1939 Disney memo warns of “gross language”

Rummaging through my archives last night, I came across this inter-office memo (click thumbnail below to see full size) distributed throughout Walt Disney studios on January 17th 1939:

Attention has been called to the rather gross language that is being used by some members of the IBT (Inbetween) Department in the presence of some of our female employees.

It has always been Walt’s hope that the studio could be a place where girls can be employed without fear of embarassment or humiliation. Your cooperation in this matter will be appreciated.

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Leon Schlesinger’s obituary

Leon Schlesinger died on Christmas Day, 1949. He sold his studio to Warner Bros. in 1944 and spent his last years in an executive job at the studio, the first one dedicated to merchandising the cartoon characters. While he wasn’t technically “Bugs Bunny’s Creator” (as his obituaries claimed) he was a significant figure in the creation of a dozen pop culture icons that will literally live forever.

His obituaries from the Los Angeles Times (below left) and Los Angeles Examiner (below right) are fitting tributes. Click on each thumbnail for larger images:
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A Celebration of Ollie

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Disney exec Howard Green informs us that there will be an official Life Celebration for Ollie at the El Capitan Theatre on Tuesday evening August 19th. Please note that, though this is a free event, tickets are required. Leonard Maltin is hosting and participants will include John Lasseter, Brad Bird, Andy Gaskill, Roy Disney, John Musker, Ron Clements, Charles Solomon, the Johnston family, Jeanette and Ted Thomas, and Mark Kirkland, among others.

Thanks to the courtesy of Disney, Cartoon Brew is exclusively offering 100 readers the opportunity to attend this event in Hollywood. UPDATE: No more tickets! We’ve given away our allotment. I have posted a complete list of Brew reader names who will be on the list in the comments below. If your name isn’t on this list, we cannot guarantee your admittance to this event.

How To Make A Looney Tune, 1956

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To answer the many inquires they received at the time, Warner Bros. produced a three page pamphlet, in comic strip style, to explain the production of animation cartoons. Clearly the work of a lower level assistant artist, the artwork isn’t so good, but the information in this 1956 handout is essentially accurate.

Click the thumbnails below to see the pages full size. According to this piece, Fifteen months and fifteen thousand drawings are required to create a Warner Bros. cartoon. Note the caricature of Eddie Selzer (the producer) in panel #1 and Beaky Buzzard in panel #7. Adding fuel to the ongoing script versus storyboard controversy, Bugs is shown typing a story in panel #2, while Daffy is sketching the storyboard in panel #3.

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Cartoon Dump is one year old

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It’s the one year anniversary of Cartoon Dump, our monthly live comedy and cartoons showcase in Hollywood. As a special anniversary show treat, we will have two guest comedians performing within our show on Tuesday night: Maria Bamford (above left) and Blaine Capatch (above right). So this Tuesday, July 22 at 8 PM, please come along and join Maria, Blaine, Moodsy, Compost Brite, Officer Pete, Dumpster Diver Dan, Cue Card Goddess and me, Jerry Beck, for an evening of hilarious comedy, demented songs, and really, really crappy cartoons.

It’s at the Steve Allen Theater, 4773 Hollywood Blvd. (two blocks west of Vermont). Map here, see you there!

The Animation Soundtrack

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The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will present Normand Roger on The Animation Soundtrack, on Sunday, August 10, at 7:30 p.m. at the Linwood Dunn Theater on Vine Street in Hollywood.

For this special presentation, Roger will discuss his creative approach to the animation soundtrack in an onstage conversation with composer Michael Giacchino (THE INCREDIBLES, RATATOUILLE). They will be joined by animator Frédéric Back (CRAC, THE MAN WHO PLANTED TREES), with whom Roger collaborated on six films. In addition, four Animated Short Film winners which feature Roger’s scores and sound design will be screened in their entirety: EVERY CHILD (1979, directed by Eugene Fedorenko), CRAC (1981, directed by Frédéric Back), THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA (1999, directed by Alexander Petrov) and FATHER AND DAUGHTER (2000, directed by Michael Dudok de Wit).

This program is presented in conjunction with the opening night of the exhibition Frédéric Back: A Life’s Drawings on display in the lobby of the Linwood Dunn Theater. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. All seating is unreserved. Tickets may be purchased online at oscars.org, in person at the Academy box office or by mail. For more information, call (310) 247-3600

(Image above from Synchromie (1971) by Norman McLaren)

Bakshi Chat at Comic Con

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The ASIFA-Hollywood panel with Ralph Bakshi will be a particular highlight at the Comic Con next week. The blurb for this event posted online was not accurate. Here’s the correct description:

ARTISTS ONLY: A Chat With Ralph Bakshi

Ralph Bakshi is responsible for some of the most wildly original animated features ever made- including Heavy Traffic, Coonskin and Wizards. Working in a largely collaborative medium hide-bound by the legacy of Walt Disney, Bakshi was able to rip the lid off of the moribund medium and create films with remarkable honesty and a startlingly unique point of view.

The legendary cartoonist Ralph Bakshi will be on hand to be interviewed by ASIFA-Hollywood Archive Director Stephen Worth on his life and career. He will be offering advice to aspiring cartoonists and reflecting on what it means to be an artist in today’s world. Whether you’re lucky enough to make a living doodling or whether you still dream of being paid to create, you won’t want to miss this important presentation.

Don’t miss it – Saturday, July 26th 4:30 – 5:30 in Room 10.

Is this supposed to be funny?

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Oh, I get it – the operative word here is “cartoons”, and the joke is that the current political situation is a different “cartoon” from the one Jeffy and PJ usually watch. Ha. Ha. That’s a real knee-slapper. I’ve got nothing against The Family Circus and I’m not trying to turn into the Comics Curmudgeon – but today’s Family Circus is badly written and poorly composed. Perhaps they should leave the political humor to Garry Trudeau.

The Old Family Toothbrush

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There is still a lot of research to be done in documenting the silent era of animation. Leonard Maltin reports, on his Movie Crazy blog, of the screening of a true rarity/oddity at the recent San Francisco Silent Film Festival:

…a 1925 animated cartoon in two-color Technicolor. The Old Family Toothbrush features a character named Kid Noah in “A New Redhead Satire” filmed in Naturecolor, using the Wilson Wetherald Process. It was so startling to see a cartoon of this vintage in color that I picked up my camera and tried to capture a few frames (above)… The short itself is fairly amusing, executed in fairly typical New York cartoon-studio fashion of the period, with impressive personality animation of its leading character. Still, its origins are something of a mystery: the picture wasn’t registered for copyright, and I can find no evidence of it in my usual reference sources.

Do any of our readers have some clues about this mysterious new discovery?

Frank and Ollie at SIGGRAPH

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Animation Mentor is hosting a tribute to the life, work and inspiration of Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston at SIGGRAPH 2008. Animation director Tom Sito will lead the panel discussion, with panelists including Disney producer Don Hahn, Dreamworks animator Dave Burgess, Animation Guild president Kevin Koch, and Frank Thomas’ son, Ted, an independent film director, writer and producer. The panel will take place on Wednesday, August 13, 2008 at 10:30 a.m. –in Petree Hall D of the Los Angeles Convention Center. For more information, click here.

Coke’s “East Meets West” by Smith & Foulkes

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I don’t think I’ve ever been able to exactly pinpoint what it is that I so enjoy about the directing duo Smith & Foulkes (repped by Nexus Productions), but they seemingly turn out more top-notch spots than anybody else in the commercial game. Their latest spot for Coca-Cola, “East Meets West,” is yet another piece of CG that impresses the hell out of me, largely because every element of this piece is carefully considered and designed to work in unison. I especially love how the commercial’s ornate visual detail is contrasted with a limited animation style. This directorial restraint allows for the graphics to read with a crispness and elegance that is uncommon in the world of commercial CG. As far as Coke adverts go, it’s hard to ask for much more.

(via Motionographer)

Time For Some Campaignin’

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JibJab’s latest political music video premiered last night on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and it’s another winner. Co-Director Evan Spiridellis tells us:

I think you’ll notice that we significantly upped the production value while trying to remain true to the original thing that made This Land work – funny collage heads. It was also really important to us was not to repeat ourselves so rather than the tit-for-tat that was in This Land we wanted to make this a true character piece and give each player a verse to try and define themselves. (It was a real challenge trying to sum up each candidate with only 5 lines!)

Evan and Gregg have also written a great production blog on the making of this particular film.

Varmints Trailer

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Studio AKA has released the trailer to Varmints, a followup to the 2004 BAFTA-winning short JoJo in the Stars. I’ve always loved the way that Marc Craste, the director of this short, uses CG to create worlds that are poetic and impressionistic.

Here’s a bit more about the film:

Adapted and directed by Marc Craste, Varmints is a 24-minute film based on the award-winning book of the same name by Helen Ward and illustrated by Craste, that tells the story of one small creature’s struggle to preserve a world in danger of being lost forever through recklessness and indifference. A crew of 35 people worked in three countries over a two year period to make the film, and an original score by Icelandic composer Johann Johannsson and sound design by Adrian Rhodes complete the picture.

Varmints will have its London premiere in September this year. It has also been accepted into the Rhode Island International Film Festival (August 5-10) and the Los Angeles International Short Film Festival (August 15-21).

Philip Hunt of Studio AKA also informs me that they’ve launched a new easier-to-navigate website. There’s beautiful commercial work throughout.

Jerry at Comic Con

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The San Diego Comic Con commences next week and I’ll be there. If you want to meet me and say hello, I’ll be signing copies of my book The Hanna Barbera Treasury on Thursday July 24th, 2pm to 3pm and again on Friday 7/25 from 11am till noon, at the Insight Editions/Palace Publishing booth 2913-J (located in the Lucas Pavilion). Later that day, at 9:30pm, I’ll be screening my latest compilation of THE WORST CARTOONS EVER in room 6CDEF.

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Otherwise, when I’m not looking at old comic books in the dealers room, I’ll try to check out the following panels:

Thursday (Complete Thursday Schedule)

• 10:00-11:00 Click & Clack’s As the Wrench Turns, Behind the scenes with the creators Tom Sito, Bill Kroyer, Stephen Silver, Floyd Norman, and Tom Minton. Room 2

•10:30-11:30 Tiny Toons and Freakazoid panel featuring Bruce Timm, Paul Rugg, Paul Dini, Jean MacCurdy, Rich Arons. Room 6A

•10:30-11:30 Spotlight on Noel Neill in Room 7AB

•11:00-12:00 The Disney Animation Story Process with Nathan Greno (head of story, Bolt), Don Hall (head of story, The Princess and the Frog), Mark Kennedy (head of story, Rapunzel), Joe Mateo (story artist, Bolt), Michael LaBash (story artist, Bolt), Paul Briggs (story artist, The Princess and the Frog), and Josie Trinidad (story artist, The Princess and the Frog). Room 32AB

•3:30-4:30 Bat-Manga! The Secret History of Batman in Japan. Chip Kidd lifts the veil on officially licensed, original Batman manga stories from 1966 Japan, not previously collected or translated in over 40 years. Narrated slide show, with Q&A to follow. Room 30AB

•5:00-6:00 Spotlight on Floyd Norman, moderated by cartoonist Scott Shaw! Room 7AB

•6:00-7:00 Bill Plympton will screen the first 20 minutes of his animated feature Idiots and Angels, plus a Q&A session to follow. Room 7AB

•7:00-9:00 Comedy Central TV Funhouse with Robert Smigel. Room 6CDEF

Friday (Complete Friday Schedule)

•2:00-3:00 That ’70s (Animation) Panel. Mark Evanier talks to animation legends Joe Ruby and Ken Spears. Room 8

• 5:00-6:00 Nickelodeon’s Making Fiends with creator Amy Winfrey and supervising producer Dave Wasson . Room 7AB

• 5:30-6:30 Spotlight on Kim Deitch. Room 10

• 7:15-8:15 Mystery Science Theater 3000 20th Anniversary Reunion with creator Joel Hodgson, producer Jim Mallon and performers Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy, Trace Beaulieu, Frank Conniff, Mary Jo Pehl, Paul Chaplin, J. Elvis Weinstein, Bridget Nelson, and Bill Corbett in a Q&A panel hosted by self-professed “MST3K nerd” and comedian Patton Oswalt. Room 6B

• 9:30-10:30 Worst Cartoons Ever! Room 6CDEF

Saturday (Complete Saturday Schedule)

•10:00-10:45 Futurama Secrets Revealed! with creator Matt Groening, executive producer David X. Cohen and series regulars Billy West, Katey Sagal, John DiMaggio, and Maurice LaMarche, producer Claudia Katz and director Peter Avanzino. Ballroom 20

•10:15-11:15 Spotlight on Ralph Bakshi. Moderated by Jon M. Gibson and Chris McDonnell. Room 6B

• 12:30-2:00 Cartoon Voices I. Co-hosts Mark Evanier and Earl Kress welcome Jason Marsden, Wally Wingert, Phil LaMarr, TV legend Chuck McCann, and Tom Kenny (SpongeBob SquarePants). Room 6CDEF

• 12:45-1:45 Q&A with the writers of The Office. Moderated by cast member Rainn Wilson, panelists include Greg Daniels, B.J. Novak and Mindy Kaling. Room 6A

• 2:30-3:30 Scott Shaw!: Oddball Comics. Room 5AB

• 2:30-3:30 Disney Pixar preview: Bolt and UP. Directors Chris Williams and Byron Howard (Bolt) and Peter Docter (UP) presents the first-ever look at Disney and Pixar’s new animated features.

• 4:30-5:30 pm: Artists Only: a Discussion with Ralph Bakshi – Ralph addresses the issue of what it means to be an artist in animation today. Moderated by Stephen Worth. Room 10

Sunday (Complete Sunday Schedule)

•1:15-2:30 Cartoon Voices II. Co-hosts Mark Evanier and Earl Kress welcome Chris Edgerly (Harvey Birdman, Celebrity Deathmatch), Dee Baker (American Dad, SpongeBob SquarePants), Cheryl Chase (Rugrats), Katie Leigh (Dungeons & Dragons, ), and Billy West (Futurama, Ren & Stimpy). Room 6B

Also: I strongly recommend all panels moderated by Mark Evanier – Click Here for complete list.

Oh, and if you can’t make it to the San Diego, I can also be seen on G4′s live TV coverage of Comic Con ’08 on July 24 and 25 at 7pm each night.

The People’s Republic of Animation

This commercial simply blew me away. It was produced by The People’s Republic of Animation, an outstanding animation studio in Australia, founded on their philosophy of “BE BOLD, BE CREATIVE, BE ENTERTAINING”.

Formed in 2003, PRA founders Eddie White and James Calvert, have done numerous stylish commercials (such as the one above) and several outstanding shorts — including the acclaimed Carnivore Reflux (2006), which we featured on Cartoon Brew Films. For more cartoon goodness, check out their amazing sample reel on Vimeo.

(Thanks, Jake Parker)

July 22 in LA: Brent Green Performance

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Next Tuesday, July 22, indie filmmaker Brent Green is performing a FREE show of his animated shorts at the Hammer Museum in Westwood. I say “performing” because his mixed-media and stop-motion animated shorts are combined with live musical performance by Green and his backup band. I saw a show by Green last year and it’s an incredible experience that marries music and animation in ways that I hadn’t previously thought possible. Some of his films can be viewed online but the full effect really shines through during the live performance.

More details about the show are at the Hammer website:

Expect a full body experience including live music, short films, and improvised narration–an evening spent on the verge of collapse with wobbly guitar, musical saw, banjo, fiddles, trumpets, accordion, drums and adamantly hand-made animations. Watch Brent Green’s films (Susa’s Red Ears, Hadacol Christmas, Paulina Hollers, Abe Lincoln, Carlin, Louisville/Gravity, and Walt Whitman’s Brain) accompanied by Brendan Canty of Fugazi, Jim Becker of Califone, Alan Scalpone of the Bitter Tears, Rodney McLaughlin, and Brent Green himself.

A rare frame from Popeye Vol. 3

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I admit it. I love seeing classic animation I’ve never seen before. I particularly go nuts for original title sequences of cartoons that had been cut 50 years ago for TV broadcast. Long time readers of this site already know this.

So what is so unusual about this Popeye card above? It’s simply the rarely seen opening graphic to the first post-Fleischer Popeye cartoons. This title treatment (above) only appears at the head of two cartoons – You’re A Sap, Mr. Jap and Alona On The Sarong Seas (both 1942) – immediately after the ousting of Max and Dave Fleischer. The next release (A Hull Of A Mess) is the first to proclaim the series “A Famous Studios Production” (the new entity created to produce cartoons for Paramount release), and feature a new animated title treatment.

More about Popeye opening titles appear here, and Popeye Vol. 3 goes on sale September 30th (amazon link).