Scrappy and Gerald McBoing Boing shake hands with The Inspector and Hoot Kloot – It’s official:Sony has purchased the United Artists/Orion/A.I.P./post 1985 MGM library.
The first review of SHARK TALE is in. “Bottom line: An amusing cartoon that lacks real satirical bite.” Read the whole review on The Hollywood Reporter.com.
I’ve been following the on-going bidding war for the MGM studio (or as I like to call it “MGM/UA”). Time Warner (aka Warner Bros.) was close to acquiring the studio (and its library which includes the DePatie-Freleng Pink Panther cartoons, and the AIP/Orion library which includes FRITZ THE CAT, HEAVY TRAFFIC, ALAKAZAM THE GREAT, PRINCE PLANET, THE WORLD OF HANS CHRISTIAN ANDERSEN, JACK & THE WITCH, etc.)This morning Time-Warner withdrew it’s offer, and has left it to Sony (with it’s under ultilized Screen Gems/UPA classic cartoon library) to pick up the pieces.As I am currently writing a PINK PANTHER Ultimate Visual Guide for DK Publishing, all of this interests me. There are pros and cons to each of these studios acquiring the MGM holdings. If Warners picked it up, dvd sets of the cartoon library would probably make their way to the public rather quickly. Sony on the other hand, has no idea what to do with animated cartoons – nor classic feature films – based on what I’ve seen of the films they’ve already released (and not released) on dvd.
May the best media conglomorate (and cartoon fans) win.
The Second Annual Benefit for the Cartoon Art Museum will be held Saturday, October 2nd at Pixar. Pixar Animation Studios will host the second annual benefit at 6pm with a special evening on the Emeryville campus.
Over wine and hors d’oeuvres you will see a stunning gallery exhibition featuring the pre-production artwork for the Walt Disney Pictures presentation of a Pixar Animation Studios film, The Incredibles, opening November 5, 2004. Guests will then be escorted into Pixar’s state-of-the-art 240 seat theater to hear the artists and wizards behind Toy Story, Finding Nemo, and The Incredibles share their unique perspectives on the movie-making process. After the presentation, guests will have an opportunity to converse with the speakers and other Pixarians.
Special guest speakers ewill include: Gary Rydstrom, sound designer; Andrew Stanton, writer/director, Finding Nemo; Mark Andrews, Head of Story, The Incredibles; Angus MacLane, animator; and Dr. Michael B. Johnson, Pixar R&D.This event will sell out quickly and there are only a limited number of seats available. Cartoon Art Museum members can purchase tickets for the reduced rate of $125, while the non-member rate is $175. Tickets will not be sold at the door.
More information is posted at www.cartoonart.orgCartoon Art Museum
655 Mission Street
San Francisco, CA 94105
phone: (415) CAR-TOON
Frank Thomas, the second-to-last surviving member of Disney’s “Nine Old Men” group of supervising animators, passed away on September 8, three days after his ninety-second birthday.The following is excerpted from the official Disney announcement:
Frank Thomas, one of the most talented, inventive and influential animators in the history of the art form, a member of Walt Disney’s elite “Nine Old Men,” and a pioneering animator who worked on many classic shorts and features during his 43-year career at the Disney Studios, passed away on Wednesday (9/8) at his home in Flintridge, California. He was 92 years old. Thomas had been in declining health following a cerebral hemorrhage earlier this year.In addition to his achievements as an animator and directing animator, Thomas (in collaboration with his lifelong friend and colleague Ollie Johnston) authored four landmark books: Disney Animation: The Illusion of Life, Too Funny for Words, Bambi: The Story and the Film, and The Disney Villain. Thomas and Johnston were also the title subjects of a heartfelt 1995 feature-length documentary entitled “Frank and Ollie,” written and directed by Frank’s son, Theodore (Ted) Thomas.In a career filled with milestones, Thomas’ remarkable animation included such indelible moments as the first date and spaghetti dinner in “Lady and the Tramp,” Thumper teaching Bambi how to ice-skate, Baloo the bear telling the man-cub Mowgli that he can’t stay in the jungle in “The Jungle Book,” Pinocchio trapped in the birdcage by the evil puppeteer Stromboli, the lovesick squirrel whose heart is broken in “Sword in the Stone,” Captain Hook playing the piano in “Peter Pan,” the dancing penguins in “Mary Poppins,” among others. He also animated several of Mickey Mouse’s most impressive scenes in such films as “The Pointer,” and “Brave Little Tailor.” Noted animation historian/author/filmmaker John Canemaker, described Thomas’ special talents in his book, Walt Disney’s Nine Old Men. “Thomas is particularly known and admired for his ability to animate emotionally sensitive material; the saddest scenes, the most romantic, most deeply felt sequences, the sincerest heart-tuggers usually found their way to his drawing board.” John Lasseter (head of creative for Pixar Animation Studios and director of the “Toy Story” films and “A Bug’s Life”) said, “Frank was a giant in our field and he meant everything to me and to all of us who love the art of animation. Besides being one of the key guys to help elevate animation from a novelty to an incredible art form, he was so generous in passing along his knowledge and experiences to the generations that followed. The books that he wrote with Ollie had a big impact on so many of us working in animation today. Frank was one of my main mentors and a tremendous influence on me. I feel very privileged to have known him.” Leonard Maltin, animation historian, film critic, and author, observed, “Frank helped to invent animation as an art form and took it to incredible new heights through his work at Disney over four and a half decades. He and his lifelong friend and colleague, Ollie Johnston, had a remarkable gift for explaining and articulating how they did what they did. That’s a rare quality in an artist. Even in his nineties, Frank retained a youthful spirit and indomitable sense of humor.”Thomas retired from animation in January, 1978. Over the next five years, Thomas and Johnston devoted full time to researching and writing the definitive book on their craft, Disney Animation: The Illusion of Life. The book distilled forty years of knowledge and experience into what many consider the finest book ever written about animation. Too Funny for Words was published six years later and explored the gags, humor and story elements that went into the features and shorts. Walt Disney’s Bambi: The Story and the Film (1990) told the behind the scenes story of the creation of one of the greatest animated films of all-time. Their final collaboration, The Disney Villain (1993), explored the richest and most colorful rogue’s gallery in film history.In addition to his career as a top animator, Thomas also expressed his musical talents as the piano player in the popular jazz group, The Firehouse Five Plus Two. Formed in 1940s, the group consisted of other Disney employees, and achieved success with their numerous Dixieland jazz recordings and personal appearances. They officially disbanded in 1971. In 1995, Thomas was the subject of a feature length documentary, “Frank and Ollie,” released by Walt Disney Pictures. Written, produced, and directed by Frank’s son, Theodore (Ted) Thomas, and produced by Ted’s wife, Kuniko Okubo, the film played film festivals around the world and received acclaim for its insightful look at the lives, careers and extraordinary friendship of the two legendary animators.No funeral is planned but details regarding a life celebration will be announced shortly. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests that donations be made in Frank’s name to the Character Animation Program at CalArts (California Institute of the Arts) in Santa Clarita, California.
I’m still hungover from two mind-blowing nights of classic cartoons with John K. at the Egyptian theatre. So while I recover, here’s an unrelated guest report from Brew reader Chris Sobieniak:
A couple days ago, I went off to mail some videos at the post office, afterwards, I decided to check out the Korean import mart close by to see what goodies they got this time, and I found a couple things of interest you might like to see…First off, is a package with a familiar figure on it, Popeye, pimping for Samyang Food’s own “Star Popeye Snack”! Though a typical non-spinich gig for our one-eyed sailor, he still gets to show it in his hand anyway (though the packaging mmicks a rather uncanny look of generic soda cups from the drive-in). More info on this (though in Korean) can be accessed hereAnd finally, a package of the Korean version of Frito-Lay’s “Chee-tos” (notice I still use the hyphen), produced by Orion Frito-Lay (a joint venture between a Korean confectionary and PepsiCo supposibly). Oddly, this version of Chee-tos isn’t the cheesy type we’ve come to know and love in the US, but now is barbacue flavored! Somehow I couldn’t get halfway through the bag before I threw the rest away (just don’t have a taste for it). Featured on the front of the package is none other than the recently released (and horridly adapted) “Astro Boy” character, with a freebie surprise inside (you don’t expect that anymore)! Not really a nifty item, looks to be some kind of spinner, though I kept thinking of it as the milkcap or “pogs” of a decade ago.
Very busy time for me this week.I’m hosting the John K. Classic Cartoon night, tonight, at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood. Don’t miss your last chance to see the 35mm restored POPEYE MEETS SINDBAD print everyone (especially me) is raving about – also 35mm prints of THE GREAT PIGGY BANK ROBBERY (Daffy Duck), SOLID IVORY (Woody Woodpecker), BLIND DATE (Heckle & Jeckle, Jim Tyer), MINNIE’S YOO HOO (Mickey Mouse), and many others, with live commentary by John K. (and sometimes me). Don’t miss it – it starts at 8pm!Thursday night I’m the opening act, showing several musical shorts (and cartoons) at the Steve Allen Theatre in Los Feliz. This is an event for Janet Klein and her Parlour Boys who are having a CD release party at 8pm. Janet sings and plays 1920s jazz – she’s got quite a cult following in both Los Angeles and Japan. Her new album is called Living In Sin – and I recommend it (the album, that is). Check out her nifty website.
Wednesday, July 14, 2004 (Part II)
I know it’s going to be a crazy adventure. And a TON of work. My first day here I was up for 30.5 hours (a new personal record!). After my grueling plane ride I got two hours of sleep before I was driven to the studio, given a quick tour by Creative Consultant Mark Valenti, and plopped in front of a video monitor where I watched every episode of LAZYTOWN that had been produced to date. If you’ve seen the show you can imagine what kind of a sensory overload that was.
The studio is the type of creative madhouse those of you familiar with that sort of environment might imagine, but for various reasons it’s even more so. The place embodies the spirit of country, where the capricious climate has given birth to the phrase, “If you don’t like the weather in Iceland, wait five minutes and it will change.” The production is driven by a mercurial genius named Magnus Scheving, and he is, as far as I can tell, the personification of this unpredictable island. Magnus is such an incredible character that I’ll have to devote a separate entry just to describe his dynamic persona, and even then, words won’t do the man justice. He’s one of the most energetic and amusing fellows I’ve ever met, and sharp as a damn whip.
I can’t talk about Magnus without mentioning his co-star: Stefan Karl, who plays Robbie Rotten in the show. For those of you who know what I’m talking about, Stefan is the Icelandic version of Rob Paulsen. For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about, that means that he’s a very funny, very shmoozy, very ambitious actor. We get along famously. More on him later.
The final member of the live action cast is Julianna Rose Mauriello, a remarkable thirteen year-old who is absolutely incandescent on the screen. She’s a triple threat (singing, dancing and acting), and she’s also smarter than the average kid her age. Her mother, Kahlua O’Callahan, promises to be a breath of straightforward American air during future late night bull sessions. I look forward to them in smoky dark clubs with endless coffees.
I’ve met a lot of people in a (very long) day, and I’ve barely scratched the surface of my experience. A good writer leaves his audience wanting more, though, so I’m going to sign off for now. Tomorrow morning I’m going to take a walk and see what kind of place I’ve landed in. One more image follows, just to amuse and clarify the “Land of the Midnight Sun” concept. The picture below was taken at midnight, outside of the flat where I’m crashing.
One final, disconcerting thing: as I’m falling asleep tonight I keep hearing the voices of women, speaking fragments of trivial sentences in English, clear as a bell and right in my ear. When I wake with a start they stop. Is the place I’m staying haunted, or are the walls just thin?
Good night to all
Ken Pontac, Iceland
Gordan Calma has updated his POPEYE website with a work-in-progress gallery of vintage Fleischer POPEYE cartoon posters. Go here and enjoy!
I’m away this weekend attending the marathon screenings at the Egyptian Theatre (aka Cinecon), so I’ll have little time to blog the next few days.I wanted to quickly plug my local comics shop, GOLDEN APPLE, because they’ve got a few upcoming events I want you to know about. First off, on Saturday 9/11 at 3PM they are hosting a “Petition signing Party” for John K. and the Spumco Crew. Come down and add your voice to the plea to get Ren & Stimpy back on the air with new shows. Then on Saturday November 20th at 3pm, the IRON GIANT DVD SPECIAL EDITION release celebration and animation crew reunion:
A chance to meet and interact with over a dozen members of the creative team responsible for this milestone animated project. A reunion of the animators (and special guests) who conceived and created this much-loved movie. Autographs, lively Q&A and presentations, pre-production and test drawings, stories, surprises and lots more. Discussions will be moderated by Ramin Zahed, Editor of Animation Magazine who is co-sponsoring the Event. Admission to the Event is FREE with the purchase of the Special Edition DVD at any Golden Apple location. Pre orders will be available Oct. 1, 2004. Contact: Bill Liebowitz at Golden Apple (323) 658-6047 or [email protected]
Mark your calenders now.
Wednesday, July 14, 2004
Holy Christ! I’m in Iceland!
The sun shines all the time here, and the hot water from the tap smells like a fart from a sourstomached old man who’s eaten too many pickled eggs. The signage is incomprehensible, people’s names are unpronounceable, and the money looks like panels from a comic book regaling tales of stern, bearded men wearing odd hats and holding ponderous tomes.
That being said, the weather is fabulous (that’ll change), the food is delicious (I’m gonna get fat), and the women are giant blond goddesses (I can’t touch ‘em).
How did I get to this strange place? What happened? Oh, yeah… the story’s starting to emerge from my sleep deprived brain.
A week ago I got a call from my pal, Mark Zaslove, who’s the Story Consultant for a series called LAZYTOWN. The show is being produced for Nick Jr., and can be seen on Nickelodeon weekdays at 10:30 and 11:00 AM. LAZYTOWN is described as “a fresh new television series designed to engage and motivate kids to make healthier choices in their everyday lives. The show is action-adventure on a small scale, encompassing movement, music, and comedy in an entertaining story.” A writing spot had just opened and Mark had thrown my name into the hat as a potential scribbler. He described the show to me and it sounded like a hoot. I told him I was interested.
After discussing the offer with my lovely wife Susan, we decided that it was worth biting the bullet and dealing with an extended separation. After all, how often do you get a chance to travel to Iceland? Resumes got sent, agents got called, and a week later my plane was setting down on a volcanic island on the top of the world!
This day isn’t over yet! To be continued…
If you happen to be wandering near Walt Disney’s hometown – Marceline, Missouri – on Saturday September 18th, you might stop in on the annual TOONFEST. Pixar’s Pete Docter (Monsters Inc.) will be there, as well as Michael Broggie, the Walt Disney railroad historian and family friend. Also appearing will be newspaper cartoonists Tom Wilson (Ziggy), Mike Peters (Mother Goose & Grimm), Greg Evans (Luann) and Brad Anderson (Marmaduke). It all starts 12:30pm at the Uptown Theatre, 104 N. Main St. USA, on the 18th. More information is posted here.
Or certainly the most painful to watch.Richard Rich (The Swan Princess) is at it again. Hoping to cash in on the release of THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST on dvd this week, Anchor Bay Video has produced this ANIMATED PASSION (“for the whole family”)! This could be the worst animated video since the child-friendly TITANIC animated musical I wrote about a few years ago. If watching the crucifixion in “bright colors and kid-friendly language” isn’t enough for you, the bonus materials include “sing-along activities”.At least the lead characters aren’t mice this time around.
I’ve alway’s enjoyed the Mary Blair inspired paintings and animation art of Tim Biskup (Time Squad). Now Tim’s opening a physical store in Pasadena to sell his original artwork, prints, toys and books. He’s also having a grand opening party on Saturday September 18th from 6pm to 9pm, and we are all invited!The BISPOP GALLERY is located inside Johnson Motors Inc. at 36 West Colorado Blvd., #7 Mills Place Alley in Pasadena. For more information check Tim’s website or Flopdoodle.com
DAILY VARIETY posted its mixed review of Dreamworks’ FATHER OF THE PRIDE today. Quote:
The show remains a serious gamble with doubtful prospects, as its sporadically tawdry tone clearly isn’t meant for kids, and questions linger about how many adults will be motivated to tune in a CGI series on their own, the popularity of “Shrek” and its sequel notwithstanding.
You can read the whole review here.
One of the cleverest Saturday morning cartoons ever produced may never be seen again. LINUS THE LIONHEARTED (1964), produced by Ed Graham Productions for General Foods, lives on in bootleg videos and old comic books. But it was removed from all television broadcasts when the show came under fire by the FCC because it was perceived as a half hour commercial for Post cereals. Which, I guess, in some ways it was. It’s too bad a show with a voice cast which included Carl Reiner, Ruth Buzzi, Sheldon Leonard (as Linus), Jonathan Winters, Stiller & Meara, and other notable comedians — along with a troupe of appealing characters (of which, only Sugar Bear still remains active in TV spots for Post Golden Crisp) — is completely forgotten today. Luckily Scott Shaw has posted a tribute to Linus and the Crispy Critters over at his Oddball Comics website this week, with more information on the subject – and LINUS THE LIONHEARTED #1 from Gold Key Comics – than you thought humanly possible.
Mark Kausler and I will present a screening of rare Van Bueren TOM & JERRY cartoons next month at the AFI, as part of our on-going Asifa-Hollywood screening series, held the last Saturday of each month. For those who came in late, these are NOT the Hanna Barbera cat & mouse cartoons (although Joe Barbera DID work at Van Bueren around this time), these are the early 1930s pre-code, funky, black & white “Mutt & Jeff”-like rubber hose style duo in surreal cartoons which were re-titled “Dick & Larry” in the 1950s. Mark your calender and join us – it’s gonna be fun!Saturday September 25th, 2004 at 3:00pm. The American Film Institute – Ted Ashley Screening Room, 2021 N. Western Ave., Hollywood, California. ASIFA MEMBERS admitted FREE, Non-Members: $10.00
Okay, here’s your last two chances! If you live in L.A. (or plan to visit in the next two weeks) you have TWO opportunities to see the 35mm restored, pristine print (with original Paramount titles) of POPEYE MEETS SINDBAD, the Fleischer Oscar nominated two-reeler.Both screenings are at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood. The first is on Monday (Labor Day) September 6th at exactly 1:35pm. This screening is part of the marathon CINECON programming that weekend (a marathon of rare, restored classic movies that are never run anywhere else and not on dvd, most of the films shown at Cinecon are not on TV or have never been released on video). A complete schedule of Cinecon programming is here. The only other cartoons they are running this year are Mark Kausler’s IT’S THE CAT (Thursday September 2nd at 6:30pm) and a restored 35mm print of SCRAPPY’S TELEVISION (Friday September 3rd at 2:25pm).
Cinecon is where I met my wife in 2001, and proposed to her there in 2002. Needless to say, Marea and I will be there all weekend.POPEYE MEETS SINDBAD will also screen publicly two days later (September 8th at 8:00pm) in the same theatre as part of John Kricfalusi’s program of Classic Cartoon influences. This program will feature rare 35mm prints of Lantz, Terry (Tyer), Fleischer and Warner (Clampett & Jones) cartoons. I’ll post a complete list of cartoons screening that night as we get closer.
I’m hosting an Asifa-Hollywood screening / Q&A with Fred Ladd this Saturday, August 28th at the AFI. Fred has had an incredible career as an animation producer (PINOCCHIO IN OUTER SPACE, THE BIG WORLD OF LITTLE ADAM, etc.), U.S. anime pioneer (ASTRO BOY, KIMBA, GIGANTOR, SAILOR MOON) and as a notorious cartoon colorizer. He’s also a nice guy with a healthy sense of humor, and a lot of stories to tell. We will be showing clips from much of his work and we will also celebrate Gigantor’s anniversary with a surprise. Join us at 3pm on the American Film Institute campus, in the Ted Ashley/Warner Bros. Screening Room, 2021 N. Western Ave. in Hollywood, CA. Asifa Members admitted FREE, Non-Members pay $10.00
12 independent animators from the Australian state of Victoria have set up a nifty collective showcase of cool animated films at Strange Attractors. They are all quite good, but don’t miss my two favorites, ROBOT REPUBLIC and NOT MY TYPE.Thanks to Lisa Thomas for the link.
Producer Todd Polson wrote in with an update on his film, the last animated film with contributions by Maurice Noble, THE PUMPKIN OF NYEFAR:
We are finishing up the film website now… www.pumpkinlove.com There I will include all the details, images, story behind production… etc. At the moment I only have the open page… The links are not yet working. But should be up in the next week or so.I wasn’t’ sure if your readers were interested in how “Pumpkin” came to be… In 1994 Maurice began training a group of young designers at Chuck Jones film productions. A lot of us were working on our own personal short projects, several of them based on ethnic folktales. Maurice thought it would be a great idea if the group of us could develop a series of shorts inspired by stories from around the world. We called this series “Noble Tales”, and we, his trainees, became known as the “Noble Boys” (which also included a few girls).Many of us traveled around the world and developed and together designed several dozen ideas… “The Pumpkin Of Nyefar” was one short idea Maurice and I wrote while visiting Turkey. Our first morning in Istanbul we came downstairs to the dining room… and around the table were 20 belly dancers… and a lot of pumpkin dishes. All the girls of course were smitten by Mr. Nobles charm. Ha ha… I can still see him grinning from ear to ear. Afterwords we talked things over, and decided to write a story about a prince who could marry any beauty in his kingdom… but instead chooses to wait for true love. As fate would have it… The prince finds true love in the form of a pumpkin.While I was supervising a TV show in Thailand, James Wang (Wang film) invited Maurice and I to use his Thai studio to make our short. Maurice underwent surgery so that he could make the flight to Bangkok… unfortunately he died a few weeks later. I came to Thailand a few months later to work on the short myself… But my friends didn’t leave me to do the film alone…
For soon after, my pal Mark Oftedal, came to town for a visit. His short vacation, turned into a several year working holiday, He became so involved with the project, that I just made him pumpkin Co-director. Other friends from America helped out too… June Foray donated her voice to the film, Ben Jones, and Lawrence Marvit both did short stints in Bangkok to help get things going. Sue Kroyer did a lot of inspirational character design… as did Roman Laney. Jules Engel looked over a lot of the early design and color.Aaron Sorenson, Dave Marshall, Dave Thomas, and Mike Polvani all donated time to the project. It was really a great collaboration of friends, Just the way Maurice had dreamed about… doing a short film together… everything donated… just because they wanted to do it.
The film will screen in L.A. later this week for Academy qualification. I look forward to seeing it!
You gotta read this e-mail exchange between Mike Barrier and John K. on Barrier’s website. Great stuff!
There’s a website (tobaccodocuments.org) dedicated to information related to the tobacco company litigation of the past several years. Oddly enough, one of the documents on the site is a radio script of the Al Pearce Show from April 11, 1941, with Leon Schlesinger as guest! Since the show had Mel Blanc and Arthur Q. Bryan as regulars, they also presented “the first radio showing of ‘The Wild Hare’”(sic). Check out image scans of the script here.
Thanks to Eric Wilson for the link.
Famed Popeye fanatic Fred Grandinetti has updated and expanded his McFarland book POPEYE: An Illustrated Cultural History into a slightly larger, 337 page revised edition. It’s a true improvement over his previous effort, with more illustrations, more details on each film (all Paramount cartoons, King and Hanna-Barbera TV incarnations are covered), more on the people behind the comic strip, the comic books, the voice actors, the merchandise, the commercials, censored scenes, the Robin Williams feature, the Fried Chicken chain, why the classic cartoons aren’t on video… everything you wanted to know about Popeye but were afraid to ask.My favorite part of the book is a chart of Popeye heads drawn in the style of each TV animator (now I can tell the difference between Rudy Larriva’s Popeye, Ed Friedman’s Popeye and Harvey Toombs Popeye!). A labor of love by a true Popeye maniac, Grandinetti’s new Popeye volume may not be the last word on Segar’s cartoon creation, but it’s certainly a thorough overview and worth having.