Friday, November 30, 2018

Two icons pass away...

Although I wasn't a big fan of Marvel Comics when I was growing up (I preferred the funny ones, like Daffy Duck and Donald Duck...) I was certainly aware of the characters.  But I dismissed them as entertainment for little kids.  However, in the 1990's, when Marvel moved into feature films, big time, I realized their legitimacy. 

Stan Lee, along with his favorite artist, Jack Kirby, created some wonderful stories and amazing icons.  Spider-Man, Black Panther, the Hulk, the X-Men, the Fantastic Four, Black Widow, Iron Man and Daredevil -

Well, Stan, as you know, just passed away at the age of 95.  (Why is it so many cartoonists live long lives?)  While I was doing the early years of Spike & Mike's "Twisted Animation Show", Mike Gribble introduced me to the finer points of the Marvel gang and I finally had much more knowledge and appreciation for what Lee and Kirby created.

He was a superstar at all the big Comic-Cons, and rightfully so. 

The other God of cartoons who just passed away was Stephen Hillenburg, the creator of SpongeBob SquarePants.  When the show first premiered in 1999, I was an immediate fan.  Then, when my son Lucas was born and he became addicted to the show, I realized how great the show is.  I feel that SpongeBob was as good as the best of the early Warner Brothers and MGM cartoons.  In fact, I believe that Stephen was really influenced by Chuck Jones, Tex Avery and Bob Clampett. 

He started out making independent shorts and would also make appearances at the Spike & Mike shows, in addition to various festivals.  And that's where I first met him.  I became such a fan of his work that I even visited him on one of my trips to L.A., like a true fanboy.  We hung out a bit and I told him how much I loved his show.  He was a very modest and self-effacing guy, and he said he was influenced by a lot of my films from the early days. (That was nice of him.)

I believe his show and "The Simpsons" are the two greatest TV shows of our generation, and, just like the old Looney Tunes cartoons, they'll be popular forever.

Before I sign off, here's this week's gag cartoon:

 --Bill P.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Mickey Turns 90

Dear readers, I'm sorry for the lack of a post last week.  It was a very busy week, I was facing down three deadlines - so I was a bad boy.  I'll try to do better in the future.  In any case, I wanted to talk about Mickey Mouse's 90th birthday, a very big deal.

Before Mickey Mouse, there were only two big animation highlights - the work of Winsor McCay (who to me is a personal God) and Felix the cat cartoons.  Both were major landmarks in the animation field, but they never adapted to sound, like Mickey did, and so unfortunately they were mostly forgotten.

The great advantage Mickey Mouse had was the music and dialogue in his cartoons.  I always felt that intertitles, subtitles or "cartoon balloons" really ruined the flow of a story.  Especially in animation, which is so visual, and the rending of the dialogue totally breaks the magical spell for me.
Of course, Disney is famous for his wonderful storytelling skills.

In the early years, Mickey was an international icon, he was a superstar.  But to me, he was a little too goody-goody.  My preference was for Goofy, all the "How to..." films with him were the funniest and most influential.  If you watch a lot of my earlier films you can see the influence of Goofy in "How to Kiss" and the whole "Guard Dog" series.

But as they say, Mickey started it all.  Thanks, Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks.

I'm now in the middle of watching all the Oscar-eligible animated features of 2017 - I'll give you a report later.  Meanwhile, here's today's drawing:

--Bill P.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Three recent films and a music video

As I said before, it's Oscar-qualifying time, and I'm trying to see 50 feature films in the space of two months - that's about 1 film a day, which is fine.  I love watching feature films, however, I also have to run my business and make my own films, so my time has to be tightly regulated if I want to keep up that pace.  I'm only going to comment on three recent films of special interest, because I don't want to waste your time with the boring stuff.

"Mary Poppins Returns" is a very entertaining bit of nostalgia, it's full of wonderful music and great fantasy.  There are some surprise (not any more, I guess...) cameos from Angela Lansbury, Meryl Streep and a dancing Dick Van Dyke.

However, I believe Lin-Manuel Miranda is totally miscast as a rapping Cockney lamplighter, and his singing is not that great.  Emily Blunt is very acceptable as Mary Poppins, but she's no Julie Andrews. 

I brought my 6-year-old son with me, and at first he was bored, but once he keyed in to the characters and fantasy, he was hooked on this film, even though it runs over two hours. 

"Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again" is a total disaster.  The plot was hard to follow because it kept jumping between the two timelines and to characters that I had trouble identifying - very confusing.  The songs were so-so and they didn't pick many recognizable ABBA songs.  Unfortunately, the actors here do the singing, and they just can't compete with ABBA.

And the ending reveals a 72-year-old Cher, singing the big climax number, which didn't really knock me out.  The film may be perfect for 16-year-old girls and old ABBA fans, but for me it was a waste of time. 

Finally, I just saw "The Grinch" in a cinema, and I truly loved it.  The sets, characters, humor, story, all worked very well.  I'm still a big fan of Chuck Jones' TV version with the voice of Boris Karloff, but I believe this version is better, just because graphically it's more impressive.

My one complaint is the way they put rap music in a classic children's Christmas tale - it totally took the mood of a wacky Dr. Seuss fantasy to the urban streets of the Bronx.  But if you can put up with that, go see "The Grinch". 

Now I have one weird request - I've just finished a wonderful music video called "Wicked World" for a young genius musician named Matt Jaffe.  It's a terrific song, but Matt has no way to promote it and get it on the air.  If there's anybody out there with musical connections - P.R. people or music industry contacts, please let me know.  Matt's a young talent on the rise who just needs to get his music seen and heard.  If you have some advice, please contact me at:


Bill P.

Friday, November 9, 2018

Oscar qualification screenings

Yes, it's hard to believe, but it's almost Academy Award time again.  The DVD screeners are arriving, more and more every day.

One of the biggest events of my year is the screening of all of the Oscar-qualified animated shorts.  What happens is that all of the Academy members in the North East (including Canada) gather at the Museum of Modern Art in NYC for two full days of watching short (and semi-short) animation.  And it's always a full spectrum, from brilliant films to total trash.

As soon as we enter the judging room, we're handed a list of all the qualified films, and immediately we all check out the lengths of each short.  If we see a film at 15 minutes or longer, already we're not happy.  In fact, at 5-minute intervals, we're asked to raise our hands if we want to stop the movie.  Because if it's a piece of crap, who wants to watch 20 more minutes of a bad film?  That's a lesson for all you young filmmakers making shorts - PLEASE, nothing longer than 10 minutes if you want the film to be appreciated.

Fortunately, just before my "Trump Bites" film was shown, there was a very long dorky film that got "timed" and that always makes the following film look much better.

I must say it was a very good collection of films this year.  I estimate that 15 films have a good shot at being nominated, although in the end only 5 films will succeed.  After the branch screenings, the short list of 10 finalists will be announced, usually around Christmas time, and then in early January we'll find out which 5 films actually get nominated.

Of course, I'm at a tremendous disadvantage, since my films only cost about $10,000 compared to Disney & Pixar's $1,000,000 budgets - but hey, you never know!!

Below is a photo of me with Patrick Harrison, the Academy's director of New York Programs and Membership.  And also below, I'm including another cartoon that will be in my new book.  I don't have a title yet, so if you think of one, please let me know.  You'll get a free book if I use your title.


Bill P.