Monthly ArchiveSeptember 2008

Frame Grabs &Independent Animation 30 Sep 2008 08:06 am

Zagreb’s Ersatz

- When a 35mm print of The Four Poster entered Yugoslavia, it got lost for two weeks. A group of young animators hijacked the print to study the John Hubley directed animation sequences, done at UPA. Suddenly, these young animators found their calling and watched the film to drain every drop of it. The end result was a new animation studio, Zagreb, which put style and content above animation and gave a new life to modern graphics in animation.

Ersatz was a film done in 1961 which took America by storm and won the Oscar that year. Dusan Vukotic’s short was the first non-US flm to win this prize. When the film came out, I wasn’t its greatest enthusiast. I’d seen so many more daring shorts, graphically speaking, and found the film slow moving and a bit annoying. Of course, looking back on it, now, when graphics are so pathetic in animation and the animation is even worse, Ersatz looks pretty good.

I’ve pulled some frame grabs to give an idea of the film. These are they.

(Click any image to enlarge.)































Animation Artifacts &Disney &Story & Storyboards 29 Sep 2008 12:22 pm

Melody Board 1 – pt.1

- John Canemaker has loaned me two storyboards for the Disney film, Melody: Adventures in Music. The second is a very different version of the first. I don’t know who did the drawings for this board, but the images are very finished looking. There’s also not much to hint that this version was to be done in 3D.

John also gave me a lot of color sketches and models from this board. Some of those will follow later this week.

As in the past, I’ve posted these by showing the full board, then by breaking it up into columns. This allows me to show off the boards at the largest I can get it. So here are the first two of four boards from the first version of the storyboard:

And here are these two boards broken down:

















The remainder of the storyboards for this short will be posted next Monday.

Photos 28 Sep 2008 07:38 am

Sunday photos – Treehouses

- While on my usual trek through Madison Sqaure Park, I came upon a new art installation in progress. Tadashi Kawamata is constructing “treehuts” in some of the trees of the park. They’re not finished (I think), nor are they habitable. I took a few photos in and around the rainy days here. You can see a blog about the installation and see some better photos here.

Here’s an artist’s sketch on top of a photo of a tree.

Workers occupy small tents (to protect them from the rain)
while they construct the treehouses from lifts.

I can’t quite tell what the finished products will look like,
but I’ll report back if this is it.

Even in this state, they can be attractive in the wild of the trees.

CBS was obviously interested in the story this day.
I also appreciated the concrete “treehut” separating two buildings across the street.

Daily post 27 Sep 2008 09:04 am

The Wolf Enters

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- Today’s NYTimes has an article about Sylvain Chomet and his battle with Universal Pictures over credit in the feature, The Tale of Despereaux. Read these two paragraphs:

    In both an e-mail message and a telephone interview this week, Mr. Chomet — who was fired as the director of “Despereaux” more than two years ago — accused both the studio and the film’s producers, Gary Ross and his wife, Allison Thomas, of using his designs and concepts in the movie without acknowledging his contribution. It is a claim the filmmakers strenuously dispute.

    Mr. Chomet’s unusually open challenge may simply point to a gulf between European practices, which grant artists enduring “moral rights” in their work, and an American approach that says, in effect, a deal is a deal.

    Sylvain Chomet

The article goes into more depth and is worth the read.


- Ken Priebe wrote a review of the first SPARK Animation Festival which took place in Vancouver. Check it out.


- There’s a new blog on the ASIFA East site. Called The Exposure Sheet, it offers new comments on events attended by NY members. Initial comments are on Ottawa, Dick Williams at MOMA and the feature film panel at ASIFA East this past week.


When I bought it, this drawing was sold as one from The Three Little Pigs (1933). However, I wasn’t completely convinced and went searching. The image actually comes from The Big Bad Wolf (1934) as the wolf jumps into Grandma’s house.

I’m not disappointed since I love this pose so much, and there’s nothing quite like it in The Three Little Pigs. (Though I do like the original’s one suspender rather than the two here.) Of course, a drawing of the wolf as the Jewish peddler would be priceless.

(Click on any image to enlarge.)

A frame grab from The Big Bad Wolf.

Miyazaki 26 Sep 2008 08:30 am

Ponyo and Me

- Ponyo On the Cliff By the Sea is the most recent feature by Hayao Mayazaki. It has been garnering excellent reviews and has done extraordinarily well in Japan. There’s currently an interesting article about it in the current issue of Time Magazine. If you haven’t seen it, you should take a look.

The film took in some $150 million in its first 50 days in Japan. Only Spirited Away has done better there.

The Variety review, published when the film played the Venice Film Festival, was very positive.
Here’s the Sept. 1st Times OnLine, **** British, review.

You can see the Japanese trailer for this here.

There’s also a book of storyboards available; you can see a healthy sample on the blog, halcyon realms. The example, above, comes from this site. The color sample, below, also comes from this site which features a book on The Art of Ponyo.

The film seems to be scheduled for a 2009 release in the US (probably June). Disney has the distribution rights; Frank Marshall & Kathleen Kennedy will be producing this version. The film is reportedly a kind-of reworked version of The Little Mermaid. Myazaki takes pride in the fact that no cgi was used in the making of the film.


- To switch the subject back to me, there’s a post on GEEKDAD which was written by Kathy Ceceri. The article talks about adapting books to film.

Kathy was originally an Asst. on my short, Doctor DeSoto when she was known as Kathryn Gradner. Kathy was a student at NYU (as was Robert Marianetti and Seven Dovas) who I met through John Canemaker. I was pleased to be able to work with them on this short.

I met up with her last year at an art gallery in Chelsea when she was preparing for an upcoming show of her work. She’s left animation, had written and illustrated some children’s books, and now she’s written this excellent article. Take a look. (Included is a link to a site that shows how to make flipbooks.)

Disney &Layout & Design 25 Sep 2008 08:14 am

Pin Moments – 3

- Any devotee of the Multiplane Camera knows this scene in Pinocchio. It’s a jaw dropper. Despite the many dozens of times I’ve seen the film on screen (not mention on dvd or video), the scene is spine tingling. I thought it’d be fun to grab frames from the piece and display them. The animation for this sequence is by: John McManus, Jack Campbell, Cornett Wood, and John Reed.

I’ve gone a step further and have taken the scene that follows it where the newborn Pinocchio greets the real world (and life) for the first time. There’s some fine character animation there by Art Babbitt (Gepetto), Milt Kahl (Pinocchio), Don Lusk (figaro), and Sandy Strothers (Effx).

I urge you to read Mark Mayerson‘s Mosaic and comments on this sequence.

likewise, I urge you to read the excellent info Hans Perk has posted about the Multiplane Camera on his site, A Film LA.

(Click any image to enlarge.)

Daily post 24 Sep 2008 09:04 am

Money Panel

- I had mixed feeleings about last night’s ASIFA East event – a panel of Independent Animators who had made feature films or were involved with features in progress. It was hosted by Cartoon Brew’s Amid Amidi and featured panelists: Emily Hubley, Daniel Kanemoto, Bill Plympton, Tatia Rosenthal, and me.

- Bill, of course, has done six features. Idiots and Angels is the most recent.
- Emily had done a live/animation mix feature, The Toe Tactic.
- Daniel started a feature, Articles of War, ran out of funds after finishing a short – a part of the film – and is raising more capital.
- Tatia has finished a clay animated feature, $9.99, which is about to be released.
- I’ve done preproduction on a feature, Poe, and am still trying to put it together to get it into production.

The audience was overflowing with lots of people sitting on the floor. SVA students surrounded pros like John Canemaker, Candy Kugel, Don Duga, Irra Verbitsky, Bridget Thorne and many others. It was well attended.

The disappointment for me did not come from the panel. Their comments and answers I often found elucidating and interesting.

Amid asked the nuts and bolts questions to get it going, and then he opened it to the audience who had a very large number of questions.

The problem, I thought, was that the questions were centered ENTIRELY on the nuts and bolts: raising the budget, spending the budget and organizing the budget. The fact is that there were a bunch of people who had some experience on the panel, and all anyone was interested in was how to get money. Maybe it’s the mood of the country; maybe everyone these days is ready to do their own feature; maybe my head is too high in the clouds, and I thought there’d be more thought about the “Art” of it.

Feature films are completely different from short films. Timing is different, story is different, art direction & animation are different. It’s all different. There were no questions about the actual art of the feature. I was a bit surprised at that.

There was no one who talked about constructing the story and making it a palatable feature. This has been the hardest part for me. Who wants to make a beautiful film that puts people to sleep – even if it is financially successful. It’s really hard work, and I can’t say how much I love doing it and wish I were able to jump in full throttle. (I will, of course, do it full time as soon as the check arrives.)

Perhaps the next panel will talk a bit more about the art and less about the financing of it.

The two stills above come from obvious sources.
Bill Plympton’s image, upper Right, comes from his feature, Idiots and Angels.
Emily Hubley produced Toe Tactic. This is the still upper Left.

Daily post &Richard Williams 23 Sep 2008 09:14 am

Dick Does it Again

- Last Saturday night, in Ottawa, Richard Williams responded to John Canemaker ‘s questions about his career with enthusiasm and a pleasant grace. He knows how to tell a story and makes it good listening. On Saturday, he had an audience of animation people, and it helped to shorten some of his comments; no additional explanation was needed. The program went a bit long and had to be cut in the middle to give ample time for Dick to showcase his dvd
series – the Animation Survival Kit.

Last night, the show shifted to the Museum of Modern Art. More clips were added. (There was no Raggedy Ann on Saturday – at MOMA Emery Hawkins’ Greedy was screened. There also was no scene from The Christmas Carol – at MOMA the flying over London sequence was shown.) The show was more relaxed and time stood still for a while. The crowd was a good one, and the ticket was hard to come by.

My favorite moment was at the start. I sat alongside Tissa David, who’s 86 now;
Dick, going down the aisle, stopped to say a very personal hi to her before getting on stage. He also came immediately to her after the show. Tissa hadn’t seen him since her work on The Thief ended years ago. She’d told me the night before that she was going to the program because it might be the last time in her life that she’d have the chance to see Dick. She was tired immediately after and left once the program ended, not staying for a private MOMA dinner. _____________________Doug Crane (in blue) and Irra Verbitsky (to his rt).

The show had a lot more material in it and had a different feel than the Toronto program. Again, Dick and John sat knee-to-knee on stage, and Dick answered questions. However, there were fewer opportunities for Dick to elaborate with lengthy side stories. John pushed him always back on topic and shot a straight arrow to get all of Dick’s career in.

Afterwards, there was a dinner for some who were connected to Dick and his wife, Mo Sutton.
Josh Siegel, MOMA Asst. Curator, Department of Film, had arranged a nice sit down. Of course, John Canemaker and Joe Kennedy were there as was Chris Wedge and his wife, Jeanne, as was Amid Amidi and friend, Celia Bullwinkle, as well several others. Heidi and I sat a distance from
___________Josh, Amid, me, Dick and John _______________ Dick – three tables were gathered together, though he came over to say hi, and we talked again after food.

Sorry for the quality of some of the photos; it was the best I could do in the dark theater.

Photos 22 Sep 2008 02:07 pm

Ottawa Snaps

Here are some photos from Ottawa:

This is the National Gallery with the Louise Bourgeois spider guarding the lawn.
Inside this building I had my first encounter with children
who were bussed in to see my films & hear me talk.

1 2
1. This is the theater interior waiting for kids to arrive.
2. This is the US Embassy with flowers for the war dead on the gate.
They cleaned up this gate later in the day discarding the flowers.

3 4
3. The By Towne theater wherein many of the programs were projected.
4. Karl Cohen receives a Special ASIFA award. He’s flanked
by Deanna Morse (L) and Marcy Page (R).

5 6
5. (L to R) Glen Ehlers, Chris Boyce, David Levy
6. Amid Amidi (center)

7 8
8. Jason Simonich, Linda Beck, Candy Kugel
9. Ward Jenkins, taking my picture.

10. The bus going to the picnic left from the By Towne theater.
11. Paul Driessen and Candy Kugel at the picnic.

12 & 13 As in the past, lots of tables were set up for plenty of eating.
This year hamburgers & franks were the meal with some side salads.

14. The night of the picnic, after a screening of Canadian shorts, a bunch of us went for
dinner to an excellent Thai restaurant that Hélène Tanguay recommended.
Hélène is in pink to the right. That’s Willy Hartland and Derek Roczen in front of her.
Candy Kugel sits just behind me to the left.
15. The carved pumpkins from the picnic were transported to the Saw Bar,
where Friday’s party was to take place.

16. Nancy Bieman and Candy Kugel
outside Barrymore’s before Sat nite’s party.

The full list of award winners can be found here on AWN. I don’t agree with much that the judges liked. Sorry. Different strokes for different folks.

Festivals 22 Sep 2008 08:25 am

Ottawa Wrapup

Here’s the last of my reports on Ottawa. I’ll post photos later today when I have more time.

- Saturday in Ottawa at the animation festival was, for me, centered on my program/retrospective at 1pm. But first there was a conference at 11am which was moderated by Richard O’Connor (of Asterisk Pictures) about adapting other media to animation. Guests included David Polonsky, the art director of Waltz With Bashir; Frank Caruso of King Features Syndicate, who talked about adapting strips to animation; and me. The session was lively thanks to J.J. Sedelmeir’s interesting questions from the audience.

The end of this session gave me barely 30 mins to run to the Museum of Civilization where the retro took place. Literally, I had to run to get there in time.

Fortunately, there was a decent group, with a lot of the New Yorkers represented. The films didn’t feel quite right as projected on this screen in BETA format. They were overmodulated on the tracks and the images felt too contrasty. Probably the tapes; I’ll have to check when they come back, though I remeember these same tapes looking good at MOMA.

All in all, I felt the show went well.

We couldn’t get a bus in enough time to make the 4th competition screening, so I walked back to my hotel; a 45 min. trek.

That evening, I arrived early, at the same place, to attend the Richard Williams show. I got to say hi to Eric Goldberg, who I hadn’t seen since early Pocahontas when Tom Sito toured me through Disney showing off The Lion King, which was in completion. It’s been a while.

The theater was packed for Dick, and on every seat was a nine minute dvd sample of Dick’s
16 set masterclass dvd. John Canemaker had put together a nice program: the titles to Charge of the Light Brigade, some late commercials,a rarely seen trailer for The Thief, and scenes from the new set of instruction dvds Dick and his wife have produced. These dvd’s look informative and entertaining. However, my favorite clip shown was footage of Dick following people walking in London. It
_________Dick and John a bit out of focus _________________was hilarious.

After the program, Dick and John Canemaker seemed occupied with throngs of people, so Candy Kugel and I went to dinner. We then walked to Barrymore’s where they were holding a party at 11. There, we met up with Nancy Beiman and stood on line for about a half-hour. Eventually, we decided to blow off the party since there were only a lot of students on the long line; no one we knew. Those people would get there much later after the screenings, and we weren’t up to the wait.
By now, both Candy and I were anxious to get home.

Sunday, I had another show at the Museum of Civilization, but I also had a plane to make. It meant getting through an intro to the films and rushing out to the airport without watching my program. At the airport I met up with John Canemaker, who turned out to be on the same plane sitting just in front of me.

We ate lunch in the Ottawa airport, caught the plane and rode into the city together. I’ll meet up with John, tonight, at the Museum of Modern Art’s program of Dick’s work. It’ll be a rerun of the Saturday show.

All in all, I’d say this was one of the better Festivals. The films were great, and in the end they really make a festival. Kudos to Chris Robinson and all those who were so helpful behind the scenes. And a special thanks to all the pre selection jury members. Great job done.

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