Animated Words: How To Train Your Dragon

Animated Words is a featured column at the Rotoscopersan awesome news site for all things animation.

Welcome to the first edition of my article series entitled “Animated Words,” which will be an exclusive look at books that inspired the creation of animated movies. I’m sure you have heard someone spout the phrase “the book was better than the movie” before and I have been known to say it on more than one occasion. Growing up, I was the child who always read the original novel before watching the movie. I read the book first because it was usually how I got to connect with the movie before it was even out in theaters.

From a young age, whenever a Disney teaser trailer aired on TV, I was overcome with eagerness to see the new movie and frustrated that I would have to wait for the VHS release because my parents preferred to take me on outdoor outings rather than to a darkened theater. For hours, I anxiously paced in my room wanting to know the intricate plot points and character relationships for my beloved animated cartoons. My friends would spill spoilers left and right, while singing the newest Disney Renaissance single. It drove me up a beanstalk, until I discovered something called ‘the junior novelization.’9780736429832.jpg.172x250_q85

As part of the merchandising campaign with a new movie, Disney released toys, clothing, and books smeared with the characters. Books have and will probably always be an easy tie-in for feature films, because they are easy to make, quick to produce multiples, and have that educational factor with reading. While my parents weren’t too keen on taking me to the movies, they were big fans of the library and one day I found The Little Mermaid junior novelization. The junior novelization not only told the entire story, but it even included a few extra details hinted at but not included in the movie. From that point on, I scouted out Disney books that were “based on the motion picture” and they tided me over until I saw the actual movie. The junior novelizations were actually published before the movie even played in theaters, so I soon became the one who knew all the spoilers (take note that in the 1990s, however, the word “spoilers” didn’t exist).

I would also discover that Disney and other animated films were based on original novels, not just fairytales. I swallowed these novels in one large gulp and was extremely thrilled when there turned out to be a series with even more adventures starring the characters.

This brings me around to why I want to write “Animated Words”: I love to read books, I love writing about books, and I also want people to be more aware about movies that are based off original novels. Why? Because I want them to read more. Without further ado, let’s dive into a one of today’s popular movie franchises: How to Train Your Dragon.How_to_Train_Your_Dragon_(2003_book_cover)

How to Train Your Dragon is by British children’s author Cressida Cowell. Britain has a penchant for exporting some of the best children’s fantasy literature. I’ve never understood why the island nation is a hotbed for imaginative stories aimed at younger audiences, but it will probably continue (I hope) for years to come. How to Train Your Dragon is the first book in, as of writing this article, an eleven novel series and there doesn’t appear to be an end in sight. First published in 2003, How to Train Your Dragon combines two popular genres: fantasy and pretend journals of fictional characters. One could argue it falls into the hybrid graphic novel category (a hybrid is a book that is part comic book or has a major visual aspect/part prose novel. like The Diary of Wimpy Kid and Hugo Cabret), but the drawings only augment he text rather than having the story rely heavily on them.

Another popular literary ploy that How to Train Your Dragon uses is to treat the story as if it were real and the author just so happens to be the lucky channel with which it is shared. This is a very popular and old literary ploy. Some notable examples include L. Frank Baum, who is dubbed the Royal Historian of Oz, and his many Oz books and Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events. The device is primarily used in children’s literature, because it fosters a child’s sense of belief and kids are more likely to read a book if they think it’s real. (Admit it, as an adult you think it’s more fun too.) DreamWorks borrowed from the book’s journal narrative by using the main character’s voice-over narration in the 2010 film’s beginning and end (not to mention that is a common trope for many animated movies these days). I digress.

Movies have the tendency to stray from the source material. For many fans of the written word, this is an abomination and in some cases it is. Hollywood, like the publishing industry, is out to make money and so they alter a book’s plot to appeal to a wider audience. When authors sell the movie rights to their books, they often relinquish any form of creative control. Some authors are unhappy with the final product and others don’t really care because they got a paycheck. New York Best Selling Author Meg Cabot once told me (at an author signing) that the best way to work with Hollywood was to drop your book over the California border, take the check, and let it go.how_to_be_a_pirate_large_cover
It isn’t necessarily a bad thing for the Hollywood machine to re-imagine a book. If Peter Jackson kept every single detail from J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings cycle, the trilogy would have moved slower than production on Richard Williams’ The Thief and the Cobbler (or Arabian Knight or The Princess and the Cobbler, take your pick) and it would have been extremely boring (or more boring if you fall into the minority that fell asleep during viewing). Sometimes removal of some details, adding new characters, or rewriting events strengthens the original story or takes it in an entirely new direction, which is what happened with Cowell’s How to Train Your Dragon.

I imagine the book and the movie were walking along a straight road together, when they came to a fork in the road and then went their separate directions and created two separate canons or universes. In superhero comics, namely DC and Marvel titles, it’s common for there to be parallel universes in which familiar characters live alternate storylines. It keeps the stories fresh and answers the inevitable “what if” questions that are sprinkled in series. The movie uses the same character names, takes place on the isle of Berk, and there are dragons and Vikings in it. That is pretty much where the similarities end.how-to-train-your-dragon-poster-1

The How to Train Your Dragon book features young Viking Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III, who goes by Hiccup, and is the heir Stoick the Vast, chief of the Hairy Hooligans. Hiccup has the unfortunate distinction of being small, thin, tends to look before he leaps, and has a higher intellect than his fellow Vikings. While his friends and family smash items and don’t bother to ask any questions, Hiccup ponders all the questions and investigates the answers. It’s not the type of personality one expects of a future Viking chief and the Hairy Hooligans are unsure of what to do with Hiccup. Hiccup has a best friend named Fishlegs, who has several maladies including asthma and eye problems (not to mention he’s kind of a wimp). Fishlegs shares the wimp characteristic, but his movie counterpart is much, much bigger. Snotlout isn’t that different from his movie counterpart, still a bull-headed, brash bully, except he is Hiccup’s cousin. That last bit adds some interesting familiar tension in the series. Ruffnut, Tuffnut, and Astrid don’t make any appearances, although in the third novel a girl named Camicazi from an Amazon-like tribe shares similar characteristics – she’s sword-fighting, tough, and had a dragon named Stormfly – with Astrid.

The Hairy Hooligans live on the isle of Berk and all young Vikings must go through a right of passage to become an adult. Led by Gobber the Belch, all young Viking initiates must prove their bravery by catching a dragon and training it…wait, what? Yes, you read correctly. The Vikings don’t hate dragons, instead they capture and raise them as their companions. It’s quite the big difference, isn’t it? In the book Hiccup and his friends like dragons and it’s expected that they capture one to prove their worthiness as a Viking warrior. But, in the movie, they make the extreme change to hating and murdering dragons at every chance they get. It’s an all out war in the movie! Viking against dragon, with the “none shall rest while the other exists” kind of mythos.

831621-how-to-train-your-dragonIt gets even better! Toothless does exist in the books, but instead of being an awesome, powerful, and cute Night Fury he’s a small dragon that the book identifies as either a common or a garden dragon. There really isn’t anything spectacular or even cute about Toothless, except he can talk…scratch that, he complains a lot. Actually, all the dragons can talk and Hiccup can speak Dragonese, which proves to be a very valuable gift.

Already one can see how the movie branches away from Cowell’s work and follows a traditional coming-of-age story with a misfit hero. While the book has its coming-of-age moments, it happens as the series progresses (like an adventure serial and rather than having Hiccup fight against the world around him, like movie Hiccup). Book Hiccup goes with the flow, assesses a situation, and then reacts.

Hiccup’s gentle spirit is adapted from the book. During the initiation dragon hunt, all young Vikings must return with a dragon or be exiled from the tribe. Fishlegs fails to retrieve a dragon, so Hiccup gives him the one he captured and risks expulsion. He’s also frustrated about the extreme lack of knowledge about dragons. There is a training manual entitled How to Train Your Dragon within the book of the same name, but it consists of only one chapter with one page and shares the Viking wisdom: “the golden rule of dragon-training is to yell at it! The louder the better.” Hiccup’s curiosity about dragons is a major personality aspect that is expressed well in both the books and the movie. In the movie, audiences are treated to a montage of him learning dragon lore with a the wounded Night Fury, Toothless. Book Hiccup, instead, takes his dragon education a bit slower and is fo_76195203_97924551rced to placate Toothless during the process.

This brings us to another major aspect: how the dragons act. Dragons are mythical beasts and fantasy authors handle them according to their own fancies. DreamWorks decided to make the movie dragons intelligent, non-talking creatures that can be trained and become loyal human companions. Cowell’s dragons aren’t so nice. Toothless, in the book, goes even so far as to say that dragons are self-serving creatures and only listen to humans because they have food and are bigger. Book Toothless is noted as being extremely adorable, but lacking any morals whatsoever.   As the series progresses, Cowell changes the way humans and dragons interact, although they remain wild, scrappy creatures. Changing the way humans and dragons interact is a vital part of both movie and book, because it sets the stage for later conflict.

If you’re interested in becoming a writer, especially of children’s books, change is very important for your fictional world and characters. With more mature fiction it can be subtler and weighed down with fancy metaphors, but children’s literature needs to have more apparent character/environment growth. Younger readers need their change to be less complicated, but not pandering. One folly that many novice writers make is that they create a world or situation that is too “easy” for their characters or where things happen “at” their characters (meaning they’re very passive). Book characters do stuff!

The huge conflict in both the movie and book is the arrival/discovery of a giant dragon that devours everything. In the book it’s called the Green Death; he talks and enjoys intellectual conversation, while the movie has the Red Death dragon and it just eats and destroys. Action-adventure movies wouldn’t be dubbed a thrilling drama if there wasn’t a climatic battle with near death, destruction, and a huge battle. It happens in the movie and is handled very well given that it’s a movie formula used way too often.

Cowell relies on a more cunning, sheer dumb luck route to defeat the Green Death. Another dragon named the Purple Death arrives at Berk to eat the Vikings, but Hiccup forms a plan to pit the two dragons against each other. It works and all seems well, until Hiccup is eaten. The sheer, dumb luck sets in when – by accident – Hiccup figures out how to stop the Green Death’s fire. As in the movie (or vice versa since the book came first), Toothless saves Hiccup, the Vikings accept Hiccup’s strangeness, and everyone lives happily until the next book or movie sequel.

2015020310382037028How to Train Your Dragon 2 borrows some elements from the novels, but it veers off into a whole new direction. Hiccup is decidedly much older, the plot is much darker, his mom comes back, etc. It was made to continue the movie’s canon, rather than adapt preexisting work. The novels, however, retain their more humorous, episodic storytelling as each novel adds a new piece to the great puzzle Cowell writes. The characters do mature throughout the series, but they are still written for a young target audience (rather than the writing maturing as well).

Despite the differences between the book and movie, both How to Train Your Dragon incarnates remain separate, distinct works that are appealing for their own reasons. The books are a fun series with a none-too-serious approach to adventure stories, while DreamWorks is working on turning How to Train Your Dragon into an epic franchise. Cowell mentioned she is pleased with the film adaptations and who wouldn’t be? DreamWorks took a comedic, adventure story for young readers and is transforming it into an awesome animated franchise. The studio puts effort into creating a good story, rather than pasting stereotypical plot elements together. Neither is better than the other, although I am partial to DreamWorks’s version of Toothless. I REALLY want a Night Fury to fly me places, torch my taxes, and be my best friend.

 

The World of Muppet Crap: The Beaker Bra

The World of Muppet Crap is a feature article series on ToughPigs, your ultimate fan site for all things related to Jim Henson, the Muppets, Sesame Street, and more!

Welcome to the wonderful World of Muppet Crap!  Through my Web surfing, I have discovered that some of the best Muppet crap is made by crafters with a bandoleer of crochet hooks and a glue gun holstered to their waist.  Some of these crafters make a product Miss Piggy would call “très magnifique,” while others concoct an item so “original” that it instills this type of reaction in people:

Kermit scrunch sheesh

Frog-lets and piggies, I present to you the Beaker bra!

Beaker Bra
Yes, dear readers, someone took a women’s supportive undergarment and decided to spice it up with felt eyes and a foam nose (it probably chafes too).

The Beaker Bra is a handmade item sold on Etsy.  When I first saw it, I didn’t realize it was a brassiere and my thoughts were, “What an astonishing Beaker likeness.”  Then I clicked on the link and I practiced my best Snowth impression (the metaphor being my mouth rounded and my eyes were caught in that surprised, confused expression).  Do-do-de-do-doo!

Snowths
It’s not hard to make a Beaker replica.  All you need to do is stick a tuft of red fur, an orange foam nose, and eyes on practically anything, and ta-da!  Instant Beaker.

After my initial astonishment, I imagined wearing the bra.  It would create a disproportional third lump and make people raise an eyebrow.

Deanna_Troi_2365Have any of you ever watched Star Trek: The Next Generation?  When Gene Roddenberry created the character of Deanna Troi, the Enterprise’s empathic and half-human counselor, he conceptualized her with three breasts.

This quote by Dorothy Fontana, an original series write and associate producer on TNG, to Entertainment Weekly sums up my feelings about Beaker’s nose:

“I objected to Troi having three breasts. I felt women have enough trouble with two. And how are you going to line them up? Vertically, horizontally, or what? I was like, please, don’t go there. And they didn’t, fortunately.”

I won’t go any further than that.  All other questions can be routed to Miss Piggy, who we know wears a girdle to control her…um…on second thought, I don’t know anything about that.  (Secretly, I am fearful the pig is going to come after me with a pork chop [pun intended]).  Here is a hint of advice: it is always wise to fear and love the pig.  Fear first, though.

Mind you, it has become a popular trend for geek girls to express their fandom with lingerie that bears (pun not intended) motifs from their part of the fandom.  My thoughts are if a grown man can wear Spider-Man underwear, a woman can show her geek pride with her own set of Web crawler under drawers.

Many companies have specialized geek underwear lines, including ThinkGeekBunny JumpJinx, and the Fashionably Geek blog has a compiled a decent list of sellers.

Disney even licensed their trademark Princess line for women who want to feel like a Disney heroine underneath their T-shirt or business suit.

disney-princess-lingerie
Some have questioned the appropriateness of lingerie based on the Disney princesses, but they’re printed already on children’s underclothes.  The argument is that it sexualizes children’s characters, promotes the seduction of the innocent, etc.  These people clearly have never hopped on Deviantart or 4chan (if you haven’t either, be aware that Deviantart has a filter, 4chan doesn’t).

What does that say about the Muppets, then?  Muppets are not children’s characters.  All Muppet fans know this, so why are we even bringing it up in conversation?  I guess this as good as spot as any to insert the Muppet history bit.

Title.sexThe original pilot for The Muppet Showwas called Sex and Violence.  Sex is even mentioned in the title!  It was a half-hour program for primetime television following the popular variety show format.  The Muppet Show, in fact, was a quality evening program that appealed to both adults and children, but Jim Henson strove to create entertainment for a mature audience and not just offspring.  He got irrevocably tied to children’s programming with Sesame Street and the rest is history.

The Muppets, in fact, have appeared on unmentionables for years.

Don’t believe me?

Exhibit A:

Exhibit A

Exhibit B:

Exhibit B

Exhibit C:

Exhibit C

Exhibit D:

Exhibit D

Exhibit E:

Funpals briefs ad

Some of these images make me cringe.  Imagine taking off your pants and there’s Animal saying, “Hello!” to you.  It would scare me to think that a Muppet had been with me all day and, knowing myself, I would have forgotten about what I was wearing.  All day the Muppet would be spying on me.  The thought makes me shudder.

I also can’t help but imagine sound boxes being sewed into the lining of some of the underwear so the Muppets’ voices speak to you when you change clothes.  Kermit’s “Hi ho!,”  Miss Piggy’s laugh, Fozzie’s “wocka-wocka,” and Animal’s “Woman!” yell take on an entirely new meaning.

The psychological damage would be devastating!

What is even scarier is the alarming rate of Animal on underpants.  Why do people like sporting this crazed individual on their under things?

This brings up another interesting topic: Animal’s treatment of women.  Whenever he sees a female he likes, he chases after her, and shouts “Woman!  Woman!” at the top of his lungs.  Has Animal ever been sued by one of these harassed women?  In today’s politically correct world, he would need to attend sensitivity training.  If we want to talk about sexualizing, that is exactly what Animal is doing and he is being a bad role model for children.  We should petition Disney to stop mass-producing plushies of one of the most popular Muppet characters.

Back to the bra… I honestly don’t think any woman would dare to wear it, unless it was a joke.  It makes things too complicated.  The seller does makes cute and * ahem* less noticeable geek underwear.  Probably stick with some of those.

Toon-In Talk Episode 15: Interview with Jez Stewart

Hello and welcome to fifteenth episode of Fanboy Nation’s Toon-In-Talk, your rendezvous for animation interviews.  During research for her book on Lotte Reiniger, Whitney was using the British Film Institute’s website for information.  She came across some great animation information, not just about Reiniger, but also about British animation.  Jez Stewart in the BFI’s Animation Animation Curator and during this interview he discusses British animation history, the BFI’s animation holdings, and other fun facts about working in a renowned film archive.

Episode 15

  • Jez Stewart is the Animation Curator at the British Film Institute (BFI) and he has worked there for fourteen years.
  • He started as an acquisitions assistant and slowly his worked his way up to his current position. Jez describes his work at a mixture of “spreadsheets and boxes of delights.”
  • He works with all the old goodies, including some of the earliest animated films ever made.
  • Jez explains the decomposition of old film stock and how they must store some films at very cold temperatures.
  • The BFI is the UK’s lead body of film, created in 1933, and its purpose is to ensure that all moving images are preserved, shared with people, and exhibit British culture.
  • The BFI’s collection scope if very large. They have work from studios that closed down, wanted to clean out their closets, and more. A large portion of the work is commercial, but they also include material from feature films and other entertainment venues.
  • Housed in the archive is Bob Godfrey’s work, WWI films that make fun of the Kaiser, public information films, the Halas and Batchelor films (they made Animal Farm).
  • Jex explains some of the ways the BFI preserves the films and how the BFI decides to share the material. One of the worst roadblocks is copyright.
  • British animation has gone up and down in the amount of popularity. It was very big in the 1950s when TV was new, then the funding dried up. Channel 4 money helped animation flourish again in the 1980s-1990s, but then it dried up again.
  • Aardman Studios, which made the Wallace and Gromit series and Shaun the Sheep, is the most well-known British animator.
  • Jez is also a fan of Michael Please, Harry Harlow, and others.
  • A lot of British animation exported to the US are children’s shows.
  • Whitney and Jez discuss how foreign feature films are viewed in the US and the UK. They also discuss how sometimes restoration can ruin a film’s integrity and how sometimes there is no school like the old school.
  • The BFI is trying to put more content on the Internet and share more animation film packages to share with audiences, and Jez wants to write a history of British animation.
  • Whitney and Jez both want to see more animation from British animators, especially a feature film.

 

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Toon-In Talk Episode 14: Interview with Jai Husband

Hello and welcome to fourteenth episode of Fanboy Nation’s Toon-In-Talk, your rendezvous for animation interviews.  Whitney is joined by animator, director, writer, and producer Jai Husband.  Jai comes from a great animation legacy, his father is famous Walt Disney animator Ron Husband.  Growing up in the animation industry inspired Jai to pursue animation as his own career.  Jai has been successful so far with is own projects inspired by African-American culture.  He directed Kasha and the Zulu King, but even more exciting is that he is working on an African princess trilogy with his dad!

Episode 14

  • Jai is a second-generation animator; his father was Walt Disney animator Ron husband. Since Jai grew up in the animation industry it feels very normal to him, while someone, like Whitney, geeks out when he describes his childhood.
  • Jai’s dad gave him advice, but didn’t hinder his individual creativity. Jai’s first animation job was in Disney’s CAPS department and he wanted to stay on at Disney, but his mom asked him to return to college.
  • Straight out of college, Jai was hired by Turner Broadcasting and he now has his own company where he produces his own and other people’s projects.
  • While Jai was at Turner, his show The Fabulous Ambitions of Vaughn Chocolat Éclair, starring RuPaul, got picked up by a new channel called Super Deluxe. However, Turner pulled the plug.
  • Jai left Turner, so he could have more creative control over his ideas and BET also wanted him to make a show.
  • Going out on his own wasn’t an easy decision for Jai, but wanted to try, even if he failed. He succeeded, however, and won a NAACP award.
  • Jai wrote his Academy Award speech when he was twelve-years old and he plans to still use it someday.
  • He formed his own studio in Atlanta, because he went to college in the city, had a job at Turner, he wanted to step away from his father’s legacy, and he wanted to live in an area with stronger African-American ties.
  • Kasha and the Zulu King is a South African take on The Prince and the Pauper. Jai wanted to make a movie with characters that have very colorful skin tones, ranging from light to dark.
  • Whitney and Jai want to see more animated characters from diverse ethnicities. They go into details about beauty aesthetics from different cultures.
  • Jai and Ron are working on an animated trilogy, starring African princesses. They are researching individual African cultures for inspiration.
  • Whitney recommends Jai watch Michael Ocelot’s Kirikou and the Sorceress, another animated film inspired by Africa.
  • The African princess trilogy will have a Disney look, because Ron worked at the Walt Disney Company for years, but it will also contain influences from some of his favorite styles.
  • Jai discusses his own individual style and how he pulls from other sources.
  • He hopes to release the films sometime in 2017 or 2018.

 

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Toon-In-Talk Episode 13: Interview with Rick Pickens

Hello and welcome to thirteenth episode of Fanboy Nation’s Toon-In-Talk, your rendezvous for animation interviews.  If you are listening to this podcast, you’ve probably considered becoming an animator at some point.  The traditional method is to attend a university animation program, but higher education isn’t necessarily the correct route for everyone.  There are dozens of online programs dedicated to teaching 3D animation, but there is only one that focuses on the
traditional, hand drawn method.  Rick Pickens discusses his animation career and his new animation program: “Animation in 12 BLANK Lessons.”

Episode 13

  • Rick worked in animation in 1987 at the same company as Doug TenNapel when digital animation started to gain traction.
  • He’s worked away from the animation industry for some years, but he continues to be involved with teaching, puppetry, training courses, and his own projects.
  • Whitney and Rick both agree that we are now on the edge of a new animation boom and it’s fantastic and exciting!
  • Joe Murray was the animator who branched out and tried to form his own content platform.  It was called KaboingTV.
  • The cartoons today are radically different from anything ever created before and people want to see new and different things.
  • One of the reasons Rick created his program is that he wants to see more cartoons and he wants to give people the opportunity to make them.
  • Rick explains that it’s better to start the process now then waiting.
  • He’s helping potential animation students get their feet wet by creating an online course through Udemy called “Animation in 12 BLANK Steps” and he also has a free online course.
  • Rick based his program’s name on Bob Heath’s book, Animation in Twelve Hard Steps.
  • What makes his program different from other animation programs is that it takes a student through the entire animation pipeline, ending with a finished project they can share.
  • “Animation in 12 BLANK Steps” is designed for fans of traditional, 2D animation.  You need to bring a desire to create something with old-fashioned drawing tools or a drawing program on your tablet.
  • The program isn’t a deep dive into technique, but rather to carry through your idea and finish a project.
  • Whitney has psychic powers, not really.  When she looks at people’s artwork, she can tell who has influenced them.
  • If you want to be animator or a comic book artist/writer, the way to do it these days is to get in it now!
  • Rick declares, “Let’s go make some funny cartoons!”
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Toon-In-Talk Episode 12: Interview with Veronica and Raina Taylor

Hello and welcome to twelfth episode of Fanboy Nation’s Toon-In-Talk, your rendezvous for animation interviews.  Whitney has a treat for all listeners today!  Not only does she interview the fantastic voice actress Veronica Taylor, famous for her role as Ash Ketchum on Pokemon, AstroblastWelcome to the Wayne!, and Mofy, but she speaks with Raina Taylor.  Raina is Veronica’s uber cool daughter, so this episode is a first for the show: a mother-daughter interview.  Veronica discusses her career and Raina shares her input on having a voice actress mom.

Episode 12

  • For the first time ever on the podcast, Whitney interviews a mother-daughter duo!
  • Veronica has always been an actress and went to college for acting.
  • Raina was never starstruck having her mom being a recognized voice actress.  It was very normal for her, although they do funny voices around the house all the time.
  • Veronica’s first go into voice over dubbing for anime.  Her first big role was Amelia from Slayers, then she became the voice of the kid who has to be the very best: Ash Ketchum from Pokemon.
  • Veronica loves acting, no matter if she’s dubbing or voice over in English.  She wants to make the character come to life.
  • Raina thinks her mom does an awesome job every time and Veronica likes having Raina help her practice.
  • She got the role of Ash, because the same production company that distributed Slayers in the US also had the license for Pokemon.  All she knew about the series is that one episode gave kids seizures in Japan.
  • Raina is very down to Earth when it comes to being the daughter of an iconic character.  It’s also great to make her laugh.
  • Whitney thinks Ash’s Pokemon trainer skills are lacking, but Veronica begs to differ as he follows his heart.
  • The differences for voicing Ash in a movie and in an episode is that for the first few movies it was in an actual movie studio and the sessions were bigger, but later they were similar for recording episodes.
  • Veronica and Raina both voiced the Pokemon Sentret, while Veronica also did Diglett and a few others.
  • Raina and Veronica were both in the movie The Boy Who Wanted to be a Bear.  She remembers her mother read the lines for her when they were in the studio.  This happened when she was a very young, so spends a lot more time reading than behind the mic now.
  • Raina is a John Green fan!
  • Raina’s favorite Pokemon is Charmander and Evee, while Veronica likes Pikachu, Lapras, and Treecko.  While they think Jigglypuff and Mr. Mime are weird.
  • She was the voice of Ash for eight years before Pokemon USA replaced the cast with new people.
  • Veronica’s favorite memories associated with Pokemon is that she was pregnant with her daughter during the first season and she so happy to play such a positive character.
  • It’s not hard for her to transition between characters as long as she has a solid hook in the character.
  • Raina loves that her mom plays a cute little bunny character.
  • Raina doesn’t want to be a voice actress, but she wants to do something related to the arts or  an accountant.
  • Veronica is evading her taxes!  No, they both declare peace and to eat healthy!

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Toon-In-Talk Episode 11: Interview with Ed Asner

Hello and welcome to eleventh episode of Fanboy Nation’s Toon-In-Talk, your rendezvous for animation interviews.  Whitney had the pleasure of interviewing a legendary actor of screen and stage, the incomparable Ed Asner.  Asher is famous for not only playing Lou Grant on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, but he has lent his voice to many animated shows and movies.  You might recognize him as Hudson on Gargoyles, Granny Good from the DC Animated Universeand as Carl Fredricksen from Up.  He even tells Whitney he hates her spunk to her delight!

Episode 11

  • Ed Asner has a prolific career ranging over fifty years, including Broadway, TV, movies, and more.
  • He was the voice of Carl Fredicksen on Up, he was also on Freakazoid!, Captain Planet, Gargoyles, Spider-Man, and Batman: The Animated Series.
  • The villain on Batman scared Whitney as a child.
  • He started out as a radio actor and when he switched over to visual performances, Ed had to retrain himself on using his voice.
  • They talk about the weather, the various places where Ed has lived, and how he dislikes New York.
  • On Gargoyles, Ed was intimidated by his fellow voice actors because of their talent. The show had a great staff and he especially notes Greg Weisman as a writer.
  • Ed sings the Jeopardy theme as Whitney searches for a number.
  • He loved playing Granny Good from the DC Animated Universe.
  • When he plays a villain, Ed draws influences from the characters in the Dick Tracy comics.
  • Carl Fredricksen wasn’t specifically made for Ed, he had to audition like everyone else.
  • Ed says that avuncular is the best way to describe old grumps.
  • The entire recording session for Up lasted about six to eight sessions totaling about four-six hours each.
  • Ed took a big spill in the Pixar recording room, but he went back to work without a problem.
  • Actors are regular people who love to play certain parts and indulge in certain character traits, but they especially love to keep people surprised.
  • Ed thinks of Up as a double love story, the first is with Ellie and the other is when Russell.
  • He wishes that dogs and cats could communicate with humans like Dug in the movie.
  • They talk about Up’s emotional impact on people and on Ed himself.
  • Ed says that he is most like Carl Fredricksen out of all the characters he has voiced.
  • We end the interview with a drug PSA.

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Claire Keane’s Once Upon A Cloud Review

Once Upon a Cloud
Written & Illustrated by Claire Keane
Dial Books
ISBN: 978-0803739116

Originally posted at FanboyNation.com.

I recently went to a Barnes and Noble, one of the few remaining in my town, and I visited the children’s section. To my astonishment, about 80% of the books were a TV tie-in. The remaining 20% were classics that had been around for decades and there was very little new, original works, except for one by Claire Keane.tumblr_nknllbi5Uq1qcx6iuo1_500

In 2014, I interviewed Claire Keane, who is part of an American art legacy that spans three generations. Her grandfather was Bil Keane, the Family Circus cartoonist, and her father is Glen Keane, a prominent Disney Renaissance animator. In her own right, Claire possesses an art talent that strides away from her forbearers and takes a sudden spin into her own unique style and creativity (although you can see Disney and Family Circus influences in her work). For several years, Claire worked as a visual development artist at the Walt Disney Animation Studios. She worked side by side with her father on Tangled, based off the Rapunzel fairy tale. One of Rapunzel’s hobbies while being stuck in the tower is painting and Claire lent the character her own works of art to decorate the animated prison. Before she decided to strike out on her own, she also worked on the critical and financial success Frozen during its early inception.

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Claire’s body of work attracted a publisher’s attention and she signed a deal to write and illustrate children’s books for Dial Books. Children’s literature is the perfect outlet for Claire to use her artistic skills. Her first book is called Once Upon A Cloud and it proves that she not only is a gifted artist, she is also a great storyteller. While having a successful career, Claire is also the mother of two young children and from the very beginning she wrote Once Upon A Cloud with them in mind.tumblr_na9emg84NG1qcx6iuo4_1280

It is about a little girl named Celeste who wants to give her mother a gift, but not just any gift, though. Celeste wants to give the most perfect gift ever! Celeste searches all over to find the perfect gift, journeying straight into the sky and visits many celestial beings, however, none of the items she encounters feel right. When Celeste returns home, she discovers what the perfect gift is and, of course, her mother loves it!

To illustrate Once Upon A Cloud, Claire used luscious pastels to fill every page with detailed scenery for Celeste to wander through. Claire relies more on a visual narrative to tell Celeste’s journey and she includes small, sweet details, like a little dog as a travel companion to augment, the story. Her color selection is very calming, which make the book an ideal story to read before bedtime or to express sentimentality if given as a present. tumblr_na9emg84NG1qcx6iuo8_1280

Once Upon A Cloud is sure to gain Claire a sterling reputation in the children’s picture book community and is a charming first venture into the medium.

 

Toon-In-Talk Episode 10: Interview with Rick Goldschmidt and John Brickley

Hello and welcome to tenth episode of Fanboy Nation’s Toon-In-Talk, your rendezvous for animation interviews.  At the mention of the name Rankin-Bass, it probably stirs up nostalgic Christmas memories of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Frosty the SnowmanA Year Without a Santa Claus, and other holiday specials using stop-motion puppetry.  While Rankin-Bass might be best known for its Christmas specials, it was actually a major animation and film studio that produced many popular animated series and movies. The problem is that Rankin-Bass’ story is waiting to be told. Documentary maker John Brickley and Rankin-Bass historian Rich Goldschmidt have combined their forces to make The Enchanted World of Rankin-Bass documentary, chronicling the studio’s story from beginning to end.  Whitney interviews the team and gets the scoop on the documentary’s IndieGoGo campaign and talks behind the scenes information.

Episode 10

  • The first interview is with the producer and director of the documentary, John Brickley.
  • John wants to make the documentary, because Rankin-Bass has an amazing history tied to American television and nothing has really been done on it yet. It is a story waiting to be told.
  • John’s favorite Rankin-Bass shows were the Saturday morning fair: Silver Hawks, Tiger Sharks, and, of course, the animagic specials.
  • John has a lot of experience with film making. One of his biggest projects was the 99%: Occupy Wall Street film and it was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize for best Full Length Documentary at the Sundance Film Festival.
  • For the documentary, John wants to license a lot of clips, conduct interviews, and use some voice over narration. He wants a more film approach.
  • Many of the people involved with Rankin-Bass are getting older and John wants to interview them before they pass on.
  • Whitney thinks it would be cool if they use animagic for the documentary or use an approach similar to John de Lancie’s documentary on bronies, which was also crowdfunded.
  • They’re using an IndieGoGo campaign and they have many cool prizes, including the opportunity to be a producer or associate producer on the documentary. Also even the opportunity to nerd out with Rick and John at Disneyland.
  • Rankin-Bass is important because of the amount of work they did as well as the variety.
  • They released a cult horror film called the Bermuda Depths.
  • Animagic uses a different animation process than stop motion. It’s very expensive to produce, however.
  • Whitney and John both hope puppet-like animation doesn’t disappear.
  • John has learned a lot about the influence Rankin-Bass has had on the animation industry and it is REALLY HUGE!
  • Rankin-Bass isn’t known as much, because they didn’t put their name out there as much as their shows.
  • Hopefully they can get Jules Bass for interview.
  • Rick and John are really the sole driving force behind the documentary. This project will not only document an untold history, it will also appeals to a lot of Rankin-Bass fans who are curious about the company’s history.
  • Rankin-Bass joins a huge amount of animation that has been passed over in cinema history.
  • The second interview is with Rick Goldschmidt.
  • Whitney gets an important questions answered, she’s been waiting years to know: a Dolly for Sue is clinically depressed.
  • Both praise Romeo Mueller’s work and how his writing has made the Rankin-Bass specials last.
  • Rudolph has some lines that are objectionable by today’s standards, but the special is a product of its time and nothing compared to some of the other shows that get past the critics these days.
  • The Little Drummer Boy isn’t shown as much anymore due to the religious overtones. Whitney compares it to Ben-Hur with good reason.
  • Rick became the historian by chance and had the opportunity to write a book on Rankin- Bass, so he took it.
  • Rankin-Bass didn’t keep anything from their shows and a lot of the stuff used to make the show was thrown into a dumpster.
  • Barbara Adams, though, took home the Rudolph puppets and the melted in her attic, except for Santa and Rudolph. Rick coordinated their restoral.
  • Danny Kaye and Arthur Rankin, Jr. were friends and jet setters.
  • Arthur Rankin, Jr. worked at ABC with a lot of celebrities and Jules Bass was an advertiser, who visited ABC regularly. They became friends and formed their own studio creating commercials, then they came across the Japanese The New Adventures of Pinnochio, an animatic show and the rest is history.
  • Rankin-Bass experimented with many forms of animation as live action to create a diverse catalog. They were successful on most of it.
  • Animagic has its origins in Japan with Tad Moshinaga, father of stop motion animation in Japan. It inspired Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas.
  • Arthur Rankin, Jr. loved Bermuda and there is a museum devoted to him.
  • Rankin and Bass recognized a lot of talent and thus hired them for their specials. It was this combined talent that made these specials last for so long.
  • Rick compare this magic to Pixar’s early works. He knew them back in the early days.
  • Rankin-Bass has kept many stars from the Golden Age of Hollywood alive.
  • One of the main reasons Rick wants to make the documentary, because he’s only made short documentaries in the past and he wants to make something longer and all inclusive.
  • Whitney and Rick talk about how animation has changed in the past few decades and how Pixar has changed over the years.
  • Rick hopes to get some of the Pixar folks for interviews, because they were inspired by Rankin Bass.
  • The voice actors of Rudolph and Hermy actually lived together in the same retirement home.
  • Rick goes into details about the films based off Tolkien’s works from Rankin-Bass.
  • They discuss the educational approach used to create Thundercats.
  • Whitney has to know what were they thinking when they created The King and I.
  • The Enchanted World of Rankin Bass is important, because these stories need to be collected before they are lost.
  • Jules Bass is still working

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Toon-In-Talk Episode 09: Interview with American Dad Cast and Producers

Hello and welcome to ninth episode of Fanboy Nation’s Toon-In-Talk, your rendezvous for animation interviews.  American Dad is a popular animated sitcom from the deranged, talented mind of Seth Macfarlane-Family Guy creator.  The show recently switched networks from FOX to TBS and American Dad is now free to explore more creative and lewd plots that push the envelope so far they are blinding the censors. At the New York Comic-Con, Whitney scored a roundtable interview with the American Dad cast: Dee Bradley Baker, Rachel Macfarlane, Wendy Schaal, and Scott Grimes and the producers: Brian Boyle and Matt Weitzman.

Episode 9

  • The first interview is with voice actors Dee Bradley Baker and Rachael Macfarlane.
  • Rachael Macfarlane and her brother Seth Macfarlane worked together for years and she is very complimentary about his work. Seth encouraged her to try voice acting.
  • The cast recorded the episodes a year before their release.
  • Rachael loves the freedom of being a voice actor, meaning it can go on forever and she is free to play anybody, anything, and from anywhere. Dee likes it, because it’s quick, air conditioned, and he doesn’t have to remember his lines.
  • Rachael and Dee both love the normalcy of being voice actors.
  • Dee wants to create an episode where Klaus and Roger start a fish stick factory.
  • The show is on TBS now, so the American Dad crew have more freedom to be creative.
  • Dee speaks German fluently.
  • Rachael’s favorite animated show is Pippa Pig and Dee loves Avatar.
  • The producers are well aware of the voice acting cast’s capabilites and limits. They are thrown voices during the table read to see what the voice actors can do.
  • The second interview is with producers Matt Weitzman and Brian Boyle.
  • The second interview features the producers
  • They never thought American Dad would be on the air for so long.
  • In the beginning the show was compared to Family Guy, but American Dad soon made itself distinct, such as time slot, dedication to story, and characterization.
  • They claim to be doctors of comedy.
  • With the move to TBS, they are allowed to cuss and show different forms of nudity.
  • Whitney explains how familial relations work.
  • Both are really happy where the series is going and hope it will continue. The “Chris” is Chris Robertson, an animator on the show and prior interviewee.
  • If Roger wasn’t an alien, he would be a duck because he is so adaptive.
  • The third interview is with voice actors Scott Grimes and Wendy Schaal.
  • Wendy loves the energy and attention American Dad is getting from TBS. Scott loves the advertising their giving the show.
  • American Dad has made 205 episodes and it is a lot of storylines for the actors to keep track of.
  • Kevin Bacon loves the show.
  • They don’t do group recording sessions anymore, because Seth is very busy.
  • Wendy and Scott discuss their favorite episodes.
  • Scott released a record years ago and the writers included those songs in the show as a joke.

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