The Secret Origin of Foghorn Leghorn

foggy4.jpg

Animation historian/author and voice actor Keith Scott, a foremost authority on Jay Ward, old-time radio and cartoon voice actors, has published an article on the origin of Foghorn Leghorn that is a must read. The common story of how Foggy’s characterization was based on Kenny Delmar’s radio character Senator Claghorn is only half true. Keith has finally cleared up the published misinformation which was mainly propagated by the animators themselves, including Bob McKimson, Chuck Jones and, in particular, Mel Blanc. Keith has allowed me to post the article online, and you can read it here.
apatoonscov.jpgThe article is an excerpt from Keith’s ‘zine, (cleverly titled Eh… confidentially, Doc – I AM A WABBIT!!!), published in the current edition of Apatoons (#150, April-May 2008). Apatoons is a long running amateur press association publication, a private mailing for members only. If you are interested in joining the apa, or buying a sample issue, check its website for more information.

Pixar’s Presto

I was getting ready to junk a flyer I’d received for the Hiroshima International Animation Festival when I noticed a tiny image printed on the back of it that I hadn’t seen before: a still from the new Pixar short Presto that will open in front of Wall-E. It marks the first directorial effort by supervising animator Doug Sweetland.

Presto

Geri’s Game Remakes

Live-Action Geri's Game

Readers may recall that last year I posted about a group of Brazilian film students who had created a scene-by-scene live-action remake of the Oscar-winning Pixar short Geri’s Game (download from iTunes). Since then, there’s been a mini-online phenomenon in which fans of the film have been creating lots and lots of live-action remakes and parodies of the film.

Some of these films follow the film’s original scenes very closely while others are more parody-oriented taking liberties with the acting and staging. Is there any other example of an animated short being remade into live-action by fans of the film? I find the whole thing fascinating because this is not some contrived top-down corporate effort soliciting fans to do this for a contest or some such. It’s simply a bunch of people who enjoy and identify with the film’s character and want to try their hand at recreating him.

Here’s the original live-action remake from Brazil:

Amos’ Game

Don’s Game

This person remade the film with their grandfather in the title role:

A version made with a kid pretending to be Geri:

Disney’s Gettin’ Lazy

Disney’s reuse of past animation is nothing new. But seeing these sequences in motion, one scene followed by its subsequent reuse, is fascinating. Animator Michael J. Ruocco, on his For The Birds blog, has started compiling a series of videos comparing the original animation from Disney features with the later films in which the same animation is reused. He’s just posted Disney’s Gettin’ Lazy Episode #3 showing that Bambi’s Mom didn’t die – she lived on to appear in The Sword In the Stone, The Jungle Book, The Rescuers and Beauty and the Beast. My favorite is Episode #2 (embedded below) comparing a chase scene from Mr. Toad with one in The Jungle Book:

Also check his Episode #1 (which compares a bit from Fantasia with Make Mine Music and The Black Cauldron), and note that Ruocco’s planning many more of these.

A Cookie model sheet

cookiemodel.jpg

A Brew reader sent me this link from ebay, wondering ‘what year this Betty Boop model sheet was from, or did the seller mis-identify this Fleischer character?’ The seller had identified it as a Warner Bros. model sheet – and he got that correct… it is a Warner Bros. model sheet, but certainly not Betty Boop. looneybuddy1.jpg It’s an early model chart for “Cookie”, the girlfriend of Buddy in several Looney Tunes entries from 1935-36 (click on Looney Tunes frame grab at left for larger image). Since it’s something you don’t see everyday (at least, I don’t), I thought I’d post it on the Brew for our enjoyment.

My Favorite Animated Films

I really like this video of a hardcore cartoon fan offering his opinions about various animated features. Many of us are so heavily immersed in the industry that it’s easy to forget how the average moviegoer looks at animated films. It’s refreshing to hear a fan’s perspective, even though I cringed a few times, like when he expressed affection for Once Upon a Forest. Our chubby-cheeked friend also calls Looney Tunes: Back In Action “a classic ’90s style film,” says DreamWorks’s Over the Hedge reminded him of Care Bears, and touts The Chipmunk Adventure as one of his “all-time favorite animated films.”

Little Nemo test film

tmsnemo.jpg

The tortured history of the TMS feature film Little Nemo: Adventures In Slumberland (1992) could rival that of Richard Williams The Thief And The Cobbler. It was an American/Japanese joint project, with no less than Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata involved in the pre-production stage (1982-83).

George Lucas, Chuck Jones, Gary Kurtz, Ray Bradbury, Chris Columbus, Moebius, John Canemaker, Leo Salkin, Paul Julian, Ken Anderson, Frank Thomas and Brad Bird (who talks about his involvement in the comments below) were attached to this film at one time or another. Bill Hurtz (George of the Jungle, Unicorn In The Garden) and Masami Hata (Sea Prince and the Fire Child) ultimately directed the final release, admittedly a mixed bag.

The idea of making a fully animated adaptation of Winsor McCay’s comic strip masterpiece somehow seems like a good idea (McCay himself authorized a musical stage play based on the strip in 1908), and the names assembled (above) to tackle such a project were certainly capable doing so.

If you’re wondering what a Miyazaki version might’ve been like, check this out. Below I’ve posted a short test film dating from December 1984. Key Miyazaki animator/director Yoshifumi Kondo (Whisper Of The Heart) directed this test sequence, supposedly filmed in 70mm. The mind boggles as to what could have been.

Oh, and who authorized this?

Disney/Pixar to release 10 features through 2012

Earlier today, Disney and Pixar announced their theatrical line-up through 2012. This is the lengthy press release with story details and release info. Your thoughts?

Pixar’s line-up is as follows:

June 27, 2008
Wall-E directed by Andrew Stanton

May 29, 2009
Up directed by Pete Docter

June 18, 2010
Toy Story 3 directed by Lee Unkrich

Summer 2011
Newt directed by Gary Rydstrom

Winter 2011
The Bear and the Bow directed by Brenda Chapman

Summer 2012
Cars 2 directed by Brad Lewis

Meanwhile, on the Disney side, there is:

November 26, 2008
Bolt directed by Chris Williams and Byron Howard

Christmas 2009
The Princess and the Frog directed by John Musker and Ron Clements (Note: this marks the return of hand-drawn animation to Disney)

Christmas 2010
Rapunzel directed by Glen Keane and Dean Wellins

2012
King of the Elves directed by Aaron Blaise and Robert Walker

It’s interesting to note that all of the Pixar films have one individual with top billing as director, while the Disney features are structured to have two directors per film. That certainly can’t be coincidence. As Disney regains its footing, hopefully they’ll discover individuals within the organization whose personal vision is strong enough to carry a film by itself.

Also, it was apparently important enough to merit being put into this announcement that Disney has four direct-to-dvd features starring Tinkerbell and friends: Tinker Bell (Oct. 28, 2008), Tinker Bell: North of Neverland (2009), Tinker Bell: A Midsummer Storm (2010) and Tinker Bell: A Winter Story (2011).

Käytöskukka

Eliza Jäppinen, a co-founder and creative director of the up-and-coming Finnish animation studio Anima Boutique, recently told me about a cool vintage cut-out animation series from Finland that I’d never heard of called Käytöskukka. I’ve posted a couple of the cartoons in this post, and the rest of the episodes can be viewed on YouTube. Here’s some brief background on the series from Eliza:

These are old Finnish-made cartoons called Käytöskukka, and I draw a lot of inspiration from them. They are very fun to watch, even if you don’t get anything of the language. The idea of the Käytöskukka was to teach children manners. Heikki Partanen made it during 1966-67 and produced altogether 13 episodes. Every episode has a theme: pride, consideration, laziness etc. In every episode a character behaves badly and gets what’s coming to them. In the end the narrator recites “the lesson learned.”

This Way Up by Smith & Foulkes

This Way Up

The Animation Show has announced the film line-up for their fourth annual tour, and the most exciting piece being offered, in my opinion, is the premiere of an exclusive short film by the British commercial directing duo Smith & Foulkes.

Alan Smith and Adam Foulkes are among my favorite directors working in commercial animation today. Evidence of their terrifically innovative and humorous commissioned work can be seen here, here, here, here and here. As far as I know, this is the first personal piece they’ve produced since beginning to work as professional directors, and if it’s as fresh and original as their commercial work, it should be something special.

The new Animation Show has some other promising works in their line-up including Stefan Muller’s Mr. Schwartz, Mr. Hazen & Mr. Horlocker, the hilarious Japanese series Usavich and an exclusive new short by PES called Western Spaghetti. This year’s Show, however, is a major departure from previous years in that the lineup is not particularly challenging or artistically meritorious, and it’s heavily geared towards lighter and goofier fare, especially from younger directors.

A film like Angry Unpaid Hooker veers dangerously close to Spike & Mike territory, and while it’s a fairly amusing piece, it’s also an aesthetic eyesore that’s more suited for online viewing than bigscreen theatrical exhibition. Similarly, Luis Nieto’s Far West is more gimmick than film and not the quality of programming that we’ve come to expect from the Animation Show. Bottom line: There’s good stuff in this year’s program and I’m looking forward to checking it out, though I can’t promise the overall experience will be as great as years past. The first screenings of the 2008 show take place on April 25 in Austin, Texas and Columbus, Ohio.

Visit Pixar for $14,700!

jack-at-pixar420.jpg

How much is it worth to you to visit Pixar? What if we threw in tickets to the world premiere of Wall*E, a tour of Disney Studios Studios in Burbank, lunch in the executive dining room and personal meetings with Disney and Pixar animators? Maybe $15 Grand?

If so, Sam’s Club has a deal for you! For $14,700. you and three members of your family can do all this (and more), lodging and transportation included. To be fair, this isn’t as money-grubbing as it sounds – a portion of the proceeds from every purchase of the Once-in-a-Lifetime Package Disney/Pixar Animation Lover’s Dream Vacation Behind The Scenes Access Pass is being donated to support juvenile diabetes research.

Tickets are available for purchase on Wednesday April 9th. If any of our readers decide to buy this, please send us a full report!

Note: Jack Orin Spilberg (pictured above) did not pay $14,700. to visit Pixar. He has a friend in the development department.

(Thanks, Joe S.)

Sony Imageworks Gag Film About Indian Outsourcing

Digital animators and visual effects artists at Sony Pictures Imageworks created this unofficial short that shows two artists concerned about how Sony’s new outpost in Chennai, Imageworks India, may affect their lives in Culver City. It’s meant to be a funny gag film, but the underlying message represents a very real fear that surely many animation and vfx artists in the US have right now.

UPDATE: According to this blog, this film was the prize winner in an “under $100 film” contest held at Sony Pictures Imageworks.

(A sidenote: The video is even funnier if you’re familiar with this Bollywood movie scene. And for you English-speakers, here’s the translated version.)

(via Thinking Animation blog)

Oktapodi

Oktapodi

French animation school Gobelins, which turns out no shortage of quality CG films, has another student film that’s been attracting a lot of buzz recently: Oktapodi. I saw an article about it last week in a French design magazine which inspired me to find out more about it. It’s directed by Julien Bocabeille, FX Chanioux, Olivier Delabarre, Thierry Marchand, Quentin Marmier, Emud Mokhberi.

The short won the “Best Animation” honor a couple months ago at the Imagina Awards 2008. The film isn’t online but it does have a sparse website at Oktapodi.com. Lots of development artwork from the short can be seen on the blog of one of the filmmakers, Quentin Marmier.

GR8-2-B-NOMN8D Part #5

reduxridinghood.jpg

Starting in two weeks, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in Beverly Hills will begin the fifth edition of their annual Great To Be Nominated series. Each Monday at 7pm an Oscar nominated feature (no winners, just nominees) will screen with selected nominated shorts. The features to be shown are listed here. The animated shorts are not posted on the Academy’s website, but the following are scheduled to be shown:

4/21 – THE MIGHTY RIVER
4/28 – THE BIG STORY
5/5 – RUNAWAY BRAIN
5/12 – LA SALLA
5/19 – REDUX RIDING HOOD
6/2 – THE MERMAID
6/9 – JOLLY ROGER
6/16 – WHEN THE DAY BREAKS
6/23 – REJECTED
6/30 – STRANGER INVADERS
7/14 – DAS RAD
7/21 – DESTINO & NIBBLES
7/28 – LORENZO & GUARD DOG
8/4 – BADGERED & 9
8/11 – NO TIME FOR NUTS
8/18 – LIFTED
8/25 – I MET THE WALRUS

Notable among the titles selected are Don Hertzfeldt’s Rejected, Disney’s Destino, Runaway Brain and Redux Riding Hood. The latter film is particularly hard to see and shouldn’t be missed–it’s one of the best studio shorts of the last twenty years.

Redux Riding Hood (1997) was produced by Disney Television Animation for an aborted series of Twisted Fairy Tales. This one, written by Dan O’Shannon (The Fan and The Flower) and directed by Steve Moore (Flip Magazine) tells the tale of an obsessed wolf (voiced by Michael Richards, before he was un-P.C.) who builds a time machine to undo his previous mistakes in catching Red Riding Hood. It was never really released, and who knows if anyone at the studio will ever figure out a way to put it out on video. Michael Richards’ involvement may seal its fate forever. It’s screening on May 19th with L.A. Confidential, a terrific double bill. This, along with Song of the South and The Sweatbox, may be the one of the best films perpetually locked in the Disney vault. If you are in L.A., make plans to see it.

Bob Clampett’s First Film

It’s no masterpiece, but it is rare and significant.

Below is the first four minutes from the Joe E. Brown comedy When’s Your Birthday? (released February 19th, 1937) and it marks the first directorial effort of Bob Clampett. Those familiar with Bob’s art and Chuck Jones drawing style from this period can pick out the scenes they did. There is little of Bob’s trademark zaniness (though there are a few semi-naked girls running around Zodiac heaven), but my guess is that this sequence was probably script-driven – as any dream sequence in a live action movie would’ve been back then.

When’s Your Birthday?, which isn’t very good by anyones standard, was extremely hard to see in the last 25 years. The print that turned up last week on Turner Classic Movies wasn’t very good either – and the “Technicolor sequences” (which I assume included this opening cartoon bit) only exist in black and white. As this will not be included on any DVD any time soon, I’ve posted it on YouTube as a public service for all the Clampett completists who missed it.

(Thanks to Thad K for taping it.)

Dave Wasson’s New Site

Dave Wasson

Animation director and designer Dave Wasson has launched a new website DaveWasson.net packed with examples of his design and animation work. Dave is currently directing the Nick series Making Fiends based on this webcartoon. In the past, he created Cartoon Network’s Time Squad and directed the animation on Disney’s first Flash series The Buzz on Maggie. He also does a lot of TV commercial and film title work, such as the Wisconsin Lottery spot shown above. And to top it all off, he’s the director of what is, in my opinion, one of the funniest and all-around solid animated shorts of the past decade: Max & His Special Problem.

Booby Doo

boobydoo2.jpg

Lawyers from Warner Bros. have come down on a firm called Booby Doo, a maker of sports bras in the UK. Booby Doo’s owners want to register the name as a trademark, but the lawyers representing Hanna Barbera properties say it sounds too much like the name of their famous doggy detective. Read the full story in London’s Daily Express.

So let me get this straight. Bras are a problem, but a Canine waste removal service with a similarly derivative name is okay?

boobydoo.jpg

Jeff Smith at Wexner

bonewex.jpg

The Wexner Center for The Arts at Ohio State University in Columbus is opening a show devoted to animator-turned-comic book great, Jeff Smith, in May. The exhibit will include about 70 original BONE pages and covers, work from his recent SHAZAM! series and current RASL project, and work by artists who have influenced him including Walt Kelly, Charles Schulz, Garry Trudeau, Carl Barks, George Herriman, E.C. Segar, and Will Eisner. Ohio State’s Cartoon Research Library will be hosting a sidebar show at the same time that features Jeff’s work when he was a cartoonist for the Ohio State student newspaper back in the 80s.

In addition, The Wexner Center will host a number of related panels and events, including a conversation between Jeff Smith and Scott McCloud on May 10th at 2pm; and A Looney Tunes Evening with Jeff Smith, where Jeff will introduce a selection of WB cartoons that most-influenced BONE (especially the Chuck Jones ‘hunting trilogy’), on June 5th at 7pm.

See the Wexner website for more information.

Tezuka’s Amazing Three

amazing3neg.jpgPerhaps the most obscure of the pioneering anime series imported to the U.S. in the 1960s was Osamu Tezuka’s The Amazing Three. Why has it has been missing-in-action for so long? Perhaps because, unlike Astro Boy, Gigantor, 8th Man and Prince Planet the show did not feature a costumed super-hero or high tech robot. Or perhaps, unlike Speed Racer and Kimba, the show wasn’t produced in color.
amazingthree.jpg
It did have a science fiction premise – three aliens come to Earth disguised as a rabbit, a duck and a horse and must decide if they should blow up the planet, or save it. The design of this show was faithful to Tezuka’s original manga, and the stories were always a fun mix of comedy, drama and action.

Now, as all things must, it has shown up on ebay. Someone has found twelve original negatives to the English dubbed version in the vaults of Los Angeles’s KCOP-13 and is selling them on ebay for $24,000. Close up images of these negs can be viewed here. Note that one is marked for use by New York’s TV station WPIX (where I saw it as a kid).

Twenty-four Grand is too rich for my blood. Let’s hope someone smart acquires this material and puts it out on DVD for all of us to enjoy. In the meantime, courtesy of Toontracker (via You Tube), here is the rarely seen opening to the American version:

Rare 1939 Looney Tunes Book found!

porkypigbook11.jpg

Mike Van Eaton has unearthed the original art to a rare Looney Tunes promotional book from 1939 – apparently created exclusively either for motion picture exhibitors or merchandising licensees. He sent me scans of the pages (below; click on each to see a larger image).

1939 was an interesting year for Leon Schlesinger’s studio. The text page here refers to Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies as being “constantly before the public as they are played in over 8500 theaters throughout the Unites States and Canada”. Wow. If it were only so today. Note that “Elmer” (nee Egghead) was promoted as the star of Merrie Melodies, while Bugs Bunny was considered only as an “incidental character” (see the last page). Were they really planning further cartoons with “Spunky” (from Now That Summer Is Gone), “Patrick Parrot” (From I Wanna Be a Sailor), “Little Eva” (from Uncle Tom’s Bungalow) or “Fluffnums” (from “Porky’s Romance”)? I don’t think so. And for some reason Sniffles rates both a full page portrait (by Charlie Thorson) and is included with the “incidental characters” as well.

Van Eaton is selling most of the pages individually. He has the originals on display at his gallery in Sherman Oaks, California. Contact Mike directly if you are interested in acquiring some of these pieces.

looneybook1.jpglooneybook3.jpglooneybook4.jpglooneybook5.jpglooneybook6.jpglooney7.jpglooneybook8.jpglooneybook8ab.jpglooneybook7a.jpglooneybook9.jpglooneybook10.jpglooeybook11.jpglooneybook12.jpglooneybokk13.jpglooneybook14.jpg

Gag Me With A Toon

smurfblood.jpg

Meltdown Comics in Hollywood is celebrating the “wonderfully mesmerizing phenomenon of ’80’s era cartoons” with a gallery show opening this Saturday (4/5). Gag Me With A Toon features a fine array of artists (including Jim Mahfood, Roman Dirge and 24 others) re-interpreting their favorite little blue creatures and transforming robots from that mind numbing decade, in a show show curated by artist Steven Daily. Sneak peek online here.

“Li’l Abner” Creator Al Capp Harasses John Lennon And Yoko Ono

The great American diplomat and Presidential candidate Adlai Stevenson may have well been talking about Li’l Abner creator Al Capp when he said, “Nothing so dates a man as to decry the younger generation.” In the final decade of his life, Capp launched vitriolic attacks against everybody and anything that didn’t adhere to his extremist views, even going so far as to label student protests against the Vietnam War as “mugging, vandalism and thievery.” Another example is this video clip of Capp going to meet John Lennon and Yoko Ono just so he could verbally berate them:

Capp’s antics became the subject of a colorful documentary–This is Al Capp–that premiered on NBC’s “Experiments in Television” on March 1, 1970. What makes it especially relevant to Cartoon Brew is that the special was co-directed by animation designer and director Ernest Pintoff, who created classic cartoons like Flebus and the Oscar-winning Critic. (Pintoff and his writing partner Guy Fraumeni also directed two other documentaries for the series–”This Is Marshall McLuhan” and “This Is Sholem Aleichem.”)

Somebody has posted onto YouTube the first twenty minutes of the Al Capp documentary (update: it was deleted, but the first six minutes are below). Capp comes across as a one-man Fox News Channel–reactionary, naive, and intellectually vapid. Still, it’s somehow entertaining to hear such hostile bile coming from the mouth of a famous cartoonist. After all, I think this may be the only instance of a cartoonist’s political ideas being the subject of a documentary on network television. The special also features quotes from John Steinbeck, and onscreen appearances by legendary cartoonists Milton Caniff and Walt Kelly, underground cartoonists Spain Rodriguez and Trina Robbins, and other notables like William F. Buckley, Paul Krassner and Douglas Fairbanks Jr.

The presentation of the material is topnotch, and even in live-action, Pintoff’s animation sensibilities come through loud and clear. He employs energetic quick-cuts, intimate close-up interview shots and cheeky juxtaposition of image and sound. The results are playful enough to make even Capp’s rantings seem semi-tolerable.

UPDATE: Cartoonist Scott Shaw! wrote a comment about seeing Al Capp speak in person at the University of San Diego in the late-1960s:

I was present at Al Capp’s memorable presentation at UCSD in San Diego in 1968 or 1969, at the height of his anti-hippie bias. It’s a long story, but the short version is that Capp came out and engaged the audience of long-haired students (including myself – a huge fan of LI’L ABNER, despite the fact that I, too, was a hippie – and a small group of comic fans, most of whom formed the first San Diego Comic-Con). Things seemed very friendly and upbeat until Capp suddenly took offense at someone clapping (after the cartoonist called an end to the surprisngly good-natured back-and-forth verbal jousting). He walked out on the huge audience, which soon dispersed…except for my still-in-shock group of fan-friends. We hung around inside the gym for a few minutes, not realizing we were there alone…when Capp re-emerged from wherever he’d been to deliver his speech to our tiny group of less than a dozen people. I imagine that he had been just informed he wouldn’t be compensated for his presentation if he didn’t deliver it.

(Top photo via If Charlie Parker was a Gunslinger…; story link via Mike Lynch)