Friday, February 19, 2010

MIT scientists developing giant, hovering 3-D Animations

Remember the amazing human pixel performances at the Chinese Olympics? I was stunned at the beauty of thousands of people acting as one giant moving picture. Now, scientists at MIT are working on floating displays made up of individual controllable flying robots, each with adjustable colored lights.

I do hope these don't catch on as advertising, however. Can you imagine being accosted by a hovering, glowing face made up of artificial gnats nagging you to shop at Wal Mart or get your oil changed at Jiffy Lube? Greaaat.

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Tuesday, January 12, 2010

French music video tribute to The Muppet Show

This is the second French CG animation homage to Jim Henson's Muppets I've seen so far.  Many elements of the Muppet Show are here -- the red curtain, musician Muppets, audience Muppets, a human performer singing a classic song.   No heckling Statler and Waldorf-like characters though, sadly.  Since these are all key-framed CG characters, these puppets do things no ordinary foam hand-and-rod puppet can do!  Dance with legs showing!  Throw things! 

Unfortunately, the animators focused so much on exaggerating the "puppety-ness" that puppetry basics like lip-synch and eye-focus are less than stellar.  Still, it's great to see a large-scale Muppet Musical Number again. 

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Monday, July 27, 2009

Comic Con '09: Highlights

Tricia, her friend Erica and I got back from Comic Con yesterday. We had a blast!

This year was the first for me to stay at the Marriott Marina Hotel, and boy, that sure made it a lot less tiring. The problem with the San Diego convention center is that it separated by a light-rail train and only a couple of walkable crossings over to most of the nearby hotels and restaurants. These passages are overwhelmed by the hundreds of thousands of sweaty nerds and geeks baking in the hot sun as they head back to hotels to drop their loot or head out to the Gas Lamp district for some food. It is already taxing enough to move through the hordes and stand in mile-long lines within the Con itself, so this extra pain can really add up.

The Marriott, on the other hand, is right next door to the convention center. A quick walk and you're in its comfortable air-conditioned lobby. It seems to be where a lot of the more famous attendees stay. David Fury (producer on Buffy, Angel, Lost, 24, etc.) and his kids, and a writer from Family Guy were in front of me in the Starbucks line Saturday morning. Legendary Marvel writer Stan Lee sat a table down from us in the pub. Adam from Mythbusters was in the elevator with us. Erica's Marriott Rewards card got us a free upgrade to a room on the 19th floor, which was quite nice.

Some highlights of the weekend:
  • Participating in the standing ovation for Hirao Miyazaki

  • Seeing our friends at booths and walking around (Jeff, Anita, Michele, Eric & Jodi, Tim, Dave & Jenn, Joji, Edwin...)

  • Tricia & Erica getting photo ops with Tyrese Gibson

  • Me getting an autograph from Leonard Nimoy

  • Chatting over drinks with my brother-in-law, Hayden

  • Getting some great art prints and a steam punk raygun for our apartment

  • Unexpected harbor fireworks right next to our table at Roy's

  • The insanely good chocolate dessert at Roy's

Photos coming soon!

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Saturday, February 07, 2009

What Pixar Looks For...

Randy Nelson, head of Pixar University, talks about the traits and characteristics of people they hire at Pixar Animation Studio. Interestingly (and in contrast to some production companies I've worked for), they look for the ability to collaborate -- specifically, the ability to amplify the expression of others on your team through your unique talents and experiences. They want people are are interested, not necessarily interesting. And of course, they want folks who have mastered some particular discipline (be it animation, photography, design, story-telling, mathematics) but are well-versed in others.

via Cartoon Brew

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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Animated Short "Love on the Line"

My friend Melissa, graduate animation student at UCLA, has completed her animated short called "Love on the Line," a story about, er... well, cyber-sex -- Victorian style! Melissa made large cut-out articulated puppets and animated them using stop-motion. On top of that she added 2-D computer animation for the ticker effect.

Incidentally, such telegraph romances actually happened according to the book The Victorian Internet: The Remarkable Story of the Telegraph and the 19th Century's Online Pioneers, by Tom Standage.

"Love on the Line" has already won awards and been shown at festivals.

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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Lovely Student Animated Short

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Friday, September 05, 2008

Stand Up 2 Cancer

I'm sitting waiting at the Burbank Airport and on TV, all three American Networks are showing a live fundraiser right now called "Stand Up 2 Cancer." Celebrities of all sorts are answering phones. It's really great that these corporations are focused on a cause, if just for a few hours. Their website will be up for a while, so please donate.

(And the cause I'm focused on this weekend is the Totoro Forest Project, an art auction / fundraiser over at PIXAR to help protect Japan's endangered forests, the ones that inspired the legendary animation master Miyazaki, creator of My Neighbor Totoro and Spirited Away.)

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Friday, August 15, 2008

Animated Short "Oktapodi"

Two cephalopods in love. A kidnapper. Greece. Enjoy!

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Sunday, April 13, 2008

1980s HBO Title Sequence

This is a charming little behind-the-scenes clip showing how a small New York studio made an elaborate intro sequence for the then=fledgling cable channel, Home Box Office (HBO). I just love the craftsmanship and time it took, the ingenious streaking effects done optically. The 65-piece orchestral theme. Plus, they even wrote a song* (reminds me of the "Coke Is It" jingle of that era) just for the documentary!

via Cartoonbrew
*Performed by this guy.

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Monday, February 04, 2008

My Favorite SuperBowl 42 Ad

I've only been to a few Superbowl parties. The food & beverages & commercials are about the only thing interesting to me usually (although at this party, we also played Nintendo Wii® and Guitar Hero III too to liven things up.) This year, there were maybe two or three good commercials and this Coca Cola ad ("It's Mine!") with Thanksgiving Day parade balloons of Stewie (from Family Guy), Underdog, and Charlie Brown was the best, IMHO. Honorable mentions to the Tide To Go "My Talking Stain" and ETrade's talking baby ads.

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Monday, January 21, 2008

Simon & The Land of Chalk Drawings, Made Real!

Ok, maybe not chalk, but can you imagine a Physics class taught this way? Or any other kind of class, with the right software.

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Saturday, January 12, 2008

Making Fiends: Web Cartoon Becoming a Nicktoon Soon

As I've blogged about before, UCLA MFA student Amy Winfrey created an Adobe™ Flash-based Web cartoon back in 2004 called "Making Fiends". The premise? Vendetta, a school girl with hobbies that include making evil creatures, eating clams, and taunting her neighborhood meets new kid on the block, Charlotte, whose optimistic attitude seems completely resistant to Vendetta's evil habits. Visually, the show has a playful mix of Edward Gorey, early Jim Henson monster drawings with a touch of the 1980s cut-out animated film "Twice Upon a Time."

Two seasons of webisodes and a community of fiendy fans later, Nickelodeon began hosting a few of them on iTunes, and has almost finished developing a TV version to be aired later this year. Hooray!

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Saturday, December 08, 2007

Sesame Street Clips Online!

Whohoo! Finally! Sesame Workshop (formerly known as Children's Television Workshop) has begun offering classic and newer Sesame Street clips online after seeing so many of them posted by fans on YouTube. It's in Beta and lacks the ability to link to favorites right now, but here are some keywords to type in for my favorite clips so far:
  • "painter"
  • "monsterpiece theatre" ("upstairs downstairs")
  • "news: angry reporter"
  • "can remember"
  • "kermit calls a plumber"
  • "song: subway train"
  • "news mother hubbard"
  • "question song"
  • "disco"
  • "daddy dear"
  • "lonely n song"
I just love the energy, spontaneity, weirdness, and subversive humor in these sketches. Some of it I'm just getting now, clearly meant for the parent watching with his or her kids.

There are some untagged clips in there, some really rare ones, and all in pristine quality. Enjoy! Let me know if you discover any great ones.

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Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Beauty & The Beast @ the Arclight Tonight

Ah, What a lovely movie poster design.

Disney's B & B was, I think, the last mainstream animated film to use proper voice-actors in its main cast. Ok, there were a few celebrities (Broadway legends) playing Lumiere & Mrs. Potts, but the leads were talented actor/singers and voice-actors not A-List film actors thrown in to attract audiences. After this, Aladdin, Lion King, and pretty much every film of theirs after that casted as many big name non-voice actors as possible. PDI's first film Antz had Woody Allen, Gene Hackman, Jennifer Lopez, Sylvester Stallone, Sharon Stone, and every CG film after that (Shrek, Shark's Tale, Over the Hedge, etc) focused entirely on big-name actors.

B & B has an amazingly sophisticated score (written by two Broadway composers), which is why it made it later a great Broadway Musical. While Tim Rice (Lion King) has a history of writing musicals, he pales as a lyricist compared to the late Howard Ashman. (Why anyone decided Elton John (Lion King) or Phil Collins (Tarzan) should write animated musicals is beyond me.) Melodically, every song is memorable (despite some self-plagiarism -- "Be Our Guest" is basically "Le Poisson" from Little Mermaid.)

There's just something very romantic about this movie in a way unmatched by any animated film since. I suppose we're more cynical now. We prefer "chemistry" (lust), sarcasm, and South Park-ian humor now, which is fine, but I do miss the naivety, beauty, and timelessness of this film.

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Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Fun Little Animated Music Video

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Friday, August 24, 2007

Behold! Customizable Animated Electronic Greeting Cards

Apparently, the online greeting card business is upwards of $80 million a year so far. There are gazillions of card sites these days. Most I've seen are not so much cards anymore, but animated or live action footage. More like "-grams" as in singing telegrams, candy-grams, etc.

The trend now is to allow user-customizable cut-out faces on prefabricated animations. The first one I saw is called Starring U from the JibJab brothers (who showed me in person. Whohoo!) But they are not alone, and probably not the first either! There is also the oddly-named Mushy Gushy site, which seems to have more prepackaged animations lined up already. The JibJab brothers are a lot more famous though, minor celebrities ever since their Flash-animated parody of Bush & Kerry singing "This Land is Your Land" hit the Net, seen by millions of people and landing them major TV talk shows.

May the best Terry Gilliam-esque cut-out face animated e-greeting card Web 2.0 website win!

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Saturday, June 30, 2007

Tokyo: Studio Ghibli

My primary reason for going to Tokyo, other than to see the damage from 40 years of Godzilla rampages, was to see the Studio Ghibli museum. Studio Ghibli is the company home of the works of master animator, Hirao Miyazaki. Indeed, his most famous works are portrayed here in exhibits, most obviously My Neighbor Totoro and Castle in the Sky. I probably should have disobeyed all the "Please don't photograph" signs, but it's actually a rather difficult museum to shoot. Lots of fun hidden passageways, stained glass windows, spiral staircases, atriums, patios, grottos, rooms filled with artwork samples & classic literature recreating the sort Miyazaki would have worked in, a giant soft "cat bus" for kids to jump on... Photos of the inside would not do it justice.

When you arrive via Studio Ghibli bus from the Mataka train station & hand in your ticket voucher, they give you a ticket which is actually 3 animation film frames from a Studio Ghibli film. Neat! Use this ticket to watch the film screening, which in my case was a new episode of Totoro. Brilliant!

Here's the unassuming main gate (Look closely, you can see Totoro and his friends):

One of the many caged spiral staircases. This one is the only way up to see the giant robot from Castle in the Sky:

I almost left the museum prematurely looking for this guy. From the photos, it seemed like he'd be out in the park surrounding the museum. But no -- he's part of the rooftop garden! Luckily, the museum guard took pity on me and let me back in for photos. Here he is in a rare moment alone:

And here he is with me, to show scale and my enthusiasm for having made it to one of the meccas of Geekdom:

If you intend to go, make certain you get your ticket before you leave for Japan! There's no way in otherwise. If you live in the United States, you can buy them here for a specific date.

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Sunday, May 20, 2007

Sesame Street animation: 3 striped Balls & a Polka Dotted Ball

I'm very glad someone found this little stop-motion animated clip from Sesame Street in the 1970s. I've had its synthesizer music in my head since I was a child, and it's greatly influenced my sense of melody and arrangement.

If anyone knows who created this piece, please let me know!

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Friday, May 04, 2007

Communicating Emotion in 3-D graphics & Machinima

CartoonBrew posted the original Tootsie Roll Pop commercial from the early 70s (animated by the great Fred Crippen, who did many fine Sesame Street animated shorts over the years) alongside the newly updated CGI version. Check them out here.

I think it would be difficult to argue the new version is better. But why, precisely? What is the visually fancier version lacking that the first has? The answer is found in a blog entry from the Free-Pixel blog: Emotion.

The blogger fiezi attended a presentation by Gilles Monteil, an animation researcher at Ubisoft, called "We All Want Emotions in Games!" He describes how three audience members were given laser pointers to aim at the screen, and to do whatever they wanted. (I've seen this happen spontaneously while waiting for Dailies to start at Sony) The audience reacted to what they perceived as a chase going on, but in reality, there were only moving dots. No textures, no geometry, no perceivable characters in the traditional sense. All that was there was rhythm, a sense of space, and a sense of interaction between entities.

This is basically the core of all visual design, and of performing arts like mime and dance, and it turns out, in computer games as well. The extras, like how characters are dressed, how spectacular the sets look, are secondary to the audiences emotional involvement. Yet, in game engine design (used by Machinima), the focus is on texture, lighting, and making things look spectacular.

That's great, but make certain you can invoke an emotional response, with your character design, posing, and motion first, then your textures and lighting.

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Thursday, March 22, 2007

Compulsive Knitting Disorder

I'm told by several lady friends that knitting is a compulsive, addictive hobby. This animation by Finnish animator Laura Neuvonen demonstrates the potential consequences of too much knitting.

from CRAFT magazine by way of Spirits Dancing.

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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

This American Life + Chris Ware + Animation = Fantastic

This American Life is a poignant, long-running radio program on NPR hosted by Ira Glass. It's content is fairly simple: short audio essays (with music) describing the diverse lives of Americans here and abroad. The intimacy of radio is a great antidote to being stuck in traffic for an hour enduring the 8 mile commute from Santa Monica to Hollywood. But when I heard about how they were taking the program to television, I was a bit skeptical. Would the poignancy and intimacy be lost?

This example suggests not. One of my favorite comics artists, Chris Ware, who has collaborated with Ira many times for live performances, has created an animated sequence for the TV version out of one of the stories. It's a story about how a child at school made a fake TV camera as a craft project, soon imitated by the other kids and how during recess, every kid began acting as news reporter, camera person, or some role within a play-newsroom.

This story definitely resonates with me. When I was at the Happy Hollow elementary school up in Wayland, Massachusetts, we had arts & craft supplies ready to go whenever it was raining. I had watched way too many Saturday Morning cartoons and decided one rainy indoor recess that I would make my own wrist communicator out of paper. On mine, I drew a speaker and lots of knobs and "lights." Soon, everyone else had made their own imaginary communicative contraptions.

Fortunately, unlike the story above, we did not reveal any disturbing observations about human behavior.

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Friday, March 09, 2007

Animation about How We're Becoming a Surveillance Society

So what's wrong with being watched, if it means a better sense of security? Having the FBI and police know everything about you. Having corporations and governments know everything about you. Having insurance companies know everything about you. Whether or not you think you've done something wrong, some entitiy out there will, or associate you with someone who has. Sooner or later, self-interest will take advantage of this information and use it against you. This is the theme of the German Academy Award Winning film, "The Lives of Others," and we're quietly allowing our government to move in this direction in the name of fighting terrorism.

Given how sloppy a lot of the software and procedures are in these systems, expect massive numbers of false positives. Expect data leaks to end up in enemy hands. None of this is worth it. No gradual improvement of technology over time designed to improve accuracy will be worth losing Democracy. We do not want to be China. It does not take much to flick off the checks & balances built into our system. We can't assume America is immune from despotism and Big Brother Syndrome.

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Friday, March 02, 2007

CG Animated Short: Burning Safari

Brother Henry wrote in to let me know about this very cool CG Short, Burning Safari.

Now try doing that with Machinima, eh? Though you could do the Rough and Final Layouts with Machinima techniques, in a fashion similar to how Phil Tippett used Star Wars action figures and fake trees to film a rough version of the Speeder Bike sequence in Return of the Jedi.

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Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Michel Ocelot's "Princes & Princesses"

Beautiful silhouette animation. The technique certainly looks similar to Lotte Reiniger's cut-out animation work back in the 1920s, but a Wikipedia entry suggests this was done with computer. (I'm suspicious of that claim, given the time it was made). Anyways, YouTube does not do it justice -- the twilight effect is quite lovely particularly when projected in a theatre.

The director, Michel Ocelot, is the President of ASIFA-International, and also the director of a full-length animated feature called Azur and Asmar which just got bought by the Weinstein Company.

I first saw this short at a Spike & Mike Animation Festival years ago, but had not found it on any DVD compilation until now. You can find it (with 5 other shorts in this style) at Hong Kong Flix for about $12! Unfortunately, the extras are in French with only Korean subtitles.

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Friday, January 26, 2007

Will the Real Oscar-nominated Animated Film Please Stand Up?

The nominees for this year's Oscar™ for best animated film are in:
  • Cars (Disney/Pixar)
  • Happy Feet (Warner Brothers/Animal Logic)
  • Monster House (Columbia Pictures/Sony Pictures Imageworks)
Whoa! Dreamworks is shut out entirely despite having two in the running, Over the Hedge and Flushed Away. No love for Ice Age or Open Season either.

Unlike last year, in which two stop-motion puppet animation films were in the running, this year we have one key-framed CG feature, and two others that are largely motion-capture based. (You can be certain the House in Monster House was key-framed though...)

There's quite a bit of controversy over this in the animation realm. Some purists are arguing "It's not animation!" and some even suggest it's more like puppetry (I beg to differ -- it's more like mime or acting in a suit than it is puppetry) Sigh. I remember when folks were arguing computer animation wasn't animation because it didn't involve drawings. Then they realized "oh... stop motion has puppets, not drawings." "Well, ok, but artists are doing things frame by frame!"

I believe that suggests at least two spectra. One one axis, Acting and Puppetry at one end are real-time arts. Forms of Theatre. (Think analog watch.) Animation is at the other end of it is discrete (think digital watch) There's another axis, Tangible arts (Physical Things) vs. Intangible.

As technology changes, we're finding that hybrids are emerging. Life is increasingly digital and intangible and so is Art. So I don't think it's unreasonable to find ourselves having difficulty labeling things using old forms of classification.

Puppetry purists are likewise constantly debating what is Puppetry vs. NOT-Puppetry, and just like animation purists, often declaring the NOT-artform to be inferior or degrading. (Personally, I see this as a sign of an artform with an Inferiority Complex.)

I suppose labels matter when it comes to meeting Academy Elligibility Requirements, but artistically, not so much.

And for what it's worth, this is not so much an essay as it's an unedited, rambling blog entry. So there.

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Monday, November 06, 2006

16 Animated Film Nominees for 2006 Oscar®

According to, these are the likely 16 nominees for the Animation Oscar this year. It points out that if any of these fail to meet the requirements, it will mean only 3, not 5 films will be picked for the final list.


Nearly all CGI films this year. Arther and the Invisibles is the only 2-D (I think). A Scanner Darkly used a rotoscope technique (digital painting over live-action). Renaissance (from what I know) is motion-captured and rendered with a cel-shader (to make it look like it was drawn). Monster House is motion-captured and rendered in such a way as to look like it was done as a stop-motion film. Happy Feet supposedly has lots of motion capture in it for the dance moves. The rest are key-framed CGI.

If they pick five, I bet it will be Cars, Monster House, Ice Age 2, Over the Hedge, and either Happy Feet or Flushed Away depending on how they do boxoffice-wise.

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Monday, October 23, 2006

Pixar Storyteller Lectures

My animation student/puppetologist friend Melissa told me about a Screenwriting Expo event this past Saturday, featuring uber-genius folks from Pixar describing how it is they make consistently insanely great animated features.

I really did not know what to expect. So often lectures like this are generic, offering platitudes we know already (i.e. "Story is King") without divulging useful techniques on how to accompish them. But two lectures in particular, from Finding Nemo director Andrew Stanton, and Little Miss Sunshine director Mike Arndt, blew my head off with useful and inspiring techniques for making better screenplays.

The Animation Guild Blog has posted part I of notes from Andrew's speech. Soon I will type up what I jotted down from Mike's speech, which broke down and analyzed the structure of three films with "Insanely Great" endings, Star Wars, The Graduate, and his own Little Miss Sunshine.

The gist though:

Stories are about Conflict of values and situation, of which there are three types: Internal, External, and Philisophical. At the end of Act I, our character or characters must reveal what it is that they want, and we should also know what is stopping them. Good stories have an Act II reversal, where our characters reach some part of their goal, but in doing so, some obstacle presents itself or a core value is undermined. In Act III, situations should descend to the point of a Moment of Peril, where all desired values are overturned, but through a surprising Decisive Act, the Order of the Univere is turned upside down.

With these components of good storytelling, I can already see flaws in Open Season (which I was involved with for a year-and-a-half). Though some of the pieces were there, there were few compelling values at stake, and the Decisive Act in question was not surprising enough.

Anyway, I can see why Pixar hired Mike to help with an upcoming project. Never have I seen such a complete description of how and why Star Wars was such a great film. (I still get goosebumps during the last 22 seconds of the climax)


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Thursday, October 19, 2006

What, Face-Over Actors Now?

The New York Times has an article about Image Metrics, a company over in Santa Monica that's taking a computer vision approach to capturing facial motion and applying it to 3-D character faces.

The results aren't bad. I wonder how much computing power is needed and how long the process takes. Also wondering if there's any cleaning work, and how advanced the facial rigs (in Maya) are for these examples. It's clear from the video that this is not a real-time technique (yet, anyway). It only works with a static camera, and the face and body have to be captured separately. I would bet these factors diminish the coherency of the performance. Might be useful for smaller scale projects though.

Thanks to Slashdot.


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Tuesday, August 08, 2006

3-D vs. 2-D Penguin Face Off

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Thursday, July 20, 2006

The Tick on DVD!

The Tick was a great Saturday morning cartoon series back in 1995 (yeesh!) about the insane, but nye-invulnerable superhero, The Tick, and his side-kick, Arthur. Ben Edlund made this comic and TV series long before Power-puff Girls and other superhero spoofs (Mystery Men) became popular. The show became an inferior live-action show with Patrick Warburton, which ended up on DVD. Fans have had to settle for home-taped VHS copies (from either the FOX Kids, or Comedy Central showings) or bootlegs at Comic Con to get the animated version.

No longer! Season 1 (well, all but 1 episode) is available August 29th!

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Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Yet another CG Animation Studio??

It seems every FX facility in the world is creating its own CG animation studio to compete with the likes of Pixar, Dreamworks, Blue Sky, and soon Sony Pictures Animation. Just in the last year I've seen Disney (thankfully replaced with Pixar itself), Laika, Orphanage Animation and Animal Logic appear. Now the British folks at Framestore who made the awesome Walking with Dinosaurs series and the fantastic griffin for Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban are spinning off a studio headed by a former Dreamworks producer. Their first movie The Tale of Despereaux (from yet another children's book, although at least this one is a novel) is being directed by Sylvain Chomet, writer/director of the Oscar™-nominated Triplets of Belleville.


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Friday, February 17, 2006

New Open Season Trailer

At last, our trailers are starting to reveal how good this movie will (likely) be. I worked as a Production Services Technician on this movie for a year-and-a-half, and it was a great experience — and my first all-CG Animated Film! Great people working on it, like directors Jil Culton (Pixar), Roger Allers (Disney), and Tony Stacchi (PDI). Their inspiration for the movie came from the stylized backgrounds of Sleeping Beauty. The animation is excellent, and Imageworks kicks ass when it comes to the tricky CG effects like water and hair, yet fortunately, that's not the focus. Keep an eye out for it when it premieres this September.

(Photo from Pidgeon Blog)


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Thursday, February 16, 2006

Corpse Bride Screening

This has been Corpse Bride week, as Warner Brothers and Tim Burton have been heavily promoting the release of its DVD on radio and events. First, there was the signing event with Tim Burton and Danny Elfman at the West Hollywood Best Buy. Had I not run into my friend already in line, I would not have had a chance to get anything signed. Even with that though, it took 3 hours to get one of the two DVDs I just bought in the store (despite earlier folks getting two things. NO fair!) At 11 PM, there was still a throng of screaming people locked out in front of the store, shouting “Tim! Tim! Let us in! Let us in!” As we walked in, somebody handed out a flyer for a screening at the Director’s Guild tomorrow night.

So we went to that too. In the lobby were large displays of props, characters, and a demo of the animation process. Then a screening. On the way out, we were immediately given copies of the DVD and books and animation flipbooks. (Oh man! Wish I hadn't bought mine...) and told politely “Please, no autographs.” Hmm.

Obviously Tim did not want to go through the madhouse of people again like the night before. Despite the host saying that there would be a reception afterwards where we could ask Tim questions, later Mr. Burton stayed in the corner of the party near the elevators, surrounded by guards. He talked only with interviewers and Warner executives. Eventually, kids and parents and fans figured out where he was and kept encroaching closer in the hopes of an illicit autograph or personal photo. None were to be had though — eventually he was whisked away into the elevator and into a limosine (driven by a skeleton).

Many attempts, hors-douvres and small cups of red wine later, I was able to get this fuzzy picture of Tim Burton with my tiny, no-zoom 2-megapixel camera. Ah well. At least the food was fantastic, and you certainly can’t beat free stuff!

Anyone want a copy of Corpse Bride? I have two one extra now...


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posted by Brian at 8:44 PM 1 comments links to this post

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

CG animation shut out of the 2005 Oscar™ Race!

Wow! Hard to imagine but the three films nominated for Best Animated Picture are traditional hand-drawn and stop-motion puppetry, not computer-generated.

The nominees are:
  • Howl’s Moving Castle (Buena Vista) Hayao Miyazaki
  • Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride (Warner Bros.) Tim Burton and Mike Johnson
  • Wallace & Gromit in the Curse of the Were-Rabbit (DreamWorks Animation SKG) Nick Park and Steve Box


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posted by Brian at 10:19 AM 0 comments links to this post

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Disney gets a Head Transplant

Whoa! So unlike the scenario of Disney buying the Muppets, where the Muppets were simply assimilated into Disney's marketing product line, Disney just bought Pixar -- but from the sounds of it, Disney is replacing part of its own command with John Lasseter, Steve Jobs, and Ed Catmull, the driving forces of Pixar.

It's a Head Replacement!

But now that means Disney/ABC/Pixar/Apple owns the Muppets and Schoolhouse Rock.



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posted by Brian at 2:08 PM 0 comments links to this post

Friday, November 18, 2005

Animated Film Oscar™ Contenders

Here are the ten films in the running for the 2005 Oscar™ for Best Animated Film:
  • Corpse Bride
       Laika/Warner Brothers
  • Wallace & Gromit The Curse of the Were Rabbit
  • Madagascar
  • Chicken Little
  • Howl's Moving Castle
       Studio Ghibli/Disney
  • Valiant
       Vanguard Animation/Disney
  • Robots
       Blue Sky/20th Century Fox
  • Hoodwinked
       Weinstein Company
  • Gulliver's Travels
       Pentamedia Studios
  • Steamboy
       Triumph Films/Sony Pictures
Quite a mix this year. Two stop-motion films, two 2-D films enhanced with 3-D effects, and a bunch of CG films. All of these will be wittled down to three films. Very tough call. I personally would choose Howl's Moving Castle, Corpse Bride, and Wallace & Gromit just because those are the only three that I've seen that I liked enough. Steamboy was cool up to a point until it just went on too long. The CG films were pretty lame this year.


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posted by Brian at 11:47 AM 0 comments links to this post

Friday, October 14, 2005

Yet Another CG Animation Sudio

In the next two years there will be over 15 CG-animated movies that I'm aware of, including those by newcomer Orphanage Animation, soon to be lead by Gendy Tartatovsky, the artist behind Samurai Jack and Clone Wars. It will be interesting to see if he can create compelling full-length animation stories, and whether they will take animation in any sort of new direction. We've had enough of the videogame-turned-movie plots, the animal buddy movies, the animals-all-dancing-to-hip-hop movies, the robot movies, and the children's books that get stretched way too thin. Even fairy tales have been over-done. What else is there?

I wish Charlie Kaufman would write one. He's the only screenwriter I know that is pushing the envelope of movie writing.


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posted by Brian at 6:48 PM 0 comments links to this post

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Jerry Orbach (aka Lumiere/Det. Lennie Briscoe) R.I.P

The other day I discovered the double shock of hearing that Jerry Orbach had died, and then discovering he was both Lennie Briscoe on Law & Order AND my favorite recent character in a Disney Film, Lumiere, from Beauty & the Beast.

May Heaven welcome you with Justice, Fine Dining & Pudding on Flambét.

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posted by Brian at 2:17 PM 0 comments links to this post

Thursday, February 10, 2005

All Roads Lead to Sony!

Ben Catmull now works at Sony Pictures Imageworks. The Open Season team received an email saying he was joining us! Whohoo! We met at the Academy of Art in San Francisco years ago. It's sorta funny since his dad is the President of Pixar.


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posted by Brian at 2:53 PM 0 comments links to this post