Daily Barks 02.06 cataroo.com
The Daily Bark: February 2006

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February 28, 2006
Today someone brought up the Y2K scare, in which it was feared that all the computers would malfunction when the year 2000 occured. The reasoning was that computers would think it was 1900 and all sorts of records would be confused. That lead to important dates and the "do you remember where you were" game. I was able to handle three of them. When (John F.) Kennedy was shot? I was attending school, in Houston! We were sitting in class when an announcement over the loud speaker asked all teachers to report to the principal's office. A few minutes later she came in, crying. She told us "the President's been shot. School is dismissed." We got on busses and were sent home. The Challenger disaster? I was on my way to work at the Don Bluth studio. We were working on AN AMERICAN TAIL. I got to the studio and noticed no one in the front. That was odd. I went in and found no one apparently around. I went to my office and began working. After a bit I wandered upstairs and found the entire staff sitting around the tv. I asked what was going on, and one of the artists said, "The shuttle blew-up." I stood for a moment. I had forgotten there was even a launch that day. I wondered if it was true, or if the artist was joking. Of course, it was not a joke. 911? I was (again) going to work. I had gotten on the train at 5am, before anything had really happened. As we neared the Los Angeles train station, I went down the first floor to exit and found all the folks abuzz. Some were stating their offices were closed. Some were calling family telling them to stay home. A regular who occasionally chatted with me came over and said, "We are at war." He then stated how an enemy had attacked New York City, and that many companies that worked in high rises in Los Angeles were closed. Most of the folks got off the train and went to trains to take them home. I continued to the studio and found it mostly empty. All the tvs were tuned to the news, though no one was there to watch them. I failed on where I was when Reagan was shot and when John Lennon was shot.

February 27, 2006
"Suspicious Package". Was stopped on the way to work today. Remiscent of the joke Chico Marx makes about the "world's greatest aviators", we got two stops from Los Angeles and had to stop. We were stopped due to a "suspicious package" at the next stop. We waited an hour. We were then told the police would arrive to inspect the package shortly. (Yes, that means it took over an hour for the police to get to a possible bomb.) At that point, we were told our train would be sent back to San Bernardino. The options were to get off at the current spot and wait for a "possible" train to take us to Los Angeles, or return to San Bernardino. The police were not certain how long the problem station would be closed. So I took the train back to San Bernardino, arriving around 9:30. The news never revealed what the mysterious package contained, only that they disposed of it with a water cannon. Also that they finally opened the station around 9 am. Though many may feel more secure with such extreme measures. I tend to wonder if we have gone a bit overboard. However, should we really be in such imminent peril, I would like to think that protection would be able to be summoned in less than an hour. Makes me wish the billions and billions of dollars being spent in Iraq were being spent here for additional police, firemen and other emergency services. Anyway, hopefully tomorrow there will be no mysteries on the train.

February 26, 2006
Working in the dark. Not my favorite way to work... but it is how I often have to do it at the studio. I am one of several who have been moved to an adjoining building on an upper floor. The building management seems to think the best way to save energy is to have all the lights, and I do mean ALL the lights set to motion sensors. When you walk into a hall, the lights go on. When you walk into an office, the lights will go on. When you walk into the restroom, the lights will go on. But the sensors are also set to timers. So if I am sitting in my office typing, my body is apparently not moving enough and after around 15 minutes the lights will go out in my office. Luckily there is a window, so I am not in total darkness. When it happens, I simply wave an arm and the light returns. I recall during an early energy crisis the public was told that it takes more energy to turn on lights than to let them remain on. Even more of a worry is the restroom. The sensor is right at the door. So you walk in, and the light goes on. However, if you got a urinal, or worse the "stall", you are not in view of the sensor. More than once I have gone into the bathroom to find it dark. (And really dark... no windows or other source of light.) The light goes on, and I notice the stall is shut. Makes me wonder if someone is in there. Also, how many folks have been in the middle of 'doing business' when the lights go out. Based on the location of the sensor, you would be stuck in the pitch black darkness until someone comes in the door... or you stumble your way out to the door. Talk about a 'pisser'.

February 25, 2006
Recently there was a discussion (*cough*argument*cough*) on a forum about the new THE SHAGGY DOG from Disney. The film is based on a classic 1950s Disney live-action film. However, it appears this film is based more on the 1970s sequel, THE SHAGGY DA. Anyway, the topic soon turned to the "terrible" problem of studios doing "remakes" instead of "original" stories. I think it is interesting that there is such a double-standard when it comes to remakes and/or non-original film stories. I did not hear much griping about the NARNIA movie just being a 'remake' of the book (which had been done as a cartoon, tv series and such). I did not hear many complain that Peter Jackson's KING KONG was just a 'rip-off' of an old movie. I did not hear complaints about 'ripping off' STAR TREK when THE NEXT GENERATION, DEEP SPACE and other such series came about. And how about the lame sequels to the original STAR WARS? And after the classic Lon Chaney THE WOLF MAN (1941) why do remake/rip-off werewolf movies? The point is, every generation has its way of telling stories. Passing down and embellishing stories is as old as civilization. I would hate to miss an updated telling, with updated effects and sensibility. In fact, I bet if someone on the forum (who are mostly under 25 years of age) named and described a movie of the last ten years, I could name a film with similar elements pre-1975. No one has yet accepted the challenge. There is an old saying "there's nothing new". While it may be basically true, a good story teller can bring something fresh to the mix.

February 24, 2006
I never took religion studies in school. Sunday school is the closest I got. However, I have come to see a definite difference between two major religous ideas. And I learned it via the Will Rogers' "I-only-know-what-I-read-in-the-papers" school. The one I grew up around is the Western, Hebrew-based, style. The one I seem to read more about these days is the Middle Eastern, Islam-based, style. Both have similarities. They both focus on a single deity. They both have splinter groups that have slightly different thoughts. (For example, in the West we have Jews, Christians, Catholics, Mormons, etc.) They also both have moderates and radicals. They also have a history of violent struggles (wars) between their factions. The biggest difference is in their emotional outbursts. The Hebrew based groups have fought amongst each other, but such conflicts are usually kept localized, while Islamic conflict seems to go global quickly. For example, the Hebrew based Northern Ireland situation. I seldom hear of Christians or Catholics from other countries sneaking over borders to aid one side or the other. And when someone insults a Western faith you generally hear of angry letters, protest groups and threats of a boycot. When someone insults an Islamic faith, you seem to hear about death threats, deadly riots, and death sentences. For example, the recent furor over cartoons of deities. I can remember seeing cartoons featuring the Hebrew God, Jesus, the Pope and other key religous figures since I was young. The most recent got a TV cartoon episode, that featured a major religous figure, pulled from repeats. When a cartoon showed an Islamic figure, there were riots and dozens of deaths. Again, I am no expert on the various Gods around, but I would think any God would prefer a retraction to a retaliation.

February 23, 2006
Hectic week... hectic weekend coming up. At least it will be dry... though it looks like rain for Monday. No time to gather thoughts for a bark tonight. OH! Added a direct button for ordering FASTER! CHEAPER!, the first collection of studio cartoons by animation favorite Floyd Norman. Floyd worked with Disney in the 50s and 60s (including story work on JUNGLE BOOK). He has worked just about every other California studio... including Pixar (story work on TOY STORY 2). If you haven't gotten a copy yet... just click-it.

February 22, 2006
Plumbing emergency day. A frozen pipe outside broke in two. Rachel was able to stop the water and hold down the fort till the plumber came. So far this has been a rough year for the house. Seems it is one thing after another... from mystery holes to failing washers to frozen pipes. ugh. Home sweet home. Just hope it holds together. Course, it is only a few years older than I am. So maybe I should appreciate it is holding together as well as it is.

February 21, 2006
Silent surprise. Had a bit of surprise today at the studio. It was lunchtime and the intern was eating his lunch with a few friends in the lobby area of our floor. The lobby has a big screen TV with a dvd/vcr player. I asked the guys if they wanted to watch a movie while they ate. (I do have a small set of dvds and vhs in my office. I play them like most folks play music.) They said "yes" and asked what I had available. To be honest, almost all of my films are from the 30s to the 60s and feature classic comedies, scifi films and mysteries. When I see folks around the studio watching films, it is always the most recent sci-fi/fantasy release. So after listing some of the films, they showed little interest. I told them I didn't have much new stuff. They then asked if I had any silent movies! After a pause, I asked if they meant "really silent movies, meaning old films." They said yes, becuase it was great training for animation. I have not heard anyone say that since talking with folks like Bob Clampett, Frank Thomas and Joe Barbera. Most of folks currently in the business are usually too busy looking at costumes and props in the newest sci-fi films, or listening to modern comics for funny dialogue. It was nice to hear that a newer generation is going back to the basics of classic pantomime and inventive sight gags. Made me wish I had some Keaton or Laurel & Hardy to share. Actually, wish I had some to watch myself.

February 20, 2006
President's Day, a day to honor the heads of our nation. Originally, we had a celebration of two Presidents - Washington & Lincoln. It is surprising that two of the nation's favorite Presidents were born in the same month, and only days apart. I remember during my years in school, each school struggled to figure out which day to celebrate... and what to do if either day fell on a weekend. Businesses were the same. They could never figure out how or if to make a holiday of it. In an effort to make it easier for the business community, the days were combined into a single, standardized holiday. Perhaps they should have called it Henry Ford day.

February 19, 2006
Gah... another day of snow... and snow... and snow. Finally broke in the early afternoon. But there was still plenty to shovel. Found some time to watch WALLACE AND GROMIT IN THE CURSE OF THE WERERABBIT. And just like the previous CORPSE BRIDE, I find myself on the opposite side of most animation folks. I found the film "ok". In true horror movie fashion, the movie only comes t life once the monster shows up. (The car chase with Gromit is great.) But the start is really slow. Despite the popularity of the inventing duo, I find the "charm" humor a bit flat. Guess I prefer the more manic comedy of a Monty Python or Benny Hill. So now I have seen two of the three films up for the "Best Animated Feature" Oscar. (The other is HOWL'S MOVING CASTLE.) I enjoyed MADAGASCAR better than either of the two. And suddenly it made me remember an old Hollywood saying that the "Best Picture" is seldom one that becomes a loved classic. Films like KING KONG, THE WIZARD OF OZ, SINGIN' IN THE RAIN and STAR WARS are now more remembered and loved than many films that won "best picture" such as CAVALCADE, MRS. MINIVER, MARTY, and ORDINARY PEOPLE. It is sad to see the Animated Feature Oscar beginning to follow the same trend.

February 18, 2006
Got some family visiting this weekend. Comet (from our first litter) and Dyami (from our most recent). Both are fitting in fine and having a grand time. Only 'downside' is the shift in weather. We went from being in the 70s early in the week to snow today. ugh. Made a quick trip to the rental store for some snowy entertainment. Saw THE PRINCESS BRIDE and found it satisfactory. Am surprised many claim it is not as good as NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS. Though BRIDE is not too good at keeping its story elements a secret, it flowed well and was always interesting. Also got the first disc from DEADWOOD. Wow. Couldn't get past the first fifteen minutes... which had more foul language than in all the movies I saw in 2005! Now I just have to hope that the snow doesn't get too thick tonight making returning the movies tough. Oh... and have to take a moment to say our hearts are with friend "V" who has a very sick young one. I hope the story has a happy ending.

February 17, 2006
When I got into collecting back in the 60s, there were two types. There was the collector of memorabilia like comics, movie items, old toys, coins, animation art, stamps and such. The thrill in such collecting was the hunt. One would happily spend hours at swap meets, garage sales, thrift stores, conventions and the like searching for the lost treasures. The other collector was more like a person who enjoyed shopping sprees. They would focus on trinkets found all around from statues of angels to paintings of clowns. The thrill of this seemed to be of completion. I thought about this difference upon seeing news about the recent toy show in New York. New toys include collectible figures based on classic Warner Bros. cartoons and Jay Ward. This trend began during the 1980s. As memorabilia collecting became big business, big business got into memorabilia collecting. Suddenly studios were creating limited edition cels. Publishers were created special edition books. Toy companies were creating special edition toys. It was no longer difficult to find a souvenir of Tony the Tiger, Marilyn Monroe or The Banana Splits. All you needed was a credit card. By the 90s, not only were the companies creating new merchandise, they were beginning to re-create classic merchandise. Want a collection of Peanuts comic strips? Don't search for missing newspapers, just buy the complete collection book. Want something of Scooby Doo? Don't scour eBay for toys from the the 60s or 70s, just go to Walmart. Now it seems that the thrill of the search only refers to the search of addtional credit to buy all this stuff. And sadly, as more and more of this stuff comes out, it makes the older stuff a little less interesting... and coincidentally, the whole idea of collecting.

February 16, 2006
Just got word that an animated series I've grown to like was "not renewed". I was told the move was not due to ratings. It seems to have been another victim of "creator overload". I am not sure if the overload was the creator just being tired of doing a show, or if the network was simply tired of dealing with a troublesome creator. My guess would be the latter. Few folks will walk away from a show after only one season. After all, it is the dream of so many to get a show... and then once that dream happens the next dream is to have it become a hit show. This is because everyone in this business knows that a hit show will give you incredible, what should I call it, "power". Suddenly you will be in demand and you have a chance to join the small rank of hit show creators that can then create a whole line of shows. So most likely, the studio simply got tired of the creator. I am always amazed when I find a creator who seems to only have a desire to butt-heads with the network. I can certainly understand creative freedom and rights. I am a creator, myself. But I also see the other side. Also as mentioned, one show can begat more shows. So you would think a new creator who gets a show would bend over backward to make the network and studio happy. I know of at least two cases in which a smart creator, with only an "average" show, was able to become a studio darling and get additional series. Meanwhile, other creators kicked and screamed their way through production. In today's talent-sensitive-exec mindset, the networks never want to "say no" to a creator, no matter how demanding. Instead, they simply let the show, and the creator go "un-renewed". Kind of sad when the show is a good one.

February 15, 2006
Some things are just unforeseen. For example, despite all the folks who look forward and predict the future, I doubt few saw the mobilization of the current generation. When I chat with the folks at work under 25, it seems they are most interested in what they can get "on the go". Downloading music, clips, tv shows, movies and more is their favorite past time. While many in the media argue over big screen tvs, digital channels and high definition dvds, the modern generation seems less concerned about size and image quality. The younger artists do not want big screen tvs or high def discs. They just want stuff they can put in their ipods, cel phones or laptops. Even at home, they don't sit in front of tvs. Rather they drag their mobile device from room to room. This keeps them from having to 'stop' doing what they are doing. Totally mobile entertainment. Even though most scifi writers and film makers seemed to have imagined a future where we sit around in front of large computers, tv screens, machines and such, it seems the real future will actually be smaller. At what point will those earphone celphones be able to download music and satellite radio? Probably soon. I just wonder how small a screen is too small to watch tv. Course, many of the folks at the studio choose their tv entertainment by the audio. As one recently commented, they were going to buy the Pink Panther cartoon collection, until they realized, all they would really hear is the Henry Mancini theme over and over. Instead, they bought the first season of BEWITCHED. It made me think. When tv first came around, it was joked as "radio with pictures". Modern entertainment may be coming very close to that description.

February 14, 2006
Valentine's day. A quiet day... sort of. Had to hit the studio. Did leave early to pick up Outback for dinner. Made me think of someone who loved it very much. And that led to thoughts of another who tries to keep my spirits up. At home, the pups made quite a fuss over the steak. Obviously they got the word. Not much romance. But there were feelings of love in the house. Just as important.

February 13, 2006
Odd morning. Much more traffic on the drive. Where is everyone going so early? Obviously not to the train station. The train is almost empty. But the train to Burbank is packed! Regular breakfast eateries are closed. There's almost a dozen early birds arriving at the studio... about a dozen more than usual. On top of that is a general feeling of apprehension.

Also have to mention the top story of the weekend, the vice-president's accidental shooting of a fellow hunter. No doubt to be the key joke topic tonight. Even I can't help but think the NRA's new bumper stickers will read, "guns don't shoot people, vice-presidents do." However there is also a darkly disturbing side to this incident. It took almost 24 hours for the accident to be reported. If this had been a standard celebrity (actor, rock star, sports figure, etc.), it would have been news in a matter of hours. The VP and White House are now making all sorts of excuses for the delay in the news, the most common being that since it was on "private property", it was up to the property owner to report it. A few years ago, when a visitor to Disneyland was attacked with a knife, the park delayed in reporting it to authorities. The Park was highly criticized. Legal and civil penalties were considered. However, when one of the most important people in our government is involved in a shooting, there is no word. And apparently no repurcussions. It makes me wonder what else the VP (and even the President) might have done, or is currently doing, that is not being reported. I wonder how things would have been handled differently if it had been the VP who had been shot... or if the VP's friend had died. What worries me is that nothing would have been different. Or worse... we might have heard nothing. Period.

February 12, 2006
BAMBI 2 must be one of the most advertised direct-to-video sequels ever produced by Disney. It seems every time I turn on the TV, there is an ad for it. Well, it worked. I bought a copy and we watched it over the weekend. As has become standard, the look of the animation (done at the excellent, and now closed Australian studio) was very nice. In fact, not only are many original designs from the orginal film used, so is some of the orginal music (rescored). However, the nice looking animation of recent Disney "cheapquels" (as one wag dubbed them) was not able to gloss over the lame, tedious stories. Though not as entertaining as the two highly entertaining LION KING direct-to-videos, BAMBI 2 is also not as lame as other recent "cheapquels". Helping is the story's length (barely over an hour), and the nice voice work of Patrick Stewart as Bambi's dad. True the new story is much more "lively" than the original with lots of patter. And I do mean LOTS of patter. The original feature has the least amount of dialogue of any Disney classic. This one even has the characters burst into song. There is also more slapstick and a quicker timing sensibility than the original. The story, which starts shortly after the death of Bambi's mother, does come to a fairly abrupt ending. But then again, it really is more like an extra chapter to be inserted. (And I bet somewhere a Disney exec is already thinking of a 'special edition' BAMBI that combines the two.) Again, the film is far from the disaster it could have been, which is quite a statement. Not a great film, but better than a lot of other animated features I have seen. It also shows that the video sequels offer some opportunities when done with some integrity and stronger writing talent.

February 11, 2006
Recently was discussing production with a friend who mentioned "creator driven" animation. I expressed my dislike of the term as being innacurate and misleading. I then gave several reasons why the term, like calling computer animation "3D", was faulty. The friend understood my issues, but stated that the term had become standard in the industry. It suddenly made me think of the Democratic Party's current mantra "we can do better". There was a time when writers of books and articles strove to be accurate. No matter what the public may have thought, it was the reporter's job to report the facts. For years animation writers fought such urban animation legends as STEAMBOAT WILLIE being the first sound cartoon, Pat Sullivan animating Felix the Cat, SNOW WHITE being the first animated feature, computer animation does not use artists, etc. However today it seems as if reporters and researchers everywhere, whether in the press or in the animation field simply take what is "standard" and echo it. While it is true that once the public gets something in its mind, it is hard to revise it, that does not mean we should stop trying. If "creator driven" is a standard term, then every time a reputable writer uses it, they should qualify the term as being innacurate. Perhaps after a few years of such corrected use, folks will drop the phrase. After all, when Reagan annouced his anti-missile plan as a "star wars" system, many folks, including George Lucas, squawked at the term. Reporters kept referring to the plan as the "missile defense plan". Today, few use the "star wars" term. It would be nice to think that in a few years such terms as "creator driven", "3D" and "dumbed down" were stricken from discussion of animation production.

February 10, 2006
The new Pink Panther film has brought all sorts of discussion about the idea of changing actors in established roles. It seemed interesting that despite several tries to find a replacement for Peter Sellers' Clouseau, including such big names as Alan Arkin and Steve Martin (with such folks as Richard Mulligan and Roberto Benigni as relations). While at the same time such characters as Sherlock Holmes, Tarzan, Batman and James Bond have been played by many actors. Certainly there was debate about the various actors portraying these characters, none seemed to have the lock of a Peter Sellers on Clouseau. I think the reason is the source of the character. Holmes, Tarzan, Batman and Bond were literary characters first. They had an established personna. The first actors that came along were often compared to the book descriptions. As new actors came along, the books still were the original source material. Actor "A" might have played the character different than Actor "B", but both were doing impressions of an already established, yet physically unseen (at least in film) character. However, Clouseau had no previous incarnation. He sprung to life as Peter Sellers. Hence there was no previous idea to base it on. New actors must now base their interpretations not so much on an existing character, but on an existing performance. Instead of putting a peronsal interpretating of a literary character, the new actors are actually forced to create an impersonation or caricature of the original performance. Hence no matter how good the actor, they are forced to be, at best, a copy of another actor. And copies, no matter how good, end up being less sharp than the original.

February 9, 2006
Another flu day. Went to the doctor, then spent the rest of day at home. Watched TV and videos while I was going in and out of sleep. Saw some of the special features on THE INCREDIBLES dvd. It reminded me of the importance of "films by committee". I know the phrase is often given a bad name these days when flops appear. But even on a film that everyone loved, like INCREDIBLES, you can hear the creator talk about scenes, ideas, characters and such that were changed from his original vision. And most of the time, the decisions made by the committee (or "team" as Bird called them) were the right ones. So despite the nay sayers, in filmmaking teamwork can actually improve a piece of work.

February 8, 2006
The flu has struck again...
will try to be back tomorrow.

February 7, 2006
Over the weekend caught a few dvds at the video store. First was KRONK'S NEW GROOVE. This sequel to the breezy THE EMPERORS NEW GROOVE, is the reason people complain about Disney direc-to-video sequels. Though they almost always look good, they generally lack good writing and direction. (Makes me wonder why the LION KING sequels play so well.) Adding insult to duldroms is a 'making of' segment where we see the creators and voice talent hamming around in front of a camera. Next was FAMILY GUY PRESENTS STEWIE GRIFFIN THE UNTOLD STORY. Though not as manic as some of the best episodes of the series, the film is continually entertaining with some clever bits and funny gags. Seeing this after KRONK is like enjoying an Outback steak after McDonalds. It is nice to see that some folks can do quality longform animation for home video. (Course FOX was also responsible for the dreary FERNGULLY II, so they are not totally innocent.) Finally was the Disney Rarites II. It was a nice collection of mostly non-character shorts from Ferdinand the Bull and Lambert: The Sheepish Lion to Paul Bunyan and The Truth About Mother Goose. While watching the disc, Rachel kept mentioning how she had seen this short or that on the Disney Channel. It made me realize that the Disney Channel and Toon Disney show almost none of the classic shorts. What a loss! Also made me wish they would re-release some of the great Disney TV episodes that featured animation old and new, like "The Coyote's Lament".

February 6, 2006
One of the great debates, along with Curly or Shemp, is THE MUNSTERS or ADDAMS FAMILY. Sadly, over the weekend THE MUNSTERS' Al "Grandpa" Lewis passed away. As a youngster, I liked the ADDAMS FAMILY better, cause it seemed "crazy". THE MUNSTERS seemed a bit "corny". However, as I "matured", the corny-ness of THE MUNSTERS became endearing and I decided MUNSTERS was better. So I was happy to have a chance to meet Al Lewis at a video show in the 1980s. He was there promoting a new line of videotapes - cheap horror movies (mostly pubic domain) that he did intros to. I caught him in a quiet moment. He was sitting there, smoking a cigar, watching the occasional attendee wander by. I stepped up and told him what a thrill it was to meet him. He was very friendly and chatted for a few minutes. I told him I not only enjoyed THE MUNSTERS, but also his other roles, such as the judge in USED CARS. He laughed and said the film had been fun to make. "You know," he leaned forward as if about to reveal a big secret, "when I went to work on that film, this kid comes up to me, I mean a real young kid, and someone says 'Al, this is the director'. And I think, it's a kid! That 'kid' was Bob Zemeckis [later director of BACK TO THE FUTURE and WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT]. But woo! Look at him today!" He then chuckled and made a few comments about the "great times" he had on THE MUNSTERS. At that moment a young lady walked by. She was scantily dressed, and obviously one of the show's "hostesses". Al waved at her. She smiled. "Your mother would be proud of you!" Al shouted as she passed by. I was somewhat taken a back. He smiled and then said, "did you see those two [referring to the lady's breasts]? You can always tell when their real." He chuckled to himself and then one of the booth operators called for him to meet some buyers. He graciously excused himself and headed off. Though that was probably around 20 years ago, those few moments are still fresh in my mind. Al Lewis had that kind of star power. Like Grandpa Munster, he was forceful, broad, commanding, and instantly likable. He was one of those rare celebrities that once you met, you never forgot.

February 5, 2006
I recently saw a trailer for the new Pink Panther film starring Steve Martin in the role of the famed Inspector Clouseau, originally portrayed by the late Peter Sellers. While watching the trailer, it made me realize another icon has been destroyed by Mike Myers. With Austin Powers, Myers has made it all but impossible to watch James Bond films without chuckling. Myers and his team have done such a grand job of satirizing the entire genre of 007 that even the classic films are hard to watch without smiling. Similarly, when I saw the Panther trailer, I watched Martin perform a number of elaborate physical gags of the bumbling policeman. Rather than thinking if Martin could erase Seller's classic version, I found myself noting how much of the action seemed to mimic the Myers' bumbling agent, Powers. Amazingly, in one fell swoop of a film series, Myers has destroyed two major 60s icons - Bond and Clouseau. It is a feat no less than a dozen cinema villains have tried to do. And the death count may not be over. I recall one person watched CASINO ROYALE, made in the 60s, and commented how it just looked like an Austin Powers' film. I now wonder if TV classic LAUGH-IN will also seem not only dated, but stale compared to the psychadelic images found in Powers world. As Dr. Evil might say, "curse you, Powers!"

February 4, 2006
"Everyone knows" is the most pointless, and perhaps most fictitious statement I "know" of. When I hear it, I am reminded of the King of Siam in THE KING AND I. When confronted with the fact that the Earth orbits the sun, the King's son states "everyone knows" the Earth rides on the back of a turtle. The King is both frustrated and angered and replies something like "how can 'everyone know' one thing, when other people say it is something else?" Precisely. Even in these days of 24-hour news channels, websites and blogs, there are remarkably less and less facts that "everyone knows". In my experience, the phrase "everyone knows" almost always precedes information I, or the other party does not know. The other day, I read a large number of news reports in papers and on the web about the merger of the WB network and UPN. When I mentioned this at a meeting, everyone acted as if it were totally new information. The WB network is a major part of our company. Yet, here was a fact that "everyone" outside the studio knew. So I guess it is really who is considered "everyone". Sort of like the old joke about the society blue book. A person asks who is in the blue book. Another answers that it is a book that lists "everyone who is anyone". The questioner then replies, "Oh, you mean the phone book." But then, I guess everyone has heard that joke.

February 3, 2006
"The next Walt Disney." I have heard this title given to quite a few folks. The most recent is John Lasseter. What makes the title unique to him is that he is (allegedly at least) to be working at the Disney studio. Previous holders of the title include Don Bluth and Richard Williams. Anime giants Miyazaki and Tezuka have been dubbed "the Walt Disney of Japan." What is odd is that those who bestow the title usually give it due to the person being a well respected animator. Odd because Disney was not a respected animator. Disney was a good commercial artist (doing ads and logos), and an animation pioneer, but he was far from a "good" animator. In several interviews, when asked why he stopped being an artist, Disney would reply he found very early that others could draw better than him. He surrounded himself with top artists, leaving him free to do what he did best - run a studio and story edit. (And "edit" is the key word, Disney never won great praise as a story creator.) So the "next" Walt Disney should be someone who is a good story editor, recognizes talent, and knows how to run/promote a studio. Of the previously mentioned names, only Tezuka probably fits the bill. In fact, Jim Henson (Muppets) and Jim Davis (Garfield) might fall more into the Disney mold. Even I could, immodestly, make the claim. I did art in school, but now let better artists handle the pencil chores. I have edited publications and written for comics and animation. I have also run and promoted studios and productions. But I won't hold my breath waiting to be knighted a Disney. The one thing I lack, and most of the others did, was a magic ability to promote oneself while still appearing totally humble. Though often humble, I have never gotten the promotion stuff down pat.

February 2, 2006
What is the modern worker wearing? Technology. It really doesn't matter what clothes are found on today's workforce. Of course corporate society still enjoys suits from various name brands, and entertainment moguls like to be seen in any sort of attire - as long as, again, it comes from a name brand. What does count is your technology. When I see the folks on the train each morning, I see new trends. One, obviously, is the cel phone. You see the hand held model (becoming scarce), the wire that runs into a shirt pocket, and the "ear broach" that harbors over your ear, on almost everyone. Next is the mp3 player. (Of course the trendy folks must have an iPod.) Then they must have a laptop, or preferably a Blackberry style device to type away on. Finally there is the security badge from their business. You still will see an occasional briefcase, backpack, walkman or dvd player. But they seem on the decline. Actually luggage seems to be gaining in popularity since some folks seem to be bringing home the office with them. It is a far different scene from those films in the 50s and 60s when business commuters basically wore a suit and maybe had a briefcase or newspaper.

February 1, 2006
Silence is golden. No news is good news. Don't ask, don't tell. It seems so many sayings today deal with the positive nature of not knowing. I say "bull". One of the most frustrating things I have dealt with in the last decade is the pattern of silence. Executives fear to give bad news to employees. Editors fear hurting feelings of writers. Workers fear criticising the office. Lovers fear breaking hearts or starting fights. Employers fear telling job seekers they will not be hired. Such reluctance to be truthful, with "good intentions" only builds resentment, anger, doubt, and distrust. For example, if an editor does not like a story, he could tell the author the work "does not suit present needs". If the writer is a professional, they will accept this as a simple rejection and take their work elsewhere. If the writer is more "sensitive", they might have a flash of anger and disappointment. But in either case, it ends quickly. When the editor says nothing, does not return calls and avoids discussing the work it makes the creator distrust the editor. It makes the writer resentful of the editor and the company. And unlike a flash of anger or professional shrug, resentment can harbor bad feelings for a long time. No wonder there is so much unrest in corporate America. It is bad enough you cannot trust politicians, lawyers and other icons. It is the pits when you cannot trust your boss, your mate, your co-worker or your friend to be honest with you.

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