This should be fun. Gallery 1988 in Hollywood (7020 Melrose Ave. – near LaBrea) is hosting a reception next Friday (7-10pm) for their new exhibit REMIXING THE MAGIC (Feb. 17th through March 10th). This exhibit features the work of 50 contemporary artists reinterpreting Disney classic characters, scenes and magic moments. Artists include Tim Biskup, Amanda Visell, Gabe Swarr, Katie Rice, Jim Mahfood, Alex Kirwan, Jorge Gutierrez and 43 others.
MEDIA ALERT: Brewmaster Jerry Beck will be making an appearence on MOVIE TALK, a radio show on New Orleans BizRadio 990am Saturday February 11th at 12 noon Central time. Listen live or pull up the show on the station’s archive for a discussion on current cartoon topics, including the revival of Oswald Rabbit and the Pink Panther; Pixar & Disney; and the future of animated features.
Scott Morse, long-time art director/story artist with Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network, Universal, Disney, and presently, with Pixar (as well as an Eisner Award-winning comic book artist on PLASTIC MAN, with Kyle Baker), has a new book of interest coming out this month, NOBLE BOY. Says Scott:
It’s a strange sort of project for me, a sort of children’s book for adults, about my mentor, animation design legend Maurice Noble. I think it may enlighten some of Maurice’s long-time fans, and might even make him some new ones. The book itself is offered as a hardcover “board-book”, a sort of children’s book for adults, all in rhyme, fully painted and told by me. It covers Maurice’s life and career in a playful manner, something I think he would have gotten a kick out of.
It’s 32 pages and will retail for $12.95. The initial print run is 2500 books, but it’s being offered primarily through comic book shops. Original art from the book will be made available through Scott’s website, and at San Diego Comic-Con this year.
The Walt Disney Company has acquired the rights to OSWALD THE LUCKY RABBIT. And somewhere in heaven, Walt Disney is smiling.Disney’s studio created the cartoon character in 1927. Producer Charles Mintz took over the series for Universal in 1928, forcing Walt to go independent and conceive Mickey Mouse. The rest, as they say, is history. Oswald remained in the custody of Universal Pictures for 77 years. Until today. According to the AP :
Sportscaster Al Michaels is moving to NBC and will broadcast Sunday night NFL games with John Madden, his partner on ABC during the past four seasons. In exchange for letting Michaels out of his contract with ABC and ESPN, which are owned by The Walt Disney Co., NBC Universal sold ESPN cable rights to Friday coverage of the next four Ryder Cups, granted ESPN increased usage of Olympic highlights and sold to The Walt Disney Co. the rights to “Oswald the Lucky Rabbit,” a character in silent cartoons made by Walt Disney from 1927-28.
What does all this mean to us? For fans of classic animation, it means another volume of Walt Disney Treasures on DVD. For the Walt Disney Company, it returns the only missing piece of the company’s animation history. For Universal, it means that they no longer have to vault those bothersome black & white cartoons.It begs the questions: Who at Disney (ABC) or Universal (NBC) was even aware of this bargaining chip? Did Universal offer to throw Oswald in to get a much desired sportscaster? Or did Roy Disney, or maybe even John Lassester, ask to acquire this property? (Jim Hill speculates that Iger first read about Oswald on Cartoon Brew!)Will Oswald be the subject of a new Disney 2-D feature – or a new show on Toon Disney?Oh, and can Disney please buy the rest of the Walter Lantz library? Universal apparently has no plans to use it.To be continued…
Over at Jaime Weinman’s Something Old, Nothing New blog, he’s posted a scene-by-scene analysis of which animators did what on the classic 1950 Robert McKimson cartoon HILLBILLY HARE. With the help of animator Greg Duffell, Weinman points out the differences in animators styles in the McKimson unit, comparing scenes done by Rod Scribner, Emery Hawkins, Charles McKimson, Phil DeLara and John Carey.The saddest part about the slow demise of hand drawn (2-D) animation over the past 30 years, is the loss of the animator’s individualistic personality in studio produced feature films, shorts and TV animation. Part of the fun of watching classic cartoons is the recognition of certain artists’ unique – sometimes eccentric – drawing style which stand out in bits and sequences: Irv Spence, Jim Tyer, Rod Scribner, Bobe Cannon, and Fred Moore’s loose limbed look pop to mind. Where are all the Bill Tytla’s and Ken Harris’s in today’s CG animation? Heck, where are they in anime or TV cartoons in general? Animated films and television shows today are so slick that this individual element has been eradicated in the final product. One of the reasons the “Making of/Art of” books (especially Pixar’s) are so fun is we get to see the individual styles of the artists behind the scenes. Rarely does this fun make it to the finished film. Andreas Deja, Glen Keane, Eric Goldberg and John Kricfalusi are among the few today whose animation style makes it through the process, and they carry on this tradition in projects they are involved with. It’s a significant element of what make their films so good, and what made the old cartoons so great.
On Saturday night, Mark Kausler, upon accepting his June Foray Award at the Annie Awards ceremony, threw out a trivia question to the audience. He asked:
What characteristics do Ignatz Mouse from the 1936 Columbia Cartoon, “L’il Ainjil” and the Gremlin from the Bob Clampett 1943 Warner Bros. cartoon, “Falling Hare”, have in common, and who or what is it derived from?
Hint: It’s vocal.
Prize: Matted cel set-up from “It’s The Cat.”UPDATE: WE HAVE A WINNER! Robert Palmer of San Carlos, Ca. guessed the answer to the trivia question. It is Benny Rubin, originator of the “Yankee Doodle” laugh that both the Gremlin and Ignatz use in their respective cartoons.
It always bothers me when I see an animated film advertised with this seal (at right) from the Film Advisory Board. It’s usually pasted on newspaper ads for G-rated family films, and it’s practically a kiss of death. I’d seen it before on such other animated “classics” as TRUMPET OF THE SWAN, GUMBY THE MOVIE and FREDDY AS F.R.O.7. No Pixar, Disney or DreamWorks film has ever lowered themselves to accept this supposed “award of excellence.” Warners used it to promote LOONEY TUNES: BACK IN ACTION and you remember how well that film fared. To me, it’s a sign of desperation by clueless movie distribution execs who have no confidence in the film or in their abilities to market it – and it wouldn’t surprise me if many parents, burned by previous movie-going disappointment, also see this seal as a warning of crap ahead. It’s especially sad to see it currently affixed to the ads for CURIOUS GEORGE (because, as I say below, GEORGE is a nice little film).The Film Advisory Board seems to be run by a cruise ship singer and a magazine writer – nice ladies I’m sure; comedian Fred Travelena allowed them to put his name on their letterhead as a “celebrity friend.” I have no idea why Hollywood cares what they have to say – I certainly don’t.
The long delayed PINK PANTHER movie starring Steve Martin (as Inspector Clouseau) opens this week. It is accompanied by several merchandising tie-ins including a DVD collection featuring every Pink Panther theatrical cartoon, a Sweet’N Low advertising campaign, and several books including one by yours truly. I haven’t seen the feature yet, but I’m looking forward to seeing the opening animated titles by Bob Kurtz and Eric Goldberg. Regardless of the quality of the new feature film, it’s nice to have an old animated friend back on the scene.
We’ve just received word that animator and director Myron Waldman died Saturday morning, Feb. 4, at the age of 97 at Long Island hospital. A major figure at the Fleischer and Famous studios, Myron remained active as an artist until shortly before his illness and death. He leaves behind his wife Rosalie, two sons and grandchildren. Mike Dobbs furnished the following information:
Waldman, while at Fleischer, created Betty Boop’s pet dog Pudgy and the donkey duo, Hunky and Spunky. He did outstanding work on the Fleischer Superman (Billion Dollar Limited, Magnetic Telescope) series and directed the two-reel Raggedy Ann and Raggedy Andy short. He was a director on the second Fleischer feature, Mr. Bug Goes to Town, and worked and the Popeye series as well.Born in 1908, Myron joined the Fleischer Studio in 1930 after he graduated from the Fine and Applied Arts program at the Pratt Institute. At the studio, he started as an opaquer and then moved into the inking department. After winning a studio competition, Waldman was promoted to the in-betweening department and was given his own animation unit in 1933. He once told me it was a thrill to have the chance to animate Ko-Ko the Clown in early Betty Boop cartoons as Ko-Ko had been a favorite of
his while growing up.One Boop of which Waldman was particularly proud is A Language All My Own (1935). Betty Boop was very popular in Japan, and this short was designed to appeal to the Japanese market. In the short, Betty travels to Japan and performs there. Myron wanted to make sure that none of her gestures and movements would offend the Japanese, so he asked a number of Japanese exchange students to check his work.He once carried in a script for one of the studio’s Stone Age short into Dave Fleischer’s office at the end of a stick. When Dave asked why he was doing that, Myron replied. “Because it stinks!” Waldman could put a roughhouse gag across, but he frequently was put on what he described as “ooo and ahh” shorts, those with sentiment. Waldman returned to animation after serving in the Army during World War II. He worked at Famous Studios on Screen Songs, Little Lulu, and particularly the Casper shorts. He wasn’t content just with a career in animation, though. He branched out to create a “novel without words,” Eve which was a critical success when it was published in 1943. He was the artist on the children’s Sunday comic strip Happy the Humbug. In the 1960s and ’70s, he worked on a number of Saturday morning series, and was the director on the pilot for the Out of the Inkwell TV cartoon series produced by Hal Seeger. Seeger, a former Fleischer Studio employee, had convinced Max Fleischer not only to sell him the rights to do the series, but to appear in the pilot episode as well. For his final appearance with his silent screen co-star, Waldman recalled that Fleischer had his hair dyed for the occasion.Myron was one of the last living links to the Fleischer studio that continues to influence animation today.
On a personal note, I met Myron and Rosalie many times over the years. Their hospitality and warmth will never be forgotten. Myron was one of the greats. Rest in peace.(Thanks, Mike Dobbs)
I had a chance to see the new CURIOUS GEORGE feature yesterday. Clearly this is a film aimed solely at pre-school children, and as such, it is quite successful. The character animation, production design and voices are great. If the producers’ goal was to create lush visual eye candy, they succeeded in spades. Kids will love the mischievious lead character and a very funny vocal performance by Will Ferrell will keep parents interested. Dick Van Dyke and David Cross were also good in their respective vocal roles.Is this the last U.S. studio-produced 2-D animated feature for the time being? If so, it’s a bittersweet way to go out. CURIOUS GEORGE proves that the talent is still here, and is desparately awaiting great stories to match it.
The ASIFA-Hollywood Annie Awards ceremony and party Saturday evening was an unqualified success. The award show has been growing and growing for several years and yesterday’s event certainly hit a new high – with a sold out theatre, Hollywood celebrities and animators from both out of state and out of the U.S. It felt more like an international festival than our usual local shindig.Seemed like everyone was there, and there were many memorable moments – John Canemaker giving Tyrus Wong his Winsor McCay Award, June Foray awarding Mark Kausler a special achievement honor, Tom Kenny’s hilarious ad libs, the touching tribute to Joe Ranft, and Nick Park and Steve Box’s numerous (and deserved) returns to the stage. I even enjoyed Seth MacFarlane and Jason Alexander’s on-stage schtick. William Shatner, Patrick Warburton, Brad Bird and Craig T. Nelson were hilarious as presenters.I especially felt good about the non-Wallace & Gromit winners: i.e. best short, THE FAN AND THE FLOWER by Bill Plympton and Dan O’Shannon; Ernie Gilbert’s character designs, and Acme Filmworks’ United Airlines commercial. Congratulations to all winners and nominees – and thank you ASIFA-Hollywood for a night to remember.
Quick reminder: Tomorrow afternoon, ASIFA-Hollywood’s ANNIE AWARDS ceremony at the Alex Theatre in Glendale. Anything that brings together Brad Bird, Corny Cole and William Shatner has to be good. Highly recommended!
Yet another foreign animated feature that has almost no chance of being distributed in the U.S., here’s the trailer for a new anime feature called STORMY NIGHT.
Most of us who love cartoons also have a love for The Three Stooges. Even those cheap TV cartoons made in the 1960s fascinate me. Steve Cox and Jim Terry have a new book coming out next month focusing on Larry Fine. ONE FINE STOOGE: A FRIZZY LIFE IN PICTURES features Larry’s recently discovered private memorabilia collection – personal notes, clippings, interviews, correspondence, and a unique cache of memorabilia – published for the first time, thirty years after his passing. It also includes storyboards by Dave Detiege from the mid-1960s Cambria cartoons. Go to LarryFine.com for more information.