Thursday, July 08, 2021

Old School Animation Table

 I have this custom made collapsible portable animation stand that I'm not using these days.  Now that everything is digital, my poor drawing table sits idle.  I had it built with two lawn-chair hinges so I could raise and lower it for a comfortable drawing angle.  I added a removable copy stand rostrum for a digital or film camera and used it for pencil tests and full production work.  It's still cool and I have it set up in my office just for kicks right now.

Sunday, June 13, 2021

CLAYDREAM..Documentary about Will Vinton

 This is the trailer for the finished film started in 2017 originally called "Welcome to My Daydream " about Will Vinton and his studio.

 CLAYDREAM_Follow link for the Tribeca premiere screening: TODAY Sunday, June 13th @ 4pm pst

This is a still from the documentary of Will and myself discussing a scene

 Will and I discussing a scene


Tuesday, November 03, 2020

Music and Mood in Animation_ The Two Jinn's


I made Jinn Jinn Meets Sadiqi over the CoVid lock-down purely as a distraction.  During the making, I fell in love with the scratch track by Ravi Shankar because it captured the playfulness and spirit of what I was trying to do in animation.  As it usually happens, I couldn’t get the rights to use the music in its entirety and had to find free music that fit the flavor and action but it changed the whole level of energy and mood.  It works, and you can see it here:    But, I still missed the Shankar tribute version, so I put this version of the Ravi piece here on my blog just to show how much music can influence the feel of an animated cartoon.  Sorry for the poor quality, (go to the linked version above for better image quality and the alternative sound track), but this way I won’t get any strikes or violations…

Thursday, September 03, 2020

Another View Master Artist


I never know who or when someone is looking at this blog, I don’t tend it every day or give it much attention, but it’s been a great way of learning things!

Just recently, a comment on one of my View Master posts led to the discovery of a new artist who worked on translating my favorite cartoon characters into 3d sculptures for the View Master reels. 

Meet Martha Armstrong Hand who, I can only conclude, worked around the same time as the already mentioned Florence Thomas and Joe Liptak.  There seems to be some confusion between Martha and Florence on who is who when it come to the photos, and I am thinking some got miss labeled as Florence when they should have been Martha.  Regardless, we have more information on Martha, and learn which View Masters she actually worked on plus learning of  her career as a doll designer for Mattel Toys!

Read more about Martha Armstrong Hand here:


Special thanks to Lori for sending this article!



                                                               Martha Armstrong Hand

Wednesday, April 01, 2020

Jinn Jinn

It's the Corona virus self quarantine here, and I’ve decided to spend my time working on another ‘homegrown’ cartoon from my home studio.  I'm expanding on something I wrote about earlier in a posting called Seeing Things that goes over the same discovery process talked about here.

The origin for this film is unique in that it wasn’t inspired by a book or my attempt to create an original character, it came from a tablecloth! There is a phenomenon called Pareidolia where the brain tries to make sense of chaotic information presented to it.  This is how we see pictures in clouds and faces in patterns.  My wife has a tablecloth we use often and in the pattern I saw this extraterrestrial flying in his aircraft, and in another section of the cloth was his alien friend or pet. 

I’ve named the ET Jinn Jinn because he might have been confused as a genie because he rides in a Vimana: a Hindu flying chariot.  His friend Sadiqi, (which means friend), is also an inter-dimensional spirit buffalo, or something.

Originally I had envisioned Jinn as a time traveler flying around looking for fun in different historical events and accidentally altering history.  He's the one who put the crack in the Liberty Bell and tipped over the Tower Of Pisa.  Anyway, I settled on an origin story of how Jinn meets his pal Sadiqi, it gives me an opportunity to figure out who these guys are and what they look like moving.

Like The Yellow Submarine, this film is becoming a mixture of cultural styles, and turning psychedelic pretty fast.  I know this is not going to be liked by everyone or maybe anyone, but with the quarantine going on; it’s a nice way to spend some time.

Here are three tests strung together with a scratch audio track added, (it might not play too smoothly).
Jinn Jinn doesn't have pupils yet in these tests which makes him look more evil than he is...


Design test with Stand-in Jinn Jinn and Sadiqi

Title Card Idea_01
Title Card Idea_02

Trying to find expressions with this design

More expression exploration
More exploration with a 3/4 head turn and a happy Jinn Jinn

A hungry Sadiqi design

Sadiqi expression test

The original tablecloth that inspired Jinn Jinn

Jinn Jinn against the tablecloth Vimana

Rough version of the Vimana & Jinn Jinn over the original tablecloth
A harder to see Sadiqi, which I modified quite a bit, from the tablecloth.

Friday, March 06, 2020

Fox Hunt and The Yellow Submarine

It’s taken sometime to process the graphic impact of Heinz Edelmann’s The Yellow Submarine.  George Dunning is credited for directing this Beatles feature film but the design was singularly birthed by Heinz Edelmann.  Unfortunately both men have passed away, but even so, I believe history has left a trail that might account for how this style developed.

The Beatles album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band was a fusion of contemporary rock & roll and Victorian influences, including the British survival of two World Wars and the teachings of Aleister Crowley.  Producer George Martin further sweetened the mixture with classical orchestrations.  This touch of old and new sensibilities was simultaneously happening in the graphic arts of the time too.

Artists like Milton Glaser reached back into the past, recycling vestiges of Art Nouveau and the later Art Deco to create a contemporary style for the 60’s commonly called Pop Art.  Heinz Edelmann also used this template to the design the world of Pepperland for  The Yellow Submarine and caricatured the current designs with the fashionable bell-bottoms and boots of the day blown up to ridiculous proportions.  This style was pirated by lesser talents like Peter Max through out the Psychedelic era.

Now, in the world of animation Walt Disney had impacted the field to the point that everyone was becoming a clone of Walt’s graphic style which tried to emulate nature more and more.  Two filmmakers, Anthony Gross & Hector Hoppin, choose to experiment with the radically different aesthetic backlash Art Deco and the Modern Art movement was to the traditional classical representation.


Anthony Gross & Hector Hoppin made the Art Deco film Fox Hunt and being a British film that gained some notoriety, it’s not unreasonable to think that a young Heinz Edelmann or George Dunning might have seen it as impressionable youths.  Graphically The Yellow Submarine owes a debt to Art Deco but there are a few scenes which might point to a direct influence.  Fox Hunt has equestrian riders coming down Art Nouveau staircases very similar to the ones Ringo drives his red car down in The Yellow Submarine.  It could all be coincidental I suppose, but…  
Riders descending staircases in Fox Hunt

Ringo's car descending  staircases in The Yellow Submarine

I did an earlier article on Gross and Hoppin speculating that their film La Joie de Vivre may have influenced the 1940 Disney classic Fantasia.  You can find it here:

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Richard Williams Troubled Masterpiece

The sad news of Richard Williams passing on Aug. 16th 2019 rocked the animation world.  It caused many to reflect on his brilliant career and contributions to animation as a teacher and master animator.

Part of his legend was the attempt to make the greatest animated film in history. The Thief and the Cobbler was going to be his masterpiece.  With a long troubled history spanning 3 decades the film  never accomplished Williams’s vision having been wrestled away by Warner Brothers.

The film existed in three different versions; the first was distributed in South Africa and in Australia as The Princess and the Cobbler on 23 September 1993. Then in December 1995, Miramax Films, released the second version entitled Arabian Knight featuring newly written dialogue, songs, and a celebrity voice cast that was added months before the film's release.  And the third most faithful version known as The Recobbled Cut is Garrett Gilchrist's fan restorations which follows the Williams work print very closely.

You can read the films checkered history in full here:

So why was this masterpiece so problematic, and why hasn’t it been seen by more people?  Mr. Williams did not like to discuss its because the failure hurt him deeply, but we can look at it today with our highly politicized social warrior eyes and see what spectacular things he was able to accomplish and also get away with, things that would never fly today.

 The film is an amazing feat of animation done before computer assistance and never intended only for children.  There are truly astonishing visuals and adult themes that may have more meaning than a casual viewing might yield.  What motivated Williams and why he shaped this story as he did may never be fully know.  But as glorious and amazing as the animation is, the film does have its flaws.

The story-line is paper thin, and the ending foretold right in the opening narration.  An unseen Narrator spills the beans by saying a threat can be stopped by the simplest of things while his disembodied hands conjure the Golden City and then frame it with a border shaped like a ‘tack’.  Later the king’s advisor Zigzag steps on a tack and accuses the cobbler, who just happens to be named Tack, of all things, had attacked him.  The whole film is built on this rather obvious wordplay of a tack and attack.  
The Narrators hands forming the tack clue

In the cast we have King Nod who seems oblivious to all that's happening in his kingdom, because he is, well, asleep.  The kings daughter is saddled with the horrible name Princess Yum Yum and, as her name implies, she looks yummy.  She is the love interest, and desire of the wicked Zigzag advisor to the king, who is voiced wonderfully by Vincent Price with the right degree of humor and oiliness.  Zigzag, probably the most developed character in the film, has six fingers on each hand, and wants to get them all over the princess by buttering up the king. Then, there’s the Thief, a silent figure, (unless you watch the Arabian Knight version with Jonathan Winters providing a nonstop internal dialogue that becomes annoying pretty fast).  This shifty guy has no character ark whatsoever and remains the same throughout the film never having learned a thing.  Last is the Cobbler, another mute figure who only speaks at the very end, the unlikely hero. He is kind to animals and clever with his hands.

 The film has wildly politically incorrect moments by todays standards, that were problematic even during production then and are the chief reasons for modifying the film with its different releases.  Garrett Gilchrist's Recobbled version is the closest we have to Williams original vision. We find inappropriate behavior, which may have actually been acceptable for the culture and time period the story is set in, like the feminized, castrated eunuchs who announce the arrival of Zigzag in their high pitched women voices.  Then there’s Zigzags gift to King Nod of a woman in a curtained structure, (a cage?), named Mombassa, who we never see except for one eye peeking coyly out of the curtains.  Now concubines and courtesans were historical rolls for women but this is particularly disturbing because as her name implies, she may be a black woman kept naked and caged only as a plaything! The scene is even creepier as the king puts his hand into the curtains and we hear her giggling inside while his daughter Yum Yum is standing there watching it all.  He even takes the cage with him to watch a public Polo match while sitting next to Yum Yum with his arm still in the cage! Then there are the gymnastic slave women of the evil king of the One Eyes who tumble and contort to form a throne for him to sit on! He is literally sitting on a chair made of women! These adult gags shine a light on Williams sense of humor, and one wonders if there is symbolism to the One Eyes. Were they a representation of the All Seeing Eye, the evil secret controlling power that exploit women in sex trafficking?  Perhaps that’s going too far. 
Eunuchs announcing the coming of Zigzag

Zigzags gift to King Nod as Yum Yun looks on
Mombassa peeks out of her cage
Yum Yum watching in disgust
King Nod, Mombassa, and Yum Yum at a Polo match
King of the One Eyes sitting on his throne of women
The Witch who has an obvious prophesy
The Thief and the Cobbler maybe exhausting in it’s totality with its long complex moving perspective shots and thin character development. It may take a long way to tell the story with incidental figures like the witch who reveals an obvious clue by uttering “A tack, attack!” in a vision that we knew about from the beginning.  But even with its flaws, it’s worth seeing over and over again for its wonders.