Soundac was the Miami Florida animation studio that did commercials, station IDs, and most famously, the first color cartoon for TV (beating out Hanna Barbera’s Ruff and Reddy by a few months), Colonel Bleep. Creative head Jack Schleh was the main artist and director of the studio, and the same year he was immersed in work on Bleep (1956-57), another job came into the shop: Weather Man.
Fran Noack was the studio’s top character designer and he, with staff artist Hal Lockwood, animated these incredibly cool, ’50s modern Weather Man spots which were sold to local news broadcasts around the country. Check them out. Each one is visually clever, with great graphics and cool lettering (and you gotta love that weathervane headpiece!).
Last night Asifa-Hollywood had a screening of Surf’s Up and I moderated an enjoyable Q&A with Ash Brannon and several key members of the production crew.
Don’t let this film pass you by. It’s excellent. It’s not just another “penguin movie”. It’s a surfing comedy with funny characters and, bottom line, it’s very entertaining. And you can tell the different penguin characters apart!
I never thought I’d be raving about effects animation, but the wave effects alone are worth the price of admission. The story is told in a semi-mock documentarty style, with hand-held camera moves I haven’t quite seen in an animated film before. I could go on and on about it; it’s superior in every way and I’d hate to see it get lost in the shuffle between the other summer heavyweights (Shrek The Third and Ratatouille). I don’t often do an out-and-out plug for a current release, but this film deserves a shot. It’s one of the best of the year.
One of the “Holy Grails” amongst us cartoon historians is the series of four Barney Google cartoons produced in Technicolor by Columbia Pictures’ Screen Gems cartoon unit in 1935.
King Features had it in their contracts with Hollywood studios that the films adapting their comic strip creations would be destroyed after ten years (popular demand allowed exceptions to the rule for the Popeye cartoons, Flash Gordon serials and Blondie movies). Thus, many of King Features movie adaptations were considered lost for many decades (luckily prints of King’s numerous serials – The Phantom, Mandrake The Magician, Secret Agent X-9, etc. – have surfaced in recent years). However, Google still remains on the “Most Wanted” list by cartoon buffs and comic strip historians. (A 1946 Paramount Snuffy Smith cartoon, Spree For All is, as far as I know, still non-existant).
British film collector Lee Glover has tracked down several 50 foot rolls of black and white silent Barney Google 16mm home movies versions (excerpts of the Columbia Google cartoons were sold to home movie enthusiasts of the era). He has virtually reconstructed Teched In The Head (1935), the first of the series. It’s no classic, but it’s a treat to see one of these, just to get a taste of what we’ve been denied all these years. Check it out on his website. Thanks Lee, nice job!
(Cel set-up above is from the final Google film, from 1936, Spark Plug)
In two weeks, the Platform International Animation Festival will commence in Portland Oregon. Amid and I will both be there, and I urge you to attend as well. We’ve both been asked to host several panels and screenings, and we are happy to do it. I’ll even be a juror for the television animation competition.
The festival will have four venues with separate tracks of programming – all of it worthwhile. We will be posting several times in the next ten days about some the incredible events planned (or you can explore the programming grids now). First up, here are the two panels I’ll be moderating:
On Friday, June 29 from 2:30pm to 4 pm at Winningstad Theatre, I’ll be hosting a tribute to cartoonist extraordinaire Basil Wolverton. I’ll be discussing his influence on cartooning and animation with panelists Marv Newland, Kenny Scharf and Basil’s son, Monte Wolverton. Rare film and video will be screened.
On Saturday, June 30 from 4 pm to 5: 30pm at the Northwest Film Center: Whitsell Auditorium / Portland Art Museum, I will moderating a panel in tribute to William Hanna and Joseph Barbera. We will taking a good look at some of the earliest of their TV cartoons and talking about what made them so much fun. Animator Ward Jenkins (Laika), exec Michael Ouweleen (Cartoon Network) and again, artist Kenny Scharf will join me to discuss their life and work.
Brewmaster Jerry Beck will be broadcasting again, live on Shokus Internet Radio this Wednesday June 13th from 4pm to 6pm Pacific time (that’s 7pm to 9pm for you in the Eastern Time Zone).
Stu Shostak and I will be discussing cartoon history, animated TV shows, and the upcoming DVD releases of classic animation. If you have a specific question you want answered, call in during the broadcast toll free (888) 746-5875. If you miss the show, it’ll be rerun for the next seven days at the same time. Tune in!
Andreas Deja is not only one of the best of the current generation of Disney animators, he’s one of the most passionate voices on the subject of drawn character animation and an enthusiastic spokesperson on the history of the art.
Andreas will be speaking at the Van Eaton Galleries Thursday June 21st, a benefit lecture for Asifa Hollywood’s Animation Archive. If you haven’t heard Andreas speak, you are in for a real treat. If you’ve ever been to the Van Eaton Gallery space in Sherman Oaks, you know seating is extremely limited. To purchase tickets and for more information, call 818-788-2357 or visit vegalleries.com
John Dyson, the grandson of master animator Ken Harris (1898-1982) started a website last year to post artwork, photographs and ephemera Harris had saved. Dyson wrote in to report a new find:
When my grandmother died a few years back, I recieved a big box of “old stuff” of Ken’s. In this box was a bunch of old animation. He didn’t really keep much of the production cels or drawings, but there was almost 150 drawings in a big envelope labled “Schlesinger days – keep”. They all seem to be from the animators around that time that were just drawn for fun around the studio. Many of these drawings also seem to be around inside jokes, so we really don’t understand many of them.
The newly found Schlesinger era material is posted here. Clearly some of them are drawn by Chuck Jones. If anyone can help us identify artists (or the cartoonists being caricatured) you can contact Dyson directly through the website. It’s well worth browsing the whole site. I particularly like this 1941 Seein’ Stars clipping referencing Harris (without credit).
I was speaking to June Foray today and was surprised to find out she isn’t in the cast of the currently-in-production CG Horton Hears A Who.
Foray, of course, was cast in the original 1970 Chuck Jones TV special playing Cindy Lou Who and Jane Kangaroo. IMDB lists Carol Burnett as voicing the role of Jane Kangaroo in the current production. Gosh, I know it’s way too late to change anyone’s mind at Blue Sky or Fox, but couldn’t Foray – a living legend and the only surviving member of the original cast – at least play a bit part in the new film?
The latest trailer for the live action Underdog movie confirms that the film will be a dog (no pun intended). Ya’know, if Warner Bros. did a Krypto film like this, I wouldn’t be so bummed. But this isn’t Underdog – this is.
Last month, my pal Rusty Frank told me she was going to Prague to perform (she’s a tap dancer and expert on the history of tap) and she was wondering if I had any friends there. I told her to contact Gene Deitch and his lovely wife, Zdenka. She did so and apparently they are all “new best friends”. Rusty took a 35 second video on her cel phone – click here to see a quick tour of Gene’s home office.
I wish I could’ve been there with them, but this is the next best thing. I’m delighted that I was able to hook up two friends in such a faraway place.
Here’s Gene and Rusty last week.
And here’s a nice piece of art, by Ken O’Connor, on Gene’s wall.
You read about it in Flip, and now you can see it in person. Thursday night, Jerry Beck and his 16mm projector are the opening act for Janet Klein & Her Parlor Boys at the Steve Allen Theatre in Hollywood.
Janet and her boys play authentic 20s jazz music live, and I start the proceedings by providing about 45 minutes of vintage musical shorts and cartoons in glorious monophonic, non-digital 16mm movie projection. It’s a lot of fun – and if you’re in the area, I highly recommend you join the crowd. Janet and her band are pretty amazing! Here’s that fun clip again, of Janet teaching you how to play Tonight You Belong To Me on the Ukulele.
Thursday, June 7th, 8:00 pm The Steve Allen Theatre 4773 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood (West of Vermont, across from Barnsdale Park) $15 323-666-4268 for reservations More info at JanetKlein.com
Leonard Maltin, aware of my interest in old-time animation publicity materials, sent along this image (above) from Benjamin Hampton’s 1931 book A History of the Motion Picture.
This picture got me thinking about how, back then, each individual cartoon short was treated as special as a live action feature. Stills, publicity art, posters, sometimes lobby cards and newspaper ads were created for individual cartoon shorts. And all that old promotional material seems fun to me, like the image above.
We’ve come a long way since then.
Today, Cartoon Network and Disney Channel may mount an occasional bus poster or billboard for one of their new series (mainly in New York or L.A. to attract advertisers), but publicity for individual episodes is pretty rare. There are some exceptions to the rule: The Simpsons has always done it; Frederator creates original postcards for each of its shorts. But those are special cases. I guess my point is, promotion of animated TV series, not to mention individual episodes, is practically non existant these days.
It’s just one of the differences between the business then and the business now. And it’s one of the reasons why I prefer the business then.
Here is some nice eye candy. This music video by Faithless, which I believe premiered at the Cannes Film Festival last week, for a Coca Cola marketing operation (Coke’s M5 project), is dazzling. French designers Sara Prince, Pierre Marie, the animator Emmanuel Linderer conceived it. Paranoid NOW, a group of designers, animators, directors and graphic artists, led by Sophie Gateau and FranÃƒÂ§ois Vogel, produced it.