Monday, March 30, 2009

From the internets...

  • Stoked, animated sitcom from Fresh TV (the Total Drama folks) developed and produced for Teletoon, sold to Cartoon Network, Canal+ and TPS Jeunesse in France. "Blah blah blah tween market...blah blah blah quality kid's proramming...blah challenges status quo."
  • Portfolio and Teletoon unveil Hood, hoodie-wearing teen superheroes. Looks like Fatkat will have to retitle one of their shows. Sorry Gene.
  • Chris Williams doing PR for Bolt DVD release. Revelations: We're in a golden age for animated features, and Bolt is a movie about a dog. Congrats to Chris though on his success with Bolt, I saw it with my daughter last night and it did surpass my expectations.
Sorry, I'm a little snarky today.

Indieanimatornetwork, bump to features page

I just want to draw your attention to the left hand sidebar. Up at the top is a link to the features page. I mentioned this previously but added a post this morning. It involves a site I came across called indieanimatornetwork and my confusion over borrowed content. Please have a read and chime in.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Hard at work

I'll apologize right off for any problems that may occur over the next week. I'm working on some upgrades and will be playing with the layout a bit, but will continue to post. So please keep checking back.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Stop-Motion Animation Workshop, Toronto, March 26th, 2009

Any Toronto folks with a jones for puppets can get their fix tomorrow night courtesy of the Toronto Animated Image Society.

Puppet building, puppet animation fundamentals, and a "How To" intro to independent Stop Motion. Sunday, April 26th, 2009. 10 am - 5 pm At the TAIS Studio, 60 Atlantic Avenue $35 members, $50 non-members (Pre-registration required) To register, contact the TAIS office at or by calling 416-533-7889

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Job Fair at Fuel Industries, Ottawa

I'm posting this on the job board too, but felt it was worth a little additional attention.
Fuel is looking to fill 30 positions including graphic designers, programmers, illustrators and project managers. Here's the link.

If I were in Miami... aw who am I kidding? South Beach Animation Festival

The South Beach International Animation Festival starts in a few days. A few months ago I received an invite to this event and deluded myself into thinking I might actually get to go. Well, maybe next year.
In their own words:

South Beach International Animation Festival will again celebrate animation film and other cartoon art forms from around the world in sunny South Beach, Florida.

This entertaining, family friendly location serves as host to SoBeIAF with screenings, parties and special events taking place at a variety of venues around Miami and the Beaches. In addition to film screenings, the Festival hosts art exhibits, hands-on demonstrations, seminars, and workshops about the newest technology and creative software.

The Festival runs from March 26 - 29 and April 5th, 2009, giving visitors mild springtime tempters in the day and balmy Caribbean nights. So, save the dates, book your trip and we'll see you on the Beach, because everybody loves the "Toons".

John Canemaker and Bill Plympton are the featured guests this year.

Noreen Legault Mendoza is the main organizer, and she seems to be doing a pretty good job. My only issue is with the judges. They've gone with local figures and media personalities. Personally, I'd like to see one judge with an animation pedigree, but the result could be interesting. Rarely do we get to see how non-animation folks sort out the variety of films they'll be exposed to. There does appear to be some Canadian representation, with the Triumphant Campaigns of Captain Cudney, The Urge, Wapos Bay, Malaise, Nothing Like Her and Perfectland all competing in a variety of categories.

Good luck to our countrymen, and congrats to Noreen on putting together this little shindig.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Animation Scene: Atlantic Provinces, March 2009

Following coverage of what's up in Ottawa, I'm going to cast my attention to the east coast of Canada, where the industry has grown considerably over the last ten years. My apologies if any feel that lumping all the eastern areas together is an injustice, but for now, that's how it's gonnna be.
I'm just getting to know a lot of the folks out east. I'll openly admit that, until working for Fatkat a few years back, I was pretty unfamiliar with the whole region (at least professionally, I did some schooling out in Nova Scotia as a lad). What I've got here is largely unconfirmed, and I invite anyone reading to contact me to corroborate or correct what I report. I will be following up this week as well, trying to get as strong a picture of what's up on the right hand side of the map as I can.
First, no report on the Maritime region would be complete without a mention of the closure of Collideascope last summer. It was arguably the most stable and consistent and well paying place in the region. Collideascope also represented the region on the national stage as an established place. Huge blow.
As far as the active studios go, I'll start with Fatkat, since I chat with these guys pretty regularly. According to Gene Fowler, Fatkat is in the home stretch on their 26 half hours of Three Delivery for Nicktoons, Canal+, and YTV (among others). The Space Knights Pilot is in post for Teletoon (no air date on that yet though). They're prepping a few other things, including 26 half hours of a german production that should start in the summer. They've been putting up some art from this one over on their blog, feel free to check it out here. There's also talk of a US production and a UK gig, also for spring summer. Once these are locked I'll update.
Cartoon Conrad: completed animation on 13 episodes of Razzberry Jazzberry Jam for Trapeze, in PEI, and CBC in 2008, hoping for season 2 . Maybe a late May start on that one. I've heard very good things about this place. They were good and busy in 2008, and I'm told Luke Conrad did a great job of people happy over there.
Copernicus: I have mixed reports. One report tells me they are ramping up on a copro with Dublin-based Kavaleer Productions on Garth and Bev. 52 11 minute episodes. May startup. The other, that they are in mid production on said production, which should be coming to an end late May or June. I'll try to follow up here.
Helix Digital: Again, unconfirmed, but apparently putting together a very major project for CBC. It would be very high end and long running and is looking to start in May/June as well to run for about two years. It's in the Budget/Schedule phase but will likely be fast-tracked into production. Helix is still angling for full series work on top of this project as well. So, likely slow at the moment, but sounds promising.
Huminah Huminah: Word is that they are turning more towards gaming, with representation by Fog Studios, a gaming agent out of New Brunswick. I'm told they've been managing to keep busy on odds and ends, but no major projects to mention.
Invisible Entertainment: These guys are still mainly supporting the region and servicing the other hops, so they're keeping their fingers crossed for everyone I mentioned above.
So, in a nutshell: it's been quiet, a little too quiet for a lot of people. Even with a big ole' tax credit and more experienced crews, the work isn't pouring into the Maritimes the way it was a few years ago. They've had their boom, which is part of the industry cycle, and now they're competing with everyone else. But there's a lot of talented folks out east and it looks like things will level out. The next few months will be crucial, as work needs to lock in to keep these shops going through 2009 and into 2010, when people think the worst will be over.
Fingers Crossed.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

From the internets...

  • Claude Robinson VS Cinar, plagiarism case valued at $3 million that dates back to 1996, started March 10 and will run for 3 weeks, via AWN
  • Because someone demanded it: Amberwood's Zeroman is coming to DVD.
  • Babar is going 3D. Apparently Nelvana is planning the same thing with Franklin the Turtle.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Animation Links and Resources, courtesy of Ron Doucet

Ron Doucet, over at Flooby Nooby, while claiming some small reaction to the last post here, has slapped an incredible amount of linkage up on his blog that will be of value to pretty much anyone who reads this. I'm having some technical issues with viewing his blog, and have barely scraped the surface of what's up there, but go and see for yourself.
He's got classic animation tips, clips for inspiration, advice on job hunting, portfolio preparation, salary analysis, just tons of goodies, some of which I may make room for on here as well.
For now, go visit Ron, and be sure to say thank you.
Job Hunting Post.
More info.

Friday, March 13, 2009

A Conversation With Mark Cappello

I had a chance to chat this morning with Mark Cappello, of Nova Scotia’s Invisible Entertainment. Mark is known for being a straight shooter, and some of you may remember him from his open letter to Nova Scotia Animators. Here’s what followed:

Michael: Hey Mark.
Mark: Hi Michael, how are you?
Michael: Busy, which is good. You?
Mark: Only a little busy, but I'm okay. What are you working on these days?
Michael: Mainly the blogsite. It's becoming my full-time job and I got some short-term money from the province for a bit to get it up and running.
Mark: Well that's awesome. It's funny I had tried to jumpstart a professional association a few years back. Basically a central online place with all the features you want to build, plus some more standard benefits as well. People were not terribly interested, of course times were better then...
Michael: Yeah, there is still a hesitation from people in the industry when it comes to committing to anything. ASIFA Cananda, for example, currently has no members.
Mark: I know, it's nuts. Especially when you consider the amount of people in this industry across the country AND the amount of graduates colleges pump out across the country every year.
We've really devalued our professional status, and no one seems to care or want to communicate.
Michael: It's getting a little better, but you have to practically trick people into it. I think the way to go, and I've been talking to a few people about this, is smaller, loosely-organized groups. Once they're up and running, tie them together for some actual industry representation.
Mark: What's funny to me is that every other profession that touches animation is represented. Writers with the guild, producers with the CFTPA, Directors with the guild, Voice actors with Actra, post and sound guys with their association... right down to the janitors that come in and clean the studio. But the artists are not represented. Is it any wonder that only our work gets sent overseas?
Michael: We're strange beasts.
Mark: I'm not a 'union' guy, I don't think a union would work at all, but a professional association? I agree with you, it may be best to form a template and start locally with the idea that these groups will eventually coalesce.
Michael: Toronto has a few different groups already: TAIS, Alexis Victor runs something called Industry Night and always draws a crowd, and now here's a new group started by Barry Sanders: Animatic TO. There's also been talk of something out in Vancouver, just an opportunity for industry folks to socialize semi-regularly. And I'm going to be getting a seasonal get together started here. Start it as event-based, a screening, a lecture, plus something social. No dues, no memberships. Just getting people into a room together every few months, then a year down the road, create a membership, but no dues. Raise some sponsorship to cover the events, then you tie the groups together.
Mark: That sounds great, but it will be amazing how few people show up in a large animation community for free! I think you're right, we're strange creatures.
Michael: Well, it helps to have an open bar, or at least free drink tickets!
Mark: Agreed, but the studios are very fearful when it comes to labour organizing. Booze would work though!
Michael: Yeah, but what you do is make sure they have representation on your advisory board, so the studio interest is represented. You're there to be their voice, as much as the individual. But you have to have the worker bees represented as well. Put them at the same table
Mark: I could see that, but what things would you eventually be going for, other than strengthening the community? What benefits come out?
Michael: A unified voice that can bring issues like the provincial tax credit situation to our policy makers, but for now, I'd be happy with just having more communication in the community, that would be a victory unto itself.
Mark: That's a major one. We need to strike down the laws that make it difficult for us to go where the work is, each province could have it's own rate knowing that when a worker is there his money and taxes are dropping right in the province.
Michael: Agreed. We're competing with ourselves.
Mark: I think we need to talk seriously about group health benefits, seeing as how so few companies offer them.
Michael: Also very important. Without treading into union territory, it wouldn’t be too hard to arrange a group benefits program that members would have access to. I have friend in the insurance business that I've been talking to about this very thing.
Mark: I think we really need every 6 months a wage survey, so people know what the 'going rate' is for services. No one forces you to abide by this, but you can see for every region what the standard rate of pay is and you will feel obligated to follow that.
Mark: We are competing against ourselves, but companies prey on the ignorance of the newbies.
Michael: That's always been the case, that's why all the seasoned talent ends up working in their guest rooms and basements doing boards or sheet direction. There's always someone who will do the job cheaper.
Mark: Haha, it's true.
Michael: Not necessarily better, but cheaper rules the day. The real tragedy is that the current studio model is actually incredibly inefficient. An older model, with the emphasis on a strong director who is also the show runner and experienced talent is much cheaper to run. You pay more for fewer people.
Mark: I find the 'veterans' are often the toughest to reach with this stuff because they have carved a comfy little niche for themselves. They don't see the next generation being taken advantage of as their problem.
Michael: True in many cases. They've been burned, so now it's someone else's turn.
Mark: I agree the current model sucks, there is so much waste.
Michael: And they're usually only too happy to see the snotty, cocky punk straight outta school get the entitlement knocked out of them
Mark: It's true, I just wish they saw those people as themselves when they were full of naive hope and animation industry ignorance.
Michael: Well, the current attitude coming out of the schools, and I'm saying this in the broadest sense, is a lack of respect and level of entitlement the likes of which I've never seen before. No one feels they have to prove themselves.
Mark: It's so true. I've hired at Sheridan for 8 of the last 13 years and it's worse EVERY year. They're talented, but every one of them wants a directing job, or a development design job. It's brutal!
Michael: Well, since animation became a "hot job" (and that's a direct quote from an issue of Entertainment Weekly circa 1994) it began attracting people who are essentially lazy, people who can draw, and think it would be an easy way to make a living. And there are so many schools out there, every one of them will get in somewhere, and be pumped back out into the industry , 10 months later in some cases, thinking they are animators.
Mark: The schools are a big part of the problem. There is one here in Halifax that charges $17,000 a head per year for two years, and I can't even think about hiring them. I've spoken to some of the instructors and they're told not to fail anyone. It's borderline criminal.
Michael: Nick Cross recently said to me that he's only just become comfortable calling himself an animator. And Nick has been making his own films for 10 years.
Mark: Nick is awesome.
Michael: Yeah, arguably the best independent animator working in the industry, and he only just started calling himself an animator. The school situation got bad 10 years ago. In some areas it settled down, but there's always some where else that opens and cranks out kids. I was in Vancouver when it happened there. Fly by night outfits that opened, took your money, and were sometimes out of business before they graduated their first class.
Mark: This is the kind of 'reporting' I would like to see for our industry. Articles about tax credit law, and where you're eligible (because most people don't know), articles about the education problem, articles about successful individuals who have maintained humility and respect for the industry like Nick Cross. Not fluff like Animation Magazine.
Maybe we can start an online news source and build the community and interest that way?
Michael: Hmm… You think?
This is the direction I'm trying to take the blogsite. It's tough. People don't talk too much, so getting those opinions can be tricky.
Mark: I don't know, we all have our routine on the computer, check CHF, check your site, check facebook, then get to work. It can be part of the ritual.
Michael: I hope so. I haven't really pushed the content on the site too much yet, but that's where it’s headed. This would be a great thing to post, this conversation. See if we can get people talking. There are rarely comments on the blog, which I find surprising.
Mark: It will be difficult, in fact it will be tough to keep it from sliding to mudslinging and conjecture. But real reporting is difficult. I think if you had some regional people that got a lot of this info together... you're essentially editing it at that point.
Michael: Yeah, it has to have teeth, and I don't mind REPORTING on mudslinging, but you have to be respectful of all the players in the community. People have to be willing to sit down and speak frankly
and stand by what they say though. It can be done without being offensive. Speaking your mind and being disrespectful are two very different things.
Mark: There are a lot of stories out there that need to be told. Reporting could be cool, going into a studio and asking why the decision was made to send a project overseas, pros, cons, etc. And report that unbiased to give everyone the reasons from that company's perspective. Approach Teletoon and ask why they only put a fraction of shows together last year. The editorializing can come when we discuss why the greatest and most fertile animation country in the world has 'Teletoon' as our official cartoon network. We can ask why the real creatives are not getting opportunity.
Mark: As far as the studios, it allows for them to advertise jobs AND proudly represent any awards, or production deals, or news that they have DIRECTLY to the animation artist community.
Michael: Sadly the reality is more likely just a place to fire off press releases.
Mark: For some. Others may take the opportunity to talk directly to the artists.
Mark: I don't know how to brew more commentary. You would think that if this thread was posted there would be lots of people who agree, disagree, and have ideas of their own, but very few people would comment I think.

From there the conversation devolved into mutual masturbation and appreciation. But I’m going to make this a regular feature and open the door to other members of the community to have some frank conversation, share their feelings about the industry, the larger animation community, and the blog itself. I’m not putting forth that Mark or myself have any answers to the questions of the day, but maybe these types of conversations can at least give us the questions.
Please feel free to chime in: tell us what know-it-all bastards we are, offer alternatives, opinions or links to get rich quick schemes.
Communication furthers our community and benefits us all.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Nerd Corps launches League of Super Evil with CN, YTV

Nerd Corps announced their new deal with Cartoon Network last week. Here's the press release.

US viewers should prepare for the coming of
Cartoon Network will unleash 26 evil episodes starting this March

VANCOUVER, CANADA (February 25, 2009) –Get ready to root for the bad guys, here comes the League of Super Evil, a brand new comedy series that will soon be unveiled on Cartoon Network.

Produced by the evil masterminds at Nerd Corps Entertainment, this hilarious comedy series follows a team of bumbling super villains in their ongoing quest for total neighbourhood domination, and will launch in March airing four times per week, with new episodes premiering on Monday evenings. The net has picked up 26 x half hours, which will be aired as two consecutive 11-minute segments. Additionally, Nerd Corps will be creating 30-second shorts tied to each episode for use as bonus on-air content of evil.

“The great thing about the League is that they always find a small, delusional victory where everyone else would see a defeat,” says Nerd Corps CEO and creative head Asaph Fipke. “And they tend to lose spectacularly. The fun is in the ridiculous and convoluted course they take in getting there, and the underlying parody in the heroes and villains that the town is full of.”

“Cartoon Network is the perfect home for a show like L.O.S.E.,” says Nerd Corps President Ken Faier. “They really understand the humor and parody in the show, and how it will appeal to their viewers, both in the core kids demo and beyond.”

Collaborating on The League’s plan for complete world domination is YTV in Canada , which will also launch the series in March, as well as the BBC’s children’s channel in the UK, CBBC, Jetix in Latin America and Canal +, Canal J and Gulli in France.

Armed with a whole new approach to badness, The League of Super Evil (a.k.a. L.O.S.E.) follows four Super Villains who have set their sights on nothing less than total neighbourhood domination! L.O.S.E. is helmed by the diminutive Great Voltar, whose grandiose plans are generally miniscule and child-like—and give new meaning to the term lowered expectations. Then there’s gadgeteer Doktor Frogg, whose evil genius is diminished only by his incredible bad luck. Bringing the muscle is fresh-faced former farm-boy Reginald “Red” Menace, who prefers to channel his energy into gardening, cute animals and bouncy castles. And we can’t forget the completely unpredictable Doomageddon, a pan-dimensional creature who brings the term “bad dog” to a whole other level. Between using a Shiruken anime robot to win a playground slam dunk competition, inventing a super-computer to protect Voltar’s sweet new evil BMX bike, or hosting a neighbourhood barbeque and not inviting ANY of the neighbors, L.O.S.E. struggles ever-onward to its goal of total mindless fun! Isn't it time the Villains got their due?

The images look good, hope the scripts can match the visuals. Nerd Corps has been getting things done and building a solid reputation. I haven't had any first hand contact with them yet, but will have to remedy that situation. Need to find out who the talent is over there, get us a peek at what else they're up to.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Boomstone update

Heard back from Lee WIlliams at Boomstone, here's what they've been up to:
we are currently working on scripts for a series called "Piper McPhee" with "Katie & Orbie" creator Susan Wicks...a young kids environmental series. We have just released a pop CD with record producer partners CdA Group in Miami for “The Weather Girls”…yes, same group who did Homer Simpson’s favorite song “Its Raining Men” and club cult favorite dance song. LOL. From the CD we are developing a girl’s series with “The Girls” which is a live action/animation web-broadcast combo series. We tendered songwriters to give us songs that dealt with all sorts of young girl's/woman’s issues focusing on being confident and happy with who you are. The CD “The Woman I Am” was just released on iTunes, setup their MySpace page, and we are just now setting up the tours and appearances.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Ottawa Animation scene, March 2009

I'm going to be doing a little more coverage of the various production centres around the country. Seeing as I am inherently a lazy creature, I'm starting with my own back yard: Ottawa.
This is by no means a comprehensive listing, just word of mouth and some chats.
We do ok in Ottawa. It's a relatively healthy industry with a long tradition. Our heyday was arguably somewhere in the late mid nineties. We've had our fair share of cautionary tales, tracing back to the Crawley days. But today, we've got a few mid size shops that generally keep our talent employed.
My list reads like this: Pip Animation, Mercury Filmworks, Amberwood, Boomstone, Big Jump, Fuel, and now: Kratt Bros.
That's really the big news in Ottawa these days. The Kratt Brothers, of Zooboomafoo and Kratt's Creatures. I don't have a ton of details yet, but word is they're opening a 2D shop out in Kanata. They'll be working in Harmony, rather than Flash, same as the folks at Mercury. They're not up and running yet, but May/June is what I'm hearing. The Kratts are known for being very involved in their productions, which can be tough, but a new shop in town, while creating more competition for Harmony-using artists, is great news.
Pip seeems pretty busy. I understand they've moved out of their old digs at the City Centre building, but I haven't been out to the new location yet. Pip are hard at work on Bob and Doug. They're doing 15 episodes, which should keep them busy til June, then a gap and 7 more episodes with hopefully more to come. They're also doing a series of shorts, 60 Second Science, for Title Entertainment, Frank Taylor's shingle. There are 9 on the go right now with maybe 26 in all to be commisioned. I've been told they've got a few demos on the go as well, but the big announcement is, starting in May, 80 episodes of the Cat in the Hat. This one is through Portfolio, and it's a huge feather in Pip's cap.
Big Jump is busy doing full production on Amberwood's Benjamin Bear. Rick Morrison informed me that they're cranking out 13 22 minute episodes which should keep them busy through the bulk of 2009.
Boomstone I'm still waiting to hear back from. I know it's been a bumpy year for them, with the departure of workhorse Rich Vanatte. But Lee Williams always has something going on, so I won't count these guys out.
Rich worked for a little while at March Entertainment's small satellite studio out in Kanata. I hear they've wrapped, but I'll keep asking to see if anything else starts up.
Mercury Filmworks is in a little downtime right now. These guys have been steady employers for a good long time here in Ottawa, and I'm told they'll be ramping up on Kid Knievel. No dates yet for this Disney show. As the other Harmony shop in town, the easily frightened are talking shakeups and a big talent drain as Kratts ramp up, but for I'm inclined to wait and see for myself.
Amberwood has scaled back to mainly being a production office and farming out the art chores to guys like Big Jump and Elliot Animation in Toronto. They're delivering episodes of Rollbots, have Benjamin Bear on the go, and have entered into a copro deal with a Singapore shop (One Studio?) on a 3D preschool show called Rob the Robot. Scripts, music and post will be here, with the rest of the work being done overseas. This is Amberwood's new model, and it appears to be working for them.
I know there's smaller stuff around too. Nick Cross has finished up his half of the Angora Napkin pilot for Teletoon. I've heard rumblings of some animation maybe from Dave Cooper. There's another little shop on the horizon called Digital Henchmen. They're working on a music video right now.
I'm supposed to be heading over to Fuel later this week, so hopefully more to report from them. Grapevine over there says longer form animation to add to their already impressive reputation in games and online services.
That's what I'm hearing right now. Anyone reading who can say otherwise, or add to it, please do!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

If I were in Halifax, I'd be here:

PEI animator and comics guy, Troy Little, will be doing a book signing in Halifax, March 17th, at Strange Adventures. Word is there will be a preview of the Angora Napkin cartoon. I haven't heard about an air date for the show yet, but will post as soon as I hear.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Canadian Animation Directory, Deadline for Registration: FRIDAY!

Get over to the Ottawa International Animation Festival site and get yourself signed up for this year's Industry Directory. Registration is free! And, as mentioned previously, this year the directory is going online! You guys have been asking about this for a while, here it is. You only have a few more days!

Monday, March 2, 2009

If I were in Montreal, I'd be here:

Kid Koala is hosting 3 nights of mellow tracks to inspire your pencil. Here's the link. It's been dubbed : Music To Draw To
Here's the details:

Bring your sketchbook, yarn, or that lump of clay. Floor lamps, pens, knitting needles, and lap desks will be provided. Five bucks admission includes a free cup of hot chocolate or tea. Music will be provided by Kid Koala. Expect a full 5-hour set of some of his favorite quiet time records that he has collected on his travels around the world. Baked goods will be provided by Kid Koala’s wife, Corinne, who dreams of someday opening a bakery in Montreal and would like to try some of her new creations first.

Quiet people are invited. Bring something to work on. No dancing. Hope to see you there!

3 NIGHTS ONLY : 7pm until midnight :
March 2, 2009
March 9, 2009
March 16, 2009
Theatre St. Catherine: 264 St. Catherine E., Montreal, QC


This is one of the coolest get-togethers I've heard of in a while. Colour me jaloux.

While we're talking Kid Koala, here are a few of his animated music videos by Monkmus.

Fender Bender:

Basin Street Blues:


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