“The End of the World” is Don Hertzfeldt’s First Graphic Novel

Indie publisher ANTIBOOKCLUB has announced that they will publish the first printed work of indie animation filmmaker Don Hertzfeldt. Don discusses the book in this October 29 journal entry.

The 216-page graphic novel The End of the World, written and illustrated by Hertzfeldt, will be available in December exclusively through the publisher’s website in standard ($18.70) and signed ($50) editions. Excerpts and pre-order info are available on ANTIBOOKCLUB.com.

PES Opens Online Store to Fund “Fresh Guacamole” Follow-Up

How does one follow up an Oscar nomination for best animated short? Stop motion director PES, who was nominated this year for Fresh Guacamole, wants to make another short, but instead of traditional network or studio financing, he’s raising funds through an online store PES-Novelties.com.

“My immediate goal with the store is to raise financing for the third cooking film in my food trilogy,” says PES. The first two films in the series were Western Spaghetti and Fresh Guacamole.

Items in PES’s store include a screenprint (made in collaboration with Gina Kelly) for his film The Deep (shown above), a selection of “Curiosities” (objects that were collected by PES or which appeared in his films), and of course, the prerequisite film downloads and T-shirts.

“Solstice” by Lynn Wang and Ed Skudder

This minute-and-a-half fantasy western is a 2D animated passion project that the two of us— Lynn Wang and Ed Skudder—crafted over our free nights and weekends for the past 2-3 months. We both split the work 50/50 from background painting to rough animation to clean up and everything between, however Ed did the music and compositing, and Lynn headed up the design. As of right now, this short is it, but hopefully one day we can expand on the world!

This Sat in San Francisco: Bruno Bozzetto, John Musker, John Canemaker and David Silverman [UPDATED]

[UPDATE: Some commenters have been told by the museum that Bruno Bozzetto won’t be in attendance. However, the museum website still lists him as attending. It’s best to call the Walt Disney Family Museum beforehand to confirm if Bozzetto will be there.]

If you happen to find yourself in San Francisco on Saturday afternoon, you’d be wise to attend the “The Work and Genius of Animation Wizard Bruno Bozzetto.” The subject of the event, animation legend Bruno Bozzetto, will be making a rare visit from Italy to celebrate the opening of his new exhibit at the Walt Disney Family Museum.

Bozzetto, who’ll discuss his early fascination with Disney films, will be joined at the Disney museum by the exhibit’s curator Federico Fiecconi, and an all-star panel of filmmakers comprised of John Canemaker, John Musker and David Silverman. Tickets are $20 (non-members), $18 (members) and $15 (ages 17 and under), and available at the Disney Museum website. To whet your appetite, check out this selection of Bozzetto’s animation.

Director Jimmy Hayward Talks “Free Birds”

Earlier this month, Dallas-headquartered Reel FX released their first animated feature Free Birds. Over its first three weekends in theaters, the holiday-themed children’s film has earned a respectable $42 million, and it will pad that number even further during the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday.

Only 43 years old, the film’s director, Jimmy Hayward, is an industry veteran with over twenty years of industry experience. He was an animator on the pioneering computer animated TV series Reboot, and then animated on the first-ever CG animated feature, Pixar’s Toy Story. He animated for a decade on Pixar films such as A Bug’s Life, Monsters Inc. and Finding Nemo, before joining Blue Sky Studios to work as a writer and sequence director on Robots. His directorial debut was Blue Sky’s hit Horton Hears a Who! (2008). He then directed the live-action film Jonah Hex (2010) before joining Reel FX to helm Free Birds.

I recently had a spirited and free-ranging conversation with Jimmy about the making of Free Birds. He opened up the challenges of making a film at a studio that has never produced a feature, discussed why so many animation directors are moving into live-action filmmaking, and offered advice for animators who want to become directors.

Cartoon Brew: Free Birds originally had a different director—Ash Brannon—attached to it. When and how did you become involved with the project?

Jimmy Hayward: I became involved about two and a half years ago. Like a lot of animated movies, it had a winding path to getting made. How did I become involved? I talked to Craig Mazin, who had written a draft of the script that Scott Mosier and I rewrote. Reel FX was really trying to get this movie made. I think they took a couple cracks at it, and at the point that I came along, they wanted to reconceive it.

Cartoon Brew: What stage was the film in storywise? Was it the same story or did you make changes to it?

Jimmy Hayward: Absolutely, we completely changed the story. They’d done artwork, and they’d storyboarded some things. They did some pre-production. And we redid it. When a film is in development, you’re developing things, and they were at a place where they wanted to redo it. With all animated features, you never really make a script. It’s not like a shooting script where you have to prep that script and do exactly what’s in that script. Animated movies are made in the story department and the animation department. That’s where all the comedy comes from and that’s where the story really develops and gets built. We brought in a new character designer, new art director. It was like a whole new thing.

Cartoon Brew: And there were no actors attached at that point, correct?

Jimmy Hayward: Woody [Harrelson] and Owen [Wilson] were the only actors that were attached. Woody and Owen are friends with the owner of Reel FX and they all wanted to do a movie together for a long time. That trio of people—Tom K. and Owen and Woody—was the catalyst for making it happen. Other than that though, all the other cast, all the other dialogue, was redone. Not even redone. I came onto a movie where there was an existing script and I started making a movie. It wasn’t like it was half-done and I picked it up.

Cartoon Brew: But the concept of time-traveling turkeys was there?

Jimmy Hayward: Oh yeah, [John J.] Strauss and [David I.] Stern who are executive producers on the movie had written a script that Reel FX worked with, and we kept the original premise completely: two turkeys go back in time to try and get turkey off the menu.

Cartoon Brew: You mentioned the owner of Reel FX. That’s the businessman Tom Kartsotis, who also owns Fossil Watches, right?

Jimmy Hayward: He’s a great dude. He’s a gutsy, awesome guy. He really stuck to that studio and stuck to the idea that they’d make feature films, and he’s done it.

Cartoon Brew: Does he have any involvement in the day-to-day or does he take a hands-off approach to the studio?

Jimmy Hayward: Completely hands off. He always says, “I don’t know anything about making movies. You guys make the movies.”

Cartoon Brew: That’s what you want!

Jimmy Hayward: Yeah, he’s a lot like Steve Jobs was to Pixar. He was a person that was very successful in another business and saw big potential in a talented group of people that really had a passion to do something. He recognized that and backed it. A lot of the same spirit [as Pixar]. I’m not saying it’s the same company or anything’s the same, just that it’s a lot of the same spirit in that he was awesome enough to put his money behind it and let it go.

Cartoon Brew: That sounds like Nike CEO Phil Knight at LAIKA, too.

Jimmy Hayward: Yeah, exactly like Phil Knight.

Cartoon Brew: You directed Jonah Hex, a live-action film in between Horton Hears a Who! and Free Birds. So many animation directors are moving into live-action nowadays—Henry Selick, Brad Bird, Andrew Stanton, Chris Wedge and Carlos Saldanha at Blue Sky are both getting ready. Are the skill sets transferable and what did live-action teach you when you came back to animation?

Jimmy Hayward: Well, I have always made live-action movies. I’ve made both since I was a kid. Even when I was an animator at Pixar, I was shooting 35mm shorts. I’ve always made skate videos, always been doing that kind of stuff. So, for me, personally, it was something I wanted to do since I was young.

We’re all filmmakers; we’re all people that like to make stuff. It’s an exciting challenge for people to want to do. People have varying levels of success with it. [laughs] But I think from the outside, it might be easy to look at and say, ‘Oh, you’re just abandoning art form,’ or ‘It’s cooler to direct live-action.’ All of us have different reasons. For me, it’s just another way to make stuff, challenge yourself and try to tell different stories.

For a situation like Hex, no matter how it turned out, it was a property that I loved when I was a kid and it was something that I jumped at the chance to do and it seemed to make sense at the time. I continue to write and develop both live-action and animated properties because I’ve always been into doing that. I just want to make cool stuff. With Reel FX, it was an opportunity to work with a studio that was making their first feature which is exciting and awesome and fun, and I had a lot to bring to the table.

We all manage our careers in different ways. I’m sure Andrew [Stanton] will make more live-action movies in the future; hopefully Brad [Bird] will do more animation in the future because he’s awesome at it. And you look at [Guillermo] del Toro. He’s a live-action guy. He’s also been working at DreamWorks doing animation, and now he’s doing Jorge Gutierrez’s movie over at Reel FX.

Skill sets are smashing together because there’s so much CG used in live-action. And when you work with actors in a recording studio, getting a performance out of an actor is very similar. The difference is that in live-action, the chemistry has to happen on the set, and in animation we have to completely create it from scratch because we record the actors separately. But at the end of the day, it’s all putting a bunch of stuff together to entertain an audience…or not entertain an audience, depending on how it goes.

Cartoon Brew: Who’s more difficult to deal with…actors or animators. Remember, there’s only one right answer for this site.

Jimmy Hayward: The process of working with animators is one of my favorite things to do. Having an understanding of what a scene is going to be, and then giving somebody the opportunity to go away and come up with a better way of doing it and seeing the results of that, it’s like Christmas everyday. Because all these talented, intelligent people are coming back to you with all these new angles. And that process is vastly different than working with an actor trying to get a performance out of them. You’re still listening to their ideas and all that stuff, but it’s a totally different thing. I wouldn’t say negatively one’s worse to work with than the other, but I definitely love the process of working with the animator.

Cartoon Brew: Was it more difficult to do a film at a studio that didn’t have a feature pipeline, and did that impact how you directed?

Jimmy Hayward: A little bit. I think having some people with me that I’d done it with before. Rich McKain came from Pixar to supervise the animation. Chris DiGiovanni—Mad Dog—who was the animation manager at Pixar, has worked with me on movies like Horton Hears a Who! A lot of the people that came on with me helped that process along, and there was a bunch of great talented people there already, of course. The main difference between making a feature film from script to screen, and doing [service] work on other projects is that there has to be a unilateral component to the pipeline where when things change upstream, you can go back downstream and fix them so that the whole thing sticks together.

“A certain director I worked for when I was a young fellow said the greatest components of a film come together in the last five per cent.”

The biggest trick in making that leap is the understanding that the story changes not just a little bit, but all the time. A certain director I worked for when I was a young fellow who’s massively successful and runs a huge studio now said the greatest components of a film come together in the last five per cent. If you see an opportunity to make it better, you have to be nimble enough to do it. The idea is you have to be open to the constant changing and I think the guys at Reel FX did a great job of adapting themselves to that and now have that pipeline in place—the way you report production issues, the way you track changes and fixes. The only thing that changed anything for me is that I would get a little bit more involved in producing stuff than I would normally have to, but that was fine because it was all in the name of creating this engine that you could put stories through.

Cartoon Brew: The film looks very rich for the budget it was made on, which is a fraction of what other major studios spend on their films. I’m curious, how were you able to streamline the production and economize to create a film that looks like this on your budget?

Jimmy Hayward: Some of that comes from Scott Mosier and myself writing and making the film together, and then having Aron Warner as the head of animation at Reel FX. Not having to go through a long winding process of approvals was paramount in getting it done.

Also, creating some new ways of working was the key to making the movie at a level of quality that defies budget. The animators did a lot of video reference. I’d give them 24 hours to come back and show me what they were going to do. Rather than an animator going off and blocking for three or four days and showing me something that wasn’t going to work, we had a room where we’d shoot green screen shots. You got the characters staged in a frame the way the animated characters were supposed to be, and they’d act it out to the voice track. And then they’d use frame skipping and cutting techniques to blend together five or ten different performances to get the exact thing they wanted. And we got back hilarious and amazing stuff from that, and then when they had that clip, they’d animate to that. I didn’t demand everybody use it, but I really encouraged people to use it because we got such excellent results. And what happened, a few of the animators wound up becoming sort of almost like the acting cast for video reference and it worked out great for the emotive scenes. It really opens up this incredible new opportunity for us to get higher quality stuff much faster than going down a hundred different rabbit holes trying to figure out what something’s going to be.

Cartoon Brew: I recently wrote a biography of Ward Kimball, who designed Jiminy Cricket in Pinocchio, and he often discussed the evolution of that character from a realistic cricket into what essentially became a little man in a top hat. But you tell audiences Jiminy is a cricket, and that’s what he was. In your film, they’re clearly turkeys, but they lack the grotesque characteristics of real turkeys and don’t move like turkeys. How many iterations did you go through before arriving at the final designs and what were the essential elements for making them turkey-like?

Jimmy Hayward: I didn’t really want them to be like people in rubber suits, and they’re not really. The way they hold their wrist is more wing-like and I think the transition between wings to hands was a really big trick. But I agree with Ward in that what really matters is the feel. And that goes both ways. I think Rango’s really appealing but he still walks around like a man sometimes and sometimes acts like a lizard. With the turkeys, it’s the same thing. Because the movie’s told from their perspective, it’s ok if they appear more human-like when we need to, like they need to push buttons or climb a ladder. But also when they’re in panic mode, a lot of times they flap their wings. So we made specific choices about that. But yeah, you’re right. Turkeys are ugly. They look like melted candles. They have dangling bits of fat hanging off their faces and they look like they’re diseased so that wasn’t going to work.

One of the first things I approached with the design was the eye language. Audiences are looking at eyes most of the time. So getting the eye language between all the species and characters to line up, and the structure around their faces [was important]. I think it’s really important that the audience has something appealing to look at for the movie.

Cartoon Brew: Speaking of eyes, there’s a running gag with the character Jenny where her pupil falls out of its socket. It’s one of the weirdest gags I’ve seen in an animated film, and it was both funny and uncomfortable at the same time. What was the thinking behind that idea?

Jimmy Hayward: The fact that she had a funny eye came in a different form from Craig Mazin, the writer. The idea was that Reggie was a shallow guy on the surface, but actually he liked her for who she was even though she had this funny eye. It’s really difficult to play that off in a movie. I put in a version where it falls out the first time, and Jake makes fun of her because of it, and it was kind of repulsive and not cool. Amy Poehler and I talked a lot about it. I sent her an email at one point and said, “I think I’m going to take it out,” and she said, “I’m really bummed about that. I thought that was really cool.”

And then I realized it was all about how the other characters reacted to it that made it either cute and funny or offputting. So we changed it so that nobody else says anything about it and it only kind of happens when Reggie’s around, and when it happens, it doesn’t faze him at all. He loves her just the way she is. It makes her a stronger character that she doesn’t even worry about it: her eye falls out of the socket and she rolls it back into place like nothing happened. I think girls really connect with it and think it’s funny.

Cartoon Brew: You’re right, no one else really reacts to it in the film. It’s only between Reggie and her, but it’s not a group thing where everybody piles onto her.

Jimmy Hayward: There used to be a line of dialogue in there where Jake says to Reggie, “You like the 400-year-old turkey with the crazy eyeball?” It was a great line, but I had to cut that.

Cartoon Brew: That was an actual line?

Jimmy Hayward: Yeah! [laughs] There was a lot of stuff that I really regret cutting out of this movie. There’s some big out loud laughs that Scott, Aron and I all together loved so very dearly [but] that people had trepidation about offending people.

Cartoon Brew: That leads into my next question: The film’s assistant director Chris DiGiovanni said in an interview that there’s a director’s cut which he hopes people will someday see.

Jimmy Hayward: He said that? [laughter]

Cartoon Brew: I’m not sure if he was supposed to say that, but he did. [laughter] So I’m curious, what kind of stuff did you want to have in the film that was cut out?

Jimmy Hayward: One of the things Scott [Mosier] and I tried to do was put jokes in for adults because the people that sit and watch the movies with kids can be bored sometimes. Scott and I also have a bizarre sense of humor between us, and we had a bunch of material where we wanted to push the edge and see where it was. And we tested it and people laughed their heads and then at the end were like, ‘How dare you!’ because little kids saw it. It wasn’t even that gnarly, but I think we pulled it back too far in some very specific places.

There’s one point in the movie where Jake and Reggie first meet where Jake tackles Reggie, lays on top of him, and says, “I don’t know who you are but you’re seriously jeopardizing this mission!” Reggie’s like, “Are you crazy, it’s me.” Then, you cut to this close-up of Jake and he’s studying Reggie’s eyes. You cut back to Reggie uncomfortably looking at him. You cut back to Jake and he goes, “You have really nice eyes.” And Reggie is like, “Yea, thanks, could you get off me.” Then, Jake, without blinking, goes, “Why.” And even me pitching it doesn’t seem that funny, but in the execution and the animation, it was hilarious. It was supposed to be a personal space joke because Jake has no sense of personal space, which was a running gag. It made audiences laugh out loud but some people really took it the wrong way.

Cartoon Brew: Who took it the wrong way though— the distributors?

Jimmy Hayward: It’s just test audiences. We tried all kinds of stuff with test audiences.

Cartoon Brew: Are test audiences an important part of the process for you?

Jimmy Hayward: I think in the movie business of today, yes. In the movie business of today where money is much harder to come by and studios don’t take that many risks—it’s one of those things where you want to make sure that someone goes and sees your movie.

“Every test audience I showed this movie to said that [the death] was their least favorite part of the movie. And my argument was, ‘Good…make people cry…it’s good to have an emotional experience in a movie.’”

There’s a death in the movie and every test audience I showed this movie to said that was their least favorite part of the movie. And my argument was, “Good…that’s the point…make people cry…it’s good to have an emotional experience in a movie.” That’s the kind of thing where the audience all said it was something that they didn’t like, but that just made me want it in the movie even more. It’s not like we test it, and the audience says they don’t like things and we just let them take it out. Really, the best thing about testing a movie is to figure out where the flat spots are and also figure out the distance behind jokes. So if you have a joke in there and the audience laughs at it, you don’t run over the next line of dialogue that’s important to the story…it helps you pace things.

Cartoon Brew: You made the leap from animating to directing in your mid-’30s. What advice do you have for someone who wants to transition from animation to direction?

Jimmy Hayward: For me personally, it was making things outside of the studio. When I was at Pixar, I was making music videos and film before I got there and the whole time I was working there. I’m always working on side projects. I’m in Florida right now to play with my band. I play music, I make movies. To me, it’s about developing your skillset past just that [single] thing. Look, I’m a good animator’s director because I used to be an animator for a long time. What you need to do as a director is to get your idea across to all these different people and all these different departments in their language. So it’s important to know a lot of stuff about the process.

Some people have different approaches to it, but for me, it’s a leadership job. It’s a job where you have to motivate people to see things your way. I think having a healthy respect for all the other departments is a great start. At this point, technology is so easy to get…if I had all these tools when I was a kid, I can’t even imagine what crazy shit I would’ve made. It’s so easy now to make a short film on your own. That’s my advice to young animators who want to be directors: make movies.

“Beezlebub” by Ivan Landau and Webster Colcord

A music video for “Beezlebub” by Beats Antiques (feat. Les Claypool). The short was designed for live projection during the band’s concerts. Behind-the-scenes images and info can be found at Dragonframe.com.

CREDITS
Director: Ivan Landau
Animator: Webster Colcord
Assistant Sculptors: Rich Zimmerman, Edgar Humberto Alvarez
Set Assistant: Dave Waddle
Filmed in Hollywood at Shadow Machine

(via Stop Motion Portugal)

Artist of the Day: Amélie Fléchais

Amélie Fléchais

Amélie Fléchais is a French illustrator of comic books and children’s books. She also works as a visual development artist for animated productions.

Amélie Fléchais

Amélie Fléchais

Amélie posts sketchbook work such as these selections of her mountain vacation-inspired watercolors. The pages are also posted here accompanied by photos of the mountainous area she was visiting. Her work is full of inventive fantasy creatures that seem to be part of a mythical world of her own invention.

Amélie Fléchais

Amélie Fléchais

Amélie Fléchais

Amélie Fléchais

She posts work on her Tumblr, Blogspot, and portfolio website.

Amélie Fléchais

Walt Disney’s Daughter, Diane Disney Miller, Has Died at 79

The eldest and only living daughter of Walt and Lillian Disney, Diane Disney Miller, died today at her home in Napa, California. She was 79. The cause of death was health complications resulting from a fall she suffered last September. She is survived by seven children, thirteen grandchildren, and her husband Ron Miller, who served as the president (and later CEO) of the Walt Disney Company, before he was replaced by Michael Eisner in 1984. The LA Times has more about her passing.

I never met Mrs. Miller, but gained a profound respect for her while I was working on my biography of Ward Kimball. While the Disney Company fought tooth-and-nail to pressure my publisher into killing the book (which they ultimately succeeded in doing), Diane read my book and supported it publicly. In a letter she wrote to historian Michael Barrier, she even expressed her desire to host a Ward Kimball art exhibit at the Walt Disney Family Museum:

Regarding the problem that Amid Amidi is having with his bio of Ward Kimball, I know that the Kimball kids have worked with him closely on it and want very much to see it published. I was intrigued with the idea of an exhibit of Ward’s non-Disney art which I thought would make a very interesting and extremely relevant exhibit in our museum [the Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco], along with the book in our store.

No one at the company seemed bothered by Neal Gabler’s rather vicious and totally erroneous portrayal of my poor little mother and my parents’ marriage. I’ve always wondered where Gabler got the idea that they were never in love…not happily married…etc. Can’t Amidi publish what he wants? Again, look at what’s been done to my dad!

After dealing for an entire year with an insane coterie of Disney employees, Diane’s public support for my project was a rare (and completely unexpected) bright spot during an otherwise difficult experience. It speaks to her independent-minded streak that she saw the book for what it was, and recognized its historical value, even when the Disney company could not. For this, I will always be grateful to her.

As evidenced in her note above, Diane was deeply concerned about what she perceived as misrepresentations of her father by the current Disney corporate regime. She worked harder than anyone else to preserve the legacy of Walt Disney, the man, and her master stroke was leading the creation of the Walt Disney Family Museum, which opened in San Francisco in 2009. The museum serves as an exemplary tribute to animation’s most important historical figure and confronts head-on the countless misguided portrayals of the man. It also ensures that Walt Disney’s legacy will be secure for years to come.

Many tributes have appeared online since Diane Disney’s passing. Here are a few of them:

Jim Korkis
Leonard Maltin
David Lesjak
Brian Sibley
Floyd Norman—Part one, two, three.

Below: Diane (l.) with her mom Lillian, sister Sharon and father Walt, in 1955.

Cartier Releases “Winter Tale” Directed by Bibo Bergeron

This year, Christmas has turned into the season of feature film-quality animation spots. First, British retailer John Lewis released a this hand-drawn animated piece, and today French-founded/Swiss-owned jeweler Cartier countered with a mini-CG short called Winter Tale, set in 1920s Paris. A full credit list isn’t available yet, but we know that it was directed by Bibo Bergeron (A Monster in Paris, Shark Tale), produced by Stink Paris, and made at Pérols, France-based Dwarf Labs.

CREDITS (Dwarf Labs)
Director: Bibo Bergeron
Cinematographer: Olivier Pinol
Visual Effects Supervisor: Olivier Pinol
Supervisor (Modelling & Textures): Maximilien Legros-Auroy
Supervisor (Animation): Jean-Yves Audouard
Supervisor (Lighting): Joachim Guerin
Supervisor (Pipeline): Belisaire Earl
Supervisor (R&D): Cedric Paille
Supervisor (Production): Susie Wilson
Artistic Crew: Benedicte Aldeguerre, Gary Heteau, Camille Perdiguier, Gaetan Baldy, Mathieu Meynard, Yves Schuler “cht’Yves”, Francois Barreau, Jean Palenstijn, Dilen Shah, Matthieu Grospiron, Claude Pelet
Technical Crew: Michael Delaporte, Yann Vote, Jeremy Clement

“Sticky Ends” by Osman Cerfon

Jinx is a man with the head of a fish. Misfortune bubbles escape from his mouth. When one of them follows somebody, he becomes dogged by bad luck, and comes to a sticky end.

CREDITS
Original title: Chroniques de la poisse
Director: Osman Cerfon
Music/Sound: Denis Vautrin
Sets : Osman Cerfon, Darshan Fernando
Animation: Osman Cerfon, Grégory Duroy, Ulrich Totier
Compositing: Jean-Paul Guigue
Editing: Osman Cerfon, Franck Ekinci
Mix: Quentin Guigno
Production: Je Suis Bien Content

“Steven Universe” Recap: “Frybo”

When I went to the guide this week I thought my pain meds had really done a number, but nope—there was only one new Steven Universe instead of the usual two. Alright, we can work with that since the new one did have a lot to say about the reality of the work world, BUT I would’ve liked the second to have been a different old (weird to say about something that’s still fresh in my mind) short so that the pair would’ve been more cohesive as a packaged deal.

“Frybo” started with Steven clueless per usual. This time it was because the whereabouts of his pants where unknown. Pearl was also in search of something, but unlike her pantsless housemate, she was fully dressed. She was on the hunt for a gem shard and rambled on and on about it and its powers. Like Steven, I too tuned her out only catching the “monster” part. Of course, that came back to bite Steven in the bare butt later. Turns out that shard can turn clothing into active objects–cue Steven’s pants running amok.

On his way to give Pearl back her shard, we met yet another character: Peedee. He’s like every cute boy from the 90′s, every classroom had one…blonde locks, shaved sides and a wife beater to show he didn’t care about materialistic things. Peedee’s just a kid with a mind wise beyond his years, trying to make his dad proud while dressed as the family business mascot Frybo and questioning the world. It’s not clear if Steven has any actual friends in town. So will we even see Peedee again? Only time will tell, but at least Steven got to interact with someone other than the Gems as he saved his new pal from an afternoon of Frybo duty by putting the shard in the costume and telling it to “make people eat fries.”

The two escaped to an arcade, leaving the lively Frybo costume to do Peedee’s job. As they sadly rode the coin rides at the arcade, nothing happened but a conversation that depicted the mental state of a twenty-something-year-old a few years out of college, trying to find their place in the work force, even though neither of the boys have seen past the age of perhaps fourteen yet. While Steven is fine being “paid in smiles” for his work with the Gems, Peedee’s declaration that “cash can’t buy back what the job takes” was flawless. It also touches on the idea of those who have nine-to-fives versus those with unconventional jobs; those who work hard will lose out on life, while those who find what they love truly will have the most fulfilling careers.

While they were getting deep, Frybo was terrorizing the town. Okay, so he was focused on one area, but it was still terrifying to watch and imagine. Seriously, just think about the mascot of your local eatery coming to life and shoving their product down your throat? Frybo did just that as Steven and Peedee looked on in horror. When they said, “Make people eat fries,” Frybo took it too literally. The fries from his costume worked like tentacles to hold restaurant patrons hostage, including Peedee’s dad who was soon tossed out the window onto Steven.

Frybo quickly got smarter and used ketchup as ammo; I cringed since I loathe 98% of condiments. A ketchup attack temporarily blinded Pearl as Steven searched for a way to take Frybo down. How does one destroy a deranged thing of fries being controlled by a gem shard? There’s only one way: If you’re Steven, you strip down to your undies and put Pearl’s other shards in your discarded clothes and fight back. You decide your underwear is also needed, and take on Frybo in the buff. Naked fighting prevailed and Frybo’s shard was removed, leaving him a lifeless costume.

As Peedee and his father reconciled, it made you think back to Steven’s dad. We haven’t seen him since the premiere and the repeat of the night was “Gem Glow.” So we didn’t even get to revisit his character. They should’ve tossed in “Laser Light Cannon” to make the half hour seem more complete OR they should’ve made Steven think about his own dad while gazing at his newfound friend. What’s the deal with those daddy issues there?

Also, where were Amethyst and Garnet during Frybo? We better see their return come next week’s “Cat Fingers.”

The episode “Frybo” was written by Raven M. Molisee and Paul Villeco.

FXX Will Make “Simpsons” Reruns Available On Demand

FXX, Fox’s new youth-oriented cable spinoff of FX, has picked up cable rights to The Simpsons. The major significance of the deal is that full digital rights were also sold to FXX, and the 530 episodes to date of The Simpsons will now become available on demand through FXX’s forthcoming mobile streaming app FXNOW.

20th Century Fox TV initially asked for $1.5 million per episode. After a bidding war between multiple networks, they ended up receiving around $1.25 million per episode. Both FXX and 20th Century Fox TV are owned by the same parent company 21st Century Fox. However, syndication rights to the show are also owned by the show’s creators and producers like Matt Groening and James L. Brooks who will profit handsomely from the deal. Read more details about the deal in Wall Street Journal and Deadline.com.

Artist of the Day: Tamia Baudouin

Tamia Baudouin

Tamia Baudouin draws comics and art in graphite and ink, sometimes overlaying limited colors on the gray tones.

Tamia Baudouin

Tamia Baudouin

Tamia animates loops and creates films of her drawings. The gloomy and strange figures that she designs are effectively unsettling, especially in motion.

Tamia Baudouin

Tamia Baudouin

See more of her sketchbook drawings, paintings and animation on her Tumblr, portfolio, and blog.

Tamia Baudouin

Tamia Baudouin

Tamia Baudouin

Tamia Baudouin

The Art of Jay Ward Productions: A Visual Essay by Darrell van Citters

This week respected animation director Darrell van Citters will release his new book The Art of Jay Ward Productions. The 352-page book contains nearly one thousand illustrations featuring the studio’s classic cartoon characters including Rocky and Bullwinkle, George of the Jungle and Mr. Peabody and Sherman.

Van Citters has not only created a lush coffeetable book, he aims to rewrite the studio’s history. The artwork of the Jay Ward shows isn’t typically celebrated for its artistic merit, but Van Citters makes a strong case that the studio’s artistry is worthy of critical appraisal. He tells Cartoon Brew that one of the book’s primary goals was “to identify and properly credit as many of the artists as possible for their previously unheralded work.” Certainly, many great talents passed through the studio, including Bill Hurtz, Roy Morita, Pete Burness, Sam Clayberger, and Shirley Silvey, to name but a few.

In the following visual essay, Van Citters traces the lineage of some of the studio’s most famous characters and explains the contributions of different artists.

The book, which is published by Van Citters’ personal imprint Oxberry Press retails for $49.95. It will debut this weekend at the CTN Animation Expo and will be available afterward at ArtofJayWard.com or Amazon.com.

Pixar Co-Founder Ed Catmull Wrote A Book about How Pixar Works

Pixar co-founder (and current president of both Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios) Dr. Ed Catmull has written a book that explores how Pixar operates creatively. The 368-page book, Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration, was co-written with journalist Amy Wallace and will be published next April by Random House.

From the description, it sounds like the book will be part-business management and part personal memoir, and a valuable title anyone who wishes to understand how Pixar functions as a company:

Creativity, Inc. is a book for managers who want to lead their employees to new heights, a manual for anyone who strives for originality, and the first-ever, all-access trip into the nerve center of Pixar Animation Studios—into the story meetings, the postmortems, and the “Braintrust” sessions where art is born. It is, at heart, a book about how to build and sustain a creative culture—but it is also, as Pixar co-founder and president Ed Catmull writes, “an expression of the ideas that I believe make the best in us possible.”

For nearly twenty years, Pixar has dominated the world of animation, producing such beloved films as the Toy Story trilogy, Monsters, Inc., Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, Up, and WALL-E, which have gone on to set box-office records and garner twenty-seven Academy Awards. The joyousness of the storytelling, the inventive plots, the emotional authenticity: In some ways, Pixar movies are an object lesson in what creativity really is. Now, in this book, Catmull reveals the ideals and techniques, honed over years, that have made Pixar so widely admired—and so profitable.

As a young man, Catmull had a dream: to make the world’s first computer-animated movie. He nurtured that dream first as a Ph.D. student at the University of Utah, where many computer science pioneers got their start, and then forged an early partnership with George Lucas that led, indirectly, to his founding Pixar with Steve Jobs and John Lasseter in 1986. Nine years later and against all odds, Toy Story was released, changing animation forever. The essential ingredient in that movie’s success—and in the thirteen movies that followed, all of which debuted at #1 at the box office—was the unique environment that Catmull and his colleagues built at Pixar, based on philosophies that protect the creative process and ideas that defy convention, such as:

• Give a good idea to a mediocre team, and they will screw it up. But give a mediocre idea to a great team, and they will either fix it or come up with something better.

• If you don’t strive to uncover what is unseen and understand its nature, you will be ill prepared to lead.

• It’s not the manager’s job to prevent risks. It’s the manager’s job to make it safe for others to take them.

• The cost of preventing errors is often far greater than the cost of fixing them.

• A company’s communication structure should not mirror its organizational structure. Everybody should be able to talk to anybody.

• Do not assume that general agreement will lead to change—it takes substantial energy to move a group, even when all are on board.

I’m going to assume that the cover is not final since it’s simply the Pixar in Concert logo with some text dropped over it. Pre-order the book on Amazon for $20.82..

Comedian Liz Miele Talks About Creating Animated Webseries “Damaged”

When life handed Liz Miele some lemons, she decided to make lemonade. It’s what pushed her into stand-up comedy 11 years ago and what motivated her to conceive Damaged, a webseries about Emily and TJ, two broken robots who have been adopted by humans.

After successfully funding the project on Kickstarter earlier this year, Miele (pictured right) is taking advantage of the webseries format as a means to build a wider fan-base and turn her concept ‘pitch-ready.’ The result is a project fueled by big ideas and an admiration for cartoons like Adventure Time, South Park and Invader Zim.

She took a moment from wrapping up her 8th episode to chat with Cartoon Brew about her own personal growth, being an industry outsider working with animators and, most importantly, assembling a dream team of cartoon robots.

Cartoon Brew: Why adopted robots?

Liz Miele: Damaged focuses on how it feels to not only be physically broken but the mental and emotional turmoil one might feel from being abandoned or given away. I think I used robots adopted by human parents to exaggerate the feeling of being “given up” by the people in our lives that are supposed to appreciate us. A big inspiration for this show came from a really bad break-up with a boyfriend that made me really come to terms with some of my emotional issues and the pain I caused to the people around me and myself. A little sad, but it was the beginning of some important self-awareness that I needed to feel better if not hopefully become better.

Cartoon Brew: What has exploring that self-awareness taught you about yourself?

Liz Miele: That I am emotionally exhausting! (Laughs) It is something that I desperately want not to be, but have a hard time overcoming. I’m incredibly insecure about my intelligence, probably because I’m dyslexic, which makes me a slower reader and horrible speller – yet I write for a living! I’m not proud of my insecurities or what drives me to create but I’m honest with myself about them. I’m starting to understand that this is me and I might not be able to 100% change myself to fit this mold of acceptable behavior but I can accept myself and learn to work with what I have.

Cartoon Brew: Is this approach different from how you approach your stand-up comedy?

Liz Miele: My stand-up is deliberate, truthful and incredibly self-refective. I take my time and I invite you into my head and not everyone likes being there. (Laughs) What I like about writing for Damaged is I can be sillier and weirder than when I’m onstage. As a cartoon writer, who I am comes through but there isn’t a spotlight on me. I get to express another side of myself; I like being annoying and random, I like having a different world that my imagination wanders to during the day and having this God-like power to decide, “Yeah, robotic birds poop oil here!”

“[Audiences] can tell when the animators are having fun animating something!”

Cartoon Brew: What’s it been like for you, someone outside the animation industry, to work with animators?

Liz Miele: I started this project very naive and I am still learning something new everyday. Because of stand-up I come from a “telling” background, and I’m learning to get better at “showing.” At first, because I had a small budget, I tried to keep my episode ideas simple because I felt guilty giving the animators so much work. After a few months, we ended up having a heart-to-heart and I learned that they actually wanted to go bigger because that was fun for them to animate. That was a big realization for me—just like people can tell when I’m having fun onstage, they can tell when the animators are having fun animating something!


Cartoon Brew: Name 4 favorite cartoon robots and why they would (or wouldn’t) enjoy Damaged.

Liz Miele:
1. Gir (Invader Zim) – Damaged is pretty colorful so maybe we could get his attention but I don’t know if we could keep it.
2. Conky (Pee-Wee’s Play House) – He’s made of old electronics and is always breaking. I think he would totally relate!
3. Wall-E (Wall-E) – …but I don’t know if he’s the type to look for new content on the Internet? He’s too much of a busybody.
4. Awesome-O (South Park) – I know he’s not a real robot and he would publicly say our show was stupid… but he would secretly love it!

Damaged features character designs by Adam Record and animation by Ben Luce, Grant Lindahl, with additional animation by Tyler Naugle, Michael Nanna and Ingrida Pleiryte.

Episode 8 will premiere November 18th, with the season’s remaining episodes premiering the first Monday of the following months. For more, visit the show’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages.

“Breadheads” by Cody Walzel

Starving soldiers divide a measly last meal when sick allies arrive at their base. When the refugees turn to bread people, the battle between hunger and humanity begins.

CREDITS
Directed by Cody Walzel
Sound and Score: Peter Brensinger
“Lover Come Back To Me”: Al Bowlly
Sarge (voice): Sam Bryant
Thin Soldiers (voice): Steve Meyer
Made at Pratt Institute, 2013.

CTN Animation Expo Returns to Burbank This Weekend

The CTN Animation Expo returns to the Burbank Airport Marriott this weekend for its fifth edition. The three-day event is a mix of panels, lectures, tutorials, book signings, recruiter meetings, and exhibition halls, all of which are particularly attractive for students and young artists who are trying to break into the industry.

The expo attracts dozens of industry professionals due to its convenient Los Angeles location. Speakers and presenters this year include big names from the animation/vfx world, both young and old, including ILM’s Richard Edlund, Disney storyman Burny Mattinson, stop motion animator and designer Phil Tippett, animator Eric Goldberg, poster artist Drew Struzan, Ren & Stimpy creator John Kricfalusi, co-director of the Oscar-winning short The Lost Things Andrew Ruhemann, visual development artist Claire Keane, director Chris Sanders, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 directors Cody Cameron and Kris Pearn, and Wander Over Yonder creator Craig McCracken. And, if you’re really lucky, maybe even the mime guy.

If you can’t make it to Los Angeles, some of the events will be broadcast for free on the Internet. A full schedule is posted on the CTN website.

Disney Releases “Maleficent” Teaser

Love it or loathe it, the live-action Maleficent movie is coming. And Disney has released a teaser trailer and a handful of new images to get you (a.) excited or (b.) riled up for its May 30, 2014 release. The movie stars Angelina Jolie, Elle Fanning & Sharlto Copley. It is produced by Joe Roth, directed by Robert Stromberg, and written by Beauty and the Beast scribe Linda Woolverton, Batman: The Animated Series writer Paul Dini and John Lee Hancock (director, The Blind Side, Saving Mr. Banks).



From Disney comes “Maleficent”—the untold story of Disney’s most iconic villain from the 1959 classic “Sleeping Beauty.” A beautiful, pure-hearted young woman, Maleficent has an idyllic life growing up in a peaceable forest kingdom, until one day when an invading army threatens the harmony of the land. Maleficent rises to be the land’s fiercest protector, but she ultimately suffers a ruthless betrayal—an act that begins to turn her pure heart to stone. Bent on revenge, Maleficent faces an epic battle with the invading king’s successor and, as a result, places a curse upon his newborn infant Aurora. As the child grows, Maleficent realizes that Aurora holds the key to peace in the kingdom—and perhaps to Maleficent’s true happiness as well.

When Amsterdam Went UPA: Dutch Modern Cartoons in the 1950s

JAN-WILLEM DE VRIES has written several books and articles about the Toonder Animation Studio’s. One of his future publications might be an extensive (and heavily illustrated) chronicle of the studio in the 1950s, describing more about the careers of the artists discussed in this piece, as well as the company’s ink-and-paint department and its enormous output of TV commercials.


Strictly speaking, the term ‘Dutch modern cartoons’ is a little misleading. They were made in Holland, yes. The head of the studio was the Dutch artist Marten Toonder, yes. The ink-and-paint department was run by the Dutch and the camera was operated by Dutch hands.

But the major stars in our story are four artists who came from England and Denmark. They were the heart and soul of the animation department at Toonder Studio’s in the 1950s.

From England came Harold Mack and Alan Standen, from Denmark Børge Ring and Bjørn Frank Jensen. All were animation directors, except for Standen who was a background artist. Of these artists Børge Ring is best known. He won an oscar for his short Anna and Bella in 1984, and in 2012, his efforts in animation were rewarded with the Winsor McCay Award.

Mack, Standen, Ring and Jensen expressed great interest in the innovations that United Productions of America brought to the animation industry. They adapted some of the styles they saw in UPA shorts like Gerald McBoing Boing and Rooty Toot Toot because it was a request of the studio’s customers (mostly television advertisers), but also because they embraced the new art form. But who was this quartet of artists? And what were they doing in Amsterdam?

Building the Team

The Toonder Studio’s (the misplaced apostrophe was part of its name) was founded in Amsterdam in 1941. Marten Toonder was an illustrator and a comic artist with a fond interest in animation. His comics were extremely successful in the Netherlands and this gave him the opportunity to hire artists to work for him. After a rough start during World War II Toonder tried to develop a full-length animation feature in 1949. He invested too much in the project and his studio got into financial trouble. Most of his animators left to start working in the puppet animation studio Dollywood, founded by Joop Geesink.

Toonder was left with a cameraman, but no animators or background artists. So when the British animator Harold Mack expressed interest in working for him, Toonder hired him on the spot.


Marten Toonder (left) and Harold Mack

Harold Mack (1918—1974) had previously worked for Halas and Batchelor, David Hand, and George Moreno. He felt isolated in England and traveled to the European mainland where he worked for Julius Pinschewer in Switzerland for a while. Somehow he had seen comics of the Toonder Studio’s and when he learned that its founder was in search of animators he traveled to Amsterdam. Mack was hired together with his wife Pamela. She assisted him and was appreciated for her color design. The couple lived in a house boat in one of the canals in Amsterdam.

In the summer of 1952 Børge Ring (b. 1921) and Bjørn Frank Jensen (1920—2001) joined the Toonder Studio’s. Ring had learned about the place when he was a musician with the Sven Asmussen orchestra. They toured Amsterdam in 1946 and Ring found out that there was an animation studio in the Dutch capital.

Ring had worked for Gutenberghus Reklame Film in Copenhagen where he learned the basics of animation. He became close friends with Bjørn Frank Jensen who got his first animation lessons while working at advertising agency Monte Rossi. While Ring was touring with the orchestra, Jensen worked on the first full-length Danish animation film Fyrtojet (The Tinderbox, 1946). In 1946 Ring and Jensen traveled to England to work for Disney director David Hand (Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs) and his new Animaland series that he was producing for Gaumont British Animation. Hand was a great teacher so the young Ring and Jensen were terribly disappointed when they couldn’t get a work permit and had to return to Denmark after six months. They started their own studio in 1948 and were hired to animate several commercial shorts. Two years later their studio was taken over by Nordisk Film and this lead to frustration.

Ring and Jensen now decided to try their luck with Toonder Studio’s in Amsterdam. The Danes were also negotiating with the United States, through the Marshall Plan, about the creation of six short films. This assignment could now go to the Toonder Studio’s if they hired Ring and Jensen. Needless to say, they were hired right away.

Now Toonder had three solid animators, while the backgrounds were created by artists of his comic department or by the animators themselves. But in November 1953 they were joined by Alan Standen, a young background artist from London. He had a very short resume, but it did include work on Halas and Batchelor’s animated feature Animal Farm (1954). Again, it was an easy decision for Toonder.


Alan Standen and Børge Ring, 1956

Alan Standen (b. 1929) was advised to visit Halas and Batchelor in the early-1950s to see if he could work on their full-length animated feature based on the book by George Orwell. He was hired as a storyboard artist, but he also provided backgrounds and layouts for the film. Unfortunately Standen did not receive any screen credit because an artist had to be with a union for at least two years in order to get one. Being a rookie, he did not meet those requirements. Near the end of the production Standen spoke to co-director John Reed about his future. Reed suggested that he apply for work with Disney in the United States, or perhaps try France. By this time two delegates from the Toonder Studio’s were in London scouting for a background artist. They were advised to look at Standen’s work and when they met the young artist, he decided to accept their offer to work in Amsterdam.

Going UPA!

In the early 1950s, the UPA studio in Los Angeles and New York City had gained remarkable success with its innovative approach to animated filmmaking. Their films received positive reviews and their designs were noticed in the advertising industry. The Toonder Studio’s were asked if they could provide commercials in a similar style. Mack, Ring, Jensen and Standen were happy to oblige, because they, too, were catching the UPA virus. There was no official term for this new style, so they simply referred to it as the ‘UPA style.’

The animators quickly tuned into the world of Gerald McBoing Boing and Mr. Magoo. Many of the Magoo shorts were screened in the movie theater ‘De Uitkijk’ in the heart of Amsterdam. One of the things that Mack and his colleagues generously applied to their animation was the use of thick fat outlines combined with thin ones within the same character. Thanks to this design motif, the commercials played well on small black-and-white TV sets. In addition to being a practical consideration for TV, the designs gave great artistic satisfaction to the animators and the background artist.

Later in the 1950s, the crew at Toonder also met with British and American animators when they visited the Cinetone Studio’s in Amsterdam. Among them were Jim Hiltz, Dan McRae and Jimmy Murakami. The Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam offered a special screening of Modern Cartoons, provided by the American Embassy. The program included shorts like Adventures of an * (1957) by John and Faith Hubley. An academic provided a proper introduction each time the films were shown. Soon he discovered that the screenings were frequently visited by Dutch animation artists. Eventually the speaker did not enter the stage, but stayed near the entrance. He shortened his speech to ‘Is everyone in? Have fun!’

Marten Toonder himself was less satisfied with the developments in his studio. Commercials were now in demand and there was little time to work on short subjects that could satisfy him. Toonder did not see any beauty in TV commercials and eventually he lost interest in the animation department. He moved to Ireland in 1965 where he devoted himself entirely to comics. Despite Toonder’s own misgivings, his studio and an international coalition of artists played a crucial role in modernizing the look of Dutch animation in the 1950s.

A film program of the Cartoon Modern Dutch animation of Toonder Studio’s will screen at the 2013 Klik! Amsterdam Animation Festival on Saturday, November 16, at the EYE Film Institute.

Joanna Quinn Bakes an Animation Cake

Joanna Quinn’s ident for the 2013 Bradford Animation Festival, which takes place this week, marks the twentieth anniversary of the festival. Using her distinctive style of hand-drawn animation, the 41-second short is a great example of everything that we’ve come to love about Quinn’s work.

The ident includes cameos from a number of animated characters from Britain and abroad: Wallace and Gromit, the Snowman and Snowdog, one of Phil Mulloy’s Cowboys and the yeti character from Emma de Swaef and Marc James Roels’s Oh Willy; it even manages to namecheck animation author Paul Wells along the way. Quinn has also provided the festival’s poster, using a scene from the ident and adding Bob Godfrey’s Roobarb and the conductor from Michaela Pavlatova’s Tram to the proceedings.

Taking center stage in both is Beryl, the character who starred in Quinn’s breakthrough film Girls Night Out (1986) before reappearing in her subsequent shorts Body Beautiful (1990) and Dreams and Desires – Family Ties (2006).

(via Skwigly)

Artist of the Day: Bernardo França

Bernardo França

Bernardo França works in Sao Paulo making drawings, paintings and designs for print and animation projects.

Bernardo França

His sketches and drawings appear to be drawn with rapid, loose strokes while remaining solidly under the artist’s control.

Bernardo França

Saturated, stylized color palettes are regularly part of Bernardo’s design choices that he makes while creating these vibrant drawings.

Bernardo França

Bernardo França

Bernardo creates a lot of work which you can view on his blog and website. He also keeps a Tumblr as a repository of inspiring work.

Bernardo França

Bernardo França

Bernardo França

“Steven Universe” Recap: “Cheeseburger Backpack” and “Together Breakfast”

Last week the premiere of Steven Universe introduced us not only to Steven and the Gems he resides with, but characters like his dad and the other inhabitants of their beach town. This week was void of anyone other than the four dwellers of the Gem household, and a mailman. So while I was a little upset Lars was absent, the lessons learned within “Cheeseburger Backpack” and “Together Breakfast” kind of filled the hole in my heart. 

“Cheeseburger Backpack” isn’t a metaphor for anything; it’s just what it sounds like. Other than Amethyst being too excited over a jumbo sized egg and the possible, most definitely, it better have been Full House reference, the first half of Steven Universe was all about taking risks and thinking outside the box, no matter the outcome.

Steven starts his day waiting impatiently for a package that will help him save the world. Isn’t that how we all feel about our online purchases? Cue the mailman, and then cut to the Gems telling Steven they have to go on a mission to save a building from falling apart by replacing its moon statue. Of course a certain someone swears his cheeseburger backpack can be of use because it can carry the statue; not only because of its novelty but its multitude of pockets, “Even the cheese is a pocket!” With so many, Steven overpacks – why would they need a kite? 

Those hoarder tendencies come in handy as all the extras help Steven and the Gems get to their destination. The only real problem in the end was the moon statue being MIA, so while sweaters and bagels and Steven’s quick thinking proved to be assets – the team failed. At least they tried though, right?

Failure wasn’t an issue in “Together Breakfast” though. Steven seems to be missing the family aspect of his life as he does whatever it takes to get everyone in the house to eat a meal together. Also, we have to ask…Is Amethyst a shape shifter? 

Not only do we get a look at an intriguing dish of pancakes topped with popcorn, whipped cream and a single strawberry, but also a peek inside the rooms (and minds) of the Gems. After all three ignore the breakfast invitation, Steven takes it upon himself to get inside their fortresses. Pearls is water based with a lot of knives; she’s clean and sharp. Amethyst’s is reckless and Garnet’s is unseen. Can we take that to mean she’s the ultimate personification of secrecy?

Things go the kind of the same as in the first, Steven’s mishaps sort of save the day only this time it’s a true success. The pancakes entrap the evil smoke monster, and save him and the Gems. It’s a win for the team but not for their appetites. Although Steven finally gets his together breakfast, the site of pancakes leaves a bad taste in their mouths. Pizza’s ordered instead. After all that we walk away with a lesson in togetherness; it’s safer to just make time rather than fight it. 

Like all shows, the first is often the introductory one and the ones that follow are built on top of characterization while heading towards a point. The second week of Steven Universe did one but left out minor players that fans might’ve already fallen for. As for building on the plot, we didn’t get closer to Steven figuring out how to control that belly stone. We just got to see him think on his feet. Next week we can only wonder what “Frybo” will bring and if “Cat Fingers” will be as literal as the backpack.

(Episode stills via Bubble Blabber)

Internet Explorer Fanart Leads To New Anime Mascot

The 2013 edition of Anime Festival Asia has an unusual contributor: Microsoft Singapore, which celebrated the event by creating a two-minute advert for itself. The video has gained over 2 million views since its debut last week.

The cartoon personifies Internet Explorer as Inori Aizawa, an anime girl who lives in the terrifying post-apocalyptic wasteland that is the Internet. When confronted by evil virus-robots she transforms into an all-action magical girl in the tradition of Sailor Moon.

Her superpowers include an antivirus shield, all-seeing browser windows and, erm, rocket boots, which represent the browser’s incredible speed, or something. The short ends with Inori successfully fending off her foes (the biggest of which is red and suspiciously fox-like) with a barrage of lasers, leaving nothing but a gaping crater in the surrounding Internet.

Today Online provides some details about the short’s background. The main character was created by Low Zi Rong of the design company Collateral Damage Studios, and arose from a tradition in fanart in which items of software are personified as anime characters: fans have depicted Firefox, Chrome and Opera in this way, and Inori’s creator decided that it was time for Internet Explorer to have its own anime hero. The character was not officially endorsed to begin with, but this changed when Jonathan Wong of Microsoft Asia-Pacific approached CDS in the hopes of using Inori in marketing.

The animation itself was made by the CACANi (“Computer Assisted Cel Animation”) research group of Nanyang Technological University. The short does not contain a credits list, but the CACANi Animation Facebook page currently contains a number of behind-the-scenes tidbits.

Inori also has her very own Facebook page, where you can read her updates:

(Disclosure: Nanyang Technological University is an advertiser on Cartoon Brew.)