MorphToons: June 2015

Going with my Geek the Beatles flow, I kicked off my first month as Cartoon Brew’s associate editor with an exclusive on the late, great John Lennon. Also, a refreshing stop off at Cartoon Saloon’s cli-fi for kids, Puffin Rock, and much more.

John Lennon Sketchbook Makes Official Online Debut

Created six years after John Lennon’s assassination in 1980, Yoko Ono and Oscar-winning animator and historian John Canemaker’s cartoon short John Lennon Sketchbook has finally appeared on YouTube. Executive produced by Ono and designed, directed, and animated by Canemaker, it is a poignant peek into the fertile mind of a Beatle whose prodigious talents extended well past creating immortal music.

“It was created from original drawings by John Lennon and a soundtrack that I also edited together, consisting of snatches of conversation between John and Yoko and song excerpts,” Canemaker told me. “It is the first time a large general public has seen it (on YouTube).”


Netflix Continues Animation Expansion With Cartoon Saloon’s Puffin Rock

Debuting September 1, this preschool environmental fable arrives from Random House Childrens, Dog Ears and Cartoon Saloon — whose Oscar-nominated masterpiece Song of the Sea was arguably one of the best films of 2014, in any format.

Although it aired in the UK on Nick Jr., Netflix has sewed up the Puffin Rock premiere for America, Canada, Latin America, France and Germany. Taking place on an ethereal island off the coast of Cartoon Saloon’s native Ireland, its puffling protagonists explore the nation’s wondrous natural environs in animated form through 13 episodes aimed at 2-5 year olds, with standard age-appropriate messaging about learning, friendship, and family relationships.


Disney To Stretch Night On Bald Mountain Into a Feature Film

It was inevitable: The memorably phantasmagoric finale of Fantasia is getting its own live-action spinoff.

Dracula Untold and The Last Witch Hunter screenwriters Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless are the lucky duo who landed the project, which is still in early development at Disney, according to the Hollywood Reporter. Sazama and Sharpless will also executive produce the reboot which, while it is live-action, will almost certainly lean heavily on CGI to recreate the original animated segment’s nightmarish spirit and relentless velocity, shepherded to the screen under the guidance of master animator Vladimir “Bill” Tytla.

There’s no indication yet whether Russian composer Modest Mussorgsky’s stirring 1867 score of the same name, which was never performed during his lifetime, will make the cut of the new iteration of Fantasia’s “Night on Bald Mountain.” But what is quite clear is that Disney is pretty busy rebooting more or less any existing property in its library with top-shelf CGI for the millennial set who might have a hard time spotting even Fantasia 2000 in a lineup.


First Look: Studio 4°C and Ankama’s Mutafukaz

Based on Guillaume “Run” Renard’s comics, Mutafukaz is a hyperkinetic sci-fi dystopia arching between streetwise hip-hop and hyperviolent cinema. The project is a collaboration between Japan’s Studio 4°C (Mind Game, Tekkon Kinkreet) and French multimedia company Ankama, which publishes Run’s comic, but is perhaps better known for its MMORPG franchises like Wakfu and Dofus.


GKIDS Picks Up Two Extraordinary Animated Features

Indie animation distributor GKIDS has announced at the Annecy animation festival that it has acquired U.S. rights to two animated features: April and the Extraordinary World and Extraordinary Tales.

Based on Jacques Tardi’s graphic novel, April and the Extraordinary World is a promising steampunk adventure starring Marion Cotillard as the title character navigating a dystopia whose scientists have all been imprisoned as technological development has stalled.

Directed by Persepolis animator Christian Desmares and Boyster producer Franck Ekinci, and set in an alternative Paris during 1941, the sci-fi exploration screened in competition at Annecy and, thanks to GKIDS, will arrive early next year in America in French and English versions.


The Peanuts Movie Reveals Nostalgia and Innovation

Charlie Brown hopes for the better but fails to the sounds of The Who in the new trailer for The Peanuts Movie.

Blue Sky Studios’ new peek at the Steve Martino-directed The Peanuts Movie quickly illustrates the complexities of recreating Charles Schulz’s immortal comic strip for millennials. Gone is the bouncy jazz of Vince Guaraldi and Schroeder’s Beethoven — at least in Fox’s marketing — and in are warnings of “Teenage wasteland!” from The Who’s popular anthem, “Baba O’Riley,” as well as sprinklings of hip-hop and flamenco.


Patrick Osborne To Direct Noelle Stevenson’s Nimona

Armed with an Oscar for best animated short, Osborne will bring Noelle Stevenson’s Eisner- and Harvey-award nominated comic to the screen for Fox Animation.


CGI Pioneer ReBoot Reboots With The Guardian Code

Television’s first fully computer-generated animation series is celebrating the recent passing of its 20th anniversary with a new 26-episode upgrade.


Tomorrowland Could Lose Disney $140 Million

Brad Bird’s optimistic but uneven Tomorrowland could lose between $120-$140 million by the time its global run has ended. But, whatever. Live-action cinema’s loss is animation’s gain, as Bird moves back to The Incredibles — and further down the line, maybe even a hand-drawn feature film.

Tomorrowland, which cost $330 million in production and marketing, will likely become Disney’s biggest money-loser since Gore Verbinski’s The Lone Ranger took a $190 mil­lion write-down in 2013. The Hollywood Reporter noted that Tomorrowland is the year’s third mega-budget bust after Jupiter Ascending and Seventh Son — although unlike those other films, Tomorrowland had strong built-in name recognition, given that it takes it name from a themed section of the Disneyland theme park.


Inside Out Review Roundup

Inside Out is already accumulating praise throwing around the word masterpiece — and it is well-deserved.


April and the Extraordinary World, We Can’t Live Without Cosmos Top Annecy

Christian Desmares and Franck Ekinci’s sci-fi fable, and Konstantin Bronzit’s short but sweet exploration of brotherly bonds set against an astronomical backdrop, led the awardees at this year’s Annecy Film Festival — to the outer limits.