Archive for May, 2011

Happy (Sparey) Memorial Day!

Saturday, May 28th, 2011

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I hope all my readers are having a happy holiday as we remember our soldiers and what they put up with for all of us. The drawing above by John Sparey was inspired by the “Archy Declares War” sequence in “Shinbone Alley”(1969). It turned out to be the only part of the movie that looked anything like George Herriman’s drawings for the “Archy” books. Sam Cornell did the layouts for the sequence. Frank Andrina, the key animator, tossed me a couple of scenes to do in that section, and I was thrilled to be breaking into the ranks of professional animators for the first time! I must have gotten extremely angry one day over some development or other, so John Sparey thought he would comment about it, turning me into an aggressive cockroach.

Here are two more of John’s letters; in the first one, he is commenting on an exchange we had concerning his 16mm family home movies. I offered to screen them for him, since John had no projector. He used a note in his Christmas Card that year to interest me in the movies, but then decided to let his nephew handle the problem for him. John had no car and didn’t want to drive to Glendale from Hollywood. (I wonder if there was a time when John had a car, it must have been frustrating to always take Public Trans. in L.A. ) It’s also interesting that John worked many years at Disney, but had never seen the Mickey Mouse cartoon; “Through The Mirror” until they ran it on television in 2001. I guess the employee screenings in those days were rare. John was also a fan and a collector, as you can tell from his comments on “Animation Blast” and Floyd Norman’s book, “Son of Faster, Cheaper”.

Dec. 11, 2001

Mark,

I appreciate your offer to provide projection facilities. I cagily sent your card a week ahead of the bulk of them, and you came through handsomely. But having unspooled most of the film by hand and eyeballing it with magnification, I feel no need now to view it in motion. I am compiling program notes for distribution to whoever will be getting copies.

At the Union Christmas party last Friday, Carl Bell told me of a place in Hollywood that could help me get a transfer to video. That seemed more convenient than bussing to Glendale.

Then on Saturday, I got a call from the second-generation nephew who had sent me the films to identify in the first place, saying that he would prefer a CD (DVD). If I send him a CD, he can run off as many copies on his computer as will be needed. He says that there should be no problem finding somebody to make the CD transfer.

We’ll see. If you hear from me again, I need help.

I ordered Animation Blast #7 (with which you are familiar) from Bud Plant for its article on Ray Aragon. It properly played up his efforts for the failed Don Quixote project. I feel that his work on that is worthy of a book of its own.

There was also a collection of Floyd Norman cartoons–one of which I couldn’t figure out. When and why would Walt have wanted to ship Winnie-The-Pooh back to England? floyd-norman-on-winnie-the-pooh.jpg (Mark here, maybe John didn’t read Floyd’s caption, Walt was frustrated at the restrictions of using Milne’s famous character, and almost gave up on Pooh at one point. He probably didn’t “literally” think of shipping the Old Bear back to Great Britain.) Some of Floyd’s jabs at Michael Eisner are sharp enough that he HAS to be good at his job.floyd-norman-on-eisner.jpg

This was pretty much of a Disney weekend for me. Sat. Night A&E had a 2 hour biography of Walt (a rerun, actually). The youngest participants were Floyd and Roland (Rolly) Crump. And Sunday noon, Ch. 13 set aside a 2 hour slot for “Alice In Wonderland”. Too much time for just the feature. My watching paid off. The program started with “Thru The Mirror” which I had never seen complete before–only snippets.

Enough.

John S.

In our second letter from John, dated May 7, 2006, John comments on his experiences with “Access Services” from the Woodland Hills Motion Picture Country House, where he lived after his collapse. He wanted to get his collections and personal things from his Hollywood apartment, but the obstacles to a handicapped older person with no transportation to getting anywhere near the apartment were daunting. It’s interesting to read the long paragraph (4th one) and get an insight into John’s extremely sharp memory for details, and how he could turn his frustrations into humor. Access Services were really obsessed with John’s blood pressure! This letter is really addressed more to John’s family, not me:

May 7, 2006

For the last couple of weeks, an appointment was being set up for me with access services. It was determined about a week ago that my appointment would be on Friday, May 5th. But it wasn’t until 5:55 Thursday evening that I got a phone call telling me transportation would pick me up at 12:30 on Friday. Also, the “home” had hired a “caregiver” to make the trip with me. She arrived at 4:30 and saw to it that I had a dry diaper before I was served an early lunch. I can get on intimate terms with women very quickly these days. You’d never guess from her name, Gemma Cohen, that she’s from the Phillippines.

!!!CINCO de MAYO!!! It was the most satisfying meal-on-a-tray I have had here yet: ground beef taco salad with sour cream and salsa, a Mexican style soup, and a diet custard rather like flan.

Our wheelchair van was the best I’ve seen yet, with a chair space right next to the driver and a clear view all around. We had a one hour trip from Woodland Hills to East L.A., mostly on U.S. 101. You may ask, “What is Access Services?” A good question.

It looked to me like an overblown bureaucratic boondoggle. Inside of a several story-high warehouse space was a rambling sprawl of waiting areas, cubicles, and a testing area of curbs, ramps, and such. First, my California I.D. was copied and I signed away any rights to damages in case of injuries in the testing area. Then my blood pressure was checked with a finger clamp, and I rode onto a scale to show the total weight of me and the chair. Then I rode into a space with Lucite moveable walls that could measure the length and width of the chair. Then my picture was taken with a Fiber Optics camera, and my blood pressure was checked with a finger clamp. Then we were directed to join a group sitting in front of a video screen watching a public service film on the benefits of aids for the handicapped provided by the L.A. Transit System—alternately in Spanish and English–with lengthy screen saver footage separating the shows. That lasted an hour. We were then sent to Room 111. I didn’t see half a dozen cubicles in the area, but one had a cardboard sign 111. In there, I was shown a succession of photos, stopping them whenever I spotted a bus with a specific number or a Jack In The Box or a MacDonald’s location. I was asked to separate 53 cents from a collection of 1 Quarter, 2 Dimes, 1 Nickel, and a number of pennies spread across a table. I was asked about my medications, and I presented them with my list as updated to last November, which I carry around for such occasions as this. It is very much the same as my current dosages. I was asked how I had got along using our transit systems and what problems I had had. So I told them. Then my blood pressure was checked with a finger clamp. I was told I’d learn in a week or so if I qualify for their service. Another 40 minutes in another waiting area, and we were told our van was waiting for us. Another hour trip to Woodland Hills. We were told to expect a 4 hour outing. It took 4 hours, 10 minutes.

What is Access Services? It’s a supplement to Public Transit for the severely handicapped, equivalent to buses, not taxis. Price? $1.80 for less than 20 miles. $2.70 for 20 miles or more.

It’s the first step toward access to my apartment.

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Felix (1-14 to 1-20-1935) continues Danny Dooit’s adventures. At the behest of the Explorer’s Club, Danny is invited to go on an ocean voyage as a representative boy scout with the Club’s expedition. Danny doesn’t even know what the trip is all about, but his parents agree to let him go anyway. The boy could be going into involuntary servitude for all they care! Felix disappears from his strip for two days, and doesn’t re-enter it until he magically pops up in Danny’s bag in the 1-18. In the Sunday, Felix continues to fight Flub the Pup, and ejects him from the house with a Jack-In-The-Box. It’s nice to know that folks were relaxed about taking the Christmas tree down in 1935.

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Krazy (11-18 to 11-23-1940) is almost all word play this time. The English Dog in the 11-18 has such a thick accent that Krazy (who has quite a thick accent himself) can’t understand what “Ice Cool” is. In the 11-22, Krazy is naked in the bathtub, Offissa Pupp can’t look at her without her ribbon, which is carefully draped over the edge of the tub. In the 11-21, Garge is quoting from a hit tune of the 1920s, “Who?”, a smash for George Olsen’s band. The original lyrics were, “Whoooo stole my heart away? Whooooo makes me dream all day? Dreams I know can never come truuuue, Seems as though I’ll ever be bluuuue….”

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Patrick (approx. 9-20 to 9-25-1966) loves being mean to Suzy Smith. He won’t give her anything for her birthday, then punches her out when she gets a little sarcastic with him. I like Patrick’s extreme reactions to “Shots!” and the “Cruel, Sadistic, Excessive Punishment” of having his TV privileges suspended for a week. There was no cable TV in those days, but still a lot of afternoon and morning kids’ programming, before the era of Oprah took most of it away. See you soon, you wonderful readers!

John Sparey on Allen Wade, Dick Hoffman and Money!

Tuesday, May 17th, 2011

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Hi Folks, the John Sparey letters continue! But first, there’s news of “It’s ‘The Cat'”! The Annecy Animated Film Festival in France has requested a print of “It’s ‘The Cat'” for a survey of American Independent Animation which will be screened three times during the Festival! We made the cut! I have no idea how many animated films the Festival considered for this program, but I’m surprised and happy that our cartoon will be included. Greg Ford, my Producer, is quite enthused as well. It will be screened during the Annecy Festival  June 6th to 11th, if any of my readers can attend.

    That’s a John Sparey drawing at the masthead of the post this time. For some reason, John caricatured me as a duck and Tim as a mouse, John took great amusement at Disney fans, since he had worked for the Mouse and “graduated” (as he put it). I’ve forgotten exactly what prompted this drawing, it was a long time ago  (1969). Here is a letter that John wrote from the Motion Picture Country House and Hospital in 2006, where he was living after his collapse. He writes this time about a mistake I made in identifying a caricature he made during his time at Disney. I thought a drawing he made of Gary Mooney looked like Allen Wade. By the number of times John mentions Allen Wade, and keeps underlining his name, I think it’s obvious there was some kind of ill-will there. Allen Wade was quite a character, Tim Walker and I both knew him and visited his place a few times. Allen was a key assistant animator at Disney, probably in the early 1950s, the same time John was there. I think he worked on Sleeping Beauty. By the time I met him, Allen was pretty dominated by intoxicants, but he was a funny guy, and  fun to be around. He loved movie history, Errol Flynn, Basil Rathbone, W.C. Fields (Allen could do a funny impression of Fields). Most of all, Allen was a fan of Bing Crosby, the early, pre-singer’s nodes Bing. I can see how a nervous type, which John tended to be, would be irritated by Allen, but to Tim and me, he was a friend and loved to share his collections and Bing Crosby records with us. Gary Mooney was an assistant at Disney, he worked on Lady and the Tramp, and a very good free-lance animator on commercials. I met him when he worked at Quartet Films, and he broke me in on some inbetweens on a Green Giant commercial. Gary worked for Bob Kurtz in later years. John Sparey writes about Dick Hoffman, who was another Disney assistant who came up the ranks with John.  Later, Dick became an animator at Filmation and stayed with them until the studio closed. It’s kind of sad to read about how Dick Hoffman wound up at the Motion Picture Country House and John’s attempts to remind Dick of the old days at Disney. John also reveals the various weekly wages he was paid over the years. $31.92 at Disney in 1953! I wonder how John managed on that. Leaving Disney was a pretty smart move on his part financially. (John spells Allen Wade’s first name as “Alan” in his letter, I’ve left it as he wrote it.)

Mark,

You may wonder why you are receiving all of this unsolicited material. Just lucky, I guess. You were the first person to advise me that the Anim. Guild was posting my Disney gallery of art on its website. That was on your Christmas card. And you mentioned my caricature of Alan Wade…alan wade??!! I had drawn Alan Wade? I had no recollection of it whatsoever. This prompted my deeper involvement in the computer lab here. The “Alan Wade” portrait was about the last of my drawings posted by the Guild. That was not Alan Wade! That was NOT Alan Wade!! That was NOT ALAN WADE!!! It was Gary Mooney. gary-mooney-by-sparey.jpgGary is also in my mini-mural, “Disney Bull Pen, 1954”, seated at the desk. And Dick Hoffman was also in the group. sparey-disney-bullpen.pngAnd both Dick and Gary were in my seven dwarf line-up.sparey-seven-dwarfs-drawing.jpgI never worked with either of them after we “graduated” from Disney, but I kept some awareness of Gary’s moves in the business. However, I heard very little about Dick. At one point, I learned that he had been in a bad car accident. Some years later, I spotted him at a large Union meeting where Ed Asner delivered a prepared speech encouraging us to go on strike. His speech completed, he (Dick) pivoted quickly toward the Exit and was gone. Then he turned up at an art exhibit organized by Phyllis Craig at Film Roman. I hadn’t identified him; he seemed so shrunken, and he needed a voice box so that I didn’t even have his normal voice to identify. Having done my mental double-take on hearing his name, we tried some trivial chit-chat. We had never been “pals”. But he had managed to stay out of the hospital habitats all this time until now. So when I was told a few months ago that a “Richard Hoffman” I might have know from animation had recently joined us, I knew it couldn’t be good news. Following a physical collapse somewhat similar to mine, he has been spending most–if not all—of his time in bed. After going to ask about chances of planning a visit with him (in a different wing), I was led directly to his room. I was not prepared for a monologue conversation. His battery operated voice box was not working. The visit was not a success. I slunk away. Realizing that I had materials to use as an excuse for a second visit, I downloaded prints of my two pictures that include him. It went well. He’s alert and clear-minded. He knows that visitors can sometimes have trouble understanding him and is prepared to write notes. He recalls various events we shared, so I came up with a group of studio gags as an excuse for a third visit. But I still need props.

One of the records that I have kept from the time I started at Disney is a list of my weekly salaries. So I can accurately report that for my first week at Disney in April of 1953, I earned $37.84 as a beginning apprentice inbetweener, with a take-home pay of $31.92. By April of 1954, I had moved up to temporary breakdown and a salary of $69.94. That was almost exactly what I was getting on Crusader Rabbit in Hollywood in 1951, once you translate my $300.00 monthly pay into weekly terms. I neglected to keep payroll records for my 6 weeks with Jay Ward on C.R. in Berkeley in 1950. I spent 1952 in the Navy as my reward for staying in the inactive reserve. By the time I “graduated” from Disney in March, 1958 I was an Asst. Animator earning $104.08 plus “Sleeping Beauty” overtime. Moving over to TV Spots as a beginning animator on the new C.R. in color automatically bumped me up to $145.00 a week. Two years of automatic raises had lifted me to $200.00 a week. I was ROLLING in dough!

But Enough of That.

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Felix is from 1-7 to 1-13-1935 this time. Danny Dooit enters the action in the 1-7, this time as a Boy Scout. Felix gets knots tied in his tail, so Danny can practice his Scout knots, and in the 1-11, Felix once again is pitched head long out of the house. Danny uses the opportunity to dress the Cat’s wounds. I love the drawing of Felix hitting the tree, beautiful cartooning. On the twelfth, Messmer builds suspense by a knock on the Dooit’s front door. I love the howling dog in the Sunday page, he reminds me a lot of the early Pluto. He might be an early version of Flub, the pup, which Otto used in the Felix comics of the 1950s and 60s.

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Krazy this time is from 11-11 to 11-16-1940. The action centers mostly on Ignatz’s ‘Brick-Rocket’. Ig ties a brick onto a sky rocket and aims it at Krazy, Offissa Pupp unwittingly completes the firing in the 11-14. The ‘Brick-Rocket’ becomes a boomerang in the 11-16. I like the subtle rhyming gag in the 1-11 as well. By this time, we are so familiar with the “Ignatz+Brick=Jail” equation that we can complete it for ourselves.

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Patrick is from approximately 9-9 to 9-15 this time, with “9-15” on top. There is almost a month’s gap between the strips from the last post to this one. Probably summer vacation took place and nobody was around to save the papers. I love Patrick’s “complex” about Godfrey’s color TV, pretty new technology in 1966, and his relentless count-down to Christmas shopping which pushes his “Mommy” over the edge. Sorry that I can’t date these more accurately. Back in my strip-clippin’ days I was lucky to have time to clip them, let alone date them and put them in the correct order. I’m much more meticulous about my newspaper clippings now, but I do a whole lot less of them. I love newspapers, but don’t even subscribe to one, I just accept my neighbor’s copy when she’s through with it.

John Sparey’s “Family Letter” and Felix 1935!

Sunday, May 1st, 2011

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This is a drawing by John Sparey from 1969 when we worked together on “Shinbone Alley”. He thought I had a rather gruesome sense of humor in those days, and he depicts me laughing at a moment of tragedy/suspense in a movie theater audience. What a monster I must have been! I probably had some half-baked theories about “black humor” that struck John as peculiar and worthy of commentary.  Here is a letter that he wrote to his family in 2006, after John had his stroke in his Hollywood apartment and wound up in the Motion Picture Country House and Hospital for long-term care.  His apartment remained full of his things and unoccupied for a long stretch while John was adjusting to his new life at the Country House. He talks a bit about a visit from Iraj Paran, former art director at Hanna-Barbera, and Liz and Mark Bakshi, members of Ralph Bakshi’s family:

May 4, 2006

Dear Family and Mark,

Let’s see. When did I write my last family letter? Was it before I composed my first computerized message to all on my Christmas Card list? Was it before I quit having meals with my own little “snake pit” group to enjoy meals in the hospital’s dining room with the hospital’s more functional patients? White table cloths, menus with choices between two entrees and a choice of side dishes. Food more thoughtfully prepared. This week’s return to meals on trays in our own quarters is a temporary setback caused by a flu quarantine.

Last week, I was moved from a double room on the first floor to a single on the second. My clock radio could now provide real music rather than just deliver white noise. I can play the TV with no concern for a blind roommate. I began to feel I was putting out roots.

This Monday, I went on an off-campus shopping spree. Best Buy and Target’s. Bought a larger TV with DVD and VCR to replace the set provided. I have a perfectly good early 90’s floor model RCA plus a DVD/VCR unit in my apartment. But they would be space hogs here. I was provided transport plus a volunteer shopper. I also got a new Timex. I got tired of people looking at the white spot on my wrist-bare since last December-and asking “where’s my watch?” Plus such odd items as a drawer lock and a new address book.

We have an attractive dark haired nursing supervisor here named Hiva Paran. (Hee Va Pa Ran) in conversation last week, she mentioned her husband Iraj. IRAJ PARAN?!! I had known and admired his work at Hanna-Barbera 35 years ago. He had a personal painting style exactly like ancient Persian miniatures. Both are from Iran/Persia. Iraj was new to the country and was hired for the background department by Bill Hanna within ten minutes of showing his portfolio. He stretched that into a career of over 20 years at the studio, becoming their art director. So yesterday, Iraj came to our facility for some X-rays, and stopped by for a visit. We had a cheerful chat and reminiscence about the “good old” days. He looks about the same now as he did then.

Today? Nothing much. Just had a visit from Liz Bakshi, Ralph’s wife. They live in Silver City, N.M. these days. Liz is out here visiting some of her kids. The oldest, Mark, lives just next door in Calabasas. I first met Mark when he was visiting his father during the making of “Fritz the Cat”. As they were entering one room, Ralph covered his eyes and said, “not until you’re eighteen”. When Mark completed his education, he got some executive position at Disney, but after several years he shifted to Paramount, where he has remained. Yesterday, Liz said that Mark has just been made President of Paramount [!] Liz is just as bright and cheerful as Ralph is loud and angry. We had a good visit.

(This is basically a letter for family distribution, but I just wanted to share some of the fun I’ve been having.)

John S.

I will be posting a few more letters from John soon, telling his further adventures at the Motion Picture Country House.

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I’ve decided to take Felix back in time to the year 1935! I love the artwork and design of Felix in these early-30s strips. In 1937 there was an unattractive design change. So why not show Felix at his most appealing? In the dailies from 1-1 to 1-5, Felix opens a window in the Dooit house and a rather demanding owl flies in. He tries to blackmail Felix for food, but Felix ties his mouth shut with a napkin in the 1-4, (note the funny drawing in the last panel with the owl with the napkin tied around his head) and then tosses him out in the 1-5. In the Sunday, Felix actually WANTS to take a bath (not a favorite of cats), but then goes to sleep and floods the Dooit domicile. He winds up freezing and friendless outside.

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In Krazy this week, 11-4 to 11-9-1940, the Coconino cast play games, including such obscure ones as a medieval child’s game called “Duck On A Rock”, see the 11-5. Mrs. Kwak-Wakk takes the “Drake” position on top of the “Duck” rock. They play “blind-man’s bluff” and Krazy cheats a bit at “Hide and Go Seek”.  Offissa Pupp may have a bit of English Bulldog in him as he suggests they play “Cricket” in the 11-9, which Krazy konfuses with “Grasshopper”.

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Patrick is from 8-8 to 8-13-1966 this time. My fool computer wouldn’t let me put the 8-13 strip at the bottom, so it’s running at the top! Actually the sequence works well, as Patrick steals money from Mommy’s purse, then has a framed exhibition of his “Portraits of Presidents” in the 8-8. I like the 8-10 and 8-11 as Partick tries to kill the taste of liver and onions with 16 bottles of “sody pop”, then blames his stomach ache on the liver! He’s so sick in the 8-11, he calls Godfrey a “nice fellow”. More from the Post-Dispatch on our next visit. Thanks for the great feed-back I’ve been getting lately. I even have a fan from Germany! Hi Klaus, glad you like Felix. Maybe someday David Gerstein will do a second Felix volume, he’s the King O’ De Cats!