Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Jill Daniels' Art in the BAG

Awesome art director Jill Daniels has personal art on display now at the Baldwin Avenue Gallery, a.k.a the BAG in Sierra Madre.  Between her art show, her day job, and her Emmy's work on the Academy (whew!), she answered some questions for FLiP.  

Jill, 2nd from left, at her gallery reception.
 

FLiP: How did you first discover painting, and who were your earliest influences?

Jill: I was one of those kids who was born creative and loved painting and drawing from a very early age.  My dad was an architect and also a very creative person …. he really inspired me and he and my mom where both very encouraging. 

The budding artist and self-portrait.

FLiP: Where did you study?  Was there a mentor who had a big impact on you?

I got an BFA from Pepperdine University and also studied through some overseas programs for a couple years in conjunction with the University of Heidelberg in Germany and in Florence Italy.  Then moved to Pasadena and studied at Art Center College of Design.  When living in Italy became a big fan of the minimalist work of Morandi .. was refreshing to see his work in the midst of an abundance of Renaissance paintings.  

FLiP: What subject matter are you drawn to?  Has this varied over time?  

For many years I only focused on a career art directing in animation.  It took me along time to figure out what I wanted to say with my paintings and move forward with the work …  I believe emotional human connection is truly what is most important in life … and knew that was what I wanted to show with my paintings … but didn’t want to default to depicting that through portraiture.  It all came together when I decided to use common furniture pieces or objects as a vehicle to showcase the power of the unseen … capturing human emotional stories with my work.  It’s all about the negative space and relationship of the objects to each other.  

 FLiP: Is there something you’d like to try as a painter but haven’t yet done so?  A different medium?  Larger/smaller scale?  

I really enjoy both large and small scale and so everything from 4 inch by 4 inch to 6ft by 4ft - the current pieces on exhibition are large in scale.  I am playing around with adding text into the pieces …

FLiP: Is there a theme to your show?  When and where can people see it?

With the pieces that are exhibiting currently at The Baldwin Avenue Gallery located on the main town square in Sierra Madre I created work to give the viewer an emotional healing experience for people who have experienced loss … it’s been quite a couple years we have all been through and felt really called to create work to help.  It is going to be exhibited for two months.  Such a lovely town and the first time I have exhibited locally … over the last 15 years I have been creating this body of work I have been really fortunate to have had shows in Laguna, Culver City, New York and overseas in Asia … really feels great to be able to support the local arts and share this work in a place that is so close to home.  

Thursday, September 9, 2021

The Freshman

  
CalArts I.D., 1981


40 years ago this week, my journey in character animation began.  I've been thinking about it recently, like looking through a dusty box of memories in the attic.  

I went to CalArts right out of high school, sight-unseen, putting full faith in my decision to become an animator; a decision not exactly met with enthusiasm back home in southern New Jersey.  Back there, dreamers and artists are kooks, so I was a double-whammy.  My high school guidance counselor strongly advised against pursuing animation (yeah you, Fr. Nick).   But I had been dreaming and working toward this for years, and at last it had all fallen into place. 

On the long drive to the Philadelphia airport, I nearly chickened out.   The reality that I was about to leave everyone I knew, go to a place I'd never been and fend for myself, chilled me to the bone in the back seat of Mom's car.  I came very close to telling her to turn back, but I did not want to give the naysayers the satisfaction of being right (yeah you, Fr. Nick). 

I clearly recall the drive up the 5 freeway to Valencia and seeing the school for the first time.  Then the intense joy and nausea I felt as we turned off on McBean Parkway, turning right into the driveway just past a round concrete planter with "California Institute of the Arts" emblazoned across its front.  In the movie version, this scene will be in slow motion with very cool acoustical music.

We parked in the dorm lot, then wandered around until we found the office, where we met Liz McColl - a beautiful Scottish woman (think Stevie Nicks) who ran the office and truly loved the students.  There, we got the key to my room - 251, right off the main lobby.  It came with modular furniture from 1971.  The bed had groovy chrome pipes that supported a sheet of plywood with a mattress on top.  I remember the smell of the air,  a mix of sage and smog; dry air that gave me nose bleeds for the first couple of months.  

We dropped off my suitcases, then drove around town. Pre-Google, you may recall that the way to find things in a strange town was either through the yellow pages of a phone book or by just driving around.  Fortunately, in 1981 Valencia, there wasn't much town to be seen.  We found the K-Mart, where Mom filled a cart with the necessities; a pot, pan, knife, fork, spoon, plate, bowl, cup,  a small black and white TV, a pillow, sheets, a comforter, and, to top it off, a mini fridge.  

Shopped out - we looked for a place for lunch.   There were taco places around - but what was a taco?  I'd heard of them in Speedy Gonzales cartoons, but what were they?  Tacos were not a thing in South Jersey,  just like subs were not a thing in Southern California  (still aren't, really).  We settled on a small hot dog joint.  Looking out the window, the reality that Mom would be leaving me soon chilled my bones once again. 

After meeting with the financial aid office and taking a tour of the school, we returned to room 251, where I met my roommate, Dan Jeup.  Dan was from Michigan, and with his mid-western friendliness, we hit it off right away.  Dan invited me to tag along as he and a few other classmates went to open bank accounts at Security Pacific (remember them?). That was Mom's cue to leave, and we said goodbye - quickly, the South Jersey way.  Many years later, she told me she cried on the freeway back.  I had done the same when I had a moment alone.  Dan caught me, and I made up an excuse about my contacts bothering me. 

During the next four months I would learn as much about character animation from Dan as I did my teachers, many of whom had worked with Walt Disney personally.  Unfortunately, Dan was just as clueless as me when it came to nutrition.  We ate crap food; canned, frozen, plastic wrapped, processed garbage.  Just what was in those salisbury steaks?  Eating became a bit of a sport.  We would cruise the art shows around campus, filling up on their hors d'oeuvres and Almaden wine. And when our bi-weekly work-study checks arrived (eighty buckaroos!), we'd treat ourselves to Shakey's all-you-can-eat buffet.  On my weekly calls to Mom from the pay phone in the dorm lobby, she'd always ask if I was homesick, and I always answered "No."  Being at CalArts was a dream come true.  I had found my people. 

Five years ago, I moved back to the area, where it all started. Mom's gone now, as is the K-Mart.  The hotdog joint is now, ironically, a taco joint.  The trees around CalArts have grown so you can no longer see it from the freeway.  Whenever I drive past the round planter out front, I think about that first time, with Mom, and get an urge to pull in.  I see Dan on occasion, and it's like old times - though I've learned how to cook real food since then.  And 40 years on, those CalArtians are still my people. 

-Steve

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

The Ogre, the Mogul, and Me

 By Kirk Wise

Was it the incessantly farting ogre that first tipped me off? Or the flat plywood sets that looked like a poorly-lit episode of H.R. Pufnstuf, minus the whimsy and imagination? Perhaps it was TV funnyman Howie Mandel, capering and lisping his way through his role as a glitter encrusted genie? I suppose if I had to choose, I’d say the penny dropped when the head of the production company went to prison.

But I’m getting ahead of myself...this the story of my ill-fated, almost-debut in the world of live-action.

In early 2002, I left Walt Disney Feature Animation after a 16-year run. Though I loved my friends and colleagues there like a second family, 10+ years of directing big-budget animated features had left me exhausted. I was ready for a sabbatical. And I was ready for a new challenge once I felt rested and my creative engines were re-engaged. Other animation directors had successfully transitioned into live-action filmmaking, so why not me?

My newly hired and well-meaning agents booked dozens of general meetings which consisted of me sweatily twiddling my thumbs in a series of fancy (and not-so-fancy) production company lobbies, and engaging in vapid chitchat with a series of smiley (and not- so-smiley) studio execs. Eventually, all the meetings began to blur together like carnival spin-art. But still, I soldiered on. Apparently, this was how things were done.

I soon learned that my extensive animation experience wasn’t a surefire ticket to live-action fame and fortune. Far from it, in fact. A music video or TV commercial on your resume opened a lot of doors. An Academy Award-nominated 2D animated feature from ten years ago? Not so much. And plenty of live-action execs weren’t the least bit shy about offering this somewhat belated bit of career advice.

Then I had a meeting at a tiny production company just down the road from Universal’s fabled Black Tower. I’d grown so accustomed to rejection at that point that I was floored when they expressed what seemed like actual enthusiasm for my work. It made it easy to look past the cheap looking Photoshopped posters on the walls; family-friendly fare with unfamiliar titles, featuring a roster of C and D-list celebs. One did catch my eye: a live-action Hansel and Gretel starring Delta “Designing Women” Burke and Gerald “Major Dad” McRaney. Alrighty then, I thought.

Saturday, April 17, 2021

LinkedIn Coyotes

 My old pal Jeff texted me last week, asking if I'd heard of a certain boutique animation studio, one that Wile E. Coyote might hire to make his commercials.  Jeff had applied for a marketing director position at this studio through a post on the LinkedIn site.  He was then contacted via e-mail, congratulating him for getting the job, and when could he start.

Surprised by the incredible leap of faith this company seemed to be taking - they had not so much as spoken on the phone, Jeff asked for more details about the job.  This person, who exists on the company website, wrote back they would be sending Jeff a check to set up an office, then give him daily asssignments.  Now, Jeff has worked in advertising for 35 years, none of this made sense.  His wife believed it to be a scam, so he reached out to me.  

"The number for the studio's owner is on the site, give them a call."  I suggested. 

Jeff e-mailed instead, and sure enough, his wife was correct.  The owner explained that one of their employees had been hacked and their profile 'spoofed' - someone pretended to be them.  The owner said they were trying to get LinkedIn to do something about it, apparently not having much luck yet.  

Fortunately for Jeff, he had not shared any information that was not already available on the site.  Imagine had he filled out an I-9 form.  Eek!

So be warned, FLiP friends, the coyotes have LurkedIn!

-Steve

Saturday, April 10, 2021

For Ralph's Sake

Here's a brilliant short that is bound to make you question your choice of eye drops.  Produced by the Humane Society International, "Save Ralph" features the voice of Taika Waititi as Ralph, a laboratory rabbit who tries to be positive about his job while sporting visible scars of the torture he has endured in the name of product testing.   The resulting film is both darkly hilarious and heartbreaking.  

From the short's YouTube page, director Spencer Susser says, “It's so important that Ralph feels real because he represents countless real animals who suffer every day.”   By anthropomorphizing the rabbit, Susser invites us to relate to Ralph's predicament, driving home the horrible absurdity of animal testing.  Brilliantly, the short makes us want to help Ralph, and by extension lab animals.  

I seriously switched shampoos after watching this.  Check your products.  If they test on guys like Ralph, do him a favor and give them the heave ho. And join the cause by clicking here.

-Steve

Saturday, April 3, 2021

Introducing....PeaceTime

After two years of working in fits and starts, I am very pleased to present "PeaceTime: A Royal Frog". 

I got this idea a while back (2017-ish?) as an answer to the loud and obnoxious programming that is fed to kids, ad nauseum, through 24-hour cable and streaming video - yes, the stuff that pays my mortgage.  I wrote the idea down in a sketchbook and let it ferment.   

At some point, I talked about it with my old friend Winter Reign, a far-out progressive gal with two small kids and no TV.  She loved it, somewhat surprised it came from such a Three Stooges loving, blue collar guy.  She invited me to a Kundalini yoga class deep in the heart of Topanga Canyon.  It seemed like a dare, and so I went. 

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

And Now, A FLiP Editorial Cartoon

Since the election ended, I've had this idea rolling around in my head. Rolling, rolling, in perpetual motion. The only way to stop it was to let it out.  It has been a very long time since I've done caricatures, something I prided myself on back in my school days and early career.  Finding that place in my mind that interprets someone's looks into odd shapes was like finding a long lost favorite toy.  

Once I finished the cartoon, of course I had to find an audience, however small.  And so I post FLiP's first ever editorial cartoon. Hopefully it makes you laugh (unless you're part of the problem, then by all means gnash your teeth in ire). 

-Steve

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Seeing Tony Bennett

Reading that Tony Bennett has Alzheimer's Disease turned my thoughts to Long Beach, where I saw him perform one year ago today.  I had seen him twice before at the Hollywood Bowl, in 1993 and 1995.  He was getting up in age back then, so I was surprised to find he was still at it and jumped at the chance to see him for what would likely be the last time. 

Tony Bennett and his band at the Terrace Theater in Long Beach, February 2, 2020
 This was a smaller, more intimate venue than The Bowl, and once Tony stepped on stage, it was a love fest with his largely white-haired audience.  I wasn't sure what kind of show to expect.  I had seen Peggy Lee and John Lee Hooker (not together, but that would have been awesome) near the end of their lives and it was sad to watch as their skills were shot.  Would Tony still be able to sing?

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Speaking of What Worms Leave Behind...

Worms composting.  If you stare at this image long enough, you will see the pouting face of Donald Trump.

I can think of no better way to personally commemorate the end of Donald Trump's presidency than to write about worms and their poo.  Last summer, I sought to buy a composter for my vegetable garden.  While looking online, I discovered worm composting.  

It seemed simple enough:

1. Put worms in a bin of garbage. 

2. Worms eat garbage. 

3. Worms excrete castings as compost.  

After much browsing, I bought a 'worm hotel' - a series of stackable tray bins with mesh bottoms which I furnished NOT with casting couches, but with garbage and shredded paper.  One hundred hotel guests arrived by mail in a sack from Uncle Jim's Worm Farm in Pennsylvania.   I made a little sign, "The Wiggle Inn", and waited for compost to happen. 

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

The Return of Kirk Wise

Kirk Wise is back with a new feature, Bobbleheads: The Movie. In FLiP's first ever podcast, he talks about his long journey from Atlantis to a series of dead end projects, a long sabbatical, and return.  Oh, and Cher. He talks about Cher.  

Here's a trailer for the film, streaming now on Netflix. 

Sunday, November 8, 2020

Alex Trebek and an Animator Walk into an Elevator

What sudden and sad news to hear of Alex Trebek's passing.  There have been new episodes of Jeopardy! running daily, with no sign that his death was imminent.  Reading the news reminded me of the 30 seconds we spent together in London.  I warn you - this story does not have a good ending.  

In June of 1993, I was directing the ill-fated Betty Boop movie for MGM.  I was sent to London with producers Leslie Hough and Steve Leiva to meet with John Leatherbarrow from Premier Films, the studio that would potentially do a large chunk of the animation. In fact, it was from this meeting that Premier would later work on Space Jam - but I digress.

Steve Leiva insisted we stay at the very ritzy Hyde Park Hotel, across the street from the famous Harrod's department store.  This place was waaay too swanky for this South Jersey kid.  I never needed a maid to pull down a bed sheet for me, it's really not that complicated.  But the chocolates left on the pillows were nice, so long as you noticed before plopping down on the bed.  

The Hyde Park Hotel is an old, historic place, used as a hospital during the World War II bombings of London.   It has tiny elevators that fit four people snugly.  I was in one such tiny elevator with another hotel guest when it stopped and the doors opened to reveal a moustachioed Alex Trebek.  He took two steps directly toward me, then rotated around and pushed the button for the ground floor.  The other hotel guest spoke to him, and he said here was in town for the Wimbledon tennis championships.  

For 30 seconds, I had a very close up view of the back of Alex Trebek's head.  I could only think, "Don't sneeze, Steve.  Whatever you do.  Don't sneeze!"  At last the doors opened.  Alex walked out, through the lobby, and into the streets of London - our paths never to cross again.  I told you the story didn't have a good ending.  

Thinking about it now, I saw more of the back of Alex's head that day than has been shown in 36 years of his hosting Jeopardy!  I consider that my special privilege.  

Jeopardy riddle  -

Answer: An expression of good wishes to a person starting a journey.

Question: What is Godspeed, Alex?

 -Steve


Wednesday, November 4, 2020

It Takes a While

 

Anxiously await election results?  I am.   Meanwhile, this old commercial got stuck in my head, now it's in yours too.  Only Chocodiles can save us now.

-Steve

 

Saturday, October 31, 2020

The Frank and Ollie Timeline and the Back to the Future Effect

 

I have vivid memories of being teased for being 'the kid' at work, like it was just a few years ago.  But through my own lack of vigilance, time accelerated 36 years into the future, slip-sliding to the year 2020.  2020!  When I was starting out in animation, sci-fi movies portrayed the year 2020 as a dystopian future where the environment is ruined by man's greedy industrial pursuits and chaos rules - like that could come to pass.

Since moving back to Los Angeles after thirteen years on the east coast, I have been living in my own, personal Back to the Future sequel.  Everything is the same, but different. Landmarks I once used for directions are gone. Downtown LA is barely recognizable.  And no more Mo's, Billy's Deli, or World Art Supply. 

Recently, I crossed the threshold where friends and colleagues die, and not by accident.  Two passed this summer - Kelly Asbury and Sue Nichols.  I attended a memorial service for Kelly last month.  Arriving late, I sat in the back of the outdoor venue.  I saw the backs of a lot of older people in masks, then  realized - these are my peers!  They appeared to wearing age makeup to appear older, except they weren't.  I just had not seen them in 20 years. The Back to the Future Effect strikes again.

After the service, we all said our hello's through masks and distance.  They seemed to be experiencing the Back to the Future Effect themselves.  Standing there with former CalArts classmates Chris Sanders, Gary Trousdale, and Jeff DeGrandis,  we talked about the incredulous reality of aging.  "Consider this," I said,  "If we juxtaposed our career timelines over Frank and Ollie's, we'd be at Aristocats."

That comment was met with groans, gasps, and cartoon takes.  None of us feels like we're anywhere near the twilight of our careers.  Our skills are the sharpest ever, and our resumes speak to the solid experience we bring any production.  But the reality of how we are perceived by the industry cannot be denied. I've met many recruiters and executives since returning from New Jersey,  all much younger than me, all fascinated to meet someone who actually worked on A Goofy Movie.  It's like they are surprised I'm still at it, still hustling for work at my age.  It might be a different story if storyboard artists and animators got residuals like voice actors, but alas....

Where are you on the Frank and Ollie timeline?  If you're at Pinocchio, you may want to consider fighting for those residuals.  It's a fight that has been fought before, but never with the number of artists that animation has today.  David's odds against Goliath are the best they've ever been.  But do it soon, the Frank and Ollie timeline moves fast!  Once you've reached The Sword in the Stone,  the industry doesn't take you seriously anymore.  

Steve

Monday, September 7, 2020

The Fundraiser to Help Chris Jenkins

  
 
Last Monday, animation veteran Chris Jenkins suffered a stroke in the thalamus of his brain.  His sister has set up a GoFundMe page to help ease the financial burden of his recovery.  The $30,000 goal has already been shattered, a testament to Chris' standing among his animation peers.  If you'd like to help out....

click this link. 

 FLiP wishes Chris a most speedy recovery. 


Thursday, September 3, 2020

And now, David Lynch with the Number of the Day

                                                                                              
If there's one reason to get up during the COVID lockdown, it's David Lynch's morning weather report and number draw.  Each morning he picks from ten numbered ping pong balls in a jar (fans have been waiting for a seven for weeks).  In a separate video, he does the weather report from what appears to be his home office, piping hot cup of coffee steaming in the foreground.  
 
There's a certain calming quality to these videos that, for me, starts my workday off right.  Lynch is heavily into Transcendental Meditation, and these videos carry that vibe.
 
 Go on, try it.  It's free! And it's David Lynch! 
-Steve

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

So Long, Sue

Animation lost another great artist yesterday, as Sue Nichols lost her life after a long battle with cancer.  FLiP posted about her fight back in March of 2015, ten months after cancer took my wife, Donna. And though we weren't close,  I really, REALLY wanted Sue to make it.  Medical justice, I guess.   

Sue worked in story and development on a heap of features, from Beauty and the Beast to Princess and the Frog, and most recently, Ugly Dolls.  I knew her from our student days at CalArts where she was best friends with Brenda Chapman, a friendship that lasted until the day she died.  Often, if I ran into Brenda somewhere, Sue was with her.  She had a big bright smile and taste for twisted humor.  At CalArts, she was responsible for creating a series of haunted house mazes in good ol' A-113.  I experienced one of these mazes first hand, and I can attest to their brilliance.  There's a FLiP post about it from back in 2012 that is a worthy tribute to Sue.  Click here to check it out. 

So long, Sue!

-Steve

Saturday, August 8, 2020

Mr. Rees' Ukulele

 Last night there was a story on the local news about Harold Rees, a luthier (maker of stringed instruments) who was still at it at the age of 100.  For years, concert violinists have purchased his work, or entrusted him to repair and restore their precious instruments.  It was a really wonderful story made more wonderful by the fact that I know this man. 

Harold Rees is the father of my longtime friend and animation colleague Jerry Rees.  Over the past 35 years, I have seen Mr. Rees at Jerry's house on many occasions.  I've also seen many of his handmade instruments - violins, violas, banjos, and ukuleles.   After one such visit to Jerry's with my wife Donna,  she commented on the incredible craftsmanship in Mr Rees' work.  I confessed to her that I had always wanted to buy one of his ukuleles but was afraid to ask.

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

The New Masthead

For post #501, it's time to switch it up.

Friends of FLiP know that every few years, I like to change the logo.  It keeps it fresh for me. and hopefully for you readers as well.  

FLiP started out as an e-zine website - do they even use the term e-zine anymore?  Monthly, I would post four new pages, plus a cover page.  As I explained in the first issue in May of 2007,  "Each letter in the word "FLIP" corresponds to a differently themed web page.  The F page has articles on animation specifically.  The L page has creative writing by animation professionals.  The I page has non-animation art done by animation professionals.  The P page focuses on animation people and their extracurricular interests."  For the index page I animated four characters (one with an extra head) singing the FLIP theme song - yes, a theme song.  It was sung by my kids, my wife Donna, and me.

I really enjoyed doing the FLiP e-zine as both a writing exercise and means of meeting new artists and hearing their stories.   Three years on,  it became a chore instead of creative outlet, so I stopped.



In 2010,  I was vacationing in London and met friend and colleague Alex Williams for dinner.   Alex proposed that we team up to restart FLiP as a blog. On Jan 9, 2012, we relaunched FLiP in this format.   Between the two of us, we were able to post fairly regularly for years.  Then my wife passed, Alex became a father, and the blog sat moribund for a long while. Despite the dearth of new posts, there have been a slow, steady stream of readers - over a million so far - from all over the globe.  Not bad for a little hobby. 

The COVID lockdown and other current events have brought me back to FLiP, hence the new look. 
I went back to the original logo for inspiration, with drawn characters.  And the flying pig is back!
Viva la hunched and goofy!

-Steve

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Jill vs Pornhub

Emmy-winning animation Art Director Jill Daniels has set her brushes on a serious subject - to help fight human trafficking.  She is part of an art competition to promote awareness on the subject.  Check out the entries, and show your support by voting. 


By Jill Daniels

ARTXFREEDOM  is an art competition to raise awareness on human trafficking and the deep darkness of slavery and bondage that is in the porn industry sponsored by Exodus Cry.  When I read the emotional stories of the victims my heart just burst with the piece (above) and it felt like my hands just followed along as best they could.  :)

I became aware of the work of Exodus Cry after a dear friend told me about how good their “Nefarious:  Merchant of Souls” film on you tube is - I have added the link below. 

Nefarious: Merchant of Souls | Human Trafficking Documentary - Full Movie  

Watch the film, pray, sign up with the website, donate to the cause!  By supporting the light that this organization is shedding and all standing together we can make a difference and truly set people free from lives of bondage that are not their own choice.

Voting ends today!  Check it out!  

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Three New Far Sides, Here at Last!


Six months after it was announced, Gary Larson has posted the first three NEW Far Side cartoons in 25 years on his website.  He picks up right where he left off in terms of the humor and staging.  Stylistically, he has ventured into the digital age, working from a tablet.  He explains on his site that experimenting with digital tools has given him a renewed enthusiasm for cartooning, which led to this casual revival of the strip.  The end result is an evolved Far Side, more painterly,with little line work.  It's a fresh look that puts the Far Side smack into the year 2020.  And yes, they're hilarious.

Bookmark his site, www.thefarside.com!

-Steve

Monday, July 6, 2020

Premier: The (animated) History of White People in America

Industry veteran Ed Bell writes to about his new project, The History of White People in America (not to be confused with the Martin Mull's 1985 program).  Ed tells FLiP what this new project is and what it took to make it to screen.   It premieres TODAY, and FLiP's got it first.


By Ed Bell

Think of The History of White People in America as the School House Rock for the racial history of America.

When the Pilgrims arrived, there was no notion of white, black, or red as we understand race now. In 1950s Georgia, Chinese immigrants were perceived as white or black depending upon what town they lived in. Today, academics say some Latinos and Asian-Americans are “white.” What does that mean and why does it seem so important to our nation’s story?  This series that will tell the story of how whiteness and non-whiteness were invented and continue to evolve, morph and drive the American story.

In 15 animated short films, we will tell American history as it has never been told before. We wanted to at least make the attempt to offer people a platform or an inducement to actually talk about the real problems we face as a country, let alone as an industrialized world.  I won't pretend to know who the target audience is anymore. I won't BS about it: everyone should see and contemplate these shorts.

Sunday, July 5, 2020

A Zoom Toast to Kelly

Top row: Kevin Lima, Steve Moore, Chris Bailey, Fred Cline.  Middle row: Kirk Wise, Dan Jeup, Rob Minkoff, Wendell Luebbe.  Bottom row: Tim Hauser, Butch Hartman.
Friday night I took part in a toast via Zoom - the pandemic's next best thing to being there.  We were toasting our friend, director Kelly Asbury, who had passed away a week earlier.   There are hundreds of industry people who would have turned up for this, but we kept it to a core group who hung out as CalArts character animation students in the early eighties: Chris Bailey, Fred Cline, Butch Hartman, Tim Hauser, Dan Jeup, Wendell Luebbe, Kevin Lima, Rob Minkoff, Kirk Wise and myself.  These guys are more than an animation who's who to me - they are my brothers. 

For the most part, the gang looked the same - a testament to living the animation life, I guess.  Most of us wore glasses now.  Kevin was rocking a new, bearded cue-ball look. And me with my COVID lockdown '70's hair  (cowbell band, anyone?).  The only real sign of age is that we were on Zoom for more than three hours and never talked shop once. 

Stories I either didn't know or had forgotten kept us laughing for hours - the crazy shit that makes us glad cell phones and social media did not exist back then.  These were not the flattering stories told at funerals, but hilariously human stories about Kelly.  Maybe you had to be there. I'm glad I was.   

"He was like the Sun." Kirk said.  "People just gravitated to him."

Cheers, Kelly!

-Steve

CalArts dorm, July 1984.  From left: Mark Rouse, Kirk Wise (white shirt), Butch Hartman, Steve Moore, and Kelly Asbury. Photo by Kevin Lima

Monday, June 29, 2020

Mr Morgan's Wild Ride - for Charity

Thorfinn, aka Richard Morgan - the nicest viking indeed.
Richard Morgan has authored and Illustrated heaps of childrens' books in the UK, such as his latest series Thorfinn the Nicest Viking.  I met him in New Zealand working on my Redux Riding Hood short, and we've been long distance pals ever since.  He shares with FLiP his plans of bicycling to raise money for cancer research. 

by Richard Morgan

My daughter and I have started cycling together during the lockdown and felt we wanted a goal, so we joined the Cancer Research UK Cycle 300.  I lost my Mum and my wife's Gran to cancer, plus I have lost several close friends to this disease and seen the horrible upset it leaves in its wake. However, I have also seen close friends fight and beat cancer due to the amazing treatment available now.

Living in Cambridge, its all road bike for us.  We've been building momentum since the Tour De France came to visit.  I have always cycled its like second nature. I got my first bike from Ellis Briggs in Shipley, Yorkshire, and rode it everywhere.  As I learnt to drive I got a mountain bike and took it to the lakes in Cumbria to hoon down mountains. When I moved to Auckland NZ to work for Disney*, I treated myself to a new Marin and cycled all over, it was amazing.  So at 53, this seems like a wonderful thing to be doing with my daughter before she goes off to university in September, hopefully!

The cycle is over the whole of September and my daughter is keen to do it as lots of short rides and avoid the pain in the bum.  I would rather do one or even two bigger rides for the adventure, so we will see who wins.   I will be updating the charity page as we do the rides so you can see us on the road and follow our progress.

People can donate on my Just Giving page.

Or join ... and get on your bike .   Cancer Research cycle 300 website.

*Toonz Animation in Auckland produced shows for Disney TVA, including Redux Riding Hood.

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Kelly Asbury Saved My Life

Kelly at the "Nightmare Before Christmas" wrap party.  To his right, Allison Abbate dances with Joe Ranft.
When I got the news of Kelly Asbury's death yesterday, I immediately thought of the night he saved my life.

In April of 1992, I started working on The Nightmare Before Christmas in San Francisco. The studio was set up in an old, two story industrial building with a sprawling floor plan and no air conditioning.  It looked like it was once an old factory, making ball-bearings or sausage.  For reasons I have forgotten, faded hand prints of Herve Villachaize were set in the sidewalk just outside the front door, which opened to 7th Street, several blocks south of Market. I worked in an open bullpen area doing storyboards with Mike Cachuela and Joe Ranft.  In an adjacent room, Kelly worked in the art department with Kendall Cronkhite and Deane Taylor.  

Meanwhile, in Los Angeles, a trial of four cops who beat Rodney King senseless was wrapping up.  On April 29th, they were acquitted of using excessive force despite video footage to the contrary.  The streets of south central Los Angeles erupted in rage with violent protests.  

At the studio the next day, there was a general buzz of disbelief about the verdict.  The locals knew that San Francisco was not to be outdone when it comes to street rage, and kept an ear on their radios for local unrest.  Just after lunch, Kelly came around to the bullpen.  

"Hey Steve, do you pass Market Street going home?" he asked. 

Thursday, June 11, 2020

What's Going On

Ed Bell's professional animation career spans 34 years, including stints at Disney, Kroyer Films, Hyperion, and Collosal Pictures.  I've known him since we were CalArts kids in the early '80's (and he still returns my calls).   In the wake of the George Floyd murder, I asked him a few questions.  He has generously shared with FLiP his raw feelings about our times, his experience as a protester, and of life as an African-American artist in the animation industry.  Please read and absorb.  -Steve 

By Ed Bell

The times are hitting me hard, this time around.

In ' 92 I was helping clean the streets post Rodney King, volunteering for Maxine Waters in South LA. I saw the place I grew up in after National Guard had rolled in, and there was so much work to be done. So my sense of deja vu and dread is dark and heart breaking. This won't be a well written essay. There's some rambling, off the subject.

So, How were the protests I attended?

Last week I was at the rally at City Hall where I've been many times with the same purpose. With the Mayor, we took a knee.  News cameras and vans were everywhere. Helicopter presence. Police had guys in high windows watching everything. My son said he assumes they were snipers. He is 16. That was a very full block of protesters. People kept a few feet of distance. Wore masks. We heard from the mayor and civil Rights leaders. Jamie Fox spoke. Mothers who have lost their kids to law enforcement spoke. Synchronized voices, calling for justice and for peace in the streets, there was no looting or throwing things. It felt like a familiar ceremony. A little catharsis. A smidgen of solidarity. But I've been a little numb for days at this point. My kid spent hours on his phone watching other cities go bananas, at the same time as we gathered in a well behaved but tense crowd at City Hall.