Thursday, September 08, 2005


SPECIAL ARTICLE! Suite 101 Installment #1

Well, here’s the first of a series of Suite101 installments, which I expect will extend into next month. I authored over fifty of these bitches, so at two or three a day some of you may get tuned out. Nevertheless, there was some interest for these articles, so I said to myself, “What the hell?”

Furthermore, these articles will appear on here unabridged. That means--no touch-ups, rewrites, or edits of any kind. The articles look the same as the day I wrote them, and that is exactly how I want them presented to you. Warts, misspelled words, non-grammatical, non-sensical sentences and all.

Here goes.

The Legitimacy of Animation

Author: Enoch Allen
Published on: July 29, 2002

Page 1

by Enoch Allen

Okay, allow me to demonstrate what the title of this article means. It has nothing to do with minorities in Animation (the “cartoon” industry, in fact, is very diverse culturally) and, it has little to do with the state of the quality of animation (that’s another article).

It has something to do with Animation’s IMAGE.

If you went to see “Hey! Arnold” a couple of weeks ago, did you have the feeling that you were in for viewing a picture as sophisticated as “The Road to Perdition”? I suspected as such. Or, let me adjust my demonstration to include “The Powerpuff Girls”. Is your answer still a resounding “No”?

If it is, then you know what I’m getting at. And, by the way, both of these pictures did very mediocre business at the box-office.

The majority of the animated offerings released this year were aimed at kids. And, it didn’t help that the Academy ghettoized animation by giving the genre its own category, instead of letting it rightfully compete with its live-action counterparts. Films such as “Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron” and “Lilo & Stitch”, while excellently made, only served to stunt the potential of the medium.

As artists and as writers, if we wish to add weight to our side of the scale, we might be putting forth a little more effort to curb the trend of the “kiddie film”. Animators such as Bill Plympton and Bruce Timm, and writers such as Micah Wright and Paul Dini have showed us how far we could go--if only we’d be willing to travel the distance. There are hurdles, of course.

Like studio executives, whose eyes are glued to either one of these two things: the bottom line, and the Nielsen ratings (for television). Or even audiences themselves, who support the shoddiness and the banality that characterizes animation’s Poor Side.

Sometimes, even us. We can be our own worst enemy, in our quest to climb up that long ladder to success. In fact, to the point where we’d be destroying the unique creative visions of others. We must stem that ambition.

In animation, there needs to be more adult characterizations (i.e. housewives, businesspeople, doctors, lawyers, etc.), more sophisticated plotting (cutting the funny business of substituting situation for legitimate story structure), and higher production values (as in, not “Teamo Supremo” crap). If animators can achieve the above, they would be taking the entire genre a step closer to legitimacy.

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(Thanks to,, and for the information provided, that made this article possible.)

Suite 101 #2

The Defenders of Originality, Pt. 1

Author: Enoch Allen
Published on: August 1, 2002

Page 1

By Enoch Allen

John Lasseter. Hayao Miyazaki. John Kricfalusi. Don Bluth. Ward Kimball. Ever heard of ‘em?

Well, you should’ve. They are responsible for some of the most original pieces of animation ever created, or imagined. At a great toll to their lives and their families, they have given some of us a reason to wake up in the morning, a reason to look at television, a reason to go to the movies. For a select few of us, they have given us a reason to live.

They have sacrificed so much, so that they might satisfy our insatiable need to be entertained. I’d like to explore the accomplishments of these animators, and how they contributed to the uniqueness of animation. Would you like to explore their accomplishments with me? (Part One will profile John Lasseter and Hayao Miyazaki, and Part Two will cover John Kricfalusi, Don Bluth, and Ward Kimball.)

John Lasseter--Creator of “Toy Story”, “A Bug’s Life”, and “Toy Story 2”. Like any kid, the cartoon fertilized his imagination. Saturday morning cartoons, to be accurate. His mother, an art teacher, supported his ambition to become involved with animation. After high school, Lasseter attended the California Institute of the Arts in Valencia, CA, along with such notable animators as John Musker, Chris Buck (“Tarzan”) and Brad Bird (“The Iron Giant”). His two student films won awards, back to back. Lasseter was then subsequently snapped up by Disney, and he worked there for five years.

He worked for Disney at a time when Disney wasn’t concentrating on distinguishing animation from its contenders. Their output during this time period (“The Fox and the Hound”, “The Black Cauldron”) was dismal. Eventually, Lasseter found his way into the Lucas Film Computer Division, where the great visionary George Lucas challenged Lasseter’s way of thinking (he was still in the Disney mindset). Lasseter--at first--believed that only backgrounds could be modeled on a computer, while Lucas posited that characters and backgrounds could both be animated (this was later evidenced in the second set of “Star Wars” movies, where computers were used extensively). Lasseter more or less adopted Lucas’s idealism and in 1986, Pixar was born. And so was Lasseter’s imagination.

His first major feature was “Luxo Jr.” (although he had created a previous computer-animated short called “The Adventures of André & Wally B.”), which premiered at Siggraph--a convention designed to showcase the latest advances in computer techniques--to astonishing acclaim. Many believed that this picture signaled the beginning of computer animation. Lasseter then completed three more shorts before tackling what was to become one of the biggest achievements of his career--“Toy Story”.

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“Toy Story” marked a departure from the normal animated feature. The computer-animated film had nearly no songs, and no simple plot or objective (like getting out of the sea, or becoming a man, or falling in love). “Toy Story” immersed the viewer into a world that was similar, yet unique, to ours. Therein, Lasseter broke rule No. 5 of animation: it’s supposed to be aimed at kids. It should have no complexity and/or sophistication. Lasseter gave “Toy Story” both sophistication and complexity, in addition to character and dialogue.

Pixar’s following movies were box-office hits: “A Bug’s Life”, “Toy Story 2”, and “Monsters, Inc.”. Disney movies, however, were declining in both box-office revenues and quality: “Pocahontas” ($141.6 million); “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” ($100.1 million); and “Hercules” ($99 million). “Mulan”, it could be argued, marked a return back to style for Disney--but it still did not have the nigh-intangible ingredient that made Pixar’s movies so successful: a great story, with imaginative characters.

Allow me to segue now, from Lasseter to . . .

Hayao Miyazaki--Creator of “Laputa: Castle in the Sky”, “Porco Rosso”, and “Princess Mononoke”. Now, most or all of Miyazaki’s films begin without a script. That’s right: in a press conference Miyazaki gave in Paris in December of 2001, he admitted that he goes into a film, virtually blind. “The story develops when I start drawing storyboards,” Miyazaki explained. “It's a dangerous way to make an animation film and I would like it to be different, but unfortunately, that's the way I work . . .”

Well, it worked for his audience. His films have enjoyed both critical and box-office success, but unfortunately they were more successful overseas than domestically. One reason for the outstanding quality of his films is that Miyazaki always focuses on the story, and its characters. Or, sometimes, his creations “tell” him what it needs, and he delivers accordingly. He confessed: “It's not me who makes the film. The film makes itself and I have no choice but to follow.”

Miyazaki, who was born on Jan. 5, 1941, began his career at the famed Japanese studio Toei Douga in the early 1960’s. His career was advanced on the basis of his ability to draw wondrous, spectacularly vivid pictures. He observed various art forms, and chose the form that he liked best. Although he makes animated films primarily for children, he believes that everyone can relate to them. Therefore, it can be said that his films truly have “universal appeal”.

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Miyazaki does not believe in doing the same things twice. Each subsequent film of his introduces a unique theme. His plots are hardly redundant, his characters never cardboard. He refuses to put out shoddy work. He abstains from targeting a specific demographic. Perhaps most of all, he is not a minimalist. The above makes him a preserver of originality.

(Thanks to,,, /lff2001/news/0, 1555,604658,00.html, and finally They have all provided invaluable material on these animators, who changed our perspective on things and perhaps, life.)

The Defenders of Originality, Pt. 2

Author: Enoch Allen
Published on: August 3, 2002

Page 1

by Enoch Allen

Hayao Miyazaki. John Lasseter. Don Bluth. John Kricfalusi. Ward Kimball. Ever heard of ‘em?

In Part One of this article, we examined the achievements of John Lasseter and Hayao Miyazaki. Now that Part Two has finally arrived, we might further pore over the accomplishments of those who bucked against a system that thrived on unacceptable principles. In Part Two, the careers of John Kricfalusi, Ward Kimball, and Don Bluth will be spotlighted.

John Kricfalusi-- Creator of “Ren & Stimpy” and “The Ripping Friends”. This is his explanation of how he got “Ren & Stimpy” on Nickelodeon (excerpted from an interview with Coury Turczyn of “I tricked [the executives]. I told 'em it was going to be unfunny, that it would be wiggly lines, nobody would be able to follow the stories, and nobody could identify with the characters. And they said, "Oh! That's exactly what we want!"

Of course, the above might be more/less the truth (I’m betting on “less”). But, it is indisputable as to how much of an effect his creations have on our fragile little minds. His fantastically demented cartoons are unabashedly adult, while “implying” that they’re tailor-made for the grade-school set. That’s one way we, as artists and as writers, can showcase the true potential of animation: by disguise and superimposition. Like John K. did.

Mr. Kricfalusi came to Hollywood in 1980, and found himself working on remakes of classic Hanna-Barbara cartoons. He found that either he had to do as the Romans were doing . . . or find himself unemployed. Many of the things that these “Romans” were doing involved bastardizing classic cartoons, and demeaning the art form. Another great animator, Ralph Bakashi, hired John K. to direct “The New Adventures of Mighty Mouse”, for CBS.

After a year on that show, John K. went to ABC and worked on a remake of “Beany and Cecil”, which was canceled in just under a year. Mr. Kricfalusi soon tired of doing what the networks wanted him to do, and so as a result he formed Spumco--an independent animation house. It was also at this time, that he conceived “Ren & Stimpy”, one of the greatest achievements made by a single animator in the history of animation. It was the first time that an animated duo addressed controversial, taboo issues--and acted in a controversial, gross-out way. It was a super-hit, but John K. was soon forced to cede control over his creation to the executives at Nickelodeon. Four long years later, he was able to regain ownership of his creation. “Ren and Stimpy” has found a new home: TNN, where new episodes of the beloved animated series will be airing in 2003.

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He has another good show on television: “The Ripping Friends”, which focused on obnoxiously-muscular superheroes who fight against misshapen villains and . . . well, I don’t really know what else they fight against. “What” is the key word here. This new series--while it may not be up to par with his previous work--deserves an honorable mention, simply because John K.’s style is maintained.

Ward Kimball--Creator of “Jiminy Cricket” character-“Pinocchio”; animator of crow sequence--“Dumbo”; Creator of other characters such as Lucifer the cat (“Cinderella”) and Tweedledee and Tweedledum (“Alice in Wonderland”); consultant to Walt Disney Imagineering. Ward Kimball first joined Walt Disney studios in 1934, when he was twenty. Back in those olden but golden days of animation, there weren’t many animated movies that you could compare to, and stack up against. Animation was fairly young--only, say, 40--and there wasn’t many, er, revisionists, so to speak. There just wasn’t much to revise.

But, you get the point. Much of what the medium has become can be attributed to Ward Kimball. His reputation enhanced Walt Disney’s. Yet, Kimball humbly admitted in an early interview that if it wasn’t for Disney’s tolerance and allowance for artistic visions that varied from his own, he (Kimball) wouldn’t have had a reputation to speak of. Two of the animated shorts that Kimball created for Disney, “Toot, Whistle, Plunk and Boom” and "It's Tough to be a Bird", won Academy Awards. He retired in 1973, being that he had left his mark in the industry by that time.

He also built up an entire collection of model trains and similar “locomotives” in his backyard. This collection was soon called Grizzly Flats Railroad. Thought I’d mention this as an aside, because the man had a life outside of animation, and interests that were independent from his professional interests.

Ward Kimball, as you all might know, died on July 8, 2002. When he died, he took nearly 70 years of experience and talent with him. Fortunately enough, he educated a new generation of animators and writers, who will become our preservers of originality.

Don Bluth--Animator with more impressive credits to his name than I could count, with eighty fingers. I‘ll spotlight on a few:Director, “Titan A.E.”, “Anastasia”, “The Secret of N.I.M.H”, “An American Tail”, “All Dogs Go To Heaven”. Okay, so Don Bluth was this direct descendant of Pocahontas (that’s the claim from the source, anyway), who was born into a family of seven in 1937. He lived in El Paso, Texas, in a very creative household. He was always drawing, always creating these impressionistic sketches--right up until he was accepted into the Disney’s Burbank studios, as an in-betweener (a minimum-wage-paying position--that some animators say, is so low on the Importance Totem Pole that it doesn’t even merit being capitalized--in which a person does the drawings “in between” the Animator's key drawings to flesh out a complete movement), and the first project that he worked on was “Sleeping Beauty”, from 1955 to 1956.

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For a while, he and his brother, Frederick, got into the theater business, and did some plays for a while, but he found it to be unfulfilling. It was, at this time, that he decided to commit himself, full-time, to animation.

After a lengthy absence, he returned to the Disney Animation Department as an Animator. He blasted to the top of the industry chain--by 1976, he was a Producer/Director. This second time around Disney (in 1972), he met a guy, seven years his junior. This exceptionally-skilled, witty man was named Gary Goldman, and the duo made some fantastic pictures together.

Allow me, now, to dramatize how their first independent feature, “Banjo the Woodpile Cat”, came about (I’m taking licenses with actual dialogue, but the general events really did occur as according to bluthd.html):

Don Bluth: “You know Gary, I’m getting tired of drawing stick figures without personalities.”

Gary Goldman: “Well, Disney injects a smidgen of personality into their characters. I--I mean, look at how “Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too” turned out.”

Don: (smirking) “Exactly. You know how that turned out.”

Gary: “Yeah. The long days of production . . .”

Don: “And the damn stress, Gary. Never forget the stress.”

Gary: “Oh God, the stress. Makes you wish we could make our own stuff, y’know? Be our own bosses.”

Don: (thinking) “You know, in speaking of that I did have this project laying on the table for a while . . .”

Gary: (shaking head) “Naw, Don. No f***ing way. We don’t even have funding.”

Don: “What, Gary? Are you so cheap that you can’t, you know, squelch two cents out of your pocketbook . . .”

Gary: “It’s not that, Don. It’s never that. I was just saying, you know, that it takes more than a couple of thou and pipe dreams to make something, truly and believably, come to life.”

Some time later, after this parking-lot discussion, John Pomeroy enters the picture.

John Pomeroy: “Hey, Don, Gary told me about this picture called “Banjo the Woodpile Cat”--you were workin’ on it?”

Don: (smacks head) “The blabbermouth.”

John: “I was wondering, you know, that I believe that you have a brilliant, innovative concept on your hands, and, you know, was wondering if I could get in on it . . .”

To make an epic into a to-the-point commercial here, Don let fellow animator Pomeroy on board for “Banjo the Woodpile Cat”. The production, utilizing traditional animation techniques, began in Bluth’s garage in the spring of 1975. The production was finally completed in 1979.

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In 1979, Bluth left Disney after he received funding for a feature-film project, a little something called “The Secret of N.I.M.H.”. Don Bluth’s resignation from Disney took effect on September 13, 1979--his birthday. How symbolic.

With Goldman and Bluth’s production company, they produced several high-caliber animated films, and each was well-received critically and publicly. Their animated films propelled them to almost-star status, though the duo were superstars to many animation enthusiasts. Then, came the beginning of many significant failures.

Let’s define failure, in this instance, as endeavors that don’t achieve their full purpose. It was not shortcomings on behalf of Bluth & Co., but the chain of events that made it nearly impossible for them to realize their full visions. “Rock-A-Doodle”(1990),Goldman and Bluth’s sixth film was plagued with production problems. On top of going over-budget, it was poorly marketed by MGM, and thereafter it flopped at the box-office. So did “A Troll in Central Park” (1993), “Thumblina” (1993), and “Titan A.E.” (2000).

“Titan A.E.”, Bluth and Goldman’s second picture with 20th Century Fox, was a well-made tanker. (Astonishingly enough, Bluth and Goldman remain on decent terms with 20th Century Fox.) It cost $80 million to make “Titan A.E.”, but the picture pulled in just over $24 million. It was devastating, but Bluth, as he had done so many times, got back on his feet. So did Goldman, but it was reported ( that it was harder for him to get over the movie’s box-office demise.

Because of his many failures, Bluth is less likely to take chances with producing high-concept, edgy animated fare nowadays. Bluth, in his own words: “The results were not great. So, it is difficult to jump on this idea, it is already difficult to raise money for animation. The most successful animated films are for families.” But, according to an interview last fall, he did not rule out taking another chance. “We'll see where it goes from here.”

Last Word. As you can see by reading about Don Bluth, Ward Kimball, and John Kricfalusi, all three took mighty risks that threatened to abridge their progress in their careers (or, in Don Bluth’s case, threatened to end it), for the cause of furthering the potential of the medium. John Kricfalusi refused to adhere to business logistics--to him, it was all about the quality of the art. Same for Mr. Bluth, in which he left Disney because of disputes with the quality of their films. These artists and writers, when it came to quality vs. budget, never compromised. Neither should today‘s animators.

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(Thanks to MckyFotoWeb/MckyFoto/DisneyBios/DisBio7. html,, lam087_1.html, dl_ward_kimball.html, www.,,, and Bluth.html. Without these sites, it would have taken me longer than three hours to finish this article.)


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