If you still haven’t found the perfect gift for your favorite animation artist or fan, here’s Cartoon Brew’s list of last-minute gift ideas for the holidays.
Ranging from the technical to the quirky to the essential, these holiday electives make great presents for those who make animation their livelihood, or want to learn more about why it’s perhaps the most powerful art form in the entertainment marketplace today. Let’s start with an undisputed master, whose acclaimed, astounding lessons can still school even the most decorated animation pro.
THE COLLECTED WORKS OF HAYAO MIYAZAKI
Accessing a legendary library needs to be easy, and this Blu-ray box set, released last month exclusively through Amazon, fits that bill. In the case of Studio Ghibli icon Hayao Miyazaki, what counts for scholars is what is included around the core masterworks comprising the legend. Holiday collectors expect to get all 11 of Miyazaki’s features when they shell out hard-earned cash for Miyazaki material; what they’re really paying for are the deeper cuts.
In this case, that search for ephemera poignantly, if not ironically, leads to an uncut version of Miyazaki’s retirement press conference. It’s a hopefully premature retirement — Ghibli’s Hiromasa Yonebashi told Cartoon Brew that “Miyazaki is in the process of making short films” — but it’s still a keeper of a cut.
Other bonus features include Miyazaki’s 1972 pilot for Yuki’s Sun (Yuki no Taiyo), and three episodes of that same year’s anime series, Little Samurai (Akado Suzunosuke), showcasing his storyboarding and more. The set also comes with Tomohiro Machiyama’s book, The Great Dichotomy: Looking at the Works of Hayao Miyazaki, featuring selections of the director’s notes and proposals for each film.
All in all, it’s an affordable go-to for then collector seeking to school themselves and others on Miyazaki’s main achievements. Films included:
Lupin the Third: The Castle of Cagliostro (1979)
Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (1984)
Castle in the Sky (1986)
My Neighbor Totoro (1988)
Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989)
Porco Rosso (1992)
Princess Mononoke (1997)
Spirited Away (2001)
Howl’s Moving Castle (2004)
The Wind Rises (2013)
THE BROTHERS QUAY + CHRISTOPHER NOLAN
Essential stop-motion surrealists and twin brothers Stephen and Timothy Quay have spent decades meticulously crafting fearsome but fascinating short films, a few of which recently went on a 35mm tour, curated by Inception director Christopher Nolan — who also happened to direct a documentary love letter in their honor called, simply, Quay.
They are assembled on The Quay Brothers: Collected Short Films, out November 24 from Nolan’s Syncopy Films and indie film distributor Zeitgeist Films, a comprehensive Blu-ray release featuring 15 shorts, from 1984’s The Cabinet of Jan Svankmajer to 2003’s The Phantom Museum, totaling 225 minutes of estranged but rewarding animation.
“We left the door ajar, and Christopher Nolan slipped in silently with his camera,” The Brothers Quays told Cartoon Brew. “He respected us, our space, and our working methods — which we share hugely with him.”
Exclusively featuring not just Nolan’s Quay but also three films — Maska, Through the Weeping Glass, and Unmistaken Hands — uncollected on previous compilations, The Quay Brothers: Collected Short Films is a history lesson in stop-motion animation artistry that is as defiant as it is instructive.
“Although a good portion of our films may use puppets, we’ve never exclusively courted this domain,” The Quays told Cartoon Brew. “We have always incorporated and blended live-action, pixilation, time-lapse, object animation, and traditional stop-motion animation, to the point where, in some of our films, one would be sometimes hard-pressed to know where one realm gave off into the other.”
A few years before Walt Kelly created the memorable comic strip Pogo, he drew a series of classic fairy tale stories in comic book form. Ranging from crowd-favorites like Hansel & Gretel and Cinderella to more obscure myths and legends from both sides of the Atlantic, the comics have now been collected in Walt Kelly’s Fairy Tales, a new release from IDW Publishing imprint Yoe Books.
Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Ben Sargent is reported to have once said that he would die happy if he could just draw a tree as well as Walt Kelly. This new book, which examines one of Kelly’s more obscure bodies of work, makes it easy to understand why Sargent loves Kelly’s work; a treasure trove of visual inspiration awaits you inside these pages as Kelly explores fantastical worlds inhabited by fairies, sorcerers, witches, trolls, queens, princes, knights, animals, giants, and insects.
Want to give the gift of arty learning? Then consider purchasing some lessons at a well-respected online school for artists and animators.
Bobby and Ben Chiu’s Schoolism offers a one-year subscription for $144. Fill out Schoolism’s form, include a holiday message, and your recipient will receive an e-card on Christmas Eve with redemption instructions.
With an array of video courses and live workshops on gesture drawing, digital painting, composition, realism, caricature, and much more, Schoolism is an excellent online resource for new animators learning the basics, as well as top artists from top studios rounding our their skills sets. Schoolism gift subscriptions give recipients access to the lessons of award-winning artists from Pixar, DreamWorks, Disney, and more, including Alex Woo, Dice Tsutsumi, paleo-reconstructionist Terryl Whitlatch, and others.
Two of the instructors are Academy Award nominees, Chiu reminded Cartoon Brew, and there are 17 classes to choose from, with more being added in 2016. Students can only take one class at a time, but can switch at any time for just one dollar.
Every industry has its own obscure in-jokes, and animation is no outlier in this regard. You can find them cleverly arranged on Teeframed’s T-shirts, which make for smart holiday gifts for artists, animators and similarly minded obscurantists in your life.
“I’m a sucker for a play-on-words, so I thought it’d be fun to make designs that feature those phrases in a different context,” explained Thomas Anderson — who merged his study of software like Maya and After Effects with his love of T-shirts to create a cottage industry for animation in-jokers.
Teeframed’s animation-minded presents are printed on American Apparel T-shirts, on demand and usually within five business days, then shipped to your doorstep. International orders take an additional two weeks. Let the squashing and stretching begin.
We usually try to avoid hyperbole, but Apple’s $99 digital pencil and complementary $799 iPad Pro are pretty much the must-have items for the animation community this season. Cartoon Brew covered Pixar’s test-drive in September, and opinion was more or less unanimous on that score.
“Pressure sensitivity is great,” explained Pixar art director Don Shank. “Each individual app determines how pressure data is used, so its effect can vary from preset to preset. But I got some very light delicate lines all the way to thick bold lines very nicely, and shading with the side of the pencil was pretty awesome…You can rest your hand anywhere and it totally ignores it and it just reads the pencil. It’s pretty amazing.”
Whether or not Apple, after widening its product appeal beyond artists and designers in favor of the general consumer market, can elbow Microsoft’s new and also-impressive Surface Pro 4, or even Wacom’s useful Cintiq Companion, aside on store shelves is still an open question. But if you’re an animator or gadget geek looking to spend some serious holiday money to upgrade your game, Apple’s pencil/iPad combo is the go-to adult toy this season.