Arthur Gardner Rankin, Jr. has passed away at 89. He was an American director, producer and writer, who mostly worked in animation. A founding partner of Rankin/Bass Productions- with Jules Bass– he gained fame with such stop-action animation features as Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer and the 1977 cartoon animation of The Hobbit.
Pioneering American animator Michael Sporn passed away Saturday after suffering from pancreatic cancer. Sporn produced and directed a number of animated specials and commercials from his New York based studios. Many of his works were known for their underlying social commentary and messages. He was also known for films aimed at educating children rather than just entertaining them.
Born in New South Wales, Australia, in January 27 1921 of British parents, he was brought home to England at the age of 6 months.
Ethan Minovitz, the self-proclaimed animation research guru of the Big Cartoon DataBase, passed away from natural causes at his home in Vancouver, British Columbia on Friday February 1st, 2013. His name should be familiar to anyone who follows this blog and the Big Cartoon Forum, and he was a voracious poster of news and trivia on both. His contributions to the site go much deeper than what the casual observer can notice, though. He was, in many ways, the heart and soul of BCDB.
Ethan was born in 1962 in his native British Columbia. He attend Eric Hamber High School and graduated in 1980. He competed on the school team for Reach For The Top National Finals, and his team won the competition. Mr. Minovitz was very active in his local Jewish Center.
Ethan is survived by his older sister Lise of New York, and his father, also in Vancouver. Ethan Minovitz’s funeral is planned for Wednesday, 2 PM at the Schara Tzedeck Cemetary at 2345 Marine Drive, New Westminster, BC V3M 6R8. Details on shiva services are to be arranged.
In December, 2009, he traveled with a group of volunteers to the Cuba-America Jewish Mission in Havana, where he worked with the group for two weeks. Ethan was also vocal with the Vancouver Jewish Folk Choir, singing in concerts whenever he could. Ethan’s Jewish heritage was very important to him, and his faith was strong.
He joined the BCDB about ten years ago, and it was immediately obvious that Ethan was at home in our group. He was an earnest and competent contributor, and it was not long until I asked him to be a moderator.
Ethan’s love of animation showed– he had tremendous knowledge on the subject. And what he did not know, he would research. That was one thing about Ethan, the man knew how to look something up. He soon became our resident expert on just about anything.
Ethan was always a calming force within BCDB, too. We have always been a fairly calm site, but there were occasions where tempers grew and egos grew larger. Ethan was the peacemaker, Ethan found a way to solve all the problems that came up.
Ethan always had a kind word for everyone. He was the first person to post a welcome message to anyone who joined our forums. I never asked him to, he just did. That is the kind of man Ethan was, and that is something I specifically admired about him.
A few years ago, we decided to start a news section of the forum. It is hard and a lot of work to publish 2 or 3 stories every day there. I know– I have tried. Ethan did it, every day, on his own and with no complaints. I did not even ask him, he just stepped up and did it. It is ironic now to think about, but one of Ethan’s passions was posting obituaries to the news section. We had a contest, he and I– who could get the big ones first. Ethan usually won.
But Ethan’s biggest contribution to BCDB is the one no one here ever saw. And this again gets back to his tag as Research Guru. Any day of the week, Ethan contributed numerous new cartoons for inclusion in the database. None of you ever saw this, because they went direct to me. Hundreds of Excel spread sheets a year. He formatted his finds in such a way it made it easy for me to slip them into the database. He would go on tears… sometimes Japanese, sometimes Russian, sometimes Czech. I would feel over burdened when getting them, and then I would think about all the work to find, sort and enter them into Excel. THAT would be overwhelming.… but that was what Ethan did behind the scenes. Ethan contributed at least 55,000 cartoons this way.
But most importantly, Ethan was my friend. We talked a lot. Sometimes about BCDB and what and where it was going. But often about other things. His trips to Israel were always a point of joy for him, and I loved listening to his stories. While we never met face-to-face, we knew each other very well. And I am proud to call him my friend.
As I sit here and miss my friend, I am also wanting to do something a little more permanent for him at BCDB. He was such an important part of getting us to where we are today, I want to make the BCDB a little more about him. I am not sure how I will accomplish this yet, but if you have any ideas, please let me know.
In the meantime, I can only wish my friend safe travels.
Legendary sitarist and composer Ravi Shankar died at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday at Scripps Memorial Hospital in La Jolla, California, the Ravi Shankar Foundation announced. He was 92.
Over the past year, Shankar had suffered from upper-respiratory and heart problems. He was hospitalized last Thursday after complaining of breathing difficulties. Although heart-valve replacement surgery was successful, recovery proved too difficult for him, the foundation said.
Years before the Beatles made him famous, Shankar helped provide improvised music for the partly animated 1957 National Film Board of Canada short A Chairy Tale, a fairy tale in the modern manner, told without words by film artist Norman McLaren. In the film, a chair (animated by Evelyn Lambart) that declines to be sat upon and a young man perform a sort of pas de deux. A struggle ensues, first for mastery and then for understanding.
“The short film was completely edited before sound of the animation was considered,” said Karin Gunn of the Teach Animation site. “At that time, the distinguished composer-performer sitarist, Ravi Shankar, had come to Montreal. After being invited to view the silent film, he expressed a keen interest in composing the music.”
A Chairy Tale was nominated for an Oscar for Best Short Subject, Live Action Subjects. It won the Canadian Film Award for Best Arts and Experimental, and a Special Award at the BAFTA Awards.
Shankar was India’s most esteemed musical ambassador, and a singular phenomenon in the classical music worlds of East and West. As a performer, composer, teacher and writer, he did more for Indian music than any other musician.
He was well-known for his pioneering work in bringing Indian music to the West. This, however, he did only after long years of dedicated study under his illustrious guru, Baba Allaudin Khan, and after making a name for himself in India.
Always ahead of his time, Shankar wrote three concertos for sitar and orchestra, the last in 2008. He also authored violin-sitar compositions for Yehudi Menuhin and himself, music for flute virtuoso Jean Pierre Rampal, music for shakuhachi master Hosan Yamamoto and koto virtuoso Musumi Miyashi-ta, and collaborated with Phillip Glass (Passages).
Former Beatle George Harrison produced and participated in two record albums, Shankar Family & Friends and Festival of India, both composed by Ravi Shankar.
Shankar also composed for ballets and films in India, Canada, Europe and the United States — the last including the movies Charly, Gandhi and the Apu Trilogy.
In the period of the awakening of the younger generation in the mid-1960s, Shankar gave three memorable concerts: the Monterey Pop Festival, the Concert for Bangla Desh and the Woodstock Festival.
An honorary member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, Shankar was a member of the United Nations International Rostrum of composers. He received many awards and honors from his own country and from around the world, including 14 doctorates, the Bharat Ratna, the Padma Vibhushan, Desikottam, Padma Bhushan of 1967, the Music Council UNESCO award 1975, the Magsaysay Award from Manila, two Grammys, the Fukuoka grand Prize from Japan, the Polar Music Prize of 1998 and the Crystal award from Davos.
In 1986, he was nominated as a member of the Rajya Sabha, India’s upper house of Parliament.
Deeply moved by the plight of more than eight million refugees who came to India during the Bangla Desh Freedom struggle from Pakistan, Shankar wanted to help in any way he could. He planned to arrange a concert to collect money for the refugees.
He approached his dear friend, Harrison, to help him raise money for this cause. This humanitarian concern from Shankar sowed the seed of the concept for the Concert for Bangla Desh. With Harrison’s help, this concert became the first magnus effort in fundraising, paving the way for many others to do charity concerts.
His recording Tana Mana, released on the private Music label in 1987, brought Shankar’s music into the “New Age” with its unique method of combining traditional instruments with electronics.
In 1989, he celebrated his 50th year of concertizing, and the Birmingham Touring Opera Company commissioned him to do a Music Theatre (Ghanashyam — a broken branch), which created history on the British arts scene.
He was born Robindra Shankar on April 7, 1920 in Varanasi, India, and was the youngest of four brothers,
“Ravi Shankar has brought me a precious gift, and through him, I have added a new dimension to my experience of music. To me, his genius and his humanity can only be compared to that of Mozart’s,” Menuhin reflected.
Harrison once said: “Ravi Shankar is the Godfather of World Music.”
Ravi Shankar is survived by wife Sukanya, daughter Norah Jones, daughter Anoushka Shankar Wright and husband Joe Wright, and three grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
Visual development artist, animator and story man Melvin “Mel” Shaw, named a Disney Legend in 2004, has died at 97, layout artist Mike Peraza announced.
Shaw has been called one of Disney’s “elder statesmen” of animation. Walt Disney, who personally recruited him to join his team, observed another side.
During his early polo playing days, Shaw recalled first meeting Disney at the field, who announced, “You ride like a wild Indian!” And thus, the door opened for Shaw to infuse his passion into Disney animation.
Born Melvin Schwartzman in Brooklyn on December 19, 1914, he discovered his artistic bent at age 10, when selected as one of only 30 children from New York state to participate in the Student Art League Society. Two years later, his soap sculpture of a Latino with a pack mule won second prize in a Procter & Gamble soap carving contest, earning the young artist national fame.
In 1928, his family moved to Los Angeles, where Shaw attended high school and entered a scholarship class at Otis Art Institute. But the teen had an itch to become a cowboy and ran away from home to work on a Utah ranch.
After four months of back-breaking work, he returned home and took a job creating title cards for silent movies at Pacific Titles, owned by Leon Schlesinger. With help from Schlesinger, two former Disney animators, Hugh Harman and Rudy Ising, had made a deal with Warner Bros., and soon, Shaw joined Harman-Ising Studios as animator, character designer, story man and director. While there, he worked with Orson Welles storyboarding a live-action/animated version of The Little Prince.
His Disney career was interrupted by the Second World War, when he served the United States Army Signal Corps as a filmmaker under Lord Louis Mountbatten, helping produce films, including a live action/animated documentary of the Burma Campaign. He also served as art editor and cartoonist for the Stars & Stripes newspaper in Shanghai.
After the war, he ventured into business with former MGM Studios animator Bob Allen. As Allen-Shaw Productions, he designed and created the original Howdy Doody marionette puppet for NBC; illustrated the first Bambi children’s book for Disney; and designed children’s toys, architecture and even master plans for cities, including Century City, California.
In 1974, Walt Disney Studios called Shaw to help in the outgoing transition between retiring animators and the next generation. He offered skill and knowledge to such Disney motion pictures as The Rescuers (1977), The Fox and the Hound (1981), The Great Mouse Detective (1986), Beauty and the Beast (1991), The Lion King (1994) and more.
Though uncredited, he was an animator in the theatrical cartoon shorts We’re in the Money (1933), Toyland Broadcast and Tale of the Vienna Woods (both 1934), To Spring (1936) and Merbabies (1938).
He offered additional story contributions to The Black Cauldron (1985) and provided the cartoon story for the 1957 Disneyland episode “Tricks of Our Trade.” Shaw appeared as himself in the 2001 TV documentary Walt: The Man Behind the Myth.
Shaw recently completed his autobiography Animator on Horseback at his home in Acampo, California. It has not yet been released.
In June, he lived with his son and daughter-in-law in Woodland Hills, California.
Mel Shaw married Florence, the widow of Disney animator John Lounsbery.
Actress Mitsuko Mori, the voice of Hii-sama in the original Japanese version of Hayao Miyazaki’s 1997 film Princess Mononoke, died Saturday at a Tokyo hospital. She was 92.
She died due to heart failure caused by pneumonia.
Mori was nominated for the Award of the Japanese Academy for Best Actress in connection with her leading role as Yuriko Hirosawa (The Authoress) in 2000’s Kawa no nagare no you ni. She received the Order of Culture and the People’s Honor Award.
Mori portrayed the main character in Horoki over 2,000 times. In addiiton, she played the main role in the popular TV drama Jikan desu yo (It’s time).
She was born Mitsu Murakami in Kyoto on May 9, 1923.
Voice actress Lucille Bliss, who portrayed the title character of the first made-for-TV cartoon series, Crusader Rabbit (1949–51), died Thursday night, animator Dave Nimitz said. She was 96.
She had been living in Mesa Verde Residential Care Center in Costa Mesa, California.
Bliss voiced Smurfette, the only female Smurf, from 1981 to 1989 in the Hanna-Barbera series Smurfs, as well as the 1987 TV special ‘Tis the Season to Be Smurfy. Other Smurfette appearances were in the TV-movies The Smurfs Christmas Special and The Smurfs Springtime Special (both 1982), My Smurfy Valentine (1983), and The Smurfic Games (1984).
For Disney, she portrayed stepsister Anastasia in Cinderella (1950), Sunflower and Turnip in Alice in Wonderland (1951), and the Kanine Krunchie Commercial Singer in 101 Dalmatians (1961). Other roles in cartoon films were Mrs. Fitzgibbons in Don Bluth Productions’ The Secret of NIMH (1982) and the Pigeon Lady in Blue Sky’s Robots (2005).
Also at Disney, she narrated “Story of Thumper,” “Story of the White Rabbit” and “Story of Grandpa Bunny,” three stories on the Disney album Peter Cottontail and Other Funny Bunnies.
Her other regular TV series roles included Snoopy in H-B’s The Space Kidettes (1966), Queen Slugga in Ewoks (1986–87), and Ms. Bitters in Invader ZIM (2001).
Over the 1950s, Bliss was heard in several theatrical Warner Bros. and MGM theatrical cartoon shorts. Though uncredited, she was Suzanne in Friz Freleng’s A Kiddies Kitty (1955), the Little Girl and Mama in A Waggily Tale (1958), Jerry’s little mouse friend Tuffy in 1958’s MGM cartoon Robin Hoodwinked, and the Leprechaun in another 1958 MGM release, Droopy Leprechaun.
On TV, she guested as Hugo and Scout in the 1961 The Flintstones episode “The Good Scout,” The Librarian in the 2005 Duck Dodgers episode “All in the Crime Family,” and Yagoda (aka Yugoda) in the 2005 Avatar: The Last Airbender episodes “The Waterbending Master” and “The Siege of the North Pt. 1.”
Bliss portrayed Bamm Bamm Rubble in the 1977 TV-movie A Flintstone Christmas and Dusty in the 1978 TV-movie The Flintstones Little Big League. Other TV-movie and TV special roles included Miss Witch in The Great Bear Scare (1983); and Lickety Page and other characters in the ABC Weekend Specials Cap’n O.G. Readmore’s Jack and the Beanstalk (1985), Cap’n O.G. Readmore Meets Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and Cap’n O.G. Readmore’s Puss in Boots and Cap’n O.G. Readmore Meets Red Riding Hood (both 1988).
She was in the voice casts of the two-part 1972 special Oliver and the Artful Dodger, released as an installment of The ABC Saturday Superstar Movie; the 1975 TV-movie The Tiny Tree. Bliss was also in the 1979 TV-movie Casper the Friendly Ghost: He Ain’t Scary, He’s Our Brother (aka Casper Saves Halloween).
Bliss portrayed Quinby in the 2007 theatrical cartoon short Up-In-Down Town, and also was heard in the theatrical shorts Hug Me (1981) and Betty Boop’s Hollywood Mystery (1989)
In the 2005 video short Blue Harvest Days (retitled Who Saves the Village?), she voiced Bear Brat.
Born in New York City on March 31, 1916, Bliss moved to San Francisco in the 1950s. There, she hosted ABC affiliate KRON-TV’s The Happy Birthday To You Show, a live local kids’ program, from 1950 to 1957.
For her work in Cinderella, Bliss received the Former Child Star Lifetime Achievement Award at the 1999 Young Artist Awards. At the Annie Awards, she won the Winsor McCay award for lifetime achievement in 2000.
Animator and director Margaret Nichols, an executive board member of The Animation Guild from 1980 to 1985, died November 5. She was 82.
From 1955 until 1993, she worked for Warner Bros., Disney, UPA, Fleischer, Snowball, Patin, TV Spots, Creston, Eagle, Hanna-Barbera, Marvel, Universal and Graz Entertainment.
She was also known as Margaret Flores Nichols and Margaret Grewell.
Nichols directed the TV series Transformers (1985–86); The Glo Friends, Potato Head Kids, InHumanoids and Moon Dreamers (all 1986); My Little Pony ‘n Friends (1986–87); and Fraggle Rock (1987).
She served as an animation director for the series Muppet Babies (1985–88), Defenders of the Earth (1986), Spacecats and Bucky O’Hare and the Toad Wars! (both 1991), Tom & Jerry Kids Show and The Addams Family (both 1992), The Pirates of Dark Water (1992–93), and Droopy: Master Detective (1993). In addition, she was animation director of the TV-movies Solarman (1986), Pryde of the X-Men (1989) and I Yabba-Dabba Do! (1993), along with the 1986 theatrical films The Transformers: The Movie and My Little Pony: The Movie and the 1987 video G.I. Joe: The Movie.
As an animator, Nichols worked on the series The Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm Show (1971); The Flintstone Comedy Hour (1972); Jeannie and Speed Buggy (both 1973); These Are the Days and Partridge Family 2200 AD (both 1974); The New Tom & Jerry Show (1975); The Mumbly Cartoon Show and The Scooby-Doo/Dynomutt Hour (both 1976); The All-New Super Friends Hour and C B Bears (both 1977); Scooby’s All Star Laff-A-Lympics (1977–78); Jana of the Jungle, Challenge of the SuperFriends and Dynomutt Dog Wonder (all 1978); Godzilla (1978–79); The World’s Greatest SuperFriends, Scooby-Doo and Scrappy-Doo and Casper and the Angels (all 1979;) Trollkins and The Kwicky Koala Show (both 1981); Smurfs (1981–84); Jokebook, Shirt Tales and Pac-Man (all 1982); and The New Scooby and Scrappy-Doo Show and The Charlie Brown and Snoopy Show (both 1983).
Also, she was an animator on the 1974 ABC Afterschool Special Cyrano, along with the ABC Weekend Specials The Puppy Saves the Circus (1981) and Miss Switch to the Rescue and Bunnicula, the Vampire Rabbit (both 1982). She animated the TV shorts and TV-movies Clerow Wilson’s Great Escape (1974), The White Seal (1975), A Flintstone Christmas (1977), Christmas Comes to PacLand (1982), Is This Goodbye, Charlie Brown? (1983) and It’s Flashbeagle, Charlie Brown (1984), in addition to the 1987 theatrical movie Rock Odyssey.
A key assistant animator on the 1973 movie Charlotte’s Web, Nichols was an assistant animator on Who Framed Roger Rabbit and Disney’s Oliver & Company (both 1988). She was a character animator on the 1982 theatrical film Heidi’s Song and a guest animator on Chuck Jones’ 1975 TV-movie Yankee Doodle Cricket.
Nichols was a sequence director on the TV series Robotix (1985), G.I. Joe (1985–86), Jem (1985–88), Transformers (1986–87) and The Little Wizards (1987), as well as the 1985 video Bigfoot and the Muscle Machines and TV-movie The GLO Friends Save Christmas.
Her first screen credit was as a layout artist for the 1970 TV-movie Uncle Sam Magoo. Nichols was a background and layout artist for the 1971 musical film Shinbone Alley.
At Disney, Nichols was a key clean-up artist for the movie The Black Cauldron (1985), and a character key for The Little Mermaid (1989) and The Rescuers Down Under (1990). She was a timing director and sheet timer for X-Men (1992–94), and a timing director for the 1994 TV series The Tick.
Jack Bosson, chair of Woodbury University’s animation department for three years, has died, cartoon historian Jerry Beck announced Monday evening.
His age was not immediately available.
Bosson served as as a training consultant to Disney in 1999 and taught at various institutions until he was hired to set up an animation department at Woodbury. He retired two years ago as professor emeritus after eight years at the university.
He did background painting briefly at Hanna-Barbera and was hired as a trainer in feature animation at Disney in 1995.
Bosson was a practicing and exhibiting fine artist and freelance illustrator for over 35 years. He taught drawing and painting at Cornell University, College of New Rochelle, University of Southern California, Otis College of Art and Design, Gnomon School of Visual Effects and Woodbury, among other institutions.
Bosson received his Diploma of Design from The Cooper Union. He studied painting and drawing at the l’Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris on a Fulbright Fellowship, and received his Master of Fine Arts Degree from Cornell in 1966.