Daily Barks 08.05
The Daily Bark: August 2005
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August 31, 2005
The news coming out of New Orleans (and other areas hit by Katrina) is stirring mixed emotions. The first is empathy. Having been evacuated during the Old Fire of several years back, I know the feeling of having to leave your home to seek temporary shelter, not knowing if you will ever see your home again. However I also feel anger. Numerous reports have mentioned how the National Guard is trying to help, but that their numbers are lessened due to Iraq. Iraq. The situation there has always been an irritant. Now it is a source of full fledged anger. Billions of dollars spent. Thousands of American soldiers and guards. All being wasted half way around the world to "rebuild" a country. I should add to "rebuild" a country that needs it only because of our interference. Don't waste time telling me about how dangerous and cruel Saddam was. There are equally dangerous and cruel governments in the world and we don't have troops and money there. (In fact, the current administration has a sad history of generally ignoring tyrants and genocides.) Right now we need those resources here, in the U.S. to rebuild our homes. I am always told by politicians how 9-11 changed the world. Sadly, now it seems it has changed our country into a penniless, defenseless nation, unable to fully support our own people when we need it. Today it is Katrina. Tomorrow it may be an earthquake or tornado or a horrible winter storm, or another disastrous hurricane. The administration has stated we won't leave Iraq until the job is done. Well, I was told the job was to get Saddam out of power. Well, that job IS done. We need our time and money spent here, not "nation building" (a term Mr. Bush used and claimed he would never do when he campaigned for his first term) in distant corners of the world. I could go on... but won't. I'm too angry... and feel to much sorrow for the thousands who have survived Katrina only to now face perhaps a much more horrible condition, a government unable to give them full support.
August 30, 2005
No bark. Went to bed early due to several previous sleepless nights.
August 29, 2005
No bark. Went to bed early due to several previous sleepless nights.
August 28, 2005
The end of Pixar? Some have mentioned that the incredible string of critical and box office successes at Pixar indicate the studio is in its golden age. However, just like the golden ages of Disney, Warner Brothers, Hanna-Barbera, and others it is inevitable that Pixar's golden age would eventually end. I wonder if we are seeing that end beginning. First, despite the critical success of THE INCREDIBLES, the home video sales of that title have been far under what was expected. The lack of sales has a number experts explaining it away as being simply a matter of the market and not the product. Pixar's peak of FINDING NEMO will be as hard to sustain as was Disney's after THE LION KING or Dreamworks after SHREK 2. But beyond the possibility of reduced revenues, the studio now faces a creative crisis. The recent loss of Joe Ranft will no doubt lead many to wonder if the magic behind Pixar died with the talented Mr. Ranft. All the tributes coming from Pixar and outside have claimed that Joe was the backbone of the story department heading up, contributing, or fixing every feature the studio has made. Since the strength of all Pixar features have been in their story, one can only wonder what the real impact of Ranft's loss will be. If nothing else, the perception by those outside the business (such as stockholders) may be that Pixar has lost its key guiding lights. When Walt Disney died, many wondered if the studio could continue on without him. It has. However the record has been quite spotty and debated. The one thing all agree on is, that with the death of Walt (who was the backbone behind all stories while he was alive), the studio had left one golden age. After 10 years riding the wave of success and growth, Pixar may be exiting that first golden age.
August 27, 2005
No bark. Went to bed early due to several previous sleepless nights.
August 26, 2005
Why is every animated film that is released by Disney a "Disney" film. I have seen and heard countless reviews of the new computer animated movie VALIENT. The film is being released by Disney and the reviews seem compelled to compare it, usually unfavorably, to other Disney films. VALIENT, like FINDING NEMO or THE INCREDIBLES, was made by a computer animation studio for Disney. Like its Pixar brothers, the Disney studio had very little to do with the film. Perhaps it is because of the difference in quality. When Pixar has a hit, the critics wonder why Disney films cannot be as successful. When a similar 'studio-for-hire' produces a film that is not a hit, they wonder why Disney would release such a film. It is just odd. When Fox or Warners or Universal release a movie the critics do not begin comparing it to every other film the studio made. ("Gee, the Harry Potter films don't have the same romance as CASABLANCA.") The public, and sadly even the critics who should know better. But it seems as long as the Disney name is on a film it somehow implies a full relation to every other film ever done by Disney. Hmmm. I am sure VALIENT is not as good as BAMBI. I wonder if VALIENT is better than ONE OF OUR DINOSAURS IS MISSING?
August 25, 2005
Four months to Christmas. ** As Jack Benny might say, "We're a little late tonight, folks. Good night."
August 24, 2005
Was reminded that in around 10 days, our pups will begin to head to their new homes. It is a mixed feeling. I am certainly glad to know that our kids will be going to good homes. Rachel has been checking into their new locations and all seem to be the type of place we would want our kids. Heck, some are going to be moving in with older pups from us. The sad side comes from seeing them go. Certainly seven pups has been a handful, not to mention a houseful. But each one has such a distinct personality. Each litter I try to keep some distance, knowing this day will come. But I usually don't succeed. As usual, one or two have gotten under my skin and seem to be closer than the others. If we won a big lottery, I would be tempted to keep them all. But as that is a remote chance, I will have to accept the fact that our 'kids' have grown up and will be heading to lives of their own. It won't make the house feel less empty, or keep me from missing some of those eyes looking up at me. I just hope they are all loved and kept safe from harm. And that they are given the chance to grow up and lead full lives.
August 23, 2005
A California court has stated that both members of a gay couple must contribute to their child's welfare, even if they seperate. It is amazing the spin this has gotten. All over I am hearing and reading about how the court has granted some kind of 'gay rights'. Perhaps it is one of those 'half full/half empty' things, but I see this as an issue of children's rights. The court has rightfully decided that adults, any adults, who decide to take up raising children should be held responsible for that child's future. Having been involved with a custody case in which the court seemed more interested in keeping things status quo than considering the child, I think the court has done a grand thing in this case. Sadly the Christian Right (and I'm not sure why it is referred to as that as I seldom see anything from that group that resembles Christian behavior) is pushing this as an issue the government should do something about. Yes, the same administration that constantly crows about their 'no child left behind' blather. It seems this administration has little trouble leaving behind children when it comes to health care, poverty, and funding. Here is a case where the courts are enforcing the notion that the child should not be left behind, no matter what the parents are or want. Any one who has any shred of 'family values' should applaud this decision. I only hope the administration can make the decision cover all couples, even those of a man and a woman, as well as all government programs (education, food, housing, insurance, etc.).
August 22, 2005
Politics as usual? So now our leaders are saying that if it will help get a constitution in Iraq, the government can be based on Islam. So after billions of dollars and thousands of deaths what have we accomplished, Charlie Brown? Iraq was a dictatorship, and one of the only countries in the middle East not under Islamic rule. Though the dictatorship was cruel, it was not unique considering the likes of North Korea or China. We attacked Iraq "in response" to a terrorist attack in this country, even though Iraq was not involved with 9/11. Iraq became a hotbed of new terrorists and a rallying cry to their cause. And, as mentioned, after an enormous cost in lives and money, it will become another middle East Islamic government. As the Luke character in THUMB WARS said, "I want my giggle back."
August 21, 2005
A family reunion of new and old. Today we saw a batch of folks drop in to see the pups. It included someone who is getting one of the new pups, a couple who have a pup from the first litter, and friend who has a pup from the first litter and is hoping to get one from this one. One thing that surprises so many of the folks who meet us and follow the website is how much we stay in touch with the folks who get our pups. Course, to us, they are more than 'just pups', they are our kids. Just as someone would keep in touch with a child that leaves home, we like to keep in touch. Not only has it helped us find some great homes for our kids... it has also helped us find some very good friends. Certainly a win-win situation for everyone.
August 20, 2005
Many may know my wife has a strong artistic bent. She has created logos, portraits and a whole line of merchandise now on Cafe Press. What many don't know is how good she is with a camera. While looking through her various web pages, one can see lots of really nice photos. But every so often she goes off the scale and creates some truly great shots. For example here and here are examples of photos that look like we paid hundreds of dollars to a pro. In fact, some of her pictures are so good, I fear that people who see them may think they are done with digital tricks. This is especially true when she gets some of the group shots of our canine kids with our feline kids. Last year she put out a Great Dane calendar with some of the better photos. This year I'm trying to convince her to put out more than just one. She just has too many pictures that should be shared.
August 19, 2005
From being one of the first to being one of the last. It occured while I was updating my resume page that I was in at the beginning of one era and the end of another. When I helped set up Marvel Animation in the early 1990s, almost all TV shows were still being done on cels. Since our SPIDER-MAN show was going to include cgi backgrounds, we thought they would mesh best if the entire show was done in digital color. TMS, one of Japan's biggest studios was doing the animation. They told us if we wanted digital, we would have to pay for the equipment since they would probably never use it again. We insisted on digital, and they ended up making the purchase. Within 6 months they found it so superior (and faster, and thus cheaper) than cels TMS began switching all their production to digital. Flash forward to my start at Cartoon Network at the beginning of the new century. Every show on TV was now using digital color. Even THE SIMPSONS was switching over. My first project was the direct-to-cable feature THE FLINTSTONES ON THE ROCKS. In order to better match the original look of the classic series, it was decided to use the original system - cels! So I ended up producing one of the last major TV productions to use cels. The feature also incorporated a stop-motion sequence. Which recently has become popular again thanks to things like ROBOT CHICKEN. Now I'm working on one of Cartoon Network's first series done in 100% flash. The "firsts" just keep on coming.
August 18, 2005
Was talking with some friends at the studio and it came up how no one seems to write about the dark side of animation folks. Though there have been an occasional 'expose' of Walt Disney, as a rule most of us who toil in animation are looked upon much like the happy elves at Santa's workshop or the OompaLoompa's of Willy Wonka fame. Truth be told there are many an alternate take on some of animation's most popular folks. Of course many of the tales would be simply about substance abuse (like alcohol) and extramarital affairs with fellow staff members. But unique tales could include the golden age storyboard artist who had such a violent temper, no one would deliver him a layoff notice. Instead, they lowered it down via a fishing pole from the floor above to his window. Then there was the kindly animator known as 'the velvet knife'. He had his friendly disposition even as he was stabbing a fellow animator in the back by grabbing credit or even characters. One popular director had meetings before each short, which he claimed was a chance for everyone to put in ideas. Those in the meetings referred to them as 'yes' meetings, for anyone who had a thought not in line with the director was not invited back. In more recent times there was the producer who brought a gun into work. He would sit at his desk with the gun and discuss how people got him so mad, that "one day" they would regret making fun of him. One of the folks at our discussion wished someone would write such a book. All agreed such a tome would not just be to show a dark side, but to show that the folks who make cartoons are as human as those who watch them. Perhaps someday, someone will.
August 17, 2005
A humor site I try to visit weekly is Dateline Hollywood. It satirizes the world of Hollywood business. One of this week's stories is "Study: Hollywood Needs Fewer Original Ideas" in which it claims that the success of films based on comics (FANTASTIC FOUR) books (CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY) and TV shows (DUKES OF HAZARD) and the failure of original films like THE ISLAND and CINDERELLA MAN prove audiences don't like original films. I laughed at this loonacy mainly because this is the type of thinking that drives Hollywood and animation. Back in the 1980s an animation director announced his next project would be about dogs. Even though Disney was busily having success with fairy tales, this director had found that the two most successful films in Disney's library were 101 DALMATIANS and LADY AND THE TRAMP. He stated that showed what people really wanted were films about dogs. Then there was the the time a studio exec became aware of the success of the BEAVIS AND BUTTHEAD series. He proudly stated that the series proved one thing. I suggested it proved that teens enjoyed watching cartoons about characters they could relate to. No, he corrected, it showed people will watch animation "even if it looks like crap" (his exact words). After THE LION KING had become a smash, other studios began animated feature projects. The director at one such studio said his film would be as successful as THE LION KING because he knew what had made the film so popular. I offered it was popular due to issues of family, parenting and responsibility with some nice music and fun characters. He said those reasons had nothing to do with it. The success of THE LION KING was due to it having "real death". So his film was going to have real death, even if he had to fight every executive. The results? The dog picture was one, the crappy animated series flopped, and the film with death proved more deadly to the director and studio. The lesson from all this - knowledge is power... but power is not necessarily knowledge.
August 16, 2005
Technology and the post office. Part two. Well, today I went to the post office and talked to the folks about my dilemma. It seems there are two ways to ship a package with delivery confirmation. There is the old-fashioned way. You put a label on your package. Fill out a Delivery Confirmation form. Stick the form on the package. Wait in line at the post office. Pay for the shipping and Delivery Confirmation and then let it go. Or, you can go online. Pay for the postage and get free Delivery Confirmation. Print the label. Put it on your package and then drop the package at any postal facility or mail box. The difference? The old fashioned way means they will scan your package when you pay for postage. You can go online and see the package has been accepted by the post office. Then days later, you can see it has been delivered. Perfect. The online way means they will NOT scan you package when you drop it at the post office. The person there said they do not have the time to do it. (Then how do they have the time when I take the time?) So when you go online, there is no indication that your package is at the post office. Then when it is delivered, some carriers "don't notice" the Delivery Confirmation barcode on the online label. Thus your package can be delivered without you knowing it. So the old fashioned way, which takes more of your time and money is quickly and easily tracked. The techno, online way, which is faster and cheaper, can be shipped and received with the package never being recognized by the post office. This means a 'dishonest' person could receive the package and state they never did. You would have no proof of mailing. No proof of delivery. Meanwhile, the post office is desperately trying to get folks to move over to the online system over the waiting in line system. Trouble is, until they can make the online more secure and accurate (by even just scanning the package when it arrives at the first post office), I fear I may go back to the old fashioned way. Not to be anti-techno... just to be safe.
August 15, 2005
One of the greatest things to ever happen to the Post Office is "click 'n' ship". This allows one to log on, pay for and print postage to send an item via Priority Mail. All you have to do is enter the information, print the label, stick it to your package and get it to the Post Office. The price even includes free Delivery Confirmation so you can tell when your package arrives. It is almost perfect. Except... When you walk into the Post Office with a package and pay for the shipping and Delivery Confirmation the old fashioned way, they scan your package right there. From that point on you can track your package via the internet. However, when using "click 'n' ship" they do NOT scan it when you drop it by the Post Office. So you can drop off a package and find days (sometimes weeks) later the package is still not at the Post Office! When you track the number you get this notice saying the Post Office has been made "aware" of your package. Not that it HAS your package. Only that it is "aware" of it. This is super frustrating. You have paid for your postage, printed your own label and taken the package to the Post Office. In other words you have done much of their work. They can't even take the time to look around and see it sitting there. Tomorrow I'm heading to the Post Office to see if I can help them locate a package I took there over a week ago. *sigh* So much for technology.
August 14, 2005
It has been a long weekend. It is now quite late... and my mind has trouble focusing on a topic. One reason I am finding it difficult is "worry". I know so many movies that bestow the positive nature of not worrying. There are dozens of songs telling us not to worry. From Dr. Lao to Charlie Chan, I hear words of wisdom about how those who can see past worry are the happiest. Sadly, I have always been a worrier. I do worry if the sun will rise tomorrow. I am just fortunate to have a wife who tries to help me to see past the worry. She tells me she also has worries, but that she has faith we will get through the bad things that seem to pop up. From fires and washed out roads, to car trouble and appliance break-downs, she keeps me thinking there are positive events on the horizon. It does help. Now I just have to stop worrying that I will let her down.
August 13, 2005
The pups at five weeks. Today they had their first raw drumsticks. It made for nearly an hour of entertainment as we watched them work on food. Two of the drumsticks were kept pretty secure with their first owners. The other one tended to change owner as one pup after another grabbed it to eat and play keep away. It was fun watching them grow one step closer to being 'little dogs'. It is also fun watching their personalities continue to evolve. At least two are busy trying to be the leaders of the pup pack. At least two are easily submiting to the rules of order. The others are still deciding. Their size is making it more difficult to pick them up easily. No more one handed lifts. As usual, check out Rachel's page for some pretty nifty picks and some small movie files. Just click the "pup's outta the bag" section. They grow so fast. They change so much. They will seem to go too soon.
August 12, 2005
Bugs on TV. And I don't mean the kind that run from Raid or the famed rabbit. It is those images on the bottom of the TV screen. When they are small, they are really helpful. (Especially when traveling the country and trying to find what channel you are watching.) When they are big, or advertisements, or worse, animated, they are a royal pain. I am amazed at how much image is taken from the screen at time. And the animated ones are highly distracting. There are a number of grass roots groups trying to get them eliminated. My guess is they'll fail. Especially when recent research shows that kids under 16 don't mind them at all. Of course, the same survey that showed they don't mind also said they almost never simply watch TV. They are doing homework, talking, playing games, and even *gasp* reading. Only a small amount of their attention is dedicated to the screen. No wonder they don't care. What they really need to do is start showing movies and TV in windowbox format, with the black bars at the top and bottom. Then they could fill the black space with all the bugs, ads, announcements they want. We wouldn't lose picture. They wouldn't lose... well whatever they get from the bugs.
August 11, 2005
I often hear how the younger generation is much more 'techno savy' than the current and previous ones. One website I visit has a large population of college age members, who all assume anyone over 30 just doesn't understand computers. Yesterday we had a seminar where they showed us over 50% of 8-year old kids now have cel phones, email addresses and instant messaging capability! While I am well aware that there are lots of folks in my generation and older that are far from being techno geeks, I think there is a big difference between techno-phobe and techno-don't care. I am constantly asked by folks for my instant messaging address. When I state I don't have one I get blank stares and sometimes offers to show me how they work. The stares go from blank to puzzled when I tell them I don't want such things. Unlike some folks 'my age', I really like technology and am amazed at what we can do now. I enjoy videogames, the internet, movies on video, digital photography, etc. (It really helps at work.) Though I may love the new technolgies, I am not "in love" with them nor am I addicted to technology. I do not need the most recent gadget. I do not need to be in contact with the world 24/7. I do not need to be flooded with news and mail. What the younger generation needs to realize (as well as Madison Avenue) is that new technology should be a matter of choice. Just as one might choose to avoid meat and be a vegetarian, another might choose not to be fully wired. For me, it has nothing to do with fear of techonology. It is just a matter of choice.
August 10, 2005
AMC is have a month of James Bond movies. Each weeknight a "new" movie. This week they have been showing the first three, DR. NO, FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE and GOLDFINGER. As if to counterpoint the event, Sean Connery recently said he was giving up movies because no one today knows how to make them. Though there are still good movies being made, it is amazing how well these early Bonds hold up. Connery is great in the part that made him a star at the same time it caused Hollywood to dismiss him due to typecasting. Watching Connery carefully shows he was much more than just an action star even in these early films. And each film has several highlights of classy filmmaking. RUSSIA has the breathtaking train fight that still packs a punch. GOLDFINGER with its golf game and laser beam showed how much suspense and character can be built into scenes in which nothing is really happening. DR. NO is really rough around the edges, but the amazing sets, and some atmospheric scenes make it still watchable. It is always nice to see films over 40 years old still hold onto the magic. Perhaps Connery was right. I wonder how many of today's films will be seen as classics in 2050?
August 9, 2005
A studio goes to 'pieces'. I hear this all the time, and have seen it happen at about every studio I have worked at. Employees will grumble the studio management is getting more distant, or that new productions are not as 'friendly. In reality, it is just a standard growth pattern. When a studio gets started, it is usually with a small crew. Everyone there is somewhat 'new' so they create a new family. Everyone knows everyone and there is a real feeling of comraderie. Then, if the studio is successful, it begins to grow. New productions bring in new people. Folks who were there at the beginning move to other studios for new opportunities. Suddenly, the studio no longer seems like a family but rather a group of strangers. The comraderie is gone and replaced by small clicks. Some, sensing less fun events, will blame it on a management that is getting tight. But in reality it is not always the studio that changes, as much as it is the people in it. The management may still try to have parties, barbeques, potlucks and such but they discover fewer and fewer people attending and begin to have fewer events. It almost becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. If a studio lasts long enough, new regimes of comraderie can begin. I have seen that happen. But I think that will get tougher to do. The animation industry keeps getting closer and closer to 'real' Hollywood. More and more new blood comes into the business that is less interested in community and more interested in money and self promotion. Such goals breed isolationism, not family.
August 8, 2005
I am my own ipod. As I travel around by train and foot, I see more and more folks with digital music devices. Even more common than the popular "walkman", these devices bring music to the mobile masses. Me, I've never really used them. I don't need them. My head is already full of music. Whether walking or riding, I can pull up a tune anytime. Sometimes it is a random song that pops into my head. Other times, I program a theme. Show tunes, pop, movie themes, rock and even classical. With the music in my mind I can sing along, sway along or simply stare into open space... just like those with their ipods. Like a "scotch drunk", my music is free, and always what I want to hear. I do think about getting one for old radio shows. Kind of ironic. A super modern device to listen to an artform that has been dead for almost half a century. Next thing you know, I'll be using a dvd player to watch a silent movie!
August 7, 2005
Bud Abbott and Lou Costello - Ahead of their times. When I mentioned how much fun I was having watching the old A&C movies on dvd, a friend wrote to say how he never cared much for Abbott & Costello because their characters seemed to be actually mean, unlike Laurel and Hardy or Bob Hope and Bing Crosby. It started me to thinking. My friend is right. A&C show no real comraderie. Each is out for his own good, and often they work at taking advantage of each other. In other words, A&C are not so much a team as a pair of comics working in the same film. Yes, they have perfect timing on their comic routines, and the make me laugh. But they don't really seem friendly. Which makes them perfect comedians for the modern world. Today's comedians are not the warm, joke telling, lovable, bumbling person seen in movies of old. Instead, the actors doing comedy today are sarcastic, cruel, and mean-spirited. It isn't surprising the likes of Jerry Senfield talks of how much his comedy is based on Abbott and Costello. In fact, a number of modern comics tend to site A&C and the Three Stooges as their inspiration. The comics of the 40s and 50s who used Laurel & Hardy, Chaplin and Keaton as their role models. That is why the Hopes, Bennys and even Bugs Bunnys have a warmth, likable charm and today's comedians and cartoon characters do not. Not a criticism of A&C, who I loved so much as a child and still do. Simply a realization of where today's comics came from.
August 6, 2005
Well, the litter is now four weeks old. To celebrate, the parents, grandparents, aunt and nanny all had cake and whipped cream. The litter, well, they had another taste of hamburger. One, Rooster, has proven to be very fond of burgers. His dad, Eagle, was fond of KFC when he was a pup. At four weeks they are all around 8 pounds. They are also beginning to act more like little dogs. There is playing, barking, howling, panting, and other typical canine behavior. It is really fun to watch as their personalities emerge. Just as Disney was able to create seven different personalities for his dwarfs, our kids are at work creating their own. One is already a bit bossy. One is just a teddy bear. Another is a cry baby. They are already talking and kicking in their sleep, which they get from their grandparents. In fact, each time we look at one we try to figure out which parent or grandparent they are taking after. Sometimes our ideas change every day. I'm not fully sure how each one will finally end up... but I know that each one will bring joy to any home they end up in. Should you want to see some pictures, check out Rachel's site. She only has several hundred pictures to look at. You might even catch a sight of me. I'm the one with a puppy mouth wrapped around my nose.
August 5, 2005
Korea scientists announced they cloned a dog. Don't know why... but I keep thinking of "gross" jokes about ranching. Of course the reason for cloning a dog is that they are one of the most biologically similar species to man. Even more than rats. Even more than monkeys. It seems canines are closer to us than we once realized. No doubt that was the reason for the cloning. I mean, outside of some zealous show dog people who would want a canine clone? There are already more dogs than we can handle, sadly. Just look at any city's shelter. What they really need to do is start cloning humans that care.
August 4, 2005
The Shuttle Discovery has been cleared to come home after quite a few nail biting sequences. This is all due to the Columbia "disaster" of several years ago when the shuttle broke up over Texas. As the shuttles age, they need more and more work. Recent surveys are showing that the "younger generation" wants to keep the shuttle program going. It must be the folks under 25. Otherwise they would remember the Challenger disaster of almost 20 years ago. The fact is the shuttles are old technology and machines. The first one went into orbit in 1981. Few people would drive a car as old as any of the remaining shuttles. In the early 1990s, a friend of mine in the computer industry stated they could double the Shuttle's computer capacity by simply carrying on a laptop. It is a shame that the government has been hanging onto the shuttles for decades like a car fanatic holds onto to his first hot rod. Just think of where the space program might be today if 10 years ago our government had quit trying to keep costs down, and instead tried to get a new, more modern line of space craft up. We might have been able to skip the Columbian incident and gone directly to Mars.
August 3, 2005
After some recent cracks about writers and animation, some folks asked if I agreed that writers were ruining animation. On the contrary, I feel the lack of writers is ruining animation. The history of animation is full of good writers, like Michael Maltese at Warners and Bill Scott at Jay Ward's. The fact that these fellows were also artists does not diminish their work as writers. In fact, Bill Scott frequently stated how he hated the terms "storymen" or "gag writers". He insisted he was a real writer who developed stories and characters. The key is that folks like Bill and Michael were good at both writing and drawing. That combination is as rare as someone being good at writing and directing (like a Keaton or an Allen). Too many folks make the mistake that only artists can write for animation. That is like saying only actors can write for live action. As the cliche goes, "animators are actors with pencils". So good writers are still needed. Sadly, as in live action, too many mediocre writers have poisoned the animation scribe's talent pool. After the Disney artists were allowed to be in charge on such films as ARISTOCATS, FOX AND HOUND and BLACK CAULDRON, the studio insisted before greenlighting animated features, they would need a script first. As the studio topper stated, he wanted to make sure the film had a strong story with a beginning, a middle and an end. That process was put in force for THE LITTLE MERMAID and the rest is history. In fact, Ron Clements and John Musker are modern day examples of those who can be as good with story as they are with art. However, when the 90s boom came, studios picked up one artist after another, assuming only art was key to good features. Thanks to them we have a series of lame animated features that probably did as much to kill hand animation as the success of Pixar. Ironically, most artists will state you have to start with a good story. But few of them want to start with a writer.
August 2, 2005
Happy anniversary plus one. ** Just realized I have been barking now since August 1 of 2004. Considering some time off for trips and rest, that's easily over 300 barks. From politics to puppies, from films to flops, from dreams to disappointments, and from treasures to tributes, I have barked about a wide range of topics. Though I often wished I could do more, getting even a few words out a day has been gratifying. So has the number of folks who have taken the time to write me. Thanks for listening. I hope to keep the barks coming.
August 1, 2005
One of the most annoying things about websites (actually most publications today) is the willingness to take a press release and print it as is. The site will take no time, not even a minor Google search, to confirm facts. For example, last week a DVD website announced the release of episodes of the original HUCKLEBERRY HOUND SHOW. They repeated the press release info that each episode of the classic series featured two Huck shorts sandwiched around another character's short (like Yogi Bear). Having seen the original show as a youth, I wrote them to explain the original show had one Huck, one Yogi and one Pixie and Dixie. At first they sided with the official press release. Then, after a few more emails and checking other sites, they discovered I was right and the press release was wrong. A more detailed press release came out listing the specific episodes, and showed that each did have one Huck, one Yogi and one Pixie and Dixie. Today, a major animation website stated that Turner Classic Movies would expand their Cartoon Alley series to once a week. It stated the debut episodes would contain shorts from Dave Hand's Animaland series. They describe the shorts as, "Thought to be have been lost forever following the closing of the studio’s facilities, nine of Hand's Animaland shorts were recently rediscovered." These "recently rediscovered" shorts have been available on home video for almost two decades. In fact, they are currently available for sale on dvd at Amazon.com. A major source of animation information should be better schooled in animation history. (Lost, indeed!) And shouldn't some editor have double checked such an elaborate claim? A press release is what the company thinks will make the story interesting. Jim Korkis and I would constantly double check information for our books and articles. Considering the amount of knowledgeable folks in animation, it is a shame more aren't working for some of the bigger websites.
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