Wednesday, July 18, 2007


The best Clampett story in print, the best one that I know about anyway, is in Stan Freberg's autobiography pictured above.

A lot of this happens near the KTLA lot (above), off Sunset Blvd. in Hollywood. KTLA is a lot bigger than it appears here but this frustratingly incomplete picture was the best I could get. Leon Schlesinger's outfit was on this lot when Warners owned it. I haven't been on the lot since Bob was alive but I vividly remember the tour he gave us. He bluffed his way past the guard at the gate and showed us around til the security people kicked us off. On the way out he showed us the empty spot in the parking lot where Termite Terrace used to be.

Anyway, Stan was a writer and puppeteer on Bob's daily live-action puppet show, "Time for Beany." It was a tough job. When he and Daws Butler finished the show they'd take themselves full of sweat to a restaurant across the street, get a bite to eat, then get started writing the next show right there in the booth. Here's the way Stan tells it (click to enlarge)....

Is that not a great story!? This is one of several reasons why I think Bob had a large role to play in the creation of Bugs Bunny. More than any other Warners director or writer, Bob WAS Bugs in real life. The real Bob did an awful lot of the things Bugs would do.... like moving writer friends into parked cars and condemned buildings!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007


This is a post about Asberger's Disorder, which I define as nerdism. I don't have Asbergers myself but I have acquaintances who do and they're such nice people that I can't help taking an interest in their ailment.

This illness was diagnosed in the early 90s by a pediatrician named Asberger who worked with autistic children. Autistic people have problems interacting and communicating with other people. They make odd, repetitive sounds and fixate on objects. Extreme cases are lost in their own world. Asberger realized that nerd behavior was a mild form of autism and may be treatable by methods developed for autistics. The kid in the video above does a pretty good job of explaining it.

If the girl in the video above seems familiar it's probably because you've seen similar women in sci-fi and comics conventions. Hers is a physical type. I realized this years ago when I was at a sci-fi convention and found myself surrounded by nerds who all had similar physical characteristics. I remember thinking, "If nerdism is nothing but a lifestyle choice then why do so many nerds speak, talk and walk the same?" It dawned on me that nerdism must be a condition or a disease. I told all my friends about it and they thought I was crazy. None of us had ever heard of Asberger's Disorder.

Incidentally, I don't mean to imply that nerds are automatons with no individual characteristics, just that they share certain distinct behaviors.

Nerdism sometimes allows for intense focus, which is an advantage, so a lot of nerds don't want to give it up. For those who do there are treatments: anti-depressant and anti-psychotic drugs are sometimes useful.

This last video (above) has nothing to do with Asbergers. It's about Tourettes Syndrome. I stumbled on it while looking for Asberger media. Boy, Tourettes makes Asbergers seem like a walk in the park!

Monday, July 16, 2007


Let's see...I arrived late and caught John doodling on the paper place mat. We said hello, briefly talked about John's latest blog, and agreed that we were both fine people who the rest of the world would do well to emulate. We placed our orders and John asked for his usual side order of onion which, remarkably, arrived at the table freshly sliced, Just the way he likes it.

John opened up the serious talk of the evening with a with a flat statement that Larry Fine was an unjustly neglected Stooge. He said that Moe was responsible for Larry getting less screen time than Curly. I was amazed. I never heard John say anything bad about Moe before. We agreed that Larry was necessary to the word music of the trio and the pizza came.

Fred Krippin's name came up -- Fred was the genius behind "Roger Ramjet" and the National Lumber commercials-- and I said Fred was a terrific sound editor as well as a terrific director. John talked about how important a good sound track is and how the great sound people don't get the credit they deserve. Fortunately we know about Treg Brown, the great Warners' sfx man, but we don't know much about how he and Stalling collaborated.

Neither of us knew who did the Stooges sfx. It's amazing that someone could do such good work and remain anonymous. John said the Stooge sfx were used in other Columbia shorts but not effectively.

We talked about baggy shorts and maxi-skirts heralding the decline of Western civilization and marveled that that Jenny Lerew could like the early 1920s clothes that I blogged about. Seeking a more manly subject than women's clothes, we speculated about two art slumps that may have occurred between 1890 and 1923. John said something similar might have occurred in the early 50s. He cited the close, curly, George Washington women's hair styles that spinsters and old ladies wore in the 50s.

There we were talking about women's things again and, seeking balance, we decided to talk about...nazis. We agreed that what art schools need to clean up their act is a few nazi art teachers who would force students to learn how to draw whether they like it or not.
Well, all good things come to an end. John generously handed me the box containing the uneaten pizza and I put it in the car. I was sorely tempted to eat it while driving but I remembered my poor, ragged family who were probably shivering by the dying embers in the fireplace, waiting for me to come home with a few crumbs to sustain life through the night. I would save the pizza for them.
For most of the trip I stalwartly avoided looking at the pizza box then I thought, "Well, what the heck? A look won't hurt." Then I figured one bite won't hurt, and then I thought no one would want the slice with a bite out of it so I had to eat the whole piece. Then...then only the box remained by the time I got home.

Sunday, July 15, 2007


Well, we know they didn't look like Roy Rogers (above). It's an appealing image though, fine for Western singers. I can't help wondering if the future will submit hippies, goths and hip-hoppers
to the same kind of unhistorical design exaggeration.

In the Frank Sinatra era hat brims shrunk and history was rewritten so that the Wild West brims could shrink too.

Sergio said that cowboys wore long dust protectors. Did they?

Here's (above) the latest historical re-write. Cowboys in the old West are re-cast as modern urban cowboys with the now fashionable potato chip brim.

Apparently some cowboys used to look a little like hippies. That's not the way I like to think of them but it's that way on some 19th century posters so I guess I'll have to make the adjustment.

I have a feeling real cowboys looked like they do in this staged picture (above), though I'm not certain. Pictures like the one above were taken just after WWI when fashion was the worst it's ever been in this country. Maybe the shapeless fashion of the time influenced their perception of what cowboys looked like.
One of these days I'll do a blog about the mysterious decline of artistic taste in the U.S. just after the first world war. Fortunately it only raged for a few years but it was a horrible blight while it lasted. This dress (above) was designed in that period.

Just for contrast here's (above) the way people dressed in the 1890s. It was far better than what you saw on the street 20 years later.


I've already done a blog about teeth but there's lots more to say.

John used to say that Clampett was the first cartoon director to emphasize funny teeth. He's certainly the first one I know of. Clampett's teeth are especially funny because they reference the way teeth really are. They're not just horizontal and vertical lines. Look at the Clampett dog above -- the teeth are uneven in size and one row overlaps the other, just like real teeth.

Usually healthy teeth (above) are enough to convey a gag. Even healthy teeth are full of surprises. Notice the way the bottom row of teeth slant inward while the upper row grow almost straight down.

Some cartoonist prefer slightly unhealthy teeth. Here's (above) a set where the top teeth flare inward at the center and then outward as the teeth wrap around the muzzle. The bottom teeth are almost straight.

Other cartoonists prefer downright abnormal, Basil Wolverton teeth (above). Here the upper gum has wasted away leaving the irregular, shovel-type teeth exposed. I like that snaggle tooth on the bottom right.

Here's (above) a nice set: two almost normal front teeth, then a gap, then outwardly flaring teeth on the side. I like the way the six teeth appear in groups of two.

Here's (above) a wide, wide mouth full of squat little nuggets. There's almost no evidence of a rounded, horse shoe-type muzzle. The teeth all seem to be up front. Who would have teeth like this? Maybe an embezzling accountant. He's the butt of office jokes, and he often grinds his teeth in frustration, but he takes the jokes without complaint because he knows that he's only a few more withdrawls from a permanent vacation in Tahiti.

Here (above) the natural dominance of the top teeth is exaggerated. The top row covers the bottom like the lid on a piano keyboard, except that the bottom teeth flare out on the side.

You may have to draw trolls and witches someday so keep this hideous dwarf tooth (above) at hand.

Friday, July 13, 2007


Here's my first short story, written just for this blog. I did it in less than two hours, and I have to admit that it sucks. I panicked when I realized the story was going awry, and I tried to crib from a story about miners to save it but, Alas!, even the cribbing couldn't help. OK, I'm going to put this turkey up anyway, because I don't have anything else to put up. Here it is... a short story directed at readers in the animation industry....



Getting gray hair sucks but there are a few advantages. One is that you will some day get to play the role of prophetic old gypsy. Young people can't do it, they don't have the gravity for it. I can't wait for the day when I can grab teen-agers by the arm like Marie Ouspenskaya in "The Wolfman" and shake my bony finger at them while predicting doom. Sure, they'll laugh, but there's something creepy about being on the other side of a bony finger, and you can bet they'll lose sleep over it.

My plan is to go to an art school and seek out the computer animation students. I'll dress up in rags and then some dark and drissly night I'll hide myself outside, in some alcove in the architecture. When a suitable victim walks by I'll jump out and grab him by the arm.

"Hey!", the student will say, "Let go!" Of course I don't let go and out comes the bony finger. "Harken to me, young man! That stupid Maya program will never feed your spirit! Give it up! Go to Hollywood and be a full animator in 2-D!"
"Who ARE you!?", says the student. "Forget who I am!", says I. "You're young and quick! You'll be an excellent inbetweener! First you'll inbetween, then you'll assist, then you'll take on the mantle of a full-blown animator, then you'll direct and maybe go higher yet!" "Let me go!", says the student, worried that he might get a disease if he touches the bony old finger.
"You know nothing of studio life! Let me tell you about it! The greatest studios of them all are in Hollywood! I know them inside-out! I've wandered their halls which are like the paths in a sorcerer's garden. The drawings, they come alive! I've seen funny walks and goofball expressions sparkle under the shine of extender lamps! You've seen it too, in dreams when you were a kid, haven't you?" "Well... I really don't remember," says the student.

"WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU DON'T REMEMBER!?", I howl, trying to sound like Marley in the Christmas Carol. The boy cringes. "No other life so tests a man! The mighty problems an animator struggles with every day would make him crazy if he didn't fight and fight again to overcome. Don't be misled by the blackened fingers! Full animators are giants among men! Now go to Hollywood and get a job tomorrow! To heck with Maya!...Huh? What's that? Do you hear anything?"

"I don't hear anything." says the confused boy. "I hear it," says I, "It's the studio owner's beautiful daughter!" "Where? Where!? I don't see anybody, "says the boy! "I see her," I say. "You're free to think she's beautiful any time you like...but... you're not free to court her until you've proved yourself! With paper and pencil I mean! WITH PAPER AND PENCIL! Go to Hollywood! Be an inbetweener!"

"But I still don't see anybody," says the boy. "I just can't..." The boy turns, and seeing no one there, realizes he's alone. The raggedy man with bony finger has disappeared!

I, of course, will have creeped to the parking lot and made my getaway in a car. The boy will stand befuddled in the rain. Was the old man and the finger a dream? Does computer animation really suck? Should he give up 3-D and learn to animate? I figure if I do this to two students a night for a week, one of them might actually take my advice.



I assume every one here knows Preston Sturges (above, click to enlarge), the writer/director of literate 30s and 40s comedies like "Sullivan's Travels", "Unfaithfully Yours", and "Palm Beach Story." Here's Sturges on the art of writing:


1) A pretty girl is better than an ugly one.

2) A leg is better than an arm.

3) A bedroom is better than a living room.

4)An arrival is better than a departure.

5) A birth is better than a death.

6) A chase is better than a chat.

7) A dog is better than a landscape.

8) A kitten is better than a dog.

9) A baby is better than a kitten.

10) A kiss is better than a baby.

11) A pratfall is better than anything.

Nifty, huh?

Wednesday, July 11, 2007


John K. recently did a terrific blog on Popeye and Olive Oyl where he called Olive "the most distinct and entertaining girl character in animation history." I agree! I like cartoon girls who are human beings and not glamour queens and karate experts, and who have to make the same moral choices that I do.

I can't stand standard cartoon girls like the Bratz girls above. Who would ever want to meet these hideous fashion zombies? Not me!

Cartoon girls don't have to be ugly. Look at the life Katie Rice manages to inject into her characters! I love Katie's stuff! I'm not normally interested in cute but her girls are more than cute. They embody youth and a sense that it's great to be alive!

A couple of years ago I decided to stop drawing girls in the Bratz style and try to discover a way of drawing them that felt right to me. Of course when I worked on other people's projects I drew the girls the way I was told. It was still fun (especially John's girls). But when I drew for myself I tried to find a style that fit my own taste and life experience. For better or worse, this (above) is what I came up with.

I like girls who are human beings just like I am. My kind of girl has an emotional need for men, just like men have an emotional need for women. This need makes them vulnerable and that vulnerability makes them interesting (I hope). In my opinion modern animated films put too great an emphasis on women's independence. Isn't it obvious that if they're so godawful independent then they don't need anybody and there's no dramatic tension? I can't understand why studios are blind to this.
Commenters liked Colette in "Ratatouille" more than I did. They were touched by the way she fell in love with the guy who washes the dishes. Well, I was too. But I can't help thinking that the character dynamics would have worked better if Colette hadn't seemed so independent. She looked like someone who'd been around the block and had no romantic illusions. She looked jaded. She didn't need a relationship. When it developed it seemed forced and phony.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007


I'm spot reading an interesting book called "50 Signs of Mental Illness" by James Whitney Hicks. I've read about 20% of it so far which I figure entitles me to analyse all my friends and offer sound advice about how they can improve themselves. I, of course, am completely normal.

The first illness I wanted to read about was the flagship mental illness, the one that Tony Perkins had in "Psycho", the King of the Jungle, the magisterial Mount Everest of craziness...schizophrenia. I was shocked to discover that this illness didn't even rate a chapter of its own. It was a minor subheading embedded in the middle of a chapter on psychosis. What the heck happened?

What happened was that schizophrenia has been demoted in recent years. It doesn't even indicate dual personalities anymore. That's called "multiple personality disorder." Now schizophrenia means pretty much the same as psychosis, and psychosis has something to do with taking delusions and hallucinations seriously.

The really scary thing is that psychosis has no known cure. Almost every psychotic can be moderately improved by drugs but only moderately. Well, maybe there's a partial cure for a few people. The book says that a third of them can helped to a greater degree if the medication starts early, after the first episode, but how often does that happen?

I thought the downgrading of schizophrenia would be the only shock, but it wasn't. There was the upgrading off something called "oddness."
Asberger's Disorder is one of the most prevalent types of oddness. That's where you have difficulty with social situations. You don't pick up on social cues or the intentions, discomforts and needs of others. In other words you behave like a chronic nerd. Nerdism is now considered a serious disorder! Nerdism has no cure but sometimes anti-depressants or anti-psychotic medication help. Some nerds can be taught to pretend they're normal.
Gee, thumbing through this book reminds me how of how much I miss Freud. That's his couch and chair in the picture above. Taken individually a lot of what Freud's ideas don't hold water. Taken collectively they constitute a marvelously imaginative and thought provoking body of work. Psychology was more fun in the Freudian era.


Here's (above) Shirley Temple, probably photographed by Halsman.
Shirley's picture is proof positive that the famous Elvgren Smile (above) exists in the real world.

Here's (above) Fernandel, a famous French actor in the 50s, also photographed by Halsman. Thanks to the commenter who linked to this!

Here's (above) sultry Ann Sheridan. I wonder if sultry existed before the era of Hollywood eye make-up?

I don't know who this guy (above) is.

Ditto this girl (above). She has an unusually weak chin. Put your thumb over the chin and try to imagine what her face would be like if she had a chin. You'll see that she's actually very pretty. What a difference a chin makes!

OK, enough about chins! Katie Rice, ace girl artist and proprieter of the world famous "Funny Cute" blog, is auctioning off some of her latest drawings. I saw the originals (which are much more colorful than these photo reproductions) and they are tres formidable! The girl can draw, what can I say?

One of these days we're going to lose her to Paris Vogue and you won't be able to touch one of her originals for less than a thousand dollars. Fortunately for us she doesn't know she's going to be famous yet so we can still buy drawings for what it costs to buy herself hula lessons.

These and other pictures will be on eBay soon, if they're not there now. Check them out on Katie's blog: