In honor of Memorial Day, we are happy to once again highlight this link to Sue Larkin’s tribute blog to her dad, Warner Bros. storyman Dave Monahan. Monahan, a valued member of the Leon Schlesinger story department, recieved story credit on such classic Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies as KATNIP KOLLEGE, THUGS WITH DIRTY MUGS, WABBIT TWOUBLE and ALL THIS AND RABBITS STEW.Sue’s blog is a personal memorial to her dad, updated on occasion with personal photographs and cherished memories. Did you know Dave began his show business career in the original OUR GANG comedies? After his years writing cartoons, he went on to become a top commercial and industrial film director (Chuck Jones later hired him to direct the live action scenes in THE PHANTOM TOLLBOOTH). Sue has just posted a brief audio clip of Dave discussing how he got hired at Termite Terrace (Bugs Hardaway asked him, “What’s funny about a chicken”? That was his entire interview!) – and a hilarious anecdote about his first meeting with Cal Howard.
Comic book artist and legend Alex Toth passed away on Saturday, May 27th, at age 78. Toth contributed significantly to animation – particularly to the look and feel of TV adventure cartoons at Hanna-Barbera in the 1960s and 70s, with his character designs for Space Ghost, Jonny Quest, The Herculoids, and Superfriends. His work for other studios, especially on Space Angel and Hot Wheels was particularly good – too good for the budgets those shows were produced under. He was outspoken and dedicated. He died at his drawing table. The San Diego Comic Con has plans to host a memorial for him.
I was asked to write an article for today’s Variety on the top ten “turning points” in animation history. The idea was to celebrate the 100th anniversary of animation by putting a spotlight on the ten films that got us to where we are today. Whittling down a list to ten pivotal films was certainly a challenge, and I admit it’s debatable – but I stand by my choices. Check out the article, and let me know if you think I made the right picks – or post your opinions – on this forum.
The last thing you need to read right now is another interview with John Lasseter. However this one, published today in Australia’s The Age, has a couple of great closing quotes:
“I don’t believe that an animation studio should be an executive-driven studio,” he says. “Our goal is really to help bring that studio around to be a director-driven studio like Pixar and help it become about the quality. Quality is about the most important thing to us.”Considering the dominance of computer- generated animation, including the Shrek movies from DreamWorks and the Ice Age movies from 20th Century Fox, it’s surprising to learn there’s still a place for conventional 2-D movies. “We’ll still definitely be doing some hand-drawn animated films at Disney, without question,” Lasseter says.
(Thanks, John Potter)
If you are stuck in Southern California over the Memorial Day weekend, hop on over to the Aero Theatre in Santa Monica on Sunday to see John K. introduce his funniest animated cartoons. The program will feature uncut versions of his rudest Ren & Stimpy adventures, Boo Boo Runs Wild, the Bjork video, Bakshi’s Mighty Mouse episodes and (my personal favorite), the He-Hog pilot – among many other things. I (Jerry Beck of Cartoon Brew) will moderate the Q&A following the films.P.S. Earlier, at 4pm, John K. will appear in person, across the street, at Every Picture Tells A Story (1311 Montana Ave in Santa Monica) to sign original art.
Sprite Animation Studios has set up shop over at the Howard Hughes Center in West Los Angeles. The image above is from their first absolutely cool short, MONSTER SAMURAI, which will premiere in competition a couple weeks from now at the Annecy Animation Festival. The short was directed by Moto Sakakibara, whose biggest credit to date has been as co-director of FINAL FANTASY: THE SPIRITS WITHIN (2000). Sakakibara is Sprite’s creative director and has no intention of making a photo-realistic film ever again. Based on this short and other tests I’ve seen, I believe him. In fact, the big news from Sprite is that they are looking to staff up in Los Angeles. They’ve got the greenlight to produce a feature based on the Masashi Tanaka’s manga classic, GON (pictured at right). Positions are open now for storyboard artists, 2D layout, 3D modelers and riggers, as well as systems administrator. Bill Perkins (art director of Disney’s ALADDIN) has been hired as the film’s art director, and Leslie Hough is producing. The feature is targeted for a 2008 release. To apply for a position, click here for more information.This studio is offering a refreshing change from the copy-cat CG styles that Hollywood thinks an animated feature should be. The future of feature animation will lie with independent studios, like Sprite, with their own storytelling voice and original vision. We wish them well – and from what I’ve seen, they’re off to a great start!
If they post it, I will link it! Here’s an excerpt from the rare 1941 Chinese animated feature PRINCESS IRON FAN. It’s interesting for a number of reasons, especially for its heavy use of the rotoscope.(Thanks, Mike Crandol)
Way back in March 2005, I first posted about Brew reader Michael Brown’s contining efforts to identify the specific US Air Force squadron for this Bugs Bunny insignia (above left). Mr. Brown sent us a larger image and a slight update on his research:
I’ve found this other Bugs Bunny piece (pictured above right), which is from the 14th Photo Reconnaissance Squadron. But I have not been able to find any source to validate the identity of the other insignia in question. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.
If anyone has any info about this Leon Schlesinger insignia, please contact Michael Brown at mdgrbrown(at)comcast(dot)net.
This is Eddie Fitzgerald, animation artist and director, in a photo taken by me circa 1988 at the Bakshi studio during the production of Tattertown (aka Nickelodeon’s Christmas In Tattertrown). Eddie is one of the nicest, and funniest, guys I know – and one of the best cartoonists in the business. Eddie, who has worked for just about every studio in Hollywood (most notably on Bakshi’s Mighty Mouse, Spumco’s Ren & Stimpy and Warner’s Tiny Toon Adventures), has a well-known laugh – and lots of theories about classic animation, drawing, and life itself. It’s always worth spending time with Uncle Eddie – and now you can grab some of his demented genius everyday! He has started a blog, Uncle Eddie’s Theory Corner, where he will display his funny drawings, make lofty predictions, and even post his witty poetry. A daily visit is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
I caught up with Leonard Maltin last week and he told me about two new books he contributed to – and I think you ought to to know about them too.Leonard wrote an introduction (actually “an appreciation”) for Fantagraphics’ new collection of Walt Kelly’s OUR GANG comics. This first volume reprints, in color, Kelly’s comic book work from 1942 and 1943 and is printed on a nice smooth/thick paper stock. Leonard’s appreciation, and an intro by Kelly historian Steve Thompson, really put this early work in perspective – both Kelly’s work for Western Publishing, and Our Gang’s literary history. Kelly wrote and drew these comics shortly after leaving Disney and moving back east, and it’s fun to see his take on Spanky, Buckwheat, Mickey (Robert Blake) and Froggy – especially during the war years, the last days of the MGM shorts series. Oh, and Jeff Smith (of “Bone”) also contributed a great cover.The other book Leonard showed me isn’t available on Amazon.com, Disneyland, nor at your local bookstore. And yet it’s published by Disney Editions and anyone can purchase it – if you know how. Disney Insider Yearbook 2005 is an interesting publication aimed at hard-core Disney buffs. Apparently, the folks who published the now defunct Disney Magazine have rounded up their writers to create a special annual limited-edition book, packed with unique articles on different aspects of Disney history – yesterday, today and tomorrow. Twenty six heavily illustrated articles are featured, including Leslie Iwerks on Pixar, Charles Solomon on the artists behind BAMBI, Paula Sigmond Lowery on the new Walt Disney Family Library currently under construction on San Francisco, Brenda Chapman and Mike Gabriel offer tributes to Joe Grant and Joe Ranft, and Leonard Maltin discussing the Disney Treasures “Rarities” DVD. Other notable contributors to this volume include David R. Smith, Jim Fanning, Brian Sibley, Jeff Kurtti and Tim O’Day.It’s over 170 color glossy pages of material that really adds to your Disney I.Q. There is a softcover version available for $24.95 or a hardcover edition (which comes with a limited edition lithograph and a bonus DVD of stuff) for $49.95. More information, and ordering instructions are located here.
Cartoon writer Earl Kress discusses “The best Looney Tune you’ve never seen”, on his blog. The film, a Warner Bros. cartoon he wrote several years ago called LITTLE GO BEEP, is indeed an excellent one. I saw it at an animation festival several years ago and reviewed it on my Cartoon Research website here. Warner’s has several cartoon shorts, fully produced, sitting on the shelf. Let’s hope they make it to DVD in the near future.
On Thursday night, May 25th, the Walt Disney Company will celebrate the 65th anniversay of MY favorite Disney feature, DUMBO, with a two week booking at the El Capitan Theatre on Hollywood Blvd. It will be paired with WINNIE THE POOH AND THE HONEY TREE (itself celebrating its 40th anniversay). Animator Eric Goldberg, songwriter Richard Sherman and music historian Miles Kruger will discuss Dumbo on a special panel preceeding the Thursday night screening.
At yesterday’s ASIFA-Hollywood screening we crowned “Miss Krazy Kat” of 2006. The surprise winner, selected by our panel of blue ribbon judges, was Barbara Babbitt (pictured above at center). Mrs. Babbitt (widow of animator Art Babbitt) recieved a jewel encrusted tiara and sash, as well as a lifetime supply of 9 Lives Cat Food. Pictured above is M.C. Jerry Beck (left) and last year’s winner, Marea Boylan (at right). In attendance at the ceremony were such animation luminaries as Milton Knight, Joe Dante, Milt Gray, Bob Jaques, Greg Ford, Mark Kausler, Joe Adamson, Mike Kazaleh and Will Ryan. Michael Schlesinger of Sony Pictures sanctified the event.(Thanks to Art Binninger for the photo)