Tuesday, December 20, 2005

"Sisters In Arms" Cancelled Halfway Through First Episode

The "Women's Lifestyle Channel" has cancelled Chudleigh Animation Group's new series "Sisters In Arms" during the airing of the first episode, sources say.

Line producer Janet Wilkinson spoke to the press today, looking very tired.

"We made 5 episodes and we still have 8 in the pipeline!" she said, to a small gathering of reporters. "We feel the remaining shows, completed in a more limited style, will be saleable to any network who wants to make an offer. Chudleigh Animation Group is committed to making great shows- I'd also like to announce mass layoffs in the art department."

"Women's Lifestyle Channel" representatives stated that the solitary camera angle and the similar droning vocal patterns of the two main characters made them rethink the decision to air the show, after the switchboards lit up with angry and puzzled callers. Reps say that the first 7 minutes of the show where the characters fought about why men can't fold pants properly also contributed to its poor showing.

"Sisters In Arms" gets the greenlight!

I haven't read much of Sarah Halbermann's syndicated comic strip "Sisters In Arms", but now I won't have to, because it's coming to TV!

Janet Wilkinson, of the Chudleigh Animation Group has adapted this wry, sassy comic strip for the small screen, with Ms. Halbermann herself actinig as exec produer!

Said Wilkinson: "Many people see 'Sisters In Arms' as an obscure newspaper comic that amounts to two women talking to each other in a coffee shop (or any other environment that involves sitting in chairs) with the usual feminist-lite ‘Cathy’-esque humor, usually culminating in a final panel where one of the characters will give one of those reactionary “ain’t life a pip?” raised eyebrow looks to the reader, but I see it as much much more than that.

I see it as a recognizeable property.

What better style to bring to animation? The characters themselves may seem like nothing more than voiceboxes for the strip’s creator in order to complain about things like overbearing mothers and shopping or an attempt to make insightful commentaries about things which usually don’t end up being terribly insightful. But we see the central characters as a 'tabula rasa' a blank slate that the viewer can project herself into. Totally subtle. And we will have character traits created specifically for the show."

Ms. Halbermann herself is overseeing the animators, and really keeping them on their toes! After years of drawing dimensional-looking characters, sometimes it's hard for them to 'take a step back' and try a newer, more modern style. There have been plenty of temper flare-ups- but it'll all be worth it when "Sisters In Arms" debuts on the "Women's Lifestyle Channel" tonight."

Thanks, Janet! I can't wait to link "Arms" with these "Sisters"!

Monday, December 19, 2005


"Get me Adrian Fossbite."

These words, uttered by Producer Ken Leavings, caused a chain reaction that would take "The New Claw" from the flat pages of the funny books to the heights of animated television entertainment as we know it today.

As I interview this unshaven, straggle-haired man in his paper strewn office and coffee-stained hawaiian shirt, it's hard to reconcile the world-weary businesslike man before me with the entertainment powerhouse who knocked hits out of the park like:

"Invisible Crime-Solving Bugs"
"Radioactive Hillbilly Bears"
"Totally In School"
"The Night Force Defenders"
"The Hijinx Pups"
"Twins Times Two"
"Dracula X-Treme 3000"
"The Cutest Unicorn In Daffodasia"

Yes, this titan of television was prepared to work his magic on a superhero with lobster hands!

ME: So tell me, Adrian, what makes you so amazing?

ADRIAN: Are you putting me on?

ME: No- I just-

ADRIAN: Because if you're putting me on, you can hit the bricks right now.

ME: No, Mr. Fossbite, I run the website about animation-

ADRIAN: That one Leavings was blabbing about- right. Right.

ME: How did you get into animation?

ADRIAN: I dabbled in playwriting- then I did a couple of episodes of "Kingston and Kompany"- sketch show. I had a knack for taking what was topical in the day and getting material out of it. Did a killer bit on the "Swine Flu" epidemic, mixed with Carter's Iran Hostage Crisis. Even today, I can't stress enough to the young writers how important it is to liven up your material with topical references- the latest catchphrases, movie parodies, song lyrics. It makes your stuff CURRENT.
So anyway- one of the writers on "Kingston and Kompany" was moonlighting for "Truckboy" -cartoon about a kid who turns into a truck. He got me a gig on that show, and I found out that that type of writing comes real easy for me.

ME: What makes a good animation writer?

ADRIAN: Well 3 things. First, a good imagination. In live action you can have two characters stand there in a hallway and talk and talk and talk. In animation, that's boring. Dull. Animation can do anything, right? No restrictions on imagination. What I like to do, see, is have two characters stand on the MOON and talk and talk and talk.

ME: Wow.

ADRIAN: Second, you have to create interesting characters- give them souls- the audience could care less about a cardboard cutout on the screen, but give the character a soul, and you're golden. For instance- not many people know this. I was the one who made Grandmaw Bear always eat corn on that Hillbilly show-whatsit,there...

ME: "Radioactive Hillbilly Bears"

ADRIAN: Right. Anybody else would just make her an old lady. But I made her into an old lady who eats a lot of corn, and talks about corn.

ME: I remember that! "Dadgum my coo-o-o-o-o-orn!" (laughing)

ADRIAN: (laughing) Right. Originally I wanted her to be drinking corn squeezings-

ME: What's that?

ADRIAN: Corn squeezings, like moonshine- booze.

ME: right.

ADRIAN: But the BS&P wouldn't allow it, so I put on the old thinking cap, and changed it to corn, and the rest, as they say, is history.

(Note BS&P is industry jargon for Broadcast Standards and Practices-Animazing)

You always gotta give characters 'character'- like on "Twins Times Two" I always had Amy saying that line :"Super-Dee-Duper!", you know, that way you could tell the twins apart. Plus the numbers on their shirts.

And the third thing you gotta have is originality. You take something like, a plot from an old "Saved By The Bell" episode, and you TWEAK it, y'know? Make it something new, once you stick new characters in there. I've said it once, I've said it a thousand times, you gotta be original. For instance, old time radio is a goldmine. Nobody ever listens to that stuff, and it's chock full of plots. Jack Benny, the Shadow- pretty soon, it all turns up as episodes of "The Hijinx Pups". Plot is king.
If jokes get in the way of plot, dump 'em. If characters get in the way of plot, dump 'em. Audiences would rather know what the pieces of the puzzle are than hear a dumb joke or watch some cockamamie cartoon characters act as if they were alive. Your characters are there to set the puzzle pieces of the plot in motion.

ME: Anything else in the pipeline?

ADRIAN: I'm pitching a show I've come up with- should be a real winner. It's this kid see, in school, and he sneaks away from school to do secret hero stuff, and nobody's the wiser. It's something that's never been done before, and I think it'll give "White Kids Go To School" a run for it's money!

ME: Thank you Mr. Fossbite. After talking with you, I feel like I know more about cartoons than ever!

ADRIAN: Now I gotta go figure out how a guy with lobster mitts can scratch his ass.

As I made my way out of Adrian's building, past the used CD store with reggae music thumping and the Vietnamese grocery with ducks swinging by their necks in the window, I looked around wondering if the people on this corner knew- that as they led their normal lives, a scant few yards away, was the man who made television history, using characters like "Colonel Panic" "Maw Dawg" "Blipsy-Poo The Unicorn" and "Dippy The Cross-Eyed Dingbat".

Friday, December 16, 2005


see Part 1 below!

Here is a cover for "The New Claw"- the comic that got this amazing project on the fast track to television history!

Ken Leavings, Producer for this entertaining show, explains "The New Claw":

"Basically, there was this comic in the 40's during World War 2, about this superhero with lobster powers, called "The Claw". It didn't really catch on.

Fast forward a bunch of years, and the Fantastic Comics Group, the company holding the rights to this thing, well, their lawyers tell them that if they don't do something with this Claw property, then it's gonna lapse into the public domain. So they throw a team together and whip up "The New Claw".

It's really good. He's got these big hands, and can crush stuff, I guess. I haven't had a chance to...anyway, that book, the New Claw- that's what I grabbed that time when I went into that store with all the comic books."

What a "Super" story, Ken! :)

Part 3 Coming Soon!

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Producer Who Hates Cartoons Develops Show That Nobody Likes For A Network Nobody Watches Using Animators Who Would Rather Be Doing Something Else

Producer Ken Leavings looked skyward and said one phrase.

"Thank God for Telefilm Canada."

The lanky, self assured Leavings, public face of the animated property branch of "The L. and J. Hutter Corporation", was eager this brisk winter day to talk about success, animation, money, and success.

"So I'm walking by this store that sells comic books-some toys, but mostly comics, if you can believe that, so I grab one at random. That comic turned out to be "The New Claw"

What Ken Leavings held in his hands would soon occupy the attention of as much as 35 percent of the The L. and J. Hutter Corporation's 956 employees for periods of weeks, in some cases; months.

"Everyone was real excited about this. Turns out this comic is a big hit. Sometimes it sells 400 copies- so of course I'm thinking series! I always think series. Just not, you know, animated series."

After much negotiation, it was decided that an animated series would keep the contractors in the pacific rim too busy to outsource work to The L. and J. Hutter Corporation's chief rival, Toon Time, who had been circling the prod co for some time, eager to get their expert animation ability on "Love Pups".

"Yeah, old man Hutter really put the screws to me" said Leavings. "Of course I love animation. There's nothing like, you know, that Woodpecker, who laughs. That guy's funny. You can't do that sort of stuff in a big budget prime time live action show. With sexy guest stars."

With his eyes on the prize, Ken Leavings stalked forth to create an animated epic.

"I had just 2 questions for the creatives on this task:
One: Are you passionate about The New Claw? and
Two: Have you been an Ontario resident for 12 calendar months?"

---To Be Continued!

The French Make ART As Well?!?

A still from the new French Canadian film "La Batterie De La Vie".

I'm still reeling from seeing the new short film by Jean-Claude Phillippe DuPuis, "La Batterie De La Vie", a deceptively simple paen to mankind's ability to love and yet not love, see, and yet be totally blind, discard used batteries, yet never let them escape from the junk drawer of our souls (you'd have to see the film to understand).

Clocking in at a brisk 43 minutes, the film, done with crayon rubbings on used butcher paper, with a score by Montreal's "Mendiants Sales", a found-instrument troupe, concerns the adventures of a used battery, as it is discarded by one man, picked up by a woman, tossed in a trash bin to lay there for what seems like an eternity, found by an alley cat, only to transform itself into some sort of a magical thing and float slowly (oh so slowly) into the sky.

This film is one to be looked at, thought about, argued over, dismissed outright, rethought, then treasured for the ages with unblinking fealty.

It's hard to believe that a filmmaker this accomplished was just last year on the gallery scene, creating installations from broken hamster cages and piles of sand.

It is a testament to DuPuis' skill as a filmmaker that he is able, in under an hour, to make a sly parody of film itself that, to an untrained observer, would seem like the hack work of a boring drunk scratching away artlessly at some freehand drivel without a thought to tempo or audience endurance, while an "orchestra" of homeless crackheads smash glass and belch into plastic buckets in a weary attempt to replicate some kind of urban "Stomp" asthetic.

But it's not.

I get it.

I really do, and think it's sick. (Sick means good now!)

I actually actually liked it, and said as much to Miko, the 23 year old blonde daughter of the distributor of "La Batterie De La Vie", who is perhaps the film's most ardent supporter.

Hi Miko!

Quick-Thinking Producer Avoids Union


Producer Elizabeth Sheldrake today avoided the animation producer's biggest headache- unionization- by using her quick wits.
Speaking from the safety of her plant-lined office, Sheldrake, 34, had advice for her fellow producers while describing her run in with left-leaning communistas.

"I was standing in the hallway with a coffee and a muffin talking to one of my assistants, like I do every morning for about 3 hours, when I heard some of those people mention the word "union"- my mind began to spin!"

Sheldrake describes how she crept unnoticed into the room.

"They were on a lunch break or something- I don't know. Anyhow- they were all focused on this one fat guy at the front facing them- he was talking about offshoring, skimming budgets, unpaid overtime, you know, like they were BAD things. I knew I had to think fast."

Sheldrake lowered her voice as best as she could, to simulate a young man, and shouted the sentence that made the ink-slingers and computer jockeys forget their cartoon revolution.

"Anime is better than Disney style!" she yelled, then slunk back to the safety of her office.

"The resulting squabble about which style of ridiculous cartooning was 'better' got their minds TOTALLY off unionizing." Ms. Sheldrake said. "Next time the nerd brigade gets riled about who's running this outfit, I have another little distraction- I'll yell out that "The Simpsons" jumped the shark in season 5."

White Kids Go To School

I saw an advance screening of this today, and I have just one word to descibe it: Big Hit!

It's unlike anything I've seen before- a fantastically funny (yet touching) show, featuring 18 of the coolest pre-teens I've ever seen on a syndicated animation block!

The brightly-colored romp concerns the adventures of Mandy, Zeke, Joe, Kim, Sha'niquaa, Jose, Paul, Flip, Booger, his dog Avery (the name no doubt a nod to the old-time cartoon maker Ted "Tex" Avery) Frederick, Joanne, Cindy, Falina, Suzanne, Kim 2, Julia and Brett, plus their various friends (and adversaries), as they balance tasks such as talking while walking in the hallway, with talking while sitting behind desks.

In the screener episode I saw, Paul and Mandy overheard Joe, Falina and Julia say something about Frederick, Suzanne, Flip, Sha'niquaa and Kim, but they only heard PART of the statement, and a bunch of stuff happened, and everyone learned a little lesson about the evils of gossiping. Were those tears in this reviewer's eyes as Falina and Joe accepted Mandy and Paul's apology? Methinks there was a mote of dust in my eye...

On an ironic note, this show, while featuring a cast of mostly white kids, with a couple of minorities as backups, was entirely animated by Asians!

I've been told that future episodes will feature such adventures as:
-the 18 kids go to an amusement park and talk,
-the 18 kids go to a bicycle race and converse,
-the 18 kids go to the school cafeteria, where much talking ensues.

This is without a doubt one of the boldest and brightest animated sitcoms I've witnessed in many a moon.

Today's kids have more homework now than at any other time in recorded history, so after slogging through a day at school, talking to their friends at school, then coming home to do 2 or 3 hours of homework, what kid WOULDN'T want to blow off steam by watching "White Kids Go To School"?

Children's Book Loved By Millions To Be Made Into TV Cartoon Passively Stared At By Thousands!

I have it on good authority that the classic children's book: "Puppies, Puppies, Puppies!" has been developed by Fantastimation Animation into a 56 episode series debuting next season, tentatively tiltled: "Puppy, Puppy and a Kitten"! Joseph Lieberkind, CEO of Fantastimation had this to say:

"We feel that the puppy-centric aspects of the property fail to address the needs of the pro-kitten demo that makes up a high percentage of the viewing public. This is a great show, we're very excited about this show."

The book follows the adventures of three lost puppies who find their mommy at the end. When we wondered what other adventures will be in store for the four-legged scamps in the TV show. Mr. Lieberkind said:

"In all 56 episodes, the puppies (and kitten) will get lost, and by the time the episode is over, will find their mothers. This is the rythym set up in the first book, and we want to remain faithful to that vision. That's the type of thing that will keep the audience coming back again and again. That, and about a ton of dream sequences. This is a great show, we're very excited about this show."

As a fan of Fantastimations past triumphs; "Why Did The Chicken Cross The Road?-The Series", and "The Littlest Midget's Christmas Special-The Series", I can boldly say:

So are we, Mr. Lieberkind, so are we!

It's A Great Day For Toon-Tastic News!

Here it is! The first news blog ever about the crazy business we call animation! We here at "Toon"-ing In hope you love the cartoons as much as we do, and we'll all have barrels of fun!