Just a quick heads-up that I’ll be introducing a double feature Max Fleischer’s two great animated features, Gulliver’s Travels (1939) and Mr. Bug Goes To Town (1941) at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood, California on Friday September 25th. Both will be presented in 35mm, with uncut IB Technicolor prints projected on the large screen, just as they were meant to be seen. Mark your calendar now! More details about this event will be posted when we get closer to the actual date.
Sam Henderson has uploaded a rare, heavily illustrated article about UPA on his Magic Whistle blog. The article, by Catherine Sullivan, appeared in the November 1955 issue of American Artist. The text is rather slim, but the images are from a variety of UPA works including commercials and industrials, as well as theatricals like The Jaywalker (pictured above). Worth a look.
Not sure how long this has been online, but I just discovered a Daily Motion page which has several excerpts from the Renegade AnimationFunny Face pilot. We first reported on Renegade’s plans to revive the animated characters back in March 2008. For more info on the folks who control the property today, click here.
I love this record. And I couldn’t resist showing off the label (above).
Marquis Howell (of Hobo Jazz.com and bass player for Janet Klein and her Parlor Boys) handed me this record at the show last night. He found it in a thrift shop for a buck and gave it to me as a gift. Thanks, man! I’d heard the track before, but I don’t recall ever seeing the label for it.
You can listen to the classic Daffy Duck’s Rhapsody on You Tube — as well as it’s flip side, I’m Glad That I’m Bugs Bunny, both written by Warren Foster and Michael Maltese, with incredible vocals by Mel Blanc. For more information on vintage Looney Tunes recordings, visit Golden Age Cartoons. Click thumbnails below see larger images of the labels and record sleeve.
Today also marks the 64th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima, in which upwards of 100,000 Japanese people were killed instantly by an atom bomb dropped by the US military. In commemoration, here is Dan Blank‘s Shadowplay, a moving stop-motion film about the “permanent shadows imprinted on the city’s walls and streets by the intense flash, creating indelible images from the exact moment the bomb hit.” Made at NYU, it won a gold Student Emmy as well as a bronze Student Academy Award.
The Iron Giant was released ten years ago today–August 6, 1999. Wired magazine celebrates the occasion with a commentary by Scott Thill that contrasts Brad Bird’s thoughtful filmmaking to today’s “dumb” Hollywood efforts like Iron Man and Transformers:
Big guns and fiery explosions have been Hollywood’s status quo for a long time, with mindless violence selling tickets – and a warlike message, which The Iron Giant stands on its head. Hogarth dons the requisite helmet and BB gun after his future pal wrecks the nearby woods, and the boy even salutes himself in a mirror, armed in defense of America against the Sputnik-launching Russians, before galloping off to meet the “enemy.”
But after watching the Iron Giant (voiced by Vin Diesel) scream in pain while caught up in power lines, Hogarth’s compassion is activated as he realizes that his interstellar visitor can communicate. It is something Mansley could realize himself, if he wasn’t so busy pursuing his wargasm. Yet he does not, and that is Bird’s brain at work: Consumed by what philosopher Theodor Adorno once controversially called the “authoritarian personality,” Mansley is possessed by cynicism and a quest for power. He simply cannot conceive a world where robots fall from the sky to do anything other than annihilate America.
2009 appears to be the year of illustrated books by animation artists. It’s hard to keep track there are so many of them. Below are some of the latest offerings. None of the artists wrote these books, with the exception of Carter Goodrich, who illustrated his own story.
Victor Haboush passed away on May 24, 2009 at age 85. A first-generation American of Lebanese descent, he was born on April 16, 1924 and grew up in Indianapolis, Indiana.
At home with his family. Vic is third from the right.
During World War II, he took part in the D-Day landings at Normandy as a member of the Coast Guard, and later served in the Pacific theater. (His brother was mortally wounded at Leyte.) Following the War, he attended Art Center College of Design on the G.I. Bill where he studied extensively with Lorser Feitelson.
Figure drawing from art school.
On the recommendation of his Art Center classmate Eyvind Earle, he was hired at Disney in 1952 to help finish layout on Peter Pan. His first association with Disney came earlier, when he helped Earle draw this Golden Book adaptation of Peter Pan. He built up an impressive list of credits at the studio including assistant art direction on Melody and Toot Whistle Plunk and Boom, and layout on Lady and the Tramp, Sleeping Beauty and 101 Dalmatians.
(l. to r.) Victor Haboush, Tony Rizzo, Walt Peregoy and Tom Oreb at Disney in 1958
Vic was one of Tom Oreb’s closest colleagues during the 1950s and they worked together as a team, especially in Disney’s TV commercial unit. The characters in this Cheerios ad were styled by Oreb with background layout by Vic:
He described to me in 2000 his relationship with Oreb:
“Eyvind [Earle] and I were the two hot new guys, and we developed a lot of people not liking us. We’d work on the weekends, we’d throw storyboards up…a lot of the old guys just absolutely turned on us. It was really kind of brutal in a way. But guys like Tommy [Oreb], Ward Kimball, Bill Peet, Don DaGradi, they didn’t have that closed kind of thing. Tommy really married Eyvind and I. He became our friend. He looked after us. He talked us up. So the three of us became really good friends. We started hanging out together and all of that. Eyvind was kind of like Tom’s equal. They were both in the same age range. And I was the young kid. I was probably nine nor ten years younger than both of them. I just became Tom’s protege. I idolized him.”
Concept art by Haboush for an unproduced industrial film. Click for larger version.
When Oreb left Disney to work at John Sutherland Productions, Vic followed, and they worked together on films like Destination Earth and The Littlest Giant. They both soon returned to Disney to finish Sleeping Beauty, where Vic played a key role in designing the “Thorn Forest” sequence. In an interview, he spoke about his work on the sequence:
“I saw these awful drawings of the Thorn Forest, these big huge thorns, and it was a big mess. Basil Davidovich told me, ‘Vic, Woolie [Reitherman] doesn’t want anybody working on it anymore.’ But I went ahead anyways and spent the next three weeks working on this sequence. Everybody’s kind of laughing because they know that Woolie’s going to be pissed off when he sees that I’ve wasted all that time on it. The problem is that when you draw a vine, it gets smaller as it’s coming towards you, and that destroyed perspective. I worked it out where the vine overlapped itself so as it came towards you, it would be coming in front of itself and that created the depth. So I see Woolie one day and I say, ‘Woolie, I’ve solved the thorn forest,’ and he says surprised, ‘What! We should be finished with that.’ I take the work to show him in his office and he looked at them and pushed them aside. I thought ‘Oh no, here it comes,’ and he says, ‘Haboush, these are wonderful. From now on you’re the thorn forest guy.’ For the next three months, all I did was draw those stupid thorns. Bill Peet would come in and say, ‘Vic, nickel a thorn, charge a nickel a thorn, don’t ask for a raise, just get a nickel a thorn.’”
Concept art from Disney’s How to Have an Accident in the Home. Click for larger version.
Vic worked at numerous other animation studios besides Disney, including Quartet Films, early seasons of The Flintstones and The Jetsons at Hanna-Barbera, and The Incredible Mr. Limpet at Warner Bros. He was the art director of UPA’s second feature Gay Purr-ee as well as the Mr. Magoo and Dick Tracy TV series.
Concept art by Haboush from Gay Purr-ee. Click for larger version.
He told me that one of the most embarrassing moments in his career was during a short film screening at the Academy. UPA owner Henry Saperstein had submitted one of the Dick Tracy episodes for Oscar consideration, and when Vic’s name appeared onscreen as art director, he shrunk low into his seat. Working on the inferior UPA TV shows made him realize the direction the animation industry was headed and he resolved to set out on his own. In the early-1960s, he launched a studio, Spungbuggy Works, in partnership with animator Herb Stott and storyman/designer/all-around creative dynamo John Dunn. It was at this studio that he worked with Dunn to develop numerous feature and TV concepts, many of which would be later produced by Friz Freleng, who lured Dunn to his studio DePatie-Freleng.
In the mid-1960s, Vic left animation and shifted into live-action. He started his own studio, Victor Haboush & Associates, which later became The Haboush Company. Over the next thirty years, he directed and photographed over 1,500 commecials, winning numerous Cannes Gold and Silver Lions, Clios and IBAs. His campaigns included the Kibbles N’ Bits “The Hook” campaign, numerous commercials featuring Ronald McDonald for McDonald’s, the Taco Bell “Crashing Bell” series, the Hefty Bag series with Jonathan Winters, early Keebler Cookies spots, and the Schlitz Malt Liquor “Bull” campaign.
Vic on commercial sets
One of his former producers Paul Babb said, “Vic was one of the go-to guys in the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s for commercials…He was no businessman but he was an incredible artist–and not just as a director. Try putting a pencil or a paintbrush in his hand, sit back and wait for something remarkable.” Vic might have agreed with the sentiment that he wasn’t an expert businessman. He knew how to sell an idea and he knew how to execute, but he was more interested in achieving a quality result than heeding the bottom line. He often told me that his studio wouldn’t have lasted had it not been for his brother, who served as his producer for many years. Jon Derovan, who was Vic’s producer during the final decade of his career, told Shoot magazine, “Victor allowed me to be a creative producer. He brought me into the creative process beyond the nuts and bolts of the business….He was generous. He was open to good ideas no matter where they came from–and he was quick to credit the person who came up with the idea. He would never take credit for an idea that wasn’t his.”
Even while he ran the studio, he remained connected to animation and art. He employed many animators over the years including John Kimball, Robert Swarthe, Dale Case, and the unheralded Robert Mitchell. Through his company, Vic produced three shorts directed by Mitchell–K-9000: A Space Oddity (1968), the Oscar-nominated The Further Adventures of Uncle Sam (1970), and Free (1972). His company also produced another art film, Paint (1968) directed by Norm Gollin and starring LA airbrush pioneer Charlie White:
I first met Vic around the year 2000 while I was researching the life of Tom Oreb. By this time, Vic had retired from filmmaking and was painting full-time. We hit it off and formed a friendship that endured until his death.
Vic’s attitude towards life was different from the majority of older people I’ve encountered. He was young at heart, with an insatiable curiosity about the world around him and a flexible thought process. His opinions about different artists evolved over time, much like his distinctive painting process, which often involved reworking an image dozens of times until he was satisfied. He refused to live in the past. Whenever we would get together, he couldn’t wait to discuss people he’d recently met, a new place he had visited, or a new book he’d read. He was as enthusiastic about younger artists as he was appreciative of veteran artistic colleagues. When he returned to animation one final time as a development artist on The Iron Giant, he became enamored with artists like Mark Whiting and Teddy Newton, the latter whose work he felt was some of the freshest he’d seen in a long time.
Vic drawn by Teddy Newton
To fully appreciate Vic, you had to know him in person. Charismatic and energetic even in later years, his social skills were second to none. Not only could he strike up a conversation with a random stranger, but he could also get their contact info and perhaps form a long-term friendship–and remarkably, he could do all of this inbetween sips of his morning coffee. He was Malcolm Gladwell’s concept of the “connector” personified.
Iron Giant development art by Vic Haboush
I always considered him more of a pal than a teacher, but looking back on the time we spent together, he was one of the most influential mentors I ever had. His enthusiasm for art was contagious and instilled in me an appreciation for the same, from Lundeberg to Diebenkorn to Vlaminck to Pascin. Vic didn’t always have the easiest time imparting his wisdom. He once spent an entire morning trying to explain to me why Cézanne’s work was such a remarkable accomplishment. I was too dense at the time to grasp what he was saying, but it eventually sunk in.
He was one of the earliest supporters of my writing, and we spent months developing a story book together, which gave me the opportunity to see how skilled he was handling story and character. He prodded me for years to pursue writing seriously, and that too eventually sunk in. I remember during one visit I had brought my camera along and he asked me to take a photograph of him. The results were less than spectacular. The director in him emerged, and I received a firsthand taste of what he must have been like to work with on a live-action set. With the assured confidence of a master cinematographer, he directed me where to stand and where to point the camera, and he set himself up properly in the natural light. Within seconds, we had a fine portrait.
Thank you, Vic. For being a mentor, an inspiration, and a friend. It was an honor knowing you.
He is survived by his wife Monica, three children–Auguste, Cedric and Laila–and six grandchildren.
Not animation, but an incredible exhibition of artistic talent from a broadcast of Ukraine’s Got Talent. It’s a stunning and touching artwork/performance about WWII from the Ukrainian point of view, eliciting not only applause but tears from the audience. It’s refreshing to watch an artist draw and perform — and win — instead of the many average singing acts. And it’s also captivating to watch the story develop as each scene is swept away to create a new one:
A music video for the track “Throw Me to the Rats” by the Tom Fun Orchestra. It’s directed by Alasdair Brotherston and designed by Jock Mooney, out of the UK’s Trunk Animation. I dig the quirky, humorous illustrations and choppy movement. Digital puppetry via AfterEffects and Flash is dime-a-dozen, but there’s a real energy and spontaneity when it’s created in the real world like this video. Brotherston explained in an interview:
“I had a good idea that I wanted to make a puppet theatre and film the action live in an effort to break from the perfectionism of digital animation that I was beginning to find a bit prescriptive and unspontaneous. I then decided to recruit an artist I knew from my time at Edinburgh College of Art called Jock Mooney as I knew that his illustration would be perfect for this job. He also brought some great ideas and a slightly perverted sense of humour as well as a spare room in which to do the shoot.
“The shoot itself turned out to be a bit of a nightmare and what had planned to be a fairly straightforward operation with most of the action caught in camera on set ended with myself and Jock setting up a green screen in his room and working puppets that were being held in place by jacket potatoes. Although it seems funny now, I distinctly remember being not that pleased at being holed up in a small room with blacked out windows, surrounded by several halogen lights on the hottest week of the year.”
Art Director: Jock Mooney
Producer: Shot On Site Media
Compositer: Dylan White
Puppeteers: Jenni Nylander, Natalie Ryde