Saturday, December 18, 2010

Betty Boop Film Class

Betty Boop's Bamboo Isle is one that I absolutely had to cover. For one, it's really funny. It has some great sight gags. I especially like the swarm of swimming islanders chasing Betty and Bimbo's boat around the hemisphere.

But what people truly remember the film for is accusations of racism, with which I don't agree, and one of the most memorably risque moments in all of Betty Boop where Betty dances topless, with naught but a lay covering her nipples. As with most Fleischer, the set-up is thin and actually a bit weird (Bimbo's just motoring around the planet playing a lute? Poorly?) and is little more than an excuse to have funny stuff happen.

I found this one in high-def!

About the argument for racism, I don't buy it. Yes. It's a horribly stereotyped portrayal of islanders, but it's a stereotype that pervades Western culture and literature, and IT'S FUNNY. Not because it's true, it's funny because of the culture that fostered the idea. The actual islanders are unfunny, our perceptions of them are funny. Fleischer wasn't making a statement about Hawaiian or Polynesian islanders being retarded savages, he was exploiting an idea that persists to this day. Look at Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. That was purposely and explicitly imitating the old Saturday serials. When making comedy, you take things that are common in culture and exaggerate or comment on them. To call this racist is to liken it to the portrayal of the Japanese in WWII-era cartoons, which is silly.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Cartoon Vixens Store

I'm going to be opening a Cartoon Vixens store to sell prints of my original work. I'll have t-shirts, posters, the usual stuff. I wish that I could sell my Betty Boop stuff, but sadly I don't have the rights.

I'm also going to start accepting commissions. If you would like to have yourself cartoon vixenized, you'll so be able to send me an inquiry at my Gmail address, amartincolby. I haven't yet figured out the price since I'm not sure how long it will take to vixenize someone. Some of my works take days or even weeks, and I'd certainly like a quicker turn-around time than that for any portraits.

You can also request specific cartoon characters in specific poses. Say you want Betty Boop, clad in armor, wielding a chainsaw, while riding a fire-breathing walrus, I'm the man to get that done. Once I get it done, I can simply send you the image, or I can prepare a high-quality print.

UPDATE: I am likely going to charge $100 for a basic Vixenizing. This means that in whatever photo you send, your exposed body will be changed over to a cartoon. For the same price, I can Vixenize your face and put it onto a body and position of your choice. I will add a simple background for no charge. If you want a more complex background, with some objects and staging, (e.g., a library, dining room, playground, etc.) the price is $200. As with the pose and character request, I can simply send you the image or ready a print. I retain the right to use the image produced in my portfolio, but I will not sell it or make high-resolution versions widely available unless allowed.

Have a Nice Day Wallpaper

This is my first wallpaper that's available on products. It's of a gun-toting, big-breasted "pin-up." There's definitely a lot more cartoon, here, than vixen, but that's cool. I like it a lot and am very happy with the way it turned out.

4:3 ratio
From Cartoon Vixens Wallpapers

Check out Have A Nice Day Girl at the Cartoon Vixens Store.

16:10 ratio
From Cartoon Vixens Wallpapers

Friday, December 10, 2010

John Carter of Mars

John Carter of Mars is still a good 18 months away, but I figured now is as good a time as any to show the cartoon version of John Carter that never saw production. It was to be made by Bob Clampett back in the 1940's, but after test audiences saw this footage, the idea was canned as being too "out there" for the mid-west audience of retards.

Here's a shock, the same year that this project was canceled and Clampett moved on to other things, Universal Studios released Flash Gordon, which was a runaway hit and now a cultural touchstone. Even those poor mid-Western retards got it. You hear this a lot, in business in general but especially in early film. Some studio thinks that something is a terrible idea and tells the guys within the studio to stop working on it, until another studio does the exact same thing to great fame and success. The first studio than either eats it, or they desperately ask those same guys to do what they originally wanted to do, but impatiently ask for it on a reduced budget and schedule and it all fails.

We can now add Clampett to Fleischer in the list of guys who would have beaten Disney to the first feature-length animated film if only the studios for which they worked hadn't been daft.

P.S. both John Carter and Flash Gordon have vixens in them that I plan on producing one of. Deja Thoris and Dale Arden.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

An Original

I've uploaded wallpapers of some of my first really original work. While much of my previous stuff has either been of other properties or heavily inspired by other properties, the general characteristics of this truly feel like mine.

This is not pin-up, nor is it really a vixen. It's a female figure, but highly distorted. I've boiled the construct down to pure form, and then exaggerated or wholesale deleted features. In a sense, that's what cartoons are, so maybe that explains why I find this so appealing. I love cartoons.

Most of my original work exists only in sketches, but with this first successful transfer to vectors, I hope to get ever more of it out there. Oh, and don't think I've given up on pin-ups, cartoons, or third party works. I've got many Betty Boops, Jessica Rabbits, and others in the pipeline.

Thin Woman Kneeling

4:3 ratio
From Cartoon Vixens Wallpapers

16:10 ratio
From Cartoon Vixens Wallpapers

Betty Boop Film Class

Betty Boop M.D. is rather par for the course by Fleischer standards. I just want to touch on most of Betty's episodes if they have even a small amount of worthwhile material.

I said that M.D. is standard fare in the sense that Fleischer's cartoons are complete chaos. The world is literally alive, which is something that neither Disney nor Warner Bros. would experiment with for decades. Disney sort of set the tone for cartoons going forward with a well-defined narrative, events, backgrounds, and characters. Fleischer obviously rejected that concept. He rejected narratives in favor of fun... stuff, and preferred to have a world that was alive with motion. Look at the first shot, you don't simply see a vehicle driving down the road, you see a vehicle driving down the road while the road, composed of water-like waves, lift and drop the car, all the while the car is dancing to the beat of whatever Fleischer was drumming. I think that if Fleischer could have afforded it or found the time, everything on the frame would be moving at all times.

Again, like Bizzy Bee, the staging is essentially an excuse to have weird stuff happen. We have about two minutes of weird stuff, one of dialog, and then the picture abandons narrative in favor of three and a half minutes of scat singing, weird imagery, and end credits.

A few interesting points: Fleischer still spent little time on lip-syncing, only doing it when absolutely necessary, with Betty. I also find it interesting how the concept of the traveling snake-oil salesman used to be so universal. Much like the junk collector from Any Rags, this used to be a cultural touchstone. It isn't just Betty that this theme appears. It was in westerns, cartoons from other studios, and even early TV, although by the age of TV this was replaced by the door-to-door salesman. Perhaps it was made more viable as people moved into cities and suburbs in increasing numbers after the war, thus negating the need for carts and stages to sell. Finally, the baby at the very end turns into Mr. Hyde from the 1931 version of the film. This film was very famous, partially for being risque by the day's standards, and would have still been in wide circulation by the time that M.D. was released almost a year later.

Thursday, December 2, 2010


I just lost five hours worth of work. I'm so pissed at Adobe Fireworks. Fucking Adobe had to go and buy Macromedia and, big surprise, they're putting almost nothing into the development of the old Macromedia tools. They either outright dropped them, like Freehand, or they just stopped giving a shit, like my precious Fireworks.

I loved Fireworks. For web development it was the absolute shiznit. Adobe is so fucking desperate to differentiate Illustrator and Photoshop that tools that BOTH OF THEM SHOULD HAVE, only one of them does. Fireworks didn't have any of that garbage. Vector and bitmap editing in a single package, check!

Gah! But today, I lost five hours worth of work because glitches that have been in the last three versions of Fireworks are still there, working their magic. I'd be really pissed if I hadn't pirated this version. When it happened in the versions I actually bought, I was really pissed. So now, I'm forced to use Illustrator and Photoshop. I hate both of them, especially Photoshop. Bloated piece of crap.

Maybe I'll try Corel. Actually, yeah! What the hell has Corel been up to, these days? The last thing I remember from them is Corel Photo Paint 5 from, like, 1994.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Two Very Short Reviews

I'm reviewing Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs and How to Train Your Dragon together. I'll explain this later. First, the movies.

I liked them both a great deal, and Meatballs has actually become one of my favorite CGI films. Meatballs is an immensely energetic film, filled to bursting with color, life, comedy, and a few points of genuine pathos.

The film managed to keep energy levels at a near-frantic state for the entirety of the film, with small lulls just preventing us from being overloaded. The characters are all a bit two-dimensional, but being simple is not the same thing as simplistic. The character design is actually different from Pixar, which is nice. And by different, I don't mean grossly inferior, like Hoodwinked. The animation is also lively and well-done. The characters all have different personalities based on their animation, and not just how they look.

Flint Lockwood, the manic inventor, is made out of rubber. His father, a down-to-Earth sort of guy is rigid and block-like. Steve the monkey moves in spastic spurts. It's all very well done. While on the subject of that monkey, he is both the default cute side-kick that cartoons need, but he is also integral to the story when the father and son have a closing conversation. Oh, and how fantastic is it that Steve is voiced by Doogie Howser?

Moving on to How to Train Your Dragon, this is a much more traditional story. It's more suited to a slightly older demographic. That's not to say that Meatballs won't entertain people of all ages, only that its energy and color means that even the very young will love it. Dragon might bore the the tiny childers.

The character design, the constructs, the animation, everything is much more rigid, here. This has generally been the rule in Dreamwork's ouvre. Going all the way back to Antz and Shrek, Dreamworks has chosen to use very rigid character models with a minimum of flex. This has presented problems in the past, where character is not communicated in motion, only in design and voice. And when the voice and character design are bland, like in Madagascar and Shark Tale, the film suffers.

Dreamworks animators have made great strides in extracting character from rigid designs, and they do a good job, here. The characters are all decently three-dimensional, even though many of them are only as deep as their position in the script requires.

The script is perfectly paced and moves along with the lean effectiveness that we expect from a 90-minute CGI film. It has some nice themes of understanding that give the story a sense of depth. The action scenes have great energy, the dialog is snappy, and the whole endeavor is very entertaining. It all culminates in an eye-popping final battle that, in the theater, was truly a site to behold.

Now on to why I'm reviewing them together. For some reason, CGI films, moreso than traditioally animated ones, seem to work in thematic waves. Considering the development times required for these films, I'm pretty confident that copying is not happening, but SOMETHING is. It's just too much to be coincidence.

For example, The first CGI film from Dreamworks, Antz, came out six weeks before A Bug's Life. Then Monsters Inc. came out with Shrek. Finding Nemo was followed by Shark Tale a year later. Madagascar, Open Season, and The Wild (and even Flushed Away to a degree). Hoodwinked and Happily N'Ever After. Megamind and Despicable Me. Delgo and Battle For Terra, and a little bit of Planet 51, Wall-E, and 9). All of them have similar themes, if not characters, settings, and stories.

This and Meatballs are the same thing. Both stories are about a misunderstood young man, who has great potential, has problems relating to his father, meets a girl who's his equal but different, screws things up, saves the day in an epic battle with a giant thing, saves everyone and wins the girl. That short synopsis applies identically to both films. WTF? What is it? Some outside variable? Studies about what would do well in today's market? Some script gets passed around and everyone steals it? What?!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Out of the Asshole: Max Fleischer and Inaccuracies in His Wikipedia Page

I'm reading Out of the Inkwell: Max Fleischer and the Animation Revolution. It's a book by Fleischer's son, Richard, an accomplished director himself (Red Sonja!), about nothing more than his memories and what details he was able to dig up from his father's paperwork.

It's a somewhat dry and straightforward book, which is both a plus and a minus. I would have actually liked more texture and detail to the events, but even then, the book gets its point across.

What surprised me were the extreme differences between this book at Max Fleischer's Wikipedia page. The Wiki page claims to list this book as a reference, but I'm not sure what part they referenced. The dustcover?

Most interestingly is that the story of Fleischer gives me new appreciation for Walt Disney. Disney was an asshole. He was actually a bit legendary for it. The differences lie in your interpretation of that behavior. Some people saw this as a man demanding the best, and when you produced the best, you were rewarded. Others saw it as a temperamental child ordering about people of greater skill than himself.

I lean towards the former, less assholey interpretation of Disney, and Fleischer's failure at the hands of Paramount reinforces that. As everyone knows, Hollywood in the early days may as well have been run by the mob. You could fill a book, and people have, with examples of studios' atrocious behavior. They ran a huge racket, as it were. They controlled the movie production and they also controlled all of the theaters. You could only get your movie shown if you made it through them, and they would only give your theater movies if you signed a contract to only ever take movies from them. This was known as the studio system and the reason for the formation of United Artists.

Disney knew that he had to be an asshole to survive. He had to shoot that motherfucker before that motherfucker shot him, and in Hollywood, everyone was armed. I have a feeling that Disney's opinion on this was formed when Universal did exactly what paramount would do to Fleischer to Disney in 1928 with Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. Basically, Disney was happy with the success of Oswald and asked for an increase in pay and budget. Universal responded by demanding a 20% pay cut and reminded Walt that they owned him. This is world-class shit and it happened all of the time. Around the same time, Paramount was caught off-guard with the runaway success of Fleischer's Talkartoons series and were upset that the contract they had was giving Fleischer an "unfair" cut of the profits. Whereas Disney became hardened, poor Fleischer was too naive; he gave Paramount more money.

From the Oswald Rabbit Wikipedia page-
"In spring 1928, with the series going strong, Disney asked Mintz for an increase in the budget. But Mintz instead demanded that Walt take a 20 percent budget cut, and as leverage, he reminded Disney that Mintz owned the character, and revealed that he had already signed most of Disney's current employees to his new contract: Iwerks and Les Clark were among the few who remained loyal to Walt. Disney refused Mintz's demand, disassociating himself from Oswald after the series first season. While finishing the remaining Oswald cartoons, Disney, Iwerks and Clark created the cartoon hero who would become The Walt Disney Company's lasting symbol: Mickey Mouse, (a slightly altered Oswald the Rabbit to avoid litigation) the most famous of Walt Disney's characters."

Why did this happen? Because the studios were run by suits-and-ties. Men who have NO TALENT WHAT-SO-FUCKING-EVER, and I think that they know it. They HATE people with talent. They surround themselves with yes-men and assume "oh, actual creation is easy. We'll just hire some animators and everything will be fine. The heavy lifting that I DO, now that's difficult work!" Pieces of shit. This isn't just Hollywood, this is all business. This disconnect between people of actual talent and the talentless pieces of shit that run companies runs rampant in industry. Look at the American automotive companies. Rick Wagoner is a moron. Look at the tech industry. Look at what happened to Apple when everyone who actually knew how to do shit left the company in the late 80's. Look at how IBM nearly collapsed under its own red tape.

Look at John Lassater's story about being fired from Disney Corp. DISNEY!!! You'd think that Disney would be more aware of its own corporate history. Ohhhh, right. I forgot. People who run companies don't actually know things.

Disney got hurt very early on. Fleischer didn't get fucked over until decades after his career had started. The Wikipedia page is wrong. If Richard Fleischer's account is to be believed, Fleischer had nothing to do with the failure of his company. It was engineered disaster from Paramount. They sound like they were jealous, they were thieving, they were terrible, horrible, horrendous human beings. We should exhume all of their bodies and burn them in effigy. I'm glad that they were all alive to see the studio system get taken down by the courts.

It's funny. The defining difference between Disney and Fleischer might have been that Disney got screwed early-on, where Fleischer only met mechanical set-backs not associated with backstabbing and other such nasty business. If Fleischer had been screwed similarly early in his career and not Disney, we might be riding giant Betty Boops at Fleischerland.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Animation Documentary

The Thief Archive, the YouTube project to try and keep The Thief and the Cobbler alive, has uploaded a documentary done by the wife of Richard Williams, Imogen Sutton, on pioneering animator Art Babbit (read an interview here). She took full advantage of her access to the production of Thief, and uses it as an introduction into the life and work of one of Williams' lead animators. It's a great overview of animation history as seen through the lens of one guy's life. I especially like the insight into Goofy, which is, both technically and for sheer entertainment value, Disney's best character.

And just for a bonus, here's a behind the scenes for Roger Rabbit that aired in CBS back in the 80's.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Importance of Animation

I'm watching Shrek on Cartoon Network, and aside from the editing of Shrek calling Donkey a jack-ass pissing me off, I was surprised by how poorly the animating has aged. I remember a documentary about the production, where an animator talked about how everything they were using was cutting edge. He chuckled as admitting that it would all be totally out-of-date before the movie even released.

Comparing this to the documentary on Pixar where in the early days of the company, they were desperate to find a real animator to bring life to all of their math. That's how they hooked up with John Lasseter. The amazing way that the animation of Toy Story 2 and A Bug's Life has aged, even as ever-greater advances in technology have rendered (pun not intended) the old technology nearly antediluvian, is hugely impressive. It shows how the fundamentals of animation hold up and remain contemporary regardless of when they're done.

For a direct comparison, look at the animation of Monsters Inc. and Shrek. They both came out in 2001 and likely had similar development cycles. I've posted a clip of Monsters Inc., which won't likely be up for much longer, and the trailer for Shrek. Just look at how much more flexible the Pixar characters are. Look at how much more fluid the movements are. The differences are stark.

By Shrek 2, the Dreakworks guys had either hired better animators or gotten the hang of squeezing character out of their more rigid model designs.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Another Jessica Rabbit Wallpaper

Here's another permutation of my first Jessica Rabbit. It's not really feasible to post everything that I could, so if you have any requests, feel free to comment.

4:3 ratio
From Cartoon Vixens Wallpapers

16:10 ratio
From Cartoon Vixens Wallpapers

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Jessica Rabbit Wallpaper 2

I worked up a logo for Jessica Rabbit based on the Roger Rabbit logo.

4:3 ratio
From Cartoon Vixens Wallpapers

16:10 ratio
From Cartoon Vixens Wallpapers

Betty Boop Film Class 11

This will be a very short class, I'm only posting this because it so perfectly embodies Fleischer's early philosophy of cartoon production. It was something that was both brilliant, and his ultimate downfall.

This cartoon makes NO sense. There's essentially no plot. It's just Betty and company put into an environment, wacky shit takes place, and it's over. No narrative. No script. Basically no dialog. It is cartoon entertainment brought to its most basic. Unfortunately, unlike Disney, Fleischer was never able to leave this paradigm behind and move towards a more refined concept of animation. Now, with hindsight and 100 years of animation development, we can see that both ideas are legitimate. Hell, Fleischer's paradigm is what damn-near all television cartoons follow (Hello, Spongebob). But at the time, Disney is what pushed the evolution of animation while Fleischer stagnated. And in a nascent industry, the company that evolves is the company that dominates.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

High Resolution Jessica Rabbit

Here is the image of Jessica that I made for the wallpapers. This is a very high-res version of her and should be sufficient for whatever you might want to use the image. It's very important to make sure that you download the image from the gallery and not the image link that takes you to the image alone. Click on the "belongs to" link to the right and then select it from the full gallery. It's the only way Picasa allows you to download the full-resolution file.

From Cartoon Vixens Wallpapers

First Jessica Rabbit Wallpaper!

Yay! Jessica is done! And with cold weather ahead of me, I'll have plenty of time inside to work on even more! I've formatted her first as a standard Windows, right-aligned desktop wallpaper. I'll create a few more with this image and I'll also upload a very high-resolution image of her for your own use.

4:3 ratio
From Cartoon Vixens Wallpapers

16:10 ratio
From Cartoon Vixens Wallpapers

Monday, November 1, 2010

Nearing Completion of First Jessica Rabbit

I'm almost done with my first Jessica Rabbit. It's looking really great. It took much longer than I anticipated and the complexity caused me to lose interest on a number of occasions. I'm maybe two days away from finally putting out something that isn't just a silhouette. I'd give you a preview, but I'm so nearly done it would be pointless. I ended up scrapping most of my earlier work in favor of a less-complex layout.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Cars 2 Teaser Trailer

I liked Cars well enough. I certainly don't dislike any Pixar films, but it was my least favorite. Compared to the multifaceted dimensions of other Pixar films, especially the three-film long meditation on love, loss, and the inevitability of age that is Toy Story, Cars' simple "slow down and smell the roses" theme just seemed childish. They could have added layers, such as contemplations on achievement, or the meaning of life, or acceptance by others as much as yourself.

I knew a sequel was in order for two reasons. One, John Lasseter is a consummate artist and creator, and considering the praise lavished upon him for A Bug's Life and the first two Toy Story films, I knew he wouldn't let the criticism of Cars go unanswered. Two, Disney would never let Cars go without a sequel. Cars is far and away the #1 merchandise-generating Pixar film. Finding Nemo is a distant second. And if Disney has proven anything in its time it's that if people are willing to buy crap made in China with Simba's face on it, Disney will make so much of it that you will begin to fucking hate Simba's shitty little face.

And so, I have hope. John Lasseter's, and truly Pixar's, fountain of creativity seems to have no end, and he's almost certainly been grinding this one through for some time. I feel confident in saying that Cars 2 will be better than Cars.

Beauty And The Beast In Peanut Sauce

Apparently Thailand is famous for directly and blatantly ripping off the productions of other countries. Copyright laws be damned! The studio behind this masterpiece is so notorious that it gets panned even in its home country. Kinda' like those animated Bible DVD's you can buy in the Wal-Mart checkout for $1.

Sunday, August 22, 2010


You'll notice that I haven't spent much time updating, recently, and there's actually a really good reason for that: it's too damned hot.

The room that has my workstation isn't air conditioned. I'm not worried about overheating my computer, mind you, I'm worried about the river of sweat that starts at my neck and flows like the mighty Mississip down to my butt crack. So, to avoid looking like the foil in a deodorant commercial, I spend most of my time downstairs in the air conditioning on my laptop. My laptop is a super-portable with naught but a 13" screen; not exactly an epic amount of screen real estate on which to get graphical work done.

Hopefully, with summer nearing an end, I'll be able to spend more time upstairs grinding out lovely images of cartoon breasts. Because, seriously, what else is there?

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Of Figures

Since I began my work on cartoon figures in earnest about a year ago, I've become well acquainted with the lines that make up the human form. Cartoons, especially some of the more simplistic ones, are essentially distillations of the human form down to a set of gross lines. This sort of perspective gives you an interesting take on people, and it also helps me to understand the world of fashion and the uncanny valley that they seem to have hit.

Put briefly, the uncanny valley is the "region" on a curve representing the realism of a human form. On one extreme is a simple sphere, and on the other extreme is a perfect photograph of a person. How realistic the image appears climbs as you move away from the simple sphere, by adding eyes, a mouth, and ever-more details.

Oddly, though, once you hit a certain amount of details, the realism breaks down and the human eyes ability to "see" it as a person plunges. This is why full CGI human faces are a sort of Holy Grail for movies, and why Benjamin Button was such a breakthrough.

I think that the crossover happens when the brain switches from interpolation to sensory-acceptance. What I mean by that is when the brain stops filling in gaps with its pattern recognition "software" and instead accepts what's coming in via the eyes without alteration. We're incredibly good at finding patterns, even faces, so things that are roughly human have just enough detail to trigger our brain's pattern searching mechanism, which happily fills in the blanks. With this, we can see things in clouds, make abstract art, and even see Mary in a cheese sandwich. But after enough details are found, the brain stops filling the gaps and hands it over to the holistic processing part of the brain, that gels all of the perceived details into a whole figure for storage in memory. People who are unable to see the gestalt of the human face are suffering from what's called Prosopagnosia, or face-blindness. I assume that these people would be unable to experience the uncanny valley.

In the same way that creating ersatz human forms is a bottom-up approach, it makes sense that we can also take a top-down perspective, where we start with entirely realistic photographs and then push them down into the uncanny valley on a search to exaggerate positive characteristics.

Advertisers have always used airbrushing and illustrations to create idealized forms. But back then, our ability to manipulate photographs was limited, and illustrations were created by hand, which meant that if one characteristic was pushed too far, the artist could easily compensate. But with an illustration, 100% of the output was from the human perspective. With a photograph, 100% is already there and the artist is instead trying to draw out exaggerations.

Since I spend all of my time working with very broad lines, I know exactly what they're doing when they totally screw up images of women. They're attempting to use the same lines that work so well in cartoons but fail miserably when applied to pictures. In a cartoon, you can extend or squash lines all you want and the form can remain consistent, as long as you manipulate the rest of the form accordingly. They've been moving towards this for some time. Making legs longer, waists thinner, lips plumper, etc. Only recently, I think, have they effectively hit the limits of what they're able to do. The watershed moment came with the infamous Ralph Lauren photo.

I'm sure that you've seen it at least once. It hit every major news site and has been a source of constant discussion for the last eight months. The model's figure is so grotesquely malformed that she has entered the uncanny valley. She no longer looks human. But the principles of the image manipulation are identical to earlier efforts, and her form's lines are similar to many cartoons. In fact, if we remove the details and break her down to nothing more than a silhouette, it begins looking alright again.

We have another example of photoshopping gone awry with Ann Taylor, who received their fair share of flak for some editing awhile back.

Again, look at what they've done. They're tried to reduce a complex human figure down to gross lines. They removed detail and exaggerated other details. They've pushed the figure towards the uncanny valley. It's not all the way there, but the website's little screw-up that reveals the original photos illustrates how even mild, unskilled rejiggering makes the figure appear off. All of this because they're trying to reduce real women down to cartoon-like lines.

What the industry may find is that, going forward, they will either have to accept that this is as far as they can go with manipulation of the female form, or they might want to start hiring cartoon character designers and animators to take over Photoshop duty, because, man, this shit is just getting weird.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

A Very Short Despicable Me Review

Despicable Me wasn't as good as I was hoping. The early trailers, especially the usage of the Hitchcock-like silhouette, made me expect a quirky, more adult CGI film, perhaps along the lines of the first Shrek. Instead, it's a very straightforward, childish film. As many of the best child-oriented films illustrate, though, that's not necessarily a bad thing, and it certainly isn't with Dee-Me. It's loaded with good slapstick, generally good voice-overs, and great character design. The story was very slight, and lacked drama, which I actually blame on poor story blocking. A solid 10-15 minutes of the early film was unnecessary and would have been well-served with simply jumping into the action and letting the characters reveal themselves throughout the rest of the film. This would have allowed them to better explore the rivalry between Gru and Vector, which makes up a very small aspect of the film, considering that the trailers made it seem like it was going to be a primary point.

About those trailers, I'm assuming that the direction of the film was changing wildly as production went on considering that each trailer presented an entirely different picture of the film. The first trailer made it seem like Gru stole the Pyramid (he doesn't), the second made it seem like Gru was trying to recapture his crown as #1 supervillain (which he's not), and only in the third trailer do they finally introduce the children and the painfully merchandiseable "minions," that comprise the biggest chunk of the film.

Oh, and, is it a requisite that all 3D films have a roller coaster scene? Seriously?

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Betty Boop Wallpaper

I noticed that the Betty I have in my logo is my runaway first place in views, with over 100,000 from my various hosts. I figured a wallpaper was overdue. I had a lot more fun with shadow to bring some serious depth to the images. It moves ever further away from the original, but I'm feeling safer doing that as time goes by.

Here are the two color schemes.

White 4:3 ratio.
From Cartoon Vixens Wallpapers

White 16:10 ratio.
From Cartoon Vixens Wallpapers

Black 4:3 ratio.
From Cartoon Vixens Wallpapers

Black 16:10 ratio.
From Cartoon Vixens Wallpapers

Sunday, June 20, 2010

A Very Short Toy Story 3 Review

Toy Story 3 isn't as good as the first two. It is more poignant than the first one though, and generally more emotional than the second, but as a work of craft, it falls behind. It's not as good because Lee Unkrich doesn't appear to be as good a director as John Lasseter, who directed the first two Toy Story films. In the same way that I found Up to be inferior to Wall-E or The Incredibles, the balance required to wedge lots of story into the comparatively short 90-minute "kid block" was slightly beyond him. Whereas Toy Story 1 and 2 had one primary journey and a great deal of exposition and character exploration at the key points, Toy Story 3 is much more rambling. They spend the entire movie running from place to place. I found it less focused and a less disciplined example of story blocking. This is, generally, unimportant. Taken as a whole, the movie is powerful, funny, sad, and above all, joyously entertaining.

The short before Toy Story is called Day & Night, which is Pixar's strongest short since For the Birds. It is an artistic take on a hand-drawn character awaking and representing day time. He meets another character who is asleep and represents night time. The two then begin a short adventure as they discover the joys and differences between night and day. Visually, it's just fantastic. And much like music videos, that's what makes shorts so cool. You don't need story coherency. It can be jumbled nonsense thrown on the screen for no other reason than visual wonder. This short is not jumbled nonsense, but it does take all the freedom allowed by a short and puts it to good use in the construction of something coherent and beautiful.

It reminded me a great deal of Chuck Jones' adventurous work in the late 50's and early 60's, like his now legendary Duck Amuck, but especially his hilarious (and personal favorite) Now Hear This:

Friday, May 28, 2010

No Good Girls in Cartoons

Considering that the years just keep going by, and cartoons remain distinctly male dominated, I'm beginning to get depressed. You'd think that in the brave new world of CGI films, we'd see at least a few more female protagonists. Or, even better, ANY female that isn't the "sassy" type that drives me up a fucking wall. It's like cartoons with "'tude." Don't know what 'tude is?
This is 'tude. It's this pestilence of bad-assery that has infected cartoons. Catering to boys? Your cartoon better be oozing with 'tude to even stand a chance with the network executives. Your cartoon also better star some confident, yet otherwise strange male, with the standard arrangement of sassy girls and token minorities. Or in my example, have your only two minorities also be girls. Kill two birds with one cliched stone. (On a further note, I love how the fat one is never a girl.)

Even Pixar, with whom I'm practically involved, has never had a female protagonist. It's a fucking boys club. The closest they've ever gotten is The Incredibles. Even there, though, Elastigirl? Yeah. She's still sassy.

That's not to take anything away from Pixar's films. I love every single one of them (except for Cars) and have watched them all over a dozen times. But it should serve as a point of serious consideration for all those in and entering in to the entertainment world. Where are the girls?!

I understand that cartoons skew male. They always have and they still do. But I don't think we've ever sufficiently experimented with girl-oriented cartoons that aren't also terribly sexist in some way. It still seems like a valid hypothesis to say that girls don't like cartoons because cartoons have never been theirs. What bones to they getthrown? Jem (which became more popular with boys), Rainbow Brite, Kim Possible, and... what else? Not much. Now try and make a list of popular boy-oriented cartoons that's under twenty shows long. Just try it.

The vast majority of the cartoons have a male at the center. Strong secondary female characters be damned. The male is front and center in ever group shot. He's on all the posters. He's given the most screen time. Even children's shows are ridiculous!

Make a list of young children's shows that have a female at the center. I can think of very few. The juggernaut, Dora the Explorer, Allegra's Window, and Eureeka's Castle stick most prominently in my mind. And even Dora birthed Go, Diego, Go! Gotta' get that boy in there somehow. Other's include the likes of Miss Spider's Sunny Patch Kids, which is very much an ensemble cast with her husband spider always nearby. Maggie and the Ferocious Beast is also quite good.

Still, most of these are quite new. New as in less than three years old. I also imagine that I could pretty easily dissect these cartoons and find stereotypes being reinforced. Regardless, back to films. The thing that set me off was looking at the lineup of CGI cartoons coming out. How to Train Your Dragon? Boy. Hell, I went to the list of all CGI films ever, here, and counted the films that featured females. I counted three, four if you throw in Home on the Range, If you go yourself, you'll find such gems as Appleseed, Final Fantasy, and Kaena. I just noticed that all of the films are foreign. I'm sure that says something. The fact that all three films were also ungodly bad also likely says something.

Whatever. I've made my point. My rant is done. We need more women in entertainment and we need it yesterday. Movies, television, and cartoons are in a decade-long death spiral that shows no signs of letting up. We need fresh blood and a fresh perspective.

Thursday, April 29, 2010


If you've ever wondered what a film noir would be like if it starred cartoon cats, you can find out now. Felidae was a German production and was, or so Wikipedia tells me, the most expensive cartoon produced in Germany to that date. I find it so enticing because it's really a great story. A lot of time that could have been used to build better dramatic tension was missing, but I understand budget limitations associated with animated films. The only thing that I don't like is how so little was done with the femme fatale. One of the key tropes of noir is the morally ambiguous woman, and she was given very little time in Felidae. Otherwise, it's your standard 90-minute block and well worth a watch.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

View My Older Post.

Because of the retarded way that Blogger handles posts, something I finished today is listed as though I wrote it, like, three weeks ago. So, go to it. It's great. You'll laugh. You'll cry. You'll stop.

The History of the Pin-Up

Saturday, April 24, 2010

WATCH THIS: Horus- Prince of the Sun *UPDATE*

One of Hayao Miyazaki's earliest works (he was a "scene designer," an apparently made-up position used to give him credit for an inordinate amount of influence), Horus: Prince of the Sun is a wonderfully simple fable of a young man/boy (boyman... manchild?) fighting a demon.

Remember, this movie was from 1968, and Japanese animation was not the juggernaut that it is today. Quality was usually very poor, and storylines, far from the adult-oriented works of today, were aimed primarily at children. The animation work in Horus, while not up to Disney-snuff, is still very solid, expressive, and honestly, better than most of the stuff being made in Japan today.

At times, the movie is hilariously Japanese (really? We're going to break into song again?) and the trope of a demure female who has a magical voice is in full force (I'd love to see her in a cage match against the two midget babes that summon Mothra).

Still, the character of Hilda is much more interesting than many females in Japanese movies, and serves as a sort of preview to the powerful women that will populate Miyazaki's work over the next four decades. She's most like Sheeta, from Castle in the Sky, in that she's magical, quiet, and frankly, a little bit useless. Horus is also very much like Pazu (or Paizu as the American version sounds) in that he's incredibly capable, adult in almost every way but appearance, and wholly dedicated to protecting Hilda.

Set aside 90 minutes and enjoy some of the best early anime I've ever seen.

If you're watching on a big screen, which is best, make sure to select 480p on the parts that allow it.

UPDATE 6/16/2010:

Are you fucking kidding me?! Taken down because of a copyright claim. It's a 42-year-old cartoon that NO ONE except me and, like, three other people give a shit about. Go fuck yourselves, TOEI.

I've re-posted another upload of the film. If it gets taken down again, I'll track down another copy and post it. If it's not available still, go download Vuze, hit up, and download it yourself. Then you'll have the whole thing in high quality and TOEI will have lost ANY chance of making money. Brilliant business strategy.

UPDATE 8/29/2010: AGAIN... TOEI has had the Youtube videos taken down. The NANOSECOND that they are available again I will post them. I am so fucking pissed.

For now, the video is available on Hulu, which I'm embedding, but its dubbed, adequately, and the video is somehow of lower quality than the Youtube copy. It gets the job done, but the original Japanese sounds betters. And for some reason is called "Little Norse Prince Valiant," which doesn't actually make sense.

I said it before and I'll say it again, TOEI can go fuck itself.

UPDATE 11/28/2010: Got it.

Here's the HULU copy in English dubbing.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Betty Boop Film Class Part 10

It's been awhile since my last Betty Boop Film Class, but you can look at the gap as representing Betty's big move. Today's selection, Stopping The Show, is the first cartoon to be credited as a Betty Boop cartoon. No more second billing. No more Talkartoons. This puppy is 100%, gen-yoo-wine Betty Boop.

Granted, 100% Betty of course means that we don't even see her until nearly halfway through the cartoon. I think that even at this late stage, the success of Betty was something of a surprise to Fleischer and his crew. They might have gone back and adapted some of their working scripts to include Betty, raised her profile, or simply left the scripts untouched. For example, Jack & The Beanstalk was less than a year before this cartoon, "starred" Betty, but actually featured the old Bimbo design.

First things first, the opening credits. Notice how they seem to rotate down in 3D space to face the audience. Ub Iwerks is credited with the creation of the modern multi-plane camera, which would become immensely influential in animation, but I actually think that Fleischer was more edgy and inventive. He would manipulate his animation in any way necessary to get something unique. While Iwerks and Disney were more interested in refining animation, Fleischer wanted to bend reality and animation together. Both endeavors are of great importance to animation history, but Fleischer gets overlooked.

So, we finally get a look at Betty at about 3:35, and some of Fleischer's priorities are pretty obvious. He never got very good at lip-syncing, likely because he saw it as unimportant. He wanted to grind out wild, visually impressive works that captivated the eye more so than the brain or ear. Just look at how well Betty's voice is synced, during the vaudeville-like part, in comparison to EVERY other voice in the film. Animating to voice is difficult, and it's obvious that Fleischer just didn't want to take the time except when it was absolutely necessary.

This is actually a pretty unimpressive film. Whereas other cartoons had singing set to something stimulating, Betty does pretty much nothing on screen. She just stands there. Truly, this episode wouldn't even be much worth mentioning if it wasn't Betty's first headlining film.

For those who are interested, Fannie Brice was a comedian of great fame back in the 20's, 30's, and 40's. She earned her comic bona fides in the famous Ziegfeld Follies, and developed a variety of characters and mannerisms that were well-known to a 1932 audience. The only woman today who fits the bill is Ellen, but I think other comedians who have a very specific on-stage persona would fit the bill.

Maurice Chevalier was another performer who rose to fame in the theater, and I think it's no surprise that Fleischer chose two vaudeville performers to mention in his cartoons. He came from Vaudeville and most of his work's aesthetic is rooted in vaudeville.

And, finally, while it might just be coincidence, but the ending of, and the general staging of, the entire film could be a grand introduction of sorts for Betty. It's her first film, she's headlining the show within the film, and the episode ends with the audience screaming for more, causing her to come out on stage and thank everyone for wanting her so badly. It makes we wonder if this was a message from Fleischer to his real-life audience. "Thanks so much for loving what I've made. There's more to come."

Thursday, April 8, 2010

History of Pin-Ups

I love pin-up art. I love the character in it. I love the affectionate yet sexual portrayal of women in it. At its worst, it's rote pornography. But at its best, it's some of the greatest art in American history. Either extreme and everything in between is worthy of discussion, especially here... where I'm just trying to fill up space. For even the pornographic work has had, for better or worse, a measurable effect on American culture and sex ideas. Pin-ups adorn bedroom walls, fill magazines, and sell products. They both liberate women and trap them in a prison of preconceived notions and illogical ideals. From that perspective, I think it's an entirely tenable argument that pin-up work is greater work than the likes of Picasso, Rockwell, or other such "legitimate" artists.

ImagineFX, a British art magazine, has a long work-up of Pin-Up art and their history. They conducted a phone interview with Louis K. Meisel, who expresses the same dislike for much of modern pin-up work as me (and hopefully you). Considering that this guy knows enough about pin-ups to write a massive book on the subject, that his opinions frequently match up with mine makes me feel... right. Which is great, because I'm arrogant and self-centered, so being wrong really hurts.

They have interviews with all of the major players in modern pin-up, including Sorayama, De Berardinis, and Hildebrandt. It's a great discussion that I wish would appear in a larger publication, like the NY Times. The article discusses, however briefly, the fact that pin-up art is at once wonderfully artistic, but also a purely American style, and yet is ignored my mainstream art. Elvgren and Norman Rockwell were even close friends. And yet Rockwell is now famous, with his art selling for small fortunes, while Elvgren, a man of equal talent, festers in semi-obscurity.

I guess I should just let the article speak for itself. I took photos of the pages while at Barnes & Noble. If you live in Britain, you should definitely go pick up a copy. If you live in the US, where the magazine costs more than most books, go read it at the book store. I tried with my photos, and you can certainly read it, but the magnificence of some of the graphical spreads is lost.

From Cartoon Vixens

From Cartoon Vixens

From Cartoon Vixens

From Cartoon Vixens

From Cartoon Vixens

From Cartoon Vixens

From Cartoon Vixens

From Cartoon Vixens

From Cartoon Vixens

From Cartoon Vixens

From Cartoon Vixens

From Cartoon Vixens

From Cartoon Vixens

From Cartoon Vixens

From Cartoon Vixens

Sunday, March 28, 2010

How to Train Your Dragon is Good?

Dreamworks has a tendency to do this. They make a CGI movie and release a trailer for it. The trailer is terrible. The movie ends up being a laugh riot. They really have to fire their trailer guys.

The first move that did this was Over The Hedge. The movie that had just preceded it was Shark Tale, which had a good trailer, and which was also bad. Tragically un-funny at times. So if that one had a good trailer and was bad, Over the Hedge has a bad trailer, so it must be ghastly.

But no! It wasn't! Over the Hedge was actually really funny! Madagascar's trailer made it look hilarious; it wasn't. Flushed Away had a bad trailer, and was good. The trailers for Bee Movie were pretty good and the movie, while not terrible, wasn't really describable as good. Kung Fu Panda? Totally crap trailer. Movie? Fan-freaking-tastic. Monsters Vs. Aliens made the movie look hilarious, and it turned out to be... humorous. And now How to Train Your Dragon. REALLY bad trailers, and the movie is, until Toy Story 3 comes out, the highest-rated film of the year!

What is going on over there?! They make a great film and just think "well, we've got this great film. Why bother with a trailer? Haha! We only need those to trick people into crap movies!" Cue the fat, cigar-smoking fat cats laughing in comfy chairs.

LUCKILY, this may end up being great for audiences. The relationship appears to be holding quite well, meaning that if a trailer makes a move look great, you can rest assured that the movie isn't the slightest bit worth watching.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Another Jessica Rabbit Wallpaper

It just seemed like a good idea. It was.

I'm putting the copy above as a way to move up in Google listings. Don't copy it. Use the links below to go directly to my Picasa feed. There you can download the full-resolution versions.

4:3 Screen Ratio
From Cartoon Vixens Wallpapers

16:10 Screen Ratio
From Cartoon Vixens Wallpapers

Saturday, February 27, 2010


OMGZ! I actually got something done!

I've been gone for quote awhile and haven't really had a chance to work on anything, but I'm feeling pretty good now that I've managed to poop out something.

This isn't what Jessica will eventually look like, because I'm still working on all of the details, which are REALLY hard to recreate in vectors. But since I had the outline done, I figured an artsy silhouette wallpaper was in order.

Much like the one I did for Betty Boop, I tried to distill the image of Jessica to its primary lines. Make it simple while still communicating that it was her. I wasn't able to do this with Red Hot Riding Hood, and it was basically Betty's head that let me do it with her (Snicker), but Jessica was easily communicated with the two things that most define her construct, her hair and boobs.

I added shoes and lips because I like adding lips to these silhouettes, not sure why, and the shoes just seemed to balance the image, with bits of red on both ends giving the image an enclosed look. Also, I think I may have a shoe fetish. I'm gonna' go feel up a strapless pump and see what happens.

Regardless, here they are, Jessica Rabbit Wallpaper #1

4:3 ratio
From Cartoon Vixens Wallpapers

16:10 ratio
From Cartoon Vixens Wallpapers

I also was going to a color invert on a black background, but instead of being so boring I whipped up a sparkly mess to convey her image. I used the same filter that I'm using to render her dress in the final image. Here, it's just for fun.

4:3 ratio
From Cartoon Vixens Wallpapers

16:10 ratio
From Cartoon Vixens Wallpapers