Monthly ArchiveDecember 2010
- A couple of weeks back I started posting some cartoons by George Baker from his collection of Sad Sack strips done while in the Army. This small book was introduced to me by Bill Peckmann. I immediately ran out and bought an old used copy, and now continue posting some of those strips.
I was a fan of the strip when it was a comic book in the early 60s. Looking back on the earlier artwork, as can be seen here, the original strip has a stronger look. The thick-thin outline makes it feel, in some places, like German Expressionist art, as we might’ve seen under Otto Dix’s pen. (This is particularly true in some panels on #6, 7 and 10.)
The front cover of the book in all its worn glory.
- I’m sad to learn that Billy Taylor died this past Tuesday. He was a smart, intelligent guy; I’ll miss his not being there. A a small crack in the world has grown larger for me. Of course, this is because I got to meet him on a one-to-one basis.
Back in the mid-70s – I think it was 1975 – Billy Taylor showed up at the Hubley Studio. I was the only person there, at the time. He was working on a tribute they were about to have for Quincy Jones at Carnegie Hall. It was hoped that John Hubley would say a few words and show a bit of EGGS (which QJ scored). Unfortunately, I couldn’t answer for the Hubleys.
Dr. Taylor decided to wait around for Hubley to return. That meant that I was there to entertain him until John got back. We talked for maybe two hours over some tea. I showed him artwork from a number of pieces we were working on, and we talked about all the work Quincy had done for the studio. (He also scored OF MEN AND DEMONS.)
Billy Taylor, in fact, had written the music and performed it for a number of the Hubley Sesame St. and Electric Co. pieces. He was a brilliant pianist, and many of the pieces just built around the piano. We also talked about that.
The Hubleys never returned that afternoon. Billy Taylor finally decided to leave and said he’d call back. I didn’t see the Quincy Jones tribute, and I don’t know if the Hubleys turned out for it (though I can’t imagine they wouldn’t have.) However, I had a short slice of glory that afternoon and a great memory to boot.
I’m sorry I never thought to work with him on any of my films. But then my budgets were always so tight, I wonder if I’d have had the nerve to offer him what little I could for a film’s music.
- I just received a DVD for THE GRUFFALO in the mail. This is the 2nd DVD of an animated short sent to me this year. The last was the WB cgi version of the roadrunner. The roadrunner was a horrible short that completely missed the point of Chuck Jones’ brilliant work, and I couldn’t make it through the whole DVD version. I did, howevwer, watch the whole thing on a big screen, in 3D at the Academy screening. Ycch. THE GRUFFALO, on the other hand, is a first rate short. The voice work is spectacular. Tom Wilkinson, alone, makes this film fun to listen to. The animation done by Soi Films in Germany is quite delicate and good. I’ll see this one again next week in a theater at the Academy screening, Saturday, Jan 8th, of the short list for animation. I’ll be watching animated shorts in the morning, live action shorts in the afternoon and a play (The Importance of Being Earnest) in the evening. A long and passive day. I’m looking forward to it. I expect THE GRUFFALO,one of the better films, will be nominated. I hope, also, that Michel Gagne’s film will be nominated. I can’t think of any other astract animated film to have EVER been nominated.
- Speaking of experimental animation, it’s wonderful that Mary Ellen Bute‘s animated film, Tarantella (1940), was added to the National Registry this week. Her films have often been ignored by the public. Cartoon Brew led me to a great YouTube video about her work, and I advise you all to take a look at it.
My one connection with Mary Ellen Bute came just after she had died in 1983. Her husband, Ted Nemeth, in a desperate attempt to raise money, offered to sell off some of her possessions. It didn’t take long for a beautiful cel of Jiminy Cricket to enter my collection at the low price of $65. Actually, this felt like a not low price back then, but it was in such good shape and was a wonderful image.
The cel bought from Ted Nemeth.
- Here are copies I have of four random Fantasia layouts. Make of them what you will.
It’s worth clicking the images to enlarge them.
Seq 5.3 Scene 016 / Cy Young
Seq 5.3 Scene 018 / Cy Young
Seq 5.4 Scene 023 / Two Fish
- This is just a quick reminder to say that The Iron Giant is playing at the Film Forum. Today’s the last day it’ll be screened so get out into the snow and head for the theater.
It was Brad Bird’s first feature. He followed this with The Incredibles and Ratatouille. His next feature will be Mission Impossible 3 (or is it 4?) with another cartoon character,
Showtimes: 1:00, 2:50, 4:40, 6:30, 8:20, 10:10
Oddly, My Iron Giant dvd played wonderfully and had all sorts of extras when I bought it.
I just tried the thing on about four computers and three dvd players, and none of them can read it now. The disc is an expensive piece of garbage at the moment. Thank you WB.
- The Illusionist did well in its first weekend, playing in three theaters – two in NY and one in LA. $16,867 per theater for the weekend. This, on a per screen average, is about twice what the best film is doing and nine times better than Yogi Bear. Of course it’d be lower if it were playing in more theaters, but perhaps this will be an incentive for SONY to get it wider than they plan in January.
- I’m going to start running off more of the Action Analysis notes from the after-hours lectures given at the Disney studio in 1936. To start. let me post this lecture about the relation of music and animation given by Albert Malette, who scored these Disney shorts, among other:
1935 Broken Toys
1935 Cock o’ the Walk
1936 Alpine Climbers
1936 Moving Day 1
1937 Lonesome Ghosts
1937 Little Hiawatha
1938 Ferdinand the Bull
1938 Brave Little Tailor
1938 Moth and the Flame
1939 Ugly Duckling
(Click any image to enlarge.)
- Since NY has been buried in snow, I thought I’d post this run cycle Jim Tyer animated for a “Heckle & Jeckle” cartoon called Sno Fun. The copy of the film is a bit soft, so the images aren’t the greatest. However, it was an interesting exercise for me. Tyer doesn’t really do cycles. He keeps the thing going constantly changing bits and parts of the character’s body. Things keep in motion and distort, distort, distort.
Here’s a QT of the cycle with a mix of one’s and two’s.
I posted this back in 2006 and love it so much I’ve decided to put it up again.
Lu has since died, and I post this in memory of him.
- Years ago, Lu Guarnier, an older Warner Bros animator who relocated to NY after WWII and has been working here ever since, offered me a photostat of a christmas card from the WB studio back in 1937.
He told me two days later that he was heading out to LA, and he’d see if he could get any of those pictured to sign it for me. Imagine my surprise when he came back from California with the stat covered with original signatures. Even some of those not in T.Hee’s drawing signed it. (Unfortunately, not T.Hee). They’d all met at a local watering hole. (I guess animators drank together back then.)
Though the card has been seen on line before, I thought it a good image to put up for the holidays. I’ve identified a lot of the people in the picture. My favorite is Henry Binder; he stands out in his stiffness. The lord overseer. And the only one shorter than him is Friz.
Daily post 25 Dec 2010 09:26 am
- As in most years I did two cards. One is posted here:
I took the image from a movie I saw on TCM a couple of weeks ago. SANTA CLAUS is a wierd Mexican film where Santa battles a devil who tempts good boys and girls into doing bad. Santa has to scour the world searching for the devil to stop him in his bad actions and correct the boys and girls before they perform any naughty deeds.
When I was a kid, I had a Castle Film 8mm version of this movie, condensed to about 6 mins. I’d rigged a rough rear screen projection so that I could combine animation with shots of Santa in a home movie animation film I did. Seeing the whold movie brought back memories.
The set design is so peculiar that I had to draw a couple of the images. This one went through a couple of versions before it ended like this.
Anyway, all this to wish you all a Merry Christmas and a memorable holiday. All the best.
- Today, in the Opinion Page of the NYTimes, you can find an animation designed and written by R.O. Blechman, animated by Ed Smith and composited and reworked a bit by me. We all worked for free on this spot (about a week’s work compositing) so the Times could post it without paying. Go here.
- Magicians Do Not Exist. These words break your heart in The Illusionist and raise the film to real “Art” – with a capital “A”. Basically, that message can be interpreted as “Artists” and, by implication, “Art” is dead, or (because I’m an animator) “Animation” is dead. The lonely guy, without his rabbit, riding off in the train is Sylvain Chomet, the film’s director, disillusioned with the clichéd and limited landscape that animation has become.
Of course, that’s my interpretation of the film’s story. I don’t want to go into it too deeply or I’d be giving too much away to those who haven’t seen it.
I saw the film again this week, and the experience was even more thrilling than the first viewing. Yes, there’s some mediocre, even poor animation. Some was done in Korea. You can see a few Long Shot walks of the girl that are wanting – she’s not even touching the ground properly. But it doesn’t matter. The film has so much character, such a deep story/screenplay that it’s impossible to ruin it with a few small scenes.
There are all those great ones. Long takes beautifully choreographed of Tatischeff drunkenly trying to ascend some stairs while avoiding a cleaner washing the floor. All the beautiful mists and waters and moving clouds and incidental characters – that all have character – that you couldn’t ask for more. The film captures atmosphere and place better than any animated film I can think of. This is a Scotland more affecting than the one in Local Hero, and that’s saying a lot.
The film tells the story of a travelling magician. He starts out in Paris at big venues and, over the course of the credit sequence, his performances go out to smaller and smaller houses. He eventually ends up in a small town in Scotland performing in a bar. There a young girl adopts him, and he feels compelled to take care of her – first buying her shoes, then more and more
clothes until he has to take on a second job to be able to afford the responsibility he has assumed. Eventually, lacking proper performance gigs, he descends to advertising/promotion in a store window. But he quickly rejects these jobs (“No, no, no, no”). He’s an Artist and he can’t lower himself to use his magic for commercialism. Better to work as a menial laborer in a garage. This all plays out without any dialogue – other than a few choice words that can be deciphered from the French, English or Scottish Gaelic. The characters all speak different languages, yet work to make themselves understood. A similar schema also worked in Chomet’s first film, The Triplettes of Belleville, but there it was purely musical. A song dominated the soundtrack and carried us along throughout the film. Here, we’re given a beautiful score (also written by Sylvain Chomet) that is combined with particular sound effects to help set the Scottish flavor and the world we’re inhabiting for 90 minutes.
The film is quiet and, like Jacques Tati’s live action films, slower moving. It’s told completely in Long Shots. There are no closeups. The nearest we come to that is a scene where the girl is up close to the camera, cooking. Tatischeff, the magician, walks near her to smell the food, but then walks back into the scene leaving the girl, still up front, in a half shot. It’s all wonderful planning and quite complicated to pull off, which Chomet and his animators do, well.
The film opens tomorrow, Christmas Day. I urge you to see it and judge for yourselves. Those of you who like the snappy, popping animation of Tangled, will probably not like The Illusionist. Regardless, this is the craft done stunningly well for less than a fifth of the budget for Tangled. It should be seen by anyone who loves animation and wants to see it stay alive.
I’ve seen most of this year’s films, and I’d rate this as one of the three or four top. Black Swan, True Grit and 127 Hours all are equal. The Illusionist fits somewhere among those four. As for animated films, only My Dog Tulip and How To Train Your Dragon are in the same ballpark – but far below Chomet’s masterpiece.
You can read a very positive NYTimes review by Manohla Dargis here.
A NYTimes feature showing some pencil test and animatic can be seen here. It’s appropriately silent.
- My friend, Tom Hachtman, dropped by with a little gift. Here’s an ancient magazine he’d found called Quick. It’s a “News Weekly” and publishes a lot of strange stories. (One page includes a picture of a woman who’d jumped out of a window and landed on the hood of a car. A bit sensational, for my taste.)
The cover features Walt Disney and Cinderella, which was obviously in its first national release. There’s a nice picture-feature on this film, and naturally I’d like to share.
Curiously enough, the magazine is dated one day after my 4th birthday. The film opened on Feb. 23rd, two months earlier.
The Magazine is printed on poor quality newsprint paper. That means it’s virtually crumbling in my hands. Hence the quality of the photo features isn’t quite up to the Life or Look magazine features you’d have seen in the day. But it does provide some small record.
Here are the four pages, double spread:
For amusement I’m posting a couple of other pages. Apparently, Bob Hope televised his first TV Special. One of many to come.
Below, just for amusement’s sake, I’ve added the 1950 review from Boseley Crowther at the NYTimes.
(Click any image to enlarge.)
- Grim Natwick animated a wacky character in Raggedy Ann & Andy for Richard Williams. Dick, himself, did the rough cleanup. You can see Grim’s drawings erased and cleaned up. (The semi-erased semblance of Grim’s very large numbers remain on many of the drawings, as do Grim’s notes. The inbetweens were all done by Dick. (It’s his writing in the lower right corner, and I remember him doing this overnight.)
The scene is all on twos. There are two holds which Dick changed to a traceback cycle of drawings for a moving hold. It actually lookw better on ones, but there was a lip-synch that Grim had to follow. It is interesting that both Tissa David, one of the five key animators on this film, and Grim Natwick, who Tissa had assisted for at least 20 years, both shared the one assistant on key scenes in this film – Richard Williams. Eric Goldberg assisted on many of Tissa’s other scenes.
An inbetween by Dick Williams.
A cleaned-up extreme by Grim Natwick.
Dick Williams clean-up.
Grim Natwick (sorta) cleaned-up rough.
Grim Natwick rough.
Natwick ruff, cleaned up.
Dick’s clean-up inbetween.
Definitely a Grim Natwick drawing – cleaned up by Dick (his handwriting).
Drawings 44-47 are all Grim’s roughs with minor CU.
Here’s a QT movie of the complete action from the scene.
The scene is exposed on twos per exposure sheets.
Here are the folder in which the two exposure sheets
are stapled (so they don’t get separated.)