Visiting a museum on a weekend is a great thing to do. And thanks to brothers Mark Osborne (More and Kung Fu Panda) and Kent Osborne (Adventure Time, Spongebob Squarepants) you can do so in less than five minutes. Created in an improvisational fashion during three days at the museum, this pixilated short takes a journey through Los Angeles’ Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), through its current exhibition Art in the Streets with works by Banksy, Rammellzee and Kenny Scharf.
Cartoon Brew readers might have seen this coming a mile away, but not Wall Street. The business world is finally realizing that 3-D may not be the revolution that Hollywood’s snake oil salesmen promised it would be. Yesterday, shares in 3-D technology licensor provider RealD sank nearly 16% to $15.48. It’s significant because this is the first time the stock is trading below its 2010 IPO price of $16 a share. The stock was trading at over $35 just two months ago.
The stock plunged following the company’s first quarter report which topped analysts’ expectations but fell short of estimates on Wall Street. Analysts have already begun asking whether it’s game over for 3-D.
Another big loser in the film technology arena this week was IMAX. Its shares slipped 6% yesterday to under $19. IMAX’s stock is down a whopping 41% in the month of July, though some analysts are still bullish on the company’s future.
The problem with RealD’s approach (as well as IMAX’s to some extent) is that it up-sells movies without adding significant value to the experience. I’ve seen 3-D films only a handful of times and I’d be hard-pressed to recall which films they were, much less point out a moment where the 3-D made the film richer or more fulfilling.
Actor Patrick Stewart expresses his appreciation for animation in this CNN interview and says that, “I think in film the most exciting work currently is being done in animation.”
(Thanks, Tres Swygert)
Guess what opens today? They are small and blue and The Los Angeles Times says their film is “…grating and cloying. This misguided attempt at a 3-D family comedy is a project even Neil Patrick Harris can’t save.”
The New York Times says “the movie frequently reminds us that the gimmick of little creatures scurrying about in the human world (Toy Story, Gnomeo and Juliet) is pretty worn out. But on a hot summer day, The Smurfs is a decent enough excuse to haul the little ones into an air-conditioned theater.”
Comments below are open only to our readers who have seen the film and wish to offer their reactions and reviews.
Animation Block Party, the most significant US animation festival on the East Coast, returns tonight for its eighth year in a row. The festival will take place over the next three days in Brooklyn with six programs of animated shorts and three after-parties. The festival is also exploring some new directions this year, in the form of a trade show and gallery exhibition:
On Saturday, July 30, 2011 – ABP will hold its first ever animation trade show and art gallery exhibition at BAMcinématek from 12pm-8pm. Trade show attendees will include Animation Mentor, NY Bike Jumble, L-Magazine, DaVinci Artist Supply, Green Mountain Energy, The Community Bookstore and many more.
The ABP gallery exhibition will feature content from animation talents such as Doug Crane, Howard Beckerman, Deborah Ross, Maori Stanton, Jeff Scher, Mike Lapinski, Caroline Foley, Michael Langan and London Squared alongside festival photos from Jazzmine Beaulieu. The Saturday ABP trade show and art gallery is free and open to the public.
For a list of all the films in competition, screening times and ticket info, visit the Animation Block website.
Golly, I never thought I’d see that thing on the internet. I really wish I could re-do those drawings right about now.
I read some of the comments earlier, and I think I can provide some perspective as to what I was up to, and what was happening at the time I wrote this.
It was created for a Disney offsite. I wasn’t invited to the retreat, but anyone could write their thoughts down and submit them, and they would be copied and bound into a folder that would accompany the attendees. The hope being that all this stuff would be read carefully and thoughtfully and then discussed by the attendees at the retreat.
I wanted to submit some thoughts of my own, but from the size of some of the notes being submitted by my fellow artists, I thought it was unlikely anyone would really read all that material. We’re talking dozens if not hundreds of pages of thoughts/complaints/suggestions in that folder.
So I decided to submit mine in the form of this little picture book — so it might stand out. I’m not sure if it worked, but if someone found a copy of it twenty years later, at least one person must have read it.
Anyone who read the story would see that I wasn’t a proponent of the removal of writers from the development process. But I was focusing on the quantity of writers, the quality of the writers, and the unwillingness of writers to partner with the artists they worked so near. And, I would say, the artists they needed to make their material work. In feature animation a great deal of the finished film, if not the bulk of it, is written by the story crew. And I mean entire scenes, not the occasional gag that is transcribed back into a script. As head of story on Mulan, I received a writing credit for that very reason.
The other thing I was concerned about was the ever-growing complexity of our films, and what I saw as an emerging pattern they were all cut from. A lot of our films fell into a well-worn groove. Different characters, but similar roles. It didn’t seem like we could get away with that forever. I felt we could be more inventive. I felt that a film with a smaller crew and lower budget could be successful.
While the story crew was debating how we would kill the villain at the end of Mulan, we began reflecting on how strange it was that we spent so much time trying to find fresh ways to kill characters in Disney films. In Mulan we (the story crew) came up with the idea that the villain could be blown to bits by fireworks, rather than falling to his death as was written in the script. A lot of those villains fall at the end of Disney films. Some get stabbed first, but a whole lot of them fall. There was almost always a death at the end of our movies. It was one of those patterns I worried about.
That’s where Lilo and Stitch came from. At its base, Lilo and Stitch is a story about a villain who becomes a hero. A redemption story. A story that diverged from the pattern.
At the time I wrote that document, the suggestion that Disney could be surpassed by another studio seemed outrageous. Impossible. But a studio or company that feels secure, is slow to innovate and has trouble with self-examination can certainly be surpassed by something fresh, small, and fast.
Anyway, that’s where the little story book came from. To my surprise, it made the rounds. In the years that followed I got the occasional call from people at other companies that asked if they could use it for a presentation. I guess it was vague enough that it could apply in other places. Including Lockheed, to my surprise.
UPDATE: Chris has followed up with a second comment about the role of writers in animation:
I’m glad this forum has generated such passion – it’s so nice to hear so many perspectives. The only thing I’d add at this point, is that I don’t assume anything about writers. All my experience with the writers I was referring to was first-hand.
Again, I like writers. The good ones. The ones that aren’t just good at structure or inventive dialogue or the rhythm of a scene – but the ones that are also good in a room. The ones that are friendly, energetic and collaborative. The ones that can adapt quickly to a change and don’t have a problem editing their own pages. The ones that think visually, and understand when to let the characters shut up and let the score do the talking. And the ones that do their job without arrogance or ego. One thing I’ve learned – if someone tells you they are a great writer, they probably aren’t a great writer. At the very least they are a writer who’s better off mailing their pages in because you probably don’t want them around.
When I talk about writers I’m talking about the ones I actually worked with. In development my room was right next to theirs. A whole slew of different writers passed through that room – none of them stuck around very long. Some were silly, some were lazy, some were arrogant, and some were just plain mean. One group yelled at our PA because their phone cord wasn’t long enough. Another set spent the entire day wadding up fresh pieces of typing paper and throwing them at a wastebasket till it was buried, then took a three hour lunch. They came back for an hour before they left for the day. One came into my room, complained about my drawings, then took a piece of paper from me and scribbled the most terrible little drawing. He gave it to me and said, “There, that’s how the villain should look.”
Boy, I wish I kept that drawing. Once, while in a very tense meeting, our writer banged their head on a table, burst into tears, and ran out of the room.
And I listened to them all day long. That’s why I wrote what I did about them. I actually heard the stories they were hatching. It was pure insanity. The Sound Of Music set underwater with Nazi sharks. I saw them watch a Goofy cartoon and one of them asked why Goofy was acting so dumb. They thought they could probably fix that, because, well, I guess they thought the way Goofy was acting must have been some sort of mistake.
The ones I worked with, especially in development, didn’t belong there. They had no love for animation. In fact there was usually contempt for it. They wasted our time, money, and seriously stressed everyone out because we fretted that one of them might actually be assigned to one of our films and we’d have to carry them all the way through.
We wondered where they all came from. When you bought a typewriter did a certificate fall out that said, “Congratulations! You are now a writer. Take this certificate to your nearest studio where you can redeem it for a job.”
To the fellow who joked that I should have hired a writer for my story, I would say it already had one – me. I thought it up. I wrote it. And I drew it. It may not be perfect, but it exists solely because I made it. And it still seems to have some ability to start conversation, which is what I wanted it to do when it was written twenty years ago.
The implication of course that a “real” writer could have done it better. But as usual, when I was making it, there weren’t any around. All the “real” ones had gone home at 4:00. So I did it. And it got done.
One final note – I’ve written scripts and I’ve drawn story boards. I’ve even boarded my own pages. And when I board my own pages I change about the same amount of stuff I do when working from other writers pages. Even I can’t foresee all the adaptation a scene will need until I actually start drawing it. So if you’re writing for feature animation, don’t be too quick to feel upset if things get changed in boards. As soon as I sit down to board my own pages, I’ll think, “Well this doesn’t work.” Or, “I can dump half of this, what the hell was I thinking?”
Boarding is physically more demanding than writing. It just is. Write a battle scene, then try boarding it. A single paragraph of a script can stretch into hundreds of drawings. Feature animation is ultimately written on the boards. Pixar, Disney, Dreamworks, are all massive collaborations. Scenes are written, boarded, pitched… and then the real work begins. Those meetings can last days, and the story artists, directors, and writers are all in that room together. Writers return to their computers alone, but they are carrying all the material generated in those story meetings. So be careful not to imagine a pristine process where a writer sends pages along, and they simply get made into a movie.
Buckle Up, a team of 3rd year students led by Abe Taraky, created this charming little film at Sheridan College’s BA Animation program.
London’s grey landscape has never looked so alluring as in Daniela Negrin Ochoa‘s trailer for the upcoming London International Animation Festival. Ochoa is a recent grad of the National Film & Television School.
She provided these notes about the trailer:
The London International Animation Festival wanted a trailer to celebrate their upcoming animation festival and their new home, the Barbican. This year’s festival theme is cut-out animation, which inspired the look of this trailer. I directed, designed, and animated it myself using ink on acetate and tracing paper under camera on a 3 layer multiplane set-up. The music is by composer Jon Wygens.
Brooklyn animation boutique Awesome and Modest created this new music video for The Mountain Goats track, Estate Sale Sign. In the video, two shape-shifting beasts wage a war over a snow globe – with a brief pause for a moment of tenderness.
Director : Awesome and Modest
Editor : Sean Donnelly
Animation: Sean Donnelly, Jordan Bruner, Abbey Luck, Taili Wu, Vanessa Appleby
Avatar: The Last Airbender was a very successful anime-inspired seies for Nickelodeon. Unfortunately the franchise took a hit last year with the M. Night Shyamalan live action feature. Undeterred, Avatar creators Michael DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko are supervising 26 episodes of a new spin-off limited series, The Last Airbender: Legend of Korra, which is scheduled to debut next year. Last week at Comic Con Nick released this first taste:
I posted the trailer for Second Hand a few months ago, and knowing Isaac King‘s track record as a commercial animation director, I had high hopes for it. Having seen the entire short now, it pleases me to report that Second Hand ranks amongst the most fully conceived and visually arresting shorts that I’ve come across this year.
The most striking element is the visual world that King has concocted through a novel combination of stop motion and hand drawn animation. The world lies somewhere between flat and three-dimensional, and the characters fit nicely inbetween with quasi-cubist faces and stylized patterns of movement. It’s the type of visual experience befitting a larger screen than my laptop and I hope to see it in a theater someday.
The film’s graphic originality almost made me overlook the powerful storytelling, which “examines the imbalance and waste” created by the modern-day obsessions of saving time and collecting junk, which King shows are actually two sides of the same coin. As the film began, I initially thought it was headed for a simplistic pro-environmental creed, but there’s actually a far more sophisticated and poignant message embedded within.
More Penguins, more dancing, more rap music… Here’s the full theatrical trailer for Warner Bros. Happy Feet 2 which opens on November 18th.
We’re back from our Comic-Con hiatus with the fifth film in Cartoon Brew’s Student Animation Festival: The Impossible Moon by Meinardas ValkeviÄius. The film was made at the Vilniaus Academy of Arts in Lithuania. To comment on the film or read extensive behind-the-scenes notes from the filmaker, click HERE.
This just might be my personal favorite film of the festival. There are countless student films that tell stories set in space (with a large percentage of them revolving around the Russian dog Laika for some inexplicable reason), but this one stands out, mainly because it dares to challenge our perception of a famous historical event. The Impossible Moon convincingly presents an alternate history of an iconic moment through superb command of the animation medium, especially camera, staging and sound. Regardless of your feelings about the story (and for the record, I’m a space buff who doesn’t buy into any conspiracy theories), the film immediately grabs the viewer with its audacious, thought-provoking concept. My favorite part of the film is the relationship between astronaut Michael Collins and his two inflatable travel companions, which affirms that an emotional bond can exist even in a conspiratorial setting.
Brew reader “Test Pilot” was looking through his copy of The Illusion of Life when he stumbled onto some Xeroxes circa 1989 tucked inside of the book. The story and artwork, posted in its entirety on this blog is by Chris Sanders, director of Lilo & Stitch and How To Train Your Dragon. It’s called The Big Bear Aircraft Company, and of course, the drawings ooze with typical Sanders appeal.
But this isn’t any normal story concept. The sub-title is “A Book for the Big Retreat.” And the story is an allegorical tale about the animation industry. The message is loud and clear: a management-heavy, writer-driven animation studio will be doomed to produce safe and unoriginal animated films. His devastating takedown of writers is notable; he doesn’t even bother extending a metaphor to them and bluntly depicts their uselessness in his story’s setting, which is an aircraft factory:
The writer likes airplanes; he saw one on TV once. He has actually never worked on one before, and couldn’t tell you for sure what makes one fly. But now he’s got the idea, and is hammering away at an incredible rate. . . . Without the visual engineer’s guidance, the writer is guaranteed of making the same mistake every time. He will make his airplane look like every one he’s seen before, and he will power it with a plot and dialogue engine, the biggest and heaviest he can find.
The document raises a number of fascinating questions that perhaps Chris or someone else familiar with the document’s origin can answer. For example, what retreat was this created for, who saw the document originally, have Chris’s views changed or evolved in the past couple decades, and most importantly, did anybody listen to Chris’s passionate plea to trust the artists?
UPDATE: Chris Sanders wrote two detailed comments about the purpose of the book, what he hoped to accomplish with it, and the role of writers in animation. Click HERE to read Chris’s thoughts.
My Mother’s Coat is a beautiful, sensitive film by Marie-Margaux Tsakiri-Scanatovits, a freelance illustrator and animator based in South London. She completed her MA in Animation at Royal College of Art; this was her 2010 final project. Tsakiri-Scanatovits’ is also part of the artists collective, MOTH, and we’ve featured her in our “Animated Fragments” section before. She describes the film:
“My Mother talks to me about post-dictatorship Athens, her struggle to adapt to the greek mentality, her memories of motherhood, and her longing to go back to her small town in Italy.”
For more information about the filmmaker, follow her blog.
(Thanks, David Prosser)