If you are planning to buy the two sets of UPA cartoons that Jerry posted about, you would do well to also pick up the forthcoming history of the UPA studio, When Magoo Flew: The Rise and Fall of Animation Studio UPA by Adam Abraham. As far as I know, the book and the DVDs weren’t planned together, but the stars are aligned, and one of the most important yet neglected animation studios of all time is ripe for rediscovery in 2012.
I’ve already read Adam’s book and I’m happy to report that he gets it absolutely right. The research is impeccable, the writing solid, the story fascinating. Though the book includes over 70 illustrations, it’s more narrative history than coffeetable art book, but that’s hardly an issue anymore thanks to the two companion DVD sets that contain UPA’s entire theatrical short output. The 324-page When Magoo Flew will be released by Wesleyan University Press next March. Place your pre-order on Amazon for a mere $20.
Here they come – at long last. Columbia Pictures classic collection of UPA cartoons will soon be available as you’ve never seen them before. These revolutionary mid-century cartoons, in restored form – with as many of the original theatrical titles returned as possible – are a revelation. Full vibrant colors, clean sharp prints, crystal clear sound. The complete library of these films will be available on two separate sets, from two separate companies (sub-licensed from Sony). First up, TCM will make available on March 5th UPA Jolly Frolics. This 3-disc set contains 38 cartoons, including Gerald McBoing Boing, Rooty Toot Toot, The Tell Tale Heart and the rare Ham & Hattie shorts, a video introduction by Leonard Maltin, audio commentaries on select cartoons by Maltin and yours truly, Jerry Beck, UPA studio art consisting of model sheets, concept paintings, storyboards, background paintings and more. This set will only be available via mail order through TCM’s website. Pre-order it NOW!
On June 19th, Shout Factory will release The Mr. Magoo Theatrical Collection which will include all the original Magoo theatricals, including the Oscar winners When Magoo Flew and Magoo’s Puddle Jumper (both in letter boxed CinemaScope). Bonus materials include rare pencil tests, audio commentaries by the likes of Emily Hubley, John Canemaker, Charles Solomon and much much more. I will be telling you more details about these two amazing DVD collections as we get closer to each release date – but it wouldn’t hurt to pre-order them now. Here’s the Magoo Amazon link.
Welcome to a new column by Chris Arrant who is also the editor of CB Biz. In today’s inaugural column, he profiles artist Jon Klassen:
Jon Klassen might have made his first big splash as an animator, but in recent years he’s followed the path of animators like Mo Willems and Tony Fucile and applied his illustrative talents toward the picture book medium. After working as a concept artist and illustrator on films like Coraline and Kung Fu Panda 2, the Los Angeles-based artist is focusing the majority of his time on his burgeoning bibliography of illustrated children’s storybooks like Cats’ Night Out and The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place series.
Klassen tells Cartoon Brew that making the leap to children’s book wasn’t as dramatic as it might have been in years past. “It’s pretty fantastic,” he said. “The tools to make illustration or film are merging closer together, and the more you jump back and forth, the more you see how they overlap even at the conceptual stage. I think that illustrators are finding themselves trying out more animation than they would’ve before, and people who are in animation are trying out more print stuff. Hopefully it leads to a lot of fresh work.”
Klassen has illustrated a number of print picture books over the years, but it’s his most recent, I Want My Hat Back, that holds a special place for him because it’s the first he wrote himself.Â Released in September by Candlewick Press, it was chosen a couple weeks ago as one of The New York Times Book Review’s Ten Best Illustrated Books of the Year.
“I’d never written anything for real before, and the formality of writing was really making me nervous, so it was a relief to try everything in dialog instead of narration,” Klassen explained. “The stiffness of everything in the book comes from my nervousness about the idea of trying a book, but it was fun to use that in the story itself. Also I wanted to do something that looked simple, and when you’re illustrating something for somebody else you get nervous about submitting something too simple for fear it’ll look lazy, so it was nice to give myself the excuse. The story really happened on its own once the tone was set. I got lucky there.”
Although picture books might seem like a long way from animation, the list of animators who have moonlighted as picture book illustrators is a who’s who of animation history: Tom McKimson, Pete Alvarado, Hawley Pratt, Al Dempster, Tony Rizzo, Eyvind Earle, Mary Blair, Paul Julian, Bob Dranko, Chris Jenkyns, and Campbell Grant, to name just a few Golden Age artists. Klassen came to work in picture books as an adult after realizing how much they influenced his early stabs at animation.
“After I got into the design and illustration end of animation, I realized how big a deal those books were and are to me. The amount of mood you remember from even pretty simple books is so cool,” he said. “I’ve wanted to do books since the beginning, probably, but it’s one of those things you sort of feel like you need to get invited to do.”
In a break from his drawing board, Klassen teaches a class at CalArts on Wednesdays titled Illustration for Animation, and he readily admitted that “it’s as vague as it sounds.”
“I’ve never taught a class before so I’m feeling my way through it,” Klassen said, “but mainly I’m trying to get them to think past the fact that they are already pretty good at drawing things and get into the reasons why they are drawing what they are drawing. They’re doing so much work on their own, technically they’re always going to get better anyway, so I’m trying to work on thinking about their approach before the drawing starts. That can be useful in all sorts of different jobs.”
Klassen’s own student animation, “An Eye For An Annai,” created with Dan Rodrigues during their third year at Sheridan College’s Classical Animation Program.
Speaking of different jobs, picture books aren’t the only place you’ll find Klassen’s work. He’s also contributed editorial illustrations to a number of newspapers and magazines, including a recent piece for The New York Times. Although he says picture books were initially his primary goal, he enjoys the unique nature of creating editorial illustrations.
“Smaller scale jobs like that, when they come along and when the schedule suits, are really fun because the turnaround is so quick,” Klassen said. “With a book you have to wait around a year between finishing it and showing it to people, and with editorial work you finish it on Thursday and it’s out on Sunday. I’m not sure it’s what I’m best at, but it’s nice when you get asked to do it.”
Cover illustration for the “New York Times Book Review,” focused on a review of “The Grief of Others” by Leah Hager Cohen.
One thing that Klassen is always asked by admirers of his work is when and where he’ll show up next in animation. Although his main focus remains on books nowadays, animation is finding a way back into his life. “I do try to keep a toe in animation, though mostly on smaller scale stuff,” he said. “With the hardware that’s out there now, book publishers are looking harder at developing stories digitally. I think one of the things they’re looking for is kind of a replacement for a page turn, something to move the story from point to point at your own pace, but without making so interactive that you stop feeling like you’re being told a story in a controlled way.”
“One of the big differences between books and animation or film in general is that with books you can play with the idea that the viewer is moving at their own speed through the story, whereas with film you are controlling their time,” he said. “There are advantages to both, but if you could bring some of what is fun about moving through the kind of space a film creates into the experience of reading a story at your own pace, it could be a really nice middle ground. It could also be really lame. I guess we’ll see.” Chances are if Klassen’s involved, it’ll be something worth our time.
This new animated feature from South Korea, The King Of Pigs, tackles adult themes and examines on the social impact of high school bullying. The film opened earlier this month in Korea; director Yeun Sang-ho discusses his inspirations with The Korea Herald.
Yes, I plugged this last week and will be plugging it frequently the next ten days… Cartoon Brew’s first animation festival starts December 1st at The Cinefamily in Los Angeles. Be there! Here’s a trailer:
My Bloody Lad was produced as part of a summer training program at Paris based production house WIZZ, between July and August 2011, by Cyril Chauvin, William Dousse, Thibaud Petitpas and Pierre Rutz (collectively known as deadWALTER) – all first year students at the Ecole des Gobelins.
Manohla Dargis in the New York Times said it’s “Lighter in mood, softer in political outlook and less narratively ambitious than the first”. Kenneth Turan in the Los Angeles Times was similarly luke warm, saying “Seeing thousands of penguins dance with Rockettes-like precision is still a kick, but coherent storytelling goes missing.” Happy Feet Two opens this weekend. I haven’t seen it yet, but I’d be curious to know what you think.
More importantly, the film opens with a new 3-minute three-dimensional CG Looney Tunes short, I Tawt I Taw a Putty Tat, with voices by Mel Blanc (from a 1951 recording) and June Foray. I have seen this short and think it’s great tribute to Blanc – and perhaps the most visually spectacular of the modern day Looney Tunes. (I’ll be posting an interview with director Matt O’Callaghan next week). If you’ve seen this, let us know what you think in the comments section below.
Comments accepted on Happy Feet Two and/or I Tawt I Taw A Putty Tat only if you’ve seen the films (all other comments will be deleted).
Not qualifying for an Academy Award is this new Scrat short from Blue Sky. Directed by Steve Martino and Michael Thurmeier, it’s more of an elongated trailer (for the next Ice Age sequel next summer). I predict this will be attached to the forthcoming Alivn and the Chipmunks sequel (Chipwrecked) and may be better than the main feature.
To heck with the Chuck Jones and Tex Avery blogs, and forget about all the Disney sites… Here’s what I wanted and now I got my wish: The Seymour Kneitel blog.
Seymour who? Kneitel was head animator at the Fleischer Studios during its hey day and became a director and partner in Paramount’s Famous Studios after the Fleischer brother’s ouster. His being Max’s son-in-law didn’t hurt. Kneitel was responsible for bringing Casper The Friendly Ghost, Little Audrey, Herman and Katip and Baby Huey to the screen – in addition to stewarding Popeye and Little Lulu cartoons to the Technicolor screen.
The site is now online with its first posts including rare images, behind the scenes info, including a page from Seymour’s original Famous Studios contract with Paramount. Ginny Mahoney, Seymour’s daughter, is moderating the site. Bookmark it.
Animator Mark Kausler has uncovered a rare 1950s “Terrytoons” comic strip, Barker Bill, and has started posting them on his blog. Paul Terry was a comic strip artist well over a hundred years ago, and became an animation pioneer in the early-teens. Apparently as a tie in to selling his old cartoons to television, Terry introduced his Barker Bill as a strip (drawn by animator Bob Kuwahara) in 1954. They appeared in only a few papers and copies of these strips are scarce. Kausler has grabbed them from various sources, including the Google News Archive from the Greensburg Daily Tribune. He’ll be posting them regularly, eight strips at a time, for the time being HERE. For classic cartoon geeks, this is a real find!
“Billy Dare” gets a mysterious note from “Zmekberg” to meet him in the Uncanny Valley. The latest installment of Ruben Bolling’s comic strip, Tom The Dancing Bug, is a parody of Spielberg, Tin-Tin and a statement about the use of Mo-Cap. Boing Boing posted it here and it’s a must read. Hilarious, sad and true!
The Hollywood Reporter is reporting about Universal Pictures new plans to revive Walter Lantz’ classic cartoon star Woody Woodpecker in a CG feature film.
Illumination Entertainment (Despicable Me, Hop and The Lorax) is now developing the film with Blades of Glory co-writers John Altschuler and Dave Krinsky, who are planning to “modernize the character for contemporary audiences”. Altschuler and Krinsky were exec producers and writers on Fox’s King of Hill and currently on MTV’s Beavis and Butt-head.
Reviving classic cartoon characters is a hit-or-miss proposition. Alvin and the Chipmunks and Yogi Bear were huge commercial successes, but aesthetic disasters. Can Woody work in the 21st Century?
Hot on the heels of this week’s CTN Expo, animators and animation fans will be treated to the L.A. based Animation Breakdown festival at The Cinefamily (in Hollywood). Cartoon Brew and Animation Block Party are co-presenting this 6 day festival that celebrates the greatest in international animation, old and new, shorts and features.
Highlights include an advance screening of Pixar’s new short La Luna (with director Enrico Casarosa in person), new films by the Brothers Quay and Spike Jonze; live in-person appearances from animator Don Hertfzeldt, comics and cartoon creator Brad Neely (China IL), a cast & crew reunion of Cartoon Network’s Space Ghost: Coast to Coast and Frank Zappa’s legendary go-to claymation freakster, Bruce Bickford. An extensive 35mm retrospective of Polish animation is planned, with prints being flown in from Europe; and Cartoon Network will present world-premeire of Pen Ward and Thomas Herpich’s short Thank You.
Other events include:
- Rare 35mm restorations of Disney’s Laugh-O-Grams, Walt Disney’s long-lost silent era shorts, presented by Brewmaster Jerry Beck.
- Don Hertzfeldt in person for the LA premiere of his new film It’s Such A Beautiful Day
- Space Ghost: Coast to Coast cast & crew reunion and panel, C. Martin Croker and Andy Merrill in person.
- Pixar’s La Luna with director Enrico Casarosa in person for an advance screening and behind the scenes presentation.
All this and more (to be announced). For information and tickets (seating is limited) visit cinefamily.org.