Saturday, May 10, 2008

The Links of 'Toon

More animation links .. and a few that are ... uh ... sort of animation. offers a brief overview of jazz and cartoons:

... [J]azz and cartoons? What could be farther from the spirit of jazz than low-brow animated entertainment for kids. Yet there is a long history of mutual interaction between these two art forms. Raymond Scott’s quirky music served as inspiration both for the soundtracks of countless Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies cartoons, as well as for serious jazz musicians. Artists as diverse as Don Byron, Bob Moog, the Dave Brubeck Octet and the Kronos Quartet have reveled in its peculiarities.

And Bugs Bunny, don’t forget, was the prototypical hipster back at a time when only Lester Young was doing a better job of defining the cool ethos -- just as Elmer Fudd has long served as the prototype for all "squares," who are sometimes dubbed (in Elmer's honor) as fuddy-duddies. When I write the hidden history of the twentieth century, Bugs and Prez will play leading roles. (Don't laugh, my friends, I'm serious!)

New trailers of Pixar features aren't the only teasers arriving on the internets. This past week, snippets for Kung Fu Panda and Igor came calling:

We have the new trailers for Kung Fu Panda and Igor. Kung Fu Panda hits theaters on June 6 and stars the voice talents of Jack Black, Angelina Jolie, Lucy Liu, Dustin Hoffman, Jackie Chan and Ian McShane. Igor will be released on September 19 and features the voices of John Cusack, Steve Buscemi, Jay Leno, Eddie Izzard, Sean Hayes, John Cleese, Molly Shannon, Jennifer Coolidge and Arsenio Hall.

And Shrek the Musical is set to open this summer. As goes Disney's cross-polination of varying media, so goes DreamWorks Animation:

SHREK THE MUSICAL is DreamWorks Animation's first venture in legitimate theater. The production was initiated when Sam Mendes, a big fan of the first Shrek film, suggested the idea of creating a musical to DreamWorks Animation's Jeffrey Katzenberg around the time the second film was in production. The musical is being produced by DreamWorks Theatricals (Bill Damaschke, President) and Neal Street Productions, Ltd (principals Sam Mendes and Caro Newling).

Wade Sampson at Mouse Planet has a snippet of Disneyland history: How the often parodiced but never topped Small World came to be:

Pepsi executives went to California in February 1963 and met with Disneyland’s construction boss, Admiral Joe “Can Do” Fowler who had to sadly inform the executives that Disney “couldn’t do” the project since it was less than a year before the fair opening and that Disney was experiencing challenges with all the innovative things they were working on for the other three pavilions and needed to focus all their resources on those projects. When Walt found out, he was incensed. According to one Disney executive, Walt said, “I’ll make those decisions. Tell Pepsi I’ll do it!” ...

That famous song that some people find tortuous had an interesting creation. Originally, Walt had wanted the children to sing their national anthems. However, when it was attempted, it was a cacophony that was insufferable. Walt called in songwriters the Sherman Brothers who were hard at work on “Mary Poppins.” He told them he wanted a song like “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” that would be melodious and was simple enough that it could be repeated over and over in different languages.

Imagineer Harriet Burns remembered Walt talking to the Sherman Brothers at WED and using the phrase “it’s a small world after all” to describe the feeling he wanted. Walt never meant the phrase to be a title or even a lyric but was just making a casual remark to try and capture the spirit of song that talked about the children of the world.

The brothers quickly came up with the famous song but worried that it came so quickly, so they worked on two more songs trying to top it. However, with time running out, Walt was anxious to hear what they written at that point and they played the simple song first. They never got a chance to share the other two songs when Walt said, “That will work” which most Disney employees knew was high praise from Walt. Those who knew Walt have said that Walt really loved the song...

Hm. There was a push in the Connecticut legislature to get Blue Sky Animation more tax credits than it already had for moving out of New York. But apparently it didn't fly.

Although the General Assembly did not approve financial incentives for Blue Sky Studios Inc. and USA Boxing, the two organizations are still moving to lower Fairfield County in some form, House Speaker James Amann, D-Milford, said yesterday.

Amann tried for months to convince colleagues in the General Assembly to offer Blue Sky, a digital animation studio, more film tax credits to move from White Plains, N.Y., to Greenwich. ... A bill passed last year to lure digital animators in general and Blue Sky in particular to the state capped the annual pool of available tax credits at $15 million.

Amann said Blue Sky needed more and wanted the legislation amended to raise the cap to $25 million. Some lawmakers ... questioned the need to provide Blue Sky with more money because the company already had signed a lease for a 106,000-square-foot office off King Street in Greenwich.

For some reason, with the state budget running in the red, and the studio move already an accomplished reality, some politicians questioned the need to give Fox-News Corp. more of a break.

Out on the film-plug tour, Pixar director Andrew Stanton talks about Wall-E and film-making in general:

... [A]sked about where the line is drawn between animated and traditional live-action films, Stanton refuted the existence of such a dividing line. “Ever since particularly ‘Lord of the Rings,’ there [are] not many action films and fantasy films and adventure films that don’t have some mix of using computer graphics and using live action,” Stanton said, going on to describe the limitless possibilities modern CGI technology offers. “If you can think of it and you can imagine it, you can make it. … The tools are all there now to just get whatever kind of look you want.” ...

Speaking of new trailers, Clone Wars has a new one out, both on the internets and in the cluster of trailers now at a theatre near you.

"STAR WARS: THE CLONE WARS showcases an entirely new look and feel to the galaxy far, far away – combining the expansive scope of the Star Wars Saga with state-of-the-art computer-generated animation ..."

As a 17-year-old Star Wars freak I know said: "George Lucas is going to milk this thing for everything he can, isn't he?"

To which I replied: "But of course. How do you think George got to be a billionaire?"

Addendum:Variety has reviews for two animated features (once CGI, the other traditional) that likely won't be getting mega-wide releases. In other words, their indies:

... Combining elements of "Planet of the Apes" and "The Day the Earth Stood Still," "Terra" is also part inter-species "Romeo and Juliet" ... "Terra" isn't sugar-coated -- the humans are hardly paragons of virtue, but neither are the Terrareans. And the story's resolution won't make "Terra" the feel-good cartoon of 2008, although it is a work of art.

Then there is the pencil-driven project:

Good battles evil as a gun-running, booze-swilling, cigarette-puffing badass is dragged, kicking and screaming, toward salvation in Bill Plympton's slyly sardonic black comedy, his best animated feature to date. Closer in drawing style and mood to Plympton's award-winning shorts, with all their grungy metamorphic grotesquerie intact, "Idiots and Angels" may attract the larger arthouse auds that have thus far eluded Plympton in his feature forays. Its totally wordless corporeal pantomime is poised to widen his already considerable worldwide fan base.

Make the balance of the weekend joyous and productive.


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