‘Door Guardians’ Teaser Shows Off China’s CGI Capabilities

If this newly released teaser for Door Guardians makes one thing clear, it’s that Western feature-quality computer animation has arrived in China. In fact, the Beijing-based studio responsible for the film, Light Chaser Animation, has made it its mission to create Western quality animation in China.

Founded by web entrepreneur Gary Wang, Light Chaser has worked closely with American artists like former Pixar and ILM animator Colin Brady to set up its production pipeline. As we reported last August, the tech-savvy studio used a telepresence robot to allow Brady to work with them from his Los Angeles home.

“Most Chinese animation companies are from either a 2D animation background or live-action feature films,” explained Light Chaser visual effects supervisor Han Lei, formerly of DreamWorks Animation, to China Animation & Game Network. “But we were formed by Gary [Wang] who is from a technology background. So we look at the early time of Pixar, a technology driven company, for inspiration…We spent a lot of time on the pipeline trying to recreate the Hollywood quality…Quality is our most important concern.”

Rooted in Chinese traditions, Door Guardians is a folktale/fantasy-influenced film aimed primarily at young adult Chinese audiences. The film has a significant budget by Chinese standards; it will reportedly cost around $12 million with a similar budget for marketing. The teaser indicates a release date of January 2016.

Below is Light Chaser’s first public project, the short Little Yeyos, which has been viewed over 30 million times on Chinese social media:

(Thanks, Markham Carroll, via Cartoon Brew’s Facebook group)

Artist of the Day: Mason Lindroth

Mason Lindroth

West Milford, NJ
Primary media:
Digital, photography, modeling clay, pencil, ink, acrylic
Cooper Union [BFA focus on film, printmaking, and figure drawing]
Major projects:
Lullaby online game [creator/designer, 2014]
Beachcomber online game [creator/designer, 2014]
Various cassette cover illustrations [illustrator, 1080p Collection]

Mason Lindroth

Mason Lindroth

Mason Lindroth

Mason Lindroth

Sascha Ciezata Uses Instagram To Serialize His Short ‘Heart of Darkness’

Los Angeles-based animator Sascha Ciezata has reimagined Joseph Conrad’s 1899 novella Heart of Darkness as a mixed-media serialized animated short, releasing installments nightly through his Instagram account.

Recalling Conrad’s protagonist Charles Marlow and his experiences as an ivory transporter in the Congo, Ciezata’s Heart of Darkness follows an intrepid subway rat named Marley, in search of the Rat King, navigating the flooded tunnels of New York City in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.

Ciezata employs still images, short animated Instagram videos, prodigious hashtagging, and in the clip below, snippets of a vibrant Henry Mancini number.

While an entire 22-minute episode of Adult Swim’s Rick and Morty was serialized on Instagram last March, Ciezata’s project might be the first time that an animated project was specifically created for and serialized through Instragram.

New episodes of Ciezata’s Heart of Darkness are released every day at 7pm PT/10pm ET on the @DarkHeartNYC Instagram account.

Pixar’s Releases Latest ‘Inside Out’ Trailer

A little outside of three months before its release, the Inside Out promotional campaign has heated up with the release of a second full-length trailer. You can compare it to the first full-length trailer released last December.

The new footage briefly re-establishes the film’s high-concept premise—Amy Poehler, Phyllis Smith, Bill Hader, Lewis Black, and Mindy Kaling live in everyone’s head—and then takes the viewer deeper into the film’s (tiny) universe, which is inside the main character Riley’s head, and hints at some of its conflicts. Cheekily billed as a “major emotion picture,” the trailer makes clear that Pixar and director/writer Pete Docter will be tugging at audience’s heartstrings for much of the film.

That’s not to say the film will entirely be a sentimental tissue-fest. The new trailer also introduces the “unintended star” of Inside Out: a take-no-guff diva unicorn character.

A new live-action commercial starring the film’s five emotions was also released this morning:

BBC Plans To Improve ‘Watership Down’ With CGI

A CGI adaptation of Watership Down is in the works, Radio Times reported today.

A new script, based on Richard Adams’s 1972 children’s book about the rabbits of Sandleford warren searching for a new home, is in the early stages of development with the BBC.

SEE ALSO: Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH To Be Turned Into Live-Action/CGI Franchise by Ice Age’s Michael Berg

The story has been previously adapted into a 1978 animated film, directed by Martin Rosen, featuring the voices of Richard Briers as the timid rabbit Fiver, John Hurt as his bright older brother Hazel, as well as Harry Andrews, Simon Cadell, Nigel Hawthorne, Roy Kinnear and Zero Mostel.

“People love the 1978 film,” an unnamed source told Radio Times, “but with new CGI technology we can do amazing things–you can see the wind blowing the fur which you didn’t get with the cartoon film.” Not to mention the new possibilies to show flowing rivers of realistic bunny blood:

“With new CGI technology we can do amazing things–you can see the wind blowing the fur which you didn’t get with the cartoon film.”

In a separate article, Radio Times questioned the need to use aforesaid CGI technology to inflict the trauma of Adams’s picaresque tale on another “unsuspecting generation” of children. “Can you listen to Art Garfunkel’s ‘Bright Eyes’ without feeling the onset of bloody bunny death induced shakes?” asked Sarah Doran, going on to admit that it “was never fully marketed as a children’s film”.

The 1978 Watership Down film was, in fact, declared “suitable for all ages” by the British Board of Film Classification, who declared that “[w]hilst the film may move children emotionally during the film’s duration, it could not seriously trouble them once the spell of the story is broken.” The BBFC has since said that it had “received complaints about the suitability of Watership Down … almost every year since its classification.”

More recently, Watership Down was turned into a more neutered animated television series, produced by Rosen, that ran from 1999 to 2001.

Only In Europe: A 90-Minute Donald Duck Documentary

The Donald Duck Principle is a 90-minute German/Norwegian documentary produced last year in honor of the Disney duck’s 80th anniversary. Directed by Edda Baumann-von Broen and Hasko Baumann, the film attempts to make sense of the impassioned relationship that Europeans have with the unlucky, ill-tempered cartoon character.

The European interest in Donald stems more from the character’s appearances in comics books than his original form as an animated star, and the documentary includes input from his comic-obsessed fans, among them Austrian painter Gottfried Helnwein, Norwegian author Øyvind Holen, and French cartoonist/Métal Hurlant co-founder Jean-Pierre Dionnet, as well as Duck comic artists on both sides of the pond like Don Rosa and Volker Reiche.

Here is the film’s official synopsis:

The Donald Duck Principle examines the tremendous success of the small, short-tempered and often luckless duck, and applies Donald’s loser topos to today’s world. Like no other figure, Donald Duck shows us what it means to be human. No matter what he does, everything goes wrong. Yet he is a master in the art of rebounding. In many countries, Donald Duck is more popular than Mickey Mouse. He reminds us of our own fears and weaknesses, but also of our ability to bounce back. Beginning with close-ups of the comic figure, the film delves deeper into the Donald Duck universe. While the comics themselves brim with excitement, so do the interpretations of numerous famous scholars. We let artists like Don Rosa and Gottfried Helnwein and others analyze the fascinating psyche of Donald Duck and then direct the viewers’ attention to the big picture: What role do losers play in today’s culture, where it’s all about self-optimization?

There are English, German and French versions of the film, though the English version doesn’t appear to be available for ready viewing. A French version of the film can be watched online (link taken down due to potential malware). Perhaps it’s the language barrier, but it’s not readily apparent to me what the second half of the film has to do with Donald Duck, or if it’s even the same documentary, but they would seem to be connected in some manner.

‘Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH’ To Be Turned Into Live-Action/CGI Franchise by ‘Ice Age”s Michael Berg

Don Bluth made his feature-length directorial debut in 1982 with The Secret of NIMH, which was based on Robert C. O’Brien’s Newbery Medal-winning children’s novel Mrs. Frisby & The Rats Of NIMH. MGM, the distributor of Bluth’s film, believes it’s time for an update, and has re-acquired the rights to O’Briens books for a live-action/CGI hybrid.

The new film, to be developed by Ice Age franchise writer Michael Berg, will be an origin tale, setting up a potential franchise that will be produced by Daniel Bobker and Ehren Kruger.

According to Deadline, it will focus on “an imperiled mouse protagonist [who] befriends a comical crew of lab rats as they turn hyper-intelligent [and] escape a secret laboratory.” Based on this synopsis, Film School Rejects has suggested that the “imperiled mouse” might be Mrs. Frisby’s husband Jonathan, who was never seen in The Secret of NIMH because he’d been killed prior to its events.

‘A Brief History of Skateboarding’ by Antonio Vicentini

Some skateboarding history squeezed into a few minutes of visuals.

Direction & Animation: Antonio Vicentini
Art Direction: David Galasse
Additional art: Antonio Vicentini
Script: Antonio Vicentini, Henry Gosuen, John Diazz
Script based on an article by Steve Cave
Sound Design: Caco Teixeira, Antonio Vicentini
Voice Talent: Phil Miler
Credit’s song: One Less Scumbag
Music & Audio library: incompetech.com / freesound.org

Mel Crawford, Little Golden Books Illustrator, RIP

Mel Crawford, ca. early-1960s.

Mel Crawford died peacefully on Monday, February 23, at the age of 89. He passed away at Valerie Manor in Torrington, Connecticut, and had lived in nearby Washington, Connecticut. Crawford spent decades drawing the world’s most famous cartoon characters, but he didn’t do it at any animation studio. A painter and illustrator, he drew hundreds of comics and illustrated books (especially Little Golden Books) featuring characters like the Flintstones, Scrooge McDuck, Rocky & Bullwinkle, and Gerald McBoing Boing.

The Canadian artist was born on September 10, 1925 in Toronto, Canada, and spent his childhood in various provinces of Canada, including Alberta, as well as in Oklahoma. Mel began drawing professionally at the age of 16 when he illustrated the feature “The Three T’s” in Bell Features Publications’ Joke Comics. He served in the Royal Canadian Navy during World War II, and afterward attended Ontario College of Art. Following his schooling, he moved permanently to the United States.

Crawford drew his first professional work, “The Three T’s,” when he was sixteen years old. (Image via Comic Book Daily)

In the late-1940s he began working regularly on licensed projects for animation studios through Western Publishing, and its subsidiaries like Whitman Publishing. A versatile artist who was equally comfortable working in both cartoonish and realistic styles, Mel drew and painted not only cartoon characters, but pop culture icons as diverse as Rootie Kazootie, Buck Rogers, Raggedy Ann & Andy, Roy Rogers, Howdy Doody, Rin Tin Tin, Smokey Bear, and Tarzan. A sampling of his work can be seen on the Golden Gems blog.

Crawford is survived by his wife, Virginia; three sons, Gregory of Gaysville, VT; Neil of Southfield, MA and Lindsey Crawford of Sheffield, MA; a daughter Anne Crawford of Litchfield, CT; stepson Trevor Reynolds of Farmington, CT; a stepdaughter Heather Feinsinger of Simsbury, CT, six grandchildren and one great-granddaughter.

A more comprehensive biography of his life can be found at Comic Book Daily.

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

‘Mune,’ ‘Jellyfish Eyes,’ and ‘The Prophet’ At NY Children’s Film Fest

The 18th annual New York International Children’s Film Festival started last weekend and continues through March 22nd. The festival, organized by the same folks behind the New York indie animation distributor GKIDS, provides an opportunity to see both long and short-form animation that might otherwise be difficult to find in U.S. theaters. Among the highlights:

The French/Canadian animated feature Mune, directed by Benoit Philippon and Alexandre Heboyan, screens on March 7, 14 and 21 (the first two dates are already sold out).

Jellyfish Eyes,the CG/live-action feature directorial debut of Japanese pop artist Takashi Murakami (March 7 and 15)

The South Korean animated feature The Satellite Girl and Milk Cow directed by Hyung-yun Chang (March 14)

The anthology feature Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet (March 21-22)

Hocus Pocus Alfie Atkins, the feature directorial debut of Oscar-winning short filmmaker Torill Kove, who was nominated for her third Oscar this year for the short film Me and My Moulton. (March 21)

Cartoon Brew readers receive a $2 discount off any ticket by using the code CB15. Screenings take place at the following Manhattan theaters: DGA Theater, IFC Center, Scholastic Theater, SVA Theatre and Village East Cinema. For more information and tickets, visit the NYICFF website.