The Shooting of Dan McGrew

Jerry has posted a super-rare gem on YouTube: the 1965 short The Shooting of Dan McGrew directed by Ed Graham, Jr. I was so excited about seeing the film online that I asked him to let me post about it. When I first encountered this short about five years ago, the thing that popped out to me was the striking background color design of Walt Peregoy, who is most famously the color stylist of 101 Dalmatians. Unfortunately, this copy on YouTube doesn’t do justice to his color work and gives only a vague taste of what an actual print looks like.

The film was created in the spirit of earlier UPA shorts like The Unicorn in the Garden and The Tell-Tale Heart which adapted classic pieces of literature to the animation medium. In this case, the inspiration came from Robert Service’s poem of the same name.

In addition to Peregoy’s contributions, the film also has character designs by George Cannata, Jr. and background layout by UPA veteran Bob Dranko. The animation was directed by another younger design-oriented animator, George Singer, and the primary animators were Golden Age veterans Manny Gould and Amby Paliwoda. Also worth noting: the music is credited to jazz great George Shearing. This is his only animation score as far as I’m aware.

The Sixties was an interesting time for theatrical shorts in the US. As studio animation was dying out, many of the major studios offered independently-produced one-shots like this one, which was released by Universal. There are plenty of other Sixties one-shots that are currently owned by major studios and deserve to be made available to animation fans. These include two films by John and Faith Hubley that are owned by Paramount–A Windy Day and Oscar-winning Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass Double Feature–as well as Ernie Pintoff’s Oscar-winning The Critic, Ken Mundie’s The Door, Format Films’ Icarus Montgolfier Wright, and Chuck Menville and Len Janson’s Stop Look and Listen and Blaze Glory.

Cultoons Vol. 3

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Just out from Steve Stanchfield’s Thunderbean Animation is Cultoons 3, a new DVD set which continues his madness of releasing cartoons that only us die hards would care about. This set features all the uber-rare 1939 Gran’ Pop Monkey series as well as Boyd La Vero’s lost Marty the Monk cartoons. It also has the eccentric foreign-toon Mr. E from Tow City and the Walter Lantz wartime rarity, The Enemy Bacteria. Trust me, this is oddball material, expertly curated and lots of fun.

Stanchfield is doing all of us a big favor – rounding up the odds and ends of cartoon history, using the best prints he can find of the most obscure cartoons ever made. Another new release of note, Grotesqueries: Ghosts, Goblins & Other Magical Moving Picture Illusions is from Blue Mouse Studio (Thunderbean will be distributing it). Chris Buchman and Rex Schneider (with some help from Stanchfield) produced this fantastic DVD featuring all sorts of goodies, both animated and otherwise (and a bunch of really great bonus features. They’ve done a really beautiful job with all the graphics and design… its been in progress for over 2 years! It’s a pretty unusual and cool DVD. It also features a restoration of A Night On Bald Mountain, the 1933 Pinscreen classic by Alexander Alexeieff and Claire Parker – the best it’s ever looked (restored and licensed from Cecile Starr). Highly recommended!

Golden Book Art Exhibit in NYC

Mary Blair

The Children’s Museum of Manhattan (212 West 83rd Street, NY, NY) has opened a new exhibit “Golden Legacy: Original Art from 65 Years of Golden Book”. It runs through August 28. Cartoonist Mark Newgarden, who told me about the show, reports: “The show features vintage original art by many animation folks on the wall–Mary Blair, JP Miller, the Provensens, etc. I did notice that all the Tenggren art were digital prints. It’s a small show but worth popping in when you’re on the Upper West Side.”

(Mary Blair artwork above scanned in by the Animation Archive)

Animation Block Party ’08

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Brooklyn’s homegrown cartoon festival Animation Block Party will return for its fifth edition from July 25-27. Over 100 animated shorts will screen during the three-day festival, chosen from 800 plus entries.The line-up of films and ticket info was officially announced today. If the event’s promotional materials (above) are any indicator, this is not to be confused with traditional festivals. It has an informal and indie spirit with plenty of opportunities for mingling and partying. I’ve heard positive things from everybody who has attended. Here are more details from their press release about the various festivities:

ABP opens on Friday July 25th at Rooftop Films, featuring live music from Plushgun, followed by a screening of ABP’s most fun and fan friendly cartoons. A party at Bar Matchless will follow ABP-Rooftop screenings with free beer from Radeberger.

ABP continues on Saturday July 26th at Bam Cinematek, with experimental works and music vids in Program One and a storytelling focus in Program Two. Screenings will be followed by an after party at Cherry Tree with free Newcastle courtesy of America’s Finest News Source, The Onion, Inc.

ABP closes on Sunday July 27th at Bam Cinematek, with top professional-independent works in Program Three and narrative local-international shorts in Program Four with an after party at Habana Outpost, featuring streaming toons, food specials and free beer courtesy of Autodesk.

Bonus Amid Geek-Note: The guy who did the drawing above is Doug Crane, who was the primary inker on the Terrytoons classics Flebus and The Juggler of Our Lady.

Worst Comic Strip. Ever!

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When I seek out films for my Worst Cartoons Ever! screenings or Cartoon Dump I look for animation so bad it’s unintentionally funny. So when I came across a batch of old issues of My Weekly Reader I had in stashed my archives and found this comic strip – Uncle Funny Bunny and Chumpy – I felt I’d found a comics equivalent to Paddy The Pelican and Bucky and Pepito: the lamest comic strip ever created! Mesmerizingly so. I just had to share. Click on thumbnails below to read some samples.

Admittedly it’s aimed at children, and produced in the more innocent era of the early 50s. But the consistently corny gags, the awful stiff artwork… surely this takes the prize. Unless one considers the Weekly Reader’s back up strip: Loki, Your Fuzzy Forest Friend.

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Wall•E Required Viewing for All Americans

“Wall-E for President” is an op-ed column written by NY Times political commentator Frank Rich. In it, he implores everybody from John McCain to Barack Obama to see the film:

Mr. McCain should be required to see “Wall-E” to learn just how far adrift he is from an America whose economic fears cannot be remedied by his flip-flop embrace of the Bush tax cuts (for the wealthy) and his sham gas-tax holiday (for everyone else). Mr. Obama should see it to be reminded of just how bold his vision of change had been before he settled into a front-runner’s complacency. Americans should see it to appreciate just how much things are out of joint on an Independence Day when a cartoon robot evokes America’s patriotic ideals with more conviction than either of the men who would be president.

(Thanks, Alex Rannie)

Betty Boop and Felix

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Does anyone remember this short lived comic strip (1984-1988) by The Walker Brothers (Brian, Morgan, Greg, and Neal, the sons of Beetle Bailey’s Mort)? This was the height of Garfield’s popularity, and the thought of pairing these two classic, and essentially orphaned, properties must have been intriguing to King Featuures.

I just found this Sunday page from January 13th 1985 while I was rumaging through my files this weekend. Not a particularly funny entry, but it’s all I have as reference. Was this ever reprinted in book form? Or is it anywhere on the internet?

Jerry on Movie Talk podcasts

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New Orleans movie critic David Dubos is now writing for, and podcasting about, movies each week on NewOrleans.com. He’s recorded me twice now during the last few weeks, allowing me to ramble on with my opinions of Kung Fu Panda and Wall•E, and debate the pros and cons of both films. Be warned, the editing makes me sound a bit hyper on these podcasts. But I applaud David for showcasing these animated features – both highlights of the current summer movie season.

Kristen Morgin

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Kristen Morgan, an artist and professor at Cal State Long Beach, has a current installation in Hollywood which combines pop culture itself (mainly cartoon character comics, board games, coloring books and merchandising artifacts) with sculpture, using found objects to create statues of animation icons Mighty Mouse and Popeye. The show, Objects for Everyone I Have Ever Known, runs through August 16th at Marc Selwyn Fine Art Gallery on Wilshire Blvd. The L.A. Times reviewed the show in today’s Calendar section.

No Bozo: Larry Harmon 1925-2008

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Larry Harmon, the actor and animation producer who acquired the rights to Bozo the Clown and turned him into a long running TV franchise and cash cow, died yesterday of congestive heart failure. He was 83.

Harmon purchased the licensing rights to the Bozo character, created by Alan Livingston and first portrayed by Pinto Colvig, from Capitol Records in 1956. In 1958, Harmon produced several Bozo TV cartoons. He later acquired the animation rights to Laurel and Hardy and produced a series of Laurel and Hardy cartoons through Hanna Barbera in 1966. Harmon also produced several Popeye cartoons for King Features in 1960.

Jackie Ormes

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Another discovery, for me, at the recent Book Expo was this new book from University of Michigan Press. Jackie Ormes: The First African American Woman Cartoonist is not about an animator, but is the fascinating true story of a female black comic strip artist who achieved considerable success between the years 1937 and 1956. The author has set up a nice website devoted to Ormes with samples of her comics work, excerpts from the book (by Nancy Goldstein), and images of the Patty-Jo doll, inspired by her most popular strip. Publishers Weekly has an in-depth article about how Ormes’ work was rediscovered and turned into this biography. If you are interested in the history of comics, Ormes’ story is a long-forgotten part of its legacy.

Cartoon Brew on Facebook

We’re delighted to report that the Cartoon Brew Facebook community recently surpassed 500 600 700(!) members. In the few months that it’s been up, various folks have used it to post short films, link to job listings, and participate in discussions, but it’d be fun to see even more of that happening. In particular, the Wall portion of the page is underused; it’s an ideal format for posting notes about film screenings as well as other animation-related news and events. We started the Facebook community with the idea that Brew readers could have a place to communicate directly with one another. We hope you give it a try sometime.

Endangered Species by Tony White

Endangered Species by Tony White (Hokusai: An Animated Sketchbook) is so insidery that it’s doubtful it’ll ever find a mainstream audience. But being that it’s a mockumentary about the rise and fall of hand-drawn animation, it’ll make perfect perfect sense to the Brew readership. There’s some nice animation throughout and the twist ending is a delight.

Here are more details from White about the film:

Endangered Species was a film I created exclusively to illustrate my recent book… “Animation from Pencils to Pixels – Classical Techniques for Digital Animators.” The book is conceived to be the ultimate reference book for all contemporary animators, dealing with traditional techniques of movement and production process that can be utilized in the modern digital world. It seemed totally relevant therefore to offer an animated overview of the great classic moments of traditional animation, and then explain how these original pieces were produced and how I replicated them in a digital environment. This is all indicated and explained in the book’s accompanying interactive CD, amongst other things. I worked single-handedly for over 4 years to produce the film, utilizing the assistance of many of my students… as well as the voice of the great Roy E. Disney… along the way!

Tezuka Shorts on iTunes

While browsing iTunes yesterday, I noticed that they’ve licensed many of the independent shorts produced by Japanese cartooning legend and Astro Boy creator Osamu Tezuka. These include some difficult-to-find efforts such as Tales of the Street Corner (1962) and Pictures At an Exhibition (1966, image above), both of which are more notable for their rarity than their quality as shorts, though they do each offer some cool design work. The films can be purchased on the Tezuka Productions page (link goes to iTunes) while more info about the shorts can be found on this website.

Wall•E and Christianity

Wall•E director Andrew Stanton talks with Christianity Today about some of the Genesis-related themes he incorporated into the film. The interview also offers a good explanation for why all of the film’s humans are depicted as fat babies.

There seem to be some biblical themes in this film. WALL•E is sort of like Adam, the only “guy” on earth, lonely, longing for a companion …

Andrew Stanton: Yes, and that’s certainly why I picked EVE as an appropriate title for the female robot. But “Adam” just didn’t have the underdog ring to it as the main character. WALL•E was a little bit more sad sack–and I could find an acronym that could work for that. But definitely it had that first man, first female theme. But I wasn’t trying to replace man in the bigger story. I just loved the poetic-ness that these two machines held more care for living and loving than humanity had anymore.

There’s also a bit of Noah’s Ark story here, with the humans on the space station, waiting for a chance to repopulate the earth–but having to wait till EVE comes back with plant life to indicate it’s okay.

Stanton: I wasn’t using the Noah’s Ark story as a guide, but through circumstances, I loved the parallels of EVE almost being like this dove, of going down for proof that it’s time to come back. It just worked in that allegory, so I ran with it.

Interview with JibJab’s Gregg Spiridellis

Below is a short but insightful interview with JibJab co-founder Gregg Spiridellis about some of the recent business plans for their website JibJab.com. Unlike so many other online animation startups, JibJab has managed to balance its artistic ambitions with business savvy and a willingness to experiment with new ways of earning income from online animation. I found the link on Scott Kirsner’s CinemaTech blog, and as Scott says, “The guys at JibJab have been experimenting longer than anyone else with new business models for Web content.”

It’s also worth noting that their new Sendables e-cards are allowing the studio to branch out beyond their established photo-collage animation style and play with techniques like stop-motion (Crankballs), puppetry (Motor Mouth Malone) and hand drawn-looking Flash animation (like this birthday greeting).

Stu’s Show interviews Fleischer

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This Wednesday, July 2nd, Stuart Shostack will broadcast a rare, new, interview with Max Fleischer’s nephew, Bernie Fleischer. Joined by Fleischer Studios historian Ray Pointer, Stu promises that the interview will cover everything from the invention of the Rotoscope and the Helen Kane lawsuit, to the 1937 strike, the move to Miami and the eventual Paramount takeover. Plus, Bernie will talk about visiting the studio during the 1930s and recording his voice tracks for the Fleischer’s 1940 two-reeler, Raggedy Ann and Andy (he was Andy). The show will be broadcast over internet radio live (which means no downloads), beginning Wednesday July 2 at 7pm Eastern, 4 pm Pacific. It’ll be rebroadcast each day for the next six days at the the same time. Listen to it here.