In 3 Decades, CalArts Animation Alumni Have Generated $30 Billion For Hollywood Studios

Directors who have graduated from CalArts’ character and experimental animation programs have generated over $30 billion in box office grosses since 1985. However you slice it, that’s a remarkable amount. The school has created a couple interactive charts to document the amounts, and even though the charts were ostensibly made to promote the school, they’re useful infographics in their own right that show the ballooning influence of CalArts in Hollywood, and particularly theatrical animation.

25 Cartoonists You Should Know

For the past few days on Cartoon Brew’s Instagram account, we’ve been running a series called 25 Cartoonists You Should Know—an overdue list considering that we’ve got the word ‘cartoon’ in the site’s name. The entire series is below, and yes, the list could easily be twice as long and still incomplete.

Many of the cartoonists below are better known for their work in other disciplines (fine art, caricature, illustration, animation), but to me, they were all highly influential cartoonists as well. Also, until I compiled this list, it didn’t occur to me that the canon of cartooning greats were such an international bunch, with artists from England, France, Norway, Spain, Mexico, Germany, Ukraine, Italy, and the United States.

Cartooning is perhaps the least understood of all major art movements, because of its unlikely combination of grotesque distortion/exaggeration and socio-political commentary. To push that idea one provocative step further, I think it could be argued that cartooning was a specific art movement rooted in and resulting from the uniquely turbulent qualities of the era in which it had its heyday (1860s—1940s). Today, its influence is widely disseminated and its principles have been absorbed into other disciplines, like animation, videogames, and comics, but in my opinion, the type of pure cartooning represented by the following artists simply doesn’t exist anymore, and when it does, it is a specific reference to the past rather than an original effort of its own.

(Note: The artists below are arranged by date of birth.)

1 – James Gillray (1756-1815)

2 – Thomas Rowlandson (1756-1827)

3 – Honore Daumier (1808-1879)

4 – T.S. Sullivant (1854-1926)

5 – Heinrich Kley (1863-1945)

6 – Olaf Gulbransson (1873-1958)

7 – George Herriman (1880-1944)

8 – Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)

9 – Cliff Sterrett (1883-1964)

10 – Otto Dix (1891-1969)

11 – Milt Gross (1895-1953)

12 – Boris Artzybasheff  (1899-1965)

13 – Paolo Garretto (1903-1989)

14 – Robert Osborn (1904-1994)

15 – Miguel Covarrubias (1904-1957)

16 – Rowland Emett (1906-1990)

17 – Tex Avery (1908-1980)

18 – Rod Scribner (1910-1976)

19 – Walt Kelly (1913-1973)

20 – Saul Steinberg (1914-1999)

21 – Hilda Terry (1914-2006)

22 – Vip Partch (1916-1984)

23 – Ronald Searle (1920-2011)

24 – Harvey Kurtzman (1924-1993)

25 – R. Crumb (b. 1943)

Artist of the Day: Rustam F. Hasanov

Rustam F. Hasanov

Rustam F. Hasanov
Location:
Pasadena, CA, USA
Primary media:
Digital, graphite, ink, gouache, watercolor
Education:
Laguna College of Art
Art Center College of Design
Major projects:
Visual development artist on Tim Burton’sFrankenweenie
Concept cesigner on the title sequence of Game of Thrones
Visual development artist on Guillermo del Toro’s Pinnochio and The Strain
A current untitled project at Paramount animation
More:
Instagram/Twitter/Tumblr/Blog

Rustam F. Hasanov

Rustam F. Hasanov

Rustam F. Hasanov

Rustam F. Hasanov

Rustam F. Hasanov

Rustam F. Hasanov

Rustam F. Hasanov

Rustam F. Hasanov

Rustam F. Hasanov

Rustam F. Hasanov

Rustam F. Hasanov

“Movies Are Not A Growth Business,” Admits Movie Studio Owner Jeffrey Katzenberg

Photo via Shutterstock. ©drserg

In 2011, Jeffrey Katzenberg proclaimed that moviegoing audiences would embrace 3-D and would continue to attend theaters despite higher ticket prices. Three years later, it’s obvious that his prediction was a little off.

In 2014, the percentage of moviegoers who choose to watch a film in 3-D will be at its lowest point since 3-D was reintroduced in 2008, and overall movie attendance has crumbled in the United States. In fact, over 200 million less movie tickets were sold in 2013 than in 2003. While it’s true that global box office revenue continues to grow, that has less to do with 3-D and more to do with the vast amount of new screens that have been built in countries like China, which previously did not have screen saturation.

Yesterday, at the Milken Global Conference in Beverly Hills, Katzenberg admitted that 3-D was essentially a stopgap measure to ease the eroding theatrical market. “TV is a growth business. Short form content is a growth business,” Katzenberg said. “Movies are not a growth business.” That’s a bit of a problem because Katzenberg runs a movie studio. And it’s doubly a problem for DreamWorks Animation, which has released 28 animated movies in 16 years, the most that any studio has ever released in such a brief span of time.

So, since that whole 3-D thing didn’t work out quite as planned, what will replace the theatrical experience? Katzenberg has some new ideas on how the movie market will evolve over the course of the next decade:

“I think the model will change and you won’t pay for the window of availability. A movie will come out and you will have 17 days, that’s exactly three weekends, which is 95% of the revenue for 98% of movies. On the 18th day, these movies will be available everywhere ubiquitously and you will pay for the size. A movie screen will be $15. A 75” TV will be $4.00. A smartphone will be $1.99. That enterprise that will exist throughout the world, when that happens, and it will happen, it will reinvent the enterprise of movies.”

During the conference, Katzenberg also offered the most succinct explanation for why DreamWorks has pushed aggressively in non-film directions, such as buying online channels, entering the world of character rights’ management, building entertainment complexes, and making deals for digital TV production. “I wish it was an offense move,” he said, “[but] diversity is essential for us if we want to grow the business. It can’t come fast enough.”

Disney’s Seven Dwarfs Mine Train Ride Introduces Next-Generation Audio-Animatronics

Via Cartoon Brew-ED: The soon-to-debut Seven Dwarfs Mine Train at Magic Kingdom in Orlando, Florida, promises to feature some of the most advanced audio-animatronics that the Disney company has ever produced, in large part due to a collaboration between Disney’s Imagineering and feature animation divisions. “This is the first time we’ve done a full 3-D design and delivery process on any of our audio-animatronics figures,” says Ethan Reed of Disney Imagineering. “It’s enabled us to do things with characters that we’ve never been able to do before like working with Walt Disney Animation Studios.

Meet Joyce Pensato And Her Expressionist Remixes of Cartoon Icons

Joyce Pensato (b. 1941, Brooklyn NY) has been painting cartoon characters for years. She takes icons of cartoon art—Felix the Cat, Donald Duck, Batman, Cartman from South Park—and renders them in smudgy charcoal and pastel or runny enamel paint. She works mostly in black and white, occasionally introducing silver and gold for contrast. Though her work seems grounded more in graffiti art, she actually draws from fine art history, from the likes of the Abstract Expressionists, and Philip Guston, who was also influenced by comics.

Pensato’s cartoon icons become doubly iconic—images of images, removed another step from their origin in a way that Andy Warhol might have approved of. Pensato’s mice and ducks are not mere copies though, but rather, her own expression, both innocent and disturbingly sinister, more subtly deviant than any deviantART image. Likenesses vary; in one work Mickey Mouse might be potrayed in a childlike fashion, and in another resemble the creepy monkey-in-a-mouse-suit from Babes in Toyland (1934). She works over her charcoal until the changes show as ghostly palimpsests; drips of enamel form scrims down her paintings.

“Punk Homer,” 2012, enamel on linen

Pensato’s work, which is in the collection of the Musem of Modern Art, has received extensive recognition in the art world including the Guggenheim Fellowship (1996), the Pollock-Krasner Foundation Award (1997), and the Robert de Niro, Sr. Prize (2013). Her first museum survey, cheekily entitled “I Killed Kenny” (yet another animation reference), debuted last year at the Santa Monica Museum of Art, and ended its second run this month at the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis. Given the chance to take on the white box that is the classic form of a contemporary art gallery, she brings chaos to it, a chaos she controls. That chaos is well represented in “Joyceland,” currently at London’s Lisson Gallery, where she has recreated her studio’s messy glory. In one room paint-spattered toys, furniture and studio equipment cover the floor, while photographs for inspiration are tacked on the walls. Much of the gallery is more traditional, cold white space with works hanging or painted directly on the walls. Homer Simpson gazes blankly outward; Batman’s mask fills one wall.

” Joyceland in London 1981-2014,” studio accumulation from 1981 to present day.

Below you can see Pensato discussing the exhibition:

If you want further information, Pensato’s webite is not very useful, however, art critic Tyler Green has interviewed Pensato on his Modern Art Notes podcast last year. “Joyceland” runs at the Lisson Gallery (27 Bell Street, London) through May 10. The pieces from the show can be seen on the gallery website.

Artist of the Day: Annette Marnat

Annette Marnat

Annette Marnat

Location:
Paris, France
Primary media:
Digital, gouache, pencil, wax pastels
Education:
L’école de dessin Emile Cohl [Illustration]
Major projects:
Les Classiques du Père Castor [Flammarion]
Character design [Hotel Transylvania]
Magazine illustration [The New Yorker, Marie Claire (Russia)]
More:
Current blog/Old blog

Annette Marnat

Annette Marnat

Annette Marnat

Annette Marnat

Annette Marnat

Annette Marnat

Annette Marnat

Fox Is Scrapping Its Late-Night Animation Block ADHD

A still from the ADHD series “Lucas Bros. Moving Co.”

Fox’s experiment with late-night animation didn’t go as well as they had anticipated. The network will end its underperforming late-night Saturday animation block Animation Domination High-Def (ADHD) in June, less than a year after it began. It was originally created as a replacement for the cancelled sketch comedy show MADtv.

ADHD was the invention of former Cartoon Network exec Nick Weidenfeld, who aimed to develop an Adult Swim-esque block that “takes advantage of the best parts of animation.” The studio that Weidenfeld started to create ADHD, Friends Night, will continue to produce content for Fox. The network has already ordered two half-hour series from Friends Night, which it will air in primetime. The names and premiere dates for those projects have not been announced yet. Weidenfeld will also continue to produce ADHD content for digital platforms like Hulu and Xbox.

Here is Weidenfeld’s official spin on getting cancelled, which he provided to A.V. Club:

“We are really excited. We were created to get shows on Sunday night. And in under a year we did! And getting off Saturday nights will allow us to develop a bigger range of shows with a more diverse group of talent for different outlets. We have the best of both worlds. We have the big league field of Sunday night and ability to operate like an unfettered studio. That’s awesome.”

So, what is Fox’s interest in keeping alive this low-rent division that produces inferior work to anything the network currently airs in primetime? One of the primary incentives is that Friends Night is able to create content at a much lower cost than Fox’s other primetime series like The Simpsons, Bob’s Burgers, and various Seth MacFarlane-produced shows. The Los Angeles cartoonists’ union, the Animation Guild, poses some interesting questions about the situation and what it means going forward for artists who work at the studio.

Moonbot Studios Has Started to Develop Feature-Length Film Projects

The Oscar-winning Louisiana animation studio Moonbot recently announced that it is developing multiple feature-length film projects. It has acquired the film rights to two YA book series: the Olivia Kidney trilogy by Ellen Potter, which it plans to do as a live-action/animation hybrid; and The Extincts by Veronica Cossanteli.

Shreveport, Louisiana-based Moonbot was founded by Brandon Oldenburg, Lampton Enochs, and children’s book author/illustrator Bill Joyce. The headliner amongst that trio, Joyce, has a long history of animation experience as the production designer of the Blue Sky features Robots and Epic, and the creator of the children’s series Rolie Polie Olie. His books also served as the basis of the Disney feature Meet the Robinsons and DreamWorks feature Rise of the Guardians.

Since launching in 2009, Moonbot has won an Oscar for its short The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore, as well as created the children’s app The Numberlys and the much-buzzed about Chipotle “Scarecrow” campaign.

Between Moonbot and Dallas-based Reel FX, which has made Free Birds and the forthcoming Book of Life, the American South is emerging as an unlikely hub for feature animation. It’ll be interesting to watch how that scene develops over the next few years.

‘Ping Pong’ Recap: ‘Staking Your Life On Table Tennis is Revolting’ (Ep. 3)

Tensions run high during the high school championships, and all eyes are on the showdown between Kong and Smile.

The third episode jumps abruptly from Smile’s training in episode 2 right to the championships, and to a Smile who has begun to gain the confidence to show his true potential.

The championships bring together the various rivals who were only mentioned in previous episodes. Each has a different motive for wanting to win, reflected in their playing style: Kong attacks aggressively because his back is against the wall. He can’t afford Smile’s carefree attitude because losing means the end of his career.

What keeps Smile from achieving greatness isn’t laziness. It’s compassion. He’s unwilling to see his opponent as anything other than a vulnerable human being. To do so would be to become like Kong, part of the system, an automaton of blind ambition. It’s his rebellion against the system, his way of dropping out. Before his match with Kong, coach Koizumi warns Smile that holding back is his greatest weakness. Indeed, just as Smile appears poised to win, he gives in because he knows what’s at stake for Kong.

Episode two was filled with butterfly metaphors. Again, while speaking to his wife at home at the beginning of episode 3, Coach Koizumi likens Smile to a butterfly on the cusp of hatching from his cocoon. Just then, a Roomba bounces off of his foot, echoing the epithet hurled at Smile by his peers in the previous episode.

This episode was briskly paced and had great rhythm, but the quality was obviously struggling and in some spots lacking. Excessive stills plagued the climactic battle and other moments such as crowd scenes, which would have benefited from a little more movement. The show’s brutally short schedule takes its toll. Tight schedules are nothing new for Yuasa’s productions, but this time things appear particularly bad. Shots such as Sakuma walking towards the bus in sliding stills make me envision a director struggling valiantly to put together a final product without all the animation he needs.

Masaaki Yuasa storyboards again, and this time the episode director is Masatsugu Arakawa. Arakawa is a great animator in his own right. Like Masaaki Yuasa, he began his career at animation subcontracting studio Ajia-Do, and the two actually worked together on a 30-minute direct-to-video short entitled Ahoy there, Little Polar Bear! in 1991, though this was early in their careers and doesn’t represent their mature styles. This is their first time working together since.

Like many Ajia-Do animators, Arakawa has a unique style that’s loose, tactile and angular, favoring rough and spontaneous drawings over superficially pretty and detailed drawings. When given the chance to work in his style, he produces beautiful and unique animation, as in the case of Production IG’s Windy Tales TV show from 2004.

Ping Pong already has a strong visual style dictated by the manga, so Arakawa’s drawing style takes a back seat to Taiyo Matsumoto’s. Still, you can spot his drawings here and there. His characters are identifiable by their diamond eyes, the straighter and cleaner lines, and a particular kind of pared down realistic caricature reminiscent of his 1998 animated Playstation game Yukiwari no Hana.

From scene to scene, you can also identify the styles of the episode’s various other animators at play. Even if not always specifically faithful to Taiyo Matsumoto’s style, Ping Pong‘s drawings retain the spirit of the jagged and roughly drawn original. The setting of this episode, with its bleachers full of onlookers, provide for lots of fantastic character sketches. The natural posing and sketchbook realism of the drawings saves the animation from being boring due to lack of movement. Every shot has something interesting to look at.

Taiyo Matsumoto’s peculiar design style comes out in Peco’s rival, the slant-eyed Sakuma from Kaio who head-butts Peco. Taiyo Matsumoto also has a particular way of drawing overly large hands with elongated, chunky, clumsily drawn fingers and foreshortened palms, and the anime captures this in a lot of shots.

The most interesting name in the credits this time around is Bahi JD, but unfortunately it appears his animation of the climactic scene didn’t make it into the final product. The drawings of this scene instead adhere fairly closely to the original manga, almost to the point of tracing the manga’s drawings, relying a little too much on stills. The great rhythm of the directing makes the scene work, but the scene could have been more if it moved properly.

Last but not least, we finally have a proper opening. And it’s quite a doozy, produced by Shinya Ohira, the legendary animator whose uncompromising stance and style make him an icon in the industry. Drawn almost entirely in black and white to accentuate the focus on pure hand-drawn line animation, the opening is flagrantly, proudly hand-drawn. It’s an intense explosion of movement replete with a mess of pencil strokes they make no effort to hide. Odd effects are thrown in and characters’ bodies and faces are wobble expressively to heighten the dynamism. It’s animation at its most primal and visceral. The visuals finally match the punk feeling of the song.

As in the case of the opening Ohira produced for the TV show Sci-Fi Harry in 2000, each section is animated by a different animator with a completely different style. Not only is no effort made to hide the different styles, the opening almost comes across as a celebration of those different styles. Ohira’s animation defies assimilation. His animation is about the visceral thrill of pure movement, not about selling a product. In that sense, he’s like Smile, playing only for the sheer fun of it and refusing any attempt at corruption.

Ohira and Masaaki Yuasa have a long history of working together. Together they produced one of the few real masterpieces of anime in 1994 with Hamaji’s Resurrection, an episode in the direct-to-video series The Hakkenden:

Aside from the animation, another detail that pleases me about the show is how the Mandarin spoken by Kong and his coach is accurate. Too often in anime they don’t bother to get the foreign languages right, and it makes for embarrassing viewing that takes you out of the zone. It’s a sign of respect to go that extra mile, not to mention diligence as a director. I like how his character lends the show plausibility. It would make the show feel inauthentic if the Mandarin wasn’t spoken with such authority and confidence in the inflection and emotion. Kong wouldn’t be Kong, with his gung-ho self-confidence and swagger. Credit to voice-actor Wen Yexing for making Kong feel real.

Ping Pong Episode 3: Staking your life on table tennis is revolting

Storyboard:
Script:
Series Structure:
Masaaki Yuasa
Episode Director: Masatsugu Arakawa
Animation Director: Nobutake Ito Sayaka Toda
Key Animation: Tetsuro Kaku Yasunori Miyazawa
Satoshi Nakano Maki Kawake
Yuichiro Komuro Saori Koike
Ran Kamezawa Yuki Matsuo
Hiromi Hata Masahiko Matsuyama
Hayao Enomoto Takahito Sakazume
Maiko Kobayashi Bahi JD
Kenji Shibata Kenji Hayama
Masatsugu Arakawa
Flash Animation: Science SARU
Juan Manuel Laguna Abel Gongora
Thomas Hudson

Opening animation

Storyboard:
Director:
Animation Director:
Shinya Ohira
Key Animation: Ryosuke Sakai Kusunoki Nishiajima
Wu Boyu Tomiyuki Niho
Hokuto Sakiyama Yasunori Miyazawa
Shinji Hashimoto Shinya Ohira

Animated Fragments #26

Animated Fragments is where we round up animation tests, experiments, micro-shorts, and other bits of cartoon flotsam that doesn’t fit into other categories on the site. To view the previous 25 fragment installments, go to the Fragments archive.

“Tha Kool Kids” by Shaz Lym (Canada)

Animation cycle by Jenn Strickland (US)

“For Agile Films” by 2veinte (Argentina)
Directed and designed by Pablo Gostanian, animation by Juan Pablo Sciaccaluga

Animafest Zagreb 2014 Opening by Lei Lei (China)

“Justin Time” animated by Ross Butter and written by Thomas Ridgewell (UK)

“Gator Skater” animated by Nate Milton and written by Brett Land (US)
(See also Dog Skateboard)

Artist of the Day: Rob Dunlavey

Rob Dunlavey

Rob Dunlavey
Location:
Natick, MA, USA
Primary media:
Ink, gouache, pencil, acrylic paint, oil paint, collage, digital
Education:
Southern Illinois University [BA, Fine Art]
Claremont Graduate University [MFA, Sculpture]
Major projects:
Children’s book [Bayard Jeunesse Presse, Schwartz & Wade/Random House, Atheneum/Simon & Schuster]
Editorial [Boston Globe, New York Times, TIME]
Educational illustration [Miami Children's Museum]
More:
Website/Tumblr/Flickr

Rob Dunlavey

Rob Dunlavey

Rob Dunlavey

Rob Dunlavey

Rob Dunlavey

Rob Dunlavey

Rob Dunlavey

Rob Dunlavey

Annecy Announces 18 Animated Features For 2014 Festival

Today the Annecy International Animated Film Festival announced the feature film selections for their 2014 edition. Eighteen films were selected—nine in competition and nine out of competition. A total of 68 animated features were submitted this year. (The festival had announced shorts and TV selections earlier.)

We’ve previously written about a number of the features on Cartoon Brew, among them Lisa Limone and Maroc Orange: A Rapid Love Story, The Fake, Boonie Bears, The Art of Happiness, and perhaps the one that I’m most curious about, Asphalt Watches.

The 9 feature films chosen for competition are:

  • Minuscule – Valley of the Lost Ants by Thomas Szabo and Hélène Giraud (France)
  • Cheatin’ by Bill Plympton (USA)
  • Lisa Limone and Maroc Orange: A Rapid Love Story by Mait Laas (Estonia, Finland)
  • The Fake by Sang-ho Yeon (South Korea)
  • Last Hijack by Femke Wolting and Tommy Pallotta (Germany, Belgium, Ireland, the Netherlands)
  • Giovanni’s Island by Mizuho Nishikubo (Japan)
  • The Boy and the World by Alê Abreu (Brazil)
  • Asphalt Watches by Shayne Ehman and Seth Scriver (Canada)
  • The Art of Happiness by Alessandro Rak (Italy)

The nine out-of-competition features are:

  • Até que a Sbórnia nos separe by Otto Guerra and Ennio Torresan Jr. (Brazil)
  • Boonie Bears by Liang Ding (China)
  • Justin and the Knights of Valour by Manuel Sicilia (Spain)
  • Ku! Kin-dza-dza by Georgiy Daneliya and Tatiana Ilyina (Russia)
  • Luz, anima, ação by Eduardo Calvet (Brazil)
  • Manieggs – Revenge of the Hard Egg by Zoltán Miklósy (Hungary)
  • Moug by Ahmed Nour (Egypt, Morocco)
  • Resan Till Fjäderkungens Rike by Esben Toft Jacobsen (Denmark, Sweden)
  • Truth Has Fallen by Sheila Sofian (United States)

‘Steven Universe’ Recap: ‘Lion 2: The Movie’

“Lion 2: The Movie”
Storyboarded by Joe Johnston and Jeff Liu.

This week’s Steven Universe dived into the whirlwind that is the mindset of an insecure youth, in ways that were similar to the episode “Lars and the Cool Kids.” At first, the episode didn’t really make any sort of impression on me. It took another viewing for me to grasp its depth—or at least theorize things in the whirlwind that is my own mind at 3am.

I thought this was going to be about Steven’s first date. He and Connie were heading to the movies alone—to see Dogcopter 3—and he seemed to be making it a bigger deal than it needed to be. He continued to stress to Lion that they needed to get to the theater. Did he think it was a date and was mad that Lion cockblocked him by taking them on an impromptu adventure? (Speaking of, that Lion always like to play coy but he knows what he’s doing. I think he wanted to show Connie a good time since she is in awe of the life Steven lives.)

Now, onto the insecurities and the kids’ spirit animals. Both of them expressed their inability to understand how or why the other hung out with them. Everyone has probably felt this way at one point or another. We all have that really cool friend who we question because we don’t see ourselves as awesome as they are. 

So, Steven views himself as this fumbling trainwreck who can never manage to do anything right, while Connie views him as this wondrous person with a “magical destiny.” Sitting back, you can begin to see the parallels between Steven and his pet, Lion. Both of them seem like they never know what’s going on, but they always manage to get the job done. They also have qualities about them that keep surprising those around them: Steven shocked Connie and himself with the bubble protector, and Lion revealed he could not only walk on water but produce a sword out of his forehead. That was creepy, right?

Then you have Connie who looks in the mirror and can only see this uninteresting girl with nothing but tennis practice in her bag of unimpressive tricks. The fact that they were going to see her favorite film franchise, Dog Copter, made so much more sense at the end – she is that dog.  She seems ordinary on the surface, but hiding underneath all that self-doubt is something special. For her favorite canine, it’s that copter; for her, it’s the tennis skills that happened to come in handy when that evil machine came back to assault them. 

Everyone sees the worst in their selves far more than they see the best, and that’s especially true when you’re an adolescent like Connie and Steven. Of course he can’t see the greatness of his powers like Connie can, and the same with her. She’s this smart, awesome girl, and while she doesn’t realize it, Steven does.

Will their relationship ever turn romantic? That’s another theory for another day, but something to think about while we touch on the fact that this was a Gem-light episode. They popped in for a second, during which Amethyst stole the scene with her Dog Copter-boombox impression. The episodes that lean more towards Steven’s humanity are the ones I tend to favor, so this week was a win for me. I do like learning about his Gem side, but the mind of an adolescent is just as fascinating.

Next Wednesday in Brooklyn: Twillerama Animation Screening

Next Wednesday, the animated duo of Jeff Twiller and Randy J. Johnson will host their own animated film screening in Brooklyn. It’s a legit line-up of animated shorts, with perceptive cinematic commentary supplied inbetween the films by Twiller and Johnson. Thankfully, they happen to be animation experts:

Admission is $5 at the door, and many of the filmmakers will be in attendance, along with The Twiller Zone creator/animator Morgan Miller. The screening begins at 8pm at the Legion Bar in Brooklyn (790 Metropolitan Ave.; L train to Graham Ave. stop). For updates, visit the event’s Facebook page.

The following films will be screened:
Marianne (2013, dir. Richard O’Connor)
The Club (1975, dir. George Griffin)
Orifice (2011, dir. Kelsey Stark)
Moons (2014, dir. Liesje Kraai)
One Minute Fluidtoon on Paper, #4 (circa 2011, dir. Brett W. Thompson)
Boobatary (2010, dir. Leah Shore)
The Date (1998, dir. Bill Plympton)
Martian Precursor (circa 2010, dir. Brian and Kevin Lonano)
Teat Beat of Sex Episode 1: Kirby (circa 2007 or 2008, Signe Baumane)
Dad Teaches Me How to Shave (2011, dir. Simone and Danny Dresden)
Mountain Ash (2013 dir. Jake Armstrong and Erin Kilkenny)
Sidewalk (2013, dir. Celia Bullwinkel)
The First Time Cee Cee Did Acid (circa 2011, Twins are Weird)
Hey Rachel (2010, dir. Sylvia Liken)
A Place Better Than Ours (2000, dir. Wally Chung)
Down To The Bone (circa 2010, dir. Peter Ahern)

Polish Animator Michal Socha Creates The Most Creative ‘Simpsons’ Opening Yet

Following Sylvain Chomet’s first-class Simpsons opening, I didn’t expect any animator to top it creatively—and certainly not so soon after. I’ve never been happier to be wrong. This week’s Simpsons opening by Polish filmmaker Michal Socha is a mind-blowingly gorgeous and creative journey into Homer’s brain:

The stark red-and-black palette and 2D/CG mix is based on Socha’s 2008 student short Chick, which was a big hit on the festival circuit. Socha is an unexpected choice for directing a Simpsons opening, especially since he’s not a known name like the other artists who have created openings. The gamble paid off though, and audiences have been rewarded with one of the loosest, most fun pieces of Simpsons animation ever produced.

And just in case you’re wondering, the Simpsons characters are CGI. Socha explained a little bit of the process to Animation World Network:

At the beginning, we thought that we could animate the Simpsons Family with classic frame-by-frame technique. After couple of tests, we have found that we are not as good 2D animators as we thought! Our tests tended to lose character and proportions, [and] that was not acceptable. In this case it was very important that each black silhouette reminds you of Homer, Bart or Lisa. Classic frame-by-frame technique could take much longer to finish couch gag. We wanted to keep this animation in 2D style, [which] is why we mixed those two technique to achieve a better result…One of the challenging issues from[a] technical point of view was to reach [the] non-3D look of the characters. We tested a lot of different renderings that give us cartoon look, but none of them were sustaining us enough. That is why we decided to [manually] repaint all the frames frame-by-frame and add extra secondary animation. There was a lot of fun work to do, but finally it give us desired effect.

John K. Animated A Bizarre Milkshake-Making Machine

After a relatively quiet stretch, John Kricfalusi (Ren & Stimpy) is popping up everywhere nowadays: at the front of Simpsons episodes, behind Miley Cyrus, and now, in your milkshake machine. John K. was commissioned last year by the ad agency MuhTayZik Hoffer to animate the touchscreen displays for some newfangled milkshake-generating machine called F’real.

F’real’s vp of marketing, Stephanie Brendel, explained to Ad Age why they hired John: “To break through is really hard, and using humor to do that is key. MuhTayZik brought John Kricfalusi in. We would’ve never thought, on our own, to reach out to him…The challenge that I mentioned about being relevant to younger people but also not offending the old, the work that he does allows that to happen quite naturally. I think he’s the perfect person to build that bridge.”

Below are a couple videos of the machine in action, followed by a better quality version of some of the animation, which was made with Toon Boom Animate. Kricfalusi’s work is many times more eye-catching than the animation the machines had before.

(Thanks to Nate Pacheco for providing the videos of the touchscreen displays.)

What It Was Like Working At A 1980s Taiwanese Animation Factory

Animation artist Jamie Baker (UP, WALL·E, Finding Nemo) has written a hilarious, detailed account of what it was like to work as an artist in Taiwan in the mid-1980s. Spoiler—it was weird:

Taiwan is where people began calling me ‘Jamie’ rather than my real name of ‘James.’ Someone from the translation department (which was essential for us expat supervisors to communicate with the Taiwanese crew) said my name of James would be too confusing, because it was already associated with the owner of the studio, James Wang (who was such a big shot that nobody else could even use the same name). When asked if there were any other names I was known by, I said Sydney friends had called me Jimmy, to a gale of embarrassed giggles from the translator. She made it quite clear that ‘Jimmy’ was not going to be an acceptable name, and wouldn’t tell me why, no matter how much I asked. (Perhaps someone can tell me if there is a word in Mandarin—or maybe Taiwanese—that sounds like ’Jimi’ but means something filthy, like ‘aardvark penis’ or something? I’ve always wanted to know.) Instead, I chose Jamie because that was what I was called by my family when I was small, and what my mother continued to call me until she died. I never knew this name would stick, but it’s a pleasant reminder of her.

RELATED: LeSean Thomas Describes Working in South Korea

Disney To Debut ‘Feast’ At Annecy

Click for larger version of teaser image from Disney’s Feast.

Feast, a new short by Paperman head of animation Patrick Osborne, will debut at the Annecy International Animated Film Festival on June 10, Disney announced this morning. The Walt Disney Animation Studios short appears to be made using the same stylized CG technique that was used on Paperman. Feast will open in theaters in front of Big Hero 6 on November 7.

The logline:

The story of one man’s love life is seen through the eyes of his best friend and dog, Winston, and revealed bite by bite through the meals they share.

RELATED: Interview with Paperman Director John Kahrs

Major Animation Exhibit ‘Watch Me Move’ Headed to Nashville

Any exhibition that “…aims to demonstrate the centrality of animation to contemporary global culture…” is worth our attention, and the UK’s Barbican Centre-produced “Watch Me Move: The Animation Show” has been doing that at museum venues since 2011. This June, it comes to the Frist Center for the Visual Arts in Nashville.

“While we often think of animation as an art form for children, this exhibition acknowledges its appeal to all generations and cultures from the United States and Europe to Japan and China,” said Frist Center chief curator Mark Scala. “Most of the works comprise family entertainment, which is often hilarious and ingenious. Even films with purely aesthetic aims, or with mature and socially critical content, will change the way people appreciate many of the most creative, yet often unheralded, masters of the medium.”

The exhibition includes 85 works, from clips to complete films, arranged in six thematic sections: Apparitions, Fables and Fragments, Structures, Characters, Superhumans and Modern Visions. The obvious choices, such as Walt Disney, the Fleischers, Studio Ghibli, and Ray Harryhausen are represented, alongside lesser known figures including Wan Gu Chan and Wan Lai Ming, Jan Svankmajer, and Harry Smith, among others. “Watch Me Move” covers the earliest days of animated film to CG animation, from the abstract to the hyper-real. On June 13, Elliot Wilhelm, curator of film at the Detroit Institute of Arts (the previous venue for this show) will lecture on the films contained in the exhibition.

“Watch Me Move: The Animation Show” will be at the Frist Center for the Visual Arts (919 Broadway, Nashville, TN) from June 6-September 1. The Frist Center has not yet released any video related to the show, but the Barbican produced several, including this clever one:

India’s First 3D Motion-Capture Film Looks Like An Epic Trainwreck

India’s first 3-D mo-cap CGI feature, Kochadaiiyaan, will open on May 9th. By Western feature animation quality standards, it looks comically bad, but perhaps it’s impressive if you’ve never seen animation before. Predictably, the film’s animation quality has already been criticized; Bollywood actor Imran Khan, who doesn’t have a part in the film, has defended its quality with this argument: “If you look back, 10 years ago even in Hollywood [animation] wasn’t a big thing. In the last 10 to 12 years, it has started growing in Hollywood and became part of the mainstream, so we have to give it a little bit of time.”

On a positive note, the film was directed by a woman, Soundarya Ashwin, the 29-year-old daughter of Indian film star Rajinikanth, who performs three different roles in the film, including that of the lead character. Ashwin explained to Times of India that her film used the same technique as Avatar, except for one significant difference:

Avatar took seven years and so much budget and a James Cameron. There was always the insecurity of the unknown, but we have taken a road never taken in India and broken rules and have completed the film in just a year and a half.”

The film had a $20.5 million budget, which is generous by Indian standards. Its Wikipedia page offers lots of production details, and this ten-minute video documents the motion capture process.

Another nice thing that can be said about the film: it looks better than the trailer for Sultan the Warrior, an uncompleted mo-cap film that Ashwin attempted to make with her father about seven years ago. The trailer for that is below:

Artist of the Day: Sam Taylor

Sam Taylor

London resident Sam Taylor directs productions through the animation collective that he’s a part of called The Line. His latest demo reel in which you can see his digital animation work is embedded below:

Sam Taylor

Taylor has been previously mentioned on Cartoon Brew as one of the creative forces behind the dazzling, strange, short film, Everything I Can See From Here, co-created with Bjørn-Erik Aschim. Taylor also worked on the recent Aschim-directed short Wallflowers (below). See more of Sam Taylor’s drawings and characters on his blog.

Sam Taylor

Sam Taylor

Sam Taylor

Sam Taylor

Sam Taylor

Sam Taylor

A Filmmaker Tests Out The NFB’s $1 Animation App, StopMo Studio

The NFB StopMo Studio app for the iPad provides essentially everything you need to jump into creating an animated film. You won’t have any issues getting comfortable with the user interface if you’ve worked with animation programs before, and it seems more than approachable for newcomers young and old. Once you open up the program, you’re welcomed with a short and succinct tutorial that covers the basic tools, and then opens up to allow you to explore the rest of the options available.

Many of the tools in the app are customizable to a healthy degree. The camera can be set to a time-lapse mode ranging from two pictures per second all the way up to a photograph per day (the latter is a little absurd, unless you plan on setting your iPad on a windowsill for weeks), and it also functions normally as a touch-activated camera. The frame rate of the animation can be set anywhere between 1fps to 30fps.

You can create, modify, and save a seemingly endless amount of brushes to draw with, with a surprising amount of variability. Unfortunately, the brushes are not pressure sensitive, but being able to draw directly over stop motion photography created in the same application is an impressive ability that I haven’t seen elsewhere.

If you’re into rotoscoping, there is a wealth of experimentation available. You’ll have to stick to drawing over time-lapse or standard stopmotion photography since importing a video file directly into the app to draw over isn’t supported. Alternatively, if you want to just create hand-drawn animation on a flat color background, you can do that too. There is also an onion skin that you can turn on to varying degrees of brightness, but you’ll only be able to see one previous frame while animating.

You can record up to four separate audio tracks within the app, basically doing live foley while the program plays back your animation. If you’ve got some music you’ve already created in your iTunes, you can import that directly into the audio tracks. You’ll be able to do a minimal amount of mixing, such as simple fade-ins and -outs in combination with a maximum volume control. There are over 40 preset sound effects available that you can insert into any frame of your animation, independent of the audio tracks. They’re pretty cookie-cutter sound effects, but if you’re not too picky, there’s plenty of fun to be had with them.

As far as editing goes, you can cut, copy, paste, and delete single or multiple frames at any point along your timeline. Also, while importing video is not available, you can import individual photos from your iPad camera roll into the timeline. There is a set of customizable inter-titles available, but I would personally opt to just animate the title sequences and credits through stop motion or hand-drawn techniques. Once you’ve finished your film the app exports it as a 1024×576 MP4 file, which can be saved to your iPad, emailed, or airdropped to anyone nearby.

The only feature that I think the app is really lacking, as a tool designed for stop motion, is the ability to take a photo remotely. I’ve come across a few other animation apps where can you activate the camera by voice, or by using a remote app from a smartphone. If I was animating alone with clay or other messy materials, I wouldn’t want to have to smudge up the iPad’s screen every frame. Being able to take a photo remotely would also speed up the animation process.

NFB StopMo Studio is a powerful tool at an unbeatable price ($0.99). I’ll definitely keep using it for small and quick experimental projects during travel. It’s not going to replace any of my other equipment, but it’s a portable and versatile tool to add to the arsenal. I think its greatest impact lies in its potential as a teaching tool. I’ve taught animation to kids in the past, and I wish I would have been able to share this program with them. It can be pretty difficult to explain every step that goes into making an animated film to a young audience. NFB StopMo Studio simplifies the entire process wonderfully, to a point where an iPad savvy child can become comfortable using it on their own after a few lessons.

Here is an example of a short created with the app by Patrick Bouchard (Bydlo):

(Disclosure: The NFB has previously advertised StopMo Studio on Cartoon Brew.)

‘Sumo’ by Laurene Braibant

Two bodies, giants almost naked, advance slowly to a circle of clay. This graphic experience features the expressiveness of their bodies which are to repeat a sumo ritual. The two wrestlers are fighting in a lightning way through each of their deeds, which are the direct expression of their most exposed being.

CREDITS
Story and direction by Laurène Braibant
Animation: Studio Train Train

Artist of the Day: Alix Fizet

Alix Fizet

Alix Fizet studies animation at La Poudrière in Valence, France. Here is a thirty-second color pencil animated short with creative sound design and effects matched with humorous rapid-fire imagery:

Here is Alix’s first-year student film, Volcanes:

Alix Fizet

Alix also works with cut paper puppets and collages for background art. See more work on Tumblr and Vimeo.

Alix Fizet

Alix Fizet

Alix Fizet

Alix Fizet

Alix Fizet

Alix Fizet