Monthly ArchiveDecember 2009
- Bill Peckmann has generously loaned me another very large stash of character model sheets, primarily Disney. There’s a wealth of Mickeys, alone.
I’ve posted some of them before, many in much poorer condition. Consequently, I’m about to spend some time with Mickey and Minnie, and post some new, some old and some out of this world models of the pair.
Here’s a large number of them. I’m holding back some animation charts from L’il Whirlwind and The Symphony Hour which will come at a later date.
Let’s start with a nice early Mickey.
These are the models from the Disney lecture posted here.
Thankyou, yet again, to Bill Peckmann for sharing these with us.
There are three interesting model sheets at David Lesjak’s excellent site Vintage Disney Collectibles.
- I’ve seen a couple of this year’s features another time this past week and have had some more thoughts about them.
I’ve now seen The Fantastic Mr. Fox a third time. Twice in theaters and once on DVD. All three times it was every bit as entertaining for me as it was on the first viewing. I was more impressed with the levels of depth cleverly written within the film.
There are the same father/son complications of every Wes Anderson film, however more interesting to me was the thought on the nature of the film’s creatures.
The Royal Tenanbaums treat each other as if they are Royal. The Foxes are wild animals; they know it and allow their true nature to emerge. Look at every time they eat, attacking wildly and voraciously.
The animals in costume are little more than their natural selves: a fox is a fox and it’s unable to resist its natural, wild tendencies. A badger is a badger and tempers will rise when mixing with a fox. Though he’s a friend and lawyer to the fox, the two spit and spat whenever they meet.
This is not the same lax world as many past cartoon creations. Bugs Bunny was rarely, if ever, a bunny. He was more a foil for Elmer Fudd (or in some cases Daffy Duck, who started life as a duck but became something other.) Mickey Mouse could mix with Donald Duck, or Goofy, and all could just act as humans do with little regard for their off-sized proportions or animal natures. (Admittedly, Pluto always stayed a dog despite the fact that Goofy was also a dog, and Mickey Mouse was his owner and larger than the dog.)
This is the cartoon world, and there’s nothing wrong with it. It’s just that Mr. Fox takes it into a different direction – thanks to the spirit of Raold Dahl, which Wes Anderson followed closely. And in doing that Anderson asks what is our true nature? What is wild within us when we, as adults, seem to have learned to temper those base instincts.
The animation of some of the Beatrix Potter stories have followed the animal natures of the characters, but adaptations of The Wind in the Willows have not followed the book’s logic. In the book the animals ARE pointedly animals – despite wearing clothes and acting more human-like.
To me, the film is witty, charming and wholly satisfying. Even the stodgy, stiff animation is part of the appeal. There’s a quaint and homespun feeling to the characters in this old-time, hand-made animation. Sitting next to me in the theater, this last time, was a mother (about 30) with her son (about 10). She was quiet during the film, he was certainly enjoying it. When the film ended, the boy asked his mother excitedly, “Didn’t you just love the farmer?” The mother hesitated for a long time, then said, “I guess so.” She seemed not to enjoy the film while her son gushed over it all the way out of the theater. Not all films are for everyone.
The Princess and the Frog I saw for a second time on DVD. Actually, I could only make it through about 2/3 of the film on the second viewing. Its flaws were larger for me on the small screen and at second viewing.
The largest hurdle for me on the first viewing was the story, and it remained the complete shambles it was the second time out. It’s an embarrassment to me that this film came out of the Disney studio with no one noticing how poor the story and the storytelling is.
The movement and character development, in this film, was often more Warner Bros than Disney – wilder, broader and hard-edged. The last few Disney 2D features seemed to be making a split. Half the animation seemed very Don Bluth while the other half was more WB. This, of course, was just my perception. Only a couple of animators seemed distinctly out of the Disney mold – Andreas Deja and Glen Keane, for two.
I like Andreas Deja‘s animation of the voodoo queen, Mama Odie, introduced to us in the last third of the film. (Really! Was there no way to introduce this character earlier in the film?! I can think of half a dozen ways to do it, and the film could have used more of her.) Unfortunately, she’s on the screen too short a time to separate her from Mad Madam Mim or The Rescuers’ Madame Medusa.
It’s interesting that the film includes the death of a bug (a bug also introduced in the last third of the film), and that’s supposed to make us feel something. Of course, it becomes a star (there must be lots of stars – meaning dead bugs – that we don’t see up there) as the directors try pointlessly to pull the heartstrings. More disheartening than heartfelt.
In Mr. Fox, when the villainous rat dies, no such poor attempt is made to manipulate our emotions. Anderson didn’t sentimentalize the death. “Just another dead rat in the garbage pail behind the Chinese restaurant.”
- John Canemaker contributed a two part article on J.P. Miller to Cartoons, the International Journal of Animation published by ASIFA Int’l. The two part article appeared in the Winter 2006 and Spring 2007 issues.
John Parr Miller was a designer who worked at the Disney studio from 1934 to 1942 as part of Joe Grant’s elite Character Model Department. After his service in WWII, he became a children’s book designer and author remaining in that field for the remainder of his life.
J.P. Miller’s career at Disney’s is not something we often hear about, and I think the information in John’s extended article is so valuable that it has to get out there even further and be shared more openly. Consequently, with John’s permission, I’m posting both parts.
This is part 1:
(Click any image to enlarge.)
- Months ago, I posted a scene Frank Thomas animated for The Jungle Book. The scene involved the boy, Mowgli, and Kaa, the snake.
Here is another, companion scene with the same two characters. (It comes in the film with only a closeup of Kaa separating the two.)
There are 103 drawings to the scene, so I can’t possibly get them all into the one post. Consequently, I’ll try to do it in three.
Once again, many thanks go to John Canemaker for sharing these on line.
(Click any image to enlarge.)
The Following QT movie is of the complete scene.
I love how he shakes his head and mouths the word “No”
just prior to wrenching his hand from Kaa’s grip.
Right side to watch single frame.
- I was just reminiscing about the steam rising in front of the Raggedy Ann studio and how irritated it seemed to make Dick Williams. Remembering that I’d written about this already, I searched out the piece and think it worth recapping. Here it is.
- Steam is the secret energy that runs my city. There’s an article in a local paper called The Gotham Gazette which describes the system in full detail. It’s a good read, so I urge you to go there if you’re interested in further understanding the system.
Atop ground we get to see steam leaking out of sewers, see giant pipes spewing steam into the air, and read about exploding steam pipes that cause damage. (There was a recent explosion at 42nd Street near Grand Central Station. Another in Murray Hill, a couple of years back, destroyed a building and closed a city block for several weeks.)
We pass by these steampipes and stewing manhole covers without thinking about it. It’s like some primeval force out of the Rite of Spring hiding underground.
(Click any image to enlarge.)
For the times Con Edison is working on the system at specific locations, they construct barber-pole colored pipes which emit large bursts of steam into the air. That wonderful scent you get when walking into a dry cleaners often surounds these pipes.
Back when Raggedy Ann started, there was a very large construction and similar pipe steaming up the entire front of the Brill Building in which we were located. I seem to remember we were originally on the fourth floor, so any offices that faced the front of the building saw nothing more than steam flowing all day long.
Dick Williams had one such office; the conference room was another.
There was a Saturday rush to complete the art for the rough animatic. Dick and Gerry Potterton and I were in the conference room for at least 8 hours madly coloring storyboard drawings with colored pencils. We had a great time laughing and joking and gossipping about everyone under the sun. I was a lowly Asst. Animator, but they treated me like an equal. It was fun, needless to say.
All day long that incessant SHUSSSHHH; all day long that steam flowing up and pass our large bank of windows. It was crazy-making.
Dick finally broke from a conversation we were having to scream out at the steam and the workers. He was sure that New York was ready to burst out and blow up underneath us. Gerry and I had a good laugh at the rant.
Obviously, not all of these pipes are striped in the Con Edison orange and white. I found
this black, short pipe.
I found this guide to where things are underground. It gives a good, informative view of what’s flowing underneath us in this town. Maybe it will blow up someday.
- This is the final chapter of the book I’ve been posting these last five weeks. It is a drawn diary kept by Tanya Usvayskaya while she worked for Yuri Norshtein‘s studio. The close-knit and personal relationship of all the members of the studio comes through, and we get to share some intimate moments with the animation master, Yurij Norshtein.
Richard O’connor, whose Asterisk Productions does wonderful animation of their own, gave the book to me as a gift, and I’m pleased to share it with you.
Note that the translation by the Japanese publisher isn’t always the clearest, yet something of the original Russian seems to come through. I’m transcribing the book without changing anything.
Here we continue with a chapter on “The Artist”:
“Please tie me on the chair!”
For the film, “The Overcoat,” it is necessary to shoot a scene
where Arkaky is tied to a chair by his colleagues.
So he says, and sketches himself as Arkaky in front of a large mirror.
He did not find “wonderful expression” and was offended.
He says: “What is the value of television?”
Opening of exhibition of laureates of “Triumph” award
Yarbusova and Norshtein in Paris in 1998.
They were so tired of hanging sketches by themselves
that they were no more interested in the opening itself.
“What we call poetry is reality for children.”
Yurij told Nataliya Nikolaevna Abramova (his permanent heroic editor)
“Animation film is not a criterion. In art
it does not occupy any positions. I know about it.
Natasha, I am always thinking about it.”
“Animation – it is a continent without a support!”
Torture of Creation – Norshtein shouted to Natasha Abramova on the phone.
Any average entertainment films are much more meaningful than
what I currently am engaged with.
“I only wish that the bed will not be broken,” Tanya muttered.
Drawing with a model – Norshtein looks into the eye piece of movie camera.
Norshtein, himself, wrote a short piece in the back of his student’s book:
- About Tanya
Tatiana Usvayskaya is very unique artist. She has quite rear combination of very keen sense for fun and skill of sharp drawing at the same time. Her visual memory serves her fantastically!
For the very first time I was surprised by her talent seeing her drawing where I was portrayed as a giant with running line of cheering like birds students behind me. Figures on the drawing were not bigger than a finger’s nail, but all that 15 or 20 characters were with incredible resemblance. I can’t understand how she could catch the resemblance in such a miniature size! Any scene from everyday life is transfered by her fantasy.
Her beloved dog with nickname Pirat is a kind of superhero on her drawings. He is a gentleman, a doctor, a cook, her gallant cavalier and her taxi-driver.
Gratefully to her kindness the dog became one of the heros on introduction and ending of TV programme ‘Good night, children!’
A short movie can be done by any of her drawings. She doesn’t keep her drawings preciously. She scatters them everywhere, many of them are lost forever. Whenever I ask about some of her drawings, she answers: ‘I think, I have lost it… I’ll draw a new one!’
She has a Mozart’s scale talent, that’s why so easy she can part with things done already and not be saddened by lost one. For Mozart was quite easier to compose a new piece than to look for something lost already.
Tanya never corrects her drawings. If she has dislike of something, she redraws it again. She doesn’t think much of her talent, considering that to draw is very simple thing.
I hope that publishing of this book with her drawings will help her to understand that to raise a people’s laugh over your drawings is quite tough job.
Photos 25 Dec 2009 08:51 am
- Steve Fisher sent me two ways to celebrate Christmas. Here are his photos:
1. The commercial
(Click any image to enlarge.)
2. The Non-commercial (though safety-proofed)
The funny thing about that last photo is that I shot a picture of it
a couple of days before they actually installed the creche.
By the way, they’ve added the baby Jesus today,
Comic Art 24 Dec 2009 09:12 am
- I’ve been rereading Pogo lately. It’s always a good well to return to when you’re looking for a light. This is a small passage – a couple of pages of Walt Kelly strips dating back to 1955. This book, Deck Us All with Boston Charlie was published in 1963.
(Click any image to enlarge.)
- Jeff Scher has the perfect Yule Log for you this Christmas. It was posted by the NYTimes and only takes a minute. More great work from Jeff and composer, Shay Lynch.
- You’ll remember that I did a couple of pieces on the illustrator Vernon Grant. He was the original designer of Snap, Crackle and Pop for the Kelloggs Corp. back in the late ’30s, and I featured a post on the history of those characters.
I followed that with one on his Mother Goose book. There, I posted some of his uniquely styled illustrations for that book of Mother Goose rhymes.
Both those posts were heavily dependent on some great material loaned me by Bill Peckmann from his remarkable collection.
Vernon Grant was also drew Santa Claus. He seemed to love drawing St. Nick in many different incarnations. This is something we share. Whereas I confine myself to many varied Christmas cards, he has a perennial best selling picture book, Vernon Grant’s Santa Claus, that’s been on the market for many years. Bill Peckman recently sent me a copy of the book to scan and post, but I’d already had my own copy. I’ve decided, here, to post about half of the book. I’m particularly interested in Grant’s illustrations prior to the ’50s. Conseqeuntly, I’ve chosen to select only those illustrations that were done in 1953 or earlier, and I’ve placed them in chronological order.
Not all of the images are of Santa Claus. Hence in organizing them by date, we have to start off with a beauty but one that doesn’t feature Santa.
Hi-Ho! For a Merry Christmas – 1932
How sad! The Depression hit Santa, too.
This one is untitled, but it’s far and away my favorite.
These last two are too Norman Rockwell for my taste.
But it shows the direction Vernon Grant and America were taking.
The song “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” written by Tommy Connor
was a smash hit in 1952. The smash singer was Jimmy Boyd (who later
grew into the role of “Jimmy” on the original Mickey Mouse Club.
Vernon Grant obviously built on the song title.
It looks like a Coca Cola ad of the period.
He played a bird on my film, Lyle, Lyle Crocodile. During the session, which included a song number, that Arnold participated in, Charles Strouse, the composer, jumped in to attack Arnold for not sounding enough like a bird. There was a back-and-forth fight between the two of them as to what an animated bird would sound like, as compared to a human being. Arnold pointed out that he was many animals in animation but had never been criticized for sounding human.
Recognizing the inherent problems in the discussion, outside of the booth I asked Charles to keep quiet and allow me to direct. I then told Arnold he was doing a great job – which he was – and to finish the piece in the same direction. He did, and the track ended well.
After the session, I privately spoke with Charles and resolved any problems. (He ultimately did this to me several times in several different sessions over the course of different films. In every case, I had to firmly stick to my guns.)
Arnold and I exchanged Christmas cards up until this year. Several times he called to ask if I had anything brewing for him. Unfortunately, we never worked together again. I’m glad for the bittersweet memories I do have, and I’m sad that he’s gone. He was an extraordinary and unique talent.
- Nina Paley’s Sita Sings the Blues will, at long last, make its New York City premiere on Christmas Day. The film will open at the IFC Center on Dec 25th and play through Dec 31st, New Year’s Eve. This will be the first official screening of the movie.
On Dec 25th Nina will appear for a Q&A session at the theater and may make other appearances at the theater during the week. These will be announced at a later date.
If you haven’t seen the movie projected on a screen, you ought to. It takes on new dimensions, and you owe it to yourself. The film has played at over 200 International film festivals and has won many prestigious awards including at Berlin, Annecy and Ottawa.
- You’ll remember that I did a couple of posts on Bert and Jennifer Klein and their film, Pups of Liberty. I’m pleased to say that this film has been nominated for an Annie Award for best animated short. (The only other film in that category that I’ve seen is Bill Plympton’s Santa, the Fascist Years. I suppose I can also guess what Robot Chicken: Star Wars 2.5 is. A Cartoon Network tv show. Honestly, it’s not the best selection of shorts I’ve seen. Pups of Liberty has a good chance, and I congratulate the Kleins.)
Bert Klein recently contacted me to say that he’s produced a feature film, with Jennifer Klein, – a live action documentary about his father, David Klein, the inventor of the Jelly Belly. It’s called Candyman and is directed by Costa Botes, who directed Forgotten Silver with Peter Jackson in New Zealand.
You can view a trailer on their film’s site, Candyman.
The film, Candyman was just accepted into the 2010 Slamdance Film Festival. It’s going to be an exciting January at the Klein household.
- Recently Jonathan Giles approaached me at an ASIFAEast program. He gave me a card for a website comic strip he’s been drawing/posting for the past couple of years.
Anecdote is a strip that features a lot of kids with timely/often political subject matter. It’s a well-drawn, entertaining read and I highly recommend it. Apparently, new strips are posted Wednesdays at 5:30pm, but plenty of strips remain on line.
I encourage you to check it out.