Can You Spot What Makes This A Poor Quality Movie Trailer?

For Fievel Goes West

PS. Apologies for the relatively patchy quality of posts this week, the work schedule is all over the place but should improve tomorrow.

You Know You’re Successful When Someone Copies Your Idea

Here’s an old one for you.

No, it’s certainly not Mickey Mouse and if you watch the whole thing, you’ll see ‘Minnie’ engaging in some things that Walt would never have allowed get off the animator’s table!

From what I can tell (thanks to this post over on Classic Cartoons), it’s by the Van Beuren Studios and features the characters of Milton and Rita Mouse.

Released in 1930 at just about the time that Mickey was gaining traction with audiences, Circus Capers makes it seem pretty clear as to how Milton came about.

What’s interesting though is that someone was copying Walt at all. I’m willing to bet he found it amusing on some level, that as someone who was derided Hollywood for making animated films and who ran up against con-men everywhere he went, was actually being copied from by someone else!

Copying has pervaded the Hollywood ecosystem pretty much since its inception. It goes for other forms of creation too, books, paintings, songs, you name it, if you become a success, people will attempt to emulate you. Of course, the real money can’t be found in copying someone, only in creating something new that people like.

Is copying all bad though? Nah, I don’t think so. I’m willing to wager that the blatant knock-offs only served to increase the popularity of Mickey and Minnie. Walt was right to sue in this case though as Milton and Rita are blatant carbon copies. He won the case, most likely as a violation of trademark no copyright.You can be sure though, that whenever a major studio decides to copy an idea, they’ll have an army of lawyers pour over it to make sure it can stand up in court as an original idea.

In the end, I think Milton and Rita did Mickey and Minnie no harm at all. By that stage, Disney had enough experience as a studio to out-create others and Walt’s eye for quality ensured that their films would resonate most with audiences around the world.

I, on the other hand, continue to await the day when someone copies me. 🙂


There’s a Good Chance You Weren’t Aware of This Documentary on Animation.

There’s no picture for the simple reason that I couldn’t find any! So instead, here’s the theme tune, courtesy of the composer, Mark Pringle.

[audio:|titles=BBC Stay Tooned Theme]

It was called Tooned In and I watched this series when it was originally broadcast way back in the day on the BBC. It was a good thing I did because it would seem that with all the usual copyright nonsense that seems to lie around these kind of shows like a pair of concrete shoes, the series will never see the light of day again. It hasn’t been re-run at any point and even the internet is turning up a blank. It would appear that ripping a VHS tape takes a bit more work than a DVD.

Which is a tremendous shame because I certainly remember, as do others on the internet, that it was a fantastic little retrospective show that was broadcast on Saturday evenings. I particularly remember the Hanna-Barbera episode but there were others on Tom and Jerry, Tex Avery, Betty Boop and of course, the Looney Tunes.

If you think about it, the fact that the show even exists is spectacular. Now, granted, it was produced by a public broadcaster with a remit and all that, but I cannot imagine one of the major TV networks or even one of the cable networks over here in the States deciding to produce a documentary series on animation, and broadcast it during primetime on a Saturday evening!

Sadly, extremely little info seems to exist out there so it is a shame that I cannot share more with you on this apparently great show.


Why Visuals Are The All-Important Way Of Expressing Character Emotion

I need to begin this post by pointing out that that displaying emotion in a character is not the same as displaying attitude, something I discussed here and based on Michael Sporn’s original post.

In animation, when it comes to displaying emotions, the simplified or rudimentary character designs often necessitates the use of exaggerated facial expressions or whole-bod movements to convey the correct message, This is why the eyes of Tex Avery’s wolf always jump out of their sockets by about a hundred feet and why the Looney Tunes always jump a mile in the air when startled.

For today’s study, I will use the awesome comic by Faith Erin Hicks that is Superhero Girl. As you might expect, it’s quite a visual comic however the strip I have chosen does not contain any traditional superhero battles, punches or even feats of heroic strength. No, it’s a great example of just some of the emotions that characters have to convey and how even in a simplified form, the reader can fully interpret them.

Staring off with frame one. Here’s Superhero Girl conked out in bed. Besides the requisite zzzzs, there’s a gaping, drooling mouth and a pair of closed eyes.

All of these are the traditional elements of classic cartoon/comic sleeping poses. Walt Disney took some liberties with the Seven Dwarfs and their goofy sleeping positions, but there is no need for that here.

There is little if any emotion in this scene but it is safe to say that our protagonist is content enough in her own little world.

Onto frame two, and we have two poses. The first is the single eye focused exclusively on the ringing phone. There is little if any detail, but we can assume that the call is an unwelcome intrusion.

The second frame is an establishing shot. There isn’t much that could have been done as there is no need to show any emotion although the raised eyebrows, sideways glance and un-smiling expression suggests that there is some apprehension present.

Sometimes a frame or shot like this can be off-balanced as the animator or artist tries too hard to inject some excitement where none is needed. Getting something like this wrong is all too easy to do. It’s better to play it safe, no-one will be bothered by something that doesn’t seem out of place.

Onto frame 3 and we’ve got a smile! A big one at that too. Smiles are perhaps the easiest way to express emotion. Everyone smiles when they are happy and we all have a deep-down desire to be happy, right?

Although this is a relatively far shot, there is no need for a lot of detail. The emotion is easy to read from here. As is the slight apprehension that lingers in the leg-hold.

Sometimes a gesture like that would not even be present. The reader may not even notice it. However, small things like that have a habit of affecting the reader/viewer in ways that they may not consciously notice or appreciate.

This next frame is a great one. The extra-wide smile is a full grin, brimming with a certain kind of confidence. The tilted pose is another common trait. For me, it seems to suggest a kind of care-free feeling in that the character is not too pre-occupied with looking proper and formal.

The gaze upwards and away belies the nature of the frame and indeed, the very conversation that is going on. The sense of everything-is-not-as-it-seems permeates the scene.

Again, the simple pose and details of the frame say are a very important part of the frame as a whole. Without it, the words would be read in an entirely different tone that would lose the special meaning they carry here.

Back again to the full shot with the big smile. This differs from the previous panel in that there is no leg hold. The frame seems much more natural and our hero appears much more at ease with herself. The apprehension has vanished to be replaced by the reassuring conversation she is having on the phone.

This frame is another simple one and again, it is an excellent example of less is more. Sure, the conversation could have been done without the need for another smiling shot, but I think it adds much to the story and leads the reader into accepting the same sense of security and happiness as the character.A far-away shot with a frowny face pretty much says it all.

In these dual frames, we have a setup and a reaction. The first clearly displays dissatisfaction. There is no need for much detail here. The lowered eyebrows and puckered up mouth are proof enough of that.

The second frame provides a bit more necessary detail. The sullen expression tells us all we need to know about the character. The pose is irrelevant here and isn’t shown.

The upward gaze is directed straight ahead, almost at the reader themselves perhaps to convey the feeling of annoyance or maybe resentment.

A gaze like this does not at all convey ‘attitude’. Rather it convey emotion. Superhero Girl is annoyed for a reason, she is not pulling a face like this just for the sake of it. Faith has drawn a great scene that hits the nail right on the head.

From that rather pedantic look we move to one of awful shock and fear. The eyes are wide open, the mouth is agape in horror.

I think the face says it all really, although the raised right hand suggests an attempt to grab at something.

The wide-eyed stare is one of the exaggerations that animated and comic characters do great. It works very well as a statement of fear or shock and continues to be used for precisely this reason.

The fact that she appears to be staring into the distance as well contrasts nicely with the previous frame where the reader appeared to be given her attention.

And lastly:

This far-off shot sums her predicament up nicely and the expression is appropriate in its lack of detail. The arm hanging by the side. the lowered eyebrows almost resigned to the inevitable reinforce how she feels without calling attention to themselves.

So anyways, this particular strip serves as a great example on how characters are called upon to display a wide array of emotions and how the visual look and pose of the character can be the most important way of conveying those emotions to the reader. The same goes for animation with the only difference being that the characters are in full-motion in between the frames.

This post does not attempt to outlay any particular guidelines when it comes to displaying emotion, it simply implores you to use it well because it really can make or break a character.

As you can probably tell, I like this strip a lot, mainly because of the wide range of emotions on display. It’s not that they speak to me in any special way, I just happen to like they way the strip as a whole is drawn. So much so, that I bought the original.




The 12 Stages Of Personal Hell When A Show Gets Cancelled

Via: Savage Chickens

We’ve all been there, one of our favourite shows on TV gets canned. It may have been on the air for a long time or more likely, not a long time at all. We all know that TV shows get cancelled for a reason, normally it’s low ratings, failure to find its target demographic (e.g. Futurama on FOX) or just general crapiness of the show.

In any case, devoted fans continue to hold the candle for many years after the shows passing. For the rest of us, we go through a series of stages as we slowly realise that our favourite escape from this cruel, cruel world will no longer be a part of our lives, well, new episodes anyway.

So, for your personal benefit, below are the stages. Know them, prepare for them, because at any moment you may find yourself having to go through them. It could be anything, your favourite drama or the Cruft’s Dog Show, you just never can tell. For your gratuitous pleasure, I have added some enlightenment for each of the stages in the form of the potential inner monologue you may have as you go through the stages.

Stage 1: Disbelief

I can’t believe it, they did it, they really did it. How could they, I mean, it was a good show. At least I liked it, doesn’t that count for anything any more?

Stage 2: Denial

They didn’t cancel it, it must have been a mistake. Networks make them all the time, like paying huge bucks to evening news anchors even though no-one watches the evening news any more. Ha ha, I bet it’s all a big joke and that press conference they’re having tomorrow will say so.

Stage 3: Fear

What if it’s true though, maybe they really did cancel it. What will I do now? What can I possibly fill the half hour/hour of my life with now? I might have to read a book, or worse yet, talk to the wife! AHHHHH!

Stage 4: Anger

Wait a minute, how DARE they put me through this. it’s not my fault the show got binned, it must be some stupid writer somewhere in Hollywood. All those network types are eejits anyway, they wouldn’t know a good show if it bit them in the ass. I ougha write them a letter an tell them a thing or two. I’ll sho ’em who’s boss, that’s right me!

Stage 5: Bargaining

Perhaps I can reason with them, y’know strike a deal. You put my favourite show back on, and I’ll agree to continue watching your network. Otherwise, I will be forced to watch my DVDs for comfort and not, I repeat NOT, be seduced by what you’ve put in my favourite show’s place.

Stage 6: Shame

Oh man, what if people find out I watched that show? I’d better not let them find that out. I’ll just stick to the forums on the internet. No-one knows who I really am there. I mean, it’s OK for a middle-aged, single guy to like Dirty Little Liars, right?

Stage 7: Depression

[sigh] Maybe it’s just not going to come back. My life has lost all meaning now. I mean, that show was the one thing that kept my life together, gave it meaning and truly spoke to me. Where can I find a source of psychological nourishment now? I may as well pack up and move back in with my parents. I’m sure my wife will understand, even though she doesn’t watch TV and thinks it’s the spawn of Satan.

Stage 8: Self-pity

I’m so pathetic, I don’t even know why I like stupid shows like that.

Stage 9: Out-of-body Experience

Man I really need a haircut and some new jeans, just look at that hole just above the knee.

Stage 10: Empty Feeling

Stage 11: Looking Ahead

Well, I suppose it isn’t all that bad at all, I mean, I had a favourite show before this one, and it was cancelled, then I found this one. So I’m sure a new one will come along and be better than ever, with better writing, hotter actors/actresses and plenty of American optimism that just doesn’t seem to exist in foreign programming.

Stage 12: Secret Hope

I think they’ll bring it back, I mean you just can’t keep a good show down. Family Guy did it, Futurama did it (and who the hell watches that, only the geeks and the nerds, that’s who) so there is surely a chance for Midwest/California Angsty Teen Drama With 20-Something Actors/Actress.

For fun, why don’t you list your favourite, cancelled TV shows below 🙂

EDIT: You may notice that the steps above are identical to another series of steps as outlined in a certain comic artist whose surname rhymes with complaining. I intended this as an in-joke 🙂

Why Animators (and You) Need To Create A Network

Last night I attended a networking event put on by Loyola University here in Baltimore, where I currently undertake an MBA course of study. Now I’m not one to readily go out and ‘network’, I can be tremendously shy and nervous at events like these, however, I did find last night a great help insofar as persuading me that I need to attend more events like this (if that makes sense).

The most important lesson I took away from the evening was that relationships can matter a whole lot when it comes to business. Although this is kinda sad in a way, it is the truth, and thankfully, there is plenty you can do about it to help yourself get where you want or need to go.

For animators, creating a professional and personal network should be one of their highest priorities. You’ll likely already have one from school, but it is important to create one outside of that, either from the neighbourhood you live in, organisations like ASIFA or the Animation Guild, a drawing class, or even just the folks you work with.

One of the points that was hammered home last night was to build and maintain relationships. One of the panelists put it like this:

It’s not who you know, it’s who knows you.

That’s a great quote and pretty much sums up how you can determine your place in the labour supply pool. If no-one knows you, then there’s a good chance that you can become isolated professionally and that can have detrimental consequences when it comes time to look for a job or even climb the career ladder.

ASIFA-East President and one of the nicest guys I’ve ever met, David Levy, often mentions networking over on his blog, Animondays. His reason is more practical than most. As a New Yorker, the tight-knit animation community flourishes because of personal relationships. There are no really large ‘faceless’ corporations operating in the city so a fair amount of the time, he is working directly with an individual or small studio. In such a situation, personal relationships can (and do) count for an awful lot. Animondays has plenty of advice so check it out (if you don not do so already).

Relationships are also something that can slip away easily. I know myself that I am a horrible communicator. If you ever get an e-mail from me, I can come off as whiny, needy, hyperactive or just plain ignorant. If you don’t receive a reply from me, I more than likely neglected to take the 5 seconds to reply.

I know these are things I need to work on, and it can be hard when you’re working or going to school full-time to justify spending an evening or afternoon schmoozing with other people in the field. However, once you create a relationship, it is imperative that you take the small amount of time to maintain it. E-mails now and then, or even the occasional lunch can work wonders.

However, it would seem that the benefits are well worth the time put in, and like a couple of the panelists were saying, the more people who know you’re out of work, the greater the chance they know someone with an open position that needs to be filled.

So quit making excuses for yourself. That TV show or computer game can wait this evening. Head on out there and meet someone in the same boat as yourself! You’ll be surprised at they great kinds of people you’ll come across.

What Do Animators Get Up To Outside Of Work?

You mean besides hitting the bars? Hahaha, no seriously, animators can do much more than just animate. In fact, animators are often fully fledged artists in their own right! That’s where Too Art 4 TV comes in, it’s an exhibition of artwork by a collection of some very talented animators in the New York area and beyond.

This will be the show’s 5th year and it continues to challenge the perception that animators can only animate. I attended the 3rd exhibit and wrote about it at the time, being somewhat pleasantly surprised at the range and scope of the work on display.

I admit it was kinda fun to learn that animators often have differing tastes when it comes to their personal and professional lives. Of course, that can be true for anyone in the creative field, although the fact that an animator could make awesome robots from odds and ends in his spare time had not entered my mind at all.

Too Art 4 TV 5 begins this Friday (25th of March) at 6:30pm at Erebuni in Brooklyn. The opening evening features a whos who af folks from the animation world, so if you can make it, I highly encourage you to do so.

The exhibition runs until April 23rd. Full details (including an exhibitors list and the gallery’s address) can be found on the website.

Why Old Cartoons Bring Out The Nostlagia In You

Via: TV Rage

As I’ve gotten older (26 as of midnight by the way) I’ve found that the nostalgia for all the shows I watched as a child have gotten ever stronger. I don’t consider myself ancient by any stretch of the imagination although sometimes I really do have to take a second and remind myself that I was watching kids shows literally 20 years ago. That shock never gets any smaller.

I have a fairly decent memory and I’ve found it rather interesting that over the years, I have a pretty hard time remembering the live-action TV shows I watched when I was young. Sure, I remember Sesame Street without bother, but other shows not unlike the kid-coms we see plastered all over the Disney Channel.

However, when it comes to the cartoons, I memory is still quite vivid. I can remember the themes tunes, the characters, plots, enemies and of course who produced them all, including the one below, which I can say I thought was a pretty decent show at the time. Only later did I discover the truth (apologies to Fred!)

Perhaps I watched a few more cartoons than the average kid (yeah right) but it would seem that I am not alone in how I have fond recollections of all of these cartoons, even the stinkers that RTE put on.

I would like to think that most of us have fond memories of our childhood and it certainly seems that cartoons played a fairly large part in that childhood. Besides bringing up the old images of that far away time, old cartoons serve as a great reminder for other happy times from that bygone era.

I can tell you right now that the Pink Panther show brings back a very vivid memory for me of that show being cut right in the middle of an episode for the government’s budget. I was quite disheartened to learn that the budget was not a 5 minute gap in the schedule.

I could leave you with ton of videos of the cartoons of my childhood, but you already know where to look for those. Instead, I leave you with the opening to Superted, a cartoon that used to be broadcast rather randomly on Channel 4.

Five Reasons Why The Animated Film Market Isn’t Saturated

With the recent failure of Mars Needs Moms, there has been some speculation that the market has become saturated as everyone seeks a slice of the the lucrative pie that is animation (the link is behind the New York Times subscription wall so nuts to them) . While it would certainly appear this way, I doubt that that is the case. Here are the reasons why.

1. On Average, less than one animated film a week comes out

Sometimes there appears to be a deluge, but for the most part, oftentimes animated films have it all to themselves when they are released. They are more likely to have to compete against a live-action film aimed at their audience than another animated one.

2. The market is tightly controlled

The cinematic market for films is tightly controlled by both the large studios and the large cinema chains. They are the gatekeepers in terms of what can be shown and when. While competition between the studios is good, there is often agreement when it comes to when films are shown, to avoid clashes that end up splitting both films audiences.

3. The big boys have a schedule

The two most prolific animated studios, Disney and DreamWorks, have a set schedule that they do not tend to differ from. Disney has one Pixar film a year with normally at least one Disney-branded one as well. DreamWorks had hoped to to about 2.5 films a year (that’s 3 in five) but that has since been pulled back to something more manageable for Jeffrey Katzenburg’s studio. The point is that both studios don’t really differ in the amount of films they offer.

4. Standards are being raised

Arguably, ever since Pixar burst on the scene in 1995, the standard for animated films has been raised spectacularly, and I’m not talking visually here. Storytelling, character and direction have all fallen under the Pixar influence. Nowadays the audience fully expects to see films as complete and complex as what John Lasseter and Co. put out and they have become merciless if they feel disappointed. Witness the recent failure of Delgo (Elliot Cowan’s favourite film) or the relatively poor performance of Battle for Terra. The list can go on, although no studio should be under the illusion at this point that the audience will accept anything.

5. The Core Audience Isn’t Changing

Unlike the customers for other forms of films, the core market for animated films isn’t really moving. Kids that are watching these films generally aren’t the ones downloading them from the internet. That may change someday, but for now, the vast majority of parents are more than willing to take their kids to the cinema. Unlike say, an R rated film, whose potential audience may just decide to download the film from the internet before it is even released and skip themselves a heck of a lot of hassle. The point is, the market is actually growing (slowly) so until we see a rapid upswing in the number of animated films, it is highly unlikely that the market is saturated.