Monthly ArchiveNovember 2012
Fritz Baumgarten has done Chrismas as well as any other illustrator out there. For the next four Fridays, beginning with today’s post, Bill Peckmann and I are presenting Christmas stories through the eyes of Mr. Baumgarten and other such great illustrators.
We start with this book, Weihmachtsfest in Wichtelland. And here to introduce this book is Mr. Peckmann:
- As a kid many years ago, if you had a favorite cartoonist, the only thing better than that was when that cartoonist did a Christmas book or story for the Holiday Season. Here is a charming Christmas confection by Fritz Baumgarten and a delicious delight it is, both the single color pages and the full color ones. Enjoy.
The book’s cover
- There’s no way to know who animated this walk cycle. Perhaps it’s a commercial by Lu Guarnier. Vince Cafarelli was Lu’s assistant; so if I had to guess, I’d say that Lu animated it and Vince did the cleanup.
For the QT movie of it, I moved the character into place so that we could run it on a cycle.
The following QT movie was made reworking the positioning
of the character on the pages. This enables us to see a repeated
cycle without Magoo bouncing back to the starting position.
It’s certainly a fast walk.
You figure a natural walk is 12 frames per foot hit / 24 frames for both.
This cycle takes just 18 frames. Presumably it’s part of the overall timing.
- Last Wednesday, I posted a number of models and LOs from this small commercial studio, the Robert Lawrence Studio. The art is quite extraordinary and, in my opinion, is stronger than the work I’d seen from UPA-NY. i’ve been told that George Cannata was the principal designer/layout artist for the studio. Hence, I believe that many of these, certainly the more daring, are his work.
Bill Peckmann told a story of having him as an instructor. One week he took them on a class trip to the Robert Lawrence Studio. This was the first time Bill said he was able to see the inside of an animation studio a life-changing event for a number of them. Wane Becker also talked of this trip. Bill said that George was on a trip to be an artist, and he worked in animation to make a living. Animation profited – commercial animation. It seemed the entire family were artists George Cannata Sr. & Jr. as well as Dolores Cannata.
I’m just going to pick up where I left off last time with more models and pre-production sketches for many commercial spots.
Jell-o is served, Madame.
Another variation of these guys first seen in part 1 of this post.
- A week or so back, Bill Peckmann treated us to an issue of the NYDaily News‘ television guide from a typical Sunday issue. Here, Bill completes the issue with some images of Entertainment figures of interest to most older Boomers out there. If only Romney had won, this is the world we’d have seen more of. I still find it interesting that the magazine pictures are in color though color TV hadn’t been introduced as yet. From the “A little memorabilia never hurt anyone” department:
- The Gerald McBoing Boing Show, in the 1950′s had a number of animated pieces on poets, painters and other artists. Of these the most famous film is probably The Invisible Moustache or Raoul Dufy. Another interesting film is one on the Post-Impressionist artist, Henri Rousseau.
Just the same, the art is stunning as is the art from the film.
My copy of the film has no credits though no doubt Shirley Silvey
was the designer and my guess is that
Ted Parmalee was probably the director.
The video credits three animators for the three films on the video:
Fred Crippen, Frank Smith and Phil Duncan.
The animation is so limited that it might have been anyone.
I’d have guessed that Phil Duncan would have done more movement
as an older animator in the group.
- For Thanksgiving, Heidi and I drove to my brother John’s house in Connecticut where we were joined by his family as well my sister Christine and her family. It was a pleasant day. Since I don’t own a car in Manhattan – the garage costs are more expensive than the car – I rented one. Picking it up on Wednesday meant I had to return it Friday and pay for two days, instead of the one I really needed it for.
So we had a car on Friday. I suggested that Heidi and I go to the Bronx Zoo something we hadn’t done since the early days. You have to understand something, this is a big deal for me. Emotionally. My first job, at the age of 11, was working in the Zoo. I was a busboy during the summer. I wiped painted steel tables clean and cleaned the grounds while the crowds bubbled their way on through. Within a year or two I graduated to the hamburger guy and then quickly from that to the Head cashier. The top guy. I worked there part time until I went into the Navy, ten years later.
A lot of memories happened in those ten years, and seeing how the Park has changed has always been a surprise and a strong interest of mine. The Zoo was a good ten miles from my home in the Bronx, so either I had to pay for the two buses which would get me there or take my bicycle. It was usually a combination of the two depending on the weather, my financial situation, or my mood. The bike ride was a good one, easy and direct. The bus was complicated and took longer than the bike.
The Bronx River met us at the parking lot
at the eastern entrance of the zoo.
As a busboy I had a few standout memories that still make me smile.
Kevin was another busboy and a friend. He came from Goshen, NY (somewhere upstate) but spoke as though he’d come from the deep midwest with a heavily twangy accent. In some ways, he wasn’t the smartest guy in the world, but he was a lot of fun. In other ways, he was sharp as a whistle.
The first pavilion we came upon was the bird house.
This is a relatively new exhibit – about ten years old.
The two of us had found maraschino cherries in the kitchen and would often, during slow moments, dip our hands into the large jar of Red Dye #3 to grab a handful of the tasty, sweet, candied cherries which would go atop sundaes (they were made in the Zoo, back then, but are now prepackaged.) Within a short while Jonas, our manager, caught on to our cherry picking, and he suggested we not take any more. It had been getting a bit over the top.
Not all of the animals in this exhibit are birds.
However, there was the one time a couple of days later when I came out of the kitchen to find Kevin with a big smile on his face. He asked if I wanted a maraschino cherry. With that, he picked one out of his white busboy jacket pocket to share with me. After eating it, I couldn’t help but to burst into laughter.
One thing I have to say is that the birds ARE colorful.
Even ordinary ducks can look exotic
in a rainforest setting.
Kevin’s starched white busboy jacket had a big, wet, red stain on the pocket. Kevin hadn’t counted on his thievery being so obvious. That’s when the sly and understated Jonas was standing between me and Kev, talking first about the weather, then about the crowds and finally about the table umbrellas. As he left us standing there, he suggested that Kevin get himself another busboy uniform. One that was clean.
I screamed laughing; Jonas kept walking with that wry smile, and Kevin was almost as red as the stain on his jacket.
Harvey was the dishwasher. He was more than a little slow; he was marginally retarded, big and strong. Definitely slow on the uptake. Right out of central casting. He knew I was a big fan of soundtrack albums (at the age of 12). He was excited, one day, to tell me he’d bought the soundtrack to “Around the World in 80 Days” – this was back in the 60s.
Harvey loved the film so he bought the record as a souvenir. Unfortunately, for him it was just Victor Young’s music for the film. It took about half a day to realize he wanted to get rid of it and couldn’t bring himself to ask me if I wanted to trade something for it.
My older sister, Pat, had been a member of the “Columbia Record Club”. This was a scam operation where Columbia Records would send you albums and if you didn’t send them back right away, you owned them and would be billed – at a high rate – for the record. Pat ended up owning a lot of records she never listened to.
There was a relatively new Lanie Kazan album that she didn’t like and didn’t listen to. I offered this as the record of exchange to Harvey for his copy of “Around the World” – a film I hadn’t seen and didn’t really know. I did know Victor Young’s music. (He’d done the background score for “Samson and Delilah”, “The Road to Zanzibar”, or “The Court Jester”.) I thought this would be a good deal if I could pull it off, and I did.
Wild turkey for Thanksgiving?
Harvey ended up loving that early Lanie Kazan album and played the copy he’d made on audio tape, over and over in the kitchen. I, on the other hand, enjoyed owning the Victor Young soundtrack, even though I didn’t listen to it very often. I still own it. When I hired Lanie Kazan to do a voice over and a song for me in one of my half-hour shows, I didn’t tell her this story; I wasn’t sure if she’d see it as a compliment.
“Tiger Mountain” had other animals besides Tigers.
In fact, the mountain was little more than a hill
where some deer-type creatures roamed.
Of course there was the one tiger who paced back and forth
endlessly as if it were in a cage.
On work days I’d get in early enough and finish my prep for the day a bit before the cafeteria opened. Often I’d get about a half hour having coffee, reading the newspapers at the outdoor steel tables. Zoo personnel would usually come by and have their morning coffee and you could chat with them. I was pretty friendly with a lot of these guys.
There was one guy who used to take a tiger on a leash. These were years before they had “Tiger Mountain” with the animals living in a more natural environment. Back then, there was a Tiger house, where the tigers would live caged within the confines of the space provided. The young tiger on the leash was only three months old and would be taken on a daily stroll to give it some exercise. Since I knew the keeper and saw him daily, I got to know the tiger (which I think was named, “Natasha.”)
Slowly I got to watch Natasha grow up and was able to play with her a bit during that half hour coffee break. By the time she was six months old, she was almost fully grown and the walks were coming to an end.
The Administration Building featured a couple of Rhinos.
This was once the Elephant Building where Rhinos, hippos,
and Elephants roamed.
Every day I had to go to the Zoo’s administration building to have my “bank” for the day doled out – the money I’d use to operate the cash register. It was a ten minute walk from cafeteria to administration building. On one day I’d been half asleep when I turned into the building. “Natasha” on a leash was just coming out. I found myself on the ground underneath a fully grown tiger playing with me. Her keeper was nervous, afraid that I’d report an incident. Of course, not. I’d just had a great moment; one that I remember pretty vividly to this day. No wonder I liked Pi.
There was a carousel with bugs to ride instead of horses.
Bees were a problem in the outdoor, summer cafeteria. People ran from the place rather than get stung. To counter this we did something simple. We filled a soup bowl with what was called “simple syrup”. We’d save packets of sugar that customers left behind and mix that sugar with some warm water. A heavy molasses-like texture in a bowl was left center table at two or three spots, a bit off the main crowds. The bees would come to drink, overdo it and drown in the syrup.
At the end of the day the customers wouldn’t have noticed the bees, so felt safer. However, you had a bowl (or bowls) full of dead bees that someone had to remove. I was usually that person. I wasn’t afraid of the bees and had no problem dumping them. It also bought me a lighter half hour at the end of the day when we had to clean fast and furiously to be able to go home. I never did get stung.
Heidi enjoyed it, though I was a bit offset by the music
which was calliope music not synched to the ride.
Later, we went to the Baboon area (I forget what they
actually called the pavilion.)
Back in the olde days, there were always things happening in the zoo. I remember, at one point, the Pygmy Hippo gave birth to two cubs. There was a wild scream early one morning, and people rushed to the cage, just across the street from our cafeteria. Apparently the depressed hippo mother turned on one of her cubs and began to eat the baby.
The keeper was eventually able to separate the mother pygmy hippo from her second so that both cubs wouldn’t be killed. The mother was, in time, reunited with her last living cub. Apparently, she’d had some type of postpartum depression and it was sad for the killed cub.
Alongside the baboons, the zoo had what looked like
a couple of capyboppys on display.
Outside the baboon exhibit there was a series of skulls
relating humans to the creatures on display.
I had many memories and many stories, and it helps to explain my fascination, still, with Zoos. I tend to seek zoos out when I visit other countries. The Paris Zoo is so different from the London Zoo, but both retain unique feelings. Amsterdam and Yokohama are very different from the San Diego zoo which is almost too large. Manhattan’s Central Park Zoo is similarly very different from the Bronx Zoo. And the Bronx Zoo has changed so drastically that I almost don’t recognize it anymore.
A group of goats, of some breed, mix with
the baboons in that same quiet area.
The Terrace Cafe is almost identical to what it once was. Not much has changed. The same window slots to serve the customers and it had a similar placement of tables. This cafeteria wasn’t open, it being November; they’ve gone onto their Winter schedule.
A number of ostrich preened themselves
at the giraffe enclosure.
My one bit of anxiety was that I might have run into Jonas Schweitzer, my old boss. I know that’s ridiculous. As a matter of fact, I would’ve enjoyed meeting up with him. He shifted to Administration after I’d left, and has certainly retired. But there was still the memory of him asking Kevin to change his busboy jacket so the bright red spot could be contained.
Some things never change, I guess.
The African Plain was our last stop.
Commentary 24 Nov 2012 07:46 am
- A few months ago I got pretty excited about an animation project in the news. Uli Meyer, the brilliant animator/director/designer, had decided to commit to a film he loved and wanted to take beyond the tests he’d already done so successfully. The film was an adaptation of Ronald Searle‘s great series, The Belles of St. Trinian’s. This series of cartoon books inspired several feature films in the early fifties that starred some of the greats: Alastair Sim, Margaret Rutherford, Terry Thomas.
Years ago, I’d seen the first in this series of movies; I’d also seen the beautifully executed test done by Mr. Meyer and was taken by the excellence in the performances in that spot – performances by both the character’s and the director’s. The animation had so charmingly captured the style of Ronald Searle’s delicate illustration style. It also captured the humor of the cartoon.
So, yes, I was excited by this news. I immediately linked to the new site that was created as a sort of production blog for the film, and I contacted Uli to offer assistance in any way that I could.
I watched as they recently took the older B&W test and experimented with color coming, finally, to an exquisite little film which was posted on line:
But then came the bad news that things had come to a halt with the project. This is what Uli wrote on his St. Trinian’s blog:
- You might have noticed the lack of posts recently, unfortunately the production has hit a major setback. I can’t go into details and don’t want to name the culprits because I am hoping that at some point soon the issue can be resolved. Unfortunately there are some people who don’t want me to make this film. I had no choice but to put it on hold. This is not the end of this . . .
Apparently, in meeting some of the family, they gave encouraging words of support regarding his film, and promised that once the estate took back control of the books, the project could resume.
To put bad news to positive use, Uli chose to utilize his time by diving into a children’s book idea he’d had. The book would be one that would be designed for young children with beautiful illustrations done in his own style. Uli explains the book better than I could, so I encourage you to visit the blog that explains it – here.
The book is called Cuthbert Was Bored, and in Uli’s words, it’s “A 40 page picture book for the very young, about shapes, colours, sizes and a little crow’s journey to self-discovery.” The art is so juicy, I’d love to see it animated and hope it will be successful so that it could make the transition to film. Naturally, it’s important for this book to be handled correctly, and to that end Uli has decided to self-publish it. That would allow him to control the rights and get the best possible printing.
To raise some small amount of money to enable the highest quality and the control the book demands Uli has set up a Kickstarter campaign. This is well on its way, and with two weeks left we can hope that Uli will raise the final goal of £10,000 needed. I urge you to go and take a look at some of the beautiful art on display at the Kickstarter page. In its own right the page is attractively displayed and is enormously encouraging as a potentially beautiful book (and hopefully a great animated film – that’s just me shouting my unnecessary opinion). Of course, you should seriously consider contributing some amount to the project no matter how small. It’s obviously a good project with a worthwhile work of art in progress.
Another week and another stash of films I’ve seen. But once I saw Monday’s film, I wanted to stop. I felt like I’d seen the best film of the year and was completely satisfied. It gave me enough to think abut for the rest of the week. It also happens to be my idea of the best animated film of the year.
The Life of Pi is adapted from a book I just absorbed rather than read. This book was magic for me, and I gave copies to many people because I thought it something everyone should read. Then I waited patiently for a film to be made. I’d read the reports. M. Night Shyamalan, for a while, controlled the rights to the film, and slowly, very slowly, he worked toward a finished script for the book. I find his work more gimmick than reality, so didn’t expect the flm I hoped for. He was followed by Alfonso Cuaron, a favorite filmmaker of mine, so a good film for me then became a possibility. Eventually, I learned that Ang Lee had taken control. Lee is a brilliant filmmaker, one of the highest in my pantheon, and I felt the material was safe in his hands.
Now, having seen the film I feel that Lee has made, I think he has found a new way of creating movies. Something of an amalgam; reality blends with poetry, cgi blends with live action. Ever since Silent film went out of fashion, the word on film was that it had to be visual. If you could do the movie without words, so much the better. Now, with the advent of the computer Ang Lee has found his true métier. Visuals could blossom into poetry in the artist’s hand, and that allows the filmmaker to make a moving picture rather than a talking picture. Of course, the sound track is a good part of the movie, but it’s now there to enhance the visuals and not overtake it.
The story in this film ultimately is about a young man – about 16 – and a Bengal tiger that are trapped together in the middle of the Pacific Ocean on a small boat – a life boat off the side of a passenger ship. Of course the two can’t kill each other or there would be no book or movie. How they do it and why this story is explored became the themes. A tiger and a boy, according to u-nion rules, cannot occupy the same frame at the same time. Trick photography had to start with this simple problem. It made sense to animate about 75% of the tiger, and believe me you can’t tell which is tiger and which is cgi. There’s magic on the screen.
Poetry is created with the ocean and the stars and the lead actors. It’s all in the search for who is god, what is it about a creator that so entrances us, and what are we willing to do to survive in the presence of this god.
Oh, I’m selling this wrong, I know it. It’s not a perfect film. There’s a big mistake, I feel, toward the end where something is explained. The audience gets it; you don’t have to tell us everything. We can interpret it; we don’t need it interpreted for us.
But the film is such a big one; it’s so exciting just on the top level, but then you can reach down deep and keep on reaching and you won’t run out of levels. It’s an amazing film, and I’ll quit there. See this in a theater, that’s all I’ll ask of you.
There were a couple of other films this week. The first, seen on Tuesday night, also involved some heavy cgi animation. Rust and Bone is a French film that starred Marion Cotillard, a brilliant actress. She plays a woman who, in an accident at a marine show, has to have both legs amputated just above the knees. We see – or I mean we don’t see her legs for the rest of the film, they’re removed digitally. Very much like Gary Sinese’s legs in Forrest Gump. The difference is partly, that we WANT to see Marion Cotillard’s legs. Of course, digitally removing them isn’t enough; it’s the incredible acting that goes with it that allows you to buy that problem in the character. The film is a good one – at least, I thought so. Someone else who saw it at the same screening as I thought the film a total waste of time. Different moods, I guess.
Last night, I saw a film that I know was a total waste of my time. Les Miserables the movie was a curiousity for me. I’d hated the musical and hoped that the film would make up for that memory of a horrible show. But I was wrong. The film was every bit as bad as the live show, even with celebrities in the roles. Two actors were great: Amanda Seyfried and Eddie Redmayne; both sang with an innocence that gave their pitch perfect voices a wonderful clarity. The two of them are the only reasons for seeing this film. Others weren’t as successful. Hugh Jackman‘s singing voice is nasal and annoying after a while. Russell Crowe was flat half the time. Anne Hathaway has a mediocre, thin voice which kills the part with her over-performing attempts to outdo every other Fantine. In the Q&A she spent so much time telling us how bad she is that you realize how much she does like herself. In her mind she couldn’t outdo “Patty” so she had to find a newer way in. She’s really just fishing for compliments. Yug.
Director, Tom Hooper, created a one note film that was tedious to sit through. At least for me.
The Q&A was with Tom Hooper, Ann Hathaway, Eddie Redmayne, Amanda Seyfried, and Samantha Barks. It was one of the few Q&A sessions I walked out of. The answers to the dull questions were tedious.
Tonight I see Lincoln again. Heidi hasn’t seen it and I want her take on it. Spielberg is the Ann Hathaway of directors. How many ways can he pull his face to show us how cute he is. Fortunately, that cuteness only shows up toward the end of this film, Lincoln.
Years before Dick Moores got near the smell of Gasoline Alley, he had a bulging career at Disney’s doing books. Long before he ever thought of drawing Walt or Skeezix, he was a master of the Mouse. Bill Peckmann has sent me Goofy as the “Mechanical Wizard”, and I’ve rushed to put it together so I could read it. Here’s Bill’s opening salvo:
- Continuing with the posting of Dick Moores ‘Disney’ career, we have here one of the classic Mickey Mouse comic book stories of the early 1950′s. It’s ‘Goofy’s Mechanical Wizard’, written and drawn by Dick, the story gives us a little glimpse of what will be in store for us once he was to take over the complete reins of the ‘Gasoline Alley’ comic strip, approximately a decade and half in the future. Surprisingly, here in his Mickey Mouse stories, there are no famous, rickety, ‘Gasoline Alley’ type bridges or catwalks. They would come later, but they would have been perfect for the hi-jinks of Mickey and especially, Goofy, with that in mind, Moores’ two MM stories would have made very enjoyable animated shorts.
Here then, is the cover and story of ‘Goofy’s Mechanical Wizard’.
The book’s Cover
And coming to a future Splog from Dick Moores:
- For the past few Thursdays, I’ve been posting a notebook that animator, Eugene Salandra compiled. These were notes he’d taken of classes taught by Tissa David in New York during the late 1990s. These notes and the notebook, itself, were completed with last Thursday’s post.
However, Eugene did one better. He reviewed the notes, typed them into a presentable form and revised them for the sake of clarity. Looking at these encapsulated and abbrieviated version of the noteboo, I feel it’d be remiss not to post them as well as the rough version that we’d already posted. So, thanks to Eugene’s generosity, here is a labor of love he put together. We’ll all benefit from them.
- Robert Lawrence Productions was a thriving studio in New York in the days post-UPA. Many of the animators moved from UPA, once they closed, to Robert Lawrence. Grim Natwick/Tissa David worked there (freelance), Lu Guarnier/Vince Cafarelli worked there, and consequently, Vince collected a lot of artwork from the spots he did. This post features a lot of that artwork. You’ll see how great the design and styling was at the studio, even though I don’t know what clients or sonsors they were done for. The designers certainly took off where UPA left off.
But first, let me share two in-house studio gags done at UPA.
- OK, now onto Robert Lawrence. The more I look into this company’s work the more impressed I am. The quality of designers and animators on board was extraordinarily high. I have a lot of Layouts for films that are completely lost. I’m not sure what most of the images are for or what the stories of the spots was. I just have drawings, and most of them are impressive, even more so in some ways than much of the UPA work I’ve seen.
So let’s take a look.
First there is the promo art. As an introduction to the company, here are four self-promo pieces that were used as trade ads for the company.
I’ve assumed that these images were created for a print ad in some magazine or another. There are three of them; one comes in a 2-color version.
Now we get into some of the fun stuff. Here are the layouts done in a million styles, all beautifully drawn and designed. I feel like I want to say thank you to some of the artists involved. If only I knew who the artists were. The drawings and cels were all done on paper with a “Signal Corps” hole-punch. (Looks like Oxberry, but the center hole is the same diameter thickness as the square pegs.)
This is a beautiful gag told a million times,
but done perfectly in this drawing.
Then there’s a series of Cowboys.