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  • feedwordpress 09:01:41 on 2018/03/09 Permalink
    Tags: Animation, , Bumps Blackwell, Classical Gas, Dan McLaughlin, , , Mason Williams, , ,   

    “Art is not what you see, but what you make others see”*… 


    Mason Williams recalls…

    CLASSICAL GAS was written in August, 1967; recorded for THE MASON WILLIAMS PHONOGRAPH RECORD album in November, 1967; released as a single in February, 1968, and became a hit six months later in the Summer of 1968. It was also one of the earliest records that used a visual to help promote it on television, which probably qualifies it as one of the earliest music videos.

    During the time that CLASSICAL GAS was a hit I was also the head writer for THE SMOTHERS BROTHERS COMEDY HOUR on CBS. I had seen a film titled “GOD IS DOG SPELLED BACKWARDS” at The Encore, an off beat movie house in L.A. The film was a collection of approximately 2500 classical works of art, mostly paintings, that flashed by in three minutes. Each image lasted only two film frames, or twelve images a second! At the end of the film the viewer was pronounced “cultural” since they had just covered “3000 years of art in 3 minutes!”

    The film was the work of a UCLA film student named Dan McLaughlin. I contacted Dan and told him that I was interested in the idea of using his film as a visual for CLASSICAL GAS to air on THE SMOTHERS BROTHERS COMEDY HOUR. (His original sound track had been Beethoven’s 5th Symphony.) THE COMEDY HOUR offered him the money to finance a new film he wanted to make in exchange for the right to change the original soundtrack from Beethoven’s 5th Symphony to CLASSICAL GAS and air it on the show. As a “music video” it was first shown on THE SUMMER BROTHERS SMOTHERS SHOW (Glen Campbell was the host) in the summer of 1968.

    The impact of the film on television opened the door to realizations that the viewer’s mind could absorb this intense level of visual input. It was a double shot of a hundred proof music and video that polished the history of art off in three minutes! It was also the beginning of the fast images concept now called kinestasis (a rapidly-moving montage technique set to music) that has over the years been exploited so effectively by television commercials, documentaries, etc. As a result of the response to the CLASSICAL GAS music video, in September of 1968 I wrote up a piece for The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, projecting the idea that someday VJ’s would be playing hit tapes on TV, (as well as DJ’s hit records on radio), a prophesy of what was, 13 years later, to become MTV…

    [Dan McLaughlin went on to become head of UCLA’s animation program.]

    * Edgar Degas


    As we bathe in beauty, we might spare a thought for Robert Alexander “Bumps” Blackwell; he died on this date in 1985.  A bandleader, songwriter, arranger, and record producer,  he was probably most impactful in his work overseeing the early hits of Little Richard, as well as in grooming Ray Charles, Quincy Jones, Ernestine Anderson, Lloyd Price, Sam Cooke, Herb Alpert, Larry Williams, and Sly and the Family Stone at the starts of their recording careers.

    Blackwell, seated, with Rich Hall (of FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals) and Little Richard



  • feedwordpress 09:01:05 on 2018/01/04 Permalink
    Tags: Animation, Brandon Reese, , , Olive Oyl, popeye, , voice actor, “Kickin” the Conga   

    “I like physics, but I love cartoons”*… 



    On December 15, 2016, internet cartoonist Branson Reese made a pact to release a new comic every day at midnight, no matter what. One year later, he has done that, which is pretty cool. The only catch is his art is really freaking strange and I mean that in the best way possible…

    Joey Cosco on why you should follow Branson Reese.

    * Stephen Hawking


    As we look forward to our daily dose, we might recall that it was on this date in 1942 that Jack Mercer and his wife Margie voiced Popeye and Olive Oyl in the new Popeye cartoon, “Kickin” the Conga.



  • feedwordpress 08:01:27 on 2017/08/12 Permalink
    Tags: Animation, , Bertha Benz, , Destination Earth, driving, , , ,   

    “Propaganda does not deceive people; it merely helps them to deceive themselves”*… 


    Produced at the height of the Cold War [1956], and made at the behest of the American Petroleum Institute (still the biggest lobby for the U.S. oil and gas industry), this great little promotional film from John Sutherland Studios [producer of other such gems as “Rhapsody of Steel,” “A is for Atom,” and “Wise Use of Credit’; c.f. here] champions not only the wonders of oil as might be expected, but also free-market capitalism. The surprisingly humorous cartoon tells the story of how the suspiciously Stalin-like leader of Mars, named Ogg, sends a rather calamity-prone citizen to Earth to find a better power source for his poorly-running “state limousine”. The exploring Martian, of course, lands in the United States and soon discovers the many and myriad delights of petroleum, and that, in contrast to his home planet, competition between companies is rife. His take-home lesson (and one drilled into the viewer on numerous occasions) is that “competing for the customer’s dollar” is key to the success of the oil industry and, of course, the thriving country as a whole. Delivering the news to Ogg back on Mars, the leader replies defiantly that “competition is downright un-Martian”, but the ordinary Martians are not to be deterred and soon rise up to overthrow Ogg and set up a thriving oil industry (and capitalist culture) of their own — the short ending with the slogan “destination unlimited” writ proudly across the screen…

    Via Public Domain Review, and the Internet Archive.

    * Eric Hoffer


    As we fill ‘er up, we might recall that it was on this date in 1888 that Bertha Benz, wife of inventor Karl Benz made the first motor tour. Without her husband’s knowledge, she borrowed one of his cars and with their teenage sons travelled 180 km to visit relatives for 5 days. She drove her sons, Richard and Eugen, 14 and 15 years old, in Benz’s newly-constructed “Patent Motorwagen” automobile, from Mannheim to Pforzheim– a distance of more than 106 km (66 miles).  She thus became the first person to drive an automobile over more than just a very short distance… and in so doing, brought her husband’s handiwork worldwide attention, securing his company’s first sales.

    The Benz Patent-Motorwagen Number 3 of 1886, used by Bertha Benz for the highly publicized first long distance road trip




  • feedwordpress 08:01:59 on 2017/05/30 Permalink
    Tags: Animation, , , Michael L. Slepian, , secrets, social psychology, , voice,   

    “Three may keep a secret, if two of them are dead”*… 


    What kinds of secrets does the average person keep? In a new paper, Columbia University researchers Michael L. Slepian and colleagues carried out a survey of secrets…

    Take a peek at (and find larger versions of this chart and others) at “A Survey of Our Secret Lives.”

    * Benjamin Franklin, Poor Richard’s Almanack


    As we keep it under our hats, we might send vocal birthday greetings to Melvin Jerome “Mel” Blanc; he was born on this date in 1908. A voice actor, actor, radio comedian, and recording artist, he began his 60-plus-year career performing in radio, but is best remembered for his work in animation– as the voices of Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, Tweety Bird, Sylvester the Cat, Yosemite Sam, Foghorn Leghorn, Marvin the Martian, Pepé Le Pew, Speedy Gonzales, Wile E. Coyote, Road Runner, the Tasmanian Devil, and many of the other characters from the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies theatrical cartoons that helped define the golden age of American animation.  He was, in fact, the voice for all of the major male Warner Bros. cartoon characters except Elmer Fudd, whose voice was provided by fellow radio actor Arthur Q. Bryan (though Blanc later voiced Fudd as well after Bryan’s death).  Blanc died in 1989,  just a year after voicing Daffy Duck in his classic Who Framed Roger Rabbit duel with Donald.


  • feedwordpress 08:01:45 on 2016/08/17 Permalink
    Tags: Animation, , Émile Cohl, Fantasmagorie, , , , peep shows, tunnel books, , Virtual Reality   

    “Being virtually killed by a virtual laser in a virtual space is just as effective as the real thing, because you are as dead as you think you are.”*… 


    Long before Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, the paper peep show—a small, layered diorama that expands like an accordion to create the illusion of depth—was a way for audiences in the 19th century to peer into times and places beyond their own experience. A popular souvenir in their day, peep shows brought to life scenes of the completion of the Thames Tunnel and the Great Exhibition of 1851 to masquerade balls and theatrical stage sets. Now, they’re delightful pieces of ephemera from another time that suggest that desire for immersion in other worlds stretches back centuries…

    Peep shows, also known as tunnel books, are widely considered to be the ancestors of animation and film. Peering through a peep show in the 21st century might as well be an analog version of virtual reality—one that transports you to a different time altogether…

    Take a peek at “Paper Peep Shows Were The Virtual Reality Of The 19th Century.”

    * Douglas Adams


    As we don the goggles, we might recall that it was on this date in 1908 that Émile Cohl‘s Fantasmagorie was released.  Considered by film scholars to be the first animated cartoon, it had tremendous influence not only on the future of animation, but also on early nature films.



  • feedwordpress 08:01:18 on 2016/07/03 Permalink
    Tags: Animation, , , Dwarf, gilligans island, , Jim Backus, Mr. Magoo, Snow White,   

    “Magic mirror on the wall, who is the fairest one of all?”*… 


    A display of concept drawings by the seminal movie artist Albert Hurter have shed new light on some of the rejected characters who didn’t make the cut in Walt Disney’s 1937 film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

    The final lineup – Doc, Grumpy, Happy, Sleepy, Bashful, Sneezy and Dopey – was selected from a pool of around 50 brainstormed by his team; in the Grimms’ original 1812 story, the dwarves are anonymous.

    Although many of the ultimately rejected names – including Jumpy, Deafy, Dizzey, Hickey, Wheezy, Baldy, Gabby, Nifty, Sniffy, Swift, Lazy, Puffy, Stuffy, Tubby, Shorty and Burpy – were already known, the artwork reveals how close some of them came to actual animation. The drawings were sold as part of an auction of 400 pieces at Bonhams in New York that raised a total of £500,000…

    More at “Burpy, Baldy, Deafy … auctioned artwork reveals rejected Snow White dwarves.”

    * The Evil Queen, Walt Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs


    As we whistle while we work, we might spare a thought for James Gilmore “Jim” Backus; he died on this date in 1989.  A voice and screen actor, Backus appeared in myriad television and radio programs and films, from Francis in the Navy and Ma and Pa Kettle Go to Town to Rebel Without a Cause and Hurry Sundown.  But he is surely best remembered as Thurston Howell, III, on the 1960s sitcom Gilligan’s Island, and as the voice of the amusingly visually-challenged cartoon character Mr. Magoo,



  • feedwordpress 08:01:48 on 2016/05/08 Permalink
    Tags: Animation, , , , , , , Muybridge, ,   

    “I wonder if computers ever dream of humans”*… 


    How old are the fields of robotics and artificial intelligence? Many might trace their origins to the mid-twentieth century, and the work of people such as Alan Turing, who wrote about the possibility of machine intelligence in the ‘40s and ‘50s, or the MIT engineer Norbert Wiener, a founder of cybernetics. But these fields have prehistories — traditions of machines that imitate living and intelligent processes — stretching back centuries and, depending how you count, even millennia…

    Defecating ducks [see here], talking busts, and mechanized Christs — Jessica Riskin on the wonderful history of automata, machines built to mimic the processes of intelligent life: “Frolicsome Engines: The Long Prehistory of Artificial Intelligence.”

    * David Mitchell, Ghostwritten


    As we take the Turing Test, we might spare a thought for Eadweard Muybridge; he died on this date in 1904. Best remembered now for his pioneering work in photographic studies of motion (created for former California Governor Leland Stanford to help settle a bet), and early work in motion-picture projection, he was famous in his own day for his large photographs of Yosemite Valley.  The approaches he developed for the study of motion are at the heart of both animation and computer analysis today.




  • feedwordpress 09:01:49 on 2016/02/14 Permalink
    Tags: , Animation, , , , , Nine Rules, Road Runner, Roy Disney, , Wile E. Coyote   

    “Beep, Beep”*… 


    Here is a parable. For decades, a master artisan crafts works of beauty and genius. His creations are acclaimed by virtually all who behold them. Nearing the end of his life, the artisan, wealthy and revered, his name rightly and indelibly etched into the history of his medium, sets out to describe for posterity how he created such great works, the discipline underlying their brilliance. He writes down the rules he set for himself. And they are wrong…

    From Albert Burneko‘s fascinating essay on Chuck Jones [c.f. here and here], his Road Runner cartoons, his “Nine Rules” for creating those masterpieces… and the profound way in which those rules miss the point. Some readers will agree with Burneko; others may disagree. But all will enjoy the journey (and perhaps especially the exquisite cartoons that are liberally used as examples):

    How Wile E. Coyote Explains The World.”

    * Road Runner


    As we buy Acme, we might recall that it was on this date in 1919 that two men who were to figure prominently in the development of animation were mustered out of the armed services:  A.A. Milne was discharged from the Signal Corps of the British Army, and Roy Disney was released from the U.S. Navy.  Milne went on to write one of the best-love children’s series ever, featuring a character, Winnie the Pooh, that Roy Disney helped his brother and partner Walt turn into an animated staple.


  • feedwordpress 09:01:05 on 2016/02/10 Permalink
    Tags: Animation, , , , Jerry Goldsmith, , , , , Treg Brown, , Warner Brothers   

    “Films are 50 percent visual and 50 percent sound. Sometimes sound even overplays the visual”*… 


    Though routinely credited, as above, as “Film Editor,” Tregoweth Edmond “Treg” Brown was the genius sound-effects wizard responsible for sound editing the Warner Brothers’ Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies cartoons starting in 1936…

    His musique concrète artistry worked directly in conjunction with Carl Stalling‘s hyper-active left-field orchestral scores to create the soundtrack to generations of kids lives. So many of these sounds are completely ingrained into our collective pop-culture (un)consciousness. So much so, that reviewing some of the old Looney Tunes cartoons as an adult, you tend to ignore how utterly ridiculous the doinks and twangs are, for they sound totally natural in context—a testament to Brown’s flawless editing of sounds demanded by the images.

    In addition to his incredible sound design which won him a Sound Effects Oscar in 1965 for The Great Race, Brown is also credited with giving legendary Warner Brothers’ voice actor Mel Blanc his big break…

    More at “The Sound Effects Madman Behind the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies Cartoons.” And much more– with wonderful examples– in this short documentary (part 2 here):

    email readers click here for video

    * David Lynch


    As we perk up our ears, we might send melodic birthday greetings to Jerrald King “Jerry” Goldsmith; he was born on this date in 1929.  One of film and television”s most accomplished composers and conductors, Goldsmith scored such noteworthy films as The Sand Pebbles, Logan’s RunPlanet of the Apes, Patton, Papillon, Chinatown, The Wind and the Lion, The Omen, The Boys from Brazil, Alien, Poltergeist, The Secret of NIMH, Gremlins, Hoosiers, Total Recall, Basic Instinct, Rudy, Air Force One, L.A. Confidential, Mulan, The Mummy, three Rambo films, and five Star Trek films– in a career during which he was nominated for six Grammy Awards, five Primetime Emmy Awards, nine Golden Globe Awards, four British Academy Film Awards, and eighteen Academy Awards.  In 1976, he was awarded an Oscar for The Omen.

    While presenting Goldsmith with a Career Achievement Award from the Society for the Preservation of Film Music in 1993, fellow composer Henry Mancini (Breakfast at Tiffany’s, The Pink Panther) said of Goldsmith, “… he has instilled two things in his colleagues in this town. One thing he does, he keeps us honest. And the second one is he scares the hell out of us.”



  • feedwordpress 09:01:20 on 2016/02/03 Permalink
    Tags: al-Salam Boccaccio 98, Animation, , , , , knot, knot tying, shipping,   

    “When you reach the end of your rope, tie a knot in it and hang on”*… 


    From Grog LLC, because it’s “better to know a knot and not need it, than need a knot and not know it”: Animated Knots.

    [TotH to Kyle Lerfald]

    * Franklin D. Roosevelt


    As wrap then pull, we might recall that it was on this date in 2006 that the MS al-Salam Boccaccio 98, an Egyptian Roll on/Roll off passenger ferry, sank in the Red Sea en route from Duba, Saudi Arabia, to Safaga in southern Egypt. 388 people were rescued; the balance of the estimated 1400 passengers and crew– the majority, Egyptians working in Saudi Arabia, but also including pilgrims returning from the Hajj in Mecca–were lost.



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