A SIMPSONS SCOOP

patty.jpgThe Simpsons is set to reveal that Marge’s sister is a lesbian.According to Ananova.com, this season the purple-haired Patty decides to pursue women after being snubbed by every man in Springfield. She finds true love after being seduced in a bar by a butch lesbian. Homer – who dubbed Patty and twin sister Selma the “gruesome twosome – is horrified at first. But according to early scripts, he ends up being ordained as a minister – then marrying Patty and her girlfriend.

More Girl Graffiti

Ward Jenkins, a talented director and designer at Atlanta’s Primal Screen who I finally met in Ottawa last week after many email exchanges, points out that there’s another Toulouse, France-based graffiti artist, Miss Van who has been doing the ‘plump girl-style’ longer than Fafi. Says Ward, “[Miss Van]‘s work does fall into a certain rut, as all her girls look the same, with highly-stylized features and over-the-top sexuality, but there’s something more to them than from what I saw in Fafi’s work. My two cents.”

THE NEW “TOON BOOM”

Evidence that a new “toon boom” is upon us – with the highly anticipated release of THE INCREDIBLES, ROBOTS, CHICKEN LITTLE, MADAGASGAR, CARS in the next 18 months – comes with this announcement about Wild Brain and Miramax.Is this another Disney buffer against losing Pixar? Sounds like it to me – but it’s an exciting move that adds another player to the growing list of current CGI cartoon factories: Blue Sky, Pixar, Disney, Sony, Dreamworks and ILM.

REMEMBERING FRANK

fthomas.jpgCharicature by
Ollie Johnston
Last night at the El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood, Disney held a memorial for Frank Thomas. It was a wonderful heart felt, loving tribute to the man and his life, produced with class by the Disney Studio and Howard Green.As we entered the theatre – large personal photos of Frank were projected on the El Capitan screen. Buena Vista President Dick Cook made a few opening remarks and introduced Amy and Howard Green, who acted as hosts for the evening. Among the speakers were animation historians John Culhane and Charles Solomon, animators Andreas Deja and John Lasseter, family members Gregg Thomas, Doug Thomas and Ted Thomas and personal friends Marshall Ayers and Alan Kay. Leonard Maltin did a short on-stage interview with Ollie Johnston.A few clips were shown: an excerpt about the spagetti scene in Lady And The Tramp from Ted Thomas’ Frank & Ollie documentary; Frank & Ollie’s cameo scenes in The Iron Giant and The Incredibles; Frank’s first computer animation (from 1986); a musical home recording Frank made in 1941; a great The Firehouse Five Plus Two performance from a 1962 TV show Jazz Scene; and the evening concluded with the squirrel sequence from The Sword In The Stone, a scene Frank apparently requested be shown at his memorial.Chocolate chip cookies were given to everyone as they entered the theater. The mood was upbeat, the presentation was tasteful, funny and reverent.Rest In Peace. Franklin Rosborough Thomas, September 5, 1912 – September 8, 2004.

Ottawa Over…

Ottawa ’04 has concluded and a complete list of winners can be found HERE. Grand prize for short film went to Chris Landreth’s RYAN and best feature went to RAINING CATS AND FROGS. Numerous other awards were handed out in other categories, and notably, no award was given in the Machinima category (wink, wink…hint). Personally, I had a terrific time at the festival and it seems that everybody else did too (well, everybody but the Machinima filmmakers). I’ll file a lengthy report upon my return to LA. At the moment, I’ve taken a little side trip to Montreal and have found a charming (and quite crowded) coffee shop on St. Laurent with wi-fi access (thanks for the tips Emru).

Watching Anime

fredsbook.jpgI just recieved a copy of Fred Patten’s book Watching Anime, Reading Manga, and I highly recommend it. It’s hard to believe that this is technically Fred’s first book. (He’s contributed essays to several – and was co-editor of The Complete Anime Guide, 2nd Edition) I’ve known Fred for quite a long time now, and have always admired his knowledgable opinions and writings on anime. He may very well be anime’s first true scholar.This new book collects 25 years worth of Fred’s best articles, columns and reviews. Reading it will give you a comprehensive overview of Japanese animation, as well as the story of American anime fandom and the emergence of it’s influence in western popular culture. If you could only have one book on anime, this is the one to get. Fred covers everything from Tezuka to Miyazaki, From 8th Man to Dragonball Z in an entertaining, informative way.
Congratulations, Fred. Go-Go-Go!

SURVEY RESULTS

According to the results of a just-released survey on behalf of Boomerang UK, Tom & Jerry are the most popular cartoon characters of adults aged between 25 and 54. Over 1000 adults were polled by telephone, according to this article on BBC News.It’s nice to see Popeye and Bugs Bunny rank so high. These results also explain why Warner Home Video is rushing a Wacky Races dvd collection to market. Can a Hong Kong Phooey season one boxed set be far behind? Here’s the complete top ten:1) Tom and Jerry (1940)
2) Scooby-Doo (1969)
3) Dangermouse (1981)
4) Top Cat (1961)
5) The Flintstones (1960)
6) Bugs Bunny (1940)
7) Popeye (1933)
8) Road Runner (1964)
9) Wacky Races (1968)
10) Hong Kong Phooey (1974)

AN OPEN LETTER TO COMCAST

sonymgm.jpgSony officially announced it’s intent to buy MGM this week. To raise the billion-dollar plus asking price needed to make the purchase, cable TV megacorp Comcast chipped in several hundred million to become a partner with Sony and three other companies to close the deal. John R. Alchin, vice president and treasurer of Comcast, said earlier this week the company is already “looking at possible new channels using material from MGM and Sony’s film and television libraries”.

Dear Comcast,
You’ve just bought into one of the greatest film libraries of all time. Over 8000 feature films, numerous classic television episodes, not to mention the short subjects (The Three Stooges), serials (The Iron Claw, The Lost Planet, etc.) and cartoons.I have an idea for you. A suggestion for a new cable channel you could create, that would be an instant success. A classic cartoon channel aimed at adults. Sort of a TCM for animation. A home for classic cartoon stars.Naturally the kids will love it – but you’re smarter than that. You know that adults will tune in great numbers – to enjoy all the cartoon characters they grew up with. Characters no longer running on any television channel, and barely present on dvd.The library you’ve just bought into gives you a head start: you now own cartoons starring The Pink Panther, Mr. Magoo, Li’l Abner, Gerald McBoing Boing, Krazy Kat, The Ant & The Aardvark, Scrappy and The Fox & Crow. You’ve got Oscar winning animation by Friz Freleng, John Hubley, Ernest Pintoff (1963′s The Critic). You own early anime features like The Little Norse Prince, Jack And The Witch, Alakazam The Great, and The World Of Hans Christian Anderson. Your ties with Sony give you rights to recent anime features like Metropolis, Steamboy, Cowboy BeBop, Tokyo Godfathers and who knows what else from Sony’s Animax anime channel. For late nights, you’ve got Fritz The Cat, Heavy Traffic, Heavy Metal and American Pop. You own TV series as diverse as Prince Planet, Super President, Jumanji, Hanna-Barbera’s Jeannie (based on I Dream Of Jeannie), Super Six, The Real Ghostbusters and Dilbert.And just think of the material you could acquire! Woody Woodpecker and Andy Panda from Universal, Betty Boop and Little Lulu from Paramount, Casper and Baby Huey from Classic Media, and on and on.
Who knows, maybe Disney will license Mickey, Donald & Goofy, and Warner’s will give you Popeye and Droopy – they don’t run them on their cable channels anymore.Please consider starting the Animation Station (clever title, eh?). I’d be happy to advise you further at this address.Sincerely Yours,Jerry Beck
www.Cartoon Brew.com

VAN BEUREN SCREENING

tom jerryReminder: Saturday afternoon (9/25) Mark Kausler and I are hosting an Asifa Hollywood screening of classic Van Beuren TOM & JERRY cartoons at the AFI in Hollywood. These are NOT the Cat & Mouse comedies made famous by Hanna Barbera at MGM. These are funky 1932-33 black & white, jazz hot cartoons – not available on 99¢ dvds – including: Wot A Night (the first in the series), Trouble, Joint Wipers, The Tuba Tooter, Jolly Fish, Barnyard Bunk Tight Rope Tricks, Happy Hoboes, Puzzled Pals, and The Phantom Rocket (The last in the series). Join us at 3pm for a good time.

NOTHING TO SNEEZE AT

kleenex.jpgDisney continues to do a good job of keeping Mickey Mouse present in modern merchandising – everything from personal computers to soft drinks is endorsed by the mouse these days. But I am particularly impressed with a new series of Kleenex tissue boxes (now on sale) celebrating Mickey’s 75th anniversary – one of which features the earliest 1928 Mickey on one of its side panels. When was the last time you saw the black & white Mickey – limited editions and Disneyland merchandise excepted – promoted on such a mass market item?
Gesunteit!

ISSA

issa.jpgAnimator Mike Nguyen (The Iron Giant, Beauty & The Beast), who has been toiling away of late on his own personal animated film (My Little World), recently collected his paintings devoted to his pet cat, created over a 15 year period, into a just-released self-published book, Issa.Mike will be signing copies at the Brand Central Library in Glendale, CA on Thursday, October 28th, from 6:00pm – 8:30pm. Original artwork from the book will be on display, as well as trailers and clips from Mike’s work-in-progress feature film. You can see pages from the book and purchase it online directly from Mike at Julysky.com

Amid in Ottawa

I’m off to the Ottawa Animation Festival, which starts this evening (it’s going to be a mighty long day). There’s an amazing line-up of programs scheduled for this year and I’m sure it’ll be an excellent time. I’m especially excited because I’m hosting the Fred Crippen retrospective which will be showing on Thursday and Sunday. Fred is an amazing animator and director, and he’s done it all over the course of the past fifty years from UPA and SESAME STREET to ROGER RAMJET and adult cartoons for HBO and The Playboy Channel. He even has a brand-new film, IMPROVING COMMUNICATIONS, premiering in Competition #1 and it’s a real hoot. I’m also moderating a “Meet the Master” session with Fred on Saturday afternoon and will be speaking on the panel “Your Criticism Sucks!” alongside Chris “Animation Pimp” Robinson, Richard O’Connor, Mikhail Gurevich and ANIMATION MAGAZINE’s Rita Street. There’s going to be fireworks at this one folks…at least I’m hoping so. I’m not sure yet whether I’ll be blogging from Ottawa or doing a wrap-up report after the festival, but if the parties are anything like Annecy and Zagreb, don’t expect to hear from me until after the fest. If you see me up there, give me a shout. Here’s what I look like.

Pixar’s Growing Pains

Fascinating article (and delightfully grotesque editorial art) in the EAST BAY EXPRESS about Pixar’s continuing battles with the city of Emeryville as they attempt to expand the size of their studio. The piece reports that there’s now a measure opposing Pixar’s architectural plans on the November Emeryville ballot. Regardless of the studio’s expansion woes, after seeing this new INCREDIBLES trailer, I can assuredly say that Pixar has created the best American animated feature of 2004. Granted, when your competition is SHARK TALE and HOME ON THE RANGE, that’s not saying much, but Brad Bird’s latest looks truly sumptuous and certainly one of the most entertaining animated features in years.
(Thanks to Karl Cohen for the article link.)

Design Books Galore

Illustrator Mark Frauenfelder’s recent post on Boing Boing about the forthcoming Jim Flora book is a reminder of what a wonderful time it is for aficionados of mid-century cartooning and animation. In the past couple years, there have been books dedicated to the work of Flora, Gene Deitch and Mary Blair, and there’s still more to come. I’ve heard that a Maurice Noble coffeetable book is in the pipeline, and I’m personally working on a comprehensive volume about Fifties animation design which will be published by Chronicle Books in 2006.

MORE CHEAP CARTOON DVDS

100toons.jpgThis must be the golden age of cheap public domain cartoon dvds. ILM animation director Tom Bertino sent in this toon tip:

Your posting of the 99-cent TOM & JERRY DVD made me think I should tip you off to something, if you don’t know about it already. There is a 12-disc box on the market with the woefully generic title “100 CARTOON CLASSICS“. All PD stuff, and while the usual suspects are there (yet another repackaging of POPEYE FOR PRESIDENT) and there’s a lot of odd as well (some of the most off-brand TV stuff imaginable), there are some really wonderful oddities lurking within. One whole disc (coincidence?) is devoted to Van Beuren T&Js, and scattered around are a number of VB Aesop’s Fables… DIXIE DAYS, RED RIDING HOOD, things like that. There are also a few Ted Eshbaugh indies, including GOOFY GOAT ANTICS. There’s even a Toby The Pup in there, for God’s sake! I paid something like $26.00 for it at my local Borders, and felt like I sure got my money’s worth.

ANIMAC

animac1.jpgA few years ago I was invited to be a judge for the animation sidebar to the SITGES FANTASY FILM FESTIVAL in Spain. Animator Carolina Lopez ran an excellent mini animation festival there, which she dubbed Animac. Now the mini-fest has turned into it’s own event run by Isabel Herguera. I’ve just recieved a very well designed entry form for ANIMAC ’05 which will be held on February 24th through the 27th, 2005, in Lleida (Catalonia – Spain). Filmmakers wanting to have their films shown there have until Nov. 30th to enter their work. Visit their nifty Flash-enhanced website for more details.

First Day at the Office

Thursday, July 15, 2004 (Part II)
_________________________

I arrive at the studio, where I’m issued an electronic badge with my picture on it. This will open locked doors and help the crew identify the New Guy, but how the hell am I supposed to learn a hundred new names, many of them with umlauts and ligatures and accents? The Ö’s and Æ’s and ß’s are daunting to my fevered, jet-lagged brain, but fortunately I brought many high-tech recording devices with me from America. I set my trusty digital camera to “video” and greet every new face with a cheerful, “Hi! Can you tell me your name and how to spell it?” This breaks the ice, gives me some great audio and visual reference, and pegs me as a weirdo immediately.

After an intense day of writing, Mark Zaslove and I go out for a bite. Man, the chow is yummy here, and the coffee is the best I’ve ever tasted. I drink approximately one million cups of it a day. On the way back from the restaurant we pass a club called Sirkus, where a mob has gathered hoping to catch a glimpse of the Tom Selleck Competition. I make a note to check the place out later. Right now I’m beat.

I stumble home and get in bed, writing about pirates until I fall asleep with my computer on my chest. As I drift off the voices of invisible women whisper trivialities in my ears, jarring me awake. What in the world is going on inside my head? Or are the voices coming from outside my head? Am I going nuts? Probably.

Oh, well. Beautiful day for it.

Good night to all,
Ken Pontac, Iceland

DISNEY CELS

pinocchiocel.jpgMy buddy Arnold Leibovit (The Puppetoon Movie) has a nice website called Sci-Fi Station which is dedicated to the great fantasy filmmakers of the past: Walt Disney, George Pal, Ray Harryhausen and others. Arnie just uploaded images from a batch of vintage Disney cels for sale – great ones – consigned to him from several private collections. If classic Disney art is your thing, take a look. At these prices, I’ll be content just to window shop (or the internet equivalent of that term) — but what a nice group of images.

VAN BEUREN’S TOM & JERRY

99centtj.jpgRivaling Fleischer studios with their abstract rubber-hose animation style and hot jazz musical scores, the RKO Van Beuren Tom & Jerry cartoons (1931-1933) have become classics for their sheer surrealism. Currently in distribution at 99 Cents Only Stores is one of the greatest bargains I’ve ever seen: a dvd of nine Van Beuren TOM & JERRY cartoons! That’s 11 cents per cartoon! And if that’s not enough for you, it comes with a free 10 minute phone card inside the package!! (Thanks to Larry Loc for providing one for the Brew archives)And the dvd works – and the print quality isn’t too bad. They look like 16mm transfers – and most have the original Tom & Jerry title cards. The packaging is a cheap cardboard “envelope” that has been shrink wrapped. This dvd says it’s volume 1 – has anyone out there found volume two? If so, what titles are on it?The company putting these out is called Television Classics in Solona Beach, CA – and they’ve stocked the 99 Cent Only stores with dozens of similiarly packaged PD dvd collections – including Ozzie & Harriet, Dick Van Dyke, Burns & Allen, Make Room For Daddy and Lone Ranger television episodes, not to mention a dozen movie titles, and as I said, the quality is pretty good. Heck, they’re only 99 cents!Next Saturday afternoon, Mark Kausler and I are hosting an Asifa Hollywood screening of classic Van Beuren TOM & JERRY cartoons at the AFI in Hollywood. We will show many rare titles not on these cheap dvds, including Wot A Night (the first in the series), Trouble, Joint Wipers, Tuba Tooter, Jolly Fish, Barnyard Bunk Tight Rope Tricks, Happy Hoboes, Puzzled Pals, and The Phantom Rocket (The last in the series). Join us on September 25th at 3pm and see what all the fuss is about.

From Beautiful Downtown Burbank

Gary Owens, the voice of Roger Ramjet, Space Ghost and Powdered Toast Man, has a new book out called HOW TO MAKE A MILLION DOLLARS WITH YOUR VOICE (OR LOSE YOUR TONSILS TRYING). While mostly a how-to on becoming a voice-over artist, the book also includes anecdotes from Owens’ legendary career in film, TV and radio. Scott Shaw! points out on Animation Nation that next Wednesday, September 22, Gary will be doing a signing of his new book from 7-9 pm at Dutton’s Bookstore in North Hollywood (5146 Laurel Canyon Blvd.). And Scott hints that some of Gary’s friends with last names like Freberg, Winters and Conway may show up for the signing. I’d certainly be there if I wasn’t going to Ottawa.