Limbo Party

Andrea had this album for sale in her booth at Kudzu Antiques for a while before I realized I just had to scan the sucker before she sold it. Check out the great handmade letterforms as well as the half-hazardly cut-out photo of ol' Chubby doing the Limbo. I'm guessing that this was one of many attempts by Chubby to hold on to the incredible success that the Twist craze gave him ("The Twist" is the only record to hit #1 twice: in 1960 and then in 1962).

Doesn't he just make you wanna do the limbo? Oh yeah!


Back and burnt

After what has to be the worst return trip home ever, things are slowly but surely getting back to normal around here, which is not necessarily a good thing. Coming back to cold, rainy weather after a week-long vacation in sunny Florida (it was perfect weather every single day -- no lie) kinda makes it hard for me to warm up to being back home. But back I am, and burnt.

Oh, and my computer is back, as well. My brother-in-law did an "archive and install" through his laptop via Firewire and was able to install Tiger without a hitch. Big thanks to the helpful readers who offered some Mac assistance in this matter. It's good to know that there are others out there who are more than willing to help a fellow blogger out. Many thanks, guys.

I'm digging Tiger, as I was able to fix all the odd problems I had with my Powerbook G4 before the upgrade. Practically all my previous problems were completely password- and keychain-related: couldn't utilize Fast-User Switching, had to enter every password for every email account (Andrea and I have three) for Mail (if you're a Mac Mail user, you know just how frustrating that could be), couldn't access https (security) pages in Safari, and other small-ish glitches. So, yay! Everything is fixed and running smoothly, right? Wrong. Whenever my computer goes into "sleep" mode after inactivity, I loose my wireless connection and have to restart to get it back up again! I've tried several things, but nothing seems to work. But I'm not too worried. One thing I've noticed about being a computer user is that with every glitch I encounter, there are hundreds out there who have experienced the same thing I have. More than likely there is a solution to this quirk, and so I'm not too worried about it. I think.

Now that I'm getting settled back in, I'll be posting some great stuff coming up soon. And I promise to make it up to you all for missing out on an Ava Thursday. I hate that I skipped a week. Very sorry about that.

So, anyway -- have a great Memorial Day!


In limbo

Well, so much for trying to post an Ava Thursday. Yesterday, before I was going to post a new drawing by my daughter, I decided to go ahead and upgrade my OS to Tiger. But the installer hit a snag right in the middle of the process and would not go any further. The installer had stalled. I had to quit, restart the computer, and try again. Same thing happened. A third time, the same.

I had hoped that Tiger would fix all the odd little bugs and glitches that my Powerbook had been experiencing since I did a software update back in the fall. It's been very frustrating for me as I can't seem to find the time to take my Powerbook into the Mac store to see what's wrong with it. So, when I saw that Tiger was coming out soon, I figured I'd just wait until I can upgrade my entire system, hoping that all glitches would be ironed out. I guess I was wrong.

Who knows if the installer snag is related to all the problems I've been experiencing for a while now. At any rate, my computer is in a state of limbo right now, as I can't get into it as each time I restart. I'm going to have to wait until I get home to completely restore my original OS 10.3, the one I installed when I got the laptop last June. Yipee. I'm currently using my in-law's computer to post, and since I don't have Ava's drawings in their computer, I can't upload anything for Ava Thursday today. Very sorry about this, guys.

So, if you bear with me, I should be back up and running sometime around Sunday. I hope. Until then, have a great weekend!


Wish you were here

Well, not really. It'd be rather crowded, that's for sure.

Having a grand time at the beach, swimming and relaxing out in the ocean, playing and cavorting with the kids, forgetting all about work and not doing one stinkin' drawing at all. I know that that's not very animator-like of me, as I should be drawing as many people around me as possible 'til my arm falls off, but you know what I say about that?


I'm on vacation, so you can just forget about that!

For all you Ava Thursday followers, not to worry, as I'll post a drawing for you all tomorrow. How's that for dedication?

And now I must go back to burying myself up to my neck in the sand....


Ava Thursday: Playground

Well, here we are with another installment of Ava Thursday -- even though this one is a day late. Very sorry about that. I wanted to post something STAR WARS related on the day that Episode 3 was released, and that unfortunately pushed my dear daughter's weekly art forum back a bit.

But not to worry, as we have a wonderful piece of work here, as Ava has depicted a fabulous playground scene, drawn sometime last week. That's her over on the left, hanging out on the monkey bars. In the lower left-hand corner, that's Ezra (or "Buddy," as Ava likes to call him) bouncing on a kangaroo -- one of those things where there's a big spring on the bottom, and you can ride and bounce on it like a horse. I've never seen a kangaroo one in any of the parks that we frequent, but hey, if she wants it to be a kangaroo, I'm not going to argue. That's Mommy in the lower right-hand corner, with an orange in her hand (she's picked it from the big orange tree in the middle of the scene) and that's me right above Mommy with a banana in my hand.

I love the way she's drawn the playground artifacts: the monkey bars, the swingset, the slide. Very fun and very active. Since she drew it very lightly with colored pencils, I had to darken the levels a bit, but the colors look pretty good overall. And of course, we have our wonderful sun shining down on us, on this beautiful day.

A side note: we are going out of town for a well-deserved week-long vacation all next week. We are bringing the laptop, but I'm not sure about how much time I'll be able to devote to the blog. Who knows, I may post a long rant on the aspects of beach culture, or how much the pirate aesthetic is missing in today's society, but don't hold me to that. Be that as it may, I'm not really sure what to expect for next week, so, just letting you all know beforehand.

Oh well! Have a great weekend, guys!


Star Wards: Revenge of the 70's

SPECIAL NOTE: Ava Thursday will be delayed by one day, so I can pontificate on STAR WARS. Sorry for the confusion. I know, I'm a terrible dad.

Yes, I was part of the original massive collective of fans that rushed to the theatres periodically from 1977 through 1983, waiting endlessly in lines that wrapped around the block to witness the glorious geek-fest that was STAR WARS. And after each release, my buddies and I would rush home and play with our action figures and draw pages upon pages of spaceships engaged in massive space battles. I am an Original Trilogy fan -- or "OT" for the uninitiated -- and so I exude extreme trepidation each time a new Prequel Trilogy ("PT," natch) film is about to be released. Now, don't get all up in my grill -- I was very excited back in the mid-90's when I first heard George Lucas was thinking about working on the prequels as my mind raced back an eon ago, sometime in the late-70's when I read somewhere that STAR WARS was meant to be a complete, 9-part epic (Ol' George has since recanted about episodes 7 through 9.). So thus, I just melted with the thought that there could be MORE MORE MORE of the greatest triology ever made (my young self thinking this, of course)!

So, yes -- Episode 1 came out, and I was severely disappointed. I so wanted to like it, to warm up to it, but alas, in the end, I could not. I liked several sequences (pod race, end light saber battle with Darth Maul, new creatures), but all in all, it was very difficult for me to put my stamp of SW approval on it. And yes, it was all because of Jar Jar. Episode 1 is a major point of contention for most SW fans, as it really divides the mulititudes into two camps: those who feel that the original trilogy was the best and anything new waters down the initial impact of the series, and those who feel that anything new brought into the SW universe that is conjured up by Lord Lucas is worth it. I'm mixed, honestly. I love the original, as it's my childhood, and I don't like certain grey-haired moguls fiddling with my history. But I don't mind all the new creatures and worlds that've been introduced in the new trilogy -- I'll always have a soft spot for special effects and creatures and sci-fi in general. However, when a movie completely undermines all that came before it, with seemingly blatant disregard for the wonder and amazement that the OT possessed, then it's hard for me to warm up to Episode 1 so willingly. And others seemed to feel my pain.

So, three years later, we all suffer selective amnesia and got all giddy upon viewing the newest trailer for Episode 2. It did look ultra trés cool, but once the movie came out, it was another disappointment. This time around, it was the horrible, horrible, horrible acting. And because I've seen Hayden Christensen and Natalie Portman actually ACT in other movies, I knew that the culprit was George. Oh sure, the Yoda fight sequence was kick arse, the Obi Wan story line was decent, and just anything Mace Windu, but the love story... ahh, don't get me started. (And for the record, I saw that film twice, once in a huge screen in NYC, digitally projected --It looked fantastic, by the way! I loved the special effects and animation, but crisp, clear-as-a-bell digital imagery could not save the film. You'll have to ask Andrea about the other time I saw the film with her and some friends. Quite hilarious.)

So, three years later, we all suffer selective amnesia AGAIN upon viewing the newest trailer for Episode 3. And you know what? I'm kinda excited. I'm hoping that this one will save the PT, as I do desperately want to like that trilogy as much as I can. I'm trying to scrape up all the dignity from deep within, but I do hope that REVENGE OF THE SITH will be the saving grace for the entire STAR WARS trilogy. The fans deserve it. (It looks like it's getting good reviews so far, so who knows.)

Let's talk about dorkiness in the PT, shall we? There are some great embarrassing moments that's made me wish I hadn't paid half my salary for a ticket to see one of the Prequel films and there are many others who feel the same as me. But I must raise an issue here that may or may not be important to all SW fans. I say to all the naysayers of the PT who talk up a nasty flame post on any forum or chatroom about how dorky that trilogy is, (me included) I must remind you that the original STAR WARS was released during the height of DISCO. There was no escaping that strange entity that infiltrated and permeated everything during that time. And I mean EVERYTHING. It was just the way it was, and you could do nothing about it. Being a young-un at the time, I loved disco because of all the lights! the colors! the fun music! the dancing! Never mind that they were singing about sex and drugs.... anyway -- disco was everywhere, people. Everybody did a disco song. Rockers Elton John (remember, he did rock before he did sappy pap) and Rod Stewart surprised many a fan with disco albums. And they were hits, too! KISS fans were appalled at the thought of their rock gods putting out a disco album, but they, too, succumbed to the infectious sin of disco. So, in the midst of the Disco Era, STAR WARS opened to the public and not long after, some dude named Meco produced a disco tune to the theme of Star Wars. Odd? Not so. Like I said before, it was everywhere, and so to hear the famous STAR WARS theme mixed with a silly disco beat did not seem strange to me, nor to a good many people. It actually was a hit.

Without further ado, I present to you all, Meco's Star Wars Theme (Disco Mix).

I've also found Bill Murray's performance of the Star Wars Theme on Saturday Night Live for you all, too:
Bill Murray's Star Wars on SNL.

Because you all have been so good, I've decided to present to you all another embarrassing moment in filmdom. In 1978, a year after STAR WARS, Steven Spielberg released a gem of a movie, CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND. Probably one of the worst titles ever, the film was a big hit with audiences and especially me. I read the paperback movie adaptation several thousand times (kidding -- only about a hundred) and I so wanted to be Roy (Richard Dreyfuss's character) and be taken up by little aliens to explore the stars and heavens.... I loved the notion of possible life beyond our planet and so I felt like the film presented this notion in plausible terms. (I was 10 years-old -- give me a break.)

So, CLOSE ENCOUNTERS, being released in the late 70's, couldn't have suffered the same disco fate as STAR WARS, could it? Yes, it did. And it wasn't by some oddity named Meco. It was by the movie score conductor master, himself, John Williams. I kid you not. I had this wonderful strange oddity of a 45 in my possession and played that sucker like it was going out of style. I now present to you all a special nugget of my past, the Close Encounters Theme by John Williams.

Alright, that's enough embarrassing moments. Go enjoy REVENGE OF THE SITH and tell me what you think of it. And may the force be with you. (You know I just had to say it.)

A few things

When I started this blog, I wanted to lay down a couple of ground rules so that I may always give the reader the best possible online experience. I never really expected this thing to take off like it has, and now I find myself trying to play catch-up.

1. I wanted to post regularly so people would know that I care about this thing. Not too much, as I didn't want to bombard my readers with too much information, but not too sparse, where people would stop visiting. I've been trying to do a daily post, but with my work schedule and my home schedule, it's becoming more and more difficult to do so.

And this bothers me. It seems silly, doesn't it? As I know that there are plenty of blogs out there where the writers post maybe once a week, but they seem to keep up a pretty decent following. I don't know why I feel this way. I guess it's a personality trait in me to want to please everybody. And I have to accept the fact that I cannot do that. But at least I can try.

2. I wanted to be honest in my writing, but not too personal. My family is my life and my true inspiration. Ava Thursdays are a great indication of that. But I don't want to get too personal to where I might lose my audience. I have a broad audience, and I am so thankful for that. But again -- it's hard to please everybody. I'm trying to find the happy medium to where everybody can find a comfortable spot within the confines of The Ward-O-Matic and want to stay there.

3. Animation is in my blood, but it's not all of who I am. As you can see, I find inspiration from EVERYWHERE, and being an animator doesn't mean that I have to look at ONLY animation 24-7. I'm listed on many blogrolls out there as an "animation blog," and I respect that. But I realize that I have not discussed animation ad nauseum as I thought I would, and that's okay. There are plenty of opportunities soon where I will, believe me, but I just want some of you people out there who were expecting tons of animation-related posts to bear with me.

I guess by the end of the day, I tend to suffer from animation-overload. Consumed by it all day tends to do that to a man.

Oh well, I don't know where I was going with this post, I guess I just wanted to get some things off my chest. I love having this forum to be able to talk about things I like and discuss and debate about things I don't like. It's a great way for me to understand what others feel about certain subjects and to figure out why things might or might not work.

Be that as it may, I constantly enjoy the interaction of others I receive on The Ward-O-Matic, and I am deeply honored in having the wonderful opportunity to be a part of your lives.


SIN-sational Sin City

Frank Miller likes cheese. That is, he likes cheesy things. When I had the opportunity to read two of his Sin City graphic novels around '98, I was first amazed by the bold, stark and simply stunning imagery he created with his brilliant use of negative and positive space, and secondly, I was amazed at how cheesy some of the subject matter was. I mean, geez, the multitudes of campy clichés in this neo-noir, über-adult comic book series were crammed in like a big, black & white tin box of packed sardines. All the girls were young, beautiful, and built the same way: waves of big, 80's hair, pouty-lipped, big-eyed (heavy on the mascara), curvaceous, legs for days, with unrealistic circular boobies that somehow were always cold. (What, no heaters in Sin City?) There was not ONE woman older than 25. All the guys were thugs, scarred and brutal. All the writing was over-the-top, campy, ultra-dramatic and very very noir. But that is the main point. SIN CITY is a graphic novel series that evokes the film noir of yesterday, but has the grotesque and immediate sensational violence of today. Miller takes from the past and stretches it as far as it can possibly go for today's audiences. It is very melodramatic while at the same time very violent.

Which makes for a perfect popcorn filmgoing experience for me. If you go into the theater knowing that this is going to be full of cheese and camp, then you'll enjoy it. But if you're expecting a serious film noir with sharp, witty banter, then you'll have some reservations, I'm afraid. I do have to say that there are a few good sequences worth noting and some groundbreaking visual effects that'll make you happy to know that the visionaries behind this film were not kidding around.

The frames Miller created in the comics were, as I stated earlier, simply brilliant. When I had the chance to read and study them, I learned to think outside the box when it came to working with negative and positive spaces (for those unfamiliar with these terms, positive space is basically an object that you see in a "frame," the negative space is the space around this object), as Miller twisted the whole general way of thinking about black and white in this format. Shadows become white up against black walls; blood becomes white against dark, strained skin; characters are framed in half-silhouettes, with only one eye seen. Millions of tiny glass shards explode across two-page spreads, rain becomes a deluge of white lines all but nearly eradicating the main character in the frame, just left of center page. I was loving every page of this visual symphony of white and black, taking it all in, trying to analyze what Miller was doing, all the while trying to sort through what was going on with his meandering storylines.

For SIN CITY -- the film, I give director Robert Rodriguez major credit for at least attempting this endeavor, but mostly for acknowledging the importance of the visuals of the story and for respecting the genre. So many directors and screenwriters take the original storylines of comic books and graphic novels and basically toss out the whole notion of what the creators originally intended. What, the artists work for months, sometimes years on these projects, with extreme detail paid to just how the story is paced and told via frame by frame, panel by panel, and these Hollywood cats come in and trash it all by "re-envisioning" it? I still feel that X-MEN helmer, Bryan Singer -- although creating two very good movies based on comic book heroes -- does not fully "get" the way that comics are told as the panels are a very important aspect to storytelling as a whole. Directors have their "vision," and don't want to be swayed by outsiders telling them what to do. They want to do their thang as they feel that that's why they've been hired. Well... to a certain degree, sure. But they wouldn't even be working on this project if it weren't for the original story in the first place.

So thank goodness for Mr. Rodriguez, as in the case with SIN CITY, he respected the original source, and even got the writer/artist, Frank Miller, to be co-director on the film. What guts. I understand that Hollywood had a fit with that, as Miller wasn't a DGA member, but Rodriguez stood firmly behind this action, and therefore resigned from being a member of the guild. Again, I applaud this man. Respecting the source. Below are a couple of frames from the comic, matched with the corresponding scene in the film. Movie Rotation, a film-lovers' blog, complied an incredible collection of these comparisons, and you can view them HERE. From these comparisons, you can tell just how important it was for Rodriguez to fully realize what Miller had originally intended on paper:

Devoid of color, save for a few items that may or may not seem important to the story (as was the case in the original comic series), all the characters are certainly not. A great calvacade of misfits and miscreants, thugs and jugs cavort together in this monochromatic wasteland of a town. And they grabbed a great cast for the film, too, in my opinion. It was nice to see Rutger Hauer again, even though the sequence he was in was rather short. Bruce Willis plays the cop with a heart and does it with grit and stamina. Clive Owen was a welcome find. (You must see THE CROUPIER -- he's brilliant in it.) Great colorful cast.

The entire movie was shot with actors in front of greenscreens (except for the bar), with CGI filling in the holes, making the mise-en-scéne and overall atmosphere of SIN CITY a strange, alienated environment. The place just didn't seem real, which was okay with me as it further enhanced the discombobulated dark mood that the comic portrayed. With my trained eye, I could definitely tell when CGI took over for some shots. All the vehicles in the movie were computer generated and animated, except for the shots where the characters actually got into a car. But as a car would spin out, there would be a sudden jolt that looked too odd for a real car, as if the car had lost all of its weight and now had incredible horsepower, sending it careening off into the night, cartoon-like. If it was any other movie where realism was key, I would've balked at these scenes -- for this movie, it felt just right. To read an interview about the CG effects in SIN CITY, go HERE. Some very interesting stuff being talked about, with video clips to view.

My favorite sequence was the "A Hard Goodbye" storyline, with the grotesquely shaped, face-only-a-mother-would-love Marv and his insanely driven quest to find the one responsible for the murder of Goldie, the only woman who would give him the time of day. And then some. Intensely played by Mickey Rourke, I found myself getting really wrapped up into this sad sack of a character. Rourke was brilliant in this role. Quite possibly the best performance in the film. Is that not the oddest thing I could say here? That Mickey Rourke was actually good? Yes, believe it. He was that good. Sure, you'll have to get beyond the 20 pounds of make-up and prosthetics on his face, but after a few minutes you really get into it. It's all in the eyes.

To be honest, I could not help but see how Frank Miller was giving a definite nod to old noir pulp and detective stories. If you're familiar with the writings of Mickey Spillane and Jim Thompson, then you'll get a good idea of what to expect in SIN CITY. (And by the way, Spillane is still alive and kicking at the ripe young age of 83! Give him a pound.)

In conclusion, Miller, Rodrigez & Co. did a fine job of creating this alternate world of violent comic noir. A good popcorn movie that, at times, found itself high on the cheese quotient. But a little cheese never hurts anyone, I always say. If you're a fan of the graphic novel series, then you'll definitely enjoy the film. If you're unfamiliar with the source material, just enjoy this strange brutal world the filmmakers have created for you. It'll definitely be a trip you've never experienced before.


Recent Searches

Every once in awhile (okay, obsessively on the hour), I like to check out the stats for The Ward-O-Matic. If you're curious, I use StatCounter, which is very good in picking up on every hit. Here, I can see where people are coming from, link-wise and country-wise. I am continually amazed at how many people come from so many countries across the globe to visit this lowly little blog. I do hope they you all are enjoying yourselves when you do visit, and I hope that you come back again soon. I'm definitely having some fun with this thing.

Anyway, another feature that I enjoy with StatCounter is that you can see the searches that people did on Yahoo! or Google that were directed to my blog. Some of them are obvious, like ward, ward-o-matic, or ward animator. There was even someone from the West coast who did a search for ward jenkins. It blows me away that there was someone 3,000 miles away doing a search for my very name, of whom I have no clue as to their identity. Is it me, or is that not bizarre? Very strange. Ahh, the internet.

But then there are some searches...well, it's beyond my comprehension. Allow me to showcase some of the most recent searches performed that directed people to The Ward-O-Matic:

How to have same actor in many places at once
animation podcast
gus cinderella
working late cartoons
lindsay ward’s best photo
blog etiquette
hellboy gerald
gerald mcboing boing hellboy dvd
toot whistle plunk boom
making the polar express less scary
train wreck pic
train wreck cartoon
60’s style nurse
big banksy

And now, my favorites:
one nice booty
big booty andrea

Apparently, those last two searches were linked to My Birthday Booty, back in November, when I talked about the birthday presents I received from my wife, Andrea. Sorry to disappoint there, fellas. Better luck next time.


Ava Thursday: Ava with the Sky and Diamonds

Click on image for a closer lookie-loo.

Sorry for the blatant Beatles nod in the title there, but I just couldn't resist. After all, this is Ava with the sky above her, surrounded by colorful diamonds. She drew this in May of 2004, while she was 3 1/2, so at this point, she was just getting into little details, like carefully choosing each and every color for the diamonds. More details: she's wearing her famous red sparkly shoes, of course, and on the left, Ava told me that that was a house with a triangle on top. To the right, we have, as Ava says, her "old car with ice cream!" The ice cream is red, purple, yellow, blue and black. The sun is out and shining, of course. Can't go without a sun, now, can we? A couple of other smallish details I enjoy are the barrettes in her hair, and the way she drew her nostrils. She was getting into drawing teeth at this time, too, but here she decided not to go that far, I guess. I'll have to find some of those drawings. Very cute stuff.

One more thing: Isn't it interesting how kids draw the sky? Like it's a big blue blanket hovering over the earth. I remember drawing and coloring the sky that way when I was a kid. I also distinctly remember making the conscientious decsion one day to color the sky "all the way down to the ground," as I began to notice that the blue, indeed, went down to the horizon. I love watching Ava's eyes light up when she makes revelations like this. It's fascinating to see your children start to "get" things, to see the world open up to them and they start to really understand.

Anyway, there ya go, guys! Hope your Ava Thursday is a grand one.


Yeast Baking...yay!

Click on above image for a closer lookie!

What a great find! You can see why my eyes immediately were drawn to this fun booklet from 1963 on yeast baking, as the colors just leaped out at me. Great design on the stylish gal, there, too. (My favorite part, of course.) I found this gem at a flea market several years ago, in Nashville, I believe. I've since seen another copy of it at another flea market or antique store not too long ago, and....hey, wait a sec -- yeast baking? What the heck? Well, it certainly doesn't sound very appealing, but the products that yeast baking produces look mighty appetizing, if you ask me. Even if they do have this odd, thick black line around the edges. What's up wit that?

I'm afraid to ask what "ego batter" is. And should ego go with batter in the first place? Must look into it.

"Oh, I'm all mixed-up! Isn't that crazy? I'm all mixed-up and have contorted my body in a way that is not humanly possible! All crazy, mixed-up me!"

Would you want to bake enough of something where they would eventually riot? Gotta think straight here. Or else, you'll find yourself drowning in a sea of fiesty breadrolls. Seriously.

No. Too easy.

Those crazy baking women and their silly gossiping! And their buns! Look at her! On that silly phone and not paying any attention to what she's doing! And again -- with the contorted pose. Girl, you're gonna throw your back out, if you don't watch it.

There you have it. Some fun scans for you all to enjoy. I seriously am digging the letterforms they used for this booklet. All the white letters used for each separate item looked hand-drawn, too, by the way. True testament to the great lettering skills that these guys had. Great stuff.



Being a son, a husband and a father has given me the opportunity to witness the importance of motherhood from a short distance. Even though I may slip into the background when our daughter scrapes her knee or when our son needs to nurse, I'm not one to be selfish of my children's love. I know how incredibly strong the bonds of motherhood form and I must deeply respect and understand those bonds. Throughout the years, I've been the quiet observer, taking it all in as I've witnessed what it truly means to be a MOTHER -- from my own mom, to my aunts, my grandmothers, my sister, and to my wife and her mother.

Role-playing. Even from an early age, I can still distinctly remember all the different roles my mother took on throughout my formative years: how she became the nurse to our winces and cries while taking my sister and I to the doctor to get our shots; how she became our playmate when we set up forts in the living room; how she became my teacher as she taught me how to read before I went into first grade. She became my best friend throughout my high school years, even as those times were some of her most difficult to endure -- having to raise two kids during a divorce and trying to make a living for the first time in her life. Of course, I didn't make the situation any better when I went through my wild & crazy year, 16 years-old and hell-bent on self-destruction. But she endured. She stuck it out and all was not lost. She became the maternal rock and I was firmly supported by her. I desperately needed her, even though I was screaming at her that I did not. Most importantly, during our high school years, she respected me and my sister's privacy, giving us the distance needed to forge our own identities and dreams. I've already adopted her parenting guidelines as my own model: become your children's best friend so they can respect and confide in you, while at the same time be the rock to support them, even when they think they don't need it. Be fun, be strong. Be witty, be stern. Be there.

Thank you, Mom, for being there for me. Happy Mother's Day.


Ava Thursday: Kitty-cat

Like any typical 4 year-old girl, Ava is fascinated by pets, and more importantly, cats. She loves kitty-cats. We have a cat at home, named Baby, so you'd think that Ava just adores her, right? Sadly, this is not the case. Ava is terrified by the daunting feline. And Baby totally and completely despises her. In fact, Baby despises everybody that enters our household, save for Andrea and I. Considering that we saved Baby from being abandoned by her mother back when she was a tiny furry ball of a kitten, I can see why the cat has an innate desire to protect us from any potential harm possibly caused by outsiders. And our own offspring are no exception.

Ava and Baby (or "Baby-cat," as Ava sometimes calls her) have this intense on-going power struggle that is engaged on a daily basis. Sometimes Andrea or I are suddenly jerked awake by the shrill of a little girl, offset by a low, gutteral growl that sounds almost inhuman, as one of the two foes probably tried to pass the other in the dining room, wherein Baby-cat probably hissed and violently batted her paw out at Ava (the cat's been de-clawed, so no blood loss, thankfully), and Ava reacting in horror. It's sad for us, being the parents of this sweet and quiet-natured little girl, to witness Ava having to face the harsh reality of hatred on a day-by-day basis from the menacing house-cat, who is obviously going against the whole concept of being a nice, sweet "pet." Not what Ava usually witnesses on Seseme Street, that's for sure.

But that doesn't keep Ava from drawing a sweet little doodle of a kitty-cat on a sheet of paper that had some of my own doodles on it done while at work. She's drawn this type of cat many times since, eventually adding an extra line or two on the bottom of the stick-legs for feet. I just love the way she drew the ears and face here. And check out the tail! Very cute.

As for Ava and Baby-cat, not to worry. They still have this silent agreement to hate each other, but Ava's found a feline friend in this tabby that hangs around our neighborhood. This cat allows Ava to touch and pet her, thereby giving Ava the satisfaction of owning a true loving pet, even if it is vicarious.



TOOT WHISTLE PLUNK & BOOM is one of my favorite Disney shorts of all time. Point blank. And so, I was elated beyond belief when I found out it was FINALLY out on DVD a couple of years back when it was listed as part of the bonus features on the FANTASIA 2000 DVD. (It is now also available on the Walt Disney Teasures: Rarites set.) Originally released in theaters in 1953 as part of an educational series titled, "Adventures in Music," TOOT was directed by the one and only Ward Kimball. Well, he was listed as co-director with Charles Nichols, but it can be said that it was all Ward. It was cool to note that the Academy honored the short for the Award for Best Short Subject Cartoon of that year. Icing on the cake, I guess.

And what great animated icing! The overall color and character design is pretty much top notch. The short film garners a closer look, so I've had this idea of grabbing some screenshots for you all to check out -- something I've always wanted to do ever since I started this blog. But fear not -- I didn't want to skimp on the quality of the images. Oh no! I'm a generous guy, so I've got nice, big. 800 pixel-wide screenshots of the short for everyone to enjoy. To ease the page loads, they're posted here as thumbnails so you can simply click on the thumbs to download the larger images.

Some background first:

You can check out specifics on TOOT WHISTLE PLUNK & BOOM here, but there were some brilliant minds at work here and oftentimes these incredible talented guys get overlooked. The art director was Ken O'Connor (scene layouts and continuity, mostly), with Vic Haboush as assistant art director to Ken. The major stylist on the film was Thomas Oreb, a "lost legend" and true artistic hero of the time. He was the one responsible for all the fantastic character design on the film. Working in tandem with the characters was background artist and designer, Eyvind Earle. He's often mentioned for his gothic/medieval backgrounds in SLEEPING BEAUTY.

After seeing all the thumbnails of TOOT here, it's interesting to note the color scheme of the entire film. There are a good amount of warm reds and purples that stand out to me, offset by cool blues and indigos. When you look closer at the images, take special note of the flatness of the characters, typical of the early- to mid-50's design of the time. You can thank UPA for spawning a great interest in this limited, yet modern style, as they had that look pretty much cornered. But here, Oreb almost out-UPA'd UPA. I love how the musicians have white lines with no color fill for their heads. Brilliant stuff.

DISCLAIMER: The following images are owned and copyrighted by Disney. I am not making any money off of this presentation, just posting these wonderful images merely for the sake of resource and historical purposes. If you have any questions about all this, please feel free to email me. Thank you.

Onto the images:

And now, for the Special Edition part of this post: the following rare story sketches are by Tom Oreb for TOOT, along with their respective scenes from the final film for comparison. Some great fluidity in the pencil lines here. (And please don't ask me where I got these, as I have so many animation drawings, model sheets, sketches, and resources accumulated throughout the years, it's sad that I can't remember. Sorry.)

The story sketch:

And now the final:

The story sketch:

The story changed a bit and so I found two instances where the scene was similar to the story sketch:

Well, there ya go. If this proves successful, I plan on doing more posts like this, where I'll grab more images than humanly needed from other great animated short films. Up next: MELODY, the first of the "Adventures in Music" series, also from 1953, and also directed by Ward Kimball. Enjoy!

UPDATE: I've now posted 46 wonderful images of MELODY. You can check it out HERE. Hope you like!

You can help me out by ordering TOOT through Amazon directly here: