Association International du Film d'Animation
(International Animated Film Association)

September 2011

A really big issue with a long interview that explains how the voice acting business works, an article that explains the importance of Cars 2 to Disney, two articles about animation school educations (THE "NY TIMES" RAN A GLOOMY REPORT ON THE JOB PROSPECTS FOR RECENT FILM GRADUATES and THE ART INSTITUTE CHAIN OF SCHOOLS IS INCLUDED IN DEPT. OF JUSTICE MULTI-BILLION DOLLAR LAW SUIT AGAINT FOR-PROFIT COLLEGES), two obits, a book review, lots of new items, a few good animated films to see online and much more.


LOOKING BEHIND DISNEY'S FA?ADE AS THE "HAPPIEST PLACE ON EARTH" by KC The Wall Street Journal article "Disney/Pixar's 'Cars 2' a Hit Already - in Stores" was published a few days before the film was released. It is an eye-opening account about why Pixar/Disney created Cars 2, and why we can expect lots more sequels in the future. Cars 2 is expected to sell more tie-in goods, including over 300 new toy items, than any single previous Pixar film. The present record holder is Toy Story 3 which sold $2.8 billion of merchandise in 2010. At present Cars merchandise has sold an average of $2 billion annually since 2006.

Disney doesn't disclose what they get as royalty fees for the use of their characters, but the average royalty rate for non-Disney entertainment products licensed in 2010 were 9.4% according to the Licensing Letter, a trade publication. Their publisher thought Disney was getting two or three percentage points more than an average movie or TV show. Other trade articles suggest Disney gets a royalty fee around 13%.

To maximize profits on the most expensive features, Hollywood studios like to develop projects that have a wide range of merchandise potentials. Disney loves features that can generate sequels, spin-offs and merchandise. Planes is being developed as a spin off of Cars. Disney has Cars games online and has released Cars 2: the Videogame! for major console systems. Cars Land, a 12-acre section of Disney's California Adventure theme park, will be the centerpiece of a $1 billion expansion "designed to enhance the appeal of the park." It opens in 2012. And the "Cars" DVD goes on sale Nov. 1.

The Wall Street Journal says that Disney has "allocating 80% of its production budget to such films, up from 40% in 2010. The strategy has found its fullest expression yet in the sequel to 2006's Cars." You can expect to find licensed Cars merchandise at all of our country's major chain stores and in some fast food restaurants.

Disney Consumer Products Chairman Andy Mooney calls Cars "a lifestyle brand for young boys." It has become Disney's male product line just as the Disney Princess image is sold to young girls.

Ed Catmull, president of Walt Disney Animation Studios and Pixar Animation Studios, says they don't have a formal policy on how many features they are planning to bring out with strong consumer product potentials, but at present it seems to be "around one in three."

When ran news of the Wall St. Journal's article on June 22, they ran a list of the six most popular character franchises in 2010 and how much money they made. Mickey Mouse did $9 billion, Winnie the Pooh (rights are owned by Disney) made $5.7 billion, Disney princesses grossed $4.4 billion, Toy Story $2.6 billion, Barbie (not Disney owned) $2.7 billion, and Cars $2 billion.

A stock analyst told the New York Post, "Kids love Cars; they want the stuff whether critics like the movie or not. Kids don't read the reviews; parents don't care as long as kids are happy."

AWN.CON says Disney is presently developing features based on several park rides including the just announced Matterhorn, the Haunted Mansion (a project headed by Guillermo del Toro), 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, and a Magic Kingdom feature that will be directed in a style reminiscent of a Night at the Museum. Pixar is working on Monsters University, a sequel to Monsters, Inc. (2001), scheduled for a 2013 release.

If you are concerned that Pixar's future might be bogged down in features designed to support franchises, Brave, their big release for 2012, doesn't appear to be that kind of film. Merida, the heroine, doesn't look at all like a Disney princess, and Lord Macintosh and the Wise Woman avoid looking like stereotypical Disney characters. The first trailer suggests this could be an exciting original feature.

Pixar just announced that Bob Peterson is creating an untitled movie about dinosaurs (what if they hadn't died out, find out on Nov. 27. 2013.) and Pete Docter is working on another feature opening May 30, 2014. Andrew Stanton is directing John Carter, a big budget live action film that included nine foot tall motion capture Martians. says Cars was designed to introduce new characters that can be turned into products to keep the "merchandise franchise alive and well for years to come. At the end of the day, it doesn't matter as much how popular the film is as how many toy cars it can sell at Walmart and Target."

This article began as a serious critique of Cars 2, but after reading the quote from Mice Chat and other comments, I trashed the review. I feel there is not much point in getting serious about the virtues and problems of a feature length promotion for action toys and other cool merchandise.

The Disney/Pixar corporations really understand the commercial power of franchises, so expect lots more sequels and wonderful products emblazoned with the Disney name on them.


"CARS 2 DEMOGRAPHICS - IT IS A HIT IN RED STATES" said a Hollywood Reporter headline. They said it underperformed in the East, was below average on the West Coast, "but Cars 2 lost none of its appeal in flyover states, where both Larry the Cable Guy and NASCAR are immensely popular. As with the first film, Cars 2 outperformed in the South, Midwest, South Central (including Texas) and Mountain states." They noted that 36% of the audience was under 12 and 53% was male. They also said "There's no doubt that Disney and Pixar tailored Cars 2 storyline to woo foreign audiences" The film is set this time not in rural America, but in London, Paris and Tokyo."

BRAD LEWIS, CO-DIRECTOR OF "CARS 2" HAS LEFT PIXAR TO DIRECT A FEATURE AT DIGITAL DOMAIN Brad was John Lasseter's co-director on Cars 2 and was a producer of Ratatouille. Before spending ten years at Pixar he worked for PDI/Dreamworks where he was a producer on Antz. Now Brad has joined Digital Domain Media Group's Tradition Studios where he was hired to direct an original animated feature. Like unusual local trivia? Brad once served as mayor of San Carlos, Ca.

"CARS" LAWSUIT TOSSED OUT OF COURT A judge tossed out a lawsuit filed by a British screenwriter who claimed Cars was lifted from his work. The judge ruled the works were not "substantial similarity" and the statute of limitations had expired.


DISNEY'S LATEST WINNIE THE POOH FEATURE The NY Times said, "The stakes are high for Disney. Global sales of Pooh merchandise, books, plush toys, T-shirts, potty chairs, have fallen 12 percent over the last five years, but still account for a staggering $5.5 billion." They also noted the 2007 attempt to promote Pooh with computer 3D artwork didn't work so Disney has returned to traditional artwork and settings.

I see the new film as a lost-leader promotion to shore up the franchise's slowing sales. The film cost about $30 million to make plus promotional costs. As this is being written in late August the film has grossed about $32 million worldwide. It has a long way to go before it breaks even (Disney gets 50% or less of the box office gross). Disney will no doubt make millions on royalty payments to the franchise for merchandise sales. Gary Schwartz told me, "Disney is the world's greatest merchandising corporation." KC

As for reviews, the Hollywood Reporter said, "Little kids will enjoy the gentle, lovingly wrought, for-tots-only resurrection of A.A. Milne's characters, while parents will be thankful for the thoughtfully brief running time."

THERE ARE BIG PLANS FOR THE HARRY POTTER FRANCHISE Warner Bros. has several plans to keep the highly profitable Harry Potter franchise going now that the final film has been released. Spin-off features are planned along with an expansion of Potter theme park attractions around the world, online businesses and video games. The London studio where the series was filmed will be turned into a tourist attraction. Just after Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2 opened the eight-film series crossed the $7 billion mark in total worldwide grosses. The Wall Street Journal says the Harry franchise has produced $21 billion in retail sales since 1998. While Harry makes more per film than Cars (the first Cars grossed $462 million worldwi de and by Aug. 20 Cars 2 had grossed $477 million), both franchises rake in billions per year. How soon before colleges start offering Franchising 101 to film students? KC

GEORGE LUCAS HAS LOST A LAWSUIT IN THE UK OVER EXCLUSIVE RIGHT TO THE STORM-TROOPER HELMET The US Supreme Court ruled Lucas owns exclusive rights in the US to the design as it is a work of art. The British Supreme Court, using British statues, had decided that even though Andrew Ainsworth designed the costume as work for hire and Lucas owns the copyright in the US, the UK law does not consider
costumes as works of art so the helmet is not covered by British copyright law. Ainsworth can continue to sell his products in the UK, but not in the US. Will Lucas' lawyers find another way to protect Lucas' designs in the UK?

GEORGE LUCAS IS ENJOYING HAVING A HAND IN DESIGNING REMARKABLE LOOKING STUDIOS The first was the spectacular Skywalker Ranch, then came complexes at the Big Rock Ranch and Presidio. Now he is developing complexes in Singapore, Vancouver and at another ranch in Lucas Valley.

Favorable tax incentives are the reason animation and VFX companies move to Vancouver. ILM hopes to open their facility this coming spring, joining Sony, Digital Domain, Pixar and MPC there. In Singapore the present studio is running out of space and will be replaced by a new modern looking building that is under construction. It is set to open in 2013.

LUCASFILM AND SONY HAVE RELEASED ALEMBIC At Siggraph Lucasfilm and Sony released Alembic, an open source system that will make it easier for VFX companies to store and share complex animated scenes across facilities, regardless of what software is being used.

CORRECTION: ILM'S ROLE IN MAKING "RANGO" ILM has often been credited for making Rango, which is correct, but many articles incorrectly assumed it was created as an ILM feature. It was a work for hire project and ILM has no plans to produce their own animated feature. Hopefully other outside producers will bring them exciting projects that appeals to adults in the future.

BILL PLYMPTON DID A GREAT JOB IN SF EXPLAINING TO HIS AUDIENCES WHAT BEING AN INDEPENDENT ANIMATOR IS LIKE He champions a different kind of animation than what the big studios produce. At ILM and Pixar he told animators who worked on Rango and Cars 2 about the value of letting "mistakes" show in his work (going off model, etc.). He doesn't strive for perfection. He tells students his secrets of success are to do films cheaply (he tries to make his for under $1,000 a minute), to make them short (under five minutes) and to make them funny. Festivals are more likely to show a funny works than longer serious films or works of art. While he is an exceptional draftsman, he is more concerned with being entertaining and a good storyteller. His main objective is not creating fine art. He welcomes digital distribution as film prints have always been too expensive. He needs to make a profit as he presently supports three fulltime employees. He believes his works appeal to his audience as they tend to be edgy an outrageous. Some people enjoy being uncomfortable watching them and being shocked. In SF Bill did programs at Pixar, ILM, Big Rock Ranch (Lucas' TV animation), the Cartoon Art Museum and three nights at the Balboa.

CAN ROBERT ZEMECKIS RE-LAUNCH IMAGE-MOVERS DIGITAL? Zemeckis is in negotiations with Universal for a "first-look" deal to distribute both his motion capture and live action features. Disney shut down his Novato studio after it became clear his Mars Needs Moms was going to be a colossal flop. Zemeckis is a producer on DreamWorks' Real Steel , which opens October 7 and is scheduled to produce How to Survive a Garden Gnome Attack for Sony.

TIM HITTLE WINS A FEW MORE AWARDS His The Quiet Life won the Best Narrative Short prize at the 2011 Animation Block Party in Brooklyn. It also won Best Animated Film at Hardacre Film Fest in Tipton Iowa, and Best Animation at 15 Minutes of Fame Festival of Short Films in Palm Bay, Florida. You can see all three of his stop-motion shorts featuring Jay Clay at

OTHER FESTIVAL NEWS The Bridge by Ting Chian Tey from the Academy of Art won the Animation for Kids award at the Animation Block Party. David Chai's Enrique Wreck the World has been accepted by Krok, Nancy Phelps' favorite festival.


Fri.-Sat., Sept. 9 and 10, 17TH BRAINWASH MOVIE FESTIVAL, food from popular food trucks at 7pm, movies at 9, includes animated works by Jasmine Lewis, Vojin Vasovic, Jesse Gouchey, Xstine Cook, Ronnie Cramer, Aleah Myles, Brad Pattullo, Carlos Matiella and Corey Mims. At the Mandela Village Arts Center, 1357 5th St. Oakland, bring a folding chair, dress warmly, $12 each night.

Sunday, Sept 25, VOICE ACTING FOR ANIMATION, 2 PM. What skills are needed, how to become one or hire the right cast. A panel discussion with a voiceover director, agent, VO teacher, video game talent coordinator and one or two professional actors. In the Coppola Theatre, Fine Arts building, room 101, SF State, free.


ARE YOU READY FOR MORE MEATBALLS? Sony Pictures Animation thinks the world needs more meatballs so screenwriters John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein who created the comedy Horrible Bosses, are writing the sequel. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (2009) grossed $243 million. jQuery.noConflict(); jQuery('#gallery a').lightBox();

IS DREAMWORKS ANIMATION'S' RELATIONSHIP WITH PARAMOUNT COMING TO AN END? DWA has rejected Paramount's offer to extend their distribution deal till the end of 2013. Paramount is getting an 8% fee for their services and wants more than that in the future. DWA wants to pay less. Meanwhile Paramount has announced the launch of its own animation division following the success of Rango.

DREAMWORKS HAS WON A MAJOR LAWSUIT A Los Angeles jury has sided with DreamWorks Animation in a lawsuit that claimed the idea for Kung Fu Panda was stolen from Terence Dunn. He pitched the studio a similar project before they began to develop the feature without him. The jury took three days to reach a verdict in favor of the studio. The jurors decided that DWA did enter into an "implied-in-fact" contract, but the panel found that the studio didn't use Dunn's ideas, so the question of damages was moot. Dunn says, "We intend to appeal."

DWA has another suit pending. Jayme Gordon sued them in February alleging that DreamWorks copied his artwork from his copyrighted Kung Fu Panda Power.

JEFFREY KATZENBERG'S OPINION OF THE LATEST MOVIES IS "THEY SUCK" At Fortune's Brainstorm Tech Conference in July he blamed bad animated features for hurting the 3D craze and now he states films released since late last year are the "worst lineup of movies you've experienced in the last five years." (Does that include films from his studio?) He also says he is not concerned with Paramount's plans for running its own animation studio as, "They're going into the lower-end of the animation business isn't going to impact DreamWorks at all." That was said right after Paramount announced their plans and his company's stock fell a little. Since then the stock has gone up, partly because they had a better than expected quarterly report. DreamWorks' distribution deal with Paramount expires in 2012 and it appears renewing the agreement may be quite heated.

Jeffrey led the way for the conversion of theatres to projecting digital 3D. Now that a lot of first run theatres have bought those projection and sound systems the industry is talking about eventually no longer releasing features in 35mm. As a result Gary Meyer, who runs/ran the Balboa, says one of the reasons he is giving up his lease is he can't afford investing another $200,000 in the Balboa to make both halls digital. I suspect in the coming years a lot more theatres will close. Not enough people are going to the movies on a regular basis so running the average movie theatre is becoming less or no longer profitable.

As for Jeffrey's claim that this has been a bad year for features there have been lots of duds, but he overlooks some great films including Midnight in Paris and Rango. I suspect both films are major Oscar contenders.

DO THE SMURFS SUCK? The Hollywood Reporter called the film "thoroughly uninspired" remarkably mindless"strictly for those who stand three apples tall." It even said the director "could probably have done this one in his sleep. Which is likely where all but the most attentive caregivers will helplessly find themselves drifting."

Three days after they reviewed it their headline said "Box Office Shocker: Cowboys & Aliens gets Smurfed!" The two features were tied in the race for the biggest box office gross that weekend. Sunday morning both had grossed $36.2 million so the winner wouldn't be decided until Monday. Cowboys, has excellent effects by ILM and cost $163 million to make while Smurfs had a $110 million budget and a family audience.

The first weekend Cowboys & Aliens took in $36.4 million and the Smurfs $35.6 million. By August 21 the Smurfs had a worldwide gross over $329 million while Cowboys had only taken in $108 million worldwide. Obviously none of the negative reviews seem to matter to kids. Sony is already planning a Smurfs sequel.

The Smurfs' local connection Phil Tippett's studio in Emeryville did over 100 shots for the film. Many feature a realistic CG cat named Gargamel. Some used a real cat's body with a CG face.

DREAMWORKS IS DEVELOPING "MONKEYS OF MUMBAI," A BOLLYWOOD-STYLE ANIMATED MUSICAL ADVENTURE The story will be a spin-off of the Ramayana, the same great Indian epic that inspired Nina Paley's Sita Sings the Blues. The present script for the film involves "two common monkeys who become unlikely heroes." Kevin Lima, who directed Disney's Tarzan will direct it. Stephen Schwartz, who penned the music and lyrics for Broadway's Wicked, is writing the lyrics while A.R. Rahman, who scored Slumdog Millionaire, is Mumbai's composer.

HAVE FILM TICKETS BECOME TOO EXPENSIVE? While Jeffrey Katzenberg championed charging more for the premium 3D experience, Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson recently said they would like to see the price of 3D films drop. The NY Times (8/1/11) says big chains know lower ticket prices means more customers will buy concessions and there is a lot of profit to be made selling popcorn.

ANIMAZING SPOTLIGHT 2011 IN LA, SEPT. 15-19 This is a well organized festival that kicks off with a beach party in Malibu on Thurs. Sept. 15. It then goes indoors for tours and the festival that weekend. There are 14 programs including films in competition, a tribute to England's Bob Godfry (in-person) and much more. This is a reasonably priced festival.

MARTHA STEWART'S ANIMATED SERIES FOR KIDS Martha Stewart has launched a 26-episode bi-weekly web series For Kids on AOLKids. Martha & Friends is an animated series that features the domestic goddess as a 10-year-old. She is described as a "problem-solving, craft-loving, generous spirit" who, along with her three best friends and two dogs, "aim to spread Stewart's DIY ethic." Martha told the press, "Ever since I was a little girl, I've had a passion for crafting and cooking and my hope is that this series will inspire a whole new generation of do-it-yourselfers."

FOX HAS AN "INKUBATION" PROGRAM TO DEVELOP NEW ANIMATED TALENT Jason Ruiz, who is 26 and began doing Web animation when he was 12, is the first writer to come out of the Fox "Inkubation" program. The program produced Ruiz's pilot and now Fox has him working with Family Guy's David Goodman on a new animated series called Murder Police (working title). Ruiz says, "It's about bumbling homicide detectives who are trying to do their jobs but are not very good at it. It's like if Scooby Doo was solving murders."


THE COMIC STRIP "MUTTS" IS BEING DEVELOPED INTO A FEATURE FOR 20TH CENTURY FOX The studio's animation division has hired Mutts creator Patrick McDonnell and his brother Robert to write the script for the animated film. Patrick will be the executive producer.

Mutts is a daily comic strip centering on the antics of a dog named Earl and a cat named Mooch who interact with each other, the animals in their neighborhood and their human owners. McDonnell created the syndicated strip for King Features Syndicate in 1994.

Fox has had success in the comics-to-movie genre before. The total gross of their two Garfield features was nearly $350 million (combined, worldwide).

DISCOVER FIVE CHARMING WORKS FROM ISTANBUL "Canlandiranlar," an animation society in Istanbul, Turkey is the only animation organization in that country. They organize free educational courses, hold panels and support independent animation. One of their first projects after they were formed in 2010 was an "Animation Talent Camp." They produced several short films on the theme of Istanbul with support from industry professionals. The completed films are being screened in Turkey and abroad. (The second animation camp was just held.)

The five works I've seen on the Internet have a fresh aesthetic flair to them, free of current trends in Europe and the Americas. I was delighted to discover these films and hope to show them in January at an ASIFA-SF event. You can see them now on the Internet. Istanbul by Idil Ar, Istanbul Seagull by Dilara Polat, a 13 year old filmmaker, One Random Day In Istanbul by Nurbanu Asena, Slumberland by Isik Dikmen, and Tetrist by Melis Bilgin -

TERRY GILLIAM REVEALS THE SECRETS OF HOW HE DID HIS CUTOUT ANIMATION FOR "THE MONTE PYTHON SHOW" The film is highly informative and funny. Thanks Charlie for the link.

BILL PLYMPTON RAISED ALMOST $20,000 TO CREATE A "RESTORATION" OF WINSOR McCAY'S "FLYING HOUSE" Using Kickstarter, Bill asked for $10,000 and ended up with 557 people pledging $19,760 for the project. Bill employed students from the School of Visual Arts to remove dust spots, camera flair, balloons containing text and other elements. They also added a limited amount of color in a tasteful manner. Bill used two professional voice actors to speak the words that were printed in the thought balloons in the silent film. He has also added a music track. The Flying House (1921) along with McCay's The Pet, are among the finest animated shorts ever made. This version should make the film more enjoyable for people not comfortable watching silent black and white films.

REMEMBER THE NEWS ABOUT A RECENTLY REDISCOVERED LOST CHARLIE CHAPLIN FILM? It has a limited bit of animation in it and was offered for sale by a major British auction house. Despite lots of worldwide publicity about how rare it was, nobody bid on it. The minimum bid was too high.

THE 2011 CARTOON D'OR FINALISTS Six nominees vying for the Cartoon d'Or 2011 prize for best European animation short film have been selected from a field of 29 short films. All are prize-winners from major European festivals. The films that the jury nominated are Mobile by Verena Fels (Germany), Paths of Hate by Damian Nenow (Poland), Pivot by Andr? Bergs (Netherlands), The External World by David O'Reilly (Ireland), The Gruffalo by Jakob Schuh & Max Lang (UK/Germany) and The Little Boy and the Beast by Johannes Weiland & Uwe Heidsch?tter (Germany). The award ceremony will take place during Cartoon Forum Polska, September 15 in Sopot, Poland. The winner gets a trophy and 10,000 EUR.

SALLY CRUIKSHANK HAS PRODUCED A WONDERFUL DVD OF HER WORK It includes her film Quasi at the Quackadero that was added to the National Film Registry in 2009. It joined Citizen Kane, Gone with the Wind and over 500 other classics that the National Film Preservation Board members consider culturally, historically and aesthetically significant works worthy of preservation. The disc includes Quasi at the Quackadero, Make Me Psychic (both made in the Bay Area), Face Like a Frog, Chow Fun, Fun on Mars, Ducky and extras. For more about the amazing artistry of Sally visit

DISCOVER STAN VANDERBEEK'S WORK, HE WAS AN EXPERIMENTAL COMPUTER ANIMATOR AND PIONEER VISIONARY ARTIST The site includes 15 of his films, photos of his paintings, drawings and sculpture, documents concerning his career and much more. His animation used a variety of techniques including computer art in his last works (Poemfield No. 2, 1966 and Symmetricks, 1972). Stan was also a pioneer light show artist who built an experimental dome theatre in his yard in 1963. His work was discussed at length in the book Expanded Cinema.

CARTOON BREW FEATURES SIGNIFICENT WORKS OF ANIMATION EACH MONTH PLUS INTERESTING NEWS STORIES On June 29 they posted Short Vision, 1956, an impressive anti-nuclear weapons film by Peter Foldes. It shocked people when it was made and it still packs a wallop. It was shown in theatres in the '50s, but what I just found out is that Ed Sullivan showed it twice on his nationally televised variety show in 1956. That was shortly after the USSR exploded their first H Bomb above ground. Foldes later received an Oscar nomination for Hunger (1974), one of the first figurative/narrative computer animated shorts.

On July 15 they posted a trailer for an exciting looking 25 min. short for The Monster of Nix by Dutch animator Rosto. It looks like it is in the same league as Henry Selick's Nightmare before Christmas (Nancy Phelps saw it at Annecy and gave it a rave review). The soundtrack stars include Terry Gilliam, Tom Waits and The Residents. www.Monster

On July 14 they posted news about Pixar's first live action film, John Carter (from Mars) being directed by Andrew Stanton. On July 13 they posted a trailer for Arthur's Christmas being made by Aardman. On July 12 there is a weird architectural mapping video of a real building in Paris turned into an animated Monster House. ( Lots more architectural mapping can be seen on YouTube.)

On Aug. 6 they ran pictures of Charles Schultz's former home in Santa Rosa that is for sale. The same day they wished Gene Deitch a happy 87th birthday and announced Gene has a new blog about his latest online book. Check it out from time to time.


LAST MINUTE EVENT - WORLD PREMIERE OF "BANI ADAM" BY IRANIAN ANIMATOR NOURI ZARRINKALK Bani Adam (Human Beings, 10 min.), a 13th Century poem about the need for world peace and tolerance, with My Beautiful Day (2010, Iran) and My Iranian Paradise (2009, Denmark). Nouri is a celebrated artist and past international president of ASIFA. SUNDAY, SEPT. 11, 1:15 PM, 4th Iranian Film Festival, SF Art Institute, 800 Chestnut-North Beach

THE OTTAWA INTERNATIONAL ANIMATION FESTIVAL, SEPT. 21-25, HAS ANNOUNCED THE COMPETION LINEUP The 100 films plus 51 more out of competition include works from the National Film Board of Canada by well known animators including Paul Driessen (Oedipus), Koji Yamamura (Muybridge's Strings), Georges Schwizgebel (Romance) and Wendy Tilby and Amanda Forbis (Wild Life). Also selected are Bill Plympton's Guard Dog Global Jam, the Spanish feature Chico & Rita about Cuban jazz and a hot romance, and Pixar's La Luna (North American premiere). There are also new works by Michael Langan, PES, Joanna Priestly, Michael Sporn, Co Hoedman and a feature by Phil Mulloy.

ASIFA-PORTLAND held an event in July where they screened new and old films by Joan Gratz, Marilyn Zornado and Jim Blashfield at the Cinema 21. In August they held an ice cream social.

HOW OUTRAGEOUS CAN A PROPAGANDA FILM GET? CHECK OUT "PERVERSION FOR PROFIT." This absurd unintentional comedy from 1965 explains how sexual perversion is part of a communist plot to destroy the youth of America. You may not want to watch much of it, but it may make you laugh and it might provide you with insights into the mindsets of conservative America during the cold war.
The producer was Charles Keating, founder of a large anti-porn association and head of Lincoln Savings and Loan and the American Continental Corporation. Lincoln failed in 1989 leaving 23,000 customers with worthless bonds. It cost our government over $3 billion to pay off the insured losses. Keating spent less than five years in jail. See the film on YouTune and other sites.

LATE RACE RESULTS Nancy Phelps had so much to report about Annecy 2011 that she left out a very important bit of news. Jakob Schuh and Max Lang (UK/Germany), who made The Gruffalo, won this year's paddle boat race.


"ANIMASOPHY - THEORETICAL WRITINGS ON ANIMATED FILM" by Ulo Pikkov, reviewed by Nancy Denney-Phelps Estonian animation director and educator Ulo Pikkov has accomplished a remarkable feat in producing a most readable book on animation theory. For those who do not know about the technical side of animation, Animasophy - Theoretical Writings on the Animated Film is a great place to start. Readers who are well versed in animation techniques will be reminded about what they already know but don't always think about.

The first three chapters define animation, outline its history from its beginnings to the present, and analyze its role in modern communication. The next eight chapters analyze structure, timing, storytelling, sound, characters, realism and use of space. Each chapter includes a detailed case study of a specific film by an Estonian animator to illustrate the chapter's topic.

A discussion of Olga and Priit Parn's award winning Divers in the Rain illustrates perfectly the concept of the use of space in animation. Space and spatiality play an important role in this hand drawn film, giving additional non-spoken information about the characters personalities and emotional states.

Mart Kivi's 2007 Laika is an excellent example of a film with a main character that exists beyond the limits of the screen. Laika is never seen but is constantly present. All of the action is viewed through the eyes of Laika, the dog who was the first living body to orbit the Earth when the USSR sent her into space in 1957. The subjective camera of Laika's eyes suggests the dog's limited movements. The action is accompanied by the hound's huffing and puffing sounds. As Ulo points out, Laika is still out there orbiting the earth even though her eyes were shut long ago.

Animasophy is full of photos, drawings, and film stills. A special bonus is a DVD of the eight works that are discussed in detail so that you can follow Pikkov's train of thought visually as well as in his words.

Along with creating his own films Ulo has taught at the respected Estonian Academy of Arts since 2006. The word animasophy was coined by his students from two words, the Latin "Anima" meaning soul or breath of life and Greek "Sophia" which means wisdom.

Animasophy -Theoretical writings On the Animated Film should have a place in every animator's library as well as in the classroom and library of all animation schools. The DVD is a priceless addition to everyone's video library. The price of the book and DVD is 21,92 Euros. Ordered it at:


BOB BREER HAS PASSED AWAY by Pip Chodorov* He was a good friend, a very funny man, and a great artist. He chose film at a time when his painting career was taking off. He lived in Paris for ten years and showed at Denise Ren?'s gallery - big abstract paintings. Then he made a flipbook and got interested in abstract animation. He felt that his abstract compositions were maybe just steps in a continual flow of motion from one to another. In the 1950s, gallery artists didn't show films. (I guess that changed in 1966 when Warhol made Chelsea Girls). His fellow painters became big: Oldenberg, Lichtenstein, Rauschenberg... but Breer loved movement. He made sculptures that move v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y. He made films that move very fast. He was ahead of his time.

His films were not popular... He was an inventor. His father made cars (his father made the first streamlined car for Chrysler after having demonstrated, in the Wright brothers' wind tunnel, that their cars were designed to go faster backwards than forwards!) And his father also made home movies - in 3D - with a Bolex.

Breer moved back to America and made experimental films that pushed film art into new directions. He was one of the founding filmmakers of the New York Filmmakers' Cooperative. He also made big sculptures that would creep around the art space, for example at Expo '70 in Osaka. He taught at Cooper Union for many years and sensitized a new generation of artists to experimental film.

Over the last 15 years, many museum shows combined his paintings, moving culptures ("floats"), and films. He felt that finally he could have a career as an artist and as a filmmaker. We will miss Bob Breer." *Pip is an experimental filmmaker, film distributor and the moderator of FrameWorks, a forum/blog on experimental film.

NY animator George Griffin writes, "Breer's genius lay in, among other things, his casual approach to craft. He didn't work at; he played animation. As soon as I saw his paintings from the Paris years - so hard-edged, ordered, Olympian - I could see how film, as a vehicle of synthetic performance, pushed him off the cliff. He learned to fly by the seat of his pants, re-inventing our art with every new, effortless stroke. Lucky for us. Through him we got Arp's random discontinuities, Klee's indexical card miniature scale, Cage's not so silent silence, and all that modernist wit, irony, nonchalance. His work was always flavored by jolts of sly fun. It spilled beyond media into concrete, tangible objects: parodies of machines, propelled by the viewer's hand, or set in motion as snail-paced automata."

"Breer was the prolific, generous form-giver: movement was his medium."

CORNY COLE HAS DIED Corny Cole (1930-2011) died August 8. He was educated at Chouinard and began his career as an in-betweener on Lady & The Tramp at Disney in 1954. He later worked at UPA, Warner Bros., DePatie-Freleng for Richard Williams, Chuck Jones and others. He is probably best-known as a remarkable and well admired drawing teacher, first at the Richard Williams studio and then at Cal Arts and USC. Williams praises Corny's influence on him in both his book The Animator's Survival Kit and in his DVD set. Corny received the Winsor McCay Lifetime Achievement Award from ASIFA-Hollywood in 2 006.

Marv Newland told me, "Corny Cole was a prime inspiration for me when I was just starting out in animation. Corny never did receive the attention he deserved, and his passing will probably not lead to an exhibition at The Tate Modern. Much of his work burned up in his trailer home a few years ago. He freelanced at Spungbuggy Works in Los Angeles while I was there still wet behind the ears. His drawings leapt off of the paper. He drew like a prince and made plenty of drawings full of action, like music to the eyes. His personality was warm and eccentric. His work habits drove some directors mad. He was my hero."

The LA Times adds, "Corny and his twin brother, Peter, were among the pioneering long-board surfers in Santa Monica and Malibu in the 1940s."


THE ART INSTITUTE CHAIN OF SCHOOLS IS INCLUDED IN DEPT. OF JUSTICE MULTI-BILLION DOLLAR LAW SUIT AGAINT FOR-PROFIT COLLEGES The US Govt. and four states claim the Education Management Corp. (they own the Art Institute chain) was not eligible for $11 billion in state and federal funding paid to them from 2003 to 2011. The NY Times reports this is just one of several suits pending against this and other for-profit schools.

The complaint says EMC recruiters were instructed to use high-pressure sales techniques and inflated claims about career placement to increase student enrollment, regardless of applicants' qualifications. "Recruiters were even encouraged to enroll applicants who were unable to write coherently, who appeared to be under the influence of drugs or who sought to enroll in an online program but had no computer." The Univ. of Phoenix settled a similar suit in 2004 by paying $9.8 million. Goldman Sachs owns 41% of EMC.

THE "NY TIMES" RAN A GLOOMY REPORT ON THE JOB PROSPECTS FOR RECENT FILM GRADUATES They found that graduates will "pursue opportunities that have seldom been more elusive, at least where traditional Hollywood employment is concerned." Despite pessimistic facts in the article, more students than ever are trying to get into film schools. At USC they had about 4,800 applicants this year for 300 openings. The NY Times couldn't provide the exact number of cinema programs in the US, but they said the recent Student Academy Awards had entries from 136 institutions.

The reporter interviewed about a dozen program heads and their comments about the film careers of their graduates were often vague and evasive. One of the most straight forward replies came from Steve Ujlaki who left SF State a year ago to become a dean at Loyola Marymount near LA. He believes "film training schools should leave students with knowledge of the arts and a business savvy that will get them through their lives that are bound to move in unexpected directions. The majority of students majoring in film and television will not be having careers in those professions" How about creating an environment which encourages creativity and risk taking if you're educating someone in the arts?" From "For Film Graduates, An Altered Job Picture" that ran July 4, 2011 in the NY Times and online July 7.

Animation students have a somewhat better chance for success

The NY Times article did not discuss animation majors. I've seen the number of entry level openings in animation expand over the years. I've also seen the number of people trying to enter the field grow, possibly at a faster rate.

At SF State Steve Ujlaki was extremely supportive of the animation program as he saw some animation students get jobs, others working on speculative projects, a few finding clients for their own businesses, and others entering graduate programs or developing personal projects. From talking with teachers and graduates from other schools I know impressive success stories, but more often animation grads get entry level jobs that are neither high paying nor permanent employment.

From reading blogs I'm aware that the number of union jobs in LA isn't expanding very much and there are relatively few entry level openings through the union. Game companies are hiring, but working conditions are often far from ideal. Some of the better job opportunities are positions being created by Internet companies and with high tech firms that are finding new uses for animation.

A lot of animation grads are employed in other lines of work as it is difficult to find that first animation job. One grad told me, "I feel a bit demoralized and disillusioned now that I've been out for a year and have nothing to show for it." That person has been improving their show reel and plans to have it ready for a job fair in LA later this year.

Grads that are set on mastering one skill may be at a disadvantage in the current job market. At the recent ASIFA-SF Careers in Animation program our five panel members talked about the importance of learning many different skills in college and on the job. That knowledge and experience allowed the panel members to get to where they are today. The employee that is willing to try to do different things and has a great attitude about being flexible is to be admired and will probably get hired a lot faster than somebody focused on just doing one job like being a Maya artist.

When the panel members look at resumes and samples of ones work they are often looking for flexibility. It may be important that a person can animate using Maya or can draw with a pencil, but the panel members might also be looking for people that can paint backgrounds, design props, rig characters or" The panel member from DreamWorks emphasized the importance of well rounded college programs that stress both the technical and creative sides of animation.

Questionable tip: If someone is going to college and wants to major in a field that could result in a high paying job, major in engineering. A NY Times article said seven of the top ten college degrees leading to higher salaries are petroleum, aerospace, chemical, electrical, computer, biomedical and nuclear engineering. The other three high ranking careers are applied mathematics, physics and economics.


THE ART AND BUSINESS OF BEING A VOICE ACTOR FOR ANIMATION, an interview with Seth Podowitz by Karl Cohen Seth is organizing our September ASIFA-SF event, a panel discussing voice acting.

You or a friend can probably make a few funny sounding voices, so why can't you just go out and make a living talking into a microphone? To find out we talked with Seth Podowitz who directed, coached and recorded voice talent for several years in Los Angeles with a major talent agency. He now lives in San Francisco and heads the voiceover department at JE Talent.

Doing funny voices versus voice acting

When Seth is asked, "Is voice acting hard to get into? I can do lots of crazy cartoon voices," he explains that "successful voice artists spend years training to have the acting chops to use their voices in an effective way. Voice acting is a discipline and art form."

"There's an art to sounding natural reading something somebody else wrote and making it sound like it came out of your mind. That's the art of voice acting, making copy sound like whatever it is supposed to sound like. Making it sound like a real person talking to another real person. That is why voice acting is so difficult, because when most people are reading from a page and are standing behind a microphone they start presenting."

"Voice actors have to unlearn that thing we learn when we are kids, if you have a piece of paper in front of you, you probably read it like you are presenting, not just talking. That's a big difference."

"There are lots of excellent actors who work in front of the camera who are also great voice actors. But there are a lot that aren't. It's a different discipline from on camera acting, and it requires training. A lot of people assume you just get up there and talk and if you can sound funny you can be in cartoons and that's all you need to do. Of course the people who are really excellent at it can do different voices, but they also have acting skills. All the great animation actors are able to create different characters. It is not just about being able to do different voices; it's about creating a character. They are not going to get work if all they can do is silly voices."

Getting started

"The first thing anybody who wants to get into voiceover work should do is take classes that deal with the fundamentals of technique and how to control your voice. Not everybody is successful at it, but if you have a proclivity for it the next step is making a professional sounding demo. They are normally made working with a voiceover director or coach who is often affiliated with a recording studio. They will write or find the appropriate copy for you to use, often rewriting existing copy to make it work better for you."

"The demo usually consists of 6 to 12 short pieces of copy that hopefully sound like they are pulled from finished commercials. Each one should have music and sound effects if needed. Each sound demo usually runs about a minute, maybe just over."

"People starting out, who don't know what a demo sounds like, often make the mistake of making up their own copy and then recording it themselves. It doesn't work. It sounds amateurish and if you sound like an amateur an agent will listen to five seconds of it and throw it in the trash."

"Unfortunately this means when you are making a demo you have to use someone who knows what they are doing. Those people charge a good bit of money as there is a lot of time involved coming up with the copy, directing the talent through the recording session, and then putting the package
together which means finding the right music, possibly adding sound effects and the audio engineering that make it all sound correct. I've seen people offer to make demos for as low as $500 and as high as $1,500. It is an expensive process and unfortunately it's totally necessary."

"At the agency I worked at, actors were usually referred to us by other voice actors, by a manager or someone else associated with the agency. That person first meets with the agent and then they are put in the booth to see how they read. Based on that session and recording, the agent will decide if we want to bring them into the agency."

"There are times an agency needs to add actors with a certain range or a particular type of voice. An agency always wants to provide someone who can audition when they get specs from an ad agency or production company. This is why we represent lots of actors. If there are holes in our talent roster that need to be filled, those people are more likely to get in."

"You may not have much or any choice as to which agency will take you on, but if you want to provide cartoon voices try to get representation with one that has a solid reputation for representing animation talent."

The role of the voiceover agency

Seth has a lot of insight into how agencies are run in LA as he worked for one for over five years as a booth director, directing auditions for commercials, animation and video games. He says, "We would get copy from production companies, animation companies and ad agencies. We would cast the copy with our actors using whoever was appropriate for the project. We would bring them in, they would do the audition and then we would send them off."

"Clients are not involved with the casting. They send over the specs for what they are looking for. Perhaps a woman aged 30 to 50, or if it is for animation they might send us a picture and a description of the character and a description of the show or feature. There are times when they know a particular actor they would like to hear audition, but most of the time they send out the specs and expect the agency to cast appropriately."

"We got scripts for 9, the animated feature produced by Tim Burton, two or three years before it came out. We did auditions for it and then they did what they always do, they ended up going with celebrities. In theatrical features from major studios more often than not the voice work goes to celebrities, but for animated features that go straight to DVD or TV there is a lot more casting available. Those kinds of features often can't afford celebrity talent."

"There is lots of work available on animated TV series and pilots. We have several actors who worked on multiple series at the same time. This is where actors in animation, who are not celebrity talent, get a lot of work."

"Feedback from the clients came if an actor booked a part, or was put on avail - meaning that they were in contention for the part and needed to be available to record if they were booked. In animation, companies will often do callbacks if they like a certain person. They will ask for a second audition, often at their facility, as they want to be able to direct the talent themselves before making their final casting choices."


When asked about how people get paid, Seth says, "A voiceover agency, like any talent agency, only gets paid when the actors are booked for a job. All the work we do, auditioning, my directing and so on, is predicated on our actors getting bookings. The agency is there to serve the actors and get them work."

"The only time the producers of a project pay anything is when they actually hire an actor. For example, if Disney is developing a new animated pilot, they might send copy by Internet to many voiceover agencies all over the country. Each of the agencies will cast their clients according to the production company specs and record their auditions either at the agency's studio or the actor will record at home and send in their audition. As a booth director that was my job; directing, recording, editing, and finally sending out the auditions."

"It's a highly competitive market. There are voiceover agencies all over the country, over 30 in Los Angeles alone. There are agencies that will do both union and non-union jobs. I worked for an agency that only represents union talent."

"Some jobs are high paying, others are not. Most contracts are for the actor's fee plus 10%. For a union SAG TV commercial the session fee is around $450, so the actor gets the $450 and the agency $45. A SAG session fee for TV animation is $782. In addition to the session fee, there are residuals for broadcast voiceover usage, which provides an additional income stream. There is commercial work throughout the year, and the busiest periods are before the traditional rating sweeps (November, February, May, and July) and before the holidays. An agency needs lots of jobs to survive."

Audition tapes

"You always want to put your best recording first. If an agent is listening to a demo and it's not engaging them within the first 15 or 20 seconds, they stop listening." Seth often wonders how often a client actually listens to an entire take or to a second take if a part is read differently.

When asked if an ad agency or production studio gets hundreds of audition tapes for a project, how much of each recording do they listen to? He replied, "I don't know, but if they are getting in 500 auditions my guess is they maybe are listening to the first 10 seconds of an audition before deciding whether or not to move on to the next.

Business trends

The voiceover business is subject to trends. "I recently worked with a guy who had done a lot of work in the 1980s. He has a deep announcer's voice. When he got back into the business a few years ago he found things were changing. He came to me about a commercial audition he was working on. His delivery wasn't conversational enough; it didn't connect enough with the listener. More often than not, when one gets copy for a commercial these days, the spec for an announcer will say 'no announcers' or 'we don't want anything too announcery.' They want a very specific 'conversational' read, laid back, not very much inflection, not pushing anything. That is your contemporary announcer read."

"Another trend that is happening a lot in animation is not having adults playing kids. A lot of your classic kid characters, like Bart Simpsons, are played by adults. A lot of companies that do animation for kids, are now asking more often for child talent. They want kids that sound like kids."

"The voiceover agencies are now sending clients mp3 audition recordings over the Internet resulting in faster turnarounds in productions. You no longer have to wait for tapes to be delivered. We got requests for auditions from one company and they would literally give us an hour turnaround. They would say 'can we get this back in an hour,' having just sent the copy. We had to get the actors in or have them do the recording from home, get the auditions in, check them to make sure they were good, and then send them off."

Another trend is the growing use of sound-a-likes. "Voice actors get hired now as sound-a-likes to replace a word or line. Sometimes they want to punch up a trailer so they will hire a sound-a-like, hopefully as close a match as possible, to replace that line because it's likely going to cost too much to bring the celebrity actor back for a short recording session."

"Sound-a-likes are also used a lot by video game companies. They usually won't pay to hire celebrities in projects based on an existing film or popular TV show."

The role of a voice coach

Seth now works as a voice coach in San Francisco, but he stays in touch with his LA contacts. "I'm offering a lot of technical advice about how to approach an audition. I had a session this morning with one of my actors who wanted direction from me for an animation audition. She has it set up so that when she has her headphones on, she uses a phone patch to hear me. I can actually be directing her as she is recording the audition, basically the same way as when I was working in the booth. We were talking about tone, inflection, the meaning of a line, what's going to be funny, what's not going to be funny."

"My role as a voice over director is to be an objective set of ears, to be able to point out what's working and why something doesn't seem to work. There is a certain amount of interpretation for each script that you have to agree on. I'm a second opinion on the interpretation of the copy."

"As a director you are talking either in emotional terms, technical terms or specific terms. Sometimes you are talking about the emotion of what you are trying to convey, sometimes you will say you should take a pause there or don't take a beat there and continue. Voice actors are trained to read copy in a certain way. Commas and periods mean something specific. Copywriters don't necessarily have that training. They will phrase the way you phrase on a page verses how you phrase when you are speaking aloud. Sometimes those are two different things. There is a difference between acting and reading."

It was quite fascinating to learn about this industry that is rarely discussed in print. The amount of voice work being recorded is growing. Seth mentioned in passing the growing need for voice artists for talking books, cable TV, the Internet and industrial and educational films.

Questions? Seth can be reached at

Newsletter Editor: Karl Cohen
Contributors include Seth Podowitz, Nancy Denney-Phelps
Cover illustration by Ricci Carrasquillo
Proofreaders: Pete Davis and Sarah Chin
Mailing Crew: Tara Beyhm, Dot Janson, Shirley Smith and
Denise McEvoy
Webmaster Joe Sikoryak
Special thank to Oddball Films for hosting our summer party and to Garry Schwartz for amazing us with inventive approaches to animation. Thanks also to The G Man who sends out our e-mail updates, to Nancy Denney-Phelps for representing our chapter on the international ASIFA board, to Tara Beyhm our VP and to our treasurer Karen Lithgow.
ASIFA-SF is a chapter of: Association Internationale du Film d'Animation with almost 40 chapters around the world.
Our website and blog is:
Mail can be sent to:
or to PO Box 225263, SF CA 94122

JUST IN, A TEASER FOR A HOT ANIMATED SHORT IN THE BRAINWASH FILM FESTIVAL Clean is Good will be shown Sat. night Sept. 10 Making of the short is at


What skills are needed, how to become one,
how to hire the right cast.
A panel discussion with a voiceover director, agent, VO teacher, video game talent coordinator and one or two professional actors.



Seth Podowitz (moderator), Voice Over Director and Agent

John Erlendson, Talent Agent for over 25 years

Elaine Clark, Voice Over Teacher, Actor and Casting for over 25 years

Emily Clark. Voice Over Talent Coordinator at Electronic Arts

Khris Brown, Independent Casting and VO Director for Lucas Arts and others

Plus a couple of voice actors who will share their experiences in the
VO business

Common questions people ask about the voice over business include:
What is voice over?
How do I get into it?
Is it hard to do?
What does an agent do?
Do I need to take classes?
These and many other questions will be answered by our panel.