Holocaust survivor Ben Baseman spent four years fighting off Nazis in the birch forests of what was then Poland (now part of Ukraine). Decades later, the episode inspired his son, Gary, to create the Buckingham Warrior, a “defender of strong ideals and a stark reminder to the fragility of our own ecology.” The artist, illustrator, and cult toy maker’s multi-headed deer character comes alive in a new MOCAtv animated short released to coincide with Baseman’s megashow, “The Door Is Always Open,” on view through August 18 at the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles. Directed by David Charles and animated by Peter Markowski, the allegorical tale plays out against a raging score by the South-African rap-rave duo Die Antwoord.
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Design legend Saul Bass would have turned 93 today, and Google is celebrating his creative legacy with one of its most elaborate daily “doodles” yet. Visit the search giant’s homepage before midnight to see and watch the tribute, an animated riff on some of Bass’s most well-known film titles, including those for The Man With the Golden Arm, Anatomy of a Murder, and Around the World in 80 Days. And turn those speakers up, because this doodle is in stereo, set to Dave Brubeck‘s “Unsquare Dance.”
The Science Channel, our source for the highly unscientific adventures of misanthropic savant Karl Pilkington, has marshaled the forces of CGI animation for Strip the City. The new six-part series aims to “strip major cities naked of their steel, concrete, air, ocean, and bedrock–layer by layer, act by act–to explore their hidden infrastructure and solve key mysteries surrounding their origins, geology, archaeology, industry, weather, and engineering.” First up on the stripping block (pole?) is San Francisco, where thare’s fire-fighting water in them thar valleys. Take a sip of your urbane beverage every time someone says “plate tectonics.” Watch a clip below and tune in to Science on Tuesday nights for new episodes that will dramatically dislodge the infrastructure of the likes of Sydney, London, and Toronto.
London continues to try and ramp up its coolness levels with the impending Olympics being held there this summer now just around the corner. For the latest effort, they’ve gone underground. Launched just yesterday in a number of Tube subway stations is a collaboration between poetry and motion graphics called “Word In Motion.” As part of the Smile for London campaign, the project blends the two, with writing from the likes of Ray Davies and Jarvis Cocker, and design by groups like Why Not Associates and Malcolm Garrett, the short pieces will play on 60 screens during rush hours. The project launched on the 16th and will only last for the next two weeks, so while Olympics visitors won’t be treated to them, they’ll perhaps provide a welcome bit of relief from the locals who have been overwhelmed by construction delays over these past couple of years. Here’s a sampling:
Back in December, to mark the debut of the newly-opened Cosmopolitan Hotel in Las Vegas, IFC Films was hired to make six short films/commercials profiling some of people and firms involved in the lavish luxury hotel’s development. We were particularly keen back then to talk up the first of them, which featured celebrated designer David Rockwell, who handled the design of many/most of the room interiors. Now we’re back to being keen again, with the fourth in the series, which profiles the work of production house Digital Kitchen in creating a number of video-based columns in the hotel’s lobby. They’re absolutely stunning, and we say that not just because we’re pals with the guy being interviewed about them (full disclosure: this writer has known him for years and now works at the same place he used to work). DK has put up some behind-the-scenes info on the project, as well as watchable versions of each of the panels. And here’s the IFC-produced video:
“The lines are blurring now on what makes an animated film. There was a time when all studios wanted to do was make live-action versions of animated cartoons. Now animation is sneaking in through the back door. Avatar is one of the most successful films of all time. It’s not considered animation, but it really is. As much as the actors did perform in it, there were animators keyframing it.”
-Megamind director Tom McGrath at The Hollywood Reporter‘s animation roundtable, held earlier this month at Siren Studios
Hanna-Barbera turns 70 this year, and although the skies are, alas, still free of Jetsonian flying cars, the Paley Center for Media is celebrating in a Grape Ape-sized way. “Yabba-Dabba-Doo! A 70th Anniversary Salute to Hanna-Barbera” explores the history and creative legacy of limited animation pioneers Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera, who first collaborated in 1939 on Tom and Jerry cartoons. An exhibition on view through September 10 at the Paley Center’s Los Angeles outpost is a treasure trove of cartoon history, including Iwao Takamoto‘s first doodles of the Scooby-Doo gang, early designs for The Jetsons, and photos from voice recording sessions of shows such as The Flintstones and Johnny Bravo. If there is any justice in the world, Laff Olympics, Space Ghost, and Snorks are also prominently featured. Meanwhile, Hanna-Barbera’s big 7-0 is also a perfect opportunity for us to call your attention to this clip of Snagglepuss, as portrayed by Bobby Moynihan on Saturday Night Live‘s Weekend Update. It’s terrific, hilarious even.
Today Tate Modern and London gallery Concrete Hermit debut a swell range of t-shirts, prints, and postcards featuring artwork by a talented trio of British designers and illustrators: Anthony Burrill, Andrew Rae, and Ian Stevenson. While we can’t make it across the pond to celebrate the launch of this exciting collaboration, we’ve got just the thing for your summer Friday viewing pleasure in Stevenson’s latest animated short film, “Stare Into the Sun,” which he describes as “revealing the world of a strange small man, who spends his days away from the world. While divulging in strange pleasures, he is suddenly thrown into a fantastical journey.” With a bopping cast of warped forest creatures and a color palette that recalls those of Saturday morning cartoons from the 1980s, the film has the dizzily didactic feel of Sesame Street interstitia gone off the rails. Betcha can’t play it just once.
Animator extraordinaire Bill Plympton‘s newest films—the feature Idiots and Angels and the short Hot Dog—are now on the film festival circuit (this week, Hot Dog hits Belgium, Germany, and the Bahamas; find a full screening schedule here). Featuring the music of Tom Waits, Moby, and Pink Martini, Idiots and Angels is “much darker and more mysterious film than his previous comedies,” according to Plympton. The dark comedy about a man’s battle for his soul sounds a bit like the process of creating it. “I’d say it took about 25,000 drawings for Idiots and Angels,” Plympton told The New York Times‘ John Anderson recently. “I do about 100 drawings a day, which is about 10 an hour, and if I can do that times 250 or 300 days, that’s a feature film.”
It is, he said, a “zen thing.”
“You’re so focused. You don’t do e-mails or phone calls. I get up at 6, don’t shave or shower, just start drawing. It’s like a ride. I hear that novelists do this too. They’re so focused for a year or whatever that afterwards they just collapse for two or three weeks. Sleep. Or drink.”
And Plympton offers fans the opportunity to watch the magic happen. While he was animating Idiots and Angels, viewers to his website were invited to look over his shoulder via “the Anicam,” which broadcast a live feed from his drawing board on “most weekdays,” from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. If you missed out on the live action, Plympton has archived a series of 20 time-lapse movies of him at work.
Collectors may not have been clamoring for his work at the fall contemporary sales, but Takashi Murakami isn’t planning Damien Hirst-style layoffs. Instead, he’s announced the further expansion of Kaikai Kiki, his global art empire. Next stop? Hollywood, where Murakami will open an animation and film studio. “This studio represents a great step in the evolution of Kaikai Kiki and gives me a closer proximity to the community of artists with whom I hope to collaborate as I continue my explorations of animated and live-action film,” said Murakami in a statement. Among the most anticipated and labor-intensive works shown in the retrospective that debuted last year at the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) was kaikai & kiki, Murakami’s first major animated film.
The new West Coast arm of KaiKai Kiki, which currently has operations in Tokyo and Long Island City, New York, will employ approximately 30 people. The Los Angeles Times got the scoop on the new digs: a two-floor building on North Highland Avenue that will offer nearly 9,000 square feet of space. “The studio’s first project will be a feature-length animated film based on Planting the Seeds, the shorts that premiered at Murakami’s mid-career retrospective at MOCA,” notes the LAT. “The digitally animated works feature Kaikai and Kiki, the company’s cartoon-character namesakes, traveling the world in a spaceship and learning to grow watermelons with the help of fertilizer, or ‘poop’ as they gleefully call it.” Click “continued” for a video of the dynamic duo in action.
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