Thursday, December 24, 2009

Got Wood?

LIESJE: "You know what would be REALLY cool, Dave? What if we did this whole video with puppets? Actual puppets! No animation."

DAVE: "Great idea! Maybe socks? Like they're really amateur, handmade sock puppets?"

LIESJE: "Perfect! And maybe a few of 'em could even be made out of wood."

DAVE: "Great."

Okay, so maybe that wasn't our actual conversation, word for word, but you get the idea.

A while back, Dave Cowles and I embarked on a new music video for They Might Be Giants. A decision was made to not only build all the characters as hand-puppets, but also to construct several of them out of carved wood.

Neat? Hopefully. Time-consuming? Definitely.

Here they are, after a month and half of filling my apartment's living room with copious amounts of saw-dust and probably permanently damaging my lungs. From left to right, we've got Mole, Fox, Porcupine and, of course, Cat.

And here, following the same line, Rat, Raccoon, Bear and (O)Possum. Each will get his very own sock shirt with accompanying fabric/spring/felt arms, as well as button eyes and assorted other goodies.

The Bear is the tough one. He needs to have a month we can (roughly) operate.

Hopefully my plans of rigging his jaw up with fishing line and dowel rods will do the trick.

And yes, I know. The Raccoon needs a tail. And the Cat.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009


One of the greatest assets I had working as an ALT in Japan was dozens and dozens of handmade karuta cards.

Popular in most Japanese schoolyards, karuta cards can be used for any number of various games, the most popular (at least amongst ALTs) being the 'Recognition' type games (you teach them the alphabet, spread out the cards, each with a letter, and then watch as the kids fight over the 'B' when you call it out).

I had all sorts - animals, shapes, fruits, etc. - but I never had any as awesome as these! Found at a suburban Tokyo flea market by a fellow gaijen (though I'll confess we've never met), these cards seem to have been made for me. Japan + Animation + Yokai!

Mickey seen here getting along quite well with one of the hundreds of various Japanese spirits.

And here again, in quite different company. Apparently "ano ne no ossan" translates into something like "Mr. You Know Who." I won't make any assumptions, but the mustache is certainly suspicious.

Mickey is joined by a few other recognizable characters (Japan, well outside Disney's jurisdiction, tends to 'borrow' from them a lot).

Donald Duck, with neighboring "American Soldier".

Pop-Eye and Tarzan make a rather unexpected appearance, though I'm sure these were in circulation well before "Stitchu" won the hearts of all pre-teen schoolgirls.

And there's been no end to the appropriation of characters as you can see from this 1980's menko card featuring E.T. alongside 2001's Discovery.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Baby, It's Cold Outside

In spite of the weather this weekend I manage to drag myself to opposite ends of the island this weekend for two - TWO - concerts.

Friday brought the first (and more interesting of the two). A film screening followed by a short concert hosted by friends (of friends) Ian and Jade Marshal. I haven't seen them since I first met them in Toronto this past August (and it was a wonderful relief that they recognized me!).

The film? Clips of a documentary Ian is putting together about Peter Ivers. I entered knowing next to nothing about the man or the movement (honestly, it was the cast of characters on the guest list that intrigued me) and left probably knowing just as much.

After the film, Jeff Jensen, Doug Pressman and Co. played a few Peter Ivers originals, welcoming one or two guest singers on stage as well. I was told Doug had spent the last few days stressing about what he was going to wear. He finally borrowed a pair stretch-pants from Shari.

I can't remember her name but hot voice and great hair (though I've never been one for cowboy boots).

Jeff upstaged himself by pulling this kid up from the audience. I believe Jeff is saying something along the lines of "Well, now your shirt is off." This was followed by an interest in having him double-check that they were both still male.

As for the other concert... You really don't want to know. It was so much worse.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Where Cartoons Go to Die

Over a year ago, I took a job at a company out in Parsippany, NJ. Pay was good, it was traditional, hand-drawn animation and lasted a good three months or so. In fact, it would have been longer save for the fact that the ($1,000,000) project was canned about halfway through production.

Last night, while stiffing through my old hard drives, I came across A LOT of work in what can only be described as a Cartoon Cemetary, graves marked by folders and file names.

Here, some character designs that were nixed.

Here, some turnarounds of the final designs.

And a true gem, a pencil test of what may be my first and only musical number to date. All the voices were cast from folks around the office, including the hilariously crazy Greek Witch who enjoyed making voodoo dolls of the client.