Archive for the ‘music’ Category

Tuesday, September 8th, 2015

Theory: Live The Fabulous Lifestyle Of A Hollywood Cartoonist

Cartoonist Party

Wrap party for “Toot Whistle Plunk & Boom”

John Kricfalusi posted a blistering post not long ago about popular culture and the upside down meaning of the words "liberal" and "conservative" today. If you haven’t read it yet, check it out. Here is my own take on a similar theme…

BingBingThe other day, a student at Woodbury volunteered to help build out our database. His name is Jo-Jo. He told me how much this blog, along with Eddie Fitzgerald’s and John K’s, has opened his eyes to how great cartoons were in the 30s, 40s and 50s. He had a sketchbook full of Preston Blair drawings and enthusiasm for Fleischer, MGM and Warner Bros cartoons. So I asked him what kinds of music he listens to…

“David Bowie mostly.”

My jaw hit the floor. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I gave Jo-Jo the best tip he’ll ever get…

Cartoons aren’t the only things that were better back in the first half of the 20th century.

Roy SmeckRoy SmeckMike Fontanelli stopped by later and pointed out that somebody should write a book titled "The Golden Age of Everything". Sure, there are things today that are incredibly great… computers, the internet, iPods, frost-free refrigerators, etc… but music, dance, illustration, writing, movies and cartoons were all better back then. Cartoonists should be aware of this, and they should absorb all of the greatness of the past. It will make them better cartoonists.

Today, I’m going to talk about music…

Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys

I know that someone out there is going to post a comment saying that there’s still great music being made, it just isn’t mainstream. I’m fully aware of the fact that there are talented musicians working today. But in the 30s through the 50s, incredible talent was a given. Performers, from the top of the heap to the bottom- from most popular to least- were all capable of making you do a double take and say “wow!”.

Fats WallerFats WallerWhen I ask kids what kinds of music they listen to, I usually get the response, “All kinds.” But “all kinds” usually turns out to mean a million shades of the same color… current rock music. There are so many names today for the same kind of music. For the life of me, I can’t tell the difference between rave, techno and electronica. In the past, there really were a million kinds of music… pop vocals, hot jazz, country western, big band swing, folk, rhythm & blues, bluegrass, mambo, dixieland, rock n’ roll, sweet orchestral, be bop…

I could talk for hours about this subject, but the best proof is seeing what I’m talking about…


Lucky Millinder

Lucky Millinder & Sister Rosetta Tharpe
"Four Or Five Times" (Soundie/1941)
(Quicktime 7 / 5.5 megs)


Collins And Maphis

Larry Collins & Joe Maphis
"Under The Double Eagle" (Tex Ritter’s Ranch Party/1959)
(Quicktime 7 / 5 megs)


Collins And Maphis

"Gray Goose" "Pick A Bale Of Cotton"(1950s)
(Quicktime 7 / 10 megs)


Les Paul

Les Paul & Mary Ford
"The World Is Waiting For The Sunrise" "Amuka Riki" (Grand Old Opry/1959)
(Quicktime 7 / 12 megs)

If you are a student planning to be a professional cartoonist, listen to music that relates to your work- read books that inspire cartoony ideas- watch movies to learn cinematic techniques that can be applied to cartooning- LIVE THE FABULOUS LIFESTYLE OF A FAMOUS HOLLYWOOD CARTOONIST!

By the way… Jo-Jo is a big Fats Waller fan now! And that’s not all… He graduated from college, trained with John K. and is a professional in the animation business working full time on Bravest Warriors now. Way to go, Jo-Jo!

Stephen Worth
Animation Resources


This posting is part of a series of articles comprising an online exhibit entitled Theory.

Thursday, April 2nd, 2015

Music: Coda- Remembering The Past

Adventures in Music

Count Basie

It’s strange how simple, off-the-cuff stuff can be so beautiful, it makes you cry.

Here’s Count Basie on the Jazz Casual TV program from 1968. Basie paints a picture of Kansas City and Harlem in the golden age, then dispels it with a laugh like the smoke from his cigarette. “So, uh… Where were we?”

Count Basie on “Jazz Casual” 1958

If you are under 30 and you’ve followed through this whole series of posts, odds are you have heard music you have never heard before and you’ve seen performers you’ve never seen before. But my purpose here isn’t to generate nostalgia for the past. My eyes are on the future.

We like to think that the world is progressing and getting a little bit better every day, and in the case of some things, (like science and technology) that is undeniably true. But when it comes to creative popular culture- music, dance, art, theater, cinema- the sad truth is that today’s world is a pale shadow of what went on in the first half of the 20th century. What do we have today to compare with the birth of Jazz, illustrators like N. C. Wyeth, singers like Ella Fitzgerald, or composers like Gershwin or Stravinsky?

Our culture doesn’t value creativity like it used to, and performances full of amazing skill and expressiveness are the exception not the rule. We see the “real life” of teenage know-nothings on TV, watch computerized explosions at the movies, and stream clips of kids falling off skateboards on YouTube. Music isn’t coming out of every door and window like Kansas City in Basie’s memories.

It doesn’t have to be this way. We have computers and the internet providing us the tools to create and distribute our work like never before. But technology isn’t enough. We need a collective cultural memory of the past to build on if we want to move forward. Today’s world isn’t that different in the ways that count. Audiences still want to be entertained, and they still respond to skilled performers. They want to be dazzled and impressed and see something they’ve never seen before. Let’s give them that.

Whatever art form you practice, develop the fundamental skills, think about what you are saying, create something new, and never ever cheat the audience. If you are an animator, use every aspect of filmmaking to put across your message. Music can be one of the most powerful elements of an animated film. Learn about music. You’ll be a better artist and make better films.

Stephen Worth
Animation Resources

Adventures in MusicAdventures in Music

This posting is part of a series of articles comprising an online exhibit entitled Adventures in Music.

Wednesday, April 1st, 2015

Music: 15 The Boffo Finish

Adventures in Music

Cab Calloway

Any performer will tell you, the way you leave the audience is the way they’ll remember your act. There’s no finale more unforgettable than the one in Stormy Weather.

Finale to “Stormy Weather” 1943 with Cab Calloway, Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, Lena Horne and the Nicholas Brothers

I’m constantly amazed at the “pop culture amnesia” that seems to be an epidemic today. People have forgotten some of the greatest achievements of mankind… and what have they replaced it with? Infomercials, current events clowns, celebrity gossip and patently phony reality shows. Now, I can already hear you saying… “Well. me and all my friends know about important stuff… all kinds of stuff!” Whenever I ask one of my archive interns what kind of music they listen to, I always get the same answer- “All kinds of music!” Then I ask, “Who’s your favorite country and western artist?” or “What’s your favorite opera?” and I get blank stares. It turns out that “all kinds of music” means “acid house, electronica, trance, darkwave, eurobeat, speedcore, etc.”- a million different names for basically the same kind of music. It isn’t their fault that they’re ignorant of the cultural riches of the 20th century. Big media has kept them in the dark so they can spoon feed them “pre-packaged, pasteurized entertainment product”.

The “good stuff” is all out there. You don’t need a fancy shmancy archive. All it takes is a “breadcrumb”, a clue, a YouTube video clip, an MP3, a name to Google- and this wonderful world opens up like a flower. It turns out that the world we live in really isn’t such a drab and dreary place after all!

Stephen Worth
Animation Resources

Adventures in MusicAdventures in Music

This posting is part of a series of articles comprising an online exhibit entitled Adventures in Music.