Today’s a travel day. I’m on my way to Ottawa to attend the International Animation Festival, this time as a spectator. Last year I was a Judge and presenter of two programs. This year I’m just hanging out, with the intent of watching as many films as I can.I’ll be bringing with me a bunch of Hornswiggle buttons and postcards to give away, and I’ll have a few DVD copies to sell of the all-new 2006 edition of WORST CARTOONS EVER. I’ll be around all week, but you can count on my presence at the Clampett retrospective, Amid’s book signing, the Cult Toons screening and the Animators picnic – so feel free to come up and say hello.
Like the Famous Studios cartoons which inspired (and ultimately dominated) them, Harvey Comics has gotten little attention (or respect) from the comics community at large. But its establishing artists in the 1950s consisted of such talented East Coast animators as Steve Muffatti, Dave Tendlar and Marty Taras. Then a second generation of cartoonists in the 1960s and 1970s – including Howie Post, Ernie Colon, and especially Warren Kremer – did an amazing job creating a comic book universe that kids really cared about, years before cable TV and video games.One of those kids, Mark Arnold, has been publishing a fanzine devoted to Harvey Comics for 16 years. Long before the Internet, his Harveyville Fun Times was all there was for devotees of Casper, Richie Rich and Baby Huey. In case you missed the first fifty issues, Mark has now compiled a 400 page “best of” volume, which is currently being printed “on demand” at Lulu.com. The book contains numerous indexes to Harvey animated cartoons and comic books, as well as reviews, commentary and interviews with Harvey writers and artists.I hope to see further research on the history of Harvey and Famous (in fact, I hope I get a chance to write some of it myself), because there is more there than meets the eye. For now, Mark’s efforts are a real good start.
Three nice cels from Polar Playmates (1946) are currently up for sale on ebay.Polar Playmates, directed by former Disney animator Howard Swift, with characters designed by Charles Thorson, is arguably one of the better cartoons in the later batch of Columbia Color Rhapsodies. Columbia’s Screen Gems studio of the 1940s produced the greatest mixed bag in cartoon history. There were wise guy characters in the Bugs Bunny mold (The Fox & Crow), comic strip adaptations (L’il Abner), surreal experiments (John Hubley’s Professor Small and Mr. Tall), and too many newsreel spoofs (most of them painfully unfunny). Occasionally they’d try something in the Disney vein of personality animation – and Polar Playmates hit the mark with charm and style. The characters were strong enough to be adapted into a short lived series of comics – a back up strip in the earliest issues of DC’s Real Screen Comics. Howard Swift would go on to establish Swift Chaplin Productions, a leading maker of animated TV commercials (with partner Charlie Chaplin), and Columbia’s cartoon library would drift into obscurity (superseded by the acclaimed UPA cartoons in the 1950s). But there are nuggets of gold in that collection – and hopefully someday they’ll be seen widely again.For more information on the Columbia cartoon library, visit my Screen Gems webpage and the Columbia Crow’s Nest website.
Here’s a wonderful event that’s open to anybody and everybody, anywhere and everywhere throughout this planet. This Saturday, September 23, is the 11th World Wide SketchCrawl. What the heck is a SketchCrawl? I’ll let its creator Enrico Casarosa, who also happens to be a story artist at Pixar, explain the idea:
In short, roughly every 3 months we put a call out to people around the world to join in, put pen to paper on a given day for as long as they can (be it 20 minutes or 8 hours) drawing, sketching, journaling about their day and what’s around them. For a day, slow down, look around you, see … and draw or write. Record your day. No specific level of skill is expected ! Anyone is welcome.
We set up a forum where to seek and organize meetings with artists from your area. You can participate in SketchCrawl on your own or with a group of friends. I usually meet groups of artists in San Francisco, where I live. The forums and the Flickr SketchCrawl group also serve as gathering and sharing place after the drawing marathon day. The idea behind this is to get the great feeling of drawing with and at the same time as peoples from all walks of life and from all corners of the world; and ultimately by sharing the day’s sketches and photos on Flickr and the SketchCrawl forums, to see places and details from corners of the world we might not see at all in our lifetime !
Be sure to check out the SketchCrawl Forum to find out who’s organizing a SketchCrawl in your city. For more details, stay tuned to the SketchCrawl blog, and when you’re done, post your art to the SketchCrawl Flickr group.
In the world of animation, you can’t get Punk’d, only Barrier’d. For those who aren’t aware of the meaning of this new verb I just made up, to be “Barrier’d” means that animation historian and critic Michael Barrier has reviewed something you’ve done related to the world of animation. And if you’re familiar with Mike’s reviews, you know it’s guaranteed to be interesting and thought-provoking. In this instance, Barrier has reviewed my book CARTOON MODERN. There’s a lot to chew on in his appraisal and at some point, I’ll think of a more appropriate response, but in short, I agree with some of the points he makes and vehemently disagree with other things he says in there. All in all though, I’m incredibly flattered that Mike took the time to write such a thoughtful review of my book. (Thanks Mike!) This discussion about the merits of animation design wouldn’t have even happened a couple decades ago so definite progress is being made in the recognition of Modern animation artists and their body of work, even if we don’t always reach the same conclusions.
Tomorrow I’m off to the yearly North American gathering of the animation tribe, otherwise known as the Ottawa International Animation Festival. I’m mostly going to catch some fresh contemporary animation, but I’ll also be involved in a few events.
On Friday, September 22, at 9am, I’ll be moderating a panel about Concept Design & Art Direction. It’s going to be a fun panel to moderate because the panelists are both top-notch talents: Erik Tiemens (art director, Lucasfilm) and JJ Sedelmaier (president/director, JJ Sedelmaier Productions). We’ll be discussing the challenges of achieving a successful animated marriage between content and design, with plenty of examples to be shown.
Later on Friday, from 6-7pm, I’ll be doing a book signing for my new book CARTOON MODERN: STYLE AND DESIGN IN FIFTIES ANIMATION. If you purchase the book in Ottawa, you’ll also receive a FREE dvd of some rare ’50s commercials and animated shorts that aren’t available anywhere else. Copies of ANIMATION BLAST #9 will also be on hand. Both the book and mag will be waiting for you at the Aniboutique during the entire festival (or as long as supplies last).
Let me plug a couple other festival events that I’m really looking forward to. First, is the world premiere of Nick Cross’s new animated short THE WAIF OF PERSEPHONE. That’s on Friday at 7pm during this screening. I have no idea what it’s about, but if you’ve been following Nick’s blog, you know this cartoon is going to be something special. Then, on Sunday, September 24, at 2pm, there’s a lecture by JibJab co-founder Evan Spiridellis. It’s titled A Brave New World: The Rise of the Independent Creator, and trust me, there’s nobody more qualified to speak about becoming a successful independent than the Spiridellis brothers. If you want to be inspired, you’re not going to want to miss Evan’s talk.
This was a surprisingly enjoyable listen: it’s a rare 1965 Hanna-Barbera record featuring an original JONNY QUEST story based on Jules Verne’s 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA. The story was written by prolific H-B storyman Charles Shows, and the LP begins and closes with Hoyt Curtin’s superfunky QUEST music. Be sure to look around the rest of the Check the Cool Wax blog for hard-to-find tunes by the likes of Louis Prima, Lalo Schifrin, Ann Margret, Herbie Mann and Colonel Sanders (yes, that Col. Sanders).
ROCK BOTTOM RISER is a sublime music video by Australians Paul McNeil and Brendan Cook for the band Smog. The visuals, painted traditionally and animated in After Effects, at turns evoke Joan Mir– and Raymond Pettibon, but the overall effect is original and completely captivating. The video can be viewed at the Submarine Channel. If you’re headed to the Ottawa Animation Festival later this week, be sure to check out the video in Competition #4 and give a well deserved pat on the back to attending filmmaker Brendan Cook.
Disney historian Jim Korkis follows up on my post about the SNOW WHITE wrap party and sends in this excerpt from an interview he did with Disney animator/director Bill Justice. The entire Justice interview can be found in the third volume of WALT’S PEOPLE.
Jim Korkis: Tell me a little about the “Snow White Orgy” at the Norconian.
Bill Justice: In 1938, “Snow White” was a huge hit. You can’t believe how big it was. Walt and Roy announced that they were going to throw this huge, incredible “thank-you” party for everyone who worked for them. Wives, husbands, children, friends…all of them were invited to a weekend at the NORCONIAN HOTEL on Lake Norco (a desert resort near Palm Springs where Walt would later have his Smoke Tree Ranch hideaway).
All costs from the rooms to food and drink and in fact whatever we wanted to order would be taken care of by Walt. You know at the Studio, there was a strict dress code in those days for employees. Men came to work in jackets and ties although they were allowed to take them off when they sat down at their drawing boards. Women were not allowed to wear pants, and sober-colored skirts and blouses weren’t very appealing. The ink and paint girls were separated from the animators. The Disney Brothers had sent out a memo that if you were in animation you weren’t supposed “to dip your pen in the company’s ink and paint” which was their way of saying, “behave yourself with the ink and paint girls.” If you told a dirty joke within earshot of Walt, you might get fired. He didn’t put up with any of that stuff.
So, anyway for two years, all of us had been under terrible pressure, working long hours day and night to finish “Snow White.” When I came on at the end of production, I still felt that stress. When we arrived at the Norconian Hotel there were pools to swim in, tennis courts, a golf course, music, and plenty of food and alcohol and something just snapped.
An animator picked up an ink and paint girl and dumped her into the pool fully clothed. Followed by others jumping in and all hell broke loose pretty quickly.
Swimsuits flew out the windows. There were naked swim parties, people got drunk and were often surprised what room they were in and who they were sleeping next to when they awoke the next morning.
Freddie Moore walked off one of the upper floor balconies thinking he was on the ground floor and ended up in a tree fortunately. You know, he was one of my idols. I never saw Freddie Moore do a bad drawing. As my wedding gift from my wife, Kim, I got a sketch of a woman’s head wearing a hat done by Freddie.
Walt was horrified at the shenanigans. He and his wife drove home that next morning. He never referred to that party again and in fact if you wanted to keep your job, you didn’t mention it either when you were working at the studio. We never had a party like that again.
Animation designer Pete Emslie wants us to to be aware of a new Canadian cartoon show. Pete writes:
I’d like to direct your attention to this show Yam Roll, as I feel it has been getting a free pass for too long. Currently it airs on CBC in Canada, but I gather it is trying to get picked up by one of the U.S. cable channels as well. Frankly, I consider it an embarrassment and, due to it being on our public broadcaster, a needless waste of taxpayer dollars that should instead be spent on a show with higher artistic and entertainment merit. It is the current poster boy for bad animation design, in my opinion.Also, to be honest, I’m hoping you’ll be able to direct some of your readers to their blogsite so that I can get some much needed support in my dissenting view on the show. As it is, I’m being attacked as a know-nothing despite my longtime experience as a successful character illustrator. I really feel like these folks should have more critical attention focused on their awkward, primitive little efforts.Anyway, here are both the main site and the contentious blogsite of which I speak. I really would appreciate it if you could shine some light on the matter.
Well, that’s what Pete thinks. I’ve heard from readers who say it isn’t all that bad. Apparently
Cartoon Network is planning to air the YAM ROLL cartoons sometime this fall in the U.S. I’ll make up my mind then.
I’ve made it no secret I’m a fan of Xeth Feinberg’s Internet cartoons (particularly BULBO) and his Queer Duck films. Dave Levy has posted an informative interview with Xeth on the ASIFA-East website about his involvement with the Queer Duck series, and how he put a studio together from scratch to make a feature length version.
After the 3-D cartoons at the Egyptian tomorrow afternoon, I recommend bopping over to Meltdown Comics at 7522 Sunset Blvd. where, from 7-10pm, animator/illustrator/character designer Rik Maki (THE LION KING, FINDING NEMO, A BUG’S LIFE , HERCULES, TARZAN, etc.) will be signing his new sketchbook and giving a drawing demonstration. There’ll also be free food and drinks.
Yesterday’s USA TODAY had a short ARTICLE about Fox/Blue Sky’s next animated feature HORTON HEARS A WHO (March 2008), which also included the first official image from the film. My friend who emailed this article says, “I’m actually surprised that it looks so decent.” Discuss amongst yourselves.
UPDATE: ComingSoon.net has the second photo from HORTON. I’ve posted it below. Why they decided to add crow’s feet around Horton’s eyes, we’ll never know.
Yesterday we posted an obit for Berny Wolf (1911-2006). Here’s links to other people talking about Berny’s life and work:
Mark Evanier, who worked with Berny on several occasions, writes about Wolf’s career in the 1970s and 1980s.
The ASIFA-Hollywood Animation Archive has posted some of Wolf’s model sheets that he created while at Iwerks, as well as a copy of Fleischer’s MINNIE THE MOOCHER, on which Wolf animated.
Remembrances of Wolf from Scott Shaw!, Bronwen Barry and Ben Burgess are on this Animation Nation thread.