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Archive for September, 2008


My mentors: Michael Mantler

September 30th, 2008

MIchael Mantler  
Photograph of Michael Mantler by Tod Papageorge, 1968

I’m luckier than most. My life’s been filled with a lot of folks who’ve shown me the way. Parents, teachers, friends, bosses. Most of them would be horrified to be identified as my “mentor,” but that’s just what they are. An advisor, a counselor, who helped shape my world view.

Composer Michael Mantler was one of them. He was first hand proof that talent, planning, vision, drive, hard work, and sheer force of will could combine to accomplish dreams beyond anyone’s expectations. He didn’t have any particular interest, I think, in showing me much of anything really, but he was an incredible role model, trying to keep his family’s heads above water, struggling against all odds to be viable fringe artists in a highly commercial world. It was a time in my life that would never be repeated, and one that made a huge difference to me.

Mike would probably recoil at the whole idea of mentorship –by now, we’re probably more like friends or something– but I don’t know what else to call it. He was already a young legend in avant-garde jazz  when, as a naive 18 year old, I crashed my first professional recording session he was producing, his then wife Carla Bley’s “Escalator Over the Hill,” He patiently figured I was a friend of one of the superstar orchestra’s if he even noticed my presence. I went on to play their records on college radio, and then he  and Carla trusted me right out of school to work at their innovative artist record distribution service (itself an outgrowth of their incredible, idealistic collective, the Jazz Composer’s Orchestra, JCOA). I wasn’t too impressed with the job I did, but a few years later Mike asked me to be the sound man and assistant roadie on Carla’s first big band tours. It was an unforgetable experience not only for the music, but for the pride with which Mike managed the unruly, artistic bunch they’d gathered. I repayed them after a year by ducking out days before our first European tour (a real loss on my part), but it didn’t stop us from staying friendly for the 30 years since.

Thanks Mike, you made a real difference in my struggle to become a professional adult.
……

It wouldn’t be right to talk about Mike without mentioning some of his stunning work. His music isn’t for everyone (on his website he quotes one reviewer saying “‘Silence‘ is possibly the least listenable record I have ever heard”) and requires a dedicated listener, but the rewards are great. Aside from his playing and composing, Mike was no slouch as a producer either. He always knew to not only get the very best musicians, but that it didn’t hurt if they had name value for sales (check out Robert Wyatt, Jack Bruce, Don Cherry, Jack DeJohnette, Pharoh Sanders, Cecil Taylor, and Don Preston, among many others). A few of my favorites:

No Answer

And here’s one of my favorite of Mike’s recordings, featuring a jazz avant-garde superstar orchestra, from the 1968 “The Jazz Composer’s Orchestra“:

The Jazz Composer's Orchestra

The Jazz Composer’s Orchestra > Preview
(Composed & conducted by Michael Mantler; Soloist: Pharoah Sanders)

Casey Safron, Animation Block Party, in the house.

September 28th, 2008

Animation Block Party!
Program cover illustrated by Doug Crane

Over the last five summers, filmmaker Casey Safron has turned his Brooklyn based Animation Block Party into one of the most anticipated festivals (if you insist on calling it that) in the US cartoon community. So it’s always great when he stops by and we talk about ways to do something together. We haven’t figured it out yet, but we’re getting closer!

“Why I am breaking up with you, M. Night Shyamalan”

September 22nd, 2008

“Dear Nightie, I’ll admit it, I really thought I was in love way back when I first got to know you.” 

Well, I’ll admit it, I really love artist Alex Kirwan. Completely aside from the fact that he’s one of the best animation art directors of this generation (read a couple of interviews here and here), he’s one of the great fans of the world. Of cartoons sure, of monsters yeah, of all sorts of stuff. And, as I’ve found out from Alex’s new blog,  The Happening Stunk, some of the films of M. Night Shyamalan. Find out for yourself when Alex tells you “Why I am breaking up with you, M. Night Shyamalan“.

Big week in Times Square.

September 22nd, 2008

Wubbzy in Times Square 

A few Frederator related projects converged on Times Sqaure at the same time (!) last week.

Bob Boyles’ Wow! Wow! Wubbzy!, our production through our Mixed Media Group joint venture, is coming out with its first DVD from our partners at Anchor Bay/Starz. The crack team at Anchor Bay made sure millions of people were aware with a week long campaign on the Toys R Us billboard on Broadway.

Our Stars are Huge

And a couple of blocks North, over the W Hotel, the Next New Networks stars (including the Nite Fite crew) were showing off on a billboard of their own.

I’m actually overwhelmed with it all, so I won’t say much more. But, wow!

Frederator Postcard Series 6.22

September 8th, 2008

 

Mailed the week of September 1, 2008

They swear to us it’s coming soon. Really. 

Random! Cartoons logo designed by Michael Lapinski
Inspired by Darron Moore

Frederator Postcards Series 1, 1998
Frederator Postcards Series 2, 1999
Frederator Postcards Series 3, 2000
Frederator Postcards Series 4, 2003
Frederator Postcards Series 5, 2004-2005
Frederator Postcards Series 6, 2007-2008

Comments controversy.

September 4th, 2008

Good news (I hope). You no longer need to register to comment on Frederator Blogs.

A few people have been sniping at me at the change in our comments system a few months ago. We added Disqus  (pronounced ‘discuss’) after checking it out at the suggestion of our Tumblr friends, and realized it was a powerful way of not only for commenters to start a conversation directly with each other, but an easy way for them to discover other people in a wider community of blogs they might want to start reading.

That said, I probably made it a little harder to use than necessary by insisting that everyone register at Disqus before they could post. Aside from the folks that got confused, the extra step discouraged at lot of people from participating at all. That’s why the change.

Hope this makes it easier, and fun-ner, to be a part of our blog community. Please let me know.

Fred

Don’t let the news fool you.

September 2nd, 2008

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It’s great news that New Orleans didn’t have a Katrina rerun. But the Gulf Coast’s still hurting bad, will be for a long time. Try not to slack off, and donate if you can.

“Time Is On Your Side (Yes It Is)”

September 1st, 2008

DSCF0580.JPG 
Dave Levy (right) with Bill Plympton, Drinking & Drawing,
Platform Animation Festival, Portland, Oregon, June 2007

David Levy, aside from being a talented director and artist, and aside from being the latest longtime President of ASIFA-East, has proven himself to be one of the best observers of the animation biz. He’s written the only useful, smart, and well written book I’ve seen on working in the industry,  Your Career in Animation: How to Survive and Thrive (disclaimer: a few thoughts of mine are quoted). He teaches a senior course at New York’s SVA about getting employed, which consistently gets high grades from students year after year. And he’s living, successful, proof of his tireless boosterism of the New York City professional animation scene.

And, this week on his year old blog, Animondays, he writes another intelligent, cogent, and, yes, well written, piece (if self deprecating) on what it means to make a personal animated film. I wish some more people in the Hollywood animation industry would take his conclusions to heart.