Wednesday, November 26, 2008


Persepolis (2007)

Key Figures:

Marjane Satrapi - Writer/Director

Vincent Paronnaud
- Co-Writer/Co-Director

Voice Actors:

Danielle Darrieux - as Grandmother

Catherine Deneuve - as Mother

Chiara Mastroianni - as Marjane

Monday, November 24, 2008

Pixar Animation Studios

Pixar Animation Studios is a CGI animation production company based in Emeryville, California. The studio has earned over 20 Academy Awards and many other awards, acknowledgments and achievements. It is best known for its CGI-animated films created with the industry-standard Renderman software.

Key Figures:

Steve Jobs- Apple Founder, buys Lucasfilms Computer Division from George Lucas to form Pixar.

John Lasseter- Former Disney & Lucas animator, becomes primary Creative Director at Pixar.

Ed Catmull- Ran Lucasfilm's Computer Division, becomes President of Pixar.

Screening List:

Luxo Jr. (J. Lasseter, 1986)

Knick Knack (J. Lasseter, 1989)

Geri's Game (J. Pinkava, 1997)

Toy Story 2
(J. Lasseter, 1999)

For The Birds (R. Eggleston, 2000)

Monsters, Inc. (P. Docter, 2001)

Pixar Timeline:

1979- Graphics Group, a part of the Computer Division of Lucasfilm is created.

1984- John Lasseter leaves his job at Disney to work at Lucasfilm Computer Division.

1986- Lucasfilm's GG is purchased by Apple co-founder Steve Jobs for $10 million. Ed Catmull quits his job as head of Lucasfilm's Computer Division to co-found PIXAR. Luxo Jr. premieres.

1988- The short Tin Toy premieres.

1989- Tin Toy wins 1989 Academy Award for Best Short and becomes the 1st computer animated film to win an Oscar.

1991- Pixar and Disney team up to produce 3 feature animated films. Pixar makes the films and Disney distributes them.

1995- Toy Story is released, the 1st fully computer animated film.

1996- John Lasseter wins Special Achievement Academy Award for Leadership on Toy Story.

1997- Pixar and Disney sign a new agreement, superceding the old one, to jointly produce 5 animated features.

1998- A Bug's Life is released.

1999- Toy Story 2 is released. The first film to be entirely created mastered and exhibited digitally. It is also the first sequel to gross more than the original.

2001- Monsters, Inc. is released. Co-founder Ed Catmull named President. John Lasseter signs a 10 year exclusive contract.

2003- Finding Nemo released. It is the highest grossing animated film worldwide.

2004- The Incredibles is released. The 1st Pixar film to feature human characters in main roles, Little Nemo becomes the highest selling DVD of all-time.

2006- The Walt Disney Company purchases Pixar for $7.4 billion. Lasseter announces he will revive Disney's 2-D animation. Cars is released in June.

Cars (2006)

Monday, November 17, 2008

TV Animation: Hanna-Barbera & Cartoon Network

Suggested Reading:

"Moody Toons: The king of the Cartoon Network" by Alec Wilkinson | Listen | Read

"Makin' Toons" by Allan Neuwirth

Cost-cutting techniques in TV animation:

-Cels and sequences of cels were used over and over again: for example Fred Flinstone only needs to be fully animated walking once.

-Only portions of a character, such as a mouth or arm, would be animated on static cel.

-Visuals took a backseat to audio elements so verbal humor and voice talent became more important than the animation (sitcom modelfollowed, e.g. laughtracks).

Hanna Barbera

-Studio formed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera after MGM animation department closed in 1957.
(The team created Tom and Jerry series in 1940)

-It was the first studio to successfully produce animation for TV.

-Criticized for contributing to the general decline in the quality of TV animation.

-Practiced "Limited Animation" for cost cutting rather than artistic purposes (true of many studios, not just H-B... Filmation, others).

-The company eventually evolved into the Cartoon Network Studios.

Cartoon Network

-With the growth of CN in the mid 1990's the network wanted to produce original shows instead of simply re-running old cartoons.

-Cable can serve a more refined audience... cartoons didn't have to have the broad appeal they did on network TV.

Genndy Tartakovsky

-Born in Russia, moved to USA at the age of 7 in 1978.

-Lived in Columbus, Ohio until he was 10.

-Graduated in Chicago; went to CalArts for 2 years where he met Craig McCracken.

-Drew for Batman in Spain.

-Pitched Dexter to H-B before it became the Cartoon Network.

-Tartakovsky's Dexter's Laboratory (1995) became one of the first shows produced for the network.

-Craig McCracken, a fellow student at CalArts served as art director on Dexter's Lab.

-Tartakovsky served as producer and coordinator on McCracken's Powerpuff Girls.

Screening Room:

The Huckleberry Hound Show: "Spud Dud"
Airdate: Sept. 11,1960

Search YouTube for Huckleberry Hound Show Cartoons

The Huckleberry Hound Show (1958-1962)

-The Series began in 1958.

-It was the first Hanna-Barbera program that they owned outright.

-Released in syndication: Ruff & Ready was the studio's 1st production, part of a cartoon program with a live host. The show also featured Pixie & Dixie and Yogi Bear.

-Huckleberry Hound was performed by prolific voice actor Daws Butler.
Born in Toledo, Ohio in 1916, his career spanned over 50 years.
Visit the Daws Butler page at IMDB

Jonny Quest: "The Robot Spy"
Airdate: Nov. 6, 1964

Search YouTube for Jonny Quest Cartoons

-1st animated TV series to portal "real" people vs. cartoon creatures.

-26 episodes aired during the 1964-65 season.

-Doug Wildey - longtime comic book & strip artist was known for bold use of shadow, realistically drawn figures, exotic locales.

-Wildey designed main Quest character models; produced many of the stories; developed atmosphere & style associated with the show.

-Production team studied the current scientific journals to immerse themselves in state-of-the-art technology

Samurai Jack: "Jack & the Scotsman"
Airdate: Oct. 29, 2001

Search YouTube for Samurai Jack Cartoons

-Content reflects TV's interest in action in cartoons

-The show's many different settings from episode to episode allows great artistic experimentation, especially by background artists (different times, locales).

-Style is lush and painterly but flat; characters drawn without black outline common to most cartoon characters.

-Focus on eyes - expressiveness.

-Little dialogue, simple stories, lots of action and fight scenes.

-Dan Krall - linedrawings and backgrounds.

-Scott Wills - color, lighting and shading of backgrounds.


Film: Little Prince and Eight Headed Dragon (1963) written by Takashi Iijima and Ichirô Ikeda

Directors: Sergio Leone and Akira Kurosawa

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Independent American Animators

(John & Faith Hubley, 1959)

The Moon and the Son: An Imagined Conversation
(John Canemaker, 2005)

Canemaker explores the difficult emotional terrain of his relationship with his father. Voiced by Eli Wallach and John Turturro, The Moon and the Son combines audio recordings, conjecture, drawings, fact, home movies, photographs, memory, newspaper clippings, original animation and trial transcripts to depict the story of an Italian immigrant's life and the consequences of his actions on his family. Canemaker won the Oscar in 2006 for Best Short Film, Animated.

Read the synopsis at

Visit to learn more about The Moon and the Son


Lost Motion
(Janie Geiser, 1999)

Pony Glass
(Lewis Klahr, 1997)

Culture Consumer Lewis Klahr
The Re-Animator
Michael Atkinson
Tuesday, May 16th 2000

Monday, November 10, 2008

Computer Generated Imagery

CGI or Computer Generated Imagery can sometimes be described interchangeably as Computer Animation. However, CGI typically refers too digitally created 3-D effects in live action films.

-CGI is often used as a cheaper and faster method of creating background imagery such as crowd scenes or scenes that require many extras and creating sets or environments that would otherwise
require major construction or elaborate small scale models. It is also used to create images that would not be possible any other way. It can also add simple effects such as smoke, fire, etc. and can delete unwanted visuals such as a wire, body part, etc.

-In 2-D animation, computers can: do in-between drawings, cel-coloring, and can reproduce backgrounds all more quickly and more cheaply than by hand. Animators can also get instant fedback on their work as opposed to older, slower methods such as a filmed pencil test.

Screening Room:

No Fate But What We Make: 'Terminator 2' and The Rise of Digital Effects (Van Ling, 2003)

This documentary is featured on the 2003 'Extreme' DVD release for Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991).

Jurassic Park (Spielberg, 1993)

ILM & The Making of Hulk (2003)

This documentary is featured on the 2-Disc Special Edition DVD for Hulk (2003).

Hulk (Ang Lee, 2003)

The Matrix: Bullet Time

(Documentary on digital cinematography)

Spider-man 2
(Sam Raimi, 2005)

Important Terms:

Motion Capture (mocap) - also known as motion tracking, describes the process of recording movement and translating the movement onto a digital model. It is used in military, entertainment, sports, and medical applications. In filmaking it refers to recording actions of human actors, and using that information to animate digital character models in 3D animation it includes face, fingers and captures subtle expressions, it is often referred to as performance capture.

Rendering- is the process of generating an image from a model, by means of computer programs. The model is a description of three-dimensional objects in a strictly defined language or data structure. It would contain geometry, viewpoint, texture lighting and shading information. The image is a digital image or raster graphics image.

Note: 'Rendering' is also used to describe the process of calculating effects in a video editing file to produce final video output.

Morphing- digitally blending a CG imagery and real imagery.

This special effect in films and animations changes (or morphs) one image into another through a seamless transition. Most often it is used to depict one person turning into another through some magical or technological means or as part of a fantasy or surreal sequence. Traditionally such a depiction would be achieved through cross-fading techniques on film. Since the early 1990's, this has been replaced by computer software to create more realistic transitions.

Reflection Mapping- digitally simulating a mirrored surface, often by recreating what would be reflected in the mirror.

Reflection Mapping is an efficient method of simulating a complex mirroring surface by means of a precomputed texture image. The texture is used to store the image of the environment surrounding the rendered object. There are several ways of storing the surrounding environment. Two popular methods are the Spherical Environment Mapping in which a single texture contains the image of the surrounding as reflected on a mirror ball, or the Cubic Environment Mapping in which the environment is unfolded onto the six faces of a cube and stored therefore as six square textures.

Interpolation - creating digital frames in a film based on existing frames of live action scenes.

Also known as:

Tweening (short for in-betweening) - the process of generating intermediate frames between two images to give the appearance that the first image evolves smoothly into the second image.

The use of computers for inbetweening was pioneered by Nestor Burtnyk and Marceli Wein at the National Research Council of Canada. They received a Technical Achievement Academy Award in 1997, for their pioneering work in the development of software techniques for computer assisted key framing for character animation.

In the context of Adobe Flash, the process is simply called "tweening," and the resultant animation is called a "tween."

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

World Animation I: Government Funded Films

Norman McLaren

A Scottish-born Canadian animator and director. His early film work impresses John Grierson, a key figure in early documentary film making. Grierson as head of The National Film Board of Canada, hires McLaren in 1941 to head the Animation Department.


Music- saw film as a way to express his feelings about music.

Surrealism- subconscious as source for artistic inspiration and improvisation.

Metamorphosis- inspired by Emile Cohl's work; celebration of movement as only film can do.

International Brotherhood- his films were geared to a world-wide audience.

McLaren's definition of animation:

"Animation is not the art of drawings that move, but rather the art of movements that are drawn. What happens between each frame is more important than what happens on each frame."

McLaren's definition of cinema:

1. Art as movement designed through time.
2. Motion and change painted with light.

Screening Room:

Boogie Doodle (1940) Norman McLaren

Creative Process: Norman McLaren (1990)

Neighbors (1952)

Begone Dull Care (1949)

Caroline Leaf

Known for her innovative animation techniques including sand on glass, finger painting on glass and etching directly on to film. She is also known for her film's emotional content and graphic style. Her method was known as "under the camera animation".

The NFB Support of her work began in 1972.

The Street (1976) was named the 2nd greatest animated film ever in an international contest sponsored by the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences.

Screening Room with Caroline Leaf & Mary Beams

The Street (1976) Caroline Leaf

Entre Deux Soeurs
(1991) Caroline Leaf

Jan Svankmajer

Born in 1934, Prague. He received training in puppet theatre. He belongs to the Surrealist Group of Prague, which has been in existence since the 1930's. His work often dwells on dreams and childhood, themes associated with surrealism. Likewise he often focuses on sex, politics and the subversion of social convention. Influenced by "mannerism" an art movement launched in the 1500-1600's as a reaction to the renaissance, valued clashing colors, emotion and bizarre themes over the renaissance's balance and gracefulness. He has influenced scores of film makers such as Tim Burton and the Brothers Quay.

Little Otik (Otesánek) (2000) directed by Jan Svenkmajer. (Trailer)

Lunacy (Sileni) (2005) directed by Jan Svenkmajer (Trailer)

Meat Love (1988) directed by Jan Svenkmajer.

Dimensions of Dialogue (1982) directed by Jan Svenkmajer.

Part I

Part II

Monday, November 3, 2008

Hollywood Studio Animation V: UPA

United Productions of America

The Unicorn in the Garden (1953)

-UPA's style was a radical departure from Disney as it featured "Limited Animation" as opposed to Disney's lush, detailed and realistic style.

-Limited Animation- involves the use of visual abstraction, symbolism, relatively limited movement to suggest backgrounds and environments.

-UPA animation became synonymous with a more modern, bold approach to graphic style in animation. UPA used color as a key expressive ingredient.

-UPA eschewed violent gags and talking animals, they were common in most studio animation.

-All other studios were heavily influenced by UPA style including Disney.

-Columbia Pictures released the UPA cartoons in the late 1940's and 50's.

Key Figures:

John Hubley

Robert Cannon

Jules Engel

William T. Hurtz

Steve Bosustow

Screening Room:

Barefaced Flatfoot (1951) - John Hubley
(French Dub)

Magoo Meets Frankenstein (1960)

Gerald McBoing Boing (1950) - Robert Cannon & Dr. Suess

Rooty Toot Toot
(1951) - John Hubley

Christopher Crumpet (1953) - Robert Cannon

The Unicorn in the Garden
(1953) - William T. Hurtz