Wednesday, August 30, 2006

James Cagney

For years, this man was just a bad impersonation to me. The only thing I associated the name James Cagney with were hammy comedians going "You dirty rat. You killed my brother." all the time. I knew he was an actor and a legend and all that but his name never really did much for me.
But, then I purchased a Warner Bros. gangsters DVD box set, many of which star Cagney. Now I know why this man became a legend and pretty much set the standard for gangster films ever since. Wow! That man could act. His level of intensity that he brought to each one of his performances is nothing short of breath-taking. He practically leaps off the screen and slugs you one right in the kisser, he's so dynamic. And yet, he quite often manages to pull off another neat trick at the same time. You're always rooting for him. Even when he plays the most despicable, the most sleazy, or even the most downright evil character ever, you still want him to win in the end and even feel a bit sad when his gangster character is gunned down after years of corruption.

Live action actors and definitely animators can learn alot from studying this man and his work. If you can capture even 1/5th of his intensity, you're doing great. My first attempt at drawing him and his various emotions is below. Some of the pictures are better than others of course, but I think I'm on my way to learning what makes him tick and how to apply that to my other work.

Tell me what you think either about these drawings or about Cagney himself.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

The Friz Freleng Diamond Anniversary Blogathon

Yes, August 21 is the birthday of one Isadore "Friz" Freleng. However, 2006 is only one of the years that Friz could have turned 100. There's evidence that supports him being born in 1904 or 1905 as well. He did have a younger brother named Allen who was born in 1907. That gives us a bit of a clue.

Oh well, exactly how old the man would have been had he been granted the priviledge of never dying is irrelevent compared to the contributions he made to the animation industry. I'll name a bunch right now.

Like most of animation's greats, Friz started off working for Walt Disney around the mid 1920's. According to Merritt & Kaufman’s “Walt in Wonderland” Freleng’s first animation for Disney was on Alice’s Knaughty Knight (Jan 1927). On his 3rd picture (Alice’s Picnic) he had a scene of a mother cat washing her kittens in a tub. To make the scene more interesting he had one of the kittens crawl out of the tub and drop to the ground, and the mother cat grab it and put it back in. When Walt saw the scene he called it to everyone’s attention. “That little kitten didn’t just jump out of the water, he climbed up and hung there and dropped down like a little kid would do,” he said, “Friz did it this way and made him act like a little kid. That’s what I want to see in the pictures. I want the characters to be somebody. I don’t want them just to be a drawing.” So you see, it was Friz who took cartoons to a whole new level by adding little subtle movements in order to give the figures more personality. How many great animated masterpieces wouldn't have been possible without that?

When Hugh Harman and Rudolf Ising had "professional differences" with Walt and walked out on him, Friz followed both of them along with many others. They're first task as independant artists was to create a pilot film featuring a character they hoped would become a star, namely Bosko. Friz provided much of the animation in this pilot. When the Bosko film landed them a job making cartoons for Warner Bros. under Leon Schlesiner, Friz was the head animator on all of them. Friz constantly asked Harmon & Ising if he could be promoted to the director's chair but for some reason they never complied. Even when almost everyone walked out on Leon over budget disputes and set up shop a MGM, Friz was not made a director.

Fed up with waiting, Friz went back to Leon Schlesinger. A man named Earl Duvall had just completed two films as a last ditch effort to prove his worth at the studio. Leon was less than impressed with what he saw. Friz took those films and re-editted them and fixed or improved and timing problems they had. Leon was so impressed by what Friz had done that Earl was immediately fired and Friz was made the head director of the entire studio. A year later, he would create Porky Pig their first major star. (Yes, some people believe that Bob Clampett created Porky by drawing that picture of Porky and Beans for the character design contest the studio had. But, that arguement comes around again because Clampett got the model of the Porky he drew from the model sheet Friz made for Porky's first cartoon I Haven't Got a Hat).

Also, if it wasn't for Friz Freleng, Chuck Jones wouldn't have realized his potential. Chuck Jones' first years as a director at Warner Bros. were a bit shaky to say the least. His penchant to try to immitate the Disney style really put a damper on the irreverent Looney Tuney-ness they had come to establish. For this reason, Leon Schlesinger was ready to demote Jones back down to animator. But, Friz Freleng stepped forward and said, "Come on, Leon, give the kid a chance. He'll make you proud someday." So, Jones stayed a director and did indeed made the entire studio proud to have him. Jones accomplishments are to be the subject of an entirely different post so I won't pad an already lengthy post with them.

Besides Porky, Friz would create two other major characters at the studio: Sylvester and Yosemite Sam. When Bob Clampett exitted the studio (for reasons that are clouded in mystery to this day) Friz asked if he could pair Bob's little Tweety bird with his cat Sylvester. The result was not only a brilliant comedic team but also got Looney Tunes it's first Oscar for the cartoon Tweetie Pie (c. 1947). Friz won another Oscar with Sylvester & Tweety for Birds Anonymous (c. 1957) and even won with Yosemite Sam for Knighty Knight Bugs (c. 1958).

But Friz would also win an Oscar with someone else's character. Bob McKimson created Speedy Gonzales in a catoon called Cat Tails for Two (c. 1953). Speedy somewhat acted like his familiar self but he looked a little different. All he wore was a red T-shirt and had a gold tooth. For some reason, McKimson planned to walk away from that character. So, Friz picked him up and had his layout man Hawley Pratt redesign him into the sombrero clad hero we know him as today. That cartoon, Speedy Gonzales (c. 1955) went on to win an Oscar. McKimson would come back to Speedy and make the Oscar nominated Tobasco Road (c. 1957). After that, Friz and McKimson would each assume the duties of making Speedy cartoons.

The studio closed down in 1962. However, Friz was not caught with his guard down. He had been involved in a partnership with David DePatie for a while at that point. So, when the hammer came down, the two men started their own studio. Since they were using the very animation equipment and studios that Warner Bros. had just abandoned, Jack Warner himself that they release cartoons through Warner Bros. as well. So, the DePatie Freleng studio went to work on a new series of Roadrunner cartoons (sadly without Chuck Jones directing them) as well as Daffy & Speedy cartoons. The budgets on those were consierably lower because the studio was also working on an original character of their's namely the Pink Panther. That character did much better. He won an Oscar in 1964 for The Pink Phink even.

Despite all these ccomplishments, John K has taken many oppurtunities to belittle the man on his blog as well as in interviews. Well, since today is Friz's day, I'll let him deal with John.

No more anonymous comments

That's right, folks, I had to turn off the anonymous comments option. Recently, a nest of internet trolls got into my blog and laid their eggs which caused a huge infestation. Since DDT or a roach motel would have been useless for a blog, I therefore had to use what would work. For now, turning off the anonymous comments should do just fine. If things get worse, I may have to use the other options available to me.

But, I think this preventative measure should suffice. Like the commercial says: "Turning off the anonymous comments kills trolls dead." >:P

Friday, August 18, 2006

Jeff Mullet

Here's another TV show idea I have. It's about this guy named Jeff Mullet. Basically, he thinks he can do everything when in actual fact he can do nothing. He'll walk around this great big world of ours. Once an episode, he'll see a job that needs doing and instantly think that he's the ideal man for that job. He'll then fake his way into the area, assume the duties, screw them up completely, and then get run out of town or wherever it all takes place.

By the way, everyone who went to animation school with me knows EXACTLY who this guy is patterned after. ;)

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

And that's the way it is August 9, 2006.

August 9, 2006 is quite a significant day. "Why?" you may ask. Well, it is the 32nd anniversary of the day one Richard Milhouse Nixon 'cut and ran' from his own presidential post as a result of his low approval rating. "But how is that significant for today?" you're probably asking. Well, let's compare Mr. Nixon with Mr. Coo-Coo Bananas in charge right now and see for ourselves.

A: Nixon was re-elected for a second term amid many protests and had low approval ratings in the middle of that second term.
George W. Bush was also re-elected (well, actually just elected for the first time) for a second term amid huge protests and has very low approval ratings within the middle of this his second term.

B: Nixon kept America in an unjust war inwhich atrocious war crimes were carried out and that divided the country down the middle all just to support some hidden political agenda.
George W. Bush STARTED an unjust war inwhich atrocious war crimes are carried out and that has divided the country down the middle once again all just to support a hidden political agenda.

C: Many damning scandals were uncovered within Nixon's administration such as the Watergate break-in, the recorded tapes of Nixon making anti-semetic remarks, and his using tax payers money to "silence" those who opposed him like Jane Fonda or John Lennon all lead to a low approval rating.
Many of George Bush's scandals are in plain view such as the Abu Grahb prison atrocities, the torture done at the Guantanamo Bay prison, a huge enough anti-Latino stance that the building of a wall along the U.S./Mexican border is deemed necessary for some reason (and don't say "to stop illegal immigration" because we all know that's bullshit), the start of a massive war in Iraq (despite no evidence of any destructive weapons) which has escalated into a situation in the Middle East many journalists are dubbing as World War III, etc......... etc........... all have lead to the president's low approval rating.

And yet, there is a fundamental difference between these two men that should disturb everyone. By August 9th, 1974 of the second term Nixon was gone. However, here it is today August 9th, 2006 of Bush's second term and HE'S STILL IN OFFICE!!!!! Surely if there was the equivalent of Woodward, Bernstein, or Deepthroat around today, George Bush would be resigning in disgrace right now. But, nope, that hasn't happened. In fact, he'll probably be still around August 10th, 11th, 12th, 13th, even as far as January 20, 2009. Who knows what crazy or annoying or downright criminal scandals will occur between now and then because Dubya is as hard to get rid of as the worst form of cancer.

How is he managing to stay in office???

Oh. I guess that answers that.

I'd like to end this post with a favourite comic strip of mine. Sure it was made a whole 20 years ago and the George Bush it mentions is George Bush senior who was only Vice President at the time. But, I think this particular strip applies as much to the present day Bush as it did to the old Bush. Enjoy!

Have fun in the coming apocolypse everyone.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Paula-Jean's birthday

Remember this sister of mine? Well, I have another sister. Her name is Paula-Jean and she turns 28 today. Her double name is a combination of both our grandma's names, Pauline on the maternal side and Jeanne on the paternal side.
Her basic personality, she's cwaaaaaaaaaaaaaazy. But that does help when working with kids. Thusly, she manages many youth activities at the YMCA in Medicine Hat, Alberta and from what I've heard she's doing a bang-up job of it too.

If you know Paula-Jean, leave her a happy birthday comment on this blog or even just say "hi". But, if you don't know Paula-Jean, don't say anything because you suck. >:P (No, I'm just kidding. You can leave a comment if you don't know her as well, but still realize that you do indeed suck. >:P >:P )

Sunday, August 06, 2006

I've got a new second cousin

Her name is Abigail. She was born June 4 of this year. Above is the card I plan to give her along with her present. I'm hoping that she and her parents will like it.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

New possibly controversial monkey

As the text under the picture indicates (I must emphasize this in as big and bold a text as I can), THIS IS NOT AN IMAGE OF THE ISLAM PROPHET MUHAMMED!!! What it is though is a representation of the zany Muslim zealots who go nuts whenever they see an image of Muhammed or even if they think they see his image. Worse yet is that they try and justify their violence by stating how these images defile Him so much. There are some recent murmurs like this over an episode of South Park from Season 5 (an episode I happily own on DVD by the way).

Nation of Islam, I'd like to be frank with you for a bit. I'll start by telling you a brief bit of history of the Catholic Church. For years and years, all the masses and other ceremonies were done entirely in Latin. This was a practice continued well into the 20th century. However, this caused many people to decry this church as out-dated and irrelevent to today. So, in 1960, something called Vatican II was organized. This brought many religious leaders together in order to hold a series of meetings so that they could find ways to modernize the church while still keeping with its traditional values. One of the things thankfully thrown out was the Latin. This and a few other changes brought many parishoners back to the church and Catholicism is still quite strong today, minus the priest/boy molestation of course. No, the church is indeed not perfect, but noone has any malatav cocktails to throw at anybody.

Islam, you need a Vatican II equivalent now more than ever. Or maybe you needed one back before Osama bin Laden and George W. Bush started this whole mess.

In any case, the monkey above will be joining these monkeys along with this monkey and these wittle monkeys too. Watch for all of them in a new adventure coming...................... I'm not sure when.