Thursday, January 28, 2010

My Beautiful Career, Installment 8


While employed at D.I.C., I fell in with fellow board artists Eddie Fitzgerald and Kevin Altieri.


Kevin Altieri





Charicature of Eddie Fitzgerald, (probably by Bruce Timm)

Before meeting them, I’d taken it as a given that American TV animation had to suck. They were adamant that there was no reason why it couldn’t be as cool as the classic WB stuff (Eddie) or the anime starting to emerge from Japan (Kevin). I caught their fire; why SHOULDN’T American animation be good? It wasn’t a budget problem; anime demonstrated that one could do amazing things on micro-budgets. It was a mind-set issue; one had to think outside the box, get past network executives and Standards and Practices. We were warriors fighting the animation good fight, like members of a WW2 bomb-crew as we worked for Richard Raynis’ unit, producing “Kid Video” and “The Real Ghostbusters”.
I also continued to work on “Rainbow Brite”, “The Littles”, “Pole Position”, “Robotman”, “Jayce and the Wheel Warriors”, “Dennis the Menace”, and “COPS”, among other projects.

Storyboard Panel From Kid Video, Season 2
Animation Cell from Kid Video, Season 1

Storyboard panel from The Real Ghostbusters, Season 1
Storyboard panel from Rainbow Brite, Episode 3

Monday, January 25, 2010

My Beautiful Career Installment 7

With trepidation, I left my job at Norton Simon. I’d been afraid to quit previously, and averaged 4 hours of sleep per night for the past 2 months. Also, my relationship with Denys was on the skids. I broke up with him in October, right after my father died of his third heart attack. I moved to Silverlake, and my life truly began.

At D.I.C., I realized I could DO this, that I actually had the stuff to make it as a cartoonist. During my 8-month layoff, I’d come to doubt it. One of my fellow new-hirees at Ruby-Spears was a character designer the crew nicknamed “Scruffy” behind his back; he was clearly self-deluded about his abilities as an artist and the question was why he got hired in the first place. Was I self-deluded like Scruffy? What was MY secret nickname? My self-esteem was so low that, at D.I.C., when anyone complemented my boards, I wondered if they were playing a game on me.

I became Bernard’s fair-haired boy; he was my mentor. He saved my life, even if he didn’t know it.

I also acquired a work ethic; eight months of no work put the fear of God in me. Before the layoff, I would step away from projects when I ran up against something I didn’t know how to draw. It took me forever to accomplish anything. Now my attitude was, “Tough, draw it anyway”. I worked 60-hour weeks, grateful for the chance to prove myself.

Malissa Caroselli Goodbye Party















What: Goodbye party for “Neighbors From Hell” producer Malissa Caroselli.
When: Wednesday, January 20, 2010
Where: Next Door Tapas Lounge, at 11814 Ventura Blvd, in Studio City, California
Why: To wish Malissa a relaxing and rewarding 3 month hiatus from Bento Box and the animation biz in general
Who: Malissa Caroselli (guest of honor), Phil Hayes and Melinda Leasure (the organizers), Brad Rader (the artist), Jen Coyle, Ryan Corbet, Rocket (?), Brittany Bailey, Myra Owyang, Nathan Chew, Nate Clesovich, Jungja Kimwolf, Kyounghee Lim, James McDermont, Tyler Gentry, Kyung Shin, and several other people I didn’t get a chance to sketch.
Why #2: I have a long-range goal to do drawings of everybody I know.
Why #3: I use it as an excuse to talk to people I don’t normally talk to, although I actually prefer drawing people when they don’t know I’m looking at them.
How: By practicing; people in these situations tend to cycle between repetitive poses even if they’re continually moving.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

My Beautiful Career Installment 6


I finally got a freelance board in April ’84, from D.I.C., on the “Rainbow Brite” TV show. D.I.C. was the first American animation studio to use Japanese animation; it was a 3-way partnership between American, French and Japanese corporate interests. My director was Bernard Deyries, part of the French contingent. When I showed him my roughs, he asked if I wanted to do the changes. I said “yes”; what I really meant was, “YES, PLEASE, THANK YOU!” I’d been working blind at Ruby-Spears and Hanna-Barbera, receiving no instruction or feedback beyond, “long shot-medium shot-close up”, “don’t jump cut” and “don’t flop screen direction”.

Bernard changed 2/3rds of my first board, mostly to play out the action, accentuate the mood, and make it more cinematic in general. I’d been trained in the flat, left-to-right H&B style, and indoctrinated that the script was sacred. I objected, “It wasn’t that way in the script”. “But is this not bett-air?” he rejoined.

The light went on in my head. “Wow—I get to actually make this good”. My dawning awareness seemed to work for Bernard as well; he only changed a quarter of my second board, and then offered me a staff position.

Monday, January 18, 2010

My Beautiful Career Installment 5






I was devastated when I was fired in mid-June, just before the two-month cap when John Dorman would have to explain to the Union the reason for my termination. John suggested that I apply for work at Hanna-Barbera, and I was immediately able to pick up freelance from Kay Wright. I worked for him for 2 months on “Richie Rich”, “The Dukes of Hazard” and “The Little Rascals”.

I handed in my final board of the season to Kay in early August of ’83. That very weekend, I attended my first San Diego Comic Con. I took my portfolio with me, assuming I’d find work immediately. After all, I was an Art Center graduate and a seasoned professional.

Things didn’t turn out that way. I was met by indifference, rejection or critique by the various editors and professionals I shoved my portfolio in front of. Some of them were quite helpful, once I let go of my pride enough to let their comments in. Mark Evanier and Bruce Patterson especially stand out in my memory.

The fall/winter of ’83 and spring of ’84 was the most harrowing period of my career. I couldn’t find work of any kind. Finally, in January, I got a job as a museum guard at the Norton Simon, in Pasadena. I would surreptiously sketch the patrons and art objects as I stood at my post for 6 hours a day, 4 days a week. At home, I honed my chops, re-worked my portfolio, and fought with my boyfriend.


Wednesday, January 13, 2010

My Beautiful Career Installment 4

I attended my parent’s Alma Mater, Kansas University, for my freshman year, then transferred to Art Center College of Design, in Pasadena, California, graduating in March of 1983.













I was living with my first boyfriend, Denys, and set aside my plans to move to New York City and break in to Comics. I needed work, and managed to con my way into a storyboarding gig at Ruby-Spears, which was a subsidiary of Hanna-Barbera, and located across the street from H&B on Cahuenaga Boulevard. The item in my portfolio that caught the eye of the director, John Dorman, was a school project: a marker comp advertising board illustrating the play of “Tempest”, an Atari video game. On my first day of work, John asked me, offhandedly, if I knew what a pan and a truck were. “Sure”, I said. As soon as John left the room, I turned to my new cube-mate, Dan Riba, another recent art school grad working his first professional job. “What’s a pan and a truck”, I asked him.
I was now a full-fledged storyboard artist, but I didn’t have a clue as to what I was doing. I had to learn everything on the job. I would have preferred working my way in as a clean-up artist or assistant, but was thrown off the deep end and had to learn to swim as best I could.
I worked on “The Puppy’s New Adventures” and “Rubik’s Cube”. The studio was also doing “Mr. T” during this period, but I didn’t get to work on that series.
I found myself working alongside an unsuspected world of amazing artists: Thom Enriquez, Jim Woodring, Bob Kline, Curt Connors, Wendell Washer, among others. My question to them was, “Why aren’t you drawing comic books?” I soon found out the answer to that for myself, and I’ll tell you about it as we go along.
I also got to meet Jack Kirby, who I hadn’t yet come to appreciate, and Doug Wildey, who I fawned over like the slavish fan-boy I was.

Monday, January 11, 2010

My Beautiful Career Installment 3








Actually, Chaykin was responsible for my falling in love with Toth. I had dug Chaykin from the time he’d been inked by Neal Adams on “Sword of Sorcery”, and had been brought along by him as he started increasingly imitating Toth. The tipping point came when Gold Key reprinted “Paul Revere’s Ride” to commemorate the nation’s bi-centennial. “Hey, this is sort of like Chaykin”, I thought to myself. “This is kind of cool. Actually, it’s REALLY cool”. A switch flipped in my skull, and I was and am a Toth junky to this day.
During this period, I discovered underground comics. I was especially taken with Richard Corben and Robert Crumb. I loved Crumb’s constant stylistic and storytelling experimentation. I was also in awe of his sexual candor. I was a terminally closeted young gay man growing up in Anchorage Alaska. I thought I would be ostracized if my dark secret was discovered. To see Crumb laying it all out was a beacon of hope.
“Heavy Metal” magazine premiered, and I discovered the European cartoonists, especially Moebius and Caza. Another big event was when Russ Cochran began reprinting the entire EC line, shooting from the original artwork in pristine black and white. I eagerly anticipated the first set, “Weird Science”, for the art by Wally Wood and Al Williamson. Instead I was floored by the pre-Mad comics by Harvey Kurtzman, especially his story, “The Man Who Stopped Time"

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

My Beautiful Career Installment 2







However, I found that I couldn’t draw anything twice, let alone 24 times per second. As I turned 12, I decided to focus on drawing comic books as a means to acquiring the chops necessary for being an animator. I started collecting comics for research purposes in the summer of ’71. Up until that time, I’d been interested mainly in “Mad Magazine” and “Archie” comics. Superhero comics seemed pointless and stupid; whoever was strongest would win, so who cared? However, I discovered the work of Neal Adams, and to a lesser extent, other realistic artists like Gray Morrow, Al Williamson, Alex Kotsky and Doug Wildey. I was in awe of their ability to make their characters look so lifelike. Jack Kirby was too weird, too abstract; Alex Toth was too simple. Barry Smith and Bernie Wrightson’s characters looked deformed to me.

I fell in love with Marvel and DC continuity, escaping into those worlds the way others have found refuge with Sherlock Holmes, Star Trek, Star Wars, and so on. I dreamed of moving to New York City, and becoming like the son and or brother of the cartoonists I so admired; one big, happy family.

As I matured, other influences took hold. Will Eisner’s “The Spirit” was a major mind blower when Warren Publishing started re-issuing it in 1974. I came to admire the previously maligned Wrightson, and Smith, as well as John Buscema, Gene Colan, Gil Kane, Carmine Infantino, Mike Kaluta, Arthur Rackham, Frank Frazetta, Mort Drucker, Wally Wood, Jim Steranko, and Howard Chaykin among others.However, I found that I couldn’t draw anything twice, let alone 24 times per second. As I turned 12, I decided to focus on drawing comic books as a means to acquiring the chops necessary for being an animator. I started collecting comics for research purposes in the summer of ’71. Up until that time, I’d been interested mainly in “Mad Magazine” and “Archie” comics. Superhero comics seemed pointless and stupid; whoever was strongest would win, so who cared? However, I discovered the work of Neal Adams, and to a lesser extent, other realistic artists like Gray Morrow, Al Williamson, Alex Kotsky and Doug Wildey. I was in awe of their ability to make their characters look so lifelike. Jack Kirby was too weird, too abstract; Alex Toth was too simple. Barry Smith and Bernie Wrightson’s characters looked deformed to me.

I fell in love with Marvel and DC continuity, escaping into those worlds the way others have found refuge with Sherlock Holmes, Star Trek, Star Wars, and so on. I dreamed of moving to New York City, and becoming like the son and or brother of the cartoonists I so admired; one big, happy family.

As I matured, other influences took hold. Will Eisner’s “The Spirit” was a major mind blower when Warren Publishing started re-issuing it in 1974. I came to admire the previously maligned Wrightson, and Smith, as well as John Buscema, Gene Colan, Gil Kane, Carmine Infantino, Mike Kaluta, Arthur Rackham, Frank Frazetta, Mort Drucker, Wally Wood, Jim Steranko, and Howard Chaykin among others.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

My Beautiful Career Installment 1













This is my story. It’s the tale of a young man growing up in Alaska who has a dream. His life journey is complete with adventures, life changes and career opportunities he never could have imagined. Like most good stories, there are many twists and turns. Here we go.

I’m the fourth child of 6 with 2 older brothers, an older sister, and 2 younger sisters. My family moved to Alaska in 1963, when I was 3 years old. My father followed his older brother, Uncle John, to the land of the Midnight Sun. “It’s the land of opportunity”, Uncle John proclaimed, and he would have known; he was the first Attorney General of Alaska when it gained statehood in 1959, and served as a State Senator throughout the 1960s and early 70s.

Mother was an ex-grade schoolteacher. Father was a Freudian analyst, the only one in the state for several years. I joke with my friends who complain of Catholic or Jewish damage that I grew up with Atheist-Freudian-Skinnerian damage.

As a child, I loved animation, especially Disney and Warner Brothers cartoons, and the Hanna Barbera action adventure TV shows designed by Alex Toth. In 5th grade I wished everything I watched on TV could be an animated cartoon, even if (or especially if) it was the cheapo Filmation kind, where characters would slide across the screen, cut off at the waist to avoid animating walk cycles.

My parents sealed the deal when they gave me the book “The Art of Disney Animation” for my 11th birthday. I decided I was going to be a Disney animator in the footsteps of Milt Kahl and Frank Thomas. The book decried, in its final chapter, the lack of inspiration in the up and coming crop of young animation artists. I vowed to reverse that trend single handedly.

Followers