Labor Day
September 3rd, 2006


courtesy IWW.

Here's a little Labor Day message for my friends in AnimationLand. I haven't been in union management for 5 years now, but I keep the union in my heart. By that I don't mean I love silly badges, dues and booklets with photos of thick necked hoodlums in suits shaking hands.

I mean the idea, the concept, that artists acting not as loners but acting together, speaking with one voice, can achieve better conditions for us all. Or at least make the big companies that employ us think twice about getting away with something.

We love animation, we love making cartoons and making people smile, but don't be naïve. We are also in a business. I've worked in all facets of this business including as an employer, and let me tell you some truths. Nothing you have today as an artist was given to you because your boss has a big heart. All our conditions, our wages, health plans, the Labor Day three day weekend itself, was won out of struggle. Every good thing had to be negotiated, threatened over, agitated for.

The weekend off isn't a fact of nature like the seasons. Animation people worked six day weeks until 1941 and no one paid overtime until the unions forced them to. And this isn't a history lesson. Most CGI studios didn’t pay overtime until the threat of going union forced them to. Our ancestors risked their careers, their livelihoods, even physical violence to win the benefits we take for granted.

And talent has nothing to do with it. Mozart died poor. Rembrandt went bankrupt. Many of the top Hollywood legends that we love to gush about worked for a weekly paycheck and got nothing else. I knew many animation legends in their old age, who if they didn't have our union pension would have had spent their last years in poverty.

Let me tell you what the world is like. Employers and Employees act in a Push-Me-Pull-You system. An endless tug of war with no winners. To say you don't want to play and be part of it, merely encourages the other side to push you even harder, until you wise up and push back. That’s how it is. If you won't work together and only think of yourself, you will soon see lower wages, no security, a studio will enact conditions you will find intolerable. You can't achieve much by yourself, no matter what a genius artist you are. In my years as union prez I saw studios fire someone for getting HIV, if you were a smoker, even at home, you were forced to join a no-smoking program, dress codes, studios going bankrupt owing artists thousands of dollars in back pay. This isn't history, this is going on right now. Ever try and sue a multinational corporation by yourself?

I know many good employers and producers. Many of them love animation as much as their artists do. It is a thrill when they can create the opportunity for their artists to create a new hit show or character. The producers who love animation don't have a problem with what I'm saying here. Most will agree because they may have SAG or WGA cards themselves.

But, for every one of those producers who genuinely love our business, there are more who are just out for a quick buck. While you love art and animation, they love making money out of your ass. They could just as well be financing cow insemination as cartoons. They'll make their pile and move on, while you and I just get eyestrain and a flatter bottom.

Charles Schulz, the creator of Peanuts, arguably the most successful self-made cartoonist of our time, once told his fellow cartoonists" Just remember the big difference between you and the people you work for. You can draw, they can't. So they will never look upon you as one of them." You are a cow to be milked, you are a software program to be used and disgarded. Joanne Siegel, the widow of Superman co-creator Joe Siegel and the model for Lois Lane, said to us" All artists have to stick together, else you're nothing to them."Frank Thomas once said:" You can't afford to ignore your union."

Unions can make mistakes. I made mistakes. Democracy is a messy process. People are fallible. But the concept of an artists' union is good. After all the companies have folded, all the projects are forgotten, all the bonuses and raises and layoffs, your fellow artists are always there with you. We are a tribe. We will never let you down. We have no security but to look after each other. Actors know that, ballet dancers and ball players know that, we in animation should know that to.

So this Labor Day I will take a moment from my barbeque to raise a glass to us, the animation people. The worst paid, least respected, yet finest artists in the world!


Happy Labor Day


Birthdays: Alan Ladd, Dr. Ferdinand Porsche, Irene Papas, Memphis Slim, Eddie Brat Stanky, Mort Walker creator of Beetle Bailey, Bill Flemming, Mitzi Gaynor, Richard Tyler, Eileen Brennan, Valerie Perrine, Charlie Sheen is 41

1592- Retired London actor Richard Green wrote a letter to his fellow actors complaining of a newcomer becoming popular in their midst "A new upstart crow filled with Bombast" - Master William Shakespeare.

1777- In a small skirmish with British redcoats near Cooch Maryland the American rebels raise their new Stars & Stripes banner for the first time in battle. They are quickly defeated.

1912- Los Angeles attraction Frazier's Million Dollar Pier destroyed by fire.

1930- The first issue of the Hollywood Reporter.

1937- Orson Welles Mercury Theater of the air produced its first play on nationwide radio- an adaptation of Victor Hugo’s Les Mierables.

1939- Britain and France declare war on Nazi Germany over the invasion of Poland, World War Two results.

1939- British Prime Minister Chamberlain's war announcement interrupts a Disney Cartoon "Mickey's Gala Premiere" showing on the nascent BBC television service. Television shuts down for the duration.

1946- After the War, the BBC television service resumes and an announcer says:" Well now, where were we?" They continue the Mickey cartoon from where it was interrupted in 1939. World War Two probably held back for a decade the development of television.

1950- Mort Walker's "Beetle Bailey" comic strip first appeared.

1960- The Hanna-Barbera show 'Lippy the Lion and Hardy-Harr-Harr" premiered.

2003- Two crooks in Detroit hijacked a Krispy Kreme truck and tried to hold three thousand donuts hostage.


John Steinbeck quote
September 2nd, 2006

John Steinbeck was the author of such classics as The Grapes of Wrath, and Of Mice and Men.



On Teaching”
by John Steinbeck
“…School is not so easy and it not for the most part very fun, but then, if you are very lucky, you may find a teacher. Three real teachers in a lifetime is the very best of luck. I have come to believe that a great teacher is a great artist and that there are as few as there are other great artists. Teaching might even be the greater of the arts since the medium is the human mind and spirit.
My three had these things in common. They all loved what they were doing. They did not tell- they catalyzed a burning desire to know. Under their influence, the horizons sprung wide and fear went away and the unknown became knowable. But most important of all, the truth, that dangerous stuff, became beautiful and precious.”

(thanks to Dave Master for digging this up.)


courtesy of the Pavek Museum of Broadcasting.
I will be talking about my new book Drawing the Line this tuesday on the NPR radio program Curtains@8!, an arts & cultural talk show hosted by Nick Lawrence. Tuesday night, September 5 at 8:00 pm Eastern /5:00 pm Pacific.

Martha Baxton Benefit a week away! Even if you don't know Martha or never went to Cal Arts you can get some amazing artwork. Check out the cool stuff piling up for auction-http://baxton.mrkurtnielsen.com/ Among the goodies is an original Milt Kahl sketch from Robin Hood, animation drawings from the Little Mermaid and the Iron Giant, John Musker caricatures of John Lassiter and Tim Burton, two tickets to Penn & Teller in Vegas and more! Its all in a great cause. Donate, bid and come party with us on Sat Sept 8th at 5:30PM at Cal Arts in Valencia.

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Birthdays: The last monarch of Hawaii Queen Liliuokalani, Cleveland Amory, Alfred Spaulding 1850, founder of Spaulding sports equipment, Martha Mitchell, Mark Harmon, Terry Bradshaw, Jimmy Connors, Selma Hayek is 38, Keanu Reeves is 42

31 BC- The Battle of Actium- Large naval battle near Corfu that decided that Augustus and not Anthony & Cleopatra would be the master of Rome. Legend has it that before a battle the priests spread out sacred chicken feed, and could predict victory or defeat based on how the sacred chickens would peck. This time the chicken wouldn't peck. Anthony said:"If the chickens won't peck, then let them drink!" And had them all thrown overboard. He lost the battle. Shows ya, don't mess with the sacred chickens.!

1609- Henry Hudson and his Dutch ship "Half Moon" entered New York Harbor. Twenty canoes of Indians rowed out to welcome the strange looking craft. The French under Cartier and English under Cabot had cruised by decades earlier but had not bothered to stop there. Hudson sailed 100 miles up the Hudson near the future site of Pookepsie, looking for China but found just more riverand forest. He reported this "Great River not unlike the Rhine and this Great Natural Bay Wherein a Thousand Ships may Ride tranquilly in Harbor."

1666- THE GREAT FIRE OF LONDON- started in the bakery shop of Thomas Farynor on Pudding Lane. The Lord Mayor was woken up at 3:00AM. At first he was not impressed."Tosh, an old woman might piss it out!"

1752 - Last Julian calendar day in Britain and her colonies, including the US and Canada. That year you went to sleep the evening of Sept. 2nd and awoke the morning of Sept. 14th. The Calendar had been promulgated in Rome in1582, but it took this long for the Protestant countries to get on board with the new system.

1901- In a speech Teddy Roosevelt said the U.S. should " Speak softly and carry a big stick!"

1909- On the three hundredth anniversary of Henry Hudson¹s discovery New York City held a grand birthday party. Hundreds of ships and public spectacles capped off with Wilbur Wright flying his new aeroplane around the Statue of Liberty. Thomas Edison illuminating the entire skyline with the new electric bulbs- the first time a city was illuminated at night by electricity.

1923- Harold Lloyd¹s comedy short "Why Worry?" released.

1945- The Grand Surrender ceremony in Tokyo Bay on board the U.S.S. Missouri. Presiding General Douglas MacArthur said:" The proceedings are now concluded. The greatest tragedy in human history is now at an end. We hope in the future nations will not resort to war to resolve their conflicts."He then collected all the pens used in the ceremony as souvenirs.

1973- J.R.R. Tolkein died at age 81. He couldn't care less who owned the film rights, touching off a legal battle
between Ralph Bakshi, Rankin Bass and others.

1985- A team of French and American oceanographers led by Dr. Robert Ballard discovered the final resting place of the HMS Titanic, which sank in 1912.


Welcome to September from Septembrius, After August the Romans ran out of names for the
months. Septembrius is from the Roman number 7, March being the first month.

Today we learned of the death of two famous Hollywood artists.Ed Benedict, the animator-designer of the Flintstones among other great characters. He was a strong influence on filmmakers like John K.. Various blogs like Johns' and Cartoon Brew speak about his achievements. I communicated with Ed in his retirement, but I really didn't know him that well.

I do recall when I was working on Hanna & Barbera shows in the late 1970s I was once doing cleanup on Yogi's Space Race, yet another retread of the old H&B characters. Partly for reference the studio gave us copies of the original model sheets of Yogi, Boo-Boo and Huckleberry Hound. Handling the characters I was impressed by the amount of sophistication in the design. At first glance they seem so naively simple, but in about 15 minutes you were drawing them like you drew them all your life. You could animated them full on ones, or you could animate them very limited, and they always looked good. That kind of design was not an accident, it required intelligence and experience. The minds that created the beautiful MGM Tom & Jerrys knew just where to cut corners. I don't know if Ed designed those characters, but he was central to the H&B design team.

Also the death of screenwriter Josef Stefano. He wrote Alfred Hitchcocks' Psycho and the television series The Outer Limits. " Do not attempt to adjust your television set....We are in control...We control the horizontal...etc."
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Birthdays: Joachim Pachebel, boxer Gentleman Jim Corbet, orchestra conductor Seiji
Ozawa, Tarzan creator Edgar Rice Burroughs, Walter Reuther founder of the United Auto
Workers, Englebert Humperdinck- the 19th century composer, Conway Twitty,
Jack Hawkins, Leonard Slatkin, Marylin Munster-Yvonne DeCarlo, Gloria Estefan,
Tex Avery animator Mike Lah, Canadian folksinger Boxcar Willie, Richard Farnsworth, Lily Tomlin.

1852-The Hot Dog or Frankfurter was invented by a group of butchers in
Frankfurt, Germany. It didn't catch on in the U.S until it was served at the
opening the Coney Island Exhibition in 1894 where it was billed as a Vienna
Sausage. In Chicago they were called Red Hots. Dog was one newspaper's speculation
upon the origins of the meat. It was first served at a baseball game in 1910.

1913 - George Bernard Shaw¹s play "Androcles & the Lion," premieres
in London.

1919- Pat Sullivan's 'Feline Follies" cartoon staring Felix the Cat.
Felix is the first true animated star, not depended on a previous
newspaper comic strip. His body prototype, a black peanut shape with four
fingers, will be the standard for years to come and copied for characters
like Oswald and Mickey Mouse. By 1926 he was the most popular star in
Hollywood after Chaplin and Valentino. Lindbergh had a Felix doll in his
plane and it has been speculated that Groucho Marx copied his famous strut.
The first television image broadcast by scientists in 1926 was of a Felix
doll.
Producer Pat Sullivan and his wife Margaret. Courtesy of Cartoon Brew.

1928- Paul Terry premiered his sound cartoon RCA Photophone system for a
short called "Dinner Time". Young studio head Walt Disney came by train
out from Los Angeles to see it. He telephoned his studio back in L.A." My Gosh,
Terrible! A Lot of Racket and Nothing Else!" He said they could continue to
complete their first sound cartoon "Steamboat Willie".

1932-Mayor Jimmy Walker resigned as Mayor of New York. The corrupt but
colorful Walker was a former vaudeville hoofer who wrote a hit song "Will
you love me in September like you do in May.?" and flouted his chorus girl
mistress at social functions. The man who served out Walker¹s term was John
P."Boo-Boo" O¹Brian, another Tamany machine politician who was so inept
that when a reporter asked who he planned to name as the new Sewer Commissioner
O¹Brian said "A decision hasn¹t been given me yet.."

1939- FIRST CANNES FILM FESTIVAL- The premiere film event in Europe had been
the Venice Film Festival but western democracies tired of the bias of the
judges for Fascist and Nazi films. For example Walt Disney was annoyed his
Snow White, the box office and critical champ of 1938, lost out to Leni
Reifenstahl's Olympia. So the little French Riviera city was chosen as the
site for a new festival. Two days after opening World War Two was declared
and the festival shut down until 1946.

1939- WORLD WAR TWO BEGAN. The Nazi Army blitzkreigs into Poland.

1939 ­ The Physical Review published the1st paper on a celestial phenomena
called "black holes".

1955- Phillip Loeb was a TV star, playing Papa on the show The Goldbergs on
radio and television. But the book Red Channels listed him as a Communist.
He was blacklisted and the show dropped by CBS and NBC. This day Phil Loeb
checked into the Hotel Taft and swallowed a bottle full of sleeping pills..

1979 - LA Court orders retired TV star Clayton Moore to stop wearing his
Lone Ranger mask in public appearances. Paramount was pushing a bad remake
the Legend of the Lone Ranger starring Klinton Spillsbury and so wanted the
old man to stop competing for the spotlight. But today that movie is
forgotten while everyone remembers the TV show,

1998- THE STARR REPORT- The full text of independent Special Counsel Kenneth
Starr¹s investigation into the sexual wrongdoings of President Bill Clinton
with his intern Monica Lewinsky was released on-line. It was the first major
news story reported on the Internet first, a full day before newspapers and television
could get it. Twenty million log on¹s occurred in one days time. It caused
huge internet user jams and sparked a furious response from millions of
Americans, all on electronic mail. Americans learned of their Presidents
many uses for his cigar and Monica snapping her thong underwear at him. Many
felt the salacious details ranked as soft-core pornography but it was sent
out without any child-proof guards anyway, championed by conservative
politicians who normally cry for media censorship. Pornography publishing
tycoon Larry Flynt jokingly offered Kenneth Starr a job."Heck, any man who
could get that much porn into 50 million homes so quickly should be working
for me!"


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