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.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Dog Day

I fired the humans and replaced them with dogs.

Lucia doesn't like me. She was O. K. at first, then I picked her up -she's lighter than Murray the Cat. Now if I come within 10 feet she starts barking and runs away.

Makes it hard to give her scenes to animate.

I just call this one "fluffy dog". Apparently, her name is "Bijou". Fluffy dog, it is!

Fluffy Dog weighs 4 pounds. That's 1/3 the weight of Murray the Cat.

Layabout dogs must not have heard about the humans getting fired.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Hair Today

One year ago today I cut off all of my hair. I haven't cut it since. Now, it measures about seven inches.

Thinking of hair and hair cuts reminds me of Roland Topor. An artist told me a story about him, I don't know if it's a true story but I like to believe it is.

Topor, of course, is responsible for the look of La Planete sauvage -a film made haunting by its intricate and gruesome design. He also wrote the novel on which Polanski's The Tenant is based, played Renfield in Herzog's Nosferatu and created a French "news" show hosted by a puppet cat.

above: Telechat

As the years passed, Topor (as will happen) began to lose more and more hair. Occasionally he would notice this in public, at a cafe, on a park bench, in a meeting. He would tape down the lost follicle and draw an elaborate illustration based on the line.

above: titles to Viva La Muerte

above: the beginning of Fantastic Planet (La Planet sauvage)

Topor has left us these films and countless incredible illustrations. Just as I like to imagine there's some 10 year old cancer patient out there robbing banks and littering the crime scenes with my DNA from the wig they got last Christmas, I like to think that restaurants of Paris are spruced with ornate doodles of monsters and sexual organs.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Demo Demo

What I like best about having a production company -after the money wrangling from corporate monoliths, never ending insurance bills for things like "domestic terrorism" and minimum wages I bring home -are the trappings of a studio.

Making sample reels, post cards, Christmas cards -the fun stuff.

We've taken to seasonal reworkings of our sample reel. The packaging on our first version was straightforward.

We had to figure out a few things. Design-wise, how to treat the logo against a background. It uses saturated tints of the primaries leaving us few options. The flat yellow was the simplest answer. The logo plays well on this color field.

In the winter we wanted to dial back the palate and stick with the four colors of the logo.

The logo now rests on the lower left hand corner against a blue pulled from the logo's color scheme. A thin white drop separates it. Blue, obviously, for winter.

Here's the inside, with the DVD.

Different media and different applications process and print color in different ways. This is an early unsuccessful test to try to get the tones to match.

This winter reel from last year was our first effort to win the Nobel Prize for Demo Reels.

We built this simple open that plays upon loading the disk.

It lands on this menu.

The snowflakes turn blue as they cross into the white. The animation runs on 3 or 4 minute cycle.

The "about us" and "contact" menu also have little graphics activated upon clicking.

For the summer the packaging got little more cartoony. This is our attempt at being "fun".

The contents of the disk reflect the website design -which is picked up in the graphics of the cover.
Here's what happens when you click contact.

These clips play here without audio. The audio was laid in DVD Studio Pro and I'm too lazy to redo it in an editing software just to upload here.

For our Fall packaging we've retained the same menu setup as the Summer Reel (but changed the contents of the reel as well as the music selections).

Taking off from the Asterisk exhaust of the Summer rocketship, we're using the logo here as a pun. I think it's playful and maintains the emotional integrity of the logo.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

My Favorite Buildings

One of the benefits of the old days of working at The Ink Tank was its proximity to Rockefeller Center.

Unlike many tourist attractions -The Empire State Building is just an office building, The Statue of Liberty is well out of walking distance -Rockefeller Center was designed for life in New York City. It's possibly the pinnacle of urban architecture in America.

The friezes on the facades of each building in the original complex were created by Lee Lawrie.

As Rockefeller Center is nothing but superlatives in the world of architecture (and American achievement, in general) these reliefs are superlative in the realm of Art Deco sculpture.

Lawrie's work on Rockefeller Center pulls the hat trick of public design:

1) It captures the spirit of the age. Social realism blended effortlessly with Art Deco angles, detailing and color. This combination presents a thoughtful optimism for the state of the nation during the Great Depression.

2) It presents patriotism as communal. The national symbol, the eagle, flies throughout Rockefeller Center. In the image above it flies alongside the maiden. Such images of community are represented all through the building complex.

3) It connects the presents to past, placing itself (and us) within the continuum of history. These buildings were made by men long dead, they honor those who tread before them and invite us, the living, to share the space they created.

I was introduced to Lee Lawrie's work at The Ink Tank. That studio occupied the space created by and once used by Bertram Goodhue, who is best known in New York for his church architecture.

Goodhue employed Lawrie on almost all of his commissions. Even in Rockefeller Center, the cathedral of Capitalism, Lawrie couldn't escape the profane.

The walk up a few blocks to 53rd and Fifth Avenue offers the other end of Lawrie's work.

While most tourists are taken by St. Patrick's Cathedral just across from Rockefeller Center, they're missing the real sacred gem of the avenue. (For the best of Renwick's work, skip St. Patrick's for the Grace Church on Broadway. Take the tram to Roosevelt Island for a glimpse of his two ruined asylums and still extant lighthouse.)

Saint Thomas' Episcopal Church is as Gothic as you get in New York City without heavy eye make up.

This is Goodhue's Gothic high point. He evolved into an extraordinarily interesting architect (that's for another post), but here he was working to outdo his old master's work down the block.

Lawrie's dominating sculpture are what makes this building special.
Of course, all of these sculptures have a story and a meaning behind them.

St. Thomas' showcases some of the finest Gothic work in America, just a few blocks north of some of the world's great Art Deco.

Brilliant artists can be brilliant in many forms.

Sometimes, if the elongated body and angular features of this saint are any proof, they tip their hand a little and we can divine the progression of their senses.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Here's What I Did Yesterday

06:53 Murray the Cat beats the alarm, waking me 7 minutes before it rings
06:55 Daily grooming activities
07:40 Dilly Dally
08:00 Drop off laundry
08:05 Take L Train
08:15 Purchase pies at Union Square farmers' market
08:20 Take R Train to 28th Street
08:25 Arrive at studio, make coffee, eat some pie
08:30 Deal with morning email and junk
08:35 Go over storyboard Brian worked up after receiving script at 6PM previous night (film is due today)
08:40 Record scratch track
09:10 Call Patrick Smith. Ask him if he wants to be the star of this test spot
09:20 Record additional takes of scratch track
09:45 Christina (artist) phones. Her train is stuck out in Long Island
09:50 Ask Ryan (intern) to make copies of storyboard
10:10 Jessica and Nina (artists) arrive with Lucia (dog). We discuss vaguely what we need to do by end of day
10:15 Set Ryan to assemble the rough storyboard (20 pages, many with a single drawing per page) onto one or two pieces of large Bristol board
10:20 Assign prep work for a few scenes to Jessica and Nina
10:30 Edit scratch track
10:45 Receive a scratch track from ad agency (we didn't know it was coming)
11:00 Talk to Brian on the phone
11:10 Go over board with Christina. Isolate a sequence for her to start on with the graphic elements we have
11:30 Fax board to agency. It's rough and unintelligible
12:15 Patrick Smith arrives. Socialize and dilly dally
12:25 Talk to agency about board
12:40 Set up for photo shoot
12:55 Call Waldy's for lunch
13:05 Start photographing Patrick
13:30 Pizza arrives. We finish shooting.

13:40 Patrick leaves. Check in on artists.
14:00 Import photos/pull selects.
14:05 Get revised script from agency
14:20 Lean out of 12th floor window to photograph overhead of Brian standing across the street
14:25 Assign selects for Ryan to prepare. Show him how to prepare the Photoshop documents using Masks.
14:30 Figure out what's different about the new script
14:40 Jessica goes to voice lesson
14:50 Go to bank
14:55 Call Brian to ask him to switch Nina over to finishing what Jessica started
15:10 Return from bank. Bug Christina about her shots
15:25 Brief call with agency
15:30 Dame Darcy calls. Wants to make sure I'll be at her book release party, I tell her of my "situation" and hopes to make it
15:35 Pull live foot from tape archives. We've done work for this client before, so we had some material that could be used for this
15:45 Cut selects (three shots) against voice track
15:50 Receive logos from agency
15:55 AfterEffects color treatment of live shots
16:10 Cut in first of Christina's sequences
16:15 Have short phone conversation with Steve Kerper. Probably about becoming a fan of Murray the Cat
16:20 Go over revision with Christina, start her on new sequence
16:35 Start on AfterEffects of two shots
16:40 Notice someone has finally cut into the pumpkin pie (ALSO NOTE: this is an observation right after I set myself to do actual animation related work...)
16:55 Go over Ryan's work. It's good
17:05 Go over Nina's work. Also good
17:10 Cut in new shots from Christina and my scenes
17:20 Go over Nina's work. Give her new shot
17:30 AfterEffects scene that Nina prepared
17:45 Cut in that shot
17:50 Go over Nina's work
17:55 Christina starts on shot Nina prepared
18:00 Nina goes home. Brings barky dog with her
18:05 Fine tune piece with exception of one missing shot
18:10 Martha calls. We talk for 15 minutes
18:20 Christina starts to render final shot
18:30 Christina goes home
18:35 Realize that this last scene is (4 seconds) is going to take forever to render because a) some stupid effect that's on it and, more importantly, b) it's the last shot
18:36 Start reading: Murder at the Vicarage
19:05 e-mail agency producer with status update. Another "20 minutes" per computer estimate
19:45 talk to agency producer. They've just finished a meeting will get dinner and stop by
19:55 render finish/cut in shot
20:00 Export/compress/upload quicktime
20:20 Email link to agency
20:45 Mix studio calls. Different guy, same conversation.
20:50 Talk to Alex to bide time. Complain about agency not showing up yet
21:05 Agency calls. Loves what we did, but asks us to re-do about half of it
21:15 Start on revisions. Break into five sections -straight editorial (easy), end (cut in a version we already did, but didn't show plus new logo treatment and end frame -fairly easy), resizing (essentially, although it's more complicated than that -somewhat easy), new approach to 15 second sequence (brain work), new live action pulled from web (pain in the ass).
21:20 Editorial revision complete. Start digging through Christina's work to find the right stuff
21:25 Agency calls back to make sure we're not mad. We're not mad, we always seem cranky -we like to think of it as efficient
21:30 Brian heads out
21:35 Render resizes on Christina's machine
21:40 Find YouTube clip
21:45 Download YouTube clip
21:55 Convert flv to quicktime
22:10 Cut in quicktime. Doesn't work because flv to mov conversion is awful
22:15 Figure out work around. Quality still looks terrible, but it'll have to do for this project
22:20 Cut in resize revision
22:25 Deal with end sequence revision
22:30 Brian calls to check in
22:40 Talk to Alex some more while trying to figure out what to do
22:45 Cut in end sequence revision
22:50 Start to figure new section revision. Pull select images, drop them in time, find better images, make transitions
23:50 Make alternate version of new section identical to what we discussed with agency (I couldn't really see what they wanted until I figured out how I would do it, then what they wanted was clear)
00:30 Cut in both versions
00:35 Make timing revisions on new section
00:45 Fine tune entire edit
01:05 Export/compress/upload two versions
01:30 email
01:45 burn DVDs
02:00 leave studio
02:15 discover L train isn't running. Begin 40 minutes of MTA hijinx
02:55 get out of D train (don't ask) at Broadway-Lafayette. Catch cab. Cabbie sings "Let's Get in On" along with the radio. I don't not accept the offer
03:00 home
03:15 sleep
07:30 pick up laundry
08:05 drop off final at mix studio

Here's Pat Smith. He was the only guy we could think of with chiseled Aryan good looks of a guy who would make high end luxury purchases.

I should say, this isn't typical -but it happens every once in a while. A client, usually someone we've worked with in the past, will ring up and need something right away. In this case "right away" meant, literally, the next day.

There are "24 hour film" competitions all of the time. I think they're a waste of 24 hours. Sure, its a decent enough school exercise but in reality if you've come down to such a short time make something its due to poor planning. Film making, animation in particular, is about planning (or as we like to call it, courtesy of Gerard Goulet, "planification").

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Revised Reel

While making a film the crew creates a cocoon. They inhabit a self-contained world of messy larvae and slime in the hope of growing into a pretty, pretty bug.

This hibernation makes working easier- shared common language, a shared goal, and ultimately a unified point of view.

The downside to this, of course, is that your audience may no habla your lingua franca .

That's why directors focus group their pictures, to make sure the point gets across.

While I tend to be a little arrogant when it comes to the clarity of our work -in my mellowing approach to certain death I've began to show pieces in progress to make sure their point is coming across as strongly as possible.

A couple weeks back I posted our Fall demo montage and sent it around to folks. Several people had the same reaction, and we could appreciate the validity to their thoughts.

This revised cut incorporates the feedback from our loyal fans.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Buy Cool Merchandise!

A little while back we worked with Steve Kerper to create a bunch of pieces for MyDamnChannel.

One was a series of live action bits with pan and scan storybook illustration. We got to use some fun illustration on those bits. I did a poor job photographing the live, but they're cut O.K.

That was a case of multiple rounds of editing with Steve and Brian. That's the toughest sort of edit -when a few people are throwing out ideas. They may all be "good" ideas, but you can't execute them all at once. Then, on the other hand, there are some ideas you instinctively know will not work but are obligated to try.

In any case, we also did three animated bits.

You can collect fabulous merchandise here.

The spaceship was made in Maya, the characters animated in Flash, compositing in After Effects. Here's a case where Flash allowed us to create "better" animation. The animation short cuts are the same that would be used in a low budget Oxberry stand shoot -the girl's arms reaching across frame is a pan cel, for example. We timed holds and added flourishes in the same manner any drawn film would be done -except the drawing was done with a tablet.

This leads to some art production that I'm not crazy about. The line work doesn't have the finesse or control that I'd like. Time constraints of producing on a budget are more responsible for this than anything inescapable in the Flash production process.

Ultimately, these films work because of the sound design. JZ Barrell did the music and sound effects.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Idiotic Technology?

*ring* *ring*

Me: Studio.
Phone: Hi. Can I speak to the person who handles your I.T.?
Me: I don't know what that is.
Phone: The person who handles your I. T.
Me: What's I. T.?
Phone: ...
Me: What precisely are you selling?
Phone: We're XYZ Consulting and we're the industry leader in data blah blah blah blah...

I still don't know what "I. T." is. It has something to do with computers. Sounds like middle management for people who don't know how to send e-mail.

I guess I'm our "I. T. guy" whatever the #%&@! that is.

One of our machines decided not to work this week.

As "I. T. guy" I figured it out.

The problem: the "air deflector door". Inside a PowerMac G5 there is a plastic door between the guts of the machine and the external (presumably titanium) access panel.

Through my intrepid "I. T." skills I discovered how to make the computer work. Here's what I did:

I took off the "air deflector door".

Want to see the computer not working?

Place the plastic door in the holding slots at the bottom and the fan on the hard drive shuts off, preventing the machine from starting up.

I'll point out that there is no physical connection between the door and the fan. In fact, the door doesn't attach to any other of part of the machine.

In order to fix Macintosh computers, sometimes you just have to think different.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


A few years ago I received a call from a colleague telling me that a certain animator had passed.

"We lost XXXXX", he said.

Immediate condolences were offered. After a minute of the usual questions, I thanked him for calling and admitted that I never even met the person and, not to speak ill of the dead, didn't at all care for their films. He laughed and agreed on the last point and voiced what I already respected on the first -you may not have known this person but they were very important to our community and now an important of us all is missing.

I did know Emru Townsend. Even if I tried I couldn't think of a negative thing to say about him. Maybe that he never visited me in New York. And being Canadian is, at least, questionable.

When a friend texted me last night of his worsening condition, I immediately thought of that call from years ago.

Emru was a part of our global family. Not just through his publications, or through his well considered love of animation and graphics but as kind and bright person.

The world is a better place than it was when he was born into it. This morning, we all wake a little worse off.

I'd Like To Take Credit For This...

In addition to writing this awesome "blog" that 3 people read and making animation and graphics that nobody wants to pay for I teach college students who are too cool to appreciate the hilarious and brilliant things I say.

Several years ago I had a student who was clearly a natural. I've had a several talented students, a few of those were also hard working. They've gone on to a degree of "success" in animation.

Hanne Berkaak, who co-directed this video, transferred to The Royal Academy the year after I taught her. Perhaps she realized that there was nothing more New York could offer. Maybe she felt so gypped by her American education she fled as soon as she could.

You get her coolness and her inventiveness in this piece. Hopefully this will lead to more opportunities for her to show us her rare natural skills as an animator.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

My First Animation!

Here's one from the archives.

Way back in the 20th Century when I was producing the "Troubles the Cat" segments for CTW/Cartoon Network's Big Bag they asked if we could help out on another piece.

Maciek Albrecht
was the director on "Troubles" and we turned to him to take care of this film.

It actually is a film. The animation was shot on Maciek's animation stand in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Maciek used to live and have his studio in the building with the smokestack on Bedford Avenue and North 3rd.

"Zoom to the Zoo" was the first piece I made with Maciek out of this space. "Troubles" was being animated in Krakow and the production was run entirely out of The Ink Tank.

The biggest worry at that time was lunch. There weren't any places to eat on Bedford Avenue in 1997. There was a Polish bakery with questionable hours and even more questionable pastries. There was a pizza place or two several blocks down the road. I think even Plan Eat Thailand in its original cozy nook was yet to be opened. Elly, Maciek's wife, would sometimes make lunch for the crew. This is how I was introduced to bigos. She even made vegetarian bigos for me.

(image from here)

There's a real estate broker in Maciek's building now. Finding a place to eat is no problem. But if you're still craving some old fashioned Polish cooking -there's a pet food store right underneath Maciek's old loft.

We had no money to make this film. Maybe $4000 that we could spend -including stock and lab and transfer. I also didn't know anything about production. I was good with charts, though.

The idea was to do cut outs because they were cheaper. Maciek has this way of doing what he thinks will look best despite costs -one of several bad traits I learned from him.

Here we animated on paper. Then inked on cel the old fashioned way -all quill pens, notice the colored lines. The "opaqueing" is mostly cut out paper colored with airbrush (some is flat painted, some is colored pencil, some watercolor) and spray mounted onto the back of the cel.

Maciek then created a cycle of 4 frosted cels with airbrushed "wisps" on them which add a layer of moving haze.

Like I said, I didn't know anything about anything at the time. Maciek was probably tired of me looking over his shoulder for 10 hours a day and gave me some things to "animate".

He gave me a drawing of an eagle, a bear, a couple parrots, a gorilla, a gator laughing, a lion and there was another that got cut but I don't remember what sort of animal it was. It must have been really bad.

That's when I learned that animation is mostly tracing. Get a good drawing, move some stuff around, trace.

The compositing was done in the AVID. We had to work with a "supervised" transfer to BetaSP from Technicolor since that was all the budget afforded. The rendering of the keys took probably 48 hours. They're not even good keys but at the time, for the budget this was like The Matrix.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Naked Campaign: Coda

Our two year project of chronicling the 2008 election with Steve Brodner came to a close on Tuesday.

The approach to editing this film was different from all the others. Even so, the final structure demonstrates what we hoped (I hoped, at least) this would experiment achieve. Illustration provides a specific way of seeing, in this final piece the images (and the ellipses) tell a story that words could not speak.

This time we had the soundtrack as a starting point. On Monday Gail and Ben went to Bennett Studios in Englewood to shoot Jon Faddis playing the National Anthem.

This told us how long the piece would be.

Unlike the other videos, I began by putting on the opening title sequence and blocking in the end signature and credits. Then the detail work.

The edit started from the back.

Initially, we discussed using Obama's 2004 convention speech as a lead. We'd intercut with footage Faddis performing while Brodner drew and then mix in a clip from Obama's Tuesday night victory speech.

We've used real audio before, and found it effective- notably in The Straight Talk Eggspess, Three Legged Race, and Plot Holes.

The audio always comes first. The sound tells you what the picture is. Even when editing sound and picture at the same time the flow of the audio takes priority.

John Hubley famously recorded all of his soundtracks before beginning animation. Not just voice, but music. Tissa David asked him "how do you know it's going to work in the film." His response, "I listen to the track. If its good and it works, the film will be good and it will work."

Since we were working here with a defined measure of time (3 minutes, minus open and close), we decided to fill in the finale first to ensure it received the proper time.

We decided on two clips from Obama's Victory Speech, the second part echoing the "red state/blue state" passage of dichotomies from his '04 Convention Speech which we used for the first Naked Campaign film in January '07.

From there it was back to the beginning. First was Frederick Douglass.

This is also the longest of the portraits.

The editorial plan was to draw the viewer in with an elegant, almost elegaic pace. This portrait starts from the blank page and works to completion in 36 seconds.

Over the course of these films, we've done a lot of "undercranking" or speeding up footage to the construction of a drawing. In this, we purposely moved through the drawing process with slow dissolves and kept it all (mostly) in real time.

Intitially, Louis Armstrong was slated as the second profile.

He was a casuality of time. Just not enough room.

The next guy, Jackie Robinson, starts with his features already established. We see two strong lines being drawn.

The structural intention was to start Douglass from point zero and have each subsequent portrait begin later in the construction of the drawing.

We had a detailed discussion about who would be represented in this piece. At first, I was a proponent of Shirley Chisholm seeing her as more of an extraordinary individual. Rosa Parks, as courageous and noble as she was, represented the inevitable. Brodner made the irrefutable point that she was a "game changer". That her action, inevitable or not, changed the world and she, alone, is responsible for that.

Brodner created her with heartfelt warmth in this illustration. His definition of her action also clarified what this final piece of the campaign should be.

At this point, there was no need for the 2004 speech and the intercutting with Faddis was convoluted and unnecessary. Direct and simple clearly became the way to go.

For Dr. King the framing was tricky. That sort of effected the overall editorial philosophy of the piece.

His section fades out as the camera moves trying to frame him while the finishing touches are put on his moustache.

That brings us to the impressive portrait of Justice Marshall.

We only show his robes being colored in.

Lastly, the speech fades up and Obama is drawn with several parts already on paper.

He starts out, improbably enough, a little like Lincoln. As his features form, the portrait remains open ended. We don't see his eyes. The line is soft and open. His features recede into shadow. He is still a question.

A question -what's that? Watercolor fills in tone as if to say all the men and women leading up to this point simply provided the framework. Here we have the fulfillment of a promise described with pencil, pen and brush.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

102 Years, Dammit! 102!

Kate Hambrecht "dragged" me to an animation event last night.

"Serge Bromberg presenting 100 years of animation" at the Alliance Fran├žaise.

First, let's address the title. It's a peculiar nationalism that has caused the nation of France to completely disregard J. Stuart Blackton's 1906 "Humorous Phases of Funny Faces" (we'll call his "Enchanted Drawing" from 1900 a trickfilm, not "animation") in favor of the younger "Fantasmagorie" by Emile Cohl.

You could argue that "Fantasmagorie" is a better animation. The claim isn't "Fantasmagorie is the first animation that doesn't suck", you'd have to go many years deep into the 20th Century to find that.

Bromberg mentioned a recently discovered Russian film which predates Cohl's work, but I haven't heard anything about it.

Delphine, sitting in front of me, advanced the claim that Emile Reynaud created the first animation. Bendazzi offers a few pages on Reynaud and comes down clearly on the side that his work was not film (therefore not animation). I'll side with Giannalberto on this one.

The highlight of the evening was a crazy film that I had never heard of by two French guys I'd never of.

Joie de Vivre's design is drawn from Art Deco (contemporary, although dying in popularity, at the time). Almost immediately after it 1934 release it was acquired by the Museum of Modern Art.

The filmmakers, Anthony Gross and Hector Hoppin (Amid Amidi says he's the financier -I haven't seen anything to confirm or deny this) created a stream of consciousness piece that is threaded with by a chase scene and punctuated with visual puns.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Air wave

Public Radio has finally done something right (besides Joe Frank).

Weekend Edition ran a 9 and a half minute story on Brian Dewan that almost begins to capture what a brilliant guy he is.

I've known Brian for several years -the first few years of our acquaintance involved minor chit chat without proper introduction. We've moved a little past the minor chit chat, I don't think we've ever had a proper introduction but at least we know one another's name.