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Monday, October 27, 2008

Corny Cole Fundraiser

Tina Price of the Creative Talent Network informed me in an email that the fund drive for Cornelius 'Corny' Cole has raised over ten thousand dollars. Update: the total from the CTN was $12,500. Way to go!

It's a small token of our appreciation.

I read a snide comment on another blog that Corny 'didn't deserve any more consideration than anyone else who lost houses in that fire.'

Well, he's an animator--and animators take care of their own. It's no surprise that they're the only cartoonists with a union. We don't work alone, we network and we have a strong sense of community. That community is worldwide, not just regional. It also extends through time and space; animators send messages to the future in the films that sometimes survive the makers. More about that later.

Another commenter on that same blog mentioned that Corny had thousands of 'brothers and sisters' in animation. Couldn't have said it better myself.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

New Books and News

We have come to the end of reading week, an interesting Sheridan custom of allowing students a break from classes at mid-semester. So Week Eight of classes is actually in Week Nine (at least that is the way I reckon things to keep my class plans straight.) Faculty continue to work during the break of course; I spent the week working on new presentations and attended two faculty meetings. I do lectures in three different classes in the coming weeks, and have been determining what to do and where.
The power boats are now out of the harbour, sitting on the bank for all the world like a child's toys newly removed from the bath. A huge crane with bands like the ones they use to lift horses, got the boats there. I hope to get a picture.
The sailboats are often winterized in Bronte harbour, but some are still here in the water. It remains to be seen how many will winter in the club's parking lot. I saw the huge crane nearby so the decision must be taken soon.
I've gotten a fitness assessment at the club and will be exercising there this winter to try to keep some sort of activity going when there is no chance of riding a bike or walking around--the bad weather is just around the corner. There was snow a bit to the north of us and I even saw some flurries on campus.
Winter preps are nearly done; I've got the right coat, hat and hopefully boots for the year and all the summer clothing has been mothballed, and winter clothes taken out.
Two interesting books have arrived: THE ALCHEMY OF ANIMATION: Making an Animated Film in the Modern Age by Don Hahn and DIRECTING THE STORY by Francis Glebas.
Don Hahn's book is a very reasonably priced, easy-to-read guide to how feature animation is produced. It's beautifully illustrated too. Hahn explains the differences between the production of stopmotion, hand drawn, and CGI feature films with succinct and well written text and illustrates it with preproduction artwork that in many cases has not been published before. The layout is generally good (some pictures might have been larger but all are clear and printing quality is high.) This book is highly recommended for students considering animation studies who might want to know more about the different techniques.
Here's a heads-up: I helped get Francis Glebas' DIRECTING THE STORY published and worked as a copy editor on the text. So I'm pleased to see such a handsome book resulting; but I haven't had time to read the finished version as of this writing.But, as Boss Tweed said, I can look at the pictures.
And guess what? They are all rough boards! Yes, that's the way story artists do it--and DIRECTING THE STORY will be an eye opener to people who try to do presentation boards on the first pass. Glebas' illustrations are rough, but they tell the story--and since boards are reworked, and reworked, and changed again and makes sense to keep it rough until the story is straight.
Francis has mucho story experience on a raft of Disney features and has directed one feature for Disney and a sequence from another, so he knows what he is talking about. This book is best suited for a more advanced student (and it probably helps to read my book first, since the two volumes complement each other. End of commercial plug.)
For it makes no difference if you work in CGI, stop mo, or hand drawn animation...the storyboard is always the starting point. If you do not have the story set when you start animation production, the picture can flounder, run over budget, and join all the animated feature shipwrecks that have struck the reefs of poor planning.
Check out the chart on Page 38 of THE ALCHEMY OF ANIMATION to see how long storyboard changes go on (hint: they run from the near-beginning to the near-end of the picture, longer than any other department's input)
Also received: Volume 6 of the Looney Tunes GOLDEN COLLECTION. This one is more for collectors than the casual animation fan (who else but an animation collector would know, or care, about BOSKO and FOXY, the original Warner Brothers animated 'stars'?)
The Warner shorts were the birth of the music video, since they were created solely to plug music that played in the feature films that these shorts originally preceded. SHUFFLE OFF TO BUFFALO, SMILE DARN YA SMILE, are the titles of the music and the cartoons themselves; they consist of vignettes, characters singing the lyrics, rather than solid stories.
But collectors will have a field day. Hear the original 'trombone gobble' in YOU DON'T KNOW WHAT YOU'RE DOIN'! And I just hope they put in the 1931 cartoon that features--I kid you not--a chorus line of Donald Ducks rowing boats across a stage! Yep, I got the date right at least, and this cartoon is three years older than THE WISE LITTLE HEN. Now I just have to find out if a fellow named Freddy Spencer worked at Warners in 1931. (Ken O'Connor told me that this was the man who designed the Duck at Disney's.)
Some very rare cartoons are on this disc, including the disturbing FRESH AIREDALE. Listen to Greg Ford's commentary to find out why Chuck Jones made such a bitter cartoon.
But the biggest treat on Volume Six is the Leon Schlesinger Christmas Party, with 'sole survivor' Martha Sigall telling us who those people all are! Meet the Warner Nuts and see how they were just as crazy as their cartoons...the spirit of that long gone studio is beautifully caught in this ridiculous footage, in which management actually gets into the act satirizing themselves!
(I can't imagine that sort of thing happening now, at any studio, anywhere. Tell me if I am wrong.)
RUSSIAN RHAPSODY and HERR MEETS HARE, two wartime cartoons that at one time were relegated to the 'do not show' bin, are also included along with one of my favorites, Bob Clampett's HORTON HATCHES THE EGG and the first Tex Avery Warner cartoon, PAGE MISS GLORY. (the only period cartoon designed in the then-contemporary Art Deco style).
But I will wait in vain for the wonderful Road Runner/Coyote cartoon WILD ABOUT HURRY. It is not included here, and there will be no more compilations. But at least we have the six sets to play with. Thank you, all who made the sets available to all of us who love the Warner cartoons.
I'll have an update on the Corny Cole fundraiser sometime soon...the Creative Talent Network's fundraiser ended on Friday. Thank you to all who helped spread the news and to those who contributed to the fund. May we all be there for each other in times of trouble.

It's raining here today so the planned trip to Niagara on the Lake will keep til next week.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Corny Cole design

BABETTE from RAGGEDY ANN, design by Cornelius (Corny) Cole

A Tragedy that You Can Help Remedy

I have just received the shocking news that animator Corny Cole, a fifty-year veteran of the Disney, Warner, and Dick Williams studios who currently teaches at Cal Arts, lost his home and everything in it in the Marek brush fires currently burning north of Los Angeles.
Corny's entire life work was burned beyond recognition. He also lost all of his feline and canine friends, who apparently could not be evacuated with him. This, to Corny, was the greatest tragedy.

The CREATIVE TALENT NETWORK is running a fundraiser for Corny. His entire earthly posessions are now contained within his office at Cal Arts. Please give what you can, here:
Thank you for helping a brother animator in his hour of need. My sympathies go out to Corny for the loss of his home, possessions, and friends.

Saturday, October 11, 2008


I really love this song. Old Man Pie is a group from England that writes songs of social significance and satire.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

An Outing on the Lake

The weather was cold and overcast without a hint of wind on Saturday, but THE DUCHESS, captained by Jock Macrae and his son, departed at 2 PM as scheduled, for a sail on Lake Ontario. And they took me along.
The sail had been arranged by the Oakville Club's dockmaster, who is very kind.
(Yes, I'm going to join the club within a week or so. It's worth it.)
Once we motored out a bit further from the shore the wind came up, actually rather briskly. I'd wondered whether the heavy leather jacket and hat I was wearing would be necessary. They were. The chill was palpable, but not intolerable. "This is the last sail of the season," Mr. Macrae said. Winter comes early here and the boats have to go into dry dock very soon. They will spend the winter in the club's storage lot. A wooden boat has to 'breathe' and have air around it when in dry dock, but THE DUCHESS was fiberglass unlike its sister ship the ANITRA, so she'll be bundled up like a silkworm to shield her from the snow and wind.
Once we were on the lake the view of the Oakville waterfront became much clearer. Immense mansions line the shore of the lake. The hoi polloi (that's me) can walk along the lakefront with frequent detours to the street, to avoid the estates. Others have large walls divorcing their property from the public way below, rendering them invisible or (apparently) smaller than their actual size. From the water their true dimensions were obvious. The sheer scale of some of these places boggled the mind. At least one of them had a small outbuilding which Mr. Macrae said was a chapel. (They get tax breaks for having a church on their property. One of the mansions has a statue of Buddha). One monster mansion, built by the CEO of a famous brewing company, in the Dutch style, was nearly the size of Buckingham Palace (I am not exaggerating here.) The minute it was finished, the company terminated the man's contract since they thought the house a bit on the ostentatious side.
Another mansion is so large that a seven year old girl and her servants live in one side of it, and her parents have a separate wing, like royalty. I asked how normal the child could be with this sort of upbringing. No one really knows.
The parents have willed the house to the state in the coming time, to keep their taxes down.
There were a few older, smaller houses there as well, but they will probably be bought up and knocked down (if the Canadian market doesn't follow the American one) for more mansions. One of the mansions that is less than a decade old is going to be razed for a larger one.
The DUCHESS had two red and two green ribbons on opposite sides of her mainsail to indicate starboard and port and to keep her into the wind. You handled the wheel so that all four ribbons lay in a straight line, and that meant you were sailing properly. I'd never seen anything so simple yet practical. The younger Macrae told me that night sailing was much better than in the day. I asked how he saw the ribbons then; it appears that there are lights, and moonlight would also give them some indication of a view.
I took the wheel for a short while but since the wind was shifting rapidly, I thought it was better that the pros handled it. Gusts kept springing up from all quarters and we even saw a probable waterspout off the starboard bow --at a safe distance, thankfully.
A 'turkey race' was in progress on the lake. Numerous sailboats were cruising for the reward of a large Thanksgiving turkey. I don't know who won.
The sail lasted a little over two hours. It was very generous of these kind people to take a total stranger out, and we parted friends.
Afterward, I went to Toronto to the NUIT BLANCHE, but did not get very far. The turnout for this event, where hundreds of artists had projects viewed for free, was immense. Toronto was jammed and every venue had lines going around the block.
I got to one large artists' loft in the Queen West district, but couldn't see any of the shows. (all right, so I don't like crowds.) I bought a handmade hat by a well known hatmaker. It's shearling, very well designed and warm, covers my ears and neck, and looks very feminine. At first I balked at the price but when I consider that one of my colleagues at work is already coughing, and that other folk are suffering from flu (and it's only early October!) I considered this money very well spent.
So now I'm set for the winter with warm coat and hat. I think the boots will last for another year and the gloves and winter clothes are fine.

Friday, October 03, 2008

A Wonderful Trip to the Back Yard

Last week the Greater Toronto Area (which includes Oakville at the extreme west) had an Open Door celebration where various historic buildings allowed people in for free tours.
I'd been busy in the morning and --after nearly deciding not to go--I decided that well, I'd take in a few of the Oakville attractions.
I began at the home of Oakville's first mayor; it's now Canadian Sound Systems. No, they don't work in film. They design home sound systems. And the inside of the house wasn't open at all, negating the promise of the Open Door. O well. I looked at the map and was pleased to see that the next nearest tour location wasn't a house at all. It was a boat called the ANITRA, quite naturally docked in the harbour nearby. So I walked down to it and sat in the back with a group of good natured people, listening to the story of the ship. She was built in the Twenties for the wonderfully named Montye Macrae, who had already built two other ships called ADANAC (Canada spelled backwards.) Someone suggested that he name the new ship ANITRA after the Egyptian dancing girl character in PEER GYNT, since "she had lines like an Egyptian dancer and was very exotic." So he did.
The ship has been in the Macrae family ever since. She has won racing prizes and also was clearly designed as a party boat--a trip below decks showed brilliantly designed spaces (there are eight berths down there, a kitchen, a head, a closet, and an icebox, all neatly framed in teak.)
I walked over to a small dock to see the ANITRA from the water. Some of the ladies who had been on the ANITRA with me were getting into a small launch. "Do you want to go over to the club?" the man at the helm asked, indicating the Oakville Club across the way. I assumed that it was also open for the Open House Day. I said I did not want to be any trouble, but he replied that it would be a very long walk for me up to the bridge and over, so I might just come along with them. So I got into the little motor launch.
The man, whose name was Larry, asked us if we were in a hurry to get over. "Does anyone want to take a trip up the creek?" he asked."There are hawks and herons there in the water."
No one objected, and so up the creek we went.
What a change. My apartment building, which was about 100 feet from the creek, was invisible. A few townhouses associated with the building across the street were barely visible. A whole new world opened up on that creek: reeds, weeping willows, pristine water (they caught a 5 pound pike there the other day, Larry told us) and best of all, wonderful little private patios and ladders from the big houses on the other side of the creek. Yachts were also parked along the eastern side.
The western side did not reveal herons, but the family of hawks was out hunting. "The water is two feet lower than usual," Larry said. "The Quebecers take it."
He took the launch up the creek for what seemed like a mile, then headed back, saying he'd better go since he'd be missed. He is the Dockmaster for the Oakville club.

Well, what can I say about the club itself? We had the tour, and I am determined to join. It won't be immediately since my finances at this stage are not yet recovered from the move, but it will be this year. They have a gym, a restaurant, social events, and best of all a feeling of community. I certainly could use a bit of that right now.

Larry was generous enough to arrange for me to go out on a boat with one of the club members; it turns out that the gentleman is a relative of the man who owns the ANITRA. So tomorrow I am going to go out on Lake Ontario with some very kind people who will--so I'm told--put me to work doing something on the boat.

And there is a Nuit Blanche in Toronto that same evening, with hundreds of artists showing projects for free all over downtown. I also get together with a new friend on Sunday. It should be a fun weekend.

So I'll stop writing now and come back when I have something to say about these events.
Happy weekend, all.