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Blog Posts from February 2007:

Lots of debate about the worthiness of the film Happy Feet to win the Oscar when motion capture technique is not considered by many animators to be true animation. Bill Kroyer and I talked about it yesterday. Truth be told a lot of the animation in the film was not motion capture. Almost all the faces were key-framed. Rhythm & Hues, an LA based company, created two action sequences for the film including the Tigershark chase. They were all keyframed, no pingpongball clad actors to be seen.
While the theme was pretty simplistic,I liked the art direction and the fast cutting of some of the sections, like the slide down a mountain.

Thursday the U.S. Congress is going to vote on the Employee Freedom Act. This act will restore many provisions of the 1935 Wagner Act protecting workers who want to unionize. Please let your congressman know artists like us need this act. You can't complain that your union doesn't do anything if you won't let it regain some of it's teeth, pulled by decades of hostile politicians. Check out

All that harms Labor is Treason to America. If anyone tells you they love America, yet fear labor, they are fools."- Abraham Lincoln

Democracy and FreeMarket Capitalism cannot co-exist, and the most obnoxious form of Democracy is Trade-Unionism!"-Adolf Hitler

Birthdays: Michel de Montaigne, The Marquis de Montcalm, Samuel 'Zero" Mostel, Vasclav Nijinsky, Molly Picon, Gavin MacCleod, Sir John Tenniel, Bernadette Peters, Bubba Smith, Mario Andretti, Milton Caniff- the creator of Terry and the Pirates", Ben 'Bugsy' Siegel, Tommy Tune, Vincente Minelli, Dorothy Stratton, Rae Dong Chong, John Tarturro, Jack Abramoff

1835-Dr. Elias Lohnnrot published the Finnish national epic poem Kalevala,. It’s about the first man Vanjiamoimmen, who was born old and searched for the magical machine called the Samo, kept in a mountain with seven locks, guarded by seven wizards chanting Samo! Samo!

1882- The first college store opened, this one attached to Harvard.

1896- Robert Paul demonstrates a kinetograph to the Royal Institute.
The British Cinema is born.

1920-.Evans vs. Gore – Al Gore’s grandfather. The U.S. Supreme Court upholds the legality of the Income Tax amendments, saying:” The power to tax carries with it the power to embarrass and destroy “. Isn’t that reassuring..

1920 Maurice Ravel’s Le Tombeau de Couperin debuted..

1940- At the Oscars ceremony Hattie McDaniel became the first black actress to win an Oscar for her role in Gone With The Wind. When the NAACP criticized her for portraying stereotyped black mammys McDaniel snapped:” I’d rather make $5000 a week playing a maid than $5 a week being a maid!”

1940- Richard Wright’s novel Native Son about growing up black in America, first published.

1953-Chuck Jone’s “Duck-Amuck” short debuts- called by Steven Speilberg the Citizen Kane of Animation.

1953- An Englishman named James Watson walked into his local pub and announced to the barman” Barman, Set them up, I’ve just discovered the secret of life!” Indeed that morning Watson & Francis Crick had come upon the DNA double helix molecule.

1983- The last episode of the television series M*A*S*H.

2001- Seattle rocked by a 7.0 earthquake.

Tarzoom, aka Shame of the Jungle
February 27th, 2007

An editor friend of mine sent me an interesting note about Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez. They're celebrating the release of their new film Grindhouse by holding a retrospective of Grindhouse Movies- at the New Beverly Cinema. Among the oddities and lowbudget 60's & 70's exploitation films was this:

a trifecta of animated films on March 23-24 that includes Shame of the Jungle, an adult cartoon from France about an ape man whose girlfriend is kidnapped by a gang of giant penises at the behest of their queen, a 14-breasted bald woman.

Tarzoon or Shame of the Jungle ( 1975) is a bizarre film directed by Belgian cartoonist Picha. It features humor like the chimp swinging from tree to tree by grabbing Tarzan's you-know-what instead of a vine. The film used a lot of freelance European animators and Montrealers who were bopping around at the time, and a rare improv track by then unknown stars John Belushi, Christopher Guest and Bill Murray.(the track was done before Saturday Night Live debuted, when both were still at Second City). Tarzoon was voiced by Johnny Weismuller Jr.. If you're sensitive see it at your own risk, it's a pretty twisted toon.

For Trivia Fans, the New Beverly has been a retro house since 1978 and before that a porn theater named the Eros. Before that in the 1940s it was the site of a nightclub called Slapsie-Maxies, a Hollywood landmark hangout owned by LA gangster Mickey Cohen. In 1945 Cohen brought out to LA for this club a little know duo named Dean Martin & Jerry Lewis.

February 27, 2007 tuesday
February 27th, 2007

QUIZ: What do film directors George Lucas, Tim Burton and Joe Dante have in common? (answer below)

Birthdays: Roman Emperor Constantine the Great –280AD, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, John Steinbeck, Ralph Nader, Joanne Woodward, Marion Anderson, Chelsea Clinton, Franchot Tone, William Demarest, James Worthy, Mirella Freni, David Sarnoff the founder of NBC network, Adam Baldwin, Elizabeth Taylor is 75

1814- Beethoven’s 8th Symphony premiered.

1827- The first Mardi Gras celebration was held in New Orleans. Mardi Gras parties were first held by the French colonists of Mobile Alabama in 1709. From there the custom spread to the Big Easy.

1860- Abraham Lincoln gave a speech at the Cooper Union Institute in New York declaring himself a potential candidate for President: " A House Divided Against Itself Cannot Stand." The elite New York audience at first snickered at the Illinois man’s high nasal Western twang- "Meester Cheerman, Ah Thankee", but they soon were inspired by his words. He received a standing ovation when he finished. That previous day he first posed for photographer Matthew Brady who made a famous photo that was copied and recopied around the country. Lincoln later said:" Brady and the Cooper Institute made me president."

1919- Gustav Holst’s orchestral piece The Planets, first premiered.

1939- The US Supreme Court outlawed sit down strikes. This was accepted in the patriotic climate of war tension but like all restrictions on labor rights it is still in effect today.

1956- Elvis Presley released song Heartbreak Hotel.

1958- Columbia Pictures mogul Harry Cohn died of old age. His ruthlessness was legend in Hollywood. He once said " I don't get ulcers, I give them!" Hedda Hopper said:' You have to wait in line to hate him." The entire Columbia staff was ordered, not asked, to attend a memorial service. Looking at the large crowd around the coffin Oscar Levant (or it may have been Red Skelton) quipped: "You see, give the people what they want and they'll show up."

1973- 200 members of the American Indian Movement led by Russell Means and Dennis Banks take over the Wounded Knee historical site. They hold it and attract world attention to the plight of the Native American before surrendering to the F.B.I. in May. After their release from prison Means and Banks kept up their activism. Russell Means went into acting and among other roles did a voice in Disney's 1995 cartoon Pocahontas.

QUIZ: What do film directors George Lucas, Tim Burton and Joe Dante have in common?

ANSWER: They all enrolled in animation class in college. Joe told me he actually wanted to be an animator first, but his college in didn't have an animation program, so he switched his major to film.

February 26, 2007 mon Oscars
February 26th, 2007

my limo's eye view of the lineup to the red carpet. click on image.
Well Boys & Girls, the Oscars were last night and the animation gang was all out in force. I shared a limo with Bill & Sue Kroyer and animator Terry Lennon and our families.

Sito, Sito's Dad and Terry Lennon

The Third Tier Balcony is becoming the Animation Ghetto- I looked around and spotted animators Rick Farmiloe, Jim Beihold and Zara Dowlabandi, Dave Burgess, Bob Kurtz, Anthony LaMolinaro and the lovely Annie Guenther. Behind me, whooping it up for their dads, were the son of John Lassiter and the daughter of Roger Allers. Downstairs I ran into Barry Weiss from Imageworks, Jeff Kleiser and my old Shrek buddy, storyboarder and art director Dave Lowery.

Congrats to Happy Feet and The Danish Poet. I like that the NFB has a policy that when a short wins the filmmaker-director and not just the Producer goes up to get the award. This was not the case in many past years, like when Borge Ring won for Anna & Bella and some suit from the Dutch Film Board was up on stage instead of him.

There are many great stories and incidents from past Oscars, When Nick Park won for Wrong Trousers and he drove to the ceremony in a Wallace & Gromet motorcycle, only to be stopped by the LAPD for riding without a helmet. And Polish artist Zbignew Rybcynski, who won for Tango in 1982(?). He later stepped out for a smoke and was not let back in. Shouting the only English he knew"I have Oscar!" he tusseled with security guards who roughly sent him to jail and his statuette landed in the bushes. Or so goes the story.

I took my 85 year old dad, and he had a great time. Hope to run into you too someday on the Red Carpet!

entrance to the Red Carpet. After this they take your cameras away.

Birthday: Old and Good King King Wenceslas of Bohemia-1361, Victor Hugo, Buffalo Bill Cody, Emma Destin, Levi Strauss the bluejeans maker, Jackie Gleason, Fats Domino, Betty Hutton, Johnny Cash, William Frawley (Fred Murtz), Robert Alda (Alan's dad), Great animation director Fred” Tex” Avery, Tony Randall, Ehryke Bahdu

747 B.C. In Sumer it is the beginning of the Age of Nabronassar.

500’s BC to 391 AD, Ancient Greek festival of ANTHESTERION- the festival of death and exorcism. The ancient Greeks believed ghosts weren’t as scary as they were annoying. If you didn’t bury the dead properly with spices and a coin in the mouth for the Chaeron the Boatman of the River Styx, they became ghosts. They would haunt you by moping around, turning up at inappropriate moments, predicting your death, bleeding on your lunch, etc. So this festival was a sort of “visiting hours” for the other world. You left your door open and cooked a meal for the spirits so they could spend a day visiting their old haunts (forgive the pun).This way they would not bug you the rest of the year. This festival was also considered a festival of flowers to usher in Spring. Most Greeks tried to spend all three days of the festival roaring drunk.

1965- First day of shooting on the Beatle's second film 'Help!".

1983- Michael Jackson’s album Thriller went to #1 in the pop charts and stayed for weeks.

1990- Cornell Gunther, lead singer for the DooWop group the Coasters, was shot dead at a Las Vegas traffic intersection."Yakkety-Yak, Don't Talk Back!"

1991- At a meeting in Switzerland Tim Berners-Lee introduced the first Web Browser.

February 25, 2007 Oscar Sunday
February 25th, 2007

I'll post a report on the Academy Awards when I get back tonight.

Note: I normally don't want to mix national politics with cartoons, but national politics keep butting in. To all pro cartoonists- President Bush is stumping for his new idea for giving health insurance to the uninsured. Of course, nothing about reining in the out of control insurance industries and spiraling health costs. His idea is to pay for insurance for the poor by raising the premiums of people who have employer paid union plans- That means you and me. Many of the uninsured poor are made that way by their employers, who refuse to pay health benefits and expect the public system to make up the difference. Please join me in letting your Congress person know you don't like this idea.

Birthdays: Enrico Caruso, Pierre Auguste Renoir, Zeppo Marx,St. Louis (King Louis IX of France), Bobby Riggs, Sir Anthony Burgess- author of A Clockwork Orange, director Neil Jordan, Larry Gelbart, Tom Courtenay, Sean Astin is 35, Tea Leoni

799AD- Today is the Feast of Saint Walburga, who with her brother Saint Winebold preached Christianity in the remote forests of Germany. Oddly enough after Walburga’s death the Saint’s remains were removed to a new resting place on the anniversary of a pagan festival and her name stuck to the celebration- April 30th the Walpurgisnacht.

1932- TOONTOWN SCANDALS. Former Australian prizefighter Pat Sullivan was the producer of the Felix the Cat cartoons, the first true animation star. Although animator Otto Mesmer actually created him Sullivan's name is the only one on the titles. Felix was one of the top film stars of the 1920s. Lindbergh supposedly had a Felix doll with him in the Spirit of St. Louis and his body shape was the prototype of Mickey Mouse and dozens of other characters.While Mesmer quietly drew pictures Sullivan lived the fast life of a roaring twenties celebrity. Mrs. Marjorie Sullivan had been having an affair with her chauffeur. After a nasty scene when husband confronted wife and the chauffeur fled, Mrs. Sullivan mysteriously fell out of her window to her death. The scandal was front page news and Sullivan never got over it. He soon drank himself to death which during Prohibition was difficult to do. Sullivan's death and his failure to get Felix into sound cartoons doomed his studio. Otto Mesmer went on to animate the first Broadway light signs but did not receive any recognition for his contributions to animation until he was re-introduced to the public at a Bob Clampett night at the Museum of Modern Art in 1975. Kid animators Eric Goldberg and Tom Sito were in the audience.

1943- Master animator Bill Tytla resigned from Disney.

1957- Buddy Holly and the Crickets record "That'll Be the Day."

1964 Young Cassius Clay, later renamed Muhammed Ali, defeated Sonny Liston in 2:14 minutes into the 6th round for the heavyweight boxing crown. The odds were on Liston 8-1 but Clay said he would "Float like a Butterfly and Sting Like a Bee!"When asked to comment about his defeat, Sonny Liston concluded: "Life, a funny thing."

1971- Oh Calcutta, the first play with lots of actors shedding their clothes, premiered on Broadway at the Belasco.

1996- Dr Haing Ngor, the doctor who survived the Cambodian Killing Fields holocaust and won an Academy Award in a movie of the same name, was killed in a robbery attempt outside his Los Angeles home.

2004- Movie star uber-Catholic Mel Gibson’s movie the "The Passion of the Christ" opened in North America. The film was criticized for it’s perceived anti-Semitism, it was the first movie in which Jesus spoke his real language –Aramaic. The film was advertised more in churches than in the press. The Christian evangelical community made it an event. Pastors bought blocks of tickets for their congregations. The film earned nearly a billion dollars, most of the profit earned by Gibson, who was the films sole investor.