The Fabulous Firework Family (1959)

Over at Bob Shea and Lane Smith’s wonderful Curious Pages blog, they’ve posted the classic Jim Flora children’s book, The Fabulous Firework Family (1955). Flora is best known for his distinctive designs for RCA and Columbia Record jackets, magazines and various commercial art projects of the 40s and 50s. The Fabulous Firework Family launched Flora’s second career as a children’s book author and illustrator.

The book was acquired by Terrytoons during the Gene Deitch era (1956-1958) and the resulting film turned out to be the last cartoon Deitch personally produced at the studio. Al Kouzel directed and, though Flora was involved with adapting the story to the screen, the final result wasn’t entirely successful in translating the charm of the original book.

It’s illuminating to compare the book to the cartoon. Below is a pan-and-scan TV version of the Terrytoon, sans credits. (The original CinemaScope version of the film, with full credits, will be screened March 2nd at my Wide Screen Cartoons program at the CineFamily/Silent Movie Theatre).

Looney Tunes Censored 11 to screen in Hollywood

Warner Bros. and TCM are running a Classic Film Festival in Hollywood on April 22nd-25th, showcasing restored prints of more than a dozen classic movies on the big screens of the historic Chinese and Egyptian Theatres. Robert Osborn will be hosting in person, Jerry Lewis will introduce The King Of Comedy, Tony Curtis will present Some Like it Hot and Leonard Maltin will introduce a program of classic MGM and Warner bros. live action shorts.

However, for cartoon buffs, here’s a big screen program we’ve been waiting decades to see publicily:

Removed from Circulation: A Cartoon Collection — Presented by author Donald Bogle

Donald Bogle, author of Bright Boulevards, Bold Dreams: A History of Black Hollywood, will present cartoons that have been kept from the public eye because of negative racial or cultural stereotypes. The collection includes several classic Warner Bros. cartoons. Bogle will provide insight into the racial attitudes of the times in which the cartoons were created. Titles include Clean Pastures (1937), Coal Black and De Sebben Dwarves (1943), Goldilocks and the Jivin’ Bears (1944), Hittin’ the Trail for Hallelujah Land (1931), The Isle of Pingo Pongo (1938), Sunday Go to Meetin’ Time (1936), Tin Pan Alley Cats (1943) and Uncle Tom’s Bungalow (1937).

My sources say all the infamous Censored 11 cartoons will be screened. A complete list of all previously announced programming for the TCM Classic Film Festival is available here. Festival passes and additional information are available at www.tcm.com/festival.

Are Little Golden Books getting cool again?

Longtime readers of the Brew know I collect old Little Golden Books of the 50s and 60s because the standards of the artwork, particularly for the titles based on animation properties, is so high.

Ten years ago, in 1999, Craig McCracken ushered in a new era by illustrating a Powerpuff Girls book (“Big Terrible Trouble?”) in classic Little Golden Book style of the 50s. Since then, Pixar and Disney artists also began creating Little Golden Books, tied into their studio’s current features and shorts, using the same aesthetic.

Yesterday, while in a book store, I came across two more recent Little Golden Books – not tied-in to any animation – that didn’t suck, and I’m wondering if this is the beginning of a new trend. Do any of our readers know? The books I found up were Lasso The Moon by Trish Holland, illustrated by Valeria Petrone – and I’m A Truck by Dennis Shealy, illustrated by Bob Staake.

Lasso The Moon, from 2005, is a charming bedtime story told in pictures that are worthy of glossy pages and hardcover presentation. I’m A Truck (2006) features Bob Staake’s classy shape-driven designs and bold colors. Eye candy for kids of all ages. And only $3.99. Are these flukes? Is there more? I did a quick online search and found that Staake also illustrated a Little Golden Picture Dictionary, and Come Back Zack illustrated by Japanese painter Sachiko Yoshikawa. If anyone knows what’s going on at Random House regarding this line of books, I’d love to hear. I’m becoming a fan.

Crowd-Funding Animated Shorts

The Pig Farmer

The crowd-funding path for short filmmakers is finally gaining traction, and established animation filmmakers have begun experimenting with the concept. Throughout the years, various filmmakers have toyed with the idea of funding their films in this fashion, mostly by soliciting Paypal donations, but the gamechanger has been new websites that are dedicated solely to facilitating crowd-funded projects. The two most prominent sites being used by animators right now are IndieGoGo and Kickstarter. There is a difference between the sites: IndieGoGo’s fundraising period continues indefinitely, whereas Kickstarter has a 90-day fundraising period and if the artist doesn’t meet their monetary goal, all the money is returned to the donors.

Last month on Cartoon Brew, I linked for the first time to a crowd-funded project, The Future. Expect to see us doing a lot more of this; crowd-funding is a major development in how animated shorts will be made in the years to come. Right now, I anticipate the concept will work most successfully for filmmakers with a proven track record, like Nick Cross, who set up a page on IndieGoGo last week to fund his next short The Pig Farmer. That’s because Nick has already made numerous animated shorts over the past few years (The Waif of Persephone and Yellow Cake among them) and all of them without any outside funding. Backers of his project will feel confident that they are investing in a name brand who can get the job done.

There’s also the stop-motion short Line by Justin and Shel Wagner Rasch. They’re asking for $2500 and are already halfway there. The Raschs have two things working in their favor. First, they’ve already posted an animated clip from the film that gives funders a clear sense of the type of work they’re helping them produce:

Additionally, they’re offering unique perks for funders at different levels, including actual puppets used in the film and a chance to attend the music recording sessions. As crowd-funding takes off, it’ll be fun to see the creative goodies that different filmmakers will offer their fans.

Sites like IndieGogo and Kickstarter are already filled with amateur looking projects whose creators are asking for tens of thousands of dollars. Most of those projects understandably have raised only a few bucks at most. On the other hand, I think it bears pointing out that the Raschs and Cross are obviously spending more money on their films than they’re asking for. At this nascent stage, modesty isn’t a bad plan. Crowd-funding is in its infancy, a natural by-product of the growing intimacy between artists and their audience. The most successful filmmakers of the future will be those who grasp the increasingly intertwined relationship between creator and consumer, and recognize how best to take advantage of this new connectedness.

Addendum: After I wrote this piece yesterday, I caught up with my blog reader and noticed that Aaron Simpson at Cold Hard Flash has also written a piece about crowd-funding. It appears that we were both spurred to action by the news of Nick Cross’s project, and we mention a few of the same projects. Aaron doesn’t appear to view this with quite the same perspective as I do though. He writes that, “This method seems like no more than a sophisticated version of the ol’ Paypal ‘donate’ button.” While it’s certainly true that filmmakers have tried soliciting funding like this before, the idea has never taken off in a widespread way because of the lack of a standardized process. Sites like IndieGoGo and KickStarters aim to do for film funding what YouTube did for online video: standardize the process, and this will eventually lead to the normalization of viewers directly sponsoring the content they want to see. That’s a great thing for both creators and consumers.

NYC and Chicago: Al Jarnow Screening

Truth be told, I’d never heard of Al Jarnow prior to learning about this screening, but I’m curious to see more of his work now. He did a lot of work for educational programs like Sesame Street and 3-2-1 Contact, as well as his own work. From a press release about his work: “Al Jarnow captured life’s scientific minutia and boiled it down for easy consumption between cookie eating monsters and counting vampires. Coupling time-lapse, stop motion, and cel animation with simple objects found in every day life, Jarnow deconstructed the world for an entire generation.

This Friday, February 12, there will be two screenings of his work at 92Y Tribeca (200 Hudson Street) at 7pm and 9pm. Both screenings are the same (sixty minutes of his films and a thirty-minute documentary about his creative process). Jarnow will do a Q&A after the 7pm screening and introduce the 9pm screening. Tickets can be purchased at the 92Y website. Additional screenings of his work will take place in Chicago on February 19 and 20th at the Gene Siskel Film Center. They will begin at 8pm each evening.

If you can’t make the screenings, a dvd of his work, Celestial Navigations, is being released later this month with 45 of his films, the documentary about his work, and a 60-page booklet. It’s a reasonable $25 at the Numero Group website.

(Thanks, Heather Harkins and Greg Condon)

Beware The Deep Archives and David Scheve

David Scheve
Photo of David Scheve found on his public Facebook profile

I’ve never had to write something like this before because I’ve never had a consumer experience quite as awful as this. I hope to prevent others from suffering what I had to go through with animation art retailer The Deep Archives and its owner David Scheve.

The story begins last August when I stumbled upon this piece on their website:

Ipana

It was listed in the NY animation category, but it is obviously a Tom Oreb model sheet for an Ipana Toothpaste commercial produced in Disney’s short-lived TV commercial unit. I’m familiar with the disreputable tactics of some animation art dealers who pass off copies as original art so I sent The Deep Archives an email asking point-blank:

It says original art so is it correct that it is not a photostat? Can you please let me know what media the piece was made with? Is the grey background the color of the paper or is it paint?

The response I got back was:

Amid

Thanks for the email.
The piece is original. The Grey is paint.

David

With that assurance, I Paypaled David Scheve the amount of $270, which was the price of the piece plus shipping. A couple of weeks later I received a package in the mail. With great anticipation and utmost carefulness, I opened the package. Now this should be the happy part of the story where I end up with an original piece of art by one of my favorite animation artists. Except for one small detail. The piece I received in the mail was a photostat.

I emailed him and told him I was shocked about how misleading he’d been. “There is not a single bit of paint in this entire piece,” I wrote. “It’s a copy of paint.” At first Scheve denied it outright and wrote back, “Amid, the piece is an original gouche (sic) painting. We don’t sell stats.” He finally relented and told me to send back the photostat for a full refund.

I sent it back to him via certified mail and he received it in mid-September 2009. It turns out that refunding my money–a not-insignificant sum of $270–wasn’t a priority for him. I let the oversight slide for a couple months, but in late-November I began calling and emailing him regularly to remind him that he owed me money. I even had to threaten a small claims suit if he didn’t return it by a certain date. The money finally arrived in January 2010.

Besides the obvious disappointment and anger about Scheve’s misrepresentation of the artwork, there are other things that bother me about the experience:

1.) As of this writing, over five months after he learned it was not an original piece of art, the piece is available for sale on The Deep Archives website in the “1950s/1960s NY” category. It is still labeled as “Original Animation Art” and the price remains unchanged. It saddens me to think that an inexperienced collector might fall prey to this listing and buy a fake piece of “original art.”

2.) Late last December, when I called David again asking him to refund my money, he screamed at me so violently and unexpectedly over the phone that it caused my ears to ring afterward. His unprofessionalism was such that after twenty seconds of conversation, all of it polite and courteous from my end, he yelled, “Amid, listen, I’m going to hang up on you in two seconds,” which he then proceeded to do.

3.) His lackadaisical attitude about refunding my money and how he stringed me along for months with his games. On September 25th he wrote, “Your refund will be processed and sent first thing MONDAY.” Not true. On November 28th he wrote, “I will be in on Monday, let me see what is going on.” He didn’t respond until I called him again. On December 8th he wrote, “I having (sic) trouble tracking down the initial payment paper work, can you tell me what day you sent it, so I can go back and refund it correctly.” So before he would return my money, months late mind you, he put the burden on me to provide his gallery with information. It went on and on like this.

Needless to say, I will never again be dealing with him, and I will urge everybody I know to exercise extreme caution should they choose to do business with him. There are plenty of reputable art dealers around. Unfortunately, it’s guys like David Scheve and his company The Deep Archives who continue to perpetuate the image of animation art dealers as slimy scumbags.

UPDATE 10:11am PT: One bit of good news. Since I posted the story today, the photostat of Ipana artwork is no longer listed as “Original Animation Art.” In fact, the listing has been removed entirely from their website.

UPDATE 1:44pm PT: David Scheve and his “friends” have been attempting to post inflammatory comments on the site for the past couple hours. One person, “Jaru Kempter,” who identified himself as a friend of David, has so far referred to me as “mad,” “bitchy,” and said, “It’s clear you’re a woman scorned.” It helps to know somebody’s gender before resorting to sexist remarks.

Scheve’s own comments have the audacity to pin the blame on me. He wrote, “As for AMID’s false claims; yes, he purchased a piece that turned out to be something OTHER than what it was thought to be. He was asked to return it for a full refund. He took forever to do so, which complicated the matter with paypal.”

For the record, I payed him via Paypal on August 14, 2009. I received the piece on August 22, 2009. When I sent it back, the post office attempted a certified mail delivery on September 11, 2009. It was less than a month from when I paid to the time the photostat was returned to his possession so it clearly did not take “forever to do so.” Scheve also claims that we are deleting positive comments from the site. That is most definitely not the case. The only ones we have deleted are the multiple insulting posts by the aforementioned “Jaru Kempter.”

UPDATE FEB. 10, 2:44pm PT: After this post yesterday, my lovely friend David Scheve put up a message on The Deep Archives website calling me a coward. He has since taken it down but I made a screengrab:

David Scheve

Below, in its entirety, is the post he wrote on Cartoon Brew which explains why he’s innocent and why I’m the real villain. The earlier update already breaks down the fallacies in his statement:

David from TheDeepArchives here and for the record we take what we do here at TheDeepArchives very seriously. As for AMID’s false claims; yes, he purchased a piece that turned out to be something OTHER than what it was thought to be. He was asked to return it for a full refund. He took forever to do so, which complicated the matter with paypal. As for Tom Warburton’s comments; I was INVITED at the last minute to the auction by an SPVA instructor. I was never given any such catalogue. The small staff here at TheDeepArchives doesn’t spend it’s time just acquiring new artwork. TheDeepArchives spends a great deal of time and effort promoting the Animator as an individual artist, rather than just a cog in the studio machine. The majority of the money raised in the gallery goes right back into the animation field in a variety of ways…. including restoration, preservation, museum exhibits, screening and new animated projects. We are probably the only gallery you’ll find that doesn’t pump those overpriced, mass produced limited edition animation “art” pieces into the market place. If Amid had wanted to write a serious piece to express his concerns he would have done just that, instead he used a COMICAL PICTURE he took of the internet to vent his misplace agression….I think his TRUE intention more than speaks for itself, and I find it dishearting how quick people are to jump on a onesided bandwagon. A number of people who’ve purchased from us AND read the blog; posted their favorable replies, called to say they found it odd how their more positive comments were removed.

UPDATE FEB. 12, 1:44pm PT: David Scheve sent our webhost, Webintellects, a DMCA Notification of Infringement about the photograph of him that we’re using at the top of the page. The image clearly falls under “fair use,” which is the doctrine in United States copyright law that allows limited use of copyrighted material without requiring permission from the rights holders, such as for commentary, criticism, news reporting, research, teaching or scholarship. If you are a lawyer who can help Cartoon Brew keep this image on the site, please get in touch with us through the masthead at the top of this site. Below is the message we got from Scheve’s lawyers.

February 12, 2010

FROM:
TDA TheDeepArchives, Inc.
[email protected]
551.998.4552

SUBJECT: ABUSE

WebIntellects registrant, CartoonBrew.com, has pirated and then published an image owned by David Scheve.
At this time we require immediate action taken for removal of the image from the WebIntellects server.

Dear Sir or Madam:

I am writing to inform you that your registrant, cartoonbrew.com, has pirated and published an image owned by David Scheve. I have a good faith belief that use of the copyrighted materials described above on the allegedly infringing webpages is not authorized by the copyright owner, its agent, or the law. At this time we require immediate removal of the image from the Webintellects server.

As pursuant to WebIntellects TOS and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), TheDeepArchives is fully within our right to inform WebIntellects of Copyright infringement against David Scheve.

You’ll find the image taken from Scheve being unlawfully used on the website “http://www.cartoonbrew.com/ideas-commentary/beware-the-deep-archives-and-david-scheve.html#comment-442234 is a self-portrait, naturally taken by Scheve. Mr. Scheve holds all rights to this image.

Within our legal right, we do recognize that the host server, WebIntellects, is also liable for any damages stemming from this infringement, or non-compliance for removal of said infringement.

Please proceed accordingly.

Under penalty of perjury: I am an authorized agent acting on behalf of Mr. Scheve. Under penalty of perjury consistent with United States Code Title 17, Section 512, that the information in the notification is accurate and that I am the copyright owner or am authorized to act on behalf of the owner of an exclusive right that is allegedly infringed.

Sincerely,

TDA TheDeepArchives

Paul Kowalchuk
cc. Jean Nicolosi, Esq.
David Scheve

TONIGHT: Cartoons, Cake and Jerry’s Birthday

Tonight is my monthly cartoon screening at the CineFamily / Silent Movie Theatre so I’ll be spending my birthday doing exactly what I love to do: screening 35mm Technicolor film prints on the big screen to an appreciative audience. The theme of the evening is Valentine’s Day and we’re calling it Toonstruck: Cartoons In Love. To reserve tickets or more information, check the website or our new Cartoon Tuesday’s Facebook page.

Mouk Trailer

Mouk

Mary Blair, Richard Scarry, Fyodor Khitruk’s Winnie the Pooh, and anime-styled cuteness are all mashed together in this colorful trailer for Mouk, an upcoming TV series produced by French studio Millimages. It’s based on illustrator Marc Boutavant‘s book Around the World with Mouk. Sixty-two eleven-minute episodes and thirty one-minute shorts for web/mobile are currently in production.

(Thanks, Philippe Bercovici)

Vanity Fair on Disney’s Ink-and-Paint Girls

Disney Ink-and-Paint Girl

Patricia Zohn writes about Disney’s ink-and-paint girls in this month’s Vanity Fair. She started researching the topic after speaking to her aunt, Rae Medby McSpadden, a former ink-and-paint artist. Most of the facts will be familiar to animation history buffs, but it’s a well-written slice-of-life piece that adds color to the bygone days:

During Snow White, it was not at all unusual to see the “girls”–as Walt paternalistically referred to them–thin and exhausted, collapsed on the lawn, in the ladies’ lounge, or even under their desks. “I’ll be so thankful when Snow White is finished and I can live like a human once again,” Rae wrote after she recorded 85 hours in a week. “We would work like little slaves and everybody would go to sleep wherever they were,” said inker Jeanne Lee Keil, one of two left-handers in the department who had to learn everything backward. “I saw the moon rise, sun rise, moon rise, sun rise.” Painter Grace Godino, who would go on to become Rita Hayworth’s studio double, also remembered the long days merging into nights: “When I’d take my clothes off, I’d be in the closet, and I couldn’t figure it out: am I going to sleep or am I getting up?”

Lifestyles of Animation Executives: Al Kahn and Jeffrey Katzenberg

Jeffrey Katzenberg

I’ve often heard people complain that there’s no money to be made in the animation business. That’s not exactly true. It’s just that the money usually doesn’t filter down to the people who actually create the art. Case in point, the NY Post reported that the Manhattan apartment of Bernie Madoff was recently purchased by Al Kahn of 4Kids Entertainment, which is the licensee of Pokémon and Yu-Gi-Oh!:

The millionaire “marketing genius” behind the Pokemon and the Cabbage Patch Kids toy crazes inked a deal to buy Ponzi King Bernie Madoff’s posh penthouse apartment on the Upper East Side, sources said. Al Kahn, CEO of 4Kids Entertainment, signed a contract to buy the 4,000-square-foot home, which was put up for sale by the feds to help recoup cash for the victims of Madoff’s $65 billion scam. The apartment, at Lexington Avenue and East 64th Street, was recently listed at $8.9 million, $1 million less than the original asking price. While the actual sale price is not known, sources said the pad — a three-bedroom, four-bath duplex with a wrap-around terrace — went for just under the asking price in the deal brokered by the Corcoran Group.

That’s nothing though compared to DreamWorks’ Jeffrey Katzenberg, a more admirably creative exec, who plunked down $35 mil for new digs according to The Wall Street Journal:

Media mogul Jeffrey Katzenberg has paid $35 million for a house in Beverly Hills, CA. . . The six-acre property, which was never on the market, sits just above the Greystone Mansion, a Beverly Hills landmark. A long private drive leads to a house on a promontory. Mr. Katzenberg had been shopping for a large property with a view for several years. The home belonged to aerospace pioneer Simon “Si” Ramo, who was instrumental in the development of the intercontinental ballistic missile and co-founded TRW, which was acquired by Northrop Grumman. Mr. Katzenberg, who bought the property under the name of a trust, declined to comment.

The Annie Winners: UP, Futurama, Penguins and Prep

The 37th Annual Annie Awards were given out tonight at Royce Hall on the UCLA Campus. The winners included:

Best Animated Feature
Up (Pixar Animation Studios)

Best Animated Television Production
Prep and Landing – (Walt Disney Animation Studios)

Best Home Entertainment Production
Futurama: Into the Wild Green Yonder

Best Animated Short Subject
Robot Chicken: Star Wars 2.5

Best Animated Television Production for Children
The Penguins of Madagascar (Nickelodeon and DreamWorks)

Character Animation in a Feature Production
Eric Goldberg for The Princess and the Frog

Character Design in a Feature Production
Shane Prigmore for Coraline

Directing in a Feature Production
Pete Docter “Up” – Pixar Animation Studios

Writing in a Television Production
Daniel Chun – The Simpsons: Treehouse of Horror XX

Writing in a Feature Production
Wes Anderson and Noah Baumbach – Fantastic Mr. Fox

Congratulations to all! Click here for complete list of winners.

Pivot

The push back against realism in computer animation continues with Pivot, a striking and confident CG short from The Netherlands. It’s designed and animated by Kevin Megens, Floris Vos, Arno de Grijs, and André Bergs. The caricatured animation and design-oriented approach to filmmaking is packed with clever visual ideas, which helps one forgive the lack of originality in the story. Sound design by Alex Debicki also adds to the overall effect. Pre-production art and more information about the filmmakers at PivotTheMovie.com.

(Thanks, Charles H.)

John Stanley

I’ve always been aware of John Stanley, the comic book writer and artist best known for his classic Little Lulu stories (drawn by Irving Tripp). But until recently, I had no idea that any of Stanley’s work had been adapted to animation. Apparently two of Stanley’s Lulu stories were adapted (quite poorly and without credit) by Paramount’s cartoon studio in 1961 and ’62. Frank Young, on his excellent blog Stanley Stories, has compared the animated films to the original comics stories, showing up how poorly Seymour Kneitel understood comic timing while at the same time, showcasing how funny Stanley’s original source material was – and still is.

Here is Frog’s Legs (embed below), the second Paramount release from ’62, and Young’s post reprinting the original comic story for comparison.

Young also dissects the first cartoon, Alvin’s Solo Flight. It was through Young’s blog that I discovered Stanley also wrote hilarious stories for Tom & Jerry, Raggedy Ann, Andy Panda and other Western comics titles.

Animation director Yvette Kaplan (Beavis and Butt-head) not only grew up reading Stanley’s stories, but his influence has inspired her storytelling talents and her career as an animation director. I asked her to explain her passion for John Stanley’s comics and what animators can learn from his work. She responded with the following essay:

When I was a kid, nine, ten, eleven, I loved reading comics. “Archie” mainly, as the luncheonette down the block had a rack reliably filled with them. Betty was my fave. Sure, Veronica was rich and pretty enough, but I didn’t get her at all. How could I, growing up in working class Bensonhurst, Brooklyn? Couldn’t Archie see how great Betty was? Apparently not. Clearly, Archie was a jerk.

I liked Betty so much that I once even dreamt she had her own comic book! I was sad when I woke up and realized the dream wasn’t real. But guess what? Within weeks of having that dream, it came true! Betty suddenly had her own comic called ”Betty and Me.” I was amazed! Thrilled! But… if truth be told, I was bummed: my secret was out. I was jealous! She wasn’t ”my” Betty anymore. She was –(gasp!)– popular! So what did she need with me?

Happily, miraculously, the pain of my loss was eased when I found another comic that I loved even more. Starring (could it be?) another blond! She, and the comic book itself, was so funny it made me laugh out loud, and I found myself searching the comic racks day after day in hopes of more — usually in vain. This comic was scarce, not omnipresent like the Archie bunch. “Do you have any new Thirteen Going On Eighteen comics?” I’d ask Murray, the owner of the luncheonette. “What?” he’d bellow. I’d say it again louder; “Thirteen Going On Eighteen!” “What the heck is that?” he’d mutter. “Get an Archie.” But I was hooked. Having no other choice, I was content to read my few precious copies over and over and over, and soon I knew every panel, every line, and every crazy, energetic, life filled drawing by heart. Dog eared, worn down and shamefully cover- less, While a pile of Archie’s languished in a shopping bag in the back of a closet in my mother’s apartment, I’ve kept my Thirteen Going On Eighteen’s with me for my whole life; through high school, college, marriage, motherhood, 3 houses, divorce, and a cross country move. Over the years I managed to collect a few more issues — thanks to a dear comic-collector friend of mine who tracked them down. But it wasn’t easy, since hardly anyone seemed to know they ever existed. This was surprising especially since my comic-collector friend told me they were drawn by a famous cartoonist named John or Stanley something, I didn’t pay much attention at the time. Because I didn’t really mind that nobody knew about it. Not one bit. Because for all these years, all these wild, loud, crazy, funny, larger than life characters; Val and Judy, Evie, Billy, Wilbur, Judy Jr. and Jimmy Fuzzi have been unpopular, undiscovered and absolutely perfect. They’ve been my little secret. Until now.

I knew it was coming. With the recent publications of the other wonderful John Stanley collections, Melvin Monster, Nancy and Little Lulu, it was clear that the world would soon know about his somehow hitherto unacknowledged masterpiece, my beloved Thirteen Going On Eighteen. And the truth is, I’m delighted. Happily, I’ve finally matured enough to be able to share.

I first became aware that I had a knack for comedy timing in 1993 when I started directing on Mike Judge’s Beavis and Butthead series for MTV. Luckily for me, I had been reading John Stanley’s brilliant, and insanely funny, Thirteen Going On Eighteen for years. I have no doubt whatsoever that I learned, or more accurately, absorbed the essence of comedy timing from inhaling pages just like these:


Judy has convinced Wilbur that she just fed him his ratty old hat for dinner.

Note the:

Big reactions

Expressive poses

Unexpected pauses

Rapid mood swings

and–

Lots of yelling

As far as I’m concerned, Wilbur stopping in the midst of his agony to stare pensively at a motorcycle is comedy timing at it’s best. A single panel, that’s all. He doesn’t notice it as he passes, doesn’t turn around and go back. We don’t see him stop, he’s just there. (cue the soundtrack of your choice; sometimes I hear a soft whistling, sometimes crickets, sometimes muzak) And then he’s screaming his head off again a panel later. Ah, the beauty of manic behavior!


And in this one, Judy has just informed Val that she saw Val’s boyfriend Billy with her dreaded rival Janie Kilboy. Cool as ever, Val feigns indifference, but then…

Note the:

Thinking characters with an unedited inner life

Zen-like self-obsession and commitment to a cause
Surprise

Flailing limbs

Oblivious bystanders

Gratuitous violence

And lots of yelling


And on the very next page of the same story (above), Val’s search for Billy and Janie Kilboy; one of the funniest, most effective and definitely most economical time passage I have ever seen:

Note the:

Instantly understood body language

Obsessive, compulsive behavior

Deadpan expressions

Periods of relative inactivity

The surreal and the downright silly

And this is just the tip of the iceberg. There’s more, lots more. Thank you John Stanley, from the bottom of my heart. I don’t know what I’d have done without you and your wonderful cast of delusional egotists. And to everyone else out there, those who already know and especially those who don’t, I welcome you to fall in love with my favorite comic book of all time.

We recommend all three volumes of Drawn and Quarterly’s excellent hard bound John Stanley Library: Nancy, Melvin Monster and Thirteen Going On Eighteen.

Te Wei (1915-2010)

The master of Chinese animation, Te Wei (Sheng Tewei), has passed away at age 95.

Te Wei, a pioneering animator and cartoonist, was one of the founding fathers of the Shanghai Animation Studio. His most significant film of the 1950s was The Conceited General, which I’ve embedded below:

In the 1960s his animation style was influenced by the painter Qi Baishi. His 1963 mastepiece, The Cowboy’s Flute (Part 1 below), is one of the most beautiful films from China – or anywhere.

(Thanks, Saturnome)

The Little Cloud – a Filmstrip

I did a post about Cathedral Films back in 2007 when we found a connection between this religious film strip producer and Bill Hanna and Gene Hazelton. Filmstrips are still in a side-alley of animation history that has yet to be explored. Artists from MGM, Disney and others worked on these after hours. Here’s another filmstrip somebody posted in its entirety on the internet, and artwork here is pretty good (note Paul Frees as the voice of the ocean). Anyone recognize the art style?