Christmas Cards by Disney Artists ca. 1940

Bill Hurtz card
Christmas Card by Bill Hurtz

Here’s a collage of holiday cards by Disney artists that I guarantee you haven’t seen before. They are either from 1939 or 1940. Click on the image below for the full-sized version. The artists are, clockwise from upper left, Berk Anthony, Bill Hurtz, Walt Kelly, Marc Davis, Zach Schwartz (I think), Marc Davis again, Ernie Nordli, Ted Sears, and Frank Thomas.

Disney cards

Ghibli Museum goes Fleischer

I don’t read Japanese, but apparently the Ghibli Museum Library is hosting a tribute screening and exhibit celebrating Max and Dave Fleischer’s Mr. Bug Goes To Town (1941). Check out the website and blog with pictures and clips. There’s even a new one-sheet poster.

Is this a one-time screening or a re-release? Can anyone translate the site to tell us what’s going on?

(Thanks, Iain Robbins)

Sita Sings the Blues: One-Week NY Theatrical Run

Sita Sings the Blues

Nina Paley’s animation masterpiece (and I don’t use that term loosely) is having a full one-week theatrical run in New York City from December 25-31. There are multiple screenings a day at the IFC Film Center (323 Sixth Avenue) and Paley writes on her blog that she’ll be doing Q&As at the 8:25 pm shows “most (possibly all) nights.” Showtimes and tickets are available at the IFC website.

Arnold Stang 1918-2009

One of my favorite actors and character animation voices, Arnold Stang, has passed away at age 91. In animation, Stang will live forever as the voice of Hanna-Barbera’s Top Cat (1961). Stang was also unforgettable as wise-guy Herman Mouse (aka “Uncle Hoiman”) in the Paramount (Harvey) Herman and Katnip cartoons — and Blackie Sheep in the early Noveltoons. He also voiced Snurtle the Turtle in Pinocchio In the Outer Space (1965), Churchy LeFemme in I Go Pogo (1980), Quesy the Parrot in Richard Williams’ Raggedy Ann and Andy (1977) and voiced characters on Garfield, Courage the Cowardly Dog, among others.

In live action, he appeared in so many of my favorite movies (such as It’s A Mad Mad Mad Mad World) and guilty pleasures (Skidoo, Hercules in New York). His sequence with Jonathan Winters in Mad Mad World is one of the funniest and most memorable bits in that film. The publicity photo above promotes the American-International dub of Alakazam The Great (1961), in which Stang (center) participated with Winters (left) (and I think that’s Jackie Joseph at right) on the English track.

Rest in Peace, Mr. Stang. Here’s the NY Times obit.

Last Minute Stocking Stuffers

Here are three books I want to bring to your attention – but note: These are strictly for the rabid toon-aholic on your holiday list.

Publisher Doug Ranney and author Rick Goldschmidt have decided to reprint their invaluable out-of-print book, The Enchanted World of Rankin/Bass. It has a new cover (see Pic above left, click to enlarge) and they’ve updated a few pages with some photos of the recently restored Santa & Rudolph puppets. It’s a limited edition hardcover and sells for $55 on Rick’s blog. Highly recommended if Rudolph, Frosty or Mad Monster Party rock your world!

BearManor Media has made their mark in the publishing world by printing books on obscure character actors, esoteric films and television shows and perhaps the strangest books on animation I’ve ever read. Case in point: Stronger Than Spinach: The Secret Appeal of The Famous Studios Popeye Cartoons by Steve R. Bierly (aka Pastor Steve). In case you haven’t seen Bierly’s websites devoted to 1940s and 50s Popeye cartoons and his personal obsession with Olive Oyl, today’s your lucky day: Click here. Now Pastor Steve has summed up his thoughts and feelings in this 325 page paperback. Recommended only for the Popeye fanatic who has everything!

Finally, BearManor Media has also published the autobiography – That’s Still Not All Folks! – of master impressionist and current voice of Daffy Duck, Sylvester and many other Warner Bros. cartoon characters, Joe Alaskey. It’s a delightful read… but Joe, with all the great artists you’ve worked with, did you really have to draw the cover yourself? Recommended for those who want to break into voice over acting, and those who want some behind-the-scenes dirt on the Warner Bros. cartoons since Mel Blanc’s passing.

Roy E. Disney, Lyricist

Following his passing, I’m learning new things about Roy E. Disney. For example, musician Alexander Rannie pointed out to me that Disney wrote lyrics for the song “Sometimes” in his sailing documentary Pacific High (1979). It was set to music by Robert F. Brunner and sung by Christalee McPherson. You can listen to the song here. These are Roy’s lyrics:

Sometimes, there’s a moment
Sometimes, you’ll never know
Sometimes, it just happens and flows

Sometimes, there’s a moment
Fleeting – too soon gone
A moment overwhelms you like dawn

Once in a million times
Watching the thistles blow
You seek perfection there
Somehow the pieces fit

You’re just a thistle, too
Blown on a vagrant wind
But when it comes you’ll know
The moment’s there for you

Sometimes, there’s a moment
When it happens, you will know
Heaven in that moment
And heaven will touch you

So take it, just take it
Until it can touch you again

Christmas Cartoon Chaos!

Just a reminder, I’m hosting two (count ‘em 2) Christmas Cartoon Parties this week:

1. CARTOON DUMP – our annual Christmas special is tonight, December 21st, at 8pm. Our special guest comedian will be Billy the Mime. Join Frank Conniff and me for an evening of Holiday themed cartoons, music and skits at the Steve Allen Theatre in Hollywood.

2. CHRISTMAS CARTOON CHAOS! – On Tuesday night, I’m running a full set of 35mm and 16mm Christmas cartoons – good ones – at the Cinefamily/Silent Movie Theater. Rare film prints will be screened during this show on December 22nd at 8pm. It’s the biggest Christmas film party of the year… or at least, of the week! B.Y.O.E.N. (Bring Your Own Egg Nog)!

2009 Brew Holiday Gift Guide: ASIFA-East 2010 Calendar


ASIFA-East is raising funds this holiday season by offering (to U.S. customers only) a limited edition 2010 calendar illustrated by some of New York’s finest (not the cops, the animators!). Bill Plympton, Emily Hubley, John Dilworth, Mo Willems, Michael Sporn, George Griffin, Xeth Feinberg, Candy Kugel, Debra J. Solomon, Signe Baumane, Christy Karacas and Jennifer Oxley deck your hall each month (click thumbnails above to see a few samples). For more information on how to order, Click here!

Electropolis

Electropolis is “the product of roughly 7 months of work from 13 students in the 3rd year of the BAA Animation program at Sheridan College.” It’s interesting to note the rise of student films made in groups at North American animation schools. No doubt the success of group student films from French animation schools like Gobelins and Supinfocom have played a role in encouraging this trend.

Mighty Mouse dvd update

I just got an advance copy of the Ralph Bakshi Mighty Mouse The New Adventures complete series DVD — and it turned out a lot better than I could have hoped. Most of us have been clinging to bootleg videos or our own deteriorating taped-off-the-air VHS copies for 20 years; now we have gorgeous restorations to enjoy for all time. Rewatching these has been an incredible pleasure; they hold up quite well. Sure, the animation is a little funky compared the shows that have come after, but this series has earned its place as an “industry game-changer”.

I was proud to act as a consultant on this DVD project from its inception. The only credit I receive here is as “Animation Consultant” in tiny letters in the credit roll on the bonus documentary (which is better than my non-credit on the two Woody Woodpecker DVD volumes from Universal). I might as well point out a 21 year old in-joke – note the headline on the newspaper (above left – click thumbnails above to enlarge) from the second season cartoon, Still Oily After All These Years: “Beck-Bakshi Detente!”.

Below are a few menus and the back cover. The DVD goes on sale January 5th, 2010. Good sales could lead to the restoration and release of more classic cartoons from the Viacom vaults (the vintage Terrytoons of Mighty Mouse, Heckle and Jeckle, the Fleischer Betty Boops, Famous Little Lulu’s and George Pal Puppetoons). I can’t promise anything, but every purchase helps the cause. I’d appreciate it if you’d spread the word.

Avatar talkback

I saw James Cameron’s Avatar last night and I feel a talkback post here would be appropriate.

Did I like the film? Yes, very much so. Eye candy galore! We’ve seen this movie before, but never like this. The film is an awesome, epic spectacle – a classic “western” told through a pulp sci-fi prism.

The film also changed my mind about motion-capture. It turns out I don’t hate mo-cap after all… I just hate the mo-cap films of Robert Zemeckis.

The Expanding Use of Animation in Architecture

Architecture Animation

Nate Berg writes in The Architect’s Newspaper about the expanding use of animation in architectural practice, both in presentations for proposed projects and for marketing completed buildings. Whereas in the past, architectural animation consisted of literal “flythroughs,” architects are increasingly taking a more cinematic and impressionistic approach to illustrate ideas. For example:

Some architects are actually using animation as part of their design methods. “It becomes part of the creative thought process,” said Kulapat Yantrasast, a principal at wHY Architecture in Culver City. “By doing the video, you learn how to communicate the idea more clearly, which sometimes refines the idea itself.” For one residential project in the Hollywood Hills, wHY took inspiration from the neighborhood’s history in the film industry to create a sort of film-noir animation of the house’s design. Taking cues from Alfred Hitchcock and the early days of mystery movies, wHY’s film shows the house from the perspective of a private detective investigating a crime. The “investigation” takes the detective and the viewer up the drive to the home and through each of its rooms. The crime isn’t exactly solved, but the narrative style turns what could have been a drab flythrough into an engaging exploration.

(Disclosure: Nate interviewed me for the piece.)

Ghibli’s next film: The Borrowers

Hayao Miyazaki’s Studio Ghibli has announced its next animated film, an adaptation of Mary Norton’s 1952 classic kid’s book, The Borrowers. Miyazaki-san will produce, but the actual direction will fall to one of his key animators Hiromasa Yonebayashi. The movie will be titled Karigurashi no Arrietty (aka Arrietty Borrows Everything). Toho will release the film summer 2010 in Japan, with a US release (home video?) via Disney to follow. For more information, check out the mini interview with studio head Toshio Suzuki at the Ghibli World blog.

(Thanks, Andrew Osmond and Liam)

Roy E. Disney R.I.P.

The Walt Disney Company announced today that Roy Disney has passed away. Click here for LA Times obit. Roy did his father and uncle proud. He was a true champion for the legacy of Disney animation — and he will be sorely missed.

UPDATE: The Academy of Television Arts and Sciences recorded this extensive (six part) interview with Roy for their Archive of American Television in 2007. Worth watching today.

Your comments are welcome below.