Post Holiday Post

December 30th, 2014

christmas-card-2014.jpg Wishing you a Merry Un-Christmas and Chanukah! I’ve been spending a lot of time sending out our annual Holiday Card and writing a message on each one. This year the card was based on an actual ornament, which we thought was a very cartoony and quietly subversive one. This is one of the few cards we’ve done that has actual color printing on it, usually I hand-color them. We stalwarts who print and send our Holiday Cards through the mail are a dying breed. More and more greetings are sent out by Email these days. I really appreciate the effort behind an artist-produced Holiday greeting, printed on paper. I especially like the cards that are sent by cartoonists and friends in the “business”. Here are a few of my favorites:

christmas-card-graham-webb-2014.jpg Here’s my friend Graham Webb’s card. Graham is a tireless researcher on animation history, he’s published two editions of The Encyclopedia of Animated Shorts, and now he’s working on an Encyclopedia of Live Action Shorts of the Twentieth Century. He likes to draw caricatures and turn them into cartoons, this year he’s drawn “Ghost Buster (Keaton)” and says “Have a Spook-Free Christmas”. He could also have called it “Sta-Puffed Buster”.

christmas-card-june-foray-2014.jpg June Foray’s card this year showcases her versifying and her dogs! She is a wonderful friend, both personally and for the animated film. She’s been doing voices for radio and cartoons since the 1940s and still continues to do them. My favorite voice she’s done? Midnight the Cat in “The Buster Brown Show” on radio, written by Hobart Donavan. The Annie awards were her idea. She’s recovering from a fall right now, so I wish her a quick recovery.

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Here’s Roy and Dann Thomas’s card. Roy, of course, being a long-time writer of comics, mostly Marvel. He’s quite the historian and collector of comic books as well. Roy and Dann (his wife) live on a farm and love to take care of animals. They found the owl on their card lying face-down in the courtyard, and nursed him back to health. Then he was released back into the wild.  The light green tinted card is from Marc Schirmeister, a veteran cartoonist and story artist, he almost always draws his own card each year, sent out as a postcard. Santa’s pack seems to look like a giant ass in this one! There’s also a little labor union humor here.

christmas-card-tom-sito-2014.jpg Here’s Tom and Pat Sito’s card, showing us how Roger and Jessica Rabbit have fun! Tom Sito is a world-class student of world and animation history, a director (Osmosis Jones), animator (Roger Rabbit) and story artist. He is teaching at USC and hoping to be a tenured professor there one day.

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Here’s good friends Willie and Rosemary Ito’s card. It shows the legendary layout man’s Disney Productions ID card from 1954, when he was working on inbetweens for “Lady and the Tramp” under the World’s Greatest Assistant Animator: Iwao Takamoto. Willie sent me some Magilla Gorilla layouts he did when I was a kid, and bowled me over with his generosity. He now does wonderful children’s books like ”Hello Maggi”, about the life of a child confined at the Manzanar camp during World War 2. Willie has a wonderful collection of Mickey Mouse memorabilia, so now he’s “Steamboat” Willie!

    Leslie Iwerks is another good friend who is the grand-daughter of Ub Iwerks, ( I was lucky enough to meet him in 1968), who remains one of my greatest cartoon heroes and influences. Leslie is a wonderful documentary film-maker, she’s done one on her Grandpa, “The Hand Behind The Mouse”, one on Pixar (”The Pixar Story”) and a great piece called “Recycled Life” on the people who live on the trash dump near Guatemala, Mexico. She’s currently working on a doc. about the Imagineers at Disney.

christmas-card-bob-jaques-2014.jpg I’ve included my friend Bob Jaques’s and Kelly Armstrong’s card, even though he did not draw it, because I think the idea’s funny (and Bob could easily have drawn it). Bob is a long-time animator and animation director, best known for his contributions to “The Ren and Stimpy Show” and the modern update of “Baby Huey” alongside many others. He has a terrific blog on Popeye animators: http://popeyeanimators.blogspot.com , go over there right now and read his post on the Fleischer Popeye cartoon “Onion Pacific”.

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Felix, from 7-16 to 7-22-34, continues the Scarecrow Bandit adventure. The Bandit escaped jail last time, and continues to elude the cops and the bulldog. He abducts Felix and manages to pin his subsequent crimes on the hapless cat. Scarecrow can’t get away with this forever! In the Sunday, Felix is stuck on a deserted ship, as the crew leaves for shore with their new-found riches, provided for them by the lonely cat.

myrtle-4-19-to-4-25-48.jpg In Myrtle this time, from 4-19 to 4-25-48, Dudley Fisher features mischievous Myrtle mixing up her mater and pater as always. I like the 4-21 as Myrtle is too busy taking a bath to take a gift of an ice cream cone, so Sampson shoves it in the mailbox! The 4-22 is a favorite also, as Freddie tries to lure Bingo to his bath by making a noise like a rabbit, then consulting with a real bunny (”Let’s hear you say something!”) to find out what a rabbit sounds like. We also found the Sunday page this time, as Freddie poses for a picture.

kraxy-7-27-to-8-1-42.jpg Krazy, from 7-27 to 8-1-42, explores the half-way point between lines on paper and solid objects in the strips this time. A dog artist draws Ignatz in his cell so realistically that it puzzles the “mice” himself. Offissa Pupp’s badge and buttons appear and disappear as the lines they are drawn with wash away. Ignatz draws a realistic brick on a wooden fence, but another Law Dog censors it. In the 8-1, there are no bricks at all, due to the War materials shortage, and the three featured players take a nap under a tree.

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yogi-1-31-65.jpg The Yogi Bear Sunday pages are here from January, 1965, the third-page versions. Yowp, at http://yowpyowp.blogspot.com/ will be posting these pages at half-page size in black and white very soon, so keep an eye out for those. Remember to click the thumbnails to see the comics at full screen display. Harvey Eisenberg still has the feel of momentum and action in his drawings in these pages that he must have had in his layouts in the golden days of the MGM cartoon studio. The pose of Yogi throwing the snowball in the 1-3, has that Tom and Jerry quality to it, as does the sled dog being cracked with the whip in the 1-10.  The stampede of animals (with the moose silhouette) in the 1-17, and the Ranger sailing on the ice in his ice boat in the 1-31, passed by Yogi with an outboard motor strapped to his back, also have the lively animation layout quality.

Here’s hoping that all my readers will enjoy New Year’s Eve, and that we will all quaff a root beer for Auld Lang’s Syne. See you next year!

CTN Expo!

November 29th, 2014

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CTN Expo (11-21 and 11-22-2014) Randall Kaplan explains his proposed feature length macabre cartoon, “Boxhead” to a prospective supporter. That’s a sculpture of Boxhead on Randall’s right. Randall is the son of animation director Yvette Kaplan, and he’s quite a visionary. Years ago, some friends and I pipe dreamed about a “horror” animated feature and sort of laughed off the idea as not having a chance of a hot tamale in Iceland of being sold in the mindset of the then-current animation market. Now time has rolled along and there finally might be enough of a market for a true “scare” or “horror” animated feature to take theaters by storm. Randall has a lot of guts to want to make a feature on his own, all hand-drawn; he will need some help. I told him that David Lynch (director of “Eraserhead”) might really be impressed with the project. If anyone reading this can get in touch with Mr. Lynch, please let me know. It was fun sharing a table for a couple of days with Randall, we had some good talk. Itza and I wish him the best. By the way, Randall animates houseflies really well! If you see his presentation trailer for “Boxhead” you’ll see what I mean.

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My half of the Cartoon Research table at CTN Expo. I had many cels from “It’s ‘The Cat’” and “Some Other Cat” for sale and managed to sell three. The faithful Toshiba miniature DVD player completes the “point of purchase” display. I didn’t have much notice that Jerry Beck would have space for me at the Expo, so didn’t bring any “new” cel set-ups, but I still have a few of the older ones. You can buy them too, just click over to the “It’s ‘The Cat’” website: www.itsthecat.com .

The Expo was the usual crowded madness, only more so. There are so many young women and men with good portfolios (most on Ipad display), and I’m afraid most of them are not in the least prepared for the often uncreative and high-pressure environment that the profession can be. To keep your vision and believe in it with all the negativity that can be directed at you, can be quite an exercise in tenacity. If you are not stubborn and have too many self-doubts, you may as well seek other outlets. Remember it’s easier for a big corporation to green light yet another Marvel superhero, Batman or Bugs Bunny resuscitation, than to take a chance on a young filmmaker’s new dream. I noticed that many young people draw in a Glen Keane/Cal Arts character style, maybe too many. I didn’t see a whole lot of graphic originality at the Expo, so Randall’s project really stood out to me as a lodestone that might just pull some risk-takers into it’s orbit.

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Felix (7-9 to 7-15-34) just can’t get no respect. After giving the reward for the capture of the Scarecrow bandit to the Yiminy family, Felix finds that they have gone “high-hat”. They don’t want him in the house damaging the “snappy” furnishings (”snappy” was a popular slang word of the 1930s), the pasture has become a golf course, and the horse, cow and goat don’t like their gentrified barn. To top it off, the Scarecrow bandit breaks jail and uses Felix’s tail for a fake jail bar (see the 7-14). In the Sunday, Felix continues his fish ride away from the Antarctic, and winds up under the sea. Felix must be part cat-fish, as he is able to breathe underwater. He finds a treasure chest and becomes a hero to the crew of a passing ship as they pull him out of the sea, chest and all.

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Myrtle (4-12 to 4-18-1948) is her irrepressible self in the strips this time. She’s punished for making faces in the 4-14 by standing 20 minutes in the corner. In the 4-16, she has a bet on with her Dad that she can’t sit still for ten minutes without giving the impression that she’s sick, and in the 4-15, Myrtle gets scolded for talking curtly to Hyacinth the cat! The Sunday page is included, Freddie’s driveway gets no respect from his neighbors, Sampson or Bingo the dog.

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Krazy (7-20 to 7-25-1942) is influenced by WW II’s rationing of essential materials this week, notably, iron, clay and brass. Offissa Pupp’s jail is missing it’s bars, locks and hinges because they are iron and collected for the scrap drive. Ignatz’s bricks are gone, because clay had to be conserved as a rationed substance, and even Pupp’s badge and buttons are in danger of being collected, since they are made of brass. But in the strip for 7-25, an artist cheers up Ignatz by painting a very realistic brick on a wooden fence. “Mickey Angelo couldn’t have done better”, sez the artist. The gentle and hopeful artist might have been George Herriman, himself.

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Yogi Bear (December 1964), with the strip for 12-6 missing. Maybe we didn’t get the paper that day, ’twas a long time ago. In the 12-13, I love the panel where Yogi gets his tennis racket/snowshoe idea suggested by Boo-Boo.  A miniature Yogi hits his head with a mallet (Panel 5)! The Christmas tree gag in the 12-20 is kind of heartwarming, as Yogi donates his ill-gotten shrubs to the boy scouts (I’ll bet Bill Hanna liked that). I love Yogi’s super-tolerant expression in the 4th panel as Mister Ranger chews him out. Harvey Eisenberg was great at drawing story-telling faces. The 12-27 is a wintertime butt joke, as Yogi’s fur gets worn off in two strategic spots.

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I heard today that a good friend of puppets and animation, Bob Baker, has passed away. Bob ran the Bob Baker Marionette Theater in downtown L.A. for many years, putting on some imaginative shows, like his version of “The Nutcracker”. I first met Bob when I was part of an animation peer group at the TV Academy. If I had known then that Bob was one of George Pal’s stop-motion animators on the Puppetoons, I would have asked him more questions! Later on, I got to hear more of his stories as we chatted on the phone every year at Christmas after he got my card. Bob was also a big fan and supporter of Itza Cat; I sent him screeners of the two shorts, and he thought they were funny. When I worked at Renegade Animation, the whole studio went to see the Marionette Theater’s holiday show, followed by Balian Ice Cream in cups! (Balian ice cream is a Los Angeles institution.)  Bob told me an interesting story about the making of a Puppetoon called “Jasper’s Booby Traps”, which called for miniature props that used real food loaded with Puppetoon dynamite. There were miniature (and some full size) steaks, pies, pork chops and a Technicolor maraschino cherry. Bob was in charge of all the props, and he left them out in the studio overnight to prepare for an early morning shoot the next day. When the animators and cameramen showed up, all the food had been consumed by the studio rats while the building was closed. It caused quite a delay in production! Bob, you will be sadly missed.

Post-Halloween Post

November 17th, 2014

scream-pumpkin.jpgpumpkin-bikers.jpg I think the years are passing by with incredible rapidity, so let’s slow down just a little before we crash into Thanksgiving and remember Halloween! Cathy and I had fun on Halloween, and I’m not over it yet, so here’s a photo of our pumpkin and a pair of skeleton bikers. The pumpkin is a tribute to “The Scream”, the painting and the movie, and the bikers were among the street decorations on Alegria Street in Sierra Madre, Ca. I love how the wheels and the motors of the motorcycles are made entirely of carved pumpkins. The folks who put these up go all out every Halloween and even grow their own giant pumpkins in the back yard for carving. They put up a dragon on their front walk which was composed entirely of carved pumpkins tied together to form the long, segmented body. You can see why I’m still back there on Oct. 31st!

felix-7-2-to-7-8-34.jpg It looks like Felix has finally escaped from Antarctica in the Sunday from 7-8-1934. The explorers put him out of the igloo for the night, but the nights are six months long in Antarctica, so Felix flags down a big fish and gets a ride out on the Arctic ocean. In the dailies from 7-2 to 7-7-1934, Mr. Yiminy gets a big reward for Felix’s capture of the scarecrow bandit, and ties up an IRS man when he shows up to collect the taxes on it. Mr. Yiminy is showing his country gentleman side, now that he can afford it. How much longer will Felix keep his new home, before the Yiminys decide that he isn’t “chic” enough for them with their newfound one-percent status?

myrtle-4-5-to-4-11-48.jpg In Myrtle, from 4-5 to 4-11-1948, Dudley Fisher entertains us with the newly discovered prowess of Bingo, Myrtle’s dog, as a baseball pitcher. In the 4-8, Bingo learns to fetch and brings Papa the garbage, in the 4-9 and 4-10, the talented Dog is actually able to toss a ball with his front right leg just like a human. I like the 4-10, as Myrtle’s folks try to take all the credit for Bingo’s pitching, but all Bingo gets out of it is a sore leg! The Sunday page is here, too, with a wonderful Fisher 3/4 downshot of the Right Around Home gang finishing the repairs on their fishing boat.

krazy-7-13-to-7-18-42.jpg In Krazy from 7-13 to 7-18-1942, there isn’t much continuity. I like the 7-14 strip, composed of one word of dialog, “Hepp”, started by Kat and picked up by Pupp, ending with a disgruntled “Mice”. Hepp-Hepp was an oft-repeated swing era phrase, used in a popular song called the “Jumping Jive”, maybe Garge was reflecting it’s influence here. In the 7-15, there is a nice little exchange between Krazy and an “Ommy” worm, reflecting the military timeliness of 1942. There is a choice bit of Kat Langwitch in the third panel as Krazy says “Figgood Nitz sake, how did you get in the ommy?”, to which the worm replies “Nee”, meaning he was born into the “Ommy”.  In this daily we also can see the little stage set footlight decorations that Garge favored, evolving into the edge of a pond. The cross-hatching in the first panel with Krazy emerging from it’s midst, conveys an ethereal existence for the Kat, he materializes out of ink lines! See you again very soon!

Your Comics Page 10-31-2014

October 30th, 2014

 felix-6-25-to-7-1-34.jpg In Felix 6-25 to 7-1-1934, the story of the scarecrow bandit continues, Felix and his Yiminy Farm animal buddies capture the crook to the amazement of Pa Yiminy. In the Sunday, Felix continues his Arctic adventures. His usual dilemma is trying to stay warm; at first he plugs up the igloo chimney, then finds that being juggled on the end of a sea lion’s nose is very warming. Remember to click on the smaller strips, to see them full size.

krazy-7-6-to-7-11-42.jpg In Krazy, 7-6 to 7-11-1942, Garge does a whole week of animal puns. My favorite, Krazy’s “Kat Langwitch” in the 7-6. He clarifies that an “allium cepa” is the “Siam Tiffic name for an onion”. There are two, count ‘em, two “Gnu” gags, the 7-11 one inviting the reader to provide the answer to a riddle.

myrtle-3-29-to-4-3-48.jpg In Myrtle, 3-29 to 4-3-1948, there is a week of general hub-bub around Myrtle’s home town. My favorite is the 4-3, as Myrtle’s dog Bingo is convinced that his lady love Lillian is waving to him from her window, when she’s really just drying her nail polish! The 3-29 is a close second, as Myrtle blows her Mom’s cover and waits for some non-existent cookies.

yogi-november-1964.jpg Here’s Yogi Bear from November, 1964. The 11-29 isn’t very PC by current standards, but the Indian designs are cute, and I like Yogi’s attitudes as he slips and trys to gain traction on the ice. A close runner-up is the 11-22 final panel as Yogi goes into spasms of pain from being hit on the shin by a rug-beater. In the 11-15, Yogi swipes a chapter from Stepin Fetchit’s gag book, as the “laziest bear in the world”, he blends jumping beans in his pancake batter so that they flip themselves. You can see the top tier of these Sunday pages on Yowp’s blog very soon. Go to www.yowpyowp.blogspot.com  and check out his comments as the great Harvey Eisenberg continues to inspire you with world-class cartooning.

I haven’t been blogging much lately. I’ve been doing household maintenance stuff, painting and sanding the back steps and fixing some windows in the downstairs shop that have not seen a coat of paint in more than 22 years! I hope you all have a real great Halloween and don’t eat too much high fructose corn syrup-laced treats. Also, keep away from that “liquid candy”, namely booze. Or as we say in Halloween speak, BOOOOOze. I’ll be seeing you soon.

Your Comics Page 9-30-2014

September 30th, 2014

catblog-arsage.jpg Last day of the month, and I haven’t posted in quite a while. Since this is the Catblog, here’s a little pen sketch I made from a cat calendar. I love to sketch cat faces, and Arsage has such beautiful eyes, and I like how she’s threaded her body through the rungs of the chair she’s sitting in. Of course working from life would be even more fun, but you work with the models you have on hand.

felix-6-18-to-6-24-34.jpg Felix this time from 6-18 to 6-24-1934, continues to search for the stolen money that the scarecrow bandit left on the Yiminy farm. The week is spent on farm and animal gags until Henrietta scratches up the loot in her hen pen. The Sunday continues the saga of Felix in Antarctica. He spoils the explorers’s photograph of the South Pole by sitting on it, then he brings back the capsule they tried to plant on the pole. When Felix is good, he’s very, very good, but…..

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myrtle-solution-3-28-48.jpg Myrtle is from 3-22 to 3-28-1948 this time. My favorite daily is the 3-26. Myrtle tries to smooth over things for her Dad, who keeps forgetting his wife’s birthday: “Cheer up! (she tells her mom) He only forgets it once a year!” In the Sunday “Right Around Home” page, from 3-28, Dudley Fisher reveals a Lewis Carroll side and works a mathematical problem into the comic. If you can’t figure out the number of coins in $1.14, don’t despair, I’ve included the solution from The Lima News for you. This will sharpen your knowledge of algebra!

krazy-6-29-to-7-4-42.jpg In Krazy this time, 6-29 to 7-4-1942, Krazy is a hypnotist, then a flea carrier. She can hypnotize almost anyone, even herself, but her attempt on Mrs. Kwakk-Wakk has an unexpected result. I love Krazy’s expression in the third panel of the 7-3, as her flea passenger bites her. The flea resembles some of Garge’s drawings of Archy in his illustrations for Don Marquis’ “Archy and Mehitabel”.

yogi-10-4-64.jpgyogi-10-11-64.jpgyogi-10-18-64.jpgyogi-10-25-64.jpg In the Yogi Sunday pages for October, 1964, we find a Mr. Magoo type nearsighted joke, a rare Cindy bear appearance, and some very funny Ranger Smith poses as Yogi’s ego is deflated by a balloon, and is inflated by a mirror. Watch Yowp’s http://yowpyowp.blogspot.com/ blog for his upcoming analysis of these fine Sunday pages by Harvey Eisenberg.  Sorry this post was so long in coming, it takes time to put all these comics together. A robot comment about “Mangy on the Fence” criticized the title of the piece as being unexciting. The robots keep trying to get me to up my readership by getting in to scandal sheet Kardashian type territory. Sorry robots, we mainly deal in gentle fantasy here, that’s a bit out of fashion in a world with wars that last more than a decade, with the climate falling apart all around us. But this blog should give my readers a vacation from all that negativity. I’ll see you again soon.