Saturday, January 26, 2008


I know I said I'd lay off the topic for a while, but Pete alerted me that Michael Barrier co-opted my words yesterday and though I hated to do it, I visited "the Barrier zone" to examine how he was spinning me. Not surprisingly he piggybacked onto the post mainly to shift focus to himself and pimp his dreadful 'history' book; perhaps he needs the money and attention. And ultimately he was only interested in further discussing (and disparaging) Chuck Jone's gallery artwork which misses the main point.

I've considered Mike Barrier's writing beneath comment for decades, but if he's going to spin me personally, then let the nerd-fight begin!!! Don't stifle any yawns on my account.

Once again, my main subject was to ponder, as a working artist, what can engage or disengage various artists (particularly great ones) over time? I offered art of Chuck Jones' to illustrate not a sheer decline, but some wild ups and downs in the later years. As one of the "downs" I used an image I felt appropriate and I still basically feel it so:

But I also used a caption that was rude and beneath the topic:

"I mean, who the crap are these guys?"

Right image, wrong caption. Words like "stodgy" "creakier and stiffer" I still stand by, despite the fact others have disputed them as choices. But the language of the caption is simply too glib and familiar coming from me in a public forum, regarding the subject of an outstanding talent. Yes, I think it would be okay with Chuck Jones if he found us critical on this point and he'd probably be amused to know we were all publicly discussing it, as long as we weren't being unduly wise-assed about it. But the language of that caption isn't critique, it's off-handed ridicule. It's prominent position and tone-setting effect is what distracted. I have no doubt it is precisely what offended many, sent some over the edge, and worst of all, encouraged others to bash. I not only regret it, but quickly apologized. I am sure most people who saw the apology can understand this as sincere.

Not Michael Barrier. He has to re-frame things to remind everybody that once, long long ago, in a time when he could fob himself off as an "authority," he had the inside track on Chuck Jones and all things animated. (Thank God those days are long over.) He goes on to say that in my follow up apology I "all but flay" myself and takes care to surgically lift quotes that show me in a supplicant, backsliding light so that he can claim superiority. Please note that as he lifts my quotes, he edits them--specifically deleting the point about the rudeness in the caption.

A conspicuously subtle edit, but not an innocent one to my guess. It seems he needs to divert attention away from the damaging comment because it was a cheap shot, and damaging comments and cheap shots are his common currency. He no doubt likes to secure plenty of space for cheap shots since he only has them and his armchair opinions to offer anyone. And he is master of the cheap shot, the judiciously damaging edit and shows this by using my own words to frame me as someone unwilling to defend opinions of my own. Trust me friends, not the case. And he has been skillfully crafting such commentary for four decades. No wonder people are afraid to take him on.

I believe Mike Barrier doesn't want me or anyone else to recant cheap shots even at major figures, because as a trend it could all but silence people like him. Recently I read that he called an indie short film "11 minutes of sheer torture", which anyone can see isn't an intelligent critique, just a spitefully catty remark. I'm sure the filmmaker would welcome even harsh critisicim if it were useful or insightful, or at least more original. His remarks in total offered nothing on those counts. Okay then, if a short film can be called "torture" I could just as easily describe the time I wasted reading Barriers "History" book "assault with a deadly dull weapon." And I scrupulously read every vacuous, navel-gazing page, to be sure of the content. Or in this case the utter lack of it. "Sheer torture" indeed.

To me it's bad enough that non-professionals might stumble on his words and mistake them as gospel, but I always wonder why seasoned artists do? God only knows. Yet I recently saw Steve Busustow's son scrambling to curry his favor over some dispute Barrier raised regarding UPA minutiae. Why should he scramble? Shouldn't the scribe be trying to earn credibility from Mr. Busustow and not the other way around? Does anyone still really think that conducting interviews with legendary artists forty years ago makes him an historian? If so, I guess we can equate British royalty gossips with Arnold J. Toynbee. I've known and worked with some of the legends he interviewed and I can tell you at least one prominent one felt ill-used and betrayed by him. For that matter I have the impression many old pros generally felt the same. Some of his portrayals of their careers reads like trashy office dish. As far as I'm concerned Barrier is the Kitty Kelly of animation historians, not the Will Durant.

Historians? Many better IMO: Maltin, Canemaker, Solomon, Beck, Amid, Kausler etc. Critics? Lots of useful ones in this age when "everyone's a critic" has never been more obvious. And entertaining and insightful ones who have ripped on films I've had a hand in--I can take it. Insults? Well Don Rickles and Triumph the Insult Comic Dog shouldn't lose any sleep over Mike Barrier. Neither should anyone else. Let him use his own words to flog his weary, useless pulps, not mine.


Thad said...


I like Mike a lot, as he's been helpful to me with providing transcripts and drafts, and I honestly love a lot of his writing, and his Jan. 20th posting is one of the greatest things ever written online.

But that piece on his blog was far too insulting, particularly for the discussion at hand. (I know you've been flayed before for claiming "The Jungle Book" as your favorite, of all things).

Thad said...

Whoops, that should have read Jan. 10th. My mistake.

mike f. said...
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Will Finn said...

Thad--I'll have to take your word for it about Jan 10 since I've wasted enough energy on him here, and in the past reading far too much of his bilious drivel.

Mike F-- The Bill M and Martha S story is disgusting. The list is pretty long. I know he tried to paint Joe Grant in a bad lite after sucking up to him for years. He took the slightest incident to do it an spun it viciously.

Weirdo said...
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Pete Emslie said...

To be fair, Will, I certainly didn't interpret Mike's post as being in any way insulting. I believe he was just trying to support your original post, not for knocking Chuck's ability per se, but because you had taken a very definite stand that many others, as you've since found out, took umbrage with. For the record, I too felt you didn't need to write the second, more apologetic post, as you really had done nothing that warranted an apology. Like I mentioned to you in my response, I agree with Mike that the internet seems to inhibit people from being candid in their criticisms, instead leading to mostly online niceties. Lord knows I've been guilty of perhaps being too cautious on my own blog, with only a couple of my topics thus far having stirred up a bit of controversy (and resulting in greater post counts in so doing!) I suspect that at some point I'll post something that really gets me in hot water with the animation community - it's just a matter of when!

Fact is, I usually post about nostalgic subjects that are near and dear to me, so I don't get carried away with ranting too often on the mediocrity I perceive in much of today's entertainment. But really, as Mike seems to suggest, why should we shy away from controversy by biting our tongues and avoiding subjects that might meet with disapproval? I must admit, I tend to share his opinion on that. And for the record, I have certainly disagreed with Mike's opinion on many things, including his assessment of "The Jungle Book", but I always enjoy reading his take on all these things regardless.

Will Finn said...

Weirdo, Mike Barrier has been badmouthing and sniping since I was a teenager. He's the original. He's ill-informed, cruelly speculative...I could go on but I wont. I have more relevant topics to move onto right away.

Pete, I don't agree, sorry. I have seen too many of Barrier's tricks and spins over the years. I didn't like what I read there one bit.

And despite calls to, I don't regret the apology. To put a finer point on it: i'm sure now I wouldn't have used a glib caption were Chuck around to see it. It's a cruddy way to pay someone back for so much, including a bit of work. So it was a cheap shot for me to say it from the safety of the present day. Maybe someone else could say it, but not me. As for cheap shots, there's a time an a place for them, but it's not here. Not about people and things I care about and respect anyway.

Weirdo said...

I agree, we do have more important things to talk about. Great posts. Hope to see more positive posts.

Thad said...

>>>Barrier's obscure and embarrassing vanity-plate of a website has degenerated into increasingly demented hate mail, directed at people he's jealous of (i.e: Steve Worth, John K. and Neal Gabler, among others.)<<<

I wasn't aware that, in Neal Gabler's case, pointing out published factually dubious claims was 'jealousy'. Actually, if some guy put out a fluff book out right before my well-researched one that didn't get the blessing of the Disney Archives (but not the Disney family), I'd be jealous too.

Larry Levine said...

What did Barrier say about Bill Melendez & Martha Sigall?

Will said...

i think it's pretty weird that he basically went on to agree with everything he edited out of that quote, but with all the crassness you apologized for in the first place!

"The interesting question is not whether Chuck's drawings deteriorated, starting in the late '50s, but why."
gee mr. barrier, i was gonna buy your book but i heard will finn had an interesting blog post about that already!

J. J. Hunsecker said...

I agree with Pete Emslie. It seemed like Barrier supported your original statement regarding Jones's artistic decline. You are free to hate the man all you want, but it seems to me you've misinterpreted his intentions.

>>Historians? Many better IMO: Maltin...<<

You know, of course, that Maltin used many of Barrier's interviews for his own book Of Mice and Magic, right?

Ward Jenkins said...

In resonse to weirdo:

Having a blog since late '04, I've seen the animation blogs proliferate immensely -- and with this proliferation, there's bound to be disputes and quabbles. More people in the mix means more personalities and, thus, more opinions. We're all bound to disagree on something at one point or another. And that's nothing but a good thing. It might look like we're doing nothing but harping on each other, but really, it's healthy debate on a wide variety of subjects that need to be debated. At times there's bound to be some cheap shots taken, but all in all, we're a very passionate bunch and we all pretty much agree on one main thing: animation is our life. We love it, live it, breathe it, and, yes, even crap it out. But we love it and we want to talk about it.

Will, I've found that taking a break helps. Step away and not get so involved that you feel that you need to not apologize for your apology or anything of that nature. Having an opinion on something is one thing. Sharing it online is quite another. And being so well versed in your opinions definitely helps in keeping the discussions at a nice intellectual level and not degrade to "you suck!" "no, you do!" depths. Even though it gets frustrating at times, I love the fact that we're discussing things like this with people who are active members in the industry.

Mokuu said...

And i thought John K was a maverick now I've seen it all.

Guys, you've both lived longer than i have and lemme just ask, why bother? Flaming posts are internet kid stuff. It just isn't worth the time and typing effort. If the guy wants to spend his time badmouthing a load of people in his blog then hey, sure, let him have it, less drawing time for him and the worst his reputation gets in the eyes of professionals.

There will always be guys like that one the net and in life, best thing to do is ignore em and let them sink themselves in over time. And if you think thats bad, go look over at or for a good laugh.

You got better things to do so keep kicking some asses drawing wise :D

Jorge Garrido said...
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Will Finn said...

Ward, frankly I feel refreshed, not in need of a rest.

Thad--Don't start this jealousy thing about Gabler's book. Disney is a public figure, fair game and more power to Gabler if his book is being better received. I sincerely doubt the advance lead he got is what is making the difference. And he couldn't be any more speculative or erroneous than Barrier has about people, events and process many of us have more intimate knowledge and experience of.

Barrier fans tried to do the same thing to Maltin's OF MICE AN MAGIC--I guess Leonard was supposed to mark time while Barrier was scribbling away for another fifteen years on his tripe-laden bilge. Leonard's book was better, remains so and the fact that it doesn't stoop to dishing half-baked accounts of irrelevant inside-studio backbiting doesn't make Leonard a "sellout." Page per page, it's a more comprehensive text.

A host of fine animation writers sprang up in the seventies and Barrier has leeched along on their reps ever since, as he has on those of the legends he fawningly cultivated to earn his tiny nut of credibility.Given that any boob can run a tape recorder, dumpster dive and type, I guess we should just be glad there aren't more like him.

J. J. Hunsecker said...

>>Barrier fans tried to do the same thing to Maltin's OF MICE AN MAGIC--I guess Leonard was supposed to mark time while Barrier was scribbling away for another fifteen years on his tripe-laden bilge. <<

I guess you missed my point so I'll repeat it again. You claimed Maltin is a better animation historian that Barrier, yet Maltin had to rely on Barrier's research for his own book. Kind of ironic, isn't it?

It's irrelevant that Barrier took a long time to write his book than Maltin did to write "Of Mice And Magic". The point is Maltin couldn't have done it without relying on some of Barrier's hard work -- and Barrier was gracious enough to lend another historian (really at that point Maltin was only a movie critic) his interviews.

As for the difference between the two books, while I like both, Barrier's book goes into more depth on the individuals who created those classic (and not-so-classic) cartoons. Maybe you dislike the "warts and all" type approach to history reporting, but real flesh and blood individuals, with all of their frailties and faults, were responsible for those cartoons.

Will Finn said...

JJ, I don't dispute Barrier's research, or his critical appraisals of any films by anybody. I don't care for them, but that's just my opinion, which doesn't matter.

As for "warts and all" Canemaker and others have detailed these feuds and scandals too, but , I think more objectively and responsibly described. Most people I know think so too, despite our feelings about the artists we knew.

I did read Barrier's work for twenty years and I always found it last and least in it's perspective. What really infuriated me though was when he began to pretend keen insight about the process and talents of artists I was working with contemporaneously and he often just got it wrong. And no, the truth would not punish the naughty or reward the nice, as far as my personal feelings toward the individuals, but I saw their process up close and from my very earliest days and the objective truth about it doesn't jive.

In his fanzines he offered young animators withering sarcasm at a time when could have used encouragement and he was unstintingly nasty toward people who took issue with him in the letters column.

As for personal feelings, I never met the guy. Maybe he's "rilly, rilly great" as a person, but I am entitled to as low an opinion of his writing as he is of anyone else's work.

J. J. Hunsecker said...

Alright, Will, fair enough. I see your point.

Josh Latta said...
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Mike Gillett said...

Will, you have been a curmudgeon ever since I have known you. But a frank and yet kind one. I learned back in art school, now some thirty years ago, not to show you any of my stuff unless I wanted to hear your honest opinion of it! I welcomed and feared it at the same time. Don't start apologizing for your thoughts now.

It is refreshing to read your "take" on things on this blog. I am pretty sure that is the whole point of the medium. Far better than most gushing pap on "fan" sites. I love Chuck Jones and his work. But I thought I was alone (an Emperor's New Clothes sort of syndrome?), when I would look at his latter-day drawings of much loved and very familiar characters. Not so much "who the crap are these", but "who the crap drew them"?! They looked - large forehead, Cindy Lou Who eyes and all - like someone who had seen some of Jones' work was trying to copy it. And not doing such a good job. Almost like bootleg stuff drawn by someone overseas who only had a few samples to go by. Thanks for letting me know I wasn't the only one... and that I wasn't bad and going to hell for thinking ill of Saint Chuck. Not everything he pooped was gold.

Check out my blog, dear friend. I have posted pictures of you and I.

Will Finn said...

Mike G old friend,--"kind" is not the word I'd use to describe my expressions on this topic, but after all ripping candor was encouraged by the subject, though not at his own behalf of course.

And as always, thanks for the memories.

I'm starting to drop comments on this issue, i hope people can understand. I think the points of view have been pretty well made. I don't apologize for my venomous comments here but I know they are not pretty and it's a standard I'd rather not perpetuate. We've all got better things to discuss and do.

Thad said...
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Will Finn said...

Gang, I call it quits on this topic, at this address anyway. When it devolves into offenses and counter-defenses against no less a person than Leonard Maltin, i give up.

In addition, some of the comments I've filtered out contain abuse even I don't have the stomach for. Generally speaking, nobody deserves to be sworn at in public, not even Michael Barrier.

The steam I've blown off here has been a long time in the making and it looks like i am not alone my view. That's all folks.

surferjoe1 said...

Will, I just wanted to commend you on having waded through that book. I couldn't duplicate your amazing feat...

Some of the great filmmakers and artist he chose to disparage gave us works that will last until the end of time and create laughter and joy for people who haven't been born yet.

In return, he gave them a book that I believe- in one case- damaged a sixty year old friendship, right at the end of two lives. I wish he'd waited another fifteen years so none of them would have had to be bothered with him.

A tale of two legacies. The dogs bark, and the caravan moves on.

Joe D. Suggs