Artist of the Day: Charles Huettner

Charles Huettner

Charles Huettner is a Pennsylvania-based artist and animator. He’s a founding member of the Late Night Work Club that will be premiering their initial anthology of shorts sometime in the near future.

Charles Huettner

Charles Huettner

Charles draws funny little characters and carries the same design sensibilities over into 3D space where he experiments with short, strange pieces that are collected on his “3D On The Side” Vimeo account.

Charles’s most frequently asked question is also a short by the same name, “What program do you use to animate?”

Some of his experiments become animated GIFs instead of videos.

Charles Huettner

Charles Huettner

See more of Charles’s work on his blog.

Charles Huettner

Charles Huettner

Anifilm 2013 Report: An Exciting Time For Animated Features

I returned a few days ago from the Czech Republic where I judged the feature film categories at Anifilm, a fun festival situated in the quaint lakeside resort town of Trebon that was filled with great people and positive vibes. The three-person feature film jury consisted of Portuguese filmmaker Regina Pessoa (Tragic Story with Happy Ending, Kali the Little Vampire), Slovenian festival director Igor Prassel (Animateka International Animated Film Festival) and myself. (That’s us in the photo above.)

The Anifilm organizers smartly divided features into two categories: adult and children’s films. We watched five films in each category. In the Adult category, we awarded the top prize to Chris Sullivan’s sweeping and uncompromising Southern Gothic tale Consuming Spirits, and also gave special mention to Don Hertzfeldt’s feature It’s Such a Beautiful Day. These two films alone don’t make a trend, but add Paul and Sandra Fierlinger’s My Dog Tulip and Nina Paley’s Sita Sings the Blues to the list, and you could argue that American indie feature animation is experiencing a renaissance right now. All of these films utilize animation effectively to express deeply personal visions.

The other three features in the Adult category—O Apóstolo from Spain, A Liar’s Autobiography from the United Kingdom and Fat Bald Short Man from Colombia—each had positive qualities and exhibited the kind of maturity and narrative ambition that is often lacking in mainstream feature animation fare.

The children’s category was less impressive. The five features were European co-productions that relied on cliches borrowed from popular American films. Three of the films featured hot air balloons (UP, of course), and a number of them used the ‘dead parents’ trope that is an all-too-common fallback for lazy animation scriptwriters. We awarded the children’s prize to The Day of Crows (Le jour des corneilles) which was unquestionably the most interesting film of the bunch. The hand-drawn animated film featured appealing (if inconsistent) animation and character designs, along with gorgeous backgrounds. It reached for Miyazaki-style mysticism before attempting to hamhandedly explain everything in the last act. Imperfect, but worth a look.

Animation director Bill Plympton wrote about his recent experience judging the feature animation categories at the Stuttgart Animation Festival in Germany. He watched eight features at that festival, and it’s interesting to note that not a single one of those films was in competition at Anifilm. It’s a reminder that feature animation is a flourishing art form today. The handful of mega-budget corporate-studio films that dominate American multiplexes barely scratch the surface of what’s available in the marketplace.

The good news is that institutional support is growing for more diverse types of feature animation. Most major animation festivals now have feature film categories, and of course, there’s the Oscars, which hands out an Academy Award specifically for animated features. The American distributor GKIDS has made a commitment to distributing foreign animated features, and this site you’re reading attempts to cover independent and foreign animated features as few other major animation media outlets have in the past.

More and more companies are turning their attention to the rich world of feature animation, but there is still plenty of room for others to join. For example, when will Criterion begin releasing art house animated features? When will distributors bring foreign animated features into multiplexes across the country? Exciting times are ahead in the feature animation field.

(Jury photo by Jan Hromádko)

The NY Times Compares Walt Disney to Hitler for Apparently No Reason

In last weekend’s NY Times Sunday Magazine, the paper published a profile of artist Paul McCarthy in connection with his new show WS (which stands for “White Snow”). The epic performance piece, which opens June 19 at Manhattan’s Park Avenue Armory, will consist of “a massive, fantastical forest with towering trees, two off-scale houses, equipment and props from classic film-sets, and layers of film and sound.” During the piece, McCarthy—as Walt Disney—will participate in an orgy with Snow White and the seven dwarfs.

All that is well and good, but what alarmed me about the piece is why Times writer Randy Kennedy compared McCarthy’s portrayal of Disney to Hitler in the article’s second paragraph:

The transformation was startling not only because McCarthy, 67, had succeeded in making himself look quite a bit like Walt Disney, but also because his version of Walt smacked — obviously but also hilariously — of Hitler.

It’s hard to believe that the editors at the NY Times are naive about the implications of comparing any individual to Hitler, much less an important historical figure who is commonly—and falsely—portrayed as an anti-Semite in popular culture. It’s irresponsible at best, malicious at worst.

Kennedy says in his piece that McCarthy’s Walt “obviously” channels Hitler, but in the Times photo of McCarthy, the association is far from obvious. So how did Kennedy come up with such a far-fetched observation?

Perhaps the answer lies with one of the people interviewed for the piece: curator and former New York City Public Art Fund director Tom Eccles, who is helping organize McCarthy’s show. In an interview with another media outlet, Eccles also described McCarthy’s Walt to Hitler, calling the show a “gory, horrifying tale of Paul McCarthy as Disney, as Hitler, in love with Snow White.”

What I’d like to know is whether McCarthy himself endorses this comparison of Walt Disney to Hitler or is this something concocted by his handlers? McCarthy’s commentaries on contemporary media and pop mythology tend to be layered and thought-provoking, and I’d be surprised if he was personally promoting such simplistic, banal allusions. Whatever McCarthy’s views, it’s clear that a lot of people want to encourage this revisionist portrait of Walt Disney as monster, including, sadly, the NY Times.

This Thursday at Cinefamily: New CalArts Animation

This Thursday, Cinefamily (611 North Fairfax Ave, LA, CA) will present “Autarky: Frontier Animation,” a collection of 26 animated shorts from current CalArts students in both the Experimental and Character Animation programs. The trailer above shows an impressively eclectic range of student work. It will be interesting to see how students curate their own work as opposed to the school’s year-end shows. The late-night screening begins at 11:59pm and tickets can be pre-purchased HERE.

Watch the Trailer for Ari Folman’s “The Congress”

A promising trailer was released today for The Congress, the new live-action/animated hybrid directed by Waltz with Bashir helmer Ari Folman. The film will premiere this Thursday at the Directors’ Fortnight sidebar of the Cannes Film Festival. No theatrical release dates have been set so far beyond France, where it will open on July 3.

The Congress is loosely adapted from Stanislaw Lem’s sci-fi novel The Futurological Congress, and follows an aging actress (Robin Wright) who agrees to sell a digital version of herself to a movie studio with the stipulation that she can never act again. The live-action portions of the film also star Harvey Keitel, Jon Hamm, and Paul Giamatti.

The film was produced as a co-production between Israel, Germany, France, Belgium, Poland and Luxembourg, but the creative heavylifting appears to have been done in Israel. Folman’s collaborators on Bashir rejoined him for this project, including animation director Yoni Goodman, production designer David Polonsky, editor Nili Feller, composer Max Richter and sound designer Aviv Aldema. The Israeli paper Haaretz offers this worthwhile article about how the film was conceived and produced.

Max Headroom and the Strange World of Pseudo-CGI

I’ve come across people who believe that Max Headroom, the Channel 4 character from the Eighties, was a genuine piece of computer animation. But although he was conceived by the animators Rocky Morton and Annabel Jankel (of Cucumber Films fame) Max himself was portrayed by actor Matt Frewer, placed into latex makeup and a shiny costume and set amidst a range of technological tricks.

Half of the frames from the footage used in Max Headroom were removed in production, resulting in a juddery look to suggest animation shot on twos, and Frewer was bluescreened in front of a basic digital backdrop. The crew even added deliberate faults to the “animation” – such as the stammer which became Max’s trademark – to complete the effect.

This process seems somewhat surreal today, in our brave new world of Maya, Xtranormal and Blender. Max Headroom was created at a time when 3D CGI animation was desirable, but not always affordable; if the budget did not allow it, then the crew had to fake computer animation in front of the camera.

Another good example of this can be found in the 1981 film Escape from New York. Early on in the movie we see what appears to be a wireframe model of Manhattan; in actual fact, a physical model was built for this sequence, with reflective tape placed along the edges of the buildings. Shot under ultraviolet light, this recreated the luminescent green-on-black effect of primitive CGI.

There has even been an incident in which a budget imitation of CGI itself received a budget imitation. In 1987 an unidentified signal hacker managed to replace two television broadcasts with a mildly disturbing video of a home-made Max Headroom show. In this improvised effort Max was portrayed by a man in a shop-bought mask, while the moving backdrops – in the original series, an example of genuine digital animation amongst the pseudo-CGI – were replaced with somebody offscreen wiggling a bit of corrugated metal about.

These are all extreme examples; during this period, it was more common for digital animation to be emulated using hand-drawn techniques. Often used as a visual motif in kids’ science fiction-themed cartoons (witness the cel animated wireframes in the opening sequence to Transformers) this approach was put to good use by Rod Lord’s animation work on the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy television series from 1981. Created using litho film and coloured gels, these sequences suggested digital graphics simply by combining glowing primarily-coloured images with a black background. An added plus was that the animation could get away with being a little bit jerky…

One sequence in Hitchhiker’s Guide portrayed an intergalactic war as an early video game, a theme drawn upon by other animators: for example, in 1982 a British public information film used Space Invaders-like imagery to advise audiences on safe driving [see image below]. The biggest example of this, however, came when Disney produced an entire feature film based around the look of eighties arcade games: Tron.

Tron contained genuine CGI animation backed up with large amounts of compositing tricks based around matte effects and backlighting; this made the live action footage look as though it had been digitally processed. As a result, the film stands as arguably the premiere example of pseudo-CGI.

In her book British Animation: The Channel 4 Factor Clare Kitson remarked on the fact that Max Headroom, Channel 4’s biggest animated hit, was not actually animated. But as she went on to argue, perhaps it is time for a reappraisal:

I wonder if we might indeed classify those sequences as animation nowadays. With the plethora of different technologies now employed, the previous narrow definition (which insisted that the movement itself must be created by the animator) seems a bit old-fashioned. These days anything that appears on a screen and moves but is not a record of real life – including creatures moved by motion capture – tends to fall under the animation umbrella… The current popular synonym for animation, ‘manipulated moving image’, seems to be made for Max.

Of course, if Max had been made using actual CGI he would have ended up as a creaky old relic, rather like the “Money for Nothing” video which came out the year after his debut. Instead, Jankel, Morton and Frewer came up with a genuinely iconic creation that has aged surprisingly well.

Today, it is all too easy for animators to fall back on the tricks of their software and lose track of the wider aesthetic potential of their work. What Max Headroom—and, to an extent, some of the other pieces mentioned here—show is the opposite effect: digital animation spurring creativity in analogue work. They have an ingenuity and hand-made charm which is missing from so much modern computer animation.

Primitive digital imagery has had something of a resurgence across the past decade or so, to the point where pastiches of 8-bit pixel graphics have found their way into mainstream productions such as Wreck-It Ralph. Perhaps it is time that the animators and digital artists of today rediscovered the lesser-known cousin of this aesthetic: the strange world of pseudo-CGI.

NEIL EMMETT is the editor of The Lost Continent, a fantastic resource devoted to British animation, past and present. This piece is an expanded version of a post that originally appeared on his site.

“Life of Pi” Oscar Winner Erik-Jan de Boer Joins Method Studios

Visual effects house Method Studios, with nine offices worldwide, has announced the hiring of Erik-Jan de Boer, James Jacobs and Keith Roberts. The studio’s recent projects include Iron Man 3, Argo, Men in Black 3 and Cloud Atlas.

Erik-Jan de Boer, (seen above, 2nd from the left) formerly of Rhythm & Hues, where he helped them earn Academy Awards for visual effects on Life of Pi, will be coming aboard Method’s Vancouver office as Animation Supervisor.

“Joining Method presents a great opportunity for me to be part of a multi-facility visual effects house” says de Boer, “There are some impressive projects on the horizon and working on these in an artist-driven environment is an exciting prospect.”

James Jacobs, who received a 2013 Scientific and Engineering Academy Award for helping build Weta Digital’s character simulation software used in Avatar, will join de Boer in the Vancouver office as Creature Supervisor. Meanwhile, Keith Roberts, a veteran of Rhythm & Hues, will serve as Animation Supervisor in Los Angeles.

“We are thrilled to have Erik, James and Keith join our team,” said Christian Kubsch, Method’s President. “Their arrival couldn’t have come at a better time, as Method Studios is in the process of expanding the character animation talent across our global network.”

Artist of the Day: Sam Bosma

Sam Bosma

Sam Bosma is an artist working in Maryland as an illustrator and teacher. His editorial illustrations are composed using the same narrative visual-language of comics and film. The sketches for an illustration published in the Wall Street Journal below reveal his process of working with an art director to identify the strongest composition of characters and scenery and the peak dramatic moment to capture in the final illustration. These are the same concerns of every visual story teller.

Sam Bosma

Sam Bosma

Sam is a prolific artist and outside of his commercial illustrations he produces loads of characters and creatures in sketchbooks and comics. Here is a fan art drawing of San, from Sam’s “favorite movie,” Princess Mononoke:

Sam Bosma

You can see more of Sam’s work in his portfolio, blog and Tumblr.

Sam Bosma

Sam Bosma

Sam Bosma

Sam Bosma

“Caveirão” Trailer by Guilherme Marcondes

New York-based Brazilian filmmaker Guilherme Marcondes (Tyger, Into Pieces) is prepping a new ten-minute mixed-media short Caveirão for release this fall:

Shot in São Paulo, ‘Caveirão’ imagines the secret night activities of that city’s spirits. Inspired by the darker side of Brazilian pop culture, the film crosses over genres and techniques. Fantasy, horror and cartoon meet through live-action, 2D animation and 3D VFX. This is the first film from The Master’s Voice project about ghost stories based on urban folklore.

‘Caveirão’ literally means ‘Big Skull’. Besides obviously addressing the main character’s features, the name has few of connotations in Brazil. It nicknames the armored policecar that goes up the favela hills to terrorize drug-dealers (and the whole population living there). You would also use the word ‘caveira’ (skull) in everyday language as an adjective for something evil or ominous. At the same time, despite the dark imagery it conjures, ‘Big Skull’ sounds as goofy as a monster from a Scooby-Doo cartoon. That irony was certainly not lost when I chose ‘Caveirão’ as the name of my film.

Follow Guilherme’s new Facebook page for behind-the-scenes footage, animation tests, and updates on the film.

Disney’s Princess Makeover of Merida Leads to Uproar and Petition

The confetti from Merida’s Royal Coronation at Cinderella’s castle in Walt Disney World has barely been swept up and she’s already learning what it means to be a real Princess. When it was announced that the star of 2012’s Brave would be crowned Disney’s 11th Princess on the morning of May 11th, they unveiled her new look for the product line.
The makeover, which apparently happened to all the Disney princesses when no one was looking, involved dropping 20 pounds, caking on some mascara and giving Merida a Keratin hair treatment. “There’s the hot hair, the coy expression,” wrote Peggy Orenstein, author of Cinderella Ate My Daughter. “Also the obligatory exposed shoulders, slimmer waist, and the bow and arrow replaced by… what is that, a low-slung belt?…Because, in the end, it wasn’t about being brave after all. It was about being pretty.”

The new look has caused such an uproar with the female empowerment website, A Mighty Girl, that they started a petition on to “Keep Merida Brave!” The appeal, which has already picked up over 100,000 signatures, states:

“The redesign of Merida in advance of her official induction to the Disney Princess collection does a tremendous disservice to the millions of children for whom Merida is an empowering role model who speaks to girls’ capacity to be change agents in the world rather than just trophies to be admired. Moreover, by making her skinnier, sexier and more mature in appearance, you are sending a message to girls that the original, realistic, teenage-appearing version of Merida is inferior; that for girls and women to have value — to be recognized as true princesses — they must conform to a narrow definition of beauty.”

The film’s original director, Brenda Chapman, has also blasted the makeover, telling the Marin Independent Journal that it is “a blatantly sexist marketing move based on money.” Chapman continued:

“There is an irresponsibility to this decision that is appalling for women and young girls. Disney marketing and the powers that be that allow them to do such things should be ashamed of themselves. I think it’s atrocious what they have done to Merida. When little girls say they like it because it’s more sparkly, that’s all fine and good but, subconsciously, they are soaking in the sexy ‘come hither’ look and the skinny aspect of the new version. It’s horrible! Merida was created to break that mold — to give young girls a better, stronger role model, a more attainable role model, something of substance, not just a pretty face that waits around for romance.”

Weekend Groove: Music Videos from Poland, US, The Netherlands, and UK

Our semi-regular roundup of interesting, creative and original animated music videos.

“Birthday” directed by Renata Gąsiorowska (Poland)

Music video for Alphabets Heaven.

“The Mystery of You” directed by Eric Deuel (US)

Music video for Spencer Day.

“Been Too Long” (“Duurt te Lang”) directed by Job, Joris & Marieke (The Netherlands)

Music video for Fit

“G.O.D.” directed by Tom Bunker and Nicos Livesey (UK)

Music video for Binary.
Lead Animators (2D & 3D): Blanca Martinez de Rituerto & Joe Sparrow
Secondary 2D Animation: Andy Baker, Tom Bunker, Nicos Livesey

“Joy” directed by Hayley Morris (US)

Music video for Iron and Wine
Behind-the-scenes video HERE
Director/Animator: Hayley Morris
Fabricators: Hayley Morris, Denise Hauser and Randy Bretzin
Color Correction: Evan Kultangwatana
Model for watercolor animation: Louise Sheldon

“Princess Mononoke” Back on the UK Stage By Popular Demand

After a successful UK premiere and a short run in Tokyo, Whole Hog Theatre’s stage version of Hayao Miyazaki’s Princess Mononoke will return to London’s New Diorama Theatre next month due to “unprecedented demand.” The production is a collaboration between the British theatre troupe and Miyazaki’s Studio Ghibli and features large scale puppetry and a recreation of Joe Hisaishi’s original film score.

Miyazaki, who is known for refusing the re-versioning of his films into theatrical productions, approved the project after being presented with a video proposal from Whole Hog by way of Aardman’s Nick Park. As recalled by Studio Ghibli producer, Toshio Suzuki, he gave his consent “a couple of seconds” into viewing the presentation. Suzuki was equally impressed: “I wanted to watch a strange ‘Princess Mononoke’, he told the Wall Street Journal.

With puppets by Charlie Hoare and costumes by Yoseph Hammad, the show translates the film’s eco-friendly theme and inherent Asian aesthetic by use of reclaimed materials and a form of Japanese textile work called Boro, which involves the patch-working of rags into garments.

“Being a big Studio Ghibli and Miyazaki fan myself, I have no desire to alter the film’s narrative and atmosphere, or to add a ‘new spin’ on the story. I only want to re-tell it in a different form,” director Alexandra Rutter told “However, whilst audiences can expect to see much of the film’s narrative happen onstage, they should also expect the techniques we use to tell the story to be quite different.” And her artistic objective has paid off as the production has been picking up positive word of mouth, selling out entire runs and was even featured as one of Lyn Gardner’s theater picks in The Guardian.

The second UK run of Whole Hog Theatre’s Princess Mononoke is scheduled for June 18th-29th at the New Diorama Theatre in London. The cast is led by Mei Mac as San/Princess Mononoke and Maximillian Troy Tyler as Prince Ashitaka. The production also features musical direction by Kerrin Tatman and design by Polly Clare Boon.

(Photos: © Polly Clare Boon for Whole Hog Theatre)

Fred Moore and the Moving Silhouette

Among the most important things an animator must keep in mind when animating is making sure that drawings read clearly to the viewer. By using strong keys, solid staging, and clear silhouettes, the audience can understand the actions that a character performs onscreen.

Legendary Disney animator Fred Moore, known for his broad yet overwhelmingly appealing drawings, took that idea one step further in his animation. Not only did he have strong silhouettes in his keys, but he ensured that his animation had strong silhouettes throughout a scene. The clarity of his silhouettes remained even in the breakdowns and inbetweens.

In this scene from Pluto’s Judgement Day, Moore animates Mickey struggling to regain order after Pluto, covered in mud, chases a kitten into his house and wrecks havoc:

Despite how frantically Mickey is moving around in this shot, as well as being obscured by Pluto and the mud effects, his action is still clear because Moore kept the silhouettes intact from drawing to drawing for most of the scene. The negative space between Mickey’s limbs, head and ears as well as the kitten’s paws, ears and tail help bring out the poses. Further, he exaggerates his poses for readability, especially during anticipations. Moore also uses strong arcs, both in Mickey’s torso and his arms, to visually guide the viewer where the actions is going next.

I went over the whole scene and blacked out Mickey and the kitten to show their silhouettes more clearly:

Disney story artist Mark Kennedy talks about silhouettes in greater detail on his blog.

Artist of the Day: Andy Rementer

Andy Rementer

Andy Rementer is an illustrator and animator who studied at The University of the Arts and produces illustrations, prints, zines and animation.

Andy Rementer

An ad, “Gator Behavior,” animated by Andy, is simple, fun, and smile-inducing, just like Andy’s illustration work:

Compare the commercial below, which features some of Andy’s characters modeled in 3D, animated by a team that was probably put together by an ad agency. I can’t help but think that this spot’s characters could have had much more life in them in the hands of one 2D animator (such as Andy), as demonstrated in the above “Gator” video. Drawn animation seems to be the logical choice for animating designs like these:

Andy Rementer

You can see more videos from Andy here, paintings and sketchbook work here, and check out his portfolio here.

Andy Rementer

Andy Rementer

Disney Animation Announces “Big Hero 6,” First Marvel Comic Feature

The Walt Disney Company has offered a first look at their upcoming animated superhero feature, Big Hero 6, an adaptation of an obscure Marvel Comics property of the same name. The CG film, directed by Disney veteran Don Hall (director, Winnie the Pooh; story supervisor, The Princess and the Frog), is described as “an action comedy adventure about brilliant robotics prodigy Hiro Hamada, who finds himself in the grips of a criminal plot that threatens to destroy the fast-paced, high-tech city of San Fransokyo. With the help of his closest companion — a robot named Baymax — Hiro joins forces with a reluctant team of first-time crime fighters on a mission to save their city.”

While Big Hero 6 has a release date of November 7, 2014 you can take the sneak peek-iest of sneek peeks below:

“DuckTales Remastered” Pushes Video Game Nostalgia To New Heights

The line between animation and video games has long been blurred. There was the Saturday Supercade on CBS in the mid-80s, where Frogger, Q-Bert and Donkey Kong starred in short segments. A handful of years later, Fox ran the Super Mario Bros. Super Show! and NBC had Captain N: The Game Master. All of these shows were relatively short-lived marketing methods of pushing Nintendo further into homes and the minds of children. But lately, the animation and video game industries have united under the banner of nostalgia, appealing to adults whose childhoods were spent chasing down the aproned token keeper in the local arcade.

This nostalgic trip is partly due to a major shift in demographics. Generation X and Y, the first to experience video game-filled childhoods, have grown up, and many of them now have young children of their own. It explains the broad appeal of Wreck-It Ralph—a father who spent countless hours feeding quarters to a PacMan arcade game was just as likely to be entertained by the film as his child. In fact, Disney succeeded in creating faux arcade games that felt so real, adult audience members were convinced to the point of feeling nostalgic. Fix It Felix Jr., the game in which Ralph was the villain, felt ripped from your childhood arcade.

You could assume this nostalgia trend would’ve peaked with Wreck-It Ralph, but it shows no signs of slowing. Ratchet & Clank, the series of Playstation games initially released in 2002, is finally receiving the animated film adaptation that its fans have craved. Rainmaker Entertainment and Blockade Entertainment plan to produce the film for a theatrical release in 2015. Fortunately, the fan base has grown right along the game. Says one commenter on The Nerdist : “The twelve year old in me (currently 23) just stood up and yelled, ‘Finally!’”

Then there’s game developer WayForward, set to release a remastered version of DuckTales, Capcom’s hit that originally sold nearly 3 million copies on NES and Game Boy. It was and is exceedingly popular, with gamers still raving about the game’s tight handling. Among 8-bit musicians, who derive their tunes from the sounds of Nintendo, the DuckTales soundtrack is a unanimous favorite. Some even say that the Nintendo game eclipses all other aspects of the DuckTales franchise, including the animated series.

What’s most incredible about this project from WayForward is its unabashed pandering to a nostalgic audience. WayForward’s remastering remains true to the original, with whole levels of the game completely duplicated, save for enhanced background graphics. According to an article on the Verge, Disney even went so far as to provide original art assets and the voice actors from the DuckTales animated series, including 90-year-old Alan Young as Scrooge. “We’re really trying to make it play as identical to the original as possible,” says WayForward’s Austin Ivansmith. “We thought, well if the original developers could make this again today, what would they do?”

There is no doubt that DuckTales was a major keystone of early video game history—I even revisit my own copy once every few years. Young parents who grew up playing DuckTales on NES will leap at the chance to reintroduce the game to their kids on the contemporary consoles of today. These sorts of modern reinterpretations can certainly yield some fresh, artistic perspective. But the relationship between the animation and video game industries is becoming more blatantly based on the desire for financial sure-bets. And if we know anything about Hollywood, where movies based on boardgames are greenlit, audiences will continue to be encouraged to wallow in childhood nostalgia.

Artist of the Day: Disa Wallander

Disa Wallander is an artist from Sweden currently studying illustration at the University of Brighton.

Disa Wallander

You can view her work on her current blog, a blog with older work, and her DeviantArt collection.

Disa Wallander

Working both digitally and on paper, Disa creates moody scenes with strong, limited color choices and rough line work.

Disa Wallander

Illustration school programs increasingly include animation-related projects in their courses, as the digital tools for creating animation are readily available and overlap with the software that students already use to create static images. Disa has several videos on her Vimeo account including this animation that she made for a University project:

Disa Wallander

Disa Wallander

Disa Wallander

Disa Wallander

Margaret Groening, Inspiration for Marge Simpson, Dies at 94

Margaret Groening, the mother of Simpsons creator Matt Groening, died in her sleep on April 22 at age 94, as reported in an obituary in The Oregonian.

Born Margaret Ruth Wiggum, to Norwegian-born parents in Everett, Washington, she went on to become high school valedictorian, May Queen of Linfield College and a high school English teacher. Her late husband, Homer Groening, whom she met in school and she “chose because he made her laugh the most,” passed away in 1996.

A spokesperson for The Simpsons confirmed the obituary in the LA Times and said that her son had declined any public comment. She is survived by her brother Arnold; her children, Mark, Matt, Lisa and Maggie; eight grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. Further confirmed by the obituary, Groening famously used names from his own family when creating Simpsons characters, with the exception of the name Bart, which is an anagram for “brat”.

Matt Cruickshank Gives Saul Bass The Google Doodle Treatment

Google is celebrating the birthday of graphic designer Saul Bass (1920-1996) with a classy animated tribute on their homepage to Bass’s famous film title sequences including Vertigo, The Man with the Golden Arm, Around the World in 80 Days and West Side Story. The piece was designed and directed by Matt Cruickshank who offers some behind-the-scenes production details on his blog.

It’s a busy time for Cruickshank, who is also the illustrator of the new Monsters University Golden Book that will be released next week. It’s available as a pre-order on Amazon for $3.59.

Master Animator and Director Ray Harryhausen Dies at 92

Stop-motion pioneer Ray Harryhausen, whose work is featured in classic adventure films like The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958), Jason and The Argonauts (1963) and Clash of the Titans (1981) died in London on Tuesday, May 7th at the age of 92. The New York Times has an obituary.

Born in Los Angeles in 1920, Harryhausen had an early fascination with animated models in the 1930’s after discovering the stop motion work of Willis O’Brien in King Kong. He went on to work with George Pal on the Puppetoons shorts, the Army Motion Picture Unit during World War II with Frank Capra and O’Brien himself on Mighty Joe Young in 1949.

Using a signature technique of combining rear projection and stop-motion puppetry called Dynamation he brought life to science fiction and fantasy creations in almost thirty films and shorts spanning five decades. The influence of Harryhausen on film luminaries like Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Peter Jackson, and James Cameron is immeasurable and his work continues to inspire animators and VFX artists around the world.

Artist of the Day: Francesca Natale

Francesca Natale

Francesca Natale is a Vancouver-based character designer and illustrator who has created work for Rainmaker Entertainment, Laika, Reel FX and Nerd Corps, among other studios.

Francesca Natale

In a blog post, she discusses some aspects of the graphic style of Ronald Searle and tries out a few drawings of her own exploring his sensibilities. The result is some likable dragons.

Francesca Natale

See more of Francesca’s work on her blog that includes concept sketches and fully rendered character illustrations.

Francesca Natale

Francesca Natale

Francesca Natale

Spectacle: A Music Video Exhibition For the MTV Generation

Currently on display at the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria, Queens, Spectacle: The Music Video is the first ever exhibition to celebrate the artform that was once the bread and butter of MTV. Curators Jonathan Wells and Meg Grey Wells put together an impressive spread of 300 music videos in beautifully designed exhibition.

While most music videos in the exhibition were featured in looped groupings on wall-mounted monitors, the videos that received their own, stand-alone installations were ones that had accompanying props or assets left over from production. For example, the four jumpsuits worn in the video for OK GO’s “This Too Shall Pass” are hung on the wall next to a video monitor. Another corner is filled with a giant model of the anthropomorphic milk carton from Blur’s “Coffee and Tea.” Also on display is a prop from “Tonight, Tonight,” the Smashing Pumpkins’ homage to Georges Méliès’ “A Trip to the Moon.”

Stop motion and 2-D animation are heavily represented in the show. Piles of colorful yarn props comprise an installation for Steriogram’s “Walkie Talkie Man,” directed by Michel Gondry. As one of the most prolific and creative music video directors in the past two decades, Gondry’s work received the most gallery space by far. Another corner is accented with bold LEGO pieces while an accompanying monitor plays “Fell in Love With A Girl,” the iconic music video that pulled The White Stripes into the mainstream.

Original drawings from “Take On Me” by A-ha are on display as a reminder of the video’s landmark status in pop culture. Director Steve Barron and animation directors Michael Patterson and Candice Reckinger combined pencil-sketch animation, rotoscoping and live action for a total of 3,000 frames that took four months to complete. It is still one of the most memorable music videos of all time, and was the first to push a song to number one one the charts.

Several monitors around the gallery space display curated lumps of animated music videos, but there were a few notably absent or screened without additonal background information: Kanye’s Bakshi-inspired video for “Heartless,” Peter Gabriel’s “Sledgehammer,” and anything by The Gorillaz. Of course it’s impossible to satisfy everyone’s expectations, so the curators devised a lounge provided by Vevo where patrons can select and watch their favorite music videos.

Approaching this exhibit, I wondered how the curators, who are self-proclaimed products of the MTV generation, could keep their nostalgia in check. At times they can’t, and the exhibition is more celebratory than critical. The future of the music video isn’t wholly confronted. An installation of Arcade Fire’s ventures into interactive music videos was one of the most current explorations of the medium on display. Additionally, fan-made videos, highlighted in a section called “REMIX,” show how fans harness YouTube to interact with and create their own music videos today. But the question still remains: what will the music video of tomorrow look like?

Where the exhibition shines, however, is establishing the history of music videos, tracing their roots back to the earliest sound films of the 1920s. Included was a mention of “Colour Box” by Len Lye, a 1935 experimental animated short set to a Cuban dance beat. The narrative thread continues on, showing how The Beatles, Queen, David Bowie and several experimental artists contributed to the establishment of the music video as a definitive medium.

The exhibition, which is absolutely worth seeing, is currently on loan from Contemporary Arts Center in Cincinnati. With any hope, the show will become even more accessible and take part in a national tour. And now that Billboard has decided to include YouTube views in its rankings, the music video could once again be a driving force worth rediscovering.

Mouse Couture: The Fashion Industry’s Mickey and Minnie Obsession

The fashion sphere can’t seem to get enough of Mickey and Minnie these days, and not just the expected corporate collabs like OPI cosmetics or Barney’s Electric Holiday, but actual couture showstoppers stomping the runways in fashion capitals and captured in the pages of high fashion editorials (like the above Peter Phillips mask for 2005 US Vogue). And even after having revisiting the subject a dozen times over the last five years, designers are still finding new inspiration to cut and sew a pair of mouse ears into their fashion stories.

Marcel Gerlan’s spring 2013 collection “Gerl Power” for Gerlan Jeans featured a girlie assortment of bow-veralls, polka dots and Minnie-maxi skirts as means of alleged expression of feminism for the current generation of young women.

Fashion photographer Prasad Naik’s severe and somewhat abstract analysis of the subject was the star in his 2012 fashion editorial.

Iceberg’s spring/summer 2010 collection
brought impractical play suits and gimmicky mouse eared shoulders to Milan fashion week in 2009.

And Jeremy Scott, who arguably began this specific cartoon-y trend with his fall 2009 ready-to-wear collection showcased head-to-toe tributes to the cartoon icon, including his now famous Mickey Mouse sneakers for Adidas.

Artist of the Day: Chad VanGaalen

Chad VanGaalen

Chad VanGaalen is a Canadian artist and musician who records music under his own name primarily and additionally as Black Mold.

Chad VanGaalen

Much of his music is multi-track recorded with himself performing on multiple instruments, circuit-bent synthesizers and vocals. His animation work often is composed of continuously morphing, intricately formed loops that he draws both digitally and traditionally. Naturally he animates music videos for his own tracks and several for other bands as well.

Chad VanGaalen

Websites with Chad’s music and some tracks to sample are here and on Sub Pop.

“Metal Spiderwebs” video for Black Mold:

“Fuck eBay” video for Black Mold:

Spend some time with Chad VanGaalen via this ‘video zine’ produced by Lifetime Collective (which incidentally has other animation connections as well):

Here is a playlist of two music videos that Chad animated for others, first track by J. Mascis, the second by Love as Laughter:

Artist of the Day: Rebecca Dart

Rebecca Dart

Rebecca Dart lives in Vancouver and works on animation productions as well as creating comics and drawings for personal projects.

Rebecca Dart

A difficult subject for artists to draw well is the horse. Rebecca renders horses, warriors and all sorts of fantasy creatures in powerful, confidently inked brush strokes that make it seem effortless. Perhaps her horse drawing ability aided her in securing a job as part of the crew that recently rebooted the My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic television series, although you won’t see her art from the show on her blog where she has decided not to post any Pony-related concepts.

Rebecca Dart

Instead, you’ll find her slice-of-life comics:

Rebecca Dart

And various pieces from Rebecca’s art book, Battle Kittens, which features fearsome weapon-wielding ladies riding gigantic kittens into battle.

Rebecca Dart

Rebecca Dart

Many more mythical and original creatures are in Rebecca’s Flickr collection.

R Dart

R Dart

R Dart

Submit to Cartoon Brew’s 4th Student Animation Festival

It’s that time of year again. Our annual call for entries for Cartoon Brew’s 4th Student Film Festival, a yearly showcase of outstanding student films from around the globe. We received over 200 submissions for last year’s festival, and aim to top that number this year.

Our mission for the festival is simple: to draw attention to student-produced animated shorts and share them with the widest possible community of industry artists, fellow students and animation fans. And not just any student films, but films of the highest caliber…the most original, the most thought-provoking, the ones that make us laugh hardest and engage us emotionally. Of course, we present student films throughout the year on Cartoon Brew, but we want the festival to draw even more attention to the exciting work being produced by the art form’s emerging talents.

Every filmmaker whose work is selected to screen in Cartoon Brew’s Student Animation Festival will receive $500 US. This year, special guest judge Evan Spiridellis, the co-founder of JibJab, will select one additional film to receive the Grand Prize and a $1,000 cash prize.

Cartoon Brew’s Student Animation Festival is made possible by the generous support of our sponsor JibJab, a company that has shown consistent commitment to supporting young and emerging talent. We are proud to recognize them as the sponsor of this festival.


  1. Your film has to be animated. (Obviously.)
 Your film has to be a student work. (Even more obvious.)
  3. Must have been completed after May 1, 2012.

  4. Must be an online premiere. (Films that are accessible online to the public will not be considered.)

  5. Submissions due by Friday, May 31, 2013 Friday, June 7, 2013.


To submit, send an email to studentfest (at) cartoonbrew (dot) com with the following info:

  • Your name, school and country

  • Film title and synopsis

  • Private link & password (ex: Password-Protected Vimeo/Unlisted YouTube link).


Up to 8 films will be selected for this year’s festival. We will announce the festival selections in early to mid-June. Screenings will begin on Cartoon Brew in late June. Every film that is selected to screen as part of the Cartoon Brew Student Film Festival will be paid a screening fee of $500(US). One of the selected films will be awarded the Grand Prize and a $1,000 cash award. We don’t assume any exclusivity or ownership of your film. In other words, you are still free to submit to festivals, sell it to distributors, and post it anywhere else on the Internet shortly after it debuts online in our festival.

(Submit image via Shutterstock)