Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Month In Unionism

Tom Sito once again gifts us with important dates in animation and other corners of show biz. May seems to be a particularly good month for union activism, as you will read.

May 1st, 1941 - Orson Welles’ film Citizen Kane debuts at the Paramount theater in Hollywood (now the El Capitan). At the last minute William Randolph Hearst's friend Louis B. Mayer of MGM tries to buy and destroy every print of the film, and the Hearst press goes crazy attacking it.

Hearst’s spokesperson Louella Parsons threatens "A Beautiful Lawsuit" if the film is not pulled. Despite winning some Oscars the film doesn’t do well in its initial release, but is considered one of the greatest American films of all time.

May 1st, 1989 - Walt Disney Feature Animation in Orlando Florida opens.

[Mr. Sito, while TAG President, had much to do with making WDFA Orlando a union shop. He flew down and personally persuaded the FLorida artists that joining an animation union was a good thing. -- Steve Hulett.)

May 1st, 1993 - The Florida Animation Union, IATSE Local 843, is chartered.

May 1, 1999 - Spongebob Squarepants debuts on Nickelodeon.

May 2, 1964 - Disney’s audio-animatronic Abe Lincoln exhibit opens at the NY World’s Fair. The animatronic technology forms the basis of modern motion capture technique.

May 3, 1948 - THE PARAMOUNT DECISION - In 1938, the independent theater chains bring a lawsuit in Federal court against the major Hollywood Studios over their monopolistic practices. Ten years later the Supreme Court ruled the Motion Picture Studios do constitute a monopoly and under the Sherman Anti-Trust Act orders them to sell their theater chains. One casualty of this rule was the short cartoon. Because theater managers are no longer were forced to run a cartoon, newsreel and short with a feature (aka. block-booking), they choose to run more showings of the main feature.

May 3, 1969 - Groundbreaking begins in Valencia for the California Institute of the Arts.

May 4, 1927 - The Motion Picture Academy of Arts & Sciences is formed. Studio heads Irving Thalberg and Louis B. Mayer originally conceived the Academy as an arbiter where studio artists could air grievances without fear of retaliation, thereby sidetracking the call for unions. It didn't work, because of the nature of its founding by studio heads. Writer Dorothy Parker commented: "Going to the Academy with your problems is like trying to get laid in your mother's house, someone's always peeking through the curtains"

May 5th, 1945 - Happy Birthday Yosemite Sam! “Hare Trigger”, the first cartoon to feature the red mustachioed desperado, premiers.

May 6, 1937 - THE FLEISCHER STRIKE - Cartoonists vote to strike Max Fleischer’s Studio after Max fires 13 animators for union activity and complaining about the 6 day work week. The strike settles several weeks later when parent company Paramount forces Max to recognize their union.

[Max Fleischer and his brother Dave soon moved their studio to Miami Florida to get away from the awful union. The maneuver back-fired, because in order to lure artists to the swampy wetlands of Florida, they had to offer premium wages. The studio foundered in the early forties when "Mr. Bug Goes to Town" under-performed and the brothers Fleischer commenced fighting. After the release of several "Superman" shorts, Paramount closed the studio. -- Steve Hulett]

May 8, 1874 - Massachusetts adopts a 10-hour workday for women, down from 14 hours.

May 8, 1943 - Tex Avery's cartoon, "Red Hot Riding Hood", premieres.

May 9, 1937 - Burne Hogarth starts drawing the Tarzan comic strip. ...

May 9, 1955 - A Washington D.C. station puts on a young Univ. of Maryland grad named Jim Henson as filler before the TODAY Show. His antics with his green frog, Kermit, fashioned from fabric from one of his mothers old green coats are the birth of The Muppets.

May 10, 1929 - Skeleton Dance, the first Disney Silly Symphony, premiers. Its tight sync animation by Ub Iwerks inspires a generation of animators.

May 17, 1941 – THE LOONY TOON LOCKOUT. Producer Leon Schlesinger tries to forestall the unionization of his Bugs Bunny cartoonists by locking them out. After a week he relents and recognizes the cartoonist guild. Chuck Jones called it “our own little six-day war.”

May 18, 2001 – Dreamworks’ Shrek opens.

May 18, 2003 - Pixar’s Finding Nemo opens.

May 20, 1937 - Bob Clampett is promoted to director at Leon Schlesinger’s Looney Tunes Studio. After leaving Looney Tunes, Clampett created the Beany & Cecil Show for television.

May 20, 1975 - In a small warehouse in Van Nuys, California, George Lucas assembles an effects crew to create the film Star Wars. It is the birth of Industrial Light & Magic, or ILM.

May 20, 2003 - In 1977, when Walt Disney's The Rescuers was being completed, the artists for a joke added a Playboy picture into a pan shot. Going by at 1/24th a second, they were confident nobody would ever spot it. Later in the 1990s, when Rescuers went to VHS video, they edited out the controversial frame. But when it was time in 2003 to rerelease on DVD, the Studio apparatchniks went back to the original 1977 negative, without ever bothering to consult any of us artists. We could have warned them. but no. So on May 20, 2003, nine million copies of the Rescuers DVD hit the stores, with the ensuing public outcry, and embarrassed apologies one might imagine.

May 22, 1985 - Disney animation director Wolfgang "Woolie" Reitherman, who directed The Jungle Book among other films, dies in a car crash following lunch at the Smoke House in Burbank.

May 25, 1977 - Star Wars opens in theaters

May 25, 1979 - Ridley Scott’s film Alien premiers, with sets by H.R. Giger.

May 27, 1933 - Walt Disney’s “The Three Little Pigs” premieres. The song “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf” featured in the film becomes a national anthem of recovery from the Depression.

May 29, 1941 -THE WALT DISNEY CARTOONISTS STRIKE. Animators go on strike after Walt refuses to recognize their union and fires Art Babbit and several others for union activity. The picket line and campsite went up across the street where St. Joseph's Hospital is today. Chef's from nearby Toluca Lake restaurants would cook for the strikers on their off time and the aircraft mechanics of Lockheed promised muscle if any ruffstuff was threatened. 

Picketers included Hank Ketcham (Dennis the Menace), Walt Kelly and Margaret Selby Kelly (Pogo), Bill Melendez (A Charlie Brown Christmas), Steve Bosustow and John Hubley (Mr. Magoo), Maurice Noble and Chuck Jones (What's Opera Doc?), George Baker (Sad Sack), Dick Swift ("the Parent Trap") Frank Tashlin (Cinderfella) and four hundred others.

Animators from Warner Bros. MGM and Walter Lantz marched with their Disney brothers and sisters because they knew this was where the fate of their entire industry would be settled. Celebrities like Dorothy Parker, Frank Morgan and John Garfield gave speeches. The studio claimed no one of importance was on strike. 

The strike eventually settles through Federal arbitration and a little arm-twisting by the Bank of America. Walt recognizes our union and most base salaries are doubled. Many of the artists who leave the studio afterwards set up U.P.A. and pioneer the 1950's animation style.

May 31, 2000 - The first Survivor show premiers in the US, shepherding in a new era of TV reality shows.

Birthdays: Maurice Noble, Fyodor Khytruk, John Woo, Wes Anderson, Eric Goldberg. Alice Liddel 1852- the inspiration of Alice in Wonderland, Floyd Gottfredson, Andriana Caselotti- the voice of Snow White, Orson Welles, Don Rickles, Bob Clampett, James L. Brooks, Tom Sito, Margaret Kerry, Joe Grant, Homer Simpson, George Carlin, Bernie Mattinson, Steven Colbert, Robert Zemeckis, Howard Ashman, George Lucas, Tina Fey, Leon Schlesinger, John Hubley, Paul Winchell, John C. Reilly, Ian McKellen, Matt Stone, Danny Elfman, Milt Neill, Clint Eastwood, Mel Blanc.


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