Did “Frankenweenie” Kill Guillermo del Toro’s Stop-Mo “Pinocchio” Project? [UPDATED]

Last May, it was announced that Guillermo del Toro and animation veteran Mark Gustafson (Fantastic Mr. Fox, The PJs) would co-direct a stop motion adaptation of Pinocchio for the Jim Henson Company. The film was based on a version of the story illustrated by Gris Grimly.

According to Bleeding Cool, Grimly posted a couple of tweets yesterday that implied the project is stalled:

Short to the point update on Pinocchio for those inquiring: It appears that this is not the right time for such a superior-adventurous flick
— Gris Grimly (@GrisGrimly) January 30, 2013

and then:

@thinkbaker There are people like us out there. But they look at numbers. Frankenweenie was a box office failure to them.
— Gris Grimly (@GrisGrimly) January 30, 2013

The tweets have since been deleted so perhaps Grimly’s announcement was premature. The production studio ShadowMachine still lists the project on their homepage. With Henry Selick’s stop-motion film also shut down last year, what other feature film stop-mo projects are still in production? If anyone knows more about what’s happening, do tell.

[UPDATED—Feb. 2, 2013]: Gris Grimly gave an update to Bleeding Cool about his earlier comments on Twitter. He says Pinocchio is still alive though it would appear that no studio has committed to the film yet:

I’m writing to clear up the rumor that has gotten started. It all started with misconstrued information that I passed along through my networks. But it has come to my knowledge that Pinocchio is indeed still kicking with interest from the studios. Although I thought it was going to lay quiet for a little while, I never thought it would be canceled. It’s too good.

“Cattle Call” by Matt Rankin and Mike Maryniuk

Cattle Call (2008) offers a fascinating glimpse into a world that is completely foreign to me. It made a strong impression when I saw it a few years back in Ottawa and I’m delighted to report that it’s every bit as exhilarating to watch again now that it’s been posted online.

Directed by Matt Rankin and Mike Maryniuk, the film uncovers the inherent art within livestock auctioneering, which filmmaker Werner Herzog once described as “the last poetry possible, the poetry of capitalism.”

Filmmakers Rankin and Maryniuk capture the madcap energy of their subject matter by deploying a rapid-fire assortment of techniques, including stop-motion, cut-outs, open-exposures, hole-punching and rubbing Letraset directly on the celluloid. They manage to turn this experimental grabbag into a mightily entertaining film—a testament to their skills as animation filmmakers. Their unconventional approach also shows that the documentary format in animation offers a range of nonliteral and non-narrative possibilities that extends beyond the formal limitations of live-action documentary.

“Where Mary Lives..” by Shako

Journeyman animator Shako (aka Shibabrata Chakraborty) created this beautifully creepy short. It tells a disturbing tale, via a rich textured-print look evoking old kitschy paintings. Or at least, it looks that way to me. I love it.

A girl named Mary has a dark past. She lives in her foster home but her painful past never leaves her. She suffers from a rare mental disease called Attachment Disorder. Will she get well? Will she be able to feel love again?

“A Gum Boy” by Masaki Okuda

A Gum Boy (Kuchao) by Masaki Okuda is a 2010 student film produced at the Tokyo University of the Arts. The film addresses difficult subject matter—adolescent ostracism—through a creative and non-literal use of animation that marries the fluid grace of a watercolor style with frenzied use of camera and cutting. Okuda’s mastery of film technique, narrative and visual style elevates Gum Boy beyond the average student film, and for that matter, the average professional short film as well.

Direction, Animation and Editing: Masaki Okuda
Music: Daisuke Matsuoka
Song: Yushiro Kuramochi
Sound Design: Kyohei Takahashi
Samisen: Kohdai Minoda
Sound Design: Kyohei Takahashi
Mixing Engineer: Yoshito Morita
Music Mixing Engineer: Shinpei Kusaka

“The Chase” by Rok Predin

The latest short from UK’s Trunk Animation director Rok Predin is a haunting little art film starring some nasty cat-demons and a rather cute car.

Composer Ivan Arnold drives Rok Predin’s latest project for Trunk Animation.

Long-term collaborators director Rok Predin and composer Ivan Arnold have worked on a number of great shorts including ‘Winter Poem’, ‘Inside’ and Rok’s comical short ‘Curiosity Killed The Cat’. Normally Rok has been the driving force on these projects bringing in Ivan to compose to his finished work. Yet for their latest short ‘The Chase’ the initial concept came from Ivan. He wanted to work on a score that had as he notes a “dynamic travelling rhythm” that is a strong and central presence in a short rather than a score that sits in the background.

Naturally Ivan turned to his reliable collaborator Rok to work on this concept. The resulting short is a treat. Rok has filmed a beautiful and determined chase sequence. In the video a rather cute toy-like car gradually starts to disintegrate while it is being pursued by huge cat demons that look as though they have escaped from a nightmare Alice in Wonderland. Ivan’s score uses a softly played Asian gamelan to set the tempo of the piece overlaid with a soundscape that creates a haunting melody that drives the short forward.

Rok chose the toy look of the car and colour palette to promote the dream like, unreal nature of the video. Rok also noted that “ A single shot was used throughout the video to keep the viewer engaged and to keep up the suspense while Ivan’s music provided the pace for the chase”.

The 3D car and cats were created in Cinema 4D while the texture, pyro-effects, beautiful colour grading and composition were created using After Effects.

In typical Rok style I can reveal there is a dark ending for the cute car!!

Animation/Director: Rok Predin
Music: Ivan Arnold
Producer: Richard Barnett

“Full Moon” by Revital Laufer and Guy Garibian

Here’s a gorgeous little graduation film from Bezalel Academy of Art and Design out of Jerusalem, combining hand drawn animation with live miniature sets.

The filmmakers are Revital Laufer, a Stop-Motion Animator, Director, Artist, Photographer and Art Designer; and Guy Garibian, a Classic Animator, Director, After-Effects Animator and a Character Designer, working as a graphic artist in the Israel Broadcasting Authority.

They describe describe the film this way:

Our movie describes a young new couple, arriving to their new and modest house, whose construction is still in progress. The house resides in the center of a secluded forest.

During the movie the hero notices a high structure in the forest, towering above all the trees, and desires to make his house even taller.

The hero abandons the task of ending the construction of the roof of his house, and instead puts all his energy and time to the task of constructing more and more levels to it.

Meanwhile, the hero’s relationship with his family gradually degrades, reaching a point where the only way of communication between then is through the hole in the ceiling of the house. While the family spends it’s days on the lower level of the house, the hero stays on the upper levels, busily attending his construction work up to the point where he is abandoned by his family and left alone.

Technique: Classic Animation and Stop Motion Animation.

Disney Shuts Down Epic Mickey Studio; Warren Spector Leaving Disney

Disney announced today that they will shut down Austin,Texas-based Junction Point, the game studio that had developed the Epic Mickey gameseries. Disney acquired the studio, founded by Warren Spector and Art Min, in 2007.

In an emailed statement, the Disney company said:

“It was with much sadness that we informed our teams today of changes to our Games organization, which include the closure of Junction Point Studios. These changes are part of our ongoing effort to address the fast-evolving gaming platforms and marketplace and to align resources against our key priorities. We’re extremely grateful to Warren Spector and the Junction Point team for their creative contributions to Disney with Disney Epic Mickey and Disney Epic Mickey 2.”

Spector will no longer be involved with Disney. The Disney Company announced earlier this month that they were developing a new gaming initiative called Disney Infinity.

Gallery: The Organic Architecture of “The Flintstones”

The Flintstones (1960) have been duly celebrated throughout the years, but one part of the Hanna-Barbera series that hasn’t received much attention is its iconic architectural setting: those brilliantly appealing and organic circular ranch houses topped with pancaked granite slabs.

The designer of the prehistoric Flintstones universe was a man named Ed Benedict (1912-2006), the same man who designed the show’s characters.

Benedict dreamt up the Flintstones homes almost entirely from imagination. He was once asked if he used any reference to design them. He replied, “No, with the exception of on the interior of one of the samples I made, I did look up some prehistoric stuff—cave paintings. I just looked up in there and got the old typical buffalo looking thing running across a wall, just to get the flavor of it.”

Benedict had had a bit of practice with the Stone Age setting. He had designed cavemen and cavehomes once before for the 1955 Tex Avery short The First Bad Man:

The cave homes in The First Bad Man, built into the sides of rock formations, look uncomfortable compared to the domesticated setting of the Flintstones, replete with garages, front yards with flower beds, swimming pools, and living rooms with couches. Benedict probably didn’t come up with the original idea of giving the Flintstones all the creature comforts of suburbia, but the credit for making the idea work visually belongs to him.

The Flintstones designs in the image gallery below were created by Benedict for the original network presentation. These pieces established the general look and feel of the Flintstones universe and served as a guide for the layout artists who built out the world in each episode. A rare photographic print set of these drawings is currently being auctioned on HowardLowery.com.

Saturday in LA: The Annie Awards

The Annie Awards ceremony takes place on Saturday night (2/2/13) at UCLA’s Royce Hall. VIP Tickets are sold out, but General Admission tickets ($30) for the ceremony still can be purchased directly through the UCLA Ticket Box office. Live streaming will only be available this year through the Annie website.

Asifa-Hollywood has just announced that Leonard Maltin, voice actors Rob Paulsen & Maurice Lamarche and actor/producer Seth Green will host the event. Complete Press release below:

Animation’s Most Prestigious Night!

BURBANK, CA (January 29, 2013) – Why have just one when you can have four! Former Annie Awards host and movie reviewer Leonard Maltin and voice actors Rob Paulsen & Maurice Lamarche will share hosting duties, along with a special appearance by long time Annies presenter-favorite, actor and animation industry professional Seth Green at this year’s 40th Annual Annie Awards set for Saturday, February 2 at UCLA’s Royce Hall. Celebrating the best in animation, this annual black-tie evening will begin with a pre-reception at 5 p.m. followed by the Annie Awards ceremony at 7 p.m. and an after-party celebration immediately following the ceremony. All events will be held at Royce Hall.

“We are very excited to have our hosts share in the 40th celebration of the Annies and know they will bring great energy and excitement to this year’s ceremony,’’ says ASIFA-Hollywood President Frank Gladstone. Joined on stage by a lively mix of animation luminaries, celebrity presenters and comedic talent including animation legend June Foray are Jessica Walter, James Patrick Stuart, Kristen Schaal, Mae Whitman, Sean Astin, Greg Cipes, Jason Biggs, Jessica DiCicco, Lucas Grabeel, Darren Criss & Joey Richter, Kevin Shinick, Jim Cummings & Diedrich Bader, Atticus Shaffer & Tucker Albrizzi, Jamie Bolio, Kevin Michael Richarson & Loretta Devine, Alan Tudyk, Mo Collins, Max Charles, Jon Olsen & Fred
Tatashiore, Sam Witmer & Matt Lanter, Tony Anselmo.

This year’s Winsor McCay recipients are Terry Gilliam, Oscar Grillo and Mark Henn. The Winsor McCay Award stands as one of the highest honors given to an individual in the animation industry in recognition for career contributions to the art of animation. The June Foray award will be presented to Howard Green and the Ub Iwerks Award will be presented to Toon Boom Animation.

Often a predictor of the annual Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, the Annie Awards honor overall excellence as well as individual achievement in a total of 30 categories ranging from best feature, production design, character animation, and effects animation to storyboarding, writing, music, editing and voice acting. Entries submitted for consideration were from productions that originally aired, were exhibited in an animation festival or commercially released between January 1, 2012 and December 31, 2012.

ASIFA-Hollywood is the world’s first and foremost professional organization dedicated to promoting the Art of Animation and celebrating the people who create it. Today, ASIFA-Hollywood, the largest chapter of the international organization ASIFA, supports a range of animation activities and preservation efforts through its membership. Current initiatives include the Animation Archive, animation film preservation, special events, classes and screenings.

Created in 1972 by veteran voice talent June Foray, the Annie Awards have grown in scope and stature for the past three decades.

Brad Bird’s Next Film Will Be Called “Tomorrowland”

A clearer picture of Brad Bird’s next live-action feature film project is starting to emerge. Described as a Close Encounters Of The Third Kind-esque project about a man who makes contact with aliens on Earth, the film’s official title was revealed today as Tomorrowland, a not-so-subtle tie-in to another part of the Disney empire:

The Walt Disney Studios has announced that its live-action release previously known as 1952 will be titled Tomorrowland. The film will be released domestically on December 19, 2014. George Clooney is set to star. Tomorrowland is written by Damon Lindelof and Brad Bird from a concept by Lindelof and Jeff Jensen. Lindelof (Star Trek, Lost, Prometheus) will produce and Bird (The Incredibles, Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol) will produce and direct.

“Eyes on the Stars” by the Rauch Brothers

Today, in honor of the 27th anniversary of the space shuttle Challenger disaster, we are treated to another flawless pull-at-my-heartstrings Storycorps story courtesy of the Rauch Brothers:

On January 28, 1986, NASA Challenger mission STS-51-L ended in tragedy when the shuttle exploded 73 seconds after takeoff. On board was physicist Ronald E. McNair, who was the second African American to enter space. But first, he was a kid with big dreams in Lake City, South Carolina.

Directed by the Rauch Brothers
Storyboard: Stephen DeStefano
Animation: Tim Rauch
Assistant Animation: Erica Perez
Backgrounds: Bill Wray
FX and Compositing: Gary Leib

“Day and Night” Director Teddy Newton is Developing A Feature At Pixar [UPDATED]

Teddy Newton is developing a feature film at Pixar. That last sentence should excite anyone who knows Newton’s work.

One could be forgiven though for being unfamiliar with his career because the amount of Newton’s work that has made it to the screen is a fraction of what he’s produced throughout the years. He is probably best known today for directing the hybrid drawn/CG Pixar short Day and Night.

But Newton, who has worked at Pixar for over a decade, has also done character design on the short Presto, designed the end credits of Ratatouille, and provided voices on films like Toy Story 3 and WALL·E. He once described his role at the company as being “like a spice that you don’t put too much in.” His most significant animation contribution has been to the Brad Bird feature The Incredibles (and prior to that, The Iron Giant) for which he provided conceptual ideas, character designs and storyboards.

Newton’s notoriety stems in part from his unreleased work (like his faux-animation documentary The Studio of Tomorrow), his unused gags (legend has it that at Disney he once pitched a story sequence with Pocahontas having her time of the month), and his personal work, which includes the feature film The Trouble with Lou:

and the short Boys Night Out:

On this new project, Teddy is working with screenwriter Derek Connolly, who wrote last year’s well received indie film Safety Not Guaranteed. With Newton at the director’s helm, there is every reason to anticipate an exciting and original film. But there is also an inherent risk in asking a highly individual artist to package their style and sensibility for the creativity-inhibiting world of big-studio feature animation.

While flipping through some old files, I found a 1996 issue of Variety with a spotlight on Pixar. The issue featured a congratulatory ad from Teddy Newton. It was made years before he started working at Pixar, at a time when he was involved in an indie outfit called O’Plenty Animation Studio. The ad features a drawing by Newton riffing on the only film that Pixar had made at that point, Toy Story. As I look at this drawing, all I can hope is that Newton finds a way to merge his creative instincts with the Pixar style in a manner that pleases everyone.

UPDATE: Brew reader M. R. Horhager points us to this DVD featurette about Teddy Newton’s work on The Iron Giant:

(Teddy Newton photo via fxguide)

“The Reward” and other films from Denmark’s Animation Workshop

The talk of the town this morning is this friggin’ brilliant short – The Reward – an epic “hero’s journey” in nine minutes (take that, Peter Jackson). This graduation film was directed by Mikkel Mainz and Kenneth Ladekjaer (and their team: Glenn August, Jonas Andreassen, Josefine Hannibal, Karen Bennetzen, Ole Christian Loken, Paolo Giandoso and Tanja Nielsen) at Denmark’s Animation Workshop.

Animator/teacher Mike Nguyen (Iron Giant) recently forwarded this and links to five other great films and trailers from this year’s graduating class. Mike gives a a 2-3 week workshop on character animation to first year students. (Mike is currently based in Korea, teaching traditional animation there).

Go to the link to explore further work from this outstanding school. Below I’ve embed a few of my other favorites.

Under The Fold (Director: Bo Juhl Nielson)

Memoria (Director: Elisabit Yr Atladottir)

The Odd Sound Out (Directors: Pernille Sihm, Ida Maria Schouw Andreasen)

First Look: “Steven Universe” by Rebecca Sugar

Cartoon Network has unveiled a poster for Steven Universe, the new animated series by Rebecca Sugar:

Slated to debut in 2013, Steven Universe is a coming-of-age story told from the perspective of Steven, the youngest member of a team of magical Guardians of the Universe. The animated series was conceived as part of the shorts development initiative at Cartoon Network Studios, and is created by Emmy and Annie Award-nominated writer and storyboard artist Rebecca Sugar (Adventure Time). Sugar is Cartoon Network’s first solo female show creator.

See more Cartoon Brew coverage about Rebecca Sugar.

César Nominations Include Five Animated Films

Imagine the Oscars.

Now, imagine the Oscars if they were presented in French and no one cared about them.

That’s the César Awards, which are presented annually by France’s Academy of Arts and Techniques of Cinema.

Last Friday, the organization announced the nominations for the 38th César Awards, which will be presented on February 22nd. They have an animation category that lumps features and shorts together, but in spite of this quirk, they managed to come up with five deserving nominees:

Edmond Was a Donkey directed by Franck Dion

Oh Willy… directed by Emma De Swaef and Marc James Roels

Ernest and Celestine directed by Benjamin Renner, Vincent Patar and Stéphane Aubier

Kirikou and the Men and Women directed by Michel Ocelot

Zarafa directed by Rémi Bezançon and Jean-Christophe Lie

Weekend Groove: Music Videos from Australia, Germany, Belgium and France

We’re going to start featuring the most interesting, creative and original animated music videos every weekend in a new section we call the Weekend Groove. Submit you vidoes HERE.

“Gangsta Riddim” directed by about:blank (Belgium)

Audio excerpt of “Gangsta Riddim” remix by Roel Funcken. Gangsta Riddim (Original) by SCANONE.

“Over You” directed by Drushba Pankow (Germany)

“Over You” is a music video clip originally made for the song “Nobody’s Fool” by Parov Stelar. The Berlin-based musician Michal Krajczok wrote and produced his song “Over You” especially for this video, featuring the voice of Larissa Blau. The video is directed, designed and animated by Drushba Pankow (Alexandra Kardinar and Volker Schlecht), with additional animation by Maxim Vassiliev.

“A Very Unusual Map” directed by Loup Blaster (France)

A music video for Hibou Blaster

“Teapot” directed by Clem Stamation (Australia)

Cantaloupe are a synth-guitar/bass-drums trio from Nottingham, UK, formed in January 2011. Drawing influences from Afro-pop to Krautrock to the avant garde, who aim to make infectuous and thoroughly pleasing instrumental pop music.

Upcoming In NYC: Richard Williams Tribute Series

To celebrate the upcoming 80th birthday of Richard Williams, 92Y Tribeca will present three evenings of screenings devoted to his work:

Wednesday, February 27: A screening of Who Framed Roger Rabbit on 35mm. (It is the film’s 25th anniversary this year.)

Thursday, February 28: An evening of Richard Williams rarities including his ambitious early short The Little Island (1958). The program will be introduced by NY animation director (and former Williams employee) Michael Sporn.

Friday, March 1: A screening of the fantastic new documentary Persistence of Vision, about Williams’ decades-long attempt to create his personal masterpiece The Thief and the Cobbler. I’ll be hosting a discussion with the director of the documentary, Kevin Schreck, after the 7pm screening.

92Y Tribeca is located in Manhattan (200 Hudson Street, NY, NY 10013). Tickets for each screening are $12 and available on the 92Y Tribeca website.

And The Winner of Cartoon Brew’s Student Animation Festival Audience Prize is…

We’re extremely delighted to announce today that the winner of Cartoon Brew’s 2012 Student Animation Festival AUDIENCE PRIZE is Money Bunny Blues by Ellen Coons. The award was voted by Cartoon Brew readers who participated in a poll earlier this month. (We audited the poll and eliminated any IP that voted multipled times.) Ellen’s film was created at Detroit’s College for Creative Studies. She will receive $500, in addition to the money she already earned for being a part of our Student Festival.

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

Wrestling Federation’s Animation Survey

First they took our Cocoa Pebbles, and now they want our cartoons!

It was announced back in August that WWE (Worldwide Wrestling Entertainment) was teaming up with Warner Bros. to make a new Scooby Doo movie guest starring several wrestling superstars and divas.

Yesterday the WWE sent a survey to its fans (posted below) which – if you read between the lines – might say something its future plans in animation… Wrestlers versus The Justice League? The Smurfs? The Looney Tunes?

They also ask about non-Warner characters such as The Rugrats, He-Man and Alvin and The Chipmunks (???).

We all remember Space Jam. Sports figures and cartoons – What’s your opinion?

Here’s the WWE survey:

“Thank you for participating in the survey. Your complete and honest answers will help us better serve you and other members of the WWE Universe in the future.

What is your exact age?

Do you have any children under the age of 18 living in your household who are WWE fans?

How many times in an average month do you watch cartoons or animated programs?

Do you like any of the following cartoons or animated programs?
The Smurfs
The Rugrats
Alvin and the Chipmunks
The Flintstones
Justice League
He-Man and the Masters of the Universe
Looney Tunes
Scooby Doo
Tom and Jerry
None of the above

Does your household own any of the following cartoons or animated programs on DVD? Select all that apply.
Looney Tunes
Alvin and the Chipmunks
The Rugrats
Tom and Jerry
The Smurfs
Justice League
Scooby Doo
The Flintstones
He-Man and the Masters of the Universe
None of the above

WWE will co-produce an action packed Scooby-Doo animated movie that will feature WWE Superstars and Divas including Triple H, John Cena, Kane, The Miz, Santino Marella, AJ, Brodus Clay, Sin Cara and WWE Chairman Mr. McMahon. These WWE Superstars will appear in an animated form helping their friends Scooby, Shaggy, Velma, Daphne and Fred solve an exciting mysterious case at WrestleMania.

If WWE Superstars were to appear in another animated program, which of the following properties would you be most interested in seeing partnered with WWE?
The Smurfs
The Flintstones
Looney Tunes (e.g., Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Elmer Fudd, etc.)

Which of these three properties would you be most interested in seeing partnered with WWE?
The Rugrats
Justice League (e.g., Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, etc.)
Alvin and the Chipmunks

And which of these three properties would you be most interested in seeing partnered with WWE?
Tom and Jerry
Scooby Doo
He-Man and the Masters of the Universe

Of the three animated programs you selected, which would you be most interested in seeing partnered with WWE?
He-Man and the Masters of the Universe
The Rugrats
The Flintstones

What is your race / ethnicity?

Which of the following ranges best describes your total annual household income (before taxes)?”

(via Wrestling, Inc.)