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Archive for December, 2006


Blog History of Frederator’s original cartoon shorts. Part 15.

December 30th, 2006

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Blog History of Frederator’s original cartoon shorts.
Part 1. Part 2. Part 3. Part 4. Part 5. Part 6.
Part 7. Part 8. Part 9. Part 10. Part 11. Part 12. Part 13.
Part 14.

Starting at Hanna-Barbera in 1992 it was clear I wanted the studio to produce short cartoons, but I was only beginning to figure out how we should actually go about it.

Anyone who would listen I’d talk to about shorts. And I picked up tips anywhere I could.

Buzz Potamkin was our new head of production. His New York studio had produced my original MTV “Moonman” animation before he packed it in to go to Hollywood to make Saturday morning shows, and over the years he’d given me a pretty fair education on how TV cartoon studios worked in general, and in particular how Hanna-Barbera had gotten into the sad shape it was in. Together with my operating partner Jed Simmons we figured we could credibly ask for enough money from our boss Scott Sassa to make 48 short cartoons. It would cost about the same as two series, but instead of two chances to succeed (or fail, like with 2 Stupid Dogs or SWAT Kats)) we’d have 48. “Scott, I know I know nothing about making cartoons. But with 48 shots even someone as ignorant as me can hit,” I pleaded.

Buzz also suggested Larry Huber as supervising producer. Having proved his ability to work with new people and new ideas on 2 Stupid Dogs he would be perfect.

John Kricfalusi had long preached the difference between traditional writers and cartoon-artist-as-writers (“Fred, every writer puts a cartoon scene in where ‘the bomb blows up in his face’ and thinks it’s funny. A bomb going off is not funny! It’s how the face looks before the bomb, how long it waits to blow up, how it blows up, and what happens after it blows up that might be funny. An artist shows you that.”) and I bought it hook, line, and sinker.

As a pitcher and buyer of shows I knew the limitations of the traditional pitch: Here’s the idea, here’s two pages describing the idea, and here’s a few pictures of what the idea might look like. After listening to folks like Friz Freleng, Joe Barbera, and Chuck Jones talk about shorts pitches back in the day, I determined we would only put a short into production after a full storyboard pitch from the artist originating it. Please show us the actual film you want to make, not describe the idea of the film. I’d been in advertising long enough to know the difference between an idea and the actual execution; the gap was light years. If we saw the storyboard we’d have some idea of whether or not the creator had any real notion of cartoons (versus animation, not the same thing at all), whether he/she really understood their character, and whether or not he or she actually understood story.

OK, so there was a framework to operate in. Now what?

(More next time.)

Blog History of Frederator’s original cartoon shorts.
Part 1. Part 2. Part 3. Part 4. Part 5. Part 6.
Part 7. Part 8. Part 9. Part 10. Part 11. Part 12. Part 13.
Part 14.

Blog History of Frederator’s original cartoon shorts. Part 14.

December 30th, 2006

(L)Mike Lazzo, originating programmer, Cartoon Network & (R) Joe Barbera
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It was almost an accident I became president of the famous Hanna-Barbera studio, but it was a chance to revive cartoons through my idea of making shorts the way they did in the theatrical days.

Blog History of Frederator’s original cartoon shorts.
Part 1. Part 2. Part 3. Part 4. Part 5. Part 6.
Part 7. Part 8. Part 9. Part 10. Part 11. Part 12. Part 13.

Cartoon Network had just launched and senior creative executive and programmer Mike Lazzo had a great idea for a “Cartoon Advisory Board” really just a great excuse to hang with legends. He assembled a room somewhere in Hollywood with Bill Hanna, Joe Barbera, Friz Freleng, Noel Blanc (Mel’s son), and John Kricfalusi. (…:::Later, Jerry Beck refreshes my recollections below in comments.) Mike had a bunch of questions he asked and they answered, but only one sticks in my mind. As I remember it went something like this:

Mike Lazzo: What makes a good producer?

Joe Barbera: Fred Quimby was a great producer!

(Note from FS: I knew Joe despised Quimby, so this confused me right off the bat.)

Quimby would come in around 10 in the morning, go right to his office and make some phone calls. Around 11 his barber would come in and give him his daily trim and shave. 12:30 he was off to lunch, back at 2:30 for some calls to East Coast distributors and then he’d go home.

Mike Lazzo: What was the production unit doing all day?

Joe Barbera: We were making the cartoons we felt like making. Like I said, Fred Quimby was a great producer!

I was listening closely. “Hey, I can do that job!” I said out loud.

(More next time.)

Blog History of Frederator’s original cartoon shorts.
Part 1. Part 2. Part 3. Part 4. Part 5. Part 6.
Part 7. Part 8. Part 9. Part 10. Part 11. Part 12. Part 13.

My best Christmas present.

December 26th, 2006

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As my Mom was leaving last night she pulled this out of her purse, saying she had a drawer full of my things.

My band in high school was called, obviously, The Neglekted Few (you know, the Byrds, The Tymes, The Elastik Band, The…). We played soul and pop covers of the day. Like many back in that day I was infatuated with psychedelic typography (even though my aversion to anything actually psychedelic was constantly, amusingly noted) and I was always trying my incapable hand at my version of the art. (Who knew at 15 that I’d spend a lot more of my future on the graphics than on the music itself?)

Phil Alexander, “On guitar!”, Ray Frisby, “On drums!”, Rodney Johnson, “On vocals & tambourine!”, Brian North, “On bass!”, and I were the band. Rodney was my best friend from 10 on and our truly so special lead singer. Don’t know if this ‘card’ was my attempt to see if we’d do better as a led combo (a la Freddie and the Dreamers or Sam the Sham & the Pharohs) or whether –just possible– Rodney was asking for a better billing.

Soon they’ll be able to drink.

December 23rd, 2006

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This month our friends at Animation Magazine are celebrating their 20th birthday, and we were thrilled to honor their request to design this ad for inclusion in the special issue.

It’s hard to me to believe I bought an issue during their first year, over at the newstand and Laruel Canyon and Ventura Boulevard during one of my trips to Los Angeles. I had a most tangential relationship to the industry at the time, with my only involvement being the commissioning of 10 second network identification pieces for small cable networks. To my delight I eventually became friendly with founder Terry Thoren, his first editor, Jerry Beck, and then Rita Street, Ron Diamond, Sarah Baisley, Jodi Bluth, Ramin Zahed, and finally President Jean Thoren.

All of them, and everyone else involved, deserve incredible kudos for the sacrifices they made personally and professionally to aid our business. We’re all richer for their contributions. Here’s to another 20 guys.

….:::Later: Our commenters made realize I neglected to credit inestimable Lee Rubenstein for the great Photoshop work on the robot in this ad. Sorry bud.

One of the great film comedians.

December 20th, 2006

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As I wrote to the Cartoon Brew guys today:

Thanks guys, as usual, for the thoughtfulness you put into recognizing all that made a difference in the cartoon world.

And jeeezz, did Joe make a difference.

Leave out all he did to make my childhood happier (and everyone else’s for that matter). Joe and Bill made almost 20 years of great feature shorts and then, at almost 50 years old, started a company that redefined the way the business worked forever –and I absolutely will not countenance an argument on the quality of the cartoons, no. That much joy in the world is quality enough for everyone– and kept themselves and most of the industry working for 40 years after. Hell, most of the industry is alive and well today because of the groundwork these two guys laid.

And Joe himself! Jordan Reichek said it right, there were many opinions about the man. But what self made man, a supremely creative man, a leader and an innovator, got somewhere without shaking a few trees?

Creativity? Jeeeez, again. So first he leads the creative effort on 20 years of basically silent films, almost no words of dialog from anybody. Then he goes and adds dialog galore, dialog in every frame, and the cartoons stay funny, relevant and saavy. No one else did it. No one.
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So, I’ll say something I’ve said over and over to almost deaf ears. Joe Barbera and Bill Hanna were two of the greatest film comedians of the 20th century. Fine Chaplin, fine Keaton, fine Lloyd. But Tom & Jerry are star in some of today’s most beloved films in world, that’s right, today’s, while the others live on mostly in museums, libraries, and colleges. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, just sayin…

Unlimited imagination.

December 19th, 2006

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This picture from 1988 pretty much shows you the Joe Barbera and Bill Hanna I met when I was unexpectedly tapped by Scott Sassa and Ted Turner to run the famous Hanna-Barbera studios. I became a quick study on both of them and soon commissioned Bill Burnett to write the following essay about the studio to straighten out a few miscomprehensions about their company.

Limited Animation…Unlimited Imagination

Here’s the true story: When theatrical cartoons were on death’s door, William Hanna and Joseph Barbera single-handedly (or, rather, double-handily) rescued cartoons from oblivion. As a cartoon blues man might say, “If it wasn’t for limited animation, we wouldn’t have no animation at all.”

(continued here…)

Joe Barbera, 1911-2006

December 18th, 2006

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Word was posted on the internet about 10 minutes ago that cartoon great Joe Barbera died Monday at 95 years old.

Joe changed my life forever, twice. Once, over a period of thirty years of his career, he partnered with Bill Hanna and gave me and millions of others laughter and joy with the thousands of cartoons they created. And then, when I was blessed enough to get the job as President of their namesake studio, he came to my rescue again, with stories, advice, and insight. Over and over again.

‘Pat’ Ventura told me once, when I asked why on earth he’d left the famous Disney feature unit to work on ‘Tom & Jerry Kids’, that sitting at the feet of a story and character master like Joe was worth giving away many careers. I couldn’t agree with him more.

R.I.P. Joe. Thanks for a better world.
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Hope I’m not as confused as I look.

December 18th, 2006

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The New York :: Media Information Exchange Group (NY::MIEF) talk I mentioned last week is being streamed by a group called TV Mainstream. Here be I, warts, umms and all.

Site of the week.

December 18th, 2006

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For all you serious eaters out there (and this time of the year, that even includes me) your ideal site has launched. Welcome Serious Eats.

Ed Levine started his career as an awesome music producer, sequed into advertising and brand consulting to make a living (he ran the account department at my agency for a few years), and finally realized his passions were the best directions to follow and ended up writing about eating, his most obvious addiction.

Now’s he’s launched his most serious effort yet, a boradband food network and community. (Full disclosure: I was one of his first angel investors, and he launched Serious Eats out of my New York office.)

You love to eat? You’ll love Serious Eats.

Happy Merry.

December 17th, 2006

Lee Rubenstein spontaneously entertains. Marco Arment photographs.
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Thursday was the Frederator holiday party in New York. Many of the friends we worked with in the East were there from Bolder Media, Kick Design, Mixed Media Group, and Next New Networks. Eric and Melissa came in from the West, and since some won’t be able to make our wrap party in January we hosted some of the great Random! Cartoons contributors (Bill Plympton, Floyd Bishop and his team, Diane Kredensor and Dana Galin, Alan Goodman, and Dan Meth). And let’s not forget Lee Rubenstein and surprise guest Laura Levine.

Thanks for everything, everyone. We’ve been working on lots and lots of projects all year, so everyone deserved the good time.

Mike Glenn and Carrie Miller pulled the whole thing together, and I think it’s an understatement to say everyone was pleased and impressed with all their hard work.