Behind the Scenes of “Reluctant Dragon”

Reluctant Dragon

A photo during the production of Disney’s The Reluctant Dragon on November 7, 1940. I hope somebody will get a kick out of it. Actress Frances Gifford, who played a studio artist in the film, is the woman in the photo. The other people are, clockwise from Gifford: John McLeish, T. Hee, Ward Kimball, Fred Moore (back), Norm Ferguson (back) and Erdman Penner. Click on pic to biggify.

Most Terrifying Mickey Mouse Toy. Ever.

If Epic Mickey didn’t rock your world – maybe this will

Technologizer’s Harry McCracken posted this on his personal blog, and I couldn’t resist sharing it with Brew readers. It’s video of Fisher-Price’s Dance Star Mickey doll, from Toy Fair 2010 at the Javits Convention Center in New York City. It goes on sale next month.

Lost Fleischer Found: Ace Of Spades

Cartoon historian Tom Stathes continues to amaze me with his rare finds and research into silent-era and early talkie animation. Tom has recently begun a regular series of public screenings in the New York area, highlighting many gems from his remarkable collection. Next Friday at Attic Studios in Long Island City, Stathes is collaborating with Cinebeasts to present Travelaffs, a selection of vintage Looney Tunes, Van Beuren, Ub Iwerks, and Fleischer goodies, taking you to Italy, China, Spain, and the politically incorrect Congo. The show starts at 7pm.

Even if you think you’ve seen it all, this show is must. Tom has located a long lost Fleischer Talkartoon, Ace of Spades (1930, released January 1931) and will present its first public showing in almost eight decades. And its a good one – with card sharp Bimbo out to win a poker tournament – all done in rhyme, with the usual cross-eyed Fleischer menagerie, zany rubber-hose animation, and Mickey Mouse-like rodents running loose. Here’s a few clips to whet your whistle, assembled by co-conspiritor David Gerstein:

For more information on the public screening, check Tom’s blog and the event’s official Facebook page.

MONDAY: Cartoon Dump @ 8pm

If you’re hot and tired and pissed off in Los Angeles this week, my monthly live comedy/cartoon revue, Cartoon Dump, will snap you out of it. Join us this Monday night at 8pm.

This month we celebrate Summer with special guest comedians J. Elvis Weinstein (from Cinematic Titanic) and Blaine Capatch. I’ll be there with Frank Conniff (“TV’s Frank”), Erica Doering, Dave “Gruber” Allen, and Mighty Mr. Titan, Monday at the Steve Allen Theater, 4773 Hollywood Blvd. • Free Parking! • Advanced Tickets here • Phone: (323) 666-9797 • Map & Directions • And friend us on Facebook.

Day & Night: The Book

I’m not hiding my enthusiasm for Teddy Newton’s short Day & Night, and neither is Pixar. Instead of releasing a Little Golden Book based on the short, as they had for several previous shorts, the studio contracted with Chronicle Books to produce a handsome little hardback edition. Teddy wrote and drew this adaptation and its a wonderful souvenir of the film — a cartoon sure to be nominated for this year’s Best Animated Short. I took these snaps with my iPhone above and below (click thumbnails below to enlarge). The book just came out and is listed on Amazon now for ten bucks ($10.19 to be exact)! 36 glossy pages, beautifully rendered and a must-have.

P.S. Next week we’ll have a surprise contest for an autographed copy of the book.

Dilla

An armadillo lives in a perfect world that is threatened when a hunter enters the scene. Directed by Mike Klim, Stanley Moore, Dominic Pallotta and Mikey Sauls, Dilla was produced at Sarasota Florida’s Ringling College of Art + Design.

(Thanks, Lindsey Olivares)

ASIFA-Hollywood’s Student Film Festival

The ASIFA-Hollywood’s Animation Educators Forum Student Animation Film Festival will take place Saturday, November 6th at Cal State Long Beach. The event is open to all and there will be a full day of film screenings, panels and portfolio reviews, ending with an awards ceremony and a reception. The First place winner will receive their Student Annie Award at this years gala Annie Awards event in February. There are also additional prizes for the top films provided by their sponsors.

Deadlines to submit a film are September 1st (a soft deadline) and Oct 1st (the final deadline). The festival is also looking for volunteers and is already taking appointments for portfolio reviews. For more info, go to: Animator Educators Forum.com.

The Velvet Mouse Show

Jetset Studios in Los Angeles creates online campaigns and internet video for the major Hollywood studios. But between projects the studio has been quietly developing The Velvet Mouse Show. Created by studio co-founders Russell Scott and Patrick Young, The Velvet Mouse Show is anchored by a 2D cartoon that is a very deliberate love letter to Saturday Morning cartoons of the seventies.

So far, they’ve concocted a seven minute pilot and two teasers on their YouTube channel. Their main website and Facebook page features further background material, music, images, and “artifacts from the history of show”. Here’s a sample (with a nifty vintage Ice Bird commercial):

(Thanks, Matthew Selznick)

Medusa by Nick DiLiberto

Nick DiLiberto is an animator currently working in Japan. He recently completed a fully animated 2D short film and just uploaded it to YouTube. He sent it to us with this note:

“I’m a really big fan of Cartoon Brew and was hoping you could watch my film and tell me what you think and, if you like it, I would be honored if you would be willing to post it on your site for others to watch. If you or your readers have any questions I would love to answer them.”

I like it – and I think our readers will dig it too:

The Battle of the Animation Bands

A Battle of Animation Studio Bands? Women In Animation International (WIA) is planning a “Battle of the Animation Bands” concert, an evening of indie music, to be held in late September in Hollywood that will feature bands created at animation, visual effects and game studios.

Bands will be selected by the Women in Animation board from CDs submitted to WIA before the deadline of Friday, September 3rd. All music genres are welcome however music with a dance-able beat is preferred. At least one member of the band must work for an animation, visual effects or game studio. The evening’s “Battle Star” will be chosen by the audience and win “a very huge, very tacky trophy”.

If you have a band, mail a CD of your work to: P.O. BOX 17706, Encino, CA 91416. Or e-mail a link to your demo to Rita Street: rita-at-radarcartoons.com. If you have questions concerning the event or would like to serve as a sponsor, please also contact Rita.

Arrested: Disney and Bluth Animator Jeffrey Varab

Jeffrey Varab

Jeff Varab, a veteran character animator with credits on The Fox and the Hound, All Dogs Go to Heaven, Balto, Mulan and Titan A.E., was arrested in Florida on thirteen counts of fraud. The story is reported on the Orlando Sentinel website. Apparently, it all stems from his faith-based animation studio Genesis, and a film he made, Tugger: The Jeep 4 x 4 Who Wanted to Fly. We first reported the sordid story of Tugger back in September 2006 and it appears that the situation was never resolved. The comments section of this post on the Animation Guild blog also help fill in pieces of Varab’s life.

Craig Yoe’s FELIX THE CAT book

Craig Yoe’s latest book is a beautiful love letter to the comic book legacy of Otto Messmer/Joe Oriolo’s Felix The Cat. As usual, Yoe has produced an art book that is unto itself a thing of art, a 226 page celebration of Felix’s four-color career. Previously John Canemaker covered the animated films and David Gerstein collected selected Sunday newspaper strips. Here, Yoe focuses on the Dell/Toby/Harvey periodicals created by animators Messmer, Oriolo and Jim Tyer. The book itself is lavishly produced (which is standard for Yoe’s publications) starting with the classy black and white cover – a clever contrast to rainbow-hued Messmer end papers and content to come. It begins with a 35-page introductory text, liberally illustrated with original Messmer/Oriolo art, rare photographs and odd-ball historical material (my favorite is a 1925 Photoplay magazine spread featuring a Ziegfeld Girl teaching Felix the latest dance craze, The Black Bottom). And then the real fun begins: twelve choice Felix stories, originally created between 1946 and 1954.

The Felix comic stories were always quite “trippy” (to use the 60s expression), usually starting off normally then drifting into worlds of giants, oversized talking vegetables, robots, magic carpets and trips into space. The artwork is always imaginative and very cartoony. This is a wonderful tribute to a cartoon super-star’s most neglected – but still significant – work. As far as I’m concerned, Yoe’s Felix The Cat: The Great Comic Book Tails is another must-have.

Meet 17-year-old animator, Eric Goldberg

Doug Post of Woodbury University saves everything and recently found this article in a newsletter he used to get as a child. It’s a section of the November 1973 issue of General Motors American Youth magazine. It features an article on teenage filmmakers – and highlights future animator/director Eric Goldberg discussing how he got interested in animation and his afternoon visiting the Disney studio. Eric gave us permission to post the pages below (click thumbnails to enlarge), with this comment:

Okay, you can post it, complete with my use of top pegs (the horror!) and my somewhat less than modest credit crawl (not untrue, however!). Just as a side note, two years after that article appeared, I won the Grand Prize in that contest, and my roommate at the Plaza Hotel in New York (where the ceremonies were held) won First Prize. His name was David Silverman, of later Simpsons fame. We’ve been good friends ever since. We fondly recall the days when he had a “Jew-fro” and I had hair.

(Thanks, Doug Post, Dori Littell-Herrick and Eric Goldberg)

Scott Dikkers Launches Animation Website

Scott Dikkers

Scott Dikkers, who helped found The Onion and was its longest-serving editor-in-chief, also happens to be a cartoonist, and he’s launched a new Brooklyn-based animation company Dikkers Animation company. The company website offers three shorts–Tycoon Tykes, Ape Trouble and Bright Lights Big Steam. The hand-drawn cartoons are refreshingly simple family-oriented cartoons with nice little messages worked into each one. They’re paced a bit slow for my taste, but I imagine they’d do well with a younger audience. And isn’t it a refreshing change of pace to see a new animation company promote itself with storytelling-oriented pieces instead of visual prowess?

What SpongeBob and Dora smell like

Spongebob and Dora perfumes

Companies like Viacom and Warner Bros. are notoriously unpicky about how they license their characters, but using preschool cartoon characters to unload perfume onto children sinks pretty low. What is the smell that appropriately evokes a four-year-old Hispanic girl? Or an undersea sponge for that matter? When I scratched the SpongeBob sample at the drugstore checkout counter, I half expected the briny scent of the ocean and seaweed. Alas, the people who made these weren’t that thoughtful; all of them had a generic synthetic smell that evoked nothing. My floor wipes have a more sophisticated scent than these sorry excuses for children’s merchandise.

Kids scents

P.D. Eastman book website

Animation storyman Phil Eastman (1909-1986) worked for Disney, Warner Bros., UPA, even Terrytoons during his career in the 1940s, 50s and 60s. But his biggest claim to fame has to be the series of Beginner Books he wrote and drew beginning in the late 1950s. Sam and The Firefly, Are You My Mother? A Fish Out of Water, and of course Go, Dog, Go! were certainly on my reading list at age 5. They influenced a lot of folks who later went into animation and comic art. I loved those books and still have my original battered copies.

Now Sue and Tony Eastman (Phil’s son, and one of the best animators in the business himself) have put together a new website dedicated to his father’s books. Tony writes:

Its purpose is to entertain/inform, and at the same time sell books. There really wasn’t a place where you could see all of his books together, plus we thought a short biography (appropriate for children) and a way to get in touch with his family would be useful. I put together the P.D. caricature on the home page from two self portraits he had done.

Unfortunately we couldn’t include The Cat in The Hat Beginner Book Dictionary “by the Cat himself and P. D. Eastman” on the site because the Dr. Seuss Estate (DSE) – as the owner of the copyright in the forward and owner of trademark rights in the character, would not grant permission for inclusion of this book on the website dedicated to the work of P. D. Eastman.

Also, we couldn’t include A Fish Out Of Water because The Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego says it is the copyright holder of Helen Palmer Geisel’s 50% interest and insists that the website show them as such, however, my mother and Geisel are listed as the copyright holders on the US Copyright website and on the copyright page of a recently purchased book. We can’t list the Museum without proof of assignment of the copyright to them.

This website is dedicated to P.D. but, since my books (Fred and Ted Go Camping and Fred and Ted Like To Fly) are sequels to Big Dog… Little Dog, we decided to make them available via a “BD… LD” page. Next summer I will have a new book out, and at that time we will launch a site devoted to my books!

The Strange and Tragic Life of Hal Adelquist

How do you go from being the head assistant director of Snow White, the head of Disney’s personnel department, and the production supervisor of The Mickey Mouse Club to a homeless panhandler living on the streets of Manhattan? That, in a nutshell, is the strange life of Hal Adelquist, who died in 1981 at the age of 66. At the time of his death, he had moved back to Long Beach, California, and was living with his mother.

Continue reading

Lost Fred Moore Animation Discovered on eBay

Animation student Michael Ruocco was browsing eBay when he found a batch of drawings that appear to be a deleted scene animated by Fred Moore from Dumbo. The drawings were carelessly broken up by the seller and being sold as individual drawings, but Michael grabbed all of the preview images and put them together into the sequence above. Then he did further sleuthing:

I noticed the stamped numbers in the bottom left corner of each drawing, “2006 19.2 30.0″. Recalling Hans Perk’s drafts for Dumbo, I remembered what those numbers mean. 2006 is the production number (“Dumbo”), 19.2 is the sequence number (“Dumbo Learns to Fly”) and 30.0 being the shot number. I went over to Hans’ site and checked his drafts. There was the shot, but between when the draft was made and the film’s release, the end of the sequence was changed. There originally was more lines by Timothy and a “confidentiality agreement” between him and the crows. In the final film, this scene was truncated, leaving out all of Timothy’s extra dialogue.

To see all of the individual drawings from the sequence, visit Michael’s blog.

Cap’n Crunch Retro

As we mourn the seemingly non-stop multilation of the beloved cartoon characters of our youth, let’s stop to applaud the decision by the fine folks at Quaker Oats, who have just started selling a line of Cap’n Crunch cereals with the original appealing Jay Ward box designs (pictured above right). It’s a limited edition set of Retro Crunch that come with collector cards in each box. They’re out now, I just saw them at the supermarket today. I’m not one to push sugared cereal on anyone, but I admire the guts it took to reverse course and finally do something right. Coincidentally, Mark Evanier just recently posted about the first Cap’n Crunch commercial from 1963.

(Thanks, Mark Arnold)