DreamWorks Lays Off Dozens of Employees As ‘Dragons 2′ Continues to Underperform

We heard rumors of layoffs at DreamWorks last week, but they weren’t confirmed by a reputable source until yesterday evening when the animator’s union, The Animation Guild, posted an item about it on their blog. The Guild reported that the layoffs took place early last week. An estimated 40-50 employees were let go. According to the DreamWorks sources that the union spoke with:

The studio didn’t have enough features that required staff building front-end production elements, so employees in departments that were overstaffed—and who didn’t have longer-term contracts or assignments—were given their walking papers.

The studio gave no prior warning to the employees that it laid off and demanded that they leave the studio that day. There are reports that employees weren’t even allowed to return to their cubicles to pack their belongings. “I get that the company needs to be cautious,” one person told the Animation Guild, “but I talked to one employee who said she wasn’t allowed back to her desk. She was kind of upset.”

DreamWorks’ stock has plummeted 35% since the beginning of 2014. How to Train Your Dragon 2 suffered another steep decline in its third U.S. weekend, dropping 46% at the box office. The first film in the series, by contrast, dropped just 14% in its third weekend.

Margaret Loesch Is Stepping Down As Hub Network President

Margaret Loesch, a forty-year children’s TV veteran, has announced that she will step down as the founding president and CEO of the Hub Network when her contract expires at the end of this year. The five-year-old channel, which is co-owned by toy manufacturer Hasbro and Discovery Communications, has struggled to compete with cable stalwarts like Disney, Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network, although several of its shows have performed reasonably well, including My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic and Transformers Prime Beast Hunters.

After losing between $6-7 million per year, the network has achieved profitability, according to Hasbro. “The network is now in excellent financial shape,” says Loesch. “Its ratings are up year-to-year, our programming has won more than 30 awards, including 12 Daytime Emmys, and the Hub Network has become a TV home for quality programming that kids and their families come together to enjoy.” Despite these claims, hardly anyone is looking at the Hub. The network averaged less than 150,000 daily viewers last month. During a random week in May, not a single one of its shows besides My Little Pony managed to achieve greater than a 0.1 U.S. household rating.

Loesch’s departure has sparked speculation about what will happen to the Hub; industry observers suspect that the network will significantly revamp its programming lineup, and the channel could move its headquarters from Burbank to Silver Spring, Maryland, where its parent company Discovery is based. No replacement has been named, but Deadline reported that Tom Cosgrove, who runs Discovery’s 3D Television Network, is a top candidate for the job.

‘Bless You’ by David Barlow-Krelina

A man takes the subway. Inside his brain, a countdown clock hits zero and a little person prepares for lift-off. The man sneezes.

Directed and Animated by: David Barlow-Krelina
Music and Sound Design: Greg Debicki
Voice: Chris Wilding
Produced with the assistance of the National Film Board of Canada Filmmaker Assistance Program, 2013.

Paramount Snatches ‘Frozen’ Head of Animation Lino DiSalvo

Disney veteran Lino DiSalvo, the head of animation on Frozen who gained notoriety for comments about animating women, has left Disney to join Paramount Animation as its creative director. He is also slated to direct an upcoming animated feature at the studio.

DiSalvo’s move continues the exodus of high-profile animation talent from Disney. Paperman director John Kahrs jumped to Paramount to direct Shedd, Tangled animation supervisor Clay Kaytis went to Sony where he is co-directing the Angry Birds movie, and animation legend Glen Keane and his daughter, visual development artist Claire Keane, both left to pursue personal projects.

Paramount has yet to release a film under its fledgling Paramount Animation banner. They launched the group after losing the rights to distribute DreamWorks Animation films in 2012. The group’s first film will be The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water direted by Paul Tibbitt (animation) and Mike Mitchell (live-action), releasing in February of 2015. That will be followed in May 2015 by Monster Trucks, a live-action/CGI hybrid directed by Chris Wedge (Ice Age, Epic) in a curious arrangement that doesn’t involve the studio he co-founded, Blue Sky Studios.

DiSalvo, who worked for 16 years at Disney, will report to Adam Goodman, who oversees animation as president of the Paramount Film Group. DiSalvo has been tweeting photos from his new gig at Paramount, including this pic on the Paramount lot with John Kahrs and Teddy Newton (director of Pixar’s Day and Night):

Lino DiSalvo, Teddy Newton and John Kahrs.

This Four-Feet-Tall, Seventy-Pound Toothless Sculpture is Actually a Cake

To toast the release of How to Train Your Dragon 2 at a private studio party, DreamWorks commissioned boutique cake maker Fernanda Abarca, who is also an artist at the company, to create this four-feet tall, seventy-pound statue of Toothless the Dragon. The edible work of art was acknowledged by CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg in his speech to studio employees.

Specializing in baked goods with sculpted animated characters, Abarca has also displayed her cake-making prowess at DreamWorks parties celebrating the films Mr. Peabody & Sherman and The Croods, and lent her talents to competing studios, like creating Frozen cupcakes for a Disney Oscar party.

RELATED: The Frozen Cake to Beat All Frozen Cakes

According to Abarca’s Facebook page, Toothless is a chocolate cake with sculpted fondant icing, and took roughly 70 hours to make. It is her largest baked good to date. Visual effects artist Nigel W. Tierney posted a Vine of the cake being cut, which can be seen below along with images of the cupcakes and cake pops that were also made.

‘A World of Characters’ Opens This Saturday At San Francisco’s Airport

Bert and Harry Piel, Hamm’s Bear and Burgie. Click for larger image.

Typically, the airport is a place that travelers want to spend as little time at as possible, but cartoon fans may want to rethink that strategy. In Japan, a four-day animation festival will be held entirely in an airport later this year, and in San Francisco, a new exhibit of cartoon advertising characters will open this weekend.

The exhibit, “A World of Characters: Advertising Icons from the Warren Dotz Collection,” launches this Saturday at SFO’s International Terminal (Departures/Level 3/Pre-Security). The exhibit will feature over 300 examples of 20th century advertising characters:

The use of advertising mascots is centuries old, with itinerant peddlers and established merchants occasionally illustrating their carts or shops with colorful characters. The advent of mass production led to a host of brand ambassadors in the early twentieth century that still appear today, including Planters’ Mr. Peanut (1918), the Minnesota Valley Canning Company’s Jolly Green Giant (1928), and Borden’s Elsie the Cow (1936). But during the post-war television age, advertisers launched an unprecedented variety of mascots to distinguish their products and provide someone or something with which to identify. While many of the television programs may have faded from our collective memory, we vividly recall the commercials and a world of colorful characters selling breakfast cereals, fast food, cleaning products, and even offering public service announcements.

For baby boomers, advertising mascots were a ubiquitous presence on product packaging, print ads, and television commercials. Some characters originated from Madison Avenue’s top agencies while others evolved from napkin sketches by company employees caricaturing a friend or colleague. The characters and their taglines became instantly recognizable: Tony the Tiger’s (1951) “They’re Grrrrrreat!” in reference to Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes; “Sorry Charlie,” delivered to StarKist’s Charlie the Tuna (1961), who did not have “the taste” to make it into their cans; even the giggle elicited from Pillsbury’s Poppin’ Fresh Doughboy (1965) became part of the public’s consciousness. The most popular characters were produced as figurines and special-offer promotional items such as toys, telephones, coin banks, and cameras.

The use of cartoons and caricatures to sell products declined after the 1970s as advertisers increasingly chose photography and live-action over illustration and animation. In recent decades, many of the best-known mascots have received makeovers to keep them relevant to today’s consumers, but their appeal persists, and characters created decades ago remain instantly recognizable. General Mills even brought back the original versions of their Trix Rabbit (1959) and Lucky the Leprechaun (1963) for successful retro promotions recently.

Warren Dotz, the owner of the collection, is a pop culture historian who has compiled numerous books on advertising characters including Ad Boy: Vintage Advertising with Character and What a Character!: 20th Century American Advertising Icons. The exhibit runs through January 4, 2015. For more info, visit the SFO Airport website.

Click for larger image.

Click for larger image.

Click for larger image.

Click for larger image.

Click for larger image.

Will Hayao Miyazaki Reject the Academy’s Invitation Again?

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the stodgy group of film industry workers who hand out the Oscars, has revealed a list of the 271 people it has invited to become members of its organization this year. Among that group are 27 people in the short film and feature animation branch, and 19 artists in the visual effects branch. The new members were chosen from applications submitted by existing members, who can each sponsor one new candidate per year.

The most notable animation-related invitation of this year is Japanese film director Hayao Miyazaki. He was invited on at least one prior occasion—in 2006—to become a member. To his great credit, Miyazaki rejected the invitation.

Miyazaki’s stance makes sense when you think about it. He is indisputably the most revered animation filmmaker of the modern era. He’s achieved that distinction by retaining a singular sense of self and rejecting the groupthink attitudes of industry filmmaking. At this point in his career, what would he have to gain by joining an old boys’ network of commercial filmmakers whose general membership doesn’t give a shit about feature animation and whose animation branch remains woefully clueless about new developments in contemporary short-form animation?

We’ll have to wait until September to find out whether Miyazaki will join the organization that snubbed his final feature film, The Wind Rises, in favor of Frozen. Below is a list of all the invitees in the animation and visual effects branches:

Didier Brunner – Ernest & Celestine, The Triplets of Belleville
Scott Clark – Monsters University, Up
Pierre Coffin – Despicable Me 2, Despicable Me
Esteban Crespo – Aquel No Era Yo (That Wasn’t Me), Lala
Peter Del Vecho – Frozen, The Princess and the Frog
Kirk DeMicco – The Croods, Space Chimps
Doug Frankel – Brave, WALL-E
Mark Gill – The Voorman Problem, Full Time
David A. S. James – Mr. Peabody & Sherman, Megamind
Fabrice Joubert – Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax, French Roast
Jean-Claude Kalache – Up, Cars
Jason Katz – Toy Story 3, Finding Nemo
Jennifer Lee – Frozen, Wreck-It Ralph
Baldwin Li – The Voorman Problem, Full Time
Nathan Loofbourrow – Puss in Boots, How to Train Your Dragon
Lauren MacMullan – Get a Horse!, Wreck-It Ralph
Tom McGrath – Megamind, Madagascar
Dorothy McKim – Get a Horse!, Meet the Robinsons
Hayao Miyazaki – The Wind Rises, Spirited Away
Ricky Nierva – Monsters University, Up
Chris Renaud – Despicable Me 2, Despicable Me
Benjamin Renner – Ernest & Celestine, A Mouse’s Tale (La Queue de la Souris)
Michael Rose – Chico & Rita, The Gruffalo
Toshio Suzuki – The Wind Rises, Howl’s Moving Castle
Selma Vilhunen – Pitääkö Mun Kaikki Hoitta? (Do I Have to Take Care of Everything?), The Crossroads
Anders Walter – Helium, 9 Meter
Laurent Witz – Mr. Hublot, Renart the Fox

Gary Brozenich – The Lone Ranger, Wrath of the Titans
Everett Burrell – Grudge Match, Pan’s Labyrinth
Marc Chu – Noah, Marvel’s The Avengers
David Fletcher – Sabotage, Prisoners
Swen Gillberg – Ender’s Game, Jack the Giant Slayer
Paul Graff – The Wolf of Wall Street, Identity Thief
Alex Henning – Star Trek Into Darkness, Hugo
Evan Jacobs – Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Olympus Has Fallen
Chris Lawrence – Edge of Tomorrow, Gravity
Eric Leven – The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1
Steven Messing – Godzilla, Oz The Great and Powerful
Ben Matthew Morris – Lincoln, The Golden Compass
Jake Morrison – Thor: The Dark World, Marvel’s The Avengers
Eric Reynolds – The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
David Shirk – Gravity, Elysium
Patrick Tubach – Star Trek Into Darkness, Marvel’s The Avengers
Bruno Van Zeebroeck – Lone Survivor, Public Enemies
Tim Webber – Gravity, The Dark Knight
Harold Weed – G.I. Joe: Retaliation, Star Trek

Watch Glen Keane’s New Google Short ‘Duet’

This morning at the Google I/O developer conference, Glen Keane debuted his new hand-drawn short, Duet, which he produced with Google’s Advanced Technology and Projects group. The short is the third in Google’s series of Spotlight Stories that are designed to explore the possibilities of interactive animation on mobile devices.

The first short in the series, Windy Day, was directed by Jan Pinkava (Geri’s Game) and debuted last October; the second short, Buggy Night, was directed by Mark Oftedal. Pinkava has been the creative director on the entire series to date.

RELATED: The Revolution in Interactive Storytelling Has Arrived, and Surprise, Google Is Behind It

The version of Duet that Keane showed today was a non-interactive version and not the full mobile experience that will debut later this year on devices with proper hardware capabilities and Android 4.2. You can see the press conference followed by the entire short by going TO THIS YOUTUBE LINK.

Glen Keane working on “Duet.” (Click for larger version.)

Click for larger version.

Glen Keane working on “Duet.” (Click for larger version.)

Takeshi Murata in St. Louis and New York

   Takeshi Murata.

As one of the few animators to successfully cross over into the lucrative world of fine art, Takeshi Murata (b. 1974) has produced a wide range of video works that range from hand-drawn, computer-assisted animation to randomly distorted clips from films and TV shows a la glitch art, such as “Untitled (Pink Dot)” (2007), drawn from Rambo, or “Timewarp Experiment” (2007) from Three’s Company. His animated work “Melter 2″ (2003) was shown on the facade of the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis from late January through April of this year:

In all his work, change and distortion are key elements. Murata’s latest work, “Melter 3-D” (2014) is no different in that approach. “Melter 3-D,” which debuted last month at the Frieze art fair in New York, is a sculpture, but one that suggests constant motion. Using the idea of the zoetrope, which produces the illusion of motion through rapidly successive still images—a forerunner of the motion picture—Murata has made a sculpture that appears to melt. Using precisely positioned strobe lights, the spinning globe seems to flow and dwindle in an effect remarkably like the liquid metal effects pioneered in Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991), except that it is happening right in front of you. The strobe effect can be hard to watch for long periods, but it doesn’t take long to view the entire scope of the work. Murata’s San Francisco gallery Ratio 3 presented the work at Frieze.

Murata’s art is in the collection of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington DC; DESTE Foundation for Contemporary Art, Athens, Greece; and the Smithsonian Museum of American Art. His website is pretty useless, a surprising thing for an artist whose work is largely digital. His small amount of video game and music video work, such as this video for Oneohtrix Point Never, is absent from most of his online biographies.

Here’s a Vice Magazine Creator’s Project video about Murata:

‘Mouse in Transition’: And Then There Was…Ken! (Chapter 4)

Ken Anderson working on “Robin Hood.” Photo via Andreas Deja.

New chapters of Mouse in Transition are published on Cartoon Brew. It is the story of Disney Feature Animation—from the Nine Old Men to the coming of Jeffrey Katzenberg. Ten lost years of Walt Disney Production’s animation studio, through the eyes of a green animation writer. Steve Hulett spent a decade in Disney Feature Animation’s story department writing animated features, first under the tutelage and supervision of Disney veterans Woolie Reitherman and Larry Clemmons, then under the watchful eye of young Jeffrey Katzenberg. Since 1989, Hulett has served as the business representative of the Animation Guild, Local 839 IATSE, a labor organization which represents Los Angeles-based animation artists, writers and technicians.

Chapter 1: Disney’s Newest Hire
Chapter 2: Larry Clemmons
Chapter 3: The Disney Animation Story Crew
Chapter 4: And Then There Was…Ken!
Chapter 5: The Marathon Meetings of Woolie Reitherman
Chapter 6: Detour into Disney History
Chapter 7: When Everyone Left Disney
Chapter 8: Mickey Rooney, Pearl Bailey and Kurt Russell
Chapter 9: The CalArts Brigade Arrives
Chapter 10: Cauldron of Confusion
Chapter 11: Rodent Detectives and Studio Strikes
Chapter 12: Disney Dead-Ends & Lucrative Mexican Caterpillars
Chapter 13: Basil Kicks Into High Gear
Chapter 14: “Call Us Mike and Frank”
Chapter 15: The Arrival of Jeffrey Katzenberg
Chapter 16: A Gong Show with Eisner and Katzenberg
Chapter 17: The Trials of Oliver & Company
Chapter 18: Goodbye Disney

I was back in Don Duckwall’s office, exchanging insincere smiles with him. I had been on The Fox and the Hound with Larry Clemmons, Woolie Reitherman, and everybody else for half a year. But now Don wanted me to go on another assignment.

“Ken Anderson is working on a project based on a book called Catfish Bend,” Don said. “He needs a writer. I thought this would be a good chance for you to show us what you can do.”

waltdisney-appendectomy-mainSEE ALSO: Never-Before-Seen Private Photos of Walt Partying—And Performing Surgery on an Orange

I wasn’t keen to leave the “A” feature in the midst of production, but after eight months of employment I knew it was a better career strategy to do what I was told and go where I was kicked than to argue. So I widened my phony smile.

“Sounds like a fun project, Don. I would love to do it.”

“Good,” Don said. “You’ll start on Catfish Monday morning. Go down and meet Ken. Let him show you the work he’s already done.”

I repaired promptly to Ken Anderson’s large, airy office on the second floor of the Animation building. Ken had been busy since the conclusion of his design stint on Pete’s Dragon, which was only now wrapping up animation. He had several storyboards hanging around the room, each decorated with elaborate story sketches. There were smaller boards with some of Ken’s past triumphs: character designs from Robin Hood, scene setups for The Rescuers, all of them beautifully drawn.

Mary Blair and Ken Anderson, ca. early-1950s.

Ken had been at the studio since the early 1930s. A layout artist on shorts and Pinocchio he had risen through the ranks until, as the art director on 101 Dalmatians, he had broken new ground on the look and feel of Disney animated features. There was no question that Ken owned a long and distinguished Disney career. When it came to talent, he was a force of nature inside Disney Feature Animation.

And now I was seated in one of his curved leather chairs, smiling up at him as he pointed out details about his design sketches. He offered me hot tea and I accepted. Then he showed me three “story beat” boards he had conjured from the Catfish Bend novels.

It turned out there wasn’t just one Catfish Bend book, but three. They were populated with eccentric characters akin to Bre’r Rabbit, Bre’r Fox, and Bre’r Bear in Song of the South. All the characters were swamp and river critters living along the banks of the Mississippi: a raccoon, rabbits, turtles and snakes.

Ken had visualized long sections of the Bend stories, building a rough continuity from various episodes out of the novels. There was lots of good stuff, also lot of repetitive and unfocused stuff. But he described all of it to me with relish, ending with: “Steve, you and I are going to develop a feature so rich, so compelling, that the studio will have to put the picture into production. The company won’t have any CHOICE but to greenlight it.”

I said it all sounded great, and that I was eager to work with him on the project. Ken’s bright blue eyes drilled into me.

“Wonderful. But you have to agree to one thing. You can’t breathe a WORD of what we’re doing here to Woolie.”

I blinked at him. “Woolie Reitherman?”

“Woolie wants to get his hands on everything that’s going on in the department. EVERYTHING. We can’t let him have this feature.”

An image of Captain Queeg rolling his steel balls flashed briefly before my eyes, but I repressed it. I told Ken I would keep our forthcoming development top secret. Then I hurried away from there.

Gag drawing of Ken Anderson by T. Hee, 1970. Click for larger version.

My next stop was Pete Young’s room. I told him I had been taken off The Fox and the Hound to work with Ken Anderson on a project titled Catfish Bend. Pete’s eyes lit up.

“Good old Ken. Vance and I boarded sequences of Pete’s Dragon with him.”

“How did that go?”

“If he offers you tea, tell him ‘No thanks.’”

The back of my neck prickled. “Why’s that?”

“Because then you owe him. And you don’t want to owe him.”

Pete declined to tell me any more. I went away bemused. In the main hallway I encountered Vance Gerry, and told him about my pairing up with Ken Anderson.

“Good old Ken,” Vance said. “He’s a good artist. Hard working. I think you’ll have an interesting time with him.”

I nodded. Waited for more.

There wasn’t any more.

Returning to my third floor broom closet, I decided there were perhaps bits of useful information I wasn’t getting.

The next Monday I was back in Ken’s office, notebook in hand, ready to go to work. We went through his boards again, in greater detail. The lead was a raccoon who was a preacher type, and he was leading a small band of river animals through a terrible flood on the lower Mississippi. There was action, there was adventure, and there were three sets of villains: sneering city rats, loathsome river rats, and slinking, hissing weasels. They all had long snouts and were thin and ropey, not unlike the weasels in Disney’s adaptation of The Wind in the Willows.

Ken gave me his “We’ll create a rich and compelling movie that will wow everybody” speech again, and handed me a bulky treatment he had cut and pasted out of the books. He then sent me off to craft a new treatment, one that would sell the studio on the brilliance of the project. (Sadly, his treatment hadn’t achieved this goal.)

“Catfish Bend” concept art by Ken Anderson.

Over the next several weeks, I read the books, digested Ken’s treatment and the photostats of his boards, and turned out new pages which I dutifully showed to Mr. Anderson. I soon became aware that he was smiling and enthusiastic when I stayed close to the treatment he had previously hammered out, but dour and monosyllabic when I deviated from his text.

Along about week four on the project, Ben Lucien Burman, author of the Catfish Bend books, showed up at the studio. He was a small, thin, elderly man who was pleased that the House of Mouse was transforming his books into an animated feature. Ken and I posed with him for publicity photographs in front of Ken’s storyboards. Ken’s face was a wreath of smiles.

“Mr. Burman? We love your books. And we’re going to make a movie from them that is so rich, so compelling, that that the studio will be eager to make it.” (This was a sales pitch I had heard more than a couple of times before.)…,”

After Mr. Burman left, Ken’s good humor continued. He sat down with his tea—I declined to have any—and told me about his single darkest day at the studio:

It was during World War II. Walt was very busy running from one project to another, checking on the shorts and government work going on. Walt always had a cigarette, and he came to a story meeting holding an unlit one. I had a new butane lighter and I flipped it open to give Walt a light. Just as he was putting the cigarette up to his face, the flame sprang out. The flare was huge and it burned half of Walt’s moustache off. He yelled ‘What are you DOING?,’ and ran out of the room. Our meeting broke up before it started.

I felt horrible. I went back to my office and tried to work, but word got around about what had happened. Every time I came out of my room, people avoided me, wouldn’t look at me. That went on for days. I was sure I’d be fired.

But then, at the end of the week, Walt came over to my table in the commissary and showed me that he had cut his whole moustache off. And then he sat down and ate lunch with me.

People started talking to me again. Nobody avoided me. And everything was all right.

Sadly, things weren’t all right with Catfish Bend. As time wore on, it became more and more obvious that we had too much story and way too many villains. In looks and temperament, the weasels were like the river rats, who were remarkably similar to the city rats.

Trouble was, Ken had plucked each set of villains out of a different Burman book, and he loved all of them the way a mother hen loves her eggs. One afternoon when I broached the subject of combining the three groups into one unit of evil-doers that we could weave through the various episodes, Ken got a sour look. “I don’t know about that, Steve. I don’t know about that at all.”

“Just let me try it, okay?” I pleaded. “We won’t have to introduce and set up three sets of bad guys, just one. It’ll save us screen time.”

Ken was still dubious, but I hiked back to my broom-closet to work on a story that would show him how well it could work. For the next seven days I cut, rewrote and streamlined Ken’s bulky treatment so that his “rich, compelling” animated feature would slim down to ninety minutes from its current Gone With the Wind running time.

On day eight I took my new pages down to Mr. Anderson, and he read them. And a couple of hours later, he called me downstairs. He asked me to sit in one of the office chairs, and paced before me.

“Steve, I don’t know what you’re doing here. You’ve changed my story around. You cut some of my best characters. You … you obviously have something against me …” He stopped pacing. Leaned down in front of me, blue eyes bright with anger. “Because I know I have something against YOU!

For half a second I thought he was going to slug me. Or strangle me. I pressed deeper into the cushioned chair.

“You … you don’t like it, Ken, I … I’ll change it! Put the characters back! I’ll rework the story. Do whatever you want.”

I didn’t know why Ken was so set on having so many different bad guys, but I had suspected he was attached to them, and now I had solid proof: Don’t change anything, you young asshole! I also knew imminent termination was glaring in my face.

I scuttled back to my office and started yet another treatment, reinserting Ken’s three gangs of villains. Then I rebuilt all the twists and turns of Ken’s expansive, over-complicated plot. While I was in the middle of the new revamp, I got a call from Don Duckwall. He wanted to see me in his office.


As I feared, Don wasn’t jovial and smiling this time. He had me sit down and got right to the point: “It isn’t working with you and Ken. He’s talked to me and complained about you. So we’re putting you back on The Fox and the Hound.

I was depressed, but not really surprised. Ken resented anybody who attempted surgery on his baby, no matter how overgrown and misshapen the infant. I was the interloper. Ken was the angry, self-righteous mother.

But there wasn’t much I could do about that now. I visited Mr. Anderson and let him know I had been taken off his project and reassigned to Fox. His reaction startled me. He seemed surprised and a little upset.

“They can’t DO this to me! I NEED you! I need to get this story done!”

He asked if I could keep working with him, after hours, on a voluntary basis. For no extra pay. I thought it was against studio (and union) rules, but I said I would give it a try. He beamed.

“You’ll do it? Wonderful! I could really use the help. I want to keep the picture going. THANK you.”

It wasn’t an ideal solution, but I wasn’t leaving poor old Ken in the lurch, wasn’t deserting him. I felt pretty good about this until I told Pete Young about it and he kicked sense into my empty head.

“You’ve got no freaking idea what’s going on, Hulett. Ken went up to Don Duckwall a couple days ago and tried to get you fired. He was angry you were changing what he’d done. Ken always gets angry when somebody changes his stuff. He screamed at the writer on Pete’s Dragon all the time, called him names and was really insulting. He did to you what he does to everybody.”

I didn’t know who Pete had talked to, but his network of spies and stoolies was extensive. So I didn’t doubt for a millisecond that Ken had tried to get me canned. My stomach knotted.

“I … told Ken I would keep working on Catfish Bend,” I stammered. “After hours. Off the clock.”

“That’s stupid,” Pete said. “Especially since Ken told Don you should be fired.”

Stupid seemed to be my middle name, maybe even my first.

After lunch I saw Vance Gerry and went through the same “Adventures with Ken Anderson” story I had shared with Pete. He sighed and shook his head.

“Ken can be … ahm … difficult. I saw him on the phone once, yelling at Don Duckwall that Woolie was his enemy. Ken can be … emotional.”

“How about irrational?” I offered.

“That, too,” Vance said. “But you need to understand that Ken is a frustrated guy. Walt never liked the Xerox look of Dalmatians, and Ken, being the art director, brooded about that. And years ago, he was overseeing a story about Chanticleer, the French rooster. There was a big presentation with Ken’s drawings. Songs had been written for it, and there were a lot of storyboards. Walt sat through the whole pitch, and at the end of it he shot the project down. He just didn’t think there was enough warmth with chicken characters. Ken took the rejection hard. He shut himself up in his office. Took time off from the studio.”

“So that’s why he’s doing this to me?” I said.

Vance shrugged. “He’s never gotten to be a director, calling the shots. And he wants that, a lot. Did I mention he’s a frustrated guy?”

Ken was also, I decided, a fourteen-karat prick.

The following day I hiked down to Mr. Anderson’s lair and informed him that, on second thought, I couldn’t work on his project after all. He looked disappointed. I was glad.

Catfish Bend was never greenlit for production, and never got close. Disney dropped its option on the books, and Ken Anderson retired three months later.

After Ken hung it up, I had the opportunity to ask Ward Kimball why he had behaved so badly, why he had tried to get me fired. Ward had a different take than Vance did. “Ken’s always been paranoid, and a backstabber. In 1934 when he was a new trainee, he’d get red in the face and fall down if he thought somebody was going around him.”

So there it was. For almost half a century, Ken Anderson had been a model of consistency, fighting off all rivals both real and imagined. He might have tried to get me fired, but at least he didn’t play favorites.

Official Selections For Our 5th Student Animation Festival

For the fifth year in a row, we are delighted to present the selections for the Cartoon Brew Student Animation Festival, our online showcase for animated short premieres by student filmmakers. We like to believe that each year is our strongest year, but this year’s selections feel particularly vital, illustrating the remarkable breadth of work currently being produced by student filmmakers around the globe. For our fifth edition, we placed a renewed emphasis on selecting films that exhibit strong storytelling skills and avoid narrative cliches. Further, each of the selected films feels unique in its visual treatment, expertly using the possibilities of the animation medium to evoke an emotional reaction, whether it be laughter, shock, compassion or heartbreak.

From over 280 entries, we selected 9 films. German students have a big presence with three shorts. Plenty of schools are represented for the first time in the festival: Filmakademie Baden-Württemberg and Kunsthochschule Kassel in Germany, Royal Academy of Fine Arts (KASK) in Belgium, Bezalel Academy of the Arts in Israel, and University for the Creative Arts Farnham in the United Kingdom.

Also notable, this year we have more CG films in the festival than ever before, with three shorts made entirely with computer-generated imagery, and a fourth film created with mixed-media techniques including CGI. It’s quite exciting to see students pushing beyond generic studio CG styles and applying more personal approaches to the technique.

Each of the nine films selected will receive a $700 (US) prize. Additionally, a grand prize winner will receive a Microsoft Surface Pro tablet. Cartoon Brew’s Student Animation Festival is made possible by the generous support of our Presenting Sponsor JibJab, a company that has shown consistent commitment to supporting young and emerging talent. The Surface Pro is courtesy of our new award sponsor Microsoft.

Thank you to everyone who submitted their work and congratulations to the selected films. The films will begin premiering on Cartoon Brew in July. Here are the 2014 selections:

My Big Brother
Directed by Jason Rayner
School: Savannah College of Art and Design (USA)
Synopsis: What if your older brother was a giant? My Big Brother explores the reflections of a boy sharing a room with his twenty-foot tall brother.
Running time: 2 min 30 s

Epilogue to a Breakup
Directed by Guy Elnathan
School: Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design (Israel)
Synopsis: An animated diary. After a harsh breakup, our hero, Guy, decides to leave it all and fly to New Zealand hoping to find true love. However, he must first defeat his inner demons before he can put the past behind him.
Running time: 9 min 30 s

Ophelia: Love & Privacy_Settings
Directed by Bin-Han To
School: Filmakademie Baden-Württemberg (Germany)
Synopsis: What if everybody could read your thoughts and knew all your most inner wishes and desires? And what if, at the same time, you were just a regular guy trying to find a woman? That’s the problem of Hubert. Anyone can clearly read his thoughts in a speech balloon floating above his head…but how will the girls react? A romantic comedy about “The End of Privacy.”
Running time: 3 min 40 s

Journey of Two
Directed by Joshua Mulligan
School: College for Creative Studies (USA)
Synopsis: Two best friends wake up and start the day.
Running time: 3 min 30 s

A Hedgehog’s Visit
Directed by Kariem Saleh
School: Filmakademie Baden-Württemberg (Germany)
Synopsis: A grumpy hedgehog trying to confess his love.Will he be able to overcome his insecurities?
Running time: 5 min 30 s

Grandma (Oma)
Directed by Karolien Raeymaekers
School: Royal Academy of Fine Arts/KASK (Belgium)
Synopsis: A girl has to conquer her fear for her grandma who is deathly ill.
Running time: 7 min 30 s

Final Serving (Nachschlag)
Directed by Florian Maubach
School: Kunsthochschule Kassel (Germany)
Synopsis: Surrounded by nothingness, a knight lives with his wife in a small house. Every day he must defend their home against attacks of other knights. What he gets as reward is love and a satisfying meal.
Running time: 4 min 15 s

Mr. Piggy Dies in 25 Dimensions
Directed by Josh Sehnert
School: Rhode Island School of Design (USA)
Synopsis: Join Mr. Piggy on an adventure through time and space. Please wear 25-D glasses.
Running time: 16 min

Directed by Remus Buznea and Kyriaki Kyriakou
School: University for the Creative Arts Farnham (UK)
Synopsis: A series of romantically unfortunate twentysomethings are interviewed, describing in vivid detail their expectations as they search for the ideal partner.
Running time: 3 min 45 s

‘The Story of a Tornado’ by Veronika Kocourková

The Story of a Tornado (Ako vzniká tornádo) by Veronika Kocourková follows a family of four air molecules. As the hot sun warms the Earth, the molecules grow and soon enough they no longer fit into their house. They try to find a place in the clouds, but the cold air molecules that already live there don’t want any new flatmates. What happens when they return home to find their old house has been occupied?

The film won the Di Award at Fest Anca 2014. The film will now be screened in Slovak cinemas before a feature film distributed by Film Europe.

Alan Holly’s ‘Coda’ Wins Top Prize at Fest Anča

Coda by Alan Holly.

Irish filmmaker Alan Holly’s Coda was the grand prize winner at Fest Anča, which wrapped up last Sunday in Žilina, Slovakia. Holly’s film, which follows a lost soul as it stumbles drunkenly through the city and meets Death, also won the animation prize at SXSW earlier this year. The film was funded by the Irish government’s Film Board and national broadcaster RTÉ under their Frameworks program.

Other winners at Fest Anča include Nicolas Ménard for his student film Somewhere, which has previously been featured on Cartoon Brew, Benjael Halfmaderholz for the music video “Mañana Forever,” and Slovak filmmaker Joanna Kozuch, who won the top Slovakian film award for Fongopolis.

A complete list of winners follows:

Anča Award

Coda (Ireland)
Director: Alan Holly

Max Hattler Personal Special Mention
To thy Heart / Do serca Twego (Poland)
Director: Ewa Borysewicz

Peter Badač Personal Special Mention
Choir Tour (Latvia)
Director: Edmunds Jansons

Michael Frei Personal Special Mention
Mother / Maman (France)
Director: Ugo Bienvenu, Kevin Manach

Anča Student Award

Somewhere (United Kingdom)
Director: Nicolas Ménard

Anča Student Special Mention

The Incredible Elastic Man / Nieprawdopodobnie elastyczny człowiek (Poland)
Director: Karolina Specht

Anča Music Video Award

“Mañana Forever” (Germany)
Director: Benjael Halfmaderholz

Anča Music Video Award Special Mention 1
“Best Friend” (Poland)
Director: Kijek/Adamski

Anča Music Video Award Special Mention 2
“We’ve been lovin” (United Kingdom)
Director: Gavin C Robinson

Anča Kids Award

Us (France)
Director: Ulrich Totier

Anča Slovak Award

Director: Joanna Kozuch

Anča Slovak Award Special Mention
In Line / V rade
Director: Kamila Kučíková

Di Award

The Story of a Tornado / Ako vzniká tornádo
Director: Veronika Kocourková

DreamWorks Vets Bibo Bergeron and Mike de Seve Launch Monkey’s Uncle

Eric “Bibo” Bergeron (l.) and Mike de Seve.

Animation veterans Eric “Bibo” Bergeron and Mike de Seve have partnered to launch a new venture called Monkey’s Uncle, which they announced at Annecy a couple weeks ago. They plan to turn the company into a hub for top animation talents who will develop original animation features in the $25-75 million range.

The company will also provide pre-production services from development through greenlight for companies who have already secured financing for feature film projects. “Our goal is to provide producers access to some of the most sought-after creative talents available,” said de Seve. “The aim is to be a complete, boots-on-the-ground solution for any company that has production capacity but needs to build out its front-end creative vision.”

The duo has decades of industry experience. Bergeron co-directed two films at DreamWorks—The Road to El Dorado and Shark Tale—before directing the recent French feature A Monster in Paris. De Seve was a sequence director on Madagascar and did script consulting on six DreamWorks features, as well as co-directed the feature Beavis and Butt-Head Do America. He also operates the animation screenwriting consultancy Baboon Animation.

Other artists involved in Monkey’s Uncle are character designer Buck Lewis, whose credits include Kung Fu Panda, Alvin and the Chipumunks, and Ratatouille, and story artist Jurgen Grosz, who has worked on Rango, Open Season, and Chicken Run.

Among the four original features that the studio is currently developing, Murphy’s Outlaw is furthest along in development. The planned $25 million feature is based on the “Murphy’s Law” adage of “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong,” and explores the universe of The Murphies, the hairy gremlins who cause everything to go wrong for humans.

Disney TV Animation Begins Production on ‘Pickle & Peanut’

It’s getting harder and harder to tell the difference between YouTube cartoons dreamt up by teens in their bedrooms and big-budget TV studio productions created by professionally-trained artists.

Today, Disney Television Animation announced the beginning of production on Pickle & Peanut, a “buddy comedy series about two unlikely friends—an emotional pickle and a freewheeling peanut…two underdogs who dream up plans to be anything but ordinary.” Of course, you wouldn’t know any of that from the promotional artwork Disney released since the expression-less identical poses of the pickle and peanut betray no sign of personality or character except their questionable sense of sunglass fashion.

The hybrid 2D animation/live-action Pickle & Peanut will debut in fall 2015 on Disney XD. Concept was created by Noah Z. Jones (Fish Hooks) and developed by Joel Trussell (Electric City), who has ably directed similar mixed-media projects like Carrot and Stick and Mr. Wobble’s Nightmare (below). Jon Heder plays the pickle and Johnny Pemberton is the nut, and Mark Rivers (Jimmy Kimmel Live!) is the story editor.

As his defense for greenlighting the series, Disney TV Animation’s Eric Coleman, senior v-p of original series, said, “We see very few pitches that are as funny and original as Pickle & Peanut. We instantly fell in love with these characters, and Noah and Joel have built a world with a visual style and sensibility unlike anything on TV.”

‘Ping Pong’ Recap: ‘I Thought You Were the Hero!!’ (Ep. 10)

Peco and Dragon battle it out in a fierce match, and Peco’s victory paves the way for a climactic showdown between old friends.

This was the most intense episode yet. And that’s saying a lot. The pacing was more frenetic than usual, the animation was more lively than usual. This episode set my hairs standing on end with its intensity. It’s probably my favorite episode so far. This is the sort of thing I want to see from this show. Previous episodes have been satisfying on the whole, but somehow unremarkable. I think what I was hoping to see is something that stood out somehow. I’ve never been a fan of uniform quality. I like ups and downs. This is one of the show’s big ups. It’s not surprising, as we’re close to the climax, and they’re pulling out all the stops.

We probably have Eunyoung Choi to thank for the quality of this episode. I wouldn’t have thought there could be such a difference in directing texture arising purely from a different director, since each episode is storyboarded by series director Masaaki Yuasa, but when you have someone with exceptional talent like her, there’s no suppressing her unique touch. It’s not even that she has an idiosyncratic style that’s clearly identifiable. It’s just an added oomph that makes the material really pop. She did some stunning work combining music and visuals in a recent episode of Space Dandy, and the deft combination of driving music with frenetically paced animation in this episode is riveting in the way you want an exciting climactic battle to be.

No matter how well directed, an episode won’t achieve its full potential without interesting animation to bring it alive, and that’s another reason this episode stands out from the others. The show has sadly been a little lacking on the animation front due to scheduling issues, but in this episode we finally get a little bit more good animation to make the ping pong matches more than merely colored manga with music.

Yasunori Miyazawa returns with some delightful work. But for the first time in the show, his sections aren’t the only good bits. We’ve also got work from three animators who are excellent at creating exciting physical action: Niho Tomoyuki, Shingo Yamashita and Takashi Mukoda. You can find these guys’ fantastic work in numerous shows over the last decade, most prominently Tetsuwan Birdy Decode and Naruto Shippuden. Tomoyuki and Yamashita are products of the Internet. They were part of an online community of amateur animation enthusiasts who would post their GIF animation to BBSs, and eventually they were recruited into the industry, bringing a completely different way of conceptualizing movement with them—one more instinctive in its methods and based in realistic motion. Mukoda had a more traditional start but stood out for also creating realistic action sequences. These guys help bring the second half of this episode alive. A lot of the drawings are a bit off-model, but that’s been something of their trademark: creating sections with incredibly rich and dynamic animation that doesn’t care much about model.

Peco starts off on the wrong foot, losing the first game, but eventually gets his groove back when he starts just having fun with it. Then Ryuichi starts to sweat until he himself figures out that he has to do the same thing. Kong takes off his shades for seemingly the first time witnessing the frenzy into which the two players get in the second game—the ultimate accolade. The match is interspersed with the visual metaphor of Peco as hero, which we’ve seen since early in the show, teaching Dragon how to fly. This time Peco saves Dragon from himself, and from the fate into which he was cast by family circumstance. Dragon actually cracks a smile during the match. The next victory will be for Peco to bring back Smile’s smile.

When the driving music kicks in during the second half, the timing of everything suddenly becomes super speedy in a way that feels just right for a Yuasa show. You have the same manga-inspired panel play, but sped up and actually filled with movement. This time you can’t follow the action—it’s sensory overload—but it has the visceral thrill that you can only get from Yuasa (think the escape sequence of Mind Game). Credit also goes to Kensuke Ushio’s great music for elevating the scene. He’s provided a huge variety of music for the show. The show’s talented colorist Kunio Tsujita (Tatami Galaxy, Casshern Sins, Wakfu: Noximilien the Clockmaker) also devised an interesting scheme for the scene. Saturation gradually fades from an icy blue scheme to stark manga black-and-white at the moment of Ryuichi’s combined defeat/satori. Apparently Smile was not the only one waiting for a hero. Ryuichi’s metaphorical flying bird is mirrored by Yurie’s airplane, which takes her to freedom overseas.

There were very few weak drawings this time around and lots of very good ones, because other than the guest animators you had all the main figures on hand. One trick they’ve used in this show to save labor, particularly in shots with complicated camera movements, has been some kind of morphing program that moves the characters Flash-style. You see it where Ryuichi rolls the ball around his racket and where Peco hunches over pondering and then perks up when he hears the humming. It’s obvious why it was used and it makes sense—those shots probably couldn’t have been made otherwise under this schedule. That’s not something you saw before in Yuasa’s shows, so it must be a technique Tatsunoko brought to the table to get the show done on time. Maybe these are the bits that have been done by the group credited in each episode under “Science SARU”. It’s not badly done—that ping pong ball rolling shot was pretty cool—but I wouldn’t want to see it used more than it is.

Ping Pong Episode 10: I thought you were the hero!!

Series Structure:
Masaaki Yuasa
Episode Director: Eunyoung Choi
Assistant Episode Director: Ryota Ito
Chief Animation Director: Nobutake Ito
Animation Director: Nobutake Ito Naoyuki Asano
Sayaka Toda Shoko Nishigaki
Key Animation: Kanchi Suzuki Shoko Nishigaki
Yasunori Miyazawa Tetsuro Kaku
Ryota Komatsu Mayu Matsushima
Washio Tatsuro Kawano
Kanako Maru Tomoyuki Niho
Mayu Saito Shingo Yamashita
Yukie Yamamoto Takashi Mukoda
Takuya Saito Tomomi Kawazuma
Betsujin Shishido Kenji Shibata
Saori Koike Izumi Murakami

‘Peg + Cat’ and ‘Peter Rabbit’ Top 41st Daytime Emmy Creative Arts Awards

Peg + Cat (PBS).

The 41st Daytime Entertainment Creative Arts Emmy Awards were held last Friday in Los Angeles. The big winners in the animation categories were the PBS series Peg + Cat and the Nick series Peter Rabbit, which each picked up three awards.

Multiple animated series won two awards apiece: Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness, Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Transformers Prime Beast Hunters, and Bubble Guppies. Also picking up two awards was the Moonbot-produced Chipotle ad for YouTube, The Scarecrow, which signifies the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences’ efforts to recognize online content alongside traditional work by broadcasters.

A complete list of the animation winners is below:

Outstanding Pre-School Children’s Animated Program
Peg+Cat (PBS)
Executive Producers: Jennifer Oxley, Billy Aronson, Vince Commisso, Kevin Morrison
Supervising Producers: Alia Nakashima, Tanya Green
Producer: Jaclynn Demas
Animation Producer: Robert Powers, Brett Hall
Line Producer: Christine Davis

Outstanding Children’s Animated Program
Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness (Nickelodeon)
Executive Producer: Peter Hastings
Co-Executive Producer: Bret Haaland
Supervising Producers: Randy Dormans, Gabe Swarr
Producers: Joann Estoesta, Andrew Huebner

Outstanding Special Class Animated Program
Star Wars: The Clone Wars (Cartoon Network)
Executive Producer: George Lucas
Supervising Director: Dave Filoni
Producer: Cary Silver
Line Producer: Athena Yvette Portillo

Outstanding New Approaches – Original Daytime Program or Series
The Scarecrow (YouTube)
Producers: Lampton Enochs, William Joyce
Directors: Limbert Fabian, Brandon Oldenburg

Outstanding Performer in an Animated Program
Peg+Cat (PBS)

Outstanding Individual Achievement in Animation
(winners determined in Juried Panel judging)

Ernie Gilbert, Character Design
T.U.F.F. Puppy (Nickelodeon)

Eddie Gribbin, Background Design

Peter Rabbit (Nickelodeon)

Marten Jonmark, Storyboard

Peter Rabbit (Nickelodeon)

Jose Lopez, Character Design

Transformers Prime Beast Hunters (HUB Network)

Yasuhiro Motoda, Character Animator

Transformers Prime Beast Hunters (HUB Network)

Jennifer Oxley, Production Design

Peg+Cat (PBS)

Stephen Robinson, Production Design

Peter Rabbit (Nickelodeon)

Christopher Voy, Color

Star Wars: The Clone Wars (Cartoon Network)

Outstanding Writing in a Preschool Animated Program
Bubble Guppies (Nickelodeon)
Head Writer/Writers: Jonny Belt, Robert Scull
Writer: Clark Stubbs

Outstanding Writing in an Animated Program
Arthur (PBS)
Executive Story Editor: Peter K Hirsch
Writers: Craig Carlisle, Jacqui Deegan, Matt Hoverman, Dietrich Smith

Outstanding Directing in an Animated Program
The Scarecrow (YouTube)
Directors: Limbert Fabian, Brandon Oldenburg

Outstanding Achievement in Main Title and Graphic Design
Sabrina Secrets of a Teenage Witch (Hub Network)
Title Designer: Stan Lim
Graphic Artists: Rouja Koleva, Flavio Mandriola, Manny Mazaira

Outstanding Achievement in Sound Mixing – Animation
Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness (Nickelodeon)
Production Mixers: Justin Brinsfield, Matt Corey
Re-Recording Mixer: Thomas J Maydeck C.A.S.
SFX Mixer: Rob McIntyre

Outstanding Achievement in Sound Editing – Animation
SpongeBob SquarePants (Nickelodeon)
Supervising Sound Editor: Devon Bowman
Supervising Music Editor: Nicolas Carr
Supervising Dialogue Editor: Mishelle Fordham
Sound Effects Editor: Jeff Hutchins
Foley Editor: Aran Tanchum
Foley Artist: Vincent Guisetti

Outstanding Achievement in Music Direction and Composition
Bubble Guppies (Nickelodeon)
Music By: Michael Rubin
Score By: John Angier

Outstanding Original Song – Main Title and Promo
Disney Sofia the First (Disney Channel)
“Disney Sofia the First: Main Title Theme”
Lyricist: Craig Gerber
Composer & Lyricist: John Kavanaugh

These Disney Commercial Cels Designed by Tom Oreb Can Be Yours

A little Cartoon Modern inspiration for a Monday morning: these Donald Duck and Alice in Wonderland production cel/master backgrounds from mid-1950s Disney TV commercials are currently up for auction at Heritage Auctions. They’re affordable at the moment, but likely won’t be by the time the auction is over. The character designer on these spots was Tom Oreb (better known for his work on Sleeping Beauty, 101 Dalmatians, and Toot Whistle Plunk and Boom), and the background layout artist was Vic Haboush. (Disclosure: Heritage Auctions is an advertiser on Cartoon Brew.)

Here are a few other characters and spots that Tom Oreb designed for Disney’s short-lived TV commercial unit:

Annecy Animation Festival 2014 Award Winners

The Boy and the World directed by Alê Abreu won the Annecy Cristal for Feature Film. Click for larger image.

The Annecy International Animated Film Festival, the world’s oldest and biggest animation festival, wrapped up its 38th edition on June 14th. It was my first time attending in five years, and the festival has evolved significantly during that span. The most noticeable change is the heavy presence of American studios, both in the number of presentations about American features (directors Pete Docter, Carlos Saldanha, and Kelly Asbury all spoke) and studio-hosted parties (Disney, Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon threw official parties).

Annecy is a long way from turning into a San Diego Comic-Con because the event is still attended almost entirely by industry professionals and animation students. But with over 7,000 people in attendance, some of the big studio events, like the debut of Patrick Osborne’s Disney short Feast, had an electric atmosphere. Audiences stomped their foot at these events, hooted and hollered, and of course, threw paper airplanes per festival tradition. For a filmmaker, it’s hard to imagine a more receptive and enthusiastic environment than Annecy for premiering an animated short.

While the American studio presence has grown, the winners of the festival serve as a reminder that Annecy still values films and filmmakers from around the globe. The winner of the top feature film prize, as well as the feature film audience prize, was the dialogue-less Brazilian film The Boy and the World directed by Alê Abreu. The film will be released in the United States by GKIDS.

Abreu’s win marked the second year in a row that a Brazilian film has captured the feature film prize. “Right from the selection stage, the emergence of Brazilian animation has now been confirmed,” said Annecy’s artistic director Marcel Jean. “The double consecration of The Boy and the World with the Feature Cristal and the Audience Award is sending out strong signals about the vitality of Brazil’s production.”

South Korean artist Dahee Jeong won the short film Cristal for her piece Man on the Chair, and French filmmakers 
Burcu Sankur and Goeffrey Godet
 won the TV Cristal for “Tant de forêts,” a short for the 
En sortant de l’école series based on the poetry of Jacques Prévert.

The full list of winners is below.


Cristal for a Feature Film
The Boy and the World (O menino e o mundo)

Alê Abreu


Cristal for a Short Film
Man on the Chair

Dahee Jeong


Cristal for a TV Production
En sortant de l’école “Tant de forêts”

Burcu Sankur, Goeffrey Godet


Cristal for a Commissioned Film
Nepia “Tissue Animals”

Fuyu Arai


Cristal for a Graduation Film
The Bigger Picture

Daisy Jacobs

Great Britain – NFTS


Jury Award
Bill Plympton


Jury Distinction
Giovanni’s Island
Mizuho Nishikubo


Audience Award
The Boy and the World (O menino e o mundo)

Alê Abreu



Jury Award
Gerd Gockell

Germany, Switzerland – ANIGRAF

“Jean-Luc Xiberras” Award for a First Film
Hasta Santiago

Mauro Carraro

France, Switzerland – NADASDY FILM

Jury Distinction
Bus Stories


Canada – ONF

Jury Distinction
Absent Minded (La testa tra le nuvole)

Roberto Catani


Audience Award
Anatole’s Little Saucepan (La Petite Casserole d’Anatole)

Éric Montchaud

France – JPL FILMS


“Off-Limits” Award
Foreign Bodies

Nicolas Brault



Jury Award for a TV Series
Tumble Leaf “Kite”

Drew Hodges


Jury Award for a TV Special
The Scent of Carrots

Rémi Durin, Arnaud Demuynck

France, Belgium, Switzerland – LES FILMS DU NORD


Jury Award

Peau “Instant T”

Perrine Faillet



Jury Award
An Adventurous Afternoon
Ines Christine Geisser, Kirsten Carina Geisser


Jury Distinction
The Age of Curious
Luca Toth

Great Britain – RCA


Festivals Connexion Award – Région Rhône-Alpes with Lumières Numériques
Through the Hawthorn

Anna Benner, Pia Borg, Gemma Burditt

Great Britain – LIKELY STORY

Junior Jury Award for a Graduation Film

Mikkel Okholm


Junior Jury Award for a Short Film
Bus Stories


Canada – ONF

Fipresci Award
No Fish Where to Go (Nul poisson où aller)

Nicola Lemay, Janice Nadeau

Canada – ONF

“Gan Foundation Aid for Distribution” for a Work in Progress Award

Simon Rouby


Sacem Award for Original Music
Hasta Santiago
Mauro Carraro, Pierre Manchot

France, Switzerland – NADASDY FILM

“CANAL+ Creative Aid” Award for a Short Film

Mirai Mizue

Japan, France – CaRTe blaNCHe, CALF

‘How to Train Your Dragon 2′ Earns $25 Million in Second Weekend

In its second weekend, How to Train your Dragon 2 eased 49% to an estimated $25.3 million. The drop was significantly greater than the 34% second-weekend decline of the original movie in the series. Combined with the lower-than-expected opening weekend, the sequel is now all but guaranteed to finish below the original film’s $217.6 million U.S. gross. Box Office Mojo suggests that the film, which has currently grossed $95.2 million domestically, could end up with as little as $170 million, nearly $50 million less than its predecessor.

As with many computer-animated features, the silver lining is the film’s overseas performance. How to Train Your Dragon 2 added $43.5 million from international territories, boosting its foreign total to $$77.2 million. The sequel opened in Mexico with $7.3 million (far surpassing the original film’s Mexican debut of $2.8 million) and in Brazil with $6.8 million (above the original’s $2.4 million Brazilian launch).

The only film that did better at the international box office was Disney’s animation-inspired Maleficent, which added $44.7 million from foreign territories. It also grabbed an estimated $13 million in its fourth U.S. weekend, pushing its domestic total to $186 million. To date, the film has grossed $521.6 million globally.

In its fourth weekend, Seth MacFarlane’s A Million Ways to Die in the West, dropped out of the top ten with $1.6 million. The film has grossed a meek $40.3 million, a far cry from the $219 million gross of MacFarlane’s directorial debut Ted. Combined with its equally miniscule $30.8 million international gross, the film will likely end up with less than $100 million globally.

Pixar’s Announces ‘Lava,’ New Musical Short

Click for a larger version of the Lava poster.

Pixar has announced their latest short film, Lava, directed by James Ford Murphy, a studio veteran who has animated on the company’s films since A Bug’s Life. Lava is described as a musical love story that takes place over millions of years, “inspired by the isolated beauty of tropical islands and the explosive allure of ocean volcanoes.” The short will be released on June 19th, 2015, in front of Pete Docter’s next feature Inside Out.

Update On Cartoon Brew’s Student Animation Festival Plus One Last Chance to Submit

The selections for Cartoon Brew’s 5th annual Student Animation Festival will be announced next Wednesday, June 25. Also, since many students learned about the festival recently at Annecy, we are re-opening the submission period through this Sunday, June 22nd. If you’ve already submitted, please DO NOT send your film again. But, if you haven’t sent your film yet, learn how to submit HERE.