Mary Blair Show Preview

Mary Blair Painting

“The Art and Flair of Mary Blair” show opens this Saturday at the Cartoon Art Museum in San Francisco. More than fifty pieces of original Mary Blair art will be on display including her animation concept work, Golden Books, commercial illustration, personal paintings and Disney theme park designs. A preview of some of the pieces on display can be found on the blog of the museum’s curator Andrew Farago.

(via Journalista!)

November L.A. Comic Con

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My friend Bruce Schwartz runs the Comic Book and Sci-Fi Convention at the Shrine Auditorium (near USC) in Los Angeles each month. And he always invites down some great in-person speakers, the famous and the infamous. I want to give a heads up for his November 4th show because it features two of my favorite people – from two completely different ends of the cartooning spectrum.

Actor Marvin Kaplan, the voice of Choo-Choo (pictured above left) from the Hanna-Barbera cartoon series Top Cat, will be there signing autographs from 11:00am to 3:00pm. Marvin is also known for his role as Irwin in the comedy film It’s A Mad Mad Mad Mad World, and has done many cartoon voices throughout his career, such as The Smurfs.

Animator and Playboy magazine cartoonist Dean Yeagle will be signing copies of his books, Mandy’s Shorts, and his new book, Melange: The Art of Dean Yeagle, from 10:00am – 5:00pm. Dean is an amazing artist and his drawings of the ladies define the term “good-girl art” (sample above right).

For more information on the monthly Shrine Auditorium Comic Con, check the website at www.comicbookscifi.com.

What Makes Mickey Move? (1934)

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Our friend Charles Shopsin has unearthed yet another vintage article about animation in the 1930s from the pages of Modern Mechanix. This one from 1934, What Makes Mickey Mouse Move, is very simplistic and, despite a blurb that mentions “fifty highly trained artists” and photos of animators and technicians at work, the article itself credits Walt with drawing the figures and painting the backgrounds (though no mention is made of Walt providing the voice of Mickey).

Cartoon Dump Live – Tonight!

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Citizens of Los Angeles – please note: tonight we are once again presenting Cartoon Dump Live at the Steve Allen Theatre in Hollywood. That’s Joel Hodgson (creator, Mystery Science Theatre 3000) above with Dumpster Diver Dan. He once again joins our regulars Frank Conniff (Moodsy), Erica Doering (Compost Brite), Eddie Pepitone (Morty the New-Age Agent), Joe Keys (Hangover Hound), along with a new character, Lizzy Cooperman (as Quack Whore), and guest comedian Blaine Capatch. It’s our Halloween show, so expect some scary cartoons and a visit from a friendly ghost. And free candy!

The fun starts at 8pm. Ticket info here.

Rebecca Sugar Gets It On

Drawing by Rebecca Sugar

Frankly I’m not sure what’s more disturbing: drawings of the Terrytoons characters Sourpuss and Gandy getting it on, drawings of characters from Ed, Edd n Eddy getting it on or drawings of characters from Ratatouille getting it on.

What cannot be denied is that the artist behind all of these, Rebecca Sugar, is ridiculously talented, with drawing skills that are made that much more amazing when one learns that she is a mere twenty years old…she’s certainly an artist with a bright future ahead of her. She also has a website here.

Profiling Joel Trussell

War Photographer

It used to be that you had to live in Los Angeles or New York to make it big in the US animation scene, but today a whole new breed of artists are creating names for themselves while living far from these animation hubs. Among them is Joel Trussell, of War Photographer fame, who makes his home in Knoxville, Tennessee. He was recently profiled in the Knoxville weekly Metro Pulse. It’s an inspiring read that shows how it’s possible for contemporary animation artists to establish their identity via the Internet and to parlay that online notoriety into a steady stream of work…all while living in Tennessee.

Acme’s Show of Shows on DVD

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If you have any desire to watch and own some of the best animated shorts of the last twenty years, Acme Filmworks has just released 18 DVD compilations of these films – available individually or in three box sets.

The filmmakers on these sets are a virtual who’s-who of the best contemporary independent animators: Cordell Barker, Borge Ring, Mark Baker, John Dilworth and on and on. The shorts collected include Bill Plympton’s THE FAN AND THE FLOWER, Gaelle Denis’ CITY PARADISE, Marv Newland’s ANIJAM, Virgil Widrich’s FAST FILM, Chris Landreth’s RYAN, Michael Dudok de Wit’s FATHER AND DAUGHTER, Paul Driessen’s 3 MISSES, Wendy Tilby & Amanda Forbis’ WHEN THE DAY BREAKS, Koji Yamamura’s MT. HEAD, Richard Condie’s THE BIG SNIT and Joanna’s Quinn’s GIRL’S NIGHT OUT, amongst many others.
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You can buy them on individual DVDs (containing three shorts each) for $5.00 or you can obtain all 54 shorts in three box sets for $30 $90 bucks. An incredible bargain if you ask me. The DVDs are only available through AWN’s www.filmporium.com and the AWN Store.

Cartoon Dump #6: Sir Gee Whiz

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Looney Tunes, Merrie Melodies, Happy Harmonies… and it all came down to this: Sir Gee Whiz On The Other Side Of The Moon. Needless to say, the latter years of Hugh Harman and Rudolf Ising were rough.

Breaking away from Disney (and Charles Mintz) in 1930, they struck gold by hooking up with Leon Schlesinger and establishing the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies for Warner Bros. In an effort to upgrade their product and compete with Disney, the duo left producer Leon Schlesinger in 1933 and, after sub-contracting a few Cubby Bear cartoons for Van Beuren, accepted an offer to provide Happy Harmonies color cartoons for MGM. It was their work at MGM that ultimately laid the foundation for the later success of Hanna and Barbera and Tom & Jerry.

Hugh and Rudy gave it up to support the effort during World War II, creating instructional animated films for the Armed Services. They spent the rest of their careers creating educational, industrial and commercial films, never achieving the public fame they once enjoyed during the 1930s. Not that they didn’t try. One of their efforts, long thought lost, was this 1960 pilot for Sir Gee Whiz.

Limited animation was not something Harman and Ising could grasp easily. This short shows just how badly Hugh and Rudy didn’t get it. The problems start with the premise: A little old gnome who who knocks out adults and takes little girls to his home — on the moon. Because it concerns the moon, the whole show has an unpleasant, dark, look. Rudy Ising’s vocal as Sir Gee Whiz sounds scary – like a perverted old uncle. And then there are characters like “Senor Ropo” (pictured, above right) and the “Terrible Kinker”…

Enough talk! Check out Sir Gee Whiz On The Other Side Of The Moon this week on Cartoon Dump, now up at CartoonBrewFilms.com. And if you think this is a hoot, come see Cartoon Dump Live next week, on Tuesday (Oct. 23rd) at the Steve Allen Theatre in Hollywood!

Popeye Animators ID

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Popeye-lovers unite!

The new classic Popeye DVD has ignited a long dormant interest in the East coast animators of the Max Fleischer studio. Animator Bob Jaques (Ren & Stimpy, Baby Huey, etc.) has been studying the animation in Popeye cartoons for years. As he has become one of best directors in the business, clearly there is a lot more to the Sailor than meets the eye (pun intended). So now Bob has taken the plunge and joined the rest of us in blogging, with a site dedicated to identifying the unsung animators of the classic Popeye cartoons of the 30s, 40s and 50s. First up, George Germanetti. Who? Check out Bob Jaques’ Popeye Animators ID and learn.

Kent Butterworth’s Attila

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Cartoonist Kent Butterworth (Tiny Toons, Sonic, Mighty Mouse: The New Adventures) has done what other animators only dream of, he’s written and directed his own animated feature.

Independently financed, and with total creative freedom, Butterworth made Attila and the Great Blue Bean, and has even secured distribution. And tomorrow, Sunday October 21st at 3pm, the film will have its first public screening – at the Hollywood Film Festival, at the ArcLight Cinemas on Sunset and Vine. Good luck, Kent, I’m rooting for you.

From Avant-garde to Pop Culture

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Historians Jayne Pilling (from London, editor of A Reader in Animation Studies, Animation: 2D and Beyond, among others) and Giannalberto Bendazzi (from Italy, author of Cartoons:100 Years of Cinema Animation) will be in Los Angeles next week for a symposium, Animation: From the Avant-garde to Popular Culture, being organized by the San Diego Museum of Art. It includes three separate events, the first of which takes place at the University of Southern California.

Redefining Animation will be held at USC’s Davidson Conference Center, Embassy Room, on Thursday, November 1 from 7:00 to 9:30 p.m. (plus a reception follows). Pilling and Bendazzi will be joined by animator and digital artist Greg Araya and multi-media performance animator Miwa Matreyek, as well as artists and educators Christine Panushka, Kathryn Smith and Sheila Sofian (moderator), all from USC’s John C. Hench Department of Animation and Digital Art.

Details on the other two symposium events, Animating Cinema in La Jolla and Animated Painting in San Diego, which take place November 2 and 3, can be found at: http://anim.usc.edu. All symposiums are free and open to the public.

No Need To Create, Just Transcreate

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The Wall Street Journal has a depressing article about a growing trend in the cartoon world: ‘transcreating’ cartoon characters, in which American cartoons are remade for foreign audiences. A notable example of this is the recently produced Japanese version of the Powerpuff Girls called Demashita! Powerpuff Girls Z.

The characters mentioned throughout the piece, like the Powerpuff Girls, Mickey Mouse and Spider-Man, are successful in the first place because their American creators were passionate about and personally invested in the characters and stories that they were creating. It’s a shame that today’s corporations don’t believe that investing in foreign artistic talent could lead to similarly popular creations, and instead are commissioning foreign artists to simply churn out cheap copies of American originals. ‘Transcreated’ cartoon characters may result in short-term profits for these companies but not much else.

Dean DeBlois’ New Film

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Everybody knows what Lilo and Stitch co-director Chris Sanders is up to nowadays, but what about the film’s other director, Dean DeBlois? Apparently, DeBlois has just directed a live-action documentary about the Icelandic band Sigur Rós. The film Heima (Homeland) has been quite well received by critics. Here is a recent New Yorker audio interview with DeBlois and the band.

(Thanks, Jakob Schuh)

It all started with a… toy?

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How did this one get by me? Did Walt Disney name his most famous creation after a toy, Micky Mouse (sic)?

On eBay today, someone is selling a 1925 Micky Mouse doll, along with a stock certificate from the long-defunct Performo-Toy Company. According to the seller:

“…it has been reported that all documents from the Performo Toy Company relating to this Micky Mouse toy were ordered to be destroyed after a Law suit filed by Disney that stated this mouse toy was originally taken from Disney…”

Apparently there are even TWO books about this Micky doll and Performo Toys: Broken Toy and Who Was First?

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I’d never heard about this before, have you?

(Thanks, Kevin Coffey)

C.L. Hartman Animation Reel

Animation by C.L. Hartman

The grandson of Golden Age Hollywood animator C.L. Hartman has posted a reel onto YouTube of commercials animated by Hartman at John Hubley’s Storyboard and Quartet Films. The reel includes some ultrarare commercials that I’d only seen stills of previously. Lots of beautiful design and funny animation throughout. Also, for the curious, a while back I posted a UPA-era photo of Hartman onto Flickr.

Un Regard Moderne (Paris)

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Storefront and interior. Click for bigger version

A few months ago, I solicited suggestions from readers about what to see and do while in Paris. I never did a follow-up but today I wanted to write about a highlight of that trip: Un Regard Moderne, one of the coolest bookstores I’ve ever visited. The tiny shop, located at 10 rue gît le coeur 75006 Paris, is a place that claustrophobics would be well advised to avoid. It houses thousands of volumes, mostly related to art, comics and pop culture, in two crowded rooms, with all the books precariously piled atop one another, in seemingly random order, and quite ready to topple at any given moment. The store is cramped so much so that the owner only allows four to five people in the store at any time. When we there, there were only four people and it was quite a challenge moving around.

What impressed me most was the owner’s stock which was extremely up-to-date. In fact, we found many books there that we didn’t find at the better known comic stores in Paris, including titles like Three Trees Make A Forest, I Am 8-Bit and The Mischievous Art of Jim Flora.

Also fascinating was the owner’s encyclopedic knowledge of every book crammed into his shop. My travel companions were author and video game designer David Calvo and Marseilles-based musician Guillaume Pervieux, and when my friend David inquired about an obscure graphic novel that he’d been looking for, the owner had dug the book out of one of the piles within a few minutes.

The owner generously allowed me to take a video of his store and I posted it onto YouTube a while back. The quality is fairly poor but it should offer some sense of what the store is like. Definitely worth a visit if you’re in the neighborhood.

Monte Schulz on the Peanuts Book

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Charles Schulz’s son, Monte Schulz, has posted a new in-depth comment on Cartoon Brew detailing some of the family’s specific objections to David Michaelis’ new book. If the book’s gross inaccuracies (which Schulz points out) are true, and I have no reason to believe they’re not, this would be a seriously flawed work of historical research. I feel it’s important to draw attention to the family’s complaints as it provides valuable information to potential readers of the book. It’s also a viewpoint that counters some of the raves that are appearing in the maintream, like this glowing New Yorker review by John Updike.

(Note: To keep the discussion from breaking into numerous threads, comments are closed for this post but can be continued in the other post with Schulz’s comment.)

Earlier Stories:
Schulz and Peanuts: A Biography
More on the Schulz book

Brew Radio (again) on Wednesday

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Yours truly will be broadcasting once again, live on Shokus Internet Radio this Wednesday October 17th from 4pm to 6pm Pacific time (that’s 7pm to 9pm for you in the Eastern Time Zone).

Stu Shostak and I will be discussing Terrytoons, my new books, and the upcoming DVD releases of classic animation. If you have a specific question you want answered, call in during the broadcast toll free (888) 746-5875. The first hour will be open for listener Q & A.

Serge Bromberg in Brooklyn

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Calling all New Yorkers. Check out Treasures from a Chest at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) this Friday.

The annual program, mostly live action, presents rare silent films curated by film preservationist/entertainer Serge Bromberg (artistic director of the Annecy International Animation Festival). Bromberg’s Lobster Films archive is one of the best in the world – and Serge is one of the world’s great animation historians and film preservation heroes. The program at BAM is distilled from nearly 200 pounds of old film discovered in a hidden chest in a house in France, and includes comedies, fantasies, trick films, newsreels, cartoons, and “talkiesâ€? selected to recreate the magic of the first cinema screenings. Bromberg will be present for live piano accompaniment and commentary. If I were in New York on Friday, I’d have a front row seat (as it is, I’ll be in Burbank celebrating June Foray that night). Click here for more information. Go!

Raggedy Ann Reunion

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ASIFA-Hollywood is planning a special screening and panel discussion in honor of the 30th Anniversary of Richard Williams’ Raggedy Ann & Andy: A Musical Adventure. This event will take place on Saturday November 17th in the Mark Goodson Auditorium at the American Film Institute (2021 N. Western Blvd.) in Hollywood. At 3pm, a rare CinemaScope 35mm print will be screened, followed by a panel discussion at 5pm with a large group of production personnel. Light refreshments will be available.

Williams’ Raggedy Ann was the subject of John Canemaker’s first book, and the film was unique at the time, as it was based in New York (with satellite studios in L.A. and London). Veteran animators, such as Art Babbit, Grim Natwick, Emery Hawkins, Tissa David, Gerry Chiniquy, Willis Pyle, Corny Cole, Irv Spence and Williams himself, were joined by a who’s who of talented newcomers including Michael Sporn, Eric Goldberg, Tom Sito and Dan Haskett. This event is a benefit for the ASIFA-Hollywood Animation Archive. Admission will be $15 for ASIFA members, $20 for non-members.

Ty Wong Paintings on Display

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Ty Wong standing in front of his illustrations for The Wild Bunch at the opening of the show a couple weeks ago. (Matt Petit/©A.M.P.A.S.)

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences recently opened a new show at their LA headquarters called “The Art of the Motion Picture Illustrator.” The show recognizes the work of three illustrators who worked in the art departments of live-action film studios: William B. Major, Harold Michelson and Tyrus Wong.

To animation fans, Wong is best known as the artist who devised the lyrical watercolor art direction of Disney’s Bambi, but this exhibit examines his film career following his brief stint at Disney. For twenty-five years afterwards, Wong worked at Warner Bros. creating storyboards and illustrated key sets for live-action films such as The Sands of Iwo Jima, Calamity Jane, Rebel Without a Cause, Around the World in 80 Days, Auntie Mame, Harper, and The Wild Bunch. The exhibition runs through December 16 and admission is FREE. Gallery hours are Tuesday through Friday (10am-5pm) and weekends (noon-6pm). The Academy is at 8949 Wilshire Blvd. Beverly Hills, CA.

Ty Wong Painting
Set design painting by Wong for an unidentified Warner Bros. musical