Can’t tell you much about this mid-’60s record album, but it might entertain you.
A cute Christmas greeting from our animator pal Boris Hiestand…
When I presented my 2008 animation picks last week, I didn’t offer up any student shorts on my list. That’s not because I didn’t see any good student work during this past year. Far from it, I saw quite a few nice pieces. Nothing blew me away though to the extent that I had to include it on the list. That’s all changed now because I’ve just seen Story from North America, an awesomely excellent film animated by Kirsten Lepore and Garrett Davis, with music written and performed by Davis. Created at the Maryland Institute College of Art, it is a combination of surprisingly poignant song-driven storytelling and some of the most crazily inventive and funny hand-drawn animation I’ve seen in recent times. The short may have less polish and sheen than other student films, but its originality and creative use of the animation medium makes it one short I won’t be forgetting anytime soon.
(Thanks, Kelly Toon)
We’re looking back all the way to 1932 today to see Santa’s Workshop, a Disney “Silly Symphony” directed by Wilfred Jackson. It’s lighthearted Disney fluff at its best–charming, entertaining and lots of fun to look at.
I’m working on a new book project with Insight Editions (the same folks who published The Hanna Barbera Treasury) – and I need your help.
The concept is similar to my long out-of-print book, The 50 Greatest Cartoons (1994), only this time its all Warner Bros. Cartoons and we will highlight the top one hundred. I am personally contacting some of the top historians, animators, critics, filmmakers and authorities for their opinion. But why stop there? In 1994, for my previous book, we didn’t have the Internet to do the poll (nor did I have a blog). It should be exciting to see what the consensus of the online world is.
I’m asking all participants to list their “greatest” nominees in the comments section below. You can list your top ten, twenty or fifty – but please, no more than that. List them in order of greatness, #1 being the most important. I’ll cull the final one hundred out of what titles we receive by January 9th. Please include your real name if you wish to be acknowledged in the book.
This is open to the 1001 (or so) theatrically released Warner Bros. cartoons (Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies) created between 1930 and 1969 (though I tend to doubt we’ll receive too many entries from the 1960s). No government sponsored films (sorry Snafu), industrial or made-for-TV animation accepted. The classic shorts. You know what I mean. Here’s the complete list of eligible film titles.
What defines greatness? That’s up to you. I’m throwing the door wide open. Historical significance, biggest laughs, greatest character animation, important milestones… make a list and check it twice. And post it below.
The holidays get the ‘cartoon modern’ treatment in this rare 1954 version of Frosty the Snowman directed by Bobe Cannon at UPA.
We’re a few days late with the new episode of Cartoon Brew TV but this week’s film is worth the wait. Like Me, Only Better by Martin Pickles is a film we’ve been seeing at animation festivals all year long and it makes us laugh each and every time. We’re delighted that Martin is doing the online premiere of the film here on the Brew. Watch Like Me, Only Better on Cartoon Brew TV.
The official Rankin/Bass website has a disturbing front page story that alleges Warner Bros. is witholding millions of dollars owed to Arthur Rankin and Jules Bass, creators of classic holiday specials like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Frosty the Snowman. More details about the situation can be found in this article printed in Rankin’s hometown Bermuda paper The Mid-Ocean News. According to that piece:
The dispute arose when popular 1980s cartoon ThunderCats was re-released recently as a DVD box set by Warner Bros, which owns the distribution rights to that and 21 other Rankin/Bass titles. The box set went on to sell over a million copies, prompting Mr. Rankin to wonder about profits owed to him and his colleagues. “Sales were jumping off the charts,” said Mr. Rankin in an exclusive interview with the Mid-Ocean News.”But Warner Bros said they didn’t have any accounting on it except that they’d sold a million copies. My legal team started investigating and found out that for the last 20 years they’ve been deducting handling fees of $200,000 annually.”
Mr. Rankin explained that while Warner Bros readily admits an accounting error resulting in $2.6 million of improper deductions, they claim he caught the mistake too late. “They knew it was wrong, but said that because it has been so long, the statute of limitations has kicked in. You would imagine that Warner Bros, which makes an awful lot of money with our productions would say, ‘We’re sorry about our mistake. Here’s what we owe you’.”
(Thanks, James Hutson)
Three more books I’m recommending for holiday gift giving, mainly because they are really good reads.
Directing the Story by Francis Glebas (Aladdin, Lion King, Pocahontas, Hercules, etc.) is the ultimate book on storytelling and storyboard techniques. 346 oversized color pages explaining everything about the craft, with excellent informative text and hundreds of storyboard drawings to illustrate every point. Highly Recommended!
Ted Stearn is a storyboard artist (Beavis and Butt-head, King of the Hill, Futurama, Drawn Together, etc.) by day and an alternative comics genius at night. His Fantagraphics funny animal duo, Fuzz and Pluck, star in separate adventures in their latest graphic novel, Fuzz and Pluck: Splitsville. These are seriously demented stories, and hopefully the template for some future animated adaptation. Crazy drawings and crazy fun. Recommended!
I wish Fantagraphics had also printed Beetle Bailey: the First Years 1950-1952. This book doesn’t have the classy feel of the Peanuts or Dennis The Menace reprint volumes, but nonetheless is a fascinating volume tracing the origins of America’s favorite Army private. I spent a half hour going through this book at Barnes and Noble (note to my close buds or Brian Walker: I don’t own a copy and would love to get one as a a gift – hint, hint), I couldn’t put it down. Walker was a terrific cartoonist back then and you can see why the strip became a hit. Recommended!
An irreverent take on the holidays by Monty Python animator Terry Gilliam. This piece originally aired in 1968 on the TV series Do Not Adjust Your Set.
This Spanish blog is a one-stop source for Freddie Moore animation drawings, girlie sketches and photos filched from around the Internet. There’s two Moore drawings I posted a while back on Cartoon Brew which still haven’t been added to the collection.
And here’s a question I have for all you Fred Moore historians out there. In some recent research I’ve been doing, I discovered that Moore was freelancing outside of Disney between 1942 and 1943 for Swan Soap. He apparently created a character called “Betty Lou” as well as some gag cartoons. Does anybody know what these are? I’ve looked online at Swan Soap ad campaigns of the period and can’t find anything that suggests Moore’s artistic involvement with the company.
(Moore blog link via Michael Sporn)
If you are looking for a gift for someone this Christmas or just in the mood to buy something for yourself, my number one choice (and favorite picture book of the last year) would be Kirk Demarais’s:Â Life of the Party: A Visual History of the S. S. Adams Company.
S.S. Adams was the mastermind behind many of the most popular gag/novelty pranks of the last century, including the Joy Hand Buzzer, the Dribble Glass, the Snake Can, the Squirting Nickel, the Bug in an Ice Cube, the Exploding Cigar, and hundreds of others. Â As one writer put it,Â “The man’s rivals must have felt toward him as other dramatists have felt about Shakespeare.” I’m not exactly sure who his rivals were – other fart-cushion manufacturers, maybe? – but the sentiment is right on.
This book is treasure and nostalgia all wrapped up in one, like reading the back of an old comic book and trying to decide whether to order the vacuum cleaner hovercraft or a new pair of X-ray specs. Â The images are often enlarged so you can really appreciate the original art and packaging genius of Louis M. Glackens*, the cartoonist who Adams hired to bring all of his products to life.Â I also confess a soft spot for the personal touch of ordering it direct from the factory in Neptune, New Jersey.Â I wish all books were like this.
In 1906 Adams discovered the existence of a potent chemical called Dianisidine and began marketing it in small vials labeledÂ “Cachoo Sneezing Powder” (the company was originally called the “Cachoo Sneeze Powder Company”).Â Â The powder was so powerful that you could fill a room with sneezing people simply by blowing it through a keyhole or a crack in a door.
While Adams was busy exploiting Dianisidine stateside for laughs, the Germans were on the other side of the Atlantic stuffing it into their artillery shells, wreaking further disorder in the trenches of their enemies as the chemical also inhibits breathing.Â Fortunately for Adams, he had a good 35 years before the F.D.A. decided that Dianisidine wasn’t as “harmless” as his label proclaimed and banned it.Â By then, Adams had built an entire business with the money he made and had already used it to create countless other novelty items, some of them just as successful, if not more so, than sneezing powder.
Asked to share some advice on what makes a great novelty item, Adams once said, “The best idea is to work with an ordinary everyday object which is around the house.”Â Case in point is his “Snake Jam Jar”, also known as the “Snake Nut Can.”
Apparently, around 1915 Adams had a habit of leaving the jam jar lid unscrewed. His wife wasn’t too happy about it and she began checking the lid to catch him in an act of neglect. Â So, Adams rigged the jar by stuffing a wire coil wrapped in colorful fabric, and sat in the wings waiting for his wife to come in and inspect it.Â The rest is history: when the 4-ft “snake” jumped out of the jar at his wife, she let out a scream so loud that Adams knew instantly that he had a new classic.
You will spend hours soaking up the thousands of images in this unbelievably rich and beautifully-produced “Visual History.”Â If you’re lucky, you may even find yourself curled up under the sheets with a flashlight and a magnifying glass, feeling just like a kid again.
Get it here directly from the S.S. Adams factory in Neptune, New Jersey.
*Glackens was also a successful director and animator.Â Check his filmography here.Â If anyone can turn up a sample of his work online, please share it in the comments.
Back in September I wrote several posts about a stash of Warner Club News magazines I came into featuring rare photos and information about the Warner Bros. Cartoon Department. Here’s one more. The photo above comes from the February 1958 issue and it shows the Commercial and Industrial Film animation crew in conference – left to right: Chuck Jones, Leo Salkin, Lou Scheimer, Maurice Noble, Owen Crump (producer), Carol Chaka (secretary) and Richard Hobson (executive). Dave DePatie (not pictured, was a production coordinator and editor in this division at the time).
In 1956, Warner Bros. created the WBTV Commercial and Industrial Films Division which produced dozens of films – live action, animated and sometimes combining both. When animation was needed it was coordinated through the Cartoon Department, and utilized the skills of their veteran animators and directors. They created TV spots, many made exclusively for sponsors of Warner Bros, TV shows – for Eastman Kodak, Gillette, General Electric, Nabisco, Ford, Kelloggs, Crest, Camay, etc. Perhaps their biggest project was the Bell Systen Science series. My guess is that in the photo above was taken during the production of Gateways To the Mind (1958) which contained this scene below (which I found on You Tube, forgive the pitch to purchase the DVD, I’m not selling, but you can purchase it here):
A 1966 holiday interstitial that aired on CBS.
Directed and designed by R.O. Blechman.
Ed Smith Willis Pyle.
(Thanks, Richard O’Connor, for the correction)