Monthly ArchiveJuly 2007
Daily post 31 Jul 2007 07:58 am
– Mark Mayerson has a thoughtful interesting website filled with genuinely intelligent animation commentary. I truly enjoy reading much of his writing, hence I’ve so often linked posts to his site.
He has commented negatively on two trailers recently released on the internet, and I think it worth reading if you haven’t already.
I’m often reluctant to make decisions based on trailers I see. I’ve been wrong once or twenty times in my pre-judgement and don’t want to attack films based on trailer-bits I see. I find that with the two films Mark talks about, the Chipmunk feature and Horton Hears A Who, I have prejudged both in different ways than did Mark.
My immediate reaction to the ugly cg chipmunks was absolutely negative. There is nothing that could make me go to that film. The designs of the characters are completely off kilter. To think back to those limited animation but beautifully designed Format film originals, I can only sigh when I look at what a bastardization of ugly design people do today. It’s sad, really. I like Jason Lee, so perhaps he might interest me, but I hate the way they’ve cross cut from him to the chipmunks in the trailer. If the trailer is poorly directed, there’s a good chance the same will be true for the movie. I also know David Seville was a real person, not just the creator of the Chipmunks. (You can see him in Hitchcock’s Rear Window as the pianist/composer in the apartment across from Jimmy Stewart.) Somehow an animated guy might have been more acceptable – though a cg guy would have prompted other complaints.
As for Horton, Jim Carrey‘s name always makes me squirm. I don’t want to see him as Ebenezer Scrooge, and I don’t think he’s perfect casting for Horton. Perhaps the fact that he played the Grinch (shivers go up my spine) makes him eligible for all Dr. Seuss characters. As for Steve Carell, I found myself listening very closely to the readings he gave. I don’t even remember the character he did in the trailer, but I was curious to see more. I do like Blue Sky‘s work. They haven’t hit a bulls eye yet, for me, but their work is always so interesting. I can’t think of any stories they’ve told that I enjoyed completely, but the graphics and the approach are always strong. A film like Robots had so much going for it (despite the presence of Robin Williams‘ voice) that I can’t help but think fondly on the film. I only wish the script had been good. Excellent set-pieces do not make a good film.
- There’re a lot of new dvds out there for animation fans of golden age cartoons to buy.
Today’s the day that the Popeye dvd’s are released. I’m looking forward to this dvd for all the extras and the brilliant prints that have already been so well promoted on other sites. (See Cartoon Brew 1 and 2.)
Jaime Weinman also reports that there’s a trailer for the new Smurfs dvd included on this Popeye dvd. A collector’s extra worth owning.
The NYPost has a nice little PR article about the dvd.
- Last week the much heralded Woody Woodpecker dvd appeared. I want to own this, but I’m not sure it’s on a rush-to list for me. I already have all those Columbia House Woody Woodpecker Shows that were released years ago on an umpteen number of dvds.
Woody Woodpecker is more nostalgia for me than real animation greatness. It’s not something I’ll watch over and over. (As a matter of fact, I’m not sure there are many dvds I’d watch over and over.)
I am interested in the early work of the Lantz studio. However, once they got into the mid forties, I was never much attracted to their work. Tex Avery did some notewrothy films for Lantz, but I can’t think of any episodes of the “Bearies” that I’d be searching for. Michael Barrier has a good commentary on this dvd at his site.
- Some sad news hearing of the death of Ingmar Bergman and Tom Snyder. Of course, they are not in the same class. Bergman was a supreme artist and Snyder was a good interviewer. However both made an impact on their times and, in fact, their times overlapped. A whole generation is going too quickly, and I get to feel older every day.
Bergman’s work challenged me in my youth and made me think of the greater side of film and filmmaking. One wonders where this brand of movie making went.
I just recently saw his interview with Dick Cavett. Despite the annoying Cavett, it was interesting watching the master director chat about his work. It was a very odd coupling.
Kevin Langley has a study of Bobe Cannon’s “smear” drawings in The Dover Boys. It makes for an interesting viewing seeing selected frames YouTubed at 2fps. Kevin’s been offering some excellent material recently on his site, and you should check it out.
Mark Kausler has an excellent analysis of the varied versions of the animated Krazy Kat. It makes for an excellent read if you’re into KK at all.
– I have a photostat copy of the storyboard to John and Faith Hubley‘s short film, Cockaboody. So I thought I’d post it to give a good demo of a storyboard from a master. The board was done in 1973.
I had worked at Hubley’s for four months on Letterman and was layed off when that work ran out. They started preliminary work on Cockaboody while I was working on the feature Tubby The Tuba.
I left that project in time to get back to see the final scenes of Cockaboody colored, and I did a little animation of a rocking chair, with the two girls cradling it, at the film’s end. I didn’t do enough work on the film to receive credit, but I can still see my pencil lines on those two girls at the end of the film.
The film tells the story of two girls playing in a room next door to their babysitter. They laugh they cry they laugh they cry.
The film was improvised by Emily and Georgia Hubley in a recording studio years before they started the film. From the edited tracks a story was culled, and a storyboard formed. John did all of the drawings in storyboarding it.
Here are the first six pages; there are 17 in all. I’ve inserted fraame grabs so you can see how the final turned out. Tissa David animated the entire film.
____________________________________________________(to be continued.)
Photos 29 Jul 2007 09:25 am
- At 14th Street off Park Ave. Union Square Park sits. There’s a wide area off the North and West sides of this park, and in that area a Farmer’s Market rests on a full time basis. Originally, I believe it was only a weekend and Summer thing, but now the market is ever present. So much the better for Manhattanites.
This is is an easy walk from my apartment, and it’s on the way in my walk to my studio. Consequently, I pass it often and have seen it in many of its incarnations.
The market has an overabundance of flowers on display and for sale. This is delightful to see and bypass. The prices aren’t exorbitant, and oftentimes you can find a good sale price.
Trucks arrive early morning (they were already up and going at 6am this week) to
deliver the goods. They all park on the North end and create their own wall.
Commentary 28 Jul 2007 08:35 am
Jeff Scher‘s monthly animated piece has been updated for August, and the new episode now appears in the NYTimes on the Opinion page.
This month it’s Lost and Found a play on animated films of the early Thirties. In Jeff’s words:
“This film is made of more than 2,000 watercolor paintings and drawings in a style I call “psychadelichrome,” in which the color varies wildly from frame to frame while the forms remain consistent. The result is a kind of percussive shimmer.” Check it out.
- Slate, the on-line magazine, has an article calling for Disney to continue their straight-to-DVD sequels.
The author, Dan Kois, cautiously tries to argue that Bambi II is better than Bambi (and just about lost me in doing so), but what their thesis seems to be, at least my interpretation of it, is that 2D painterly animation is more powerful than 3D cg animation. Basically, he’s suggesting that there should be more 2D animation, and these sequels present the best opportunity. This, certainly, wouldn’t be true if the executives at the various studios would wake up to the fact that both forms of animation can co-exist profitably and productively in the same marketplace.
If you do read the Slate article, note that there are some fine comments on the site responding to the article.
I am not sure that I was ever upset about these knock-off dvds. Obviously, it shows a lack of imagination and daring on the part of the executives, but can anyone seriously tell me that Treasure Planet (a futuristic reworking of Treasure Island in space) took significantly more imagination than Scamp’s Wild Adventure (or whatever Lady and the Tramp II was called)? Note also that Lady and the Tramp II made more money than the original Treasure Planet.
Is there any difference between Bambi II and Toy Story II? Should there be no Cinderella II when there’s Lilo and Stitch the tv series or Buzz Lightyear of Star Command, the tv series? Or what about the countless sequels to Aladdin? Or that short sequel to Monsters Inc., Mike’s New Car? Or how about the hideous tv series that were done featuring Mickey and gang or even those new shorts using Goofy. Where and how do those fall in?
John Lasseter is trying to preserve the integrity of the Disney library, but he’s marketing his own films somewhat more voraciously. If you want to preserve the esteem of those films of the “Golden Age” why not re-release them in theaters? Didn’t we see that scheme once worked for Disney putting them out theatrically every 7 years? Has the presence of the five remastered dvd versions of Peter Pan made that film less valuable theatrically?
CG is popular with executives for financial reasons. They can see a product that they can better control while it’s in production. Why is this any different from exploiting the hits of the past? If you can put Belle or Tarzan or Mary Poppins on the stage or dancing around the theme parks, why not be able to rework them in animation? Isn’t it a variation of the same thing?
I don’t think anyone is thinking about “Art” (with a capital “A”) these days.
Why hold the old films in such esteem when the animators of today don’t hold their own work up to the same standard?
I so desperately want to critique this image, but I have to
hold myself back. The knowledge just isn’t there.
Suffice it to say, that this is evidence enough that
the new doesn’t equal the old.
Take a look at Hans Bacher‘s new site to see what
stunning, well planned BGs look like.
Daily post 27 Jul 2007 08:50 am
– Disney reports that they’re going to eliminate smoking from all their family films. Universal reported that they had already eliminated smoking from their films, but hadn’t announced it until this past Wednesday. U.S. Rep. Edward J. Markey, D-Mass, is spearheading a campaign to assure filmgoers that they won’t have to watch anyone smoking in films, and apparently his campaign is working. I always appreciate it when the government dictates artistic challenges.
It seems like we went through this last year when Tom and Jerry made headlines.
– The Simpsons Movie officially opens today. The marketing campaign couldn’t be much larger, and it’ll probably be effective over the weekend. I do wonder how many people will pay to see the film when the free tv show plays incessantly on local televisions.
It’s interesting that a large part of the campaign seems to be that this is a hand-drawn 2D animated film, and they put down cg animation. However, there seems to be cg in just about every scene I’ve seen in the ads. I’m sure the film will be funny, in that Simpsons sort of way. I won’t be able to see it until next Tuesday, and I’ll let you know what I think then. (Somehow I think I could probably write the review now.)
Fox has tried to keep reviews quiet, as if there’s a big secret in the plot. However, there are many reviews available now, and none of them seem to reveal any secrets – if there were any. Here are a couple of the local reviews:
- - A.O.Scott of the NYTimes says ““The Simpsons,” for all its mischief and iconoclasm, has become an institution, and that status has kept this film from taking too many chances. Why mess with the formula when you can extend the brand?”
-Elizabeth Weitzman of the NYDaily News says “It begins brilliantly and, eventually, loses some steam. But every time you check your watch, a genius gag whizzes by.”
-Newsday“s Jan Stuart says, “In politically repressive cultures, filmmakers often resort to allegory, magical realism and metaphor to sneak painful truths about their society past the government censorship machinery and penetrate the defenses of a populace cowed by fear.
In America, they use cartoons.”
Here’s a list of all the episodes in which the Simpsons smoked cigarettes.
For those unfamiliar with David Hand‘s Ginger Nutt series of shorts which he produced for Rank, TCM will air three of the episodes of these cartoons on Cartoon Alley, Saturday at 11:30 am. The shorts to air include: Ginger Nutt’s Bee-Bother (1949), Ginger Nutt’s Christmas Circus (1949) and Ginger Nutt’s Forest Dragon (1950).
John Miller provides extensive notes on this series at the TCM site. Look for Cartoon Alley #11. I can vouch that you’ll be safe from images of animals smoking during all of these cartoons.
This series can be bought on dvd (although TCM says no dvd is available.)
There’s an excellent interview with David Hand on Michael Barrier‘s site. This is an important read for anyone devoted to animation.
Articles on Animation 26 Jul 2007 07:53 am
- Here are two articles that appeared in a 1987 issue of Sightlines Magazine, which was a quarterly publication of the American Film & Video Assn. (formerly the Educational Film Library.)
- The first article is by by Cecile Starr on women animators. Cecile has written extensively over a long period on experimental animation. (I have a fine book, co-authored by her and George Griffin, called Frames which gives images from many experimental short films of the 70′s & 80′s.)
This article talks about women in animation, though most of those discussed are more the Independent animator than the studio employee. It remains an interesting item.
- The second article by John Canemaker features Snow White at age 50. (The film is now 70!) John talks about the female character of Snow White, and it makes for a short interesting piece.
(Click any image to enlarge.)
Daily post 25 Jul 2007 08:05 am
- Now that the Harry Potter book is on the market the press seems to have turned to The Simpsons. If you like reading about the show/movie, the PR is flowing, and the articles are out there. Here are some local, NY papers so far:
- - The NY Daily News has one by Joe Strike about the return of cel animation.
- They have another by Ethan Sacks about the Simpsons going Hollywood.
- I’ve already pointed to the NYTimes‘ brief interview with Matt Groening.
- A *** star sort-of-review today by Kyle Smith in the NY Post.
- The NYPost has a different twist: an article about Hans Zimmer’s score for the feature film. (The surprise to me is that they didn’t work with Alf Clausen who has done such a brilliant job on the tv show for many years.)
- The Post has another, more generic PR article about the show. (One expects this from the paper that’s the sister organ of FOX TV.)
- Finally, they have another about the history of the show also by Reed Tucker.
- Newsday has a long article by John Andersen that tries to cover it all. The primary focus seems to be cultural references in the movie. Promo Promo Promo.
- And, of course, now that The Simpsons Movie is about to open, we get to hear about a feature version of The Family Guy. Who says 2D animation is dead?
– Then, if you’ve had enough of The Simpsons, at this point prior to the opening this Friday, and are looking for other TV animation that’s noticeably different, there’s Rick & Steve, the Happiest Gay Couple In The World on Logo (the all gay cable network).
The NY Times, yesterday, had a review that made it sound interesting enough, though the claims that this is the L&G South Park seems unfounded, according to the review. The show contains “robotic and stop motion animation” (as described by the NY Times review.)
Logo also has other animation to offer. If you go to their site there are numerous clips available.
Animation Artifacts 24 Jul 2007 07:47 am
– It’s been a while since I’ve posted any charts or drafts, so here is a sequence from Disney’s Robin Hood that I have.
They’re apparently early and are marked as “rough.” Indeed, the names are hand written into the drafts, so I suspect some changes occurred after they were set.
The sequence is called “Robin Discovers Tuck’s Peril.” It was directed by Woolie Reitherman, Jeff Patch was the Asst. Director of this sequence, Basil Davidovich the Layout Supervisor. Animators include: John Lounsbery, Eric Larson, and Hal King.
- I talked about recording Hugh Dancy for POE, my film just getting started. I’d like to put up a bit of a poetry read. Here’s Poe, at the end of his life, reading the first half of Annabel Lee, a poem which talks about the death of his young wife, Virginia. She and Edgar were married a mere 7 years. After she burst a blood vessel in her throat, singing, their inability to buy the proper medication and afford medical help finished the job.
- Matt Jones recently wrote on my blog that he has initiated a tribute blog to Ronald Searle.
This is an excellent new site that I would suggest you visit. Searle is an inspiration as an artist and cartoonist.
As a matter of fact, Matt has a healthy blog of his own that is well worth a look. His somewhat recent sketchbook drawings of Annecy are quite impressive.
. . . (click images to enlarge.)
Mark Mayerson‘s blog is as excellent as ever. He has written a couple of posts that are must reads.
- . There are some fine comments about Ratatouille unlike others I’ve seen. If you haven’t read this and can still sit through any more about this film, read it. Mark’s written some insightful words about Brad Bird’s films.
. His breakdown of Pinocchio continues moving closer to a climax. Mark’s comments and analysis of this animated gem have to be read by anyone interested in animation.
Speaking of Ratatouille, the box office reports for this past weekend show that the film grossed another $3,360,000 for this past weekend in the U.S. This puts its total at $165,628,000 and makes it the second lowest grossing of Pixar’s films, at this point in its life. Being an excellent film is not everything for a movie; it helps financially if the audiences keep coming back.
Hans Bacher’s newish site is glorious for anyone even slightly interested in animation design and backgrounds. His relatively new site Animation-Treasures is where Hans posts reconstructions (meticulously done by using multiple frame grabs and photoshop) is a wonder.
I particularly like some of the images that Hans has created from Fantasia‘s Nutcracker Suite. It’s quite beautiful as bacground art and as something new “frame grab” art. I’ve quickly become a regular to this site.
Hans also studies films – both live action and animated – in multiple images taken from the films. Spend some time here.
- As I mentioned earlier this week, I whisked through London to record Hugh Dancy for my film, POE. The recording took only a couple of hours on Tuesday. That meant I had Monday, half of Tuesday, and most of Wednesday to waste time – anxious to get back.
It also meant I did an enormous amount of walking and riding the Underground. I wasn’t really in the mood for touristy things, but I got caught up in it on the last day. I had to check out of my hotel at 10am, and wasn’t taking off until 6pm. So I wandered.
Daumier‘s DON QUIXOTE, of course, did the job.
As with every other trip I’d made to London, it was all about the weather. You start out on a beautiful day, and the clouds move up around you as the sky darkens. It begins to rain, and then the sun is beating down on you. The only more changeable environment I’ve exper- ienced was in Adak, Alaska. Actually, I’m not sure the weather was much different at all.
I finally did get past all of these crowded tourist sites as I got to the Tate Museum. (Not the Tate Modern.) I never did see the show of photos that Mr. Dancy had recommended. There was a show of Turner watercolors as presented by David Hockney. It was a stunning show, and it was all I needed for the day. I didn’t love the book/catalogue they had for sale, so left with only memories. Turner is enough of an inspiration for anyone. Certainly, enough for my trip.