Monday, December 8, 2008

News - 12/08/08...

Seth MacFarlane Tops Entertainment Weekly's "25 Smartest People on TV" List

Entertainment Weekly magazine has put Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane at the #1 spot on its "25 Smartest People on TV" list this year, ahead of Tina Fey (#2), Tyler Perry (#4), Oprah Winfrey (#6), and Hulu.com CEO Jason Kilar (#10). Saying that his "
frat-boy persona is only a cover," EW states that "Family Guy DVDs and merchandise have pulled in a 
reported $1 billion for 20th 
 Century Fox," resulting in MacFarlane's $100 million contract, Family Guy spinoff series The Cleveland Show, and a deal with Google to distribute his Cavalcade of Cartoon Comedy.


And in honor of that, I'll repost this - from 9/26/08 -


Analyzing the "Animation" of Seth MacFarlane

A former Family Guy fan, Kyle Evans, has come to the conclusion that Seth MacFarlane is a “talentless writer” who “doesn’t have a clue about animation.” He’s written a lengthy blog post analyzing MacFarlane’s work from a critical perspective. What I found particularly insightful was the section in which Evans observes the clumsy animation in Seth’s shows, particularly in an episode of Seth McFarlane’s Cavalcade of Cartoon Comedy titled “Super Mario Rescues the Princess”:

The animation of Family Guy, American Dad and Cavalcade of Cartoon Comedy consists almost entirely of character’s mouths moving, with the occasional rigid pose-to-pose animation. This movement is banal and devoid of any true expression, with the same exact timing on every movement. Watching “Super Mario Rescues the Princess” with the sound-down would convey little more than a general sense of displeasure in the characters…I can only imagine how mind-numbingly dull it would be to work as an animator for Seth McFarlane, who continues to stifle any sort of imaginative character design or fluid, expressive movement. But to visualize my point, here is the video edited so that all but the moving parts of the cartoon are blacked out.



(Thanks cartoonbrew)





A Popeye Pencil Test

J.J. Sedelmaier and Howard Beckerman are assembling rare materials for a forthcoming series of animation exhibits showcasing the legacy of New York area animation. In preparation for the display, Beckerman is digging out rarely seen pencil animation sequences from his archive, and J.J. is refilming them, adding inbetweens where necessary. This one, here, looks like an outake from Famous Studios’ Lumberjack And Jill (1949).

There will be screenings/panels at the Jacob Burns Center on Silent Cartoons, Cartoons for Kids, as well as J.J. Sedelmaier Productions and Blue Sky Studios retrospectives. The Pelham Picture House will be doing NY Commercials & Indy Animation programs. Howard and J.J. are also doing a presentation on the History of New York Animation at the NY ComicCon (Feb 6-8). The centerpiece exhibit, It All Started Here!, featuring vintage art, photos, equipment, film programs and panels at the Westchester Arts Council Gallery in White Plains, runs from the evening of January 17th until February 28th. More information, when available, will be posted here.

(Thanks cartoonbrew)





Worldwide Toon B.O.

Now with extra crunchy Add Ons ...

The domestic box office pecking order hasn't changed much weekend to weekend -- although the numbers have.

Four Christmases again topped the Friday chart, collecting $5.8 million for a $58.9 million total arter ten days of release.

Twilight
ended at #2, now enjoying a $130 million domestic gross.

And
Bolt hangs in at the third position, making off with $2.5 million and a $72 million total.

Madagascar Deux
, after close to a month of release, remains in the Top Ten at Numero eight, with a cume of $162 million.

As Variety relates, every release had big drops Friday to Friday, but that happens when everybody is back in school or the workplace, instead of sitting in theatre seats on holiday, digesting turkey.

Christmases fell 56% in its second Friday ... Twilight took second with ... a 58% decline, and Disney's Bolt slotted third with a 78% [drop].

Fox's Australia was fourth with $2.2 million off 2,721, repping a 61% decline in its second Friday, and raising its domestic B.O. to $26.1 million. MGM-Sony's
Quantum of Solace
charted $2.17 million off 3,423, down 74%, for a running cume of $147.1 million.

No doubt our friendly neighborhood congloms are waiting anxiously for Christmas vacation to kick in ...

Add On: The weekend wraps up with Four Christmases still on top ... with a three-day haul of $18.2 million and a grand total of $71 million.

With Twilight taking $13.2 million and a cume of $138.5 million.

And the Brave White Shepherd holding down $9.7 million while closing in on $80 million.

Australia lands in fourth with a $30,9 million total ... and Madgascar Too rakes in $5.1 million during its fifth week for a total of $165,675,000.

Add On Too! Meanwhile, the new DreamWorks amimated feature is working its magic in foreign markets:

"Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa" dominated the weekend's international box office with $50.2 million at 5,129 playdates in 35 markets. Paramount's toon corralled most of its coin in a trio of socko European launches with $11 million in Germany, $9.8 million in France and $9.5 million in the U.K. "Madagascar 2" also opened solidly in Mexico with $4.2 million, in Belgium with $1.6 million, in Argentina with $1.2 million and in Austria and Peru with $1.1 million each.

The weekend pushed the foreign cume to $125 million for the sequel, which has been opening gradually over the past five frames ...


But it's not just the latest DreamWorks opus that's raking in the long green.

Paramount’s “Kung Fu Panda” and Disney’s “WALL-E” have already combined for nearly $700 million in foreign grosses so far, and Par is already well on its way to proving the power of animated pics with “Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa.”

With holidays approaching, the family market will offer increasing competition for
“Escape,” with Disney’s “Bolt” opening in a gradual rollout. The dog toon debuted with $7.9 million at 1,417 playdates in Italy, Russia and Poland ...

With openings coming during the Dec. 5-7 frame in France, Germany and the U.K.,
“Escape 2 Africa” should become the dominant December entry along with Fox’s “The Day the Earth Stood Still,”
which goes day and date during the Dec. 12-14 sesh ...

To date, it appears that the zoo menagerie has the edge over the white shepherd, but time will tell, won't it?

(Thanks Animation Guild Blog)





New and Upcoming in Japan

Previews
Hells Angels
Bold

20th Century Boys (second live action film)

Nippon Cinema has trailer for Kanna’s Big Success! (Kanna-san, Daiseikou Desu!), the new live action adaptation of the umiko Suzuki manga that the 2006 Korean comedy "200 Pounds Beauty" was based.

Isekai no Seikishi Monogatari (new trailer for the Tenchi Muyu spin-off)

Utawarerumono OVA

ICE (movie version) also here

Sora wo Kakeru Shoujo
Chrome Shelled Regios
Tears to Tiara

Rideback

Queen's Blade Zero



Anime
Production I.G has announced that Kenji Kamiyama's (Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit) new anime, EDEN OF THE EAST will air on Fuji Television's late-night time slot noitaminA starting in April 2009. Kamiyama will also be scripting the anime. Honey and Clover's Chika Umino will be providing the Chika Umino character design.

EDEN OF THE EAST is the first original series to be broadcast within noitaminA, the previous shows being transpositions of existing manga or novels. The first series aired in the block was notably Chika Umino's "Honey and Clover" in 2005. Production I.G successfully debuted in the noitaminA block in April 2008 with the series "Library War," directed by Takayuki Hamana.


STORY
November 22, 2010. Monday.
Ten missiles hit the territory of Japan. However, this unprecedented terrorist act, later to be known as "Careless Monday" apparently did not cause any victim, and was soon forgotten by almost everyone.

Then, 3 months later...
Saki Morimi is a young woman currently in the United States of America on her graduation trip. But just when she is in front of the White House, Washington DC, se gets into troubles, and only the unexpected intervention of one of her fellow countrymen saves her day.

However, this man, who introduces himself as Akira Takizawa, is a complete mystery.
First of all, he appears to have lost his memory. Secondly, he is stark naked, except for the gun he holds in one hand, and the mobile phone he's grabbing with the other hand. A phone that is charged with 8,200,000,000 yen in digital cash.

Who is Akira Takizawa?
What are the secrets behind his extraordinary mobile phone?
What got lost with his vanished memory?




















© EDEN OF THE EAST
Nausicaa.net reports that the November 27 Ghibli production diary covered Hayao Miyazaki's "How Do We (Ghibli) Get over the Severe World" speach to the stud staff, in which he announced the start of two feature films by young staff members. It's unknown whether "young staff members" means "the director and animators are young" or just "the animators are young".

According to the production diary of November 17, the preparation room for next film was established. The entry shows a hand-written poster that says "Preparation Room - Maro & Nayo 20XX public release". "Nayo" is probably referring to Kishimoto's nickname Nayo. According to a previous talk by Toshio Suzuki, preparation room member Kishimoto is collecting data for Isao Takahata's next film. Takahata has not released a full-length feature since 1999's My Neighbors the Yamadas.

Kiyohiko Azuma has downplayed the possibility of a Yotsuba anime.



Pony Canyon, Fuji Television and Production I.G have begun showcasing their anime incarnation of the Abunai Sisters

This project encompasses a combination of Japanese marketing elements including a new program known as "THE GATHERING SYSTEM." Put into effect simultaneously in both Japan and the US, this direct-to-consumer initiative dictates the retail price based on the amount of overall orders. This program integrates experimental promotional tools from the three well-known entertainment companies sponsoring the project, creating buzz via unprecedented synergy.

The official site for is online at abunaisisters.net/

Via Anime Nation

The 13th volume of Saki Hasemi & Kentaro Yabuki’s sci-fi romanctic comedy manga To LOVEru -Trouble- will be available on April 3, 2009 in a limited edition that includes an anime OVA.

Via Anime News Network
Level5 announced that the Professor Layton: The First Movie anime adaptation of the popular Nintendo DS puzzle game will hit Japanese threatres in 2010.

Castmembers Yo Oizumi (Brave Story, Howl's Moving Castle) and Maki Horikita (Densha Otoko series, Always: Sunset on Third Street) will reprise their respective roles of Layton and Luke.

There is also a live-action film in the works as well as a Professor Layton manga by Sakura Naoki in Shogakukan's Bessatsu CoroCoro Comic magazine.

Barnum Studio will be developing the 3D CG "experimental indie anime" Hoshi ni Negai o ("Wish Upon a Star").
Barnum Studio was founded by Galaxy Angel producer Tetsuro Satomi, and it has worked on Kyoran Kazoku Nikki, Kemeko Deluxe!, sola, and the Devil May Cry television series.

Miyuki Sawashiro (Di Gi Charat's Petit Charat, Galaxy Angel's Mint, Strike Witches' Perrine) will star as the lead character Hikari. Kyoko Hikami (Wedding Peach's title character, Di Gi Charat's Hikaru) will play Mari, and Toru Ohkawa (Fullmetal Alchemist's Roy, Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex's Saito) will play Romeo. Rokuro Naya (Zatch Bell's Nazonazo, Karas' Chief) and Kana Akutsu (Gunslinger Girl -Il Teatrino-'s Henrietta) round out the cast as Raven and the interviewer, respectively. Kazuya Ichikawa (Shadow Skill: Kuruda-ryu Kousatsu-hou no Himitsu director, Appleseed: Ex Machina CG layout and motion team leader) will direct the project.

The Saint Seiya: The Lost Canvas - Meio Shinwa
of the long running fight manga will be adapted into a direct to video OVA, scheduled for next spring. Masami Kurumada and Shiori Teshirogi's Saint Seiya: The Lost Canvas - Meio Shinwa takes place in the middle of the 18th century, 243 years before the first Saint Seiya storyline.

NisiOisin's
(Death Note: Another Note, the xxxHOLiC novel) historical martial arts novel series Maniwagatari will be adapted into anime.

Natsumi Itsuki's
(Jyu Oh Sei) shoujo Hana-sakeru Seishonen
manga will be animated for NHK's BS2 premium television channel in April.

The story focuses on Kajika Louisa Kugami Burnsworth, the product of a Caribbean encounter between the international magnate Harry Burnsworth and a Japanese woman 14 years ago. Kajika has been living in Japan as a middle school girl, until the elder Burnsworth summons her to America to choose a husband from three suitors. Kajika gets involved in international intrigue over oil and wealth in Southeast Asia, France, and America.

Ritz Kobayashi's Saki mahjong manga will be adapted into an anime series directed by Manabu Ono (Dragonaut - The Resonance, Transformers: Cybertron) and scripted by Tatsuhiko Urahata (Card Captor Sakura, Hajime no Ippo, Strawberry Panic!)

KOEI's female-oriented
La Corda D'Oro 2 Forte (Kin-iro no Corda 2 F) romance simulation game will be adapted into an anime series that ties into the upcoming PSP game. A previous La Corda D'Oro game was adapted into an anime series in 2006, as where KOEI's Neo Romance line romance simulation games Angelique and Haruka -Beyond the Stream of Time-.

A NetMile Research survey leaked that an anime adaptation of Satoko Kiyuzuki's
GA: Geijutsuka Art Design Class
manga is in development.

Hiroaki Sakurai (Di Gi Charat, Kodocha, Cromartie High School) will direct off scripts that will be supervised by Doko Machida (Allison & Lillia, Lucky Star, Tears to Tiara). Atsuko Watanabe (Fight Ippatsu! Juden-chan!!) will reportedly design the characters that AIC will animate.

Yen Press announced at Comic-Con International in July that it licensed the rights to the original GA: Geijutsuka Art Design Class manga.

Manga
Via Anime News Network
BONES' Xam'd: Lost Memorie, the anime of which has been distributed via the video rent service on PlayStation Network , will be adapted into the manga series Bonen no Xam'd: Junreisha no Compass. The title will run on Kadokawa Shoten's Ace Assault starting December 9th.

Mamoru Oshii's live action, dueling anthology film Kill was adapted into a one shot manga for Young Animal. Kenji Hiraya produced Samurai Sword, a story inspired by Oshii's entry in Kill.

Natsumi Ando (Zodiac P.I., Kitchen Princess) will launch a new shoujo manga series named Arisa in the anthology Nakayoshi.

Speaking of Nakayoshi, Haruka Fukushima recently produced a one-shot spinoff to Instant Teen - Just Add Nuts (Otona ni NUTS) for the anthology.

Live Action
Anime Nation and Tokyograph reports that Eri Fukatsu will portray a failed manga artist in Toshiyuki Morioka's film adaptation of Rieko Saibara’s 2005 manga “Onnanoko Monogatari.”

Via Anime News Network
Mao Inoue, the star of Hana Yori Dango and Anmitsu-hime, will headline a live-action film adaptation of Kotomi Aoki's Boku no Hatsukoi o Kimi ni Sasagu romance manga in Fall of 2009.

Theatre
Via Twitch
Mamoru Oshii's Tetsujin 28 (Gigantor Stage play)
commentary at
J-Film Pow-Wow (and speaking of robots on stage "Hataraku Watashi (I, Worker)"
Maboroshii Productions





















The Business

Anime News Network reports that Gonzo (The Hellsing TV series, Basilisk, Speed Grapher) parent company GDH has asked approximately 50 eomployees to voluntarily retire in an effort to restore the company to profitability. GDH and Gonzo currently employ about 200.

The employees who choose to take advantage of the program between December 1 and December 12 will receive a one-time bonus equivalent to one-month's salary. Their retirement will become effective on January 31. The program applies to GDH and Gonzo employees, but not to those in Gonzo Rosso, an online game subsidiary.

GDH will also sell of its GDH Capital financing subsidiary for 213 million yen (about US$2.2 million). The four-person unit was originally established in 2005 with 300 million yen (US$3 million) in capital.

*

animenews.biz has speculated on the possibility that Bandai Entertainment and Bandai-Namco may be rolled into one business unit.

The site also notes that according to a notice on Namco Bandai’s website, President and chairman of the board of directors for Bandai Visual, Tsunoda Ryouhei will assume the role of board of directors for parent company Bandai-Namco, starting January 2009.

In addition, the headquarters of Bandai Visual and Bandai Networks will be moved from their two headquarters in east Shimbashi to the Shinagawa Seaside Tower buildings which also house Bandai-Namco’s administrative services by the middle of December.

*

The Beat relates that Tokyopop has laid off seven employees from their LA office last month, including one editor, the CTO, the HR manager, and two others from Media.

*

FUNimation, along with Anchor Bay, Funimation, DreamWorks, Universal, and Disney have signed on to offer Blu-ray rentals through Redbox supermarket kiosks.

*

Variety reports that Toei plans to spend $55 million on revamping and digitalizing its studio in Tokyo's Nerima Ward.

Toei has been planning the revamp for four years. "We are facing the full-fledged arrival of the digital era in both films and television production," Toei prexy Yusuke Okada said on Tuesday. "We are actively investing for the future."

*

Savage Critics asks "Is Manga Dying" (in other works, what happened to ability for North American publishers to release another volume of Yotsuba, Beck Mongolian Chop or Jojo's Bizarre Adventure?)

Some provocative thoughts on quality anime is not licensed

Simon Jones consid rs manga after Naruto





"Simpsons" Gets Commended by Islamic Group for Challenging Anti-Muslim Prejudice

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) has thanked the Fox network and Matt Groening specifically for last Sunday's episode of The Simpsons, "Mypods and Broomsticks." In the episode, Bart befriends a Muslim boy named Bashir and defends him from accusations (including some from Homer) that he and his family are involved in terrorism. The Greater Los Angeles Area office of CAIR sent a thank-you letter to Matt Groening (PDF), and CAIR as a whole is calling for people to "send a message expressing appreciation for highlighting both anti-Muslim attitudes and the need for mutual respect and inclusion in our society" to diversity.quest@fox.com, with a cc to info@losangeles.cair.com.

"Mypods and Broomsticks" can be watched for free at Hulu.com.





C.H. Greenblatt Talks "Chowder" Holiday Special

Newsarama's Animated Shorts has spoken with Chowder creator C.H. Greenblatt about the special holiday episode "Hey, Hey It's Knishmas," which aired Thursday night on Cartoon Network. Greenblatt talks about the warm reception that Chowder has received from the network and from fans, how the characters have evolved from their original conceptions as the show has gone on, and what his goals were in assembling the holiday episode.





Genndy Tartakovsky Talks About His Career to Rhode Island School of Design

Animator Genndy Tartakovsky gave a speech chronicling his entire career at the Rhode Island School of Design last Saturday night. Tartakovsky began noting how he'd watch Saturday morning cartoons with a hangover in high school, and never assumed he'd succeed in animation as a career, calling his path "totally haphazard" and due to a combination of luck, maintaining relationships, and hard work. According to the article, he is currently working on Iron Man II and a project with J.J. Abrams (producer of the new Star Trek movie scheduled for release in 2009 and executive producer of hit TV series Lost and Alias), as well as working on advertisments as creative president of Orphanage Animation Studios.





Trailer for $9.99

Movie-List has posted links to a trailer for the upcoming stop-motion animated feature $9.99. Based on the Short Stories of Etgar Keret and directed by Tatia Rosenthal, $9.99 opens in theatres on December 12.





Cars 2 coming in 2011?

PixarPlanet, via BoxOfficeMojo, reports that Pixar’s upcoming sequel Cars 2 will be released on June 24, 2011. Cars 2 follows Mater and McQueen as they find themselves in a new world of intrigue, thrills and fast-paced comedic escapades around the globe.





Behind the Scenes of Horton Hears a Who!

A couple of weeks back, ComingSoon.net was invited to the White Plains, New York offices of Blue Sky Studios for a look at the inner workings of how they turned the Dr. Seuss classic Horton Hears a Who! into the computer animated family film released by 20th Century Fox this past March. With the DVD recently on shelves, it was a good time to revisit the movie which features Jim Carrey as the voice of an elephant named Horton who discovers a miniature world of tiny creatures called Whoville within a clover. Steve Carell provides the voice of the Mayor of Whoville while Carol Burnett voices Horton's chief detractor, a kangaroo.

One of the film's two directors, Steve Martino, gave us a special hour-long presentation going through every aspect of making the film from development through recording the various actors' voices and working on the score with composer John Powell. Starting with the very first early steps of design and development, it was a great tutorial in how a big budget computer animated film is produced from the ground up.

One thing that was very clear to Martino and his directing partner Jim Hayward from the very early days of the project four years ago was that Dr. Seuss himself would be their production designer, so they spent a lot of time studying the artist's work, not just in the children's book on which the movie is based but also some of his sculptures and paintings and letters Seuss wrote to Chuck Jones (animator of the original "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" cartoon). The first thing they did with art director Tom Cardone was they created a style guide for the 300 animators working on the film which gives them an idea of the vision. They studied Seuss' artwork very careful to find some of the recurring things he used, and tried to incorporate them into the design of the characters and the city of Whoville. Martino showed a lot of slides with examples of how those elements were incorporated into their designs, avoiding straight lines to use lots of bends and wrinkles, which isn't the most natural way computer animation is generally used. They decided to use odd materials and textures to create the buildings of Whoville and even created something called the "Seussometer" to determine whether they were on the right track with everything they were doing during the design process.

Then they got into the design of the characters including Horton himself, who Martino noted looked different on every page of Seuss' book, but they wanted to make Horton even more flexible to match the elasticity of Jim Carrey, the actor voicing him, so they decided very early to incorporate a process called "squash and stretch" to make that feasible. The design team also had literally hundreds of Whos to design and dress, and had a lot of fun with the Mayor of Whoville's 96 daughters, each who had to have their own personality, style and fashion sense.

Once they had the design and script in place and had recorded the various voice actors--who also brought their own dimension and personalities to each of their characters--they started working with the animators, working out each scene in a process they call "Sweat Box" where the animators pitch ideas for various scenes with 24 hours to conceptualize them, some of them even putting themselves on film to act out what they think might work. Martino talked about how various characters like Horton's bashful secret admirer Katie were developed by the creative animators of Blue Sky and then given more screen time because they became so popular. Then the scenes are broken up and distributed among the animators who start creating them. The next step involves fleshing out the characters and scenes using lighting and fur and textures and how the FX team creates things like water and wind for some of the bigger scenes.

Another interesting bit that Martino went through was showing how composer John Powell created the climactic final sequence where the residents of Whoville come together to create enough noise to be heard by those in the outside world, and all of that was orchestrated and synchronized using a click track to allow all the noises being created to be very musical, so that the music could drive the action.

After the presentation was over, CS had a chance for a quick interview with Martino to talk about some of the things not covered in the presentation:

ComingSoon.net: I've spoken to a few animation directors and co-directors and you really seem to have a grasp on every single aspect of the process although you came more from the art side of it. How do you end up learning the rest of it and as a director, is it a matter of finding the right team?

Steve Martino:
I think it's different for every person. I came up through computer animation in its infancy, so when I first started, I storyboarded and then I'd go in and model and animate and light and render. Back in the early days of this technology, we weren't so specialized so I had to learn, and I wasn't good at all those. I kind of fumbled my way through, especially the technical side, so I had an understanding of all of the various components that come into making a film like this. Through my career, I've realized that my strengths seem to be more on the visual side, so as Jimmy Hayward, my directing partner, and I worked together on "Horton," Jimmy came from Pixar, was an animator, so his focus and specialty is animation and story, my speciality is lighting, texture, art direction and then what we do is we stay together in the process. Editorial we do together, animation, in "sweat box" when we see the first animation coming up, we do that together, but then through the rest of a normal day for us, we might split off and I'll spend a little extra time with the design group or materials or fur, and he might give an extra set of rounds to animators. We always had to be on the same page with the story and the editing of the movie, but the little details, especially at the height of production when you have close to 300 people working on it at the same time, you got a lot of eyeballs who want your attention, so that's how we would divide up the work.

CS: As far as being an animation director, do you think it's most important to be able to understand and work with all the different departments? What's the most important thing as far as being able to move up from the animation pool to direct movies?

Martino:
I think, in terms of being a director, one of the major changes is an ability to communicate a vision for what you're trying to do, because in directing a movie, you're not doing anything hands on. I rarely picked up a pencil other than in my sketchbook to jot something down. When I was art directing, I would always have projects that I was always designing something or working something out. In directing, it's a matter of creating a vision for the storytelling and how that permeates its way through a decision on the color of the material on a stone wall vs. how an animator is going to create a pose for a particular moment of a character. You need to be the ultimate filter of that story through all of these different components, so it's a matter of communicating that vision and being receptive to other people plussing that idea.

CS: It's such a collaborative process and so many people involved, so does the director keep the adage about "too many cooks spoiling the batter" from happening?

Martino:
Yeah, I think ultimately, you have to consolidate that decision that we're going to base a decision on the theme of the book and that is what we're going to stick by. Jimmy and I had to come together and it's interesting: Jimmy and I are two totally different personalities but when it came to this story, we had very, very similar thinking about how we wanted to tell the story, what we wanted to see in the characters and we had to be in locked step on that because once you get rolling, I liken it to a roller coaster, it starts rolling downhill and you want to have it pointed in the right direction. Otherwise, you can burn up tons of time and tons of energy.

CS: You obviously have a great production designer in Dr. Seuss himself. His history in film, there were the 2D animated films from the '60s, then they started doing the live action films. Why do you think it's taken this long to make the move to 3D animation? Do you have any theories on that?

Martino:
You know, I don't have the full answer. I do know that as we sat with Audrey Geisel and a couple of people she works with and we showed some of our first tests and said, "This is where we're going with the movie. These are the things we can do in animation." They looked to one another and said, "Wow, we should have done these in animation from the start." Of course, I'm like, "Well, yeah, sure!" because that's what I work in, but I remember when Dr. Seuss passed away, I think it was 1991, and I was working in computer animation and our technology was just getting to that place. I think "Toy Story" was in production--I don't think it had come out yet--but our capabilities were finally to a place where we could tell a story like this and I thought, "Wow, a Dr. Seuss world in computer animation could be so cool." We can make you believe that something's a little more real than hand-drawn in terms of texture and lighting and so forth, but we can do that same kind of exaggerated movement that I think his books and his imagination always suggested to me.

CS: When you talk about other animation studios, someone like Pixar almost always goes for the realism, but here, you're definitely going more for the 2D thing, inspired by Chuck Jones and the "squash and stretch" and when I talked to the guys who did "Madagascar," they were also going for that same thing. Why do you think there's this desire when you have the ability to go for realism to try to go back and recapture parts of what made those 2D cartoons so fun?

Martino:
I think it’s just the next step. At first, you're trying to make characters feel like they're alive. A lot of stories call for the characters to be more true to their materials and true to their form, but animators are exaggerated actors and they love to push. You can find great humor and you can find an accentuation of the moment. We're all students of animation history. We grew up on... Chuck Jones' "The Grinch" is one of my all-time favorite works, and it's because of the way he's staged, and I looked at the way he'd stage his action, the way he'd cut and edit but also the way it was animated. Not every story fits. This story seemed to fit that animation style and our animators, man, they just jumped in and they had a blast with it. It was harder work but they did it with a smile on their face, 'cause they were kind of pushing new ground for them.

CS: I wonder if the animator Jeff Gabor knew that you were going to be showing us the footage of him acting out the scenes.

Martino:
I told him! He's wonderful, he's a phenomenal actor. A lot of the other animators would use him to do their performance, because he's a good physical actor himself and not all animators have that physical ability, at least in our computer animation style. Some of them are phenomenal when they get the character on the screen, but they probably couldn't act their way out of a paper bag.

CS: You've been working on this movie for four years, and in this country at least, Blue Sky is one of the three main animation houses along with Pixar and DreamWorks, so how does things being done by other studios affect what you're doing when you work on a movie like this for so long and see what others are doing?

Martino:
They push us. We see a Pixar movie come out and we're in the middle of production on ours and it's like look, the bar is high. It's inspiring to us, it makes us buckle down and put every little bit of juice we can into the work up on the screen. It's interesting. I spent time with the two directors on "Kung Fu Panda" and it was ironic, because we had a 2D dream or imagination sequence in our film, so did they. There were a number of things, and it's not like we're out copying off another. We're making our own stories and the only thing I can say is that I was happy that ours came out first. Their film was a wonderful film. It's well-crafted and well done but it's interesting that they probably had that reaction when they saw ours hit the screen, it was like, "Oh, man! Why did they get that out there first?"

CS: Where do you go from here? Obviously, directing a movie based on Dr. Seuss, there are also other books that can be done but other things you might want to do with your life. So what's next for you? Find another script?

Martino:
Yeah, I'm working in development here at Blue Sky right now and I've got five to six projects that are in their infancy, and we'll take them into a writing stage and we'll begin to do a little design and hopefully out of that batch, there'll be one that really beings to elevate and that will become one that will become one of our films, one film, two films, maybe three films down the line.

CS: It's a relatively small studio so do you generally do one or two movies at a time, generally back to back?

Martino:
You know, the way we work, we've always got one in pre-production and one in production. We don't have them running in parallel. We have our major production team working on a film and then we're getting one ready so as that finishes, it's ready to move in and those people work on production on that. We kind of line them up, a little overlapped, but one after the other.

Dr. Seuss' Horton Hears a Who! is out on DVD and Blu-ray Disc now.





Titmouse Takes on Transformers for Frank TV

On at upcoming episode of TBS’ Frank TV, we’ll be treated to a Transformers spoof. I won’t spoil anything, but there’s some great jokes in here about an ex-Vice President. Titmouse Inc. in Hollywood produced the segment, which was directed by Edward Artinian. He also designed, storyboarded and helped animate along with the Titmouse team.







Breakthrough Producing Producing Parker

Breakthrough Animation has embarked on a new Flash-animated series called Producing Parker. Produced along with CanWest Media, the half-hour series “follows the outrageous adventures of overworked and underpaid producer Parker and her quirky crew.” The series features the voice talent of Kim Cattrall, of Sex and the City fame. The project is slated to appear in Spring 2009 on the E! network in Canada.







Les Sommets du Cinema d'Animation de Montreal 2008










Whoa! Christmas shows up early for Montreal animation lovers. This year's Sommets du cinema d'animation de Montreal (Montreal Animation Summit) literally explodes this year, with an expanded lineup, including exhibits and great guests.

As in recent years, Marco de Blois, animation curator at the Cinematheque quebecoise, has gathered some of the year's best animated shorts in two programs screening on Friday and Saturday. This year, the audience gets to vote on their favourite and award a public prize to the best director.

This is just the beginning. This weekend includes a program of the notable international student films from 2006, 2007, and 2008; the best recent Canadian animation; and a free screening of Acme Filmworks and Animation World Network's The Show of Shows, presented by Ron Diamond.

I'm not done yet: A major restrospective, Du praxinoscope au cellulo (From Praxinoscope to Cel), is divided into three programs, two of them specifically targeted to include younger viewers. This film series focuses on the evolution of French moving images, and touches on drawings, marionettes, and pin, cell and cut-out, mixed media, and computer animation. This is an extraordinary chance to see shorts by Emile Cohl, Ladislaw Starevich, and Paul Grimault, among others.

Now get a load of these prices.

Free 0–5 years accompanied by an adult
Free Show of Shows
$4 6–15 ans
$6 students and seniors
$7 adults
$50 Cin├ęSommets passport, all-access pass

For the full schedule, including parties and concurrent exhibits, download the PDF program.





Live-Action Photos from Disney’s Sleeping Beauty











Brew reader David points out another fascinating sets of color photos in the Life Magazine archives that show the live-action reference footage shot for Sleeping Beauty.

(Thanks cartoonbrew)




.
Madagascar Sequel Opens Wider in Europe

DreamWorks Animation’s Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa will get a boost at the box office this weekend as it opens in France, Germany and the U.K. The movie has earned $232 million worldwide, but has an uphill climb to reach the $532 million the first Madagascar toon made worldwide. Meanwhile, Disney’s 3-D Bolt arrives in theaters in Spain, according to Daily Variety.

Escape 2 Africa is expected to do especially well in the U.K., where it is an odds-on favorite to win the weekend. Preview screening held last weekend brought in approximately $3.5 million, and another $5.5 million is forecasted over the next three days. The original film did well across the pond in 2005, and U.K. audiences tend to flock to family fare during the holidays.

Upon its domestic opening earlier this month, Escape 2 Africa shot to the top of the box-office chart with about $63.5 million in receipts. The pic was displaced the following weekend by the latest James Bond thriller, Quantum of Solace, which has been the U.K.’s top performer up until last week. It appears as though conditions are ripe for a bit of payback.





Dragon Hunters Coming to L.A.

Futurikon's Dragon Hunters, one of the 14 animated features short-listed for the Academy Award, will kick off it’s one-week Oscar qualifying run next Friday. The French CG-animated, family-oriented adventure-comedy opens Dec. 12 at Laemmle’s The Grande Theatre in Downtown, Los Angeles. Peace Arch Ent. has acquired North American distribution rights and plans to give the film a limited theatrical release before putting it out on DVD in February.

Directed by Guillaume Ivernel and Arthur Qwak, Dragon Hunters is a fantasy adventure tale that centers on two fly-by night dragon hunters, Gwizdo (Rob Paulsen) and Lian-Chu (Forest Whitaker), whose sole ambition in life is to buy a quiet little farm to hang out on. Zoe (Mary Matilyn Mouser) is a precocious little girl who believes in fairytales and decides to help her uncle, Lord Arnold, get rid of a terrible dragon that returns every thirty seasons to spread terror and destruction. She sets out to find some heroes like the ones she reads in her books, but winds up with Gwizdo ad Lian-Chu. To Gwidzo’s great dismay, they begin a perilous journey to the end of the world, where sleeps the most terrifying dragon ever to have stalked the face of the earth, the infamous World Gobbler!

The pic has sold roughly 800,000 tickets in its native France, and about 400,000 in Russia. Based on its success, Futurikon has decided to make a feature film based on its animated series Miniscule, which employs CG animation to explore the secret lives of bugs. The movie will reportedly focus on the friendship between a ladybird and a black ant. Series creators Thomas Szabo and Helene Giraud are writing the screenplay, and Dragon Hunters co-producer Trixter is negotiating involvement. For more information on Dragon Hunters, go to www.dragonhunters-themovie.com.





Two posts from John K's blog on the need for solid drawings and the construction of Elmer Fudd -

Solid Elmer - McKimson - Head Rotations














Here's a scene animated by Bob McKimson that shows the value of solid drawings. I purposely picked a scene that didn't have a lot of Clampett's direction in it. It looks like Clampett just told him what was was hapening in the scene and let him do it, so it's very basic McKimson.














Elmer tilts his head in all kinds of difficult subtle angles and he is animating slowly where you can't cheat anything.














Elmer's body is compact and solid, yet has enough give to feel like it's flesh wrapped in cloth - note that the wrinkles in the clothes don't stick way out! The bulge just enough to feel like clothes, but bulge following the form of his body.














This would be a very hard scene for an animator to do. McKimson's animation relies mostly on the drawings being solid and in perspective and moving cleanly from one pose to the next without losing volume and without have the features crawl around the face.














Titling the head into all these angles is hard enough, but that huge tall hat ads another degree of difficulty to control.














McKimson doesn't use an overload of overlapping action (except when Bob Clampett makes him) or squash and stretch or even drag - except in fast motions. His animation is very direct and to the point. It's all in the drawing.














It doesn't always get the best inking.














The fingers are wrapped solidly around Elmer's face. His other hand around his elbow. Feet in perspective.














Antic into...














Accent.














Look at those great feet!














Here's a real tricky pose to pull off. Elmer is all twisted around, laying on the ground and turned away from us. No problem for McKimson.

This scene, and WB animation is a very different approach to Disney animation, even though it uses the same fundamentals...just in a different ratio. More solidness, less accessories to distract from the main point.

Bob McKimson is the foundation of Warner Bros. animation. Most of the main animators follow McKimson's lead and that's why I think WB animation is a lot more humanized and manly than Disney's. It doesn't use a lot of animation flourishes like floppy arms and non-stop stretch and squash and overlap on everything for its own sake.

Other WB animators had their own styles, and some outright rebelled against McKimson's style, but they did it while standing on his foundation, and the most successful WB cartoons are the ones that don't get overly fancy and effeminate (Disney-esque), the ones that humans can relate to. That is a key ingredient that made WB's cartoons outlast Disney's in popularity. They still seem fresh today.














Rod Scribner in the same cartoon - a much looser approach, more cartoony and appealing, but just a personal variation of McKimson. Scribner, like McKimson and the best WB animators (unlike Disney) didn't compete with the story and voice track for attention - they were more direct in communicating with and entertaining the audience.

ANIMATION SHOULD EMPHASIZE THE VOICE TRACK

A good animator will use the voicetrack as the springboard for his animation. McKimson is very literal in this approach. When the voice goes up, Elmer's head tilts up. When there is a big accented syllable, Elmer visually accents it with his head or his hands or both. His expressions match the emotion in the voice track. Watch the clip a couple times and see this in action.
Close your eyes and listen to the track and listen where the accents and pauses are for emphasis, then go back and watch McKimson help draw your attention to what's already there in the soundtrack.

http://www.cartoonthrills.org/blog/Clampett/45OldGrayHare/elmershorter11.mov

http://www.cartoonthrills.org/blog/Clampett/45OldGrayHare/Elmershorter2.mov

The amazing thing to me is that no one followed up on this more populist approach to animation. Most animators want to emulate Disney in all its floppiness - only without the solid foundations and principles.

back later to explain more and to show some great Kahl animation...














Here's a strong accented gesture - some nice "twins" for you. Richard Williams would approve.














These would look even more solid if not for the DVNR and line thinning of the video transfer.



Constructing ELMER











Here's a good exercise if you wanna teach yourself cartoon construction and get your own drawings more solid.

trace the frame grabs in photoshop using construction

1) draw your line of action through the figure

2) Draw your major forms around the line of action

-torso
-head
-legs
-hat

3) draw center lines through the middle of the forms first vertically, then horizontally - following the perspective of the forms you use these to aim the details - like eyes, nose, mouth, collar, hat details etc...











I screwed mine up by drawing my construction on the same layer as the frame grab.

You should draw them on a separate layer (or layers) so you can turn off the frame grab layer and look at the construction by itself

then you can try to finish the details yourself by eye, by placing them along and beside the construction lines.

That's all I got for today. This will teach you a lot. Do lots and lots of poses and you will start to understand how to move your characters in space

when you add details like clothes wrinkles and bulges, don't bulge them too much or you will break up the forms and line of action and silhouette.





The Outsiders











Animation director and filmmaker David B. Levy blogs on independent filmmakers -

There's a common misconception that the "industry" does something to the animation artist. The idea is that it makes us conform our styles and our independent spirits so that we might hope to be cogs in the wheel at a major animation studio. In reality the industry doesn't do that, animation artists make that choice themselves. Everyone is so busy trying to figure out how Tex Avery timed a gag, Jim Tyer drew, or Mary Blair designed. Sure, we'd have to lack a normal artistic curiosity not to want to figure that out, but to what ends are we prepared to apply that information? What's the end game?

Oddly enough, outsiders to our industry have led the way in making some of the most groundbreaking animation of our era. For the purpose of this discussion, I'm only going to reference TV animation because the incredibly low standards and conformity in that arena. On Nov 19, Don Hertzfeldt came to town for a special set of screenings at the IFC center and the packed houses were treated to a set of unique films by this modern young master of indie animation. During the Q and A, Hertzfeldt revealed he has a TV deal, and one can only assume its for his own pilot or series. The filmmaker now joins a long line of outsiders who have stepped in to create the most original animation on the tube. The list includes Mike Judge (a self taught animator who learned to animate by making the first Beavis and Butthead film in his garage), Matt Stone and Trey Parker (live action film students who dabbled in cut out animation that most animators would scoff at), Matt Groening (the indie cartoonist who's first foray into animation was when he was drafted to dash off short animations for The Tracey Ullman Show), and Tom Snyder (the educational software company owner who devised a show with comedian Jonathan Katz that employed illustrators-not animators to create the series, Dr. Katz).

These outsiders never spent two seconds trying to imitate how Chuck Jones subtly raised an eyebrow, or to discover how Art Babbit broke the joints, or figure what sets apart each of the nine old men. And, they certainly wouldn't care to get into a debate as to the differences between each Pixar release or on how well Lasseter is doing as head of Disney. In contrast, we animation artists define ourselves by those very interests. It's what makes us "animation people." And, it's also what makes us take second place to the trailblazers listed above. They pull their influences out of life experiences as well as from inspirations coming from other mediums such as painting, sculpture, live-action cinema, theatre, etc. Is it any wonder that their creations take OUR medium to places we would dare not dream?

I know there's a degree of over-simplification in this argument. Some industry animation artists also have diverse interests, but I would wager that they tend to keep them out of their animation. This is because we are so busy scrambling to make a living that we give all our effort to our commercial work and leave none of that time or energy to ourselves. With such an equation, how could we be the groundbreakers in our own industry? The outsiders have a further advantage called "ignorance." Since they don't know the "so-called" limitations of our industry, they don't let anything block their creativity. To compete, we in the industry must learn to forget trends, fads, and commercial considerations that hold us back. Its as if we have automatic sensors telling us, "this will never sell," or "this project is too risky to be successful."

The last thirty years has seen the birth and boom of an interest in animation history and its checkered films and filmmakers, rescuing many from obscurity. Some, such as Chuck Jones, were even fortunate enough to live to see it happen and take a well deserved victory lap. I don't suggest we stop searching out our past, nor do I suggest turning a blind eye to where the industry is at today. Instead, I suggest we examine why it is that some of our best contemporary work has come from those who are not saddled by the negative baggage that comes along with being "animation people."

Incidentally, Herzfeldt's latest short, "I Am So Proud of You," (pictured above) is a masterpiece and its mature subject matter and sophisticated construction does animation proud, even though.... at the Q and A with moderator Amid Amidi concluding the screening, Hertzfeldt admitted, "I'm not an animator. I use animation to make films."





Peter Jackson Eulogizes Uncle Forry...

Via Aint It Cool News...

Hey folks, Harry here... Peter Jackson wrote a lengthy piece about his love for Forrest Ackerman, and sent in a personal photo, from quite some time ago now. Peter and I became friends initially through our passion for the original KING KONG, however I can't even begin to tell you how often we've discussed our mutual admiration for all things Ackerman. He sent this in today and wanted me to share it with all of you. Here's Peter...

Forry's death was not unexpected. Thanks to Harry, we had a few weeks to prepare ourselves, and I've found myself thinking about Forry a lot recently. Telling people about him, finding old photographs like this one.
















Forry was such a strong part of my growing up and becoming a film maker. I dreamt of making movies one day - and giving Forry some of my props for his collection. I dreamt of getting Forry to do a cameo in one of my films. His magazine, Famous Monsters of Filmland, became an obsession. I wanted to collect every issue.

He united a generation - more than one generation actually, and that's obvious because whenever you read anybody's tribute to Forry, you only have to substitute names and locations and it pretty much becomes your story.

I was at the tail end. I remember standing in a bookstore on holiday with my parents reading the FM issue with the
Seventh Voyage skeleton fight on the cover. It was in the early "100's". I found a single bookstore back home that sold FM ... # 115 was one of the first I bought.

You couldn't separate Famous Monsters from Forry. People sometimes criticize him for that today, saying he was on some kind of ego trip, featuring photos and stories about himself in every issue. But what fun! We were all very fond of Forry and his silly puns, but behind it you recognized a deep love and respect for the genre and people who devoted their lives to entertaining others.

When
FM was reborn a few years ago without Forry, it wasn't the same. Not even close - what was the point? Forry became the Uncle we all wanted. The wise adult who whispered to us kids that it was ok to love Dracula and Frankenstein. But Forry's self-deprecating humour also told us not to take it too seriously ... in fact very little in life should be taken seriously. Good lessons for kids.

My favourite part of the magazine was the
"Captain Company" classified ads. Just as the magazine celebrated fantasy, I would actually fill in the forms to buy every amazing mask and Super 8 movie I wanted. These forms never got ripped out, or sent - I had no money, but I loved writing down the lists and pretending I was going to order them! My old issues are full of young teen Peter's dream shopping lists.

I did get good marks in one school exam, and my Mum and Dad bought me a set of four
Seventh Voyage Super 8 films as reward. Another time, I saved up and got the Jason skeleton fight film reel. I cried when I ripped that Captain Company envelope open (it took about 6 months to deliver anything to New Zealand).

My parents took me to England for 3 months when I was 12 years old. It was the first time I ever flew, and I had to write out my
"last will and testament" before leaving. I never told my parents, but I left everything to Forry. At that stage, my worldly goods amounted to several Tintin books and a pencil case - but Forry meant so much to me, it was all going to him if the Jumbo Jet had gone down.

I remember a turning point in 1977, when
Star Wars arrived. That movie has been responsible for inspiring huge numbers of kids into making careers in genre entertainment - the most inspirational film since the original King Kong, but I always feel it was the beginning of the end of Famous Monsters magazine. I used to look forward to each issue and it's wonderful Gogos (or Gogos-inspired) cover painting. When Star Wars arrived, the paintings gave way to colour photographs. A flood of genre magazines hit the news stands and FM took a wrong turn - trying to compete with them all, instead of hanging on to what made it unique. It was never quite the same again.

The first time I saw Forry, I was too scared to meet him. I went to an LA Sci-Fi convention with a friend from NZ, and saw Forry signing autographs. I was too shy to say hello, because I somehow didn't know what to say. How much he'd meant to me? How I'd once willed him everything I owned? It was too big a moment for me and I froze.

A few years later, he came down to New Zealand as the main guest of a Wellington Sci-Fi Convention. In my home town! I was able to give him a mask from
Bad Taste, and a puppet from Meet the Feebles for his collection. I'm sure he'd never seen the movies, but he received them with enthusiasm. One dream fulfilled!

He was only in Wellington for a few days, and I was hoping to make
Braindead (Dead Alive) a few months later. I had no budget and no script, but knew one scene would take place at the zoo. So I asked Forry to do a cameo and took him up to the zoo in my car, along with my 16mm Bolex camera. I gave him a 1950's hat and coat to wear, and he supplied a copy of FM#1, which he seemed to carry around where ever he went. The movie was set in 1957, so it was perfect! I shot a few angles of him reading the magazine, then "reacting with horror" to whatever we would shoot months later. It was all cut short in the most embarrassing way - a zoo official came charging up, demanding to know what we were doing, and I tried to calm him down. He was pretty angry and I felt myself turning bright red as Forry looked on.

We scuttled away, but I had enough footage in the can to get a genuine Forry Ackerman cameo out of it!

Later he came to my house, and posed for the dream photo I include here - Forry in my house, holding an issue of
FM featuring the Kong Pterodactyl, with me holding the actual Pterodactyl model from Forry's collection. It's real headspinning geekout stuff! I cringe a little now, when I realise how carried away I was, asking Forry to sign my issues of Famous Monsters ... all of them. I can still see the rather helpless smile on his face when I showed up with the great stack of magazines.

A couple of years later, I visited him in LA and got to have a tour of the old Ackermansion. I was glad I did, because Forry went through hard times soon after that. He starting selling his stuff. Hopefully it found good homes. I bought some of the Kong armatures I'd worshipped for nearly 40 years. I didn't haggle with Forry - I just paid whatever he asked for them, happy to be looking after them for a while, and happy to be helping Forry in his older years. I'm hoping to get them on display in the not-to-distant future. Treasures like those need to be available for people to enjoy - that was a lesson from Forry.

Forry was a product of his time - a unique blend of the individual and world in which he lived. It could never happen again quite like that, and all of us who grew up with him share a very special experience that's hard to describe. Forry's own account of his death makes for somber reading - but I for one don't quite buy into all his theories. He hasn't disappeared into an endless nothingness. He's up to mischief of some sort, wherever he is.

Peter J






SMALLVILLE Showrunners To Pitch MARTIAN MANHUNTER Series To The CW In 2009??
















On page 22 of the current TV Guide (the one with next week’s listings and the cast of “CSI NY” on the cover), there’s talk that “Smallville” won’t be back for ninth season because Tom Welling, now 31, is not contracted for that season and may have tired of playing Superboy.

If a deal with Welling can’t be reached? An excerpt from the TV Guide piece:

[Showrunner Darren] Swimmer suggests a Smallville spinoff starring Phil Morris (John Jones aka Martian Manhunter), who next appears Jan. 22.

The Manhunter, a charter member of the Justice League who played a major role in the recent “Final Frontier” direct-to-DVD movie, has all the powers of Superman and a few more, including telepathy, clairvoyance and invisibility. He can also shapeshift, change himself to steel or stone and “phase” through walls and other solid objects. In “Smallville” he can also heal others. He was introduced in a 1955 issue of Detective Comics.

Morris may still be best beloved for his memorable portrayal of the Cochranesque attorney Jackie Childs on “Seinfeld.”

"Smallville" producers had earlier pitched to The CW "The Graysons," a look at the circus days of the boy who would become Batman's sidekick, but Warner Bros. execs put the kibosh on that notion.

“Smallville” returns Jan. 15 with Cosmic Boy, Saturn Girl, Lightning Lad, Doomsday and the atomic axe-wielding Persuader in tow.

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