Wednesday, July 15, 2009

News - 07/15/09...

Spurlock Directs Simpsons Documentary

Morgan Spurlock is set to produce and direct a documentary special titled The Simpsons 20th Anniversary Special in 3-D on Ice as part of The Simpsons’ 20th anniversary celebration.

Spurlock directed Super Size Me, which was nominated for an Academy Award for best documentary feature film. He also produced and appeared in the documentary series 30 Days. His production company, Warrior Poets, produced the feature documentary films The Third Wave, What Would Jesus Buy? and Where in the World is Osama bin Laden?

The special will examine the 20-year phenomenon that is The Simpsons in Spurlock’s own style. The documentary will conclude the yearlong anniversary celebration and air on Fox Jan. 14 — the actual anniversary date of The Simpsons’ debut.

"When they first called me about this, I thought it was a prank and I hung up," said Spurlock. "And then my agent called back and said, 'No, no, this is for real,' at which point I fainted. Then when I woke up, I called everyone I knew because it was the coolest thing I could ever get to do in my career."

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

FX Aims Archer for Fall Debut

Cable network FX has ordered six episodes of the animated series Archer, a comedy about the employees at an international spy agency.

The show, whose title may change, stars Family Guy actor Jon Benjamin as a suave spy named Sterling Archer, Variety reports. Other cast members include Aisha Tyler as Archer’s girlfriend, Jessica Walter as his mother, Judy Greer as his secretary and Chris Parnell of Saturday Night Live as the agency’s controller.

FX execs say they see the half-hour show as a good fit with its hit comedy series, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.

The show, created by writer Adam Reed and Floyd County Productions and produced by FX Productions, is due to premiere in the fall.

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Book on Classic Magoo Holiday Special Comes to Comic-Con

Animation director Darrell Van Citters will preview at Comic-Con International in San Diego his upcoming book on the making of the classic 1960s animated TV special Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol.

Van Citters’ book, due to be published in the fall, recounts the making of the show in great detail, including interviews with animators and cast members who worked on it.

Produced in 1962 by the legendary UPA studio, Van Citters says Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol is the first animated Christmas special and expects interest in the classic show to increase.

Produced by Lee Orgel (1925-2004), the special featured a cast that included the late Jim Backus as Magoo, as well as Morey Amsterdam, Jack Cassidy, Royal Dano and Paul Frees. Broadway veterans Jule Styne and Bob Merrill wrote the score and lyrics.

Van Citters, whose work includes credits at Warner Bros. and Disney, currently heads up his own company, Renegade Animation.

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Kickstand Updates StretchMesh for Maya

Upgrades to StretchMesh surface deformation plug-in for Maya adds several new features that creator Kickstand says streamline the production process for creating top-notch character animation.

In addition to a speed enhancement, the update — StretchMesh 1.5 — includes the following new features:

• Improved flexibility animating collisions using primitive sphere and primitive curve colliders. Primitive sphere colliders behave like mesh sphere colliders, but with far more robust performance. Primitive curve colliders provide an array of radius values along the length of a curve to define a collision tube or capsule, offering significantly better performance than equivalent mesh colliders.

• The influence of a collision object can now be painted, giving users per-vertex control over a collision and impact.

• Curve attractors provide the ability to pull vertices toward the closest point on a curve. This technique is useful in facial rigging, for example, where the vertices of an eyebrow need to be pulled toward a target curve.

• A new "Scale Safe” mode allows users to scale a mesh and safely preserve its initial shape.

The upgrade will be made available this summer to owners of StretchMesh, which costs $249 per seat. For more details, please visit or call 1-888-KCK-STND.

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Fantasia Fest explores "Outer Limits" in Montreal

This year's edition of "Outer Limits of Animation," set for Friday, July 17 at Montreal's Fantasia International Film Festival, is an unusual journey through some 20 short films, spotlighting a variety of animation and narrative forms.

The 110-minute program takes place at 4:45 p.m. at Salle J.A. De Sève, 1400 de Maisonneuve Ouest (Metro Guy). It pays tribute to two of the leading stop-motion directors, Québec's Patrick Boivin and the eccentric American PES.

Boivin presents Black Ox Skateboard, Bumblebee Boy, Bumblebee Beats Optimus Prime and King of the Dogs, his recent music video for Iggy Pop. PES, a director specializing in short films and commercials, constantly amazes with his distinctive style and the unusually cohesive worlds he creates. In the Outer Limits lineup are two of his short films, Western Spaghetti and Fireworks, as well as two animated commercials, Diesel -Kaboom! and Scrabble - 60th Anniversary.

Once again, Canada is in fine form this year: the National Film Board presents the brilliant Drux Flux by Theodore Ushev, and the offbeat micro-shorts Git Gob by Philip Eddolls and Bat Milk by Brandon Blommaert. There's also Malcolm Sutherland's ironic The Tourists.

Several American films are also on the menu: God of Tears by Max Margulies and Naoko Masuda, a monumental, 20-minute stop-motion film; Scrimshander by George Smaragdis, a fantasy tale using 3D animation; and Spaceman on Earth by Shant Hamassian, a delirious romp mixing various styles and approaches. France is represented by three distinct films: Apres la Pluie by a collective made up of Emmanuelle Walker, Charles-André Lefebvre, Sébastien Vovau, Manuel Tanon-Tchi and Louis Tardivier, a delightful jaunt in a style reminiscent of the golden age of Japanese anime; La Main des Maitres by Adrien Toupet, Clément Delatre and Looky, a marvelous futuristic short; and Malban by Élodie Bouédec, a strange, nostalgic family story.

Robot fans will particularly enjoy This is J03 by British collective Once Were Farmers and L'Interpretation des Reves Ou Les Aventures du Robot Bleu by Québec's Elohim Sanchez. Mexico makes an impression this year with La Nostalgia del Sr. Alambre (Mr. Wire's Nostalgia) by Jonathan Ostos Yaber, a moving short about a puppeteer who can create wonders with wire.

Anyone who has seen Rabbit will be happy to know that British filmmaker Run Wrake is back with his hysterical The Control Master, a collaboration with the artist Veer. The film is an electrifying “melting pop” inspired by imagery from '50s-era comic books and featuring flying superheroes, a mutant heroine and a mad scientist hungry for power and mass destruction.

The final word goes to Brits Tanya Erzinclioglu and Nicola Coppack, who take us to the heavens with their poetic Aerius.

For ticket information, visit

SDCC ‘09: The Animation Panels (Sunday)

Here is third installment of Cartoon Brew’s guide to the 2009 San Diego Comic Con. Below are my recommended picks of animation-related panels scheduled for Sunday July 26th. It’s a light day for animation panels, most of them are voice-over related. I’m not recommending the American Dad panel or the advance screening of the new Scooby Doo movie - but if you want to see them, or other stuff like that, check the entire schedule for Sunday here.


10:00-11:00 Phineas & Ferb panel with creators Dan Povenmire and Jeff “Swampy” Marsh, plus the voice of Phineas, Vincent Martella, and other surprise guests — and sneak peeks of new episodes. Room 6DE

10:30-11:30 The Radio AdventureBolds of Dr. Floyd—LIVE! Not quite animation, but a cartoon-like live radio show with Chuck McCann, Frank Conniff, and animation voice actors Moira Quirk, Alison Mork and Michael Rayner. Room 8

11:15-12:30 Cartoon Voices II Co-hosts Mark Evanier and Earl Kress discuss cartoon voices with Hank Garrett (G.I. Joe), Susan Silo (Biker Mice from Mars), Greg Cipes (Teen Titans), Tom Kane (Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends) and several more. Room 6A.

1:00-2:00 Business of Cartoon Voices A serious “how to” look at the business, telling you what it takesBold to get in and how to avoid getting ripped-off. Once again, Mark Evanier and Earl Kress assemble a panel of agents, casting directors and working actors for a no-nonsense look at the business. Room 2

After this, I’m goin’ home.

(Thanks cartoon brew)

Bill Plympton’s Dog Days dvd

Independent animation great Bill Plympton has released a new dvd collecting all of the shorts he has created between 2004 and 2008: Guard Dog, Guide Dog, Hot Dog, Spiral, The Fan and the Flower, Shuteye Hotel, and Santa, the Fascist Years. The disc is packed with tons of extras including music videos for Kanye West, Weird Al Yankovic, and Parson Brown, TV commercials, animated documentary excerpts, and a TV special 12 Tiny Christmas Tales, as well as pencil tests, animatics, storyboards and filmmaker commentary. Animation director David Levy wrote a review of the dvd with insightful thoughts about Plympton’s work in general. Levy’s comments about the Parson Brown music video “Mexican Standoff” stood out to me:

I am tempted to describe Bill’s recent commissioned work, the music video “Mexican Standoff,” as one of those misfires in that it can appear to be an average work. But as soon as I think that, I correct myself: Average for whom? The film is full of innovative camera angles, daring animation, and enough style and ideas for 10 films. I wonder if one price Bill has paid for his productivity might be that we’ve become accustomed to his ordinary excellence. If we had never seen a Bill Plympton film before and started with “Mexican Standoff,” we might be asking, “Who did that terrific animation?” But, the value of the “Dog Days” collection is that it answers that injustice by forcing the viewer to look at this five-year period of Bill’s work as a whole.

This morning, we’re giving away a dvd signed by the legend himself. To enter, leave a comment below until 11am (Pacific time) and we’ll choose a random winner from the comments. To order the Dog Days dvd, which is $24.95, visit Plympton’s website.

(Thanks cartoon brew)

Dallas McKennon 1919-2009

Just got word that Dallas McKennon passed away this morning. Sunday would’ve been his 90th birthday.

Dal was a prolific voice in animation, and you’ve heard him as the voice of Gumby, Archie, Buzz Buzzard, Ben Franklin at Epcot, the fox in Mary Poppins, and in numerous Sam Singer cartoons. He was an actor in many live action movies for Disney, Alfred Hitchcock, George Pal, and Anthony Mann, but was probably best known to people the real world as a regular on the TV series Daniel Boone, playing Cinncinatus the storekeeper.

I had the pleasure of meeting Dal about ten years ago and hanging out with him during a visit to L.A. (he lived in Oregon) and found him to be a wonderful person. My favorite role of his was as the old sea captain, polar bear and bulldog in Tex Avery’s The Legend of Rock-A-Bye Point. “Sing it again for me, will ya, Charlie…” So in tribute, I’ve embedded it below.

(Thanks, Gene Hamm)

(Thanks cartoon brew)

Weird Al’s Skipper Dan

I’m a big fan of Weird Al Yankovic… and I’m digging his latest video, designed and directed by Divya Srinivasan. Read the lyrics here.

And cheer up Skipper Dan, John Lasseter started on the Jungle Cruise ride.

(Thanks cartoon brew)

Toon Tuesday: Remembering 2-C

Forget about 3-D. Disney Legend Floyd Norman for JHM revisits a location at Walt Disney Studios where lots of classic animation was created

I’ve been spending a fair amount of time in Disney’s old Animation Building recently. A visit to the second floor always provokes a flood of memories. The structure has been renovated, and yet things look pretty much the same. At least enough remains to remind this Disney veteran of a time long gone in Walt’s magic kingdom.

Woolie's wing the way it looks today. A bit too "Hollywood slick" for me.
A lot of the old charm is now sadly missing

When I first arrived at Disney in the 1950s, 2-C was considered a shorts unit. Directors like Jack Hannah and Dick Kinney still produced animated shorts for Disney. For those of you who don’t remember old school storyboarding, it was guys like Roy Williams & Al Bertino knocking out gags and then going out for a drink. The story rooms were strictly a man’s world replete with cigars & cigarettes filling the ashtrays.

In time, cartoon shorts no longer generated sufficient income for the company, and even distributors were growing disenchanted. Besides, exhibitors could squeeze in more screenings of a feature film without short cartoons clogging the schedule.

To his credit, Walt Disney continued to produce animated shorts even though these films were being produced at a loss. Finally, Roy had to tell his brother that enough was enough. I still remember the day when old timers like Jack Hannah and Dick Kinney were given their walking papers, and we had come to an end of an era at Walt’s cartoon house.

Copyright Disney. All Rights Reserved

2-C now had a new tenant, and Wolfgang Reitherman and his crew would remain in this special wing longer than most. Woolie would direct the Dragon battle in “Sleeping Beauty,” and sequences from “101 Dalmatians” from this location. In the early 1960s, Reitherman would be the first Disney director to helm a feature film on his own. “The Sword in the Stone,” unlike its predecessors, would not have three directors. Surprisingly, I would join Woolie’s unit on “The Jungle Book” in 1966, and Reitherman & Co. would continue on after my departure.

Woolie’s wing would move through a number of changes over the years, and artistic personal would rotate. However, a few things stayed the same. A casual visit to 2-C would make you feel as though you’d never left, even though you may have been gone for a decade.

Senior layout artist Don Griffith sat at the far end of the wing in a spacious office. His work area overlooked the Camera Building to the east, and trees were visible through the window. This was a large room usually shared by layout artists Basil Davidovitch and Sylvia Niday. During “Dalmatians,” Dale Barnhart, Ray Aragon and Sammie June Lanham worked here. This room connected to Reitherman’s office. A large space with plenty of room for chairs, couches, storyboards and a Moviola. Moving west down the hallway was Woolie’s personal assistant, Betty Gossin. Of course, they were called secretaries back in those days. Her space was connected to the next large story room where story veterans Vance Gerry and Al Wilson worked away.

This is the way I remember 2-C. Vance Gerry pitching to the "Old Guys,"
Woolie Reitherman, Larry Clemmons and Ken Anderson.
And that's Milt Kahl in the background

Across the hallway were two other large rooms where veteran animators, Dick Lucas and Eric Cleworth doubled as story artists for the unit. The beauty of this arrangement was that all the spaces were connected. The office of the story artist flowed into the director’s space. Should Reitherman have a question for his layout crew, he only had to walk through a doorway. Instead of making an appointment to speak with your boss, you knew he was only a few feet away. Walt Disney had created an amazing system to develop animated films, and these directorial units -- or “Music Rooms” -- were incredibly efficient. When I think of how animated films are produced today, studios appear to need an “army” to accomplish what we did with only a handful of people.

In time, Woolie finally packed it in and announced his retirement from Disney. Some of Reitherman’s crew remained for while, but they eventually left as well. 2-C was turned over to producer Joe Hale and his team to begin work on “The Black Cauldron.” In spite of the nearly ten years spent on the film, “Cauldron” turned out to be more forgettable than classic, and animation’s days in Burbank were clearly numbered. “The Great Mouse Detective” showed that Disney animation still had promise, but they would have to prove that in a new location. I still remember the fateful week when Walt’s premiere animation staffers were kicked out on their butts.

Disney Animation has finally returned to Burbank. Well, in a roundabout kind of way. Their new home is an architectural oddity on Riverside Drive, and the staff makes do with their less-than-functional surroundings. Over a decade has passed since 2-C has been home to a Disney animation unit. That marvel of efficiency and functionality pioneered by Walt Disney that we know as “The Music Room.”

Copyright Disney. All Rights Reserved

Today, few people in the Animation Building know of its history and the brilliant men and women who labored there. Would anybody in 2-C even know Woolie Reitherman, Don Griffith or Vance Gerry? Are they even aware of the magic that was created within the walls of the wing they now inhabit?

I slap myself awake as I stare down the hallway of 2-C. This was the wing that was once my home as a young Disney story artist. It’s 2009, and 1966 is a long time ago. And no matter how hard I wish for it, it’s never coming back.

But you know who is coming back to Comic-Con this year? Floyd Norman. This Disney Legend will be taking part in Mark Evanier's "Quick Draw" panel on Saturday, July 25th from 11:15 a.m. through 12:30 p.m. Floyd will match wits with Sergio Aragones and Scott Shaw! in Room 6BCF to see who come up with the quickest, funniest drawings. If you're going to be in San Diego next week, you really owe it to yourself to check out this panel.

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