The Case of the Disney Exodus

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Hey everyone, welcome back to our series on Animation! Last week, we ended on a high (ho) note with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. This week, we’re continuing to look at the development of other major animated film studios. 

There was a time when Walt Disney Studios ruled over all others in terms of animation. Even as other studios created valuable work, Disney was constantly thought of as the leader in animation techniques and innovation. It was THE studio to work for as an animator, and no other seemed to rival it. 

But, all fairy-tales must end, even for Disney. Today, we are talking about The Disney Exodus; an event that took place over the course of a few decades, but ultimately occured in the late-70’s and early 80’s, when animators left the studio to pursue other projects–taking their skills and ideas with them. Before we start discussing the Exodus, let’s take a look at The Disney Era. 

The time period of 1928 – 1941 is often known as The Golden Age of animation. To some, it’s also called “The Disney Era.” During this time, there were more technological advancements in animation than any other time period. To put this into perspective, this era starts with Steamboat Willie and ends with the breathtaking “Fantasia.” It only took Disney’s studio 12 years to make these advancements, and the world took notice. 

It’s important to recognize that part of this achievement came from Disney’s willingness to sacrifice profit to make his films the best they could be. 

  • One example of this is “The Skeleton Dance.” Disney could have easily stuck to making Mickey cartoons, but his ambition led him to show audiences a glimpse of what animated storytelling could be. This was a mood piece, vastly different from the thousands of cartoons that audiences were used to, and it planted the seeds for Fantasia and other films to come.     

While Disney was focusing on realism, other studios continued to animate in a more cartoonish style. Because animation is an incredibly broad topic, we will talk about the Studio cartoons some other time! 

Disney’s Silver Age

Throughout the 40’s & 50’s, Disney’s studio experienced its silver age, with classics such as Peter Pan, The Lady and the Tramp, and of course Sleeping Beauty. Even if the stories or characters seemed flat at times, it was the animation that lifted them up. In Charles Solomon’s book, “Enchanted Drawings,” he describes the scene of Maleficent’s dragon: 

  • “Maleficent hurls herself across the sky as a glittering pinwheel of fire, landing before him in a burst of flame. She shouts a wrathful invocation in her commanding voice, and the chartreuse fires that surround her explode into a mighty column of flame, higher than the turrets of the castle. The black form of the sorceress, darkly silhouetted against the fire, twists and elongates. The shadow waxes and solidifies, as if evil itself were coalescing in that inferno, and becomes an enormous dragon with a terrible horned head and glowing yellow eyes.”  
  • The mastery that Disney’s animators demonstrated in scenes like this is the reason that the studio became synonymous with animation over all the other projects they were attempting at the time.
  • Disney is responsible for elevating the standard of draftsmanship, and their realism in animation was unparalleled. No other studio came close to having their influence. For a while, Walt Disney Studios was the king of animation. 

The Disney Strike of 1941 & UPA

  • When we talk about The Disney Exodus, we often mean what happened with the studio in the early 1980’s. But, more studios were born from disgruntled Disney animators than we might realize.
  • Remember how we said that no one rivaled Disney’s influence? Well, one studio came very close. 
    • United Productions of America or UPA challenged Disney’s realism and incorporated social commentary. Not to mention, they infused experimental graphics in their work
    • Today we know of UPA for its most popular character–Mr Quincy Magoo. In the early 1960’s, UPA created the first animated Christmas special, “Mr Magoo’s Christmas Carol.”
    • In 1941, there was a strike at Disney among young men that were interested in the graphic arts, and they thought that animation could be used as a tool for social reform. They were unhappy with the restrictive, Academic style of drawing at Disney, with familiar fairy tales and an emphasis on humor. One member of this group–Bill Melendez–would one day be responsible for bringing Charlie Brown to life in A Charlie Brown Christmas! 
      • These animators eventually formed or joined UPA, which won an oscar for Gerald McBoing-Boing.
      • Cultural critic Gilbert Seldes described UPA, “Every time you see one of their animated cartoons you are likely to recapture the sensation you had when you first saw, ‘Steamboat Willie,’ the early Silly Symphonies, ‘The Band Concert’–the feeling that something new and wonderful has happened, something almost too good to be true.” 
      • UPA had its own style, but it’s important to note that it wasn’t as uniform as Disney. You could see the different influences from individual animators, and the varying degrees of light to heavy subject matter. They even did a short of The Tell-tale Heart!
      • Columbia shut down the animation house in 1949, and sold it to producer Henry Saperstein. He turned it into an TV studio.

The Death of Disney–an abrupt end to the Silver Age

  • The death of Disney caused a shift in the studio, as it would be expected. The films made by Disney leading up to that point were the work of many different creative people, but they all stemmed from Disney’s vision. The films were somewhat uniform, with a signature style and storytelling that animators were not able to vary from drastically. Variances started to appear in the following years, known as the bronze age or the dark age. 
  • Disney’s death ushered in new leadership that struggled to fill his shoes; the company and its films would never be the same. 
    • Walt Disney died on December 15, 1966.
    • Walt left behind future plans that carried the company for a few years under the supervision of Roy Disney. The Jungle Book and  The Aristocats showed that the company could still make great animation. However it was not the same dynamic company it once was. 
      • The Jungle book is considered to be the end of the Silver Age, mostly because it was the last film that Disney touched before he passed away 
    • Roy did make sure that Walt’s “Florida Project” would come to fruition in 1971, but EPCOT (Experimental Prototype City of Tomorrow) never came to be. EPCOT as we know it is not what Walt had in mind.
      • As for the movie business, from the late 60’s on, Disney survived in a lackluster way. There were even rumors that the company would be broken up and sold. 
      • Because the company had leaned so heavily into theme parks and live action films, when Walt’s creativity was gone, there was little “magic” left. This was the feeling for many for almost 20 years.

Don Bluth

  • In 1971, Don Bluth was hired as an animator at Disney. Disney had been gone for 5 years, and the studio had been putting animation on the back-burner so to speak. Live-action films were financially successful, and animation cost a lot of money to produce. Gone was the fearless leader that didn’t mind losing money for quality and new advancements.
    • Many of the animators didn’t question their work, but because he actually first started working for Disney in 1955, he had seen the way the studio worked before Walt had died, and longed for that leadership. 
      • Bluth said in an interview with Steve Henderson that  “Everyone was asking ‘What would Walt have done?’ Which is a strange thing for an artist to say.”  
      • Bluth worked on Robin Hood and The Rescuers and stayed on at Disney for 8 years. One detail that bothered Bluth while animating The Rescuers was that they were instructed not to paint the whites of their eyes because it would cost too much money. 
        • In the 1970’s, the 9 Old Men–the men known for animating Disney’s Golden Age films–were beginning to retire. There was no mentorship, and as these men left, so did their secrets of creating beautiful animation. 
          • This loss in trade secrets bothered Bluth, as the studio didn’t seem interested in re-learning them. Bluth and a fellow animator named Gary Goldman, knew that they would be expected to take leadership roles in the coming years. So, in order to get directing experience, they started their own project in Bluth’s garage called, “Banjo the Woodpile Cat.” 
          • Don Bluth described it, We would look at the old stuff, such as the beautiful water in Fantasia and ask Frank Thomas (one of the “Nine Old Men”) “How did you do that?” and he’d say “I can’t remember, did anyone write it down?” Little things like that would keep happening and we realized we were losing the war with art so we went out and pioneered again to see if we could discover what they had forgotten to tell us.
          • The men used their own equipment, and Bluth pulled animators from Disney for help. Some claim that this project caused a division between the animators at the studio, while Bluth maintains that the atmosphere at Disney was already toxic. He says that no matter how much he tried to bring the heart back to Disney Studios, the corporate side only wanted to make money. 
  • We left because the corporate structure was just too calcified and we couldn’t fix it, we knew they would be angry when we left, and call us traitors and everything else but we knew we had to, to try to resurrect what was beautiful and what Walt believed in and so that is why we left.”-Bluth
    • In September of 1979, Bluth and Goldman left Disney. They took 16 animators with them, delaying the animated studio’s current projects by a year. Their goal was to create a studio that rivaled Disney animation in such a way, that Disney would work harder to bring heart and soul back to their animated films
    • Bluth and Goldman’s first full-length animated film was The Secret of NIMH, an animated treasure that was tonally and visually darker than anything Disney had produced at the time. This film was a major success for the studio because it showed critics that this small, rival studio could compete with an animation giant such as Disney. It was, however, a commercial failure. 
      • A New York Times article said of the film: It’s just this ”old-fashioned” look -rich, fully detailed, opulent and painstakingly achieved – that Messrs. Bluth, Goldman and Pomeroy have sought to recreate, and in this respect, ”The Secret of N.I.M.H.” is something of a technical and stylistic triumph.
      • In the mid-1980s, Bluth teamed up with a man named Morris Sullivan who stepped in just as the studio went bankrupt, and they formed Sullivan Bluth Studios.
        • Sullivan saved the day by investing in the studio. Without him, we wouldn’t have films like The Land Before Time or Anastasia. 
      • Just as Sullivan Bluth was surging back, famed film director Stephen Spielberg approached the studio in the hopes that they could make an animated film. This was even worse news for Disney, as they were losing their place as the leader in animation. 
        • Together, Sullivan Bluth and Steven Spielberg made An American Tale, the highest grossing non-Disney animated film at the time. It even beat Disney’s current release, “The Great Mouse Detective”! 
      • Disney started working to get their footing back with animation, but nothing could stop Bluth and Goldman from making more successful films throughout the 80’s and 90’s. 
        • Spielberg’s success with Bluth also led him to create his own animation studio, Amblin, with releases like “We’re Back,” and “Balto.”

The Mouse-dom Strikes Back 

  • When we last left Disney, their animation studio was falling apart. Some of their best animators had quit, production was delayed, and some feared that this was the end. 
  • In came Michael Eisner (CEO)  and his partner Frank Wells (President)
    • They could see the untapped potential that Disney still had and set about revitalizing the company. 
    • Despite their initial efforts, Disney saw one of its darkest moments with “The Black Cauldron.” It was a financial and critical failure. Not only had the studio lost respect in the animation world, average movie-goers were looking at Disney a little differently.
      • Imagine how we feel right now about Disney animation. When we see a Disney movie is coming out, we all expect good reviews and box office records. This was not the case in the 1980s. 
  • While the studio was staging its comeback, a new film was set to go into production with animator John Lasseter to direct. Lasseter approached the powers in charge and pitched for a film that was a combination of computer and hand-drawn animation. According to Lasseter, they were not interested in this idea since it would not cost any less. They seemed to only want to use a new process if it increased the cost-efficiency of the project. 
    • After that meeting, Lasseter was fired. He was then hired full time at The Computer Division Graphics Group–an early name for PIXAR.
    • Much of the team that worked on The Brave Little Toaster would go on to work at PIXAR as well–some consider it to be a spiritual prequel to Toy Story.

Lack of Teamwork Makes the Dreamworks

    • In 1984, Michael Eisner hired Jeffrey Katzenberg to run the animation studios. During his tenure, Katzenberg put Disney animation back on the map and created what is known as the “disney Renaissance.” 
      • It’s important to note that animation was not the only thing that made the films of the renaissance so successful, but it appeared that the studio was returning to its roots. Before the release of The Little Mermaid, the studio was closer than ever to shutting down.
    • Producing what some call the best Disney movies of all time, such as The Little Mermaid (1989), Beauty and the Beast (1991), Aladdin (1992), and The Lion King (1994). 
      • During this time Frank Wells kept the peace between Eisner and Katzenberg, being essentially their counselor as well as colleague.  
        • Disney was doing so well that Katzenberg naturally wanted to advance his career within the company. There was a back and forth as to whether Katzenberg would be leaving the company before the end of his contract or not. There was also a lot of discussion about the amount of money he would be given or giving up if he left.
        • Katzenberg has said that Eisner promised him the position of President if Wells ever left the position in pursuit of another job. According to Katzenberg he said “If for any reason Frank is not here … you are the number-two person and I want you to have the job.”
      • When Wells tragically passed away due to a helicopter accident, tension came to a boil between Katzenberg and Eisner.  
        • Eisner made the decision to eliminate the position of President and force Katzenberg into resignation. He hired two people to take his place; Joe Roth and Richard Frank.
        • Katzenberg later sued the DIsney company and cost them $270 million dollars.
      • Once he was let go from Disney he formed a studio called Dreamworks SKG  with David Geffen and Steven Spielberg. All of whom called Eisner “Machiavellian.” 
        • This is where the story gets interesting.  According to Steve Jobs and John Lasseter, of Pixar, they had pitched the movie concept for “A Bug’s Life” before Katzenberg left Disney. Katzenberg still claims today that he knew nothing about their pitch. His claim is a little hard to believe since Dreamworks’ first movie was “Antz” which had a very similar storyline and name. Recently some new light was shed by Chris Weitz, a writer behind Antz. In an interview with Huffpost he said “We didn’t know that there was that much of a race [to the box office] until late in the process,” he explained, “when it turned out there had even been a fake schedule, which had us completing after ‘Bug’s Life’ was going to be released. We’d been working on this accelerated pace without really knowing exactly why.”
          • Antz ended up beating A Bug’s life to theaters by just over a month in 1998 but made less in ticket sales worldwide.
        • While working on Antz, Dreamworks had also been working on what we would say is their crown jewel.  Released just a few months after Antz, The Prince of Egypt was a project Katzenberg had wanted to do for a long time but had not been able to undertake with Eisner at Disney. We discussed this amazing movie in our Top 10 Non-Disney Animated Classics.
        • Since its beginning Dreamworks has shown that it can and will compete with the Disney machine. They have produced such memorable movies such as Shrek, The Road to El Dorado, Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron, and Madagascar. 
          • Katzenberg  said in an interview that their mission statement is that they “make movies for adults, and the adult that exists in every child.”

If the Disney Exodus teaches us anything, it’s to recognize our own talent and worth. Imagine if these people never spoke out about their ideas? These men picked a battle with a giant, and because of that, we have a much more diverse catalog of animation today. 

In the fight of Disney VS Bluth or Katzenberg, neither side could be declared triumphant. Instead, the audiences that get to share in animation and storytelling are the winners. 

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The Case of Animation History

92236614_530486834546536_8476213886750556160_nEver since humans have been able to record images, we’ve wanted them to move. From cave paintings and carved ivory on strings, to the blurred drawings of Da Vinci, humans have been obsessed with their art coming to life for thousands of years. Today we refer to this phenomenon simply as animation. Animated films today are the most lucrative kind in the business, earning the medium more respect with each passing year. This week, we’re taking a look at the history of animated films and their evolution throughout early cinema. So bust out your flip-books, pencils, puppets, and clay; it’s time to get animated!

The History of animation

  • What is Animation
    • Animation creates the illusion of movement through still images. In this sense, it has been around since possibly the beginning of history. Paleontologists have uncovered carvings meant to hang from strings that could cast moving shadows on the wall. 
    • The Magic Lantern
      • In his 1645 book, “The Great Art of Light and Shadow,” Athanasius Kircher described a new invention called “A Magic Lantern” which was a box containing a light source and curved mirror. Later, he explained that this could be used to tell a story to an audience. Even though some considered this witchcraft, scientists continued to experiment with the idea. 50 years later, it was used to create the illusion of motion and the first animated entertainments were born.
    • During Victorian times, animation devices were a popular form of entertainment for children and adults. For example, thephenakistoscope” aka the “Phantasmascope,” or “Fantascope” used images painted on a spinning cardboard disc, reflected in a mirror to create the illusion of animation
    • These devices are credited as the precursor to animation, and more recently are thought of as the first GIF! Eventually this toy was replaced by the Zoetrope, and then the Zoopraxiscope invented by Eadweard Muybridge. Muybridge of course was a pioneer in cinematography, which we talked about before. 
  • How is it different from regular film?
    • According to Charles Soloman in his book “Enchanted Drawings,” animation is different from live-action film in two respects: the image is recorded on film frame by frame, and the illusion of motion is created rather than recorded. 
      • Live-action film is exposed in “takes” that can vary in length, and it is projected at the same speed that it was recorded. In animation, each frame is exposed individually
      • He goes on to explain that everything in animation never happened until it was projected, while live-action takes place once when it is recorded and then happens again during projection.
        • By this definition, recorded puppetry isn’t considered animation, but stop-motion is.
  • What was the first animated film?
    • In 1906, J. Stewart Blackton released “Humorous Phases of Funny Faces”. It is a three minute silent short, made with chalk, in which drawings of faces and people were animated against a plain blackboard. 
    • Blackton’s film however, did consist of some small parts showing the artist’s hand in the process of drawing or erasing images. It wasn’t until 1908 with “Fantasmagorie” that we saw the first short comprised entirely of animation. 
    • After many shorts were made, finally in 1917, the first feature-length animation was created. It was a film by the name of El Apóstol. 
    • Originally shown to a South American audience, the film ran for 70 minutes at 14 frames a second, for a total of over 58,000 frames. 
    • Not only is it considered to be the first animated film, it is also credited as being the first profitable animated movie ever made. (Not to say it was a huge success.) 
    • Unfortunately, the only copy of the film was destroyed in a house fire. According to those who did see the film, it was a political satire. 
  • Winsor MCay
    • After J Stuart Blackton essentially invented animated filmmaking, Winsor McCay showed audiences it’s artistic potential and inspired generations of filmmakers.
    • A respected editorial cartoonist, he once said “I never decided to be an artist, simply I could not stop myself from drawing.”
    • McCay believed that he invented the animated cartoons as flip-books! The newspaper would print sequential cartoons on thick paper for children to cut out and bind together as flip-books. They called them “Flippers.”
    • Looking at his comic strips, it’s easy to tell that McCay was thinking about animation. He would make only slight changes from panel to panel instead of using one panel for an entire scene. 
    • His first animated film was “Little Nemo” (1911) based off of his wildly popular cartoon strip.
      • McCay made four thousand drawings for the film on rice paper, and times movements to the second with a stopwatch.
      • This was the first animated picture to contain fully rendered characters, and audiences had never seen any animation move so smoothly and realistically. Some even thought that he had used live actors and trick photography to make the film.
      • McCay’s animations are considered to be 70 years ahead of their time. Some believe his greatest achievement was in 1914 with “Gertie the Dinosaur.”
        • This landmark in animation history was part of McCay’s vaudeville act, and she would seem to respond to his commands.
        • This laid the groundwork for delineating a character’s personality through a unique style of movement. McCay might not have invented animation, but he invented character animation. 

      • This time, audiences understood that this was animation and Gertie still exists as a symbol of the prehistory of life and the prehistory of animation.
      • No one knows why McCay stopped animating, but many assume it was his displeasure with what animation was becoming in the 1920’s. At a dinner in his honor he was remembered saying, “Animation should be an art and that is how I conceived it…but as I see what you fellows have done with it is making it into a trade…not an art, but a trade…bad luck.”
      • McCay’s films survived only by mistake, his son gave them to a friend of his father’s and they sat in his garage for years until uncovered by his son. The men worked to restore the film and transfer it to safety stock. They’re now in the library of congress. 
  • The Cartoon Boom

    • McCay bemoaned the new industry of animation as the processes became streamlined and animated shorts were everywhere. The novelty of moving illustrations had worn off and people didn’t take the medium seriously anymore. This is an attitude that is still somewhat prevalent today. 
    • Thousands of cartoons were created between 1913 and 1928, though only about 200 remain in distribution. The records of their creation have long been destroyed, as studios were constantly merging or dissolving; and because of the lack of serious attention, no one thought to rescue the records. 
    • Many times, more than one studio would use the same characters, and credits were given casually.
    • Four years after Gertie, there were a dozen animation studios in New York alone. Techniques that McCay refined were used to streamline the process, and Raoul Barre created a peg system that would hold paper in place on every drawing board. This system is still in place today!
    • Barre created the first animation studio and was one of the biggest names in silent animation, along with John Bray (aka the Henry Ford of animation because of his assembly-line techniques and animation factory instead of a studio.)
      • Bray also realized that any innovations could be patented.
      • After Earl Hurd patented the use of clear cells in animation, he teamed up with Bray and they essentially had a monopoly on the animation process and forced other studios to pay licenses and royalties. Much of what he claimed to own really belonged to McCay.
    • The most popular and successful cartoon of the silent era was Felix the Cat. His true creator was unknown until the 1970s. Otto Messmer, a cartoonist-turned-animator created shorts for Paramount’s Screen magazine with the then-unnamed Felix the Cat. A producer later gave the cat his name, a play on the Latin words for Cat and Luck.
      • Felix is all black, because Messmer didn’t want to draw outlines. Originally he was angular and dog-like but another animator helped him refine Felix to the rounded shape we know today.
      • What set Felix apart was his facial expressions and his unique character movements, originally inspired by Windsor McCay.
      • In the 1920s, he was the most popular cartoon character in the world.
    • Because of these silent animations, audiences were accepting of the wild expressions and movements of cartoons to come. As Soloman wrote in his book Enchanted Drawings, “Without Dinky Doodle, Colonel Heeza Liar, Bobby Bumps, Oswald Rabbit, Felix the Cat, and KoKo the Clown, there could never have been Mickey Mouse, Bugs Bunny, Donald Duck, Tom and Jerry, Betty Boop, and Wile E. Coyote.” 
    • Max Fleischer
      • He emerged in the 1910’s and was inspired by Winsor McCay’s Gertie the Dinosaur.
      • Unlike Disney, Fleischer’s cartoons were darker and showed the realities of living in the Depression Era. Although they were darker they also brought hope and laughs with them.
      • His philosophy was “If it can be done in real life, it isn’t animation.”
      • When asked about his art career he joked in his 1939 Biography that as he began art as early as when he scribbled on the wallpaper next to his crib.
      • He was so  willing and eager to learn about becoming a cartoonist, that in the early 1900’s he wanted to watch cartoonists work so badly that he was willing to pay $2 to sit and watch.  Luckily The Brooklyn Daily Eagle instead gave him the job of errand boy for $2 per week. This is where he picked up valuable information about photography and photoengraving. 
        • In just one year he was promoted to the Art Dept. where he would create one panel cartoons under the pen name “Mack.” He then began making multi-panel cartoons and became the youngest cartoonist as just a teenager, making two such as Little Algie and then also E.K. Sposher, The Camera Fiend.  Even at this time he was already planning on making moving cartoons.
      • Throughout his career he had the chance to patent inventions such as a non-yellowing touch-up paint but he never did.  His reasoning was to keep these things as a trade secret to make his work stand out and not be exploited for others’ use.
        • One item that he did patent however was the amazing Rotoscope which was simply described as a “Method of Producing Moving Picture Cartoons.”  The name of which is explained by possibly the literalness of the rotation of the projected film during tracing. It could also come from the name of an intaglio printing process called Rotogravure which Fleischer learned about at The Brooklyn Daily Eagle while engraving photos for the newspaper. 
      • Around 1918 Fleischer was hired by Bray as Production Manager, whom he had met while working for the Brooklyn Daily Eagle years before.  With Bray and his studio he worked on many projects but the most notable was Out of the Inkwell which consisted of shorts that were a combination of live action footage and animation.  His brother Dave was also involved and would direct these shorts.

        • In 1921 it was clear that Fleisher’s ideas were straying from the ideas of Bray and so when his brother Dave won $50,000 on a horse race he matched Max’s $800 in the startup of Out of the Inkwell Films, Inc.  This allowed them to pursue their own artistic innovations. Their other brothers Charlie and Joe also came in with helping with mechanics and electrics.
  • The Rise of Disney

    • Obviously the biggest name in animation is Walt Disney. But you already knew that. No one can question the impact Disney has had on animation and the film industry in general. 
    • It was all the way back in 1922 when Disney animated his first short film “Little Red Riding Hood.” 
    • The very next year Walt Disney arrived in California where he made a cartoon called “Alice’s Wonderland.” He would go on to use this as a pilot for a series called “Alice Comedies.” A distributor in New York, M. J. Winkler, contracted to distribute the Alice Comedies on October 16, 1923, and this date became the start of the Disney company. 
    • It was originally known as The Disney Brothers Cartoon Studio, where Walt and his brother Roy (who was eight years his senior) were equal partners. The name was soon changed to Walt Disney Studio, at Roy’s suggestion. 
    • Then in 1928, the one and only Mickey Mouse made his debut in a six minute short called “Plane Crazy.” However, the first short to be widely distributed was the famous “Steamboat Willie.” Critically acclaimed for its breakthrough addition of synced audio. 
    • The character was an immediate hit and a lengthy series of Mickey Mouse cartoons followed. 
    • With Disney not being one to rest on his laurels, he continued to innovate and succeed in animation with the release of “Silly Symphonies” in 1929. The series was crucial in giving audiences something to smile about during the Great Depression. 
      • “The Skeleton Dance” and “Three Little Pigs” are two notable entries in the series. The latter won the Oscar for best short film in 1933. 
    • Snow White
      • Toward the end of the 1930’s, Disney was motivated by a desire to reestablish his company as the leading animation studio. He believed that animation was strong enough to keep the attention of audiences for a feature length amount of time.
      • Brand new techniques were even used to create a realism in animation that hadn’t been seen before. They were first shown in “The Old Mill” which marked a defining moment in animation history and was at the time the most technically advanced short.
      • Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, was a huge risk and financial gamble for Disney. Many, including the New York Times, were skeptical that the studio could live up to the quality of its short films, some going as far as to call it “Disney’s Folly” and expecting a flop. 
        • Even his wife Lillian said “No one’s going to pay a dime to see a dwarf picture.”
      • Snow White cost over six times its initial budget as between 750 and 1000 animators were hired. The estimated budget was 1.7 million, and Disney even remortgaged his house!
      • Lucky for Disney, the film was an overwhelming success and set a new sky-high standard for all animated films to come. 
      • From then on Disney would continue to have ups and downs but never to the same worrying extent again. The next film “Pinocchio,” considered by many to be Disney’s masterpiece, would finally and truly solidify his place in animation royalty. 

Sources:

The Case of the Princess Bride

 

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Fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love, miracles.  Doesn’t sound too bad right?

Today we’re talking about the greatest love story ever told. It tells of a love so pure it can be simplified to three words: As You Wish. “The Princess Bride” galloped, soared, and lept into theatres in the fall of 1987 and has left a lasting mark on American culture ever since. So gather close and get ready for some adventure–and don’t worry–this isn’t a kissing movie. 

History

The Book

  • Yes believe it or not the movie is based on William Goldman’s book of the same name. He luckily also supplied us with the screenplay for the film as well.
  • Goldman was a master story-teller. His range varied from dramas, westerns, war, fantasy, horror, and much more. 
  • Movies such as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid(1969) and  All the President’s Men(1976) won him best original screenplay and best adapted screenplay.
    • Surprisingly his first try at writing screenplays was Butch Cassidy and the Sundance kid.  It was bought by Twentieth Century Fox for (at the time) a record breaking $400,000.
    • In an NPR article he reportedly told the New York Times back in 1979 that “I’m not a screenwriter, I’m a novelist who writes screenplays.”  This of course was after he had already written and adapted a whopping 10 screenplays including The Stepford Wives(1975) and Marathon Man(1976).  He would later go on to adapt Stephen King’s novel Misery in 1990 and co-wrote Chaplin starring Robert Downey Jr. in 1992.
    • When writing his book about the Hollywood industry titled Adventures in the Screen Trade it came with a quote in the beginning that simply said “Nobody knows anything.” Now isn’t that the truth? 

In his original forward to the book he discusses how his father read S. Morgenstern’s book when he was sick in bed from Pneumonia. He describes himself as a boy that loved sports and not books, so when his father wanted to read him the Princess Bride he naturally asked if it had any good sports in it.  His father replied; “Fencing. Fighting. Torture. Poison. True love. Hate. Revenge. Giants. Hunters. Bad Men. Good men. Beautifulest ladies. Snakes. Spiders. Beasts of all natures and descriptions. Pain. Death. Brave men. Coward men. Strongest men. Chases. Escapes. Lies. Truths. Passions. Miracles.”

Goldman was able to fool a lot of people into thinking that this was actually an abridgment of a book by S. Morgenstern (who does not exist.) He had so many people fooled that there is a scene that he does not include in the book that tens of thousands of people wrote to him asking him for it.  He had a reply that he would send saying that Morgenstern’s lawyers would not allow it. The scene was the reunion between Buttercup and Westley.

The letter to readers can be found here…..  https://www.hmhco.com/~/media/sites/princessbride/goldman-princess-bride-response-letter.pdf?la=en

Goldman had such a way that he was able to blend making fun of stories such as these while also reveling in the story.

He didn’t know how to rescue Westley when he was writing the book.  When Goldman realized he could not save Westley and wrote the words that he lay dead next to the machine Goldman cried and couldn’t believe what he had done.  This book is very special to him.

Making of

Rob Reiner after doing the Spinal Tap and The Sure Thing realized that people make movies from books and so he thought about ones that he enjoyed and called Goldman hoping to make his and found out that Goldman had been trying for years to make this movie a reality.  Goldman had thought it would never be made into a movie.

When at the first table read which was when Mandy and Andre met and were going over their lines for the scene when Inigo is being nursed back to health Andre was saying his lines really slow. Mandy would tell “Fezzik” faster! But each time he would say it at the same slow pace.  Finally Mandy shouted “faster Fezzik!”and slapped Andre. It worked because Andre got better at his lines and was able to concentrate more.

The entire movie was really shot in England with their base being Sheffield. The one shot that was filmed in LA was the close-up of the grandfather played by Peter Faulk saying “As you wish” at the end.

  • Scenes:

    • The Shrieking Eels
      •  This scene was done in a tank where they used forced perspective to create the illusion of the boat that was gaining on them.
    • Cliffs of Insanity
      • These were done using a combination of a matte painting, a sound stage for close-ups when they climb, and the actual Cliffs of Moore in Ireland.
    • The Duel Sequence
      •  Not only is this an awesome scene to watch because you have Inigo Montoya and the Man in Black fighting but also because in all the sword fighting shots it is the actual actors of Carey Elwes and Mandy Patinkin. The only instances it is stunt doubles is when they do their flips or jumps.  Anytime there was down-time on set these two would practice.
    • Battle of Wits
      • “You’ve fell victim to one of the classic blunders! The most famous is never get involved in a land war in Asia, but only slightly less well known is this; never go in against a Sicilian, when death is on the line!” Is a small jab at the Vietnam war.
    • Fire Swamp- 
      • The swamp was the most expensive.  When her dress caught fire, even though he knew it was going to happen, William Goldman screamed her dress was on Fire!
      • Always a discussion about how much blood there should be. You need it to be good for adults and kids. There was a lot of talk before shooting the swamp scenes about this.
      • The voices of the ROUS’s were done by Rob Reiner with added technical changes.
      • One of the guys in the rat suit had been pulled over and booked and so they had to go and get him out to shoot the scene. (Took inspiration from Douglas Fairbanks movies)
      • After the fire swamp Chris Guest actually does hit Elwes on the head so they had to stop shooting and take him to the hospital
    • Mawwiage Scene
      • Mawiaage is what bwings us togever twoday. It came from a very famous Chicago Rabbi that Goldman could not remember the name of. He was at a wedding when he was a boy and got the giggles because the Rabbi said “A Dweam within a Dweam.”
    • Inigo Montoya Famous line
      • Mandy Patinkin did not think that this line would be as big as it is today.  The line at the time did strike a chord with Mandy Patinkin because he lost his father to cancer. So in that scene it was like he killed the cancer that got his dad.
    • The Ending Credits 
      • Reiner thought that with the kind of movie that it was the best kind of credits to go along with the movie are what is called Curtain Call Credits where they clip from the movie with the actor and then a close-up with their name credit and character name.

Starring

  • Cary Elwes/ Westley and the Man in Black
    • His idea to have the little mustache
  • Robin Wright/ Buttercup
  • Mandy Patinkin/ Inigo Montoya you killed my father….sorry habit lol
  • Wallace Shawn/ Vizzini
    • The Iocane Powder Scene was the first one shot with Wally Shawn.  He was convinced after that first day that they were going to fire him but Reiner loved his performance.
  • Andre the Giant/ Fezzik
    • He didn’t really read so Rob Reiner recorded his lines on a tape so that Andre could memorize them that way.
    • Andre’s back was not in good condition which made scenes like where he fights the man in black and catching the pretty lady difficult.  They had to have doubles, boards, and rigs to help with the weight.
  • Billy Crystal/ Miracle Max
  • Carol Kane/Valerie
  • Chris Sarandon/ Prince Humperdinck
  • Christopher Guest/ Count Rugen
  • Fred Savage/ The Grandson
  • Peter Falk/ The Grandfather

How it was received/ Impact it had on us and others

  • Money
    • The estimated budget for the film was 16 million.
    • They weren’t sure how to sell it because it includes so many genres so…
      • The opening weekend was only about $206,000 and the gross in the USA was almost 31 million dollars.  So overall the film did OK in sales.
    • It really hit it’s stride when it came onto home video and took off like a rocket.

Sources

Todd and Pitts

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I’ve heard it my whole life, from people I know and those I don’t. It’s a short phrase, one that ignites a fire in me every time I hear it: Women aren’t funny. 

Every once in a while, a movie will come out that “proves” the hilarity of women. Bridesmaids, Mean Girls, Girls Trip, and Booksmart all made it to the top of the list in terms of groundbreaking female-led comedies. These movies did not only showcase women in comedic roles, they were written by women as well (although Girls Trip was co-written by a man). 

But, women have been making audiences laugh for a long time, even if it doesn’t seem that way. In the silent film era, female comedians like Mabel Normand wrote and directed comedic films and starred alongside Charlie Chaplin and the Keystone Cops. Some of the comedic women from this era made a successful transition to talkies, such as the innovative and hilarious duo Zasu Pitts and Thelma Todd. 

Today we are going to discuss how this duo came to be, the lives of the individual women, and their lasting impact.  

https://www.amazon.com/Roach-Comedy-Shorts-Thelma-Pitts/dp/1476672555

History

  • Zasu Pitts and Thelma Todd were the first major female comedy team, with shorts produced by Hal Roach Studios.
    • Hal Roach Studios was a Television and Motion Picture studio
      • It was the greatest comedy studio of the 1930s, though people tended to look down on comedy shorts as not real cinema.
      • Patsy Kelly, who worked for Hal Roach, said that he was the best boss she had ever had.
    • It was known for teaming up Laurel and Hardy, as well as the group of children that would become known as The Little Rascals. 
    • Ever since Hal Roach struck gold with Laurel and Hardy, he wanted to create a female counterpart. He had had success with female comedians in the past, and it seemed like a no-brainer that audiences would embrace two funny leading ladies.
      • The issue with the male-led comedies was that women weren’t finding their slapstick antics very funny. In the 1930s, the majority of women felt that  their job was to keep order in households and in daily lives.
      • Film critic Leonard Maltin pointed out, “Comediennes cannot use the same material as comedians and get the same results.” Whether or not you agree with this sentiment, it seems to be a prevailing belief in the film industry, especially since the time of Pitts and Todd.
    • Pitts and Todd weren’t the first women that Roach teamed up, but they were the first ones that got the attention of the masses. 
    • Together they made 17 two-reel comedies before Pitts left the studio and was replaced by Patsy Kelly.

Before we talk about the shorts themselves, let’s take a look at their lives

  • Zasu Pitts
    • Zazu Pitts’ name was Eliza Susan Pitts. Her nickname came from the last syllable of her first name and the first syllable of her middle name. I’ve heard it many different ways, but she insisted that it was pronounced (Say-Soo) and that is how Thelma pronounces it in the shorts.
    • Zasu was a shy child, but she was encouraged to join the theatre to overcome her shyness. She learned quickly that her nervous facial expressions and mannerisms would be great for comedy!
    • At age 21, she went to Hollywood and made a name for herself in comedy and drama. Her forlorn expression was especially helpful in dramatic productions, though her drama career did not last. 
      • Some, even Zasu herself, thought that her shy demeanor and “unglamorous” looks were negative qualities. Zasu took those parts of herself and used them to advance her career in comedy.
    • By the mid 1920’s, Zasu was a well-established  actress. In 1924, she appeared in 10 films alone. One of them was “Greed” an epic drama. The director of that film believed she was the greatest dramatic actress at the time and claimed it was a tragedy every time she was cast in a comedy. 
    • But, when movies made the transition to sound, Pitts couldn’t seem to continue as a dramatic actress. She was even replaced in “All Quiet on the Western Front” when she unintentionally made the audience laugh.
    • Pitts leaned in to comedy, and made the best of a bad situation. She appeared in shorts and comedic features until 1931 when she got paired with the bombshell comedian Thelma Todd.
  • Thelma Todd
    • After the death of her brother when she was just four-years-old, Thelma Alice Todd wanted to be one of the boys to replace the son her parents lost. She was naturally funny and wanted to become a teacher, but after she won Miss Massachusetts in 1925, she was discovered by a talent scout and invited to study acting at The Paramount School in New York.
    • After appearing in an Ed Wynn comedy in 1927, she made her first Hollywood film. 
    • Her career was jeopardized when she was propositioned at a Hollywood party, and fired from a movie because she said no. (#metoo?) 
    • Just as silent films became talkies, the freelancing Todd found her way to Hal Roach Studio where she was cast in the first Laurel and Hardy talkie “Unaccustomed As We Are.” 
    • Over the next few years, Todd found success alongside other comedians like Charley Chase and Harry Langdon until Zasu Pitts found her way to Hal Roach in 1931.
  • Pitts & Todd
    • Hal Roach believed that Thelma’s brash, confident demeanor would play well off the shy Zasu. When the actresses met, they immediately became friends and filming was easy-going on the sets. By the time these women worked together, Pitts was a screen veteran and Todd an established comedian. Both knew what their skills were, both knew their characters as well as themselves. 
    • Thelma played the wise girl, often finding a way to get them out of trouble. Zasu was the less intelligent, innocent woman who often got them into trouble. 
    • Both women wanted the freedom to be in other projects, and Hal Roach granted that for them.
    • In an era of The Three Stooges and Marx Brothers, these two women broke new ground in comedy. Audiences saw these women in a new way. Remember when we said that women of the 1930s didn’t appreciate slapstick? Well, these two presented physical comedy in service of the female narrative. Although the shorts were still written by men, it was really the female leads that made them successful. 
    • The storylines may seem dated today, but by and large they are still relatable. Thelma and Zasu are two “modern” women just trying to survive in the big city. They have jobs, troubles with men, and almost never troubles with each other. They support each other, and they aren’t overly sexual or ditzy. These are women that could be living today. 
    • So, let’s talk about three of our favorite shorts from these two: Let’s Do Things (1931) On The Loose (1931) and Bargain of the Century (1933)
      • Let’s Do Things
        • Directed by Hal Roach himself, this was their first short.
        • This is a great example of how the women were there for each other. Thelma urges Zasu to find out what her boyfriend intends for her. She ultimately stands up for Zasu after being treated horribly by men.
      • On the Loose
        • Also directed by Hal Roach, this short had a cameo appearance from Laurel and Hardy!
        • This is an example of the women as a team, collectively agreeing that they are both tired of Coney Island. This short has great lines that poke fun at the attention that Todd gets over Pitts for her looks. The women both fulfill the wise woman role, getting the best of the men that take them to Coney Island. They are in this together, Pitts didn’t get them into trouble this time. 
      • Bargain of the Century 
        • Directed by Charley Chase, in this short the girls get a cop fired and spend the rest of the short trying to get him re-hired so he will stop living with them. 

After 17 shorts together, Zasu left Hal Roach studio. She was soon replaced with Patsy Kelly who in her own right was very funny alongside Thelma Todd. They continued to make shorts until 1935. 

Thelma Todd’s Death

  • In 1935, Thelma Todd was incredibly successful as an actress. She had a cafe, and was still starring in shorts alongside Patsy Kelly. 
  • She had recently been divorced from Pat DiCicco, a movie producer and alleged mobster connected to Lucky Luciano. 
    • Luciano was a notorious 1930’s mobster. 
  • On December 16th, 1935, she was found dead by her employee Mae Whitehead. She was only 29 years old. 
  • “Because Miss Todd within the past few months had been the recipient of several extortion notes threatening her with death unless she paid $10,000, and because no apparent reason existed for her taking her own life, investigating officers desperately sought an answer to the mystery of her death. Coagulated blood marred the screen comedienne’s features and stained her mauve and silver evening gown and her expensive mink coat when she was found. Her blonde locks pathetically awry, in the front seat of her automobile in the garage of Roland West, film producer and director, in front of West’s residence at 17531 Pasetano Road, less than 500 yards from Miss Todd’s cafe on the Roosevelt Highway.”
  • Suspects
    • Pat DiCicco
    • Roland West
    • Stalker
    • West’s estranged wife 
  • Over her career she appeared in 120 features until her death.

 

Today we have Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, and Broad City’s Abby and Ilanna. Before that, there was Laverne and Shirley, and of course Lucy and Ethel. But, none of that might have been possible without Pitts and Todd. 

Zasu Pitts

 

Watch their shorts here: 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2GLUliI0e8k&list=PLIrWJQzxB8BseeC3FeutO5nG4HdME7HWX

 

https://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2018/11/thelma-todd-zasu-pitts-female-comedy-team-old-hollywood

 

Pride and Prejudice

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This week we talk about a beloved BBC mini series, the 1995 Pride and Prejudice. There have been many different adaptations of Jane Austen’s books, but it seems as though this version has caught the hearts of many.  In this episode we have a very special guest, Em from Verbal Diorama!

We will begin with a little about Jane Austen, the history behind the BBC show, who it stars, and what it all means to us.  If we talk too much about Colin Firth, well it could not be helped!! 

History

The beloved Jane Austen book Pride and Prejudice was first drafted in 1797 and titled First Impressions.  The revised and final product, that is well known and enjoyed today, was released in 1813. All the books that she published while alive were done so anonymously, not by a pen name but simply by “a lady.” Or in the case of P&P “by the author of Sense and Sensibility”.

The four published were Sense and Sensibility, P&P, Mansfield Park, and Emma. Two were published posthumously and they were Persuasion and Northanger Abbey.

Jane Austen was born on December 16, 1775 in Steventon, UK and died July 1870 in Winchester UK.  Surprisingly there is not a lot known about Jane Austen. The majority of what we do know was derived from the letters she sent her sister Cassandra.  The letters, however, we only have a select amount of because Cassandra burned many of them before her own death. A few things we do know about her family is that her mother and father (George and Cassandra) had 8 children and that her extended family consisted of people from rich landowners, clerics, an apprentice milliner, an alleged shoplifter, and a bankrupt banker. 

Jane Austen was a fan of flirtations and for a time flirted with a young man named Thomas Lefroy.  His family expected him to marry wealthy and so they went their separate ways. This prompted the movie “Becoming Jane” which is an interesting take on what may have happened.  Like “Becoming Jane” many people dream of what Jane was actually like. It is not hard to do when the only thing we have to hint about her is a selection of letters. We do know that she herself had a marriage proposal in life to a man that she was good friends with his sisters.  She had said yes but then the next morning informed him that she had changed her mind (probably after discussing it with her sister.) She did stay friends with his sisters and he (Harris Big-Wither) ended up marrying two years later and had 10 children. We know of course that Jane never married and passed away in 1817 at just 41 years of age.

Making of the Show

  • The BBC has adapted P&P 6 times with this version being the most popular!
  • Premiered on September 24, 1995 and sold 100,000 box sets of it before it was even taken off the air.  The final episode was seen by 10 million people.
  • It was directed by Simon Langton.
  • It was produced by Sue Birtwistle.
  • Adapted by Andrew Davies into a 6 episode mini-series.
    • Davies wanted to portray the immense things that he believed was what Jane Austen wanted to get across such as love, sex, money, and betrayal. 
    • He also helped to take a 1996 book by Helen Fielding, which is a modern day retelling of P&P, into a 2001 movie.  A nice touch was that Colin Firth played the Romantic lead, Mark Darcy, in this one as well!  
  • Costumes done by Dinah Collin.  She created them in such a way as to keep it accurate for the time but also kept in mind how the 1995 viewer would perceive them.
    • Even the make-up designer did a lot of research in order to get things correct.

Starring

  • Colin Firth/Mr. Darcy
    • We have producer Sue Birtwistle to thank for her choice in wanting Firth as Darcy and helping to convince him to take the part
  • Jennifer Ehle/Elizabeth Bennet
    • Best actress 1996 BAFTA winner
  • Susannah Harker/Jane Bennet
    • The eldest sister
  • Lucy Briers/Mary Bennet
  • Polly Maberly/Kitty Bennet
    • Second to youngest but tends to follow the youngest around a lot
  • Julia Sawaha/Lydia Bennet
    • The youngest Bennet sister
  • Alison Steadman/Mrs. Bennet
    • Oh! Her nerves!
  • Benjamin Whitrow/Mr Bennet
  • Crispin Bonham-Carter/Mr Bingley
    • Best friends with Mr. Darcy and Jane Bennet’s love interest
  • David Bamber/Mr Collins
  • Lucy Scott/Charlotte Lucas
  • Barbara Leigh-Hunt/ Lady Catherine de Bourgh
  • Adrian Lucas/ Wickham

“Hidden” meanings within the book/movie

  • Feminist thoughts
  • Class/social status/income
    • Why Charlotte has to marry someone like Mr Collins to just be comfortable in life
  • Love in a marriage
  • Opinions of outsiders on who you should marry
    • ex. Lady Catherine de Bourgh

COLIN FREAKING FIRTH

  • She is tolerable I suppose but not handsome enough to tempt me!
  • The famous scene where he went for a swim
    • He does not actually jump in, they spray his hair a little with a spray bottle of water and then he jumps onto a blue mat while his stunt double does the actual jump in.  The underwater sequence was shot on a different day in a special water tank.

  • The change in his whole attitude when Lizzie first comes to Pemberley.

Sources:

https://www.bbc.com/historyofthebbc/anniversaries/september/pride-and-prejudice

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0112130/?ref_=ttfc_fc_tt

https://www.dailymotion.com/video/x6d9hbk

https://www.britannica.com/topic/Pride-and-Prejudice

http://writersinspire.org/content/anonymous-jane-austen

https://www.neh.gov/humanities/2013/januaryfebruary/feature/the-mysterious-miss-austen

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ef3TSkQxBIM

-Jane Austen: Her Life, Her Times, Her Novels by Janet Todd

How the Grinch(es) Stole the Case

Hey Cassettes and welcome back to the Christmas Case Diaries! This month we’re focusing on Christmas TV specials, but this episode is EXTRA special because we will be talking about movies as well. The 1960’s was a decade that brought us a lot of classic Christmas specials. Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, A Charlie Brown Christmas, Frosty the Snowman (1969), and tonight’s topic: How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966)!

 

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The Origin of Grinch

  • Theodor Suess Geisel, AKA the beloved Dr Suess, first used the word Grinch to describe a bird in his 1953 book Scrambled Eggs Super! The bird was called a Beagle-Beaked-Bald-Headed Grinch.  
  • In 1955 he published a short 32 line illustrated poem in Redbook, which was a woman’s magazine at the time.  The poem was entitled “The Hoobub and the Grinch.” Although this poem does not contain the same Grinch we know and love it, brings about the same issue of commercialism. In the poem the Grinch is able to sell the Hoobub a simple green string by making it sound like it is needed and thus goes on to say that the Grinch is able to sell the Hoobub similar items every day.
  • Finally Suess used Grinch in his hit Christmas book “How the Grinch Stole Christmas!” which was released in 1957.

Many believe that the Grinch was Dr Suess’s alter ego, even Suess himself.  There were many reasons for this. In a 1957 interview with Redbook he stated “I was brushing my teeth on the morning of the 26th of last December when I noticed a very Grinch-ish countenance in the mirror. It was Seuss! So I wrote about my sour friend, the Grinch, to see if I could rediscover something about Christmas that obviously I’d lost.”

  • To add to this Suess was 53 when the book was released, the same age as the Grinch and he was also quirky and disliked large crowds.
  • And finally to show favor to the character he even had a Grinch vanity license plate!

Making of

The director of this special was Chuck Jones. You may know Jones because he is a famous  animator, filmmaker, cartoonist, author, artist, and screenwriter.  Most well known for his work in Looney Tunes, Merrie Melodies, and Tom and Jerry.  He and Suess knew each other due to working together during WWII on the animated propaganda called  Private Snafu. Suess was a writer and Jones an animator. Jones was the one to convince Suess into making an animated short for his How the Grinch Stole Christmas! 

Story drawing by Irv Spector.

*During production however, Phil Roman (one of the animators) said that Suess was only there 3 or 4 times but that he had been there for the storyboard beforehand.

  • In the original book, there are only three colors: black, white, and pink/red. So, where did the iconic green Grinch color come from? Apparently Chuck Jones was inspired to use it after renting cars that were that color. 
  • Dr. Suess felt like the main character more closely resembled a Chuck Jones character than the original Grinch drawings.

Time magazine in 2013 named it one of the top 10 greatest Christmas specials from your childhood, along with a movie we just discussed last episode called A Charlie Brown Christmas from 1965. While both of these masterpieces took a lot of money to make, Charlie Brown pales in comparison. It took a little less than $100,000 to create Charlie Brown but Grinch was finally able to garner  $300,000 from an organization called The Foundation for Commercial Banks after pitching to companies such as Kellogg’s and Nestle.  

Not only did Grinch receive funding to make the 30 minute special happen, but CBS paid $315,000 for the right to air it twice on their network; once in 1966 and once in 1967.

The music for the special was done by Albert Hague.

  • Dr. Suess wrote the lyrics to all the songs, including “Fahoo Foraze” which was meant to sound like classical Latin. Apparently it tricked some viewers, and people called to find out the translation. It turns out it was just classic Suessical Gibberish 
  • When Hague later recalled his audition for being able to compose for the special he said, “Afterward, Seuss looked up and said, ‘Anyone who slides an octave on the word Grinch gets the job.’ The whole thing took three minutes,”

Voice Actors

  • Boris Karloff as the Narrator and the Grinch
    • Dr. Suess was concerned that casting Boris Karloff would make the character too scary. But, Chuck Jones chose him after hearing him narrate other works. 
    • Originally, there was no difference between the narration and the speaking voices in the special, so sound editors removed the higher pitches from his voice in post. That is why when The Grinch speaks, he sounds different from the narrator. 
  • June Foray (uncredited) as Cindy Lou Who
  • Dal McKennon (uncredited) as Max
  • Thurl Ravenscroft (uncredited) as the singer of “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch
    • AKA Tony the Tiger!
    • He was also the voice of Kirby in the Brave Little Toaster!
    • Dr. Suess attempted to fix the fact that he was uncredited by sending letters to every major columnist in America! Well, we know now. 

Grinch (2000)

  • The original special aired on December 15th, 1966! So, why did it take so long for it to get remade? Dr. Suess himself was reluctant to bring his works to the big screen. But after his death, the rights to his stories went to his widow. 
  • This was the first time a Dr. Suess story was turned into a full length feature film
  • Before she signed off on Jim Carrey playing the role of The Grinch, she had to visit him on the set of another movie to see if he was right for the part. 
    • The movie was “Man on the Moon” and Jim Carey was so deep into character that he had to do an impression of himself playing the Grinch
  • Directed by Ron Howard, he not only wanted it to be an adaptation of the book, but an adaptation of the original special as well. This is why he kept The Grinch’s green color, even though the character is white in the book. 
  • The movie did not receive a lot of critical acclaim, some believed the story and themes were too adult for a movie marketed to kids.
    • Jim Carey himself seemed to regret the amount of adult jokes in the script and wished that he had done more to stop them.
    • He maintains that all of his jokes were age-appropriate, and Ron Howard even removed some even raunchier jokes from the script.
  • What the critics did like was Jim Carey’s performance as The Grinch as well as the beautiful film score by the late James Horner.

Starring

This movie included many stars but here are just a few…

  • Jim Carrey as the Grinch
    • His costume was incredibly uncomfortable, including the yellow contacts that he was forced to wear. Apparently he even spoke with a former CIA agent about coping mechanisms for torture, as the suit was THAT uncomfortable and took an hour to take off.
    • He improvised a lot of lines in the movie, “Dinner with me, I can’t cancel that again!” 
  • Josh Ryan Evans as the young Grinch
  • Christine Baranski as Martha May
  • Jeffrey Tambor as Mayor Augustus Maywho
  • Molly Shannon as the mother Betty Lou Who
  • Bill Irwin as father Lou Lou Who
  • Taylor Momsen as the little girl Cindy Lou Who
  • With Anthony Hopkins as the Narrator

Grinch (2018)

Where the 2000 Grinch was too adult for children, the 2018 film fixed that issue. This movie is meant to appeal to children, with some older jokes and references. 

Voices of

  • Benedict Cumberbatch as Grinch
  • Cameron Seely as Cindy Lou Who
  • Rashida Jones as Donna Who
  • Tristan O’Hare as Groopert
  • Keenan Thompson as Mr. Bricklebaum
  • Sam Lavagnino as Ozzy
  • Ramone Hamilton as Axl
  • Angela Lansbury as Mayor McGerkle
  • Scarlett Estevez as Izzy
  • With Pharrell Williams as the Narrator

Sources:

IMDB

https://magazine.uc.edu/famousalumni/tv/grinch.html

https://www.cincinnati.com/story/news/2018/12/24/ccm-grad-wrote-iconic-music-grinch/2287627002/

http://entertainment.time.com/2013/12/12/10-greatest-christmas-tv-specials-from-your-childhood/

This one has great pre-production and production artwork

https://www.cartoonbrew.com/classic/grinch-stole-christmas-50-years-old-today-still-great-146646.html

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BvujUS8xfDk

https://seussblog.wordpress.com/tag/grinch-and-the-hoobub/

https://groovyhistory.com/story-behind-grinch-stole-christmas

The Case of Time and Space

Dr Who

Hey Cassettes! This week we’re taking you on an adventure in time and space. First, we’ll take you to London in the 1960s, when the BBC started production of an all-new adventure series about a doctor from another world! Then, we’ll travel through the decades and stop at 1996, when the network released Doctor Who the movie.

But stay tuned! Next week we will dive even deeper into the lives of the show’s “monsters,” the making of the reboot, and the messages behind the show. We also intend to take a longer look at the original show as we compare it to the new one!

So step into The Tardis with us and away we go!

Doctor Who is the longest running Sci-fi television series in history. It originally ran from 1963-1989; had a movie in 1996 and the show was rebooted in 2005

The Creation of Doctor Who

  • Doctor Who did not have one creator, which made it a show that could shift in format as-needed. Three very important names in its creation were: Sydney Newman, Donald Wilson, and CE Webber. 
    • After realizing that there was a gap in programming in early 1963, the chief of programs for BBC1 asked Sydney Newman, head of drama, to oversee a new adventure show.
      • Newman is also known for creating the much loved classic series “The Avengers”. 
    • Newman then asked Donald Wilson, who started calling meetings and focus groups with script writers. A lot of the show’s key concepts came from these meetings. For example: the idea of a time machine that also moved through space, the suggestion of the western-like format with one-off villains but a constant hero, and the center character being a scientist of some kind.
    • CE Webber, who wrote the original script for the first episode (before it was replaced) fleshed out the main characters with the leading character as, “a frail old man, lost in space and time,” known as The Doctor. 
  • Donald Wilson and CE Webber described the Doctor’s ship as a “magic door” where the outside is an ordinary object you might find on the street, but the inside would be a marvelous collection of machinery; They wanted the ship to perform similar actions as time machines from science fiction, but they didn’t want it to look like something from science fiction.
    • When writer Anthony Coburn incorporated Webber’s ideas into the first episode, he named the ship TARDIS – Time and Relative Dimension in Space 
  • The producer of Doctor Who, appointed by Sydney Newman, was Verity Lambert. She had worked with him as a production assistant in the past 
      • She was not his first choice, but he later recounted that hiring her was the best decision he made.
      • She was only 27 and the only female producer in the department
    • Next they appointed Waris (ware-iss)  Hussein, a young man only 25 years old, as the director of 11 episodes.
      • He also felt like an outsider as the only Asian man on set; Hussein was born in India and moved to the UK at age 9. 
    • After that, a veteran actor named William Hartnell was chosen to play the first doctor! At first he was reluctant to play a roll on a “children’s show” as Doctor Who was originally meant to be educational and friendly to all audiences

 

The First Episode/Season

  • The first episode was originally written by CE Webber, but was too technically difficult to perform. So, they replaced it with an episode called, “An Unearthly Child” written by Anthony Coburn, who took aspects of the original first episode and re-tooled them.
  • The first companions were Ian and Barbara who were school-teachers and his granddaughter Susan
  • Newman, however, was unhappy with the first recording, and gave the producer (Lambert) and the director (Hussein) another chance to get it right. In the first recording, the Doctor was too abrasive, and Susan, his granddaughter, was “too strange” 
  • After months of work, the first episode aired on November 23, 1963. The ratings were low, though there was a black-out at the time of airing. Also, the nation was still reeling from the shock of JFK’s assassination just one day earlier.
  • The show dealt with many difficulties. The show had an incredibly low budget for what it needed, only 2300 pounds per episode. The filming conditions were tough, they were forced to use old studios and out-dated equipment 
    • After the first season aired, the show was renewed partly due to the creation of an already notorious villain in the series: The Daleks. While the first season saw many adventures with an educational focus, the Daleks were a popular and exciting addition to the show. Isn’t it funny how The Doctor’s arch nemesis actually HELPED keep his show alive? 

– In 1966, the show runners were met with a difficult situation when William Hartnell’s health began to fail and he was unable to play the role. Story editor Gerry David and producer Innes Lloyd came to an agreement with Hartnell that he should pass the roll on. They didn’t like the idea of simply re-casting, so they came up with the idea that the doctor could change his face and called it regeneration. This has become one of the most genius ideas of the show, allowing re-casts whenever necessary. 

Who is The Doctor? 

  • When the show was still in development, it was Newman’s idea to have a young girl on the show, a teenager to appeal to the younger demographic.
  • When Coburn wrote the pilot, he made this young girl to be The Doctor’s granddaughter. This made Newman upset, because he didn’t want anything revealed about The Doctor. The ambiguity of the character is a key part of the show. The character is meant to be mysterious so that writers and viewers can interpret the show in different ways. We are not meant to see the doctor as someone that we understand, we are meant to see him through the eyes of the companions who have just met him. 
    • Revealing that The Doctor may have a biological granddaughter hints that he might have a family, something that the show has hinted at for years since but never elaborated on
    • We know for certain that Susan is not human, but whether or not she is biologically related to The Doctor. 
  • The Doctor is the only known survivor from the war between the Daleks and the Time Lords. The Time Lords were lost, along with their home planet of Gallifrey.
  • Much of what we know about the doctor is steeped in mystery, and it’s meant to be that way! Andrew Cartmel in the 1980s purposely threw in details to create more history around the doctor. This was known as the Cartmel Master Plan
    • Some of these stories were meant to suggest that The Doctor was more powerful than previously thought; that most of what we knew about him was wrong. They did this by dropping subtle hints that went nowhere since the show was cancelled. 
    • There is, however, a series of novels that used the masterplan; These were generally ignored.
  • Time Lords have 13 lives or regenerations (We know this from the 1996 film, after The Master was executed on Skaro)
  • The Doctor is half-human, as discovered by the Master in the 1996 movie. Later on the doctor says it’s on his mother’s side.

 

Why was it cancelled in 1989?

  • There is a large debate that the Commander of the BBC at the time, Michael Grade, purposely killed off the show.
    • He said in a Room 101 interview that  he hates sci-fi. (Room 101 is a BBC show where the person interviewed tells their hates and motivates the host to banish it to Room 101 in reference to the torture room in George Orwell’s 1984).  He also essentially implied it was low budget and past its prime. Many believe that because he hated it, he put it in a bad time slot and lowered the budget in order to justify low ratings and a reason to cancel.

 

The Doctors

  • William Hartnell (1963-1966)

    • The 1st Doctor
    • He wore a wig to portray The Doctor.
    • He was the first to give way to regeneration due to his failing health. 
  • Patrick Troughton (1966-1969)
    • The second person to play the Doctor.
    • Although he had a few ideas on how to play the character the final decision was on the model of a “cosmic hobo”. This was suggested by Sydney Newman and inspired by Charlie Chaplin.
    • He was known for being a bit of a practical joker on set.
  • Jon Pertwee (1970-1974)
    • He was known for his Edwardian Dandy style.
    • For the majority of his time as the Doctor he was exiled by the Time Lords to Earth and served as a scientist to advise (UNIT) The United Nations Intelligence Taskforce.
  • Tom Baker (1974-1981)
    • Longest to play the role: from 1974-1981.
    • He was known for his many colored and long striped scarf. This scarf had been a happy accident. A costumer was given a bunch of yarn, and the miscommunication on its design gave way to her making a very long and colorful scarf. 
    • Famous companions were Sarah -Jane and K-9 who both make an appearance in the new series.
      • He had a couple famous companions, one of which was Leela who often appeared with K-9
        • There were three versions of K-9, the third he sent to Sarah Jane later in the show so she could have a companion with her on her travels. There was a one-off episode that was meant to be the pilot of a spin-off show about her and K-9, but it didn’t take off
      • As he is dying from radiation he goes back to Earth to spend the rest of it with Sarah-Jane and regenerate.
  • Peter Davison (1982-1984)
    • At the time he was the youngest to play the Doctor-only 29. 
    • Known to wear a question mark on his collar.
    • The father of Georgia Moffat who married David Tennant
      • Both Tennant and Georgia Moffat appear in the episode “The Doctor’s Daughter”
  • Colin Baker (1985-1986)
    • Known for his very colorful costume and question mark on his white collar.
    • Since he was unceremoniously fired he refused to come back for a regeneration scene.
      • This was possibly due to Michael Grade not liking him. Grade was quoted in saying that Baker was “utterly unlikable; absolutely God-awful in fact!”
    • It is known to be one of the worst TV deaths.
      • In order to film the regeneration scene they had the next Doctor, Sylvester McCoy, wear a blonde wig.
  • Sylvester McCoy (1987-1989)
    • He was known for wearing a Jumper with question marks all over it.
    • His first appearance is in Time and the Rani.
    • He technically played two incarnations of the Doctor if you count him wearing the wig in the regeneration scene.
    • He used a slight Scottish accent while playing The Doctor. (He himself is Scottish.)
    • He played the last doctor before series was cancelled.
    • He is still the shortest to be The Doctor at 5’6”.
  • Paul McGann (1996 Film)
    • He portrayed The Doctor in the 1996 film
    • “I love humans: always seeing patterns in things that aren’t there”
    • McGann regenerated into John Hurt in a mini-episode called “The Night of the Doctor,” which chronologically would take place before the 50th anniversary special that aired on November 23rd, 2013. But, more on that next week!

Sources:

Hearn, Marcus (2013) Doctor Who: The Vault. New York, NY: Harper’s Design.

Doctor Who – Characters. Retrieved from https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/articles/Dl87bYjhKrF2MHQM7StFXQ/characters

 

The Case of Green Gables

In 1985, the Canadian network CBC aired a two part mini series about a feisty red-headed orphan with an over active imagination. Her name was Anne (spelled with an E) and she lived in the fictional town of Avonlea, in a house with green gables.

The series (or movie as it is also referred to) was based on the novel series Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery. Although there have been many adaptations of the classic story (Anne with an E for example), this version from 1985  is considered by many to be the best.

Hangout with us as we discuss how the series came to be, our favorite moments, and why the world fell in love with Anne Shirley.

 

  • The mini series first premiered on December 1st, 1985 on CBC
    • CBC is a Canadian English-language network owned by the Canadian Broadcast Corporation
  • The story is based on the children’s book Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery
    • The book was first published in 1908, and the series is set around the same time
    • The story is set in Avonlea, a small town on Prince Edward Island in Canada; Although Avonlea is fictional, it is based on the real town Cavendish
    • Montgomery based the story on her own life as an orphan child that was brought up by her strict grandparents
      • The story begins when Anne, a talkative orphan girl with a wild imagination, gets mistakenly adopted by an elderly brother and sister on Prince Edward Island
        • This actually happened to Montgomery’s cousins, who sent for a boy and ended up with a girl
        • Montgomery insisted that the only similarities were that the orphan had red hair and that her cousins kept the child
      • As a child, she visited relatives who lived in a house with green gables, a house that still stands today and that people can visit
        • Hundreds of thousands of people have visited the house which is a historical Canadian landmark
        • A Washington Post article quoted Kyle McKinnon, a park operations manager there, in saying, “People are continually entranced by the story of a young girl who screwed up absolutely everything, but it all worked out.”
  • The Mini Series
    • The series starred Megan Follows as Anne, who beat out 3000 girls for the lead role; Colleen Dewhurst as Marilla, and Richard Farnsworth as Matthew
      • Megan Follows is still acting today, most recently in a show called October Faction that is in pre-production
        • She was 16 years old when she was cast as 12-year-old Anne
        • “My life is a perfect graveyard of buried hopes.”

      • Richard Farnsworth was a well-respected character actor (and Oscar nominated) that started his career as a stuntman on movies like Gone With the Wind
        • His last film credit was in 1999 in The Straight Story which was a Walt Disney film
      • Tony Award-winning Colleen Dewhurst played Marilla for the rest of her career in Anne of Avonlea and Avonlea before passing away in 1991; Although Farnsworth’s character of Matthew died before Marilla, Dewhurst passed away before Farnsworth
    • Katherine Hepburn was approached to play Marilla, but when she declined, she recommended her great niece Schuyler Grant for the role of Anne. Grant auditioned for the role, and they cast her as Diana, Anne’s best friend.
    • Jonathan Crombie also plays Gilbert Blythe, Anne’s love interest
      • He was cast in the role after a director discovered him in a school play
      • He was the voice of animated character Benjamin Bear
      • He passed away at the age of 48
    • Patricia Hamilton who plays Rachel Lynde is still alive
      • She played Rachel in the animated series and in a 2008 TV movie
  • Favorite quotes
    • I never wanted a boy. I only wanted you from the first day. Don’t ever change. I love my little girl. I’m so proud of my little girl.
    • That’s the one good thing about me. I never do the same wrong thing twice.
    • “It ain’t interfering to have an opinion”
    • And as for Christian virtue: making a little wine for a refreshment is far less sinful than meddling in other people’s affairs!
  • Thoughts on the story
    • “Young women are so often taught to make boys feel comfortable even when they’re being total assholes. And Anne just…doesn’t do that”
    • Anne is a great role model for young girls. She teaches to never sacrifice intelligence, and brings out the best in everyone by simply being herself.

Sources:

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0088727/

https://www.anneofgreengables.com/

https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/kidspost/anne-of-green-gables-comes-to-life-in-canada/2018/08/27/9d2eff42-a0a3-11e8-8e87-c869fe70a721_story.html

https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/lifestyle/tv/1986/02/16/colleen-dewhurst-anne-of-green-gables/a9b99b0d-eb80-41ea-b1e1-c835fcbab0de/

The Case of Cinematography

This week we released our longest episode to date! It’s about the art of cinematography. Here are our show notes as well as some clips to help guide you through the episode!

Cinematography

  • What is it?
    • Simply put,  it is the art or science of making motion pictures.
    • Comes from the Greek words ‘kinema’ (meaning movement) and ‘graphein’ (to record)
    • Cinematography emphasizes what is going on in each scene to produce a certain emotion out of the viewer.
      • Walter Murch in his book In the Blink of an Eye says “What they finally remember is not the editing, not the camerawork, not the performance, not even the story–it’s how they felt.”  So essentially if the cinematographer made you feel the way they wanted you to, they have done their job.
  • Who uses it?
    • Cinematographers
      • Are Cinematographers and Directors of Photography the same thing?
        • Yes they are synonymous
      • When did they come about?  Have they been around since the beginning of cinema?
        • Muybridge
          • In 1878 he used 24 stereoscopic cameras with trip wires that the horse ran through to activate the shutters
        • WKL Dickson
          • Assistant to Thomas Edison
          • Created the Kinetograph and Kinetoscope
        • Charles Francis Jenkins- He invented the The Phantoscope (essentially a projector) He was the first to get viewers but did not profit from the viewers
        • 1895 The Lumier Brothers “The Arrival of the Train”
          • First people to present a “movie” to a paying audience
          • When it first aired in France it reportedly scared the viewers
    • Difference between Cinematographer and Director
      • The Director of the film has the final say about all decisions regarding the film and how it will look. Directors are often the ones controlling the actors.
      • The Cinematographer however controls the camera and gives input on the best way to shoot the scenes using lighting, angles, etc. Essentially the techniques that convey the emotion.
      • A director can also be a cinematographer (ex. Alfonso Cuarón Orozco)
  • Specific things that must be paid attention to
    • Lighting
      • Color of light
        • Warmer- Candle, Tungsten
        • Cooler- Fluorescent, Daylight, Moonlight
      • Lighting Techniques
        • Chiaroscuro or Rembrandt Lighting
          • Result of side lighting and characterized by an upside-down triangle on a person’s cheek
        • Key Lighting
          • This is the main light for your shoot, and it can be anywhere in regards to your subject. Placing it right next to the camera will create flat lighting that lacks contrast and isn’t very dynamic
        • Fill Lighting
          • Placed in the opposite direction as the key light, this fills in the dark shadows created by the light
          • Usually it is placed farther away or covered by a diffuser to make the light as soft as possible
          • This with the key light adds depth to the scene
        • Back Lighting
          • This light sits above and behind the subject and sets them apart from the background
          • This is also diffused lighting for a softer effect
        • Side Lighting
          • This is a light set up parallel to your subject, sometimes alone or with a faint fill light
          • Chiaroscuro is an Italian word meaning light and dark
            • In order to achieve it, have a strong side light with weak or no fill light to create the dramatic contrast that accentuates the contours of your subject
            • Rembrandt Lighting is essentially the same technique characterized with an upside-down triangle on the fill light side of the face
            • Rembrandt Lighting
        • Practical Light
          • This is the use of regular, working light sources like lamps and candles
          • This is usually added by the set designer, and adjustments are usually made to them to light the subject better or in such a way
        • Hard Lighting
          • Though this is usually unwanted or something to avoid, there are benefits to using hard light
          • It creates harsh shadows, can draw attention to your subject, and creates strong silhouette
          • Usually sunlight or just a strong light source
        • Soft Lighting
          • Doesn’t refer to any lighting direction, but still sets the tone for a scene
          • It eliminates harsh shadows
        • Bounce Lighting
          • Bouncing light from a strong source using a reflector or light surface like a wall or ceiling
        • High Key
          • This is a bright scene that’s visually shadowless or overexposed
          • All light sources have the same intensity
          • It is incredibly popular today, and is often used to convey an upbeat mood; Back in the 30s, it was used when film was not able to pick up on high light contrast ratios
        • Low Key
          • Lots of shadows and sometimes just one strong key light source
          • The focus is on the shadows and how they create mystery or suspense
        • Motivated Lighting
          • This is meant to imitate a natural light source like sunlight
        • Ambient Light
    • Steady camera vs shaky (stabilizer vs. handheld)
    • Color (ex. What the characters are wearing and the background they are against)
      • In Schindler’s List the girl with the red coat
      • In Fiddler on the Roof in order to bring a brown hue to the film Oswald Morris used brown pantyhose over the lens which also in some scenes gives it a strange faint grid
    • Composing the Camera Frame and movement: high angles (power), low angles (weakness), crooked angles (unsettling), depth of field, wide lenses, close-ups
  • Are there any formal rules typically followed?
    • Cinema=Language
      • Language has rules and uses letters, words, sentence structures and paragraphs to convey meaning.  Cinema is similar because it has structures of its own such as: lighting, shots, and shot sequences.
      • Creative Devices
        • Dominant foreground, contributing background (the rooftops)
        • Detail shots; the camera is not afraid to get uncomfortably close to objects
        • Silhouette
        • Rule of Thirds
        • Slow pan (not really a device but important to include)
          • Pan is the sweeping motion of the camera across a scene
        • Wide, medium, tight shots with details
  • Is the equipment or cinematographer more important?
    • While both are important the equipment must match what the story is seeking to tell.
      • You may have the best equipment but that does not mean that it will fit the story.
    • Common Types of Lenses
      • Fish-eye
        • Used for panoramic, city shots, landscapes, abstract
      • Wide-angle
        • Interiors, landscapes, architecture
      • Standard
        • Portraits and documentary
      • Zoom
        • Tight shots, wildlife documentaries
      • Macro
        • Super close up, small objects
      • Telephoto
        • Far away, sports
      • Tilt-shift
        • “Tilt–shift” encompasses two different types of movements: rotation of the lens plane relative to the image plane, called tilt, and movement of the lens parallel to the image plane, called shift.
        • Tilt is used to control the orientation of the plane of focus (PoF), and hence the part of an image that appears sharp; it makes use of the Scheimpflug principle. Shift is used to adjust the position of the subject in the image area without moving the camera back; this is often helpful in avoiding the convergence of parallel lines, as when photographing tall buildings.
  • Why should the Director or Cinematographer not be the editor of the film?
    • Since they were on set during filming it is hard to separate what happened during filming.  If there was extra emotion on set one day and everyone was unhappy, when editing it they may only see the upset from that day.  In order to remove that frustration from viewing the scene an editor is necessary. An editor only sees what they have been given and will view it as an audience member would.
  • Examples of great Cinematographers
    • John Alcott- Worked with Kubrick on 2001: A Space Odyssey, A Clockwork Orange, and The Shining
    • John L. Russell for Psycho
    • Birdman
      • Emmanuel Lubezki
    • Lord of the Rings
      • Andrew Lesnie
  • What kind of awards are there out there?
    • Oscars: The Academy Award for Best Cinematography
    • ASC Awards (American Society of Cinematographers)
  • The American Society of Cinematographers
    • Founded in Hollywood in 1919 (100th Anniversary!)
    • Originally consisted of 15 members: Joe August, L.D. Clawson, Arthur Edeson, William C. Foster, Eugene Gaudio, Fred Le Roy Granville, Walter L. Griffin, J.D. Jennings, Roy H. Klaffki, Victor Milner, Robert S. Newhard, Philip E. Rosen, Charles G. Rosher, Homer A. Scott and L. Guy Wilky
    • The declared purpose: “ to advance the art of cinematography through artistry and technological progress, and to cement a closer relationship among cinematographers to exchange ideas, discuss techniques and promote cinema as an art form.”
    • In essence they are about education and furthering cinematography as an art form
    • To be a member it is by invitation only.  The credentials you must have is to have demonstrated outstanding ability in the field and have as the website says “good personal character.”
    • In the last 20 years, only three films awarded an Oscar for Best Picture have also received the ASC award for cinematography or the cinematography Oscar: Birdman, Slumdog Millionaire, and American Beauty.

 

Twitter Suggestions

  • Always the Critic Podcast
    • Raiders of the Lost Ark
      • Douglas Slocombe
  • Bang Average Movie Podcast
    • Moulin Rouge
      • Donald McAlpine
    • Citizen Kane (A film noir)
      • Greg Toland (The ASC recently acquired the Mitchell BNC used to film this movie)
  • Another Damn Movie Podcast
    • Phantom Thread
      • Paul Thomas Anderson
    • There Will Be Blood
      • Robert Elswit
  • Toys Were Us Podcast
    • Casablanca
      • Arthur Edeson (one of the first members of ASC)
  • Jeffrey Norris
    • Midsommar- Especially the may queen shots with her wearing the flower dress
      • Pawel Pogorzelski
  • Undercover Coven
    • Mad Max
      • John Seale
  • Heine
    • Life Aquatic
      • Robert Yeoman: He also worked on The Grand Budapest Hotel and Moonrise Kingdom

Drink of the week: Shot of Cinnamon-tography!

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Useful sites:

https://www.format.com/magazine/news/photography/what-is-cinematography

 

https://learn.org/articles/Cinematography_Career_and_Training_FAQs.html

 

https://theasc.com/awards/33rd-annual-asc-awards-february-9-2019

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BXAr2yiYCV4

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b3NRvrmKeMA

 

https://entertainism.com/history-of-cinematography

The Case of Summer Movies

It’s officially summer! It’s the season of cook-outs, family reunions, patriotic holidays, and childhood nostalgia. This week, we each chose a movie we watch every summer and talked about why it’s a quintessential summer movie.

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Adam started off the episode with the 1980 classic Caddyshack!

Synopsis

  • Although the main plot seems to slip as the film goes on, Caddyshack initially follows Danny Noonan (Michael O’Keefe), a teen caddy at the high-end Bushwood Country Club. Eager for money to pay for college, Noonan attempts to gain votes for a college scholarship reserved for caddies by volunteering to caddy for a prominent club member Elihu Smails (Ted Knight). As the stressful Caddy Day golf tournament approaches, Noonan seeks advice from wealthy golf guru Ty Webb (Chevy Chase). Meanwhile, Al Czervik (Rodney Dangerfield) arrives and starts to flaunt his money and causes big trouble for the club owner.

Fun Facts

  • This was Harold Ramis’ directorial debut and is considered to be an accidental hit by those who made it
  • Referred to as “Animal House on a Golf Course,” Caddyshack is an over the top comedy about the Bushwood Country Club
  • The movie was originally going to be more about Michael O’Keefe’s character Danny Noonan and his fellow caddies. However, throughout a ridiculously difficult shoot it turned into an adult comedy with no significant plot.
    • Gopher was added last minute to create some kind of plot that would tie scenes together.
  • According to actors and crew there were parties almost every night that would rival those of rock stars. The cast of Chevy Chase, Rodney Dangerfield, Ted Knight, and Bill Murray didn’t make things any easier either. They were constantly goofing around and ended up ad-libbing a large amount of the movie.
    • Examples of this include:
      • Cinderella story
      • Party scene
      • Ugliest hat
    • Dangerfield thought he was doing terribly during scenes, as no one was breaking character to laugh. Being a stand up comedian, he was used to laughs

Favorite Moments

  • “Doodie” Pool scene with Jaws theme
  • Destroying the yacht
  • Carl Spackler the grounds keeper, blowing up the course and winning the game for Al.

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Marci brought us back to camp with Heavy Weights (1995)

Synopsis 

  • Gerry Garner comes home from the last day of school (The True beginning to summer!) He is surprised to find that his parents have decided to send him to camp named Camp Hope. Not just any camp though- in Gerry’s words a “Fat Camp”. When he arrives all the campers soon find out that this year will not be the same as years past.  The owners have gone bankrupt and sold the camp to Tony Perkis (Ben Stiller) who is a fitness junkie.
  • Screenplay written and produced by Judd Apatow
    • Known now for Superbad, Anchorman, and Knocked Up

Thoughts

  • Marci believes the former Chipmunks kid was a real entrepreneur. He takes away the kids candy by snitching on them but then proceeds to charge them to sneak candy into a tree trunk in the woods.
  • Who would not want to jump on an awesome air filled bag named “The Blob” into the water?
  • The dance scene was perfect- just as it seemed to be everywhere- girls on one side, guys on the other.
  • One of the funniest lines is when Tony tells Josh (Shaun Weiss from Mighty Ducks) to promptly get off the scale when he is weighed on camera during the second weigh in.
  • Even though this movie has mixed reviews because it seems to have mixed messages we have loved it for many reasons.  One of the main messages Marci takes is that you should take control of your own lives.

Fun Facts

  • The original camp owners were played by Ben Stiller’s parents: Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara.
  • The boy that played Gerry (Aaron Schwartz) ended up breaking his arm during the food fight scene and had to be taken to the hospital.  In order to continue shooting the crew covered his stand-in’s face with chocolate syrup.
  • This was basically the beginning of Ben Stiller’s Dodgeball character
    • Since Heavyweights did not fare well at the box office he thought nobody had seen it and borrowed mannerisms and things from the Tony Perkis character.  He then uses them for his character White Goodman in Dodgeball.
  • Ben Stiller did not hang out with the kids during filming which may have helped to contribute to his villainous nature in the movie.
  • 20 Mile Hike
    • The story that Tony tells the boys during this hike is actually a mixture of the myths of Icarus and Sisyphus. Sisyphus was a Greek king who tricked the gods. When he died the gods created a hell for him where he was forced to push a boulder up a hill forever.  Every time just before he reaches the top of the hill the boulder rolls back down and he has to start over. Icarus was a young man who attempted to escape an island with his father, Daedalus.  They made wings out of feathers and wax. Even though his father warned him not to, Icarus flew too close to the sun, his wings melted and he perished upon the fall down.

Quotes

  • “Don’t put Twinkies on your pizza”- Roy (Kenan Thompson) telling Pat Finley what they learned after the big party

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Robin finished up the episode with Field of Dreams (1989)

  • Robin started hers off with an excerpt from the poem, “Green Fields of the Mind” by A Bartlett Giamatti
    • “[Baseball] breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in the spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall all alone. You count on it, rely on it to buffer the passage of time, to keep the memory of sunshine and high skies alive, and then just when the days are all twilight, when you need it most, it stops.”
  • She also quoted an article about poetry in baseball
    • In a Thought.Co article by Bob Holdman and Margery Synder, they say, “Baseball is the most literary of sports, bursting with metaphor, image, and rhythm.” Baseball is considered to be America’s official pastime, though its popularity has dwindled in recent years. This sport has a rich history filled with nostalgia, an activity played in backyards and on small town fields among family and friends for at least 150 years
  • Shoe-less Joe
    • It’s not a surprise, then that Field of Dreams was a success. Initially the film was to be named the same as the book by W.P. Kinsella, “Shoeless Joe,” but the producers were afraid that audiences would be confused as to what it was about. Kinsella was fine with the change because his original title for the book was “The Dream Field”
  • Synopsis

    • Ray, a farmer in Iowa hears a voice one night as he tends to his fields of corn. “If you build it, he will come.” When Ray is confused, the voice seems to give him a vision of a baseball field. Taunted by fellow farmers and other townspeople, Ray mows down his corn and builds a baseball field. He believes that the ghost of his father’s hero, Shoeless Joe Jackson, will appear. Sure enough, Jackson does appear. Soon, the rest of the 1919 White Sox appear in Ray’s field, only visible to him and his family.
    • Ray believes he built the field so that others could fulfill their baseball dreams, but he finds there’s something there for him too.
  • The Black Sox Scandal 

    • Now, to understand why these particular players appear on the field, you should know a little about The Black Sox Scandal of 1919
        • Back in 1919, baseball players were not paid as well as they are today. Many of them found it difficult to sustain a living off of being a player. The Chicago White Sox first baseman conspired with some gamblers and agreed to throw the World Series against the Cincinnati Reds for $100,000.00. After the Sox lost the first few games, gamblers weren’t paying out the amounts promised and so they called off the fix and decided to win the series once and for all. However, the gamblers threatened their families and the White Sox lost the World Series to the Reds.
        • When authorities started investigating the series, the players (including Shoeless Joe) confessed to taking the money
          • Shoeless Joe had only taken 5k from his teammates
        • Because of the suspicious disappearance of evidence, the players walked away free from the court. But, the commissioner of baseball did not let them off so easily. All eight players were banned from baseball for the rest of their lives, including Buck Weaver who dropped out of the fix before it started and Shoeless Joe who batted just as well during the series as he had all season. Shoeless Joe also claimed he was an unwilling participant and tried to tip off the owner of the fix.
        • Shoeless Joe was a hero to many children and the scandal brought about the famous cry, “Say it ain’t so, Joe!”
  • Fun Facts

    • In Field of Dreams, Ray visits a reclusive author named Terence Mann. In the novel, the author was JD Salinger. Kinsella purposely used the name Kinsella for the title character because Salinger had also written pieces with characters of that name. The purpose was for it to seem that one of his own characters had come to knock on his door and take him to a baseball game.
      • James Earl Jones took the part of Mann after his wife was mesmerized by the famous “people will come, Ray” speech
      • No one outside of the cast and crew knows for certain who’s voice is used as THE voice, though the common belief is that it was Ray Liotta who played Shoeless Joe
    •  Moonlight Graham, a player that Ray travels to Minnesota in order to find, was an actual person. Graham did in fact only play one game before moving to Minnesota and becoming a doctor. Kinsella, the author, found his stats in a book and decided to use them for the story
      • The movie is the final film for Burt Lancaster, the actor who played Graham
    • Field of Dreams was never number one at the box office, it competed with: Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade; Batman; Honey, I Shrunk the Kids; Dead Poet’s Society; and Weekend at Bernie’s
    • Roger Ebert gave it four stars: “The ghost of Shoeless Joe does not come back to save the world. He simply wants to answer that wounded cry that has become a baseball legend: “Say it ain’t so, Joe!” And the answer is, it ain’t.”

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