MEXICAN POSTAGE STAMPS

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The media is reporting today on the Mexican postage stamp featuring famed cartoon character Memin Pinguin.

The White House on Thursday objected to a postage stamp issued by the Mexican government, saying that “racial stereotypes are offensive no matter what their origin” and have no place in today’s world.The stamp depicts an exaggerated black cartoon character known as Memin Pinguin, drawn with exaggerated features, thick lips and wide-open eyes. His appearance, speech and mannerisms are the subject of kidding by white characters in the comic book.U.S. activists have called on the Mexican government to withdraw the stamp.White House press secretary Scott MClellan said it was “an internal issue for Mexico and the postal authorities that issued the stamp. With that said, I would like to make a couple of points. Racial stereotypes are offensive no matter what their origin. The Mexican government needs to take this into account. Images like these have no place in today’s world.”Mexico said that like Speedy Gonzalez – a cartoon mouse with a Mexican accent that debuted in the United States in 1953 – the Memin Pinguin character shouldn’t be interpreted as a racial slur.

I suppose this ends any chance for a set of commemorative postage stamps featuring Bosko, Jasper, Inki, L’il Eightball, Ebony, Buckwheat and So White.

RECLAIMING FELIX THE CAT

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Animation director Raul Garcia just got back from a trip overseas and brought me a present: the 20 page color booklet published in conjunction with an exhibit at the State Library of New South Wales, Reclaiming Felix The Cat.This current exhibit, running now through August 7th, recounts the story of Australian Pat Sullivan (pictured above), orginally from Sydney, who settled in New York in 1914 and later “created” Felix The Cat. The exhibition (and booklet) is loaded with rare merchandise, photographs and memoribilia – but little mention is made of Felix cartoonist Otto Messmer, in fact they down play Messmer’s role in Felix’s popularity and seem determined to make a hero out of Sullivan.Nonetheless, the exhibit is worth checking out. You can take a virtual tour (and download the booklet as a PDF file) by clicking here.

JOHN FIEDLER (1925-2005)

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The Hundred Acre Wood in the sky is now complete. Actor John Fiedler, longtime voice of Piglet in the Walt Disney shorts, features and numerous TV shows, has passed away – Saturday at age 80 – one day after Paul Winchell, his co-star as Tigger, died.fiedler1.jpgThey join Sabastian Cabot (Narrator), Sterling Holloway (Pooh), Hal Smith (Owl), Howard Morris (Gopher) and the rest of the original voice cast from the 1960s shorts.Fiedler was also well know for his many live action roles, including Mr. Peterson on The Bob Newhart Show (1972), as one of the jurors of 12 Angry Men (1957) and as “Cadet Higgins” on Tom Corbett, Space Cadet (1951). His final work will be heard in two forthcoming Disney direct-to-video movies, Pooh’s Heffalump Halloween and Kronk’s New Groove.

PAUL WINCHELL 1922-2005

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Thee isn’t much one can say about the passing of voice actor, inventor and ventriloquist Paul Winchell (Tigger, Dick Dastardley, Gargamel, etc.) beyond what Mark Evanier reports – except to say he will be greatly missed. I grew up with “Winch” myself as a regular viewer of Winchell Mahoney Time on WNEW (Channel 5) in New York, and his ubiquitous presence on television in the 1960s and 70s. I was certainly a fan of his work. A great entertainer, a great man. Rest in peace.

CONTEST #3

contestdvds.jpgDASTARDLEY AND MUTTLEY IN THEIR FLYING MACHINES and THE PERILS OF PENELOPE PITSTOP contained the work of some of the greatest talents in animation. In addition to stories by Michael Maltese, direction by Charles Nichols and designs by Iwao Takamoto, the voice casts were loaded with our favorites – Paul Winchell (Dastardley), Janet Waldo (Penelope), Don Messick (Muttley), and Mel Blanc (as various recurring gangsters).Today’s Question was: On The Perils Of Penelope Pitstop what part did voice actor Gary Owens enact in each episode? The answer was “the narrator”.Our winners today recieved either the DASTARDLEY dvd set (1st place winner Ben Radcliffe) or the PITSTOP complete dvd collection (2nd Place champ Mark Ayala).Thanks to everyone who entered our contests the past few days. Stay tuned, more cartoon competitions to come!

CONTEST #2

pitstopdvd.jpgIn today’s contest, the first two readers that correctly answered the question below won a prize. The First Prize was the brand new PERILS OF PENELOPE PITSTOP complete 17 episode collection. Second place winner recieved TOP CAT (The Complete Series).TODAY’S QUESTION: In The Perils Of Penelope Pitstop, sweet Penelope is pursued by Sylvester Sneekly (aka “The Hooded Claw”). Who was the voice of “The Hooded Claw”? The answer was: Paul Lynde. Our first place winner was Bryan Brown of Aberdeen, North Carolina. Second Place was won by Shane Amerman of Hagerstown, Maryland!

Happy Birthday, Cartoon Retro

Cartoon RetroThis past Monday was the one-year anniversary of CartoonRetro.com, an incredible source of daily visual inspiration that never fails to impress and inspire me. In my humble estimation, it’s the only website worth paying a monthly subscription fee for; there is quite simply nothing else like it. The reason the site works is because of its founder — Shane Glines — who is passionate not only about rediscovering great cartoonists and illustrators of the 20th century, but in studying their techniques and applying it to his own work. Shane took an incredible risk last year when he left a successful career in TV animation, and dedicated himself completely to Cartoon Retro. He wrote on his site recently about his life in the past year, and discussed both the struggles and rewards of freeing one’s self from the system:

It’s been over a year since I accepted any paying work. 100% of my income has come from subscriptions and original art sales. This hasn’t been easy. I’ve supplemented the money from subscriptions with original art sales, but I’ve flooded the market and now can hardly give the drawings away. I’ve turned down some incredible job offers, not an easy thing to do when that 72 hour eviction notice appears on the door.

I’m not complaining, though, and I don’t have any regrets. My drawings have improved drastically over this past year, and while I still have many highs and lows the highs are more consistent, and my satisfaction with my work is now to the point where I can actually look at a finished piece and be somewhat pleased with the result rather than only seeing where I failed. I really feel like I’m finally learning to draw, rather than relying on happy accidents, and I don’t think it would’ve happened if I continued to work on material that I had no emotional investment in. I needed to be able to fully concentrate on my own ideas, make my own mistakes and find the right direction for my work. Cartoonretro has given me that opportunity, and I owe you all a big thanks for supporting the site.

CONTEST #1

dastardleydvd.jpgThe first two readers to correctly answer the question below will win a prize. The First Prize is the brand new DASTARDLEY & MUTTLEY AND THEIR FLYING MACHINES complete 17 episode collection. Second place winner will recieve THE FLINTSTONES (The Complete Second Season).TODAY’S QUESTION: Paul Winchell was the voice of Dick Dastardley… Who was the voice of Muttley?The answer is Don Messick. Today’s winners were Rob Buttery of Lansing, Michigan (1st place) and Dan Blank of Los Angeles, California (2nd place).Winners are disqualified from entering the contest on Friday and Saturday – so join us again tomorrow around 9am for another chance to win one of these Hanna-Barbera video collections.

Le Building

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LE BUILDING is a minute-and-a-half film that was used as an opening for the 2005 Annecy International Animated Film Festival. The film was made by five students at the Paris animation school Gobelins. I’m constantly amazed at the quality of student work coming out of this French school. Their work is probably the slickest and most technically proficient of any animation school I’ve ever seen. And it’s hard to believe that the 2D medium is dead or in any danger of extinction, when students are capable of producing hand-drawn animation of this caliber. Check it out HERE!
(Thanks to Ted Pratt for the link)

UPDATE: Both Tom Neely and Andy Janes wrote in to give this LINK for a ‘making of’ video of LE BUILDING. I don’t have a fast net connection at the moment so I can’t speak of its contents. I initially recognized the CG elements in the film’s backgrounds and props, but did not realize that any of the character animation might have been done with a computer. But Ward Jenkins says that the pizza boy was entirely animated in CG, and upon closer observation, that definitely seems to be case. All I can say is WOW!

CONTEST TIME!

contestdvds.jpgWho wants to win a Hanna-Barbera dvd set?Once again, starting tomorrow at nine a.m. (unless we oversleep) we will post a brain twisting cartoon trivia question – the first two correct answers will win a prize.You can win one of the new DASTARDLEY AND MUTTLEY or PENELOPE PITSTOP complete series collections… so join us each day, for the next three days, at 9am Pacific (12 noon Eastern).

BOSKO AT MGM

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I love seeing publicity photos and behind the scenes images from classic cartoons. Ernesto Pfluger sent me two pages from a Spanish magazine – Lecturas from 1935 – featuring several images of directors Hugh Harman, Rudolph Ising and composer Scott Bradley posing with MGM contract starlet Cecilia Parker (from the Andy Hardy films) and cartoon star Bosko (before his miraculous transformation into a little human boy). I’ve added these to my Cartoon Research MGM Pages.

Noble Books

Tod Polson, co-director of the recent indie animated short THE PUMPKIN OF NYEFAR, lets us know about some interesting forthcoming projects that are related to legendary layout artist Maurice Noble (1910-2001). Tod worked closely with Maurice in the ’90s, and he was one of the original “Noble Boys,” the hand-picked group of artists that Noble trained as layout artists and designers. Tod writes:

The Noble Boys are working on a Maurice layout and design textbook, based on Maurice’s notes, as well as the lessons he gave us. He had started the book before he passed on… and asked me to see it through. The folio of his personal prints is something we would like to put together… and if there is enough interest, we will. Probably self publishing through Noble Tales.

A couple of Maurice’s prints are included in this post. If you’d be interested in purchasing a book of these prints, send an email with a simple ‘Yes, I’d be interested,’ note to “todpolson (at) lycos (dot) com”. There’s no obligation to purchase anything, but Tod is trying to gain a sense of whether there is enough interest within the animation community to go forward with a book of these prints. The profits would be put back into more Noble Tales animated film projects. He can definitely sign me up for a copy.

MUTT & JEFF

The latest Inkwell Images’ dvd, MUTT AND JEFF: THE ORIGINAL ANIMATED ODD COUPLE has been officially released.muttjeff1.jpgThe tall and short comic duo, created by cartoonist Bud Fisher in 1908, quickly became a part of American culture. They were one of the earliest comic strip characters to be adapted to animation, beginning in 1916, and were among the first animated characters to display distinct personalities. Animation historian Ray Pointer has compiled many rare prints for this collection — including Cramps (1916), Flapjacks (1917), Where Am I? (1925), The Big Swim (1925), Dog Gone (1926), A Kick For Cinderella (1926), Where Am I? (1930 sound color version), The Globe Trotters (1927 black and white version) and The Globe Trotters (1930 sound color version) — and bonus materials including posters and variant versions of some of the cartoons. We applaud Mr. Pointer for continuing to produce such tributes to the origins of American animation. For more info, visit Inkwell Images Ink.com

REVIEW: CAMP LAZLO (Cartoon Network)

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Cartoon Network sends me screeners for their new shows and specials at least once a month, and I generally toss them straight into the trash to save myself the aggravation of watching contemporary TV animation. On a whim though, I decided to check out the latest one they sent for the new series CAMP LAZLO, set to debut July 8.

CAMP LAZLO was created by Joe Murray, whose earlier creation ROCKO’S MODERN LIFE aired on Nickelodeon in the mid-90s. He has spent the past few years pursuing children’s book illustration and other non-industry activities. The show is a graphic delight. The designs are crisp and appealing, and the animation is solid and moves nicely (with the occasional bit of creative action that is very funny, like the camp nurse who only rolls around in her swivel office chair without ever bothering to stand up). The strongest visual element in the show is the excellent art direction by Murray and art director Sue Mondt (POWERPUFF GIRLS), along with their crew of layout artists and bg painters, which includes SAMURAI JACK’s Dan Krall (check out his website to see some of his concept paintings for the show). The backgrounds are thoughtfully composed, and packed with inventive organic shapes and creative color schemes. The painting style uses a heavy textural approach, with a lot of visible “brush” and “colored pencil” effects, which seems perfectly appropriate to the show’s outdoor setting. It also shows that ‘modern’ backgrounds are possible without relying on the hard-edged geometric shapes that are so prevalent in designed animation nowadays.

The show owes a strong visual debt to Nick’s SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS. Some of the characters, like Slinkman and the Dung Beetles, look like they are designs taken right out of SPONGEBOB, but beyond these obvious examples, there is an overall graphic clarity and simplicity to the character designs that emits a heavy SPONGEBOB vibe. It’s not only in the design that the SPONGEBOB sensibility is felt, but many of the character expressions in LAZLO also look like they were taken directly from SPONGEBOB boards. This is not because the artists were copying Nick’s underwater series, but rather because many of the LAZLO artists are alumni of SPONGEBOB, including three of the show’s six storyboard directors: Kaz, Kent Osborne and Sam Henderson. The similarities to SPONGEBOB end however with the visual direction of the show; storywise and contentwise, unlike SPONGEBOB, CAMP LAZLO has minimal appeal and entertainment value for anybody outside of its target six-to-ten-year-old range.

CAMP LAZLO

CAMP LAZLO is an outright success artistically, but it falls apart where most other children’s animated series also tend to falter: specifically, annoying voice acting where too often speaking with a funny voice substitutes for acting, incessant dialogue, stock character types with underdeveloped personalities, and generally uninspired plotlines and storytelling. Fortunately, these elements are not offensively bad — say, on the excruciating level of a FAIRLY ODDPARENTS — but it is enough to prevent me from wanting to watch the show again.

It is incredibly perplexing to me that why, on a show with so many distinguished artists, the filmmakers feel the need to cover the artwork and action with wall-to-wall dialogue. Not even the talkiest Billy Wilder films have as much dialogue as some of these modern animated TV series. It’s not as if the characters are saying anything witty or having thoughtful exchanges of dialogue; they just yak, yak, yak, explaining every bit of action and every feeling they’re experiencing. On more than one occasion, I noticed a scene where the joke was purely visual, yet they had a character injecting a comment on top of the action. Not only was this unnecessary, but also incredibly distracting. For all the talking, it is ironic how little the show actually says. CAMP LAZLO lacks a strong point-of-view that compels the audience to make any type of emotional investment in the characters, or to feel one way or the other about their actions. In other words, it is typical, generic children’s TV animation. . . good-looking, but ultimately empty and unsatisfying.

CAMP LAZLO

OPPOSITES JAMBOREE

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Floyd Bishop at Bishop Animation does good work.

We just finished our latest short, “Opposites Jamboree”, an educational film. Kids tend to get a lot of things backwards or switched around. This short talks a little bit about opposites. It’s in the spirit of the old Sesame Street cartoons and borrows heavily from animation design from the late 50′s. You can see a portion of the film on the gallery page of our site bishopanimation.com. We used Maya 6.5 for this piece. It was a great break from chrome
spheres, lens flares, and checkerboard floors.

Perhaps they could make animation exec pinatas…

Cartoon Pinatas
Triple Threat: Tweety, Barney and Shrek
Photo thanks to Harry McCracken

There was an interesting story in the LA TIMES yesterday about corporations trying to shut down Southern California pinata makers who produce counterfeit (and hilariously off-model) pinatas featuring the likenesses of popular cartoon characters such as The Incredibles, Winnie the Pooh, Dora the Explorer and SpongeBob. The lawsuit was filed against two SoCal pinata makers, or pinateros, by Disney, Sanrio, Cartoon Network, Viacom and Hanna-Barbera. It’s too bad that corporations can’t take the enlightened position of MUCHA LUCHA creators Lili Chin and Eddie Mort, who are always ecstatic when they find unauthorized pinatas and other products related to their show. After all, unauthorized merchandise may be the truest indicator of a show’s success amongst the general public, and the long-term financial benefits of keeping the show in the public eye more than offsets the immediate loss of a few bucks to the private entrepreneurs. Alas, the studios are well within their legal rights to go after these pinata operations, and history teaches us that if a corporation can sue, it will.

UPDATE: Nathan Mazur writes:

I think you may have forgotten to incorporate a key piece of information in your latest post regarding the pinata lawsuits. While it is true that the “long-term financial benefits of keeping the show in the public eye more than offsets the immediate loss of a few bucks to the private entrepreneurs”, as copyright and trademark owners it is their legal responsibility to defend said copyright. There are some horribly gray areas in the U.S. copyright law that would allow “work” to casually slip into public domain unless the copyright is defended.

I figured that many readers may be thinking along similar lines — that if the studios don’t sue, they’re in danger of losing their copyrights to these characters. But though these pinatas are illegal, it’s a fallacy that the studios face any risk of having their work fall into the public domain because of such products. Corporations only frame the discussion in such a manner to mislead people into believing that they had no other option but to sue. Worth checking out is this article, “10 Big Myths About Copyright Explained”. From myth #5: “Copyright is effectively never lost these days, unless explicitly given away.” Another recommended bit of reading is this recent entry at BoingBoing.net. The reader comments in that post are very insightful. It’s worth noting that the pinata situation is clearly different from the cakes being discussed in that piece: those cake decals are drawings made by individuals for personal use; these pinatas are made by an unauthorized third-party for sale to the public. But the discussion of copyrights falling into public domain is applicable to both issues.

JOE GRANT TRIBUTE

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Disney will host a tribute to the late Joe Grant (1908-2005) on Tuesday night June 28th at the Alex Theatre in Glendale. Leonard Maltin will host, and guest speakers (including Eric Goldberg, Mike Gabriel, Pete Docter, David Stainton, Don Hahn, Burny Mattinson, Dean DeBlois, Roy Disney, among others) will tell personal stories of their collaborations and encounters with the legendary storyman. “Pink Elephants on Parade,” “Baby Weems,” “Willie the Operatic Whale,” and “Lorenzo” will be screened.

LORD OF THE BEANS

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Director Kent Butterworth (Mighty Mouse: The New Adventures) has informed us of his current project – and animated feature he created, got funded, and is currently in production on: Lord of the Beans.

Got animation back on the 1st 5 minutes of the movie, and I’ll be posting it as a Promo and showing at VSDA in Las Vegas next month. I’m pretty excited about this – there needs to be more independent cartoons made – Am I the only one trying to do this?

PIXAR GOES MAD

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I don’t know how I missed this, but Steve Segal just pointed out the December 2004 issue of MAD MAGAZINE (with The Incredibles on the cover) which featured dozens of cameos (Brad Bird and Steve Jobs, above) of the Pixar staff – and then some. Two of the “unemployed hand drawn animators” look like my pals Eric Goldberg and Nancy Beiman (see below). The MAD spread is loaded with in-jokes and great digs at Disney. Well worth the effort to track down the back issue.

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BOOP FEST

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August 9th is Betty Boop’s 75th Anniversary. And if you happen to be in Southern California on Saturday and Sunday July 16th and 17th – and you aren’t at the San Diego Comic Con – you can celebrate a few weeks early in Montebello (look it up on Mapquest). That’s where & when the 20th Annual Betty Boop Festival will be held, sponsored by Heavenly Choice, the world’s largest Betty Boop store. Festival director Denise Hagopian has programmed two full days of events which include a Betty Boop look-alike contest, a Boop swap meet, a collectors club meeting and err… a Betty Boop tattoo show n’ tell.HEAVENLY CHOICE
534 No. Montebello Blvd.
Montebello, CA 90640
(323) 728-2728

One Man Band

ONE MAN BAND

Pixar’s latest short film ONE MAN BAND debuted last week at the Annecy International Animated Film Festival. The film was written and directed by Andrew Jimenez and Mark Andrews. The short tells the “tale of a peasant girl who encounters two competing street performers who’d prefer the coin find its way their tip jars. As the two one-man bands’ rivalry crescendos, the two overly eager musicians vie to win the little girl’s attention.”
(images via Liudger blog)

ONE MAN BAND