May 31, 2006

A biographical aside

This L.A. Times illustration was forwarded to me by an intrepid visitor to this blog some months ago; I've misplaced the original email, and can't remember the name-if you're out there, please email me so I can give you the credit for digging this up.

In talking to James Walker and interviewing him about the stories he's collected, usually from coworkers who began working alongside Fred Moore in the 1930s and 40s, I learned some really eyebrow-raising bits of biographical data. Not least of these was that Fred had spent his early childhood living in a socialist utopian society! That nearly had me toppling out of my chair.

First, I knew that Fred had lived in midtown Los Angeles as a teenager, and had wrongly assumed he'd always lived here; Carl Urbano, an animator who went to high school with Fred, told me the Moores were a borderline if not outright poor family, and perhaps because of that and with proof(via Fred's high school yearbooks)that he had lived in the city by age 14 or so, I'd never thought of his family moving around before he started at Disney's in 1929 shortly before his 18th birthday.

And there's also the supposed lack of any kind of political interest, leaning or savvy, tossed off by more than one person as evidence of Fred's disinterest in anything other than animation, his family and "a good time". Speaking of his seminal subject, the 1941 Disney strike(which he led), Art Babbit told me a fascinating anecdote:

"The first morning of the strike, Fred and Ward Kimball stayed out, did not go in, for about two hours.
Now, Ward had come from a liberal family, the father was very liberal and so forth, and Ward knew what the score was, but Ward was looking out for Ward, as he always has. But Freddy...Freddy I think was torn. Here Disney had given him this great job, great salary, and he felt a gratitude and loyalty to Walt. But it tore him up because these were his friends out there"[Kimball and Moore eventually went into work that first day of the strike, and stayed in].

Babbitt made it plain he felt that any sort of political awareness was just not part of Fred's makeup. I took this point of view for granted as I would have loved to have sprung the information on Art that Fred was raised as a toddler and was a participant with his family in the famed Llano del Rio socialist colony in Lancaster. The breakup of the Colony in 1917 likely was the cause of Fred's move to Los Angeles.

A photograph of the Llano Colony, circa 1914; Fred Moore would have been 3 at this time and could well be somewhere in this crowd.

Of course, this is all pretty esoteric stuff, but I love history and in particular details about the local life of a century ago in the Los Angeles area. I had no idea that Llano del Rio ever existed, although I must have read about it(and forgotten), as I did read "City Of Quartz" by Mike Davis some years back, which has as its opening a piece about Llano.

And as far as the young Lancaster resident, eventual Disney star Fred Moore is concerned, it's a kick to see he had a personal tie to a fascinating part of California social history apart from animation--and it adds a dimension to his personality that we can only guess at--and most of his coworkers never knew about. Either he really was much more aware of politics than Babbitt thought, or he, like so many 2nd generation hippies, yuppies, conservatives and anarchists, had had plenty of all that by age 7 and wanted to stay apolitical for the rest of his life. I guess at this point we'll never know, but the lesson here is that no one is always what they seem, are they? I'd love to know more about the Moore family and parents.
Where did Fred's first wife and daughters go? Perhaps someday they'll surface.

One more

My favorite of the previous sequence, and I somehow inadvertently left it out. So here's one more.

May 30, 2006

Animation Roughs; Jose Carioca and a Gauchito

Here's a nice collection of drawings; I likely have the sequence in the wrong order, but almost all of them aren't numbered.
Don't forget to click on the images to open them in a larger size.

Fred Moore ruff animation poses of Jose Carioca and either the little Gauchito or someone who could double for him: the Brazilian parrot and the boy from "The Three Caballeros". Whether this is something intended for that 1944 film or part of an uncompleted sequel I'm not sure.

Two girls

Click to enlarge

As most of you may know, Fred Moore had two daughters very close in age, and they were obviously a big inspiration for him. This cleaned-up study, presumably to be painted, shows the draped clothing handled with just as much fluidity and grace as the sturdy little girls. One to learn from.

A group study

Again, the rougher the better; a neat contrast to the slick animation cleanups we're used to seeing from this era. About this rough: Done with what looks like a fountain pen(it almost has a ball-point pen look, actually), it's a fantastic mass of lines, rhythm and composition. What I noticed Fred Moore did habitually that very few draughtsman did and do is to place any number of figures together without losing the focus or appeal of the overall drawing; there's a reason that when most artists do a sketch, for themselves of someone else, they do one figure: it's easier, faster and most of us don't immediately, naturally see a mass of figures in our heads when we start to draw. Fred Moore, on the other hand, handles one or eight figures with the same aplomb. The "Three Caballeros" painting posted earlier is a superb example of this facility of his.
A graphic juggling act...and he was preternatually good at that, too, by the way--juggling.

Really rough Moores

Click them!

I have no way of knowing, but I'd bet that these two sheets were done at another animator's desk, demonstrating a principle or two. Of course, the young animator(and judging from the look of the drawings, likely c.late 1930s-early 40s, everybody was young then--except Grim Natwick)stowed them away and kept them, never throwing them away. I've seen a lot of Fred Moore's beautiful watercolor and ink gift drawings and his even more lovely animation, but looking at these originals, humble as they are, I was really thrilled. You can just see people think in drawings like these.
More to come.

Fred Moore week

I must always seems like Fred Moore week here--you might think I'm not up on any other animators. Not so!

But I'm obviously not the only one with a soft spot for this endlessly influential artist. Everything I'm posting this week comes from someone whose collecting of Freddy's work predates mine by about 20 years, James Walker. He's graciously offered to share it with anyone anywhere on the internet with an interest.
I'll be adding to this later in the day with some larger images--don't forget to click on the images here in order to open them at their largest size. The really need to be seen as close to the original size as possible.
Starting with one of his many presentation "gift" pictures, I'll also post some very rare rough studies of girls.

As an addendum: this site has a fairly extensive list of Moore's credits, excluding the work he did for George Pal on Pal's "Puppetoons" noted earlier here.

May 29, 2006

A Fred Moore Teaser: Three Caballeros

I start putting up the real deluge tomorrow, but I've just received such a nice email from this gentleman that I'm throwing this one up for him, and for Donnachada. From what I've seen of both of their art, it's no wonder they have a soft spot for Fred Moore's work.
Now, again, a caveat: almost all the images save this one are flat copies, and should scan very well; this is actually a framed-under-glass, very large picture that I photographed by pointing my camera down into an open car trunk. To get rid of most of the glare and the frame, I've cropped it in this way. The important thing is to see the incredibly beautiful drawing and dash of the brushwork, which is plainly evident here, awkward photo or no. Make sure you click on the image-it'll open up into a much larger one, the better to ogle it.

Courtesy of the collection of James Walker

Defending Preston Blair's honor

I wanted to post this aged clipping for some time, but couldn't find it--today, by accident: voila!

This is from the now-defunct LA Reader, in its day a competitor to the larger, tabloid-style Weekly. Of the two I thought the Reader's film reviews were superior(at least, at the time--the early 80s); in particular they made a custom of writing capsule reviews of everything that might be screening that week in Los Angeles, somewhat in the vein of the New Yorker. Somewhere--probably the Fox Venice--was showing a program of shorts, and the Reader had raved about the "Red" Tex Avery films, unfortunately assuming that the rotoscope had been used. Well, imagine my dudgeon! As you can see, my writing style was--ouch--even more florid back then. What an egghead!

I was thrilled to death that my letter made print. I was working at the Vista theatre at the time(which I discovered was across the street from the studio where the animated feature "Shinbone Alley" was made--but that's another story). The Vista was a fascinating place; it had recently been bought by the owner of the Castro in San Francisco and turned into a revival theatre. As a member of the tiny staff I did everything from run the candy counter to picking films for programming to dropping off checks for prints at Buena Vista--where I'd use the opportunity to drop by the Disney Archives. In the course of my job I somehow wound up driving cult director Paul Morrissey home from a screening of "Andy Warhol's Frankenstein(3D)". I wouldn't have picked him out as the director of that in a million years. Nice man.

And by the way, in my letter--just because it still rankles 24 years later--there's a typo: it should read "...doing her nightclub act was rotoscoped". rather than "as" rotoscoped".
It's the little things that get you.

May 28, 2006

All The Cats Drafts--pages 4-8

What a Sunday...but when things are quiet, I guess that's the time to tie up some unfinished posts: here are the rest of the drafts for "All The Cats Join In'--specifically for Mark Mayerson. who has waited so patiently--and who, after all, is the chief resource of this somewhat arcane but important imformation. Thanks for keeping after me, Mark! And thanks again are due to Michael Barrier, who supplied the copy and graciously assented to their being posted here.
The scanned pages omit the header, which can be found in my earlier post. These are pages 4-8:

Replaying the past

An unattributed caricature of Fred Moore--my guess is that it's a 30s Ward Kimball
-From the collection of James Walker

I'm really suffering here this afternoon, babysitting my former self, as it were: I'm importing into my imac an old cassette tape interview with Ken O'Brien conducted at his office at WED Imagineering. It's been almost 20 years since I've replayed the entire thing...right now Ken's describing his hiring at Disney's(at twelve dollars a week)and early career trajectory. He's charming, but being forced to listen to my teenaged self, asking questions and chiming in...well, it's torture, let me tell you. Didier, this is partially your fault! Just kidding.

I went to see Ken to ask him to share his memories of Fred Moore, at the suggestion of Ward Kimball. Still waiting to do the same transfer thing with my Babbitt interview. That one I can almost remember by heart...there's some great stuff there. I'm asking if Fred was ever "frustrated or unhappy with working at Lantz(after his firing at Disney)?"--as I assumed he must have been.
Ken's emphatically telling me "No! It was always laughs, fun complaints". Honestly, the more material I find the more I'm inclined to believe it. I've also found out something really fascinating about Fred's early life, and his family: they were members of a socialist commune. So much for Babbitt's belief that Fred had no political thoughts--maybe he didn't, but it makes it all the more fascinating to hear, as Babbitt told me and also Michael Barrier in another interview, that Fred and Ward stayed out on the first morning of the Disney Strike for two hours before finally crossing the pickets. Interesting.

Ah! Now O'Brien's telling me about going to Sutherland Studios("on Rampart, Third Street, somewhere like that") with Tom Oreb and Vic Haboush. Names that meant almost nothing to me then, but now, thanks to Amid Amidi's posts on Cartoon Modern, my ears perk up...well, once it's all imported I'll properly transcribe it. I did it once by hand but those laborious notes were lost years ago.

Ken's got such a rich voice...what a great guy he was. I spent the morning with him and then sat down to lunch with he and "Herbie" Ryman in the commissary. Halcyon days--the very last days of the old guard working in the industry.
Next week: a whole slew of Fred Moore material.

May 27, 2006

Great things are coming...

Well, as it's a three day weekend all those who can be are far, far away from the keyboards and monitors.
But just as a preview for those of you who happen to surf by:

Fred Moore confronted by his pals Riley Thompson and John Sibley at Disney's; I'm not sure which one drew this, but I don't think it was Fred. By the way, it's telling that for all the latter-day headshaking--understandably--re: Moore's drinking--this is obviously the way it was viewed at the time by his friends; a very different era. The title is suggesting that Sibley and Thompson will wait for Fred to get over his hangover-before they commence to have one together!

To leaven the return to the desks next week, I'll be posting some of the Fred Moore collection of James Walker. Among the goodies: studies for "All The Cats Join In", "Fantasia", what look like some helpful demonstrations of animation principles likely done for another artist, early 50's things he tossed in his trash that were rescued by a fellow artist, a fantastic, super-rough study for one of his more elaborate presentation girl setups, rough poses of Jose Carioca and the Little Gauchito, animation roughs of Pluto from "Pluto's Judgement Day", and more.
For anyone interested in loose and beautiful drawing, it's obviously going to be a swell treat. Also, there are some rare self-caricatures of Fred(up til having the chance to look over James' collection(or a portion of it, I'd seen only one or two that he'd drawn of himself, including the half-finished one that's on view in "The Illusion of Life").

So enjoy your holiday, and see you on Tuesday.

May 26, 2006

Moore Maquettes

Well, they aren't officially, really 'maquettes'-but they certainly could pass for them. Here are more from the collection of Dan Goodsell, he of Tick Tock Toys and Mr Toast. By the way, his book, "Krazy Kids Food", published by Taschen, is the biggest hit in my office; no one can resist its charms when they enter; they simply have to pick it up and look in it and ooh and aah at the memories it evokes, or just wonder at the inventiness and sheer fun of kid's packaging design of the 50s and 60s. Highly recommended.

As I noted earlier in the week, Dan contacted me with information he'd acquired through years of swap meet and garage sale buys: there was a series of chalkware "girlie" nudes that look amazingly like the private drawings of Fred Moore at Disney's.
They were apparently originally produced by a company called "Verdan Loylane" of Hollywood, California in 1941. Some of his girls have identifying labels with names and the appellation "Nudist Scamps", and they're all about 5" high. The earlier post featured a particularly Moore-esque redhead that's larger by an inch or so--she's probably made by "Fantasy Fair", yet another Hollywood-based company whose copyrights are '43 and '44, so far as I can make out by internet hunting. Dan notes how rare these are--I posit that although these cheap souvenirs were likely sold to servicemen in good numbers, they probably didn't survive a lot of wives' housecleaning! When the kids or grandkids were around, one can just imagine these tossed in a bureau--or the ashcan. A sad fate for these innocently charming sirens.

The label from the figure below, "Bubbles:

"Babs", another of the "Nudist Scamps"; a cruder paint job on her face, but still evocative of Fred's style:

A "South Sea Sirens" girl, circa 1941:

And that's the extent of the Goodsell collection of these beauties, which is pretty amazing.

Of course there are some interesting unanswered questions: was there any connection at all between a Disney animator and these items? Was it simply a coincidence that they looked like this, and came out at the time? Did Fred own any of them, in any case(I'd have to think he sure as shootin' did)? How many more of these in this series were made?
I wish I had more time to scour swap meets and garage sales.
A big thanks to Dan Goodsell for supplying all these photographs

EDITED TO ADD: I've added a photo of a similar "nude girl" chalkware figure to point up just how very Disneyesque the others really are:

I'd wondered whether my suspicions about the distinctive styling of the "Scamps" might be thought of as reaching by the casual onlooker, but this--the anonymous, generic girl above--is representative of what most souvenir nudes looked like. Seeing how devoid of personality this one is, it really makes the others stand out as exceptional.

May 24, 2006

"A fine thing--I've become the father of a breakfast!"

I drew this morning from memory of "Mrs. Sylvester"; of course, she's actually better-looking and funnier than this.

Here's a frame grab I found later this morning on an excellent site devoted to the histories of Warner Bros characters. What great shapes and appeal:

Sylvester: "Cute? He's delicious!"

The ever-busy provider of terrific cartoon clips Thad K posted several Freleng excerpts on his blog recently as a kind of proof's-on-the-screen defense of Freleng's value as a great cartoon director. I happen to agree with that assessment, and rate the cartoons Friz did among the top, funniest and most appealing shorts ever done.
"A Mouse Divided"(1953) is a stellar example of what this director's crew could do with very simple material. Every bit of this 7 minutes is used to great effect--and unlike some of Chuck Jones' more bitter moments, Freleng(or perhaps credit should go equally to his writer, Warren Foster, and his animators)manages to put some pretty nasty lines in Sylvester's mouth without making him unlikable, even when he's disgustedly mocking his wife's crying over her lack of kittens! That takes finesse--and it manages to make it hilariously funny: you believe that a talking cat is telling his cartoon-cat-wife to go to hell and leave him alone--and she's mitigated by her brief aside before she wakes her hubby up from his napping: "Lazy good-for-nothing!" before affecting a plaintive, sugary tone. Just another happy suburban couple.

Of course, a drunken stork, simply because he's too hung over from a night at--where else?--The Stork Club--decides to dump his baby cargo on the first mother of any species that pops her head out of a mail slot. The lucky recipient is Mrs. Sylvester(the alternate universe here employs a couple of fairly "realistic", floor-sleeping cats living in a human-sized house, who also dress up and go out "shopping" as well as pushing a baby buggy--somehow, it all makes sense. Credit the characters and again--that fast-paced 7 minutes). Only problem--their new son is a mouse; arguably the cutest little baby mouse ever animated--cuter even than a Jones creation--and given some gorgeous, finely observed baby-business by one of the animators--as Sylvester is doing the ol' "preparing the mouse for a sandwich routine. So adorable is this baby mouse(somewhat unconvincingly voiced by Mel Blanc--he sounds just a widdle bit like Bugs Bunny)that even ravenous Sylvester, who's been acting like a starving man at Chez Panisse, is won over--and decides to take his "widdle man" out for a stroll. Cue every tomcat within 10 miles, and the rest of the cartoon--a switch from the sort of stuff Sylvester usually did to Tweety, only here he's the hero: a staunch defender of his mouse son.
Nice twist ending that reminds me of one of my favorite Garth Williams books:

This doesn't even address the music--typically brilliant job by Stalling, especially a clever use of the standard "Pretty Baby". As in so many WB cartoons, the score gets a laugh.
But what's intriguing is the balance here between some cracklingly funny dialogue and a heck of a lot of pure pantomime; one couldn't exist without the other, nor should it. Every sentence counts--and so does every reaction, every take, every bit of movement. It's aimed 100% squarely at the adults in the '53 audience, yet small children can sense the silliness in the cats' bickering and the gags of the intruding neighborhood alley cats speak for themselves. I am a believer that such shorts can still be done, but brother, you've got to be good--better than good: you've got to be sharp, at the very top of your game. And I believe you have to know who you're making these for--to please yourself--assuming you're one clever, funny person. But it can still be done.

May 23, 2006

Free Blackwings...join the hunt!

If you're clever, and you're around Burbank, you can find it! GO NOW!
The first clues are up!

These babies cost at least 25 bucks per on Ebay IF you can find one and win it--so get going! Believe me, it'll be worth it. They're sublime writing instruments.

May 22, 2006

Monday treat

Courtesy of the good offices(they're from his collection, and quite rare) of the King of Cool Stuff, Dan Goodsell, have I got something for you, Fred Moore fans:

moore figure 1
moore figure 2

What do you make of them? Dating from the very early 1940s, locally produced in Hollywood--one wonders if it's simply a coincidence that these sylphs look so much like the privately-disseminated Freddy Moore "girls", or if...well, it's within the realm of possibility that he had a a hand in designing them. Probably not, but as Fitzgerald said "wouldn't it be pretty to think so?".

More of these and on these later.

May 21, 2006

Blackwing Scavenger Hunt...

So it seems a fellow story artist(who judging from his profile is a dead ringer for Gary Busey)has announced a truly worthy scavenger hunt: a search for hidden Blackwing pencils. To participate, one need be in or around Burbank, California, alas--but what a concept!

In one of my earliest posts I waxed rhapsodic on my eponymous writing instrument, the Blackwing: "Half the pressure, Twice the speed" is the motto punched in gold against the grey wood. If you go back to my first month's posts you can find it, if interested. It's a special pencil, long discontinued, and always sought-after; a favorite of animators back in the day, and to the present. I can't wait till Mr. Bread gets his first clues up.

I'm going to recuse myself from actually hunting, as I already have what I think is a fair share of these babies, but the rest of you so inclined--good luck!

May 20, 2006

More eye candy

pimentel Happy Hour

-from Dave Pimentel again; I love his stuff.

May 16, 2006

All the Cats Join In

Last Saturday I was the grateful recipient of a copy of the drafts from this segment of "Make Mine Music", courtesy of Mike Barrier. Reading these over was fascinating; I know two things off the bat: first, that I'm now officially dying to read Pete Docter's article on John Sibley, an undersung animator, in the upcoming Animation Blast #9. It's Sibley who's responsible for the entire opening of this wonderful short, from the very first bars of music to where Fred Moore takes over, when the pencil starts drawing the "little sister". Fred's animation continues uninterrupted until Milt Kahl, of all people, takes over for the smooth and beautiful action of the girl running to the closet, sliding along the doors and hopping into her shoes after shaking her little sister out of them.

And that leads to the second thing: I'd always wondered just how much, apart from the obvious overall character styling, Fred Moore had had to do in "Cats"; it had been startling for me to read the drafts for "Fantasia" and "Dumbo" and see Fred credited with so little--or so I thought. As it happens, it seems that where he was a supervising animator, or a directing animator, he had duties that precluded doing much footage himself--or at least as much as one might think a star employee would do. But by the time of "Make Mine Music", every book and anecdote makes clear that Moore was far from the pinnacle he'd occupied at Disney in the late 30s. So, how much did he do on this very "Freddy Moore"-looking short? Quite a lot, actually; I was intrigued and pleased to see that he really did a good amount of footage, and all beautifully.
Here are the first three pages(as best I could fit them; only the header/title is cropped off the top)of the drafts; many thanks again to Michael Barrier for allowing me to reproduce this from his collection:

Here's a rough selection of frames from Moore's collections of scenes; the closeup of the kid sister doing her makeup is the last of his stuff; after the cut it's Kahl.

I put this together hastily; there are some choice frames I wish I'd grabbed--well, the entire short is beautiful. Go watch it.

Of Moore's long segment excerpted above, I especially love the scene with the girl and her sister in front of the mirror. Staged from behind, the girls move in rhythm to the soundtrack's vocalist humming like a snake charmer--and the graceful, sinuous swaying of the figures matches the feel of the music perfectly. It's real magic.

I am not exactly sure of the production dates of this project, but as noted before, the animation board(the "nine old men"--in other words, the Supreme Court in which the fates of Disney animation employees--hiring, firing, raises and demotions--were tried and decided)fired Fred Moore in 1946, which couldn't have been too long after work was done on "Cats". Interesting, because this is by any measure a stellar's especially interesting to see how Fred's handling of his own designs differs from his colleagues: even at this late hour for his talents, he still shines and can't be beat for charm. Certainly he had help--perhaps(or probably) crucially supportive help--from his assistant(perhaps Ken O'Brien), but it's a lot of Moore.

May 15, 2006

Bob Clampett ephemera

The things a closet cleaning can turn up; here it is, barely a week since Bob Clampett's birthday, and I stumble across these things I bought ages ago...I had completely forgotten I had them. They're not only wonderful Clampett things, but just plain old coolness from the 50s animation scene: an unused pass to the Clampett studio(signed by Bob, as you see), and a business card, neat inside and out(it opens to reveal more drawings). So, for your perusal:

May 14, 2006

Fred Moore in 3D

I'm ashamed to say I know little about the circumstances surrounding Fred Moore's work for George Pal on his "Puppetoons".
In fact, it wasn't until going to a big Pal tribute screening at UCLA(in 1999, or thereabouts)that I recognized with palpable shock that Fred Moore had worked on these things at all...he certainly was busy for a man deemed unemployable (at Disney's, anyway) from 1946-48, the period that he worked for Lantz and Pal. But that's another story....I will say that in my opinion--even with all the anecdotes about disappearing after "lunch", napping under the desk, etc.--it's my belief that Fred Moore was a functioning alcoholic. That is, his output no doubt suffered, as did, tragically, other things, but the picture often given out in interviews of a shell of an artist, unable to properly function as an animator is exaggerated quite a bit. Obviously from a man as talented and experienced as this even a smaller amount of work was still a huge boon to a production (until the very end of his life, where he was reduced to minor scenes in "Peter Pan" and "Cinderella"). Again--a complicated story for another day.

Anyway, it's obvious that Moore designed the characters from Pal's "Together in the Weather". Really obvious:

The uncredited author of the page about this short writes of "Judy", the girl character's, sex appeal in bathing suits such as the photo above: "The effect is kind of creepy, because Judy has a very youthful "doll" face with a inappropriately mature body." Funny, because although the last word I'd use to describe Fred Moore's girls is "creepy", he has noticed the signature style Fred used--an almost babyfaced girl's head atop a nubile form. Perhaps the overal doll/toy effect Pal was going for in his sculpts just couldn't do the light, subtle grace of Moore's 2D designs justice. Pastrami with whipped cream? In any case, for those who love Moore's look, seeing these is a bit weird.

More can be found here, in this nice series of pieces on the AWN website; all photos are courtesy of those authors