Monday, May 12, 2014

This Month in Animation

... brought to you by President Emeritus Tom Sito:


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

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

May 1, 1999 - Spongebob Squarepants debuted on Nickelodeon.

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

May 3, 1969 - Ground breaking for the California Institute of the Arts in Valencia. ...


May 4, 1927 - The Motion Picture Academy of Arts & Sciences 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 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 was settled several weeks later when parent company Paramount forced Max to recognize their union.

May 8, 1943 - Tex Avery’s “Red Hot Riding Hood” debuts. It is one of Avery’s most popular cartoons, inspiring several of his own “sequel” shorts as well as influencing other cartoons and feature films for years afterward.

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

May 17, 1941 - The Looney 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 Animation's "Shrek" opened. Earning $484.4 million at the worldwide box office, the film was a critical and commercial success. Shrek won the first ever Academy Award for Best Animated Feature and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay.

May 18, 2003 - Pixar’s "Finding Nemo" opened. The film received widespread critical acclaim, won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, and was nominated in three more categories including Best Original Screenplay.

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

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 "The Rescuers" went to VHS video, they edited out the controversial frame. But when it was time in 2003 to re-release on DVD, the Studio apparatchiks went back to the original 1977 negative, without ever bothering to consult any of the artists. On May 20, 2003, nine million copies of the "The Rescuers" DVD hit the stores, with the ensuing public outcry, and embarrassed apologies you might imagine. **

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

May 23, 1931 - In Max Fleischer’s "Silly Scandals", the girl character first seen in Dizzy Dishes is now called Betty Boop.

May 27, 1933- Walt Disney’s The Three Little Pigs premiered, whose song “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf” became a national anthem of recovery from the Depression.

May 29, 1941- THE WALT DISNEY CARTOONISTS STRIKE. Animators go out after Walt refused to recognize their union and fired 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 “ruff-stuff” 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 was eventually settled by federal arbitration and a little arm twisting by the Bank of America. Walt recognized our union and most base salaries doubled. Many of the artists who left the studio afterwards set up U.P.A. and pioneered the 1950’s style.

** A small addendum to "The Playmate in the Window" in The Rescuers: It was never clear to me if the background or camera department inserted the Playmate centerfold in the window of a building that the albatross and his mouse passengers fly past. (Maybe the departments collaborated?)

What IS clear, because I viewed it first-hand, is that Miss April (or whichever month she was) could be viewed on the VHS version of the feature.


Greg Manwaring said...

I enjoyed playing a small role, along with James Parris in the forming of the Orlando Union. Hopefully the artists benefited from it.

Steve Hulett said...

They absolutely did. A shame it couldn't have gone on longer.

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