Why is it a no-brainer (literally) for major studios to green-light live action CGI remakes of classic cartoon properties as feature films (Scooby Doo, Marmaduke, Yogi Bear, The Flintstones, Underdog, Garfield, Speed Racer, etc.), but the idea of reviving such characters as TV series is considered a no-no?
One major reason movie execs chase these characters is that these properties appeal to adults who grew up with them and can easily attract their kids (if handled correctly). Case in point: Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel in two weeks of release has a North American box office gross of $157.3 million!
20th Century Fox should just stop making live action films. The studio has been doing poorly in recent years, it’s only saving grace being The Ice Age movies, Alvin and the Chipmunks and the mo-cap Avatar (not to mention their TV fare led by The Simpsons and Family Guy).
Our weekly survey of recent comic strips and editorial cartoons that reference animation characters. Though we usually feature print cartoons, the two below — Medium Large by Francesco Marciuliano (12/30/09) and Eek! by Scott Nickel (12/30/09) — are professional web comics.
(Thanks to our regular eagle eyed comic strip watchers Edwin Austin, Jim Lahue, Charles Brubaker and Uncle Wayne)
Heads up, Jarheads! Here’s the scoop from our roving reporter Dave Filipi, direct from a supermarket in Philadelphia. Nutella, the bread spread made from a “combination of roasted hazelnuts, skim milk and a hint of cocoa” is currently offering its product in glass jars adorned with images of four Looney Tunes stars. I love that Clampett-esque Daffy, I want ‘em all!
Dave snapped these pix with his iPhone (the first two from the left, below, click to enlarge) off a supermarket shelf in Philadelphia. A closer look at his photos shows these particular jars to be imported. Let’s hope these imports are making their way across the USA. I have no idea what Nutella tastes like, but I’m sold.
We posted the centerpiece of this animation back in 2006, but here is an expanded version featuring the pre-show with Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera. Boy is this script corny, but the animation is fantastic, full (maybe too full) and at this point, quite nostalgic. The character animation for The Funtastic World of Hanna Barbera ride at Universal Studios Florida was produced at Sullivan Bluth Studios in 1990, and was directed by David Steinberg. The ride ended its run at the Orlando theme park in 2002. Thankfully someone had the foresight to photograph this bootleg video:
Each year the National Film Preservation Board of The Library of Congress names 25 “culturally, historically or aesthetically” significant films to the National Film Registry, a collection of movies selected to be preserved for all time. In previous years, Chuck Jones’ What’s Opera Doc?, Bob Clampett’s Porky In Wackyland, Fleischer’s Snow White (1933), Pixar’s Toy Story and several Disney titles including Steamboat Willie and Three Little Pigs have made the grade.
The 2009 selections were just announced this morning and animation was represented by Winsor McCay’s Little Nemo (1911), Sally Cruikshank’s Quasi at the Quackadero (1975), Janie Geiser’s art film, The Red Book (1994) and Helen Hill’s Cal Arts short, Scratch and Crow (1995).
Animation is also ultilized in two other shorts selected — Sidney Peterson’s avant-garde The Lead Shoes (1949), and Chuck Workman’s DGA montage, Precious Images (1986) which contains fleeting seconds of Fritz The Cat, Roger Rabbit, Song of the South, King Kong and others.
Though not animation, it should be noted that Jim Henson’s The Muppet Movie (1979; directed by James Frawley) also made this year’s selection. Check the complete list here. For your enjoyment, McCay’s pioneering Little Nemo is embedded below:
David Levine was one of the great caricaturists of the 20th Century. He was best known for his work for the The New York Review of Books. He passed away today at age 83 and here is his obituary from The New York Times. It’s worth noting (at least on this blog), Howard Beckerman and Fred Wolf both told me that Levine began his career as an assistant at Famous Studios (Popeye, Casper, et al) in the early 1950s. A gallery of his caricatures can be found here.
It’s official. I’m hosting a regular series of cartoon screenings, the first Tuesday of each month, at the CineFamily/Silent Movie Theatre on Fairfax Avenue. My screenings will be different each month. Sometimes I’ll show classic cartoon shorts in 35mm, or maybe I’ll screen a rarely seen animated feature, or possibly do a tribute to filmmaker.
For the first program of the new year, I’m extremely proud to be presenting the public world premiere of a new animated musical documentary from HBO. Written and directed by New York independent animator Debra J. Solomon (Lizzie McGuire), Getting Over Him In 8 Songs or Less is a sexy, funny and poignant film about losing love and finding yourself. Filmmaker Solomon will appear in person for a Q&A and we’ll also screen several of her other award-winning shorts. It’s happening Tuesday January 5th – a week from tonight — at the Cinefamily/Silent Movie Theater at 8pm. Ticket info here.
Our weekly survey of recent comic strips and editorial cartoons that reference animation characters. Once again we begin with The Princess and the Frog being used as a metaphor to comment on the Health Care Reform Bill (via Mike Luckovich in the Atlanta Journal Constitution):
Next, Tim Rickard’s sci-fi spoof Brewster Rockit presented a Christmas Special in serialized form:
Howard Beckerman is the king of New York animation; a teacher, a mentor and a living legend. It was his birthday yesterday, on Christmas, and to celebrate the occasion we present The Trip (1967) which Beckerman wrote, animated and co-designed — another hidden gem produced during the Shamus Culhane era at Paramount. Howard recalled:
“The film was originally titled “The Vacation”, but Paramount changed it to “The Trip” and it always gets confused with the Peter Fonda live-action production.”
Here’s a Christmas treat from BBC Radio Scotland. The radio network is presenting a 25-minute tribute to Jimmy MacDonald – The Voice of Mickey Mouse from 1947 to 1977. Once it is broadcast on Christmas Day (9:00 a.m. EST / 6:00 PST), everyone can stream it any time of day for seven days afterward. Here’s the link.
Animator Doug Compton used a classic 1955 Stan Freberg recording as the basis for his Christmas card this year: a fully animated version of Nuttin’ For Christmas which he drew and animated every frame of.
For reference, the song’s lyrics (written by Sid Tepper and Roy C. Bennett) are here. Enjoy – and Merry Christmas!
Ã“scar T. Pérez is a wonderful book illustrator based in Madrid, Spain. Now, Perez has posted a group of animated shorts – films sponsored by his publishers Edicions Bromera and La Galera — made to promote some of his recently published books. Below is a stylish one for The Encyclopedia of Monsters and Other Terrifying Creatures, written by Enric Lluch. To see more of Perez’ illustration art visit his blog.
This piece has been online and gone viral in the past week, but I couldn’t resist putting it here. It’s to promote ESCP Europe, a prominent business school in France. Whoever directed this piece should consider dropping out of ESCP and go directly in to filmmaking. Nice job!
Richard Graham at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln has put together an online collection of 183 government comic books – i.e. comics commissioned by the the U.S. Government to educate and inform the general public. Charlie Brown, Yogi, Dagwood and many other well known characters show up in these booklets, as well as obscure work by Walt Kelly, Dr. Seuss, Will Eisner, Al Capp, etc. All of it is downloadable via PDF files. Absolutely worth a browse during your off time over the Christmas holidays. Here’s the link.
I don’t read Japanese, but apparently the Ghibli Museum Library is hosting a tribute screening and exhibit celebrating Max and Dave Fleischer’s Mr. Bug Goes To Town (1941). Check out the website and blog with pictures and clips. There’s even a new one-sheet poster.
Is this a one-time screening or a re-release? Can anyone translate the site to tell us what’s going on?
One of my favorite actors and character animation voices, Arnold Stang, has passed away at age 91. In animation, Stang will live forever as the voice of Hanna-Barbera’s Top Cat (1961). Stang was also unforgettable as wise-guy Herman Mouse (aka “Uncle Hoiman”) in the Paramount (Harvey) Herman and Katnip cartoons — and Blackie Sheep in the early Noveltoons. He also voiced Snurtle the Turtle in Pinocchio In the Outer Space (1965), Churchy LeFemme in I Go Pogo (1980), Quesy the Parrot in Richard Williams’ Raggedy Ann and Andy (1977) and voiced characters on Garfield, Courage the Cowardly Dog, among others.
In live action, he appeared in so many of my favorite movies (such as It’s A Mad Mad Mad Mad World) and guilty pleasures (Skidoo, Hercules in New York). His sequence with Jonathan Winters in Mad Mad World is one of the funniest and most memorable bits in that film. The publicity photo above promotes the American-International dub of Alakazam The Great (1961), in which Stang (center) participated with Winters (left) (and I think that’s Jackie Joseph at right) on the English track.
Here are three books I want to bring to your attention – but note: These are strictly for the rabid toon-aholic on your holiday list.
Publisher Doug Ranney and author Rick Goldschmidt have decided to reprint their invaluable out-of-print book, The Enchanted World of Rankin/Bass. It has a new cover (see Pic above left, click to enlarge) and they’ve updated a few pages with some photos of the recently restored Santa & Rudolph puppets. It’s a limited edition hardcover and sells for $55 on Rick’s blog. Highly recommended if Rudolph, Frosty or Mad Monster Party rock your world!
BearManor Media has made their mark in the publishing world by printing books on obscure character actors, esoteric films and television shows and perhaps the strangest books on animation I’ve ever read. Case in point: Stronger Than Spinach: The Secret Appeal of The Famous Studios Popeye Cartoons by Steve R. Bierly (aka Pastor Steve). In case you haven’t seen Bierly’s websites devoted to 1940s and 50s Popeye cartoons and his personal obsession with Olive Oyl, today’s your lucky day: Click here. Now Pastor Steve has summed up his thoughts and feelings in this 325 page paperback. Recommended only for the Popeye fanatic who has everything!
Finally, BearManor Media has also published the autobiography – That’s Still Not All Folks! – of master impressionist and current voice of Daffy Duck, Sylvester and many other Warner Bros. cartoon characters, Joe Alaskey. It’s a delightful read… but Joe, with all the great artists you’ve worked with, did you really have to draw the cover yourself? Recommended for those who want to break into voice over acting, and those who want some behind-the-scenes dirt on the Warner Bros. cartoons since Mel Blanc’s passing.
Just a reminder, I’m hosting two (count ‘em 2) Christmas Cartoon Parties this week:
1. CARTOON DUMP – our annual Christmas special is tonight, December 21st, at 8pm. Our special guest comedian will be Billy the Mime. Join Frank Conniff and me for an evening of Holiday themed cartoons, music and skits at the Steve Allen Theatre in Hollywood.
2. CHRISTMAS CARTOON CHAOS! – On Tuesday night, I’m running a full set of 35mm and 16mm Christmas cartoons – good ones – at the Cinefamily/Silent Movie Theater. Rare film prints will be screened during this show on December 22nd at 8pm. It’s the biggest Christmas film party of the year… or at least, of the week! B.Y.O.E.N. (Bring Your Own Egg Nog)!
ASIFA-East is raising funds this holiday season by offering (to U.S. customers only) a limited edition 2010 calendar illustrated by some of New York’s finest (not the cops, the animators!). Bill Plympton, Emily Hubley, John Dilworth, Mo Willems, Michael Sporn, George Griffin, Xeth Feinberg, Candy Kugel, Debra J. Solomon, Signe Baumane, Christy Karacas and Jennifer Oxley deck your hall each month (click thumbnails above to see a few samples). For more information on how to order, Click here!
I just got an advance copy of the Ralph Bakshi Mighty Mouse The New Adventures complete series DVD — and it turned out a lot better than I could have hoped. Most of us have been clinging to bootleg videos or our own deteriorating taped-off-the-air VHS copies for 20 years; now we have gorgeous restorations to enjoy for all time. Rewatching these has been an incredible pleasure; they hold up quite well. Sure, the animation is a little funky compared the shows that have come after, but this series has earned its place as an “industry game-changer”.
I was proud to act as a consultant on this DVD project from its inception. The only credit I receive here is as “Animation Consultant” in tiny letters in the credit roll on the bonus documentary (which is better than my non-credit on the two Woody Woodpecker DVD volumes from Universal). I might as well point out a 21 year old in-joke – note the headline on the newspaper (above left – click thumbnails above to enlarge) from the second season cartoon, Still Oily After All These Years: “Beck-Bakshi Detente!”.
Below are a few menus and the back cover. The DVD goes on sale January 5th, 2010. Good sales could lead to the restoration and release of more classic cartoons from the Viacom vaults (the vintage Terrytoons of Mighty Mouse, Heckle and Jeckle, the Fleischer Betty Boops, Famous Little Lulu’s and George Pal Puppetoons). I can’t promise anything, but every purchase helps the cause. I’d appreciate it if you’d spread the word.