Starting Tomorrow: New York Int’l Children’s Film Festival

Tomorrow is the opening night of the New York International Children’s Film Festival. The festival is a terrific way for New Yorkers to see foreign animated features that would otherwise be difficult to catch stateside. The opening night film—the much-anticipated Ernest and Celestine—is sold out, but it’ll screen again at the festival on Sunday, March 17. Other highlights include the US premiere of Goro Miyazaki’s From Up on Poppy Hill, the intriguing Euro-anime The Day of the Crows, and the English-language world premiere of French animation legend Jean-François Laguionie’s The Painting.

Other features that might be worth checking out include Welcome to the Space Show, Zarafa and Kirikou and the Men and the Women. See the full festival line-up HERE.

“Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2″ Trailer

Sony Pictures Animation released the first trailer today for Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2. Opening in the US on September 27, the film is directed by industry veterans Cody Cameron (director of Open Season 3) and Kris Pearn (head of story on the original Cloudy).

DreamWorks Will Layoff 350 Employees

DreamWorks Animation announced yesterday that they will layoff 350 employees by the end of 2013. The news of the layoffs become public in early-February when the studio told employees that it was reshuffling its production and release schedule.

DreamWorks CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg talked about the layoffs with \The Hollywood Reporter:

“These things are very, very difficult to do. I would say it’s the hardest thing I’ve had to do since we started DreamWorks. We’ve never had to lay anybody off. It was against our culture. But it’s the right thing for us today, and it makes DWA strong going forward.”

Yesterday, the studio also reported that it would take an $87-million writedown on Rise of the Guardians, which represents the studio’s biggest money-loser since 2006′s Flushed Away, which resulted in a $109-million write-down. It should be made clear that a write-down is not an actual loss of money, but a reduction of the book value of an asset.

What is the Biggest Animation Project on Kickstarter Right Now?

What is the most funded animation campaign currently running on Kickstarter? Is it:

The answer is none of the above.

The most successful live animation campaign at the moment is Cyanide and Happiness, a long-running webcomic that aims to branch out into a series of long-form animated episodes. In the eleven days since the campaign was launched, over 7,300 backers have contributed $362,000, easily surpassing the project’s original goal of $250,000. It is already the third-highest funded animation campaign in Kickstarter’s history, and could break more records before it’s all over.

The four twenty-something creators of Cyanide and Happiness—Kris Wilson, Rob DenBleyker, Matt Melvin, Dave McElfatrick—are no strangers to animation. Before coming together to make the comic in 2004, they met each other as teenagers doing animation on Newgrounds. In 2009, they began creating brief animated segments based on their comic. Their YouTube channel has amassed neary 200 million pageviews with short-form bits and pieces of animation.

Now, they aim to do something more ambitious: a series of 10-12 minute episodes. Initially, they attempted to negotiate a TV series deal with cable networks. They wrote about the fruitless effort on their blog:

We walked away from the first two [networks] due to rights and creative control issues. We thought that we could settle those issues in the third deal, but things didn’t quite work out as we hoped. We’re starting to realize that TV as an industry just isn’t compatible with what we want to do with our animation: deliver it conveniently to a global audience, something we’ve been doing all along with our comics these past eight years. That’s just the nature of television versus the Internet, I suppose.

Now they’ve turned to Kickstarter to appeal directly to their fanbase:

We firmly believe the entertainment industry is changing, and the Internet will eventually become the only way people watch shows. Especially the people that make up our awesome fanbase. The Internet is already the largest network, available when you think about it. Why go anywhere else? By reading our comics over the years, you folks have given us the careers we dreamed of having as kids, and turned our silly cartoons into something much, much bigger than ourselves. The prospect of doing an uncensored, unaltered Cyanide & Happiness Show and giving it directly to the fans is an incredible opportunity. We’re really excited to see how far we can take things.

Besides the amount of money raised so far, there’s another noteworthy aspect, and that’s that the C&H artists developed their careers entirely online. This is different from many other high-profile animation projects on Kickstarter launched by mainstream artists whose reputations were established in entertainment mediums outside of the Internet.

It still means something to be Ralph Bakshi, John Kricfalusi or Bill Plympton—that is, being the director of numerous theatrical features, the creator of a groundbreaking TV series, or the king of American indie animation has an incalculable advantage over being an upstart. But as the Cyanide & Happiness campaign has shown, lofty reputations from other mediums can’t match the support of a well-established online following.

The C&H Kickstarter already has more backers than the combined totals of the three aforementioned animation legends, and will also achieve a higher pledge dollar amount than the combined total of those other high-profile campaigns. With this success, as well as the success of webcomic campaigns like MS Paint Adventures and Penny Arcade, the once-maligned webcomic is re-emerging as the unlikely foundation of mini-entertainment empires.

“We are at a tipping point in our industry”

A commentary worth reading by Jeffrey A. Okun, Chair of the Visual Effects Society:

“We are at a tipping point in our industry – no matter where you live or work. It has become painfully obvious that while profits abound for producers and distributors, our budgets are being squeezed to the point of jeopardizing our jobs and the quest for a reasonable life style for VFX artists.”

Brenda Chapman Becomes First Woman to Win Feature Animation Oscar [UPDATED]

A writer couldn’t have scripted a more Hollywood ending to the saga of Brenda Chapman, Pixar’s first female director. It was over two years ago when Cartoon Brew broke the story about Chapman being unceremoniously dumped from her film Brave. Last night, Brenda made history after becoming the first woman to win an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, a prize shared with co-director Mark Andrews.

It took only twelve years of the Best Animated Feature award before the Academy recognized a film directed by a woman. By comparison, it took 82 years before the Academy awarded an Oscar to a live-action film directed by a woman. That happened in 2009, when Kathryn Bigelow won both Best Picture and Best Director for The Hurt Locker. Let us hope that Hollywood leaves behind its pathetically homogeneous history and continues to embrace diversity and fresh perspectives on storytelling.

[UPDATE]: For the record, I should point out that Vicky Jenson co-directed Shrek, which won the very first Oscar for Best Animated Feature in 2001. Sadly, Jenson did not receive an Oscar because the award was given to the film’s producer in that first year.

Hear This Uninterrupted Statement from “Life of Pi” VFX Winner

[original video link of Oscar speech removed by Vimeo]

Last night during the Oscars, the Academy organizers interrupted Life of Pi winner Bill Westenhofer’s speech just as he was about to address the crisis in the visusal effects community. The timing of the cut-off may not have been coincidental, as Variety’s David S. Cohen pointed out on Twitter:

Hollywood’s desire to silence the animation/vfx community is made more poignant by the VFX industry demonstrations that happened earlier on Sunday in Hollywood. Westenhofer supervised the visual effects of Life of Pi at Rhythm & Hues, which has already declared bankruptcy and is among the studios hit hardest by the recent industry turmoil.

Westenhofer spoke backstage at the ceremony with animation journalist Bill Desowitz, where he explained the message he wanted to deliver to Hollywood:

“At a time when visual effects movies are dominating the box office, [the] visual effects companies are struggling. And I wanted to point out that we aren’t technicians. Visual effects is not just a commodity that’s being done by people pushing buttons. We’re artists, and if we don’t find a way to fix the business model, we start to loses the artistry. If anything, Life of Pi shows that we’re artists and not just technicians.”

“Paperman” Producer Kristina Reed Kicked Out of Oscar Ceremony—For Throwing Paper Airplanes

What is with animation folks being thrown out of the Oscar ceremony? Tonight’s hot gossip is that Paperman producer Kristina Reed was kicked out of the Oscar ceremony after she began throwing paper airplanes off the mezzanine when her short was announced as a winner. The planes had lipstick kisses on them—just like the film. According to the Hollywood Reporter, “After a short protest, security brought her back to her seat about five to 10 minutes later.” Thank God we can all still throw paper airplanes at the Annecy animation festival.

Disney Sweeps Animation Oscars with “Paperman” and “Brave”; VFX Oscar Goes to “Life of Pi”

Disney swept the Oscars this year with wins for both animated short and feature. Congrats to John Kahrs and Walt Disney Feature Animation for taking home the Animated Short Oscar for Paperman. Congrats to Mark Andrews, Brenda Chapman and the Pixar crew for winning the Animated Feature Oscar for Brave.

As expected, the Oscar for Visual Effects was awarded to Life of Pi. Congrats to Bill Westenhofer, Guillaume Rocheron, Erik-Jan De Boer, Donald R. Elliott, and the crews of Rhythm & Hues and Moving Picture Company. Unbelievably, as the Life of Pi winners tried to comment on the recent situation in the VFX community, the Academy cut off their speech mid-sentence. Not classy, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Oscar-winner John Kahrs and wife Gennie Rim arriving for the ceremony tonight.

For the record, Paperman is quite an accomplishment for Disney. The last time the studio won the Oscar for Best Animated Short was 1969 and the winner was this guy:

Rate Seth MacFarlane’s Performance Tonight

Love him or hate him, Seth MacFarlane is making history tonight as the first (and probably last) animator to ever host an Academy Awards ceremony. Let’s document this unique moment in cartoon history. Does his performance match up to previous Oscar hosts? Better than Billy Crystal? Steve Martin? Carson? Hope? Which of Seth’s routines killed and which fell flat? Did he make references to his animation career in a positive or negative way? Share your thoughts with the animation community as you’re watching the ceremony tonight.

(Note: Any comments not directly related to Seth’s performance will be deleted. Seriously, don’t even try.)

Burger Ad Bliss

There’s something profoundly delightful about this early-Seventies Burger King ad featuring a mustachioed octopus selling Whoppers. It’s absent the high-concept pretensions of modern advertising filled with cooler-than-thou irony and sarcasm. I’d say it’s as genuine, fun and pleasant as a fast food commercial can be. Now someone please find the color version and post it online.

(Thanks, Dann Pryce, via Cartoon Brew’s Facebook page)

Oscar-Nominated Animation Shorts Gets No Respect in People Magazine

As an animation supporter, it’s moments like this that makes you shake your head and wonder why you even try. In a single magazine paragraph, People magazine managed to perpetuate two of the most persistent misconceptions about animation—that it is a medium exclusively for kids and that it has to be ‘fun’:

Your kids can get into the spirit of awards season too, with the five animated shorts nominated for Oscars. Maggie Simpson battles a bully in The Longest Daycare (which played with Ice Age 4 last year), while Paperman (the intro to Wreck-It Ralph) features a copule brought together by paper airplanes. The rest of the mini movies are a touch more experimental but no less fun. See them all together now in theaters, or on iTunes or On Demand Feb. 19.

How To Draw Popeye

Cartoonist and storyboard artist Sherm Cohen has updated his fantastic How to Draw Cartoons Facebook page with scans of the rare 1939 book Popeye’s How to Draw Cartoons. The book has some solid common sense advice, including this bit which I liked: “Copy other characters you enjoy following in your newspaper. Don’t worry if they don’t look exactly like them. The important thing is—are you remembering to exaggerate your impression of the character you have in mind?” See the entire book HERE.

Below is a biography of Joe Musial, the artist who drew this how-to book. This bio appears in Fred Grandinetti’s Popeye: An Illustrated Cultural History:

“To This Day”, A Collaborative Animated Short about Bullying

The most talked-about online animation debut this week was To This Day, which featured the contributions of over 80 animation artists who took turns animating a spoken word poem written and performed by Shane Koyczan. The seven-and-a-half minute short has already racked up nearly 3.5 million views on Youtube, and an additional 134,000 views on Vimeo.

The anti-bullying message of the film is powerful, but the impact originates almost entirely from Koyczan’s passionate narration. The animation—and the overproduced score—serve as attractive garnish, but don’t enhance or elucidate the core emotion of the vocal performance. That’s not to say that the visuals aren’t well made because it’s clear that a lot of effort went into this. Seemingly every current animation and motion graphic style is represented, but the novelty of rapidly shifting visual styles doesn’t feel like the most effective way to support Koyczan’s narration.

The interchangeable feel of the visuals has a lot to do with the way the project was set up by Vancouver-based design studio Giant Ant. They invited dozens of artists to create 20-second pieces over a twenty-day period, and assigned multiple artists to animate the same parts of the film. Afterward, they cut together the bits and pieces that they thought worked best for each scene. As one artist who worked on the project told me:

This is an excellent example of crowdsourcing in the 21st century. Everybody works hard on tiny chunks for no pay, only the best parts of their tiny chunks go in, the rest gets scrapped, and you’ve got a beautiful result for no investment.

VFX/Animation Industry Will Protest at the Oscars Tomorrow

What better time to protest Hollywood’s woeful treatment of animation and visual effects artists than on the film industry’s biggest day—Oscar Sunday. Tomorrow afternoon, between 1pm and 4:30pm, there will be a demonstration at Hollywood Blvd and Vine Street demanding more equitable treatment of animation/VFX artists. The event organizers have also rented a plane that will circle the Oscars between 3:30 and 4:30pm carrying a banner urging a VFX union. Over 200375 people have already confirmed their attendance on the event’s Facebook page.

The instigating event of this renewed interest in artists’ rights has been Rhythm & Hues’ bankruptcy, which makes little sense considering that the work R&H produces is among the best in the industry and responsible for a significant portion of Hollywood’s profits:

Life of Pi (Fox) and Snow White and the Huntsman (Universal) together grossed almost a billion dollars worldwide. Rhythm & Hues Studios, the company that brought Richard Parker to life and created the bulk of the visual effects for these two Oscar nominated films, has just declared bankruptcy. Many of the artists who worked nights and weekends to create those effects are out of work and unpaid for weeks of work (including nights and weekends) on new tent-pole films for the same studios, Fox and Universal. It’s time for change!

A round-up of protest coverage can be found on VFX Soldier.

“Ernest and Celestine” Wins The Cesar Award

The Cesars, the French equivalent of the Oscars, were handed out on Friday evening. The sole prize for animated film (shorts and features are combined into a single category) was presented to the feature film Ernest and Celestine, directed by Benjamin Renner, Vincent Patar, and Stéphane Aubier.

Good news for Americans: distributor GKIDS has picked up the film for U.S. distribution and is prepping a fall 2013 release. Every clip I’ve seen from the film makes it appear sweet and charming in the best way possible.

The UK Animation Community Reacts to Bob Godfrey’s Death

Some of the biggest names in the UK animation scene are expressing their condolences on the occasion of Bob Godfrey’s passing. Here’s what they’re saying on Twitter:

Filmmaker Joanna Quinn (Body Beautiful, Britannia, Famous Fred, Dreams and Desires—Family Ties):

Peter Lord, Aardman co-founder and director of The Pirates! Band of Misfits:

Online animation filmmaker Cyriak:

Matt Jones, Pixar story artist:

Beakus Animation Production Studio:

Curtis Jobling, production designer of Bob the Builder and creator of Frankenstein’s Cat:

Filmmaker Chris Shepherd (Who I Am And What I Want, Dad’s Dead):

Paul Franklin, visual effects supervisor on The Dark Knight Rises, Inception, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince:

Rob McCallum, storyboard/concept artist on Pacific Rim, The Thing, Total Recall:

Filmmaker David OReilly (Please Say Something, The External World), who is technically not UK, but a nice sentiment nonetheless:

Bob Godfrey, RIP

British animation legend Bob Godfrey has passed away. We received a note from his grandson Tom Lowe this morning with the following sad message: “He passed peacefully in his sleep, on Thursday 21st February 2013, aged 91.”

Godfrey once told an interviewer that he considered his life a long-lasting ambition to make people laugh, and he did exactly that during an animation career that lasted over fifty years, spanning dozens of shorts films and TV series. In the process, he became the first British animator to win an animated short Oscar (for the short Great), and he also helped animation mature by exploring contemporary and adult themes in his work.

Born in Horse Shoe Bend, West Maitland, Australia on May 27, 1921, and raised in London, Godfrey attended the Leyton Art School. He began his visual arts career working in advertising. In the late-1940s, he began working at David Hand’s G. B. Animation, and helped create promotional items related to Animaland shorts. This led to his full-time entry into the animation field in 1950 at the modernist commercial studio W. M. Larkins.

Still from “Polygamous Polonius” (1959)

Godfrey left Larkins in 1955 to set up an independent studio called Biographic Films with partners Keith Learner and Jeff Hale. [UPDATE: Keith Learner has written a fine remembrance of Godfrey on the Guardian website.]

While at Biographic, Godfrey began making personal short films. Early efforts like Polygamous Polonius and Do It Yourself Cartoon Kit (1961), with their sharp satiric humor and quirkily designed cut-out animation style, were considered fresh for the time. The BFI Screenonline website says that these films, “display the range of influences and preoccupations that characterise his work—music hall routines, avant-garde comedy in the spirit of The Goons, political satire, and concerns with British attitudes to sex and social conduct.” Historian Giannalberto Bendazzi also notes that in these early films, “Godfrey comes out as one of the few animators to share some common traits with the Free Cinema of his contemporaries Lindsay Anderson, Tony Richardson and Karel Reisz.”

Still from “Great” (1975)

Godfrey continued his career as a short filmmaker with a string of successful films including The Rise and Fall of Emily Sprod (1962), Alf, Bill & Fred (1964), Henry 9 ’til 5 (1970), Kama Sutra Rides Again (1972), an erotic-comedic short that Stanley Kubrick personally selected to accompany the UK release of A Clockwork Orange, and culminating with his ambitious Oscar-winning short-epic Great (1975), about the life of British civil engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel.

In the mid-1960s, Godfrey set up his own studio, Bob Godfrey Movie Emporium, through which he not only produced shorts and commercials, but also began making a variety of children’s TV series, such as Roobarb (about the rivalry between a dog named Roobarb and a cat named Custard), Noah and Nelly in… SkylArk, and Henry’s Cat, all of which became beloved staples of generations of British children.

Godfrey also created the Do-It-Yourself Animation Show in the mid-1970s, a how-to series with weekly guests who included Richard Williams and Terry Gilliam. The show, which made animation accessible to the masses by taking the mystery out of the production process, was vastly influential and inspired an entire generation of kids in England, including Nick Park, who created Wallace & Gromit, Jan Pinkava, who directed the Pixar short Geri’s Game, and Richard Bazley, an animator on Pocahontas, Hercules, and The Iron Giant.

Enjoy this great BBC mini-doc about Godfrey from the early-1970s:

Further recommended reading about Godfrey:
Bob Godfrey interview from 1979
Obituary in The Independent
BFI Screenonline biography of Bob Godfrey

People Saw “Escape From Planet Earth” After All

The Weinstein Company’s Escape from Planet Earth surprised many people by earning a robust $21.1 million over the four-day President’s Day holiday weekend. Its success was all the more surprising because the B-list kiddie pleaser didn’t have a huge marketing presence, wasn’t made by a name-brand studio, and didn’t seem to have wide appeal beyond its target demographic. But it benefited from a quiet period for family films, while managing to surpass the debuts of other CG space pics like the $12.3M opening of Planet 51 (2009) and the $6.9M opening of Mars Needs Moms (2011).

The Moviefone website has an in-depth piece discussing the film’s strong opening. In there, Stephen Bruno, the Weinstein Co.’s marketing president, explained how he approached the advertising for Escape from Planet Earth:

“[It] was focused on first presenting our core audience with a longer form look at the full story via in-theater trailers, advertisements, and long-lead digital placement. The television campaign was bifurcated to raise awareness and interest with parents and kids, through a six week flight that first aimed [to] re-introduce the concept, then highlight the comedy, and of course close with the exceptional voice cast.”

Bruno makes it sound easy, but the real proof will be if he can repeat this success with the next three Weinstein animated films planned for release this year.

Guest Commentary: The Life of an Indian Visual Effects Artist

Within the last 6 months, two of the biggest U.S. visual effects houses—Digital Domain and Rhythm & Hues—have declared bankruptcy. Among the culprits responsible for their downfall is outsourcing and offshoring of VFX work to countries like India, China and Malaysia. This goes hand in hand with other reasons like foreign government tax subsidies and credits, corporate mismanagement, and Hollywood studio economics.

But what exactly does it mean when work is sent to one of those other countries? Work isn’t sent overseas simply because it’s cheaper. The cold, hard reality is that work goes overseas because developing countries have lax labor laws that offer minimum worker rights and maximum opportunity for worker exploitation. It amounts to sweatshop labor, and in some cases, indentured servitude.

We hear a lot about the perspective of Western artists affected by the outsourcing and offshoring, but nothing from the overseas artists who are the supposed beneficiaries of the work. It turns out, they’re not exactly enjoying it either.

This commentary piece was submitted by Bhaumik Mehta, an artist who spent 7 years working in the rendering and lighting departments of many top Indian animation and effects houses. He has now left the industry to work as a freelance 3D artist for interior designers and architects, a field that he says is much less exploitative. Per Mehta’s request, I have removed the names of the studios he listed in his original piece to protect colleagues who may still be working at those places.

Commentary by Bhaumik Mehta

I read your story of recent layoffs happening at studios like DreamWorks and Rhythm & Hues. I wish to express my deep sorrow and concern for all those artists who have had to put aside their families, friends and health to finish the tasks that were assigned to them by the studios.

Many bad things happen at studios in India, too. At one studio, artists are asked to work without salary for at least four months, at which point the studio can ask them to leave if they didn’t find their performance “good” enough. At another studio, they reduced their staff in the 3D animation department from 150 people to a mere 5 people. One studio takes Rs 30,000 (approximately $550) as a deposit from artists and only returns to the artist (without interest) once they complete two years employment at the studio. [Note: An average MONTHLY salary might be Rs 7,500 ($138 month) so the deposit is equivalent to nearly 4 months salary.]

Every studio has adopted a hire-and-fire policy in which artists are asked to sign a contract of six months after which the studio has a right to either keep the artist or remove them according to the project’s requirement. One studio has laid off their most senior artists and shifted their base from Mumbai to Banglore; another studio will either delay an artist’s salary by two months or won’t pay at all; and yet another studio requires their artists to come to work on Sundays as well as on public holidays. All the while, animation institutes are taking fees like Rs 450,000 (approx. $8,300) but providing education and equipment that isn’t even worth Rs 4,500.

It would be nice to raise this issue and let everyone know the condition that Indian artists have to endure. They are sacrificing their lives for their passion, but they are exploited by people who have no interest in art and whose only motivation is earning as much as possible by spending as little as they can.

I left the industry two years ago. I am glad to have done so and have started working as a freelance 3D artist for interior designers and architects. I am not earning as much as I used to when I was in the studios, but I have no fear of someone asking me to leave their office once their project is completed. I choose to live with dignity and honor as well as giving time to my family, friends and health.

I hope that by making others aware of these issue, I can save my artist friends from further exploitation.

(Photo via Shutterstock)

Shane Acker Joins Reel FX To Direct “Beasts of Burden” Film

Santa Monica and Dallas-based Reel FX has no plans to slow down. Already producing two features—Jimmy Hayward’s Turkeys and Jorge Gutierrez’s Book of Life—Reel FX announced today that they are developing a third feature based on the Dark Horse comic book series Beasts of Burden. Shane Acker, who directed the animated feature 9 is on board as director.

All I can say at this early stage is that Reel FX’s approach to feature animation is refreshingly eclectic and mature for an American animation studio. They will definitely be one to watch over the next couple years.

More about the Beasts of Burden feature in this official announcement:

(Dallas, Texas and Santa Monica, California) February 20, 2013—Reel FX announced today that Academy Award-nominee Shane Acker (9) will direct the studio’s upcoming untitled CG-animated feature based on the Dark Horse Comics series Beasts of Burden, written by Evan Dorkin and illustrated by Jill Thompson. The film is being written by Darren Lemke (Turbo, Shrek Forever After). Aron Warner, Reel FX’s President of Animation, is producing the film alongside Mike Richardson from Dark Horse Entertainment and Andrew Adamson from Strange Weather.

Warner notes, “Reel FX is continuing to partner with some of the leading filmmakers in animation. Shane is an immense talent and will bring his fresh vision and approach to this adaptation of Beasts of Burden.”

Says Acker, “It’s a pleasure to be working with such accomplished producers and filmmakers on this incredible project. There is a real independent spirit at Reel FX—the studio is full of energy and fresh ideas—which is necessary to bring this unique story to life.”

The project is an animated adventure about the baffling behavior (tail chasing, barking at “nothing” at all) of our favorite four-legged friends. In the charming town of Burden Hill, there might be more to these animal antics than meets the eye. The town is inhabited by the supernatural, and when its paranormal activity becomes even more abnormal than usual, it’s up to a group of fearless canines called the Watch Dogs to protect its citizens – and humanity – from the mysterious things that go “bump” in the night.

Get Ready for the App Version of Richard Williams’ “Animator’s Survival Kit”

Coming soon: the iPad app version of Richard Williams’ indispensable The Animator’s Survival Kit. The publisher, Faber and Faber, hasn’t set a price or exact release date, but it’s being timed to roughly coincide with Williams’ 80th birthday next month.

Key features of the app will include:

  • The entirety of The Animator’s Survival Kit Expanded Edition, optimized for the iPad.
  • Over 100 animated examples from The Animator’s Survival Kit Animated DVD box set.
  • Previously unreleased Circus Drawings animation from Richard Williams
  • Silent Film Logo for the Pordenone Silent Film Festival.
  • New video introductions by Richard Williams.
  • Sensitive navigation, fading gracefully away when not needed, allowing users to focus on the lessons at hand.
  • Break down and watch the animated examples frame-by-frame to see how they’re put together.
  • Onion skin some animated examples to see the preceding and following frames.

UPDATE (4/18/2013): The Animator’s Survival Kit iPad app has been released!

Below are a couple stills from Circus Drawings, the new Richard Williams short that will be included on the app:

15 Reasons Why Frank Tashlin Was Awesome

Today marks the centennial of Frank Tashlin (February 19, 1913 – May 5, 1972), one of the most important figures in the history of American animation.

Frank who?

If Tashlin is recognized at all by the general public, it is for being the Looney Tunes animation director who ended up making kooky, subversive live-action comedies starring the likes of Jerry Lewis and Jayne Mansfield.

He was so much more than that though—a restless and ambitious creative powerhouse who didn’t play by anyone’s rules and whose filmic innovations were often decades ahead of their time.

Tashlin’s reputation has been bashed routinely by film critics, both while he was alive (“Tashlin has become sympathetically obsolete without ever becoming fashionable”—Andrew Sarris) and after he died in 1972 (“Tashlin remained the safe, cold-blooded side of bad taste, never came to terms with the full-length form or the live-action image, but never sensed the pungent onslaught in cartoon that, say, Gillray or Ralph Bakshi have achieved.”—David Thomson). Even online, it sometimes feels that he gets no respect; the editors of the Looney Tunes Wiki can’t identify Tashlin well enough to put up an actual photo of him on his biographical entry.

Still, Tashlin’s work persists and the impact of his unconventional, exaggerated style of cinema continues to reverberate throughout contemporary film. To celebrate Tashlin’s 100th birthday, Cartoon Brew presents 15 fun facts about Frank Tashlin. To learn more about him, visit Tish Tash: A Blog Tribute to Frank Tashlin and pick up a copy of Ethan de Seife’s recent book Tashlinesque: The Hollywood Comedies of Frank Tashlin.

1. He named his buffoonish newspaper comic character Van Boring as a dig toward his former boss, Amadee J. Van Beuren, who ran Van Beuren Studios.

More of the Van Boring strips are posted on Facebook.

2. He knew that Porky Pig was a chump and loved to make fun of him.

3. He once claimed that when he worked at Disney, one of his favorite things to do was throw Clarence Nash, the voice of Donald Duck, out of the window.

Tashlin told historian Michael Barrier in 1971:

They didn’t know what to do with a fellow by the name of “Ducky” Nash—Clarence Nash, he was the voice of Donald Duck—because when they weren’t recording Donald Duck, what do you do with the fellow who’s the voice of Donald Duck? Ducky had an office in this building, a little tiny office where he would come over and go to sleep. These were hillside places, and the ground beneath his window was maybe twelve feet. Roy Williams, this big fellow, and I, when Ducky was asleep—and he slept just like a duck, he made funny sounds—in this big wicker chair, we would take this chair, with him in it, and we would hold it out the window, and drop him. This chair would hit, and because it was wicker, it sort of had a recoil, you know, the legs went out like this. He’d start quacking away down there, and he’d come up, dragging this chair with him. This happened many times, and it was a high point of humor—you know, you want to talk about low humor, that’s what we thought was funny.

4. He directed the most elegant, cinematically modern black-&-white cartoons in the history of animation.

5. His eclectic career is full of detours into different areas of film, like when he made the stop motion films The Lady Said No (1946) and The Way of Peace (1947).

Tashlin scholar Ethan de Seife has written extensively about The Lady Said No.

6. He played an important role in kickstarting the ‘cartoon modern’ era.

When Tashlin became the head of Columbia’s Screen Gem studios in 1941, he transformed it into a haven for artists who wanted to create modern-looking animation. Zachary Schwartz, who became a founder of United Productions of America, said of Tashlin, “He was an inspirational man to work for.” Another animation modernist, John Hubley, said of his experience, “Under Tashlin, we tried some very experimental things; none of them quite got off the ground, but there was a lot of ground broken. We were doing crazy things that were anti the classic Disney approach.” The visual experimentation continued for a couple years after Tashlin’s departure from Columbia, such as in this 1943 short Professor Small and Mr. Tall:

7. He created the Fox and Crow.

The Fox and the Grapes, the first cartoon that Tashlin directed with these characters, featured a novel blackout-gag structure that served as a model for many later cartoons, including Chuck Jones’ Coyote and Roadrunner series.

8. He invented his own system of cartooning called SCOT-ART.

Tashlin’s how-to cartoon book proclaimed that anybody could create original cartoons if they could draw S(quares), C(ircles), O(vals) and T(riangles). You can find the entire book HERE.

9. Jean-Luc Godard loves him:

Says Godard:

According to Georges Sadoul, Frank Tashlin is a second-rank director because he has never done a remake of You Can’t Take It With You or The Awful Truth. According to me, my colleague errs in mistaking a closed door for an open one. In fifteen years’ time, people will realize that The Girl Can’t Help It served then—today, that is—as a fountain of youth from which the cinema now—in the future, that is—has drawn fresh inspiration….Tashlin indulges a riot of poetic fancies where charm and comic invention alternate in a constant felicity of expression….Frank Tashlin has not renovated the Hollywood comedy. He has done better. There is not a difference in degree between Hollywood or Bust and It Happened One Night, between The Girl Can’t Help It and Design For Living, but a difference in kind. Tashlin, in other words, has not renewed but created. And henceforth, when you talk about a comedy, don’t say ‘It’s Chaplinesque’; say, loud and clear, ‘It’s Tashlinesque’.

10. John Waters loves him:

11. He allowed Chuck Jones to adapt his illustrated book The Bear That Wasn’t into an animated short, and when Jones ruined the film, he never spoke to him again.

12. He married Mary Costa, who was the voice of Princess Aurora in Disney’s Sleeping Beauty.

13. He created an amazing graphic novel called The World That Isn’t.

This bleak yet perceptive commentary on modern American life is as relevant today as when it was first published over sixty years ago. Tashlin uses the cartoon medium to expose the follies of humankind, including religious intolerance, environmental destruction, political corruption, tabloid trash, celebrity worship, and nationalism. In his cautionary tale, mankind finds peace only after destroying himself through nuclear apocalypse and starting over again.

14. He was a leg man.

This one hardly needs explanation.

15. He pushed live-action further than anyone before him and anticipated the creative possibilities of today’s CG-infused live-action filmmaking.

“Fat” Floats Onto the Internet

All the fat in Fat is contained in its title; the film itself is a lean and mean laugh machine that offers a goofy series of gags hinged on a surreal visual concept. The 2011 Supinfocom Arles graduation short was directed by Gary Fouchy, Yohann Auroux Bernard, and Sebastien De Oliveira Bispo. The film’s website includes some funny concept work and animated GIFs.