The Genndy Tartakovsky-helmed Hotel Transylvania overcame overwhelmingly negative reviews to lead the U.S. box office with an opening weekend total of $42.5 million. It is the best opening weekend ever for a Sony Pictures Animation feature, topping the $35.6 million opening of The Smurfs in 2011 and the $30.3 million opening of Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs in 2009.
This mind-blowing video greeting card – animated by London-based I Love Dust – commemorating the 20th anniversary of Cartoon Network features what seem to be every character the Network owns the rights to. Let us know if you spot any missing. CN made its debut at 12 noon on October 1st, 1992; This video will be premiere on Monday night at 6:58pm. For reference, Variety posted a list of Cartoon Network milestones.
Everyone has to start somewhere. Johnny Carson started in 1951 with a painfully unfunny sketch comedy show called Carson’s Cellar. That, in itself, is hardly Brew-worthy, but this episode posted on Archive.org will delight cartoon fans. The woman who appears at the 4:30 mark is none other than the legendary June Foray, who just celebrated her 95th birthday.
A Hitch in Time is a new one for me: a 1955 propaganda short directed by Chuck Jones that encouraged U. S. Air Force personnel to re-enlist. The cartoon appeared last year on the first volume of the Looney Tunes Platinum Collection.
What impresses most about this short are the production values. Layout artist Ernie Nordli and background painter Philip De Guard give a masterclass in composition and color.
There is absolutely no reason a didactic re-enlistment film like this needs to look so good except that the artists who made it didn’t know how to do it anyway else. They were craftsmen at the top of their game, and they managed to turn the most mundane material into something entertaining and beautiful.
Chuck Jones is at his peak as an artist, and his character layouts of the two main characters are lots of fun. The animation is equally expert. Although the movement plays second fiddle to Jones’s overpowering poses, it’s no mean feat to give life to designs as organic and complex as these.
The film is no classic, but it’s a must-see for any fan of Chuck Jones and Golden Age Hollywood animation.
It’s the last night of Priit Pärn screenings at the Spectacle Theater in Williamsburg (124 S. 3rd Street, Brooklyn, NY). Pärn is visiting from Estonia and will appear in person at the screenings at 7:30 and 10pm. Seating is limited at the theater (which is actually more a room than a theater), and most screenings so far have been sold out, so get there early if you’re interested.
One of Priit Pärn’s classics that didn’t screen in New York this week is Time Out (Aeg Maha, 1984), which you can see below. Parn elevates the visual non sequitur into an art form, and the film’s style remains fresh nearly thirty years later. A lot of animation today attempts to recreate a similarly surrealistic madcap tone, none as successfully as this film:
If I were still running Streamline Pictures, I’d be fighting to pick up a film like this. It looks friggin‘ cool! This new anime feature updates Shotaro Ishinomori’s 1960s manga, Cyborg 009, a classic character who has appeared in animated series and features in the 1960s and 70s, the 90s and 2000s. Kenji Kamiyama directs this reboot in 3D for Production I.G. – 009 Re: Cyborg will open simultaneously in Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia, and South Korea on October 27th.
Just for fun, compare the trailer above to the original 1966 Toei feature (below):
The New York Times has flicked off this film with a 180-word blurb by third-string reviewer Neil Genzlinger. He essentially says, “The story flags, but the animation… is never less than vivid.”
Betsy Sharkey of The Los Angeles Times calls Hotel Transylvania “…a droll bit of cartoon fluff”. Sharkey gives the film a mixed-to-the-positive review, but calls attention to what she calls the “clash between the character animation and the storytelling style”. She states,
“Hotel Transylvania” marks the feature-directing debut for animator Genndy Tartakovsky, the artistic mind behind such cult TV favorites as “Dexter’s Laboratory” and “Samurai Jack.” The hyperkinetic cartoon vibe and visual style of those series can be felt in the film, with the animation team exaggerating effects rather than going for a more life-like design, as motion capture in particular has aimed to do in recent years.
I’ve seen the film and I liked it. In fact, I saw it a few days ago – and the more I think about it, the more I like it. I’m going to go see it again. To be sure, Genndy Tatakovsky’s Hotel Transylvania is not the heaviest, most important animated film of the year. But it’s good entertainment and even more important, I think it represents a trend that I hope to encourage.
Genndy made a full “cartoon” feature – with caricatured creatures, comically exaggerated poses and physically impossible “gags” that would make no sense in the somewhat realistic worlds of Happy Feet, Rio or Shrek. Trying to make “cartoons” in CG isn’t new – it is something Pixar has been working towards since day one. Lasseter and his team of classically-trained animators have done a good job infusing Disney-style storytelling into computer generated images. So good, it permeates the entire field. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
But it’s time for Hollywood’s CG features to evolve – and it looks like it will take a cartoonist to blaze that trail. I like what Genndy is bringing to the table – a sense of style and humor that pushes (however slightly) what a modern day animated feature can be. It’s a small refreshing step in a exciting direction – and I look forward to seeing where this could go.
But that’s what I think – what about you? What did you think of Hotel Transylvania? Submit your reviews and opinions in the comments section below. (As always, this talkback post is only open to those who have actually seen the film. Since we’ve seen it, we can tell if you have too. We will delete comments by those who have not actually seen the film).
Brothers Evan and Gregg Spiridellis, founders of JibJab, were visiting New York yesterday to officially launch their new multi-platform children’s project StoryBots. I met them in the afternoon at Rue 57 near Central Park to learn more about their plans for this new venture.
JibJab has evolved constantly since it was founded in a Brooklyn garage in 1999. In the beginning, JibJab was known for its goofy online Flash videos like Founding Fathers. The company gained widespread notoriety in 2004 with its election-themed short This Land, and soon became known for its “Year in Review” animated shorts. In 2007, the company pursued a new business model: e-greeting cards with the innovative “Starring You” technology that allowed people to insert themselves into animated cards. Today, the company specializes primarily in e-greeting cards and has over 40 employees in Venice Beach, California.
Now, with StoryBots, JibJab is expanding in a bold new direction: children’s entertainment. It’s also their biggest push ever into creating original content. Their vision for StoryBots is to build a “Sesame Street for a connected generation.” Using a cast of colorful, simply designed characters that they call StoryBots, JibJab envisions building “hundreds of products in the coming years” that are designed from the ground-up for mobile and tablet devices. These will include apps, ebooks, games, and videos. Educational content and personaliziation will be a key component of many of these products.
StoryBots could pose a major challenge to old children’s media institutions like Disney and Nickelodeon. Instead of doing what other content producers have done in the past, which is to sell a show to a network, JibJab is redefining what children’s entertainment can be in the 21st century and attempting to fundamentally reshape the long-established distribution models of children’s entertainment. Their savviness with monetizing Web content over the past decade leads one to believe that they may actually be able to pull off their ambitious goals.
The initial StoryBots launch includes five separate products:
StoryBots Starring You StoryBooks: A free iPad app that enables parents to create personalized, animated eBooks that include their child’s name and face in the stories.
StoryBots Starring You Band: A free video series on the web that allows parents to insert their kids directly into music videos and jam out alongside the StoryBots.
The StoryBots ABC Jamboree: A collection of 26 one-minute, foot-tapping music videos designed to help kids recognize the sounds and shapes of the letters of the alphabet.
The StoryBots Activity Center: A place on StoryBots.com where parents can download and print over 100 free coloring, tracing, mazes and word finds to – ironically enough – help get their kids off of the computer and back to the kitchen table with crayons and pencils.
The StoryBots Beep & Boop iPhone app: Turns learning good behavior into a game kids love, bringing old-school reward chart systems into the 21st century. Parents give kids BEEPs for good behavior and BOOPs as reprimands. Parents can use the app to create goals and prizes to motivate and celebrate their children’s achievements.
Much of what the Spiridellis brothers have planned for StoryBots can’t be announced publicly yet, but I can say that their plans are impressive. The ABC Jamboree is an excellent example of what makes StoryBots such a unique endeavor.
JibJab is hiring talented animators from around the world to create content for StoryBots, and giving them freedom to animate the StoryBots characters in their own styles. The end result is animation that is not only educational, but also fun to watch for all ages. Just a few of the artists and studios involved with StoryBots so far include Alla Kinda (Spain), Rubber House (Australia), Animade (UK), Chris Garbutt, and Estudio Ronda (Argentina).
Already one the most anticipated animated features coming in 2013, Chris Sanders and Kirk DeMicco’s The Croods keeps looking better and better with each new tease. Dreamworks’ released the first poster today (below) and its gorgeous. It’s also the first of their 20th Century-Fox releases – note the logo bottom right.
In case you want to see what the characters faces actually look like, here’s the cover to Noela Hueso’s Art Of The Croods which Titan Books will release in February. (I’ve already pre-ordered mine).
Last year Michael Schlingmann found himself designing and animating all the 2D sequences for Aardman/Sony’s The Pirates: Band of Misfits. I wish the whole sequence was online – it’s a real highlight in an already outstanding film – but for now, check Schlingmann’s Doodlepirates blog, illustrated in-depth with words, art and video (like the piece below) detailing his thoughts and process.
Putty Boy Strut is a new music video for Flying Lotus, animated by UK-based Cyriak Harris who teamed up with friend and illustrator Sarah Brown. “She made the robots and I made them go horrible.” ‘Horrible’ never looked so cool…
Pinched is an animated short with slick production values written and directed by David Vandervoort. He produced it in 2009 at Titmouse, but debuted it online just a few days ago. More recently, Vandervoort has worked as a character designer on the Laika feature ParaNorman.
Animator Joost Lieuwma graduated in 2005 from the Utrecht School of Arts and has since then been working as a freelance animator in The Netherlands. Here is his first independent film, Things You’d Better Not Mix Up, direct from the festival circuit. It’s slick and silly – but it won me over, with its clever concept and simple charm.
Writer Chris Lukather has just posted a nice interview with Ruth Clampett which contains some new insights into her father – the legendary animator/director Bob Clampett. Bob, of course, created the Emmy award winning characters Beany and Cecil, as well as being one of the great Warner Bros. cartoon directors of the 30s and 40s, guiding Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck and Porky Pig through some of their greatest cartoons, as well as creating Tweety, The Do-Do, Beaky Buzzard among many many others.
In the interview Ruth also discusses her former role supervising Warner Bros. animation art for the Studio Stores (remember those?) and her hopes to see an art book and biography of father Bob. Yes, Ruth – I’ll happily instruct Brew readers to buy such a book the moment it exists! In the meantime check out Lukather’s literary blog, The Writing Disorder for more memories and info.