Saturday, August 10, 2019

My Niece's Birthday Fun


My niece Veronica just had a birthday party. She turns 4 soon.  As you can see from the photo above, she looooooooooooo... *breathes*... oooooooooooooooves Batman.  Her mother (my sister) asked me to make some kind of a Batman game for her to play at her party.  This is what I whipped up the night before:


It's a big drawing of Lego Batman.  I then drew a few items that could be pinned onto him.


From left to right, there's the Bat Credit Card, the Batterang, his motorcycle, and the Shark Repellent.

Sadly I couldn't attend this party because I had to work. However, I'm assured that fun was had by all. I hope Veronica had a perfect day and I wish at least 100 more birthdays to come.


Monday, June 24, 2019

What is the Rainbow Connection?

It's my birthday again.  That's means that for my own indulgent pleasure (and possibly yours too) I will give my take on something in this world.  In years passed I've done that for:

Daffy Duck

Pepe Le Pew

Tweety

Jimi Hendrix

Barbra Streisand

and

Roger Rabbit

This year I will be talking about that seminal classic that everyone who's ever put their hand into a ball of cloth and manipulated it to amuse themselves and others knows: Rainbow Connection from The Muppet Movie

{Author's note: If anyone reading this post has discovered this rainbow connection already, or if Paul Williams himself has found this post and can offer his insight about the lyrics to this song, definitely feel free to leave a comment telling me what I got right and what I got wrong.  Everything I'm writing here is observation and not a stone cold fact.  I am open to discussion.}



As one can hear within the song, Kermit refers to this "rainbow connection" as something we don't know and as something that someday we will find.  Of course, in order to find something, one must begin looking.  That's simple and straightforward enough.  However, where would someone START looking for this connection?   I think I know where to start looking.
First, we must examine the rainbow.  For more than a few millennia, going back to when humankind was just blob fish with legs slogging along the earth's surface, we have been fascinated by the rainbow every time it has appeared.  Primitive man had no resources to even fathom what this giant band of colour in the sky was or how it got there.  In biblical folklore, it is said that God put a rainbow in the sky right after the giant flood as his way of telling Noah that He will never flood the Earth in that way ever again.  In Irish folklore, the end of a rainbow is said to be where leprechauns keep their gold.  That was mankind's first attempt at rationalizing the existence of rainbows.  It wasn't until the year 1307 AD that a German scientist named Theodoric of Freiburg discovered that rainbows can be created by shining light through a prism shaped shard of glass or a similar translucent surface such as water.  When a beam of light shines through such a surface it breaks up into the sex basic colours: RED, ORANGE, YELLOW, GREEN, BLUE, and PURPLE.  That's how a rainbow forms in the sky, sunlight is reflected and thus broken up through all of the water left on the ground after a good rain.
Our more scientifically sophisticated brains understand this now.  However, whenever a rainbow appears in the sky, to this day, everyone still gazes in awe at its magnificence.  We know exactly how a rainbow comes to be made and yet we are still amazed whenever we see one.  Why is that?  What is the big draw?  As Kermit sings, "what's so amazing...?".
This ties in with what happens to Kermit right after he's finished singing his song.  A man, played by Dom DeLouise, comes rowing by in a boat and tells Kermit that he's an agent in Hollywood.



From that point on, Kermit's main goal is to get into the movie business, or as they sing later in the flick, to "have a home at the magic store".  That right there is the connection.  The entire movie is making the rainbow a metaphor for movies.......... well, entertainment in general really.  Pretty much ever since George Melies took men on A Trip To The Moon in 1902, people have been fascinated by the magic of movies.  Since then, the cinema-going public has been dazzled by a giant gorilla on the Empire State Building, Moses parting the Red Sea, a young farm boy in outer space teaming up with a bounty hunter, a princess, a wookie and two robots to defeat an intergalactic villain that turns out to be his father, a land of tall blue people being ravaged by humans, and countless other special-effects extravaganzas.  People have also been dazzled by something simple as a mouse whistling a tune as he powers a steamboat.
For decades, we just sat back and enjoyed everything (well almost everything) we've seen on the big and small screens.  As our fascination for this industry grew, we began to see many 'behind the scenes' footage of these movies being made.  I think it was first done in 1968 when Hollywood would put smaller cameras on top of their large movie cameras so that candid footage of a real movie set could be captured and shown to the general public.  It still continues to this day.



That video above shows all of the technical elements to was used to make the movie Alita: Battle Angel what it is.  We know how it's all done now.  However, does this ruin our enjoyment of it?  Well here are its box office results so you tell me.

You see?  It's just like the rainbow.  Even after we've been shown how a movie is made, we are still enthralled by that movie.

It's not just like that in movies that require blue screens and so many computer graphics and/or animatronics to bring a story to life.  I'll use as an example something I was in, Lizzie Borden Took An Axe.  You can read my blog post that I made at the time right here.  Below I've embedded the big verdict scene from that movie.



It looks like that scene was shot on a bright sunny morning, doesn't it?  I think in the original history, the verdict was read at about 9:00 AM.  However, I was on the set that day and I can tell you what time it really was when we shot that.  It was midnight and outside was pouring rain.  They managed to made it look like a calm sunny morning, however not by computers and not simply through the camera's lens.  On the set it looked exactly a calm sunny morning.  All of us background extras stood in a weird state of disbelief.  We looked at our watches and/or our devices and saw "yes it's 11:59 PM" but in that room it looked like the morning.  Our bodies were even quasi adjusting themselves to feel like the morning.  We knew we should be going to bed soon but we also had this weird feeling of "it's time to start the day".

That, I believe, right there is the rainbow connection.  The same way we gaze in awe at a rainbow no matter how sophisticated and evolved we are, so too do we constantly gaze at the little universes created by the magic of movies no matter how sophisticated and evolved we are.
Just watch this clip below of Jim Henson on Dick Cavett's show.  He lifts a limp Kermit puppet up from behind a wall and then proceeds to put it on his arm, in full view of the audience.  Then when Jim makes Kermit talk you can see his mouth moving.  And yet, Kermit looks and feels very much alive the entire time.  How did that happen?  That's the magic of the rainbow.



Will we find this elusive rainbow connection? The lovers? The dreamers? You?  Well, that's up to each individual whether they want to look for it or not.  As for me, I'm going to keep enjoying rainbows and movies until my last dying breath.


Wednesday, May 08, 2019

THEY'RE FINALLY HERE



Back in December of 2016, I got married to a wonderful Filipina named Janet and in the process adopted her equally wonderful daughter Raianne.  I blogged about it at the time here.  However, that ceremony took place in the Philippines because she's a Philippines citizen.  So after that wedding, I had to leave her behind and fly back to Canada to simply carry on with my life.  She and Raianne had to do the same thing with their lives as well.  Long distance relationships never feel good.  Sending and receiving messages to each other online is certainly fun and lifts the spirits, but there's still an emptiness felt throughout simply because this person is so far away.
But, in that time since then, we all completed the necessary paperwork for my wife and daughter to achieve permission to immigrate to Canada to be with me.  This passed January, they were both accepted!!! They were both sad to leave friends and family behind, but at the same time they were also excited to meet the new family and friends that awaited them in Canada.  April 8, one both ago today, was the big day when they finally made the journey.  My wife documented their trip in this video:



 Lots has happened in the first month since they've arrived.  Yes, they've both applied for things that every Canadian citizen needs like SIN numbers and health cards.  Our daughter has also been enrolled in school and is already doing quite well.

Here she is getting a guided tour of the school by some of her new friends.


But it's not just been laboriously filling out forms or listening to stuffy seminars about citizenship.  We've managed to have some fun too.  We went to the Saskatchewan Natural History Museum where Raianne got to look at some real dinosaur bones.



I know that she's interested in science, especially dinosaurs, so I knew this would be a big treat for her.  With that in mind, we also went to the Science Centre.  Raianne enjoyed herself there too.  We watched an IMAX movie about rescue dogs that was quite enjoyable and informative.
However, there was one attraction there that I had particular interest in.  There's something at the Science Centre called a 'zoetrope'.  For those who don't know, that's the device that was used to view animated drawing and/or photographs before film was invented.  Patrons can make their own animations on a slip of paper, put it into the device, then give it a spin and watch it move.  I tried creating what's known in animation circles as a 'walk cycle'.  I brought it home, scanned it into my computer ad put those pictures into Flash so that I could show you fine people on the vast internet my meagre accomplishment.  Here it is embedded below:



On April 28, there was a freak spring snow storm that made it look and feel like winter for just that one day.  Most people from hot climates like the Philippines tend not function well right away in snowy conditions.  They either try to stay inside as much as possible, or they just shiver profusely no matter how many layers of jackets and sweaters they're wearing.  Raianne however took to it naturally.  She sang Elsa's "Let It Go" song the entire time and could've frolicked in that snow all day.  I showed her how to make a snow angel and she did that many times.  Also, at one point she taught herself how to make snow balls and throw them.  One of those snow balls hit me right in the face.  She said "sorry, daddy" but I wasn't mad at all.  If anything I was proud.  In just a short time, she taught herself to throw snowballs at people's faces like a Canadian pro.  That's impressive.  The next snow fall won't be for several months, but I'm sure she will not have forgotten her newfound skills by then.  So look out anyone who's within throwing distance of my daughter next winter.  Your face might be getting cold and wet very quickly.

Oh yes, Raianne is having fun with her new family members as well as you can see.



It's not just the cousins close to her own age she's having fun with.  She enjoys spending time with her new grandmother too.  While we were playing cribbage together, Raianne drew this picture of grandma (who insists on being called 'babchi').



She loves to draw and draws often.  It shouldn't be hard to steer her in an artistic direction.

"Yes, we know your daughter is having fun.  But what about you and your wife??"

'What are I and my wife doing for fun since her arrival into Canada' you ask oh hypothetical person that I've concocted just for this blogpost.  Well, I won't post any grizzly details.  I'll just leave this here.



Skyrockets in flight indeed.

So anyway, that's been their first month in Canada.  I know there will be many many more great months and years to come.  I'll end this post with another of my wife's videos showing her and our daughter having fun in Rochdale Park.  Enjoy!

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Joe Prick



There's a new show on the inter webs called Joe Prick. I just embedded it's first episode in this blog post above.  It's some pretty funny stoner humour that I'm sure everybody's burnt out relative will love.  I did some fan art of Joe Prick himself just for the shits and giggles of it.



If you support this production and give Episode 1 lots of traffic, I'm sure many more episodes will follow.  If you have a problem with that then you're the equivalent of making love while Forrest Gump is standing right beside you: you're fucking close to stupid!

"Well now! That was uncalled for!"


Perhaps.  Whatever.  Just feel free to enjoy the show.

Sunday, April 07, 2019

Ant Pasted - Commentary



A while back on this blog I posted a video in which I did some commentary on a WB cartoon with the good people at Ferris Wheelhouse.  Well, embedded above is some more commentary I did but this time for the Elmer Fudd cartoon Ant Pasted.

What a neat coincidence that I got to talk about this cartoon in particular because it allowed me to revisit a theory I have about this cartoon that I posted on this very same blog a way long time ago.  I opined that this cartoon was a subversive satirical attack on Joe McCarty's communist witch hunt.

"WHUT?! DUH WB WENT N GONE N MADE SPORT A ME?? WHY I OUGHTA....."


I'll walk you through my thought process with screen captures this time (something I couldn't do for that old post).  {begin animation nerd dissertation now}



The cartoon starts with Elmer Fudd celebrating the 4th of July by lighting fireworks and throwing them.  Elmer Fudd represents Joe McCarthy and the fireworks represent Joe's aggressively overt patriotism.



However, one of Elmer's fireworks lands next to an ant colony injuring one of the ants.  The ant, in this moment, represents an average American citizen does not quite share the same zeal as Mr. McCarthy and so feels overwhelmed by it.


When Elmer sees his fireworks have disturbed the ants, he's inspired to throw several of his lighted explosives directly at the ants.  This of course represents McCarthy's Human Unamerican Activities Committee going after anyone they considered "communist subversives" (whether they had evidence or not).

Although one aspect is different from the real history of that era.  Back then, anyone who found themselves snared by the HUAC net had no choice but to go along with the proceedings which would get them blacklisted in some way.  In the cartoon in question here, the ants answer this onslaught with full militarized retaliation.



My comparison to McCarthy with this cartoon is further solidified for me when at one point during the battle Elmer Fudd shouts "Why don't you ant go under gwound where you bewong!"



I mean, that's why Joe started his crusade in the first place, so that he could drive all he considered undesirable to go underground and (to his hope) out of society.



But, like I said, the ants retaliate against Elmer in a highly successful attack that has Fudd running for his safety.



His retreat is all for naught because the ants manage to obliterate him with his own explosives. The cartoon ends with the ants throwing a patriotic salute to Elmer's (Joe's) destruction.

It would be of no surprise to me if my hypothesis of Ant Pasted were proved correct.  One of McCarthy's biggest target of interest was Hollywood, which the WB animation department was very much a part of.  You can bet everyone there was worried that no stone would be left unturned and soon HUAC would be coming after them.  I do think they did throw in some nods to patriotism for the soul purpose of keeping these men away from them.



One example I can think of off the top of my head is Forward March Hare in which Bugs Bunny accidentally joins the army.  When the general informs Bugs that the army is not equipped to accommodate rabbits as soldiers, Bugs responds with, "Isn't there something a patriotic rabbit can do for his country?"  I'm sure Joe pleasured himself after hearing Bugs say that.



Another example I recall is a gag in the cartoon Fowl Weather.  Sylvester cranks up a little toy soldier and sets it marching in front of the hens in the henhouse.  The hens all stand up to salute.  This gives Sylvester a chance to look for Tweety who may be hiding among the baby chicks (spoiler: he was).  Although, I think this may have been another subtle jab at Joe.

And of course there are the three cartoons that were commissioned to be economic lessons:



By Word of Mouse



Heir Conditioned



and Yankee Dood It

I looked through some of the comments of that video and found this dissenting assertion that I'd like to address:



OK, whoever made this comment (I cropped out the name so nobody finds and harasses this guy) contradicts himself a bit.  He says that the president ant declaring war may be a caricature of Harry Truman since he was president when production of this cartoon began at some point in the early 1950's but was released after Eisenhower had since won the 1952 election by the time of its release in 1953.  However, he then claims this cartoon was more about the Korean War coming to an end.  Ant Pasted was released May 9 of 1953 while the Korean War was halted with a cease fire in September of that year.  How could the director Friz Freeing be inspired to make a cartoon about the end of the Korean War at a time when Truman was still president and still determined to keep that war going? And yet he thought my comparison to Joe McCarthy was "off base" even though that was a deeply pressing concern in that time period starting way further back in the late 40's.  Meh.  What's the point of addressing this guy's ramblings any further?

Forget it, Jake. It's the Youtube comment section.


Well really neither of our statements hold much weight because who knows what the director of Ant Pasted, Friz Freleng, would say about our hypotheses if through some miracle of science he could still be alive today.  Maybe he would say "No, this cartoon was me telling Arthur Godfrey that he's a son of a bitch and should stay away from my wife."  But we'll never know, and what does it matter in the grand scheme of time and space?  No matter whose assessment is true or not, I think most animation enthusiasts can agree that many of the WB cartoons are some of the best and most clever short films of all time.  The fact that different people can read different things into what are essentially basic premises whose structure is used as a showcase for quick gags.  That's all part of their genius.  Whatever your opinion is, definitely continue to enjoy the cartoon Ant Pasted with or without commentary.

Happy viewing!!!

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

A look at Tex Avery's swan song



Today is Tex Avery's 111th birthday.  Like I've done on this blog for many years, I will use this day to talk about Tex and his great body of work.  This year, I've chosen to give my overview of the very last cartoon he ever worked on, The Kwicky Koala Show.

Before I do, I'd first like to say that it is unfair to compare this show to the forever classic work Tex did for WB and/or MGM.  For one thing, the theatrical cartoons made in the '30's and '40's had a different schedule than the TV cartoons starting from the late '50's onward to today.  For instance, I read that Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera had to make 10 Tom & Jerry cartoons every year.  Each one was about 7 minutes long and cost about $30,000 each to make.  When Bill & Joe had to produce animation for television, they had to make 26 cartoons per year.  Each one cost only $9000 and was about 26 minutes long.  So they and every other animation studio producing animation for TV had to streamline their production so as to get the very basic semblance of movement as possible while staying within their meagre budgets.  Tex Avery had to do the exact same thing when he started working on Kwicky Koala in 1979.

Another big factor was the management system.  At Warner Bros. for instance the boss Leon Schlesinger gave Tex and all his artists so much freedom to do their creative work.  He'd quickly enter and leave many storyboard sessions saying "you guys know what you're doing" and that was that.  Of course, the one time Leon DID interfere with Tex (the debacle with The Heckling Hare) is when things got rocky and Tex ultimately left for MGM.  There at MGM he had to deal with Fred Quimby.  Fred did not like cartoons at all and could not understand the people who made them.  But at the same time, I think he was a man who knew better than to interfere with something that was profitable.  So, much like with Schlesinger, Tex was basically free to play with his creations at MGM.
Flash foreward to 1979 now.  Sure, fellow animators Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera are running that studio and would gladly give Tex all the creative elbow room he asks for.  However, there are other people with huge clout looming over their studio that need to be appeased, such as TV executives from various networks as well as various PTA activist groups putting demands on the content.


For instance, around that time Hanna Barbera was producing a Popeye show for Saturday morning.  Of course, the fist fighting between Popeye and Bluto had to either be toned down severely or gone entirely.  Then yet another imposition was made with Olive Oyl.  The activists of the day felt that Popeye and Bluto fighting over Olive was demeaning to her.  So everybody's wings were sufficiently clipped for that show.  As stiflingly bad as things were back then, this kind of authoritarian censorship has gotten worse over the years, especially in the UK.


But I digress.  The point is that Tex Avery was not working in the same kind of environment as he was during the golden age and so could only work with the resources that he had.  So, I will now talk about the Kwicky Koala Show and give my assessment of it.

The main star is of course Kwicky Koala.

He's basically a mild mannered unassuming type of milquetoast everyman.  His big gimmick though is that he can disappear and reappear at will.  Especially when that dastardly Wilford Wolf is after him.

Wilford makes his move....

....misses Kwicky completely because the little marsupial has disappeared...

Kwicky then reappears in a whole new location leaving Wilford with a dumbfounded look on his face.  That is pretty much every exchange Kwicky and Wilford have with each other.  Or, as Cecil Turtle might say...
"I do that kind of stuff to him all through the series"

Despite the repetition, it's a fun show to watch.  Wilford Wolf is voiced by John Stevenson and you can tell he's having so much fun doing that voice too.  It must have been a nice change of pace for him after doing the voices of stuffy authority figures like Mr Slate or every policeman and butler in every Hanna Barbera show ever.
This show has other characters as well:

There's also Crazy Claws.  His personality is based entirely from Groucho Marx.  He has a similar voice, makes similar wise cracks, and (true to Groucho form) he would retract any wise cracks he thought weren't good enough.  All the while he's out smarting a prospector with a dog that laughs like Muttley.  There's also a park ranger that has had it up to here with all of them.  He's fun to watch for that reason alone.

Next is Dirty Dawg.  He's kind of a smooth talking homeless dog that's always trying to talk himself into a free meal whenever he can.  He has a friend named Ratzo and they're both chased by an angry police officer.  I personally wasn't as into this one as I was the other two shows here.  It's too bad because Frank Welker does an excellent job as the voice of Dirty Dawg and you can all he's having so much fun with this character.  Maybe Tex didn't give as much attention to this character? I don't know.

In-between the shows are short vignettes of the Bungle Brothers.  They're trying to break into show business with a vaudeville act................... in 1979.  They might as well try to get a job riding for the Pony Express while they're at it.  I guess the main joke of these guys is that they're so hopelessly behind the times and/or they've been trying for their big break ever since vaudeville was relevant and still hold out hope of playing the big stages in Peoria and Cucamonga.

After watching that entire series, I'm hard pressed to pick out which parts Tex worked on and which parts he didn't.
For one thing, he sadly died part way through production.  On August 26, 1980 Tex staggered into work with his face a sickly shade of green.  He didn't know it then, but that green complexion was there because his liver was failing after decades of heavy binge drinking.  Bill Hanna found him and rushed him to he hospital as quickly as he could.  But, nothing could be done to save him.  Tex left us that day.  So, the rest of the episodes were completed by the remaining crew.  The Kwicky Koala show debuted in the early autumn of 1981.
Also, from my own experience of working on animated shows, I know that they don't always begin production with the first episode.  A lot of times the first episode the crew works on is somewhere in the middle like ep10 or 14.  That way the crew has a chance to get a good feel for the show while making their mistakes.  Then, when the crew feels confident in their abilities and well as how the show will be, then they work on the first episode so they can debut the show with their best efforts.  The theory being that when the TV audience is dazzled by the first episode then they're more likely to forgive any mistakes in later episodes.
So, which episodes had Tex done work on before the day of his passing? Your guess is as good as mine.  It would be great if any living artist who worked on that show could give their insight of their experience that would be great and super helpful.

I will end this post with a Kwicky episode that Tex Avery may or may not have worked on, but it certainly has a story structure similar to cartoons Tex did in the past like The Blow Out and Dumb Hounded.  I'd like to think Tex so much of his time on this one, but again clarification of that would be helpful.

Either way, enjoy.  Also, happy birthday, Tex, wherever you are.