Monthly ArchiveAugust 2008

Commentary 31 Aug 2008 08:28 am

Richie Havens

– The recent post about Richie Havens by Annulla (who photographed the picture to the left) on her blog, Blather from Brooklyn, brought back a short memory I have from a number of years ago. I think it was 1984.

I’d received a call out of the blue from Mr. Havens. Now, remember I grew up in the Sixties and was a part of the “Woodstock Generation.” I loved the music of the period and Havens was a big part of that – especially to a New Yorker. This call was a shock. I was asked to come meet with him about an animation project he was assembling. No questions asked, I got the date and time and showed up.

It was in the very theatrical (albeit seedy at the time) area of 8th Avenue and 56th Street. I arrived to a very large open space. A very wide open, not-overly-furnished space. After a brief greeting, I was directed to the only other seat in the room – easily ten or more feet away in the somewhat dark room. Richie Havens, dressed in dashiki, was graced with some light that offered a halo around his head, and I sat out of the spotlight.

Apparently, Tommy Chong had decided to make an animated feature. He wanted to film a Kung fu style film in live action and rotoscope this into an animated film. Richie Havens was acting as his representative and was interviewing me for the position of assisting Mr. Chong in any way possible to get this film made. They saw this as a complete breakthrough feature for animation. Nothing had been done like it before.

My alarms went off, and I decided I shouldn’t be too enthusiastic about the project. I didn’t want to turn them down on the spot, but I didn’t want to be involved. Rotoscoping and Kung fu movies were not my – - – interest.
It was a not very long meeting; there weren’t many specifics Mr. Havens could offer at the time. It was the earliest of stages. I left my samples, shook his hand again and still remember the meeting twenty years later. I think it was another of those films that never got made.

Perhaps the film would have looked like this.

Commentary 30 Aug 2008 07:44 am


Congratulations to Peggy Stern and John Canemaker. Their film, Chuck Jones: Memories of Childhood, will participate in the Telluride Film Festival. The half hour short film, which combines an interview with the legendary animator including newly created animated segments, will be shown on Turner Classic Movie in March 2009. (Perhaps it’ll be nominated for the Oscar as Best Doc short, and I’ll see it projected in January.)

John will also participate in the Ottawa Animation Festival at the end of Sept. He’ll interview Richard Williams on stage and will then bring that show to NY’s Museum of Modern Art.


- The world of animation took a back seat for me this past week. This week was about the Presidency. The Democratic convention started off a bit slow and felt a bit off-kilter to me, but started building once Hillary spoke. When Bill Clinton and Joe Biden spoke, I was over the top. Even so, I was not prepared for the bigness of Thursday’s events. I felt like one of Reverend Moon’s groupies, ready to follow anywhere.

Obama is someone who can speak articulately and intelligently, someone who knows how to pronounce the word “nuclear” and isn’t afraid to roll off daring plans to promote the necessary kindness we owe each other, and he’s built his entire platform around that.

How unlike the current admiinistration is this. They exploit the disadvantaged to their own gains. Everything about their work has been to fatten their own pockets – both the real and the intangible. Why did we have to spend the last years listening to stories of people being tortured by this administration? Why did we have to learn of the invasive attacks on our rights – most noticeably the right of privacy? Why does anyone have to consider whether this is OK or not?

And then the week ends with John “sell-your-soul” McCain selecting an unquestionably unqualified person to be his vice presidential choice. She has governed so few in her past and is now, potentially, the selection to control America’s place in the world. What was he thinking? How irresponsible. He’d only met her once and spoken with her twice prior to selecting her. The Evangelical Christians are happy, but McCain has proven himself to be an insubstantial fool to the rest of thinking America. The Press calls that daring. After, 8 years of embarrassment with GWBush in office, can you imagine that it could possibly get worse!?!


“The times are too serious the stakes are too high for the same partisan playbook.” Yet, this is all McCain et al can offer. Obama acts like a politician, too. But he seems to be concerned about the common good. There’s no doubt about McCain’s motives. It’s pathetic.

Thank god, Bill Maher returned to HBO as of last night. I needed to laugh off Friday’s Republican positive-mood killer.

Animation Artifacts &Story & Storyboards 29 Aug 2008 08:05 am

Galaxia pt.1

- Here is another gem from Paul Spector re the animation work of his talented father,
Irv Spector. It’s a pleasure to present it.

If there were a spot to post my father’s pre-WWII work, confirmed credits, and interesting studio stories, this would be the place.

Sorry to say, I don’t really have very much in the way of those to offer. My father was one of those unmarried animators, too busy running from the west coast to the east, to hold onto much until after WWII. However, he did seemingly come away with Willard Bowsky’s animation stopwatch.

Born in Oakland, CA in 1914 but growing up in Los Angeles, he was suspended from high school in 1930 for arguing with his art teacher about the correct way to draw a hand holding a gun pointed straight at you. The next day he was at Disney Studios asking for a job, and was actually let in to see Walt himself (helps here to imagine that at 16 my father was about 5’6”, 130lbs). Walt told him to go back and finish school, and then there would always be job after that at Disney. Instead, he went over to the Mintz Studio and was given employment as a fledgling animator (slight chance this might have been with Lantz at Universal, but he was with Mintz quickly).

Irv Spector at the Mintz Studio.

There he stayed for several years before moving over to Leon Schlesinger Studios, depicted on their on their Xmas card from the mid 1930s. schlesinger_xmas.jpg , and eventually moved on to Fleischer, starting there not too long before their move to Miami.

(Scan taken from Leslie Cabarga’s The Fleischer Story.)

From there, it was WWII and the Signal Corps, the subject of a recent post on the Splog.

Since my father had an industry name – and would not likely be the subject of an animation post unless his kid was writing it — most corners of the internet and many books about animation lead the casual observer to believe that from after WWII through the early 1960s he was strictly a Paramount-Famous guy. However, there is a very large body of non-Famous work during this stretch of his career, 95% of that either projected on a screen, aired, or published, could easily fill several posts of their own.

Yet it’s best to get started with something more cohesive. The following is the first of two parts of a complete storyboard, Galaxia, created for Paramount-Famous and released theatrically in 1961. I decided to post it for a few reasons. I don’t really see any complete Famous boards out there, I happen to have it, and I think it is a decent enough example of the difference between how a work is conceived and the way it ends up. It’s available in finished form on the Complete Harveytoons DVD.

Although far from any Famous production that would likely be discussed on an animation blog, I would like to think that this complete storyboard at least has some charm and zippy movement to it — but being so close to it for such a protracted period I’m no longer a good barometer; I can still remember it in total, pinned to the wall of my father’s basement studio. So imagine my surprise when I finally saw the finished product just two years ago! In truth, to me, the DVD Galaxia plays like a bit of a slow bore.

Certainly, it is a long way from the better Famous output many years prior, and most readers here will know the reasons why. Often, when I think about the talent pool that Famous had working for them, many being the same cartoonists whose work for other studios is often revered, I tend to squint a bit and imagine what might have been.

The Storyboard – pt.1

(Click any image on this post to enlarge.)

(Note there dosen’t seem to be a drawing #16.)

To be concluded on Monday.

Model Sheets

Model sheet #1

Model sheet #2

Model sheet #3

Illustration 28 Aug 2008 07:33 am

Emergency Mouse

– I’ve been a Ralph Steadman fan/collector for most of my life. I love the guy’s work and would give anything to be able to do anything remotely as well as he does.

His versatility with pen and ink, dyes and watercolors doesn’t quite hide the magnificent draftsmanship behind his illustrations. Many try to copy his style and none have come close – though Gerald Scarfe has made a nice living off of a similar style – though a bit sweeter. Others, more academically inclined, those who swear by the Bauhaus rules, tend to turn their noses up at his work. I like to think of Steadman as the Jim Tyer of illustration.

Regardless, the work is brilliant. His art always has an amazing intelligence carrying it to the highest pinnacle. It breaks the rules and makes new ones. Illustration comes damn close to Art.

Not too many people have focused on his children’s books, and there are many. Not least is the series of “Mouse” books he’s done with Bernard Stone. Here is Emergency Mouse, a good example. I’ve not lifted the script but am merely showcasing the illustrations. Unfortunately, this also takes a bit away from the book design which is unique on its own. The type is well placed to balance off the different sized illustration.

If you want to read the story, you’ll have to get the book from the library – or buy it.

(Click any image to enlarge.) This is the inner cover.

1 2


4 5

6 7

8 9






Daily post 27 Aug 2008 07:36 am


_____Ponyo’s Success

- Monday’s Variety reported that Miyazaki‘s Ponyo on the Cliff has surpassed $93.2 million in its first 31 days. This makes it the second highest/fastest earning film in Japan. Spirited Away surpassed this mark after 25 days.

The film will also show at the Venice Film Festival which begins on August 27th. Myazaki will be in attendance.

A good source for some information about this film is Daniel Thomas MacInnesConversations about Ghibli. There you’ll be directed to many other sites and receive plenty of material including a couple of trailers and vids.



Rauch Brothers Talk

- Tim Rauch writes to tell me about an engagement he and brother, Mike, will be conducting when they join DoubleTriple to speak to the AfterEffects NY group: “. . . basically sharing our process, showing films, doing a Q&A. It’s a group very much interested in the nuts and bolts of motion graphics/animation work, and the events are good “mixers” for industry types.”

It will take place on Thursday, August 28th, (tomorrrow) 6:45-9 pm.

AfterEffects NY
@ P.S. 41
116 West 11th St., NYC
(corner of 11th Street and 6th Ave.)

And, my friends, if you rush home, after the event, you’ll be able to catch Barack Obama’s speech at the Democratic covention at 10PM.



- I thought I might take some space to remind you that there’s plenty of inspiration available at Matt Jones‘ fine Ronald Searle Tribute Site. Searle, of course, is a god among illustrators, and his work cannot be praised too highly. Jones seeks out this work and displays it wonderfully with cross-references among all of the pieces. it’s an excellent site.


- Ovation TV (ch.83 NYC) has been running their roster of animated features lately. These include: Spirited Away, Triplettes of Belleville, Tokyo Story, Chuck Amuck, The Hand Behind the Mouse, Tex Avery:King of Cartoons, and Dante’s Inferno. Upcoming shows include these:

August 28th
09:00 pm Dante’s Inferno
12:00 am Dante’s Inferno
03:00 am Tex Avery: King of
_________________ Cartoons

August 29th___________________September 6th
08:00 pm Spirited Away__________ 08:00 pm Tokyo Story
11:00 pm Spirited Away__________ 11:00 pm Tokyo Story
02:00 am Dante’s Inferno

Animation &Animation Artifacts &Disney 26 Aug 2008 08:17 am

Tytla Grumpy

- Following yesterday’s display of a couple of drawings by Bill Tytla, I thought I’d post a couple of other xeroxed animation drawings I have from his work.

I wish I owned the exposure sheets. Drawings #67½, 68½, 69½, and 70½ all follow drawing #70 in its path of action. These are possibly an add on to the turn. They also may be part of a stutter he’s set up: #67½ follows 67, 68½ follows 68, 69½ follows 69, and 70½ follow 70. This would give a peculair effect, and I don’t think that’s it. (Grim Natwick taught me that if you want that stutter effect do the full move, numbering the drawings sequenctially. Then you can throw them out of order on the X-sheets.)

I don’t know, I’ve been trying to find the move in the final film.

Here’s Grumpy turning.

(Click any image to enlarge.)







Grumpy turns.

This is an actual animation drawing by Tytla that I own.
It’s obviously from another scene. The size is a small 10×12.
If you click on the drawing it should enlarge to actual size.

Animation &Animation Artifacts &Disney 25 Aug 2008 07:38 am

Pinocchio moments

Bill Tytla was an amazing character in animation history. I think, far and away, he was onto something that few other animators ever tried to face. He used the drawing, including all aspects: volume, dynamic tension, weight and graphic distortion, at the service of the character’s acting.

I intend, in another post, to draw a comparison with him to Jim Tyer and Rod Scribner.

For the moment, let me show off these great drawings lifted from John Canemaker‘s wonderful book, The Treasures of Disney Animation Art.

(Click any image to enlarge.)

Look at the distortion in these two drawings – 2 & 3
Talk about breaking of joints, talk about stretch and squash,
talk about every possible animation rule and see those rules
stretched to the brink in these great drawings.

This guy was the master of all masters.
Tytla not only knew the rules but used them to create an acting style
that was on a par with the best of the Method actors of his day.
His kind was never equalled, and I don’t expect to see
anything comparable in cgi. I suppose I can hope.

What a treasure.

Of course, this is Stromboli’s wagon interior. It’s a beauty.
What a magnificent film!

Daily post &Photos &SpornFilms 24 Aug 2008 08:02 am

Reviews, the Times cartoon and photos

- I was pleased and surprised that a couple of reviews for my latest dvds were so enormously positive. I guess I’m like most people, I want people to like my films, but I never quite expect them to get the reception they do.

Consequently, I can’t help but share the following one with you from an on-line magazine called: Digigods

    Abel’s Island and The Marzipan Pig are the latest in FRF’s ongoing releases of the films of Michael Sporn. Sporn, for those not in the know, is a wonderful animator, a man of delicate and painterly inclinations whose work almost seems more like storybooks brought to life than conventional
    animation. These two stories, based on popular children’s books, are both excellent and delightful to watch. Forget about the junk you see on store shelves in the annoying white plastic cases — this is what you ought to plop your kids in front of… and then stick around to enjoy with them. “The Marzipan Pig” is a particular delight, wonderfully narrated by Tim Curry and also featuring the Ruby Dee-narrated “Jazztime Tale,” a story of two girls, one white and the other black, who form a friendship in 1919 Harlem. Curry also does voice work on “Abel’s Island,” which features “The Story of the Dancing Frog” as well. Priceless and wonderful. Avail yourselves of these lovely efforts by Sporn… and then go get the rest of the Sporn titles.

Sorry, I couldn’t help it. I’m proud to have someone who doesn’t know me from Adam and gives such a comment. Oddly enough, that’s not the only one.


Jeff Scher has a new animated piece on the New York Times, and you should take a look. Dog Days animates a host of panting dogs witnessing the last days of Summer.


Bob Cowan has been posting some of the great photos and excellent material from the Ingeborg Willy Scrapbook. So far three pages have been posted:
______Pg. 1, Pg. 2, Pg. 3

- Apparently, Aaron Sorkin revealed at the San Diego SorCon that he will be unveiling an animated version of The West Wing this coming season.

According to Sorkin, “The costs of live-action production restricted me to a set only slightly larger than the actual White House and an ensemble cast of under 15 actors. But animation technology will enable us to provide fans with extended 40-minute walk-and-talks, digitally compressed dialogue for faster delivery, and a cast of over 70 main characters. My vision will finally be presented in its truest, most uncompromised form.”

You can see the rest of the story in this week’s copy of The Onion.


- I’ve recently bought a new camera and have been trying to figure it out. Sometimes too much contrast, sometimes too much grain. However, I’ve been shooting a lot to try to get it down. Here are a coupla studio photos among the bunch.

This is what you first see as you enter the stairwell.
You have to walk to the rear of the corridor.

Lola, our current cat, might be looking down on you. She jumps up
on the right wall and cavorts up there with the orange cat that lives there.

Here she is moving from the back to the front.

This is the view from the door as you enter.

(L) Christine’s desk, once you enter and look left.
(R) The table to the kitchen, just behind her desk.

This is the other side of that main room, look back to the editor’s station.

This is my spot. The animation desk came from UPA, the moviola from a Paramount editor.

Two of the walls in my room are covered with books and tapes and dvds.
If Lola weren’t outside, she’d be in on those shelves, too.

Disney &Frame Grabs 23 Aug 2008 08:27 am

Lullaby Land – the movie

- Following the pattern I followed with the post of The Robber Kitten, here are frame grabs from the 1933 Disney Silly Symphony short. It’s worth comparing to the illustrated book I posted yesterday. The animation drawings, I think, are better (though not by much.)

It’s amazing how round everything was back then. It’s even more amazing how angular everything is today – I’m not sure that’s an improvement. Somehow those circular shapes are just so much more appealing. I suppose a pleasing drawing isn’t the approach these days. The Cal Arts style seems to have taken over everything. No one seems capable of a Flash drawing without angling it.

Lullaby Land was one of the first of the many animated baby shorts. Everything from Merbabies to three little kittens scouring the Milky Way were given to the adult audiences watching films like The Petrified Forest and The Grapes of Wrath. I am certainly curious about the audience that was a sucker for these overly cute films. After all, many of these shorts were nominated or won the Oscar.

Per the Merritt & Kaufman book, Silly Symphonies, the film had Layouts by:
__Charles Philippi, Hugh Hennesy,
__Ferdinand Horvath
It was Animated by:
__Ham Luske (baby at home in cradle, baby ____and dog with Sandman)
__Art Babbitt (baby and dog in the Land of ____Nowhere)
__Ben Sharpsteen crew: Leonard Sebring, __Louie Schmitt, George Drake, Ed Love, __Bob Kuwahara, Roy Williams, Marvin __Woodward (They did: the parade of dream
____objects; baby in Forbidden Garden)
__Dick Huemer (baby with matches, the ____Bogey Men)

(Click any image to enlarge.)

Books &Disney 22 Aug 2008 07:59 am

Lullaby Land – the book

- Lullaby Land was a Disney Silly Symphony made in 1933. It was an early color short directed by the inestimable Wilfred Jackson. The short was an adaptation of the poems by Eugene Field, Love Songs of Childhood published in 1894. John Canemaker had this Italian edition of the film published by Mondadori in 1948.

It took them some 15 years, till they were able to get rid of Mussolini, to catch up, I guess. It’s interesting that the social realists, such as Rosselini, De Sica and Fellini, were taking over the Italian film industry when this book was released. The world was in a very different place from the time that the short had originally been produced. I wonder how well this book was received.

Here are the illustrations from John’s copy of the book:

(Click any image to enlarge.)

The book’s inner cover spread.

The title page and the first illustration.

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