Walt Kelly’s Even-More-Lost “Pogo” Storyboard

Here’s a little added-bonus to the recent post about Walt Kelly’s self-animated Pogo short.. Before he began animating, Walt Kelly laid out a complete storyboard of his planned Pogo special. He then made a Leica reel and recorded his voice over it.

Of course, there is a lot more here then what ended up in the final short. Because of his poor health, he had to leave out a great deal of material. Sadly, it makes the final piece feel unfinished.  Albert’s hallucination sequence especially would have been marvelous to see fleshed out in animation. Fortunately, not all of his hard work went to waste. His storyboard for this special laid the foundation for his final Pogo book, Pogo: We Have Met the Enemy and He Is Us.

As much as I love seeing Kelly’s animation, watching and listening to the storyboard is a much more enjoyable experience. His storyboard panels have as much time and care put into them as his comics, with full color, fleshed-out poses and backgrounds. Each panel is expertly laid out, making every action clear and easy to read.

But I think the most enjoyable aspect is Kelly’s mostly ad-libbed narration. You can tell what kind of person he was just by his vocal delivery. At times he’s full of bravado, belting out lines in a bombastic tone. Other times he can be soft-spoken, sincere and passionately poetic. And sometimes he makes absolutely no sense at all, talking in almost complete gibberish, fumbling over words and mumbling nonsensical sounds. Most of all, what stands out is his unparalleled wit, which is on display throughout the entire 25-minute presentation. I especially love his impromptu descriptions of scene transitions and camera movements.

With this storyboard, Walt Kelly has come full circle. Starting at Disney in the mid-30s, working for five years refining and strengthening his drawing abilities, leaving animation to pursue a lengthy career in comics, and finally returning to animation once again, this time with the added benefit of decades of experience.

Nigerian Children Can Attend the Pinky and the Brain School

Pinky, are you pondering what I’m pondering?

I think so, Brain, but why would a school in Nigeria name themselves after us?

The pair of Warner Bros. mice may have failed in their countless attempts to take over the world, but they have proven successful in having a school in Abuja, Nigeria name itself the Pinky and the Brain School.

The school, which is almost certainly unauthorized by Warner Bros. and thus doubly awesome, has an official anthem that manages to praise both God and Pinky and the Brain (the school):

We are the children of Pinky and the Brain, Children growing in wisdom, age and grace.
We lift our voices to thank God; the giver of life.
Shout it out, far and wide,
Pinky and the Brain first among equal,
Pinky and the Brain, the flag bearer, for others to follow.

(Thanks, Jason, via Cartoon Brew’s Reader Submission Forum)

Artist of the Day: Gary Leib

Gary Leib

Gary Leib loves Halloween. Two years in a row Gary has created an original Halloween window installation at Desert Island in Brooklyn. Gary’s sketchbooks are full of grotesque faces and mutant monstrosities.

Gary Leib

Gary and Doug Allen are the artists behind the comic book Idiotland that was published by Fantagraphics in the mid ’90s. Gary also has created animation for the New York Times website, which can now be seen here.

Gary Leib

Gary’s website is here with a handful of different work examples, a newer, active blog is here with a lot of sketchbook material, and an older Twinkleland website is here, which is the production company that Gary operates.

Gary Leib

Gary was also the keyboardist of the Eighties New Wave/country music band Rubber Rodeo:

Bruce Timm Steps Down As Warner Bros. Animation Supervising Producer

From a report on ComicBookResources.com:

Cartoonist Bruce Timm has stepped down as supervising producer at Warner Bros. Animation to develop his own projects. He’s been replaced by James Tucker, a veteran of Batman: The Animated Series, Justice League and, more recently, Batman: The Brave and the Bold.

It’s the end of an era.

(Thanks, Paul Burrows)

Tippett Studios Lays Off 40 Percent of Its Staff [UPDATED]

The Hollywood Reporter confirmed today that the Berkeley-based VFX studio Tippett Studio has laid off 40% of its workforce, or approximately 50 employees. The 30-year-old vfx/animation studio, which was responsible for the animation in Seth MacFarlane’s Ted, has indicated the possibility of additional layoffs. Its full-time staff currently numbers around 100 people.

UPDATE: Tippett Studio owner Phil Tippett posted a rebuttal on Facebook to the Hollywood Reporter story. He says it was “a misleading headline and article.” Read his full statement HERE.

Double Fine Releases Trailer for Crowdfunded Game “Broken Age”

Double Fine has released a teaser trailer for its point-and-click adventure game Broken Age, which raised $3.3 million on Kickstarter last year (a record for games at the time). The game is the parallel story of a young boy and girl:

The girl has been chosen by her village to be sacrificed to a terrible monster–but she decides to fight back. Meanwhile, a boy on a spaceship is living a solitary life under the care of a motherly computer, but he wants to break free to lead adventures and do good in the world.

Artist of the Day: Victor Courtright

Victor Courtright

Victor Courtright works at PUNY as an animator.

Victor Courtright

Victor Courtright

Victor Courtright

Victor Courtright

He keeps very densely packed sketchbooks which he fortunately shares on his Victor Animation blog.

Victor Courtright

Victor Courtright

Aided by his proficiency in drawing so many tightly controlled imaginative drawings, Victor created a 100-page comic inspired by the 24-Hour Comics Day challenge and posted it here.

Victor Courtright

Victor Courtright

Indian Animation Studio Prana Acquires Bankrupt Rhythm & Hues

Variety is reporting that bankrupt American animation/visual effects studio Rhythm & Hues has been acquired at auction by Indian company Prana Studios. The Variety article mentions that Prana’s credits include Hoodwinked and Disney’s upcoming Planes.

Prana also created the animation for Koochie Koochie Hota Hai. The film, which its producer has described kinkily as a “love story between three dogs,” has been finished for over three years, but it is filled with so much amazing that it cannot be safely released into theaters without sending audiences into dangerous states of euphoria. In the meantime, Prana should spend some time getting their new Rhythm & Hues subsidiary up to speed on how to create mindbending computer-generated visuals. Rhythm & Hues’ days of sliding by with amateur hour Life of Pi graphics are over; they’ve got to step up their game if they want to impress on the sequel to Koochie Koochie Hota Hai.

“Man Spaghetti” by Felix Colgrave

If you were planning to sleep tonight, then you may want to avoid this exquisitely creepy short:

It was made by Australian animator Felix Colgrave:

“When I made this film, I was exploring the idea of how living things are made of matter, and when we die and rot and we’re returned to the earth and yadda yadda, and then that matter then goes on to build other living things. Basically I cut out the middle man, and made the matter reorganise itself into new things the moment the consciousness died. Then i put them in onesies and gave the whole thing a silly name.”

“Making Stuff” by Darren Robbie

Aardman veteran Darren Robbie (aka Chopsy) had the idea to make Making Stuff during an agency commercial pitch:

The line came to me while pitching on some commercial or other, and trying to explain what I loved about animation, and what was particularly hard with certain kinds of animation—trying to get that emotional connection out of a basically inanimate object. I think I was also attempting to explain to some agency people that, yes, I could animate a particular foodstuff (even though I didn’t have that on my reel) because, guess what…I’m an animator!

Robbie manages to pack a fun mix of animation techniques (stop motion, time-lapse, pixilation, hand-drawn, sand) into the film’s brief 90-second length.

Camera: Sam Morris
Modelmaking and studio space: Gary & Cat at ScaryCat Studio
Production assistance: Kev Harwood
Post: Emma Kingsnorth at UN1T
Music: Dave Reynaud
Audio track: Mcasso Music Production Ltd.

Activision Shows Off Impressive Real-Time Rendering for Animated Characters

Video gameplay is about to get a lot more realistic. Game producer Activision unveiled this new demo yesterday at the Game Developers Conference. Uncanny or not, the progresss in computer animation has been remarkable. Real-time rendering techniques today look far more impressive than any rendering from a decade ago:

This animated character is being rendered in real-time on current video card hardware, using standard bone animation. The rendering techniques, as well as the animation pipeline are being presented at GDC 2013, “Next Generation Character Rendering” on March 27. The original high resolution data was acquired from Light Stage Facial Scanning and Performance Capture by USC Institute for Creative Technologies, then converted to a 70 bones rig, while preserving the high frequency detail in diffuse, normal and displacement composite maps. It is being rendered in a DirectX11 environment, using advanced techniques to faithfully represent the character’s skin and eyes.

More details on Jorge Jimenez’s blog.

How Old Animation Directors Were When They Made Their First Film

“Animation is a young man’s game,” Chuck Jones once said. There’s no question that animation is a labor-intensive art that requires mass quantities of energy and time. While it’s true that the majority of animation directors have directed a film by the age of 30, there are also a number of well known directors who started their careers later.

Directors like Pete Docter, John Kricfalusi and Bill Plympton didn’t begin directing films until they were in their 30s. Don Bluth, Winsor McCay and Frederic Back were late bloomers who embarked on directorial careers while in their 40s. Pioneering animator Emile Cohl didn’t make his first animated film, Fantasmagorie (1908), until he was 51 years old. Of course, that wasn’t just Cohl’s first film, but it is also considered by most historians to be the first true animated cartoon that anyone ever made.

Here is a cross-selection of 30 animation directors, past and present, and the age they were when their first professional film was released to the public.

  1. Don Hertzfeldt (19 years old)
    Ah, L’Amour

  2. Lotte Reiniger (20)
    The Ornament of the Lovestruck Heart

  3. Bruno Bozzetto (20)
    Tapum! The History of Weapons

  4. Frank Tashlin (20)
    Hook & Ladder Hokum

  5. Walt Disney (20)
    Little Red Riding Hood

  6. Friz Freleng (22)
    Fiery Fireman

  7. Seth MacFarlane (23)
    Larry & Steve

  8. Genndy Tartakovsky (23)
    2 Stupid Dogs (TV)

  9. Bob Clampett (24)
    Porky’s Badtime Story (or 23 if you count When’s Your Birthday)

  10. Pen Ward (25)
    Adventure Time (TV)

  11. Joanna Quinn (25)
    Girl’s Night Out

  12. Ralph Bakshi (25)
    Gadmouse the Apprentice Good Fairy

  13. Chuck Jones (26)
    The Night Watchman

  14. Richard Williams (26)
    The Little Island

  15. Tex Avery (27)
    Gold Diggers of ’49

  16. Bill Hanna (27)
    Blue Monday

  17. Joe Barbera (28)
    Puss Gets the Boot

  18. John Hubley (28)
    Old Blackout Joe

  19. John Lasseter (29)
    Luxo Jr.

  20. Brad Bird (29)
    Amazing Stories: “Family Dog” (TV)

  21. Hayao Miyazaki (30)
    Rupan Sansei (TV)

  22. Nick Park (30)
    A Grand Day Out

  23. John Kricfalusi (32)
    Mighty Mouse: The New Adventures (TV)

  24. Pete Docter (33)
    Monsters Inc.

  25. Ward Kimball (39)
    Adventures in Music: Melody

  26. Bill Plympton (39)

  27. Winsor McCay (40)
    How a Mosquito Operates

  28. Don Bluth (41)
    The Small One

  29. Frederic Back (46)

  30. Emile Cohl (51)

“Old Portents & Hand-Out Hijinx” by Ben Crouse

Ben Crouse’s Old Portents & Hand-Out Hijinx is an atypical collection of vignettes that stack up into a funny film. The short’s fragmented construction feels like the contemporary equivalent of its viewing platform, the Internet, which is a similarly fragmented, non-linear experience that contains a surprise around every corner. Crouse doesn’t show much inclination toward cinematic or animation technique, but the film’s strengths lie in its memorable ideas and solid comedic voice.

Rubber House Animated The Iron Sheik and Hacksaw Jim Duggan

The boys at Melbourne and Sydney, Australia-based Rubber House Studios have attached some funny cartoon visuals to this tale narrated by Eighties wrestling star The Iron Sheik. It’s the first in a series of “Very Animated People” shorts that Rubber House is producing for the new YouTube comedy channel Jash.

Starring: The Iron Sheik
Director: Greg Sharp
Art Direction: Ivan Dixon
Animation: Rubber House
Supervising Producer: Jensen Karp
Producers: Page Magen and Jian Magen
Produced by AJ Tesler, Nicholas Veneroso
Animation Producer: MJ Offen
Audio Editor: Brett Kushner

Lucasfilm Exec Blogs About Laying Off Animation Artists

If you’re an animation studio executive and you’ve just laid off a a crew of artists, what’s the first thing you should do? Going on Tumblr to blog about it should be nowhere near the top of that list. In fact, you shouldn’t even be thinking about whether that’s something you should be doing. Don’t tell this to Colum Slevin, Lucasfilm Vice-President, Head of Studio Operations, who decided that he would blog his company’s layoffs.

The layoffs probably weren’t Slevin’s decision. They are owed to the inevitable restructuring resulting from Disney’s purchase of Lucasfilm. Disney’s cancellation of the Clone Wars TV series caused an initial round of layoffs last week. After crew members working on the show were let go, Slevin made this post on his Tumblr account:

In another context—like an Oprah TV special—this might have been a nice thought, but the fortune cookie-worthy sentiment is more than a little icky coming from a well-paid executive who doesn’t have to worry about where he’s getting his next paycheck.

Executives love to promote the idea that studios are families, which is a silly analogy for countless reasons. For starters, families don’t lay off their own members. That’s why it’s a good idea for execs like Slevin to reserve the paternalistic pep talks for their own kids, and avoid telling former employees that they have Character (with a capital C no less) and showing them garish personal photos—though the latter does bode well for Slevin’s bid to become a Creative Exec.

UPDATE: The post has been deleted from Slevin’s Tumblr account.

(via RebelScum.com)

(Photo of Colum Slevin by Joel Aron)

Behind-the-Scenes of College Humor’s “Paperman Threesome”

Earlier this month, College Humor took on the toothsome irrepressibility of Disney’s Oscar-winning short film, Paperman, with its original parody, Paperman Threesome.

Picking up where the original short left off, the urbane meet-cute of two young sweethearts brought together by a torrent of sentient paper products continues through their first date, first kiss and into the bedroom where the loose leaf matchmaker reveals ulterior motives. “Originally, the character of Paper was even more aggressive and unlikeable,” College Humor’s President of Original Content, Sam Reich told Cartoon Brew. “Paper isn’t a jerk; he just finds himself in the middle of a misunderstanding, and has to cope with his disappointment.”

Even those who turned their nose up at the cynical addendum could not help but be impressed by the level of accuracy in the aping of the source material’s groundbreaking, much debated faux hand-drawn style. This new short, produced by the Australian animation house, Studio JoHo and directed by Joe Brumm, achieved the original film’s look using Celaction, a versatile and intuitive 2D-rigged animation program that is rising in popularity in the U.K. and Australia. “They’re fans of the original piece,” says Reich “and were excited to create something that looked authentic.”

Among the factors that makes Paperman Threesome such a successful parody, Reich cites CH’s streamlined animation process that allowed them to make its timely deadline, the mutual trust between them and the animation studio, and of course, their choice to focus less on physical action and more on expressive performances. “Nothing really happens in our piece, apart from a conversation,” Reich said.

Introducing A New Way of Submitting Films and News Tips to Cartoon Brew

We’re deeply appreciative of Cartoon Brew’s readers who suggest dozens of films and post ideas to the site every day, through Twitter, Facebook, emails, and especially, our news submission form. This week we’re auditioning a new tool that will hopefully make the submission process both more efficient for us and more interesting for you.

Our News Submission page is now a public forum in which your news tips are shared with the rest of our community instead of being seen only by us. Everybody can vote on the news items they like, and we’ll also be keeping a close eye for items that are suitable for front page posts. And for those of you who prefer to submit privately using the traditional form, you can do so here.

Annecy Announces Film Selections for 2013 Festival

The world’s longest-running and largest animation festival, Annecy, announced short film and TV selections today for its 2013 edition, which will take place June 10-15 in Annecy, France. This year’s competition will consist of 52 shorts, 51 graduation films, 35 TV series and specials, 11 music vids, 23 commercial projects and 4 educational/industrial films. Feature film selections will be announced at a later date.

Films that were rejected from competition still have an opportunity to screen at Annecy +, the renegade Annecy offshoot organized by Bill Plympton and Nancy Denney-Phelps. The seventh annual Annecy + takes place on the Friday of the festival. Submissions are being accepted until May 13. Submission details on Facebook.

(Annecy 2013 poster design by Arthur Collin)

LAIKA/house Signs Carlos Andre Stevens To Director Roster

LAIKA/house, the commercial arm of ParaNorman production studio LAIKA, announced today that they’ve added Carlos Andre Stevens to their directing roster. Stevens was most recently a director/creative director at LOGAN/NY, and prior to that worked at Seattle-based Süperfad.

In the press release announcing his arrival, Stevens said that his decision to move to LAIKA was based partly on the city’s lifestyle amenities:

“New York City was terrifically fun, but I need more nature. I was a competitive downhill and freestyle skier growing up, so I love the fact that I can be at the beach, in lush forests and on snow-capped mountains in less than a two-hour drive from Portland. Skiing ignited a passion for risk-taking that I continue to seek out in both my professional and personal life. The quality of life in Portland enriches creativity.”

His reel and various commercials directed by him can be seen on LAIKA’s website.

Artist of the Day: Justin Sweet

Justin Sweet

Justin Sweet works as a concept artist and illustrator developing the look of CGI-heavy films with his digital paintings. His recently updated website includes his latest work.

Justin Sweet

Justin Sweet

Justin Sweet

Justin also works in traditional media like oils, watercolor and pencils that create entirely different moods, perhaps because they also appear to be personal work and sketchbook material.

Justin Sweet

Justin Sweet

Justin Sweet

The three pieces above from Justin’s work on the recent Green Lantern and Snow White and the Huntsman films have the distinct, terrifying essence of the late Polish artist Zdzisław Beksiński’s work.

Justin Sweet

The Documentary About Bronies is Here

A pleasant surprise arrived in my mailbox yesterday: a copy of the new documentary Bronies: The Extremely Unexpected Adult Fans of My Little Pony directed by Laurent Malaquais. The project raised $322,000 on Kickstarter last year, making it the second-most funded documentary in the crowdfunding site’s history.

The title tells you everything you need to know about the film, which surveys the unexpected fandom that has formed around the animated series My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic. Screen time is allotted to a wide range of individuals who identify with the fandom, including Bronies who serve in the U.S. military and Bronies who live abroad in countries like The Netherlands, Germany and Israel. Friendship is Magic creator Lauren Faust, and voice actors John de Lancie and Tara Strong participate in the documentary; they are credited as executive producers along with Michael Brockhoff.

I haven’t had a chance to watch the whole thing yet, but considering my association with the fandom, I’m looking forward to learning more about it. If you want to see the film for yourself, various DVD/Blu-ray/digital download options are offered at BronyDoc.com.