May 18th 2007 Friday.
May 18th, 2007

I went last night to the Motion Picture Academy's Sci-tech Council's first of a series of evenings dedicated to sound efx in movies.

Ben Burtt conducted an fascinating lecture on the filmic inspiration for the sounds he originated for the classic film Star Wars. His panel was a reunion of the original Star Wars sound crew on the eve of the 30th anniversary of the films premiere. They traced the history of motion picture sound effects by screening clips from Don Juan (1926), TARZAN 1936, Flash Gordon, The 1953 War of the Worlds, Shane, Lawrence of Arabia and a Roadrunner cartoon!

Burtt praised Looney Tune sound editor Tregg Brown for his free association of sounds with picture that liberated many sound engineers.

Some of the evenings highlights were he screened a reel of the first roughcut of Star Wars without any effects, sound or music. It was pretty funny listening to the Imperial stormtroopers and C3PO clopping around a wood floor with slapping plastic shinguards.
Also Ben produced the original apparatus that created the breathing sound of Darth Vader. It was a simple black scuba tanks with a mike placed into the regulator mouthpiece. Burt then recreated the breathing sound for the delight of the crowd.

A great time was had by all. Congrads Tad, Andy and the SciTech team!

Birthdays: Pope John Paul II, President Grover Cleveland, Ezio Pinza, Tsar Nicholas II, Omar Khayam, Walter Gropius,Reggie Jackson, Margot Fonteyn, Robert Morse, Perry Como, Dwayne Hickman aka Dobie Gillis, Big Joe Turner, Miriam Margolyes, Chow Yung Fat.

1905- MORROCCAN CRISIS OF 1905- A Moroccan desert sherif, El Raisuli, kidnapped a small Greek-American businessman named George Pedicaris for ransom and because he wanted someone new to play chess with. Pedicaris was ransomed but the incident became a major international showdown between with Germany, Britain, France and the U.S. ready to go to war. The incident was romanticized in the John Milius film "The Wind and the Lion", with Raisuli played by Sean Connery and Pedicaris turned into the beautiful Candice Bergen.

1976- The filming of Francis Ford Coppolla's Apocalypse Now was disrupted when the Philippines was hit by a major typhoon. Francis rides out the storm cooking pasta, smoking grass and listening to records of La Boheme.

1980-Mt. St. Helens explodes in Washington State. The volcano was always thought to be safely extinct but Mother Nature had other plans. I was in Toronto thousands of miles away and noticed volcanic ash floating in Lake Ontario. The eruption and earthquake killed 57 people and destroyed 24 square miles around the mountain. A lone eccentric named Harry Truman refused to be evacuated and stayed in his home. He was interviewed by Sixty Minutes and other programs. After the explosion Truman disappeared and is assumed killed.

2001- Dreamworks animated hit SHREK opened. The voice of Shrek was originally planned to be Chris Farley but the obese comedian died of a drug overdose and was replaced by Mike Myers. I’m serving Waffles!

Those wacky students at Cal Arts take a lighter look at the amazing new technology of rotos- err....Motion Capture. See if you can recognize utterly famous animators James Baxter and Glen Keane.

Birthdays: Sandro Botticelli, Eric Satie, Ayatollah Khomeni, Dr. Edmund Jenner, Archibald Cox, Dennis Hopper, Sugar Ray Leonard, Maureen O'Sullivan, Kathleen Sullivan, Debra Winger, Bill Paxton. Enya, Tina Fey

1826- Artist-Naturalist John James Audubon departs for England ”in deep sorrow” because he could find no publisher in America for his masterpiece the “Birds of North America”.

1845 - Rubber bands invented! Now we can finally wrap our animation scenes!

1875 –The First Kentucky Derby. Winning horse was Aristides.

1890 - Comic Cuts, 1st weekly comic paper, published in London.

1924- Marcus Loew of the Loew's theater chain buys Metro Pictures and combines them with Sam Goldwyn and Louis B. Mayer’s studio to form- MGM, Metro Goldwyn Mayer.

1931- Vaudeville dancer James Cagney became a tough guy movie star when the Wild Bill Wellman’s film Public Enemy debuted. “I wish you wuz a wishing well… so I could tie a bucket to ya and sink ya!”

1938 - Radio quiz show "Information Please!" debuts on NBC Blue Network.

1941- The Looney Toon Lockout. Producer Leon Schlesinger tries to forestall the unionization of his Bugs Bunny cartoonists by locking them out. After a week he relents and recognizes the cartoonist guild. Chuck Jones called it “our own little six-day war.”

Warner cartoonists locked out. Far left seated- animator Ben Washam, far right standing- inker Martha Goldman-Sigal.

1954-" Brown vs. Board of Ed" Supreme Court ruled segregation illegal. Future justice Thurgood Marshal was the successful attorney.

1967 – Bob Dylan's 1965 UK Tour is released as film "Don't Look Back"

1970 - Thor Heyerdahl crosses Atlantic on reed raft Ra, proving the ancient Egyptians could have reached South America.

1971 - Stephen Schwartz' musical "Godspell," premiered off-Broadway

1973 - Stevie Wonder releases "You are the Sunshine of my Love"

1978- Sony and Phillips Electronics introduce the Compact Disc- CD, where the music is played by a laser instead of a needle.

May 16, 2007 weds
May 16th, 2007

The documentary that I created animation for, Flock of Dodo's, will have it's television premiere Tomorrow thursday on Showtime. Filmmaker-scientist Randy Olsen does a Michael Moore on the Evolution-Intelligent Design argument.

Birthdays: Lily Pons, Richard Tauber, Henry Fonda, Liberace- real name Wladziu Valentine Liberace, Jan Kiepura, Edmund Kirby-Smith, Studs Terkel , Pierce Brosnan, Gabriela Sabbatini, Thurman Thomas, Margaret Sullivan, Olga Korbut, Debra Winger, Tori Spelling, Janet Jackson, Woody Herman

1866- Congress authorized the creation of a new 5 cent coin, which because of it’s metal content people called the Nickel.

1918- During World War One President Woodrow Wilson created the Wartime Committee of Public Information- a propaganda board headed by journalist George Creel and psychologist Edmund Bernays, a nephew of Sigmund Freud. After the war they would ply their skills in mass persuasion for the private sector- Bernay's advertising equating cigarrette smoking with women's equality hooked millions of women. He labels cigarettes “freedom sticks” and even engineered a change in ladies fashion to a taste for green to help sagging sales of a cigarette in a green pack. He also engineered a campaign to make all Americans believe the only real American breakfast is bacon & eggs.

1929- The First Academy Awards ceremony at the Rose Ballroom of the Biltmore Hotel. The best picture winner was William Wellman’s “Wings”. The name Oscar for the award supposedly came from joking that it’s butt looked like Betty Davis’ husband Oscar’s. The ceremony was originally a dinner party with some industry business conducted. During the Depression in 1933 the Oscars was the place to announce across the board wage rollbacks and salary cuts. Must have made for a swell party.

1946- the musical Annie Get Your Gun starring Ethel Merman premiered on Broadway.

1957- In a small town in Pennsylvania a failing small time businessman who had been drinking heavily died of a heart attack at age 54. Ironically, he had just approved the first draft of a memoir about his days as a young Treasury Agent in Al Capone’s Chicago. His name was Elliot Ness. The book - The Untouchables- became a national best seller and Hollywood turned it into a hit television series, films. Elliot Ness became a household word.

1965 – the birthday of Spaghetti-O's.

1975 - Wings release "Listen to What the Man Said" in UK

1981 - "Bette Davis Eyes" by Kim Carnes hits #1 for next 9 weeks. The elderly movie legend was not impressed:” Kim Carnes does not have eyes like me!” quote Bette.

1985 - Michael Jordan named NBA Rookie of Year. He retired in 2003.

1986 – the film "Top Gun," directed by Tony Scott and starring Tom Cruise premieres.

1987 - Rocker David Crosby wed Jan Dance in LA.

1996- One of the lamest moments in TV writing. On DALLAS Pam Ewing encounters her husband Bobby Ewing in the shower although he had been dead for one year. The incident meant the entire previous season had only been a bad dream.

May 15, 2007 tues.
May 15th, 2007

Today would have been Joe Grant's 99th birthday.

Joe Grant was a great Disney artist and designer who was the son of a William Randolph Hearst newspaper cartoonist. He was on the verge of launching his own syndicated comic strip when he caught the eye of Walt Disney in 1933. Walt put him to work on doing caricatures for the short Mickey's Gala Premiere. During Disney's golden age he was a department head and wielded great influence. Joe left the studio in 1949 after contributing (uncredited) to Lady and the Tramp.

After many years of running his own graphics company, Joe Grant returned to animation to help the second Disney Renaissance. His sense of the gentle charm of Disney humor contributed to Aladdin, Lion King, Muhlan, Pocahontas, Toy Story I and II. He was the only artist who worked on Fantasia I (1940) and Fantasia 2000. He named the Pixar hit Monsters Inc and worked on the Incredibles.

I was proud to call Joe my friend. We worked on a few pictures and always stayed in touch afterwards. We used to have a weekly lunch with a few artists at Genios Restaurant on Olive Blvd. in Burbank, just up from NBC. Burny Mattinson, Sue Goldberg, Mike Gabriel, Burt and Jennifer Klein. Joe usually didn't like to talk to me about old Disney, What was it like When.... He liked to talk politics with me and enjoyed my grasp of history. At his memorial I was impressed with how many people considered him a close friend.

Today Joe is gone, Genios is gone, but the memories linger. The Ancient Egyptians felt that after we die if we are well thought of we have achieved immortality; if we are forgotten we die a second time.

If that is the criteria then I think Joe has achieved that immortality. Happy Birthday Joe.

Birthdays: Gabriel Fahrenheight-inventor of the thermometer, Lyman Frank Baum creator of the Wizard of Oz, Claudio Monteverdi, Richard Avedon, James Mason, Joseph Cotten, George Brett, Jasper Johns, Anna Maria Alberghetti, Jean Renoir, Chicago Mayor Richard Daley Sr., Trini Lopez, Charles Lamont- director of Abbott & Costello Go to Mars, C&W singer Eddy Arnold, Chaz Palmintieri, Lainie Kazan.

1702- Charles Perrault, who wrote stories under the name Mother Goose, died.

1800-At a performance at London's Old Drury Lane Theatre, a man rose from the audience and fired two pistols at King George III. They both miss and the assassin was dragged off. The King not only insists that the show go on but even doses off during the second act.

1863- Edouard Manet first displayed his Dejeuner sur l’Herbe at the Salon des Refuses in Paris. The painting is of two modern clothed men having a picnic with two nude women by a river bank. The women aren’t mythical goddesses or muses but just naked ladies. This shocked Paris society. Emperor Napoleon III and Empress Eugene called it “Immodest and obscene”.It’s revolutionary simple subject matter heralded the rise of Impressionism.

1940- The first Nylon stockings go on sale in the US.

1942- The U.S. initiated a program of wartime gas rationing. Slogans like “Is this Trip Really Necessary?” and a system of ratings vehicles with A,B & C cards pop up in a lot of movies and cartoons of the period. C meant a war-essential worker who got first dibs for gas. An A card was the lowest status. When Sir Thomas Beecham got in a New York City cab and asked to be taken to the Philharmonic the cabby told him he couldn’t take him because it was a pleasure trip. “Young man,” Sir Thomas replied:” A trip to the Philharmonic is not done for pleasure but for Penance.”
Canadian windshield card

1947- Future President George Bush Sr. was initiated into the elite secret society at Yale University called Skull & Bones. It’s so named because initiates pledge to remain loyal until “I die and nothing remains but skull and bones.” His sponsor-Charles Whitehouse later became big in the CIA. So many Bonesmen men went into the CIA that they nicknamed the agency “ The Front Office.”

1963 - Peter, Paul & Mary win their 1st Grammy for “ If I Had a Hammer”.

1967- Paul McCartney first met his first wife Linda Eastman.

1970 - Beatles' last LP, "Let It Be," is released in US

May 14th, 2007 Monday
May 14th, 2007

Birthdays: Thomas Gainsborough, George Lucas, Thomas Wedgewood, Francesca Annis, David Byrne, Jack Bruce, Bobby Darin, Tim Roth, Robert Zemeckis, Kate Blanchett

1667- At this time the sailors of the English Navy were only paid once a month. During the Dutch Wars an incident happened when the loyal sailors were told after several months of hard fighting that their fun loving King Charles II didn't have enough money left in his treasury to pay them. The tars were so angry scores of them deserted to the enemy. They guided Dutch Admiral De Ruyter's fleet right up the Thames where they could burn and plunder the docks of Greenwich within sight of King Charles' palace.
When working with pros, don't mess with their paychecks!

1842 - 1st edition of London Illustrated News

1878- Vaseline petroleum jelly patended.

1942- Disney composer Frank Churchill, who had written "Who’s afraid of the Big Bad Wolf" and "Hi-Ho, Hi-Ho" shot himself at the piano. Another version of the story had him shooting himself in an onion field in Valencia that would one day be the site of Cal Arts.

1944- In the comic strip Dick Tracy, the longtime Tracy nemesis the gangster Flattop was killed.

1951 - Ernie Kovacs Show, TV Variety debut on NBC. Kovacs was a great pioneer in the video medium who loved creating surreal images and pantomime blackout skits.

the Nairobi Trio, one of my first childhood memories

1976- Keith Reilf of the rock group the Yardbirds, was electrocuted while playing his electric guitar in his bathtub. Don't do drugs.

1968 - Beatles announce formation of Apple Records.

1998 - Last episode of sitcom Seinfeld on NBC (commercial fees were $2M for 30 seconds) Elderly singer Frank Sinatra died shortly after watching it.