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.
“I Say Fever” is a video for Ramona Falls directed by Stefan Nadelman (of Food Fight fame). Nadelman uses a photo collage puppeted-animation technique that transforms ordinary antique engravings into a darkly macabre vision that fits the music perfectly.
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.
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
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)!
Cartoonist Bill Mudron whipped up this piece of artwork to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the series premiere of The Simpsons, which debuted December 17, 1989. The piece, “Creation of Homer,” lovingly renders key writers, directors and producers from the early years of the show. Bill’s Flickr page, linked above, has the entire image along with identifications.
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 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.
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.
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.
For a limited time during the holidays, Rodrigo Blaas has made his spooky CG short Alma available for viewing online. Blaas is an animator at Pixar who took time off from the studio and returned to his native Spain to make this independent film. His brother, Alfonso Blaas, served as the film’s art director. The film’s official website is AlmaShortFilm.com.
According to this BBC report, Fede Alvarez uploaded his short film Ataque de Panico! (Panic Attack!) to YouTube last month, on November 3rd, and now has a $30 million dollar contract to make a feature length Hollywood film — to be produced by Sam Raimi!
Alverez’s four and a half minute film (embed below) was made for $300.
Lit mag Electric Literature has been commissioning indie animators to create short animated pieces based on single sentences from short stories published in their magazine. The pieces, like the one below created by Jonathan Ashley, can be seen on the Electric Literature website.