Daily Barks 04.06 cataroo.com
The Daily Bark: April 2006

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April 30, 2006
Too tired... no bark.

April 29, 2006
Every so often something happens in politics that shockingly reminds me (and hopefully others) at how out of touch politicians are with the real world. With the ever increasing price of gas, the Republican party has come up with a solution - a $100 tax refund. Yes, the GOP (aka greedy oil party) wants to send me $100 to help with the cost of gas. The cost, which has gone up nearly a dollar a gallon in the last year. $100 will buy me around two tanks of gas. To quote the Irish fellow in FAMILY GUY, "big woop". What are these politicians thinking? Am I some homeless guy on the street you can drop some money in a cup. Gee, the GOP can't give you guaranteed health care, a fair minimum wage, affordable drugs, job security, or even a secure port. But they can give you $100. When those two tanks are gone, I'll be back with the rest of the country trying to decide what not to do so that I can buy gas. Go to the movies less? Travel less? Eat out less? For years now the government has been unable to do anything about the energy crisis except argue about where to drill for a few more barrels. They refuse to regulate the industry. They refuse to force car companies to make fuel efficient vehicles. They refuse to fully fund alternate fuel sources. And now they want to give me $100. It reminds me of the old joke of two gentlemen who meet on a street. One pulls out some money and states he wants to pay back a very old, long overdue loan. The other says to keep the money. He states the amount isn't worth changing his opinion of the lendee. I feel the same. Keep the $100. It isn't worth changing my opinion about Republican congress.

April 28, 2006
Back in early 2005, Warner Bros announced they were "updating" the Looney Tune characters into a group of futuristic superheros, THE LOONATICS. Fansites around the world screamed at the idea of tinkering with classic characters in such a way. They feared it would destroy the famous cartoon images. At the time, I mentioned the final decision on the subject would be whether or not the show was enjoyable and/or popular. Well, in the Fall of 2005, the show debuted to strong numbers, and has now been renewed for another season. Their second season will debut along with another new series... which will "update" a classic character. Not surprisingly, there is little internet frenzy amongst the toon scholars. The update is coming to Scooby Doo in SHAGGY & SCOOBY-D00 GET A CLUE! Per a release from Warner Bros, "Shaggy and Scooby live in the bling'd-out mansion of Shaggy's Uncle Albert, solving mysteries with the help of a transforming Mystery Machine which, at the click of a remote, can morph into one of a number of modes of transportation. New Scooby Snacks infused with a top-secret nano-technology allows our canine hero to fly, become a towering robot or even turn himself into a giant magnet". Is this any less of a pervesion of the original than was THE LOONATICS? Again, I will say the final decision on such a variation will be based on if the show is fun and successful. But I am disappointed this revisionist version has not gotten any real play on the internet toonsites. Sad to say, no matter how popular the cowardly duo of Great Dane and boyish beatnik are with the general public, toon scholars have always looked down on Scooby and his friends. While these scholars uphold the toons of the 30s, 40s, and 90s (for some odd reason), few give any support to the creations of the 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s. I like Scooby, and still find many of his classic series to be amusing, despite crude artwork and direction. I think the character of Scooby is a great creation. Which only, once again, puts me in the bin of "bad boy animators". But that is a bark for another day. Rooby-Dooby-Dooooooo!

April 27, 2006
Went and saw THE WILD today at the El Capitan. The show included several previews, a fun live bird show and the cgi feature, THE WILD. What a shame. What a shame that this film is being dismissed by the Disney studio (no doubt due to Pixar's presence). The film has a good story, pleasant characters and a good number of clever ideas, funny gags and inventive visuals. Sadly so many are focusing on the similar basics of Dreamworks' MADAGASCAR. Yes, both films feature animals from the NY Zoo getting out and traveling to another country. But that is like saying PSYCHO and FRIDAY THE 13TH are the same because they feature psychotic murderers. The handling of the material between MADAGASCAR and THE WILD are very different. Is it a great movie? No. Is it a fun film? Yes. It is easily as good as "more proper" animation folk's fave LILO AND STITCH. I remember when Warners pulled the same treatment on CATS DON'T DANCE and later on their own THE IRON GIANT. Fans and animation folks screamed at the studio snub. It is sad that since the purchase of Pixar, Disney has dropped support of so many projects to keep the folks at Pixar happy. With the minor boxoffice and lack of promotion, THE WILD will unfairly be totally forgotten by year's end. And what's worse, no one will say anything for fear of upsetting the darling of the animation world, Pixar. After all, who bought who? Oh, and we saw four trailers. The first was GOAL, another underdog wins big in sports story. Then was CARS, which looks like another film that will make Pixarites cheer, and leave me cold. Next was MEET THE ROBINSONS, a Disney cgi film from another animation darling that has struggled to keep in production after the Disney/Pixar merge. Neither animated film got much of a response from the audience. Final trailer was for the sequel to PIRATES OF THE CARRIBEAN. Looks fun... and the audience agreed.

April 26, 2006
Have moved a bit ahead into the present with the start up of our new computer. Not a lot of bells and whistles, but a bigger screen that is still astounding Rachel. It has more power and options than the old one. (from 1998!) Of course with the new comes the work. Spent the afternoon with a local consultant getting stuff transfered over. After we figured out most of the stuff, I had to finish the email transfers on my own. Hope to really give it a test later with some video editing, writing and more. And it IS a big screen.

April 25, 2006
Inspiration. Where does it come from? This popped into my head while I was humming an Irving Berlin song. Rachel thought it was "Darth Vader's March" from STAR WARS. After a few seconds, of comparing, I found it was true. Berlin's "Fellow with an Umbrella" is very similar to Williams evil theme... just slightly different tempo. Coincidence? I have friends who always complain I have too much memory of media. At work a lady began talking of a new series soon to air. It is about a child of the devil who comes to the human world only to find love. The first words out of my mouth was, "like Adam Sandler's LITTLE NICKY." Being a plot detective can be a bit fun. But like any detective, clues are often accidentally found. An episode of 1990s MURDER SHE WROTE has the killer looking for a missing fortune. Angela Lansbury discovers the fortune has been converted to a valuable stamp. Last year I saw a Cary Grant movie from the 60s where a thief is murdered. All of his gang tries to find the stolen loot. Turns out he hid it by converting it into a valuable stamp. Then, while listening to a radio show from the 1950s, a detective solves the case of a missing treasure by discovering the money is in a valuable stamp. And then there is the Abbott and Costello film where a gangster has hidden his money. Oh wait, in that one the money is "in" his head.

April 24, 2006
Last week I found out that my show will definitely not be getting another season. Also that there is no new series going into production. In fact, the network has actually slowed the greenlighting of series in hopes of getting stronger, better rated series. Of course by delaying such decisions, it only makes the network unable to keep fresh new series coming down the pipeline. But no matter the reasoning, the result is that I will be exiting the network after five and half years. My second longest stint in the industry. It is never fun having to start making the rounds looking for work. Quite a few of my co-workers and friends have started retiring. Those closer to my age are also ending runs at studios and looking for work, and not always finding it. Had a lunch last week with five friends at various studios. By the end of June all but one will be out of work. I know many who have gone into other business ranging from working at the Home Depot to teaching. Though the business is "booming" by all press accounts, the amount of work is lessening. More work is going overseas, but that is nothing new. But now it is not just animation, some shows are only having the writing done in the U.S. (Shades of Saban!) Work is needing to be completed quicker, meaning jobs last less time. At one studio a recent season schedule, which might have taken all year back in the 90s, was done in less than three months! I enjoy doing animation, and most of those who work with me enjoy having me on hand due to my production knowledge, historical retrospective and strong experience. Though in a business driven by youth, "experience" can be a bad word. And with so many of my supporters retiring or fleeing, well, it can be tough.

April 23, 2006
Another tiring day. Not helped by the fact that I got very little sleep thanks to a late day allergy attack. Took the kids in for their eye tests. Grocery shopped. Chores around the house. Welcomed in a new visitor. Watched VAN HELSING (dull and corny with lame effects). Just a busy day. And one that has left me barely able to stay awake.

April 22, 2006
Spent the day at America's Pet Expo in Costa Mesa. It is a mammoth show of critters, products and services all geared to pets. When we go, it is to work the Dane booth and show our kids to the public. This year we brought Star, Eagle and Rooster. All were well behaved... and those visiting the show love our kids. They got the usual compliments of beauty, handsomeness, size, manners and more. It is exhausting. And I am surprised our kids do not come back bald from all the petting they receive. The show is a ton of fun for those living in the SoCal area and worth checking out. Someday I hope to be able to see the show as a mere spectator.

April 21, 2006
Gas has topped $3 again. And unlike last time, there is little fuss by the consumer or the government. Everyone just seems to accept it. How bad will it have to be before the public attempts an uproar? We may find out. Earlier this week, Iran's President said that "record crude oil prices were still below their 'real value.'" Since then, the price of a barrel of oil has risen several more dollars. He also stated that "developed countries were benefiting the most from high oil prices." That is pretty hard to argue with when we hear news that last year Exxon made $36 billion, the biggest profit of any company in U.S. history. And now we hear that Exxon is giving one exec a retirement package of nearly $400 million! This news comes as U.S. farmers bankrupting airlines and other businesses struggle under the rising price of gas. Each one talks of how they are cutting costs rather than passing the rising costs onto consumers. Seems the only companies not worried about passing on these costs are the U.S. oil companies, who gladly pass it on at up to 10-cents more per day. Considering many oil producing countries have large populations living in poverty, it is easy to see how such producers can have little sympathy about the price of oil... or about the people who are profiting from it.

April 20, 2006
My birthday. Again. Will celebrate next week by seeing THE WILD at the El Capitan and visiting the "Studio" store and pin shop. Think the last film I saw there was POCAHANTAS. Bet I'll like THE WILD more.

April 19, 2006
THE SONG OF THE SOUTH is the only Disney feature of classic era not released to home video in the U.S. It is released in several other countries, including Japan and England. The reasoning behind the delay in release has always been the image the film shows of African Americans during the era of slavery. Uncle Remus, a storyteller and slave, lives in a shack on a wealthy White estate and embodies the "happy negro" personality so criticized by more modern sensibilities. At the time the film was made, it was (sadly) one of the common images. So it is hard to criticize the studio at the time. However, as mentioned, today such images are neither common, nor approved. Interestingly, last year, while Roy Disney raged his battle with the board and Michael Eisner, one of his claims was that the studio should release the film. In fact, the film had been set as an upcoming Disney Masterpiece limited edition dvd, no doubt with lots of culturally sensitive intros. However, Disney made peace (and profit) with the new Disney (Eisner-less) board. All his previous complaints and demands have evaporated. Including the demand to release SONG OF THE SOUTH. The new head of Disney, Bob Iger, sighted a recent screening of the film and said "owing to the sensitivity that exists in our culture, balancing it with the desire to maybe increase our earnings a bit but never putting that in front of what we thought were our ethics and our integrity, we've made the decision not to re-release it." Cue the townsfolk in BLAZING SADDLES, "Bullsh*t!" When it comes to releasing direct to video knock-offs of classic features, ethics and integrity are not allowed to get in the way of profits. But as one shrewd site mentioned, the release of the film today would not be a big seller. Historians would snap it up, the few general consumers who might be interested would buy it, and large groups would probably boycot it. The SONG OF THE SOUTH on home video would not make the music of ringing cash registers loud enough to overshout the controversy. And after years of Eisner battles, if there is one thing the new Disney board is working hard to do, it is to avoid controversy.

April 18, 2006
Just finished a Perry Mason novel and was surprised. I had read several before, as part of my "seen the movie/tv now want to read the original" kick. The first novel I read was a revelation of how close the TV series and Raymond Burr's portrayal of the character are to the books. In fact, after reading just a few paragraphs of Mason's actions and dialogue, I can believe the legend that when Raymond Burr walked into the casting session (actually there for a different role), author Earle Stanley Gardner jumped up and said "there's my Perry Mason". Of course the books are generally as formulaic as the TV series. Lots of suspects. A mysterious murder. Mason pulls lots of tricks, many barely within the law, and proves someone beside his client is the killer. Often the killer makes a confession on the witness stand in court, or shouts it out from the courtroom. The recent one (title withheld for spoiler reasons) was quite a surprise. Mason does all the usual tricks and in the end his client receives a "not guilty" verdict. However, in the last chapter as the details are being wrapped up, Della (his secretary) suddenly notices an error. Mason then admits that it may be possible that his client DID do the murder... but that it was most likely a justifiable homicide! Now THAT was a surprise ending. It is fun to find books that do that.

April 17, 2006
A lot of news today. Too much. Got discouraging info on appliances, health, and more. Just one of those days. Positive thoughts ranged from Annie to Pollyana. Oddly it was a thought from Mary Poppins that was a bit of a downer. But... "tomorrow is another day" - Gone With The Wind

April 16, 2006
Easter Sunday. Nothing really special from the bunny... but at least that means NO PEEPS! Yay! Those (now) multicolor marshmallow sponges are some of the grossest candy around.

Rachel handled our friend Amanda's Brindle Great Dane, Journey, at a show today. They ended up with Reserve Winner's Dog! Rachel took over after another handler was unable to get Journey's full attention. I often say that Rachel should get into the professional end of handling. She looks very good in the ring, and can really throw the spotlight on the dog. She also has more of intuitive connection with dogs than most handlers who simply try standard obedience rules to get the dog to show properly.

April 15, 2006
Thoughts of getting a lot done around the house today went South. The kids needed me to be settled, so spent the day working here. So there is a lot new to look at. There is now an entire run of GET ANIMATED! on CDrom for sale. More pictures have been added to the Costume Characters page. And I even added more photos of me in costume on the Costume Performer page. Hope you enjoy them. I know the kids enjoyed me sitting here.

April 14, 2006
Good Friday. A day off. A night more off. Took the day off to drop Rachel and Eagle in San Diego for a show. They will be there till Sunday. Came home in horrible weather - pouring rain, flooded streets, mud slides, rock slides, fog, snow and more. At home found numerous issues... but at least all the kids were ok. Made me think how I to often delay tasks with the thought I'll get to them later. Seems lately such chosen delays only create issues. Think for awhile I will not put off to 'tomorrow' what should be done today. Know it will cut into some 'fun' time... but better less fun today and less disasters tomorrow.

April 13, 2006
The news is reporting that gas prices are up around 20 cents in the last two weeks. I wonder why they bother mentioning it. Anyone who drives around and sees the numbers rising, like a thermometer in summer, knows the prices are up. It is like reporting the sun came up. It is also obvious on my morning commute. Whenever gas prices start circling the $3 range, the train starts filling up. Of course the news is also full of stories about rising prices for bus, train and plane fare. Again, so obvious. What is less reported is how flatly the public is responding. Over a year ago, when gas prices shot up over a dollar (to near $3 a gallon) in a matter of months, the public was screaming. When the oil companies came out with their record profits, some in the government began screaming. But then, the prices began dropping. When they had settled, they were still around 40-60 cents higher than before the spike. Now the price has inched back up to the $3 range. But the screaming has subsided. There is even a prediction that the price will rise another 25 cents by Summer. That would make a raise of around 10 cents a month. The answer? Unknown. I think it is interesting, that most experts agree that banning/taxing gas guzzlers like SUVs would greatly help the situation. Somehow I doubt that will happen. I do not thing the government, which receives so much money from oil lobbies, really wants to decrease oil profits that much.

April 12, 2006
If you are thinking of seeing Disney's newest animated film, THE WILD, do NOT watch the Disney Channel. Over the past week, the network has been bombarding viewers with promos for the film including talks with talent and lots of clips. Normally, promotion can be good. But the extensive use of clips is making us think we will have seen the entire film (or at least a majority of the good parts) before we even step into the theater! It is sadly typical that trailers today can reveal the entire story of a drama or all the best gags from a comedy. Whatever happened to the days when a trailer was supposed to "tease" you? Today, studios are so fearful of not having a big opening weekend, they give away the cow and the milk. Sheesh. Show a little restraint. I do not know if it will affect the opening weekend money figures... but I bet it will increase the enjoyment of the audience.

April 11, 2006
Much to the irritation of the "smart set" animation websites, ICE AGE 2: THE MELTDOWN has become a boxoffice smash. In fact it is the first film of 2006 to break $100 million. While checking its second weekend tally, I looked at the top 10 animate box office hits. The #1 position is still held by Dreamwork's SHREK 2 at $441 million. *whew* #2 is Pixar's FINDING NEMO at $339 million, and right behind is Disney's THE LION KING at $328 million. In fact, of the top ten, eight are CGI films, five by pixar and three by Dreamworks. The other two are hand animation by Disney - LION KING and ALADDIN. In fact, THE LION KING was the top grossing feature for a decade. Quite a record. Returning to the start of the this piece, #11 on the list is the original ICE AGE. Not bad for a studio's first feature. I enjoyed the first ICE AGE. No, it is not a "great" movie, but it is great fun with interesting characters. Come to think of it, Pixar's strength seems to be storylines. While Disney and Dreamworks focus on characters. No wonder the two "D"s do so well with sequels. Now that Pixar and Disney are soon to be "one", it means Disney can claim seven of the top spots. But, Dreamworks is still king. Wonder if CARS will come close to unseating an Ogre. Somehow, I think not.

April 10, 2006
Just saw Miyazaki's recent feature, HOWL'S MOVING CASTLE. It means I finally saw all the films nomimated for the 2005 Best Animated Feature Oscar. The film is quite a treat. Though not as clean and pure as SPIRITED AWAY, it is also not as convuluted and heavy handed as PRINCESS MONONOKE. HOWL'S does show Miyazaki's strength of creating fascinating characters and skill at picking stories that are layered and unconventional. Rachel put it best when she said his films have the ability to keep you guessing as to where they are going next. He builds such strong characters, like the best writers and animators have, that you feel you truly know and understand them. However, he is able to keep their world in a constantly surprising, yet logical and sound structure. Having now seen all three features, I really think the Oscar went to the wrong film. I think both HOWL'S and CORPSE BRIDE offered real novelty and freshness, as well as amazing technical work. WERERABBIT was "cute", but not something that will become a classic talked about for years to come. HOWL'S with Miyazaki magic, and CORPSE with Burton's bizareness will retain their freshness long after Wallace and Gromit are trivia questions.

April 9, 2006
Finally finished Mark Twain's "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthurs Court". I have seen dozens of films based on this book, and none are very similar to each other. So when I saw a copy of the of the book, I thought I would see which were closest to the novel. The answer is: really none of them. The book is an incredibly flat story that follows a modern age "Yankee" who is mysteriously transported to the time of King Arthur. Most of the films are either done as romances, where the modern fellow falls in love with a lady of the time, or comedies where the modern fellow brings new music and such to the medieval times. Oddly, the comedies are closest as the book follows the Yankee as he tries to turn medieval times into modern times by showing them electricity, phones, etc. The book meanders along, year after year, as he slowly tries to convert an entire world to his idea. Most of the text is taken up with satirical discussions on the difference between medieval and modern societies and how modern government, social ideas and such are much more superior. It is no surprise that screenwriters simply took the basic idea and ran with it. And speaking of writers, I was amused to discover early in the book, the Yankee and Merlin discuss a wizard who is so powerful, "his name can never be mentioned". I instantly thought of a more recent wizard story in which the villain is also referred to as one who cannot be named.

April 8, 2006
Company is making it a bit tough to sleep... really tired tonight. No bark.

April 7, 2006
Was viewing the 1960s CASINO ROYALE recently and it reminded me that this is the next Bond film. Of course the film from the 1960s is a frequently amusing romp with an astounding cast from Peter Sellers and Woody Allen to David Niven and Orson Welles. It was not part of the original film series because the rights had been sold earlier for a TV adaptation, in which Bond was made an American agent! It will certainly be odd. A film that was made as a comedy/satire being done as a serious action film. In the 60s, it was the other way around. Filmmakers and TV folks alike made dozens of spy satires based on the Bond film successes. Perhaps best known is TV's GET SMART. In fact films from the Austin Powers series to THE INCREDIBLES are still taking pokes at the Bond films. Casino Royale was the first Bond book by Ian Fleming. The current filmmakers are stating it will have a more youthful, less experienced Bond. However, in the book, 007 arrives fully developed as the experienced, cynical, agent with a license to kill. Wonder if the new film will have the wonder of the original films... or even the wild fun of the first version.

April 6, 2006
A failed British animation invasion? Some animation websites are making a big deal that the recent poor boxoffice of such films as VALIENT, CURSE OF THE WERERABBIT and DOOGAL are making studio execs think U.S. audiences do not appreciate British humor. (Do not tell Monty Python fans, or viewers of THE OFFICE.) Fact is, British sensibilities and U.S. animation have always been a bit at odds. In the 1960s, Walt Disney opted out of a Winnie the Pooh feature because he felt the material was "too soft". Instead he broke the feature into featurettes, the first being WINNIE THE POOH AND THE HONEY TREE. In the 1970s, the producer of WATERSHIP DOWN felt his film had not done as well as hoped due to it being produced in England. (He produced his next film, THE PLAGUE DOGS in the US... and got NO U.S. distribution!) In the 1980s, a number of Disney execs (and even the producer) blamed the failure of THE BLACK CAULDRON on being "too British". In fact the producer was quoted stating the film was difficult to make because British voices are so "weak". Seems the Disney folks were unaware of one of TV's biggest animated hits in the U.S. - Britain's DangerMouse. Of course the pundits of these theories state the executives are wrong because of the success of Narnia and the Harry Potter films. The difference is that Potter and Narnia are fantasy adventures set in England, not comedies utilizing British humor. Walt Disney may have been right in thinking that British humor is generally too soft for general U.S. audiences. Certainly older auds can enjoy the sly, whimsical humor from the likes of Wallace and Gromit. But younger viewers seem to prefer the more direct comedy approach of the Three Stooges.

April 5, 2006
Our family is a bit bigger again. We have a member of our youngest litter visiting - Feather. She has come up to be spayed and watched over. I am always amused to see how kids from the same litter develop in different environments. Sort of a nature vs nurture. Feather has many of the qualities of all the pups - pretty looks and a sharp mind. But it is interesting to see how the boys vs the girls, because we also pupsat Dyami from the same litter. The girls show a definite leaning to their mom - highly active, and very independent. The boys seem to be more sedate and a bit sneaky. Given a command, the girls will sometimes make it a battle of wills. The boys will try to find a sneaky way around the command. Both are aware their good looks can often carry the day. The girls, when scolded will give their prettiest faces, hoping you will be taken in by looks. The boys, will look coy or silly, hoping you will laugh. The nicest thing of the visits is to see how well the family gets along. Children, parents, grandparents and associates have a grand time. Of course it would be nicer if we weren't in the middle of another downpour and blizzard. But at least Feather found the snow interesting. She kept trying to sniff it, causing her to sneeze. Also found that she has a really beautiful howl. Family reunions can be fun.

April 4, 2006
Lessons learned on the train. Around two months back, my morning commute train to Los Angeles was stopped enroute. Seemed there was a "suspicious package" at an upcoming station. We sat for around an hour. Finally Metrolink decided the train had to go back to San Bernardino to keep on schedule. We were given two options. One, to get off the train and wait for a "possible" later train to get us to Los Angeles. Two, to stay on the train and go back home. I decided I did not want to be stuck at a station for hours and opted to go home, making it a 'sick day'. I later heard that the "later" train arrived around 20 minutes later. I could have gotten to work easily, but around an hour late. The lesson learned that day: Do not go back. (As Charlie Chan would say, "Destination never reached by turning back on same") On Monday, I was going form Los Angeles to San Bernardino. The train stopped. It seems another train (going towards LA) had hit a car. We waited around an hour. They announced their would be busses to take us back to Los Angeles, or we could wait. Well, I did not go back. About 20 minutes later we began heading to San Bernardino. However, they suddenly decided they needed to keep on schedule. So around three stops from home, they announced they would go back to Los Angeles. We had two options. Wait for another train to San Bernardino, which was as yet to be scheduled. Or take a bus to San Bernardino. I decided I did not want to be stuck at a station for hours and opted for the bus. Once on the bus, we hit the freeway... and traffic! We arrived at the San Bernardino station almost an hour later. About the same time another train had arrived from Los Angeles. The lesson learned today... Stay at the station and wait for the train!

April 3, 2006
Speaking of CHICKEN LITTLE, Disney's next cgi feature is THE WILD. Already negative buzz is building. There are those stating it is a copy of MADAGASCAR. While it is true that both feature zoo animals having adventures out of the zoo, the concept is not original. Now, folks have heard that Disney will NOT be screening the film for critics. This is commonly a sign that a studio is afraid of negative comments. Some have stated the studio is embarrased by the film after the Pixar deal. While that may be possible, there is another possibility. Pixar may not want to have it upstage CARS. Disney released THE RESCUERS back in the summer of 1977. The film was a new direction for the studio. A swan song for the remaining golden age animators, and a new direction by the young talent. Unlike silly slapstick seen in THE ARISTOCATS and ROBIN HOOD, the new animators wanted a more serious, classic approach. It was an experiment, but a successful one. The film became one of the best reviewed Disney films in a decade. It also became a box-office hit, claiming the title of highest grossing Disney animated feature. An honor it held until 1989's THE LITTLE MERMAID. But there was one problem. RESCUERS was NOT supposed to be the big movie of 1977. That honor was to go to the studio's big-budgeted musical-animation combo, PETE'S DRAGON. Even though RESCUERS was still going strong at the box-office at Summer's end, the studio pulled it from release. It was done to give time for the build-up to PETE'S DRAGON. Unlike RESCUERS, PETE got luke-warm reviews and did so-so business. A number of folks at Disney were upset that a successful film and its profits had been stopped cold due to internal politics. Even recently, Warners pulled back on the push for Turner's (now cult classic) CATS DON'T DANCE so it could better promote their (now forgotten) QUEST FOR CAMELOT. Though Pixar's CARS is getting some good initial buzz, it also has some (even in Pixar) who think it is not a "strong" picture. There is also concern that it will not be the blockbuster of NEMO or INCREDIBLES. After spending a "hatful of money" on Pixar, it would be quite embarrasing if a Disney film outdid a Pixar. That could drive some folks... "WILD".

April 2, 2006
Recently had a friend lose their mother. They had lost their father earlier. Another friend lost both parents several years ago. The "surprising" thing is that both of these folks are much younger than me. That my folks are still going in their 80s is quite nice. Though I wish I had more of a chance to see them. We get along well, but it seems that their choices of habitat are in places far from where we live. Luckily, I got them to come down and see us last year. It was very nice. I had hoped to go up and see them this Spring. Then they announced they are heading to the East Coast at the end of April. Again, I feel lucky to still have my parents... just wish they around more. And sometimes wishes can come true. My folks called tonight and said they had decided not to go to the East Coast. Instead, they will be moving to Southern California and will be quite close. Both Rachel and I are pleased with the news. They were pleased that we were pleased. Hopefully things will now work out for all of us to see each other more.

April 1, 2006
Finally saw CHICKEN LITTLE, Disney's latest (NOT first) cgi feature. It sort of surprised me. The movie had tons of pre-release "bad press" from websites and the media. Then, when it came out, most of these critics back-pedaled saying it was "better than they expected" and some even said it was "good". I guess these folks like to give Disney as much leeway as possible. I found the film humorless, pointless and derivative. But I often find myself on opposite sides of the standard animation press and fans. I like MADAGASCAR, DRAWN TOGETHER and even POKEMON. I find films like NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS, THE INCREDIBLES and CURSE OF THE WERERABBIT to be pretty plain and predictable. Viewing the deleted scenes were interesting. Seeing Chicken Little as a girl gave an indication of one of the original stories. Also, the alternate "storybook" opening made the film seem stronger than actually "showing" it. It also made me wonder if the alien idea had been conceived at that time. As much as I like THE EMPERORS NEW GROOVE for being quirky, the same team fell down on this film. I cannot immediately remember the last animated comedy film that did not give me one laugh. I am someone who needs more than just technology to enjoy a film. However, it did make a lot of money at the box-office and on dvd sales. And the creative team is now leaving Disney to go into live action films. Such is the trend for today's animation directors and producers. After viewing the film, we checked the pins at a popular Disney pin trading site and found that even on the most limited edition pins (as low as a few hundred) had almost no interest from traders. Maybe that is a better guage at how the film was actually received by the general public, and how the film will be remembered.

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