“Mound” by Allison Schulnik

Clay animation can be a magical medium when the material is allowed to be itself and not dressed up to look like something else. This is something that animators like Bruce Bickford and David Daniels understood, as does CalArts Experimental grad Allison Schulnik. The pulsating figures in her new short Mound are reminiscent of an earlier Grizzly Bear music video of hers that I posted in 2009, but there’s also some fun new visual concepts, particularly the sequence that begins at the two-minute mark.

Film by Allison Schulnik
Cinematography by Helder K. Sun.
“It’s Raining Today” written by Noel Scott Engel

(Thanks, Jorge Gutierrez)

Coming Soon

2011 is not quite done, but that doesn’t stop the studios from promoting its upcoming 2012 fare. Here’s the clever one-sheet (and a new name) for Disney’s latest Studio Ghibli release, The Secret World Of Arriety.

(via The Ghibli Blog)

The latest from Laika, via Focus Features, Paranorman, opens next August 17th. The teaser poster is quite striking:

(Via Immersed In Movies)

And finally, for all you Bronies, this scary looking poster spotted on Ventura Blvd (at Barham Blvd.):

Animation Returns To MTV with “Beavis & Butthead” and “Good Vibes” Beginning October 27

SANTA MONICA, CA (OCTOBER 24, 2011) — MTV is launching an all-new animated comedy block this Thursday, October 27, with the premieres of Mike Judge’s Beavis and Butt-Head at 10:00 p.m., followed by new series from creator David Gordon Green, Good Vibes at 10:30 p.m., featuring the voice talent of Adam Brody, Josh Gad, Danny McBride and Debi Mazar, among others.

In 1993, Mike Judge, creator of Beavis and Butt-Head” and MTV knocked their heads together and launched a cartoon series starring a couple of lunkheads, and unwittingly started an animated pop culture revolution. Almost as soon as the world’s most famous slacker teenagers wearing heavy-metal T-shirts reared their heads, they became self-appointed arbiters of “cool.” But, for the most part, Beavis and Butt-Head spent their time just sitting on a couch making fun of what they watched on television.

Now, the boys who created a cultural dialogue for an entire generation, Beavis and Butt-Head, are coming back to MTV on Thursday, October 27 at 10:00 p.m. ET/PT. They make their triumphant return to unleash their hilarious and biting commentary on today’s society, music and pop culture. Commenting on everything from music videos, reality TV shows like Jersey Shore, movies, mixed martial arts, viral videos and more, Beavis and Butt-Head are returning to your television screen, giving familiar fans and a whole new audience the chance to laugh at America’s favorite animated dim-witted duo.

Good Vibes, a half-hour animated coming-of-age comedy premiering on MTV on Thursday, October 27 at 10:30 p.m. ET/PT, follows transplanted Jersey boy Mondo (voiced by Josh Gad, The Book of Mormon) and his best bud Woodie (voiced by Adam Brody, The O.C.), as they surf the biggest waves, hit the wildest parties and chase the prettiest girls in Play Del Toro – a colorful California beach community.

The all-star ensemble cast also features Debi Mazar (Entourage) as ‘Babs’ Mondo’s mom; Alan Tudyk (Suburgatory, Serenity) as ‘Lonnie,’ a burnt-out but wise beach bum; Danny McBride (Eastbound & Down) as ‘Ms. Teets,’ a massively overweight and inappropriate human sexuality teacher; Olivia Thirlby (Bored to Death) as ‘Jeena,’ the beautiful girl of Mondo’s dreams; Jake Busey (Starship Troopers, The Good Guys) as ‘Turk,’ an obnoxious local surfer and bully; and Tony Hale (Arrested Development) as ‘Wadska,’ a charmingly nerdy and delusional friend.

Mumbia’s ACK Media Launches Animated Musical Feature, “Son Of Ram”

Mumbai: ACK Media launched its newest feature length film, Sons of Ram at the Comic Con Mumbai 2011.

The unconventional early presentation included lots of behind-the-scenes art, animation and demo version of one of the film’s songs. Giving a rare sneak-peak into the process and evolution of a quality Indian animated production.

The movie Sons of Ram is inspired by the original ACK comic of the same name by the Late Uncle Pai. The film adaptation written and directed by Kushal Ruia, combines familiar elements of the comic with fresh ideas that help tell the story of Luv & Kush (a perennial favorite from the world of the Ramayana) like never before. This adaptation aims to do what any good adaptation or re-telling should, that is stay true to the heart and spirit of the original while at the same time making it relevant to a contemporary audience.

Sons of Ram is ACK Animation’s first musical. Being a big fan of musical story telling in its purest tradition, the writer/director, Kushal Ruia persevered to find collaborators who understood how to move the plot forward with songs and be storytellers with him. This led to composers Gaurav Issar and Shailu Rao who created beautiful melodies that echo the emotions of the character and the needs of the plot at the given point in time. Ace lyricist Asif Ali Beg, also worked with Kushal to weave the threads of the story into the lyrics of the songs organically. So be it Sunidhi Chauhan ‘s (Sita) soulful lament “Free To Be” or the fun road-trip song with the kids “Going to Ayodhya”, all songs in Sons of Ram move the story forward, if you miss them, you will definitely miss an essential part of the storytelling.

The production of“Sons of Ram is an international effort. Most of the pre-production, like design, story, voices, and art direction was done in-house at ACK Animation, Mumbai. While a studio in Malaysia did majority of the production and post-production work, it was constantly under the supervision of the Director Kushal Ruia and his core team at ACK Animation, Mumbai.

“The casting and recording of these characters was an adventure by itself as we had to cast a huge cast of 15 major characters in this movie ranging from wise old sages to young naughty children. We were lucky to get some fantastic actors from theatre and film to do voices for us and bring these amazing characters to life.  We have young TV / Theatre actors like Aditya Kapadia (Just Mohabbat) playing Luv and an industry veteran like Sunidhi Chauhan playing Sita and of course, she sings too!” said Kushal Ruia, Director. “The film uses 2D hand drawn animation. The traditional look has an appeal that no other technique offers. Also the story with its larger than life events and mythical creatures lends itself well to the strengths of 2D animation like graphic shapes and stylized animation” he further added

Viewers of Sons of Ram will not only find all of their favorite characters like Luv ,Kush, Sita, Ram and Valmiki amongst others but also new characters that were created specifically for the film by Kushal and his story team. These new characters will bring depth and entertainment and help add a fresh spin on a familiar tale

Kushal Ruia, Creative Head, ACK Media added “ACK Media has already put out successful and critically animated products in the last 2 years. We started with ‘AMAR CHITRA KATHA- the animated series’ a 26 x 22 min series that aired on Cartoon Network (CN) and now is rolling out on DVD. We also premiered our first full-length feature film on CN called ‘Tripura’ (FICCI winner) which was made in conjunction with our friends at Animagic Studios. ‘Sons of Ram’ hopes to build on this tradition and take it to the next level. Over a period of time we would like to redefine the global perception of Indian animation” He also added by saying, “A format/ medium is just a device to reach the audience. As a forward thinking and evolving Media Company, we want to reach our audience in the most relevant formats of today. Film and animation gives us just that. We have never and do not plan to compromise on the kind of stories we tell, the sensibilities with which we tell them and the art we use, be it in print or film. Therein we stay faithful to our roots, as always.”

DreamWorks Animation Taps Chuck Viane To Explore Distribution Options

GLENDALE, Calif., Oct. 25, 2011 /PRNewswire/ – DreamWorks Animation SKG, Inc. (Nasdaq: DWA) today announced the retention of Chuck Viane as a distribution consultant to the Company. Viane will be working with DreamWorks Animation executives on a consultancy basis, effective immediately. He has a wealth of experience from 25 years in the industry and will provide counsel on the implementation of the studio’s future distribution plans.

“In addition to being a truly great guy, Chuck is one of the smartest, most experienced and respected leaders in the industry and I don’t know of anyone with a deeper understanding of the movie landscape, its trends and its future,” said DreamWorks Animation Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey Katzenberg. “At this strategic moment in time for DreamWorks Animation, I am confident that he will serve as an invaluable resource.”

“I’ve known Jeffrey Katzenberg for 26 years and he was a close colleague of mine during our time together at Disney,” said Viane. “Under his leadership, I believe that DreamWorks Animation has truly become a studio for the 21st Century and I look forward to helping shape their future distribution strategy.”

Viane previously served as President of Global Distribution for Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures. Prior to Viane’s distinguished 25-year career with Disney, from which he retired early this year, he served as Vice President and Head Buyer for General Cinema Theater Corp.

“Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness” To Premiere November 7

Burbank, Calif. — Oct. 25, 2011 — Nickelodeon will premiere the highly anticipated CG animated comedy series, Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness, a co-production with DreamWorks Animation SKG, Inc. (Nasdaq: DWA), on Monday, Nov. 7, at 5:30 p.m. (ET/PT), kicking off a full week of brand-new episodes every weekday at 5:30 p.m. (ET/PT), following all-new episodes of SpongeBob SquarePants at 5:00 p.m. (ET/PT). Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness follows the further adventures of Po–the energetic, enthusiastic, legendary Dragon Warrior panda–from DreamWorks Animation’s hit franchise. Kung Fu Panda was the third highest grossing movie of 2008 and grossed $631 million at the worldwide box office, and Kung Fu Panda 2, the number one animated movie and fourth highest-grossing film of this year, has brought in $664 million at the worldwide box office. Kung Fu Panda 2 debuts on Blu-ray and DVD on December 13, 2011. Lucy Liu (Kill Bill) and James Hong (Big Trouble in Little China) reprise their roles as Viper and Mr. Ping, respectively, for Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness, which, beginning Friday, Dec. 2, will air regularly on Fridays at 8:00 p.m. (ET/PT).

Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness picks up where the theatrical releases left off, and delivers the same signature action, comedy, lovable characters and high quality CG animation as the films,” said Brown Johnson, President, Animation, Nickelodeon. “We’re excited to bring back Lucy Liu and James Hong to accompany an amazingly talented sound-alike ensemble cast.”

“The awesome combination of hilarious comedy, non-stop action and beautiful story-telling is the reason that both Kung Fu Panda movies were so enthusiastically received around the globe and is also why we are thrilled to take our beloved franchise in exciting new directions together with Nickelodeon on Legends of Awesomeness,” added Bill Damaschke, Chief Creative Officer, DreamWorks Animation.

Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness follows Po the Panda (Mick Wingert, Kung Fu Panda Holiday Special) as he grows into the role of the Dragon Warrior and is aided by his mentor Shifu and the Furious Five: Tigress, Mantis, Crane, Monkey and Viper. As the newest hero in the Valley of Peace, Po is now living at the Jade Palace with the rest of the Furious Five and takes on new responsibilities while facing brand-new adversaries in his continuing education as the Dragon Warrior.

In the premiere episode on Monday, Nov. 7, at 5:30 p.m., “Sticky Situation,” Po accidentally breaks the training equipment in the Jade Palace and invites a mechanical genius named Taotie to fix it. Unbeknownst to Po, Taotie is an old enemy of Shifu’s and this invitation was all he needed to seek his revenge. In the second episode premiering on Tuesday, Nov. 8 at 5:30 p.m., “Chain Reaction,” Po is driving Tigress nuts with his fanboy ways while they are on a mission together. Things get worse when they are attacked by Croc Bandits and wind up handcuffed together. The two have to learn how to work together to evade the bandits and save their skins.

In the next two brand-new episodes, “Fluttering Finger Mindslip” (premiering Nov. 9) leads Po to discover a rare secret move which causes temporary memory loss, but things get out of hand when he uses it on the Furious Five. Then, in “Hometown Hero” (premiering Nov. 10), Po visits Mantis’ hometown and discovers that Mantis hasn’t been entirely honest with the villagers.

In support of the series premiere, Nickelodeon’s multi-platform efforts include sneak peeks, image galleries and promotional content that will stream on Nick.com as well as Nick’s wireless partners. Additionally, Nick.com will launch a Kung Fu Panda: Tales of Po game where Po, who narrates his adventures as the Dragon Warrior, must master Kung Fu in order to take down the bad guys and save the day.

Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness is executive produced by Peter Hastings (Animaniacs, Pinky & the Brain) with Randy Dormans (The Penguins of Madagascar) and Gabe Swarr (Dexter’s Laboratory) serving as supervising producers. Additional voices on the series include Kari Wahlgren (Tak and the Power of Juju) as Tigress, Amir Talai (Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay) as Crane, Max Koch (Kung Fu Panda: Secrets of the Furious Five) as Mantis, Fred Tatasciore (Planet Sheen) as Shifu and James Sie (King of the Hill) as Monkey. The series is produced at the Nickelodeon Animation Studios in Burbank, Calif.

DreamWorks Animation Reports Third Quarter 2011 Financial Results

GLENDALE, Calif., Oct. 25, 2011 /PRNewswire/ — DreamWorks Animation SKG, Inc. (Nasdaq: DWA) today announced financial results for its third quarter ended September 30, 2011. For the quarter, the Company reported total revenue of $160.8 million and net income of $19.7 million, or $0.23 per share on a fully diluted basis.

“DreamWorks Animation’s third quarter results were driven by the blockbuster international box office success of Kung Fu Panda 2, the number one animated movie of the year and the fourth highest-grossing film on a worldwide basis,” said Jeffrey Katzenberg, Chief Executive Officer of DreamWorks Animation. “The next big event for the Company is the theatrical release of Puss In Boots on October 28th and we look forward to seeing how it performs around the world through the fourth quarter.”

Kung Fu Panda 2, which was released on May 26, 2011, contributed $39.4 million of revenue in the quarter, generated primarily by its international box office performance. It has grossed approximately $663.6 million in worldwide box office to date.

Megamind contributed $25.8 million of revenue in the quarter, driven primarily by domestic pay television. The film reached an estimated 4.6 million home entertainment units sold worldwide through the end of the third quarter, net of actual and estimated future returns.

Shrek Forever After and How to Train Your Dragon contributed $15.0 million and $9.2 million of revenue in the quarter, respectively, driven primarily by international pay television and worldwide home entertainment. Each film has reached an estimated 9.0 million home entertainment units, sold worldwide through the end of the third quarter, net of actual and estimated future returns.

Library and other items contributed approximately $71.4 million of revenue to the quarter, including $18.8 million of revenue attributable to non-film businesses.

Costs of revenue for the quarter equaled $108.0 million. Selling, general and administrative expenses totaled $26.9 million, including approximately $6.4 million of stock-based compensation expense.

The Company’s income tax expense for the third quarter was $7.6 million. The Company’s combined effective tax rate – the actual tax rate coupled with the effect of the Company’s tax sharing agreement with a former stockholder – was approximately 26.5% for the third quarter.

Year to date, the Company has repurchased approximately 0.9 million shares for $25 million. The Company has $125 million remaining under its current authorization.

“DreamWorks Animation’s financial results tend to fluctuate due to, among other factors, the timing of our feature film releases and the number of our films in any given year. This is the case in the third quarter of 2011, in part because our financial results reflect the timing of the international theatrical release of Kung Fu Panda 2 this year compared to Shrek Forever After in 2010,” added Lew Coleman, Chief Financial Officer and President of DreamWorks Animation.

The Company’s fourth quarter results are expected to be driven primarily by the performance of Puss In Boots at the worldwide box office as well as the performances of Kung Fu Panda 2 and several of the Company’s television specials in the home entertainment market.

Items related to the earnings press release for the third quarter of 2011 will be discussed in more detail on the Company’s earnings conference call later today.

Conference Call Information

DreamWorks Animation will host a conference call and webcast to discuss the results on Tuesday, October 25, 2011, at 4:30 p.m. (ET). Investors can access the call by dialing (877) 260-8897 in the U.S. and (612) 332-1210 internationally and identifying “DreamWorks Animation Earnings” to the operator. The call will also be available via live webcast at www.dreamworksanimation.com.

A replay of the conference call will be available shortly after the call ends on Tuesday, October 25, 2011. To access the replay, dial (800) 475-6701 in the U.S. and (320) 365-3844 internationally and enter 219123 as the conference ID number. Both the earnings release and archived webcast will be available on the Company’s website at www.dreamworksanimation.com.

Eyvind Earle Narrates His Life Story

It’s been an Eyvind Earle kind of week. A couple days ago I stumbled onto an obscure post-Sleeping Beauty Chevrolet commercial that he directed and animated. And tonight I found this half-hour documentary that was written and narrated by him shortly before he died in 2000. The film contains lots of personal history, more of his rarely seen commercial and abstract animation, and a generous serving of his personal philosophies about life. Watch the entire program in three parts:

Mattel Announces Acquisition of HIT Entertainment, Owners of Thomas & Friends, Barney & More

Mattel, Inc. (NASDAQ:MAT) announced today that it has entered into an agreement to acquire HIT Entertainment for $680 million in cash from a consortium led by Apax Partners funds.  HIT Entertainment owns a global portfolio of popular preschool brands, including Thomas & Friends®, Barney®, Bob the Builder®, Fireman Sam® and Angelina Ballerina®.  With more than $180 million of revenues, HIT Entertainment represents one of the largest independent owners of preschool intellectual property.  The purchase price equates to a multiple of about 9 ½ times trailing earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization.

“Mattel is the right home for Thomas & Friends®.  This powerhouse brand is joining the ranks of such iconic brands as Barbie®, Hot Wheels®, Fisher-Price® and American Girl®,” said Robert A. Eckert, chairman and chief executive officer of Mattel.  “Thomas & Friends® routinely ranks among the world’s leading preschool toys.  Additionally, with more than half of the Thomas & Friends® revenue generated from non-toy products, this transaction will marry Mattel’s global marketing, distribution and brand management capabilities with HIT Entertainment’s global programming and licensing expertise to accelerate growth of the combined portfolio.”

“HIT Entertainment owns some of the most loved and trusted preschool brands in the world and under Mattel’s leadership, I look forward to seeing them grow to even greater heights,” said Jeffrey D. Dunn, president and chief executive officer of HIT Entertainment.  “Mattel is a wonderful steward of brands and a great home for the outstanding properties HIT has developed and grown, including Thomas & Friends®. It is fitting that the world’s premier toy company should become the owner of the world’s premier pre-school property.”

Irina Hemmers, a partner in the Apax Media team, commented: “We are very pleased that this strong portfolio of iconic brands will continue to flourish in the hands of Mattel.  Fisher-Price already produces HIT’s toys under license so the two companies know each other well and there is considerable industrial logic in this combination. I would like to thank the employees and the management team for ensuring that HIT’s brands achieved their leading global position in the preschool character space. We wish the whole company every success for the future.”

Thomas & Friends® is the premier brand in the HIT Entertainment portfolio. Created more than 65 years ago, the brand has grown into the #1 licensed preschool property in the world, with television programming, home entertainment products, toys and other consumer products available throughout the globe.

Mattel currently markets many Thomas & Friends® toy products under a license from HIT Entertainment which extends through 2014.  Mattel’s global sales of Thomas & Friends® die-cast and plastic toys are more than $150 million, and Mattel believes that this transaction will allow the company to continue to expand and grow these product lines into the foreseeable future.  Another key advantage to the acquisition is that Mattel will be able to reunite two key pieces of the Thomas & Friends® toy business:  plastic and die-cast toys with the wood-based business.  The current wood license expires at the end of 2012, at which time Mattel expects to add that line of business to its portfolio.  Historically, the sales of wood-based toys have been around half the size of the plastic and die-cast business.

The HIT Entertainment portfolio also includes a number of other highly popular preschool brands with established television broadcast and licensing relationships around the world.  The acquisition does not include HIT Entertainment’s interest in the cable network station, Sprout.

Eckert went on to say, “We work in a creative business and understand the value of strong and talented leaders, teams, and people. HIT Entertainment has a great talent base with strong competencies in content production, management and licensing.  The addition of the HIT Entertainment team will complement our licensing business and also augment our capabilities on the content side.”

The transaction is expected to be financed with a combination of cash and debt and is expected to close in the first quarter of 2012.  The transaction is not expected to have a material impact on Mattel’s 2012 earnings, but is expected to be increasingly accretive as the benefits of owning these brands are reflected in Mattel’s results, including the addition of Thomas & Friends® wood business in 2013 and retention of Thomas & Friends® plastic and die-cast business from 2015 onwards.

The transaction is subject to clearance under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act and other customary closing conditions.  RBC Capital Markets, LLC acted as financial advisor and Latham & Watkins LLP served as legal advisor to Mattel in connection with the transaction.  BofA Merrill Lynch acted as financial advisor and Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP served as legal advisor to HIT Entertainment in connection with the transaction.

Dreamworks Animation’s “Puss in Boots” Charms Its Way Into Imax October 28

IMAX Corporation (NYSE:IMAX) (TSX:IMX) and DreamWorks Animation SKG, Inc. (Nasdaq:DWA) today announced that the 3D animated adventure Puss in Boots, featuring the world’s most famous boot-wearing hero, will open in 268 domestic IMAX(R) theatres Friday, Oct. 28, 2011, simultaneous with its North American wide release. The film will also open in at least 47 IMAX theatres internationally, with 24 theatres releasing day-and-date. Additional international playdates are expected to be confirmed in the coming weeks.

Directed by Chris Miller (Shrek the Third) and featuring the voices of Antonio Banderas, Salma Hayek, Zach Galifianakis, Billy Bob Thorton and Amy Sedaris, this is the origin story of the popular feline.

Puss in Boots: An IMAX 3D Experience has been digitally re-mastered into the unparalleled image and sound quality of The IMAX Experience(R) through proprietary IMAX DMR(R) technology. With crystal-clear images, laser-aligned digital sound and theatre geometry that maximizes field of view, IMAX provides the world’s most immersive movie experience.

Original “Beavis and Butt-Head” Crew Revolutionizing New Media

The cartoon that thrilled teens and changed TV spawned a pack of mavericks unafraid to push into new territories. Today, Baboon Animation and others are helping transform some of the hottest new fields in entertainment — the iPad, transmedia, Adult Swim and international co-productions.

“The new Beavis show looks fantastic, but I think a lot of us can’t help ourselves — breaking the new ground is what excites us,” says original Beavis director Mike de Seve. “And what we learned on Beavis is still working for us today.”

De Seve’s company, Baboon Animation, then a two-man team with Brian Mulroney (Robotomy), was hired in 1993 by Beavis‘s production studio, MTV Animation, to direct nearly 100 episodes of the Beavis series. Today Baboon has grown, and is pioneering new media and markets on three fronts: international co-production, interactive iPad comics, and the much-ballyhooed world of transmedia.

“Every item on our plate breaks some kind of ground — a great feeling, like being on that same edge we were on back in the Beavis days,” says de Seve, who relaunched the firm in 2004 after his 2-year directing assignment at Dreamworks Animation.

Baboon’s 2011-12 slate underlines the point:

Baboon is collaborating with animation icon Kit Laybourne (Liquid Television, The Animation Book) to build out Kit’s new transmedia sports network for kids, The Whistle, to premiere this fall. Laybourne, with wife Geraldine Laybourne (a founder of Nickelodeon) was a co-founder of the Oxygen channel. The Whistle is being produced at New York’s Flickerlab.

“Transmedia is the future. It’s a blast.” says de Seve. A transmedia property is one that’s designed to work on many platforms at once, from iPad to game platforms to internet TV to cable. “It’s the Turducken of entertainment,” he says.

Baboon is also providing the writing and co-direction on the cutting-edge iPad app, Operation Ajax, which The New York Times called “one of the coolest media experiences I’ve seen on the iPad.” The interactive spy-comic app, due for full release this November, is from San Francisco’s Cognito Comics and is pulling a five-star App Store rating in pre-release.

Also on Baboon’s transmedia slate is a kids’ property for Harrison Media. Creator Harry Dubin notes that the show’s (yet unannounced) title is raising eyebrows, but raising funds even faster. “Let’s just say there’s not a kid out there that doesn’t crack up when they hear the name. Which is golden. It’s a show about what kids really laugh at, not what their parents tell them they’re supposed to laugh at.”

Which is why de Seve says he chose the project. “It felt like the real deal, like Beavis was. Working with Mike Judge, our mantra became, make it about real kids and what they really want. Not cartoon characters clowning it up.”

A philosophy de Seve took thru his own nearly-50 eps of Beavis, his directing on the Beavis feature film, his Emmy-nominated Beavis episode “Dream On”, and the original Office Space cartoons Baboon directed for Judge for SNL.

And it was the philosophy de Seve took with him when tapped by Jeffrey Katzenberg in 2002 to direct at Dreamworks.

“Mike was disarmingly honest, which definitely made the films he worked on better,” says Baboon collaborator Buck Lewis (Madagascar, Kung Fu Panda), who met de Seve at Dreamworks. “The first thing he did there was turn down an offer to direct Shrek 2 because he didn’t feel the script had enough heart yet.”

“They somehow fixed it without me” laughs de Seve, “It turned out just great.” De Seve instead went on to direct on Madagascar at Dreamworks, including on the iconic “Move It Move It” sequence, then story-consulted on Shrek 2 and 3, Over the Hedge and Shark Tale before co-penning the original story for Monsters vs. Aliens with Kung Fu Panda director Mark Osborne. Then he returned East to take Baboon into new frontiers.

Ben Gruber and other members of two writing teams de Seve formed at MTV are now breaking ground with their own Adult Swim hits: Gruber and Steve Warbrick with Superjail; Chris McCulloch with The Venture Brothers; and Matt Harrigan, with Space Ghost, Aqua Teen Hunger Force and Tim and Eric Awesome Show. Adult Swim is now the highest rated programming block worldwide for adults 18-49.

And de Seve’s teaming with Gruber on another new Baboon project, KikoRiki, an international co-production for which Baboon is signed to deliver the full current season of writing. KikoRiki, from Russia’s Riki Group, is the #1 family show in Russia today.

Taking new chances is key, de Seve says, but most important is to make entertainment about relatable characters, like Beavis and Butt-Head did: “That means characters that want real stuff, and go after it relentlessly even if it looks like they don’t have a chance in the world. Whether it’s chicks and beer they really want, or to find Nemo, that drive is what people cheer for.”

It’s also a source of some of the biggest laughs, in any age group, he notes. It seems these Beavis alums have had plenty in his career.

Sketchtravel Film by Dice Tsutsumi

Sketchtravel film

Speaking of color scripts, I have to point out an interesting and visually striking film experiment by Dice Tsutsumi, whose Toy Story 3 color scripts are featured in the new Pixar book.

Dice’s passion project for the past few years has been Sketchtravel, an idea that he hatched with illustrator Gérald Guerlais, and which features the participation of some of the world’s most well known illustrators, comic artists and animators. (We’ve written about it before on Cartoon Brew.) The project has finally come to a conclusion: an auction of the original sketchbook artwork was held last week and raised over $100,000 for charity. A printed version of the book is now available in France, too.

To support the Sketchtravel project, Dice made the following animated short using his color scripting technique:

In an email, he explained the challenge of making an animated film as someone who comes from a painting background:

“Since I’m not an animator, my focus is to carry a story through all the visual staging elements – color, lighting, and composition. I painted every single frame of the film by myself with a little help from friends and a small amount of After Effects movements. It took me six months to complete it while I was preparing for the auction event.”

“The Art of Pixar” Now Shipping

Art of Pixar

Amazon’s website is now showing that they have copies of my latest book in stock. That would be The Art of Pixar: The Complete Color Scripts and Select Art from 25 Years of Animation, an important collection of color scripts from Pixar features and shorts. I haven’t seen the book yet, but those who have tell me it’s a handsome looking volume.

My friends at Catsuka inform me that a French language version of the book is also being prepared for release next month. Here’s the French edition cover:

Art of Pixar

(Book cover photo via The Pixar Blog)

“Sponsor Reel” by Element X Creative

The team at Dallas based Element X Creative animated this 5-minute long sponsor reel for last week’s Association of Independent Commercial Producers (AICP) Southwest Awards show. If one has to sit through dozens of company logos, this is the way to go – weaving the sponsors names into a haunting and beautiful Twilight Zone-like story about a little boy who stops time and sees his home town in a whole new way. It stands on its own as one of the best CG shorts I’ve seen this year.

Complete credits for this piece after the jump.
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Production Begun on First Western for Preschoolers “Oki’s Oasis”

Production has begun on the animated series Oki’s Oasis, the first western for preschoolers. It stars actress and singer-songwriter Mandy Moore (Disney’s Tangled) as the voice of Oki, a kitty cat sheriff who ensures that the town of Nice and Friendly Corners remains the friendliest town in the West. The series is slated to premiere in 2013 on Disney Junior channels and programming blocks around the world. The announcement was made today by Nancy Kanter, Senior Vice President, Original Programming and General Manager, Disney Junior Worldwide.

Kanter said: “Oki’s Oasis uses the legend of the Old West to impart social skills and lessons for young kids about being a good friend and neighbor, reinforcing what parents are already teaching their children at home about forgiveness, honesty and sharing. The series further demonstrates Disney Junior’s dedication to programming that highlights the importance of great, heartfelt storytelling as an impetus for learning and development.”

Set in the colorful Wild West, Oki’s Oasis follows Sheriff Oki and her deputy woodpecker, Peck, as they watch over their pleasant little frontier town. Although known as the friendliest town in the West, Oki and Peck work hard to keep it that way and when trouble comes a-callin’, they make sure it doesn’t stay long. By their side is Oki’s sweet-natured sidekick, Kiko, a loveable cactus with a predisposition to see the good in everything and who is always ready to lend a helping hand. Each episode features two 11-minute stories and has two original songs.

Oki’s Oasis is a production of W!LDBRAIN Entertainment, a DHX Media company, in association with Disney Junior. The series was created by Denis Morella and George Evelyn and developed for television by Holly Huckins, the team behind Disney’s Higglytown Heroes. Morella and Huckins are executive producers and Evelyn is co-executive producer.

DreamWorks Animation Fine Art Offers “Puss In Boots” Portfolio

Puss in Boots, the all-new and highly anticipated feature film from DreamWorks Animation SKG, Inc. (Nasdaq: DWA) is the subject of an impressive new art portfolio now available to collectors, movie fans and cat lovers alike from DreamWorks Animation Fine Art. The film opens nationwide on October 28 in Real D 3D and IMAX 3D.

Directed by Chris Miller (Shrek the Third), produced by Joe Aguilar and Latifa Ouaou, executive produced by Andrew Adamson and Guillermo del Toro and starring the voices of Antonio Banderas, Salma Hayek, Zach Galifinaikis, Billy Bob Thornton and Amy Sedaris. The film is an origin story of Puss in Boots on his adventures before his first appearance in “Shrek 2″ in 2004.

Sanders Art Studio, the sole authorized global publisher of DreamWorks Animation Fine Art has produced one of its largest portfolios of hand-numbered, limited edition fine art from a DreamWorks Animation film. Virtually every aspect of the creative process of producing the film is represented – from inspirational concepts, lush backgrounds, model sheets and moments directly from the film — all printed on acid free, museum quality, watercolor paper. There are 71 pieces in the Puss in Boots art portfolio ranging in suggested retail prices from $175 – $16.

A highlight of the new portfolio is a series of five pencil sketches depicting the characters of Puss in Boots and Kitty Softpaws. The giclée imagery has been printed on watercolor paper in a hand numbered, limited edition of only 25 and features a framed SRP of $175.

Additional imagery in the portfolio includes beguiling character model sheets featuring Puss in Boots, Kitty Softpaws and Puss in Boots as a baby. Each one is hand-numbered to an edition size of merely 25 pieces worldwide and comes with certificate of authenticity and a suggested retail price of $175.

The portfolio also includes two colorful laser cels with showcasing mattes. Laser cels are a lithograph technology where the image is printed on industrial grade Mylar that will not fade, chip, crack or deteriorate but will retain the same bright colors as original hand-painted animation cels. “Puss in Boots in Town” and “Puss in Boots Moon” have been published in an open edition and feature a SRP of $16.

“Our new portfolio of artwork perfectly captures the visual humor, charm and beauty of ‘Puss in Boots,” said KC Sanders, owner of Sanders Art Studio. “It’s a fun and endearing film with imagery that will make the perfect holiday gift for animation fans, movie collectors and cat lovers alike!”

All of the new art from Puss in Boots comes with a certificate of authenticity and is available from Sanders Art Studio.

DreamWorks Animation Plans to Bring Dav Pilkey’s Captain Underpants to the Big Screen

GLENDALE, Calif., Oct. 20, 2011 /PRNewswire/ DreamWorks Animation SKG, Inc. (Nasdaq: DWA) today announced that the studio has obtained the rights to Dav Pilkey‘s Captain Underpants book series, with plans to pursue a feature film adaptation for the big screen. DreamWorks Animation development executive Damon Ross is overseeing the project at the studio.

The Captain Underpants book series tells the story of two mischievous kids, George Beard and Harold Hutchins, who hypnotize their school principal and turn him into their comic book creation, Captain Underpants.

“This is a joyous day for the countless Captain Underpants fans at our studio,” said Bill Damaschke, DreamWorks Animation’s Chief Creative Officer. “We are thrilled that Dav has decided the time is right to turn his beloved property into a movie and we look forward to bringing the greatest Waistband Warrior of all time to the big screen at DreamWorks Animation!”

“I never wanted to do a Captain Underpants movie in the past because, frankly, I worried that a movie might not be able to properly convey what I was trying to do with the books. Then I saw How to Train Your Dragon and the Kung Fu Panda movies. I loved the subtle way that morality and personal responsibility were handled in these very funny and exciting adventures. I felt that DreamWorks Animation would be the perfect home for Captain Underpants,” added Dav Pilkey.

Scholastic first launched the Captain Underpants book series in September of 1997 and there are over 50 million Pilkey books in print in the U.S. alone. Eight Captain Underpants books have been published in 19 countries and several have debuted at #1 on various best-seller lists, including The New York Times and USA Today.

Kassie Evashevski at UTA and Amy Berkower at Writers House are representing Dav Pilkey.

UPA Cartoon Tribute at Cinefamily

Creators of Mr. Magoo and Gerald McBoing Boing, United Productions of America (UPA) was the most significant animation studio of the 1950s. Ushering in a whole new way of making cartoons, combining modern art with slapstick comedy, UPA challenged the way Disney made toons and dominated the Academy Awards during that decade. There’s no doubt of their inspiration on international and independent animators for decades to come.

Charles Solomon (who did a great job hosting the Mary Blair tribute last night at the Academy) recorded an audio editorial championing UPA that will run on L.A.’s public radio station KPCC (89.3 FM), Off Ramp, Saturday at noon and Sunday at 7pm. Solomon points out that a current local art show cooperative – Pacific Standard Time, which celebrates southern California’s contributions to pop culture – omits the UPA studio’s significant influence on art and animation. KPCC has just posted his piece online, in advance of its broadcast: Download or listen to stream here.

Meanwhile, I will be doing my part by mounting a tribute to UPA at my next Animation Tuesday screening, on Tuesday November 1st at 8pm. I will be introducing rare 35mm prints of the studio’s undeniable classics on the big screen – including their acclaimed adaptation Edgar Allen Poe’s The Tell Tale Heart, Oscar winner When Magoo Flew (in wide screen CinemaScope), and rarely shown The Jaywalker, Willie The Kid and Fudget’s Budget and more – along with a selection of rare commercials, industrial films and TV films not seen in public for over 50 years. More info and tickets: click here.

Can You Guess Who Made This Classic Car Ad?

This two-minute Chevrolet spot is a pretty epic bit of advertising, but you may be even more surprised to learn who made it. It’s this guy:

Eyvind Earle

The artist responsible for this:

Eyvind Earle

Around 1960, Eyvind Earle, the production designer of the Disney classic Sleeping Beauty, formed his own company Eyvind Earle Productions. The first spot he produced was this Chevrolet piece, which he made in two weeks. According to his autobiography Horizon Bound on a Bicycle, he was paid $16,000, which in today’s dollars would be around $122,000. That’s not bad for a one-man cut-out production, most of which was animated under camera.

(Eyvind Earle photo via Daveland)

Google Honors Mary Blair

Mary Blair

Let’s give it up for Google! October 21 marks the 100th anniversary of animation legend Mary Blair‘s birth, and Google honored her with the Google Doodle above. And credit to the Google artist who drew it, Mike Dutton.

Just for the record, Disney’s own website has done nothing (as far as I can tell) to commemorate Mary Blair’s birth, though when I went there, I was treated to a pop-up congratulating me on being selected to take a Disney Online survey.

“Amateur Rocketry” by AWESOME+modest

AWESOME+modest, the small Brooklyn-based animation studio who did all the animation for Waiting For Superman, the new U2 doc From the Sky Down, and the animated music video for The Mountain Goats posted here a few months ago. Their latest music video is for the very talented Dan Wholey. Amateur Rocketry is probably NSFW:

Director: AWESOME+modest

Sean Donnelly
Vanessa Appleby
Jane Samborski
Abbey Luck