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This summer, Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida will open a Simpsons-themed area at its park to complement its existing Simpsons ride. The new space will allow visitors to walk around Springfield and spend their hard-earned dollars on Simpsons-related food, like Duff Beer, which will be brewed exclusively for the park. Simpsons creator Matt Groening has said in the past that he wouldn’t allow actual Duff beer to be brewed because he didn’t want to encourage kids to drink
The press release describes how parkgoers will be able to buy other food items as well: “[You] will be able to grab Krusty-certified meat sandwich at Krusty Burger, snatch the catch of the day at the Frying Dutchman, get a slice at Luigi’s Pizza, go nuts for donuts at Lard Lad, enjoy a ‘Taco Fresho; with Bumblebee Man and imbibe at Moe’s Tavern.”
The area will also feature a new attraction—Kang & Kodos’ Twirl ‘n’ Hurl—as well as the statue of Springfield founder Jebediah Springfield. Cick on the image at top for a close-up rendering of the new area.
After a successful UK premiere and a short run in Tokyo, Whole Hog Theatre’s stage version of Hayao Miyazaki’s Princess Mononoke will return to London’s New Diorama Theatre next month due to “unprecedented demand.” The production is a collaboration between the British theatre troupe and Miyazaki’s Studio Ghibli and features large scale puppetry and a recreation of Joe Hisaishi’s original film score.
Miyazaki, who is known for refusing the re-versioning of his films into theatrical productions, approved the project after being presented with a video proposal from Whole Hog by way of Aardman’s Nick Park. As recalled by Studio Ghibli producer, Toshio Suzuki, he gave his consent “a couple of seconds” into viewing the presentation. Suzuki was equally impressed: “I wanted to watch a strange ‘Princess Mononoke’, he told the Wall Street Journal.
With puppets by Charlie Hoare and costumes by Yoseph Hammad, the show translates the film’s eco-friendly theme and inherent Asian aesthetic by use of reclaimed materials and a form of Japanese textile work called Boro, which involves the patch-working of rags into garments.
“Being a big Studio Ghibli and Miyazaki fan myself, I have no desire to alter the film’s narrative and atmosphere, or to add a ‘new spin’ on the story. I only want to re-tell it in a different form,” director Alexandra Rutter told Film-book.com. “However, whilst audiences can expect to see much of the film’s narrative happen onstage, they should also expect the techniques we use to tell the story to be quite different.” And her artistic objective has paid off as the production has been picking up positive word of mouth, selling out entire runs and was even featured as one of Lyn Gardner’s theater picks in The Guardian.
The second UK run of Whole Hog Theatre’s Princess Mononoke is scheduled for June 18th-29th at the New Diorama Theatre in London. The cast is led by Mei Mac as San/Princess Mononoke and Maximillian Troy Tyler as Prince Ashitaka. The production also features musical direction by Kerrin Tatman and design by Polly Clare Boon.
Margaret Groening, the mother of Simpsons creator Matt Groening, died in her sleep on April 22 at age 94, as reported in an obituary in The Oregonian.
Born Margaret Ruth Wiggum, to Norwegian-born parents in Everett, Washington, she went on to become high school valedictorian, May Queen of Linfield College and a high school English teacher. Her late husband, Homer Groening, whom she met in school and she “chose because he made her laugh the most,” passed away in 1996.
A spokesperson for The Simpsons confirmed the obituary in the LA Times and said that her son had declined any public comment. She is survived by her brother Arnold; her children, Mark, Matt, Lisa and Maggie; eight grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. Further confirmed by the obituary, Groening famously used names from his own family when creating Simpsons characters, with the exception of the name Bart, which is an anagram for “brat”.
The fashion sphere can’t seem to get enough of Mickey and Minnie these days, and not just the expected corporate collabs like OPI cosmetics or Barney’s Electric Holiday, but actual couture showstoppers stomping the runways in fashion capitals and captured in the pages of high fashion editorials (like the above Peter Phillips mask for 2005 US Vogue). And even after having revisiting the subject a dozen times over the last five years, designers are still finding new inspiration to cut and sew a pair of mouse ears into their fashion stories.
A Japanese beverage company is encouraging its drinkers to animate their drink bottles after they’ve finished drinking its contents. They are printing a series of Disney characters on the sides of their tea-drink packaging. Each drawing is numbered, like this:
After someone has collected all the bottles in a series, they can photograph the draiwngs to create an animation sequence:
Cartoonist Kevin McShane has spent the last two years drawing himself in the styles of different animators and animated films. He’s collected one hundred of these stylistic deviations on CartoonKevin.com. One might criticize McShane’s decision to emphasize only the most superficial stylistic traits of a character design as a representation of that style, but it still manages to be a worthwhile exercise that makes the viewer aware of both the similarities and differences in character design styles across the spectrum of animation history.
Over on question-and-answer website Quora, someone posted a very simple question: Which is the cutest cartoon character ever created? The answers from Quora members cover a broad spectrum, some more obvious (Tweety, Pokemon, Pooh) and others less so (Gertie the Dinosaur, Night Fury from How to Train Your Dragon).
So what makes a cartoon character cute? You could reduce the answer down to a few basic characteristics: big eyes and head, fluffiness, warmth and chubbiness. “Cuteness is based on the basic proportions of a baby plus the expressions of shyness or coyness,” wrote Preston Blair in Advanced Animation. According to Blair, other cute traits include:
Head large in relation to the body.
Eyes spaced low on the head and usually wide and far apart.
Fat legs, short and tapering down into small feet for type.
Tummy bulges—looks well fed.
But cuteness is far more complex than even Blair’s set of rules; some consider E.T., Yoda and WALL·E to be the epitome of cute, despite their furless, odd appearances. Cuteness and a character’s perceived hugability aren’t always determined by aesthetic appeal. “Cuteness is distinct from beauty,” wrote Natalie Angier for The New York Times. “Beauty attracts admiration and demands a pedestal; cuteness attracts affection and demands a lap.”
In essence, any creature deemed cute is one that speaks to our nurturing instincts. The cuteness of an infant can motivate an adult to take care of it, even if the baby is not a blood relation. Even more, studies have found that humans transfer these same emotions to animals (or even inanimate objects) that bear our similar features. Finding Nemo combined all of these psychological elements perfectly—you can’t hug or cuddle a fish, yet adorable Nemo, with his fin damaged from birth and his human-like facial features, appeals to our caregiving instincts. In fact, every character in Pixar films, whether it’s a clownfish or a car, features forward-facing eyes, the most crucial feature for achieving an emotional connection with the audience.
But with any extreme comes another. If a character is too cute and sugary sweet, the audience can develop skepticism. “Cute cuts through all layers of meaning and says, ‘Let’s not worry about complexities, just love me,’” philosopher Denis Dutton told The New York Times. It is for that very reason cuteness stirs uneasiness and sometimes feels cheap.
After all, the adorable, smiling face of a child can hide the havoc he just wreaked by breaking all of his toys. “Cuteness thus coexists in a dynamic relationship with the perverse,” writes Daniel Harris in his book Cute, Quaint, Hungry And Romantic: The Aesthetics Of Consumerism. You could call this the Gremlin Effect—a character with an underlying creepiness. Troll dolls (which were recently acquired by DreamWorks Animation) and Cabbage Patch Kids are the inexplicable result of this paradox.
There’s no denying a cultural need to pigeonhole and perfect the attributes that could be popularly deemed cute. In his fantastic short essay on Mickey Mouse, biologist and historian Stephen Jay Gould asserts that Mickey’s changing appearance over time is a physical evolution that mirrors cultural attitudes toward cuteness. As the Benjamin Button of animated rodentia, Mickey’s eyes and head have grown larger, his arms and legs chubbier. Mickey has become more childlike and, most would say, more cute and less rat-like. Mickey isn’t the only character to undergo this transformation. The teddy bear, first sold in 1903, started out anatomically similar to a real bear, with a long snout and gangly arms. Today’s teddy bears more closely resemble the Care Bears, with pudgier features and colorful fur.
Audience don’t always need Mickey’s goofy grins and huge eyes to connect with a character’s cuteness. Pictoplasma, the artists’ network and conference that celebrates characters extracted from context, reveals how sometimes it’s our own invented narrative that blasts a character into hall-of-fame cuteness. As Pictoplasma co-founder Peter Thaler said explains, “It’s a horrible example, but Hello Kitty has no facial expression. You don’t know if she’s happy or sad; you just see these two dots. You’re projecting all the narration, the biography.”
Our ideals of cuteness continue to evolve, a trajectory in visual culture that has birthed Hello Kitty and Japan’s kawaii movement, Giga Pets, Furby, Elmo and Slimer. Often the most exciting, memorable cute characters are the ones who bear negative traits that reveal the vulnerability. Scrat, the saber-toothed squirrel from Ice Age, is adorable and loved by audiences even more for his greed. Cuteness, perhaps then, is not just about an objective set of physical features—it’s also about a behavior that compels audiences and connects us emotionally to the character.
You’re a bad man, Charlie Brown! Peter Robbins, the original voice of Charlie Brown in animated specials like A Charlie Brown Christmas and It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, was arrested last Sunday on an outstanding felony warrant and held on $550,000 bail. The charges: four felony counts of making a threat to cause death or great bodily injury and a single felony count of stalking. More details in the San Diego Union-Tribune
On an upbeat note, Robbins seems like a fun guy when he’s not stalking people and sports a cool Peanuts tattoo on his arm:
Here’s the SpongeBob XXX parody no one asked for…but everyone will probably watch: SpongeKnob SquareNuts. The Brew likes to keep things classy so we’re only linking to the SFW trailer. You perverts who want to see a sponge and a squirrel go at it will have to find the whole thing on your own.
First they took our Cocoa Pebbles, and now they want our cartoons!
It was announced back in August that WWE (Worldwide Wrestling Entertainment) was teaming up with Warner Bros. to make a new Scooby Doo movie guest starring several wrestling superstars and divas.
Yesterday the WWE sent a survey to its fans (posted below) which – if you read between the lines – might say something its future plans in animation… Wrestlers versus The Justice League? The Smurfs? The Looney Tunes?
They also ask about non-Warner characters such as The Rugrats, He-Man and Alvin and The Chipmunks (???).
We all remember Space Jam. Sports figures and cartoons – What’s your opinion?
Here’s the WWE survey:
“Thank you for participating in the survey. Your complete and honest answers will help us better serve you and other members of the WWE Universe in the future.
What is your exact age?
Do you have any children under the age of 18 living in your household who are WWE fans?
How many times in an average month do you watch cartoons or animated programs?
Do you like any of the following cartoons or animated programs?
Alvin and the Chipmunks
He-Man and the Masters of the Universe
Tom and Jerry
None of the above
Does your household own any of the following cartoons or animated programs on DVD? Select all that apply.
Alvin and the Chipmunks
Tom and Jerry
He-Man and the Masters of the Universe
None of the above
WWE will co-produce an action packed Scooby-Doo animated movie that will feature WWE Superstars and Divas including Triple H, John Cena, Kane, The Miz, Santino Marella, AJ, Brodus Clay, Sin Cara and WWE Chairman Mr. McMahon. These WWE Superstars will appear in an animated form helping their friends Scooby, Shaggy, Velma, Daphne and Fred solve an exciting mysterious case at WrestleMania.
If WWE Superstars were to appear in another animated program, which of the following properties would you be most interested in seeing partnered with WWE?
Looney Tunes (e.g., Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Elmer Fudd, etc.)
Which of these three properties would you be most interested in seeing partnered with WWE?
Justice League (e.g., Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, etc.)
Alvin and the Chipmunks
And which of these three properties would you be most interested in seeing partnered with WWE?
Tom and Jerry
He-Man and the Masters of the Universe
Of the three animated programs you selected, which would you be most interested in seeing partnered with WWE?
He-Man and the Masters of the Universe
What is your race / ethnicity?
Which of the following ranges best describes your total annual household income (before taxes)?”
Remaking a hand-drawn cartoon in CGI is essentially an animation executive’s way of admitting that they don’t have an original idea to save their life (see today’s news about Powerpuff Girls being remade in CGI). There are exceptions to the rule though. For example, this Lion King CG remake by Brian (aka Bryko).
Artist Tom Whalen has designed a set of four Beatles posters, using their likness and characters from the animated feature Yellow Submarine (1968). We’ve showcased Whalen’s Looney Tunes, Peanuts and Gigantor limited edition tributes before – I’m a big fan.
Dark Hall Mansion is releasing this officially licensed Beatles project, a 4-print interlocking Limited Edition set – John, Paul, George and Ringo – in both “standard” (above) and “psychedelia” (below, click thumbnails to enlarge). There will only be 200 of each edition produced, both editions go one sale precisely at 9:30 AM PST at Dark Hall Mansion’s online Store on February 12th, 2013.
More information can be found on these and other editions available at Dark Hall Mansion.
Complete Press Release below:
Dark Hall Mansion working closely with Live Nation Merchandise, The Beatles’ North American Licensing Agent, and Apple Corps Ltd will release their new Beatles limited edition screen print set of 4 by leading contemporary artist, Tom Whalen, on February 12, 2013. This exclusive 4-print set stunningly showcases The Beatles unmistakable personas amongst the abstracted milieu of ’60s Pop culture and the landmark film that is “Yellow Submarine.” The 4 prints measure 24″ x 30,” each, and were beautifully composed and designed to work individually or as an interlocked whole when displayed.
Tom Whalen’s 4 new Beatles prints make a striking impression, particularly when viewed as a single quadtych, one meant to artistically render and underscore the personalities of The Beatles themselves. Each print will be individually numbered, 24″ x 30″ in size, and exquisitely screen printed. With an extremely limited release of only 200 sets available worldwide for all Beatles fans, it’s an edition for even the most discerning Beatles collector.
There will also be a very select Psychedelia Edition, limited to just 50 sets worldwide with each print individually signed by artist Tom Whalen and printed with shimmering metallic inks that intensely set off the designs and nuances of his highly stylized artwork.
Both Editions go one sale precisely at 9:30 AM PST at Dark Hall Mansion’s online store on February 12, 2013.Pricing will be $200 for the entire 4-print Standard Edition and $300 for the entire 4-print Psychedelia Artist Signed Edition.
DreamWorks cosplay is hardly as widespread as Pixar cosplay, but when people dress up as DreamWorks characters, it’s a thing of beauty. This Shrek-themed wedding happened on the British island of Jersey. There’s an article and video about it on the BBC website and more photos on Yahoo’s Shine.
Filmmaker Regina Pessoa (Tragic Story With Happy Ending) has put out a flipbook for her latest short Kali, the Little Vampire. This is not your typical flipbook though. Depending on where you flip it, the flipbook displays six different scenes from the film. Even after watching the video, I can’t figure out how it works, but I’m guessing voodoo magic. Your own magical Kali flipbook can be purchased for 7.50€. Email ciclope (at) ciclopefilmes (dot) com for info.
We can’t seem to get over our obsession with the caveman, who has appeared on screen since at least 1912. In fact, anthropologist Judith Berman has written that a new caveman character has been introduced into pop culture every year since World War II.
DreamWorks’ The Croods, directed by Chris Sanders and Kirk De Micco, presents the most recent version of prehistoric man; Grug, is a responsible father facing such dad-like issues as a teenage daughter who just wants to be her own person. He transcends the behavior expected of a typical caveman, but his character design doesn’t evolve past a stereotype that is largely of our own making.
We’ve distilled an entire subspecies of human down to a single iconic image, one that is perpetuated year after year through film, animation, comic art and bad Halloween costumes. The caveman is always brutish, dressed in some type of fur loin cloth and possessing limited intelligence. Some stereotypes of prehistoric humans are certainly based on archeological facts: the structure of the skull, anatomical proportions and pelt-based wardrobe. But other stereotypes, such as wielding clubs, communing with dinosaurs and pulling women by the hair, are our own projections of prehistoric behavior.
The iconic caveman image we know today was already established by the 1930s, seen in the comic strip Alley Oop. He carried a stone axe, manhandled women and rode a dinosaur named Dinny. Alley Oop, along with the Fleischer’s Stone Age Cartoonsseries, was a response to western society grappling with what it meant to be modern. The simple world of the caveman was a nostalgic comfort to those who feared progress.
Alley Oop was the pop culture bookend of a caveman fiction trend that began in the 19th century. One of the earliest examples is Paris Before Man, a novel written by Pierre Boitard in 1861. The frontispiece print (above) shows a club-wielding caveman, protecting his mate. As the genre developed, the caveman became more brutish and ill-mannered—an 1886 short story written by Andrew Lang describes a marriage custom in which women are “knocked on the head and dragged home.” By the 1920s, numerous newspaper headlines used “caveman” and “neanderthal” as adjectives to describe senseless male brutality.
The mid-century resurgence of cavemen in film (The Neanderthal Man, Monster on Campus), comics (B.C.) and television (The Flintstones) can partly be blamed on World War II rhetoric. Newscasters sang the praises of atomic power while warning of its devastating potential to send us back to a new Stone Age. To help us deal with these fears, the caveman was domesticated; The Flintstones showed that, even as the worst case scenario, the Stone Age wasn’t so bad. Even cavemen could wear neckties and accomplish an honest day’s work.
Over time, films and TV shows have moved away from the wife-clubbing caveman of the 19th century to fit G-rated expectations of civilized society. In fact, The Croods has pushed the caveman to the opposite end of the spectrum, with a father figure that seems like he could handle modern-day discussions of co-parenting and all-terrain strollers. No longer a commentary on uncivilized man or our fears of the future, the caveman and his era presented in The Croods is merely a backdrop ideal for contrasting our modern reality of iPods and WiFi.
The half-hour pilot, titled "Sally in Hollywoodland," was recorded June 3, 1947, but apparently never went beyond this single test episode. Highlights include a creepy-sounding Woody at noraml recording speed, as well as performances by Billy Bletcher and a young June Foray. Had the show gone into production, it would have been the first time the Lantz characters appeared on air.
The show features Norma Jean Nilsson voicing the human protagonist Sally, Theodore Von Eltz as Woody Woodpecker, Billy Bletcher as Wilbur the Wolf, June Foray as Oswald the Rabbit, Sarah Brenner as Andy Panda, and Herb Lytton as Wally Walrus.
A pleasant surprise arrived in my mailbox yesterday: a copy of the new documentary Bronies: The Extremely Unexpected Adult Fans of My Little Pony directed by Laurent Malaquais. The project raised $322,000 on Kickstarter last year, making it the second-most funded documentary in the crowdfunding site’s history.
The title tells you everything you need to know about the film, which surveys the unexpected fandom that has formed around the animated series My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic. Screen time is allotted to a wide range of individuals who identify with the fandom, including Bronies who serve in the U.S. military and Bronies who live abroad in countries like The Netherlands, Germany and Israel. Friendship is Magic creator Lauren Faust, and voice actors John de Lancie and Tara Strong participate in the documentary; they are credited as executive producers along with Michael Brockhoff.
I haven’t had a chance to watch the whole thing yet, but considering my association with the fandom, I’m looking forward to learning more about it. If you want to see the film for yourself, various DVD/Blu-ray/digital download options are offered at BronyDoc.com.
I think so, Brain, but why would a school in Nigeria name themselves after us?
The pair of Warner Bros. mice may have failed in their countless attempts to take over the world, but they have proven successful in having a school in Abuja, Nigeria name itself the Pinky and the Brain School.
The school, which is almost certainly unauthorized by Warner Bros. and thus doubly awesome, has an official anthem that manages to praise both God and Pinky and the Brain:
We are the children of Pinky and the Brain, Children growing in wisdom, age and grace.
We lift our voices to thank God; the giver of life.
Shout it out, far and wide,
Pinky and the Brain first among equal,
Pinky and the Brain, the flag bearer, for others to follow.
The intersection between animation and fashion isn’t always well defined, but it is expanding. In the latest issue of Galore, Jerome LaMaar (aka Style Monk) illustrated a two-page spread of Jessica Rabbit wearing lingerie from the recent collections of houses like Atelier Versace, Agent Provocateur, La Perla, Christian Louboutin, Azzedine Alaia and Dolce & Gabbana. It’s a curious blending of real and imagined worlds that shows the potential for future collaborations between fashion and animation, like perhaps, a fashion designer designing the clothes for the characters in a CG animated feature.
Animator Dave Nimitz has informed me that Lucille Bliss passed away on Thursday night (November 8th). Bliss was a pioneering television voice actress who’s vocal career began by voicing TV’s first cartoon character, Crusader Rabbit (1949), and crowned her extensive experience as the memorable “Miss Bitters” on Nickelodeon’s popular Invader Zim.
Other notable roles Bliss voiced included step-sister “Anastasia” in Walt Disney’s Cinderella (1950) and playing “Smurfette” in nine seasons of Hanna Barbera’s The Smurfs.
A New York City native, she settled in San Francisco in the 1950s as the hostess of a live local children’s TV show, ABC/KRON-TV’s The Happy Birthday To You Show.
Her vocal career brought her roles in Disney features (Alice In Wonderland, 101 Dalmatians), Hanna Barbera cartoons (The Flintstones, Space Kidettes), Don Bluth’s The Secret of Nimh (1982) and Blue Sky’s Robots (2005). Bliss appeared in several Warner Bros. and MGM theatrical cartoons in the 1950s. She was Suzanne in Friz Freleng’s A Kiddie’s Kitty (1955) and voiced characters in A Waggily Tale (1958). She was Jerry’s companion “Tuffy” in the MGM cartoon Robin Hoodwinked (1958), and played the Leprechaun in MGM’s Droopy Leprechaun (1958).
Needless to say, her unique vocal stylings will be missed. Click here for an extensive interview with Bliss, conducted in 2005 by Television Academy. Below, a gallery of her most famous characters, followed by the first episode of Crusader Rabbit.
Earlier this year I discovered Germany-based Bernd Müller and his fantastic one-of-a-kind figurines – like this one from Gulliver’s Travels. Apparently his love of all-things Fleischer didn’t end there. Check out Müller’s lastest creation: Koko The Clown.
I don’t think he sells these – but, by God, I want one!!!
Collector Mel Brinkant has posted an amazing story – and gallery – of art created by amateur wood carver Charles Postingl. Beginning in 1973 Postingl began (at age 38) carving over 200 wood dioramas, creating three-dimensional shadowbox homages to beloved comic strip and animated cartoon characters.
In addition to doing pieces devoted to Disney classics, Postingl tackled everything from Little Nemo to Mary Jane and Sniffles! Mutt and Jeff, Snuffy Smith, Popeye, Beetle Bailey, Sad Sack are some of the comic strips he did; Felix The Cat, Daffy Duck, Woody Woodpecker, Mickey, Donald and Goofy are among the animated characters he’s carved.
Some of the carvings are spot on recreations, some are way off-model – but all of them are charming and clearly done with a lot of love and care.
Collector Brinkant discovered Postingl’s folk art and bought many of the pieces – telling the remarkable story behind them and showing off the collection on his website. Click thumbnails below to enlarge three great examples – check out the story and see more amazing stuff here.