Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Disney Treasures -- Wave Seven News

There's an interview with Leonard Maltin up at Jim Hill Media. The main topic of discussion is the upcoming 20th edition of his annual movie guide, but more interesting (to you and me at least) is the brief mention of the upcoming wave seven of the Disney Treasures DVDs (which come out December 11):

"First up is 'Oswald the Lucky Rabbit,' " Maltin continued. "This two-disc set will feature several newly restored versions of these black & white silent cartoons. Some of which will now have an full orchestral track while others will feature just organ accompaniment. This DVD will also include Leslie Iwerk's great documentary, 'The Hand Behind the Mouse,' about her grandfather Ub Iwerks."

Also included in this "Disney Treasures" release is the oft-delayed "Disneyland: Secrets, Stories and Magic" as well as "The Chronological Donald -- Volume 3." Which will include intriguing extras like a featurette that documents Donald's many cameo appearances in feature films as well as an interview with noted Disney character sculptor Rubén Procopio. Who will demonstrate how you take a two-dimensional character like Donald Duck and change him into a 3D sculpture.

More on the Alvin and Horton trailers

At his blog, Mark Mayerson has posted his thoughts on the recently released trailers for Alvin and the Chipmunks and Horton Hears a Who. His blog post is titled "Two Trailers; Two Tragedies" -- can you guess what he thought of them? About the Chipmunks, he says:

What is it about toilet humour and animated films? We've gone from fart jokes to characters defecating on screen in Open Season to characters eating each other's waste material now. When did family films look to John Waters and Pink Flamingoes as a model? When did a porn fetish become children's entertainment? And who, at the MPAA, approved this trailer for all audiences?

My objection is not to the obscenity, it's the complete and total lack of imagination. In a medium where characters can do anything, they choose to do this? With the entire history of film comedy to draw on, this is the best they could do?

He's not much kinder to Horton Hears a Who:

Furthermore, whoever is behind the screenplay doesn't understand how to write for animation. There's way too much dialogue and the animators are stuck looking for gestures to keep the characters alive while the dialogue drones on. I don't envy the animator stuck with that Steve Carell scene. It's a tough challenge, but he or she is making it worse by using gestures to illustrate words and phrases as opposed to thoughts. The character is overly busy and the gestures are mostly empty of emotion.

At his own blog, Michael Sporn gives some of his comments on the trailers. Here's some of what he says about Alvin and the Chipmunks:

My immediate reaction to the ugly cg chipmunks was absolutely negative. There is nothing that could make me go to that film. The designs of the characters are completely off kilter. To think back to those limited animation but beautifully designed Format film originals, I can only sigh when I look at what a bastardization of ugly design people do today. It’s sad, really.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Smurfs on DVD

Good news for all you Smurfs fans: it's looking like the complete first season of the Smurfs is going to be released on DVD at some point this year. There's no official announcement yet, but apparently there's a promo on the new Popeye DVD. Jaime J. Weinman has posted the video on his blog. He also ponders what made the Smurfs so popular:

Interesting question is why kids love "The Smurfs." I attribute it to that whole "village" concept, the idea that the Smurfs lived in a secret village whose location was a secret to most non-Smurfs. That taps into kids' longing to have a secret place where adults can't find them and where adult rules don't apply; even though Papa Smurf is sort of an authority figure, it really feels like they're all kids and Gargamel is from the adult world. This concept was so successful that other cheesy '80s kids shows tried to do something similar; remember how on the Pac-Man cartoon, Pac-Man had a secret "power forest" that the villains were always trying to find.

At Cartoon Brew, Jerry Beck posted an image of a temporary tattoo being distributed at the Warner Brothers booth at the San Diego Comic-Con, which confirms that the DVD will be out this year:

The commenters at the Brew -- aside from debating the procreational logistics of a community containing only one female -- seem somewhat ambivalent. Larry T is pleased, though:

Seriously you guys, take a look at the artists’ credit list the next time you watch one of those things- it’s jam-packed full of whomever was held over from H-B studios, WB, and MGM. There’s some pretty funny stuff in there if you watch some of the better ones, especially in the first two seasons.

David Gerstein prefers the Smurfs in their original iteration:

Were the Smurfs’ Hanna-Barbera series their entire body of work, I can’t say I’d be very interested in them. But the Smurfs were earlier in Pierre Culliford’s brilliant series of semi-sophisticated comic albums—Asterix-style stories, even translated to English in the late 1970s by the Asterix team. Some earlier H-B cartoons were dumbed-down versions of the album stories; but the originals included such scenarios as Smurf civil war, Smurf political turmoil, and Smurf drinking binges… no kidding!
(It’s the same story as with Mickey Mouse; once the American public perceives the brand as being for preschoolers, the original version of the characters comes across as almost a dark parody of the version with which more people are familiar.)

Monday, July 30, 2007

Popeye DVD early opinions

Well, the much-anticipated Popeye DVD doesn't officially come out until tomorrow, but it looks like a few people have already gotten their hands on a copy. At the Golden Age Cartoons forum, J. Lee posts some of his early observations:

I'm starting with Popeye, Vol. 1, Disc 1 and working through. Picture quality on "Popeye the Sailor" looks good, though they didn't go though the painstaking process of perfectly recreating the Paramount opening. The menu layout is similar to the ones for the LTGC -- no surprise there -- using still photos of the characters and the opening music bed to "I Eats Me Spinach" for the background.

Chris_1988 weighs in with a few of his opinions:

Packaging is good I like the popped out look of popeye on the front cover. Upon Opening I notice it is overlapping discs in the same packaging way as LTGC vol. 4. I like the screenshots along the middle of the interior of the set with descriptions of all that is on each of the 4 discs above and below the screenshot. I thought it was cute that they had an insert inside of a coupon for 25 cents off popeye spinach and 2 recipes for popeyes party pizzas, and popeyes party dip. ... As for the cartoons themselves I watched a few and the the picture and sound quality are great. I really like how you can see the details in the characters especially. the discs do open with a written disclaimer worded pretty much exactly like in LTGC vol 4.

At the Animation Show forum, Mrmcdermott shares some of his opinions on the DVD:

Sat up late Saturday, watching the first four of the cartoons with commentary. Everything looks totally spiffalicious. Highly doubtful one would see DVNR. I believe a frame in greyscale needs a lot less data than one in color. Everything I stillframed looked for all the world like it was shot from an original cel setup...

But wait! On "Blow Me Down!" On the scene where Olive is frantically dancing to dislodge two spittoons on her feet: One frame seems to show Olive with... NO EYEBROW! Oh, the humanity!

So there you go. Once tomorrow rolls around we should be seeing a lot more comments pop up on this DVD (I know I'll be picking up my copy).

Comic-Con Wall-E info

It looks like Andrew Stanton has revealed a bit of info on Pixar's upcoming film, Wall-E, at the Disney/Pixar presentation at the San Diego Comic-Con. It sounds interesting:

First, Stanton talked about the film, which he described as basically "R2-D2 the movie," tells the story of a "trash-collecting robot named Wall E" who gets a chance to finally leave a world where he's been alone for years and go into space. Once there, "he falls in love and its this love that may allow him to save mankind." He also talked about the challenges of making a film like Wall E, one where the main character is a robot who communicates with a series of sounds and doesn't have a traditional voice. ...

Next, they decided to show a completed sequence from the film, complete with sound effects and music from composer Thomas Newman, who Stanton confirmed was doing the music for the film. The sequence, like most anything Pixar does, was great. Being able to convey such depth of emotion and tell a story so effectively by using only images and sounds and without dialog, takes a special kind of talent that Stanton and Pixar obviously have in spades. In short, the clip was great and I can't wait for the film.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

The Sour Puss -- Underrated?

Hammerson has posted a bunch of pictures from Bob Clampett's "the Sour Puss" on his blog, and wonders why the film has such a bad reputation:

Ladies and gentlemen, here's a cartoon usually regarded as the worst thing that Bob Clampett has ever done at Warners. So often I've seen the opinion that "The Sour Puss" represents a real nadir, a big stinky blot in an almost faultless filmography of a great director. I've also seen it mentioned on various lists of the worst classic cartoons of all time... and I wonder why? What's the matter with you, people?!?

John Young agrees:

This is one of my favorites. I had no idea people hated this one, I find that extremely puzzling. There are so many funny drawings in there it's almost ridiculous. It makes me feel alone in the universe 'cuz this is one of those cartoons I show my my non-cartoon friends so they can see why i like cartoons so much.

J. Lee offers his opinion on why the cartoon is so derided:

I like the first half of the cartoon -- the cartoon deserves respect if for no other reason than the "Now I've seen everything" suicide gag debuts here -- but the second half comes across as something Ben Hardaway would have done if Cal Dalton designed wilder poses for the animators.

Clampett was obvously feeling constrained by 1940 at having to use Porky in every cartoon, and one of the ways to liven things up was -- as Hardaway did in "Porky's Hare Hunt" -- take the Avery-Clampett Daffy Duck model and stick it into a different body. So here we get the original Daffy in a fish suit, and in "Paitent Porky" we get the original Daffy in a cat costume. There are some good gags in both cartoons, but neither of Porky's antagonists are Daffy Duck, which takes away from both shorts.

Taz and Marvin -- what's the deal?

Oceansoul, posting at the Golden Age Cartoons forum, wonders why the Tazmanian Devil and Marvin the Martian receive so much marketing hype despite their relatively sparse filmography:

Actually when you see any Looney Tunes merchandise or ad, you probably recognise either of the two very overrated character faces there. What's the legacy of the two characters to become so big merchandise faces of the golden series? OK, Marvin has one memorable episode (Duck dodgers), which I always considered a bit of overrated, but there are a lot others have even more: Michigan Frog, Gossamer, Henery Hawk, Rocky, Sniffles, Sylvester Jr, Witch Hazel... all of them are secondary stars but never got the same spotlight that Marvin got. As for Taz, he is even worse. Neither of his five shorts were great, Ducking the devil was average to good, but that's all. And he was hyped after the end of LT series, even got an own series, Taz-Mania.

Matt the Y provides a prompt response:

Taz was overrated even from the start. Even studio boss Eddie Selzer found him annoying to the point where he ordered McKimson not to make anymore cartoons featuring the character after "Devil May Hare". Jack Warner, however, thought that ol' Taz was absolutely hilarious and asked Selzer to reconsider his anti-Taz edict and he did. Thus, we got "Bedevilled Rabbit" and the remaining Taz shorts. Why J.L. found the character so delightfully funny is a complete mystery to me; sure, he's kind of funny but not that funny; what difference would it have made if he starred in more shorts or not?!

Anyway, to answer your question as to why Taz is just so popular in merchandising and otherwise, Jerry Beck virtually summed it up in his audio commentary for "Devil May Hare" on the first GC DVD; people can actually relate to Taz because he's the ultimate slob. He's always hungry, he's completely unbridled and untamed, and, as Mr. Beck himself put it, if you can actually bring yourself to imagine Taz's personal bedroom at his home, you can almost bet that it would be an absolute mess. People think that's cool; hence the bountiful merchandise of the character.

As for Marvin the Martian; I honestly never noticed that the character was that heavily merchandised. I certainly noticed the extreme over-merchandising of Taz; that's undeniable. Marvin much less so. But to answer your question, I can see how general audiences could find Marvin "cool"; he's an outer-space oriented science-fiction cartoon character with seemingly hostile motives (i.e. in two cartoons, he's intent on destroying the Earth; in one cartoon, he's intent on bringing back a helpless Earth rabbit to his home planet). That probably adds to his popularity; hence his bountiful merchandise.

Ben Hardaway -- the Birth of the Screwball

At the Golden Age Cartoons forum, Lonesome-Lenny shares his theory about Ben Hardaway:

It seems pretty clear to me that he is the creator of the "daffy" screwball character, as we know it, in classic Hollywood cartoons. He had a strong hand in creating Bugs Bunny, and it's evident that he played an equally strong role in creating Woody Woodpecker. I'm uncertain if he contributed to any of Daffy Duck's early appearances, but I'd guess it's likely he did. Hardaway was truly onto something with this notion of the anti-social, screwball character. It was a fresh wind of influence in animation. It helped others give up trying to create an imitation Mickey Mouse, and fanned the flames of the brash, lively spirit of 1940s animation.

J. J. Hunsecker disagrees with this theory (and doesn't seem to be a very big fan of Hardaway's cartoons, either):

I wouldn't credit Hardaway with the creation of the "daffy" screwball character. I give that credit to Tex Avery, with Porky's Duck Hunt (the writing is credited to Rich Hogan for that cartoon. Though sometimes the credits on the Schlesinger cartoons are wrong). From the interviews I've read it seems that Hardaway decided to imitate Porky's Duck Hunt with Porky's Hare Hunt, by putting Daffy in a rabbit suit. The "daffy" hare eventually evolved into Bugs Bunny thanks again to Tex Avery. Woody Woodpecker is also based on Avery's version of Daffy Duck.

Hardaway's entire style -- from writing, drawing, and directing -- was crude and unsophisticated. Avery might not have been a great draftsman himself, but he was a terrific gagman and director. Shamus Culhane wrote that to Hardaway a joke was a joke, and it didn't matter if it fit the character or not.

Lonesome-Lenny responds:

I do agree that Avery deserves the credit for the basic creation and refinement of the screwball character in animation. Hardaway had his own formula, which he tried out at WB, in competition with Avery's (and Clampett's) and ran amok with at Lantz. What fascinates me is that Hardaway kept pursuing his heavy-handed path, while other writers and directors continued to refine the zany character in animated cartoons.

I re-read portions of Culhane's memoirs last night, and refreshed my memory of how much the director disliked Hardaway's writing. So did co-storyman Milt Schaffer. Culhane describes story meetings in which Hardaway kills himself with his lengthy puns, while Schaffer just rolls his eyes toward the ceiling... I really wonder how Hardaway was able to have such influence in the animation world when his work was so checkered. Perhaps Lantz liked him personally, and wanted to give him steady work?

Sogturtle replies:

Actually Hardaway's cartoon career goes all the way back to Iwerks' Flip the Frog cartoons and we can credit him with a lot (if not all) of the lovably strange and weird humor in those cartoons. His hiring and influence at Schlesinger's is definitely attributable to Friz Freleng. Ben's gag-influence during his six plus years at Schlesinger's really only became recognizable when he graduated up to director and particularly the second time around. Honestly his writing there (or story-editing) is SO submerged into the "omelettes" that the directors and two story crews created that a person can't really detect a clear "Hardaway cartoon mindset" until he took the director's chair.

Whether Ben had any contribution into "Porky's Duck Hunt" is and will remain unknown since the story-crews alternated and the cartoon bears no story credit. As such we really can only credit Tex Avery with Daffy's creation (and Tex always sat in with the story crew so regardless which crew helped with the cartoon, the demented duck had to have been Tex's baby). HOWEVER as well documented, Hardaway loved the idea of Daffy being a looney-tooney character and latched onto it with the oft quoted line "I'm going to put that duck into a rabbit suit". And THAT is where Ben's weakness is most obvious as he and the crews came up with some fine and funny gags in his and Dalton's two rabbit cartoons, but he showed NO understanding of HOW to create a LIKABLE character. His rabbit is not just looney but patently obnoxious in those cartoons.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Horton Hears a Who trailer

Jerry Beck has posted a link to the new trailer for Blue Sky's upcoming Dr. Seuss adaptation, Horton Hears a Who. The reaction is less than positive. Esn thinks it's too "hip":

What’s with this urge to make everyone and everything “hip”? Horton is not “hip”, and never was. Neither were Goofy or Charlie Brown, and yet they are both beloved characters (both of them also suffered some attempts by people who didn’t get it to make them “hip”).

Fred Sparrman thinks that Hollywood should leave Dr. Seuss alone:

Out of all the countless adaptations of his books, what actually “works”? Chuck Jones’ Grinch special. Maybe Clampett’s Horton film, been too long since I’ve seen it. But nothing else! Live action Grinch film? Doesn’t work. Seussical the Musical? Doesn’t work. Daisy-Head Mayzie, the manuscript he wrote and set aside which got released posthumously with faux-Seuss knock-off illustrations? Doesn’t work.

Katie laments the presence of celebrity voices:

I agree with the posters above, it’s not Horton anymore. It’s Jim Carrey in an elephant suit. It’s Carrel in a Who suit. His acting does not appeal to me at all. I still stand by my belief that he can only play Ace Ventura, and nothing else. He just gets way to bizarre and takes most of his roles over the top. It breaks my heart when the integrity of the character is sacrificed to adapt to the “voice” actor’s own style.

It's not all gloom and doom, though. Dav-Odd in particular seems to really love the trailer, or at least certain parts of it:

Wow! You know what I like about this? The camera work. And I like how the speck of pollen looks stuck on top of that big flower. Good job, Blue Sky! On the flower, and the camera!

(Though depending on how you read that, it could be seen as really positive or really sarcastic. I think the guy was trying to be positive, though.)

Woody Woodpecker DVD -- Worth buying?

At the Animation Show forum, Ironhorse asks Stephen Worth if he's checked out the new Woody Woodpecker DVD, and if so, if it's worth buying. Worth replies:

I got a copy of the Woody set. I'm going to do some frame grabs and return it to the store. I'll post on it tomorrow.

Am01ne takes offense to this:

No offense to Steve, (with whom I happen to agree in most cases pertaining to digital restorations of most animated releases)... but he seems to put more energy into criticizing and complaining about landmark events (Imagine Universal actually releasing official licensed sets of uncut Lantz material?!) than appreciating the classic films that are sop deserving! These are some of the greatest cartoons from the golden age of Hollywood's studios. Never have they been compiled and collected uncut and in better condition for public consumption before. Overall the set does have some minor faults. Most DVD's do (with the exception of the upcoming Popeye set, I can think of no piece of classic animation released to DVD yet that was not in some way flawed). But all on all, this is a release to be celebrated and enjoyed!

Brandon seems a bit confused by Worth's comments:

You're.... you're gonna BUY a copy... make screengrabs..... then return your copy to the store....???

What is the point...??? I'd frickin keep my copy!!!

Worth's comments must have really struck a nerve for Am01ne, because he comes back later in the thread:

Anyone who buys this just to take screen grabs and return it the next day... well I have to question how much you actually ENJOY watching the cartoons or whether it's become about something else. It's like people working in record stores. I see the same thing all the time. Guys who supposedly love and are passionate about music but spend all day long trashing it! They've put themselves on these high pedestals where they look down upon everything with a snooty attitude if it doesn't fall into their constantly demoded elitist hipster code. Same thing has happened with DVD. Cinephiles turned dorky videophiles that have forgotten the purpose of why we buy movies in the first place... THE FILMS THEMSELVES!

I love these cartoons and this is the only way we're going to get them (and hopefully more if the sales prove a profitable venutre for the studio) and truth be told, they look damn acceptable.

Stephen Worth responds:

The problem I have is with "reviewers" who say that we should buy a DVD set, whether or not it is a quality product, in the hopes that it will encourage the studio to release more. This approach just hasn't worked. Transfers were more accurate and artifact free back in the laserdisc era- plus there were more complete sets than you could shake a stick at. Where are all those cartoons now? Telecine technology today is much better, so why aren't the transfers better? The reason is that the studios think we'll accept whatever they dish out to us.

There's only one way to encourage the studios to improve the quality of their product. And that's to shine a light on their mistakes. If there's digital artifacting, don't make excuses for it. Point it out. Post a frame grab so everyone can see if it's something that they can't live with. Don't make that determination for them.

Cartoon Brew in San Diego

Jerry and Amid over at Cartoon Brew have both been checking out the San Diego Comic-Con. Jerry seems to be having a good time. The ever-crotchety Amid, on the other hand, is stirring up a bit of controversy. In a post entitled "Overheard in San Diego...", he describes an "obese fanboy with a thick accent hailing from Mexico," who apparently said the following:

“Animation just isn’t what it used to be. I really prefer the classic animation, the way it used to be in the old days. When I was growing up, we had quality animation like GI Joe and Transformers.”

He then goes on to explain why he had to leave the convention:

Needless to say, I lasted barely a day at the Con this year before heading back on Thursday evening. The stench of the event—both figurative and literal—was overwhelming. There was simply too much crass commercialism on display, and too little appreciation or joy for any art form.

Some of the commenters at the Brew don't seem too impressed. Smitha notes:

I think this comment was completely out of line. The last paragraph alone would have been fine–but why resort to mocking a fan of 80s cartoons by pointing out his weight and ethnicity? Is that supposed to be the punchline of the joke? That’s horrible and in extremely poor taste that you would point those out as characteristics to be mocked.

I’m 25, and I grew up watching cartoons in that same time period. I run a fan site for The Pirates of Dark Water, the short-lived but high-quality Hanna-Barbera show from the early 90s. I’m not at all embarrassed to admit that I’ve loved shows like She-Ra and Thundercats since I was a little girl. That doesn’t make me any less of an animation fan. Those were the shows that have inspired the love of animation I’ve had throughout my life, and the same can be said for many other people in my age group.

Amid responds:

Since when is describing somebody’s weight or ethnicity considered mocking them? I was describing the person making the asinine comment for the benefit of our readership. There was no need to mock or make fun of this guy; his words speak for themselves.

Matt disagrees:

Wow Amid, take it on the chin man. The “who” is redundant. I feel you’re being a bit disingenuous with your reply to Smitha. If you set out to talk about con attendees bringing the stereotyping on themselves, fine. If the point was taste in animation (or lack thereof) then the irony of the quote doesn’t seem to be dependent on the type of person who said it. ... Another comic-con/animation enthusiast stereotype is the elitist. THERE’S a pertinent stereotype for you AND he. Don’t throw stones my friend.

Not everyone is offended, though. Darren:

This is the funniest post I’ve read in ages! Since when is describing a person’s characteristics considered mockery? I used to think it was a part of good storytelling. Are we wound up so tight that laughing at the faults of someone who is slightly different than us is impossible? And since when is B.O. socially acceptable? Since when is ignorance and arrogance not the target of ridicule? Have we gone so far down the P.C. slope that everything is okay, every viewpoint is valid, everyone is accepted, and “everything is beautiful in it’s own way”?

Stephen Worth also agrees with Amid:

It’s fine to feel all sentimental about cartoons of your childhood, whether they are He-Man and Pirates of Dark Water or Batfink and Groovie Ghoulies. But don’t make the mistake of thinking just because they mean something to you personally that they have some sort of intrinsic quality that makes them unassailable.

As someone who worked on cartoons that you probably watched as a kid, I can truthfully say that almost all of the animation of the late 70s and 80s was complete and utter crap. It was fine for someone like me who was just starting out to work on shows like that and learn the ropes, but I have nothing but sympathy for the old-timers who had cut their teeth on Disney features and Tom & Jerry cartoons. They were forced to stoop incredibly low just to accumulate enough time on the job to retire and get the hell out of the hell hole that the artform they loved have become. It must have felt like destroying the thing you love for the almighty dollar. No wonder so many old guys were bitter and cranky.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Alvin and the Chipmunks teaser

There's a teaser up for the upcoming Alvin and the Chipmunks film, and while it doesn't look quite as bad as the poster might lead you to believe (and it could certainly be worse), it doesn't exactly make me want to count down the days to its December 14th release date. But hey, if you've always wanted to see Alvin eat Theodore's poop, today is your lucky day.

Source: Cinematical

Thursday, July 26, 2007

The Censored Eleven

There's a discussion about which six of the censored eleven cartoons they'd like to see released at the Golden Age Cartoons forum. The two constants among the bunch seem to be Tin Pan Alley Cats, and Coal Black and de Sebben Dwarfs. Speaking of Coal Black, at his blog, Jaime J. Weinman ponders whether that controversial cartoon will ever see a release:
I'm not sure how to get around that, because in all honesty, if "Coal Black" were released and a controversy erupted, that probably would be bad for the marketing/franchising of WB cartoons. I don't think the controversy over "Bugs Bunny Nips the Nips" did Turner any favors back in the '90s (Turner released it on a laserdisc but then, foolishly, released it on a mass-market VHS as well, and people who bought this thing for their kids were understandably outraged). To get a release, someone would probably have to convince WB executives that there won't be any controversy, and I'm not sure that anyone can guarantee that. "Coal Black" is a great cartoon, but I've seen the reactions to it of people who are not cartoon buffs, and it does make many people very uncomfortable and, yes, even angry.

The Little King DVD shipping

At the Golden Age Cartoons forum, Steve Stanchfield has announced that the latest Thunderbean DVD, The Complete Animated Adventures of the Little King, is now shipping. Given the high quality of the previous Thunderbean releases, I would say this is a must-buy if you're interested in these cartoons. There's a review of the DVD at Animated Views, and it's looking good:

...otherwise there is nothing to fault here; image is just as good as one would expect from early 1930s material that has passed through many hands over the years and has been widely sourced to present the best available elements. Slightly windowboxed to present the entire original frame and progressively transferred, folks who seek titles like these out know what to expect, and I think will be pleasantly surprised here.

The DVD can be purchased directly from Steve himself, or from

Beowulf trailer online

There's a trailer online for Robert Zemeckis' latest mo-cap abomination, Beowulf. Someone needs to explain to me why this needs to be animated if all they're trying to do is artlessly emulate real people. I just... well, I think this perfectly sums up my reaction to this trailer:

Friday, July 20, 2007

Terrytoons and Famous DVDs -- Where? When?

At the Animation Show forums, ParamountCartoons93 wonders why Viacom hasn't given Terrytoons and Famous cartoons any kind of DVD release. Jboschen notes that it isn't just cartoons that have been given the short shrift by Viacom:

If you notice however, it is not just classic Paramount and Terrytoons/Fox cartoons that are not being released, Lots old movies, shorts, which Viacom owns (such as the the old Republic movies ("She Married a Cop" for example) and Paramount Shorts have not been released to DVD or even played on television.

Brandon mentions that Viacom isn't alone in their treatment of classic cartoons:

Sony hasn't relased their Columbia cartoons yet either (not that their any better than Fleicher's), although Jerry Beck said some time ago that the Columbia cartoons were restored..... but.... isn't that a waste of money? Restore all your library and then NOT RELEASE THEM

Ray Pointer brings up the fact that some of these cartoons may just be lost forever:

As for Columbia restoring its cartoons, they have done so for foreign markets, and not everything was saved from what I understand. Certain early Krazy Kat cartoons are either missing tracks, or have serious Nitrate deterioration. In other cases they no longer have negatives, or color elements on cartoons such as BARNEY GOOGLE and LIL' ABNER. The ABNERS that were released on VHS were of the horrible color remake process used for the BETTY BOOP and LOONEY TUNES cartoons.

Then later in the thread, Pointer brings up the unfortunate fact that there isn't necessarily a big enough market for these cartoons to make it worthwhile for the big studios to release them:

I had a meeting with a representative of Buena Vista Home Video four months ago. She told me of the disappointing sales on the Walt Disney Treasures. They did only 25,000 units of sales. For me, that would be a tremendous thing. But when you consider the size and overhead of the Walt Disney Company, this is not a good return. It is because of reports such as this that these companies are so conservative about their older material. In the case of Disney, I don't believe they marketed it properly. At the same time, I don't believe the releasing on DVD was the right choice since they do own cable outlets which would have exposed the films to a fresh audience at less expense. The same applies to Viacom.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Duck Amuck

Though most videogames featuring Looney Tunes characters have been less than impressive (putting it mildly), there's a new one that sounds like it might actually be kind of interesting. Announced at the last week's E3 (the annual trade show for the videogame industry), it's for the Nintendo DS, and it's called Looney Tunes: Duck Amuck, based on the classic Chuck Jones cartoon of the same title. It sounds like you get to play the role of the animator messing with Daffy Duck:

Rub out part of Daffy’s body, for instance, and draw in something else. Use the DS microphone to alter Daffy’s voice. And you even can temporarily close the DS while still following instructions from Daffy on when to push the left and right shoulder buttons (to achieve the desired result upon re-opening).

Source: Joystiq

The rise and fall of TV animation

At the Golden Age Cartoons forum, there's a discussion going on about the declining quality of television animation. The always insightful Ray Pointer weighs in:

In other aspects, it is the industry's current disdain and lack of respect for experienced personnel who know how to create and guide well crafted programs. What they are doing is giving far too much creative freedom to inexperienced younger artists who really have not learned the craft, and most of all, do not have enough real life experience to draw upon for story material. At the same time, there is a lack of understanding of how animation is effectively applied, and mostly a lack of strong directing sense. What results is an imitation of what has been seen in other cartoons and television shows. This, and a limited literacy level also affects the writing of such programs as well as the quality of the humor. I find that too much of what is being offered as "humor" is introspective to that group in the studio, and not understood by the general public which the cartoon is being made for.

Mark J makes an interesting point:

I'm not convinced that TV animation is any worse than it has been since it's inception. Made for TV toons from the 1950's on were all generally awful to look at and produced on shoestring budgets. Look at the awful limited animation in HB toons, Filmation, junk like Speedracer and Corageous Cat and Minute Mouse etc. Those were ugly and terribly animated. It is no better or worse today, it's just that people have emotional attachments to shows they watched as children and believe they are 'superior' to modern mass produced product. The only quality animation was theatrically produced and is long gone.

But Alf disagrees:

But at least, many of the 60´s toons, despite cheap animation, had at least clever scripts which did not talk down the viewer, be it a child or an adult... look at Rocky & Bullwinkle and the rest of the Jay Ward shows, Beany & Cecil, Roger Ramjet and others (including, of course, Tom Terrific).

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

"Cheapquels" -- good or bad?

Jerry Beck has posted a link to an interesting article over at Cartoon Brew: it's an article which takes the unusual position of defending Disney's now-defunct direct-to-DVD sequels. From the article:

Perhaps ticket buyers (i.e., parents) long for a different era of animation. If so, Disney's sequels will do a much better job of reminding them of the animated classics than the slick gagfests in today's theaters. Despite their straight-to-DVD status, there's nothing cheap or knocked-off about the animators' work on these sequels. They have a rich, hand-drawn look that few studios' CG efforts can match.

The readers of Cartoon Brew aren't buying it. RR comments:

A good point is made here. But must we rehash and shove roman numerals onto classics to enjoy this “different era of animation”? I’d rather my children watch the original Bambi one hundred times than the Bambi sequels 1 through 100.

Emily agrees:

What a strange article. I actually saw a couple of the Disney sequels, and they were enjoyable in a certain way - it’s fun to see more 2D Disney animation. However, they are not original. The plots I’ve seen were very contrived and I hate those manipulative moments where you can see them trying so hard to pull at your heartstrings. I don’t think that playing off of the original jokes and plots with a new “twist” is really any more creative than fart jokes. Just think if they put all that animation energy into creating original characters and engaging plots - wouldn’t that be more fun?

And Floyd Norman really agrees:

Oh, please!

Those damn sequels were about nothing else except making easy money. Just be honest and admit it.

The “Old Man” would bitch slap those greedy executives.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

More Golden Collection speculation

Over at the Animation Show forums, TinaMarina wonders if we might finally see some of the controversial "censored 11" on the upcoming volume five of the Looney Tunes Golden Collection DVDs:

This sounds like the Golden Collection of every cartoon fans' dreams--especially since the Fairy Tale and Bob Clampett discs could give way to some of the Censored 11 cartoons appearing, preferably:

--Coal Black and De Sebben Dwarfs (could be on either the Bob Clampett disc or the Fairy Tale disc)
--Goldilocks and the Jivin' Bears (Fairy Tale disc, since this is a Friz Freleng cartoon)
--Tin Pan Alley Cats (Clampett disc, since it's not based on a fairy tale)

To me, Coal Black seems to be the one most likely on the disc set since it is a fairy tale, it is a Bob Clampett cartoon, and everyone loves it despite the racial stereotypes. The others have a chance, but it's a long shot. Then again, I said the same thing about "Mississippi Hare" appearing in volume 4 and look what happened.

Alas, it is not to be. Jerry Beck puts this idea to rest:

I hate to break it to you... but those titles will not be appearing on Vol. 5. Sorry.

Which is unfortunate, but not altogether surprising. Why would Warner Brothers bother risking the type of backlash they might suffer by releasing a cartoon like Coal Black, when there are still so many great cartoons not yet on DVD?

Friday, July 13, 2007

Song of the South -- finally on DVD?

You can file this under "I'll believe it when I see it" -- according to Jim Hill, we may actually see a DVD release of Song of the South, either in late 2008 or early 2009. I think this can be taken with a fairly large grain of salt, as it certainly isn't the first time we've heard that this title will finally see a DVD release.

You see, what with DisneyToon Studios now becoming a non-sequel producing operation as well as Dick Cook's decision last year to significantly cut back on the number of movies Walt Disney Studios will release every year ... Well, that leaves Buena Vista Home Entertainment (Soon to be renamed Walt Disney Entertainment) with significantly fewer titles to put out on store shelves in the coming year. And given that BVHE will still be expected to make its numbers ... Well, that means that they're going to have to release something that the public really wants to get its hands on. And that, my friends, is "Song of the South."

As I mentioned back in May, Disney is still hoping to use "The Princess and the Frog" to help soften any racial concerns that movie-goers may have about this 1946 Academy Award winner. Which is why the studio is looking to get production of this new John Musker & Ron Clements underway later this year. So that they'd then have a full sequence from that still-in-story-development film to drop onto that DVD. Which will then hopefully help rebuff any "Song of the South" 's critics.

So if you can just hang in there for another year or two, Craig, you should finally be able to get your hands on a really-for-real copy of "Song of the South." Not an illegal dub of the Japanese laser disc. But -- rather -- a full-blown DVD straight from Buena Vista Home Entertainment ... er ... Walt Disney Home Entertainment.

Source: Reel Fanatic

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Tex Avery and the Golden Collections

At the Golden Age Cartoons forums, Houserunner ponders why Tex Avery has been so underrepresented so far on the Looney Tunes Golden Collection DVDs:

I read LTGC VOL.5 news. Yes, it looks like another great set, Robert Clampett is my second favorite cartoon director, so Clampett disc is a great news to me. But, I don't understand why five volumes of Looney Tunes not had one Tex Avery disc. Yes, I believe Tex Avery set will happen newt year or in the near future, I agree Tex made his best cartoons with MGM but he made so many innovative, influential classics with WB. But, after five volumes of LTGC, not one single Avery disc? I don't understand.

Janiepooh34 is blunt:

Why? Because the people that make the decisions are idiots.


Avery also has the worst representation of all the directors on the Golden Collections (7 measly cartoons. Even Clampett and Tashlin have much much better showings). As a matter of fact, we've had two WHOLE Golden Collections with no Avery shorts whatsoever. Why? Is is because Avery's WB cartoons are considered inferior to his MGM cartoons?

J. J. Hunsecker has a theory:

It's probably because most people prefer the WB cartoons from the 40's and 50's (the classics most people remember from childhood). The cartoons from the 30's are largely unknown to most audiences, and are probably a little troubling for Warners since most of them are in black & White or are somewhat crude in their animation. Most of Avery's Warner cartoons are from the 30's, so you can see why an entire disc hasn't been devoted to him.

Leviathan isn't so sure about that:

They had no problem giving Tashlin his own disc (full of '30's cartoons, animation quality comparable to the Van Beuren cartoons from earlier in the decade). And a Clampett disc is imminent (Most likely More 30's cartoons). Furthermore, Avery's color cartoons greatly outnumber his B/W cartoons (He made only 12 B/W cartoons, since he worked exclusively in the Merrie Melodies from 1937 through for all intents and purposes his Departure to MGM)

Jack has a different theory:

I think they're trying to space out some of the more marketable content in the discs (and regardless of whether Avery's WB work was crude or not, he is actually fairly well known to a lot of people, so his name on anything is a draw). I think it'll happen, we just need to wait for it.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

John K talks Popeye

John K has posted some thoughts about Popeye on his blog, and why he thinks Popeye cartoons are so great:

I love Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Droopy and many other classic cartoon characters, but the series that is most consistently funny and inventive to me is the Fleischer Popeye cartoons. For a solid run of about 6 years, these cartoons are really fun, funny and inventive. And they glorify in their cartooniness.

He also talks about the upcoming DVD, and some of his qualms about the restoration of the colour cartoons:

I was doing a commentary on Sindbad and I kept screaming about the print, because it was neon pink, purple and turquoise and they kept swearing to me that that was not going to be the final print. They even showed me another one which looked totally different and had assorted colors in it. It seems that the My Little Pony version is the one on the dvd if these frame grabs are any indication.

Who knows, it's possible that those are the actual original colors, but it's very hard for me to believe that in 1936 there was a 12 year old girl who picked all the colors for such sophisticated cartoons.

Woody Woodpecker and Friends -- Screengrabs

I just received a copy of the Woody Woodpecker DVD that's coming out in a couple of weeks. I'll be posting my full review closer to the release date at Reel Film Reviews, but in the meantime here's some screengrabs:

They cartoons, for the most part, look pretty good. The quality isn't going to blow anybody away, but all things considered I'm very happy. Of course, the bane of cartoons everywhere, DVNR, rears its ugly head:

The black and white Oswald cartoons seem to have it the worst:

More details on LTGC Volume 5

Over at the Golden Age Cartoons forum, the Cartoon King posts word that a few more details have been released about the upcoming fifth volume of the Looney Tunes Golden Collection DVD. Still no full list of cartoons, but better than nothing for now. From

More Looney Tunes...your wish is our command. In this 4-disc set are 60 of the most hysterical Looney Tunes ever created and over 5 hours of extra special features. Indeed, some have never before been on home video! Disc 1 celebrates a duo every bit as famous as thunder and lightning or beans and weenies: Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck. Termite Terrace provides peerless takes on Fairy Tales in Disc 2. Not to be outdone, Disc 3 showcases the hilarious talent of the great animator Robert Clampett. And the fowl deeds and rabbit-fire jokes wrap with Disc 4's hamboree jamboree of Porky Pig and more classics.

Kaseykockroach wonders:

Does this mean Porky is going to get another disc? Or is it another All-stars? By the sound of it, it sorta sounds like a "Porky & Friends" type of disc to me.Either way, Mouse Menace just has to be included! P.S: Also, if there a Clampett Disc, does this mean more John K. commentaries?

Eugene the Jeep quickly puts that notion to rest:

No. He thinks the series is an abomination.

Leviathan weighs in:

Clampett getting his own disc is overdue. I would expect to see at least one commentary from you-know-who on the disc (and an appropriate blog entry damning Warner Bros. for turning the shorts into candycane lane, but that's neither here nor there). And here's hoping at least one Foghorn Leghorn makes it to the last disc.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

What's Opera, Doc -- 50 years later

Apparently it's the 50th anniversary of Chuck Jones' classic short, "What's Opera, Doc" and the Toronto Star has posted an article to commemorate the occasion. According to Wikipedia, the cartoon was initially released on June 6, 1957. There's nothing in the article you probably didn't already know, but it's still a nicely written reminder to the masses that yes, animation did exist before computers.

The key was placing it between two Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner cartoons in the production schedule. Formulaic by design, those ones could be done fast and cheap. Knock off the Coyote films ahead of schedule and under budget, reallocate the time and money to "What's Opera, Doc?" so the overall budgets remained intact, and voila! A masterpiece created right under the noses of studio executives who would have vetoed the idea long before Elmer Fudd could have raised his spear and donned his magic helmet.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Ub Iwerks

At the Golden Age Cartoons forum, Nelson posts the news that the Ovation Channel (it's an Australian TV channel, as far as I can tell) will be airing an Ub Iwerks documentary in about a week:

You won't have to wait till Dec 11 for the Oswald dvd collection to see the Ub Iwerks documentary when the Ovation Channel will air the feature length film of Iwerks's(creator of Mickey Mouse) career this month, in a film that was made by Iwerks's grandaughter Leslie Iwerks.

This irks OurGangAlfalfa:

I resent that comment about Iwerks being the "creator" of Mickey Mouse. The general consensus is that Mickey was the cocreation of the whole Disney studio, the two main contributors being Iwerks and Disney. And if Iwerks was such a "genius" than why were the Flip the Frog, Whille Whopper and ComiColor cartoons so terrible, not just in my opinion, but the general consensus of people at that time?

Tom Stathes questions whether Iwerks' cartoons were quite as hated as OurGangAlfalfa says:

Either way, Flip and the ComiColors seemed pretty withstanding- otherwise not so many would have been made. I've yet to see any contemporary evidence of the series being disliked, even if not highly successful as Disney's output at the time.

OurGangAlfalfa is having none of that:

In Leonard Maltin's book, a theater owner is quoted as saying something like he was glad that the Harman-Ising MGM cartoons were introduced, because of the terrible atmosphere created by the Flip the Frog, and Whillie Whopper cartoons. And what more eveidence do you need than the fact that Flip lasted for only 3 years. If people demanded more Flip, they would have lasted longer than 3 years. It's called the law of supply and demand.

Sogturtle also decides to defend Iwerks:

Welllll there is absolutely no doubt that Ub WAS the designer or physical creator of the original Mickey Mouse . Walt definitely came up with the idea for the mouse in shorts though. As to the idea that Mickey was the "cocreation of the whole Disney studio", well considering that with the imminent split of the Disney studio into the 'Winkler' group (Harman et al) on one side and Walt and lone surviving master-animator Iwerks on the other I don't quite know HOW you can support that idea... Particularly since Walt had Ub sequestered off in a room SEPARATE from all the other animators so that THEY WOULDN'T KNOW what he was working on (while they were doing the final Disney/Oswald work). And then there is the issue of Ub being the ONLY animator on those earliest Disney sound-era cartoons... And the fact that the Disney archives actually show Ub as the sole director of one or two of the earliest Mickey Mice.

Popeye DVD screengrabs -- wow

Jerry Beck has posted a couple of links to some screengrabs of the new Popeye DVD, both at his own Cartoon Research, and at Classic Cartoons. They are absolutely stunning.

Mark Mayerson comments:

If I didn’t know better, I’d think I was looking at the original art for cel and background set-ups. The clarity is really amazing.

Thad Komorowski agrees:

Wow. That’s really all I can think of to say seeing those framegrabs.

Of course, as with everything else, you can't please everyone. Bruce:

The black and white tunes look wonderful. However, I don’t like it how Popeye V.S. Sinbad The Sailor looks, but I can’t complain.

He doesn't elaborate, unfortunately, and I honestly have no idea what he's talking about. They look pretty darn spiffy to me, but then I'm not a Popeye expert or anything like that.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Looney Tunes Golden Collection -- Volume 5 News

It appears that Madison Carter over at the Golden Age Cartoons forum has gotten his hands on an advance copy of the upcoming Popeye DVD. And apparently one of the discs features a preview for the still-unannounced upcoming Looney Tunes Golden Collection DVD. Madison was kind enough to post some screengrabs from the promo.

Based on those, here's what Duck Dodgers says we can expect from this set:

Senorella and the Glass Huarache.
The Abominable Snow Rabbit
Paying the Piper
Scrap Happy Daffy
A Pest In the House
Goldimouse and the Three Cats
The Turn-Tale Wolf
Buccaneer Bunny
A Star Is Bored
Little Red Rodent Hood
The Super Snooper
The Stupor Salesman
Hollywood Daffy
The Old Grey Hare
Red Riding Hoodwinked
The Wacky Wabbit
Bacall To Arms
Little Red Walking Hood
Prehistoric Porky
Patient Porky
The Daffy Doc
Porky's Preview
Milk and Money
Bugs Bonnets

It's not a complete list, obviously, but interesting nonetheless.

The Spectre gets a bit worried when he notices that the black & white cartoon "Patient Porky" appears to be colourized. Duck Dodgers quickly puts any fears to rest:

This promotional trailers are worth only because they reveal a bit of the contents. The clips usually come from unrestored copies and even from colorized versions of b/w cartoons. They do not reflect anyway the real quality of the cartoons in the set.

And then of course, the apparently requisite ugly cover art is discussed. Sean Gaffney puts it bluntly:

Wow, that jacket art is hideous

LTS agrees, but puts things into perspective:

That cover art is hideous but they can throw four discs, with no box, at me and i'll still pay $45-50.

It is quite baffling that they continue to give these things such outrageously ugly covers, but like LTS says, it's the content that counts. Hopefully we'll get an official announcement soon.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Alvin and the Chipmunks

Jerry Beck has posted the poster for the upcoming Chipmunks movie over at Cartoon Brew. It ain't pretty:

The reaction, not surprisingly, is somewhat critical. Doctor Awkward comments:

It’s not the fact that they’re making a movie of the Chipmunks that I don’t like, it’s that The Chipmunks are now re-envisioned as “gangsta” or “Ghetto” or whatever. I’m not going to judge the movie already, but I can’t say that the poster is giving me high hopes. Well, look on the bright side. At least The Chipmunks actually look like chipmunks now. With the rate of how old cartoons are being turned into movies, I can’t wait for the Jabberjaw movie that I bet will come out Holiday 2008.

Tom says:

They Poochie D’d them! Notice that that’s Jason Lee again- voice of Underdog this year. He’s fallen a long way since voicing Syndrome in the Incredibles.

Zekey agrees:

My pet parakeet was sitting on my shoulder when I opened the full sized poster for this thing. The bird burst into flames. What is with this recent “let’s take everything old and remake it” thing. I mean, it’s always been about, but this year it’s ridiculous. Is Micheal Bay directing this to? Will the chipmunks have gold teeth like real rappers? Will they pop a cap in someone’s ass?

Craig tries to stay optimistic:

Having help animate the opening title of the 80’s TV show back in the day, under the supervision the son of the original creator, Ross Badgesarian Jr., I can only hope still is just part the schtick for one particular musical number. I don’t think you can capture the audience if you can’t see the “eyes” of the characters. This must be a test.

Animated Racism

At the Animation Show forums, ParamountCartoons93 panics when he finds out that his little brother is about to watch a racist cartoon:

Do you think my little brother should watch the public domain DVD if it has racist material? Because I'm worried about him seeing a cartoon black mammy on the Little Audrey cartoon BUTTERSCOTCH AND SODA, He is seeing it in the car on the way to the library! I tried to stop him, but it was too late!

A discussion on racism in cartoons ensues:

I wouldn't worry about it. My parents bought me a public domain tape when I was about seven or eight which had "All This and Rabbit Stew". I must have saw that things ten times before my parents saw it, and they explained to me what it was. If you are worried you should explain to your brother what it is he is seeing and explain to him how the times were then. Keep in mind also that millions of People, a good majority of them including children saw these films at movie houses and palaces.

Ray Pointer adds:

First of all, the black maid in LITTLE AUDREY, "Petunia" was a reincarnation of "Mandy" from LITTLE LULU. In terms of stereotypes, "Mandy" was far more stereotypical in her design. But in both cases the characters were based on a black maid stereotype that consisted of verbal puns based on bad grammar. This was based in part to actual people who were uneducated, but had a great deal of heart and fortitude. In both cases, however, the maids were not subserviant, but authority figures to a young white girl. The only harm in seeing this is not having an awareness that this is not the only black personality. There are many others, and this was a major issue that brought about the banning of such images. But there are some people who still act in ways similar to this, and for all the efforts made to correct black images in films, in many ways new stereotypes have been created that are more threatening and negative than those of the past.

The thread then takes a disturbing turn, courtesy of Milton Knight:

A white animation fan admitted to me that he is a frequent viewer of the Evil Queen's "Magic mirror on de wall" scene from COAL a slow-motion video loop, watched "with one hand", so to speak.

Knight comes back a bit later, and the weirdness continues:

The guy I mentioned wanted to commission me to do an art piece: The cast of COAL BLACK having an orgy, in semi-imitation of the familiar PLUTO'S RETREAT tableaux. In the foreground was to be Elmer Klansman's robes...with a razor in his back, dead in a puddle of his own blood. I turned the offer down, simply because people's obsessions over 'racist cartoons' bores/irritates me (in that order).

Umm... Okay. As a palate cleanser, here's some last words from JackSpit:

I just think he should be explained WHY it's no longer acceptable to take that approach now, give him context, just because there are ugly truths behind the laughs-- It's a great cartoon, don't get me wrong, but my earlier post says what my concerns are-- it's hard to live down some of the dark past of the world and it's biases.

(By the way -- the image above is from the cartoon in question, and is courtesy of Classic Cartoons.)

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Cartoon Alley canceled?

It could be, according to Nelson on the Golden Age Cartoons forum:

Just finished reading the September schedule on TCM and it appears that Cartoon Alley will no longer be on the TCM roster after this month.In Sept, TCM will replace CA with a "Boston Blackie" double feature throughout the month, as the channel will continue to air cartoons during the "One Reel Wonders" segments.

No one seems too moved. MF Toon says:

They rarely show any rare cartoons and nearly every short is already available on DVD. The programming on this series in comparisson to TCM's live action films, is frankly quite poor and lazy. Plus the host, Ben Mankowiecz (sp?) doesn't seem to know much if anything about the cartoons he introduces. You would think the network would at least find the equivalent of a Robert Osborne or an authorized animation historian to speak of the films they are screening. Once in a while, they will present some older black & white Warner films or early MGM shorts, but overall it's a missed oppurtunity.

Personally I think it would be sad to see one of the last few places to see classic animation on television go away, but that's just me.

Taste Visualization

Michel Gagné, the lauded artist/designer behind the "taste visualization" sequences in Ratatouille, has posted a link to his website on the Animation Nation BB, where he has some conceptual artwork and info on how these sequences were achieved. People seem mostly impressed:

Two of my favorite scenes! Made me think back fondly to the "meet the soundtrack" moment in Fantasia and darned if it didn't occur to me that you must have had a hand in doing those bits. Very, very fun piece; in a movie filled with the atmosphere of food this got me to experience taste. Thank you!

Not everyone is so enthused, though:

I thought this was a very interesting concept, but the final result felt a little conservative in art terms.I like your work, Mister Gagne,yet I wish I'd seen a little more color, flair and exoticism in some of those shots. Cool, but not pushed enough.

You can't please everyone, I guess.

Monday, July 2, 2007

The 20 Year Curse?

Semaj has posted posted an interesting observation at the Animation Nation BB:

Why does it seem like somebody or something wants to kill off Disney animation every 20 years?

1940's: WWII causes Disney to put full-narrative films on hold while most of their resources were put into wartime training and propoganda.

The anthology films were minor successes, which kept the studio alive thru near-bankruptcy. Walt Disney takes his next shot at full narratives with Cinderella, wherein the film's failure would've ended the studio for good.

He goes on to state that Disney animation was in trouble in the 1960s, the 1980s, and early in 2000. Mr. Fun replies, skeptical that Disney is even out of trouble at this point:

Today, Disney is more a marketing and distribution company than a creative one. Do I wish it were different? You bet I do. But, business is business, and I doubt things will ever be the same. ... In the old days, creative people ran the studios while the "suits" spent their afternoons in the bar or on the golf course. Today, managers meddle in every detail of production because they feel they have to. Today's films cost millions, and should they fail to deliver, someone's head is gonna roll.

Woody Woodpecker

Over at Something Old, Nothing New, Jaime J. Weinman posts a link to a list featuring descriptions of all the cartoons on the upcoming Woody Woodpecker DVD, and discusses Woody's origin in an Andy Panda cartoon:

He's hardly the only popular cartoon character to start out in someone else's cartoon. Popeye's debut cartoon, "Popeye the Sailor," is sort of an early version of a stealth spinoff pilot -- since it launched the character in a Betty Boop cartoon. Daffy Duck, of course, made his debut in a Porky Pig cartoon.

His readers go on to discuss other characters who started out in another character's cartoon:

Goofy first appeared in a Mickey Mouse cartoon (Mickey's Revue, 1932), and depending on your view on the matter, Bugs Bunny might've made his debut in a Porky cartoon (Porky's Hare Hunt. 1938 d. Ben HArdaway).

Ratatouille's stinky B.O.

Over at his blog, Jim Hill discusses Ratatouille's less-than-stellar opening weekend. Basically, it may not as big of a deal as it seems:

I just got off the phone with Chuck Viane, head of distribution for Walt Disney Studios. Who basically told me that it wouldn't be wise to label "Ratatouille" Pixar's first real disappointment. Not yet, anyway.

"We've now got the best reviewed film in the country which people just love once they actually get to see it," Chuck continued. "So you can bet that -- when people sit down at the picnic table over the Fourth of July and talk about what movies they've just seen -- 'Ratatouille' is going to come up. And it's that word-of-mouth that's going to make all the difference here."

Though Hill himself seems less than convinced:

Me personally, I have to admit that I don't share Viane's optimism. In a summer where virtually every major studio release has seen ticket sales fall off by more than 55 - 65 % over its second weekend in release, I find it extremely hard to believe that "Ratatouille" going to be the one movie that bucks that trend.

I'd like to think that a film as good as Ratatouille would be a shoe-in to rake in the bucks, but then again quality and box-office grosses are very often mutually exclusive.

Disney -- No Girls Allowed

Over at the Animation Nation BB, Offbeat posts the somewhat disturbing rejection letter that's been making the rounds in the last little while.

The gist of it basically being that the only animation job that girls are suitable for is as an inker. EustaceScrubb comments:

The most infamous example of that "girls don't work in the animation dept." form letter is the one that was sent to Lillian Friedman who had five years experience as an animator at the Fleischer Studio when she applied to work at Disney, but got that letter in return ! However, around the same time they had hired Retta Scott in the Story Dept. and were training her to be an animator. Go figure ... seems to have been a very arbitrary "rule" .

Popeye, DVNR. Yes or no?

ParamountCartoons93 asks if the new Popeye DVD will use DVNR. (Here's an explanation of what DVNR does to cartoons, for those who aren't sure). Jerry Beck quickly puts everyone at ease:

You are worried about nothing. They will be unedited. No DVNR. I promise. [The restorations] will blow you away.

He even posts an image from one of the cartoons to ease people's minds.

This backfires a bit. Dphirschler comments:

Based on the "action" frame posted, I see evidence of DVNR. You can see vague shadows of the previous frame in that one. That's the tell-tale sign.

Not everyone agrees, however. Thad Komorowski:

That frame doesn't have DVNR, that's the girl's sexy see-through outfit.

So it looks like the jury's still out on this one; we'll have to wait until the DVD actually comes out to know for sure.