Monday, May 02, 2022

Edinboro University of Pennsylvania Animation Department ranks among best in U.S.

Some good news from the Edinboro Universtiy Alumni Newsletter:

"Edinboro University animation program ranks among best in U.S."

(my photo from CTN Expo in Burbank CA)

My second old Alma Mater Edinboro made a mark in the Top 25 East Coast Animation Schools and Colleges for 2022, going up against heavy hitters such as School of Visual Arts, New York, New York and Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, Rhode Island. Edinboro is accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD).

Nice to know the 'Boro's is still slugging it out, in spite of the Covid lockdown, and the university being merged into the new Pennsylvania Western University with Clarion and California (PA) universities. While my career didn't go as far as distinguished alumni as Bill Waldman or David Filoni, I'm still grateful to Edinboro and the teachers there.

Sunday, April 24, 2022

Innovations in Animation - Part 4 - Gorillaz

Hello folks, this article has been giving me trouble for a while. I've been an on and off fan of the Gorillaz for some time, and they've seemed to have fallen off the pop culture radar. Their music and graphic style from the '90's is still interesting to me, but I've had trouble collecting info on the artists and writers on this unique and outrageous virtual band. Been working on this since the pandemic started, so it's kind of slopped out down below. Publishing it "as is" may provide the spur for me to tighten up my writing here. We'll see.

(original copyright Jamie Hewlett and "Zombie Flesh Eaters")

The virtual band members: Murdoc - bass, "2D" - vocals and keyboards, Noodles -guitar and vocals, and Russel - drums, percussion.

I first heard the Gorillaz while riding along in my sister's truck over the Holidays on a dark winter night years ago, as we rumbled over the snowy back roads in Amish country. "Dirty Harry" came on her truck's sound system, and I was delightfully haunted by the whole bizarre experience. 
This track had an enticing trance-dance-pop feel, with some killer rap that came in to break the spell. Later, when I picked up their DVD debut album set, Gorillaz Phase One: Celebrity Take Down, I was struck by the graphic underground comics style of Jamie Hewlett, who created these four bizarre misfits, streetwise, sort of rough and tumble characters, resembling his character designs from his Tank Girl comics.
(Gorillaz Phase One: Celebrity Take Down features the animation of director Pete Candeland, Dave Antrobus, and Chris Hauge.)

Who were these bizarre, even frightening characters? They seem to be some sort of gang, or part of some criminal underworld. Again, comic artist Jamie Hewlett oversaw the dark, sinister stylized limited animation, with some 3D CG elements, mostly backgrounds or characters with vehicles.
Blank eyes, bad teeth, and some character designs that even flirt with racial stereotypes. There's some demonic possession too. Just what EMI, Parlophone, ‎Virgin‎ and later ‎Warner needed to present what is essentially Damon Albarn's studio band work, with rotating members who provided the real music. Sort in method that was used by the Archies, or the Monkees. And yet, their music has polished, professional level of production quality that gives the Gorillaz a successful multi-media foundation.

Musician: Damon Albarn

Artist: Jamie Hewlett

Passion Pictures, animation studio for the Clint Eastwood video 

 But, to sum up: It's good, "clean" dirty fun. The Gorillaz give me a chance to be a vicarious hoodlum. From time to time.

(Tank Girl original copyright
Jamie Hewlett - Dark Horse Comics)

Netflix and Jeff Smith's Bone Feature

This bad buzz turned up on my Facebook feed a couple days ago. It sounds like it's the end for Jeff Smith's "Bone" Feature. Jeff Smith created a cleverly written and beautifully designed comic that was geared to be just right for animation. No dice. "Bone" seemed to be cursed ever since I visited their old Character Builders Studio back in Columbus Ohio. Hey, it's not my fault. Maybe management had something to do with it...

 More here-


("Bone" original copyright Jeff Smith)

And because, the Bone comic dealt with some mature issues, such as smoking and drinking alcohol, the censorship battle sprung up some years ago. There seems to be a rigid view of what an animated feature should be, and what "ingredients" it should contain. Heaven help up us if we get something refreshing, nutritious and imaginative besides the usual fast food.

It's been a long time since I read the comics, but I remember Bone's story beginning to approach an epic that borrowed a bit from the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Jeff Smith's influences from classic animation, and Walt Kelly' "Pogo Possum" also added to a lively mix of comedy, action and great characters interacting. Plus, some mysteries and drama that arise with the female leads, and their connection to the Dragons. It would be quite a story to squeeze all that material into one feature, along with all the desperately needed pop culture and music to "help make it a hit".

Get back to the basics here.

Saturday, April 09, 2022

Discovery Aquires Warner Media From AT&T

Hello group, I'm grateful to the readers who still follow this blog. Health and work issues have kept me away again, but I felt this article deserved some attention. The course of the old Time-Warner corporation has always has always held my interest, mainly due to its animation history. And the old WB was me bread 'n' butter back in the 1990's.

But now, Bugs Bunny, Batman and the whole Warner media empire will go to work for the Discovery Channel. This group includes the Food Network, Animal Planet and TLC. Do they know they will be inheriting skeletons in the closet like Pepe Le Pew? Will they actually see the real ingredients of a Scooby-Snack? Maybe Superman will show how he bakes one of his giant super cakes? 

I'm just bellyachin' here folks, bear with me.

 (original copyright Warner Brothers)

At first, I was surprised that AT&T would sell off a library like Warner's when they still have all these digital arteries to fill. But now I'm wondering if the ol' "Ma Bell" isn't doing well with streaming. It looks like they have some big bills to pay off. And it's not like Discovery is a young, agile, cutting-edge new media entity like Amazon or Netflix either. This purchase looks more like another incident of buying up competitors, selling off the new surplus resources, and cutting jobs. 

Meanwhile, the remnants of the old Hollywood studios only seem to be flashy accessories that get passed around, like old antiques.

Thursday, February 10, 2022

RIP Douglas Trumbull

(From Ridley Scott's "Blade Runner". Original copyright - the Ladd Company, now Warner Brothers)

Found out via facebook, regrettably, that visual effects king Douglas Trumbull has passed away at the age of 79. His work included cornerstone effects films such as as "Close Encounters of the Third Kind", "Blade Runner, and, of course "2001: A Space Odyssey". But one of his most innovative creations was the "Back to the Future" ride. Trumbull was the first to give riders the full "immersion experience" with surrounding screens and motion actuated seating.

 I saw him more as an visual artist, rather than a traditional story teller and movie maker when he was at the helm as director. During the downer 1970's, "Silent Running" was the only new science fiction product available, after countless Star Trek reruns. The visual style of 2001 kind of echoed there, but a much smaller budget. A grim tale of earth's last biospheres being placed in giant domes, and launched into space for protection. And a grimmer story of one man's fight to save them, as the space ship's owners order the crew to ditch the domes so the spaceships can return to more profitable cargo missions. 

Still, before I outgrew the big budget Sci-Fi movies, there was a level of quality, and believability in the images that Douglas Trumbull created. While there may not have been much of a plot, going along for the ride was what mattered.

Saturday, February 05, 2022

Visual Effects Nominees Spotlight | 93rd Oscars VFX Bake-off Apr 21, 2021

Hello blog, 2022 has been off to a slow start for me with my duties in a new position at the Animation Guild, and the restrictions of the continuing Covid pandemic. Still coping with losses in the family, and the shut down of our Computer Lab. Trying to get my rest, and searching for some new inspiration. Will try to catch the Oscars, as well as the Annie Awards coming soon. Forward!

Animateducated Blogcast 002

Animated Educated is a great channel. It gives animation students and fans access to great experience, and the backgrounds and insights of very talented guests. I've been lucky to work with Jim Richardson back during my time at Woodbury University's animation department.

Sunday, November 07, 2021

Animated Holiday Characters And Their Pets

Well, it's time for more musings on Christmas animation as the Holidays close in. In our most beloved Holiday TV Specials and movies, I've finally paid more attention to the ways the main characters usually seem to have a special dog, or some other unique animal companion involved in their story. Most recently, Jack Skellington from The Nightmare Before Christmas comes to mind, with his poltergeist pooch buddy, Zero. Naturally, Zero leads the reindeer team through through the fog with his glowing pumpkin nose.

(copyright Disney)
Rudolph doesn't really fit in this article, since he was ostracized very early on. He didn't become buds with Ol' Saint Nick until much later, when Santa finally appreciated his talents very late in the game. Once in a blue moon, Santa's reindeer do get some comments in, now and then, but they are still basically treated as beasts of burden.

Even The Grinch, with his hostility towards Christmas, and just about the entire world in general, still had his friendly and faithful canine companion Max. Since Chuck Jones portrays The Grinch as this cranky, and even somewhat tragic character, the fact that he keeps Max around proves that The Grinch is not a complete monster.

(original copyright Chuck Jones/MGM, now Turner-Time Warner)
A bigger leap occurred when Frosty the Snowman was assisted by the cute magician's rabbit, "Hocus Pocus". This new companion, and fellow traveler seemed to be a writer's contrivance, but a good one. The "mystically challenged" magician, Professor Hinkle, throws away his top hat when his magic act for the schoolkids goes wrong. Hocus hops away with the Hat to where the kids have built Frosty, and Karen places The Hat on Frosty's head. After seeing the Hat bring Frosty to life, Professor Hinkle grabs it back when he realizes that the old top hat can actually generate real magic. (The Hat seemed to have some built-in moral compass that resisted Hinkle's selfish motives, but I'm being pedantic here.)
Fortunately, with a sneaky, but clever bit of subterfuge, Hocus returns the Hat to Karen to let her restore Frosty back to life. Hocus is the key player in Frosty's origin, but then allows himself to become somewhat overlooked. It's clear that Hinkle and Hocus didn't have a good relationship at the start, so the rabbit is more than happy to join Frosty and Karen on their adventure. Since Frosty is almost a blank slate in this TV special, he comes to rely quite a bit on Hocus for guidance to save Karen while on his journey to the North Pole.
(original copyright Rankin/Bass)
As characters for the very young viewers to relate to, all the dogs, rabbits and even a penguin become helpers, comrades, and witnesses to the main characters' actions and feelings. They also offer clues and inspiration to the main characters, sometimes accidentally; as with Max landing in the snow, and popping up looking like Santa to give The Grinch his perfectly, wonderfully, awful idea.

Which leads us to the heart of this article:

Scrooge had no dog.
After being stranded alone for the Holidays due to Covid last year, the corrosive effects of isolation became painfully apparent for me. No one should be alone, especially during the Holidays. It's a wonder there aren't more Scrooges in the world, and I've seen how becoming like Scrooge can happen all too easily. The usual unreasonable social and emotional expectations of the season are tough enough. In the meantime, let's hear it for those magical fuzzy buddies who are always there to bail us out!


Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Inktober - 2021

 Finally sat down, concentrated, and put some ideas down on paper for Animation Guild post-it show.

They're also doing double duty for Inktober.

"Spooky Old House"

"Breaking Free"

"Common Bonds"