Monday, May 28, 2007

Sydney, Nova Scotia

I'd like to take a few minutes to draw attention to a nice little harbour town known as Sydney located in the northern part of the province of Nova Scotia. Why would I do such a thing? Well, I'm doing so simply because I will be working there pretty soon. It seems an animation studio named Helix happens to be in that town and are in need of an animator. So I, being the kind-hearted citizen that I am, have agreed to offer my services to them so that they can get any project they have on their schedule done faster. Well, it certainly beats tsanding in the way of flying grease at McDonalds doesn't it? ;)

Well, really, the one person I should thank for helping me get the job is this guy:

{This is him with his favourite watch. I think it tells him to do things.}

His name is Chris Hankewich but he often goes by the name Hank. If you want you can check out his blog of goodies here. He graduated from animation school the same year as me so we know each other rather well. So, when his company said that they needed animators, you can see how my name would have come up (along with the names of others who graduated that year, some of whom I suspect might be there as well). Some shows that Hank has worked on in the previous years have been Bromwell High and The Secret World of Og. Those ones I know for sure. I'm sure he could provide the rest (even the ones he's not at all proud of).

As a "tribute" to him for getting me this job, I planned to draw a funny comic with him as the centre character. I started working on it, but somehow it seemed mean to me. I was going to have him commit arson for no reason after all. So, instead, I'll just post these attempts at caricature of him.

Hmmmmmm. I guess I still have some work to do.

Oh well, I leave for Sydney on Saturday. From that point on I'll be seeing him so often that I'll have plenty of oppurtunities to caricature him and anyone else who works at Helix.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Happy Mother's Day

I decided to commemorate Mother's Day with a Three Stooges film. "Why?" You ask. Simple. Do you know where the likes of Moe, Shemp, and Curly got their style of slapstick? Their mother. That's right. She would always use some kind of a physical assault in order to get things done. I remember reading in Moe's autobiography about one such incident. He was about 4 at the time. His parents were having a gathering of friends. Then, someone said something or did something to make her upset. L'il Moe knew this was trouble so he hid out of sight under a table. When he re-emerged, he saw his mother standing in the middle of the room holding a slightly bent umbrella and a lot of people rubbing their heads in pain.

That's the wonderful thing about mothers. Besides giving birth to you, spending your first 6 months of life tending to your evry need without a break, and supporting you throughout the rest of your life whether she approves or not, she could also inspire an enduring comedic routine that would please millions of people for decades.

So, as you watch Grips, Grunts, and Groans today think of all the wonderful things your mother has done for you. And don't forget to say "Thank you, Mama Howard, wherever you are!!"

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

It's Bob Clampett's birthday

That's right, today is Bob Clampett's birthday. He'd be 94 today had he survived that heart attack in Detroit 23 years ago.

First, a quick bio:
Bob Clampett showed an interest in both drawing and puppetry at a very young age. All throughout his childhood and adolescence he'd constantly draw many comic strips. While still in high school he even got a job drawing for William Randolph Hearst.
But then in 1928, he like most of the world fell in love with a little film called Steamboat Willie.He was even inspired to make a small statue of Mickey. He'd attend as many showings of Steamboat Willie as he could in order to get a good idea of Mickey's construction. Once completed, he said that he would like to make many more of these statues and maybe try to sell them. His aunt heard this and said, "you can't just up and do that, you need permission from whomever owns the character first." So, since he lived in San Diego, it was only a short drive to Los Angeles for him and his aunt and then to the Disney studios. When Walt took a look at that statue, he was not only inspired to start the Disney merchandising division (which of course still exists today) but also grant the 16 year old Bob a job. "Right now we're in the middle of moving to a bigger facility," Walt said. "But, when everything is finally up and running, you're guaranteed a job there, young man."
However, the rambunctious Bob Clampett couldn't wait that long. He wanted an animation job NOW!!!! Luckily, the Leon Schlesinger studio had a position open so Bob took that one instead. Since he was new and quite young, he was under thumb of Hugh Harman, Rudolf Ising, Friz Freleng, and a few hack directors Leon had hired from Disney. Thankfully though, Bob along with Chuck Jones and several other disgruntled underlings were reassigned to Termite Terrace when Tex Avery joined the studio. It was there that these men would revolutionize animator for the better forever. Some of Bob's accomplishments at Warner Bros. were the creation of Tweety, the co-creation of Daffy Duck, and the refinement of both Porky Pig's and Bugs Bunny's designs.
There is some speculation as to why Bob Clampett wasn't at Warner Bros. after 1946. Some say he just quit while some say he was fired. Based on what I've read and/or heard on the subject, I suspect it was a bit of both. Either way, he was out on his own in the late '40's. He experimented with several projects at this time. He even did some animated films for Republic studios.
But, Bob Clampett truly hit the big time when his own puppet show Time For Beany debuted in 1949. This show would win several Emmys and create a huge following to boot (even attracting such high profile fans as Groucho Marx and Albert Einstein). Not only that, it introduced some puppeteering techniques that would be incorporated into the Muppets a few years later. I have no information as to Jim Henson's opinion of Bob Clampett's work, but I do know that muppeteer Dave Goelz (best known as the voice of Gonzo) cites Time For Beany as an influence. Time For Beany would become an animated series called Beany & Cecil in 1962.

Well, that's enough about the man's life for now. I'm not A&E y'know. Now lets talk about his work.

Besides the amazing elasticity, relentless energy, captivating yet seemingly disjointed stry-telling ability, there's also one other element of his work that I enjoy partly because it really helps him stand out from the rest: the playful imp that can't be killed. That's the way he approached Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck. He'd likewise pit Porky Pig or Elmer Fudd against such a character. You can see that element quite plainly in this cartoon below:

All this merely scrathces the surface of what makes Bob great. I think it would take at least three lifetimes to fully experience everything Bob Clampett has to offer. We should count ourselves lucky to even have one lifetime exposed to his work.

In short, Happy Birthday Bob.