Thursday, October 27, 2011

Drawings Rescued From The Shredder....

Rescued From The Shredder: Blissful Guy

Rescued' Dog
I have a whole lot of sketches just lying around and every so often I go through them and start discarding; Frankly, If I didn't, my house would look like a trash heap and my wife would throw me out...or so I'm told. In this joyless process, I pull up the old trash can and begin to thumb through stacks of drawings, most of which are ok sketches but they're not spectacular enough to make me want to keep them. I'd say a good 99% find their way to the Shredder but every once in a while, I'll find a drawing that somehow stands out of the bunch. I posted a few examples above that were done in Ebony pencil. I don't think this was intentional, but the guy looks a little like Disney Animator Frank Thomas while the dog has a Hanna Barbera influence to him.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A Visit to Tiny Toons Two-Tone Town

Tiny Toon Adventures was a very interesting experience. The memories that I have from it are all good. As a matter of fact, working on that show was a whole lot of fun. There was a carefree quality for me working on these cartoons and I remember laughing a lot. Maybe that's why in 'Fields Of Honey' I explode in a burst of laughter (more on that in another post). I had just joined the studio from Don Bluth's Burbank facility. I was working as an animation trainee and making a very low salary. Don't get me wrong; I learned many things there at the Bluth House, but it got to the point where I couldn't afford to work there anymore. Ken Boyer, who was one of the designers of the Tiny Toon Characters and a director for the show, offered me over double what I made at Bluth to join Warners as a layout artist! I loved animating for Don but I couldn't turn down the offer. Joining Warner Bros. Animation was a fantastic opportunity! Here I was working side by side with legends of animation and some of the most talented animation artists in the animation business! Working on Ken's crew offered me the ability to grow as an artist. Because we both liked the same styles of animation and design, it gave me the opportunity to stretch in the direction that I really wanted. In a short time, I was promoted to storyboarding. Storyboarding is as close to Directing a cartoon as you can get. Here you can really influence how the thing plays from beginning to end and that was very appealing to me.
Although I storyboarded a handful of Tiny Toon cartoons before this, Twotone Town was different for a few reasons. Even though it features the Tiny Toon characters, it feels like a different show. It was a half hour episode (most half hours were made up of three cartoon segments) and it is one of the few that features storyboard credits on the title cards (the episode was broken up into four blocks for the storyboard artists).
It's also one of the best animated episodes of that series...the twotone characters look great in the finale.
It's also credited as the inspiration for the next series that Warners would tackle called Animaniacs.
Although I was never credited for character models for the studio, I did influence a few through the boards. Near the end of this episode in Part Two, the Buddy Hackett caricature is from the only model sheet that I ever did at the studio.
(For your information, I worked on the last section to the finale!)

Monday, October 10, 2011

SHHHHHHHHHHH! A Walter Lantz Cartoon!

One of my all time favorite Lantz Cartoons Directed By The Great Tex Avery. Some people love it, some people don't get it. I think it's terrific because of it's simple concept. Enjoy!

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Pen Thumbnail sketches #1

Someone emailed me the other day about my drawings and somehow they got the impression that I never do dirt ruff sketches. After looking at some of my posts over the last couple of years I can see how you might get that impression. Truth is, I will do a lot of exploration with thumbnails to help me get where I'm going. If I can't get with what I'm after with a certain pencil, I'll switch off to some other pencil, marker or even a plain ol bic ball point pen, which is what you see here. Some of these sketches were done looser than normal for me and took no longer than 30 seconds to make. Because you're not investing a ton of time into the sketch, it's easy to discard and move on to the next. Like most people, there are times that I'll hit a brick wall. In those moments, it's best to walk away for a couple of minutes and clear your head. Get some reference, live action video, photos or look at other drawings that are similar. Go back to the board and use the reference to help you get the result you need. Worst case scenario, get another artists opinion and see if they can help solve the problem. Sometimes the solution is very simple and you were complicating it.
It's not a bad idea to look at the drawings you had previously done before becoming frustrated. Sometimes there's a gem in there and you glossed over it because you were caught up in the heat of the moment. BTW, the drawing on the bottom, is also a thumbnail drawn in a bic pen, but sketched a little slower.

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Bear Heads.....

Here's some random doodles of a bear character I had rolling around in my head. Lately, when I draw I prefer to use Polychromos because it's an erasable pencil and it has a nice flow. Years back when I was working on Mighty Mouse: The New Adventures For Bakshi & John K. and Beany & Cecil for John Kricfalusi, I was used to drawing in Col-erase, however John quickly got me out of that and told me to draw with Prismacolors for my character layouts. Prismacolor Pencils have a nice flow and you can get a drawing down pretty loose and quick, but the main problem is that they're nearly impossible to erase with! In order to correct the drawing, you had to use white out. I got used to drawing with those pencils and still like to sketch with them as seen here with the bear heads. My approach with Prismacolor is simple; I'll do a very light underdrawing first, then go over it with bolder strokes.
Most of the time though, I'm using Polychromos or Ebony pencils for my sketching, but will still switch back to Prismacolor for fun or col-erase for animation work.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Childhood Inspirations: WONDERAMA With Bob McAllister

Once apon a time, there was a show that was broadcast on Metromedia stations across the country called Wonderama, and although there were various hosts through the years, probably the most popular host was the last one, a man named Bob McAllister. McAllister, like many other hosts of childrens shows in the nation, started off in local television with his own childrens show in Norfork, Virginia and as his popularity grew, was hired by a TV station in Baltimore to host The Bob McAllister Show. The success of that show, which showcased Bob's gift for magic, ventriloquism and comedy, led to an offer from WNEW TV in New York to be the New Host Of Wonderama, replacing departing host Sonny Fox. Wonderama started in 1955, with hosts changing every couple of years. Bob's tenure was the longest, from 1967 to 1977 and for good reason, he was very popular with kids. Wonderama was a three hour show that ran on Sunday mornings from 8 to 11 am and featured games, prizes, special guests, magic, humor and Warner Bros. Cartoons! Because of the popularity of the show, they were able to get some big name guests such as Jerry Lewis, Abba, The Jackson Five and Muhammad Ali to name a few. They also had guests from the world of animation and puppetry, like Mel Blanc, Jim Henson and Bob Clampett!
But make no mistake, It was McAllister's show and he was the draw. Who can forget The Fingleheimer Stomp, Have You Heard Any Good News Today?, Exercise!, or Ecology? All these songs were co written and performed by McAllister on the show. McAllister was the kids celebrity.
Wonderama was cherished by most young New Yorkers as there was a three year wait to get on the show. As a kid, I must have mailed hundreds of letters requesting tickets.  Sure enough, I was thrilled to receive tickets a few years later...and continued to get them into my teens! I appeared on the show three times but was never picked to participate in the games. Drats as Charlie Brown might say, however it was a kick just being there taking it all in.  Songs that he had performed on the show were compiled as a record album called Wonderama's Bob McAllister: Kids Are People Too!
Bob made appearances at May's Department Stores around the NY area promoting the album. I was one of those kids lining up outside the Mays' store in Lake Success, NY one Sunny Saturday morning in the early 70's, eagerly waiting for the store to open up at 10am. When the doors were unlocked, kids literally stampeded through the store to get where McAllister was sitting, with endless stacks of these records. All I remember was waiting on a long line to say hello to Mr. Wonderama himself and say how much I liked the show. Of course, that never really transpired as the conversation went something like this...McAllister: "What's your name?" and  I replied, 'Brian'. McAllister then ripped off the cellophane and signed the album in magic marker. It's an image that has stayed with me all these years.
Wonderama ended on Christmas Day 1977, and McAllister went on to host an ABC show called, Kids Are People Too! Because of creative differences with ABC, he was replaced by a younger host named, Michael Young the following year.
Bob went on to perform magic and host the occasional special here and there, but never enjoyed the success that he had with Wonderama. He managed to put out a video called Blockbuster Magic in the 80's that was mildly successful. It's still available in some magic shops.
McAllister died of lung cancer on July 21, 1998. Sadly, his passing wasn't considered big news.

Sometimes you don't realize how special something is until you lose it...and then you recognize it as a lost treasure.
Bob McAllister made every Sunday morning feel special, kind of like Christmas. That show will always be a treasured part of my childhood; not only because the show was fun to watch, but it featured things that were of interest to me, like the worlds of animation, puppetry and television production.
There's not much left of Wonderama. WNEW erased much of the video tapes so there's not a whole lot available. Fortunately, somebody saved a few of the episodes. Above here's a clip of the snake cans game, which gives you a brief but dated taste of the show.
However, If you didn't live it, you'll never know how special of a show it once was.