New Yorkers, here’s a heads-up on a free program this week at The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center. Forever Young: Dance Stars of American Animation will be discussed this Thursday night, March 19, at 6 p.m. at the Bruno Walter Auditorium, 111 Amsterdam Avenue (south of 65th Street).
Mindy Aloff, author of Hippo in a Tutu: Dancing in Disney Animation, will discuss the subject of dancing in historic American animation with dance legend Marge Champion and animation historian (and Oscar-winning director-animator) John Canemaker. Among their topics will be Ms. Champion’s early work as a live-action reference dancer and choreographer for Walt Disney’s animated features Snow White and Fantasia, Gene Kelly and Jerry Mouse’s duet in Anchors Aweigh, and Betty Boop’s Poor Cinderella for Max Fleischer. Film excerpts will be shown. Admission is free and on a first come, first served basis. For additional information and program updates, telephone 212.642.0142 or visit the New York Public Library website.
Post Script: I’ve neglected to mention Aloff’s book, Hippo in a Tutu, before now – and that’s been my mistake. It’s an entertaining, excellent read and I recommend it highly. Lavishly illustrated and well-researched, Aloff focuses in on an important, but critically neglected, part of the classic Disney features and shorts. Deserves a prime spot on your bookshelf.
Toronto live-action screenwriter Denis McGrath imagines what kind of notes today’s industry executives might give to Chuck Jones’ classic Warner Bros. cartoon One Froggy Evening. They are all too real. Samples from his blog:
re: the frog. Have you done research on Frog’s lifespans? Does it track that this frog could survive from 1892 to 2056? Is his long lifespan tied into his ability to sing?
Do they allow mental patients to keep pet frogs? Is it a companion animal thing? Will have to explain this, I think. The audience will want to know.
It’s exciting when you’re introduced to the work of a filmmaker that you’ve never heard about, such as last weekend when I stumbled upon Millie Goldsholl’s powerful and beautiful 1969 short Up is Down. Now the question I find myself asking is why hadn’t I heard of her before.
She wrote, designed and directed the film by herself. Millie, with her husband Morton, ran Goldsholl Associates, a commercial/graphic design and animation studio in Chicago. Her husband’s name is actually quite familiar to me as he was a well-known mid-century graphic designer, but I had no idea that both he and his wife were also filmmakers.
The only information I could dig up online about their animation practice was in a couple of blog posts that Michael Sporn had on his blog recently–a 1975 article from Millimeter Magazine and a few more details from a 1976 article from the same magazine.
Morton and Millie made numerous short films during the Sixties. One of Mort’s live-action efforts, about the history of paper, is also available for viewing online. From the info on this website, we can deduce that Morton and Millie most likely attended the School of Design in Chicago, which was run by Hungarian-born Bauhaus instructor LászlÃ³ Moholy-Nagy. Together, the Goldsholls were making film experiments as early as 1942. They appear to have been a fascinating couple and I hope to learn more about them in the future.
A rare treat is now online: Bob Godfrey’s epic animated short Great. This irreverent musical about 19th century British engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel was the first British animated short to win an Oscar. It also won the BAFTA in 1975. Godfrey’s films usually don’t last long on YouTube so take a gander before it’s gone:
Millard Kaufman, the Hollywood screenwriter who was instrumental in the creation of Mister Magoo, passed away last Saturday at age 92. The LA Times provides an informative obituary. He received a story credit on the first Magoo short Ragtime Bear in 1949, and along with John Hubley, is considered to be one of the primary architects of the character. In addition to the Magoo short, he co-wrote the UPA Fox and Crow short Punchy de Leon with Phil Eastman, and if I’m not mistaken, he also wrote a number of military training films (uncredited) for UPA during the 1940s.
The Pixar “Art of” books are always a treat, and next to that the Little Golden Books and various tie-in publications always feature incredible art, frequently by Pixar artists and designers themselves.
Pixar’s Ronnie Del Carmen discusses and previews his UP book, My Name Is Dug on his blog. It looks gorgeous – and has me doubly excited about the feature film that inspired it. The book comes out on April 14th.
Last weekend marked the 5th anniversary of the Cartoon Brew blog. I thought it might be fun to celebrate by looking at who’s reading the blog nowadays, especially since we’ve been experiencing record-breaking site traffic since the beginning of the year. After examining the reports on Google Analytics (something which I’d never bothered to do in-depth before), I learned that the majority of visits to Cartoon Brew come through Internet service providers, which means that we have no idea of the company or educational affiliations of those readers. However, a not-insignificant percentage of readers visit from their jobs or schools and this is the data we’ll be looking at today.
In the period between January 1st and March 15, the top private corporate network that we received visitors from was Pixar, followed closely by DreamWorks, Disney, Viacom (Nickelodeon), Blue Sky, Turner (Cartoon Network), Laika and Electronic Arts. As far as schools go, the biggest traffic came from CalArts folllowed by Savannah College of Art and Design, School of Visual Arts, Ringling and Sheridan. In this two-and-a-half month period, Pixar employees snagged the top spot by logging over 3,700 visits. Averaged out to a daily figure, it amounts to quite a few readers emanating from just one company.
Some other surprises: There are a lot more readers at videogame companies than I knew we had. There are also lots of colleges and universities on the list that don’t have well-known animation programs, but apparently have significant numbers of students who are interested in animation. The amount of traffic we receive from people working at the cable channel Starz Encore is also perplexing. I have no idea why we’re so popular over there.
The list of the top 86 private networks driving traffic to the Brew can be seen after the jump. To keep it manageable, I’ve limited the survey to only companies/schools that have logged 100 or more visits between January and March. (Note: I took the info straight from an Analytics report so I apologize that the network names are uncapitalized.)
A lot of young artists apply to CalArts and get rejected. But what happens if you’re accepted into the prestigious program and can’t afford to attend? That’s the situation that 25-year-old Canadian artist Dan Caylor finds himself in after receiving a letter of acceptance last week.
Dan writes on his website, “Unfortunately, my family isn’t rich, and being from Canada, I’m not eligible for any government loans or funding. With a price tag of $200,000, I’ll need all the help I can get. I’m doing everything I can to make my dream a reality, including asking everyone for anything they can spare. Desperate times call for desperate measures. If enough people can help me, I can turn my bittersweet acceptance letter into the beginning of a dream come true. Every penny counts.”
After looking at his blog, it’s obvious that Dan is not only a talented artist, but that he’s also a passionate student of animation, its history, and understanding the individual elements that comprise successful filmmaking (storytelling, shot selection, staging, movement, design, etc.). His blog is also a nice resource for other artists offering excerpts from Don Graham’s classic book Composing Pictures and high-quality video of Michael Caine discussing his acting techniques.
This is the first time I’ve ever seen a student post a public appeal for funds to attend CalArts. And it would be a shame if he couldn’t attend, especially after reading about all the effort that Dan made to get accepted into the program. So Cartoon Brew is not only going to encourage donations, but on behalf of Jerry and myself, we’re throwing $40 into the pot to get Dan started on the road to Valencia. Find out how to give a few bucks to the cause at OnAnimation.com.
When Shamus Culhane took over the creative controls of the Paramount Animation Studio in 1966, he clearly understood the opportunity he had in front of him. As head of a small animation studio, he was charged with producing a slate of cartoons for the dying theatrical shorts market. But unlike Warner Bros. who had The Road Runner and Daffy Duck, or Universal with Woody Woodpecker and DePatie Freleng’s Pink Panther, Culhane’s studio had no established characters. This handicap gave him the chance to try some original ideas, and he knew it.
Possibly the best of the shorts he produced there was My Daddy The Astronaut (1966), but the idea of a kid narrating a cartoon drawn in a child’s scrawl wasn’t new. UPA had done it (The Family Circus, Baby Boogie), Porky Pig (Porky’s Preview) and Popeye (Cartoons Ain’t Human) tried it, even Paramount under the previous creative director Howard Post did it – adapting Jack Mendelsohn’s comic strip Jacky’s Diary in several shorts.
My Daddy The Astronaut, according to Culhane’s autobiography (Talking Animals and Other People), was a success with audiences and was supposedly booked with first run engagements of 2001: a Space Odyssey. Culhane decided to do a series of cartoons based on the same kid drawn concept. In his book he says they were all popular, but in my opinion the two sequels, The Stuck-Up Wolf and The Stubborn Cowboy are not as clever as the original.
As far as I know The Stubborn Cowboy never played on TV. Nickelodeon didn’t run it due to the use of now-considered-negative stereotypes of native Americans (aka Indians), references to drinking, gun violence and a parody of a cigarette commercial. Culhane wrote it and Chuck Harriton directed it. Al Eugster animated the whole film from Gil Miret designs. Listen for a gag-reference to veteran Paramount animator William Pattingill. It’s cute and rare – and worth a look:
Meanwhile, Brew reader Tammy Tatro sent us this link to these photos of an obscure piece of vintage Oswald merchandise.
“My Dad brought over a box of my late Grandfathers old belongings and when my Mom was going through it she pulled out “a rabbit that looks like Mickey” to show my niece. Upon hearing that I looked over and grabbed it out of her hand and sure enough it seems to be a vintage Oswald The Lucky Rabbit Christmas Ornament. I have looked and looked on-line but have not seen anything like it but I think it dates circa 1929-early 1930′s. I also have no idea how much it is worth or when or where it was originally purchased.”
It’s a new one on me. Perhaps our readers can tell us more about this item.
I’m pleased to report that Darrell Van Citters’s book on the making of Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol has now gone to press. If all goes well, advance copies will be available at the 2009 San Diego Comic Con, July 23-26 with a wide release in the fall. Darrell has been at work on this labor of love for several years and when he couldn’t secure a satisfactory publisher, he decided to go the self-publishing route. Events to support the book launch are in the works on both coasts with the intent to reach as wide an audience as possible. I will certainly keep you posted about it on Cartoon Brew — I can’t wait to get this!
Continuing our ongoing monitoring of classic cartoon characters on modern food products, animator Alex Kirwan sent in this image of the new Donald Duck Orange Juice carton. Says Kirwan, “They seem to be using the style-guide of a much earlier, circa 40′s Donald, complete with pie-cut eyes, white hat, and black tie. Perhaps they are conciously following the recent trend, lead by Warner Bros. and Popeye, using earlier versions of their characters on their consumer products.”
Since Cartoon Modern was published a few years ago, the most frequently asked question I’ve received about the book is, “Where’s the DVD?” While I was working on Cartoon Modern, we considered including a DVD that showed the animated pieces discussed in the book, but practical issues of time and money prevented it from happening. Since then, I’ve spoken to a few people about producing a DVD and while nothing has come of those discussions, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that someday I’ll put together a curated collection of commericals, shorts and industrial films related to that period.
Until that happens, let me point out the next best thing: a “Cartoon Modern” playlist on YouTube created by an awesome user who goes by the name of criticalmetrics1. I have no idea who this person is, but I want to thank them for putting so much effort into creating this playlist. They’ve even gone so far as to organize the films by the contents of my book. There are a hundred items on the list but because of copyright takedowns, only ninety-three are currently available for viewing. Still, that’s enough stylized cartoon animation to keep anybody busy for a while. If you know of other Cartoon Modern-related YouTube links, feel free to add them to the comments below.
Now that Michael Eisner has purchased the ailing Topps baseball card company, he’s finally in charge of a company that has to use all of his ill-conceived ideas. According to the NY Times, his latest stroke of genius is to combine motion capture and 3D technology with baseball cards. The article gives plenty of details about what Eisner is doing with Topps, a company that he views “as a cultural, iconic institution not that different from Disney; it conjures up an emotional response that has a feel good, Proustian kind of uplift.” Eisner is also developing a movie based on the company’s Bazooka Joe bubble gum and has created a seventeen-episode online comedy series Back on Topps that “spoofs his acquisition of the company.”