Artist of the Day: Horfée

Horfée

Horfée is a Parisian artist whose work is sprayed onto walls, drawn onto paper and tattooed into flesh. His work was featured earlier this year in a gallery show called “Imaginarium” that took place in London.

Horfée

Here is an animated video made by Horfée and Jonathan Djob Nkondo (previous Artist of the Day himself) for the Imaginarium Exhibition:

Horfée

Horfée

This unused swimming pool was improved with artwork by Horfée and Ken Sortais:

Horfée

Horfée

Horfée’s work is unified by the cartoon material that his characters and forms appear to be constructed with. His use of flabby tires, sagging sacks and folded tubes with deep black shadows reveal an array of classic cartoon influences. Horfée clues us in by mixing posts of artwork that he likes with his own work on his Tumblr. These posts include images from the Fleischer Studios, Bakshi Studios, and Vaughn Bodé.

Horfée

Horfée

You can see more work from Horfée on his Facebook page.

Horfée

Horfée

Horfée

Horfée

Horfée

“Turmoil in the Toy Box” Revisited

In the seventies and eighties, musicians such as KISS and Alice Cooper were accused by concerned moralists of indoctrinating children with all manner of satanic debauchery. Author Phil Phillips took things a step further in 1986: to Phillips, you did not need to watch a Gene Simmons performance to find this diabolic agenda. You need only watch an episode of Care Bears.

Phillips’ book Turmoil in the Toy Box is an odd mix. Its points about commercialization and media violence are often legitimate; at the other end of the scale we have Phillips’ claims that Satan caused his camera to malfunction while he was photographing toys, and that God personally told him to go on his crusade:

“Out of the blue the Lord said, ‘Phil, do you know what happens when children play with a toy?… Through toys like the one you have in the backseat of your car, Satan is gaining control of the minds of millions of children everywhere.’”

Much of his research into the occult and paganism is suspect: at one point Phillips tells us that pre-Christian Norsemen performed rituals wearing Darth Vader masks. Still, people bought the book, and the covers of later editions proudly proclaimed that over 135,000 copies were in print.

Phillips also appeared in a series of videos alongside Pastor Gary Greenwald. Some of the more remarkable clips are compiled in this video:

The two men were apparently competing to make the most bizarre claims: Phillips’ allegation that Smurfs represent undead corpses was a definite contender, but Greenwald came out on top with an anecdote about Dungeons and Dragons game pieces screaming in pain when thrown into fires.

This claim is reminiscent of the “deliverance ministry” movement, which holds that certain objects are inhabited by demons and should be burnt. Lake Hamilton Bible Camp claims that children with Smurf toys are open to vampire attacks, while Stan and Elizabeth Madrak’s website Demonbuster collects reports such as this:

“On Saturday evening I was watching television when my daughter of 2 came out of her room to tell me that her doll was moving by itself. I assumed that it probably fell off the shelf so to satisfy her I got up and went to her room. When I got there to my surprise she had a stuffed troll doll dancing in the middle of her bedroom floor to a Disney movie playing music . Being raised in church I began pleading the blood of Jesus and commanded that spirit to leave then the doll went limp and fell over on the floor. I took the doll outside my house and burned it.”

Secular commentators are not immune to this sort of thing. Political philosopher John Grey, author of Black Mass: Apocalyptic Religion and the Death of Utopia, sees the conspiracy theory as a vital aspect of what he terms “political religions”:

“Modern political religions may reject Christianity, but they cannot do without demonology. The Jacobins, the Bolsheviks and the Nazis all believed in vast conspiracies against them, as do radical Islamists today. It is never the flaws of human nature that stand in the way of Utopia. It is the workings of evil forces.”

Cartoons enter the subject with the concept of “predictive programming.” Many conspiracy theorists hold that atrocities such as terrorist attacks are actually inside jobs orchestrated by governments; some go further and claim that conspirators hide veiled references to their plans in popular media beforehand.

For example, various videos on YouTube point to a 1997 Simpsons episode where Lisa holds up a picture of the World Trade Centre alongside the number 9; this is taken as evidence that Matt Groening knew about 9/11. This theory posits that the world is run by what must be a cabal of Batman villains, deliberately leaving clues to their plots purely so that they can be caught in the end.

Then we have the secular demonology of extra-terrestrials. In her book Strange Creations, self-proclaimed “crackpotologist” Donna Kossy casts a bemused eye over Cosmic Awareness, a group which claims that two species of alien—Greys and Reptoids—are meddling with human affairs. Barney the Dinosaur and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, according to the group, were created by the Reptoids so that children would accept their forthcoming conquest of Earth. (Indeed, both species seem interested in Earthling pop culture: “When asked what his favourite musical group was, one Grey answered, ‘New Kids on the Block’,” relates Kossy.)

This is very much the lunatic fringe, of course. Phil Phillips did not need a crackpotologist to dig up his cottage industry: after Turmoil in the Toy Box came a sequel, videos, and subsequent books by Phillips such as Saturday Morning Mind Control. What was it about Turmoil which allowed it to capture even a small slice of the public imagination?

Turmoil was written during a definite changing point in children’s media: He-Man, its main target, was the first cartoon series created to promote a toyline. Heavy merchandising of children’s entertainment was not entirely new; Vance Packard’s 1957 book The Hidden Persuaders relates how in 1955—shortly after Disney’s Davy Crockett series premiered—American children and their parents spent $300,000,000 on faux coonskin caps and other Crockett-related items. But Davy Crockett is a public domain character, and a reassuringly traditional one. Phillips examined a different landscape, where every pop culture figure is closely guarded by a corporation.

The book also contains a revealing passage in which Phillips identifies the root cause of all the turmoil: the sixties counterculture.

“Many of these writers and creators [of cartoons] came out of the 60′s generation and the drug era, during which they were involved in Eastern religions, such as Hinduism and Buddhism. Some are still involved in these practices. Many live in Hollywood… the very nature of Hollywood leads to a hedonistic way of living, which often involves ‘meditation’, drugs and Eastern religious influences. In line with their lifestyles, most of these cartoon writers and toy designers are not church-going people.”

Perhaps the appeal of Turmoil in the Toy Box was that, beneath its waffle about Beelzebub, it touched upon some deeper anxieties surrounding modern culture.

“In a Forest” by Fons Schiedon

Directed by Dutch filmmaker and artist Fons Schiedon, and produced by Submarine, In A Forest is part of a very cool, ongoing initiative by the Dutch Film Fund, Ultrashort!, that aims to reintroduce short films back into cinemas. Over the course of 2010, In A Forest was screened in all major theaters across the Netherlands as a pre-movie to blockbuster action flick, The Last Airbender.

CREDITS
A film by Fons Schiedon
Music and Sound Design by Bram Meindersma
Animation Production Services: Birdo Studio
Produced by Submarine.nl, Femke Wolting and Bruno Felix
Animation Direction: Luciana Eguti, Paulo Muppet
Animation: Antonio Linhares, Luciana Eguti, Paulo Muppet
Character Modelling: Luciana Eguti, Guilherme Pace
Character Setup: Guilherme Pace
Character Texturing and Shading: Luciana Eguti
Production: Anne Buiter, Fabie Hulsebos
Directed and Designed by Fons Schiedon
Compositing, Editing: Fons Schiedon
Mix: Warnier Studio, Arno Willemstijn
This Film was supported by The Netherlands Film Fund and PATHÉ

Book Giveaway: “Animation Sketchbooks” and “Super Book for Superheroes”

On Friday, we’ll be giving away two books: the handsome coffeetable volume Animation Sketchbooks by Laura Heit and the quirky drawing book The Super Book for Superheroes by Jason Ford.

To be entered into the contest, sign up for Cartoon Brew’s new email list in the right-hand column. We recently launched the list with a week-in-review for readers who want to stay on top of our most-read posts, and we’ll also be using the list to give you free goodies.

Animated Fragments #25

This marks the 25th installment of our popular feature “Animated Fragments.” To see them all, visit the Fragments archive.

“704 frames” by Josep Bernaus (UK)

“360 Flip” by ‎Evan Red Borja (US)

“The Jolly Dot” by Mikey Please and Dan Ojari (UK): “A bromantic love letter to three of our cultural heroes as a way of celebrating Richard Williamʼs 80th, Ivor Cutlerʼs 90th and Norman McLarenʼs would-be centennial birthday.”

“Moon Animation Test” by Sébastien Rouxel (France)

Nightclub Test Scene by Marcus Armitage (UK)

Artist of the Day: Scott Watanabe

Scott Watanabe

Scott Watanabe works as a visual development artist at Disney. He received his first screen credit for Disney’s Tangled, on which he started as a trainee.

Scott Watanabe

Scott Watanabe

Scott’s main role on Tangled was “texture referencing the environments,” as he describes on a post containing examples of his work. Occasionally he got the opportunity to design props, environments, and “Moment Paintings and ideation sketches” such as the concepts for a jackalope head prop and a tavern scene below.

Scott Watanabe

Scott Watanabe

When a film needs meat, somebody has to design the meat. Scott designed these meat props with warm, textural washes that give them the visual-flavor of classic cartoon meat:

Scott Watanabe

Scott Watanabe

More recently, Scott participated in the Pen to Paper project in which children wrote stories about imaginary characters and professional artists illustrated them. Scott’s contribution is above, with more here. Some information about the larger project is at the GR Works website.

To see more work from Scott including his sculpture and paintings, visit his blog and portfolio.

Scott Watanabe

“Celebrating Crystallography” by Phoebe Halstead

Commisioned by the Royal Institution of Science, this animated short celebrates the centenary of X-ray crystallography, a Nobel prize-winning technique that first uncovered the atomic structure of matter.

CREDITS
Director: Phoebe Halstead
Producer: 12Foot6
Animators: Simon Testro and Thea Glad
Commissioned by: Royal Institution
Partners: STFC
Narrated by: Professor Stephen Curry

Cemetery Denies SpongeBob Monument For Slain U.S. Soldier

This is a story that begins tragically: Sgt. Kimberly Walker was found dead in a hotel room last February, allegedly killed by her boyfriend, Sgt. Montrell Mayo. But the tragedy doesn’t end there.

Walker was a huge SpongeBob SquarePants fan, so much so that she was buried with a SpongeBob doll in her casket. Then, the Walker family did what any other sensible SpongeBob-adoring family would do and ordered two six-foot-tall SpongeBob monuments, each weighing over 7,000 pounds and costing more than $13,000 apiece.

The SpongeBob monuments, for which the family purchased six plots, were built with the consultation of an employee from Cincinnati’s Spring Grove Cemetery. Each monument was adorned in military uniform—one in Army fatigues to represent Kimberly, and another in Naval attire for her twin sister Carol, who is still alive.

“I thought it was the greatest thing in the cemetery,” Carol Walker told a WLWT, a local news station. “I even told the people there, ‘I think this is the best monument I’ve ever seen and the best headstone that you have in the cemetery,’ and they all agreed that it came out really nice.”

But when the monuments were erected last week, the SpongeBob haters at the Spring Grove cemetery immediately ordered them removed. The cemetery admits that they feel horrible about the situation. “We are working with the Walker famiy and are committed to design a solution, at our expense, that will properly memorialize Kimberly within the context of Spring Grove’s historic landscape and guidelines,” said Gary Freytag, president of the cemetery.

Walker’s mother, Deborah, however, says the family feel differently about their memorial to America’s greatest soldier of love and happiness. “We all feel like SpongeBob should stay there.”

(Thanks, Pedro Nakama)

Jim Zub and Andy Suriano Reinvent “Samurai Jack” For The Printed Page

It was announced a few months ago that IDW would release a new Samurai Jack comic book, one that would pick up where the cult animated series left off after it was cancelled in its fourth season by Cartoon Network. Written by Jim Zub (Skullkickers) and drawn by Andy Suriano, who worked as a designer on the TV series, the comic was originally planned as a five-issue mini-series. However, after a positive fan response to the announcement and, most importantly, strong order for the first issue, IDW has doubled their minimum commitment to ten issues.

“I’ve been told that if sales level out well we’ll be able to make it an ongoing comic series, but we’re not there yet,” Zub told Cartoon Brew during the New York Comic-Con last week. “All of us on the team are working hard to make that a reality though. We’re all in for the long haul.”

So, with the goal of an ongoing series in mind, Zub and Suriano have even more to pin on this new Samurai Jack adventure, titled The Threads of Time and designed to honor the world that creator Genndy Tartakovsky unveiled in 2001. It’s an undertaking that Zub admits is equally daunting and inspiring. “I’m ecstatic about contributing to its legacy and am pushing myself to deliver great stories that capture the feel of the show without retreading what’s already been done.”

A melting pot of genres that brings together science fiction, mythology, pulp and fantasy, the original series focused on the continuing adventures of the titular character facing new challenges and locations in almost every episode, a rotation of environments and supporting casts that, not surprisingly, will be continued in the pages of the comic. “The Threads of Time story introduces a slew of new antagonists and takes Jack to new locales,” exxplains Zub. “The stories we have planned after that are energized with new opponents and unexpected twists.”

But is it realistic to believe that an animated series known for fifteen-minute fight scenes, cinematic pans of lush backgrounds and long moments of extended silences can live on on the comic page? Zub believes so. “We want to use the strengths of the comic medium to deliver sweeping epic atmosphere and sharp action. Andy’s using panel size, shape, and angle to bring a lot of mood to the comic and punctuate the fight scenes in a similar fashion.”

As someone who has watched every episode of the show and taken “copious notes,” Zub is thrilled by the challenge of matching its stoic but humorous tone and creating characters and adventures that are equally memorable as the original series. “I’m a huge fan of the cartoon and want to make sure these new stories feel like they build properly on the four seasons of episodes that came before them. I hope we can create obstacles for Jack that people have never seen before and will never forget. We want the Samurai Jack comic series to deliver on every level.”

Samurai Jack #1 will be available from IDW in comic shops across North America beginning this Wednesday, October 23rd.



Must-Read Commentary on Pixar, Joe Ranft and the “22 Rules of Storytelling”

In 2011, Emma Coats, a now-former Pixar story artist, tweeted out a series of twenty-two storytelling tips she’d picked up during her time at Pixar.

The Internet, as is wont to do, misinterpreted Coats’ tips as ‘rules.’ Innumerable major media organizations and blogs republished Coats’ tips as the “22 Rules of Pixar Storytelling,” some even going so far as to illustrate them with stills from Pixar films. The unfortunate effect of this irresponsible distortion was that the average person now believes Coats’ tweets represent some kind of definitive rulebook about Pixar’s storytelling process.

While it may be true that Pixar, in its maturity, has slumped into formulaic story structures and characters relationships, it is still a gross mischaracterization to suggest that all of the studio’s story artists use the same playbook of warmed-over story tips.

Industry veteran Mike Bonifer, a founding producer of the Disney Channel who was instrumental in the classic documentary series Disney Family Album, has written a thoughtful corrective called “Rule #23″ that addresses the creative hazards of misreading Coats’ tweets. In his piece, Mike looks at the rules through the prism of a personal friend, Joe Ranft, Pixar’s original head of story who died tragically in a 2005 car crash.

Bonifer writes eloquently about Ranft’s approach to creativity and his refusal to put himself into a box:

When it comes to Joe Ranft, he had more than 22 games or rules, or whatever you call them. It went way, way deeper than that. He was a magician, a card-carrying member at the Magic Castle in Hollywood, so he had sleight of hand games and gestural games. A gifted mimic, he had voice and impersonation games. He had a Tell it Like James Brown Would Sing It game, a Conga Line game, a Sling Blade game, a Fake Teeth game, a Boxcar Children game, he had games for losing weight, games for raising his children, games for what to do with the money he made at Pixar. He had a game for deciding which side of the street he’d walk on. He had a game for appreciating how precious water is. He even had a game whereby he’d take a sabbatical from Pixar every few years to work with his pal, Tim Burton. No one else at Pixar could’ve gotten away with that one. See, he was a rule-breaker, and he had as much game as anyone I’ve ever known. He didn’t call them games, that I know of, although he was a Groundlings alum, and surely would’ve recognized his moves as being games in the improvisation sense. Whatever you call them, they were gifts that made things better in a thousand different ways, it didn’t matter if it was storyboarding on a Pixar film or waiting in a supermarket checkout line. Joe’s participation in it guaranteed it’d be better than it would’ve been if he had not been involved.

Bonifer goes on to suggest a perfect rule #23: “There is always another Rule.” It’s worth your time to read the entire piece, which can be found on Bonifer’s site GameChangers.com.

“Chocolate Bacon” by Asavari Kumar

Chocolate Bacon is a portrait of a young woman’s experiences in the first year of grad school, presented through a series of conversations re-contextualized by abstracted characters. The film is divided into six episodes showing slices of life from a 7-month time period and the voices are from real audio recordings. The vignettes are interspersed with pieces where the main character talks more specifically about her trials and tribulations in making the film.

CREDITS
Directed by Asavari Kumar at CalArts, 2012

Artist of the Day: Julianna Brion

Julianna Brion

Baltimore-based illustrator Julianna Brion studied at The Maryland Institute College of Art.

Julianna Brion

Julianna Brion

She creates illustrations for newspapers, magazines and books. Her personal sketchbook work demands a closer look as many of her pieces are painted directly into books where the text is visible in varying patches through different opacities of paint. Julianna uses the blocks of text and diagrams in these books alternately as texture under her paint and as part of the composition itself, such as in A Blue Heron.

Julianna Brion

Julianna Brion

Julianna shares more work on her portfolio website and blog.

Julianna Brion

Julianna Brion

R.I.P. Filmation Co-Founder Lou Scheimer

For TV viewers of a certain age, the shows produced by Lou Scheimer’s Filmation evoke fond nostalgia and happy Saturday morning memories. Scheimer, co-founder of the notorious TV animation schlock house Filmation and a key figure in TV animation history, passed away yesterday, just two days before his 85th birthday. The cause and location of death remains unknown at this time.

Scheimer was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1928. He was the son a German Jew who, according to family legend, had to leave Germany in the early-1920s after knocking out a young Adolf Hitler in a beer hall scuffle. Scheimer served in the U.S. Army between 1946-’48, and later studied art at Carnegie Tech. He moved to Los Angeles in the mid-1950s and began working at commercial art studios and animation production houses like Kling Studios, Walter Lantz Productions (where he painted backgrounds on the Tex Avery short Crazy Mixed Up Pup), Hanna-Barbera, Larry Harmon, Ray Patin Productions, and Warner Bros. Animation.

Scheimer (above, left) founded Filmation Associates in 1963 with partner Hal Sutherland (above, middle) to produce a low-budget TV series called Rod Rocket.

Soon after, a third partner, Norm Prescott (above right), joined the company. For the next twenty-seven years, the studio ruled Saturday mornings, churning out TV show after show, including The Archie Show, Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids, The Batman/Tarzan Adventure Hour, The Lone Ranger, Will the Real Jerry Lewis Please Sit Down, Gilligan’s Planet, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, She-Ra: Princess of Power, Star Trek: The Animated Series, and dozens more. Many of the shows were half-hour toy commercials masquerading as content, and the studio became famous for its corner-cutting production techniques, limited (sometimes non-existent) animation and generally abysmal production values.

There were also positive aspects to Filmation. The studio (pictured above) kept animation jobs in America long after other studios had started shipping work overseas. Their insistence on keeping animation made in America was a contributing factor to the studio’s downfall in the 1980s. The studio also helped pioneer first-run syndication of children’s animation with its TV series He-man and the Masters of the Universe and occasionally created progressive kids’ shows like Fat Albert that promoted positive social and educational values. (Scheimer provided voices in many of his shows, including Fat Albert’s Dumb Donald.)

Despite the inferior quality of his studio’s work, Scheimer was well liked as a studio executive. Artist Tom Sito wrote this afternoon on the Animation Guild blog:

“Some artists who become bosses tend to forget their roots, like that necktie is now part of their anatomy. Lou Scheimer never stopped being ‘one of the guys.’ He was passionate about animation and his fellow artists. It actually pained him to lay people off. In 1982 when the Guild held a city-wide strike to try and prevent all our work outsourced overseas, Lou shouldered a sign and picketed his own studio, because he agreed that work should stay in town. Lou never reneged on his promise to keep as many people working as he could.

Many of today’s well known artists worked early in their careers at Filmation including Bruce Timm, John Kricfalusi, Tom Minton, Bruce Smith, Lynne Naylor, Tom Sito, Dan St. Pierre, Rusty Mills, Steve Hickner, Lenord Robinson, and Vicky Jenson. “The shows were absolutely terrible, and the hours were grueling,” remembered artist Eddie Fitzgerald, “but it was my first industry job and there wasn’t a moment when I didn’t feel surrounded by magic.”

After Filmation closed in 1989, Scheimer formed a new company called Lou Scheimer Productions. His assembly line-oriented approach to creativity had been rendered irrelevant by the creator-driven TV animation movement of the early-1990s. After years of unsuccessfully attempting to sell a show, he shuttered the company in 2004. The Filmation library is currently owned by DreamWorks Animation subsidiary Classic Media.

Scheimer wrote about his life in the well recevied 2012 autobiography Lou Scheimer: Creating the Filmation Generation. Below is Scheimer’s final public appearance in 2012 at Comic-Con International: San Diego:

UPDATE: Have some Kleenex handy before you watch this heartfelt tribute to Lou Scheimer from fan Dan Eardley:

“Sleep Walk” by Hey Beautiful Jerk

CREDITS
Directed by Hey Beautiful Jerk (Mark Szumski and Gina Niespodziani)
Art Direction: Kuni-I Chang
Screenplay: Mark Szumski, Gina Niespodziani, Rob Meyers
Character Design: Ronald Wimberly
Storyboard: Michael Wadsworth
Designer: Gina Niespodziani
Lead Animator: Noella Borie
Animators: Mario Menjivar, Nancy Chung
VFX Artists: Kun-I Chang, Mark Rubbo, Myung Cha
Flame Artist: Mark Szumski
Matte Cutter: Jenna DeAngelis
Live-Action DP: Adam Coleman
Animation/Post Production: Click 3X
Music: Pleaserock

Next Tuesday in NYC: Newly Restored Hubley Feature “Of Stars and Men”

A newly restored version of John and Faith Hubley’s exquisite animated documentary Of Stars and Men (1964) will debut next Tuesday, October 22, as part of the Museum of Modern Art’s To Save and Project. MoMA puts on the festival annually to showcase recently preserved and rediscovered cinematic masterworks on 35mm and 16mm celluloid prints.

The screening will feature restored prints of the Hubley shorts Eggs (1970) and Urbanissimo (1967) alongside Of Stars and Men, a singular and stimulating 53-minute animated film based on the book of the same name by astronomer Harlow Shapley. The festival website describes Of Stars and Men as an “anecdotal inquiry into the origins of man and the structure of time and space [that] is one of their finest achievements, a triumph of multilayered graphic textures, abstraction, coloration, and wry humanism.”

The program will also feature a discussion between filmmaker Emily Hubley (daughter of John and Faith), historian and filmmaker John Canemaker and astronomer Dr. Charles Liu. The program will begin at 7pm at MoMA (11 West 53 St in Manhattan). Tickets can be purchased on the MoMA website.

“Ghoul Friend” by Aaron Springer

CREDITS
Executive Producer/Supervising Director: Paul Rudish
Written and Directed by Aaron Springer
Storyboard: Aaron Springer
Art Director: Joseph Holt
Additional Written Material: Derek Dressler, Clay Morrow, Paul Rudish
Voices: Chris Diamantopoulos, Bill Farmer, Aaaron Springer
Character and Prop Design: Tara Billinger, Stephen DeStefano, Kali Fontecchio, Andy Suriano
Location design: Justin Martin, Justin Parpan
Background paint: Richard Daskas, Jenny Gase-Baker, Chris Roszak, Trevor Simonsen, Narina Sokolova
Coor Stylist: Chris Hacker
Music: Christopher Willis
Animation Production: Mercury Filmworks
Animation Director: Graham MacDonald
Animatic Editor/Editor: Illya Owens
Technical Director: Pamela May Palma
Produced by Disney Television Animation

Bill Watterson: I Have Zero Interest in Animating “Calvin and Hobbes”

The notoriously reclusive Bill Watterson, creator of Calvin and Hobbes, granted an email interview to Jake Rossen of Mental Floss. Watterson doesn’t reveal anything that could be considered news, but he allows his fans to breathe a sigh of relief by reaffirming his commitment to keeping Calvin and Hobbes out of the clutches of Hollywood:

“The visual sophistication of Pixar blows me away, but I have zero interest in animating Calvin and Hobbes. If you’ve ever compared a film to a novel it’s based on, you know the novel gets bludgeoned. It’s inevitable, because different media have different strengths and needs, and when you make a movie, the movie’s needs get served. As a comic strip, Calvin and Hobbes works exactly the way I intended it to. There’s no upside for me in adapting it.”

Watterson empathizes with the audience’s natural urge for sequels, prequels, remakes, and reboots, but suggests that it’s a creative dead-end for an artist:

“You can’t really blame people for preferring more of what they already know and like. The trade-off, of course, is that predictability is boring. Repetition is the death of magic.”

He also comments unsparingly on the various unofficial animated versions of his comic that have appeared online in recent years:

“Every artist learns through imitation, but I rather doubt the aim of these things is artistic development. I assume they’re either homages or satiric riffs, and are not intended to be taken too seriously as works in their own right. Otherwise I should be talking to a copyright lawyer.”

It’s easy to dismiss Watterson as a curmudgeon, but his observations in the interview about the future of comics suggest otherwise. Watterson comes across as intelligent, thoughtful, interested and optimistic about the continuing evolution of the art form.

He has achieved something that few artists can claim today, and that is fame and fortune without having to compromise his vision or principles. He puts this all into perspective with self-effacing charm when asked for an opinion about the unofficial “Calvin peeing” car decals:

I figure that, long after the strip is forgotten, those decals are my ticket to immortality.

The complete interview with Watterson will be published in the December print edition of Mental Floss.

A First Look at DreamWorks’ “Mr. Peabody & Sherman”

The first set of stills from the upcoming DreamWorks feature Mr. Peabody & Sherman were published in a USA Today article. We’ve posted large versions of the stills in the gallery below.

The film is based on Peabody’s Improbable History, a segment that appeared on the classic Rocky & Bullwinkle TV series. The new CGI Mr. Peabody and Sherman, directed by Rob Minkoff (The Lion King, Stuart Little), will be released theatrically in the U.S. on March 7, 2014.

Trey Parker and Matt Stone Missed Tonight’s “South Park” Deadline Due To Power Outage

South Park has one of TV animation’s most rigorous and unconventional production schedules with episodes often finished just hours before airtime. A new episode was scheduled to debut tonight, but the crew missed their deadline due to a power outage at their studio last night. (It speaks to the consistency of Parker and Stone that missing a deadline is such a big story. When I worked on Ren & Stimpy: Adult Party Cartoon, it would have been newsworthy if we’d actually MADE a deadline.)

Trey Parker and Matt Stone released blackout photos along with the following statement:

On Tuesday night, South Park Studios lost power. From animation to rendering to editing and sound, all of our computers were down for hours and we were unable to finish episode 1704 “Goth Kids 3: Dawn of the Posers” in time for air tonight. Trey Parker said, “It sucks to miss an air date but after all these years of tempting fate by delivering the show last minute, I guess it was bound to happen.”

In place of the new episode, Comedy Central will air two older episodes: “World War Zimmerman” and the classic “Scott Tenorman Must Die.” Parker and Stone will live-tweet both episodes on the @SouthPark handle with behind-the-scenes production details. The new episode, “Goth Kids 3,” will air next Wednesday.

(via Gawker)

Henry Selick Gives Up Animation For “A Tale Dark and Grimm”

Henry Selick has been unattached to a feature project since Disney busted his Shadow King film last summer. That situation changed today.

Selick has signed on to direct a live-action film based on A Tale Dark and Grimm, a children’s novel by Adam Gidwitz. The film, like the book, will follow Hansel and Gretel who escape their own fairy tale and end up participating in eight other creepy Grimm (and Grimm-inspired) fairy tales.

“I remain completely enraptured by Adam Gidwitz’ marvelous book A Tale Dark & Grimm,” Selick said in a press statement. “It’s a hilarious, deeply inventive tale about survival in the world of fairy tales and what it takes to forgive one’s parents. So it’s a huge thrill to be joining the team of Kamala Films and FilmNation as the director of the film based on it.”

It would be safe to say that Selick’s best works to date (The Nightmare Before Christmas, Coraline) have been animated. His live-action track record is spottier: the partly-live James and the Giant Peach was generally well received and modestly successful at the box office, while his live-action/animated Monkeybone was a creative trainwreck of epic proportions.

John W. Mann and Jon Gunn (writers on the upcoming DreamWorks animated feature B.O.O.: Bureau of Otherworldly Operations) will adapt the Dark and Grimm screenplay with script input from Selick. The film will be produced by Kamala Films and the distribution company FilmNation.

Artist of the Day: Ulysse Malassagne

Ulysse Malassagne

Ulysse Malassagne is the creator of the comic book Kairos which was recently published by Ankama Editions. Many readers of Cartoon Brew have likely seen the energetic animated trailer created by Malassagne and Studio La Cachette that was released online earlier this year and inspired a large response.

Ulysse Malassagne

Studio La Cachette consists of Malassagne , Nuno Alves Rodgrigues, Oussama Bouacheria, and Julien Chheng, who met while studying animation together at Gobelins.

Ulysse Malassagne

Ulysse Malassagne

On Ulysse’s portfolio/blog you can find more artwork and his illustrated sketchbook diaries, “Carnets d’Aventures,” collected here.

Ulysse Malassagne

Ulysse Malassagne

Cartoon Network Will Premiere Stan Lee’s “Chakra: The Invincible”

Cartoon Network will premiere the animated superhero movie Chakra: The Invincible across Southeast Asia on November 30. The character was developed by Stan Lee’s POW! Entertainment and Graphic India. The project, which Stan Lee optimistically calls a “thrill-a-minute superhero saga,” sounds like the kind of paint-by-number creation that has characterized Lee’s twilight years:

Chakra: The Invincible tells the story of Raju Rai, a young Indian boy living in Mumbai. Raju and his mentor, the scientist Dr. Singh, develop a technology suit that activates the mystical chakras of the body. When Raju dons the suit, he discovers superpowers and vows to use his newfound abilities to protect and serve as he battles super villains.

Sharad Devarajan, one of the co-founders of Graphic India, directed and exec produced the film. Indian comic artist Jeevan J. Kang designed the characters and oversaw the production design. Graphic India is a deep-pocketed enterprise jointly owned by Liquid Comics and CA Media. The latter is an investment firm run by Peter Chernin, the former president of News Corp. (the parent company of 20th Century Fox and Fox Broadcasting).

Cartoon Network reaches only 34 million people in Southeast Asia, a fraction of the region’s population. As such, Rovio Entertainment (the creators of the Angry Birds franchise) will extend Chakra’s reach globally by featuring the film on their new ToonsTV animation channel, which is set for a big expansion in 2014.