Monthly ArchiveOctober 2013

Daily post 31 Oct 2013 12:24 am

Pinocchios and Snow Queens

- Back in 1959 Sleeping Beauty wasn’t the only animated feature to hit theaters. Universal had adapted The Snow Queen, a 1957 Soyuzmultfilm production, adding the voices of Tommy Kirk, Sandra Dee and Patty McCormick to the English language version. (Dave Fleischer got credit for “Technical Director” whatever that was.) A new score by the excellent composer Frank Skinner was added including a couple of key songs.

The original Russian film was directed by Lev Atamanov
a significant figure in the history of Russian animation. Several of his films
had been adapted and distributed to American television, including
The Golden Antelope which had received an award of merit at Cannes.

The odd bit about The Snow Queen is that it included an introduction
by a narrator which was voiced by Paul Frees in the English version.
This narrator, calld “Dreamy,” walks around a statue of Hans Christian Andersen
and is flanked by a number of books.

He tells of two umbrellas he used to give Andersen his tales via dreams.

If “Dreamy” waves a black umbrella, Andersen doesn’t dream; if he waves
a colorful umbrella, the dreams are big ones.

This leads us into the very big dream, “The Snow Queen.”

The overall feel of the lethargic and talky piece is that it is very similar
to Jiminy Cricket’s appearance in Pinocchio.

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The animation of “Dreamy” was very slow and, I guess, “dreamy.”
You can feel Paul Frees trying to mouth the character’s limited mouth actions
and get all the words into the time allotted. It couldn’t make for a good performance.

Comparing this to the excellent reading of Cliff Edwards, who mouthed Jiminy Cricket,
the acting in Pinocchio had to, and did, come off better.

Yet, in saying all this, I have to admit a fondness for “Dreamy.” I think it
may be that the film hit me at a very susceptible period in my young life.

Animated features I saw in this period – I was 12ish – stuck with me.

Sleeping Beauty, 1001 Arabian Nights with Mr. Magoo, 101 Dalmatians. They all mean a lot to me and have deeply affected my tastes.

Somehow, even “Dreamy” comes off in a good light.

Perhaps he used the colorful umbrella on me.

Now let’s take a look at Jiminy’s entrance in Pinocchio.

The masters at Disney, by the time they’d made Pinocchio, knew what they had to do.

A beautiful song, a great voice with a perfect performance
even though he only had one umbrella.

A real character introduced up front in all his glory.

They knew how to keep things . . .

. . . short . . .

. . . sweet . . .

. . . “dreamy.”

Now it’s all cgi for worse or worser.

Commentary 29 Oct 2013 11:46 pm

Frozen Films

I apologize. I’m getting older and animation has turned from its simple little roots of magic. From those simple glories to where the one blow hard driving the car can cause such difficulties. But the response couldn’t have been – not for Mickey, Donald, Goofy, or the nephews – it couldn’t have been to react with an automatic aid button from the very unwacky world of 3D computer animation. That’s not even “Deux Ex Machina” that’s “Cartoonist ex machina”. (Aid from above, anyone.)

OK,it’s been done once, now what? Having Bugs torture Daffy is one thing; saving the day is another.

And what about FROZEN? Everything seems to have some kind of magical spell to save the day. Push hair away from eyebrows, close your eyes real tight and say “Magic words of Poof Poof Piffles; make me just as small as sniffles.” Wallah! You’re tiny too, and can do what ever you up to doing.

Sometimes the calico remains on your body sometimes it doesn’t. How are you really textured?
Or are you just some chamois piece of material that’ll make right with the world.

Does anyone get the point? There can be no danger if it all just happens and then comes undone. You see, Everything has to have rules . . . everything, or there is no danger. And then, what’s the point?

Goofy and Donald and Mickey can jump into the world where things are browner, blacker or yellower, even more purple. And they can’t wash away their thought sm – not so easily, at least, had they had their way Mr. Boehner or Mr. Cruze or even Mr. Obama.

Let’s think about the things we’re showing our kids. Magical worlds in twisters … OK. Worlds where real hate and hurt abound, let’s think a bit about it. OK?

Now the film begins.
Anything with Bugs, Mickey or Daffy can’t be too bad -
You can pretty well believe in that theorem.

CARS 2 bottom to the lowest.
MONSTER UNIVERSITY – OK it’s just middling fantasy)
WRECK IT RALPH – No need, Thanks. Someone’s just out to make bucks

RAPUNZEL/TANGLED - OK, but it's totally irrelevant

Should I go on?

Can't we make our lives and our literature of some value?

Elliot, I was sick all weekend. So what else is new these days? I can handle it,
and if it means seeing ONLY YESTERDAY or The RISEN WIND.

Protecting the kids’ minds is everything.
Watch what they watch and if you can’t take it, stop them.
Friday is a good day for Johnson’s muck ups.
We have to take notice.
We have to be aware.

Daily post 29 Oct 2013 04:32 am

Iced out

I was able to switch up my plans to see FROZEN in a theater. It hurt badly.I’s the worst Disney feature I’ve seen in ages. I won’t get into it, but trust mean on this one. It’s a horrible attempt to make a long-form feature. I had to walk out at the 2/3 mark. The drawing wasn’t all that was wrong. Acting, coloring, songs. It’s a mess. I’ll go a little deeper (but not by much) at another time. See the Mayazaki film a second time instead.
Here’s to something better – anything,



Daily post 28 Oct 2013 08:40 am

Dairy Farming for Ward

Ward Kimball once gave me the advice that I should forget animation and go into something more lucrative . . . like, Dairy Farming. Not one to listen to my elders I pushed on with the animation plans.

The passing of the animation bloc voting for the animated shorts made it all the nearer to dairy farming than I’d like. On Saturday they ran 60 shorts for us; on Sunday the remaining group. We were supposed to intelligently narrow the groups down, and I guess we did. How dull it all seems when you post then all one-on-top-of-the-other. Eyes start to water and turn blookdhot, and a decent coversation is abnormal.
Over the corse of the first 60, I found myself getting ill and frequently having to run to the bathroom.By the time we hit 45 I was a goner. The stuff just kept coming out and wouldn’t stop. no help immodium, Live with it my body screamed, You got yourself into this mess, now get yourself out of it,

On Sunday I was still out of it and couldn’t make it back. I called a voice of support every once-in-a-while, big deal that did.

There were replacement films for some of the past. One about an underground war vs a machine. It reminded me so much of Consumption (a film from last ear) that I decided it must be a follow up of sorts. There was the cgi Courage the Cowardly Dog, so interesting an exercise – but just that. So many others my head’s been blogged shorted out – though, I’m getting over it.

Canndy Kugel had a nice little dinner for some remaining Canadiens who came down to vote. Heidi and I joined them for anoth-*****************************************************************er large meal rousted together by Candy’s Chuck. We stayed about two hours not wanting to overstay our welcome.

I’ll meet up with Jacques Droin for an interview for the blog and I’ll go with them, Candy and Jacques to see FROST. The more the merrier for these mass screenings. I’d already seen THE WIND RISES last Thursday; and had hoped to see it again next weeek, That’s a very strong film.

Commentary &Daily post 27 Oct 2013 05:10 am

I have to say that the new WordPress is not easy for me. If there are slip ups, my apologies it’s all my fault. If there are typos, it’s my haste in getting something out…. I do have the option of writing fewer posts, and I just may do that. For now,though, nothing is changing.

Saturday just went whizzing by. I was sick all day while trying to screen some 40 short films. There were some obvious great films in among the bunch, but a large majority of them remain as mediocre. Things like the Pixar short where they follow some umbrellas with eyes through a rushing rain storm. Tedious is about the only word I can come up with for that. There were others which were enormously delicate and had lost none of their political themes.

The typical film by Your Head creator, Bill Plympton. It’s hard to imagine using drunk jokes at this point in history. There was the cgi version of Courage the Cowardly Dog. It was as funny as all the other episodes of Courage despite the cgi makeover. I’m obviously prone to the hand drawn version, but I can’t take too much away. The show probably got less whacky for the cg elements. Perhaps John Dilworth will get his oats in doing it cgi soon.

Lots of flying children and floating monkeys.

The last half comes today. Can’t wait and hope for the best. It’s still a damn hard job making a film short or long…..
I give all these filmmakers courage.

I look forward to the second half of the program today and hope several films will stand out.

Bill Peckmann &Chuck Jones &Comic Art &Commentary &commercial animation 25 Oct 2013 10:39 pm

Ever Rising, the winds of change

burmoutJumping in to Miyaakii’s most recent feature – to cross the seas, we find a very complex film with an aggressive approach to ward the telling of a love story. The architect of a bomb designed to destroy lives in fighting that war is the precise subject behind this longish film. It is not endearing (though that would be questionable in discussing these masters of violence for their country.

An horrendous look straight down the nose of a blistering work of nature, the Hurricane, as lovers are brought together afterward she gets ill and suffers from the pangs of war without having been near the font lines of the tumult wherever it is.

From therre to the end is a military mission wherein the architect shoots at the world. A scientist who accomplishes his mission while killing more people than the earthquake he met at the film’s start. This is one fine movie from a thinking man. He’s seen enough sorrow to want a peaceful ending for his children. It isn’t coming.

Animation, you wait and beg to do it, but in your heart you want to do brave things with positive things to say. I want so desperately to do the good stuff. At this point I’ll take the mediocre, with some sadness.


I wish . . . I wish . . . I wish . . .

Theree were only good and responsible pieces of animation anymore. But no they just grow Mickey and his private parts larger and larger in Flash until the money doesn’t sow and then they blow them up.

Just like that SCTV show they blowed him up real good.

Noone knows what will happen. It hurts you know. Croods and Monsters and Incredible him. He was incredible; he made a big success and now the second one. Incredible Him. I guess those turkeys should be big too, a holiday out of Thanksgiving. What do you know? Maybe one or two of the shorts will be fun. Not umbrellas making eyes at each other. We need some Prince Valiant to come along and save us all. Maybe that’s me.

Commentary 25 Oct 2013 03:58 am

Cherry picking in Animation Styles

bourseDisney was beginning to experiment artfully with his colors and shapes if not with his stories. He gave his designers a lot of free reign, and they slowly started taking it. The Silly Symphony films allowed them to push new areas in storytelling and the animators went for With films like Fantasia and Bambi that experimentation bled over into the feature films and excited the new guys enormously.

Walt had set up departments for story and designing, and newer artists like Joe Grant brought a verve to the stuffiness that had been settling into the artwork. Grant was a cartoonist – caricaturist who took a job at Disney doing caricatures and art for Mickey’s Gala Night Out and Mother Goose Goes Hollywood. Grant did a lot of great caricatures which leave us laughing through today. He went from starring artist of those two films to designing plenty of others whether they needed caricatures or not. His color work was every bit as good as anyt hing he’d done, and he kept the films rolling. Grant arrived as an artist and ended up being a star, taking full control over the newly devised Character Models department. While he was one of the better artists in the Thirties story department, he worked closely with Bill Cottrell as his storyboard partner. Cottrell didn’t do much drawing for his part of the partnership. The two were often also joined by Bob Kuwahara, a sketch artist, in doing the boards. The trio was inordinately successful (including the very fine films Who Killed Cock Robin? and Pluto’s Judgment Day); when they mined theeir work for shortsl they had a peculiar method to their madness in the making of the boards something that workekd well for them.
aaai, omn tr othrt hsnf, nrrf domrtning lrdr to fo thr job1

Came goodThis was a peculiar way, for these Hollywood artists, to create their stories.

Meanwhile, overseas the Europeans were predominantly influenced Fleischer – or so they’ve often been quoted. Seeing the first Danish animated feature: The Tinderbox, one of my favorite fairy tales and it’s by Hans Christian Andersen, it carries so many of his they definitely do try to get into the heads Fleisher animators – Fleisher during Gulliver. The characters can’t hold their own lines. They distort, come back together and seem, always, to be living in a land of “takes.

“However, it’s not quite completely true. You have a film like The King and the Chimneysweep (done in France by Grimault) and they’re definitely modelling their work after Disney. Distribution to the Far East is covered by Ghibli, Miyazaki’s company. Miyazaki also controls rights to Kirikou et les hommes et les femmes by Michel Ocelot. They also have several of the 2D films done by Trnka in the late forties early fifties. Trnka didn’t follow the guidelines of Disney, but he was escorting himself. He had a style all his own found under the animation camera. He stuck with the original,

The man did great work.

Trnka Chimney Sweep1When the Nazis stepped in and took over the Fischerkoesen Studio they gave orders that their studio should emulate Disney. And that’s what they did. They tried to supersede some of the most brilliant multiplane work done by Disney. In fact they did an exxcellent job excpt for the muddy movement.

You can show how animated films were influenced by others but you also have to show the results. In the case of all the Disney tied work, the working layout is stunning, but the animation left a lot to be desired. The needed a dominating animator who could get the artists to express themselves. This, of course, was also true of the Fleischer-inspsired work. The films are really lacking for good animation.

David Hand tried this in England just following WWII when he set up a studio outside London and tried to train new workers to the medium. The Ginger Nutt series was born, and didn’t last long. But quite a few animators grew out of this system. Harold Whitaker was probably the foremost animator, and. I know Gerry Potterton made it through this system. His look is far from Disney, ever farther from Fleischer. Maybe that’s why he was successful.)

So it started when Fleischer went to Hollywood/Disney where it got slicker. Europeans and Japanese picked up what they wanted from those cherry-picking from Europe. I hope soon to write about the “moderne” art of Russia.

Miyazaki has his own style which is different from other Japanese animation studios. Like his aircraft and air battles, it’s more European than Japanese and more Japanese than any other’

European. It’s his style, though. That’s to be sure.


Daily post 23 Oct 2013 11:30 pm

Trick or Treat

Halloween’s just about here, so it’s time to revisit this wonderful Carl Barks’ story. Many thanks, once again, to the great Bill Peckmann.

- I remember as a kid seeing the annual Halloween show on the Wonderful World of Color. Featured was the Donald cartoon wherein Hazel the Witch was introduced, Trick or Treat. Carl Barks went wild with this character and the premise, and it was a treat every year to get the new Donald story featuring the great character. (All that was missing was June Foray’s great voice. But I could play that in my head when I read the comic book. t was her first voice for Disney and her big break into animation voices. She started with a homerun; a classic the first time out of the box.)

Bill Peckmann has forwarded scans of the following story. Here’s his introductory words to the piece.

    In 1952 Carl Barks did a ‘Donald Duck’ comic book titled ‘Trick or Treat‘. It was a rare instance where a Barks story had its origins in a Disney Duck short. (Geoff Blum‘s excellent essay/history of the story at the end post will explain how the ‘Trick or Treat’ book came about.)

    Here, with no tricks and all treats is Carl at the top of his game, this is the cover of the original 1952 Dell comic book.

Comic book cover

































Here’s the article by Geof Blum writing about the genesis of this comic book story adapted from the animated short.

(Click any image to enlarge to make it legible.)


There’s a good post about the color of this strip for the Gladstone publishing version of Trick or Treat. Posted are a number of color guides for that version.

Finally, here’s Carl Barks’ oil painting based on the artwork for his classic comic book.

To be honest, I think this is the best of this series of oil paintings that Barks has done. It doesn’t feel like something overworked and trying too hard. It just captures the spirit of the original magazine as well as the spirit of the animated short from which it was adapted. Not only a Barks gem, but a Disney gem as well.

Commentary &Daily post 23 Oct 2013 08:02 am

“Animated Week”

This is a week for 2D animation. Last Sunday I watched the 1991 film ONLY YESTERDAY. That was a brilliant film, and it was so quiet and delicate and touchingly perfect. Directed by Miyazaki’s partner, Isao Takahata. What a gentle and near-perfect movie. It’s probably too quiet for most people, but I loved it. I have to thank Nat who left the comment on my blog about it.

Last night, there was John & Faith Hubley’s 1962 feature, OF STARS AND MEN. This was the first Hubley film I saw in a theater. I was only 17 at the time. It was a little bit of genius living around the corner from me. It’s a feature, a great one, without having all the low wit you’d usually see these days.

It was the first film by the Hubleys that I ever saw in a theater. Only 53 mins, it takes your breath away. It’s very much an adaptation of Dr. Harlowe Shapely’s book, “Of Stars and Men.” This is a pure and unadulterated look at the science as studied by Dr. Shapely. Every inch of glorious painting and remarkably strong animation layout is used with the 2D animation camera. As many as 10 passes through the camera are used for every frame.

John definitely went for the abstract, where he found a beauty that couldn’t have been replicated any other way – including in the pre-historic sequences of the original Fantasia. I’ll try in an upcoming blog post to post some of the frame grabs from this movie, gorgeous as it is in all its delicate motion.

Talk Session for “Of Stars & Men”

Dr. Charles Liu, a scientist supporter of Dr. Harlow Shapely

Emily Hubley

John Canemaker

Dr. Charles Liu and Emily Hubley

Mark Hubley and nephew, Max Hubley

Mark, Max and Emily Hubley

Dr. Charles Liu, Emily Hubley, curator, Ron Magliozzi, and John Canemaker.

Will Rosenthal, Emily’s husband and Ira Kaplan Georgia’s husband were also there.

JrOFSTARS&MEN13flower 9
On screen flower
Also iin the audience were Candy Kugel, Jannet Benn, Joe Kennedy
Biljana Lobovic and Jeremiah Dickey.

JrOFSTARS&MEN9Jeff&Em&Osc 10
Oscar and Jeff Scher, and Emily Hubley

JrOFSTARS&MEN7Mark&Mike 11
Mark Hubley and me.

JrOFSTARS&MEN8Mike&Mark 12
More of Mark and me.

At the end of the film, my wife, Heidi, asked where the credits were. She’d forgotten those were
at the film’s start. The entire crew amounted to 15 people.

    Cast (in credits order)
    Harlow Shapley Harlow Shapley
    Mark Hubley Mark Hubley
    Ray Hubley Ray Hubley

Produced by

    Faith Hubley producer
    John Hubley producer

Cinematography by

    Jack Buehre

Film Editing by Faith Hubley (as Faith Elliott Hubley)
Animation Department

    Pat Byron … background artist (as Patricia Byron) / rendering artist (as Patricia Byron)
    Nina Di Gangi … background artist / rendering artist
    Faith Hubley … background artist / rendering artist
    John Hubley … background artist / rendering artist

    Bill Littlejohn animation director (as William Littlejohn)
    Gary Mooney … animation director

Music Department

    Roy Friedman music recordist
    Walter Trampler … musical director


Thursday we see Miyazaki’s The Wind RIses, and on Sat & Sun we see all of the AMPAS entered animated shorts. Mine eyes hold up.

Books &Commentary &Illustration 22 Oct 2013 06:20 am

Steadman meets Jabberwocky

Ralph Steadman has reached the White Knight, who gets to recite Jabberwocky for the first time.
It’s a brilliant delight, of course, and the illustrations are completely up to the task. But this is from a wholly different book. (It’s published out of order within this volume. If it weren’t out of order it’d be too long to fit dramatically, here.) I believe I may have once posted Jabberwocky or some of it, anyway. I can’t find it just now. I also have the version by QUentin Blake which I know I didn’t post. (THAT book is a rarity.) I really do love Lewis Carroll’s work.

Soon after the White Knight is defeated by the young, imbalanced Red Knight (don’t ask, read it), the Red Knight tries to recite his poem but has a bit of difficulty. He has to keep time with his right hand while trying to stay in balance on his horse.

However, he keeps falling off the horse when his isn’t reciting. The man has a problem.
Tell me, don’t you think the Red Knight looks a bit like a young Prince Charles? My thought, of course. Would Steadman be that rude to treat his royalty so?

Here, uninterrupted, are the illustrations:

Alicia1 1

Alicia2 2

Alicia23 3

Alicia34 4

Alicia65 5

Alicia56 6

Alicia7 7

Alicia8 8

Starting today, I’m going to end a lot of my posts with images from Michael Sporn Animation Inc films. I have to say, in all the years of making so many films, too infrequently have I posted pictures of the work we’ve been doing. It’s about time.

Michael Sporn

Sporn images
The Hunting of the Snark

The individually wrapped video box from First Run Features 1

hunting-of-the-snark3 2

hunting-of-the-snark4 3

hunting-of-the-snark1 4

hunting-of-the-snark2 5

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