Archive for the ‘tv’ Category

Friday, March 14th, 2014

Animation: The History of the Chipmunks

Alvin Show

I got my start in animation at Bagdasarian Productions producing the NBC Saturday morning Chipmunks series, so I’ve always been interested in the history of the Chipmunks. It’s a real-life rags to riches story.

David Seville

Ross Bagdasarian Sr. (who went by the stage name "David Seville") was an actor who appeared in Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window and on Broadway in William Saroyan’s Time of Your Life. He wrote novelty dialect songs, including Rosemary Clooney’s huge hit "Come On-A My House", and released a few records but his successes never seemed to result in very much money in his pocket. He bought a tape recorder with his last $200 and played around with shifting the speeds, coming up with a novelty song titled "Witch Doctor". He got the single released and two weeks later, he found himself appearing on the Ed Sullivan Show performing the song.

Chipmunk SongChipmunk SongThe success of "Witch Doctor" gave him the idea of creating characters with sped up voices, so he quickly knocked out a Christmas demo titled "The Chipmunk Song" and took it to record executives Simon "Sy" Waronker, Theodore "Ted" Keep and Alvin "Al" Bennett at Liberty Records. The label was close to bankruptcy, but Bagdasarian convinced them that they might as well press Chipmunk singles with the leftover vinyl pucks and labels in their warehouse rather than just turn the unused stock over to the bank when the business went under. Production commenced and in just a few months leading up to Christmas of 1958, the record shot to the top of the charts, becoming one of the best selling singles of all time. Bagdasarian won two Grammy Awards, Liberty Records was saved from bankruptcy, and the Chipmunks became a household name with children all over the world.

Chipmunk LP

In 1962, the string of successful Chipmunk LP records led to a television series produced by Format Films. Story man Leo Salkin was the Associate Producer, working closely with Bagdasarian and a team of story artists to sketch up animated adaptations of the record routines and new stories featuring the characters. In his youth, Bagdasarian would take road trips across country with his cousin William Saroyan, singing songs and coming up with wild stories the whole way. One eccentric character they came up with on one of these trips was Clyde Crashcup, an inventor who only invented things that had already been invented. Salkin expanded on the premise and created a regular feature for it on the show.

Record Cover

Ross Bagdasarian Sr. sat alongside Music Director Johnny Mann on the piano bench humming out tunes for Mann to pick out on the piano and write down as musical notation. Jules Engel was the Art Director for the series, creating simple stylized backgrounds that set the tone for the whole series. Alan Zaslove, Gil Turner, Rudy Larriva and Osmond Evans directed the series, substituting clever rhythmic timing and spirited poses for inbetweens and smooth animation.

Jules Engel The Alvin Show

Even though it only ran for one season, The Alvin Show was one of the best television cartoons of the era. It was unique because it didn’t rely on the crutch of dialogue to make up for the limited animation. Instead, the show was built around music, clever timing and design. Like UPA’s Gerald McBoing Boing Show, many of the musical segments featured abstract animation and modern background paintings. But unlike the Gerald McBoing Boing Show, The Alvin Show always remained entertaining and fun- never didactic or self important. The voice cast included Bagdasarian as David Seville and the Chipmunks and Shepherd Menken as Clyde Crashcup. along with June Foray, Don Messick and Joe Besser as incidental characters.

Alvin Show

Ross Bagdasarian Sr. retired the Chipmunks in 1969, but by then he was a very wealthy man with a booming grape growing business. At one point, Bagdasarian’s fields were the largest supplier of grapes to Gallo Wines. He passed away from a heart attack in 1972. His son, Ross Jr. took over the franchise in 1980, creating more records- including the album "Chipmunk Punk", an NBC television series, prime time specials, and an animated feature- The Chipmunk Adventure. The character designs have varied widely over the years. The current CGI models look similar to the first incarnation of the characters, which appeared on record covers in 1958 and 1959. This Christmas, Fox will be releasing a new Chipmunks movie, Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel.

"Are you all ready, Chipmunks?" "OOOOOoooooKAYYY!"

ALVIN SHOW PRESSBOOK

Alvin Show
Alvin Show
Alvin Show
Simon may have read the dictionary,
but he still can’t spell "incidentally" correctly!

Alvin Show
Alvin Show
Alvin Show
Alvin Show
Alvin Show

ALVIN SHOW GREETING CARDS

Alvin Show
Alvin Show
Alvin Show

Stephen Worth
Director
Animation Resources

Animated CartoonsAnimated Cartoons

This posting is part of the online Encyclopedia of Cartooning under the subject heading, Animation.

Monday, January 20th, 2014

Interview: Bob Givens- Grand Old Man Of Animation

Bob Givens

In November of 2008, Will Finn, Mike Fontanelli, JoJo Baptista, Michael Woodside and I were treated to nearly three hours of fabulous stories from Bob Givens relating to his half century in the animation business. I’ve included the whole interview as two Quicktime movies…

Bob Givens

You’ll notice that the kinds of stories that Bob relates here are quite different from what you might have read. When I first met Bob, I asked him if he had read any of the books written on the subject of animation history. He was blunt. “A lot of it is bologna. Those books are written by people who weren’t there… people who have never set foot in an animation studio.” This is a sentiment that I’ve heard expressed by a lot of the "old timers" I’ve had the privilege of being able to speak to. But Bob may be the last one left. We’re all lucky to have this opportunity to virtually sit at the feet of a "golden age" animator and hear about his experiences in his own words.

Bob Givens

Bob began his career as an Assistant Animator at Disney. His raw talent led him to be assigned to assist the Grim Natwick unit on Snow White. Please correct me in the comments if I’m wrong, but I believe that Bob is the last surviving member of the Snow White crew.

Private Snafu

During WWII, Bob was a part of the First Motion Picture Unit producing training films for the war effort.

Bob Givens

At Warner Bros, Bob designed the character models for the first true Bugs Bunny cartoon, "A Wild Hare", as well as providing background layouts and story sketches for countless Jones, Freleng, Avery and McKimson cartoons.

Linus the Lionhearted

Givens’ career continued to flourish throughout the television era. He worked on the first TV cartoon, Jay Ward’s Crusader Rabbit, as well as Clampett’s Beany & Cecil, Post Cereal’s Linus the Lionhearted and Hanna Barbera’s The Flintstones. Along with Bernie Gruver, Givens designed the classic "Raid Bug" spots for Cascade, and continued to work steadily into his 80s, retiring in 2001 after laying out Chuck Jones’ Timber Wolf.

Bob Givens

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David Swift at IMDB
History of the First Motion Picture Unit

Many thanks to Bob Givens for sharing his experiences with us, to Mike Fontanelli and Will Finn for taking time out of their busy schedules to speak with Bob, and to Michael Woodside and JoJo Baptista for producing this video.

Will Finn posts his impressions of the interview on his blog, Small Room.

Stephen Worth
Director
Animation Resources

Animated CartoonsAnimated Cartoons

This posting is part of the online Encyclopedia of Cartooning under the subject heading, Animation.

Wednesday, January 15th, 2014

Instruction: Chad’s Design For Television

Design For TV

Draw Me!Draw Me!Remember those matchbooks that said “Draw Me!” on the front? They advertised a correspondence course called “Famous Artists”. Everyone made fun of “draw Binky the Skunk any size but the same size”; but the truth of the matter was that the Famous Artists Course was no laughing matter- it was one of the best art instructional courses ever created.

Founded by Albert Dorne and Norman Rockwell in the early 1950s, Famous Artists had three courses… Painting, Illustration/Design and Cartooning. Each course consisted of 24 lessons in three oversized binders covering a wide variety of subjects. Each month, a new lesson would arrive in the mail. The student would read the program material, complete the assignment, and mail it back to the school, where a professional artist would critique it and offer suggestions.

FA BindersFA BindersTo design the courses, Dorne brought together the top artists of the day… Stevan Dohanos, Rube Goldberg, Milton Caniff, Al Capp, Willard Mullen, Virgil Partch, and Whitney Darrow Jr, among others. The result was a correspondence course that puts many current university programs to shame.

There were two editions of the Famous Artists Courses. The first was published in the early fifties, and the second was published almost 10 years later. There were differences between the two, especially in the Design/Illustration course. A concluding chapter written by the cartoonist known simply as “Chad” was added in the second edition. It deals with design for television.

Hoppy the Marvel BunnyHoppy the Marvel BunnyChad (last name Grothkopf) was eminently qualified to write this chapter. After leaving the Disney Studios in 1938, he was hired by NBC to create the very first commercials for television. At this time, there were approximately fifty television sets in the entire country! Chad also worked in comic books, most notably in Fawcett’s Funny Animals series, for which he created the character “Hoppy the Marvel Bunny”, a rabbit superhero. He passed away in January of 2005 at the age of 89.

The ASIFA-Hollywood Animation Archive is fortunate to have a complete set of the Famous Artists courses, and we began digitizing them for inclusion in the database today. The first article we scanned was Chad’s introduction to the TV design chapter, and his discussion of the storyboard. These scans are quite large, but the size was necessary to clearly reproduce the text and details in this fascinating article. I hope you find them useful.

Design For TV
Design For TV
Design For TV
Design For TV
Design For TV
Design For TV
Design For TV
Design For TV
Design For TV
Design For TV

"In this ever-growing field of television, the visual language is supreme, and the artist is the king. So far, there are no famous artists in this young medium. Maybe you will be one of them." –Chad (1960)

The Famous Artists school is still in operation. Visit their website at www.famous-artists-school.com.

Stephen Worth
Director
Animation Resources

INSTRUCTIONINSTRUCTION

This posting is part of an online series of articles dealing with Instruction.