Sunday, November 30, 2008

Two Million Dollars!

Legendary piece of New York animation lore: The Mogubgub mural.

"Why doesn't someone give Mogubgub, LTD. two million dollars to make a movie?"

Painted with the help of Irene Trivas after Fred left Ferro Mogubgub Schwartz, this painting hung on the side of his studio at 6th Avenue and 46th Street (a curious addition to "Popeye Alley").

This photo is from January 1966 Pageant Magazine (the above the masthead headline: Open Letter to Negroes: Why We Whites Really Fear You. Other stories include: Chaste...Misunderstood...Restless THE AMERICAN NUN A special report on her unspoken problems)

Here's the article (uncredited author) in full:


Years and years ago there was an old Syrian who wrapped his body with a cape and his world with delusions. One day he went down to a river bank, spread that cape, and soared, birdlike, for the opposite bank. His flight failed, rocklike. He splashed down a few feet from takeoff point, and just before he sank the last time, he gasped, "Mogubgub".

That's the story, anyway, that filmmaker Fred Mogubgub tells about the origin of his name. The story Mogubgub wants to tell on film may compel some latter-day gasps "Mogubgub".

For he's got a spy spoof in mind, with dashing agents like George Washington and Abraham Lincoln and luscious babes like Whistler's Mother and the Statue of Liberty. It's packed into 90 minutes and called Six Characters and a Dog on a Very Windy Day. It's also unrealized -$2 million short of getting under way.

Mogubgub's not bashful about his financial shorts, nor is he conventional about them. so not long ago New Yorkers passing the northwest corner of Avenue of the Americas and 46th Street got a sampling of Mogubgub art. Painted onto the side the building there was a comic-strip woman, eyes fluttering. She was asking, "Why Doesn't Someone Give Mogubgub Ltd. Two Million Dollars To Make A Movie?"

A few somebodies did. Mogubgub got a five-dollar bill through the mail, a one-dollar bill from a passing acquaintance on the street, a quarter left on his office desk by a friend, and 17 pennies dropped on the desk by an unknown contributor.

So he was off to a start with deliberate speed. Behind him were some solid TV credits. For Pontiac, for instance, Mogubgub turned the firepower of both the Air Force and the Navy on Victor Borge for driving through a toll station without paying. ("Only the incredible agility of the Pontiac Grand Prix enabled me to be here tonight", says Borge in the punch line.)

For ABC's Nightlife Show Mogubgub dressed up an actor as a cop then assaulted on a city street. The city police pursued the Mogubgub retinue as vigorously as a band of Marines running down some Vietcong. There was almost an arrest.

Always Mogubgub plays up the visual. The dialogue and background music are fitted to the film after the action has been shot. He draws on old stock footage, stills, graphic symbols, live action, and animation to jolly the viewer's eye. There's a scene he's planning for the spy spoof in which he'll shoot the action, change it into polaroid, hand-paint each polaroid fram, shuffle the frames like a deck of cards, and then reshoot under and animation camera.

That's unbuttoned concoction, and 37-year-old Mogubgub appears in person as unfastened and as zany as his films. He'll wear, say, a jet-black suit (no belt), a bright blue shirt (open at the neck), a loud red tie, and ordinary shoes (unlaced). His black hair mats thickly down the back of his neck and curls down his forehead almost to eye-level.

He's a distinctive-looking fellow with a distinctive name and a distinctive style. Only the sum of two million dollars -minus some change -stands between him and the realization of his dreams. That, for once, makes Mogubgub as conventional the next guy. Until he gets that money, anyway.

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