Friday, August 31, 2007

The "Freddie Moore Girl"!

In my last post I referred to the "Freddie Moore Girl" in describing the type of very cute and curvy cartoon girls that you would see in some of the Disney films of the 40's and 50's. Fred Moore was an animator who has become somewhat legendary to Disney animation aficionados over the years. He was largely self-taught, but with an innate ability to draw everything assigned to him with great visual appeal. Those who worked with him claim that he couldn't have done a bad drawing if he'd tried, so natural was his talent. I'm not going to give a whole history of Fred, suffice to say that he was the animator who really determined the final designs of the Seven Dwarfs, as well as having helped Mickey's design to constantly evolve into ever more appealing and animatable forms. In his off time, Fred was most renowned for his numerous sketches of cute, innocently sexy young girls, which were in high demand from his many fans within Disney's animation department. Fortunately for we Disney collectors, some of these sketches have made it onto the open market through various animation art auctions. I was lucky enough to have gotten the two that you see here:

This was my first acquisition, and it is somewhat unique in that he actually signed this one. Many times it appears that he did not, as I suppose he was tossing them off so fast that he probably didn't consider them particularly noteworthy himself. I love the "baby fat" on these girls - it's a shame that nowadays that look is not as fashionable as it was back then. I think they look very cute and cuddly, myself!

This was my second purchase several years later. What I find really interesting about this one is the fact that it's so unfinished. It's as if Fred got bored and left it before he finished up the ink outline. From my standpoint, it's neat just to be able to see how he worked: starting out with soft coloured pencil sketch, adding a few splashes of watercolour for substance, then finishing it with a somewhat more refined ink line. I always like to think the older sister resembles the young Natalie Wood!

Here is some more art that I have in my collection that relates to Fred Moore, whether or not any of these are actually his work. All three of these are clean-up pencil drawings from the "Pastoral" animation in "Fantasia". Yes, that's right, I said CLEAN-UP drawings, in a way that you'll never see them done now, sadly, due to the requirements of scanning them into the digital colouring system for the films being done these days. I just adore these drawings for the "sculpted" thick and thin linework. Just look at that first one particularly, of the centaurette shaking off the water droplets. That had to be done with a nice soft pencil, not too sharp, where the variation in line weight is achieved through the angle of the pencil and the pressure applied. You sure can't do that today with those silly, needle-thin mechanical pencils all the studios are using. Yep, we've lost a lot of the glorious craftsmanship from the past in this computer age we live in now. That's why my Disney animation art collection is limited to mostly the Walt era.

By the way, if you want to see a ton more of great Fred Moore drawings, check out Jenny Lerew's "The Blackwing Diaries" blog. She's far more knowledgable on his life history too, and her writings are really quite interesting. The bulk of her Fred Moore artwork seems to be in her archives, roughly from April 2006 through July 2006, with a smattering of stuff before and after as well. Definitely worth studying for all you animation students too!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007


This is Heather, one of the models we have frequently hired to pose in the life drawing sessions every Tuesday evening at Visual Arts Brampton over the last 3 years. She is certainly a favourite of mine, as she has all the feminine appeal of what we cartoonists think of as the "Freddy Moore Girl" (like the bobbysoxers in "Make Mine Music" or the centaurettes in "Fantasia"), in that she has very soft, curvy features.

Heather has a background in dance, both in ballet and in musical theatre. This is quite evident in her choice of poses during the quick gestures stage that we begin each session with. As you can see, there is a graceful, rhythmic flow to her poses that is a delight to capture on paper. (That 4th gesture is a "Fosse" dance pose that I'd requested and Heather was happy to oblige.)

During the longer studies, though I might start out drawing very traditionally, I usually can't help but try a more caricatured approach which I honestly have more fun with. Here's an example of where I have done a pencil portrait of Heather, followed by a quick caricature from the same sitting in the time I had left over.

Here is a pose that has been caricatured to some degree.

In this drawing I have also gone for a caricatured approach, trying to capture all of Heather's youthful beauty with simple, flowing linework. It's also an example of where I have dabbled in colour a bit, using soft Prismacolour pencils. I've tried using pastels in the past, too, but admittedly have been less successful in that medium.

I have much more artwork from life drawing sessions with Heather and other regular models at the Brampton studio, many in my caricatured approach. I will continue to post these up from time to time.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Last Week's Summit Meeting

About a week or so ago, Harper, Bush and Calderon met in Montebello, Quebec to discuss important North American issues like free trade, national security, and the standardization of jelly beans. You must have read about it - it was in all the papers. What many of you are probably not aware of, however, is that another important summit meeting took place just this past Wednesday evening at Dooney's Pub on Bloor St.

Yes, it was the second gathering of a group of Toronto-area creative types, which included several illustrators, a photographer, and a filmmaker with a fascination for pubic lice. Issues that were discussed included the internet, blogging, and most importantly, how one can use all of this newfangled technology to make a quick buck. This exchange of radical thinking was helped along by the consumption of vast quantities of beer and pizza. I volunteered to take the minutes of the meeting, so I took roughly 30 minutes to record what took place by drawing the following mug shots:

PS: I'm afraid I can't be seen in the group photo posted above, because I was the one taking the picture. If you'd like to see me, you're going to have to get up from your desk, walk around behind your computer, and look back this way...

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Happy Birthday Gene Kelly!

This is just a simple dedication to the late, great Gene Kelly, who was born this day in 1912. These are a couple of pieces I did about 7 years ago or more for wall hangings at a Paris themed ballroom dancing event I took part in. I figured what would make a more appropriate decoration than an image from the classic musical, "An American in Paris", starring Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron, especially since it ranks up high on my list of favourite films. These figures stand about two and a half feet tall, brush inked on poster board and painted with transparent concentrated watercolours. They currently are just tacked to my wall here in my den at home, along with all sorts of movie-related collectibles.

In retrospect, I think I drew Gene's hands a little bit big, but other than that I still kind of like it. The caricature of Leslie Caron I still like a lot, and I would really like to try making a little sculpture based on this art. Anyway, I just thought it would be fun to post this today. Happy Birthday Gene - we miss you!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Primate of the Month

Over on Will Finn's blog, Will has just posted some really delightful, yet also very strange, vintage illustrations of cartoon apes by a guy named Lawson Wood that you can look at by going here. I must confess that I hadn't heard of this illustrator before, but his paintings are so full of personality and animation that you really should check them out. Besides, any excuse to go see what Mr. Finn is up to over on his blogsite is bound to be worthwhile.

Speaking of funny looking apes, here's a simian character I drew several years ago called "Monkey Exec". Now that you've seen this character, I just know that you'll want to have his scruffy mug on a coffee mug. Or maybe a T-shirt. (Or perhaps even on a thong, if you're feeling naughty!) Anyway, it just so happens that these desperate commercial cravings that you now have are well within the realm of possibility of being instantly satisfied if you take a wander over to Cafe Press to check out my emporium. Remember, Christmas is fast approaching and you just know that your Uncle Harold would look great in that X-tra large T-shirt. Though I'd suggest you buy the thong for somebody else...

Once you've placed your massive order and gotten all your Christmas shopping done nice and early, you can then sit back, relax and watch this vintage 50's TV clip from "The Ernie Kovacs Show" featuring these funny looking, music performing monkeys, collectively known as "The Nairobi Trio". Enjoy!.....

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Me & 'Varo!

This is my buddy, Alvaro Cervantes. I've known Alvaro for over 20 years now, since soon after first moving to the Toronto area. This rascal was working at the time for "Lightbox Animation Studio", run by my friend, Greg Duffell. He was a real talented kid even back then, and he was always keen to show me what he'd been recently working on. Some years later, when I was going to be leaving my job as a character illustrator at Disney Canada in order to transfer down to WDW in Florida, I recommended that they hire Alvaro as my replacement. They did, and he ended up working there for about the next 10 years.

One thing that Alvaro brought to the job in addition to drawing skill, was a real talent for sculpture. He'd been dabbling in it for only a short time, but he really developed that ability in leaps and bounds. As a result, that department became far more involved in the design and development of dimensional toys for its various licensees, primarily due to Alvaro's initiative.

We've stayed in touch all through the years, including one time when Alvaro came down to visit me in Florida, where I got to introduce him to a bunch of the guys in the WDW art department, as well as several of the guys over at Disney Florida Animation (sadly gone now, having been shut down a few years ago.) Last week, Alvaro and I got together for lunch at Montana's and I suggested we should draw each other and post the results on our respective blogs. Here are our funny looking mugs for your amusement.

(Psst, don't tell Alvaro but, I only hang out with this tough looking hombre because it gives me street cred...)

Such a handsome lad...

I'd like to also give a plug to Alvaro's blogsite, which may be found here. You'll find all sorts of great sculptures on there that he's done for various clients including Disney, as well as stuff that he's sculpted simply for his own pleasure. Here's a photo showing many views of Alvaro's sculpture of "Wolverine" getting a colonoscopy. Hey, fighting supervillains can take its toll on a guy...

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Happy Birthday Lesley Ann!

Lesley Ann Warren, that is. So in honour of the occasion, I'd like to pay tribute to this lovely and talented actress/singer/dancer with this caricature of her in her role as Norma Cassidy, the platinum blonde showgirl in Blake Edwards's 1982 hit, "Victor Victoria". Her sassy, sexy role in this film, however, was a far cry from the performance that first launched her screen career.

The first time viewers saw Lesley Ann onscreen was in the 1965 TV production of Rodgers and Hammerstein's "Cinderella", which was itself a remake, coincidentally, of the 1957 telecast that featured her co-star from "Victor Victoria", Julie Andrews. Lesley Ann was so sweet in that role and I remember, when seeing that production when it was originally broadcast, having as much of a crush on her as a 5 year old boy could muster up at that age! Not long thereafter, I enjoyed Lesley Ann again in the two musicals she made for Disney, "The Happiest Millionaire" (1967), and "The One and Only, Genuine, Original Family Band" (1968), in both of which she was romantically paired with John Davidson.

Here is a clip from "Cinderella" with Lesley Ann as the sweet and innocent peasant girl. How could anybody not fall in love with those big, bright, brown eyes?

In contrast, here is the clip from "Victor Victoria" that I used to draw the caricature shown above. As you can see, Lesley Ann Warren has quite the range as an actress, being capable of portraying either the sweet good girl or sexy naughty girl with equal panache! After completing her work on "Victor Victoria", apparently Lesley Ann was quite distraught when she saw her performance up on the big screen at the film's premiere. She felt that she'd played it way over the top and that the critics would dismiss it as such. Fortunately, critics, audiences, and ultimately the Motion Picture Academy didn't agree with her self-assessment, and Lesley Ann's performance was acknowledged with a Best Supporting Actress nomination that year.

It's a shame that when Lesley Ann Warren first arrived onscreen, after some success on the New York stage, movie musicals were on their way out. I believe that her onscreen roles as a singer and dancer were pretty much limited to the four productions I've discussed here, although there was also a TV adaptation of a stage musical about "Superman", where she played Lois, that was apparently broadcast only once back in 1975. That's really too bad in my opinion, as I think Lesley Ann Warren was so vivacious in her musical roles that I wish she'd had the opportunity to do many more. She's certainly gone on to do many dramatic turns in both films and TV, but it's as a singer and dancer that I will always most appreciate this wonderful talented lady. Happy birthday Lesley Ann!

Addendum: Hey, what about this for a coincidence. Apparently Lesley Ann was in a recurring role on "Desperate Housewives" with our man Bob! I'm tellin' ya', that Newhart rascal sure does have great taste in TV mates! Suzanne Pleshette, Mary Frann, Lesley Ann Warren....whew!

Monday, August 13, 2007

Hook, Lyin' and Stinker (or: By Hook and 'Bye Crook!)

I don't often do political caricatures, but today's good news seemed to warrant some sort of celebration in inkline. I make no secret of my abhorrence of the Bush administration. This unsavoury cast of characters has done an incredible amount of damage to America's world image and reputation during their, so far, nearly 7 year "Reign of Error". I was happy when Rummy got eased out and I'm overjoyed now that Karl Rove is stepping down from his role as puppetmaster. Hopefully, the whole corrupt Whitehouse of cards will soon come tumbling down ignominiously. In the meantime, so long "Bush's Brain"!

By the way, this pair of rascals was wonderfully parodied in thinly-veiled form in the John Sayles' 2004 film, "Silver City", starring Chris Cooper as the idiot politician and Richard Dreyfuss as his conniving campaign manager. Check it out here.

Beware The Furry Damon!

I saw this by way of a link on (A great site, by the way) and had to comment on it. In regards to my recent post on Anthropomorphic Animals, here is what I would caution my students to avoid at all costs! This is a pic from the show "Arthur", featuring a supposedly anthropomorphized Matt Damon as a guest star. I've always felt that the "Arthur" characters themselves were too much of the "animal head stuck on a human body" variety, but this monstrosity goes even further than that, simply sticking teddy bear ears and nose on a human character. It's more of an example of that oddball style of design called "Furry". Distinguished by having mostly human anatomy with a few animal characteristics stuck on, the "Furry" is more a mutant than anything else, and not something that qualifies as an Anthropomorphic Animal at all in my opinion. If this were handed in for the Anthropomorphism assignment by a student in my class, I would have to give it a failing grade for not meeting the criteria I set out on the handout sheet.

Here's the news release on this hideous thing.

I knew I had sketched Matt Damon several years ago, so I went searching and finally found it. Here is my caricature of Matt back when he had a really funny haircut. He has such an interesting design to his face that I think it's a shame that the "Arthur" art staff aren't allowed to explore the likeness more, but instead have to settle for some visual pablum as per the dictates of the show's non-artistic producers.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Nothing Rankles Like Rickles

Here's a companion piece to my post about Bob Newhart the other day. As hard as it might be to believe, the quiet spoken, mild-mannered, and low-key Newhart names as his best friend, the loud, brash, and domineering Don Rickles! Here's an excerpt from Bob Newhart's autobiography where he explains it himself:

Don Rickles and I are best friends. I know that might seem strange to those who know Don only by reputation, but somebody has to be his friend. Just to make sure I don't forget, Don gave me a doormat that sits just outside the door of my house. It reads: "The Newharts: The Rickleses' Best Friends"

Apparently, The Rickleses and Newharts have been vacationing together for decades. I recall Bob showing one of his vacation home movies on "The Tonight Show" to Johnny Carson many years ago, back in the days that people still used 8mm cameras before the advent of home video. I think poor Bob was always stuck doing the filming, while Don hammed it up with both their wives, heckling him all the time.

Don Rickles was a hugely popular entertainer back in the 70's, showing up constantly on "The Tonight Show" and pretty much as a regular fixture on "The Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts" with his barrage of insult humour. In fact his nickname was "The Merchant of Venom". All the kids in high school during that era would borrow his comic insults, calling each other "Hockey Pucks" and such. I must confess, though I like Don Rickles, I find a little of him goes a long way. Just like Robin Williams today, I can only take his frenetic, ad-lib style of humour in small doses. (I'm definitely much more of a Bob Newhart fan.)

These days, not too many kids seem to know who Don Rickles is anymore. Whenever I show my portfolio of caricatures at school presentations, only a few seem to have heard of him. I always follow up, however, by pointing out that Rickles is currently heard as the voice of Mr. Potato Head in Pixar's "Toy Story", and that, with a face like his, it seems like appropriate casting. They usually get a laugh out of that info. This caricature I did a few years back, by the way, and it has been on my website since day one, but I thought that my more recent caricature of Bob Newhart should not be kept too far away from that of his best friend.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

If I Could Talk To The Animals

There's an interesting article on Michael Barrier's site that I think is worth checking out. His August 5th entry is a reprinting of a commentary by Ed Hooks regarding the approach taken to "Inter-species Communication" in Pixar's "Ratatouille". Here's Ed's first two paragraphs just to provide some context to what I'm about to discuss:

"One of the early and most important decisions Brad Bird had to make when he started working on the script for "Ratatouille" was what to do about inter-species communication. The star of the movie is a rat after all, and much of the supporting cast is human. If you have the rat speak out-loud English with any of the human characters, you will overly challenge the audience member's willingness to suspend his disbelief.

Inter-species communication is a fascinating challenge for animation. You can anthropomorphize inanimate things and animals all you want, but you have to be very careful about how you have them interact with one another, and especially with humans. In "Lion King", all of the animals had human traits and personalities, but they related only to one another. In "Finding Nemo", the fish never directly communicate with that human dentist. In "Lady and the Tramp", the animals talk to one another, but not to the humans. In "Cars", John Lasseter solved the problem by not having human drivers for the cars."

This is actually a topic that I've given a lot of thought to over the years, as I believe it's something that should be considered by anybody attempting to write stories /screenplays featuring animal characters. Back in 1997, the first year I taught Character Design at Sheridan College, I decided to put these observations down on paper in order to give the students something to keep in mind as they were developing animal characters that could be used in their films. Based upon all of the animated features, shorts and TV shows I'd absorbed over a lifetime of watching cartoons, I felt that one could distill the number of approaches into four main categories. This is not to imply that there are only these possibilities, by the way, as I've seen examples that are subsets of these categories, or may be oddball exceptions to all of my arbitrary rules!

For instance, there may even be more than one of these categories represented within a single film. An example of this would be in Disney's "Pinocchio". Figaro the kitten is representative of the first category, as he shows some humanlike emotion while remaining very much an animal as Geppetto's pet. But then you also have Honest John the fox and Gideon who, although also a cat, is totally unlike Figaro. These two rascals are very much representative of the fourth category, in that they walk upright, talk, wear clothes, and exhibit totally humanlike behavior. In addition, they would both be human size relative to Geppetto and the other human characters. As such, these two characters are visual metaphors for human "types", the fox in particular meant to be a caricature of one who is sly and untrustworthy. Because "Pinocchio" is such an abstract, allegorical story to begin with, mixing more than one category doesn't seem to be a problem. In films that are more mainstream in their stories, I think more care needs to be taken in order to keep things clear to the viewer. So please, just take this theorizing on my part for whatever it's worth. It's really just meant to give an idea of what may be considered as characters are developed in regard to, in the words of Ed Hooks, "Inter-species Communication". Much thanks to Michael Barrier for making me aware of Ed's article.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

"Hi Bob!"

Though most of my DVD library consists of movies (and mostly older ones at that), I am acquiring quite a shelfload of TV shows too. I think that's been the real benefit of DVD over VHS tapes, as one can now collect entire seasons of favourite TV shows that take up only a small fraction of space that would have been taken up by great numbers of 2-hour capacity videotapes. Besides, TV shows on VHS never did catch on for that very reason plus the significant cost factor.

DVD has certainly been a major boon to fans of older TV shows, who can now revisit their fond memories of what it was like to sit down in front of the tube back in the era of their choice. For me, my favourite era was the early 70's, when I could watch classy stuff like "All in the Family", "The Mary Tyler Moore Show", "M*A*S*H" and "The Carol Burnett Show". Incidentally, all of these particular shows were on CBS, back in the days it had every right to lay claim to the nickname, "The Tiffany Network". I wouldn't bestow that honour upon any of the TV networks today, I'm afraid.

But there was another CBS sitcom back then that I'd have to rank up there at the top of my list...

"The Bob Newhart Show" was the first of several sitcoms that starred the stand-up comedian with the "button-down mind", though only this show and his second venture, "Newhart" I'd consider to be TV gold. In his first, and perhaps best, TV sitcom, Bob plays psychologist Bob Hartley, who, along with his wife Emily, lives in an upscale highrise apartment in Chicago. Their neighbour Howard is a flight navigator who's pretty clued out - just the sort of fellow you'd probably not want in that job position if you were on his flight and, as wonderfully played by Bill Daily, is responsible for most of the laughs on the homefront. At the workplace, Bob's office is adjacent to that of Jerry Robinson the dentist, who is also Bob's best friend. They also share the services of perpetually man-hunting, single gal receptionist Carol Kester.

I've always felt that the best sitcoms tend to feature an ensemble of characters where the lead is like the island of tranquility in a sea of craziness. That's certainly the case here, where the audience is seeing everything through the generally calm persona of Bob, as he reacts to the eccentricities of his friends, workmates, and patients in mostly furrowed-browed, deadpan fashion, broken only by a lot of bemused blinking and stammered verbal responses. I think this is why I really love Bob Newhart - he's one of the few entertainers that can break me up just by looking at him before he's even uttered a word. (John Cleese and Tommy Smothers also share this distinction for me.) Jack Benny was, of course, the master of the pregnant pause in his comedy stylings, and I think Bob Newhart was the guy who best carried on that comedy tradition.

I recently read Bob Newhart's autobiography entitled, "I Shouldn't Even Be Doing This!", the gag behind the title of which is best explained by reading the book yourself. The book gives some good background on how Bob came to leave the life of a public accountant behind to seek a career writing and performing comedy on stage. In addition to many wonderful anecdotes about his life and career, the book features several of his timeless "Telephone" routines. When you watch "The Bob Newhart Show", you'll see how he incorporated that idea of the one-sided telephone conversation into a great many of the scenes.

In tribute to this very funny and genuinely nice guy, here is my caricature of Bob Newhart and his TV wife, the very attractive Suzanne Pleshette.