Thursday, March 2, 2023

One for the Ageism

There comes a day when, sitting for a haircut, we get a long look in the mirror and see one of our parents looking back at us.  Horrified, we look away.  But forced to sit in there, we steal glances;  that little eyelid sag, the onset of a jowl/turkey neck combo.  We're aging.  Like farting in an elevator, we can't escape it and hope to God no one else notices.    

So what's this have to do with animation, old man?

I'm fast approaching 40 years of working in the business.  I often meet with show runners and recruiters who weren't even born when I started out.  I don't have a problem with that, but I've noticed a pattern in these meetings.  After some chit-chat about their new project, they'll say, "So. You worked on A Goofy Movie?" surprised to see that I'm not only still alive, but working.   They gush about the film as a precious piece of their childhood.  I give them a couple of anecdotes, and the meetings end on smiles and laughter.  

Then I never hear from them again.   

As I said, this happens over and over, leaving me to only speculate.  Even though I'm a better artist than back then, it seems I've been designated as Ye Olde Guarde.

After actress Angela Landsbury died, there was an article floating around social media about how, on Murder She Wrote, she hired veteran actors who could no longer find work.  "Aged out" was the term  it used.  But unlike athletes who actually do age out, these actors could still act.  They hadn't aged out, they were shut out by the industry because they had aged.  The article, and those who commented on it, missed this point entirely.  They praised Ms Landsbury for doing what they saw as charity, oblivious to their own ageism.   

Yes, I worked in the 20th century, on paper, with pencils.  But when seemingly overnight the entire industry computerized,  I made the leap, as did most of my peers.  And we keep on leaping with each new software advance.  It's like a Squid Game challenge - miss a leap and die.   

Of all the prejudicial "-isms" out there, ageism is the one bias that everyone will experience if they live long enough.  Yet it is the most accepted - not only in the animation industry, but in society at large.  We dismiss our elders, perhaps to dismiss our own mortality.  

I would warn young readers that their day of sitting at the barber's mirror will come.  But who reads blogs anymore?


Monday, November 14, 2022

Bob the Dragon

The 1983-84 school year at Cal Arts was my favorite, and my student film that year, "Bob the Dragon" is a reflection of that. 

I was a junior that year when Hal Ambro came to teach animation.  Hal was a top notch animator, his work dating back to "Snow White".  Here he was, the man who animated the owl in "Bambi", at our disposal. Thank you, animation gods!  I would take my scenes to him (all on paper back then, kids) and Hal would sit at his animation desk and flip through the entire scene, going over my drawings, one by one, while explaining the importance of silhouette for clarity, or using the hands for expression, or giving the characters an implied weight.  Every visit to Hal turned light bulbs on for me and his mentoring was evident in my film that year, a huge leap from my sophomore effort.

T. Hee was another favorite of my teachers, a kindred spirit when it came to a love of whimsy.  I pitched my film in storyboard form and he not only loved it, but added the gag where the dragon encounters a goat.  Dan Jeup would voice the goat, using the goofy sarcastic laugh noise he would do when someone told a bad joke.  "Mmmahaha!".   The only other vocal was the dragon sniffing, done by the late, great Rusty Mills as only he could.  

I got to push my boundaries with the film, defying gravity, logic, and reality, with no one saying "You can't do that.".   All sound effects were interpretive, like the ricochet sound when Bob hiccups.   There's no arc of character or story whatsoever, it just ends.  I wasn't aiming to be a story guy in those days.  

Like all the Character Animation films back then, the finished product was a pencil test.  We shot our films on 16mm film using a massive old Oxberry camera from the 1920's.  Some day, I'll do a post on the dramas that unfolded around that camera as students got desperate for time.

The music is a piece called "Morning" from jazz artist Billy Taylor's LP  "I Wish I Knew How it Would Feel to Be Free".  Billy Taylor plays piano, Ben Tucker on Bass, and Grady Tate on drums.    After spending hours listening to random records in the CalArts library,  I heard "Morning" and knew I had my score.  It matched my animatic incredibly, just by chance.   I should have given credit.  I correct that now. 

I did, however, credit "The Small World".  What he hell is that?  In the A-113 suite, there was the big room, and the small room that I shared with Kenny Thompkins, Mark Rouse, Tim Hauser, Kirk Wise, Kevin Lima, Fred Cline, Carlos Baeza, and the late Ray "Supreme" JohnsonGary Conrad (of the big room) dubbed us "The Small World".   I was thanking them for their input and support, as well as Bob McCrea, who ran the department.

Some truly worthless trivia for you, but its my blog, dammit!


Monday, October 3, 2022

From My Project Graveyard: The Owl & the Pussycat


In 2001, producer and dear friend Leslie Hough called about developing a feature pitch for "The Quite Remarkable Adventures of the Owl and the Pussy-Cat", a children's book by Monty Python's Eric Idle, based on the poem by Edward Lear.   The audiobook version  includes original songs Idle wrote with his "Spamalot" collaborator John DuPrez.  There was a whimsicality about it that I liked, so I agreed to help out.

We met John DuPrez at Leslie's house in Laurel Canyon and talked about how we might adapt the story for a feature length film.   He offered up a brief history of the project - seems we weren't the first to take a crack at it, or even the second.   It's latest stop had been at DreamWorks, where it languished for some time before being killed, leaving Eric a bad taste for animation studios (at least the big ones).  Eric and John gave Leslie their blessing to pitch it, but were not going to get involved beyond that.

Monday, September 12, 2022

The "No A-hole" Policy*



I got a call from Mona Gurgley, a recruiter from Upstart Studios, feeling out my interest in working for The Next Really Big Deal in animation.  They have big plans, BIG plans.  So big, they're secret.  But she could tell me this much -  all they needed to pull off their big plans was a crew full of top tier talent.  

Sounds like a big plan!   

She dropped a few reputable names already onboard at Upstart, then sweetened the pot.  First, how's a $400/week pay cut grab ya?

Ooh!  Go on!

Though a non-union shop, they offer their own, watered-down benefits.  And a swag bag.

Benefits, schmenefits! But an Upstart Studios mug and mouse pad?  Yes, please!

And like she was saving the best for last, Ms Gurgley proudly revealed their radically progressive  "No A-Hole Policy*". 


But doesn't that foster a club-house mentality where only sycophants survive?  In my younger days, I would have expressed that thought and been deemed an a-hole on the spot.  Instead, I laughed because it seemed like that's what she wanted.  Pathetic.  

A few days later, at the appointed time, I logged on for a Zoom meeting with a half dozen Reputable Names at Upstart Studios.  One of them joined in and we had a very nice chat while we waited for the others.  And waited.  And.....waited.   Thirty minutes later, the Reputable Name apologized for the others and signed off, clearly surprised by the no-shows.  Some Really Big Deal must have kept them away.      

A day went word from the no-shows.  No apology.  Not even "we actually wanted one of the other Steve Moore's in animation".  So I reached out to Ms Gurgley.  She was surprised to hear of the no-shows, and surmised a Really Big Deal must have kept them away (called it!).

But what of their lack of follow-up?

*The No A-Hole policy does not apply to management.  


Tuesday, August 30, 2022

So Long, Eggman


I first learned of Ralph Eggleston's death in James Baker's wonderful tribute post. I didn't know he'd been ill, so it came as quite a shock.   

I first met Ralph at CalArts in 1983.  He was a 17 year-old incoming freshman.  I was a know-it-all junior with no interest in the freshmen.   However, it didn't take long for Ralph's name to get bantered about among my classmates.  Apparently, he had animated 30 seconds of full animation in his first weekend at school.  We all scoffed at this, and couldn't wait to see what kind of awfulness this kid cranked out.  

In the A-113 suite of the Character Animation Department, we shared a Lyon/Lamb video recorder to shoot our pencil tests (there were two, actually, but only one of them worked at any given time).  We crammed into the small pencil test room to see Ralph's opus, like wolves waiting for raw meat.  

We watched.  


Not bad!  

Now we had to meet this guy!  Ralph was best described as a feral nerd - skinny, shaggy, with a wild energy that was a bit hard to be around.  He was madly passionate about animation. 

Cut to 1987.  I led a small crew of mostly Americans working on "Duck Tales" in Taiwan.   Among them were CalArts alum Brian Pimental, Gregg Vanzo, Chris Wahl, Carlos Baeza, and 'The Egg Man'.   

Ralph was now a feral nerd in a foreign land.  Having sushi with the crew, he scarfed plate after plate of wasabi - just wasabi- for laughs.  His face would turn red, he'd twitch, his eyes bulge and tear up.  He'd grab our water glasses, guzzling them down.  The more we laughed, the more he'd eat.  He kept this up until the waitress cut him off.  Feral.  But funny! 

Cut to 1992.  I ran into Ralph in San Francisco.  I was working on "The Nightmare Before Christmas", and he was dating one of the young ladies on the crew.  His manner had changed drastically.  He was still Ralph, but calm, at ease, like he'd learned to harness that feral nerd energy, saving it for his work. 

I would see him sporadically over the next 30 years - usually at Sue and Bill Kroyer's Christmas parties.  We'd exchange Christmas cards, and I just assumed that he'd grow old with the rest of the CalArts gang.  He was robbed of that privilege, and we were robbed of his creativity and humanity.   There's an old Taoist saying that surely applies here, "The candle that burns twice as bright burns half as long."   

So long, Eggman!


Sunday, May 1, 2022

PeaceTime for the Ukraine

Over the past year, I have submitted my children's meditation short "PeaceTime: A Royal Frog" to dozens of film festivals all over the world.  In early April, a festival in Moscow accepted it, and wanted me to send a screening copy.   Given how things have gone out there in the last few months, I opted to blow it off.  

While doing yard work a short time later,  it struck me - "I should dub PeaceTime to Ukrainian."

Gardening came to a sudden stop. 


I must do this.  

How do I do this? 

I paced around a bit, as if to coax the details out of hiding.  How do I find a Ukrainian actress?   

I starting texting industry friends - most had no leads.  But good ol' Trace Konerko, who left the industry 15 years ago, connected me with her friend - casting agent Jon Beauregard.  We talked.  Jon loved PeaceTime, totally got what I was trying to do, and offered to put out a casting call - no charge! 

Monday, April 25, 2022

The List of 1982

Program for the 1982 show, designed by Fred Cline.

Forty years ago this week, I took part in my first CalArts Character Animation Show.  Through the course of the school year, I had managed to fool myself into thinking I was good.  But seeing my film next to those of Dan Jeup, Chris SandersKelly Asbury, Bruce Smith, Rob Minkoff,  and a couple dozen other better skilled artists, a hard, hard reality hit me like a brick from Krazy Kat.  I sucked.

I did not make the cut for the Disney show, where all the old timers came up to watch.  At the post-show reception, I got to hob nob with Frank and Ollie, Ken Anderson, and Marc Davis.  It was a comfort to know they did not waste a minute of their shortening lives watching my mess of a film.  Marc Davis cut me to the quick anyway, because apparently, he was good for that.  You can read about it in an old post here.

Monday, February 21, 2022

Diversion con Rinones!

In my last post, Fun with Kidneys!, you heard about the new informational short I produced for the non-profit Renal Support Network, featuring the animated Kidneys Neff and Nuff.   Pleased with the results, Lori Hartwell at RSN asked to have it dubbed into Spanish. 

Actor and comedian Sandra Valls was brought in to translate the script and to do the voice of Neff.  She, in turn, brought her friend - actor and one-time Mr. Colombia (no lie!) Andres Mejia to voice Nuff.  

I booked time at Outloud Audio in Burbank for last Thursday.  Because of COVID protocols, only one actor at a time was allowed inside.  The closest I could get was a bench in their parking lot, where I set up my laptop to Zoom into the session.  The Outloud folks were super helpful in getting me set up, even scrounging up a power cord when the session went overtime and my battery was running out. 

The session itself consisted of a line-by-line recording to picture with timecode.  Engineer Kyle provided a three beep lead-in cue to each line.  Through Zoom, I could see both the footage and the actor, and we could speak to each other.  Sometimes there was a bit of a delay in playback because of wi-fi connection, but it was never a major problem. 

Before the session, Sandra wanted to go over the scripts, because some of the lines ran much longer in Spanish.  She brainstormed with Andres about shorter translations.  It was fun watching them hash out the differences between his Colombian Spanish with her Mexican variety.  There was a comical chemistry between them, Sandra being quite hilarious.  For my part, I sat nodding my head, understanding none of it.   Needless to say, I could not have done this session without their collective input. 

Gratias Sandra and Andres!


Thursday, January 6, 2022

Fun with Kidneys!

How does one make the subject of kidney disease entertaining?  That was the challenge when Lori Hartwell approached me about making a short educational film for her non-profit Renal Support Network (RSN), an organization she founded in 1993 to help those with kidney disease manage their care. 

Lori wanted to make an animated version of their illustrated booklet "Share Your Spare", where two kidneys, Neff and Nuff,  explain how they function, etc.   Using the booklet and Suzette Maffi's main character designs as a springboard,  I altered the relationship between Neff and Nuff to be comically tempestuous, then added cutaway segments to illustrate some of the informational bits.  

The cutaway segments were influenced by a Bell and Howell educational film I saw in Mr. Carll's 6th grade science class when I was 12, called Hemo the Magnificent.  Produced by Frank Capra in 1957,  it features live action Richard Carlson (Creature from the Black Lagoon) and briefly,  Sterling Holloway (Winnie the Pooh!).  The animated segments, directed by Bill Hurtz and animated by Seamus Culhane, are a funny and charming precursor to Osmosis Jones and Inside Out.

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

The Sinking of A-113

S.O.S. to all CalArts Alum on land and sea!  If you're looking for an end-of-year charitable donation and want to support the arts (yes!), consider the CalArts animation programs.  I started giving a few years ago, in appreciation for the student aid that provided a lifeboat to start my career in animation.  And even though my donations are not Earth-shattering, I always get a personal thanks from Gwen Strong, the Director of Leadership Giving. 

This time around, she told me that many of the animation labs were damaged this year when a water-pipe burst in A-block.   "Insurance will cover most of the cost of repairs, but there were unavoidable inconveniences to the students as they returned to campus."  She said.  "Thankfully our students have been able to continue their work and the energy they are bringing back on campus is palpable.  As always, CalArts won't let the vagaries of the "real world" get in the way of imagining and creating art."

Help the animation department dry out, and provide the students with their own 'lifeboats' with a tax-deductible donation! 

Go to:

Click "Online gift".  A new window will open to input your information.  Click 'select designation', then type in "Animation Department", or choose your own designation.  In the 'special instructions box, write "to be directed toward areas of greatest need in the animation program."

Pretty easy.  But for you luddites out there, mail a check to:

Office of Advancement
California Institute of the Arts
24700 McBean Parkway
Valencia, CA 91355 

Add a note to instruct the designation and there you have it.  

OR skip all that and donate to a real person by calling 661-222-2745.

If CalArts changed the course of your life the way it did mine, then why not invest in the next generation of artists? 


Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Sweet Dreams, Katie


Kathleen Quaife, one of the best 2D effects animators that ever lived, passed away in her sleep last week, way too young.  I first met Katie in the late eighties, doing commercials for Duck Soup Produckions in Santa Monica.  We would work together again on the feature Rover Dangerfield, on which she headed the effects department.  Katie was the adult in the room full of goofy animators.  Did she enjoy our antics, or did she just tolerate us patiently?  There was a little glint in her eye that makes me think the former was the truth.

After Rover, I would run into her now and then, either at Dave Spafford's Friday night house parties, or Bill and Sue Kroyer's Christmas parties.  She was part of my animation family, back when the industry was small and everyone knew each other.   I last saw her in 2018, at Rebecca Rees' art show at the Animation Guild.  She was there with her boyfriend, Mike Cedeno, and she seemed so happy, still with that little glint in her eye.   

My condolences to Mike.  And godspeed, Katie.  


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. 


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!


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.


Saturday, April 3, 2021


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). 


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?


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.



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.  


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.