Popeye Comics Get Cool

Sometimes we don’t realize something is cool until months or years go by and then we catch up with it. There’s something going on right now that’s pretty darn cool and I want to call your attention to – because I wouldn’t want you to pay any inflated ebay “collectors” prices later on.

Craig Yoe and Clizia Gussoni have been doing two wonderful Popeye comic book series for IDW Publishing. One is a mini-series of 12 original issues. The other is a series reprinting Bud Sagendorf’s great 1940s-50s comic book run. Sagendorf was the long-time assistant to the creator of Popeye, Elzie Segar, and his comics are just as classic.

Yoe tells us:

“We are finishing up the acclaimed Popeye mini-series, and we’ll go out with a goggley-eyed bang when Popeye meets Barney Google. One of the most popular aspects has been the variant covers by celeb artists. So we are now going to continue that aspect in our reprints of the hilarious Bud Sagendorf’s Popeye classic Comics.

We are ecstatic that the first Popeye Classic variant cover will be by the justly famed New Yorker cartoonist Roz Chast. We’re looking for other awesome artists who want to do a variant cover and welcome people from the animation community–Matt Groening, Craig McCracken, Ralph Bakshi, Tim Burton, Genndy Tartakovsky–are you listening? Lesser luminaries are welcome to submit ideas, too–if they’re good we’ll use them!”

I can’t speak highly enough about these comic books. They are produced with a proper amount of respect for Segar/Sagendorf’s original canon, gently updated to play perfectly as contemporary adventures. A perfect package – topped off with a bonus: the guest cover artists. Below is a gallery of covers by some of those guest artists (click thumbnail to enlarge image) – its a blast to see Popeye interpreted by a who’s-who of respected artisans.

Top Row (left to right): The variant cover to Popeye Classic #8 by Roz Chast; Cover by Bruce Ozella and variant by Jules Feiffer for Popeye #1; Variant for Popeye #2 by Tony Millionaire.

Middle Row (left to right): Cover by Tom Neely and variant by Dean Yeagle for Popeye #3; Variant by Seymour Chwast for Popeye #4; Variant by Shawn Dickinson for Popeye #8.

Bottom Row (left to right): Variant by Al Jaffee for Popeye #9 (not in stores yet); Variant by Craig Yoe for Popeye #10 (not in stores yet); Variant by Mitch O’Connell for Popeye #11 (not in stores yet); Cover by Roger Langridge for the final issue with Barney Google cross-over, Popeye #12 (not in stores yet).

Buy these books! Highly recommended!

George Pal Rareties

Jazz enthusiast (and Harry Von Zell devotee) Leonard Maltin just found this rare 1946 album, Artie Shaw’s Pied Piper and kindly shared the cover with me (below, click to enlarge). As you can see it was illustrated by none other than animator George Pal! This was new to me!

Not only that, Leonard tells me the record features Arthur Q. Bryan (Elmer Fudd) as the voice of the Mayor of Hamlin!

While I’m at it, I might as well post these two rare stills (below, click thumbnails to enlarge); I’d never seen either until recently.

The first, at left, is of Paramount’s star Dorothy Lamour holding the Pal Puppetoon figure of herself, used in the 1941 short Hoola Boola; at right, courtesy of Mark and Seamus at Screen Novelties, is a beautiful publicity pose of George Pal himself surrrounded by his most famous Puppetoon figures; The photo’s caption on the back (center thumbnail) gives a mini-bio and dates the picture to 1943.

Trailer for “Blood of Eden,” An Iranian CG Feature

We don’t cover a lot of animation from Iran, but the quality of work that I see coming out of the country is constantly improving. This trailer for the animated feature Blood of Eden is among the more cinematically ambitious pieces of Iranian animation I’ve encountered yet.

The film, scheduled for completion next year, comes to us from Didar Pictures, a Tehran-based studio run by the three Najafi brothers—Mohsen, Morteza and Hossein. It is at least the second feature from Iran that is headed toward completion—the other, The Last Fiction, which I wrote about a couple years ago, is still in production as best as I can tell.

The Golden Globe nominees – and why “Frankeweenie” will probably win

The Golden Globe nominees for Best Animated Film have been announced and Brave, Frankenweenie, Hotel Transylvania, Rise of the Guardians and Wreck-It Ralph are on the list. Congratulations to these films and their filmmakers.

My condolences to Laika, Blue Sky, Illumination, Aardman and our friends at GKids for not making the cut. Don’t take it personally – The Hollywood Foreign Press Association is a phoney-baloney group of journalists, comprised of a small group of people nobody has ever heard of.

Unlike the Oscars, the Guilds, the various film critic groups or even the Annies – The people picking these Golden Globe nominees are not professional peers. The Globes is essentially a big show for the public and the studio publicists; a big show for the broadcast networks and their advertisers (Dick Clark Productions owns it). Actors love it for the national exposure.

I think it’s great that the Globes recognize animated features – it’s the only recognition this group throws our way. But it is well known that the members of the Hollywood Foreign Press are easily swayed by high-profile directors and famous movie stars. Getting the big shots to attend their event helps their ratings – and enhances their TV advertising rates.

And that’s why I’m going to go out on a limb to predict that Frankenweenie will win. It’s the Tim Burton film. Everyone knows Tim Burton – especially international journalists. It’s not about which film is better, it’s about the big names… and the general public unfortunately doesn’t know who Mark Andrews, Rich Moore, Peter Ramsey or Genndy are. Yet.

I’d love to see Wreck-It Ralph or Hotel Transylvania get the nod. I’ve got nothing against Frankenweenie. Recognition of any kind is a good thing. But the Golden Globes are a shining example of “playing the game” in Hollywood – and nobody plays it better than the Hollywood Foreign Press Association.

The Golden Globes will be awarded on Jan. 13th, 2013 on NBC.

Music Video Round-Up (Year End Wrap)

Submitted for your approval, a selection of catchy new music videos of various styles – combined in one convenient post for easy review. First up:

Ms. Atomic Bomb by Warren Fu

Ms. Atomic Bomb, the latest single from The Killers is an homage to Moebius. The animation was produced by Titmouse and supervised by Animation Director Jeremy Polgar. Live action portion were produced by Michel Gondry’s production company Partizan Entertainment.

Director: Warren Fu
Animation Director: Jeremy Polgar
Animation Producers: Jennifer Ray & Tim Yoon
Supervising Producer: Ben Kalina
Lead Animator: Dave Gerhard
Character Design: So Yeong Park & Warren Fu
Background Design: Howard Chen, Derek Kosol
Background Paint: Abraham Martinez, Bobby Walker
Animation: Dave Gerhard, Braden Poirier, Andrew Wilson, Parker Simmons
Assistant Animators: Deena Beck, Yanise Cabrera, Yuri Fain, Garrett Hagen, Jonathan Rawlings, Anneli Strassler
Composite: Mike Newton, Thomas McDonnell
Animation Editor: Lauren Hecht

Producer: Josh Goldstein
Director of Photography: Shawn Kim
Editor: Warren Fu
Production Designer: Robert Fox
Sound Design: Peter Lauridsen
Styling: Aubrey Binzer
Makeup: Erin Walters
Executive Producer: Jeff Panteleo
Label Commissioner: Mildred Delamota

Imposter by Timothy Armstrong

Composer, sound designer and illustrator Armstrong created this haunting piece of animation, based on a short story by his friend Luke Oram.

Rat Trap by Brett Underhill

This music video for Scrapomatic by Brooklyn-based Underhill is a nice blend of live and animation.

Mr. Incredible by Mike Scott

The video was part of the Machinima exhibition at the iam8bit gallery in Los Angeles. Scott wrote the song with his brother (together aka The Kiffness). Backgrounds were drawn in Photoshop with a Wacom Intuos 4, animated in Toon Boom Animate 2, compiled in Adobe Premiere Pro.

Please Come Home For Christmas by James Neal

Just in time for the holidays, Burbank-based animator James Neal used traditional old school rotoscope techniques to visualize this Christmas tune by Brooklyn music legend Kenny Vance (and the Planotones).

Animated Christmas Greetings 2012

It’s that time of year… the season when animators all over the world express themselves in their individual ways by creating animated greeting cards. Here’s a few we’ve received so far this month…

Happy Holidays from Montréal-based Jacques Khouri

Merry Christmas from London-based animators Louis & McCourt

Santa Team Six from Sascha Ciezata of LA’s It’s Alive Animation

And finally, this drinking game from London’a Trunk Animation Design

Got a fun animated Christmas greeting? Send it in and we may share it in a future post. Seasons Greetings to all.

The Worst Oscar Night Ever, or “American Pig, I Have Oscar!”

Winning an Oscar is supposed to be a night you’ll always remember. For Polish animator Zbigniew Rybczynski, it was a night he’d rather forget. In 1983, he earned the dubious distinction of being the only person to win an Academy Award, and within minutes, arrested and jailed.

The troubles began the moment that presenter Kristy McNichol tried to announce his name as a nominee in the Best Animated Short category for the film Tango:

She gave up due to the difficulty of his name, and when she had to announce his name again as the winner, she butchered it into something that sounded like “Zbigniewski Sky.”

Rybczynski, dressed in a tuxedo and sneakers, came onstage with his translator. He began his speech, “Distinguished members of the Academy, ladies and gentlemen, I made this short film so I will speak very short. I feel honored to receive this award. I am dreaming that someday I will speak longer from this place…” At that moment, the orchestra cut off his speech with the ignominious Looney Tunes theme.

His translator pleaded to the audience, “It’s not over yet. He has important message.” But McNichol and co-presenter Matt Dillon were already trying to escort Rybczynski offstage. Rybczynski insisted that he couldn’t leave yet, saying, “No, no.” Rybczynski gave McNichol a kiss as she backed off. “That is Slavic custom. We are very warm people,” the translator told the confused audience. Then, continuing via the translator, Rybczynski attempted to make a point that was garbled in the translation: “And on the occasion of the film like Gandhi, which will portray Lech Walesa in solidarity.”

After speaking with reporters in the press room, Rybczynski briefly stepped outside of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion to enjoy a victory smoke. When he tried to walk back into the building, holding an Oscar no less, a private security guard denied him entry. The overaggressive guard’s behavior escalated into a physical altercation and the police were called.

Two officers arrived, Sgt. Richard Longshore and another detective. “I had a female detective with me who spoke about 15 languages,” Longshore said. “She explained the situation to him.” A frustrated (and according to the police, intoxicated) Rybczynski looked at Longshore and yelled, ‘American pig, I have Oscar.’ Then—if you believe the police account—Rybczynski tried to kick him in the groin.

Rybczynski was arrested, and his Oscar was booked as “property.” In jail, he asked to speak to celebrity ‘palimony’ lawyer Marvin Mitchelson, the only American lawyer whose name he’d ever heard. Mitchelson later quipped that when he was first contacted, he said, “First bring me an interpreter, and then tell me how to pronounce his name.”

The district attorney’s office declined to prosecute Rybczynski, saying there had been a language problem. Rybczynski later offered his own opinion of the event, saying that “success and defeat are quite intertwined.”

“Success and defeat are quite intertwined.”

While Rybczynski’s special night was special for all the wrong reasons, the story has a happy ending. After the Oscar, he had a successful career directing dozens of experimental shorts and MTV music videos, and also spent many years developing new technologies like hi-def TV.

After years of living in the US, Rybczynski recently returned to Poland where he is heading the Wroclaw Visual Technology Studios, a hybrid school/production studio that focuses on applying new technologies to film production. Future confrontations with American law enforcement are perhaps less likely nowadays because, as this video shows, Rybczynski has also learned how to speak English.

Sources used in this story: Oscars.org, LA Times. Tango’s IMDB page, “Behind the Oscar: The Secret History of the Academy Awards” by Anthony Holden

“Samurai Jew” by Nadav Nachmany

Kosher hero fights off ninja pigs to save a traditional holiday jelly donut (a Sufganiyah). Thus begins Samurai Jew: The Eighth Night, the first chapter in the adventures of “a Jewish super warrior” from Jerusalem-based animator Nadav Nachmany.

Nachmany recently finished his animation studies at the Bezalel Academy for Fine Art and Design, and is now an independent filmaker. His graduate film, Moving Pictures, is curently runing in festivals around the world. He’s good! Check out more of his work here.

Oh, and Happy Hanukkah!

“Guardians” Getting The Last Laugh

A funny thing happened to Dreamworks’ Rise of The Guardians on its way to box-office oblivion – it’s quietly becoming a hit.

In its third weekend in release, 19 days at the box-office, Guardians was the number #2 film in the U.S. (grossing $10.5 million, with a total come of $61.9 to date), behind James Bond’s Skyfall, and ahead of Twilight Breaking Dawn 2, Lincoln, Life of Pi and Wreck-It Ralph (who’s $164.4 million gross is nothing to sneeze at).

The Hollywood trade press once again reveals its strange double standard when reporting on animated films. Unless its a blockbuster – animated films aren’t worth talking about. This article in today’s L.A. Times, a survey of the weekend box office, doesn’t even mention the number #2 film, Rise of The Guardians, in its text!

Deadline Hollywood was quick last week to report on Guardians causing Dreamworks stock to drop, quoting a Wall Street insider who called it “one of the most disappointing releases in the company’s history”. But this week the blog barely mentions Guardians rise to #2 – still calling the film a “disappointment”.

Apparently it’s not a disappointment to family audiences worldwide – in fact, The Associated Press reports Guardians is currently the #1 film in international markets, with a box office gross last weekend of $26 million. The combined US and international gross for the film in less than a month in release is over $152 million – and counting.

This post isn’t about the pros and cons of Rise of the Guardians itself – and perhaps the film isn’t doing the numbers Dreamworks hoped it would. This post is about the hypocrisy (and perhaps conspiracy) of industry reporters who continue to treat animated films as second class citizens. Unless it’s a blockbuster or has a director too big to ignore, animation doesn’t fit into the glamorous scenario the Hollywood reporters wish to spin – audiences and box office grosses be damned.

(Thanks, Nick Bruel)

“Animation Pals” by Pen Ward and Ian Jones-Quartey

If you are like me and enjoy everything animator Pendleton Ward (Adventure Time) does – check out this new series of casual mini-webisodes Ward and colleague Ian Jones-Quartey have been posting every Sunday night. They’ve done three so far and they are a lot of fun.

In addition to the growing Adventure Time empire, Ward has recently launched a new series based on his other Random Cartoons pilot, The Bravest Warriors. Four episodes of the new show are online now. Good stuff!

The Festival of Lights

Yann Moriaud, a student in the Masters program in Directing at the Bellecour Schools of Art in Lyon, France, pointed us to this unusual animated film he co-directed. Notice its unique size and shape.

It was created for a famous annual event “Fête des Lumières” (The Festival of Lights) and the finished work was projected onto the side of a building. Moriaud explains:

“It is a big annual event that takes place in the streets of big french cities during December. This event gathers many creations of artists from different horizons around one theme: the light. There are many form of expression like wall-projections of classic or CG animation and live-footage, interactive experiences for the visitors and so on.

“This project is dedicated for a specific program of student experimentation, to intentionally bring a new vision to the installations. Students were constrained and informed of technicals aspects which are proper to the monumental projection.

The building’s surface for this event was impressive (about 24 meters high, 79 feet). This is why we thought about doing something imposing, huge, to catch and keep the attention of the audience and enhance the building.

So we decided to use the surface as a big aquarium where a big fish, Bobby, eats other little fishes. Unfortunately for him, his gluttony will not be without secondary effects…

We were given a free hand concerning the choice of subject and its complete design, so we felt free to propose our own vision for the event. Because of our studies and our personal desires, we naturally followed the structure of a very short 3D cg feature. We also brought in some cartoon humor with our little gags.”

We were 5 directors:

Yann Moriaud: Directing, Project management, Character Rigging/Scripting, Props and Characters Shading, Rendering.

Alexandre Spontak: Directing, Main character Modeling and Shading, Lighting, Compositing, Rendering.

Fabien Weibel: Directing, Concept, Main character Animation, FX : water simulation.

Antoine Marduel: Directing, Character-design, Secondary Characters and Props Animation.

Youssef Krafess: Directing, Secondary characters, props and background modeling.

The tools we mainly used are 3DSMAX for all the CG part and the animation, and After Effects for the compositing. Concerning the water simulation we prefered to use an open-source tool : Blender.

Here’s a bit of a behind-the-scenes video:

Jazz Legend Dave Brubeck (1920-2012)

Jazz pianist Dave Brubeck, of “Take Five” fame, died last Wednesday, the day before his 92nd birthday.

Brubeck had at least a couple of animation connections. He composed music for “The NASA Space Station” episode of the animated mini-series This is America, Charlie Brown. He also inspired animators, including Oscar-winner Zbigniew Rybczyński (Tango) whose experimental student film Take Five used Brubeck’s music as a backdrop. The film can be viewed on this website.

Most significantly, Brubeck released an album in 1957 called Dave Digs Disney ($5 on Amazon). Although it may not seem particularly daring today, Brubeck took a big risk when he recorded this album.

At the time he recorded it, the Disney songbook was considered below the talents of respectable modern jazz musicians like Brubeck. Jazz critic Marc Myers wrote, “Back in the ’50s, no one in jazz took Disney movies or their soundtracks seriously. Disney Images represented Squaresville, a largely white Utopian world in which bad moods, misfortune and unconventional lifestyles simply didn’t exist.” Brubeck’s album turned out to be a huge success, and soon after, other top jazz artists like Miles Davis, Oscar Peterson, John Coltrane and Bill Evans were all recording their own versions of Disney tunes.

JazzWax’s Marc Myers has written extensively about Brubeck’s Disney record, including memories from Brubeck’s wife Iola and record producer George Avakian. Avakian told JazzWax:

“The Disney theme was Dave’s idea, and I was amazed when he called and told me what he wanted to do. I think I said, ‘Jesus, what a goofy idea.’ But anything Dave wanted short of tearing down the building was fine with me. He was taken with the tunes, and the quintet had been playing them on the road quite a bit. As you know, Dave and Paul had a quirky sense of humor…When the record came out, there were a few who said, ‘What is Dave doing recording Disney?’ The inference was that the album’s theme was somehow trite or child-like, and not nearly as serious as Dave’s earlier efforts. None of which was the case then—or now. Dave was ahead of his time tapping into the Disney songbook. Look at how many artists have done the same since.”

Below are a few cuts from the album:


“Alice in Wonderland”

“When You Wish Upon A Star”

The Greatest Cartoons Ever! (Part 3)

Looking for something to do after all the presents have been opened and all the parties are over? On Saturday, December 29th at 2 & 7 pm, The Alex Film Society (of which I am a part of) will be presenting the 3rd annual Greatest Cartoons Ever event at The Alex Theatre in Glendale California (216 N. Brand Boulevard).

Each year we select eight great cartoon shorts from the golden age of animation, then project rare 35mm film prints (some of them in original Technicolor; all of the from the studio vaults) on the large Alex Theatre screen. Great characters, great films and an incredible movie-going experience.

This year, our classic animated program will include films from Warner Bros., Disney, MGM and even an amazing pre-sound classic from the Paramount’s Fleischer Studio. (I’ll post the titles of the specific cartoons being shown in a reminder post right after Christmas). Asifa-Hollywood president Frank Gladstone and I will be there to introduce the program.

General Admission: $15 general admission; $12.50 seniors/kids & groups of 15 or more.

Advance tickets are on sale now online or you can buy them before the show at the box office. Hope to see you there!

The Alex Theatre
216 North Brand Blvd.
Glendale, CA 91203

Tomorrow in NYC: Lillian Schwartz Retrospective

This should be a good one. Tomorrow evening, the Museum of Modern Art is presenting a retrospective of work by legendary computer animator Lillian Schwartz. The 85-year-old Schwartz will be present at the screening to introduce her work:

New York–based artist Lillian Schwartz (b. 1927) became a pioneer of computer-generated art in the late 1960s while a resident at Bell Laboratories, where she continued working as an artist, filmmaker, and art historian for over three decades. She was among the first American artists to employ computer language to create motion-graphics-based film and video art. Schwartz joins us to introduce a selection of her technically complex, finely executed investigations into visual perception. The program includes 2-D/3-D films from the 1970s to the present, such as Pixillation (1970), UFOs (1971), Enigma (1973), Olympiad (1973), and the newly released Before, Before (2012).

Tickets are $12 regular admission and $8 for students. Screening starts at 7pm. More details on the MoMA website.

Here’s a 1976 documentary about Schwartz’s work:

Mike Carlo’s Cartoon Madness

Mike Carlo is an animator at Titmouse’s N.Y. Studio, and the animation director on Superjail. Over the last few years Carlo has been working on a bunch of his own short films, (we posted one of them two years ago, The President of the Universe). Says Carlo:

“Someone from Nick development saw Science Fare a year ago and I’ve been working on pitches for them ever since. I’m always working on another one, I try to do one a year for a show an animator friend of mine throws each year out here in N.Y. It’s called Midsummer Night Toons, and every year 5-6 animators make original shorts and premiere them at the show, so its been great motivation to make something. I hand draw everything, and provide the voices for most of the characters.”

These are very polished, professional cartoons that look as good – and are just as funny – as anything on Adult Swim or Comedy Central. I predict he’ll be running his own show very soon.

Rusty Mills, RIP

Sad news to relay: veteran animator, producer and director Rusty Mills (Animaniacs, Pink Panther, Pinky and the Brain, etc.) passed away yesterday, due to organ failure from colon cancer.

To say he was one of the “good guys” is an understatement. I really only knew Rusty from industry social functions (usually annual Christmas parties and through various mutual acquaintances) but he was always friendly and truly interested in advancing the cause of creating good cartoons. He will be missed.

The Animation Guild is reporting that Rusty’s wife, Andrea, and Evan, their 15 year old son, could really use help. Please visit their fundraising blog and give what you can.

As a personal tribute, let’s take look at one of his episodes of Animaniacs, a holiday themed cartoon – A Christmas Plotz:

Does A ‘CalArts Sensibility’ Exist?

A minority of CalArts alumni take great offense if you imply in the slightest that the school’s illustrious Character Animation program has a recognizable sensibility. Of course, it’s a perfectly valid observation that student films from a particular school might look similar, and the observation isn’t unique to CalArts.

It’s easy to identify a lot of school’s films simply by the styles, themes, and lengths of their output. Schools like Royal College of Art, Gobelins, and Sheridan each have house styles that are copied by a significant number of their students. This echo chamber effect is understandable, and to a large extent, unavoidable. Artists are influenced by what’s happening around them, and in a competitive animation school, there will be a strong temptation to emulate the work of other standout students in the program.

Perhaps the reason that people don’t like to acknowledge the existence of a CalArts sensibility is that the observation is typically followed by a critique about the school’s detrimental influence within the animation industry—the derisive “CalArts style” argument. The school’s proximity to the Los Angeles industry and the prevalence of its artists in LA studios make it an easy target for such attacks, which are oftentimes unwarranted.

However, there is at least some truth to the argument, though it’s less about any particular style and more about the herd mentality of some of its grads. Historically, when a certain TV series or feature created by a CalArts student has been successful, other CalArts grads have jumped on the bandwagon and tried to replicate its success. An example of this followed the success of Cartoon Network’s Dexter’s Lab. A full decade after its super-stylized look had been fully exhausted, Nickelodeon was still commissioning similarly stylized shows like My Life As A Teenage Robot, Danny Phantom, The X’s, El Tigre, and The Mighty B!. Not surprisingly, all five of those shows were created by CalArts grads.

At least one CalArts alum isn’t afraid to go on the record about the possibility of a CalArts sensibility. During an interview with IAmRogue.com, Wreck-It Ralph director Rich Moore (who we’ve already established isn’t afraid to speak his mind) was asked whether the reason his film felt so Pixar-ish was because of the “John Lasseter effect.” Moore responded that it had less to do with Lasseter and more with the fact that they both attended the same school:

I think it may be a CalArts effect because really the sensibility that the Pixar films have, is really, I believe, is a sensibility that was born at that college(CalArts). Where I myself  was a graduate of that school, Andrew Stanton is from CalArts, Brad Bird, Joe Ranft, John Lasseter.  So, I think there is a sensibility that comes out of that school that Pixar is kind of built on. So, naturally if I’m at Disney making a film, it’s going to have that feeling of our roots.

At least one other person agrees with Rich Moore. That’s the person in the CalArts publicity department who is promoting his comments and who sent me a press release with the title “Wreck-it Ralph Director Rich Moore sees a distinctive CalArts style in today’s animation.”

Someday, someone should conduct an examination of the school’s broader impact on the animation industry. Lots of fantastic artists have emerged from CalArts, and the school deserves recognition for the influence its program has had on the art form for the last three or four decades. For such an examination to occur though, more CalArts grads need to follow Moore’s lead and become comfortable with the idea that the CalArts sensibility doesn’t end when students leave the school, but is, for better and worse, a point-of-view carried by artists throughout their careers.

Here’s the entire interview with Moore:

“Pups of Liberty” by Bert and Jennifer Klein

We first posted about Bert and Jennifer Klein’s beautiful 2D independent short Pups of Liberty in 2009. This short explains the American Revolution (or Americanine Revolution) through traditional hand drawn animation, making it a perfect educational tool for kids. Starting today the film available for sale to teachers as well as the public at izzit.org and Amazon.com.

The production is superb – animated in off hours by veteran Disney artists including Mark Henn, Eric Goldberg, Hyun-Min Lee, James Lopez, Frans Vischer, Tony DeRosa and Barry Atkinson – and I’m delighted to see it get a legitimate video release. Here’s a clip:

For more info and behind the scenes images, check out the izzit.org website – and if your a fan of this project, “like” the Pups Of Liberty facebook page.

“Franklin the Ladies Cat” by Bard Edlund

He’s not Felix and definitely not Fritz. Franklin is an enterprising cat looking for love in the big city.

Oslo-born, New York designer/songwriter Bard Edlund funded this new series of shorts through Kickstarter. The first episode is a bit laid-back and a little talky, but it has a certain charm that justifies its being. I like it. Edlund sent us this note:

“Long-time fan of the Brew! This started out as a short film, but I edited it down to become the first episode of a series. I’m a beginner, with lots to learn about both animation and writing, but I hope this could still be of interest! I feel it has a quiet mood to it that differs from most of what’s out there.”

Everything We Do Is Animation

This video of plane landings by Cy Kuckenbaker has been quite the sensation this week, amassing over 1.7 million views between postings on Vimeo and YouTube. The video is, of course, not shot in real time, but rather, a composite of all the planes that landed at a single airport over a four-and-a-half hour period.

I discovered the video on Kottke.org where Jason Kottke referred to it as another example of “time merge media,” a trend that he first spotted nearly five years ago. However, the first thing I thought of when I saw it was Zbigniew Rybczynski’s masterful short Tango (1980):

There are obvious differences between the two pieces. Tango is an animated film created using a combination of pixilation and cut-out techniques whereas Kuckenbaker’s plane landings was created through a fancy bit of live-action video compositing with Premiere. But the resulting effect of densely layered imagery that manipulates our perception of time, or ‘time merge media’ as Kottke calls it, is substantially similar in both works.

While film as a whole is a medium that revolves around the compression of time, the graphic nature of animation allows for the most exaggerated and extreme forms of temporal compression. In Dumb-Hounded (1943), Tex Avery visually condensed the Wolf’s week-long journey by car, ship, plane, and horse into a mere 30-seconds of screen time, and in the following sequence, further compressed a second journey of similar length into 15-seconds.

Today’s digital tools allow live-action filmmakers to easily achieve effects that filmmakers like Rybczynski (and Avery before him) were applying decades earlier in animation. We are tempted to give the effects fancy new names like “time merge media,” but they are really just an extension of well-established animated thinking. It is a testament to the success of animation that its influence has been so thoroughly absorbed and diffused throughout visual media that no one can pinpoint the source anymore.

John Cage once said that, “Everything we do is music.” I’d suggest that as far as contemporary visual culture is concerned, everything we do is animation.

Mondo Looney Tunes

Dear Warner Bros.,

Hire these guys to make your cartoon posters.

Today, Texas-based Mondo will be releasing two more entries into their limited edition Looney Tunes poster series. Mondo creates limited edition screen print posters of favorite classic and contemporary films. They also have a gallery space in Austin.

The two new posters will be available online today – Thursday, December 6th – at a random time. Hyde and Go Tweet is by Phantom City Creative; Hair-Raising Hare is by artist Michael De Pippo. Click the gallery below to see these and earlier releases by artist Tom Whelan. To purchase, you have to follow Mondo on Twitter for the on-sale announcement. Each edition is limited to 260.

(Thanks, Thom Foolery)