Notes from Northern California

A few notes from my trip to northern California last week…

I visited Chronicle Books for a meeting with Alan Rapp, the editor of my Fifties animation design book. I have to say, it’s terrific having an editor who is totally in tune with the project and is supportive of what I’m trying to accomplish. I don’t know if this is the norm for the publishing industry — both editors I’ve worked with at Chronicle have been great — but it’s reassuring to know that Chronicle is just as devoted as I am to turning out a really cool book. Right now I’m in the midst of a grueling schedule to finish the book, which means countless hours of research, writing and image-gathering. If all goes according to plan, the Fifties design book should be released sometime in 2006.

While at Chronicle, I also managed to get my hands on an advance copy of THE ART OF ROBOTS, which will hit stores in another month or two. The book turned out exactly as I had expected, and considering everything, I’m pleased with the results. The only surprise, and a pleasant one at that, is that I received solo writing credit on the book; originally I shared a co-writing credit with ROBOTS production designer/exec producer Bill Joyce. A co-author credit would have been useful in the event that somebody dislikes the book, because then I could have simply said, “Oh, that’s Bill’s fault.” Now I’ll need to come up with another excuse — not that I’m expecting anybody will dislike this fine ‘art of’ book. Here’s the final dustjacket and the silver cover underneath.

I visited with various artists for the Fifties book, notably Ed Benedict and Charles and Rosemary McElmurry. Benedict, of course, everybody already knows (if you don’t, see BLAST #8), but Charles McElmurry is another terrific animation designer from that era whose name is not as well known. Hopefully that’ll change once this book is out. I also visited with John Dunn’s brother Alvin. This visit wasn’t related to the book, but for ANIMATION BLAST #9, which is still in production. I’m working concurrently on both the book and BLAST #9 and my hope is to have BLAST #9 out sometime in June/July ’05, only a year-and-a-half later than its original release date (jeez…looks like I’m becoming the Richard Williams of animation magazines).

Also dropped by ASIFA-San Francisco’s annual Christmas party, where among other people I finally met the infamous Lippy. I can’t vouch for the fact that he’s infamous, but with a name like Lippy, you just have to assume there’s some infamy lurking in his past. He gave me a copy of his latest short film, DINO-SORE DAYS, a new “Happy Tree Friends” epsiode included on the THIRD STRIKE dvd. The 1920s-styled short is animated in Flash, but with a beautiful tribute scene to the 3D “turntable” model sets that the Fleischer Studios utilized in some of their shorts. The “set” was modelled entirely in Maya (by Ted Pratt), but looks like an authentic hand-made plaster-and-clay set. Very nice job. You can see a clip from the short and find out more about how they created the turntable effect at Lippy.com. Thanks to everybody else who made the San Francisco trip so enjoyable: Andy Beall at Pixar, Harry McCracken at PC WORLD, Carla Liss, Nik and Nancy Phelps, Ted Pratt and Karl Cohen.