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Archive for April, 2007

Anttu Harlin from Character Business.

April 26th, 2007


Why is this man smiling?

You’d be smiling too if you were visiting Frederator Studios offices in New York City. Anttu Harlin is a producer from Character Business in Finland who was in New York for one day (yesterday) and wanted to introduce himself and his studio.

Character Business was established by an advertising/marketing agency in Helsinki to create TV shows and feature film. Check out their showreel here.

Much thanks to Kay Wilson Stallings from Nick Jr for sending Anttu over.

Indy Mogul’s on the way.

April 25th, 2007

The next Next New Network. Eric Beck hosts “Backyard FX” on Indy Mogul: “limited filmmaking with unlimited potential.”

Indy Mogul is the network for everyone who watches DVD commentaries, signs up for behind-the-scenes videoblogs and podcasts, and dreams of being a filmmaker.

“It’s the network for anyone who picks up a camera and tries to make something more than a home video.

“It’s the network for anyone who’s ever bought fake blood, rigged homemade pyrotechnics, or filmed their own backyard stunts.

“If the next Star Wars gets made in a garage in Peoria, we hope that it shows up on Indy Mogul first.”

Jerry’s picture reminded me.

April 22nd, 2007

Endpaper from The World of Hanna-Barbera Cartoons

Jerry Beck’s quick snap and reflection on the Hanna-Barbera building facade in Los Angeles reminded me of how great it felt to work in that place and what it meant to me.

When I first started traveling to LA in the late 70s I’d get a chill going past the building, wondering what kind of magic went on behind the concrete screens. Just the name in plain black type up top screamed out to me. Working there in the 90s we worked like hell to make the building special; putting up those giant posters of the classic characters was a great rush. One of the happiest days of my life was when Bill Hanna came into my office (originally his) and exclaimed, “Wow! It really looks like a cartoon studio now!”

The last picture I have of the renovated Hanna-Barbera building, 1994-95.

(Of course, that was before the neighborhood association threatened to sue, not to mention the purists in the building who wanted to keep the original post-office-beige color.)

A vital city needs to keep changing, as does a industry and its architecture, and most studios completely disappear, but props out to Jordan Reichek for all the hard work he did to keep it up. It’ll still be nice to get a sense memory of the place, more than we can say for a lot of other homes of great work in the town.

Cartoon Network’s got a little tour of some of the classic moments inside the studio. And here’s a couple of post-cartoon views of the building before it’s latest, and last, renovation.

Random! in the East.

April 19th, 2007


Steve Levinson begged and it’s been a while, but I think Dave Levy’s given us a date. On May 22 in New York City ASIFA-East will be having a screening of some highlights from our Random! Cartoons series of shorts produced over the last two years. As we get closer we’ll give you all the exact information. I’ll be there with a bunch of our New York based creators. Eric Homan too. Hope you can join us.

For Hanna-Barbera.

April 18th, 2007


Our great friend Rita Street of Radar Cartoons founded Women in Animation when she was the publisher/editor of Animation Magazine and I was at Hanna-Barbera Cartoons. In fact, it was so important to me that our industry support the influx of new talent from all quarters, I think HB became one of the earliest supporters of the new organization.

So I was more than thrilled when Rita asked Frederator Studios to support WIA’s look back at the Hanna-Barbera studio tomorrow night. She also asked for a few words about the studio from me:

“From 1992 until 1997, I was honored to have every baby boomer’s dream job as the final president of Hanna-Barbera Cartoons. Every day I drove onto the lot on Cahuenga Boulevard and walked through the halls I was happily overwhelmed by the sense of history in the walls. And each and every person in the studio felt the same way, whether they’d been around four weeks or four decades. As I travel around the world, my job at H&B elicits more recogition and smiles than anything else I could mention.

“And why not? From the memorable characters and stories to the distinctive graphic design, the culural legacies Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera created with their loyal teams of thousands will live inside people of the world for lifetimes to come.

“I’m honored to have played a small, final role in that heritage. And I’m glad you could all gather around to honor all those studio members and their talents and hard work.”

If you love magazines…Please act.

April 16th, 2007


If you love magazines as much as I do, I’m sure you’d be concerned if some of your favorites could be legislated out of business.

Stamp Out The Rate Hikes

Magazines like Juxtapoz, Animation Magazine, or Giant Robot could disappear in a flash. So when I got the following email I thought I might pass it on. Don’t be put off by the seeming hyperbole at the top of the letter, it makes it’s point pretty powerfully. Please weigh in right away at Stamp Out The Rate Hikes.

For context, I should tell you that Bob McChesney, the email’s author, is a radio host and media activist working out of University of Illinois.
Dear friend, relative, or acquaintance of Bob McChesney,

On very rare occasions I send a message to everyone in my email address book on an issue that I find of staggering importance and urgency. (My address book includes pretty much everyone who emails me in one form or another, and I apologize if you get this message more than once.) This is one of those times.

There is a major crisis in our media taking place right now; it is getting almost no attention and unless we act very soon the consequences for our society could well be disastrous. And it will only take place because it is being done without any public awareness or participation; it goes directly against the very foundations of freedom of the press in the entirety of American history.

The U.S. Post Office is in the process of implementing a radical reformulation of its rates for magazines, such that smaller periodicals will be hit with a much much larger increase than the largest magazines.

Because the Post Office is a monopoly, and because magazines must use it, the postal rates always have been skewed to make it cheaper for smaller publications to get launched and to survive. The whole idea has been to use the postal rates to keep publishing as competitive and wide open as possible. This bedrock principle was put in place by James Madison and Thomas Jefferson. They considered it mandatory to create the press system, the Fourth Estate necessary for self-government.

It was postal policy that converted the free press clause in the First Amendment from an abstract principle into a living breathing reality for Americans. And it has served that role throughout our history.

What the Post Office is now proposing goes directly against 215 years of postal policy. The Post Office is in the process of implementing a radical reformulation of its mailing rates for magazines. Under the plan, smaller periodicals will be hit with a much larger increase than the big magazines, as much as 30 percent. Some of the largest circulation magazines will face hikes of less than 10 percent.

The new rates, which go into effect on July 15, were developed with no public involvement or congressional oversight, and the increased costs could damage hundreds, even thousands, of smaller publications, possibly putting many out of business. This includes nearly every political journal in the nation. These are the magazines that often provide the most original journalism and analysis. These are the magazines that provide much of the content on Common Dreams. We desperately need them.

What the Post Office is planning to do now, in the dark of night, is implement a rate structure that gives the best prices to the biggest publishers, hence letting them lock in their market position and lessen the threat of any new competition. The new rates could make it almost impossible to launch a new magazine, unless it is spawned by a huge conglomerate.

Not surprisingly, the new scheme was drafted by Time Warner, the largest magazine publisher in the nation. All evidence available suggests the bureaucrats responsible have never considered the implications of their draconian reforms for small and independent publishers, or for citizens who depend upon a free press.

The corruption and sleaziness of this process is difficult to exaggerate. As one lawyer who works for a large magazine publisher admits, “It takes a publishing company several hundred thousand dollars to even participate in these rate cases. Some large corporations spend millions to influence these rates.” Little guys, and the general public who depend upon these magazines, are not at the table when the deal is being made.

The genius of the postal rate structure over the past 215 years was that it did not favor a particular viewpoint; it simply made it easier for smaller magazines to be launched and to survive. That is why the publications opposing the secretive Post Office rate hikes cross the political spectrum. This is not a left-wing issue or a right-wing issue, it is a democracy issue. And it is about having competitive media markets that benefit all Americans. This reform will have disastrous effects for all small and mid-sized publications, be they on politics, music, sports or gardening.

This process was conducted with such little publicity and pitched only at the dominant players that we only learned about it a few weeks ago and it is very late in the game. But there is something you can do. Please go to www.stoppostalratehikes.com and sign the letter to the Postal Board protesting the new rate system and demanding a congressional hearing before any radical changes are made. The deadline for comments is April 23.

I know many of you are connected to publications that go through the mail, or libraries and bookstores that pay for subscriptions to magazines and periodicals. If you fall in these categories, it is imperative you get everyone connected to your magazine or operation to go to www.stoppostalratehikes.com.

We do not have a moment to lose. If everyone who reads this email responds at www.stoppostalratehikes.com, and then sends it along to their friends urging them to do the same, we can win. If there is one thing we have learned at Free Press over the past few years, it is that if enough people raise hell, we can force politicians to do the right thing. This is a time for serious hell-raising.

And to my friends from outside the United States, I apologize for cluttering your inbox. If you read this far, we can use your moral support.

From the bottom of my heart, thanks.


Robert W. McChesney
Department of Communication
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Cartoonists need Hugo Cabret.

April 15th, 2007


“This 526 page book is told in both words and pictures. The Invention of Hugo Cabret is not exactly a novel, and it’s not quite a picture book, and it’s not really a graphic novel, or a flip book, or a movie, but a combination of all these things.”

I’m just starting this book by Brian Selznick because my son says it’s the best book he’s ever read and my wife agrees it’s one of the most amazing books she’s read (she says the unique approach to storytelling –a little prose interweaved with large format illustrations– makes it a cartoonist’s dream). A few more data points:

* TIOHC is #2 on the New York Times Children’s Best Sellers. And Harry Potter should be enough to make you realize the list doesn’t cater to just “kids’ books.”

* The illustrations (and the format) are amazingly great.

* Martin Scorcese is considering directing the movie. It’s being written by John Logan (screenwriter of The Aviator and The Last Samurai.

* It’s a cool website.

* Filmmakers and animation inspired it.

From the website:

“George Melies is a very important part of TIOHC.

“George Melies (pronounced mel-YEZ) was a famous filmmaker who worked form the 1890s through the 1920s. He made the world’s first science fiction movie. It was called A Trip to the Moon, and it was really magical and strange.”

Hiro Naito & Michi Kanno.

April 12th, 2007


Hiro Naito is president of New York based AISAP a licensing company working between the US and Japan, representing companies like Nikoli, inventors of Sudoku. He and Michi Kanno, their VP of Project Development were in the other day to see what opportunities there might be between Frederator Studios and various Japanese producers.

Thanks for coming in guys.

Series or one-shots?

April 11th, 2007


From a Frederator fan:

Were all the CN’s World Premiere Toons and Nickelodeon’s Oh Yeah! Cartoons considered to be pilots for series or are some made to be one-shot stuff?

Andrés, from Chile.

Good question Andrés, and one we get fairly often, even from some of our potential creators.

Of course, the answer is “Yes and No.”

Ultimately, the purpose of doing all our shorts (not only World Premiere/What A Cartoon! and Oh Yeah!, but also the latest set of Random! Cartoons) is looking for filmmakers and characters that are strong enough to sustain lots of great cartoons. Not unlike it was back in the day when Felix, or Betty Boop, or Mickey or Bugs launched with one short that led to another and another and another. The optimistic hope we always have is developing the kinds of relationships we have had with creators over the last 15 years that lead to wonderful series of films.

However, when we call for ideas to come in, one of the first things we always say is that we’re not really looking for “pilots,” but great stand alone cartoons that have memorable characters at their center. A pilot” often tries to solve all the problems and answer all the questions that might arise in the future of a series. Frequently, there’s an attempt to introduce all the main characters and plot points. I think that’s a mistake, because the pilot episode then becames pedantic and sometimes pretty boring.

Our hope in a short is, not to put too fine a point on it, great. A tall order to be sure. But the way I figure it is that a fantastically funny short without all its questions answered has a better chance to be a wonderful series, than an only OK short. And yes, I understand that it’s not so darn easy to make a great cartoon. Look at all the talented creators we’ve worked with over the years, and how seldom their films become hit series.

In the end, the reality is no matter how hard we try to find cartoons with rich, memorable characters we have a lot of shorts that are just fun one-offs. We’ll be running one on Channel Frederator in a couple of weeks, Harvey Kurtzman’s Hey Look!. It’s based on an early newspaper strip of Harvey’s, sublimely adapted and directed by Vincent Waller, and we tried like the dickens to make the characters funny and indelible. Are they? You’ll tell us, but to my mind, it’s a great one-shot.

Ah well, that’s the way the cartoons animate.

I admit it.

April 11th, 2007


I read books.

Sometimes in the interactive world and of moving pictures with sound plain old books are discounted a bit. But, I’m addicted. Good books, bad books, old books, new books.

So I’ve been a decent guinea pig for the electronic readers of the last 10 years, and I’ve finally found one that works good enough, the Sony Reader. The electronic “paper” it uses works like crazy and that’s the key. No backlight, no pixels, no eye strain. You need as much light to read from it as you would any paper book. A battery charge lasts forever and you can stores hundreds of books without strain. Oh, and it weighs a few ounces.

I’ve read dozens of books on it over the last six months and sometimes I wonder what I’m going to do when the thing breaks.

Sure, there are issues. Navigation’s not what it could be, the eBook Connect Store from Sony unfortunately illustrates what’s wrong with modern Sony, and the Apple like closed system is pretty annoying with few of the benifits.

But those are just the nits. The reader saves me on a plane or a subway, and makes me happy to waste my time with previously cumbersome airport trashy paperbacks. If you can admit you like books, this thing may be the device for you.