August 12, 2006
August 12th, 2006

History for 8/12/2006
Birthdays: Cecil B. DeMille, The alien Alf- 1757, Cantinflas, Buck Owens, George Hamilton, Edith Hamilton, Diamond Jim Brady, William Goldman, Mtsislav Rostropovitch, Xenia Sharpe (educator who invented the childrens reader Dick and Jane, See Dick Run...etc.) Kathy Lee Bates-the author of the song America the Beautiful, John Cazale- Fredo in the Godfather movie

The Golden 12th. In England this is the traditional beginning of Grouse hunting season.

1851- Mr Issac Singer received a patent on his new sewing machine. Elias Howe, who had invented the sewing machine first, immediately sued him. But Singers improved design was so much superior to Howes that he quickly recouped al the penalties paid and eventually bought out Howe. The Singer Sewing Machine Company is still around today.

1869- San Francisco lunatic Joshua Norton, who called himself Norton Ist, Emperor of the United States, today published an Imperial Edict outlawing the Democratic and Republican Parties. Hmmm… he may be on to something!
courtesy of

1877-THE BIRTH OF RECORDED SOUND. Thomas Edison announced his sound recording invention and demonstrates it by recording "Mary Had a Little Lamb" on a tin cylinder. Edison never quite understood the possibilities of a music industry and was convinced that the recorded sound was going to be a used primarily for people to listen to the voices of deceased family, sort of like a voice from the grave. That idea was so popular that it translated to the Logo of the RCA Company with the familiar image of the dog listening to "His master's voice". The original incarnation of that dog listening to his master's voice supposedly had the whole dog /recorder entourage sitting on the master's coffin. A few years later Emile Berliner from Georgia later invented the flat record disc. Edison thought the disc was clumsy and too fragile. In the future he declared, everyone would use recording cylinders.

1915 - "Of Human Bondage," by William Somerset Maugham, published.

1927- the William Wellman movie “WINGS” opened with Howard Arliss and Buddy Rogers, the only silent film to win best picture at the Academy Awards- because the awards were only started the following year and by then sound was all the rage.

1932 Aldous Huxley's Brave New World first published. Before anyone ever heard of stem cells Huxley had written a scholarly paper on the moral dangers inherent in controlled eugenics. Writer H.L. Mencken urged him to put his ideas in a fiction form to reach a wider audience. The title comes from Shakespeare's the Tempest " Oh Brave New World, that has such people in it!'
In the late 1940s Huxley moved to Hollywood to try and write screenplays. He submitted one to Walt Disney for a feature animated film of Alice in Wonderland.

1981-TWENTY FIVE YEARS AGO- IBM introduced its first PC- personal computer and PC-DOS I.. Unlike Apple, IBM shared the basic hardware design, so a myriad of cheaper competitor PC’s soon flooded the market.

1988- Martin Scorcese’s film The Last Temptation of Christ opened in theaters to howls of protests from New Right religious groups. There had been more inflammatory interpretations of the Christ story on screens in the past like Pasolini’s Gospel According to Saint Matthew and the Canadian film Hail Mary, but the church groups weren’t that media savvy yet. Like all these protest efforts, all the controversy did was boost box office.

August 11, 2006 friday
August 11th, 2006

Today the model shop and stage crew split off from Industrial Light & Magic to form The Kerner Optical Company. The new company will continue producing the practical effects that have won them so many honors over the years. The company
name comes from the original code name for ILM that was printed on the front door of the San Rafael campus.

Birthdays: Antonio Salieri, Frederick Ludwig Jahn 1778- founder of the Gymnastics Movement, Alex Haley, Jack Haley- the Tin Man in the Wizard of Oz Hulk Hogan- real name Terry Bollier- he’s 55, Dick Browne the creator of Hagar the Horrible, Steve Wozniak the co-founder of Apple Computers, Raymond Leppard, Lloyd Nolan, Mike Douglas, Patti Duke Austin

1270-Prince Edward of England leaves Dover for his Crusade. Nobody had pointed out to Eddie that by 1270 the Crusades were pretty much over and done with. He didn't accomplish much except inspiring that really neat church hymn in Chariots of Fire- "Jerusalem" .

1866 - World's 1st roller skating rink opens (Newport RI)

1896 - Harvey Hubbell patents electric light bulb socket with a pull chain.

1932- Rin Tin Tin died. The German shepherd was the first animal movie star and for awhile was the mainstay of struggling little Warner Bros studio. Jack Warner called him “our little rent check.”

1949- Margaret Mitchell, author of "Gone With the Wind" was hit by a taxicab and died 5 days later.

1956- Abstract Artist Jackson Pollack, known as Jack the Dripper, died when he drunkenly drove his car into a tree near East Hampton.

1957- The Toyota Car Company of Japan introduces itself to the United States with a car called the Toyopet. It's first years sales are so bad they almost gave up on the U.S.

1962- actor Sir Lawrence Olivier founded the National Theatre in London.

1972- San Antonio Texas holds it’s first Cheech & Chong Day.

1997- LA police wrestle down and arrest actor Christian Slater. They encountered him in a cocaine delirium shouting “The Germans are coming to kill us all!”

2001-First day shooting on the film Hero, directed by Zyiang Yi Mou.

August 10, 2006
August 10th, 2006

Here in Taipei we just dodged three typhoons. South China is getting hit hard through. Yesterday and the day before religious ceremonies were done before many busiensses to celebrate Ghost Month. You put out offerings and insense on a table for the spirits and burn temple money in little metal stoves so your ancestors have some money to spend in the next world.

Birthdays: Alexander Glauzunov, Billie Holiday, Eddie Fisher, Leo Fender, Herbert Hoover, Norma Shearer, Rhonda Fleming, Jimmy Dean, Rosanna Arquette, Antonio Banderas

256 AD- St. Lawrence's day. He was the Saint who's emblem is the grill he was roasted on. Supposedly he showed his contempt for his torturers efforts by saying:" I think I'm done on this side." The Perseid Meteor Shower occurs around this time. It has been called the Burning Tears of Saint Lawrence.

1629- Spanish painter Diego Velasquez traveled to Italy to study the Renaissance Masters on the advice of his buddy painter Peter Paul Rubens.

1787- Mozart completes his Eine Kleine Nachtmusik -A Little Nightmusic.

1788- Mozart’s on a roll! This day he completed his Jupiter Symphony #41. It was his last symphony. He never heard it performed in his lifetime.

1889 - Dan Rylands patents the screw -on cap.

1897 -German chemists working for the Bayer Company invent Aspirin, the first mass market over the counter drug. A powdered tree root that was known to the Native Americans for years.

1978- Ford announces a recall of it's Pinto series car after tests prove when bumped from behind the auto explodes into flames.

1983- Discovery of the Vega Galaxy. This was the first physical proof of a planetary system outside our Milky Way.

1987 - Clara Peller, the elderly actress who gained last minute advertising fame by saying Where's the Beef?, died at 86 The director and writer of the spots was the father of J.J. Sedelmier, who created the Ambiguously Gay Duo and other TV Funhouse animations for SNL.

courtesy of Cartoon
Jenny LaRew has a great piece on her Blackwing Diaries for August 8th.(see my links page) An unabashed fan of the great Disney animator Fred Moore, she tried to dispel many of the rumors surrounding his death in an auto accident in 1953. This story is one of the more mysterious myths in Animation History. It demonstrates the problem all historians share of interpreting what really transpired at an event. When the full story of something as unexpected and tragic as Moore’s death is kept from the curious, the rumors and stories arise and assume a life of their own. Accounts come from people who heard from someone who heard from someone, people with an agenda, some who just like a good story. Sometimes even the main characters themselves in their old age try to repaint history to correct old mistakes, or opinions no longer believed in. Case in point, read the memoirs of General Blood & Guts Patton- War as I Knew It.. He makes himself out to be a really reasonable, level headed guy. For someone so interesting it’s a really boring read.

Hollywood Animation loves it’s legends as much as the live action world does. So, did composer Frank Churchill really shoot himself over the piano saying as his last words” How’s this Walt?” Or did he walk out into a Valencia onion field to kill himself, where the future site of Cal Arts would be? Did an animator jump off the studio water tower in 1935? Did Walt call Art Babbitt a “fag” when Art told him he was taking dancing lessons to better animate his sections of Fantasia? Did Disney at his death really leave behind a memo listing the stories never to be made into animated features, and heading the list were the Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast? We’ll never know for sure.

In my book Drawing the Line I examine a few celebrated incidents- When Babbitt and Walt almost came to fisticuffs outside the Buena Vista Gate during the 1941 strike, did Bill Tytla join the strikers only because he and Babbitt were friends? and what did Winsor McCay really say that was such a buzzkill at the testimonial dinner given for him by the Animation community?

History for 8/9/2006
Birthdays: King Henry V of England, John Dryden, Sir Issac Walton-author of the Compleat Angler, Melanie Griffith, Whitney Houston, David Steinberg,Bob Cousy, Jill St. John, Robert Shaw, Robert Aldrich, Sam Elliot, Gillian Anderson, Pamela Lyndon Travers –the creator of Mary Poppins, Eric Bana, Audrey Tautou

1929- Hollywood theater mogul Alexander Pantages was convicted of assaulting a young woman in a broom closet. The conviction was later overturned. It was the first successful defense case of attorney Jerry Geisler, who became famous for getting movie stars and other Hollywood hoi poloi out of trouble with the law. The word in the studios when a movie star was naughty was “Get Geisler!”

1930- Max Fleischer's cartoon "Dizzy Dishes" introduces Betty Boop. A singing star named Helen Kane sued Fleischer claiming that they stole her distinctive Boop-Ooop-a-Doop from her, but the case was thrown out when it was revealed Kane had stolen it herself from another singer. Betty was supposed to be a dog character to match her male couterpart Bimbo. But Animator Grim Natwick had done a lot of drawing of girls in Paris and New York and turned the character into a saucy little flapper.

1942- Walt Disney's "Bambi" premiered.

1944- Antoine Du Saint-Exupery, the author of the Little Prince, died when he crashed his fighter plane. He was not shot down by the Germans, he was just a terrible pilot. The main protaganist of the little prince is an aviator who crashes his plane.

1945- President Harry Truman was reporting to Congress and the nation about his trip to Potsdam and plan for post war Germany. He said among other things that it was vital for democracy in Germany to break up the huge centralized corporations and foster the rights of workers to form unions. Hmmm…we could use a plan like that in the US today….

1947 -The British government in an attempt to bolster revenue for their shattered postwar economy, announced a 300% import tariff on Hollywood films. The Big Eight-Hollywood studios retaliate by stopping the export of movies to Britain. The British film industry has a heyday and Disney starts producing films locally in Britain like 'Rob Roy Highland Rogue' and such.

1963 - Britains rock & roll TV show, Ready Steady Go, premieres.

1974- “KNEEL WITH ME, HENRY.” Richard Nixon, aka Tricky Dick, resigned and left the Presidency of the United States in disgrace. I was a young zitty cartoonist in the offices of Penthouse Magazine in New York trying to sell some spot cartoons when I heard the news. A secretary burst out of the back yelling " HE RESIGNED! HE RESIGNED!!" New President Gerald Ford of whom Lyndon Johnson once said "Sometimes I think Jerry played football once too often with his helmet off" assumed office. Gerald Ford’s real name was Leslie Lynch King. His parents divorced when he was two and his mom’s second husband Gerald Ford Sr renamed him. Sharing in the humiliation of the presidency was Ford's chief of staff, Dick Cheney.

August 8, 2006
August 8th, 2006

coutresy Michael Sporn Animation.

Recently my friend Mike Sporn posted on his blog, or Splog, as he puts it, a reminiscence of the great Walt Disney Studio retrospective show at New York’s Lincoln Center way back in the Watergate year of 1973. It was to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Disney studio in 1923. All the famous Disney classics were screened “ Fantasia, Bambi, Pinnochio, and Sleeping Beauty in Scope, and some rarely shown films Victory through Air Power, Make Mine Music, Saludos Amigos”. Remember back in that ancient time there were no Blockbusters or downloads, this was our only chance to see these films all at once.

One schoolmate of mine liked to go behind the band shell in Leopold Damrosch Park, smoke some hash, buy a ticket for Fantasia and get in the front row just in time for the Toccata & Fugue sequence when his high hit. This was the early 1970s, after all.

But the real gem for all us young animation fans, was the seminars given at the Lincoln Center Library by the Disney animators. Woolie Reitherman, Frank Thomas, Ollie Johnston and Ken Andersen. In time I would come to call all these men my friends, but back then, for a skinny, zitty kid from East Flatbush these guys were gods! I was terrified to say anything more than a how do you do. Part of their show was to run the work reels of their work-in-progress Robin Hood. This was the first time I had ever seen rough pencil test animation and rough layouts. Milt Kahl animation and Ken O’Conner layouts. The experience was an epiphany. I never looked at animation the same again, and finished color animation never seemed as alive and vibrant to me as those rough drawings, pure thought in shorthand. Someday you should see Glen Keanes rough Ariel scenes from Little Mermaid.

I wish I had a camera to photograph the waiting line outside the library to get in. It would look like a veritable Who-would-be-Who of animation. Michael Sporn, Eric Goldberg, Kevin Petrilak, Russell Calabrese, Yvette Kaplan, John Canemaker, Jerry Beck, Mark Mayerson, Dan Haskett, Lou Scarborough, Joe Adamson, Howard Beckerman and many more. Remember Darryl McNeill and his Green Hornet hat and utility belt? The friends I made that summer on that long cue in the hot sun would stay with me throughout my career.

I recall a fun lesson in Visual Continuity. Frank, Woolie and Ollie ran a scene from Robin Hood where the little boy fox Toby shoots his toy arrow over the palace wall. He goes after it, squeezes through the bars and on the inside is befriended by Maid Marian and Lady Cluck. The child boldly waves his toy sword as he expresses his desire to be like his hero Robin Hood.

When the lights came up, Frank smiled his trademark grin: “ Any questions?” A young boy, no older than the child in the film, stood up and asked:” HOW COME THE BOY HAS NO SWORD WHEN HE SHOOTS THE ARROW, BUT WHEN HE IS IN TALKING TO MAID MARION HE SUDDENLY HAS A WOODEN SWORD, AND WHAT HAPPENED TO THE BOW HE WAS CARRYING?”

Frank thought and smiled…” next question….” He said.


History for 8/8/2006
Birthdays: Emiliano Zapata. Esther Williams, UPA/ Terrytoons director Gene Deitch, Dino DeLaurentis, Carl "Alfalfa" Switzer, Keith Carradine, Dustin Hoffman is 69, Martin Brest, Peter Weir, Patricia Arquette

1811- THE IRON CROSS- Before medals common soldiers were rewarded for gallantry with a few gold coins.George Washington and Napoleon made medals the things soldiers dreamed of. General Gerhard von Gneisenau urged the King of Prussia to create a medal like the French Legion d'Honneur to reward all ranks in the German Army. At first the sulky King was against anything that led common soldiers to believe they were better than the common schweinhunts he felt they were, but he finally was made to give in. The new medal was based on the heraldic symbol of the Crusader order of the Teutonic Knights, a black cross formed by four arrowheads. The "Iron Cross" medal was created. Goths, Surfer dudes and Hells Angels rejoiced.
courtesy drac in a box.

1876 - Thomas Edison patented the mimeograph, a forerunner of the Xerox process.

1944 - Smokey the Bear, named after NYC fireman Smokey Joe Martin born .

1960 – Brian Hyland’s song "Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka-dot Bikini" hits #1.

1963 – The Kingsmen release the song "Louie, Louie,". Many labeled it obscene, although no one is quite sure just what the song lyrics mean. In the 1980s Northwestern University staged Louie-Louie Marathons- 44 straight hours of Louie-Louie, played by punk bands, polka bands, marching bands, folk trios, and singing water glasses.

1973-Vice President Spiro Agnew vows not to resign. He resigned shortly afterwards.