Thursday, August 30, 2012

Brian & Chuck

Brian McEntee was production designer on Ice Age, and Cats Don't Dance, and art director on Beauty and the Beast and The Brave Little Toaster.  Besides being a super talent, he is also a super guy. Here, he shares his thoughts on sharing 30 years with his domestic partner, Chuck Richardson

by Brian McEntee
Chuck and I are celebrating our 30th anniversary today, although we’ve been legally married in the State of California for only 4 years (As Chuck puts it, “It was a very long engagement.”). Emily Post doesn’t list any special type of gift to give for the 30th anniversary, so I came up with my own gift that all of you can give us: support for our federally recognized marriage rights.

Marriage equality is precisely meant for people like the two of us. Opponents like to point to promiscuous gays among us and claim all gays will denigrate the institution of marriage for straights. But marriage is not for promiscuous people, gay or straight. It is for two people who have made a commitment to each other. And promiscuous straight people can already get married, so I don’t see the logic in this argument.

The truth is, Chuck and I are our own little family of two. My parents are both gone, and my siblings all live far away. Chuck’s mom is still alive and he has siblings too, but none live close by either. We are the only immediate family each of us can rely on. With this in mind, imagine having your own significant other suffer a medical emergency and not be able to make medical decisions for him or her, or even have hospital visitation rights. Or, imagine having one or the other of you die and, after 30 years of building a life together, having a relative of your spouse have the legal right to all their possessions and you have none. This is what gay couples face in states that do not recognize gay marriage and why federally legalizing gay marriage is vitally important.  And even though we are legally married in CA, if we have an emergency situation while traveling in another state that does not recognize our marriage, nothing requires them to recognize our married status--thus the need to federalize these rights.

Even if you have misgivings about gay marriage on your own personal moral or religious grounds--and that’s your right--you should support legalizing secular gay marriage. We support your right to live out your beliefs. And those who believe gay marriage is wrong should never, ever get gay married. But, just as we allow you the unencumbered practice of your beliefs, we should be allowed ours, and be allowed the same freedom to live them out too. If what Chuck and I share is sinful in your God’s eyes, isn’t that our business? Shouldn’t that be between your God and us? Doesn’t your God allow free will as a part of the process of your faith?

Marriage equality is not a religious argument anyway. It is a political straw dog. Many Christian denominations and other religious faiths marry gay couples already--they are well ahead of the federal and state governments on this. Each church and religious group is free to make their own choice about who they marry, and that will not change with legal recognition. (For example, the Catholic Church will only marry Catholics to other Catholics.) But secular marriage is where all the legal rights sit--this is the arena necessitating a change to include gay couples.

Those who know Chuck and me personally know how well our relationship works. My life has been enriched and has flourished by his being in it and I cannot imagine life without him. The stability and mutual support of our relationship has also allowed us to be of help to aging and dying parents, siblings in need of a hand, and our friends and neighbors.

Please help make this our best anniversary ever by making your support for gay marriage known through your votes and publicly expressed opinion. Feel free to share my post with your Facebook friends and progress the conversation. Thank you.

Remembering Tissa David

Every animated feature film director has a handful of animators that they know they can rely on to deliver the goods, the people you know will get the job done on time. On Raggedy Ann and Andy - an animated musical which my father directed in the late 1970s - that animator was Tissa David. Tissa was fast and good, a terrific draughtsman and a skilled actor. She animated many of the scenes of Raggedy Ann, and she delivered a beautiful sense of girlish innocence to the character. You can see some of her pencil tests here:
Raggedy Ann was animated in New York City, and at the time I was just ten years old and living in London, so I didn't see much of the day to day business of the making of the film. But I remember the names of the animators that Dad depended on to get the film finished, and I know how much he respected Tissa's work.

Tissa died this week in her home of New York City, aged 91, having lived a long life and having earned the respect of her colleagues.

--- Alex

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Them Greeks!

A Greek
Spiros Tsounios was one of my students as CalArts - many years ago, when I first started teaching animation. I say "my students", but actually he managed to avoid my classes completely - which was probably a good thing since at the time I had no idea what I was doing. His student film was one of the best of the year, good enough to get him a spot doing story boards at DreamWorks, which was where we became colleagues.

Now Spiros works at Skywalker Ranch, boarding on the latest Star Wars series, and he has revived his student film - but this time as a fully-fledged CG-tastic animated short. It's called "Them Greeks", and you can check it out here:

Spiros is pioneering an animation studio without walls, a virtual studio that brings together artists from all over the world in a digital environment to share their talents. It's something that the industry has talked a lot about - but I have not seen it done yet. At least, not successfully. It looks as if Spiros might just pull it off.

Oh, and he's looking for animators. Good ones, of course!

I might just do a shot or two myself.


Thursday, August 23, 2012

Gene Kelly's 100th Birthday

Of all the dancing, singing actors, Gene Kelly is tops in my book.  So what else could I post on his 100th birthday but this clip.....

I always envied the guys who got to work with him on Cats Don't Dance.  They say he was just like he was on-screen.  Gah-da dance!  Gah-da dance!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

My World and Welcome to It

Actor William Windom died Thursday at the age of 88.  He appeared in a mountain of work in features and television. Depending on your fan allegiances, you may best remember him from The Twilight Zone, or The Farmer's Daughter, Star Trek, or Murder, She Wrote.  But for me, it's My World and Welcome To It.

I was seven years old when it premiered in the fall of 1969, and even though it ran only one season, it really stuck with me. Based on the humor of The New Yorker cartoonist James Thurber, the show had segments combining live action and animation with a Thurber-esque design produced by DePatie-Freling.

Through the magic of the internet, clips from the show were easy to find.  It's a bit mind-blowing to see it again after 42 years, and to see that indeed it had some influence on a my young, future animator self.


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Deja Boop

Fed Ex delivered two boxes today from art director Fred Cline - boxes full of original materials from the ill-fated Betty Boop feature from 1993.  He found them while cleaning out his garage and was kind enough to ship them to me.  Original storyboards - an entire first pass - were in one box.  Another box had animation tests, scripts, and animatics of a few songs from demos by jazz great  Bennie Wallace.  Seeing this stuff again brought back a lot of lost memories, including the sadness we all felt when the plug was pulled.
I called Fred on his cel phone to thank him for the boxes. We talked for about two minutes when someone in the background interrupted him.  I heard him say, "I'm talking to Steve Moore." Then he laughed and the phone went silent.  Not completely silent, but like he set the phone down and walked away.  

"Hello?  Fred?  Hello?"

About fifteen minutes later, Fred called back. Turns out the guy in the background was Henry Selick and he was calling an emergency meeting.  Fred was in San Francisco storyboarding on Henry's new feature for Disney.  He couldn't say any more about it, and was again interrupted by a background voice. 

"Steve, I have go."  

I thanked Fred again for the Betty Boop materials, then hung up.  Ninety minutes later, I read that Henry's project had just been killed by Disney.  Holy shit!  It was like The Boop Movie all over again.

My heart goes out to Fred, Henry, and the crew.  I know exactly how they feel right now.  It's a very sickening part of the business, where studio gatekeepers can completely fuck so many people over.  Of course, I don't know the whole story, but I'm inclined to side with the artists.  I'm like that, and it's usually the right bet.  

And I usually ask, "Is it a good time to call?"


Friday, August 10, 2012

Ty Bosco, Rest in Peace

Australian animator Ty Bosco was found dead in his home last week.  In a career spanning 35 years, he cranked out miles of TV animation for Hanna-Barbera and Disney TV Animation.  He was a bear of a man, with long, unkempt hair rolling wildly past  round shoulders. He lumbered along with knees slightly bent and sweat on his brow, making himself seem heavier than he probably was.  But he was heavy.  And he was always dressed in black.

Ty Bosco living large, with Serena Geddes, left.   Photo courtesy of Serena.  
I first encountered Ty in 1994, at the Kippax Street studio of Walt Disney TV Animation Australia; specifically, in the Men's room.  I was sent to Sydney to direct the finale sequence for Kevin Lima's A Goofy Movie.  Newly arrived and slightly disoriented,  I found myself among the lunchtime crush in the studio's cramped restroom.  As I was washing my hands the door sprang open, indifferent to whether anyone was standing behind it. Filling the doorframe was The Man - Bosco.  He had the appearance of Jerry Garcia's large biker brother. He was mumbling to himself.  Or was he mumbling to me?  He did not look friendly, and I squeezed aside to let him into the bathroom stall.

Moments later, grunts and moans began to emanate from the stall. The animators laughed and hurled insults.  A few MORE animators walked in. (The room was starting to resemble a Marx Bros sketch.) Ty amped up the volume from the stall, "Ayyyyy, there you are." he said. "Look at that. Hmmm. A fine specimen."  The room erupted in hoots and howls. The more they laughed, the further he went with it.  He thrived on making people laugh, often at his own expense.

I would talk to Ty often over the next six months, usually at the Aurora pub on Friday afternoons, where he had a "schoo-ey" of ale waiting for me.   He would go for lunch and still be there when work let out.  He was a very kind hearted man, and there was some sadness there that fueled his humor. He did not take care of himself, and consequently had chronic health problems.

Mention the name Ty Bosco to an Australian animator, and they'll grin from ear to ear.  Ty wasn't the life of the party, he was the party.  And while he does not dwell in the pantheon of animation gods, he is surely entertaining them in the pub across the street from it.

Director Ian Harrowell worked with Ty for many years, and recalls Ty phoning after Ian had surgery,  "Ty was amazing for my wife, Gina. He rang when things were pretty shitty...I heard Gina PISSING herself on the phone....possibly literally... SO HEALING!
Spoke with him about a month ago...seemed to be happy, now on the dole (retired). Very happy the Swans (Sydney rugby team) were winning big time.  Love you, Mr. Bosco."

Illustrator Serena Geddes, pictured above with Ty at a studio party, said, "I think Ty's passing had more affect on us than we could possibly have imagined. Without realizing it, he has brought a lot of us back together. He was the soul of Disney, more memorable than anyone else there and most loved, when he kept his wandering hands to him self 
that is."

The artists from Disney Australia have set up a Ty Bosco Tributes page on Facebook.  Read more about him and watch some hilarious videos.  

It has been seventeen years since I last spoke to Ty, and yet his death still stings. He was, as the Aussie's say, "A good bloke."


Thursday, August 9, 2012

Dolly's Doodles

Dolly's Doodles from Motherlode Studios on Vimeo.

One of my ex-students from Escape Studios has created a gorgeous pilot for an animated TV Series - Dolly's doodles, which you can see on her Facebook page here. It's aimed at pre-school kids and the execution is faultless. Evgenia (known to most of us Brits as Jane) was an exceptionally dedicated animation student and she is not just a skilled animator - but a talented writer and director too. I love Dolly's Doodles!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Animated for the Olympics

The problem with the Olympics is, if you look, you will be sucked in.  There's no escape.   
You'll find youself watching sporting events you would otherwise pay no mind. Volley ball. Water polo.  Synchronized diving.  Fast walking.  The Olympics are a sports black hole from which, once in its pull, there is no escape.    
If you have found yourself in this position, you may want to get sucked into these twelve animated shorts commissioned by the U.S. Olympic Committee and produced at Duck Studios in West Los Angeles.

Executive Producer Mark Medernach explains:

The concept behind the spots was pretty simple.  They wanted the athletes to freely tell viewers who their inspiration was to get to where they were today, their mother, father, coach, sister etc.   As a way to make the stories come alive more they wanted a simple animation style to illustrate each of the stories.  They wanted each spot to have a different look and technique.  But dealing with a limited budget eliminated a lot of the techniques right away, as they would have just been too expensive to produce.

Our first approach to creating them was to find out who would be interested in working on the projects.  There was very little money, so the animators had to do these more as a labor of love.  There were 12 spots in all, so finding the people that had the time and inclination was a bit tricky. 

Once we had 4 or 5 commit and started seeing their work come in, it was a lot easier to get others to commit.  In all, we used 10 different animation directors to do the work.  The next step was in casting the right artist for the right project. 

They are all really great pieces, but one of my favorite is the Henry Cejudo piece  by Hsinping Pan.  Henry is a wrestler and his inspiration was his mother.  His mother immigrated to the US along with her 7 kids. She found ways to provide for them and care for them.  Initially we were not sure if Hsinping style would be an appropriate fit for 
a wrestler.  But once we heard his charming story it just seemed like a natural fit. 

As each story was presented to us, we chatted with the advertising agency (Y&R/NY) and choose who we felt would be the best fit for each story.  I think the agency had a really good feel for the stories and what would fit most of the time.  Other times, we also let the filmmakers have some input into the stories they wanted.  Chris Harding is a big boxing fan and it was a natural fit to have him produce the Queen Underwood boxing spot.

The spots live on the USOC's site.  They are being used to help raise more money for future olympians.  So, if you want to be a part of the team behind the team, go to USOC's site and donate a bit!

Read lots more about the spots and the artists behind them on Duck Studios' site.

Watch all twelve videos on this U.S.O.C. page under "From Our Athletes".