Animation Scoop – Animated News, Reviews and Commentary

INTERVIEW: “Trolls: The Beat Goes On” Executive Producer Matt Beans

The animated feature Trolls is one of six new series that DreamWorks Television Animation has prepared for Netflix, and while it’s a slam dunk for tots, you might also like it more than you think. The TV version has the same elements of fantasy, music, goodness and niceness, but there’s a layer of character-driven comedy that gently turns its own cuteness inside out at the same time. Was that the intent? I put the question to Producer Matt Beans (Robot Chicken).

MATT BEANS: That’s funny. I hadn’t put my finger on it quite the way you just expressed it, but I think it’s well put. You can do both. You can both embrace the love and positivity that’s in it while making a little bit of a joke out of it.

GREG EHRBAR: You can be funny without being cruel. This isn’t mean spirited at all. The edgiest it gets is that the Trolls have sparkly flatulence and cupcake “accidents!”

BEANS: I fully agree. The show kind of found itself as we went through the process and kept insisting that it stay positive, with the characters wanting the best for everybody else. Initially, you think, where’s the conflict going to come from? The more we got into the headspace of these characters, seeing things from an upbeat angle, you see that life would throw you some curveballs now and then. By insisting on that, the show found a real voice.

INTERVIEW: Actress Ruby Barnhill on Voicing “Mary and The Witch’s Flower”

This Thursday January 18th, Fathom Events is screening both the foreign and English-language versions of the new anime film, Mary and The Witch’s Flower, in select theaters nationwide – the night before its regular theatrical release. “Mary” is one of the 26 films eligible for an Oscar nomination in this year’s Best Animated Feature category.

It’s also the latest film from Oscar-nominated director Hiromasa Yonebayashi (The Secret World of Arrietty, When Marnie Was There) and is based on the 1971 Children’s novel The Little Broomstick, by late author Mary Stewart. This film adaptation is a fantastical adventure filled with spirit.

GLAS Animation Festival 2018 Signal Film by Ori Toor

Put down your coffee and plug in your ear buds. Check out this friggin’ cool signal film for the 2018 GLAS Animation Festival. The event takes place March 22-25 in Berkeley, CA – and they’ll soon be announcing competition selections, curated programs, special guests, and the complete festival schedule. In the meantime, feast your eyes upon this coolness, directed by Ori Toor and featuring music and sound by Skillbard.

INTERVIEW: Nora Twomey talks “The Breadwinner”

Nora Twomey is the co-founder of Cartoon Saloon, the studio behind The Secret of Kells, Song of the Sea and several other animated films of the past few years. Her latest credit is as director of The Breadwinner, which is up for 10 Annie Awards, and also received Best Animated Feature nominations from both Critics Choice and the Golden Globes.

Jackson Murphy: Cartoon Saloon has certainly shaken-up the animation world.

Nora Twomey: I guess it wasn’t intentional. We just wanted to tell stories, and we were lucky enough to have support of the film board in Ireland – and a tax break in Ireland. And actually early on, Gerry Shirren, who became our managing director, he took Tomm [Moore] and Paul [Young], my co-founders, under his wing at an animation festival and kind of told them who they should be talking to and what kind of things were available, which set in motion a way of producing films for us.

These kind of films haven’t been produced in Ireland with that kind of production level before. We started out doing “The Secret of Kells” – having done a few short films before that. We’ve just learned along the way, but honestly we’ve been led by story the whole time.

Because films like this are funded from different sources, it gives us a creative freedom, which we wouldn’t ordinarily have if we were part of the studio system here in the states, for example. So I suppose stories that are a little different get told. And then partnering up with people like GKIDS means that the films get seen.

INTERVIEW: Duo Directors Talk “The Big Bad Fox & Other Tales”

The Big Bad Fox & Other Tales is a hilarious Annie-nominated animated comedy based on popular French graphic novels. Directors Patrick Imbert and Benjamin Renner talk about creating this unique film.

Jackson Murphy: The three stories were originally going to be three separate TV specials. What made you guys decide to connect them into a feature film?

Patrick Imbert: Well, to be precise, we didn’t decide anything. One day, while we were working on the second special, our enthusiastic and beloved producer came in and said, “Hey guys, we have three separate stories, what about connecting them and make a long feature?!!” [And we said], mm… oh, well…are you sure?… connecting how?” And the producer said, “I don’t know, but I trust you. You’ll find something!”

TEASER: Warner Bros. “Teen Titans Go! To The Movies”

When the Teen Titans go to the big screen, they go big! Teen Titans GO! to the Movies finds the egocentric, wildly satirical Super Heroes in their first feature film extravaganza — a gleefully clever, tongue-in-cheek play on the super hero genre – complete with musical numbers.

The theatrical film is being directed by Aaron Horvath and Peter Rida Michail, from a screenplay by Michael Jelenic and Horvath, based on characters from DC. Michail, Will Arnett, Jed Weitzman, and Peggy Regan are producing, with Sam Register, Jelenic, and Horvath serving as executive producers. Apart from Arnett and Weitzman, all are Teen Titans GO! series contributors. Set to release in US cinemas on July 27th, 2018, Teen Titans GO! to the Movies will be distributed worldwide by Warner Bros. – here’s the first teaser trailer:

Less Is More: The Simple Beauty of “Dam Keeper Poems”, “The Big Bad Fox”, and “The Yamadas”

We live in an era of visual overload.

Animation studios are producing images so detailed, they’re virtually indistinguishable from live action, but why do they want to? How does rendering every leaf in the background make a story more compelling? What does an audience gain by seeing each stitch in a cartoon character’s sweater? Why does a talking animal need realistic fur?

Architect Mies van der Rohe famously said, “Less is more;” we’re living in the corollary: More is less.

The take-no-prisoners realism in many recent CG features is technically impressive, but it can become literal and prosaic, like some Academic painting. In animation, reality should provide the jumping-off point for artistry, imagination and magic. The difference between them, the difference between prose and poetry is evident in Dam Keeper Poems, a series of wordless short films written and directed for Hulu Japan by Erick Oh of the up-and-coming Tonko House studio. As the title suggests, each of the 10 5-minute episodes uses the characters from the Oscar-nominated short The Dam Keeper (2014). Although the films have not yet been released in America, they’re nominated for the Annie Award for Special Production. Here is the World Premiere of the second episode:

Pixar’s “Coco” Wins Golden Globe Award

The infamous Hollywood Foreign Press Association announced their winners tonight – and included in the mix was the winner for Best Animated Feature. Pixar’s Coco won the top honor. Director Lee Unkrich accepted the award and spoke – accompanied on stage by producer Darla K. Anderson and co-director Adrian Molina. The Golden Globes were awarded in a ceremony from the Beverly Hilton.

Mindy Johnson’s Advice to the Young Generation of “Film Experts”

Any self proclaimed “film expert” might look up trivia on the most critically acclaimed films, or discover what really goes on during the making of their favorite cartoons online. As a film nerd myself – especially when it comes to Disney – I love being able to pull out a random fact or spew out a mouthful of information with my friends and colleagues. The internet is full of all kinds of “historical content”, which can spread both fact and fiction amongst the masses in a matter of seconds (thank you, social media). I may be one of the few millennial who has turned to books – I have a growing collection that I call my library. Aside from film theory, plays, and copies of screenplays, there are books about Disneyland, the music of Disney films, books on the history of animation, and most recently, a book entitled Ink and Paint- The Women of Walt Disney’s Animation.

Asifa’s Animation Educators Forum Accepting Applications for 2018 Faculty Grants

ASIFA-Hollywood and the Animation Educators Forum (AEF) announce they are now accepting applications for the 2018 Faculty Grant program. The Faculty Grant program is designed to provide support for individuals or groups with reasonable expenditures associated with research, scholarly activity or creative projects in the field of animation. Applications must be submitted online at http://grants.animationeducatorsforum.org before Friday, March 2nd, 2018 at 11:59 p.m. PST. Recipients will be announced before April 9th, 2018.

Interview: “Gumby” comics writer Jeff Whitman

This time, the puns are fitting: the flexibility of Gumby has made him one of pop culture’s most resilient images since he leapt from Art Clokey’s dexterous fingertips over 65 years ago. From his first appearance in the film Gumbasia, Gumby was as innocent as he was sophisticated, as surreal as he was homespun.

Gumby comics have taken the same approach in recent years with a number of top drawer artists and writers creating new adventures and adapting classic episodes. Last year, a highly eclectic new series was introduced at San Diego Comicon and the entire collection has been assembled into Papercutz’ 50 Shades of Clay, which is enjoying the widest retail reach of any Gumby comic.

ANIME REVIEW: Takahata’s “My Neighbors the Yamadas”

Although it’s technically a feature, Isao Takahata’s droll My Neighbors The Yamadas (1999), which is receiving its first release on Blu-ray, plays like a collection of comic sketches. It’s based on Hisaichi Ishii’s “Nono-chan,” a popular manga that may remind Americans of “Hi and Lois” or “Baby Blues.”

Blandly middle income and middle class, Takashi (James Belushi) and Matsuko Yamada (Molly Shannon) live in Tokyo with the their son and daughter, Noboru (Daryl Sabara) and Nonoko (Liliana Mumy), Matsuko’s cranky mother Shige (Tresse MacNeille) and Pochi, their lump of a dog.

Gkids Acquires Three Features by Masaaki Yuasa for 2018 US Release

GKIDS announced today that it has acquired the North American distribution rights for a slate of films from internationally acclaimed director Masaaki Yuasa. The deal includes the cult classic Mind Game as well as Yuasa’s two new feature films, Lu Over The Wall and Night Is Short, Walk On Girl. GKIDS will release all three films theatrically in their original Japanese language, and will also create a new English dubbed version for Lu Over The Wall, which is slated to premiere at the upcoming Sundance Film Festival.

AWARDS WATCH 2018

Checklist of Animated Features To Be Released in the U.S. in 2018

1. MARY AND THE WITCHES FLOWER (1/18/18) GKIDS. D: Hiromasa Yonebayashi.

2. BILAL: A NEW BREED OF HERO (2/2/18) Vertical Entertainment. D: Khurram H. Alavi, Ayman Jamal

3. PETER RABBIT (2/9/18) Warner Bros. D: Will Gluck.

4. EARLY MAN (2/16/18) Lionsgate. D: Nick Park.

5. THE BIG BAD FOX AND OTHER TALES (2/23/18) GKIds. D: Patrick Imbert, Benjamin Renner.

6. SHERLOCK GNOMES (3/23/18) Paramount. D: John Stevenson.

7. ISLE OF DOGS (3/23/16) Fox Searchlight. D: Wes Anderson.

8. DUCK DUCK GOOSE (4/20/18) Open Road Films. D: Christopher Jenkins.

9. SMALLFOOT (5/11/18) Warner Bros. D: Karey Kirkpatrick, Jason Reisig

10. THE INCREDIBLES 2 (6/15/18) Disney-Pixar. D: Brad Bird.

11. HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA 3: SUMMER VACATION (7/13/18) Columbia. D: Genndy Tarakovsky.

12. TEEN TITANS GO! TO THE MOVIES (7/27/18) Warner Bros. D: Aaron Horvath, Peter Rida Michail.

13. THE GRINCH (11/9/18) Universal. D: Peter Candeland, Yarrow Cheney, Matthew O’Callaghan.

14. RALPH BREAKS THE INTERNET: WRECK-IT RALPH 2 (11/21/18) Disney. D: Phil Johnston, Rich Moore.

15. SPIDERMAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE (12/14/18) Columbia. D: Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, Rodney Rothman


NOTES: 2018 Limited-release theatricals (movies going Direct-to-Video (DVD, VOD but getting a theatrical billboard) began this year with a pair of anime via Fathom Events – DIGIMON ADVENTURE TRI: LOSS, directed by Keitarou Motonaga on February 1st; then MAZINGER Z: INFINITY, directed by Junji Shimizu, on February 10th. Much more to come!


On The Radar

These films are tentatively scheduled for 2018 but lack a release date or a US distributor. This list will be constantly updated throughout the year.

MONSTER FAMILY (2/9/18) Direct TV. D: Holger Tappe.

SGT. STUBBY: AN AMERICAN HERO (4/13/18) D: Richard Lanni.

ARCTIC JUSTICE: THUNDER SQUAD (4/27/18) D: Aaron Woodley

THE ARK AND THE AARDVARK D: John Stevenson

For further information on all U.S. Animated Feature releases since 1937 Click Here.

A Merry Jerry Christmas!

Some people take the holidays off – I, however, enjoy Christmas vacation by spreading classic cartoon joy all over my Southern California home base. On Christmas Day, December 25th, I will be back with another one hour radio broadcast at 6pm on KPFK (90.7 FM) Southern California. I call the show CARTOONS IN STEREO, and I play a selection of vintage music from the 1930s through 1960s that are from cartoons or inspired by cartoons. It’s a heck of a lot of fun. Listen live, or check back here (I’ll post the broadcast here after it airs). Tune In, Turn On, Toon Up!