March 1st, 2007 thurs
March 1st, 2007

Birthdays: Frederic Chopin, Glen Miller, Harry Belafonte is 80, David Niven, Robert Clary,Oskar Kokoschka, Roger Daltry, Robert Conrad,Catherine Bach, Timothy Daly, Chuck Zito, Ron Howard is 53

Welcome to MARCH from MARTIUS, THE MONTH OF MARS-so named because in ancient times it was the first month that was warm enough for armies to take the field and kill each other. Various warrior societies had religious ceremonies to inaugurate campaigning season. In Rome Salian Priests would do a ceremonial dance with the magic shields of Mars the Avenger, dropped from heaven for Romulus. The Macedonians would split a dog in half lengthwise and parade the troops between the halves, sort of going through the gates of Hades. I hope the dog appreciated the symbolism...

1930-Disney animator Ub Iwerks, the animator/designer of Mickey Mouse, quits the studio to set up his own place. Walt was stunned by the defection of his first employee and closest friend. Iwerks studio producing Flip the Frog Cartoons, will eventually fail and he'll return to Disney's to invent the xerox process. Iwerks partner was Pat Powers, whose PowersCinephone was the process used to put sound on “Steamboat Willie”.Powers engineered the break when Disney refused to let him buy in to a co-partnership in Disney Studio. Iwerks Studio went for a few years before closing in 1936. Iwerks was rehired by Disney in 1940. They were never that close ever again, but Walt arranged for Iwerks to animate one scene, no matter how small, in each feature for good luck.

1932- Museum of Modern Art in New York has first major retrospective of the style of architecture called "THE INTERNATIONAL STYLE" Steel girder frames with large windows for walls and no ornamentation. This style pioneered by Mies Van Der Rohe, Le Corbusier and Phillip Johnson. Called by critics "vertical ice cube trays" they now dominate the skylines around the world, making Moscow and Shanghai equally unrecognizable from Pretoria, or Newark, New Jersey.

1936- Max Fleischer's short cartoon"Snow White" (starring Betty Boop). Cab Calloway singing the "St. James Infirmary Blues", animated by Burny Wolf is a highlight.

1941-Captain America first appears on newsstands.

1946-The National Cartoonists Society formed.

1951- Frank Sinatra was subpoenaed by the Senate Kefhauer Committee looking into the activities of the Mafia. Sinatra was friends with top Godfathers Lucky Lucciano and Sam Giancana. In deference to Old Blue Eyes public persona strings were pulled so he was allowed to testify in his attorney’s private office high up in 30 Rockefeller Plaza at 4:00 a.m.

1961-The Ken Doll introduced.

1975- The first Honda Civics arrive in the US.

1978- Unemployed auto mechanics Gatchko Ganas and Roman Wardas broke into the tomb of Charlie Chaplin in Vevey Switzerland and stole his remains. They tried to hold it for ransom. The body was recovered and the two losers were soon arrested. They were trying to make enough money to open a car repair garage in France.

1988- Apple introduced the first commercially available CD-ROM drive for your personal computer.

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.