Tee Bosustow is tweaking his UPA website again. It’s worth dropping by for the temporary animated main page featuring original Art Babbit animation drawings from GRIZZLY GOLFER (1951).Wanted: More pencil test footage like this from classic cartoons!
This is exciting – a new animation studio specializing in hand-drawn animation started by one of the top animators of recent times. Back in December, I mentioned that DreamWorks/Disney animator James Baxter (Belle, Quasimodo, Rafiki, Spirit) was breaking free and starting up his own company. The studio, James Baxter Animation, is now open for business in Pasadena. Reports from people who attended the studio’s opening party have been posted at Seward Street and Animation Nation. Good luck, James.
A friend of mine, record collector & music historian Michael Kieffer, sent me some scans of some animation related rareties in his archive – and I thought they were interesting enough to share. I’ve posted a new Cartoon Research page devoted to obscure record labels and sleeves. I’m not sure how far I’ll go with this, but here’s a look at some actual Cinephone and Vitaphone discs that were used in the original exhibition of our favorite cartoons of the early 30s, as well as several estoteric Disney record labels.Click on over to the Cartoon Research Record Page and have a look. Further contributions encouraged.
This story appeared in several papers today – but since subscription is required, we’ll post it complete below:
Cut From the Oscars: Cartoon Characters’ Sins
By DAVID M. HALBFINGERABC executives have forced Robin Williams to drop a comic song from the Oscars show that might well have proved one of the most political and racy numbers of the broadcast, despite the fact that the network and the show’s host, Chris Rock, have been promoting the night as anything but tame.Mr. Williams, the presenter of the Academy Award for best animated feature, decided last week that his one minute on stage would be a prime time to lampoon the conservative critic James C. Dobson, whose group Focus on the Family last month criticized the cartoon character SpongeBob SquarePants for appearing in a video about tolerance that the group called “pro-homosexual.”For a bit of material, Mr. Williams predictably turned to Marc Shaiman, the composer, whose oeuvre includes Oscar-night medleys for Billy Crystal and songs for shows like “Hairspray” and movies like “South Park: Bigger Longer & Uncut”.Overnight, Mr. Shaiman and his partner, Scott Wittman,dashed off a mock expose of the dark underbelly of cartoonland for Mr. Williams to deliver, over a gospel-music groove, as if he were a full-throated preacher inveighing against other newly-discovered sinners in the nation’s midst:”Pinocchio’s had his nose done! Sleeping Beauty is
popping pills!/ The Three Little Pigs ain’t kosher! Betty Boop works Beverly Hills!”The producer of the Oscars telecast, Gil Cates, urged Mr. Shaiman to make the bit “less political,” Mr. Shaiman said, so he quickly removed any reference to Mr. Dobson’s protests – and turned Mr. Williams into a fabulous, lisping character dishing up the latest juicy gossip:”Fred Flintstone is dyslexic, Jessica Rabbit is really a man, Olive Oyl is really anorexic, and Casper is in the Ku Klux Klan!” Officials from ABC’s broadcast standards and practices office were not pleased. On Thursday, they detailed their objections. Some lines were opposed for “sexual tone,” as the ABC officials, Susan Futterman and Olivia Cohen Cutler, put it to Mr. Williams, Mr. Shaiman and Mr. Cates. These lines included “Chip ‘n Dale are both strippers,” “Bugs Bunny’s a sexaholic,” and “Josie and the Pussycats dance on laps.”In the end, however, the sexual references would have been allowed, a network spokesman said. But they held the line on material that they believed might be seen as glorifying drug use or offending Native Americans or disabled people.Among other lines, they included “The Road Runner’s hooked on speed” and “Pocahontas is addicted to craps.”On Friday, faced with rewriting or killing as many as 11 lines out of a 36-line piece, Mr. Shaiman said, he and Mr. Wittman refused, and Mr. Williams had to look for new material.Mr. Williams, interviewed at the Independent Spirit Awards on Saturday, said he was disappointed. “For a while you get mad, then you get over it,” he said. “They’re afraid of saying Olive Oyl is anorexic. It tells you about the state of humor. It’s strange to think: how afraid are you?” He added: “We thought that they got the irony of it. I guess not.”
The Los Angeles Times posted an editorial today with their opinion about Warner Bros. plans to update the Looney Tunes: Th-Th-at’s Not All Folks!
Mike Barrier has posted the full text of his interview with Brad Bird on his website MichaelBarrier.com and it’s a highly recommended read. Bird deserves much respect, not only for being an excellent filmmaker, but also for being one of the few industry heavyweights who’s not afraid to speak his mind. One topic he discusses is the Oscar’s flawed category for best animated feature, which is an award that I’ve had reservations about since its inception in 2001. Though well intentioned, it essentially ensures that great animated films like THE INCREDIBLES will never have the opportunity to compete with their live-action counterparts for the Best Picture Oscar. The argument carries a lot more weight coming from a filmmaker like Bird, who could have very easily pocketed a Best Picture nomination this year. Here’s what Bird says:
Bird: I think some voters who may truthfully believe that an animated film is one of the five best of the year may feel like if they nominate you for best animated film they’re off the hook. I certainly don’t want to be complaining – the film has been very well received, and to be nominated for four Oscars is wonderful. But you don’t have to look very deep to see that people treat animation differently. We went through the same thing on The Simpsons with the Emmy award for best comedy…But for a filmmaker who works in animation, when you work so hard to realize a moment, draw the audience in, and tell a story as well as you possibly can in a medium that’s very difficult to master – you feel like it’s the thirties and you’re in the Negro Leagues, or something. You may play some of the best ball, but you’re never going to get to the World Series.
Bird also addresses another one of my pet peeves – the co-director system that most studios employ in the production of animated features nowadays. I made brief note of this issue in a January 8 post, but Bird’s comments are even more pointed:
“…In many cases a studio will put two or three people together as co-directors who may not even like each other or respect each other’s work. It’s used as a way to diffuse power rather than coalesce a vision.”
Powerful words, spoken candidly.
Much props to Bird.
Read the full interview HERE.
Tulips Shall GrowFor the last three years, you can usually find me and Marea on Monday nights hanging out at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences on Wilshire. Starting April 11th, we’ll be back for the rest of the year when Great To Be Nominated: Part Two begins. Each Monday at 7pm a feature film from each year (starting with 1940) which received the most nominations without winning the Best Picture Award will be screened, along with nominated animated and live action short subjects, original advertising trailers, out-takes, newsreels and other surprises to recreate an evening at the movies of that particular year.The very best prints available are screened at the Academy’s Samuel Goldwyn Theater, one of the finest screening facilities in the world. Bugs Bunny’s debut A WILD HARE (1940) will be screened with the first program (4/11); Fleischer’s initial SUPERMAN (1941) and Tex Avery’s debut SPEAKING OF ANIMALS short, DOWN ON THE FARM will screen the second week (4/18); and a Technicolor nitrate print of George Pal’s TULIPS SHALL GROW (1942) will accompany the third program (4/25). Seeing these prints in 35mm, at the best possible theatre in L.A., is worth the price of admission alone – and get this, the tickets are only $5. each show, or $30. for the entire series (18 weeks!). It’s the best bargain in town.
See you there.
Pssst! Hey, Bud! C’mere… Here’s a good tip: for the next four hours – till midnight Eastern Time (9pm Pacific) – you can download three of the five Oscar nominated animated shorts (and two live action nominees) at Salon.com. Guard Dog, Ryan and Gopher Broke. Go now.
A reminder that tomorrow afternoon (Saturday February 26th at 3pm) I am hosting an Asifa-Hollywood program devoted to the rarely-seen ABC primetime series CALVIN & THE COLONEL (1961).Though show was originally broadcast in black & white, we will screen several 16mm episodes of the series in color. Special guests from the cast & crew will attend and a Q & A after the screening will include voice actress June Foray and animators Phil Roman, John Sparey and Frank Andrina. The screening will take place on The American Film Institute campus, in the Ted Ashley-Warner Bros. Screening Room, at 2021 N. Westen Ave. in Hollywood, CA. Asifa members admitted FREE. General public admission price is $10.Here’s a nifty shot of the Milton Bradley Calvin & The Colonel board game.
Harry McCracken laments the loss of the former Fleischer Studios building in New York – 1600 Broadway – with pictures, at Harry-Go-Round.
MR. BUG GOES TO TOWN (1941), Max Fleischer’s second and arguably best animated feature film, is considered a classic by animation buffs – and completely forgotten today by the general public.Brew buddy Vince Waldron just spotted this item on ebay:
This curious item caught my eye on eBay. Looks to be an animators model for the Honey bee character in that film (or one of them, anyway.) What struck me as interesting is the little tag attached to it which would seem to indicate that this sort of thing was given away at the end of a production. Can you imagine the attention a similar Disney item would garner?
Holy Mackeral – an original maquette – and it’s signed by Dave Fleischer! Good luck to potential bidders on this item. If any Brew reader wins this baby let us know. We are already jealous!