John Cawley You Just Don't Understand

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We’re looking for people who hate animation
With apologies to the old art school ad campaign, this might be the campaign for folks looking for animation information. Now my old Apatoons column might have been called “The Mean Ol’ Fox”, but that was because folks thought I was mean for going against the grain. My opinions that Japanese animation had merit, classic Hanna-Barbera TV was funny and well designed, studios besides Disney could create decent animated features, that writing was as important as art, and that the world of animation didn’t revolve around walt, chuck, bob and tex were not always taken kindly. But today’s “mean ol’” animation folks are REALLY mean! And it is because the audience demands it.

Back in the 1970s, Charles Solomon wrote a column for ASIFA’s newsletter while I was editing it. His columns were usually love poems to European animators or classic US independents. One time, on a whim, he wrote a highly critical commentary on a new, non-Disney animated feature. For months afterwards, at ASIFA events, someone would tell Charles how much they loved his column. Charles would instantly start expounding on the artist he had discussed only to be cut off by the admirer who stated the one they “really loved” was the review where Charles really tore into the film, the creators, the artists, etc and told them what (as I recall one said); “What a piece of crap the whole production was”. Soon Charles’ columns and other writings began to take on a much more angry tone.

It is still true today. Michael Barrier, sometimes referred to as the man “who hates animation” because of his strong views, has a web page. I only see it referenced by other sites after he has a particularly critical point about a new film or creator. Same with “Ain’t it Cool”. I never here someone mention about a favorable comment on the site. But let it declare some new film is a piece of trash, and every site on the web has to give you link to the comment.

Even I have been affected. Since getting back into Apatoons, or perhaps just due to timing, I have found more time to write cranky editorials and letters about various topics. For some reason, now I am getting requests from sites and mags to do some additional writing. My years producing and writing were of little interest. But, hey, a guy who gripes about animation, now THAT’s something they want. A publisher and I were discussing a book for almost two years. It would have been a somewhat negative look at a particular topic. I finally found I did not have the energy for such a project and talked to them about a different book that had a similar premise, but was more of a “fun” spin. They said they were sorry I was no longer interested in the more intense approach on the subject. They also said the new book was not something they would be interested in. However, I’m still interested so I’m continuing on with it.

I know we live in a world of negative advertising and tabloid news. I know hit series are about watching people getting fired. (Hey, remember how a decade ago people laughed at those “wacky” Japanese game shows where they might put people in a pool with a shark. Boy, our TV folks had a field day ripping on how idiotic those Japanese contestants and viewers were.) It just seems we are once again splitting between those who want all the good or all the bad. Balance doesn’t seem to exist anymore. Heck, we don’t even have balanced diets - we have Atkins.

Father of the trite
With all the brouhaha about getting sitcom writers for the Dreamworks series FATHER OF THE PRIDE, I have to ask, “WHAT sitcom did the writers come from?” OZZIE AND HARRIET? LEAVE IT TO BEAVER? The plots on this show are unbelievably stale. They make CAPITOL CRITTERS look like SEINFELD! If it weren’t for the frequent modern product placement and pointless cameos by somewhat current celebrities, you would think this show was done in the 1950s. How’s this: Mom and dad want private time, but friends and family keep butting in. HO! HO! Mom and Dad suspect older daughter of doing something wrong. She denies it and gets angry they don’t believe her. In the end, get ready to laugh, she is right and they are sheepish! Twitter, chuckle! Oh, and then to impress his son and son’s friends, the dad brags he knows a celebrity. Then when it comes time to prove it, he can’t because it was a lie. But in the end, you won’t believe this, the celebrity shows up! Fotfl! What’s next? Oh, I know, Mom will suspect dad of having an affair and it will have been an innocent misunderstanding. Or, maybe Dad will think Mom is trying to kill him for insurance money! Or the daughter will bring home a freethinking radical that “opens her mind” and irritates Dad, only for the girl to find out Dad is right! Oh wait... That was on last night.

DVD for TV viewers Awards
Awards are seldom scientific. Whether they are 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 whom the winner is, but what category they are in. Recent case in point is the newly created TV on dvd awards being presented by, 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 The Simpsons: Complete Fourth Season, SpongeBob SquarePants: The Complete First Season and Looney Tunes Golden Collection. The Looney Tunes Golden Collection??? That dvd set is a collection of theatrical cartoons, NOT a TV collection. The popular website 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. [reprinted from]

Sabotage. Or Fate?
When I hear someone mention their production was “sabotaged” by a studio, it reminds me of those Disney educational cartoons that featured a weathered old duck named “Fate”. The shorts had Donald in one disaster after another. Each time he blamed everything on “Fate”. Fate then showed the viewer Donald had caused the problems by not picking up trash, using the wrong tool and such. (I believe Fate could be related to the Family Circus’ “No Body”.)


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