I just came across this trade ad from a 1945 issue of Box Office Magazine. Click on thumbnail image at left to see it in full size.
Now this is the way to sell a cartoon short – with Sex. Apparently MGM was hot to promote “Red” and had big plans for her. The ad reprints a trade article claiming Red Hot Riding Hood had 15,000 bookings – with more to come! The article wrongly credits the film’s direction to Fred Quimby (Avery’s name is no where in sight). Imogene Lynn, of Artie Shaw’s orchestra, is credited as Red’s vocalist in The Shooting Of Dan McGoo.
Here’s a heads up on two unusual animation screenings on Friday night, March 2ndÃ¢â‚¬”one in New York, the other in Los Angeles.
In New York, Marv Newland is appearing in person a retrospective of his amazing International Rocketship short films. The screening includes such classics as Lupo The Butcher, Anijam, Pink Komkommer and many more – projected in 35mm! This event will occur at the Two Boots Pioneer Theatre on East 3rd Street near Avenue A, at 7pm.
In L.A. Laemmle’s Sunset 5 in West Hollywood is screening the independent stop motion feature Blood Tea and Red String. Since filmmaker Christiane Cegavske lives in L.A. there’s an excellent chance she’ll be there in person. It plays at midnight on both Friday March 2nd and Saturday March 3rd.
There’s an interview with Nickelodeon development exec Peter Gal in the new issue of Animation Magazine and I’d been debating about whether I should make a post about it here on Cartoon Brew. Well, John Kricfalusi saved me the trouble by doing a post about the Gal interview tonight. Unlike John, I don’t have any personal history with Gal. I also have nothing against him, but I was still quite annoyed by the piece. The classic line in the interview: When Gal is asked about the “Do’s and Don’ts of Pitching,” he offers this golden nugget, “Listen to my comments and feedback and really think about them.” I’m not sure if that’s one of the do’s or don’ts.
Man, I can’t wait for this one! Ammo Books is getting ready to release what could become one of the must-have books of recent times: a humongous monograph on mid-century illustration legend Charley Harper. The project was initiated by fashion designer Todd Oldham who discovered Harper’s work in 2001 and has been collaborating with Harper since then to put together this book. What’s particularly exciting is that it looks like Ammo and Oldham are doing this right: the format is huge (17×12 inches) and if the cover is any indication, it’s going to be packed with visual goodness. As far as I know, Harper never worked in animation, but his work has inspired countless animation artists from 1950s-era designer Cliff Roberts to Samurai Jack background painter Scott Wills. Animator Nate Pacheco was even trying to translate Harper’s designer into Flash animation last year.
The 420-page hardcover book is scheduled for release in June, and retails for a steep $200 but is only $126 at Amazon. There are also four limited edition versions of the book (each $400) which come with a silkscreen print.
Charley Harper is an American original. At 84, Charley continues to make art in his studio in his hometown of Cincinnati, Ohio. He is beloved for his delightful, graphic and often humorous illustrations of nature, animals, insects and people alike. Charley likes to say, that when he paints a bird, he doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t count all the feathers in the wings Ã¢â‚¬“ he just counts the wings. Minimal realism, he calls it, and his unique and precise style continues to resonate and inspire his admirers.
Charley Harper – An Illustrated Life, showcases his illustrations that appeared from 1950-1975 in the Ford Times magazines, as well as in books such as the beloved Ã¢â‚¬Å“The Giant Golden Book of BiologyÃ¢â‚¬? in 1961, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Betty CrockerÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Dinner for TwoÃ¢â‚¬? in 1961, and Ã¢â‚¬Å“ The Animal KingdomÃ¢â‚¬? in 1968, among many others. His well loved book Ã¢â‚¬Å“Birds and WordsÃ¢â‚¬?, first published in 1974, is considered a classic.
Unlike many art shows that take place nowadays, there wasn’t a specific theme or high-concept driving this show. It was simply an opportunity for three artists who respect and admire each other’s work to exhibit together. The results are unpretentious and lovely. Uesugi, Casarosa and del Carmen each have their own distinct stylistic approaches, but their work also shares a lot in common, from their fearless use of digital tools over traditional media to the contemplative serenity that surfaces in all their art.
Another trait shared by the three is the brilliant simplicity and directness of their work. One of my favorite pieces in the book is del Carmen’s “Nina Yellow on Blue,” a gouache that appears modest in execution yet offers so much in terms of composition, color and design. There are similar pieces throughout the book by all three participants; pieces displaying an effortless confidence that belies the years of hard work and artistic practice required to achieve such results.
Three Trees Make a Forest is available on Amazon for $16.50. Also, the fine folks at Gingko Press have given us two copies of the book to give away to readers. We’ll post a trivia question this Monday at 1pm (Pacific time); check back then for your chance to win a copy.
Cool McCool was not a great cartoon show. In fact, it was downright poor. Created by Bob Kane (of Batman and Courageous Cat fame), and produced by King Features’ Al Brodax (Yellow Submarine), it originally aired on NBC Saturday mornings in 1966. It’s not bad enough to qualify for my Comic Con Worst Cartoons screenings, and it’s neither good enough to recommend. I could never warm up to the character – I think it’s either his phony mustasche or his lame Jack Benny personality, or perhaps his outdated appearance of what a spy should be. It just doesn’t quite work. This clip on You Tube will give you a taste. A boxed set of the complete series on DVD comes out on March 13th (they sent me an advance copy) and, sadly, I cannot recommend it.
I say “sadly” because the DVD is practically a tribute to my favorite New York City kid-show host Chuck McCann. Chuck (pictured in the center, above) did almost all the voices on the show – and he’s great. Bob McFadden (left, was McCool) and Carol Corbett (right, another New York kiddie show host) did all the other voices and the set features commentary, interviews, classic clips and bonus material all paying tribute to McCann (perhaps best known outside of New York as the voice of Sonny and Gramps in those Cocoa Puffs commercials – and his co-starring role on Far Out Space Nuts). If you grew up watching McCann in the 1960s you might want this DVD just to relive some cherished memories with an old friend. Otherwise, you can forget it.
I’m often critical of the contemporary animation industry, but my criticisms are nothing compared to this new blog called Anibation Fantasy [site was taken down on 2/27/07]. The author of the blog has decided to remain anonymous, though he says he’s an Annie Award-winning artist who’s been in the industry for over twenty-five years. The writing on the blog certainly sounds like that of a grizzled industry veteran who’s seen it all. It’s hard to go wrong with a blog that has the tagline “I work in animation. I am in hell.” and offers post titles like “WHY THE ANIMATION INDUSTRY IS DOOMED,” “THE ANNIE AWARDS ARE A JOKE,” “HORRIBLE CARTOONS THAT EVERYBODY LOVES,” and “ANGRY WOMEN ARE RUINING ANIMATION.”
The Japan Media Arts Festival has announced the winners of it’s 10th annual competition and have set up a very nice website offering video of the honored films. Check out the diversity of animation techniques — particularly Alexander Petrov’s moving painting, My Love; the fun designs of Bloomed Words; and whatever-the-technique of Lightning Doodle Project’s Pika Pika.
Here’s Mickey Mouse as you’ve never seen him before. The 1955 Disney-produced Nash car commercial posted below is as modern as the mouse ever looked. The redesign came courtesy of Tom Oreb, whose original Mickey model sheet is above. Victor Haboush, who did background design on the commercial, told me what happened after the commercial aired:
There was a little kid that used to write Walt telling him to stay away from modern art because it’s Communisitc. So when the commercial came on, he got a letter from this kid, a little malcontent sitting somewhere, and he wrote, “I’m disappointed Walt. I never though you’d succumb. What happened to you?” and Walt went crazy. He stormed down there and outlawed us against using any of the Disney characters in the commercials. I remember at the time everbody was incensed that we couldn’t use them, and it basically spelled the end of the unit. [Companies] were coming for the celebrity; to be able to use Disney characters in their commercials.
Cartoonist David King has posted on his blog several interesting pages from a 1950 book, The Complete Guide to Professional Cartooning. How Animated Cartoons Are Made by Fred Quimby (!) is an illustrated behind-the-scenes article, with photos of the staff, including Tex Avery and Scott Bradley, Hanna, Barbera and many other artists, working primarily on Old Rockin’ Chair Tom (1948). Very cool.
In case you missed it this morning, here’s the segment on Brad Bird from ABC News. Lots of nice clips from Ratatouille. Also, after the segment on Bird, there is an interview with production designer Rick Heinrichs (Frankenweenie, Vincent, Pee-wee’s Big Adventure).
But first we need to inform all filmmakers that one of the best (and longest running) animation competitions in the U.S.Ã¢â‚¬”the ASIFA-East Animation FestivalÃ¢â‚¬”is accepting entries for its 2007 contrest. This festival celebrates the independent animator, but all animation (student, sponsored, commercial, etc.) is gladly accepted. The entry form is now available online. ASIFA-East members will be voting next month, and the Festival itself is one of the big nights for the New York animation community each year. The winning films tour the country, and screen for the various ASIFA chapters around the world.
That brings me back to ASIFA-Hollywood. Tomorrow night, February 21st, the Hollywood chapter is screening last year’s ASIFA-East Festival award winners. If you want to check it out, the screening is at Dreamworks Animation Studios in Glendale. You must RSVP todayÃ¢â‚¬”email your full name, guest name, and daytime phone number to publicity (at) asifa-hollywood.org. The screening begins at 7pm and photo ID is required for entry onto the DreamWorks lot.
I was bummed when animation artist Chris Ishii passed away in 2001 because I’d had his phone number on my desktop for quite a while and had been meaning to call him for an interview. Ishii was born in Fresno, California in 1919 and had attended Chouinard Art Institute before being hired at Disney in 1940. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, he was among the tens of thousands of Japanese-Americans who were forcibly removed from their homes and sent to internment camps. (Scooby-Doo designer Iwao Takamoto, who recently passed away, was also among those interned. He described his experiences in this interview I did with him.) Ishii was sent to the Granada internment camp in Amache, Colorado.
After nearly a year of being in the camp, Ishii was accepted into the US Army in December 1942 (photo of his enlistment here). His IMDB bio says that he “served in the Military Intelligence Service as an illustrator for the Office of War Information, assigned to the India/China/Burma theater of war. He met and married his wife, Ada Suffiad in Shanghai, bringing her to the U.S. with him at demobilization.” In the 1950s, Ishii moved to the East Coast and worked at a number of NY commercial studios including Tempo and Shamus Culhane Productions. He joined UPA-NY around 1954 as a designer and layout artist. Afer Gene Deitch left the studio, Ishii (along with Jack Goodfood) assumed the role of UPA-NY’s artistic supervisor. He continued working in commercial animation during the 1960s and ’70s, partnering to form his own studio, Focus Productions, and directing the animated sequence in Woody Allen’s Annie Hall, among many other projects.
The reason I bring all this up is that I recently found online some examples of Ishii’s “Lil’ Neebo” comic strip. He created the characterÃ¢â‚¬”a Japanese-American boy who is internedÃ¢â‚¬”for the Granada camp’s newspaper Granada Pioneer. The character was also drawn for the paper by other interned artists, as well as used in puppet shows at the camps. The drawing in these strips is relatively crude as it was still early in Ishii’s artistic career, but the Disney influence is certainly evident, and the unfortunate circumstances under which they were created gives them plenty of historical significance.
(Thanks to Carol Coates for finding the Ishii photo. Click on the images below for bigger versions.)