A “Brutal Animation War” Is Predicted by the “Hollywood Reporter”

The Hollywood Reporter published a lengthy piece that suggests an impending feature animation war:

The unprecedented glut of product points to a seismic shift in the animation business as new players such as Universal and Sony finally gain a stronghold and established companies like DreamWorks Animation, Fox, Disney Animation Studios and Pixar up their games. Family franchises can be incredibly lucrative if done right — between global theatrical sales (particularly international), home entertainment and merchandising. Pixar’s Cars franchise, for example, moved north of $10 billion in merchandise alone. If they don’t work, studios can lose tens upon tens of millions, with hundreds of jobs at risk.

Late last month, Pixar and Disney Animation chief creative officer John Lasseter essentially declared war on Katzenberg by dating a slew of untitled Pixar and Disney Animation Studios films through 2018, going so far as to claim June 17, 2016, even though DWA already had put How to Train Your Dragon 3 there. Never before have a Pixar and DWA movie gone up against one another. Katzenberg and Fox, where Vanessa Morrison heads up Fox Animation Studios, retaliated by flooding the calendar through 2018 with their own untitled films, even planting one on June 16, 2017, a Pixar date.

The Reporter doesn’t have all their facts straight. They wrote that, “For the past handful of years, there have been no more than four or five studio animated films a year, plus a handful of indie titles. There are eight releases this year and 10 next year.” However, there have easily been eight to ten major studio animation releases per year in recent times. Just take a look at the 2011 and 2012 release slates.

Of course, the other argument is that there aren’t too many tentpole animated features, only too many features that are cut from the same cloth. Pixar, Disney, DreamWorks and Blue Sky each use their own finely tuned formulas, and audiences are guaranteed to tire of those sooner than they do of animation itself.

The Story Behind “The Big Story”

When DreamWorks story artist Dave Derrick was a student at CalArts in the early-2000s, one of the shorts that influenced him was Tim Watts and David Stoten’s BAFTA-winning, Oscar-nominated The Big Story. Derrick recently met Watts and took the opportunity to interview him about the film, his work on the Spitting Image TV show, and find out why Watts and Stoten animated the film twice—once hand-drawn and again in stop motion. Read the Tim Watts interview on Derrick’s website.

Special K Cereal Spot by Peter Sluszka

Even though origami is the flavor of the moment—so hot that even McDonald’s is doing it—the sheer amount of labor involved in producing this Special K stop motion spot makes it rather impressive. It was directed by Peter Sluszka at New York-based Hornet Inc.

There’s a making of video in which you can listen to ad agency and marketing peeps waxing eloquent about work that they didn’t do. But leave it to the director Sluszka to offer the best comment in the video: “What it really requires is hours of people folding paper.”

Production Companies: Hornet Inc/Blinkink
Director: Peter Sluszka
Executive Producer: Jan Stebbins
Producer: Zack Kortright
Line Producer: Joel Kretschman
Editor: Anita Chao
Art Director: Mandy Smith
Director of Photography: Ivan Abel
Lead Compositors: Peter Fink, John Harrison
Compositors: Adam Yost, Yussef Cole
Roto Artists: Ted Wiggins, Rafael Mayrhofer
Storyboard Artist: Carlos Ancalmo
Motion Control Operator: Richard Coppola
Gaffer: Michael Yetter
Best Boy Electric: Casey Wooden
3rd Electric: Jarod Kloiber
Key Grip: Matt Walker
Best Boy Grip: Matt Cryan, Brian Yost
3rd Grip: Bob Blankmeir
Animators: Hayley Morris, Matt Somma, Kevin Coyle
Fabricators: Connie Chan, Ben Kress, Ben Friesen, Peter Erickson, Junko Shimzu, Michaela Olsen
Art Deptartment Assistant: Kevin Coyle
Food Stylist: Elizabeth Bell
Food Stylist Assistant: Mireya Acierto, Brett Regot
Production Assistant: Tim Kuhl, Eric Duke, Rafael Mayrhofer
1st AC: Nate Spengler
Phantom Tech: Mark Sashara

Advertising Agency: Leo Burnett
Creative Director: Karen Reed and Natasha Ali
Executive Creative Director: Mylene Pollock
Copywriter: Liam Bushby and Alison Stevens
Art Director: Liam Bushby and Alison Stevens
Account Team: Carly Pritchard, Dominique Gomes, Sofia Sarkar
Project Manager: Gaynor Goldring
Planner (Creative Agency): Olivia Heywood and Charlie Kirkbride
Agency Producer: Serena Schellenberg

Gigglebug Makes Children Go Crazy…With Laughter

Gigglebug, a newly released iPad app from Finland, uses infectious laughter to encourage social play among children. Through touching and swiping the screen, players can tickle various 2D animated characters to make them smile and laugh. This sort of interactive, responsive play is irresistible to kids, and elicits a reaction that may or may not be desirable to parents:

Infectious laughter has proven to be a guaranteed form of entertainment—how else could videos of laughing babies have 60 million views on YouTube? Several cartoons, toys and other products have found success in using laughter, such as Sesame Street shorts and Tickle Me Elmo.

Then there’s Sh-h-h-h-h-h, a clasic Tex Avery cartoon about a man trying to escape the constant laughter and noise of his surroundings. The soundtrack of the cartoon comes from the early-1920s Okeh Laughing Record, a bizarre recording that features a man and woman laughing uncontrollably.

Gigglebug also features lush watercolor backgrounds and laugh scenes that are fully animated with quality not often seen in 2D animated apps. Not surprisingly, the app was developed in part by Helsinki-based Anima Boutique which has extensive experience producing animation for entertainment purposes. They are simultaneously developing Gigglebug as a children’s TV series. The success of another Finnish creation, Angry Birds, appears to have normalized the idea that a successful app can lead to cross-media adaptations on more traditional platforms like TV and film.

Artist of the Day: Anne-Lou Erambert

Anne-lou Erambert

Anne-Lou Erambert is an animation student who attends Ecole des Métiers du Cinéma d’Animation (EMCA) in Angoulême, France.

Anne-lou Erambert

As part of her project research Anne-Lou draws colorful, quick, watercolor and pastel studies.

Anne-lou Erambert

Anne-lou Erambert

Here is a rough drawing, character design exploration, and bit of animation from one of Anne-Lou’s proejcts:

Anne-lou Erambert

Anne-lou Erambert

Anne-lou Erambert

See more of Anne-Lou’s work on her Tumblr.

Anne-lou Erambert

Anne-lou Erambert

“Epic” Continues Its Unepic Box Office Run In the U.S. and Abroad

Blue Sky’s Epic continued its mild box office run last weekend with a respectable decline of 28.5% and $11.8 million in U.S. box office earnings. The film has now racked up $83.9 million over its three week U.S. run. The film has one more weekend of clear-sailing ahead of it before it succumbs to another kiddie flick, Monsters University.

Overseas, Epic placed sixth, with approx. $12.7M from over sixty international territories, pushing its overseas total to $105.4M. Blue Sky’s features tend to overperform in international markets—the studio’s last three features have earned a robust average of $582 million overseas—but Epic will be lucky to break $200 million internationally.

Titmouse Creates A Fresh Look for Lancôme [UPDATED]

Titmouse created this lively spot to promote a collaboration between Lancôme and designer Alber Elbaz (who makes a cameo). Watch in HD for full effect.

Supervising Producers: Chris Prynoski, Shannon Prynoski
Art Director: Antonio Canobbio
Animation Director: Allison Craig
Animators: Mike Carlo, Adriel Garcia, Alex Lund, Brian Kaufman, Jacob Ospa, Mirella Toncheva, Rachel Gitlevich, Sachio Cook
Backgrounds: Justin Volz

Artist of the Day: Justin K. Thompson

Justin K Thompson

Justin K. Thompson works in animation as a production designer and visual development artist with credits on both Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs features, The Powerpuff Girls movie and Cartoon Network’s Korgoth of Barbaria pilot, among others.

Justin K Thompson

Justin K Thompson

Justin does plein air painting as a personal activity and feeds that artistic experience and insight back into his professional work. The two below are painted in gouache. He admits to all the plein air purists that on the first painting, he touched it up in his home studio. The second painting is a detail of a slightly larger piece:

Justin K Thompson

Justin K Thompson

See more of Justin’s drawings and paintings on his Tumblr and blog.

Justin K Thompson

Justin K Thompson

Justin K Thompson

Justin K Thompson

Justin K Thompson

Ari Folman’s “The Congress” Gets U.S. Distributor

The Congress, the experimental animation/live-action hybrid by Ari Folman (Waltz with Bashir), has nabbed itself a North American distributor. The deal is a co-acquisition between Drafthouse Films and Films We Like, with Drafthouse handling the U.S. theatrical and VOD/digital release in 2014 and Films We Like covering distribution for Canada.

The opening film of last month’s the Director’s Fortnight sidebar at Cannes, The Congress is a loose adaptation of Stanislaw Lem’s 1971 sci-fi novel The Futurological Congress, about an aging actress preserving her digital image for a future Hollywood. It stars Robin Wright, Jon Hamm, Paul Giamatti and Harvey Keitel.


Watch 12 Nickelodeon Cartoons From Their Shorts Program

Every few years, a TV network launches an internal shorts program in an attempt to identify new talent and show ideas. These initiatives rarely produce the results the networks desire because artists aren’t court jesters who can perform on demand and create show-ready ideas the moment a network asks for one. Talent development is a years-long investment that requires patience, commitment, and yes, failure. To put it simply, the people who run show development today lack the foresight or knowledge of how animation works to adequately develop the immense pool of talent that is already employed at their studios.

Of course, that won’t stop them from launching ridiculous shorts programs that result in ridiculous shorts, and artists who may or may not be cut out for show creation. Last year, Nickelodeon launched yet another in a long line of these in-house network shorts programs. Remember, this is the network that passed on Adventure Time so identifying talent is not their strong suit. They commissioned twelve micro-shorts for the program, and made them available via a Nick phone app. They haven’t promoted them online, but they are posted on the Internet and we’ve gathered links to all of them below.

From these pitches, Nickelodeon recently said in a press release that “six are currently in series development and two will get pilot orders.” One of the ideas that was pitched to the shorts program, but which didn’t get made as a micro-short was Breadwinners created by Gary DiRaffale (aka Gary Doodles) and Steve Borst. That show was recently picked up for a 20-episode order.

Here are the twelve shorts made last year:

Pam and Sid’s Port A Party created by Annie Sertich and Mindy Sterling
Watch the film

Baby Stache created by Gary Anthony Williams
Watch the film

Lucas created by Kyle Dunnigan
Watch the film

Austin Oliver created by Greg Worswick
Watch the film

Wing Dings created by TJ Fuller
Watch the film

Level 15 created by Wolf-Rudiger Bloss
Watch the film

Zombie Brothers created by Eric Robles
Watch the film

Carrot and Stick created by Derek Iversen and Miles Hindman
Watch the film

Marty’s Exotic Animals created by Andrew Friedman
Watch the film

Cabrito and Chewy created by Allan Jacobsen and Chuckles Austen
Watch the film

Odyssey Squad! created by Ben Adams
Watch the film

Tallie Peer Counselor created by Laura Sreebny
Watch the film

Yesterday Was Nik Ranieri’s Last Day at Disney Animation, Now He’s Talking

Yesterday was the last day of employment for Disney animation veteran Nik Ranieri (Lumiere in Beauty and the Beast, Meeko in Pocahontas, Kuzco in The Emperor’s New Groove) after he was unceremoniously dumped by Disney Feature Animation last April along with other studio cornerstones. He wrote a long post on his Facebook fan page tonight about leaving the company while expressing the view that hand-drawn feature animation is still a viable art form. He also showed a hand-drawn test that he produced for Disney’s CG pic Wreck-It Ralph. The full text and video are below:

It has been several weeks since my last Animator page posting. As you’re probably all well aware by now, I no longer work for The Walt Disney Company. June 10th was my last day. In October of this year, it would have been 25 years. Disney was my home for the last quarter century and I’ll always be grateful for the people I worked with and the experience I gained there. The last couple of years have been the most difficult of my career. At times I was filled with hope that my skills would be utilized in a new hand-drawn film. At other times, I doubted that a hand-drawn feature—hybrid or otherwise—would be produced at all. We were pretty much kept in the dark for over 2 years and once the word did come out that no more hand-drawn features would be produced, it was only a matter of days before we were “given our notices”. I’m not so much sad that I was let go as I am sad that they gave up on a medium that, if given the right treatment, could be a viable product once again. You may wonder, what will I be doing now. I can’t tell you that because I don’t know. It is said that when God closes one door, He opens another. I pray that He will guide me to the right door and that I’ll open it with confidence. Not in myself but in Him who guides my path.

As a parting reminder of my last years at Disney, here is my last hand-drawn test for a Disney production. I was asked to animate the character of Ralph from “Wreck-it Ralph”, as a guide for the animation of the character in the film. It took me 2 months to animate this scene because,

1. I had to adjust the look of the character as it changed, which meant redoing some of it and

2. I basically did all the drawings myself. Most animators don’t do every drawing in a scene, but I wanted it fully animated and since I didn’t have any inbetweeners, I had to draw everything.


How Etsy Is Using Vine and Stop Motion to Build Its Brand

Vine, Twitter’s mobile looped video app, is less than a year old and still remains a new frontier. Not everyone is sure how to use it and like most of the Internet, the common subject matter of Vines center around cats, babies and high school kids. For that reason, the people who are experimenting with the capabilities of Vine as a medium truly stand out.

Etsy has recently produced a handful of stop motion Vines that are not only fun to watch, they reinforce the DIY aesthetic that defines the online market’s brand. Etsy’s initial Vines were a product of Hack Week, an event where the company’s engineers are encouraged to abandon their regular work and focus on any project of their choosing. Nicole Licht and Clare McGibbon, one of Etsy’s in-house designers and support staff members, respectively, decided to take advantage of the event. “The goal for us during that week was to jump start Etsy’s participation on Vine, experiment, and collaborate across teams,” Licht told Cartoon Brew.

Even though the team had no experience in stop motion animation, they set out to make at least one video a day. Prior to each shoot, they sketched out their ideas and gathered craft supplies, but kept their agenda loose. “We found that improvising and seeing how the materials responded in the moment made the most sense,” said Licht. With just natural lighting, a lightweight tripod, and an iPhone mount, the process of making a single six second vine took anywhere between one and four hours. “We really had to just go for it once we started shooting,” added Licht. “With Vine, you either post or not. There are no editing or saving functions, so we never reshot.”

Few other companies, thus far, have discovered how to effectively use Vine. They could certainly take a lesson from Etsy, where employees are given the freedom to take new approaches and experiment with ideas and tools along the way.

Animography Aims to Bring Animated Typography to the Masses

Animography aims to make life a little easier by offering animated typefaces delivered in neatly organized After Effects files. The type foundry is the creation of Jeroen Krielaars, a graphic designer who runs the Amsterdam-based design studio Calango.

Animation and typography has always been a tricky combination. Hundreds of hours go into designing a family of type, a process that is, at times, highly exact. The moment you start toying with any typeface by scaling and adjusting the characters, you risk creating a warped graphic that doesn’t look quite right. For that reason, Animography should be on your radar. The typefaces offered on the site are scalable without any loss in quality.

What’s particularly promising about Animography is that it creates opportunities for graphic designers and animators to collaborate, experiment and build together. Currently, the site has teamed up with designer Derek Weathersbee, whose newly released typeface called Franchise is being animated one glyph (character) at a time by 110 different animators. In the challenge, each animator is given a single glyph to animate in a maximum of one second, 25 frames, and four colors. There have only been a handful of completed glyphs, but it promises to be a challenge worth keeping an eye on (check out animator Daniel Savage’s letter B submission—B is for Bouncy Beard—above).

Animography seems to have more plans in store, and is on its way to carving out a completely new niche. For more, check out Animography’s brand reel of animated typefaces from dead or fictional brands:

“Phineas and Ferb: Mission Marvel” Plumbs the Depths of Disney Synergy

It cost $4 billion, but Disney’s most ineptly drawn animated characters can now be awful alongside Marvel superheroes, which incidentally had to be redesigned to look as incompetent as the rest of the Phineas and Ferb universe. Phineas and Ferb: Mission Marvel, a crossover episode of the animated series Phineas and Ferb, will damage children’s eyes (and souls) sometime this summer on the Disney Channel. Here’s the trailer for you animation masochists:

Call for Entries: KLIK!, Animateka, and New York Int’l Children’s Film Festival

Here are the call for entries from three quality festivals: KLIK! Animation Festival in Amsterdam, Animateka Int’l Animated Film Festival in Ljubljana, Slovenia, and the New York Int’l Children’s Film Festival.

The KLIK! Amsterdam Animation Festival will take place in November 2013. In addition to awards for professionals, students, 3D stereoscopic and commissioned animation, they also hand out the Amsterdam Audience Award, the Young Amsterdam Audience and Political Animation Award.

Submission is FREE. Films should be 25 minutes and under and produced after January 2012. Deadline is July 1st. For full details, go to KLIK’s submission page.

The 10th edition of Animateka International Animated Film Festival will take place from December 2 to 8 in Ljubljana, Slovenia. For its main competition, the festival accepts films from Central and Eastern European countries, but its children and student competitions are open to other countries. Here’s the breakdown:

There will be an international competition open to films realized for the cinema with any animation technique, frame by frame or computer graphic. Short animated films (the duration of which must not exceed 35 minutes of the total running time) produced or co-produced in the following countries are eligible to apply for the Central and Eastern European Competition Short Animated Film Programme: Slovenia, Italy, Switzerland, Austria, Hungary, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro, Kosovo, Macedonia, Albania, Greece, Bulgaria, Romania, Moldova, Slovak Republic, Czech Republic, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Ukraine.

Children’s films from all countries worldwide are eligible for competition in the children’s programme Elephant. European student films (produced within a public or private educational institution of an EU member country) are eligible for the European Student Competition Programme.

Submission is FREE. Deadline is September 15. For complete rules and application forms, visit Animeteka’s website.

The New York Intl Children’s Film Festival, which bills itself as North America’s largest film festival for children and teens, is now accepting submissions for next year’s edition that will run March 7-30, 2014. The festival is looking for “creative, original, non-formulaic works that will help to define a new, more compelling film for kids,” and they further state that, “we are not shy about showing films with mature themes, subject matter, language or sensibilities, especially for our teen and pre-teen audiences.” The festival is closely affiliated with film distributor GKIDS, which has been the U.S. distributor of features like The Secret of Kells, From Up on Poppy Hill and the forthcoming Ernest and Celestine.

Submission fees range from $25-75. The early deadline for shorts is September 15 and October 15 for regular. The early deadline for feature length films is October 15 and November 15 for regular. To enter, visit the festival’s submission page.

Artist of the Day: Stephen Vuillemin

Stephen Vuillemin

Stephen Vuillemin is an artist who graduated from Gobelins in 2008 and lives in London.

Stephen Vuillemin

You can see Stephen’s portfolio and blog here which includes his GIF animated comics.

Stephen Vuillemin

Stephen has elevated the art of the animated GIF by producing work specifically for that format, and subsequently, has been commissioned by art directors to create animated GIFs to run in online publications. When the same publications run static print versions of the GIF illustrations, Stephen’s work flops the paradigm: the print version is the modified, adapted, and even inferior version when compared to the animated online version–but only because it lacks the motion. Stephen’s static illustrations are equally strange, humorous and appealing to view.

Stephen Vuillemin

Stephen Vuillemin

Stephen Vuillemin

Goodbye Storyboard Artists, Hello Amazon Storyteller

Amazon’s filmmaking arm Amazon Studios announced a new tool today that promises to eliminate storyboard artists from the filmmaking process. Called Amazon Storyteller, the software lets scriptwriters convert their scripts into boards through an automated process.

“We’ve found that many writers want to see their story up on its feet in visual form but find it harder than it should be to create a storyboard,” said Roy Price, director of Amazon Studios and a former Disney TV Animation exec. “Storyteller provides a digital backlot, acting troupe, prop department and assistant editor-everything you need to bring your story to life.”

The free online tool, which is currently in beta, works like this:

Storyteller begins by scanning a movie script that has been uploaded to Amazon Studios. It identifies the scenes, locations and characters from scene descriptions, and “casts” them from a library of thousands of characters, props and backgrounds. Filmmakers can recast or change locations, or they can upload their own images. Storyteller places the cast in front of the right background so that filmmakers can focus their time on the emotion and energy of scenes by using pan and zoom, changing the facial expressions and positions of characters, adding vehicles or props or adding captions with descriptions or additional dialogue. Once completed, the storyboard can be published on Amazon Studios where other users are able to view it and give feedback on the project.

Animation artists may be safe for now. The Amazon Storyteller FAQ explains that, “The Amazon Storyteller library of backgrounds, characters, and props currently works best with contemporary dramas or romantic comedies.” But people around the Internet are already envisioning more artistic uses for the software, like this idea from a commenter on Engadget: “Imagine. An illustrated comic of yourself and any given Sports Illustrated swimsuit model in your own porn story.”

(Thanks, James Gibson)

“Kung Fu Panda” Director Mark Osborne Will Helm “The Little Prince”

Onyx Films, the Paris-based producer of the fantasy film Upside Down and the low-budget animated sci-fi Renaissance, is currently working on an animated film adaptation of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s 1943 novella The Little Prince.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, the film has now gained a voice cast comprised of James Franco, Rachel McAdams, Jeff Bridges, Benicio Del Toro and Paul Giamatti. More notably, the film is to be directed by Mark Osborne, co-director of Dreamworks’ 2008 hit action-comedy Kung Fu Panda.

Some may consider it unusual for the director of a successful animated film from a major American studio to move on to a project from a small foreign studio, however when you consider the diversity of Osborne’s previous work: live action sequences in Spongebob Squarepants, music video work for “Weird Al” Yankovic and a half-dozen live action and stop motion film projects, it seems like his experience may aid a project of any size.

Artist of the Day: Charmaine Verhagen

Charmaine Verhagen

Charmaine Verhagen is into cartoons deep. For evidence, check her cartoon arm (in progress).

Charmaine Verhagen

Recently, Charmaine successfully took a design test to be able to contribute work to her favorite Cartoon Network show. Below is one of her drawings from the test, and here is the post with more of her studies and preparation for it. After seeing those drawings, you’ll be able to guess which show if you haven’t already figured it out.

Charmaine Verhagen

Below is Charmaine’s interpretation of the mutant Robin McConnell character that has become the mascot of the Inkstuds radio show/podcast, hosted by Robin McConnell. Click over there for an immense backlog of interviews with comics creators to keep you busy listening for weeks.

Charmaine Verhagen

Charmaine Verhagen

For more of Charmaine’s sketches and drawing work, visit her blog.

Charmaine Verhagen

Charmaine Verhagen

Disney Unveils “Get a Horse!” Mickey Mouse Poster

Walt Disney Animation Studios released the poster today for its new short Get a Horse! that will debut next week at the Annecy International Animated Film Festival. The director of the film Lauren MacMullan, producer Dorothy McKim, as well as animator Eric Goldberg, will attend Annecy to unveil the short, which features a vocal track by Walt Disney himself as the voice of Mickey.

Click on the poster below for a super-big version!