Miximal Is A Children’s App That Animation Fans Can Enjoy, Too

Animator Lucas Zanotto has released a follow-up to his Drawnimal app called Miximal. It’s a traditional mix-and-match style children’s game in which different combinations of animals can be created by swiping left and right. Well-designed bits of animation accompany each section of the animal (head, torso and feet), and when all three pieces align into a complete animal, the creature peforms a short act.

The animation is packed with effortless charm, and accompanied with fun sound design by Ulrich Troyer. If one could lodge a complaint, it might be that the app doesn’t quite fulfill its educational initiative because it teaches children incorrect pronunciation of certain words. In the English version (one of five options on the app), the narrator turns the two-syllable word penguin into a three-syllable word, and breaks up the syllables in crocodile as croc-o-dile instead of the correct cro-co-dile.

But if you don’t have kids—or don’t care whether your kids pronounce animal names properly—this app is a no-brainer at $2 on the iTunes store. Zanotto released the app through his new company Yatatoy.

Masaaki Yuasa’s ‘Ping Pong’ Series Looks Incredible

Table tennis sounds like just about the last thing that needs an animated series, but leave it to the Japanese to make the sport as exciting as a superhero action-adventure series. This is our first extended look at Ping Pong, a new 11-episode animated series by Japanese director Masaaki Yuasa (Mind Game, The Tatami Galaxy) that will debut April 10th on Fuji TV’s late-night noitamina block. French audiences can see the series simulcast on Wakanim.

An adaptation of a mid-1990s manga by Taiyō Matsumoto (Tekkonkinkreet), the quirky table tennis-themed story was also adapted as a live-action feature in 2002. Tatsunoko Production is producing the animation. Key crew includes Nobutake Ito (character design), Kevin Aymeric (art director), Kunio Tsujida (color stylist), and Kensuke Ushio (music).

It’s hard for me to look at the trailer and not be awed by the absolute artistic mastery on display. What we see here are not cartoon characters, but stylized figure drawings in motion. Yuasa and crew know how to draw, and they put their skills to use by staging a cinematic space with forceful compositions from the unlikeliest angles:

The watercolor and wash backgrounds feel organic and painterly. They create a palpable sense of place without intruding on the action:

And who needs full animation when stylized animation can be used to create such dynamic, exciting motion:

Artist of the Day: Matte Stephens

Matte Stephens

Matte Stephens is an artist based in Peterborough, New Hampshire who paints in a style that is influenced by, in his own words, “mid 20th century industrial and graphic design like the work of Charles and Ray Eames, Alexander Girard, George Nelson/Irving Harper and fine artists of the same era like Ben Shahn and Paul Klee.” Stephens works mainly with gouache as his paint of choice, and uses an earthy color palette and simple painted textures and patterns that transport the viewer to a bygone era. See more work from Matte on his blog and Flickr.

Matte Stephens

Matte Stephens
Matte Stephens

Matte Stephens

Matte Stephens

Matte Stephens

Matte Stephens

Matte Stephens

Disney’s ‘Aladdin’: The Broadway Musical vs. The Animated Film

After three years of tryouts and short runs in a total of four different cities, Disney Theatrical’s version of Aladdin finally opened on Broadway March 20th at the New Amsterdam Theatre. It is the fifth Disney animated movie to be adapted for the Broadway stage (Beauty and The Beast, The Lion King, Tarzan and The Little Mermaid precede it) and with The Hunchback of Notre Dame, The Jungle Book, Alice in Wonderland and Frozen in various phases of development, it certainly won’t be the last.

So now that it’s here, how does it compare to the animated Aladdin we all know and love? After seeing the musical a few days ago, here are my observations. (Spoilers ahead.)

Story & Songs

The story is a mash-up of the movie version and an earlier version that songwriters Alan Menken and the late Howard Ashman wrote after working on The Little Mermaid. In their version, Aladdin, much to the chagrin of his mother, is a busker who spends the days singing on street corners with his three layabout buddies Babkak, Omar and Kassim. In the Broadway version, Aladdin and his friends are thieves who are trying to go legit by becoming street performers. While the addition of these characters leaves no room for Abu the monkey, Aladdin’s three friends are one of the most entertaining elements in the musical.

All of the songs from the movie are featured, alongside four new ones written for the stage by Chad Beguelin, and three of the songs cut from the original treatment, “Babkak, Omar, Aladdin, Kassim” (performed above at the 2011 Seattle tryout), “High Adventure,” and “Proud of Your Boy,” a ballad that Aladdin sings to his mother. You may remember the latter as the song from a segment in the deleted scenes of the Waking Sleeping Beauty DVD, where storyman Ed Gombert breaks into tears trying to explain why no one wanted to see it cut from the film. It’s nice to see Aladdin (played by Adam Jacobs) finally get to sing the song to his mother. Unfortunately, he sings it to her in absentia, because she is dead—poor lady just can’t seem to catch a break.

A Genial Genie

The Genie opens the show with the song “Arabian Nights,” but doesn’t return until towards the end of Act One where he kicks, flips, and riffs his way through a show-stopping version of “Friend Like Me.”

In lieu of a shapeshifting cartoon character with the voice of Robin Williams, they put everything into the rapid-fire sass of James Monroe Iglehart, who, with the help of some pyrotechnics, lighting tricks, and sleight of hand, manages to inject much needed energy into the show. Iglehart replaces the celebrity impersonations of the original Genie with pop culture references, self-aware commentary, and other fourth-wall breaking shenanigans. He even joyfully transitions “Friend Like Me” into a medley of popular songs from Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Lion King and Pocahontas in a soulful style reminiscent of James Brown.

Princess Jasmine

In David Koenig’s book Mouse Under Glass, he recounts that the film’s writers Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio wrote Princess Jasmine in such a heroic and purposeful way that it all had to be cut out because she was overshadowing the lead. This new version of Jasmine (Courtney Reed) could have benefitted from some purpose, since they’ve removed so many elements from her arc—her father being hypnotized, an overprotective tiger, vamping it for Jafar to help Aladdin—that she’s just a stubborn princess who runs away from home. Her most interesting moment is when, during the heat of her frustration with having being forced to marry, she threatens her father with the idea that she can rule Agrabah alone, without a husband.

When you compare the musical’s grand production numbers with Bollywood-influenced choreography and numerous quick changes, even Jasmine’s songs are unimaginative. During “A Whole New World,” Aladdin and Jasmine are hoisted onto a carpet—a non-sentient one—and they float around in front of a humdrum bed of stars and a giant full moon for what feels like ten whole minutes. At one point, the moon turns into the Earth and you’re left to wonder, “Are they… in outer space?”

Better The Devil You Know…

They really could not have gotten a better actor to impersonate the villainous vizier Jafar, because the actor who plays the role, Jonathan Freeman, also voiced the character in the original film twenty-two years ago. Andreas Deja, Jafar’s supervising animator, reportedly designed the look of the original character based on the actor/singer’s bellowing voice before ever meeting him in person. It’s too bad that the voice is all that Jafar has going for him; his scenes do not expand upon his motivations and are often stolen by the scenery-chewing Iago (a human, not a parrot, played by Don Darryl Rivera). Apparently, a version of the Menken/Ashman/Tim Rice song “Why Me?” was originally in the show at some point (below), but it didn’t make it to Broadway. Instead, once Jafar gets a hold of the lamp, he squanders his wishes (“I wish to make Jasmine my slave!”), spits out a reprise to “Prince Ali,” and experiences a comeuppance that is wholly anti-climactic.

‘Frozen’ Just Became The Highest-Grossing Animated Film Ever

This weekend, Disney’s Frozen became the highest grossing animated film of all time. Its $1.072 billion worldwide gross has surpassed the $1.063 billion of Toy Story 3, which was the previous record-holder for biggest animated feature. Frozen now ranks number 10 on the all-time list of highest-grossing films. The film has has earned an estimated $398.4 million at the domestic box office and $674 million internationally.

Disney has provided us with some fun facts about how much money Frozen has raked in:

Frozen is the first billion-dollar film for Walt Disney Animation Studios and its first film to receive the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. Frozen opened wide domestically on November 27, 2013, posting the #1 all-time Thanksgiving debut ($93.6M five-day, $67.4M three-day) and Walt Disney Animation Studios’ biggest opening ever. It remained in the top 10 films at the domestic box office for 16 consecutive weeks, the longest run by any film since 2002.

Internationally, Frozen is the biggest Disney or Pixar animated film of all time in 27 territories, including Russia, China, and Brazil. In Korea, where the film has grossed an estimated $77.1 million, Frozen was #1 for the first five weeks of release and is the biggest animated film, the second biggest non-local film, and Disney’s biggest release of all time. It’s also the highest-grossing animated film of all time in Denmark and Venezuela. Since its debut March 14 in Japan, Frozen has claimed the #1 spot in its first three weekends and continues to play strongly with an estimated $50.5 million to date.

Released on digital February 25 and on disc March 18, Frozen is the fastest-selling digital release ever and sold over 3.2 million Blu-ray/DVD units in its first day, putting it on track to be one of the biggest home entertainment sellers in a decade.

The Platinum-certified Frozen soundtrack returned to the #1 spot on the Billboard 200 album chart last week for a seventh time with more than 1.6 million copies and over 5 million individual tracks sold. The album has also held the #1 position for five nonconsecutive weeks at Spotify and is approaching 110 million streams worldwide. The Oscar-winning song “Let It Go” has sold over 2.6 million copies, and the film clip of the song has been viewed over 160 million times on YouTube.

Here are the estimated results of this weekend’s animated films at the domestic box office:
#4: Mr. Peabody & Sherman ($9.5M weekend/$94.9M total)
#11: The Lego Movie ($3.1M weekend/$248.3M total)
unknown ranking: Frozen ($348,000 weekend/$398.4M total)
unknown ranking: The Nut Job ($322,000 weekend/$63.1M total)
unknown ranking: Ernest & Celestine (numbers will be released on Monday)

‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ And A Thought on The Hyper-Grotesque

With the entire Internet already yakking about the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles trailer, it hardly seemed necessary to bring it up here. But for the sake of posterity, here is the trailer for the Jonathan Liebesman-directed film, which will open on August 8th:

Unlike many online commenters, I wasn’t bothered by the visual appearance of the Turtles, nor did it even merit an eyebrow-raise because they look and feel similar to most every other creature that has appeared in films and videogames over the past decade. I haven’t found any good term to describe this new aesthetic, but I personally refer to it as the hyper-grotesque:

Filmmakers and game producers are still learning to harness the vast (and ever-increasing) possibilities of digital technology, and in many cases, their creative instincts are overwhelmed by the abundance of choice. Whether it’s CGI Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Peanuts, Mr. Peabody & Sherman, or even an original idea, these projects are guaranteed to be slathered in an unwieldy amount of rendered detail.

It’s hard to view the hyper-grotesque as anything more than a novelty act with each producer attempting to outdo the other by adding as much detail as allowed by their budget and the current state of technology. At some point, audiences may tire of the illusion, though the consistent decades-long financial success of this entertainment style suggests that hyper-grotesque digital art is unlikely to peak anytime soon.

Second Season of Mickey Mouse Shorts Will Debut in April

A second season of Mickey Mouse shorts will begin airing April 11th at 9pm (ET/PT) on the Disney Channel. Each new short will be available the day after its cable premiere on WATCH Disney Channel, Disney.com, iTunes, and YouTube. Some of the shorts will be Minnie-centric this year, such as Eau de Minnie, in which Minnie’s new perfume takes over the city. No word on how many shorts will be in the second season, but the first season, which debuted last March, totalled 18 shorts.

Here is a preview of the second season opener Cable Car Chaos:

Season two will be led by the same creative team: Paul Rudish, who exec produces and directs some of the shorts, Clay Morrow and Aaron Springer as lead directors, and Joseph Holt as art director.

These Mickey shorts are a quirky project. Most of them are under four minutes in length, which is an unusual format for any studio to be using nowadays, and they don’t seem to fit into any overall Disney strategy for classic characters. Whatever the thinking is behind them, I’m happy they exist because the best ones in the bunch rank among the funniest and most appealing studio shorts produced in modern times.

The shorts are packed with personality and a point of view, elements that were lacking in the more high-profile Oscar-nominated theatrical Mickey short Get A Horse! Lacking the budget of the latter for full animation, these shorts manage to exhibit fine craftsmanship of a different kind, with custom expressions and poses for each cartoon, sharply-timed gags, and gorgeous (although occasionally discordant) backgrounds.

To their credit, the team producing the shorts has a confident contemporary take on Mickey and the gang and is unafraid of trying new things. In one of the later first season episodes, Flipperboobootosis, there’s an impressively ridiculous gag that keeps going and going, and ends up lasting for fifty seconds. In Bad Ear Day, we, the audience, only hear muffled sound after Mickey loses his ears. One of the tamest (and sweetest) shorts from the first season, O Sole Minnie, is presented in Italian. These playful gags push the form in a way that is all too rare in mainstream TV animation nowadays.

There’s still room for improvement. Hopefully in the second season, we’ll see more comic exchanges between characters, instead of the first season’s overreliance on frenetic action sequences with questionable comic payoff. In too many of the shorts, characters pursued random objects or otherwise avoided each other, and thus neglected one of the most effective devices for creating comedy, which is shoving characters into each other, both figuratively and literally.

‘Ernest & Celestine’ Expands Theatrically Today, Plus Signed Poster Giveaway

The Oscar-nominated French animated feature Ernest & Celestine, which is being rolled out theatrically across the U.S. over the next few months, has its first significant expansion this weekend. To celebrate the film’s release, GKIDS and Cartoon Brew are giving away a special poster signed and drawn on by the film’s co-director Benjamin Renner. To enter the giveaway, visit this page.

Both the subtitled and dubbed versions will be released in the United States. The dubbed version includes the voices of Forest Whitaker, Lauren Bacall, Paul Giamatti and William H. Macy. The film is getting raves wherever it opens, like the following reviews in the Boston Globe and Seattle Weekly. After 46 reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, it boasts an almost perfect 98% positive critic’s rating.

Today, the film opens in the following cities:

*This post is sponsored by GKIDS.*

‘Dexter’s Lab’ Comic Will Be Published by IDW

Next month, IDW, the publishing company that partnered with Cartoon Network last year for the comic book revivals of The Powerpuff Girls and Samurai Jack, will be adding Dexter’s Laboratory to their library of monthly titles.

The comic book will feature new adventures of the eponymous prepubescent super genius defending his top-secret lab from his hyperactive older sister Dee Dee. It will be written by Derek Fridolfs (Batman: Li’l Gotham) and drawn by Ryan Jampole (Mega Man).

“As someone who grew up with an older sister I fought with, I feel a certain kinship to Dexter (I’m still working on the boy genius part),” said writer Fridolfs. “I’ve always enjoyed the clever stories and look forward to helping Dexter achieve success, even despite himself.”

The creator of the series, Genndy Tartakovsky, has a full slate at busy at Sony Pictures Animation and will not be involved in the comic. Tartakovsky created the character for a student film that he made while attending CalArts, and produced the first professional Dexter’s Lab short for CN’s shorts showcase World Premiere Toons in 1995. The series premiered the following year and ran for 78 episodes as well as a made-for-television movie.

‘Doctor, My Son is an Animator’ by Marcos Magalhaes

Watch the film here!

“He doesn’t play football… he’s only drawing, all the time. What’s his problem, Doctor?” Only a specialist can find out… Real animators were asked to give their animated and live action testimonies about their childhood as animators. It is indeed a strange condition…

Director, Producer, Writer: Marcos Magalhaes
Cast: Luis Magalhaes, Raissa Laban, Rosaria, Marcos Magalhaes, Michaela Pavlatova, Ennio Torresan, John Weldon, Fabio Yamaji, Juan Pablo Zaramella
Director of Photography: Jacques Cheuiche
Editor: Leonardo Domingues
Sound: Heron Alencar, Mino Alencar
Music Composer: Helio Ziskind, Ivan Rocha
Art Director: Tetê Amarante

(via Javier Prado on Cartoon Brew’s Facebook Group)

Patreon Offers a New Way to Crowdfund Animation

There are countless crowdfunding sites nowadays, but none have offered a viable alternative that challenges Kickstarter and Indiegogo’s dominance. Patreon may change that though. The crowdfunding site offers a smart twist on the crowdfunding model that may prove attractive to filmmakers who want to produce content regularly.

What sets Patreon apart is that backers don’t pay toward the completion of a single project, but rather they become patrons of a specific creator by contributing a much smaller amount on a regular basis. For example, if you’re a filmmaker who regularly releases new content on-line, you can create a campaign so that backers will pay you a buck or two every time you post a new work.

The most recent high-profile animation artist to join Patreon is Jason Steele, the creator of YouTube hits like Charlie the Unicorn and Llamas with Hats. Although Steele’s production company FilmCow has nearly 1 million subscribers and 325 million views on its YouTube channel, Steele is struggling to make money from YouTube thanks to changes the Google-owned streamer has made recently. Steele writes:

Most of the money FilmCow makes to sustain itself comes from YouTube ad revenue. This has allowed us to earn a living independently producing videos since 2009, however over the last couple of years YouTube has implemented some problematic site changes that have made things much more difficult for us. Most severe of these changes is the way our videos reach, or rather don’t reach, subscribers. Unless you click on the “My Subscriptions” tab (and most people do not), there’s only a short window of time in which new videos from people you’re subscribed to will show up on your YouTube homepage. The result of this is that even though we have about a million subscribers, fewer subscribers are seeing our releases than back when we had a tenth of that.

This isn’t as big of a problem for people who release very frequent content. If you’re a vlogger or commentator putting out a new video every day then something you’ve released will almost always be visible to your subscribers. For people who produce scripted or animated content with a (very) small team, however, that sort of release schedule just isn’t possible.

When FilmCow releases a new cartoon the views drop dramatically after the first 24 hours, and most of our subscribers aren’t even aware that something was released. 200-300 thousand views per video is fantastic when you can release multiple times a week, but when it takes one or two weeks to create a video those sorts of numbers are no longer profitable.

Steele’s Patreon campaign, which launched today, currently has 22 patrons who are contributing a total of $87 per video. That means that Steele’s average donation amount is currently $3.95 per video. Without the high pledge amounts that are normal on Kickstarter campaigns, filmmakers on Patreon can spend more of their time creating content rather tha fulfilling exorbitant backer rewards. The rewards that Steele offers are well suited to the amount of money he’s asking for: $1 per video gains behind-the-scenes access to the production of the films, $3 per video gets audio commentary, $5 per video gets an additional commentary track for older films, and $10 per video gets access to a live stream of a Q&A session every two weeks. (The Patreon model works in favor of the backers, too, since they are guaranteed to receive a new film whenever their bank account is charged, unlike Kickstarter/Indiegogo in which you pay the creator without a guarantee that the project will ever be completed.)

So far, webcomic artists have had better success with Patreon than animators. Zach Weinersmith receives $7,871 per month from 2,927 backers to create his online comic Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal while Meredith Gran is currently earning $1,377 per month from 398 patrons to create Octopus Pie.

Patreon’s user interface still needs work. For example, its search function is all but nonexistent, which makes it difficult to discover creators on the site. Also, its small userbase means that the only creators who will benefit from it at this point are those who come to the site with a pre-existing fanbase. Further, like Kickstarter, Patreon charges creators about 8% commission (5% to Patreon and 3% for credit card processing), which is far too high, in my opinion. A reasonable total commission for a service of this nature would be in the 5% range.

Those issues aside, Patreon is developing an innovative subscription-oriented approach to crowdfunding that merits a closer look from animators who create content on a regular basis. Their set-up also pushes us one step closer to micro-payments, which is where I believe all of this will eventually end up.

(Thanks, Aryeh Zucchini, via Cartoon Brew’s Facebook Group)

‘Tom and Jerry Show’ Premieres April 9 on Cartoon Network

The Tom and Jerry Show will premiere Wednesday, April 9th, at 5:30pm (ET/PT) on Cartoon Network. It’s being pitched as “a fresh take on the iconic frenemies that preserves the look, core characters and sensibilities of the original theatrical shorts.” Unlike the original 6-7 minute theatrical shorts, which were produced during the 1940s-’50s, the new episodes will be 11-minutes each.

The show is exec produced by Warner Bros. Animation exec (and former Cartoon Network vice-president) Sam Register, and produced by Warner Bros. Animation in conjunction with producers Darrell Van Citters and Ashley Postlewaite at Renegade Animation.

This new series obviously can’t hold a candle to the original theatrical shorts by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera, but one would expect that it would at least match or exceed the quality of the last reboot with these characters, Tom and Jerry Tales, which premiered in 2006. Sadly, from the looks of the sizzle reel above, it doesn’t appear to come close.

The preview that Warner Bros. has released is an aesthetic trainwreck from top to bottom. The characters lack any sense of volume, construction, or appeal; the animation and gags are poorly timed to the point of being illegible; and the art direction and layout is amateurish beyond description. How does a layout like the following one make it through the production pipeline? It’s so awkwardly composed that the viewer doesn’t even understand Tom is lying the ground. In fact, Jerry’s body goes underneath Tom’s body which implies that Tom is somehow floating in the air:

This living room layout features a piano that defies the laws of gravity and manages to stand upright in spite of misplaced legs. One could argue that this is a stylistic choice—and it’s certainly possible to push a layout even further—but the tangent-filled and perspective-challenged drawing suggests that the person who drew this scene struggled with the assignment:

If this is Cartoon Network’s sizzle reel, I shudder to think about the stuff that’s not sizzle-worthy. What’s on display in this reel doesn’t exhibit the basic graphic competency that is expected of a professional studio production in 2014.

Animation Torrent Festival Will Debut in Chicago Next Month

The United States has surprisingly few animation festivals for a country of its size, but increasingly we are seeing smaller local events that serve as a substitute for the traditional festival experience. Animation Breakdown is an ongoing series in Los Angeles, and Chicago animation fans, who already enjoy the Eyeworks Festival of Experimental Animation, will see the arrival of Animation Torrent next month.

Animation Torrent is a one-night event that focuses on narrative shorts. The inaugural edition will take place on Thursday, April 17th, at the historic Pickwick Theate in the Chicago suburb of Park Ridge. It will be comprised of two 90-minute blocks of independent and alternative animated shorts, with the first program being appropriate for a general audience, and the second one featuring mature content.

For tickets and further info, visit AnimationTorrent.com. Below are the line-ups for both programs:

Animation Torrent Program A – 7:00PM
Fallt – Chadwick Whitehead
Dji Death Fails – Dmitri Voloshin
Green Acres – James Beck
Bless You – Philip Watts
Bam! Kapow! Meow! – Sean Malony
Hero – Jennifer Yoo
Papel – Mariel Sayuno
Bridge Wish Love – Jonathan Hance
My Heart Belongs To You – Lev Polyakov
Norm & Cory – Andrew Kaiko
Overboard – Paul Zeke
Star Light, Star Bright – Liam Newton
Baxter – Ty Coyle
Frabbits – Charlie Kothe
Monkey Rag – Joanna Davidovich
In The Beginning – Arthur Metcalf
Yellow Sticky Notes | Canadian Anijam – Jeff Chiba Stearns
Lime – Sean Carrow
Laundry Day – Jeremy Stewart
Helium Harvey – Daniel Savage
The Final Straw – Ricky Renna
The Fog of Courage – John R. Dilworth

Animation Torrent Program B – 9:15PM
(WARNING – Features some content NOT APPROPRIATE for Children)
Jimmy Loves Juice – David Yee
Two Heads – Marissa Dorman
Cow-Pokes Livin on the Edge – John Akre
Mite – Walter Volbers
Mountain Ash – Jake Armstrong
Erotic Short Stories: Infected – Bryan Brinkman
There’s An Octopus On Your Head – Ari Grabb
Old Man – Leah Shore
Wackatdoo – Benjamin Arcand
Made You Cringe: Vivian Wong – Danny Dresden
Tarzan – Signe Baumane
Got Leche? – Tim Urlacher
Domesticated – D. Bonadona
I Love You So Hard – Ross Butter
Pretending With A Patchwork Princess – Patrick Riggle
Eye In Tuna Care – John Lustig
IOA – Gabriel Mohring
The First Time Cee Cee Did Acid – Twins Are Weird
The Trip – Grande Dame
The Video Dating Tape of Desmondo Ray – Steve Baker
Erotic Short Stories: Bone Zone – Bryan Brinkman
Retreat! – Lizzi Akana
It’s Not About The Money – Zach Passero
Light Me Up – Ryan Walton

New Spots: Hermès by Julien Vallée and Honda by Smith & Foulkes

The following two spots attracted my attention for the inventive ways in which they mixed live-action with animation: “Metamorphosis” for Hermès, directed by Julien Vallée of Vallée Duhamel, and “Inner Beauty” for Honda, directed by the venerable production team of Smith & Foulkes through Nexus Productions.

Though Vallée’s Hermès spot lists an animator in the credits, its ‘making of’ video makes clear that most of it was shot in real-time live-action. Curiously, the effect still resembles animation timing. The techniques behind the Honda piece by Smith & Foukes are even more difficult to parse. It is a mix of stop motion, live-action, and CGI, seamlessly combined in novel fashion. Plenty of technical wizardry was involved in putting the Honda ad together, which makes its organic, hand-made feel all the more remarkable.

Making of

Client : Hermès Paris
Agencies : Digitas France / Publicis Et Nous
Production Company: Vallée Duhamel
Director: Julien Vallée
Art Directors: Carolyne De Bellefeuille / Eve Duhamel
Art Department: Olivier Charland / Jean-Constant Guigue / Frédéric Blouin / Ian Langohr / Clément Yeh
Assistant Director: Pierre-Olivier Nantel
Animator: Pascal Brousseau
Director of Photography: Simon Duhamel
Assistant D.O.P: Marc-André Dubois
Assistant D.O.P.: Pierre-Luc Bouchard
Camera Assistant: Dan Duranleau
Gaffer: Jean-Simon Laflamme
Compositing, post production & grade : The Workshop
Music & Sound Design : Loïc Ouaret

Making of

Client: Honda Europe
Agency: W+K LONDON
Creative Director/copywriter/art director: Scott Dungate
Production Company: Nexus
Director: Smith & Foulkes
Executive Producer: Tracey Cooper
Director of Photography: Mark Patten
Editorial Company: Trim
Editor: Paul Hardcastle
VFX Company: Time Based Arts
VFX Supervisor: Mike Skrgatic
Flame Artist: Sheldon Gardner
VFX Producer: Chris Aliano
Lead Flame: Mike Skrgatic, Sheldon Gardner
Flame: James Allen, Luke Todd, Stephen Grasso
Flare / Nuke: Matt Shires, Toya Drechsler
Nuke: Leandro Vazquez, Andre Dias, Ralph Briscoe, Ewan Callister, Sabrina Rivolta
Design/Illustration: Joe Prince
Smoke: Mike Aveling
3D: James Mann, Ben Cantor, Graeme Turnbull, Chris Wood, Mike Battcock, Poul Resen Steenstrup, Toby Winder, Stuart Turnbull
Line Production (Time Based Arts): Chris Aliano
Music+Sound Company: Factory
Sound Designer: Anthony Moore & Tom Joyce
Mix Company: Factory
Mixer: Anthony Moore & Tom Joyce

‘From Dad To Son’ by Nils Knoblich

This story exists in its basic features since the fable “The Father and His Sons” by Aesop (600 B.C.) and is told to this day in anecdotes and urban myths. In From Dad To Son we translated a written narrative into a paper crafted animation short. It’s a parable about the assignment of roles of parents and children and the conflicts of physical separation and their communication. And a response to violence of privacy by governmental institutions.

Direction & Design: Nils Knoblich
Script: Nils Knoblich & Stephan Hanf
Production: Nils Knoblich & Stephan Hanf & Kunsthochschule Kassel
Animation: Nils Knoblich, Florian Maubach, Olga Gelwer
Set and Puppet Construction: Florian Maubach, Olga Gelwer, Marie Kersting
Music Production: Georg Conrad
Violin: Josefine Knoblich
Sound Effects: Steffen Martin

Tom & Jerry Short Remade With CGI Anime Girls

This a Japanese fan-made experiment in which the 1956 Tom & Jerry short Down Beat Bear is remade in CGI with anime girls in the roles of Tom, Jerry, and the dancing bear. The characters don’t appear to be random and likely represent some part of fandom of which I’m not aware. Even lacking that context, I still think it’s a fascinating piece of work, not so much for its animation or technical merit as for its resurrection of (and reverence for) classic theatrical animation in a completely unexpected setting.

In the video below, the new version of Down Beat Bear is synced up alongside the original MGM short directed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera. The full-screen version of the CG short can be viewed here. The film was made using a fairly recent freeware PC animation program called MikuMikuDance. (There is also a more recent spinoff of the software called MikuMikuMoving.)

S. Korean Animated Films Top Holland Animation Film Festival

The 17th edition of the Holland Animation Film Festival concluded last Sunday in Utrecht, Netherlands. The winners of the top prizes for both feature film and narrative short hailed from South Korea. The feature film prize was awarded to The Fake by director Yeun Sang-Ho (King of Pigs), while the narrative short prize went to Love Games by Joung Yumi. A complete list of winners is below.

Grand Prix feature film
The Fake, Yeun Sang-ho (South Korea, Studio Dadashow, 2013)

Special mentions feature film
Cheatin’, Bill Plympton (USA, Bill Plympton Studio, 2013)

The Pain and the Pity, Philip Mulloy (United Kingdom, Spectre Design Ltd, 2013)

Grand Prix short narrative
Love Games, Joung Yumi (South Korea, Culture Platform, 2013)

Grand Prix short non-narrative
Le Labyrinthe (The Labyrinth), Mathieu Labaye (Belgium, Camera-etc, 2013)

Special mention short narrative
The Obvious Child, Stephen Irwin (United Kingdom, 2013)

Grand Prix European student film
Wind, Robert Loebel (Germany, Hochschule für Angewandte Wissenschaften Hamburg, 2013)
(Wind was previously featured on Cartoon Brew.)

Honorable mention European student film
Wile E., Christopher Holloran (Netherlands, Gerrit Rietveld Academie Amsterdam, 2012)

Grand Prix for Dutch animation
Mute, Job, Joris & Marieke (Netherlands, Job, Joris & Marieke, 2013)
(Mute was previously featured on Cartoon Brew.)

Nominations Grand Prix for Dutch animation
Boogie Woogie in Inkt en Krijt, René Adema (Netherlands, 2013)

Cruise Patrol, Bobby de Groot and Arjan van Meerten (Netherlands, House of Secrets, 2013)

Professional Award Dutch Animation
I Love Hooligans, Jan-Dirk Bouw, (Netherlands/ Belgium, Seriousfilm, 2013)

HAFF Audience Award Dutch animation
Mute, Job, Joris & Marieke (Netherlands, Job, Joris & Marieke, 2013)

Winner web competition HAFFTube
Little Freak, Edwin Schaap (Netherlands, HKU University of the Arts, 2013)

HAFF Junior Audience Award in cooperation with Eye
The Smortlybacks, Ted Sieger and Wouter Dierickx (Switserland/China, Sophie Animation, 2013)

MovieZone HAFF Award in cooperation with EYE
I Love Hooligans, Jan-Dirk Bouw (Netherlands/Belgium Seriousfilm, 2013)

Nominations HAFF MovieZone Award in cooperation with EYE
Mia, Wouter Bongaerts (Belgium, Netherlands, 2013)

Mute, Job, Joris & Marieke (Netherlands, Job, Joris & Marieke, 2013)

Artist of the Day: Skip Dolphin Hursh

Skip Dolphin Hursh

Skip Dolphin Hursh works as a designer and animator for Nickelodeon in New York. Skip uses his free time to create personal work that includes handsomely designed looping animated GIFs that invoke thoughts of toy machinery and strange cellular activity. He explains more about how he arrived at this ongoing project in an interview with Giphy.

Skip Dolphin Hursh

Skip Dolphin Hursh

Skip Dolphin Hursh

Skip Dolphin Hursh

Skip Dolphin Hursh

He posts his looping animation on Tumblr. It’s fascinating to look at the archive and compare the “notes” count on each GIF. Curiously, some GIFs have 9,000 to 12,000 notes (which in Tumblr language, means either a comment, re-blog or ‘like’), while others have under a hundred notes. What makes one loop more appealing by such a factor over others when the content of each is so similar? My initial theory was that people were responding to the loops that look like they include eyes and faces, based on the idea that people like to look at faces and find faces in abstract designs, such as this example with 12,000-plus notes:

Skip Dolphin Hursh

But that theory was proven wrong when I saw this purely abstract shape GIF with 9,000-plus notes:

Skip Dolphin Hursh

The way Tumblr is used by many users is likely a factor. Many users will see an image they like and “like” it or re-blog it, without digging deeper into the original source. If an image gains a critical mass of re-blogs, it can become much more popular than another image from the same blog by many times over. See more work from Skip including non-looping images on his portfolio website.

Skip Dolphin Hursh

Skip Dolphin Hursh

Joshua Mosley’s ‘Jeu de Paume’ Makes The 2014 Whitney Biennial

The Whitney Biennial is one of the most anticipated events in the world of art museums. Begun as an annual survey of American art in 1932, it became a biennial in 1973. Its overall purpose is to show a snapshot of the contemporary art world, often focusing on very recent works. For the art intelligentsia, it is often an excuse to complain about a) the state of contemporary art, and b) the curatorial choices made, or both—with occasional exceptions, such as the 2012 Biennial, which was met with overwhelming praise.

I’ve already written about stop-motion animation in art museums, as with the Allison Schulnik exhibit at the Wadsworth Atheneum, and now Joshua Mosley’s Jeu du Paume (2014), a three-minute long animated film, is included in the 2014 Whitney Biennial. (Other animated pieces are included in the current Biennial, too, like Jacolby Satterwhite’s Reifying Desire series.) Mosley, a professor and chair of the University of Pennsylvania’s fine arts department, has been making animated pieces in various techniques for years, and has shown at the Museum of Modern Art and the Museo Reina Sofia in Madrid, among other venues.

Jeu de Paume (the term means “palm game” and refers to a precursor to tennis) is not merely a video of a 1907 tennis game played in the court of the Chateau de Fontainebleau southeast of Paris. As described on Mosley’s website “…the video employs irregular editing rhythms, shots that stray from the central gameplay, and floating, dance-like camera movements that capture, along with the players’ action, the slanting angles of the architecture, the play of sunlight, and the visibility of the white ball against the dark court. Acknowledging that one’s concentration, both as player and spectator, ebbs and flows over the course of a match, the camera similarly responds to this idiosyncratic focus and the particularities of the environment to capture a shifting sense of human awareness.”

The set for the video is over fifteen-feet long, and represents the Fontainebleau tennis court as it stood over a century ago. The players are in period tennis costume. Mosley described to me how he achieved the complex camera work: “I performed the camera movements with a shoulder rig in an empty room with no subject in front of the camera. These camera movements were motion captured, then scaled down 13x to the size of the set. Finally, a DSLR camera was moved frame by frame in this hand-held camera trajectory by a motion control rig that I built. The puppet animation is straight forward stop motion.”

For more on Joshua Mosley, visit his website. The Whitney Biennial runs through May 25 at the Whitney Museum of American Art (915 Madison Avenue at 75th Street in Manhattan).

(Images in this post are ©2014 Joshua Mosley.)

‘Shrek is Love, Shrek is Life’ by Airplane Randy (NSFW)

An erotic parody of Shrek based on the 4chan meme Shrek is Love, Shrek is Life.

Film directed by Airplane Randy
Map: de_safehouse
Shrek model: GormlessTosser
Music: A Meaningful Moment Through a Meaning(less) Process
Narration: CatalystEXE
Intro Music: Shadowgate DeathRave OC ReMix

(Thanks, David OReilly)

Jeff Dunham and Bento Box Make Direct-to-Video Film ‘Achmed Saves America’

Ventriloquist Jeff Dunham, whose primary talent is spewing hate speech without moving his lips, has brought his shtick to animation with an hour-length animated special called Achmed Saves America. The film is based on his puppet Achmed the Dead Terrorist whose catchphrase is “Silence, I keel you!” It is currently available on DVD (we won’t link to it), and will air on TV this Friday, March 28th, on the cable channel CMT. The project was directed by animation veteran Frank Marino at Bento Box (Bob’s Burgers, Brickleberry).

The main appeal of Dunham’s comedy is that his puppets yell outdated, witless stereotypes that his racist followers wished they could say aloud themselves. In Dunham’s disgusting universe, Jews will fight to the death over a penny, Mexicans are wetbacks who should learn English, anyone gay is to be feared, and black people can only be pimps or drug-dealers. He profits handsomely by pandering to regressive assholes, the ‘country crowd’ he calls them, and he makes America a less tolerant, uglier place to live. Now he does it through animation, too.

New Season of ‘The Boondocks’ Excludes Its Creator Aaron McGruder

It was recently announced that, after a nearly four-year hiatus, the Adult Swim animated series The Boondocks would be returning on April 21st for its fourth and final season. However, any excitement that fans of the show experienced when hearing the news was cut short when they learned that the show’s creator, Aaron McGruder, would not be involved.

Adapted by McGruder in 2005 from his popular syndicated comic strip of the same name, The Boondocks follows the social misadventures of Huey and Riley, two urban black pre-teens being raised in suburbia by their eccentric grandfather. Its unapologetic ridicule of everything from conservative politics to black intellectuals has made it a source of controversy since its premiere while earning it a cult status among Adult Swim viewers.

When Sony Pictures Television, which produces the show, announced news of the final season, they simply stated, “This season was produced without the involvement of Aaron McGruder, when a mutually agreeable production schedule could not be determined.” McGruder, who is currently working on his new live-action Adult Swim show Black Jesus, hasn’t offered up details about his departure. However, all may not be well in the relationship between McGruder and the producers of the show. Both prior to and after Sony’s announcement, McGruder has posted on his Black Jesus Facebook page alleging that The Boondocks Facebook page has been “hijacked” and that he has “absolutely no control over the content being posted as of Friday, March 14.”

The result of the “hijacking” on The Boondocks Facebook page has been several re-postings of a single Los Angeles Times article announcing the new season and McGruder’s exclusion, culminating in thousands of comments from Facebook followers, which run the gamut from outrage to optimism.

Artist of the Day: Aurelie Guillerey

Aurelie Guillerey

Rennes, France-based Aurelie Guillerey uses deep saturated colors and grainy black shading to create striking images. In her narrative illustrations Guillerey has a knack for drawing unique spaces and rooms for her characters that encourage the eye to travel around and absorb the details. Guillerey’s website links back to her Flickr where you’ll find much more work generously sized for viewing.

Aurelie Guillerey

Aurelie Guillerey

Aurelie Guillerey

Aurelie Guillerey

Aurelie Guillerey

Aurelie Guillerey

Aurelie Guillerey

Aurelie Guillerey

Aurelie Guillerey

Cartoon Brew Expands Animation Coverage With Three New Writers

Cartoon Brew is pleased to announce an expansion of our extraordinary editorial staff, which furthers our commitment to covering the wide range of ideas and issues that impact the animation community.

The three new writers will each cover specific beats related to their areas of expertise: Caleb Wood (top photo, middle), who has earned quite a name for himself as a filmmaker, will discuss the work of other independent animators, as well as ideas and processes that are relevant to contemporary indie animators. Stephen Persing (top photo, left), whose posts you may have already enjoyed on the site, will explore the intersection of animation and fine art, and wrestle with the ever-blurring line between animation and other artistic disciplines.

Colin Giles, our first Canada-based contributor, will lead our new educational-initiative Cartoon Brew-ED. Colin is an animation industry veteran who currently serves as a senior animation instructor at Vancouver Film School. The new Cartoon Brew-ED subsite will be a curated guide to valuable instructional and educational resources for today’s animation artist. For now, it will remain independent of the main site, and will be available exclusively at Facebook.com/AnimationTips and CartoonBrew.tumblr.com.

Here’s a little more about each of our new members:

CALEB WOOD is an independent animation artist and moving image enthusiast. He incorporates several different mediums within his work, and aims to expand upon and promote the possibilities of animation. He received a BFA in Film/Animation/Video at the Rhode Island School of Design in 2011, and has since gone on to show work internationally and continue making animated films. He is most interested in the dynamism of the mundane and overlooked, abstract, and all things moving. Visit his Tumblr.

STEPHEN PERSING is a writer, art critic and blogger and (platonic) cartoon lover based in Connecticut. His writing has appeared in Art in America and the Hartford Courant, as well as online at McSweeney’s and Big Red & Shiny. His art blog and humor blog are updated more or less regularly. He was part of the team that executed Sol LeWitt’s “Wall Drawing #1131, Whirls and Twirls” at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art. For extreme thrills he has been known to watch Van Beuren cartoons and view Conceptual art in the same day.

COLIN GILES (@cartooncolin) is a Vancouver-based animator, filmmaker, and educator. Currently Senior Animation Instructor at Vancouver Film School, he has lectured at Siggraph 2013 and universities and workshops in Seoul and Vancouver. For over 16 years he has contributed as both animator and supervisor on a wide range of productions including Disney Interactive titles, Ren & Stimpy’s Adult Party Cartoon, Robotboy, and Thomas and Friends (linkedin). Colin has trained many future bosses now working at prominent studios such as Sony Imageworks, MPC, EA, Nerdcorps, Bardel, and Nitrogen. Connect with him on LinkedIn.

‘Chorus’ by Dvein

Created by Barcelona, Spain-based Dvein:

Chorus is a contribution to This is NOW, an exhibition that took place in Oslo, showcasing international talents in poster art and motion graphics. This project started as a poster but quickly evolved into a disturbing video with this mouthlike-character producing weird noises and fusing with the buzz of the exhibition visitors.

First Look at $2.4 Billion Oriental DreamWorks Complex in Shanghai

Last week DreamWorks revealed the first renderings of the Dream Center, a 40-acre, $2.4 billion development in Shanghai, China. Scheduled to open in 2017 (or early-2018), the site will house the Oriental DreamWorks production studio, which is currently working on Kung Fu Panda 3, as well as the world’s largest IMAX screen, eight outdoor plazas, hotels, restaurants, theaters, galleries, and tourist attractions.

Fifteen different Chinese and international architectural firms are working on designing the various spaces that will have a floor area of 5 million square feet. (For comparison, the DreamWorks Animation campus in Glendale is 6 acres and has 463,000 square feet of office space.)

The site is being envisioned as “a world-class cultural destination…comparable to New York’s Broadway and London’s West End,” according to a 2012 press release. The project was first announced publicly in 2011.

Here’s a news report from a few days ago that shows DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg and others discussing the development, and participating in a ‘ribbon cutting’ set to Pharrell Williams’ “Happy,” a song created for rival Illumination Entertainment’s Despicable Me 2.

Click on any of the images for a larger view.

The IMAX theater

Northwest view of the waterfront

Dream Center office buildings

(source: Variety/Wall Street Journal)