Disney has decided to chase after Dreamworks’ Turbo next summer with its movie “Cars-inspired” movie: Planes. Disney has just announced it will release this film theatrically on August 9th, 2013. Originally designed to go direct-to-DVD, Planes will now play in theatres all over the U.S. with Jon Cryer is voicing the lead plane, “Dusty”; Klay Hall (Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure), an aviator himself, is directing.
We posted this teaser trailer over a year ago, here it is again to remind you what to expect.
Let’s make one thing clear upfront: this post is not intended to be an indictment of Bill Joyce’s creative abilities. Bill is one helluva of a talent. His self-produced animated short, The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore, won the Oscar earlier this year. He’s a bestselling children’s book illustrator and author. He co-created the successful preschool series Rolie Polie Olie that ran for six seasons. He has been instrumental in jumpstarting a burgeoning tech scene in Louisiana. You could comfortably call him a Southern born-and-bred Walt Disney, and not be accused of hyperbole.
The William Joyce brand has been uniformly successful across various media platforms—except for one arena: CG animated features. The irony is that no artist has had as much personal success in having his ideas transformed into computer animated films as Joyce. He has produced three big-budget animated films at three different studios—Blue Sky’s Robots, Disney’s Meet the Robinsons, and DreamWorks’ The Rise of the Guardians. A fourth is on its way—Blue Sky’s Epic.
Deadline reported earlier this week that DreamWorks may take a $45 million write-down due to the poor performance of Rise of the Guardians. The film has grossed a paltry $72.9 million dollars after 29 days at the U.S. box office, and likely won’t break $100 million at the box office.
To put that into perspective, only two other DreamWorks CGI films have failed to reach the $100 mil domestic mark—the studio’s first CG feature, Antz, which made $90.7 million in 1998, and Flushed Away which pulled in $64.7 million in 2006. (The latter film was conceived and largely produced at the UK’s Aardman Animations.)
The performance of Rise of the Guardians falls in line with the tepid performances of Joyce’s other films. The first animated feature that he produced (and production designed) was Blue Sky’s Robots in 2005. That film grossed $128.2 domestically. It ranks as the lowest-grossing Blue Sky feature to date. (In the interest of full disclosure, I wrote the “art of” tie-in book for Robots.)
Joyce’s next feature, Disney’s 2007 effort Meet the Robinsons was based on the popular book A Day with Wilbur Robinson that he wrote and illustrated. That film grossed $97.8 million in the US, and is the lowest-grossing Disney feature in the John Lasseter-era of the studio. Neither Robots nor Meet the Robinsons performed well overseas either.
Joyce has maintained his reputation in feature film largely because the production process has been different on each film, as has his level of involvement. In the case of Robots, he didn’t write the script; he production designed the film and was intimately involved from a visual storytelling standpoint. The other two films have been based on his story ideas, but he hasn’t been involved as much visually as he was with Robots. The upcoming Blue Sky film Epic will be the first time that Joyce will both produce and production design a film that is based on one of his stories.
There’s also a strong argument to be made that Joyce’s involvement has nothing to do with the finished films. The films are only loosely based on his original ideas, and numerous other people mold the finished film besides Joyce.
For me, it begs the question: Why even use Joyce in the first place if studios deviate so wildly from his concepts. This was actually a lesson that Pixar learned the hard way. After Joyce had created concept art for Toy Story, Pixar invited him to direct an animated short at the studio. The experience didn’t end well, and all mentions of the unproduced short have been scrubbed from the studio’s official histories.
However, multiple people have told me that the experience with Joyce was instrumental in Pixar’s decision to develop film ideas in-house instead of working with outsiders and relying on pre-existing books or media properties as source material. Pixar, it has to be stressed, is absolutely unique in this regard; all other major animation studios have used pre-existing stories for their films, including Disney, DreamWorks, Blue Sky, Sony and Illumination. Pixar’s commitment to building ideas from scratch with artists who understand the medium best is among the reasons that the studio’s films are widely respected from a creative standpoint.
If this were baseball, Rise of the Guardians would have been Bill Joyce’s third strike in the world of big-budget CG-animated features. Thankfully, animation isn’t baseball, and Joyce will receive a fourth chance at CG feature success next May. Fox and Blue Sky’s Epic may prove once and for all whether there is such a thing as the “Bill Joyce curse.”
I know almost nothing about this upcoming Dreamworks film… other than it stars Ryan Reynolds (as Turbo) and Samuel L. Jackson, both playing snails… and that story artist David Soren pitched it and was given the shot to direct. 20th Century-Fox will release Turbo on July 19th.
Director Jeanette Nørgaard is posting her powerful award winning film, Hund i Himlen (Dog In Heaven) online today. I highly recommend you make time for it.
Hund i Himlen is a 25-minute animated short with stylized visuals and strong dramatic storytelling. It will be avaliable with subtitles on it’s own webpage (through Vimeo), along with a great behind the scenes page explaining the entire process of making the film. Nørgaard tells us about the film:
“It’s targeted at kids, but as any good fairy tale it also touches adults.Earlier this year it won the main prize at Denmarks biggest short film festival “Odense Film Festival”. It has been broadcast on Danish television and has toured festivals for the last half a year. I feel the time is right to make it available for everyone interested to enjoy it.”
Here’s the trailer (below) – check out the whole film here.
The Sundance Film Festival has announced their short film selections for the next edition of the festival, which will take place January 17-27 in Park City, Utah. The following ten films will compete in the animated shorts category:
Benjamin’s Flowers / Sweden (Director and screenwriter: Malin Erixon) — Lovelorn and lonely Benjamin lives on the blurry borderline between fantasy and reality.
Bite of the Tail / South Korea, U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Song E Kim) — Life is a constant struggle for a husband and wife. She is suffering from stomach pain, and the doctor has no clue about a cure. Meanwhile, her husband is on his own journey of hunting a snake.
The Event / U.S.A., United Kingdom (Director: Julia Pott, Screenwriter: Tom Chivers) — Love and a severed foot at the end of the world.
Feral / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Daniel Sousa) — A solitary hunter finds a wild boy in the woods and brings him back to civilization. Alienated by his strange new environment, the boy tries to adapt by using the same strategies that kept him safe in the forest.
In Hanford / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Chris Mars) — This heartbreaking true story of a town poisoned by Cold War–era nuclear-arms manufacture is told through firsthand accounts and fantasy scenes, which empathize with the victim’s plight.
Marcel, King of Tervuren / U.S.A. (Director: Tom Schroeder, Screenwriter: Ann Berckmoes) — In this Greek tragedy – as acted out by Belgian roosters – Marcel survives the bird flu, alcohol, sleeping pills and his son, Max.
Oh Willy… / Belgium, France, Netherlands (Directors and screenwriters: Marc James Roels, Emma De Swaef) — Willy returns to his naturalist roots as he bungles his way into noble savagery.
Seraph / U.S.A. (Director: Dash Shaw, Screenwriters: John Cameron Mitchell, Dash Shaw) — A boy’s childhood scars his life.
Thank You / U.S.A. (Directors: Pendleton Ward, Tom Herpich, Screenwriters: Pendleton Ward, Tom Herpich) — A pack of fire wolves attack a snow golem in the forest and accidentally leave a cub behind after their retreat. The golem’s life is thrown into chaos as he attempts to reunite the cub with its family.
Tram / France, Czech Republic (Director and screenwriter: Michaela Pavlátová) — The humdrum daily routine of a tram conductress is jolted when the vibrations and rhythm of the road turn her on and take her on an erotic and surrealistic fantasy journey.
Their documentary shorts category also features two shorts with animation:
30% (Women and Politics in Sierra Leone) / United Kingdom, Sierra Leone (Director: Anna Cady) — Oil-painted animation brings to life the stories of three powerful women in postconflict Sierra Leone, revealing the violence and corruption women face as they fight for fairer representation in the governance of their country.
Irish Folk Furniture / Ireland (Director: Tony Donoghue) — In Ireland, old hand-painted furniture is often associated with hard times, with poverty, and with a time many would rather forget. In this animated documentary, 16 pieces of traditional folk furniture are repaired and returned home.
Illustrator Rob Loukotka’s ACME Corporation Kickstarter project is worth writing about for many reasons besides the fact that he’s trying to raise money. Here’s what it is: a poster of every Acme Co. item used by Wile E. Coyote in his futile pursuit of the Roadrunner. There are 126 items represented on the poster from the 43 Coyote and Roadrunner shorts that director Chuck Jones was personally involved with between 1949 and 1994.
The project wouldn’t be as noteworthy if not for how successful it’s been. Loukotka has currently sold over 2000 posters for nearly $70,000, and there are still five days left in the campaign. He is careful not to mention the Roadrunner, the Coyote, Warner Bros. or any of the cartoons in his poster. He also benefits from the fact that most of Acme products in the Chuck Jones cartoons are quite generic.
Nevertheless, Loukotka is walking a legal tightrope. He is mass producing merchandise based on a corporation’s intellectual property. If this was just a collection of random items with the name Acme on them, no one would ever buy the poster. It’s only because of the role these invented Acme items have played within a series of animated shorts that they are recognizable and of interest to the general public.
People also aren’t buying the posters because Loukotka is a popular artist. Case in point: Loukotka’s two previous campaigns on Kickstarter, which were prints based on original ideas, raised less than $5,000 each. His success with this campaign is almost entirely due to his unofficial partnership with Warner Bros.
Who knows what may happen. Corporations have been known to pursue copyright infringement cases even when characters aren’t involved. For example, Lucasfilm filed a lawsuit against British entrepreneur Andrew Ainsworth, who was selling replicas of Star Wars helmets. The company won a $20 million summary judgment against Ainsworth in U.S. courts.
I’m not a lawyer and can’t pretend to know all the legal arguments for and against such a poster. But I do find the project fascinating, especially the fact that it passed through Kickstarter’s legal vetting process. It begs the question, What other types of unofficial cartoon-related projects can be done in this manner without running afoul of copyright laws?
I think we must be in the Golden Age of Animated Christmas Cards. We’ve gotten so many good ones, great ones – too many to post them all (check our Cartoon Brew Facebook page for more). Here’s a cross section of the crop we’ve received in just the last few days:
Christmas is next Tuesday, less than a week away. So here’s a few last minute gift-giving ideas for that cartoon-freak in your life – or for that special someone who still needs convincing that this animation obsession of yours isn’t just for weirdo’s.
If you dug the recent Spongebob stop-motion Christmas Special as much as I did, you’ll love the just-as-cool soundtrack album by Tom Kenny & Andy Paley. The It’s A SpongeBob Christmas! Album is now on Amazon and iTunes. The songs are more than just fun – the lyrics are clever, the tunes are hummable and the vocal performances are hilarious. Don’t be a jerk – buy this album for Christmas!
Craig Yoe’s latest compilation of old comics is his best. I know I’ve raved about his books before, but this one is special. Comics About Cartoonists is a collection of classic comic book stories about the cartoonists themselves – by some of the best artists in the field. I’m not even sure where to begin: Jack Kirby, Sheldon Mayer, Jack Cole, Al Capp, Siegel, Shuster, Ditko, Caniff, Bushmiller… on and on! Animators include Milt Gross, Al Stahl, Milt Stein and Winsor McCay. You will not put this one down and will be glad Yoe was crazy enough to spend years (decades, perhaps) locating this stuff. Even the end papers – made up of vintage ads for cartooning correspondence school courses – are a blast. I order you to pre-order this book TODAY!
This one is a must-have for your Mary Blair collection (you do have a Mary Blair collection, don’t you?). A Mary Blair Treasury of Golden Books is a compilation of the famed Disney inspiration artist’s greatest work for Western Publishing, primarily for their Golden Book series aimed at children. Reprinted beautifully and at large size, this volume includes the classic Baby’s House and I Can Fly (both 1950), The Golden Book of Little Verses (1953) and The Up and Down Book (1964) – and more. Blair not only inspired Disney, but a whole new generation of animators working today. John Canemaker’s informative Foreword tops it off perfectly. A classy package of visual treats for you – or your young ones.
One of the cleverest animated Holiday Greetings I’ve seen this year came from King Features, the folks who manage the careers of Popeye, Felix the Cat, Betty Boop, Flash Gordon, Dennis the Menace, The Phantom, Mutts, Mr. Bill, Blondie and Dagwood – among others…
King’s VP Creative Frank Caruso wrote and directed the piece working with Smiley Guy Studios (in Toronto) to do the animation. He told me, “I really wanted to take the characters out of their all too familiar environments and make them REAL for the ‘audition’…”
“Real” or not – its pretty good. Click here (or image above) to see it.
Carlo Vogele has a knack for imbuing inanimate objects with personality. He’s told stories with lighting fixtures, socks, and now (with an assist from Enrico Caruso), fish.
It’s fitting that a meditation on the tragic destiny of fish would be illustrated using actual fish. Earlier this year, when Vogele posted the trailer for Una Furtiva Lagrima, we discovered that there are good reasons why animators don’t typically use dead fish as models. Vogele’s effort was well spent, though, resulting in a singular and strikingly original piece of animated fimmaking.
Michael Ruocco’s The Life and Death of a Novelty Christmas Wreath is a welcome antidote to the forced cheeriness of most animated holiday films. Ruocco’s decision to keep the wreath in a fixed center-screen position is an especially effective filmmaking choice that generates an unexpected amount of emotion and humor.
Forbes has published a list of 30 Under 30 in Hollywood. If you can get past the entertainment industry’s insularity and nauseating nepotism—the children of Judd Apatow, John Landis, Jeffrey Katzenberg and Larry Ellison (two of them) are all apparently up-and-comers—you’ll appreciate that two animators managed to sneak their way onto the list.
Alex Hirsch, 27, achieved the distinction for being the creator of the Disney TV series Gravity Falls, while Rebecca Sugar, 25, is hailed as the first solo female creator of a Cartoon Network TV series. Her show, Steven Universe, is currently in production and will debut next year. Congrats to both!
You hated the teaser, you trashed the trailer, and you blew off the finished film – and yet, Sony Animation’s The Smurfs (2011) grossed $142 million. And now – whether you like it or not – here comes The Smurfs 2.
This week’s episode of Fox’s Fringe (Episode #96 Black Blotter) contained a pretty cool homage to Terry Gilliam’s animation on Monty Python’s Flying Circus. The animation was used to represent an acid trip flashback. Here’s the clip:
The 75-second Gilliam tribute was produced by 6 Point Harness and directed by Greg Franklin. Producer Brendan Burch explained:
“The piece, which illustrates the hallucinatory visions of scientist Walter Bishop, was produced in less than two weeks. With such a compressed schedule, the characters (designed by Saharat Tantivaranyoo) and storyboards (created by Franklin and Anna Hollingsworth) needed to be locked the first week, while animators analyzed dozens and dozens of Gilliam’s cut-out cartoons from Monty Python’s Flying Circus in preparation for the final stretch of animation.
“Studio photographer Dave Vamos took production pictures of his own pudgy fingers, used to depict a giant hand plucking Dr. Bishop into a psychedelic dreamscape. The stomping foot, a direct homage to the famous Python title sequence, belongs to production coordinator Nick Butera. Butera’s foot was the perfect match to the original but required shaving and a little airbrushing work by animator John Dusenberry.
“The pictures were animated with painstaking attention to every Gilliam idiosyncracy, by the aforementioned Dusenberry and Hollingsworth, along with Frank Macchia and Kelly Turnbull. The final animation was edited and composited by Tony Christopherson, who added layers of digital paper, authentic film grain, projector gate jittering and blotches to replicate Walter’s stoned memories of watching Monty Python back in the 70′s.”
From animator Shin Hashimoto (previously represented on the Brew with his The Undertaker and the Dog), his latest film is a dark, disturbing NSFW retelling of The Little Match Girl. Not exactly appropriate for Christmas, but so fascinating I couldn’t take my eyes off it.
Two garden leprechaun gnomes meet Santa who is suffering from a severe stomach ache. Entering his stomach, they meet Krampus, Santa’s demonic alter ego. Little do they know their lives would soon change forever.
Yannis Konstantinidis, of London-based animation studio NOMINT, started “Llamallama”, a creative collective (which includes Christos Lefakis and Ian Koons) to collaborate on non-commercial personal films. Their first short film, A Little Christmas Miracle, is the funniest one I’ve seen (so far) this year…
Zach Cohen is an illustrator and an animator currently living and working in Israel. His stuff is real cool… and his latest little film, Same, was produced in five days, working ’round the clock, for a local “Maratoon” competition. The theme was “beyond the mirror”. Check out more of Cohen’s work here.
Just in time for the party season, here’s a clever little short called Season’s Gweetings, directed by Aloke Shetty and animated by the uber-talented Rajiv Eipe. Shetty’s day job is running a commercial production house called Rawshark Films in Bangalore in South India.
This short, bizarre sequence about a fish in a train is the somewhat-NSFW opener for a local “doomsday” film festival in Germany. Jonatan Schwenk (we previously posted his Maison Sonore) created Twelve/Twelve/Twelve (EINUNDZWANZIG ZWöLF ZWöLF), to promote the annual festival which takes place on the longest night of the year – this year on Friday December 21st – at the College of Art and Design in Offenbach.
The animation is a convincing mixture of stop-motion, 2D-animated parts and live action footage. Schwenk writes:
“I used Dragon Stop Motion for the frame-by-frame-animation of the characters. Textures and extremities were drawn frame by frame or animated with the Duik tool in After Effects. I used Mocha to track the footage which I shot with a Canon EOS 7D. I spent a lot of time to customize the lighting of the stopmotion sets so that the fish would really fit into the train footage.”
Check out this great little behind-the-scences video:
It’s a cross between Miyazaki’s Castle In The Sky and Warner Bros. Iron Giant – for the Bob The Builder crowd. Eric Lee, animation director at a small production studio in Tulsa Oklahoma, Steelehouse Productions, sent me the pilot for their brand-new steampunk internet series aimed at kids – Steampuff.
“Currently the entire series is being produced entirely in-house as a bit of a labor of love. We are a small team of producers, one writer and two animators (and a couple of talented interns to boot). We hope that Steampuff might win over the hearts and imaginations of kids and become a pioneer in the world of online web series for kids.”
The chase in the second-half is pretty cool – and for that alone, I recommend watching it. And as for me, I wish them well with this project.
On Christmas Eve at 8pm, Britian’s Channel 4 will premiere a sequel to the classic animated special, The Snowman. That original animated special – based on Raymond Briggs’ classic story, directed by Jimmy Murakami and Dianne Jackson – has been beloved by audiences everywhere since it’s first broadcast in 1982; no more so than in the UK where it has become a holiday tradition.
Now, exactly thirty years later, The Snowman and The Snowdog will be aired as part of an anniversary telecast celebrating the original. Hilary Audus, a storyboard artist on the original show, and a key animator on several other Briggs animation adaptations, wrote and directed. The late John Coates (the original producer) apparently gave his blessing to the production before his passing.
Whether or not the new show has charm of the original, the production was decidedly old school – and this excellent behind-the-scenes promo (below) shows how sincere the crew was in maintaining the traditional standards.
This weekend, my friends at The Cinefamily are having a 24-hour fundraising telethon to A. stay in business, B. buy a 2K digital projection system and C. restore The Silent Movie Theatre (an L.A. landmark).
The Cinefamily is the coolest of the many cool Los Angeles area repertory theaters and the home to my monthly public classic animation screenings (which will begin again in January). The telethon this weekend is open to the public (seats are limited), free admission for anyone to attend – or you can watch it live, online here.
I will be at the theatre on Sunday morning at 10:30am PST to present a few classic silent animated films. I’ll be preceded at 9am by Bob Bakers Marionettes and our friends at Screen Novelties; and will be followed by Pete & Pete creators Chris Viscardi & Will McRobb.
Animators Pablo Ferro, Miwa Matreyek, David Silverman, Phil Lord and Chris Miller and many other noted folks will be participating this weekend for this worthy cause. The 24-hour Telethon starts today at 1pm and ends Sunday at 1pm. The complete schedule of events is listed below:
- Robert Downey Jr. opens a time capsule!
- A mindblowing multimedia performance by Miwa Matreyek!
- Mark Mothersbaugh talks synths & soundtracks in a disembodied digital discussion, live via Skype!
- Phil Lord and Chris Miller (directors of “21 Jump Street”) present Lego fan films!
- Trailers From Hell, live!
- Neil Hamburger presents the stars of tomorrow!
- Dave Franco & Brian McGinn’s comedy shorts!
- “Cracked Out”, with Jon Daly & Brett Gelman!
- The legendary Pablo Ferro talks “Madvertising”!
- A slideshow presentation from pop-art renaissance man Wayne White!
MIDNIGHT MADNESS (8pm – midnight-ish)
- CINEFAMILY CHRISTMAS EXTRAVAGANZA! feat. a sneak peak at Everything Is Terrible’s Holiday Special 2012, “Simpsons” director David Silverman’s Flaming Tuba, and an intergalactic yuletide interview w/ Zorak from “Space Ghost: Coast To Coast”!
- Rob Schrab & Dan Harmon’s Found Crap!
- Nick Offerman shares his talents…and mustache!
- Usher in midnight with an audio/visual odyssey from Cut Chemist!
- Cinefamily’s signature “Total Madness” DJ/VJ set, live!
THE NITE OWL (midnght-ish – 6am)
Presented by VICE
- A late night visit from Eric Wareheim!
- An acoustic set by John Hawkes!
- A holiday reading by Udo Kier!
- One-Minute Movies with Guy Maddin!
- Special Christmas presentation by Tearist!
- Found footage mayhem unleashed by TV Carnage!
- A special holiday appearance by Brie Larson!
- Daedelus performs live & demonstrates his homemade electronic instruments!
- VICE crashes the party with exclusive, brand new original films!
- Crazy-ass footage from Burger TV!
- Sublime Frequencies presents ethnographic musical oddities!
- Hadrian’s mom teaches spoon-bending and interviews Hadrian!
GOOD MORNING CINEFAMILY (6am-12pm)
- YACHT celebrates the dawn with film, music, yoga & breakfast!
- Cat Film Festival, featuring a web-cast Q&A on web cat culture with Lil Bub!
- The Bob Baker Marionettes and Screen Novelties’ Christmas Extravaganza!
- Fuzzy Felt Films (warm n’ fuzzy 16mm ephemeral film rarities of the ’60s & ’70s)
- Jerry Beck presents silent cartoons & kids’ shorts w/ live accompaniment by Cliff Retallick (the Cinefamily’s regular silent film accompanist!)
- “Adventures of Pete & Pete” creators Chris Viscardi & Will McRobb talk inspiration and deconstruct “A Christmas Story”!
- Screenwriting guru Robert McKee skypes in and talks with Nicholas Jarecki (writer/director of “Arbitrage”)!
- A Tribute to Ben Gazzara, featuring archival footage of his fantastic, legendary Q&A appearance at the Cinefamily
- NEW & RENEWING MEMBERS’ POTLUCK: “My Lunch with Schwartzman”: a brunch feast/on-stage interview with Jason Schwartzman!
CN has greenlit 12 fifteen-minute episodes, which according to Deadline, is about “an optimistic boy who wants to do everything because everything is amazing.” Page, who has been a board artist on Adventure Time, is the fourth CalArts grad to get his own Cartoon Network show in the last few years, following Thurop Van Orman (The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack), Pen Ward (Adventure Time) and J. G. Quintel (The Regular Show).
Earlier this week, Disney released the first piece of concept art from their 2013 animated feature Frozen directed by Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck. The release of this image allows the animation community to begin one of its favorite traditions: judging an entire animated feature based on a single piece of still concept art. Let me start things off by saying that the artwork leaves me a little cold.
Most of the anti-Kickstarter arguments have already been made, but no one has pulled everything together quite as well as Josh MacPhee in this piece about the economics of Kickstarter. It’s a must-read for any artist thinking of running their own crowdfunding campaign. If you think using Kickstarter is the heaven-sent solution for independent artists, this article may make you reconsider.