The Daily Bark: September 2004
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September 30, 2004
Who is the most influential writer? For several centuries, most folks would have said it was Shakespeare. It was often stated that the plays of William Shakespeare held all the possible plots. That was probably a good jumping off point for books and such. However, when it comes to films and TV, I would say the most influential writer was Serling. Rod Serling. Serling's short stories and teleplays used on THE TWILIGHT ZONE have inspired more movies and TV series than any other writer from the 20th century. Like Shakespeare, his stories ran the gamut from tragedy to comedy. And, like Shakespeare, Serling's TWILIGHT ZONE was the work of several authors working under a common guiding force. It seems almost every new science fiction, horror or fantasy film owes some debt to concepts first broadcast on the groundbreaking series. For example, a recent film tells the tale of a mother who has lost a child. Suddenly she is told the child never existed. A great ZONE episode tells of an astronaut, upon returning to Earth is told that his other crew members never existed. Both tales end with similar theories. Serling's genre bending ideas live on.
September 29, 2004
There's an old telephone gag where you call a random number and ask for a person, we'll say "Joe". If lucky, they will say that there is no such person there. You call back the number several times, always asking for "Joe". After around a dozen times, you call the number and say you are "Joe" and ask if there are any messages. When dealing with multiple parties in a production you can feel like the hapless victim of that gag. Party A calls and demands info. You state you need to get that info from Party B. You ask Party B. They say they will get back to you. Meanwhile, Party A asks Party B for the same info. Party B tells Party A that you will give them the answer. Then Party A asks you for an answer, stating Party B told them you would have it... before Party B has told it to you! Sigh. Not only do such tactics create a general sense of confusion, they also create an unwarranted amount of stress between you and both parties. If both Parties would simply do their job (Party A, patiently wait; Party B get you the answer), everything would get settled and all would feel satsified. But it seems part of the modern business mode is to always make all parties feel uneasy with each. Perhaps it is linked to a "divide and conquer" theory, or a "pass the buck" theory. Neither is ever really good for business.
September 28, 2004
Matt Groening said "Life is Hell". At least in his comic strip. And sometimes it seems as if he is right. A tragedy at home has left my mate in a deep sadness. I am unable to assist her in coping. I can only wait for time to assist. It makes me feel helpless. At work there is new chaos. All my attempts to prevent it were thwarted. My attempts to correct it are met with resistance. It makes me feel helpless. Feeling helpless is hell. It leads to feelings of "useless", "pointless", even "lost". Many a personality promoters say we can control our own destiny. A friend once stated the world was full of drowners and only those who swam alone survived. I believe those who fully control their own destinies generally care little how it affects the destinies of others. And though I may not be able to save everyone, I could never swim alone knowing I did not try to save at least one. When times are so dark, it does make me wonder what would happen if I started putting "me" first. But, I cannot treat destinies and drowners so callously. I can, at least, look to the future. For as certain as "Life is Hell", everything does resolve itself. It is sort of a mixed feeling. I can easily say "tomorrow is another day", but I also can wonder how many "tomorrows" are mine.
September 27, 2004
Awards are seldom scientific. Whether they be the Oscars, the Emmies, or the Razzies, the nominees and winners are often fodder for discussions or arguments. Generally the end results are simply the opinions of those who voted. However, on rare occasions the controversy is not over who the winner is, but what category they are in. Recent case in point is the newly created TV on DVD awards being presented by Hive4media, publishers of Video Store magazine. These new prizes have a variety of categories including Best 1950s Series, Best Compilation, and Best British TV Release. They also have a Best Animated Series. The nominees are Looney Tunes Golden Collection, The Simpsons: Complete Fourth Season and SpongeBob SquarePants: The Complete First Season. The Looney Tunes Golden Collection??? That dvd set is a collection of theatrical cartoons, NOT a TV collection. The popular website tvshowsondvd.com lists the collection because the cartoons were shown on TV, where modern audiences first saw them. Many fans were introduced to films like STAR WARS, and THE BIRDS on Television. Even movie series like Charlie Chan and The Three Stooges are known because of TV. Does that make them eligible? No. What is so sad is that the inclusion of the Looney Tunes collection took the space some other deserving series might have held, from ROCKY AND BULLWINKLE to SCOOBY DOO to GARFIELD & FRIENDS to FAMILY GUY. If Looney Tunes should win, it will be a slap to all TV animation.
September 26, 2004
So much can happen in 24 hours. It is Sunday, the 26th. We do not have puppies. Star is healthy, but now spayed. The story does not need to be told. We are heartbroken.
September 25, 2004
Happy Birthday, Rachel. My wife celebrates another year today as we await the delivery of Star's puppies. Currently it looks like Sunday will be the earliest. A belated gift, but one that will greatly appreciated. As for me, she had to settle for a nindendo gamecube game and a season of Xena on dvd. They may help keep us busy while we wait. For more info on Star's litter, and the rest of our kids, check out Rachel's web at 6stardanes.com. Happy Birthday, hon...
September 24, 2004
The weekend is beginning. By Monday, if all goes well, we should have a houseful of puppies. It's bound to be a long one... *yawn*
September 23, 2004
Pardon a small political rant. I really dislike bullies. Those who have seen a bully at school or work would probably agree. Bullies use intimidation, threats and fear to get their way, damaging everyone's self respect in the process. So it is really disturbing when our leaders become bullies. First the vice president, then the president threaten us with terrorist attacks. We are warned if we elect a new president terrorists will attack America. We are warned if we change our Iraq policy terrorists will attack America. Shouldn't the terrorists be the ones making such threats? After all, it was the current administration that 911 took place. The security, intelligence gathering and response to the attack were their responsibility. It was this administration that disappeared into planes and "undisclosed locations" after the attack. When a bank gets robbed, the guard on duty is the one responsible. Claiming it was the fault of the guard working yesterday doesn't wash. Threatening that changing guards will cause the bank to be robbed again sounds silly. Instead of trying to scare me with threats of future attacks, I wish the administration would focus on protecting me by helping police and fire fighters with more money and equipment here at home.
September 22, 2004
Mascot's top five. The American Association of Advertising Agencies recently ran a poll to vote for the top mascot. Their list consisted of around 100 popular product personnas. Personally, when I think of "mascot", I think of costume characters. But from the list of winners, it appears most folks think of advertising icons. Number 1 on the list were the M&M characters. I've seen those costumes. Ugh. Number 2 was the AFLAC duck! Not a design or costume. Just a... well... a duck. Number 3 was Mr. Peanut. Well, at least he's a classic. Number 4 was the Pillsbury Doughboy. Number 5 was Tony the Tiger! Yea! Would have liked to see Tony, a true classic mascot, rank a bit higher. However, if you look at the list, the 630,000 who voted were obviously adults. The M&M ads are aimed at adults. The duck sells insurance. The peanut, well, not exactly kid friendly. (Or carb friendly) Doughboy? Moms love him. But Tony, there's one mostly aimed at adults. No doubt his nearly 50 years as spokesperson brought a nostalgic sense. After all, almost everyone today has grown up watching Tony. Of course I may be a bit preferential having portrayed the frosted flake feline on more than one once.
September 21, 2004
It is one of those oddities of life. You see something that reminds you of someone you haven't seen in years. You wonder what they've been doing. Then *WHAM* You hear about them. It happened to me today. Over the weekend, while sorting through more photos, I ran across some of Greg and Jeff Lenburg with me. Photos of them making films, working at Disneyland, hanging with Joe Besser at Christmas (that's Jeff with me at the table), and more. On Monday, I find that Jeff has added another book to his portfolio. "How To Make A Million Dollars With Your Voice" is supposedly part biography and part "how to" book for voice over artists written by Gary Owens and Jeff. (You can buy a copy HERE, and we'll get a tiny percentage.) Of course, I also know Gary, having worked with him on a number of series. In fact,I helped cast him as Captain Squash for BOBBY'S WORLD. Between his career tales and Jeff's knowledge of animation folks, I am sure it is a good read. Now I will just have to start seeing what happened to all those other folks in my photos...
September 20, 2004
Whenever a studio adapts a book into a movie, you'll hear someone say the filmmaker changed the book. However, there are times when movies follow a book very closely. Due to my train commute, I have been using the time to read some books which became favorite movies. I am amazed by some. THE MALTESE FALCON and THE THIN MAN, for example, are so close to the books, that the books read like the films' scripts! Most of the films' dialogue comes directly from the book. Other films that are really close include ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE and WATERSHIP DOWN. Not that films need to follow the books. Books and films are different media. For example, the first two Harry Potter films try to squeeze in all the book points. This makes the films seem rushed, and more like a synopsis than a movie. Sometimes the movie tells a better story than the book. THE PLAGUE DOGS is a film that took a great book with a lame ending and made a fine film with a strong ending.
September 19, 2004
A foggy, cool day meant a lot of "at home" time. Rachel was a bit under the weather. The kids were sleepy. So the house was pretty quiet, except for the regular Xena cry "yi-yi-yi-yi-yi" as Rachel plugs through some more of the XENA TV dvds. (I think Gabriel was better when she had long hair and used her stick.) Feeling a bit punk, myself, I didn't have the energy to do a lot of writing. I used my time to tweek up a few of the pages here, including a new frame of time. Also went through my personal boxes upstairs. Was pleased to find I still have a couple spare copies of some of the things I've written. Will have to get them up to the "buy stuff" pages soon.
September 18, 2004
Was letting the kids out tonight and noticed our first really foggy night. Winter is on the way. The year is grinding to an end. So much happening. So much to do. Star's puppies are due in a week, so we will be busy with puppy duty. My mate's wife's birthday is coming soon. Our wedding anniversary is coming up. The anniversary of the Old Fire is coming up. Birthday's of several of our kids loom near. Holiday's are coming up. Want to finish so much before the year ends. Have a story a series is interested in. Have a series a studio is interested in. Have book I'm trying to get finished. Right now, I would just be happy if all the kids could settle in to sleep. Rachel has gotten a bug and that adds to anxiety in the house. The kitties want to sit with her. Some of the canine kids want to lay next to her. I want to lay next to her. This all causes lots of roaming around throughout the night. Guess I'll go and see if I can find some room.
September 17, 2004
A sleepy day and night. Our little girl, Star, is about ready for another litter. She is due next weekend. This means nights are rough. She is uncomfortable most of the time and seeks companionship. I sometimes sleep in the whelping box with her. This helps her sleep, but also gives her the option to come lay on me, or request petting with nudges. With Star uncomfortable and restless, this is causing the rest of the kids to get the "wanders" at night. They'll rise, look around, maybe take a few steps, then lay back down. Sometimes it looks like they don't really know what they want to do. It takes several requests for them to "lay down" before they get the hint. It is going to be a long week. Course the following weeks won't get any shorter as round the clock watching begins with the newborns.
September 16, 2004
Went to a comic shop at lunch today. A new one has opened a block away from the studio. Going through it was both amazing and sobering. Amazing because of the extent of books that collect all sorts of neat items from classic comics, to covers to ads from the 1950s, to old comic fanzine material. Was tempted by the collected Peanuts comic strips and a collection of pulp magazine covers. Amazing because of the really great figures (toys?) of classic characters from comics and other media. Was tempted by both a Dynomutt figure and a Superman and Lois Lane set based on the 1950's comic look. Sobering because of the amount of things I saw and thought, "Wow, I remember when that first came out", and then noting that such volumes were blazened with banners stating "30th Anniversary!" or "The Original from the 60s!". I think it is amazing my grandparents having seen the first cars and planes. I think of the excitement of my parents seeing the first color movies and TV sets. It is scary to think of me seeing things like the debut of THE FLINTSTONES, the first Comics Buyers Guide (when it was free) and the first vcr.
September 15, 2004
Hayao Miyazaki's newest film, HOWL'S MOVING CASTLE, has been getting a lot of good press and winning prizes at festivals. In the 1980s, I referred to Miyazaki as "the Spielberg of Japan" due to his unique ability that blended story and action with a visual flair that was quickly being copied by other filmmakers, even Disney. While I am glad he is getting recognition, I can't help feel that Miyazaki is becoming the Michael Moore of anime. Moore has become a focal point of documentaries at the exclusion of others. Miyazaki has begun to overshadow other Japanese artists. For example, Osamu Tezuka, was often called "the Disney of Japan". Tezuka had an enormous influence on manga and anime as well as international respect for his independent shorts like BROKEN DOWN FILM. Yet for all of Tezuka's creative energy, innovation and style bestowed on animation, he has been overshadowed by Miyazaki almost to the point of neglect. Our film industry praises Spielberg but still highly regards Hitchcock. I wish the animation industry had time to remember Tezuka as much as they praise Miyazaki.
September 14, 2004
Picked up two dvds today, HOME ON THE RANGE and SCOOBY DOO 2: MONSTERS UNLEASHED. Once I got home, it hit me how much the films had in common. Both are lightweight, fun films. I enjoyed both films. Both films received mixed critical reaction. Neither film performed "as expected" at the box office. Both films were the last of their kinds. HOME was Disney's final hand made animated feature. Disney is on the cgi bandwagon. Too bad. SCOOBY was moved from an original summer release to the Spring. The reason was that Warners did not want the film to pull audiences away from the new Harry Potter film. Though the film did well, it did not do "well enough" to warrant a third entry. Too bad. Yes, too bad that doing good is not good enough anymore in the world of mega-media corporations. More and more one reads about how shows and films are not allowed to find an audience. More and more one finds stories about films and tv shows pulled almost immediately due to perceived performance. TV shows like FRIENDS did not start strong, yet became one of the stand out hits of the 90s. Movies like MY BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING opened softly, and went on to become one of the top grossing films of the year. At least the world of home video allows films a second chance. AUSTIN POWERS owes its sequels to the success it had, not at the box office, but at the video store. Actually, while Disney had dropped its hand made films for cgi in theaters, their direct to video sequels are still hand made. *whew* Maybe there is still hope for a SCOOBY 3. To make it more direct to video budget friendly, drop Freddy and Daphne and just use Scooby, Shaggy and Velma. Rooby-Dooby-Doo!
September 13, 2004
A major shift has occurred, and it might mean the end of the world as we know it. Over the weekend, SAMURAI JACK won the Emmy Award for best prime time animated series, 30-minutes or less. It is the first time THE SIMPSONS did not win in probably 6+ years! wow. And on top of that, STAR WARS: CLONE WARS won best prime time animated series 60-minutes or over. A double win for Cartoon Network and the series' creator, Genndy Tartakovsky. The last time someone won best series in two categories was when David Kelly won for ALLIE McBEAL and (I believe) THE PRACTICE. Congrats Genndy. In other business news, Warner Bros dropped out of the MGM bidding, so the lion will most likely call Sony its new home. Supposedly, Warners did not think the price was right for MGM's recent library which included the James Bond films and Pink Panther cartoons. It would have been a nice fit for Cartoon Network. Sadly, Sony hasn't shown much activity with the cartoons they currently have. But, perhaps the size of the Panther library will inspire them.
September 12, 2004
One of the fun things about searching for something are the surprises found along the way. The recent fire nearby made me think about finally putting together a fire box. Basically a box with things that we would want to be sure we took with us if needed to evacuate. Though I didn't get very far finding important papers, I did find some old photos and had some fun looking over them. In fact, it got me inspired to share and I've spent some of today putting together some new frames of time. I'll be dribbling them out over the next few days under the "blog" section. First up are some candid, back stage shots of Disneyland and the character department doing things you won't usually see in the Park. Later I will be posting up some more from visits with Joe Besser (best known as one of the Three Stooges), as well as an early meeting with Buster (Flash Gordon) Crabbe. Hope you enjoy them...
September 11, 2004
This morning I thought about writing a series of thoughts that would have been played out over several days. Thoughts of loss, missed opportunities, fears, bad decisions, and still more losses. However, when I posted just a few of those thoughts on a web forum, I found the feelings of this day is as fractured as our political climate. In many ways, the "day that changed the world" has had enormous impact. But I think my lone thought comes from Charles Schulz. At the end of the first animated feature starring his Peanuts characters, Charlie Brown has once again made a mess of his life and is feeling miserable and hopeless. Linus re-caps the series of misadventures and then states, "Did you notice something, Charlie Brown? The world did not come to an end." Exactly. Like so many other tragedies, man-made and born of nature, they can be recalled for their destruction and loss. But in the end, they are simply points of time that we must move on from. To borrow a leaf from Schulz - Did everyone notice something? Tomorrow will be September 12th. Nothing else need be said.
September 10, 2004
Frank Thomas, one of two remaining "nine old men" of the Disney classic era, died this week. The internet is full of tributes and obits. It inspires me to pull out a few pix and try to do one myself. While working at the Disney Archives, I got the opportunity to chat with Frank and his long time friend Ollie Johnson (now the last of the "nine") many a time. Sometimes it was them asking me for something out of the archives. Sometimes it was me asking them about something for an article I was writing. Sometimes it was just friendly chat. Frank (and Ollie) kept their ties to the Disney animation department longer than any of the other "nine". His gentle nature, optimistic attitude, respected talent, humility, and historical perspective made him a mentor to generations of animators and one of the great ambassadors of animation. Another link to the golden age of animation has been broken. Thanks to his books written with Ollie, it is a link that won't be lost.
September 9, 2004
Turner Classic Movies ran the entire series of Thin Man films last night. I am still in awe at how much fun the films are. In true Hollywood fashion, the mysteries are usually not played fair with the key clues withheld until the end. But, like the best of the genre, the fun is the characters. "Did I ever tell you, that you're the most fascinating woman this side of the Rockies?" asks Nick Charles. "Wait 'till you see me on the other side," replies Nora. The great mystery films of the 30s and 40s have fast pacing, intriguing characters, and funny dialog. When the New York detective visiting Catalina Island makes a mistake, Hildegard smiles and asks, "So, Oscar, did you come all the way to Catalina so you could be stupid in new surroundings?" Whether it was the Thin Man (with Nick and Nora Charles), Charlie Chan or Hildegard Withers, these films can never be duplicated. Today's audiences demand more from their mysteries. They want graphic violence, gritty detective work and real suspense. They also want it politically correct. There is no room for tipsy lovers, smart aleck spinsters and Oriental wisecracks. It is sad. But as Charlie Chan would say, "So much, for... so much."
September 8, 2004
NBC has ventured into the domain of primetime animated series with FATHER OF THE PRIDE. This new cgi series from Dreamworks revolves around the animals in magician's Sigfried and Roy's Las Vegas menagerie. The show is considered a big gamble as the humor is definitely "adult" (ie jokes about sex) as opposed to "mature" (intelligent plotting). The first half hour was like a modern version of THREE'S COMPANY with a plot about love and sexual desires with double entendres flying fast and furry-ous. The second episode, aired last night, was more of a standard sitcom plot. Critical reaction has been mixed. Some think it is amusing. Those who do not seem to focus either on the poor taste of using the magicians' images post the "incident" with the tiger, or the "smutiness" of the dialogue. My complaint would be the characters are so flat (despite the rounded cgi), that they seem to belong in a 1960s sitcom. It seems more a blue version of the DICK VAN DYKE SHOW than something really fresh.
September 7, 2004
Dropped by one of the popular animation websites this morning and found their "big" story was a critic explaining why FAMILY GUY was a lousy TV series. The same site also gleefully pointed to a site that had a respected animation historian arguing with another creator over the quality of the creator's newest series. Why are animation fans and students are so angry and bitter towards the work they study? Since the 1970s I have seen a constant battle between various factions of animation buffs. Warners vs Disney. TV vs Feature. Kid Shows vs Prime Time. Clampett vs Jones. The list is endless. I have been in numerous groups from comic book fans to movie buffs. Each person had their favorites stars, titles or creators. But they spent their time talking up their faves and letting others have a different opinion. In animation it seems folks are more interested in tearing down other people's favorites. If you happen to enjoy the "trash of the day", then you are lumped into the mass of "idiots" who don't understand animation at all. I just don't understand how an artform based on humor and warmth can attract so many folks devoid of both.
September 6, 2004
Labor day. A day we celebrate having a job by not going to it. These days, having a job IS a reason for celebrating. I sometimes worry about what would happen if I (again) suddenly found myself with out a job. At those times I try to re-focus. Worrying does little, and no matter how one prepares, things happen. There was the day I awoke to excrutiating pain on my left side and a paralyzed arm. Suddenly I could not drive, write, even hold a toothbrush. Then there was the night we were told by police to evacuate our home due to the ever nearing fire. Suddenly we were rushing our kids into a car as we grabbed items here and there, hoping we would find somewhere to live. Time passed. Most of the feeling has returned to my arm, though I still have a weakness and a tendency to drop things. We returned to our home miraculously intact, while buildings around block away had been burned to the ground. Planning for and worrying about the future can be helpful or destructive. But neither really prepares you for life's sudden detours. At such detours you just focus on where you can go, and less on how you will travel.
September 5, 2004
Picked up the newest release of Disney's direct-to-video THE LION KING II: SIMBA'S PRIDE. They really ought to call it LION KING 2.1. Disney has altered some of the scenes and "juiced up" the color (to an almost day glow effect) from the original video release of a few years ago. It is a shame. The video feature, first released in 1999, was nicely done. It is still one of the two best direct-to-videos done by Disney. (The other is LION KING 1-1/2.) Since the 1980s Disney has increasingly been "fiddling" with their features when releasing to video. This has included adding audio effects (BAMBI), re-editing scenes (FANTASIA), removing cigarettes ("Pecos Bill" in MELODY TIME) and changing character designs THE LION KING). STAR WARS' fans have rasied hell about Lucas' refusal to release the original STAR WARS. There has been mostly silence from Disney's followers that we will never again see such films as FANTASIA, ALADDIN or THE LION KING as they were first shown to the world in theaters.
September 4, 2004
Garage Sale Mania hits the mountain! Every Labor Day weekend folks in the Lake Arrowhead area hold garage/yard sales. You can drive up and down the winding roads plastered with signs pointing this way and that way as not always effective guides to bargain hunters. Our "biggest" bargain was finding a rare Beanie Baby for under a dollar. We later traded it for nearly $75 worth of merchandise! (Of course, this was back when Beanie Babies were worth something at all.) This year we picked up some more talking Teletubby dolls. The kids love them and their nonsense sounds. We also gathered extra blankets: really useful at puppy time. You usually find things selling "cheap" at garage sales. However this year we found ourselves on a road where the homes were in the million dollar range. I joked about things in a $1,000,000 yard. They had a daybed going for over $250, and a "re-finished" bookcase (ie repainted) for around $75. Don't know if they sold much. But elsewhere we were pleased to find a nice wooden bunny push-puppet for my sister. It cost a nickel. Did I mention they have the same "mania" over Memorial Day Weekend?
September 3, 2004
Over at my mate's website, she's added a link to her cafe press stuff that includes a nifty 2005 calendar featuring photos of our various kids. Could offer some great gift ideas for your canine-loving comrades this holiday season. The idea of company offering folks a chance to produce specialty merchandise is really nifty. Of course, if you want just old fashioned animation items, take a peek at the "buy stuff" link and have a look.
September 2, 2004
Mule-headed. Stubborn. These terms were once considered faults. Classic TV icons like Ralph Kramden, Archie Bunker and Homer Simpson made us laugh at their stubborness, a trait that always led them into trouble. Those who refuse to change their mind or bend with the wind are often ridiculed in business circles. In animation, those who balked at doing features, the influence of anime and cgi either changed their minds or have been left behind. So it makes me wonder why being mule-headed in politics is considered a virtue. Any time a polititian wants to criticize an opponent they will refer to that opponent as a "flip flopper". Politicians who supported seperate-but-equal changed their minds. And it was a change for the better. Folks change their diet, quit smoking, and find new favorite TV shows. To me it shows a thinking process; a process that the Ralph Kramdens never had. The world, is constantly changing, so say many a politician. A politician that stubbornly refuses to alter their opinion or direction is not my idea of a leader with a strong vision of the future... or even a correct view of today.
September 1, 2004
Back home and everything went well. Parents are doing okay, and family at home is well. Star, our "momma", is doing fine. She is expecting and should have pups around the 25th of this month. You can read more about it at Rachel's site. Have also lined up some mascot gigs for September and October. Hope to do some photo additions over the Labor Day weekend. Will also check out the various garage sales as the weekend is the Mountain's "garage sale madness" where dozens of folks have a garage sale the same weekend. Means you can drive almost any direction and hit sales.
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