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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Noble Boy

The link above goes to NOBLE BOY, a board book by animation artist Scott Morse. I posted it on the page since I couldn't fit it into the little link button here on site.
NOBLE BOY is a 'board book' about animation art director Maurice Noble.

Maurice Noble is one of the great art directors of all time, animation or live. He designed the lovely outer space 'Martian" cartoons for Chuck Jones, the hilarious parody-UPA house for Witch Hazel, and the pseudo-Seussian backgrounds of HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS, among other things. Noble suggested that Disney's SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARFS feature colored ink lines instead of standard black. He was the first art director to have the backgrounds reveal the character's mental state (in THE ARISTO-CAT, wallpaper animates and twists madly as the titular cat yells for butler Meadows. This landmark film was just released on Volume 4 of the Warner compliation discs.)

But to return to the Noble book. The title refers to the nickname by which Noble's students were known: Noble Boys (and Girls.) I shall always regret not having been one of them; I only met Mr. Noble twice, but he was a fine gentleman who loved this art form dearly. He deserves a tribute. Thing is, I'm not sure about whether this one is aimed at kids or at adults. It looks like a kids' book but the content is really a short biography of Noble. I'd like to see a long biography of him. But this is a tribute to a wonderful artist from one of his students. Check it out and see--it is a bargain.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

news of HAIR HIGH screenings

HAIR HIGH will be screening in New York and L.A! Here is the latest from Bill Plympton's website, Plymptoons:

The Plympton screenings at the IFC Center culminate in a special engagement
of "Hair High" on April 6-7. These are midnight shows, so there will be lots of
late-night fun! Bill will be there to present the film, along with special
surprise guests!
The following week, "Hair High" will be opening in Los
Angeles, at the Laemmle Sunset 5 Theatre, 8000 Sunset Blvd. in West Hollywood.
Scheduled to screen from April 13-19,
for more information contact the box
office at 323-848-3500. This is the L.A. premiere, so Bill will be at the
evening screenings on April 13-14. And since it's Hollywood, you never know
which cast members may make surprise appearances! Tell all your friends in L.A.
to come out and support independent animation! And yes, the film opens on Friday
the 13th!

I'm arriving in LA on the 19th, so maybe my friend Dean and I can take in a screening of HAIR HIGH in the afternoon before heading to the book signing that evening. And thankfully the ANIMATION SHOW, which includes Bill's newest short GUIDE DOG, is playing in Rochester on April 16. They're still working on bringing HAIR HIGH here.

Good animation does not have to come from the big studios!

Thursday, March 22, 2007

HAIR HIGH is finally available on DVD!

I'm a Bill Plympton fan (and most of my friends are too.) Bill's the first person since Lotte Reiniger to animate feature films singlehandedly--and they have just gotten better and better over the years.
HAIR HIGH is a wonderful evocation of the 'mythological' America of the late Fifties and early Sixties. The design, animation, story, and characters are the best that Plympton's done to date.
So where can you see this movie?
Well, it's playing in New York City on April 4, but otherwise, there is no US distributor for this excellent film.
I had to buy a DVD and have it sent over from France. If you look up HAIR HIGH on, there is a listing, and the disc won't cost that much when compared to much more highly publicized releases.
You can get a preview of the look of the film here.
Pictures speak louder than words. So go meet Cherri, Spud, and the other members of the cast, and marvel at the original and appealing design.
No, I would not run this for kids. But it's something that everyone over the age of 13 who's interested in animation should have a look at.
Here's hoping that it is either in theatres or on a Zone One NTSC disc sometime soon.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Not So Sweet 16

This is a follow-up to yesterday's post. A recently concluded survey of the animation industry found that just 16% of the 'creative' positions were held by women.

They stretched the definition to include modelers and other folk in the computer animation categories who are doing 'artistic' work but who might not actually be in charge of the decision making process. If you look to see how many women actually influence the story content of the films--the percentage would be a good deal lower. It's probably better than live action, though that is damning with faint praise.

Quick! Name a female director or studio head.
It's easier to find them when you are outside the USA, but here they may be counted on the fingers of one hand.
So 16% of the population will not be responsible for 100% of the bad decisions in filmmaking.

As it stands there have been many wonderful directors who happen to be female; Joanna Quinn's name is the first that comes to mind, but there are others, particularly in Eastern Europe, where the 'equal rights of women' appears to have been taken seriously for the duration of the old system.

Thursday, March 15, 2007


A friend directed me to a website that featured an anonymous animator blogging about what he (I am sure it was a he) thought was wrong with the American animation industry.
The problem could be summed up in one word ~~women.
Entire columns lambasted the alleged deficiencies of 'feminists' or 'revisionists' or female producers and animators. Women--oh, excuse me, 'girls'~ as everyone knows, don't watch animation, don't create animation, and are responsible for all the bad animation ideas out there. This sentiment was enthusiastically seconded in many responses. Now, the blogosphere is open and anyone may post as they like. But this kind of stuff just makes my ass hurt. Why? Well, the majority of people complain about the situation in the field but don't do anything to change it. The problems are someone else's responsibility, or fault, never their own.
There is a humorless kind of animator who follows a Leader, or waits for him ('tis always a him) to lead him (it's always another him) and likeminded friends back to an alleged Golden Age of bliss and steady work and no girls allowed. The fact is that this Golden Age never really existed in the first place. I assure you that people complained about Walt (especially Walt,) and Chuck, and Shamus, and Friz, and Max, and all the people who ran studios or produced animated films in the Golden Age. The difference was,there WAS a lot more studio work then. There were women animators then too, though very few and far between. But they did work in the big studios, even in the Big D itself. There is, generally speaking, much more animation being done now. It's just not being done the same way or in the same places or by the same people. And in many ways that is a good thing.
Women like to do amusing cartoon characters just as the boys do. Some of us might like to do other types of acting, but we definitely don't like being called girls, or treated like second class humans at work, or denied jobs or promotions because of our sex, or blamed for faults in the industry that have nothing to do with gender. That goes for female producers, too--I've worked with some excellent ones.
We have to discriminate.
There's discrimination in our job searches--we must find studios and producers that will hire us as artists, not as women. We move to other jobs if we have to. I know men who have to move around when a job becomes tiresome, too. And believe me, it's even more interesting for the Black animators out there. We can all tell some stories. But there is an upside.
It's now possible to produce your own work and get it shown entirely outside of the studio system. So if one doesn't like one's day job, one can make a film for little cost and get it out there to a real audience. Amazing! And yet there are complaints.
There are a number of female students in my classes and while I won't generalize and say that one sex is superior to another (because it isn't), the female students often do have a very offbeat sense of humor. It's good to see that if they do incorporate traditionally 'feminine' subject matter such as children and fairies into their films, the characters are given a highly sardonic interpretation.
And these students are all very excited to be working in animation. All of the student contributors to PREPARE TO BOARD are in their first real studio jobs now and loving every minute of it.
I made damn sure that my new book contained work that was 50% produced by female artists since I am so fed up with the endless guy-centeredness of this industry. If you didn't look at the captions, you'd never know which sex did what. Some lyrical animation of a lovestruck woman was done by a male student; a female animator produced an excellent slapstick comedy with a tired man and his dog.
The whole point of animation is: no one sees you on screen, only your characters. You are not restricted by the limits of your own body, or gender, or species. That's the good news. And if your day job offends you, make something better in your own time. Then see if it will fly. The Internet and the abundant film festival circuit makes it easier to distribute an independent short now than ever before.
So put your pencil, or lightpen, where your mouth is. Don't like what's out there? Make a better movie.
But don't call me, or female artists and animators, Girl, or blame us for what's out there now.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

West and Wewaxation

Tired, but excited....the tickets are ordered, and lots of friends plan to show up to the book signing next month. I'm going to design a suggestion for a flyer.
Here's the skinny:

Time: 6 PM to 10 PM on Thursday, April 19

VAN EATON galleries
13613 Ventura Blvd.Sherman Oaks, CA 91423

If any of you readers are in the L.A. area, I hope you can attend. I'll stay over the weekend, crashing on Dean Yeagle's Stickley sofa. He even promises to provide a cat to make me feel right at home.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Artists Helping Artists--Book Signing in L.A.

The multitalented Tina Price (formerly one of the top artists at Disney, now a line producer at JibJab!) organized a marvellous animation artists' cooperative last year.
The Creative Talent Network features animators, art directors, storyboard artists, and concept artists from many studios. Portfolio samples and biographies for over a hundred artists are posted on this beautiful site.
Tina also organizes book signings for Creative Talent members at the Van Eaton Galleries in Sherman Oaks, California (which specializes in animation art.)
The next one is scheduled for Thursday, April 19th, and I've agreed to attend to sign PREPARE TO BOARD! The gallery will apparently also have some copies available for me to sign for out-of-towners as well if you order it through their auspices.
If any readers of this blog are in the L.A. area, I look forward to meeting you there.

Monday, March 05, 2007


I got a copy of Hans Bacher's DREAMWORLDS today.
It's in Japanese.
I don't care. This is a gorgeous and brilliant book.

Here's hoping that there is an English edition soon!

Friday, March 02, 2007

Books In Print

Today is my book's birthday. Funny, I don't FEEL any different. But there's been a change on the page for it; it's now shipping.
I've been working so hard for this day that it is difficult to know how I feel about the whole experience. Guess I'll find out when people start reviewing it.

Now here's a book I can really get excited about. Hans Bacher's DREAMWORLDS is probably the most important animation book published since THE ILLUSION OF LIFE. I am not kidding, either. No one, and I mean NO ONE, working in animation art direction has ever written a book on how it is done! This is a first!

John Canemaker's books (THE DISNEY THAT NEVER WAS, PAPER DREAMS, THE ART AND FLAIR OF MARY BLAIR) are superb histories of Disney studio methods.
Bacher was and is one of the top art directors in the industry; he and his work are well known in the USA, Europe and Asia. He's worked for Disney but also for Dreamworks and a number of other studios, including his own; and he's equally at home on paper or on computer (the box is an important new tool for the story artist.)
Hans even designed a set of brushes for Japanese Photoshop. (You can get it on Japanese

Oddly enough DREAMWORLDS was originally published in Japanese only. I suggested that my own publisher might be interested in putting out an English version; after all, it's all ready to go!
and so...
as the South Africans say, "hold your thumbs".

And before I go back to what I was doing (a film, for crying out about a busman's holiday!) I want to post a link to an interview with Joanna Quinn, a woman who is LONG overdue for an Oscar. Her work is simply brilliant.
The ANIMATION SHOW is one of the better shows of its kind (it's not out simply for 'shock value') and so, if it plays in your town, go and see it. DREAMS AND DESIRES looks like one of the high points of an excellent compilation.