Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Chuck Jones' Off To See The Wizard! OH MY!

It's amazing what you can find on EBAY these days. About a week ago, I found this cel with the original animation drawing from Chuck Jones ABC series 'Off To See The Wizard' from the late 60's. It was offered with a buy it now option and I decided to grab it.
The sheer fact is that not a whole lot of these cels are readily available from this show. That's besides the other fact that a lot of people don't even remember the show. My sister, who's a little older than me and a Wizard Of Oz fan (she was featured in a book about Gumby...more of that in a later post) didn't even know the show existed! Well, I sure did cause I tuned in every week that it was on expecting to see an animated show with The Wizard Of Oz characters. All I got was a dazzling title sequence, neat wraparounds and end credits!
You see, the show was kind of a ABC/MGM version of The Wonderful World Of Color, where certain movies would be the featured attraction, with the animated title and wraparounds used as a device of tying everything together. Actually, to this frustrated youngster, I felt jipped.  The show only got me angry, because there were no other cartoons to be found, once you got through the title and bridge sequences.
Like the village idiot, I tuned in every week expecting a different result! Guess the joke was on all the kids out there in TV land!
It's funny, after all these years, I never forgot about the animation on this show.
Fortunately, all this stuff is surfacing on You Tube. For years now, people thought I was nuts when I mentioned the show. Here's a black and white version of the opening with information about the featured Live Action movie!

Anyway back to my story about the animation art; when I received it, it was framed in an odd way. The cel was sealed in glue from the front, just behind the glass and the drawing was glued in the from the back of the frame. Whoever put it together as a presentation piece wanted you to see the drawing behind the cel. However, somehow in the process of art being mounted, the drawing ripped by the Wizards hand. I wasn't sure why it ripped, so I decided to take the frame apart so that no further damage would happen to the drawing.
Now this is where my story gets interesting.

Taking these pieces out from this frame was an absolute nightmare. Not only was the animation art trimmed down, both pieces were glued down and sealed with more glue. Gone were the peg holes as they were chopped off to fit in the frame! To make matters worse, the animation drawing overlapped the sides of the back of the frame when mounted and whoever did the framing job (Likely Larry, Moe and Curly Joe), put two hanging screws through each side of the animation drawing (see pictures). Probably, when the so called framer was tightening the screws, it put pressure on the paper to cause it to rip! Yikes!
Look, I try to have a sense of humor about stuff like this but it's tough. I consider these things works of art and when someone just sloppily puts something together like this, you can plainly see that there's no care or respect for the material. Maybe I'm too sensitive about this, but I can't help it; I love the material that much. Bottomline is that I have to keep reminding myself that animation drawings and cels were considered a by-product of the animation process; that the films themselves were the actual product. Looking at the bright side of the situation, I have to be thankful that even with the mediocre framing disaster that this was, it still somehow managed to preserve (almost) these pieces of art for almost 50 years...and now I am able to own it!
Here's the opening of the show, some of those wraparounds (one of which features this cel) and some of the closing credits. Enjoy!

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Animating Mickey

Over the years, I've animated Mickey on a couple of occasions; one for the Disney Company working on Dale Baer's unit (outside of the studio) for The Prince and The Pauper. I did a few scenes with Mickey and Donald in the school house section where they are having an altercation. The second time I animated the character was when NBC's Saturday Night Live was doing their TV Funhouse animated segments and I was hired by David Wachtenheim and David Marianetti to animate a few scenes with the famous mouse. It was a funny cartoon, although I was shocked by some of the subject matter, which was definitely adult in nature. A week back, I found this sketch of the little guy sitting in a drawer. I don't remember there being any purpose for it other than I felt like drawing Mickey. He can be a little tricky to draw, mainly the proportions need to be right on for him to look correct. Most of all, his ears must retain the shape of two bowling balls on top of his head. They simply shift over a bit as the character turns his head. Over the years the design has continued to evolve. I personally enjoy the look of Fred Moore's designs of Mickey from the late 40's, where the character is softer and more appealing. In recent years, the character's eyes have become more oval and smaller. When I was working on these two shorts, I had to conform to that design, but actually, I like my take a little better.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015


When I finally landed a job in the animation industry, I ended up meeting and working with a lot of people who had created animated cartoons that I had grown up on. While not household names, they were very familiar to me from seeing their credits on various cartoon shorts or shows over the years. I ran into some of these people at Warner Bros Animation. People like Gerald Baldwin, who had worked on UPA and Jay Ward productions product and had created a sequence that I truly enjoyed from Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol. Art Leonardi, who worked as an animator on late 50's/Early 60's Warner Bros.Cartoons and became a jack of all trades with Friz Freleng on Pink Panther and Ant & The Aardvark cartoons. Tom Ray, a veteran animator from MGM and Warner Bros cartoons, would later work for Chuck Jones 'How The Grinch Stole Christmas' and 'Horton Hears A Who!'. Of course, there were many others, some of which I was surprised were still alive and actively working in the animation industry.

People like Alex Lovy, a longtime Lantz Director, who later worked on Hanna Barbera cartoons, Norm McCabe, an animator and Director of Looney Tunes from the late 30's thru early 40's,
and Charlie Downs, who started at Disney and worked on many of Ward Kimball's projects at the studio.

When I was working for Don Bluth on The Troll In Central Park in the early 90's. The studio was going through a difficult time with Goldcrest, the movie company that was funding the Troll movie. Apparently, Goldcrest had a new management team and they weren't pleased with the Bluth product (more on that in a future post).
Fortunately, the Bluth unit in Burbank had a special projects division that had just completed the character animation for a ride at Universal Studios called The Fantastic World Of Hanna Barbera and was now embarking on a new project for a theme park attraction in Japan.
One day, I had noticed an older gentleman in a corner of the studio who was toiling away on color keys for the new project. I went to introduce myself and he told me his name was Walt Peregoy.
Peregoy, a superior talent, had painted backgrounds for Disney's Sleeping Beauty, 101 Dalmations, Sword In The Stone and had designed the backgrounds for Hanna Barbera's late 60's/Early 70's product.
He eventually returned to Disney to work on projects for EPCOT center.
It was pretty much known in the business, even back then, that Peregoy was a volatile individual and wasn't afraid to voice his opinion about things. I didn't care much about that; I was in awe of being in his company. Every other day I would drop by talk to him a bit and would salivate at his beautiful paintings. He was 64 years old at the time. I developed a friendship with Peregoy while working at Bluth studios and got to hear plenty about Walt Disney (not all good things either from Peregoy's perspective!).
It still strikes me as a surreal experience that I got to work side by side with people who made the cartoon films that I grew up on.
Above, is a film that was featured on the old Disney TV show called Four Artists Paint A Tree. Walt Disney introduces four of his artists; Walt Peregoy, Marc Davis, Eyvine Earle and Josh Meador. Years before I met Peregoy, I actually saw this film in High School. It's good stuff! Enjoy!

Monday, March 09, 2015

Joining the team on Don Bluth's Rock A Doodle

 I had just wrapped up animating duties on a television series called 'Slimer and the Ghostbusters' for DIC Enterprises back in 1989. These were cartoony segments where I was able to animate scenes with some full animation and cartoony poses. I was out of work and had just got married; not a good combination. 
I had recently submitted my portfolio to Disney studios and was waiting for some sort of response. In the meantime, Bill Hanna of Hanna/Barbera Productions got my number from someone who labeled me as a hot talent and called me regarding a position as an animator on Jetsons: The Movie. I met with Mr. Hanna, accepted the position and was fired within a week. (More on that hilarious story in an upcoming post). The reason for the sacking was that I was assigned to a Rosie The Robot scene and Mr. Hanna was quite upset with the animation. "She moves too much!" he kept saying. (Really, no joke.) That may explain why the studios' product was so limited in movement as Mr. Hanna liked it that way. Actually, I was really proud of the work I had done. But none of that mattered now. I had lost my job on a major theatrical feature project. What now? 
Well, here's a classic text book example of  When one door closes, another opens.  
Back in late 1979, I was excited about a new animation studio formed by a group of Disney animators led by Animator-Producer-Director Don Bluth. They had just released a theatrical fully animated half hour cartoon shown on HBO called 'Banjo The Woodpile Cat'. This little film looked fantastic. The designs were fresh, the backgrounds sparkled and the animation was top notch. On top of that, it had really nice effects animation. I had liked Bluth's animation in the recent Disney films and realized that this was where the magic was coming from. In my opinion, Bluth was beating Disney at their own game. Their next film would be 1982's The Secret Of NIMH; a sleeper of a movie that would forever change the business. I became an immediate fan and knew I had to work for them. 
Fast forward to 1989. 
A portion of Don Bluth's animation team had returned from Ireland and set up a small studio in Burbank, California called West Olive, Inc to work on sequences of Sullivan Bluth movies. The unit was set up by Producer/ Master animator John Pomeroy with Directing animators Lorna Cook, Linda Miller and Ken Duncan as key members of the new unit. I caught wind of this and found out that the studio was located within a few blocks of my apartment. I quickly put together a portfolio and dropped it off to the studio. 
A few days later I was invited to the studio to do a clean up inbetween test. Now, I would love to say that I walked in and breezed through the test, no sweat. 
The reality was that I actually stressed myself out before, during and after taking the test. I had second guessed my abilities all the way through it. I wanted the job that badly.
A day later, John Pomeroy himself called me back to say that the test looked good, but that there were no spots open for a rough in-betweener at the moment. However, he was looking for an animation trainee and wanted to know if I would come back and test for the job. Needless to say, I was excited about this and agreed to come back for the animation test. I felt more relaxed about this because I was more in my comfort zone when animating. The test was Charlie The Dog (from All Dogs Go To Heaven) jumping onto a box. 
All I remember is enjoying the test and being satisfied with the results. I had finished the test in a timely fashion and even had time to finesse the drawings. The next day John called to tell me that the test looked good and... to see if I could start work Monday. I was elated to say the least. The next couple of months would be very challenging to me, mainly because of two facts. 1) I was now working with some of the top talents in the animation business and 2) I needed to make sure my work was of exceptional quality so that I didn't embarrass myself...or worse, get fired!   
 I'll save some of my experiences of working on that movie for a later time, but let's say, it wasn't a cake walk...But I did learn a helluva lot.   
I really enjoyed working on Rock A Doodle. The picture had tremendous potential and I was excited about the possibilities. It was a fun concept with some terrific surprises and the characters seemed to be well formed. Unfortunately, shortly after I arrived, problems began to surface. Victor French, then known as an actor from Highway To Heaven, was brought in to direct the live action sequences for the film. He became very ill and had to exit the production (he died a short while afterwards). Don Bluth took over the live action direction. Goldcrest, the motion picture company that was funding the movie, stepped in to question story direction and design choices. Some very funny sequences ended up being cut from the picture and a portion of the movie had to be re-animated for being too risque. As the reels started taking shape, story problems became clear and it was decided that narration had to be added to make the story flow better. 
Overall, the movie was plagued with problems. 
I wish that I could say that the movie would go on to become an animated classic; it had all the makings of a hit movie. We had great animation talent, catchy songs, neat sequences, super voices and a retro cool concept that featured a Rooster that resembled Elvis Presley. Regardless, many people love this movie. I still have a fondness for it for many different reasons.  
If you haven't seen it, here is a behind the scenes look at Rock A Doodles' production in Ireland (Part one is above, Part two is below). I also included the theatrical trailer which includes the neat computer animated/ classically animated effects opening to the picture. Unfortunately, you won't see me in any of the documentary footage, since this was shot at the main studio in Dublin, Ireland. I was on the other side of the pond at a small satellite studio in Burbank, California!  Enjoy.    

Sunday, March 08, 2015


As some of you know, I took off a couple of years from blogging to focus on other projects.
The time was well spent as I was/am working on a traditionally animated cartoon project that I was trying to get off the ground for a number of years. I finally have a handle on it and have been animating it the old fashioned way; with pencil on paper. I'm happy to say that rough animation is completed and I'm heading toward finishing it up by the Holidays. I will start revealing bits and pieces as it gets closer to completion. Expect to see making of materials right here on the blog in the near future!

Going forward, this blog is going to change directions a bit. What that means is that the focus is going to be directed more toward my personal experiences in the animation field, the challenges involved in creating a storyboard, animating a scene, designing a character or the headaches and triumphs of putting a whole film together.
I think that this will be more informative than posting a you tube video of The Osmond Brothers at Disneyland. Stuff like this will be removed from the site and posted onto a sister web site for Theme Park related posts (more on that to be announced soon!) I just want to make this blog more about the Animated Cartoon.

I feel (whether people believe it or not) that pure Cartoon Animation is disappearing from movie and Television screens all over the world...and that's just plain sad. What's worse is that the people in control of the purse strings in the entertainment world are killing the medium, simply by omitting it from being seen.
A few people are stepping up to the plate to help give the Animated Cartoon world a good kick in the pants. Glen Keane's classy DUET recently made a big splash on giant video screens in Times Square, New York City (where I saw it first hand!) and animator James Lopez is working on his Steampunk Animated film Hullabaloo that easily surpasssed its' target funding goal on Indiegogo. Mr. Lopez asked for $ 80,000, but instead raised $ 470,000! How's that for interest in Traditional Animated Cartoons!? The trailer is very impressive and the line up of animation talent even more so. Let's all get behind this and support James' project.

I know some of you have been visiting the blog for a while and have not seen anything new. I apologize for this and promise that I will be updating on a regular basis.
Thanks for staying tooned!