“Paperman” Director John Kahrs Joins Paramount to Direct “Shedd”

John Kahrs, who left Disney abruptly after winning the Oscar for Paperman, has landed at Paramount’s new animation group, where he will direct the feature Shedd.

Per Variety’s report, the concept is being kept under wraps for now, but newcomer Tripper Clancy has been tapped to write the script, which is based on an original idea from Paramount’s Film Group president Adam Goodman.

RELATED: Exclusive Interview with John Kahrs about Paperman

Paramount Animation was set up in summer 2011, following the success of Rango, as well as testy contract negotiations with DreamWorks Animation over film distribution rights. When DreamWorks chose Fox over Paramount in 2012, Paramount’s animation division took on a renewed importance. The division won’t have its first title ready until February 2015 when it releases the second SpongeBob Squarepants feature.

Prior to directing Paperman, Kahrs had animated at Pixar on such films as A Bug’s Life, Monsters, Inc., The Incredibles, and Ratatouille. At Disney, in addition to directing Paperman, he served as animation supervisor on Tangled, and animated on Bolt, Wreck-It Ralph and Frozen.

No release date has been set for Shedd.

British Animation Awards 2014 Finalists Announced

The biennial British Animation Awards have announced their slate of nominees for 2014. This year sees the introduction of two new categories: Best Voice Performance and Student Excellence; the latter stands in addition to the existing Best Student Film category, while the former led to the BBC website opening a news report with the brilliant sentence “Nighy was nominated for his voicing of a corpse in a short film.” The category for stop-motion commercials, meanwhile, has been dropped.

The awards, which are one-of-a-kind pieces of sheep-related artwork created by a who’s who of the animation communitiy, will be presented on March 7th at the BFI, Southbank. Here is the complete list of nominees:

Best Voice Performance
Morwenna Banks in Ben & Holly’s Little Kingdom: Nanny’s Magic Test
Bill Nighy in The Hungry Corpse
Tim Dann in Compost Corner

Best Long Form
Room on the Broom (Max Lang & Jan Lachauer)
The Pirates! In An Adventure with Scientists (Peter Lord)
The Snowman & The Snowdog (Hilary Audus)

Best Pre-School Series
Peppa Pig: “Mr Bull in a China Shop” (Philip Hall & Joris van Hulzen)
Q Pootle 5: “The Groobie Woogie” (Adam Shaw)
Sarah & Duck: “Bobsleigh” (Tim O’Sullivan)

Best Children’s Series
Shaun the Sheep: “The Stand Off” (Lee Wilton)
Compost Corner (Westley Wood)
Amazing World of Gumball: “The Apology” (Ben Bocquelet & Mic Graves)

Best Mixed Media Children’s
Baby Jake: “Popping Peas” (Maddy Darrall & Rafa Canales)
Num Tums: “No 5” (Steve Smith)
Get Squiggling Letters: “Letter A” (Dan Edgley & Adrian Hedley)

Best Music Video
Benjamin Scheuer: “The Lion” (Peter Baynton)
Atoms for Peace: “Before Your Very Eyes” (Andrew Thomas Huang)
Savages: “Marshal Dear” (Gergely Wootsch)

Best Commissioned Animation
NPSCC: Sarah’s Story (Moth Collective)
Apodemy (Katerina Athanasopoulou)
RSPB: Vote for Nature (Morgan Powell & Neil Kidney)

Best 2D Commercial
Barclays: “Life Skills” (Marc Reisbig)
WWF: “We Don’t Farm Like This” (againstallodds)
Mindfull” (Shay Hamias & Will Barras)

Best 2D Commercial
TSB: “The Story” (Marc Craste)
Talk Talk: “Model Britain” (Daniel Kleinman)
Honda: “Hands” (Smith & Foulkes)

Best Film/TV Graphics
Filth Credits (Frater)
BBC Olympics: “Stadium UK” (Pete Candeland)
Gumball Machine” (Damian Hook & Daniel Fuller)

Best Short Film
Marilyn Myller (Mikey Please)
Everything I Can See From Here (Sam Taylor & Bjorn-Erik Aschim)
In the Air Is Christopher Gray (Felix Massie)

Best Student Film
Anomalies (Ben Cady)
Shirley Temple (Daniela Sherer)
The Day I Killed my Best Friend (Antonio J Busto Algarin)

Student Excellence
The Laughing Policeman (Marcus Armitage)
Gutenberg (Amalie Vilmar)
I am Tom Moody (Ainslie Henderson)

Best Motion Graphics
Handle with Care (Jun Iwakawa)
Darkside (Darren Dubicki)
Apocalypse Rhyme (Oliver Harrison)

(BAA illustration by Katerina Athanasopoulou)

“The Laughing Policeman” by Marcus Armitage

“A film of life on the planks and the grit in between.”

“I had begun to notice the very strange mix of cultures in areas like this—by day they are peaceful, quaint and somewhat dismal seaside towns, but by night they change into much more youthful, vibrant and brutal landscapes,” says Marcus Armitage. “I also liked the old seaside amusements that were barely surviving from generations past. I wanted to show someone who was caught in between these two time periods and reaching the end of their time. The Laughing Policeman seemed to signify this end of an era, to both the audience and the character within the film.”

CREDITS
Film by Marcus Armitage
Made at University for the Creative Arts (UCA) at Farnham, 2012

Mr. Magoo Theatrical Shorts Coming to DVD in April

Shout! Factory has set a release date for its long-awaited (and long-delayed) DVD set Mr. Magoo Theatrical Collection: The Theatrical Collection, 1949-1959. The four-disc set, which collects all 53 UPA theatrical shorts starring the myopic Magoo, as well as the full-length feature 1001 Arabian Nights, will be released on April 22, 2014.

Sony, which owns the shorts, has digitally remastered the films from the original negatives, and twelve of the shorts will be presented in anamorphic widescreen. Our earlier reports about the set also indicated that there would be bonuses like pencil tests and audio commentaries by the likes of Emily Hubley and John Canemaker.

Between this and the 2012 Jolly Frolics set, UPA’s entire theatrical short output will now be available on DVD. And while 53 Magoo shorts can be overload for even the most hardcore UPA fan (because seriously, you can only mistake something for something else so many times before it gets tiresome), the shorts have much to offer in the way of Cartoon Modern-era character, background and color design. If the shorts are remastered to the standard of the Jolly Frolics, and there’s no reason to believe they won’t be, this promises to be one of the finest classic animation releases of 2014. Now all that’s left is for someone to release the seventy-some-odd shorts that comprise the studio’s innovative and unconventional TV series The Boing Boing Show.

Pre-order Mister Magoo Theatrical Shorts on Amazon for $31.44.

Below is the complete list of Magoo shorts that will appear on the set:
Ragtime Bear (1949)
Spellbound Hound (1950)
Trouble Indemnity (1950)
Bungled Bungalow (1950)
Barefaced Flatfoot (1951)
Fuddy Duddy Buddy (1951)
Grizzly Golfer (1951)
Sloppy Jalopy (1952)
The Dog Snatcher (1952)
Pink and Blue Blues (1952)
Hotsy Footsy (1952)
Captains Outrageous (1952)
Safety Spin (1953)
Magoo’s Masterpiece (1953)
Magoo Slept Here (1953)
Magoo Goes Skiing (1954)
Kangaroo Courting (1954)
Destination Magoo (1954)
When Magoo Flew (1955)
Magoo’s Check-Up (1955)
Magoo’s Express (1955)
Madcap Magoo (1955)
Stage Door Magoo (1955)
Magoo Makes News (1955)
Magoo’s Canine Mutiny (1956)
Magoo Goes West (1956)
Calling Dr. Magoo (1956)
Magoo Beats the Heat (1956)
Magoo’s Puddle Jumper (1956)
Trailblazer Magoo (1956)
Magoo’s Problem Child (1956)
Meet Mother Magoo (1956)
Magoo Goes Overboard (1957)
Matador Magoo (1957)
Magoo Breaks Par (1957)
Magoo’s Glorious Fourth (1957)
Magoo’s Masquerade (1957)
Magoo Saves the Bank (1957)
Rock-Hound Magoo (1957)
Magoo’s Moose Hunt (1957)
Magoo’s Private War (1957)
Magoo’s Young Manhood (1958)
Scoutmaster Magoo (1958)
The Explosive Mr. Magoo (1958)
Magoo’s Three-Point Landing (1958)
Magoo’s Cruise (1958)
Love Comes to Magoo (1958)
Gumshoe Magoo (1958)
Bwana Magoo (1959)
Magoo’s Homecoming (1959)
Merry Minstrel Magoo (1959)
Magoo’s Lodge Brother (1959)
Terror Faces Magoo (1959)

(Thanks, Anthony DiPaola, via Cartoon Brew’s Facebook group)

Pixar Makes Painterly CG: New Research Could Change The Look of Their Films

Last summer at SIGGRAPH, Pixar presented a paper offering some clues about one of the major new directions that CG feature animation is headed. The paper, “Stylizing Animation By Example,” explored how filmmakers could achieve more expressive rendering styles that disregard the perfect boundaries of computer graphics rendering and mimic traditional painting techniques.

While non-photorealistic rendering is not a new concept, the system devised at Pixar contains a level of automation and consistency that would allow a sophisticated painterly style to be scaled for feature film production. According to Michael Kass, a senior scientist at Pixar, there are two major innovations in the project: 1) temporal coherence, which is the fluidness of images from frame to frame, and 2) the control over the final look that is gained by an artist who paints individual keyframes. The full paper, as well as additional documentation, can be downloaded on Pixar’s website.

Another Pixar senior scientist Kurt Fleischer, who was the technical director of the project, explained its genesis to Computer Graphics World: “Michael [Kass] was working on image filtering when some people in production became interested in the artistic images…We experimented with different kinds of techniques that looked nice and continuous over time, but we didn’t have artist-specific control. We only cracked that in the last couple of years.”

Fleischer doesn’t identify the Pixar artists who were interested in the approach, but it bears noting that the director and art director who created the artwork for the research project were Teddy Newton and Don Shank respectively. Veteran Pixar animator Sanjay Patel created the animation of the skater. Other people credited in the paper are character shading TD Jamie Frye, production designer Ralph Eggleston, and animator Angus MacLane.

With this new technique, an artist can paint 2D illustrations over a handful of the CG keyframes (“one every 10 to 20 frames”), and the software will fill in the hundreds of inbetweens while maintaining temporal coherence and the desired painterly style. The move away from photorealism has been a longstanding goal of animation artists. David Gainey directed Fishing at PDI/DreamWorks in 1999, and more recently, John Kahrs won an Oscar for Disney’s Paperman, which explored a similar set of ideas as the Pixar paper. All kinds of rumors are being tossed around currently about upcoming Disney features that will use non-photorealistic rendering styles, and my guess is that we’re 3-5 years away until a major studio feature is released using such techniques. As for Pixar, they’ll most likely create an animated short using these rendering techniques before incorporating the technology into a feature-length project.

The elephant in the room that needs to be addressed at some point is whether changing the style of CGI to mimic traditional media is a step forward or backward for the art of computer animation. As much as some computer artists desire to eliminate the digital origins of their work, a clear and troubling division exists between CG processes devised to replicate traditional media, and a film director like Aleksandr Petrov who uses actual oil paints to create animated films. When Petrov animates in oil, the plasticity of the materials directly informs the movement of his figures. In the Pixar process, the decorative surface style is incongruously layered atop a pre-existing piece of animation. In other words, the use of different media in computer rendering doesn’t result in different animation effects because the animation is already created; it’s an utterly arbitrary aesthetic embellishment.

This dissonance between visual technique and animation remains central to the aesthetic discord in non-photorealistic rendering. While there is a certain empty attractiveness to rendering in an illustrative style, the surface seductiveness has no influence on either the film or the animation besides reducing the emotional authencity of the artwork by distancing it further from its digital roots. Perhaps that’s the goal, but it seems to me an aesthetic dead-end.

Dead-end or not, research continues apace into these rendering techniques and its impact will soon be felt in feature animation. This most recent Pixar research into stylized rendering was conducted by the following individuals, who include both Pixar employees and graduate students/PhD candidates from Stanford University, University of Toronto and University of Washington: Pierre Benard, Forrester Cole, Michael Kass, Igor Mordatch, James Hegarty, Martin Sebastian Senn, Kurt Fleischer, Davide Pesare, and Katherine Breeden.

(Thanks, Jonah Sidhom, via Cartoon Brew’s Facebook group)

Things That Didn’t Need to Be CG: Rosie the Robot [UPDATED]

A new series of ads for Brilux cleaning supplies resurrects Hanna-Barbera’s Rosie the Robot in CGI. The character is removed from her futuristic context on The Jetsons and dropped into a contemporary scene of Brazilian upper class domesticity.

It’s less a question of whether it’s well done or not, and more a question of why. Sure, there was some novelty value a decade ago when computer animated versions of drawn cartoon characters were all the rage. But do audiences still find this type of thing interesting or do creatively bankrupt ad agencies keep shoving it down our throats because they can’t come up with anything better? When you’re scraping the bottom of the barrel with Rosie the Robot and Charlie the Tuna, it might be time to come up with a new idea.

UPDATED: The creative director of the campaign, Aliwton Carvalho, has provided some valuable background info on the spots:

The story is less about Rosie or The Jetsons and more about the social revolution happening right now in Brazil. A year ago, a constitutional amendment, which extended the country domestic workers’ rights, was approved by the Parliament, causing middle class to increase participation in performing the household tasks themselves, just like it happens at more developed countries. So the main subject here is the concept and the discussion we’re trying to fuel and sponsor. So we wanted realism. At first we even considered creating a new, generic robot. Later we opted for Rosie because her personality fits the campaign speech beautifully. And, I’m sorry for that, but we also thought it would be fun to reimagine Rosie as a real thing. ;)

CREDITS
Agency: Gruponove
Creative direction: Aliwton Carvalho, Gustavo Rêgo
Art direction: Athos Bernardo, Eduardo Fialho, Ricardo Barros
Writing: Aliwton Carvalho, Ana Emília Mesquita, Lucas David, Vinícius Bandeira
Artwork: Helton Rodrigues, Horst Lambert, Jader Melo
Planning: Eduardo Breckenfeld, Marília Lacerda, Manoela Neves
Atendimento(?): Giovanni Di Carlli, Fernanda Navarro
Graphic production: Carlos “Jovem” Oliveira, Judite Campos
RTVC Production: Julia Menescal e Jéssica Paraíso
Media: Pablo Fernandes e Naciara Figueiredo
Video production: Paranoid
Scene director: Luis Carone
Executive director: Ducha Lopes
3D and post-production: Jonathan Post
Photography and image processing: Techno Image

(Thanks, Alysson Simplicio, via Cartoon Brew’s Facebook page)

Artist of the Day: Daniel Stone

Daniel Stone

Daniel Stone is an artist who works in animation and creates drawings and comics as personal work. According to the annotations of his sketchbook drawings, Bob’s Big Boy is a location where he often finds himself inspired to doodle.

Daniel Stone

Daniel Stone

Stone’s drawings show off loads of smooth style hung on solid, structured forms. See more of Daniel’s drawings on his Tumblr, his other comics-specific Tumblr that leads to mini-comics like Dog Paws, and his old blog.

Daniel Stone

Daniel Stone

Daniel Stone

Daniel Stone

Daniel Stone

Daniel Stone

Daniel Stone

Oscar-Nominated Short “Feral” Is Available Online

Filmmaker Daniel Sousa has made his short film Feral, one of this year’s Academy Award nominees, available on Vimeo on Demand. It is the only one of the five nominees in the animated short category which is currently available for online viewing. Sousa’s 12-minute short can be rented for $1 or purchased for $2. The film’s synopsis:

A wild boy who is found in the woods by a solitary hunter and brought back to civilization. Alienated by a strange new environment, the boy tries to adapt by using the same strategies that kept him safe in the forest.

10 Animated Sexploitation Features from the Sixties and Seventies (NSFW)

For a brief decade-long period in animation history, between the late-1960s and late-1970s, feature animation filmmakers cast aside their inhibitions and created films that aimed to titillate and shock audiences with the novelty of sexual cartoon imagery. Some of the films incorporated sexual content tastefully as part of a broader narrative, such as the Swedish animation/live-action combo Out of an Old Man’s Head (1968), while others like Once Upon a Girl treated their erotic contents as might be expected of a pimply fourteen-year-old hornball. The diversity of graphic approaches was impressive: some of the films made pretensions to high art (Belladonna of Sadness) while others aspired to match the energy of underground comix (Dirty Duck, Shame of the Jungle).

By the early-Eighties, the West disavowed their experiments with this type of content and returned its focus to producing safe family-oriented fare. Japanese filmmakers, on the other hand, were just getting started, and they have continued to explore mature subject matter and themes to this day. The chasm between Western and Japanese animation has never been more evident than in the feature animation category of this year’s Academy Awards: the four Western nominees are unmistakably geared towards children, whereas the sole Japanese contender, Hayao Miyazaki’s The Wind Rises, tackles challenging subject matter that acknowledges the intelligence of adult viewers.

The films in this post remind us that there was once a time when Western and Japanese filmmakers shared a common taste for pushing boundaries and exploring the boundless possibilities of animation as a narrative medium. Below you’ll find clips, trailers, and in some cases, embeds of the entire films. Plenty more can be said about each of these films, and others from the period such as the works of Ralph Bakshi, but perhaps the first step is to simply acknowledge the existence of this period in animation history.

  1. Out of an Old Man’s Head
    (1968, Sweden)
  2. Directed by Per Åhlin and Tage Danielsson

  3. 1001 Nights
    (Japan, 1969)
  4. Directed by Eiichi Yamamoto

  5. Cleopatra, Queen of Sex
    (Japan, 1970)
  6. Directed by Osamu Tezuka and Eiichi Yamamoto

  7. Do It! Yasuji’s Pornorama
    (Japan, 1971)
  8. Directed by Takanori Miwa and Shinichiro Takakuwa

    No animated clips from this film exist online. It was based on the comics of Yasuji Tanioka. The most comprehensive English-language description of the film I’ve found is on the Fantasia Festival website:

    Japanese society, in the opinion of Pusu-o, “satisfies all the urges of hunger, but not the urges of the loins.” Then again, Pusu-o is scrawny, awkward and hardly the handsomest guy in town. More to the point, in matters of a romantic nature, Pusu-o conducts himself with an absolute lack of grace, restraint and general respect for women. Not surprisingly, his sex life is an endless succession of obnoxiously over-the-top come-ons and maniacal attempts to get some action, all of which culminate in total strike-outs. Pusu-o’s own father is soon on hand to add insult to injury (the injury being the constant, gushing nosebleeds Pusu-o endures—the nasal blood geyser being Japanese cartoon shorthand for sexual frustration), and the cock blockage continues at Pusu-o’s new job as a car salesman—until a trio of older women misinterpret his advances, intended only to make the pretty Yukiko jealous. The antics continue at a later date, when the married Pusu-o is cuckolded by an horny little birdie. When the humiliated surrogate dad witnesses the sexual prowess of the tryst’s offspring, matters culminate in a finale worthy of the most bombastic Japanese tragedy.

  9. Belladonna of Sadness
    (Japan, 1973)
  10. Directed by Eiichi Yamamoto

  11. King Dick
    (Italy, 1973)
  12. Directed by Giorgio Terzi

  13. Shame of the Jungle
    (France/Belgium, 1975)
  14. Directed by Picha and Boris Szulzinger

  15. Once Upon a Girl
    (USA, 1976)
  16. Directed by Don Jurwich

  17. Dirty Duck
    (USA, 1977)
  18. Directed by Charles Swenson

  19. Historias de amor y masacre
    (Spain, 1979)
  20. Directed by Jorge ‘Ja’ Amorós

Two Indie Walt Disney Biopics Due in 2014

Did Tom Hanks’ performance as Walt Disney in Saving Mr. Banks wet your whistle for another depiction of Mr. Disney on the big screen? Then 2014 just might be your year, because two independent biopics are scheduled to be released later this year.

As Dreamers Do, directed by Logan Sekulow (God Bless Vegas) and written by Wendy Ott, is described as “an art film for families.”

“This movie is a passion project for me,” Sekulow said in a recent press release. “Since before I went into film school, I dreamed of telling a story like this. Walt has been a lifelong inspiration, and I hope to share this often-untold adventure in a unique, creative and entertaining way. I’m a hardcore Walt fan, and we will not disappoint.”

It stars Olan Rogers as Walt Disney (above), Mark Stuart and Tyler Hayes as his parents Elias and Flora Disney, Ryan Dunlap as his brother Roy and William Haynes as Disney’s friend/business partner Ub Iwerks. Country crooner Travis Tritt narrates the film. Filming began earlier this month in Franklin, Tennessee, with a spring release date planned. The production is being documented on the official Facebook and Twitter pages.

The second film, Walt Before Mickey, is based on the book of the same name by Timothy Susanin. The 2011 book was supported by the Disney family, and had a foreword written by Walt’s daughter, the late Diane Disney Miller.

Walt Before Mickey is a fresh take on a classic American ideal, exploring a part of Walt Disney’s life that little is known about,” producer Armando Gutierrez said in a press release about the film.

Alongside Gutierrez, the film will be produced by Jeff Rice and Arthur Bernstein and directed by Ari Taub. It will also feature Jon Heder (Napoleon Dynamite) as Roy Disney, Hunter Gomez (National Treasure) as animator Hugh Harman, Matt Cook as Ub Iwerks, Donn Lamkin (Nashville) as Elias, and Kate Katzman as Walt’s wife, Lillian.

Mysteriously, there does not appear to be any information on the casting of Walt himself, which seems a little odd since filming has begun and it is scheduled to debut later this year. Perhaps that information will be added to the official Walt Before Mickey Facebook page soon.

“Frozen” Producer Peter Del Vecho Wins PGA Award

Frozen notched another win tonight on the awards circuit: Peter Del Vecho won the Producers Guild Award for Oustanding Producer of an Animated Theatrical Motion Picture. The other competitors in the category were the producers of The Croods, Despicable Me 2, Epic and Monsters University.

Accepting the award, Del Vecho said:

“I worked for Disney for almost 20 years. This is the first Disney film to bear the producers’ mark.”

Frozen co-director Jennifer Lee tweeted:

Big Openings for “Nut Job” and “Boonie Bears” Prove That Audiences Just Don’t Care

It was a great weekend for subpar family CG films starring animals. Peter Lepeniotis’ The Nut Job, the first animated film released by Open Road Films, the new distribution company launched by AMC Theatres and Regal Entertainment Group, opened in third place with a robust $19.4 million. It’s a four-day holiday in the United States, so the film will have a healthy Monday gross as well. No one had anticipated the film performing so well, especially after its poor reception with both critics and audiences.

The most recent comp—a mid-budget CGI children’s animal comedy—would be Reel FX/Relativity’s Free Birds, which opened last November with $15.8M and went on to gross $55.2M domestically. As it stands, The Nut Job is on track to become the highest-grossing Open Road film yet, and a sure sign that they’ll be releasing more second-rate animated films in the future.

Frozen dropped from second to fifth place, with $11.8M (est) for a total of $332.4M. The film also added $24.6M from international territories pushing its international gross to $426.5M. The Oscar-nominated Disney film has now pulled in $758.9M globally.

In China, audiences were subjected to Boonie Bears, their equivalent of The Nut Job. Families there embraced the film, driving it to a powerful $16.2M dollar opening. That’s more than The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug grossed last weekend across 63 different territories. The Oscar-nominated Despicable Me 2, which finally opened in China last weekend with the title Super Thief Nanny 2, banked a powerful $18.4in its second frame. The Universal hit has now grossed $33.9M in China and $964.8M globally.

Damien Hirst Meets Mickey Mouse

Mickey Mouse and Damien Hirst are strange bedfellows. Hirst (b. 1965) is a multidisciplinary artist foremost in the group dubbed Young British Artists (YBAs). He burst onto the scene in the 1980s, a very promising maker of paintings, sculptures, and more. He has become extraordinarily successful, which does not necessarily mean that his promise has been fulfilled.

Hirst has never found his Mickey Mouse, that gateway to brand immortality, and his increasingly wide variety of projects—cabinets full of insects or cigarette butts, diamond-encrusted skulls, album covers for Red Hot Chili Peppers and others—show a bit of desperation. No longer able to get by on his youth, he employs a large number of assistants to produce works that cost a great deal but leave an empty taste in the mouth. Hirst is, in his own way, most recognizable and most hated among high-profile artists, much as Mickey Mouse is in terms of animation. The art market, which is all about money, loves Hirst.

Now Hirst has painted the most famous mouse in the world, a painting almost two meters tall by a meter wide, in a style close to that of his Spot paintings—meaning, spots of color on a plain background. Although somewhat resembling a character out of Rolie Polie Olie, Hirst’s Mickey is still easily recognizable. Heck, throw those ears on anything and it’s recognizable as Mickey. His eyes and nose are small black spots, his face reduced to a beige circle, with, oddly, a red spot for lips. When did Mickey start wearing lipstick? Hirst breaks his own rules for spot paintings, which require that no shade of color repeat. Though there is little chance to convey personality in such a style, there is a hint of jauntiness in Mickey’s pose that makes up for it.

Better artists have tackled Mickey Mouse, Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol being the two most famous. There is nothing radical or transgressive in Hirst’s version, with good reason; Disney commissioned the painting, to be auctioned to benefit Kid’s Company, a charity that helps inner-city children and teenagers. Its selling points are Hirst’s name and Mickey’s, which ought to equal a lot of money. Hirst has sold out before, but in this case his motives are good, and the result tarnishes neither his nor Mickey’s reputation.

The painting will be auctioned by Christie’s during their Post-War and Contemporary sale in London in mid-February, though as of this writing details have not been posted on Christie’s website.

Correction: This post misidentified an album cover created by Damien Hirst. He created an album cover for Red Hot Chili Peppers, not Lady Gaga.

Rare Animation Books and Interviews on Archive.org

Don’t miss this rare find on Archive.org: A complete PDF copy of John Halas and Roger Manvell’s book Design in Motion (1962). The book is filled with inspiring stills from both famous and obscure Cartoon Modern-era films that you’ll want to see. I talked a little bit about the book’s value to me in this post about animation reference books.

Also on that site:
How to Cartoon for Amateur Films by John Halas and Bob Privett
Animation Art in the Commercial Film by Eli Levitan
A 300-page oral history with Jules Engel
A 250-page oral history with Dick Huemer.

That’s enough reading for this weekend and then some.

Where Cartoon Brew Readers Are From: 2013 Edition

2013 was a banner year for Cartoon Brew. Our renewed focus on expanding editorial content and hiring new writers pushed the site to its best year of traffic in its ten-year existence.

Numbers matter, of course. Without readers, the site could not exist. Traffic allows us to pay writers, tech people, lawyers, salespeople, and suppliers. But there are many websites that generate the type of random traffic we don’t wish to have. As Cartoon Brew continues to grow, our aim is to attract the right kind of readers: Lovers of the art form who create animation for a living, who study animation with the seriousness that a doctor studies medicine, and who watch animation with the passion of a sports fan rooting their team to victory. In other words…you.

This morning I spent some time browsing through Google Analytics to compile a list of which studios/companies, schools, and countries drove the most traffic to Cartoon Brew during the past year. We’re long overdue on publishing such a report; the last time we did a similar post was in 2010. It’s a simple reminder that Cartoon Brew is not a mass of faceless Internet users, but a distinguished group of readers who represent the diversity and vitality of the animation community in both the U.S. and abroad.

TOP STUDIOS/COMPANIES BY TRAFFIC, IN 2013

  1. Disney
  2. DreamWorks
  3. Viacom (Nickelodeon)
  4. Blue Sky Studios
  5. Turner (Cartoon Network)
  6. Pixar
  7. Google
  8. Lucasfilm
  9. Studio B Productions
  10. Fotokem
  11. Fox Entertainment Group
  12. Mercury Filmworks
  13. Amazon
  14. Bardel Entertainment
  15. Facebook
  16. Hallmark Cards
  17. NBC Universal
  18. Electronic Arts
  19. Sony North America
  20. Curious Pictures
  21. Weta Digital
  22. Apple
  23. Mattel
  24. Red Rover
  25. Rhythm & Hues Studios
  26. Blizzard Entertainment
  27. Bento Box Animation Studio
  28. Hasbro
  29. Nerd Corps Entertainment
  30. Starz Entertainment (Film Roman)
  31. Jibjab Media
  32. Illumination
  33. Paramount Pictures
  34. Blur Studio
  35. National Film Board of Canada
  36. Stoopid Buddy Stoodios
  37. Zynga Game Network
  38. Yowza Animation
  39. Scholastic Inc.
  40. Rhythm & Hues Studio India
TOP SCHOOLS BY TRAFFIC, IN 2013
  1. Savavannah College of Art and Design
  2. CalArts
  3. Ringling College of Art and Design
  4. University of Southern California
  5. The Art Institutes International
  6. Sheridan College
  7. School of Visual Arts
  8. Brigham Young University
  9. New York University
  10. San Jose State University
  11. Rochester Institute of Technology
  12. University of California, Los Angeles
  13. California College of the Arts
  14. Edinboro University of Pennsylvania
  15. Minneapolis College of Art and Design
  16. Stanford University
  17. Loyola Marymount University
  18. Pratt Art Institute
  19. University of Illinois
  20. College for Creative Studies
  21. Cal State Fullerton
  22. Filmakademie Baden-Wuerttemberg
  23. DePaul University
  24. Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Education
  25. University of Missouri

In 2013, we had visitors from 228 countries and territories. Below I’ve listed the top forty countries, as well as the percentage of visitors from the top ten countries. Bear in mind that due to the scale of our traffic, even a fraction of a percent represents a significant amount of readership. For example, Egypt does not appear on the list below—it ranked 43rd—but they still recorded over 12,000 visits in 2013, or more than a thousand visits per month.

TOP COUNTRIES BY TRAFFIC, IN 2013
  1. US – 57.4%
  2. Canada – 7.1%
  3. UK – 6.7%
  4. Australia – 2.3%
  5. France – 1.9%
  6. Germany – 1.6%
  7. Brazil – 1.4%
  8. India – 1.2%
  9. Mexico – 1.2%
  10. Spain – 1.1%
  11. The Netherlands
  12. Japan
  13. Ireland
  14. Italy
  15. Philippines
  16. Singapore
  17. Sweden
  18. Argentina
  19. Russia
  20. Pakistan
  21. New Zealand
  22. Malaysia
  23. Belgium
  24. Indonesia
  25. Denmark
  26. Poland
  27. Norway
  28. Israel
  29. South Korea
  30. Finland
  31. Chile
  32. Colombia
  33. Turkey
  34. South Africa
  35. Portugal
  36. Thailand
  37. Hungary
  38. Switzerland
  39. Taiwan
  40. Romania

(Photo via Shutterstock)

“Penismouse” by Kristof Babaski (NSFW)

An extroverted mouse wants to play. Myszochujek (Penismouse), a playful film about control, was made in 1957 by Polish director, Kristof Babaski. The Polish Film Club have restored it and released it in 2014 in HD.

This interview with ‘archivist’ Anika Jarzynka explains how they discovered the film.

CREDITS
Director: Kristof Babaski
Music extract: “Contactor” by Lauren Sarah Hayes (Absence of Wax)
Sound Design and Mix: Keith Duncan
Thanks: Adam Gierasimiuk
Archive: Anika Jarzynka

Artist of the Day: Vince McKelvie

Vince McKelvie

Vince McKelvie creates experimental computer generated animation and publishes his work as animated GIF loops, hardware accelerated interactive animation, and rendered real-time interactive animation, all presented within a web browser.

Vince McKelvie

Vince McKelvie

The undulating, reflective objects are hard to stop staring at. Vince creates so many that he has been able to explore variations on themes in the forms and materials of his imaginary creations.

Vince McKelvie

Vince McKelvie

Vince McKelvie

Vince McKelvie

Vince McKelvie

Visit Vince’s website here and prepare to be overstimulated. Since the site is built on the Tumblr platform, you can view Vince’s posts there in the archive view, which provides a nice catalog of animated gifs to click on.

Vince McKelvie

“Despicable Me 3″ and “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” Set for 2017

Universal Pictures recently announced release dates for three upcoming films from Despicable Me producer Illumination Entertainment. The first film, untitled so far, is due out on December 21, 2016 and described as an “original animated comedy event about courage, competition and carrying a tune.” It will be written and directed by music video director-turned-film director Garth Jennings (Son of Rambow, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy) and produced by Chris Meledandri and Janet Healy.

Gru, Lucy, their precocious daughters and, of course, the Minions will return on June 30, 2017 for Despicable Me 3 , which is not to be confused with the Minion spinoff due out on July 10, 2015. And following the success of 2012 adaptation of The Lorax, Illumination will produce a new adaptation of Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas! It is being helmed by commercial animation director Pete Candeland (Gorillaz) and produced by Meledandri and Healy, with Michael LeSieur (You, Me and Dupree) providing the script, and Audrey Geisel, (Dr. Seuss’ widow) serving as executive producer. The release date has been set for November 17, 2017.

“Frozen” Wins Animated Film and Song Prizes at Critics’ Choice Movie Awards

Frozen snagged the Best Animated Feature prize tonight at the Broadcast Film Critics Association’s Critics’ Choice Movie Awards. The other nominees in the category were The Croods, Despicable Me 2, Monsters University, and The Wind Rises. The Disney film also won the Best Song award for Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez’s “Let It Go.”

Miley Cyrus and John Kricfalusi Working Together

We’ve tried—goodness knows, we’ve tried—to do everything to keep Cartoon Brew a Miley Cyrus-free zone, but she’s managed to wreck her way onto our blog after yesterday’s announcement that she was collaborating with Ren & Stimpy creator John Kricfalusi.

“His art is driving a lot of the tour,” Cyrus said of her upcoming “Bangerz” tour which kicks off next month. “Our whole tour is literally based on animals,” and will include “imaginative animals [John K has] made on his own.”

No word yet on how John’s artwork will be used, but it’s his most high profile gig since The Simpsons intro he created in 2011. John has a long history of working with musicians including the Rolling Stones, Björk, Tenacious D, and “Weird Al” Yankovic.

During Cyrus’s press conference, she said that the two of them had become friends over a dinner where John sketched her for two hours. Here are some of John’s earlier drawings of Miley that he’s posted on his blog:

(Miley Cyrus photo via Shutterstock)

Guru Studio Reveals the Secrets of Its Preschool Hit “Justin Time”

This post is presented by Guru Studio
The preschool children’s series Justin Time is currently nominated for three ASIFA-Hollywood Annie Awards: Best Animated TV/Broadcast Production For Preschool Children; Outstanding Achievement, Directing in an Animated TV/Broadcast Production; Outstanding Achievement, Storyboarding in an Animated TV/Broadcast Production.

When it comes to historical shows for kids, the road is paved with good intentions, e.g., failed attempts and short-lived concepts that, regardless of quality in design and writing, never really find an audience. So much so, the general consensus in series development is that kids and history do not mix. It’s something that Frank Falcone, president and founder of Toronto-based Guru Studio had to deal with while developing their preschool series Justin Time.

“The first response out of everyone’s mouth was that you can’t do history for kids because they don’t have a concept of time,” says Falcone. “But I thought if we could just ignore the dates and the specifics—that we just make it about ‘back then’—it could be an introduction to history in a really basic sense.” The ‘back then’ that he refers to is the vague-but-fundamental idea of time in the young mind of a preschooler. “Children may not know what time it is or what day it is, but they do have a concept of ‘before me’ and ‘where I’m going,’ which is toward ‘Mommy and Daddy,’ which is ‘I’m going to be that.’”

With two seasons completed (a total of fifty-two 11-minute episodes) and a third in discussion, the show has earned recognition within the industry, with a 2013 Daytime Emmy nomination for Outstanding Preschool Animated Program, eight Annie nominations including Best Animated Television Production for Preschool Children in both 2013 and 2014, and just this week, a nomination for Best Preschool Show at the 2014 Canadian Screen Awards. Justin Time now airs in over 70 countries on networks like Sprout, Disney Junior Canada, Discovery Latin America, and NBC Kids, where it was #1 in its time slot last year. It debuted as a streaming property on Netflix Instant early last year.

The series, which features a young boy named Justin who goes on make-believe time traveling adventures with his imaginary friend Olive and a lump of clay named Squidgy, was created by illustrator/designer Brandon James Scott. Scott originally conceived the project as an educational comedy utilizing cut-paper techniques while studying at Sheridan College, but he shelved the idea when it became “too ambitious.” Years later, while working at Guru, he dusted off the idea and pitched it to the studio. They greenlit the idea, at which time Scott began further developing the concept with Falcone and Guru vice-president Mary Bredin, who together serve as the show’s executive producers.

As the show’s development continued, they aimed for a hybrid production style, one that combined the flexibility of a CG production with the charm and appeal of a classic drawn cartoon. “We did experiments and it almost did become a 2D show,” Scott admits. “[However] we ended up going with a CG package because it allowed us more freedom to do things with the camera. It’s sort of this mixture between 2D and 3D that we came up with.”

“It’s a CG show, but the approach is absolutely 2D traditional.”
—Frank Falcone

“We considered several options like Flash,” says Falcone, “but [Flash is] pose-based, and about re-using and recycling. I thought, ‘We’re going to write some custom stories here, and they’re going to be very specific, and I want the animators who are good at acting to continue to develop their skills and their craft. Not suddenly go to a library method where they’re just pulling down some pose from a library.’ So we planned the system with Maya, but used the drawings generated in the art department without recreating them in CG. That’s our own little custom concoction. It’s a CG show, but the approach is absolutely 2D traditional.”

As show creator, Scott has been involved in every step of the production, from submitting script notes and sitting in on voice recordings to reviewing animation, but his primary role is as art director of the series. “When we have an animator that’s thinking too much with the 3D thing, I’ll just take a screen grab and do a draw-over and say, ‘This pose should be stronger,’” says Scott. “It’s not about thinking where the joints are necessarily bending in a 3D space, but how nice is the silhouette from the camera’s point of view.”

“[Working with a team is] definitely a learning experience, but I feel really lucky because we’re working with amazing artists,” Scott says, referring to the talent of crew members like Deanna Marsigliese and Sam Bradley, as well as Keith Chi Ming Lee and Paul Watling, both of whom have been nominated for Annie Awards for their work on the series.

Series director, Harold Harris, whose credits include directing the droll British series Bob & Margaret and the short-lived cult series, Clone High USA, also had a lot to say about the attention that goes into crafting the look of the show. “It goes to the sort of tenets of simplicity and composition,” Harris says. “We work hard at making the composition of the frames really clean and we are really conscious of how to use color to draw you to the story point.”

However, he is quick to point out that the significance of storytelling is just as important, if not more important than the visuals. “Sometimes it really doesn’t matter what the thing looks like – I love making things that look beautiful, but I also am willing to toss it all out in order to make something work: Keep it simple and funny, keep the quality in the story consistent, don’t cheat because it’s a kid’s show. The magnifying glass that we put on our show would be one where, as a parent, I’d want to watch it and enjoy it just as much as my kid would.”

Animation Oscar Nominations: Full Coverage

This morning, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced its Oscar nominees for the 86th Academy Awards. Below are the four races that are relevant to the animation community.

Of note, Pixar did not receive a nomination this year in either the animated feature or short category. The last time it happened at the Oscars was in 2000, a year in which Pixar did not release a short and in which the animated feature category did not yet exist. [UPDATE: Monsters University director Dan Scanlon issued a response to not being nominated.]

On a tangentially related topic, the Tom Hanks-starring Walt Disney biopic Saving Mr. Banks was almost entirely locked out of the ceremony, earning just one nomination for Thomas Newman’s original score. Anthony Breznican explained in Entertainment Weekly:

Saving Mr. Banks got shut down hard. For a long time it was considered in the top five nominees, but week after week it began to slip. The story of Walt Disney’s battle to make Mary Poppins simply did not have the endurance it needed. And it was also knee-capped just days before voting closed in a rather brutal (and factually challenged) speech by Meryl Streep last week, accusing Disney of being an anti-semite. That could easily have made the difference.

Best Animated Feature


The Croods
Directors: Kirk DeMicco, Chris Sanders
DreamWorks Animation/Fox

Nominee Statement from Co-Director/Writer Kirk DeMicco
“Today’s Oscar nomination is without a doubt the icing on the cake of an eight-year labor of love. We set out to make a film that everyone in the family—especially fathers—can relate to: a story about the power of change. You’d think as an Oscar hopeful I’d be up at 5:30 AM glued to my television, but instead I was in the nursery of my 10 month old twins experiencing the real power of change—that of diapers. This film has taken the work of over 300 talented artists at DreamWorks Animation to produce and on behalf of our entire crew, I send a huge thank-you to the Academy and raise a baby bottle in toast to our fellow nominees!”

Nominee Statement from Co-Director/Writer Chris Sanders
“The challenge of building the world of the Croods was that our reference disappeared a few million years ago. Croods was woven from pure imagination. This nomination is an acknowledgement and reward to the hundreds of artists who worked so hard to bring this very human story to life. On behalf of the entire Croods team, we wish to thank the Academy for this incredible honor.”

Nominee Statement from Producer Kristine Belson
“Wow… WOW! I’m so thrilled and so grateful to the Academy. But mostly, I’m so very proud on behalf of our incredible team of artists who crafted this film, our amazing voice cast, and most of all of our writer/directors Chris and Kirk. They made a movie that was both hilarious and moving and I feel damn lucky to be part of this remarkable team.”


Despicable Me 2
Directors: Pierre Coffin, Chris Renaud
Illumination Entertainment/Universal Pictures

Nominee Statement from Producer Chris Meledandri
“Receiving this nomination from the Academy is an incredible honor. I could not be more proud of our directors-Chris Renaud and Pierre Coffin, my fellow producer Janet Healy, our nominated songwriter Pharrell Williams and each and every member of the Illumination team in Los Angeles and Paris. It is their work that is celebrated by this recognition.”


Ernest and Celestine
Directors: Stéphane Aubier, Vincent Patar, Benjamin Renner
Les Armateurs/Maybe Movies/La Parti Production/Melusine Productions/GKIDS

Nominee Statement from Co-Director Benjamin Renner
“I was delighted to see the nomination for Ernest and Celestine. This is a wonderful recognition for our film and our team just to be nominated in the company of such other great films. It is the best achievement we could ever wish for.”


Frozen
Directors: Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee
Walt Disney Animation Studios/Walt Disney Pictures

Nominee Statement from Directors Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee, and Producer Peter Del Vecho
Frozen’s journey has gone beyond our wildest dreams. We thank the Academy for this honor and look forward to celebrating the nominations with our crew at Disney Animation today.”


The Wind Rises
Director: Hayao Miyazaki
Studio Ghibli/Walt Disney Pictures

Nominee Statement from Director Hayao Miyazaki
“I and my colleagues are deeply honored that the Academy has chosen to nominate The Wind Rises, my last film, for the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature Film. It is indeed a privilege for all of us who worked on the film to see it get this acclaim from so far away. I am, personally, very gratified to receive such an honor, and wish to express my sincere gratitude to the members of the Academy and thank everyone who has made the film such a success. I hope that many people will see the film after it opens in North American theaters soon.”

Best Animated Short Film


Feral
Director: Daniel Sousa
Producer: Dan Golden

Nominee Statement from Director Daniel Sousa
“I’m really thrilled and surprised by the nomination. It’s definitely reassuring to see that a small independent film that was produced with almost no budget and in my spare time can garner the recognition that it has. It’s proof that believing in a single vision and trusting your instincts can pay off, and hopefully the film will reach a wider audience this way. There were a lot of really amazing films this year that didn’t make it, so I have no illusions about how subjective the whole process is. But I’m enjoying the ride, and hoping that the recognition will open doors to other animators working alone in their basements.”


Get a Horse!
Director: Lauren MacMullan
Producer: Dorothy McKim

Nominee Statement from Director Lauren MacMullan and Producer Dorothy McKim
“On behalf of the small but mighty crew of hand-drawn and CG artists from Get A Horse!, we want to express our deepest gratitude to the Academy for the nomination. We hoped the short would be seen as a love letter to Mickey, to Walt and to the magic of cinema, and have been overwhelmed by the response.”


Mr. Hublot
Director: Laurent Witz
Co-Director: Alexandre Espigares

Nominee Statement from Director/Producer Laurent Witz
“It’s incredible and fabulous that our project has gone that far in international competitions. I’m at a loss for words to describe what I am going through at the moment. To be nominated among the five finalists at the Academy Awards is a consecration for myself, my co-director Alexandre Espigares, the film team, the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg and for all the people – like Stéphane Halleux – who took part in this adventure. Three years of intense and passionate work to make a dream come through. I am overjoyed that this film made in Luxembourg, made with the cooperation of the French region of Lorraine, has turned out as bearer of great hopes for the cinema in our greater region.”


Possessions
Director: Shuhei Morita

Nominee Statement from Director Shuhei Morita
“It is a godsend! We are so glad that Possessions has been nominated and will be seen by a lot of people. I’ve struggled for the past few years about, “What is my anime style?” But Possessions is a piece in which I realized that I was satisfied with myself to be able to honestly put my soul in it. With just a few staff, we brainstormed some ideas off each other to come up with this film. We are so glad that such a title is accepted in the world. We are a bit nervous but looking forward to the final awards ceremony come March 2nd.”

Room on the Broom
Directors: Max Lang and Jan Lachauer

Nominee Statement from Directors Max Lang & Jan Lachauer
“This is incredible! We tried not to think about the possibility of getting nominated and kept telling each other, this won’t happen…and now…it really did happen! We would like to thank the Academy in the name of the whole team that worked incredibly hard on making this film. This nomination means a lot to us and we’re so happy our film made it this far.”

Best Visual Effects


Gravity
Tim Webber, Chris Lawrence, Dave Shirk and Neil Corbould


The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Joe Letteri, Eric Saindon, David Clayton and Eric Reynolds


Iron Man 3
Christopher Townsend, Guy Williams, Erik Nash and Dan Sudick


The Lone Ranger
Tim Alexander, Gary Brozenich, Edson Williams and John Frazier


Star Trek Into Darkness
Roger Guyett, Patrick Tubach, Ben Grossmann and Burt Dalton

Best Music (Original Song)

“Alone Yet Not Alone” from ALONE YET NOT ALONE
Music by Bruce Broughton; Lyric by Dennis Spiegel

“Happy” from DESPICABLE ME 2
Music and Lyric by Pharrell Williams

“Let it Go” from FROZEN
Music and Lyric by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez

“The Moon Song” from HER
Music by Karen O; Lyric by Karen O and Spike Jonze

“Ordinary Love” from MANDELA: LONG WALK TO FREEDOM
Music by Paul Hewson, Dave Evans, Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen; Lyric by Paul Hewson

Congratulations to all the nominees. The winners will be announced on Sunday, March 2, 2014.