Peter Kleinow (1934-2007)

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Another of the old guard of animation, Pete Kleinow, has passed away. He was both a stop motion animator (with Art Clokey), and a renown guitarist (with The Flying Burrito Brothers). He wrote the Gumby song and animated on the original Davey & Goliath. Kleinow did many commercials in the sixties and seventies (including Poppin Fresh, The Pillsbury Doughboy), and animated the robot terminator in James Cameron’s THE TERMINATOR (1984). He also animated sequences for the Krofft’s LAND OF THE LOST and Arnold Leibovit’s THE PUPPETOON MOVIE. He passed away last Saturday night at age 72.(Thanks Joel Fletcher)

Upcoming Ratatouille Books

In addition to THE ART OF RATATOUILLE, there’s a couple other books based on Pixar’s upcoming RATATOUILLE that are worth mentioning here. TOO MANY COOKS is a counting book for preschoolers which is notable because it was illustrated by one of Pixar’s in-house artists, Nate Wragg. Here’s the cover:

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WHAT’S COOKING: A COOKBOOK FOR KIDS is technically a cookbook but it looks to have some airy light-hearted illustrations like the ones below. No idea who the illustrator is here, but I think it’s commendable that they’re allowing artists to give their personal takes on these characters instead of following bland licensing guide models.


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Philbert (1963)

In 2005 Warner Bros. released, as bonus material on Looney Tunes Golden Collection Vol. 3, a rarely seen 1963 TV pilot called PHILBERT, one of the last things produced by Warner Bros. Cartoons before they closed shop. The live action/animation show starred William Schallert as Griff, a bachelor newspaper cartoonist who lives with his creation, a mischievous hipster cartoon character named Philbert. I was honored to do some audio track commentary on the DVD with animator Art Leonardi and voice actor Trustin Howard. When the show failed to sell (it was intended for ABC), Warner Bros. stripped the show of its laugh track, did some re-editing and released it as a 26 minute theatrical short subject. The version released on the Looney Tunes set is the theatrical version.However, Friz Freleng (who directed the animation) once gave me a damaged copy of the original TV show version and I’ve posted a clip of the opening below for the sake of comparison. Note the lively theme song with lyrics missing on the DVD release. Other deletions include the illustrated titles and the laugh track. It’s worth noting that the pilot was directed by Richard Donner and the opening sequence of Philbert dancing was animated by Art Babbitt.

Remembering Iwao Takamoto (1925-2007)

Iwao Takamoto

With Iwao Takamoto’s passing, I thought it would be an appropriate time to share this interview I conducted with him in January 1999. It was originally published in ANIMATION BLAST #3. In our chat, Iwao discusses being interned in the US during World War II because of his Japanese ancestry, working with Milt Kahl at Disney, and his illustrious career at Hanna-Barbera. He was a top-notch draftsman, and in my limited dealings with him, always a friendly and affable fellow. As a sidenote, you’ll notice that Iwao mentions Tom Oreb briefly during the interview, and if I recall correctly, Iwao was the first person to truly make me aware of Tom’s work.

(click on the images for large versions)

Takamoto interview

Takamoto interview

Takamoto interview

Takamoto interview

UPDATE: More remembrances of Iwao appearing online:

Eric Homan remembers working with Iwao at Hanna-Barbera and shares one of his drawings.

Patrick Owsley shares an Iwao Takamoto pencil drawing and the inked version that he did of it at WB Consumer Products.

Iwao Takamoto (1925-2007)

iwao-takamoto.jpgWe’ve just heard that Iwao Takamoto passed away today. Takamoto is best known for his design work at Hanna-Barbera during the 1960s. He designed Scooby Doo, the Jetsons’ dog Astro, and Penelope Pitstop. He entered the business after World War II, where he was hired as an assistant animator by Walt Disney Studios. He eventually became the head of clean-up for Milt Kahl. He worked on films such as Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, One Hundred and One Dalmatians, and Lady and the Tramp.Takamoto left Disney in 1961 and joined Hanna-Barbera Productions where he worked in many capacities including direction of several feature-length animated films, including Charlotte’s Web (1973) and Jetsons: The Movie (1990). Along with the late Ed Benedict and Joe Barbera, Takamoto was responsible for some of the greatest television characters of our generation. He will be missed.

The Re-Animated Ryan Larkin

Ryan Larkin

Ryan Larkin, Canadian animation legend-turned-panhandler, who was the subject of Chris Landreth’s Oscar-winning short RYAN, is creating animation for the first time in over thirty years. We first mentioned Larkin’s comeback attempt in September 2005 and last month saw the debut of his first new animated pieces – 3 five-second bumpers for MTV Canada. (They can be seen on MTV.ca by clicking on the “news” tab and then scrolling down. It would be unfair to compare the MTV bumpers to Larkin’s earlier triumphs like WALKING or STREET MUSIQUE, but it’s certainly nice see him creating once again and hopefully it’s a sign of better things to come.

In fact, Larkin is currently attempting, with the help of singer-songwriter Laurie Gordon and her husband Krassy Halatchev, to create a new animated short, SPARE CHANGE. More details about the film and how you can contribute funds to help complete it, can be found at RyanBango.com. And here is a recent article on Canada.com that offers a bit more about Larkin’s new projects.

Why Kyle Baker Won’t Do Animation Pilots

Comic book and animation artist Kyle Baker was recently interviewed in Mike Manley’s excellent DRAW! magazine, and Mark Mayerson posted an excerpt from that interview on his blog. I couldn’t resist sharing the excerpt as well because it’s an excellent example of how some artists are wisening up to the games of the animation studios and refusing to sell themselves out for a few pennies. Kyle Baker says:

[Warner Bros. was] developing Why I Hate Saturn [one of Baker's graphic novels] as a TV show and when that fell apart, I stayed out there for seven years, doing screenplays and all that junk. And in the old days of Hollywood, they used to give you a whole lot of money up front. Like, when I was at Warner Brothers, they’d give me a big pile of money, a nice contract, and they totally ruined the work, made the script suck. The show never went on, I don’t get the script back, etc., etc. But at least I got a big pile of money, and I bought a house. It was worth it. But with the kind of deals that at least I’m getting offered now in animation – I don’t know if this is the general deal, but the people are coming to me with is, like, “Okay, here’s what we need. We need you. We don’t really have much of a development budget anymore, so we want you to practically develop the whole thing before you bring it in. Then we’ll pay you about ten grand, and we’ll make this thing, and if it succeeds, we get everything, and you get nothing. And if it fails, you get nothing.” That’s all you end up with now, is, like, ten grand. And it’s easy enough to find ten grand somewhere, so that you don’t have to give everything up and watch them ruin your script. You know what I mean? I mean, the last thing I did like that, I did a Fox pilot, and that’s how much I made, ten grand. It wasn’t worth it to me.

Cartoon Modern In NY Times and Print Mag

My book CARTOON MODERN: STYLE AND DESIGN IN FIFTIES ANIMATION is starting the new year with a bang. Today’s NY TIMES BOOK REVIEW has a plug for the book along with a great UPA image reprinted from the book. The link above takes you to the online blurb, but below is how it appeared in the actual paper.

Cartoon Modern in NY TIMES

And then, the new January/February issue of PRINT MAGAZINE, which is just hitting newstands, has a review of the book by none other than animation historian extraordinaire John Canemaker. I’m not convinced that my book or my writing deserve so many kind words but who am I to argue with John Canemaker? You can click on the image below to read his review.

Cartoon Modern in Print Magazine

To celebrate the occasion of these two CARTOON MODERN plugs, I just uploaded a bunch of storyboards and concept paintings from Ward Kimball’s classic short TOOT WHISTLE PLUNK AND BOOM (1953) to the CARTOON MODERN blog. Trust me, you’ll want to download the hi-res versions of this stuff for your personal collection.

Family Pants

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Independent animator Dave Redl has created a mini-industry by writing, voicing and animating his own short-form cartoon series, Family Pants, out of his home in New Jersey. Without any studio support, he’s pumping out his own thing, sharing it on the internet – even explaining everything about how he does it on his website. Here’s a great podcast interview with Dave discussing the hows and whys. It helps that Dave is an incredibly good cartoonist and extremely dedicated to the craft. Family Pants started as an on-line comic strip and evolved into an on-going animated series. His latest, Canned Ham, is the best one yet. Check it out all at FamilyPants.com

Arthur Disqualified

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Haven’t seen the flick myself yet, but word has filtered out that Arthur And The Invisibles has been officially disqualified from Academy consideration for Best Animated Feature. Apparently the film has animation in less than 75% of it’s running time. The film is currently playing in Los Angeles to qualify for the 2006 Awards, and will open wide around the U.S. on January 12th. But with no chance for an Oscar, and with reviews like this, Arthur is headed for an invisible future, indeed.The film’s disqualification will now alter the amount of films that can be nominated. We had 16 eligible features. Now it’s 15. Which means we just lost two nominees. (The rules state that if there are 16 or more eligible movies, there are 5 nominee slots. Less than 16, it’s three).

Animator Helen Hill Killed In New Orleans

Helen HillThis is the sad type of story that obviously no one would like to be reporting. After losing their home during Hurricane Katrina, filmmaker/animator Helen Hill and her husband, Dr. Paul Gailiunas, returned to New Orleans last August. Yesterday morning, Helen Hill was shot and killed in her home and her husband was also shot, in an apparently random act of violence. An AP story says Hill was the fifth person violently killed in New Orleans in a span of 14 hours. All the sad details about her death can be found in the South Carolina paper THE STATE.

Hill, 36, earned her Master of Fine Arts in experimental animation from CalArts in 1995. Her animated shorts screened at numerous festivals, and in 2004 she received a fellowship from the Rockefeller Foundation’s Program for Media Artists for THE FLORESTINE COLLECTION, a film “reflecting on handcrafted work and race in New Orleans through the story of a collection of hand-sewn dresses and the woman who made them.” In addition to her filmmaking, Hill taught filmmaking and animation to youth and adults, and served as visiting artist at the California State Summer School for the Arts and the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts.
(Thanks, Heather Harkins)

UPDATE: Ottawa International Animation Festival director Chris Robinson writes a beautiful tribute to Helen Hill.

More blog remembrances of Helen are HERE, HERE and HERE.

Brew reader John Carter offers a memory of Helen:

I was saddened to hear about Helen’s passing. I knew Helen and her family, I went to school with Helen at Dreher High School in Columbia, SC and her mother Becky Lewis was my fourth and fifth grade teacher. Mrs. Lewis was perhaps one of my favorite teachers that I ever had.

Helen loved film and animation and I remember seeing a film that their family made at their home in our fifth grade class. It was a stop motion and live action piece. Very creative. In fact if there are ever two words that could sum up Helen’s character it would be creative and loving. She was one of the most genuine people I have ever met, kind and very sincere. I had lost touch with the family over the years and did not know she was in New Orleans.

I wanted to share with you a story about her mother, and in a way, Helen. You see, we watched Helen’s homemade film in class as a preparation for an assignment from her mother. We were going to make an animated film as a class. We listened to different selections of music and we drew what came in our minds while listening. While listening to Scott Joplin’s Maple Leaf Rag I drew an Elephant coming upon a rainbow and then sucking in that rainbow through his nose. (Hey, I was in fifth grade – cut me a break.) Mrs. Lewis loved it and so my section of the film was Maple Leaf Rag. I cut out an elephant and rainbow a la South Park and in fifth grade made my very own animated segment. Helen even came to class a couple of times with her mom to help (she was a grade ahead of me). Our class made a short film of animated segments as individuals or teams and then put everything together. It remains one of my fondest memories of my childhood and helped to make me even more passionate about something I already loved: animation. So even at a very young age, Helen was making films and sharing her passion and helping others.

Upcoming ASIFA-Hollywood Events

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Next week, on Wednesday January 10th, if you are in L.A. and are a member of ASIFA, you can join me at Nickelodeon Studios in Burbank where I will host a preview screening of several new cartoon shorts. We will be running six Random Cartoons (Frederator’s new series for Nick) including Doug TenNapel’s Solomon Fix, Nikki Yang’s Two Witch Sisters, Pen Ward’s Adventure Time, Hiroshi Chida’s Boneheads, Melissa Wolfe and Anne Walker’s Sparkles and Gloom… and, oh yeah, my Hornswiggle. It’s gonna be fun.Tonight I’m doing a Q&A with producer John Williams at an Asifa-Hollywood members screening of HAPPILY N’EVER AFTER (I’m also showing cartoons at my monthly Janet Klein gig – don’t ask how I’m doing both at the same time, but I am!). Next month is the Annie Awards ceremony in Glendale. In advance of voting, ASIFA-Hollywood members received DVD screeners of HAPPY FEET, CARS, MONSTER HOUSE, FLUSHED AWAY and OVER THE HEDGE. The ASIFA-Hollywood Animation Archive is growing and has become an Internet hit. In case you can’t tell, this is a plug for ASIFA-Hollywood. If you live in L.A. you really should be a member. ASIFA-Hollywood isn’t a closed clique of animation elites – it’s for everyone who cares about the artform – whether your interest is anime, games, stop-mo, cg or traditional; or if your interests are in classic theatrical shorts, current TV animation or the latest feature film; or if you just like cartoons – ASIFA is your resource, an invaluable resource.The group was founded in the 1960s by the likes of Bill Scott, Ward Kimball, Chuck Jones and June Foray. Be part of that tradition. Now is the pefect time to join, we’ve got a lot of great events planned for this year. For more information go here.

Woman Power

The title of this post is the headline from a 1943 newspaper article that Hans Perk recently posted on his blog. It’s about Bee Selck, whom the article claims was the first woman assistant director in the animation industry while working on Disney’s VICTORY THROUGH AIR POWER. This reminds me of a few months back when I was at a random non-animation event and was introduced to a woman who had been an assistant animator at Warner Bros. during the mid-40s, until she left to raise a family. As a matter of convenience, animation histories routinely tell us that during the Golden Age, with few exceptions, the men held all the creative artistic positions and women were ink-and-paint artists. But if one digs a little, they’ll discover that there were far more women working in creative positions at that time than traditional animation histories let on. For example, while researching my book CARTOON MODERN, I discovered that at UPA alone, women in creative positions included background painters Michi Kataoka and Rosemary O’Connor, assistant animators Joyce Weir and Tissa David, character designer/layout artist Sterling Sturtevant, and various other designers including Shirley Silvey, Dolores Cannata and Charleen Peterson.

On a related note, Ben Ettinger at AniPages Daily recently wrote a fascinating profile of two pioneering woman animators in Japan during the late-1950s – Kazuko Nakamura and Reiko Okuyama.

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Samurai By Three Legged Legs

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SAMURAI, a slickly produced and visually striking mini-film created for GE’s “Imagination at Work” campaign, tells “a tale of a pint-sized samurai faced with a seemingly impossible challenge as proposed by a behemoth Emperor and his wicked minions.” The short can be seen in its entirety HERE. It’s produced by Three Legged Legs, the LA-based animation collective comprised of Greg Gunn, Casey Hunt and Reza Rasoli. Three Legged is also responsible for such quality pieces as “Los Angeles Lets Be Friends” and “Humans!” SAMURAI is currently airing on various cable providers’ trailers-on-demand programs and will debut in a few weeks on GE’s website.

(Thanks, Reza)

Contest Question

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Our first contest of the New Year, for the terrific limited edition CD set Tom and Jerry, and Tex Avery Too! was held this morning. The first two respondents to answer this question correctly won a free copy. The question:

What Walt Disney Silly Symphony cartoon did Scott Bradley compose the score for?

The correct answer was MERBABIES. Our winners were Andrea Ippoliti of Italy and Adam Koford of Orlando, Florida. Thank you to all who entered!

Scott Bradley Cd Contest

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Only 3000 were produced. We’ve raved about it. Mike Barrier raved about it. You still have time to get one before they all sell out. Tom and Jerry, and Tex Avery Too!, a two-disc CD compiling the best Scott Bradley scores from MGM animated shorts of the 1950s is an absolute must-have. What better way to ring in the new year than to have the crisp clear fast-paced soundtracks to Dixieland Droopy, Barbeque Brawl and Little Johnny Jet blasting out of your car stereo? Additionally, co-producer Daniel Goldmark’s detailed program notes (in the color booklet included) is the final word on Bradley’s work and career (image above, from the booklet, is of Bradley and Bill Hanna). A second set, examining Bradley’s earlier work, is being considered, but it’s dependent on sales of this first volume. So do your part and buy this CD today.For those of you who need a little coaxing: tomorrow morning (Wednesday) at 9AM Pacific (12 noon Eastern) I will post a simple trivia question and the first two Brew readers to answer correctly will win a free copy of the Scott Bradley limited edition CD set. Be here tomorrow and try your luck.

Amanda Visell Show In LA This Thursday

Amanda Visell painting

Amanda Visell will be opening her first solo painting show, “Switcheroo,” this Thursday, January 4, from 7-10pm, at Gallery 1988 (7020 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90038). Her fun and light-hearted painting style has a distinct animation sensibility, which shouldn’t be a surprise since she’s worked plenty in animation, mostly as a fabricator and sculptor on stop-motion projects. She’s also one-half of the creative group The Girls Productions which develops everything from merchandise to animation projects. Here’s a recent video interview with Visell where she discusses her work.

A Kitty Bobo Show

It’s nice to see this finally turn up on YouTube. A KITTY BOBO SHOW was a Cartoon Network pilot from 2001 created by Meaghan Dunn and Kevin Kaliher. It has a beautiful look and appealing character posing (if not particularly appealing character personalities). Lots of top-flight talent contributed to the short including background design by Dan Krall, bg paintings by Anna Chambers and Tim Maloney, and animation layout by Charlie Bean, Chris Mitchell, Albert Lozano, Aaron Springer, Carey Yost and Mike Stern, among others.