It's 'toon news time. Here's some stuff my fellow animation freaks might find interesting:
Here's some cool animation news from the past week or so:
First, if you dig the heavy metal sounds of Dethklok, the brutal (but rather stupid) band from the Adult Swim series Metalocalypse, you'll be happy to know the band is doing a tour of some college campuses, according to Toon Zone and Adult Swim HQ. I'll keep you posted as more information becomes available. Other yet-to-be-announced bands will also be touring to promote Adult Swim.
John Kricfalusi, creator of Ren and Stimpy, has made a hilariously subversive video for Weird Al's song "Close But No Cigar." The song is what Weird Al would refer to as a "style parody," meaning it's not a parody of a specific song but it does pay homage to the music stylings of Cake. The characters and poses were designed by Kricfalusi and fellow animator Katie Rice. The actual animation was done in Flash by Copernicus Studios in Canada. I've kind of lost track of Weird Al over the years, but this is a very funny song, and the video fits it perfectly. Lots of hot cartoon chicks, plus a face gets eaten and a squirrel is disemboweled. I don't think I could ask for much more in a music video. I've placed it after the jump:
Some of my fellow bloggers refer to me as the "animation expert," a nice label, but I don't personally consider myself an expert on animation. I'm really just a big fan with a knack for remembering trivial things. Besides, there are a ton of great Web sites and blogs out there by people who actually work in the industry and can talk about things with an authority I just don't have. Case in point: John Kricfalusi recently posted a lengthy missive from Milton Gray on his blog in which Gray, who currently works as an animation timer on The Simpsons, talked about the importance of timing in animation and sung the praises of early animation directors, especially Bob Clampett. Gray writes about how important the hands-on approach was in those early cartoons, and about working within the confines and restrictions of modern animation. Check it out.
Ren and Stimpy creator John Kricfalusi is not happy with YouTube. The Spumco founder has been using his blog as a kind of "online classroom" to discuss the history of animation, as well as techniques and craft that were a major part of the "Golden Age" of animation. As a visual aid, he's been posting a lot of clips from YouTube of old Warner Bros. cartoons, but recently received an e-mail from YouTube telling him many of those clips have been taken down due to copyright infringement.
Now, I don't know enough about copyright law to take any definite stance on this, but Kricfalusi's assessment is that he's actually helping to promote these cartoons, and that people who see the crappy versions on YouTube will want to go out and actually purchase the higher quality DVDs. He writes: "While Warner Bros. stops promoting their own great properties by taking the cartoons off of the TV networks, the only way left for young fans to discover these classic films is through YouTube and our fan blogs."
If you've watched any cartoon on TV in the last fifteen years, chances are you've heard Billy West's voice. West is one of the premier voice actors working today, and during those fifteen years, he's used his versatile voice to create new characters -- and resuurect old ones -- all over the television and movie landscape. From Shaggy to Bugs Bunny to Woody Woodpecker to the Cherios Honey Bee to the Red M&M, the 54-year old West has put his imprint on all of them. But most people know him from two classic cartoon series: On Ren & Stmpy, he did the voices of both main characters (he picked up Ren after creator John Kricfalusi was fired after the first season), and on Futurama he did the voices of Philip Fry, Professor Farnsworth, Dr. John Zoidberg, and Zapp Brannigan, among others.
In this wide-ranging interview, conducted by phone on May 31, Billy and I talked about his history with John K., the way he went about creating some of his Futurama characters, his early-'90s role on "The Howard Stern Show", and the influx of celebrity voices in current cartoon movies (let's just say he's against it). We also went over all the Futurama Season One episodes in the 90-minute (!) interview, which you will see in my Retro Squad coverage of the show. He was even nice enough to do a Futurama / R&S -themed intro for our APB podcast, which we used to open podcast #13 last week. Needless to say, Billy West is a mensch.
Ren and Stimpy creator John Kricfalusi is one of those people I would love to sit in a room with and listen to his rants. Since I'm still working on my John K. Kidnapping Machine, I have to settle for his blog (Warning: NSFW), which he's been using to provide sage advice to people interested in becoming animators and cartoonists, and to slam the conventions of modern day animation, most notably on shows like The Simpsons, Family Guy, and South Park. On this post, he talks about how characters in old cartoons evolved at a much faster rate than characters on any of the aforementioned shows. As ideas grew and changed, so did characters. He writes: "You have to be raised in an uncreative environment in order to blindly accept how bland and crappy everything is today." Later in the post he adds: "No one should accept professional work that looks like they could do it themselves."
In the comments section of the same post, he further asserts that "the very concept of animated sitcoms is faulty in the first place." His argument is that no character in an animated sitcom has ever been able to emulate the best actors in the best sitcoms. And as pure animation, they don't exactly hold up, either.
John Kricfalusi, the creator of Ren and Stimpy, was one of the first animators to take advantage of the freedom the Web allows with Flash-animated series such as The Goddamn George Liquor Show and Weekend Pussy Hunt. John K has always been extremely opinionated when it comes to animation and the myriad examples of bad animation that are out there, and his new blog is no different. If you're a fan of John K and Spumco, you should check it out. The man has never been afraid to voice his opinion, which I might find annoying if I didn't agree with most of what he says.
One awesome tidbit I found on his blog (and confirmed by TV Shows on DVD) is that the series Ren and Stimpy: Adult Party Cartoon will be released on DVD soon. The set is being called the "Lost Episodes." An unofficial release date of November 8 has been set, but that could change. Check out the awesome packaging here, designed by Annmarie Ashkar.
Since I'm always looking out for my fellow animation buffs, I thought you would enjoy these storyboards Ren and Stimpy creator John Kricfalusi donated to the ASIFA-Hollywood Animation Archive last year. In fact, he donated all of Spumco's archives to the project. The storyboards, drawn by Bob Camp who later went on to work on the feature film Looney Tunes: Back in Action, are for the episode "Stimpy's Invention." The "invention" being a helmet that makes Ren perpetually happy. Also included are several notes from John K. It's worth checking out to see how an animated episode evolves, especially one that's led by an animation snob such as John K. And I use the word "snob" affectionately.
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