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TomSito.com - TOM'S BLOG

Birthdays: P.T. Barnum, Beatrix Potter the creator of Peter Rabbit, film director Jean Cocteau, Admiral David Farragut, avant garde animator Len Lye, Huey Lewis, Milburn Stone (Doc on Gunsmoke), Warren Oates, Edie Falco-aka Carmela Soprano

1935- The Wagner Act passed Congress, decreeing all American workers have the right to collective bargaining and to form unions, and that you could not be punished or fired for wanting a union. Dave Fleischer in retirement complained often that the Wagner Act prevented him from firing those pesky strikers he felt were ruining his studio. When Walt Disney fired animator Art Babbitt for agitating for a union, the Wagner Act was invoked to get him re-hired.

1954- Tomoyuki Tanaka announced the beginning of production on the movie Godzilla, called in Japanese Kohjira. The name is a combination of Gorilla and Whale. The famous roar was done with the modified sound of a bear followed by smearing a riff on an upright string bass fiddle using a rubber dishwashing glove.
-------------------------------poster courtesy of movieposters.com------------------------------------------------------------------------

Yesterday I had lunch in Taipei with James Wang, the president and founder of Cuckoos Nest Animation. When the President Emeritus of the Hollywood Animation Guild and the head of one of the largest animation studios in Asia get together, what did we discuss? Global trade? Protectionism? No, we talked about Raggedy Ann.

We recalled how we all began together thirty years ago in New York City. It was the Bicentennial Summer of 1976. Operation Sail was in New York Harbor, Disco Duck on the radio, Disney studios was finishing up the Rescuers, Bakshi was beginning the Lord of the Rings, Hanna & Barbera was doing Scooby Doo.

In New York City Pat Thackeray and Joe Raposo had written a Broadway musical about the Raggedy Ann dolls of Johnny Gruelle. in 1914 Gruelle entertained his fatally ill daughter by making up stories about her rag dollies. Raposo was the composer of the theme music of Sesame Street and hits like "Its Not Easy Being Green." They convinced Broadway impresarios Richard Horner and Lester Osterman to bring the musical to the screen via animation. The deep pockets of IT&T were to fund the project. UPA veteran Abe Levitow was set to direct and Shamus Culhane to manage the production. But Levitow died suddenly and Culhane withdrew after creative disagreements. Academy Award winning director Richard Williams was brought in to head the productions. He create a Shangri-La of quality animation in New York and an amazing opportunity for young talent not seen in Manhattan since the days of Max and Dave Fleischer.

Listen to the animators roster: Grim Natwick the creator of Betty Boop, Art Babbitt the creator of Goofy, Tissa David one of John Hubley's top animators backed by young assistant Eric Goldberg, Gerry Chinniquy the animator who defined Yosemite Sam assisted by Barney Posner, who cleaned up Ken Muses animation of Jerry the Mouse dancing with Gene Kelly, Emery Hawkins the great Warners animator assisted by Dan Haskett, UPA stalwart Willis Pyle, Corny Cole, John Kimball, Art Vitello, Jerry Dvorak, Warren Batchelor, John Bruno who would win an Oscar for the visual effects for James Camerons True Lies, Crystal Russell, later Klabunde, Jim Logan, Doug Crane, Tom Roth and more. Dick Williams himself animated many key scenes of Grandpa and Raggedy Andy.

For us young artists just starting this was the greatest constellation of animation talent seen outside of the Mouse Factory. Young artists getting their first big breaks included future Warner director Russell Calabrese, Future Simpsons title animator Kevin Petrilak, Future Beavis & Butthead director Carol Millican, future interactive games pioneer Glen Entis, director-animator Gian Celestri, future Oscar nominee and studio head Michael Sporn ( our head of cleanup), Sue Kroyer,Dave Block, Lester "Skeets" Pegues, Louis Scarborough, William Frake III, Judy Levitow, Peggy Tonkonogy, Mitch Rochon, Sheldon Cohen, Alissa Mayerson, Patty Hoyt, Ellen Cooper, Judy Hans, James Davis, Jeffrey Gatrall, Karen Marjoibanks, Harold Brown, John Butterworth, Karen Peterson, Claire Williams, and many many more. The production was administered in New York by Bakshi veteran Cosmo Anzilotti and in LA by Carl Bell.

Watching on the sidelines writing a book about the effort was future Oscar winner and writer John Canemaker.

Then in Spring 1977 the film was done and the studio disappeared. Dick returned to the Thief in London and the rest of us scattered. I bought a Camel with the Wrinked Knees doll at the Odd Job Traders second hand store. So much for merchandising. I still have it today. Raggedy Ann & Andy was not a blockbuster success, but it did make memories for many children.

And it was a lasting memory for us. James Wang and I laughed and reminisced. For us animation folks, we will never forget that summer of '76 when Raggedy Ann was our common mother. No matter where we all go, we have that shared experiance. We were young, full of potential, and could conquer the world. The Cartoon World, anyway. Such crews existed before- The Iron Giant Crew, the Ferngully Crew, the Roger Rabbitt Crew. I hope you some day experience the camraderie of such a group. So I send out a greeting around the world to my Raggedy bros. and sisters.

As Ann herself said :" It was real for shure strange!"


Dao Yen
July 5th, 2006

I've just been told that the title I hold in Taiwan is that of a Dao Yen. Director. The title is an honorific, equivalent of calling someone a doctor. I'm not used to it when folks come over calling" Dao Yen, Dao Yen!


Andreas Deja website
July 4th, 2006

I just found out from Angie Jones and Jaime Olifs website thinkinganimation.com that my old kameraden Andreas Deja had a website! Here's their entry.

Last year, an art exhibition in Andreas Deja's honour was held in Dinslaken, his German hometown. The city set up a website in celebration of the occasion.

http://www.andreasdeja.de/Andreas_Deja_Beginn.htm
His life drawings.

http://www.andreasdeja.de/Andreas_Deja_Zeichnungen.htm
Cartoony stuff.

Any opportunity to view the work of this master artist is reason to celebrate and spread the word.


Happy 4th!
July 4th, 2006

Birthdays: George M. Cohan, Stephen Foster, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Calvin Coolidge, Cartoonist Rube Goldberg, gangster Mayer Lansky, Tokyo Rose, MGM chief Louis B. Mayer, Neil Simon, Mitch Miller, Eve Marie Saint is 83, Gina Lollabrigida is 80, George Steinbrenner, Geraldo Rivera, Victoria Abril, Rene Laloux, Gloria Stuart the old lady in the film Titanic is 97 and Edward Walker the inventor of the Lava Lamp


Birthdaze: King Louis XI of France "the Spider King" 1423- dramatized by Hugo in the Hunchback of Notre Dame, Franz Kafka, Cartoonist Dave Barry, Composer Leos Janacek, Artist John Singleton Copley, Director Ken Russell, playright Tom Stoppard, George Saunders the voice of Sher-Khan in Disney's The Jungle Book, Peter Fountain, Tom Cruise is 44

Today is the Feast day of Saint Thomas the Apostle, “Doubting-Thomas,” the patron saint of architects.

1863-Pickett's Charge, the climax of the battle of Gettysburg. Disney animator Mark Henn, when not doing beautiful animation on films like Little Mermaid and Lilo and Stitch, is a Civil War buff. He participated in the 125th recreation of Picketts CHarge in Pennsylvania in 1987. Check out his historical paintings and sculptures of the period at markhenn.com

1898-Battle of Santiago Harbor- U.S. fleet under Admiral Sampson defeated the Spanish in Cuba. The U.S fleet so heavily outgunned the Spanish ships that the Spanish admiral is remembered at home as a hero for even attempting the fight to keep up the national honor. James Stuart Blackton, the first American animator, was down in Cuba with other correspondents covering the war. He went back to New York and claimed to have live, eyewitness movie footage of the battle. Of course, he didn't, so he faked it on a set with toy boats, sparklers and cigar smoke. Since no one had seen real footage yet, he got away with it. Blackton added to his resume by inventing the movie newsreel.

1931- The Cab Calloway Orchestra recorded 'The St. James Infirmary Blues."

1971- Rock singer Jim Morrison 28, found dead of a heart attack in his bathtub in Paris.

1978- The Supreme Court upheld the FCC’s reprimand of N.Y. Pacifica radio station WBAI’s airing of a George Carlin comedy routine called the “7 Deadly Words”, reciting expletives you cannot say on radio or television even today.


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