Don Bluth and Ralph Bakshi discuss animation (1982)

Here’s a rare treat. Ralph Bakshi and Don Bluth discuss the future of animation on Nightcap, a literary roundtable hosted by journalists Studs Terkel and Calvin Trillin.

Here Bakshi and Bluth are joined by Larry Elin, who represents computer animation. All have great things to say, much of it still relevant — except for Elin, who essentially claims that computer animation will never create real characters. It’s a great peek into the animation mindset of 1982. What a blast to see Bakshi and Bluth on the same set, grilled by two of America’s most noted writers, talking about, among other things, Saturday morning cartoons. It’s also a reminder of how intelligent talk shows used to be — and perhaps, could be again.

Nightcap aired weekly on the forerunner of A&E, ARTS – when the channel aired as the nighttime programming block of Nickelodeon (pre-Nick-at-Nite)! The whole show is about 26 minutes. I split the episode into three parts for YouTube, but for your viewing pleasure, I’ve compiled them into a playlist below:

(Thanks, Mark Kausler)

The Golden Age Show

Once again, Chogrin and his art group, The Autumn Society are holding a gallery show (their fourth) at Brave New Worlds Comics in Philadelphia. The theme this time is golden age of comics and animation. They’ve got many guest artists from the animation industry like Bob MckNight, Oscar Grillo, Brianne Drouhard, Mike Collins, and Tara Billinger. That’s artist Matt Cavanaugh’s contribution above.

And for those who cannot make it to Philly, here is a gallery of pics taken at the opening last Friday, and here are several of my favorite pieces in the show (click thumbnails below to enlarge): Bob McKnight doing the Fox and Crow, Hammerson interprets the Fleischer Universe, Chogrin presents Popeye vs. Superman, Tara Billinger does Oswald, Mike Collins imagines Captain Felix, and Guayapizco gives us his version of Popeye. There are many many more great pieces on display there all month.

Cartoon Network FAIL

Cartoon Network Fail

How imbecilic is Cartoon Network’s new push towards live-action? Even the people who worked on this Andrew W.K. video promo think it’s stupid. Somebody who worked on it surreptitiously inserted the word “FAIL” into the piece at the 1:11 mark. It’s only there for a few frames, but the message comes through loud and clear.

(Thanks to YouTube user ColorTheBlue for pointing this out)

Scott Bradley at Walter Lantz

Yesterday Michael Sporn posted a commentary about how the musical composers at animation studios of the past served as a trademark for a particular studio. Each had a unique style and sound which immediately identify the cartoon to its makers.

Scott Bradley, who composed the music for MGM cartoons from 1934 through 1957, was one of the best. His delightful scores are upbeat and lush sounding, and perfectly capture the right feel of the upscale MGM animation. But what if Bradley had composed a score for a B-Studio like Universal? Well it just so happens that Bradley did take on such a freelance assignment in 1938 just prior to joining MGM full time, where he’d be under contract for the rest of his career. (He had previously been a composer at large, creating music for Ub Iwerks and Harman-Ising cartoons.)

Baby Kittens (1938) is an unremarkable, run-of-the-mill Universal short, directed by Alex Lovy for Walter Lantz Productions. It’s made even more unbearable by the voice-over “thoughts” of the dog character. Print uploaded (embedded below) has time code obscuring part of the picture, but we present it here for its soundtrack not the animation or story. Bradley’s trademark themes and music cues are all there, and are much more sophistcated than what Lantz house composer Frank Marsales was doing at the time. If you close your eyes and just listen to the track (and try to ignore the dog), you might think you are listening to a 40s MGM cartoon – proving Michael Sporn’s point entirely.

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TONIGHT IN LA: “Seductive Espionage: The World of Yuki 7″

Seductive Espionage

Gallery Nucleus in Alhambra is quickly becoming the the hub in LA for awesome animation and illustration-related art shows and programs. If you haven’t already noticed their ad on the right side of the Brew for tonight’s show, take note. From 7-11pm tonight, they’re hosting the opening for Kevin Dart‘s art book project “Seductive Espionage: The World of Yuki 7,” in which Dart concocted an imaginary Sixties female super-spy and developed an entire history around her film career. In addition to Dart’s artwork, the book project includes contributions from other artists, many of whom work in animation: Bill Presing, Bob Logan, Bobby Pontillas, Brigette Barrager, Brittany Lee, Chris Turnham, Clio Chiang, Daniel Arriaga, Don Shank, Elizabeth Ito, Horia Dociu, Joey Chou, Jon Klassen, Josh Parpan, Justin Parpan, Megan Brain, Scott Morse, Sean Szeles, Stephane Coedel, Ted Mathot, and Victoria Ying. Full details about tonight’s event on the Gallery Nucleus website. If you can’t pick up the book at Gallery Nucleus tonight, it can also be ordered from the Fleet Street Scandal website.

Here is a trailer for the project, directed by Stephane Coedel and Kevin Dart:

The Slow Death of Cartoon Network

Guess who else doesn’t like the new CN? The people who used to make cartoons at the network, like Chowder creator C.H. Greenblatt. He posted the following comment on his blog a couple days ago: “As I sit here on an empty floor of an empty building looking at all the empty animation offices, I can at least put this on endless loop for some comfort.” The endless loop refers to this ignominious piece of video.

Meanwhile, at Cartoon Network’s executive offices, where the blind continue to lead the blind into irrelevance, they’re convinced that they’ve discovered what kids really want to watch on TV nowadays: golf. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has the farcical details about one of the network’s new programming initiatives, which involves teaming up with the PGA of America to offer live-action golf shows for kids. “We have to work hard to ensure that we continue reaching families and young people for golf to be relevant in the future,” said Joe Steranka, chief executive officer of the PGA of America. “The Cartoon Network complements the PGA of America’s leadership in junior golf.”

If you wish, there’s a Boycott CN Real group on Facebook. Frankly, I’m just about ready to label it a lost cause and move on.

Rare Tom and Jerry comic strips

Ger Apeldoorn has posted a selection of rarely seen Tom & Jerry newspaper comics strips from 1950. Though credited to “Fred Quimby”, they were most likely drawn by Gene Hazelton. The strips looks great but, unlike the screen cartoons, T&J do a lot of talking. The strip, which ran between 1950 and 1952, occasionally features cameos by other MGM cartoon stars like Barney Bear and Droopy.

Fallen Princesses

No, it’s not a scene from Cartoon Network Real (though I wish it were), it’s from a wonderful series of photographs posted on the JPG Magazine blog by Dina Goldstein featuring traditional Disney princess figures (and Red Riding Hood) in realistic or socially problematic scenarios. Snow White and Belle are my favorites. And while Rapunzel is incredibly somber and reflective, Jasmine is just laugh-out-loud absurdity come to life.

(Thanks, Jesse)