Top of the World

Wednesday, July 14, 2004 (Part II)
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I know it’s going to be a crazy adventure. And a TON of work. My first day here I was up for 30.5 hours (a new personal record!). After my grueling plane ride I got two hours of sleep before I was driven to the studio, given a quick tour by Creative Consultant Mark Valenti, and plopped in front of a video monitor where I watched every episode of LAZYTOWN that had been produced to date. If you’ve seen the show you can imagine what kind of a sensory overload that was.

The studio is the type of creative madhouse those of you familiar with that sort of environment might imagine, but for various reasons it’s even more so. The place embodies the spirit of country, where the capricious climate has given birth to the phrase, “If you don’t like the weather in Iceland, wait five minutes and it will change.” The production is driven by a mercurial genius named Magnus Scheving, and he is, as far as I can tell, the personification of this unpredictable island. Magnus is such an incredible character that I’ll have to devote a separate entry just to describe his dynamic persona, and even then, words won’t do the man justice. He’s one of the most energetic and amusing fellows I’ve ever met, and sharp as a damn whip.

I can’t talk about Magnus without mentioning his co-star: Stefan Karl, who plays Robbie Rotten in the show. For those of you who know what I’m talking about, Stefan is the Icelandic version of Rob Paulsen. For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about, that means that he’s a very funny, very shmoozy, very ambitious actor. We get along famously. More on him later.

The final member of the live action cast is Julianna Rose Mauriello, a remarkable thirteen year-old who is absolutely incandescent on the screen. She’s a triple threat (singing, dancing and acting), and she’s also smarter than the average kid her age. Her mother, Kahlua O’Callahan, promises to be a breath of straightforward American air during future late night bull sessions. I look forward to them in smoky dark clubs with endless coffees.

I’ve met a lot of people in a (very long) day, and I’ve barely scratched the surface of my experience. A good writer leaves his audience wanting more, though, so I’m going to sign off for now. Tomorrow morning I’m going to take a walk and see what kind of place I’ve landed in. One more image follows, just to amuse and clarify the “Land of the Midnight Sun” concept. The picture below was taken at midnight, outside of the flat where I’m crashing.

One final, disconcerting thing: as I’m falling asleep tonight I keep hearing the voices of women, speaking fragments of trivial sentences in English, clear as a bell and right in my ear. When I wake with a start they stop. Is the place I’m staying haunted, or are the walls just thin?

Good night to all
Ken Pontac, Iceland

GOLDEN APPLE

I’m away this weekend attending the marathon screenings at the Egyptian Theatre (aka Cinecon), so I’ll have little time to blog the next few days.I wanted to quickly plug my local comics shop, GOLDEN APPLE, because they’ve got a few upcoming events I want you to know about. First off, on Saturday 9/11 at 3PM they are hosting a “Petition signing Party” for John K. and the Spumco Crew. Come down and add your voice to the plea to get Ren & Stimpy back on the air with new shows. Then on Saturday November 20th at 3pm, the IRON GIANT DVD SPECIAL EDITION release celebration and animation crew reunion:

A chance to meet and interact with over a dozen members of the creative team responsible for this milestone animated project. A reunion of the animators (and special guests) who conceived and created this much-loved movie. Autographs, lively Q&A and presentations, pre-production and test drawings, stories, surprises and lots more. Discussions will be moderated by Ramin Zahed, Editor of Animation Magazine who is co-sponsoring the Event. Admission to the Event is FREE with the purchase of the Special Edition DVD at any Golden Apple location. Pre orders will be available Oct. 1, 2004. Contact: Bill Liebowitz at Golden Apple (323) 658-6047 or [email protected]

Mark your calenders now.

Top of the World

Wednesday, July 14, 2004
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Holy Christ! I’m in Iceland!

The sun shines all the time here, and the hot water from the tap smells like a fart from a sourstomached old man who’s eaten too many pickled eggs. The signage is incomprehensible, people’s names are unpronounceable, and the money looks like panels from a comic book regaling tales of stern, bearded men wearing odd hats and holding ponderous tomes.

That being said, the weather is fabulous (that’ll change), the food is delicious (I’m gonna get fat), and the women are giant blond goddesses (I can’t touch ‘em).

How did I get to this strange place? What happened? Oh, yeah… the story’s starting to emerge from my sleep deprived brain.

A week ago I got a call from my pal, Mark Zaslove, who’s the Story Consultant for a series called LAZYTOWN. The show is being produced for Nick Jr., and can be seen on Nickelodeon weekdays at 10:30 and 11:00 AM. LAZYTOWN is described as “a fresh new television series designed to engage and motivate kids to make healthier choices in their everyday lives. The show is action-adventure on a small scale, encompassing movement, music, and comedy in an entertaining story.” A writing spot had just opened and Mark had thrown my name into the hat as a potential scribbler. He described the show to me and it sounded like a hoot. I told him I was interested.

After discussing the offer with my lovely wife Susan, we decided that it was worth biting the bullet and dealing with an extended separation. After all, how often do you get a chance to travel to Iceland? Resumes got sent, agents got called, and a week later my plane was setting down on a volcanic island on the top of the world!

This day isn’t over yet! To be continued…

Introducing Ken Pontac

We’re excited to announce the return of guest blogging here at Cartoon Brew. It’s a fairly straightforward concept. Jerry and I don’t want this site to become purely an outlet for our own thoughts and opinions, so we’re asking friends from around the animation biz to join us on the Brew and share their unique perspectives on cartoons and the industry. There’s some terrific folks who’ve agreed to contribute over the course of the next few months, including artists, historians and critics. Our first contributor this month is animation director Ken Pontac. Ken is the co-creator of the highly inventive and entertaining stop motion TV series BUMP IN THE NIGHT, among numerous other achievements. He will be treating us to a journal he kept from a couple months ago while working on a show in that hub of animation production known as Reykjavik, Iceland. Here’s a bit more about him:

Ken Pontac has over twenty years experience in the animation industry, creating content for television, video games, and computer applications. A few of the cultural icons he has been involved with include the enduring green clayboy Gumby, the irascible green monster Mr. Bumpy, and the transmogrifying green gladiator the Blob from the hit videogame CLAYFIGHTER. Pontac has written scripts for animated television episodes that have been translated into a dozen languages and shown around the world. He directed the UPN prime time animated program GARY & MIKE, for which his episode “Phish Phry” won an Emmy for Best Art Direction. Pontac lives in Sausalito, California with a beautiful redheaded nurse and five adorable rats.

TOONFEST IN MARCELINE

If you happen to be wandering near Walt Disney’s hometown – Marceline, Missouri – on Saturday September 18th, you might stop in on the annual TOONFEST. Pixar’s Pete Docter (Monsters Inc.) will be there, as well as Michael Broggie, the Walt Disney railroad historian and family friend. Also appearing will be newspaper cartoonists Tom Wilson (Ziggy), Mike Peters (Mother Goose & Grimm), Greg Evans (Luann) and Brad Anderson (Marmaduke). It all starts 12:30pm at the Uptown Theatre, 104 N. Main St. USA, on the 18th. More information is posted here.

THE MOST VIOLENT CARTOON EVER!

passion.jpgOr certainly the most painful to watch.Richard Rich (The Swan Princess) is at it again. Hoping to cash in on the release of THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST on dvd this week, Anchor Bay Video has produced this ANIMATED PASSION (“for the whole family”)! This could be the worst animated video since the child-friendly TITANIC animated musical I wrote about a few years ago. If watching the crucifixion in “bright colors and kid-friendly language” isn’t enough for you, the bonus materials include “sing-along activities”.At least the lead characters aren’t mice this time around.