Week Links 28-2013

What a week, and wasn’t even at Comic-Con! Here’s a few stories you should read and ponder.

The NSA Spying Scandal, as Explained by Pixar

If you’ve been paying attention as of late, you know that the NSA records the details of just about every phone call made in America. While they call it ‘metadata collection and retention’ most ordinary people prefer to call it unwarranted spying.

So while most out there are not a fan of that, they are a fan of Pixar. Thankfully, someone has a parody ready to go (via io9):

Save the Tooth Fairy! Toy Industry Execs Highjack a Childhood Icon

We’re long used to seeing childhood icons (Easter Bunny, Santa Claus, etc.) being hijacked for the sole purpose of selling, quite frankly, crap. However, the Tooth Fairy remains commerce-free for the most part; sans appearances here and there like in Rise of the Guardians.

That’s about to change, as someone is attempting to commercialise the Tooth Fairy. While I won’t go into much detail, suffice to say, it’s awful, and I’m not talking about the concept. A poor idea that looks to be poorly executed but noteworthy nonetheless for what they’re trying to achieve.

Confessions of a Cosplaying Librarian

Cosplay is a concept that has been touched on here before but never discussed in detail. Thankfully, Peter Gutierrez has done so instead, and his two part conversation with librarian Linda Thai is well worth reading. That is especially so when there are quotes like this:

Isn’t there then a strong element of critical literacy here—or at least there could be? Cosplayers, even those who aren’t explicitly hired by marketers, can still become a promotional tool for the industry. Isn’t that an opportunity for young people to consider their own position within the system, how their creativity can be co-opted in a sense?

Definitely. Now, the cosplayer who’s hired to portray a character for a company obviously becomes a promotional tool for whatever series the company is trying to push at the audience. So we can look at cosplay as a medium that assists other media, anime and manga, by targeting a certain audience segment related to fandom. The question to pose is, what about the rest of us who are not hired, but just cosplay of our own accord? Are we a promotional tool, too?

Exciting and stimulating stuff; start with part one.

Fishnets and Fangs for the Win? The Dark Side of Monster High

Monster High is a property that’s been on my to-do list for a long time. It’s an interesting concept and (after a recent class discussion) is surely one that Mattel concocted with the explicit aim of keeping the dollars oozing out of Barbie within Mattel. They have, after all, learned their lesson after the Bratz fiasco.

Of interest today though, is this piece by Dr. Jennifer Shewmaker which counteracts a piece by NPR that essentially praises Monster High. Given my unfamilarity with it, I can’t comment too much on it except that the points that Shewmaker raises are ones that are familiar to anyone who’s seen the kind of animated content that toy makers tend to produce.

For Exposure

In America (and plenty of other countries), there’s a general consensus that’s been around for many years dictating that if you perform work, you’re entitled to do so for pay. That doesn’t mean you’ll get paid much, but you’ll be remunerated in some way that you deem beneficial to yourself. In recent times though, we’ve seen plenty of artists being asked to do work with only ‘exposure’ being offered in return.

Step forward the truly hilarious/horrendous twitter feed from For Exposure:

For Exposure

The mind truly boggles, eh? Yet this is what many artists are faced with and ultimately, some of them put up with it. Hopefully this will go some way to highlighting the ridiculousness of the situation and educate people as to the same and the fact that such individuals should be avoided at all costs.

This one cracks me up though:


Tweets of the Week



Years ago, I advocated that Pixar should do exactly that. Today however, I’m not so sure.

Week Links 27-2013

Six crazy weeks of school are finally over, and after taking 6 credits (that’s two classes or four nights a week) you better believe I’m completely and utterly exhausted. That said, posting should resume on a more regular basis with a post a day. In the meantime, here’s a few week links for you to peruse.

Report from SAS 25: “Redefining Animation”

Harvey Deneroff gives a full account of the recent Society for Animation Studies conference in Los Angeles. By all accounts, it’s a great event for anyone interested in the more academic side of animation.

The decline of Disney

The title is slightly misleading because we all know that Disney (the company) is doing great. What Jaime Weinman at Macleans is concerned about in this piece is Disney (the studio) and the rapid decline of its output and the resulting sidelining of its impact on the overall Disney company. You don’t have to be blind to see that Disney is relying more and more on either acquisitions or outside partners to produce its films, but you might inadvertently miss the shift in style that has occurred over the last 20 years.

Olly Moss’ Studio Ghibli Posters

Via: Olly Moss
Via: Olly Moss

Need I say any more? Click through for the Howl’s Moving Castle one.

A Simple Thought: Go Big. (And Stay Simple.)

Ken Fountain has this great post that looks at the ‘cartoony’ style of animation and how best to achieve it. Lots of great points and yes, the key is to go big and to stay simple.

SpyVibe: Shane Glines Interview

Glines Retro

How could you not read this? Glines discusses his style and many classic influences in this sizeable interview.

Tweets of the Week

A lot of great and prolific tweeting this week!








Week Links 26-2013

Some post-Independence Day and food poisoning week links for you today.

Don’t Go To Art School

Noah Bradley points out the fallacy of an art degree with this post:

Artists are neither doctors nor lawyers. We do not, on average, make huge six-figure salaries. We can make livable salaries, certainly. Even comfortable salaries. But we ain’t usually making a quarter mil a year. Hate to break it to you. An online debt repayment calculator recommended a salary exceeding $400,000 in order to pay off a RISD education within 10 years.

He’s right. In class this week our group had to present on the topic of higher education and I was tasked with the rather difficult job of pointing out that institutions rarely co-ordinate with industry in regards to job supply or demand. The end result is that a degree is no guarantee of a job let alone a good one.

Unfortunately many companies and studios are demanding degrees for entry level positions and are exacerbating the situation. Noah puts it best:

Find another path. Art is a wonderful, beautiful, fulfilling pursuit. Don’t ruin it with a mountain of debt.

Bryan Konitezko Discusses Ethnicity and Colour Theory in the Avatar Universe

konietzko avatar skin solour

Co-creator of Avatar: The Last Airbender and the Legend of Korra, Bryan Konietzko has a long but comprehensive analysis of ehtnicity, colour theory and character genetics in this post over on his tumblelog.

He highlights two important things:

  1. It’s all to easy to jump to conclusions if you’re not involved in a production
  2. Colour plays an incredibly important role

The post is a great read, especially if you are curious about the Avatar universe and family lines within it. On one hand, it’s nice to see this level of detail being put into a show, but on the other, it’s kind of disheartening that Bryan had to clarify things.

That plays into the first point above. Fans sometimes do unnecessarily jump to conclusions and can unintentionally cause a ruckus or make a mountain out of a molehill. There’s little one can do about it save being open and honest about things; just like Bryan was.

Secondly, the saga highlights just how much of an influence colour can have on a show (or film). This makes now as good a time as any to plug Oswald Iten’s superb blog Colorful Animated Expressions which features just about all you ever wanted to know about the role that colour plays in filmmaking.

This Could Have Been Frozen


Coincidentally there was another article about ethnicity in animation this week. Coming from the Daily Mail (with my sincere apologies) is the news that a few fans, unhappy about the supposed ethnic homogeny of the upcoming Disney film, Frozen, have taken matters into their own hands and have come up with a few ideas of what a more diverse alternative could have looked like.


There is of course the obligatory tumblelog where people can submit their own ideas.

All I can say about this is that Disney has a long history of augmenting traditional tales in order to make them more convenient or marketable; complete historical accuracy has never been one of their strong points (remember, the original Aladdin story was set in China.)

Tweets of the Week


Week Links 25-2013

Better late than never but a tad short thanks to an extremely hectic week that left little time for reading.

A Skeptical Look at the Newest Disney Princess Film, Frozen


Hanna White over at Bitch Magazine takes this decerning look at the upcoming Disney feature. Even though it’s still early days, enough details have been released to allow for some critical analysis and this is certainly a good one.

100 Hour Weeks & Homeless

A detailed account of what a VFX artist has gone through in the industry. Well worth a read.

Tweets of the Week


Week Links 24-2013

Multiple engaging week links today!

Homer Simpson isn’t a positive role model for kids? Eat my shorts…

David Mitchell over at the Guardian has this thoughtful piece about whether or not one of the greatest character ever to grace the TV screen is a bad role model for kids. Well worth a read for the infractions from certain quarters.

The Stressful Adventures of Boxhead and Roundhead: Q&A with Elliot Cowan


Elliot Cowan is in the process of making a feature film almost single-handedly. He discusses the much-anticipated project over on Zippy Frames in a very insightful interview.

My Little Pony: Equestria Girls trailer – on the hoof? More like on the hooch

"And so the ponies get on with living life to its fullest, by getting hammered on generic-brand alcohol and inhaling strange gasses from balloons."
“And so the ponies get on with living life to its fullest, by getting hammered on generic-brand alcohol and inhaling strange gasses from balloons.”

Another one from the Guardian (this time by Stuart Heritage) but which occupies a much higher position on the sarcasm scale.

Equestria Girls has been covered on the blog here before, but this is an actual review that is more brutally honest than they tend to be:

Next, in a scene that definitely wasn’t added because Hasbro knows that a lot of the My Little Ponies: Equestria Girls revenue will come from adult male brony fetishists, Twilight Sparkle gets down on her hands and knees and lets her dog mount her. Silly Twilight Sparkle! On this planet we put string around our dogs’ necks and … no, wait, that’s playing into the bronies’ hands too. Disregard.

You should definitely read the whole thing, which does a great job of illustrating the marketing/executive farce that is Equestria Girls.

Mike Boon Animation Alphabets

Via Animated Review are a series of alphabets featuring animated characters. Here’s the Simpsons one, but there are many more.

Via: Animated Review
Via: Animated Review
Via: Random Curiosity
Via: Random Curiosity

This announcement may be the one that finally gets me around to buying a Blu-Ray player; something I’ve resisted so far for no particular reason.

However, there’s more to this than a simple home media release:

The anime will come in a collector’s edition on Blu-ray Disc with an original soundtrack disc and a 112-page art book with storyboards, sketches, character art, and illustrations. Video extras include a 66-minute making-of video that chronicles fledgling studio Trigger‘s journey to create Little Witch Academia for the Anime Mirai 2013 program. The disc will have the Japanese soundtrack with English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, and Chinese subtitles.

Is anyone in any doubt about the ability to sell this given a.) the quality of the film itself and b.) the sheer breadth of material thrown in for the fans and nothing more?

This is what we talk about when we mean catering to fans. The price is currently unknown, but even at $50 it will be worth it.

Coming Soon On Tumblr

Zodiac Starforce

Nope, I don’t know either. But I am intrigued from a business model standpoint as well as a story one.

UPDATE: Thanks Ryan!

Tweets of the Week


Week Links 23-2013

Another set of week links you should consumer and muse upon.

How we know female led superhero movies are doomed.

Eric Burns-White ponders the declining market for female superheroes and why that is. Here’s the thrilling conclusion:

The Superhero equivalent of Heaven’s Gate failed so utterly that it proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that having a superhero movie with a female lead, regardless of any other factors or any other movie experiences, is entirely nonviable in today’s market.

Which movie is he talking about? You’ll just have to read it to find out.

‘Monsters,’ ‘Despicable Me 2,’ ‘Turbo’: Summer’s Brutal Animation War

I’m sure you may have read this somewhere else but I’ll just add two things:

  1. It perpetuate the notion that animation is a genre of film. You don’t read any stories about the a brutal ‘war’ between superhero films, so you?
  2. Squeezing so many films into just one part of the year further implies that we’re in a bubble.

Legend of Korra Soundtrack: Music as Storyteller

Via: Mike DiMartino
Via: Mike DiMartino

Efforts to get an official release for the The Last Airbender series and its successor have apparently paid off with this announcement. While we continue to call for a release for the former, the latter will see the light of day on July 16th.

I’ve written about soundtracks multiple times (like here and here) and even wrote a detailed post on how to petition for the official Last Airbender release. While it’s a bit confusing as to why Nickelodeon is releasing one for Korra while a complete Airbender on exists is beyond me, but this is almost certainly being done as a test of demand. With hope, the full OST for The Last Airbender will come out soon.

Tweets of the Week

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Week Links 22-2013

Oodles of week links for you today!

Animated Musicals

Richard Leskosky over on the Animation Studies blog has a post that pretty much details all you need to know (in the general sense) about animated musicals. It should be noted that the genre has survived in animated form long after its live-action counterpart all but disappeared.

Written in Water

Mary Mayerson has yet another great observational post about the animation industry and where it is headed. Disclaimer: he references, and agrees with yours truly, but that’s not why you should read the post. Floyd Norman also weighs in with a strikingly accurate comment.

Destroying the Princess Stereotype: Azula


Erin over at the (highly recommended) Gagging on Sexism blog has this great analysis of perhaps the single greatest female character we’ve seen in US animation over the past decade.

Of particular note is the fact that Azula is also a princess but in a polar-opposite sense to what Disney would have you believe they should be.

The Cheapest Animation Studio in the World Will Make You an Animated Film for £25

Alex Williams over on the FLIP blog explores this, apparently true, claim. He also ponders a few questions:

A few days ago an old friend of mine (and a top animator) posted at Facebook about the absurdity of a client asking for him to make an animated film “for a few hundred dollars”. How ridiculous! But I wondered – why is it so absurd? What if we could do animation for such a low price – surely there would be a huge demand for this kind of work? In fact, there are tiny studios springing up doing exactly that – creating animation for a tiny, super-low price.

Literal Disney Video Covers

Hunchback_nice guy finishes last

There’s a whole collection over on the tumblelog of Rainblade

Cooking the Flintstones


The must-follow Yowp blog digs ever further into the history of our favourite pre-historic animated property (sorry Croods). This post looks at how (and from whom) Fred and Wilma got their names. A fascinating post that illustrates yet again how history can get terribly muddled by the people creating it.

Tweets of the Week

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Week Links 21-2013

Halfway through the year already??? Well, have some more week links, and don’t forget to check out the archives for more that you may have missed.

Amazon moves ahead with three kids original series

Coming via the Kidscreen iKids blog but surely trumpeted elsewhere too is the news that Amazon is moving ahead with it’s original series as chosen by viewers. Of interest to us are the three animated properties as the post details as well as when we can expect to see the first episodes; later this year is all we know for now.

Lost in Translation

Through Fred's post, the author finally discovered the origins of the title of this book, one of his very favourites. Find out for yourself by buying it here!
Through Fred’s post, this blogger finally discovered the origins of the title of this book, one of his very favourites. Find out for yourself by buying it here!

Fred Patten over on Cartoon Research has a very thorough and insightful post about translation and the comedy of errors that can result. That’s something that continually seems to haunt animation. Live-action has less of an issue because, quite simply, less of it travels across borders thanks to its lower cost. Animation, being as expensive as it is, seems to require international sales in order to succeed and that means a lot of translation. Latin-based languages aren’t too difficult, but once you cross the Pacific, things get tricky; a fact that Fred’s post does much to enlighten us about.

Happy feet no longer tapping as animation studio sells upHappy feet no longer tapping as animation studio sells up

Animation is tough business, and the latest casualty is the Australian studio that produced Happy Feet 2:

Unfortunately, the only story Dr D managed to share was Happy Feet Two. The continual slate of production that had been anticipated failed to materialise, and the 650 or so staff who had been hired (mostly on contract) at the peak of production dwindled in the months after to about 50. In more recent times, it is believed fewer than half a dozen people were employed by the company.

Europa – Main Characters

Animator Robert Kohr is hard at work on his latest short film. Entitled ‘Europa’ after Jupiter’s moon, he recently posted some character models. Here’s the character Cindy:



Lotsa Cartoons

In a rare self-referential link, Michael Sporn read my post on Animation Scoop questioning the race for the easy dollar among major animation studios and posted his own, well-measured thoughts. The topic is of concern to me primarily because the gold rush that animation currently is has lead to a lot of formulaic films that I fear will result in audience burnout and an industry downturn.

Tweets of the Week

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And Lastly….

Gotta love that sly Looney Tune humour.

bugs stag reel

Week Links 20-2013

An interesting collection of week links this week!

The State of the VFX Industry and where do we go from here

The Thinking Animation blog poses a number of questions relating to the VFX industry and the ongoing attempt to organise it in some way. They’re worth thinking about because similar issues will affect the animation industry at some point in the future even more so than they do already.

An Independent Success

Mark Mayerson has his usual measured approach to his analysis of one animator’s success on YouTube. He’s right on the money when it comes to merchandising too, but I disagree that YouTube is the level playing ground it once was. The rise of professional channels makes them gatekeepers by another name. Why make your own animation when you can try and pitch it to one of them?

Disney Dreamscapes

Sibley_PotC Chess

Brian Sibley has up on his excellent Disney blog some lovely artwork from the book The Art of Walt Disney World. Visit for the post, stay for the archive of fantastic Disneyana.

‘Epic’ a decidedly derivative, if colorful, new animated film

The website Sound on Sight has a review of Blue Sky’s latest film ‘Epic’ which, while not overly positive, does contain this nugget of a paragraph near the end:

It wasn’t that long ago when we were lucky to get one animated movie from a big Hollywood studio a year; once, it was as much an event to go to a Disney movie as it is to see the next superhero blockbuster. Now, you can’t go two months without a studio-released animated movie, making each of these movies a little less special. Epic has impressive enough animation—and the 3D isn’t terrible, though a climactic action sequence set in a darkened landscape is fairly diluted through the format conversion—but it feels like the umpteenth version of the same Joseph Campbell Hero’s Journey, and done in a way that’s forgettable instead of fun.

More signs of an animation bubble?

Tweets of the Week

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I love Avatar: The Last Airbender and I love the handiwork of Mike Maihack. What better than when both come together:

Mike Maihack_Toph

Week Links 19-2013

Besides the one big story this week, there were plenty of others too.

In ‘Scope (2084) and Regular (2079)…

Via: A. Film L.A.
Via: A. Film L.A.

Hans Perk has begun a series of posts on Lady and the Tramp that will be worth your time reading but this introductory post also includes something else. Yup, Lady and the Tramp was in production during the 1950s, when the feature film industry was undergoing an even greater metamorphosis than it is today. Television was luring audiences away from cinemas and something had to be done to entice them back. One notion was 3-D, a gimmick that fared about as well then as it has today. Another development was the introduction of the widescreen format. Lady and the Tramp got caught in the transition that resulted in a number of changes to the film. Hans will be looking at the changes that will sure be of interest to anyone with an interest in animation history.

Art vs Marketing 2013


Artist Emily Lubanko takes a humourous look at where art and marketing intersect and why the results are often so, well, crappy. The above image is where we start but things quickly take weird and hilarious turns as various marketing folks chip in their two cents on the project:

When you work data-first instead of story/message first…some really kooky nonsense can occur. Just because the “data” says something doesn’t mean you have to automatically go with that flow.

2D O.D.’d

Steve Moore over at the FLIP blog has this excellent analysis of why traditional 2D animated films have all but disappeared from mainstream release in the US. Hint: too much of a good thing can be bad for you.

Cartoonists and animation experts weigh in: the new Merida doesn’t HAVE to look this way

Via: Gagging on Sexism
Via: Gagging on Sexism

The big story that seemed to be everywhere this week was the redesign of Merida into something that many felt was inappropriate. There was plenty of analysis (like this and this) and even her creator Brenda Chapman weighed in.

That said, Rebecca Hains did a great job of laying out exactly why the change was an important issue that needed to be discussed and this post of her’s (disclaimer: quotes your’s truly) points out that the issue wasn’t that Merida’s design was changed, but rather how it changed. She also includes a few (funny) visual aids for comparison purposes.

Tweets of the Week

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Week Links 18-2013

Another round of week links that is quite diverse and a day late thanks to a forgotten suitcase.

David OReilly on Timing

Via: David OReilly
Via: David OReilly

Already  a legend in his own lifetime, David OReilly shares with us a series of GIFs from a lecture he did many years ago dealing with the subject of timing in animation. The full series illustrates how timing has changed from the rubberhose animation of the 30s through to the 90s. A must read post.

Animation: Disney’s Artist Tryout Book

Via: Animation Resources
Via: Animation Resources

The Animation Resources site has, as far as I’m concerned, a mandatory read. It’s the handbook given to new employees at the Disney studio from 1938 and although I’ve only given it a brief skim, it will certainly receive much more of my attention at some point in the near future. Just comprehend the following quote:

The value of an animator is dependent upon his ability to dramatize and caricature life, and to time and stage his characters’ actions in an unusual and interesting way. An animator must be a showman- he must know how to entertain an audience, to present a gag, to picture dramatically an ordinary incident. Above all, he must be a sure and skillful draftsman.

I dare you to find a studio that talks about its animators in such terms these days.

The Fleischer Studio’s ‘Setback’ Camera vs. Disney realism

The Society for Animation Studies blog has this rather excellent post discussing the similarities and the differences between two competing technologies that aimed to give animation a 3-D look.

Niko’s T-Shirts


Friend of the blog and independent animator Niko Anesti is putting one option for making money that’s available to him to work; he’s selling T-shirts. Check them out (no pun intended)!

Bob Clampett: Black Cats in Technicolor


Oswald Iten’s truly superb Colourful Animation Expressions blog is having a bit of a celebration…for Mr. Bob Clampett, who would be 100 years young thins year. This is the first of three posts so stay tuned for more.

Tweets of the Week

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