March 6th, 2007 Tues.
March 6th, 2007

I've been reading Michael Rubin's book DroidMaker, George Lucas and the Digital Revolution. It is a good account by a long time ILM film editor written from the inside. It covers a lot of Digital development history, primarily from the point of view of how it was effected by George Lucas and his ILM employees.

One thing caught my eye. How when Lucas was a young,intense film student intern, a union shop steward on a movie set was mean to him. Supposedly, he was hostile to film unions thereafter. Old union leaders had a particular problem in the 1960s not understanding young, hippy iconoclasts coming into the business. I once got into an intense debate at SIGGRAPH with a Digital animation supervisor about why she hated unions. She repeated almost the same story: when an intern, a union shop steward was mean to her.

To tell you the truth, I am getting tired of this argument. It's like the old " A Nun once slapped me, and so now I'm an Atheist." A union person was crummy to me when I was a kid, so now I'll help undermine the pensions and health insurance of hundreds of working union families. It's an excuse for the egotists who find brotherhood and solidarity an "inconvenience". To be fair to Lucas, he signed some of the first union contracts in the Bay Area for ILM.

When I started in the field, I had my union rep scream at me and scared the crap outta me. That still didn't stop me from one day leading that union and representing my brothers and sisters and their families. It probably didn't help my creative career, it cost me an Annie Award nomination or two, but I have no regrets. I did some good stuff for animation folks that will outlive one successful film or series. I helped everyone, even the ones who hated me.

My book Drawing the Line is about animators who came out in the open and risked their careers and fortunes to benefit all of us in the animation community. Their names were out there for all to see, for that they risked blacklisting and even physical violence. They were real heroes, they just didn't whine on a blog anonymously.

Everyone is talking about Sam Simon on 60 Minutes last Sunday, about how rich the Simpsons made him. All I think about was the dozens of animators in the beginning who hated me for wanting them to unionize-"Oh No! We can't afford union benefits, the studio will close and we'll all lose our jobs!" After the actors, techs, writers, and everyone else did it, the artists finally unionized in 2001. The Simpsons have been union for years now, and nothing terrible happened. I hope their movie kicks major ass.

You may think of yourself as a badass Lone Wolf Arteest, but to the Hollywood players we are all of a tribe. Wrists, Creatives. No brains just a steady hand. No matter how some flatter you, that's what they really think about you.

Rather than whine, go do something. It feels better in the long run.
Try to accomplish something not just for yourself, but for all of us. It's the toughest job you'll ever love.

Birthdays: Michaelangelo Buonnarotti, Cyrano De Bergerac-Servignan, Elizabeth Barrett Browning,Lou Costello,Ivan Boesky, Ring Lardner, Gabriele Garcia-Marquez,, Valentina Tereschkova the first woman in space, Tom Arnold, Kiri Te Kanawa, Rob Reiner, Alan Greenspan, DC Mayor Marion Barry, Stephen Schwarz- the writer of Wicked, Godspell and the music for Disney's Pocahontas, Shaquille O’Neal is 35, Ed McMahon is 87

1834- The Ontario settlement of York is incorporated as the new City of Toronto.

1836-REMEMBER THE ALAMO! The Mexican army of General Santa Anna overwhelmed a small garrison of rebellious Texans in an old mission. The tragic stand of 189 men led by colorful frontiersmen like Davey Crockett and Jim Bowie against 5,000 troops has become part of American mythology. That they ignored Sam Houston's direct orders to blow up the mission and join his main army with their valuable cannon is forgotten. Apologists contend that if they didn’t stall Santa Anna's army he would have swooped down on Washington-on-the-Brazos and squashed the whole Texas Rebellion while they were still quibbling over their constitution.
The attack began at 4:30 a.m. in the predawn darkness and was over in 90 minutes, a little after 6 a.m.. Jim Bowie was sick and was killed in his hospital bed. The notes of a Texas officer named Dolson who interviewed a Mexican officer named Sanchez after the battle was discovered in 1961. It revealed that maybe Davey Crockett didn't go down heroically using his rifle "Old Betsy" as a club- like in the movies, but tried to surrender. His wife was Mexican and he was a politician after all. Santa Anna had him and any other surviving men shot. Sanchez wasn’t sure if it was Crockett. We'll never know for sure. There were 16 Alamo survivors, the women and children and Colonel Travis' black servant Joe. Santa Anna made sure they were each given two pesos and a blanket and set free.

1850- Gustav Flaubert was the French writer who was once tried for pornography for creating Madame Bovary. This day while in Egypt he visited the countries most famous belly dancing prostitute Kuchuck Hanem.

1860- Republican Presidential candidate Abe Lincoln in a speech said:" Thank God we have a system where workers have the Right to Strike."in 2006 Republican President George W. Bush said he'd veto the new House Freedom to Work Bill that would help American workers unionize.

1899- The wonder drug of the age and the first patent medicine- Aspirin, is patented. Felix Hoffman isolated the compound salicin from ground willow bark, an old Indian pain remedy.

1918- The Navy destroyer USN Cyclops disappeared in the Bermuda Triangle.

1927- Fritz Lang’s film Metropolis opened in the US.

1936- Mr. Clarence Birdseye introduced frozen vegetables.

1978- Hustler Magazine publisher Larry Flynt was shot and crippled by a lunatic.

1979- The film The China Syndrome premiered. It was about an accident at an American nuclear power plant.. Three weeks later the Three Mile Island accident occurred, boosting the box office. " It's spooky, it's enough to make you religious" said star Michael Douglas.

1981- CBS News anchor Walter Cronkite retired. Dan Rather succeeded him after CBS learned ABC was offering Rather big buxs to jump networks. Roger Mudd, who was thought to be the real successor to Cronkites job, left the network to anchor the History Channel.

1989- Time Inc. merged with Warner Communications to become Time Warner, the largest media conglomerate in the world. They were bought by AOL in 2000 but AOL proved to be dead weight and they resumed control as TimeWarner in 2003.

March 5, 2007 mon
March 5th, 2007

Birthdays: Henry III of England, Gionanni Batista Tiepolo, Explorer Le Sieur de Cadillac founder of Detroit, Hector Villa-Lobos, Howard Pyle, William Oughtred 1574- inventor of the Slide Rule,"Red Rosa" Luxemburg, Rex Harrison, Dean Stockwell, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Andy Gibb, Samantha Eggar, Andrej Wajda, Fred Williamson, Penn Gillette, Eva Mendes

1534- Famed Renaissance painter Correggio died when after an argument in the cathedral of Parma with his patrons, they paid him with sacks of pennies. He grew overheated carrying them all home and died of a fever at age 45. Another artist gets screwed.

1717- Giovanni Tiepolo joined the Guild of Saint Lawrence, the artists union in Rome.

1759- Francois Voltaire’s most famous satire on religion and hypocrisy- Candide- was published. It was immediately ordered publicly burned by the regional parliaments of Geneva and Paris. This only increased its popularity. To stay out of trouble Voltaire first refused to admit he was the author:" People must have lost their senses to attribute to me that pack of nonsense! I have, Thanks God, better occupations."

1868- Englishman C.H. Gould patented the first stapler.

1922- F.W. Murnau’s eerie film Nosferatu premiered in Berlin.Bram Stoker's widow brought a copyright suit against it, saying it was Dracula by another name. She won and an English judge ordered the film negatives destroyed. The only reason we still enjoy this landmark film, is from all the bootleg copies made of it.

1963- Country singer Patsy Cline died in plane crash near Camden Tenn.(not Allegheny) Also killed were Country stars Cowboy Copas and Hacksaw Hawkins.

1982-31 year old Comedian John Belushi dies of drug overdose at Chateau Marmont hotel on Sunset Strip. He had done twenty heroin-cocaine speedballs in just 24 hours. A woman named Cathy Smith was charged with administering to him the fatal dose. Robin Williams was with him that night partying also but left early. Someone scrawled on Belushi’s tombstone :"You could have given us more laughs.....But NNNNOOOOOOOOOO !!"

1995- Vivian Stanstall, lead singer for the Bonzo Dog Band died in a fire in his London flat. He had been smoking in bed.

We grizzled old vets often refer to Animation as the Bastard Stepchild of the Film Business. We gripe that no matter how successful animated films are, we still are made to feel inferior to the bigger live action industry.

But I think that despite our own misgivings we tend to shortchange ourselves. Yes, Animation truly is a fringe part of the entertainment biz, but it is still a part. You can have some interesting adventures in our business while creating cartoons in your dark little cubicle.

Besides animation people who moved on to live action careers- Gregory LaCava, Frank Tashlin, Tim Burton, Henry Sellick and Rob Minkoff, many have plied their skills in live action visual effects as much as in ToonTown. My 2001 Osmosis Jones 3D crew moved on to work on Finding Nemo, Spiderman II, and Return of the King. In addition, you can have a career in animation and interact with a number of notable people in mainstream film.

I don’t consider myself that bigass a top animator, but thinking about it, in my thirty year career I’ve managed to meet and/or work with

Ed Asner
Mel Brooks
John Cleese
Tom Cruise
Joe Dante
Jenna Elfman
Chris Elliot
The Farrelly Brothers
Chris Farley
Harvey Fierstein
Lawrence Fishburne
Brendan Fraser
Mark Hamill
Bob Hoskins
Ron Howard
David Hyde-Pierce
Elton John
James Levine
Heather Locklear
Steve Martin
Patrick McGoohan
Alan Mencken
Bill Murray
Brandy Norwood
Robby the Robot
Chris Rock
Tim Rice
Stephen Schwartz
Tony Shaloub
William Shatner
Molly Shannon
Steven Speilberg
Jean Stapleton
Robin Williams
Robert Zemeckis

And they still get a kick when they see you draw. Lawrence Fishburne and Chris Farley loved seeing themselves as a cartoons. You other animation vets, once you really pause to think about it, it's interesting to think about how many you cross paths with. So don't feel too oppressed in being a lowly animator, with MoCap scientists working overtime to replace you or businessmen itching to send your work to foreign lands.
You too are a star, only you just don't make as much.

Birthdays: King Henry II Plantagenet , Antonio Vivaldi, Prince Henry the Navigator of Portugal, Count Casimir Pulaski, Miriam Makeba, Nancy Wilson, Bernard Haittink, John Garfield, Knute Rockne, Chastity Bono, prizefighter Ray Boom-Boom Mancini, Patsy Kensit. Katherine O’Hara is 53

1759- Madame la Pompadour secured the appointment of Etienne de Silhouette as Finance Minister. Silhouette tried to fix the chaotic economy of France by steep taxes of aristocrats and cutting back their privileges. Noblemen said they had been reduced to mere shadows of their former selves. By November he was gone, people joking called him a shadow. Now the word silhouette means an outline figure.

1887- William Randolph Hearst buys the little San Francisco Examiner and builds the Hearst newspaper empire. Hearst’s father was owner of the famed Comstock mine and thought his son crazy for wasting his time with the penny-paper business. Hearst died in 1951 at age 88, leaving an estate of $160 million. Today Hearst publications is still 15 magazines and broadcast networks..

1924- The song “Happy Birthday to You” copyrighted by Claydon Sunny.

1933- Franklin Roosevelt gave his famous speech“The Only thing we have to fear is, Fear itself.”at his first inauguration.

1936- Screenwriter Dudley Nichols publicly refuses the Best Screenplay Oscar for John Ford’s “The Informer” as protest in support of the struggling Writer’s Guild.

1946- Alex Raymond's comic strip 'Rip Kirby" premiered.

1952- Ronald Reagan married Nancy Davis at the Little Red Church on Coldwater Canyon L.A. William Holden was best man. They were introduced to each other by union rep Roy Brewer, who said he could spot a Communist in five minutes.

1952- Ernest Hemingway wrote a letter to his publisher:" I've completed a new novel. I think it's my best one to date." The Old Man and the Sea.

1956- Burger King introduced their signature hamburger the Whopper.

1958- U.S.S. Nautilus, first nuclear sub, reaches the North Pole under the ice cap. remember when the submarine ride at Disneyland was painted to look like the USS Navy subs and named for them ?

1961- In the early stages of filming Cleopatra in London actress Elizabeth Taylor developed pneumonia and slipped into a coma. She would have died had not doctors at a convention at London’s Dorchester Hotel performed and emergency tracheotomy. When you seen the film today you can still see the tracheotomy scar at the base of her throat.

1994- Obese comedian John Candy died of heart failure.

1997- The senate of Brazil allowed women to wear slacks.

2004- A New York court convicted interior decorating guru Martha Stewart of four counts of stock fraud. This was for dumping her stock in a pharmaceutical firm called InClone after getting an inside tip that their cancer cure didn’t work.

March 3, 2007 sat
March 3rd, 2007

B-Dayz:Jean Harlow, Diana Barrymore, Akira Ifukube the composer of the music scores to movies like Godzilla, Tone Loc, Jacky Joyner-Kersee, James Doohan, Ronald Searle, Bruno Bozzetto, Will Eisner,George Miller the director of Happy Feet, Miranda Richardson is 49

1875-Claude Bizet's opera CARMEN debuts. Parisians usually go to see comedies at the Opera Comique and most thought this would be about the adventures of a coquettish Spanish gypsy. Instead they saw one of the great dark dramas of opera, a story of sexual power and obsession. The shocking sight of a slutty gypsy smuggler getting knifed by a burnout soldier driven insane by sex was so upsetting it was booed and howled off the stage. Bizet never got over the fiasco, he died six months later. Carmen is now one of the world's most famous operas.

1950-Paramount's "Quack-a-Doodle-Doo" The first Baby Huey cartoon.

1950-Don Herbert tells millions of kids about science as televisions Mr.Wizard.

1973- THE BAR CODE. An ad-hoc committee of scientists from Proctor & Gamble and Nabisco and such announced the invention of the Universal Product’s Code- The Bar Code, that annoying little set of bars and numbers on everything you own or buy. No longer would stores have to close their doors periodically for inventory counting. But if you are a conspiracy fan its the way the Hidden Government and the guys in the black helicopters keep a record on everything you buy.

1980- Aetna Insurance reported in a newsletter having to pay damages for a man at a delicatessen who had a carp he was ordering jump off the counter and bite him in the leg.

1991- L.A.P.D officers beat up drunk and disorderly driver Rodney King. King had previous convictions and was tazed several times with a an electric shock but still fought back at police, who seemed to go berserk on him with their clubs just as a witness caught the incident on videotape. The incident and trials caused a scandal in Los Angeles and later the largest civilian riots in U.S. history. The LAPD is one third the size of the NYPD yet receives three times the civilian complaints.

2001- Despite worldwide protests the Taliban of Afghanistan began destroying their nations ancient giant Buddha statues as graven images.

What I learned Along the Way.

A year after Warner Bros seized and ruined Richard Williams great project the Cobbler & the Thief, I ran into Dick and asked him how he was coping. He calmly replied he was doing life drawing.

This impressed me. That such a master Oscar winning artist was not above getting out the old newsprint pad and conte crayons and sitting in front of a model again. I noticed that the best animators, Glen Keane, Andreas Deja, still make time to get in some life drawing. I also thought about Jack Zander, even at age 99 teaching himself to send and receive e-mails and surf the net.

Picasso once said:" If ever I did a drawing I was happy with, I'd break my pencils and give up, because I then would have begun to lie to myself."

I'm looking forward to the series I'm directing to learn new things as well as ply my normal skills. At the end of his life Beethoven felt he could have written better music, Leonardo regretted that he should have painted more. All you artists out there, it's okay to be unsatisfied with your work, but never fall into the trap that you know-it-all and think you above learning something new.

Birthdays: Sam Houston, Alexander Graham Bell, Kurt Weill, Desi Arnaz ( Desiderio Alberto Arnaz y de Acha III ), Ted Geisel aka Dr.Suess, Mikhail Gorbachov, Willis O'Brian, Jon Bon Jovi, Karen Carpenter, Lou Reed, Jennifer Jones, John Cullum, John Irving, Tom Wolfe

1922- A 21 year old veteran named Walt Disney after getting out of the army began studying in the public library William Lutz's book "Motion Picture Animation and How it is Made". In Kansas City he and his brother Roy persuaded the owner of a small chain of vaudeville theaters to fund some cartoons. Today the Newman's Laff-O-Grams Company was formed. A year later the Disney brothers would move to Hollywood and start a new enterprise called the Walt Disney Company.

1923- THE FIRST TIME MAGAZINE. Founders Henry Luce and Claire Booth Luce were among the more powerful of the nations cultural elite. Conservative to the core -to the end of their days they thought Franklin Roosevelt and Civil Rights were big mistakes, they still experimented with LSD when it was thought by Harvard professors to be mind expanding. In the late 1980's the Time merged with Warner Communications to form Time-Warner, the world's largest media conglomerate.

1933- Movie "KING KONG" premiered at the new Radio City Music Hall in New York and the Roxy. It was the birthday of effects supervisor Willis O'Brian. Twas Beauty killed the Beast. No CGI around.

1947- Crusading Hollywood labor union organizer Herb Sorrell is plucked off the street in Glendale by gangsters posing as police. They may not have been just posing, many studios at the time hired off-duty LAPD at doubletime rates to rough up problem employees. Anywho, they drive Herb up to Mullholland and work him over, leaving him by the side of the road. Shortly after leaving the hospital Sorrell was jailed for disturbing public peace.

1971- Charles Engelhard died, a venture capitalist who’s wild investments and grand lifestyle made him the inspiration for Ian Fleming’s villain Auric Goldfinger.

1973- The Women in Film organization founded.

1976- Francis Ford Coppola began shooting his epic film“ Apocalypse Now” in the Philippines. The film was plagued by cost overruns, a typhoon and his Philippine Army helicopters frequently flying off to fight real guerrillas in the middle of shooting, but somehow it all got done.

1982- Science Fiction writer Phiilip K. Dick died of a stroke in Santa Ana California. The author of stories the movies Blade Runner, Minority Report and Total Recall were based. Dick said he was at times possessed by a superalien who appeared in his mind in a beam of pink light. His bio is called I am Alive but you are Dead.