Thursday, December 29, 2011

Iron Lady Review Up at F.O.G.


Your Write Enough host bemoans all the politics that clutter up The Iron Lady and interfere with a good ghost tale.

Burn away some silly political material and you’re left with the meat of this film— a former British Prime Minister finds herself haunted by a ghost.

This peek at the later years of Margaret Thatcher blurs the line in a mirthful way between living and dead, objective reality and the spectral.

We’re invited to ponder universal questions such as whether we’ll see ghosts if we make it to our 80s—and will our ghosts be as puckish as Mrs. Thatcher’s translucent visitor.


Read more at this particular spot.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Drunks are mangling Karaoke across the street. It's not the same as a choir of angels, but it might be louder. None the less, a most blessed and joyful Christmas to all my family, friends, and social media chums. May the coming year be filled with good fortune for you and bad fortune for Mayan calendar doom-sayers. In the meantime, enjoy the worst Christmas tear-jerker ever.

h/t: theartofmancraft

Thursday, December 22, 2011

We Bought A Zoo Review Up at F.O.G.

This week's look at a new release.



A sentimental tale of a family purchasing a zoo, this film swung and missed for our hearts by ignoring CGI and 3D.

Opportunities for an epic scale were jettisoned in favor of old-fashioned story and acting rendered entirely on film.

What could’ve have been the adventure of a lifetime was compressed to an ordinary heart-warming tale about living life and reaching out to others. (As if reaching out to others wouldn’t have been infinitely cooler in 3D.)

More to be read here.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Hobbit Trailer

I almost wish they would release the whole film in trailer-sized bites so I didn't have to wait until Dec. 2012. Hopefully the Mayans won't destroy the world before the movie comes out. Damn Mayans. Selfish, self-centered people with a stupid calender. No pretty girl pictures on it—anywhere. Did you notice?

h/t: Thissitehere

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Paul Rugg - Shed Master



For those of you wondering about the reclusive Paul Rugg, he is in the process of being evicted from his man cave. Resourceful as a fat man outside a locked bakery, Paul staked out a portion of back yard and is having a large shed erected with electric power and a window made of real glass. From here, he will pour out mirth upon the world in a manner and time of his choosing.

See a picture of the shed rising.
Image: behindthevoiceactors

Friday, December 16, 2011

Tom Ruegger's Wonderful Life


Cartoonatics takes a personal look back at Frank Capra's Christmas classic, It's A Wonderful Life. A great film and one I can identify with as a guy who once thought life really cranked up someplace other than where I was. Go read and remember.

Image: downtherabbithole

Thursday, December 15, 2011

'Chipwrecked' Review Up at F.O.G.

(Forces of Geek once again hosts my cinematic take on an upcoming release.)

Not since Goin’ Coconuts has a tropical movie misfired on so many cylinders. No amount of witty lines can lighten arson, murder, and a descent into barbarism.

And that’s what awaits in Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked.

Read the rest here.

Sea Dentist

(Part one of a Write Enough series on TV animated shows that never quite made it to air.)

With the growing success of "SpongeBob" in 2000, the TV animation industry sought out a nautical-themed show that hopefully would absorb success vapors from the popular Nickelodeon series. The race was on and Cartoon Network appeared to be leading after staff artist Cleve Metapontum pitched a series idea revolving around a rude veterinary dentist who lived aboard ship and serviced various sea creatures—willing and unwilling.

Metapontum had been working as a background artist on I Am Weasel and conceived the idea after an unstable Burbank dentist flung salt water in his face. (There was a law suit, later settled.)

Cartoon Network executive Laudi Krate quickly spotted the potential of "Dentist" and wasted no time calling Atlanta for instructions. A pilot was ordered and Krate told to 'hustle this one along.'

Under pressure, Krate promoted character designer Higgins Benzine to produce. Benzine was controversial. Despite many years in animation, he could not draw an oval head. Worse, he despised Metapontum whom he considered a 'cubicle ape,' lacking the skill to 'draw a game of Hang Man.'

Often great art emerges from a clash of personalities but not this time. After a series of loud arguments and flung pencils, an angry Metapontum produced a dark 22-minute script in which Sea Dentist extracts the teeth of a tiger shark and cements them into the mouth of a harbor seal who then proceeds to kill and eat a wind surfer. Sea Dentist, employed by "The United Nations Sea Counsel," denies having anything to do with the incident and sails to Panama.

Krate was horrified. The script lacked several key elements considered necessary in children's animation. Among them were likable characters, humor, and no wind surfers slashed to pieces. Metapontum defended his script, claiming, "Dentists are really like that. Seriously." More drafts were ordered and eventually the story acquired a child character while deaths were changed to prat falls, and Sea Dentist became 'crusty but lovable.'

Nevertheless, the caustic chemistry between Benzine and Metapontum poisoned the production. Factions formed and artists would lunch with either producer or show creator. So intense was the hatred that artists in the Benzine camp began losing the ability to draw oval heads. Meanwhile, Metapontum supporters voiced a hatred for dentists and oral hygiene in general.

After several contentious months, an episode was completed in which an acerbic but kindly Sea Dentist aids a killer whale by installing a fixed partial denture (or bridge). Later, in a battle with anti-aquatic dental forces, Sea Dentist falls overboard and is saved by the very whale whom he earlier helped. The story and artwork were a compromise enforced by Krate. Metapontum hated having a dentist portrayed in a positive light while Benzine loathed the art work, claiming the oval heads "looked all wrong."

By now, Atlanta was demanding the pilot. In a frenzy, layouts, model sheets, etc. were shipped to a Korean animation house. But no one figured on Benzine. At his own expense, he flew into Seoul and tinkered with the models. As a result, the human characters lacked oval heads. Sea Dentist had a head that was pumpkin-round with what appeared to be a ramp extending out above his right ear.

Krate and Metapontum went ballistic when they saw the footage, but there was no time or budget for retakes. Krate shipped the program to her Cartoon Network bosses with a cover note praising the 'quirky animation that is also iconic in an unspecified way.'

Despite a compelling all-lute music track, the project was mercifully put down. Like The Day the Clown Cried, grainy copies of Sea Dentist circulated quietly throughout the animation world and became the stuff of dystopian legend.

Not surprisingly, Cleve Metapontum, Higgins Benzine and Laudi Crate resurfaced at different studios. And while they would never work together again, this trio was involved with other animated TV shows that managed to miss the airwaves.

Images: fossilsforkids.com and istockphoto

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Seven Things Not to Say in a Pitch Meeting

For the novice starting a TV animation career, here are seven diamond-encrusted ways to turn your big chance into a cautionary tale for others.

1. Why doesn't this studio ever buy anything I bring in here?
In the animation world, ask and you shall not receive.

2. How many dim bulbs get to make notes on the scripts?
This query ensures you won't remain around long enough to count them.

3. My agent says you have fecal incontinence.
Possibly so but a seasoned animation veteran leaves medical issues for a more relaxed time.

4. Pilots are for timid losers. Do you have the nuts to go directly to 65 half hours?
Brashness can lead to ample free time.

5. I worked hard on this pitch and all you do is smile and nod like a dog hanging out a car window.
Pithy observations are best shared with peers and not animation executives.

6. Hey, this office has a killer view. I can see the car I'm living in!
Sadly, economic prejudice is alive and well in Hollywood.

7. When I worked here before, I would lock my office door and inflate a plastic woman.
This sort of provocative anecdote demands a strong response such as 'be silent and go away now.'
Image: 50 Tips to Making It in Hollywood

Thursday, December 08, 2011

The Sitter Review Up at F.O.G.

Forces of Geek hosts my latest in-depth look at cinema. This week—The Sitter:

On the surface this movie appears to be an 81-minute, R-rated version of Uncle Buck, but underneath simmers a bold statement about the price men pay for transgressing gender roles in the baby-sitting field.

Jonah Hill’s character Noah Griffith is a self-absorbed slacker, suspended from college.

Needing money, he babysits his neighbor’s three semi-feral children. When his girlfriend (Ari Graynor) invites him to a party with the promise of sex, Griffith packs up the annoying youngsters and drives into the land of unintended consequences.

A raunchy, hormone fest aimed at teenage boys?

Ah, there’s the cunning.

Read the rest here.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Ebook 'Em, Dano

There's no reason these days not to Ebook it. I'm following my own advice. As soon as I complete this particular manuscript I'm Ebooking the bastard. (I've had plenty of time to let the story simmer.)

Here's a collection of tips from a site that specializes in this fascinating electronic form of fun.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Famous Birthday Friends





Thank you very much to all who have, so far, wished me Happy Birthday. In thinking of this day, I am reminded of several famous Americans who share my date of birth. I will list three and examine their accomplishments as compared to mine.

1. Martin Van Buren - b. Dec. 5, 1782

2. George Armstrong Custer - b. Dec. 5, 1839

3. Walt Disney - b. Dec. 5, 1901

4. John P. McCann - b. Dec. 5, 1952

1. Martin Van Buren succeeded greatly in becoming the 8th President of the United States but was hardly remembered even in his own day. He had a large bull frog stuffed and used as an ink well in the White House. However President Taft later sat on it by accident and they had to throw the thing out. That's about it.

2. George Armstrong Custer succeeded greatly as a soldier in the Civil War but had a mixed record fighting Indians. (1-1-2, I think.) He is best remembered for his spectacular fail at the Battle of the Little Big Horn. At first, everything was going well; then it all fell apart under an Indian tsunami. In later years, Custer had a park named after him as well as a monument and a movie where his part was played by Errol Flynn. That's a whole lot more than Van Buren ever got.

3. Walt Disney succeeded greatly in animation, a pioneer in the filed, creator of iconic characters—but not the word 'iconic' which was invented by junior execs.—established Disney studios and Disneyland and is remembered to this day. Nonetheless his body is frozen in a vault beneath Disney's Burbank lot and should Walt be reanimated and start making decisions again it could effect his legacy.

4. John P. McCann was greatly successful as a Hollywood atmosphere player. McCann was the ship-board stand-in for a Canadian actor portraying Errol Flynn in My Wicked, Wicked Ways. In addition, he is visible from behind catching Dennis Quaid's jacket at around 1:19 in a clip from Great Balls of Fire.
More successful in animation, McCann created the non-iconic character of The Huntsman. For the next fifteen years, he piggy-backed onto as many successful shows as his friends would allow. While the record is still being written, outsiders agree that McCann will be remembered by Bank of America and several other creditors who might reasonably feel gypped should he pass from the scene within the next several months.

Images: whitehouse.gov, Parcbench, fold3

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Tuba Christmas Explained

According to regular poster—and crack euphonium player—Luke:

"Tuba Christmas is a city -wide gathering of euphonium and tuba players. Players gather in the morning and practice familiar Christmas songs, which are then performed in a public pla ce such as a local mall, or public park. The best part is, Tuba Christmas travels all over the country, allowing tuba player AND euphonium players from across the United States a chance to show off their chops. Players are encouraged to wear their best Christmas sweater, and decorate their instrument in a festive manner."

A list of cities featuring Tuba Christmas may be found here:

tubachristmas.com/

Luke closed by adding that the sound is "powerful, dark, and, majestic."

Behold Tuba Christmas!


h/t: the baltimorehorn

Thursday, December 01, 2011

"Fresh Ideas" Bound for Spring Reprint

A dark tale of a man who gives fate a tiny assist in order to advance in business, my short story, "Fresh Ideas," will be included in the Spring 2012 anthology Uncle John's Flush Fiction.

The Uncle John's publishing empire was founded on the belief that short, interesting and funny articles should be made available to the general public for their toilet-sitting education and amusement.

"Flush Fiction" will be a collection of flash fiction — under a thousand words or about three double-spaced pages — and I'm honored to have made the cut.

Hopefully, you'll enjoy "Fresh Ideas" very soon as mirth is said to ease tortured bowels. Or, at least, it's said by guys with stories coming out in bathroom-themed anthologies.

Image: flickr

The Artist Review Up at F.O.G.

At Forces of Geek, my insightful report on contemporary silent film, The Artist.

I almost threw up my Brie and Triscuits.

How in the world can you release a film and forget the dialogue track?

I know it’s incredible when you think of how many people must sign off on a major motion picture. And yet there were the actors speaking on screen but no voices emerged.

More here.