NYC’s Museum of American Illustration To Host “Ice Age To The Digital Age” Exhibition

A prehistoric squirrel scampers across an icy landscape, desperately clinging to his beloved acorn; a creative, young robot leaves his small town, with dreams of making it as a successful inventor; a rare, blue macaw travels to the exotic land of Rio de Janeiro in search of true love and adventure–in movies an intriguing story is essential, but how do these memorable characters and scenes become so animated? From Ice Age to Rio, this spring the Museum of American Illustration at the Society of Illustrators shines a light on the creative process of one of today’s biggest computer animation studios– “Ice Age” To the Digital Age: The 3D Animation Art of Blue Sky Studios will be on view at the Museum from March 21 through May 5, 2012.

“Ice Age” To The Digital Age looks at the creative work of Blue Sky Studios, a leader in the animation industry for over 20 years.  Creators of such blockbuster films as the Ice Age series, Robots, Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who!, and the recent hit Rio, the studio prides itself on technical innovation, while retaining a strong narrative heart.

Blue Sky Studio’s VP of Creative Chris Wedge, who co-founded the company in 1987, believes that the secret to the studio’s success is in its inventive process; “Every film starts with an idea, which gets refined–that really is the magic. This process is similar to architecture, in that you can only find creativity through exploration–that is the key.”

“Ice Age” to the Digital Age will guide visitors through Blue Sky’s entire process of creating computer animated films: from initial concepts, storyboards, characters and background art, to 3D and digital modeling. In addition to final movie clips on view in the Museum’s new Winsor McCay Screening Room, the exhibition will feature rarely-seen original concept drawings, character illustrations, storyboards, background paintings, sculptural models, props and digital stills.

“From overall design to modeling in clay, modeling in the computer, skin color, hair texture, suggestions on how characters might move, everything is considered,” says illustrator Peter de Sève, the lead character designer for the Ice Age series. Starting with scriptwriting, story and character development, the process is then turned over to departments dedicated to rigging (a sort of computerized skeleton for the characters), lighting, materials (including clothes and fur), special effects, and a complex computer rendering farm using Blue Sky’s proprietary CGI Studio software, which transforms the animators’ virtual 3D world into a final motion picture. This extensive creative process has given birth to such colorful characters as Bunny, Sid the Sloth, Manny the Mammoth, Diego The Saber-toothed Tiger, Robot Rodney Copperbottom and his buddy Fender, and Blu, the Minnesota Macaw–rendered by computer, but developed through the soul of artists and storytellers. In co-founder Chris Wedge’s view, the art challenges technology and technology inspires the art. “The only limit to what can be accomplished in this world is our ability to imagine what is possible. This is the Blue Sky idea, and I promise you that it works.”

Bits & Pieces: Oriental DreamWorks, Craig McCracken, Alan Menken and the Return of Icebox

Oriental DreamWorks

* Oriental DreamWorks, the joint venture between DreamWorks and a consortium of Chinese investors, has announced that its first feature will be released in 2016. Katzenberg is in Shanghai this week reviewing at least seven different film proposals vying to be the studio’s first feature. The studio plans to “closely link elements of Chinese history, culture and literature in its various productions.” More details in this news article.

* Craig McCracken (The Powerpuff Girls, Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends) is comign back to TV with a new TV series called Wander Over Yonder for the Disney Channel. The Disney TV Animation-produced show, scheduled for the 2012-13 season, is about:

Wander is an overly-optimistic intergalactic traveler who, along with his loyal but bullish steed, Sylvia, goes from planet to planet helping people to live free and have fun, all against the evil reign of Lord Hater and his army of Watchdogs.

* Composer Alan Menken (The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin) talked animation in the Wall Street Journal:

What do you think of the shift in animated film earnestness to irony?
Menken: Ironic is OK. You can have a Sebastian [the crab in The Little Mermaid], as you can have a Jiminy Cricket. They can be adult and smart. However, they can’t be culturally or morally subversive, in that Disney sensibility. Rango and things like that are edgier. In general, the animated medium lends itself to a sweetness.

Do you personally connect to that?
Menken: I first appreciated that medium back in the 1980s when the AIDS crisis had hit full force and everybody–my gay collaborators and friends–was dying. I was so scared for my daughter, Anna, and the only thing that could soothe me was those Disney animated films that were coming out on VHS. It was so safe.

* How did I miss the news that Glenn Beck’s online network GBTV is currently developing an animated comedy series with Icebox. Yes, that Icebox. A lot of readers may be too young to remember Icebox.com, but they were among the more notorious animation dot-com busts in the late-1990s and a punchline for jokes about what happens when sitcom writers try to make funny cartoons.

Centenary Tribute to Chuck Jones at 18th Bradford International Film Festival

Over eleven days from 19 — 29 April the National Media Museum in Bradford — UNESCO’s first City of Film — will play host to the 18th Bradford International Film Festival in partnership with Virgin Media. Celebrating all things cinematic, including FAMILY FILM SCREENINGS and a variety of FREE FUN-FILLED weekend activities, this year’s event promises to present its usual eclectic mix of more than 25 UK and international feature premieres, cult classics, internationally recognised guests, tributes, themed programmes, industry events, documentaries and family features.

Centenary tribute to Chuck Jones — This year BIFF will be celebrating 100 years since the birth of a truly legendary director who brought the world some of Bugs Bunny’s, Elmer Fudd’s, Road Runner’s and Daffy Duck’s, greatest moments in the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies cartoons. Jones (1912 — 2002) was at the forefront of Warner Brothers’, and North America’s, ‘golden era’ of animation, and BIFF will be screening about 20 of his shorts throughout the festival. Films include Road Runner’s first outing in Fast and Furry-ous (1949), as well as What’s Opera, Doc? (1957), Duck Amuck (1953), Duck Dodgers in the 24½th Century (1953) and One Froggy Evening (1955), which together take up four of the top five places in Jerry Beck’s The 50 Greatest Cartoons, as voted for by 1000 animation professionals in 1994.

In addition to specially selected medleys of Jones’s films being screened, BIFF’s family weekend events (21 & 22 April and 28 & 29 April) feature activities for all ages inspired by the animator’s delightfully unique sense of entertainment. Free drop-in family workshops at the National Media Museum include Looney Tunes Sound Effects and Cartoon Creations, allowing visitors bring their own animations to life.

Jen Skinner, Film Education Officer at the National Media Museum, said:

“Chuck Jones has entertained countless children around the world with some of the most entertainingly anarchic cartoon characters ever produced. We are paying tribute to him at this year’s Bradford International Film Festival and who knows, we could be inspiring the next animation legend with some of our free family workshops.”

Other highlights at this year’s BIFF include: a Ray Winstone Retrospective (in the presence of the great man himself); silent film pianist Neil Brand with film critic Mark Kermode’s skiffle band The Dodge Brothers accompanying Beggars of Life, and the much loved Widescreen Weekend (27 – 29 April) which celebrates the 60th anniversary of Cinerama.

Sir Sean Connery’s “Sir Billi” Animated Feature To Premiere At Sonoma Int’l Film Festival April 13

Sonoma, CA (March 19, 2012)Sir Billi, the first full-length animated feature to be produced entirely in Scotland, will get its first international screening at the 15th annual Sonoma International Film Festival, April 11th-15th, 2012.

“We are thrilled to host the U.S. Premiere of Sir Billi featuring the powerfully dynamic voice of Sir Sean Connery. Tessa and Sascha Hartmann have produced a highly entertaining, family-oriented film that sizzles with fun, non-stop action and an awesome title track sung by Dame Shirley Bassey, which was composed by Sascha.  Bring on the Scots…!” said Festival Director Kevin McNeely.

Sir Billi producers, husband and wife duo Tessa and Sascha Hartmann, will arrive in the US for the film’s premiere. “We chose the Sonoma International Film Festival because it’s a festival with a difference, where the personal approach by the organizers gives one a feeling of passion and consideration, where every independent film they select is important,” said Tessa Hartmann. The film, which has been an entrepreneurial cliffhanger of ideas and custom coding since its inception in 2006, will finally make its well-earned debut.

“We are honored to host Scotland’s first animated film! Sir Billi will love Sonoma!” says McNeely.

Screened in the Festival’s marquee theatre — the 1930s Renaissance-style Sebastiani Theatre — the film will screen at 5 p.m on April 13th, 2012. Festival passes are available now and individual film tickets will be available for purchase after April 2nd. Tickets and passes can be purchased by visiting SonomaFilmFest.org or calling the box office at (707) 206-4484.

Sascha Hartmann directed Sir Billi from a screenplay written by his wife Tessa Hartmann, based on an original story they developed together. John Fraser is producer, with Sir Sean Connery serving as executive producer.

Interviews about the making of Sir Billi — including interviews with Sir Sean Connery, Patrick Doyle and Dame Shirley Bassey — can be seen at: www.youtube.com/watch?v=uyUbTQB_P2s

“Ours could be perceived as a ‘David and Goliath’ adventure in market terms but where else is one to start if venturing into animation? Shoot for the top with the talent and simply deliver something that the audience responds to. We are the epitome of the underdog! The underdog that with firm resolve, persistence and tenacity created something that is close to being called miraculous – a finished film,’ said Sascha Hartmann.

Expanded to a feature length CGI film from a 2006 short concept, this is a roller coaster adventure about the race to save the last beaver in Scotland, led by Sir Billi and voiced by Academy Award® winner Sir Sean Connery. Sir Billi is a vet by profession, skateboarder by passion and grandfather by love. He is joined by Tony Award® winner Alan Cumming (The Good Wife) who voices Gordon, a goat and Sir Billi’s confidante.

Sir Sean Connery has been heavily involved in the making of the film since its inception and eagerly agreed to take on the lead role of “Sir Billi” after being contacted by the husband and wife producing team.

“I’m excited to be a part of this incredible film and Scotland’s first animated feature,” said Connery. “Sir Billi is truly a first-class film, with an exceptional cast, and is sure to delight audiences of all ages. There’s an incredible amount of work that goes into animated productions and I am delighted that Sascha and his team have completed what has been a labour of love. I am thrilled with the final cut!”

Academy Award® nominated Scottish composer Patrick Doyle, (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Sense and Sensibility), created the film’s music score and also lends his voice as a key character in the film.

Sir Billi’s endearing multi-generational family story and cliff-hanger action spikes in the storyline provided me with just the right elements to compose a score I’m proud to say is among my best work to date,” said Doyle. “My goal was to shine a light on the soul of this colorful cast of loveable characters through the power of music.”

“Being a part of Sir Billi meant so much because animation has always been a fascination of mine especially because I am from Scotland and know all of the areas where the film is based,” said Doyle. “The fresh look of Sir Billi and its original storyline gave me all the inspiration needed to create some of the best composition work I feel I’ve done.”

British singing legend Dame Shirley Bassey also joined the project to perform the title track “Guardian of the Highlands,” marking the first time Connery and Bassey have worked together since the 1971 James Bond film Diamonds Are Forever. Dame Shirley Bassey was also seen last summer on the red carpet at the Scottish Fashion Awards escorted by the film’s director Sascha Hartmann. She was wearing a couture gown in the Sir Billi tartan, which was designed by Scots designer Graeme Black.

Scotland’s first full-length animated feature also showcases the voice acting talents of Miriam Margolyes (Harry Potter, Romeo & Juliet), Alex Norton (Pirates of the Caribbean, Taggart), Ford Kiernan (Chewin’ the Fat, The Last Great Wilderness), Barbara Rafferty (The Wicker Man, River City), Greg Hemphill (Still Game, Chewin the Fat), Kieron Elliot (How to Train Your Dragon), Ruby Wax, John Amabile, Larry Sullivan, Chris Jai Alex and NYC night queen Amy Sacco.

Sascha said: “To get this film made and completed has really been a true labour of love. We received a good studio offer to go to Los Angeles about three years ago with a deal that was pretty exciting but we decided to remain in Scotland, keep creative control and produce a truly Scottish product! Granted it’s taken longer than we expected and we had to raise more finance, which was challenging, but this is an expensive business and it has to be done right. Fortunately animation stories are timeless and so there are no restrictions on them. Thanks to the support of our producer and mentor John (Fraser) we made it.

“Sir Sean has been incredible too. We have worked hand in hand with him for over 6 years. From day one we knew Sir Sean was perfect for the role of ‘Sir Billi” — being a true Scottish hero and also a grandfather himself. No matter how many times I hear his legendary voice on the film, it still gives me a thrill!” said Hartmann.

Producer and Scottish industrialist John Fraser said: “We’re well aware how competitive this market sector is with the heavyweight animation studios out there — I guess you could call it a ‘David and Goliath’ adventure, but we believe we have produced an end product that is something to be proud of as independent film makers. At the end of the day, this film was produced and made in Scotland, because that’s what we believe in. Investing in local creative talent, jobs and ultimately investing in a Scottish film industry. Sascha and his team couldn’t have worked any harder so the rest is in the hands of the gods as they say.”

There is no doubt that the entire project took relentless determination and perseverance from the husband and wife team. Alan Cumming said: “I think it is amazing that they have persevered so long and hard to get this project made in Scotland, when there was absolutely no precedent for anything like this there. Their enthusiasm was so great and I’m very predisposed to doing Scottish things. Though neither [Sir Sean nor I] live in our home country we feel very connected to it.”

On April 13th, audiences in the San Francisco Bay Area will have the first look at Sir Billi at the 15th annual Sonoma International Film Festival in Sonoma, California (April 11-15, 2012). But if the enthusiasm from legendary voices and talent attached to the project is anything to go by, perhaps the Hartmann’s are indeed in for a big adventure!

“G.I. Joe: Renegades” Season 1 Vol. 1 Coming to DVD on June 5, 2012

BRANDED AS RENEGADES FOR CRIMES THEY DIDN’T COMMIT, A GROUP OF YOUNG HEROES IS FORCED TO TURN FUGITIVE AS THEY BATTLE TO CLEAR THEIR NAMES AND EXPOSE THE EVIL THAT IS COBRA

G.I. JOE: RENEGADES
SEASON ONE, VOLUME 1
The First 13 Episodes from the First Season of Popular Animated Series
Produced by Hasbro Studios in a Collectible 2-DVD Set

OWN IT ON JUNE 5, 2012 FROM SHOUT! FACTORY

This summer, prepare to join the action and witness the emergence of the heroic G.I. JOE team as a cadre of highly-trained specialists who are forced to band together to prevent the nefarious COBRA from achieving world domination. On June 5, 2012, Shout! Factory, in collaboration with Hasbro Studios, will debut fan favorite animated series G.I. JOE: Renegades Season One, Volume 1 on DVD. Featuring the first 13 episodes from the first season, this collectible 2-DVD set is a must have for fans, kids and collectors and has a suggested retail price of $19.93. The initial product run of G.I. JOE: Renegades Season One, Volume 1 DVD set will include a Movie Cash offer to see the upcoming major motion picture G.I. JOE: Retaliation, in theaters June 29.

When a spy mission against Cobra Industries goes awry, a group of young G.I. JOE team members is forced to hit the road as fugitives. Now the team members – DUKE, SCARLETT, ROADBLOCK, TUNNEL RAT, RIPCORD, BREAKER and SNAKE EYES – must use their wits and elite training to prove their innocence to the world before being caught by the authorities, the COBRA organization or, worse yet, another elite military team called the Falcons.

With exciting, action-packed storytelling, spectacular animation, G.I. JOE Renegades, produced by Hasbro Studios, boasts an incredible voice cast, including Charlie Adler (Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen), Lee Majors (Six Million Dollar Man), Clancy Brown (Shawshank Redemption), Jason Marsden (Batman: The Brave and the Bold), Johnny Messner (Tears of the Sun) and Kevin Michael Richardson (The Batman).

Technical Information
G.I. JOE: RENEGADES — SEASON ONE, VOLUME 1 DVD set
Street Date: June 5, 2012
Running Time: +/- 5 hours
Aspect Ratio: Anamorphic widescreen (1.78:1)
Audio: English, Dolby Digital 5.1 and Dolby Digital Stereo

“Conan the Adventurer” Season 2 Part 2 Available on DVD April 17, 2012

In search of justice and the precious Star Metal that can help him achieve it, the mighty warrior Conan returns to battle his archnemesis – the evil sorcerer Wrath-Amon – and his vicious Snake Cult. Aided by his loyal friends Zula, Greywolf, Jezmine and Snagg, his trusted horse Thunder and lovable phoenix Needle, Conan will do whatever it takes to avenge the stone imprisonment of his family!

These two discs continue the action and adventure of Conan: The Adventurer’s second astonishing season, and will be available nationwide April 17th with a suggested retail price of $19.93.

Produced by Sunbow, the 1980s animation giant behind Hasbro’s Transformers and G.I. JOE: A Real American Hero, Conan The Adventurer originally aired in Saturday morning syndication beginning in 1992 transitioning to a daily airing throughout 1993 in the second season.

Season Two: Part 2 Episode List
Disc 1
A Needle In A Haystack
Return To Tarantia
The Book Of Skelos
Labors Of Conan
The Amulet Of Vathelos
Final Hours Of Conan
An Evil Wind In Kusan

Disc 2
Blood Of My Blood
Dragon’s Breath
The Queen Of Stygia
Nature Of The Beast
City Of The Burning Skull
Son Of Atlantis

“Danny Phantom: Season 2, Part 1″ in Stores on April 3, 2012

The First 10 Episodes from the Second Season of
Nickelodeon’s Hit Animated Series Debut On DVD From Shout! Factory

LOS ANGELES — March 13, 2012 — Danny Phantom returns with a second season full of phantasmic adventures! With the extraordinary ability to turn himself into a superheroic apparition, Danny Fenton – along with his best friends Tucker and Sam – must track down and defeat ghastly ghouls! And now you can join in the fun with the first ten episodes from Danny Phantom’s second action-packed season! Danny Phantom: Season 2, Part 1 will be released on April 3, 2012, for the suggested retail price of $19.93.

Danny Phantom features an all-star voice cast, including David Kaufman (The Buzz on Maggie), Grey DiLisle (Rugrats, The Fairly Odd Parents), Rickey D’Shon Collins (Recess), Colleen O’Shaughnessey (Naruto), Rob Paulsen (Pinky and the Brain), Kath Soucie (Dexter’s Laboratory, Ben 10) and Martin Mull, Frank Welker (Transformers).

Product details:
Street Date: 04/03/2012
SRP: $19.93
Disc #: 2
Running time: +/- 230 minutes
Catalog #: SF 13136
U.S. Rating: TV-Y
Canadian Rating: C8

Winners Announced for 2012 British Animation Awards

Aardman Animations, Harry Potter, the Quay Brothers, Gorillaz and The Gruffalo’s Child are among the winners at the ninth British Animation Awards (BAAs) held Thursday at the BFI Southbank.

Hosted by comedian Thom Tuck, the biennial British Animation Awards honor the finest achievements in animation produced in Britain over the last two years.

BAA Awards Director Jayne Pilling announced at the ceremony that Paddington Bear has been voted Britain’s Favorite Ever Animated Character.  The cuddly bear from Peru beat a shortlist of other distinguished characters including Super Ted, Aleksandr Meerkat and Wallace and Gromit in the special vote run by BAA in conjunction with animation group Animation UK to celebrate the illustrious heritage of characters created in the UK that could disappear if the animation industry continues to decline in this country.

Aardman Animations’ produced commercials Nokia: Dot and Nokia: Gulp directed by Sumo Science took the awards for Best Commercial: Stop Motion and Best Commissioned Animation. Nokia: Dot and Gulp both have Guinness World Records: Dot for having the smallest stop-motion character and Gulp the largest stop-motion animation set.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1: The Tale of the Three Brothers animated sequence swept up the BAA for Best Film/TV Graphics.

The Gruffalo’s Child and the Quay Brothers’ Maska took joint first place in the Best Long Form category. Whilst BAFTA winner and Oscar nominee Grant Orchard sauntered home with the BAA for Best Short Film for A Morning Stroll produced by Studio AKA.

In the children’s categories Cartoon Network’s The Amazing World of Gumball picked up two BAA’s winning Best Children’s Series and also the children’s jury judged Children’s Choice Award.  Astley Baker Davies took home Best Preschool Series for Ben and Holly’s Little Kingdom and Happy Films’ Bookaboo collected the BAA for Best Mixed Media Children’s Series.

Best Music Video was awarded to Kate Anderson for Liz Green’s Displacement, Coca Cola: Siege grabbed the Best Commercial: 3D and Tempo: Bike won Best Commercial: 2D.

The Best Student Award went to Royal College of Art Graduate Mikey Please for Eagleman Stag.

In the Public Choice categories voted for by the public at over 20 screenings across the country, Bertie Crisp by Francesca Adams voiced by Kathy Burke, Tamsin Greig and Mark Benton won the Best Short Film, Gorillaz: Stylo took the Best Music Video, and Pilsner Urquell Legends: The Day Pilsner Struck Gold picked up Best Commercial.

The first ever BAA Sting Competition, an exciting new category where animators were asked to create a special sting for the Awards, proved hugely popular. The winners were picked by a jury from online favorites with Karrot Animation taking the public vote, Mole Hill and Chris Tichborne the Professional category and Chloe Rodham the Student and recent Graduate category.  The winning stings were shown during the award ceremony.

In place of a statuette all the winners took home a BAA, a unique artwork created especially for the occasion by a range of leading international and UK animation artists.  In recognition of the awards acronym the artworks need to feature sheep with the option of a visual reference to the UK and animation.

BAA Director Jayne Pilling said: “At a time when the UK Animation industry faces an uncertain future we have been overwhelmed by the strength and breadth of talent featured in this year’s awards and would like to warmly congratulate all our winners.”

Classic Media Acquires “Olivia” Rights from Chorion

LONDON, UK – Classic Media announced that it has acquired the rights to Olivia from media content group Chorion. Olivia originated as an award-winning book series by Ian Falconer that has inspired a critically acclaimed animated television series. Classic Media last week announced that it had acquired from Chorion the rights to Noddy — part of the Enid Blyton estate — one of the UK’s most beloved characters.

Olivia is a unique little pig…with ordinary challenges…and an extraordinary imagination.  Originally created as a gift for his niece Olivia, Ian Falconer’s children’s book Olivia was first published in 2000 and became an instant best-seller and was awarded the prestigious Caldecott Honor. More than six million Olivia books have been sold worldwide.  In 2009, OLIVIA debuted as a 3D CG TV series on Nick Jr. in the US. This top-rated series is seen in more than 120 countries and airs on leading broadcasters that include ABC (Australia), Five/Milkshake! (UK), Treehouse (Canada) and TF1 (France).

Olivia has a strong universal appeal with young girls and their families,” said Mary Durkan, Managing Director, Chorion. “We are thrilled that Classic Media will continue to introduce her to new audiences worldwide.”

“This is the perfect addition to our portfolio of classic properties and we look forward to bringing Olivia and her adventures to families everywhere,” said Eric Ellenbogen, Co-CEO, Classic Media.

Olivia is today’s girl. She is a 6¾-old dynamo who believes she can do anything and sees every day as an opportunity to try new things. Her vivid imagination takes her on grand adventures, both real and fantasy, and like all children, her antics occasionally result in endearing misadventures. Olivia’s confidence and positive nature inspires girls everywhere to think boldly and dream BIG.

Annecy Festival Announces 2012 Selections & Highlights

The Annecy Festival announced the official selections for the 2012 edition of the festival, comprised of 49 short films, 55 graduation films, and 60 TV and commissioned films, including 21 TV series, two TV specials and 37 commissioned films. 40 short films were also selected outside of competition.

“This year, there was an infinite richness to be found in the films sent in, both in the techniques used and the topics that ranged from the lightest to the most serious,” commented Annecy 2012 artistic director Serge Bromberg. “Of the 2,374 films submitted — not including feature films — (387 more than last year), we were able to take a trip around the world of animation and its messages, the pleasures of cinema and the incredible talent expressed therein. We laughed, we cried, and we had a lot of doubts as choosing was very difficult. It’s this quality, this diversity and this infinite richness that is the salt of a Festival like our own. Many thanks to the creators and animators for this wonderful gift.”

The complete short film selection can be found at http://www.annecy.org/edition-2012/festival/selection-officielle

The feature film selection will be revealed at the Annecy Festival 2012 press conference in Paris on April 24.

Guest country: Ireland
The 52nd edition of the Annecy Festival will also honor Ireland with a guest country panorama. Over the past few years, Ireland has developed some highly original productions and great artistic successes with a very distinctive cultural identity, creating a special relationship with other major European countries in animation.

Programs will include The Depository by Andrew Kavanagh, Butterfly by Glen Marshal and The Polish Language by Alice Lyons. There will also be episodes from TV series like Fluffy Gardens (Jason Tammemagi) and Skunk Fu! (Paul Young/Cartoon Saloon), as well as graduation films such as Blimp by Dan Spencer and Gareth Lee, or Fluffy Mc Cloud by Conor Finnegan and Donald Taylor Black.

The Annecy 2012 Poster Revealed

Marion Franck, the creative artist behind the official Annecy 2012 poster, believes that animation is a type of cinematic process that recreates the illusion of movement and life from drawings and still images. Images, light and time are indispensable elements for animation, which takes over from nature by bringing new and imaginary creatures to life. To express these ideas, Franck uses phosphorescent shapes to highlight the various parts of the body, their luminosity outlining a silhouette that would normally remain hidden in darkness. When lit, the graphic shapes reveal a mysterious and enticing creature rising from the depths of a lake. The town of Annecy is also given a nod with the background of the poster, which is made up of photos of the lake and surrounding scenery.

Toei Animation Appoints Hiroyuki Kinoshita as CEO & COO

TOKYO, JAPAN — Long-time Toei Animation executive Hiroyuki Kinoshita has been named CEO of Toei Animation Enterprises, and COO of Toei Animation Inc. and Toei Animation Europe S.A.S., effective immediately.

Since joining Toei in 2004 as Director of Business Planning, Kinoshita has served as CFO and Secretary and Treasurer of Toei Animation Inc., Director of Contents Business Department and Director of Overseas Strategy Promotion.

“I am pleased to begin this important new assignment with Toei Animation and look forward to working with our talented management and staff as we work together to further expand our global operations,” said Kinoshita. “Three decades ago, Japanese animation was an internationally obscure art form, popular primarily in Japan. Since then, Toei Animation has played a pivotal role in helping make anime the worldwide phenomenon it is today. Moving forward, Toei will continue its global leadership role as we build on our partnerships with the world’s most prestigious players in traditional and digital media.”

“Angry Birds” Short Film To Air On Nickelodeon on March 21

An all-new exclusive Angry Birds short film, Angry Birds Space lands on Nickelodeon and Nicktoons on Wednesday, March 21, at 7:00 p.m. (ET/PT) during SpongeBob SquarePants on Nickelodeon and Power Rangers Samurai on Nicktoons.

Angry Birds Space is a global exclusive to Nickelodeon and will also run on Nick channels around the world starting Wednesday, March 21.

The encore short will air during “Angry Angry Saturday” morning on Saturday, March 24, at 10:30 a.m. (ET/PT) during SpongeBob SquarePants on Nickelodeon and Power Rangers Dino Thunder on Nicktoons. Leading up to the short film, six brand-new birds will be revealed. Following the exclusive world premiere, viewers can catch the birds at nick.com/watch.

This animated short tells the story of how the Angry Birds end up in space. It begins on a day much like any other, but suddenly a cosmic vortex appears and brings visitors from another galaxy with some unfriendly intentions. This means the heroic birds have to slingshot themselves into a new adventure – space.

How Much Money Animated Shorts Earn on YouTube

YouTube Partner

Read UPDATES at bottom of the piece.

When I speak to indie filmmakers, there’s always a lot of confusion about the potential money that can be earned by posting shorts on the Internet, especially by posting them onto YouTube. An article in last month’s Wall Street Journal shed some much needed light on the situation. The article said that those who join YouTube’s Partner Program receive between $1,500 and $4,500(US) for every million video views. The wide variance in price is attributed to the country and platform where the video is viewed.

According to YouTube, they had 30,000 partners in 2011, up from 20,000 in 2010. “Several hundred” of those partners made more than $100,000, which is an 80% increase from the “couple of hundred” partners who achieved the six-figure earnings mark in 2010. Using that data, I think it would be fair to guess that they have at least 350 people earning six-figures, or slightly over 1% of their YouTube Partners.

Using the numbers above, I decided to figure out what some of the most successful animators on YouTube are making. I’ve shared the numbers below, which are not yearly earnings, but based on the total number of views the filmmaker has received. Considering how difficult it is to make money with animated shorts, the numbers are fairly impressive, especially if viewed as a single revenue stream as part of a larger plan that includes broadcast sales to foreign TV channels, merchandising, dvd sales, digital downloads, and so forth.

It’s also impressive that many of the most successful animators on YouTube are young filmmakers whose reputations were established exclusively online. Another important point to consider is that all of these animators have dozens of films posted on their channel. There are no examples yet of people earning this kind of money from just a handful of films. Simon’s Cat has the least videos of any of the channels below, with only twenty.

Animation Filmmaker Earnings on YouTube

PES
29.3 million video views (as of Mar. 19, 2012)
Estimated total earnings based on views: $43,950 – $131,850

Lev Yilmaz
36.3 million video views
Estimated total earnings based on views: $54,450 – $163,350

Cyriak
66.7 million video views
Estimated total earnings based on views: $100,050 – $300,150

Harry Partridge
74.4 million video views
Estimated total earnings based on views: $111,600 – $334,800

Egoraptor
102.4 million video views
Estimated total earnings based on views: $153,600 – $460,800

FilmCow (aka Charlie the Unicorn)
227.3 million video views
Estimated total earnings based on views: $340,950 – $1,022,850

Simon’s Cat
232.3 million video views
Estimated total earnings based on views: $348,450 – $1,045,350

Daneboe (aka The Annoying Orange)
628.8 million video views
Estimated total earnings based on views: $943,200 – $2,829,600

UPDATE (9:53pm ET): Since this piece was published, I’ve been in contact with Harry Partridge, one of the filmmakers whose estimated earnings were posted above. He posted a comment on Twitter that said in part, “I don’t make anywhere near half of their lowest ballpark. Crazy.” When he posted that comment on Twitter, he assumed that I was talking about yearly earnings. We cleared up that I was referring to total earnings based on the number of pageviews listed above, NOT yearly earnings.

Harry also provided some ballpark figures for what he’s made from YouTube since 2009. The numbers turned out to be slightly more than half of the lowest estimated earning, which means he has been earning a more modest $750-800 per million pageviews instead of the $1,500-$4,500 claimed in the Wall Street Journal piece. More recently, he has joined with Channelflip, which he says pays him more annually than YouTube, but which is still a relatively modest sum. However, I should point out that I have confirmed with other filmmakers that they have earned the higher figures listed in the WSJ piece so there are apparently wide gaps between what different filmmakers earn. The lack of transparency in YouTube’s payments to its partners is a great reason to be having this discussion and leveling the playing field for filmmakers who are thinking of posting their work on that platform.

UPDATE #2: Harry pointed out that though the videos were posted beginning in 2006, YouTube started paying out in 2009. I’ve updated the above to reflect that the earning period has been the last three years. He also writes, “Overall I’m not bothered by the article now it states that these are total earnings, my concerns about it arose from the fact that I thought it was yearly.”

UPDATE #3: Filmmaker Cyriak wrote a comment below in which he says that he hasn’t monetized most of his video vieww as part of YouTube’s Partner Program. He says that his most recent earnings have been in the range of $600 per million video views.

Doodle for Google

Google Doodle

If you think Google only hires scientists, engineers and geniuses of the highest order, fear not, they also hire cartoonists. We don’t typically post job listings (maybe we should), but this one is too good to pass up. Google’s Doodle team informs us that they’re currently looking for more in-house Doodlers, particularly those with strong animation experience. The job entails working on the charming and quirky doodles that appear on Google’s front page everyday. The biggest perk, besides working at Google, is that it’s easily the most high-profile animation gig in the world, with a guaranteed audience of hundreds of millions for anything you create.

The Bay Area gig requires a BFA or 4 years of relevant experience. Here’s the link to the job listing, the requirements of which are posted below:

The area: User Experience
One of the many reasons Google consistently brings innovative, world-changing products to market is because of the collaborative work we do in Product Management. With eyes focused squarely on the future, our team works closely with creative and prolific engineers to help design and develop technologies that improve access to the world’s information. We’re responsible for guiding products throughout the execution cycle, focusing specifically on analyzing, positioning, packaging, promoting and tailoring our solutions to all the markets where Google does business.

The role: Doodler
First impressions matter. Every day, hundreds of millions of online users visit the Google homepage. Yes, to search. But also, to be delighted, informed, and surprised (And maybe even to laugh a little). The Google Doodle makes this possible — it’s the change that is constant on Google.com. As a Product Graphic Designer/Illustrator, more commonly known as a “Doodler,” you have the world’s best platform to showcase your stylistic skills — as well as your sense of humor, love of all things historical and imaginative artistry. From Jules Verne to Pac-Man, you have the reins to our brand and iconic logo and can run free with your innovative ideas. Go forth and doodle!

Responsibilities:
* Draw, design, and/or animate the highly visible Google homepage doodles.
* Come up with consistently excellent creative ideas within the constraints of the our logo.
* Manage complex collaborative projects from idea, to executive pitches, to final execution in a fast-paced environment.
* Design illustrations both digitally and traditionally and in a wide range of artistic styles with great attention to detail.

Minimum Qualifications:
* BFA. In lieu of degree, 4 years of relevant experience.

Preferred Qualifications:
* Freehand illustration skills and a wide range of artistic styles.
* Ability to translate conceptual direction into amazing works of art.
* Ability to work collaboratively and apply creative feedback in a team environment.
* Comfort with digital and traditional media.
* Knowledge of animation fundamentals.
* Online portfolio/reel.

“My Family and the Wolf” by Headless Productions

Another beautiful hand drawn film in development in Europe, this one being directed by our friends Adrian Garcia, Alfredo Torres and Victor Maldonado at Barcelona-based Headless Productions (Nocturna), produced by Paris-based Nectarious Films. Look below to see the teaser trailer for My Family And The Wolf.

BOX OFFICE REPORT: Animators Rule US Box Office

21 Jump Street

In a rare trifecta, animation artists ruled the top three spots at the box office this weekend. The number one spot, with an estimated $35 million, belonged to the TV adaptation of 21 Jump Street. It heralded the live-action feature directing debut of Phil Lord and Chris Miller, who were the co-creators of MTV/Teletoon’s Clone High and the directors of Sony’s Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. Second place went to Illumination Entetainment’s The Lorax which earned an estimated $22.8M in its third weekend, pushing its total to a robust $158.4M. Rounding out the top three was Andrew Stanton’s John Carter, which dropped 55% from its first weekend to an estimated $13.5M. The Disney film’s two-week total stands at $53.2M and is headed to a final domestic tally of $90-100M. More box office numbers can be found at Box Office Mojo.

John Carter Showdown: Ward Kimball vs. Andrew Stanton

As Ward Kimball‘s biographer, I am obligated to share with you this post on Progress City, U. S. A. that talks about the time Ward oversaw the animation of John Carter of Mars as part of his TV special Mars and Beyond.

It’s a matter of personal taste whether you prefer Ward Kimball’s vision of a thoat:
Ward Kimball Thoat

Or Andrew Stanton’s vision of a thoat:
Andrew Stanton Thoat

“Good Books – Metamorphosis” by Buck

Bi-coastal (NY & LA) commercial shop Buck produced and directed this spectacular 2-1/2 minute spot for online bookseller Good Books. And if you think the piece feels familiarly gonzo, that was intentional. Buck posted this disclaimer at the end of the film:

DISCLAIMER: What you will see is an entirely fictional and completely unendorsed representation. (Though we humbly suggest Hunter S Thompson might have liked it.) We are devoted fans paying homage. No disrespect is intended.

Credits after the jump. Continue reading

AniFest Celebrates The Centenary Of Jiří­ Trnka — Magic Of A Film Puppet

As a celebration of the centenary of Czech puppet master Jiří­ Trnka, this year’s AniFest is dedicated to the magic of a film puppet. The magic of Jiří­ Trnka’s film will be reminded in a retrospective of his films as well as in an unique exhibition of puppets, scripts, original designs and photographs from family archives. Estonian films and puppets from Nukufilm studio, presentation of world famous studios like Mackinnon&Saunders or SE-MA-FOR, workshop How to make a film puppet…in short, this year‘s AniFest will look at the life of film puppet in 21st century from all possible points of view.

The organizers are proud to announce that a famous British animator, director, designer and teacher Barry Purves accepted the role of honorary president of the festival. Purves is known as one of the most influential figures of British (not only) stop-motion animation and representantive of the subgenre of queer cinema. He will present in Teplice the best of his films, talk about the his work background and explain the whole proccess of making of his masterpieces. AniFest also invited British theorist, teacher and curator Paul Wells, who’s preparing a selection of British stop-motion animation. The programme will cover whole century of British puppet — beginning in 1908 and ending with Czech release of the long-expected last feature by Peter Lord and Aardman studios Pirates! Band of Misfits.

Puppet animation will be represented also in the jury. Claymation inventor Will Vinton (US), puppet films directors Å pela ÄŒadež (Slovenia) and Michal Žabka (Czech Republic) together with Igor Kovaljov (Ukraine) and Pedro Serazzina (Portugal) will judge feature and short films, while Ãœlo Pikkov (Estonia) will meet Sulafa Hijazi (Syria) and Andrew Kavanagh (Ireland) in the jury for student and TV films and commercials. We received more than 1600 film entries and the selection committee chose 200 to compete for the award in one of the twelve categories. AniFest 2012 will also opens a brand new category for experimental and non-narative animated shorts. “ It’s easy to notice that many of conceptual audivisual works meant for exhbitions and galleries are using animation. We‘ve noticed this tendencies in the work of Czech authors as well as from abroad and one thing is clear — these films do not follow the same paths and aims as narrative films and if anybody wants to judge them, they must use different criteria in comparison with narrative animation. Even though non-narative films has participated in the competition of AniFest in the past, they were never awarded and that only confirms what was said above — that the jury has no means how to judge these works together with classical animation and that’s why they basically „have no chance“. And we decided to create a space which will offer this kind of art what it deserves — a relevant context and a special jury,“ explains Pavel Horáček, a Programme Director of the festival.

The leitmotiv of the festival — „magic of film a puppet“ — is reflected also in the artistic design of festival materials created by MatyáÅ¡ Trnka, talented Czech animator and designer, grandson of Jiří­ Trnka and a student of the Prague Academy of Performing Arts (FAMU). All materials were created with an unique technique of transluminated spirit paints and the puppet is represented through its skeleton, which is usually hidden to the viewer.

BOOK GIVEAWAY: “The Art of Pixar”

Art of Pixar

THANKS TO ALL WHO ENTERED! We’ll do a random drawing and post the results in the comments section sometime on Saturday afternoon.

I intended to do a giveaway of my latest book last November, but the first printing sold out before we could even consider that. Now with the second printing out, we can finally host a proper giveaway. So today we’re handing out FOUR copies of The Art of Pixar: The Complete Color Scripts and Select Art from 25 Years of Animation:

Over the past 25 years, Pixar’s team of artists, writers, and directors have shaped the world of contemporary animation with their feature films and shorts. From classics such as Toy Story and A Bug’s Life to recent masterpieces such as Up, Toy Story 3, and WALL·E, this comprehensive collection offers a behind-the-scenes tour of every Pixar film to date. Featuring a foreword by Chief Creative Officer John Lasseter, the complete color scripts for every film–published in full for the first time–as well as stunning visual development art, The Art of Pixar is a treasure trove of rare artwork and an essential addition to the library of animation fans and Pixar enthusiasts.

To enter, just post a comment below. Writing “I love Amid” in the body of the comment won’t improve your chances of winning, but it may enhance my sense of self-worth. Contest will close tonight at midnight (ET).

Rules: Contest is open only to residents of the United States. Do not submit multiple entries or you will be disqualified. You must leave your correct email address in the e-mail field of the comment, otherwise you can’t be contacted if you win. (Your email address will not be publicly visible).

PREVIEW: “Super Best Friends Forever” by Lauren Faust

Super Best Friends Forever

Watch this short clip from Super Best Friends Forever, the new project by Lauren Faust, creator of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. Faust’s short series debuts tomorrow morning as part of Cartooon Network’s DC Nation block.


UPDATE: Here’s the whole short:

(via Super Punch)

Tim Burton’s “Dark Shadows” trailer

It’s not animation, but it’s Tim Burton. It’s also not Dark Shadows, but its does look like fun. Burton seems to have made a something combining Beetlejuice with a touch of The Addams Family. The original Dark Shadows I grew up with was cool because it was gothic done straight. What’s your opinion: Do you like the campy new approach, or is this sacrilege?