Wednesday, May 19, 2010

News - 05/19/10...

Oscars Considers Expanding to Five VFX Nominees

The visual effects branch of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has voted to expand from three to five the number of nominees for the Best Visual Effects Oscar, Variety reports.

If approved by the academy’s rules committee and the board of governors, the change would take effect with the 2011 Oscar ceremony.

The move was approved at the branch meeting last Thursday, amid heated debate on the move, the trade reports. The change was reportedly supported by the Visual Effecst Society and some of the larger visual effects companies.

Arguments against the expansion are that it will decrease the likelihood that the most cutting-edge work will win and that with four people per movie getting a nomination that the value of being a nominee will be diluted.

How the move will affect the nomination process and the bakeoff has yet to be determined.

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Tiny Shoes trailer

Your daily dose of bad:

From the people who brought you The Sissy.

(Thanks Cartoon Brew)

Kingdom Hearts Prequel Arrives September 7

Square Enix Co. Ltd. and Disney Interactive Studios announced today (via PR Newswire) that the latest game in their Kingdom Hearts series will arrive in North America exclusively on the Sony PlayStation Portable system on September 7th, 2010.

Entitled Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep, this prequel to the role-playing game series which melds Disney characters with those from Square Enix’s Final Fantasy series will feature roles played by veteran voice actors such as Mark Hamill, James Woods and Leonard Nimoy. The game will also be the first official appearance for Bret Iwan as the fourth voice of “King” Mickey Mouse-his predecessor, the late Wayne Allwine, passed away last year after the completion of his work on the previous Kingdom Hearts game, Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days.

In addition to the game itself, Square Enix and Sony Computer Entertainment America will release an “Entertainment Pack,” which will release simultaneously with the game by itself and will include:

• a “Mystic Silver” PSP-3000 system
• the Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep game
• a (yet-to-be-determined) movie whose content is unrelated to the Kingdom Hearts series
• and a 4GB Memory Stick PRO Duo for data storage.

Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep has been rated “E10+” by the Entertainment Software Ratings Board for “fantasy violence and mild, suggestive themes.”

Defenders of the Earth Returns on DVD

The classic comic strip defenders of yesteryear have returned to protect our planet from evil in the new DVD release of Defenders of the Earth: The Complete Series (Digital1Stop, $24.98).

The release includes all 65 episodes of the 1986-87 series, which united The Phantom, Flash Gordon and Mandrake the Magician — along with a number of new, younger characters — against Ming the Merciless in this show from Marvel Productions and King Features Syndicate.

New additions to the anime aisle include Dragon Ball Z Kai: Season 1, Part 1 (FUNimation, $49.98 DVD, $54.98 Blu-ray) and the first high-definition release of Shinji Aramaki’s feature film version of Appleseed (Geneon, $39.98 Blu-ray).

Also new to home video today are the kid-vid entries Barney: Let's Play Outside (HIT Entertainment, $14.98) and Curious George: Goes to a Birthday Party (Universal, $16.98).

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Disney Schedules Pooh for 2011, Reboot for 2013

Disney has set release dates for its upcoming animated features, setting Winnie the Pooh to arrive July 15, 2011, and Reboot Ralph on March 22, 2013, according to Variety.

Pooh will go up against Warner Bros.’ Harry Potter and the Deadly Hallows, Part 2. The movie will be a traditionally animated 2D project, much like the studio’s recent The Princess and the Frog, the trade reports. The movie will be directed by Stephen Anderson and Don Hall.

Reboot Ralph will be a 3-D project and was at one time known as Joe Jump.

In other Disney release news, the studio’s Touchstone Pictures shingle will release the Studio Ghibli feature Tales from Earthsea on Aug. 13. The movie is directed by Goyo Miyazaki, son of Hayao Miyazaki, and based on the short story collection by science fiction author Ursula K. LeGuin.

The film, originally released in Japan in 2006, will feature an English dub for its American release featuring the voices of Timothy Dalton, Willem Dafoe, Cheech Marin and Mariska Hargitay.

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

CalArts, Ringling, KCAI Projects Win Student Oscars

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has announced student projects from CalArts, Ringling and the Kansas City Arts Institute as winners in the animation category at the 37th annual Student Academy Awards.

Three animation projects were chosen as finalists, with the filmmakers earning a weeklong trip to Los Angeles for various entertainment-industry events that will culminate June 12 in an awards ceremony in which it will be revealed which film won the gold, silver and bronze honors.

The full list of nominees follows:

• Departure of Love, Jennifer Bors, Ringling College of Art and Design, Florida

• Dried Up, Isaiah Powers and Jeremy Casper, Kansas City Art Institute, Missouri

Lifeline, Andres Salaff, California Institute of the Arts

• Multiply, Emily Henricks, University of Southern California

• Surface: Film from Below, Varathit Uthaisri, Parsons The New School for Design, New York

• Dreams Awake (Suena Despierto), Kevin Gordon and Rebekah Meredith, Stanford University, California

• Rediscovering Pape, Maria Royo, City College of New York

• Yizkor (Remembrance), Ruth Fertig, University of Texas at Austin

• Down in Number 5, Kim Spurlock, New York University

• God of Love, Luke Matheny, New York University

• The Lunch Box, Lubomir Kocka, Savannah College of Art and Design, Georgia

Honorary Foreign Film

• The Confession, Tanel Toom, The National Film and Television School, Beaconsfield, United Kingdom

Gold medal award winners receive cash grants of $5,000, silver winners win $3,000 and bronze winners receive $2,000. The Honorary Foreign Film winner receives a $1,000 cash grant.

The U.S. students first competed in one of three regional competitions. Each region was permitted to send as many as three finalist films in each of four award categories. Academy members then screened the finalists’ films and voted to select the winners.

The ceremony on June 12 is free and open to the public, but advance tickets are required. Tickets may be obtained online at, in person at the Academy box office or by mail. For more information, call (310) 247-3600.

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Cuppa Coffee’s Toronto Studios to Grow

Cuppa Coffee Studios is expanding its Toronto studios, adding 30 stages and 30,000 square feet.

The expansion will adjoin the current facility, which includes 40 stages and totals 50,000 square feet at 53 Ontario St., said Adam Shaheen, studio president.

“With two stop-motion series a year along with two Flash series and a crew of close to 300, the studio is almost at capacity,” said Shaheen, who is in discussion to produce two stop-motion features over the next 36 months. "With the new addition of space we will now be able to expand all aspects of our production - offering up the scale now needed to service feature work."

Cuppa Coffee is currently shooting its second seasons of both Glenn Martin DDS for Nick @ Nite and Ugly Americans for Comedy Central.

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Pinball Animation Stop Motion wins Aniboom contest

After a worldwide search for original animations and the selection of five finalists, each deemed the top entry in its respective category, Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit educational organization behind Sesame Street, and Aniboom, the world's first virtual animation studio, announced Monday that Pinball Animation Stop Motion is the Grand Prize winner of the Aniboom Awards 4 Sesame Street contest as a part of the Fourth Annual Aniboom Animation Awards.

In addition to $15,000 in cash and development money, Florence Animation's winning film will be included in Sesame Street's 41st season, premiering in September. While Sesame Street is known for using animation to reinforce educational content and has sought innovative artists in the field for the last 40 years, the Aniboom Awards 4 Sesame Street marks the first time that the show has participated in a worldwide competition for content.

Florence Animation is comprised of three animators and a post-producer, Rita Bozzo, 35; Stefania Demicheli, 28; Martina Prest, 26; Dario Trovato, 31, coming from different cities throughout Italy. Their paths crossed in a well-known studio in Florence specializing in stop-motion animation. While each came together with different backgrounds in animation, all have since developed a special interest in the clay-animation technique.

The winning animation was chosen by a judging panel comprised of top-name celebrities, experts and opinion-makers, including actor Neil Patrick Harris; ABC correspondent Juju Chang; Elmo puppeteer Kevin Clash; Dr. Sharon Lynn Kagan, co-director of the National Center for Children and Families at Teachers College, Columbia University; and original Pinball animator Jeffrey Hale. Pinball Animation Stop Motion beat out the four other finalists who each won in a specific category.

They include:

School Readiness Skills -- Lonely 11, by Mari Jaye Blanchard (30; Brooklyn, NY)
Blanchard is a Brooklyn-based animator with an extensive background in mural painting. She has been a grant panelist for the New York Foundation for the Arts (Video) and the Asian American Arts Alliance (Media), and is a 2007 Urban Artist Initiative/New York City Fellowship Recipient. Although she continues to paint murals and signs for her day job, Mari Jaye now focuses solely on animation in her own artistic practice.

Pro-Social -- Question of the Day: Diversity, by Tony Dusko (39; Reading, PA)
A fifth-grade teacher, Tony created his first simple animation of a grilled cheese sandwich telling his students to get ready for lunch as a way to get them to stop talking. To his surprise, the fifth-graders loved it, quickly got ready for lunch, and begged him to make more animations. To improve his skills, Dusko began studying animation with nearby Academy Award-nominated Paul Fierlinger, and has since created short films for many school topics and continues to use them to liven up his every day teaching.

Community Favorite -- Rock Star, by Mithum Kumara (23; Negombo, Sri Lanka)
A freelance animator and graphic designer, Kumara first became interested in animation as a kid watching cartoons. Once she began creating them herself as a hobby in high school, she realized that animation would be a good way to separate herself professionally and hasn’t looked back since.

The Sky-s The Limit -- Roll Call, by William Levin (38; Brooklyn, NY)
A Brooklyn-based cartoonist, musician and writer, Levin also produces entertaining and educational cartoons and videos, mostly for Jewish organizations, including the YouTube music video hit "20 Things To Do With Matzah," viewed by millions of fans worldwide. Levin was inducted into the Writers Guild of America, East in 2009, and was a writer for Sesame Workshop's Shalom Sesame, to be released this Hanukkah.

"We are thrilled to be announcing the winner of the Aniboom Awards 4 Sesame Street Competition," says executive producer Carol-Lynn Parente. "It was a pleasure to review the work of all the talented artists who submitted entries. We are excited to include this updated claymation version of the classic Sesame segment "Pinball Number Count" as part of Sesame Street's 41st season.”

"We are pleased to give our network of more than 9,000 animators in 72 countries around the world the chance to participate in this high-visibility competition with such a beloved television program as Sesame Street," said Aniboom CEO Uri Shinar. "Our mission is to provide top animation talent -- regardless of their geographic location -- breakthrough opportunities such as this."

The Aniboom Awards 4 Sesame Street recognizes outstanding creativity among independent animators around the world and provides an opportunity for unknown and well-known artists to present themselves and their work to Sesame Workshop -- a unique prospect for both animators and the Workshop.

Kometen Trailer

A creative trailer for Kometen, an equally creative iPhone/iPad game created by Swedish artists Niklas Åkerblad, who did the watercolor animation and music, and Erik Svedäng, who was responsible for game design and programming. I purchased the game ($3, link to iTunes store) based purely on the hand-drawn quality of the artwork and have found it to be an enchanting and relaxing game experience. The creators describe the gameplay as such: “In short the game is about exploring space to find art, while at the same time learning how to fly around in a graceful way. There isn’t any scoring system or way to lose, instead it’s all about self improvement and judging your own performance.”

(Thanks, Gabe Swarr)

(Thanks Cartoon Brew)

City Park by Courtland Lomax

You may remember the Courtland Lomax House of Cats viral we posted last July. Here is his second Swarovski spot, recently released, again using animation to promote their crystal figurines…

Directed by Courtland Lomax
Music by Brian Young
Compositing by Ethan Metzger
Backgrounds and Character Designs by Brigette Barrager
Animation: Jennifer Hager, Jules Soto, Destiny Wood, Matt Pugnetti, Philip Vose and Courtland Lomax.

(Thanks Cartoon Brew)

How to Budget Your Animation

Richard O’Connor, a co-owner of New York-based commercial studio Asterisk Animation, wrote a post yesterday about how to create an animation budget. It’s the first in a series of posts that he intends to write. Budgeting animation isn’t sexy, but it’s nuts-and-bolts knowledge that any student, indie artist, and free-lancer who wants to be successful should understand (and judging from personal acquaintances, few do). Take advantage of Richard’s generosity and pick up some tips from him. You won’t find this valuable information anywhere else on-line.

(Thanks Cartoon Brew)

CalArts Producers’ Show (Guest Review by Fran Krause)

NY animator and filmmaker Fran Krause (Moonraker, The Upstate Four) attended the CalArts Producers’ Show in LA last week and took some notes for Cartoon Brew about what he saw. Here’s Fran:

Last Thursday, I was in California to show my work at the CalArts campus in Valencia and to check out their year-end Producer’s Show. I thought I’d pass on my picks, along with my thoughts on this year’s group of films. It was an interesting experience for me, since I’m an East Coaster. I’ve taught at Pratt, NYU, and Mercy College, and attended RISD as an undergrad, so it was nice to see what’s been going on out West.

Here are my picks from the show:

Crater Face by Skyler Page (2nd Year)

When The Time Is Ripe by Shion Takeuchi (4th year)

Dad? by Zesung Kang (3rd year)

SunGuy by Michelle Xin (3rd year)

The Hardest Jigsaw by Eric Anderson

Work by Michael Rianda (3rd year)

Night Parade by Sabrina Cotugno (2nd year)

It was a really inspiring group of films. The level of craft and storytelling were impressive, especially considering that, with one exception, the above films were all from second and third-year students. On the East coast, students tend to make a junior and senior film, but CalArts has their students making films all four years. The practice is getting really mature work out of the students, with sophomore and junior films holding up well next to the seniors. It’s also teaching them quite a bit about directing and managing their own projects.

“Crater Face” and “When The Time is Ripe” especially stand out to me as two films that are very well paced, with great styles and a consistent level of craft and finish. Still, I wonder if the responsibility of making a film each year is keeping the student’s schedules too busy to dabble in some more technical classes, or to learn some new techniques. Out of the twenty films in the show, only one used much 3D. The professors I talked with said that there’s been some changes recently in the curriculum that are meant to get the students more comfortable with non-2D animation, and I’m looking forward to seeing how things turn out.

There was quite a wide range of drawing styles in the program, without a noticeable “Institution Style”, as some schools seem to unfortunately put on all their films. Also of note, about half the films in the show were from women, whose presence is unfortunately all too rare in animation. I was bummed that so many of the films this year used copyrighted music. It would be great if there was more collaboration with the CalArts music students. Still, it was a really solid show and I’m glad I had the chance to check it out. I hope I’ll be seeing these films on the festival circuit this year. It’s a good thing that so many of them are available on Vimeo for everyone to see. When I wrote this article last night “The Hardest Jigsaw” wasn’t available. As I was making a couple revisions this morning, I noticed Eric posted it, so luckily we all get to see another cartoon!

(Thanks Cartoon Brew)

The Fred Moore Girl

Tracy Mark Lee, through his studio Electric Tiki Design, has been working on a maquette based on one of Freddy Moore’s always-appealing girl sketches. Here’s the finished painted piece, above. It’s just under 10″ tall and was sculpted by Kent Melton. Electric Tiki be offering limited edition reproductions in a few months; the price is not set but Lee says it will probably be in the $124.99 range. Check this page for further updates - but in the meantime, we have this little beauty to stare at. Me like!

(Thanks Cartoon Brew)

Animation: The Over-55 Demographic

A couple of clicks down, we were asked about how many older animation artists were working. As promised, we've come up with some numbers.

Over the last two years, 3,722 persons have worked under our jurisdiction, of which 2,780 are currently employed (74.8%), and 942 are currently unemployed (25.2%).

Of the total group, 372 are age 55 or older (10.0% of the total). Of that group, 254 (68.2%) are currently working and 118 (31.7%) are not working.

Of the total group, 2,774 are younger than age 55 (74.5% of the total). Of that group, 2,134 (76.9%) are working and 640 (23.1%) are not working.

There are two factors to bear in mind when considering the above statistics:

1: Once a month for each coverage period, the Health Plan gives us reports on who is acquiring and losing health benefits. However, we do not get tallies of the total numbers of people covered, or any breakdown of that number by age.

2: We do not have birthdates on some of our members, which is why some of the numbers don't add up.

Having said all that, I can tell you the older groups that are unemployed or under-employed based on firsthand observation:

* Traditional animators. Many couldn't make the jump to c.g. animation. The successfully transitioned totaled far less than half of the traditional animators working in the 1990s.

* Cleanup artists. There are simply too few jobs to support a craft that used to employ hundreds. And the few jobs there are now have mainly gotten sub-contracted out of L.A. county.

* Timing directors in television animation. As animatics have become more ubiquitous, timing director jobs have declined. Some studios rely on animatics (digital story reels) to provide timing for overseas studios. (And there are a lot of older timing directors. As one recently told me: "If the jobs all dry up, thank God I can retire with the Guild pension ...")

The only constant in the business of cartoons is change, and some folks get caught in the cross-currents. Add to that the reality of your network of friends, allies and references diving off the boat into the warm tropical seas of retirement, and the late fifties can get choppy, employment-wise.

(Thanks Animation Guild Blog)

One More New Fox Animation

Fox Broadcasting, awash in animated tentpoles on Sunday night, is working to add yet another.

...[Joining] Fox’s lineup next year is their new animated comedy series - "Bob’s Burgers." The series follows a family that runs a failing burger joint ... [and] features the voices of H. Jon Benjamin, John Roberts, Dan Mintz, Eugene Mirman and Kristen Schaal. ... [I]t appears as though a few of the female characters will be voiced by male actors ...

Bento Box is now ramping up to create episodes of BB, and the show hits the airwaves in 2011. I wouldn't have a clue whether the show will catch on with the cartoon-watching public or not, but I'm keeping an open mind. (Some folks don't like Bob's look, yett there have been various shows -- Beavis and Butthead and Family Guy come to mind -- that didn't exactly resemble Fantasia and nevertheless succeeded in the ratings department.)

Will the new spate of shows that are now in the pipeline become Nielson darlings? I guess we'll know by the middle of next year.

(Thanks Animation Guild Blog)

Tui’s New iPhone App – Monster Melody Mash

Australia’s Tui Studios has crafted a new iPhone app that features some stylish character animation. Produced with Anime Studio and After Effects, the animation took about 3 weeks. It’s titled Monster Melody Mash, and it lets users mix melodies with motion to create all sorts of funky rhythms. Here’s a trailer:

Wallace and Gromit Score Another npower Spot

The latest Aardman Animation spot for npower takes Wallace and Gromit to the World Cup. Like past spots, this one, titled Back the Bid, was directed by Merlin Crossingham

The making of video:

Heroes creator dings NBC, but holds out hope

Heroes is dead, but creator Tim Kring isn't letting it go without a last comment about the cancellation of his NBC series; check it out below.

Kring released this statement thanking the fans and dinging NBC politely. And if you hang in there until the end of the statement, you'll find a tasty nugget ...

Regarding NBC's decision not to renew the international hit Heroes for a fifth season, creator and executive producer, and award winning transmedia storyteller, Tim Kring commented: "I want to first extend my deepest gratitude and heartfelt appreciation to the legion of enthusiastic fans who have watched Heroes on TV, online, DVR, DVD and mobile over the last four seasons.

Every week more than 45 million TV viewers around the world, as well as millions of social and digital media-based fans, have made Heroes one of the five most-watched shows across traditional and digital media screens in the history of television.

For NBC, I certainly understand the challenge of creating a business model around a show which arrived precisely as the audience was finding new ways to watch traditional content on multiple screens.

I personally have had 12 great years with my friends at NBC, and with Heroes, they provided me a rare opportunity to put a message of hope, interconnectivity and global consciousness into the world. For that I am grateful and look forward to finalizing our discussion about a number of ways to keep the Heroes universe alive for its fans."

So, Heroes fans, if you're none too happy about NBC's decision to kill the series, Kring and—well, somebody—are busy "finalizing our discussion about a number of ways to keep the Heroes universe alive for its fans." Whether that means comic books, a rumored NBC movie or Kring sending out Post-It notes with Sylar's face on them, we don't know, but it will be interesting to see what he comes up with.

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