Monday, October 26, 2009

building a better (das) boot

I didn't think the Germans were still building submarines, but here they are building a U-boat that runs on hydrogen powercells that is even quieter than our own nuclear submarines.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

unspoken faces

In silent movies you had to say it with your face, and these people had faces.











These are all from the 1920 D. W. Griffith melodrama "Way Down East".

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

getting yelled at by Walt Disney

Back around 1991 I answered an ad in the back of The Dallas Observer for "animators". A local comic book artist was wanting to start an animation studio and his ace-in-the-hole was an old-time, golden age studio animator named Bill "Tex" Henson who was going to train us all.



Tex is probably most remembered as a supervising animator (Tex said "THE supervising animator") in Mexico for "The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show" and he had a long career that included many Casper cartoons at Paramount's "Famous Studios", many commercials and other work in TV thru the 80's.

However, he got his start just out of high school at Disney around 1943 where he was originally hired as a "story" artist.

But in 1991 we were sitting around our "studio" (Krash. Pow! it was called) practicing our inbetweens while Tex spun tales about the old days. Someone asked, "So what did you and Walt talk about when you were at Disney?"

Tex explained that he was very low in the organization and he did not have much occasion to "talk" with Walt Disney.

"... I DID get yelled at by him once," he added but then turned his attention back to whatever he was drawing on at the moment.

"Oh, come on, Tex," I said, "you GOTTA tell us about that one!"

So he told us how one day they were having a meeting where the story artists were pitching their storyboards to the directors. On this occasion Walt Disney was sitting in on the meeting although not saying much.

Tex had just finished presenting his ideas and one of the directors said "Gee, Tex, that's funny stuff... but it's really more like what they do over at Schlesinger's."

(Leon Schlesinger was the original owner of the cartoon studio that we now think of as "Warner Brothers")

To which Tex replied, "Well, it wouldn't hurt us to be more like Schlesinger's!"

"GOD DAMMIT!" Walt stands up and shouts, "They can make their cartoons THEIR WAY... and WE... will make OUR CARTOONS... OUR WAY!" And then he stormed out of the room.

No one got fired over this. Apparently screaming Walt was not common but not unknown either. Tex continued at Disney for several more years (he was the one who came up with the names "Chip and Dale" for the chipmunk duo) until he was hired away by Famous Studios.

That's the way Tex told us the story and that's the way I remember it... so it must be true.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

still cranking 'em out

Recent art news headline:

Art experts find possible new da Vinci



How "new" can it really be?

Well, Mr. Art Buyer, I've got a NEW 1978 Gremlin in my driveway I think you should snap up. Tests will confirm it's authentic. Original tires and oil, too.

I'll even include the blocks it's currently displayed on for free.

Friday, October 09, 2009

it's epic

One of my old employers, the Canadian telecom "giant" Nortel declared bankruptcy last January. The collapse took 10 years, but through diligent dumbness and fraudulent accounting they got the job done.

The company I now deal with to try to extract my pension dollars is called "Epiq Bankruptcy Solutions, LLC". I wouldn't think there's money in handling bankrupt companies but there must be.

I can imagine their slogan: "If your failure is epic, please consider Epiq."

Nortel was the site of my most memorable on-the-job kerfuffle ever. After I created an animation to be printed on the edge of a catalog as a flip-book, a manager said it was "sexually offensive" because it was obviously a depiction of the male member. She didn't say "male member", she used the medical term, but if you use that word too many times in your blog you get flagged as "adults only".

Shield thine eyes, here it is, member and all:



I wrote about this at greater length in one of my "Greatest Hits" you can find a link to over on the right.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

at least they weren't whirling

You know it's an exceedingly British movie when even the written out English doesn't make sense:



That's from "Four Feathers", an Alexander Korda epic of 1939.


It turns out the "Dervishes" are an Arab faction the British are fighting:



and the "Fuzzy-Wuzzies"?... they had big hair before big hair was cool:



If you wonder why old movies look the way they do, a lot of it is the lighting.

After the very expensive on-location debacle that was the 1925 version of "Ben Hur", studios tended to confine shooting to indoor sets whenever possible.

"Four Feathers" doesn't look like a lot of old movies because instead of trying to light indoor sets to pass for outdoors they actually went outdoors to shoot outdoor scenes.



These daylight shots look quite modern to my eye.



But when they get inside it's golden age studio look again.