The Four Animated Movies of 2012 That I Can’t Wait To See

I’ve used Cartoon Brew’s list as a guide for this:

  1. The Secret World of Arriety – The latest offering from Studio Ghibli; goes without saying
  2. Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax – The future missus wants to see this because Taylor Swift is in it. I’m not going to object.
  3. Brave – Pixar’s latest, how will it’s Scottishness hold up nest to HTTYD
  4. Hotel Transylvania – The concept art is awesome and Genndy Tartakovsky is behind it. This should be good


Mark Mayerson Is Right!

Due to my abysmal levels of energy this morning, Amid Amidi beat me to it, but Mark’s post is nonethless right on the money.

It’s a 2005 Tom and Jerry, co-directed by Joe Barbera. In some ways, it does a remarkably good job of duplicating the look and feel of the Hanna-Barbera Tom and Jerry cartoons of the 1940s and ’50s. However, in other ways, it doesn’t…..

Mark does an excellent job of running down the issues with the short, starting with the opening credits that would give any designer nightmares and going on to talk about the animation styles. There are some great comments so don’t forget to read those too.

So just what is the point of so attempting to recreate the old timey feel of a Tom & Jerry cartoon? Oh sure, it wears its loyalty to the source material on its sleeve but what does that prove? That it’s the ‘rightful successor/continuation’ to the originals? That it somehow legitimises the cartoon as a real “Tom & Jerry” short? Or is it that the creators are acknowledging the value to be had in the old shorts?

The answer is more likely that it doesn’t feel “right” to see Tom & Jerry in any other setting than the ones we’re used to. The problem is that the original shorts were a product of their time, the 1940s and 50s. Everything was different then, and Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera played on that. Just think of how many jokes they got out of that ironing board. Regardless of how many times the rehashed the same joke, they were at least using contemporary society for inspiration. Who has an ironing board like that now? No-one! As Mark says (emphasis mine):

Creative works are not only the product of people, they’re also the products of a time and place. As the world keeps changing, it is impossible to recreate something from the past. While artists often wish to duplicate what they love, they can only approximate it. Paradoxically, the closer they get to it, the more they’ve succeeded in doing nothing more than an good imitation. And since the originals are everywhere to begin with, is an imitation necessary?

And rightfully so. That’s partially why The Simpsons of today is so radically different from the early years. The show has changed but society changed even more. The first few series’ simply reflect the culture of the time (the early 90s); today’s episodes are much more post-September 11th/global recession in tone.

So the real question is, why are studios/producers reluctant to move older cartoon properties beyond their established norms? Are they afraid of the risk? I mean, Lunatics Unleashed can’t be that scary an example of what can happen, right?

Iif you’re going to go to the effort of updating properties, why not just do something new? It might be a bit more expensive, but risks can be mitigated, and you’re far more likely to have a stronger product that isn’t constrained by the pre-conceived notions of ” the old version”.

At the end of the day though, David OReilly says it best:

[blackbirdpie url=”!/davidoreilly/status/131477972023656448″]

11 More Animation Blogs That Everyone Ought to Read

Dave Levy recently posted a list of the animation websites he reads on a daily basis (and his blog should most definitely be in your bookmarks already). Seeing as he is a man of good taste, there is no need to amend his list. Indeed, you should check it out to make sure you are reading the same websites he does.

So, as an addition to those, here are 11 more that any self-respecting animation fan would readily admit to reading on a daily basis.

1. Cartoon Brew

Industry standard-bearer and the home page of anyone who is anyone in animation. Guaranteed to either raise a smile or your ire, Jerry beck and Amid Amidi offer up a continuous stream of animated goodies. From the latest TV series to the weirdest merchandise known to man, no animation website is more respected.

2. TAG Blog

The Animation Guild Local 839 is your one stop shop for all the labour news and views from the Golden Coast. Dishing out equal amounts of industry headlines and labour items of note. The TAG blog is a must for current affairs relating to working in the animation business. Sometimes trite, it is nonetheless peppered with commentary from workers and sage advice from union heads.

3. Chuck Redux

The website for all things Chuck Jones. Run by his grandson Craig Causen, Chuck Redux features everything from Oscar’s worldwide travels to the creations from the mind of the man himself. I wrote about it a while back and if you are in any doubt as to why you should read it, look no further than here.

4. John K.

The one and only John Kricfalusi. As if you needed a reason to read his blog, where he discusses techniques, characters and animation in general. Always controversial but guaranteed to advance your knowledge of this fantastic artform.

5. Mr. Fun

Floyd Norman remember Disney when it was run by Disney and then some. Every day he posts his thoughts on working then and now, sometimes throwing in a witty cartoon for good measure. Looking for insights on what it was like to work way back when? Floyd’s is the only website you need.

6. Brian Sibley

Writer and broadcaster from the UK, Brian has not one, but at least three blogs that are worthy of reading. Purveyor of tidbits that are absolutely not to be found anywhere else on the web, Brian’s blogs are a must read. Heck if Michael Sporn recommends them, you know they’re among the best to be found.

7. Deja View

Andreas Deja, famed animator with a sense of humour, recently started his blog. The guy’s one of the best animators about, so expect plenty of technique analysis from the Nine Old Men and more. What more can I say, I look forward to every post.

8. Disney History

If you’re looking for various bits and bobs from the history of Disney, look no further than Didier Ghez’s blog, self-described as:“Interesting discoveries about Disney history, vintage Disneyana, Disney artwork, the Walt’s People book series, and new books about Disney.” Do you need any more reasons to visit? I think not!

9. Joe Murray

Creator of Rocko’s Modern Life and Camp Lazlo, Joe Murray has been around the circuit more than once, and he’s learned a thing or two in the process. On his blog, he offers updates on his studio, news on KaboingTV, anecdotes from the past and advice on how to make it in a fiercely competitive industry. One that should absolutely not be overlooked.

10. Nina Paley

Independent animator, free thinker and open-culture advocate, Nina Palely uses her blog to document the latest in her working life, spread thoughts on free and open culture and to advocate changes in the way the entertainment industry works.

11. Yowp

Do you even remotely like old Hanna-Barbera stuff? Good, Yowp has you covered for just about anything and everything to do with early Hanna-Barbera. From the animators to the writers to contemporary media coverage, this blog has it all.

Yes, Animation Can Make For Fine Art

There are plenty of people who collect animation artifacts. I would be one of them if only I had the money (Bob Cowan does, however, because he’s retired. His collection is enormous in its breadth and scope and well worth a peek)

So if you can’t collect actual bits and bobs from animated films, what can you collect? Why original art of course!

Via Richard Mullins on flickr

The above is another piece in my [miniscule] collection. It’s by Richard Mullins who has done an entire series of similar pieces based on cartoon characters which he has titles Whatever Cartoons. The entire set is up on flickr and can be perused at your leisure.

The likes of deviantArt is stuffed to the gills with original art from people who may or may not have the necessary skills. However, there are plenty of professional and weekend artists who definitely do have the skills, in addition of course, to any animators out there who happen to dabble in art as a hobby on the side.

Animation in itself is art, so it should come as no surprise that animation lends itself so well to a wide variety of artistic styles. Indeed, Banksy is famous (infamous?) for using cartoon characters in his creations. In fact, Amid over at Cartoon Brew dedicated an entire post to the animated characters at MoCA’s “Art in the Streets” exhibition. That’s not to say that ‘street art’ is fine art, just that art can take make forms and that animation lends itself well to any of them.

There is literally tons of great animation art out there, so why not consider supporting an artist by buying some original pieces?

EDIT: I am aware that Cookie Monster isn’t animated, however the remainder of the set is, and I consider the Muppets to be practically animated characters for all intents and purposes anyway.

Do Cartoon Characters Work Their Way Into Your Life?

Via: Cartoon Brew

While reading Amid’s post about the upcoming exhibition of so-called street art at MOCA in Los Angeles, a thought occurred to me. Is there a reason why there is animation in it at all?

What I mean is that, why on earth would such street artists choose to use animated characters? As Amid points out, some have graduated to using their own characters, but the majority will use well known characters (from perhaps some big, evil corporation).

If you think about it, it seems somewhat obvious. We do seem to have a strong attachment to the cartoons and cartoon characters from our youth. Is it a subconscious yearning for the old days? I’m not sure (but feel free to post your theories in the comments below).

I would argue that characters do tend to work their way into your life as a child and they do tend to reside in the ol’ noggin for the rest of your life. They also represent a certain time that you may like to hold dear or perhaps you identified with the character as a youngster. For artists like the ones in the exhibition, cartoon characters can represent a whole host of things, either from their own personal lives or from their work. Either way, they seem to find artistic value in the characters far outside their original purpose.

What is clear is that cartoon characters pop up all over the place. I’ve seen plenty of 18 wheelers with a Tinkerbell sticker on them! I’ve also seen plenty of old folks wearing a Disney sweater or baseball cap. They are surely well outside the target demographic for such things, right? But is it really that surprising to see such things?

All of this is a sign of the relationship that animated characters form with ourselves. If you need any proof, just think about the last time you saw someone some Saved by the Bell merchandise. Such stuff is pretty hard to come by. Now compare it with all the Ren & Stimpy stuff out there. I think the answer speaks for itself.

An Open Letter To Mr. Tom Lowe

Not that I want to keep coming back to the same topic, but waaaay down in the comments for Amid’s recent post on Cartoon Brew about making money from your short film, are some responses from a Mr. Tom Lowe who would seem to be involved in Bob Gofrey’s official website.

In case you’re curious, here are his comments:

Each video on YouTube had around 4000 hits, and there were around 5 videos up, so around 20,000 hits in total. Not much by YouTube terms.

We are looking in to DVD-to-download options, as the inital cost of DVD mastering would be way too much at the moment.

As for the films initially being free, can I ask where you got that information from, or have you just made it up?

As for free and extra content, we have an interview with Bob talking about Henry 9 ’til 5 which is free before the paywall for the film. More films will include these interviews with Bob, for free.

As for an iPad app, I’m not going with a closed-system run by Apple. As for services like Netflix or LoveFilm, they only deal with distributors, finding one of those isn’t something I have any inclination to do, as we would lose control and certain rights. It may generate more revenue, but it’s simply not an option for us.

As for a better designed site, we’re working on it. We are trying to perfect it and make it as user friendly as possible, so please keep comments coming, we are listening.

In the mean time, if you do want to use the site, we offer weekly subscriptions from £2.99 (around $5) a week.

And here’s his response to a few other comments which pointed out where you could still watch the shorts online.

Here’s his final comment after all of the above:

Amid, I must say it’s a shame that you want to rubish our Pay-per-view site and break copyright law, rather than contact us, talk to us about it and maybe come to some agreement about giving your readers a discount, maybe even giving you a percentage. This would be far more constructive for everyone involved.

With all that fresh in your mind, may I present my open letter to Mr. Tom Lowe:

Dear Mr. Lowe,

The career and legend of Bob Godfrey as an animator will never be forgotten, as long as people such as myself are alive who have fond memories of growing up on some of his greatest works (I have an affinity for Roobarb myself). His many short films and the numerous nominations he received for them solidify his place in animation history without a doubt. What I am concerned about, is that his legacy is at risk in this new, digitally connected age.

The frontier that is the internet has been drastically altering the entertainment landscape for some time now with no end in sight to the revolution we are currently going through. It has been tough on many aspects of the film and TV businesses as they have struggled to try and find their place in the new landscape. You are not alone in your attempts to preserve the legacy of Bob Godfrey for all to enjoy.

You face a considerable challenge in this regard, and I admire you for making the effort necessary to bring Bob’s films to the attention of people who may not be familiar with his works. Naturally it is desirable to do so in a profitable manner that is sustainable, yes? After all, no-one could they be expected to incur the considerable costs of providing streaming content by themselves, I know I sure wouldn’t.

However, your comments as posted to the recent Cartoon Brew posts are somewhat disheartening, especially so when considered in light of your comment on Amid’s post back in 2010 where he revealed that the shorts were online. There is a great air of optimism about it! You seem excited that fans are enjoying the YouTube channel and its videos. The comments above are such a turnaround from then, yes?

Four thousand hits on YouTube is actually pretty decent, considering the videos were only up for a couple of months. Great films such as those are lucky in that they are not constrained by the need to feel ‘new’ or ‘hip’. They are timeless and as a result, could remain on YouTube for many years without ever going stale. Twenty thousand hits overall may not be much by YouTube standards, but there are millions of videos on that site that have maybe hundreds of hits, and there are plenty with none at all!

You also mention providing free content and use the documentary as an example. While this is “extra” of the films themselves, it regrettably does not provide someone who has not seen Bob’s films with a big enough incentive to pay for them. Think about it. If the latest Harry Potter film came out and instead of a trailer, they posted a documentary about the actors instead, would half as many people want to go see the film? I doubt it very much.

People (in the US in particular) have become accustomed to most things available online having no direct cost to them. That is how things have played out over the last 15 years or so and once people know they can get stuff for free, the become extremely reluctant to being paying for it. While your plan to charge £2.99 (or $5) a week is commendable, it absolutely pales in comparison to the tens of thousands of hours of content I can view on Netflix for $8 a month. The problem is not so much how much you charge, but how little substitute services like Netflix charge in comparison. You are not so much competing for my wallet as for a combination of time and choice.

You are in a strong position, Tom. There are plenty of other avenues to pursue besides charging people to watch the films. I’m sure there are many items that could be sold instead. How about limited edition drawings, sketchings, posters, etc? Sure physical objects like these cost more, but they make more per sale too. Besides that people sometimes buy more than one. I’m sure you can figure something out, in the meantime, why not help spread the word about  Bob’s films? Cartoon Brew has already done so and introduced many more people who would otherwise not have known about Bob or his amazing films. Even this letter, which I am posting to my blog, will introduce my readers to a legendary animator who they not have known about.

Lastly, it is important to be acutely aware of the distinction between copyright and theft. If sharing copyrighted materials was theft, it would already be covered by the many laws already in place that cover physical property. Copyrighted materials do not come under such laws and in legal circles they take pains to avoid confusion. Unauthorized reproduction of copyrighted materials is considered infringement for this very reason.

Surely it would be much better view people who want to see Bob’s films as fans, yes? And if they want to view the films, why not let YouTube take care of the cost of hosting and streaming them? They’re willing to do it for free, why should you take on the burden and cost of doing so? Let YouTube carry take the risk!

I sincerely hope that you find a way to keep Bob’s shorts online in a way that caters to his fan’s needs and helps attracts new people to Bob’s timeless films.


Charles Kenny

Is It Really the End of Creator-Driven Cartoon Shows?

Via: The Terror Drome

Amid over at Cartoon Brew has written an excellent and well thought out editorial on the decline of creator-driven shows. He pretty much hits the nail of the head when he says that the glory days are over, with the current crop of shows on The Hub as well as the upcoming Nickelodeon show based on the Sketchers shoe line ushering in a new era of corporate assembly line properties. While I believe that this is certainly true, there are a few important things to consider that I suppose are too long for a regular old comment.

Firstly, The Hub is a brand new channel, competing in a market where the competition is fierce (albeit friendly enough for the live-action shows). The Cartoon Network has struggled as of late, relying instead on a desperate (?) push into live-action shows that is highly unlikely to edge them into the number two spot.

In the face of all this, The Hub is attempting to establish itself as yet another competitor. Based on the old ratings for Discovery Kids, it has a hell of a hill to climb if it is to reach any kind of meaningful market share. With that in mind, the overarching influence of its toyetic line of shows should not be overestimated.

Secondly, although the new shows in question are established, they have been somewhat irrelevant for at least the last decade or so. As a result, they way as well be starting from scratch in terms of audience.

Will kids even care what these shows provide? My guess is probably not. Anyone who grew up on 80s cartoon fare seems to have a rose-tinted view of them nowadays, but when you actually sit down and watch the likes of the Snorks, He-Man, etc, etc. and compare them to what we have now, they can’t hold a candle to the likes of SpongeBob Squarepants.

Which brings me to another point. The yellow sponge has been so successful for two reasons: the show is creator-driven and Nickelodeon was very careful and clever in how they marketed the show (including cashing in with a theatrical film at the peak of popularity). These two things acted as a kind of synergy and together have ensured that the show has stayed in the minds of the public for over a decade. Nickelodeon is surely aware of this and their continued production of creator-driven shows (such as T.U.F.F. Puppy and Fanbuy & ChumChum) should serve as a reminder that such shows are still being made.

I do not see all of this as an end of the creator-driven era however. Talented animators will continue to emerge from schools and obscurity. Creator-driven content wil continue to be made either for TV or otherwise. Amid is right in pointing out that there will continue to be fragmentation of the viewership as a result of the internet. This does not, however, preclude that people will stop wanting to watch animated TV shows.

Someone will come along and figure out how to make money doing it. I can understand the natural anxiety about the disappearance of traditionally animated shows in favour of flash, but I think that is being overly pessimistic. Hollywood didn’t disappear as a result of television (although it took them a heck of a long time to figure out why people actually go to the cinema) and television is unlikely to disappear as a result of the internet, at least in the short term.

Amid’s article is refreshingly honest in its sincerity and the comments on the post are surprisingly full of hope for the future. Far from the end, I believe we are entering a new and exciting chapter in the story of short-form animated entertainment. The beginning way be tough, but we will all warm to they story once we’ve all settled into it.

Negative Disney Publicity Circa. 1989

There’s a fantastic post over on Cartoon Brew today that details the pitch material sent out by Disney in 1989 or thereabouts to various TV stations around the country who they hoped would air their afternoon block of shows in syndication.

The pages posted are great to read some 20 years after the fact. The present perhaps the worst aspect of some marketing departments: pointing out all the bad aspects of your competitors in the hope that no-one don’t notice your own.

The papers are full of non-comparisons and desriptions so vague, they barely even make sense. Here’s a sample quote:

Warner Brothers has the dubious task of competing with Disney’s superior aniamtion.

Boasting that your shows are better is nothing new, in fact it goes all the way back to the beginnings of entertainment, when you had to convince the public that your show was better than that of the guy next door. The difference here is that there is hardly, nay, anything in the material posted that says exactly, why, Disney’s shows are better.

OK, maybe they do get better ratings because they’re on in the afternoons, but they are also new shows, not re-runs of classics. Perhaps they’re more expensive to broadcast. That’s my best guess. “Disney crushes Alvin”, that’s comparing apples to oranges. You can’t expect to get parity among the results between individual shows and entire blocks.

Frankly, the entire thing has a whiff of dishonesty about it, as if Disney has something to hide about its shows. Content speaks for itself and if your shows really are as good as you say they are, then you should point out how much better they are than all these other, great, shows. Of course, this would prove to be the case with Tiny Toons, wich Disney calls “a pale comparison to the Disney Afternoon”. Hindsight is always 20/20, and the quality of Tiny Toons was all that Warner Bros. needed to prove that they were actually ahead of the game.

It would be really intersting to see the pitch booklets from the subsequent years. Did they contain similar language or was Disney left stuck for words? Either way, we know how things turned out in the end of the afternoon cartoon battles of the 1990s.

Cartoon Brew 3.0 is Here!

Folks in love with animation have numerous places to congregate on the web. However, none seems to rally the people like Cartoon Brew. It’s hard to believe that it’s been around for over six years now and my how it has changed.

The site started off as mostly a news/opinion blog co-authored by Jerry Beck and Amid Amidi. Why they decided on calling it a "Brew" I do not know, however it is fair to say that both gentlemen bring some really contrasting posts and commentary that is always welcome.

Over the years, the site has undergone periodical redesigns and updates that have helped keep things looking fresh. However, it is with this latest version that the Brewmasters as they are affectionately called, have upped the ante.

Their latest efforts have hit the right spot alright. The site has garnered a community of sorts over the years with a pool of regular commentors (yours truly included) but besides the daily posts and the odd competition, there wasn’t really anything about to serve the sites community bar a serious discussion in the comments.

All that has changed however! With the latest update, the site now boasts many more features designed to pull Cartoon Brew even close to the center of the animation universe on the web. There is now a series of rolling industry headlines, a series of top posts, and of course, the obligatory latest tweets. These are taken from the Brew’s animators directory that encompasses a wide range of folks from the community. We are promised that the list will change as appropriate. Is there a possibilty that I might get on there one day? Perhaps, a man can dream can’t he? Anyway, the list is a fantastic place to see the various happenings and goings on from folks in the industry.

In addition to these changes, the commenting system has been upgraded to allow threaded commenting and ratings too! The threaded commenting adds greatly to the idea of the site as a community. No longer will I seem to be replying blindly to other posts; I can now engage in discussion!

Two other items of note include the repositioned CBTV (currently in the midst of a so-far fascinating student film festival) and the surprise addition of CB Live! Of course, the Brewmasters have always been forthcoming in publicising events that they either organize or are attending, but this section is specifically for events organized and branded as Cartoon Brew-related. This is perhaps the biggest indication so far that the site does indeed have a real, living community of fans outside the web. I am very much looking forward to seeing what kind of events are in the pipeline, especially any on the East Coast.

Much lauded, Cartoon Brew continues to garner the type of following that only such hard work and dedication from its Brewmasters can bring. Version 3.0 will certainly continue the site’s growth as a center for news, commentary and informed discussion on all things animation that remains unparalleled on the net.

Cartoon Brew’s Student Animation festival

The Cartoon Brew TV Logo

Just a quick note about Cartoon Brew’s Student Animation Festival. It’s a great idea, and one that is  sorely needed. It is a wee bit regretful that only one film a week will be shown, but that is perhaps a result of the Brew’s finances rather than then whims of the Brewmasters.

I am very curious to see what comes of this. Having seen the quality of some students’ work last year at the ASIFA-East Festival, it will be interesting to see how Jerry and Amid curate their own. Will it contain mainly serious pieces or technologically perfect yet personality sterile films? Can we expect a few funny ones in there to lighten the mood? I sure hope so, the world is dour enough as it is at the moment.

The only gripe I have, and I’m sure there is a plausible reason for this is that the film may not have been posted online prior to it’s showing on Cartoon Brew. I can see why this might be so, but I do not see the logical reason behind it. In any event, student films are unlikely to be available from a school standpoint before they are shown in the festival, but c’mon, if I was a student making a film the first thing I would want to do is get it out there in the ether on as many video websites and blogs as possible, especially my own.

Nonetheless, having your film shown on Cartoon Brew will ensure that it is seen by a substantial amount of animation professionals and fans alike, which is certainly the best free advertising you will find anywhere. I’m also sure that if you are enterprising enough to enter your student film in a festival, you will also have the requisite website or blog to back it up. Nothing pains me more than seeing a great student film but having nowhere to find additional information. Hopefully these are smart students and I’ll have no problems finding their blogs.

Nonetheless, I admire the effort of both Amid and Jerry and judging by their previous broadcasts on CBTV, I think we will not be disappointed.