Fred Quimby Explains It All

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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.

ASIFA-East Animation Festival

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This is going to be a plug for ASIFA-Hollywood.

But first we need to inform all filmmakers that one of the best (and longest running) animation competitions in the U.S.—the ASIFA-East Animation Festival—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 today—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.

Chris Ishii’s Lil’ Neebo

Chris Ishii Draws Lil Neebo

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 character—a Japanese-American boy who is interned—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.)
Lil Neebo

Lil Neebo

Lil Neebo

Lil Neebo

Lil Neebo

Misce-Looney-ous

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Looney Tunes fans rejoice! Jon Cooke and Matthew Hunter have joined forces to start a new blog to collect and showcase Warner Bros. cartoon odds and ends, trivia and minutia. Initial offerings include a rare Mel Blanc Tweety and Sylvester test recording, an ABC promo for The Bugs Bunny Show, a Bugs Bunny Kool-Aid commercial and a comic book page that explains what the “E” in Wile E. Coyote stands for. If you love Warner cartoons, you’ll love this stuff! Visit Misce-Looney-ous!

The Wizzard of Krudd

Wizzard of Krudd

The Wizzard of Krudd is a Nick pilot created last year by Greg Miller (Whatever Happened To Robot Jones?) and Mike Stern. Nick recently passed on the idea so this weekend they posted the pilot onto YouTube. Looking at the credits, it looks like Miller and Stern had a creative hand in every aspect of the cartoon. (Dan Krall also provided some layout design.) I’m not entirely convinced of the concept, but they’ve set up an idea with plenty of visual potential, and their strong vision and execution helps Krudd stand out from the majority of pilots I’ve seen recently. Check it out below and see what you think.

How To Become An Animation Executive

It turns out that John Kricfalusi isn’t the only TV animation creator who is vocal about his dislike of contemporary animation execs. Doug TenNapel, the creator of three animated series—Earthworm Jim, Project G.E.E.K.E.R. and Catscratch, offered this amusing insight on how to become an animation executive in this interview from a couple years ago:

Executives usually get in through “development.” They can be receptionists, P.A.’s lawyers, Literature majors and they end up being good at anything but writing, directing, acting or drawing. They have excellent social skills and could use a business background.

How To Post Comments on Cartoon Brew

Well, we’ve wrapped up our first week of the new comments-enabled Brew. We were both surprised by the sheer number (as well as consistently high quality) of comments—over 350 in the first seven days, or an average of more than fifty a day. We love to hear from so many people, but since comments are moderated, please make our lives easier by reading the “ground rules for posting” before posting comments on the Brew. One of the most common problems we encountered was folks who sign their posts at the bottom. Your name (and website address, if you have one) are already included at the top of the post so please don’t repeat that information a second time.

Please take note that there are plenty of reasons your post might not get approved for the site. Here are some of the reasons from the past week: the comment includes factually incorrect information, posting a one-word comment, too many grammatical/spelling errors, making a point that is unclear or difficult to understand, and repeating info that is already included in the post. Also, keep in mind that your contributions will be most valued by the Brew community if you have something unique to add to the discussion. Posting for posting’s sake benefits nobody.

Overall, we enjoyed reading the huge variety of thoughtful comments and discussions on topics as varied as Pogo, the value of owning your creations and Disney’s American Dog, as well as the lovely memories of Peter Ellenshaw and Ryan Larkin. Thanks to all who contributed. We hope many more Brew readers will also join the discussion.

Spongebob at Amoeba

spongebobrock.jpgCalling all Krusty Krab fans. Amoeba Music in Hollywood will host a rare in-store performance by SpongeBob & The Hi-Seas, a rock band featuring Tom Kenny, the voice of SpongeBob SquarePants. This is to promote Nick Records latest CD The Best Day Ever, which includes songs written by Kenny along with producer and fellow band member, Andy Paley. It’s actually a really cool album, with guest artists including Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys and Tommy Ramone.

The in-store appearance will take place at Amoeba Records, 6400 Sunset Blvd. in Hollywood on Saturday, March 3 at 2 PM. It’s a free show, and Kenny will autograph copies of the CD for all customers. For more information click here.

Glenn Barr’s Haunted Paradise

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Forget the fact that Glenn Barr did backgrounds for Ren & Stimpy, or The New Woody Woodpecker Show, or has contributed to Mad Magazine and DC Comics. Barr has emerged as a fine artist and painter in his own right and one of stars of the low brow art movement. He’s got a new book, Haunted Paradise, and he’ll be in L.A. tonight and in Palm Springs tomorrow to do book signings.

Catch him tonight from 6pm to 9pm at La Luz de Jesus Gallery in Silverlake, at 4633 Hollywood Blvd. On Sunday afternoon from 4pm to 7pm he’ll be at M Modern Gallery, 2500 N. Palm Canyon Drive.

ALICE in 35mm

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A few years ago, Ray Pointer (aka Inkwell Images) put together a superb DVD collection of seven Alice Comedies, Disney’s 1920s silent-era series combining live action and animation. About a year ago, Disney Home Entertainment put out vital set of Disney Rarities as part of their Disney Treasures DVD series, which contained six restored Alice Comedies from their archives. What we really need is a “complete collection” of these Alice films, but alas, several of the titles are lost, and many surviving prints are in poor shape.

What we don’t need is another incomplete DVD set of Alice comedies, especially one that repeats three cartoons available on the aforementioned two collections out there (and repeats two others that Ray also released). However, I’m here to tell you that VCI’s new collection, Alice In Cartoonland: 35mm Collector’s Set is worth buying. There are at least five Alice films here that don’t appear elsewhere – and all ten are spectacular 35mm restorations from nitrate negatives, and I have to say they look really great. These are 35mm negs of Alfred Weiss TV versions (with their wacky added sound tracks), and there are a few edits from the era (in particular, the drinking scenes in Alice Solves The Puzzle are out). But I’m delighted to have such great looking versions of these films, I’ll take them any way I can.

There is some additional bonus material here, including essays by JB Kaufman and Russell Merritt culled from their outstanding Walt In Wonderland book. There are three bonus “Life” cartoons by John McCrorry (silent shorts from 1927), also transfered from nitrate negs (retitled Krazy Kids Cartoons from their 1931 reissue in sound). These little rareties feel like Terrytoons of the era – bizzarre, cartoony and a lot of fun. All in all, I recommend the DVD. It’s great to see silent era animation that doesn’t look like “old movies.” And any effort to restore these cartoons deserves our support.

Ryan Larkin (1943-2007)

Ryan Larkin

Canadian animation legend Ryan Larkin passed away on February 14 from brain cancer. Larkin directed and animated the 1969 Oscar-nominated short Walking, as well as Syrinx (1965), Cityscape (1966) and Street Musique (1972). The news of Larkin’s passing comes from Ottawa International Animation Festival artistic director Chris Robinson who heard the news from Chris Landreth, director of the Oscar-winning short Ryan (2004), which documented Larkin’s amazing art and troubled life. Larkin had recently been making a comeback into the animation world; his most recent pieces—a series of three interstitials—had appeared on MTV Canada in December 2006. Ryan’s official website is RyanBango.com.

Here are a few more details about Larkin’s passing from an email written by his longtime friend, Felicity Fanjoy:

Ryan departed this life on Valentine’s Day around eleven o’clock in the evening. He died in the palliative care unit of the Hotel Dieu Hospital in St. Hyacinthe QC of lung cancer that had spread to the brain.

Before slipping into unconsciousness at the beginning of this week, his last words to Laurie Gordon (his guardian angel who, along with her family, have encouraged, supported and helped Ryan in every way possible in the last couple of years) were: ‘I’m happy. I’m okay. I like it here.’ A few days earlier he also said, ‘I just want to rest and rest and rest and rest and rest until the end of my days.’ And that is what he did.

Update: Interesting memories of Ryan Larkin here and here. A nice obit can be found in the Montreal Gazette.

Below are Larkin’s short Syrinx and Chris Landreth’s short Ryan. (Thanks, Rogelio Toledo)

Street Musique

Brad Bird Podcast Interview

Brad Bird

Pixar animators Adam Burke and Andrew Gordon of the Spline Doctors blog have posted a terrific 53-minute podcast interview with Brad Bird. Bird covers a lot of his personal history (not many who can lay claim to being mentored by Milt Kahl as a teen) and offers sound advice throughout (story! story! story!). Makes for inspiring weekend listening. Here’s a few choice thoughts from Brad:

So we often hear about the comeback of 2d animation. Do you think 2D has to change in order to be successful again?

Brad Bird: Yeah, I think they have to tell good stories. I think that’s a radical change.

Can you give any advice to aspiring students and animators about staying fresh and original?

Brad Bird: Don’t just look at animation. Look at everything else. Look at your own life. Feed other things into the medium of animation. Observe plays, paintings, TV shows that you like, poems, the girl that broke your heart two years ago, the car accident you almost had. Bring it all into the medium and the medium will stay as alive as it needs to be. To animate means to give the appearance of life, and you can’t create the illusion of life if you haven’t lived one.

And when Brad talks about quality television, he cites The Wire as an example. Perfect!

The Complete POGO

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Great news for fans of Walt Kelly (like me). Fantagraphics Books has acquired the rights to publish a comprehensive series of Walt Kelly’s classic POGO comic strip. The first volume will appear in October, 2007, and the series will run approximately 12 volumes.

Kelly joined the Walt Disney Studio in 1935, where he worked on numerous shorts and features, including Pinocchio, Dumbo, and The Reluctant Dragon. Kelly left Disney in 1941, moved back east and began drawing comic books for Western Publishing (Dell comics). It was during this time that Kelly created the character Pogo Possum for Dell’s Animal Comics (as a supporting player in the Albert the Alligator stories). In 1949, the Hall Syndicate started distrbuting Pogo as a comic strip to newspapers in the United States.

Each Fantagraphics Pogo volume will be designed by Jeff Smith (Bone). This continues Fantagraphics teriffic series of hardbound comic strip collections – which already include Schulz’ Peanuts, Ketchum’s Dennis the Menace and Segar’s Popeye. For more information, check the Fantagraphics website.

Raid spot by Tex Avery

Mark Evanier posted this Tex Avery-directed Raid commercial on his blog and I couldn’t resist linking to it as well. At the risk of offending pretty much everybody I know, let me say that I could watch hours of every single current animated series on CN, Nick and Disney, and not find five seconds of cartoon animation as beautifully executed as the animation in this spot. From the second these characters appear on the screen, everything about them exudes personality—their posing, distinct styles of movement, and little bits of personality animation, like the big bug scratching himself or the little bug readjusting his cap. The movement is timed funny, and their designs have appealing contrasting shapes (look at the big bug’s lumpy body, gangly arms and couple-sizes-too-small jacket).

What’s amusing is that this Raid spot is not what anybody would ever consider a classic piece of animation. It was probably knocked out by Avery and a couple freelance animators in a few weeks, and viewed by them as little more than a job. But boy, do their years of experience show. The guys who animated in the Golden Age had nailed the art of funny cartoon animation down to a science. Today, even with plenty of animation being produced in the States again thanks to Flash, there are few animators pushing themselves to elevate cartoon animation to this prior level of excellence. Everything I see in the mainstream is generic and blandly animated—as long as it moves across the screen, it’s good enough. It saddens me to look at what we had before, and how funny and entertaining even an inconsequential bit of animation like this Raid spot could be.

Azur and Asmar Picked Up By Weinstein Co.

Azur and Asmar

Twitch Film is reporting that the Weinstein Company has picked up Michel Ocelot’s French feature Azur and Asmar for distribution. As we’ve reported earlier, the fledgling Weinstein Co. has not had a particularly inspiring track record with animated films. Ocelot’s film, which premiered at Cannes last year to rave reviews, is the Weinstein’s first decent pick-up. There’s reason to fear though: among other adult touches, Azur and Asmar features a woman breastfeeding her children and has unsubtitled sequences with characters speaking Arabic. Knowing the amount of respect that the Weinsteins have for the animation art, a good probability exists that there’ll be substantial changes to Ocelot’s vision before the film reaches American audiences. I’d love to be proven wrong on this one.

Animation Show in Pasadena – Tonight!

Animation Show

Tonight I’ll be in Pasadena at the Rialto Theatre to catch the latest edition of The Animation Show. I will also be doing a Q&A with filmmaker and SHOW co-founder Don Hertzfeldt after the the 7:30pm show and before the 9:45pm. This is an incredible collection of the world’s best contemporary animation—presented the way the filmmakers intended, on the big screen. Join us!

(The Animation Show is also playing tonight at the Main Art Theatre in Detroit Michigan. Check out the remaining cities and playdates here)

Foodfight

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Click here to see the large size version of this promotional image, above, from Foodfight.

Can you spot the product placement? Foodfight is now scheduled for theatrical release this fall from Lions Gate Films (the same people who brought us Happily N’ever After). It’s a great idea for a film: after midnight all the packages in a local food store come alive, with the goodguy characters (including Mr. Clean, Cap’n Crunch, Charlie the Tuna, the Engergizer Bunny, et al) taking on a villainous band of Brand X characters for control of supermarket aisles. Of course this plot harkens back to several Merrie Melodies of yore (September In The Rain (1937), Goofy Groceries (1941), etc.). So far so good.

However, the real trouble begins with a visit to the Foodfight website. The character designs look awful. B-list celebrities are doing the voices. The film’s partners (read: producers) include Proctor and Gamble, Del Monte and Tootsie Roll, among others. We already get enough commercials at the movies as it is. I don’t know about you, but I predict a short shelf life for this flick.

Earlier coverage of Foodfight on Cartoon Brew here.

SCRAPPY Research Continues

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What does this Scrappy toy (pictured above) have to do Humphrey Bogart?

Harry McCracken, the mastermind behind the much acclaimed Scrappyland website – and the expert on all things concerning this forgotten 1930s cartoon character – continues his extensive research on his blog. Recent updates include these incredible finds: Scrappy comics, French strips, U.S. panels and a theory linking them to Will Eisner(!); and Scrappy’s cameo appearence in Bogart’s 1942 film All Through The Night(!!)

All this and more at Harry-Go-Round.