ASIFA San Fransisco


September, 1999 Newsletter

Colossal Memories | Local Screenings | National News | Directory Update | Festivals

 

COLOSSAL MEMORIES

by Karl Cohen

One can learn important film industry news in unusual ways in San Francisco. As I stood at Fourth and Howard, on my way to a car, an animation director (on a bike) called my name and stopped. I congratulated him on a recent article about his work. He informed me that he needed a job as the company he had been with for many years had laid off their entire staff. A few day later I confirmed that Colossal Pictures was ceasing to exist after 23 years of business. The officers of the corporation are presently taking care of the final business arrangements.

My introduction to Colossal was a spectacular 10 minute animated opening sequence for The Grateful Dead Movie, 1977. It is a surreal fantasy, full of images inspired by the Dead's lyrics. There was a pinball game set in outer space, dancing skeletons and hundreds of other images designed to appeal to followers of the band. It "blew their minds." The animation, which combined cutout figures with other techniques, was unlike anything else being done in the 70s. Drew Takahashi, Gary Gutierrez and Kirk Henderson were the talents behind these impressive images.

FROM VEGETABLE SOUP TO MTV. Although the company's name suggested images of grandeur, it was actually two guys and an occasionalemployee working in a basement on Sutter Street in San Francisco's Western Addition. To enter you walked past the building's garbage cans. Drew Takahashi from UCLA and Gary Gutierrez from the San Francisco Art Institute had worked together on animated segments for PBS children's shows at John Korty's studio in Mill Valley. They came to his studio as apprentices and were soon directing sequences for "Vegetable Soup." When PBS renewed the show's contract for a second season in 1976, Korty was busy working on a feature. He suggested that Drew and Gary start their own production company. He later said he regretted not buying stock in Colossal.
When Colossal began MTV didn't exist and rock bands had no reason to hire animators. The company survived in the late 70s doing the second season for "Vegetable Soup," broadcast graphics for KQED and commercials for Boise Cascade, KSAN-FM and The Gap. George Evelyn, who joined the company in 1979 and was the last creative director to leave, says the complex Boise Cascade ad made in 1979, gained
them a lot of national attention. "After it aired the jobs started to come in."
Colossal was developing a reputation for working with a blend of techniques. The creative staff was becoming known for being innovative. They worked with whatever style best suited the job. They were soon calling their approach "Blendo," a term Takahashi invented. At the time most animation studios were known for working in a specific artistic style.

NEW MARKETS. When MTV went into 2 million homes for the first time in 1981, Colossal Pictures was there. Takahashi says he is proud that Colossal Pictures made the first MTV ID that was broadcast. Years later he said that "when MTV started, I thought it was a bad idea." He said at first doing MTV "Top of the Hour" station IDs was "just a job -- it was a good job."

MTV logos from Colossal were full of surprises. One took us on a tour of great art from the past. There was an ancient cave painting from Lascaux, a Van Gogh, a Picasso and other famous images. The last was a MTV logo. Another was a "film noir" mystery. At the end a flashlight illuminates a logo chalked on the floor. Others used everything from comic book art to realistic photo images cut out from their backgrounds and animated. They also used cel animation, live action footage and any other technique, or combination of techniques, they could think up.

Former Colossal producer/director John Hays said recently that "Colossal reinvented pop culture by creating much of the MTV look."

Most of the MTV logos segments showed off the company's ability to make visually exciting images. The one exception from Colossal showed a static shot of a universal price code image while dull elevator music played on for 15 seconds. It too was a big hit.
Working for MTV opened numerous doors for the young company. Nickelodeon, MTV's sister station, used Colossal when they went on the air . Rock bands wanted Colossal to do their music videos. Levi's 501 jeans hired them to do dozens of animated ads. In the years that followed they did ads for many of the hot trendy companies including Coca-Cola, Honda, Nike, Miller Brewing Company, Pepsi, Hershey, DHL, Pillsbury, Allstate Insurance, the Disney Channel, Sega Games and the makers of lots of kids' products (especially cereals).

WORKING WITH STARS. The live talent doing voice tracks, music track and/or appearing live before their cameras included Bobby McFerrin, Prince, Primus, Robert Palmer, Joe Cocker, George Thorogood, They Might Be Giants, the Kronos Quartet, Peter Gabriel, basketball star Charles Barkley and other stars. Their Peter Gabriel work won a 1993 Grammy Award for Best Music Video.

The company also has hired several well known artists as guest directors to collaborate with them on specific projects. In 1991 they signed the Brothers Quay from England to do MTV station breaks. Caroline Leaf from Canada did 1 or 2 ads with them. Stop-motion director Henry Selick (Nightmare Before Christmas and James and the Giant Peach) directed Ritz Bits cracker ads, the Pillsbury Doughboy and Kikoman commercials at Colossal. The Ritz ad, where the crackers go to the moon to get cheese, is still shown on TV almost 10 years after it was made. Other "hot" directors/artists designing work for Colossal have included John Lasseter, Mike Smith. Karen Kelly, Sue Young and Peter Chung (Aeon Flux).

ENTERING THE COMPUTER AGE. Colossal's first adventure with computer animation came in 1983 when they hired PDI to work with them on an ad for the Atari game Inside Joust. In 1984 they made the MTV logo "M Patterns." It started with colorful abstract shapes moving around in space. They quickly formed he shape of a dancer. The camera pulls back further and we see other dancers. Eventually there are so many of them they are merely tiny moving shapes that form the network's logo.

"M Patterns" was amazing looking in its day, but the process of making it gave a few people gray hairs. PDI was creating the needed software as they produced it. The award winning ID ran for years. The logo and ad were among the first projects made by the company that recently did the computer animated feature Antz.

In 1986 Colossal began to work with Western Images using one of the first Quantel Harry units in the country. Jonathan Keaton had been hired by Western to be the Quantel operator. The resulting collaboration between Colossal and Western resulted in a new generation of graphics. Some were images that would have been impossible to composite before Harry. Others could have been done using opticals, but they couldn't have been done as well or as quickly.

Harry was a great asset to the industry producing high-end commercials and Colossal was one of the first company to use it. For a long time Western had one Harry unit for the exclusive use of Colossal and a second unit for use by other customers.

Another collaboration was with Pixar, the company that eventually produced the features Toy Story and A Bug's Life. Back in 1988 Pixar needed commercial production experience and Colossal saw the value in associating with them. Pixar had made several animated shorts and had won an Oscar in 1988, but they had never sold their services to a client. The results were a series of award winning ads for Listerine, Life Savers Holes and other companies. Colossal would get the project and develop the storyboards. Pixar would do the animation production. The relationship continued until 1993.

In 1993 Brad de Graff joined their staff to head the new digital media division. Working with creative director Stuart Cudlitz and animation director George Evelyn they developed several motion capture/performance animation projects including Moxy for Turner, 1994. They wired comic Bob "Bobcat" Goldthwait to electronic sensors and as he moved about and talked computers moved an animated talking dog named Moxy on the TV screen. The new media division would eventually develop other motion capture stars and several CD ROM projects including Koala Lumpur: Journey to the Edge for Broderbund, 1997.

FEATURES AND TV SHOWS. Colossal Pictures has contributed opening titles, animation and/or special effects to many features including The Right Stuff, Top Gun, Cotton Club, Peggy Sue Got Married, Tucker, The Grateful Dead Feature, The Black Stallion, Children of a Lesser God, Tank Girl, Running Man, Demolition Man, Natural Born Killers and Bram Stoker's Dracula. Some of these project were quite involved. Tim Boxell, Rich Larson and Gary Guitierrez spent almost a year developing the storyboards for The Right Stuff, 1983. They spent another year doing the special effects for the film.

Although the company is best known for their short works, they have also produced several TV shows for Disney, MTV, CBS and other networks. In the 1988 they produced 13 episodes of The Misadventures of Ed Grimley (John Hays was co producer with a producer from Hanna-Barbera). That was followed by two seasons of Back to the Future, 1990-92. Hays directed 26 episodes of this animated series made for Saturday morning television. The show was again co-produced with Hanna-Barbera.

CBS hired Colossal to make the TV special Betty Boop's Hollywood Mystery. It was completed in January, 1990, but CBS sat on the show for four years. The rights to it were purchased by the Disney Network in 1994 and they have shown it numerous times. George Evelyn directed this delightful half hour that captures the spirit of the original early 30s Betty Boop cartoons.

Colossal's Liquid Television show for MTV was their first really big TV hit. It first aired on June 2, 1991, and three seasons of the show were produced. It was full of wild and crazy material that was often quirky. It was designed to appeal to older teens and adults who watch MTV. It was a series of unrelated short animated and live action segments spliced together into half-hour shows. Some of it was in dubious taste, like Mike Judge's Frog Baseball (with Beavis and Butt-head). Other segments were highly creative like the Stick Figure Theater segments by Robin Steele, Doktor Zum by George Evelyn and several contributions by Denis Morella. The big hit of the show was the ultra-violent Aeon Flux series of shorts by Peter Chung.

In 1996 Colossal signed a development deal with Disney. They had been producing Disney network IDs for many years and now they wanted to create longer products. One property that resulted from the agreement was Zoogs Disney. It is a new interactive concept where kids can watch a block of Zoogs shows on TV and then go to the Disney web site to learn more and ask questions. The following week some of the questions are answered on the TV channel. Evelyn designed the Zoogs and says they are still a big hit.

BIG TROUBLE. In the Spring of 1994, The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland retained Colossal to produce exhibits for the museum. The museum was responsible for clearing all music rights to works used. Apparently they expected major artists to donate the use of their material. When that didn't happen there were delays in developing exhibits. The museum's lack of experience caused cost overruns, production delays and other problems. The museum refused to pay all of Colossal's invoices. That forced Colossal to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on May 30, 1996 and to sue the museum for $1,200,000 in damages plus $10,000,000 in punitive damages. They were also forced to lay-off a large part of their staff.
Colossal emerged from bankruptcy Dec. 1, 1997. The museum settled in January, 1998. Instead of going back to having a large production staff, they became a smaller company that concentrated on design and development rather than production. Most jobs were animated outside of the company. They sold off some of their equipment and moved into one building instead of several.
The new company appeared to be doing well as they were once again producing major TV commercials. Their work continued to win major awards in competitions. They had successful projects on TV and were doing work for the multi-media market. On Friday, August 13, 1999, a Chronicle article about Colossal said, "Earlier this year, it paid off its final bankruptcy-related debts, about $350,000, but the expenditure left the 23-year-old company with a fatal cash shortfall."

OTHER MEMORIES. While the above is one way to remember the company, for those of us that visited their offices from time to time there are a lot of other memories. My best memories of the company were visiting friends at work. It was their creative imaginations and long hours of labor that made it all possible. It was a real pleasure seeing work-in-progress. They were proud of what they were doing and they enjoyed showing it to me.
I also have fond memories of parties with the staff. There were the small gatherings at the studio on the completion of projects, the sometimes wild events in peoples homes (like the time a director from Los Angeles got so drunk he wandered off in the night and wasn't found until the next day) or the big official parties with 100s of people in attendance.

Probably the most impressive spectacle was when Colossal acquired the Custer Street Stage. They had stilt walkers in front of the building greeting folks. Some of us had to walk between their legs in order to enter the party. Inside it was like a three ring circus. There were all kinds of sets left standing by the previous tenant. It was great running into friends in this strange environment. Of course the amount and quality of the food and drink was impressive and had something to do with making this a memorable event.

While Colossal is officially gone as of Aug. 31, the spirit of the company lives on in the companies that were formed by people who had worked there. These companies include Cartoonland (Kevin Coffey), Complete Pandemonium (Stelio Kitrilakis, Richard Kizu-Blair, Chris Whitney and Arthur Lang), Curious Pictures (Anne Smith {who has since left Curious} and Denis Morellia), Custer Street Stage (David Bluford), Eye Heart (Siri Margerine), Kirk's Works (Kirk Henderson), Little Fluffy Clouds (Betsy de Fries and Jerry van de Beek), M5 (Jonathan Searles, Mitch Romanauski, Jamie Hyneman), Maverick (Robert Valley), Media Concrete (Stuart Cudlitz, George Consagra and Anne Ashbey-Pierotti), Messy Optics (Carter Tomassi), Six-Foot-Two (Robin Atherly), Story Animation Company (Robert Story) and Wild Brain (John Hayes, Phil Robinson, Robin Steele, Gordon Clark).

Other former members of the company are busy in other ways. Drew Takahashi is working with Margeigh Joy, a former Colossal creative director, on interactive projects that were ongoing when the company closed. George Evelyn has joined Wild Brain.

There are dozens of other people that helped make Colossal a great company, but there is only room for two more names. Bud Luckey worked and taught classes at Colossal. He is a brilliant character designer, animator, story person and layout artist. He is now at Pixar. Another great talent that worked there briefly was Marcy Page. Today she is an animator and producer at the National Film Board of Canada in Montreal.

A TRIBUTE TO 23 YEARS OF GREAT ACCOMPLISHMENTS. Jan Baunan, the CFO of Colossal, said, "We tried our best to keep the company afloat. What we feel good about is the integrity we have maintained all along and the lessons we have learned. And, of course, there's the massive, fine body of work that Colossal Pictures contributed to almost a quarter century of American media culture, sure to be remembered and respected for many years to come."

On Thursday, October 21 former Colossal employees, their family and friends and ASIFA-SF members are invited to a reception and tribute to all who helped make Colossal a great company. We plan to celebrate by screening work covering the history of the company and people plan to share a few memories. Plan now to attend this special event. Details in our next newsletter.
A slightly different version of this tribute appears in the September Film/Tape World

TOM GIBBONS WINS FAF COMPLETION GRANT FOR FILM AWARDED THE KEN WILLARD MEMORIAL FUND
Gibbons, who was a friend of Willard, was given $7,500 to complete The Hunger Artist. The film was started with the money in the Ken Willard memorial fund. Willard was a local animator working at Pixar when he died a few years ago. This year Film Arts Foundation awarded 26 film and videomakers a total of $114,500.

MORE ILM WORK WILL BE IN THEATERS THIS YEAR This summer The Mummy, Star Wars: The Phantom Empire, Wild Wild West, and Deep Blue Sea (28 shots by ILM) were released (also about 25 shots in The Haunting, but 90% of the efx work in the film came from Tippett Studios in Berkeley). Coming this fall with effects work by ILM are Bringing Out the Dead, a Martin Scorsese film for Disney, and Snow Falling on Cedars. Coming Nov. 19 is Tim Burton's Sleepy Hollow (about 150 shots by ILM). Coming this December will be Galaxy Quest. It has about 250 shots by ILM and it stars visitors from another planet. They see a comic science fiction show on TV and kidnap some of the stars. They mistakenly believe the TV stars can save their planet...

Also in production are shots for Green Mile (based on a Spielburg story), Magnolia, Perfect Storm, Space Cowboys, and a Rocky and Bullwinkle feature.

The unnamed monster feature being made at ILM for Universal (it was going to be 100% digital animation) came to a halt just after it went into production. It now has a new executive producer and rumors say there are script revision being made. If all goes well this Frankenstein-type feature will go back into production eventually.

There is also a good probability that George Lucas will finish the script for the next Star Wars feature by the end of this year (or early in 2000) and it will go into production in 2000. No production dates have been announced.

The ILM commercial division was busy with lots of work using Phantom Menace characters until recently. They also did 3 more amazing ads for First Union, a comic ad for Canada Dry set in the frozen north, 3 ads for Toyota and a Glad Lock Bag ad.

PIXAR, TIPPETT STUDIO AND PROTOZOA WIN AT PRIX ARS ELECTRONICA '99 in Linz, Austria. There were 2119 entries this year. Pixar won an award of distinction in computer animation for A Bug's Life. Lev and Emre Yilmaz of Protozoa won one of 12 honorable mentions given for computer animation. The award was for the work Bad Night. Phil Tippett and Craig Hayes of Tippett Studio won one of 6 honorable mentions given for visual effects. The award was for the work Virus.

ATTIK DID A PSA FOR THE MONTERAY BAY AQUARIUM It shows the Empire State building perched on top of Mt. Everest to show how deep the ocean is. Stock footage was blended with 3D computer images by Christian Perez and Stephan Burle de Figueiredo.

LOW COST INTERNET CLASSES AT MEDIA ALLIANCE They offerclasses in Flash, HTML, Java, etc. (415) 546-6334 or www.media-alliance.org/

COGSWELL COLLEGE'S ANIMATION PROGRAM GETS RESULTS Three of their recent student graduates were hired by Foundation Imaging in Valencia, CA. They will be working on the computer animated TV series Starship Trouper and Star Trek Voyager. The new employees are Ernest Chan, Mike McReynolds and Nathan Webb.

The school presented an entertaining lecture series for the public this summer. It was "A Couch Potato's Guide to Animation and Special Effects." News of it arrived too late for our last newsletter. Animator Gene
Hamm organized and presented the 8 programs.

The school is located in Sunnyvale and offers a BA in computer animation to full time students. It does not offer part-time animation classes. (408) 541-0100

WILD BRAIN HAS A JOINT PRODUCTION DEAL FOR A MAJOR TV SERIES AND HAS KEPT BUSY WITH SEVERAL OTHER MAJOR PROJECTS They just announced they have a joint production contract with EM.TV and Merchandising Co., Munich, Germany, to produce Poochini's Yard. It will be a TV series based on A Dog Cartoon, a Dave Thomas/Wild Brain short. Wild Brain will have domestic rights to the 26 episodes and EM.TV will have the European rights.

They are animating Rocky and Bullwinkle for one project and Dudley Do-Right for another. They did two Jolly Green Giant ads (2D and 3D), two computer animated ads for Ford Customer Service (Ford Tires), another delightful Willie Wonka candy ad that combines 2D and 3D animation and a 2D ad for Parfums De Cour's Juice Babies. They recently finished work on Star War Episode 1, a CD-ROM for Lucas Arts.
Interface Capital Partners has invested $6.5 million in the company. The money will be used to develop several projects including an original cgi short film, Poochini's Yard, and several Internet projects.

Wild Brain was founded in 1994 by three animation veterans who invested $15,000 in the company! Congratulations to Jeff Fino, John Hays and Phil Robinson on the growth of your company. And congratulation to your additional partners and employees for being part of this great production house.

EIGHT LOCAL WORKS WERE SHOWN IN THE NEW YORK ANIMATION FESTIVAL They were A Bad Night by Carrie Lewis of Protozoa, A Hunger Artist by Stephen Moros of Pixar, Clock by Aaron Lim, Erotica by Roberto Ziche, Golden Shoes by Adam Gravois, Millennium Bug by Lee Lanier of PDI, Singa Pura by Jim Ang and Soda by Alex Orrelle.

RADIUM ANIMATES A LEAF FOR NICORETTE The leaf has a chain attached to it. The ad tells us to break the chain of addiction. William Opdyke directed and Debora Santosa was the cgi animator.

"A BUG'S LIFE" HAS PASSED "TOY STORY" IN WORLDWIDE BOX OFFICE RECEIPTS It is one of the top 5 animated box office champs of all time according to the latest Pixar shareholders report. It did $163 million domestic and $198 million international for a total of $361 worldwide. It came out at a time when there were 3 other animated features out (Antz, Rugrats, & Prince of Egypt), so they may have cut into the domestic gross.

The report talked about Toy Story 2, directed by John Lasseter, Ash Brannon and Lee Unkrich. It is coming out in Nov. There was a brief mention of Monsters, Inc., directed by Pete Doctor and David Silverman. A 2001 release is planned. No details about the 5th feature were given except Andrew Stanton will direct.

Pixar plans to move into their new studio in Emeryville next summer. The new plant will be 225,000 square feet. There are presently 450 people on the staff and they expect to add about 50 more people by the end of the year.

Finally, Pixar has released Photo Realistic Render-man 3.9 and Renderman Artist Tools 4.

LEARNING COMPANY EDUCATES THEIR ANIMATION STAFF IN UNUSUAL WAYS They recently sent several people to Florida to study at the Disney Institute for 10 days. Then they invited Maurice Noble to come talk and screen a few of the classic Warner Bros. cartoons he worked on. They held the event at the Grand Lake in Oakland and invited people from other studios to attend (ASIFA-SF was invited, but there was no way to get the word out at the last minute - sorry). More great programs are being planned. Learning Co. just released Clue Finder. They have been making CD-ROM products in Fremont for many years...

CHARLIE CANFIELD DIRECTED A KRAFT MARSHMELLOW ALPHA-BITS AD AT COLOSSAL The 15 second ad introduces new ice cream cone shaped bits. Catherine Margerin, Philip Ames and Ricardo Barahone did the cel animation. Giant Killer Robots provided the computer animation.

LIVE ACTION DIGITAL (LAD) IN SAN JOSE provided 3D animation and motion graphics for the Jumbotron at 3 Com Park. The images are for the final season of Giant games at the stadium. (408) 286-7378.

VINCEWORLD GETS A 2 PAGE SPREAD IN "TECHNOs CD-ROM" MAGAZINE FROM EUROPE It looks like a cool article, but I have no idea what language it is written in. The illustrations are great. Find out what the article is all about by visiting Http://www.vinceworld.com

SILICON GRAPHICS WILL CUT ABOUT 3000 JOBS About 1500 people will be laid off and the remainder sent to SGI owned companies. Cray, purchased just a few years ago, will be cast off into a separate unit as they were competing with SGI's high end products.

ROOFTOP STUDENTS ARE FINALISTS IN THE INDIANAPOLIS CHILDREN'S FILM FESTIVAL Their work was judged in a regional competition at the San Jose Children's Discovery Museum in June and Rooftop Elementary School's Animation Club received an honorable mention for their spring 99 work. Now, two of the filmmakers, Reshpal Sandhu and Rafael Cuevas, are finalists in the national event in Indianapolis. Barbara Klutinis, an animator and film instructor at Skyline College, is Rooftop's adult guiding light. The school is on the slopes of Twin Peaks.

COMPLETE PANDEMONIUM DOES METEOR STREAKS FOR BLOCKBUSTER AD They collaborated with Western on the project. The meteors explode to reveal the latest video offerings at stores in the chain.

PDI'S LIVE ACTION COMMERCIAL DIVISION. GROWING They recently added Jennifer Thomas to their staff. She is the division's executive producer. Among her recent projects is an ad for Pepsi.

 

LOCAL SCREENINGS

THE RESTORED "YELLOW SUBMARINE" DIRECTOR'S CUT HAS ITS US PREMIERE AT THE CASTRO SEPT. 3 - 15 "Hey Bulldog," a song about a 4 headed dog that was cut from the original American release, has been edited back into the film. The new DTS 6 track stereo soundtrack is exceptional. (Most of the work was in the music and sound effect tracks). New prints are sharp and have dazzling colors (deep rich blues, etc.). Seeing the mint print at the Castro a few day ago was a wonderful film experience - so much better than seeing the old mono video tapes that used to be available or the faded 16mm prints.

If you like the Beatles, you will love seeing the feature. At present the Castro is one of only 9 theaters scheduled to show the film, so don't assume it will be around in the future.

My long article on the history of the production and the trouble theaters had in getting it released again will be in the Sept. Film/Tape World. An article on the release of the film will be published in Sept. by Animation World Magazine (www.awn.com). 35mm prints were withdrawn from distribution 19 years ago and the video was withdrawn from stores 12 years ago.

NO IDEAS IN ANIMATION IN SEPT.
Nik Phelps is recovering from a minor hernia operation. The doctor told him not to play music for 6 weeks. Send cards to 2066 30th Ave. SF CA 94116

Tuesday, Sept. 21, AN EVENING WITH ROB COLEMAN, ILM'S DIRECTOR OF ANIMATION ON "STAR WARS: THE PHANTOM MENACE," 7:30 pm, free to ASIFA members and one guest as space is limited. At the Exploratorium's McBean Theater.
Non-members who are anxious to attend this or our next event, a Colossal Tribute, are invited to take advantage of our special membership offer. Join now for $18 and your membership will end Dec. 31, 2000. Your support is needed as it is our annual dues that make these free events possible.

Wed. Sept. 8, THE PINK PANTHER, with animated credits by Richard Williams, at the Red Vic. 2, 7 & 9:15pm.

Monday, Sept. 27, WEIRDO CINEMA, with strange cartoons and comic live action films. Includes a Betty Boop, a Tex Avery cartoon with Ms Red Hot and Droopy, a J. Ward Super Chicken episode, etc. Red Vic, 7:!5 & 9:15
Wednesday, Sept. 29, THE ART AND TECHNOLOGY OY THE AMERICAN TV COMMERCIAL (THE 1999 AICP SHOW) includes 3 First Union ads by ILM/Steve Beck, and animated ads by the Bolex Brothers (for Ksiki Mart), Vinton Studio and Rhythm and Hues. At the SF Museum of Modern Art.

DON'T MISS SEEING "IRON GIANT" ON A BIG SCREEN "Imagine: An American animated feature with no song-and-dance routines. No goofy sidekick characters. No foppish villains. No fart gags. And no condescending to the audience."
"This is the kind of film many in the animation industry dream of working on, in an atmosphere where the studio allows creativity to flourish, under the guidance and vision of an experienced talented director. No committee approvals. No micro-management. Just teamwork, bringing to life a compelling, entertaining story"

This is the beginning of Bob Miller's excellent article on the making of Iron Giant in Animation World Magazine, Aug. 1999 issue at www.awn.com.
Iron Giant really is a wonderful intelligent feature. The exceptional reviews in the national press and the word-of-mouth comments from friends suggest I am not alone in believing this is an exceptional work.
The film is not a box office disaster, but it isn't a hit. It did a modest $5.7 million opening weekend gross that left it in 9th place and it was the 10th place finisher for its second weekend. It was in 12th place on Aug. 23. As of Aug. 23 it had grossed $16.6 million.

The film isn't a typical animated formula product. Instead it has heart and soul. It is related to a small group of classics that have carried important messages, but unlike Animal Farm, Plague Dogs, Watership Downs, When the Wind Blows and the others, it is upbeat, entertaining and has a positive ending.
See the film ASAP just in case it leaves theaters soon. Once school starts the box office will probably drop, even though the film is intended for older teens and adults as well as kids. Don't miss it!

 

NATIONAL NEWS

STOP-MOTION ANIMATOR DAVID ALLEN DIED ON AUG. 16 He was 55 and had cancer. His career goes back to stop-motion commercials in the 1960s (Pillsbury Doughboy, Swiss Miss, etc.). His feature credits include When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth (with Jim Danforth, 1970), Equinox (with Denis Muren, 1971), Flesh Gordon (1972), Lord of the Rings (1978), Caveman (1981), The Winged Serpent (1982), Young Sherlock Homes (he won an Oscar for visual effects, 1985), Willow (1988), Freaked (1993). He worked on the Imex short Sspecial Effects: Anything Can Happen (1996). At the time of his death he had been working 10 years on Primevals, his own feature. It will be completed by Full Moon Studio.

Gene Hamm called to share a few memories of Allen. He said he was warm, friendly and was surprised by the news as Allen was quite young. Hamm told how Allen liked to share information with others. The first time they met they talked for 2 hours. On another occasion he showed Hamm how to use a Mitchel camera. Hamm say he loved hearing Allen tell Tex Avery stories as they knew each other in the 60s.

IMEX GOES ANIMATED - MAJOR PROJECTS ARE IN PRODUCTION The company, which owns an interest in Mainframe in Canada, is producing an animated Gulliver's Travels in Canada. The feature will be completed by Summer, 2001. Future animated projects include Pied Piper and Pandora's Box.

Imex is also going to exhibit animated films by other producers. Disney's new version of Fantasia will open January 1 and play for 4 months in select Imex theaters before it goes into general release in 35mm. Next summer they will exhibit Cyberworld, a program of cgi shorts.

THE NEW WHOLE TOON CATALOG IS OUT and it contains Jerry Beck's useful list of 220 animated features released in the US plus 34 direct to video features. The book section is divided into new releases, books highly recommended and a "backlist" of other books on animation.

The enormous video selection has lots of new releases. They also have a limited supply of Warner Bros. and MGM titles available. Tapes from those studios are now out of print.

The company also has the remaining tapes from Expanded Entertainment. Expanded closed recently. They produced the Tournee of Animation, LA Animation Celebration and other packages of shorts.
For a free catalog call (800) 331-6197.

TIM HITTLE'S CAN HEAD go to www.filmmag.com

HOFSTRA UNIVERSITY HAD A LARGE HUBLEY EXHIBIT (JOHN, FAITH & EMILY) AND PUBLISHED A HIGHLY INFORMATIVE CATALOG about their animation art and work as illustrators. There is a long essay by Sybil Del Gaudio, lists of films, 8 color illustrations, etc. The exhibit was held in June-July, 1999. Contact Emily Lowe Gallery, Hofstra University, 112 Hofstra University, Hempstead, New York 11549-1120

SPIKE AND MIKE'S NEW EDITION OF SICK AND TWISTED ANIMATION OPENED IN S. CALIF. IN JULY
- COMES HERE IN OCT. The show includes Surprise Cinema by Bill Plympton, Billy's Balloon by Don Hertsfeldt and other works that deal with, drugs, sex, violence and other nasty things. The program will be in the Bay Area in October at the Castro and UC Theater.

JOHN R. DILWORTH'S "COURAGE THE COWARDLY DOG" is a new series by the creator of Dirdy Birdy. One episode was previewed on the Cartoon Network in August. The series premieres November 12.

"MONDO PLYMPTON" HAS BEEN RELEASED ON VIDEO Bill says it is an outrageous collection of his short films. His charming book on Monica is now in its 4th printing. Plympton is busy working on his next feature, Mutant Aliens! (A graphic novel based on the film's storyboards will be out soon.) The production is so big that Bill had to rent a studio just to handle his production needs. His earlier works were made in his NY West 25th Street loft that has been his studio and home for many years.

Plympton was at several festivals in Europe this year. When we spoke in August the one he enjoyed remembering was a new event in Palma, Majorca. Of course winning their grand prize with I Married a Strange Person might have had something to do with his rave review of the event.
Tom Sito from LA was also a guest of the festival.. He wrote a rave review of the event in the ASIFA-Hollywood newsletter. He loved the local Spanish food, swimming in the Mediterranean Sea, hanging out with Plympton and the festival.

Plympton also mentioned that his pal Marv Newland has cooked up a project with Will Vinton and that Marv has been seen working on it in Portland. Yes, that is the Marv that Spike & Mike audiences love.

ROBERT ABEL, a pioneer producer of electronic images, is now with Random Order Information and Entertainment. He is working with new content and programming.

1999 HAS BEEN A GREAT YEAR FOR BOX OFFICE WATCHING The following animated and sfx features are presently on the top 50 features charts. Place and total gross are given. Statistics as of Monday, Aug. 23.
1 SIXTH SENSE (Buena Vista/Dream Quest) $107,506,281
8 INSPECTOR GAGET (Disney) $83,161,640
9 DEEP BLUE SEA (Warner/ILM & Cinesite) $63,843,201
11 MYSTERY MEN(Univsal/PopFilm R&Hue)$24,495,000
12 IRON GIANT (Warner Bros.) $16,659,344
15 HAUNTING (Tippett & ILM) $86,750,650
16 STAR WARS EPISODE ONE $417,800,897
18 TARZAN (Disney) $165,477,219
30 THE MUMMY (Universal/ILM) $154,703,255
34 WILD WILD WEST (Warners/ILM) $111,629,242
40 SOUTH PARK $51,118,648

SOMEONE LEAKED A MPAA MEMO REGARDING MAKING CUTS TO OBTAIN A "R" RATING FOR THE SOUTH PARK FEATURE
Apparently it was full of absurd logic and displayed the questionable values of the Hollywood censors for features. The film needed a R rating rather than a NC-17 to make money, and that meant lines had to be censored. In some cases the replacement lines that the MPAA approved were more vulgar than the lines cut. Liz Smith wrote in her column in July that the censors didn't seem to object to the questionable title South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut.

Does anybody have a copy of this memo? I tried to get one so I could give you a few quotes in the newsletter, but none of my friends in LA had seen it. Please send Karl Cohen a copy at 478 Frederick, SF, CA 94117 if possible.

ASIFA HOLLYWOOD recently did a program of 1970's animated TV shows. This followed their delightful program of low budget TV fare from the 50s and 60s. It had been promoted as "the worst cartoons ever made." Margaret Kerry, who provided her voice and images of her lips in Space Angels, spoke to the crowd.

In Aug. Tom Sito interviewed Norman McCabe who had a long career at Warner Bros. including directing a few cartoons in the early 1940s.
Their newsletter reports June Foray will get a star soon on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

ASIFA-WASHINGTON (DC) showed the ASIFA-East 1999 winners and a program of animated films about robots in honor of the feature The Iron Giant. The group holds some of there meetings in a Bordors Books store.

DISNEY AND JEFFERY KATENBERG SETTLE
After making headlines about their differences, the out-of-court settlement was a dull ending. It was barely mentioned in the press. Terms of the resolution were not discussed.

US ARMY NEEDS ANIMATORS
They just signed a contract with the University of Southern Calif. For $45 million. They will develop a new generation of more realistic military simulators.

"WALT DISNEY IN EUROPE: FROM SNOW WHITE TO JUNGLE BOOK" by Robin Allan was recently published by John Libbey and Co. in London. Allan gave an exceptional talk to our chapter several years ago on European influences on Disney features. This serious study is the result of years of research. It should be a major addition to our understanding the origins of the Disney style and aesthetics. Www.johnlibbey.com

ACTING FOR ANIMATORS,
a book by Ed Hook, is said to be coming out next year. Hook taught an acting class in SF in Aug. (no details sent to us).

THE PORTLAND CREATIVE CONFERENCE IS SEPT. 16, 17 & 18 It will feature John Callahan, Matt Groening (Simpsons, etc), Don Hann from Disney animation, and other speakers. There will also be parties, screenings, panel discussions, and more. For further info. PO Box 6943, Portland, OR 97228 (503) 234 - 1641 or (800) 597 - 0099 or www.cre8con.org

ATTEND A WEEK WITH THE MASTERS; AN ANIMATION CELEBRATION, NOV. 1 - 5 in Trivandrum, India. Featured guests include Rob Coleman from ILM (animation director on Phantom Menace), Maurice Nobel, Derek Lamb, Jeff Hale, Phil Robinson from Wild Brain, Prescott Wright, Bill Mathews, and others. For details www.toonzanimationindia.com or Toonz Animation India, Technopark Campus, Trivandrum 695 581 India

KATHY ROSE WILL TOUR WITH HER NEW SHOW KLEOPAT'RA Her publicity quotes one critic as saying, "Working with her own animated and filmed images projected on herself and other dancers, the New York-based Rose is evolving a highly individual performance that, I believe, is headed for greatness." Philadelphia Weekly, Best of the Year The new 1 hr. 15 min. work will feature 3 live performers, animation and live action film. The work premieres in Gratz, Austria on Nov. 19, www.krose.com For booking information contact Wendy Jackson (323) 441-9340

FEATURES TO BE RELEASED SOON INCLUDE
Princess Monoke by Hayao Myazake on Oct. 29 (released in Japan in 1997). Pokemon The Movie comes out Nov. 12 (a collection of shorts). Beauty and the Beast from Disney will be re-released. Toy Story 2 from Pixar comes out Nov. 24. Films coming out with effects work by ILM are Bringing Out the Dead, a Martin Scorsese film for Disney, and Snow Falling on Cedars. Coming Nov. 19 is Tim Burton's Sleepy Hollow (about 150 shots by ILM). Coming out in December will be Galaxy Quest. Fantasia 2000 comes out in Imex January 1 and goes into general release in 35mm April 28.
Heavy Metal: FAAK2 will be released in January.

DVD COLLECTORS - NEW RELEASES in the format include nine Disney animated classics (Little Mermaid, 101 Dalmatians, Peter Pan, etc.) and Pink Floyd's The Wall.

 

DIRECTORY UPDATE

ROBERT STORY ANIMATION has moved to PO Box 950, Laguna Beach, CA 92652-0905 (949) 497-1901 A two part article about Story's career writing for Bob Clampett's Time for Beany will be run by AWN in Sept. and Oct.


FESTIVALS

CINEQUEST IN SAN JOSE HAS OCT. 29 DEADLINE for an event in the next century (Feb. 24 - March 5) $25 entry fee, previews on VHS, shows 16mm, 35mm and Beta SP. Looking for all kinds of shorts and features. PO Box 720040, San Jos CA 95172 - 0040 www.cinequest.org

SLAMDANCE DEADLINE IS OCT. 13 (EARLY) NOV. 10 (LATE) for a Jan. 22-29 event in Park City, Utah.. Mainly for short films and features without distributors. VHS previews, $25 entry fee for shorts ($35 if late), some cash prizes. Slamdance Film Festival, 6381 Hollywood Blvd.. #520, LA, CA 90028 www.slamdance.com (323) 466-1786

SUNDANCE DEADLINE IS OCT. 1 FOR SHORTS for Jan. 20-30 event in Park City, Utah. $20 entry fee, VHS for preview, show 16mm & 35mm., cash & service prizes. Sundance, PO Box 16450, Salt Lake City, UT (310) 394-4662.

HIROSHIMA 2000 DEADLINE IS MARCH 21 FOR ENTRY FORMS This is a major international event supported by the international board of ASIFA. The theme of the upcoming event is hope for the coming century. Members of our chapter, Karl Cohen was sent a few entry form sets. Call (415) 386-1004 if you want a set, or write the festival at Hiroshima 2000 Festival Office, 4-17, Kako-machi, Naka-Ku, Hiroshima 730-0812 Japan

FORT LAUDERDALE FILM FESTIVAL DEADLINE IS SEPT. 30 FOR STUDENT FILMS $25 entry fee (professional film deadline was Sept. 1) animation category. 1402 Los Olas Blvd. Box 007, Ft. Lauderdale FL 33301

This issue was written by Karl Cohen. Newsletter production by Shirley Smith and Ron Seawright. Copies free with membership in ASIFA-SF. Membership is $18 a year for local, $40 international and local.

Membership/subscription is $18 a year or $40 for both local and international membership.

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