Character animator Vitaliy Strokous didn’t have any films in the CalArts Producer’s Show last night (which was a great program btw, and I’ll be posting some of the films screened here in the near future), but I was told he is an animator to look out for. So I looked him up online and found this fun little film he made last year with classmates Eusong Lee, Christopher and Kyle Baeta-Orick, produced in 48 hours sometime last semester.
Dan Adler is a former v-p of creative development at Walt Disney Imagineering. Now he’s running for Congress in California with kooky and borderline inappropriate ads like the ones above and below. His website features endorsements from people who’ll be familiar to the animation community, including former Disney CEO Michael Eisner, retired Imagineering exec Marty Sklar, and Geraldine Laybourne, who launched Nickelodeon’s original animation programming in the early 1990s. Have any Brew readers ever worked with him?
Responding to my comment about the difficulty of writing anything interesting about Pixar nowadays, Brew reader Matt said:
It’s hard to look at Pixar as anything but perfect but if you don’t want to continually reiterate the same Pixar praise, you can instead start looking into some of the negatives surrounding the studio. Such as the recent antitrust lawsuit seeking class action status by a former LucasFilm Software engineer accusing Pixar, Lucasfilm, Google, Apple, Intuit, Adobe, and Intel of having “no solicitation” agreements with one another to curb competition for skilled labor and cap employee pay. Time will tell if it’s true or not, just hope they continue making entertaining films.
That’s a fascinating story topic, and it got me thinking about what are some other stories about Pixar that I’d like to read. Here are some suggestions:
* Non-union Pixar is notorious for paying lower wages than the other major CG feature studios. They can get away with this because the prestige of working on a Pixar feature trumps a salary. That’s an excellent position for a company to be in, but history reminds us that it’s not a sustainable approach in the long-term. The parallels between Pixar’s current approach and the Disney studio of the late-Thirties are eerily similar, especially in Pixar’s paternalistic approach to offering incentives to its employees. Take this excerpt from the New Yorker piece about Pixar’s cereal bar: “There was once a new arrival at the company, who thought the bowls provided at the bar were too small, and registered his displeasure in an email. He didn’t last. In Lasseter’s words, ‘If you’re that upset about how big the bowl for your free cereal is, leave.’” In other words, Pixar will give you free cereal as long as you eat it exactly the way they want you to eat it.
* Not entirely Pixar-related, but another story I’d love to read more about is Lasseter’s takeover of the creative side of Disney Feature Animation. Lasseter has ruffled plenty of feathers and pushed some of the top talents out of the studio (Chris Sanders, and perhaps Glen Keane next), but he’s also responsible for retooling Tangled into the studio’s biggest earner since The Lion King. Is Disney becoming more like Pixar? And is that a positive development?
* Of course, there’s also the old standby: the lack of female protagonists in Pixar’s oeuvre. The latest take on the topic is this piece in Persephone Magazine. For the record, Anthony Lane in his New Yorker piece argued that Elastigirl is a “single-handed rebuke to the charge–proved elsewhere–that Pixar has failed to place female heroes at the hub of its stories.”
Your suggestions for good Pixar stories?
Here’s our feel-good story of the day: Dante Buford, 22, who recently completed his B.A. in animation at Loyola Marymount University, was selected by Gobelins to participate in the highly selective character animation workshop in Paris this summer.
According to information provided to us by LMU:
Born in the city of Whittier and raised in Pico Rivera, Buford moved to Los Angeles at the age of 13 and then relocated to Inglewood his senior year of high school. A member of the Crenshaw High School class of 2007, Buford’s first exposure to higher education was attending the LMU Summer Creative Workshop. Each year, a group of talented youth from the Los Angeles inner city are mentored by LMU faculty while creating films. After attending the summer program at LMU, he eagerly applied to the School of Film and Television his senior year at Crenshaw. Upon his acceptance to LMU, he was awarded the Cosgrove Family Endowment Scholarship, which covered his tuition and expenses throughout his four-year undergraduate education.
Buford’s senior project, Interview (image above), is a short animated film about a Mom stressing out over a job interview who is sabotaged by a vindictive woman competing for the same position. This trip marks Buford’s first out of the state of California and first time flying on an airplane.
My sincerest congratulations to Dante Buford, and his classmate Christina “Kiki” Manrique who was also selected to attend the Gobelins workshop, on winning this opportunity. We look forward to posting your films here in the future.
If you thought Superbook was didactic… TPM.com is reporting that former minister-turned-Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee is producing a series of Learn Our History animated videos that tell the “true” story of American history, the story our “schools are afraid to tell”. Says Huckabee:
“Some teachers and education boards are using history and social studies classes as their soap box to promote their own political opinions and biases! Using animated videos that kids love, this series tells the tales of…a group of friends who create an incredible time machine that takes them back in time to relive history in the making.”
This one is going right into the Cartoon Dump. It’s so poor, it looks like a Saturday Night Live parody… but it’s for real! Here’s a sample:
(Thanks, Frank Conniff)
Anthony Lane’s fawning eight-page profile of Pixar in the new edition of The New Yorker (May 16) has convinced me that it is next to impossible to write anything of substance about the studio at this time. The studio’s unparalleled string of successes at the box office inevitably leads to writers attempting to figure out why they’ve been so good, and the response from within the studio is always the same tired line about how all the elements of the film are created in the service of the story. That’s a great point, of course, and deserves to be shouted from the rooftops, but it doesn’t exactly make for thought-provoking commentary. Nor does it explain Cars. Lane’s article isn’t on-line, but if you’ve read anything about Pixar in the past few years, then you’ve probably read this piece, too.
Well, actually, Lane does have one original revelation: he harbors a fetish for the, umm, elasticity, of the The Incredibles’ Helen Parr, aka Elastigirl:
Helen, with bendy limbs adaptable for both vacuuming and fistfights, is a living joke about society’s expectation that women should have it all, or do it all, and never take a break. There is, of course, another skill that she could master with her natural sinuosity, but that is never mentioned. Back in 2004, some of us in the movie theatre wanted to shout, “Bob, she’s wearing a black mask and thigh-highs. What are you waiting for, man?” For the sake of the kids, though, we kept quiet. Bedrooms, in Pixar, are places where you chat to monsters, or horse around with your toys: not perspiring rumpus rooms, where Mr. and Mrs. Incredible play adults-only Twister.
Such is the state of commentary about Pixar today.
Keymon Ache premiered earlier this week on Nickelodeon India. Watch the first episode on Nick India’s website. It’s about an ordinary Indian boy and his magical rapping monkey Keymon Ache.
The series, which is being touted as “India’s first non-mythological contemporary show,” is produced by DQ Entertainment. Why this is important: the show’s entire production, even the creative pre-production elements, were done entirely in India, and the results are almost on a par with Western animated series. There’s a handful of localized touches, such as the boy not wearing shoes in the home, but for the most part it looks and feels like a Western show. The fact that India can now produce an entire Westernized animated series from concept to completion is both an accomplishment and a game-changer for the animation industry.
(Thanks, Rohit Iyer)
Good news, animation historians! The complete 1922 through 1929 run, 22,000 pages, of industry trade paper The Film Daily has just been posted online at Archive.org. Reviews of rare and now-lost silent cartoon shorts, trade advertising (like the Krazy Kat ad above) and articles of historic interest are here – but you’ll have to diligent and scour each and every page to find nuggets like this ad for Winkler Felix the Cat and Disney’s Alice Comedies or this review of the second Mickey Mouse cartoon, Gallopin’ Gaucho. This is truly a gold mine for researchers like myself.
(Thanks, Leonard Maltin)
Lots of fun visual ideas in Sidewalk Scribble by Melbourne, Australia-based filmmaker Peter Lowey. The film was created for Annecy’s YouTube contest. The winner of the contest, who will be announced at the end of May, will win a trip to Annecy, an award from the festival, a five-night trip to LA and a visit to Disney Feature Animation. Not a bad prize package. You can vote on all the entries on Annecy’s YouTube page.
Here’s something we don’t see nearly enough of nowadays: a hand-drawn full-animation short. Sumo Lake is a re-telling of “Swan Lake” animated by Adelaide, Australia-based Greg Holfeld. No fancy effects or gimmicks, the focus here is on drawing and movement and both are commendable. Holfeld reveals details about his process on the film’s official website.
(PS: Jerry posted Greg’s crappier work in 2007.)