Thursday, January 29, 2009

Studio B fanpage

Looks like Vancouer's Studio B has launched a fanpage on Facebook. I wouldn't normally shill like this, but they've posted some behind the scenes videos for their new series, Kid VS Kat. For any newbies looking for a glimpse behind the inner workings of launching an animated series, these are kind of interesting.
Here's hoping they keep the page updated.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

I like Chad VanGaalen

Next to no info here, but you can listen to some of his tracks. I just like what I know about him so far. He is, of course, on Myspace, where you can see some of his animation and listen to more of his music.
Here are some of his home-made animated videos.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Animation Industry/Community

I've been in a position these past few months to really be considering the purpose of this blogsite, to really examine the reason for it. It would be easy to describe it as a central resource to the animation industry, that's kind of how I started out. But, upon further consideration, I have trouble with the word "industry". By it's very meaning, it's exclusive. If I were aiming this blog at the industry, then I would be alienating everyone out there who isn't a working professional in the field of animation. I'm far more comfortable with the idea that I'm trying to put something out for our community.
We are a big god-damned country, geographically at least. Historically, we've had a few major production centers: Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, and, to an extent, Ottawa. Over the last decade, the Maritime provinces have boomed, and we've seen work coming out of Calgary, Winnipeg, pretty much everywhere. The NFB has offices in each province, although Montreal seems to be the most active. There are independent animators all over the place, some working, some hobbyists. Co-ops and associations are scattered about, including the Quickdraw Animation Society in Calgary, ABCAP in Vancouver, Women In Animation (also in Vancouver), in Toronto we've got the Toronto Animated Image Society (TAIS) and Alexis Victor's Industry Night. I've just had word that there are a few more movements afoot to unite animators in both Vancouver and Toronto, and it looks like something similar might be happening here in Ottawa soon too. ASIFA Canada currently has no active membership, so I can't count that. We've got festivals all over the place too, including OIAF, WFAC, and others. We are spread out, we are comprised of working pros, hobbyists, fans, students, execs, artists, animaphiles, writers, and so on. We all define ourselves in our own way, but we are joined together as members of a community. I like being a part of this community. I like seeing friendly faces converge on Ottawa each fall to watch cartoons, carve pumpkins, learn, share, drink, laugh, and ocassionally, do some business.
So, as a community, I'm asking you to step up and share. I'm doing this blog thing, but my circle is limited. I've worked for companies on both coasts, I know some people here and there, and Facebook certainly helps, but there's a whole lot going on out there that I know absolutely nothing about.
So tell me.
Tell me about that new project you just sold.
Show me the animation you just made on your computer at home.
Complain about being laid off.
Share a post you just wrote on your blog, or an article you just read elsewhere.
If it relates to our community, I want to hear about it.
Of course, this will all be filtered through my own personal bias, it will often be awkward and clumsy, but it will be out there.
Thanks for reading, thanks for sharing. Keep it up.

Friday, January 23, 2009

The Dark Years

I missed this when it came on here in Canada (the History Channel I think?), but was very interested in seeing it at the time. Here's how it's described on the NFB site: A look at the impact of the Great Depression years on Canada and its people. What started with an economic crash in 1929 would end only with the guns of World War II. Of the many stories and legacies of the Great Depression, perhaps its greatest is that it created a modern Canada: more questioning of the power of government, inclined toward social policies like welfare and health care, and prepared to play a role in international affairs and economies.
I came across a listing for it from a network in Australia, they had a little more to say: Canadian history has the reputation of being bloodless and consequently uneventful, especially in comparison to the often violent and dramatic events that have shaped other countries. Yet this three-part animated series presents a lively and visually sumptuous look at Canada during the Great Depression, proving Canada’s history to be anything but tepid. From record breaking cross-Atlantic flights, and the birth of the world- famous Dionne quintuplets, to the slow march to war, The Dark Years uses original animation, archival footage and eye-witness accounts to bring to life colourful stories from the 1930s.
The whole series was produced using stock footage and animation, which sounds really interesting, and there are some good names on the production credits, Including Chuck Gammage Studios, so I was hopeful.
Here's the clip: The Dark Years.
There's more over here: Dark Years clips
The second link also has all kinds of other info, including links to an interview with the animation director, John Halfpenny.
Now, to be fair, I judged this pretty harshly based on the forst clip. It's a good story to tell, it sounds well written, and I think that's Maury Chaykin narrating. But the animation left me really cold. The illustrative style just doesn't work in flash. In fact, I was going to just say outright that it looks terrible.
The second clip, featuring Hitler in Mickey Mouse pants, is far more entertaining. Still though, this would have looked a whole lot better done traditionally. The arguments are always going to be there, budgetary largely, but once again, here's a potentially great project that just comes up short on the execution.
But maybe the technology isn't the culprit? Ive seen some very good traditional animation done in Flash. Is this just a question of poor animation? Poor animation done in Flash that just as easily could have been poor animation done traditionally? I can't say. Lord knows we had a lot of terrible animation before Flash, so why should things be any different now?
Animation aside, this still looks like something I would watch, and the animation isn't all terrible, but unfortunately, the parts that are bad, are just that: terrible.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Trapeze Animation struggles to fill positions

I had this brought to my attention a while back, should have posted it sooner. I wanted to get a comment form Trapeze but didn't hear back from them. Either way, the gist of the story over at is this: Trapeze Animation, of Charlottetown, PEI, can't find enough animators locally to produce their show, Razberry Jazzberry Jam.
This is a problem I had to deal with while recruiting a few years back for Fatkat in Miramichi. Running a studio in a small centre like these guys do has some real challenges. Here in Ottawa, or Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal, you have a talent pool to draw from. When work dries up somewhere, there's often another gig available down the street. Not so for these little shops. Fatkat was able to land enough wok to offer their people long term contracts, and even they had to make some cutbacks a while back. Financing through tax credits puts limitations on the amount of non-local talent you can use, but quite frankly, for the geographically expanding industry, information technology and the freelance community is the answer. The same way we once shipped work overseas and ran small prepoduction crews ten years ago, perhaps small, remote shops like this should focus on maintaining a small creative hub and farm out the grunt work to the freelance community. It's a solid model, but you have to adjust your pipeline to accomodate it.
Best of luck to Trapeze.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Ren and Stimpy, lost episode via Nick Cross

Nick just linked to this over on his blog. It's not the Greatest Cartoon Never Made that I mentioned in a previous post(that's still for another time), but it's up there.

Uploaded by chuckchillout8

It's been talked about in a few spots around the internet before and would have been a marvel to watch. Mary Blair/Golden Book-styled sequences with the kids, woulda been cool.
Nick talks about it briefly. I believe they just ran out of money before geting to these.
Too bad.

From the internets...

  • A report on overseas sales for Studio B's Martha Speaks. The part I find interesting is at the end, when they list the Cnadian broadcasters. No CBC, no Teletoon, no national broadcaster. Cool that they put this together using regional broadcast license fees.
  • Atomic Cartoons announces deal on Punktuition. No broadcasters yet, we'll have to wait til after Kidscreen for that.
  • Majority Rules comes to Teletoon.
  • A little more info on Breakthrough's new show Stay Tooned. Apparently it could feature an animated host.

Friday, January 16, 2009

From the internets...

  • Amberwood signs co-pro deal with Australia's Galaxy Pop for 26 half hours of The Sunshine Friends
  • It's amazing the kind of crap that pops up in a google alert. I have Nelvana listed as an alert and today that yielded countless reports of Gene Simmons being announced as the keynote speaker at this year's Canadian Music Week. Why? because pretty much every article spews about Gene's media empire, which includes My Dad the Rock Star. Now, here's the part that floored me: "My Dad the Rock Star, his own cartoon show created for Canada's Nelvana now in its fifth year". NOW IN IT'S FIFTH YEAR. Have you seen this show? No offense to the hard-working animation types who are forced to toil on it, but it's terrible. I remember when it appeared, which I'm reminded was roughly five years ago. I remember being terribly happy my 2 year-old daughter didn't take to it and that I would be spared at least this half hour of mediocrity. I assumed it would be a high concept that gets a season, maybe two due to the Nelvana-Corus-Teletoon pipeline, and that I would simply dodge the reruns. But no, My Dad the Rock Star is in it's FIFTH SEASON. Remind me to tell you about the greatest cartoon never made sometime, and you might understand why this frustrates me so. Either way, kudos to you Mr Simmons , on your mastery of all media.

Friday, January 9, 2009

From the internets...

  • Via our colleague, Dominic Von Riedemann, at Montreal-based Toon Boom acquires Dublin-based Cambridge Animation Systems. Cambridge is the producer of the animation software Animo. This should mean that whater good mojo the Cambridge fellas have going on in Animo will be incorporated into a subsequent version of Harmony.
  • Cookie Jar Entertainment, having failed to acquire the house that Strawberry Shortcake built, American Greetings, is eyeing Entertainment Rights. We reported a while back on Mipcom rumours that Entertainment Rights, owner of Postman Pat and other internationally recognized licenses, was in danger of disolution. According to, Cookie Jar is one of three potential buyers for the company. Cookie Jar seems dead set on buying someone. They've come a long way from their scandalous end as Cinar. But look what a little rebranding can do.
  • Fred Seibert writes about Chris Robinson's collection, the Animation Pimp. Haven't read it yet myself, but did follow the articles back when they were on AWN. I did recently read Chris' book on Ryan Larkin, Ballad of a Thin Man and will get around to a review soon.

Why Cartoons Suck, by Frank Zappa

One of the best damned posts about cartoons I've read in a while, by Amid Amidi, from Cartoon Brew. I'm just going to cut and paste the whole friggin thing here, hope he doesn't mind.
Frank Zappa Explains Why Cartoons Today Suck
by amid
January 8, 2009 2:05 am

Want to understand why entertaining cartoons are all but impossible to produce nowadays? You can have the answer in just two short minutes by watching the first part of this interview with Frank Zappa. Though Zappa is explaining the decline of the music business, everything he says is applicable to the animation world as well.

His words were important enough that I made a transcript for my own reference. Here is what Frank says:

“One thing that did happen during the Sixties was some music of an unusual or experimental nature did get recorded or did get released. Now look at who the executives were in those companies at those times. Not hip young guys. These were cigar-chomping old guys who looked at the product that came and said, ‘I don’t know. Who knows what it is. Record it. Stick it out. If it sells, alright.’ We were better off with those guys than we are now with the supposedly hip young executives who are making the decisions of what people should see and hear in the marketplace. The young guys are more conservative and more dangerous to the art form than the old guys with the cigars ever were. …Next thing you know [the hip young executive has] got his feet on the desk and he’s saying, ‘Well we can’t take a chance on this because that’s not what the kids really want and I know.’ And they got that attitude. And the day you get rid of that attitude and get back to ‘Who knows. Take a chance.’ That entrepreneurial spirit where even if you don’t like or understand what the record is that’s coming in the door, the person who is in the executive chair may not be the final arbiter of taste of the entire population.”

His ideas about how old-school execs were better for the music industry than younger “hip” execs directly mirror my own beliefs about why the animation industry’s output nowadays is so creatively spineless and lacking in point of view. Back in 2005, I wrote a piece called “Animation’s Greatest Executives” in which I sung the praises of the Golden Age animation execs like Leon Schlesinger, Eddie Selzer and Fred Quimby. These guys don’t receive much praise in history books, but it’s no accident that the most entertaining industry cartoons were produced under their watch.

In that earlier post, I offered this quote from Tex Avery discussing his relationship with the exec Leon Schlesinger at Warners:

“We worked every night — [Chuck] Jones, [Bob] Clampett, and I were all young and full of ambition. My gosh, nothing stopped us! We encouraged each other, and we really had a good ball rolling. I guess Schlesinger saw the light; he said, ‘Well, I’ll take you boys away from the main plant.’ He put us in our own little shack over on the [Warner Bros.] Sunset lot, completely separated from the Schlesinger studio, in some old dressing room or toilet or something, a little cottage sort of thing. We called it Termite Terrace. And he was smart; he didn’t disturb us. We were all alone out there, and he knew nothing of what went on.”

It should come as little surprise that Avery’s endorsement of Schlesinger so closely mirrors Zappa’s praise for the “cigar-chomping old” music execs. Leaving great artists alone to create great work is common sense. Execs in animation’s earlier days understood their roles. They were the money men and that’s all. It was their job to create an environment where cartoons could be created most efficiently, not to dictate the content of the animation. Today, execs want to noodle with every part of the process, even those aspects about which they are clueless like entertainment and humor. They have gone so far as to give themselves oxymoronic job titles like “creative exec” and “development exec” to justify their interference in the creative process. There are those rare exceptions when something good makes it to air, but look at the history of those projects and in every instance it is in spite of the current system, not because of it.

The secret to creating memorable cartoon characters and successful series is not so much a secret as it is common sense. If any studio ever figures it out, they’ll be laughing all the way to the bank.

Tex Avery and Fred QuimbyDirector Tex Avery and exec Fred Quimby at MGM

(Thanks, Seamus Walsh, for the Zappa link)

Amid's not saying anything all that new here, but he's saying it really well. This isn't just another "Cartoons were better in the old days!" rants, he makes damn good sense.

Thanks Amid.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Cookie Jar deal falls through, sign of the times

This just in Via Kidscreen:

AG, Cookie Jar Deal Called Off, AG Seeks New Buyers

January 07, 2009

Via Kidscreen: On the heels of announcing an extension of its home entertainment license with Lionsgate, American Greetings Properties has confirmed the sale of its CARE BEARS, STRAWBERRY SHORTCAKE and SUSHI PACK properties to Toronto's Cookie Jar Entertainment will not go through.

An American Greetings spokesperson told KIDSCREEN DAILY, "These are very difficult economic times and the original deal with Cookie Jar is no longer viable." Furthermore, the spokesperson said, "We are still looking at other options as our intent is still to sell the CARE BEARS and STRAWBERRY SHORTCAKE properties at this time."

Care Bears, Sushi Pack and Strawberry Shortcake remain under AG's ownership. Cookie Jar Entertainment had agreed to purchase the three properties from AG in July 2008 for US$195 million. The deal was to have closed on September 30. When contacted today, a spokesperson for Cookie Jar said that the company had nothing new to report at this time and had no additional comment.

As for the Lionsgate deal, along with picking up new CARE BEARS titles, Lionsgate has snagged DVD and electronic sell-through rights to AG's SUSHI PACK.

Lionsgate has been distributing CARE BEARS entertainment, including the classic TV series and direct-to-DVD CGI-animated features, for the past five years. The extended deal also gives the studio rights to 48 eps of the new series CARE BEARS: ADVENTURES IN CARE-A-LOT and a new CGI movie slated for a fall 2009 launch, as well as extended rights to the classic CB catalogue.

Tenacious D Animation by Matt Shepherd

Via Cold Hard Flash.

There's some pretty good character animation work here. Matt's done a nice job.
Here's his Production Blog with a few stills and his animation blog is over here. His reel shows the usual competent service work for the likes of Helix, Fatkat and Colideascope. Always great to see working animators plugging away at their own stuff. Great job Matt!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Breakthrough Films announces Stay Tooned

Came across some press release stuff from Breakthrough Films, this time announcing Stay Tooned, described on as: a live-action factual entertainment series about the world of television animation. A little digging on the Breakthrough site found this:
Stay Tooned is a live-action factual entertainment series about the world of television animation. It takes viewers back to revisit the Saturday morning animated programs that helped define our popular culture. Each episode will be an entertaining, comical mix of interviews with experts, celebrities and fans, alongside cartoon clips and behind-the-scenes footage. The series celebrates how 'toons shaped and reflected our culture — then and now.
Funny, entertaining and touching, Stay Tooned is a love letter to the golden era of Saturday morning cartoons. Stay Tooned is produced by Breakthrough Films & Television in association with Creator/Producer, Dale Burshtein.
Dale is listed on Linkedin listed as the owner of Salad Daze Productions, and I could find her credited as the creator of a show called Pumped! and the Nickelodeon Wildside Show. In 2003, Dale won a Gemini for Best Practical Information Series: Dale Burshtein and Lon J. Hall for The Surreal Gourmet (Salad Daze Productions). I will assume that Dale was the creative force behind the series, because my only expereince with Lon Hall was as Dynomight Cartoons' lawyer back between 1996 and 2000. Lon was a legal bigshot, but I guess he also has a creative streak that needed satisfying.
So, a Canadian making a show about animation. Could be interesting. Could be just another programming time-filler.
Does anyone know Dale? Would love to get a comment from her.
DALE!! If you google yourself (and I know most of you have done it) and come across this post, drop me a line. I invite you to extoll the virtues of your take on the world of animation.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Best of Ottawa 2008, coming to a venue near you?

Got a note today with the touring schedule for the Best of Ottawa 2008, details at the OIAF site . The collection is playing around the country and internationally. If you're not a stop and think you can host a screening, contact
Here are the dates:
Best of Ottawa 2008 Screening Venues
Nov. 13, 2008: Columbus, OH, Wexner Center for the Arts
Nov. 22, 2008: Palm Desert, CA, Desert Film Society
Nov. 28 - 30, 2008: Ottawa, ON, Doodle Arts and Film Festival
Nov. 29 - Dec. 6, 2008: Torun, Poland, Plus CAMERIMAGE
Jan. 09 - 11, 2009: Winnipeg, MB, Winnipeg Film Group
Jan. 10 & 11, 2009: Boston, MA, The Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston
Jan. 22, 2009: Vancouver, BC, Pacific Cinematheque
Jan. 23 - 26, 2009: Edmonton, AB, Metro Cinema Society
Apr. 09 - 12, 2009: Dawson City, YK, Dawson City International Short Film Festival
Apr. 17, 2009: Providence, RI, Rhode Island College
TBA: Houston, TX, Museum of Fine Arts / Houston
July 24 - 26, 2009: Cincinnati, OH, Lite Brite Test
October, 2009: Frankfurt, Germany, eDIT 11
Lots of great films, from Canada and around the world.
Check it.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Catching up with County Ghost

Mike Geiger just posted episode three of County Ghost to YouTube, so I have some catching up to do. Here's episode 2 and 3, enjoy!
Episode 2

Episode 3

Mike talks about his process over on
On his process: i used flash and then dropped it through after effects to apply the glow to the ghost. the backgrounds are all drawn in flash and then painted with painter and imported back in as jpegs.
On the time he puts in:
maybe 250 hours?
its a little skewed because id say about half of my time spent on these is exporting png sequences, dividing layers for after effects, exporting quicktimes for final cut, rendering files, etc,etc,etc.
so minus all that technical stuff, id be guessing maybe 120-150 hours to have it completed in flash?
i sorta set boundaries up front so that i could allow myself to actually complete these on top of doing my normal daytime animation job without losing all of my sanity.
i told myself that i wouldnt allow myself to go back and "fix" anything. once its done, its done and i would just continue to move forward with the trade off that they would actually get finished and out the door.
so far, it seems like a good way to avoid a lot of frustration. it can be a little unnerving to be releasing work that you know have some obvious mistakes. but again, the trade off is that you are actually releasing work, instead of sitting on it tinkering with the small details.

So great to see Mike continuing with these. Just making the first one is an accomplishment, but to have cranked out two more, in a relatively short period of time, is more than admirable. Mike's done something here that I've always tried to share with students, he set out to make the film he could make.
Animation students are in a unique position that they rarely realize, their job is to make a film. That rarely happens again in a career in this industry. Sadly, they usually lack the experience or even the maturity to approach this task effectively. Too often, a young aspiring animator decides to make their opus, the film they've alwasy wanted to make, and usually, under these circumstances, bite of way more than they can chew. I've seen far too much unfinished work over the years. It's too bad. But Mike really nails that issue here. He made the film that his time would allow. He let the limitations of his situation (working a day job and not wanting to go crazy) dictate aspects of his approach. The simplicity works and he ends up with a great couple of cartoons.
Great job Mike, hopefully we get to see more of County Ghost.

From the internets...

  • Via, the theme music and score from the original Spider-Man show, produced by Grantray-Lawrence Animation, here in Canada.
  • A little more out of Calgary about Chad VanGaalen. I'm gonna have to be in touch with this guy soon. I like what he has to say. It's a fluff piece, but I'm happy to publicize him.
  • New programming for YTV, including Kid VS Kat, from Studio B. People seem to be talking abnout this one. In fact, ColdHardFlash has a clip.


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