Daily Barks 11.06 cataroo.com
The Daily Bark: November 2006

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November 30, 2006
Tomorrow is December 1st! Where has the year gone? And it was quite a year. I won't hesitate to say that 2006 has not been the best of years, but it seems to be ending on an upbeat note. I am once again working on a new production. Rachel's arm is improving (slowly) and the doctor has said no more tests. I have more writing assignments. The kids are generally doing fine. RAchel is really getting into sculpting. Just hope things keep moving in a positive direction. The holiday decorations everywhere are certainly helping in the mood department. There is just something about hearing happy holiday songs and seeing ornaments, toys, lights and such everywhere. I don't agree with those who think it starts too early. On the drive home today, the radio began playing the Chipmunk Christmas song and I instantly felt cheery. Of course there are always two sides. For example it is freezing outside right now. (We have suddenly shifted to very cold weather. Just last week we were using fans to keep cool!) But I prefer bitter cold to white stuff.
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"It was so cold I almost got married."
Shelley Winters

November 29, 2006
Thanks to Black Friday visit to Target, I picked up the first two sets of FAMILY GUY dvds. Watched one last night and got some 'laugh out loud' moments. They reminded me of comments on an animation forum I occasionally visit. The members were discussing how Brian (the dog) has had a personality change in the newer episodes. In some ways they are correct. The early episodes find Brian the boozing, sarcastic, cynical mentor to Peter's (the father) frequently juvenile, sureal view of the world. It was common to see them together discussing what Peter is doing wrong. Lately, Brian usually plays the idealic liberal counterpoint to Stewie's (the baby) fanatical, fascist world view. While some bemoan the change and frequently bring it up, I find the change a bit refreshing. The world is full of cartoon characters (and even live action tv show characters) that never change. In fact, a number of animated series have poked fun of the fact that characters in TV shows do not change. As for Brian, if one watches the entire series, one can see that Brian begins softening a bit with his tript to Hollywood to sell a script. And an early episode has him angered by Peter's attempt to treat Brian like "a dog" at a dog show. So Brian's liberal, freedom loving personality has always been visible. The fact that it seems to be breaking loose more lately, well, I will just credit the writers for trying something new or finding more humor in the new team. Actually it also made me think of the classic case of the mass murderer. When they ask the neighbors about the killer, almost always the response is that they found the killer to be a quiet person. The point being, one can never really tell what another person will do. The fact that it is true with the characters on FAMILY GUY, in my mind, makes the show a bit more real than other toon series... and maybe that is why I laugh a bit more at it than other animated series.
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"Kid, you're talkin' to a guy who uses his tongue for toilet paper."
Brian Griffin

November 28, 2006
As the year begins to wind down, and the holiday dvds begin to crank up, I am reminded of how many "big" movies this year ended up just fizzling away. Some had big boxoffice for a few weeks, but after that, they were largely forgotten until the new dvd ads. For example, there was so much buzz about the new SUPERMAN RETURNS movie. It arrived with fanfare, and decent box office. And then just sort of sank from awareness. Disney/Pixar's CARS successfully arrived, and then was no longer really discussed. And the new X-MEN movie came and went. Even CASINO ROYALE seems to have been a hit and run. Even with all the controversy about a "new bond", it opened to good numbers and fell out of the conversations. It makes me wonder how much of that is due to films not having much lasting lustre... or is it that the public is just turning into a disposable entertainment mode. Like plastic spoons, use it once, then toss it away. Of course there were a few that went on and on. Disney's PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN II continued to make pirates hip for another year... and was still being discussed as the dvd was prepping for release. So movies can still last a bit. Just without the impact they once had. Maybe when they become available for download, they'll be back in discussion.
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"Fads are the kiss of death. When the fad goes away, you go with it."
Conway Twitty

November 27, 2006
Things begin to move forward as a new job begins. Starting this week, I will be producing a series of shorts that will find themselves on dvd's included with toys for Christmas 2007. The work finds me back at a former studio that has changed dramatically since I was last there. This will keep me busy through spring. Hopefully the shorts will lead to series work. At the same time, winter has finally arrived in the form of our first Alaskan storm. It is bringing extremely cold temperatures and rain. It is hard to believe only a week ago, it was so warm we had to have our fans on. Now we have the heater on all day... and at times even that does not seem to be enough. Had to turn off the kids' lixits to prevent frozen pipes. And, as the cliche goes, there's more. We discovered that Luca did become a UKC Champion over the weekend. That makes her, Eagle and their son Dyami all Champions. Now it is simply a rush to the end of the year, which will seem to arrive before I even have time to finish typing this entry.
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"Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing."
Theodore Roosevelt

November 26, 2006
Random thoughts on a Sunday. The UKC dog show. Luca did really well, winning three 'best of breed' ribbons over the two days. She looked really fine today, and despite the fact that she sometimes acted like a monkey when I was handling her, I am proud of her and her son, Rooster. The Flintstone marathon is over, and in hindsight, had I not been booked with other things, it would have been a great idea to have recorded the entire thing. Not only a lot of fun episodes, but some of the better interstertials that Cartoon Network used to do so well. Almost makes me wish Boomerang was always scheduled with marathons. Wonder if folks would like it or think it was annoying? Finally, Sundays. All I keep hearing is how the country is leaning more and more to the "religous right". (Religous "wrong" seems to be more like it, but that is for other barks.) I go out on a Sunday morning and find restaurants, stores, amusement areas and more packed with people! Shouldn't these consumers be in church? Several religous right presidents have already stated they do not go to church for the safety of other church goers. (Of course, this safety concern does not stop them from going to schools and reading to children.) I wonder if all the others missing church are doing it for safety reasons.
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"People react to fear, not love - they don't teach that in Sunday School, but it's true."
Leonardo da Vinci

November 25, 2006
Where is the one place that you can be guaranteed to be judged by your color and measured up against pre-determined standards? No, not some facist country from the past, but a dog show. That's where we spent the day. As usual, it was full of folks mostly dragging their kids from crates to the ring and then back. Most were puppies and would have preferred to be playing than parading. It was a UKC show which is always quieter than the larger AKC ones. So my day was spent mostly sitting around trying to keep warm and out of the sun. (My 'red face' is popping up again, so need to keep out of it.) Some might think being able to spend the day sitting around would be a treat. But shows are like sitting around a bus station. There is constant noise and distractions, whether official or not. That makes it difficult to focus on anything like reading, writing, puzzles and such. The best you can do is try to get some rest, let you mind vege a bit, and hope it comes back at days end. The show was made all the less fun thanks to a judge who seemed to know nothing about Great Danes. Of course it is impossible to be an expert on every breed, but a judge should at least know the official standards. On a fun note, THE FLINTSTONES channel is still running. Yes, Boomerang continues their marathon of every episode of the original FLINTSTONES. All 166 of them in their original order. This morning they showed the one where Fred is cloned by aliens and the town is soon overrun by robotic Freds stating "Yabba-Dabba-Do". Oddly, this episode is the equivalent of STAR TREK's "Spock's Brain" in that it is well remembered, but as a lame episode that showed a low point in the series. Whenever I see it, I am reminded of when THE SIMPSONS first began airing. It was almost immediately successful and many folks made comparisons to THE FLINTSTONES, which was (at the time) the longest running primetime network series. Simpson creator Matt Groening talked fondly of the first few seasons of Flintstones. He then mentioned the series downfall and stated that if Simpsons ever had to resort to celebrity guest stars or aliens, it was time for the series to end. THE SIMPSONS has long since passed the FLINTSTONES 166 episodes. Around Simpson's 3rd season they began their frequent use of celebrity guest stars... and an occasional alien in space. Course, Groening doesn't mention that idea much these days. Oh, and this evening, as they continue, we have gotten to see Fred impersonate a lost king, take over for Santa Claus, and try to catch a great white whale. Later tonight is the one where they travel in time to 1964 and end up in the New York's World's Fair. Great fun.
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"Who's judging American Idol? Paula Abdul? Paula Abdul judging a singing contest is like Christopher Reeve judging a dance contest!"
Chris Rock

November 24, 2006
Boomerang continues with their FLINTSTONES marathon. The one on right now had Fred, Wilma and Pebbles in the park. And their picnic basket gets stolen by Yogi and BooBoo! I remember when the Flintstones were "new". My folks and I watched them almost every Friday night. I had quite a few Flintstone toys. One was a playset (probably from Marx) that had figures, vehicles, houses, and a plastic sheet of grass and streets. It was great fun. Also remember one or two 'large' vehicles, like the the police dinosaur vehicle. Might have even had a tv tray for watching them with dinner. The references to current tv shows, movie stars were amusing, and the occasional guest star always surprising. In an era when such satrical references and guest voices are the norm, the Flintstones were pretty unique... as well as funny. It is a bit surprising to see how "mean" Fred, Wilma and company could be at times. But it was an era when a bombastic male was simply funny. Plus, like so many other series that had a long run, the stories can get a bit repetitious. As the episodes have rolled by, every so often one plays that I actually remember seeing as a kid. The most recent one is where Fred dresses up as a taxi driver to get extra money and ends up shuttling his mother-in-law all over town (unbeknownst to her at the time). The episode is still funny and well paced. The whole series has retained a warm, friendly feeling. If Hanna-Barbera had done nothing else but this series, the duo would deserve a place in animation history.
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"Yabba Dabba Do!"
Fred Flintstone

November 23, 2006
Thanksgiving. Today was the first Thanksgiving spent with my folks in over a decade. We were just always in different places. They came up the mountain to have dinner at a local restaurant with Rachel and I. Then we walked around the lake a bit. I noted that the restaurant was not very full. Of course, we felt lucky to even be in one. Last year, Rachel and I decided on Thanksgiving to go out a grab a bite only to find every eatery we called was closed. In younger days, it was somewhat common for the family to go out for a meal on Thanksgiving. But these days, that trend seems to have ended. At least in the mountains. When not with my folks, Rachel spent time working on some new sculptures that look quite nice. I just added more eBay stuff and relaxed on the internet. Was fun having time to just surf and find odd stuff. Also caught lots of FLINTSTONES on Boomerang. The network was showing "all" the episodes from the first dropping in airings of the original "Flagstones" pilot. Rachel again showed off her keen ear when she noted Barney suddenly sounded different, more "like Yogi Bear". It was one of the episodes in which Barney was done by Daws Butler due to regular Barney voice Mel Blanc being in the hospital. Over all a day to be thankful for. Just hope Greys Anatomy isn't too much of a downer. Want to keep the good feelings going...
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"I celebrated Thanksgiving in an old-fashioned way. I invited everyone in my neighborhood to my house, we had an enormous feast, and then I killed them and took their land."
Jon Stewart

November 22, 2006
A crazy day of working from home, recycling, hitting Disneyland late, and final stops at Petco and Michaels. Home even later... and tired.

November 21, 2006
A news item today made me think about how the nation used to worry about the type of person our President was... and how we worried about what his influences might be. For example, in the 1960s, there was concern that a Catholic President would let his religous beliefs overshadow his policies. But Kennedy was elected. Then in the 1970s, a millionaire ran and there was concern about someone with so much wealth and power being President. And Rockefeller never even got nominated. The 80s brought the fear of an elderly President. Yet Reagan got elected. Now we have a President who continually lets his religous beliefs overshadow his policies... and with ties to persona fortune and power. And for 2008, at least one Republican want to give Reagan a run for the oldest president. I miss the days when we worried a bit more about who, and what, our President is.
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"You never know what your history is going to be like until long after you're gone."
George Bush

November 20, 2006
So many things going on. Starting up a new production is always a challenge. Then there are all the other projects around the house from writing to selling. And have to keep an eye on getting prepped for the holidays, which according to stores are almost past. (The local drugstore is already having a 50% off sale on holiday plush!) Of course everyone complains that the holidays are forced upon us earlier and earlier every year. But sometimes it is kind of nice. I must admit to enjoying all the decorations already up. It has been a tough year... and as the song goes, "We need a little Christmas, now." Seeing the holidays so close reminds me that we made it through another year. 2006 won't go down in the books as one of our happiest, for more reasons than I wish to ponder. But at least it looks to be ending on a positive note. And, as in movies, a good ending can make all the difference in the world. This coming weekend will find us spending time with my folks on Thanksgiving, something I haven't done in at least 10 years. Then the weekend will be a show with two of our kids entered. Might even add another champion title. We may even get a chance to spend time with my step daughter. But we'll see. Christmas is far enough off that no plans have really been made. Guess the only other thing that could make it a perfect year end would be some good news on the health front. However the future is something one can never expect or really prepare for. Oh, you can save money... make plans... even have everything "in order"... when 'WHAM' something happens, or you receive news and your life is totally different than it was even 60-seconds ago. I have had that happen several times. But such events and news still give me a jolt. As Criswell says in the classic clunker PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE, "We are all interested in the future, for that is where you and I are going to spend the rest of our lives." It would just be nice, once in a while, to know exactly where the future is.
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"The future is always nonsense until it becomes the past."
Dr. Lao

November 19, 2006
As expected, got out to see HAPPY FEET today. The film was a pleasant surprise. Though the trailers made it a bit hard to figure out the film, having seen the film I can understand. HAPPY FEET is a mixture of several themes, of which some work better than others. Almost all the musical numbers have a real life to them. The action sequences are mostly dead on exciting. The romance is well handled. The morale... well, three out of four ain't bad. In some ways, the story of HAPPY FEET is similar to OVER THE HEDGE and CARS in that all are very standard moralistic tales frequently found in Saturday morning cartoons of the 80s. But while HEDGE and CARS simply re-did the obvious, FEET is visually stunning. It sort of reminded me of FANTASIA - a visual treat, but not always an entertaining one. Unlike any animated film I have seen this year (and maybe even last year), HAPPY FEET has some truly show-stopping visuals. It reminded me that even a plain story can be dressed up. Also saw some more trailers. CHARLOTTE'S WEB still looks to be the film to beat for the holidays. Also saw the first look at HARRY POTTER AND THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX. Am interested in seeing how they condense that novel.
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"This well-intentioned relative told me confidentially that so much dancing was bound to make me, ahem, frustrated. So I shouldn't do too much dancing. Or else I'd be bound to practice self-abuse. Frequently!"
Cesar Romero

November 18, 2006
Got around to seeing Pixar's CARS tonight. It was a film that I had little interest in seeing as the trailers and commercials never made it seem interesting. I guess they were pretty accurate. Of course, I am talking heresy to most animation fans, but I think Pixar peaked at MONSTERS INC. NEMO struck me as AN AMERICAN TAIL underwater. INCREDIBLES was interesting, but too much a "homage" (swipe) to classic James Bond. CARS is just... well... predictable. If this film had been done in hand animation, the critics would have torn it apart for cliche characters and plot points. After the first hour, I was still not engaged by either story or characters. Around that point, my wife "guessed" how it was going to end. And she was totally correct. Pixar used to be known for clever ideas and plots. Lately, they seem to have fallen into the same rut that hand animated features have fallen into. The disc had a trailer for their new rat movie... as well as the new Disney cgi film (MEET THE ROBINSONS). Neither looked fresh nor interesting nor funny. (Both are supposed to be comedies.) Of note was the trailer for MEET THE ROBINSONS seemed to show the film was a mix of the old and new concept mentioned the other day. In fact, during the rat trailer, there are numerous scenes of a fat disgusting rat, and a fastidious rat. My mind kept going to FLUSHED AWAY's fat disgusting rat and fastidious rat. I'll take the sillyness of OPEN SEASON over the constant tugging heart films from Pixar and Disney.
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"Pixar is going in the direction of the early Disney. And it's also corporate, where they have four or five projects in the works. I don't want to get into that subject."
Joe Grant

November 17, 2006
A good Friday. Seems as if I have employment... and will be starting next week. It's going to be a lot of work, practically handling the task single handed. Can do it... will just take lots of time and focus. Just in time for the holidays. Will still try to catch HAPPY FEET this weekend with my parents and Roo. Am looking forward to the popcorn.
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"Sure it's a big job; but I don't know anyone who can do it better than I can. "
John F. Kennedy

November 16, 2006
CASINO ROYALE comes out tomorrow and offers with it a new Bond actor. (For me, Sean Connery is still the one to beat.) At this point, I have seen at least one film of all the Bond actors. Actually, I have seen all the Bond films up to GOLDENEYE. After that, I found less interest in the Bond films due to their heavier and heavier reliance on stunts and effects over intrigue and excitement. For this new film, the third filming of the first book by author/creator Ian Fleming, they are pushing that this is a younger, rougher, grittier Bond. The producers have been making this claim since Timothy Dalton took over the role. Sort of reminds me of how in the 60s, the producers pushed each new Bond film as "the biggest Bond of all". Sort of implying the last Bond film was not the biggest or best. The Connery Bonds now seem a bit dated with all their sexist comments, methodical pacing, and moderness now not so modern. Yet they still retain a level of class that later Bond films have just not been able to reach. Connery helps a lot. He is still the Bond who seems most likely to be a hired killer. (I say this having not seen the new fellow.) It also helps that the early films spent more time on clever set-ups than elaborate set-pieces. The golf game in GOLDFINGER, the mosque scene in FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE, the spa scene in THUNDERBALL all have a sense of danger and flippancy that just has not been duplicated. Of course Bond's greatest villain is still Austin Powers. Those films have so successfully spoofed the early Bond universe, that it is at times hard to watch the early Bond films without thinking of Powers. At some point I will see the new film, out of curiousity of how the new Bond plays. But the trailers, which are loaded with fights, chases, explosions, and stunts does not make it look like the "personal" Bond being touted in the publicity. James Bond was a large part of my youth. GOLDFINGER was my first one, though I recall seeing the trailer for DR. NO while at another movie. I went through all the books and found them great. And despite how many things have changed, I still get a tingle at some of the early films and the scenes. Usually, I am very much into the mode that new ideas can be good. But when it comes to Bond... well, they just don't make them the way they used to. And that is kind of sad.
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"My dear girl, there are some things that just aren't done, such as drinking Dom Perignon '53 above the temperature of 38 degrees Fahrenheit. That's just as bad as listening to the Beatles without earmuffs!"
James Bond

November 15, 2006
Had a nice couple of days. Tuesday, went down the hill to get Rachel's new tattoo. It is a tribute to our founding kids, Roku and Star. That went well, and it looks quite nice. Then stopped by my folks to surprise them. Rachel had wanted to eat at Long John's Silver, but I was not sure my folks would be interested. I was wrong. Mom thought it was a great idea as it was a place that she used to take her mother (my grandmother) in their final years together. Seemed as if grandma loved the fish sandwiches. It led my mom to a flood of memories of times with her mother. Was really nice. Also nice was how much dad enjoyed the meal. Lately, he has been finding most food "okay" or "not bad". At Long John's he found the shrimp "really good" and the coleslaw "great". Generally a real positive time together. Today, went to Disneyland for a fling before Rachel has to go in for more medical stuff. The park looked to be really busy as it took almost an hour to get from the parking entrance gate to the park gate... but inside it was pretty empty. We went on a batch of rides including Pirates, Indiana Jones, Space Mountain, and Astro Blasters without more than a 5 minute wait. Also found some really nice trading pins and saw Brer Bear! First time I can recall that suit in years. The suit was practically brand new... and looked to be for someone shorter than the older one which was 6'-6'3". Rachel won several plush in the skill cranes and, as usual, gave most out to park guests we thought deserved an extra smile. Just kept one, a monkey, for our kids. Over at California Adventure also found light crowds and grabbed a good session with Crush at Turtle Talk. Then we went on the Grizzly River Run for the first time... and the second time... and the third time. Again, the wait was less than 5-minutes. We had gotten the official Mickey ponchos prior to going and were glad. It is a ride in which the entire goal is to soak the rider. But the roaring mountain cave and two drops were fun. So after the first, we simply exited, got right back in line and almost walked back on the ride two more times. After the usual rush hour drive home, we found the kids healthy and noisy. Again, two good days. Now we can just hope tomorrow will be a good one too.
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"The one thing I need to leave behind is good memories."
Michael Landon

November 14, 2006
Watched CAT CITY the other night. It is a 1986 European animated feature about a war between cats and mice. The film is a James Bondian spoof... sort of. In typical Eurotoon style, it features odd character designs, meandering storyline, bizarre musical numbers, odd posing, a disturbing color style and snippets of mature images. Unlike anime, eurotoons have never really found a major audience or fan base in the US. Yes, there is the occasional British import that is successful, like DANGERMOUSE or the Wallace and Gromit shorts. But since most eurotoons are often more folklore-ish or satiric, they tend not to transfer as well as anime's universal themes of sex and violence. CAT CITY is not a bad film, what with a gangster musical number and vampire bats with guns... it is just not very entertaining on the whole.
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"I lived in New York, so I saw the European movies much more than the domestic ones. I was influenced by them a great deal."
Vincente Minelli

November 13, 2006
Got a nice email about an article I just had published/put online. It was about a previous co-worker and all around good guy, Bob Boyle. I was key in getting Bob his job at Film Roman - model clean-up on BOBBY'S WORLD. Now Bob has his own worlds on Disney and Nickelodeon. In fact, I chuckled at one of the press releases that had Bob state he wondered how he kept his job at Film Roman with so much other talent in the building. I can say with complete honesty that I was one reason he remained. I thought Bob had a good line, real enthusiasm for the business and showed a lot of promise. So I worked behind the scenes to keep him busy, and even get him considered (and trained) as a storyboard artist. Was really fun chatting with him for the article. I also realized that folks forget that I still do write on occasion. Have not done any books since the early 90s... but I still turn out the article on occasion. Recent articles have included ones on Flash animation and Saturday morning TV. I do enjoy having the time to write, and just wish I had more of it. In fact, I am still struggling to complete no less than two books. But, better to be working on new ideas than basking or sulking over old ones.
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"There are some ideas so wrong that only a very intelligent person could believe in them."
George Orwell

November 12, 2006
While doing some pin trading at Disneyland, I picked up a pin of Elmer Elephant. The park employee was surprised I knew the name of the character and said most folks thought it was Dumbo. Rachel also knew who he was, and mentioned some of the storyline. She asked if I was surprised, and I said no since when she was growing up "the Disney Channel ran Disney cartoons." That made me stop and I started thinking. It was really, really, true. The Disney Channel today has no regular airing of the classic Disney shorts. Even their 'all toon' channel does not really have a place for the classic cartoons. True, one can catch an occasional oldie on HOUSE OF MOUSE, but about the only place one can easily see the shorts of Mickey, Donald, Goofy, Pluto and the gang are on home video. I know networks are all about ratings. But on a non-commercial station like TURNER CLASSIC MOVIES, they still find space to show silent films, odd shorts and features that are probably of interest to only the most die-hard, must-see-everything film fan. Certainly the non-commercial Toon Disney could find a half an hour sometime to air miscellaneous Mickey or Silly Symphonies. If for no other reason than to acknowledge a studio history prior to THE LITTLE MERMAID. I am just glad that, even though more modern series are creeping into Cartoon Network's Boomerang network, the network still shows a lot of the great (and not so great, yet still fun) TV toons of the 60s and 70s.
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"Just because your ratings are bigger doesn't mean you're better."
Ted Turner

November 11, 2006
Rin Tin Tin. Rex. Lassie. Trigger. Francis. Yukon King. Mr. Ed. Morris the cat. Benji. These are some of the animal stars of film and television. But they are also stars of the past. Recently I made a joke about Lassie, and it made me realize that the era of animal stars seems to have ebbed. From the advent of film, it seems animal stars have been a major part of films, and later TV. But today... no matter how often they try to produce a new film with Lassie, Benji or Flicka, the critters just don't take hold. That is not to say that modern producers have given up on animals. There have been a few attempts like Babe and Beethoven, but as a rule the idea of animal stars is probably not common among today's younger viewers. It is kind of sad that kids won't get to see the love between humans and their animal companions. Sure, there are always new films coming out featuring animals (RACING STRIPES, HOMEWARD BOUND, GOOD BOY, etc) but few stars. I wonder if any of Animal Planet's characters from MEERKAT MANOR will gain stardom?
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"We each had to spend a week out at Lassie's ranch, and whoever got along best with the dog got the part."
Tommy Rettig

November 10, 2006
Well, saw SANTA CLAUSE III: THE ESCAPE CLAUSE. It is amazing that a series of three movies can be equally flat, bland and unsurprising. Once again, the trailer pretty much told the story, so one is left just waiting for things to happen. It takes too long for the "escape clause" to happen... and just minutes to correct the situation. As mentioned earlier, I never saw any of the films until just recently. I was a bit surprised to find the first one so lame, since it had been a big hit and is usually spoke of as being a warm family film. Think the bigger shock was seeing star Tim Allen return to being a 'normal' person as he has gotten quite old and bulky. But age affects us all. Actually each of the films would have worked better as half hour specials. The trailer for CHARLOTTE'S WEB actually had more laughs and heart than CLAUSE III and looks to be a good film. The trailer for HAPPY FEET is making it look less like a film about penguins that dance all the time and more like a typical animated storyline of a misfit who must learn to fit in. The biggest surprise was the trailer for MEET THE ROBINSONS, Disney's next cgi feature. Teaser trailers from a year ago offered a film about a young boy inventor and an evil inventor competing for a prize by a big corporation. I had heard that Pixar's folks had done some 're-tooling' on the film. Well, that re-tooling has tossed out the old story and replaced it with a lonely kid who goes to the future to find a family (and most likely discovers his real family is in the present). It was as if I was watching a trailer for a new film. Still not a film I am interested in, but it is one of the few times I can think of seeing two trailers that presented such totally different films. I hope when the dvd comes out, which is probably how I will see it, has the early trailers so one can see what the film was originally about. Made me think of how they radically changed CHICKEN LITTLE... and how successful that 'newer' version was.
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"They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself."
Andy Warhol

November 9, 2006
No bark

November 8, 2006
Let sleeping dogs lie... or at least get out of their way. Since I often need to stay up late for my computer work, I get to see our kids sleeping. I have had enough pups to know that dogs have some pretty active nights. But none compare to Eagle who will do some pretty violent kicking in his sleep. Usually his hind legs. He gets the habit from his late dad, Roku. Not only would Roku kick heavily in his sleep, he was almost impossible to wake up when in this state. His feet would bang loudly on walls or furniture and never cause him to wake. As mentioned, Eagle is a kicker, and so is Eagle's son (and Roku's grandson) Rooster. Tonight, not only is Eagle kicking heavily, but he is also 'drinking' in his sleep. Another sleep factor that dad, son and granson share is snoring. And not just quiet rumbles, but loud, deep snoring. Sometimes it is a wonder I can get to sleep at all. Of all our kids, the only one who came close to this trio was Hoss. He would also get into violent kicking moments while asleep. The difference is, the minute one of Hoss's feet would hit something solid and make a noise, it would wake him. Hoss, who was somewhat 'simple minded', always assumed it was someone else. In fact, I still remember the time, when Hoss was very happy and wagging his tail. It would hit the wall on occasion and he would instantly look to the door and start barking, as if someone was knocking on it. After his barking stopped, he would begin wagging again, only to have his tail hit the wall and the process begin over again. That one day, he did it at least three times in a row. Right now Eagle and Rooster are snoring loudly and unaware of each other. But, why should they? We have more than one snorer in this house.
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"I love sleep. My life has the tendency to fall apart when I'm awake, you know?"
Ernest Hemingway

November 7, 2006
Election day.
So many candidates.
So many issues.
So little choice.
Am already hearing the Democrats may be taking some control in Washington. It was weeks ago that several commentators indicated that no matter who won "control" it would be a losing proposition. The war is a huge quagmire with no easy answers. And any control will be so slight as to not make any real progress easy. So while the government continues to argue over gay marriage, abortion, the pledge of allegiance and other "key" matters. Issues like a minimum wage increase, fair taxation, real national security, clean water, freedom of speech, and media monopolies will just have to wait... and wait... and wait. As for California, I am sure I will wake up to find Arnold still in charge. He has done a good job of polishing his image. Plus the democrats put up a candidate so lame, he must have been created by animation executives. Oh well. The best thing is that we won't have to hear about elections for a few months... I hope. And yes, I voted.
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"Majority rule only works if you're also considering individual rights. Because you can't have five wolves and one sheep voting on what to have for supper."
Larry Flynt

November 6, 2006
Film Roman alumni and buddy Gary Conrad is interviewed at the Ratzafratz weblog today. The blog is for a new cartoon short by Karl Toerge (another FR alumni bud) and Jim Wyatt (a new friend). The site is certainly worth a look. It seems as if blogging has become a full time job for studio folks. Some studios even request/require blogs to help get a buzz going on projects. Ever since THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT became a megahit following a web campaign, studios feel the internet is a film's best friend. I certainly enjoy popping in on such blogs, even if time does not allow me to do it very often. However, I am not sure if such blogs really help a new project or not. After all, for months all we heard was how the blog buzz on SNAKES ON A PLANE was going to make the film a monster hit. Though that film had monsters, it was far from a hit. Still it can be fun seeing art and comments from folks on a film. Gives me the feel of walking around a studio with lots of shows in production. Bouncing around these sites can also reinforce my thoughts about the executive process for picking creators. Some are full of fresh art, stories, and inside information. While others are nothing more than dumping grounds for stale photoshop gags, promo info and flat statements. Those clearly show the creators of the shows may be great artists, but they are not great writers or idea folks. I have known so many good artists through the years who were really inventive and creative. Then there are the many others who were great at art, but could not come up with a beginning or an end to any storypoint, joke or character bit. Reminds me of an associate who used to come in to show me some great piece of art they had just finished. The other artists would 'ooh' and 'ahh' at the great art and proclaim it would make a great show. I would ask what it was about. One time they replied to my question, "Well, this rabbit here is like a magic thing... and the dog... that's his friend... and they do a lot of funny stuff." That pitch and the art attracted the interest of a network person. The exec had heard good words about the artist. When the exec asked what the names of the rabbit and dog were, the artist stated he hadn't come up with any yet. After several months of development, and names, the project died. There was a time when being a creator meant having something to say. Now it seems creators need only be able to show and not tell. To borrow a leaf from Sonny - "And the blogs go on..."
OH! And be sure to vote tomorrow, the 7th.
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"We call ourselves creators and we just copy."
Lauryn Hill

November 5, 2006
Caught the end of WATERSHIP DOWN on The Movie Channel this morning. It is still one of the best animated features ever made. Almost 30 years old and it still packs a dramatic punch that today's features can only hope for. Though at the time, some critics found fault with the animation and ("too similar") character designs, it has held up far better than most films of the 70s and 80s. Shortly after we were married, Rachel and I read the original book. The movie follows the book very closely, even pulling much of its dialogue from the text. Rachel mentioned it was the most violent animated feature she had seen. And I think it may be outside of anime or 'r' rated films. There is graphic violence, blood, and death. And unlike the candy coated "circle of life" approach found in more modern films, the Black Rabbit of Death is frightening, thoughtful, respected figure. It is something that cannot be avoided. In a time of cgi comedies and musicals, it is nice to be reminded how powerful animated features can really be. I can see why I always mention it in my top ten animated features.
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"There is not a day or night when a mother doe does not offer her life for her kittens, or an honest captain of Owsla his life for his chief's. But there is no bargain. What is, is what must be."

November 4, 2006
Cartoon Network debuted a new show on Friday - CLASS OF 3000. This is the series based on Andre 3000 of Outkast. The production was handled by a talented crew, but was a troubled one for many reasons. The final show is surprisingly flat for having so much creative work (and money) thrown at it. The premiere episode's story of how "Sunny" goes from megastar to teacher was strictly by the books with stock situations (show biz baddies) and characters (stereotyped multi-cultural kid group). Sunny (Andre) comes across quite bland. I wonder if the creators had a problem similar to another Cartoon Network show based on musical talent. During the production of that series, the musical talent were continually disapproving of stories and material that made them "look silly". Odd, since looking "silly" is a prerequisite of a comical character. Perhaps Andre has an equal issue with looking "foolish". I think the thing that stuck out most was how little music was in the show. All during the series build-up and promotions was how important and new the music would be. And the musical number at the end looked like it came out of an episode of CATANOOGA CATS (which ironically is now playing on CN's sister network Boomerang). It is always sad when so much talent results in a show that looks as if anyone could have made it. The Network's recent HIHI PUFFY AMIYUMI was more musical, more visually interesting and (at times) cleverer than the debut of Andre 3000. But perhaps it will improve... if the Network gives it time.
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"I've been asked to write with Andre 3000."
Courtney Love

November 3, 2006
This weekend THE SANTA CLAUSE III opens in theaters. Rachel has expressed interest in seeing it, mostly for Martin Short. I admit, I had never seen any of the previous "Clauses". I was aware of their stories due to commercials and such. Luckily, the Disney Channel aired the first one a few nights ago, so sat down and watched it. My thoughts after watching the film were that times have really changed. I guess. The first Clause debuted in 1994. At the time, star Tim Allen was on the highly rated HOME IMPROVEMENT. The movie was a big hit critically and financially. The dozen years since have not been kind to the film. I found the film to be fairly flat. Neither the writing nor direction are clever. Allen's character begins as a total jerk... and really doesn't improve until the end. In fact, there is a major problem with the storytelling that kept driving me nuts. [SPOILER ALERT] After Allen has put on Santa's suit and become the new Santa, he is told by an elf that he has 11 months to put his life in order. The next morning, Allen has no real memory of the event. He gains weight, gets more kid friendly and causes trouble at work, his home and such. Finally, after almost 11 months he needs to be reminded by his son. And though part of the "clause" indicates he is to leave his past life behind, Allen continually hangs with his son. And the climatic tension is poorly done, and looks tacked on. Generally, I am not one to nitpick logic in comedies. But since the whole point of this film is a contractual set-up, the film should be true to its set-up. Wonder if SANTA CLAUSE II and III play as fast and loose with the concept. Makes me yearn for the clear, clever writing on BACK TO THE FUTURE.
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"The Santa Clause: In putting on the suit and entering the sleigh, the wearer waives any and all right to any previous identity, real or implied, and fully accepts the duties and responsibilities of Santa Claus, in perpetuity to which some time the wearer becomes unable to do so, by either accident or design."
Bernard, an elf

November 2, 2006
Once again, animated features are being held to a different standard than live action. A popular animation blog is trumpeting an MSNBC.com article about the amount of recent cgi animated films starring animals. Though the blog is cheering the writers tirade as a good point about the similarities of the films, it is really another jab that animated films are not equal to live action. First, the writer brings up the old wheeze argument that such features are just "toy commercials". X-MEN III and SUPERMAN RETURNS were equally "toy commercials". But being live action, one never complains about them. Next the writer gripes that films like MADAGASCAR, THE WILD, and OPEN SEASON all featured protected animals suddenly thrown into the wild. Using the writer's loose grouping technique, I could say X-MEN III and SUPERMAN RETURNS all feature super-heroes fighting villains; or FLIGHT 93 and WORLD TRADE CENTER all take place on 9-11; or CARS and EVERYONE'S HERO are about inanimate objects that talk; or THE DAVINCI CODE and THE OMEN are about secrets of the vatican. As you can see, just because there is a basic plot point shared by movies does not mean they are the same movie. MADAGASCAR is about zoo animals stuck on a desert island. THE WILD is about zoo animals traveling to Africa to rescue an offspring. OPEN SEASON is a "screwball comedy" about a staid character whose life is altered by a free spirit character. Complaining they are alike is like complaining that most modern horror films feature teens and a killer in the middle of no place, or that many films by Alfred Hitchcock are about mistaken identities, or that Tim Burton films are often about death. But no one will make those complaints because those are live action films. In live action, you can do anything as often as you like. But in animated films, you are not allowed to deal with similar issues. It all started with that 'darn' Walt Disney. He kept making movies about fairy tale ladies (SNOW WHITE, SLEEPING BEAUTY, CINDERELLA) and childrens books about children (PINOCCHIO, PETER PAN, ALICE IN WONDERLAND). Even his studio just kept copying that formula with LITTLE MERMAID and BEAUTY AND THE BEAST. As the clever writer asked, why do they "all have the same plot". It is just a shame that animated blog sites not only publicize such opinions and stereotypes... but seem to support them. I like to give each story a chance... and look a little deeper.
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"The Simpsons did a harassment story and we did a harassment story, and they were two very different stories."
Seth MacFarlane

November 1, 2006
It's late and am putting the kids out for one more round. As usual, all my ideas about topics that pop up in the morning have drifted away with the hours of the day. Generally, the last few days have been a bit rough. Am waiting for news on several fronts... and waiting is never an easy thing. Also have been getting through some rough times on the personal front. And of course the issue of health currently weighs heavy around the house. Am also battling the dreaded time change lag monster. (It is odd. I can fly around the world and get almost no lag effect... but that one little hour each spring and fall knocks me for a loop.) Luckily, there have been some fun things. A movie here, an activity there. Also have a few diverting days coming up with lunches, dentists, interviews and car care. Know it is just a matter of getting through. It would just be nice if there were more morning hours.
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"From the moment I was six I felt sexy. And let me tell you it was hell, sheer hell, waiting to do something about it."
Bette Davis

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