Episode 34: Chris Prynoski

Whitney Grace is digging through her queue of old new stock interviews and pulls this beauty out with Chris Prynoski!  Chirs Prynoski is the founder and head of Titmouse Inc., an independent animation studio that’s been making a name for itself since 2000.  Titmouse Inc. has worked on a variety of cartoons for Disney, Adult Swim, and Netflix as well as feature films Nerdland, Teen Titans Go, and the new Foxy Trotter and Hanazuki.

Episode 33: Jerry Beck

Join Whitney Grace in this blast down memory lane with an old episode from her now defunct first podcast.  In this episode, Whitney interviews renowned animation historian Jerry Beck.  They delve into Beck’s career and animation history.

Either Me or WordPress Sucks…

I left for the New York Comic Con all proud with myself because I had edited two episodes, uploaded them, and posted about them on my website.  I scheduled the posts and podcasts, so everything would be released as I intended.

During my absence, I checked on Toon-In Talk and the website wasn’t updated.

What madness was this?  Apparently I had forgotten to write the posts in my mad rush to the Big Apple.   I can’t blame myself, because I was for the New York Comic Con and to see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.  Both had their pros and cons and I would attend both again.  I’ll be attending the New York Comic Con again, but I don’t think I’ll get a second chance at the Harry Potter Broadway show.  It’s way too expensive, yet a delightful immersion second only in status to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.  Which is cheaper?

In other words, my bad!  Unless WordPress deleted my posts, weirder stuff has happened.

Michael Uslan Made Batman Fandom His Career

Batman is the arguably the most relatable superhero for humans.  He doesn’t have super powers, he’s relies entirely on his brain and honed skills, and his grief stricken backstory makes everyone shed tears.  The only thing “super and powerful” about Batman is his bottomless fortune.   We could consider that superpower if you refer to the 2017 Justice League movie script.  Flash asks Ben Affleck Batman what his superpower is and Affleck Batman replies, “I’m rich.”

I’m a Batman fan and one of my goals is to write either a Batman animated movie or a comics story arc.  My dedication to the Dark Knight pales in comparison to Michael Uslan, who is probably the ultimate Batman fan and responsible for making the Caped Crusader part of the modern zeitgeist.  Check out this Mental Floss article, “The Boy Who Saved Batman.”

Ulsan has been a Batman fan since he learned to read from his older brother’s comic books.  He amassed a huge collection of 30,000 books that consumed his parents garage.  He eventually sold 20,000 of his books to pay for his wedding and college education.  His first claim to fame was becoming the first professor of a college-accredited comic book course.  I wish I had access to his syllabus!

Ulsan so loved Batman that he wanted to buy the rights to the character and make a movie restoring the character from his campy Adam West days.  After earning a law degree, Ulsan worked in United Artists’s legal department.  Through sheer determination and persistence, he persuaded a production team to buy the Batman film rights for $50.000 in 1979.  Ulsan’s plans for a Batman movie languished in Hollywood for years, which is nothing new for any creative property.

Ulsan needed a steady cash flow to keep his Bat dream alive, so he

As the clock ticked, Uslan grasped for salable ideas. Then one day, he had an epiphany: What about dinosaurs from outer space?The kid-friendly lightning bolt resulted in Dinosaucers, a 1987 animated television series that provided just enough cash to get by.

Come the late 1980s, Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns was published and reinvigorated interest in the Caped Crusader.  Ulsan’s Batman producing partners were attached to Warner Brothers, whileTim Burton had finished directing Pee-wee’s Big Adventure and was about to film Beetlejuice with Michael Keaton.  Burton asked screenwriter Sam Hamm (also a Batman fan) to work on a script inspired by Miller’s work and finally the project got the AOK.

Batman directed by Tim Burton, starring Michael Keaton as the Bat, Jack Nicklson as the Joker, Kim Basinger as Vicki Vale, and Michael Ulsan as a producer premiered on June 23, 1989 and quickly became that year’s summer blockbuster and more:

Batman’s cultural impact was enormous. In November, Uslan watched the Berlin Wall fall on CNN and saw a boy in the wreckage wearing a Batman hat. “This had become more than just a movie,” he writes. “It was, indeed, revolutionary.” In North America, the film was the highest-grossing movie of 1989.

Ulsan has been a producer on every Batman movie since 1989, including the Christian Bale Dark Knight Trilogy.  

Professional fans are are the ones who truly make franchises successful.  When a fan like Ulsan gets their hands on a property they have loved since childhood, they can do some serious wonders with it.

 

Episode 32: Mathew Klickstein

I’m back and done explaining about the current state of my mental health.  It’s actually doing pretty well, at least the voices tell me so.  FYI, if if you aren’t aware I have a dark sense of humor, particularly at my own expense, because I find it hilarious.  (If you didn’t catch on, that means I don’t have voices in my head. Unicorns and llamas are another story.)

Give me a round of applause and praise me to the high heavens, because I finished episode 32!  Whoopee!

Beat that depression!

This interview is with my fellow writer Mathew Klickstein, who has been on Toon-In Talk before to discuss his book Slimed!: An Oral History of Nickelodeon.  In episode 32, Mat has returned to talk about his newest book (at least it was new in 2018 when I recorded the interview) Springfield Confidential.

Mat wrote Springfield Confidential with former lead Simpsonswriter Mike Reiss, who also went to Harvard, headed the National Lampoon, and also writes children’s books.  Mat and Mikes’ book digs into the history of America’s longest running sitcom The Simpsons and reveals secrets, stories, and humor behind the show.

You’ll notice I didn’t write show notes for episode 32.  I’ve never liked writing show notes, so taking Mat’s advice I stopped doing it.  All right!  I am making myself happier about making my podcast.

Selling Nostalgia by Matt Klickstein

Past and future guest of Toon-In Talk Matt Klickstein sent word about his latest book, Selling Nostalgia.

My thoughts are already wagging at the title wondering what that title implies.  Is Matt going with an Ernest Cline Ready Player One flavor?  Or is he going with a Disney shtick about repackaging and reselling nostalgia as brand new?   Matt is threaded inspiration from the fandom and zeitgeist, so here is what Selling Nostalgia is about:

Prepare yourself to boldly go where few fanboys and fangirls have gone before on this rocket-powered rollercoaster ride through today’s madcap, pop culture-obsessed “nostalgia industry”—comprised of the reunions, reboots, blogs, podcasts, commenters, conventions, and collect-em-all merch—that fuels today’s ever-growing geek culture!

As with so many members of his generation, down-on-his-luck writer-filmmaker Milton Siegel has what some might call an unhealthy fixation on the TV shows, movies, books, music, and celebrities from his childhood that spanned the 1980s and 1990s. Unlikemany of his generation, Milt has spent most of his life as an adult (so to speak) chronicling this same pop culture of his youth. Hey, it’s a living…sometimes.

After quitting his job at a regional newspaper (or after having been fired, depending on who you ask), Milt finds himself on what becomes a quixotic quest to promote his latest pop culture history project around the country over one progressively insane and hilarious month. Throughout his many misadventures to come, Milt must contend with: a horde of salivating manic nerds, an inexplicable rash of natural disasters, clickbait-concocting media pundits, overly ambitious pseudo-celebrities, bafflingly incompetent event coordinators, a desperately hemorrhaging bank account, a super seductive stripper, ultra-competitive frenemies, and his own sense of the precarious future while being so embroiled in his childish past.

In the end, it’s up to Milt to make it through the month-long nomadic tour of laughter, tears, and revelations ahead without losing his mind. If he’s really lucky, he might even make rent, keep his new wife from fleeing in terror, and perhaps have a little fun along the way.

Not a bad story idea, Matt.  I have my own fandom and nostalgic fandom stories in my writing queue.  Kudos for getting yours published by Simon and Schuster!  Matt also wrote Slimed: An Oral History of Nickelodeon in 2013.

Autism is Hereditary and I’m a Mutant

One thing that makes me mad is when people ignore good science.  I say good science, because there is a lot of bad, kooky, and pseudoscience that is circumnavigating the Internet and, despite all the evidence to the contrary, people still believe in the junk.

One current junk science belief is that vaccinations cause autism.  They don’t.

Autism displays itself in some infants before they receive their first vaccines.  I was one of those infants.

What people are ignoring is that autism is probably a genetic mutation and is passed from one generation to the next.  In my case, my mother’s side has generational depression and anxiety, while my father’s father passed his dyslexia onto many of his descendants.  My parents’ genetics combined with their life stresses mixed in my utero soup led to my ASD (autism spectrum disorder).

Mental health professionals agree with my thoughts about hereditary ASD.  JAMA Psychiatry recently published, “Association of Genetic and Environmental Factors With Autism in a 5-Country Cohort.”

The test group consists of 2,001, 631 individuals, 51.3% were male and 22,156 were diagnosed with ASD.  The people in the test group were from Denmark, Western Australia, Israel, Sweden, and Finland. The researchers discovered that ASD is 80% hereditary.  Read the official results:

“The median (95% CI) ASD heritability was 80.8% (73.2%-85.5%) for country-specific point estimates, ranging from 50.9% (25.1%-75.6%) (Finland) to 86.8% (69.8%-100.0%) (Israel). For the Nordic countries combined, heritability estimates ranged from 81.2% (73.9%-85.3%) to 82.7% (79.1%-86.0%). Maternal effect was estimated to range from 0.4% to 1.6%. Estimates of genetic, maternal, and environmental effects for autistic disorder were similar with ASD.”

And the official conclusion:

“Based on population data from 5 countries, the heritability of ASD was estimated to be approximately 80%, indicating that the variation in ASD occurrence in the population is mostly owing to inherited genetic influences, with no support for contribution from maternal effects. The results suggest possible modest differences in the sources of ASD risk between countries.”

I love it!  I love it!  I love it!

BAM!  ASD is passed from parent to child!  Judging that ASD is a neurological disorder, I bet individuals (like my parents) who have non-ASD mental health issues and/or neurological disorders are at a higher risk of developing ASD when they conceive.  In other words, their kids are more likely to be autistic.

My hypothesis is strong based on the current science.  My parents’ DNA mutated when I was conceived and I became ASD.

So I’m a mutant?

Do I get to join the X-Men?

ASD people do go to special schools.  Maybe Professor Xavier’s Institute is a front for ASD education.

Dibs on Rogue’s costume.

I’m Back, Toon People!

Where have I been?

I’ve been networking at the San Diego Comic Con.

I’ve been presenting at GenCon.

I’ve been lecturing at the Highlights Foundation.

In under two weeks, I’ve been from one end of the country to the other.

Then life happened and I had to get my mutts back in a domesticated row.  They did not like that.

Onward and upward!

 

Whitney Goes To SDCC

Where is the next Toon-In Talk episode?  I said I was back and I mean it!

I’ve been preparing for the San Diego Comic Con!

I haven’t been to the SDCC since 2010 when I was a young hoofer trying to learn how to get my comic published.  Nine years later I have a highly praised book (you should buy a copy BTW, it’s a great read), an agent, and two finished graphic novel manuscripts.

Now I only need a graphic novel publisher.  Knock!  Knock!  Knock, publishers!

I’ll be sure to report on SDCC 2019 when I get back

Disney Heiress Speaks About Family Mental Health Problems

Dr. Abigail Disney is one cool woman.

Dr. Abigail Disney bears a name everyone will recognizes.  Dr. Disney is Roy O. Disney’s granddaughter and the daughter of Roy E. Disney.  Roy O. Disney was Walt’s older brother and ran the business end of the Walt Disney Company.  Without Roy, the company would have sunk deeper than Black Hole and The Lone Ranger (Walt didn’t have a head for business).  Roy E. Disney saved the company’s animation department from being thrown into the legendary Disney vault (By the way, I have it on good authority that there is more than one vault).  While both Roys are praised in Disney history, apparently there were problems in Roy E.’s household.

Dr. Abigail Disney spoke candidly on the Through Her Eyes Podcast about her family’s troubles and wage disparities at the her family’s namesake company.  Listen, read, and watch the story on Yahoo: “‘We Didn’t Feel Safe’: Disney Heiress Describes Violent Childhood.”

When I watched the video, I enjoyed seeing how Dr. Disney resembled her father and grandfather (the shape of her face, nose, and the nice smile). She is an intelligent woman, who spoke tenaciously about wage disparity.  What I focused on in the interview was her family’s mental health.  Her description of her home life is sad, but it didn’t surprise me from what I known about the Disney family history.

Roy O. Disney was abused as a child.

 

What few people want to acknowledge, but is a very true fact is that many mental illnesses and disabilities are hereditary.  If you have any type of abusive household, more than likely your parents learned it/inherited it from their parents and so on and so forth.  Generational abuse when paired with or without mental illness is a vicious cycle that can only be broken with individuals mentally and actively decide to stop it.

 

Roy E. Disney was an alcoholic.

Walt and Roy O. Disney were child abuse victims.  Their father, Elias Disney, physically abused his kids.  Elias had a hard go at making a living and never was successful in any of his business ventures.  There were five Disney children in total and it was hard for Elias to feed them along with his wife and himself.  He managed, but he took his frustrations out on his children.  I read one story (I need to double check where) about how Elias raised his hand to smack Walt for some remark.  Elias hadn’t taken into fact that Walt had grown up and was physically capable of defending himself.  Walt saw his father’s hand come towards him, then he caught it, looked Elias straight in the eye, and said, “No more.”  Elias stopped beating his kids then, but it’s horrible he did it in the first place.

It doesn’t surprise me that Roy E. Disney was an alcoholic.  Judging by what Walt and Roy O. Disney suffered, then what Dr. Disney dealt with in her childhood there’s probably a mental illness gene in the Disney DNA.  Roy senior passed that along to Roy junior, which exhibited itself through alcoholism, rage, and violence.  Dr. Disney did state her father sought help to change, so kudos to Roy E. for being strong enough to make that decision.

Dr. Disney makes intriguing, dramatic documentary films.

According to Walt’s eldest daughter Diane Disney-Miller, who was a huge supporter of Disney scholarship, she and her sister Sharon had a great childhood.  Walt was a loving father and was “simply” dad to them.  Walt had his own demons, including a nervous breakdown when his company started to take off and had a few other episodes later in life.  He was also controlling in the work environment.

Dr. Disney is also a film producer and director.  Her films focus on strong woman, stated as the opposite of the usual Disney Princess trope in the interview.  These films include The Armor of Light and Pray the Devil Back to Hell. 

Considering what appears to be generational mental health issues in the Disney family and Dr. Disney’s focus on telling powerful, real life stories, I’d love for her to make a documentary about mental health.   Somebody contact her and tell her to get on it!