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Saturday, October 10, 2015

"Marvel Super Hero Adventures: Frost Fight!" Coming Soon

Marvel Animation Marvel Super Hero Adventures: Frost Fight!

Joe Quesada, who is in charge of Marvel, and Marvel president of television and publishing Dan Buckley gave guests at the recent New York Comic Con  preview of coming events. It looks exciting!

Marvel Animation intends to release an upcoming full-length animated holiday film called "Marvel Super Hero Adventures: Frost Fight!" It will include Iron Man, Captain America, Hulk, Captain Marvel and, best of all, Santa Claus. All of them, apparently, will battle Loki and Ymir.

Santa will even have his own superhero costume! It is, of course, family friendly and "told in a Marvel way."

Marvel Animation Age of Ultron Revolution

Two New Television Shows

They also said that there will be two new Marvel animated shows that will air on Disney XD in 2016:

  • Avengers: Ultron Revolution,
  • Ultimate Spider-Man vs. The Sinister Six

In Avengers: Ultron Revolution, there will be a group of mini-series featuring the core Avengers team as well as appearances from Ant-Man, Black Panther and Ms. Marvel, among others.

In Ultimate Spider-Man vs. The Sinister Six, also debuting in 2016, there will be appearances from Iron Spider, Scarlet Spider and Miles Morales.

Guardians of the Galaxy Marvel Animation

"Guardians of the Galaxy" will be back for a second season on Disney XD. It will have its own Cosmic Mix Volume 1 music release coming out on 16 October 2015. The mix will feature songs from the animated series.

Guardians of the Galaxy airs on Disney XD, Saturdays at 9:30/8:30 Central.


Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Fishing Train

Fishing Train

Fishing Train from Fishing Train on Vimeo.

"Fishing Train" is a cool little animation from Kevin Phou and the folks at Supamonks.

"Two mercenaries go on a very special fishing trip."

Very colorful, a fun ride.

Fishing Train

The others involved:

Vincent Gibaud : Concept Art, Background Design, Story Board , Layout, Animatique
Alizée Laffitau : Animation 2D/Fx, Chara-Design, Layout Animation
Maimiti Chave : Compositing, Concept Art
Luca Strano : Modélisation 3D
Camille Gomes : Chara-Design
Alexandre Monge : Animation 2D/3D
Maxime Gridelet : Animation2D/Fx
Yann Leroy : Compositing
Musique :
Benjamin Gex-Fabry

Fishing Train


Battlestar 2015 Viper Launch

Battlestar 2015 Viper Launch (Slow Ride) from Randal R on Vimeo.

This is a cool rendering by Randal R on Vimeo of a Viper launch from a Battlestar Galactica reboot. I also included a version from youtube below, but if your video card can handle it, always go with the Vimeo version if you can. Oh... full screen, please. Thank you.

Apparently, this is a snippet of a much larger work. I think it's a very good job. I will admit that I am a fan of the original Battlestar - I know, fans of the new one are shaking their poor heads at the number of times they've heard that - but this is worthy.

It's just a cool little thing, but the detail is very good.


Wednesday, September 30, 2015

International Space Station (ISS) Animation

This is a great animation from the Ted-ed people about the International Space Station, more commonly referred to as the ISS.

As anyone who has followed this blog knows, the space agencies (NASA, ESA etc.) have become quite adept - some would say slick - at creating animations of space flight. Sometimes these efforts are quite spectacular, and other times, well, a bit fanciful. However, for true geeks like me, there's nothing better than a well-produced space animation.

Animation to represent space flight is nothing new, as Wernher von Braun was working with Walt Disney to create such videos back in the 1950s. They remain perhaps the best way to bring the grandeur of space down to human level. Tien Nguyen narrates.

If that video intrigues you, here is another fine animation which features the ISS.


Sunday, July 19, 2015

The Flintstones: Behind the Scenes

Yabba Dabba Do!

The Flintstones

The early 1960s were an interesting time in the animation field. Walt Disney had just ended his Silver Age run of unparalleled classic animation feature films, but all was not well in the industry. "Sleeping Beauty," truly one of the great animated films of all time, had just crashed at the box office, and Walt briefly considered shutting down the entire money-losing animation department.

The Flintstones
Joe Barbera leading a script reading. Both Bill Hanna and Barbera were craftsmen who got involved with production.

Someone talked him out of it, but he looked for any way that he could to cut corners. One of his old-time colleagues, Ub Iwerks, came up with a new Xerographic form of animation. This was practically a new art form which, while slightly less artistic than previous hand-drawn animation, was also much cheaper to produce. Since "Sleeping Beauty" had undercut the animation department's finances even as the television and theme park businesses were booming, Disney had to make hard decisions.

The Flintstones
The life-sized cutouts were very real and helped to create the proper mood for the voice actors.

To save the studio, Walt ultimately fired many of the pen and ink girls who had colored in his films over the years, some since the 1930s. This halved the cost of making animated films and kept the animators employed at least.

The Flintstones

From then on, while Disney animated films were still the best in the business, the quality of the animation suffered. If you look carefully at Disney films after "Sleeping Beauty," beginning with "One Hundred and One Dalmatians" in 1961, you see faint black lines around all the characters - that is the Xerographic effect.

The Flintstones
An Inker working on Fred. This would later be sent out to be colored in.

However, television animation had been developing throughout the 1950s, and by 1960 it was ready to burst forth with one of the most iconic animated classics of its own. This one would ultimately would come to rival even the great Disney epics in popularity and enduring fame and influence.

The Flintstones
Merchandising was a huge for television animation. Here, Yogi Bear and Huckleberry Hound roll off the line, to be sold under the Avon brand.

Hanna-Barbera Productions, led by producers Joseph Barbera and William Hanna, created "The Flintstones" for television. It featured the voices of Alan Reed as patriarch Fred Flintstone, voice legend Mel Blanc as his buddy Barney Rubble (and many other characters as well), Jean Vander Pyl as Fred's wife Wilma, and Bea Benaderet as Barney's wife Betty.

The Flintstones

The show became a huge hit, airing in prime time and spawning all sorts of continuations, sequels, spin-offs or whatever you wanted to call more of the same thing.

The Flintstones
Bill Hanna oversees production of the soundtrack. Notice the clock about to strike noon, almost lunchtime, got to get the work done.

For the industry, though, the show meant one thing: jobs. One of the little known facts of the early animation industry is that most of the grunt workers were women. Disney may have fired most of his staff, but they were not unemployed for long. Many left the Disney Ink and Paint Department in tears only to find a new need for their services at Hanna-Barbera, the studio known for the Tom and Jerry cartoons.

The Flintstones
Mel Blanc and Alan Reed

Hanna and Barbera sweetened the pot by offering the ladies the chance to work from home, where they could just as easily paint in the cels as they could at the studio. This was a savvy move on their part, because Hanna Barbera was not a hugely successful studio at the time.

The Flintstones

It was located in a dumpy, windowless, one-storey brick building (which still exists) at 3501 Cahuenga (before their move down the street a couple of years later). Employees affectionately called it "The Bunker." It could barely fit 50 employees, so having the ladies work from home both induced them to sign up and also gave them a place to work. Compared to this first building, the later Hanna-Barbera Studios buildings were lavish.

The Flintstones
Joe Barbera and family at home in the Hollywood Hills

Sometime around the very start of the show, around September 1960, photographers from Life Magazine took these shots for the November 1960 issue.

The Flintstones
A story meeting, apparently for Harebrain Hare and Lippy the Lion, being led by Hanna and Barbera. In attendance are Warren Foster (standing), Dan Gordon, Alan Dinehart, Michael Maltese, and Alex Lovy.

These shots are just a small sampling of the 850 photographs taken by Allan Grant. All of the photographs survive.

The Flintstones
A cel painter trying to hurry things along.

This was the "Mad Men" era, and you can see from Joe Barbera's office that Japanese prints were in fashion, along with pearl necklaces and tight skirts.

The Flintstones
Joe Barbera in his office, amused by something being read to him by his secretary Maggie Roberts. He and Hanna previously had been nominated for two Oscars, in 1955 and 1957, but not too many animators were beating Walt Disney at Awards time during the '50s.

Maggie Roberts, pictured above and below and then secretary to Barbera, became his assistant and later led unsuccessful efforts in 1997 to preserve the Hanna-Barbera building after Time Warner bought out the studio by conferring Landmark status upon them.

The Flintstones
The Hanna-Barbera Studios on Cahuenga

However, in 2004, a plan was hatched by the Los Angeles City Council to save the three buildings, which had been designed by Beverly Hills architect Arthur Froehlich and did have some unique attributes.

The Flintstones

After forty years at 3400 Cahuenga Boulevard, the Hanna-Barbera lot was closed and studio operations were moved into the same office tower as the Warner Bros. Television Animation division in Sherman Oaks, Los Angeles, California, adjacent to the Sherman Oaks Galleria. The old crew, including Joe, Bill, secretary Maggie, and many, many others returned for one last "class photo" in 1997.

The Flintstones
Cameraman Frank Paiker, a longtime veteran of the business, shooting a scene. He is using what was known as a Rostrum camera.

The Flintstones
Several inkers working from one of their bedrooms.

The Flintstones
Bill Hanna grilling some steaks.

The Flintstones
Animator Carlo Vinci mimicking what he is working on.

The Flintstones
Joe Barbera reviewing some sketches by Ed Benedict.

The Flintstones
The studio bowling team heading out.
The Flintstones


Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Inside Out (2015): Pixar Back in Action

Inside Out

Pixar was the gold standard of animation for the dozen years after the Disney Renaissance petered out, from about the time of "Monsters Inc." in 2001 through "Brave" in 2012. Pixar's dominance was partly due to Disney's stumbles, which in turn were caused partly by running out of creative juice after an unprecedented run of masterpieces of animation and partly due to the sorts of issues that can arise after such success (cf. Orson Welles' career after "Citizen Kane"). The proof is that Pixar's great run at the top began as the Disney Renassance ended; and Pixar's own dominance ended, not due to anything that it did, but rather because of the 2013 Disney juggernaut that was "Frozen."

Inside Out
Kyle MacLachlan and Diane Lane voice Riley's parents

As if accepting that times indeed had changed, Pixar did not release any films for the two years from June 2013's "Monsters University" (which, fittingly, was a prequel to the film that began the Pixar streak in 2001) to "Inside Out" (2015). The latter film thus is a sort of comeback attempt, and it works well as such. Directed by Pete Docter (who did "Monsters Inc.") and Ronnie del Carmen from a screenplay by , "Inside Out" is an animated drama takes an old idea and puts a fresh spin on it. It does not break much new ground, but does re-establish Pixar as a creative force in the industry.

Inside Out
The promotional materials focus on primary colors, apparently to show how primary emotions are to our well-being - and to reinforce that this is about a little girl.

Riley is a Minnesota girl who is approaching puberty. We are quickly introduced to the inner workings of her mind, which is emotionally controlled by five central impulses: Anger, Joy, Sadness, Fear and Disgust. These emotional impulses rule Riley from their Headquarters in Riley's consciousness and can influence her perceptions and reactions. Joy is in nominal control, but the others take over when the time is right.

Inside Out
The intercuts between inside and outside can be a bit voyeuristic and is a bit of a cheap shot in comedy terms, sort of like commenting on the stars' outfits on the Red Carpet at awards shows. We should be reacting to the action on screen, not characters who are on the screen. We are reacting to reactors, which gives the entire film a sort of clinical feel.

Everything proceeds normally until Riley, 11, moves with her family to San Francisco. Suddenly, Sadness begins to take a more active role in Riley's life, causing some incidents at school. Joy tries to intervene, but instead only makes things worse by disrupting Riley's core memories, which had kept her stable but which now become dislodged and lost. The core memories ultimately have to try to figure out a way to return to their prominent place in Riley's mind while Anger, Disgust and Fear fight to keep control over Riley. Their efforts only worsen matters, and soon Riley's personality is in danger of completely disintegrating in the Memory Dump, a graveyard of lost memories. Joy and Sadness also wind up there.

Inside Out
The '70s furniture idea is an interesting choice.

The others try to be helpful, and Sadness directs Riley to return to Minnesota to recover Joy, who is now missing. Joy and Sadness, though, are trying to return to Headquarters and encounter Bing Bong, Riley's childhood imaginary friend who also is lost. Bing Bong has a plan to return to Headquarters by riding the Train of Thought, but they find out it no longer leads there.

Inside Out
The static Headquarters becomes a bit of a bore after a while, with the characters standing around reacting to events.

Meanwhile, Riley is about to board a bus back to Minnesota, so Joy, desperate, tries to ride a Recall Tube back to Headquarters alone, but that also is blocked. Joy and Bing Bong wind up in the Memory Dump, where Joy sees some old happy memories that give her an idea about recovering control over Riley. Bing Bong tries to help Joy to escape in Bing Bong's old song-powered wagon, but ultimately comes to realize that he is only preventing Joy from returning to Headquarters and jumps out. Joy then combines with Sadness to use the wagon to return to Headquarters, which they find that Anger has shut down. Sadness springs into action and takes control, inducing Riley to give up returning to Minnesota and go home.

Inside Out
There was some thought early on that the film would be entitled "Vice Versa," but that wound up being only the French title.

Sadness goes to work, reinstalling the core memories and causing Riley to finally tell her parents how much she misses her old life in Minnesota. Joy then combines with Sadness to create a new core memory that helps form a new personality island. This restores Riley to stability, and we see Riley a year later with a new, improved Headquarters that has control over entirely new personality islands and complex core memories.

Inside Out
Overseas box office is vital to Hollywood success these days, and promotions there can take on a decidedly different slant than in the US. For instance, Japanese marketing focuses on Riley's alienation and sadness in a dark world.

"Inside Out" is one of those films that is better as executed than it is as an idea. The conceit of an anthropomorphic group modelled on a NASA Mission Control controlling a person has been around at least since Woody Allen's 1972 "Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex* (*But Were Afraid to Ask)," and it was used in Fox's sitcom "Herman's Head" in the early 1990s. In the music industry, they distinguish between a "good song" and a "good record," and "Inside Out is a good record.

Inside Out
There is an enduring edge of darkness throughout the film, though that is not always obvious.

Pretty much everybody loves "Inside Out," as demonstrated by strong box office performance and standard critical raves. The film took about five years from initial idea to the screen, which is fairly typical for a top animated film, and was a very calculated effort. for example, a young girl was chosen as the subject because of research showing they were very emotional (and probably also because it is a key target demographic). Since "Inside Out" came at the end of a long absence of Pixar, the film was eagerly awaited but expectations fairly low. Still, there were hints that the Pixar magic was beginning to run the slightest bit thin: "Inside Out" did not debut at #1, coming in behind "Jurassic World," though it did capture the top spot a couple of weeks later due to weak competition.

Inside Out
For some reason, the Joy character reminds me of Tinkerbell.

Overseas box office was strong, though it didn't break any records like, say, "Frozen," and there is no chance of winning the year's box office crown. Pixar built its reputation on happy-go-lucky characters who overcome adversity with a smile, so why it bet the big comeback film around a sad little girl and then threw in the ubiquitous "animated characters must find their way home" storyline is a bit of a mystery, but box office doesn't lie. The script essentially takes well-known buzzwords about the psyche and anthropomorphizes them, which is a good way to illustrate the craft of animation and insert 'comic bits' without actually creating much that is new. Worries that the storyline might be too complex for a younger audience were misplaced, but even the best animation in the business can't hide a pedestrian and over-plotted storyline.

Inside Out

The cast is led by Amy Poehler as Joy, Phyllis Smith as Sadness, Mindy Kaling as Disgust, Lewis Black as Anger and Bill Hader as Fear. Pixar pulls an old trick by getting genial veteran tv character actor Richard Kind to play Bing Bong, the sort of sentimental self-sacrificing role that he is ideally suited to, and John Ratzenberger continues his string of appearing in Pixar films by voicing Fritz. There also is a bit of insider casting decisions, as puppeteers Dave Goelz and Frank Oz of "The Muppets" were given small voice roles. Veteran Pixar contributor Michael Giacchino ("Up") composed the score, which is pleasant but does not contain any show-stoppers or guest artists.

Inside Out
Even the animated figures in the live shots seem, well, unhappy.

Overall, "Inside Out" is a worthy effort that continues the string of Pixar successes. The craftsmanship is superb and undeniable. However, it definitely is not one of Pixar's best, such as "Monsters Inc." or the "Toy Story" films. You will enjoy the brisk 94-minute running time and probably wind up looking forward to watching "The Good Dinosaur," Pixar's late-2015 follow-up. Odds are that you will swiftly put the decidedly light "Inside Out" out of your own mind.

Below, someone collected together all the various clips of "Inside Out" that have been released so that, basically, you can watch half the film. The first two clips were intended to be included in the film, but ultimately were taken out, so that's an extra treat if you are big fan.


Friday, June 26, 2015

R´ha (Short Animated Movie)


R´ha [short movie] from Kaleb Lechowski on Vimeo.

R'ha is a great animated short which is technically excellent and also has a quite subtle narrative for a six-minute animation. The visuals and concept were the work of one man - Kaleb Lechowski - which just goes to show you what one man with vision and expertise can do these days. Guys like Lechowski are awesome talents and deserve to have their work seen.


"R'ha" essentially works as a sort of combination of "Star Wars," "The Terminator" with maybe a dash of "Babylon 5." Ok, that is just a name-dropping way of saying that this is a science fiction animated short populated by odd aliens composed with superior execution. If you want the plot boiled down to a 'moral of the story,' it would be something along the lines of 'it pays to be clever.'


I can't help myself, I have to be a bit of a critic and point out a couple of places that could stand improvement (I know, I know, how dare I - well, I dare). The sound is very difficult to understand, especially the first time through. You may have to watch this a couple of times to catch all the dialog, though after you do understand it all, the sound works quite well. The animation also suffers from "dark disease," meaning everything is way too dark as a crutch to make the animation more "realistic." I certainly can excuse these problems due to this being an independent, one-man production. Overall, this gets the big A+, with kudos to the creators.

Written, directed and animated by Kaleb Lechowski (C) Kaleb Lechowski.
Hartmut Zeller - Sound
Dave Masterson - Voice acting
Scott Glassgold / IAM Entertainment - Representation