“Love in the Time of Advertising” by Matt Berenty and David Bokser

An animated musical love story about a young man who lives inside a billboard and is charged with updating the advertisements. When he falls in love with a beautiful lady living across the highway, he has to use the only method he knows to get his message across. Advertising.

A making-of video about rigging and animating the billboards:

Co-writers/co-directors: Matt Berenty and David Bokser
Character Design: Britt Spencer
Concept art: Ram Bhat, Su Jung, Mary Poplin
Additional Concept Art: David Boudreau, Kacey Schwartz
Billboard design: Joanna Davidovich, Jiyun Ha, Jacqueline Jocson, Jamie Leake, Britt Spencer
Storyboard: Sue Bielenberg
Credit design: Jamie Leake
Music/soundfx/narrator: Hunter Curra
Voice of Sally: Jillinda Palmer
Layout: David Bokser, Josh Burton, Lindsey Butterworth
Animation supervisor: David Bokser
Animation: David Bokser, Josh Burton, Nick Dubois, Adam Lawthers, Christine Phelan
Additional Animation: Lindsey Butterworth, Adam Chaput, Maeve Curran, Yvain Gnabro, Aradhana Modi, Heather Shrewsbury
Scene Setup: Joe Grossmann
Technical director: David Bokser
Effects animation: David Glicksmann, Kiel Gnebba
Cloth and hair simulation: Tyler Lancaster, James Marcus
CG Supervisor: Matt Berenty
Modeling: David Alston, Richard Daniels, Joe Grossmann, Matt Berenty, Mike DuPree, Wendy Klein, Nesi Papoushado
Additional modeling: Polet Harutnian, Martin Knapp, Paul Lohman
Shading and texture: Matt Berenty, Richard Daniels, Phina Kahng, Wendy Klein
Lighting: Matt Berenty, Hao Cui, Richard Daniels, Joe Grossmann, Phina Kahng, Wendy Klein, Katie Yoon
Compositing: Travis Button
Matte painting: Ram Bhat
Editing: David Bokser
Production company: Wolf & Crow and Obsolete Robot

Trailer: Seth MacFarlane Directs, Co-Writes and Stars in “A Million Ways To Die in the West”

The last time that animation artists starred in a major live-action film was 1998′s BASEketball with South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone. The film flopped.

Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane hopes to avoid that fate with the raunchy Western comedy A Million Ways To Die in the West, which he directed, co-wrote (with Alec Sulkin and Wellesley Wild) and stars as leading man. The cast also includes Charlize Theron, Liam Neeson, Amanda Seyfried, Neil Patrick Harris, Sarah Silverman, and Giovanni Ribisi.

MacFarlane’s live-action smash Ted proved that he can deliver a hit in this format, but that film had the benefit of featuring MacFarlane as an animated teddy bear. His limitations as an in-the-flesh actor are much more readily apparent in this trailer. Universal will release the film on May 30th in the United States.

Texas is Honoring the Legendary Tex Avery With His Own Day

Although he died 34 years ago, Tex Avery’s impact on the animation art form remains a continuous presence. Without exaggeration, almost all animation today that emphasizes comedy and caricature bears his influence, either directly or indirectly. Doesn’t matter whether it’s Adventure Time or Despicable Me or SpongeBob, Avery’s surreal, slapstick visual approach makes its presence known, an irrepressible and incalculable force, a counterweight to the prevailing ‘illusion of life’ and script-driven orthodoxies that limit Hollywood animation.

In his own time, Avery inspired and motivated directors like Chuck Jones, Bob Clampett, Bill Hanna, Joe Barbera, and even the animation masters at Disney. Disney Nine Old Man Ward Kimball once wrote in his journal that a screening of Avery’s Red Hot Riding Hood “brought the house down” at Disney. The typically jaded animators spent the whole afternoon “moaning the fact that [they hadn't] made a cartoon like that in years!”

For all his notoriety within the animation community, Avery hasn’t received the accolades owed him as one of America’s finest animation directors. Hearing news about any recognition or honor that he receives is delightful, which is why I’m happy to report that Avery’s hometown of Taylor, Texas (population 15,191) has declared February 22, 2014, to be Tex Avery Day.

The festivities will take place at the Howard Theatre, and the event will feature the dedication of a Texas State Historical Marker in Avery’s honor, as well as guest speakers, screenings of his cartoons, and a Tex Avery portrait unveiling. Taylor is a little more than a half hour’s drive from Austin so if you attend, please send us a report.

Click on the image below for all the details:

Yes, This is A Computer Generated Character

Stockholm, Sweden-based vfx shop Important Looking Pirates (ILP) created the impressive animation for this Aco skin care product commercial. Yes, the woman is live-action in some parts of the spot too, but I was unable to identify when she was live-action and when she was computer animated until reading the description and watching the making of clip. Photoreal animation is commonplace today, and its last frontier—believable human beings for extended periods of time—doesn’t seem too far away anymore.

Below, ILP reveals how they used CGI:

We had the pleasure of working with Philippe Tempelman from Social Club on a new commercial for Aco. It is a beautiful 30 second skin care spot about how the different moments and emotions of life leaves a trail and affects our skin. Our work was to track and composite digital tears for two shots and also to create a smooth camera pull back when we go from a macro shot of the women’s eye. The latter turned out to be trickier than it might sound. We had to mix different takes of the filmed pullback in order to have crisp material that was in focus during the full length of the shot. We also did additional texture and 3d work in the macro part of the camera move. The refined material was was then project onto a CG double in order to create a smooth digital camera pull back.

(h/t, Todd Kelley)

Exclusive: Nickelodeon Announces 2014 Animated Shorts Program

Nickelodeon has announced a call for submissions for its 2014 global Animated Shorts Program, which is designed to identify and develop new and up-and-coming animation talent. It is the third year that Nick has run the program domestically, and the second year for international artists.

The animated short at top, Bug Salad created by Carl Faruolo (Gravity Falls, Fish Hooks), is from the 2013 class of shorts and debuts today exclusively on Cartoon Brew.

“We’re on an ongoing mission to create the funniest animated content for this next generation of kids, and find the freshest creative voices from around the world,” says Russell Hicks, Nick’s president of content development and production. “The shorts program has already fueled our pipeline with new content and we’re very excited to see what comes through our door this year.”

Nick will choose a minimum of 10 pitches to develop into shorts that will appear on air, on Nick.com, and the Nick app. The shorts also have the potential to be developed into full series, such as the upcoming Breadwinners which was chosen from the inaugural Animated Shorts Program in 2012. Per the call for submissions:

Ideas will be accepted from a broad pool of creative talent from all quarters including artists, designers, writers, directors and comedians. Creators will be provided with the necessary artistic and production support teams to help them complete their fully animated short. Shorts must be original, humor-based and character-driven. All animation styles are encouraged from 2D, digital 2D, stop motion, CG or mixed media. The deadline for submissions is March 14, 2014.

Full details and guidelines are available on the Nick website.

Nick also announced the full list of 17 pitches from the 2013 edition that were chosen for pilot development. The list includes the following ten projects from the U.S.:

The Loud House created by Chris Savino
Bear Wrestler created by Deanna Rooney
By Request Pizza created by Arica Tuesday and Mick Ignis
Hole created by Sam Spina
Matt and Gus created by Matt Braunger
Charlie and Mr. Two created by Travis Braun
Bug Salad created by Carl Faruolo
Earmouse and Bottle created by Brian Morante
Woodstump created by Zach Smith
Broats created by Jack Cusumano

And seven international projects:
Badly Drawn Animals by Hamish Steele (UK)
Louis and Georges by Renaud Martin & Raphaël Chabassol (France)
Monster Pack by Pedro Eboli & Graham Peterson (Brazil)
Moosebox by Mike Scott (South Africa)
Scoop by The Brothers McLeod (UK)
Tech Oddity by Marco Ibarra and Stefie Zöhrer (Mexico)
Tonk’s Island by Mel Roach (Australia)

(The two shorts pictured in this post are Earmouse and Bottle and By Request Pizza.)

Disney Princesses Gone Mild

A recent blog post on the Guardian brings up a common misconception: that sexualizing Disney characters is somehow daring or cutting edge. Granted, there is plenty of room for parody or re-imagining. Disney was hardly alone in supporting the white-bread image of the typical American family, while carving out their own special niche in the Disney Princess. Disney continues to perpetuate these stereotypes to this day, with only minor adjustments. But artists have been daring and transgressive toward Disney characters for three-quarters of a century or so without any significant result. The Princess keeps her crown, and the artists gain a pinch of notoriety, which quickly fades. Keith Haring’s mashup of Andy Warhol and Mickey Mouse is more disturbing than any tarted-up Princess.

As Jonathan Jones points out in his Guardian piece, artists continue to reimagine Disney Princesses in a myriad of ways, from the pornographic on up. He labels these “satires,” though how AleXsandro Palombo’s Cinderella or Pocahontas with a disability is satirical remains a mystery to me. A prosthetic leg leaves their smile undimmed; you can almost hear a song coming on.

As for graffiti artist James Dillon Wright (aka Dillon Boy), his Dirtyland series of “pornographic” Disney Princesses (nsfw link) is almost innocent in its softcore teases. Snow White, Jasmine, and others pose in coy, barely revealing poses, spray painted by the artist onto equally tame girlie magazine covers dating from fifty years or more ago. If you’re shocked by the occasional nipple, perhaps this is the art for you.

Disney characters have been sexualized for ages, from Tijuana Bibles (cheaply produced pornographic comix made from the 1930s onward) to Wally Wood’s infamous poster on the occasion of Walt Disney’s death, The Disneyland Memorial Orgy (nsfw link). Comic strip characters and animated stars are easy targets: there are Tijuana Bibles featuring Snow White, Popeye, and even Nancy and Sluggo! Dillon Boy himself admits “I’m not doing anything that hasn’t been done before…” which is rather obvious. If his job is to shock, he’s a bit behind the times. And taking the clean, modest idea of the Disney Princess and making it into today’s hypersexualized stereotype – isn’t that just trading one harmful oversimplification for another?

Why DreamWorks Animation Bought AwesomenessTV

If you’re still wondering why DreamWorks Animation spent $33 million last spring to buy the YouTube channel AwesomenessTV, an article about Netflix in the latest issue of the New Yorker offers an explanation that I found to be succinct and worth sharing. The only background info you need to know before reading this excerpt from Ken Auletta’s article is that former child actor Brian Robbins (Head of the Class), the founder of AwesomenessTV, created the YouTube-derived Fred: The Movie and Fred: The Show properties, which have both been hits for Nickelodeon. The success of those projects inspired his subsequent devotion to online entertainment ventures:

Robbins decided to form a company, AwesomenessTV, to create content for YouTube channels—there are more than half a billion on YouTube.com. In the world of YouTube, not only is every device a television but every viewer is a potential network and content provider.

Robbins works in a brick-walled office in a two-story industrial building in West Los Angeles. He has thirty young employees, and he roams around in jeans, a T-shirt, and shiny black sneakers. Just before Thanksgiving in 2012, AwesomenessTV ran a promotion asking subscribers, “Do you want to be the next YouTube star?” Two hundred thousand teen-agers responded, and nearly half of them started their own YouTube channels, attracting sixty million unique monthly visitors. Today, eighty-five thousand kids have channels on AwesomenessTV, and thirty-one million teens and tweens have visited the site. “When you speak to kids, the No. 1 thing they want is to be famous,” Robbins said. “They don’t even know for what.”

Advertisers want to reach this young demographic. Last May, DreamWorks Animation bought Robbins’s company, for thirty-three million dollars. [Jeffrey] Katzenberg told me that, “by the end of next year, under AwesomenessTV, we could have as many daily active users as the Disney Channel, Cartoon Network, and Nickelodeon together.”

As various pieces of the puzzle come together, the developing picture at DreamWorks Animation suggests that Katzenberg wants to turn the company into a viable Internet-era competitor to the Big Three (Disney Channel, Nick, Cartoon Network). So far, the pieces include AwesomenessTV, a mega-content deal with Netflix and the acquisition of Classic Media’s portfolio of properties. Somewhere in this mix is DreamWorks’s core brand—its animated features.

At some point, we will likely see the convergence and consolidation of these different streams, and the company could reinvent itself as a multi-tentacled entertainment beast with powerful online cred. It’s not even clear if Katzenberg knows where it’s all going to end up, but there’s definitely a gameplan at work and it’s a fascinatingly ambitious vision. For the time being, it’s best to get used to the idea that DreamWorks Animation now means both How to Train Your Dragon and this:

Sony Pictures Imageworks India To Shut Down

Less than six years after opening, Sony Pictures Imageworks India will shut down, according to a report in Variety. Sony provided the following statement to the trade publication:

“Sony Pictures Imageworks will not renew its lease in Chennai, India when it expires in March. This facility made significant contributions to such productions as MIB3 and the upcoming The Amazing Spider-Man 2. Imageworks is committed to its headquarters in Culver City and facility in Vancouver, BC.”

Few of the Indian studio’s approximately 100 employees are expected to be relocated. Sony had launched the studio in 2007 by aquiring vfx outfit FrameFlow. The shut down of this Indian outpost is part of Sony Entertainment’s new goal to trim $250 million in operating costs over two years. As part of these efforts, Sony gave dozens of Imageworks employees in Los Angeles the choice of moving to Vancouver or losing their job.

Artist of the Day: Takao Nakagawa

Takao Nakagawa

Japanese illustrator Takao Nakagawa produces character-centric artwork that is published in magazines and books and painted as murals.

Takao Nakagawa

Takao Nakagawa

The quirky illustrations have a naive childlike quality in part lent from the materials used. Line art appears to be drawn in a waxy crayon, although it is becoming increasingly harder to tell when something is produced with a digital tool and when with a traditional one. These drawings are digitally colored and designed with a retro-print quality that has generally limited, flat color areas. Digging back in Takao Nakagawa’s Flickr collection of artwork, you will also find sections of work drawn in pen-and-ink washes painted onto canvases.

Takao Nakagawa

See more illustrations and art at Nakagawa’s portfolio website.

Takao Nakagawa

Takao Nakagawa

Takao Nakagawa

Takao Nakagawa

Takao Nakagawa

Takao Nakagawa

Hal Sutherland, Filmation Co-Founder and Director, RIP

First reported on the Filmation Facebook page without many details, Hal Sutherland, who co-founded Filmation Studios with the late Lou Scheimer, passed away on January 16th, 2014. His daughter Lisa, in an email to a friend of her father’s, has since confirmed that her father’s death was due to health complications related to his gallbladder. He was 85 years old.

Born in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1929, Sutherland was raised by his grandmother who encouraged his development as an artist. As recounted in a 2011 interview with StarTrek.com, she fashioned him a drawing surface by placing a board across the arms of stuffed chair. Fascinated by the horse-drawn wagons that regularly passed his home and inspired by illustrations in the Saturday Evening Post, his artistic influences formed at an early age.

After making his way to California, his talent and knowledge of the equine form landed him a job at the Disney Studios in 1954, working on Samson, Prince Phillip’s horse in the animated film Sleeping Beauty. After layoffs at Disney he would bounce around from studio to studio, working on a variety of television and film productions and picking up close associates along the way, most notably, animator Lou Scheimer at Larry Harmon Pictures, and Norm Prescott, a former disc jockey turned music composer, at True Line. Sutherland and Scheimer would form their own studio, Filmation Associates, in 1962, which would struggle until Prescott connected them with a producer from Action Comics interested in creating an animated Superman cartoon for CBS’ children’s lineup.

The project proved successful and lead to the production of a collection of Saturday morning staples, many episodes of which were directed by Sutherland. These included The Superman/Aquaman Hour of Adventure, Archie’s TV Funnies, Sabrina the Teenage Witch and Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids as well as the acquisition of the animation rights to popular live-action shows like Gilligan’s Island, Lassie and The Hardy Boys. The company was sold to TelePrompTer Corporation in 1969, requiring Sutherland and his partners to stay on for an additional 5 years.

In the final year of his contract, he would direct the first sixteen episodes of Star Trek: The Animated Series, which would go on to win an Emmy and continue to resonate with Star Trek fans around the world for decades to come, as he mentioned in the StarTrek.com interview:

“The Star Trek series has continued showing through the years to new and older audiences throughout the world, I recently received a letter from the Ukraine asking for a pair of autographs for a fellow and his brother who are still viewing the shows. It’s so amazing that the popularity is still there and seemingly everywhere. [Conventions] around the world are also fascinating [for me] to attend, with chances to meet childhood fans that are now grown and entertaining their own children with these shows that are still available on TV. Their thanks for the work we did back then is very personal and rewarding.”

In 1974, Sutherland relocated with his family to Washington State where he went into semi-retirement to pursue his painting career. Returning to Filmation on occasion as a consultant, he served as production director for He-Man and the Masters of the Universe in 1983, and directed a handful of episodes for shows like The Secret Lives of Waldo Kitty, and Flash Gordon, and in 1987, the theatrical feature film Pinocchio and The Emperor Of The Night.

The Filmation library has changed hands several times in the last three decades before being obtained by DreamWorks Animation in 2012 as part of the acquisition of Classic Media.

Watch “Cloudy with A Chance of Meatballs 2″ End Credits

Among the abundant visual delights of last year’s Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 was the expertly executed end credits sequence, which has now been posted online. The mixed media sequence, directed by Craig Kellman and Pete Oswald, combined stop motion (produced by Screen Novelties) and Flash in a peppy Cartoon Modern-influenced package.

Bill Hader, the voice of the lead Flint Lockwood, appeared on Conan a couple nights ago to promote Cloudy 2′s DVD/Blu-ray release. Hader and Conan O’Brien, who appears in the end credits as Cornan, didn’t exactly do a good job of promoting the efforts of the people who worked on the sequence, with Hader even going so far as to call the stop motion models ‘disgusting.’ Here’s their exchange:

Conan O’Brien: The movie company sent us the actual model for it. And I was like thinking, I’m ok with it. I just don’t know what’s going on with Andy.
Bill Hader: Candy Richter.
Andy Richter: It looks like a molar that was found outside an auto crash.
O’Brien: It’s also clearly they’re using my real hair here. It’s always nice—they’ve got the real Conan effect.
Hader: [laughing] A molar outside a car crash.
O’Brien: It’s very upsetting. It’s so nice that someone went to all that trouble to build that.
Hader: Here’s this disgusting thing.
O’Brien: Yeah, enjoy that.

Direction and design: Craig Kellman and Pete Oswald
Animation: Screen Novelties (Mark Caballero, Seamus Walsh, Christopher Finnegan, Kelly Mazurowski)
Flash Animation: Eric Pringle, Nick Bertonazzi
Clean-Up: Mahesh Bhosale
Additional character design: Andre Medina
Additional background design: Justin Thompson, Aaron Spurgeon

Artist of the Day: Glenn August

Glenn August

Glenn August is an artist from Denmark who studied at the Animation Workshop and is currently working on earning a production design MA at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts School of Design in Copenhagen.

Glenn August

There is something to be said for exploring a theme thoroughly, and Glenn has doubled-down on drawing duck doodles.

Glenn August

Glenn August

Glenn August

Glenn August

Glenn August

Glenn has also drawn other things, and you can see more work on his Tumblr and website.

Glenn August

“Steven Universe” Recap: “Steven’s Lion” and “Tiger Millionaire”

“Steven’s Lion”
Storyboarded by Lamar Abrams and Aleth Romanillos.

“Tiger Milionaire”
Written and storyboard by Raven M. Molisee and Paul Villeco.

The notes were taken and everything was going fine. Then my laptop turned off and all lost. So now I’m sitting here with pieces of this week’s Steven Universe in my head hours after the fact. Last week’s “Tiger Millionaire” was so great in terms of story as a whole, while this week “Steven’s Lion” made it crystal clear how much (and how easily) Steven depends on other people and things.

The Gems start out on a mission in a disruptive desert. Steven crawls overdramatically because that’s “how you’re supposed to act in the desert.” His intense sweating earns him the nickname “the wet one” from Garnet. When the Gems leave Steven behind to deal with the out-of-control sand castles popping out of the ground, Steven discovers a fluffy, pink lion—drawn in a way that is menacing but endearingly adorable. Steven immediately falls for the lion even though it shows no real interest in him.

After the Gems retrieve the desert glass responsible for the sprouting sand castles, they take Steven back to Beach City—lion-less. In the middle of a pillow fort nap, the lion comes to the door. How it made its way there is beyond me, but so is a pink lion. Steven, of course, assumes the reason is because they’re meant to be BFFs. Sadly the lion never takes interest in any activity they do, even the pizza parlor excursion for a fish stew-topped pie.

The pizza parlor was chock-full of new characters, the best being the man who looked like your 30-year-old friend who’s still figuring out life by starting a blog. This guy really did have a blog called “Keep Beach City Weird.” His attire was that of someone who blogs all day in a pizza joint; disheveled-geek-meets-beach-bum. This guy brought the laughs when Steven said he was getting pizza for two, and he believed that Steven was pregnant.

The pizza-party-that-never-was only resulted in me thinking Steven was crazy because no one else could see the lion. I figured the lion was simply a mirage in the desert drawn up by Steven’s imagination. But the lion was real and back at the house eyeing the desert glass. Following some miscommunication about the lion’s real intent and violent sand castles that went bonkers on the beach, the lion ends up saving Steven. It turns out the lion wasn’t a mirage and wasn’t a baddie, and I’m pretty sure the Gems took in a new pet when they didn’t say no to Steven’s request to keep the oversized cat.

The best part of this episode wasn’t the lion that was the “cotton candy of the jungle” or even the pizza parlor scene. The heart of “Steven’s Lion” was the realization that Steven falls too hard, too fast. He’s got real attachment issues that likely spawn from the fact that he never had a mother and his father isn’t as involved as he should be. This results in Steven always having to attach to someone or something: Cookie Cats, a backpack, breakfast, Petey, Connie, and wrestling. We’ve seen it before and we’ll continue to see it as the show progresses. But when will his intensity towards affection die down?

Back when I wrote Adventure Time recaps, I liked to look for what connected the new and the repeat. The clear theme between “Tiger Millionaire” and one of the better episodes of Steven Universe, “Bubble Buddies,” was friendship. In “Tiger Millionaire,” Steven teams up with Amethyst.

The Gems come back from a mission with Pearl doing her usual bit: lecturing someone. This time it wasn’t Steven; it was rambunctious lavender gal Amethyst whose reckless actions left Steven covered in quick-hardening gunk. Really, no one was willing to help that little guy out? If they did, he would’ve never stumbled upon Amethyst’s big secret: she’s in an underground wrestling league and her name is Purple Puma.

It wasn’t surprising to hear her reasoning for wrestling given how the episode started. Tired of being bossed around, she feels free in the ring—and gets to punch people in the face. Steven feels the same way and begs her to let him join. A tag team title belt sounds appealing to Amethyst, and thus is born Steven’s alter ego, “Tiger Millionaire.”

You knew that Amethyst was going to be a bad girl in the ring, but Steven playing the role of a bad guy? That was an unexpected twist for his character and for the show. He doesn’t fully break his Tiger Millionaire persona until the end after Pearl and Garnet crash the tag team championship. He couldn’t stand to see Amethyst and Garnet battling it out so he gave a very endearing speech about Purple Puma’s back story, touching on the need to be free.

This week’s episode benefited by not being some kind of mission that led us on the same path of Steven messing up, Steven saving the day. Yes, Steven still settled things, and I, for one, like it better when the Gems stay in Beach City.

Wrestling fans could appreciate the old school costumes that Purple Puma and Tiger Millionaire wore, the ploy to make them the rebels of the ring, and then their opponent’s looking like Christian and Edge—tell me the Good Looking Gang wasn’t modeled after those WWE Superstars?

A quick note, one thing a show can do to make it worth watching is be quotable and Steven has had some fine one-liners in the past, but this week offered up Pearl’s explanation of wrestling—“circus of violence”—and some wonderful insight from Amethyst, surprisingly. When one of your friend’s is feeling down about what someone said about them, please feel free to use her words: “Those are just words people use to describe how they feel about you.”

Last note, what was up with Amethyst’s Purple Puma being a dude? Steven used male pronouns in her back story. It’s something to bring up since the power of the show leans more towards females with the Gems being 3/4th ladies, so why would Amethyst feel more powerful portraying a male in the ring? For those saying wrestling is a boy’s club, let’s not forget Chyna from back in the day.

John Lasseter Talks About Hand-Drawn Animation With Japanese TV Crew

Last month a Japanese TV crew traveled to Pixar where director Isao Takahata was treating the studio’s artists to a screening of his new Studio Ghibli film The Story of Princess Kaguya.

The TV show clip includes comments from screenwriter Michael Arndt (Little Miss Sunshine, Toy Story 3) and John Lasseter. Considering that Lasseter has never expressed his feelings about the qualities of hand-drawn versus computer animation, I find little moments of unrehearsed dialogue such as this to be quite revealing. In the video, Lasseter says:

“Often times when you see something that is so hand-drawn, you’re always noticing the artist and the artwork, and it’s something inbetween you and getting caught up in the story. But not this film. This was amazing how you just get swept up in the story.”

It would be irresponsible to read too deeply into the comment without more context, but it’s a fascinating statement that, on the surface, would suggest that Lasseter believes removing the hand of the artist from a production increases the audience’s identification with the story. I would love to hear him expound on these views at length in the future. Lasseter, who started in hand-drawn animation before pioneering computer animation storytelling, would have an intriguing perspective on the topic.

Charming “Ernest and Celestine” Making-Of Tumblr Comic

Possibly the only thing more charming than the Oscar-nominated Franco-Belgian animated feature Ernest and Celestine is the film’s new making-of Tumblr by one of its directors, Benjamin Renner. Updated three times per week, the Tumblr is presented in a visual format that mixes comics with animated GIFs. Renner has posted only four entries to date so it’s a perfect time to start at the beginning and follow along.

(Thanks, Tina Hsu, via Cartoon Brew’s Facebook group)

“Washed Ashore” by Jonas Ott

A castaway finds himself washed ashore a beach at the foot of a towering city. His curiosity draws him into the urban expanse he finds before him. Whilst in the city he tries to get in touch with the society.

A film by Jonas Ott
Music by Christian Aregger
Music recording by Daniel Wehrlin
Sound Design by Wouter Messelink
Made at Academie St. Joost Breda, 2012.

Artist of the Day: Shimrit Elkanati

Shimrit Elkanati

Israeli artist Shimrit Elkanati creates narrative illustrations (and some animation) in scratchy pencils and pixels, depicting both family life and office culture, as well as imaginative scenes with children and animals. Here is Shimrit’s take on a rough morning at the office, BOKER (morning):

Elkanati contributes her drawings to collaborative art zines such as the Minotaur zine.

Shimrit Elkanati

Shimrit Elkanati

Shimrit Elkanati

See more of Elkanati’s work, including recent illustrations for the New York Times, on her Flickr and Facebook accounts.

Shimrit Elkanati

Shimrit Elkanati

Shimrit Elkanati

Shimrit Elkanati

“Frozen” Tops “Finding Nemo” To Become All-Time Highest-Grossing Original Animated Pic

Surpassing even the most generous box office predictions, Disney’s Frozen continues to shatter records. Moving up one spot from fifth to fourth place, Frozen scored $9 million domestically last weekend to push its total to $347.8M. That amount topped Finding Nemo‘s $339.7M gross to take the crown as the highest-grossing original animated movie in history (excluding re-release grosses).

Combined with a $20.2M overseas gross, Frozen was the number two film in the world last week, trailing only The Wolf of Wall Street. The film’s international cume is $462.5M and its global total is $810.3M. With China and Japan releases still to come and a sing-along version opening in the U.S. next weekend, the film could yet surpass $1 billion and overtake Despicable Me 2 as the top-grossing animated pic of 2013.

In its second U.S. weekend, The Nut Job dropped a respectable 37% to third place with an estimated $12.3 million. The film has grossed $40.3M, good enough to assure itself a sequel.

Two weekends ago in China, animation held the top two spots at the box office with Despicable Me 2 and Boonie Bears. They didn’t hold the top spots last weekend, but both films played well with Despicable Me 2 earning $5M and pushing its Chinese total to over $40M, and Boonie Bears collecting $4M for a $24M total.

New “Maleficent” Trailer Features Lana Del Rey

This new trailer for the Angeline Jolie-starring Maleficent debuted last night during the Grammy Awards broadast. Disney’s everything-and-the-kitchen-sink approach to dark fantasy now includes loads of VFX spectacle, monsters galore, and a creepy Lana Del Rey cover of the Sleeping Beauty tune “Once Upon a Dream.” We predict audiences will eat it up.

“Multiply” by Emily Eckstein


An exploration of design, composition and music using a minimal amount of cycling frames to produce a variety of motions.

Designed and animated by Emily (Henricks) Eckstein
Musical composition: Sherri Chung
Walking man: Jamey Eckstein
Made at University of Southern California, 2009.

Artist of the Day: Anne Laval

Anne Laval

Anne Laval studied at École Supérieure des Arts Décoratifs de Strasbourg. She illustrates picture books and other work using colored pencils, watercolor washes and printmaking techniques.

Anne Laval

Anne Laval

Even with the continuous color blending possibilities of her pencil and watercolor materials, Anne often chooses to draw color areas that are largely self contained, as in these leaf and plant designs, perhaps relating to her experience creating color separations for printing processes. The resulting images have a high-eyeball-impact color style.

Anne Laval

See more work from Anne on her website.

Anne Laval

Anne Laval

Anne Laval

Anne Laval

Anne Laval

Cartoon Network Pulls “Too Sexy” Powerpuff Girls Comic Book Cover

Cartoon Network has pulled the plug on a controversial Powerpuff Girls comic book variant cover that was intended to ship next month from IDW Publishing. The cover, drawn by Mimi Yoon, was planned for the sixth issue of the series.

According to ICv2, some of the controversy surrounding the cover began after comic book retailer Dennis Barger Jr. posted on Facebook:

“Are we seriously sexualizing pre-teen girls like perverted writing fan fiction writers on the internet???? is that what this shit has gotten to? DISGUSTED”

IDW’s vice president of marketing Dirk Wood responded on Facebook to Barger:

“That was actually a Cartoon Network mandated cover, by an artist of their choosing. I think they were thinking of it more along the lines of ‘female empowerment’ than the kind of thing you guys are talking about, but certainly, we’re sensitive to the issues here. We love making comics for kids, and always want them to be appropriate. For what it’s worth, CN has been a great partner in that regard… I know an 8 year old and 10 year old really well, and always look at these kinds of things through their eyes… Half of the employees have kids here, and we pride ourselves in making comics they’ll enjoy and not give them a warped view of the world (except, you know, in a good way). Anyway, I certainly see your points, and we’ll be sensitive to these things, as I think we mostly have been.”

Following that exchange, Cartoon Network Enterprises, the licensing and merchandising arm of Cartoon Network, confirmed to ICv2 in a written statement that they would no longer release the cover:

“In conjunction with our licensing partners, Cartoon Network Enterprises from time to time works with the artist community to reimagine and reinterpret our brands using their talents and unique points of view. This particular variant cover for The Powerpuff Girls #6 from IDW was done in the artist’s signature style and was intended to be released as a collectible item for comic book fans. We recognize some fans’ reaction to the cover and, as such, will no longer be releasing it at comic book shops.”

The controversy stems in large part from Cartoon Network’s own inconsistent branding of the franchise. They still describe the characters on their website as “three super-powered little girls out to save the world before bedtime.” But Yoon’s cover takes its creative cues from the officially licensed Japanese spinoff series Powerpuff Girls Z, in which the Powerpuff Girls are older and more provocatively dressed. CN’s attempts to extend the franchise has muddied the audience for the show with no clear sense of who the characters are intended for anymore.

“Tussilago” by Jonas Odell

West German terrorist Norbert Kröcher was arrested on March 31, 1977. He was leading a group planning to kidnap politician Anna-Greta Leijon. A number of suspects were arrested in the days following. One of them was Kröcher’s ex-girlfriend, “A”. This is her story. Tussilago is a short film based on documentary interviews, starring Malin Buska and Camaron Silverek.

Directed by Jonas Odell
Produced by Linda Hambäck & Niklas Adolfsson
Interviews: Richard Dinter
Director of Photography: Per Helin
Music: Martin Landquist
Sound design: Fredrik Jonsäter
Production manager: Malin Marmgren
Hair and make up: Rebecka Rissanen
Animation: Per Helin, Marcus Krupa, Johan Sonestedt, Martin Nyberg, Susanne Sturesson, Mikael Lindbom, Jakob Bastviken, Lindor Tidäng, Kaspar Christophersen
Produced by Filmtecknarna F. Animation AB in coproduction with Film i Väst and Sveriges Television AB, with support from the Swedish Film Institute, Andra Lasmanis and Nordic Film and TV fund, 2010.

Walt Disney Wants to Sell You A Cadillac

After all of the recent Walt Disney mudslinging, it’s nice to see a positive mention of the man, even if that positivity happens to be in the form of a TV commercial trying to sell you a luxury automobile.

To promote its new 2014 Cadillac CTS Sedan, GM created a spot celebrating American innovators who have launched big ideas and companies from garages. Walt Disney’s humble launch of the Disney studio out of his uncle’s garage is featured alongside other garage-bred individuals and companies: the Wright brothers, Amazon.com, Hewlett Packard, Mattel, and the Ramones.

What I appreciated about the spot is that most of the garages shown, including Disney’s, are accurate representations of the actual garages used by these people. When the image of Walt’s garage appears, the street address shown is 4406. That refers to 4406 Kingswell Avenue in Los Angeles, the home of Walt’s uncle, Robert, which is where Disney launched his first Los Angeles studio in 1923.

While the Disney garage shown in the commercial is no longer located on Kingswell Avenue, it has been preserved and placed on public display at the Garden Grove Historical Society’s Stanley Ranch Museum. Here it is in its current state:

(Disney garage photo via You-are-here.com)

Artist of the Day: Guillaume Fesquet

Guillaume Fesquet

Guillaume Fesquet is a French artist who works in visual development on animation productions. He currently works at Illumination Mac Guff in Paris, but in 2012, he worked as a trainee at Walt Disney Animation Studios. He posted some of the work that he made there such as these early Frozen concepts:

Guillaume Fesquet

Guillaume Fesquet

Here is Fesquet’s 2011 demo reel:

Guillaume’s studies have a strong sense of atmosphere. With simple digital brush strokes and savvy color choices, light appears to filter through murky particles and focuses attention on objects while dark areas frame the composition. Everything is done in service of strengthening the mood.

See more work on Guillaume’s blog and 2011 portfolio site.

Guillaume Fesquet

Guillaume Fesquet

Guillaume Fesquet

Guillaume Fesquet

Guillaume Fesquet

Disney Animation To Launch Artist Showcase Book Series

The personal styles of individual animation artists will be front and center in a new book series being prepped by Disney Publishing. The Walt Disney Animation Studios Artist Showcase series will feature artwork by artists currently working at the studio. Unlike Disney’s movie tie-in books that are illustrated by studio artists, the stories and characters in the Showcase series appear to be original creations.

Visual development artist Lorelay Bove illustrated the first book in the series, No Slurping, No Burping!: A Tale of Table Manners, which will be released on March 4. No other titles have been announced yet. The 40-page No Slurping, No Burping! is written by Kara LaReau:

Evie and Simon always mind their manners. But sometimes, they have to mind their father’s, too! In this humorous spin on manners books, two kids teach their father everything he needs to know about mealtime etiquette. Everything is going well, until a surprise visitor arrives for dinner! Will Father be able to remember all of Evie and Simon’s lessons?

click to enlarge images below

(Images via Stitch Kingdom)