Daily Barks 01.06 cataroo.com
The Daily Bark: January 2006

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January 31, 2006
The nominees for the "Best Animated Feature Film" Oscar have been announced. And is oft the case, more is said by who was not nominated. The Animated Feature award was created in 2001, and all three nominees were CGI films. Dreamworks' SHREK was the winner. Since then, every year has found at least one CGI feature on the list. In fact, last year's was another CGI exclusive list of SHARK TALE, SHREK 2 and (the winnner) THE INCREDIBLES. However this year, there are no CGI films nominated. The nominees are WALLACE AND GROMIT IN THE CURSE OF THE WERE-RABBIT, TIM BURTON'S CORPSE BRIDE and HOWL'S MOVING CASTLE. The first two are stop motion films. The third is hand animated by previous Oscar winner Hayao Miyazaki(2002's SPIRITED AWAY). CGI fare such as MADGASCAR, VALIENT and HOODWINKED were overlooked. Some have suggested that 2006 will be a "shake out" year for CGI with around a dozen films coming out, and none looking like hits. Yet, to be fair, few thought anything of MADAGASCAR or HOODWINKED upon release, and both have done very well at the box-office. Odd-makers are saying WALLACE & GROMIT is the film to beat this year, if nothing else for the longest title. No matter who wins, CGI will lose the Oscar. This year... and next year's Oscar race are suddenly more interesting.

January 30, 2006
The Disney/Pixar combo continues to create rumors and debate. It really is an odd Hollywood story. In most tales of a big studio buying another, it is the big studio that moves in and takes over the little studio. This time it is the little studio (Pixar) taking over the bigger studio (Disney). Most recent rumor heard is that Pixar will put a stop to all the Disney sequels. Must say I have mixed feelings. I admit that a lot of the sequels and TV series based on Disney features have been failures. However, I enjoy both of the LION KING sequels and would be sorry not to have them. But after seeing THE EMPERORS NEW SCHOOL TV series, it is hard to put on a positive front. The new series, based on THE EMPERORS NEW GROOVE, is flatly written and throws much of the original movie's characters and storyline out of whack (not to mention the film's charm). I think good characters can always be re-used in new stories. Look at literary figures like Sherlock Holmes, James Bond and Harry Potter. Similarly, there are various characters in TV and movies that can survive multiple stories from TV's I LOVE LUCY and MASH to movie's Laurel & Hardy and Austin Powers. I guess my fear is that the new regime at Disney may be throwing out a lot of good babies (and talent) with the bath water. But only time and truths will tell.

January 29, 2006
Long day... no bark.

January 28, 2006
Recently a scientific team was assembled to go search for proof of Bigfoot, aka the abominable snowman. I guess I was surprised such a search was started in this day and age. When I was growing up in the 1950s and 60s, talk of Bigfoot, UFOs, the Loch Ness monster and such were common fodder for newspapers, magazines and books. There were so many photos, eye witness accounts and data trying to prove these things existed. I remember when the book "Chariots of the Gods" came out and offered "proof" that aliens had come to Earth centuries ago and assisted human evolution. (Could this have been the first attempt to promote "intelligent design"?) But today, little is mentioned about such topics, except on occasional websites or minor books. I wonder why. There was an old radio show called "I Love A Mystery". Perhaps it was that love that caused folks to wonder about the mysteries of such things. By the 70s and 80s, suddenly the mysteries were those of politics and corporations. From conspiracy theories of assassinations to theories of hidden agendas, secret wars and government experiments. Actually one such "experiment", Area 51, still offers UFO lovers something to talk about. I guess mysteries of political intrigue have taken the place of the old fashioned mysteries of science and nature. And not to sound like an "old fogey", but I really miss the mysteries of old. I would rather wonder if Bigfoot is real, than wonder if the heads of Enron will get convicted.

January 27, 2006
The middle east is in the news again. In some ways, I wish events in the middle east were tied to the Vegas slogan - what happens in the middle east, stays in the middle east. However, our current administration makes that impossible. The recent events there remind me how much one's world can change in a day. A hurricane. A flood. An earthquake. These natural disasters can alter the way we look at things. However it does not take a force of nature to change the world. A few weeks ago, the head of Isreal and one of the main forces in the region became mute due to a stroke. A few days ago an election put (to some) "the wrong group" in power. Suddenly everything is topsy turvy in world politics. No build-up. No planning. It just happened. Like a political earthquake. As always, the world can still turn on a dime. Where will any one of us be tomorrow? Only Dr. Lao might know.

January 26, 2006
Today Oprah Winfrey accused author James Frey of lying in his book, "A Million Little Pieces". It was a book that she had promoted on her show. In typical modern political fashion, when the news first surfaced that the book's facts may have been faulty, Oprah loudly championed the author and accused the media of a smear campaign. The media was right, and Oprah was wrong. So now Oprah is looking to place blame on anyone but herself. She even made an issue that the publisher had not done a better job of fact checking. I can only say one thing: "Where has she been?" I have read biographies and autobiographies of Hollywood personalities for decades. Those books have stars "remembering" meetings, events and films they never did. My favorite is how Mickey Rooney claimed to have met Walt Disney, causing Walt to name his new mouse character "Mickey". Point is, biographies and autobiographies are (sadly) famous for misinformation. If publishers had to thoroughly fact check every life story that pass their presses, the genre would disappear. Franklin P. Jones once defined an autobiography as "A book that suggests the only thing wrong with the author is his memory." Frey's lack of a truthful life story is merely a standard Hollywood story of embellishment... something Oprah should know all about.

January 25, 2006
Today is the 14th anniversary of Rachel and I meeting. Happy anniversary, hon.

January 24, 2006
Big day for media news. First, as expected, Disney has agreed to purchase Pixar. No one knows what this will really mean... except that Steve Jobs (head of Pixar) will now be a big wheel at Disney. Also, Pixar films will keep getting released by Disney/Buena Vista. Guess this headline might be "mouse chooses computer". Other news, as suggested, Warner Bros is dropping the WB network this Fall. Surprisingly, UPN will also close this Fall. The shows currently on those networks will be seen on the new CW network. Now you can watch SMALLVILLE and EVERYBODY HATES CHRIS without changing the channel. The new CW network will have 5-hours of children's programming on Saturday... at this point supplied by Kids-WB.

January 23, 2006
Life is full of ups and downs. Gas went up 9-cents between my drive to work and my drive home. And the hole in my backyard went down. Seems to have been an abandoned cesspool. Now being filled with concrete.

January 22, 2006
Met a nice lady today. We had to stop by her house to pick up our 'barf' order for the kids. (That would be the meat for the natural diet our kids are on.) She has Irish Wolfhounds, minis, helps in animal rescues, and such. Though we only had a few minutes, she had time to talk about our pups, her kids, people and such. We shared so many similar thoughts on how our kids ARE our kids. When we talked about ours, it made her remember a Dane she had many years ago. As is often the case with Danes, their memories bring tears even years later. The breed has that gift. But it was a short visit. Hopefully next time we can spend some time meeting her kids and chatting more. The time was especially refreshing having been around some dog show folks the day before. While there are some nice show folks, too many are still in the "my dogs are livestock" mode. That is why it is always fun to find someone who thinks more of their kids. Shows there are still nice people in the world. That helps a lot.

January 21, 2006
A recent online newsletter interviewed development execuites at several animation oriented networks. It lead one blogger to comment based on the lack of animation experience in the execs, "anyone could be one". The fact is, development executive background is almost a "lose-lose" scenario. Some argue that a development exec should have experience in creating successful series. Others argue that animation knowledge is unimportant. Trouble is, both have short comings. If the exec has no real animation experience, well, they have no experience in animation. However folks from Spielberg to Katzenburg have done quite well "without" official animation experience. After all, creating popular animation is not much different from creating other popular productions. A good film/TV series is just that, "good". If the exec has experience in creating animation, they often bring a pre-disposed opinion on what is good animation. Several creators have complained of one studio that has a key artist heading their development department. They cite the exec's lack of interest in any show that (as one pitcher put it) "does not look like he [the exec] drew it." How does one go about picking hit shows? It was said best by the man who developed the TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES into an animated series. When asked "what" made the series a hit, he replied, "if I knew that, all of my shows would be hits." Exactly. For every mega-hit SPONGEBOB, there are CATDOGS, ZIMS and OSWALDS. Not to say those series were not good (I even worked on two of them), but they were not the hits that drive ratings and network success. The public will watch what the public will watch. And no development exec, studio head or even lowly critic can make that prediction with constant accuracy. You could probably have the same percentage of hits by simply putting ideas in a jar and drawing them out lotto style.

January 20, 2006
The mediocre will inherit the Earth. That twisted phrase popped into my head today as the studio was abuzz with talk about the possible purchase of Pixar by the Disney Studio. In the late 70s and early 80s, there was a new flock of talent at the Disney studio. It was a new generation which featured lots of names that were hot - Keane, Bluth, Burton, Deja, Musker, Van Citters, Grant, Clements and others. Around that time, George Lucas was building a computer animation studio in the Bay area. In an attempt to give it more legitimacy, Lucas went to the Disney studio to get an animator to work with his cgi team. Lucas asked several of the key talents, but they didn't want to jeapordize their future at Disney by jumping to some little studio up North. However one animator did accept the offer. His exit made some headlines, as Lucas had hoped, but folks at Disney were not impressed. The fellow who left was considered a "mediocre" talent on the "b-team". However the animator was a bit like Walt Disney. Disney was not a great artist, but he had a good story sense and knew how to surround himself with good talent. The first thing the ex-Disney talent did was show the cgi folks that it wasn't enough to simply have fancy graphics put to music. Computer animation had to tell stories the same as standard animation. Of course this "mediocre" animator was John Lasseter. I had talked with John on occasion during his Disney days, and he was always a pleasant, enthusiastic person. Oddly, around two years ago I was lunching with some folks who had also known John at Disney, and some had later worked with him at Pixar. They all remembered how he was considered a "b-team" talent at best. They thought it was ironic that as the Disney studio was imploding and so much talent was in fear of their jobs, Lasseter was secure at Pixar. Now, as the talks about a Disney purchase of Pixar heat up, speculation is that Lasseter will be put in charge of the Disney animation unit. Not the hot talents of the 70s, 80s and 90s. Now those hot talents will be working for the "mediocre" guy who left. Almost makes one think of the tortoise and hare story. Or Murphy's law.

January 19, 2006
Just heard that Bill Lorencz passed away over the weekend. I interviewed Bill for our HOW TO CREATE ANIMATION book. His career spanned such Hanna-Barbera classics as THE HERCULOIDS and JONNY QUEST to features like THE SECRET OF NIMH and THE CHIPMUNK ADVENTURE to Disney series like DUCK TALES and TAIL SPIN. He also did a lot of work for Western Publishing including puzzles, games, Golden Books, etc. The news came from a friend who called to see about having a lunch. Am a bit surprised that his passing hasn't been bigger news on some of the animation news websites. But Bill probably was not splashy enough to warrant their notice. He was just one of those great guys in the business. Always professional, always friendly, always good work. Sadly, that type is a rarity today.

January 18, 2006
"A never to be forgotten classic" is a quote often given to stories, movies, TV shows or characters. The truth is, these days the public quickly forgets. I thought of this the other day at Disneyland. We were discussing pins and how it seemed like there were very few Roger Rabbit pins. Ironically, we found one. We then went on the Toontown Spin ride in Toontown. Again, I wondered how many folks going on the ride, especially the kids, even knew who Roger Rabbit was? I heard comments from various folks in the line which made it clear they were trying to guess what the ride was based on. References to "Baby Herman", "Dip" and "Ink & Paint Club" seemed to confuse some. Yet less than 20 years ago, WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT was one of the most talked about movies and characters. It was even erroneously credited with begining the animation feature boom of the 90s. (That honor still goes to either SECRET OF NIMH or AN AMERICAN TAIL.) In an era when movies pop out of theatres in a matter of weeks, and TV series can have equally short lives, it is no surprise that entertainment icons are so fleeting. The days when someone like a Bugs Bunny would run for decades in theaters and then decades on TV are over. No wonder so many adults remember Bugs. Anyone born from around 1930 through 1970 would have seen him regularly. Today, a character comes in a flurry of publicity, toys and ads. From the debut of a movie or TV show to its release on dvd can be less than a year. At that point a new "never to be forgotten classic" is on everyone's tongue. And last year's "never to be forgotten" can only be seen on eBay... or at your local Big Lots! store.

January 17, 2006
Big news! BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN, the "gay cowboy movie" is winning Golden Globe awards, receiving critical praise and making money at the box office. Shows what the right marketing can do. While BROKEBACK may be more explicit in its depection of a romance between two men, the concept is certainly nothing new. Since the days of Shakespeare's ROMEO AND JULIET, the idea of lovers kept apart by fates is nothing new. Fates keeping lovers apart for centuries include families, race, religion, financial status, death and any variation to fit a plot device. Actually such events do happen in real life. The love affair between Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn is one such love. Though they both loved each other, Tracy refused to divorce his first wife due to him being a devote Catholic. They remained in contact through the end of his life. And she never had another male companion. Sort of a real life THE GHOST AND MR. MUIR. Certainly using the idea of homosexual romance is a hot topic device. But the history of Hollywood (and fiction) is full of male-male romance left unrequited. It just has never been so graphically, and openly discussed. In fact, Paul Newman once described the Oscar winning and popular film BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID as a story about two guys who loved each other. It reminds me of when THE SIMPSONS got tons of press mileage about an episode that would reveal a major character was "gay". Even though Smithers has had a crush on his boss, Mr. Burns, almost since the series debuted, the character "outed" for the publicity was one of Marge's sisters. I guess it shows such romances are all around. But no one really cares or makes an issue out of it... unless there is a dollar to be made out of such an issue.

January 16, 2006
A day at Disneyland and Disney California Adventure. Not too busy. More tomorrow.

January 15, 2006
Did a puppy match today and was very proud at how our two kids, Rooster and Kele, did. Two weeks ago, we did a match and both showed signs of shyness in the ring. This time, both stood proud and gaited well. Their buddy Journey (a Brindle) ended up winning breed, and came in second for group. Saw several other cute pups including a very young Saint Bernard who was obviously tired and had to be continually coaxed to get around the ring. Such a sweetheart. Also met a lively Mastiff pup and lots of others. Puppies just have a natural fun factor. I am glad our kids have kept a bit of their puppyness in them, even as they age. Even our eldest, Niko (11), can suddenly burst into a puppy smile and run around the house. I'd like to think I can still burst into a bit of 'puppy' every so often, even at my 'advanced' age. Though I have to consider various things that come with age, it is nice to know I can still go nuts on occasion.

January 14, 2006
A very long day. Company. Chores. Bad weather. No sleep planned. No bark tonight.

January 13, 2006
For the record, Friday the 13th. I was watching a tape of the Marx Brothers film MONKEY BUSINESS and on came a wonderful female comedian, Thelma Todd. It made me think of mysterious deaths. They used to be the rage of Hollywood from the 20s to the early 60s. Todd died in the early 30s in circumstances still considered suspicious. Found in her garage with the car running, it was ruled suicide. But that conclusion didn't answer many questions. Why was her face battered and bruised, as if she was beaten? Why did someone testify to seeing her walking along a street at a time she should have been in the garage? How did she get to the garage unseen by her housekeeper? Today, no one really remembers Todd, except as a murder mystery. When Hollywood was all tinsel and magic, even the deaths were sometimes as theatrical as the films. A top comic is a pilot killed flying to Alaska. A star walks off the set in the middle of a movie and is discovered later to have gone to Sweden and died! A band leader is shot down over the Atlantic during WWII (and now considered to have been done by friendly fire). A producer is shot at a starlet's home, and the starlet's young daughter confesses... but was she covering up for her mother? Marilyn Monroe was probably the last true "mystery death". Every so often some one comes out with "new" information on her final night... but it always concludes with the verdict of suicide. But what about...? Oh well, today, deaths in Hollywood are usually due to age, disease, dangerous lifestyles, or sensational crimes. As the cliche goes, the mystery is gone.

January 12, 2006
A late night, so no real topic... except that we are looking at our first winter storm arriving on the weekend. Have several plans, so am hoping it will not turn into a 'white' weekend.

January 11, 2006
Over the past few months I have seen a growing trend in the perception of animation. Basically, animation has lost its style. In the 80s and 90s you often heard folks discuss how there was "good" animation (Disney) and "poor" animation (almost everyone else). However Disney films have diminished in perceived quality, and also been watered down by direct to video versions. Suddenly the "good" and "poor" distinction is not so clear. Muddying the water even more is the addition of cgi films from other studios sometimes coming with the Disney logo. The result is that the average viewer no longer really knows who is making what films. I see lists of Disney films that include features like BALTO (actually Spielberg)and ALL DOGS GO TO HEAVEN (actually Don Bluth). I hear folks talk about the "funny Disney films like SHREK" (actually Dreamworks). Others think all cgi films come from Pixar. Those who follow a bit more closely might distinguish two types of films as either Disney (hand drawn) or Pixar (cgi). In some ways, it is nice that the Disney name is not quite the power it once was in making people pick a movie. But the down side to this confusion is it seems that studios have become generic. All cgi films have a look that makes it hard to tell who made them. Similarly, hand drawn fare has reached a point that can make it difficult to tell who made a specific film. Two attempts at reviving stop motion animation (CORPSE BRIDE and CURSE OF THE WERERABBIT) both failed to excite audiences. So we may be headed towards a string of films that the audience can't identify the maker. Hopefully it won't lead to a "you seen one, you seen them all" loss of interest in general.

January 10, 2006
Orson Welles' Charles Foster Kane stated the importance of a news story was created by the size of the headline, not the reverse. The media still dictates how important issues are. For example, the Afghanistan government recently complained that their country did not get the support after the earthquake that victims of the tsunami and hurricane Katrina got. They say the reason was that the news media stopped promoting the story as major. Of course, the media is not totally to blame, as some suggest. Fact is, the media is more business today than ever. They cover what people want to hear about. For example, when gas prices were sky-rocketing as much as 25-cents a week, people and the media were all upset. Then, after a bit, they began to drop. And that was news. (Of course, when the prices had settled, they were still almost $1 more than last year.) Now the prices are rising again... but the media is now too focused on supreme court judges, Iraq, Iran and other more interesting topics. Perhaps as some groups say violence in the media makes us less sensitive to violence, the media's heavy focus at the start of a crisis soon reduces the public's sensitivity to the event. Look at how many major stories are now just brief mentions, when mentioned at all - False information leading us into Iraq; Corporate scandals and collapses; Unlawful wire-tappings; Prisoner abuse; etc. Instead we hear about the President telling us that if we do not agree with him on Iraq, we are helping terrorists. Sounds like when Nixon told us if we did not support the Vietnam war we were helping communists. No wonder folks get tired of hearing the news. Sometimes it never changes.

Oh... on a related topic, the price of gas went up 6-cents a gallon while I was at work on Tuesday. That is a total of 23-cents in 4 days!

January 9, 2006
Writing is harder than drawing. This is a statement I occasionally make, though seldom in front of artists. I was once again made aware of this fact recently on my train commute. One evening several of us were discussing ideas for new shows. Almost immediately the artists began sketching madly at designs for characters, propts, locations and such. It was so "easy" for them. This is not the same as saying it is "easy" to be an artist. While anyone can pick up a pencil (just as anyone can use a keyboard), to be a good artist, it takes a lot of work and practice. The fact that some may come by it more naturally is irrelevant. The key is, eventually the artist comes to a point where they are comfortable to sketch. Now take writing. It also requires work and practice. However, even when one has become skilled at writing, there is no equivalent to sketching. True I could jot down a few notes, a character name, a story idea, etc. But the result is not much to show. The best I can do is offer to send a "new draft" later. The artist can keep applying lines to make a character fatter, thinner, taller, well dressed, naked, etc. and leave the new image with whoever might need it. There is no such equivalent in the world of words. Also, when the muse strikes, an artist only needs an eye and a hand to create their work. A writer needs an audio. That is, they need to hear the words. So while an artist can work almost any place there is light, a writer also needs a version of "silence". (I say "version", since to some certain background noises or music create their "silence".) Which, in the end, makes for much less opportunites for a writer. So, I repeat, it is easier to draw than to write.
Oh... on a totally different topic. The price of gas went up 5-cents a gallon while I was at work on Monday.

January 8, 2006
So tired. No bark.

January 7, 2006
We moved from kibbled dog food to natural food (raw meat, bones, etc.) several years ago. One key reason was that it was getting harder and harder to find healthy kibble. The last brand we used suddenly began giving our kids diahrea. When we contacted the manufacturer, they stated that they had changed the source of water in creating the kibble. They also said that they had heard some reports that the new water was causing a few dogs to have loose stool. I wondered what would happen if a major soup company discovered a shift in ingredients was causing people eating it to have diahrea? If the company did not make some quick changes, it would be flooded with lawsuits and possible action from government agencies. With dog food, this does not seem to be the case. Currently there is a brand of dog food that has been linked with poisoning dogs who eat it. In fact, one news report indicated that dogs were refusing to eat the tainted food. But owners were using gravy and other flavors to entice the dogs to eat! The company is making all sorts of excuses about the problem happening over the holidays when it is hard to get news out. (We even saw bags of it for sale today at a local pet shop, another shop had the notice up on their wall and were notifying people.) News of an alleged finger in chili became a major story overnight. It is a sad state that not only does the media not seem to be interested in the story, but that the manufacturer does not seem be making a bigger effort to get the news out. I know if it was one of our kids, we would be talking to attorneys, the media and anyone else. Some would find this odd, because I really hate mixing lawyers, lawsuits and the media. But, you know what? Our kids' welfare is that important to me. Sure makes me glad we kicked the kibble habit.

January 6, 2006
Yesterday I mentioned how the creation of cartoons went from being done by a group of creative folks to a single person, and wondered if this was a step forward. True, a creator driven series might only have one voice, but that voice still must work with networks, publicity, marketing and other aspects. The more successfully the creator can do so, the better chance his show has. Actually, as more and more creator driven shows have had ratings trouble, the networks are getting more and more involved in the development and production process. Hence the push to keep creative committees out of the development process has caused more input to be made by executives. I am certainly not against the concept of creator driven animation. I just believe that too many folks think creator driven guarantees better cartoons. While there are some cartoons on Cartoon Network, Nick, Disney Channel and such that are funny, there are still many that are not. You can say the same for almost any year, or decade, of animation - classic cartoons or TV series. The system has certainly changed, but I am not sure the result has. Perhaps if networks looked at shows developed by creative teams inhouse they would have less need for focus groups and development executives. And perhaps they would have more hit shows. After all, no matter what studio press releases and animated autobiographies claim, Bugs Bunny was the result of at least a half dozen folks (no less than 3 directors, 2 designers and 1 writer). It took only one person to come up with the idea of LOONATICS.

January 5, 2006
Yesterday I mentioned how the success of Nickelodeon caused a shift in how cartoons were developed. The classic cartoons from the 20s to the 80s were largely created by committee. Some committees seemed better than others, which is why Warner Brothers cartoons are considered better than Terrytoons. With Nick's big push for "creator driven" cartoons, the networks and studios pretty much threw out the baby with the bath water. Suddenly, they were no longer interested in shows developed by teams of creators - like Chuck Jones, Michael Maltese and Maurice Noble. Instead, network execs would pick a doodle from a sketchbook, or an offhand comment, or other such material from anyone considered 'fresh' or a 'big name' in the business. A storyboard artist might suddenly find themselves in charge of a series with little idea of how to write or create characters. A minor celebrity might suddenly be offered a series based on a comment made at a lunch. Of course this process helped some creators feel very important and, at times, created major ego issues. But while there was an occasional hit cartoon from this process, there were also many dulltoons. Like in live action, there are those who can write, act and direct like a Buster Keaton or Woody Allen. However, they are the rare ones. Generally the top creators are those who (like a Disney or Jones) surround themselves with talented folks who add to a project. Whereas a book can be written by one person, a film or series needs the assistance of many persons.
[to be continued]
Oh... on a totally different topic. The price of gas went up 12-cents a gallon between 9pm Wednesday and 4am Thursday.

January 4, 2006
Yesterday I talked of how FOX and Nickelodeon re-energized tv animation. FOX took the standard approach of purchasing shows from studios. However, unlike the main networks (ABC, CBS & NBC), FOX wanted cartoons that were edgy. They pushed their creative folks to make faster, bolder cartoons. It helped make FOX Kids Network the #1 rated network on Saturday morning. Nickelodeon took a different tact. They said they wanted 'fresh' cartoons. Their idea was to get a creator to come up with his own idea for a series. Their first season featured a creator driven show (REN AND STIMPY, a cult favorite), a committee show (RUGRATS, a ratings hit) and a composite (DOUG). Despite the press that these cartoons were free from influence, the fact is that Nick had several shows in development with these final three chosen largely from audience testing and focus groups. I remember when Nick came to Film Roman. There was one show they were interested in. But when they heard that CBS was also interested, they passed on the idea. Nick felt that they did not want any show that would be considered by a standard network. One can hardly blame them with the amount of poor shows then on Saturday morning. (But that was not so much the fault of the system, but of those running the system.) Also, Nick wanted to be a leader, not a follower in animation. The major studios (Film Roman, H-B, Filmation, etc.) had some good talent, but networks were more interested in safe shows. When FOX became number one, and later lost the crown to Nickelodeon, the major networks took note. [to be continued]

January 3, 2006
On the January 1st, I was talking about the change in animation from 'created by committee' (or 'studio created') to 'creator driven'. When Nickelodeon, and then Cartoon Network, Disney Channel and others began to push their 'creator driven' cartoons, they used the sales pitch that it was the way all the "classic" cartoons had been done. The networks stated that at Warners and MGM such talents as Avery, Jones, Clampett, Hanna & Barbera and others were free to create without interference from networks. While it is true that there were no networks giving notes, it is not true that these animated classics were 'creator driven.' At these studios, and those like Disney, Lantz, Fleischer and others, cartoons were actually created by *gasp* committee. A Chuck Jones cartoon was not created by Chuck Jones. It was created by talents including Jones, Michael Maltese, Pete Alvarado, Bob Givens, Maurice Noble and more. These folks would get together, throw around ideas and build upon them until they had a cartoon. Disney used to describe himself has a bee that went from flower to flower spreading ideas like pollen. If a character or gag worked in one cartoon, they would fine tune it or simply repeat it in the next cartoon and the next and the next. This same system was employed for decades when animation moved to TV and was created by committees in the new studios. At a Hanna-Barbera or Filmation, the studio would pull together their development team and create a variety of series. Some series were originals, others were drawn from existing properties. By the 1980s, most folks agree that TV animation was at rock bottom. (To be fair, it was getting better compared to the 1970s.) Nickelodeon and FOX came along and changed the rules. But they went about it in two different ways. [to be continued]

January 2, 2006
Power outage due to winds and hail. No bark.

January 1, 2006
The new year is bringing in some brand new animation. Cartoon Network has BEN 10. The Disney Channel has THE EMPERORS NEW SCHOOL. In fact, both networks will be debuting new animated series throughout 2006. It made me think of a time when the only time one saw new animation was when the networks debuted their Fall TV schedules for Saturday morning. It was a time when, with the exception of the occasional prime time special, the only place to see new animation was on Saturday morning. Weekday mornings and afternoons had repeats of cartoons from the 20s through the 50s to entertain kids before or after school. Sometimes these repeats included a live action host such as the famous Bozo or the not-so-famous Icky Twerp of Dallas, Texas. In those days, new cartoons were developed by studios and sold to the networks. That began to change in the early 90s when Nickelodeon decided to "bring back" creator driven animation. Nick felt that the way to get new, fresh cartoons was to let single creators develop new programming. The network claimed such cartoons would be funnier than those "created by committee". It sounded good for press releases, and certainly changed the direction of animation. But in reflection, I wonder if the change was truly a step in the right direction. [to be continued]

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