Some Rumors on the Internets

> Archive.org has posted another industrial film worth checking out: MAN ON THE LAND, a 1951 UPA production designed by Bill Hurtz for the American Petroleum Institute. Not UPA’s best industrial work by a longshot, but still plenty of nice graphic work to recommend. (link via Jared Chapman)

> Garth House, ex-production coordinator on MUCHA LUCHA, has relocated to China to take a course in Maya. He’s documenting his experiences abroad in a fascinating on-line journal/blog: SWEET AND SOUR STORIES. (via fwak! blog)

> Couldn’t soak in enough of that Kricfalusi magic when John visited Los Angeles last month? Then you’ll want to head down to the Virgin Megastore (8000 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90046) this Tuesday, October 12, where John K will be making a special appearance to sign DVDs of this holiday season’s must-have animation release REN & STIMPY: THE COMPLETE FIRST & SECOND SEASONS — UNCUT. He’ll be signing from 7-9pm.

> Being a member of ASIFA-Hollywood really pays off around this time of year. They’re hosting a bunch of free screeenings in the coming months, including DISNEY’S TEACHER’S PET film (with the filmmakers present), THE SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS MOVIE, SHARK TALE (nice try DreamWorks, but not even a free pass will get me in a theater for this one), and Ron Diamond’s annual cartoon extravaganza “The Animation Show of Shows” which is notable this year because it will include a screening of RYAN with director Chris Landreth in person. See the ASIFA-Hollywood site for complete details.

> There’s an animation festival taking place in LA at the end of this month and not a single person I know has heard of it. I only learned about it when Bill Plympton mentioned it to me in Ottawa. It’s called ION INTERNATIONAL ANIMATION GAMES AND SHORT FILM FESTIVAL and it takes place October 29-31 at Culver Studios. It’s billed as a “convergence festival” and seems somewhat business-oriented. More details at IONFilmFest.com.

> Disney is claiming that they don’t owe royalties on a new PETER PAN-related book they published because the copyright on the work has expired. The PETER PAN copyright is held by the Great Ormond Street Hospital in London, which received it as a gift from PAN creator J.M. Barrie before his death in 1937. By withholding royalties, Disney is denying the hospital funds which would go towards helping sick people. There is no small irony that Disney would claim somebody else’s copyright has expired while the company simultaneously lobbies Congress to change existing laws that would extend its own copyrights.

Clean Streets and New Friends

Wednesday, July 21, 2004
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What grim and violent ancestors these nice Icelandic natives must have had! The landscape is littered with statues recounting their forbidding exploits. It’s quite a contrast from the cheerful and friendly locals I’ve encountered so far, but maybe I’ll meet a dragon-slaying, mad-eyed marauder at some point. Probably in a bar.

I’ll tell you one thing about these guys, though. They must have instilled their progeny with a doctrine of cleanliness that’s been passed down through generations. This is the cleanest place I’ve ever been. The vehicle below is a spray-truck that circles the pond, its only mission to eradicate the omnipresent piles of goose-shit with a high-pressure water stream.

I spend the day writing scripts and shooting movies of my amused co-workers. This really helps me remember their names. I study the pronunciation every night, but certain sounds I’ll never master.

I’m glad these people are all so nice. It makes the separation from all of my friends and loved ones a little more bearable. I’ve only been gone a week and I miss everybody.

Ken Pontac,
Crying in my beer,
Iceland

A HECKLE & JECKLE CHRISTMAS

hjxmas.jpgJust came back from the comic book shop, where I found this new item: a Heckle & Jeckle Christmas Tree Ornament Set!Dark Horse Comics produced this set, which was sculpted by Yoe Studios. Along with their Mighty Mouse ornament, you can have quite a lovely Terrytoon Christmas Tree! And the perfect gift, under that tree? Why this Harvey/Famous Studios Casper statue, of course!

SMOKING POPEYE

smokingpop.jpgSpeaking of ebay, here’s a toy you’ll never see marketed again: Smoking Popeye!This item recently sold on ebay for $2,551. The box says “See his pipe light up as he smokes!”. This was a battery operated tin toy from Marx, that had Popeye waving his right hand, turning his head, raising his lighted pipe with his left hand, and smoke coming out of his mouth! Well, blow me down!Popeye toys are great because the licensees found him so hard to draw, and many of them feature wonderfully grotesque versions of the character. This toy is also interesting because Popeye is wearing his Famous Studios’ white uniform!

Hey Hey Hey …. It’s Crap!

Marvel at the mind-numbing unfunniness of the latest cartoon-turned-live bomb FAT ALBERT. The most telling example of what passes for humor in this film is when a character asks Dumb Donald why he wears a knit-cap over his head, and the character proceeds to offer an explanation. How about this for an explanation: IT’S A FUCKING CARTOON! Give it a break, Hollywood. Stop turning cartoons into shitty live-action movies and then creating logical reasons for why the cartoon characters don’t look right in live-action. Audiences stopped laughing at this type of lameness sometime in the mid-’90s when John Goodman humiliated himself as Fred Flintstone. Dumb Donald wears a damn knit cap over his head because he’s a cartoon character, and I’m not forking over ten bucks to have some ex-SIMPSONS writer tell me otherwise. I can’t wait for the live-action ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS where some two-bit screenwriter is bound to make a crack about whether Alvin wears pants under his long shirt. Perhaps FAT ALBERT’s only saving grace will be its animated segments (under the able supervision of Bert Klein) which I hear are looking quite good. Too bad the animation crew couldn’t work on a project deserving of their time, effort and talent.

Political Cartoon Season

Last night, THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO premiered the new Jibjab short GOOD TO BE IN DC, which is a sequel of sorts to their Webcartoon hit from a few months back called THIS LAND. This new cartoon has many funny moments, but it doesn’t quite achieve the charm of THIS LAND. The JibJab brothers, Gregg and Evan Spiridellis, concede as much on their blog: “Our next animation will not be another THIS LAND. We could spend the rest of our lives trying to make another THIS LAND and it’d never happen. That’s okay. We’ve accepted that on some deep metaphysical level.” View both cartoons at JibJab.com.

The only positive legacy of Bush’s presidency may be that he inspired the production of a lot of terrific animation. A new short that is well worth recommending is WHAT BARRY SAYS, a stunning Constructivist-styled commentary on US foreign policy and the “Project for the New American Century.” The short, which can be downloaded HERE, was directed by British designer Simon Robson. (link via BoingBoing.net)

BBC Radio: Toonhounds and Teabags

“Toonhounds and Teabags” – it sounds dirty, but it’s the name of a BBC Radio report about the history of British animation. IMDB’s Jon Reeves sent me the link for the 30 minute broadcast which went out today and will available online for a week.Fifty years ago, Halas and Batchelor released Animal Farm, Britain’s first full length feature film. To celebrate this anniversary, BBC’s Phill Jupitus interviews animators Bob Godfrey, Aardman’s Peter Lord and Oliver Postgate. Find Toonhounds and Teabags under “T” on this page and click to hear it via streaming RealPlayer.

THE DAWS BUTLER BOOK

dawsbook1.jpgDAWS BUTLER: CHARACTERS ACTOR, the official biography of the voice of Yogi Bear and Huckleberry Hound, by Joe Bevilacqua and Ben Ohmart will be released on Daws 89th birthday, November 16th from Bear Mountain Media.Daws Butler was of course the voice of an astounding number of the cartoon characters, including Quick Draw McGraw, Baba Looey, Snagglepuss, Augie Doggy, Mr. Jinks, Peter Potamus, Elroy Jetson, Cap’n Crunch and hundreds of others. He worked with nearly every major animation director, including Messrs. Hanna-Barbera, Jay Ward, Walter Lantz, Chuck Jones, and Tex Avery. He worked puppets for Bob Clampett (Beany and Cecil).The book features personal reminisces by Daws’s colleagues, including Joe Barbera, Bill Hanna, Doug Young (Doggy Daddy), Don Messick (Boo Boo, Ranger Smith), June Foray (Rocky the Flying Squirrel) and Stan Freberg, as well as Daws’s friends and family. Best of all, the biography includes the words of Daws Butler himself telling his own story, through never-before-published interviews, letters and personal phone conversations. Nancy Cartwright wrote the book’s foreword.Need I say more? You can order it now through www.dawsbutler.com

11 FILMS BY DAN McLAUGHLIN

11 Films by Dan McLaughlin is a new DVD compilation featuring eleven short films by filmmaker Dan McLaughlin, head of the world-renowned UCLA Animation Workshop.Dan is an old friend, former ASIFA-Hollywood board member and is a huge influence on animation and animators in Southern California. Dan has been making personal films, mostly experimental, for over forty years, and is a winner of the Winsor McCay Award for outstanding contribution to animation.This collection features two of my all-time favorite independent films: CLAUDE (1963) a UPA-ish cartoon about clever boy and his clueless parents, and RED/GREEN (1985) an experimental piece featuring the world’s longest dissolve from a red screen to a green screen. Dan’s filmmaking skills, imagination and wide variety of techniques make this dvd a pleasure to watch. The DVD also includes 48 minutes of commentary. You can order the disc through Pyramid Films.

ANOTHER NAIL IN THE 2-D COFFIN

easteregg.jpgTalk about “below the radar”. Has anyone heard of this upcoming 2-D feature film? Does anyone care?THE EASTER EGG ESCAPADE is supposedly scheduled for release next Easter, but it’s having it’s west coast premiere on Sunday, October 17th at 5:00 p.m., at the Arclight Cinemas in Hollywood. Actress/author/comedian/singer Sandra Bernhard (“King of Comedy) will attend the screening at the 8th Annual Hollywood Film Festival. Bernhard voices one of the main characters and will help Director John Michael Williams introduce the movie.According to the press release:

“Guests will be greeted by the film’s seven-foot mascot, Good Gracious Grasshopper. A 30-minute Q&A with Bernhard and Williams immediately follows the screening. The film tells the tale of Egg Town; an idyllic village where neighboring chickens and rabbits live together in harmony. However, beyond the borders of this humble burg lurk the mysterious and thieving Take-Its, who constantly conspire to steal anything they can from the quiet and industrious town — including its optimistic spirit.The film features a host of heart-warming characters such as Good Gracious Grasshopper, Terrible Timothy Take-It, Big Boring Benedict Bunny, Claralyne Cluck and Horrible Harriet Hare. The impressive celebrity voice cast features Bernhard, Brooke Shields, Joe Pantoliano, James Woods, Nancy Kerrigan and Eli Wallach.After a limited run late this year, the film is set to go into general release in April 2005, just in time for the spring and Easter Holiday season.”

Nancy Kerrigan? The skater?You’ve been warned! Click here to see the film’s trailer.

Book Plugs

BREW pal, New York cartoonist/animator Mark Newgarden, has written a new book which I’m very much looking forward to picking up when it’s released later this month – CHEAP LAFFS: THE ART OF THE NOVELTY ITEM. PUBLISHER’S WEEKLY says that in the book, Newgarden “turns his attention to the ‘once thriving, if marginal, industry devoted to the creation of a modest product of questionable quality, taste, originality and necessity for fleeting high-impact diversion’ – in other words, the novelty item – in this suitably quirky and expertly designed catalogue.” The Funny Dribble Glass, Trick Smashed Finger, Beatnik Beard, hand buzzer and fake dog poop are all finally given their due in CHEAP LAFFS. The book is designed by PictureBox, a snazzy design firm run by Dan Nadel and Peter Buchanan-Smith. I’ve been lobbying Chronicle to let these guys design my next book, though it remains to be seen whether this will actually happen.

I’ve said this before but one of my favorite book illustrators today is Lane Smith. He always graciously sends me a copy of his new books and they are, without fail, aesthetic delights. In his latest effort, SCIENCE VERSE, he teams up with frequent writing partner Jon Scieszka, to create a book that painlessly introduces kids to the poetic stylings of Poe, Carroll, Longfellow and others. The highlight for me is obviously Lane’s exquisite illustrations which combine an uninhibited fine art sensibility with playfully wry humor. This begs the question, Do children who enthusiastically watch cartoons like FAIRLY ODDPARENTS deserve such beautiful artwork? Frequent exposure to Lane’s work will perhaps instill some sense of visual taste into today’s youngsters.

Funky-Tasting Ice Cream

Tuesday, July 19, 2004
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The day is a blur of work, my efforts obscured from memory by a fog of exhaustion. All for the best; the LazyTown Secrecy Oaths I’ve taken would preclude me from disclosing any details even if I could remember them. After work I grab a bite with Steve Blevins, the lead storyboard artist and a fellow ex-pat.

Steve and I enjoy a typically delicious Icelandic meal served by an obliging blond goddess. Later, as we walk down the street, we see a sign for a local brand of ice cream called “emmessis.” This is noteworthy because, in English, “emesis” means “vomit.” My nurse wife finds this very amusing, but nevertheless the ice cream is delicious.

Ken Pontac
Barfing up ice cream,
Iceland

ORIGINAL TITLES

willie.jpgLong time readers of my Cartoon Research website know that I’m absolutely fanatic over original titles. In fact I have a whole section of my website devoted to it.When I discovered how much better my favorite classic cartoons played in their original form, before being butched by TV syndicators (and in many cases, the studios themselves), it was a revelation. Thus I began a campaign to locate and restore the original openings and closes – and raise people’s consciousness about it. Some of the results of this work were seen on Cartoon Network’s late POPEYE SHOW and on dvds like SOMEWHERE IN DREAMLAND.Fellow film collector Jim Tucker just came into some films, saved for over 60 years, that were part of a World War II film collection. In this collection was a 1942 Terrytoon with it’s original titles intact. It struck me immediately that I’d never seen the black & white titles to Terrytoons produced during this era – all the prints I’ve ever seen have replaced TV titles. Thanks to Jim, I’ve added these frame grabs to my Terrytoon Original Titles page – and this gives me a good excuse to remind you I have several of these pages, here, where you can see what we’ve been missing all these years.

Classic Disney Artists In Their Own Words

I’m excited about WALT’S PEOPLE – TALKING DISNEY WITH THE ARTISTS WHO KNEW HIM, a new book project being edited by Didier Ghez. Each book will collect rare unpublished interviews with Disney animation artists. With most of the Golden Age Mouse employees now gone, these raw interviews should offer a wealth of new, previously unavailable, information to students of Disney animation and allow everybody to hear these artists in their own voices. From the press release:

Contributors to the series include noted Disney historians Robin Allan, Paul F. Anderson, Michael Barrier, J.B. Kaufman, Jim Korkis, Mike Lyons, John Province, Thorkil Rasmussen, Arn Saba and Klaus Strzyz. These key Disney experts, by accepting to contribute to the project, are giving readers access to the source materials they used for their works. Many of these materials are being published for the first time in their entirety. We are also uncovering new or quasi-unknown material virtually every day: a forgotten interview with Woolie Reitherman, lost tapes of talks with Paul Murry, rare conversations with Al Hubbard, Floyd Gottfredson and many others that will be released in the upcoming volumes of the series. Each book will have as broad a focus as possible, discussing Disney animation, Disney theme parks and Disney comic-book history with interviews of the best artists in each of those fields, be they from the early ’20s or from the early 21st century.

The first volume is being released in early November. This initial offering will include interviews with Rudy Ising, Dave Hand, Bill Tytla, Ken Anderson, Jack Hannah, John Hench, Marc Davis, Milt Kahl, Harper Goff and Joyce Carlson. The book will be available on Xlibris, Amazon and other on-line retailers. This is an independently published book so hopefully Disney aficionados will get behind this project so we’ll see subsequent volumes in the series.

Birds and Clem

Monday, July 19, 2004
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I was enjoying a pleasant morning walk around the pond, minding my own business, when some noisy, nasty bird tried to shit on me. It hovered over my head, shrieking, while it sprayed out a stream of excreta. I jumped out of the way, and was struck by only the tiny spot shown below on my shoulder. In no way do I blame the fine people of Iceland for the inhospitable attitude of their wildlife.

After rinsing my shirt off I go to the office, where I acquaint the lovely Script Supervisor, Thora Clausen, with my hideous hillbilly alter ego Clem. Clem appears when I put a pair of dentures in my mouth that disfigure my face and shut off my brain I’m sure he’ll cause an international incident while I’m in Iceland.

I can hardly wait.

Ken Pontac,
Breathing through my mouth,
Iceland