Monday, January 31, 2011


For several years The Ink Tank had good gig with CBS Entertainment doing animation for the NBC broadcast "Caroline in the City".

The first season had regular opens of full animation.

The title card (created for the pilot) was animated by Ed Smith after designs by Bonnie Timmons.  The remaining full opens were animated by Kris van Alphen.  He had been recommended by Paul Dreissen.  For most of the run he animated from his home in Belgium.

We'd get the scripts from Los Angeles, send the boards to Europe and receive animation drawings via DHL back in New York.

After the first season, it became clear that a new opening in full drawn animation wasn't the most cost effective production policy.

The producers cut back to animated establishing shots.  These were usually building exteriors with bits of animation, walks mostly or passing cars.  That animation was largely done by Igor Mitrovic.   This went on for maybe 4 or 5 more years under the direct supervision of Nina Crews, then Shawn Atkins. 

Sunday, January 30, 2011

But It Might Look Like This

This is art Joey Ahlbum created for a pre-school show we're brewing.

The characters evolved into something different, but this is the mood and style we like a lot.

They're cool characters (I like them, anyways).

Later on we'll post more about the pitch.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

That's What Could It Look Like

These are some early development sketched by David Fremont for a preschool idea we've got.

He drew these after talking to Brian about the show.

We were already pretty far along our design path, but he like the idea and worked these up.

Tomorrow we'll post the more "finished" art that we already had in progress and use for the pitch.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Children of the Hydra's Teeth - Part Six

Here comes the most important shot of all.  The one thing that "sells" the reality of the situation.

We've got Aeetes (and goons) in the background, the animation in the middle ground, and Jason & Co. in the foreground.

This may be an actual process shot in which the foreground elements are composited.  They may have even been composited in camera -note the hard black shadows -negative space making a bipack easier.

The foreground also has a different vanishing point from the background.  That's something common in animation which doesn't have when you shoot through a lens.

Harryhausen may have done this shot in some other ingenious way.  The important thing to remember -if you're going to do something more complicated, more expensive, make sure it's critical to the success of the film.

The "three layered" shot comes a point where we need to have the geography reinforced at the moment we need to be sold the animation exists in the same reality as the live action.

This following cut, is back to the skeletons approaching from the side with Aeetes in rear projection.

Back to Aeetes.

Jason retreating.

There should be no question to the geography now.  We know what Jason sees, we know the relationship of his position to the skeletons.

We also know he's outnumbered 3 to 1.

Next up: The fight begins (almost)

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Children of the Hydra's Teeth - Part Five

Jason has just seen Aeetes grow an army of skeleton soldiers from the ground.

The audience has witnessed it too.

He's got two guys with him.  And they've seen it.

The actors here don't do a great job of acting.  Today's actor is much more comfortable with special effects and playing to a mark.

These guys are mostly stage actors.  They've played against other actors their whole careers.  Here, their job was to imagine the skeletons.

Aeetes does a great job of this -but he's got the "bad guy" part.  It's always easier to ham this up.

Again, this is a "process" shot.  The live action was projected, single frame, on to the stage and refilmed as the animation was done.

This sequence can not rely on performance.  The effect has to work based on editing and composition.

Aeetes gives us some gut when he orders "charge".

And the warriors advance.  The mixing of the pure live shots with the "process" shots sells the reality.

And the Argonauts retreating as the animation advances defines the stage geography and further sell the two techniques as one world.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Looks Like Mom And Dad Lost The Bet

Here's a reason why kids don't run the world.

Though the 86 Mets (the most loathsome team of all time) logo makes me think it's the doing of year round ballcap wearing adult.

Dora Explorer, Fred Flintstone, Little Mermaid -it's like a Roger Rabbit sequel on wheels.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Top Cel Vol 1, #22: 11/22/44: Turns Blue


The following motion was passed at the last General Membership on November 14th at New Rochelle:

"Moved, seconded and carried; to establish a rule that members must attend at least one out of three consecutive meetings and that offenders be fined equivalent to a month dues and that they shall be fined additionally for each meeting consecutively missed thereafter. This ruling to be effective as of December 1945."

It shall be noticed that the members themselves desired this ruling in preference to one suggested by the Executive Board calling for a $2 fine for a similar offense.


This issue of "Top Cel" is given over almost entirely to a reprint of THE ANIMATOR of Nov. 13, 1944 sent to us by airmail. It deals with the recommendation of the War Labor Board panel on the Disney negotiations. We feel that this information is of primary interest, so we are dispensing with our usual features for this issue.

Once more this proves the importance of close relationship with our sister union on the West Coast. What affects Hollywood affects us and vice versa. "Top Cel" shall always endeavor to maintain this close relationship and good will.

The following material is self explanatory:

The Highlights of the recommendation of the War Labor Board Panel, consisting of a labor member, a representative of industry and a public member, are outlined below. The Company and the Union have ten days in which to make comment on the Panel's recommendation. The recommendation, along with these comments, will then go to the Tenth Regional War Labor Board in San Francisco. On the basis of the recommendation they will then set down an order. We will then have a decision. The decision of the Tenth Regional War Labor Board can then be appealed to the National War Labor Board in Washington, this is the final step.

Story Director and Storyman (The Union withdrew the wages as a dispute from the WLB as this matter probably will have to be decided in the Treasury Dept. Hearings are now being held with the Treasury concerning writers in the industry.)

Storyman Specialist, (Story Sketch, Continuity Artist, Narration writer, etc.)
minimum $85.00
Apprentice First 4 months........,,,...$65.00
Apprentice Second 4 months..........$70.00
Apprentice Third 4 months.......,,....$75.00
     The Panel recommends the elimination of Class II except as a tryout  for one year with the possibility that where agreement is reached between the Union and the Company this time can be extended.

     The Penel recommended an increase of $2.50, from $35 to $37.50.

     Scene Technician
     The Panel recommended the elimination of tryout for one year leaving the minimum at $85.00

     Animation Checker
     The Panel recommended the minimum be raised from $55 to $60.

     The Panel recommended a $5.00 increase, from $32.50 to $37.50.

     Recommendation for a $5.00 increase, from $30.00 to $35.00

     Assistant Supervisors Ink and Paint
     Recommendation for an increase of $2.50, from $50 to $52.50.

     Checkers Ink and Paint
     Panel recommended a $2.50 increase, from $35.00 to $37.50/

     Paint Laboratory - mix and match
     The recommendation was for a $2.50 increase, from $35 to $37.50.

     An increase of $5.00 recommended, from $25 to $30.00.

The Panel further recommended that the WLB proceed to establish brackets for industry based on actual rather than contract rates and to use those brackets to decide the issue of wages.

We have listed above only those recommendations of the Panel which were changes over the old contract.  The Local will no doubt protest the wages in the low end they are still not as high as wages paid common laborers in the motion picture industry, (laborers are paid $1.05 an hour, $42.00 per week).

On the sixth and seventh days - the Panel recommended 1 1/2 time for the sixth day, and double time for the seventh day.  Days off because of holidays, illness or accident on the job, lack of work, or a leave of absence to conduct union business, are to be counted in computing the sixth and seventh days for the purpose of paying overtime.

Dinner money -The Panel denied our request for dinner money after two hours of overtime for those earning $50.00 or less per week.

The Panel recommended the payment of straight time for holidays that fall on Saturday.

Vacations - The Panel recommended one week vacation after six months, and 2 weeks after 1 year; and further recommended: "All employees who are laid off or discharged without cause after six months service shall receive payment in cash for all accumulated but unused vacation credit at the rate of 5/6 of a  day per month."

The Panel denied the Union's proposal for accumulated sick leave, but, in denying it, made the following statement:

"The Panel, in considering this issue, feels that there is merit in part of the Union's proposal, particularly with respect to the accumulation of unused sick leave.  However, recent National War Labor Board decisions on sick leave make it pretty clear that its present policy is not to order the institution on the liberalization of sick leave plans even though stronger grounds exist than are present in this case.  For this reason, we recommend denial of the Union demand."

Military Service Provision -Our demand was denied although the Panel stated, "As for military severance pa, it has been the firm policy of the National War Labor Board to refuse to order such provisions in union contracts, even where they practice, in fact, already existed.  Under the circumstances, without considering the reasonableness of the Union's demand, we must recommend denial also on this point."

On the Re-release of Motion Picture Cartoons and the Re-release of Motion Picture Cartoons in Television Form -"The Panel has concluded from the information and arguments adduced at the hearing and in the briefs that this matter is a is a proper  subject of collective bargaining and therefore recommends that the Board order the parties to negotiate thereon either until a settlement is reached or until a reasonable length of time has expired without agreement."

The Panel recommended if no agreement was reached after a reasonable time the WLB would then take a hand in the decision.  As you recall we requested the funds from re-release to go to the men in service and television funds to go to the unemployed fund.  There has been no end of name calling on this issue, and we are particularly amused at the red baiting.  We would like to hear the same people, who are red baiting us for this demand, talk to Mr. Petrillo of the Musicians who has just received not only a similar decision from the Board but agreement with RCA and Columbia has been reached granting them 1/4 cent for 35 cent discs, 1/2 cent for 50 cent discs, 3/4 cent for 75 cent discs and 1 cent on $1.00 discs.  This will bring the Musicians Union about $4,000,000 a year for unemployment purposes.  Aren't Cartoonists entitled to the same protection as Musicians?

The rest of the industry particularly actors, writers, directors and cameramen have shown tremendous interest in our arguments in relation to the proposal.  Don't let anybody fool you in talking about the size of our demand -20% of the gross.  That is not the issue since the Company has refused so far to make an offer of 1/10 of 1%.

We are also amused at O'Rourke's usual ranting in the trades wherein he threatens and talks in terms of the possibility of attacking the legality of the War Labor Board itself form "several sides".  When the WLB refuses to grant us increases he not only goes along but he even refuses to join us in asking for increases for people earning $30 a week and then there is no problem raised of fighting the leaglity of the Board's position.

Severance Pay - The Panel denied the Union's demand for Severance Pay.

Maternity Leave - The Panel recommended, "Each female employee shall be granted a maternity leave of absence for two months prior to the expected date of birth and two months thereafter.  Seniority rights shall accrue to such worker during the period of maternity leave of absence, but that period shall not be counted in computing vacation and sick leave.  Female employees on maternity leave shall be paid for all their accumulated sick leave."  We were not given all we asked for but we recognize this as a step in the right direction.

As a result of the discussion at the last Executive Board meeting your attorney and Business Agent are preparing a letter of comment for the Board.

The industry representative on the Panel dissented from the majority on every single issue where it was recommended

that the members of the Union receive a benefit.  He only concurred in those things where the Panel denied our demand.


From Hollywood: "...the boys always enjoy reading your "Top Cel".  Every once in a while I hear some nice remark about it like -you have to read "Top Cel" to know what is happening out here... The situation out here is more or less in a jumble.  Ray Patin may resign as President as he has left Warners and is now working for a small outfit headed by Jim Davis.  Al Amatuzio our Vice-President is resigning as he now has a management job at Disney.  The boys all seem to be unhappy and want to move from studio to  studio.  Several fellows are trying to get availability slips to leave for Davis's and Industrial Films and a number are trying to do the same to got to Harmans.  Apparently the I&P departments in all the studios are having a terrible large turnover... Now for the other side of the picture.  -Disney is trying to tie up all his to men with seven year contracts for sceneing a very busy post war period.  Our Assistant to the Business Agent through in some figures at us the other night  (he is on the television comm.) that is is estimated that after the war when television get rolling they will be showing eleven thousand television hours per year.  He compared that with 600 moving picture hours produced per year.  Of that it is estimated from 75 to 90 per cent will be films -and that the cartoon will be getting a good hunk of that.  So that postwar picture should be a very busy one for the cartoonists... Let's hear from you and be sure the "Top Cel"....


On Friday evening Nov. 17, the Coloring Department at Famous held a party at the Capitol Hotel.  It was, by all odds, the most successful social event held that Studio since it was relocated in New York.  Most of the credit goes to Edna May Regal and Bernice Steinberg, both of whom put in many long hours of preparation for the show.

The Madalyn Laghezza, Lilian Chiodo, Rosalie Socolov, Carrie Richardson, and Maurice Alevy in particular, and to the Opaquing Dept. goes the rest of the credit.

The party entertained over 300 people, including a good number of service men.

Since the expenses, unavoidably ran quite high, it has been suggested that a voluntary contribution be made to help repay the girls in part for their swell gesture.

Monday, January 24, 2011

A Small Timer In The Trade Of Culture

Last week Signe Baumane interviewed Lasse Persson and screened his films at the Gershwin Hotel.

I wasn't planning on writing about it, but the talk and the pieces have stuck with me.

The design is classic cartoon without being cliché. The artist brings his own touch to 50s styling.

He says he tries to keep the "same profile all of the time".

The animation, for one, is super. It's smooth and unusual. The characters move in funny ways that are intrinsic to their personalities and places in the story.

Much of the discussion revolved around the filmmaker's cross-dressing. The filmmaker offered some nice insights regarding animation and identity.

"...having this ability to identify with both the male and female sex my personality fits in both. Or maybe it doesn't fit in any."

"Animation can actually substitute for crossdressing".

"Some animators have made a career of doing female roles, it means they have an affinity for the other sex."

Sunday, January 23, 2011

George Grosz Photographs, Part 2 of 2

Here are the remaining five images from the 1977 monograph of George Grosz' photography.

These are all images of New York from the eyes of an immigrant in 1932.

The first set were his passage.

Even a guy fresh off the boat would get his shoes shined.

The pamphlet includes this poem:
America!!! Future!!!
Engineer and Salesman!
Steamships and express trains!
But above my eyes
stretch gigantic bridges
and the smoke of the hundred derricks

        From "Song of the Gold Diggers"
        George Grosz, 1917
 Double Decker, 1932

And the final photo in the booklet, "Young American", is a strong connection to his great caricature and portrait work.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

First Landing - George Grosz Photographs

We all know George Grosz as a great cartoonist.  One of the greatest in history, actually.  He was also a top notch paint, of course, applying many of his skills as a caricaturist to his portraiture.  As a painter, he's on the top echelon of era, a particular fecund period in European art.

He also had a camera.  During his flight from Fascism in 1932 he used it to chronicle his voyage over the Atlantic and arrival in New York.

This is a small catalog from a 1977 exhibition of his photography.

The catalog isn't archival so the paper has turned. The scanner also picks up the grain.

A large component of photography is access -just being there, at the right place in the right situation.

This images certainly benefit from the charged situation of Grosz' passage.

Some, like "Fellow Traveller", exhibit the same touch for capturing the life of a person and showcasing them in a unique light which makes Grosz' work with pen and paint remarkable.

 Above: "Remembering"

The remaining five images from this portfolio will be posted tomorrow.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Children of the Hydra's Teeth - Part Four

Continuing from yesterday, this sequence from "Jason and the Argonauts" hasn't even kicked it in action mode yet.

Following the close shot on the Argonaut, we cut back to the process shot with the animation.

It's not really a "process shot", per se I suppose since it's not a lab composite.  But it's a mixed media thing, sort of.

To be unnameable when it comes to animation and effects is an accomplishment.  It becomes simply "film".

During this scene Aeetes quickly summons a few more soldiers.  In terms of pacing, there's no more drama to be had from seeing these guys sprout up -so their birth happen quickly and are done.

People sometimes draw things out overlong these days because they think it's funny.  Me, personally, I don't laugh.

Jason's reaction.

Red Shirt Argonaut's reaction.

The soldiers at attention.

This is a "standoff".  These cuts back and forth draw out the sequence long enough to create tension.

We know what's going to happen, it's just a matter of when.  This isn't as elegant or dynamic as "The Good, The Bad and The Ugly", but some of the same editorial principles are at work.

Cut from one side to another and work on a strict cadence of edits.  In "The Good, The Bad and The Ugly" the shot sizes/framing are the crowning brilliance.  Here, the editing and cinematography are workmanlike.

Also note, Jason's framing is the same throughout (after the first scene with quick truck).  These are all cut from the same take (most likely).  Important for animator's to note -in live action films, it's common to revisit the same angles on a character.  They don't reinvent the frame every time a shot gets filmed.  As a result, the audience has a level of comfort with the cinematic environment.  This comfort allows a performance to work on the audience instead of having the graphic treatment of the do it.

I wouldn't suggest one technique over the other, and as in all things, a mixture of both is probably most effective.

In this scene Aeetes walks a few steps forward.

and the camera follows him.

Which sets up a very important animation "process shot".

By moving to the side of the Skeleton Warriors (and keeping Aeetes in the shot), Harryhausen and company solidify the geography of the scene.

More to follow...

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Children of the Hydra's Teeth - Part Three

I have an 16mm print of "Jason & The Argonauts".  The one time I screened it, the film was absolutely beautiful as though it had only been run once or twice before and was kept in pristine condition.

HD is great, a bigger jump than VHS to DVD.  DVDs, for all their positives need to be properly produced otherwise they wind up full of artifacting and compression issues.  Not to sound like an old codger, but man oh man, nothing times a well projected film.  Even 16mm.

When we last left Jason, he was standing in shock as he watched the Children of the Hydra's Teeth pop from the earth.

This is followed by a close up of the "villain" King Aeetes.

Villain in quotes.  One thing that is very clear in the film -again great scriptwriting -is that Aeetes is merely defending his kingdom.  The true villains are the gods who use their powers to play games with Men.

Then cut back to the wideshot.  Again, this a rear project.  The live action was filmed first.  The stage was built to fit with the projected image of the live.  The animation was done (frame by frame) to match with the projected image and both were shot simultaneously to create the composite image.

Again, cut from wide shot with live and animation to close of animation only.

The skeleton warrior emerges and we cut back:

On the action, to our wide shot.

The skeleton begins to pop out in the close, his action finishes in the wide.

(and other)  This sort of thing is "Filmmaking 101", but all too often -especially in animation we see devices like this -cutting on an action -ignored.

Then, a cut to another of Jason's crew.  Tempo-wise, visually, this could have easily been another shot of Jason.  Storywise, we needed to be reminded that he's got some other guys with him.

Here, the cut serves many purposes: Intercut between "bad guys" and "good guys", shift in visual dynamic from wide to tight (this is a big part of "tempo" in editing), positioning the individual human face against the army of skeletons -a very important aspect of the sequence, a reminder of the faces in Jason's crew, and a grounding reality to mix with the previous effects shots.

More to come...