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Okay, here is an unabashed plug for a video project near and dear to my heart. Animation archeologist/film-restoration hero Steve Stanchfield is ready to unveil his latest DVD masterpiece: Noveltoons Original Classics, a special DVD collection featuring twenty restored “Hollywood” cartoons produced by Paramount from 1943-1950.
Paramount’s in-house cartoon unit, Famous Studios (actually based in New York City), was staffed by a core group of artists from the former Fleischer Studio – in fact, just about everyone minus Max and Dave was still involved. The Noveltoons series became the launching pad for many well known (and not-so-well known) characters: Little Audrey, Baby Huey, Herman the Mouse, Raggedy Ann, Blackie Sheep, Spunky Donkey and others. Unlike other collections featuring some of this material, Stanchfield’s set features these cartoons digitally restored and mastered from original 35mm and 16mm film materials. For the specific cartoon titles, see Menu’s below (click thumbnails to enlarge).
You may have seen some of these cartoons before – but you haven’t seen them look like this. Pristine, colorful, with their original Paramount movie titles. Believe me, this library has been sadly neglected for decades. Previous available copies of these cartoons are usually faded 16mm TV prints with replaced titles, film splices and dirt lines. Your jaw will drop when you see the quality Steve has managed to achieve (check the two frame grabs above, center and right; click thumbnails to enlarge).
Bonus features include commentaries from animators (Bob Jaques, Mike Kazaleh, etc.) and animation historians (including me), Still galleries featuring original model sheets, publicity materials, animation art and comic strips, plus a unique Baby Huey storyboard/final film comparison reel (image below):
Noveltoons Original Classics. Buy it now. I highly recommend it. Help support this kind of film restoration – by a dedicated animation archeologist, doing the work the major studios do not feel worthy of its time. And if I haven’t convinced you yet, here are a few excerpts from the disc (You Tube does not do this justice):
John Canemaker’s 2005 Academy Award-winning animated short The Moon and the Son: An Imagined Conversation is finally out on DVD. While Cartoon Brew readers are no doubt familiar with Canemaker’s tremendous body of work as an animation historian, his career as an independent animator is equally substantial, with his most impressive work being this deeply affecting 28-1/2 minute portrait of his Italian-American immigrant father and the troubled relationship he had growing up with him.
The DVD is a great self-contained lesson in filmmaking. It comes packed with a 16-minute documentary about the making of the film, the entire first rough cut which Canemaker narrated himself before John Turturro came on board, and two image galleries containing the storyboards and concept artwork. The rough cut in particular is revealing and shows how Canemaker expanded the dialogue and added to the ending, which both made the film more impactful. The storyboards in the image gallery are a wonderful addition, but I often found myself wanting to see the storyboards in greater detail since DVDs aren’t an ideal format for presenting still artwork. The DVD is available is on Amazon for $30.
Here they come – at long last. Columbia Pictures classic collection of UPA cartoons will soon be available as you’ve never seen them before. These revolutionary mid-century cartoons, in restored form – with as many of the original theatrical titles returned as possible – are a revelation. Full vibrant colors, clean sharp prints, crystal clear sound. The complete library of these films will be available on two separate sets, from two separate companies (sub-licensed from Sony). First up, TCM will make available on March 5th UPA Jolly Frolics. This 3-disc set contains 38 cartoons, including Gerald McBoing Boing, Rooty Toot Toot, The Tell Tale Heart and the rare Ham & Hattie shorts, a video introduction by Leonard Maltin, audio commentaries on select cartoons by Maltin and yours truly, Jerry Beck, UPA studio art consisting of model sheets, concept paintings, storyboards, background paintings and more. This set will only be available via mail order through TCM’s website. Pre-order it NOW!
On June 19th, Shout Factory will release The Mr. Magoo Theatrical Collection which will include all the original Magoo theatricals, including the Oscar winners When Magoo Flew and Magoo’s Puddle Jumper (both in letter boxed CinemaScope). Bonus materials include rare pencil tests, audio commentaries by the likes of Emily Hubley, John Canemaker, Charles Solomon and much much more. I will be telling you more details about these two amazing DVD collections as we get closer to each release date – but it wouldn’t hurt to pre-order them now. Here’s the Magoo Amazon link.
These screen shots were taken with my iPhone off my cathode-ray tube television set. The images are from the new Looney Tunes Blu-Ray disc set, the Looney Tunes Platinum Collection Vol. 1, which I just got my hands on. Don’t judge this set on my blurry shots above. I actually ran out and bought a $79 blu-ray player and hooked it up to my old TV set so I could start watching all the blu-ray discs I’ve been accumulating – even if it’s NOT the correct way to watch them.
That said, the cartoons on this collection look incredibly good. Obviously I’m a bit biased as (#1) I love Warner Bros. cartoons and (#2) consulted on the set and wrote the liner notes. We’ve previously posted about the contents of this collection (official press release here), but seeing and holding the actual packaging in my hands is pretty incredible. It’s almost worth the price of the whole set just for the restoration of the (previously lost, now found) 1955 Chuck Jones Air Force re-enlistment film, A Hitch In Time. It’s got incredible animation and layouts by Ernie Nordli that go beyond what they were doing in the regular Looney Tunes of the time.
I’m not a regular blu-ray collector, but here’s what I appreciate about this technology – and this is something I tell my film collector friends: Blu-Ray the equivilent of the studios selling you a mint 35mm print. As someone who grew up during a time before VHS, when the only thing the studios would sell from their cartoon libraries were cut-down 8mm black and white (of color) cartoons, Blu-ray discs clearly are the gold standard for home video. With proper projection or a huge HD flat screen (two things I still don’t have), watching Looney Tunes at home will never be the same.
So consider this an unabashed plug: Looney Tunes Platinum Collection Vol. 1 goes on sale next Tuesday and is highly recommended – whether you have a blu-ray player or not.
I know, I know… you think I’m simply a shill for everything Craig Yoe and Steve Stanchfield produce. I admit I’m a minor contributor to many of their projects… but ya gotta believe me: their stuff is great! Both are back this week with two new items I can’t recommend highly enough:
Making ‘Em Move:Rare Behind the Scenes footage of Vintage Animation Studios, is the new DVD from Stanchfield’s Thunderbean Animation studio. I really thought I knew of all the classic studio “behind-the-scenes” films – like the Paramount Popular Science short (from 1939) at the Fleischer Studio (included on the Warner Bros. Popeye Vol. 2 dvd set), Disney’s Reluctant Dragon feature (1941), the Universal Cartoonland Mysteries (1936) short that goes to the Walter Lantz studio, heck even Gertie The Dinosaur (1914)… but none of those are included here. Instead Steve packs this disc with ten rarely seen films made from 1919 through 1967 that are equal parts educational, entertaining and eye-opening!
The set begins with the long lost educational film, How Animated Cartoons Are Made (1919), featuring animator Wallace Carlson showing us how they did it at the pioneering Bray Studio. This print has been gorgeously restored from an uber-obscure 28mm original! Other incredible finds on this disc include the Jam Handy Drawing Account (1941) featuring animator Robert Allen explaining the nuts and bolts (literally) of cartoon production in the 1940s; Old Chinese Proverb (1941) featuring a look inside the Jerry Fairbanks (Speaking of Animals) Studio; rare color footage of animators at work at Terrytoons in the 1940s; Disney animator Clair Weeks setting up a modern (1956) animation studio in India; and Otto Messmer animating the giant electric Time Square billboards. There is also a Disney behind-the-scenes promo from a forgotten RKO Newsreel; a rare Paul Terry Social Security sales pitch; and just for fun, Van Bueren’s rubber-hose animation classic Makin’ ‘Em Move (1931) – which is probably the most accurate film in the whole bunch!
This is a must-have video compilation for everyone reading this blog – yeah, even you! Animators, educators, students, vintage cartoon collectors. They don’t make ‘em like this anymore – here’s everything you need to know about how they did it. Buy it today.
There’s hope for DVD yet. Our friends at TVonDVD.com just revealed plans by Warner Home Video to release a new single disc DVD collection in their Looney Tunes Super Stars series – this one solely devoted to Pepe Le Pew.
To the best of my knowledge, Pepé Le Pew: Zee Best Of Zee Best will contain 17 cartoons (despite what the box art says) – including all 15 Chuck Jones’ Pepe cartoons, plus a Freleng Tweety in which he appears in cameo (Dog Pounded), and an odd Art Davis outing (Odor Of The Day). The DVD goes on sale December 27th. The titles included are:
Odor-Able Kitty (1945), Scent-imental Over You (1947), Odor of the Day (1948), For Scent-imental Reasons (1949), Scent-imental Romeo (1951), Little Beau Pepé (1952), Wild Over You (1953), Dog Pounded (1954), The Cats Bah (1954), Past Perfumance (1955), Two Scent’s Worth (1955), Heaven Scent (1956), Touché and Go (1957), Really Scent (1959), Who Scent You? (1960), A Scent of the Matterhorn (1961), Louvre Come Back to Me! (1962)
Spent the weekend going over some new book acquisitions (and one DVD) and surprise! most were pretty good – and a couple were really great. Here’s what I’ve been reading (and viewing), in no particular order:
Funny Pictures: Animation and Comedy in Studio-Era Hollywood (University of California Press), edited by Daniel Goldmark and Charlie Keil, is a fascinating collection of essays by noted animation historians and academics, exploring the link – from the outset of the medium to today – between comedy and animation. Fourteen pieces in all, including J.B. Kaufman comparing Disney’s characters to Chaplin and silent comedians; Mark Langer putting Fleischer’s early films in context to Vaudeville and comic strips of the era; Donald Crafton observing the effect of Hollywood cartoons on Depression era audiences; Linda Simensky on the influences of classic cartoons and earlier animators on the TV cartoon creators of today; and Daniel Goldmark writing about “funny music” in funny cartoons. This one is aimed at scholarly – but is highly recommended (by me) to all!
Krazy Kat & The Art of George Herriman, A Celebration by Craig Yoe (Abrams Comic Arts). Another Krazy Kat comics compilation? Not quite. In fact, not at all. Once again comics archaeologist Yoe has unearthed a treasure trove – this time of all things Herriman and Krazy. And once again I’ll say that even if you know nothing about Herriman and his most famous creation, you MUST buy this book. If you love great cartooning, funny drawings, and 20th Century pop culture this is a absolute gotta-have-it volume. It is an absolute joy to leaf through these pages filled with rare unpublished Herriman art – in comics, paintings, doodles, merchandise, etc. This is a companion volume to all the incredible Herriman material now being reprinted – a collection of jaw-dropping “bonus material” (as we say in the DVD world) that even includes several pages devoted to the Charles Mintz animated cartoons of the 20s and 30s. The artwork overwhelms the reader, yet Yoe tops that by including several rare essays on the Kat from the likes of E.E. Cummings, Gilbert Seldes, Bill Watterson, Craig McCracken and Herriman’s grand daughter Dee Cox, among others. I’ve run out of space to continue raving. Only have room for four more words: Buy this book now!
And finally, Animators of Film and Television: Nineteen Artists, Writers, Producers and Others by Noell K. Wolfgram Evans (McFarland & Company), is a book that can best be used by students as basic text to get a grasp on key figures in animation history. As a teacher of animation history myself (currently at Woodbury University in Burbank) I’m well aware that good text books (in print) are hard to find at this time. In this book, author Evans essentially reviews the career highlights of nineteen key figures – including John Hubley, Max Fleischer, Frank Tashlin, Art Babbit, Matt Groening and John Kricfalusi. Notably absent are Walt Disney (intentionally according to the introduction), Chuck Jones, Tex Avery and Bob Clampett. If you are a longtime fan and have the essential histories and bios, you don’t need this one. Still, this is a worthwhile primer for the interested novice, animation student or casual enthusiast.
At a special Comic Con panel today in San Diego, Warner Bros. Senior VP George Feltenstein announced the forthcoming release of the first Blu-Ray collection of classic Warner Bros. cartoons, The Looney Tunes Platinum Collection. The panel, moderated by yours truly included writer Paul Dini, and directors Spike Brant and Tony Cervone, included a video presentation comparing a standard DVD image against the new blu-ray transfers. Two cartoons in blu-ray were also shown, Bob Clampett’s The Great Piggy Bank Robbery and Hanna-Barbera’s Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Mouse. Information about the Tom & Jerry Golden Collection was posted here.
The Looney Tunes Platinum Collection contains 50 classic cartoons in high definition. Disc #1 includes Hare Tonic, Baseball Bugs, Buccaneer Bunny, The Old Grey Hare, Rabbit Hood, 8 Ball Bunny, Rabbit of Seville, What’s Opera Doc?, The Great Piggy Bank Robbery,A Pest In The House, The Scarlet Pumpernickle, Duck Amuck, Robin Hood Daffy, Baby Bottleneck, Kitty Kornered, Scardy Cat, Porky Chops, Old Glory, A Tale Of Two Kittie, Tweetie Pie, Fast And Furry-ous, Beep Beep, Lovelorn Leghorn, For Scent-I-Mental Reasons and Speedy Gonzales.
Disc #2 includes One Froggy Evening, The Three Little Bops, I Love To Singa, Katnip Kollege, The Dover Boys, From A To ZZZZ, Chow Hound, Feed The Kitty, Hasty Hare, Duck Dodgers in the 24 1/2 Century, Hareway To The Stars, Mad As A Mars Hare, Devil May Hare, Bedevilled Rabbit, Ducking The Devil, Bill Of Hare, Dr. Devil and Mr. Hare, Bewitched Bunny, Broomstick Bunny and several others to be announced.
Bonus material includes several Behind-The-Toons pieces and Chuck Jones documentaries, numerous bonus cartoons including Chuck Jones’ FDR re-election film, Hell Bent For Election (1942), a rare Air Force re-enlistment film, A Hitch In Time (1955), and Ken Mundie’s expressionist anti-war animated short, The Door (1967) – plus two all-new documentaries on Marvin The Martian and The Tasmanian Devil.
Additionally, the collection comes in a sturdy plastic box, which will include a 52 page booklet, a commemorative magnet and mini collectible drinking glass. The Looney Tunes Platinum Collection will go on sale in November.
In 2009, we reported on the Ghibli Museum exhibit devoted to Max Fleischer’s Mr. Bug Goes To Town (1941). I believe this was somewhat tied into Studio Ghibli’s Arrietty (2010). Ghibli and Disney have since teamed to release Mr. Bug (aka Hoppity Goes To Town) on home video in Japan.
Brew reader Rick Nodal sent us this report about the DVD (and supplied the images in this post):
“Hoppity Goes to Town (Mr. Bug Goes to Town) was released on DVD (region 2) in Japan back in 2010 by Studio Ghibli through Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment Japan. I just received the copy I purchased online and it’s fantastic. The audio & video quality is excellent, and although the disc defaults to Japanese subtitles when it begins, you can change the setting to “no subtitles.” I’ve attached a few screen shots/grabs including the end title Paramount logo.”
As Mr. Bug is still protected by copyright, does this mean Ghibli, Disney or Pony Canyon (their Japanese video distributor) sub-licensed the film from Paramount Pictures? If so, that’s very interesting! Disney presenting a Fleischer cartoon?!
Click thumbnails below to see larger images of the box (with Disney castle logo clearly visible, lower left on the label) and several frame grabs. According to Rick, this is a transfer of an NTA Technicolor print, with NTA’s reissue opening titles. This is a shame as the UCLA Film Archive recently restored the film from the original Paramount three-strip negatives. Hopefully we will see that version released soon – from Disney or anyone.
In the meantime you can order the Japanese Ghibli/Disney release from CDI Japan for $46.43 (U.S. $).
Buzzing about the internet today was news concerning the Tom and Jerry Golden Collection, Volume 1. Whereas I’m working on this set and had been sworn to secrecy about it, I couldn’t mention it before. Since the box art was leaked and a bunch of mis-information is now being spread, I have no choice but to violate my arrangement with the studio and clear up some facts.
First of all, some basic information about this set: It goes on sale October 25th on both Blu-Ray and standard DVD discs. The DVD will go for $26.99 and will present the cartoons in their original 1.33:1 “full frame” video aspect ratio. The Blu-Ray set will cost $34.99 and will feature the shorts also in the original 1.33:1 aspect ratio, but with video in 1080p high definition. Both will no doubt sell for less on Amazon.
Each set will contain the first 37 Tom & Jerry shorts, in chronologic release order (from Puss Gets The Boot to Professor Tom, for those keeping score at home). There will be audio commentaries and bonus documentaries – but none of these are finalized yet. These sets will contain new, pristine transfers from CRI negative elements. These are not the Turner TV broadcast prints used on previous releases.
Many are asking about Mouse Cleaning. The original nitrate negative has been found on this rare title and it is being restored at great expense. This film is planned for release on T&J Golden Collection volume 2. Don’t even think of asking me about that set yet.
The information leaked about Vol. 1 today was early data made available to solicit sales from the retail trade. It was not intended to be spread publicly. A formal press release about the Tom & Jerry Golden Collection, with updated information, will be released in a few weeks.
P.S. I will be moderating a Warner Home Video Cartoon panel on Thursday July 21st at 3pm at the San Diego Comic Con – with guest panelists including George Feltenstein – to discuss forthcoming Tom & Jerry and Looney Tunes collections on DVD. If you are going to the Comic Con, I advise you (wink, wink, nudge, nudge) to attend this panel for more information.
(Special thanks to David Lambert)
Stop the presses, hold the phone: It’s greatest news since the invention of the Digital Video Disc itself! Unlike the post below, this is NO JOKE! My friend David Lambert at TVshowsonDVD.com is reporting that Classic Media will be releasing Herman and Katnip: The Complete Series on September 6th.
Herman and Katnip were a knock-off of MGM’s Tom and Jerry by Paramount’s Famous Studios. They are some of the most violent cartoons ever created – so much so, they are acknowledged as the inspiration of The Simpsons‘ Itchy and Scratchy. I posted about my favorite Herman and Katnip moment back in 2009. This is not first time these cartoons have appeared on DVD (which their press release implies), they were part of Classic Media’s incomplete Harveytoons Complete Collection. This new single-disc release will cost at measly $7.93, and can be pre-ordered from Amazon.com. They will be presented as originally shown in theaters and on television: in full-screen 1.33:1 video format and with English mono audio. Supposedly this is the box art (at left), using the cover of an old Harvey comic book, instead of commissioning new art. For $7.93, what do you expect?
Die Störkanal-Edition von I-On New Media ist eine DVD-Reihe von mittlerweile vierzehn zum Teil sehr aufregenden Filmen, zu denen sich ab heute der hervorragende griechische Streifen Dogtooth/Kynodontas (meine Kurzkritik) hinzugesellt. Zu den bisherigen Highlights gehörten auch schon 5150 Elm's Way (meine Kritik) aus Kanada sowie der bestürzend intensive südkoreanische Bedevilled (Trailer). Für Ende April ist zudem Red White & Blue angekündigt, den ich nur mit Nachdruck empfehlen kann.
Ich habe Nando Rohner, der für I-On New Media als Pressesprecher und journalistischer Betreuer der Störkanal-Reihe arbeitet, per E-Mail eine Handvoll Fragen zum Projekt gestellt.
Wie ist das Projekt Störkanal-Edition entstanden und welches Konzept steht dahinter?
Nando Rohner: Die Idee zu der Störkanal-Edition kam Michael Kraetzer, seines Zeichens Chef und Initiator von I-On New Media und ANIMAZE, im Jahr 2009.
Die Störkanal-Reihe soll anspruchsvollen, außergewöhnlichen und preisgekrönten Filmen abseits des Mainstreams einen würdigen Rahmen bieten, den solche Filme unserer Meinung nach auch verdienen. Neben unserem bekanntem Themen-Schwerpunkt bestehend aus Horrorfilmen und Filmen aus Asien, hatten wir bei I-On New Media schon immer auch Filme im Angebot, die aufgrund ihrer anspruchsvollen und unkonventionellen Machart nur schwer einem Genre zuzuordnen waren. Mit Störkanal tragen wir diesem Umstand nun Rechnung, weswegen wir uns dazu entschlossen haben, neben vielen exclusiven Titeln, auch ein paar ausgewählte Titel aus der Vergangenheit innerhalb der Störkanal-Reihe nochmals neu aufzulegen. Unserer Meinung nach ist die heutige Filmlandschaft zu stark vom anspruchslosen Mainstream-Kino beherrscht. Die kleineren Filme, die nicht mit einem großen Werbebudget beworben werden, haben es deswegen sehr schwer ihr Publikum zu finden. Dies ist ums so bedauerlicher, weil gerade diese Filme dem Zuschauer oftmals eine besondere Art von Unterhaltung bieten. Sie nehmen den Zuschauer noch ernst, erlauben es sich ihn intellektuell und emotional zu fordern, anstatt ihn nur als seelenlosen Konsumenten zu betrachten. Genau dieser Art von Filmen soll die Störkanal-Reihe ein zu Hause bieten. Dabei war es uns von Anfang an wichtig, dass die Störkanal-Reihe auch mit einem optisch ansprechenden Gesamtkonzept versehen wird. Störkanal soll nicht nur ein Name sein, sondern für den Film-Sammler auch ein Garant auf ein optisch einheitliches Erscheinungsbild darstellen. Alle Filme erscheinen in einem Slim-Digi inkl. einem 12 Seiten dicken Booklet. Zusätzlich sind alle Filme durchnummeriert und verfügen über ein Störkanal-typisches Cover-Motiv, welches in seiner Gestaltung einen hohen Wiedererkennungswert besitzt. Wir von I-On New Media sind im Endeffekt auch nur Filmsammler und haben die Störkanal-Reihe so gestaltet, wie wir sie gerne in unserer Filmsammlung sehen würden.
Wie muss man sich den Entscheidungsprozess vorstellen, welche Filme veröffentlicht werden sollen? Wie sucht Ihr also die Filme aus?
Als langjähriger Label-Chef verfügt Michael Kraetzer über die entsprechenden Kontakte und bekommt auch viele Filme zur Ansicht zugeschickt. Auch ist er stetig auf der Suche nach neuen Filmen, die ins Störkanal-Konzept passen könnten. Wenn er auf einen Film gestoßen ist, der seiner Meinung nach ein Störkanal-Film werden könnte, wird dieser vom Team angesehen und darüber diskutiert, bevor Michael Kraetzer die finale Entscheidung trifft.
Inhaltlich gibt es nur im weitesten Sinne einen Referenz-Parameter, welchem die Filme gerecht werden müssen, um als Störkanal-Film in Betracht gezogen zu werden. Natürlich hat ein reiner Action- oder Horrorfilm, oder auch eine Komödie keine Chance in die Reihe aufgenommen zu werden, aber ansonsten lassen wir uns von irgendwelchen Genre-Grenzen nicht einschränken. Wenn ein Film unserer Meinung nach unbequem ist, zum Nachdenken anregt, in seiner Art den Zuschauer intellektuell anspricht, oder emotional herausfordert, dann hat er eine gute Chance darauf, ein Teil der Reihe zu werden. Neben den inhaltlichen Qualitäten entscheidet natürlich auch die Gesamtumsetzung darüber, ob ein Film ins Störkanal-Konzept passt oder nicht. Billige Dutzendware hat in der Reihe nichts zu suchen. Störkanal repräsentiert für uns Qualität in jeglicher Hinsicht. In diesem Zusammenhang sind wir besonders Stolz darauf, mit Dogtooth einen Film im Programm zu haben, der bei der letzten Oscar-Verleihung für einen Oscar als bester nicht englischsprachiger Film nominiert war.
Wie ist die Resonanz auf die Edition bisher ausgefallen? Immerhin sind die Filme ja alles andere als leichte Kost.
Wir haben bisher nur gute Resonanzen auf die Edition erhalten, sei es von der Presse oder den Kunden. Dies hat uns auch darin bestärkt, die Störkanal-Edition weiterzuführen, da unserer Meinung nach definitiv ein Bedürfnis nach anspruchsvollen Filmen besteht, die entsprechend aufgemacht die heimische Filmsammlung veredeln.
Wie sind Eure bisherigen Erfahrungen in Bezug auf die Freigabe der Filme durch die FSK? Habt Ihr stark schneiden müssen, um Freigaben zu bekommen?
Bis jetzt hatten wir keine nennenswerten Probleme. Es muss aber auch ganz klar gesagt werden, dass kein Störkanal-Film in irgendeiner Form auf reißerische Gewaltdarstellungen setzt. Wenn Gewalt in den Filmen vorkommt, dann resultiert diese stets aus der Geschichte heraus und ist auch psychologisch nachvollziehbar. Viele Störkanal-Filme zeichnen ein Bild der menschlichen Seele oder vom Tun und Handeln von Menschen in Extremsituationen, da gehört auch Gewalt dazu. Die FSK hat in diesem Zusammenhang jedoch ganz klar erkannt, dass die Gewalt innerhalb der Störkanal-Reihe immer in einem entsprechenden Kontext stattfindet und auch nie zum Selbstzweck verkommt.
Just released on Warner Archive’s on-demand line of DVDs is Gene Kelly’s ambitious ballet film Invitation to the Dance. The film’s third segment, “Sinbad the Sailor,” is a half-hour combination of live-action and animation, the latter directed by MGM’s team of Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera. The film has never been on DVD before, and if not necessarily a classic, the combination of Kelly, Hanna and Barbera makes for some fun moments.
The delightfully grouchy Ed Benedict, who I interviewed in 2002 for Animation Blast #8, spoke about his involvement in the film and why he disliked it:
“That was a miserable project. I was at home…[Fred] Quimby called and briefly described this project that he wanted me to come over and work on. I got the impression that I would be designing this so I was excited. I was quite enthusiastic about it and felt challenged. I went over and started fumbling around, making scribbles, trying to find a style. But they weren’t the designs that I originally did. I just turned my back away from the whole thing as much as I could. I got Don Driscoll, a friend of mine who worked at Paul Fennell’s, to paint the backgrounds. He had the ability but he wasn’t the painter. Anybody could have painted the backgrounds because they didn’t have anything on them.
“Invitation to the Dance was a farce and I was shocked because if you look at a lot of the old MGM musicals, they used Lautrec, Cezanne and a lot of different styles of backgrounds, just great stuff. Gene Kelly is running the show more or less on those type of decisions and he’s over there making the approvals on this stuff. There’s samples coming from the art department on the main lot, others besides myself were handing in ideas, and nothing took place.”
See some of Ed’s development art from the film HERE.
How’s this for a startling fact:
There aren’t all that many animated films in the immaculately curated Criterion Collection. In fact, of the 556 DVDs that have been released under the Criterion banner, approximately 556 of them have been not been animated.
That’s Cinematical writer David Ehrlich asking why the discerning cinema buffs at Criterion have never released an animated film. He suggests that they begin looking in the direction of animation and offers a list of ten animated films they should consider releasing. What’s your wishlist of animated films that Criterion should release? Perhaps someone at the company will take notice of the possibilities.
FOR THE RECORD: A few commenters have pointed out that Criterion has released animation in the past—they put out Akira on laserdisc in 1995, and have released a few DVD anthologies of work by experimental animator Stan Brakhage.
Last summer I moderated a panel at the San Diego Comic Con for Happiness is a Warm Blanket, the first new Peanuts special in five years. And “special” it is indeed. Produced by Wild Brain with Charles M. Schulz Creative Services, and directed by Andy Beall (Up, Ratatouille, Iron Giant) and Frank Molieri (The Simpsons Movie, SpongeBob SquarePants Movie). Craig Schulz, son of the Peanuts creator, served as one the executive producers and writers of the film along with cartoonist Stephen Pastis (Pearls Before Swine), who wrote the special as well. Paige Braddock and Linda M. Steiner (Duck Dodgers, Justice League) co-produced.
Warner Home Video just announced its DVD release date: March 29th, 2011. No television date or channel has been announced yet, but I’m sure it’ll get TV exposure. I’m working on getting a public screening, with director Q&A, for L.A. (details to be announced). I’ve seen the film and it’s terrific – the artists have created a loving tribute to Schulz and Charlie Brown with a story based directly on Peanuts strips from the 1960s, and art direction taken from Schulz’s drawing style circa 1965. It brings back Shermy, Patty, Pigpen and Violet, and will remind you why you loved all the Peanuts characters in the first place. A must see and a must-have. Don’t miss this one.
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