Joe Dante’s Trailers From Hell is down for Christmas week, so instead of trailer commentaries he’s running The Hangman, a rarely-seen 1964 short subject designed by Paul Julian and co-directed by Julian and Les Goldman, based on Maurice Ogden’s classic poem. If you are only familiar with Julian’s work through his years of background design for Warner cartoons or UPA’s version of “The Tell-Tale Heart” (1953), you know you are in for a treat. Haunting and moody – believe it or not, they used to show this to us in public school in the 1960s!
Chris Hardwick is our guest comedian for Tuesday night’s live Cartoon Dump show in Los Angeles. If you don’t know him, he’s a very funny writer/actor/comic who is currently a regular on G4′s Attack Of The Show, blogs on Nerdist.com and provided the voice for the hero Green Arrow on the The Batman (2004), the villain Glowface on Nickelodeon’s The X’s, and stars as Otis the Cow on Back To The Barnyard.
It’s our Christmas Special – and Mighty Mr. Titan will be one of the chestnuts we’ll be roasting in a open fire. Join us on December 23rd at 8pm at the Steve Allen Theatre in Hollywood.
P.S. Good news for our friends and fans in the Bay area – we are coming to the Eureka Theatre on January 31st. Cartoon Dump will be part of the San Francisco Sketchfest – with guest comedians Andy Kindler and Mary Lynn Rajskub (“24″). Join us there at 8pm. Tickets available now!
I’m working on a new book project with Insight Editions (the same folks who published The Hanna Barbera Treasury) – and I need your help.
The concept is similar to my long out-of-print book, The 50 Greatest Cartoons (1994), only this time its all Warner Bros. Cartoons and we will highlight the top one hundred. I am personally contacting some of the top historians, animators, critics, filmmakers and authorities for their opinion. But why stop there? In 1994, for my previous book, we didn’t have the Internet to do the poll (nor did I have a blog). It should be exciting to see what the consensus of the online world is.
I’m asking all participants to list their “greatest” nominees in the comments section below. You can list your top ten, twenty or fifty – but please, no more than that. List them in order of greatness, #1 being the most important. I’ll cull the final one hundred out of what titles we receive by January 9th. Please include your real name if you wish to be acknowledged in the book.
This is open to the 1001 (or so) theatrically released Warner Bros. cartoons (Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies) created between 1930 and 1969 (though I tend to doubt we’ll receive too many entries from the 1960s). No government sponsored films (sorry Snafu), industrial or made-for-TV animation accepted. The classic shorts. You know what I mean. Here’s the complete list of eligible film titles.
What defines greatness? That’s up to you. I’m throwing the door wide open. Historical significance, biggest laughs, greatest character animation, important milestones… make a list and check it twice. And post it below.
Three more books I’m recommending for holiday gift giving, mainly because they are really good reads.
Directing the Story by Francis Glebas (Aladdin, Lion King, Pocahontas, Hercules, etc.) is the ultimate book on storytelling and storyboard techniques. 346 oversized color pages explaining everything about the craft, with excellent informative text and hundreds of storyboard drawings to illustrate every point. Highly Recommended!
Ted Stearn is a storyboard artist (Beavis and Butt-head, King of the Hill, Futurama, Drawn Together, etc.) by day and an alternative comics genius at night. His Fantagraphics funny animal duo, Fuzz and Pluck, star in separate adventures in their latest graphic novel, Fuzz and Pluck: Splitsville. These are seriously demented stories, and hopefully the template for some future animated adaptation. Crazy drawings and crazy fun. Recommended!
I wish Fantagraphics had also printed Beetle Bailey: the First Years 1950-1952. This book doesn’t have the classy feel of the Peanuts or Dennis The Menace reprint volumes, but nonetheless is a fascinating volume tracing the origins of America’s favorite Army private. I spent a half hour going through this book at Barnes and Noble (note to my close buds or Brian Walker: I don’t own a copy and would love to get one as a a gift – hint, hint), I couldn’t put it down. Walker was a terrific cartoonist back then and you can see why the strip became a hit. Recommended!
Back in September I wrote several posts about a stash of Warner Club News magazines I came into featuring rare photos and information about the Warner Bros. Cartoon Department. Here’s one more. The photo above comes from the February 1958 issue and it shows the Commercial and Industrial Film animation crew in conference – left to right: Chuck Jones, Leo Salkin, Lou Scheimer, Maurice Noble, Owen Crump (producer), Carol Chaka (secretary) and Richard Hobson (executive). Dave DePatie (not pictured, was a production coordinator and editor in this division at the time).
In 1956, Warner Bros. created the WBTV Commercial and Industrial Films Division which produced dozens of films – live action, animated and sometimes combining both. When animation was needed it was coordinated through the Cartoon Department, and utilized the skills of their veteran animators and directors. They created TV spots, many made exclusively for sponsors of Warner Bros, TV shows – for Eastman Kodak, Gillette, General Electric, Nabisco, Ford, Kelloggs, Crest, Camay, etc. Perhaps their biggest project was the Bell Systen Science series. My guess is that in the photo above was taken during the production of Gateways To the Mind (1958) which contained this scene below (which I found on You Tube, forgive the pitch to purchase the DVD, I’m not selling, but you can purchase it here):
Here’s something you may not have seen. During the 1930s, MGM published a bi-monthly in-house magazine, MGM Shorts Story devoted to its numerous short subjects. Distributed primarily to its exhibitors and Loews Theatre managers, the oversized slick magazine devoted many of its pages to its latest cartoons and occasionally featured a cover story related to its animation studio. The November-December 1939 issue took a closer look at Harman Ising with this article below.
This is basically a studio publicity piece, but its interesting to note Harman and Ising defending their use of animal characters (over humans) and the spin that having no “star characters” frees them to experiment with different ideas. (Click thumbnails below to read):
Thank you Mark Evanier for pointing us towards a must-read L.A. Times article by former Chuck Jones/Bill Melendez/Richard Williams publicist-turned-animation producer Steven Paul Leiva (Space Jam), about his ill-fated attempts to bring Will Eisner’s The Spirit to the screen. The story tells how Brad Bird, John Lasseter, John Musker, Jerry Rees (and other Hollywood bigshots) tried to make a potentially ground-breaking animated feature over 20 years ago (Leiva is pictured above left, in 1981, with Brad Bird (center) and Will Eisner at right). Read it now!
Several animators have expanded beyond simply publishing their own sketchbooks and have moved up into creating personal illustrated stories, and authoring children’s books. Here are a few suggestions, off the beaten path, for gifts you might want to give your animated loved ones this holiday season.
First off, if you were wondering where to find a great childrens’ book about a town of hamburger-headed people… Well, your worries are over! Writer Mike Reiss (The Simpsons) has teamed once again with animator Xeth Feinberg (their past collaborations include Queer Duck and Hard Drinkin’ Lincoln) to create a clever, funny book just published by Inkwater Press, City of Hamburgers.
Next, meet Gabriele Pennacchioli, a Dreamworks animator-story artist who’s spent one year of weekends developing the story of a little horned hero. Now he’s collected his incredibly appealing drawings into a book, The Young Minotaur, which he’s selling $15.00 (which includes his signature and a sketch). See his blog for more information.
David G. Derrick Jr. is an artist and sculptor at Dreamworks Animation who has documented his adventures sketching animals in Africa in a new self published soft cover, African Diaries. It’s a first person account, in words and drawings, of his recent trek through the dark continent. Check out his website to order and see his amazing sculptures.
Speaking of Africa and Dreamworks, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention, once again, my own holiday gift book The Art of Madagascar. Take a look:
Check out this great article on Hanna Barbera from the September 1960 issue from Popular Mechanics (that’s Carlo Vinci above shown animating Fred Flintstone). I found it using the new feature on Google’s Book Search which now includes magazines. It’s unclear how many magazines are currently in their system, but at launch it seems to include New York magazine, Popular Mechanics, Popular Science, Ebony, Jet, Vegetarian Times, and Baseball Digest.
For example, a quick search for Disney or Animation brings up articles like this 1945 classic from Popular Science about how Disney combines live action and animation. This looks to be a great resource for us as they add more periodicals.
The Hollywood Foreign Press Association (aka a group of anonymous journalists who cover Hollywood for international publications, but nonetheless produce a glitzy influential awards show that is somehow a bellwether for the Oscars) has announced their nominees for the 2008 Golden Globes. For Best Animated Feature Film they have nominated Bolt, Kung Fu Panda, and Wall-E. The winner will be announced Sunday, January 11th, 2009 on NBC.
Favorites of 2008? Cartoon Brew co-editor Amid certainly chose several that could have/would have made the top of my list. However, upon careful reflection, I can truthfully claim that the following alternates are not only my personal favorites of the year – but will remain favorites of mine for years to come.
As Amid pointed out, I loved Sita Sings The Blues. But, as Sita wasn’t widely released this year, nor qualified for 2008 Oscar or Annie recognition, I decided (for this post) to be swayed by traditional commercial releases. Of those, Dreamworks’ Kung Fu Panda was the most entertaining movie I saw all year. I felt the entire film, from beginning to end, worked perfectly – as an adventure, as comedy, with delightful eye candy art direction, great voice acting and wonderful character animation. The 2D opening sequence was icing on the cake. It’s Dreamworks best film and it revived my hope that Jeffery’s studio can compete aesthetically (as well as commercially) with Pixar.
It’s hard to believe that both Amid and I selected shows from Adult Swim. You haven’t heard me rave about Robot Chicken on the Brew, but I’ve been quietly monitoring the show this year and have concluded its the most consistently funny animated series I’ve seen in a long time. Sure, there have been several killer episodes of The Simpsons and King of The Hill this season, but I’ve been won over by Chicken’s delightfully crude stop motion animation and equally crude humor. The two Star Wars specials were the series personal best. All of it well worth your fifteen minutes.
I saw a lot of shorts this year, but two really stood out. I saw Skhizein (pictured above) in Ottawa and it really blew me away. Jeremy Clapin’s 3D/2D tour-de-force about a man hit by a meteorite and finding himself existing 91 centimeters away from his own body. I’m still thinking about it. Great concept, well done.
Oktapodi was my other big favorite. Created by the students at the French animation school Gobelins, this film has everything: suspense, humor, heart, great design and a hilarious, ridiculous concept – perfect for animation.
Who says print is dead? Collected wisdom in the form of books is still alive and appreciated by those (like me), who prefer to linger over dedicated research and desired images otherwise unattainable in any form. That said, my favorite reads this year were actually several non-animation pop culture references (Mark Evainer’s Kirby, King of Comics, Martin Pasko’s The DC Vault, Grace Bradley Boyd’s Hoplalong Cassidy, An American Legend, among others). But among the animation books, my favorite has to be Jon Gibson and Chris McDonnell’s Unfiltered: The Complete Ralph Bakshi. An overdue tribute and a stunning visual feast, Gibson and McDonnell deserve kudos for shedding light on Ralph’s many accomplishments, from beginning to end.
I’m also proud of my contributions to the continuing series of Harvey Comics reprints that Leslie Cabarga is compiling for Dark Horse Books. I’m particularly happy with my Introduction in the Baby Huey book featuring quotes from Martin Taras and Dave Tendlar along with several rare Herman & Katnip model sheets. Slowly but surely my master plan to bring recognition and respect to the artists of Famous Studios is coming to fruition.
What can I say? I'm biased. These three DVD sets are my favorite videos of the year. (Full disclosure: I was a consultant and active participant in their creation). If you love classic cartoon shorts, these will give you hours of viewing pleasure. I told you about them in April, July and November and I’ll say it again. In an era of declining DVD sales, your purchase of Looney Tunes Golden Collection Vol. 6, Popeye Vol. 3, and Woody Woodpecker and Friends Vol. 2 do more than give hours of vintage animation goodness – they tell the studios that you want to see more.
Sorry this is a bit hard to see, but it’s an early pencil test of Tissa David’s “Candy Hearts” sequence from Richard Williams Raggedy Ann and Andy (1977). I meant to post this last year when we acknowledged the film’s 30th anniversary, but I couldn’t find it then. Copies if this (in 16mm) were floating around the New York animation community in 1976 and I was lucky enough to snag a dupe copy back then. It’s interesting to compare it to the finished version. It’s one of the few animated features never released on DVD and that’s a real shame. Michael Sporn has written extensively about the film on his Splog, and of course John Canemaker wrote a wonderful companion book detailing it’s creation.