Monthly ArchiveAugust 2012
- Last week, Bill Peckmann forwarded a number of pieces of art by Rowland B. WIlson which was preliminary work for a commercial at Phil Kimmelman and Associates. The commercial, for Vote Toothpaste, was a parody of Sherlock Holmes called Combs and Plotzen. More art surfaced this week for that spot, and I thought it worthwhile to extend the post for a second part. (See Part 1 here.)
Bill Peckmann writes:
- Combs & Plotzen was the second TV commercial that print cartoonist Rowland B. Wilson designed in 1969 and his grasp of the animation production steps was truly amazing. No crash course in storyboarding, model charts, Layouts etc. was necessary. It was like he was doing it all of his life. We were in total awe.
- At that time, Rowland was always very comfortable doing his animation drawings on the paper he knew best, tracing paper. He would work up roughs on layering tracing paper panels without having the need of a light box. No pegs for him in those days.
These first five drawings are Layouts by Rowland Wilson.
These three color sketches are in the new book,
Trade Secrets, by Rowland Wilson and Suzanne Lemieux Wilson.
I found the original drawing I did of the crew that worked on Combs & Plotzen
way back then. It’s Vic Barbetta commenting on my lunchtime eating habits,
Jack and Phil’s anticipating the most important part of the day, the coffee wagon
bell, and Agnes hearing the good news of not having to draw anymore tiger stripes.
At the time that Rowland designed his Utica Club Beer ‘Mountie’ spot, he also did another U. C. Beer spot where the two adversaries were a Knight and a dragon.
Unfortunately the only remaining piece that
I have from it is this stat of the Knight.
As for the dragon, all I can do is show you this page from
Suzanne Wilson’s ‘Trade Secrets’, where Rowland didn’t
forget his old friend from that commercial and gave him a
new coat of paint. One of his best character designs ever.
The tavern panel is a bg. from the same spot.
The Vote spot starts at 0:37 on this Jack Schnerk sample reel.
- Here are the Layout drawings by John Hubley for the Electric Company piece, Cool Pool Fool. Tissa David animated from these layouts and the verbal instructions from John.
A couple of drawings are missing #7 and #18
Here are some frame grabs from the spot. They’ve been severely touched up in photoshop since the video has lost all color and is almost unwatchable except as a silhouette film. I’ve reconstructed the colors as near as I can remember them. At any rate, the purpose of these grabs is for you to see what Tissa has done with John’s layouts.
Thanks to RIchard O’Connor, here is the
poor YouTube version.
The indomitable Billy Taylor wrote and performed the music.
What a great piano! I had the treat of spending a couple of
hours talking with him about his music for the Hubley films.
We talked for about a half hour about this music.
- Sifting through the boxed archives of Vince Cafarelli‘s saved material, there are quite a few pieces of art from a number of commercials. One that stands out includes the LayOut drawings of Fred Mogubgub for an O’Henry Bar animated commercial. The spot comes from the early days of Buzzco, 1982 or 1983 when Buzz Potamkin was still the principal in the company.
Fred Mogubgub was enough of an eccentric that I would be attracted to his artwork. (In case you’re unfamiliar with Mogubgub‘s work, here’s a four part series including his bio and some films.) I remember – as an art student in NY and desperately wanting to get into animation – the sign on 46th St and Sixth Ave: “Why Doesn’t Someone Give Mogubgub Ltd. Two Million Bucks to Make A Movie?” I asked Fred if he’d had any response. He said that ABC contacted him, and he gave them a script that was about a thousand pages big. It was about the contents of an ashtray. The characters were cigarette stubs, ashes and matches. To illustrate the script, he’d attached some used butts and matches within. They didn’t give him the money; you might have guessed.
On Blechman’s The Soldier’s Tale, there was a PT section of the animatic that Fred had done. We had to prepare this for a big screening for PBS trying to sell it for Bob. To get it into color, Fred and I would literally color the film, itself. He started at the head of the scene and I started at the end. We met in the middle. That piece of film had a life that was just too great. It couldn’t retain what we had done when it went to completion. Very exciting work and a fun afternoon coloring some footage with Fred.
Here are the Lay Outs Vinnie had saved for the past 30 or so years:
Our Lead Character – a model
- Bill Peckmann introduced me to a fabulous German illustrator, Fritz Baumgarten, who’d created many beautiful children’s books. These books feel as though they come from an earlier generation, yet Baumgarten died in 1966. In a sense they are from an earlier generation, but they feel more like the 30s and 40s – Snow White. I think of the world of Albert Hurter.
I’d like to post this one, written by Liselotte Burger von Dessart. Zwitschi.
(Click any image to enlarge.)
Many thanks to Bill Peckmann.
John Canemaker has an excellent article in the Tuesday edition of the Wall Street Journal. It can be found on line.
- I’d asked Tissa’s niece, Arlene Nelson, that she include me in any service they’d be having after Tissa died. She called to say that Tissa preferred only family at the religious services they’d be having. (Tissa was a devout Catholic, going to Mass daily – at least since I first met her back in 1972.) Arlene suggested a small memorial gathering at a restaurant, one that Tissa had liked. She recommended this Indian restaurant on the upper East Side. I immediately talked her out of that to find a more intimate approach. The difficulty of gathering a couple of tables for 20 people was troublesome, and we’d probably disturb the clientele on a weekend evening.
I called Candy Kugel to see what ideas she had. She suggested we have it at Buzzco, her studio. She had a couple of long tables which she’d place together, and we could sit, eat snacks (cheese, fruit, veggies) and have a glass of wine while chatting over memories of Tissa.
All very impromptu with less than 24 hours to organize.
There were about 8 family and friends that would come, and I said I’d match that number with animation people that had known Tissa for years. John Canemaker and Joe were going to be out of town; Emily Hubley would also be out of town.
However, John and I briefly discussed an official memorial we’d like to organize for the animation community. John and I will arrange this memorial within the next 4 to 6 weeks. We’ve already started to search for a place where we can screen films and talk on mike.
In the end, there were these people who came to the gathering:
Bob Blechman, Richard O’Connor, Candy Kugel, Dick Rauh, Howard Beckerman, Tony Eastman, Jimmy Picker, John Dilworth and Lisa Crafts. Of course, Heidi and I were also there.
It was to start at 3pm; I bought four bottles of wine, Candy made Lemonade – which was, really, the drink of choice. John Dil brought a bottle of Hungarian wine in honor of Tissa. I bought five different types of cheese and four different kinds of crackers. Everybody had arrived by a few minutes after three. Punctual.
Let’s look at some pictures:
(LtoR) Howard Beckerman, Ruth Mane,
John Dilworth behind Ray (Tissa’s cousin)
(LtoR) Richard O’Connor, Beth (an ex-nun who gave Tissa
religious services daily throughout this entire period), Heidi,
Sheryl (Tissa’s nurse), Bob Blechman (seated) Candy (in the rear),
Tony Eastman (far right front).
At this point, I decided it was time to get the show on the road. I suggested that
we all sit down and take turns talking about Tissa, telling stories we remembered.
(LtoR)Tony Eastman, Howard Beckerman, Bob Blechman
Howard Beckerman started things off saying that he was at the very place
where Tissa got her NY start – UPA. The department manager asked
Grim Natwick to interview Tissa, who could barely speak English.
Grim brought her into the large vestibule and asked Tissa what she
thought animation was. Tissa responded, “Animation is . . . animation.”
Howard’s story is oft told, though he had more details than usual.
Tissa gave me her side of the story. She didn’t really understand
what Grim was asking her, and this was her way of trying to clarify.
Grim hired her because of that answer, and
the two became close for the rest of their lives.
Bob Blechman picked up the story telling. He talked about some credit that
was being drawn for one of his projects. (I think it was Simple Gifts.)
The designers were credited as “Artists” and Tissa wanted to know why she wasn’t
credited as an “Artist” as well. (Only the “Artists” received credit in the publication.)
Bob said he made sure that Tissa got the credit as “Animation Artist” because,
“she was a true “artist”.
I then told the story of my first meeting Tissa at the Hubley studio.
In the I&Pt room, there were only two people working on a commercial,
Helen Komar (an Asst. Animator working, then, as a prod. coordinator) and me.
While working furiously on my artwork, I heard a Hungarian voice in the room:
“Who has done these HORRIBLE inbetweens?”
I was the obvious culprit and nervously raised my hand. They had their
smile and then Tissa took me under her wing to teach me about animation.
I’d go to Tissa’s apartment about once or twice a week and she’d
give me Grim Natwick drawings to either clean up or inbetween.
Then she’d tear me apart for the work I’d done.
Eventually, I learned a thing or two about animation.
Candy told of meeting Tissa and, having talked with her over the phone,
thought Tissa was much younger. Candy was ultimately surprised to find
someone as old as her mother. She took similar lessons from Tissa, but
Candy felt that her skin wasn’t quite as thick as mine. Taking the hard
words from Tissa wasn’t always easy.
Candy also talked about a memorable dinner; Tissa cooked a Hungarian
dinner for John Canemaker, Candy Kugel, me and some of our companions.
Candy, at the time, was a vegetarian. Tissa didn’t know. Candy felt she
could eat around the meat. Unfortunately, the meal was goulash, and
Candy had more than a little difficulty eating it.
Candy eventually became a carnivore, and Tissa became a vegetarian.
The gathering eventually had to break up since some of us had trains to catch or places to get to. However, it was an enjoyable couple of hours remembering someone who was so dear to all of us present. We’d have to look forward to the official memorial we’ll set up in the next month or so.
Here’s some background on those people in the snaps:
- Bob Blechman, the producer director of films especially featuring his own squiggly lined character. A famous designer and cartoonist who hired Tissa for years out of his studio, The Ink Tank.
- Richard O’Connor, a producer director out of his own studio, Ace and Son. He first met Tissa when he worked at Blechman’s studio. Eventually, he worked with her on many a spot from his own studio.
- Dick Rauh, the first President of ASIFA-EAST with Tissa as his Treasurer. They ran the chapter for many ears. He also was the head of the Optical House, a prestigious producer of film opticals. He retired to draw stunning botanical illustrations.
-Howard Beckerman, was a mainstay in animation. He worked at UPA when Tissa was first hired there. He was a designer/animator/director at Paramount. Eventually, he had his own studio for many years in NY. He was one of the leading instructors at the School of Visual Arts. In fact, he still teaches there. Oh yes, he’s also written several books.
- Candy Kugel has been in animation since the early 70s, first at Perpetual Motion Studios, then Buzzco Productions, which ultimately left the hands of Buzz Potamkin and became a joint venture between she, Marilyn Kraemer and Vince Cafarelli, as partners, Buzzco Associates. She’s responsible for MTV’s first ID, the spaceman with the flag.
- Tony Eastman, an animator and designer. The son of UPA writer and author, P.D.Eastman. Tony now continues the book series his father started. He worked for years at the Ink Tank before going into business for himself.
- John Dilworth, director and animator and proprietor of the studio, Stretch Films, from which he produced “Courage, the Cowardly Dog”. His character and the show’s pilot, was nominated for an Oscar.
- Jimmy Picker, the Oscar winning clay animator who has been something of a quiet center for a lot of animation in this City.
- Lisa Crafts, a brilliant Independent animator. She has been making her own films for decades now and has worked at numerous studios about town, including my own.
Tissa’s friends and family:
- Arlene Nelson, Tissa’s niece, the daughter of Tissa’s sister. She came up from Virginia to settle and arrange all the affairs.
- Susan Davis, the friend of Tissa who diligently helped her every day dring this long and tiring period. Susan also notified a large number of people to keep them abreast of any changes in Tissa’s condition. We spoke often, about once or twice a week.
- Sheryl, the nurse who moved in with Tissa after the most recent hospital stay. At first, Tissa objected to having a nursing aide. Within a few days she told me privately that she enjoyed Sheryl’s companionship (not to mention her assistance). They watched the Olympics together.
- Ruth Mane, a dear friend of Tissa’s for many years. Ruth was a remarkable inker and checker during the years of the big studios. She was well known for her brilliant, meticulous lettering.
- Andras, Tissa’s great, grand nephew. He came from Hungary to visit his aunt, arriving on Tuesday, the day Tissa died. He took many photos of the event.
- Beth, an ex-nun who came to Tissa daily over the past four years to help her perform her daily religious service. She administered the Eucharist on more than one occasion while I was present.
- Ray and Marilyn David, Tissa’s cousins from Massachusetts.
Photo of Tissa, above, by Mate Hidvegi taken this past March.
The Los Angeles TImes printed an Obituary for Tissa David, which you might appreciate seeing. (The Chicago Tribune printed this same obituary from the LA Times.)
- Last Sunday it seemed appropriate to post a past piece for the second time. Heidi and I had our second visit to John Canemaker and Joe Kennedy’s home outside of NY on Eastern Long Island. A comfortable respite from our workaday struggle in the tireless city. The chief overwhelming beauty of the home comes from the extraordinary garden Joe and John have built and cultivated. When we visited last year, it was June and everything was in the first blush of June. I could only compare it to my one visit to Giverny, Monet’s stunning gardens outside of Paris. I happened on to that country home at the perfect time when I visited years ago. The garden was as stunning as a . . . well, Monet painting.
This is my favorite of John’s paintings. A big piece that hangs in the living room
over the mantel. I found myself staring at the delicate washes of colors from
across the room. The wash of color plays nicely against the complicated linear
detail of the flowers. It’s a well planned painting done with a spirited energy.
Last year, John and Joe’s garden was lush and blooming and beautiful. The house was full
of John’s beautiful paintings of the flowers. If I lived near such a garden, that would be what I’d be painting too. These paintings were some of John’s best work; the art here was at least equal to anything he’d done in animation. So on that post, last June, I showed a number of his paintings, too.
Last weekend, Heidi and I arrived with the forecast of rain, but it didn’t seem to come with us. The night was cloudy, but the weather was otherwise pleasant, and we had a delightful chicken dinner outdoors. The garden, in August, wasn’t the same. As Joe had explained the odd weather we’d been having this year – high temperatures, heavy rain in the Spring and drought in the Summer – forced all the flowers to bloom at the same time, and earlier than usual. Once the flowers closed, they remained closed and left the garden very green with the occasional flowering bush.
Saturday was full of rain. To be honest, I enjoyed it. The light to heavy rainfall felt very present and tactile. Things seemed more in deep focus. We went to a local museum and bought some used books at a great, local shop.
Finally, on Sunday we had very nice weather, but Heidi and I had to leave at lunchtime. It was a great break for us and gave us the chance to allow our blood to thin out a bit before heading back to the City.
I took a number of pictures which I expected to post last week, but found that I’d many more than I remembered. So today’s post will cover this year’s bloom.
While the rain came down Saturday morning,
I took a couple of photos outside our guest room door.
This is Joe looking at the photo wall.
We heard about their cat, Lucy, who loved being outdoors
in their garden. Prior to coming out to this house, she had a
tough time getting over the death of another cat in the family.
The Bridgehampton house helped her.
Joe wrote a children’s book about her & John illustrated it:
Lucy Goes to the Country.
These are photos of photos they’d taken.
She found a birdbath that was about to be discarded, and
made it her own place to lie in the sun.
She had a difficult time leaving at the end of the weekend, and
John & Joe had a hard time finding her.
Commentary 25 Aug 2012 05:56 am
Tissa David‘s nephew, Mate Hidvegi, sent me a number of excellent photos of Tissa, which were shot in this past year. I’d like to share a couple of the pictures Mr. Hidvegi has shared with me.
Tissa, greeting visitors as they get off the elevator. May 2012
This is exactly how I remember and will remember her.
A perfect photo.
Years ago, I remember sitting through Fantasia at a private screening in John Canemaker‘s apartment. This was before the days of home video or dvd. John had secured a beautiful 16mm print for the occasion. This film was seminal to John’s life and spirit; I knew that and I suspect that Tissa also knew it. I’d also seen the film about 20 times in the year prior to that screening; it had just been re-released in NY for the first time in many years. I felt that the film had some of the greatest work of the Disney artists, and I also felt that it had some enormous lows.
At the end of the film, Tissa immediately piped up and proclaimed it a horrible movie. (John used to impersonate Tissa’s comment for years after, and it always brought a laugh.) She was overstating her thoughts, obviously, but for comedic effect. She hated the Pastoral and other kitschy parts of the film, but she undoubtedly loved the brilliance of Bill Tytla‘s devil or the strength of Reitherman‘s dinosaurs. Even the excellence of Kimball’s Bacchus couldn’t be denied. However, the overall effect was questionable, especially in that apartment screening where it wasn’t the overblown big screen and stereophonic sound version, and its flaws were more obvious.
Tissa blew the same trumpet on many other Disney features. There was a Museum of Modern Art screening of Jungle Book with Eric Larson, Ken Anderson and Gilda Ratner present to talk. I had all I could do to stay awake during the film. (Those horrible voices – Phil Harris, please!) Finally, it ended, and Tissa whispered the opinion, “What a dreadful movie!” I could only laugh. I thought I was the only one with that opinion, and she was voicing my thoughts (and covering up the fact that I slept through it.) We laughed together.
She absolutely loved Frank Thomas’ squirrel sequence from Sword in the Stone.As a matter pf fact, she had a soft spot for a number of Thomas’ sequences.She also loved Marc Davis’ work. His Cruella de Ville certainly stood out. Tissa surprised me during Beauty and the Beast when she praised a half shot of Belle walking and said it was a good walk. (This was within the castle while a prisoner of the beast.) You couldn’t see Belle’s feet, but Tissa believed it. This was high praise from her. By then I’d been concentrating more on the direction than the animation, so I was glad she caught me not paying attention to the screen action. She woke me up again, in a different way this time.
There were many gems Tissa praised to the hilt. The first time we saw Caroline Leaf‘s film, The Street she was full of superlatives. Tissa was a judge in Ottawa when Norshtein‘s Tale of Tales won Best in Show, and it deserved it. We sat through that film many times together. We both loved it. The Quay Brothers confused much of the audience that year with their early film, Nocturna Artificialia, but she loved it. Sodid I, and we spent a lunch talking about it.
In 1974, she opted not to work on the Hubley film, Voyage to Next (she never told me the reason though I believe it was because John was lowering her salary considerably – he had so little money on this film – and she had to stand up for herself), but she praised, privately to me, the animation of Bill Littlejohn even though she wasn’t crazy about the final film.
She shared a long list of things she didn’t like in her own work on films like Eggs, and Raggedy Ann. She also loved working on both films, and loved working for both directors – John Hubley and Dick Williams. After working on animation for Candide for Bob Blechman – low salary long hours and difficult but beautiful work – she told me privately that she would not work on any more films for Bob. She hated how the studio had reworked her animation and changed the cutting. She felt all her hard work had been damaged.
In short, I learned from Tissa that I should trust my judgement. I also used judicious thought in airing my opinion; I was always concerned about hurting the feelings of others. Tissa showed me that I had a strong and contrary opinion, but really I was just looking for my idea of quality. It was easy to say how much I liked things I didn’t, but it was hard to speak the truth and tried to articulate why. It isn’t always easy, but it’s certainly necessary for me. I suppose that makes me not always liked within the community, but the art of animation is too important for me. If my honest opinion gets someone to do better, it’s worth it.
Not too long ago an award winner at an animation festival offended me. At the after party, I told the film maker that his half of a walk cycle was an unforgivable cheat. The budget was the excuse that didn’t sit with me, and I stupidly hurt the animator/director. He hasn’t done half a walk cycle again, and I think my rudeness paid off. Especially in that he’s a gifted artist, and his work was better than what he offered us – even winning an award.
Tissa’s unforgiving critiques of my work, and there were many of them – many – over the years was always helpful. Every single comment from her, whether about my work or other people’s work, taught me something. The positives meant so much more because the negatives were just as honest. I’ll miss her barbs and her lessons. However, I have to say my own opinion of my work is more critical than she ever could have been. I just don’t have a second voice to back me up anymore, and I seriously miss that.
UPA Production Numbers
- Following in the lead of Thad Komorowski‘s listing of production numbers from M-G-M and Warner Bros cartoons, Adam Abraham has opted to add all Production Numbers, he has for the UPA films. This list is complete to about 1956 and includes all the Columbia shorts.
This site, When Magoo Flew, is not only a good companion to the book but is excellent and informative in its own rite. There’s plenty of information here that doesn’t even appear in the book.
Paul Rand . . . I mean Ayn Ryan
- For all those psychotic Paul Ryan lovers, Ayn Rand‘s The Fountainhead will be broadcast on TCM on Sunday, August 26 at 02:30 AM.
This gave me one of my favorite moments as an Academy member. It was a memorial service for Gary Cooper, who had died way back in 1961. They had clips from a number of his great films and a number of speakers who were part of his life (or he was part of their lives.) It was moving smoothly when Patricia Neal came to the microphone, dressed in a bright, slinky, crimson dress. She gave a short-ish speec which started with,”
“Gary Cooper was the love of my life.”
She revealed something that was obvious to many at the time. She and Cooper, while filming The Fountainhead, fell in love. Cooper was married and loved his wife. He would not leave his wife and child for Patricia Neal on her first film. The affair turned to an end. Neal was brokenhearted and told us, many years after. She told us she still loved Gary Cooper. It was a very emotional speech.
They followed with a clip from The Fountainhead.
Maria Cooper, Gary Cooper’s daughter, followed the clip and didn’t talk about Patricia Neal.
I’ve received a notice about the following animated short pieces geared to the Olympics. (Better late than never.) They’re very short animated clips that lead one into another. The note that came with the email read as follows:
- We’ve just made a series of 7 x 20 second animations in just two weeks with
one animator, which is getting really good feedback.
Wondered if you might like to see our animation and share it if you like?
Any feedback you can offer is most appreciated.
Kath Shackleton, Producer
Personally, I’m not the biggest fan of the material, however, I thought many of you would like them. The punchlines are consistently nasty and unpleasant, making the stories not very interesting to me. The animation seems excellent for Flash type work. A lot of labor went into them; I wish the writing had been more creative rather than nasty.
Please feel free to leave your comments for them; I’m sure many of you will like them more than I. It’s just my sentiment – my taste – in this period of world history.
-If you’re a brilliant designer, you get there by doing the work that’s necessary. If you’re as great as Rowland B.Wilson was, you take the opportunity of a fine commercial spot, and you research it, plan it, and sketch it out. That’s just what Rowland did with this spot for Phil Kimmelman and Ass. back in the 70s. Vote toothpaste had a gem featuring “Plotzen” and “Coombs”. They just look like Sherlock and Watson.
Thanks to Suzanne Wilson, here’s the prep work Rowland did for this commercial. Many thanks to Bill Peckmann for getting it to the Splog and for additional artwork.
Finally, here are some rough sequential drawings that Rowland did
for a sequence where the villain transforms via Vote toothpaste.
The object in his mouth is a toothbrush with toothpaste on it.
The Vote spot starts at 0:37 on this Jack Schnerk sample reel.
Tissa David, of course, is still very much on my mind.
I’ll write more about her on Saturday. With new photos and artwork.
- Bill Peckman graced me with scans of a book by Shane Glines, Alex Chun and Armando Mendez. The artist, Russell Patterson has a lot of style and natural sense of composition in creating some great illustrations. He immediately pulls you to the center of his thought, then you quickly spin toward the gag. He knows in his soul how to present his information – quickly and effortlessly.
Here are selections from this book, for your appreciation and enjoyment. Many thanks to Bill Peckmann.
Here’s a wonderful tribute to Russell Patterson, written by Milton Caniff.
. . . and here’s the bios of the three who put the book together: