September 29th, 2023

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LAST CHANCE! RefPack053: A Peek At The International Downloads

People who aren’t members of Animation Resources don’t understand how comprehensive our Reference Packs are. Over the next couple of weeks, we will be posting what each section of our current RefPack looks like. If you are a member of Animation Resources, click on this post to go to the Members Only page. If you aren’t a member yet, today is the perfect time to join! Our current Reference Pack is one of our best yet, and General and Student Members get access to a special Bonus Archive with even more material from past Reference Packs.

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International Animation

The world of animation is much bigger than it might appear to us at first glance. We are all familiar with the films we grew up with, but Hollywood wasn’t the only place that produced great cartoons… Poland, Japan, Russia, China and Europe all have their own traditions and a rich history of animated film making. Animation Resources’ archive contains many foreign films that are rarely seen in the United States. We feature a sampling of interesting animation from around the world in each Reference Pack.

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German Animation

Poor Hans!
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Frank Leberecht / Deutsche Zeichentrickfilme GmbH, Germany / 1943
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In an earlier Reference Pack, we presented the work of Hans Fischerkoesen who was often referred to as “the Walt Disney of Germany”, but he wasn’t the only animator sponsored by the Nazis during World War II. The Deutsche Zeichentrickfilme GmbH (DZF) was established by Propaganda Minister, Joseph Goebbels in 1941 to build the German animation business up to the point of rivaling American animation studios. No expense was spared. At its peak, the studio had a staff that numbered nearly 100, and artists were paid nearly double the salary of comparable jobs elsewhere. The goal of the studio was ambitious— to create 19 animated shorts by 1947, and an animated feature by 1950, and no expense was spared to achieve that goal. Ultimately though, they only ended up producing one film— "Poor Hans".

It’s difficult to overstate the importance of animation to the Nazis. Hitler was a big fan of Disney cartoons, in fact, Goebbels once gave him a Christmas gift of a dozen prints of Mickey Mouse cartoons that he had smuggled into German from the United States. Propaganda was an important part of Hitler’s plans, and he realized that propaganda in the form of fables with animal characters would make more of an impact on society than overt political propaganda. Unlike Russian propaganda which was direct to the point of aggressiveness and designed to spur to immediate action, Nazi propaganda was more subtle, with the purpose of convincing people that the folk life in Germany was better than traveling and interacting with people from other countries and races. "Poor Hans" fit into this mold, telling the story of a canary who escapes his cage and suffers great hardship in the real world, finally returning to the safety and security of his home.

German Animation

This film was begun under the supervision of Dr. Werner Kruse, but when it was revealed that he was married to a Jew, he was demoted and Frank Leberecht took the helm. Leberecht hired a group of newspaper cartoonists to come up with gags and story ideas. Since they had very little cinematic experience, the cartoon ended up being a two reeler with a lot of little things happening, but very little overall continuity. Even though the film overstays its welcome at nearly 17 minutes, it’s impressive how much production value the crew was able to accomplish on their very first film. Had the Nazis not lost the War in 1944, DZF might have eventually overtaken Disney’s lead.

Goebbels was not entirely happy with the film. He wrote in his journals that the lead character was weak, but the film was a good start. Watching the cartoon, you can see exactly what they were modeling it on. The film opens with a three dimensional set, exactly like the ones used in Fleischer Color Classics, and the design and gags echo Disney’s "Who Killed Cock Robin".

German Animation

As Germany conquered more territory, they raided the animation studios in those countries for talent. A famous French animator named Robert Salvagnac was offered the choice between a comfortable life animating at DZF or a considerably less comfortable one in occupied France. The artists at DZF were considered "essential staff" guaranteeing deferment from military service, and many of them worked there just for that reason. However, as the War dragged on and the Nazis became more desperate, able-bodied men at the studio were drafted into military service. In 1944, the government money that supported the studio was cut off and the staff was reassigned to armament factories. When the Russians overtook Germany, the studio was raided and the films were confiscated to the Soviet Union, where they remained until 1991.

We’re very proud to be able to share this rarely seen piece of animation history with you. We hope you will find it useful.

REFPACK053: Poor Hans 1943
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SD VIDEO:
Little Mashas Concert

Little Masha’s Concert
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Mstislav Pashchenko / Soyuzmultfilm, Russia / 1948

While the Germans aspired to create animated propaganda films to rival the quality of theatrical cartoons in the West, Russia is the country that actually achieved that goal. "Little Masha’s Concert" demonstrates how quickly Russian animation progressed after World War II. The animation, color and design of this film are the equal of any Hollywood cartoon.

A Quiet Glade

Propaganda is designed to connect with audiences in a specific place and time, and sometimes its intent isn’t clear to viewers with a different frame of reference. This film is like that. The story is about a young girl named Masha who has a favorite doll in the form of a little black boy. She sees that her doll is sad and asks her mother why. Her mother tells her that black people have led very difficult lives, and Masha enlists all her other toys to put on a concert to cheer him up. The performance is a success and all of the toys embrace the black boy doll as their friend.

To modern viewers, the black boy doll has a meaning that is quite different than it would to movie-goers in the Soviet Union in 1948. Children there had very little interaction with black people, but their educational system taught them that in America, black people were enslaved and abused. They would connect the dots in this story to understand that the message of the film was anti-American in nature. One of the final scenes shows the black doll happily surrounded by Asian, Arab, Indian and Russian dolls. The message is that Russia is the friend of ethnic groups that suffer under the domination of Western imperialistic oppression.

Little Mashas Concert

Mstislav Pashchenko was one of the pioneers of Russian animation. We’ve seen his film "An Unusual Match" in a previous Reference Pack. He directed that film alongside Boris Dyozhkin who was responsible for Western style timing and posing in his sports cartoons. In particular, you will want to still frame through a scene where a teddy bear does a Russian dance. It is simple and solidly drawn, putting across the dance rhythms perfectly.

REFPACK053: Little Masha’s Concert 1946
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SD VIDEO:

Polish Animation

An Adventure In Stripes
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Alina Maliszewska / Studio Miniatur Filmowych / Warsaw, Poland / 1960

Animation Resources members are familiar with Alina Maliszewska for her work on the Polish animated series, The Strange Adventures of Koziolek Matolek. She was born in Bielsk Podlaski, Poland in 1926 to shop keepers. Her father was a decorated war hero, awarded the Cross of Valor, but was imprisoned and later executed by the Nazis. At age 13, Alina, her mother and her step-brother were deported to Siberia to work as forced labor on construction projects. After the war, she and her mother returned to Poland and she enrolled in the Academy of Fine Arts in Krakow. There she studied graphics, painting and ceramics. Upon graduation, she joined Studio Miniatur Filmowych, where she animated and directed more than 40 films over three decades.

Polish Animation

The previous film, "Little Masha’s Concert" dealt with issues of race as propaganda, but "An Adventure of Stripes" (1960) is a moral fable on the subject. A striped elephant is discriminated against by solid colored elephants and we learn that differences in race are just skin deep. The story is very similar to Dr. Seuss’s "The Sneeches", with the elephant changing color back and forth until she finds her true self. This film won many awards, and Maliszewska was presented with the Gloria Artis medal for her artwork depicting her experiences in Siberian exile. She passed away in 2020.

Polish Animation

Although the drawing and animation style of this film are simple, the movement is quite expressive, putting across the attitudes of the characters quite clearly. It is a good model to follow for independent animators who would like to create a film all by themselves.

REFPACK053: An Adventure In Stripes 1960
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SD VIDEO:
Well Just You Wait

Well, Just You Wait Ep.06
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Vyacheslav Kotyonochkin / Soyuzmultfilm, Russia / 1973

We continue the Russian Wolf and Rabbit cartoons with episode 06, "Countryside".

The premise of Nu, Pogodi! (which translates into English as Well, Just You Wait!) was pitched by a writing team of satirical humorists to many directors at Soyuzmultfilm, but was rejected every time. Finally in 1969, Gennady Sokolsky agreed to direct a 2 1/2 minute pilot for the series in an omnibus film called "Happy Merry Go Round". The general consensus at the studio was that the cartoon was "low class" and beneath the dignity of Soyuzmultfilm, but director Vyacheslav Kotyonochkin strongly believed in the concept, so the studio decided to take a chance and allow him to direct a few episodes… and then a few more… and then more.

Well Just You Wait

Kotyonochkin was proven correct. The cartoons were a huge success. Between 1969 and 2006, Soyuzmultfilm ended up making 22 episodes, and in a 2014 poll of audiences all over Russia, Well, Just You Wait! was voted the most popular cartoon series of all time by a landslide. Although the series resembles both Tom & Jerry and the Roadrunner and Coyote series, the director, Kotyonochkin claimed not to have ever seen any of these Hollywood cartoons until 1987 when his son got a video tape recorder and Western tapes began to be imported.

Well Just You Wait

In these Russian cartoons, there’s almost no dialogue, and the action usually occurs on screen, not cheated off screen. Static tableaux are rare, as are detailed backgrounds and "on model" drawings. These cartoons focus on expressive poses and movement, and save time and expense by avoiding the careful cleanup required for character model details and overlapping action. The theory here is, if it moves funny, it’s funny… and they are right about that.

Shamus Culhane once lamented that television animation consisted of mostly lip-sync animation. He would have preferred to do away with lip-sync entirely and just have simple drawings that really move. Well, Just You Wait proves that he was correct.

We will have more Wolf and Rabbit cartoons in upcoming Reference Packs.

REFPACK041: Well Just You Wait Ep. 06
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MP4 Video File / SD / 09:35 / 154 MB Download

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Animation Resources is one of the best kept secrets in the world of cartooning. Every month, we sponsor a program of interest to artists, and every other month, we share a book and up to an hour of rare animation with our members. If you are a creative person interested in the fields of animation, cartooning or illustration, you should be a member of Animation Resources!

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Posted by Stephen Worth @ 11:12 am

September 28th, 2023

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LAST CHANCE! RefPack053: A Peek At The Featured Downloads

People who aren’t members of Animation Resources don’t understand how comprehensive our Reference Packs are. Over the next couple of weeks, we will be posting what each section of our current RefPack looks like, starting today with the Featured section. If you are a member of Animation Resources, click on this post to go to the Members Only page. If you aren’t a member yet, today is the perfect time to join! Our current Reference Pack is one of our best yet, and General and Student Members get access to a special Bonus Archive with even more material from past Reference Packs.

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Reference Pack

Every other month, Animation Resources shares a new Reference Pack with its members. They consist of an e-book packed with high resolution scans and video downloads set up for still frame study. Make sure you download the Reference Pack before it’s updated. When it’s gone, it’s gone!


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REFPACK053: August / September 2023

PDF E-BOOK:
Hokusai Manga

Hokusai Manga Volume 2
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Katsushika Hokusai / 1814
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Katsushika Hokusai was arguably the greatest artist Japan ever produced. Best known for his monumental set of woodblock prints titled Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji, his career spanned more than 75 years, and in his lifetime he produced more than 30,000 paintings, sketches and woodblock prints. Japan was closed to the Western world while Hokusai was living and working, but it didn’t take long after Japan’s borders were opened to the world for his fame spread to the West. He is now regarded as one of the greatest artists in the entire history of art.

Hokusai was born in 1760, the son of a mirror maker. At the age of six he joined his father painting decorations around mirror frames. When he was twelve, his father sent him to work at a bookseller, where he was surrounded by books full of beautiful woodblock prints. This inspired him to apprentice with a woodblock carver, which eventually led him to joining the studio of Katsukawa Shunsho, a prominent artist who designed woodblock prints. He worked in Shunsho’s studio and studied under him for over a decade.

Hokusai Manga

Today we think of woodblock prints as fine art. That’s a logical expectation, since the style derived from Chinese fine art painting. But at this time in the history of Japan, woodblock prints were considered to be disposable pop culture. Known as “ukiyo-e”, which translates to "floating world", the prints depicted popular courtesans and kabuki actors, who were much like the movie stars and pop idols of our time. One series of prints even featured the prettiest waitresses at Edo restaurants. The customers for these prints were citizens of the merchant class, low ranking shopkeepers and dealers who had begun to accumulate wealth and were eager to spend it on “wine, women and song”. The term ukiyo-e started off as a joke. The phrase itself sounded like a Buddhist term meaning “the world of sorrow and grief”. But the “floating world” was actually a nickname for Edo’s red-light district, which was surrounded by canals that made it appear to be floating on water.

Ukiyo-e prints were mass produced in much the same manner… A publisher would commission an artist to create a painting. Then a skilled carver would translate that painting into hand carved printing blocks. A printer would ink the blocks and transfer the image to paper using pressure. There were specialists in each area. Usually the artist had no contact with the people carving and printing his images. However, Hokusai’s experience as a woodcarver’s apprentice gave him an edge; and throughout his career, he kept close tabs on how the prints he designed were being printed.

Hokusai’s master, Shunsho died in 1793. This prompted Hokusai to began searching for a style of his own. He ran across some Dutch and French copper engravings and began to experiment applying Western techniques and perspective to the principles he had learned from Shunsho. At this time, he also took studies at the Kano school, which was a rival to the one he belonged to. This enraged Shunsho’s main follower Shunko, who expelled Hokusai from the group of artists at the studio. Instead of discouraging Hokusai, this gave him added energy. He said of the event, "What really motivated the development of my artistic style was the embarrassment I suffered at Shunko’s hands."

Hokusai Manga

Hokusai’s subjects began to expand beyond portraits of kabuki actors and geisha. He created illustrated humor books, fantasy novels, erotic art and scenes of everyday life. With Famous Sights Of The Eastern Capital and Eight Views of Edo he explored landscape painting. Hokusai’s draftsmanship was well respected, and his fame grew exponentially over the next few years… but it didn’t go to his head. He always maintained a sense of humor about himself. At a festival he painted a huge portrait of a Buddhist monk named Daruma with brooms and buckets of paint. And at another, he painted a blue curve on a piece of paper, dipped a chicken’s feet in red paint, and had it run across the picture. He then presented the image to the presiding shogun as a landscape of the Tatsua river with red maple leaves floating in it. The unusual painting won first prize in the competition.

Hokusai’s fame attracted talented young artists, eager to study under him. He took on 50 pupils over the years. In 1812, he found himself in need of some quick money, and decided to publish an art manual called Quick Lessons In Simplified Drawing. The book was surprisingly successful, so the following year, he published the first volume of a series of sketchbooks known as Hokusai Manga. At that time, the word “manga” meant “random drawings” and that is exactly what his first volume consisted of… scenes of everyday life, animals, plants, landscapes, rendering experiments… the book contained very little text, just lots and lots of amazing drawings.

Hokusai Manga

In our internet age, it might not be obvious what the purpose of this kind of book would be. If we want reference for what an ox looks like, or how to group leaves on a bush naturally, we just type a search term into Google and we are presented with dozens of options. But in the early 19th century, reference like this was not as easy to come by. Hokusai would go out into the world and draw everything he saw in his sketchbook. He would study the way people interact and move, the anatomy of a goose, how forms overlap on hills and mountains, and the groupings of buildings in a village. These studies would be arranged into books he would refer to when designing a woodblock print that required these sorts of elements. The sketchbooks would then be shared with students as a “copy book” so they could duplicate his sketches to learn from the master by recreating the way he constructed his drawings. The first volume of Hokusai Manga, titled "Brush Gone Wild" was published in 1814 to great success. In subsequent years, he published 13 volumes in total, with his students adding two more to the set after his death.

The importance of these little sketch books can’t be overestimated. In 1831, lithographs made from the pages of Hokusai Manga were published in Germany, and in 1854 when Commodore Matthew Perry opened communication with Japan to the West, importers struggled to fill the demand for the books in European capitals. Even though there were huge cultural differences, and Japan remained a mystery to Westerners, Hokusai’s artistic importance was immediately recognized for its vitality, innovative compositions, naturalism and draftsmanship.

The volunteers of Animation Resources have taken great pains to insure that Hokusai’s genius is not undermined by poor reproduction. Hundreds of hours of careful digital restoration has gone into this e-book to create the ultimate version of Hokusai’s masterwork. If you would like us to share more volumes from this set with you, let us know.

REFPACK053: Hokusai Manga Vol. 2
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SD VIDEO:
Starevich

Two Shorts By Ladislas Starevich
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Les Yeux Du Dragon / Amour Blanc Et Noir (1932)

Ladislas Starevich created the first puppet animation film in 1912 and continued to work in the medium for half a century. He was born in Russia to Polish parents in 1882 and emigrated to France soon after World War I. Assisted by his wife, who made the costumes for the puppets, as well as his daughter and son, Starevich produced a large and varied filmography.

Starevich
Starevich

"Les Yeux Du Dragon" is an incredible film, packed with beautiful designs and lighting effects. The story, which is supposedly based on a Chinese legend, strays more towards melodrama at times, but the large exotic sets create an enveloping atmosphere for the film. There are many interesting details in the animation. The dragon breathes and there is motion blur in the scene where the villain lifts his henchmen into the air. There are many moments of clear pantomime acting as well thanks to the clever versatility of the armatures in the puppets. You’ll want to do frame captures of compositions and still frame through the animation in this one.

Starevich

"Amour Blanc Et Noir" imitates American slapstick comedies, to the point of including puppets based on Snub Pollard and Charlie Chaplin; but in so doing repeats some of the most unpleasant stereotypes of this period. If you can get past that, there’s a lot to be learned from this short. The personality of each character is sharply defined in their walks and movements, and the facial expressions are remarkably expressive. The pratfalls are well timed and played with motion blur in the fastest action, and although the sets aren’t as elaborate as in the previous short, they are functional and frame the action well. The real standout here is the character animation though. It’s some of the most nuanced acting I’ve ever seen with stop motion puppets.

Starevich
Starevich

Starevich was probably the greatest stop-motion animator who ever lived. As you watch these films, I think you’ll be struck at how lifelike the puppets are. This is partly because he sometimes made puppets from bits of real animals and insects! But the most impressive aspect of the animation is the timing. Often, stop-motion animators use snap-to-pose animation with holds to get across attitude and movement. It simplifies the timing and increases clarity. Starevich animated differently. Primary and secondary action overlap and flow, giving the figures continuous life. There are some extremely sophisticated scenes here with characters acting and reacting to each other expressively, and complicated action choreography, complete with motion blur. Starevich makes it all look easy.

REFPACK053: Les Yeux Du Dragon
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REFPACK053: Amour Blanc Et Noir
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Haven’t Joined Yet?

Check out this SAMPLE REFERENCE PACK! It will give you a taste of what Animation Resources members get to download every other month!

Sample RefPack

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Animation Resources is a 501(c)(3) non-profit arts organization dedicated to providing self study material to the worldwide animation community. Every month, we sponsor a program of interest to artists, and every other month, we share a book and up to an hour of rare animation with our members. If you are a creative person interested in the fields of animation, cartooning or illustration, you should be a member of Animation Resources!

It’s easy to join Animation Resources. Just click on this link and you can sign up right now online…


JOIN TODAY!
https://animationresources.org/membership/levels/

PayPalAnimationAnimation Resources depends on your contributions to support its projects. Even if you can’t afford to join our group right now, please click the button below to donate whatever you can afford using PayPal.


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Posted by Stephen Worth @ 11:22 am

September 25th, 2023

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Podcast Interview

Books Shows Tunes and Mad Acts

A couple of months ago, I did an interview with Jennifer Crittenden’s creative podcast "Books, Shows, Tunes and Mad Acts". (I probably fit into that last category!) Bill Aho was on board too, and it was a lot of fun and the podcast is well worth checking out. Enjoy!

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Posted by Stephen Worth @ 3:02 pm