DreamWorks’ The Croods opened in first place at the U.S. box office with $43.6 million. That is almost the exact same opening as Chris Sanders’ last film, How to Train Your Dragon, which opened with $43.7 million in 2010. It is also much stronger than the studio’s last film, Rise of the Guardians, which earned $23.8 million during its opening weekend last November. The Croods netted an additional $62.6 million from its foreign debut. Russia, which as we’ve established is crazy for DreamWorks animation, was the film’s top foreign market and generated $12.9 million in box office earnings.
In other box office news, The Weinstein Company’s Escape from Planet Earth is winding down its theatrical run. It grossed $477,522 in its sixth frame, upping its total to $53.4 million. GKIDS expanded Goro Miyazaki’s From Up on Poppy Hill into 6 theaters and grossed $59,693. The film’s two-week U.S. total stands at $131,927.
Nearly 600 people took our Croods box office poll which asked readers to guess how much the film would earn during its opening weekend. The correct choice—$42-44 mil—was the sixth most popular answer, guessed by 7.35% of readers. Here were the top five guesses:
10.93% of readers guessed $38-40 mil
10.04% of readers guessed $40-42 mil
9.5% of readers guessed under $25 million
8.78% of readers guessed $36-38 mil
7.53% of readers guessed $30-32 mil
The half-hour pilot, titled “Sally in Hollywoodland,” was recorded June 3, 1947, but apparently never went beyond this single test episode. Highlights include a creepy-sounding Woody at noraml recording speed, as well as performances by Billy Bletcher and a young June Foray. Had the show gone into production, it would have been the first time the Lantz characters appeared on air.
The show features Norma Jean Nilsson voicing the human protagonist Sally, Theodore Von Eltz as Woody Woodpecker, Billy Bletcher as Wilbur the Wolf, June Foray as Oswald the Rabbit, Sarah Brenner as Andy Panda, and Herb Lytton as Wally Walrus.
Sometimes when I’m animating, I recharge my creative batteries by watching some of my favorite scenes or pieces of animation. There’s a handful of animated pieces that I watch again and again, but only one that I always return to without fail. It blows me away every time I see it, and upon each viewing, I always seem to discover something new. After every viewing, it makes me strive harder and harder to become a better animator.
No surprise that this scene from Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day (1968) is a Milt Kahl scene. I may be one of the very few people who has had the gall to say something remotely negative about Kahl’s animation in the past, but I still think all the admiration for him and his work is completely justified. He could handle anything, and make it look and move beautifully. It’s a shame he wasn’t given more assignments like this one, because I feel that his more cartoon-oriented animation really stands out as some of his best.
While the entire four-minute sequence of Tigger in Pooh’s house is wonderful (great personality animation, dialogue, pacing, etc.), it’s the shot of Tigger bouncing around Pooh that stands out for me. The reason I love that scene so much is that it perfectly encapsulates all twelve principles of animation. In about 7 seconds, each principle is flawlessly showcased, some multiple times, and some intertwining and overlapping one another. As broad and over the top as it is, there’s layer upon layer of intricate elements that make the scene work.
For starters, watch when Tigger first begins bouncing:
There’s little to no anticipation in his legs, but instead the anticipation is shown in the movement of his head going down before the take off. The tilt of his head, in relation to his arms, legs, ears and whiskers as he first jumps show a great use of arcs. Also notice the successive breaking of the joints on Tigger’s arms, from his shoulders to his elbows to his wrists, and the drag on his fingertips.
As he bounces in place, you can really feel the energy transferring through his body, from his head down to his tail and right back up to his head again, much like a wave action. The folds and wrinkles in his body as he squashes down not only tell us that Tigger is a well-worn toy with loose stuffing, but how much force and weight that Tigger is exerting with each bounce.
Now, Tigger begins to bounce in a circle around Pooh:
This is why Tigger’s stripes play such an integral role in his design. The stripes sell the idea that Tigger is not a flat drawing, but a three-dimensional living creature. His stripes wrap around the forms of his body and give the illusion of volume. So when Tigger is bouncing around Pooh, those stripes make it clear that Tigger’s body is turning away from us in perspective. Also notice the overlapping action on Tigger’s tail, and how it bends and swings at the kinked parts.
Tigger then jumps up and spins on his tail:
There’s so much going on in this one-second action. Tigger’s torso is twisting and contorting, his top half slightly delayed than his bottom half. Like before, his arms and legs following arcs, and his hands, ears and whiskers are dragging behind. And while all this is going on, he’s squashing and stretching on every bounce until finally easing into his final pose before making physical contact with Pooh and charging offscreen.
And throughout that entire scene, on every bounce, footstep and contact, Tigger is hitting every single beat in the song. Each of Kahl’s key poses are appealing, with clear staging and strong silhouettes. It’s almost contradictory how Tigger moves. While he’s galumphing around the screen like a roughhouse, there’s a certain level of grace in his movements. And both Tigger and Pooh’s personalities are easily distinguishable, Tigger being confident and boisterous and Pooh being underplayed and submissive. Overall, a tour de force of animation.
Coincidently, Kahl was also animating Shere Kahn in TheJungle Book around the same time. They’re both tigers (Tigger loosely so), but look how drastically different in approach and execution they are from each other. Shere Kahn is restrained and more subtle—built and functioning like a real tiger, while Tigger is so full of energy and enthusiasm that he’s practically bursting at the seams, and is a completely graphic design. Compare them to Kahl’s caricatured tiger from the Goofy short Tiger Trouble twenty years earlier and you have some sense of how broad Kahl’s abilities were as an animator.
I would’ve loved to know Kahl’s opinion about his own work on Tigger. I know there’s plenty of information floating around about how he felt animating Medusa, Shere Kahn, the Brers and all of his human characters, but barely anything about his work on Tigger. If anyone has any insight about this, please share!
For those that want a closer look at this scene, here’s a video of it slowed down 500% with annotations:
C.H. Greenblatt is the creator of the Cartoon Network series Chowder, part of the production crew on the Disney series Fish Hooks, and the creator of a new series pilot that has recently been completed for Nickelodeon called Bad Seeds.
C.H. keeps a blog with funny drawings and sketchbook doodles here. An older blog here stretches back through the Chowder production era, beginning in 2006. He also contributes to the Unofficial Official Fish Hooks Bloghere, which offers a glimpse into the the production of that show.
C.H. is generous with advice. He often responds to readers’ questions on his blog, and the answers offer valuable insights into his methods.
A recent post included a sneak peek at some of the background artwork and background characters from the Bad Seeds pilot.
The 16th edition of the Holland Animation Festival wrapped up earlier today in Utrecht, The Netherlands. Hisko Hulsing’s Junkyard won the top prize for Dutch animation, while Jérémy Clapin’s latest film Palmipedarium took home the festival’s top prize for narrative animated shorts.
The Short Film jury was comprised of Gabriella Giandelli (Italy), Steven Subotnick (United States) and Marc James Roels (Belgium). The Feature Film jury consisted of Hans Walther (Netherlands), Luca Raffaelli (Italy) and Frans Westra (Netherlands). Student Film jury was Marc Bertrand (Canada), Chris Sullivan (United States) and René Windig (Netherlands), and Dutch prize jury was Nik Christensen (UK/Netherlands), Ton Gloudemans (Netherlands) and Dennis Tupicoff (Australia).
This one is new to me. The Picasso Summer is a 1969 feature based on a Ray Bradbury short story. It includes an impressively lengthy animated sequence based on Picasso’s artwork that holds up on its own.
The animation is credited to Wes Herschensohn, who was a producer on the film and also an animation veteran. But this in-depth article about the film claims the animation was produced by John and Faith Hubley. Based on the style, it’s entirely plausible that the Hubleys provided the animation, though I’ve never heard of them being associated with the project. Whoever made this, it’s a unique interpretation of Picasso’s artwork into animation, and deserves more attention than it has received.
When you invite certified Disney legend Walt Peregoy (Sleeping Beauty, 101 Dalmatians, Sword in the Stone) to visit a studio, you never know what you’ll hear, but be prepared for plenty of salty language, politically incorrect views, and uncomfortable laughter from the audience. Here’s a recently unearthed video of the 87-year-old Peregoy visiting Walt Disney Animation Studios last year for an in-house exhibit of his artwork.
Peregoy, who gives new meaning to ‘extemporaneous’ speaking, offered some choice thoughts to his colleagues:
On Walt Disney:
Walt Disney was a shit…We made Walt. Walt didn’t make Walt. Walt was an asshole.
On contemporary animation:
There’s nothing on TV or on the screen that’s worth a shit. If I’m insulting some of you, I don’t give a shit, because it’s all shit.
On classic hand-drawn animation:
That was real animation. And even with all the technology [today], it still isn’t that good, is it?
On layout artist Ernie Nordli:
Great artist. Very humble. So humble he committed suicide.
On his role at Disney:
I take credit. Boy, if it wasn’t for me, Disney’s and all those features wouldn’t amount to a pile of shit.
On asserting yourself as an artist:
Producers want to be the one, and the art directors want to be the one. If any of you here are artists, assert yourself. I mean it…assert yourself. So tell those bastards to get off the pot…Each and every one of you have talent that you don’t even admit to, but take it in your own hands and run with it…Because who you are—your talent—is the most important thing in this world.
The next major animated release in the U.S. will be Blue Sky’s Epic, out on May 24th. Fox just released this new trailer for the Chris Wedge-directed film.
This trailer has a lot of the same shots from the original trailer, but it’s very different in tone. Also, Aziz Ansari’s slug character now says, “What’s going on, girl?” whereas in the first trailer he said, “What’s going on, babygirl?” This makes me wish so badly that I could have been a part of the meeting where they discussed the nuances of a slug saying ‘girl’ versus ‘babygirl.’
The trailer has the same top-level quality we’ve come to expect from Blue Sky—lush production design, appealing characters, funny bits of animation, and gorgeous lighting. Frankly, I’m always impressed with the individual elements of Blue Sky’s films, even if those elements never seem to add up into a satisfying film experience. But Epic looks promising, and I’ve got high hopes that they’ll pull it together into a solid package.
I’m sure DreamWorks had the purest of intentions when they enlisted their superstar animator James Baxter to teach children how to draw characters like Eep and Guy from The Croods. But we all know how these tutorials will be put to use by the Internet. (All links NSFW in the last sentence.)
They’ve even made a “Gran” tutorial for the gerontophiles:
And please, I beg of you, if you do anything smutty with this character, don’t show me:
Snoopy and the rest of the Peanuts gang have been spokestoons for the insurance giant MetLife for nearly 30 years. The ads are rarely anything beyond the ordinary, but this latest one has an inventive conceptual approach that I liked.
Ogilvy & Mather-owned Redworks produced the spot, and Polish studio Platige Image provided visual effects/post work.
Director: Sam Tootal
Agency: Ogilvy + Mather
Production house: Redworks
Postproduction house: Platige Image
Producer: Kasia Chodak
To conclude our week of exploring (a few) of the crew members on The Croods, let’s take a look at the work of Gabriele Pennacchioli, who served as a story artist on the film.
Gabriele’s blog is where you can see more of his personal work, such as his “Young Minotaur” character who battles all kinds of other creatures. He released a collection of these drawings as a book in 2008, which is still available here.
Scrolling further through his blog you’ll also find some other spear-wielding people, panthers, a cyclops and all sorts of expertly executed cartoon drawings.
Chris Sanders and Kirk De Micco’s The Croods opens today in the United States along with over 45 other countries. Critics haven’t been particularly kind, and the film has a mild 62% rating on Rotten Tomatoes (as of this writing). Typical comments include Richard Corliss in Time who complained that, “The family-dramedy genre that the film inhabits demands a bit more narrative ingenuity than is on display,” and Leslie Felperin in Variety who wrote that the film “adopts a relatively primitive approach to storytelling with its Flintstonian construction of stock, ill-fitting narrative elements.”
The good news is that mainstream audiences disagree with the critics. They’ve given The Croods a robust 87% audience rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
So who do you agree with? Check out the film and report back here with your opinion in the comments below. As usual, the talkback is open only to those who have actually seen the film and wish to share an opinion about it.
Fans of Aleksandr Petrov (The Cow, The Old Man and the Sea) will appreciate this ad he created for Russian Railways using his trademark paint-on-glass technique. The spot celebrates the 175th anniversary of railways in Russia.
Continuing our week of looking into the work of The Croods crew, take a look at the work of Louie del Carmen who was a story artist on the movie. Louie’s website gallery features drawings, sketches, and examples of his storyboard work.
Louie regularly produces personal projects such as original books and comics in addition to the work that he does in television and feature animation.
Louie recently returned to television work from features to be a director for Dreamworks’ Dragons: Riders of Berk.
We can’t seem to get over our obsession with the caveman, who has appeared on screen since at least 1912. In fact, anthropologist Judith Berman has written that a new caveman character has been introduced into pop culture every year since World War II.
DreamWorks’ The Croods, directed by Chris Sanders and Kirk De Micco, presents the most recent version of prehistoric man; Grug, is a responsible father facing such dad-like issues as a teenage daughter who just wants to be her own person. He transcends the behavior expected of a typical caveman, but his character design doesn’t evolve past a stereotype that is largely of our own making.
We’ve distilled an entire subspecies of human down to a single iconic image, one that is perpetuated year after year through film, animation, comic art and bad Halloween costumes. The caveman is always brutish, dressed in some type of fur loin cloth and possessing limited intelligence. Some stereotypes of prehistoric humans are certainly based on archeological facts: the structure of the skull, anatomical proportions and pelt-based wardrobe. But other stereotypes, such as wielding clubs, communing with dinosaurs and pulling women by the hair, are our own projections of prehistoric behavior.
The iconic caveman image we know today was already established by the 1930s, seen in the comic strip Alley Oop. He carried a stone axe, manhandled women and rode a dinosaur named Dinny. Alley Oop, along with the Fleischer’s Stone Age Cartoonsseries, was a response to western society grappling with what it meant to be modern. The simple world of the caveman was a nostalgic comfort to those who feared progress.
Alley Oop was the pop culture bookend of a caveman fiction trend that began in the 19th century. One of the earliest examples is Paris Before Man, a novel written by Pierre Boitard in 1861. The frontispiece print (above) shows a club-wielding caveman, protecting his mate. As the genre developed, the caveman became more brutish and ill-mannered—an 1886 short story written by Andrew Lang describes a marriage custom in which women are “knocked on the head and dragged home.” By the 1920s, numerous newspaper headlines used “caveman” and “neanderthal” as adjectives to describe senseless male brutality.
The mid-century resurgence of cavemen in film (The Neanderthal Man, Monster on Campus), comics (B.C.) and television (The Flintstones) can partly be blamed on World War II rhetoric. Newscasters sang the praises of atomic power while warning of its devastating potential to send us back to a new Stone Age. To help us deal with these fears, the caveman was domesticated; The Flintstones showed that, even as the worst case scenario, the Stone Age wasn’t so bad. Even cavemen could wear neckties and accomplish an honest day’s work.
Over time, films and TV shows have moved away from the wife-clubbing caveman of the 19th century to fit G-rated expectations of civilized society. In fact, The Croods has pushed the caveman to the opposite end of the spectrum, with a father figure that seems like he could handle modern-day discussions of co-parenting and all-terrain strollers. No longer a commentary on uncivilized man or our fears of the future, the caveman and his era presented in The Croods is merely a backdrop ideal for contrasting our modern reality of iPods and WiFi.
On Friday, DreamWorks Animation will release Chris Sanders and Kirk De Micco’s The Croods, the company’s 26th feature. It will also be the first one released under their new distribution deal with Fox.
Box Office Guru predicts that Croods will open with a $39 million weekend. Box Office Mojo forecasts the film will earn between $40-44 million. Variety says the film is tracking north of $40 million, and even has a shot of reaching Wreck-It Ralph’s $49 million opening weekend. Not in question is that the film will be huge internationally. It opens day-and-date in over 45 countries tomorrow, and predictions are in the $300 million range for overseas opening weekend.
Now, it’s your turn. We are going to find out whether the collective knowledge of the animation community can accurately predict an animated film’s opening weekend. The poll below will remain open through Saturday early-afternoon. Read up on the links above, and then make your best guess for how much The Croods will gross on its US opening weekend.
Survey is now closed. Check back on Sunday for the results.
Tom Oreb is recognized by many as being one of the finest character designers during the Golden Age of Hollywood animation. Certainly, he was one of the most versatile. At Disney alone, he was the primary designer (or character stylist) of Toot Whistle Plunk and Boom, Sleeping Beauty, Paul Bunyan and 101 Dalmatians, among others. He also designed Tex Avery’s Symphony in Slang, Destination Earth for John Sutherland Productions, and the infamous “stylized Mickey” for Disney’s TV commercial unit:
Earlier in his career, Oreb had been one of Ward Kimball’s primary assistants on Jiminy Cricket in Pinocchio, Bacchus in Fantasia and the crows in Dumbo. A stash of his drawings from this era (1939-1941) recently turned up on the Hakes auction site. The drawings had belonged to Oreb’s first wife, Bonnie Barrett, who unbeknownst to all, had been alive until recently.
Because many of these drawings were done for his wife, they hint at their marital spats, albeit in humorous fashion. Another series of drawings alludes to Oreb’s love of surfing and beach bumming at Newport Harbor and Laguna Beach in Orange County, California. One drawing features a guest appearance by Salvador Dali, and another shows Oreb with his gruff supervisor Ward Kimball.
Tom Oreb (seated) with Ward Kimball, March 1943.
Ward Kimball says to Oreb: “Listen Tommy Oreb! You and me is getting along see!”
This model sheet has been widely credited to Ward Kimball, but it was mostly drawn by Tom Oreb.
Tom Oreb says to Dali, “ Well, Salvador Ole Cat, I’m afraid that I don’t quite dig this jive——.”
“Tom Oreb—report to coffeeshop immediately—your coffee is served.”
Bonnie Oreb: “G-r-r-r-r-”
B. B. — Battling Barrett
Bonnie Oreb: “Listen—Tommy Oreb, when I’m mad, I’M MAD!”
Bonnie Oreb: “Tom Oreb, you irk me at times.”
“Will you be my Valentine”
“Will you be my Valentine”
“The Rescue of a sick whale at Newport Harbor, 1939.”
You can use and modify them in any way you like as long as it’s for a non-commercial purpose. Showreels, short films, indie games, all that stuff is cool – just give credit. If it’s web based – include a link to my site. I’m releasing these without a how-to (or support of any kind) but it should be very straight forward. They are extremely low-weight and easy to animate with, all are compatible with versions of Maya after 2010.
Starting with its title—Dziwne dziwy, czyli… Baśń o Korsarzu Palemonie—this Polish film is nearly impossible to explain. As soon as the title of the film appears onscreen, the letters of the title morph into question marks and exclamation points, which then melt into a flag adorned with a skull that is smoking a pipe. The skull emits pipe smoke out of its eye, which quickly engulfs the screen. Then, the sun breaks through and shines. And that’s just the first 10 seconds! Add another 30 minutes of uninterrupted surrealist insanity and you begin to get an idea of this incredible piece of film.
Krzysztof Dębowski (pictured left), a veteran of the Polish animation scene, was in the twilight of his career when he made this film in 1986. It’s a difficult film to classify because it doesn’t fit into any conventional timeline of animation history. Some of the character designs are a throwback to the blocky ‘cartoon modern’ style of Sixties and Seventies Eastern European animation, but the facial expressions resemble the crude graphic exaggeration of manga and the cartoonish painted stills foreshadow the Spumco style of the early-1990s. Such efforts to compare the film’s individual elements to other visual work are inadequate though. It is the totality of Dębowski’s vision that is so striking and utterly original.
Dębowski gleefully disregards the Western animator’s narrow-minded obsession with achieving the “illusion of life.” He breaks every rule that is sacred to the character animator and moves things however he damn pleases. His universe functions on the level of pure graphic cinema and exists exclusively on its own terms. Characters distort in grotesque ways, and they move in fits and starts that suggest human locomotion in only the most abstract sense. Dębowski has no use for things like perspective and instead suggests space through design and movement. Effects like waves, clouds and cannon fire are conveyed through gorgeous patterns of shapes and lines that move to their own unique rhythms.
The film is visually lush, but its heavy narration makes it difficult to decipher. I called upon Pawel Wieszczecinski, a film studies major at the New School in Manhattan as well as the founder of the Kinoscope film series, to explain what I was looking at. Here’s what he told me:
The title is “A Fairytale about Palemon the Pirate.” This particular film is based on a fairytale by a famous fable writer named Jan Brzechwa. His stories are generally aimed at young audiences. I even remember his fairytales from when I was a kid. He is definitely the most famous fairytale writer in Poland. This particular piece was written in 1956. It’s about a King who dies, but before he does so, he announces to his four daughters that the one who will overcome the Palemon the Pirate will get the crown. Palemon owns all the seas and his empire is enormous. Eventually one of King’s daughters, the ugliest one, conquers Palemon’s empire and she becomes the new Queen. But besides that, she also hooks up with Palemon and they get married.
Dębowski should be an animation legend on the basis of this film alone. Yet, I’d never heard of him until I randomly stumbled across this film during a late-night cartoon binge. Further searching yields absolutely nothing written about him in the English language. His lack of recognition in the West is a shame considering his prolific body of work. He started directing in 1960 at Studio Miniatur Filmowych and made dozens of films over the next thirty years. The only other example of his work that I can find online is this early piece called Wzeszło słoneczko.
Yesterday, DreamWorks released the full trailer for its summer feature Turbo directed by David Soren. If I had to cite a few positive qualities, I’d point out the simple appeal of the character designs, as well as the exaggerated range of motion and funny mouth shapes on the snail characters.
Last week at SXSW, Vimeo announced that Don Hertzfeldt will be among the introductory group of filmmakers to use their new Vimeo On Demand platform. Hertzfeldt has always been very selective about how he distributes his work online, which may be the first sign that Vimeo is doing something right with this new service.
Vimeo’s On Demand set-up is fully customizable. Films of any length can be distributed, and prices can be set by filmmakers as can viewing periods for films. Here are some of its key features:
90/10 revenue split: You keep 90% of revenue after transaction fees, and we cover all delivery costs.
Your audience can watch anywhere: Your work is available online, as well as on mobile devices, tablets, and connected TVs, all in gorgeous HD quality.
Customizable design: You can completely personalize your Vimeo On Demand page to match your work and bring it to life.
Flexibility + control: Sell films, episodes, and more at the price you want, anywhere in the world you want — including on your own website.
I haven’t delved into all the particulars yet, but Vimeo On Demand appears to be quite filmmaker-friendly. The system isn’t perfect: for example, they might be better off with a credits-based system instead of the currently cumbersome pay-per-view model. But such issues are resolvable over time. The important thing is that Vimeo has spent years building a solid foundation including its elegant video player and a large userbase interested in independent filmmaking. Their On Demand service is a positive development, and has potential to be a game-changer for indie animators and filmmakers.
Shane Prigmore designed many of the creatures in The Croods along with Carter Goodrich, Takao Noguchi, and Shannon Tindle. He has worked on other Dreamworks films, too, including How to Train Your Dragon and Rise of the Guardians. Some of Shane’s development work on Rise of the Guardians is posted on his blog, with a few examples below. Here is an interview with Shane from the Character Design blog. It includes some earlier personal work and designs from movies such as Coraline.