Daily post 28 May 2011 07:20 am

Rambling Roads

- Let’s start with me. Thursday night HBO threw a party for my just-completed film, I CAN BE PRESIDENT.

The crowd in the theater just before I was called up to speak.

The party included wine and beer (not for the 100 well-behaved kids), and a lot of children friendly food: hamburger shooters, pigs-in-the-blanket, mini-salads, shrimp, and chicken nuggets. We gathered for an hour and chatted and ate then were moved to one of two theaters (one for the overcrowd showed a video play of what was happening in the big room.) HBO Exec Producer, Jackie Glover introduced the show and my co-Producer, Diane Kolyer. Diane thanked everyone involved in the production (including me) and then introduced me.

I thanked Diane, Sheila Nevins (who pushed the idea on me. I wanted to do an animated documentary about the children of Katrina, but Sheila said she was “Katrinaed out;” she’d just produced the Spike Lee 4-hour doc.) Diane was the original one with an idea about the Presidency so she was attached, and she did a great job with the live-action shoot of the kids. I thanked the kids who were the stars, Geof Bartz was the editor who finally found a form to the 300-plus interviews and the ten or more animatics I did. Then I thanked Katrina Gregorius (I made her stand up) and Matt Clinton (who now lives in Michigan) for the brilliant artistry they brought to the animation.

Finally, I thanked President Obama who was the real reason the show got started. He had just taken office in January of 2009 when the show got the “Go”. I said we’d loved him; then we hated him, and now we love him again. (Though I’m a bit down on Barack this week for renewing the Patriot Act – an excuse to take our civil liberties away in the name of “Terrorism”.)
I also said that I hope we love him in 2012.

Here are some of the key people:
(L to R) me, Diane Kolyer, my co-producer who directed the kid interviews,
Jackie Glover, an Executive Producer working with Sheila Nevins at HBO,
and Geof Bartz, our editor who pulled the whole thing together into some real shape.

The screening was outrageous. The kids kept laughing, and I fell in love with some of the stuff for the first time. There’s no doubt the show is a crowd-pleaser. The very-low-budget animation, which was a real struggle to do (for a million reasons not worth going into), isn’t perfect, but it gets laughs. I have to say it really works, and I have to thank (again) Matt Clinton and Katrina Gregorius for the great and steady work they did.

The show is going to air on June 22nd on HBO at 7:30pm. I’ll point out the date again as we get closer.

The photos of the party posted here are by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images North America. You can see a lot more of them including the kids who star in the show here and here.

- I thought I’d try something new with this post. I have a lot and, at the same time, very little on my mind. None of it, virtually, is worth a post, but I like to express my opinion, so I’m going to do it. I’ll try to focus on things that occurred this week. Or, at least, the things I noticed. Some of them will be more organized than others.

As a matter of fact, I’ll come back a few more times today and add to it, that is, if I come up with anything more to say. So it’s an all improvised day.

My version of twitter, though I’ll use a few more characters.Sorry if I don’t have much of interest to say.

Foghorn Leghorn & GEICO
- I’ve seen the GEICO spot with Foghorn Leghorn at least a dozen times this week. It sure moves a lot, and I don’t think I’ve seen swish lines on a character done in the past twenty years. It has to be done on purpose. I don’t like it, but at least there are a lot of drawings there. Not good ones and not anything that would equal any of the Warner animators who worked on the original Foghorn Leghorn shorts.

It’s a problem getting animators with the proper type of training for these spots. I have to admit this is miles above the Elmer Fudd spot done for GEICO over a year ago. And I suppose it does have the same boring feel of Robert McKimson’s animation.

Baseball and Bigger Things
- I’ve been aghast at the images of the Tornado stricken MidWestern part of the Country. One of the NYYankee pitchers, David Robertson, spent his day of in his home town of Tuscaloosa. He was completely in a state of shock, not recognizing any part of his torn up hometown. Robertson has set up a fund and is donating, himself, directly to the victims by giving $100 for each strike out he pulls off this year.

- I’m more a NY Met* detractor than a fan, however the news this week that former NY Met star, Gary Carter, was diagnosed with four brain tumors which after biopsy proved malignant made me have a bit more sympathy for the team. They’re currently in a Bernie Madoff-connected scam with part of the team being sold off to raise money for the Wilpons, who own the team. It doesn’t seem like much will happen with the team in the next few years. They’ve had a bit of a winning streak lately, but that’ll undoubtedly change soon.

* In case you don’t know, the NY Mets is a baseball team in NY.

Slip Slipping Away
- I suspect that the blog generations are slipping away to Facebook. The daily traffic on my blog has dipped by a third in the last month. Nothing else has changed, but that’s the way it is. I’m not sure if this is the case with other blogs, but I’ve decided to save some posts that I think I might want to refer back to. Of course, many of the items that Hans Perk posts on his A Film LA and Mike Barrier‘s interviews and reviews on his site are always sent to the My Documents folder. But there are plenty of things on Mark Mayerson‘s blog, as well. For example, Mark’s The Elements of a Scene series is enormously informative, and I’ve copied it off to hold onto. This is just great and informative film writing.

- Thanks to Mark Mayerson for directing me to Jeet Heer‘s very good interview with Bob Blechman. Here. Bob’s an interesting guy and has some things to say (mostly about illustration but a bit about animation in the second half of the interview.) It’s worth a read.

Bob Godfrey’s 90th
- Ken Priebe sent out an email announcing Bob Godfrey‘s birthday – his 90th birthday. Today Cartoon Brew picked it up in a very nice fashion, by posting several of his short animated pieces. Ken’s connection is that Bob used to be an instructor at VanArts, the school in Vancouver where Ken teaches animation. (He must do a good job. Katrina Gregorius, who has worked for me this past year or two, is one of his graduates.)

I’ve only met Bob Godfrey a couple of times – always in Festival situations. The most vivid in my memory goes back to the Ottawa Animation Festival in 1979, when Bob was only 52. His new short, Dream Doll, was screening at the Festival. This was a film about a man and his blow-up doll and their love affair. At the Ottawa picnic Bob was presented with a helium-filled blow-up doll. This got a few laughs and a couple of angry sneers. Finally, one fellow (not in on the joke that Bob had made a film and this balloon honored it) blew up the full-sized doll, in Bob’s hands. Lots of angry shouts and eventually an apology. Personally, I have to admit I was uncomfortable with the film, the doll and the fuss made about it. The film was ultimately nominated for an Oscar. Talk about sexual liberation – for the males, anyway.

14 Responses to “Rambling Roads”

  1. on 28 May 2011 at 7:57 am 1.Richard O'Connor said …

    Congratulations on the President film, as trying as those productions can be they’re often triply rewarding when looking back at the work.

    As a kid I attended nearly every Phillies home game from 1982 through 1988, so there a few greater Mets detractors than me. Even I have gained sympathy for the team after egregious mismanagement (Bobby Bonilla being a stellar example).

  2. on 28 May 2011 at 9:06 am 2.Sandro Cleuzo said …

    Congratulations on your new film, Michael!

  3. on 28 May 2011 at 12:35 pm 3.Paul Spector said …

    Congrats on President. Except for some of the attire I would have thought you were getting your bar mitzvah!

    Also, I dig your new approach for the rest of the post. That works for me on a Saturday, the same way the Sunday photos do.

  4. on 28 May 2011 at 12:55 pm 4.Eric Noble said …

    Many congratulations on your new special. I hope to see it. I need to see the rest of your specials too.

  5. on 28 May 2011 at 6:58 pm 5.The Gee said …

    Nice change of pace on posting.
    Congrats on the good reception and for feeling good about some of it for the first time. Both sound great.

    On the other stuff, Mayerson’s analysis on that scene is great. Good stuff.

    Gary Carter. That really sucks for him.

    I will admit that once upon a time I loathed him. But, given the passing of time–maturity–I realized he was good and he just was on the other team (Mets and Expos).
    That said, initially I didn’t realize why I despised him. And it did take convincing of friends before I realize that it was the Phillies’ Lenny Dykstra who was the one to hate.
    Just kidding.

    The Mets have a great mascot though. Freakily Brilliant.

  6. on 28 May 2011 at 7:59 pm 6.Mark Mayerson said …

    Hi Michael. Congratulations on the new film for HBO. I hope that it garners you lots of positive attention.

    Thanks for the nice words on my scene analysis. Two entries on that to go.

    With regard to that Geiko spot, I feel the same way about it that I felt about the IBM spots that used a Chaplin imitator. It’s not Foghorn Leghorn, it’s an imitation. With Mel Blanc, Bob McKimson and his animators gone, the creators of the current spot can do no more than try to duplicate what’s already been done. It’s inevitable that they would fall short.

    If your blog hits are down, it may be because the school year is over in many places. I find that my readership goes down every summer and then bounces back when school starts again. The ironic part for me is that I have more time for the blog during the summer and do some of my best stuff (like the mosaics) then.

  7. on 28 May 2011 at 9:54 pm 7.Mario NC said …

    Congrats for your film, Michael, I’m sure is great piece of love. Is it going to be available in DVD?

  8. on 29 May 2011 at 5:25 am 8.Steven Hartley said …

    Sounds thrilling! ;)

  9. on 29 May 2011 at 8:17 am 9.steve fisher said …

    Michael: Good to see another of your projects come to fruition. I’ll have to find someone with HBO to view it. I’m certain it will receive many accolades.

  10. on 29 May 2011 at 1:50 pm 10.David Levy said …


    Not sure if you forgot, but you hosted a party at your studio for Bob Godfrey in the mid 1990s, which was a reception after an ASIFA-Event presenting his work. I remember enjoying that night very much.

  11. on 29 May 2011 at 2:26 pm 11.Michael said …

    I remember it well, Dave. We just didn’t blow up any sex-dolls.

  12. on 29 May 2011 at 4:58 pm 12.The Gee said …

    If those commercials did not have recognizable, established characters would the spots be forgivable, on technical merits?

  13. on 31 May 2011 at 10:03 am 13.morgan said …

    I attended that retrospective screening of his work I think David is referring to – it was in the basement at Tisch I think ? I was about 18 or 19 at the time…

  14. on 15 Jun 2011 at 4:37 am 14.Edson said …

    Foghorn Leghorn commercial is very bad, so short, simple and nice to do it and the person did the lowest and bad quality work that you can imagine, not even bother to look at the old animations, it is just a shame…..

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