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Blog Posts from January 2009:

Tom Sito's Winners for 2008.

The turn of a New Year makes one want to review the Winners and Losers of the previous year. I won’t list all the losers from 2008, because the weight of the file would crash the Web. So I’ll mention who I thought were Winners in the World of Animation in 2008. ( in no particular order of preference. )

Jennifer Yuh Nelson- Jenny storyboarded a lot of the opening 2D sequence for KUNG FU PANDA. I worked with her on SPIRIT. It was great to finally see the energy of her work really come through on the screen. I hear she is now tapped to direct the sequel. Good choice.

courtesy of Dreamworks Animation

James Baxter- With ENCHANTED and the 2d animation in KUNG FU PANDA and SECRETS OF THE FURIOUS FIVE, James has managed to lift up the worn battle-flag of 2D hand drawn Animation. He has become the champion of all of us who still might want to occasionally use a pencil to draw cartoons.

Seth McFarland- Bringing FAMILY GUY back from Cancellation Land, selling THE CLEVELAND SHOW and a 100 kazillion buck development deal with Fox, Seth has become one of the most successful “creatives” ( the word suits use for artists) in ToonTown.

Raul Garcia- Former Disney/Bluth animator Raul has spend the last few years scrimping, saving and hustling around the world taking meetings to launch his idea of a Spanish-language based animation production. At last, in cooperation with Antonio Banderas and Placido Domingo, Raul’s first feature THE MISSING LYNX has opened in Madrid to great acclaim and has been nominated for the Spanish Oscar. I look forward to seeing it here en Eengleesh.

Francis Glebas for his well done book DIRECTING FOR ANIMATION.

Eric Goldberg for revealing his deepest darkest secrets on making animation- Focal Press’ CHARACTER ANIMATION CRASH COURSE.

Nancy Beiman has a new steady teaching gig at Sheridan College and her PREPARE TO BOARD has been approved for a second printing.

PIXAR for making yet another &%#$ hit movie, WALL-E. I don’t know how they do it.

Simon Tofield of Simon’s Cat, a very clever and well animated web-toon that has established a following for the young Brit, getting him almost as many downloads as porn.

June Foray, the voice of Rocky the Flying Squirrel and Natasha, took a bad fall and busted her hip, which at age 90, can be something that is tough to recover from. But two months later she was out of hospital, partying with the best of us and driving her Jaguar around town.

Ari Folmen of WALTZING WITH BASHIR, for suddenly making Israel an animation filmmaking power.

John Stevenson and Mark Osborne the directors of KUNG FU PANDA, Jimmy Hayward and Steve Martino the directors of HORTON HEARS A WHO.

For me old Roger Rabbit mates Rob Stevenhagen and David Bowers, for getting the direction bug.

For me other old Roger buddies Roger Chiasson, Chuck Gamage, Uli Meyer and Ken Duncan for opening animation studios and keeping them open through a tough year.

To Rob Davies and the gang at Atomic Cartoons for some fun times working together.

To all my students who have entered the business, especially my USC grad Shih Ting who’s film VIOLA won a Student Academy Award, and was featured on the cover of the MP Academy Bulletin.

The FJIORG! student CGI competition at Siggraph. Pat Beckman, Becky Weible and Arno through their energy have made it a Siggraph tradition.

All my animation friends from other lands who became American Citizens just so they could vote in the Presidential Election. They all picked the winner.

I could think of more, but these are my picks so far. You notice, I am talking about people instead of films. If you’ve ever read my writings, I consider animation a PERFORMANCE, I celebrate the animator as an INDIVIDUAL, not a magician or elf in a tree, but a working pro who works for a paycheck and figures out how to pay taxes too. And I leave film crit to the film critics.

A New Years Toast to all my animation Kameraden!May we have a good year this year!
Quiz: In Chuck Jones shorts of Inky and the Mynah Bird, whenever the strange bird appeared, composer Carl Stalling gave him a signature tune. What piece of classical music is that tune based on?

Yesterday: No quiz yesterday, because I was too hung over and you probably were too!
History for 1/2/2009
Birthdays: Turkish Sultan Mehmed IV-1642, Frederic Opper the cartoonist of Happy Hooligan, Phillip Freneau, Roger Miller, Issac Asimov, Julius LaRosa, Tito Schipa, Renata Tebaldi, Tex Ritter, Cuba Gooding Jr, is 41, Tia Carrere

1492- Sultan Abu-Abdallah called Boabdil surrendered the Emirate of Grenada, the last stronghold of the Moslem Moors in Spain to Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile. Boabdil's mother, the Sultana Ayeesha, scolded him for weeping while surrendering the keys of the city. " I should have smothered you as an infant, rather than watch you live like a degenerate and surrender like a whore...!" Thanks Mom…

1496- Did Leonardo da Vinci try to fly? Leonardo studied the motor actions of birds and sketched numerous flying machines. In one of his notebooks Leonardo had written:” On the second day of January, I will make the attempt.” When one of his aides Antonio broke his leg it was said he broke it trying to pilot one of his masters flying machines.

1522- Adrian VI, a Dutchman was elected Pope. He was the first non Italian since 1378 and the last non-Italian until John Paul II in 1978. He really tried to be a true Christian spiritual guide and agreed with Martin Luther that the church was too corrupt and sinful in it’s ways. He demanded he and his cardinals live on only one ducat a day, about $12.50, he walled up the Belvedere Palace and it’s collection of ancient Greek and Roman art as pagan idolatry. Poets and artists were furious that this Pope cancelled all their rich contracts. The unemployed poet Aretino called the cardinals “miserable rabble” and that they should all be buried alive for electing this lousy pope. After three months Adrian died. This time the cardinals elected a Medici Pope who loved art, music and parties. The people of Rome sent flowers to Adrian’s doctor to congratulate him for losing his patient.

1611-THE BLOOD COUNTESS- Beautiful Transylvanian Countess Elizabeth Bathory was indicted for the murder of 610 people. She apparently believed that bathing in the blood of virgin girls would keep her skin beautiful- remember Oil of Olay wasn’t invented yet. The crimes of the Medieval nobility were often winked at until like Count Giles de Rais-Bluebeard in France they become so outrageous they couldn’t be ignored any longer. When peasant girls kept disappearing around Csejthe Castle word got back to her big uncle King Sigmund Bathory of Poland, the nemesis of Ivan the Terrible. When King Sigmund discovered the full horror of her story he had Elizabeth walled up alive in her chamber. Daily food passed through a slit in the wall. When after a few years the empty dishes stopped being passed through that slit was bricked up as well.

1757- British redcoats first march into Calcutta. They don't leave until 1947.

1785- Austrian Emperor Joseph II ordered the Jews throughout his empire to adopt family names. A similar law was passed in the rest of Germany ten years later. Most Jews created surnames out of their profession. This was when someone like Ystchak the diamond dealer became Issac Diamondstein and Jakob the butcher became Jacob Fleischman.

1837- It was the custom at New Years for the Mayor of New York to hold an open house. Average citizens could pay a call, have a glass of sherry and pound cake and express good wishes for the New Year. But Mayor Cornelius Lawrence was a Tammany politician who had been elected with the help of hooligans from the Bowery and Five Points. When he held an open house this day all these gang toughs stormed in, got drunk, wiped their fingers on the curtains and pocketed the silverware. It quickly became bedlam. In desperation Mayor Lawrence got the police and militia troops to push the mob out and lock the doors.

1843- Richard Wagner’s opera The Flying Dutchman premiered in Dresden.

1873- Richard Connolly becomes the first American to embezzle a million dollars -he actually embezzled four million. He was the financial controller for the City of New York under Boss Tweed. Together the Tweed ring bilked New York City out of $60 million dollars. Today he fled abroad ahead of the police. Tweed was nabbed and died in jail but Slippery Dick Connolly lived in Europe happily ever after.

1878- Farmer John Martin thought he saw something shiny flying in the sky above Denizen Texas. He is the first person to describe it as a “flying saucer.”

1882- John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil company controlled almost 90% of the U.S. crude oil output but the government seemed poised to hit it with anti-monopoly laws. So anticipating this move he reorganized Standard Oil into a Trust with himself as chief Trustee. Standard Oil later became ESSO (S-O) then EXXON.

1904- The Russians surrender their big Pacific base of Port Arthur to the Japanese after a one year siege. During the boredom of the siege the game Russian Roulette was invented- of putting a six shooter to your head with one bullet in a spun chamber. When their men kept dying for no reason the Stavka-High Command were at a loss how to stop it. When they caught men playing this lethal game they courts martialed them for illegal use of government property- i.e. the bullets.

1909- Aimie Semple MacPherson was given her ordination by the Evangelical community of Chicago to go preach the Good News! MacPherson moved to California and became one of the first great broadcast evangelists, entertaining millions with salvation and sin, while keeping toy-boys and popping pills on the side.

1937- Hollywood actor Ross Alexander had hit on tough times. He had been in a few movies like Captain Blood and Max Reinhardt’s A Midsummer Nights’s Dream but his career seemed to be stalled and he was deeply in debt. This day the 29 year old went into the barn behind his Valley ranch home and shot himself. The Warner Bros. Studio looked around for a replacement to refill their roster of male leads. They replaced Alexander with a Illinois college sportscaster named “Dutch”- Ronald Reagan.

1960- Young Mass. Senator John F. Kennedy announced he was a candidate for president. When asked why do you want to be president? Kennedy replied:” Because it’s the best job there is.”

1971- Israeli archaeologists in Jerusalem discovered the 2000 year old remains of a crucified man. No, they didn’t think it was You-Know-Who. But it did provide the first physical proof that Romans really used that method of execution.

1984- The Zenith Corporation announced it would stop selling video recorders in Betamax format and go over wholly to VHS. Other electronics giants followed suit and VHS won out over the higher quality Beta system. A week ago the largest maker of blank VHS cassettes announced they were ceasing production, since everyone is doing DVDs.

1995- Washington D.C. Mayor Marion Barry was inaugurated for a second term after winning election despite his conviction of smoking crack cocaine. As comedian Chris Rock said: “Who ran against him? Who was such a bad choice that he lost to a crackhead? “

Well, we survived 2008 somehow, and we enter 2009 with a new President , a new spirit, and the worst economic collapse since the Great Depression. Every New Year’s Day, all of us non-jocks can pretend for a little while we actually care about watching football. And, while the rest of North America shivers in the winter that came on much too fast, here in Southern Cal have our own curious custom for New Year’s. The Rose Parade.


The Rose Parade is the annual event where all those whose families who came to LA from little towns can pretend for a day, that we don’t live in a major cosmopolitan megalopolis, but we’re still the little Podunk train crossing in the bean fields that those East Coast movie folk scouted out in 1913. For a day, we forget that David Hockney, Arnold Schoenberg, F.Scott Fitzgerald, Raymond Chandler, and Charles Bukowski all lived here once.

No, we camp out all night, so next day we get a good spot on the curb to applaud the Chairman of the Pasadena Chamber of Commerce driving by, followed by Miss City of Industry, the owner of a dental clinic decked out in Western attire from Nudies riding a Palomino that costs more than your Honda, all covered in plastic rhinestones, The Fighting Manatees All Varsity Marching Band and a representation of Shrek done in thousands of hand-glued chick peas and yellow dwarf rose petals.

I’ve lived in LA for 25 years now, and I still don’t quite get all the fuss. Back in New York City, parades, since the Irish marched St Patty’s Day in 1765, were all about one ethnic group getting together to drink a lot and march down the street giving a big one- fingered-salute to the rest of their city. Hah, Look how many of us there are! Look at the power of numbers of all the Irish, or Poles, or Puerto Ricans, or Gays & Lesbians, whatever.

Maybe the Rose Parade is the Small-Town LA giving the finger to the big cultured Metropolis LA.

If any of you animation folk happen to be watching, this year’s parade will feature two floats designed by Iron Giant artist John Ramirez and a Warner Bros Anim tribute Float that Chuck Jones daughter, Producer Linda Jones Clough will be riding.

Anyway, I gotta go. USC-Penn State is about to kick off and I have to go get more Doritos Smoky Barbeque flavored chips and Coors Lite. Happy New Year!
Jan. 1st 2009 A.D. or 2009 of the Common Era- New Year's Day
It’s also the Hebrew year 5,767 AM or Year of the World Anno Mundane ,
in the Moslem calendar 1430 A.H. or Al Hajira –since the Haj,
And the Year 1387 in the Zoroastrian Calendar
Yesterday’s Quiz question: Why is December the twelfth month when Decembrius means number ten in old Latin? For the answer look at 45 BC.
Happy Last Day of Kwanza

Birthdays: Duke Lorenzo”the Magnificent” De Medici, Pope Alexander VI Borgia, Paul Revere, Betsy Ross, Mad Anthony Wayne, E.M. Forrester, J.Edgar Hoover, Xavier Cugat, Frank Langella is 70, Barry Goldwater, Kuniyoshi Utagawa, Dana Andrews, Idi Amin Dada, Kliban, Verne Troyer (Mini-Me) is 39

Welcome to the month January from IANUARIUS, the old Roman god Janus, the two faced god of doorways and portals who looks forward and back, symbolizing new beginnings. Not to be confused of course with Terminus the god of boundaries and borders.

Janus’ temple was dominated by a large doorway in the Roman Forum. Whenever the temple doors were closed, it meant Rome was at peace with the world. Unfortunately, this was hardly ever the case.

45 BC.- By edict of Julius Caesar the Roman Empire adopts the 12 month 366 day calendar Caesar ordered developed by the Alexandrian scientist Sosigenes. This was an improvement from the ten month, ten day week system. The ten month system is why December, which means ten, is counted as the twelfth month. The system had become so lopsided that the Roman civil service had to open a special office just to tell you what day it was! In order to pull the calendar back in line with the solar seasonal year Caesar decreed the last year of the old system 46 b.c. would have to be 445 days long! He called it Ultimus Annus Confusionis. Roman merchants, bankers and shippers called it the Year of Confusion.

Happy Feast of the Holy Circumcision, when baby Jesus had his…well,…you know…..

69AD- The Roman legion at the Rhine frontier fort of Mainz rose in rebellion under their general Marius Vindex. This is the first act of defiance that would overthrow the Emperor Nero. By years end four men would be Emperor until only one –Vespasian, remained.

1525- Despite the pleadings of Hernando Cortez to respect Aztec institutions, twelve Franciscan missionaries began to close down Aztec temples, and conducted mass baptisms of Indians at gunpoint.

1531- French King Louis XII died of sexual exhaustion from too many evenings spent with his new English queen, the sister of Henry VIII. His nephew Francis was next in line. The dying king lamented. “That big nosed boy will ruin everything we tried to accomplish!” Actually, Francis Ist turned out to be one of France’s best kings.

1776- The first U.S. invasion of Canada is defeated, Benedict Arnold and William Montgomery's colonial army attacks Quebec City in a snowstorm and are repulsed. Montgomery is killed and Arnold takes a bullet severing his thigh bone. Aware of the Puritan New Englanders contempt for Roman Catholics most French Canadians did not rise up as expected to help 'Les Bostonnais', as they called the minutemen.

1788- THE LONDON TIMES is born. Daily newspapers had appeared in Europe in the early 1600s. Publisher John Walters had started a small one sheet in 1785 called the Daily Universal Register. In 1788 he changed the name to the simpler "The Times" and created the format for newspapers around the world for centuries to come. The Walters family ran the newspaper for 125 years and Walters even had to edit it for two years while serving a prison term for libel.

1801- Toussaint L’Overture and Jean-Jacques Dessalines declare the Republic of Haiti, only the second independent republic in the Americas.

1831- William Lloyd Garrison first began publishing his newspaper The Liberator, openly calling for the end to black slavery in the U.S. ‘ I will not Equivocate, I will not Retreat, and I Will Be Heard!”

1850- The TaiPing Rebellion began in China. Hung tsu Tsuan listened to a Christian Missionary. Later he decided he was the son of Jesus Christ come to Earth to right all wrongs. He led millions, until he was crushed by the Manchu Emperor’s foreign led army- the Ever Victorious Army.

1863- Poet Walt Whitman visited Washington D.C., but skipped a chance to meet Abraham Lincoln. Whitman was looking for his brother, and the New Years reception line in front of the White House was just too long to bother. Lincoln is young and there will be plenty of other occasions to meet him....

1876- The first Mummers Parade in Philadelphia. Philadelphia created a fusion of Swedish custom of celebrating New Years with masquerade and noisemaking with a British custom of mummery- reciting doggerel and ribald songs in exchange for cakes and ale. George Washington received mummers when the US capitol was in Philadelphia in 1790. The large Mummers parade that continues to this date began to welcome the US Centennial year in 1876.

1881- Eastman Kodak Company formed. Kodak supposedly was named from the sound of the snapping camera shutter.

1890- The First Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena California.

1909- London astronomers say they had detected signs of a planet further out than Neptune, the furthest known planet in our little solar system. The theoretical body was called Planet -X until in 1930 an amateur astronomer named Clyde Tumbaugh found it and named it Pluto.

1914- The Archbishop of Paris threatens with excommunication young people who dance the Tango. "It's lascivious nature offends morality."

1939-ANOTHER BIRTHDAY OF T.V.. Vladimir Zworkin patented the Iconoscope ( the eye of a TV camera ) and the Kinescope. The television process evolved over many years: there were experimental TV stations in 1923, and the Berlin Olympics of 1936 were televised. So you can't really point to one Tom Edison type inventor, although Zworkin, Englishman James Logie Baird in 1924, Philo Farnsworth, and Dr. Lee DeForest all at one time tried to take the full credit.

1942-Young French Resistance leader Jean Moulin parachuted back into Nazi-occupied France to unify the scattered resistance groups under DeGaulle.

1942- Because of the fear of a Japanese attack on the California coastline, the Rose Bowl that year was played in North Carolina.

1943- Walt Disney's wartime Donald Duck cartoon- Der Fuehrer's Face, premiered. Working title- Donald Duck in Naziland, it was changed when they decided to include the hit song by comedy band Spike Jones.

1953- 29 year old country music star Hank Williams had spent the night drinking whiskey and doing chloral hydrate. When a West Virginia policeman pulled over his car he remarked to the driver that Williams looked dead, he was. The driver said Hank was just sleeping it off, and drove on. Williams last song was “I’ll Never get out of this World Alive.”

1959- As Fidel Castro’s guerillas roll into Havana, Cubans celebrate the fall of dictator Fulgensio Batista. Fidel is proclaimed the leader of Cuba.

1959- The Chipmunk Song by David Seville (aka Ross Bagdassarian) tops the pop charts..

1963- Tetsuwan Atomu or Atom Boy, an animated television show by Osamu Tezuka premiered on Japanese t.v. As Astro Boy it became the first Japanese anime show to break into the mainstream American market.

1966- An ailing Walt Disney was the Grand Marshal for that years Rose Parade. Standing in the crowd with his mother was a little kid named John Lasseter.

1976- Potheads sneak up to the Hollywood Sign and change the two “O’s to “E’s so the sign reads HOLLYWEED. Awright Dudes!

1984- By court order, the phone system AT&T also called the Bell System which had dominated telephone communication exclusively since Alexander Graham Bell spilled carbolic acid on his lap, was ordered broken up into 22 regional companies, the Baby Bells. The explosion of telecommunications, portable phones and bigger phone bills result.

1998- Michael Kennedy, a son of Robert F. Kennedy was killed in Aspen Colorado during a freak skiing accident. He was playing ski-football and while handling a video camera he struck a tree.
For the Trivia Answer look above at 45BC, and have a Happy New Year!