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Saturday, February 03, 2007

Show and Tell in New York City

I visited the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art in New York City, in May, 2006, while I was attending a screening of one of my Cal Arts projects at the Museum of Modern Art.

The Museum is a very neat and well designed little space in a landmark building in SoHo. So landmark, in fact, that it was impossible to find the Museum. They were not allowed to put a 'shingle' or flag, or sign out front to advertise their presence since it would mar the Landmark quality of the building.
After some fumbling around I got to the fourth floor and met director Matt Murray.

I had edited together an informal reel of senior projects produced by my 2006 advisees and asked if Mr. Murray would like to see some of it. Since it was a slow day, he agreed. Mr. Murray was duly impressed and readily agreed to my suggestion that a program of R.I.T. character animation be featured at the Museum at some time in the future. He decided to schedule a one-day event dedicated to the Rochester animators as part of their MOCCA MONDAY lecture series--a free lecture by visiting artists. Mr. Murray decided that January 29, 2007 would be the most appropriate date since an exhibition of television animation artwork would coincide with the animation show. (It was great seeing a cel of Wilma Flintstone smoking, from that infamous 1960 commercial; even more amazing to see that it was in color.)

I called the show 'THE R.I.T. STUFF" since I thought it had a nice ring to it. It was also easy to draw up a tiger logo featuring the mouse ears (see previous entry for the design.)

Mr. Murray requested that a student speaker be scheduled for the event, and that original framed artwork be included in the exhibition. At first he was averse to including any CGI artwork at all, since the museum features drawn cartoons; I assured him that that only films with a 'cartoon' quality in their story, design, and animation would be included.

Planning began in September, 2006. I requested Senior student Rebecca Haushalter as the speaker since she was articulate, available, and drew and designed excellent caricatures of past celebrities for her CGI films. Rebecca readily agreed.
Since little of the artwork for the student films remained at the school, and it would be impractical and expensive to frame Rebecca's rough drawings, I contacted Professor Skip Battaglia and asked if he would consent to have some of his original animation drawings displayed at the museum. Skip framed four drawings from one of his 'cartoon' shorts and these fulfilled Mr. Murray's request for original artwork.

I booked the hotel and plane tickets as soon as Mr. Murray confirmed the date for the show in December. The hotel (the Herald Square on 31st street) was once the headquarters of the humorous LIFE magazine, and was partly financed by Charles Dana Gibson. What an appropriate location for a cartoon lecturer to stay in. The rates were also reasonable and the rooms neat and well furnished, although much too hot in winter. And don't under any circumstances book the 'van' at the desk, since the service (from the van driver) was way too early and way too rude. Cabs to the airport actually cost the same amount and can be easily obtained by walking a few blocks to Sixth Avenue. We found this out the hard way.

The less said about the flight in the better. Delta Airlines was going through a takeover bid and was making sure that their clients knew all about it. I will take the train to Manhattan in future, at all times. Even if it is slow, it eventually gets there, and the scenery is gorgeous.

anyway, we eventually got to Manhattan in spite of everything Delta could do, and just in time for the show.

The program opened with the 2003 Oscar-winning PERPETUAL MOTION by Kim Miner--a freshman film! and proceed through one-quarter, two-quarter, and senior projects. Two graduate films were also included. The oldest film was from 2003; the most recent from early 2007. I arranged the titles so that 'drama' alternated with comedy. The show ran for approximately one hour.
One story reel for a senior project (Tristyn Pease's INVADERS FROM INNER SPACE) was included so that the audience could see how the films were produced. This particular reel reads extremely well even in storyboard and features amusing character design and voicework.

I hired grad student Jared Su to assemble the materials into an easily navigable disc, and designed and printed a program for the event.

My publicity poster was exhibited on the Internet and forwarded to the National Cartoonists Society, ASIFA East, and several New York based cartoonists and animators including filmmaker John Canemaker and Arnold Roth of the New York chapter of NCS.
Mr. Murray advertised the event in the local free weeklies and also on the museum's MySpace page.

Turnout was excellent. Arnold and Caroline Roth brought cartoonist Robert Grossman as their guest; John Canemaker made an appearance (but could not stay for the show; I gave him a copy of the reel to view at his leisure.) There were perhaps forty people in the audience, the maximum amount that the museum could accomodate. One film reviewer from VARIETY was present.

I introduced each film with a short preface. Rebecca Haushalter spoke about her project at the end of the Two Quarter section of the program. She brought some of the original caricature drawings for IT OCCURRED ONE EVENING, her two quarter film featuring Katherine Hepburn, Clark Gable, and Danny Kaye in CGI.
The audience was particularly interested in Rebecca's current caricatures of Judy Garland and Fred Astaire. This film is hilarious and features me as the voice of a ghost who makes really, really bad puns about automobile accidents. This was curiously appropriate.

2006 Graduate Jedidiah Mitchell was working at a studio near the museum. I contacted him just before we arrived in New York and asked him to attend as a special guest speaker. Jed was happy to help and ended the program splendidly with an exhibition of DANCE OF THE SEASONS, the hand-drawn 24-hour project he completed with co-director Joseph Daniels in 2006.

Feedback was extremely positive and there was a long question and answer session afterward.
The trip back was not quite as eventful though the plane was still late.

Sadly we did not get to see much of New York due to Delta's wretched service, but we did manage to see Grand Central, the Chrysler Building Lobby, and the Graybar building (the one with the stainless steel rats in front.) Rebecca had only been to New York once before in her life and had never seen these beautiful landmarks.

Anyway I was back teaching my heaviest class, History, that same afternoon and managed not t make too many mistakes due to tiredness.

Unfortunately the pictures taken of the event were very poor so there are none available here.

Do I Miss New York? Constantly. But the city has changed. I was surprised to get a copy of NEW YORK magazine and find that every article therein was a catalog of neuroses. The city did not used to be so full of insecure whingers. Maybe it's just that particular issue.