Spider Pig

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Sure, The Simpsons Movie made over $70 million this weekend at the box office. But the big winner in all this is the estate of lyricist Paul Francis Webster and composer Bob Harris (anyone know what became of him?).

Webster may have won three Academy Awards for Best Song (including Love Is A Many Splendored Thing), but his lyrics for the 1967 Spider-man TV cartoon theme will apparently live forever. In addition to its inclusion in the three recent Spider-Man live action features, the tune has become one of the most popular gags (re-worked as “Spider Pig”, by Homer) in The Simpsons Movie.

Compared to his other work, Webster must have been slumming when he penned the words for the Saturday morning cartoon show. But like Spider-man and the Simpsons, the song has established itself as a mainstay of popular culture.

Stu’s Show

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A quick plug for Stu’s Show, the internet radio program devoted to nostalgic pop culture. I’ll be on later this month (August 22) to discuss the recent classic cartoon DVD collections (and will answer your questions via listener phone calls). This week (tomorrow Wednesday August 1st 7-9pm East Coast/4pm-6pm West Coast) Stu interviews Eddie Carroll (pictured above at right, next to actor Alan Young, the voice of Uncle Scrooge). Carroll, best known for his tribute shows to Jack Benny, has been the voice of Jiminy Cricket since 1973.

The show is not archived so you’ll have to tune it tomorrow for the live show or tune in at the same time the next seven days if you want to hear a repeat broadcast. Stu’s show is great fun and very informative. Highly recommended.

Process Enacted by Jordan Greenhalgh

Process Enacted

Process Enacted is an inventive student film by Jordan Greenhalgh created at Rochester Institute of Technology as his sophomore final. The short can be viewed on his website TheChaseFactory.com. A few technical details about the film from its director:

I used Polaroid 600 film to capture all of my imagery. During the development phase of each image the Polaroids were manipulated to create lines and shapes as well as pulling some emulsion completely off. After shooting all of the Polaroids (987 to be exact) I re-shot them in black limbo with a Canon digital SLR. The end result is my film Process Enacted. There is no digital compositing or computer trickery … just what was in front of the lens.

LA: Jules Engel Show & Cartoon Mod Signing

Jules Engel background painting


Through the end of August, the Tobey C. Moss Gallery (7321 Beverly Boulevard, LA, CA) has on display a show of animation artwork by Jules Engel. It’s a fairly small selection of artwork but includes pieces from Engel’s work on Disney’s Fantasia, UPA and Format Films color keys, and drawings from his personal short films. This Thursday, August 2, from 7-9pm, I’ll be doing a signing of Cartoon Modern in conjunction with the show. We’ll also be doing a short screening that highlights his UPA work and includes rare interview clips with Engel. Brew readers who’d like to attend can rsvp by tomorrow either by sending an email to tobeymoss [at] earthlink.net or calling the gallery at (323) 933-5523.

The Online Animation Conversation

Drawing by Harald Siepermann

In early-2005, I declared that 2004 had been the year of the animation blog. It was a good year no doubt, but the same could likely be said for every year since then. In fact, the animation blogging community has evolved in leaps and bounds since its nascent rise in ’04. Today, the conversation on animation blogs is as vibrant and exciting as ever. What makes the community so dynamic is that it’s not just artists and critics posting random opinions, but actively engaging in back-and-forth conversations with one another.

To offer just one example, when Ren & Stimpy creator John Kricfalusi recently posted about his distaste for the stock designs of Disney villains, character designer Harald Siepermann responded with a lengthy post on his own blog that discussed his process for designing the villain Clayton in Tarzan. I can’t imagine a conversation between two such disparate artistic personalities happening prior to blogs but these types of spirited dialogues take place on an increasingly frequent basis nowadays.

Granted, it can be difficult to keep track of all these conversations or even know where to look to find such discourse. But there is no denying that it’s happening, and students and professionals alike now have a tool unlike any other to help develop and inspire their craft. How are we each taking advantage of the possibilities and what can we do to improve the animation blogging community?

Harry McCracken on Comic-Con

Former Animato! editor and current PC World editor, offers a nice Comic-Con trip report on his blog. He perceptively points out how the Con today has little to do with its original mission statement:

The crowding would seem to have something to do with Comic-Con’s complete refusal to limit its scope or differentiate between the important, the worthwhile, and the abysmal. It certainly isn’t following its mission, which reads as follows:

Comic-Con International is a nonprofit educational organization dedicated to creating awareness of, and appreciation for, comics and related popular art forms, primarily through the presentation of conventions and events that celebrate the historic and ongoing contribution of comics to art and culture.

I have nothing against Sarah Silverman, but I fail to see how her TV show is relevant to that mission. I don’t understand why there are booths hawking swords and hard drives, or why it makes sense for Playboy Playmates to be signing photos on the show floor. It rankles me that the con’s program book celebrates every comic, TV show, and movie it mentions as a hit, a masterwork, or both.

If you have a Con trip report on your blog, share the link with us in the comments section of this post.

Comic Con Finds

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Strange stuff! Good things and scary things abound. Here are just a couple of my comic book finds from this year’s San Diego Comic Con (Click on covers above to see a larger version).

Right to Left: SINBAD JR. is one of the favorites in my Worst Cartoons Ever! shows, especially the Sam Singer version which this particularly ugly comic seems to be based on. • I bought this horrible copy of ARCHIE No. 114 for a buck, mainly because I couldn’t take my eyes off the strange cover. Click on it to get a better look. What is the “gag” here? Archie comics at this time (1960) usually featured a cover gag situation unrelated to the inside of the book. I couldn’t figure out why Archie was being arrested by a realistic policeman (and on what charges?). It turns out this cover is related to a story inside, one in which Archie’s knowlege of the Spanish language helps save a boy’s life. • I don’t know how many Broadway plays or movie musicals were adapted into comic books, but Meredith Wilson’s THE MUSIC MAN is one of my favorites. I never saw this comic book adaptation before, but it’s quite good, all things considered. • How about this 1946 NEW YORKER cover by Abe Burnbaum? Some guy was selling old New Yorker’s for $3 bucks. As a film collector and part-time projectionist myself I couldn’t resist this great cover – and a great issue loaded with ads, cartoons and articles.

But the scariest thing I got at the Con, hands down, was this free “Temporary Tattoo” handout at the Warner’s booth:

Smurf Tattoo

Raggedy Ann & Andy and Disney Dance Band

Raggedy Ann & Andy

Don Brockway’s IsntLifeTerrible.com is a new entry on the blogging scene and well worth checking out. He’s done a couple posts in the past week that have caught my attention. The first is a nicely written appreciation of Dick Williams’s feature Raggedy Ann and Andy – A Musical Adventure which is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. The other post offers a stellar collection of downloadable MP3s of 1930s and ’40s British dance band recordings of Disney songs. My iPod thanks you Don.

Day 3 @ Comic Con

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Amid’s gone. I’m still here. Look who I met this afternoon at the Mattel Hot Wheels booth (where they were selling a very cool limited edition Hot Wheels 1966 Batmobile). Spent the day trolling several panels and walking the dealers room (Yes, they still sell comics – I’ll post some I bought later this week). Photo snapped with my funky Motorola cel phone.

Overheard in San Diego…

WHO: Obese fanboy with a thick accent hailing from Mexico
WHAT: The guy was talking to one of the dealers
WHERE: San Diego Comic-Con
WHEN: Thursday afternoon

“Animation just isn’t what it used to be. I really prefer the classic animation, the way it used to be in the old days. When I was growing up, we had quality animation like GI Joe and Transformers.”

Needless to say, I lasted barely a day at the Con this year before heading back on Thursday evening. The stench of the event—both figurative and literal—was overwhelming. There was simply too much crass commercialism on display, and too little appreciation or joy for any art form. Today at the Con, there’ll be panels “celebrating” Family Guy and Class of 3000. Somehow I think I’ll be able to live. I hope Brew readers there get more enjoyment out of it than I did this year.

Popeye Song Folio

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One of the best pieces of Fleischer Popeye memoribilia ever created was a 32 page compilation of sheet music, the Popeye Song Folio, published by Famous Music in 1936. Brotherly Love, Clean Shavin’ Man, I Wanna Be A Lifeguard, King Of The Mardi Gras, and of course, Popeye The Salior – and others – are each illustrated with a nice piece of art by one of the studio’s top artists (Willard Bowsky?). Coincidentally, with you know what going on sale next Tuesday, Brew reader Joe Busam has posted several of the best pages of the Song Folio on photobucket. These songs are great – and this is a perfect warm up to the restored cartoons which will soon be here.

A Few Good Blogs

Three good artist blogs you can’t go wrong with…

Alberto Mielgo

Alberto Mielgo is among those animation artists today whose work really excites me. He works in the London commercial scene, both on live-action and animated spots, such as this recent Guitar Hero piece. The kitchen illo above is a concept for a cereal commercial. He’s also working on a graphic novel called The Asparagus Seeker which looks stunning.

Pat Smith

New York director/animator Pat Smith has launched a blog with the goal of giving people “a glimpse into the life of an independent animator in New York.” Pat’s one of those people who’s not afraid to speak his mind so I expect we’ll be seeing plenty of interesting entries from him. He has an eloquent opening missive in which he discusses his passion for the art form:

I love animation, but I’m not the biggest fan of the type of animation that is ingested in mass, supplied by the majors in this industry. I like animation to be a bit more personal, have some gravel in the gut and spit in the eye. On a technical level, I like to see animation with texture and soul. I never think about CG, don’t desire to work with those techno puppets. I like to draw, I like to create a real drawing with a pencil on paper. artwork that exists when the power is out, that exists as more than 1′s and 0′s. I like smudges, I like the bottom of my hand to get graphite on it.

Alberto Mielgo

I’m not sure why I’ve never written about David Gemmill‘s blog because he certainly deserves a link. His voluminous “hipster studies” posted throughout his blog provide as accurate a portrait of contemporary LA types as anything I’ve seen. Plus he does story posts with lively sequential drawings (like this or this), as well as producing the occasional piece of Flash animation exclusively for his blog. Good stuff all around.

Photo Editor Needed

Thanks to everybody who responded. I still haven’t chosen anybody but there were literally dozens of responses and there’s tons of qualified people among them. I’ll try to respond to folks within the day. Thanks again!

We’re currently working on the first book that’ll be released under the Cartoon Brew imprint (see here) and looking for somebody to help prepare the black-and-white photo files for the printer. Basically I’m trying to make sure the values are consistent throughout the photos. I know how to use Photoshop, as I’m sure everybody else does too, so knowing the program is not enough; we’re looking for somebody who’s done a lot of photo editing and understands how to create tonal consistency across a batch of b&w images. There is financial compensation for the project. Not to mention the book itself should be quite unique. If you’re interested, please email me at amid at cartoonbrew dot com and let me know your qualifications.

Women in Animation MP3s

Women in Animation

A few months ago, I posted about the “Women in Animation” symposium taking place in Columbus, Ohio. If you were unable to attend the event (and I assume that would be most Brew readers), Nick Burkard has posted the event’s lectures online as downloadable MP3s. I haven’t listened to any of them yet, but plan to do so. Among other things, there are roundtable discussions between all the guests, a lecture by British animator Joanna Quinn, and a talk by Rebecca Allen about pioneering computer animation. More details about the talks and presenters can be found on the event blog.