Monthly Archives: November 2011

“Little Mermaid” animator Arland Barron dead at 62

Arland Barron

Arland Barron

Animator and model designer Arland Barron, who worked on the Disney feature films The Little Mermaid (1989) and Beauty and the Beast (1991), died of pulmonary fibrosis September 22, one day after his 62nd birthday.

From 1975 to 2003, he worked for Odyssey, Lion’s Den, Filmation, Aurora, Hyperion and Warner Bros., as well as Disney.

Barron was an animator on the theatrical feature films BraveStarr: The Legend (1988) and Looney Tunes: Back in Action (2003). An assistant animator on The Secret of NIMH (1982) and Pinocchio and the Emperor of the Night (1987), he was an assistant animator on the “Lumiere” character in Beauty and the Beast. He was an animating assistant on The Little Mermaid and a character animator for the 1992 film Bébé’s Kids.

In theatrical shorts, he was an animator on WB’s Little Go Beep (2000) and an animating assistant on Disney’s The Prince and the Pauper (1990).

Barron animated the Filmation TV series The New Adventures of Tom and Jerry, Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids and The Tarzan/Lone Ranger Adventure Hour (all 1980); He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (1983); She-Ra: Princess of Power (1985-87); Ghostbusters (1986); and BraveStarr (1987-88). He animated the TV-movies Sunshine Porcupine (1980) and A Christmas Special (1985) as well.

He was a model designer for the TV series Tiny Toon Adventures (1992), Animaniacs (1993-94), The Sylvester & Tweety Mysteries (1995) and Pinky and the Brain (1996), along with the 1995 TV-movie Tiny Toons’ Night Ghoulery.

A Pacific Beach, California resident, he was born Arland Mack Barron on September 21, 1949. He also was an art teacher and caricature artist, as well as a student of improv and stand-up comedy.

Arland Barron is survived by brother Rod and nephews Andrew, Matthew and Jonathan Arland.

A memorial service has been held. If desired, memorial donations in his name may be made to Pacific Beach Presbyterian Church, 1675 Garnet Avenue, San Diego CA 92109; tel. (858) 273-9312.

Daffy-The Commando (1943) – Looney Tunes Theatrical Cartoon Series

Daffy-The Commando (1943) - Looney Tunes

Daffy-The Commando (1943) - Looney Tunes

CotD: One of the funniest war cartoons from any studio, “Daffy-The Commando” features Daffy taking on- and beating!- Hitler.

Daffy-The Commando (1943) – Looney Tunes Theatrical Cartoon Series

Daffy is a commando who parachutes down into the German trenches to raise hell. Daffy bedevils the German commander, Von Vulture, and his sidekick, little helmet-with-two-feet Schultz, providing plenty of opportunities for anti-Nazi jokes along the way.

After working his mischief, Daffy tries to escape in a plane, but is surrounded by “a mess of Messerschmidts” which shoot each other out of the sky after Daffy gets out of the way. Von Vulture blows Daffy’s plane to bits with a machine gun, and the commando is forced to flee on foot.

He hides in a dark tunnel, which turns out to be the barrel of a long-range cannon. Daffy is shot out of it and lands in Berlin, where Adolf Hitler is shrilly haranguing a crowd.

Daffy has the honor of clobbering the Fuhrer himself with a mallet.

Watch “Daffy-The Commando ” on video at Big Cartoon DataBase

Studio Ghibli film retrospective coming to NYC

Studio GhibliGKIDS, a distributor of award-winning animation for both adults and family audiences, is bringing a complete retrospective of films from Japan’s renowned Studio Ghibli to the IFC Center in New York from Friday, December 16 to Thursday, January 12.

The run will include United States premiere theatrical engagements for several titles.

All 15 Studio Ghibli feature films produced between 1984 and 2008 will be presented, including Hayao Miyazaki’s Academy Award-winning Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke, My Neighbor Totoro, Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, Castle in the Sky, Ponyo, Howl’s Moving Castle and Kiki’s Delivery Service. Films will be shown in both the subtitled and English-dubbed versions.

GKIDS recently entered into agreement with Studio Ghibli to handle North American theatrical distribution for its library of animated features. As the first engagements announced under the agreement, the New York Film Festival presented a 25-year anniversary screening of Castle in the Sky and 10-year anniversary screenings of Spirited Away. LA County Museum of Art and Film Independent will present these same anniversary titles in a special preview screening Saturday, November 26.

Following the IFC Center engagement, the retrospective will tour major U.S. and Canadian markets, including Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington, D.C., Toronto, Boston, San Francisco, and Seattle, throughout the first half of 2012. GKIDS is also planning limited releases of select Studio Ghibli titles, many of which have never been released theatrically in the U.S., beginning late 2012.

Said GKIDS president Eric Beckman: “I am both excited and deeply honored to be working with Studio Ghibli to bring this amazing slate of films to theaters across North America. I am in continual awe of the brilliance of the animation, the depth and humanity of the storytelling, and of the filmmakers’ understanding that even the youngest audiences are capable of appreciating all the subtlety and nuance that cinema has to offer. As Miyazaki has said, ‘Children understand the complexity and uncertainty of things almost with their skin. They cannot be underestimated.'”

The Studio Ghibli agreement further solidifies GKIDS position as a home for award-winning animation. GKIDS began as a spin-off of the New York International Children’s Film Festival and found early success, securing a Best Animated Feature Oscar nomination for The Secret of Kells in 2010.

GKIDS has two films competing in the animated feature category for the upcoming Academy Awards: European Film Award nominee A Cat in Paris and Oscar winner Fernando Trueba’s Chico & Rita, also an EFA nominee. Chico & Rita is being released under GKIDS’ newly formed LumaFilms banner due to the adult subject matter of the film.

Bil Keane, creator of “Family Circus,” dies at 89

Bil Keane

Bil Keane

Bil Keane, creator of the enduring — and endearing — one-panel comic strip Family Circus, died Tuesday. He was 89.

A spokeswoman for King Features Syndicate, the comic strip’s distributor, would not say where he died. He had a home in Paradise Valley, near Phoenix, Arizona.

Keane created the NBC cartoon specials A Special Valentine With The Family Circus (1978), A Family Circus Christmas (1979) and A Family Circus Easter (1982), which were produced by Cullen-Kasden Productions and were ratings successes.

Keane began drawing Family Circus in February 1960. Featuring Billy, Jeffy, Dolly, P.J. and their parents, it’s now featured in almost 1,500 newspapers.

The very first Family Circus cartoon showed Mommy surrounded by a roomful of toy clutter. She answered the door to a survey person who asked, “Any children?”

Consistency and simplicity kept the cartoon going, Keane said in a 1995 Associated Press interview.

Keane used references to songs and pop culture movies to keep the strip current, but messages contained in the cartoon never ages. “Not Me” and “Ida Know,” two ghostlike creatures, appeared often in the strip as characters who were blamed for household calamities.

Born William Aloysius Keane in Philadelphia on October 5, 1922, he used the signature “Bill Keane” while drawing comics in high school. Early in his professional career, however, he omitted the second L from his first name “to be distinctive.”

Keane taught himself to draw and began cartooning before entering high school. His first published cartoon appeared on the amateur page of the Philadelphia Daily News on May 21, 1936. While attending Northeast Catholic High School, Keane regularly published cartoons and illustrations in the school’s Good News Magazine.

During the Second World War, Keane served in Australia (where he met his wife, the former Thel Carne) and created publicity art for the Theater Fiscal Office of the United States Armed Forces in the Far East. His illustrations were used to sell life insurance to soldiers and war bonds.

After the war in 1945, Keane started working as a staff artist for the Philadelphia Bulletin where, from 1947 to 1961, he drew the Silly Philly Sunday strip, featuring a young Quaker boy based on William Penn.

In 1954, Keane’s first nationally syndicated strip, Channel Chuckles, was introduced with the Register and Tribune Syndicate. Channel Chuckles appeared for 22 years.

Keane moved near Phoenix in 1959, where he began to work from home. Finding inspiration from his young children and his wife, Keane created another nationally syndicated strip, The Family Circle, in 1960, which was renamed The Family Circus a few months later.

In the early strips, the father was named “Steve,” which was later changed to Bill. Baby PJ was introduced in August 1962.

President of the National Cartoonists Society from 1981 to 1983, he was the emcee of the annual NCS awards banquet (the Ruebens) for 16 years. The NCS awarded The Family Circus with the Newspaper Panel Cartoon award in 1971, 1973 and 1974, and honored Keane with the Elzie Segar Award in 1982.

“To say Bil Keane was only quick-witted is like saying Olympic superstar Usian Bolt is just ‘sort-of fast,'” recalled Tom Richmond, current president of the NCS. “He was one of the funniest guys I’d ever met.

“Bil was one of the true legends of cartooning. It was a true honor and privilege to have been able to meet him and get to know him a bit. He will be sorely missed.”

With his own children grown, Keane began taking inspiration from his grandchildren.

He recently said: “If asked when I will retire, I say, ‘Probably about 11 o’clock tonight. But, hopefully, I’ll be back at the ol’ drawing board in the morning and happy to be there!'”

In 1998, he became the 10th recipient of the Arizona Heritage Award, joining — among others — Barry Goldwater, Sandra Day O’Connor, Mo Udall and Erma Bombeck.

Bil Keane was predeceased in 2008 by his wife Thelma (“Thel”), the model for the Mommy character in the long-running newspaper comic.

Survivors include son Glen, of Santa Clarita, California, a 2D lead animator for Walt Disney Studios (Glen was the supervising animator for Beast in Beauty and the Beast, and Aladdin of Aladdin, among others); daughter Gayle, of Napa, California, who was also her father’s administrative assistant; son Jeff, of Laguna Hills, California, who colored and inked Family Circus; sons Neal of Northridge, California and Christopher of Dragor, Denmark; and nine grandchildren.

1001 Rabbit Tales (1983) – Warner Bros. Feature Film

1001 Rabbit Tales (1983) - Warner Bros. Feature Film

1001 Rabbit Tales (1983) - Warner Bros. Feature Film

CotD: Third in a series of 1980’s Looney Tunes revival films, “1001 Rabbit Tales” features Bugs and Daffy competing against each other.

1001 Rabbit Tales (1983) – Warner Bros. Feature Film

Daffy Duck and Bugs Bunny are rival salesman for the “Ramblin House Publishing Company,” and are in fierce competition over who can sell the most books. They devise a plan to travel the world to outdo each other- and the laughs pile up with adventure along the way, featuring classic Warner Brothers moments from the past. When Bugs encounters Sultan Sam’s bratty Prince Abadaba, he’s forced to read him 1,001 tales to save his skin.

Watch “1001 Rabbit Tales ” on video at Big Cartoon DataBase

“I Say, I Say Son!” Foghorn Leghorn Creator’s Son to Speak at ToonSeum

Robert McKimson Jr.

Robert McKimson Jr.

The ToonSeum pulls back the curtain to take a behind the scenes of Looney Tunes through the eyes of Robert McKimson Jr. Robert is the son of famed Warner Bros. cartoon director and animator Bob and the nephew of animators Chuck and Tom McKimson. Robert will share the story of his animated family through pictures and remembrances of their work and the legendary characters they created.

Those characters are a who’s who of Warner Bros. animation including popular characters like Foghorn Leghorn, Tasmanian Devil and many more. This presentation offers a rare glimpse at the lives and work of some of the most important animators of animations golden age.

Roberts new book “I Say, I Say Son.” Will be released in 2012.

Robert will speak at the ToonSeum on Saturday November 26th, at 6pm. Reception and viewing of “Overture: Behind the Scenes of Looney Tunes” exhibition will follow.

Admission is $5 at
Members are free.
Online reservations are recommended.

Robert McKimson (1910-1977) was an animator and director who is most known for his work at Warner Bros. on the Looney Tunes series. His “Hillbilly Hare” is generally regarded as a classic outing for Bugs Bunny.

McKimson was an animator at Termite Terrace from almost the beginning, and had a knack for detail. For an example of his work, see the start of “What’s Cookin’, Doc?” when Bugs performs all the celebrity impersonations. He also was one of the animators on the classic short “A Corny Concerto” directed by Bob Clampett. There’s a professionalism to the animation, and the graceful movement emphasizes Bugs’s likeability. He also drew the definitive Bugs Bunny model sheet in 1943 (which ironically he didn’t use himself when he began directing; see below). McKimson’s versions of the classic Warners characters generally seem rounder and fatter than most of the other directors’ (though it was Bob Clampett who introduced the infamous “Fat Elmer”), with rather small eyes his characters have a tendency to peer out through half-closed eyelids, at least in his earlier period.

Blow me down: SPA hires writers for 3D Popeye film

Sony Pictures Animation

Sony Pictures Animation

Sony Pictures Animation has set screenwriters Jay Scherick and David Ronn to write the screenplay for an all-new Popeye animated feature, based on the iconic characters of comic strip and cartoon fame, the studio announced Thursday.

Popeye is the second project for Scherick and Ronn with Sony Pictures Animation following their success with this summer’s blockbuster The Smurfs, which has grossed more than $550 million worldwide since its July 29 opening. SPA and Arad Productions are producing the stereoscopic 3D animated feature.

“Scherick and Ronn have a remarkable talent in re-energizing beloved characters,” said Sony Pictures Digital Productions president Bob Osher. “As they demonstrated with The Smurfs, they embrace the iconic characteristics of these timeless characters and craft a story that really engages moviegoers today.”

“We’re thrilled that Jay and Dave are helping us reintroduce Popeye to a new generation,” commented Michelle Raimo Kouyate, president of production for Sony Pictures Animation. “Their take on the world of Popeye has just the right blend of comedy, adventure and heart — all the elements that made a great animated film.”

“Popeye has been my childhood favorite character,” said producer Avi Arad. “To me, he was always the everyday man who gets special powers and actually becomes the first superhero in the best meaning of the word. When Scott Sassa called, Ari and I were beyond excited to be working with Jay Scherick and David Ronn and Sony Pictures Animation to bring this iconic character to the big screen in glorious stereoscopic 3D. We enjoy working with the Sony Pictures Animation team and with Rocky and company from Hearst Publishing. I cannot wait to go sailing!”

Last spring, Scherick and Ronn began work on the sequel to The Smurfs. They also wrote the original script for the upcoming Baywatch adaptation for Paramount, and the pair is currently working on a comedy pilot for ABC.

Scherick and Ronn have written together since they met when they both worked for a New York-based corporate bartering company. From a staff writing position at NBC, the team segued into three years on Spin City, where they served as writer/producers.

Sony Pictures Animation is scheduling the family comedy Hotel Transylvania for release in the fall of 2012. The division is also in production with Aardman Animations on two feature films: the CG-animated family comedy Arthur Christmas (3D), in theaters this month, and the stop-frame animated high-seas adventure The Pirates! Band of Misfits (3D), due next March.

Bushy Hare (1950) – Looney Tunes Theatrical Cartoon Series

Bushy Hare (1950) - Looney Tunes

Bushy Hare (1950) - Looney Tunes

CotD: In “Bushy Hare” we see the stork delivering Bugs again, this time to Oz.

Bushy Hare (1950) – Looney Tunes Theatrical Cartoon Series

The stork mixes Bugs and a kangaroo baby up, and mistakenly delivers Bugs to Australia and the natives therein.

Watch “Bushy Hare ” on video at Big Cartoon DataBase

Miley Cyrus checking into SPA’s Hotel Transylvania

Hotel Transylvania

Hotel Transylvania

Miley Cyrus has been hired to join the all-star cast of Sony Picture Animation’s Hotel Transylvania as Dracula’s teenage daughter Mavis.

At the Hotel Transylvania, Dracula’s lavish five-stake resort, monsters and their families can live it up, free from meddling from the human world.

Overprotective of his daughter, Dracula (voiced by Adam Sandler) fabricates tales of elaborate dangers to dissuade her adventurous spirit. As a haven for Mavis, he opens the Hotel Transylvania, where his daughter and some of the world’s most famous monsters — Frankenstein and his bride, the Mummy, the Invisible Man, a family of werewolves, and more — can kick back in safety and peace. For Drac, catering to all of these legendary monsters is no problem — but his world could come crashing down when one ordinary guy (voiced by Andy Samberg) stumbles on the hotel and takes a shine to Mavis.

Hotel Transylvania is scheduled for release September 21, 2012.

Cyrus’ best-known voice role is that of Penny, the title character’s owner and co-star, in the 2008 Disney feature film Bolt. She was also Yatta (Mudka’s Meat Hut Waitress) in the Disney series The Emperor’s New School. In Disney’s The Replacements, she was Celebrity Starr in the 2007 episode “The Frog Prince.”

ToonSeum Director to be Artist Guest of Honor in Edmonton Canada



The ToonSeum’s executive director, Joe Wos, will be an international geek ambassador of sorts as the “Artist Guest of Honour” during the Pure Speculation Festival in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. The fan convention will take place Nov. 18-20 at Grant MacEwan Centre.

Wos is one of several guests of “honour” at the popular sci-fi, comics and pop culture festival.

While Wos and the ToonSeum, Pittsburgh’s museum of comic and cartoon art, have presented workshops and lectures at comic conventions across the United States, this is his first venture to Canada.

Wos will speak about the history of Saturday morning animation and sit in on several panels covering a variety of topics. He also will present his nationally acclaimed program “Once Upon a Toon” — a unique blend of storytelling and live cartoon illustration — and sign prints of his illustrated mazes, dubbed the world’s most difficult by Ripley’s Believe it or Not! museums.

“I am deeply honored. Or, honoured, as I found out they say in Canada,” Wos said. “As a cartoonist and director of a museum dedicated to cartoons and comics, I think it is important that the United States and Canada set aside their differences about the metric system and the definition of bacon to come together at Pure Speculation and realize that no matter where we are from, we are all a bunch of geeks.”

Other (more famous and likely more popular) guests include actress Rebecca Staab, actor Will deVry and Jason Kapalka, co-founder and chief game designer of PopCap Games.