and production in Germany for children, youth and animation”, which takes place on 2nd May in Stuttgart’s Literaturhaus, is a joint event run by the APD and the German Producers’ Alliance. At the conference, the Alliance will present its current study on “TV and production for children, youth and animation”. This study will deliver, for the first time in years, authoritative figures on the situation on the German market. The conference will be opened by Helmut Rau, Minister of the State Ministry of Baden-Wuerttemberg.

Animation Production Day is an event hosted by the 18th Stuttgart International Festival of Animated Film  and the FMX 2011, the 16th Conference on Animation, Effects, Games and Interactive Media and is organised by the Film- & Medienfestival gGmbH, the Institute of Animation, Visual Effects und Digital Postproduction at the Film Academy Baden-Wuerttemberg in co-operation with Michael Schmetz Mediaconsult.

French Comedian Launches Prime-Time Animated Sitcom with Distributor 9 Story & Oasis Animation

Toronto-based production and distribution studio 9 Story Entertainment has signed on as the worldwide distributor of Ben’s City (Pérusse Cité), a prime-time animated sitcom (13 × 22 min) from Montreal-based Oasis Animation and famous francophone comedian François Pérusse, it was announced by 9 Story EVP Business Development Natalie Osborne.

Available in both French and English, finished episodes of the primetime animated series will be introduced to the international marketplace at MIPTV. The French-language version was commissioned by the SRC (Société Radio-Canada) with the participation of ARTV, in the Canadian francophone market and 9 Story has placed the English-language version with CBC.

“We are thrilled to be working with Oasis Animation and look forward to bringing this hilarious new series to buyers at MIPTV,” said Osborne. “The popularity of François Pérusse’s extensive body of work in France and French speaking Europe, as well as at home in Quebec coupled with Oasis Animation’s expert execution of François’ unique concept will serve to quickly attract a strong and loyal following for Ben’s City.”

Ben’s City is an animated sitcom populated by a crew of odd-ball characters from comedian François Pérusse’s warped and hilarious imagination. It parodies daily life in a big cosmopolitan city and the suburbs — all through the eyes of our protagonist Ben and the various people in his world.

Ireland’s Kavaleer Productions Hires Animation Producer Jackie Leonard

Jackie Leonard is delighted to have joined Kavaleer Productions as a Producer in February 2011.

After graduating with a degree in Arts and a Post Grad in Arts Admin Jackie began working in the film and animation industry. Starting off her career in the Galway Film Fleadh she then moved into the animation industry and has moved up to her current position as Producer over the last 14 years.

She was a Commercials Producer for Brown Bag Films for over 8 years and has produced many TV commercials, music videos and animated TV series. Some of her credits as Producer/ Production Manager to date include Olivia II 26 x 11min TV series for Chorion US, The Academy Award® Nominated short film Granny O’Grimm 1 x 5min, Give Up Yer Aul Sins TV Series & Documentary 7 x 5 min & 30min Doc, The Boy Who Had No Story 11min Frameworks Short Film (2 x IFTA Awards 2005), The Masterplan Video for Oasis for Partizan UK, Before Sunrise 5 min Frameworks Short Film, Why Series II 28 x 5min eps, Lil Europeans 26 x 1min eps.

She has also produced multiple TV commercials for National and International clients including The Lotto, Vodafone, and Post Bank commercials for DDFH&B, Fig Rolls, (2 x Shark Awards Irl), 3Mobile, Irish Examiner & 11850 Conduit, (Irl/UK/Austria/Spain), for Young Euro RSCG, Guinness Ad for IIDDBO, Berocca Ad for Y&R, Pampa Juice Ads for Grey Beirut (Lebanon), UTV/ Progressive Stings for Navigator Blue (Belfast), IFB Identity Re-Brand, Coca-Cola Ad for Rothco and a lot more! As a production coordinator in Magma she worked on the following TV series: Norman Normal Series I & II 26 x 26 min, Nick and Perry 52 x 11 min, Tosh 26 x 13 min.

Cartoon Network Picks Up 9 Story’s “Almost Naked Animation” For U.S. Broadcast

Multi-award-winning production and distribution company 9 Story Entertainment has signed an agreement with Cartoon Network for the U.S. broadcast of its proprietary animated comedy series, Almost Naked Animals (40 x 22 min); it was announced by 9 Story President and CEO, Vince Commisso.

The animated series is schedule to debut in 2011 on Cartoon Network.

“We are thrilled to be bringing Almost Naked Animals to U.S. audiences with Cartoon Network and anticipate out-of-the-box success for this hilarious new series as part of the incredible Cartoon Network brand,” said Commisso.

Almost Naked Animals is an irreverent, fast-paced series featuring free-spirited animals in their underwear that run a beach-front hotel like kids at a summer camp — and do their best to make each day more fun than the last. Lead dog and hotel manager, Howie, who has the attention span of an 11-year old in a video arcade, heads the dysfunctional but extremely humorous ensemble cast.