Nov 19, 2013

Diane Disney Miller 1933-2013

Sad news. By all accounts a very smart, gutsy, caring, determined woman: daughter, wife, mother, sister, philanthropist.

Outside the Walt Disney Family Museum.
 Here are Michael Barrier's impressions of his visit to the Disney Museum in San Francisco-the very existence of which is due to Diane Miller's vision and hard work.

Oct 22, 2013

Books: David Derrick's new picturebook-tigers and crocs!

A stack of worthy and notable titles has been growing on my desk, demanding attention and certainly deserving it but my gosh, it's been a busy year offline.

So the stack waits for proper reviews, but there's one that has a launch party coming up in the Los Angeles area on Saturday, October 26th (as of this writing four days away) at the Wildlife Learning Center, and I'd like to spread the word. It's a picture book written and illustrated by my friend, fellow story artist Dave Derrick:


Dave loves drawing, and he really loves to draw animals. This little story about a junior crocodile and tiger cub doing their best to out-boast each other is loaded with charm, done with gestural ink line and watercolor wash.

A detail of the cub. This guy suggests a self-portrait to me-in that way that certain drawings seem to look like their artists. Hard to explain, but I'm sure plenty will know what I mean.


The endpapers feature a panoply of the animals and birds of India, the story's setting.


Using this flyer-either printing it out or bringing it along on your phone-assures admission for Dave's launch event. Should be a fun time!

Sep 6, 2013

Devin Crane at Galerie Arludik, Sept 5-Oct 31

Where has the summer gone? For me it's been spent in a lot of work wielding the Wacom stylus, seeing films, and travel-my first vacation in 18 months.

Meanwhile there's been plenty to comment on, take note of and blog about-including this new show in Paris of paintings and drawings by my friend, Dreamworks visdev artist Devin Crane. It's just opened at Galerie Arludik. He's shown there before, several years ago, but this time there are some of his lovely drawings on display as well as his jewel-toned paintings. If you're going to be near the Île Saint Louis in the near future, go and check it out-they really must be seen in person.
La Belle et la Bete
19” x 24”(48.26 x 60.96 cm)
Graphite on Paper

Midnightat the Hotel Costes
17” x 28”(43.18 x 71.12 cm)
Acrylic on Wood Panel

8” x 10”(20.32 x 25.4 cm)
Oil on Canvas
Devin Crane: Dreams, Fashion and Fairy Tales
Galerie Arludik
Paris, France
Thursday, September 5 - 21, 2013

Aug 22, 2013

The Imagineering Story: Disney's WED gets the Iwerks treatment in 2016

Have a look at this trailer, premiered at the recent D23 event and written up in Los Angeles Magazine by Chris Nichols:

It's being produced by a filmmaker with sterling credentials for the job, documentarian Leslie Iwerks-granddaughter of Ub and daughter of Imagineer Don.
This promises to be a must-see that I only wish weren't three years away. Behind the scenes footage of the early days of Disneyland and  EPCOT always gets me as it clearly does so many others: seeing Walt's pitching skills at their finest, giving us "tours" and glimpses inside Flower St. buildings with mind-bendingly talented men and women working away inside...great stuff, and fortunately there are still veterans from those years that appear in Iwerks' film to speak for themselves and their experiences, among them Alice Davis and Bob Gurr.
From the LA magazine post-a shot of Walt with-is it Anaheim city officials?-taken around 1949 or so. My guess based on his appearance. I should know better, but don't.The article credits the Orange County Archives.

Jun 26, 2013

A Blackwing Experience at the Chuck Jones Center

This must be from "The White Seal".

Tonight I'm participating in a swell shindig down in Costa Mesa, "The Blackwing Experience", arranged by Palomino, the people who've brought back the title character of this blog, the redoubtable Blackwing 602, in new and elegant versions. It's taking place at the Chuck Jones Center for Creativity in Costa Mesa, an apropos venue as the 602 was reputedly Chuck's drawing implement of choice.  I'll be part of a panel discussing the "evolution of the creative process in animation". Quite a subject, and should be fun.

To mark the occasion, here are the two drawings by Chuck that I own, bought for a few bucks at Collectors Bookshop in Hollywood in the late 70s. I believe a Blackwing figures prominently here.

Detail of a layout from "Rikki Tikki Tavi"

The larger layout. It's been a long time since I watched these specials, and I'd like to look them up again. 

May 13, 2013

Bob Clampett, 100 and counting

I was just visiting one of the most important animation blogs on the 'net-Michael Barrier's, to catch up, and saw he'd done a lovely post marking the 100th birthday of Bob Clampett, on May 8th. Good grief, I missed it. Of course, every day is a good day to remember Clampett-that wonderful, nutty, brilliant and lovable cartoon genius.  Following is my Bob Clampett birthday post from 2006:

I volunteered to work during the ASIFA annual cel sale in 1981; Bob Clampett happened to be there signing these preprinted drawings; his wife Sody was with him. I introduced myself, finally, after years of wanting to really meet him. In addition to being a fan, I mentioned I'd gone to Third Street with his daughters, thus the way he signed this paper, which I treasure. All we spent our time talking about was what Ruthie and Cherie were doing--both their mom and dad were just nuts about them, so proud of them. I saw Ruth once after that, when she worked at H.G.Daniels, the old art store that supplied the old Chouinard school, then later Otis. Now long gone.

I mentioned before that I've had a long relationship with the great Bob Clampett. It was 99.9% all from me to Bob and not the other way 'round, but nevertheless he was a formative influence on my little psyche. And in one of those bizarre details life throws at you, I discovered that two of my schoolmates at Third Street in Los Angeles had a closer connection to him--they were his daughters, Ruth and Cherie. These girls were very notable for their gorgeous red hair and freckles--perfect colleens...and I'd occasionally see them with their dad or mom Sody shopping on Larchmont(Hancock Park and its environs in those days was what an adult friend of mine, Cammie King, called "a little Peyton Place"; you'd run into everyone on Saturdays at Safeway or the dry cleaners. Small town L.A.).

I was just nuts for Cecil the Sea Sick Sea Serpent as a wee--really wee--child; although we moved six times before I was in the 7th grade, I managed to salvage my Cecil soaky as a kind of talisman from my earliest memories.

So I knew Clampett as a famous God of bizarre and cheaply made cartoons before I knew him as the director of some of the weirdest, wildest and most appealingly hilarious cartoons ever made at Warner Bros, starring another of my baby heroes, Bugs Bunny. That took a good while because the Bugs Bunny/Roadrunner Show, the venue through which I first saw the WB characters, was limited to later cartoons made well after Clampett left. I was probably 12 or 13 before I finally saw "Book Revue" or "Corny Concerto" as part of the KTTV afterschool series--the one with the cheap, handmade intro featurning a plastic Porky toy held in front of a backdrop of some kind. Great stuff and good times.

I think Bob Clampett was nuts in the best sense. He was certainly brilliant, and different, and he managed to translate his own personality and essence so strongly and successfully into film and art--and at such a young age, that I'd also be plenty comfortable calling him a genius. He's the only person in cartoons I know of who can make violence and hysteria happy things. You have to see the cartoons--especially with an audience--to get the full impact of this weird melange.

So happy birthday, Mr. Clampett. You're missed.

Feb 20, 2013

Adam and Dog: The ineffable beauty of drawn animation

Drawings of Dog by Minkyu Lee.
Drawing of Adam by Minkyu Lee.
1. incapable of being expressed or described in words; inexpressible: ineffable joy.
One late night about eighteen months ago, my officemate and fellow story artist Justin Hunt walked in with an animation sequence under his arm. It was old-school 2D, immediately identifiable by the sandwich of paper and cardboard secured with extra-long rubber bands. Here was something novel! Surrounded by cintiqs and working on cg films in studios where prosaic objects like pencils and paper are barely in evidence, just seeing a sheaf of hand drawn animation produces plenty of thrills-and I hadn't even bugged him to flip it for me yet.  When he did, I became more and more interested; the drawings were lovely. Just based on that one short scene I wanted to see the whole thing, though I'd have to wait a while. And I wanted to know why and how it was being done.

It turned out that Justin was one of a small, tight-knit group of friends helping Minkyu Lee complete the animation for a short film he was writing, directing and storyboarding, and animating. And designing, and painting all the backgrounds.

I first wrote about Minkyu and his film "Adam and Dog" a year ago, just before it won an Annie award. It was in an earlier, slightly unfinished state at that time, but the elements that make it the wonderful film that it is were all solidly there. Now it's another year, and it's one of 2013's five nominees for the Academy Award for animated short.  It's a richly deserved nod, and as I'm one of the corny ones who actually believes the old canard that the real honor is simply in being nominated by one's peers(in this case, members of the animation branch of AMPAS), it's already a winner, as are the other 4 shorts in that category.  But this film is special to me; it pushes all my buttons, and I thought I'd have a go at explaining why. 
Adam, completely comfortable in his Eden. Drawing by Minkyu Lee.


It's not necessarily difficult to make drawings move, but it can be well-nigh impossible to make them real-to live, to breathe, to exist on their own terms in whatever world the filmmaker decides to present them. The Story of Adam and Dog is simple, and all the more powerful for being so: The Fall from the point of view of the first dog in Eden. Although, being a dog, he sees and understands nothing so much as the joy of finding and bestowing all his loyalty and love on the first human being he meets and bonds with(and eventually, it's hinted, the second one also).

What I've described has the potential for a charming story, and a sweet and clever short could have been made that was just that and nothing more. But-and here's the thing that's so difficult to describe as cogently as I'd like-in this case, this film has been crafted with every element contributing to a result that has the layered, emotional impact of the very best of any sort of animation, short form or long. Or any sort of film making, for that matter. What's called traditional character animation-that is, drawings and paintings in two dimensions-just aren't featured in this sort of style anymore, and by style I mean not just the lushness and soft, illustrative quality of its look, but the serious, thoughtful and truly unique pacing, the choices of shots, the editing. I think it was the pure film making that Minkyu employed that really bowled me over, beyond the visceral pleasure I took in seeing drawn characters inhabiting a believable world, living and breathing(the animation, by the way, includes not only Minkyu's work but also beautiful footage from James Baxter, Jen Hager, and Matt Williames, among others).

There's no dialogue, although there's plenty of sound-wind, rustling grass and trees, the shudder of various animals pounding through the forest or swimming through deep water. Dog wanders alone through Eden, acting in an immediately recognizable doggy manner: marking gigantic trees, play-hunting through tall grass, running and barking for the sheer fun of it-and none of this is played cute-at least, not by my lights; it's real and genuine. Dog's animation has no self-conscious posing, but neither is it "realistic" to the point of seeming merely copied from life. The dog goes day to day-or perhaps endless days, or an hour-alone, until he spies Adam-who sees him in almost the same moment. It's a more momentous exchange for dog than man, but eventually they become friends. The idyll of Eden can't last, however, and the dog must make a choice.

This is a micro story directed in macro fashion, made big without pretentious allusions or grandstanding. I can't remember when I've seen something done on this scale, in this form, fashioned with such wise taste apparent in every choice.  Even after repeated viewings I still tear up a bit, not because of a piece of lovely character animation-something I'm always a sucker for-but because everything that's going on-shot choice, length of shot, expression, color, perspective. movement-combines to produce that effect in me.

This is one of the things that I loved about animation when I determined to do it for a living; I mean specifically the sensitive, carefully calibrated story that is outside the mold one way or another. Or if done within a very commercial framework, manages to fire on all cylinders entertainment-wise while being a work of art at the same time, or, perhaps more realistically, having moments that satisfy on that level. This 15 minute short happens to be animated, but it employs an approach that at first viewing reminded me of Terence Malick (not surprising as it turns out, since Malick-along with Sofia Coppola, Tarkovsky and Godard-is one of many directors Lee admires), specifically the lyricism of "Days Of Heaven".

 And this is from a workaday visdev artist, on his own time, his own money(the budget is small by the standards of any short of this quality),with friends' help, To serve his own artistic vision. The result exhilarates, inspires and shames me in just about equal measure. I'm just very glad he made it.
I'll write a bit more with quotes from an email exchange between Minkyu and myself in another post. In the meantime, have a look at "Adam and Dog" if you can.  It's indeed an ineffable film.