Animated Fragments #14

Let’s have one more batch of Animated Fragments to close out the year. Fragments has been one of our most popular new features in 2011, and we intend to feature plenty more bits and pieces of animation in the new year.

Lip Sync Test by Luca Tóth (Hungary/UK)

Bonne Année! by Rafael Sommerhalder (Switzerland)

Tribute to Emir Kusturica by Pavel Pogudin

2 Comedians by Spencer Morin (US)

Petit Cul by Gabriel Harel (France)

2012 Animation Book Preview

The future of animation books, like the rest of the publishing industry, isn’t rosy. Page counts and print runs are shrinking, and publishers seem more reluctant than ever to take risks with unconventional subject matter. Despite the uncertainty, there is still a fairly promising line-up of animation-related titles being released in 2012, including a much-needed biography of the McKimson brothers (most notably Bob, but also Chuck and Tom), the definitive history of UPA, and an intriguing flipbook project by Up and Monsters, Inc. director Pete Docter. My list below is by no means complete. Publishers still haven’t released their winter ’12 titles, and others books will certainly pop up throughout the course of the year. If you know of other animation-related titles coming out in 2012, please comment below.

FEBRUARY 2012
Character Mentor
Character Mentor: Learn by Example to Use Expressions, Poses, and Staging to Bring Your Characters to Life by Tom Bancroft, foreword by Adam Hughes (Focal Press).

Book description: You’ve researched your character extensively, tailored her to your audience, sketched hundreds of versions, and now you lean back content as you gaze at your final character model sheet. But now what? Whether you want to use her in an animated film, television show, video game, web comic, or children’s book, you’re going to have to make her perform. How a character looks and is costumed starts to tell her story, but her body language reveals even more. Character Mentor shows you how to pose your character, create emotion through facial expressions, and stage your character to create drama. Author Tom Bancroft addresses each topic with clear, concise prose, and then shows you what he really means through commenting on and redrawing artwork from a variety of student “apprentices.” His assignments allow you to join in and bring your drawing to the next level with concrete techniques, as well as more theoretical analysis.Character Mentor is an apprenticeship in a book. Professional artists from a variety of media offer their experience through additional commentary. These include Marcus Hamilton (Dennis the Menace), Terry Dodson (X-Men), Bobby Rubio (Pixar), Sean “Cheeks” Galloway (Spiderman animated), and more.

Swiss animation
Animation.CH: Vision and Versatility in Contemporary Swiss Animated Film by Christian Gasser (Benteli Verlags).

Book description: Swiss animated film is currently in one of its most productive, ambitious and successful historical periods. Never before have so many films been made and never before have these films enjoyed such international success. At the centre of animation.ch are conversations with 20 film makers who represent the variety and uniqueness of Swiss animated film – from short author films to children’s productions, from television series to feature film projects, not to mention art and commercial productions. animation.ch explores the development of Swiss animated film over the last 20 years, examines current trends and looks at what’s to come in the future. With Georges Schwizgebel, Jonas Raeber, Samuel and Frédéric Guillaume, Ted Sieger, Yves Netzhammer, Claudius Gentinetta, Claude Barras, Isabelle Favez, Jadwiga Kowalska, Rafael Sommerhalder, Adrian Flückiger, Marina Rosset, Basil Vogt, Dustin Rees, Zoltán Horváth,Izabela Rieben, Maja Gehrig, Anne Baillod, François Chalet and Claude Luyet.

MARCH 2012
Art of John Carter
The Art of John Carter: A Visual Journey by Josh Kushins (Disney Editions). Artwork from the first live-action feature by Andrew Stanton (Finding Nemo, Wall-E). Not necessarily animation-related but of likely interest to fans of Stanton’s Pixar films.

When Magoo Flew
When Magoo Flew: The Rise and Fall of Animation Studio UPA by Adam Abraham (Wesleyan University Press). Read our preview of When Magoo Flew.

Animating the Unconscious
Animating the Unconscious: Desire, Sexuality and Animation by Jayne Pilling (Wallflower Press). British animation historian Jayne Pilling has also compiled a three-part DVD series focused on the same theme.

This Sweater is for you
This Sweater Is for You!: Celebrating the Creative Process in Film and Art with the Animator and Illustrator of “The Hockey Sweater” by Sheldon Cohen (ECW Press).

Book description: One of the most beloved stories of all time–The Hockey Sweater–is celebrated in this heartfelt recollection. Reflecting on the original short story and mortifying real-life moment that started it all, the account relates how the resulting film is as much about childhood emotions and the desire to fit in as it is about hockey, the clash of cultures, and a harkening to bygone times. Canada’s tireless devotion to the film is illustrated, emphasizing how it is also loved by many more around the world. Delving into the artist’s notebooks, photographs, and memories, this record recreates the movie’s entire development, journeying back to the people and places that inspired its original imagery. The director’s additional films and illustrations are also explored, chronicling a 40-year career and providing rich insights into the creative process.

MAY 2012
McKimson brothers bio
“I Say, I Say . . . Son!”: A Tribute to Legendary Animators Bob, Chuck, and Tom McKimson by Robert McKimson Jr., foreword by John Kricfalusi (Santa Monica Press).

Book description: The first survey dedicated to the work of the McKimson brothers, this book offers a rare behind-the-scenes look at the upper echelon of 20th-century animation and examines the creative process behind the making of numerous popular characters and classic programs. Featuring original artwork from the golden age of animation, this book includes a wealth of material from many professional archives–screen captures, original drawings, reproductions of animation cels, illustrations from comic books, lobby cards, and other ephemera from the author’s collection–while surveying the careers of three groundbreaking animators whose credits include Looney Tunes, the Pink Panther, and Mr. Magoo. Beginning in the 1920s and then tracing the brothers’ work together at Warner Brothers Cartoons in the following decades, this history details Robert McKimson’s creation of such beloved characters as Foghorn Leghorn, the Tasmanian Devil, and Speedy Gonzales; Tom McKimson’s work at Warner Brothers, Dell Comics, and Golden Books; and Chuck McKimson’s long career working in comic books and then later at Pacific Title, creating animated film titles and commercials, including his award-winning work on Music Man, Cleopatra, and The Sound of Music.

Ray Harryhausen
Ray Harryhausen’s Fantasy Scrapbook: Models, Artwork and Memories from 65 Years of Filmmaking by Ray Harryhausen and Tony Dalton, foreword by John Landis (Aurum Press).

Book description: Designed in the form of a scrapbook, this visual feast for Harryhausen fans reveals models from unrealized projects, such as dinosaurs from the unfinished film Evolution; prints of outtakes from various films; early concept drawings and storyboards; color transparencies of Ray at work; written artifacts such as letters, production budgets, and a diary that details Ray’s first meeting with his mentor Willis O’Brien; early film treatments and script extracts; publicity posters and brochures; and more. Some items show Ray’s earliest artistic endeavors such as watercolors painted when he was 15 years old and marionettes of creatures from King Kong that he made when he saw the film in 1933. The result is a treasure trove of rare artifacts and material which not only offer new insights into how Ray created particular effects, but bring the worlds of his films to life in a new way and paint a fascinating visual portrait of the man himself and his creative imagination.

Animation Under the Swastika
Animation Under the Swastika: A History of Trickfilm in Nazi Germany, 1933-1945 by Rolf Giesen and J. P. Storm (Mcfarland & Co.)

Book description: Among their many idiosyncrasies, Adolf Hitler and Joseph Goebbels, the Nazi minister of propaganda, remained serious cartoon aficionados throughout their lives. They adored animation and their influence on German animation after World War II continues to this day. This study explores Hitler and Goebbels’ efforts to establish a German cartoon industry to rival Walt Disney’s and their love-hate relationship with American producers, whose films they studied behind locked doors. Despite their ambitious dream, all that remains of their efforts are a few cartoon shorts–advertising and puppet films starring dogs, cats, birds, hedgehogs, insects, Teutonic dwarves, and other fairy-tale ensemble. While these pieces do not hold much propaganda value, they perfectly illustrate Hannah Arendt’s controversial description of those who perpetrated the Holocaust: the banality of evil.

JUNE 2012
Art of Brave
The Art of Brave by Jenny Lerew (Chronicle Books)

Robots Feel Nothing When They Hold Hands
Robots Feel Nothing When They Hold Hands written by Alec Sulkin, Artie Johann, and Michael Desilets, and illustrated by Joe Vaux and Dominic Bianchi (Chronicle Books). It’s described as an “R-rated picture book of jokes” by writers and artists who work on Family Guy. Expect 192 pages of this.

AUGUST 2012
The Toy Story Films: An Animated Journey by Charles Solomon (Disney Editions)

SEPTEMBER 2012
Animation Flipbook Box Set by Pete Docter (Disney Editions)

FALL 2012
Imagination Illustrated: The Jim Henson Journal by Karen Falk (Chronicle Books). Book description: Compiled directly from the Henson workshop archives, this elegant and inspirational gift book adapts the diary that Jim Henson faithfully kept throughout his career, collecting rare sketches, concepts, photographs, and ideas from the creator of the Muppets and one of the twentieth century’s most influential artistic talents. Throughout, archivist Karen Falk offers behind-the-scenes details and insights into Henson’s writings and drawings and offers insights into Henson’s life, his magical creations, and the artistic process.

Part of a Complete Breakfast: Cereal Advertising Characters of the Baby Boom Era by Tim Hollis (University Press of Florida).

The Fairest One of All: The Making of Walt Disney’s “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” by J. B. Kaufman (Walt Disney Family Foundation Press).

Ward KimballFull Steam Ahead: The Life and Art of Ward Kimball by Amid Amidi, foreword by Brad Bird (Chronicle Books). This is my own book, which I’ve been working on for the past five years. I announced the project a few months ago.

Ronald Searle Exhibition at Gallery Nucleus in January

Gallery Nucleus Presents
RONALD SEARLE EXHIBITION
January 7, 2012 — January 29, 2012
Opening Reception: Saturday January 7, 2012 (7 pm — 10 pm)

Gallery Nucleus is excited to present the world-renowned cartoonist and illustrator, Ronald Searle, for a special solo exhibition. Now 91, Searle, has been an influential figure in the cartooning world since the beginning of the post-war era, his drawings identifiable by their scratchy textures, controlled gestural line quality, and often exaggerated human forms. This exhibit features a collection of Searle’s published and preliminary works including caricatures, illustrated typography, completed cartoons, and signed lithographs.

Digital Domain Media Receives Additional $11 Million in Economic Incentives

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla., December 29, 2011 – Digital Domain Media Group, Inc. (NYSE: DDMG), a leading digital production company focused on visual effects, original content animation and major studio co-productions, today announced that it has been approved for an additional $11 million of transferable tax credits by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity. Such tax credits can either be applied in the award amount to directly reduce the recipient’s Florida state tax liability, or they can be sold for cash to other Florida state corporate taxpayers.  The awarded amounts are designed by the Florida legislature to reduce the company’s direct costs of Florida-based visual effects productions and animation feature film projects by amounts equal to between 20 percent and 30 percent. The recent award is in addition to prior awards of $8.9 million that will be used primarily to offset the cost of the company’s first animated feature film to be produced in Florida, The Legend of Tembo.

Including the recent transferable tax credits, Digital Domain Media Group is the beneficiary of approximately $135.1 million of cumulative and continuing incentives provided by the State of Florida and the Florida cities of Port Saint Lucie and West Pam Beach.  These incentives provide meaningful benefit directly to the company’s newest business initiatives:

·         Tradition Studios, a family-focused, original content feature animation film studio in Port Saint Lucie, Florida

·         Digital Domain Institute, a groundbreaking collaboration with The Florida State University’s College of Motion Picture Arts that provides students with a dual-enrollment opportunity to earn a bachelor of fine arts (BFA) degree from FSU, along with professional certification in animation and visual effects from DDI.

“This recent award brings the total funding that we have received from our government partners to approximately $135.1 million in support of our business expansion,” said John Textor, CEO of Digital Domain Media Group. “As we deliver on the job creation promises we have made to the communities that support our growth, we benefit from a unique business model that utilizes these grants and economic incentives to greatly minimize the financial risk of such growth.”

Including an estimated $50 million facility contribution from the company’s recently announced China joint venture partner, Digital Domain Media Group has received approximately $185.1 million from government entities and partners, as follows:

State of Florida
Cash Grants $20.0 million
Tax rebates – resalable $19.9
City of Port St. Lucie, Florida
Cash Grants $10.0
Land (appraised value) $10.5
Low-interest building and equipment
lease financing $39.9
City of West Palm Beach, Florida
Cash Grants $10.0
Land (appraised value) $9.8
Low-interest financing $15.0
Beijing Galloping Horse Film Co. $50.0
TOTAL $185.1 million

Whatever happened to Molly Moo Cow?

Yesterday the Library of Congress announced its latest inductees to the National Film Registry, which included work by these notables in (or related to) animation: Walt Disney’s Bambi (1942), Ed Catmull’s A Computer Animated Hand (1972) and George Pal’s live action War Of The Worlds (1953). Great choices, well deserved!

But where is the love for the groundbreaking Van Beuren cartoons of the 1930s? When will the Library of Congress recognize the greatness of Cubby Bear, Waffles the Cat and Molly Moo Cow? Vincent Gargiulo created this faux commercial from 1986 for the 50th anniversary VHS edition of Van Beuren’s Molly Moo-Cow & The Butterflies. Gargiulo says “only 4 copies were sold”.

(For high quality DVD copies of Van Bueren cartoons, visit Thunderbean Animation)

Call For Entries: Toronto Animation Arts Festival International

We are excited to receive your work to the First Toronto Animation Arts Festival International Launching June 22-24, 2012.  We are now accepting both International and local shorts and feature-length submissions of all genres and techniques! If it is animated we would like to see it. Please read the Rules & Regulations for submitting a film to TAAFI, digitally, through Withoutabox: http://taafi.us2.list-manage2.com/track/click?u=78c7c5679341fc72daa9bbd5e&id=7bdf4e7993&e=9a707e11ba

The following are our deadlines for the upcoming year:
Free Submissions
Now Until February 29, 2012

Late Submissions
…March 30, 2012 — $10

Very Late Submissions
…April 15th  2012 — $25

Please note that the above dates are not postmark deadlines. They are the dates by which your film MUST be received online!

For  technical issues please contact [email protected].  For all other inquiries contact us via e-mail at [email protected]

Acclaimed 3D Artist William Vaughan to Teach at The DAVE School

ORLANDO, Fla.–New students pursuing their dreams of a career in animation at The DAVE School this January will be taught by award-winning artist, writer and director William Vaughan.

Vaughan’s career of nearly two decades includes work for video games, toymakers, national advertising campaigns and animated films such as Pixar Animation Studios’ recent short “Partly Cloudy”. In print, he has been published in major computer graphics magazines and contributed to 17 books.

He will share his expertise with students in The DAVE School’s Block 01 course, which covers 3D modeling, lighting, texturing and demo reel presentation techniques. The DAVE School, located on the backlot of Universal Studios Florida in Orlando, is one of the most advanced 3D and visual effects training institutions serving the animation and film industries. Recent graduates’ work can be seen in movies that include “Thor”, “The Green Lantern” and “Captain America”.

For more than six years, Vaughan played a major role in the development of NewTek’s LightWave 3D, one of the leading 3D applications used in the CG industry. He authored more than 300 tutorials and instructional videos on topics ranging from modeling and animation to dynamics and simulation. He is co-owner of Applehead Factory Design Studio, creators of the popular Teddy Scares and Tofu the Vegan Zombie franchises.

The term as guest instructor marks Vaughan’s return to The DAVE School. From 2008 to 2009, he worked as the school’s Director of Industry Relations. Prior to that, as one of the key faculty members, he assisted in the development of the school’s industry-acclaimed 3D curriculum.

“The school offers a unique blend of education and community that I’ve yet to experience anywhere else. Teaching is my passion and I love working with students who share my enthusiasm for animation,” Vaughan said.

Vaughan recently completed work on his latest book, “Digital Modeling” for New Riders Press, which is scheduled for release at the beginning of January, just days after Vaughan begins his guest term at The DAVE School.

“William is a rare talent. We’re very fortunate to have William with us this term,” said Steve Warner, Executive Director of The DAVE School. “He is both an exceptional artist and a gifted educator. His students will undoubtedly benefit from the depth of his experience across so many fields.”

Disney’s Peter Pan Returns In All New “Jake And The Never Land Pirates” Primetime Special

The classic character Peter Pan makes his first-ever appearance in the hit series for kids age 2-7, Jake and the Never Land Pirates, in a primetime special presentation, Jake and the Never Land Pirates: Peter Pan Returns, premiering MONDAY, FEBRUARY 13 (7:00-8:00 p.m., ET/PT) on Disney Channel. Featuring six original songs, the special finds Peter Pan returning to Pirate Island to enlist Jake, Izzy, Cubby and Skully in finding his lost shadow. Adam Wylie (“Picket Fences”) voices the role of Peter Pan.

Generating excitement and demand among the youngest viewer category (kids age 2-5) and their parents, Jake and the Never Land Pirates ranks as 2011′s #1 series launch in the demographic (kids age 2-5) and cable TV’s #1 series among Boys 2-5. Overall, Jake and the Never Land Pirates is pacing as Disney Channel’s #1 preschool series of all time among Total Viewers (2.2 million), Kids 2-5 (1.03 million/6.1 rating), Boys 2-5 (648,000/7.5 rating) and Women 18-49 (424,000/0.6 rating).

Season two will debut MONDAY, FEBRUARY 20 with new episodes airing daily at 8:30 a.m., ET/PT throughout the week. Sharon Osbourne, Josh Duhamel, Jane Kaczmarek and Tiffani Thiessen star in recurring roles, joining the series notable voice cast including David Arquette, Tori Spelling, Lisa Loeb, Adam West and Ariel Winter.

Beginning Monday, February 6, DisneyJunior.com/PeterPan will feature “Jake’s Countdown to Peter Pan” and the debut of a new two-part game, “Shadow Shenanigans,” where players can take on the role of Peter Pan’s shadow to try to wake the sleeping Jolly Roger crew and then play a shadow matching game.

A full-length preview of Jake and the Never Land Pirates: Peter Pan Returns will become available via Disney Channel on Demand on February 6. Mobile providers Sprint TV and MobiTV will simulcast the special in conjunction with the television premiere on February 13 on Disney Channel. The special will be available the following day on mobile VOD for AT&T, Sprint and Verizon customers.

Disney’s “Bambi” & Pre-Pixar Film “A Computer Animaed Hand” by Catmull Among 25 Films Selected For Preservation by U.S. Library of Congress’ National Film Registry

“My momma always said, ‘Life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.’”  That line was immortalized by Tom Hanks in the award-winning movie Forest Gump in 1994.  Librarian of Congress James H. Billington today selected that film and 24 others to be preserved as cultural, artistic and historical treasures in the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress.

Spanning the period 1912-1994, the films named to the registry include Hollywood classics, documentaries, animation, home movies, avant-garde shorts and experimental motion pictures.   Representing the rich creative and cultural diversity of the American cinematic experience, the selections range from Walt Disney’s timeless classic Bambi and Billy Wilder’s The Lost Weekend, a landmark film about the devastating effects of alcoholism, to a real-life drama between a U.S. president and a governor over the desegregation of the University of Alabama.  The selections also include home movies of the famous Nicholas Brothers dancing team and such avant-garde films as George Kuchar’s hilarious short I, an Actress.  This year’s selections bring the number of films in the registry to 575.

Under the terms of the National Film Preservation Act, each year the Librarian of Congress names 25 films to the National Film Registry that are “culturally, historically or aesthetically” significant.  “These films are selected because of their enduring significance to American culture,” said Billington.  “Our film heritage must be protected because these cinematic treasures document our history and culture and reflect our hopes and dreams.”

Annual selections to the registry are finalized by the Librarian after reviewing hundreds of titles nominated by the public (this year 2,228 films were nominated) and conferring with Library film curators and the distinguished members of the National Film Preservation Board (NFPB).  The public is urged to make nominations for next year’s registry at NFPB’s website (www. loc.gov/film).

In other news about the registry, These Amazing Shadows, a documentary about the National Film Registry, will air nationally on the award-winning PBS series “Independent Lens” on Thursday, Dec. 29, at 10 p.m (check local listings). Written and directed by Paul Mariano and Kurt Norton, this critically acclaimed documentary has also been released on DVD and Blu-ray and will be available through the Library of Congress Shop.

For each title named to the registry, the Library of Congress Packard Campus for Audio Visual Conservation works to ensure that the film is preserved for future generations, either through the Library’s massive motion-picture preservation program or through collaborative ventures with other archives, motion-picture studios and independent filmmakers.  The Packard Campus is a state-of-the-art facility where the nation’s library acquires, preserves and provides access to the world’s largest and most comprehensive collection of films, television programs, radio broadcasts and sound recordings (www.loc.gov/avconservation/).

The Packard Campus is home to more than six million collection items, including nearly three million sound recordings. It provides staff support for the Library of Congress National Film Preservation Board, the National Recording Preservation Board and the National Registries for film and recorded sound.

Bambi (1942)
One of Walt Disney’s timeless classics (and his own personal favorite), this animated coming-of-age tale of a wide-eyed fawn’s life in the forest has enchanted generations since its debut nearly 70 years ago. Filled with iconic characters and moments, the film features beautiful images that were the result of extensive nature studies by Disney’s animators. Its realistic characters capture human and animal qualities in the time-honored tradition of folklore and fable, which enhance the movie’s resonating, emotional power. Treasured as one of film’s most heart-rending stories of parental love, “Bambi” also has come to be recognized for its eloquent message of nature conservation.

A Computer Animated Hand (1972)
Ed Catmull, co-founder of Pixar Animation Studios, renowned for its CGI (computer generated image) animated films, created a program for digitally animating a human hand in 1972 as a graduate student project, one of the earliest examples of 3D computer animation. The one-minute film displays the hand turning, opening and closing, pointing at the viewer, and flexing its fingers, ending with a shot that seemingly travels up inside the hand. In creating the film, which was incorporated into the 1976 film “Futureworld,” Catmull worked out concepts that become the foundation for computer graphics that followed.

“Tintin” Ushers in a New Era of Photoreal Cartoons

Tintin

This is not a review of the Adventures of Tintin. I think we can all agree there have been enough of those already. My primary interest in checking out Tintin was to see the animation approach taken by Steven Spielberg and New Zealand animation studio Weta (as well as Giant Studios, which handled the motion capture recording). These two studios are at the cutting edge of exploring new forms of character animation, and Tintin has proven to be an important stepping stone in the development of our art form. To my eyes, it’s the first successful example of “photoreal cartooning.” By successful, I don’t mean perfect, but rather that the technology no longer disrupts the overall viewing experience. It takes a generous imagination to see where the technologies in Tintin are headed, but think back to the creepy baby in John Lasseter’s Tin Toy. It took less than twenty years for CG character animation to evolve from a deformed lopsided infant into the most common feature animation filmmaking technique.

To be honest, it’s hard for me to judge the animation in Tintin. Photorealistic cartooning–which some will argue is an oxymoron–makes even keyframed CG animation look traditional. Many will say it isn’t even animation. The confusion is understandable. Animation is evolving so rapidly before our eyes that we can barely keep pace with these changes. We desperately try to apply old labels and definitions and find them insufficient. Still, Tintin at its core is pure animation created frame by frame. True, it was augmented by other processes, but the end result was achieved distinctly through frame-by-frame techniques. And if the mark of a true piece of animation art is the director’s control over every element within the frame, then never has this been truer than in Tintin.

Motion capture is a flexible technique that can be stretched in multiple directions. James Cameron used it in Avatar to mimic the performance of live actors. Ironically, Cameron had to employ a team of animators to tweak and mold the motion capture data to achieve greater realism. The technology cannot yet accurately record the nuances of human behavior without the intervention of animators.

Spielberg, on the other hand, appears to have made animators a more integral part of the creative process. Instead of demanding that the animators make the motion capture data look more realistic, he allowed them a degree of freedom. In this LA Times interview, he explained, “I can underwrite or overwrite a performance and through the animators put [something into a performance] that even the actors didn’t bring to the bay.” In that quote, Spielberg acknowledges that the actor is not the be-all, end-all of the motion capture process (much to Andy Serkis’s dismay I’m sure) and that animators play a role in creating the performance, much as in traditional animation.

Spielberg’s attempt to marry motion capture and animation is a step forward, but not entirely successful. The photorealism of the design jars with the disturbingly wacky behavior of the characters. Watching a pliable, squash-and-stretch cartoon character like Daffy Duck wrapped up in a spinning plane propeller and spit out is funny; watching the photoreal Captain Haddock perform that same gag in Tintin looked awkward and uncomfortable. This discordance between design and performance will be ironed out when the technology is placed in the hands of experienced animation directors who more fully understand how the medium works.

There’s another component to Tintin that’s been largely overlooked and it’s this:

Tintin

Producer Peter Jackson explained what Spielberg is doing in the photo:

For [Tintin] we wanted to create a virtual studio — we haven’t even got a name for it — where Steven would be able to pick up a virtual camera that looks a little like a PlayStation controller with a six-inch screen and use it to step inside the world of Tintin that we had created. All the locations had to be built in advance of us doing the motion-capture shoot, as it were; so for the best part of two or three years we were building all of the sets, all of the cars, all the airplanes, everything in the film was constructed but then the key thing was to break away from all of the technical restraints and make it as much a live-action experience as we could.

This is a transformative concept, much like 3-D was hyped as being, except this is the real deal. Whereas animation in the past was a labor-intensive process, and each scene was carefully laid out from a single angle that was drawn by the layout artist. Even as we moved to computer-generated imagery, artists were careful not to overreach the boundaries of their world. Brad Bird told me how he stayed on budget on The Incredibles by carefully selecting shots in the storyboard/animatic stage and not modeling the world beyond the confines of those preselected shots.

To open up the entire world to the animation filmmaker creates a tantalizing array of possibilities. It is a paradigm shift in animation production that pushes it closer to the world of the live-action camera, while still remaining firmly entrenched in the realm of cartoon fantasy. The technology also raises interesting questions. For example, if a director is selecting all his shots via a specialized hand-held controller, what could that potentially do to the role of the previz/layout artist? These roles won’t disappear anytime soon, but the job descriptions must undergo an evolution. The “virtual studio” approach will mean more planning upfront and more work for people who have to design and build the worlds, but less control over the finished film for the layout artists.

The limitations of the filmmaking-by-controller approach are evident in Tintin. Spielberg is trapped in a videogame of his own making and can’t stop exploring the world long enough to tell a story. Knowing when to exercise restraint will become even more crucial in this new mode of animation production. Whenever I see the incessant camera moves in animated films today, I’m reminded me of something that French animation director Michel Ocelot told me over dinner a couple years ago. Michel abhors camera pans and trucks. He feels that camera movements pull the viewer out of the story, and he prefers a static screen as much as possible. His austere minimalism may seem archaic, but the argument for Ocelot’s point of view would be the pirate ship battle and the crane-fight finale in Tintin. Despite their nauseating overuse of the camera, both of those scenes lumbered along, failing to elicit any tingle of excitement or adventure. The camera, even in this latest and fanciest iteration, does not compensate for skillful filmmaking.

Many people, including those with whom I saw Tintin, have commented that they have been exhausted after watching the film. Much of that we could presume is due to the repetitive action sequences, but I would also suggest that it was the overwhelming level of graphic detail. There was so much happening that the eye never stopped racing around the screen, in desperate search of a focal point.

Here’s a good example: halfway down this web page, there’s a short scene with Snowy running. Pay attention at the :27 second mark. There’s a guy running across the street for no apparent reason. He may be running because of the oncoming cars, but then why does he look in the opposite direction of where the cars are coming from? To me, it’s emblematic of the entire production: too many artists working on too many individual elements in each scene. There is an inordinate amount of randomness in Tintin and many scenes lacked cohesion or clarity. Audiences may not have been able to pinpoint the randomness but they certainly felt it.

Tintin was, in some ways, exactly what I expected it to be: a typical Spielberg film with hamfisted direction. But it was also surprising and fascinating from a technological point of view. As the animator’s toolset continues to evolve, directors will gain granular control over cartoons in a way that was never possible before. The challenge in the future, as in the past, will be harnessing the technology to work with the artwork instead of against it.

Two from Musclebeaver

Tobias Knipf and Andreas Kronbeck of animation/illustration collective Musclebeaver create stylish commercial spots in Munich, Germany. Their latest piece for Swiss NPO “Gluekskette” (Swiss Solidarity) urges fund raising for natural disaster relief in an entertaining way.

If you liked that video you should check out their earlier How Your Money Works, an equally stylistic piece:

“The Strange Case of Dad’s Missing Head” teaser

Our friends at Headless Productions, the independent studio based in Barcelona Spain run by Adrian Garcia, Alfredo Torres, Victor Maldonado and Julien Bizat, have just made public this teaser piece created for their proposed 2D feature. The idea is fanciful, the graphics are amazing; I’d trade ten Tintin’s for one of these…

A Documentary about Alberto Mielgo

I’ve often praised Alberto Mielgo‘s background paintings on the Brew. He’s the art director on Disney’s upcoming Tron TV series, which is largely the reason I’m excited about that show. It shouldn’t be surprising that an artist of his caliber wouldn’t restrict his skills to the animation world. This short documentary directed by Alexis Wanneroy (who also happens to be an animator at DreamWorks) takes a look at the creation of one of Mielgo’s recent paintings, in which porn actress Belladonna modeled for him. If you can’t tell by the video thumbnail, it’s probably NSFW, but it’s also a fascinating look at the artistic process of one of the most original artists working in animation today.

“Zséman”

Love the quirky movement, realistic eyes and mouths, and crunchy hand-made look of this student short. Here are some details about Zséman from one of its four filmmakers, Nadja Andrasev:

This was our fifth semester stop motion paper cut animation film just completed at the Moholy-Nagy University of Art and Design in Budapest. We were given a basic rough storyline with an open ending and had to make the films in teams of four people, with one person as visual designer (in our case, Milán Kopasz). There were some basic guidelines, for example having to use lip sync. We decided to write gibberish as dialogue, therefore there are no subtitles. Three films were made in our class based on the same basic story (the other two were digitally animated).

CREDITS
Made by: Hanna Carlson, Milán Kopasz, Maja Szakadát, Nadja Andrasev
Design: Milán Kopasz
Lighting: Katalin Mészáros
Voice: Bálint Gelley

Dirty Secrets about Interning Revealed in a New Book

Interns

Despite our moderation efforts, the comments section on Cartoon Brew can occasionally feel like a free-for-all. However, we also recognize the value of providing this forum. Readers feel comfortable and safe to comment about the animation industry in ways that they don’t anywhere else on-line. I was reminded of this when I took a look at Ross Perlin’s timely expose Intern Nation: How to Earn Nothing and Learn Little in the Brave New Economy. There’s a paragraph in the book where he quotes extensively from readers who commented on this Brew post about illegal internships at animation studios.

Illegal internships are a major issue in the animation industry and I hope to address this topic in greater depth in the coming year. Too many employers abuse the concept of internships, and make interns perform demeaning tasks that don’t pertain to the industry, or use interns for extended periods of time to perform tasks that they would otherwise have to pay staffers to do. Entry-level animation artists in New York are worse off today than anytime in the past twenty years, not just due to internships, but also because of minimum-wage positions for artists that have pushed salaries down to 1980s levels. The current situation is untenable in the long term and needs to be addressed openly. Reading Perlin’s book looks to be a good first-step for any college student who is considering an internship and wants to protect themselves from being exploited by unscrupulous studios.

“Be Our Guest” and Mahler’s Symphony No. 3

Alan Menken’s song “Be Our Guest” from Beauty and the Beast sounds familiar to a theme from the first movement of Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 3. It’s a good thing that the Walt Disney Company respects the purpose and intent of public domain laws that allow artists like Menken to be inspired by earlier creative works. Oh wait

(via Nick Cross’s Twitter)

Every Tintin Adaptation–And How Spielberg Stacks Up

Tintin

Steven Spielberg’s new Adventures of Tintin is the most technically ambitious film version of Tintin to date, but it is hardly the first time Hergé’s boy reporter has been brought to life. To help place Spielberg’s efforts into context, we turned to someone far more qualified than us, French writer and artist David Calvo. In this exclusive piece for Cartoon Brew, he takes a look at the highs and lows of prior Tintin screen adaptations and helps us understand where Spielberg’s performance capture film fits into the picture. When he’s not being a Tintinologist, Calvo is a creative consultant and writer at Ankama, where he has played a key role in developing the popular MMORPG Wakfu. He has also written numerous novels, comic books and short stories, and draws the on-line comic Song of Beulah.

The History of Tintin Adaptations: From Misonne to Spielberg
by David Calvo

It’s been a long time coming. We can read everywhere how Steven Spielberg and Hergé missed their rendez-vous, at the dawn of the 1980s, a few weeks before the Belgian comic master passed away. We’re now resigned to the American side having the upper hand. Today, we can feel Spielberg and Peter Jackson oozing in every frame of the new Tintin, childhood memories and artist’s pride perspiring behind the dual banter of the Thomson and Thomson. The star filmmaking duo have managed to bring this hot, harshly defended property to a new media. Without delving into the technical aspects of this production, adapting Hergé’s master comic book is already a daunting task. It has been done before–sometimes for the best, mostly, for the worst.


“The Crab with the Golden Claws”

The crowning jewel of all Tintin adaptations is the “The Crab with the Golden Claws” handkerchief puppet extravaganza by Hergé’s friend Claude Misonne and her husband João B. Michiels. Splendid and boring, so abstracted, this stop motion tour de force managed to be a scrupulous, if non-inventive, duplication of the comic, filled with wonderful voice performances, horrendous stock shots, and plagued by severe budget problems. The movie was shown only once in theaters, in December, 1947, in front of two thousand kids. The film was seized next morning by the justice, because the adaptation fees wee never paid. The movie has now achieved cult status as the first Belgian animated feature, a visionary precursor in stop motion history.


“Tintin et le Mystère de la Toison d’or”

Often cited as the worst thing you can do to Hergé, the two live-action movies of the Sixties, “Tintin et le Mystère de la Toison d’or” (“Tintin and the Golden Fleece”, Jean-Jacques Vierne, 1961) et “Tintin et les Oranges bleues” (“Tintin and the Blue Oranges”, Philippe Condroyer, 1964), deserve to have their reputations rehabilitated today. If “la Toison d’Or” fares better than the “Oranges Bleues,” it’s because of the exoticism, the touristic adventures, and the multiple references to the Tintin canon. Despite their cruel lack of any cinematic values and terrible scripts (both are original stories by André Barret), these playful, lush productions were able to pull the major feat of having perfect main characters: a Tintin superbly played twice by Jean Pierre Talbot, and two Haddock incarnations, Georges Wilson and Jean Bouise–both major French actors bringing uncanny depth to this difficult character.


Belvision’s Tintin series

The Sixties were the apotheosis of the Franco-Belgian comic-book school, and Belgian studios Belvision, founded by Le journal de Tintin editor Raymond Leblanc, had a winning streak of flair. First they adapted Tintin as a cartoon TV show. Produced by Ray Goossens, the seven serials were aired between 1959 and 1964 as five-minute shorts, for a total of 50 episodes (only “The Calculus Affair” was bundled as a feature film). Despite having brought the best animators in Europe to Brussels, the old-fashioned animation and funny characterization perks struggled to overcome the horrid scripts and schematic action. To fit the format, the albums were condensed and chopped, often badly, but the overall thrust of non-stop action and cliffhangers, typical of any serialized mystery, worked perfectly on TV. Curiously, Belvision also produced a stunning fifteen-minute industrial film, “Tintin et la SGM” (1970), to promote a Belgian mining company. (Watch a clip from the industrial film.)


The animated feature “Tintin and the Temple of the Sun”

Next, Belvision seized the big screen with two animated features, which are still a Christmas fixture in France. “Le Temple du Soleil” (“Tintin and the Temple of the Sun,” 1969) was a deeply faithful adaptation of the source material (with thoughtful alteration by comic book artist and journal de Tintin editor Greg). A more technically challenging endeavor, enhanced by a splendid soundtrack featuring a song written by Jacques Brel, the musical alter ego of Hergé. Even if the movie only focused on the second part of the two-album story arc (which will be “adapted” next by Peter Jackson), it retains a large part of the adventurous setting and rhythm. The next feature, “Tintin et le lac aux requins” (Tintin and the Lake of Sharks, 1972) is a funny, original Tintin story pitched by Greg, featured an awesome visit to Syldavia and touching characters, though lacking animation brio and depth.


Opening titles for The Adventures of Tintin

In 1992, The Adventures of Tintin, a new animated TV series aired on FR3, co-produced by France Ellipse studios and Canadian outfit Nelvana (directed by Stephen Bernasconi, assisted by Tintinologist Philippe Goddin). It had a huge success in primetime. The sheer scope forces the admiration: all Hergé’s albums are converted, except for the most controversial (“Tintin in the Congo” and “Tintin in the Land of the Soviets,” while “Tintin in America” was heavily tweaked to erase the Native American problems). Eighteen 45-minutes episodes, and three 24-minute ones, achingly faithful and masterfully executed, were produced. Maybe too faithful. Clean and respectful, lacking any hint of craziness, this adaptation got rid of most of Tintin’s quirky element–guns, politics, alcohol–to provide neutered family entertainment devoid of any risk. One of the key aspects of Hergé’s work was his perfect balance between reality and fantasy. The episodes have been syndicated many times since, cut up and chopped in every possible combination to re-create a serialized experience.

At the dawn of the 21st century, Tintin is back for the masses. Belches and zoophilic jokes aside, it is a clever twist thrusting a quaint, old-school narrative into the future. The movie texture is stunning, everything reflects the overwhelming obsession of Spielberg, including reflection itself, and the fabric gives a sense of depth and place achingly relevant in achieving that “ligne claire” dryness to every overexposed shape. The details are inspiring: the tiny, drunkards eyes of Haddock, his cartoon nose, Tintin’s hands (beautiful), the Thomson’s moustaches and greasy skin. The somewhat jumble of the script, blending two majors storyline with details from all over the oeuvre, manages to remain faithful and utterly sacrilegious at the same time. The whole movie lacks the whimsical, restrained tempo of Hergé, that, despite their short-comings, the previous adaptations managed to pull out.

Tintin

This over-emphasis on heavy action set pieces, with barely a pause for the characters to breathe, is deeply troubling. Are world mass audiences hungry for more action, more technical bravado, trampling the subtle inheritance of of the most idiosyncratic saga of our time? The shiny, invisible center of Hergé’s mind is still missing from all these adaptations. The endearing success of Tintin is not one of motion, nor emotion. It is tied to the page, to the frame. Subject and Form linked in a perfect, beautiful harmony that cannot translate, giving birth to a singular expression of a universal time frame, frozen forever in a quaint space between conservatism and rebellion. We will have to wait again–this time for Peter Jackson bravado–to see if the Hollywoodization of Tintin’s quirky sensibility can exist in another space.