Friday, April 26, 2013

Walter (Woody Woodpecker) Lantz

Walter Lance with his animated alter-ego Woody

April 27, is the birthday of another famous animation giant by the name of Walt. If you can recollect the laughing bird call of his most most famous cartoon creation Woody Woodpecker you would probably also recognize his poppa- Walter Benjamin Lantz. He was born of Italian immigrants who like many at the time arrived in New York to start a new life in America. 

A couple of Universal "birdbrains"
Although by the 1920s he had already worked for various film chieftains  such as George Bray, Frank Capra and Mack Sennett, his big break came in 1928. It was then that he was hired by Charles MIntz as the director of "Oswald the Lucky Rabbit", the property that Mintz had been able to swindle away from the original creator, a young genius named Walt Disney. Eventually Oswald, seemed to wane in popularity and according to legend, Walt Lance and his wife Grace had been pestered during their honeymoon by a woodpecker who constantly pecked on their roof and the tree outside their window. As Lillian offered Walt Disney encouragement during the birth of Mickey, Grace did likewise for her husband regarding the bird and the result was a brash new animated personality named "Woody Woodpecker"

Walt Lance went on to create many more characters to keep Woody company and enjoyed a long relationship with Universal Studios only interrupted with a management change in the late 40s eventually reconciling in 1951 although with the phrase, "Faster Cheaper" in force by the new Universal Studios bosses. Walt and his wife Grace spent retirement painting and visiting children's hospitals where he would draw Woody while Grace did her famous Woody laugh to cheer the kids. Before he passed away in 1994 at the age of 94, he established a scholarship for animators at California Institute of the Arts while we celebrate the memories of a lifetime of animated creations.  BURBANK BUGLE-MP

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Then and Now

Things have certainly changed at Disneyland since the days of the old orange groves.

Monday, April 8, 2013

"... now it's time to say goodbye...Annette"

Annette Joanne Funicello passed away today, April 8, 2013 at the age of 70 due to complications from Multiple Sclerosis. Although she began her career at early age of 12, it was Walt Disney's "Mickey Mouse Club" that catapulted her to prominence. Walt had discovered her while attending a performance of "Swan Lake" at the Starlight Bowl in Burbank, California. She was known as a "triple threat" while appearing on the original  (and best) version of the Mickey Mouse Club in the 50s. She could dance, sing, and act. The latter was showcased in part with her later feature length films including 60's classics like "Beach Party" and "Beach Blanket Bingo" with long time friend and co-star Frankie Avalon.

I met Annette a couple of times in the late 1970s through her brother Mike who worked at the Disney Studios Library that I used to haunt on a weekly basis. She was in doing a taping for the 1970's version of the Mickey Mouse Club and then again when she did a spot for the reunion that was aired on "Disney's Wonderful World" around 1980. She was very busy and on her way to the taping but stopped to chat with me outside the soundstage. I'll never forget that. In 2011 her Encino, California home was engulfed in fire from which she managed to escape without any serious injury however many priceless mementoes were lost. To add to the pain, some of her neighbors sued Funicello claiming the fire had caused some damage to their nearby homes as well.
Annette announced in 1992 that she was indeed suffering from Multiple Sclerosis. She had kept her condition private known only to close friends and family. She had to curtail dancing as the condition worsened but when she lost the ability to walk she felt it necessary to go public about the disease. Her efforts resulted in the Annette Funicello Fund for Neurological Disorders at the California Community Foundation. For me, Annette will always best be remembered for her wonderful role as the "queen" of the Mickey Mouse Club and her sweet and kind way with everyone she came across. As the old Mickey Mouse Club show used to share in song, now it is indeed, " ... time to say goodbye..." and thank you for the wonderful memories Annette.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Roger Ebert

Today April 4, 2013, we lost one of my favorite film critics, Roger Ebert to a long and public battle with cancer. Although during the last few years he had lost his ability to eat, drink and even speak, he continued his popular reviews through his writing. In his words, "When I am writing, my problems become invisible and I am the same person I always was." I did not always agree with his point of view or specific remarks towards certain films but always found his judgment stimulating and thoughtful. The picture I am including for this post is not from the recent ones some will display after his surgeries but an earlier one and a personal favorite of mine that seems to capture what I remember best in Roger.

He was one of the best known film reviewers of his generation and to many of us the most trusted and grounded in his thinking. His approach was witty, sometimes very sarcastic but always an interesting and honest point of view. To borrow his famous phrase, I would give his contribution to the world of motion pictures "Two thumbs up!"


"Meet the Flintstones!"

I was asked recently if I have ever done work at studios besides the Walt Disney Studios and the answer is YES! Among the other companies I've been fortunate to have worked for are Hanna-Barbera, MGM, Warner Brothers, Don Bluth, and SONY. I was employed at Hanna-Babera as a summer job along with my CalArts classmate Tim Burton and future wife Patricia Paulick and was very lucky to get to know both Bill and Joe personally and work with them on a couple of projects I'll post about in the future.. 

Disney Legend Ken O'Connor used to advise me of the need to be a bit of a chameleon to survive in this business. That included being able to work in different mediums, styles, techniques and genre. I'm including a publicity piece I did for Hanna-Barbera of one of my favorite shows ..."The Flintstones!"

If you weren't around back in 1960 when "The Flinstones" first aired, you can't really grasp the excitement kids as well as their parents felt as they laughed together watching the animated antics of the "modern stone age family." It was loosely based on the popular "Honeymooners" with Jackie Gleason but was over flowing with witty and creative visual puns, great voices and entertaining stories that made it the unique series that it was remembered for. I sent this piece to a tribute show for William Hanna and Joe Barbera held in Sherman Oaks. 

This is definitely not a digital paint job and printed by a computer as is becoming more common place today but rather it's the "old school"  gouache on  15" x 19" board which was the preferred method and material just about everybody used in the 1950s and 60s and a few of us still use it today. I only employed a dab of black and white on the characters, none on the BG and kept line work to such a minimum it's almost non-existent and let the colored shapes alone express the image. I included my pencil sketch so you can see the subtle changes I made when going for color.

And... if you like the painting, it can be yours! It's available for purchase at the Van Eaton Galleries starting on Saturday April 6, along with many other beautiful creations by talented friends of mine such as Willie Ito, Harry Sabin, Dan Haskett and many others.

Monday, April 1, 2013

New Star Wars TV Series "Star Destroyer"

Left to Rght:  Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Anthony Daniels, Carrie Fisher.

BURBANK, CA, April 1Making the jump to hyper space-sitcom, the Walt Disney Company announced today April 1, that they have decided to forego all previous plans for any additional Star Wars feature films and instead create a weekly TV series of the George Lucas classic storyline which will be produced by J.J. Abrams. 

As if that Deathstar bombshell isn't enough,what has Hollywood abuzz is that the original cast has agreed to reprise their roles for the new TV series including Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill and Abe Vigoda returning as the Emperor.

Other characters include "Twilight" star Kristin Stewart as a robotic girlfriend for C3PO. To get ready for the role Kristin will reportedly "just be herself." Also In a homage to Snow White there will be 7 Ewoks that guard the princess all played by Jon Stewart (no relation). Old familiar faces include Jabba the Hut who has been enjoying his interstellar twinkies during the lengthy down time and is now referred to as Jabba the Apartment Complex. Rounding out the cast is Larry the Cable Guy who will play a Redneck Bounty Hunter named Bubba Fett.

When asked about the Porposed Star Trek TV series going up against the new Star War show he is also developing Abrams seemed confused sputtering, "You mean those are two different properties?" George Lucas was also asked his opinion on the new series to which he chuckled, "...Three Billion and one, Three billion and two, Three billion and three..."   Burbank Bugel- M Peraza