Mar 28, 2017
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Our Animated Universe
by Karl Cohen
It's not much of a surprise that Pixar's "Toy Story 3" is a blockbuster and may end up as their most successful product yet. So, will there be a "Toy Story 4"? In an msm.com interview, "Toy Story 3" director Lee Unkrich said there are no current plans for "Toy Story 4," but the characters will appear in a short that will play in front of "Cars 2" (John Lasseter has joined that production as co-director). Pixar used the "Cars" cast in several products while developing "Cars 2," and I suspect they'll do a great job of exploiting their lovable toy characters in a variety of ways before releasing a "Toy Story 4."
While Pixar is in the national news with its latest success story, other interesting local animation developments have been underreported. For example, you can now meet Professor Picklepants and friends of "Ginger and Pickles;" they're being created by Johnny Underscore, a new animation company in Castro Valley run by John Cavalli, Peter Sailsbery, and John's 12-year-old son, Joe. YouTube Clips indicate that "Ginger and Pickles" could be a fun family half-hour show. It has a well-produced soundtrack and looks great. All of the sets and characters are built, and filming of a short pilot began in January. "The sets cover the floor of my living room," says John Carvalli, "and the filming is going very slow. I didn't realize stop-motion would take so long."
Ginger Smacks has a snack in John - Johnny Underscore - Cavalli's movie "Ginger and Pickles." illo: John Cavalli
John may be a newcomer to animation, but he has a mature eye and skills. He tells me that when AT&T laid him off last year - he'd been with them for 25 years - he decided to take charge of his future, develop his artistic and comedy-writing skills, and launch Johnny Underscore from his Castro Valley home. "We spent a year developing the characters and stories," he says. "Almost all of our sets are built from items we find in thrift stores, garage sales, and even dumpsters. We have thousands of used toys and discarded household items in my garage workshop."
"The people we hire to help build sets or perform voiceovers for characters are also mostly people who have recently lost their jobs. Some worked for big corporations for decades, and this is a chance to explore their creative talents. We hope to make money someday soon so we can continue to produce quality entertainment for everyone." See
Across the globe, local animator Vince Collins was honored with a retrospective by the Melbourne International Animation Festival. The event announcement notes: "Vince Collins is, without a doubt, a true master of psychedelic animation. His films are a freight- train-sized downloads of color and pure energy mainlined straight into the precise part of our synapses that loves that stuff best. This program came to us via our friends at the Golden Plains Festival, and includes the absolute cult classic 'Malice In Wonderland .'" Also shown at the Melbourne festival held in June were "Animation" (1978), "Gilgamesh" (1973), "Sesame Street Samples" (1975), "Euphoria" (1974), "Fantasy" (1976), "200" (1975), and "Life Is Flashing Before Your Eyes" (1984).
Vince has lived and worked in SF since the 1970s, when he moved here to study animation at the Art Institute. He worked for years at Palmer Film Labs doing animation and special effects, and was a pioneer of strange and unusual Internet art. As his most recent project, he's finishing an animated 3D movie about cats, with design collaboration from his wife, Miwako.
Mark Fiore, who recently won a Pulitzer Prize, is taking on BP in his animated political cartoons on the Internet. Visit
and watch "You," a Dr. Seuss-ish poem, on 5/26/10; "Trust Me," on 6/09; and "Lifestyles of the Rich and Fossil-fueled," on 6/21. I'm also quite impressed with "Narco Mex Inc.," on 3/31/10.
George Lucas will give you a part in the "Star Wars" saga. Join the cast as Lucas celebrates the feature's 30th anniversary. All you have to do is visit JibJab.com or StarWars.com. You just need to upload a photo and use JibJab's simple tools to insert yourself into the movie. Happy happy joy joy. Pretend you're a star and share your performance with friends via email.
Posted on Aug 09, 2010 - 04:46 PM