Archive for the ‘Disney’ Category

2014 Monster Month: Day 22 – Christmas Tim

Thursday, October 30th, 2014

While he is small, this is NOT Tiny Tim. This particular Tim was a piece I created a few years back when I was trying to get a short cartoon off the ground with my friend Brian Joseph Ochab. Narrated by Sir Christopher Lee, it was going to be a magnificent stop-motion tribute parody of Tim Burton’s early short film for Disney called “Vincent”. Through various efforts to get it off the ground, our “Tim” did not happen, but some fun artwork was left behind. This is a piece I never shared here before.

If you would like to see more of my development art for our short and even a video of when the project was talked about on TV, CLICK HERE!

evil Christmas tree
You be the one to water that tree. Not me.

 

Return tomorrow for our grand finale piece in this year’s MONSTER MONTH!

Drawing Lines In the Sand

Wednesday, September 25th, 2013

When the heavy heat visits us every summer, I light out for the beach to visit with family. Since the age of ten, I look forward to the start of every trip while each trip’s ending brings regret. This year my sister and brother-in-law dared to bring their two little sons to experience Uncle Chad. While I shall spare the details of teaching bad habits, the tale of indulging the curiosity of a two-year-old is in order.

Little Hudson is at that age where everything is a new discovery. Building things out of the ground we walked on was a novelty to him. We had some technicolor plastic molds that allowed us to create various sea creatures in the sand, all of which Hudson promptly destroyed like a mighty Godzilla rampaging Tokyo.

Hudson does have an affinity for Disney characters (he IS my nephew after all), so I set out to blow his mind. We started out piling up some sand together, and fetching water as needed. Two-year-olds being what they are, he soon lost interest in these technical aspects of beach building, and wandered off somewhere. I don’t know where. I was busy carving him a mouse.

 

Mickey Mouse sand sculpture

Oh Boy! Sand can do the neatest things!

 

When Hudson regained interest in what Uncle Chad was doing, he took one look at it and said, “Wreck it now?” His momma said no, and we posed for a picture. You can see his enthusiasm has no boundaries.

 

Mickey Mouse head

Hudson with Uncle Chad next to the giant dismembered Mickey Mouse head in the sand. Good times.

 

A few days later my sister’s family departed for their home, but Mickey remained intact. Hudson never did wreck it, but neither did anyone else. A week after his rise from the shadows of the sand, Mickey lived on. Sure, he was a little weathered as any 85-year-old mouse would be, and had become home to several sand crabs who must have been Disney fans. I like to think that after I made my way back to California, Mickey continued keeping his watch over our little spot on the beach waiting to enthrall the next two-year-old to come along….

 

Disney Sand Sculpture

Here he is a week after being built. Nothing was going to end his existence except a "cease and desist" from Disney lawyers.

 

….who promptly wrecked it.

Disney Legends Awards 2013

Wednesday, August 21st, 2013

Two weeks ago I had the privilege to attend the Walt Disney Company’s Legends award ceremony held in Anaheim, CA. First awarded in the late 1980s, the award is given to those folks, whether creative or otherwise, who have meant much to the success of the company over the years. The award was bestowed annually for many years on the Disney studio lot in Burbank, CA which I attended many times while working there. Now they seem to be awarded every other year at the D23 Expo, Disney’s own fan convention, where thousands of fans may also attend.

I had such a great time this year seeing folks like animator Glen Keane, actors Billy Crystal & John Goodman, and Imagineer Tony Baxter accept their special trophy. Others were awarded posthumously to TV personality Dick Clark, Apple & Pixar’s Steve Jobs, actor Ed Wynn, and Imagineer Collin Campbell whose awards were accepted by family members and friends.

I’m sure if you searched the web, you will find official photos and videos of the event and more wordy descriptions of the ceremony. What those accounts may not say is that a respectable showing of past Legends were in attendance as well. I was surrounded by folks like Paige O’Hara (voice of Belle), Floyd Norman (animation), Burny Mattinson (animation), Marty Sklar (Imagineering), Mary Costa (voice of Sleeping Beauty), Anika Noni Rose (voice of Princess Tiana), David Stollery (Marty of “Spin & Marty”), Kathryn Beaumont (voice of Alice and Wendy), Alice Davis (designer of costumes for Small World and Pirates of the Caribbean rides), Bob Gurr (Imagineer who famously designed the monorail), Bill Farmer (voice of Goofy), and many others.

(If you wish to see a photo, my friend Rick Law posted one that I’m in on Facebook. I reposted it to my FB page and you can CLICK HERE to go there now.)

It was such a special time that I felt inspired the next day to do a little watercolor sketch of Mickey holding a Disney Legend award.

 

Mickey Mouse holding a trophy of his dismembered hand known as the Disney Legends award.

 

These awards truly are special. Many people work for many years at a desk isolated from the world doing what they love to do. The fact that their efforts can go on to bring joy and inspiration to millions of people they will never meet is a reward in its own way, but a pat on the back from the CEO in front of an audience is also swell. In a day where there is much cynicism and insincerity in corporate America, it is nice to see that the Walt Disney Company continues this tradition of honoring people who are a big part of the in-front-of and behind-the-scenes of the memories many of you have today.

Meeska Mooska Mickey Mouse!

Thursday, June 27th, 2013

Back in 2005 I was thrilled to be asked to come on board a new show for Disney called Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. I had doodled and painted the mouse just for fun for many years, even subtly sneaking him into the background of boring still life paintings that were required in college. To finally have an opportunity to work on the mouse and his pals every day as a part of my career was a privilege indeed. I put my all into the first two of Mickey‘s five seasons before moving on to other projects.

 

Mickey Mouse Clubhouse Cake

When I first walked into the party, I thought this was one of the Clubhouse toys, but it was actually a CAKE!

 

Well, now it’s time to say goodbye to all our company. While the last of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse‘s new episodes are being finished up, production on Clubhouse is ending. Last Wednesday the Disney Channel threw a nice party for those of us that were a part of re-introducing Mickey to a new generation.

However, Mickey is NOT going away! Mickey Mouse Clubhouse will continue to air for some time, as well as new Mickey Mouse short cartoons that are being made in a retro style for the Disney Channel, and I hear rumblings that Disney Feature Animation may be making a big screen Mickey short, too.

For now though, I thought I’d share some pictures with you of the people who were responsible for bringing all that joy to your kids. Hot dog, hot dog, hot diggity dog!


Nancy Kanter

Disney Channel executive Nancy Kanter thanking the troops for a job well done in bringing Mickey back into the consciousness as an entertainer and paving the way for pre-school shows at Disney.

Kelly Ward and Bradley Bowlen

Here I am with Kelly Ward (Putzie from "Grease" who directed the voices for our show and wrote a few episodes) and the great line producer Bradley Bowlen.

Even Mickey and Minnie dropped by for the festivities. (Minnie gave me a smooch when Mickey wasn't looking. I have that affect on large rodents.)

flipbook fun

Series music composer Mike Himelstein and director Sherie Pollack have a discussion in the foreground while Disney Channel's Emily Hart, story editor and producer Mark Seidenberg and executive producer Rob LaDuca get ready to be filmed for a little flipbook.

 

There were two really neat gifts that they gave us at the party, the first were those baseball caps. Stitched onto the back of them in small lettering was “Meeska, Mooska, Mickey Mouse!” which is always said on the show to make the Clubhouse appear. The second cool thing was the custom flipbooks! You stood in front of the white screen seen in the picture above, and they film you for seven seconds. They then instantly printed out little flipbooks of you with a special Mickey Mouse Clubhouse cover on them. It was a really great idea for an animation party!

 

Mickey Mouse Clubhouse fun

Writer Tom Hart, story editor and producer Mark Seidenberg, composer Mike Himelstein, and writer Brian Swenlin all looking at Mark's newly minted personal flip book.

Sy Thomas

Me with Sy Thomas who was really the art director of the series, and one swell guy. Our cubicles were next to each other when I was on the show.

 

Did I mention it was a bowling party? The Disney Channel rented out an old 8-lane alley in Montrose, CA naturally called Montrose Bowl. The alley looks like it is still in the 1950s, and is a GREAT place for parties of a moderate size! This is where we had our first crew wrap party at the end of season 1!

 

Bradley Bowlen

Bradley Bowlen bowlin'.

Bill Farmer

Bill Farmer, the voice of Pluto and Goofy, as he gets ready to throw down during a game with me. Bill must have had five or six strikes during our game.

David Beall

The very talented layout artist (designer of backgrounds) and amazing photographer David Beall who now works on "Family Guy".

Carmen Cano

The lovely Carmen Cano, one of the coordinators on "Mickey Mouse Clubhouse."

Jedi artist

Here with editor Reid Kramer, and executive producer Rob LaDuca who I just found out was an effects artist on "Return of the Jedi" when I recently revisited the film!

Bill Farmer

Parting shot with the affable and extremely talented voice artist Bill Farmer.

Mickey Mouse Clubhouse song

"It's the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse! Come inside, it's fun inside!" Let me just say that the song don't lie.

 

So there you have it, a few shots of some of the crew that brought Mickey Mouse Clubhouse to your television sets. It was a joy to work on, and I hope I have another chance to work with not only members of this crew again, but also with the Mouse himself.

 

M-I-C-K-E-Y

See ya real soon!

The Boys

Wednesday, May 8th, 2013

Even though it has been a few years since I worked on a Mickey Mouse project for Disney, I still get a kick out of drawing the gang now and then for friends. This little watercolor sketch was something I did a little bit ago for the first born son of a friend whose friendship began sixteen years ago when we worked side-by-side at Disney Feature Animation.

Thought you all might enjoy seeing it, too.

 

Disney characters

How a mouse, a dog and a duck ever became best friends is beyond me.

My Pal Rusty Mills

Wednesday, December 19th, 2012

The cartooning business is an interesting profession. Cartooning is a broad term that covers comic books, comic strips, editorial cartoons, gag cartoons, humorous illustration, and animation. Many cartoonists work their magic in a solitary fashion from home studios, and don’t often find their way out into the daylight. When they do squint their way out of their caves and are able to mingle with like-minded friends, it is usually a pretty good time. It was during a regular gathering of cartoonist friends where I first met my pal Rusty Mills.

 

Pinky & the Brain

Rusty Mills at his drawing board using Toon Boom.

 

For awhile when I was unemployed (or as we prefer to call it – “freelancing“) from the animation business, I was getting together every Friday at a restaurant in Burbank with cartoonist friends that fell into one or several of the aforementioned cartooning categories. We would talk shop or reminisce about whatever got our creative juices flowing from the world of pop culture. As one of the youngest in the group, I loved sitting there hearing the rapid-fire conversations from the more experienced members of days working with Walt Disney or Bill Hanna & Joe Barbera. There were thoughts and ponderings about why The Flintstones were so great, lamentations over the lack of singing cowboy films today, lauding the merits of great comics, and which C level movie was actually quite delightful and terribly underrated.

 

Rusty was one of the regulars at those lunches, and as one of the guys, it was a pleasure to get to know him. He was always ready to laugh, and would always laugh pretty heartily. He was only older than me by ten years, but I was impressed to learn he had worked on several very cool projects like An American Tail, Tiny Toons, Animaniacs, and Pinky & the Brain.

 

In 2005, my attendance at these two, sometimes three hour lunches had to cease. I had gotten hired on a new show at Disney Television Animation called Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. Soon to follow from our Friday lunch bunch were Rusty, Bob Foster, and in season two, Dave Bennett.

 

During those years at Disney TV is when I became better acquainted with Rusty working side-by-side. Rusty, Foster and I would have lunch together every day. It was then that I learned of Rusty’s modesty. You see, we had been friends for a few years, and while I knew of some of his past projects, he had withheld his importance to some of them. He didn’t just work on Animaniacs and Pinky & the Brain – he was a director and producer of those programs including directing the very first Pinky & the Brain cartoon “Win Big”. To further prod him, one would learn that sitting at home were five shiny Emmy Awards and one Peabody earned for that work!

 

Mickey meets the Brain

Rusty created this great drawing on the first page of a new sketchbook I started when we worked together on "Mickey Mouse Clubhouse" in 2005.

 

That humble spirit is also what drove him to share his wealth of experience with young animation hopefuls by teaching them drawing, how to use computer software (he was a big advocate of Toon Boom), and serving as mentor to many eager minds. To serve all these students, Rusty did so by sacrificially driving 60 miles each way from his home out in the boondocks to where the classes were held.

 

A little over a year ago, Rusty told me that he had been diagnosed with colon cancer. He was his usual upbeat self knowing full well that he would tackle this problem and win. The initial jolt of treatment was tough, but Rusty plowed through with a big smile and positive attitude. We had long left Disney and were on to other projects. Rusty had taken a long distance job with a studio in Virginia that allowed him to work from home in California. He continued teaching classes, and going to chemo therapy. He would post positive updates on Facebook about his health, never complaining.

 

A few short weeks ago I heard that Rusty was being put into hospice care. Hospice. That dreaded word. I actually hadn’t talked with Rusty in awhile. Apparently his condition had not been great for the past three months, but his positive attitude expressed online never gave friends cause to worry. Very quickly, we all worried.

 

Two weeks ago on December 7, my pal Russell Paris Mills quietly slipped away leaving his precious wife Andrea and fifteen year old son Evan who we first met as a real youngster at those Friday lunches many years ago. Rusty’s legacy of tremendous work, a giving spirit, and memories of friendship will live on. This man was much loved by the many animators, directors, producers – all cartoonists – who attended his funeral last week. Even more came to reminisce about our friend and colleague at a second memorial service held for him at the Animation Guild in Burbank this past Sunday on what was Rusty’s 50th birthday.

 

It was proof that while many cartoonists may work alone, the great Rusty Mills was not a solitary man.

 

 

If you would like to see more of Rusty’s work, please CLICK HERE to visit his personal website.

A special fundraiser was started to help Andrea and son Evan. Rusty was their provider. If you knew Rusty, or if you were just a fan of his work without realizing he was the guy, please consider donating a little something to help. You can access the fundraiser by CLICKING HERE.

 

 

Life is short, and we have no idea what lies ahead on the journey. The following words from the Bible have meant much to me on my journey:

Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths.

 

…From the Flat File: 2000 – John Wayne

Thursday, August 16th, 2012

Recently I was going through some old digital files of mine and came across an ad I created at Disney Feature Animation for an employee screening of the classic John Wayne film The Searchers. I always really liked this caricature of Wayne and thought it deserved to get dusted off and shared here on the blog.

 

John Wayne

Brush and ink art of the Duke.

 

John was drawn entirely with brush and ink. You can see that I kept the line work thick and rugged which suited the subject matter well. Not only did John Wayne have a thick and rugged face, but I was going to be taking this art into Photoshop to try to make it look like it was cut into a piece of wood. The thickness was going to be an asset in that process.

 

The Searchers art

Here's a close-up of the line drawing after being given the woodcut treatment in Photoshop.

 

Those years I spent at Disney Feature Animation were with the Artist Development department. It was our job to make sure the staff as a whole at the studio were up on the latest computer programs, inspire them with special guest speakers and screenings, and to keep the artists sharp by providing drawing classes whether that be life drawing or special classes with animals.

For a time we were regularly screening classic films, and for each screening I created the flyers that were posted around the building. This one for The Searchers was my favorite. I even made that “cowhide” from a wrinkled up piece of paper rubbed in coffee and pencil shavings. Notice the date on the flyer? I thought it would be fun to post it here twelve years to the day of the screening at Disney.

 

The Searchers Disney flyer

Here is the whole flyer never before seen outside the walls of Disney until now.

 

The drawing of John Wayne had one more day in the sun (not counting sharing it with you here today). Disney would allow folks who worked at Feature Animation to have art shows of their personal work. The Animation Research Library folks (you should visit their Facebook page) would help us post our art in a hallway in the Southside building where it would hang for a month, then move it to another building across town that we also used (called “Northside”) where it would hang for another month. There would be a nice reception on opening night where colleagues and friends from outside could come see the work. I put John Wayne in a frame and included him in the show.

 

William Sanderson

William Sanderson and Chad Frye in the halls of Disney Feature Animation's "hat" building in Burbank, CA.

 

Thought it might be fun to show you the above photo of the Duke flanked on either side by yours truly and actor William Sanderson who came to see my work that night with his lovely wife Sharon. While he has been in many television shows and movies, Bill is often remembered for being on Newhart where he would always enter a scene by saying, “Hi, my name is Larry. This is my brother Darryl. This is my other brother Darryl.” I keep that photo taped up next to my drafting table where it reminds me of some good times twelve years ago.

Thanks for letting me share the art, memories and good times with YOU today!

 

 

The Great Stan Freberg

Friday, August 3rd, 2012

I wanted to say a few words about the great Stan Freberg today. Do you know who he is? He has been a gold record selling comedian, cartoon voice actor, movie and television actor, radio show host, a puppeteer, an author and a pioneer of using humor in advertising. He even came up with the name “Grammy” for the recording industry’s highest award. And if you are in the Los Angeles area this weekend (August 4-5, 2012), you have a chance to shake his hand and get an autograph. (DETAILS HERE!)

 

Stan Freberg

Stan Freberg as he looked in the 1950s during his Capitol Records comedy days.

 

Stan Freberg got his start in the entertainment business as a teenager. He literally got off the bus in Hollywood and immediately landed a job doing voices for the classic Warner Bros. cartoons. That’s right, despite all the title cards saying Mel Blanc did all the voices, Stan was right there doing many voices as well along with folks like June Foray, Arthur Q. Bryan and others.

Perhaps Stan’s most iconic Warner Bros. character was Pete Puma, the mountain lion who Bugs Bunny tricked into getting many lumps pounded into his head in several cartoons. Stan also did the hilarious Junyer Bear who was far too big for his diaper. He was also one half (the other half being Mel Blanc) of the mice Hubie & Bertie and half of the Goofy Gophers. The list of other characters is quite long including being the voice of a cat in the first Speedy Gonzales cartoon.

 

Warner Bros. Pete Puma

Pete Puma after asking Bugs Bunny for "A lotta lumps".

 

Warner Bros.' Junyer Bear

Junyer Bear who always loves his paw.

 

The one time Stan got screen credit was when he was the ONLY voice in an entire Warner Bros. cartoon. Friz Freleng directed Stan in The Three Little Bops that was a zoot suited version of the story of the Three Little Pigs. Stan sang the song and voiced every character.

 

Three Little Bops

The Three Little Bops

 

 

Stan did cartoon vocal work for other studios, too. Disney was one. He sang a song about the Jabberwocky for Alice In Wonderland that Walt ultimately cut from the movie, but he also memorably did the voice of the beaver in Lady and the Tramp. As you recall, the beaver helps get the muzzle off of Lady when she and Tramp come to see him at the zoo. Walt Disney himself directed Stan in that performance.

 

Lady and the Tramp art

This beautiful pencil drawing of Stan Freberg's character of the beaver from Disney's "Lady and the Tramp" is on an 8x10 that Stan has available at public appearances.

 

Out of a pure indulgence of mine, I also want to mention Stan’s role as the Yawning Man in the 1958 movie Tom Thumb. Tom Thumb was a wonderful fantasy movie directed by the great George Pal who loved incorporating stop-motion animation into his movies. He did it the hard way, too. The characters faces would all be sculpted in wood. George had Stan play a small but memorable role of a toy that helps put Tom Thumb (played by Russ Tamblyn from West Side Story) to sleep. Here’s the scene for you to see. I dare you to not yawn during this wonderful vocal performance by Freberg:

 

 

I first learned of Stan’s name when I was in high school. I was working at a summer camp on an island in the Delaware River sharing a cabin with several other staff guys. My friend Kevin Wertz had a copy of Freberg’s The United States of America album on a cassette tape that we listened to over and over after our long day’s work. That just might be the funniest album by any comedian I have ever heard, and am thrilled to have my own signed copy on LP framed on the wall in my studio. Later I discovered that Stan had made MANY records, most of which were song parodies of the day. His cover of Harry Bellefonte’s Banana Boat Song put me in stitches. It is no surprise that “Weird” Al Yankovic counts Stan as one of his inspirations.

 

Stan Freberg USA

This is perhaps the best of Stan's hilarious records with Capitol Records.

 

Another guy inspired by Stan was the late Jim Henson. Stan, along with Daws Butler, were the guys who brought Bob Clampett’s creations of Beany & Cecil to life as a live television puppet show called Time For Beany. Stan was the original Cecil the Seasick Sea Serpent as well as Dishonest John. Stan once told me how he showed a young Jim Henson how to make Kermit the Frog seem as though he was smiling.

 

Stan Freberg

Stan Freberg with puppets of Dishonest John and Cecil from "Time For Beany."

 

Freberg’s later career as an advertising man broke new ground for that industry. He broke away from the fake testimonial ads common in the day, and from the ads that made all kinds of promises to make ads that made people laugh. He was wildly successful and we have had funny ads ever since. One of the big accounts Stan had was doing all the TV and radio ads for the movie It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World in which he also had a silent cameo (he’s the sheriff’s deputy sitting in the background of Andy Divine’s scenes), but he also did funny ads for Sunsweet Prunes, Geno’s Pizza and many others.

As you can tell, I love the guy. I could go on and on about his career, but you would be better served if you could find a copy of his out-of-print autobiography titled It Only Hurts When I Laugh so that you can read his funny tales about all of the above and more in his own words. If you come see Stan this weekend at The Hollywood Show in Burbank, you might be lucky enough to score one of the few copies he has left.

That’s right, so if you would like to come see Stan, shake his hand, and get an autograph he is appearing at the Burbank Marriott by the airport along with many other Hollywood celebrities. To see more details about The Hollywood Show and who will be there, CLICK HERE! Stan will have photos of Pete Puma, the beaver and other shots of himself for sale. He has a couple of books, and some record albums and CDs from his own collection that he will be selling, along with a few copies of Warner Bros. Looney Tunes Golden Collection Volume 2 that has cartoons of Junyer Bear, Pete Puma and The Three Little Bops on it (Stan even provides voice commentary on that set)!

Oh, and if you drop by, be sure to wish Stan a Happy Birthday! He will be 86 years old on August 7!

 

Frank Sinatra

This is a great casual shot of Capitol Records stars all together. You might recognize Frank Sinatra, Danny Kaye, Nat "King" Cole, Dean Martin and Stan Freberg.