Animation Guild Ratifies Contract with AMPTP

Burbank, CA – The Animation Guild, Local 839 IATSE membership has ratified the collective bargaining agreement reached with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP). The vote was 86.7% in favor, with 13.3% against.

The contract calls for two percent (2%) annual compounded wage increases. Health, pension and IAP benefits are to be provided under the terms of the IATSE Basic Agreement, on which agreement was reached in April. Other provisions of the new agreement include a new storyboard revisionist classification, and changes to the talent development program and the DreamWorks Animation wage minimums.  The contract will be in effect from August 1, 2012 to July 31, 2015.

“We’re gratified with the level of support this contract received,” Business Representative Steve Hulett said.  “The contract talks were not easy, and the negotiation committee wondered at times if we would ever reach a conclusion.”

The Guild walked out of talks in April, returning in June after a heavily-attended special membership meeting and guild survey of contract priorities.

The Animation Guild is a local union of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, Moving Picture Technicians, Artists and Allied Crafts of the United States, Its Territories and Canada (IATSE). It represents 2,600 artists, writers and technicians employed in the animation industry.

For further information, contact Steve Hulett at the Animation Guild, (818) 845-7500 or [email protected].

The Chuck Jones Centennial Celebration Film Festival Announced

The Chuck Jones Centennial Celebration Film Festival will be an evening devoted to honoring the artist who brought to life such famous cartoon characters as Wile E. Coyote, Road Runner, Pepé le Pew, Marvin Martian, and Marc Anthony. Hosted by the family of Chuck Jones, the evening will include reminiscences from noted artists whose careers and lives have been impacted by Chuck Jones and the work he created.

Of course, there will be cartoons, many of them from Jones’ personal 35mm collection. Chuck Jones, whose credits include four Academy Award-winning short films, directed over 300 films in his lifetime, with such memorable titles as Rabbit Seasoning?, Robin Hood Daffy, and Feed the Kitty. In 1992 his What’s Opera, Doc? was the first short animated film to be inducted into the Smithsonian’s National Film Registry, subsequently two others have been added, One Froggy Evening and Duck Amuck. Jones, an honorary lifetime member of the Director’s Guild, is considered to be one of the pioneers of the animated film, feted and honored at dozens of International Film Festivals from Annecy to Zagreb. In 1985 Jones was the subject of a film retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. In 1999, Jones founded the Chuck Jones Center for Creativity, a non-profit public charity whose vision is to inspire the innate creative genius within each person that leads to a more joyous, passionate, and harmonious life and world.

Join the Jones family (Marian, Linda, Craig, Todd, and Valerie) as they welcome our special guests, including:

Carl Bell, animator and clean-up artist, will be one of the presenters. A Governor of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Bell worked with Jones in the late 1960s and early 1970s at MGM. His career includes work with Clampett Productions early in his career and most recently with Disney Studios.

Eric Goldberg: Eric Goldberg joined Disney Studios in 1990 as the supervising animator responsible for the movements, personality and soul of the Genie in Aladdin. Goldberg’s strong background in animation next earned him his directorial debut on Pocahontas, which he followed up as the supervising animator on Phil, the salty satyr and trainer of heroes in Hercules. Goldberg also directed the “Carnival of the Animals” and “Rhapsody in Blue” segments of Fantasia 2000, the continuation of Walt Disney’s 1940 masterpiece. Goldberg not only served as the director of animation for Warner Bros.’ 2003 live-action and animation hybrid feature “Looney Tunes: Back in Action,” but he also provided the voices of the cartoon characters Marvin Martian, Tweety and Speedy Gonzalez. Working with Bob Kurtz of Kurtz + Friends, he animated the title sequence of MGM’s 2006 remake of “The Pink Panther.” He also provides the voice in “Iron Man 2: The Video Game” of the A.I.M. Soldiers.  His relationship with Chuck Jones began in the early 1990s and continued until Jones’ passing in 2002.

Jerry Beck is an animation historian, author, blogger, animation producer and industry consultant to Warner Bros. Studios and has been an executive with Nickelodeon and Disney.

The Alex Theatre is located at:
216 North Brand Boulevard
Glendale, CA 91203
818-243-ALEX (2539)

AniMazSpot Announces UPA Panel September 15 at Glendale’s Alex Theatre

Tom Sito, Bob Kurtz, John Andrews, and Fred Crippen will be reminiscing about UPA Pictures on AniMazSpot’s “I ♥ UPA” panel, Saturday, at 3:30, September 15, 2012, at the historic Alex Theatre in Glendale.

They will show their favorite scenes from Gerald McBoing Boing, Rooty Toot Toot, Unicorn in the Garden, Christopher Crumpet, and others, to illustrate UPA’s influence on modern animation.  In the evening at 7pm all 15 Oscar nominees and winners, plus, five Magoo favorites, will be shown from glorious restored 35mm prints by Sony Pictures.

There will be plenty of time between the two events to catch up with your animation friends and meet new ones, from UPA legends to just-starting-out animation students from abroad.  Plus, you can have your picture taken with Mister Magoo, who lead the UPA cast of characters into the annals of animation history. The first to get a photo opp with Magoo were two of the AniMazSpot Team members, Leslie Ezeh and Alexis Williams (shown above).

Savannah College of Art & Design Offers First M.F.A. In Themed Entertainment Design

SAVANNAH, Georgia– Due to growth in student enrollment and programming, the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) School of Film, Digital Media and Performing Arts will separate into two schools — the School of Digital Media and The School of Entertainment Arts. Beginning in September, SCAD’s School of Entertainment Arts will offer an unparalleled themed entertainment design program at the university’s Savannah location.

Themed entertainment design will tap the versatility of SCAD students while enabling them to develop the diverse skill set utilized by the multi-billion dollar themed entertainment industry. The M.F.A. in themed entertainment design will prepare students to become industry professionals who design the unforgettable experiences of entertainment parks, zoos, resorts, hotels, restaurants and museums. The degree program will encompass fields ranging from interior design and animation to exhibit and production design.

The esteemed faculty members leading the themed entertainment design program have vast industry knowledge and experience, having designed experiences for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts in Orlando, Fla., Hong Kong, Paris and Tokyo, as well as Universal Parks and Resorts in Orlando, California and abroad. Professors include long-term veterans of Walt Disney Imagineering, a recipient of lifetime achievement honors from The United States Institute for Theatre Technology, and a current board member of the Themed Entertainment Association.

“The relevance and quality of SCAD’s themed entertainment design program will prepare graduate students to lead the industry as creative thinkers, storytellers, designers and producers,” said Peter Weishar, SCAD Dean of Entertainment Arts. “With more than 30 theme parks being planned in China alone, the national and international demand for individuals who are highly trained in the disciplines of themed entertainment design will only continue to grow.”

In addition to the graduate degree, the Savannah College of Art and Design will offer a minor in themed entertainment design.

Led by Weishar, the former dean of the School of Film, Digital Media and Performing Arts, the School of Entertainment Arts will also oversee dramatic writing, film and television, performing arts, production design, sound design and equestrian studies.

Tina O’Hailey, the former associate dean for the School of Film, Digital Media and Performing Arts, will serve as dean for the School of Digital Media. This school will house the departments of animation, interactive design and game development, motion media design, television producing and visual effects.

Given their complementary nature, the new schools will continue to collaborate in order to expose students to a variety of disciplines.

“Ballpit” By Kyle Mowat

Today, as part of Cartoon Brew’s Student Animation Festival, we’re delighted to present Ballpit by Kyle Mowat of Canada’s Sheridan College. What begins in pure abstraction slowly reveals itself to be an evolutionary tale–albeit an unconventional evolution that blends organic materials with the mechanical. The film could be dissected, but the total effect is what makes it memorable. Ballpit delights the eyes and yields visual suprises at every turn. The riot of color, the patterns of shapes, the rhythms of movement–it is the joyous possibilities of animation distilled into 90 seconds.

Click HERE to read an interview with the filmmaker Kyle Mowat.

The Cartoon Brew Student Animation Festival is made possible by the generosity of our presenting sponsor JibJab.

CBTV Student Fest: “Ballpit” By Kyle Mowat

Today, as part of Cartoon Brew’s Student Animation Festival, we’re delighted to present Ballpit by Kyle Mowat of Canada’s Sheridan College. What begins in pure abstraction slowly reveals itself to be an evolutionary tale–albeit an unconventional evolution that blends organic materials with the mechanical. The film could be dissected, but the total effect is what makes it memorable. Ballpit delights the eyes and yields visual suprises at every turn. The riot of color, the patterns of shapes, the rhythms of movement–it is the joyous possibilities of animation distilled into 90 seconds.

Continue reading for comments from the filmmaker Kyle Mowat:

The idea came out of some sketchbook work of mine. I was doing a lot of explorations of vague organics and eventually they started looking like microscopic systems of a surreal sort. I made drawings and paintings of these things, using a bunch of different mediums and such. I knew I wanted to focus my short on how these things may move, form and interact and I ended up using some loose concepts of natural selection as a framework for that. I distilled it into two “forces”; organic life and more generally geology, things like gradual changes in the environment, natural disasters etc. The ball shapes and the block shapes came to represent the two forces,respectively.

I did everything for the film digitally. Animation was all in Flash, the backgrounds Photoshop and all the compositing and such was done mostly in After Effects with a bit of Premiere for later.

The biggest challenge was probably finding the look for the short. The initial concepts were way too elaborate to really use in full. I needed to distill them into something simple, usable and cohesive while still having them function in the way I initially intended. This process went on well into the animation stage; I was often re-designing things as I animated them. It was a difficult position to be in sometimes.

I was looking at a lot of books on coral reefs and deep ocean life while working on the film. There’s some crazy stuff down there. I watched at a bunch of films by guys like Norman Mclaren and Charles and Ray Eames. Mostly for ideas about pacing a film that isn’t necessarily carried by its stories but more by its visual elements. Some other things that inspired me: the work of Moebius, the giant baby from Akira, the band Ponytail, and, of course, my peers and fellow students who helped create an amazing creative atmosphere to work in.

Vimeo page

The Cartoon Brew Student Animation Festival is made possible by the generosity of our presenting sponsor JibJab.

Commentary: Digital Domain May Be On The Brink Of Disaster

Remember the CGI 2Pac “hologram” that Digital Domain created for Coachella earlier this year. The gimmick was well received, but Digital Domain CEO John Textor (above, right), who we’ve already established isn’t the sharpest tool in the shed, somehow convinced himself that animating CG versions of dead celebrities was an actual business model.

A couple weeks ago, Textor boasted to investors that he was trying to “tie up the real estate” of virtual humans. How could anyone miss with such an obviously sure-fire business, Textor claimed, “as long as we’re the only people in the world that can do this work.” It was just a matter of “getting the contracts, securing the rights, negotiating with the families, making sure that the likeness rights line up with the music rights and the venue rights and that’s what we should be doing.”

What Textor didn’t tell investors is that there are literally hundreds of other high-end VFX/CG companies that can create computer-animated human characters nowadays. Textor’s scam unfolded when rumors began floating around of a Ronald Reagan hologram that would appear at the Republican National Convention. Textor quickly told the Wall Street Journal “that rumor isn’t true.” Except it is true. Today, businessman Tony Reynolds, confirmed to Yahoo! News that he is indeed working on a Ronald Reagan hologram, and he’s not using Digital Domain to make it.

Holograms of dead people are the least of Textor’s worries though. Since DD’s stock peaked on May 1st, the company has been in freefall. Today, Digital Domain’s stock plunged 21% to a 52-week low of $2.31. In the past four months, the company has lost $300 million in value.

It gets worse. Textor owns 24 percent of Digital Domain. He took out a $12.5 milion loan to buy the shares in the company, and now he can’t pay back the loan. But here’s where it gets Lehman Brothers-style sketchy–and downright insane, if you ask me: Textor got the loan from Digital Domain’s largest shareholder, Palm Beach Capital. The Palm Beach Post has the sordid story:

Corporate governance experts said it’s rare for a shareholder to lend money to a CEO to buy shares. “It’s just not a smart idea,” said Charles Elson, a finance professor at the University of Delaware. “If you can’t pay it back, what happens?” If Textor were to default on the loan from Palm Beach Capital, his annual interest rate would go from 12 percent to 19 percent, Digital Domain said this week. Collateral for the loan includes 8.5 million shares of Digital Domain stock owned by Textor and mansions in Stuart and Mountain Village, Colo.

Executive compensation expert Paul Hodgson of GMI Research said such arrangements are “not very usual. It’s kind of generally been frowned upon because it tends to complicate relationships and undermine situations from a governance point of view. That would raise a red flag with us.”

There are already many victims in this situation. I feel awful for the artists who are working on Digital Domain’s first (and potentially last) feature The Legend of Tembo, as well as for all the other Digital Domain employees. I feel bad for Florida citizens who handed $132 million of their taxpayer dollars to a reckless and clueless businessman. I feel outraged for the incoming students of Digital Domain Institute who may have to perform slave labor because Digital Domain doesn’t believe in federal labor laws.

But you know who I don’t feel sorry for?

John Textor.

This Is How Film Fundraising Worked Before Kickstarter

Fred Mogubgub was among the New York animation scene’s innovative figures of the Sixties and Seventies. One of his most famous artistic statements wasn’t on film, but on the side of a building in Manhattan. It was part of an extended series of stunts that he staged during the 1960s. Richard O’Connor of Ace & Son animation studio wrote on his blog about Mogubgub’s work at the time:

What may be his best-known work was made at this time–a three-story mural painted on the outside of his Sixth Avenue studio. The left side was a beautiful woman, design by Irene Trivas, the right hand side was a word bubble saying “Who Will Give Mogubgub Ltd. Two Million Dollars To Make A Feature?”

Without the two million Mogubgub still made a feature. The Day I Met Zet runs 71 minutes and has 72,000 scenes. Zet consumed Mogubgub for three years. In 1967 a distributor offered him three points of advice after screening a work print- the next day the film was in the trash and he started over. When the New York Film Festival refused Zet, the filmmaker mounted a protest. He marched through Lincoln Center with a sign reading “Fuck the New York Film Festival”. When the police came he threw the film into the trash and ignited it. The newspapers had shown up questioning him -”How many hours of work was he destroying?” “Why this protest against the Festival?” Mogubgub stood by silently as he watched an old 16mm print go up in flames. Meanwhile the whole proceeding was being filmed. He planned to make it into a short called The Day I Burned Zet.

To learn more about Fred Mogubgub’s life and work, read Richard O’Connor’s essential series of blog posts about Mogubgub: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4

Also, don’t miss this terrific collection of Mogubgub drawings on Michael Sporn’s blog.

What Fresh Hell Is This?

At least it’s not animation. Billboards and posters for this mysterious children’s film have been appearing all over town for weeks. The film opened yesterday to disastrous reviews. This project has the stench of Delgo all over it.

Unfortunately, as animation is still perceived as children’s fare, a film like this could harm the good will animated features have built up in recent years. The Oogieloves in The Big Balloon Adventure (it hurts just to type that) opens this weekend on 2000 screens. The $55 million dollar production (that figure includes production and marketing) is being bankrolled and self-distributed by a would-be Walt Disney (or perhaps Jim Henson) named Kenn Viselman.

Viselman was previously a “marketing visionary” and producer on Thomas the Tank Engine and Teletubbies. He is so sure that he can “sell” parents and kids on this film, he has a sequel ready to shoot in October. This guy is either a genius–or a madman. My mind is made up regardless–based on the trailer, this guy is crazy. I look forward to reading the grosses next week.

GKIDS Heats Up the Oscar Animated Feature Race

Today, family animation distributor GKIDS announced that they will qualify four animated features for consideration in the Oscars Best Animated Feature Film category. The films are Goro Miyazaki’s From Up On Poppy Hill (Japan), Jean-Francois Laguionie’s Le Tableau (France), Joann Sfar and Antoine Delesvaux’s The Rabbi’s Cat (France), and Rémi Bezançon & Jean-Christophe Lie’s Zarafa (France/Belgium).

GKIDS has had an outsized influence in the animated feature category over the past three years, earning three Oscar nominations–Secret of Kells in 2010, and A Cat in Paris and Chico & Rita in 2012. Their strategy has been simple and it doesn’t involve producing a single frame of animation; rather they pick up U. S. distribution rights to foreign animated features that otherwise will never appear in America. It’s a win-win for both GKIDS and the filmmakers.

Even the major film studios benefit from the situation. That’s because the four films that GKIDS will enter this year push the current number of animated feature contenders to 15. A minimum of 16 features is required to have five nominees in the category, and it is very likely that will happen now.

The 15 films currently in contention are as follows:

The Lorax (Illumination Entertainment/Universal)
The Pirates: Band of Misfits (Aardman/Sony)
Madagascar 3 (DreamWorks Animation)
Brave (Disney/Pixar)
Ice Age: Continental Drift (Blue Sky/20th Century Fox)
ParaNorman (Laika/Focus)
Hotel Transylvania (Sony)
Frankenweenie (Disney)
Rise of the Guardians (Dreamworks Animation)
Wreck-It Ralph (Disney)
A Liar’s Autobiography: The Untrue Story of Monty Python’s Graham Chapman
Zarafa (Pathe/GKids)
The Rabbi’s Cat (TF1/GKids)
Le Tableau (Rezo/GKids)
From Up on Poppy Hill (Studio Ghibli/GKids)

Protest Erupts Over Disney’s Skinny Minnie

Barneys New York has partnered with Disney for their Electric Holiday campaign, set to debut at Barney’s Madison Avenue flagship store on November 14th. Part of this promotion includes a film “about Minnie Mouse’s fantasy to attend Paris fashion week”. In it, Mickey Mouse will be dressed in Balenciaga, Minnie Mouse in Lanvin, Goofy in Balmain, Daisy Duck in Dolce & Gabbana and Snow White in Nina Ricci. Nice – for characters created during the Depression, this is quite a step up. But must they follow the emaciated super-model look (above) in a pathetic effort to be trendy? Maybe these are gag promotional pictures? I hope so.

UPDATE 10/24/12: Women’s groups and parents have become outraged and more vocal since we first reported this story back in August. There is now a petition on asking that Barney’s and Disney to “leave Minnie Mouse alone”. The new “skinny Minnie” sends the wrong message to women and especially little girls about their body image. Over 135,000 people have already signed the petition.

Meanwhile, Popeye the Sailor has been hawking healthy Spinach products for decades. Now Taylor Farms is starting a new line of Popeye branded “Superfoods” with a license from King Features/Hearst. Notice anything different? Popeye no longer has his pipe! Not on the packaging, not in any of their promotional materials. I get it, it’s unhealthy to smoke – but this is getting ridiculous! His pipe is part of his character! Toot! Toot!

(Thanks, David Alvarez and Fred Grandinetti)

The Epic Saga Continues as “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” Returns for its Fifth Season on Cartoon Network and Enters Syndication Nationwide

This September, the Critically Acclaimed Series from Lucasfilm Animation Returns for Season Five, while Seasons One and Two Enter Syndication Across the Nation.

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (August 28, 2012) — Following an impressive fourth season full of surprises, the spectacular action and riveting story of Star Wars: The Clone Wars intensifies in Season Five on Cartoon Network at a new day and time. Starting September 29, 2012 at 9:30 am, the classic heroes and villains of the world famous Star Wars Saga continue their adventures as The Clone Wars moves to Cartoon Network’s action series Saturday mornings.

The shadow of the dark side falls upon Star Wars: The Clone Wars Season Five as the series moves closer to the grim events of Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith. The big-screen action, unforgettable characters, and rousing adventure of the Star Wars Saga continue, as Jedi heroes face a galaxy of foes. With unparalleled visuals, sound, action and adventure, Star Wars: The Clone Wars continues the cinematic saga with the equivalent of a short animated Star Wars movie each week. Season Five is filled with explosive action, exotic worlds, intriguing characters and shocking turns as several major players face their destinies as the galaxy plunges into darkness.

In addition to its bold new episodes, the celebrated stories of the series’ first two seasons will premiere in domestic syndication, marking its first appearance ever on U.S. broadcast television. Now, Star Wars: The Clone Wars will be available to a whole new audience, as well as provide an additional destination for its already loyal viewers to relive the amazing saga from its beginning. For a listing of participating stations, visit as the September launch approaches.

Call For Entries: GRAPHIC 2012

Sydney Opera House announced the return of the GRAPHIC global animation competition, held as part of the GRAPHIC festival of storytelling, animation and music. The competition is open to illustrators, animators and storytellers of all levels — from established artists to up-and-coming talent — from anywhere in the world.

First prize for Best Animated Short is a trip to Sydney to attend GRAPHIC festival at Sydney Opera House, $10 000 [AUD] and the winning entry will be screened at the GRAPHIC opening night event. There will be a $5000[AUD] prize for Best Animation Craft, as well as the ANIMAL LOGIC People’s Choice award of $5000 [AUD].

Entrants are required to create an original short animated film with a running time of no longer than three minutes, and upload it to the dedicated GRAPHIC festival YouTube Channel, where the public can vote for their favourite. The twenty animations with the most votes will then be submitted to a panel of industry experts for judging.

Judges for the GRAPHIC global animation competition include Animation Director, Marco Marenghi (Walking with Dinosaurs 3D [2013]); Director, Chris McKay (Robot Chicken TV series, Co-director LEGO: The Piece of Resistance [2014]), Animation Director, Daniel Jeannette (Happy Feet, Where the Wild Things Are) and GRAPHIC co-curator, Jordan Verzar.

Competition is now open and entries close on Sunday 28 October, midnight AEST

GRAPHIC 2012 at Sydney Opera House will take place from November 9 — 11. The full program will be announced in September.

GRAPHIC Global Animation Competition — Call for Entries

Wednesday 11 July — Sunday 28 October (midnight AEST)



Best Animated Short – $10,000 [AUD] prize and a trip (3 days and 3 nights) to the GRAPHIC at Sydney Opera House

Best Animation Craft – $5,000 [AUD]

ANIMAL LOGIC People’s Choice Award of $5,000 [AUD]

GRAPHIC at Sydney Opera House November 9 — 11, 2012



Twitter: @GraphicFestival

Judges Announced For 2013 Kidscreen Awards

Ramping up for its first round of judging, the 2013 Kidscreen Awards team has assembled three panels of judges who will carefully review all of the entries submitted into the Programming Categories. These qualified and respected entertainment professionals are:

Preschool (0 to 5)
Carla de Jong — Executive in Charge of Production, Children’s and Youth Programming, CBC
Henrietta Hurford-Jones — Director of CBeebies Investment, BBC Worldwide
Deborah Macdonald — Independent Children’s Media Consultant
Chris Rose — Commissioning Editor, Animation, ABC Australian Broadcasting Corporation

Kids (6 to 11)
Hugh Baldwin — Director, Nickelodeon Australia
Alan Gregg — Director of Original Content, TELETOON Canada
Layla Lewis — Director of Programming & Acquisitions, Turner Broadcasting Asia Pacific
Tara Sorensen — Head of Children’s Series Development, Amazon Studios

Tweens/Teens (12 to 17)
Jan-Willem Bult — Creative Head, KRO Youth
David Kleeman — President, American Center for Children and Media
Tracia Ord — Senior Manager, Disney XD Worldwide

The first-round judges’ scores will determine a shortlist of programs and websites that will move on to a second and final round of judging, conducted by three new jury panels.

The deadline for submitting entries into the Kidscreen Awards 2013 Programming Categories (Best Animated Series; Best Non-Animated or Mixed Series; Best One-Off, Special or TV Move; and Best Companion Website) is Friday, September 14.

And in our Broadcasting Categories, dedicated kids channels and strands from around the world can compete for the following Kidscreen Awards:

  • Channel of the Year
  • Best Channel Design
  • Best Channel Website
  • Best Interstitial Campaign
  • Best Integrated Promotion
  • Best On-Air Host or Hosting Team

The entry deadline for the Broadcasting Categories is Friday, October 19. Entries received in these streams will be reviewed and shortlisted by Kidscreen’s esteemed editorial team, and the final winners determined by an industry vote.

Winners will be announced at an evening presentation event as part of next year’s Kidscreen Summit, which is set to take place in New York from February 5 to 8. All Kidscreen Summit delegates will be invited to attend the ceremony and cocktail party as part of their event experience, after registering online at And other guests can sign up to attend just the Kidscreen Awards event for $150, beginning in January.

This is the fourth year that the Kidscreen Awards will single out and celebrate the world’s best kids programming and broadcasting achievements. “It’s truly a privilege to be able to pay tribute to the consistently outstanding work of the global kids television industry,” says Kidscreen VP & Publisher Jocelyn Christie. “We are grateful to all of the companies who share their projects with us for supporting our mission to build the Kidscreen Awards into the industry’s most meaningful set of prizes.”

Detailed information on eligibility, judging and entering can be found at

One Fine Day Creates “Bunheads” Show Open

New York, NY — For Nathalie de la Gorce, Creative Director of the design/animation boutique One Fine Day, her experience with ballet and dance guided the graceful show open/package she directed and designed for the ABC Family hit Bunheads.

“The fact that I am a dancer myself meant I had an intimate understand of ballet terms like pirouette, jeté, saut-de-chat, arabesque and could easily visualize the choreography,” de la Gorce says. “It basically made the communication between us and the client that much faster and smoother.

Created by Executive Producer Amy Sherman-Palladin (creator of the popular series Gilmore Girls), Bunheads tells the story of Michelle, a Las Vegas showgirl who on a whim marries a man and moves to his sleepy coastal town where she winds up working alongside her new mother-in-law at her dance school.

Directed by de la Gorce and Sherman-Palladino, the Bunheads show open begins with a foot-level shot of a shot of four dancers entering a dance studio about to begin a practice. Set to a modernized version of the ballet classic Dance of the Sugar Plum Fair” and shot in black and white with warm light entering from huge windows in the background of the dance studio, the dancers go through their intricate routine. As they move, animated ribbons of red and orange flow around the dancer’s movements. All of which leads to a color shot of the show’s star Sutton Foster looking wowed by the performance.

Although de la Gorce and the One Fine Day creative team were given well-defined concept, they were able to push it further by building a sense anticipation by cropping the camera shots and adding the animated ribbons, all of which lead to the logo resolve.

“The most challenging aspect for me was figuring the pace of the sequence,” de la Gorce adds. “We had to show the four dancers on the screen in a very short time. We actually did a number of test shoots to better understand the changes in direction, crossing of paths, how much to widen the camera. Because of that, the open conveys a lot about the show’s storyline and characters in about 20 seconds.”

Russell Hicks Named President Of Content Development For The Nickelodeon Group

LOS ANGELES, Aug. 29, 2012 – Russell Hicks, a 14-year Nickelodeon veteran and its Chief Creative Officer since 2008, has been named to the new position of President, Content Development and Production for the Nickelodeon Group. The announcement was made today by Cyma Zarghami, President, Nickelodeon Group, to whom Hicks will continue to report.

The newly created position establishes centralized, West Coast leadership of all Nickelodeon’s content teams, and provides direct, on the ground oversight of the network’s development slate. Hicks will be based at Nickelodeon’s Burbank and Santa Monica, California, offices, where he will lead the company’s live-action, animation development and production teams for all of Nickelodeon’s content platforms.

Reporting to Hicks will be: Margie Cohn, who will serve in the new role of President, Content Development, Nickelodeon, working across live-action, animation and digital; Paula Kaplan, who will now serve as EVP of Current Series; Teri Weiss, EVP of Nickelodeon Preschool Development and Production; Alison Dexter, EVP, Nickelodeon Productions; Rich Magallanes, SVP, Animation, Current Series; and Keith Dawkins, SVP and General Manager for Nickelodeon’s Nick Jr., Nicktoons and TeenNick channels.

“Russell has been one of the driving forces behind the Nickelodeon brand,” said Zarghami. “As we continue our ambitious evolution of Nickelodeon, Russell will ensure that our rich and diversified development slate, as well as our new and established producing partners, will all serve our creative vision for the network and deliver for our audiences.”

Nickelodeon’s recently announced development slate includes more than a dozen new live-action, animation and TV movie projects as part of the network’s deep commitment to new content. The slate features top creative talent in front of and behind the camera and iconic characters from the network’s most popular series that will begin rolling out this fall and into 2013.

These projects include: two Nick spin-off comedy pilots, Sam & Cat and Gibby, featuring beloved characters from hit series iCarly and Victorious; new series Wendell and Vinnie starring Jerry Trainor and the pilot Instant Mom, both for Nick at Nite; You Gotta’ See This, highlighting must-see video clips; and two original TV movies, Swindle and Nicky Deuce. Also included are the CG-animated series Monsters vs. Aliens and the 2D Sanjay & Craig; the highly anticipated return of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in September; and the 4Q launch of Nick at Nite’s Scott Baio family comedy, See Dad Run. For preschool, the network is adding the curriculum-based animated series, Monty and Norville, and a pilot for Blaze and the Monster Machines.

Brown Johnson, who has served as the President of Animation since 2008, will be leaving her role to pursue her own creative endeavors. Johnson oversaw the network’s successful partnerships with DreamWorks Animation SKG, as well as the brand-new, CG-animated Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. She also was responsible for leading Nickelodeon’s groundbreaking preschool programming, including Blue’s Clues and Dora the Explorer, for more than two decades.

“Brown’s contributions to Nickelodeon are many, including being the key architect behind our preschool leadership,” added Zarghami. “She leaves an indelible impact on generations of kids for which we will always be incredibly grateful.”

Hicks, as Nickelodeon’s Chief Creative Officer, oversaw all of Nickelodeon Creative, On-air Promotions, Consumer Products, Brand and Advertising divisions, and led the product development and creative positioning of Nickelodeon’s brands and properties and ensured it represented Nickelodeon’s “Kids’ First” philosophy and supported the company mission to provide surprising and playful experiences for its audiences. In 2009, he led an unprecedented creative review of the Nickelodeon brand and re-imagined its logo to represent the growth the company had attained after 30 years, while also maintaining and reflecting the company’s core attributes.

Prior to working at Nickelodeon, Hicks was Vice President of Marketing, Cartoon Network/Turner brands for Warner Brothers, where he was responsible for the marketing and creative that turned Scooby Doo and the Power Puff Girls into cultural icons. Hicks started his career as an animator that led him to work on Teddy Ruxpin, the first talking teddy bear for Worlds of Wonder toys. It is this combination of both animation and consumer products that has given Hicks his extensive knowledge of the children’s entertainment world.

GKIDS Puts Forward Four Pictures For 2012 Best Animated Feature Oscar & 2012 Annie Awards

From Up On Poppy Hill

Le Tableau

The Rabbi’s Cat


New York, New York — August 29, 2012 — GKIDS, a distributor of award-winning animation for both adults and family audiences, announced today that it will have four feature films competing for the 2012 Best Animated Feature Oscar® and the 2012 Annie Awards. GKIDS is planning Academy® qualifying Los Angeles runs in November for From  Up On Poppy Hill, Le Tableau, The Rabbi’s Cat and Zarafa.

The company has received three Best Animated Feature Oscar® nominations in the past three years with The Secret of Kells in 2010 and both A Cat in Paris and Chico & Rita in 2012, marking the first time an independent distributor has had two simultaneous nominations in the category. GKIDS also recently announced pickups of Ernest & Celestine from Studiocanal in France and A Letter to Momo from Production I.G in Japan. Both of these titles are slated to compete in the 2013 awards season.

GKIDS president Eric Beckman said, “It has truly been a banner year for international animation and we are extremely excited about our upcoming release slate. All four films are unique and wonderful, each in their own way, and we look forward to sharing them with Academy voters and audiences across North America.”


Animation, Goro Miyazaki, Japan, 2011, 91 min

The latest release from Japan’s legendary Studio Ghibli was the top-grossing Japanese release of 2011 and took home the Japan Academy Prize for Animation. The film was directed by Goro Miyazaki from a screenplay by Hayao Miyazaki, with Hayao Miyazaki supervising the production, marking the first feature collaboration between father and son. An English-language version is currently in production by Studio Ghibli with Frank Marshall executive producing. Voice cast announcement is expected within the next two weeks. Set in Yokohama in 1963, the film centers on a high school couple’s innocent love and the secrets surrounding their births. The story takes place in a Japan that is picking itself up from the devastation of World War II and preparing to host the 1964 Olympics — and the mood is one of both optimism and conflict as the new generation struggles to embrace modernity and throw off the shackles of a troubled past. The film’s rich color palette and painterly detail capture the beauty of Yokohama’s harbor and its lush surrounding hillsides, while the 1960’s pop soundtrack evokes nostalgia for an era of innocence and hope. The film will qualify in the English language version.


Animation, Jean-Francois Laguionie, France, 2012, 78 minutes

French animation auteur Jean-Francois Laguionie’s latest work is a wryly-inventive parable executed in a stunning painterly style. A kingdom is divided into the three castes: the fully painted Alldunns who reside in a majestic palace; the Halfies who the Painter has left incomplete; and the untouchable Sketchies, frail charcoal outlines who are banished to the cursed forest. Chastised for her forbidden love for an Alldunn and shamed by her unadorned face, Halfie Claire runs away into the forest. Her beloved Ramo and best friend Lola journey after her, passing between the forbidden Death Flowers that guard the boundaries of the forest, and arriving finally at the very edge of the painting — where they tumble through the canvas and into the Painter’s studio. The abandoned workspace is strewn with paintings, each containing its own animated world — and in a feast for both the eyes and imagination, they explore first one picture and then another, attempting to discover just what the Painter has in mind for all his creations. The film will qualify in the original French language version.


3D, Animation, Joann Sfar & Antoine Delesvaux, France, 2011, 89 minutes

Based on the best-selling graphic novel by Joann Sfar, The Rabbi’s Cat tells the story of a rabbi and his talking cat — a sharp-tongued feline philosopher brimming with scathing humor and a less than pure love for the rabbi’s voluptuous teenage daughter. Algeria in the 1930s is an intersection of Jewish, Arab and French culture. A cat belonging to a widowed rabbi eats the family parrot and miraculously gains the ability to speak. Along with the power of speech comes unparalleled sardonic wit, and the cat — and filmmaker Sfar — spare no group or individual as they skewer faith, tradition and authority in a provocative exploration of (among other things) God, lust, death, phrenology, religious intolerance, interspecies love, and the search for truth. Rich with the colors, textures, and flavors of Mediterranean Africa, the film takes us on a cross continent adventure from the tiled terraces, fountains, quays and cafes of colonial Algiers to Maghrebi tent camps and dusty trading outposts, in search of a lost Ethiopian city. Joann Sfar is an award winning filmmaker (Gainsbourg) and one of France’s most celebrated comic artists. The film will qualify in the original French language version.


Animation, Rémi Bezançon & Jean-Christophe Lie, France/Belgium, 2012, 78 minutes

The French box office breakout from animator Jean-Christophe Lie (Triplets of Belleville) and live action director Rémi Bezançon (A Happy Event) was inspired by the true historical account of a giraffe given as a gift to King Charles X of France by the Pasha of Egypt. Under a baobab tree, an old man tells the story of the everlasting friendship between Maki, a little boy aged 10 who has narrowly escaped slavery, and an orphaned baby giraffe named Zarafa. Hassan, Prince of the Desert, is instructed by the Pasha to deliver Zarafa to France. But Maki has made up his mind to do everything in his power to stop Hassan from fulfilling his mission and to bring the giraffe back to its native land — even if it means risking his own life. During an epic journey that takes them from Sudan to Paris, passing on the way through Alexandria, Marseille and the snow-capped Alps, they have many adventures, crossing paths with the balloonist Malaterre, a pair of mystical twin cows called Mounh and Sounh (Moon and Sun), and falling into the hands of the fearsome pirate queen Bouboulina. The film will qualify in the original French language version.

Seth MacFarlane To Host “SNL” Season Premiere

Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane is like the Neil Armstrong of the animation community, venturing into places that other animators have never dared to go. In another first for an animator, it was announced today that MacFarlane will host the season premiere of Saturday Night Live on September 15.

(Photo of Seth MacFarlane via s_bukley/Shutterstock)

Kelly Richardson’s “Mariner 9″ Animates Futuristic Mars Landscape

How might Mars look like a hundred years in the future, after we’ve sent dozens of rovers to explore the planet? That’s the idea that Canadian digital media artist Kelly Richardson wanted to explore in her new animated video installation Mariner 9. The piece debuted earlier this month at the Spanish City in Whitley Bay, UK, and will have its North American premiere at next month’s Toronto International Film Fesitval as part of their Future Projections exhibit.

The 20-minute piece is projected on a panoramic 39-foot screen. In the words of the artist, “Mariner 9″

presents a panoramic view of a Martian landscape set hundreds of years into the future, littered with the rusting remains from various missions to the planet. Despite its suggested abandoned state, several of the spacecraft continue to partially function, to do their intended jobs, to ultimately find signs of life, possibly transmitting the data back to no one.

In interviews, Richardson said that she referenced data and imagery from NASA missions to help recreate the topography of her speculative future, but the goal of this research wasn’t so much strict accuracy as authencity. She modeled and animated the landscape with Terragen software, and used Lightwave to create the vehicles.

I can only imagine that the subtle movements across a large screen would look striking, but the sheer scale of Mariner 9 demands that it be viewed in person before passing any judgement on its effectiveness. As a general comment though, I can point out that it’s similar to another artwork profiled on Cartoon Brew earlier this year called “Transforming Still Life Painting”, in which animation was used by a fine artist to create subtle movements within a fixed shot.

The question becomes then whether these animated canvases constitute a unique development in animation art? They certainly extend the medium beyond a linear cinematic experience. But in the case of Richardson’s Mariner 9, couldn’t the same detailed still landscape with subtle animated variations (and accompanying soundscape) be achieved simply by remaining motionless in any number of CGI computer games? If those games were projected onto a panoramic screen, would it achieve a similar effect?

If a piece like “Mariner 9″ isn’t exactly revolutionary, it at least uses animation in a new context and directs it toward a different end, which is not a bad thing. It also forces us to acknowledge that the visual language of animated film, interactive gaming, and digital fine art is converging more quickly than ever before.

John Canemaker Remembers Tissa David

Eminent animation historian John Canemaker wrote a lovely tribute to animator Tissa David for the Wall Street Journal. It’s packed with great insights, including this quote from David: “Animation is such a long, hard work. You have to keep doing, doing, doing to learn. You can only have one love if you want to be an animator: animation. You can’t devote yourself to it part-time.” Tissa David passed away last week at the age of 91.

(Photo of Tissa David via Michael Sporn’s Splog; drawing from the collection of John Canemaker)

Spike Lee On The Value Of Owning Your Own Brand

Film critic Patrick Goldstein recently wrote his last piece for the LA Times. The article, “Wanted: A Few Good Mavericks“, is about the lack of originality in Hollywood and it’s worth reading in full. In particular though, Goldstein’s bit about what sets Spike Lee apart from other directors in Hollywood stood out:

In 1988, not long after his first success, I heard Lee give a speech to a group of black college students in which he preached the value of capitalism. If you didn’t own your own business or brand, he said, you’d always be working for the man. As a filmmaker, Lee has practiced what he preached. He runs a Brooklyn-based production company that has made enough money, largely through Lee-directed ads, to allow him to fund internships and college prep programs as well as make such message-oriented documentaries as “When the Levees Broke,” the Emmy Award-winning TV miniseries about the devastating impact of Hurricane Katrina on New Orleans. It’s what makes Lee different from indie peers Paul Thomas Anderson or Wes Anderson. They are gifted filmmakers, but they seem to disappear down a rabbit hole between films, while Lee is always on call, weighing in on issues that matter.

How do Spike Lee’s thoughts fit into today’s animation world, where selling one’s creation to a TV network is often considered the pinnacle of success? Is giving up control of one’s creation a prerequisite for success in our industry, or can artists who own their brands carve out successful careers? Can an artist sell a creation to a corportion, but still maintain the integrity of their personal brand ? There may be no easy answers, but I think these are questions worth asking.

Warner Bros. Signs First-Look Deal with Gulfstream Pictures

BURBANK, CA — Warner Bros. has signed an exclusive first-look deal with Mike Karz and Bill Bindley’s new film production and financing company, Gulfstream Pictures. The company gets its start with an initial multi-million-dollar development fund from Korea-based 3D stereoscopic leader Redrover Ltd. and a consortium of U.S. private equity funds.

Under the two-year pact, Gulfstream will be based on the Warners lot in Burbank and will co-finance development with Warners with the option of co-financing the films, which will be distributed worldwide by Warners. Gulfstream is currently meeting with additional investors to complete the formation of a $200 million film fund, of which Redrover and the U.S. private equity funds are lead investors. Gulfstream plans to produce and co-finance two films per year.

Gulfstream’s first film is the The Nut Job, a $45-million animated feature directed by Peter Lepeniotis for Redrover and Toonbox Entertainment, a top Toronto animation studio, which becomes a sister company to Gulfstream.

“Mike and Bill have been valued members of the Warner family for a long time,” said Greg Silverman, President of Production for Warner Bros. Pictures. “We’re excited to extend our relationship to include Gulfstream and eagerly anticipate making more great movies together.”

Hoe-jin Ha, Redrover’s CEO, said: “This opportunity is a historic step for the Korean film industry. We are very excited to set up this fund, supported by Warner Bros., and we look forward to co-financing many films through this partnership with Gulfstream.”

This new deal with Warners follows producer Karz’s long-standing relationship with the studio. He has most recently produced for Warners such hits as New Year’s Eve and Valentine’s Day, the latter of which set several box office records, including the top grossing romantic comedy weekend of all time and the top-grossing Presidents’ Day Weekend opening.

Karz’s latest film for Warner Bros., Thunderstruck, starring the NBA’s Kevin Durant and directed by John Whitesell, was just released August 24.

Bindley and Karz are currently producing two projects for Warner Bros.: the comedy feature West Texas United with Russell Brand attached to star and written by Bindley and his brother Scott, who also wrote Say Uncle, a family comedy the duo is producing, with Bindley attached to direct. Bindley directed the Jim Caviezel-starrer Madison, a Sundance Film Festival favorite, distributed by MGM Pictures.