Wednesday, April 15, 2009

News - 04/15/09...

Watch Gahan Wilson animate Neil Gaiman in a new creepy cartoon

Cartoonist Gahan Wilson, renowned for his eerie artwork in The New Yorker, Playboy, National Lampoon and other magazines, recently illustrated an animated adaptation of Neil Gaiman's story "It Was a Dark and Silly Night."

The short film has just been uploaded by the New Yorker to help publicize a special screening of the documentary Gahan Wilson: Born Dead, Still Weird Friday at the Morgan Library & Museum. Steven-Charles Jaffe directed both the new cartoon and the 2007 documentary, which includes interviews with Guillermo Del Toro, Stephen Colbert, Randy Newman and more.

For ticket information, visit the Morgan Library & Museum site. You can watch the full video after the jump.

Joseph Holt

Layout artist and background painter Joseph Holt has started a new blog featuring loads of his production artwork from from the late-’90s through today. There is work from Mission Hill, The Oblongs, Time Squad, and My Life as a Teenage Robot, among other productions. I particularly like the work he did on Meddlen Meadows (posted above), which was a short made within the Cartoonstitute Shorts Program at Cartoon Network. Holt says on the blog that he’s also been creating visual development for Symbiotic Titan, a series being produced by The Orphanage Animation Studios for Cartoon Network.

(Thanks cartoonbrew)

Report: Wolverine leak doesn't hurt, might be helping

The illegal leak of a workprint of X-Men Origins: Wolverine two weeks ago has apparently done little to dampen interest in the movie, according to Entertainment Weekly: A tracking report containing consumer research statistics shows a high "want to see" rating for the film, which is said to be the number-one choice for young men and guys aged 31 and older.

The magazine reports that the two demographics are key to boosting the first-weekend numbers for a male-targeted superhero franchise film such as Wolverine.

The leaked copy of the movie could have translated into a lot of lost ticket sales, and some industry observers predicted the effects could be catastrophic for the big summer tentpole, the magazine reported.

But the research suggests that the leak might actually turn out to be a positive development for the X-Men spinoff by generating heaps of free publicity.

News briefs: Trek opens early, Transformers runtime, Angels sneak peek reports that J.J. Abrams' Star Trek will hold early screenings on May 7, starting at 7 p.m. The film officially opens on May 8, a Friday.

Director Michael Bay told that his upcoming sequel film Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen will run 147 minutes long, or nearly two and a half hours.
... has posted a new video sneak peek at Angels & Demons, featuring the music of Hans Zimmer; the movie, starring Tom Hanks, opens May 15.

Bobby Cohen has been tapped to head up the Kurtzman/Orci shingle, which is based at DreamWorks, the production company of Star Trek and Transformers writer-producers Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci, Variety reported.

Online reruns of ABC's Lost accounted for 35.8 million video streams of full-length episodes, clips and other short-form content viewed by 1.4 million unique viewers during the month of March, according to Nielsen VideoCensus stats.

Vote to Decide if Erin Esurance Will Boldy Go 3-D

Erin, the animated mascot for online insurance seller Esurance, may be ready to cross the final frontier of 3D

In a promotional tie in the company is doing for the upcoming Star Trek movie, visitors to the Esurance site wil have the chance to vote on whether the character, who has starred in many 2D animated commercials, should go for a new 3D look.

A new commercial created by animation studio W!LDBRAIN offers a preview of the 3D look for the character, and can be seen on the site, along with other movie promotions, including a new Star Trek-themed game

Matthew Broderick to Guest on Cyberchase

Matthew Broderick will guest star on a special Father’s Day episode of the PBS KIDS GO! series Cyberchase.

Broderick will play the voice of Max, who joins the CyberSquad to stop Hacker from ruining Father’s Day.

"My son loves Cyberchase, so I was happy to lend my voice to the show,” said Broderick. “The best part is that I haven't told him I did it; I'm waiting to surprise him when we watch the episode together. I'm sure he'll be more impressed by it than any other work I've done!"

The episode is set to air June 19, after which it will be available for streaming at Cyberchase Online at and on the PBS KIDS GO! video player at

TELETOON on iTunes in Canada

Canadian animation station TELETOON has announced the availability of its programming on the iTunes Store in Canada.

Starting today, Canadian iTunes customers can purchase episodes of 6TEEN, Total Drama Island and Total Drama Action. Also available are Life’s a Zoo and Rick and Steve: The Happiest Gay Couple in the World from the teen and adult-oriented TELETOON Detour.

To promote the launch, TELETOON is offering one episode from each series for free download.

“Making programming available on iTunes opens up new possibilities and is part of the TELETOON commitment to provide animated content to audiences where and when they want it,” said Len Cochrane, president of TELETOON Canada.

Chinese Thomas & Friends Site Launches

Thomas & Friends are making a stop in China through a new website launched this month by HIT Entertainment.

The franchise’s global website attracts more than 30 million visitors each month and is one of the most popular preschooler websites in the world. The new site, which will be in the Chinese language, can be found at

The program has been airing on CCTV since January and is one of the few foreign programs broadcast nationally.

Spacetoon Unveils New Property, Fafa & Juno

Spacetoon India’s publishing and merchandising division Kids Animation India has unveiled Fafa & Juno, its first animation property.

The duo are set to premiere in 2010 an animated TV series that is now in preproduction.

In the interim, KAI will use publishing, licensing and merchandising to market the characters at first, putting their image on school bags, art sets, stationery, toys and furniture. The company will target by the end of the year some 150 retail outlets and 8,000 small retailers with the initiative.

A Wolf Loves Pork by Takeuchi Taijin

Classic cartoon chase meets David Hockney in A Wolf Loves Pork by Japanese artist Takeuchi Taijin. Technique and technical showmanship are front and center as the actions within the photo frame interact with the real-world space in clever and unexpected ways. I’ve got just one word for this short: Brilliant!

(Thanks cartoonbrew)

Berry Flavors Tofuzilla Animation

Dan Berry, a SCAD-student living in Georgia, created this 40-second short, drawing each frame by hand in a moleskin notebook. Each panel was then scanned into Photoshop where he colored each one. Behold Tofuzilla.

Goals of a Shorts Program 8 - developing new techniques


Shorts Can Build In Technical Progress (Silly Symphonies model)

Cartoons in the 1930s and 40s advanced every year noticeably. On purpose.

Which company today can say their cartoons are more advanced than any other company's? None. The TV cartoons actually get more primitive every year at a steady rate. Even obscenely big budget CG cartoons barely change from year to year. They may grow more hairs and pores but remain primitively designed and acted within the context of the same old stories, puns and cliches retold a thousand times.

Is this an expensive one or a cheap one? I can't tell the difference.

There is no progress built into the system, no competitiveness built into it.

Walt Disney actually made a science out of progress.

He built it into his studio system by creating a series of cartoons just to discover and develop new techniques. He instituted art classes and created "action analysis" to improve his animators' understanding of the way things move.

His Silly Symphonies almost seem boring on purpose, because they are so intent on pushing new techniques forward. I don't think you have to make boring cartoons in order to advance. I prefer the Looney Tunes method of trying out a few "one-shots" every year: highly entertaining cartoons that don't necessarily use the star characters but allow the directors to put more money and time into a couple of cartoons to try new things out. What they learn, they in turn can apply to their more formulaic star vehicles and in the process the cartoons get better and better overall at a noticeable rate.

At MGM, Tex Avery was an experimenter, while Bill and Joe's more conservative Tom and Jerry series was a beneficiary of Tex's (and Looney Tunes') bold inventiveness.

ONE SHOTS as well as Star Vehicles


Besides trying to discover appealing star characters, part of a shorts program should be devoted to progress: to developing new techniques to make your cartoons obviously better than your competition's.

The faster you advance, the more primitive you can make your competitor's work seem.

Our business frowns upon this and builds in safeguards against progress. It values "consistency" over experimentation and advancement. Model sheets, story bibles, pages of catch phrases for each character and on and on...

The result of the philosophy of "never change" is to actually degrade consistently year by year, because it is physically impossible to stay the same. You have to move in one way or the other - forwards or backwards.

Many TV cartoons today look like still images of stick figures. Childlike frozen stick figures that only move in the sense that they are being pushed and pulled around in flash like paper puppets. But no one knows it or cares because no studio is trying to outdo anybody else. It's like each studio looks at the others to see how low it's safe to aim this year. (The same applies to stories, but I won't get into that here)


What happened to the idea that entertainment had to be amazing? That entertainers had to have obviously rare and astonishing abilities? When my parents see a modern cartoon, I've heard them say, "I don't get it, I can draw as well as that." That whole generation expected to be amazed by anything that was called entertainment. Athletes have to be strong, fast and coordinated. Singers used to have to be able to carry a tune and have beautiful rare voices. Cartoons and illustrations used to attract and impress the average person by their rare visual skills, humor and inventiveness.

The average viewer didn't think "Well, hey I can do that." Today, big studios aim down to compete with "user-generated" content. Is there a point of spending a lot of money doing what just about anybody else can do cheap?

If there was a studio devoted to progress, within a couple years no one else could compete with it because the other cartoons would look so primitive by comparison. Today unfortunately, amateurism is the trend. I don't even think the people in charge know it. I think they actually believe that the more primitive a cartoon is the more advanced and hip it is, but maybe I'm missing some work of genius out there. I remember when "good-for-you" cartoons like Caillou and Arthur looked primitive to me. Now they look like standard professional network cartoon fare - or even better in some cases.

(Thanks John K,)

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