Tuesday, March 9, 2021


Director, writer, animator, story artist ... and college prof Thomas Sito reacts to the attack on Pep Le Pew:

So everybody is piling on poor Pepe Le Pew. Every year or so, some East Coast writer tries to score points by attacking a beloved old cartoon for its 70 year old values. This year a political columnist of the NY Times decided Pepe was guilty of ‘normalized rape culture.’ So he has been purged. Much like last year when they went after the holiday song ‘Baby, It's Cold Outside’. Written in 1944 by Frank Loesser as a love letter to his wife. They would sing it together at parties. It won an Oscar in 1949. Pepe won an Oscar in 1950.

I know if Chuck Jones was still alive, he would have much to say about this. I could never hope to surpass his eloquence. So, let me just say to me, Pepe Le Pew was not a sexual predator, he was in love with love itself. A hopeless romantic, he always was defeated and frustrated in his quest for romance, much like Wiley Coyote never caught the Road Runner.

Pepe LePew was a caricature of French actor Charles Boyer ,and the character he played in the movie Algiers. ‘Dahling, come with me to zee Casbah!’ Boyer (1899-1978) was happily married to one woman, and after she died , he died of a broken heart a week later.M/p>

I am not foolish enough to try to excuse aggressive male sexuality. The mysteries of the human mating ritual involving pursuit and pursued, older than civilization itself, are much too subtle to be understood in a few columns of print, or a few hyperbolic generalizations.

Suffice it to say I love Pepe LePew. He was a fun character to draw and to watch. After this storm passes, I hope future generations will rediscover Pepe and his innate charm. ‘Alors pourquoi pas?’

All I can add is, it's difficult to ban, suppress books, movies, and cartoons in the Age of Internet. Like, impossible, non?

Saturday, August 8, 2020

"Avatar" ... Continuing Relevance

When I watched this show being created years ago, the crew was really, REALLY into it. And its continuing popularity on Netflix today makes it "red hot" a decade after its production.

For months, “Avatar” has consistently appeared in Netflix’s top 10 most-watched shows, the company says. Forums dedicated to the show have been active since its initial run, and since the spring, fans new and old have taken to TikTok, Reddit and Twitter to discuss their favorite characters and moments. But its immense popularity isn’t just the result of a wave of nostalgia. Fans say its reflection in current events has been a grounding force in a tumultuous time. ...

“In some ways, I’m surprised by how relevant the show still is to people, but in other ways, not at all,” one of the creators, Michael Dante DiMartino, writes in an email. “The major issues in the stories — genocide, totalitarianism, systemic injustice, abuse — sadly, these have been pervasive issues throughout history and continue to be. The show is a reflection of our world. But now, we happen to be living through a time in which all these problems have been exacerbated.”

Another good example of older animation that still draws lots and lots of eyeballs.

Friday, July 3, 2020

Eighty Years Ago ...

Note: What follows is about a live-action flick...

Always useful to open your movie with a bang...

On this day 8 decades back, The Sea Hawk is released.

A blockbuster silent film called The Sea Hawk was produced in 1924, starring the long-forgotten Milton Sills. The flick was based on a Rafael Sabatini novel of the same name and Warners scooped up the rights. Writer (later director) Delmer Daves was put to work writing a new adaptation for Errol Flynn.

But then along came writer Seton (The Adventures of Robin Hood) Miller with an original script called Beggars of the Sea, and Warner production head Hal Wallis thought "Ah HA!" The studio bought Miller's screenplay, and, as often happens in Hollywoodland, Wallis directed staff writer Howard Koch (later to win the "Best Screenplay" Oscar for "Casablanca") to rewrite the epic. Koch turned the story into an allegory for the war in Europe: King Philip's Spain standing in for Hitler's Germany and Elizabeth's England repping Britain under Churchill. (Not for nothing was this film one of Winston's favorite flicks.)

A huge new soundstage -- complete with water tanks -- was constructed to house the sea battle that opens the film, and production commenced on January 31, 1940. The film had the usual problems with its star: Flynn came in late, Flynn left early, Flynn didn't know his lines. Director Michael Curtiz tore out his hair and Hal Wallis fired off brusque memos: "Why don't you do something about this? ... Why don't you at least let me in on it so that I can? ..." (etc.) And there were other complications. When they were shooting the film's climax, it became obvious that the villain, played by Henry Danielle, could fence. The movie’s unit manager detailed the problems in a February 19, 1940 production memo:

To: T.C. Wright

From: Frank Mattinson

Subject: The Sea Hawk

Saturday … the company … made 16 set-ups … of the duel. … This duel has turned into a matter of a walk. Mr. [Henry] Daniell is absolutely helpless and his closeup in the duel will be mostly from the elbows up.

Mr. Curtiz was greatly discouraged with his results on Saturday, as well as Friday, but there is nothing we can do as it will be impossible to go back and change to someone else in this part. …

The Casting Office and everyone connected with the picture were duly warned of Mr. Daniell’s inability to fence long before the picture started, and we knew of him being taken out of a part in Romeo and Juliet [1936] because he could not handle a sword. Nevertheless he is playing the part and it is going to take two more full days to finish the duel at the rate we worked on it Saturday and last Thursday.

Frank Mattinson

After navigating the duel problem in February, the stupendous sea battle was shot in March, and production finally wrapped in April. TSH went on to become one of Warners' top grossers of the year (which maybe explains why Errol Flynn could come in late and go home early?) Released again in 1947, it was a big earner once more.

And wrap things up by killing the bad guy.

Monday, June 22, 2020

SpongeBob Out Of Theaters

As the coronavirus romps along, we'll see more and more movies moved to streaming platforms. Movie theaters? Not a lot of people rushing down to their local AMC, and who's going to be in the multiplex?

Paramount is taking The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run off the theatrical calendar and sending it straight into homes for an early 2021 release. We heard sources talking about this earlier today. Sponge on the Run will go on PVOD before it hits CBS All Access.

The movie was originally scheduled to play over Memorial Day weekend before COVID-19, but was rescheduled for Aug. 7.

Better pay per view than no views at all. No doubt Paramount is kicking itself that it didn't get this movie ... which has been in work for years, done way earlier ...

Friday, June 12, 2020

Work Around Town 2020 -- The Sum Total (More or Less)

The overarching reality for cartoons in the 21st Century (for both large screen and small screen, kid animation and adult animation)? It's roaring along like a high-powered locomotive.

And multiple Los Angeles studios are producing large amounts of work, much of it Subscription Video On Demand (SVOD), from Disney+ to Netflix to HBO Max, Hulu and others. Plus there are still ongoing productions for Cartoon Network, the Disney Channel, Fox Primetime, etc. (The other "distribution platforms"). This holds true for Cartoon Network, Disney Television Animation and multiple others. Also, too: the Animation Guild continues to expand, rising to 5300+ members, while its members continue to be employed through the pandemic. (While the animation studios in Los Angeles stand empty during the pandemic, animation work goes on in bedrooms and offices, on dining room tables and converted playrooms. This makes L.A.'s animation union one of the few entertainment guilds that is currently functioning.)

Bento Box

Purchased by the new Fox Corporation (the company not owned by Disney) in August, 2019, Bento Box performs pre-production on a variety of shows. BB was founded in 2009 by Scott Greenberg (CEO) and Joel Kuwahara (president of production), both of whom will keep leading the company as it becomes a stand-alone division of Fox Entertainment.

The Great North -- ongoing (newer show)

Duncanville -- ongoing (newer show)

Bob's Burgers -- ongoing

Cartoon Network --

Cartoon Network anticipates placing three new shows in work in 2020 (projects to be decided.)

The studio produces content for a variety of distribution platforms, but it's been creating more content for HBO Max. Most series are now created as 11-minute episodes.

Adventure Time -- spin-off specials now in work.

Apple & Onion -- season #2 in work.

Ben 10 -- completed; Kevin 11 spin-off awaiting possible pick up.

Close Enough -- ending Season #2, awaiting possible pickup for #3.

Craig of the Creek -- more than 100 11-minute episodes completed and could be near the end of its run. (No final decisions about end.)

Fungies -- Season #2.

Infinity Train -- HBO Max -- 10 11-minute serialized episodes. There is talk of doing a long-form special.

Steven Universe Future -- series completed. New episodes still airing.

Summer Camp Island -- in production season #3

J. J. Vallard's Fairy Tales -- 10 limited animation episodes.

Summer Camp Island -- Season #2

Tig 'n Seek -- in production season #2

Victor and Valentino -- ongoing

We Bare Bears long-form special near completion.

Wee Baby Bears -- season #1.

Update: Cartoon Network is in negotiations with Titmouse Studios to do more episodes of Mao Mao: Heroes Of Pure Heart.

Disney Television Animation --

Located in Glendale and Burbank, California, the Disney TVA was founded in 1984 (at the dawn of the Michael Eisner-Jeffrey Katzenberg era); DTVA currently has three locations in two Southern California cities. A few years ago, decisions were made to cap the number of Disney small-screen shows done in-house, and several series are now done by sub-contractors (see below).

Elena of Avalor -- from 2016 -- ongoing

Duck Tales -- reboot from 2017 -- ongoing

Big Hero 6: the Series -- from 2017 -- ongoing

Big City Greens -- from 2018 -- ongoing

Fancy Nancy -- from 2018 -- ongoing

Muppet Babies -- reboot from 2018 -- ongoing

Amphibia -- from 2019 -- ongoing

Marvel's Moongirl and Devil Dinosaur -- from 2020 -- ongoing (Marvel/Disney, subcontracted to Titmouse Animation.

The Curse of Molly McGee -- from 2019-2020 -- ongoing for Disney Channel

Monsters at Work -- from 2020 (with Pixar) -- ongoing

The Proud Family: Louder and Prouder -- #3 -- the relaunch was announced on February 27th, with creator Bruce Smith and writer Calvin Brown Jr. returning.

Disney TVA's Los Angeles Subcontractors

Rough Draft Animation Studios

RDS, Inc. was founded in Van Nuys, California in 1991. Currently it has studios in South Korea where it functions as a major overseas production facility, and a second studio on the Glendale-Burbank city line. (For many years its L.A.-area studio was located on Brand Boulevard in Glendale.)

Big City Greens -- from 2018 -- ongoing with Disney TV Animation

The Owl House -- from 2020 -- ongoing with Disney TV Animation

Wild Canary Animation --

Started in 2008, Wild Canary Animation is located on Riverside Drive on the Burbank side of Toluca Lake. It's a long-time subcontractor for Disney Television Animation, previously producing Sheriff Callie's Wild West, Miles From Tomorrowland, and Puppy Dog Pals for the Mouse House.

Mira, Royal Detective -- from 2020 -- ongoing with Disney Jr.

The Chicken Squad -- from 2020 -- ongoing with Disney Jr.

The Rocketeer -- from 2019 -- ongoing with Disney Jr.)

Fox Television Animation

Fox Television Animation -- now owned by Disney (in't most everything?) -- has two facilities: one in Burbank, California; one in Los Angeles, California.

The Simpsons -- thirty-second season (Burbank studio)

Family Guy -- eighteenth season currently airing -- season 19 to be announced (Los Angeles Studio)

American Dad -- renewed for 18th and 19th seasons (Los Angeles Studio)

Marvel Animation

Also Disney owned, the present iteration of Marvel Animation Studios is in Glendale on Flower Street, across the street from Disney's tech campus. (Different versions of "Marvel Animation" have existed since the 1990s; before that, Marvel licensed characters to various animation studios.) The reorganization of Marvel Television and Marvel Animation under the purview of Chief Creative Officer Kevin Feige and Marvel Studios has been ongoing during the last couple of months, with longtime Marvel Animation executive Cort Lane exiting his position as Marvel's Vice President of Animation and Family Entertainment last January. Middle management at the Glendale studio remains (mostly) the same.

Spidey and his Amazing Friends -- 3-D show for Disney Jr., in work with a small crew

DreamWorks Animation [features]

DreamWorks Animation's feature division is located on a custom-built campus in Glendale that is leased, not owned. (The campus was sold before the company's sale to Universal-Comcast, then leased back under a twenty-year agreement.)

The Croods 2 -- ongoing

Boss Baby 2 -- ongoing

Spirit Riding Free -- ongoing (based on the tv series based on the original hand-drawn feature. Are we keeping this straight?)

The Bad Guys -- ongoing

Also various other projects in development.

DreamWorks Animation TV

DreamWorks Animation Television came into existence in 2013 when DWA cut a deal with Netflix to produce 300 hours of animation for the streaming service. The division has been going strong ever since. The division was a good part of why Universal-Comcast was interested in buying the company a couple of years later, and it's been going strong ever since.

Rhyme Time Town -- ongoing

Go, Dog, Go! -- ongoing

Dragons Rescue Riders -- ongoing

Felix the Cat -- ongoing

Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous -- ongoing

Trolls Topia -- ongoing

The Mighty Ones -- ongoing

Madagascar: A little Wild -- ongoing

Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts -- ongoing

Cleopatra In Space -- ongoing (with Titmouse, Inc.)

Archibald's Next Big Thing -- ongoing (with Titmouse, Inc.)

Spirit Riding Free: (various spinoffs) -- ongoing

Wizards: Tales of Acadia -- ongoing

Gabby's Doll House -- ongoing

Fast and Furious: Spy Racers -- ongoing


Formerly Illumination Entertainment, and owned by UniversalComcast, the animation powerhouse has been creating high-brossing animated features made on a tight budget ($65-$80 million, since Despicable Me came into existence in 2010. Its principle production studio is Illumination MacGuff in Paris, France.

Minions: the Rise of Gru -- ongoing

Despicable Me 4 -- ongoing

Sing 2 -- ongoing

Mario feature -- ongoing

Netflix Animation

Netflix has increased its animation profile in stages. First it contracted with Dreamworks Animation to create multiple new animated series for its streaming platform. (This pretty much pulled DreamWorks CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg's fat out of the fire and made DreamWorks Animation attractive to NBC-Universal-Comcast, which now owns it.) It has now made deal with a number of animation studio, including Titmouse in L.A. and Studio Ghibli in Tokyo to create new animated product. It's also set up its own cartoon studio in Hollywood, which is making a plethora of animated cartoons.

Over the Moon -- post production -- director, Glen Keane (Netflix/Pearl Studios)

Love, Death and Robots -- two seasons (Netflix/Blur Studios)

The Cuphead Show -- new show ongoing

Nickelodeon Animation Studios

Nick Animation began life in rented space in Studio City, way back in the early '90s. It's been headquartered in Burbank, California on Olive Avenue for decades now, and houses much of its staff in a refurbished one-story facility and glass-sheathed skyscraper that surround rectangle of open space that used to hold a miniature golf course (but that was years ago).

Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles -- ongoing (two seasons to date)

Pinky Malinky -- wrapped (or close to ...) -- 60 episodes on Netflix

The Casagrandes -- ongoing -- second season

Glitch Tech -- finishing up (with hiccups) -- streaming Netflix

Kamp Koral -- ongoing Sponge Bob prequel

Adventures in Wonder Park -- ongoing -- Spinoff from the Paramount animated feature; season one premieres in June

Garfield -- ongoing development of the 2019 Jim Davis acquisition

Man of the House -- Norman Lear project announced in '18. Informants say it's ongoing, but?? ...

Middle School Moguls -- ongoing -- Season one wrapped

Big Nate -- ongoing (26 episodes)

Untitled CG Star Trek series -- in continuing development.

Star Trek: Lower Decks -- Seasons 1 & 2 -- Nick and CBS Eye Animation -- The adventures of junior Starfleet officers on the starship USS Cerritos.

Blue's Clues and You! -- ongoing -- Nickelodeon is adding "Are You Afraid of the Dark?" and "Blue’s Clues & You!: Bedtime Stories" to its growing podcast playlist.

The trades have released a long roster of shows that have been cancelled and renewed on various networks and streaming sites; you will find various animated shows on it.

(Note: The list above should be for Nick shows with pre-production in Burbank, so product created elsewhere ("Butterbean's Cafe, etc.) should be found there. No doubt I've made mistakes along the way. As with the other lists, corrected as we go along.

Rick and Morty LLC

Rick and Morty -- ongoing (Season #5)


Final Space -- ongoing

Tuca & Bertie -- ongoing (revival)

Sony Pictures Animation

Hotel Transylvania 4 -- development

Spider-Man: Spiderverse Sequel -- development

Stoopid Buddy Stoodios

Crossing Swords -- ongoing (for Sony Pictures Television/Hulu)

Micro Mayhem -- ongoing (for Quibi)

Gloop World -- ongoing

Filthy Animals -- ongoing

Timouse, Inc., was started in New York in 2000. It now has studios in Los Angeles, Vancouver and on the east coast, and sub-contracts work from a variety of companies and conglomerates. It signed a deal with Netflix to create new shows in January.

Titmouse Animation

Big Mouth -- (new show for Netflix) ongoing

The Midnight Gospel (new show for Netflix) ongoing

Deathstorke: Knights and Dragons -- ongoing

Indivisible -- ongoing

Archibald's Next Big Thing -- ongoing (for Netflix/DreamWorks Animation)

Moongirl and Devil Dinosaur -- ongoing (Marvel/Disney)

Pantheon -- ongoing (for AMC)

Critical Role: The Legend of Vox Machina -- ongoing, though delayed by the pandemic

Warner Bros. has been in the cartoon business for ninety freaking years, and today has two animation subsidiaries. The older one is Warner Bros. Animation, which concentrates on home-screen product (broadcast, cable, streaming, etc.). The new one is Warner Animation Group, which focuses on theatrical releases, though the movies-in-theaters thing is temporarily suspended, since most of the world is "sheltering in place".

Nevertheless, here's a summary of what Warners two studios currently produce. Expect changes as I gather more info. (Cartoon Network Studios, part of the same conglomerate, has these things in work.)


WAG -- Warners-A.T.&T.'s newer feature division, has facilities in Hollywood and Burbank, CA. Most of its employees work on the Warner lot.

Scoob! -- in development -- no announced release date

Tom and Jerry -- in production -- Christmas release (we'll see if that changes, eh?)

Space Jam 2 -- in work -- summer '21 release

Lego Batman 2 -- ongoing development -- no release date; both summer 2021 and 2022 releases have been mentioned, but there is nothing official.

DC Super Pets -- in development -- Spring '22


Multiple production facilities in Burbank, CA. (Warner Ranch, former NBC studios, etc.)

Animaniacs -- ongoing -- artists, as on other Warner series, working from home during the pandemic.

Unikitty! -- ongoing -- currently in Season #3

Teen Titans Go! -- ongoing -- Season 6

D.C. Super Hero Girls -- ongoing -- newer episodes now unspooling on Cartoon Network.

Scooby Doo and Guess Who? -- ongoing -- An official release date for Season 2 hasn't been confirmed; it likely air later this year. Warner Bros. is also releasing their animated movie SCOOB! in a few months, backgrounding how Scooby and Shaggy met and the beginnings of Mystery, Inc.

Little Ellen -- ongoing

Jellystone! -- ongoing -- Season 1

Looney Tunes Cartoons -- ongoing

Green Eggs and Ham -- ongoing -- Season 2

Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz -- three seasons (60 episodes plus special)

Harley Quinn -- ongoing -- now in Season 2

Thunder Cats Roar -- ongoing --

Yabba Dabba Dinosaurs -- ongoing

Young Justice -- ongoing -- Season #4

Gremlins: Secrets of the Mogwai -- ongoing

Deathstroke: Knights and Dragons -- ongoing -- Season premiered in January

Warners released its first "Looney tunes" cartoon short on this date in 1930: the immortal Sinkin' In The Bathtub, starring Bosko.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Ever Expanding

The IATSE, the mother international of the Animation Guild, has many of the entertainment unions under its wide umbrella performing little or no work because COVID-19 has shut down sets, shut down one hell of a lot of live-action movie production. But there is an area of movie work that goes right on thriving ....

IATSE Local 839, also known as the Animation Guild, represents more than 5,800 animation artists, writers, character designers, art directors, storyboard artists, visual effects supervisors and other technicians. Guild business representative Steve Kaplan says that animation has not suffered the same levels of employment losses that have hit live-action production over the past few months.

“It’s very possible that we’re one of a handful of IATSE locals that have members working, and we’re probably the only one whose entire membership has not, by my view, been affected by the pandemic,” says Kaplan. “This is because the industry itself realized that it’s not necessary to be in the studio — it’s not necessary to be next to each other — and animation production can continue under these adverse conditions for people working from home.”

The Animation Guild’s membership grew by a little less than 100 members in the first quarter of the year, and new members are being added every week. Studios continue to post job listings, and the guild has signed new productions to agreements. Local 839’s office manager is “furiously setting up members,” says Kaplan — notably, those who are new to the guild as well as those who have found work and are reactivating their membership. ...

The growth of new animation styles and adult animation projects over the past five years has meant “big strides” for the industry, says Fletcher Moules, the supervising director on Sony Pictures Animation and Netflix’s “Agent King.” Along those lines, several animation artists who spoke to Variety highlighted the relatively robust video-game job market, which relies on animation, and an uptick in interest in animated commercials during the shutdown. ...

So on top of being cost-efficient, in addition to drawing lots of audience eyeballs, it turns out animation can continue right on during pandemic lockdowns. And The Animation Guild, Local 839 IATSE, is larger than its ever been in its sixty-eight year existence.

Friday, May 22, 2020

Tuca & Bertie

A second season for the Adult Swim show has been greenlit:

...Adult Swim has ordered 10 episodes of the adult series [Tuca & Bertie] that revolves around two birds who are best friends and live in the same apartment building. The sophomore season is targeted to premiere next year. ...

Netflix’s decision to drop the series was a surprise last summer. The first season of Tuca & Bertie will remain on Netflix. Adult Swim has domestic rights to the second season. ...

Animation, of course, continues to be a hot commodity, especially with the pandemic shuttering live action production. Even live action shows have turned to animation to fill the gap:

[The Blacklist] showrunners John Eisendrath and Jon Bokenkamp decided that if they couldn’t make it to the season-ending Episode 22, the narrative in Episode 19, which they had already begun shooting, would work as the Season 7 finale. But they had only shot half of its scenes, and out of order. ...

“The show is sort of a graphic novel to begin with,” Eisendrath said. “It has a larger-than-life antihero and Gotham-style side villains. Why not try to animate it?

[But we found that animation] has been far more work than most of our episodes. I’m surprised at how intricate it is. Not that it’s not a reason to do it in the future, but it has been a totally different process, in terms of time and the way we use resources. ... We didn’t have a narrative reason to make [the episode] half-animated, and so we decided not to pretend that we did. And two, we took liberties that we would not have been able to do in live action. It turned out, fortuitously, that the large action sequences had yet to be filmed, and we were able to make those considerably larger." ...

As I write, L.A. animation continues to buzz along at full tilt. More and more, cable networks and streaming companies see that the costs-benefits of animation remain high, so why decelerate, particularly when productions in Los Angeles can continue from remote locations. And artists? They work at home in their robes and slippers, and learn to adapt.