Monday Morning Plugs

There was a nice (albeit depressing) piece in yesterday’s LA TIMES looking at how Los Angeles animation artists are struggling to stay financially afloat nowadays and how some of them who can’t secure any cartoon-related work are finding employment elsewhere (like working at Trader Joe’s or opening their own retail stores). The article isn’t available on the TIMES website, but it’s been posted on this ANIMATION NATION thread. Next, BREW reader Brock Gallagher sends over a link to a terrific website that showcases Dr. Seuss’ early political cartoons, many of which were not published in the recent book DR. SEUSS GOES TO WAR. Last but not least, here’s a plug for artist Steven Wintle’s Flat Earth! blog, which offers insightful commentary on both animation and comics. In the past, Steve has been quite complimentary towards both Animation Blast and Cartoon Research, and now he seems to like the Brew as well, so needless to say, he has impeccable taste in cartoons.

Eisner’s Book About Leadership Delayed

Following the stunning 43% “no confidence” vote against his leadership at the annual Disney shareholder’s meeting earlier this month, Warner Books has delayed the June release of a book written by Disney CEO Michael Eisner. The book, CAMP, an account of life lessons that a young Eisner learned while attending a swanky summer camp for rich kids, was to have covered topics like teamwork, showing initiative and listening well. Insert your own ironic comment here.

Rhapsody in Obscurity

If they gave Clios for pretentiousness, then United Airlines’ new animated ad campaign would be a shoo-in. I just saw their second of four one-minute TV spots, and this one makes almost as little sense as the first ad that’s been playing all over TV these past few weeks.
United Airlines
The new spot, which has lots of light bulbs in it, is by British animator Joanna Quinn who has also recently created more straightforward and enjoyable animated spots for Charmin toilet paper (with the bears) and Whiskas cat food. All four of the United Airlines ads are set to George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” and are produced through Acme Filmworks. Like Quinn, the directors of the other spots – Wendy Tilby and Amanda Forbis (image at right), Michael Dudok De Wit and Aleksandr Petrov – have all been either nominated or won an Oscar for animated short. I’m all in favor of distinctive quality animation in TV commercials and the two United ads I’ve seen so far are pleasing to look at, but the storytelling is unnecessarily confusing, and I still haven’t figured out what message, if any, United is trying to communicate through these spots.

Sunday In The Park with Disney

Book CoverWhere will I be on Sunday?
I’ve been asked to join a number of authors who have written books on the subject of Disney (I guess a few entries in THE 50 GREATEST CARTOONS qualifies me) on “Disney Author Day” at Walt Disney’s Barn in Griffith Park on Sunday, March 21.
Scheduled to appear and sign are:
Michael Broggie, author of “Walt Disney’s Railroad Story”.
Peggy VanPelt, co-author (with the late John Hench) of “Designing Disney: Imagineering and the Art of the Show”
Buzz Price, author of “Walt’s Revolution by the Numbers”
Kendra Trahan, author of the newly published “Disneyland Detective”.
Jeff Kurtti, author of “The Art of Mulan” and “The Art and Making of A Bug’s Life”
Bill Cotter, author of “The Wonderful World of Disney Television”
And me.
It’s at Walt’s Barn on Sunday, March 21, from 11:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.
For more details follow this link.

QUISP

I can’t help it. I’m a sucker for QUISP.
One of Jay Ward’s last great characters, and one of the most memorable in his stable of commercial stars (CAP’N CRUNCH is perhaps his most enduring).
I never really liked the cereal (I was a QUAKE man myself), but somehow the character just won’t die (and neither will the cereal). And that’s ok because I think Quisp is a great character.
Following a recent Spumco commercial, and a Funko bobblehead figure, now comes an action figure (or doll), which I just spotted at a comic shop here in Dallas (The store was called Zeus, and it’s quite good).
Majestic Studios are the producers of this fine product (and check out their DAVEY & GOLIATH line while you’re at it).

DAD, CAN I BORROW THE CAR?

Ward Kimball

Ward Kimball (1914-2002) was a great animator, but the reason he’s my personal favorite of Disney’s Nine Old Men reaches far beyond his animation work. Peter Adamakos nails it when he writes in this REMEMBRANCE of Kimball, “In a way, it seemed there were Eight Old Men and then there was Ward Kimball.” Ward, like his Old Men counterparts, was a fine draftsman and animator, but it’s his singular sense of humor and subversive imagination that distinguishes him from the pack and for which I appreciate him most. These elements are evident not only in his animation, but throughout his career in the arts. I was reminded of this yesterday when a friend gave me a videotape copy of a Kimball film I’d never seen before, DAD, CAN I BORROW THE CAR?, a 47-minute live-action episode of THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF DISNEY from the early-Seventies. The special does not by any stretch of the imagination qualify as a masterpiece of 20th century American cinema, but it is enjoyable to watch and filled with delightfully silly and inventive bits as only Kimball could conjure.

DAD, CAN I BORROW THE CAR? takes a hackneyed concept: our fascination with cars from the time we’re born through our teen years, and uses it as an excuse for a variety of absurd montages and sequences: a breakneck-paced spoof of used car TV commercials, a musical segment that involves driving an open-top convertible through a car wash, and a sequence about the incredible frustrations of going to the DMV (the California Department of Motor Vehicles is thanked in the credits for their cooperation, although it’s hard to imagine they’d have agreed to participate in this had they been aware of Ward’s intentions). There are also bits and pieces of animation interspersed throughout – a bit of pixellation here, some cut-out there, and an abstract cel animated sequence that follows two speeding paint stripes around a car. There is nothing particularly ambitious animation-wise, probably due to the budgets, but the cartoon pieces are effective and work nicely within the context of the film. The animation is credited to Art Stevens, who was an animator at Disney since the early-Forties and one of Ward’s main animators beginning in the early-Fifties with MELODY and TOOT WHISTLE PLUNK & BOOM. I’m pleased to report that Stevens is among the few legendary Disney animators who is still with us today.

It’s hard to describe the appeal of this film. There are plenty of wry little touches throughout, like when the live-action kid requires his father’s signature on a driving form, a clawed monster hand comes into frame and marks the paper with an “X” or when a newborn baby is slapped at birth by a doctor, the accompanying sound effect is a car horn. Perhaps in the mundaneness of everyday routine, it’s simply inspiring to see a film by somebody whose outlook on life was so drastically different from the vast majority of the populace. Or maybe it’s the brief shot of Ward Kimball eating a toy car. Cartoonists eating cars is not something you see everday.

COLUMBIA CARTOONS on VOOM

Voom
I’ve been informed by several BREW readers that classic Columbia (Screen Gems & UPA) cartoons are now running, restored and uncut, on ANIMANIA HD, a digital network exclusively part of a High Def suite of channels in a package called VOOM.
If anyone has schedule information, we’d love to hear about it. I understand ANIMANIA HD also runs Felix The Cat (the color Oriolo ones) and the British CG series DAN DARE: PILOT OF THE FUTURE. But what else?
Enquiring minds want to know.

JERRY IN HARVEY-LAND

art by kremerI am away from my home base of Los Angeles this week, visiting the beautiful city of Dallas, where I am lending my expertise to the fine folks at HERITAGE COMICS AUCTIONS.
If I lived in Dallas, this is where I’d want to work. Heritage has obtained the complete library of original art from Harvey Comics – all of it from 1942 to 1988 – Harvey didn’t throw any of it out.
Heritage has begun auctioning off select pieces – from the early Green Hornet, to the later “Thriller” line of oddball superheroes – and of course, the famous kids characters Casper, Richie Rich, Baby Huey, Little Dot, etc.
I’m here to help sort the material and identify artists.
Sounds grueling, but it’s a blast to see this incredible art and hold it in my hands – comics by the like of Famous Studios animators Dave Tendlar, Steve Muffatti, Bill Hudson, Marty Taras – not to mention comics greats Warren Kremer, Howie Post, Ernie Colon and others.
For example, check out the original art to this terrific Tendlar Herman & Katnip cover currently up for bid.
Good stuff – or should I say “Hot Stuff”!

SANITIZED SOUTH PARK

They’re finally washing Cartman’s mouth out with soap. Just as Congress is slamming broadcasters over foul language, producers are squeezing more money out of cable’s most risque shows by selling them in syndication to broadcast stations and tamer cable networks. A sanitized version of Comedy Central’s South Park, slated to bow on broadcast TV stations in fall 2005, has been created by a syndicator who is taking it to stations to demonstrate they’ll work on broadcast TV.
Here’s a link to an article which explains all the editing they have to do (Warning: Article contains naughty words).

Welcome to the Brew

On behalf of Jerry Beck and myself, Amid Amidi, I’d like to welcome everybody to our new home on the Web, CartoonBrew.com. The news and commentary that was found previously on our own websites, CartoonResearch.com and AnimationBlast.com respectively, will now be housed exclusively at CartoonBrew.com. Our old sites will both remain active and will serve other purposes, but CartoonBrew.com is the page to bookmark for your daily dose of intelligent animation commentary.

Our plans for CartoonBrew do not end with what you see here today. Over the coming months, we’re going to be introducing a number of other features to this site including the addition of guest bloggers. We look forward to having artists and historians from around the industry join us on the Brew to share their own thoughts on the art form of animation.

Please be patient with us as we try to work out the various technical kinks of this site over the coming weeks. If the site is showing up oddly on your browser, please drop me a line at amid(at)animationblast(dot)com with details of what’s wrong. And if anybody is proficient with Cascading Style Sheets (CSS), please feel free to offer solutions to any problems that you encounter. Jerry and I welcome and appreciate any such help. Finally, a shout-out to Leslie Cabarga who designed the various Cartoon Brew logos that we’re using on this site. Thanks Leslie!


DUCK & COVER

Watch out Bert! Bert the Turtle knows how to DUCK AND COVER!
On March 1st CONELRAD, the website devoted to Cold War popular culture, launched a campaign to get the 1951 Civil Defense film “Duck and Cover”into the Library of Congress’s National Film Registry. The deadline is March 30th. “Duck and Cover” features animator Lars Calonius’s (now deceased) cartoon creation “Bert the Turtle,” a character that has become synonymous with the Atomic Age.
In this time of “Homeland Security”, what could be more appropriate?
So check out this website for more information – and learn why Mia Farrow is the “Duck & Cover Girl”!

Gangster Haiku

Haiku 5-7-5

Enrico Casarosa, talented creator of the comic ADVENTURES OF MIA and a story artist at Pixar, has launched a new on-line graphic novel at Haiku5-7-5.com. His poetic approach to the narrative offers an interesting contrast to the actual story which is about Japanese yakuza gangsters. A new page is posted every two weeks. The comic has a terrific style with most of the art drawn directly into Adobe Photoshop with a Wacom tablet, interspersed with charcoal drawings. Check out more of Enrico’s work at EnricoCasarosa.com.

Books By Animators

Here’s a few interesting children’s books I’ve run across recently which feature artwork by animation artists. FLOWER GIRL is illustrated by production designer Harley Jessup (MONSTERS INC, JAMES AND THE GIANT PEACH), THE ENORMOUS MISTER SCHMUPSLE: AN ABC ADVENTURE is the second children’s book by ROCKO’S MODERN LIFE creator Joe Murray and TURTLE SOUP is the first work from animator Jennifer Cardon Klein (THE IRON GIANT, EMPEROR’S NEW GROOVE). Jennifer also produced the recent animated short BOYS NIGHT OUT,which was co-directed by her husband Bert Klein.


animatorbooks.jpg

Bill Moritz (1941-2004)

bill moritz
Maureen Furniss has just informed us of the bad news:
I write to you with sadness but a sense of peace. Bill Moritz, a great friend to many and a stellar figure within the field of animation studies, died early this morning (Friday, March 12) at the home of his sister in Northern California.
He had suffered with throat cancer for many years, then developed another form of cancer in his chest in recent months. Within the next few days, I will send details of his memorial service, which will take place in the Los Angeles area in the near future.
Bill was known for his work on German animation, particularly the work of Oskar Fischinger. His book on Fischinger, his life’s work, recently was published by John Libbey.
allegrettoAllegretto (1936) Bill was instrumental in restoring and documenting this important artist’s films, which otherwise probably would not have been preserved for future generations. He traveled to many film festivals, presenting the work of visual music artists, and wrote extensively on experimental animation. He was a member of the Animation Journal editorial board, publishing an article in its first issue and publishing again in future issues.
He also was past president of the Society for Animation Studies. Bill was on the faculty at California Institute of the Arts, where he had been for many years, and was a mentor to many. Bill was also an artist, working in film and theater, among other realms. He spoke numerous languages and leaves behind friends around the world. He also leaves a beloved family of cats that comforted him during his illness.
Animation World Network will be publishing a tribute dedicated to Bill within a few days, so please be sure to look for it.

IT’S ‘THE CAT’ – update

Mark Kausler sent us this good news:
“I’m so happy to be reporting that “It’s ‘The Cat’” has been accepted in this year’s Annecy International Animation Festival. It was one of 243 selections out of over two thousand submitted films.”
Cartoon Brew congratulates Mark – we are rooting for you. IT’S ‘THE CAT’ will screen at the AFI on March 27 at 3pm (see below for more details).

Classic Cartoon Screenings

balloon2.jpgOnce a month, here in L.A., a bunch of us get together to screen classic cartoons in a nice little screening room in Hollywood.
Sometimes we screen video, sometimes we screen 16mm film, and sometimes we screen 35mm Technicolor prints.
I usually organize the screenings, but sometimes we have guest curators. Asifa-Hollywood sponsors these screenings at the AFI campus on Western Avenue in Los Feliz.
We have the next three screenings lined up – and if you are in southern California I hope you will drop in.
They are usually on the last Saturday of each month (not always – please check the dates – Full details are listed on my Cartoon Research Screenings page).
Our next three programs are: March 27th 3:00pm – MARK KAUSLER screens his new personal film, IT’S THE CAT and a selection of classic Hollywood cartoons that inspired him.
April 24th 3:00pm – A Tribute to UPA with 35mm prints, guest Tee Bousustow and rare interview video footage.
May 22 at 3:00pm ANIMATION PRESERVATION screening with Jere Guldin from the UCLA Archive – showing rare prints of “lost” cartoons.
The location is THE AMERICAN FILM INSTITUTE, TED ASHLEY/WARNER BROS. SCREENING ROOM, 2021 N. Western Ave., Hollywood, CA
We hope to see you there.

SUPERMAN ON THE COUCH

dannybook.jpgMy pal Danny Fingeroth (comic book writer extroaordinaire) has a new book on a favorite subject of mine: Superheroes. You should check it out here. “Superman On The Couch” explores the reasons why the superhero is myth for our times and our culture.

With its roots in ancient mythologies and modern obsessions, the idea of the superhero is one that permeates our entertainment as well as our daily lives. The superhero adventure story–in comics, film or on TV–is the vehicle for our own modern mythology.
“Superman On The Couch” examines how the key superhero archetypes-Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Spider-Man, the X-Men-touch primal needs and experiences in Western culture. There is much about the superhero that transcends its four-color origins.
Says Danny, “My book, Superman On The Couch: What Superheroes Really Tell Us About Ourselves and Our Society is finally going on sale the beginning of April. There’s a publication party at the new MOCCA (Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art) Soho headquarters on Thursday, March 25th, 6-8 pm, if you’re by any chance in NYC then.”

REVIEW: Home On The Range

home on the range>Now I’ve seen everything!
Literally – I’ve now seen every traditional Disney hand drawn animated feature film.
The collection is now complete. From SNOW WHITE in 1937 to HOME ON THE RANGE in 2004.
The original studio built by Walt and maintained since his death by the Nine Old Men, Ron Miller, Jeffery Katzenberg and currently Michael Eisner closes the book with one last feature length cartoon.
HOME ON THE RANGE is a fun little piece of fluff – it’s sort of an animation equivilent to the kind of small live action comedies Disney made in the 1960s, like MOON PILOT or THE MONKEY’S UNCLE. And like those films, HOME is easy to watch, good for a few laughs, harmless… and unimportant.
It’s got some good things in it, to be sure. The bright primary colors and the Ham Luske/Mary Poppins-esque character designs are (for me) a pleasure to watch; the strong stylized layouts and full character animation still make me smile and hold my attention.
The film’s creators may have been trying to making a statement here, taking a stand against CG by designing the most intentionally flat two-dimensional Disney universe since THE SWORD IN THE STONE.
home on the rangeThe film is about a trio of cows who attempt to catch a cattle rustler in order to save their farm. The beefy bandit, Alameda Slim (Randy Quaid), has a special technique to lure his prey – a hypnotic yodel! The demonstration of his vocal warbling is the film’s psychedelic highlight.
Other random pros & cons I thought about while watching the film:
PRO: There’s a nice bit where the farm horse fantasizes in CinemaScope spagetti Western style;
CON: Too many burping gags;
PRO: The voices are great – Roseanne, Jennifer Tilly, Cuba Gooding Jr. Judi Dench, Steve Busemi, and Governor Ann Richards (!);
CON: This film can have a jack rabbit with a peg leg – but Disney’s PC police had to get rid of Peg Leg Pete’s handicap in later Mickey Mouse adventures.
The Disney studio has come a long way from it’s Kansas City roots, Mickey Mouse beginings and SNOW WHITE heights. But the only thing this new film has in common with SNOW WHITE is a credit to Joe Grant (for Additional Story).
HOME ON THE RANGE is a better note to end on than, say, THE BLACK CAULDRON or ATLANTIS. It feels like the animators, writers, designers and directors had a lot of fun putting this together.
But that won’t change Hollywood (or public) perception of traditonal animated features. This style of film now comes to an end (actually, it evolved – and moved to Pixar). Traditional animators will have to have fun reinventing the artform.
I know they can do it.
To paraphrase an old World War II song: They did it before, they’ll do it again.

Toys from Cool Cartoonists

cool toysCritterbox is selling a unique set of toy figures designed by five of the best alternative cartoonists today: Kaz, Tim Biskup, Tony Millionaire, Dave Cooper and Gary Baseman.
Baseman & Biskup are also well known for their animation work – but all five individual artists consistently do delightful commercial art work (and personal pieces) inspired by classic cartoons.
So dump those Lord Of The Rings action figures & chotskes… These are the coolest desk accessories I’ve seen!

Obsessive Fans Join Disney’s Proxy Fight

jim hillCongratulations to our colleague Jim Hill for making an appearence on the front page, above the fold, in today’s Wall Street Journal – in a story about “Obsessive Fans Join Disney’s Proxy Fight”
Jim gave a cool suggestion to Roy Disney: “Why don’t you get a busload of animators up to Philadelphia?” the site of Disney’s March 3 annual meeting. Jim recalled the 1940s demonstration when Disney animators picketed the studio with signs bearing hand-drawn Disney characters.
“Consider it pitched,” Mr. Disney responded. But the idea later was nixed.Read the article here.