Just a little follow-up post to my last one. About six weeks ago, a few members of the NCS LA (the Los Angeles Chapter of the National Cartoonists Society) gathered together at the home of Tom Gammill (writer for The Simpsons) to shoot a video not only for our chapter, but for a comedy bit for the national organization. It debuted at the annual Reuben Awards in Washington D.C. two Saturdays ago during Memorial Day weekend, and is now available for your viewing pleasure online.
The whole video starts with a running gag Tom has been doing where he is living in a pretend marriage with Jeannie Schulz, wife of the late Charles Schulz. The first part of the video features Tom with Sally & Mell Lazarus, Cathy Guisewite, Jeannie Schulz and members of her staff, and Caroline & Arnold Roth.
As you can see, we are a group that enjoys each other. It is fun hanging with these folks as well as with the many others who come to our monthly chapter get-togethers. It is nice when colleagues can have fun together in brother/sisterhood without ugly competitiveness getting in the way. If anything, supporting each other raises all of our games.
I enjoy taking pictures, and I was getting lots of behind-the-scenes photos from our 4 hour shoot. Thought I’d share a few highlights here:
My friends, the wonder twins Tom & Tony Bancroft, have been doing a series of podcasts over recent months that deal with art, comics, animation, and all of the above! Often they interview fascinating colleagues like Aaron Blaise, Don Hahn, and most recently – Glen Keane!
First, Tony & Tom are terrific cartoonists & animation guys themselves. Both worked at Disney for many years where they were animators on films like Beauty & the Beast, Aladdin, Lion King, Mulan, Emperor’s New Groove, and Brother Bear to name a few. Tony was even the co-director of Mulan. While they live on opposite coasts today, the Bancrofts utilize the wonders of technology to create their various podcasts.
Glen Keane is regarded by many to be the greatest animator working in the business today. His career has included bringing to life many Disney favorites such as Arial, the Beast, Aladdin, Pocahontas, Tarzan, John Silver, and more recently was the driving force behind Disney’s Tangled. His latest effort is the glorious short called Duet that played theatrically, but also has an interactive version for Motorola phones.
I encourage you to listen to the approximately hour long interview where the Bancrofts talk a bit about Glen’s career, and talk to Glen about some real concepts, philosophies about the approach to animation and storytelling. Oh, and towards the end, they ask Glen a goofball question of mine. Just click on the image above to go to the podcast! And down below, please watch Glen’s Duet if you have not already seen it!
Perhaps my favorite kind of music next to film scores are the tunes from the Great American Songbook by yesterday’s crooners like Bing Crosby, Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, Perry Como, Johnny Mercer, Mel Tormé, and especially Nat King Cole. Cole’s smokey smooth tones infused with a bit of jazz are at once nostalgic, comforting, and yeah, I’ll say it – romantic. His is the voice I imagine would come from my mouth should the opportunity to serenade a young lady comes along.
Lest I actually open my mouth and frighten you all away with the true nature of my voice, perhaps for now just a sketch of the great Nat King Cole is in order…
It is hard to believe that thirteen years ago the great animator and designer Marc Davis (one of Walt Disney’s famed Nine Old Men) passed away. I was part of a group from Disney that went over to his home to help his wife archivally store the art in Marc’s studio. Each flat file unearthed a new treasure trove of drawings that no one but Marc probably had ever seen. One drawer in particular made an impression on me. As each piece of paper was lifted, there was sketch after sketch Marc had drawn in person of jazz musicians during the heyday of the Los Angeles jazz scene. Included were drawings he created of the great Nat King Cole during live performances! Oh to have been a fly on THAT wall!
Speaking of performances, here’s a nifty introduction to that great King Cole voice! Enjoy!
Earlier this week I shared with you some of my photos taken from the balcony during the 2013 Annie Awards held at Royce Hall on the campus of UCLA in Los Angeles. What made the evening a little more special is that it happened to be the 40th anniversary of the Annies.
Never to miss an opportunity to be a support to an industry that has supported her for most of her 95 years, the First Lady of Animation June Foray was in attendance. June is legendary for her many vocal roles in film and television. You know her as Rocky from Rocky & Bullwinkle, Witch Hazel from Bugs Bunny and Donald Duck cartoons, she was the meowing cat Lucifer in Disney’s Cinderella, Cindy-Lou Who from the Grinch cartoon, the creepy Talky Tina from The Twilight Zone, and Granny from Tweety & Sylvester cartoons among many, many others. She is one of a handful of voice actors to have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
June Foray is an ASIFA-Hollywood founding member. She and a few other folks founded the organization because they felt that there wasn’t much support for animation here in Los Angeles. In 1972, she thought there should be awards for the industry, and an idea was born that carries on to this day.
Below is a short film that was shown during the recent awards ceremony. Filmed in a documentary style, the short shows June and others (including Margaret Kerry, the live action model for the animated Tinkerbell in Disney’s Peter Pan) recounting the early days of ASIFA-Hollywood and the founding of the Annie Awards. My good friend Brian Joseph Ochab directed the piece. If you follow my blog, you might recognize Brian’s name from when he and I were trying to get a short Tim Burton tribute film off the ground. This piece was also produced by our friend and ASIFA-Hollywood board member David Derks, with an original music score by Peter Deneff.
Back in the beginning of 2011, I was asked to help out a bit with the pilot for a new Care Bears television series. The director, Jeff Gordon (no relation to the race care driver, but he can manipulate a mean pencil) was developing it at a studio called Moonscoop for broadcast on The Hub channel. Yep, those of you with The Hub know that it has already begun to air just this past June.
One of the things Jeff asked me to do was to design a squirrel family – a mama, papa and baby squirrel. I got the ball rolling with some developmental designs for all three and took them as far as I could go before I moved on to begin working on another project for Moonscoop. The squirrel family made it into the show, and even appear in the opening titles of The Care Bears.
I thought I would show you some of my drawings of the baby squirrel. As you can see, the young toothy one went through a transformation over the four images here. I’m sure he changed even more from this to the final because the show is done in CG (computer generated).
In case you are curious of how the squirrels turned out, you can see them in the opening title sequence of the show. Covered in turquoise fur, they only get seen from behind during the song, but make their presence known in some of the episodes. Perhaps another time I can show some other characters I drew during the development of the pilot.
I wanted to say a few words about the great Stan Freberg today. Do you know who he is? He has been a gold record selling comedian, cartoon voice actor, movie and television actor, radio show host, a puppeteer, an author and a pioneer of using humor in advertising. He even came up with the name “Grammy” for the recording industry’s highest award. And if you are in the Los Angeles area this weekend (August 4-5, 2012), you have a chance to shake his hand and get an autograph. (DETAILS HERE!)
Stan Freberg got his start in the entertainment business as a teenager. He literally got off the bus in Hollywood and immediately landed a job doing voices for the classic Warner Bros. cartoons. That’s right, despite all the title cards saying Mel Blanc did all the voices, Stan was right there doing many voices as well along with folks like June Foray, Arthur Q. Bryan and others.
Perhaps Stan’s most iconic Warner Bros. character was Pete Puma, the mountain lion who Bugs Bunny tricked into getting many lumps pounded into his head in several cartoons. Stan also did the hilarious Junyer Bear who was far too big for his diaper. He was also one half (the other half being Mel Blanc) of the mice Hubie & Bertie and half of the Goofy Gophers. The list of other characters is quite long including being the voice of a cat in the first Speedy Gonzales cartoon.
The one time Stan got screen credit was when he was the ONLY voice in an entire Warner Bros. cartoon. Friz Freleng directed Stan in The Three Little Bops that was a zoot suited version of the story of the Three Little Pigs. Stan sang the song and voiced every character.
Stan did cartoon vocal work for other studios, too. Disney was one. He sang a song about the Jabberwocky for Alice In Wonderland that Walt ultimately cut from the movie, but he also memorably did the voice of the beaver in Lady and the Tramp. As you recall, the beaver helps get the muzzle off of Lady when she and Tramp come to see him at the zoo. Walt Disney himself directed Stan in that performance.
Out of a pure indulgence of mine, I also want to mention Stan’s role as the Yawning Man in the 1958 movie Tom Thumb. Tom Thumb was a wonderful fantasy movie directed by the great George Pal who loved incorporating stop-motion animation into his movies. He did it the hard way, too. The characters faces would all be sculpted in wood. George had Stan play a small but memorable role of a toy that helps put Tom Thumb (played by Russ Tamblyn from West Side Story) to sleep. Here’s the scene for you to see. I dare you to not yawn during this wonderful vocal performance by Freberg:
I first learned of Stan’s name when I was in high school. I was working at a summer camp on an island in the Delaware River sharing a cabin with several other staff guys. My friend Kevin Wertz had a copy of Freberg’s The United States of America album on a cassette tape that we listened to over and over after our long day’s work. That just might be the funniest album by any comedian I have ever heard, and am thrilled to have my own signed copy on LP framed on the wall in my studio. Later I discovered that Stan had made MANY records, most of which were song parodies of the day. His cover of Harry Bellefonte’s Banana Boat Song put me in stitches. It is no surprise that “Weird” Al Yankovic counts Stan as one of his inspirations.
Another guy inspired by Stan was the late Jim Henson. Stan, along with Daws Butler, were the guys who brought Bob Clampett’s creations of Beany & Cecil to life as a live television puppet show called Time For Beany. Stan was the original Cecil the Seasick Sea Serpent as well as Dishonest John. Stan once told me how he showed a young Jim Henson how to make Kermit the Frog seem as though he was smiling.
Freberg’s later career as an advertising man broke new ground for that industry. He broke away from the fake testimonial ads common in the day, and from the ads that made all kinds of promises to make ads that made people laugh. He was wildly successful and we have had funny ads ever since. One of the big accounts Stan had was doing all the TV and radio ads for the movie It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World in which he also had a silent cameo (he’s the sheriff’s deputy sitting in the background of Andy Divine’s scenes), but he also did funny ads for Sunsweet Prunes, Geno’s Pizza and many others.
As you can tell, I love the guy. I could go on and on about his career, but you would be better served if you could find a copy of his out-of-print autobiography titled It Only Hurts When I Laugh so that you can read his funny tales about all of the above and more in his own words. If you come see Stan this weekend at The Hollywood Show in Burbank, you might be lucky enough to score one of the few copies he has left.
That’s right, so if you would like to come see Stan, shake his hand, and get an autograph he is appearing at the Burbank Marriott by the airport along with many other Hollywood celebrities. To see more details about The Hollywood Show and who will be there, CLICK HERE! Stan will have photos of Pete Puma, the beaver and other shots of himself for sale. He has a couple of books, and some record albums and CDs from his own collection that he will be selling, along with a few copies of Warner Bros. Looney Tunes Golden Collection Volume 2 that has cartoons of Junyer Bear, Pete Puma and The Three Little Bops on it (Stan even provides voice commentary on that set)!
Oh, and if you drop by, be sure to wish Stan a Happy Birthday! He will be 86 years old on August 7!
This morning, NBC’s Today Show gave a little sneak peek at a few of the floats that will be in Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade this year. I was surprised to learn that there will be a Zhu Zhu Pets float based on our little animated Quest for Zhu movie that is currently on DVD. I was even more surprised to see that at least one of the characters, Pipsqueak, is based off of a drawing I did back in the development process of the movie!
While an annual tradition for New York City, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade was also a tradition in the Frye home. We always would watch it on television, but as Jersey people, we had also gone to see it live on the freezing city streets. (I remember fondly seeing the Big Bird balloon getting sucked down an alley by a gust of wind with all the balloon handlers being dragged behind it – good stuff that they never show you on TV.) To have a small influence on a float in this year’s parade is truly mind-bending for me.
Here’s the clip from today’s Today Show! I’ll be looking forward to seeing the full float on television on Thanksgiving day! Enjoy!
Today is the day! The Zhu Zhu Pets movie, The Quest for Zhu, is now available for purchase! Just think of it, your kids can enjoy the fun of hamsters while you will never have to deal with any of the smell!
ANYWAY, back to sharing some art with you. Today’s art created for the end credits sequence focuses on a moment of excitement from the film when a rope bridge breaks. Why anyone crosses those things in movies is beyond me. If any of those characters had ever seen a rope bridge in a movie themselves, they would know it is going to break. But I digress….
By the way, I keep sharing THIS LINK with you that sends you to Amazon where you can order the movie. This particular edition comes with two little toys of the characters that are based on some of my early character drawings that I shared with you a few weeks back (click here to see those drawings again).