About a month ago, I posted a stylish promo for Brazil’s Telecine movie channel. Here is a gorgeous second one (of 2); both promote the channel by recalling the magic of classic movies. This one is by the incredible Rodrigo Leme.
The nominees for BEST ANIMATED SHORT, announced today by The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Scienes, are:
A Morning Stroll by Grant Orchard (Studio AKA)
Read Cartoon Brew’s post about A Morning Stroll and our coverage of Grant Orchard throughout the years.
Dimanche / Sunday by Patrick Doyon (NFB)
The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore by William Joyce and Brandon Oldenburg (Moonbot Studios)
Read Cartoon Brew’s post about The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore.
Wild Life by Amanda Forbis & Wendy Tilby (NFB)
Read Cartoon Brew’s post about Wild Life.
Congratulations to all the nominees. The Academy Awards will be presented on Sunday February 26th at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood.
The Oscar nominations were announced this morning.
Nominated for BEST ANIMATED FEATURE were:
A CAT IN PARIS – Jean-Loup Felicioli, Alain Gagnol
CHICO AND RITA – Tono Errando, Javier Mariscal.
KUNG FU PANDA 2 – Jennifer Yuh Nelson
PUSS IN BOOTS – Chris Miller
RANGO – Gore Verbinski
THE SCORE: It’s “2″ for Dreamworks and “0″ for Disney/Pixar. “2″ for International independent films, and “1″ for a live-action director making his animated feature debut (and that director isn’t Spielberg). And a big “zero” for Mo-Cap.
It’s not a complete loss for TINTIN – the film was nominated for Best Music (Original Score). And RIO got a nod for Best Original Song. A complete list of nominees in all categories is posted here. The Academy Awards will be presented on Sunday February 26th at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood.
Here’s a treat for Fleischer Studio aficionados. In 1935, animator Myron Waldman went to the hospital to have his appendix out. The artists at the studio created a giant hand made “get well” card packed with gag cartoons. Animation art dealer Ken Storms acquired this piece (yes, it’s for sale) and has allowed us to share. A terrific find – It’s great to see the animators behind Popeye and Betty Boop do some off-color gags. There are four pieces, sized 23″ by 13.5″. Click the image above to see the “cover” piece. The other three pieces are below.
Click the thumbnails below to see the art full size. Panel 2 (below left) contains cartoons by Graham Place, Jim Miele, Joe Stultz, Jack Quban, Bill Bird, Tom Antisell and Sam Buchwald (!); Panel 3 (center) has Dave Tendlar, Herman Cohen, Nick Tafuri, Georgew Germanetti, Lillian Friedman, Ed Nolan, Bill Sturm, Ted Vosk, Izzy Sparber and I think, Orestes Calpini; Panel 4 (below right) Max Fleischer, Willard Bowsky, Doc Crandall, Abner Kneitel, William Henning, Harold Walker, Seymour Kneitel, Jim Claboy, Dave Hoffman and Eli Brucker.
Allow me to go off topic (or slightly off topic) for a moment to pay tribute to an old friend, Bingham Ray (he’s at left in the photo above, with a younger, thinner version of me circa 1991 – that’s animator Gavrilo Gnatovich behind us). His unexpected passing yesterday at the Sundance Film Festival has generated a lot a press. The New York Times notes, “He started his formal career in 1981 in Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s New York office, where he sold library titles to hospitals, colleges and ships at sea”. Yep, that’s where I met him, where we worked side-by-side in MGM/UA’s nontheatrical department, renting 16mm prints to various venues.
Bing was a hilarious guy and it was absolutely true that everyone loved him. He left MGM/UA and ultimately became the head of several movie companies including Samuel Goldwyn and United Artists. He started his own film distribution company, October Films, in 1991 and one of his first acquisitions was Bill Plympton’s The Tune. He was always there for advice, a joke, or to simply share his enthusiasm for film. He will be missed.
Rest in Peace, Mr. Bing.
Less than a year after its launch, Kaboing TV has come to a virtual standstill. Billed as “an alternative channel for quality animation that serves both the cartoon fan and the animation community of artists and writers,” the idea was conceived by Joe Murray, the veteran creator of old-media shows like Rocko’s Modern Life and Camp Lazlo. Murray raised over $20,000 from a Kickstarter campaign in June, 2010 to launch the concept.
Kaboing failed to gain traction with viewers. In the past year, Murray unveiled three original animated shorts based on his Frog in a Suit concept, and also presented six indie animated shorts. The combined viewership of those nine films was just 57,000 views.
In an essay posted on his blog last week he described Kaboing as being “at a crossroads.” In an earlier blog post last month, he alluded to Kaboing as if it had already died, writing that it was like “watching the fuse to what promises to be a wonderful firework display, fizzle out at the moment of truth.” The Kaboing website, which hosted its videos on YouTube, hasn’t unveilved a new cartoon since September, 2011, and the last original Frog in a Suit short premiered last March.
Murray blames virtually everything as a factor in the site’s lack of success, from a failed mainstream project that he had undertaken to no marketing budget to advertisers who wanted ownership of the shorts to the Internet’s desire for crude material.
The simplest solution though is often the right one, and in this case, it would appear that Murray didn’t offer a compelling product that audiences wanted to see. The Internet is very good at identifying what it likes, and it doesn’t like the kind of traditional material produced by mainstream TV studios. Frog in a Suit felt too much like a standard-issue TV cartoon with all the timeworn elements that Internet audiences are trying to escape.
It’s commendable that Murray is being upfront about the struggles of his start-up Kaboing TV, but his assignment of blame for the site’s failure seems misplaced to me. Reading between the lines of his January 18 post, he appears to believe that his work was of a higher quality than the kind of animation that becomes successful on-line. He expresses frustration that a “unicorn shitting rainbows” is more popular than his own work. But while some material is certainly more crude and raw, there are also breakout Internet hits like Simon Tofield’s Simon’s Cat which feature more elegant animation than anything you’ll find produced by a TV animation studio. The nineteen Simon’s Cat shorts, all animated by Tofield, have garnered over 215 million views on YouTube and spawned book and merchandising deals.
In the past artists created properties to pitch and sell to TV networks or newspaper syndicates in the hope of making their characters famous. Tofield has succeeded where Murray couldn’t by showing its possible to create characters on one’s own terms, turn them into a success online without giving up ownership rights, and then wait for companies to approach you with licensing deals.
YouTube, in fact, has spawned a new generation of animation creators who have become successful individual brands without the help of any middleman. An even more successful example is Dane Boedigheimer, whose Annoying Orange videos have accumulated nearly 600 million views on YouTube. His work has become so popular that Cartoon Network recently greenlit a series based on his characters.
Here’s a list of individual filmmakers besides Tofield and Boedigheimer whose YouTube channels have garnered huge fanbases and (we may assume) some financial reward:
27.3 million video views
35.1 million video views
62.7 million video views
66.3 million video views
84.6 million video views
FilmCow (aka Charlie the Unicorn)
218.3 million video views
Most tellingly, none of these artists became successful by soliciting money from a Kickstarter campaign and none of them had marketing campaigns. They created their animation because they believed in it, and audiences responded to the work. As the mechanism of distribution matures on the Internet, more and more animators will discover that this kind of success is possible.
I stumbled upon this scan tonight and had to share. It’s a photo taken in 1936 by Ed Benedict at Walter Lantz Productions. It’s pure class, and at the height of the Depression no less. From left to right are Jack Dunham, who sadly ended up homeless in Montreal a few years back; Fritz Willis, who went on to become a famous pin-up artist; and Leo Salkin, who enjoyed a long animation career as a writer and storyboard artist. Fast forward 75 years, and the fashion evolution of the animator is not a pretty sight.
Okay, here is an unabashed plug for a video project near and dear to my heart. Animation archeologist/film-restoration hero Steve Stanchfield is ready to unveil his latest DVD masterpiece: Noveltoons Original Classics, a special DVD collection featuring twenty restored “Hollywood” cartoons produced by Paramount from 1943-1950.
Paramount’s in-house cartoon unit, Famous Studios (actually based in New York City), was staffed by a core group of artists from the former Fleischer Studio – in fact, just about everyone minus Max and Dave was still involved. The Noveltoons series became the launching pad for many well known (and not-so-well known) characters: Little Audrey, Baby Huey, Herman the Mouse, Raggedy Ann, Blackie Sheep, Spunky Donkey and others. Unlike other collections featuring some of this material, Stanchfield’s set features these cartoons digitally restored and mastered from original 35mm and 16mm film materials. For the specific cartoon titles, see Menu’s below (click thumbnails to enlarge).
You may have seen some of these cartoons before – but you haven’t seen them look like this. Pristine, colorful, with their original Paramount movie titles. Believe me, this library has been sadly neglected for decades. Previous available copies of these cartoons are usually faded 16mm TV prints with replaced titles, film splices and dirt lines. Your jaw will drop when you see the quality Steve has managed to achieve (check the two frame grabs above, center and right; click thumbnails to enlarge).
Bonus features include commentaries from animators (Bob Jaques, Mike Kazaleh, etc.) and animation historians (including me), Still galleries featuring original model sheets, publicity materials, animation art and comic strips, plus a unique Baby Huey storyboard/final film comparison reel (image below):
Noveltoons Original Classics. Buy it now. I highly recommend it. Help support this kind of film restoration – by a dedicated animation historian, doing the work the major studios do not feel worthy of its time. And if I haven’t convinced you yet, here are a few excerpts from the disc (You Tube does not do this justice):
FoxRetro X-Mas Spot by Váscolo (Argentina)
Thor facial rig test in Softimage by Stephen McNally (Ireland)
Strip Tease by Natalianne Boucher, Camille Chabert, Marine Feuillade and Naïmé Perrette (France): “The technique consists of ‘cut-out’ animation (cutted paper, here added to tissues) then back projected on a wall and shot frame by frame.”
African plains, manes and stolen meals by Chris O’Hara (Ireland): “Featuring audio from Planes, Trains and Automobiles.“
Power Salad, a comedy duo comprised of Chris Mezzolesta and Craig Marks, created this awesomely geeky musical plea demanding that vintage cartoon animals not suffer the ignoble fate of CG remakes:
Charles Kenny at the Animation Anomaly spotted these Mickey and Minnie Mouse plates at his local Target. They appear cool in that, “Look, Disney is celebrating its heritage” kind of way, but a closer look reveals a clumsily conceived idea.
The most glaring defect is that the construction lines are drawn OVER the final artwork. In actuality, the artist draws the construction lines first, a rough version to work out the pose and scale of a character. Not only are the construction lines here printed on top of the finished drawing, but the lines appear to have been inserted haphazardly after the fact and bear no connection to the drawing of Mickey. The construction circle over Mickey’s head doesn’t even follow the tilt of his head in the finished drawing. Construction lines are fascinating because they reveal an artist’s thought process and how he or she arrived at a finished drawing; these lines look like the random scribbles of a toddler struggling to copy a drawing. There’s no reason to insert these construction lines into a piece of merchandise unless the purpose is to draw attention to the heritage of drawing at the Disney company. So why not get it right? As it stands, it looks like a cynical attempt by the Disney company to exploit the fondness that people have for classic animation.
Will the general public who buys these plates notice anything amiss? Probably not. But when a company cares, it sweats every detail, even the ones that aren’t always noticed. That’s what Pixar does, that’s what Apple does, and it’s what Walt used to do.
Stop Hurting by Gareth Axford for group Nova’s Basement.
Set Loose Black Sail by Dave Brodsky
Music Video for NY based rock band “The Smashup” uses charcoal animation mixed with live action. Directed by David Brodsky, animation by Tim Kellen
The Shrine / An Argument by Sean Pecknold
Created by Sean Pecknold in Portland Oregon, for the group Fleet Foxes. Animators: Sean Pecknold & Britta Johnson; Character Illustrations: Stacey Rozich.
Just for fun – and thanks to Chuck Howell, the Archivist at University of Maryland’s Special Collections in Mass Media & Culture – we are happy to show off these cool 1957 Bert and Harry Piel bar coasters. The characters were created in 1953 for a TV ad campaign by UPA New York, under Gene Deitch’s supervision. Jack Sidebotham designed the characters for the Cunningham and Walsh agency – and of, course Bob Elliot and Ray Goulding provided the voices. For more about this (and to see one more of these coasters), read Gene Deitch’s account on his blog.