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Sunday, July 31, 2005


In the words of George Bernard Shaw:

'I don't know what to say about this book.'

Shaw is one of the few celebrities of the 19th and early 20th centuries NOT quoted posthumously in

THE TWENTIETH PLANE A Psychic Revelation
Reported by Albert Durrant Watson, Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada and President of the Association for Psychical Research of Canada (this is the entire title, and the date is1919)

Of course, Shaw hadn't died yet.

"I am not an author. I am a reporter", Albert Watson announces crisply.
Should anyone doubt the truth of this remark, Watson has written a lengthy preface to disabuse you of the notion that he, or his friends, wrote any of the material.

"The contents of this volume as quoted were received under the conditions set forth in the Intention. We do not, in a final sense, know anything about their source...No labour of authorship on our part was involved. They were evidently sent from somewhere."

Mr. Watson used an "Instrument" named Louis Benjamin to channel voices from the Twentieth Plane via his Ouija board. Watson claims they have 'long since given up using the Ouija", and that the group, one of whom is identified only as "The Scholar-Girl" use a completely different method involving a heart shaped planchette upon which fingertips are rested, and a board with the alphabet and numbers and symbols on it. They also sprinkle a little talcum powder and use rose colored lights.

And it works! Messages are received from so many important people, even that old rascal Oscar Wilde (even though Wilde initiates one of the meetings, he isn't quoted once--serves him right for being so naughty).
Literary and political lights all attend. Even Jesus drops by, though he is quite rightly saved for last.

Mr. Watson is properly introduced to all of these worthies by his Mother, who is much beloved by the group. Shakespeare in particular has taken quite a shine to her.

The preface is written by Abraham Lincoln and Samuel Coleridge, and all chapters 'revised' by the Group Publication committee consisting of Lincoln, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Walt Whitman, and Robert G. Ingersoll. A special chapter, or 'nook' is requested by the group for Mother, by popular acclaim.

There were, apparently, those who Doubted the Truth of this Message.

"Did the communications come out of the minds of myself and the circle? In no case had we been reading about the matters that came over", Watson writes peevishly.

Did Mr. Benjamin perhaps write the book? The "Instrument" could not have written in so many different styles because, Watson says, "His limited range of thought and reading, his innocence of academic training, preclude the adoption of this theory. ..he is incapable of producing such a book...This is simply begging the question and wrenching the facts to make them fit a theory."

Mr. Benjamin has 'read widely' but Watson assures us that he is a near-illiterate otherwise. He is also 'Of Hebrew parentage" though he's apparently seen the error of his ways. He is 'well acquainted with the public addresses of Lincoln, DIsraeli, and Ingersoll' but has 'a limited acquaintance with other literature'.

And the writing must be true since it is given 'spontaneously and rapidly'. "Now I submit that none of us could have created these styles in an off-hand, ready way...the Instrument is not a writer...none of the styles is mine...but the book contains forty different styles."

And that, as far as Mr. Watson is concered, is that. He is annoyed that anyone would claim that the writings are similar to those in his other books (including THE SOVEREIGNTY OF IDEALS, THE SOVEREIGNTY OF CHARACTER, THE WING OF THE WILDBIRD, and LOVE OF THE UNIVERSE). He says that it isn't. Have you read his other books? Has anyone?
It must be true. In the words of the Great Criswell: "Can you prove it didn't happen?"

So what do these folk talk about on the Twentieth Plane?

The living conditions: a Precious Moments palette of pastel pinks and blues. The occupants live in glass houses and furnish them 'by thought'. "Beds shaped like shells, chairs like a sunflower, window sills like sands golden-heated by the intense sun, cheffoniers all glass-like with drawers that open as noiselessly as the fall of a flower petal. We have rugs something like a blend of fur, silk and the kasmir of Arabia". (William Morris states this, without swearing.)

Their appearance: Pink shrimplike incorruptible.
Q: "What does Booker T. Washington look like there?"
A: (Dorothy Wordsworth) "As we. No difference in soul. Sometimes one wears a brown suit, others in white. We are nearly all here the pale pink of sea-shells."

Food: "We absorb chemicals".

There is advice for the Earth Bound Spirit from Samuel Coleridge: Eat More Vril. "This element is cosmic, a part of life, vril, the most soul-nourishing substance of your plane. It is found especially in lettuce, tomatoes, and eggs."

(This copy of the book has this paragraph set in pencilled parentheses. I can imagine the reader--a Miss Mary E. Evier of Honeoye Falls, New York--rushing out to buy egg and tomato sandwiches in quantity.)

Shakespeare visits from the Thirtieth Plane at the special request of Mother.
He is asked his opinion of Canadian drama and answers that "TECUMSEH has merit."
(An excerpt, full of references to "stony ribs of mountains hoar" and "the congealed north" and "sunburnt savages free" can be found here.)
And it's no longer necessary to inquire about who wrote what, and who was the Dark Lady of the Sonnets. It's all revealed here. Shakespeare mentions nothing of Mr. W. S, but of course they didn't ask him.

What else is revealed? Well, some of the Plane Dwellers are now 'specialists' and they only talk about one subject.

Lincoln (The Wisdom specialist) felt no pain during his assassination. "Not near as much as Mary Todd."

William Morris: (The Art specialist) "Stevenson, when he left the Islands of Hawaii to come to this plane, brought with him the ukelele. He brought also the native song of the isle but improved it, and often we here him when alone. His tonal pictures pierce us to the quick".

Elbert Hubbard (the founder of Roycroft who died on the LUSITANIA) is now the War Specialist. He confidently predicts the outcome of the War in a caricatured American dialect. It's all wrong, but he claims "Blame the Huns, not me."

There are painters there, but since the book has no illustrations, the paintings are described in the text, with somewhat unsatisfactory results and even Rembrandt appears to now paint like Maxfield Parrish.

Jesus states: "I bend before you to sprinkle the water of my love on your brows. Good-bye."

But there's so much more. Much too much to write about here.
This is either one of the greatest (and least convincing) literary hoaxes of the Twentieth Century, or else the outpouring of an already unusual mind that became unhinged by grief.
It's very touching to see how he writes of his Mother revered by the great ones in the afterlife...and of course Spiritualism was very popular then due to the great blood-letting that had not ceased, allegedly, when the book was written.

I feel sorry for poor Elbert Hubbard, if he really is there. I recommend reading a copy or two of THE PHILISTINE to indicate how he actually wrote and spoke; this book portrays him as a sort of vaudeville-patter American caricature.

It turns out that copies of THE TWENTIETH PLANE are plentiful--so there's still time to Receive the Message!

I read it with open mouth and glazing eyes.
Hoping you are the same.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

LIMBO or How Low?

Word came through the Blogosphere this morning that the 'Disneytoons' studio in Sydney was to close sometime in the next few months, with staff layoffs of over 300 people.
This studio was originally a Hanna Barbera studio, which was then purchased by Disney's Television division which recently transferred them to Feature animation and gave them the name "Disneytoons".

They were doomed.

Features Management, like all American business today ever seeking the lowest level, only considers cost, not quality for its direct-to-dvd product. The audiences will never know the difference.

The Australians, with their excellent labor benefits and labor-friendly labor laws, simply can't compete in the 'global market' even when working long hours of overtime with no compensation.

It's nothing personal, a company spokesman insisted.

It's just business.

The Philippines and China can produce animation that looks the way the management likes it to look even if it may not move much, and they can do it for half the cost of the Australian studio. (Their quotas are 100% higher and they have cheaper real estate and no pesky labor laws.) There are eager Indian studios waiting in the wings to undercut them if they don't turn out even more work for less money.

Some studios in impecunious countries have been known to produce pilot films for free when submitting bids for series.

There's no way that a studio in any other part of the world can compete with subsidized outfits like this. "Subsidized" is the nicer word.

Where will it all end? The logical next step is to eliminate the artists completely. The cost-conscious Disney management doubtless will use the clever and terribly convincing cartoon motion-capture program described in an earlier edition of this newsletter to recycle the action from the original features directly onto the 3D figures. They figure that audiences will never know the difference, just as they haven't minded the obvious falling-off in quality of the animation in the direct to video products. These films were turned out four times faster than the equivalent feature animation product so it's amazing that some of them turned out as well as they did.

What amazes me is that this news should have come as a surprise to anyone. Disney has shut down all of its studios in countries where the currency has risen against the American dollar. Check the currency rates to see which country will lose the business next. The business news is a surer guide to the fortunes of your average animation studio than the artists' grapevine.

Australian Disney is the victim of their country's healthy economy and sound currency.

The last few direct-to-videos have also made far less money than the LION KING II: SIMBA'S PRIDE, which apparently is the grand champion of direct to video films. It's not a bad picture either. But perhaps it's the weak stories in some of the later pictures; perhaps it's just the familiarity of the product that breeds contempt--overproduction, overkill, competition--but the home video market is in a slump and has been for some time.

I'm also amazed that some animation websites feature artists wishing loudly for jobs from the very same people who are putting them out of work. Excuse me, but when someone is kicking you out the door, you don't offer to crawl back in through the sewer.
The big studios will not hire the artists back except on a temporary basis. They consider the artwork nothing more than piecework, easily turned out by machines or people trained to work like machines. Computer animation is better than drawings because it can be outsourced ANYWHERE and the characters will ALWAYS Look the way they should. That's the real reason for the death of so much cartoon animation production. Why worry about shaky lines and off-model animation when it can all be made mechanically perfect if you do it on a computer?

And management consider themselves the true creatives. Artists are just there to produce the brilliant ideas of the executives--and the executive's jobs are immune to outsourcing!
That is such a comforting thing to know.

If the artists want better treatment, they have to look for more pleasant working conditions and stop feeling loyalty for a system or a company that hasn't existed for many years now. There are decent places out there, some run by former artists, some by enlightened executives, that are doing something rather than sitting on their 'animator's spread' waiting for the crumbs of work to fall from the big studios' tables.

Artists should be reading the business news more often.

It's all just business now. The art part died a while back.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

The Best Silent Movie Scores

I'm adding an addendum to yesterday's post--
Carl Davis wrote the best scores to any silent films I've seen.

He scored NAPOLEON in 1983 for the Radio City screening. Have you ever seen a huge building shake and vibrate when a 60 piece orchestra AND the Mighty Wurlitzer go into action? It was interactive cinema with a vengeance.

Davis' score for Buster Keaton's THE GENERAL is also outstanding. I was listening to it yesterday on a CD which I got from goodness knows where. What wonderful accompaniment...just the right use of period tunes, excellent leitmotifs for the characters, and sparing use of 'effects'--you can visualize the action as the music plays.

Sadly, the superb print of this film shown at the National Film theatre has only been released on VHS.
You can get it from the Damfinos website, the ultimate source for all things pertaining to Buster Keaton.

But I do wish someone would release this on DVD!

Monday, July 18, 2005


I have been a fan of 'silent' movies ever since my parents took me to the Museum of Modern Art to see
Harold Lloyd's THE FRESHMAN when I was five years old.
I had just learned to read and the audience had a grand time as I read the titles to my little sister and she and I both led the reaction in laughter.

There's a participatory quality to silent comedy that is unique; this is probably because they are films that require a degree of outside participation to be 'complete'. They were never meant to be shown 'silent'. A good live musical accompaniment can make the films seem fresh and new.
A bad score can distract from the film and break the illusion.

Many new collections on DVD feature outstanding musical tracks.
The special edition of Roscoe Arbuckle's films released this year by Laughsmith Entertainment is easily the best of the lot; the music is invariably right, and the films feature everything from solo piano to small orchestra. The music is well timed to the action and never distracts from the action.

Other silent filmmakers have not been so fortunate in their accompanists. Buster Keaton, my favorite of the lot, has been very poorly served in the Kino releases of the "Collection".
They have the superb Gaylord Carter score for STEAMBOAT BILL JUNIOR, at least, but what is it that compels anyone to use the "Alloy Orchestra" at all?
I have heard them live, and heard them on this collection, and on the Arbuckle/Keaton collection--and I am invariably driven to get a portable CD player to play anything else as accompaniment for the films.
This group does not complement the film they play for; they compete with it. Their score for SHERLOCK JUNIOR is completely unlistenable.

Here's a quote from someone who knew a thing or two about scoring silent movies. The people who rerelease these films should read it and take it to heart. Comedies from the masters don't need the music's 'help' to be funny.

"Elegant music provided an emotional dimensionn to my comedies. The musical arrangers seldom understood this. They wanted the music to be funny. However, I explained to them that I did not want competition, but that the music was to be a counter-point of grace and charm; that it should express feeling, without which, as Hazlitt said,a work of art remains incomplete....Whatever the music expresses, the rest is only accompaniment."
--Charlie Chaplin

Wednesday, July 06, 2005


2005 is a sadly memorable year for the cartoon world. We have lost Joe Grant, Vance Gerry, Roland Wilson, Marie Johnston, and most recently, one of the pioneer woman animators, Selby Kelly.

I met Selby Kelly when we both worked at Zander’s Animation Parlour on the GNOMES special in 1980; we were close friends for over twenty years. This interview originally appeared in slightly longer form in CARTOONISTS PROfiles’ December, 1983 issue. I am publishing a slightly edited version of my original article as a tribute to a great artist and great friend.
There is another interview with her from 1980 which I have yet to transcribe…and which may be put here in future.
Til then, this will have to do; and even though we spent most of the time talking about Walt Kelly and not of her own remarkable career in animation, Selby’s wit and intelligence shines through.

SELBY KELLY INTERVIEW © 1983, 2005 by Nancy Beiman

Originally published in CARTOONIST PROfiles December, 1983


Q: What was Kelly’s job at Disney’s?

Selby Kelly: He started as a story man. One day he went to Walt Disney and said, “I think I would be able to write better for the animation if I knew more about animation. I’d like to try animating.” Disney said, “Sure, go right ahead.” He wound up doing the Ringmaster in DUMBO, among other things.

Q: I’d like to ask whether you ever met Walt Kelly at the Disney studios, since you were there at the same time in the 1930s.

Selby Kelly: No, I didn’t meet Kelly there. In fact, while I was there I didn’t even hear of him. After the strike of 1940, when I got to know a bunch of the people who worked there, I heard about him; particularly when he put out the comic books. They would say “Have you seen this? He’s one of us.”

Q: So it was the people at the MGM studio who first brought his work to your attention?

Selby Kelly: Mostly Disney people who had gotten together during the strike. We had little groups. In California, you lived so far apart from each other that you didn’t fraternize once you moved to a different studio unless you lived somewhere close.
My first husband, Roger Daley, and I used to get together with Pat Matthews, Frank Smith and others and read the Pogo Books. We’d have “Pogo Evenings.” We’d all get together, have spaghetti and meatballs, and sit around—each one of us would be assigned a character—and we would ‘read’ our characters, saying what they were saying in the books.

Q: I’d like a little background on the film WE HAVE MET THE ENEMY AND HE IS US. How did you get involved in the project?

Selby Kelly: Well, first there was the MGM Pogo special directed by Chuck Jones. At that time, I was President of the Cartoonists’ Guild, and I was working as a freelancer out of the Guild office. Frank Braxton, the first Black animator, called me up and asked me why I didn’t work in the studio instead of freelancing. I said okay, that sounded like fun; I’d been in my ivory tower for quite a while. So I went to MGM to the Chuck Jones unit. I worked as an assistant animator to Frank Braxton, but he had cancer. They thought they had it in remission, but shortly after I got there he had to go back into the hospital. So I was at MGM without any particular person to work with. Kelly and I met and he asked that I should be his assistant.

Q: Was Kelly actually animating on the picture?

Selby Kelly: Yes. He did the layouts; of course, he wrote the story; and he animated a lot of scenes.
Now, MGM had three different films in production at the same time. On the same day, sometimes, the animators would work on “PHANTOM TOLLBOOTH” and “HORTON HEARS A WHO” and the POGO BIRTHDAY SPECIAL. So they didn’t draw Pogo the way Kelly did it. They’re very subtle characters, anyhow. There’s another problem because of the amount of footage that has to be put out on a television special.
The animators didn’t add any ‘extra’ little things. If you’re working at home, and you want to cut in on to your own time, you can take as much time as you want to and you’re paid by footage. But when you’re working in a studio, you have to put out a certain amount of footage per day, or per week. If you stop and juice it up a little and add a lot of extra personality bits so that it makes a nice scene, you’re not getting your footage in. So most of the action in the scenes was down to the bedrock. They just did EXACTLY what was called for. Kelly was very disappointed in the picture.
So he said to me one day as we were sitting at the bar upstairs: “What do you say that we do a picture ourselves, and show them how it should look?” I said, “Fine, wonderful, I’d like that.”I didn’t know it at the time, but Kelly had already talked to a producer, who wanted to do this pollution thing. Kelly decided that this would be the perfect opportunity; he would have total control; so we did it ourselves. But the producer had a partner who was enamored of live action, and who talked him into getting involved in a production with the “Burtons” (Elizabeth and Richard.) They went over to England to see them, and what with this and that and the other they used up all the money. It left Kelly and me without a studio to work for, although we used the offices where we had already established ourselves. We finished the picture under shoe-string operating conditions because Kelly didn’t have a great deal of money at the time to invest in anything. His wife Stephanie had just died after a prolonged and expensive illness.

Q: Was that why the film was cut from 30 minutes to 15? (a 30 minute story reel exists of the longer production)

Selby Kelly: Originally the storyboard was for a full half hour. The man who was to sell it to the networks said he could sell it better if it were two 15 minute lengths, so that it could be shown on different days, or could subsequently be shown with other films if they wanted to. Kelly rewrote the story a bit, and did the first fifteen minutes, but never did get around to doing the second. It is a complete picture, but it leaves out a lot that was in the original half hour. At first Kelly did the film storyboard-fashion. Then, as we had time on our hands, he’d add a little more to the scenes as they were trying to sell it. He was waiting for the money so that we could do it in really full animation. He’d redo scenes; some of them were redone six times, adding more action each time. We never did get full animation in the whole picture.

Q: Did you assist on the drawing of the comic strip?

Selby Kelly: Not while Kelly was alive. I drew the strip for a year and a half after Kelly died. That wasn’t meant to be the case. In 1973 Kelly had been too ill to draw for some time, and the syndicate was after him to get a ‘crew’ together. He didn’t know anyone in New York who could draw the characters (it turned out that one of his assistants, Henry Shikuma, could do quite well) but Kelly hired someone who farmed it out to someone else…I couldn’t continue to use his work if it was going to be farmed out, so I started doing it myself.

Q: I’ve heard about the legendary speed at which Kelly worked. While cataloguing some work, I checked the dates: he was SIMULTANEOUSLY drawing a comic strip, doing political cartoons, illustrating books, writing a political column, writing and illustrating five different comic books, AND taking trips with John Lardner to report for magazines on issues in different parts of the world! How did he manage to do all this?

Selby Kelly: He was very fast. But if you really stop to think about it, a drawing originates in your mind, and if you don’t have it in your mind, you can’t expect it to flow out of your fingers. Kelly had a very fast, brilliant mind, and he was thinking all the time and making little notes about what he was going to do. When it came time to put it on paper he already had it ‘drawn’ in his mind, so he would just sit down and whip it out. He didn’t have to stop and hesitate or ponder. He had so many story ideas that he would have two or three of them going at once.
He asked me once when he was starting to get back into the work after a trip to the hospital, to go through some of the more recent proofs and try to come some story that he had discarded and not ‘carried on’. With so many characters in the strip, you could have two or three doing one thing, and two or three doing another, and they would branch out and go their own way. Sometimes he wouldn’t go back to see what they were doing, follow them up.
John Horn, a man who worked with Kelly in many of his escapades with television newspapers, and magazines, once said that he and Kelly were going to go out to lunch. Kelly batted out his political column, handed his week’s worth of strips to someone to carry to the printer’s, and started to go out the door. Suddenly he said, “Oh, just a minute!”, went back to his desk without even taking his coat or hat off, sat at the typewriter and batted out a sheet of words. John looked over his shoulder and saw that it was a fairy story, one that he wasn’t even going to illustrate. It was being done for a breakfast food company, to go on the back of a cereal box.

Q: He wrote those, too?

Selby Kelly: yes, and in addition to that he did a lot of charity work. At the National Cartoonists’ Society’s REUBEN dinners, he used to do beautiful drawings for Pan Am airlines. Pan Am would buy a page in the Reuben dinner book and donate the money to the cartoonists’ welfare fund. Kelly would illustrate them and they never paid him for it.

Q: I’ve heard that Kelly never actually visited the Okefenokee Swamp until years after starting POGO. What made him decide to go with the southern animal strip instead of developing the African animal stripi (GOOZY) that appears in some of the same comic books as POGO?

Selby Kelly: Kelly grew up in Bridgeport, which had a large amount of people from different countries. He liked to say that he and all his buddies ‘had more foreign languages that they could say that no one ELSE had any use for.” I guess he must have meant swear words. He was interested in languages.
His health wouldn’t allow him to be in the service during the Second World War, so he went into a branch of Government work that had him illustrating dictionaries. He traveled with various USO groups, and he was interested in talking to the people from different parts of the United States, comparing their accents, et cetera. Also his father liked to read him things like UNCLE REMUS, and he picked up a lot of the Southern accent and ‘fun talk’ from his dad.

Q: That would also explain the ‘playing with the language’ in the strip, where one word is meant but a similar one used in its place. You once mentioned that he ‘would think like a child.’

Selby Kelly: When people are very old and can’t hear well, or very young and all words are new to them, they misinterpret them a lot. You think you hear something you don’t hear, and you get a lot of fun out of those by twisting things round.

Q: A little talk about Politics would be in order. How did political caricatures get into POGO? The early strips are ‘funny animal’ gags, and then all of a sudden you have Joe McCarthy as a major character.

Selby Kelly: He was enough to make ANYBODY political. People were really frightened of him. This was the first time that any comic strip had political comment in it. Comic strips were just supposed to be funny and amusing. People pretended that they were for children, although the adults read them more than the kids did. Having lived through that era, I must say that it was a really, really terrible time. Anybody who did anything against the establishment was harassed.

Q: Did Kelly have any threats made or actions taken against him?

Selby Kelly: Kelly’s phone was tapped. He was threatened with all sorts of things, mainly with removal of his livelihood. Many papers dropped the strip. (Note: The Freedom of Information Act recently released Kelly’s files: it was revealed that the Government was corresponding with a civilian reporter who was sure that the ‘lingo’ used in POGO for the "Grundoon" baby groundhog, a character who spoke only in consonants-- was a secret Russian code.)
To prevent the papers dropping POGO, Kelly used to draw TWO strips. They are a lot of fun to look at. One set is called the “Bunny Strips” and most of them were really about bunnies; though some were also about the Okefenokee people. Kelly would send the ‘Bunny Strips’ along with the regular dailies to papers that expressed disapproval of the politics. This way, they didn’t have a big hole in the paper where POGO usually was. Some newspapers had the guts to print BOTH strips at the same time. On their editorial page, they would say something like ‘certain parts of the country won’t print one of these strips’ and make it into good filler for themselves.

Q: Did the political harassment discontinue as the strip got older; say when he was doing (President) Johnson as a steer?

Selby Kelly: There were a lot of pro-Wallace papers that didn’t like what Kelly had to say about him. He drew him as a little rooster, the Prince of Pompadoodle. Everything in life is politics, you can’t just ‘stay out of it.’ That’s pretty much the way the ‘political’ part of the strip was; instead of doing a gag-a day kind of thing, Kelly poked fun at what he knew best, because he was a reporter. He started out as a reporter long before he became a cartoonist, and was very proud of that fact.

Q: POGO first started in ANIMAL COMICS comic books, didn’t he?

Selby Kelly: Kelly did quite a few comics actually. There was OUR GANG comics, BROWNIES, ANIMAL COMICS and many others. He would get more money if he wrote the story in addition to illustrating it, as he was paid for two different jobs. He started this little group of characters in the swamp. Because what he wanted to do was have his own little town, a microcosm of the whole world. The swamp is surrealistic, away from everything, a little mysterious. In a way, the animals did have a town. They had a store, a newspaper, and a variety of things. At first Kelly’s Okefenokee Swamp bunch of animals were friends with a little boy named Bumbazine. The comic book was called “Bumbazine and his friend Albert”, then just “Albert” and then it was “Albert and Pogo”, finally just Pogo. Kelly dropped Bumbazine rather early because he decided that while it is possible to imagine animals talking to each other, you know they don’t really say things that a human being can understand when ‘talking’ to them. The animal might understand the human being, but the human can’t really have a conversation with the animals. Bumbazine also looked very realistic and the animals were drawn like cartoons. Pogo was in from either the first or the second story; and he sure looked different from how he looks now. Long pointy nose with little pieces of wire sticking out of it.
Kelly just got really going on the comic stories. He was doing reporting, but needed more money, so he kept doing comic books on the side. He was just going into high gear on POGO when they stopped publishing ANIMAL COMICS. At the same time he was given an opportunity to take over a post in management of the NEW YORK STAR, which is what PM MAGAZINE turned into when it folded. Kelly was Art Editor, and he had to buy artwork for the paper, so he decided to put the strip in there.

Q: Very clever.

Selby Kelly: Well, it WAS clever, but the newspaper didn’t last very long. When the STAR folded, POGO was out of business again. It was then picked up by the Post-Hall syndicate, but eventually Kelly held all copyright to the strip himself.

Q: He would have been one of the first artists to own his own strip. Could you give me the reasons for discontinuing the strip?

Selby Kelly: The newspapers started giving less and less space to the comics. If you remember POGO, it’s got a lot of words and lines, and every bit of space was taken up with the design of the strip itself. So when they got smaller and smaller, down to the size of a postage stamp, people couldn’t really read it. A lot of the dramatic continuing strips have fallen off too because of this. The Newspaper Comics Council had a meeting, where it was revealed that the papers had no intention of giving more space to the comics; even though the ‘paper crisis’ that had precipitated the shrinkage was over; and I said that there was no way that I was going to continue POGO then. The quality would eventually fall off too far. However, now that I’ve started to do comic strip BOOKS there’s plenty of space in them. We design the pages the way we want to, with nobody tampering with them and making them small and unreadable.



Another Giant Leaves Us

This morning I received the news that Selby Daley Kelly passed away over the 4th of July weekend.

Selby was a pioneer woman animator and a tireless campaigner against the discrimination that relegated her and other talented female artists to the anonymity of the Ink and Paint pool at the Disney studio.
Selby was the head of the paint mixing department at the studio at the time of SNOW WHITE. She is pictured in the original 1938 program from Radio City Music Hall.

Selby is also pictured in many of the 'strike' photographs at Disney in 1941; at the time, she was dating Art Babbitt and so was very active in the union.
She was once President of the Screen Cartoonists' Guild and ran her own animation studios in the USA and Mexico with Roger Daley, her first husband.

Selby was a published children's book illustrator when she applied to Disney in 1936 as an animator. "They laughed at me and told me to go across the street to the Ink and Paint department."

A conversation:
Selby: "They paid me $15.00 a week."
me: "It was the Depression."
"Well, I gave up a job at the drugstore that paid twenty."
She described Walt Disney as a 'benevolent despot' toward the women and told me that if a woman walked into the Animation Building for any reason, she would be fired. Animators could visit Ink and Paint.

"We were told that women can't animate."
"We just can't."

Inkers could not afford the commissary on their low salaries, so they had a 'sandwich wagon' instead.

"I met my first husband in Chuck Jones' unit, and I also met my second husband in Chuck Jones' unit."

Walt Kelly apparently used to watch Margaret Selby walk to the Ink and Paint building, but though they worked in the same studio, they never met until thirty years later.

Selby told me something once that I have never forgotten.

"My first husband was as talented as my second husband. But he was a perfectionist and was never happy with the result. Kelly was satisfied to get it 80% right, and leave it at that."

(Arguably, 80% of Walt Kelly is 150% of most of our efforts...the man was a drawing dynamo.)

Selby was a very good friend of mine for many years after we met at Zanders'.

I interviewed her in 1983 for Cartoonist PROfiles magazine. The interview will be posted on this blog.

Farewell, Selby. I hope in the Big Studio in the Sky, the women can and do work with 'the boys'.