Monday, April 20, 2015


Yep...again! I have a friend who has an employee's Silver Pass and when he calls, I'm always up for it. Anyway, this time we decided to concentrate on Frontierland. The land is so big that even with an entire day to spend there we had to pass up a lot.

The first thing to do in Frontierland is to take a ride on the paddle-wheel steamship. The whole boat is a work of art.

Past the heavy traffic area the river is surprisingly intimate and quiet. Surprisingly authentic, too. You'd swear you were in the backwoods of Tennessee or Missouri. The landscapers did such a good job that when you come across examples of human habitation like an Indian village they seem a little jarring and out of place.

As the ship approaches civilization again we begin to see artifacts of human habitation: Narrow gauge railroad tracks (above) and a pier. The tracks are decorative but they'd work great for a small, real-world, suburban railroad.

After the steamboat ride we headed for the canoes. This simple ride is one of the most fun things you can do in Frontierland.

Those X%&*@ two cute little girls behind me shoveled at least a gallon of water down my back.

A duck family paddled almost right up to the boat. They seemed to have had no fear of humans.

A quick peek (above) into the nearby Golden Horseshoe Saloon. Wow! Imagine how great it would be to have a local dinner theatre like this!

Next stop: the magesterial Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. If you visit Disneyland don't pass this up. In photos it looks like other theme-related small rollercoasters you've seen and you figure you can safely pass it up.  N-O-T   T-R-U-E!!!!!!! The ride is absolutely unique and is not to be missed...even if you have to stand in line with crying children for an hour to ride it.

This mountain railroad should really be in Tomorrowland. It's the urban transportation of the future, not the past. Ride it and you'll glimpse the dazzling world of 2040 when the concept of a City of the Young will have finally taken hold.

What the ride has to offer isn't visible in pictures, it isn't even visible to people in the park who watch it without riding it. It's the Art of Experience which may turn out to be the primary artform of this emerging century. The ride combines motion with carefully controlled 3D spatial awareness and sound. It incorporates advances in psychology as well as engineering. I'd like to know the name of the genius who thought of this.

Thursday, April 16, 2015


I confess to getting carried away with the "Bad Side of Town" concept on the video game I worked on. I figured a bad side of town ought to LOOK like a bad side, thus the buildings took the shape of rioters battling with the police.

How would a skateboarder navigate through this 3D jigsaw puzzle of a city? I got a start on the problem (above) but I had to put it aside. I was after all supposed to be working on a Hong Kong Level, not a crime city.

No problem. Hong Kong turned out to be tons of fun.

I had so much fun on the prop end of what I did for that game that, when I was finally laid off, I briefly tried to sell myself to mainstream studios as a prop designer.

Haw! What a disappointment! Nobody but Spumco was interested in this (above) sort of thing.

At first I didn't know whether the Jungle Level was supposed to cover Central and South America or Africa, so I did both. Here (above and below) are some African huts.

Lots of quick sketch stuff.

I threw in some Micronesian designs, too. It all seemed to fit together somehow.

These Africans worshipped Tiki gods. 

There had to be some kind of danger in the Jungle Level and I had a chance to try out different things.

I also did more trees. Who'd have thought that trees would be so much fun to draw?

Here's a black musician pyramid. It wasn't approved, maybe because it was too far off topic. 

Wednesday, April 15, 2015


Here's another film that I saw at Steve's recently. Don't confuse it with a different film made two years later with the same name. You want the one with lettering that looks like a tattoo artist or a biker did it. 

Ask ten people what the film's about and you'll get ten different answers. For me it's about the way the world really is: the chaotic way our senses actually perceive the world before our brains have a chance to process the information and make a pleasing story out of it.

The film takes place on a New England fishing boat but it could just as easily have been about a walk in the park. Wherever we are life bombards us with a cacophony of sound and images which our brains filter through algorithms. Those algorithms create for us a  three-dimensional map and a sense of what's in that map and how it can be used to enhance our survival.  It's amazing that we can do that.

It's scary to think that we might have been visited by intelligent space aliens many times in the past but they simply failed to notice us. Their own algorithms might have attached more significance to that rarity in the universe: the radiation protected, surface ocean. Or maybe the cacophony of all the splashing droplets and weather might have overwhelmed their senses. Maybe their image of the Earth is of a baffling place of loud white noise. Maybe they were glad to have left it.

Anyway, here's (above) a trailer for it. To make its point the film has to be immersive so widen the picture to full screen mode and crank up the sound. If you see the whole thing, try to see it in a theatre rather than on a video at home. Or better still, if you live near L.A., see it at Steve's house next weekend. Contact him at:

Monday, April 13, 2015


Above, a Theory Corner exclusive. It's an idea sketch for a Spumco laxative commercial, never made. 

Although this was done on another studio's paper, I think this (above) was part of a test for a freelance storyboard spot on a Warners show. I didn't get the job; maybe because I worked too rough. Anyway it shows Bugs playing baseball in drag, stealing a base from Elmer.

That's an arm pinch, not a nipple pinch!

Maybe I ran afoul of the paperless office concept. I should have used a Cintiq. I was just daunted by the $2,000 price tag. I figured I'd get the job first then buy the hardware, but things don't work that way. Yikes! An expensive lesson.

More trees for the video game. I love drawing trees.

Above, for the video game, a dude throws his gang sign.

How did finger signs ever get popular? Who was the first one to do that?

Sunday, April 12, 2015


My kid's feeling down in the dumps now and I thought I'd post something to cheer him up. Here, courtesy of Steve, is Jack Stanford, "Eccentric Dancer Extraordinaire."

The Jazz number Stanford dances too is pretty good but I think it would work even better with this song, which comes courtesy of Mike. It was used in the 4th season of "Breaking Bad."

Cheer up, Guy!

Saturday, April 11, 2015


HORACE: "As the group leader I'd like to welcome you all to the first session of the Extremophile Support Group. Daisy, maybe you'd like to start."

DAISY: "Sure, I'll start. What are we all doing here? I look around the room and I don't see anybody who looks offensive. I don't even know what an 'extremophile' is."

MARIGOLD: "I'm only here because my mother said there'd be food."

TULIP: "I don't know about the others here, but I'm offended by the woman sitting beside me." 

IRIS: "Yeah, what's with her? Why is she...well, you know..."

DANDELION: "If you're referring to me, then the proper term is 'undraped.' That's my extreme. I simply prefer to live the way nature intended, the way birds live."

HOLLYHOCK: "You want to wear... feathers?"

VIOLET: "She's saying she wants to be buck naked."

MAGNOLIA:"I think Dandelion has the right to dress whatever way she wants. This was a free country the last time I looked."

PETUNIA: " to be WEIRD!"

GERANIUM: "Well then I'm free to take my extremophile fist and..."

HORACE (VO): "Now, now, Ladies...we're all extremophiles here and we need to show sisterly solidarity. "

GERANIUM: "Haw! Look who's talking...from a guy, no less!"

HORACE: "Maybe we need to cool down for a few minutes. Let's take a muffin break.  I made them myself, but I have to warn you...they're for eating only on the right side of the mouth."

Wednesday, April 08, 2015


If you saw the Powell/Pressberger film "Red Shoes" and didn't like it then you're not going to like this film either, because it's Red Shoes on steroids.

I like Red Shoes a lot but I sympathize with people who cringe at the almost too rich, over-the-top gaudiness of it. Even so, the film is a neat piece of work and so is its 1951 successor, "Tales of Hoffmann." I just saw Hoffman over the weekend at Steve Worth's house and that's what I'll talk about here.

The opera was written by Offenbach in 1880 or thereabouts. He died months before the play opened and while the music and libretto were still undergoing changes, a significant fact it turns out.

Since there were different and disputed versions of the original manuscript, successive producers took liberties with the opera and customized it to their liking.

That liability turned out to be an asset. The opera is never without backers who want to attach their own vision to it and as a result it's been staged frequently and creatively through the years, with enormous variety in the art direction.

The Powell/Pressberger version (above) is a tour de force of visual style. It ranges from a kind of dry-brushy, modern type... designs derived from old tapestries and beer steins... a kind of impressionistic surrealism (above) reminiscent of Odilon Redon.

I'll digress for a moment to explain that Redon (his work, above) was a French symbolist painter of the 19th Century. That movement was a precursor of Surrealism. You don't hear a lot about it anymore, and it's not really my taste, but it was tremendously influential in theatrical design.

Anyway, the dominant background style of the film is a surreal take on the traditional Romantic ballet style (above). Even in that context there's plenty of innovation. Take this shot, for example. Note the color and lighting on the archway of marionette heads.

There's a cut to a close-up as the ballerina dances closer to camera and when we return to a wider shot the colors and lighting have changed. Not only that but the marionette heads have been switched for slightly different ones. Look closely...some of them aren't the same.

 Martin Scorsese is a big fan of this film. He likes the unreality of it and claims that he learned how to compose cinematic scenes from it. He also got the idea of shooting to music from this film.

Here's the trailer. If you buy it be careful, though. Americans will want the version that plays on our electronics.