LAIKA Chief Surprises Comic-Con Crowd By Saying He Wants To Do Hand-Drawn Animation

travisknight-2d

At a presentation for LAIKA’s third stop motion feature The Boxtrolls, LAIKA’s CEO Travis Knight told San Diego Comic-Con audiences that he hopes to make a hand-drawn animated film at some point in the future. Slashfilm’s editor Peter Sciretta was in attendance and offers more context to Knight’s comments:

[Knight] says that every one of the Laika stop-motion movies feature small bits of hand-drawn animation composits [sic], but he would like to one day do a whole movie in the medium. It seems like they don’t have any definite plans but you could tell from his tone that it’s something he’s been considering for a while now.

If Knight chooses to pursue the idea, he would have no competion. While dozens of hand-drawn animated features are produced annually in Europe, Asia and Latin America, there has not been a big-studio hand-drawn production produced by an American company since 2011 when Disney released Winnie the Pooh.

(Thanks, Elliot Lobell)

‘Buy Buy Baby’ by Gervais Merryweather

It’s the roaring twenties and things are looking great for Frederick Frinklesworth II and the rest of the New York Stock Exchange, but when his daughter Betty is left in his care for the day can Fredrick and Wall Street survive the mayhem that ensues?

CREDITS
Director: Gervais Merryweather
Writer: Gervais Merryweather, Adele Coburn
Art Director and backgrounds: Henry Lambourne
Concept artist: Daniel Permutt
Animation assistants: Henry Lambourne, Emiliano Gonzales Alcocer
Daniel Permutt, Joshua Butler,Elias “Uva” Diaz
VFX Supervisor: Victor Tomi
VFX Artist: Jason Evans, Doychin Margoevski
Editor: Chloe Lambourne
Composer: Jonathan Hill
Sound designer: Vicente Villaescusa
Cinematographer: David Woodman
Concept Designer: John Merry
Created at the National Film & Television School, 2012

Netflix Adds More Animated Series: ‘The Knights of Sidonia,’ ‘Ever After High,’ and ‘Dinotrux’

Netflix’s slate of original animated programming continues to grow with the recent announcements of three new series: The Knights of Sidonia, Ever After High and Dinotrux.

In The Knights of Sidonia, the site’s first original anime series, genetically modified mech pilots fight to protect the last of humankind from shapeshifting aliens. Based on the manga of the same name by Tsutomu Nihei, it is touted as a Netflix “Original,” despite the fact that the first season of the series, produced by Polygon Pictures and directed by Kobun Shizuno, aired in Japan last April. Both dubbed and subtitled versions of the first season’s 12 episodes have been available exclusively on Netflix since July 4.

Ever After High is a glossy, sartorial reimagining of classic fairy tales that follows the teenage mini-dramas of the sons and daughters of timeless characters like Snow White, Sleeping Beauty and the Mad Hatter. Based on Mattel’s fashion doll franchise, 12 episodes of the new animated series will debut in 2015, with an original film premiere titled Ever After High Spring Unsprung. Netflix currently streams a handful of Ever After High short form animated episodes, created by Mattel’s Playground Productions.

Dinotrux, which will also debut in 2015, is an adaptation of the children’s books by Chris Gall. It features prehistoric construction vehicles like Tyrannosaurus Trux, Tow-a-constrictors and Reptool as they defend their world from the most dangerous Dinotrux of them all, D-Strux. Dinotrux is part of the original programming deal between Dreamworks and Netflix, and among the few announced projects that is not based on an existing Dreamworks film property.

Hot Tip: Watch ‘The Onion’ Make Fun of Hyper-Real CGI ‘Ninja Turtles’ (NSFW)

If you thought the faces of the new hyper-realistic Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were disturbing, wait until you see their dongs. This Onion piece is an instant classic:

What I’d like to know though: Was this piece sponsored by Paramount? It would appear to be studio-approved stealth advertising, which somehow makes it even funnier.

Nick Yanks ‘Korra’ From TV, Moves Series To Online Platforms

In an unprecedented programming move that surprised even the show’s creators, Nickelodeon will remove The Legend of Korra from its network schedule, and premiere the remaining episodes of season three exclusively on digital platforms.

The network will air its final broadcast episode tomorrow evening. Beginning on August 1, the five remaining episodes of the “Book 3″ season will debut weekly on Nick.com and the Nick app, as well as on platforms like Amazon, Google Play, Xbox and Hulu.

“I appreciate all the support for the show and share your frustration,” Korra co-creator Michael Dante DiMartino wrote on his Facebook fan page. “[T]his was a disappointing development for sure but as long as you all are able to see the show in some capacity, I’m grateful.” A fourth season of the show is currently in production, according to DiMartino.

Fans of the series have been concerned about the show’s ratings for some time, even going so far as to create videos that discuss why so few people are watching the new season. Many fans have accused Nickelodeon of not promoting the series enough and airing it in a poor timeslot.

Korra will have a panel at Comic-Con on Friday, and the show’s co-creator Bryan Konietzko posted this note on Tumblr indicating that they’ll be discussing the move to online platforms:

Jeffrey Katzenberg Will Receive National Medal of Arts

Jeffrey Katzenberg. (Photo-illustration/original photo: Shutterstock)

President Obama will honor DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg with the 2013 National Medal of Arts. The honor, which will also be bestowed upon 11 other individuals and organizations this year, is the highest award given to artists and arts patrons by the United States government.

Katzenberg is one of Obama’s top campaign donors, having personally donated over $3 million to Democratic super-PACS that back the president and raising an additional $30 million for Obama. He is one of the first businessmen to ever receive the award, which traditionally honors artists. President Obama toured DreamWorks’ campus last year.

The announcement for the honors described Katzenberg as “director and CEO of DreamWorks.” A National Endowment for the Arts spokesperson later clarified to the press that “director” referred to Katzenberg’s role on the DreamWorks Animation board.

Over 300 National Medals of Arts have been handed out since 1985. The only other animation-related person who has received the honor was Disney animator Ollie Johnston in 2005.

Katzenberg will receive his medal on July 28; the event will be streamed on the White House website.

Venice Film Festival Selects ‘Boxtrolls’ And Two Animated Shorts

The Venice Film Festival, the world’s oldest film festival, announced the line-up today for their 71st edition. The festival is known for not giving much consideration to animated cinema, but they always throw in a few animated films. This year, their sole animated feature selection, among over fifty-plus films, is Anthony Stacchi and Graham Annable’s The Boxtrolls, which will screen in the out-of-competition category.

“This is an incredible honor for LAIKA and our film,” said Travis Knight, who is the producer and lead animator of Boxtrolls as well as the president and CEO of LAIKA. “To be singled out by one of the world’s most prestigious film festivals is an utter joy and an enormous validation for the hundreds of artists whose talents make our films come to life.”

Boxtrolls will screen in Venice on Sunday, August 31st. The film opens on September 12 in the UK and Mexico, and on September 26 in the United States and Canada.

The Venice festival also selected two animated shorts this year: the Brazilian Castillo y el Armado directed by Pedro Harres, which will screen in competition, and the Italian film L’Attesa del Maggio, directed by Simone Massi, screening out of competition.

Here’s the trailer for Castillo y el Armado:

For the full list of films at Venice, visit their website.

First Look: SpongeBob CGI Superhero Feature ‘Sponge Out of Water’

While we’ve known for quite a while that the new SpongeBob SquarePants film would have computer-animation in it, the first image from SpongeBob: Sponge Out of Water was revealed today. The film, which will debut on February 6, 2015, will be the first release from the new Paramount Animation unit.

Sponge Out of Water begins in the traditional animation world and stays in that classic world for most of the film, but for its climax, it switches to a CG world, where the main characters become an “Avengers-type team” who have to save Bikini Bottom from Antonio Banderas, who portrays a pirate: SpongeBob transforms into the Invincibubble, Patrick Star is Mr. Superawesomeness, Squidward Tentacles becomes Sour Note and Mr. Krabs is Sir Pinch-A-Lot.

A note to Comic-Con attendees: Paramount is expected to reveal footage from the film at their 3PM panel TODAY in Hall H. Share what you see with us.

Digital Domain Animation Studio Cheated Taxpayers Out of $80 Million, Lawsuit Says

Yesterday the State of Florida sued the principals of Digital Domain to recover tens of millions of dollars in taxpayer-funded incentives that they claim were “fraudulently” obtained from the state.

“The script had the makings of a big-budget Hollywood blockbuster: greed, corruption, special effects, and a star-struck audience willing to suspend belief,” according to the lawsuit. “In the real world, there was no Hollywood happy ending. The hero did not save the day. The villain was not defeated. Instead, the story ended with Florida taxpayers being cheated out of over $80 million dollars.”

Filed by the State of Florida and its Department of Economic Opportunity, the suit (DOWNLOAD the 71-page PDF of the complaint) lists 23 different parties as defendants. The most serious charges of fraud were leveled against two individuals: former Digital Domain CEO John Textor and the company’s president and chief financial officer Jonathan F. Teaford. The other defendants in the suit—who include former state Rep. Kevin Ambler; the company’s secured lender Falcon Mezzanine Partners; the members of Digital Domain’s board of directors; and various accounting and investment firms associated with the company—were cited for civil conspiracy to commit fraud, gross negligence, aiding and abetting fraud, and tortious interference with grant fund agreement.

The lawsuit maintains that the pre-Textor Digital Domain in California was a “de facto Ponzi scheme” that stayed afloat by constantly borrowing money to replace old debt with new debt, and “like all Ponzi schemes, Digital Domain’s demise was a certainty.” Textor’s strategy, according to the state, was to merge the debt-ridden Digital Domain California with the new Digital Domain Florida that would be funded by taxpayer dollars:

Digital Domain’s fraud on the State began in earnest in 2007. For some time, Digital Domain California had been seriously indebted, including to Falcon Mezzanine Partners, its principal lender. Through a series of loans and debt restructuring, Falcon came to hold various notes, stocks, and warrants that by 2009 enabled it to take over the company in the event of a default and call in millions of dollars of personal guarantees. Before 2009, Digital Domain California hatched a new plan to rid itself of debt: 1) start a brand new company (Digital Domain Florida) with no debt on its books; 2) use Digital Domain California’s credentials, together with promises of new high paying jobs for Floridians, as security to obtain grant money for Digital Domain Florida; and 3) use the grant to partially bail out Digital Domain California (who, by June 2009, was on the verge of defaulting with Falcon); then 4) merge Digital Domain California with Digital Doman Florida to keep the failed business model going.

The pitch-man for the plan — code named “Project Bumblebee” — was John Textor, a Florida native turned wannabe Hollywood movie mogul who (together with other notable investors) had purchased an interest in Digital Domain California in 2006. He and others within the company portrayed Digital Domain Florida to the State as a start-up with no debt whose ties with Digital Domain California were its management and visual effects credentials. The script included Textor promising that Digital Domain would bring thousands of high paying jobs to Florida during a devastating recession. But, there was just one catch: it needed millions of dollars in State grant money first. Textor never told the State that as soon as Digital Domain Florida obtained the grant, the money would be committed to repay Falcon. He and others within Digital Domain Florida deliberately withheld that information.

Florida has a system in place to ensure that grant applicants like Digital Domain Florida are scrutinized to prevent the State from being defrauded like this. At first, the system worked. Digital Domain Florida’s proposal for a $20 million grant was rejected by Enterprise Florida, the State’s public-private partner charged with vetting potential economic development projects. Much to the dismay of Textor and others fraudulently attempting to portray Digital Domain Florida as a start-up, Enterprise Florida scrutinized Digital Domain California, whose reputation Textor was using as currency for the grant. Pursuant to Enterprise Florida’s normal process — due diligence and consideration of statutory requirements for economic incentives — it found “the financials for the company were ‘extremely weak’” and specifically noted concerns over “profitability, income, equity and debt financing, revenue projections, cash position, executive compensation, and recent litigation” involving Digital Doman California (many of the same “risk factors” it identified as part of its 2007 IPO). Enterprise Florida found that Digital Domain’s unsound business model could not meet the statutorily required five-to-one payback ratio. Accordingly, Enterprise Florida refused to recommend the funding of $20 million for the project.

The state says that after the rejection of funds, Textor illegally lobbied then-Florida governor Charlie Crist. The lawsuit, however, does not include any major legislative figures as defendants. According to the state’s attorney, Bill Scherer, he didn’t find any evidence that Crist or other major figures were pushing for these projects, or that politics played a role in the suit.

John Textor speaking in 2011.

Textor maintains that the lawsuit is politically motivated. In a statement to Cartoon Brew, he reveals that the law firm currently representing the state had earlier agreed to represent him in a case. Here is the full text of Textor’s statement:

This lawsuit reads as a politically motivated fiction. The Studio was built, the workers were hired, the State audited and confirmed that DDMG met all of the grant requirements. After the bankruptcy, Governor Scott’s Inspector General conducted a thorough investigation and found no wrong-doing by me or any of those involved in awarding the grant. Now months before a close election, I am surprised to see the Governor hire a law firm that only recently chose to represent me in the same matters. When acting as my lawyers, they believed the public was not aware of the facts. They met with me several times, received confidential information and agreed to represent me in my efforts to investigate the actions of hedge fund lenders whose predatory actions shut down a performing economic development project. The politics of this lawsuit cannot change those facts. The State’s law firm has knowingly violated their ethical duties as lawyers.

I support the review of DDMG’s overall jobs initiatives. We built two separate programs to deliver on the jobs promise…a studio for 500 jobs and a college to inspire thousands of jobs. The studio did fail, but the college was prospering, even after DDMG filed for bankruptcy. Maybe this lawsuit will force the Governor to explain his own actions in closing the college in South Florida — the biggest part of our jobs program.

Animation Block Starts Tomorrow in New York City

The West Coast might have its Comic-Con this week, but the East Coast will be enjoying animated films at the 11th annual Animation Block Party, which starts tomorrow and continues through Sunday. The festival will offer a dozen or so screenings, as well as a couple parties. While the festival remains in Brooklyn, tomorrow night’s opening screening will take place in Manhattan for the first time. The free outdoor screening will occur at Brookfield Place along the water between West Street and the Hudson River (220 Vesey Street, NY, NY, 10281). Doors at 6:30pm with a live band at 7:45pm and films at 8:45pm.

The rest of the screenings will take place at BAMcinématek in Brooklyn (30 Lafayette Avenue) and include the usual festival mix of animated shorts, student work, music videos, commercial projects. Special screenings include a John Hubley centennial screening, an East Coast screening of Animation Breakdown, a tribute to Paul Terry’s Farmer Alfalfa, and a screening of Space Jam.

A full schedule and ticket info can be found at AnimationBlock.com.

San Diego Comic-Con Animation Open Thread

San Diego Comic-Con 2014 begins tonight. If you have an animation-related project or merchandise that you want attendees to know about, or if you are an industry artist who’ll be selling something, post it in the comments. (Be sure to include your booth number.)

To get things started, here’s a few animation-related products and events. Firstly, Mondo Tees is getting into toys, and one of their first efforts will be an Iron Giant figure for the film’s 15th anniversary. Their description:

The 16″ tall figure will have over 30 points of articulation, light features, and other fun surprises! Accompanying The Iron Giant will be a Hogarth figure, scraps of metal for him to munch on and a Seafood sign that has a removable “S” to put on his chest. He will also include an interchangeable head and gun attachment, giving a choice of displaying the figure as the regular version, or the “War” version! The figure was designed from the actual CG files used in the film, for ultimate accuracy.

MAC will unveil a 10-piece cosmetic collection based on Marge Simpson. The set will be sold exclusively at the company’s Gaslamp store on Saturday, July 26, and they’ll also be giving visitors Marge-inspired makeovers. The collection will be available to the public in September.

To promote Laika’s The Box Trolls, insect chef David George Gordon will be hosting an “Eat Like the Box Trolls” food truck on July 25-26. According to the chef, “The menu for this two-day event will include Boxtroll-approved foods: teriyaki grasshopper kabobs, chocolate-dipped chapulines (small Mexican-spiced grasshoppers) and a few exotic surprises.”

Here’s a look at what the chef will have:

And here’s where you can find his truck:

‘Walking City’ by Universal Everything

Walking City is a continuation of Universal Everything‘s artistic line of enquiry, investigating human movement, emotional design, architecture and sound. It is inspired by the sense of walking through a city, how absorbing your surroundings alters sensation and emotion. How you become part of the fabric of the city, a man-made eco system. Referencing the utopian visions of 1960s architecture practice Archigram, Walking City is a slowly evolving video sculpture. The language of materials and patterns seen in radical architecture transform as the nomadic city endlessly walks, adapting to the environments it encounters. What appears as a 3D person, shrouded in a digital costume, shifts and breaks, reshapes and endlessly evolves into a video sculpture continuously walking in the center of the screen: creating an artificial form whose movement feels alive, not synthetic. It explores the structural processes found in modern architecture, which have led to a multitude of aesthetic outcomes. From Buckminster Fuller’s domes to Richard Rogers’ inside out buildings, Daniel Liebskind’s angular public museums to Future Systems’ biomorphic structures. Created using Houdini, Walking City utilizes a procedural process to seamlessly change into different costumes—moving from faceted shapes, through contours and brutalism—as the walk cycle anchors the piece.

CREDITS
Creative Director: Matt Pyke
Animation: Chris Perry
Sound design: Simon Pyke (Freefarm)

Artist of the Day: Celyn Brazier

Celyn Brazier

Celyn Brazier

Location:
London, UK
Primary media:
Pencil, digital
Education:
Central Saint Martins College of Arts and Design (Illustration, 1995)
Major projects:
Commercials and PSAs for Vitra, World Wildlife Fund, Ben & Jerry’s France, Guardian [Director/designer, Nexus Productions]
New York Times, The Guardian, Esquire, The New Yorker [Illustrator]
More:
Website/Tumblr/Blog/Nexus

Celyn Brazier

Celyn Brazier

Celyn Brazier

Celyn Brazier

Celyn Brazier

Celyn Brazier

Celyn Brazier

Celyn Brazier

A Major Exhibit “Frame x Frame” Celebrates The NFB’s 75th Anniversary

The Quebec exhibit “Frame x Frame” celebrates the NFB’s 75th anniversary. (Photo by Jean-Marie Villeneuve.)

Any reason to celebrate the National Film Board of Canada is a good one; the NFB is a model for government-funded arts organizations, both in the freedom granted its filmmakers and its long string of successes. In this case the 75th anniversary of the NFB has led Les Musees de la civilization in Québec City, Canada, to mount “Frame x Frame: Animated Film at the NFB.” The show not only highlights the NFB and its filmmakers, but puts both in the context of the history of animation.

The exhibit begins with an introduction on the development of the animated film, including examples by Émile Cohl, Winsor McCay, and others, then follows with five thematic sections: social history, comedy, musicals, fantasy, and experimental work.

Historical displays include a Felix the Cat figurine used in early television experiments to the leather slippers Norman McLaren wore for decades while working at the NFB. McLaren’s centenary fell earlier this year and received its own commemoration. Also featured are stop motion models from animated films, drawings, and technical tools used by NFB filmmakers such as Caroline Leaf, Co Hoedeman, and Patrick Bouchard.

There are, of course, notable NFB films being shown continuously, with over 250 films and film excerpts represented. Visitors can produce their own stop motion animated film with the provided props and miniature sets. There is even the opportunity to see animators at work—in a large glass cage, no less—thanks to a residency program. Francis Desharnais is in residence in July, followed by Janet Perlman in mid-to-late August. In the fall of 2014, the museum will host Theodore Ushev, followed by Dale Hayward and Sylvie Trouvé in March 2015. Claude Cloutier (June) and Patrick Bouchard (August) will conclude the residencies in 2015.

“Frame x Frame: Animaed Film at the NFB” runs until August 23, 2015.

Christina Miller Named Cartoon Network, Adult Swim President

Cartoon Network has named Christina Miller as its new president and general manager. She will also serve the same roles for Adult Swim and Boomerang. Miller fills the leadership vacancy left by Stu Snyder, who departed the network in March.

Miller joins CN from Turner Sports Strategy/Marketing/Programming where she oversaw NBA Digital’s portfolio including the NBA TV network and NBA.com. Prior to that job, she was senior v-p of Cartoon Network Enterprises (CNE) and directed the network’s consumer products and home video business in the United States. At CNE she launched the merchandise line for Ben 10 and epxanded the division’s role to include third-party licensing.

In her new role, Miller will work with Turner International to “establish short and long-term priorities, as well as an overall worldwide strategic plan that will more closely align the kids business.” Miller, who will report to David Levy, president of Turner Broadcasting System, will lead a team of business and creative execs including Rob Sorcher, chief content officer for Cartoon Network, and Mike Lazzo, exec-vp/creative director of Adult Swim.

Miller’s experience with digital brands points to an area in which Cartoon Network could attempt to expand its presence. The announcement of her hiring also emphasizes the network’s pursuit of a more global approach to growing Cartoon Network and Boomerang. “These are beloved brands with a passionate following,” said Miller, “and there’s a tremendous opportunity to continue to grow them domestically and, with guidance from David and Turner International President Gerhard Zeiler, a new focus on alignment and partnership to leverage the global potential of Cartoon Network and Boomerang.”

‘New Yorker’ Makes Animator Profiles Available For Free

As part of their website redesign, the New Yorker has made every article they’ve published since 2007 available for free on their website. This release of material includes some longreads about animated films and filmmakers, some of which are better than others. The recent profile on Paul Debevec is particularly interesting if you want insights on where animation is headed. If these whet your appetite, remember that subscribers to the magazine get the full archives, including their 2005 profile on Hayao Miyazaki and the 1975 profile of Donald Duck’s voice Clarence Nash.

Paul Debevec profile: “Pixel Perfect: The scientist behind the digital cloning of actors”

by Margaret Talbot
April 28, 2014

Seth MacFarlane profile: “No. 1 Offender: Seth MacFarlane has success. Can he now get respect?”

by Claire Hoffman
June 18, 2012

Andrew Stanton profile: “Second-Act Twist: Andrew Stanton, the director of Finding Nemo and Wall-E, faces the complications of live action”

by Tad Friend
October 17, 2011

Pixar profile: “The Fun Factory: Life at Pixar”

by Anthony Lane
May 16, 2011

William Kentridge profile: “Lines of Resistance: William Kentridge’s rough magic”

by Calvin Tomkins
January 18, 2010

Wes Anderson profile: “Wild, Wild Wes: A master of high style goes looking for adventure”

by Richard Brody
November 2, 2009

Digital Domain Deal Is Target of Major Florida Lawsuit (Updated)

UPDATE (JULY 22, 2014): Today we briefly interviewed John Textor, who was concerned about some of the characterizations in the original piece. Cartoon Brew expresses regret about any inadvertent inaccuracies in the story. The piece below has been updated to accurately reflect the facts in Florida State’s legal actions against Digital Domain. Textor has also agreed to be interviewed by Cartoon Brew at a later date about his role at Digital Domain.


The actions of Digital Domain, led by disgraced former CEO John Textor, will become the subject of a lawsuit by the state of Florida. Textor, as you may recall from our coverage a few years back, was the ringleader of a fiasco that ruined hundreds of lives, used $130 million dollars of Florida taxpayer funds, and tried to force animation students into questionable labor arrangements.

UPDATE: Florida State Files Lawsuit; Alleges Digital Domain Cheated Taxpayers Out of $80 Million

Florida governor Rick Scott, has appointed outside legal counsel led by litigator Bill Scherer to investigate why their state gave Digital Domain more than a hundred million dollars in public funds. For that amount, Textor had promised to open up a school called the Digital Domain Institute, and to create a new film studio, Tradition, to produce high-end animated films.

While both of those projects happened, Digital Domain Institute never graduated any students and the studio never made a film. By the time of Digital Domain’s spectacular collapse in 2012, the only thing Digital Domain had accomplished was creating the biggest job-incentive-program flop in Florida state history.

John Textor was the former CEO of Digital Domain.

The goal of the new investigation is “to identify any and all legal action available against the company and any other individuals involved in wrongdoing related to this bad deal,” according to the governor’s general counsel Peter Antonacci. The State expects to announce legal action in the coming weeks.

The case won’t be an easy one. While the state’s general counsel claims that “the usual state regulatory processes were circumvented to give Digital Domain tens of millions of dollars in taxpayer funds,” a 2013 state report (read it HERE) concluded that there were “no apparent violations of law, rule, or regulation in the award” of economic development incentive funds received by Digital Domain.

“It sounds like the Governor hasn’t read his own report,” Textor said about the new investigation. “The State IG Report clearly states that Digital Domain was fully vetted by Enterprise Florida and the Legislative Budget Commission, and properly approved for funding. Given the timing, this is clearly an election ploy targeted at the Crist administration.”

To lear more about Textor’s mismanagement of Digital Domain, read these Miami New Times and FXGuide pieces.

Mike Mignola Created A Poster for Pixar’s ‘Toy Story That Time Forgot’ Special

Click to enlarge image.

Comic artist Mike Mignola (Hellboy) created this poster for the upcoming Pixar TV special Toy Story That Time Forgot, which will air on ABC this winter. The poster will be given away this Thursday at the San Diego Comic-Con. The special is directed by Steve Purcell (co-director of Brave and creator of Sam & Max):

During a post-Christmas play date, the Toy Story gang find themselves in uncharted territory when the coolest set of action figures ever turn out to be dangerously delusional. It’s all up to Trixie, the triceratops, if the gang hopes to return to Bonnie’s room.

‘Planes: Fire & Rescue’ Opens With $18 Million, But The Real Money Is Elsewhere

Like its predecessor, Planes: Fire & Rescue opened in third place at the U.S. box office. The new film, however, grossed only $18 million, or 19% less than the opening of the first Planes.

When it comes to the Planes series though, box office is an inconsequential metric. The films are designed to be 90-minute toy advertisements, and they succeed brilliantly on those terms. In 2013, Planes was the second-fastest growing toy license, trailing only Despicable Me (according to the market research firm NDP Group), and in the first quarter of 2014, Planes was the third-fastest growing license, behind Despicable Me and Frozen. Not to mention that the first Planes grossed $70 million in DVD/Blu-ray sales in addition to the $220 million it made in global box office gross. Disney’s success with this franchise extends far beyond the box office, and they’ll be making Planes cartoons for some time to come.

For the second weekend in a row, the Andy Serkis-starring, animation-filled Dawn of the Planet of the Apes held the top spot at the U.S. box office with an estimated $36 million. The film has now grossed $139 million in the U.S. and an additional $101.5 million overseas.

How to Train Your Dragon 2 dropped to eighth place with $3.8 million in its 6th frame. The DreamWorks sequel has now grossed $160.7 million in the United States, and $223.9 million internationally. Its current global gross stands at $384.6 million.

15 Unpublished Photos of Hanna-Barbera Making ‘The Flintstones’

Joe Barbera (center) at a “Flintstones” voice recording session with Mel Blanc, Alan Reed, Jean Vander Pyl and Bea Benaderet.

In November 1960, LIFE magazine published an article about the breakout success of Hanna-Barbera’s seminal primetime animated series The Flintstones. The piece featured three photos of the studio, but what they didn’t publish is even more amazing. Photographer Allan Grant took 850 photographs for the magazine assignment, documenting every part of the studio’s operations. Remarkably, all of those photos are now available to view online in the LIFE Photo Collection.

Grant chose about twenty scenes to document, so there are dozens of slightly-varied photos of the same people and scenarios. Nevertheless, the images offer a revealing look at Hanna-Barbera just before it became the largest animation outfit in the world. It’s positively refreshing to see the two bosses—Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera—assuming such hands-on roles in their productions. Hanna and Barbera understood every step of the animation process inside-out, thanks to nearly two decades of creating Tom & Jerry theatrical shorts at MGM, and during the early years of their own company, they were deeply involved to ensure a consistent final product. These photos are a tribute to their professionalism and expertise in creating memorable animated characters that are still beloved by audiences half a century later.

Here are some of the highlights from the LIFE collection. Click on any image to enlarge:

An inker working on an unpainted Fred Flintstone cel.

Yogi Bear and Huckleberry Hound soap containers being manufactured at a Los Angeles factory.

Bill Hanna overseeing a music recording session.

Click to enlarge photo.

Mel Blanc (left) and Alan Reed recording the voices of Barney Rubble and Fred Flintstone, respectively.

Joe Barbera relaxing poolside with his family at home.

A story meeting. Standing, left to right: Joe Barbera, Bill Hanna, Warren Foster. Seated, l. to r.: Dan Gordon, Alan Dinehart, unidentified, Michael Maltese, Alex Lovy. (Thanks, Yowp, for further idents.)

Blow dryers used to be an animation production tool.

Joe Barbera’s secretary Maggie Roberts reading something to him.

Click to enlarge photo.

Cameraman (possibly Frank Paiker) shooting Flintstones cels under the camera. (Thanks, Yowp, for the ident.)

An inker working from home.

Bill Hanna grilling steaks for his family.

Animator Carlo Vinci acting out a scene.

Click to enlarge photo.

Even in the early years, the studio made more than one show at a time. Here, Joe Barbera (right) reviews concept artwork for Touché Turtle, most of which appear to have been drawn by Ed Benedict.

The studio’s bowling team “The Yogi Bears” heading out for a match.

UPDATE: For further analysis of photos from the LIFE collection, the fantastic Hanna-Barbera blog Yowp has done a follow-up post that is well worth reading.

‘Mouse in Transition’: When Everyone Left Disney (Chapter 7)

Don Bluth working on “The Small One” (1978) shortly before he led a mass exodus of artists out of the studio.

New chapters of Mouse in Transition will be published every Friday 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.

Read Chapter 1: Disney’s Newest Hire
Read Chapter 2: Larry Clemmons
Read Chapter 3: The Disney Animation Story Crew
Read Chapter 4: And Then There Was…Ken!
Read Chapter 5: The Marathon Meetings of Woolie Reitherman
Read Chapter 6: Detour into Disney History

Don Bluth smiled at me.

“I wouldn’t worry about being laid off from Disney’s, Steve. Nobody gets laid off around here. When somebody messes up, the studio just sends them to WED.”

(WED, if you don’t know, was a Disney subsidiary in nearby Glendale that developed rides and attractions for Disneyland and Disney World. Its name was an acronym for Walter Elias Disney, and a number of feature animation employees had migrated there over the years.)

“Ah,” I said, just to be saying something. (“Ah” sounded more intelligent than “Huh?”)

We were off to one side of the Disney commissary where a wrap party for the animated featurette The Small One was in full swing. Don had directed the picture after finishing work on Pete’s Dragon. And a rift had developed inside the department during its making.

Mr. Bluth had taken over direction from Eric Larson, a well-loved veteran and one of Walt Disney’s iconic “Nine Old Men.” Eric mentored many of the newcomers in the department, and some of the younger employees were less than thrilled about the change. Some staff members felt that Eric had been pushed out of the director’s chair, and there was a general suspicion that Don was favoring animators who had worked on his outside project Banjo, the Woodpile Cat by assigning them the best scenes from The Small One. This, naturally enough, caused more resentment to bubble up. Gag drawings that depicted Bluth-allied staff (labelled “Bluthies”) in unflattering ways started cropping up in various wings of the animation building. Don was not happy about the wall humor.

At the wrap party—populated by Disney administrators, animation employees, and CEO Ron Miller with his wife Diane Disney Miller—Don seemed detached and a touch sardonic. I chalked it up to the recent department disputes and grumblings.

I was wrong.

Don was on the brink of walking away from the studio and taking a sizable number of Disney animators with him, all of them off to make their own feature The Secret of NIMH. But all this was unknown the night of The Small One celebration. The scuttlebutt around the lot was that Don had told Mr. Miller that he would stick around until the completion of The Fox and the Hound, so all was food, drink and merriment.

But weeks later the roof caved in. Don submitted his resignation on a Thursday. A large part of the animation staff did likewise on Friday.

Management freaked. Ron Miller asked Don Duckwall what the hell was going on, and Don confessed that he didn’t know. Soon thereafter, Duckwall and Ed Hansen (Duckwall’s administrative second-in-command) started asking staffers if they were staying, and offering animators who were still in the fold battlefield promotions. (An up-and-coming animator named Linda Miller was called in and offered a jump to directing animator; she told Duckwall and Hansen—much to their shock and surprise—that she was leaving with Mr. Bluth.)

The mass resignations turned the Disney animation department upside down. The first bit of smoldering fallout was that the release date for The Fox and the Hound got pushed back. The studio didn’t have the talent to get it out on schedule, and Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston—who had by this time retired to write a coffeetable book entitled The Illusion of Life—had minimal interest in UNretiring.

The second piece of fallout was that Don Duckwall, after decades at the studio, was asked to retire. (Apparently when there’s a surprise exodus of key personnel, and the chief executive is ticked off, there has to be a fall guy. And in this case, Mr. Duckwall was the designated sacrificial lamb.)

But Don and his troops were not the only departures just then. Months before, Larry Clemmons had acceded to his wife Cassie’s suggestions to retire, and gave notice that he was leaving after a twenty-three year run of steady employment. (Thirty-three total years at Disney, if you count his Hyperion studio days.)

I knew Larry had mixed feelings about going. He loved the meetings, the recording sessions, and the general camaraderie. He loved the rhythms of the studio workdays. He loved the long lunches with old friends in the commissary’s executive dining room.

But all things, both good and bad, come to an end, and Larry slowly packed up his office. And on his second-to-last day of Disney employment, he took me to a French restaurant next to Universal Studios.

And at that last dinner, he reminisced about Bing Crosby’s chintzy Christmas presents:

“Bing always handed out flimsy little wallets to staff, wallets with his logo on it. But he had a sense of humor about the cheapness of the things. When one of the writers waved the wallet at him and yelled ‘Hey Bing! I got your form letter!’ Crosby fell on the floor laughing.”

…and Walt Disney’s occasional prickliness:

“When I was writing monologues for Walt on the Disneyland shows, there was another guy who did one of the intros and used the word “modicum.” And I read it and said, ‘Walt? I don’t think you’d say the word ‘modicum.’ Walt glared at me, raised one of his eyebrows and snapped: ‘Whattaya MEAN? I use the word modicum all the time! Modicum. Modicum! MODICUM!’ …”

…and, also, the antics of Larry’s close friend Ward Kimball. Larry recounted how Ward stuck a hand-lettered sign on the back of Leopold Stokowski’s fancy convertible reading “Stokie and his hepcats.” It was a long, enjoyable dinner.

A couple of days later, Larry drove away from the studio for the last time. He was a bit sad about it, but he knew it was time to depart. Within a week he was in Friday Harbor, Washington, in the middle of the Puget Sound. There he remained in contented retirement until the big studio mogul in the sky called him to his next job.

Art Stevens during the production of “The Fox and the Hound.”

Wolfgang Reitherman was among the last of the Hyperion Studio brigade to exit Disney Feature Animation. Studio management had asked him to step back from command and let junior personnel take the reins, but Woolie had a tough time doing that. Finally, Art Stevens, the second director on The Fox and the Hound, forced the issue with upper management, demanding that Mr. Reitherman stop second-guessing his decisions. Woolie was told that Mr. Stevens would now be a co-equal, and take over day-to-day responsibilities on the picture.

Woolie, however, wasn’t through offering his creative input. He knew that the middle of the feature sagged story-wise, and came up with a solution: insert a musical number featuring a sexy female crane, voiced by the Latin entertainer Charro. Woolie supervised the creation of sequence boards, got a scratch song recorded, then oversaw the filming of live-action reference featuring Charro in a pink leotard.

Art Stevens was horrified. “We can’t let that sequence in the movie! It’s totally out of place!” he complained to management. After reviews and conferences, Reitherman’s crane sequence was put on ice. Art was right about Woolie’s musical comedy interlude being a round peg in a triangular hole, but Woolie was correct that the middle of the picture needed punching up.

After the crane sequence went into limbo, Woolie worked on a couple of development projects that went no further than the treatment and story sketch phase. The studio gave him some consulting work, but he seldom consulted. By the early 1980s, he was gone.

I saw Wolfgang twice after he cleared out his office: once at lunch at a tony, quiet restaurant four blocks from the studio, and again at a banquet honoring animation veterans. He was in high spirits that night, and I like to think his retirement years had been enjoyable for him.

But Woolie was a workhorse, and would have been delighted, I think, to have spent the years after The Fox and the Hound on one last feature, one final short. Unfortunately most human beings don’t get everything their hearts desire, and I suspect that Woolie didn’t get his.

Among the old-timers I knew, only Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston went out the way they wanted. Both of them finished their animation on The Fox and the Hound on the first floor, then moved up to a spacious office on the third floor to write The Illusion of Life, which turned out to be a best-selling classic.

Some lucky few get to exit EXACTLY on their own terms.

Earn Big Money At Last! Learn Animation!

“If you can draw a circle, we can teach you animated cartooning.”

Animators, the 1938 ad claims, can earn up $20,000 a year, which would be the equivalent of nearly $700,000 in today’s money. That probably didn’t happen very often, if at all, but animator Art Babbitt did make $11,363 at Disney in 1936, which would be $455,000 today. That’s nothing though compared to what comic strip artists used to earn. Mutt and Jeff creator Bud Fisher pulled in $150,000 in 1916, or $11.9 million in today’s dollars.

Alvin Epstein, the co-owner of the animation school in the ad, published How to Draw Animated Cartoons in 1945:

Artist of the Day: Megan Nicole Dong

Megan Nicole Dong

Megan Nicole Dong

Location:
Burbank, CA
Primary media:
Ink, markers, digital
Education:
CSU Fullerton
Concept Design Academy
Major projects:
How to Train Your Dragon 2 [Storyboard artist]
About Merpeople web-comic series [Author/artist]
More:
Tumblr/About Merpeople

Megan Nicole Dong

Megan Nicole Dong

Megan Nicole Dong

Megan Nicole Dong

Megan Nicole Dong

Megan Nicole Dong

Megan Nicole Dong

Megan Nicole Dong

Seth MacFarlane Stole ‘Ted,’ Lawsuit Alleges

Seth MacFarlane has been accused of ripping off the vulgar-teddy-bear concept for his hit 2012 film Ted from a California company called Bengal Mangle Productions.

In a complaint filed this week in the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, Bengal Mangle Productions claimed that Ted was “strikingly similar” to their creation Charlie, a bear who lives in the human world and has a penchant for drinking, smoking, and soliciting prostitutes. The character was created in 2008 for the screenplay Acting School Academy, and subsequently appeared in the webseries Charlie the Abusive Teddy Bear, which was posted on YouTube, FunnyorDie, and Blip.TV. The videos in the webseries had approximately sixty thousand views between February 2009 and June 2012, which amounted to less ten thousand views per episode. Here’s an episode from 2010 entitled Charlie Kills A Hooker:

The suit, which also names Universal Pictures and other production companies associated with Ted as defendants, claims that, “Charlie and Ted each have a substantially similar persona, verbal tone, verbal delivery, dialogue, and attitude.” To bolster that argument, the plaintiffs also presented a series of tweets from Charlie the Abusive Bear’s Twitter account and Ted’s Twitter account to show how the two bears “think” alike. Here are their examples of “similar postings”:

Charlie: I like Fox News. THey’ve made s**t talking an art form
Ted: I like Game of Thrones for tits and blood and Fox News for laughs

Charlie: I’m a bear and my nose is at crotch level. What do women expect?
Ted: I don’t mind giving the ladies oral pleasure. I just Febreeze the shit out of my snout after.

Charlie: That Charmin bear is on E in those commercials. “Oh rub the cloth on my face, it feels so good!”
Ted: Snuggles is bi. Found that out the soft way.

Back in 2012, we wrote about the similarities between Ted and Lucas Turnbloom’s comic Imagine This. In the comments of that post, readers pointed out that Ted also resembled the animated short Teddy Huggsbeary, the TV series Unhappily Ever After, a live-action short called Josh and Todd: The Story of a Man and His Puppet, and an online comic strip called Rehabilitating Mr. Wiggles.

Below you can read the entire copyright infringement complaint against MacFarlane:

Disney TV Inks Deals With Aaron Springer, Jhonen Vasquez, Jesse LeDoux, and Ryan Quincy

Clockwise from top left: Aaron Springer, Jesse LeDoux, Jhonen Vasquez, Ryan Quincy.




Disney TV Animation announced an unusual series of pilot deals and projects today with an un-Disney-like roster of creators. The first three projects are pilot deals. In years past, animation pilots were rarely ever reported to the public, but after Adventure Time, where fan enthusiasm for the pilot convinced execs to greenlight it for series production, pilot deals have become public affairs:

  • Billy Dilley’s Super Duper Subterranean Summer
    Creative Talent: Director Aaron Springer, whose credits include the Emmy Award-winning Mickey Mouse cartoon shorts and SpongeBob SquarePants, is creator.
    Synopsis: Summer break takes an unexpected turn when Zak and Marsha end up stuck in uncharted land at the center of the earth with eccentric classmate Billy Dilley.

  • Very Important House
    Creative Talent: Jhonen Vasquez, creator of cult favorite Invader Zim and character designer Jenny Goldberg (Rick and Morty, Bravest Warriors) are co-creators.
    Synopsis: 11-year-old Frolie moves into the Very Important House and suddenly finds herself in the role of caretaker of the universe.

  • Douglas Furs
    Creative Talent: Highly-regarded illustrator and former Sub Pop Records art director Jesse LeDoux and actor/writer Matt Olsen (Sly Cooper) are co-creators.
    Synopsis: Deep in the woods, beyond human reach, exists the thriving animal community of Douglas where Barry the bear, the world’s least-handy handyman, takes it upon himself to fix all the town’s problems.

In addition to the pilots, Disney also announced the new short-form Disney XD series Future-Worm!, created by Ryan Quincy, who worked on South Park prior to creating the short-lived IFC series Out There. Future-Worm! is about a boy who creates a time-machine lunch box and befriends a worm from the future.

RELATED: Disney TV Animation Begins Production on Pickle & Peanut

Disney TV also announced development of a Disney Channel/Disney XD TV special based on the Haunted Mansion ride. The show will be art directed by illustrator Gris Grimly, who will also exec produce with Phineas and Ferb story editor Scott Peterson. Peterson will write the special with Joshua Pruett, another Phineas and Ferb alum.

Meanwhile, with production ended on Phineas and Ferb, Disney has also announced a development deal for new projects with the show’s co-creator Dan Povenmire. The show’s other creator, Jeff “Swampy” Marsh, is currently attached to direct a European feature co-production called Unstable, which will be produced by Peafur Productions and Surfer Jack Productions.