Inspiration for 2005

Dover Publications has kept Frank Tashlin’s THE BEAR THAT WASN’T in print for many years, which is yet another reason to love this wonderful publishing company. Its current edition lists for $2–one the all-time great bargains in the history of great bargains. If you haven’t read the book, you have no excuse for not owning your own copy.

But as far as I know, Dover’s editions have never used Tashlin’s original cover from back in 1946. And that’s a shame. So here it is. Happy new year!

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DAWS BUTLER: CHARACTERS ACTOR

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Back on October 7th I wrote about the new book DAWS BUTLER: CHARACTERS ACTOR, the official biography of the voice of Yogi Bear and Huckleberry Hound, by Joe Bevilacqua and Ben Ohmart coming from Bear Mountain Media.dawsbook1.jpgThe book is now out and in my hands, and I want to recommend it to all. It’s truly the complete story of Daws Bulter, from his childhood, nightclub acts, radio and entry into cartoons – to his work with Bob Clampett (Beany & Cecil), Stan Freberg, Tex Avery, Jay Ward and of course Hanna & Barbera. The book is loaded with choice photos from Butler’s incredible career – including many jaw dropping pictures, like the one above of Daws with Freberg, Clampett, Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis! Heck, the book is worth it just for the pictures! It’s an incredibly enjoyable read, about an incredibly enormous – and beloved – talent. I never had the opportunity to meet Daws Butler, but was always in awe of his range and his acting abilities. Ohmart and Bevilacqua have now written a book which allows us to learn about the full scope of his amazing career, and what a great guy he really was off mike.Order it directly from BearManor Media

GRATUITOUS PLUG: SKY BLUE

sky blueBack on Aug. 7th I raved about a new “anime” film from Korea, SKY BLUE. The visuals are incredible and the story, though familiar, is very well directed and animated. I recommended seeing it in a theatre, and here in L.A. the film opens this Friday (December 31st) at the Nuart Theatre.You can preview the first 8 minutes exclusively on iFilm.com. Earlier today, the fine folks at Landmark Theatres and Maxmedia offered our readers free tickets. Ron Amorim, Brad Bradbury, Ken Gadoua, Mark Maxey and David Vallone won our little contest. SKY BLUE is a spectacular film and I really recommend it you check it out.Nuart Theater
11272 Santa Monica Boulevard, just west of the 405 Freeway
West Los Angeles, CA
(310) 281-8223

DUCK & COVER

duckcover2.jpgKen Sitz, Creative Director of CONELRAD.com (All Things Atomic) informs us of the completion of his latest project:

Just wanted to let you know we’ve just published the first production history of DUCK AND COVER to coincide with the Library of Congress National Film Registry’s announcement of the 2004 list of inductees. With both Bert and Popeye inducted – it’s been a decent year!

Ken’s group lobbied for Duck and Cover’s in-duck-tion into the Film Registry. Check out Ken’s incredibly informative website today!

Preserved Popeye

sindbad.jpgThe Library of Congress has announced its 2004 additions to the National Film Registry, and there are two cartoons on it: Fleischer’s 1936 POPEYE THE SAILOR MEETS SINDBAD THE SAILOR and the 1951 instructional film DUCK AND COVER, in which an animated turtle advised kids on what to do in case of nuclear holocaust. (The press release has Popeye meeting “Sinbad,” but I’m reasonably sure that the correct spelling is Sindbad, as shown on the poster to the left.)

These cartoons join a respectable list of other animated works already in the registry, including PINOCCHIO, GERALD MCBOING BOING, ONE FROGGY EVENING, WHAT’S OPERA DOC?, PORKY IN WACKYLAND, GERTIE THE DINOSAUR, FANTASIA, and both the Disney and Fleischer versions of SNOW WHITE.

If I were choosing films for the registry all by myself, there are a number (and not a small one) of other cartoons I’d honor. And although the idea behind the registry is to preserve important films, most of the those cartoons are still viable commercial products, and therefore not at risk. (Maybe there should be a National Animation Registry, run by savvy cartoon scholars and fans–I’m more worried about obscure stuff like Ted Eshbaugh films crumbling away and disappearing forever.) Still, it’s nice to see the Library of Congress paying attention to animation, and I’m particularly glad to see a Fleischer Popeye film join the list.

Fun side note: You can download DUCK AND COVER in a variety of formats at the Internet Archive. Whether you’ll want to preserve it, I can’t say–but it’s certainly worth watching once.

Serious side note: ASIFA-Hollywood and UCLA have an animation preservation project that is devoted to saving cartoons that actually are in danger. It’s a very worthy venture–in fact, I think I’ll send them a few bucks before the end of 2004.

A.A.P. RECORDS?

I learn something new every day.aaprecord1.jpgI did not know AAP (Associated Artists Productions), the company that bought the pre-48 Warner Bros. film library and Paramount’s Popeye cartoons and syndicated them to television in 1957, had a record label. One of my Christmas gifts this year was a copy of the “Official TV POPEYE Record Album”, a 78 rpm vinyl record featuring New York kid show host Captain Allen Swift and Mae Questel singing various Popeye related songs. It came in it’s original mailing sleeve (from “A.A.P. Records Inc.”) and there is a King Features Syndicate copyright notice on it.It contains (per the sleeve) “Almost 10 minutes of delightful entertainment” and “Songs & Chatter Children will enjoy over & over again”. The record was made available as a 78 or a 45. Swift wrote several of the original tunes and co-produced the tracks (with Arthur Pine). He also does an awful Popeye voice (Swift was clearly more suited to doing Bluto).aapfilm.jpgBut what really amazed me is that A.A.P. supposedly had a record label! Does anyone out there have any other A.A.P. records? I knew A.A.P. had a line of 8mm home movies (see box at left – courtesy of Harry McCracken’s Home Movie Box Museum) – now I wonder how extensively they exploited their acquired properties.When I worked for United Artists (1978-84) I picked up a lot of AAP background material, but never ran across anything on them producing records. I suspect from the packaging, and despite the $1.00 price printed on the sleeve, that this was some kind of promotional item, a one-shot, perhaps offered for sale through the kid show hosts in local markets.If anyone has more info on AAP Records, please let me know. It’s news to me.


Team America Takeoff

If you have a few spare minutes and a broadband connection, check out this little film that Dell Computer made, apparently for in-house use. It’s inspired by TEAM AMERICA (and has some direct nods to THUNDERBIRDS)–and if nothing else, it’s pretty darn ambitious from the standpoint of faux cheesy production values. I have no idea how much it cost to make, but I’m willing to wager that Gerry Anderson never got his hands on this sort of money, on a per-minute basis…


Motel Hell

lovehotel.jpgTo follow up on yesterday’s comments on the adult merchandising of cartoon characters, Brew reader Juan Lara points out the proper place to use your Sanrio playthings: I once stumbled upon this website for the Hotel Chateau in Kagoshima. The hotel is a “love hotel” where a couple can rent a room for a few hours for some intimacy. Now don’t these pictures really put you in the mood? Personally this hotel looks like my worst nightmare. But, to each his own.

MIGHTY MOUSE PANTIES?

mightymousepanties.jpgViacom has a very frustrating merchandising agenda regarding their classic Terrytoon cartoon stars. Thus I wasn’t sure what to make of this item I spotted on the internet while Christmas shopping last week: Mighty Mouse panties!My first reaction was to make all manner of off-color jokes relating to the placement of The Mouse of Tomorrow so close to the area of the female body associated with that euphemistic word for “feline”. But upon further “research” I see that many other classic characters are also being marketed toward this new niche: Jerry Mouse, Swee’ Pea and Betty Boop.If I were Viacom, I’m not sure if this is the fan base I’d be appealing to, but I suppose its all good clean fun. As a matter of taste, we still have a long way to go before we catch up with the Japanese (Sanrio’s use of Hello Kitty and Badtz Maru on adult products is clearly venturing into newer – or shall I say, virgin – territory).

POPEYE IN NEW YORK

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The last time I was in the Big Apple, I wanted to go to the Popeye exhibit at the Museum of Television and Radio–but I got food poisoning and was too weak to make the two-block trek from my hotel. I’m back in NYC for the holidays–I join Jerry and Amid in hoping yours are happy, by the way–and feeling fine, so I visited it today.

The good news? The show includes some Segar originals, a decent amount of Fleischer and Famous Studios art, a few wonderful vintage posters, a smattering of fun collectibles, and a film loop that includes a newsreel visit to the Fleischer studio in Miami. The Museum is also showing Popeye cartoons in one of its theaters in conjunction with the exhibit; I didn’t attend today’s screening, but if it involved any Fleischers or early Famous shorts, I’m sorry I missed it. And in general, the exhibit seems carefully curated in terms of attention to detail–for instance, the signage includes dates whenever possible, and they seem to be accurate.

But this show had something in common with a pretty high percentage of cartoon-related museum exhibits: An inability or unwillingness to be discriminating. So the film loop also includes stretches of 1970s Hanna-Barbera cartoons, there are multiple POPEYE AND SON cel setups on display, and the recent CGI special is touted heavily and approvingly compared to Segar and Fleischer. It’s as if all Popeye were good Popeye, or it didn’t really matter whether Popeye was any good in the first place.

After spending 20 minutes in the exhibit (and a bit more time watching an unrelated but fascinating compilation of TV clips of Bobby Darrin, selected by Kevin Spacey), I left both happy and dejected. If you love Popeye and get the chance to attend it–it’s on until January 29th–you’ll probably come away with the same feeling.

Happy Holidays!

Best wishes for a safe and happy holidays to all of our friends and readers!

I’ll personally be taking a break from the Brew until after the first of the year. Jerry Beck, or our guest contributor Harry McCracken, may post before this, but I’ll see everybody on the other side…

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For more great artwork, like the illustration above by Lowell Hess, take out a subscription to Shane Glines’s CartoonRetro.com.


‘TWAS THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS…

tomjerryxmas.jpgI would like to take this opportunity to thank all our readers who check in to read whatever comments, opinions, wisdom or nonsense we post here on daily basis.2005 looks to be an exciting year. I have two book projects coming out next year, I’ll be a on the jury (and will present a program) at the Ottawa International Animation Festival in October, and at the movies a Wallace & Gromit feature, Disney’s Chicken Little, a new Miyazaki film, and a new Tim Burton puppet animation feature await us.Looney Tunes Golden Collection Vol. 3 will come out on DVD, and more inroads will be made on the efforts to release Popeye, Tex Avery and Song of The South. And who knows what we’ll find next at the 99¢ Store.Happy Holidays to all of you!

Notes from Northern California

A few notes from my trip to northern California last week…

I visited Chronicle Books for a meeting with Alan Rapp, the editor of my Fifties animation design book. I have to say, it’s terrific having an editor who is totally in tune with the project and is supportive of what I’m trying to accomplish. I don’t know if this is the norm for the publishing industry — both editors I’ve worked with at Chronicle have been great — but it’s reassuring to know that Chronicle is just as devoted as I am to turning out a really cool book. Right now I’m in the midst of a grueling schedule to finish the book, which means countless hours of research, writing and image-gathering. If all goes according to plan, the Fifties design book should be released sometime in 2006.

While at Chronicle, I also managed to get my hands on an advance copy of THE ART OF ROBOTS, which will hit stores in another month or two. The book turned out exactly as I had expected, and considering everything, I’m pleased with the results. The only surprise, and a pleasant one at that, is that I received solo writing credit on the book; originally I shared a co-writing credit with ROBOTS production designer/exec producer Bill Joyce. A co-author credit would have been useful in the event that somebody dislikes the book, because then I could have simply said, “Oh, that’s Bill’s fault.” Now I’ll need to come up with another excuse — not that I’m expecting anybody will dislike this fine ‘art of’ book. Here’s the final dustjacket and the silver cover underneath.

I visited with various artists for the Fifties book, notably Ed Benedict and Charles and Rosemary McElmurry. Benedict, of course, everybody already knows (if you don’t, see BLAST #8), but Charles McElmurry is another terrific animation designer from that era whose name is not as well known. Hopefully that’ll change once this book is out. I also visited with John Dunn’s brother Alvin. This visit wasn’t related to the book, but for ANIMATION BLAST #9, which is still in production. I’m working concurrently on both the book and BLAST #9 and my hope is to have BLAST #9 out sometime in June/July ’05, only a year-and-a-half later than its original release date (jeez…looks like I’m becoming the Richard Williams of animation magazines).

Also dropped by ASIFA-San Francisco’s annual Christmas party, where among other people I finally met the infamous Lippy. I can’t vouch for the fact that he’s infamous, but with a name like Lippy, you just have to assume there’s some infamy lurking in his past. He gave me a copy of his latest short film, DINO-SORE DAYS, a new “Happy Tree Friends” epsiode included on the THIRD STRIKE dvd. The 1920s-styled short is animated in Flash, but with a beautiful tribute scene to the 3D “turntable” model sets that the Fleischer Studios utilized in some of their shorts. The “set” was modelled entirely in Maya (by Ted Pratt), but looks like an authentic hand-made plaster-and-clay set. Very nice job. You can see a clip from the short and find out more about how they created the turntable effect at Lippy.com. Thanks to everybody else who made the San Francisco trip so enjoyable: Andy Beall at Pixar, Harry McCracken at PC WORLD, Carla Liss, Nik and Nancy Phelps, Ted Pratt and Karl Cohen.


KIDDIE RECORDS WEEKLY

woody78.jpgIn 2005, KiddieRecords.com will feature an entire year of albums from the golden age of children’s records, transferred from original 78s and encoded to 192kbps MP3 format. That’s one a week for 52 weeks! The goal, according to the website, is to keep these recordings from being forgotten. “Our mission is to give these wonderful old recordings a new lease on life.”All year long you will be able to access streams and cover scans of all records used in the project. Please note that MP3s of each record will only be available during the week it is featured.(via Scrubbles.net)


VOOM GOES BOOM

voom2.jpgOh well, it was fun while it lasted.Cablevision has decided to suspend its Voom satellite service, which included the ANIMANIA channel that was showing vintage UPA, Screen Gems (Fox & Crow), Dick Tracy, Felix The Cat (60s), Pink Panther and assorted DePatie Freleng cartoons in glorious high-def. The service never grew beyond a modest 25,000 subscribers in 2004.Check out their classic website while you still have a chance.

Seasonal, Slightly Animation-Related Tidbit

judith.jpgHarry Shearer is unquestionably one of the best voice artists working in animation today–with THE SIMPSONS, he’s created more rich, funny characterizations than most performers do in a lifetime. But he’s been involved in so many non-animation projects that have brought me pleasure–dating back to the Albert Brooks comedy album A STAR IS BOUGHT and Norman Lear’s FERNWOOD 2-NIGHT in the 1970s, and continuing on to his wonderful weekly LE SHOW radio program–that I never think of him as being a cartoon guy. Instead, he’s an observer of the American scene who works in a variety of media, including radio, prose, music, TV, movies…and animation.

I’m happy to say that I chatted with him and thanked him in person last night–Harry visited San Francisco as bass player/sidekick for his talented singer wife, Judith Owen, who played a local club. Funny seems to run in the family–Judith’s wicked wit ran through her patter and some of her song choices. She has a new holiday CD out, CHRISTMAS IN JULY (I bought a copy and got an autograph, but it’s also available at her site). I’d like it even if she didn’t happen to be married to Harry Shearer.

HOLIDAY GIFT SUGGESTION #2

krazydvd.jpgCartoon historian Ray Pointer, through his Inkwell Images label, has just issued George Herriman’s Kinomatic KRAZY KAT Kartoon Klassics, an important dvd documentary and rare cartoon compilation covering the early animated cartoon career of this beloved comic strip character. The documentary traces Herriman’s career and controversies — and the rare cartoons contained here date back to 1916 from the Hearst Studio, the early 20s from the Bray studio and late 20s from the Winkler group.Includes: Krazy Kat Goes A-Wooing (1916), The Bugologist (1916), Krazy Kat-Invalid (1916), Krazy Kat And Ignatz Mouse In A Tail That Is Knot (1916), The Great Cheese Robbery (1920), The Best Mouse Loses (1920), The Awful Spook (1920), Bokays And Brickbats (1925) and more, including an exclusive interview with Gene Deitch discussing his work on the 1960s Krazy Kat television series. A great package – well done! Order from Inkwell Images.

Notes from the Cartoon Blogosphere

> Eddiemuerte (a.k.a. MUCHA LUCHA’s Eddie Mort) has finished a new music album LO-FI IN LOS FELIZ and you can download all fifteen tracks for free HERE. The songs are short, tightly constructed electronic compositions (synthesizers, samplers and grooveboxes) inspired by varied strands of pop culture like Coney Island, Chupacabras and Jack Cole’s Plastic Man. Plus there’s a cool CD cover by Lili Chin.

> Pixar story artist Ronnie del Carmen writes extensively about his recent trip to Japan, including a visit to the Ghibli Museum and his meeting with Japanese illustration great Tadahiro Uesugi.

> Animation director/designer Ward Jenkins not only dissects the visual deficiencies in THE POLAR EXPRESS, but actually goes so far as to fix the expressions on the characters via Photoshop. Check out his excellent thought-provoking post on the Ward-O-Matic. On a sidenote, a number of people have actually recommended that I check out the film on an IMAX 3D screen. Apparently, the film becomes slightly more watchable with 3D glasses. For example, Mark Bunker, who has seen the film in both flat and IMAX versions, writes, “I’m a sucker for 3D. The snow falling in the audience, the amazing vistas, the details of the dirt under the fingernails on the hobo or the icy sludge built up under the engine as it careens to a stop out into the audience. None of this forgives the story weaknesses but it does add up to a worthwhile experience in the theater. One which was greeted by a round of applause both times I saw the film.”

Dressing Like Mickey: Abormal?

The NEW YORK TIMES has an interesting article (registration probably required) on autism and recent controversy over whether it’s an illness to be treated with therapies such as Autism Behavorial Analysis–or whether it’s simply a way of being. Why am I mentioning it here? Well, towards the bottom, the story says the following:

“Ms. Weintraub’s son, Nicholas, has benefited greatly from A.B.A., she said, and she is unapologetic about wanting to remove his remaining quirks, like his stilted manner of speaking and his wanting to be Mickey Mouse for Halloween when other 8-year-olds want to be Frodo from ‘The Lord of the Rings.’”

Since when is an eight year old wanting to dress as Mickey Mouse for Halloween something that demands medical treatment? Heck, it was once a sign of normality–and if I had a kid who was trying to decide whether to go out as Mickey or Frodo, I know which costume I’d recommend…

BIG LITTLE BOOKS

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osblb.jpgHere’s a highly recommended item I found at the comics shop this week: The Big BIG LITTLE BOOK Book by Arnold T. Blumberg. This is a highly enjoyable, thorough, full color illustrated “Photo-Journal Guide” and history of the Big Little Books (and assorted related items) published by Whitman, Western, Saalfield, Dell and others, mainly in the 1930s (though all the 1960s, 70s, and recent items like Star Wars and Xena BLBs are listed here).This book pictures every BLB ever published with it’s front, back and spine (see above), and is divided into sections (for example, “Cartoon Characters”, “Felix The Cat” and “Popeye”) for easy reference. There is an index and a history of the series – and plenty of classic movie, comic strip and animated character material to enjoy. Pure eye-candy! 270 pages in full color – for only $20 bucks ($13.97 on Amazon). Big Little Books are fun – this book is even funner!