Sunday, June 19, 2011

Father's Day with Bob & Ray


Another animation done in under half a day. This one's dedicated to my father James E. Finn Jr. (1924-1967). He was a big fan of Bob & Ray, and by some miraculous coincidence, so am I...

(Bob & Ray audio copyright is owned by The Radio Foundation, visit HERE for more).

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Campbell Grant Redux #1

Way back in this 2008 post, I mentioned Campbell Grant, who had illustrated a number of humor books by Richard Armor. These were favorites of mine in trolling the humor section of my High School library as a kid. As I mentioned before, the books were patterned after a late 1940's humor sensation THE DECLINE AND FALL OF PRACTICALLY EVERYBODY, which was written by a satirist named Will Cuppy, who died before his book was published. That book was copiously illustrated by William Steig, in a style somewhere between his rather pedestrian early work and his later vivid, expressionistic style. Though it was the precursor to the Armor/Grant series, I only just stumbled across it around ten years ago.

I guess in the aftermath of Cuppy's sudden decline and fall someone had to take over the historical parody biznizz and Armor took on the mantel with great success.  Armor's humor has a lighter touch, but it's clearly in the same vein, with punchlines turning up frequently in the copious footnotes. And the artwork of Steig and Grant is clearly influenced by Ronald Searle. Campbell Grant had been a Disney story artist in the 1940's and in his case that influence is also evident.  Maybe because Armor lived on the West Coast they decided to pair him up with a West Coast illustrator too. I think by this time Mr. Grant was out of Disney's employ and devoted to researching indigenous cave painting of the Southwest, a genuine passion apparently. That's about the extent of my biographical knowledge of him. Joe Grant (no relation) didn't have much to add when I asked about him...

These are selections from AMERICAN LIT RE-LIT, spoofing classic literature of North America. Although many of the subjects are caricatures of authors whose likeness could be researched, even better, I think, are the invented "generic" characters, which are beautifully designed.

 This caricature of E.A. Poe had a big impact on me, for some reason.

Thursday, June 9, 2011


I had lunch with some animation pals yesterday, including the multi-talented ART VITELLO. I freelanced model designs and storyboards for a good number of shows that Art produced and directed for Disney TV, DIC, and WB TV, including several TINY TOONS ADVENTURES.

Art mentioned that a "one-shot" I storyboarded and did models for was favored by none other than Chuck Jones, who called Art up to compliment him on it and he was nice enough to say the storyboard was one of the show's strenghts. Art's direction is the real strength though: as always smart, character oriented and entertaining... I guess the character never appeared in any other cartoons, but it was a pantomime dog named "Byron." Art did a rough sketch of a kind of basset hound-Sharpei mix and the jokes had a lot to do with his slow movements and floppy skin. Then I did the story board and a model with lots of poses and animation ideas. We worked out that he could change direction by sort of inhaling his head into his folds of mass and have it come out the other end, (somehow without turning inside out!).

The short was called "BIRD DOG AFTERNOON" and I believe this is the only show from that series that I worked on that I ever got a chance to see on the air. Somebody put it up on YouTube, where it shows up around the 3:56 mark.

I thought a lot of it turned out nice, with decent animation and lots of attention to what was posed out in the storyboard. There was a gag of the dog fastidiously adjusting a crooked picture on the wall that Art enhanced by having him exit the frame and then returning to fix the picture. The only other thing I think that got changed (maybe to get a better silhouette?) was the climatic shot of the cat on the chimney, where I had put the neighboring roofs in more of a dramatic downshot. My sketch is crude, but I think the idea was right... As alterations go, that's a quibble I guess I can live with...

I also remember suggesting an alternate title: "THE HOUND THAT ROCKS THE CRADLE", but by then it was too late. Oh well. Working with Art is always a pleasure and usually a tremendous learning opportunity too...

UPDATE: 08/07/11

TINY TOONS writer-producer Tom Reugger visited the comment section to describe the true-to-life genesis of this story:

"Bird Dog Afternoon" was based on an incident in my back yard. A bird built a nest under the eave of our backyard patio, and baby birds hatched. Our basset hound Lucy spent most of her life on that back patio. So, one day, we heard non-stop barking coming from out back. I went out there and found our basset hound worked up into a lather, barking non-stop at our cat who was also out there on the patio. Normally, this cat and dog completely ignored each other. But the reason for the racket was this: the baby birds had leapt out of the nest and had landed on the patio and were peeping and jumping around down there. The cat saw them, allowed its instincts to take over, and was going in for the kill. But the basset hound would not let that happen. Lucy the basset kept the cat at bay and actually managed to herd the baby birds into a corner where she could defend them successfully from the cat. Wild. (Well, the basset hound did own the patio.) The baby birds eventually figured out their wings and took off. 

Your board was great, as was Art's direction, and the cartoon worked beautifully -- and Byron's personality really came to life. 

And yes, the Tiny Toons character named Byron Basset was a shout out to both TT director Byron Vaughns and poet Lord Byron.

(thanks Tom!)