December 07, 2011

The Gutsy Frog On Brubaker's Blog

Charles Brubaker just did a great series of posts on his blog about another 70s anime with pretty funky animation -- "The Gutsy Frog." I highly recommend reading them.

http://bakertoons.blogspot.com/2011/11/gutsy-frog.html
http://bakertoons.blogspot.com/2011/12/gutsy-frog-continued.html
http://bakertoons.blogspot.com/2011/12/gutsy-frog-part-3.html

November 27, 2011

Pooh Review and Muppet Musings

Recently I've seen two attempts to bring beloved franchises back to their former glories. (Three if you include Sonic Generations, but I'm sure none of my readers want to hear about video games so I'll just say I loved it and leave it at that.)

Winnie the Pooh was designed as a throwback to the original Pooh shorts from the late 60s. I think in attempting to be faithful to the quiet, low-key charm of the classic shorts, they went too far and just made a movie where nothing really happens. The familiar wordplay arguments are taken to extremes here-- the characters spend the whole movie arguing about what they should do, and never get around to doing it. The songs were also completely tuneless. Still, it was definitely the best Pooh movie in quite a while. It did have its moments, and the animation and voices were as good as one would expect from Disney.

On the other hand, I flat-out loved The Muppets. I haven't paid much attention to the Muppets' output over the past decade but the last I saw, it seemed like they were still struggling to get over the various deaths (Jim Henson, Richard Hunt, Jerry Juhl) and retirements (Frank Oz, Jerry Nelson) that had shaken up the franchise. I'm happy to say that this issue has now been sorted out.

Steve Whitmire's Kermit still doesn't sound 100% like Henson's did, but he's close enough. Frank Oz's characters are now played almost perfectly by Eric Jacobson. I say "almost" because most of them are dead-on, but Fozzie Bear's voice alternates between sounding indistinguishable from the original, and being barely recognizable. He definitely has Fozzie's speech pattern right, which is no easy feat, but the timbre of the voice wavers a lot during the quieter moments. His Piggy, Animal and Sam the Eagle are consistently good though. The replacements for Jerry Nelson and Richard Hunt are also fantastic. Dave Goelz is still playing Gonzo, 35 years on, and seems to be in good health, so I assume he'll continue for a while.

The movie was directed by James Bobin and the new songs were written by Bret McKenzie. They were two-thirds of the main creative force behind the Flight of the Conchords TV series. I loved that show, so I enjoyed their contributions. You can definitely hear the Conchords touch in the lyrics, which were full of puns and sly phrasing. Also, this movie has one of the best versions of "Smells Like Teen Spirit" ever recorded.

This was clearly a movie made by Muppet fans. It was almost surreal seeing so many cameos by obscure characters and nods to past films, in a theater full of fellow fans reacting with cheers and laughter. The Muppets have been out of the public eye for so long, it started to feel like nobody else remembered them, let alone still liked them. Which of course is exactly what the movie is about.

I was worried it might feel too self-glorifying--"Jason Segel and his fellow Muppet-lovers convince the Muppets to mount a comeback" just as easily describes the behind-the-scenes events that led to the movie. But the human leads and the new Muppet character are likeable, and they stay out of the spotlight for most of the movie. Segel's enthusiasm was obvious whenever he was onscreen, and Amy Adams was adorable as always. The only time I actually thought about the real-life parallels was the ending, in which (spoilers? ...no, not really) everything works out and the Muppets are beloved once again. If the movie had failed at the box office, then that ending scene would've been uncomfortable to watch, but so far it seems to have done good business, which is a relief. I want this movie to do well. It deserves to.

I'm curious what the Muppets will do next. This movie was great, but they can't keep playing the nostalgia card. The team has shown that they can faithfully recapture the original magic, but now they have to show us some new tricks.

November 18, 2011

Robotnik Skipping



This is a pencil test I shot about a year ago for school. It's not the best one I did, but it's my favourite. We had to animate a character jumping, and then skipping (I think the original idea was to have the character jumping rope, but there was a miscommunication and our class ended up doing this instead). Anyway, we had the option of either designing a character or using a pre-existing model sheet to work from, so naturally I picked Milton Knight's Robotnik design from Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog.

At one point the teacher commented that it was too rubbery and stretch-and-squashy. He questioned whether it was "on-model," so I showed him the hilarious model sheet, which includes the legendary direction "Keep it loose and distorted. Draw EXPRESSIVELY, not WELL." This clearly bothered him, but he allowed me to continue with the animation. He eventually had me correct a few things and tone some of the stretch and squash down, but this is an earlier version that I like better. The biggest mistake that sticks out to me now is the popping of the stripe on his back during the skip. I should've just left that off.

November 14, 2011

Yuzo Aoki's Crazy Lupin Movie

I've finally found another animator I like as much as Rod Scribner and Jim Tyer, thanks to Ben Ettinger's Anipages blog (which has really been on fire lately with some amazing posts).

A while ago I did some posts about a weird Lupin III episode. Ben not only told me who was responsible for the wacky drawings in it, he also told me what else they worked on in the franchise. If you're interested, just read his recent posts on Lupin III, specifically this one and this one.

I don't want to re-iterate too much of what he's written, but to make a long story short, it turns out there were two artists whose work I was noticing in that episode: Yoshio Kabashima and Yuzo Aoki. As I suspected, they co-directed the animation for the 1978 Lupin movie Lupin vs Clone, or The Secret of Mamo as it was called in the US. That movie has tons of really funny drawings too, but like the episode I posted the images from, the animation is often pretty limited, so the drawings don't really shine like they should.

After reading Ben's posts, I decided to look into the "pink jacket" Lupin III cartoons from the 1980s, since Yuzo Aoki had a much bigger part in them. This third era of Lupin was generally disliked by the Lupin fan base, for a few reasons. The music, colour and overall style are pure 80s cheese. (On a side note, Yuji Ohno, the long-time music composer for the series, renamed his band "the Super Sexual Transport" during this period. I just thought that was funny.) The stories became even sillier and more far-fetched than either of the previous Lupin TV series. Take a look at these demented episode titles:

"Good Afternoon, Hell's Angel"
"Lupin has Come with a Tank""The Man Is Called the Death Garb"
"Virgin Mary's Getaway Strategy""The Copy-Man Comes Expensive"
"Code Name Is Alaska Star"
"The Alaska Star Is a Ticket to Hell"
"Pops Boils over with Rage"
"Plunder the Pyramid of Insurance"


I know you can make anything sound stupid by translating it literally, but I just needed to share those gems... Anyway, another reason people didn't like the 80s Lupin was because anime fans often have a very narrow definition of what constitutes good animation. Sometimes they're right -- the art was inconsistent, and occasionally just plain bad. But Yuzo Aoki's work on the pink jacket series and the accompanying 1985 movie was fantastic. Not much of his work on the TV series is available for immediate viewing online, but here's an opening sequence he did.



The Lupin III anime has never looked this much like the original manga by Monkey Punch. Apart from Aoki's weird design of Fujiko, you'd swear Monkey Punch just learned to animate and did this himself. The posing is so inspired and demented. And the stylization of details like the wrinkles on the clothing is really well-done. This is what I love about the Lupin comics, and Aoki's animation of the characters is just like watching the comic in motion. Even the well-animated 1969 Lupin pilot film looks watered-down to me now, compared to this animated distillation of the Monkey Punch style.

I have the 1985 movie on VHS, but I hadn't watched it recently until Ben's posts on Aoki, who was the character designer, animation director and layout supervisor for this movie. So he was almost completely responsible for its visual style.





The film is pretty much 100 minutes of the kind of hilariously drawn slapstick comedy in the original Monkey Punch comics, and sadly that's probably why it turns off fans of the other Lupin anime. This is Lupin III at its absolute craziest. It's a far cry from the stiff, formulaic tedium of the franchise today. It actually feels like this movie was written with the intention of giving the animators interesting things to animate, sometimes to the detriment of the plot or any kind of structure. I'm not surprised that this movie is so rarely talked about. It's kind of an anomaly -- too wacky (and in some sections, simply incoherent) for anime fans, and it's an obscure part of an overwhelmingly long-running franchise, so there's almost no way a Western viewer would see it unless they're specifically looking for it. Of course, it doesn't help that it's been out of print in North America for years.



This is a movie where Lupin and Zenigata ride motorcycles in and out of the various orifices on a giant face for no reason. The face changes its expression several times, and sneezes.






It's the kind of movie where Zenigata sends dynamite on a zipline attached to handcuffs he throws around Lupin's neck... And Lupin can make the dynamite turn around by holding up the appropriate sign. And of course when it does explode, the characters are just charred for a second before healing completely.



There's also a robot with a hat. It eats money.


This is not a botched translation.

The story is confusing at times, but certain scenes in this movie are among my favourites in the entire Lupin III canon. Screenshots will not do them justice, so here are some videos. (In case you're wondering, Lupin's name is written as Rupan in the subtitles because for a while, no US anime distributors were allowed to use the name Lupin. It's a long story.)


Watch Lpn Bbln Train in Anime | View More Free Videos Online at Veoh.com

This is part of a scene in which Lupin and his pals are on a train being chased by Inspector Zenigata, and a bunch of gangsters. There are so many insane poses in this sequence, and it's great to see them fully-animated instead of just one or two per shot. It's still not quite "full animation" in the traditional Western sense, but that seems to be mainly on purpose; Aoki has a idiosyncratic sense of timing that involves a lot of short holds. I wish I could upload these clips in a format that allowed frame-by-frame viewing. (Don't you love all the weird little noises Yasuo Yamada does as the voice of Lupin? They really add a lot of energy and humour to the character.)


Watch Lpn Bbln Rucksack in Anime | View More Free Videos Online at Veoh.com


Watch Lpn Bbln Crt in Anime | View More Free Videos Online at Veoh.com

More funny animation and funny Yasuo Yamada noises.


Watch Lpn Bbln River in Anime | View More Free Videos Online at Veoh.com

If you can find this movie, I'd recommend taking a look. It's very uneven, but you won't see animation quite like this anywhere else.

October 25, 2011

Fester Fish Fan Art

Check it out-- fan art of Fester Fish! It's from Camgaloo on Deviantart, a joint account shared between CamBoy and GalooGameLady. This Jack-o-Lantern is incredible. Thanks guys!

October 24, 2011

5000 Fingers of Dr. Bebop

I'm assuming everybody is aware of and loves "the 5000 Fingers of Dr. T," the 1953 live-action movie written and designed by Dr. Suess. If you haven't seen this movie, you should be ashamed. You are squandering the gift of life.

...Well to be honest, it's not that great as a whole (waaay too many forgettable songs), but the set design is amazing and Hans Conried is hilarious as the titular villain. I also love the Siamese-bearded twins on roller skates. The movie is probably best known, other than the Dr. Suess connection, for having inspired Sideshow Bob's last name on the Simpsons. The 'T' stands for Terwiliker, and the little boy he harasses throughout the movie is named Bart.

Anyway, yesterday while I was sorting through some recent drawings, I had this movie playing on my laptop, but with the sound off. Instead of the regular audio I was listening to my music library on Shuffle. I got as far as the hypnotic duel between Dr. T and his plumber, Mr. Zablodowski. It's already a really funny scene on its own, but it just so happened that "Tank!" -- the theme song from Cowboy Bebop -- started playing, and it actually kind of synced up! I immediately knew I had to share this with the rest of humanity. Witness the glory of "5000 Fingers of Dr. Bebop."



...At least, I think it's funny.

October 23, 2011

No News, Some Doodles

Progress has been slow on the new Fester Fish cartoon, mostly because of school. I've got most of the story figured out, but I haven't boarded it yet. I'm really itching to get animating on it as soon as possible though... Anyway, here are some recent doodles.




October 09, 2011

G-Bank$ Rap

Mary Poppins is one of my favourite movies. Who doesn't love it? Only crazy people, obviously. Anyway, I decided that it would be improved if George Banks, the father character played by David Tomlinson, rapped over a hip-hop beat. So I made it happen.



I just hope the Disney lawyers don't take it down immediately. I tried uploading it a few times before but it was taken off within minutes.

September 27, 2011

Emotional Zenigata

Here are some Zenigata expressions that caught my eye last time I watched the 1995 movie "Lupin III - Farewell to Nostradamus." Most of the animation in it is pretty boring and typical of 90s anime, but the odd shot is kind of funny.





September 13, 2011

Hagar the Cuckold

I was sorting through some books in my room today, trying to find some to get rid of. Imagine my delight when I found this Hagar the Horrible strip, cut out and filed away between two books.

This is a real strip. Hagar's wife is having an affair with his dog. That's the only conclusion I can draw from this. There doesn't seem to be any joke, apart from Hagar's marriage that is. Hagar seems to be taking the news pretty well. I guess by this point their marriage was mostly for show anyway.

September 10, 2011

Digital Background Painting Class

Yesterday I completed a two-week intensive Digital Background Painting course at school, before classes start full-time for Year 3. It was really fun and I learned a lot of Photoshop tricks. I'm also working on more Fester Fish cartoons, and some other smaller projects, but I don't have much I can show yet except for this work from the Digital BG class...

This drawing might be familiar to Fester Fans.... It's the usual 'Fester's house' establishing shot, only now I've finally created a daytime version. Now I won't have to keep using that awful attempt at a pre-sunrise version, seen in Fester's Nephew and Fester Goes Fishing.


And during the final class, we were told to do a night-time version of one of our paintings, so I did this:

So now I have a daytime version, a night-time version... and if I REALLY need it, that stupid early-morning version. During the course, the teacher gave us a bunch of really cool Photoshop brushes, which seemed like they might be good for imitating that early Hanna-Barbera look...

The drawing itself was done in about 30 seconds, so obviously it sucks, but I'm pretty happy with the colours and textures. I really want to do a cartoon with more of this abstract, flat, "modern" kind of background design.

And finally, finishing the in-class assignments early + messing around with crazy cool Photoshop brushes = "Fester A Go Go."


Blah. I know this stuff isn't that exciting, but I just don't have a lot to post at the moment. I'm busy working on the actual cartoons.

August 04, 2011

Mind Game (2004)

I'd been meaning to check out this anime film for a while. I had heard a lot of good things about it, especially from the Anipages Daily blog (one of the best animation blogs out there, and the few that has intelligent, rational discussions about anime). I finally got around to watching it last night, and I was completely blown away.

I was expecting it to be a pretty bizarre experience just from the title, but I really didn't know anything about the plot. I assumed it was a heavy, serious psychological piece with a slow pace, with maybe one or two cool sequences. I definitely wasn't expecting it to be so fun. The animation was phenomenal. Just about every shot had some kind of hilarious character distortion in it, which is so rare in Japanese animation. The sheer amount of imagination on display was awe-inspiring. The variety of visual styles somehow managed to avoid feeling contrived, and actually gave a deeper sense of the characters' emotional states.

The story and its structure were just as original as every other aspect of the film, but I can't say too much about that without spoiling some of it. The "throw-anything-in" directorial style might not be to everybody's taste, but personally I'd been waiting to see a movie like this-- that felt like it was jam-packed with a little bit of everything-- for a long time.

I'm still in shock from seeing it. Maybe I should have waited a couple of days before writing this so I could say something more objective about the movie. But I just couldn't contain my enthusiasm. Right now, it's definitely my favourite anime film, as well as one of my favourite films of any kind. It's a tragedy that it doesn't have any official English release, and the only way to see it is to either watch a blurry online video (as I did) or get a bootleg DVD (which I probably will as well, just so I can own it in some form).

If you haven't seen Mind Game yet, do it as soon as possible. It's a potentially life-changing movie. I can't tell how yet, but it will definitely affect my own work in some way.

But then again, I also re-watched Wayne's World recently, and that's still one of my all-time favourite movies, so what do I know.

July 31, 2011

Evolution of Fester

These are mostly pictures I put up on the Fester Fish Facebook page, one at a time. Here they are all together, so you can see Fester's evolution.

Above: This is where it started-- after watching hours of 20s and 30s cartoons in my History of Animation class, I was inspired to make a parody/homage. I quickly decided that the character should be a fish because it seemed like the most illogical choice. These are the very first doodles of Fester, dated October 8 2009. Early story ideas, seen here if you can read my primitive scrawls, include a nutty professor ripoff, and what would eventually become "Fester's Nephew."


Here's another really early sketch from Oct 8 2009, with the first real drawing of Slightly Smaller Fish.



It took me a while to decide whether or not Fester should have a bowtie. I decided not to include it because he was already too similar to Flip the Frog, and a bowtie would've meant another thing I had to draw in every frame. Fester doesn't seem classy enough for a bowtie anyway.


^From October 25 2009. Wow, these are terrible. Fester looks completely deformed. I was really struggling with the concept of doing expressions on him. An early version of the title card is also seen here, as well as some bizarre "fin-leg" things that would've made posing the character way harder.


Oct 27 2009... This is probably the first drawing of "Fester's Goil," eventually named Blottie. All the elements of Fester's design were pretty much set by this point, I just needed to get better at drawing them. I planned to have Joe Rabbit (from my Space Goose series) appear as a friend of Fester's, along with the classy robot from the "Banquet Bust-Up" episode of that cartoon. They may still appear in future episodes.


October 29 2009-- More experimenting with Fester in different poses. I have no idea what the moustachioed Fester in the trench-coat was for, but it makes me giggle. As does the word "moustachioed."


This is another early design of Fester and his girlfriend Blottie, from November 2009. At the time, I was in the middle of making the third Space Goose episode, so if you spot them as background characters in it, this is what they look like.

More early misshapen Festers! In "Fester's Nephew," Fester has a pet man-fish (the opposite of him being a fish-man, I guess). This drawing is the genesis of that gag, although here it's supposed to be Cary Grant. In the final cartoon, it looks more like Jimmy Stewart.


By this point, the design was pretty much set. Fester looks basically like he did in some of the first scenes I animated in "Fester's Nephew." I still had to get better at drawing him though.

July 11, 2011

Fester Fish on Facebook

A few people have been telling me I should make a Facebook page for Fester Fish. So I did.
Here it is.

I hope you "like" it. Ha ha ha! Get it? Cause I mean both click the "like" button AND actually enjoy it? Ha ha ha ha!

...Seriously, hit the "like" button.

Anyway, there will be some good stuff on it that should make it worth the two seconds it takes to click the button. I'll probably post most of said Good Stuff here too, but I think the Facebook newsfeed is more convenient for most people.

June 11, 2011

The Greatest Video Ever

This is just so incredibly stupid. Every time I see it, I have a laughing fit.

May 17, 2011

Time to Rest a Bit

Lots of new developments on the Fester Fish Front: Joe Murray featured it on the KaboingTV Indie Showcase! Canadian Animation Resources did a mini-interview with me! I'm also discussing pitching it to networks.

Now that the cartoon is done, I can finally relax, because now I actually have a tiny bit of free time. I've been taking the opportunity to catch up on a lot of movies and anime I've been meaning to watch. Sadly there aren't a lot of Western cartoons I'm really interested in watching at the moment.

I saw "Bridesmaids" recently, and liked it a lot. Kristen Wiig is great, and pretty much the whole cast was really funny. Just like all Judd Apatow-related movies, it sort of sagged a bit between the big comedy centerpieces, but even the non-funny parts were enjoyable. I just wish they'd picked a different destination for the plane trip. Even though we didn't actually see any of the trip beyond the plane scene, going to Vegas is such a worn-out comedy cliche, and it invites cries of "Hangover ripoff" beyond already being a gross-out comedy about people preparing for a wedding.

Last night I watched Paprika, which was pretty enjoyable, and re-watched some of Cowboy Bebop. I love the structure of that series-- it's fairly short (26 episodes) for an anime, and it's mostly episodic, although there is a larger storyline that gradually unfolds. My favourite thing about it is that it plays with different genres and tones from episode to episode, while still feeling cohesive. As with Lupin III, a series that was a big influence on Cowboy Bebop and also varied in tone, I tend to prefer the sillier episodes like the blaxploitation-themed 'Mushroom Samba', and the suspense/horror parody 'Toys in the Attic', but the more serious ones are great too.

May 11, 2011

Thanks for spreading the word!

I'm really happy with the reception Fester Goes Fishing has been getting, especially since it's only been online for two days. I was worried it might be too weird for most people. It's getting more views than I dared to hope for, mainly thanks to four people -- Jerry Beck for featuring it on Cartoonbrew, Christopher Signore for sending it to Jerry in the first place, Arin "Egoraptor" Hansen for 'liking' it on Youtube and Aaron Simpson for featuring it on ColdHardFlash. I can't express my gratitude to you guys for helping me out. And of course, thanks to everybody else who has watched it so far, commented on it and spread the word about it. I'm absolutely terrible at self-promotion, so I'm extremely grateful for all the help.

May 10, 2011

Fester Goes Fishing

Whew... It's finally done. I'll probably talk a bit about it later.

May 03, 2011

A Word from Fester Fish



It's almost done. Gimme about another week.

February 19, 2011

Short Reviews

Here are a couple of movies I've seen recently, and my brief, unorganized opinions on them.

Klute (1971)
This was disappointing. I was excited about seeing the first two movies in Alan J. Pakula's "Paranoia Trilogy" after loving "All the President's Men", but I just really didn't like this much. The characters weren't likable or particularly interesting, the story was slow and meandering, and for a supposed suspense thriller, there were really only one or two brief scenes that I found remotely suspenseful. The ending felt like a cop-out, too. The villain just kind of abruptly enters the story and explains everything to the main character. The direction was surprisingly awkward, given how much I liked Pakula's work in "All the President's Men." The shots were jarring and spatially confusing for no discernable reason. I'm not sure why this movie seems to be held in such high esteem... maybe the acting, I guess.
3/10

Apocalypse Now (1979)
This was my second time seeing the movie, but my first time seeing the original non-Redux version. I really liked it the first time I saw it, but my complaints were that it was too long, and that there were a handful of scenes that seemed completely pointless. Turns out all the scenes I had problems with were the ones added back in for Redux. The original version is much more digestible, and while we don't get quite as much into Willard's personality, it's a more consistent portrayal. If he's so determined to get upriver as fast as possible, why would he stop to play practical jokes on Kilgore, hang out with Playboy Bunnies and have dinner at a French Plantation? To me, the Redux version was equally powerful, but less enjoyable because it felt bloated and excessive. Upon re-watching the film, my favourite sequences are still the surreal ones at the Doo-Long bridge and the lead-up to meeting Kurtz.
Redux: 9/10
Original: 10/1

February 16, 2011

Read This Bob McKimson Interview, Fool

I was hoping to get some animation done this afternoon, but instead I've spent the last hour or so reading this extensive 1971 interview with Bob McKimson that Michael Barrier just re-posted. Everybody read it now.

http://www.michaelbarrier.com/Interviews/McKimson/McKimson.html


What an amazing read. This is the first time, as far as I can recall, that I've ever heard McKimson's feelings about his work, the other directors, or.... well, anything, really. Is this the only interview he ever gave? It's startling how easily he remembers everything, whereas most interviews about the Golden Age are filled with "I don't remember the cartoon you're asking about" or inaccurate recollections of dates and credits. McKimson is pretty much dead-on with everything. He seems to be a pretty reliable source, unlike just about everybody else.

There are so many great nuggets of information in this piece. McKimson comes off as very confident, and possibly a bit full of himself. It's completely justified though, and from what I've read, Chuck Jones was just as proud, if not more so. He was just less willing to acknowledge it. It's sad reading the parts about Rod Scribner though, and how McKimson eventually got his animators "under control" after they'd been used to "over-playing" everything with Clampett. I think it's unanimous that most of Scribner's work under McKimson feels extremely stifled and restrained compared to his earlier Clampett stuff.