Daily post 09 Nov 2013 09:26 pm

Your Alice

Just who was ALice?

streepThis little girl who walked about with the intelligentsia of mid nineteenth Century Oxford. And she affected them all somehow. Charles Dodgson in a skiff took her boating on the Thames, posing as the writer Lewis Carroll, and told her stories of herself and the world that really didn’t exist in her mind but rather in Carroll’s. It took a hundred years for one of the greatest playwrights of our time, Dennis Potter, to make a movie of her older self looking back on the past years of a “Dream Child.” She inspired artists like all of the greatest with Raiph Steadman filling up volumes and volumes of illustrations with pictures of a good little girl acting bad. That slight resemblance to Meryl Streep who played Alice for Eve La Gallienne. It’s all too in-bred, artistically. Ask Robert Wilson who could barely get his character of Alice to pose for his photographs. Tom Waites wrote songs and a German theater troupe sung them.

The girl owes us nothing. She played the part for a small time minister and has happily lived through history of Art. She was not even a model for Picasso or Braque or Cezanne. Yet she changed history.

Tomorrow more of Ralph Steadman’s brilliance. That’s what I’ll post.

She was just a small child playing Cockaboody.

Animation &Books &Disney &Illustration 09 Nov 2013 02:31 pm

Waking UP


Q2 - Copy2

Q4 - A - Copy3



I’m still Here by Tom Waite and Kahleen Brenan

You haven’t looked that way in years you dreamed me up and left me here.

How long was it you wanted me for you haven;t looked at me that way in years.

Your watch has stopped and the pond is clear.

Someone turn the lights back on I’ll love you til all time is gone

You haven’t looked atr me that way in years.

But I’m still here.




Song from Alice by Robert Wilson. Song by Tom Waite and Kathleen Brennan]

(photos by Steve Fisher)

Daily post 08 Nov 2013 04:44 am

The Terror

The list of film on the animation short lis for Best Animated Short Film include:
The 10 films are listed below in alphabetical order by title, with their production companies:

Feral, Daniel Sousa, director, and Dan Golden, music and sound design (Daniel Sousa)
Get a Horse! Lauren MacMullan, director, and Dorothy McKim, producer (Walt Disney Feature Animation)
Gloria Victoria, Theodore Ushev, director (National Film Board of Canada)
The Missing Scarf, Eoin Duffy, director, and Jamie Hogan, producer (Belly Creative Inc.)
Mr. Hublot, Laurent Witz, director, and Alexandre Espigares, co-director (Zeilt Productions)
Possessions, Shuhei Morita, director (Sunrise Inc.)
Requiem for Romance, Jonathan Ng, director (Kungfu Romance Productions Inc.)
Room on the Broom, Max Lang and Jan Lachauer, directors (Magic Light Pictures)
Subconscious Password, Chris Landreth, director (National Film Board of Canada with the participation of Seneca College Animation Arts Centre and Copperheart Entertainment).

The Academy’s Short Films and Feature Animation Branch Reviewing Committee viewed all the eligible entries for the preliminary round of voting at screenings held in New York and Los Angeles. Short Films and Feature Animation Branch members will now select three to five nominees from among the 10 titles on the shortlist. Branch screenings will be held in Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco in December.


Paul Julian is one of my favorite BG painters. He did a number of titles on his own for Roger Corman’s horror films. They’re had o see, yet I’ve gathered a number of them. This title sequecence was for The Terror, They are just beautiful paintings despite the fact that some of the color prints have deteriorated. It’s eas to understand whyjOHN Hubley took such a liking for his work on THE FOUR POSTER and ROOTY TOOT TOOT.

I’ve continually grown more interested in Paul Julian‘s work. He’s known predominantly for the Bgs he did at Warner Bros and the art direction he did on The Tell Tale Heart. However, there’s more film work he did independently.

The Hangman was a short film he did with co-director Les Goldman. Maurice Ogden’s poem is read by Herschel Bernardi in a very earnest tone. The artwork by Julian absolutely saves this film which was nominated for the Oscar.

Roger Corman also used Paul Julian for a number of opening title sequences for the low budget films he did in the 60s. I’m going to try pulling some frame grabs from a number of these title sequences so that I can place some focus on Julian’s work in these forgotten films.

I start here with The Terror a film Starring Boris Karloff and Jack Nicholson. Julian uses a couple of pieces of artwork that he works over the course of the sequence with lots of lateral camera moves. Quite expressive work, though certainly not on a par with Tell Tale Heart.

(Click any image to enlarge.)





Starts at the bottom and pans up.



Monte Hellman directed Two Lane Blacktop.







You can watch a grayed-out version of this video on YouTube. The credits come on about a minute into it.


Corman’s The Swamp Women

In this post taking frame grabs from Swamp Women, the print includes an obviously added on title card using B&W footage. The color film that follows is so deteriorated and choppy, in this print, that it’s hard to discern what color the original art was. So I’ve tempered it a bit to get rid of the magenta look. I suspect I’m getting close.

The imagery is definitely Julian’s. He had an obvious Ben Shahn influence to some of the work although he gets a bit more surreal in his compositions and designs.

There are fewer camera moves in this title. I’m sure the budget was low. I wouldn’t be surprised if it were in the hundreds (not thousands) of dollars.

(Click any image to enlarge.)

This first title on the rented DVD looks like it was pulled from a B&W print.


























Commentary 06 Nov 2013 01:20 am

Late comes Early

I saw Miyazaki’s last film again last night. The Rising Wind is a quiet movie. A film full of desperate change, man doing his worst in the name of good. An Earthquake takes a train and a town, illness covers even the film’s heroine (not unlike Camille’ Scarlet Fever – but here the romanticism is kept to a quiet dignity. Planes are sent out to War chock-c-block full of bombs to rape even the most quiet village. It’s a film that keeps its torment below the tears, and an animated movie deals with serious adult subject matter. One would think the animator would go for the roiling climax, but that just what this film does not do. It’s a tempest in a teapot, indeed. This time the tea is naught but background for many character decisions. It’s an unorthodox movie, and I don’t want to give it ALL away, so I’ll stay there.

I loved the film. The opposite of Ponjo. No hysterics or comedy out of misery. I’d recommend it highly. Not Frozen or Crood or Despicable. Just humanity and reality.

The principal problem with the film’s lead character is that actions of his cause problems, they don’t resolve them. He should be using his brilliance to correct problems. Instead, it might be said that he is the problem. He’s a genius but for the wrong side.

Tonight I see Nebraska and am looking forward to the after party. There was one at this location last year for David Chase’s movie. All the Sopranos hung together. James Gandolfini left an impression of being healthy despite the girth. It didn’t work that wau. This should be more proof that Harvey Weistein throws some of the best parties. … I hope.


I know that we had a stupendous couple of days on the Mad Tea Party and I think they were just excited, and I was very clear that when any of the directors are speaking, we need everyone’s respect.
Soon Coming to the Splog

drouinI’ve just spent a lot of time transcribing a lengthy interview I did with the wonderful Jacques Drouin talking about the Pin Screen device; after all he is now the world’s foremost authority on the device and it felt good to record some of his comments. His, following the work of Alexander Alexeïeff (1901-1982) and Claire Parker (1906-1981), is the foremost spokesman for the utensil which allows people to draw with more than a million pins, utilizing the shadow of t he pins as the medium of the drawings. Ever since reading about this device in Halas and Manville’s book, “Animation“, I have been intrigued and I remain fascinated.

The interview, as I said, is extensive – Mr. Drouin is a natural spokesperson for the pin screen, and it didn’t take much to get him to talk so intelligently and at length about it. The principal problem is that I am a poor reporter, and it’ll take me a bit of time to accurately and properly report what he had to say. I’ll have that ready sometime this week. For some reason I’ve taken to Mr. Droin despite the fact that this was our first meeting. I did look forward to it for quite some time. We were to have met via phone a couple of years back, but it didn’t happen. My fault entirely. I was glad to have met him here in person. He’s a gentleman.


Oscar Toons

Yes it’s Oscar time. I’ve already commented a bit about the short films seen and how I missed half of them after getting quite ill midway through the lot of them. Sorry I can’t properly report but not sorry I missed most of them.

2dhorseOne of the more interesting of the batch in contention that I’d seen comes from Disney. Get A Horse is a short which does little more than play on 3D. It has the 2930′s Mickey drawn from that era and brought to life in 3D when Peg Leg Pete tries to hold things up. He and his horse pop out of the B&W world into 3D with color and there’s some gamesman’sship as the duo go back and forth competing with Pete for the fair damsel, Minnie. The short falls too clever for its own good and has nothing really to say except that movies exist on their own level whether 3D color or 2D B&W.
I know a lot of the younger voters were more captivated by the tricks of the trade exhibited in this short. If one there was something for the film to say. It felt that it had more ot offer thn FROZEN, but that still isn’t saying much.

Daily post 05 Nov 2013 04:16 am

More Sketchbook Material

It was more than a week ago that I posted some very nice inspirational and preproduction drawings printed in the wonderful Chronicle book, Animation Sketchbooks, edited by Laura Heid, who is not only an artist but an animator as well.

Lēt’s take a look at a few more. Shall we?

e1 1

e3 3

e4 4

e5 5
Maureen Selwood

e6 6

e7 7

e8 8
Cat Solen

e9 9

e10 10

e13 13

e14 14

e15 15

e16 16

Daily post 02 Nov 2013 10:57 pm

Can the old neighborhod get scarier?

1 copy - Copy 1

3 - Copy 2

6 3

8 - Copy 4

9 5

1011 7

12 8

13 9

15 10

17 11

Daily post 01 Nov 2013 01:24 am

Earnest & Celestine


What a delicate and aweet title for the French animated feature of the children’s book, Earnest & Celestine. Adapted from, the book by Gabrielle Vincent the animated film takes full advantage of the soft and delicate watercolors. the deftly drawn pencil sketches and the wonderful care gone into the book’s illustrations. The images are beautiful, knowing full well that 3d cgi animation would not be able to carefully and ably translate these great features to the screen. Thus far they’ve got this book down beautifully and completely. It doesn’t even go in for overlas moving at divers speeds to make it feel like there’s depth there (I think I counted them doing that three times in the film), yet I didn’t mind.

ec2As for the Backgrounds I found none of them bad. Some were far richer than others, but all together they made for a happy blend, a really well painted product. The layouts were always simple and direct. When there were a few times I longed for something richer, I could only blame my own taste; it had nothing to do with the film making.

However, the story, simple as it is, is so poorly written, planned and told that the film is left with nothing but extraordinary visuals. There’s a gruffness there that comes off more as crude than as character development. And I was very sad for this problem. The artists really did do the work and got the characters to move with some feeling. It’s just that they weren’t there to help the story; they were just going through the motions.

ec3Of course this is just my take on the film. Perhaps I just wanted more and caught the film on the wrong day, or maybe I woke up on the wrong side of the bed. I do think so, and I will watch the film again to make sure that it isn’t the case. I do encourage everyone who loves animation to see this film. It gives reason enough for 2D animation to exist. There is nothing in 3D they can do to match it and there’s no reason for anyone to try. The books, the characters are lovely.

It’s just those damned writers. We exist in different planes, and I’m sorry for that.



I’ve had some problems lately and your comments, though not being obvious about it, are letting me know quite well. I’ve had a lot on my plate lately – not a lot of it to do with animation (except that I’m not getting enough work.) It’s shown in my writing, particularly the depth of it, but also in the number of typos. Believe me, I could blame this damned keyboard with sticky keys, missing letters and slow speed. I’m trying to catch them, and hope that’ll be the case more often than not, but for now this is what it is. I apologize if this is turning any of you away from the site, but I do promise things will improve.


momoThis is the first year they’ve made it possible for us to vote on all the animted features narrowing the choices considerably of that we’ll end up with the expected 5 in the competition. If it does nothing else, it shows us what diversity there can be from the 2D films which are not the same old little puppetdolls we get from the cgi films. Rather than the cgi viewmaster look, we have beautiful watercolors in Earnest and Celestine, the expected look from the Miyazaki oevure, amd I haven’t even gotten to A Letter to Momo.

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.

a href=”http://www.michaelspornanimation.com/splog/wp-content/Q/26pan.jpg”>

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,



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