The theme this week on ReFrederator.com is animated shorts built around racial stereotypes. Our buddy Emru Townsend of fps magazine is providing the guest commentary for the cartoons, which he’s calling “Black Comedy”. Emru writes:
It’s nowhere near the kind of comprehensive look at the topic that I’d like, but hopefully it’ll provide a jumping-off point for discussion.
The cartoons available for download include the very first Looney Tunes – SINKIN’ IN THE BATHTUB, Ub Iwerks’ LITTLE BLACK SAMBO, Tex Avery’s ALL THIS AND RABBIT STEW, a Famous Studios Bouncing Ball cartoon JINGLE JANGLE JUNGLE and Van Beuren’s very odd Tom & Jerry-in-blackface PLANE DUMB (featuring the voices of forgotten vaudeville comedians Miller and Lyles). They don’t make ‘em like this anymore – and never will again. Take a look, then discuss the pros and cons on ReFrederator.
Last week I gave you the scoop on Van Partible’s animation on this week’s season’s premiere of NBC’s MEDIUM. Now check out MEDIUM’S website for a neat little behind-the-scenes video about the animation sequence. And don’t forget to set the machine for Wednesday night.
Our friend Leslie Cabarga purchased several bound volumes of old newspapers from San Francisco years ago, and was going through them this weekend for inspiration when he came across several movie ads signed by “Natwick”. Yes, these vintage movie ads (click on image above for large version of them) were drawn by future Betty Boop/Snow White/UPA master animator Grim Natwick. They are from 1920 when Natwick was 30 years old. Grim most likely did the distinctive hand lettering in the ads as well. Note his harum girl for the Virgin of Stamboul, demonstrating his reputation for drawing beautiful girls. Grim passed away at age 101 in 1990, having applied his talents to many classic animated films and sharing his wisdom to several generations of animators.
I love when newspaper comic strips do crossovers and this weeks continuity of GASOLINE ALLEY is a particular treat. Walt Wallet visits the “Old Comics Home” and has a reunion with the likes of Smokey Stover, Joe Palooka, Steve Canyon, The Little King, and Albert Aligator. But that’s not all. Animated stars Felix the Cat, Betty Boop, Farmer Al Falfa, Mighty Mouse and Tom Teriffic show up in cameo. Even ancient characters Old Doc Yak and the Yellow Kid get into the act. Start here (Nov. 7th) and read forward to today’s strip. I’m not sure how many more days this will continue, but it’s sure nice to see.
What is it with The Weinstein Company? Harvey Weinstein is perhaps the smartest and savviest of the current Hollywood moguls, but his taste in animated films leaves much to be desired. Last year he launched his new company with the low budget (but clever) Hoodwinked, then fumbled with the British import Doogal. Now this? Weinstein’s art house competitors, such as Sony Pictures Classics (Triplettes of Belleville, Paprika, Persepolis), Warner Independent (Scanner Darkly) and even his previous studio Miramax (Renaissance), have picked up challenging adult animated features that push the envelope. Weinstein has apparently bought into the stereotype that animated films are childrens films – not family films, children’s films. He leaves on the table over a dozen brand new, more sophisticated international animated features (The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, Princess and everything being shown next week at the Waterloo Festival for Animated Cinema) that are more deserving of U.S. distribution.Weinstein’s latest acquisition, Piccolo, Saxo and Company, is a French production, with animation produced in Romania and plot ripped from Paul Tripp’s Tubby The Tuba:
The film tells the story of a far away planet on which musical instruments live. Marco Villamizar’s tale follows Piccolo, Saxo and other brass and string instruments that band together to form a grand symphonic orchestra. The group goes on a quest to find musical notes and other instruments stolen by an evil doctor who dreams of building the perfect instrument.
Weinstein will no doubt dress Piccolo up with an all-star American voice cast and give it a token theatrical release en route to its permanent home on DVD racks at Wal-Mart, Target, Costco, etc. I have nothing against well made animated films for children (Curious George was a fine example), but animators need more visionary distributors who will expose U.S. audiences to the great work being produced around the world. Weinstein, Miramax, Lionsgate, Sony, Fox Searchlight and the others do a fine job with handling live action foreign films. Their animated siblings are waiting to be adopted.I’ve given this rant before. And I probably will again. Maybe one of these days I’ll end up doing something about it myself.
It’s coming! The holiest day of the year for cartoon buffs – the arrival of the annual LOONEY TUNES GOLDEN COLLECTION. And I’m lucky enough to be holding the latest volume in my hand right now.Under the shiny gold-leaf cover (bundled differently this year, thus the package is a bit thinner looking) are four discs loaded with pure cartoon joy (okay, there are a couple of lame late Speedy Gonzales cartoons on disc three, but I survived and you will too). Sixty more Warner Bros. cartoons to add to our personal archives, beautifully restored, with entertaining, informative bonus materials that add to our knowledge of how these classics were made.Of course, as a consulting producer on the set, I’m intimately involved and biased. But I love the Golden Collection series – and I’m happy to do whatever I can to spread the gospel of Looney Tunes. Volume 4 goes on sale next Tuesday (Nov. 14th). I urge you to buy it right away! Here’s a few good reasons to do so:
Rare trailers (at left) and restored original titles (at right). Nuff said!
90 Day Wondering: Cartoon Modern fans will love this lavishly restored, rarely seen 1956 Chuck Jones Army reenlistment film. You’ll also see Ralph Phillips as an adult!
Great menus! Can you spot the un-P.C. picture of Bugs on this menu from Disc 1?
In celebration of the Channel Frederator podcast’s first anniversary, Frederator Studios has created FredEx, an experimental animation jam. Frederator has assembled an international group of filmmakers seeking to answer an age-old question: What is it like to be a robot?
The Secret Life of Robots is the first installment of the FredEx series. Kicking off production in July, executive producers (and contributing animators) Dan Meth and Lee Rubenstein selected fifteen Channel Frederator alumni to animate on the project, randomly matching each of them with a single word. The filmmakers were given two months to produce 10-20 seconds of original content, using their appointed subject to depict a specific aspect of robot existence.
Premiering today, the cartoon is available for free download at ChannelFrederator.com. It’s funny stuff and absolutely worth a look.
If you are interested in purchasing Leonard Maltin’s essential animation history, Of Mice And Magic, make sure you order the one pictured above left. I’ve gotten several letters recently from readers who have made the mistake, when ordering through Amazon, of ordering the book on the right. I suppose it was bound to happen. While both books have in common several distinct talking mice, clearly David Farland’s fantasy novel, published in 2005, should not be confused with Maltin’s award winning non fiction history of Hollywood cartoons.While I’m at it, neither book should be confused with the Herman & Katnip cartoon of the same name.
When was the last time a live action network primetime drama series featured an original animation segment as part of its plot? Van Partible (creator of Johnny Bravo) has just produced and directed three and a half minutes of cartoon madness for the two-hour season premiere of Medium on NBC. And it may just be a first.With characters designed by Dan Haskett (in a loose Jim Tyer style), the four brief Monkeyhead dream sequences were animated in flash by Six Point Harness Studios under Partible’s direction. The script was written by Javier Grillo-Marxuach (Supervising Producer from “Lost”) and Glenn Gordon Caron (the creator).So, is this the first time an adult theme – like murder – has been explored through animation in prime time? I know Fred has tried to kill Barney over a bowl of Cocoa Pebbles, but that’s not what I mean. Animation segments have been used on live action prime-time network series before, primarily on comedy shows like Caroline In The City, My Wife and Kids, The Drew Carey Show, and Mad About You, The Duck Factory, My World and Welcome To It. There was an outstanding episode of George Burns Comedy Week (1985) called “The Honeybunnies” with a dark comedy animation segment created by Nelvana. Anything else?In the meantime, I’ll be watching the November 15th episode of Medium. It sounds great – and it might just be an historic occasion!
UPDATE: Animator Mark Mayerson writes: “Glen Gordon Caron previously used Will Vinton to do an animated segment on Moonlighting. I remember that they turned Bruce Willis into a clay frog for that.”IMDB’s Jon Reeves mentions that “a stop-motion segment for an episode of My Name Is Earl will air some time this month”.And finally, Bob Miller wants to remind us that Hanna Barbera’s New Adventures Of Huck Finn was a dramatic prime time series that combined live action and animation on a weekly basis.(Image from model sheet above Property of CBS Paramount Network Television / Picturemaker Productions / Grammnet Productions)
At the Copro Nason Gallery, A Curious Show: The Collective Works Of Pressure Printing has an opening reception tomorrow night (Nov. 4th). I’m not sure how many of the artists in the show will be in attendance, but the talent on display includes Glenn Barr (above), Gary Baseman, Coop, Jim Woodring, Tony Millionaire, Kim Deitch, Tim Biskup, Mark Mothersbaugh, and a dozen others.Reception: November 4th, 8pm-11:30pm, Copro Nason Gallery, 2525 Michigan Ave. Santa Monica, CA
Man, I’d forgotten about this.Thanks to YouTube, somebody has posted a video of the old FUNTASTIC WORLD OF HANNA BARBERA ride at Universal Studios Florida. As I recall, this was produced at Sullivan Bluth Studios in 1990, and directed by David Steinberg.
This ride ended its run at Universal in 2002, but it lives again and is being re-installed this year at Paramount’s Great America theme parks.
Yesterday morning, after I attended the Stan Lee ribbon cutting ceremonies at the new Golden Apple Comics location on Melrose, I ran over the hill to the Valley to do business with my buddy Scott Shaw! Scott recommended we meet at his favorite new store, Big Kid Collectible Toy Mall & Retro Store. Wow! What a place! I urge all our L.A. area readers (and all of you who visit L.A. in the future) to stop in at both of these great stores.The new Golden Apple is beautiful. Very well organized, neat, attractive and loaded with wall to wall geek goodness. Stan was (as always) really gracious to the crowd (yes, he said “Excelsior!” as he cut the ribbon; BTW, there was a pretty big crowd for 10am on a weekday. Spotted animation director Terry Lennon on the line to get in. Big Kid Collectibles (in a mini-mall on the corner of Burbank and Hazeltine) is an amazing museum of great stuff – much of it animation related and all of it for sale. Classic TV items, cartoon cereal boxes (I snagged a cool tin reproduction of the Kellogg’s sign above), old Terrytoon board games, Soaky toys, 8mm Castle films, Harveytoon toys – everything, with the exception of comic books, was there. I highly recommend a visit to this place, you won’t regret it.
For sale on eBay is a rare 16mm Technicolor print of a Walt Disney Wonderful World of Color show, “Magic And Music”. Originally telecast in black and white on Walt Disney Presents in 1958, this is the 1963 color rebroadcast. The most interesting aspect of it is the entire, uncut Pastoral Symphony sequence from Fantasia with all the footage of the black centaurette.Disney has been great about releasing its library in recent years, but racial images (think Song Of The South) are the last taboo the company still keeps under lock and key. The seller has a steep minimum price of $1500 for the item. Considering how rare this material is (and IB Tech prints of anything are scarce) he might just get it.
My local comic book store, Golden Apple Comics on Melrose Avenue, is moving to a new location this week.The first day I moved to L.A. (from New York City) in 1986 my first question to my new co-workers was “where are all the local comic book stores?”, and was directed toward Golden Apple. I walked in to the Melrose store that day and immediately felt at home. Bill Liebowitz was behind the counter and I told him how happy I was to find this place. We became instant friends and my once-a-week visits have become a weekend ritual for 20 years. A few years later Bill was the first to support my efforts to launch and promote Streamline Pictures, and we did several animation related events together throughout the years. Bill’s passing a few years ago has been a terrible loss to the local fan community. But his widow Sharon and son Ryan (and the incredible store staff led by Tony Edwards) have kept the store and its activites going without missing a beat.The old store, due to its Hollywood location, has been featured in numerous news stories and several Hollywood movies. Its clientele includes big stars (I’ve personally stood on the checkout line with Michael Jackson, Joss Whedon, Samuel L. Jackson, Seth Green, etc.). So now they are moving (supposedly because the landlord unexpectedly and unreasonably wanted to jack up the rent). I personally think the new location (7018 Melrose) will be a good thing for the business. They are moving next door to Gallery 1988 on the corner of LaBrea and Melrose. Stan Lee will be there (to cut the ribbon) on Wednesday morning, November 1st, at 10am.So will I.
A genuine tragedy, although not in the Shakespearean sense…A comprehensive list of what’s wrong with “Romeo & Juliet: Sealed With a Kiss” would stretch farther than the unabridged works of William S. But it begins with the notion of a just-for-kids take on a play whose climax is a double suicide. Don’t worry: There’s no dying here. Just an unending torture, 77 minutes that feel longer than an uncut Hamlet.The massacre of great drama might be at least forgivable were “Sealed With a Kiss” not so manifestly shoddy. The radioactive hues of Nibbelink’s blobby, graceless animation sear the eye like an atom blast… most of the movie’s voices are so heavily post-processed in an attempt to sound “funny” that what’s left of Shakespeare’s dialogue is rendered nearly unintelligible… In an astonishing display of poor taste, Nibbelink periodically breaks up the mushy stuff with scenes of Mercutio barking insults at his rival tribe – insults that are most often racist jokes with the offending epithet replaced by the word “Capulet” (i.e. “What do you call 500 Capulets on the bottom of the ocean?” “A good start.”)… That’s not suitable for all ages – it’s suitable for no one.
Strangly enough, the TIMES review actually makes me wanna go see it. To be fair, the LA WEEKLY was a little kinder. Luke Thompson there simply sums it up like this:
This is one odd concoction, which should find its primary audience among college potheads who like to watch ’70s Hanna-Barbera creations on the Cartoon Network late at night.
Courtesy of Classic Media and Sony Wonder, this morning we had two advance copies of Harveytoons: The Complete Collection to give away! The first two people that responded with the correct answer to the question below won the prize:
In the climax of the 1948 Noveltoon cartoon, There’s Good Boo’s Tonight, Casper’s new “friend”, a fox, is killed by a hunter. But that’s the happy ending – as the fox quickly emerges from his grave as a ghost and runs off to play with Casper at the iris out.Question: What is the name of the fox?
The Contest is now closed! The correct answer is FERDIE FOX. The winners were Ted Watts of Groose Pointe, Michigan and Jon Cooke of Leeds, Maine. Thanks to all who entered.
Okay, I admit it. I love Famous Studios cartoons. Perhaps at some point I’ll go on at length about why I like them so much (partially it’s nostalgia, partially it’s because they aren’t as bad as many people think, and partially because I love to champion the underdog), but as I’m under a tight deadline on a book project I’ll hold off discussing this particular guilty pleasure for now.Sony Wonder has just released a boxed set called Harveytoons: The Complete Collection. “Harveytoons” was the generic name affixed to the 1950s Paramount/Famous Studio cartoons (featuring Casper, Baby Huey, Herman and Katnip, Little Audrey, Buzzy, etc.) when they were originally syndicated to television back in the 1960s, after Harvey Comics acquired the TV and non-theatrical rights to the library. Classic Media owns the collection today and authorized this new set. I haven’t had time to review the whole set, but what we have here are 52 episodes of THE HARVEYTOONS SHOW, a program I formatted for Harvey Entertainment and Fox Kids back in 1998. Unfortunately, this set does NOT constitute “the complete collection” under any condition. For a variety of reasons we did not incorporate the entire Harveytoon library into the original series. Certain cartoons (particularly the Screen Songs) are edited. The fact that their were 78 episodes should tip you off right there. Here’s the list of the original Fox Kids series. Sadly the contents of the DVD set doesn’t even match up to this list (for example, episode 52 on the DVD is actually #53 of the series).Oh, how I wish someone from Classic Media had consulted with me. For one, I would have made sure to include certain cartoons (like the politically incorrect Chew Chew Baby) and it would have been fun to create some bonus materials. The good news is that the cartoons look nice and clean, the cult classic La Petite Parade is included (episode #40 on the DVD) and they’ve restored the original Jackson Beck vocal tracks to Buzzy The Crow.And hey, they sent me two sets to give away on Cartoon Brew! Tomorrow (Friday) morning at 9am Pacific (that’s 12 noon in the East coast) I’ll post a trivia question and the first two correct answers will win one of these babies. (I will only accept entries from the U.S. and Canada) “Dat sounds logical!”
Next year’s animated feature slate continues to look better and better. With The Simpsons Movie, Brad Bird’s latest from Pixar, and Shrek The Third leading the pack, I’ve got high hopes for 2007. Even the independent and foreign releases look promising.Sony Pictures Classics (who did a great job distributing The Triplettes of Belleville a few years ago) has picked up another interesting foreign animated film. PERSEPOLIS is a hand drawn, black and white animated feature described as “a coming-of-age story of a precocious and outspoken young Iranian girl that begins during the Islamic Revolution”. It is based on Marjane Satrapi’s best-selling and award-winning comic book autobiography. The film started production in October 2005, at Bibo Films, Bibo Bergeron’s (The Road to El Dorado) studio in Paris. Author Satrapi and cartoonist Vincent Paronnaud (aka Winshluss) wrote and are co-directing the film, which is being executive produced by Kathleen Kennedy (Who Framed Roger Rabbit, An American Tail, etc.). Satrapi has started a production blog to document her experience with the animation process. Still pictures from the film are posted here. Sony Pictures Classics plans to release the film in the US in the fall of 2007.
Nobody, but nobody, draws old Jewish comedians better than Drew Friedman. Drew will be making a one-time-only Los Angeles appearance, to celebrate his new collection of portraits featuring many of Hollywood’s most famous personalities, next Thursday night in Hollywood.WHAT: DREW FRIEDMAN talk and signing WHEN: Thursday, Nov. 2 at 7:30PM WHERE: Skylight Books 1818 N. Vermont Avenue, Los Feliz WHY: Old Jewish Comedians!
Tomorrow night in Glendale California, ASIFA-Hollywood will present ASIFA-East President David Levy (animation director Blues Clues) leading a panel discussion on the state of the industry and how to navigate a career in animation. Panelists include:Craig Bartlett (Creator: Hey Arnold!) Alex Kirwan (Art Director: My Life As A Teenage Robot) Sue Perrotto (Animation director: Beavis and Butthead, Billy and Mandy, Megas XLR, etc.) David J. Steinberg (Disney Feature Animation Producer) Eric Coleman (VP, Animation Development and Production, Nickelodeon)Dave Levy will be signing copies of his new book as well.Tuesday, Oct. 24th, 2006, 7pm Glendale Public Library 222 East Harvard Street Glendale CA General Public pays $10; admission is FREE for ASIFA-Hollywood members.
Animation historian Ray Pointer has a new video compilation in the works.
I am beginning final Edit Assembly of my new program, THE LEGENDARY LAUGH-O-GRAMS FAIRY TALES. This is a look at the first works done by Walt Disney in his Kansas City period. This is most significant since this December 15th marks the 40th anniversary of Disney’s death. Little attention has been given to this early period in Disney’s career, and it has been due to the efforts of outside non-profit groups such as the Thank you, Walt Disney Foundation of Kansas City, as well as independent researchers and producers such as myself that this important period of the Disney story is being saved.THE LEGENDARY LAUGH-O-GRAMS FAIRY TALES is targeted for a Christmas release to honor the memory and contributions of Walt Disney in this, the Centennial of American Animation, as well as the 40th decade since his death from Lung Cancer.
Ray says the video includes Little Red Riding Hood (1922), The Four Musicians Of Bremen (1922), Puss In Boots (1922), and Cinderella (1922), plus Disney’s first educational film, Tommy Tucker’s Tooth (1922). And a rare interview with Rudy Ising reflecting on his experiences with Walt Disney at the start of his career. More info at Inkwell Images.
Last month the British press made a stink about cigarette smoking in old Tom & Jerry cartoons. Nicole Hollander even made note of it in her syndicated comic strip Sylvia last Tuesday (excerpt below, see the entire strip here). Now Turner Entertainment is planning to cut those smoking scenes out of all their Tom & Jerry TV prints. Never mind that these cartoons weren’t aimed at kids in the first place, and produced in a time when a cigarette, cigar or pipe in your mouth was as common as a cup of Starbucks in your hand today. I’ve never smoked myself and I am very much against against big tobacco – but I believe it is my right to watch cartoon characters smoke if I want to.On Saturday October 28th, at the AFI in Hollywood, Asifa Hollywood is hosting a special showing of SMOKIN’ TOONS. A special blend of cartoons from the 1940s and 50s, hosted by yours truly Jerry Beck, will screen at 3pm. No smoking permited on the AFI campus, but I guarantee your lungs will ache with laughter! Join us!
Roy Disney will be one of the guest speakers at the 2D OR NOT 2D animation event in Everett, Washington, next month. This new animation festival hopes to revive interest in hand drawn animation with a series of screenings and lectures over a three day period. Roy Disney will present a screening of Disney short films from the past 75 years. Animator, author and festival organizer Tony White will screen ENDANGERED SPECIES, his new short film. Animator Nancy Beiman will discuss her new book, Prepare to Board, and show excerpts from films she’s worked on. Cartoonist Tom Wilson will show ZIGGY’S GIFT, and there are screenings of the restored 1955 feature film ANIMAL FARM, DREAM ON SILLY DREAMER and several other surprises. 2D OR NOT 2D Animated Film Festival will be held at the Historic Everett Theatre in Everett, Washington from November 17th thru 19th 2006. Check the website for more details.
Talk about personal vision. Freelance animator/illustrator Mike Owens has been working for over a year on an unusual personal film, a multi-screen, multi-media animated project entitled Parade Of Monkeys.
My goal for this film is to project the animation on multiple screens in a theatrical setting, mixed with live performance, lighting fx and live music.
Sounds cool to me. Check his production blog for art, updates and pencil tests.