Thursday, October 31, 2013

Blue GFX at London's South Bank

Blue GFX Expo is an annual showcase for the visual effects industry and the software that drives it, sponsored by (among many others) the software-wizards Autodesk - who make Maya and 3DStudioMax, and much of the other software that we use in the VFX industry. Housed slightly incongruously in the vast and rambling Edwardian County Hall building on London’s South Bank, the Expo was marvelously hard to find, but highly rewarding to attend.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Toaster Tales #3: Hotel Horror in Taipei

Deluxe accommodations.
In 1986, I went to Taiwan with a very small crew of Americans to work on the feature The Brave Little Toaster.  The experience of animating a breakneck 30 feet a week of passable full animation combined with living in a place so completely strange, congested, and foreign would prove to be a seminal event not just my life, but in the lives of everyone on the crew.  For Halloween, I thought I would share with you one of the scarier things that happened to me out there in the Far East.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Ten Quotes about Art to Chew On

I Googled up some quotes about art from a variety of sources, not all of them artists.  I hope you find them inspiring.....

"Without tradition, art is a flock of sheep without a shepherd. Without innovation, it is a corpse." Winston Churchill

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Dumpster Diving with Bill Kroyer

Whenever I run into Bill Kroyer, our dumpster diving story inevitably surfaces.

In the summer of 1984, I was working one of my first animation jobs, on an animated Star Wars knockoff called Starchaser: The Legend of Orin, a forgettable film except that it used a lot of early computer generated animation.    Most of the production was done at Steve Hahn's Korean studio, Mihahn, but when they also had a  crew of Americans working in an office complex in Woodland Hills, California.  Bill Kroyer was the head of that crew, which included Chris Bailey, Craig Clarke, Darrell Rooney, Tom Sito, newbies Greg Manwaring and Eric Pighors, and old timer John Sparey.  I learned years later that the writer, Jeffrey Scott, is the grandson of Moe Howard of The Three Stooges.   

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Vicki Banks' Sculptures are Something to Crow About

The inspiration for FLIP came from meeting industry people whose personal work far out-shined the studio projects they worked on.  Vicki Banks is a prime example of such an artist.  She did tons of top tier assistant work on films like Tron and Prince of Egypt, but sculpting is her passion, a passion which has become her full time work.  FLIP asked her about her new direction....

"Conversaton Piece"
FLIP: You went from animator to sculptor - was this a transition, a continuation, or a completely new path for you?

Vicki: I think that the new path of full time sculptor was really a transition from animation. Although Sculpture is 3D, I still employ many of the same skills I used in 2D animation. For example, my creatures are slightly anthropomorphic, my poses are kind of like in-betweens, and there are elements of humor and storytelling. The biggest difference is, I am a business owner with all the headaches as well as perks that accompany that role, and I'm the sole artistic decision maker.

Monday, October 21, 2013

The SpongeBob Tombstone Controversy

CNN reports on a controversy involving the tombstone of murdered Army sergeant Kimberly Walker.  Because she was such a fan of SpongeBob Squarepants, the sergeant's family commissioned, with the help of a cemetery employee, a tombstone featuring the likeness of SpongeBob in an Army uniform.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Lou Scheimer, Gone to the Green and Purple Valley

Lou Scheimer, co-founder of Filmation Studios, died Thursday at the age of 85.  His studio made an awful lot of awful TV, but the man himself was highly respected in the industry in the 1970's and '80's for bucking the trend and not shipping production work overseas.  He kept hundreds of artists employed for many years, in union jobs, in his cartoon factory.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Tony Benedict's "The Last Cartoonery"

If you grew up loving Huckleberry Hound, Yogi Bear, or The Pink Panther, you may find this new documentary very interesting.  Legendary animation writer Tony Benedict has a pet project about his days with Hanna-Barbera and DePatie Freling, called The Last Cartoonery. He is going the Kickstarter route for funding, and talked to FLIP about the project and the good old days.
Joe Barbera and Tony Benedict with Yogi Bear storyboard.
Photo from Benedict's The Last Cartoonery site.
FLIP:  The Last Cartoonery - Who is doing this?

Tony: The Last Cartoonery is being done by me as producer, writer, animator and director. Music by Alan Bernhoft.

FLIP: Is there much film footage from your Hanna Barbera days?  Are you looking for material (film, photos, artwork, stories) for the film?

Tony: In the glory days of early Hanna–Barbera, fellow cartoon guy Jerry Eisenberg and I shot a lot of film and still photos around the studio. We also drew lots of gags and caricatures. Lots of photo and film restoration. We have designed caricatures of Bill and Joe to animate along with caricatures of other studio folk. We are animating gags created nearly sixty years ago. It's a labor of love. No one will get rich off this film but among animation fans I feel it will be well received.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Amazing Double Life of Jorgen Klubien

Dane Jorgen Klubien has lived in two parallel career worlds going back to the 1970's: one as an animator and story man for studios such as Disney and Pixar, the other as a Danish pop star.  It's a safe bet to say he is the only one in the world with that distinction.  He took a little time out to talk to FLIP.

FLIP:  Can you tell us about your music career?

Jorgen: I began playing the drums in bands in Copenhagen as a boy in the early 1970's.  We were four pals from school and we played high schools dances, etc . I always thought of myself as an artist who would become a fine artist with playing music for fun on the side.

I enrolled in the Danish Design school at 17, and was then invited to attend CalArts two years later.   My music career was put on hold until I returned to Denmark after having assisted Glen Keane, Jerry Rees, and Randy Cartwright on The Fox and The Hound for a year.  Back in Denmark I began writing songs with friends and soon thereafter I was in another band, this time as the front man and lead singer. We had a few hits in the mid 80's in Denmark and we have continued to play for fun every so often.

I returned to the US in 1982 to work on a title sequence for the show Animation Around The World, one of the first shows on the newly formed Disney Channel.  It was produced by my friend and classmate from CalArts, Rick Heinrichs.  He's been a great supporter of me throughout the years, and  has pulled me unto such great productions as The Nightmare Before Christmas and lately, Frankenweenie.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Luc Chamberland's Pool Party - you're invited!

Luc's pool party. It has animation too.
Luc Chamberland is a Montreal-based animator and director who has been working closely for a number of years with the Montreal Stop Motion Film Festival (MSMFF).  Below is his latest film, a short promotion for this year's festival, co-directed with Pierre Trudeau. We asked Luc to tell us about the festival and his work.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Disney closes Pixar Canada

In a blow to Canadian animation, Disney has decided to close their Pixar Studios in Canada. According to Variety,  Disney spokesperson Barb Matheson said “A decision was made to refocus operations and resources under the one roof...not great news, obviously.”  It is, of course,  a tragedy for everyone working at Disney in Vancouver. But to the grizzled animation veterans at FLIP, this all feels eerily familar.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Happy Birthday Art Babbitt (October 8, 1907- March 4, 1992)

Art Babbitt at Soho Square in the 1970s. Art is 3rd from the right, flanked by Grim Natwick to his left and Richard Purdum to his right
Art Babbitt was born Arthur Harold Babitsky on October 8 1907. Were he still alive, he would be 106 years old today. I met Art when I was a child, when he worked at my father's studio at No 13 Soho Square in London. In his youth, Art had been one of Disney's most talented staff members, a legendary animator who, but for his involvement in the 1940s strike, would have undoubtedly been one of the anointed inner circle at Disney - one of Walt's Nine Old Men.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

The Richard Williams Tribute at the Motion Picture Academy - Tom Sito reports

Richard Williams, Eric Goldberg and a Rabbit
Last night the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences paid tribute to animator, artist and director Richard Williams. For the benefit of everyone who couldn't be in LA or weren't lucky enough to get tickets, Tom Sito brings us the story and the pictures.

Friday, October 4, 2013

NBC Blew it with "The Michael J. Fox Show"

Have you seen Michael J. Fox's new, self-titled sitcom?  The one where he plays a guy with Parkison's disease?  Is it a dark humored, edgy comedy?  No.  It's Family Ties with Parkinson's disease.   And while that might be a funny SNL parody skit,  when fleshed to a half hour, it is dreadful.

Watching Michael J. struggling to hold it together while spitting out trite punchlines is too painful to watch.   He is trying his best, but let's face it - his situation is not funny.  I kept thinking, "Why is he doing this?"

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Alex Marks 20 years of Queen's Counsel with a New Book

FLIP's own Alex Williams has reached a milestone.  His comic strip Queen's Counsel started its run in The Times of London twenty years ago today.  After much arm-twisting, the other half of FLIP consented to an interview on the subject.

FLIP: You have been doing Queen's Counsel for 20 years. Does this milestone make you feel old? Proud? Tired?

Alex: All of the above. But, mainly, astonished. Whenever I open the paper I can't quite believe the cartoon strip is still there. I don’t even have a contract with the newspaper – but it’s been my longest job ever, by far. So, better add gratitude to that list.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Tony Siruno goes ape at the Qpop gallery in LA

Tony Siruno is one of our industry's leading character designers. For many years he worked for DreamWorks, helping to design many of their best-loved and most successful characters. Recently he has moved to Sony to head up their character design department. Tony has just contributed some artwork to an exhibition at the Qpop gallery in Los Angeles. FLIP asked him to tell us what this new exhibition is all about.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Frans Vischer "Fuddles" Again

Frans Vischer's self=caricature.
Animator Frans Vischer has a side project that he has nurtured for several years, a comic series called Fuddles. He talked to FLIP about it, as well as his second Fuddles book, A Very Fuddles Christmas, which was released today.

FLIP: You were part of the big Disney animation layoff back in April.  How have things gone since then?
Frans: I’m doing pretty well.  I do miss the studio and the people there, but my immediate reaction was to take this as an opportunity.  My second Fuddles book was long finished and awaiting publication, so here was a chance to focus on kids books.  I’ve been splitting time between my book work and free-lance animation and illustration, whatever pays the bills.  I’ve been working steadily for Renegade Animation, Darrell Van Citters’ company, doing digital illustrations for Scholastic, and I have about a dozen picture book ideas in various states that I’m playing with.