Monthly ArchiveFebruary 2011
- It all starts with a drawing. Bambi is, to me, one of the most beautiful of animated features. Collectively, the artists at the Disney studio pulled together to create some wonderful artwork which produced a wonderful film.
The initial work went through many phases, as would be a natural state for animation. However, all of the artists seem to be trying for a higher plane, and oftentime they reached it.
To celebrate the latest release of this film, the Blu-Ray/DVD version, I’ve pulled a lot of the drawings from the film and post them here. It’s amazing how much nifluence Marc Davis had early on. I can only ID the artists of some of the sketches. If you know, let me know.
- You know how there are days that just start off one way and make some kind of turn afterward; or, maybe, they don’t turn and the mixed emotions of the start linger. Some days you walk onto that subway platform and the train just shows up, and that’s the way it is all day. I call it “A good subway day.”
This past week started off with the idea that I’d take a picture each morning to encapsulate an overriding feeling that starts with the new day. So here’s the “diary” (for lack of any other word) of this past week.
It’s a holiday, President’s Day. It’s snowing in NY after a weekend
of the temperature rising into the 40s & 50s. A light, almost refreshing
snow. This is my block, the first exterior site I see of any day.
Here’s Park Ave looking downtown from 30th St. It’s 6am.
The subway going downtown has been closed all weekend for repairs.
That means I walk about ½ a mile to the 23rd Street station at Sixth Ave.
Here I enter Madison Square Park, which looks lovely with the virgin snow falling.
Charles K. Arthur doesn’t look like he’s
properly dressed for the weather.
Here’s the children’s playground. I think of Laurel & Hardy’s
Babes In Toyland when I look at this entrance.
It’s still snowing though it doesn’t show in the photograph.
At the studio I cleaned up a lot of the work done last week for a short pilot I produced/animated. Maybe it’ll come to something, but it’s one of those jobs where the client doesn’t talk to you once you’ve sent in the final. Don’t they realize you’d like some feedback, even if it is positive.
The doctor’s office
Went to the doctor’s this morning. The nurse there is an avid Knicks fan. I’m not much into basketball, but I can always carry a small bit of conversation about the subject. Today Carmelo Anthony has been traded to the Knicks and it’s a big deal in NY. The avid fan is over the top about it, though she realistically addresses the defensive problems left by the trade.
Wednesday started off on the wrong foot.
There’s a lit sign when you enter the subways, these days. It tells you how long you’ll have to wait for the next train. I entered having 10 minutes before my ride would show up. I read and I read as the clock kept going from 10 mins to 22 mins; then to 9 mins to 21 mins. It couldn’t make up its mind, and the train arrived after about a 15 minute wait. I got grumpy when a sleeping homeless guy had taken over half the car with his scent.
All this at 6 in the morning.
Klee and flowers
This is our apartment. Looking from the coffee table, with tulips, to the piano, holding a book on Paul Klee’s love of the Theater and the theatrical drawings and paintings he did. It’s a beautiful book full of great illustrations. Heidi gave it to me on Valentine’s Day. I love Klee, and she knows it.
Many of those pictures will make it to the blog in the not-too-distant future.
Friday, and it’s raining.
The weatherman said it we’d get a “soaking”.
It’s just a steadily persistent, normal rainfall. Rain is always an eyeopener for me in a basement studio. We’ve had floods several times, losing computers, books and artwork in the process. That hasn’t been for a couple of year though; we’ve figured out ways to protect the space. But the shadow of those floods remains in my brain, and I doubt I’ll ever be rid of them.
Saturday was all about the blast that greeted me as I started trolling through some sites. Cartoon Brew led to The Huffington Post, and there was my friend, Mike Barrier being interviewed by some guy who was taking pleasure in saying some negative things about Pixar (without his really having to say them.)
Of course, Mike wasn’t really saying anything negative; he just gave a few honest critiques against the way Pixar makes their films.
Manipulative. Certainly, their films are. It wouldn’t be a problem if it weren’t done so shamelessly. The road to the incinerator in Toy Story 3 is an obvious example. Naturally, it came with a built-in “deus ex machina.” To hear people tell of weeping during this sequence has surely confounded me.
Lacking in character. The only real “Acting” in these films is done with the first rate voice actoring. That’s where all the “character” lies. Brad Bird was nicely able to pull some excellent acting out of his animators, acting that went a smudge beyond the voices. I don’t see that in many other Pixar films. Just think if someone had performed at a higher level than Ellen DeGeneris in Nemo, or beyond Ed Asner in Up. As a matter of fact, the best acting probably came with Wall-E in the first half hour before the film became trite and tedious.
Yes, I agree every bit with what Mike had to say. I just wish he’d written the entire piece instead of having some go-between guy. Part of the pleasure in reading Mike Barrier is the glory in the language and his pure ability to write.
Today, Robbie wanted to go out. That meant he wanted to climb the 10 foot wall adjacent to the studio. He, then, could also jump to the neighbor’s yard and bother their cat. It would mean my having to climb the wall and retrieve him. Those days are over. No going out.
So he runs to the bathroom every time he thinks I’m heading there, and he plops himself down in the sink. Cute, but he’s still not going out.
- Xeth Feinberg has recently been doing comic strip panels. He and his witty strip can be found on The Huffington Post – some pretty wide exposure. Quite a coup for Xeth. The only other animator involved with The HuffPost is Bob Blechman who did some animation for their original masthead and has had several commentaries posted there.
Xeth, of course, is famous for his early Flash animated pieces that flew across the internet in the early days of such things. Bulbo In The 20th Century is a brilliant piece of filmmaking that came out of this period.
Queer Duck, his biggest character, grew out of this work. The Queer Duck shorts poayed on Showtime with the Queer As Folk show; Xeth went on to make a DVD feature (called Queer Duck).
- Another animator who has his own blog is Doug Vitarelli. Doug has created a character named Olifant, a dinosaur who lives in New York City’s Central Park. The site is dedicated to Olifant. As Doug points out, “It’s a website for kids, 2-6, with stories, games and activities.” This is a good place for animators to turn when they have children.
Doug worked for me years ago. In 1987, he interned on a film I did called Santa Bear’s High Flyin’ Adventure. It was a monster of a picture that struggled throughout its entire lifespan. One of those.
At the same time, we were doing Lyle Lyle Crocodile with another staff in another space. That one was the dream that just was fun to work on and flew out easily as a great film.
One of these days I’ll write more at length about those two films. We had 86 people working on Santa Bear and only about 15 on Lyle.
- And speaking of other blogs, I thought I’d take a moment to promote another blog that I have that doesn’t change much but has a lot on it. Poestory.net features a lot of art bits from the preproduction of my Poe feature. The Production Updates page is about all that’s been changing lately. I write infrequent notes about Edgar Allan Poe and the film several times a month. When the film actually does get into production I’ll do it more regularly and frequently. (We’re expecting the funds to come through soon, as expected, and we can get our hands into the work.)
- Bill Peckman sent me some stills from a book of photos by O. Winston Link, Steam, Steel and Stars. They are magnificent pictures that were taken of steam railroads in America from 1955 to 1960. The photos are stunning achievements, and I had to post the images. You can see why Feininger had his attachment to such imagery. Ah, the romance! Judge for yourself.
Many thanks to Bill Peckmann.
The book’s cover.
- Arthur Burdett Frost (January 17, 1851 – June 22, 1928), is considered one of the great illustrators in the “Golden Age of Amerian Illustration.” He was an early American painter, illustrator, graphic artist, and comics writer. His illustrations for Lewis Carroll’s “Tangled Tale,” “Phantasmagoria and Other Poems,” and “Sylvie and Bruno,” are considered classics, and every bit as wonderful as Tenniel’s for “Alice”. This is also true for his illustrations for Joel Chandler Harris’ “Uncle Remus Tales”.
Bill Peckman has sent me a third batch of his sequential cartoons for the “The Bull Calf, and Other Tales”. Thanks to these scans we can see another funny side to the artist’s work. Many thanks to Bill for taking the trouble to send this artwork.
- Here are the last of the drawings of Frank Thomas‘ scene from The Laughing Gauchito. This was a short that was stopped mid-production in 1942. Thomas animated this, the most emotional of scenes in the film. Bill Tytla and Ollie Johnston were the other animators assigned to director, Jack Kinney on this film.
Many thanks to John Canemaker for lending me these drawings.
As usual I begin with the last drawing from the last post.
Here’s a QT of the scene with all the drawings from the entire scene.
- Here we go with the final installment of the Raggedy Ann & Andy: A Musical Adventure drafts. This, of course, was the feature Richard Williams directed (3/4 of the way) in 1977. You’ll note that as we’ve gone on, the drafts have gotten sloppier and sloppier. This last batch (separated from the last installment by 2 sequences of live-action film) included a couple of faux sheets. They were started and redone. I only include the redone sheets.
The animators working on this ending sequence include: Hal Ambro, Dick Williams, Tissa David, Jim Logan, Tom Roth, Spencer Peel, Irv Spence,Art Vitelo, Art Babbitt, Dan Haskett, Cosmo Anzilotti and John Gaug.
The final three sheets are a sequence breakdown – a reduction of the drafts, in case you’ve lost your place and want to find out what sequence to look for.
A Corny Cole rough (above) done with BIC pen and
a Corny Cole clean up (below) done in pencil.
- Happy President’s Day. This gives me the chance to talk about a show I’ve been doing for HBO. It feels like I’ve been working the last ten years on it, but it’s really only 2½. The show is scheduled to air next year on President’s Day, and we’re in the throes of completing it now.
This is basically a program where we’ve asked some kids to tell us what they would do if they were President. The kids gave us some funny ideas and brought a lot to the table.
However, the show took a wrong turn somewhere in the beginning, and we went down a path that wasn’t what Sheila Nevins, the head of Family Programming, was looking for. We’d done a half hour of finished-looking animatic to sell our work, and a lot of it went out the window.
I tried to make some small QT movies of a couple of the outtakes, but I couldn’t get the files down far enough, and they took forever to load. So forget that. Instead, let me show off some of the great caricatures Tom Hachtman did for me.
We were going to tell some quirky stories about some of the Presidents, when they were kids. And we’d assembled some interesting ones. So Tom had to give me drawings of the Presidents as adults AND as kids.
Here’s some of the art that went out the window:
At first, Tom did a lot of scketches in his notebook to see
what I was looking for. He hit it on the mark first time out.
But all this work was for naught. It was removed from the show. We didn’t talk about past Presidents (with few small exceptions to comment on the conversations the kids have.)
The one full piece that did make the show was
George H.W. Bush angry about eating broccoli.
Look for it next year.
- It’s Sunday, and how more appropriate a time to show these pics by my friend, Steve Fisher. They’re of a temple in Elmhurst, Queens. There are a number of temples in Queens; it’s a very diverse community. I remember visiting an Indian Buddhist Temple in Flushing which had been built from stones and materials that were sent from India.
Here’s this Thai Buddhist Temple at 46th Avenue at 76th Street, in Elmhurst. The photos nicely capture the building.
And just to give Christian churches some equal time, here Steve’s photographed two other temples, both in Maspeth Queens. The Transfiguration Church on Clinton Ave and the Holy Cross Church on 56th Road.
Stteve writes: Transfiguration, built in 1962, is of a style I would not have associated with a place of worship – kind of Swiss chalet trying to be Frank Lloyd Wright. Transfiguration taken to another level of meaning, probably not intended. The other (Holy Cross) is just a pleasant piece fitting in nicely into its mid-block residential context.
The Transfiguration Church
- I recently completed Steve Martin’s autobiography, Born Standing Up, and I recommend it to anyone in the entertainment business – that means all of you reading this.
The theme throughout is his love for the work he’s doing. Fine tuning his comedy (which started out as a magic act, then a magic act with jokes, then just the jokes), took years and years of serious dedication, hard work and fine focus. His life was about little more than the act, and he eventually got it right and became an enormous success.
Like many such books, he predominantly writes about the lean years and the unapproving father who remained cold and distant to him throughout his life. Naturally, there’s plenty of funny material to read here. The short book, 206 pages, zoomed through my hands and was a great inspiration. I heartily recommend it. (it’s real cheap in paperback on Amazon.)
- Michel Ocelot talks to the Hollywood Reporter from the Berlin Film Festival where his latest feature, Tales From the Night is playing. (There’s also another, much longer, interview with him on Ghibli World.)
The interview is candid and interesting, as usual for Michel. He speaks his mind about animation, and that always makes what he has to say worth listening for. Because he started as a 3D cutout animator,who now works in cgi, it’s worth listening to his take on the medium.
I first met Michel back at the Ottawa Animation Festival in 1980. We were both over the moon for Tale of Tales, the Grand Prize winner of that Fest. The film made its North American Premiere there. The two of us spent the rest of the Festival talking about Norshtein’s film and were pleased when it won the deserved prize. It gave me another chance to see it projected. It was wonderful to have someone so articulate and animation-informed with whom I could discuss the film’s merits at length. I knew Michel would do well after that week’s encounter.
On February 24th at 6:30pm, animation writer, Joe Strike, will interview animation filmmaker, J.J. Sedelmaier at the Society of Illustrators.
Here’s the press release that was emailed to me:
- Interview with an Animator: J.J. SedelmaierThursday, February 24, 2011
6:30 – 8:30pm
Hollywood may be home to the big animation studios, but there’s no shortage of
cartoon creators in New York City, the city that gave birth to animation. Join Joe
Strike for “Interview with an Animator,” a multi-part series of live, in-person
conversations with some of New York’s best known and most creative animation
On February 24th, Joe will interview J.J. Sedelmaier,
writer/producer/director/designer, Beavis & Butthead (MTV), Harvey Birdman ([adult
swim]) Saturday TV Funhouse and The Ambiguously Gay Duo (Saturday Night Live) and
many award winning TV commercials.
$15 non-members, $10 members, $7 students
RSVP@societyillustrators.org or call Katie Blocher 212.838.2560
Sam Borenstein is the father of Montreal-based animator, Joyce Borenstein. On Sunday, February 27th at 2pm, Yeshiva University Museum will be showcasing paintings by Sam. Joyce’s Oscar-nominated short animated documentary about her father will be screened and she will attend the opening. Here’s the press release:
- Yeshiva University Museum, in the heart of New York City, is proud to announce the very first American exhibition of the acclaimed master of post-war expressionism in Canada, Sam Borenstein (1908-1969).
You are cordially invited to the opening reception of
“SAM BORENSTEIN AND THE COLORS OF MONTREAL”
on Sunday, February 27, 2011,
at 2 PM.
Following the landmark retrospective at The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, which also toured across Canada, thirty-five of Borenstein’s most vibrant works will be on display at
YUM’s SELZ GALLERY, 15 West 16th Street, NYC
from February 6 to May 8, 2011.
We hope to have the honor of your attendance and you are welcome to invite your colleagues and friends.
- Guillermo Del Toro has written the story with screenwriter, Matthew Robbins, and will co- direct a new 3D puppet version of Pinocchio. Set to take a darker turn than Disney’s film, the film should be an interesting mix.
Del Toro, a live-action director, is responsible for the Hellboy franchise, and he also directed 2006 the fanciful Pan’s Labyrinth in 2006. Gris Grimly will co-direct with Mark Gustafson in London. The two were previously involved in The Fantastic Mr. Fox, Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride, and the upcoming Frankenweenie. The film is being produced by the Henson Company.
To read more about this go here.