“A Very Fuddles Christmas” Book Trailer by Frans Vischer

Veteran film animator Frans Vischer (Cats Don’t Dance, Curious George, Rover Dangerfield, The Princess and the Frog) has completed his second illustrated children’s book featuring the chubby cat Fuddles. The book is called A Very Fuddles Christmas and will be released on October 1st by Simon & Schuster’s Aladdin imprint. Like the earlier Fuddles book, this new story is accompanied by a charming and lovingly animated book trailer by Frans that gives life to his feline star.

Here’s A New Version of “The Little Mermaid” For People Who Don’t Want to See The Film

Disney is re-releasing The Little Mermaid into theaters on Friday, September 20th, in a new version that is apparently designed for people who think the original film doesn’t hold up on its own merits.

In this new release, called The Little Mermaid: Second Screen Live, attendees have to download an iPad app and bring their iPads to the theater to distract them from what’s happening on the screen. Audiences are encouarged to ignore the careful plotting of the story, the nuances of the character animation, and the development of the characters’ personalities, and instead play games, answer trivia, solve puzzles, perform sing-a-longs, and compete with other audience members. In fact, they’re asked to pretty much do anything but actually watch The Little Mermaid.

The announcer in the promo says, “Bring your Apple iPad and see The Little Mermaid on the big screen like you never have before.” That part is true because I’m pretty sure nobody has ever seen The Little Mermaid by purposely holding a hunk of metal in front of them to obscure the film:

Disney promises that, “Moviegoing has never been so much fun.” So far, the Internet disagrees, and Disney has disabled comments on its YouTube promo. To experience the future of moviegoing and see bits and pieces of The Little Mermaid in a theater filled with moviegoers tapping away on their iPads, visit the Second Screen Live website.

Artist of the Day: Yoann Hervo

Yoann Hervo

Yoann Hervo works as a character designer at Xilam Animation in Paris and is a recent graduate of Gobelins.

Yoann Hervo

Yoann Hervo

You can view three years of his school portfolios here and get a sense of the different kinds of exercises that Yoann completed for assignments for concept design and development.

Yoann Hervo

Yoann Hervo

View more of Yoann’s personal sketchbook drawings and illustrations on his blog HervoYoann.blogspot.com.Yoann Hervo

Yoann Hervo

Blue Sky Director Carlos Saldanha Wants to Try Live-Action

Veteran Blue Sky director Carlos Saldanha (Rio, Ice Age: The Meltdown, Rio 2) is currently in negotiations to take over the direction of 20th Century Fox’s sci-fi picture Rust. The film’s original director, Joe Cornish, recently left the production for unspecified reasons.

The E.T.-esque film, based on a recent graphic novel by Royden Lepp, is described by the Wrap as the story of “a family of farmers struggling in the wake of a devastating world war [whose] lives are changed when Jet Jones, a young boy with a jetpack, crashes into their barn while being pursued by a giant decommissioned war robot.”

Saldanha has been with Blue Sky since its earliest features. He co-directed the studio’s first two films—Ice Age and Robots. As animation fans, we can only hope that this is a mid-life crisis of the kind experienced by Andrew Stanton and Rob Minkoff, and that Saldanha will return to animation after getting the live-action bug out of his system. Because, seriously, what sane person would give up the opportunity to direct Ice Age 6?

Who Are The Oldest Living Animation Artists?

Last week, I had the pleasure of attending the 99th birthday party of animator Willis Pyle. Pyle has had a cartoon career for the ages. On Pinocchio, he cleaned up Milt Kahl’s scene of Jiminy Cricket getting dressed while running to work. He was a key animator during the early days of UPA and animated on the studio’s first theatrical short for Columbia, Robin Hoodlum, as well as the first Mister Magoo short Ragtime Bear. In the classic UPA film Gerald McBoing Boing, Pyle animated the climactic scene of Gerald performing sound effects at the radio station.

I’m incredibly grateful that we still have living links to the Golden Age of animation like Willy, and attending his party made me wonder who else is still around. The list below is every animation industry veteran I can think of who is 85 years or older. I’m sure there are plenty of others too, and I invite you to help fill out the list. The growth and development of our art form owes much to these men and women.

  • Kaj Pindal – 85 years old

  • Yoji Kuri – 85 years old

  • Bob Singer – 85 years old (?)

  • Bob Balser – 86 years old

  • Dean Spille – 86 years old

  • Rudy Cataldi – 86 years old

  • Sam Clayberger – 87 years old

  • Stan Freberg – 87 years old

  • Ken Mundie – 87 years old (?)

  • Walt Peregoy – 88 years old (?)

  • Ray Favata – 89 years old

  • Arthur Rankin, Jr. – 89 years old

  • Gene Deitch – 89 years old

  • Frédéric Back – 89 years old

  • Janet Waldo – 89 years old(?)

  • John Stephenson – 90 years old

  • Jim Fekete (far left) – 90 years old

  • Joe Siracusa – 91 years old

  • Charles Csuri – 91 years old

  • Vera Linnecar – 91 years old(?)

  • Borge Ring – 92 years old

  • David Weidman – 92 years old (?)

  • Harold Whitaker – 93 years old

  • June Patterson – 93 years old

  • X. Atencio (pictured right) – 94 years old

  • Eddie Lawrence – 94 years old

  • Al Pabian – 95 years old

  • Blaine Gibson – 95 years old

  • June Foray – 95 years old

  • Bob Givens – 95 years old

  • Alice Provensen (right) – 95 years old

  • Martha Sigall – 96 years old

  • Auril Thompson – 96 years old

  • Hal Geer – 97 years old(?)

  • Willis Pyle – 99 years old

  • Don Lusk – 99 years old

  • Milton Quon – 100 years old

  • Tyrus Wong – 102 years old

  • Ruthie Thompson – 103 years old

Miyazaki’s Retirement Commemorated with 6-Second Vines

Indonesian animator Pinot created a series of Vines to commemorate the retirement of Hayao Miyazaki. You’ve got to hand it to him: he understands the value of every frame and how to get the most out of his six seconds. Pinot explained his love of Miyazaki’s work in an article on Mashable:

My father is a comic illustrator and animator. He followed Walt Disney’s technique and style — always with 24 frames-per-second and all moving objects, even for faces and mouths. ‘In animation, every object has soul. So we move everything except the background,’ he would tell me. He never liked Japanese anime style with its stiff objects and fewer frames per second.

Then, Hayao Miyazaki changed everything. Miyazaki proved that animation with fewer frames could also tell great stories. Best of all, Miyazaki brought a new type of childhood fantasy — not the usual tale of Prince Charming. His stories deliver messages of ecological problems, nature-life reality and strong, high-functioning families. As parents of three kids, I am happy to have Miyazaki’s movies fuel their creativity — a great balance for the fare of Disney princesses.

One of my favorite quote[s] from Miyazaki: ‘Hand drawing on paper is the fundamental of animation.’ Most people claim they cannot draw, but I’m sure [they] have doodled on a napkin paper. People don’t realize when their hand holds a pen and dances on paper to create swirly lines, they’re creating animation.

How does Pinot do it? Don’t worry, there’s a behind-the-scenes Vine, too:

Jin Kim Caricatures His Disney Co-Workers

Disney character designer Jin Kim drew this suite of twenty-five caricatures of co-workers for Disney’s annual in-house caricature show. Like the rest of Kim’s work, these drawings are distinguished by their expressive line and confident shapes. His prodigious abilities make it look far too easy. Above, from left to right, Lino DiSalbo, Don Hall, and Shiyoon Kim.

Artist of the Day: Violaine Briat

Violaine Briat

Violaine Briat graduated from Gobelins and now works as a storyboard artist in Paris.

Violaine Briat

Violaine Briat

Violaine is a prolific artist who creates personal work that includes her own world of characters that she features in wordless comics and drawings. She has collected these adventures on The Big Adventures blog and in a book published by Editions Rutabaga, Mini Aventure.

Violaine Briat

Violaine Briat

Above is one panel of a 173-panel original storyboard that she created just for “fun and practice.” See the whole thing here.

Violaine Briat

Violaine Briat

See the rest of Violaine’s work on her main blog, comics blog, doodle dump Tumblr, and fan art Tumblr.

Violaine Briat

Violaine Briat

Watch A Video of Hayao Miyazaki Announcing His Retirement From Feature Animation

Earlier today in Tokyo, Japanese animation legend Hayao Miyazaki held a press conference attended by over 600 journalists to formally announce his retirement. He acknowledged that he has said he would quit before: “I’ve mentioned that I would retire many times in the past, so a lot of you must be thinking ‘Oh, not again.’ But this time I am quite serious.”

Miyazaki explained his reasons for why he no longer wants to direct animated features:

I’m not sure you all know exactly what an animation director does. And even if you say ‘animation director’ everyone has their own way of working. I started as an animator, so I have to draw. If I don’t draw, I can’t express myself.

So what happens is, I have to take my glasses off and draw like this. I would have to do that forever. No matter how physically fit and healthy you are, it’s a fact that year after year the amount of time you’re able to concentrate on that decreases. I have experienced this personally, so I know. So, for example I leave my desk 30 minutes earlier compared to during Ponyo. Next I guess it’ll be one hour earlier than that.

Those physical issues that occur with age, there’s nothing you can do about them, and hating them doesn’t make a difference. There’s the opinion that i should just do things a different way, but if I could do that I would have already done a long time ago, so I can’t. Therefore, all I can do is persist in doing things on my terms, and I made the call that feature films would be impossible.

Miyazaki is leaving feature animation on a high note. His new film Kaze Tachinu (The Wind Rises) is Japan’s top-grossing film of 2013. At the conference, Miyazaki said that he will continue going into the studio “as long as I can drive and commute back and forth between my home and the studio.” He expects to work for at least another ten years on projects of his choosing, but refused to divulge what those might be, other than hinting that he would become more involved with organizing exhibitions at the Ghibli Museum.

In a self-effacing moment, one of many during the conference, he related what happened when he told his wife that he was retiring:

So, this is the way the conversation about my retirement with my wife went—I said, “Please keep making my bento,” and she said, “Hmph…at your age it’s unheard of to have someone still making your lunch everyday.” So I said, “I am terribly sorry, but I’ll still leave it to you.” I don’t know if I said it that politely.

Forbes Magazine Calls Six Animated Films “A Glut”

In an analysis of Hollywood’s summer movie season, Scott Mendelson of Forbes suggested that Hollywood produced “too much animation” this year, and that “six major animated films in just over three months is a glut.” We’ve been down this road before, and hardly need to point out the wrongheadedness of this lazy punditry.

What’s amazing is that Mendelson spends most of his analysis talking about the relative success of these animated films and still manages to arrive at the wrong conclusion. The fact is that two out of those six animated films were blockbusters, which is a far higher success rate than Hollywood’s live-action efforts. It’s exasperating to keep having to point this out, but as long as the mainstream media continues to misrepresent the animation industry, we’ll keep correcting them.

(Thanks, Ashnard)

“Triplets of Belleville” Director Sylvain Chomet Has Switched to Live-Action Filmmaking

First it was Brad Bird. Now Sylvain Chomet, the director of The Triplets of Belleville and The Illusionist, has switched over to live-action filmmaking. Chomet’s feature debut, Attila Marcel, will premiere tonight at the Toronto International Film Festival. The film is described as follows:

Paul is a sweet man-child, raised — and smothered — by his two eccentric aunts in Paris since the death of his parents when he was a toddler. Now thirty-three, he still does not speak. (He does express himself through colourful suits that would challenge any Wes Anderson character in nerd chic.) Paul’s aunts have only one dream for him: to win piano competitions. Although Paul practices dutifully, he remains unfulfilled until he submits to the interventions of his upstairs neighbor. Suitably named after the novelist, Madame Proust offers Paul a concoction that unlocks repressed memories from his childhood and awakens the most delightful of fantasies.

Chomet, who had earlier dabbled in live-action with a segment in Paris, je t’aime, explained the switch to live-action in an interview with the LA Times:

“I’ve always made animation as if it was a live-action film. I try to make it look almost real, the way it’s edited is not really like an animated film. I try to have continuity in between the shots like live action. I was always thinking of live action but came to live action through animation. That was a way for me to get into live action. Animation is filmmaking, it’s the same thing. And you really train as a director when you do animation. You get the eye, the sense of composition and timing. Live action is very similar to animation apart from animation takes ages and live action goes really fast.”

There’s still some hope for those who appreciate Chomet’s animation films. The Times said that Chomet currently has two features in development—one live-action and one animated—and he plans to make the film that gets funding first.

“Paperman” Director John Kahrs Breaks Silence About Leaving Disney

Oscar-winning Paperman director John Kahrs, who quit Walt Disney Animation Studios last week, gave the following statement to The Wrap about his decision to leave the company:

“I will miss working with them, and feel lucky to have played a part in the revitalization of the studio. They have an abundance of projects; an incredible development slate, but I’ve decided to develop my own projects and pursue directing elsewhere. It was very amicable — they were very gracious about that — and I believe we all left the door open.”

A Disney studio spokesperson also issued a response:

“John is an incredibly talented filmmaker and artist and all of us here at Walt Disney Animation Studios are proud of his vision for the stunning and innovative ‘Paperman. We wish him the best in his future endeavors.”

Henry Selick Will Headline Montreal Stop Motion Film Festival

The fifth Montreal Stop Motion Film Festival is set to take place October 18-20 at Concordia University. The event will celebrate the twentieth anniversary of The Nightmare Before Christmas with a screening of the film that will be presented by the director Henry Selick.

Other guests include Joe and Joan Clokey, who run Clokey Productions and Premavision studios which is responsible for Gumby, and stop motion animator Jamie Caliri, who developed the industry standard stop motion software DragonFrame. Animator Anthony Scott, who has worked with Selick, Caliri, and Gumby creator Art Clokey, will also be a guest.

The festival is currently accepting stop motion films for its competition program. The deadline to submit is September 20. In addition to a full competition slate, the festival will include a screening of the documentary Ray Harryhausen: Special Effects Titan, a retrospective of Estonian animation studio Nukufilm, and hands-on stations for attendees to create their own stop motion animation.

Revisiting A Pre-“Roger Rabbit” Music Video That Combined Animation with Live-Action

Via Cartoon Brew’s bustling Facebook group comes this 1983 Al Jarreau music video for “Mornin’.” It’s fascinating to see what was considered technically acceptable for combining animation with live-action in the early-Eighties. Who Framed Roger Rabbit was released five years after this video and set a new standard for how the two media could be merged seamlessly.

“Imitation of Life” Sneaks Animation Into the Venice Biennale

The Venice Biennale, the major biannual art festival that is currently ongoing in Venice, Italy, features an animation installation this year. Imitation of Life by Mathias Poledna is housed in the festival’s Austrian Pavilion. The three-minute 1930s-style short was produced by DUCK Studios in Los Angeles, and appears to be a fairly authentic throwback to the classical era, especially in regard to process: it was drawn on paper, inked onto cels and shot on 35mm. (Mark Kausler used similar vintage processes for his recent pair of shorts There Must Be Some Other Cat and It’s the Cat.)

Of course, simply making an animated film isn’t enough to qualify as Art with a capital ‘A’ and it certainly won’t gain a filmmaker admission into the Biennale. Animation has to be recontextualized into a more ‘meaningful’ endeavor, hence this impressively decadent official description for the piece:

A 35mm color film roughly three minutes in length, Imitation of Life was produced using the historic, labor-intensive technique of handmade animation and is built around a cartoon character performing a musical number. Its buoyant spirit and visual texture evoke the Golden Era of the American animation industry during the late 1930s and early 1940s. In the preceding years, the time of the Great Depression, the medium had evolved from a crude form of mass spectacle into a visual language of enormous richness and complexity that shaped and continues to resonate in our collective imaginary.

Imitation of Life appropriates and reassembles this language as it revisits the contradictions and ambiguities that accompanied the medium’s development. Advanced methods of production and visual ingenuity – indebted to the syntax of European modernism in its handling of surface, depth and color, and lauded by the avantgarde and critic intelligence of the time – coexisted with sentimental characterization and storytelling based on age-old fables and fairy tales.

Among the most pronounced features of the film is the extreme contrast between the conciseness of its scene, and the extraordinary amount of labor that went into its creation: more than 5,000 handmade sketches, layouts, animation drawings, watercolored backgrounds and ink-rendered animation cells, produced in close cooperation with acclaimed artists from the animation departments of film studios in Los Angeles, most notably Disney. Several small groups of these drawings are presented in the Austrian Pavilion.

The soundtrack, another key element of the production, was recorded with a full orchestra in the style of the period at the Warner Brothers scoring stage in Los Angeles. It combines new original music created specifically for this project with a re-arrangement of a popular song from the 1930s written by Arthur Freed and Nacio Herb Brown.

Presented in Venice, Poledna’s installation allows for a complex cross-reading with other episodes from this period: the relationship between European art and American mass culture; European emigration to the United States and American export to Europe; the presentation of animated films produced by the Disney Studios at the first film festivals in Venice; the late modernism of the Austrian Pavilion, and the period from 1938 to 1942 during which the building remained empty while Austrian artists exhibited in the German Pavilion.

Beyond its engagement with animation, Imitation of Life incorporates into its fleeting narrative a number of other elements from the early history of entertainment, such as Vaudeville, silent comedy and film musicals, and form diverse artistic forms including film, music, painting and literature. But even while it subscribes to the synergistic logic of its medium, the film deliberately eschews a seamless whole, remaining at once alien and utterly recognizable.

(Thanks, @StephenPersing)

The Hunt is On in “Hound” by Olivia Blanc and Marion Delpech

Just who is being hunted in Hound, the Ecole des Métiers du Cinéma d’Animation graduate film from Olivia Blanc and Marion Delpech? While this singular question is central to the blissfully unencumbered storytelling of this short film, you are challenged to remember it as you become lost in the juxtaposition of monochromatic starkness and bursts of rich color.

Directed by Olivia Blanc and Marion Delpech
Sound design by Florian Calmer

Will Vinton Set to Direct CGI Film “The Quest”

It was announced last week that animation director Will Vinton, creator of the term Claymation and recipient of an Academy Award for his 1974 short film Closed Mondays, has a new film in the works called The Quest, an absurdist outer space adventure written by himself, Andrew Weise and Peter Crabbe. Vinton, who was forced out of Will Vinton Studios in 2002, the company that eventually became LAIKA, has previously directed one animated feature—The Adventures of Mark Twain (1985).

Names attached to The Quest, which will be computer animated, are production designer Bruce Zick (The Lion King, Prince of Egypt, WALL-E) and Monty Python alum John Cleese, who will provide the lead voice. The film will be produced by Will Vinton’s Vinton Entertainment and Gnosis Moving Pictures, a new production company founded by Darius A. Kamali, human rights advocate and associate producer on the 2008 MGM/Weinstein Company animated film Igor.

According to their website, Gnosis “aim[s] to explore the human condition, propagate communal understanding and reflect the creative potential of individual consciousness.” In addition to regular live action and 3D film projects, Kamali has aligned Gnosis with West coast game developers IPFranchise for the creation and distribution of apps, social media games and digital intellectual properties.

Interview with “Uncle Grandpa” Creator Pete Browngardt

Uncle Grandpa premieres this evening at 8 p.m. (ET, PT) on Cartoon Network. The show was created by Peter Browngardt, 34, who also voices the handlebar-mustachioed star of the show. Uncle Grandpa has been gestating since 2008 when it was part of Cartoon Network’s Cartoonstitute program. The original pilot gained a following online after it was posted on YouTube in 2010, the same year in which the pilot was nominated for an Emmy.

The show revolves around Uncle Grandpa, a fanny pack-adorned, propeller beanie-bedecked gentleman of uncertain origin who travels in a magical RV dispensing ‘Good mornins’ while helping children achieve their dreams. If it sounds like an unconventional setup for a children’s cartoon, the show’s style of humor is even more unique.

Surrealist visual humor, the type of which was practiced by cartooning giants like VIP Partch, Tex Avery, and Don Martin, went out of fashion sometime in the late-Eighties. Uncle Grandpa rejuvenates this strand of comedy with gusto: bodies disassemble and reassemble on command, conceited slices of pizza drive motorbikes, and parallel worlds exist in fanny packs (or belly bags, per the show’s lingo). Browngardt’s new show dispenses with the polite verbal banter of other animated TV series; it is visually vulgar and aesthetically abrasive, and because of its sheer audacity, it’s laugh-out-loud funny.

Cartoon Brew spoke to Browngardt about the show. We accompany the chat with a gallery of production and pre-production artwork from the series.

Cartoon Brew: Did you have an Uncle Grandpa-like figure when you were growing up or is it something that you wish you had?

Pete Browngardt: Actually, I think it’s sort of a combination. Growing up, I had uncles, but the funny thing is that neither one of them were actually blood-relatives. They were just my father’s really good friends. I think a lot of people have that, where you just call them Uncle Bob or Uncle Dan or whatever. And these guys were larger-than-life characters. Whenever they came to hang out, it was a nutty time. They let me drive when I was seven years old just to see me drive. We’d build potato cannons and all kinds of stuff that you probably shouldn’t be doing with kids. They were kids at heart as well and they had crazy stories of their life. Like, one of them fought in World War II and hid in a cave, and then got captured and escaped from a POW camp. It was always something adventurous or a good time when they showed up. And then also, I did have a lot of imaginary friends as a kid and I’d go out in the woods and play out scenarios, wishing I could get away.

Cartoon Brew: How many ideas had you pitched before you pitched Uncle Grandpa to Cartoon Network?

Pete Browngardt: It was my first time ever pitching to a studio. A friend, Stephen DeStefano, had a connection to pitch at the studio. I was living in New York at the time. We flew out, and said, ‘Let’s pitch three ideas each.’ I just did quick pitch bible things for three ideas, and pitched to Craig McCracken and Rob Renzetti. Craig and Rob really responded to Uncle Grandpa. And while I was out there, Carl Greenblatt from Chowder had seen my work and he hired me to board on that. I actually moved out to LA to work on that, and through that time period, Cartoonstitute started.

Cartoon Brew: This might be a good moment to talk about your background. I heard you started in animation when you were 19?

Pete Browngardt: I started making animated films when I was seven years old. My older brothers were into making films, they used to make Super 8 horror movies, so I was basically born into a household that liked filmmaking, acting and drawing and all these arts…it was odd to me that other families didn’t do it.

My brothers explained to me at an early age how animation works, and I was like, ‘Wow, you can actually do this.’ My dad and my brother helped me build a lighttable from the back of the Preston Blair animation book, and one of the first things I ever animated was a character swallowing a bee. I animated dog food falling on a dog. I always drew, and I started making animated films all through elementary school. In high school I made stop motion films and some live-action films, and also took a lot of drawing classes.

Got into CalArts and then made films there. After my second year at CalArts, they had that job fair and Producers’ Show, and one of the directors at Futurama saw my second-year film and offered me a job. Basically it was a summer job, and they wanted me to stay, but my parents and myself, I wanted to finish school and get a degree. I ended up going back to school. But yes, when I was 19 I did that. The following summer I got picked for an apprenticeship at Industrial Light and Magic, and I tried doing CG animation which wasn’t a good fit for me. Really missed drawing, but it was a great experience and it was amazing to be in an environment like that. Then, after that I moved back to New York, which is where I’m from, and worked at Augenblick Studios, MTV, World Leaders when they were doing Venture Bros. Then, when I was there, I ended up coming back and pitching to Cartoon Network.

Cartoon Brew: The original Uncle Grandpa pilot was one of the funniest and most original pilots I’d seen. But then you made the series Secret Mountain Fort Awesome, which was based on a gag in the pilot. Was that another one of the pitches? How did it work out that you made a pilot for one thing and got a show for something else.

Pete Browngardt: Well, it was kind of a thing where they weren’t sure about Uncle Grandpa for filling out a whole show. So they asked me to come up with some other things that spun off of it and Secret Mountain was one of those. It was an amazing learning experience for the whole process—of pitching something and then seeing how it can manipulate and change while you’re working on it.

Cartoon Brew: You used a lot of metal and thrash music in Secret Mountain. Can we expect Uncle Grandpa to contain the same?

Pete Browngardt: That music was really for that show. I love that music and when we were doing the animatics for Secret Mountain, I would throw in that music in the temp scores, and it blended really well with the imagery and what I was going for with the design. Now with Uncle Grandpa, there are aspects of that in the music, but we’ve tried to lighten the tone. This new Uncle Grandpa has evolved to be more light-hearted in the sense of a broad kids show, which I’m really excited about. It’s more like Pee-wee’s Playhouse with an expanded cast and expanded world, and I wanted to have more variety in the music and be able to go sort of a happier place, though it does go dark and heavy at times.

We’re actually breaking format on the shows, where within the eleven-minute episodes, we have two stories plus bumpers. We have a seven-to-eight minute story and a two-to-three minute story. Ren and Stimpy used to do that, and even Dexter’s Lab did it, and I really love it because we’re able to experiment. One of the shorts we’re doing is “Uncle Grandpa Sings the Classics,” and it’s Uncle Grandpa singing all the different genres of music. One of them is black metal, and it’s amazing. I was, like, they’re never going to let us put black metal into a kids’ cartoon, but they did.

Cartoon Brew: This is one of the few shows Cartoon Network has ever done, if not the only one, where the lead character is over the age of thirty. Usually, the stars of their shows are either kids or teens or in early-20s, but here you’ve got some older dude. I’m curious, within the studio, was that ever a point of contention or awareness that the show was different from everything else they’re doing?

He’s a magical guy who shows up and takes kids on adventures, so we always say he’s like Santa Claus with a GED.

Pete Browngardt: It definitely was talked about. The way I approached writing him, and we all do on the show, is that he may look like an old man but he’s basically a man-child. Once you see what he does, how he acts and talks, you’ll be like, ‘Oh he’s kind of a child.’ It never was a major concern. The [network would] want to veer us towards writing him like a kid because it is a kids’ cartoon and that’s what I wanted to do the whole time so it never was in contention.

Cartoon Brew: It’s funny that you say man-child because I looked at some of the YouTube comments and the most common adjective use d to describe him is ‘retarded.’ That’s not what he is, but that’s kind of another way of saying man-child.

Pete Browngardt: He’s a magical guy who shows up and takes kids on adventures, so we always say he’s like Santa Claus with a GED. And also, there’s this running theme that when he helps kids and stuff, we tell the story in a way where at the end, you don’t know if he’s an idiot or a genius. And I think that busts that whole thinking that he’s just an idiot because you’re wondering, ‘Did he have all this figured out from the beginning or is it all by chance?’

Uncle Grandpa Art Gallery

Cartoon Brew: I want to talk a little bit about the visual style of the show. I read MAD when I was a kid, and I see a lot of Don Martin influence in the show. Was that an influence at all, and what are your other visual influences?

Pete Browngardt: Definitely MAD magazine. I had older brothers and they had Seventies and early-Eighties MAD magazines around the house. I used to draw from them constantly when I was a kid. At a certain age, my mom was like, ‘I don’t know if you should be looking at these things,’ so I’d sneak in and check them out. But definitely MAD magazine overall, and Don Martin, and then I got into [Harvey] Kurtzman later when I discovered who he was and how he’s the genius behind the whole thing.

Loved Gary Larson’s Far Side as a kid. Really big influence. I had certain breakthroughs as an artist when I was a kid. Like, MAD was one of them. And then in junior high, the Crumb documentary came out. I’d never heard of R. Crumb and when I saw that and got into his work, he was a huge influence. Garbage Pail Kids was huge with me too, John Pound and all those guys. And then, I got exposed to Tex Avery at a really early age. I had a Screwball Classics VHS that I memorized every cartoon on, and old Warner Bros. too. I would say it’s a blending of all of that stuff. I’m also influenced by contemporaries around me, other artists like Pen [Ward] and Aaron Springer, Carl Greenblatt, lot of people. We all sort of feed off each other.

Cartoon Brew: It’s funny because we have a very similar set of influences because we’re so close in age. When I see your show,, I can understand a lot more where the influences are coming from as opposed to a show created by someone who’s in their mid-to-late 20s. That person will have a completely different set of influences that they’re using, not better or worse, but different.

Pete Browngardt: Absolutely. When I see some of the other creators at the studio and just in animation in general, I’m like, wow. It might not be that huge of a span of years, but it is what you grew up on. I don’t even know if I realized it at the time, but a lot of our crew were all around the same age, and it’s funny because it’s like a second language. You go, ‘Make that look like this or that,’ and everybody knows because we’re all around the same age. We do have some young people starting out, and some people that might be a little older, but especially around the board artists and writers, we’re all around the same age. We all watched the same stuff and we’re influenced by pop culture the same way.

Say It Ain’t Sayonara, Miyazaki

Japanese animation director Hayao Miyazaki, 72, has retired, say reports from the Venice Film Festival. The announcement was made by Koji Hoshino, the president of Studio Ghibli. “Miyazaki has decided that Kaze Tachinu will be his last film and he will now retire,” Hoshino said.

As industry observers know, this is not the first time that Miyazaki or someone from his camp has announced his retirement. We posed the question on Twitter, and most people seem to think that Miyazaki has announced his retirement at least three times.

Hoshino promised that more details would be revealed at a press conference next week in Tokyo.

Assembly Creates “The Devil’s Chair” Spot for New Zealand Insurance

NZI, a New Zealand-based insurance company recently unveiled a new television commercial its first in 8 years, titled The Devil’s Chair. In the darkly comic spot, a satanic desk chair brings misfortune to a series of businesses in an otherwise picturesque port town. An example of clever timing and wicked staging that is heightened with the realistic CGI style, it will hold up to multiple viewings and give you pause before bringing home anymore of that second-hand furniture you are so proud of. Produced by Auckland-based studio Assembly for the Draft FCB creative agency, it will also be re-versioned into campaigns for digital and print.

Draft FCB

Damon Duncan

Amanda Chambers

Rhys Dippie

Craig Speakman
Geoff Kirk Smith
Josh Fourt-Wells
Gary Sullivan
Alex Scollay
Mark Williams
Rhys Dippie
Damon Duncan
Joe Helmore
Craig Baxter
Pritish Dogra
Jonathan Hamer
Amber Kell
Patrick Blades
Eugene Tay
Kyle Dey
Josh Kell

Tony Clewett

Hywel James
Kelly Lovelock

Pip Mayne

Toby Sellers
Michelle Koome

Karl Armstrong
Donna Williams
Amanda Watts