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

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/SmallLindsay/status/338030011212759042″]

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/my2k/status/339137959322320898″]

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/thatbilloakley/status/339503271305678849″]

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/frankrause/status/340485411073826817″]

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/AmosPosner/status/340540806400184320″]

And Lastly….

Gotta love that sly Looney Tune humour.

bugs stag reel

5 Predictions For The Future Of Animation

Yesterday, Michael Sporn posted an article from a 1969 issue of the magazine ‘Film in Review’ entitled “Tomorrow’s Animation: It’s Technique and It’s Content Will be Revolutionized”. It’s quite the interesting article, even more so because, as Michael rightly points out, it was written well before most of the current media landscape was even conceived! Besides, I love history, and I always get a kick out of old articles that somehow attempt to predict the future.

This one though, managed to get it mostly right. Here’s the 5 things it pointed to that would cause great change:

  1. Animation has become an international activity and is no longer the monopoly of Hollywood.
  2. The development of computer-generated film will alter the form, as well as the content, of film animation.
  3. Animation is no longer an arcane profession limited to animators
  4. In addition to supplying entertainment in theatres and on television, and advertising spots for TV, animation has become an essential teaching aid in education and industry….
  5. The four foregoing causes engender a fifth: animation is no longer looked down upon as the poor relation of live-action filmaking.

Pretty impressive, eh? It may have taken a few years for all of them to have come to fruition, but it is safe to say that animation today is much, much different from the late 1960s.

So with that in mind, could we pinpoint 5 causes that are at the forefront of animation today that will have a bearing on how it develops in the future? Let’s have a go.

 1.Economics will force a return of shorts

The way the internet and viewing habits are going, the short is likely to return to prominence as a form of entertainment. They may have been rendered obsolete by a wide variety of causes (chief among them the end of the package films) but in an internet age when viewing habits generally favour short-form content that can be turned out quickly and cheaply, the short is ripe for renewal.

2. Mature animation will become even more widespread

Blocks like [Adult Swim] have shown that mature animation has a place in western entertainment. In the years to come, as teenagers now turn into adults, expect them to continue to demand animation to satisfy their needs. Mature animation will continue to proliferate the entertainment world and will continuously improve in quality too.

3. Economics will kill-off the expensive animated feature

Toy Story 3 had a budget rumoured at around the $300 million mark. In the years to come, that will be an exorbitant amount of money to spend on a feature, even one with as much recognition as Toy Story. The economics that will force a return to shorts will also severely impact the budgets of feature animation too. Animated films can and have been made on a shoestring for a long time, so it should be expected that we will see some truly great films made for much less than the hundreds of millions that major studios throw at them.

4. Merchandise will become the primary revenue source

Merchandise is already a major form of revenue generation for animated films (both big and small), however, expect it to form a much larger share of the pie as the digital revolution eats away at the traditional streams. Cinemas will continue to exist and TV will never go away, but when people get used to viewing content for free, it will become ever harder to persuade them to part with their hard-earned cash just to simply watch something; at least at the cinema, you get a giant screen and sound loud enough to set off seismic meters.

5. Animation’s stature will equal that of live-action

Yes, it kind of echos the number five from the article, but that one only went so far as to say that animation would not be seen as the ugly sister of live-action. I firmly believe that animation will come to be seen as the equal of live-action in terms of skill and variety. Right now, we’re seeing an epic shift in how animation is perceived. No longer is it simply “for the kids”. Live action directors like Wes Anderson and Gore Verbinski have shown that there is a sincere interest on the part of live-action directors to embrace animation as a creative technique. We can look forward to a lot more cross-pollination in the future.

Michael Sporn Needs To Kickstart An Animated Film on Edgar Allan Poe

Independent animator and widely respected blogger, Michael Sporn announced on Wednesday his plan to use Kickstarter to fund a feature-length film on Edgar Allan Poe. Michael is hoping to raise $21,500 and in the space of only a few days has manged to raise almost a quarter of that!

This project serves as a reminder that animation is much more than just the big boys. Independent projects like this are (in my opinion) the future as traditional channels become obsolete thanks to the internet. The connection of creators and fans is becoming ever stronger and the best way to show your support for a project like this is to fund it, and for as low as $5, for a lot of folks, that’s less than a Starbucks coffee!

Embedded below is the video on the Kickstarter site. Watch it before heading over and pledging to a great project.

The Maryland Film Fest, Cars 2 Posters & Michael Sporn on the ASIFA-East Festival

MD Film Fest

Last night was a lot of fun down at the Charles Theater in Baltimore. The screening was packed and there was lots of top quality animation to be seen along with plenty of laughs and applause.

The shorts will be screened again on Sunday evening at 5pm in case you missed them.

Cars 2 Posters

Via: Hollywood.com

As much as I have already discussed the ones created by Eric Tan, the latest batch (such as above) truly boggle the mind. For one of the top creative companies on the planet to turn out/approve such banal works is most disappointing. Especially when the concern things like cars, objects elevated to the status of art a long time ago.

Besides that, the ‘puns’ for titles make for almost gut-wrenching reading. They are neither funny nor appropriate.

Based on what I’ve seen, I’d say we’re headed for Pixar’s first major misstep. You heard it here first.

Michael Sporn on the ASIFA-East Festival

Last week the ASIFA-East Festival took place in New York. I wasn’t there for personal reasons but I read about the winners the following day. Seeing as I had a final exam on Tuesday, I congratulated a few winners and carried on with my life.

However, it seems that a heated discussion blew up on Cartoon Brew after the list of winners were posted. Sometimes negativity can cloud the debate and spoil it for everyone. Which is exactly what happened here.

Michael Sporn has posted a sage response on his blog that is the best I’ve read. If you are in doubt about the society or its voting procedures, you should read it. I’m glad I read it first before the Brew comments.


Animation Renaissance

I’m a wee bit behind on various updates from my stable of animation blogs and websites so here is a belated link to a post by Michael Sporn featuring a magazine article written by the one and only Mr. John Canemaker discussing the state of the animation industry in 1980 (a.k.a. 30 years ago). The article serves as a good reminder that although the industry is always in a state of change, it is never permanently resigned to an unfortunate fate. It’s well worth a read.

Anomaly Approved: Michael Sporn

Michael Sporn is a great man. The reason? Not only is a gifted animator who has run his own, indpendent studio for well over 20 years, he also has a blog, affectionately known as his Splog, where he posts every single day.

To say that his knowledge of animation is extensive would almost be an insult. The man knows an awful lot about the artform and not-coincidentally also happens to know a heck of a lot of people in the industry. This is relevant for two reasons: lots of animation folks read his Splog and a few help contribute to it by way of personal collections and stuff kept from the old days.

In this, Michael’s posts fall into a few main categories:

  1. Mechanics posts
  2. Creative posts
  3. Event posts
  4. Review posts
  5. Photo posts

The mechanics posts are basically ones based on the nuts and bolts of animation. Timing, animating, characters, walk cycles, storyboards and so forth. These are really interesting to read as an outsider as the explanations and advice given is simple and straightforward. I may never use it, but you can never learn too much.

The creative posts look at animation design, things like backgrounds, layouts, character design (as opposed to drawing) etc. These posts are even better because they provide the reader with some fantastic art to look at. Michael doesn’t just stick to animation, he also posts about books, illustrations and the odd naughty cartoon thrown in for good measure.

The event posts are pretty straightforward. As a pillar within the animation community, Michael often attends events and he thankfully posts short recaps on most of them. Living in Baltimore, I really appreciate posts like this as I can find out what went on and how things went, even if I attend the event myself!

Michael’s review posts are often some of the best I can find for animated films. He is very objectionable and I highly commend him for this as it is so easy to become a cynical film critic. As an example, check out his reviews for Ponyo on the Cliffs by the Sea and The Secret of Kells (the same showing I went to).

Last but certainly not least, are his photo posts. Normally reserved for Sunday, these posts focus on life in New York city and the various eccentricities that one notices from living there. The photograph posts provide a break in the posting schedule and also mark the end of one week and the beginning of a new one.

With posts stretching back over 4 years (that’s every day for 4 years) the Splog itself is now a treasure-trove of information that can offer assistance even now. I have personally posted about stuff here on topics that Michael covered ages ago and who’s posts have been of enormous benefit to me.

With such an excellent repertoire of posts and his unique and thorough knowledge, I can safely say that Michael Sporn and his Splog are Anomaly Approved. 🙂