The big news in kidvid land today is the departure of Herb Scannell from Nickelodeon. Herb was, for the last ten years, the top guy at Nickelodeon and one of the true good guys in the business.I met Herb before I got involved with Nickelodeon, and he was always interested in hearing what I had to say – though usually it was about reviving the Terrytoons library that the company owned. Herb had an open door policy and would listen to (and carefully consider) any and all new ideas. When I worked for the company between 1994 and 1997, I saw him take the reins from Gerry Laybourne and move the company to even greater success. He was a unique executive who had vision, determination, and a heart.I’m sure Herb is going off to bigger and better things – but I know he will be missed by all at Nick.
Good luck Herb!
2006 begins – and I’ve just updated my running list of animated features. It’s going to be an interesting year for theatrical animation. Is this the year where CG goes bust and Hollywood comes to it’s senses? (Well scratch that last part, “comes to its senses” – that’ll never happen).Already I have listed at least 15 films scheduled for major theatrical release (16 if you count the wide release HOODWINKED will get later this month). Twelve are what I’d now label as traditional computer generated films. One (CURIOUS GEORGE) is essentially hand drawn, another (MONSTER HOUSE) is in the technique I call “Zemeckis motion capture” (also known as uncanny valley), and still another is in the strange “computer enhanced rotoscope” world of Richard Linklater & Bob Sabiston (previously seen in WAKING LIFE, this year in A SCANNER DARKLY).Two films are about inanimate objects coming to life (Pixar’s CARS and Threshold’s FOODFIGHT), and two are about the lives of stylized human characters (Disney’s MEET THE ROBINSONS and IDT’s YANKEE IRVING).Here’s the scary part – eight films scheduled for release between March and November (almost on a monthly basis) are about a group of anthropomorphic animals on a grand adventure (think last year’s MADAGASCAR). Here’s the list I’ve compiled thus far:
Blue Sky’s ICE AGE 2: THE MELTDOWN (3/31), Disney’s THE WILD (4/14), Dreamwork’s OVER THE HEDGE (5/19), Warner Bros. THE ANT BULLY (8/4) and HAPPY FEET (11/17), Sony’s OPEN SEASON (9/29), Nickelodeon Movies’ BARNYARD (10/6), and Aardman’s FLUSHED AWAY (11/3).
So the question is this: Will all of them succeed – or will Hollywood’s CG boom implode? Can the already-eroding moving-going audience support a steady stream of similar sounding pictures? Can the DVD backend for such derivative material maintain the level of sales required for the producers to recoup their investments? Most importantly, can all these films be good?The industry has survived one VALIANT – can it endure an onslaught of such product? As I said up front – It’s going to be an interesting year.
On Saturday January 28th, Asifa-Hollywood, Women In Animation & The Animation Guild present their annual Afternoon of Remembrance, a “non-demominational celebration of departed friends from our animation community who touched our hearts and furthered the advance of the art of animation.”Honorees this year include: Don Adams, Ruben Apodaca, Henry Corden, Ed Friedman, Vance Gerry, Joe Grant, Wendy Jackson Hall, Gene Hazelton, Selby Kelly, Derek Lamb, Norm Prescott, Joe Ranft, Thurl Ravenscroft, Hal Seeger, Paul Winchell – and many others who passed away in 2005. Usually a friend or co-worker speaks about the person for five minutes… it’s a wonderful and touching tribute. No RSVP necessary. It’s free of charge and open to all. Light refreshments will be served. It starts at noon and runs all afternoon at the Hollywood Heritage Museum, 2100 N. Highland (across from the Hollywood Bowl) in Hollywood.
The Library of Congress announced it’s annual list of 25 motion pictures to be added to the National Film Registry. Pixar’s TOY STORY was the sole animated film selected this year.Under the terms of the National Film Preservation Act, each year the Librarian of Congress names 25 “culturally, historically or aesthetically” significant motion pictures to the Registry. This group of titles brings the total number of films placed on the Registry to 425.
Aurora Miranda (sister of Carmen Miranda) passed away at the age of 90 on Thursday, December 22nd 2005. A major star in Brazil, Aurora was best known in the U.S. for her appearence in Walt Disney’s The Three Caballeros (1945) – where she danced with Donald Duck and Jose Carioca in the Bahia sequence, to the tune of Ary Barroso’s Os Quindins de Iaiá.(Thanks, Celbi Pegoraro)
Daniel Goldmark (“Tunes for Toons”) speaks to Sara Fishko about classical music in animated films on WNYC.
I actually met Suzanne Muldowny dressed as Underdog at New York comic cons back in the 1970s when she was no more eccentric than any other crazed comic book/cartoon fanatic. But in the intervening years her cult of celebrity has grown – in no small part by exposure on the Howard Stern show (Stern’s father happened to be a sound engineer on the original 1960s Total Television series). Now someone is making a movie about her. Just watching the trailer is enough for me – but it proves Andy Warhol’s famous statement, paraphrased: if you act crazy enough, for long enough, anyone can be “famous for 15 minutes”.
There’s a New York animators art show titled “Too Art For TV!” opening at Brooklyn’s Stay Gold Gallery on the 13th of January, showcasing at least 24 of New Yorks best cartoonists & illustrators. The show is being currated by Liz Artinian (background painter “The Venture Brothers”) and contains work by Dave Levy, John Schnall, Jared Deal and many others. It runs through February 13th.
An audio tour of Pixar’s exhibit at New York’s Museum Of Modern Art is now online. Enjoy!
Our good friends at The Animation Show have revived their lively FORUMS which were taken down a few months ago due to technical snafus. I am the guest moderator of their Animation History Forum, and I invite you to stop by chat about classic cartoons.
I’ve previously noted that John Canemaker is making two don’t-miss Los Angeles appearances on Thursday January 12th and Saturday January 14th. But in case you need something to do on Friday the 13th, LACMA is presenting The Birth of the American Cartoon at 7:30pm that evening.
James Healey, Curator of Programs at George Eastman House in Rochester, will introduce and present a unique program comprising the most inventive, entertaining and influential American cartoons from the silent era, each of which has been preserved and made available on new 35mm prints. The animators represented include such cinema legends as Walt Disney, Walter Lantz, Paul Terry, and Max and Dave Fleischer. The program encompasses many of the “firsts” in animation techniques: the inaugural use of the rotoscope, the earliest color animation, and the original Felix the Cat cartoons. The prints are all unique to George Eastman House’s collection, and in many cases, have not been seen since their original screenings.
Films to screened that evening include: Domestic Difficulties (Bud Fisher,1916); Weary Willies (Isadore Freleng/Walter Lantz,1929); Trapped (Max Fleischer, 1921), a Koko short from the Out of the Inkwell series; Breath of a Nation (Gregory La Cava, 1919); Alice’s Spanish Guitar (Walt Disney, 1926); Col. Heezaliar-Shipwrecked (Bray Studios); Abie Kabibble Outwitted His Rival (La Cava); A Ramble on Skates with Inky Dink; and the following Pat Sullivan and Otto Messmer Felix the Cat films: Felix the Cat Trips Thru Toyland (1925); Felix the Cat Flirts with Fate (1926); Felix the Cat Gets Revenge (1922).
Okay, it’s no Oscar nominee, the character designs suck and the animation (despite a few nice shots) is no where near Pixar’s polished perfection – but HOODWINKED caught me off guard and I found myself laughing often during the industry screening I attended this morning. I’m not recommending anyone go out and see it – but if you do, you might actually have a good time with it, as I did. The script, vocal characterizations, direction and songs (yes, songs) are very well done.HOODWINKED opened this week at the Chinese Theatre in Hollywood to qualify for Academy Award. The film, as you may have already heard, is a “Fractured Fairy Tale” spoof of Red Riding Hood, done in the style of The Usual Suspects crossed with (choke) The Family Guy. I guess I’m just here to report that the film isn’t a total bust (an easy impression to get from the posters, trailers and those damn ugly character designs) – it will be interesting to see what kind of money it will generate without a full scale family marketing campaign and a brand name distributor/producer behind it.
We’ve just learned that animation designer Charles McElmurry passed away on December 5th.McElmurry began at Disney in 1940 but was soon drafted into the Marine Corps. After the war, he moved to New York to work as an illustrator while living in Connecticut. Art Babbitt was instrumental in getting McElmurry into John Hubley’s Storyboard Productions as a layout artist/designer. He also worked at John Sutherland Productions and Quartet Films. McElmurry’s design work will be better known with the publication of Amid’s CARTOON MODERN next spring. Here’s a link to a tribute posted on daughter Jill McElmurry’s BLOG.
UPDATE: More thoughts about, and artwork by, Charles McElmurry at the Cartoon Modern blog.
A voice we all grew up with has been silenced. Gilbert Mack passed away December 5th at age 93. Mack was the U.S. voice of “Mr. Pompus” on the original Astro Boy (1963) and was a member of the New York troup of voice actors who dubbed everything from Gigantor to Godzilla in the 1960s. Mack was also heard as Hawkman on the original 1960s Filmation Superman/Aquaman Hour and recorded numerous Little Golden Records as various Hanna Barbera characters. Prior to his cartoon work, Mack was a vaudevillian and a character actor on radio and early televsion – with numerous appearances on such classic shows as Dick Tracy and The Inner Sanctum.(Thanks, Anthony Tollin)
Take note the name of the photographer on these comic pages! Milton Knight sent us these intriguing panels he found in OUR KID SISTER, a back-up story drawn by Bob Wickersham in COOKIE #16 (ACG, 1948). Milton thinks it might have been written by Hubie Karp.