Saturday, December 29, 2012

Skeleton Fight

This relates to my last post about stop motion which mentioned Michael Sporn's blog.  If you bothered to go there he had included an interview with Ray Harryhausen talking about his regret that the skeleton fight in Jason and the Argonauts couldn't be at night.  Ray doesn't give a reason but I agree it would have been more dramatic.  Even so you have to admit it's pretty cool and captures that magic element I spoke about in yearly stop motion films.  Thanks Ray for filling my life with dreams and the magic of animation.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Sporn on Stop Motion

Above is a link to an article by Michael Sporn about his musings on the sophistication of modern stop motion. He wondered how a master like Ray Harryhausen would fare in the modern world of rapid prototyping and the ability to make stop motion almost indistinguishable from computer animation?  I don’t know for sure but I think Ray would be cool with it. He was certainty trying to make his work as believable as possible with the tools of his day.

I think I know what Michael means though. There is an ‘other-worldliness’ to old school stop motion, particularly when combined with live action, that tickles the imagination. It’s undeniably real and yet something about it is not. It’s magic. That quality Michael mentions caused by shooting on twos or the differences in film grain or lighting which were really unintentional drawbacks in production seem to further push that indefinable magical quality making it more akin to dreams and hallucinations. The very artificialness, (is that a word?),  makes the action more memorable.

A production like “A Nightmare Before Christmas” which used the latest technology like a frame grabber system, (a live frame and a captured frame ), and computers for rig removal, also used replacement faces to give more expression to the puppets.  Even with these improvements the puppets didn't squash and stretch like organic objects and still had that rigidity we recognize as stop motion.

I see the use of computers as a natural progression in film making. The use of rapid prototyping and full color exporting of computer models has forever changed stop motion. The fluid movements and organic distortion of computer animation has spilled over and one wonders if stop motion will become, I fear,  redundant since a lot of it begins as computer models anyway?

Friday, November 23, 2012

Highjacking Ward Kimball

                                                                                                                          Ward Kimball

Above is a link to an article on Cartoon Brew talking about the difficulty author Amid Amidi is having with Disney not signing off on his book "Full Steam Ahead!", the biography of animator/director Ward Kimball.

There have been other books about the Disney staff that somehow reached print even though the individuals were depicted warts and all, so I don't know why Ward is being scrutinized and sanitized.

I was given a unique opportunity to spent two weeks with Ward and Betty Kimball back in 79.  While there Ward managed to introduce us, (I was with two other workmates), to Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston while they were busily compiling material for their book "The Illusion of Life".  I was struck by the contrast between these gracious soft spoken gentlemen who behaved like loving grandfathers and Ward who wore a head band and implied he smoked weed when we were first introduced.

I was taken aback by much of Wards honesty and surprised by Betty's tolerance of Wards vulgar humor, (Someone had sent him a toy train to 'personalize'.  He said he was going to cut it in half and put a condom in it.)  Now you don't expect that from a Disney artist and truth be told I don't think he saw himself as that.

It's widely known that Walt Disney thought of Ward as a genius.  Ward had established himself as a successful musician and bandleader recording 13 Dixieland albums with his band The Firehouse Five Plus Two, (Frank Thomas played piano), and authored two books.  He was open minded and interested in almost everything including UFOs. 

I came away from my visit with admiration and awe.  Here was a man who deeply enjoyed life and had the confidence and self security to tackle and conquer many disciplines and yet was raw and unpretentious, willing to deflate and cut through social mores and expose the humanity.  I made a vow to try and enjoy life and have as much fun as Ward.

I really want to know what made this man tick and I haven't looked forward to a book like this since "The Illusion of Life" which was a two year wait.  I hope "Full Steam Ahead!" doesn't turn into another multiple years wait.  I've already pre-paid for it when it was first announced.

Update:  Well, Disney has won and Chronicle has killed the book.  Amid assures us the book will be printed but for those who prepaid outside of Amazon, like me, the task will be more complicated.  Personally I won't be prepaying on any books before they hit the stores again.

Monday, November 19, 2012

View-Master Artists

As a boy I always loved the stereoscopic View-Masters that took traditionally drawn animated characters and did a sculptural rendering of them in 3d. This was not always an easy thing to do with many Hanna Barbara figures because they were fairly stylized designs with lots of cheated attributes like both eyes appearing on a profile.  Some how they were able to come up with a happy compromise that was always appealing.

Thanks to the internet I've been able to track down who did these wonderful pieces. Most were done by Florence Thomas and later her successor Joe Liptak, whom I've mentioned before on this blog  

Thomas produced her first reels for View-Master in 1946 --a series of Fairy Tales and Mother Goose rhymes that are still in circulation. According to one source, Thomas "developed special methods of close-up stereo photography and modeling which is now in common use by major motion picture studios" (John Waldsmith, Stereo Views, 1991).

Florence Thomas setting up a scene from The Sword in the Stone.


 One of my faves: Hook and Tink

 A scene from "Robin Hood"

Joe Liptak

I found a pretty good tribute to Florence at the blog Mystery Hoard and you can find it here:

Looking at the size of the candle flame and the scale of what appear to be real feathers in Captain Hooks hat, and the detail on Tinkerbell, it must have been a fairly large setup.  It's pretty obvious now but I never gave it much thought as a kid.  

It seems appropriate that these were clay figurines and done in Portland Oregon just like Will Vintons' Claymation.

UPDATE:  A woman names Linda asked if there were other photos of her relative Florence Thomas.  I was able to find these:


Lori said...

I just found your blog, “View-Master Artists” (dated Nov 19, 2012) this evening and want to kindly inform you that the last 5 “updated” photos you posted is NOT Florence Thomas. Instead, the artist is Martha Armstrong Hand. I personally knew her in the mid 1990’s until her passing in 2004. For your reference, here are a couple of links in tribute to Martha.

Thank you in advance for making the correction.
Lori, August 23, 2020

Tuesday, November 06, 2012


I know it's after Halloween but I just couldn't resist doing this caricature of Alfred Hitchcock.

Friday, November 02, 2012

R. Crumb and Genesis

One of the more curious things I've run across is "The Book of Genesis" illustrated by Robert Crumb. An interesting interview by The Paris Review tells us what motivated Crumb and how he spent four years making the book. It also goes into other interesting things about Crumb and the whole article in it's entirety can be found here:

What I found interesting is something Crumb wrote in his Genesis book end commentary.  During his research he found these stories were never buried and then rediscovered later,  that they are the oldest texts in continuous use in Western civilization, and that peoples belief in these stories being the word of God has preserved them for millennia while the stories of the gods and heroes of Egypt, Babylon, and Assyria were buried and forgotten along with these mighty empires.

What I also found compelling is that Crumb had initially wanted to do a comic set up of Genesis but changed his mind and did a very faithful translation with no comedy.  The only thing remotely done in a comic fashion that I found was the depiction of Noah"s sons who bare more than a passing resemblance to the Three Stooges.

I don't know what it means for a subversive underground cartoonist famous for depictions of sexual perversions to do a labor of love like this book.  I doubt if Crumb were having a religious conversion, but all things are possible.  I will close this out with just a portion of the Paris Review article that I also found curious.

Let’s begin with Genesis. Where did this book come from?
Well, the truth is kind of dumb, actually. I did it for the money and I quickly began to regret it. It was an enormous amount of work—four years of work and barely worth it. I was too compulsive about the detail. With comics, you’ve got to develop some kind of shorthand. You can’t make every drawing look like a detailed etching. The average reader actually doesn’t want all that detail, it interferes with the flow of the reading process. But I just can’t help myself—obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Was the act of drawing a God figure a challenge? You have had panels in the past where God is speaking to someone.
Mr. Natural. But I also saw God in a dream in the year 2000.
What did he look like?
He had features almost like Mel Gibson or Charlton Heston, very severe but at the same time sort of anguished looking. And he was warning me about something, very briefly, warning me about this destructive force that was getting stronger, and since He loved Earth or this reality or whatever you want to call it, He was enlisting me to be one of the people to protect this reality from this destructive force. When I was trying to figure out how to draw God I remembered that image, which I could look at only for a split second, it was painful to look at this face, it was so severe and yet so anguished.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Uncle Eddie Knows The Pumpkin Queen

Eddie Fitzgerald has paid Joanna Zarzan and myself the compliment of using our picture, The Pumpkin Queen, (my granddaughter, Joanna's niece), on his very popular blog, "Uncle Eddie's Theory Corner."

Enjoy Uncle Eddies random thoughts on Halloween and other wonderful pieces here:

Happy Halloween, Uncle Eddie, from all of us and The Pumpkin Queen.


Monday, October 22, 2012

More Enchanted Dolls

This is the second post I've dedicated to Marina Bychkova as she continues to produce some of the most intriguing and beautiful images using her truly enchanted dolls.  Not only are these intricately fashioned figurines that can assume almost any pose but Marina also has an eye for opulent detail making her photography a sophisticated tribute to her creations.  I believe these little beauties would be magical animated in stop-motion.  I'll re-post the Enchanted Dolls site here:

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Hank Ketcham Works
 Above is a link to the second part on Hank Ketcham's, The Merchant of Dennis the Menace: The Autobiography of Hank Ketcham, posted by Michael Sporn. This part is devoted to Hank's work at Disney. Not only is it a great overview of the carefree and lighthearted early days enjoyed at the studio, it also sheds light on the transition after the strike and how that carefree atmosphere had to vanish under the time clocks and union rules.

 But what I found interesting are the panels I'm posting here showing how Ketcham did his Dennis the Menace strip. His days as an animator seemed to have influenced his choice of using a light-table and working with tracing tissue. I liked that he uses more erasers than pencils, (I struggle with drawing and can empathize), and I like that he mentions what pen and brush he uses. I used to think it was all done with a brush.

Dennis the Menace never had that deep social commentary or melancholy edge that resonated with me like Charles Schulz's Peanuts did. But the graphic artistry and dynamic poses in Denise always thrilled me. I love that missing line that still defined the shape because of all the supporting lines around it. The only example I could find of this is the drawing of Dennis popping out of the TV. Notice the line on the other side of his neck is missing? Ketcham used this graphic device on Dennis' pants where one leg overlapped and many other areas to great effect.

Ketcham remains in my pantheon of great comic artists like Al Capp, Walt Kelly, and Gus Arriloa.

UPDATE:  I did mange to find another example of a line dropping out and the shape still defined by surrounding lines in that last illustration explaining his process.  If you look closely at the jar holding his pens and brushes, the line defining it drops out where it touches the corner of the table top.  Same with the water jar ending before it touches the eraser.  Cool, huh?

Click on image to enlarge

Saturday, October 06, 2012

Delano's Painted Circus

This is my latest personal film once again motivated by a wonderful soundtrack.  I had many ambitious ideas for this film, but as you can see I've relied on long camera moves and repeat cycles. It seemed to fit the hypnotic dream mood I wanted to create.  Truthfully the whole thing was a way of using the multiplane feature in the Toon Boom Animate program and the slow movement through planes of paint worked well with it.

This film is also very stylistically different for me, (hopefully all my films have a different feel) .  I've never painted using a palette knife before but my mother-in-law was a pretty gifted artist and we own many of her paintings so I had a ready reference for the look.

Another reason for the palette knife look is I could achieve it digitally.  In the olden days I would have had to paint on glass and space the planes on some kind of track.  There would have been problems with thick paint drying too slowly and lights glaring off the glass sheets, and finding some way to calibrate a camera to move through the scenes.  It made me appreciate the trouble the Disney guys had to go through to film their incredible mulitplane shots.  Speaking of Disney, the lighting effect of the lion was taken from the Pink Elephant on Parade sequence in Dumbo.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Little Nemo's Slumberland and Coney Island

Above is a link to a fascinating documentary on Coney Island.  Beautiful and horrifying, the story of Luna Park and Dreamland was the birthing place for Little Nemo's adventures in Slumberland, Winsor McCay's fabulous comic strip which ran from 1905 to 1925.  All the lavish architecture and circus atmosphere of  Slumberland was realized in these two parks that thrilled and terrified visitors through out the early 1900's.

If you are unfamiliar with either Coney Island or Little Nemo, they are well worth looking into.  Both are the stuff of dreams.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Halloween Special

Okay the date has been announced for the mystery project I posted about earlier on this blog.  The background design is very nicely done and some use the mutliplane feature to stunning effect.  I enjoyed animating on it and hope you check out "Hoops & Yoyo's Haunted Halloween"!

Hallmark Channel Original Animated Special
Friday, October 26 (7p.m. ET/PT, 6C)

Friday, September 14, 2012

Tiny Art

Sometimes I see things that blow my mind. Here is a guy, Willard Wigan, who sculpts pieces so small they fit into the eye of a needle. He sells these things for unbelievable amounts of money. What blows my mind is that he can do it and that people have the money to buy them.
Check out his gallery and the videos on him here:

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Researching a Flim

I've mentioned how difficult it used to be to gather reference material for a project.  I recall my mother, who was a commercial artist as well as doing fine arts, had big boxes of clip-art that she tore from magazines all broken out into categories like "Cars", or "Cats".  Then inside that would be sub-categories like "Cats Running" or "Cars from 1950".  We had a whole row of our home library, (Yes, it used to be common to have a wall of book-shelves in your home), devoted to National Geographic and other books on travel and other countries.  We had the Encyclopedia from A to Z for more research.  I say all this to contrast how easy it is to do a browser search and find anything today on the internet.

Here are a few of the many interesting pictures I found on the internet to inspire my personal film about a magical circus. 

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Latest Project

I've been very happily working on a new Holiday Special TV project that's wrapping up soon using Harmony by Toon Boom.  Harmony is pretty amazing and I may have to upgrade my home system from Toon Boom Animate to Toon Boom Pro  because it has many of the same features.  That's how they get you, once you've tried it, you need it.

So what is this project all about?  Gee, I wish I could say but I'm sworn to secrecy until it airs.  If only I could leave a hint...

Friday, June 29, 2012

Personal Film

I haven't had much time to work on my circus film, but I try and grab moments here and there.  This baboon  is not cleaned up or detailed and only the under sketch of what will be a painting done in ArtRage.   I will save the paintings as PNG files and bring them into Toon Boom along with a mulitiplane  background later.

Sunday, June 03, 2012

The Zen of Animation and Other Things

I've commented on this site before about how the digital age has changed animation and how some of the procedures have taken away the zen moments; those times when you are mindlessly doing a chore like painting cels, and you find yourself happy and content.  Well, I've been getting up early in the mornings to work on my personal film and I've discovered while re-registering some drawings for a sequence that I was in the moment and at peace.  I've also found pleasure in gathering research for my circus film where once it meant collecting tons of books from libraries and spending lots of cash at bookstores.  Now the net provides me with endless information and sparks ideas from the most diverse places.  I'm happy to be in this moment of time and amazed at how wonderful it really is.  There are way too many images to share but here's one I really like.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Before and After

A friend wanted me to restore a picture for his mother.  I guess that's them at the lake.  I told him there may not be enough information left but I would try my best.  It looks like it's a foggy day but it is better than it was.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Congratulations Bent

The stop-motion special "Jingle All the Way" was accepted into the 2012 Annecy Festival lineup. Congratulations to director Chel White and the team at Bent Image Lab. This was a fun project to work on and another is planned for the Hallmark Channel with pre-production happening now.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

3D Movies on Youtube

 I've just discovered that you can watch 3D on Youtube.  Look for the red 3D and by clicking on it Options will open allowing you to watch in anaglyph (red and blue glasses) or other settings.  I like the 'No glasses' approach of free-viewing where you cross your eyes and focus on the image that forms in the middle but many don't.

 I may want to start back into my 3D Flash stuff again.

Look for red 3D