Thursday, December 19, 2019

A Great Day for America - The Far Side is Back!

The overwhelming majority of Americans can agree that the return of Gary Larsen's "The Far Side" comics is great news.  I read about this yesterday on CNN's website though it was not headline news for some reason.  In the CNN article, Larsen explains that he decided to make an official Far Side site because so much of his work was posted online without his permission - fan sites, but more irritatingly, sites exploiting his work to promote their own products or services.  His new site will feature the old strips, but promises some new stuff to come.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Santa's Other Helpers

While Santa Claus gets the glory for pulling off Christmas every year, it is common knowledge that he has 'helpers'.  A team of little elves - the Merry-Makers - work tirelessly behind the scenes to bring joy to the world.  But did you know there's a second rank of helpers, an off-shoot of the Merry-Makers?  These are the Havoc-Makers,  Santa's Dipshits.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

The Brave Little Toaster gets Dental Surgery

     Years of brushing my teeth too hard had caused my gums to recede to the point where I needed oral surgery.  And so I found myself reclined in a dentists' chair, having just had four shots of novocaine injected into the roof of my mouth.  Yes, it hurt.
     While the oral surgeon left me to numb up,  a woman with a clipboard asked me some questions.  One of them was "Occupation?"
     I answered, "Animation." 
     I elaborated, "I work on cartoons."
     "Oh, interesting."  she said.  "Anything I would know?"
     "How old are you?"  I asked.
     "Thirty two."  she said.
     I did some quick math, then said, "How about 'The Brave Little Toaster'?"
     She squealed.  Like a girl.  She squealed so loud the dental assistants rushed in to see if she was alright.  She turned to them and said, "He did 'The Brave Little Toaster'!"
     Then they squealed.  Right before me, four professional women morphed into cooing little girls, talking over each other how they had loved that movie growing up.
      The one with the clipboard broke through the cacophony.  "Oh my god!  There's a scary clown in that movie that scared the crap out of me!"  She was referring to Toaster's nightmare sequence.
     I laughed. "I animated that sequence."
     "Really?" she said.
     I nodded.

Saturday, September 7, 2019

The Unbearable LightBox of Being

There's a new animation expo in town - LightBox -and yesterday, I went.   The last such event I attended was the World Animation Celebration in 1998, at the same location - the Pasadena Convention Center (newer building).  My aversion to crowds keeps me away from such events,  but every once in a while I nudge myself to get out there and network.  Still, I dreaded the thought of it.  
     I convinced myself Friday would be less crowded than the weekend.  20 minutes before opening, there was a line of cars around the block for parking.  I found an alternate lot a few blocks away and walked in the stinking September heat to the expo.  To clarify, this was not specifically an animation expo.  The LightBox site describes it as, "Over 250 of the best artists from the animation, live-action, illustration, and gaming industries coming together for the ultimate celebration of art."  Being the first such mish-mash event I had ever attended, it was, by default, the "ultimate". 

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Three from My Storyboard Graveyard

In the process of updating my personal website, I came across storyboards that never made it for three Illumination films: "The Grinch", "Minions",  and "Despicable Me 2".  I worked for months and months on versions of these films that were later abandoned.  Nothing I boarded for "The Grinch" made it onscreen, but here is a clip (without sound) showing the Grinch's "Aha!" moment - the plot to steal Christmas...

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Eat, Drink, Animate! By Tom Sito

Who knew animators could cook? Tom Sito, USC animation professor, co-director of Osmosis Jones and Emeritus President of the Animation Guild, has written a cookbook celebrating the recipes of animation artists.

You might think animators can't cook, but you'd be wrong. "Eat Drink Animate" is where you can learn the secrets of Walt Disney's chilli and and Tissa David's Hungarian Goulash.

I should declare an interest here - the book includes one of favourite recipes, Poisson a la BAFTA, which was reverse-engineered a few years ago from a dish I liked so much while dining at BAFTA Piccadilly that I decided to try and make it myself. I wrote it in French to make it sound posh.

Tom is a prodigious author, with many books on animation and animation history to his name.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Ross Anderson Pulls a Rabbit from a Hat

We first interviewed author Ross Anderson back in 2013, about his research project into the history of the making of Who Framed Roger Rabbit? - the pioneering film that is 26 years old this year.

Six years later, Ross's book "Pulling a Rabbit from a Hat" has finally hit the bookshelves; he was signing copies at this year's Annecy film festival.

Ross's book aims to be the definitive history of the making of the film. It is well researched and very detailed, and appears to very accurate down to the smallest details,

I've been looking forward to buying my copy for years. Among the highlights are Tom Sito's hilarious sketches and scribbles that documented the roller coaster ride that was the making of the film.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

The Forgotten Art of Kathleen Bell

Kathleen "Kay" Bell 1937
Kathleen Bell was a 20th Century illustrator whose work is now almost completely forgotten. She was also my grandmother and, if she is remembered at all, it is as the mother of, and major influence on, my father, the animator Richard Williams.

Kathleen "Kay" Bell was born on 19th May 1909, and lived in Toronto, Canada, where she worked as commercial illustrator. Of her vast body of work for newspapers and magazines, almost nothing survives.

All I have of her published work is the illustrations for one book, so long out of print that it doesn't even show up anymore as a listing at A few years ago I managed to buy what was most likely the last remaining copy available for sale, and since then the listing has been deleted.