Saturday, February 28, 2009

Sit Down, Shut Up, and hope for the best...

primetime animated shows that last longer than a season are exceedingly rare. especially if your name is not Matt Groening, Mike Judge, or Seth MacFarlane. coming this Spring to FOX, is an apology to Mitch Hurwitz for canceling Arrested Development! in the form of an animated series...that looks rather dull. of course, i'll reserve entire judgment till it premieres, but nothing grabs me from the promos other than the level of talent involved (Jason Bateman, Will Arnett, and Henry Winkler all play a part in the new series). its a remake of an Australian show of the same name from the early 00s. and FYI Fox, Sit Down, Shut Up is not the first animation to use real backgrounds with animated characters. see: Ralph Bakshi.

this all said, it could be very neat. let's hope for the best. its got to at least be better than the upcoming Cleveland Show. check out the promo to see if it might be your cup of tea. promising: Tom Kenny is part of the cast.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Welcome to Hollywood, Shane.

to celebrate the release of Shane Acker's "9" finally being finished and released this year (currently on the schedule for 9/9/09), i figured a look at a few of his other short films might be fun.

"The Hangnail" is a particularly well done joke film. Shock much?

"Mr. Grenade" is of the same ilk. one thing done particularly well:

Thursday, February 26, 2009

More Dinosaurs!

1985's Dinosaur! hosted by Christopher Reeve features some really incredible dinosaur animation by Phil Tippett. its a much more realistic style than Will Vinton's take on the creatures and recalls Jurassic Park's later computer generated animation (that would take direct cues from Tippett and his nine months of work prior to the switch from stop motion animation to CG on the film). if you can bear the awful music, its certainly worth a look:

it also features some neat clips of dinosaur animation through the years in the movies. once again, as in the case of the Will Vinton dinosaur-filled documentary, the life of this documentary started with a short animation by Tippett earlier entitled "Prehistoric Beast." they used much of that film and produced new sequences for the CBS documentary. the duckbill sequence with the eggs is pretty interesting:

Wednesday, February 25, 2009


dinosaurs have a long and storied history in stop motion animation. from the earliest days of film including Buster Keaton's Three Ages and Willis O'Brien's contributions to The Lost World and King Kong, as well as Harryhausen's life long devotion to the creatures, dinosaurs have been inextricably linked to the the medium-- since no footage of them has ever existed and they died off years ago, a particular style had to be appropriated to showcase the creatures in reimaginings. it just so happens that stop motion seemed to be the most apt.

the following is another film from my very early childhood that i still recall stimulating my mind and my imagination -- Dinosaurs: A Fun-Filled Trip Back in Time! is a special video designed for classrooms to begin to introduce the prehistoric world to young students. it stars a young Fred Savage in the live-action sequences, but, of course, the most interesting part is the 17 minutes of stop motion animation that Will Vinton and his crew contributed. originally a short piece in 1980, it was incorporated into the educational film in 1987. the chalkboard animation is as impressive as the claymated parts of the inspiring film. its just plain fun to watch (with some great voices to boot of the classroom kids that are listening/watching the presentation).

the end of the t-rex sequence is particularly inventive/scary. yikes!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Strömming Along to the Music

Swedish animator Kristofer Ström came to prominence last year with his stunning combination of live-action and weird cartoonish characters set to the music of Minilogue. it went around the internet circuits for a while and its really impressive technically and is also just a plain fun music video. my best guess is that they did the handheld camera thing (and moves) in After Effects in order to keep the animation registered. check it out if you haven't already:

Minilogue - Animals from ljudbilden on Vimeo.

if you're curious as to what would happen if his style was appropriated by the commercial world, look no further:

Pacemaker - this is how it works from ljudbilden on Vimeo.

and for a melange of different styles and a change from his immensely popular technique, check out this compilation of some of the animation work he's done for Swedish Television:

KOBRA - a compilation from ljudbilden on Vimeo.

alot of his straight forward morphing animation on whiteboards reminds me of Emile Cohl's 1908 animation Fantasmagorie. this is the only fragment that exists:

oh, and be sure to check out Ström's blog. and his facebook graffiti illustrations:

Monday, February 23, 2009

With Respect to Dennis DeYoung...

with the Oscar ceremony last night, the war between Dreamworks and Disney/Pixar has subsided for now. Wall-E took the top animated feature award over Kung Fu Panda and Bolt. i'm going to make some "bold" predictions about next year. yep, i'm calling the nominees right here RIGHT NOW:

daring predictions, i know. but i'm gonna say that Dreamworks gets shutout, even with the double threat of Ice Age 3 and Monsters Vs. Aliens...

and perhaps more endearing, Kunio Kato won for Best Animated Short Film over the computer animated counterparts with his earthy La Maison en Petits Cubes.

he ended up thanking animation, pencils, and finishing his speech with "Domo Arigato Mr. Roboto." seems like a very humble and fun guy. not to mention talented. some videos of his Oscar-winning short have been popping up (and been taken down) over the internet. check it out while you can:

its a wonderful trip through memory that i think most people can appreciate. the score, as well, is noteworthy and touching, yet simple. his series of episodic adventures entitled "The Diary of Tortov Roddle" is a much different tale -- its as enigmatic as it is fantastic. his world is almost as if Miyasaki sat down to do a lush children's book.

perhaps even more obscure is 2003's Fantasy Story in which Kato weaves incredibly short, but poignant slices of life in a young girl

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Leonardo da Vinci: The Animator

so, Carlos Lascano is a man of many talents. he's got no less than the following talents down pat: painting, illustration, comics, photography, animation, special effects, editing, writing for the screen, filmmaking -- all in feature films, short films, television, advertising, and documentaries both animated and live-action.

and within the animation discipline, he's mastered different types of said discipline and weaves them seamlessly to create a singularly unique visual style. his recent advertisement for Red Bull showcases this ability to mix mediums while not distracting from the content:

The Can from Carlos Lascano on Vimeo.

even more engaging, i think, is when Lascano wraps his techniques around a more narrative type of story (though not too narrative). A Short Love Story in Stop Motion is, once again, a mix of styles, but is more based in the titular technique than the others. his take on stop motion:

"What attracts me most is the fact that I find stop motion to be irreplaceable in providing the organic look I consider to be one of the key features of my style. I also like the way I can control the motion and wiggle of the elements, since it allows me to completely personalize the movement."

A SHORT LOVE STORY IN STOP MOTION from Carlos Lascano on Vimeo.

and once again, not to be pigeonholed, the guy manipulates and frames a series of still photos (kind of pixilation, kind of not) into a coherent and inspiring narrative. these are the things advertising execs drool over:

Inspiration (stopmotion) from Carlos Lascano on Vimeo.

you guys hooked yet? check out his website and blog for more.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Sita Sings for Freedom!

in case you've been living under an animated rock, Sita Sings the Blues is the 82-minute Flash animated feature by Nina Paley following both a goddess and an animator. its animated nearly entirely by Paley herself, independently too. she shares the synposis:

"Sita is a goddess separated from her beloved Lord and husband Rama. Nina is an animator whose husband moves to India, then dumps her by email. Three hilarious shadow puppets narrate both ancient tragedy and modern comedy in this beautifully animated interpretation of the Indian epic Ramayana. Set to the 1920's jazz vocals of Annette Hanshaw, Sita Sings the Blues earns its tagline as "The Greatest Break-Up Story Ever Told."

the part about the jazz vocals is why you haven't seen it in theaters yet. copyright issues have plagued this incredibly critically acclaimed piece of animation. apparently, this is the technical breakdown, "the musical composition itself, including aspects such as the lyrics to the songs, the musical notation, and products derived from using those things, is still under copyright." but you too can see it soon! first, the trailer:

the production design is simply beautiful. anyway, back to the seeing the 2008 winner of the Best Feature at Annecy in its entirety. first, for you New Yorkers, its airing on PBS (WNET) on March 7th. for the rest of y'all, she is currently in the process of getting the film streamed for free off of web servers. WNET will stream a compressed version of the film on their website starting February 26th, but if you're looking for a permanent home for the film -- she is too. she's negotiating with the copyright holders to give away her film for free. you can also make a donation on her website and get a copy on DVD right quick! its all in your hands now.

check out her interview at Film & Video to learn more about Sita.

Friday, February 20, 2009


so i'm probably pretty late to this phenomenon. in fact, millions of people have caught onto it before me. your mom has probably seen this series of shorts before. but sometimes some videos slip through the cracks. i've never seen Mulan. nor Hunchback of Notre Dame (the Disney one anyway). my animation peers, of course, have probably seen them more than once. this all said, i'm digging the animation style and very well-timed comedy of Simon's Cat. and since i'm home in San Diego right now, a house full of various cat-like creatures, i figured i'd relate my joy for them:

this was the first short. apparently created as a test to teach himself flash, Simon Tofield's first Simon short created a sensation on youtube. its got a very hand-drawn aesthetic to it, and yet its done in Flash. its interesting then, to create this feel he animates straightforward (though on layers) directly into flash with his Wacom tablet. he says that he's worked that way ever since he taught himself to animate by drawing flipbooks. he's, of course, very modest about it -- "I didn't think anything of it; it was just a little exercise to learn the program."

the second short, i think, is the least successful of the three. it doesn't rely as much on the feline traits that made the first one so funny and relatable.

the third one, though focusing more on the man (Simon himself), is more successful than the second -- the feline traits are back, believable, and funny.

ironically, because of the exposure he's gotten due to the films, he isn't able to work on more of them -- he's doing more commercial jobs.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

ben, julia, this blog & your mom

recently, i discovered the Broken Sword series of adventure games for the first time. the first two games have a very classic, and yet lush cartoony aesthetic -- all in aid of a mostly dramatic storyline. despite some annoying problems (like having your lead character, George Stobbart, learn something very important, and then act like he hasn't progressed any when he talks to others waiting for said change), its got more amazing production design than most games of the genre i've seen. check out the trailer for the first in the series (of four altogether):

something i thought was particularly interesting -- as you move across the screen, there are different layers in the foreground and background that move at different speeds along with your character, displaying a great sense of depth.

now go ahead and tell me this isn't relentlessly inventive. i dare you!:

Tahiti Boy and the Palmtree family 1973 from Ben&Julia on Vimeo.

puppets and animation have never been so seamlessly integrated into a great big ball of psychedelic fun. the self-proclaimed "French-Swiss duo" Ben & Julia spell it right out what they're trying to do in a straight-forward and admirable mission statement:

"Our aim is to introduce fresh ideas, to find conceptual solutions for projects, to give a high quality of service to our clients and to always keep smiling!"

and with that in mind, greet 2009 with the same enthusiasm as Ben & Julia:

Happy 2009 !!! from Ben&Julia on Vimeo.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

more crude shorts!

continuing with the crude shorts that originated lasting series' theme, here's the first Beavis & Butthead short Mike Judge created that spawned and empire (and later King of the Hill). it was created for MTV's Liquid Television in 1992. the animation is very loose and alive:

Frog Baseball - MyVideo

Judge's thought on his early stuff: "For the most part, I feel pretty good about that stuff, even though I'm not a great animator. It looks funny in the way I want it to." this short, along with the next one, "Peace, Love, & Understanding," lead the way to the fulltime show on MTV. i think this one is a little bit more successful in the humor department than "Frog Baseball":

and, of course, we can't forget Seth of his very early shorts shows an early Brian and Peter. its a little long-winded:

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

what's original?

after lamenting the rigid character animation in new Simpsons intro, i think it best to post some of their very earliest work. here's a short from the Tracy Ullman Show back before they were picked up for a series. this is the 22nd of 48 shorts to run from 1987 to 1989 when the segment as mentioned got expanded to the half hour format.

interestingly enough, after the show became a big success, Tracy Ullman sued the network arguing that her program was the springboard for The Simpsons' success. needless to say, she did not win -- and The Simpsons has outlasted anything she has done culturally.

and just when you thought The New Yorker couldn't get any more "huh? that was a joke?" yep, they've gotten into the animation game. have a chuckle at the expense of February!

its not unfunny...its just not suited to the animation medium i think -- its all punchline and no setup. then again, many of their "comics" aren't suited to print either.

here's one of the very early episodes, "The Pacifier"

speaking of very early versions of enormously popular animated television shows, here's the "original" South Park short that Matt and Trey created at the University of Colorado in 1992. personally, i think the show has only gotten better through the years, especially in terms of style and animation. that said, there are still a few chuckles here. its always fun to see how characters change and grow -- Kenny looks a *tad* different than usual.

with all the animated primetime shows having mostly been on television for a while now, i'm curious as to what comes next other than a new Seth MacFarlane and Mike Judge's hoping for something that's been as memorable and lasting as The Simpsons!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Happy Animator's Day Off

Animated History?

and the couch gag withstanding (which is somewhat funny and clever), the new HD and widescreen intro for The Simpsons which debuted last night shows just how unfunny dogmatically staying on model can be! of course, we all fear change, but it just lacks the vibrancy and looseness of the original intro (and the first few seasons).

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Post-Valentines Wrap-Up

and just so you don't think i'm full of cynicism, here's a heartwarming commercial just in time for Valentine's Day.

its for Lay's -- they're making an argument that some things just go together (like chips and dip).

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Smith & Foulkes: Part II

there's been tons of interest in Smith & Foulkes' short animated film that's been nominated for an Oscar -- This Way Up. as far as i can tell, its only available on the BBC website and since i've already posted on the film before, i'll leave you with the link....AND show some more Smith & Foulkes animations!

here's a lovely advertisement they did for Honda about a Diesel engine they've been working on (sounds horribly exciting, i know). it recalls the equally lovely Pixar short Boundin':

this A to Z of rock and roll for the Observer Music Monthly is a much different style than we're used to seeing from the talented duo -- its very simple and flat.

another advert they produced espousing the benefits of taking the train versus the regards to cheetahs and gazelles

TER - Cheetah
Uploaded by dekku

and finally, the opening credits of 2004's Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events. once again, completely different aesthetic! they are not defined by a single look or style. how liberating that must be:

Friday, February 13, 2009

The Amazing Dax Norman!

Dax Norman has been featured on Cartoon Brew several times, but his work never ceases to amaze me. i can't believe he's been doing music videos for contests. i thought this new music video for M83's "We Own the Sky" was...the new music video for M83's "We Own the Sky". its just a contest entry! though, i think, it has more than a good chance of winning. it involves a technique he calls "double animation" where he fits different characters into the shapes of other characters. at first, it struck me as a very fun, crude style -- but boy can the man draw, as evidenced later in the video. its a very stunning use of rotoscoping that he's been perfecting for a while.

M83 We Own The Sky Music Video by Dax Norman from dax norman on Vimeo.

his video for Rafter's "Juicy" was kind of the rough cut for the M83 video in terms of style. it, of course, won the contest it was created for. its very kinetic and doesn't tire as fast as the M83 song.

Rafter "Juicy" Music Video By Dax Norman from dax norman on Vimeo.

his talents don't stop at animation, as the art at the beginning attests. he's into creating and perfecting art niches that are rarely treaded. here's his burgeoning collection of bowling pin art (he's planning to end up with more than 500 total):

his CG short, though similar in its griminess, is unlike anything he's created visually. created at the world-renowned for its stunning CG Ringling School of Art and Design and featured on Cartoon Brew TV, its a story about a man and a crusty piece of pie he stumbles upon.

The Last Temptation of Crust by Dax Norman from dax norman on Vimeo.

to check out more of his artistic endeavors, take a peak at his blog and his website.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

AT-ATs, Taun Tauns, and Robocops

here's a look at Phil Tippett, the guy who did many stop motion effects for the Star Wars series, Robocop, and Dragonslayer amongst others, when he still did stop-motion

his company mostly went to computer effects after Jurassic Park, most recently working on Cloverfield, The Golden Compass, and the Starship Troopers series. its fun to see the now-considered archaic use of surface gauges with the influx of cheap and easy frame grabbers. Ray Harryhausen used to swear by them.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

stop motion animation thrives! so sayeth Ubatuber!

Jeffrey Roche, better known online by his handle Ubatuber, is an independent stop-motion animator based out of New Orleans that's been turning out some amazing stuff. its really humbling to see the quality of amateur work coming out in the medium right now!

i showed his production logo yesterday made from "a real potato, with paper replacement eyes glued to earring posts" and "the planet...a styrofoam ball sawed in half and covered with clay, which I textured with a toothbrush"

without even getting into his animation, his paintings alone qualify him at the top of his artistic game

but no, he's got to be a master of sculpture and animation as well! here's his first foam latex puppet that has incredible detail:

what perhaps is astonishing about the whole thing -- he's come to stop motion only since 2005. other than some flicker here or there on his earlier stuff, you can't tell he's a relative newcomer to stop motion from his atmospheric reel:

Stop Motion Reel from Ubatuber on Vimeo.

most of his films are set where he lives, New Orleans, and this gives them a very unique and personal quality that most other stop motion work fails to achieve. his currently in production "Unearthed" can be seen in the first two parts on Vimeo -- the scene with the mime taking off his makeup is worth the price of a click alone!

Unearthed - Parts One & Two from Ubatuber on Vimeo.

his first stop motion short, made back in 2006 for a website contest, is the aptly titled "Pandora at the DMV".

Pandora at the DMV from Ubatuber on Vimeo.

and finally, a pair of POV Bigfoot-type monster sightings...fear....THE MOSSMAN!

The Mossman from Ubatuber on Vimeo.

the mossman puppet is perfectly textured.

watch out, or you'll step into a haunted PUNKIN PATCH

Punkin Patch 101308 from Ubatuber on Vimeo.

he's been working on a longer piece of stop motion (Jenny Greenteeth) for years, so be sure to check out his progress regularly here.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

As Archimedes said when he discovered the principle of displacement: "Eureka!"

one of the most frequently requested television shows not released on DVD, right under The Wonder Years, is a FOX Kids action show that ran for five years and 76 episodes and has the distinction for being the longest-running show ever based on a Marvel comic book.

yep you guessed it. X-Men: The Animated Series

it was never as well-animated or on model as the folks at Batman: The Animated Series demanded of their show -- the voice acting, while competent, was a little stiff in comparison with its fellow Marvel show Spider-Man, but gosh darnit, it was a great little show. it dealt with issues that other cartoons dare not touch; the ills of prejudice, intolerance, racism, divorce, the Holocaust, AIDS, and a plethora of other issues, though sometimes in the guise of less overt issues. plus, the opening theme song was killer:

in fact, though not quite up to par with on quality with the other superhero shows of its time, it was amongst the highest-rated and most-viewed Saturday morning programs in American history. and come April 28th, Disney is finally bringing it to us in proper chronological order:

the episode breakdown, if you must:
VOLUME 1 Disc 1:
Night of the Sentinels (Part 1)
Night of the Sentinels (Part 2)
Enter Magneto
Deadly Reunions
Captive Hearts
Cold Vengeance
Slave Island
The Unstoppable Juggernaut

Disc 2:
The Cure
Come The Apocalypse
Days Of Future Past (Part 1)
Days Of Future Past (Part 2)
The Final Decision
Till Death Do Us Part (Part 1)
Till Death Do Us Part (Part 2)
Whatever It Takes

VOLUME 2 Disc 1:
Red Dawn
Repo Man
X-Ternally Yours
Time Fugitives (Part 1)
Time Fugitives (Part 2)
A Rogue’s Tale
Beauty & The Beast
Mojo Vision

Disc 2:
Reunion (Part 1)
Reunion (Part 2)
Out of the Past (Part 1)
Out of the Past (Part 2)
The Phoenix Saga (Part 1): Sacrifice
The Phoenix Saga (Part 2): The Dark Shroud
The Phoenix Saga (Part 3): Cry of the Banshee
The Phoenix Saga (Part 4): The Starjammers
The Phoenix Saga (Part 5): Child of Light

and because I just love stop motion bumpers (like Kirsten Lepore's for her reel...), here's another for "Ubatuber Productions"

Ubatuber Productions Logo from Ubatuber on Vimeo.

more on this animator later...

Monday, February 9, 2009

thanks, Katzenberg! more sequels please!

THE GOOD: Coraline exceeded expectations and took in $16 million over the weekend

THE BAD: Jonas Brothers in 3-D opens soon and will consequently push Coraline out of theaters

THE GOOD: Pink Panther 2 is a certified bomb

THE BAD: Laika has yet to greenlight a stop motion feature to follow up Coraline

in fact, the company responsible for the loveable ball of lush production design laid off 65 workers in December right before Christmas and pulled the plug on one of their long-in-development CG features "Jack and Ben's Animated Adventure". it was a headed up by Barry Cook, the director of Disney's Mulan, but alas, it was not meant to be.

of course, i don't think Laika is going anywhere -- their commercial business is flourishing and Coraline will probably make enough money to justify another feature. one interesting project in development there;
Only a 13-year-old boy can keep the town from being overrun by zombies, but no one will listen to him.

Henry Selick is also reportedly working on a story involving the origins of ::no surprise:: Halloween. he's working with the producer of Open Season on the project.

that said, those who worked on Coraline will most likely be on the job market in the next few months unless something concrete comes out of Laika on their stop-motion slate.

Dreamworks Animation is very hit -- Shrek, Kung Fu Panda -- and miss -- about everything else. their upcoming Monsters Vs. Aliens looks rather...ugly. and the plot looks like if Pixar decided to Jeffrey Katzenbergize The Incredibles.

of their upcoming slate of films, i'm looking forward to about one:

* Monsters vs. Aliens (March 27, 2009)
* How to Train Your Dragon (March 26, 2010)
* Shrek Goes Fourth (May 21, 2010)
* Master Mind (November 5, 2010)
* Kung Fu Panda 2 (June 3, 2011
* Puss in Boots: The Story of an Ogre Killer (2011)
* Crood Awakening (2011)
* Madagascar 3 (2012)
* Shrek 5 (2013)

i haven't seen any art from How to Train Your Dragon yet, but its at least got one thing going for it -- Chris Sanders, the director of Disney's Lilo & Stitch (though they kicked off a favorite writer/director of mine -- Peter Hastings -- who was responsible for the better episodes of Pinky & the Brain in the 90s). here's the story skinny:

"How to Train Your Dragon is the first book in the bestselling series by British author Cressida Cowell. The books follow the adventures of Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III, a teenage Viking who uses his brains to compensate for his lack of muscles. In order to pass his initiation, he must capture and train the biggest, deadliest dragon he can find. Unfortunately, he ends up with a small, ornery wyrm that has no teeth."

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Young Stop Motion Animator Suddenly Hit with Fame

young Kirsten Lepore, stop motion animator extraordinaire, seems to have become famous overnight -- at least in the animation community. the find has been documented by many a source, but perhaps her most high-profile featuring has been on Channel Frederator most recently. how would you feel if someone sent you this to introduce themselves on a reel?:

Reel bumper 2009 from Kirsten Lepore on Vimeo.

can you tell i'm a fan? having just graduated from the Maryland Institute College of Art in 2007 with her BFA in Experimental Animation, she's been lining up clients with her very distinctive and lively freelance work. let's start with her co-production with Garrett Davis (who also sings the song) of a drawn animation of said song espousing the values of valuing a spider's life like your own. it was featured on Motionographer last month:

Story from North America from Kirsten Lepore on Vimeo.

next, here's a fun take on the old Guess Who? game, with assistance from Grandmaster Flash:

Guess Who from Kirsten Lepore on Vimeo.

her commercial for Heinz Jalapeno poppers won the contest for it:

Heinz' Poppers web ad from Kirsten Lepore on Vimeo.

finally, her masterpiece (and she agrees as well that its her best work), is a 10-minute stop motion piece entitled "Sweet Dreams." it was her thesis project for her BFA at MICA. she put the better part of a year of work into the sucker and it shows. the idea and storytelling are fantastic alone, not to mention the animation. she uses many food products to make up the sets and props (though the main characters are foam puppets).

"Sweet Dreams" from Kirsten Lepore on Vimeo.

check out her site for more stop motion Kirsten Lepore goodness.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Andy Bruntel tells it like it is.

today, i thought a change of pace was in order

how about a few animated music videos? i've been a fan of this music video for a while since my friend Dan introduced me to it. its a pretty big accomplishment technically and the song propels the animation forward. i've always wanted to do some kind of a quality pixilation, i've dabbled in it, but this particular video is pretty fun -- its not smooth. it purposefully keeps that jumpy stop-motion feel and uses it as an asset. it comes off of 2005's Face the Truth album by Stephen Malkmus (of Pavement) & The Jicks. direction by Lana Kim and Andy Bruntel.

Lana and Andy both work for an outfit called "The Directors Bureau" along with Roman Coppola, brother of Sophia Coppola and son of Francis Ford. together, Bruntel and Coppola made this fun short on the history of the color red...some details may not be entirely accurate...

Bruntel on his start with the company:

"I interned for Mike Mills and then started doing animation and FX for other directors at the Bureau. The video reps gave me a chance to write on a few low budget projects which just sort of cascaded into more work. I didn't officially become a part of TDB until after my video for Bonnie 'Prince' Billy."

and finally, here's a video for Rilo Kiley he co-directed. its got some really interesting design elements. i really like the psychedelic ending that looks very handmade -- is it bead animation? i'm not sure, but it sure looks neat.

his advice on "making it":

"Keep making work and focus on establishing an original voice. That term is thrown around so much in L.A. but I think it still holds value. Also, making one outstanding and original video / short film / spec commercial is worth much more than having a long list of mediocre work. Keith [Schofield] had some great advice if you're primary focus is getting yourself into a commercial position. "

Thursday, February 5, 2009

coraline unveiled: go see it!

just a few brief thoughts today...

saw the ASIFA screening of Coraline Wednesday night. very impressed. even for a stop-motion enthusiast such as myself, it was a visual orgy of delight -- especially in 3-D. except for a short part in the beginning, it resisted the standard gimmicky use of 3-D, instead choosing to give frames exceptional depth and vibrancy.

the story, while not equal to the visual and technical brilliance of the movie, is still pretty good and much better than I expected. a classmate asked me about the mouth movements on Coraline -- naturally I thought that they were simply replacement heads, like Selick's other films. essentially, I was correct. but he's upped the ante, according to Hollywood Jesus:

"Unlike most previous stop-motion features, Coraline added even more dimension to its puppet players by foregoing the use of replacement heads and using replacement faces instead. Based on scans and castings of the original puppets, the replacement faces were built by CG artists, printed out on 3-D printers, and then painted by hand. In addition, characters' faces were divided in two, with one set of replacements for the lower half and another set for the top half. As a result, where The Nightmare Before Christmas' Jack Skellington had only 150 possible facial expressions, Coraline has over 200,000 potential ones."

i guess they digitally removed most of those separation lines where the two parts of the head meet, but I remember seeing in some closeups the distinct lines marking their puppet nature -- and reminding us we're watching stop-motion instead of a computer animated film, which I think it could definitely be mistaken for. Selick pushed to have the lines stay in:

"I actually was pushing very hard to leave that line in; Most people, after five minutes, they wouldn't see it anymore. It disappeared. Initially, it's like, here's proof that this is handmade, kind of showing the technique in its lips; If you're going to do stop-motion, I'd like there to be the proof that it's stop-motion in the work," continues Selick. "Why not make it a little more obvious about what it is; I kept telling the animators, 'It's okay. It's these flaws that make it human, that make it unique.'"

and here's an interesting if cursory article on the evolution of stop motion animation. its a fun breeze through many years of history -- pick your own film or movement that was left out, but its a nice introduction nonetheless.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

cartoon time! with Pendleton Ward

while one will swear things were better "back in my day," i think the general landscape for children's programming has seen better days. that's why i'm excited for "Adventure Time" at Cartoon Network. besides putting animators and artists to work, the original short that its based on is a stream-of-consciousness ball filled with fun and imagination.

young CalArts grad Pendleton Ward (born only three years earlier than I) created the short for Nickelodeon's animation showcase "Random! Cartoons" put on by Frederator Studios, the program itself an offshoot of the earlier "Oh Yeah! Cartoons" which spawned the highly successful The Fairly Oddparents. the short was nominated for the best animated short film award by the Annies in 2006. he then went on to do storyboards for "The Misadventures of Flapjack" at Cartoon Network until a deal for Adventure Time was finally made. he first came to minor fame with a webcomic in 2003 called "Bueno the Bear".

this animation opens his website:

the Frederator blog for Adventure Time shows a great deal of the behind the scenes work as well as loads of artwork, layout, and model sheets to eat with your eyes. here's a background for an episode entitled "Good Buddies":

and, of course, the Candy Kingdom!:

and finally, another Ward creation for Random Cartoons: "The Bravest Warriors". it retains his very unique drawing style as well as his sense of humor, but just didn't seem to catch on the same way Adventure Time did. see if you can spot Rob Paulsen with your ears... (and yes, that was Bender as the dog in Adventure Time -- John Di Maggio)