If you were around in 1961, you may have seen an obscure animated feature titled Alakazam the Great, about three friendly monsters – Son Goku (monkey), Sir Quigley Brokenbottom (Pigsy), and Sandy – escorting Prince Amat from China to India.
This was part of the first wave of Japanese animated films, known as anime, to enter the United States. The other two features in that wave were Panda and the Magic Serpent and Magic Boy. They were box-office failures at the time, and because of this the anime film genre is still fighting to enter the American theatrical market.
Alakazam the Great was also America’s first cinematic introduction to the ancient Chinese story Journey to the West or Monkey King, as it is better know in America. This legend is over a thousand years old in the oral form. It was written into a novel, probably by the scholar Wu Cheng’en in the 16th century. The first Oriental animated feature, the Chinese Princess Iron Fan (1940), is an adaptation of part of Journey to the West. Alakazam the Great, more specifically, is a movie adaptation of Osamu Tezuka’s 1952-59 My Son Goku manga version of Journey to the West.
World Environment Day was established by the United Nations General Assembly in 1972. It is on Sunday, June 5 in 2016. This year’s theme is: “fight against the illegal trade in wildlife”, with the slogan "Go Wild for Life”, and some search engines are getting on board:
Baidu’s India office will launch a new social campaign named “The Last Conversation” to raise awareness of wildlife depletion. The campaign will feature Baidu’s mascot, the “DU bear”, having a final conversation with different endangered animals through a series of posts on Facebook and Twitter, with the goal of urging people to avoid products that cause harm to wildlife. (Baidu India’s 31 May press release)
Baidu's campaign, which started June 1st on Facebook and Twitter, shows the ultra-cute DU bear interviewing critically-endangered species living in India, such as the Himalayan brown bear, as well as other popular species of lesser concern, such as the Bengal fox.
Furry fans who have long been debating whether Cthulhu, Shub-Niggurath, Nyarlarathotep, and the other often-squiddly “indescribable horrors” of author H.P. Lovecraft’s dark imagination count as “furry”, will find their arguments heating up in October when the animated feature Howard Lovecraft and the Frozen Kingdom is released in Canada.
Howard Lovecraft and the Frozen Kingdom, written, directed and produced by Sean Patrick O’Reilly and currently in production by Arcana Studios, to be distributed by The Shout! Factory (a company known more for its DVD releases than for theatrical distribution), is adapting the movie from the popular comic book written by Bruce Brown and illustrated by Renzo Podesta. It was reprinted as a 96-page trade paperback by Arcana in February 2010 that is still in print.
Monster, monster… no-one knows this thrilling feeling. Dizzy how, dizzy how - it's TeleMonster time!
Erotic art site Wacky World of Erotic Cartoons has closed its doors, reportedly due to hosting costs. The imminent closure of the site was announced on its forums; both were taken offline just hours later, although a deadline of a week had been provided.
The WWoEC and its forums featured erotic depictions of American cartoon characters. It opened at the turn of the century, running as a partially paywalled site in its early years. Paid content later moved to LustToons (NSFW), which supported the WWoEC and its forums.
Have you nominated your choices for the 2015 Ursa Major Awards, for the best new anthropomorphic releases of 2015 in eleven categories? Nominations close on February 29, in only two weeks.
The categories are Best Anthropomorphic Motion Picture, Best Anthropomorphic Dramatic Short Work or Series, and so on for Novel, Short Fiction, Other Literary Work (anthologies, collections, non-fiction and art books), Graphic Story, Comic Strip, Magazines, Published Illustration, Game and Website. Works first published or released during the 2015 calendar year are eligible. You may make up to five nominations in each category.
Nominations opened on January 14 (the first day of Further Confusion 2016) and have been going on for a month. The nominations will be tallied between March 1 and March 14. The final ballot, consisting of the five titles in each category that receive the most nominations, will be announced on March 15, and voting will take place until April 30. All those who send in nominations will be registered as eligible to vote on the final ballot. Those who did not nominate but wish to vote on the final ballot may register to do so.
The Cartoon Brew website has just announced two new animated features with anthropomorphic animals coming later this year.
Last year’s Japanese cartoon animation The Boy and the Beast (Bakemono no Ko), directed by Mamoru Hosoda, will be released on March 4 “in selected theatres” by Funimation, in both subtitled and dubbed versions. It’s about a Japanese homeless boy, Kyuta, who goes into “the beast world” and becomes the apprentice of Kumatetsu (“Iron Bear”), a martial arts warrior. Tickets will go on sale on the Funimation site on February 5. The Cartoon Brew announcement includes the new American theatrical poster.
Many nominations for the 2015 Ursa Major Awards are likely to come from the 2015 Recommended Anthropomorphic Reading List, which has been built up through prior recommendations. The awards are selected by a two-stage process of nominating and voting. Members of the public send in up to five nominations in each of the eleven categories. The top five nominees in each category (more in case of a tie) are then presented on a final ballot for a public vote. Inclusion on the List is not necessary for nomination if a work is otherwise eligible; first published during January to December 2015.
Nominations take place between January 14 (the first day of Further Confusion 2016) and February 29. The nominations will be tallied between March 1 and March 14. The final ballot will be announced on March 15, and voting will take place until April 30. All those who send in nominations will be registered as eligible to vote on the final ballot. Those who did not nominate but wish to vote on the final ballot may register to do so.
The voting will be counted, the winners’ trophies prepared, and the results will be announced at the Ursa Major awards presentation at a ceremony at What the Fur 2016, at the Holiday Inn Hotel & Suites, Pointe-Claire, Montreal Airport, Montreal, Quebec, Canada, on May 20-22.
The Ursa Major Awards and Recommended List are administered by the Anthropomorphic Literature and Arts Association (ALAA). For information, and to nominate beginning on January 14 and to vote beginning on March 15, go to http://www.ursamajorawards.org/.
The Finnish-French theatrical animated feature Moomins on the Riviera will be released in the U.S. on December 4th in one theater; the Laemmle Royal Theater, 11523 Santa Monica Boulevard, (West) Los Angeles 90025, for one week to qualify it for the 2015 Best Animated Feature Oscar at next year’s Academy Award presentations. It will also become eligible for ASIFA-Hollywood's 2015 Annie Awards.
Les Moomins sur la Riviera is an 80-minute 2014-2015 co-production of Pictac Cie. in France and Handle Productions in Finland, co-directed by Xavier Picard and Hanna Hemilä, in honor of Tove Jansson’s 100th birthday. It’s an adaptation of the “Moomins on the Riviera” sequence in her and her brother Lars’ Moomin 1954-1975 comic strip, produced in cel animation in her signature art style. The entire Moomin family of forest trolls, and all their friends, go to the French Riviera for their vacation. Their unity is threatened as Moominpappa is drawn into the sophisticated world of Marquis Mongaga, and Snorkmaiden (Moomin’s girlfriend) is toyed with by playboy Clark Tresco. They ultimately are glad to get home to Moominvalley.
Here is a “stealth” anthropomorphic animated feature that has just appeared. Psiconautas (Psychonauts), directed by Alberto Vázquez and Pedro Rivero, and produced by ZircoZine in Santiago de Compostela & Basque Films in Bilbao, has just premiered at the 63rd (2015) San Sebastián Film Festival (September 18 to 26) on the 24th. No word yet on when or where it will be generally released.
Psiconautas is based upon the graphic novel by Alberto Vázquez. The synopsis is “Teenagers Birdboy and Dinky have decided to escape from an island devastated by ecological catastrophe: Birdboy by shutting himself off from the world, Dinky by setting out on a dangerous voyage in the hope that Birdboy will accompany her.” This may be an animated cartoon, but it is clearly not a “cute” film for children.
NSFW warning: The trailer does contain some violent imagery.
The release date of Disney’s forthcoming theatrical feature Zootopia (Zootropolis in the U.K., Portugal, Turkey and other countries; Zootropola in Croatia and Zwierzogród in Poland) is March 4, 2016. But on January 19, 2016, the Disney merchandising machine will release a slew of tie-in books, published by Disney print subsidiaries or licensed by it. Most, but not all of them, will be juvenile-oriented. Some of them, such as the Disney Zootopia Ultimate Sticker Book or Judy Hopps and the Missing Jumbo-Pop, will be little more than picture books featuring the leading characters. Others, such as the Zootopia Big Golden Book, will also be picture books but will show a condensation of the movie’s plot. And a few, such as Zootopia: The Official Handbook, Zootopia Junior Novelization and DK’s Disney Zootopia: The Essential Guide, will be of interest to the adult enthusiast. No lavish The Art of Zootopia coffee-table art book has been announced yet, but there will undoubtedly be one by next March – or sooner.
It’s interesting when full-fledged fine artists turn their attention to something more whimsical, like cartoon illustration. Such is the case with painter Richard D. Sweatt, who in addition to his gallery works has taken time to write and illustrate a softcover children’s book, Fuzzy Friends. “A story about a little girl that makes friends with the little animals from the nearby woods. Everyday the little Fuzzy Friends wait for the little girl to arrive home on the school bus to greet her. The little girl loves to play with her friends and at the same time learns some valuable lessons about making good choices when it comes to choosing friends.” Check it out over at Lulu.com, then check out Mr. Sweatt’s other fine art paintings at his Enjoygram site.
It is with great sadness that I must report on the passing of one of the giants of the voice-acting world.
Christine Cavanaugh passed away on December 22, 2014 at the young age of 51. She is perhaps best-remembered as the voice actress of (in no particular order) Babe, Dexter (Dexter's Lab), Bunnie Rabbot (Sonic the Hedgehog), Chuckie Finster (Rugrats), Oblina (Aaahh!!! Real Monsters) and Goslyn Mallard (Darkwing Duck, Raw Toonage).
While her voiceography is not as long as other veteran voice actors and actresses, she more than made up for it with quality acting and defining fan-favourite characters, bringing them memorable personalities that lasted long after their shows completed their runs.
It seems to be a hot time to re-imagine 1980’s toy and cartoon lines for a the new millenium. Next up? Popples. Here’s the pitch from the masters themselves, Saban Brands: “Popples are fun, lovable, brightly-colored and adorable creatures that transform from fluffy balls to furry friends and back again. Saban Brands will re-launch the franchise with a fresh and modern look for a new generation of kids. The launch will be paired with a line of consumer products including apparel, accessories, plush and more. Popples made its original debut in the U.S. in 1985 with a Saturday morning television show, followed by a successful toy line.” Saturday morning, eh? Are they gonna try to bring that back too? Either way, look for it at a TV or toy store near you in 2015.
An Ode to Saturday Mornings Past, by JessKat
I'm not quite sure how to explain this… especially to younger viewers who grew up in the 500-channel universe of cable television and satellite services and Netflix streaming… but for those of us old enough (or geeky enough) to watch cartoons over-the-air with a rabbit-ears antenna, Saturday mornings and weekday afternoons after school were the only times when animation fans could watch their favourite shows… especially where cable channels such as Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network, YTV or Toon Disney weren't available.
September 28, 2014 was the day the animation died - ending a long and painful decline on broadcast television in the United States, with The CW (the newest broadcast network) being the final holdout… the last man standing, as it were. This was the final Saturday morning with cartoons in America.
From here on out, animation fans in the United States will have to follow the path their Canadian counterparts took in 2001 to get their animation fix: a cable television or satellite subscription. If there is any consolation, it is that the ecosystem of Saturday morning cartoons seems healthier in Australia and Mexico.
To understand how we got to this point, we'll need to review the chain of events leading to the demise of animation on over-the-air television.