Jul 31, 2008

When the Chino Hills earthquake hit...

Most of us were at work, about to go to lunch.

Animation mentor, teacher and all-around beloved guru Dave Master was being interviewed. On video:

Thanks to Clay Kaytis for this link

For the record: Disney Imagineer Harriet Burns dies

She was the first woman artist hired to work at Imagineering in 1955(the full obit can be read by clicking the title link-highly recommended). The photographs here are from the obituary; I thought readers would enjoy seeing them.
At her passing on July 25th Ms. Burns was a few weeks shy of her 80th birthday.

Jul 30, 2008

Earthquakes old and new

I was standing in the entrance to my cubicle yesterday around 11:45 (talking to, of all people, visiting Disney veteran Floyd Norman) when that trundling heavy truck passing by on the 134 freeway turned out to be...not a truck passing by. "Uh-oh", I thought.

Funny, because no one panicked or in fact uttered much of anything although the building certainly shook for what seemed like a long time. "6.0" someone called out, calmly. "5.9" said another. I love southern californians.

Anyway, the little quake and the evidence of our stringent building codes at work(no damage!), made me wonder what the 1933 Long Beach earthquake was like for the Disney studio of those times-the old, (presumably stucco) Hyperion building?

That one measured 6.4 which would have made it roughly 100 times stronger than what we experienced yesterday. I've read and seen very few contemporaneous accounts but it was apparently quite destructive and certainly would have been felt in Silverlake. What happened? Was there enough of a scare or damage for production to be shut down at all?
I'd think the most likely person to ask would be the Disney expert and historian Michael Barrier.

Jul 28, 2008

Comic Con 2008 wrap up

this year's haul


It was two years ago that I first blogged about my San Diego Comic Con experiences. I've just reread that old post. It's odd how quickly the time's passed, and how much has changed since then. I'd been writing The Blackwing Diaries for nine months in July of 2006, along the way reaquainting myself with some old friends as well as meeting new ones via comments and cross-postings. It was when the bunch of us doing story on a certain project decided to pool resources and do a single book together in time for the 07 Con.

Two years later:

"Scrambled Ink" creators Ennio Torresan, Dave Pimentel, JJ Villard, Ken Morrissey and me

This year all of us(with the exception of Keith Baxter away in Canada, and David Derrick-on safari in Africa)came together to sign our books at the Dark Horse booth. The Con was the "official" debut of the book and the first time we'd seen it on a retail shelf(I was relieved to see that Amazon too finally has it listed for sale after eternally showing a "pre-order" listing. One thing, though: Amazon mistakenly has the book listed as paperback-that's wrong. It's only been published in hardcover).

I've never done an event like the signing thing before. Very surreal to see a little line of people with books in hand for us to draw in. Dark Horse unfortunately ran out of books to sell midway through our time slot, but we carried on signing and drawing on some cover flyers. Best of all was meeting and chatting with the people who came up to the table.

Actually, finally in print and for sale

It's easy for me to forget that anyone reads this blog--especially when I've let so much time pass without posting as I was wont to do a year ago; to have people tell me they read and enjoy it is more gratifying than I can express.
The time passed in a blip, and we had to make way for Mike Mignola--Mignola! of course I had to shake his hand and tell him how much I admire his work. I think Scott Morse introduced me to Hellboy back in Turner development days--and speaking of Scott--I made a beeline to his Red Window booth, shared with another old friend, Jeff Pidgeon and Bill Presing, with the work of Don Shank, Lou Romano, Emma Coats and a few others also on display and for sale. Emma's done a wonderful sketchbook, Bill has topped himself with the beautiful binding of his bookplate art, "Bookplate Betties", and Jeff had fun new Happy Beaver merchandise--I picked up a watch and tshirt. Ditto Bill's and Emma's books, an 11x17 original by Don of his Kurt character, and not least an assortment of the riches Scott provides every year. This guy keeps busy! How he has time for a life I can't say, but I imagine that it must be a case of each passion fueling the other--work and life.

One of the big debuts this year was undoubtedly the "Who Is Rocket Johnson" booth

These gentlemen and a host of their colleagues did a beautiful job. Next year: "What Is Torch Tiger?" Paul Briggs (the guy in the hat) was a powerhouse for shepherding the project to fruition. A free button to whoever can name the others present here(just kidding).

Every year more artists who work in animation are publishing. For many of us the Comic-con has become a one stop shopping mecca where we drop in on Stuart Ng's booth and those of the individual artists to pick up the riches. There were so many that next year I've got to do two days just to make sure I can visit them all--I missed E-Ville press, JJ's booth and too many others due to a lack of time and the plain old difficulty of hacking and pushing my way across the endless convention floor one more time.
For all its unwieldy size, San Diego is really a must if you care about animation art and the people who produce it. They're not all there, but plenty of them are and it's a rare treat to get their work straight from the source.

Jul 24, 2008

DHD Does San Diego

photograph by Jeff Pidgeon

Deadline Hollywood Daily is featuring some nice ongoing reports from Comic Con written by Luke Thompson, who knows what he's writing about--and who isn't animation-centric for a change.
You might want to keep checking it if you're not going to be able to make San Diego this year, or if you'd just like to read one person's take after you've returned.

Jul 22, 2008

Con Again

I've been out of commission the last few days but this week is-finally-the 2008 San Diego Comic Con. I can't remember everyone, so forgive me as this is done on the fly, but off the top of my head here are some booths and people you've got to visit if you don't know them already. Since you're reading this blog, you probably do. But nevertheless a good cast bears repeating, as Universal(or was it RKO?)used to say at the end of their films when they ran the credits.
So here are:

Conduct Happiness: Joe Moshier and Chris Sonnenburg

Red Window: Scott Morse, Don Shank(absent in the flesh, but art will be there!), Lou Romano, Bill Presing and Jeff Pidgeon, Booth 4800.

"Who Is Rocket Johnson?"-the epic book with an incredible array of talent inside--and on--the covers. Front cover: Paul Felix. Back cover: Glen Keane. About 24 guys in between. Think you'll be visiting them? Yeah, I thought so. They're at booth 2302.

Chris Sanders will be there again, I believe.

Red Tango is run and designed by an old friend of mine, Cynthia Petrovic. She's a huge Fred Moore fan too. Booth 4201.

Donnachada Daly is a super talented animator from Eire who's at Dreamworks; he'll have his new book at booth B8 of the exhibitor tables.
Incidentally Donnachada(pronounced "Dannika")is also represented in the niftiest art show/auction in a long while, the Totoro Forest Project, which you all must go read, drool and dream about right now.

E-Ville Press manned by Ted Mathot and Derek Thompson from Up North, will have things you won't want to leave without. Booth 1534

Dan Goodsell, he of the inimitable Mr. Toast and an amazing amasser of the most fun stuff ever, will be at booth 4831.

Of course this is far from a complete listing; the above are mostly friends and people whose whereabouts are immediately known to me so I can post their booth locations. I've left out some obvious stops like the great Stuart Ng, Bud Plant, Super 7, Fleet Street Scandal, and Graphic Collectibles...but it's late, so before Hulk smash! and Jenny crash! I'll put this post to bed.

artwork copyright Dan Goodsell 2008
Have fun!

Jul 17, 2008

Our Comic Con book signing: Friday 7/25 1-2pm, Dark Horse booth(you can't miss it)

Here's a detail taken off the Dark Horse website:


11:00 - 12:00 Matt Wagner: Grendel

11:00 - 12:00 Mike Kennedy: Aliens Vs. Predator

12:00 - 1:00 Jim Hardison: The Helm

12:00 - 1:30 Yoshitaka Amano: Vampire Hunter D; Shinjuku (*ticketed event: See Dark Horse employee for details)

1:00 - 2:00 Scrambled Ink: Dreamworks Animators - Ken Morrissey, JJ Villard, Ennio Torresan, David Pimental, Jenny Lerew

2:00 - 3:00 Mike Mignola: Hellboy
(*ticketed event: See Dark Horse employee for details)

3:00 - 4:30 Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog: Joss Whedon, Neil Patrick Harris, Nathan Fillion, Felicia Day
(*ticketed event: See Dark Horse employee for details)

5:00 - 6:00 Yasuhiro Nightow: Trigun (*ticketed event: See Dark Horse employee for details)

6:00 - 7:00 David Lloyd: Kickback

Jul 2, 2008

Film studios need their archives/libraries/past to thrive

this photograph is titled "Wrecking ball at the movie palace"; I think it's apropos

I periodically keep apprised of industry doings by scanning Nikki Finke's peppery blog Deadline Hollywood Daily. Like the trades(Variety and the Holllywood Reporter), I've found that it's in those supposedly non-animation arenas that I always seem to find out the dope on what's going on around town. Often we animation people are too busy drawing, animating and living life outside of work to immerse ourselves the way our live action brethren do. I can't count how many times I've read an announcement about a project I had no idea was in the works--at my own studio. Also like my colleagues I'm interested in all film and perusing film news can be addictive. So the blogs like Nikki's are interesting and indispensable.

Here's a recent piece of news from DHD that I think matters:

"WHAT A DAMN SHAME! 20th Fox To Close One Of The Last Studio Research Libraries"

If the closure happens--and there's no reason to think it won't--it's sickening.
Believe me, these archives are incredible and invaluable--much more so than even the resources of the internet can provide as they date back almost a hundred years, containing browsable materials that were painstakingy accumulated and used over and over again for countless films. Books--most probably long out of print and unavailable at any price--hundreds if not millions of photographs and clip files, all kinds of stuff. "Browsable" is the key term, and now that all of us are internet-savvy it's something I think everyone can appreciate: if you want some information on what a kitchen would look like-what they'd be cooking and eating--in 1905, sure-there are places to Google. but good luck if Amazon doesn't happen to have a title dedicated to just that topic with "1905" in the title.

On the other hand, a Studio Research Library may well have shelves filled with period cookbooks and illustrated housekeeping volumes whose titles appear nowhere on the internet. All cross-indexed and even just searchable by the naked eye on a shelf. Collected over many decades by researchers working for countless directors, art directors, costumers, set designers, writers, even actors.
The famous Margaret Herrick Library at the Motion Picture Academy has a description of its holdings (available to the public by the way) that gives a tantalizing idea of this sort of thing.

Obviously these libraries saw their busiest days when the studio lots were self-contained with dozens of projects constantly in production, but well after the demise of the "old" studio system they were still going strong. As the post points out the costs of running such a department is negligible, and they're historically priceless.

The Disney studio famously maintains an Archives and Animation Research Library, one that isn't going anywhere thanks to the wisdom of the studio management over the years. While it would seem that their existence would be unique to an animation studio's need for storing reams of valuable production art and materials, at the time Walt instituted the morgue such repositories were already common in live action; in fact they were started during the silent era.

[One surprising fact I had no idea of: apparently the Samuel Goldwyn Research Library is housed on the Dreamworks Animation campus. Say what? Heaven only knows where they've stashed that--DW is fast running out of space these days and frantically building out. You can bet if I'd known the Goldwyn collection was there I'd have made it a point to have a peek. Or two.

But thank goodness Disney realizes the value (and I don't mean monetary value) of its past-not for sentimentality's sake but for hardcore learning and vital, irreplaceable information. It pays back in that it helps us make better movies.

The same is true for these other Libraries, believe it. The cost of keeping them open is next to nil but once dissolved they can never be replaced. The internet isn't the answer to everything.

HERE is an archived article about the closure eight years ago of Universal's research library. Same old story.
Very depressing reading.
George Lucas, where are you? You're our only hope.*

* Someone read my mind: here's one of the reader's comments on Nikki Finke's post about the Fox Library closing:

"This is indeed horrible news about the Fox Research Library closing. It is sad that these resources are disappearing from L.A. However, there seems to be some misinformation posted here about other film research libraries. George Lucas RESCUED the Paramount and Universal Research Libraries and has made them available to film and TV production personnel throughout the industry, not just for Lucasfilm employees. Both of these collections would have been sold off piece-meal if it wasn’t for him. Lucas also started his own research library back in the late 1970s, and employs a staff of full-time research librarians. All of the library collections housed at Lucasfilm are available to the filmmaking community, and have been for years -– these materials have been used by many film, TV and stage productions. George Lucas is a huge advocate of libraries, and should be commended for his efforts in preserving these studio collections which would have otherwise languished or disappeared altogether."

I hadn't know Lucas has already gone to bat in a big way for those other collections, but I'm not surprised. Hopefully either he or another such will step in here. We can hope.