Chris Burns’ “Coin” Is the Videogame Satire to End All Videogame Satires

Coin, an animated short directed and animated by Chris Burns, premiered at the Midsummer Night Toons a couple months ago and was recently posted online. The short, about a guy who loses a coin and then recovers it through a virtuous combination of diligence and perseverance, was produced by the young Long Island animation studio Exit 73 Studios, co-founded by Burns and Bob Fox, who did the film’s music, sound effects and compositing.

Typically, I’m not an advocate of the ‘action-for-action’s-sake’ variety of animated shorts, but it’s easy to make an exception when it’s done to such a high level of craft. Burns was a key artist at Augenblick Studios before leaving to start Exit 73, and he has an uncanny ability to keep numerous elements in constant motion without confusing or disorienting the viewer. In this film, he managed to add something fresh to the threadbare videogame satire genre. Hopefully, he will apply his unique abilities to more substantial projects in the future.

Trailer: “Chief, Your Butt’s On Fire” by Steve Moore

Steve Moore, the director of Disney’s rarely seen Oscar-nominated short Redux Riding Hood as well as The Indescribable Nth, has completed a new short called Chief, Your Butt’s On Fire.

The fifteen-second trailer posted online put a smile on my face. Maybe that’s because Steve used Ward Kimball’s Firehouse Five Plus Two as his soundtrack. He wrote a lengthy blogpost about the production of his film on the FLIP Animation blog that he co-authors. Moore is planning to screen the film on the festival circuit.

John Lasseter Removes Bob Peterson As Director of “Good Dinosaur” [UPDATED]

The LA Times has confirmed that Bob Peterson has been dropped as director of Pixar’s 2014 feature The Good Dinosaur. The news of Peterson’s dismissal was first revealed by Blue Sky Disney on Monday, August 26th.

This would mark the third time in Pixar’s last four films that a director has been replaced mid-production: the other times were in 2010 when Brenda Chapman was replaced by Mark Andrews on Brave, and Brad Lewis was also taken off Cars 2 and replaced by Lasseter himself.

The unsettling trend at Pixar began in the mid-2000s when Jan Pinkava was booted off Rataouille in favor of Brad Bird. Another publicly announced project, Newt, which was to have been directed by veteran Pixar sound designer Gary Rydstrom, was canned entirely. Lasseter’s fondness for directorial musical chairs extends to his creative leadership role at Disney Feature Animation where he yanked Chris Sanders from the director’s chair on Bolt.

Ed Catmull, who confirmed the news to the LA Times spun the story awkwardly, first by indicating that Peterson’s dismissal was due to his over-enthusiasm for his own project, and then by suggesting that live-action films should follow the Pixar model and replace their directors more often:

“All directors get really deep in their films. Sometimes you just need a different perspective to get the idea out. Sometimes directors … are so deeply embedded in their ideas it actually takes someone else to finish it up. I would go so far as to argue that a lot of live-action films would be better off with that same process.”

According to the Times, twenty-year Pixar veteran Peterson remains at the studio and is developing another project. However, if history is any guide, the other three replaced directors—Chapman, Lewis and Pinkava—ended up leaving Pixar after their demotions.

No new director has been named on The Good Dinosaur even though the film is due in theaters in nine months. Diffrent people at the studio are helping to guide the various parts of its production, including Lasseter, Lee Unkrich, Mark Andrews and Peter Sohn, who was Good Dinosaur’ original co-director.

UPDATE (2:19am ET): Bob Peterson acknowledged the situation on Twitter tonight with positivity and good humor:

Artist of the Day: Todd James, Creator of Miley Cyrus’ Twerkin’ Bears

Todd James

(Editor’s Note: Even though everyone is talking about Todd James this week, we wish to point out that this post was prepared long before the debut of his twerkin’ bears for Miley Cyrus.)

Todd “REAS” James cut his creative teeth as a youth by writing graffiti in New York City before eventually expanding his output into art galleries, printed matter and television.

Todd James

Todd’s drawings are produced with confident, swift lines and are boldly colorful.

Todd James

Here are some recent fantasy themed drawings that Todd posted on the blog section of his website where he also features his gallery work.

Todd James

Todd James

Todd’s work in television includes designing the puppets for Comedy Central’s Crank Yankers.

Todd James

Earlier this century, Todd and Stephen “ESPO” Powers created Zoo Force, a Web Premiere Toon for Cartoon Network with Funny Garbage handling production.

Todd James

See more of Todd’s commercial work and older doodles on his REAS International website.

Todd James

Todd James

Richard Williams To Screen Footage of His New Film in Los Angeles

The legendary Richard Williams, eighty years young, will appear in Los Angeles on Friday, October 4th, to celebrate the opening of a new exhibition devoted to his career, as well as take part in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Science’s annual Marc Davis Celebration of Animation. The lecture, entitled This Amazing Medium with Richard Williams, is obviously worth attending, even if not for the amazing bit casually tossed in at the end of the program description:

Williams will discuss the work that has inspired him and the people who have influenced him. Some of Williams’s favorite clips will be shown to illustrate the artistic and emotional range of this amazing medium, from the charm of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and the imagination of Fantasia to the stylized sophistication of Rooty Toot Toot and the subtlety of expression in Toy Story.

Williams will also enlighten audiences about his own work through clips from The Little Island, The Charge of the Light Brigade, A Christmas Carol, The Return of the Pink Panther, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Circus Drawings and the first theatrical trailer for The Thief and the Cobbler, as well as a preview of his work-in-progress, Prologue.

That’s right, audiences will finally get a glimpse of the secretive film project that Richard has been working on privately for years. In an interview earlier this year, Williams revealed that he had nearly finished a six-minute prologue to the untitled film project “so if I do drop dead we will still have something.”

Tickets to the lecture will go on sale September 3, and are $5 (general admission)/$3 (students and Academy members). The lecture begins at 7:30pm at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater (8949 Wilshire Blvd, Beverly Hills, CA 90211).

As mentioned above, the Academy will also open a new gallery exhibition on the same night called “Richard Williams: Master of Animation”. The description sounds swell:

Take an exciting visual tour through Richard Williams’s career and experience his master class approach to the art of animation through this dynamic exhibition. Twelve unique zones, accompanied by matching chapters from Richard Williams’s new iPad App, show aspiring animators and pros alike how to direct animation and how Williams approaches character movement, dialogue, animal action and more. On view through December 22, 2013, Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and weekends noon to 6 p.m.

“The Last Flight of the Champion” Will Open in US Theaters on Saturday

The Last Flight of the Champion hasn’t been on my radar at all, but it would appear to be an independent Amercian CGI theatrical feature. The film will debut this Saturday in fifteen theaters around the United States. Champion was directed by E. Thomas Ewing and produced by Houston, Texas-based Omnipulse Entertainment. The synopsis:

Neddie Nerfhoffer has a dream. With his society embroiled in an intergalactic war with a ruthless dictator Neddie just wants to do his part. After finding an ancient warship long forgotten, Neddie forms a crew of his childhood friends and takes to the stars intent on bringing the Warlord General Disdain to justice.

I’m impressed that the makers of the film believed strongly enough in their concept to not only produce an entire feature, but to also create a slick film website with online games and self-distribute the film theatrically. For more information, visit LastFlightoftheChampion.com.

(h/t, Yoram Dass Benz, via Cartoon Brew’s Facebook group)

Book Review: “The Noble Approach: Maurice Noble and the Zen of Animation Design”

The Noble Approach: Maurice Noble and
The Zen of Animation Design

By Tod Polson, based on the notes of Maurice Noble
(Chronicle Books, 176 pages, $40, pre-order for $26.50 on Amazon)

By the modest standards of celebrity in the animation world, Maurice Noble is a rockstar. Few Golden Age layout artists or production designers, with the exception of Eyvind Earle, Mary Blair, and possibly Jules Engel, command Noble’s name recognition. Maurice’s fame is primarily attributable to his long-term association with Warner Bros. director Chuck Jones.

Noble’s collaborations with Jones include such classics as Robin Hood Daffy, Duck Dodgers in the 24½th Century, What’s Opera, Doc?, How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, The Dot and the Line and many installments of the Wile E. Coyote/Roadrunner series. Thanks to this beloved resume, Noble has been spared the ignoble anonymity of so many other classic animation artists.

With such standing in the animation world, and even an entire book-length biography already devoted to his life, one could reasonably expect that everything that could be said about Noble has already been said. Tod Polson’s The Noble Approach proves that that’s not the case. Polson has put together an irresistible package that fuses biography and art instruction, each of its pages filled with invaluable insights and incredible artwork, much of it never-before-published.

Polson is one of the Noble Boys, the informal name given to a group of men (and women) whom Noble trained throughout the 1990s at studios like Chuck Jones Film Productions, Turner Feature Animation and his own company, Noble Tales. The Noble Boys have gone on to big things in the animation industry: Ricky Nierva was the production designer of Pixar’s Up and Monsters University; Don Hall directed Disney’s Winnie the Pooh and is writing and directing the upcoming Big Hero 6; Jorge Gutierrez co-created the Nick series El Tigre: The Adventures of Manny Rivera and is directing Reel FX’s 2014 feature Book of Life.

Before Noble’s death in 2001, some of the Noble Boys had encouraged Maurice to write down his thoughts about design and layout for an eventual book. Polson has adeptly compiled and edited those notes into this book, combining them with the remembrances of the other Noble Boys about their interactions with Maurice and lessons learned from him, as well as archival interviews with Noble and original commentary from artists like Susan Goldberg and Michael Giaimo.

Polson devotes thirty-four pages of the book to a biography of Noble, following his career path that began professionally at Disney on films like Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and Bambi. In spite of its brevity, this biographical section manages to be more revealing and historically well-rounded than the disappointing 2008 book Stepping into the Picture: Cartoon Designer Maurice Noble by Robert J. McKinnon. That well-intentioned book missed the mark—badly. It was understandable that McKinnon’s layperson knowledge of the animation process prevented him from providing the kind of process detail that is in Polson’s new book, but his sins of omission made it a letdown as personal biography, too.

Basic and vital details about Noble’s personal and professional relationships that were omitted in that earlier biography are thankfully included in Polson’s book. For example, we learn that Mary Blair and Maurice Noble were not only classmates at Chouinard Art Institute, but also a romantic couple. That’s a revealing historical tidbit considering that Noble’s giddy use of color was second only to Mary Blair during the Golden Age. Polson clearly expresses Noble’s unflattering thoughts about Sleeping Beauty production designer Eyvind Earle, with whom he worked during the production of the industrial film Rhapsody of Steel, whereas the earlier biography only vaguely acknowledged that Noble “may have had some difficulty working with Earle.” Polson also discusses Noble’s more-important-than-acknowledged role on Chuck Jones’ Oscar-winning short The Dot and the Line, an issue that was left untouched in McKinnon’s text.

For all its historical value, the real meat of the Noble Approach follows the biography. In the subsequent sections, we learn about Noble’s artistic process step-by-step from the beginning of a film through its completion. Chapters are devoted to starting a film, story, breaking down the elements, research, design, color, layout, and finally, an oddly ineffectual and anticlimactic two-page chapter devoted to the finished film.

The material covered in these chapters will undoubtedly be familiar to anyone with an art background—values, contrast, simplifying elements, visual hierarchy, compositional grids—but the provided examples of Maurice’s own work gives the reader a fresh entry point into each of these well-worn topics. The section on color is particularly fantastic. Color is one of the hardest elements to get right in animated film, and Maurice knew how to walk the thin line between playful and tacky. Polson does a superb job of explaining how Maurice managed to do this by doing a deep analysis of his color palettes.

The section on color, for all its strengths, also represents one of the parts of the book that I wish the author had expanded his scope. Polson makes clear from the outset that this is “Maurice’s book,” but I can’t help but think our appreciation for Noble would have been enhanced further by offering some discussion of his contemporaries at Warner Bros., like layout artist Hawley Pratt and background painter Paul Julian. Contrasting the color theories of Julian, who was the studio’s true master of color in my opinion, would have been an enlightening sidetrip.

A lot of the book’s best information isn’t technical, but rather practical advice that is the wisdom of experience. This is true of Noble’s thoughts on selling an idea:

To be a successful designer, being able to sell a good idea is just as important as coming up with the idea itself. It’s hard to sell something simply because you think it feels right. You have to be able to logically discuss why it feels right.

—and his thoughts on why the production methods of yesteryear resulted in better cartoons:

There is more talent working in the industry now than ever before, but sadly the vast majority won’t have the opportunity to work on really good creative stories. The problem isn’t always the type of stories being told; it’s more in the way these stories are being told and developed. There is no room for visual exploration. There is no time for thought and craftsmanship. There isn’t the chance for crews to build trust and synergy.

The production design tips that he offers are applicable to artists today, even if the tools of the trade have changed:

I suggest putting all your research materials away once you start designing and never refer to them again. This may prove difficult at first. But I’ve found that if you are tied too closely to your reference, your designs will tend to look stiff. You will miss out on many fun design opportunities.

or…

Starting rough and not getting specific too early will allow you to keep your design ideas flexible…The more ideas and work you have, the more design possibilities you will have to choose from.

The Noble Approach: Maurice Noble and the Zen of Animation Design ranks among the most unique and delightful animation books in recent memory. It goes without saying that the book’s well-balanced mix of technical tips and anecdotal advice makes it a must-buy title for professional artists and students, but it should also appeal to fans of classic of animation who will surely gain a renewed appreciation for the Chuck Jones canon. The book will be released on October 1st. For those who are still in need of convincing, the book’s official blog gives a nice sense of the book’s content.

Artist of the Day: Philip Vose

Philip Vose

Philip Vose is a graduate of the CalArts animation program and lives in the Bay Area working as a freelance animation artist.

Philip Vose

Philip Vose

Philip has recently worked as a freelance location designer and background painter for the Disney Channel series Gravity Falls. In the personal work that he posts on his blog, Philip is able to explore grittier subject matter than what is allowed by children’s television work.

Philip Vose

Philip Vose

You can find Philip’s personal work on his blog and portfolio site, and his collection of videos including several short cartoons on Vimeo.

Philip Vose

Philip Vose

Disney Will Release Hayao Miyazaki’s “The Wind Rises”

UPDATED (2:35PM ET) Disney announced this afternoon that they will handle North American theatrical distribution for Studio Ghibli/Hayao Miyazaki’s latest film, Kaze Tachinu (The Wind Rises). They released few other details, and indicated that an official release date will be announced at a later time.

While Kaze Tachinu won’t be released in American theaters for a while, attendees of the Venice International Film Festival, Toronto International Film Festival and New York Film Festival will get an opportunity to experience the film much sooner.

Kaze Tachinu, which opened in Japan on July 20th, is based on the life of Jiro Horikoshi, a World War II designer of Zero fighters, including the Mitsubishi A6M Zero which was used by the imperial Japanese navy for kamikaze missions and during the Pearl Harbor bombing.

“My wife and staff would ask me, ‘Why make a story about a man who made weapons of war?” Miyazaki told Japan’s Cut magazine in 2011. “And I thought they were right. But one day, I heard that Horikoshi had once murmured, ‘All I wanted to do was to make something beautiful.’ And then I knew I’d found my subject… Horikoshi was the most gifted man of his time in Japan. He wasn’t thinking about weapons… Really all he desired was to make exquisite planes.”

According to the South China Morning Post, this choice of subject matter, which lead to some veiled jabs at Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has put Miyazaki in the crosshairs of conservative nationalists. He has also found himself defending the film to South Koreans offended of his glorification of a man so closely connected to a Japanese military that used forced laborers from the Korean peninsula. And, the Japan Society for Tobacco Control, has taken issue with the depictions of smoking presented in the film, especially in a scene where the lead character smokes a cigarette while sitting with his wife, who is bedridden and suffering from tuberculosis.

Despite the controversy (or perhaps because of it), Kaze Tachinu was Japan’s biggest opening of the year at ¥960M ($9M US) in its first two days, and has stayed at number for four consecutive weekends with a total box office gross of ¥7.2B ($74.1M US). Kaze Tachinu will screen in Venice from August 31-September 2, and at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 11, 12 and 15. The film’s screening dates for the New York Film Festival haven’t been set yet.

See A 26-Page Preview of “VIP: The Mad World of Virgil Partch”

Fantagraphics has made available a 26-page PDF preview (download here) of their forthcoming Virgil ‘VIP’ Partch retrospective book that confirms this will be one of the must-have cartoon-related books of 2013. The preview will be of particular interest to readers of this site as it contains gag cartoons and other assorted drawings from Partch’s Disney animation years.

The complete 208-page hardcover, titled VIP: The Mad World of Virgil Partch, written and edited by Jonathan Barli, will ship in October 2013. The book can be pre-ordered on Amazon for $30.84.

A semi-related note: when I was in Los Angeles a few weeks ago, I made a detour to the University of California, Irvine to peruse the Virgil Partch Collection. The collection, donated by Partch himself in the 1970s, contains thousands of his original drawings and cartoons, all of which are available for viewing by researchers, historians and other interested parties. It’s well worth the daytrip if you’re a Partchaholic like me.

(h/t, Matt Jones)

VICE Creates Animated Kung Fu Lessons To Promote Wong Kar-wai’s “The Grandmaster”

VICE has produced three short animated pieces as a promotional supplement for the release of Wong Kar-wai’s The Grandmaster, a fictionalized account of the life of Chinese martial artist (and Bruce Lee trainer) Ip Man. Each of the shorts, animated in a limited moving-comic style, explains a specific martial arts style: Wing Chun, Hung Gar and Ba Gua. The design and animation was handled by Erie, Pennsylvania-based MoreFrames.

How Filmmakers Use Unscripted Audio in Animation: A Survey From “Moonbird” to “Waltz with Bashir”

One of the better-known shorts made by John and Faith Hubley is Moonbird, from 1959. This film came about when the Hubleys made a secret recording of their two sons one night, playing a game in which they pretended to be hunting for the elusive Moonbird. The result was a soundtrack with a complete narrative, courtesy of the two children; the Hubleys and their studio then visualised the story to create the film.

It is surprising how well Moonbird works, considering that its story is simply two kids making things up as they go along. The personalities of the children come through very strongly and much of the recorded dialogue is inherently funny, as when the younger boy tries to recite “Hey Diddle Diddle” but has trouble remembering past the second word.

Moonbird was followed by the 1967 film Windy Day, based on the same concept but using the voices of the Hubleys’ two daughters. This short is much looser, with a transformative element as the two characters morph from one identity to another. Instead of a single narrative, the children deliver a free-flowing conversation which makes several twists: The two girls start by playing at being a knight and a princess, and later play at being animals; between these sessions they discuss birth, adulthood, marriage and death in the half-grasped manner of children.

Windy Day was shown at the 1968 Cambridge Animation Festival; amongst the people who saw it were producer Colin Thomas and animator William Mather.

“We were blown away by the use of raw unpolished sound with a highly controlled medium like animation”, said Mather in an interview I conducted with him in 2011. In 1975 the two put together a pilot film entitled Audition, based around a recording of Mather’s son talking to an organ player as he auditioned for the role of a choirboy.

The film is very different to Hubley’s shorts. Aside from a very brief sequence in which the boy imagines the organ turning into a monster, it does not take place in a world of childhood fantasy: Its aim is instead to recreate the conversation in more straightforward cartoon terms.

The Hubleys sought to create fantasy films when they made Moonbird and Windy Day, and turned to the taproot of so much fantasy: the imaginations of children. By contrast, Mather and Thomas created a film which was closer to documentary. It is worth noting that Thomas was a documentary filmmaker, and that BBC Bristol – the branch for which the two men made their pilot – has a strong documentary tradition.

The pilot led to Animated Conversations, a six-part series produced in the late-1970s by various directors. Mather contributed Hangovers, based on a recording of a barmaid and her customers, but the best-known shorts for this series were made by Aardman founders Peter Lord and David Sproxton.

The two Aardman shorts take quite different approaches. Down and Out is a literalistic portrayal of an elderly man being turned away from a hostel which – unlike Mather’s shorts – lacks any humor; its emphasis is instead on pathos. Confessions of a Foyer Girl, on the other hand, plays its material for laughs. A young cinema employee discussing the banal details of her day-to-day life is contrasted with the glamorous and exciting world of the movies.

Lord and Sproxton’s work on Animated Conversations prompted Channel 4 to commission its own series of animation based on natural dialogue, this time made entirely by Aardman: Late Edition, Sales Pitch, On Probation, Early Bird and Palmy Day. As before, some of these went for wacky comedy, while others opted for melancholy tones.

Aardman’s subsequent work in this format includes Creature Comforts by Nick Park. As well as ranking as the single most famous example of the approach, it is one of the more playful in using its soundtrack. As the film is framed as a series of short interviews with various characters, Park was able to home in on the soundbites with the most comic potential. The earlier shorts built themselves around large chunks of undigested conversation, but the whole point of Creature Comforts is that the interviewees are quoted completely out of context.

Creature Comforts became an entire franchise, and in is now the key example of what is, today, a full-fledged genre of animation.

Sometimes the approach can serve a practical use. Animation students are often assigned the task of working to found soundtracks as lipsync exercises. “The Trouble with Love and Sex,” a 2011 episode of the BBC documentary series Wonderland, focused on people undergoing counselling; when it ran into the problem that these people were not comfortable being filmed, it simply used their voices, the visuals being animated by Jonathan Hodgson.

Meanwhile, other animators returned to the daring ethos of the Hubley shorts. Chris Landreth’s Ryan plays with intertextuality, using animation to illustrate interviews with and about animator Ryan Larkin. Sylvie Bringas and Orly Yadin’s’s Silence presents a child’s eye view of the Holocaust, alternating between harsh, woodblock-like sequences for the camp scenes and a softer, more childlike style for the postwar sequences.

There are three general approaches taken by these films. The first is a literalistic portrayal of the conversation, as with the melancholy Down and Out, the lighthearted Late Edition and the harrowing Waltz with Bashir (the last of these being the only feature-length animation of this type that I am aware of.) The second approach creates comedy by placing ordinary dialogue into an unusual situation, as with Creature Comforts.

Finally, the third approach uses animation to illustrate the more subjective aspects of the soundtrack, usually by attempting to recreate the mental state of the speaker. Examples include Silence, Ryan, Marjut Rimminen’s Some Protection, Paul Vester’s Abductees and Andy Glynne’s Animated Minds.

Jan Svankmajer once remarked that “animators tend to construct a closed world for themselves, like pigeon fanciers or rabbit breeders.” When an animated film uses unscripted audio, what we see is pure fantasy, but what we hear is an actual moment in time—the closed world of animation is suddenly opened up to stark reality.

IMAGES AND VIDEO IN THIS PIECE
1.) Still from Moonbird
2.) Still from Windy Day
3.) Audition
4.) Still from Confessions of a Foyer Girl
5.) Still from Creature Comforts
6.) Clip from “The Trouble with Love and Sex”
7.) Still from Waltz with Bashir

The GEICO Gecko Does Not Like Being Called A Cartoon

Sometimes a TV commercial is just a TV commercial. But not this time. This new spot for auto insurance company GEICO is noteworthy for its meta-humor about the animation art form with the ironic observation of a CG cartoon character who is offended by its less subtle 2D version.

The commercial works particularly well because it exploits the general public’s understanding (or lack thereof) of the animation process. Just like the GEICO Gecko himself, the majority of the general public probably would consider the computer-generated version of the character to be a wholly different beast than the hand-drawn version. In fact, this gag wouldn’t have even worked when the Gecko debuted thirteen years ago because the CG production standards of that time gave it the appearance of a more traditional cartoon character. It is only with technological improvements over time that the Gecko’s appearance has edged toward photorealism, a trait that is exploited in this current spot’s extreme close-ups that emphasize the character’s naturalism.

At the end of the day, both versions of these characters are animated, but there is perhaps some truth to the Gecko’s observation that one is a cartoon and the other is not. It raises some fascinating questions of what makes a cartoon character a ‘cartoon’? Is it its visual appearance, its behavior and personality, its production techniques? The question has become increasingly complex as traditional cartoon characters like Alvin and the Chipmunks have been reimagined as photorealistic animated characters that bear scant resemblance to their former cartoon selves. Can a cartoon cross over to being an animated character or does it always retain its original cartoon identity? I cannot pretend to have the answers, but the questions are intriguing.

(Thanks, Joel Calhoun)

Artist of the Day: Cory Loftis

Cory Loftis

Cory Loftis works as a visual development artist at Walt Disney Animation and has contributed his efforts to films such as Wreck-it Ralph. Below are two doughnuts that Cory during the production of that film.

Cory Loftis

Cory Loftis

Below is one of many pieces of development artwork that Cory created for Carbine Studios’s new game, Wildstar. He featured more of his work from that game in this blog post.

Cory Loftis

Cory Loftis

Cory primarily draws and paints digitally, and prolifically produces personal work which he shares on his Tumblr and blog.

Cory Loftis

Cory Loftis

Cory Loftis

Cory Loftis

Artist of the Day: Kristian Antonelli

Kristian Antonelli

Kristian Antonelli is an animator who works at Yukfoo Animation. Kristian was also an animator on the short film, Everything I Can See From Here, which was recently featured on Cartoon Brew.

Kristian Antonelli

Kristian Antonelli

Kristian creates sketchbook studies with pencils, markers and brushes using judiciously-placed strokes and blots.

Kristian Antonelli

Kristian Antonelli

See more work on Kristian’s Tumblr and blog.

Kristian Antonelli

Kristian Antonelli

Kristian Antonelli

Kristian Antonelli

Kristian Antonelli

“A Morning Stroll” Director Grant Orchard Gets Ready to “Chop Chop!”

Grant Orchard, the Oscar-nominated director of A Morning Stroll and a longtime Brew favorite, has created the children’s series Chop Chop! (working title) in collaboration with Studio AKA. The 52 x 7-minute preschool series has been commissioned by BBC Worldwide and will premiere worldwide on its junior arm CBeebies in fall 2014.

The series features the adventures of the Squirrel Club, an adorable menagerie of animals who are awarded badges after completing activities assigned to them by their club leader Chop Chop. According to Broadcast, the series is one of the first to receive tax break certification from the British Film Institute since the Department for Culture, Media & Sport approved animated programs for financial relief in April.

While Studio AKA’s top-tier client list includes work for children’s brands like Disney and Cartoon Network among companies like Lloyds TSB, BMW, Skype and BBC, Chop Chop! will be its first major contribution to children’s programming. The series producers will be Sue Goffe and Janine Murphy, and executive producers will be Henrietta Hurford-Jones (BBC Worldwide director of children’s) and Jackie Edwards (executive producer, animation and acquisitions, CBeebies UK).

“Animation Sketchbooks” Book Review and Gallery

Laura Heit’s Animation Sketchbooks (published this month by Chronicle Books in the US, and earlier by Thames & Hudson in the UK) offers a peek inside the private sketchbooks of 51 (mostly independent) animation filmmakers. The 320-page hardcover has a straightforward format: each artist is allotted 4-8 pages that includes a career overview, brief statements about the process of sketching and keeping a sketchbook, and a gallery of sketchbook pages and stills from short films.

The artists in the book include many of the biggest names in indie animation (Koji Yamamura, Michaela Pavlatova Georges Schwizgebel, Regina Pessoa, Priit Parn, Paul Driessen) as well as some artists who are better known for their commercial work (Stephen Hillenburg, Luis Cook, David Polonsky, Fran Krause). It’s safe to say that unless you’re a regular festival attendee—or a reader of Cartoon Brew—many of the names will be unfamiliar. That’s not a criticism though. These are all artists who deserve greater exposure and this book does a fine job of giving it to them.

There’s a remarkable range of techniques, approaches and visual styles represented in the volume, as the author Heit explains in the intro:

You will discover many types of sketchbook keepers within these pages. You will find early ideas plotted out, sometimes repeatedly until their purpose becomes clear, thumbnail sketches of developing characters, mini storyboards scratched out in a hurry. There are those who try out new mark-making techniques, searching for the next film’s look. Others use the pages to doodle mindlessly as a kind of artistic respite, their work here unrelated to their film projects. Some keep a book like a travelogue, carrying it with them on all of their adventures…Others, such as Luis Cook, treat their sketchbook like a reliquary, part scrapbook, part personal project.

My only gripe about this otherwise commendable project is that the film stills took up an excessive amount of space in the book. When an artist like Koji Yamamura only has six pages, it’d have been preferable to not see a third of that space devoted to film stills. The reason for their inclusion—to connect the sketches to filmmaking practice—is perfectly valid, but the stills could have been presented in a way that didn’t consume large chunks of space that would have been better devoted to the book’s main selling point: the hard-to-see sketchbooks.

Not only will this book introduce the reader to names worth knowing in independent animation, it will inspire and challenge any artist with a non-commercial streak to push their own craft further. That, in itself, makes it a recommended purchase.

Order Animation Sketchbooks for $36.07 on Amazon

Artist of the Day: Nick Edwards

Nick Edwards

Nick Edwards is a prolific cartoonist working in the UK who creates comics for print and online distribution, including his regular Thursday strip, Cave Shrine and his debut comic book Dinopopolous published by Blank Slate.

Nick Edwards

Nick Edwards

Nick fills his sketchbooks with densely packed pages of characters and comics. You can find some of these on his Tumblr. On his blog, Nick experiments with animated comics using looping GIF files. An example is IVAN in which Nick explores the pains of being creative.

Nick Edwards

Nick Edwards

Two web presences cannot seemingly contain Nick’s output, and you can dig into older work on his DeviantArt and LiveJournal accounts.

Nick Edwards

Nick Edwards

Nick Edwards

Disney Tags the English Coastline with 260-Feet High Cartoon Characters

Disney launched Disney Infinity in the UK by plastering the characters from the game onto the landmark White Cliffs of Dover along the English coastline. The images stretched 1600 feet across and 260 feet tall.

The projections are part of a bigger illumination package, Digital Disney Parade, in which animated versions of the game’s characters are projected around London.

Mount Rushmore this ain’t—H&M recently projected an image of underwear-clad David Beckham onto the same cliffs to sell tighty whities. No word on how much Disney spent to tag this natural wonder with its cartoon imagery. Whatever it cost though, Disney needs to find creative ways to spend the record $42 billion—with a capital B—that the company made in 2012. Cheap spectacle is as good as any other.

(via Daily Mail)

Nick Releases “Legend of Korra” Prequel Webseries “Republic City Hustle”

Nickelodeon is releasing online a three-part Legend of Korra webseries called “Republic City Hustle,” presumably to help build buzz for the second season of the TV series, which will debut next month. The webseries takes place three years before the events of Book 1 and tells the backstory of two of the show’s central figures—brothers Mako and Bolin—and how they ended up with their sidekick Pabu. The first two episodes have already debuted online and can be viewed below:

Legend of Korra: “Republic City Hustle: Part 1″

Legend of Korra: “Republic City Hustle: Part 2″



Besides the obvious redesign of the characters, things were also done differently behind the scenes. This webseries was produced out of Nickelodeon’s on-air graphics department in New York instead of the regular Los Angeles crew. The animation was created in After Effects.

CREDITS
SVP Brand Creative: Matthew Duntemann
Executive Producer: James Stephenson
Producer: Eric Collins
Written by: Tim Hedrick
Directors: Chris Papa and Rob Kohr
Character Design: Evon Freeman & Rachael Hunt
Storyboards: Matthew Robinson
Backgrounds: George Berger and Alexandra DiTullio
Animation: Scott Kennell, Ross Norton, Christine Chen, Alexandra Ditullio, Brett Underhill and Mike Liu
Sound: Beatstreet

(Disclosure: The co-director of this piece, Rob Kohr, provides technical support/maintenance for Cartoon Brew.)

Artist of the Day: Sonnye Lim

Sonnye Lim

Sonnye “Jin” Lim is a recent graduate of the film/video/animation program at the Rhode Island School of Design. Her 2013 reel is below, along with more of her films on Vimeo.

Sonnye Lim

One of Jin’s personal projects in progress is a comic called Blondie, starring her characters Blondie and Quinn and set “in a zombie apocalyptic universe.”

Sonnye Lim

Sonnye Lim

See more of Jin’s dark drawings in pencils, ink and pixels on her Tumblr and her animation portfolio blog.

Sonnye Lim

Sonnye Lim

Sonnye Lim

Read This If You Want to Make Cartoons While Living in Tokyo for Free

The Japan Image Council (JAPIC) has announced that they are now accepting applications for their “Animation Artist in Residence Tokyo 2014″ program.

The project, organized by the Agency for Cultural Affairs (Bunka-cho/Government of Japan) and run by the Japan Image Council since 2010, is a residency that “aims to provide three outstanding young animation artists from around the world with an opportunity to come to Tokyo and create new works while directly interacting with Japanese animation culture.”

The artists selected will spend 70 days in Tokyo, between January 7 and March 17th, 2014. The program will provide travel expenses, living allowance, and rental accommodations, as well as the opportunity to interact with the Japanese animation community. You can read the report from this year’s program to get a sense of what will happen.

As always, there’s a catch, and this residency has one, too: you’ve got to be good. The three artists who were in the last program are all excellent filmmakers—Caleb Wood (United States), Elli Vuorinen (Finland), and Emma de Swaef (Belgium). Applicants, who must be between the ages of 20-35, need to have had one of their projects screened at an international film festival/exhibition and must submit a plan for a new animated work that is at least three minutes in length.

The application deadline for this year’s program is September 9th, 2013. To apply, go to JAPIC’s application page.

New CG “Alvin and the Chipmunks” TV Series Set for 2015

A new Chipmunks series, ALVINNN!!! and The Chipmunks, is set to debut in 2015. The show, which has been in development since 2010 when it was called The Chipmunks and Chipettes, represents the first time that the characters will appear in CGI for the television format. The 52×11-minute series will also be the first original Chipmunks television show in 25 years.

The new series was created by Ross Bagdasarian Jr. and his wife Janice Karman, who have overseen the characters since 1972 when Ross Bagdsarian Sr. passed away. According to themselves, it’s a great revival. “Janice has created a show that I feel is the best thing we’ve ever done,” said Bagdasarian Jr.

The show will be produced by Bagdasarian Productions and French production studio Genao Productions, and distributed worldwide (except US and France) by PGS Entertainment.

“LA Times” Writer Stupidly Suggests That Hollywood is Making Too Many Animated Films

Well, it’s that time of year again. A couple animated films perform below-average at the box office and the mainstream media begins asking, “Are Hollywood studios cranking out too many animated films?”

The article is filled with alarmist descriptions of the film animation industry, like “a flood of computer-animated movies” (because five films apparently constitutes a ‘flood’) and eye-roll worthy quotes like this one from DreamWorks CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg:

“We’ve never experienced this level of animation congestion in a period of time.”

and this gem from Illumination chief executive Chris Meledandri:

“[A]s more films are planned, it’s inevitable that there will be more acute cannibalization of each other.”

Cannibalization? Let’s get a grip, here. There are only eleven major animated releases planned for this year. That’s compared to hundreds of live-action releases. How is it that the feature film market can support hundreds of live-action films but less than a dozen animated pics?

The problem isn’t that there are too many animated films; the problem is that every single animated release is targeted at the same family demographic.

Yes, there were five animated releases this summer in the span of a couple months. That’s hardly newsworthy considering that there were dozens of live-action releases in the same period. The issue is that all five of those films were targeted to the exact same audience. I suffered through a couple of them, and if you have an intellectual capacity beyond a seven-year-old’s, chances are you’re going to want to watch something more stimulating.

A far more illuminating article would have been to ask why film executives ghettoize the animation art form and refuse to cater to a broader range of audiences, as animated filmmakers in Europe and Asia routinely do. Hayao Miyazaki’s controversial new animated feature The Wind Rises is geared toward adult audiences, and has not only been the number one film in Japan for the past month, but will likely become Japan’s number one film at the box office for all of 2013.

The writer of the LA Times article, Richard Verrier, who should know better considering that he covers the film industry for a living, erroneously refers to animation as a genre in his piece on multiple occasions. But, as we’ve discussed many times before, animation is NOT a genre. It may be perceived as a genre by Hollywood execs, but animation is as much a genre as live-action is.

To quote the animation industry’s patron saint of common sense, Brad Bird:

I think that there is more misreading of trends in animation than any other of the film community. If Cool World fails, then all adult-themed animation is doomed. And if Disney fails, all of animation is doomed. And it’s not like, “Well, hey, man, you know, maybe people are tired of five songs and a familiar story.” … That’s like if George Lucas hit a rough patch, somebody would suddenly say, “Well, people are tired of science fiction.” It’s ridiculous! It’s the kind of idiotic statement that never seems to go out of style in Hollywood… Animation is not a genre. It is a method of storytelling. People are constantly analyzing it and misanalysing it as if it is a genre. It isn’t a genre. It can do horror films, it can do adult comedies if it wanted to, it could do fairy tales, it could do science fiction, it could do musicals, it could mystery, it can do anything. Because Disney has been the only one that’s lavished any care on it, people [then] think it’s the only kind that can be told successfully.

And even if you want to lump all animation as a genre, the argument is still flimsy and incorrect. How is there a glut when two of the top four films at the American box office are animated this year:

  1. Iron Man 3 / $408,195,474
  2. Despicable Me 2 / $346,642,075
  3. Man of Steel / $289,694,329
  4. Monsters University / $261,134,998
  5. Fast & Furious 6 / $238,464,720

On top of that, Despicable Me 2 is the single most profitable film in the history of Universal. The financials alone would suggest that the success rate in animation is far higher than live-action’s hit rate. Perhaps then, the writers of the LA Times should be exploring whether there’s a glut of live-action films in Hollywood.