Meet Michael Sullivan, Robot Pornographer

Last week at an animation screening in New York, the MC of the event, Bill Plympton, invited a member of the audience to take the stage and introduced him as a New York animation legend. The suspender-wearing pot-bellied gentleman looked about the farthest thing from a legend. I’d seen him at screenings before and never knew who he was, but I was certainly familiar with his famous work-in-progress animated film. It was none other than Michael Sullivan, who’s been working for over a decade on a stop-motion robot porno epic The Sex Life of Robots.

Michael has had a long career in animation, working on sets and puppets for projects like Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, Joe’s Apartment, and Bear in the Big Blue House,, but it’s the exquisitely crafted robot porn that he’s been making in his apartment that has captured the most attention. Now he’s about to become a lot more famous thanks to a short documentary–Meaning of Robots–that will premiere at the Sundance Film Festival this week. The trailer is above, and it’s directed by Matt Lenski who describes it as such:

In the Spring of 2011, after years of hiring him to build miniature sets for my films I asked Mike Sullivan for his help on an art project — A doll-sized protest kit. During the process I got a peek into his world and discovered that it was anything but miniature.

What I found was a man dedicated, overwhelmed, slightly lost and happy to share it with honesty and a little humor. I also found thousands of Robots with wieners. This is a character exploration, a documentary, a Henry Darger-esque allegory set in one studio apartment on 27th street in New York City.

Sullivan has been profiled on multiple occasions in the past. Click after the jump for more videos about his animation work, with plenty of NSFW clips from his work-in-progress film.
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Remembering Vincent Cafarelli

Vinnie Cafarelli

This video offers a look at the memorial celebration for New York animation legend Vincent Cafarelli that took place on Friday, January 6. There are glimpses of Vinny from old home movies interspersed between the memorial clips. The lovely event was attended by a who’s who of the New York animation community. See if you can spot Vinny Bell, Candy Kugel, Howard Beckerman, Don Poynter, Tony Eastman, J. J. Sedelmaier, Jimmy Picker, David Levy, John Canemaker, Doug Crane, Michael Sporn, Larry Ruppel, Richard O’Connor, George Griffin, Debra Solomon and John Dilworth, among many others.

Why Cartoon Brew Opposes PIPA and SOPA

You may have noticed that a lot of websites have gone “dark” today, most notably Wikipedia and Tumblr. There’s grave concern throughout the online community as a result of two bills currently in the US Congress: Protect IP Act (PIPA) and Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). This animated video explains why the bills would almost certainly kill off sites like Cartoon Brew:

Our ISP sent us a note this morning explaining how it would affect both him and us:

As an ISP I will become responsible for all of your content. Currently I am not. Due to the massive logs requirements and policing I would either need to increase my fees or discontinue service if the law is passed. If you are interested about its impact on hosting please take a moment and read this at SaveHosting.org.

Keep the Internet alive. Send a message to your Congressperson today by visiting AmericanCensorship.org.

Your Brewmasters,
Jerry Beck and Amid Amidi

Donald Duck @ Threadless

Threadless has teamed with Disney to create a contest to design a Donald Duck T-shirt. Normally I wouldn’t plug such a commercial venture, but I have to admit some of the entries are incredibly cool. One day left to score the designs – the winner will have his design printed on a limited edition shirt. A few of my favorites are posted above (Top: Zinkete; Center: TVSKyle; Botton: Rodgepodge). Check out the complete list of design submissions here.

(Thanks, Trevour Meyer)

The Latest Developments in Motion Capture

The Future of Motion Capture

Michael Bay, Jon Favreau, Ray Liotta, Paul Scheer and Rob Huebel all participate in this Funny or Die video about the latest developments in motion capture. I don’t want to ruin it so just click on the link and watch the two-minute short.

(Thanks, Daniel Savage, via Invisible Creature’s Twitter)

Nominations Announced for the Orange British Academy Film Award in 2012

[Editor's Note: For the list of nominees in all categories, visit BAFTA's Website.]

Animated Film

The Adventures of TinTin: The Secret of the Unicorn (Steven Spielberg, dir.)

Arthur Christmas (Sarah Smith, dir.)

Rango (Gore Verbinski, dir.)

Short Animation

Abuelus (dirs. Afarin Eghbal, Kasia Malipan, Francesca Gardiner)

Bobby Yeah (Robert Morgan, dir.)

A Morning Stroll (dirs. Grant Orchard, Sue Goffe)

Nelvana Enterprises Appoints Andrew Kerr as Head of Consumer Products

Toronto, Canada — Corus Entertainment’s Nelvana Enterprises announced the appointment of respected industry veteran Andrew Kerr to Head of Consumer Products, The Americas and Australasia, effective immediately.

Kerr brings over 14 years of international industry experience in licensing, consumer products and marketing, and will be responsible for strategy, brand management and development for Nelvana properties including Beyblade, Babar, Franklin and Max & Ruby. Kerr will oversee worldwide home entertainment, as well as consumer product licensing in The Americas and Australasia.

Kerr will report to Colin Bohm, Managing Director, Nelvana Enterprises.

“We are thrilled to have Andrew join our team at Nelvana,” said Bohm.  “Andrew brings a unique and valued set of experiences and skills to our company and our brands.”

“I’m excited to work with the team at Nelvana and its stable of great brands,” said Kerr. “I look forward to helping expand upon the international success of properties such as Beyblade, as well as those that are poised to break out in the global marketplace.”

Previously, Kerr was Executive Vice President, Consumer Products and Marketing, International, with Entertainment Rights/Classic Media in London, overseeing brand marketing and consumer product licensing for more than 100 brands, including Postman Pat, Tinga Tinga Tales, Guess with Jess and many others.

Prior to this role, Kerr was Executive Vice President, Global Licensing and Marketing at Ragdoll Ltd. overseeing all global licensing and marketing initiatives including oversight and management of the Teletubbies brand and creating brand ID and marketplace positioning strategies for In the Night Garden. He also opened Ragdoll’s first international office.  Prior to Ragdoll, Kerr held senior marketing and licensing managerial positions for a number of entertainment and consumer product companies.

Kerr will be based in Toronto at Nelvana Enterprises’ offices at Corus Quay beginning early this year.

“Satori” by Abhilasha Dewan

Satori

Satori is another recent Sheridan thesis film that has popped up online. Along with yesterday’s A Good Wife, the film offers a glimpse of the new crop of animators emerging out of the Canadian school. The filmmaker Abhilasha Dewan was “inspired by the misty mountains of Nainital, India. She’s posted artwork from the film on her website.

Learn 2D FX Animation for 85 Cents a Day

Adam Phillips

2D special effects animators are a breed apart. Their work is extremely detail-oriented and demands an incredibly high level of craftsmanship, yet the animation they create is rarely the center of attention like the work of character animators. Last month when I was in LA, I visited with retired Disney FX animator John Emerson who showed me how he animated the wings on the hummingbird Flit in Pocahontas and the way he did it nearly made my brain explode. Let’s just say he’s really good at handling an airbrush and cutting friskets. If 2D FX sounds like your dream job, then you may want to look into a new weekly FX animation course run by Australian animator Adam Phillips.

Phillips used to be the special effects supervisor at Walt Disney Animation Australia, and has since achieved Internet fame as the creator of Bitey Castle and the successful Brackenwood shorts on Newgrounds. His online course covers all the principles: lightning, flames, ripples, wave motion, smoke, dust, steam, and surface tension, among others. He tells me that, “It’s aimed at complete FX beginners and is taught from a traditional perspective so there’s no particular medium or software angle.” The real attraction is that the program is just $24/month and includes weekly articles, demonstrations, examples, illustrations and videos. The program length is approximately three months and can be started anytime. Find out more at Bitey.com.

Flea & Fly in “City Troubles” by Fernando Miller

Longtime readers of this blog know I have a “thing” for retro-style cartoons – i.e. new animated shorts that faithfully mimic a past era of animation. Today I’m proud to present the Internet premiere of one of the best I’ve ever seen: Fernando Miller’s Flea and Fly in City Troubles.

The film follows the antics of two homeless urchins in Rio, recreating the look and feel of late 1920s cartoons by mashing the styles of Otto Messmer with Hugh Harman and Rudolph Ising, with a pinch of Tex Avery and a nod to Tezuka (Broken Down Film, in particular). However Miller’s film is not simply a clever homage to old cartoons. It addresses real life problems of poverty and street children in modern day Brazil. Flea and Fly’s antics echo innocent behavior of 80 years ago, updated to reflect today’s realities: They sniff glue instead of drink booze; they also smoke, steal, bathe in public and urinate in the street.

I asked Miller, who works as a freelance animator in Rio, to explain the origin of his film:

“I had the idea for the film about 12 years ago. I was on a bus in Rio, my hometown, and there was this bunch of street kids on it, laughing out loud, slaping each other, screaming out of the window calling people names, and all this sort of things kids like to do to have fun. But the other people on the bus seemed terrified, as if those 10, 11 years old boys were about to shoot them or something. Everybody was so scared with the violence in the city, and the problem of abandoned kids living in the streets of Rio, that no one noticed, above all at that moment, that those were just kids acting as normal kids. On the other hand, those same people would smile at those exact same things while watching old fashioned cartoons – like Katzenjammer Kids – thinking about how inocent kids were at that time! So I wanted to show that things were not that different from the past, and try to create the same sympathy for nowadays kids, despite of the terrible situation they live in.

“That big church in the beginning and the end of the film is Candelaria Church, were in 1993 six street children got killed by police officers. It was a famous and terrible massacre every Brazilian knows well.

“All the places in the film do exist. Here’s a curious fact for animators: those two building behind the man selling food are where Animamundi Festival takes place. It’s across the street to Candelaria Church.”

With the current critical and artistic success of the live action “silent” film The Artist, perhaps Miller’s cartoon is coming out at just the right time. It would certainly make an appropriate short to accompany that feature. It sheds light on an important social issue with unusual finesse. Here, fresh from the festival circuit, is Flea and Fly in City Troubles:

How Cartoon Brew Spawned Bronies

One of Cartoon Brew’s most popular archived posts is my October 19, 2010 commentary about the end of creator-driven animation. The post, which discussed a common topic within industry circles, took on an unexpected life of its own among younger readers and spawned the well-known “Brony” fandom, which is the celebration of the TV series My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic by male viewers. If you’ve ever wondered how my post led to Bronies, here’s Scott Spaziani explaining its history. My role in the movement pops up around the 6-minute mark. You’re welcome, guys.

“A Good Wife” by W. Scott Forbes

The story of A Good Wife is fairly well summarized by its ironic title. What remains is a tribute to mid-century modern aesthetics and an eerie amount of stillness. W. Scott Forbes made the film while attending Sheridan College. The film doesn’t necessarily succeed in wringing out the emotions suggested by its sad story and musical cues, but Forbes’ approach is refreshing for a student film and a worthy experiment.

Rising Artist: Paul Cabon

It’s rare to browse through someone’s on-line animation videos and enjoy everything they’ve produced. That’s the happy feeling I experienced watching the work of French animator Paul Cabon. In fact, it was too difficult to choose a single piece of his to share so I’ve included three more of his films after the jump. His work is packed with fresh visual concepts coupled with strong control of color and shape and a keen sense of humor. His animation of human figures moves in an almost experimental fashion, which is to say it doesn’t follow the rules of conventional character animation but fits perfectly with the rest of his style. Cabon graduated from the French animation school La Poudrière a couple years back.

See more of his work after the jump:
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“The Adventures of Tintin” Wins Golden Globe

Paramount Pictures/Nickelodeon Movies’ The Adventures of Tintin won the Best Animated Feature prize at tonight’s Golden Globe ceremony in Beverly Hills. Director Steven Spielberg accepted the award (video below) and seemed genuinely surprised.

How about you? Did you expect Rango, Puss In Boots, Arthur Christmas, or perhaps Cars 2 to win this award? Do you think a Golden Globe award will help Tintin’s chances with Oscar or Annie voters?

Animated Fragments #15

Welcome to the first 2012 installment of Cartoon Brew’s “Animated Fragments.” Covering the animation world used to be a lot easier five or ten years ago. Today there is a greater amount of animation being produced than ever before and more of that animation is being posted on-line. Likewise, our thinking is constantly evolving about how to cover this ever-expanding world of animation. We introduced Animated Fragments last year after realizing that a lot of the animation being posted on-line didn’t fit into the traditional categories that everybody uses (TV, feature, music video, short, etc.). On-line culture is built on openness and sharing, and emerging artists (as well as an increasing number of established animators) share just about everything they produce on-line: animation tests, experiments, small-scale commercial gigs, pilot projects, you name it. The Animated Fragments is our attempt to catalog and share these pieces with a wider audience, and to hopefully introduce you to more talented artists who choose animation as their medium of visual expression.

Opening credits: Motel Monstre animated by Nick Cross and designed by Dave Cooper (Canada)

“Wolf-cub” by Loup Druelle (Norway)

“ThingSync Test–Seashells” by Javan Ivey (US): Toying with the idea of lipsyncing with objects and actions that are related to the dialogue.

“Random Animation about Anything” by Sophie de Jong (The Netherlands)

Morphology by Peter Sluszka (US)

“The Prophet”

Yesterday, Deadline Hollywood posted about Salma Hayek’s Ventanarosa Productions signing animation director Roger Allers (Lion King) to supervise an ambitious independent feature based on Khalil Gibran’s 1923 classic The Prophet. Allers will oversee the entire film – and will direct the opening, closing and bridging sequences – which will combine the work of a who’s-who of renown international animators.

The Prophet is a book of 26 poetic essays on life and the human condition. It’s divided into chapters dealing with love, marriage, children, giving, eating and drinking, work, joy and sorrow, houses, clothes, buying and selling, crime and punishment, laws, freedom, reason and passion, pain, self-knowledge, teaching, friendship, talking, time, good and evil, prayer, pleasure, beauty, religion, and death.

Already signed on (or in discussions) to participate: Tomm Moore (The Secret Of Kells), Sylvain Chomet (The Illusionist), John Stevenson (Kung Fu Panda), Marjane Satrapi (Persepolis), Chris Landreth (Oscar-winning short Ryan), Nina Paley (Sita Sings The Blues), Bill Plympton (Guard Dog) and Kunio Kato (Oscar-winning short Tsumiki No Ie). This “Super Bowl of animation” begins pre-production later this month – and is certainly one we will keep tabs on.

“A Year of Sun with Mr. Persol”

I do believe there is such a thing as over-art directing a piece of animation to the point where the message becomes buried within the polish of the artwork. Whether that’s the case with “A Year of Sun with Mr. Persol,” a glossy piece of advertising for Persol Eyewear directed by Kevin Dart and Stéphane Coëdel, is open to debate. What’s inarguable is that it’s an extremely competent piece brimming with sophisticated design and visual concepts throughout.

Credits after the jump
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“Lion King” Director Roger Allers Signs On For Gibran’s “The Prophet” Animated Feature

Deadline.com is reporting that director Roger Allers (The Lion King) has been tapped to write and direct a animated feature version of Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet for Salma Hayak’s Ventanarosa Productions. The production is planned to have individual chapters directed by different filmmakers, with Allers doing the opening, closing and overseeing the production as a whole. The project is scheduled to begin production later this month.

TV Cartoon Explains Politics to Kids

This 1961 episode of Tales of the Wizard of Oz harkens back to a time when animation writers didn’t speak down to kids. It’s a perfect example of children’s TV animation that works on multiple levels, encouraging kids to question their surroundings and understand the realities of the world while entertaining them at the same time.

Chuck Jones Experience Opening January 19th at Circus Circus Las Vegas

For generations of animation fans there is no greater legend than Chuck Jones. The creator of the famed Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies shorts for Warner Bros., Tom & Jerry cartoons, the TV version of Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas and many other well-known classics, Jones was a pioneer in the art of animation and a fine artist in his own right. His life and legacy will be celebrated on January 19 with the official grand opening of The Chuck Jones Experience at Circus Circus Las Vegas. Many of Jones’ family will welcome celebrities, animation aficionados and visitors to the new attraction when they open the attraction in an appropriate and unconventional way at 11 a.m. Among those in attendance will be Jones’ widow, Marian Jones, daughter, Linda Clough, and grandchildren Craig, Todd, and Valerie Kausen.

The Chuck Jones Experience is a nearly 10,000-square-foot destination that provides kids and animation fans of all ages with an extraordinary place to not only learn about the art of animation, but to discover the creativity and magic that’s inside us all. Designed to “Educate, Inspire & Entertain,” The Chuck Jones Experience takes visitors on a unique journey through Jones’ life, engaging guests with interactive exhibits, displays and learning experiences along the way. The Chuck Jones Experience is also home to the largest collection of original Chuck Jones animation and fine art anywhere in the world with more than 250 pieces on permanent display.

“This attraction will give fans an unprecedented window into my grandfather’s amazing life,” said Kausen. “We are proud to make Chuck’s original artwork, a lot of which has never before been seen, available to the public. Visitors will have a great time learning all about the inspiration behind the creation of some of Chuck’s most beloved and enduring animated characters such as Wile E. Coyote, Road Runner, Pepé le Pew and many others. It’s an animation lover’s paradise.”

“The Grand Opening of The Chuck Jones Experience represents the culmination of a dream,” added Jones Clough. “We are so thankful to the developer, Neil Cantor, and the group of fans behind the project for bringing this concept to life. I know my father would have been thrilled to see The Chuck Jones Experience open, especially on what would have been his centennial year.”

The attraction includes a variety of exciting elements including:
· Chuck Jones Center for Creativity Learning Center — A 1,000-square-foot learning center where teachers from the field of animation and the arts lead creative projects.
· Chuck Jones Movie Theatre — A 1930s-style movie theatre where you’ll meet Jones via a short film introduced by one of his characters, the Connecticut Cat.
· Chuck Jones’ Studio — A recreation of Jones’ office where you’ll see how he worked and discover what inspired him to create his beloved characters.
· How Do You Measure Up? Room — Learn how characters are developed and view original key drawings Jones drew during their creation.
· Animation Alley — A multimedia wall where animation pieces are on display from the permanent collection of the Chuck Jones Center for Creativity and other animation studios.
· Acme Workshop — Create sound effects and voiceovers for a Chuck Jones cartoon at the Chuck Jones Experience Foley Stage.

“We are excited to welcome The Chuck Jones Experience to our collection of family-friendly entertainment offerings at Circus Circus,” said Don Thrasher, president and chief operating officer of Circus Circus. “This one-of-a-kind, interactive exhibit is sure to be a hit with guests of all ages, and we’re thrilled to introduce visitors worldwide to the wonderful world of Chuck Jones.”

For information about the Chuck Jones Experience, please visit www.chuckjonesexperience.com or on Facebook at chuckjonesexperience.

“Lipsmackers by Beercan Rd.” by Sachio Cook

Lipsmackers by Beercan Rd. is a 2011 thesis film produced at the School of Visual Arts by Sachio Cook. The film has a quirky tone, stylishly mixing the mundane real world with fantastical elements. Some of the storytelling lacks clarity, but the overall effect (as well as the artwork) is charming. According to her LinkedIn page, Sachio works at Titmouse as an assistant animator. I hope she continues making independent films, too.

“The Superhero Squad” Joins The Hub January 30

LOS ANGELES — The Hub Television network, a destination for kids and their families, has acquired the hit animated series The Super Hero Squad Show from Marvel Animation. The popular half-hour series, which features the world’s best-known Super Heroes including Iron Man, Wolverine, Hulk, Thor, and Captain America will join The Hub’s Monday through Friday lineup beginning Monday, January 30, at 4 p.m. ET (with encore presentations on the weekend).

“We’re delighted to be adding The Super Hero Squad Show to our lineup,” said Margaret Loesch, President and CEO, The Hub. “This terrific, high quality series is a bullseye for our key demographic and is perfectly aligned with our strategy of building our schedule with strong, beloved brands that audiences know and embrace. Additionally, we’re thrilled to be associated with Marvel Animation. As one of the world’s preeminent character-based entertainment companies, Marvel has a superb reputation for providing quality entertainment.”

The Super Hero Squad Show entertains young fans and their families with a unique mix of action, adventure, humor and satirical storytelling as Marvel’s greatest super heroes unite to protect Super Hero City from some of the world’s most infamous super villains. The Super Hero Squad Show was produced in 2009 by Film Roman and Marvel Animation.

“Marvel Super Heroes have always entertained fans of all ages in our comics, and we’re proud to offer an animated series that families can enjoy together,” said Jeph Loeb, Head of Marvel Television. “With the most exciting super-powered adventures, The Hub can now offer the greatest fun of all– experiencing Marvel for the very first time. So whether you want to fly with Thor, suit up with Iron Man or smash with Hulk, this series has everything your family wants to see from our heroes.”

Filmmaker George Griffin Donates Collection of Cartooning Books To Prelinger Library

Filmmaker George Griffin is donating his collection of nearly 400 books to the Prelinger Library. Founded by Rick Prelinger and his wife, Megan Shaw Prelinger, in 2004, The Library is an appropriation-friendly, browsable collection of approximately 40,000 books, periodicals, printed ephemera and government documents located in San Francisco. It covers a broad swath of popular culture of the U.S. in the last century. The Prelingers, well-known to media artists and researchers for their archives which have provided material for countless independent films, have set an innovative goal for their new project. They write, “We are interested in exploring how libraries with specialized, unique, and arcane collections such as ours can exist and flourish outside protected academic environments and be made available to people working outside of those environments, especially artists, activists and independent scholars.”

Griffin terms his collection “didactic ephemera”: D.I.Y. books and periodicals dealing with practical instruction in the visual arts. Starting in the 1970s, while searching in vain in used bookstores for books on animation technique, he discovered related subjects such as general drawing, cartooning, photography, film-making, technical graphics, and performance (chalk talks and pantomime). These “how to” books, most of them published between 1900 and 1960, were aimed at a popular readership hoping to advance from hobby to professional craft. There are no examples of fine arts by well-known painters; instead the focus is on generic, commercial art. The books contain valuable examples of fundamental, pre-digital techniques (illustrated with diagrams), and they are an interesting window on early 20th century vernacular style and social conventions.

Griffin says, “This material needs a special home which allows free access and opportunity for hands-on research, scanning and free use for artists, students, and scholars. I’m thrilled that the Prelinger Library has agreed to make it welcome.”

For additional information contact:

George Griffin, [email protected]

Rick Prelinger, [email protected]

SIGGRAPH Conference Returns to Anaheim and Vancouver

(Chicago, IL) —SIGGRAPH, the world’s premier conference on computer graphics and interactive techniques, announces site selections for its 2013 and 2014 North American conferences.

SIGGRAPH 2013 plans to return to Anaheim, California, 21-25 July, to celebrate the 40th International Conference and Exhibition on Computer Graphics and Interactive Techniques  alongside  thousands of research scientists, gaming experts and developers, filmmakers, students, the production community and academics worldwide. Mk Haley of Disney Research, Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University has been named SIGGRAPH 2013 Conference Chair. She will celebrate her 25th year with SIGGRAPH, fulfilling many volunteer roles during this time, including Student Volunteer Chair, Emerging Technologies Chair, Director of Communications for the Executive Committee, and SIGGRAPH 2011 Director.

After SIGGRAPH 2011 broke Vancouver’s previous all-time conference attendance records, it has become one of the most memorable SIGGRAPH conference cities. Due to this overwhelming attendance and community support, SIGGRAPH 2014 will return to Vancouver for the 41st International Conference and Exhibition on Computer Graphics and Interactive Techniques, 10-14 August 2014. Dave Shreiner, Director of Graphics Technology at ARM, Inc, will serve as SIGGRAPH 2014 Conference Chair. Shreiner has been an active member in the SIGGRAPH community for the past 25 years as a presenter and volunteer (SIGGRAPH 2006 Courses Chair and SIGGRAPH 2009 Director of Knowledge Transfer).

“We are thrilled to be returning to these cities and it is a testament to their popularity both with our attendees and exhibitors,” said Joe Marks, SIGGRAPH Conference Advisory Group Chair from Disney Research at The Walt Disney Company. “The fact that we are returning to Canada is a direct reflection of its strong and growing computer graphics community.”

Both conferences plan to build on previous years’ achievements, showcasing the latest advances in computer graphics and interactive techniques, including animation, art, research, software, visualization, and education. SIGGRAPH provides attendees–from students to experts–the opportunity to gain amazing insights, enrich their skill set, and expand their worldwide contacts.

Visit the ACM SIGGRAPH web site for the most up-to-date information.