Showing posts with label Brave Little Toaster. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Brave Little Toaster. Show all posts

Saturday, April 19, 2014

James Baker's Days at Cuckoo's Nest

sketch by James Baker
I first met James Baker at Cuckoo's Nest Studio in Taiwan, in 1986.  He was working on Hanna Barbera shows,  and I was there for retakes on The Brave Little Toaster.  He gives an hilarious account of his experiences in his blog.  I can attest to the veracity of his tales - he tells it how it was!
Check it out!

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Bean Bonkers and Life as a Human Resource

Every business has its bean counters.  In the bean business, they have them in spades.  A team of bean counters determines exactly how many beans to place each can to yield the maximum profit for the company.  If a worker at the cannery should strive to create a better can of beans by adding more beans or being more selective of the beans to be canned, that employee would, after a few formal warnings, be canned themselves.

Beans are not art.  Art is not beans.  But sometime way back, the two were crossbred to create an abominable freak worthy of Dr. Moreau; the animation production.  In this business, there are people who try to create art and people who try to count beans.  Together, they fail miserably in their individual tasks, but produce a bi-product called the animated cartoon; neither art nor beans.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

My Most Influential Contemporaries

I have posted before about artistic influences, artists who I did not work with personally, but had a strong influence on my own work.  This time, I write about artists of my generation. In the past 30 years, I have worked with hundreds of artists, and many have influenced me in some manner.  Here is a list of five artists who, for me, had the greatest impact, in chronological order.  

1.  Dan Jeup – Dan was my roommate during my freshman year of CalArts, in 1981.  I knew next to nothing about Disney animation, though Dan was already animating at a professional level, and was an encyclopedia of Disney animation knowledge.  His passion for the medium was contagious, and I felt lucky to be asked along when he studied Disney film prints in the school library, pointing out different animation techniques.  Dan taught me about editing and match cuts and animating a character with weight.   And I taught him how to drink a lot of beer.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Toaster Tales #3: Hotel Horror in Taipei

Deluxe accommodations.
In 1986, I went to Taiwan with a very small crew of Americans to work on the feature The Brave Little Toaster.  The experience of animating a breakneck 30 feet a week of passable full animation combined with living in a place so completely strange, congested, and foreign would prove to be a seminal event not just my life, but in the lives of everyone on the crew.  For Halloween, I thought I would share with you one of the scarier things that happened to me out there in the Far East.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Fans Gone Wild: The Brave Little Toaster

Fan art.  Just saying it brings a bemused smile to the face of animation artists.  Seeing a fan art version of something you worked on is an honor; the naive quality and the unabashed love behind it make it so. And sometimes what makes fan art special is the creativity of it.  Enter Ian Knau.

Ian is 22 and a lifelong fan of  The Brave Little Toaster.   The climactic sequence of the film involves a metal compactor - imagine the climactic scene in Toy Story 3 only twenty years earlier.  The Toaster sacrifices herself (yes, herself) to save The Master from being smooshed.   The metal crunchng machine made a deep impression on young Ian that has carried into his adulthood.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Toaster Tales #2: A Letter to Mom and Chinese New Year

Toaster Crew in Taipei, 1986.  From left: Joe Ranft, Sanvy from Cuckoo's Nest, Steve Moore, Randy Cartwright, Brian McEntee, Jerry Rees, Chuck Richardson.    Photo by Rebecca Rees 
In January of 1986,  eleven Americans travelled to Taiwan to work on The Brave Little Toaster.  There was Jerry and Rebecca Rees, Chuck Richardson, Brian McEntee, Kevin Lima, Tanya Wilson, Chris Wahl, Ann Telnaes, Randy Cartwright, Joe Ranft, and 23 year-old me.  The studio was called Cuckoo's Nest, a cartoon factory which had been churning out miles of Saturday morning cartoons for Hanna-Barbera and Ruby-Spears.  The studio's owner, James Wang, paid to bring out about half of the American crew to shore up his talent pool.  Toaster raised the bar for his studio in every capacity.  Just compare Cuckoo's Nest productions such as The Smurfs to Toaster to get an idea of how far they were pushed.

 I recently found a letter I wrote to my parents from Taiwan, which unearthed some forgotten memories. So if you ever wondered what it was like to make a great American cartoon in the land of Chiang Kai-shek, read on!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Toaster Tales #1: A Replicant in BladeRunnerland

posted by Steve
Mr. Hollywood with James Wang and Rebecca Rees in Taipei.

It was January 28th, 1986, and I had just arrived to work on The Brave Little Toaster at Wang Film Studios, a.k.a. Cuckoo’s Nest.  I had been put up at the China Hotel, and must have arrived on the weekend as the studio was closed during my first full day there.  After breakfast at the hotel, I took a walk to check out the town. 

I was just 23 years old, and found the city of Taipei to be like the land of Blade Runner. The buildings, the lighting, the smells, and the noise let me know with no uncertainty that I was far from the animator's safe haven of Burbank. Taipei was very loud, and on the eve of Chinese New Year, firecrackers went off constantly throughout the city, with rolls running the height of three story buildings.   Most all signage was in Chinese, rendering me illiterate. American fast-food was there; Wendy's, Pizza Hut (with ketchup in lieu of tomato sauce on their pizza) and of course, McDonald's.  As I approached a life-size, fiberglass Ronald McDonald on the sidewalk, a small boy puked a strawberry milkshake at his feet - a National Geographic photo-op missed.  It was all so intensely bizarre and exhilarating, I strolled around like a Replicant, drawing stares for being a strawberry-blonde haired, green-eyed freak. 

Day one in Taipei.

Walking past a large, shiny department store, my green eyes caught a bank of TVs in the showcase window with footage of what appeared to be the space shuttle exploding.   I stopped short,  taking a closer look next to a couple of locals.  The footage was on a thirty second loop, the shuttle exploding, then back intact, then exploding, then back intact.    The locals were talking about it, but in Chinese, so why was I eavesdropping?  I went into the store to hear the TV commentary.  It was an American news report dubbed in Chinese.  I could hear a familiar voice (Brokaw?) reporting, but Chinese translation transposed on the tape made it very difficult to decipher. The Chinese news also added musical score for dramatic effect.  Really.  

Hours later, I met up with some of my American Toaster crew mates and learned that the shuttle had, indeed, exploded killing the entire crew.  Every January 28th since, when reminded of the disaster, I flash back to the front of that Chinese department store and that bank of televisions, luring people to come shop with a loop of the Challenger exploding during Chinese New Year. Shin yen kwai le!