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The Daily Bark: October 2004
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October 31, 2004
This is a day late. But Sunday was very long. Went to Disneyland for our anniversary and had another great time. Crowds were manageable and actually walked onto Indiana Jones, Jungle Cruise and Pirates of the Carribean. Also, once again, saw lots of characters - at least 30. Being Halloween they had a large group of villains including such rarities as Jafar, Frollo and Don Karnage! Only downside was yet another sign that we have lost the "war on terror". Though in years past, costumes could be worn in the park if your face showed, this year, adults were not allowed to wear anything that resembled a costume. Rachel had to take off her bandana and fake booty. (She was a pirate.) I had to remove my plastic riot helmet (with a huge upc sticker on the back) and plastic handcuffs. (I was a security person.) Only young children were allowed in the park in costume. bummer. A few of the employees also griped about intense security, which they thought did not make the Park any more secure. Even I noticed that while the adults all had to remove pieces of costumes, youngsters were allowed to enter with the baggiest of clothing. Today at the studio, someone said it would make them feel safer. It simply made me feel a bit cheated. At least I got to shake Dale's paw. That always makes me smile... just like being able to spend the day with Rachel in a place that still holds magic for both of us.

October 30, 2004
Super busy day as I try to get everything done so that Sunday, our anniversary, will be free of any chores. Did banking. Went to the dump. Did Dishes. Put laundry away. Replaced cat litter. Paid bills. Shipped stuff at post office. Got gas pills for the kids at Rite Aid. Did grocery shopping. Brushed the kids. Worked in the loft. Took Rachel and Roku to the lake for the Halloween party. (She dressed in Dane, won second prize in the contest.) Helped feed the kids. *whew* Am now watching GARFIELD (the movie). Man. It stinks. Am super tired so will be hitting the hay. Nothing like spending an entire weekend in one day!

October 29, 2004
Halloween is coming. Or is it? I haven't seen the excitement that usually precedes the holiday. This is the first year I can think of in many that I haven't heard of lots of parties. A major studio, famed for its Halloween parties isn't having one this year. Is it because it falls on a Sunday? Is it because folks are focused on things like elections, terrorists, lost jobs, skyrocketing gas prices and a faltering economy? Maybe the string of bad weather from Florida's hurricanes to California's floods have dampened spirits. Whatever the reason, it just doesn't seem like Halloween is coming. It will come. Our plans are to spend it at Disneyland. But plans can change in the blink of an eye these days. Boo.

October 28, 2004
Next stop Willoughby. For those who remember the classic Twilight Zone, that phrase should bring a definite idea. I thought of it the other day as I had another recurring dream while commuting on the train. In the dream, I'm on the train. Sometimes the train is similar to the actual train, other times it is more like a parking lot tram. No matter which, the situation is the same. As the train passes through an area of vacant lots, I suddenly see a parking lot in which there are dozens of mascot characters having a great deal of fun. I am always surprised that the characters are there. I always wonder what they are doing there. In some dreams, there is a sign indicating some sort of mascot company. No matter what, it always looks like fun. In the one I had today, they actually come close to the train. A cat suit reaches out and shakes my hand. Oddly today's dream had the head of our studio sitting on the train next to me with his family. Next stop Willoughby.

October 27, 2004
Slow downloads kept me off the computer. Watched an episode of SGT PRESTON OF THE YUKON. It was a 99-cent dvd from the 99-cent store. Crappy color and video quality. But the corny story and acting made it worth while. Especially love how the foley artist had to keep putting snarling dog sounds over the happy, wagging dogs. Don't make 'em like that anymore.

October 26, 2004
A new storm is on the way. Wind is blowing. Rain is falling. On the good side, we delivered our first episode. Was quite an ordeal... but it all came together. It is particularly pleasant when the show is a good one. Think the series has a good chance of being a hit. Already the website has become the most hit site in Cartoon Network history. Now if they'll all just tune in.

October 25, 2004
Over the weekend watched the first disc in the GREG THE BUNNY set, thanks to Netflix. Was glad to see the series held up fairly well. It is still a cute idea, if not always well done. I really liked the "making of" documentary special feature. It was interesting to hear how the series deviated from its original concept due to star casting and focus groups. I thought those problems only existed in children's programming. Hearing the creators and stars talk about the production sounded just like the talk heard around the studio. Too bad. At least through dvd the series can be seen again, including episodes not aired. Now if we can get sets of ZAZOO U and CAPITAL CRITTERS released with their unaired episodes.

October 24, 2004
Didn't get all the things I wanted to do today, but that's nothing new. But I did at least get the remaining interviews up for HOW TO CREATE ANIMATION. These all date back to 1990 and feature such talents as Glen Keane, Mark Kausler, John Pomeroy, Scott Shaw!, Pete Alvarado and others. This was when the animation boom was just beginning to make noise. By the mid 1990s, the industry would be turned on its ear as every studio in Hollywood suddenly wanted to do animation. It only took a few more years for the boom to bust. Enjoy a window back to a time when folks were having fun in animation... and it showed.

October 23, 2004
A day of chores and rest. Also completed my absentee ballot. Knowing that we can get lots of surprises up here (this is the first anniversary of our evacuation from the "old fire"), I decided to not take a chance with environmental factors. Even though I don't live in one of the famed swing states, if the 2000 elections showed people anything, it showed the importance of voting. It was amazing how many electorate votes, local candidates and propositions won or lost by less than 5000 votes. An average day at Disneyland attracts over 50,000 people. Just think. If everyone at Disneyland on election day voted, they could be the deciding factor for our politicians and laws.

October 22, 2004
The first big storm of the season has ended. It dropped a ton of rain. It closed down highway 18, again. It blew off both of our shade tarps from the deck. It lowered the temperature by around 20 degrees. Possible snow middle of next week. Winter is here.

October 21, 2004
THE INCREDIBLES. Well done, or over-done? I'm not referring to the film but to the advance hype. Pixar's newest film seems to be getting nothing but the highest pre-release praise. Critics and fans are falling over themselves about how great the movie is. One recently compared it to the experience of seeing STAR WARS for the first time. (Which tells you the age of that reviewer!) I wonder if all this hyper-hoopla might create a backlash due to audience's expectations raised to a level that cannot be met. Plus, just because a film gets lots of press and good reviews does not a hit make. Look at the recent TEAM AMERICA. Lots of advance word, with very little at the box office to show for it. I hope INCREDIBLES does well, it will bode well for other animated features. I just hope it hasn't been oversold.

October 19 & 20, 2004
On the 19th, so sick came home and went straight to bed. That night a major storm hits the area. Wind is so strong, power begins to fluctuate. Around midnight it blows down our shade tarps. Have to go out in pouring, freezing rain to take them down so they don't damage any windows. The 20th, stayed home. Spent the day dozing and keeping in touch with the office every hour or so. Also re-discovered the tedium of daytime tv. Thank dog for home video options.

October 18, 2004
Still sick... but went to work. Was reminded again that e-mail is one of the least effective communication forms. Things that could be decided in phone call, or better a five minute meeting, can take hours and dozens of emails. Especially if it contains cc's. You send a message to five folks. Each one takes up to an hour to respond. Each response requires you to answer each person seperately, or flood their mail boxes with dozens of responses they don't need to know. Worse is when you suddenly get a ton of responses of folks saying "ok", "that's right", etc. As each comes in, someone else has to say "thanks" and "ok". The results of both ends in dozens of emails and lost hours. As they say, if you want something fast, cheap and good, you have to pick two. E-mail is fast and cheap.

October 17, 2004
Another day of illness. Weakness makes any real accomplishes tough. Most of day is spent in front of TV or computer screen. Rachel makes my lanard for pin trading at upcoming Disneyland ventures. I purchased a few low price pins to get me started. Also consider starting a pin "collection" of characters I have portrayed in costume. Catch the end of ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET THE INVISIBLE MAN. Still silly and funny. Catch bits and pieces of EARTH VS THE FLYING SAUCERS and THE THING (the original). Both are great 50s sci-fi fun. Sit through lots of the first episode/movie of NIP TUCK. Loved by Rachel, it reminds me too much of daytime soap operas: unfriendly people, depressing life situations, constant turmoil, etc. Find such shows very hard to watch. I am familiar with the cliche reason that folks watch soap operas to take their minds off of their own problems. For me, such dramas tend to make me focus on personal worries and fears. I find myself getting more and more anxious and depressed while viewing these characters fight and bicker with each other. Give me Abbott and Costello.

October 16, 2004
A day of illness. The flu has struck. I feel tired... unfocused... queasy... bleh!

October 15, 2004
One of the best box sets coming on DVD this Fall will be the release of all five Paramount Marx Brothers films. While the previously mentioned MGM set is fun to watch, the Paramount films still retain the ability to make me laugh out loud. Now new generations can hopefully discover why so many cartoon characters and modern comedians can trace their origins to these four master comics, as well as hear the original utterance of dozens of lines of dialogue now a standard part of our humor. THE COCOANUTS has Groucho running a hotel in Florida which still reminds me of how Don Bluth ran his studio. ANIMAL CRACKERS has Harpo admit his true love is a horse. MONKEY BUSINESS rises above the gangster comedy bits and shows Zeppo at his best, as well as the classic Chevalier routine. HORSE FEATHERS makes comments about colleges and sports that are as true today as they were almost 100 years ago. DUCK SOUP, considered by many their best film, has Groucho put in charge of a country. (And now all can see why I think of Groucho whenever I hear George Bush talk.) There are more laughs on these five films than in all the comedies released this year to theaters combined. "One night I shot an elephant in my pajamas. How he got in my pajamas I'll never know." - Groucho Marx

October 14, 2004
Finally posted the links to two more interviews from the HOW TO CREATE ANIMATION book. They are with Mark Kausler and Ed Gombert. Ed is a skilled animator and one of the best story guys around. Mark is one of those legends in the business but little known by the general public. His career spans The Beatles' YELLOW SUBMARINE to Steven Spielberg/Disney's ROGER RABBIT to Cartoon Network's HIHI PUFFY AMIYUMI. He's also responsible for a number of independent films. He has tons of talent... he just needs a publicist. Hope you enjoy the interviews.

October 13, 2004
I guess the curse has ended. With the sad death of Christopher Reeve, the only "bright" spot is that I have heard nothing about the "Superman curse". When Reeve first had his tragic horse accident, the papers were full of "the curse" of playing Superman. The basis for this story was that George Reeves, the actor who portrayed Superman on TV in the 1950s, allegedly shot himself due to being typecast as Superman. (Actually, Reeves death is still considered "unsolved" by many.) Of course the "curse" never explained other actors who had portrayed Superman in movie serials, radio shows, animation and Broadway. In fact, Reeve's obits prove that Reeve did accomplish one goal - moving beyond the stereotype of Superman. Though all mention his famed screen role, they focused on his heroic battle in later years not only for himself, but for disabled people around the world.

October 12, 2004
At one point in Clint Eastwood's career, he made a string of lousy movies. Shortly after, another major star began a series of flops. One critic joked that the star must have hired the same monkey Clint Eastwood used to pick movies. Well, Clint got his groove back, but don't worry. That monkey found new work. He seems to have been hired by the Disney Channel. Disney TV animation, once the home of series like GUMMI BEARS, GARGOYLES and TALE SPIN has fallen on very hard (to watch) times. First they inflict DAVE THE BARBARIAN onto the public. This wholly unfunny mess takes a great idea, making fun of barbarians, and destroys it. One need only see my Garfield co-worker Mark Evanier (and his "MAD" buddy Sergio Aragones) creation GROO to see how funny the idea is. Even worse is the new BRANDY AND MR. WHISKERS. This concept features a high society spoiled cat (says the publicity, but the floppy ears and muzzle say "dog" to me) and a low life rabbit. Screamingly unfunny is the best description. The series even manages to prove great voice guy Richard Horwitz, who can make almost any material funny (ANGRY BEAVERS), can not save every show he works on. What's next? Robot monkeys? Oh... that's right. They do have a series about that coming up!

October 11, 2004
Super sleepy tonight. Last night was the Puffy AmiYumi party and concert. It was a late night. Tonight, was catch up with paying bills and such. Also, Rachel was putting new items onto her CafePress site. Kept her on the computer later than usual... but she's got some nice stuff up. By the time I got here... I was already half asleep. Add trouble with the email program and I'm not even able to keep my eyes open. Maybe tomorrow night.

October 10, 2004
No matter what the current terror alert level is, I do not feel that I am safer now than I was five years ago. That thought hit me while attending a concert at a small venue called The House of Blues on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood. Before entering they did a thorough metal check with a wand. I had to undergo a similar search when entering a tatoo convention, and even Disneyland. I realize the threat of bombs on planes and/or hijackers' weapons make such searches standard in airports. But I think it is a sad statement about life in the land of the (once upon a time) free. The constitution suggests I am innocent until proven guilty. However, it now appears that when I wish to enter a public facility, I am guilty until proven innocent. Where will these things show up next? Banks? Grocery Stores? Post Offices? As I said, having such searches does not make me feel that I am safer. If anything, they tend to raise an alarm level within me. At such times, it really does feel as if we have lost the war on terror - Just as we apparently lost the war on crime, the war on drugs and the war on poverty. After all, there are still criminals, dangerous drugs and poor people.

October 9, 2004
Lots of little things. Went to Walmart and saw "Gingy", one of the poorest performing mascots ever. The performer was followed by an assistant with a mini-fan used to blow into the costume's mouth to aid the performer. The "performer", and I use the term loosely, spent their time walking from break to set area, standing almost motionless for 15 minutes, then walking back to dressing. No wonder folks think mascot performing is something anyone can do. Also recently added a new "You Don't Understand" to the blogs. Have converted two more interviews for the HOW TO CREATE book page. Should have those up in a by next weekend. Noticed one in our coyote pack that we feed has learned to "watch" for where the food falls. While the others skitter around, worried about getting hit, he has figured out to simply keep an eye as the morsels fall from the deck to the ground. Rachel thinks it might be "Anubis". He is the boldest of the pack. Tomorrow I go to my first "rock concert" with the appearance of Puffy AmiYumi in Los Angeles. I generally don't do such events due to noise and crowds. My only other concert ever attended was back in the 1970s when Steve Martin was still doing comedy concerts.

October 8, 2004
Producing animation is much like managing a sports team. Your task is to pull together a variety of individuals with a wide range of skills, abilities and knowledge. You must pamper your stars and encourage your raw talent. A good manager/producer is an ultimate juggler trying to keep budgets, schedules, egos, quality, demands and more in constant balance. A great one also understands the process fully and has a natural intuition to see possible difficulties before they happen as well as an built in ability to see each situations in fresh ways to assist in problem solving. It is not an easy task. When the production goes well, great praise goes to the crew for supporting the show. When things go wrong, this is where a producer takes on the position of a sports manager. If the team is playing poorly, one does not fire the team. When an artist is late; when a creator overspends, when an overseas studio sends back inferior work, it is the producer's fault. You can spot a problem production most easily by the number of producers they go through. It does not speak ill of the producer, it speaks ill of the production. Sometimes all one can hope for is that the crew and studio understand the key position a good producer plays. The best situation is when the producer knows he is doing a great job... and the crew and management agree.

October 7, 2004
The old toll pack has done their speaking for the night... and I have little else to add.

October 6, 2004
As the King of Siam might say, "Is a puzzlement." For over a year I have been slowly converting my home videos to dvd. I am averaging less than one dvd a month. My "puzzle" is how to identify these newly burned discs. At first, I had used a marker. It was quick and dirty. Then a friend who works in the media memory business told me that dvds are very delicate. Unlike cds, they can be easily damaged. I was told it wasn't the plastic side, it was the silver side. It gets easily scratched. The only way to protect them was to put labels on them to cover the silver surface. So I began labelling. Next, another associate in the media business tells me you shouldn't put labels on dvds. The label might peel and thus destroy the delicate silver side. He suggested using markers. Yet another friend in the business told me that only a special marker could be used as most markers will eventually damage the glue and thus, yes, destroy the delicate silver side. *sigh* I am now at a loss. My tapes are dieing, as are the machines that play them. My dvds are half labeled, half markered. I really hate being part of an experiment that should have been solved before the dang-video-discs were put on the market. I just wonder how many folks in middle America know of the fragile nature of the home made dvd? And, on top of it all, I learn that dvds need special cases. gronk. I miss betamax.

October 5, 2004
Had lunch the other day with animation legend and pal, Floyd Norman. The lunch was due to some business talk with another legend and pal, Leo Sullivan. Floyd talked of his last days at Disney, work on the CURIOUS GEORGE picture and other stuff. Leo discussed the business in general and how to promote some of his new projects, including books by Floyd. As we talked, it reminded me of animation in the early 1980s when things were crazy... but in a good way. There were budgets and schedules. There were projects that were fun and were not. But there was a general attitude of having fun. In the late 1980s, due to the invasions of the Spielbergs and the Lucases, animation went "Hollywood" and became a rat race of ever shrinking schedules, ever increasing numbers of executives, and expanded demands on workers. Floyd's book, Faster! Cheaper!, which I published over a decade ago, is filled with fond memories of the time. Back then, we laughed at how silly some of the business antics seemed. Even though the business has retreated from the boom into a model similar to the early 1980s, work itself seems more frustrating than funny. It's good to know there are folks like Floyd, Leo, and myself who still remember a time when working in animation was fun. Our numbers are shrinking. Hopefully others will come along to rekindle the spirit.

October 4, 2004
Over the weekend went and saw SHARK TALE, Dreamwork's newest cgi feature. It was what I call a "pleasant nothing". Not really funny. Not really bad. Just a pleasant time in the theatre (in spite of the bad butter in the popcorn). The film reminded me of Dreamworks' first cgi feature, ANTZ. Both films are star-based. Of course most animated films use celebrity talent, and often that celebrity will instill some of their personality into that character. It is hard to imagine anyone but Phil Harris as Baloo or Michael Myers as Shrek. However, there are times when it appears the intent is to actually animate the star. In ANTZ, it was Woody Allen,complete with his nervous personality and mannerisms. In ROVER DANGERFIELD, it was Rodney Dangerfield doing his "no respect" schtick. Even Disney did it with David Spade in THE EMPEROR'S NEW GROOVE. Sadly, no matter how successfully they animate the celebrity, it tends to weaken the film by pulling the viewer out. I don't feel like I'm watching a new character, simply the actor playing a new role... without the fun of watching the actor. Along with the feature were several trailers. Saw another one for THE INCREDIBLES, and still think Brad Bird makes films for CalArts students. Got my first peak at ROBOTS from the folks who made ICE AGE. It looks like it might be cute. Then there was LEMONY SNICKET, based on the very self-indulgent childrens books. I read a few of the books, but their over-the-top-wink-wink-nudge-nudge style got tiring. The movie will be a challenge, since most of the books' humor and charm comes from the narrator and tricks played on the reader. Don't know if it will translate to film... but Jim Carrey certainly looks to play it to the hilt.

October 3, 2004
They have just announced a delay in the next James Bond film, currently titled Bond 21. The key reason given is no director has been chosen. Another suggested reason is the possible change in actors. Both are key since the producers are thinking of taking Bond away from the bang-zoom efx driven films into a simpler action film of the classic Bond era. My suggestion for the direction would be to remake some of the books whose films only have the title in common. YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE is about a madman running a suicide temple in Japan. Bond's job is to see what is really going on. It was sort of re-APOCALYPSE NOW tale. THE SPY WHO LOVED ME features Bond returning from a mission and stopping at an out of the way hotel. There he finds a frightened female employee and two hired thugs out to burn the place down. Sort of a PSYCHO meets STRAW DOGS. Finally MOONRAKER. This title sounds like it came from today's headlines. A popular millionaire decides to take the space race private by designing and building his own rocket. However, the millionaire's background is a bit shady and Bond is asked to "unofficially" see if the rocket is meant for good or bad. All three are more character and mood driven and would not only allow Bond to pull away from the modern mess, but also rebuild on the strengths of author Ian Fleming's original creation.

October 2, 2004
Today we made an impromptu trip to Disneyland. It was a break for both of us. Rode the carousel (where I originally proposed to Rachel), ToonTown Taxis, Pirates, Haunted Mansion (converted to NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS), and the new Winnie the Pooh ride (yawn). Swung by the Thunder Ranch which has a HOME ON THE RANGE section - basically a petting zoo with cute critters. Rachel dropped by lots of the the pin trading places with her DisneyWorld pins. (I was astounded at how popular the Disneyland pins have become. One collector was showing some of his 8500 pins!) We saw at least 26 characters, including "rare" sightings like TARZAN's Jane, POCAHONTAS' Meeko and MARY POPPINS' Bert. Also sighted was a larger, highly visible security force. Was also fortunate to find a very light crowd, even though we arrived around 10am. The people count caught up shortly after lunch... mostly due to the fact that it was "Gay Day 2" with hundreds of gays wearing red shirts for identification. And some of their t-shirts were hilarious. My favorite was a shirt with a piratical skull and crossbones with a large "blow me" on top and a tiny "down" below. Rachel laughed at a lady who's shirt proclaimed "wish you were queer". Along with us were Eagle and Luca. Both enjoyed the tram ride and walking around the "mid" area. It was one of the best days spent at Disneyland in a long time.

October 1, 2004
One gets many a call and question during the day. I think the most irritating is, "Did you hear the news?" Whenever I hear this question it stops me cold in my tracks for it is only a half question. It is like asking someone, "Do you know?" or "What is?". My mind goes to the amusing scene in TANK GIRL where a stunned lady says "That tank is..." then freezes. Tank Girl stands for few moments then states the speaker needs to add an adjective. Tank Girl suggests "that tank is... happy? sad? mad?" Starting off a conversation with me using the "Did you hear" question makes me want to do the same. Did I hear about the news? The news about... the war, the strike, the murder, the ratings, the price of gas, etc. etc. It is definitely one of the most annoying questions. And you know what else bothers me?

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