Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Wonderful World Of Color

Here's two Disney Anthology Show openings. The first is from the Wonderful World Of Color with host Walt Disney. Color ran on NBC from 1961 through 1967 broadcasting some original programming, but mostly material from the Disney library of Feature films, cartoon shorts and nature films. Walt Disney shot informative lead ins and closing footage giving us a glimpse of next weeks show. Unlike the Hanna Barbera title sequences in my previous post, Disney's opening sequence to his show was just a sampling of the fun to follow.

The second opening is from the The Wonderful World Of Disney, which ran on NBC from 1967 through the late 70's. The name change was obviously a tribute to Walt after he passed in 1966 and the idea of a host was eliminated almost entirely (probably because it was thought that nobody could fill Walt's shoes). Occasionally, there would be certain shows that would be hosted by various Disney celebs like Dean Jones, Annette Funicello or Kurt Russell, but most of these shows would have no host at all. This particular opening was well known in the 1970's and would be edited each year to feature a clip from a new Disney movie or theme park attraction. In this particular clip, Space Mountain and The Rescuers are featured prominently, which would date it to 1977. Both clips here are great openings, with theme music by Buddy Baker (a great Disney music man) these openings have a magic that cannot be put into words.

Another sketch....

I did this sketch the other night and just happened to clean it up a little while ago. As you can see by the rough, I noodled a bit with re-working different areas of the drawing, but the pose pretty much remained the same. If this was a piece of animation with this guy walking, the left arm and leg would be opposing each other in the animation. However, when I drew this up the other night, it didn't bother me. Maybe it should, though I still like the pose. Any comments?
I kinda liked this sketch for a number of reasons. Mainly because it had a neat little attitude and has nice appeal.
Everybody talks about the appeal factor and how to achieve it. I think it has to do with making a good flowing drawing that communicates emotion in a strong way. Fred Moore's drawings always possessed this quality because of the cuteness of his poses. But appeal isn't just limited to cuteness as drawings of Cruella DeVil, Captain Hook and Roger From 101 Dalmations also possess this quality. Any drawing that makes you want to look at it more than a few moments is sure to have appeal.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Hanna-Barbera's Best: The Title Sequences

After Yogi Bear, Huckleberry Hound and The Jetsons, Hanna Barbera Productions got into producing very different types of animated programming. Most of these shows were reactive to what was successful at the time and Hanna Barbera were very good about tapping into that. As with most HB shows, the best part of the shows were the opening and closing title sequences, which were anchored by a great theme song, terrific editing of clips from the series and some original animation.
Here's a few examples below and the first we'll begin with is Speed Buggy, which features a great 'driving' theme song matched to good action pieces featuring the main characters. The show is definitely influenced by Disney's The Love Bug (the top box office grosser of 1969) and must have had many curious viewers, but as with other HB shows, the show was never as much fun as the title sequence.

As a kid, The Wacky Races was a pretty fun show to watch. Influenced by many chase films made before it ( i.e., The Great Race, It's A Mad Mad Mad Mad World, etc.)
not only were the opening and closing sequences fun, but the actual episodes had some chuckles too!
The theme music was big and brassy, with neat narration by character actor, Dave Willock and some funny vocal performances by Paul Winchell, everything in this HB show seemed to work...especially the opening and closing sequences.

The Catanooga Cats was a typical HB show that featured three or four different cartoon segments. Often The actual Catanooga Cat cartoons were dreadful, but the short music segments that acted as bumpers had neat bubblegum pop tunes and fast editing. HB once again took the lead from The Monkees and Popular Beatles cartoon in the mid 60's, and started making shows that featured characters that played musical instruments. This extended to The Impossibles, The Banana Splits, Josie & The Pussycats and of course The Catanooga Cats. The best thing about this show is the opening title sequence, with a dynamic pop theme produced By Mike Curb.

I know that some of these tunes may not be everyones' cup of tea, but when the shows first came out, the title sequences did provide a good hook to get the kids to watch. Here below is the title sequence for the HB Abbott & Costello cartoon show.
Once again, the title sequence has a Big Band sound and is hands down the only good thing about this particular cartoon. Good thing HB refrained from having Abbott & Costello play guitars and drums!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

OOPS! I did it again!

No, this isn't a post about Britney's Troubles.
The drawing you see here I posted a few hours ago. Well, I did the drawing, thought it looked pretty good and put it up on the blog. But looking at it again about a half hour ago I had second thoughts. Although I liked most of the drawing, there were a few things about the drawing that bothered me, mainly the characters stance. Rather than just pulling down the drawing and keeping it off line, I made a change in one leg and a few minor ones to the rest of the drawing and put it back up here.
Originally the right leg was bent in and didn't like the way the shoe was drawn.
It's light on the drawing but if you look hard you can still see the erased lite blue lines.
It's not a perfect drawing, but I like it better.
I'm very critical about my drawings, that's part of the reason why I haven't posted any drawings over the history of this blog...... A good case of stage fright.
I think you need an ego to create any drawing and it's important to have confidence in your abilities... but it's also important not to be happy with everything you do; meaning that you need to look at your drawings with a fresh eye. That's why most teachers tell you to walk away from your drawing and then come back to it and you'll begin to see the flaws.

Some rough sketches....

Some friends said that I should post some of my rough drawings, so here you go.
I'm a pretty fast artist, as a matter of fact, I can nail one of these drawings somewhere between 30 seconds and a minute, so they're pretty rough sketches, but mostly everything is there. My approach is pretty simple; I think of an idea, get the line of action and then build shapes around that action line. Afterwards I continue to build shapes inside the shapes and then fine tune the details, all under a minute. If the drawing isn't right, I can quickly do another one by using what's right about the previous drawing and then adding or subtracting from it. My drawings are really all about feeling, and even though I use shapes to get the drawing there, I'm more concerned about how a drawing feels.

I've been criticized about my speed. Someone I used to work with called me "Stocko The Clown", because I used to revert to formula poses. I listened to the criticism and took it as constructive criticism. But the fact is, there are many other artists who could also be called the same nickname. That's because we all use stock things that we've learned over the years and we use them because it works in the drawing. And if it looks good in your drawing, you're going to use it over and over.
Milt Kahl, Ward Kimball, Chuck Jones, Frank Thomas and Jim Tyer all used stock poses and expressions...so I guess I'm in good company. That doesn't mean you should stop and not progress as an artist. You should always be looking for different expressions and poses, but you should never throw out something that works either.

My early influences have been many, but the strongest have been Preston Blair, Don Bluth, Fred Moore, Milt Kahl, Ward Kimball, Tex Avery and Chuck Jones. For a while back in the 80's, Bluth was a major influence and I started to follow that look, especially when I went to work for him. I can't tell you how many people told me to break free of that style and I have to a certain extent. But looking at these drawings, I can still see that Don's influence has some hold on me.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

More Dana Carvey Show.....

Here's another funny sketch with Dana and Steve Carell. Couldn't resist putting this up. Enjoy....

The Dana Carvey Show

This post has nothing to do with animation, but it does concern one of my other passions...Good Sketch comedy...and the more off-beat the better.
Long Before The Colbert Report and The Office made Steven Colbert and Steve Carell household names, they were featured players on a very funny but short lived program on ABC called The Taco Bell Dana Carvey Show. It was cancelled pretty shortly after it premiered, but for the eight and 1/2 minutes that it lasted, it had some pretty funny bits and pieces. Not all the sketches were gems, but they had more hits than misses.
And a few were pure gold.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Yeah, Yeah, Yeah, I know.......

I know what you're all thinking...Finally, 'Brian Mitchell is posting stuff again. Wonder how long this will last?' I know all three of you are excited about this. I think I posted more stuff on this site over the last couple of days, than I did all of last year. Wow....
I've decided to make an effort to keep up with at least one daily post, whether it'll be a long ramble or a short PFFFT.
And you'll notice that I'll be posting some of my drawings over the next couple of days too...just like I promised last time around...which was months ago...and I never delivered.
Hopefully this time I'll come through.
Just want to try and keep everyone happy....

Thursday, October 25, 2007


After finishing work on Tiny Toon Adventures, the staff at Warner Bros. went to work developing Animaniacs. A few months into development when we were locking down the stars of the show, I went ahead to animate some Walk cycles for Yakko, Wakko and Dot, which were received by the producers in a great way. Immediately after development, we went right into production minus our layout crew. We were told to draw our storyboards tighter in order to use them as layouts for the animators overseas.
Eliminating layout might have saved the producers some money in the short run, but it put tremendous pressures on the storyboard crew.
Yakko's World wasn't the first cartoon to be storyboarded (for me that was The Big Candy Store) but it was the most labor intensive.

When I was presented with the script, it was just the lyrics for the song matched to the Mexican Hat Dance. Since I sometimes take things too literal, I thought that it might be a magical kind of idea to have Yakko doing the Mexican Hat Dance, while pulling hats out of thin air representing the countries that he mentions in the song. So to get the full picture, hats would be appearing, disappearing, swallowing up Yakko and finally for the finale', exploding as he reaches the final verse of the cartoon. I thought it was a great idea because it felt like a throw back to some of that great animation from The Three Caballeros, Dumbo and some of those amazing WB Clampett cartoons.
I was really excited at the opportunity to do something absolutely surreal for network TV. So, the first thing that had to be done was the research. I looked in book stores and in libraries for all the different hats worn around the world. I researched customs, clothing, dances..anything that would aid me in boarding the cartoon. Then I set down to work, roughing out my Yakko's World masterpiece. I spent the better part of two weeks roughing out the short cartoon. Unfortunately, most of the research ate into my boarding time. I was late with the storyboard and although the production execs cut me some slack for a few extra days, patience was wearing thin. Finally, I stayed up late one night and finished the thing. I was sure that all would be forgiven once they saw what I came up with.
The next morning, my director and I were asked to present the storyboard to the producer. Armed with my masterpiece we proceeded upstairs to The Producer's office where we sat down and started to pitch Yakko's World. I flipped over the title page, showed my boss how Yakko leaps into frame and starts in with the hats when he stopped me.
"What th' #&%^@# is this?
Just have him point to the countries on a map!"
I looked at my Director and then back to the producer and then quietly exited the office with my masterwork in hand.
The only thing salvaged from the original board was...the title page and.....
page one where Yakko leaps in. The rest found a home as a giant wee wee pad for my dog.

I was given another two weeks to RE-board Yakko's World with him pointing to a map.
Again, I had to get some research (mainly a map) to accurately represent the countries that Yakko points to. Unfortunately, that was just the beginning on the headaches of working on this thing. First off, some of these countries are so small that they don't really register on the screen and second off, the writer of the songs' new lyrics had problems rhyming certain nations together. So in using creative license, he used so called nations like 'San Juan' to rhyme with Guam. San Juan was easy for me to figure out as a city in Puerto Rico but others were not as easy, and I have to say that I probably lost some hair due to the stress that Yakko's World put me through.
The third problem was that the song moves pretty fast and there's not a whole lot of business that you can do between the short breaks. That was important to me because I thought the whole thing of pointing to countries was pretty boring.
To help perk things up a bit, I had the countries light up as Yakko points to them, which you really had to do because many of these countries wouldn't be seen because of their size...plus remember that Yakko is pointing to these places at lightning speed.
Another thing I incorporated was a little dance that Groucho Marx once did for (I believe) the movie Animal Crackers. One of our staff guys (I apologize for not remembering his name) animated this little dance with Yakko that was inspired by Groucho's dance in Crackers. Since it was a development type thing that wasn't being used in production, I thought some of it might fit within the breaks and liven up the thing, so I called for it.
The other thing that I did was to have Yakko roll up in the map at the end, instead of the explosion of hats that I had in the original version. It just seemed like a good way to finish it up.
I expected a good number of changes when it went for approval, but none were requested and it went into animation without a hitch. A few months later, I was called into editorial to see the finished version. Everybody, (myself included) was quite pleased with it.
I recall being surprised that it was very entertaining.
Warner's Executive Brass thought that it was so good that the cartoon was run in The Warner Stores and on The Fox Network as a teaser, months before the show hit the airwaves.
Pretty much the way I boarded it is the way you see it on the screen.
So here it is...Yakko's World.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Ward Kimball's It's Tough To Be A Bird

Here's another treat...the first 10 or so minutes of It's Tough To Be A Bird.
The film won an Academy Award for Best animated short subject of 1969, one of the few awards that Disney studios let Ward keep for his very own. I got to hold the award for maybe 5 seconds and it was a real thrill. This is absolutely one of my favorite Disney films and it deserves a wider showing. Unfortunately, the TV version for the Wonderful World Of Disney was padded out adding another 25 minutes to the film which made it a little too long to view, however it still has some more clever moments.


Ward Kimball was a genius. It's inconceivable to think that Disney's let him walk out the door just a few years after creating this.



If you've never seen it, it's time you did. This is one of my favorite Ward Kimball shorts...it's primarily live action, with some animation stuff thrown in. Here's part one..........

Defending The Jungle Book

I've been noticing on several blogs that some people have gotten into roasting Walt Disney's
re-released 1967 film, The Jungle Book.
It seems that this very popular movie, after 40 years of successful re-releases in Movie Theatres and on home video, has found a handful of folks who are very vocal about its' flaws.
Well, I'm a believer that if you see a movie often enough over that length of time, you're going to notice something wrong with it. Heck, I found a continuity problem in the movie just the other day. I never noticed it the other 159 times I watched it.
I'll give you a clue where it's at...it's in the section after the monkey sequence where Baloo and Baggy are talking about Mowgli and both have black eyes.
Let me know if you find it!
Another hint...it has nothing to do with their black eyes slowly disappearing.

Anyway, getting back to what I was talking about, The Jungle Book is indeed no great film.
As a matter of fact the first fifteen minutes of the movie feels like a different film until Baloo and the monkeys appear. The 'Book' does have a very episodic feel to it, with repetitive sequences regarding the elephants, Kaa The Snake and Shere Khan. And then there's the famous voice cast, which many have claimed that the animators used as some sort of crutch, making their work easier. Or the barbershop quartet thing with the Beatlesque vultures that only seems to exist because the story people needed some other characters to help save Mowgli from Shere Khan's attack.

The Jungle Book certainly has it's flaws...but it also has it's magic too.
It is certainly not the greatest achievement in Walt Disney's career, but it's one hell of a likable and fun movie.
While some bloggers are complaining about all the story flaws in the movie, they fail to miss the point of the picture. Walt Disney was more interested in making a picture that entertained an audience. He wanted his story people to keep the story light in order to get to the fun of the movie with the characters. Certainly "The Bare Necessities" and "I Wanna Be Like You" sequences are probably some of the most memorable out of all Disney movies. I've sat through too many movies where the entertainment clearly gets lost, because the story is just too complicated. The Jungle Book never has that problem because it's chock full of entertainment hung on a basic simple storyline.
While The Jungle Book does use Star talent for voices, none of them at the time were A or even B list talent. It's not like Disney hired Dean Martin for Baloo or Julie Andrews for the mother elephant, so I will never understand that criticism..especially when Disney used Ed Wynn and Jerry Colonna for Alice In Wonderland or Peggy Lee for Lady and The Tramp! I don't recall Disney ever caught criticism for using these stars in those pictures.
Besides, when I saw the movie for the first time when I was 5 years old in 1967, I never equated Baloo with Phil Harris or George Sanders with Shere Khan. Back then I didn't know who the heck Phil Harris and George Sanders were! To me, the illusion was complete; I was watching these cool animated personalities interact.

It's a movie that has stayed with me long after leaving the theatre, and the things I cherished were the those lush personalities, the funny sequences and the music! It succeeds in places where many other films fail.. it creates an emotional connection with the audience.
The personality animation actually inspired me to pursue animation as a profession. Funny how many pro animators say the same thing!
I guess my point here, is that the Jungle Book is pure entertainment. It wasn't meant to be much more than that. The picture unapologetically does what it's supposed to do; keep audiences enthralled and entertained for 80 plus minutes. So, what's wrong with that?