About ten days ago, I mumbled something in of one of the RAW Art Today! posts about starting a magazine featuring great artwork from the art galleries on Channel Frederator RAW (tentatively titled “Cartoon Central on the Internet”). The more we’ve talked about it the cooler the idea seems. Reading an article about the photography magazine JPG the other day sealed the deal. We’re going to start prepping now; maybe we can get it going by March? (Start saving those full resolution files; we’ll be calling).
JPG organizes their magazine around themes posted on their website, and their readers submit their best appropriate photographs: Nostalgia, Geometry, Color Theory, Creepy, Loneliness, etcetera, etcetera; the magazine curates the best of the best. It makes perfect sense, giving each issue an organizing principle and a vibe.
But themes also work against my natural lack of discipline, anarchistic tendencies, and my hopes for the explosion of surprise.
What do you think? Do we ask for thematic submissions? Or is it better for you to keep uploading your latest stuff, or your favorites from your archives?
Let us know, it’ll help us make some early decisions.
Artist (and RAW member) Chris Battle posted this photo on RAW the other day with a few folks identified. The Sherlock Holmes in me was intrigued, because not only was this the last all studio portrait ever, but the first (and last) one after my tenure of running the studio. My colleague Eric Homan called upon his community of HB friends*, and between us all we’ve filled in the names of almost 100 of the intrepid. If you know any of the missing faces, please let us know.
….. This photograph is the last all-studio portrait taken at Hanna-Barbera Cartoons. Time Warner had bought Turner Broadcasting (owner of HB) and folded the studio into Warner Bros. Animation. WBA chief Jean MacCurdy made the decision to fold HB. Eventually, it resurrected as Cartoon Network Studios. Luckily, Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera were able to sit for this last portrait of the company they founded.
1 Jim Hearn
2 Paula LaFond
3 Jim Stenstrum
6 Vaughn Tada
8 Nora Johnson
9 Vincent Davis
10 Paul McAvoy
11 Maxwell Atoms
12 Chris Bracher
13 Steve Marmel
14 Mike Ryan
15 Robert Alvarez
16 Patricia Gatz
17 Jeff Collins
18 Ed Collins
19 Carlton Clay
21 Hugh Saunders
23 Gilbert Quesada
25 Gary Olson
26 Al Gmuer
27 Renaldo Jara Jara
28 Sandy Ojeda
29 Susan DeChristofaro
30 Mimi Magnuson
31 Harry Nicholson
33 Louis Cuck
34 Marc Perry
35 Linda Barry
36 Pat Foley
37 Kerry Iverson
38 Paul Douglas
39 Julie Humbert
40 Jim Moore
41 Tim Iverson
42 Van Partible
43 Bodie Chandler
44 Joseph A. Bova
45 I can’t count
46 Keith Copsin
47 Kris Lindquist
48 William Parrish
49 Colette Sunderman
50 Carol Iverson
51 Nancy Grimaldi
52 Davis Doi
53 Melissa Lugar
54 Joanne Halcon
55 Nelda Ridley
56 Diane Kianski
57 Sandy Benenati
58 Barbara Krueger
59 Alison Leopold
60 Linda Moore
61 Diana Stolpe
62 Eleanor Medina
63 Janet Mazzoti
64 Genndy Tartakovsky
65 Craig McCraken
66 Jean MacCurdy
67 Joe Barbera
68 Maggie Roberts
69 Frederick Flintstone
70 Bill Hanna
71 Iwao Takamoto
72 Wanda Smith
73 Paul Rudish
75 Andy Bialk
76 Chris Battle
77 Nancy Sue Lark
78 Michael Shapiro
79 Zita Lefebvre
82 Craig Kellman
83 Luz Leon
85 Diana Ritchey
86 John McIntyre
87 Pat Lawrence
88 Amy Wagner
89 Brian Miller
90 Victoria McCollum
91 Rob Romero
92 Sharra Gage
93 Charlie Desrochers
94 Iraj Paran
95 Sami Rank
96 Jason Butler Rote
97 Liza Ann Warren
98 Chris Savino
99 Scott Setterberg
100 Donna Castricone
101 Sue Mondt
102 Martin Ansolabehere
103 Kevin Kaliher
104 Summer Wells
106 Ray Garcia
* Photo supplied by Chris Battle,
kindly identified by Chris Battle, Eric Homan, Marc Melocchi, Fred Seibert & Amy Wagner
There’s been a vicious rumor for the last couple of years that we’ve done a shorts show for Nickelodeon. We’re sending out this card to put that rumor to rest.
Seriously, it drives us as crazy as you that Nickelodeon has chosen not to air, or even set an airdate for, any of the Random! Cartoons shorts. And, because there’s a significant financial implication with the voice actors’ union, we’ve only been able to air one of the shorts on the web.
Everyone at Frederator is proud of all the creators and their cartoons, so we’re going to continue to promote the series whenever and wherever we can. This postcard is just the smallest way.
Q: There was a golden age of animation with Ren and Stimpy and Beavis and Butthead back in the 1990s. Are we still in the golden age?
Fred: I guess I might refer to a “silver age” of animation we’re in; it’s hard for me to believe — as good as the creative period we’re in — anything could be as good as the years that gave us Looney Tunes, Tom and Jerry, Felix, Donald Duck, Pinocchio, and all the others. That being said…
It’s been an amazing fifteen years, and there’s no end in sight. Original cartoons are still on the rise. First The Simpsons, then R&S, B&B, and Rugrats. South Park, Dexter’s Laboratory, The Powerpuff Girls, Cow and Chicken, Johnny Bravo. And just within the last four years: The Fairly Oddparents, Jimmy Neutron, and the first megastar of the age, the modern Bugs Bunny, SpongeBob. In the wings: My Life as a Teenage Robot, ChalkZone, and The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy. And many people would think I’m narrow-minded if I ignored features like Toy Story and Finding Nemo.
The business of television began a seismic change in the eighties, which really became mature in the nineties, and that maturity created the circumstances that allowed for a revival of animation as a powerful commercial art form. In 1983, the average home in America has four channels of television; by 1988 that same home had twenty-seven channels (and many had fifty or more). Competitive pressures to launch mass-appeal programming forced cable networks to create, and then create some more; the traditional broadcast networks were fiddling while their symbolic Rome burned.
Q: Actually, weren’t new viewers roaming over to an increased number of more interesting stations?
Fred: The broadcasters still had the largest audiences and made the most money, so there was laughter at what they thought were amateur efforts from the upstarts; the loss of audience share the traditional networks were experiencing were considered negligible. Meanwhile, the cables were learning the new craft of show business, saving their money for programming production war chests, and realizing that innovating past the stale network fare was the way to capture the audience attention.
All in all, the ambitions of a creatively pent-up creative community, and the force of new cable-centric capitalism, met in an explosion of innovation we’re still feeling today.
Q: The bar seems to have been pushed higher on TV and film. Kids’ fare is much more adventurous. Does this mean that the market for challenging animation is large?
Fred: The audience isn’t stupid, no matter what executives think. Given the choice between Hanna-Barbera’s The Snorks and Hanna-Barbera’s Dexter’s Laboratory, they can recognize the superior comedy.
That being said, I’m not so sure the market is actually larger than it was before the cable age; the population is marginally larger and still watching the same amount of TV weekly. But the competitive environment — jeez! An average of more than one hundred channels are trying to get a piece of your viewing time. In the past, a network looked forward to a 30 percent share of the audience for a hit; now it’s happy with 5 percent (and 1 percent or 2 percent for cable!). The result is that each program and each channel has to fight harder and harder with every character and every story.
Before 1980, the viewer has no choice; if you wanted to watch cartoons, maybe watching crappy ones was better than nothing. Today the audience must be satisfied, they truly can watch another show, or watch a DVD, or go online and find cartoons there.
Q: You’ve been in the forefront of new animation. How do you find new talent?
Fred: Isn’t that the magic question? Ten years ago I didn’t need to look far. In the trenches of the animation business were hundreds of classically trained animators who were toiling on the Yo Yogi! (the adventures of a teenage Yogi Bear, hangin’ at the mall) or Fish Police. These folks were dying to save the business they had trained their whole lives to join. We would put out the word we were seriously interested in the animator’s stories (for forty years the creative people were merely the hands of management’s ideas); over five thousand pitches were presented for our first set of forty-eight short films. And dozens of world-class hits were launched.
Today, our net has extended significantly wider because our competition has caught on and also scooped up the most available talent. There are many American and international cities with centers of cartooning that haven’t participated in the new hit boom. We’re busy setting up development centers all around the world.
Q: How did the artists of the golden age achieve their successes? And does this open the door even wider for students today?
Fred: As you might imagine, there are lots of parallels, but plenty of differences between the golden age and today.
In the first half of the twentieth century, it was a dog-eat-dog world in animation, though it had a true innocence. Many artists looked to animation as a career because it employed so many more men (it was primarily men, white men at that) than any other cartooning outlet. But there was no formal training, so he had to find a job at a studio that was willing to train him, teach him the rudiments of a new art form (actually, sometimes he needed to invent the steps). He had to figure out how to draw, animate, sure, but also how to tell a story, a funny story, with characters that were better than the competition.
And until the 1940s there was not even any geographic center; New York and California had the most successful studios, with Chicago and Miami weighing in, too. The employment network was fueled by friendships, often started in childhood or nurtured at the entry-level studios, and often an artist friend dragged in a completely untrained, talented friend and helped him become a story man, or a production manager. Additionally, all aspects of an animated film were made on-site, so there was a lot of room to train as an in-betweener, a model or layout artist, or as an animator before debuting as a director, trying to take a shot at the golden ring.
Q: What’s the role of the school today, as opposed to the old apprentice system?
Fred: Now there are schools to do the initial training, so few studios use their scarce resources to start talent. And while we do most of the creative production in the studio, layouts and animation are often done off shore, so there are fewer opportunities for artists than in the day. And we expect even entry-level artists to have a minimum standard of skill.
But the market is more open to more kinds of people than ever before. While it’s still a white man’s world, walk through any major studio and you’ll see men and women, African-Americans, Latinos, and Latinas, Asians, Africans.
Q: What must a student have in his gut to be a great cartoon creator? Is it enough just to have skill?
Fred: You know, then and now, the elements of success are pretty similar in cartoons:
Talent: You’ve got to have “it.” I’ll let biologists and psychologists explain what “it” is.
Skill: Animation is an exacting proposition, commercial animation even more so. If you can’t draw, you can’t play. And if you can’t draw, storytelling and directing in cartoons is all that much harder.
Ambition: The most ephemeral, the most ignored, the most misunderstood element of a great creator. The person who wants commercial success brings an extra oomph to his or her films. Trying to appeal to an audience, communicating with their hopes, dreams, and funny bones, is the magic of the modern world. I’ve always admired the Beatles because they had the desire to create great art that didn’t intrude with their craving to amass great fortunes. Great cartoons are motivated by no less.
Q: What does the future hold for kids who are studying cartooning and animation today?
Jim Mortensen stopped by to visit Eric and me at Frederator/Burbank with his storyboard for “Suzy Backwards.” It’s always good to see Jim, an early contributor to Channel Frederator and a talented, nice guy.
Thanks to Jim for his kind permission to use a frame from his board and this special illustration.
This card is the first in our series of “Original Cartoon Inspirations” (I’ve got no idea what the others will be or when we’ll publish them). Because on a few different levels Joseph Barbera & William Hanna fit that description to a tee.
Obviously, Eric and I started our cartoon careers at the Hanna-Barbera Studios, working alongside of Joe and Bill. There really wasn’t any better inspiration than that experience. To be able to have long, first hand, conversatons about making Tom & Jerry, or The Flintstones and The Jetsons gave us insight on everything from the creative process, to setting up the most successful production shop in history, to just the everyday interaction among the very talented and very human characters that populated the building over the decades. Sitting in a car or a plane with Bill for hours at a time, hearing him reminisce about going fishing every year with Tex Avery… there’s really nothing I can say to recreate those moments. And, of course, that’s on top of being glued to the TV set for days at a time when the original HB shows hit the air in the late 50s.
This photograph was taken in 1995 by Jeff Sedlik, as part of my ongoing effort to give Joe and Bill (and the whole studio) the respect they deserved. I knew Jeff as an LA based photographer primarily known for sittings with jazz musicians (I already owned Miles Davis and BB King portraits) and I think he did a fabulous job with the guys. I think the session was their last formal sitting.
PS: Eric scheduled this card because December 14th’s the 50th anniversary of the debut of the first Hanna-Barbera Productions TV series, The Ruff & Reddy Show. It’s worth commemorating.
Alex Kirwan, Art Director: We both liked the look of the 1930s Max Fleischer cartoons, and we noticed that no one had really done animation in art deco style. We wanted to see what sort of influence that style could bring to the character designs. We took the “pie cuts” out of the character’s eyeballs, which helped define the genre we were going to use.
Rob Renzetti: We used art deco influences for the architecture and the props, and we tried to get a deco poster feel in all the backgrounds. We made a great-looking and very different world. It’s very sophisticated, but not too sophisticated for kids.
Alex Kirwan: We loved the look of the old Astroboy cartoon series, because you can feel all the cool things that you associate with anime and science fiction. One of the things we loved about Astroboy was the weird hairstyles that made humans look like cartoon animals or birds. We latched onto that right away.
Rob Renzetti: We tried to translate that look into Nora and Brad, and, to a lesser degree, Tuck.
Alex Kirwan: It was as if we could define the personalities of the characters by giving them hair that resembled cartoon spiders or birds, or maybe even cat ears. It was cool.
Rob Renzetti: That includes Jenny too, who is a robot and has no reason at all to have two ponytails stuck up on her head. We gave her a reason by making them into jets. Originally, the ponytails were supposed to give her a kind of Mickey Mouse silhouette, and, in fact, we often mistakenly called them ears.
Alex Kirwan: Some things that became important to the production were not part of the show. Every year Nickelodeon holds a Halloween event where the employees bring their children and their friends into the studio.
Rob Renzetti: There’s an ocean of kids— thousands of them.
Alex Kirwan: Each Nick production would build a haunted house, and every year the houses got bigger and the crews more competitive. In our last year we built a giant flying saucer facade over part of our production area, and a cardboard city that the saucer had invaded.
Rob Renzetti: Kids could walk through our demolished city and then into the flying saucer and see aliens. We had an elaborate diorama with Jenny being attacked and electrocuted by aliens, and we built a life-size replica of Queen Vexus with light effects. We had Eartha Kitt, who voiced the character, record some cackling for our replica.
Alex Kirwan: That haunted house was so elaborate that it took quite a chunk out of our production time to built it. A large portion of our crew was not only working hard to meet our show’s deadlines, but also to assemble and paint these cardboard buildings. We took almost as much pride in them as we did in the show, and the kids were just thrilled.
In 2001, ChalkZone was the second series put into series production out of Oh Yeah! Cartoons. But CZ was one of the first shorts we produced; I greenlit storyboard soon after we started production in 1997, and production chief (and prime OY! supporter) Albie Hecht fell in love with the idea from the board alone.
Here a short interview with the creators and a scan album of the pages from Not Just Cartoons: Nicktoons!. Only MLaaTR to go; and here’s Oh Yeah!, Random!, and FOP.
….. Larry Huber, Co-Creator: It would be hard to find two guys with such incredibly diverse opinions—political, social, and otherwise—who work so well together that they can make a show as creatively in sync as ChalkZone. We drew on each other’s talents and styles, as well as our own eclectic viewpoints, to produce an entertaining, well-rounded show that features many different perspectives.
Bill Burnett, Co-Creator: Larry is a mountain man who loves to go hunting and camping. He uses flintlocks, like they did in the 1860s, and when Larry shoots a deer, he uses every last bit of it, down to the marrow in the bone. He’s conservative and methodical, always doing things strictly by the rules. The word “virtue” hangs above his door.
Larry Huber: My specialty is graphic drawing, and Bill’s is music. As a musician and performance artist, Bill is a boisterous, outgoing type of guy. I’m a little more laid-back and reserved. But our personality differences are really the strength of ChalkZone, because if two partners think the same way, then one of them is certainly unnecessary.
Bill Burnett: We found ways to work our different backgrounds and personalities into the show. My mother was an opera singer, and so is Rudy Tabootie’s mom. She sings in a high, sing-songy voice when she wants Rudy to come to dinner, just like my mom used to do. Larry’s father was a butcher, and so is Joe Tabootie, Rudy’s dad. Larry actually worked in his fathers’ shop and knows how to butcher animals.
Larry Huber: Bill brings experience from his days in an advertising agency, and he’s kind of like the grandmeister of jingles. I’ve heard kids in the playgrounds humming these songs in English. I’m talking about kids who don’t speak English as a first language—that’s how catchy they are.
Bill Burnett:ChalkZone is where Larry’s interests and mine converge. It’s a high-concept show about an alternate universe that’s really trippy when you think about it. In this universe, any place on Earth—a classroom, the “specials” board at a restaurant, or a hopscotch court—can be a portal to another world, where all the things that people have drawn over the centuries still live. The idea of ChalkZone is very empowering to kids: when they create a work of art, they’re actually bringing something to life.
Larry Huber: I’m a little emotional about the characters on ChalkZone. Rudy, Penny, and all the other characters are like living creatures to us, just like Rudy’s drawings of Snap are real to him. Bill and I are just two big guys who never grew up.
Continuing with our dancethrough the Frederator productions featured in the new Not Just Cartoons: Nicktoons! here’s an interview included in the book and some scans of the pages.
….. Butch Hartman, Creator: In 1996 I was working on Johnny Bravo over at Cartoon Network, having the time of my life. Then the first season came out, and they didn’t like it. Fred Seibert, whom I knew from Cartoon Network, had moved over to Nickelodeon to develop a series that featured original animated shorts called Oh Yeah! Cartoons. I decided that I would make up a cartoon for Fred.
Fred Seibert, Creator, Oh Yeah! Cartoons and Random Cartoons: I used to call Butch’s agents once a month and ask if he was free yet, and they would tell me he wasn’t. By the end of the year I stopped calling, because I was tired of being rejected. When his agents finally called me at the end of the year, I signed him, characters unseen. The first thing he brought in was The Fairly OddParents.
Butch Hartman: I wrote the pitch in fifteen minutes. I wanted to make a show about a boy who could go anywhere, because I never wanted to be stuck for a story transition. I wanted to be able to just pop him from place to place. Magic seemed to be the best way to handle that. I drew the boy, and I named him after my youngest brother, Timmy. Then I thought, Okay, how do I do the magic thing? I decided to give him a fairy godmother. So I drew Wanda. I thought that it would be even better if she had a husband. I’d never seen a fairy godfather before, but I drew Cosmo. Timmy is an only child—he’s lonely—which is why his godparents show up to help him in the first place. His enemy is his babysitter, Vicky. Once I mapped out the characters, the show developed from there, with one thing leading to another. I did ten Fairly OddParents shorts for Oh Yeah! Cartoons. Kevin Kay really liked them, so Nickelodeon tested three of them on a focus group. Lo and behold, they gave me six half-hours of an actual series to create.
Kevin Kay, Former EVP, Programming and Production, Nickelodeon: When we looked at The Fairly OddParents, we immediately said, “Well, there they are. Great characters, great frenetic energy.” And nobody has more frenetic energy than Butch Hartman.
Margie Cohn, EVP, Development and Original Programming, Nickelodeon: I went to Burbank for the first board pitch and literally almost jumped out of my skin. It was so funny and felt like it was going to be a monster hit.
Fred Seibert: The series was hugely successful. It is the second most popular show currently on Nickelodeon, and one of our three or four most popular shows since the network began.
Butch Hartman: The cool thing about The Fairly OddParents was that the ratings kept going up every time they’d run a new episode. Nick ordered more shows, and the original six episodes had to run by themselves for about a year. In that time, I took the original Oh Yeah! shorts that I did and reformatted them. By the time the new ones came out, The Fairly OddParents really started doing great. The show was just pure fun to work on. It was everything I had wanted to do as a kid. I got my wish.