CTN Expo!

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CTN Expo (11-21 and 11-22-2014) Randall Kaplan explains his proposed feature length macabre cartoon, “Boxhead” to a prospective supporter. That’s a sculpture of Boxhead on Randall’s right. Randall is the son of animation director Yvette Kaplan, and he’s quite a visionary. Years ago, some friends and I pipe dreamed about a “horror” animated feature and sort of laughed off the idea as not having a chance of a hot tamale in Iceland of being sold in the mindset of the then-current animation market. Now time has rolled along and there finally might be enough of a market for a true “scare” or “horror” animated feature to take theaters by storm. Randall has a lot of guts to want to make a feature on his own, all hand-drawn; he will need some help. I told him that David Lynch (director of “Eraserhead”) might really be impressed with the project. If anyone reading this can get in touch with Mr. Lynch, please let me know. It was fun sharing a table for a couple of days with Randall, we had some good talk. Itza and I wish him the best. By the way, Randall animates houseflies really well! If you see his presentation trailer for “Boxhead” you’ll see what I mean.

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My half of the Cartoon Research table at CTN Expo. I had many cels from “It’s ‘The Cat'” and “Some Other Cat” for sale and managed to sell three. The faithful Toshiba miniature DVD player completes the “point of purchase” display. I didn’t have much notice that Jerry Beck would have space for me at the Expo, so didn’t bring any “new” cel set-ups, but I still have a few of the older ones. You can buy them too, just click over to the “It’s ‘The Cat'” website: www.itsthecat.com .

The Expo was the usual crowded madness, only more so. There are so many young women and men with good portfolios (most on Ipad display), and I’m afraid most of them are not in the least prepared for the often uncreative and high-pressure environment that the profession can be. To keep your vision and believe in it with all the negativity that can be directed at you, can be quite an exercise in tenacity. If you are not stubborn and have too many self-doubts, you may as well seek other outlets. Remember it’s easier for a big corporation to green light yet another Marvel superhero, Batman or Bugs Bunny resuscitation, than to take a chance on a young filmmaker’s new dream. I noticed that many young people draw in a Glen Keane/Cal Arts character style, maybe too many. I didn’t see a whole lot of graphic originality at the Expo, so Randall’s project really stood out to me as a lodestone that might just pull some risk-takers into it’s orbit.

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Felix (7-9 to 7-15-34) just can’t get no respect. After giving the reward for the capture of the Scarecrow bandit to the Yiminy family, Felix finds that they have gone “high-hat”. They don’t want him in the house damaging the “snappy” furnishings (“snappy” was a popular slang word of the 1930s), the pasture has become a golf course, and the horse, cow and goat don’t like their gentrified barn. To top it off, the Scarecrow bandit breaks jail and uses Felix’s tail for a fake jail bar (see the 7-14). In the Sunday, Felix continues his fish ride away from the Antarctic, and winds up under the sea. Felix must be part cat-fish, as he is able to breathe underwater. He finds a treasure chest and becomes a hero to the crew of a passing ship as they pull him out of the sea, chest and all.

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Myrtle (4-12 to 4-18-1948) is her irrepressible self in the strips this time. She’s punished for making faces in the 4-14 by standing 20 minutes in the corner. In the 4-16, she has a bet on with her Dad that she can’t sit still for ten minutes without giving the impression that she’s sick, and in the 4-15, Myrtle gets scolded for talking curtly to Hyacinth the cat! The Sunday page is included, Freddie’s driveway gets no respect from his neighbors, Sampson or Bingo the dog.

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Krazy (7-20 to 7-25-1942) is influenced by WW II’s rationing of essential materials this week, notably, iron, clay and brass. Offissa Pupp’s jail is missing it’s bars, locks and hinges because they are iron and collected for the scrap drive. Ignatz’s bricks are gone, because clay had to be conserved as a rationed substance, and even Pupp’s badge and buttons are in danger of being collected, since they are made of brass. But in the strip for 7-25, an artist cheers up Ignatz by painting a very realistic brick on a wooden fence. “Mickey Angelo couldn’t have done better”, sez the artist. The gentle and hopeful artist might have been George Herriman, himself.

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Yogi Bear (December 1964), with the strip for 12-6 missing. Maybe we didn’t get the paper that day, ’twas a long time ago. In the 12-13, I love the panel where Yogi gets his tennis racket/snowshoe idea suggested by Boo-Boo.  A miniature Yogi hits his head with a mallet (Panel 5)! The Christmas tree gag in the 12-20 is kind of heartwarming, as Yogi donates his ill-gotten shrubs to the boy scouts (I’ll bet Bill Hanna liked that). I love Yogi’s super-tolerant expression in the 4th panel as Mister Ranger chews him out. Harvey Eisenberg was great at drawing story-telling faces. The 12-27 is a wintertime butt joke, as Yogi’s fur gets worn off in two strategic spots.

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I heard today that a good friend of puppets and animation, Bob Baker, has passed away. Bob ran the Bob Baker Marionette Theater in downtown L.A. for many years, putting on some imaginative shows, like his version of “The Nutcracker”. I first met Bob when I was part of an animation peer group at the TV Academy. If I had known then that Bob was one of George Pal’s stop-motion animators on the Puppetoons, I would have asked him more questions! Later on, I got to hear more of his stories as we chatted on the phone every year at Christmas after he got my card. Bob was also a big fan and supporter of Itza Cat; I sent him screeners of the two shorts, and he thought they were funny. When I worked at Renegade Animation, the whole studio went to see the Marionette Theater’s holiday show, followed by Balian Ice Cream in cups! (Balian ice cream is a Los Angeles institution.)  Bob told me an interesting story about the making of a Puppetoon called “Jasper’s Booby Traps”, which called for miniature props that used real food loaded with Puppetoon dynamite. There were miniature (and some full size) steaks, pies, pork chops and a Technicolor maraschino cherry. Bob was in charge of all the props, and he left them out in the studio overnight to prepare for an early morning shoot the next day. When the animators and cameramen showed up, all the food had been consumed by the studio rats while the building was closed. It caused quite a delay in production! Bob, you will be sadly missed.

11 Responses to “CTN Expo!”

  1. Hey, Mark. Sadly the faux-Keane dominates feature animation these days, even in CGI like the butt-ugly Frozen. All TV is scratchy, noodle limbed and just looks bad. With so much supposed freedom, it’s sure bland out there. There’s more variety in your blog posts with these strips than in all of mainstream animation right now. But thankfully there’s guys like Randall who will give us something to watch.

    I was watching the Pat Ventura “Look Out Below” cartoon you worked on this weekend, and man, I miss that kind of FUN cartooning being the norm on TV! (BTW, which scenes did you work on in that one?)

  2. Mark says:

    Hi Thad,
    Is Look Out Below on You Tube? I can’t remember it so well. Is that a George and Junior or Yucky Duck or Sledgehammer O’Possum?
    mark

  3. Mark says:

    I looked it up, and remembered it right away. It was the first cartoon that Pat directed at H-B with his own drawing style. I did a lot of layout on scenes like Junior taking George’s skin off revealing a big prickly ass, the scene where Junior comes down the ladder really fast and lands on George’s face, the last scene of the picture, where George hits Junior on a cycle with the mallet, and many others. Larry Huber, our production manager, refused to let us animate anything, so we just did a whole lot of layout drawings and lettered them from A to Z, then AA, BB, etc. I even found out where the “grays” were hidden, and used them to get sound track readings of dialog lines that required eccentric mouth actions. We did a lot of really extreme mouths on Pat’s characters that didn’t always work, but looked very funny on screen (to us at least). We were making fun of mouth systems and limited animation by making our own silly charts. We had to do a lot of layout (Spumco style) so that Fil Cartoons in Manila wouldn’t make the action too bland. Of course, without Pat’s great boards and character models, we couldn’t have done anything. Pat’s been without work for a long time now, and I don’t know what he’s doing, but working on his cartoons was a great experience that I’ll always remember. I liked the possum character best.

  4. Thanks for the history lesson, Mark. Sledgehammer O’Possum was like a jivey Screwy Squirrel, and I particularly loved the adversaries, especially the mail lady. Sorry to hear that Pat’s work isn’t out there, his H-B cartoons were like Christmas morning to me as a cartoony-loving seven-year-old. Damn studio execs, is there no honor among thieves?

  5. Sorry I couldn’t go to CTN. Maybe next year.

    Interesting to hear about the horror animated film! There are quite a few of those in Japan, so seeing one in America would be something indeed.

  6. Mark says:

    To me Japanese animation is MOSTLY a horror, Charles! Just kiddin’,
    Mark

  7. Pasquale Caldora says:

    Dear Mark,

    Hey Mark! You probably don’t know me but allow me to introduce myself: my name’s Pasquale Caldora. I’ve been following your blog for quite a while now and I’m astonished that we have heroes like you who knows EVERYTHING there is to know about cartoons of yesterday and today. You truly are a legend.

    To not get carry away, I find something quite interesting. Recently, I’ve found a batch of layout drawings from Tom & Jerry’s debut short, “Puss Gets the Boot” (BTW, I loved your informative commentary you’ve done of the short years ago) and I’m having trouble who was responsible for these beautiful drawings. Was Joe Barbera the artist who drew these?
    http://i1142.photobucket.com/albums/n620/NYankeesFan95/Mobile%20Uploads/3657DA19-FDB5-4C6A-B23A-1D1E79F97EE8_zps50rugq8d.jpg
    http://i1142.photobucket.com/albums/n620/NYankeesFan95/Mobile%20Uploads/FCD2C59F-29AB-4BD6-AAC9-8C5607AFBCE7_zpsvajser7f.jpg
    http://i1142.photobucket.com/albums/n620/NYankeesFan95/Mobile%20Uploads/D4E4A313-64C8-4C4B-B71B-E4A50FB45E49_zpstsifs2kr.jpg
    http://i1142.photobucket.com/albums/n620/NYankeesFan95/Mobile%20Uploads/F160F824-D052-4299-80CD-905637C682F7_zpspsssn1jv.jpg
    http://i1142.photobucket.com/albums/n620/NYankeesFan95/Mobile%20Uploads/D8AAF997-ABD6-4481-A148-0F7617809326_zpsjsdexxvz.jpg
    http://i1142.photobucket.com/albums/n620/NYankeesFan95/Mobile%20Uploads/DAE30248-924A-427C-9E72-761C8923D9E7_zpsmzjn5f3s.jpg
    http://i1142.photobucket.com/albums/n620/NYankeesFan95/Mobile%20Uploads/038D38F5-E9DF-44B0-984C-BD3B480FA424_zpsh3qx48fp.jpg
    http://i1142.photobucket.com/albums/n620/NYankeesFan95/Mobile%20Uploads/15CF4FFA-956D-4A0A-8310-180A7794F22D_zpswkcgft7u.jpg
    http://i1142.photobucket.com/albums/n620/NYankeesFan95/Mobile%20Uploads/AF8505FC-2826-4411-9299-3B825E6FD62A_zpsaouoohyz.jpg
    http://i1142.photobucket.com/albums/n620/NYankeesFan95/Mobile%20Uploads/A62A17F8-2583-46B4-B593-FC097BCBA9C9_zpsevx6ps4d.jpg

    Hope to hear from you soon and thank you for your time!

    Thanks,
    Pasquale Caldora

  8. Mark says:

    Thanks for the links to these “layout” drawings from PUSS GETS THE BOOT, Pasquale! The sketches are pretty crude, so possibly Joe Barbera’s. I’m not sure who animated this scene, probably Jack Zander. Another scenario is that these were Zander’s first rough stab at the scene. The extreme of Jasper (as he was called in this cartoon) looming over Jinx (as Jerry was known then), is very close to the final pose in the cartoon. These certainly are not Harvey Eisenberg’s! I hope I haven’t made a confusing situation worse. These are from the Academy’s collection.

    Mark

  9. Hi Mark,

    It was good to see you again at CTNx and talk about cats. I am beginning to work on the 2nd episode and wanted to know if you are available to visit my animation class either at Actors for Autism or Woodbury University.

    Happy Holidays,
    Jim

  10. James Tim Walker says:

    Hey Kausler,Great to see you at CTN.Didn’t we just get hired at Fine Arts Films by John Wilson? What happened? Thanks for the nice comments on my watercolors, you have been a friend for a very long time and we don’t see enough of each other, we must fix that in 2015. When you have been to the wall and a disease like Parkensons steals your passion “Drawin” there is not much hope.But I stuck it out and did’nt cave. And eight years later on new medication you saw the results, I’m painting Watercolors like a MADMAN, and loving every minute of it.Great to see you pal give our love to Cathy.Dinner soon .
    Best, Tim. Ps We never give up…..EVER!!!

  11. Hey Mark,

    I think I’ve found a way to get in touch with David Lynch, and it’s thru his FAQs page:

    http://www.lynchnet.com/faq.html

    It will give you this address:

    Asymmetrical Productions
    PO Box 931540
    Hollywood, CA 90093

    Thank you,
    Polyvios

    P.S.
    I’m never gonna work in the animation industry until they stop putting pressure on their workers.

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