Artist of the Day: Geoffrey Lillemon

Geoffrey Lillemon

I got a load of laughs out of viewing the collected work of Geoffrey Lillemon, mostly from the new multimedia project that he produced for the spring/summer 2013 Bernhard Willhelm women’s fashion collection. CGI heads were modelled and fused with photographs of models for a taste of the future fashion that we’ll all be sporting this summer. There is some making-of information and photos also available at that same section of Geoffrey’s website.

Geoffrey Lillemon

Take a look at Geoffrey’s website and 2012 showreel here for more work:

Geoffrey Lillemon

If you don’t mind wiggling eight-inch nipples and filthy sexual metaphors read to you in a computer voice, then certainly try a NSFW viewing of The Dance of the Sheast Nip for an absurdist, humorous dance video. (Another version of this is featured as the front page the Bernhard Willhelm website.)

Another project, a collaboration with Evan Roth, is Image of Edessa, an interactive website and related video that explores the animated GIF image as personal identity on the web.

Geoffrey Lillemon

Worth noting is the freedom in which Geoffrey plays with CGI tools and 3D objects. This complete disregard for the high-end production methods and photo-real standards that commercial artists tend to strive for allows for experimental work that revels in its computer-generated roughness. This, however, doesn’t suggest that Geoffrey’s work is that of an outsider artist or amateur hobbyist either. Besides creating personal work, he works for commercial clients who want to see him apply his weird vision and execution to their brands. The CGI methods that he uses are just some of the tools in his overall creative toolbox to create original, freaky videos.

Geoffrey Lillemon

Gallery: The Square Dance Art of Warner Bros. Director Chuck Jones

Chuck Jones is one of the marquee names of American animation history. He created characters such as Pepe le Pew, Marvin Martian, Gossamer, Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote, and directed classic shorts like Rabbit Seasoning, Duck Amuck, Feed the Kitty, The Dover Boys, One Froggy Evening, Duck Dodgers in the 24½th Century and What’s Opera, Doc?, to name just a few. A lesser known fact about Jones is that during the 1950s he and his wife Dorothy (nickname: Dottie) were avid participants of the Southern California Western square dancing craze, a style of dance explained in this video:

Jones never spoke of his love for square dancing in either of his biographies: Chuck Amuck or Chuck Reducks. His appreciation for the dance never manifested itself in the films he made either. In fact, the quintessential Warner Bros. square dance cartoon, Hillbilly Hare, was directed by Jones’ colleague, Robert McKimson. Jones’ enthusiasm for square dancing was well known around the studio, however. He organized lunchtime dances, and claimed that the other directors, like McKimson and Friz Freleng, as well as producer Eddie Selzer, became fascinated with the dance as well.

Throughout the 1950s, Chuck contributed magazine covers and a regular column to a Southern California magazine called Sets in Order. Within the past year, the University of Denver Digital Archive has added a PDF archive of Sets in Order. (Go HERE for a more clearly indexed list of back issues). In the gallery below, I’ve compiled all of Chuck’s covers, a couple illustrated articles he did, and one of his columns which was especially animation related. Should you wish to dig through the archives, there are dozens of other “Chuck’s Notebook” columns within the 1950s and early-’60s issues. They’re esoteric and often obtuse, but are decorated with Chuck’s spot illustrations and provide some unique insights into his personality.

There are lots of hidden goodies in the columns that Jones wrote, and now that they are so readily accessible, they will hopefully be scrutinized more closely by historians. Animator and historian Greg Duffell introduced me to these drawings when he did an article about them in my ‘zine Animation Blast. In that piece, Greg pointed out astutely how some of Chuck’s drawings in the magazine foreshadowed the designs of characters who later appeared in films like The Phantom Tollbooth, Deduce You Say, Rocket-bye Baby and I was a Teenage Thumb. Whether you recognize the references or not, the drawings that Jones created for Sets in Order stand on their own and can be appreciated today as exquisite examples of mid-century cartooning.

All the material in here was drawn by Chuck Jones for Sets in Order which is copyright Bob Osgood.

Disney Hand-Drawn Animation Still Exists…As Papercraft

Why produce expensive hand-drawn animation when you can placate your audience for the cost of lunch at Spago’s? Animation artist Henrique Jardim noticed that at yesterday’s CTN Road Expo animation event in Burbank, Disney was handing out papercraft animation desks complete with disc and peg bar. He tweeted the photo above along with this note:

Google Wallet by Wolfberg

I first saw this ad on Vimeo and by the time the cards started bouncing around in the “cloud,” I was convinced it was a parody of Google’s products. Well, after further research, it turns out that this is a real advertisement for an official Google product. It’s from the directing duo Wolfberg. While of dubious effectiveness as an ad, it strikes me as a superb example of photorealistic computer animation that is both inventive and fun to watch.

(via Motionographer)

Walt Disney Family Museum Announces Camille Rose Garcia and Maurice Sendak Shows

The Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco has announced two new exhibitions for this summer centered around the works of lowbrow artist Camille Rose Garcia and Where the Wild Things Are author/illustator Maurice Sendak. The exhibit showcasing Garcia’s work alongside paintings by Mary Blair is an inspired stroke of curation. I hope they keep doing shows like this in which they explore the influence of classic Disney in contemporary visual culture.

Camille Rose Garcia: Down the Rabbit Hole (May 9-November 13, 2013) features some 40 works by Garcia alongside several Alice in Wonderland concept paintings by Disney artist Mary Blair from the Museum’s collection. Organized by guest curator Tere Romo, the exhibition celebrates not only Garcia and Blair’s artistry across decades and artistic styles, but also the power of art to draw us into magical worlds that spark engagement and inspiration. Go HERE for more details.

Maurice Sendak: 50 Years, 50 Works, 50 Reasons (May 23–July 7, 2013) features 50 works by the legendary author and illustrator, accompanied by 50 statements from celebrities, authors, and noted personalities on the influence of Sendak’s work, all in celebration the 50th anniversary of his universally revered book, Where the Wild Things Are. Go HERE for more details.

Seven Rules For Pissing Off Artists

Last week, comment sections across the creative community were set ablaze by the Harvard Business Review’s article “Seven Rules for Managing Creative People”, a list of instructions that described the general personality of creative employees with such choice words as “arrogant,” “bipolar” and “psychopathic.”

The article inspired so much vitriol from the online creative community that HBR has since changed its title to “Seven Rules For Managing Creative-But-Difficult People,” clarifying that, “Its intent is to discuss a small subset of people who happen to be both creative and difficult to work with; not to imply that all creative people are difficult.”

For those managers out there too busy corralling their unruly ‘creatives’ to read the entire piece, here are the original 7 rules in a nutshell (if you are a creative, please avert your eyes):

  1. Spoil them and let them fail
  2. Surround them by semi-boring people
  3. Only involve them in meaningful work
  4. Don’t pressure them
  5. Pay them Poorly
  6. Surprise Them
  7. Make them feel important

Along with updating the article title, HBR has also amended what is arguably the most egregious of the rules to: “#5. Don’t Overpay Them,” which seems especially scandalous considering the amount of creative individuals working through freelance and contract positions without benefits and health insurance. The author of the piece (pictured left), Dr. Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic (@DrTCP) has also attempted to elaborate on this subject via Twitter: Save for a few tweets like the one above and one that states “…it represents my professional opinion, which is informed by science and practice,” Dr. Chamorro has, perhaps wisely, said little about the article since it was published. Cartoon Brew reached out to him for comment, but at the time of this writing, he had not responded to our interview requests.

The rest of the Internet has been anything but silent though, and there have been a multitude of responses to the article that raise some well thought out conclusions for the disenfranchised creative individual.

For those seeking to maintain the “us” vs. “them” divide, there’s Lancer Creative Services eye-for-an-eye response, “Seven Rules or Putting up with Management”, which includes advice like “Accept that they don’t get us” and “Remember that Money is everything to them”.

Stevie Moore of Studiospectre takes a more empowered stance, seeing the mere knowledge of the directives as just another tool in the creative professional’s arsenal:

“I think this is a good example of how, of the internet and social networking’s double edge can actually work in our favor. By publishing that, the author is just arming us with knowledge and evidence to ensure a future where creatives have equal roles in the industry, which I dare say all of us here feel is best.”

Cennydd Bowles of finds a more egalitarian view that benefits more than just “creatives” and “non-creatives”:

“The premise that underpins this and many similar articles is that creativity is a binary property: some people are blessed (or cursed) with it, others aren’t…Thankfully, the premise is flawed. Creativity is not a binary ability but a muscle that needs exercise… everyone has creative capacity.”

And indie filmmaker David O’Reilly, who recently directed an episode of Adventure Time, provides a painfully succinct response to the entire editorial debacle, aimed directly at the author himself:

However, there are still a couple of fundamental questions getting buried beneath all of the hurt feelings and defensive misunderstandings that make up a lion’s share of the response. Questions like: In today’s professional landscape, what defines a “creative”? And where exactly would these suggestions even be considered by management as viable options rather than ignored for potential risks to the bottom line?

(Typical artist photo via Shutterstock)

Artist of the Day: Mingjue Helen Chen

Mingjue Helen Chen

Mingjue Helen Chen is a visual development artist at Walt Disney Animation Studios. She has a blog here which has samples of her Frankenweenie and Wreck-It Ralph development and matte painting work, and a Tumblr here.

Mingjue Helen Chen

Here is one of her digital paint studies of a head study originally painted by Spanish artist Joaquín Sorolla.

Mingjue Helen Chen

Mingjue Helen Chen

She shares some of the production process that she was involved in for the recent Oscar-winning Paperman short here.

Mingjue Helen Chen

Crowdfund Fridays: “The Last 40 Miles”

Texas executes more Americans than any other state in the United States, a disturbing fact that Austin-based British journalist Alex Hannaford learned when he began interviewing Texan death row inmates in 2003. Now, he has patched together a fictional animated film based loosely on those inmate interviews. The Last 40 Miles follows “a condemned man on his last trip: a ride from his solitary cell on death row to the execution chamber in a facility 40 miles away.” The film will employ a variety of drawn and digital animation styles, including rotoscoping.

Hannaford is producing the short with a trio of artists who teach at the Art Institute of Austin: Jeff Roth, Meg Mulloy and Luc Dimick. They are attempting to raise $30,000 on IndieGogo to complete the film. At the time of this writing, they had raised $18,666 with three days remaining in their campaign. Unlike Kickstarter’s all-or-nothing fundraising platform, IndieGogo offers a ‘flexible funding’ scheme, which means that even if these filmmakers don’t reach their goal, they are allowed to keep the amount they’ve raised. Texas Monthly published an interview with Hannaford last December in which he describes the genesis of the film and how they’re making it.

BREAKING: Disney Just Gutted Their Hand-Drawn Animation Division [UPDATED]

According to former Disney animator Tom Bancroft on Twitter, Disney gutted their hand-drawn animation division this afternoon, and laid off nine veteran animators, including some of the studio’s biggest names: Nik Ranieri, Ruben Aquino, Frans Vischer, Russ Edmonds, Brian Ferguson, Jamie Lopez and Dan Tanaka. Two of the animators who still have jobs are Eric Goldberg and Mark Henn. The news of cuts in their animation division was leaked last week, but I, for one, did not anticipate that all these top animators would be let go. We’ve reached out to the studio for comment.

UPDATE: According to Aaron Blaise in the comments, Alex Kupershmidt was not among those laid off.

UPDATE #2: The Animation Guild reported that 9 veteran animators were laid off today so there are still two names that are unknown.

UPDATE #3: And now the Animation Guild is reporting in the same link above that, “Other veterans are being called in to meetings to discuss pay cuts and/or buyouts.”

UPDATE #4: In light of Disney’s dismantling of their hand-drawn animation division, this Animation Guild post from last October suggests that Disney execs, including Lasseter, had decided a while ago that hand-drawn animation was no longer a part of Disney’s gameplan. In the post, an anonymous staffer at Disney lodges the following complaint to union rep Steve Hulett:

We’re developing a bunch of different projects to show John Lasseter. It’s a complicated process. We pitch to a development group, they tell us which ones they like, then tell us that people who’re pitching need to develop three pitches for John, since he likes artists showing him three things.

And when we do pitch, it’s made clear to us that the stories aren’t necessarily for a hand-drawn project. When we’ve brought it up with John Lasseter, he’s shied away from commiting to a hand-drawn feature …

UPDATE #5: There’s a long-ish piece at Business Insider that explores reasons for the broader company-wide layoffs at Disney. They include the dying DVD market (and sluggish sales of Brave and Cinderella) as well as the $50 million write-down on Henry Selick’s cancelled stop motion project. Of course, the hand-drawn animation division layoffs are simply because Disney is moving away from drawn animation.

DreamWorks Buys Trolls from Dam Things

Ogres are so yesterday. DreamWorks Animation just announced that they have acquired the IP for the Trolls franchise from the Dam Family and Dam Things of Denmark. DreamWorks now becomes the exclusive worldwide licensor of the merchandise rights for the humorously-deformed Don King-hairstyled Troll Dolls, with the sole exception of Scandanavia where Dam Things will remain the licensor. The studio had previously announced that they were developing a Trolls feature.

DreamWorks also announced that they have tapped American Girl veteran Shawn Dennis to lead the Trolls brand development. “Trolls is a brand with over fifty years of deep heritage and we are thrilled to bring this iconic, multi-generational property to DreamWorks Animation,” said Chief Operating Officer Ann Daly. “We have big plans for this franchise and Shawn Dennis is uniquely suited to lead this charge. She helped grow the American Girl brand into a household name and by bringing this expertise to Trolls she will introduce these characters to legions of new fans around the world.”

Dennis joins DreamWorks from American Girl, where she was Senior Vice-President of Marketing (Product Development and Publishing). Prior to that, she was group head of global branding at Dell, and Chief Marketing Officer and Vice-President of the NFL.

Calle Ostergaard, CEO of Dam Things, said, “DreamWorks Animation is renowned for telling wonderful stories about imaginative worlds while bringing characters with universal appeal into the hearts and homes of families everywhere – I can think of no better future for Trolls. We are confident that the time-honored legend of the Trolls, which holds such special significance to the Dam family and the people of Scandanavia, will now live on in new and exciting ways with DreamWorks Animation.”

Artist of the Day: Raphaël Chabassol

Raphaël Chabassol

Raphaël Chabassol, who also goes by Mokë, works in London and has a portfolio of animation design and direction work here, including a page that features his character designs from the second season of Cartoon Network’s The Amazing World Of Gumball.

Raphaël Chabassol

Considering its multimedia art direction, Gumball seems like a fitting show for Raphaël to work on. His blog shows off his broader interests and personal work which include illustrations, prints, tattoos, mural art and dimensional character pieces.

Raphaël Chabassol

Raphaël Chabassol

Raphaël Chabassol

Raphaël Chabassol

“Gloria Victoria” Trailer and Clip by Theodore Ushev

The National Film Board of Canada has released a trailer and clip from Theodore Ushev’s new film Gloria Victoria which will screen at Annecy in June:

Recycling elements of surrealism and cubism, this animated short by Theodore Ushev focuses on the relationship between art and war. Propelled by the exalting “invasion” theme from Shostakovich’s Leningrad Symphony (No. 7), the film presents imagery of combat fronts and massacres, leading us from Dresden to Guernica, from the Spanish Civil War to Star Wars. It is at once a symphony that serves the war machine, that stirs the masses, and art that mourns the dead, voices its outrage and calls for peace.

Ushev draws upon the rich history of Modern art in Gloria Victoria, and turns it into a visceral and original animated experience. I saw a workprint last fall, and if it’s not plainly evident from these previews, it’s a mind-blowing art lover’s delight.

The Secret History of “Who Framed Roger Rabbit”

ROSS ANDERSON is currently writing the definitive book about the making of Roger Rabbit, beginning with Gary K. Wolf’s novel and Disney’s early Roger Rabbit development unit, continuing with the production of “Who framed Roger Rabbit”, and through the follow-up shorts, merchandising and theme park presence, and development work on sequels. He wrote this piece exclusively for Cartoon Brew about the 25th anniversary screening of “Roger Rabbit” that took place last week in Los Angeles.

On Thursday evening, April 4th, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences hosted the first public screening of the new digital print of Who framed Roger Rabbit. The preparation of the digital print coincides with the release of the 25th anniversary Blu-ray edition of the film, and the Academy hosted a terrific show.

When the tickets were made available on-line they sold out within a day or two. The film was enormously popular when it was released and it has been a touchstone for film and animation enthusiasts ever since. I can’t take credit for the touchstone/Touchstone remark—that came from Rich Moore, director of Wreck-It Ralph, who was the moderator of the panel discussion that followed the film screening.

The event attendees were polite and mature in their behavior, although many of them hadn’t been born when the film was released. The enthusiasm for the film has some of the earmarks of coltishness, but it is not as though the adoration is a personal ‘find’ and a delight against all reason. There are ample reasons to delight in the film, and everybody has their own joys that they find in it. Mine – is that I had been a life-long animation enthusiast who found it difficult to share my enthusiasm with friends. I was in university when Robin Hood was released. I would have been harassed unmercifully if my interest in Disney animation had become known to my dorm-mates. Who framed Roger Rabbit made animation ‘cool’ again…and it made money, which increased the enthusiasm of the studios. Many people in the animation industry credit the film with ushering in a silver age of feature animation.

Academy member and veteran animation director Bill Kroyer introduced the screening. Bill was a young animator at the Disney studio prior to the first onslaught of CalArts grads, who included John Lasseter, Tim Burton, Brad Bird, Henry Selick, John Musker, Jerry Rees, and Darrell Van Citters. They were all frustrated with how Disney animation was functioning in the early-1980s.

Tom Wilhite, the young Disney Live-Action Studio Head, saw their frustration and did what he could to enable projects that would satisfy their creative juices and keep them at the studio. Aside from John Musker, they were all eventually fired or left the studio of their own accord, but out of that early grouping came Tim Burton’s Vincent and Frankenweenie and John Lasseter’s The Brave Little Toaster, which Wilhite eventually produced, with Jerry Rees directing, as ‘Hyperion Pictures’, after he, too, left Disney. Wilhite also brought Tron to the Disney studio and was responsible for setting up the Roger Rabbit development unit at Disney in 1981, helmed by Darrell Van Citters.

Bill Kroyer was one of the first ‘animators’ to do computer animation. He and Jerry Rees were assigned to the Tron production to work with the early CGI providers. The computer software at that time was not intuitive at all, so there was more hand-drawn ‘logistical guidance’ for the programmers than most people realize. That was Bill and Jerry. Their involvement also fired up John Lasseter’s interest in computer animation. The Brave Little Toaster was intended to be the first full length CGI animated feature.

Tom Wilhite sent memos to scoop up Bill Kroyer, Jerry Rees, John Lasseter, Ron Clements, Mike Gabriel, Randy Cartwright, and Glen Keane for the Roger Rabbit unit… Wouldn’t that have been something?

Tron was released in 1982, at a time that the Darrell Van Citters’ Roger Rabbit development unit was getting into full swing. Screenwriters Peter Seaman and Jeffrey Price had just come off of Trenchcoat, a Disney mystery/comedy, and Wilhite assigned them to prepare a screenplay for Roger Rabbit. At that time Wilhite also sent memos to Darrell and Marc Stirdivant, the Disney house producer assigned to the development unit, to scoop up Bill Kroyer, Jerry Rees, John Lasseter, Ron Clements, Randy Cartwright, Mike Gabriel, and Glen Keane for the Roger Rabbit unit. Other things were happening at the studio, and soon most of those people were gone… but wouldn’t that have been something?

Back to the screening – Bill Kroyer called out many of the attendees who had been instrumental in making the film. This list isn’t exhaustive, but those who did stand up included voice actors Charles Fleischer (Roger Rabbit, Benny the Cab and others), June Foray (Lena Hyena), and Tony Anselmo (Donald Duck), animators Andreas Dejas and Nik Ranieri, screenwriters Seaman and Price, editor Artie Schmidt, London studio manager Max Howard, producers Steve Starkey and Don Hahn, and, of course, director Bob Zemeckis.

The film screening was wonderful. The digital print was clear and fresh and the colors popped out at you. Not having seen the film on the big screen for twenty-five years, I found it difficult to discern whether the viewing pleasure was due to anything particular associated with the digital print or simply that I was sharing the big screen experience with a room full of similarly enthusiastic viewers. The quality aspects of the digital restoration were being hotly debated within knots of people after the screening was over.

A panel discussion followed the screening. It was hosted by Rich Moore and included Peter Seaman, Jeffrey Price, Andreas Deja, Charles Fleischer, Joanna Cassidy, Steve Starkey, Bob Zemeckis, and Don Hahn. There were many reminiscences from the production. Most of them were well known to the real Roger Rabbit enthusiasts, but the ones who resonated the most for me were those that put the ‘25-years’ into perspective. We have heard about Who framed Roger Rabbit having way more special effects than Star Wars, but it was also one of the last of the great ‘optical’ effects films. It was a different era.

Zemeckis reminisced that, “we had FedEx and ¾” tape – we had technology by the tail.” He spoke about the first finished animation that came over from the London studio unit. It was the portion of the introductory Something Cookin’ cartoon in which the chili sauce falls off the shelf in Roger’s kettle-head. The British animators spelled ‘chili’ in the British manner, with two l’s (‘chilli’). The scene had to be completely re-animated.

In the scene which the camera trucks over the newspaper headlines showing the Toon cases solved by Valiant & Valiant on Eddie’s desk, the London studio had used the banners of LA newspapers of the time (1947), without having asked permission of the newspapers. One newspaper ended up refusing permission to use their banner – and this complicated scene had to be completely re-shot. Another anecdote was that Paul Newman had been considered for the role of Eddie Valiant. Charles Fleischer immediately shot back that Judge Doom would then have had to use ‘dressing’ instead of ‘dip’.

The greatest benefit of the digital presentation was the close-ups on the actors’ faces…there was sublime acting and emotion that contributed enormously to the ‘reality’ of their interaction with the ’toons.

Don Hahn made a call out for Richard Williams, who recently celebrated his 80th birthday. Richard had hoped to attend but was unable to make it. Also, during the panel discussion, it became clear that the presence of Bob Hoskins was greatly missed. He was universally acclaimed for his work on the film. I must say that the greatest benefit that I saw with the digital presentation was in the close-ups on the actors’ faces. There was sublime acting and emotion that contributed enormously to the ‘reality’ of their interaction with the ’toons. We ‘felt’ it and it was an integral aspect of the great ‘conceit’ of the live-action/toon combination, but the subliminal effects were often lost in the chaos of the action. In this viewing, they popped out at me.

It was a great night. Following the conclusion of the panel discussionm, the many Roger Rabbit production participants reunited on stage to catch up on 25 years. The ‘celebrities’ amongst them were cornered for autographs, and the ‘no photography’ policy of the Academy theater was completely thrown out the window as the hundreds of cameras that were spirited into the theater finally came out.

A group shot was hastily organized and there were many more Roger Rabbit alumni present than had been called out during the evening’s introduction. I counted at least twenty-five alumni. I had the pleasure of speaking to many of them and seeing several of them the next day. It was a special night for Roger Rabbit fans and a special night for those who were involved in making it.

Artist of the Day: Uno Moralez

Uno Moralez

The work of Russian artist Uno Moralez is an awesome curiosity. On his website you will find animated loops, illustrations and sequential stories, all drawn in pixel-exact lines and presented as limited color gifs. All the images posted here (besides the kitty city) had to be cropped horizontally to avoid the moire patterns that result when they are reduced to fit this column, so you’ll have to click over to Uno’s links to see the full versions. You’ll find that there is ‘Not Safe For Work’ material on all of Uno’s links.

Uno Moralez

Uno’s work is mysterious. Every single image is a short story that deserves contemplation, and because of this, it is extremely entertaining. Reading over his wordless sequential pieces such as this one, it is possible to be caught off-guard by being gripped with a real sense of dread.

Uno Moralez

For those of us that grew up playing early graphical/text games on computers that supported a maximum of 256 colors, these pixel art pieces may connect in a deeper way too. It is as if a late-Eighties techno-thriller is writing itself in my head while looking at Uno’s work: A couple kids sporting Jams, bowl-cuts, and Air Jordans load up the new game they found in the Dumpster behind the Babbages at the strip-mall. But the images that appear on the computer screen are especially sinister and violent; the images strangely seem to stare right at them. Then, the text prompt addresses them directly by name, and… well, you can write the rest–you’ve probably seen a few versions of that movie.

Uno Moralez

Uno is an impressive draftsman which naturally increases the effectiveness of his work. It’s the combination of his mysterious ideas and direction, strange pixelated presentation, and expert drawing that make his work unique and exciting.

Sean T. Collins recently conducted an interview with Uno over at The Comics Journal, which provides a lot more information and context about Uno’s work.

Uno Moralez
Uno Moralez

Above is an example of his sketching phase and finished animated image. Check out Uno’s Tumblr for more of his work including some process pieces or pieces presented in different ways than on his website. Uno also has an impressive “abandoned” animation project which you can see development work for here and here.

Dive deeper into Uno’s mind by exploring his strange LiveJournal which houses some art and sketches along with bizarre image dumps, again, NSFW.

Uno Moralez

“The Circle Line” by Adam Wells

In Circle Line, London-based Adam Wells depicts the life cycle of a creative individual, and its accompanying compromises and heartbreaks. At least, that’s my reading of the short; I’m sure there’ll be other interpretations, too. In common with Wells’ earlier shorts Brave New Old and The Rest is Science, Circle Line shares a preoccupation with the inherent beauty of mechanical processes (especially moving sidewalks in this film) and physical routines.

I invited Wells to share with readers how he achieved the film’s distinctive look. He writes:

The project is CGI, but there are no character rigs. I use ‘point level’ animation on 2D planes, working directly on the postion, frame by frame. CG animation is often compared to puppeteering, and a lot of traditional animation lovers are put off by the asthetic. I am trying to build something that is fully CG and looks it, but is built from a more traditional technique, which is why I make such liberal use of stretch and smearing. (This does not require fancy CGI calculations, it’s just drawn polygons.) It’s a technique I have used for my larger project Risehigh.

Directed by Adam Wells
Sound Design by Nic Smith
Typography by Joseph Alessio

Owen Hurley Named Technicolor’s Animation and Games Creative Director

Technicolor announced last week that they have appointed Owen Hurley to be the Creative Director of its Animation and Games group. Hurley will be based in Bangalore, India, at Technicolor Digital Productions’ animation studio.

The company, which formerly focused on technology solutions for the entertainment industry, has been building its reputation as a content producer since 2010. Their Indian studio has a dedicated unit working on Rockstar Games including such titles as Red Dead Redemption, L.A. Noire and Max Payne 3.

Earlier this year, Technicolor also announced plans to develop original content. Their current projects in development include Berkeley Breathed’s Pete & Pickles; Atomic Puppet, (a co-production with Mercury Filmworks); and a TV series adaptation of the graphic novel series The Deep.

Hurley recently directed Technicolor’s Barbie in the Pink Shoes for Mattel. Prior to working at Technicolor, Hurley was the Director of Animation and Cinematics at Vancouver-based Relic Entertainment, where he worked on the games Company of Heroes and the Dawn of War series. During an eight-year stint at Mainframe Entertainment, he directed episodes of Beast Wars, ReBoot, War Planets and Weird-Ohs as well as the direct-to-DVD movie, Casper’s Haunted Christmas.

Today Only on Amazon: Over 350 Looney Tunes for $65

Amazon’s Gold Box Deal of the Day—good for today only—is an amazing value for anyone who is even slightly interested in classic Hollywood cartoons. They’re offering all six Looney Tunes Golden Collection DVD sets for $65. That’s 24 discs with over 350 cartoons and far too many extras to mention. Go to Amazon by midnight to order.

Artist of the Day: Claudio Acciari

Claudio Acciari

Claudio Acciari is an Italian artist who has worked in animation on major productions there, in Germany and in the U.S. He keeps a blog here full of studies, sketches, illustrations and oekaki doodles.

Claudio Acciari

Claudio appears to be a student and keen observer of graphic styles of past and present illustration and animation art which he incorporates into his work. The work he posts pushes into different visual directions depending on each project’s theme.

Claudio Acciari

Eastern and Western influences evident in the drawings come together harmoniously. Even where his designs seem comfortingly familiar–in an established vein–they still have the individual touch.

Claudio Acciari

Claudio Acciari

Claudio Acciari

Claudio Acciari

Claudio Acciari

Claudio Acciari

Screenwriting Teacher Claims He Wrote Disney’s “Tangled,” But Film’s Director Says He Didn’t [UPDATED]

Are you an aspiring screenwriter who dreams of creating magical and intimate moments that simply teem in human behavior? If you answered “yes”, then Jon Bernstein might be the instructor for you. “My classes strive to master the ‘rules’ only so that we may creatively break them,” says Bernstein in his bio for his upcoming screenwriting course at UCLA.

The course listing also provides a handful of respectable writing credits for Bernstein, including crafting the screenplays for 2000’s Beautiful, the Jerry Springer vehicle Ringmaster, and Disney’s Meet the Robinsons. But it’s his claim of working as a contributing writer for Disney’s Tangled that has the film’s co-director, Nathan Greno, tied up in knots.

“We never worked with the guy on Tangled,” said Greno in a recent public post on Facebook. The post, not surprisingly, has only generated more skepticism about Bernstein’s professional claims as Greno’s friends and co-workers point out holes in the writer’s IMDB page and compare professional notes. In regard to Bernstein’s credit for writing Meet the Robinsons, screenwriter Michelle Bochner Spitz pointed out, “Jon Bernstein wrote the first draft(s) of Meet the Robinsons, and then had nothing to do with the movie when it was rewritten several times over for more than three years.”

Hollywood credits work in quirky ways, and Bernstein could have a legitimate, legal claim to the Tangled credit, which he also used to sell his 2011 script workshop, The Inspired Screenplay. But according to Greno, Bernstein didn’t seem eager to shed any light on the appropriation when he was contacted. “I brought up this ‘credit concern’ to Jon on his (personal) Facebook page and was I quickly deleted/blocked,” Greno wrote on Facebook. “I credit all of the writing on Tangled to our actual writer, Dan Fogelman… and so does IMDB.”

If Bernstein wishes to set the record straight on Cartoon Brew and allay Nathan Greno’s concerns, we welcome hearing his side of the story.

UPDATE [4/9/2013, 9:50pm]: The screenwriter Jon Bernstein has responded in the comments to Nathan Greno’s allegations that he didn’t work on Tangled. In a followup email to Cartoon Brew, Bernstein also said that he has removed the credit from his bio, because even though he is legally entitled to use it, he does “not wish to invite this sort of misunderstanding and mean-spirited innuendo again.”

The full text of Bernstein’s comment is posted below:

To suggest that I am misrepresenting my credits is offensive to me. I wish you would have done a bit of research before writing this mean-spirited and wildly misleading story.

I never claimed to write TANGLED. My bio states that I was a contributing writer. There were over twenty of us according to Disney’s legal documents. I was the first writer hired to work on it back when the project was called RAPUNZEL. This was before Mr. Greno was involved. When the film was released as TANGLED, I received a Disney legal document listing all the writers who worked on it. Writer # 17 — Dan Fogelman – is the credited screenwriter.

I was the first writer to be hired to work on WILBUR ROBINSON (later released as MEET THE ROBINSONS), based on the William Joyce book. It was my draft that got the project greenlit into production. There were many credited screenwriters; I was the first credited screenwriter.

I have never met Mr. Greno. When he friended me on Facebook, I saw that he worked in animation and we shared a few common friends so I accepted his friendship. He challenged me on my wall, not a private message. I replied in a private message and provided for him the dates that I was contracted to write RAPUNZEL and the name of the Disney executive with whom I worked. Then I unfriended him because obviously, why would I want to be friends with him?

Hollywood screenwriters know that film, especially animated film, is a collaborative medium. Virtually all animated films have multiple writers and countless animators.

Please feel free to confirm these facts with Disney legal.

Sincerely yours,

RIP: Edward Levitt, 96, Disney Background Painter and Cartoon Modern Designer

Edward Levitt, an unsung hero of the Golden Age of animation, has died. He was 96. Levitt died on Tuesday, April 2, in Palmdale, California.

Levitt worked as a director, production designer, storyboard and layout artist, and background painter for thirty-five years in the animation industry. His superb skills as a designer made him a key figure during the Cartoon Modern era of the 1950s.

Ed Levitt was born in New York City on April 17, 1916 and grew up in Somers, Connecticut and Brooklyn, New York. His family moved to Los Angeles in the mid-1930s and following graduation from high school, Levitt applied to the Disney Studios in 1937. He was hired at $16.50 per week and did rotoscope tracing on Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

The Disney studio recognized his talent as a painter, and by the end of production on Snow White, he had switched to painting backgrounds. He worked as a background artist on Pinocchio, the “Rite of Spring” segment in Fantasia and Bambi.

Here are a couple examples of his paintings from Fantasia and Bambi:

Levitt picketed during the Disney strike of 1941. He returned after the strike was settled to work on Victory Through Air Power, but left again to enlist in the Marines in 1943. During the war, he made training films while a member of the Marine Corps Photographic Section in Quantico, Virginia. The following photo shows Levitt during the time he was stationed at Quantico:

After the war, Levitt became a partner in a Los Angeles-based production company called Cinemette, which was formed with ex-Marines (and Disney artists) John Chadwick, Jack Whitaker, and Keith Robinson. The studio operated between 1946-1950, and they created a number of industrial films, as well as entertainment short subjects and early TV commercials.

Levitt’s liberal politics led him to direct Grass Roots (1948), which called for establishing a world government through a revision of the United Nations charter and was partly funded by the United World Federalists. He also produced a popular anti-nuclear animation film Where Will You Hide? (1948), which attracted the attention of no less than Albert Einstein, who commented, “Somebody, after having seen this film, may say to you: This representation of our situation may be right, but the idea of world government is not realistic. You may answer him: If the idea of world government is not realistic, there there is only one realistic view of our future: wholesale destruction of man by man.”

Levitt’s star rose during the 1950s when commercials and commissioned films were produced at an increasingly frenetic pace. His spare but visually sophisticated style was ideal for advertising, and he was much sought after as a designer, storyboard and layout artist. “He was a great artist,” said animator Bill Littlejohn. “And his layouts were the best. He could animate, too. I sure liked working with him. He was so damn good at what he did. He knew the problems that the animators would face and he would design things with that in mind.”

These are a few examples of commercials and films designed and laid out by Levitt:

Through the 1950s, Levitt worked as a freelancer at nearly every major commercial studio in Los Angeles including Graphic Films, Cascade Pictures, Raphael G. Wolff, Quartet Films, John Sutherland Productions, Eames Office, ERA Productions, United Productions of America, Ray Patin Productions, Academy Pictures, Churchill/Wexler Film Productions, Storyboard Inc., and Fred A. Niles Productions.

At Playhouse Pictures, Levitt worked closely with director Bill Melendez on many of the Ford spots starring the cast from the Peanuts comics. When Melendez opened his own studio in 1964, Levitt was one of the first artists he hired.

“I remember Ed as being reliable, steady, pragmatic, kind and generous,” said Melendez’s son Steve, who also worked at the studio. “I know that he helped Bill in the early days not only artistically but also financially. Bill always considered Ed to be ‘The Best’, a title he did not bestow easily or often. Ed could draw anything and had a great grasp of how a film is made. He was the best layout person I have ever met.”

Levitt played a key role in designing the first Peanuts special, A Charlie Brown Christmas. This was one of his backgrounds from the film:

He also coined the famous credit used for many years at the end of the Peanuts specials—Graphic Blandishment. “Blandishment” is defined as “something that tends to coax or cajole,” which speaks to Levitt’s modesty and his view of the role he played in the filmmaking process.

Steve Melendez recalled that Levitt was proud of A Charlie Brown Christmas even during times of uncertainty and doubt:

“When we completed A Charlie Brown Christmas, and we all had a chance to look at the answer-print, Bill, Lee [Mendelson] and everyone else thought we were the authors of a great disaster and we would probably never make a film again. Ed was the sole voice who said, ‘Don’t be silly, this film will be shown for a hundred years!’ And he was right. I don’t know if he believed it or not, but his calm confidence gave everyone hope that perhaps things were not as bad as they seemed.”

By the early-1960s, Ed identified himself as a Cartoonist-Rancher on his income tax returns. He had purchased a ranch in Lake Hughes, an hour’s drive north of Los Angeles, near Gorman, California, and had began taking animal husbandry classes at Pierce College. At his orchard, he planted cherry and apple orchards, and began to raise cattle.

Bill Melendez made this drawing of “cartoonist-rancher Ed”:

He spent most of the 1960s working on the Charlie Brown TV specials, and also directed a couple of Babar specials for Melendez. Other Sixties projects included the titles of It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World, and the features Gay Purr-ee and The Incredible Mr. Limpet.

Levitt retired from animation in 1973 to become a full-time rancher and orchard owner. “As you get older,” Levitt told a newspaper reporter, “it just seems a lot nicer to sit up here in the forest and listen to the trees grow.”

This is a photo of Levitt (left) operating his “pick-your-own” orchard in later years:

Levitt is predeceased by his wife, Dorothy. He is survived by his brother, Julius Levitt; sister, Annette Priemer; his four children, Alan Cyders; Geoffrey, Dan and Paul Levitt, along with numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren. In lieu of flowers, the family has requested that donations be made in his name to the Motion Picture & Television Country House and Hospital.

Did Disney Steal “Alice in Wonderland” Artwork from A College Student?

Artist Katie Woodger is claiming on her Tumblr this morning that Disney’s Consumer Products division has been reproducing her Alice in Wonderland artwork on Disney merchandise without permission. She has a compelling case:

My painting was created back in 2010, and since then so many people have expressed their love for it, not just on tumblr, but in many places. At least 9 people had it tattooed on their bodies. It’s one of my favourite images I created at University and I was proud of it in many ways.

Disney have used it on a cosmetics bag HERE (look at the back)

and they have produced a Tshirt HERE with a really similar design clearly modeled from my painting.

I’m so mad because I have no chance at getting Disney to do anything about it. I had so much respect for the company and now I am just SO upset and disappointed.

Bear in mind that Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland is a public domain property and Woodger’s art was styled in an original manner that is distinct from the Disney versions. If her claims hold up, this would be a bold example of copyright theft by the Disney Company.

Artist of the Day: Colin Howard

Colin Howard

Colin Howard is working as a character designer on Steven Universe, the new show in production created by Rebecca Sugar. You can see Colin’s current Tumblr here. He seems like a good match for the show, as many of Colin’s sketchbook drawings and characters seem to be built of the same cartoon materials as Rebecca’s—similar lines, forms, and convincing solidity.

Colin Howard

Colin Howard

For more drawings and recent CalArts school work, Colin has another blog here. Perhaps of special interest to future animation school applicants, you can peek at Colin’s even earlier blog, which he describes as his character animation application work.

Colin Howard

Colin Howard

Colin Howard

Colin Howard

“Shave It” by 3dar

Shave It comes from directors Fernando Maldonado and Jorge Tereso of Bueno Aires, Argentina-based 3dar. The monkey at the center of the film is a stone-faced schemer with an environmentalist agenda. The filmmakers explain:

For us, it’s an ironic reflection about how nature adapts to the human invasion. We found a great inspiration in an Amazonian bird, the Lira, which imitates the sounds it hears in the environment. It does it with such a lack of criticism or judgment that it imitates the other birds singing, the power saws’ noise or the crash of the trees falling in the same way.

The filmmakers push all modes of stylization in this film from a hypersaturated color palette to 2D backgrounds/FX animation mixed in with the computer graphics. The angular monkey is a sight itself, with his shock of wavy electric-blue hair, floating ears, hinged mouth, and mask-like face that makes the stylized animals in DreamWorks’ Madagascar series look like naturalist depictions. All the elements are pulled together with expertise into a fun and attractive package. The development art posted on 3dar’s website gives a small taste of the effort that was invested to explore all the graphic possibilities.

Written and directed by

Art Direction

Executive production

Graphic design and 2D animation

3D art


Production Assistant

Sound Production

Music and Foley

Musical Research

Animation Direction



Illumination and Rendering

Creative Support