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Get the f*** out of the way.

November 21st, 2010

Three Little Bops” directed by Friz Freleng, jazz score by Shorty Rogers

Jazz musicians taught me how to produce funny cartoons. Seriously.

There are a lot of parallels between cartoons and jazz. They’re both distinctively American art forms, incubated towards the beginning of the 20th century, hitting their first artistic and popular peaks towards the end of the 1930s. And they’re both a lot of fun.

For me, it’s is a lot more personal. My life in jazz uniquely prepared me for the thrills of being involved in cartoons.

My producing career began by making jazz records –it was supposed to be a stepping stone to pop music– which usually prompts quizzical stares from the folks who know I’m now in cartoons. But, spending every weekend of the last three years watching my older son play his clarinet and tenor in the Jazz Standard Youth Orchestra (my longest extended live jazz exposure in 35 years) I’ve had a lot of time to consider why these two experiences have been hand in glove for me.

It probably comes down to my ignorance and fandom. As an 18 year old in New York, I recorded my first jazz session after six years listening and playing pop music of the 60s and (barely) six weeks of jazz listening. The first release from one of my recordings was made six months later. It’s fair to say that for the next decade, every record I participated in was done with world class musicians at least 10 (sometimes 20 or 30) years older than me and who had forgotten more than I would ever know. I mean, what could a white suburban kid in his mid-20’s going to tell world class musicians about making their music? Ultimately, it became my job to figure out who I wanted to lead a session, who would record it, and get the f*** out of the way. When I was wrong, the records were just OK (when one is working with the world class, it never was less than OK). But when the magic was there…

More than two decades on, cartoons (and California) beckoned, and a similar dynamic played itself out. A huge fan as a kid (who wasn’t?) all I had to go on were the emotions the best films had stirred in me. There were no skills or talents in me to speak of. 15 years in television had me making hundreds, thousands, of commercials –many animated– but it wasn’t like I could draw or write (still can’t), I’d no idea how to put together a schedule or budget, no real ability to “produce” fiction films. I fell back on something Rudy Van Gelder, the world’s most important jazz recording engineer, had taught me at our first session in 1976. “Your job is to figure out what you want to hear, and find the people who are good enough to accomplish it.” To the point, I wanted to make cartoons, as opposed to animation, let’s make people laugh. If you want to too, let’s try it together.

So, instead of trying to learn skills I would never master, my concentration immediately turned to “Who wants to make cartoons?” In retrospect, my role is exactly the same as with the jazz musicians. Identify world class talent, new and veterans alike, and once again, get the f*** out of the way. If the creator needs help, give it him/her. If he/she needs “protection” from useless, uneducated, executive opinions, give it. (And if the creator is ignoring good advice from the network –hey, it happens– try and help there too.)

Jazz or cartoons, for me it comes down to the same stuff. Find talented people who are worth supporting, and get the f*** out of the way.

Dig those crazy SFX!

January 7th, 2009

hb.jpg

It was a few years ago when I mentioned the 1995 release of the Hanna-Barbera Sound Effects Library, one of my favorite projects from my time at the studio.  A full, 5-CD quality release of the studios famous sound effects. In the booklet included with the set, studio veteran Paul Douglas came up withthe editors’ all time Top 10 SFX. Here’s his picks from the original release:

“Hanna-Barbera’s Greatest Hits…And Greatest Sproings, Boings and Bonks”

In the long history of the Hanna-Barbera Sound Effect Library, there have been many terrific sound used to great comic effect. But there are a few that stand out as having a familiar ring, the unmistakable quality of having been used for a particular character or bit business. Here are the 10 quintessential effects chosen for the Hanna-Barbera Hall of Fame by longtime H-B editor Paul Douglas.

(Just click on the CD or the link to hear the effect. Each track has three effects, so don’t get confused.)

Hanna-Barbera Sound Effects Library

1. Fred Flintstone Scrambling: All cartoon hell breaks loose when Fred is rushing around in a panic.

Hanna-Barbera Sound Effects Library

2. Gazoo Materializing: Cartoon sound effects editors sometime have to stretch their imaginations. What does it sound like when Gazoo, the outer space pixie on The Flintstones, comes into view?

Hanna-Barbera Sound Effects Library

3. El Kabong’s Guitar Hit: In Quick Draw McGraw’s alter ego as the heroic El Kabong, his only weapon is his guitar. He doesn’t play it; he clobbers the villains with it. An unmistakable sound that adds new meaning to “striking a chord.”

Hanna-Barbera Sound Effects Library

4. Fred Drops The Ball: When Fred Flintstone bowls, there’s no telling where the ball will go. Most likely, it will land on his foot. A classic crash from the Stone Age. (The name reveals for the first time how it was made.)

Hanna-Barbera Sound Effects Library

5. Barney’s Big Head Take: When a person does a take (one-half of a double take) it doesn’t really make a sound in the normal physical world, but in the cartoon Stone-Age world of Barney Rubble and The Flintstones, it sounds exactly like this!

Hanna-Barbera Sound Effects Library

6. Jerry Pulls Tom’s Whiskers: A familiar sound from the Golden Age of cartoons! In those cat-and-mouse classics, Jerry the mouse often pulls the whiskers of Tom the cat. Ouch! (For you musicians: a violin was played pizzicato while sliding up the fingerboard.)

Hanna-Barbera Sound Effects Library

7. Fred’s Head Hit: It’s well known that Fred Flintstone has a hard head. But the effects man must determine just how hard. Rock? Granite? Marble? Hard, but too dull. The ringing sound of solid iron does the trick!

Hanna-Barbera Sound Effects Library

8. Yogi Bear’s Noogin Klonk: When Yogi gets bumped on the head, he’s usually in the middle of feeding his empty stomach, hence this hollow, klonking sound.

Hanna-Barbera Sound Effects Library

9. George Jetson Becomes Jet Screamer: Mr. Jetson turns into a teen-age idol. You have to hear it to understand.

Hanna-Barbera Sound Effects Library

10. Muttley Bites Dastardly on the Butt: We saved the best for last! This sound is so evocative of Muttley’s powerful jaws clamping onto Dick Dasterdly’s soft posterior, that few who hear it can ever forget it. A sound wit real feeling.

My belated bookshelf.

January 4th, 2009

books_pimp_1438.jpg

The Animation Pimp By Chris Robinson (published by AWN/Thompson, June 2007)

I read an awful lot that has nothing to do directly with animation and that probably wouldn’t really interest our blog readers. So when I do, like I’ve been lately, I don’t post either, which is kind of dumb. The last few weeks I’ve been catching up with stuff I shouldn’t have been neglecting. Like  The Animation Pimp (disclaimer: I think he says a nice thing about yours truly in the book).

Many of you know about Chris Robinson as the director of the Ottawa International Animation Festival, but the sharper among you might have read his five years of columns at AWN called “The Animation Pimp” (or his TAP blog) which were edited and collected last year in this book of the same name. Influenced and inspired by writers wonderful and just awful, Chris is that rare thing in animation, a non-fanboy, serious thinker and writer. There’s a glimpse of that kind of thinking (though sometimes shallow in their narrowness) in Amid Amidi’s Cartoon Brew posts , and in The Animation Journal (great thinking, rarely good writing). Chris tries to inject soberness in his editing of the ASIFA Magazine but, geez, serious is as serious does, and it’s a little too dour for me sometimes.

But I have to say, as often as Chris irritates me with his overly stylized prose, he’s a lot of fun. And strangely enough, “fun” is not really a word one thinks of in animation writing. How dumb is that?

Everyone who gives a damn about animation or cartoons (though Chris doesn’t have that much interest in the cartoon subset it seems) ought to just flip over to his columns or buy the book right away. It’s rare that anyone provokes real thought in my head about what we do (unless it’s my own team, or John K, or Amid) and The Animation Pimp sure does. And in book form it’s way different than monthly columns too. Altogether in one spot, read in a short period of time, Chris’ incitement to dare to think differently, to even dismiss the form he’s writing about, is refreshing, liberating, and ultimately exciting. I’m not sure what I’m going to do with my thoughts, or maybe I’ve been doing things with them all along, but I’m thankful to Chris for resurrecting them in me. Maybe he’ll do the same for you.

Elliot Cowan & Rebecca Angelou in the house.

November 30th, 2008

Elliot Cowan & Rebecca Angelou from fredseibert on Vimeo.

Elliot Cowan stopped by Wednesday with his new wife (congratulations!), artist/designer Rebecca Angelou. I got to see her work for the first time and go over a few projects with Elliot. Elliot’s “Boxhead & Roundhead” was last seen on Channel Frederator in May on Episode #134 oops, in October on Episode #149.

The Hanna-Barbera Pic-A-Nic Basket of Cartoon Classics.

November 1st, 2008

Hanna-Barbera Pic-a-Nic Box

Anyone who knows me is aware of my music habit, and close readers of this blog will pick up on my affection for cartoon music in particular.

So it was extremely gratifying when my friend, Rhino Records founder Richard Foos, agreed to indulge me in the 1990’s with a (now out-of-print) four CD boxed set of Hanna-Barbera Cartoons themes, underscores, sound effects, and other audio ephemera and artifacts of our historic studio. It was compiled and produced with passion and knowledge by cartoon writer/producer Earl Kress.

I’ve posted before about my worship and respect for the under appreciated HB music director and composer Hoyt Curtin but I’ve finally gotten around to scanning the great booklet Earl put together for the set. It not only includes a listing of all the sound in the box, but has great essays by Bill Hanna, Joe Barbera, David Burd, Bill Burnett, and Barry Hansen (Dr. Demento). Plus Marty Pekar conducted an interview about the studio’s unique sound effects library with Joe, Bill, Greg Watson, and Pat Foley. (As we get around to it, you can look at separate transcripts of the essays here.)

For a quick preview, here’s a Quick Draw McGraw track from the box set, composed, arranged and conducted by Hoyt:

Hoyt Curtain & The Hanna-Barbera Studio Big Band >Quick Draw McGraw (Underscore & Syndicated End Titles)

Cartoon Music Week.

October 20th, 2008

The Carl Stalling ProjectQuick Draw McGrawTom & Jerry & Tex Avery Too!The Three LIttle PigsTerry S. Taylor's Imaginarium

Last week was a Cartoon Music Week over on my music blog. I tried to survey a bunch of approaches to the classic styles; maybe someday soon I’ll try a more contemporary take. Given your predilections I figure you might like it.

Frederator Postcard Series 6.37

October 8th, 2008

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It’s been a long time coming.

Rob Renzetti’s beloved “My Life as a Teenage Robot” played the last episode of its 2nd season a couple of years ago, and by the infinite wisdom of corporations the until now unseen 3rd season sat on the shelf until this week. Go figure.

Well no! Go watch! Every Saturday on the Nicktoons Animation Network.

The team came up with some great stuff, beautiful as ever. It’s a great way to catch up with Jenny.

…..

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

Meet the Flintstones?

August 25th, 2008

From Always Use Zip Code: One day, I read somewhere that the postmaster of Bedrock, Colorado grew so tired of processing mail addressed to Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble that they had a stamp made especially for rejecting such mail.

I had to see this, so I mailed a letter to the the 850 person town of Bedrock. The results did not disappoint.

(via Mike Hudek’s Tumblog)

Doin’ the mess around.*

August 25th, 2008

1996 Hanna-Barbera Cartoons Calendar

Boy, did I mess this one up. Not the calendar, the series: The Real Jonny Quest. I take full responsibility for all the bungling.

We tried to do the right thing, at least we got a very cool calendar. Sorry fans, seriously.

*With apologies to Ahmet Ertegun & Ray Charles

Time’s right for Fite-ing.

July 18th, 2008

NF

Those in the know know that the first season of Dan Meth and Mark Vitelli’s Nite Fite launched yesterday after a  feverishly hard working spring of production. That’s right, the first spin-off of the much heralded and massively popular The Meth Minute 39, it’s the first animated talk show on the web. And one a sponsorship from Starburst candy, a major coup. I wanted to shout out a lot of the folks who’ve helped get us going. It’s a much bigger group than you’d imagine for 20 shorts, with not only Frederator in the mix, but online networks, a major corporate sponsor, and dozens of distributors, so settle in. (And when I miss anyone, please let me know so I can update my mistakes.)

Dan Meth & Mark Vitelli. Dan and Mark created and wrote Nite Fite. Thanks guys, for your great show.

I know you know Dan from The Meth Minute 39 (and his site and blog) as an animator of rare distinction, but you also know Mark through his work on MM39; he’s not only the sound designer for most all of Dan’s cartoons, but is a trusted creative advisor as well. The guys write all the episodes in the studio (Dan writes the sponsorhip spots back at our studio), and Mark takes their rantings and ravings and tightens them up to a full ka-pow of funniness before Dan and his crew get hold for the animation.

Carrie Miller. Indefatigable Carrie has produced The Meth Minute 39 as well Nite Fite. And I can say, with feeling, no one could have survived the process without her. Not only big smarts and schedules, but charm, good humor, and diplomacy –least of all needed with her Frederator colleagues– have charged Carrie’s work all the way through.

The animation team. For the first time in our New York studio, Dan and Carrie have put together a crack crew of animators and artists to help us reach our creative peaks and deadlines. Dagan Moriarty, Daisy Edwards, Adam Rosette, and Al Pardo are not only talented, but great companions to have in the studio.

Mike Glenn. We don’t really see Mike that often because he works the night shift in the post production dungeon, but he’s been our packaging editor, and dependable rock, throughout all of Dan’s projects here.

Kevin Kolde, Eric Homan, and Roy Langbord.  And Angie Polk. Kevin and Eric work primarily on our Hollywood based projects, but they’ve been amazing supporters of Dan’s and Carrie’s. Kevin particularly, as we worked out way out of garage style production. And Roy, our attorney and advisor, saves us from ourselves. Angie’s my assistant in NY, but so much more for everyone.

And over at Next New Networks, our distributor, promoter, and boosters nonpareil.

George Stewart runs media sales and has been a MM39 believer from the beginning.  He introduced us to our early champion, Digitas’ John McCarus who, in turn, roped in more of his colleagues that I can mention (don’t hate me for not including the whole list, it’s a lot of great folks), to believe in Dan and his characters.

Digitas brought along our sponsor, Starburst candies, which is part of the unbelievably big Mars Incorporated. I only mention their size, because it was a real leap of faith on everyone’s part to be part of Nite Fite and Next New Networks, and for everyone who took the leap, we salute and thank you. (And, you should check out Penalty and Lloyd on Starburst’s site. It not only looks awesome over there, but there’s a bunch of other cool goodies too.)

Rachel Garcia is also in NNN media sales, and it would be hard to properly explain how much she’s done to keep this project on track without making her blush or making her collapse from exhaustion looking over the looooong list of things she’s accomplished for us. But, I should highlight that hand in hand with Sarah Passe at Digitas, were we able to keep the magic group of 20 informed and happy with all our creative work over these last few hectic months.

Tim Shey is one of the NNN founders and runs programming at the company.  He’s been an indomitable spirit guiding the NNN-ers through the programming, promotion, and distribution of the Nite Fite series. “I’m with Penalty!” “Well, I’m with Lloyd!”

Scott Moschella and Jeaux Janovsky run  the Next New side of Channel Frederator and Nite Fite. They’re internet geeks to top all IG, and work out all the wherefores of how the MM39’s and NF’s find their way throughout our communities and beyond. Jeaux has personal relationships throughout the internet cartoon universe, and keeps them all stoked about everything Dan creates. Scott’s worked closely with Tim, YouTube, and everyone else here to get the NF site where it needs to be. Vanessa Pappas now runs the entertainment team, and her brains are going to guide us through this first season better than any of the rest of us ever could.

Diane deCordova heads up the super-distribution strategy and team COO Jed Simmons put together and was responsible for the 20,000,000 views the MM39 has garnered this year. From Veoh to YouTube to Break to UGO to to to to to… the list goes on. We’re super because of you, thanks guys.

Andres Palmiter is the Next New Networks secret sauce. His daily contacts with the distribution partners around the world are key to super-distribution success. The fact that he’s personally so in love with Dan’s work isn’t a small thing either.

The developer team of Paul Blakey, Todd Morningstar, Alex Milyavskiy, run by Marc Goldberg, is always happy and unarguing when asked impossible things by everyone.

I’m not neglecting Lee Rubenstein or Graham Smith or Jeremy Kutner for their site contributions (and, of course, so much more).

Justin Johnson’s promos. Can I really compliment him any more than I have? And Alan Kaufman?

There’s a few dozen other NNN’s too, and in different ways big and small they’ve all been important to the launch of Nite Fite. The order of thanks isn’t meant to slight anyone, but truly, thanks Liam, Herb, Emil, Michelle, Patty, Erik, Lindsey, Michael, Ramon, Erin, Ian, Max, Dustin, Corinne, Rob, Mary, Steve, Donny, Ben, Ben, Jared, Gene, Charlie, Pete.