Musical Commercial

Here’s a little ad for the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra that we helped Liesje Kraai and David Cowles make.

Liesje made the sets and characters from paper. We shot it on a Sunday using the video setting of a Pentax still camera.

I puppeted the piano in the first scene -two hands and a mouth.

Coverage Vs. Depth

Often it’s best not to think about animation. I know, I know, Dick Williams says think about all the time and do it all the time, but solutions regularly come when the mind is set to other things.

Friday, at a seminar on Liberal Arts Education in the Twenty-First Century, I figured out an animation problem (it should be a sneak, not a walk).  It also gave me a lot to think about regarding animation education.

Standardized education in America focuses on survey knowledge.  A lot of facts, not necessarily comprehension of their relationship to one another.  Coverage.

Even in animation education, already a specialized field, a common -and successful -pedagogy is for students to become miniature production entities.  In our field this may not be a net negative as long as connections to the broader scheme are enforced.

More harmful, in animation studies, the teaching of facts which imply there are “right” and “wrong” answers.  Exercises from Preston Blair or Tony White provide these “correct” answers but at the expense of exploration and the intense confrontation with ideas that can lead not just to problem solving- but to a fuller understanding of the medium.

If a Liberal Arts education develops ways for students to create strategies of intellectual inquiry (or survival in a chaotic universe), a student should complete an animation education with the ability to animate, sure, but more importantly the ability to use animation as a means of solving storytelling problems.

You Get What You Pay For

I don’t like to spread negativity with this blog, but these subway ads embarrass me.  Every time I see them, I sort of cringe and hide my face lest something recognize me as someone remotely associated with drawing and hold me somehow responsible.

You may have seen EZ Pawn’s cringeworthy  commercials featuring a thrift store Uncle Sam if you’ve got TV insomnia.

Usually when I see these low end, direct spots I think -use some simple illustration you can make a nice spot with this same small budget.

There’s no accounting for taste.

Cartoons of Glory

This is an article from the November 3, 1986 New York Magazine that was in The Ink Tank pressbook.  I won’t repost all the copy, click the images to read everything.

The photo on page one is from an MTV ID designed by Mark Marek. The actress is R. O. Blechman’s mother-in-law.

Cartoonist R. O. Blechman, known for his squiggly line, was frustrated.  The head of The Ink Tank, an eight year old studio that makes animated films and television commercials, Blechman had spent the whole day trying to bring to life a storyboard for Serenity, a new product for incontinent women.  But the resolution and dissolves “weren’t working -the whole thing looked banal,” so he decided to scrap the agency suggestion and start fresh.  The revised spot opens with animation, segues into a live action sequence, and closes with animation.  Ordinarily, Blechman rejects the conventional ad-industry wisdom that live action is credible and animation is not, but in this case, he agreed the patch of reality worked.

The article then discusses some of the studio’s spots before getting to “a computer system recently installed at the Tape House Editorial Company… The new computer, nicknamed the Harry system, ‘lets you juggle and edit out anything -an offending pole, say -in live action or animation.'”  That’s the Paintbox system which would open a new chapter in special effects history.


Pan Productions has begun to specialize in “color xerography”.  The studio takes live action footage, Xeroxes it frame by frame, and colors the copy to produce an animated effect.  Los Angeles based Kurtz & Friends has created a futuristic spot for Toyota in which an illustrated sports car becomes a real Supra…

Perpetual Animation created a combination spot for Home Box Office that shows an animated family in a three-dimensional set, watching live-action movie clips on their cartoon TV.  Jerry Lieberman productions put real script erasable pens into the hands of animated people…

…Buzzco Associates has created a series of ads combining  live action and animation: a cartoon vacuum cleaner hosing around real-life cans of Love My Carpet; real babies crying animated tears for WMET radio; an animated viewer watching live-action TV for Lifetime Cable; and a drawing of a made-up eye becoming a real eye for Aziza eye shadow…

Then Candy Kugel points out this sort of thing has been around forever but technology makes it easier.

 …Nine years ago, Mark Zander Productions dropped comedian Bob Hope onto a remote oil rig operated by animated Texaco workers.  More recently Zander cast an animated basset hound in a chorus line of live dancers stomping and kicking for Hush Puppies shoes, and in a spot for Shick Plus  razors, planted a fuzzy white cartoon beard on the face of a real-life man. (The sudden appearance of the animated facial hair terrifies a crowd.)

Then there’s some pretty banal history which tries to elevate itself by calling Walt “Walter Elias Disney”.

The resurgence in commercial animation has been stimulated by advances in technology and by the work of artist like Blechman, who formed The Ink Tank in 1978 after producing an animated TV special. The Ink Tank’s next project is an allegorical film The Golden Ass, which tells the story of a young man who, having been magically transformed into a donkey, struggles to regain his human form. The story recalls Blechman’s award-winning TV film, The Soldier’s Tale, in which a peasant soldier trades his fiddle to the Devil in return for great wealth, and find happiness only when the trade is reversed.

With big dollar advertising, Blechman feels he has made a personal Mephistophelian swap. In the sixties, he refused to advertise cigarettes, promote Muzak, or sell illustrations to Playboy. “But between these black and white poles lay a vast gray (and green!) world of commissions, and I did not know how to chart my course,” he writes in his book, Behind the Lines.

Blechman has since learned. The Ink Tank is accepting more project than ever before -45 so far in 1986 -and many, like the Serenity ad, are animation-live action mixes. “Advertising is dead if it doesn’t attract attention,” says Blechman. “Mixing live action and animation does just that.”

Top Cel Vol 2, #10- 7/8/45: Cobean Cartoons, Credits

The cartoons on this page were drawn by Sam Cobean, former Disney-Universal-Screen Gems storyman now a T/4 in the US Army.  In addition to his work in The New Yorker, Sam’s drawings are published by Mademoiselle, Colliers, Saturday Evening Post and assorted advertisements.  Cobean told us his cartoons are also appearing in an OWI exhibit in Paris and in the gent’s rooms in a number of Third Ave. bars.


With the vacation period so close, members should make arrangements for an early payment of dues and fines so that all money matters are settled by vacation time.  At Terrytoons some members are consistently in arrears.  Until now they have been notified to help avoid the $2.00 fine, but henceforth, no notice will be given, and the fine will be applied automatically as the Brotherhood constitution orders.

Letter from Wm. M. Weiss, Vice-President, Terrytoon, Inc.: 

Screen Cartoonists Local 1461
800 Riverside Dr., NY, NY

Attention of Mr. Pepe Ruiz, Business Agent.

In reply to your letter of recent date please be advised that we are willing to extend the present contract under the same terms and conditions for a year from the expiration date.  Please acknowledge receipt of this letter indicating your acceptance or rejection of this off.

Very truly yours,

Terrytoons Inc.,
(s) Wm. M. Weiss
Vice President
(Registered Mail Return Receipt Requested)

And our answer:

Terrytoons, Inc.
271 North Avenue
New Rochelle, NY

Attention of Mr. Wm. M. Weiss, Vice President


In view of the position expressed by the Terry Unit and the General Membership at the 11 June meeting in New Rochelle, the Executive Board last night has unanimously agree to accept only a contract similar to that originally proposed to you.  We would appreciate you setting an early date for a meeting with our Negotiating Committee and Attorney to discuss this matter in full.

In answer to your inquiry, the address to which all union mail should be addressed is 800 Riverside Drive, New York 32 NY.

Very truly yours,

Screen Cartoonists Local 1461
(s) Pepe Ruiz
Business Agent

War Labor Board approval on the Willard contract will be delayed a week or two because the request for proration of the vacation time on a one day per month basis has forced the Board to reconsider its policy on this point.  We may also get a maximum of four weeks severance pay on a one day basis.  Those clauses are a great improvement over other contracts in the industry and both may be approved.

At Famous the dispute case over our contract was certified to the Board on June 21.  The hearing will probably take place before the vacation period.


Being a union member entails certain responsibilities in return for the benefits that the union gives.  One of these responsibilities is the exercising of common sense when speaking to the employer on union matters.

The union does not take the position of discouraging chats with the employer.  There is a wide range of subjects that might be discussed in such conversations.  If the subject starts weering toward union matters, however, then it is sensible to realize that they can speak freely and then have their Agent or Lawyer carry their thoughts to the employer.  It is peculiar sensation to discover that you have said something at a meeting only to find that a thoughtless member has distorted or misinterpreted your thoughts and then has proceeded to discuss your opinions freely with the employer.

A union exists for the mutual benefit of all its members.  And even though it is sometimes slow in attaining its objectives, it nevertheless is in there trying.  It has to, because it is really made up of you, and you, and you.

So protect yourself and your fellow employees by not discussing union matters with the employer.

“WLB order calling for wage boots of approximately $50,000.00 yearly is being appealed by Disney Prod. Company heads declared that lower-bracket worker were given substantial tilts by WLB.  Already had been handed increases amounting to 25.6%.  It also contented in appeal that board did not take into consideration evidence pertaining to financial condition of company, etc.”  (From Daily Variety, June 6/45)
“Ninety-nine per cent of all possibilities in Latin America now play Walt Disney feature and short subjects, Leo Samuels, Disney’s sales manager, said here yesterday following a two-and-a-half month trip.  Samuels  said that The Three Caballeros would gross $700,000 in Latin America and that business on the picture was hitting new marks.  In 10 weeks at the Alameda in Mexico City, the picture grossed more than Snow White, Pinocchio, Fantasia, and Saludos Amigos are being dubbed in French and Dumbo is being dubbed in Swedish.  More than 50 prints of Bambi are being readied for Russia”  (From Film Daily, June 7/45).


A GI friend of ours asked us whether we could get him the credit list for those responsible for The Three Caballeros.  He mentioned how hard it was to find out, with the flash they pass in front of you, who animated or wrote the story of a cartoon.  Our answer was that in one reeler there was not much you could add.  However, his complaint was that even in full length cartoons our producers seem to be too conservative when the time came to give screen credit.

Actually, we don’t know what can be done about it.  We are sure the Producers are conscious of the problem, but incidentally, why don’t all cartoon producers give full credit to the different departments like Disney does?

The Three Caballeros screen credit

Prod. Supervision Director……………………….Norman Ferguson
Production Manager………………………………..Dan Keefe
Sequence Directors…………………………………Clyde Geronimi, Jack Kinney, Bill Roberts
Story……………………………………………………..Elmer Plummer, Ernest Terrazas, Homer Brightman
                                                                      Ted Sears, Roy Williams, Bill Peed, William Contrell
                                                                       Ralph Wright, Del Connell, James Bodrero
Musical Directors……………………………………Charles Wolcott, Edward Plum, Paul J. Smith
Lyricist………………………………………………….Ray Gilbert
Art Supervisor………………………………………..Mary Blair, Ken Anderson, Robert Cormack
Process Effects……………………………………….Ub Iwerks
Film Editor…………………………………………….Don Halliday
Sound……………………………………………………C. O. Slyfeild
Life Action Sequences Photography………….R. Rennenhan
Art Director……………………………………………R. F. Irvine
Choreography…………………………………………Billy Daniels, A. Oliveira, C. Maracci
Sorry W. S… we still can not tell you who did the layouts, animation, backgrounds, et cetera.
The eleven-year drive to “get” Harry Bridges West Coast labor leader and president of the International Longshoremen’s and Warehousemen’s Union, and send him back to where he came from (Australia), was stopped cold last week, at long last, by the US Supreme Court.
By a vote 5 to 3, the land’s highest court said that Biddle (Francis Biddle, outgoing attorney general) had no leg to stand on in his tireless effort to deport the CIO leader.  The Supreme Court held that the trial of Bridges was unfair, that there was no evidence he was a Communist, or “affiliated” with the Communist Party.
Supporting this opinion, Justice Murphy wrote that seldom, if ever in the history of this country has there been “such a concentrated and relentless crusade to deport an individual because he dared to exercise the freedom that belongs to him as a human being and that is guaranteed to him by the Constitution.”
The exciting contest at Famous of “Animator, animator, who will be an animator?” is still racing ahead at full speed  with Bill Hudson and Woody Gelman being the last hopeful survivors.
Many months ago we reported in these columns that the columns that the company, wishing to be  strictly impartial, of course, decided to hold a contest to see which of its Assistants could be promoted to animation.  Your Executive Board and Business Agent believe the company was sincere and urged the fellows to try for the job.  Some did.
After the usual delays, the momentous decision was announced.  Lo and behold, a miraculous new invention was able to record a photo finish in animation.  Hudson and Gelman!!! After watching their work during the contest and for years before that, the company still could not tell which was ready to animate.
Hairbreath Hudson and Galloping Gelman rushed into a run-off. In all sincerity they finished another scene, waited patiently again.  They’re still waiting.
One wonders why this contest was held in the first place.  If an animator was really needed why didn’t the company select one right away instead of working along without a new one?  Surely the company knows which of its men, if any, can handle the job.  And if in their opinion none of them can, why not be honest about it instead of keeping false hopes alive?
Studio office workers in Hollywood hit the jackpot for $860,000.  New wage agreement, inked by all but two major lots and calling for a 7% tilt in weekly salary minimums for 2,500 clerical workers, was approved by the War Labor Board.  It was retroactive to Jan 1, 1944.
Unions cannot get away with a constitution which restricts membership to whites and American Indians, according to the US Supreme Court in a decision affecting an AFL union in NY.  The case involved the AFL Railway Mail Association.  The New York branch decided to defy the international by writing into its local constitution that all in the trade were eligible for membership. The international appealed to the courts to stop the local on the ground that its own constitution limited membership to those “of the Caucasian race or a native American Indian.”
The War Labor Board rules that employers may give workers all day Saturday or Sunday afternoon off between now and September 15 without making deductions from pay for time off.  The announcement said employers did not need Board permission to pay regular wages, without deductions, for the shortened work week.

“…I was interested in McDermott’s description of the Marines on Okinawa.  That’s called esprit de corps I guess, but I know exactly what he means.  I’ve felt it many times.  The days I didn’t go out I used to watch the group forming… the sky filled with noise, the red flares as identification.  I could see all the guys I knew up there. The ones I like, the ones I didn’t know and somehow they were all one.  I’ve seen them come back, tired, beat, somehow pulling the formation tight as they went over the field to peel off and land.  Nothing but pride could do it.  They wanted the outfit to look good, that’s all.  “My head is bloody but unbowed.”  Maybe it is baloney but you’ve goo to have something.  I’ve stood in the Briefing room waiting for interrogation, the shot of whiskey warm in my belly and listened in a kind of daze to the snatches of conversations, profane as any Mac ever heard… “I saw six chutes…. the bastard blew up.  No chance…”  “Yeah, he was a good sonofabitch,” …”No, no chance.” “Hi ya, ya old Buzzard?  I thought I seen you blow up.” …I’d look around and see then all talking and hollering, still keyed up, dirty, unshaven, rings around their faces where the oxygen mask had been, pistols slungs carelessly -and I could almost hear the music -almost, but not quite!…..”
Dave Hilberman going to camera school in Long Island.  At a party given for him by the Massies there were, among others, Cl. Hartman, Bob Perry, Art Moore, Wilbur Streech, Bob Laffingwell, Sam Cobean, Lou Guarnier, John Barron, etc.
Evie Ireland was married at the Roger Smith Hotel in White Plains.
T/4 Robert Faro is now with a US Mission in Norway.
The Capt. Sidney Smiths (nee Bel Wienber) honeymoon in Atlantic City.
Ed and Happy Saylor wish to announce the arrival of Jean Catherine on 6/26, weight 8 lb.
Perry Rosove, a Cpl. and a gunner on a B-9 is in town on furlough.
Edith Vernick, now in civies, called in the Famousites.
Martha Cochrane formerly at Terry’s now an inker at Disney’s/
Cpl. Frank Spalding now in Paree.
Ex-Gems Sgt. Wendell Ehret’s new comic book is in all book stores in New York.  It is highly recommended.
Lt. Phil de Lara and his bride Catherine Gleeson now in New York.
Ruth Linderman, Eleanor Erickson, Joan Bassi, Mary Ann Marvin seen marching with the Civil Air Patrol on Memorial Day.  They looked pretty nifty in uniform too.
“X” Atencio, a Captain, in France and just back from Germany, hopes to see us soon.
Seymour Slosberg transferred to Camp Elliot last week.
Pepe finally managed to get a ticket for California .  His beat up expression is due to the struggle put up by railroad officials.  He leaves July 21st.
Bev. Gauntlett Oregon bound -and home -come vacation time.
Don Figlozzi now on Animation.  Steve Gattoni new head of Breakdown and Inbetweening Dept. at Terry’s.
Howard Baldwin on his way overseas.
Vonda Bronson soon becomes the bride of Al Wise of 20th Century Fox now in Anacostia.  Also from Anacostia we learn that George Rufle was married to Ruth Gorden with Capt. Fennell as best man.  Abner Keitel and George Geopper were ushers.
Lee Hooper enjoying Top Cel in Germany.
Woody Gelman and Larry Riley working in stories at Famous.
New additions to the Signal Corp Unit in NY.  Lt. Art Moore, Lt. Phil de Lara, and Capt. Bob Laffingwell.
Thanks to Hal GoddardMichael Tessa and  Concetto Auditore for sending their addresses.  Freddie Benz, office boy at Terry’s left to work on a farm.
Some of the gals at Terry’s have decided to try Latin dancing. Last week found Elsa Fumaro, Phyllis Shagrin, Irene Rowland, Connie Quirk, Jean Settino, Helen Bromback, and Eleanor Wrickson swinging it in the Rumba Room at Arthur Murrays.
Stan Green wounded in action.  His tank got a direct hit, killed seven men.  He suffered some burns, but is on his feet and well again.
Though it is our solemn responsibility to keep blood donations flowing in a steady stream to our boys in the Pacific, donations here have fallen off sharply since the end of the war in Europe.
To help labor organize its share of New York’s weekly quota of 8,000 pints of blood, the CIO War Chest has asked all local unions immediately to undertake the scheduling of regular group appointments.
The men wounded on the bitter fight on Okinawa need blood donations as badly as their buddies who fought in Europe.
Here are a few lines from the official report of the National Labor Relations Board under the heading: “Background of the Dispute”:
In the instant case, there is no showing that the employees failed scrupulously to observe all the terms of their contract so far as affiliation with another labor organization was concerned.  It was the Producers and not the Employees who failed to observe these provisions.  This failure persisted over a long period of time and in the face of repeated importunities by the employees.  It even persisted beyond and in spite of the recommendation of the War Labor Board arbitrator…
It was only after this lengthy process that the strike occurred which the Producers now claim breached the very same contract, which they themselves had refused to observe…
That the employees were willing to arbitrate and that the Producers were not is strongly indicated by the conduct of each with respect to War Labor Board Arbitrator Tongue.
The Set Decorators did not strike because the Producers refused to change provisions of a contract.  They struck because the Producers refused to act in conformity with a clear provision of the contract.

Carol Channing: Larger Than Life, TriBeCa Premiere

We did seven little animated inserts after a Hirschfeld illustration for Carol Channing: Larger Than Life which premiered at the TriBeCa Film Festival yesterday.

Very often we’ll screen lots of different cuts on these sorts of projects, sometimes sitting in the editing room to offer thoughts on the overall structure and content of the film.   By the time of the premiere, it might be possible to recite the film line for line.

In this case, we pretty much stuck to our sequence only screening a very early cut.  So it was like seeing the film for the first time.

Tyne Daly delivers a note from the star who couldn’t make the screening.  Director Dori Berinstein to her right.
Turns out to be a terrific film.
Dori Berinstein, the director, and Adam Zuker, her editor and co-writer, present a loving and layered portrait of an iconic performer.
One moment is particular touching (amongst many touching moments): with her stage performances numbering into the high thousands, Carol Channing has the reputation of having never missed a single show.  She steps into correct that, she did miss a show -the second act at least -after contracting food poisoning and vomiting all over the stage.  Even while taking treatment for ovarian cancer she would fly to New York after her Saturday show for therapy only to return to the stage in whatever city the tour had landed for Monday.
What I find particularly touching is her dedication -not so much to “craft”, although her love of performing is contagious -but to her fellow performers, and moreover her audience.   She says something to the effect, people save up a lot of money and more importantly go to a show to have an experience they’ll remember forever.  They’re doing all of that to see her and she refuses to let them down.
She shows a commitment which we all should make to our work.
Carol Channing: Larger Than Life has three more screenings this week. And will next show at Hot Docs in Toronto.