Monday, December 31, 2012

I love it! All of it. Everything...forever.

Sometimes the geek community can be a little bit cynical. Hold on! hold on! I know opening a blog with that kind of ridiculous, over the top statement can sometimes turn people off to the point that they just immediately stop reading but please. Bear with me.

It's just that for a group of people that refer to themselves as "the fandom" they sure do find a lot of reasons to hate each and everything they see. They over analyze,  blow every continuity error out of proportion and freak out over every slight change the creators happen to make. But I'm not here to talk about those particular geeks. there's no way to help those poor souls, short of me appearing at their house in the middle of the night in chains, heralding the arrival of three ghosts.

I'm here to talk about a geeky group that could be saved. Those people on the opposite extreme. Who defend their favorite properties no matter what terrible nightmarish incarnations they might take. They are...oh...what's the word....

Don't get me wrong, I spend a lot of my time trying to add a little positivity to internet geekdom but there's being positive and then there's crazed, frothing, blind allegiance 

When I meet someone who is a fan of Pixar I feel a special kinship. Pixar has done some great things. Monsters Inc is one of my favorite animated movies of all time. Incredibles is also great! However if you are such a Pixar fan that you don't see that there has been a sharp decline in their quality (especially since the mouse bought them) I just want to put my arm over your shoulder and have a serious talk with ya. You see buddy, when you say things like that it really worries me. It worries me a lot.

Since Disney purchased Pixar in 2006 they began a hideous transformation into merchandise focused, quality compromising sequel factory. Seriously ANOTHER Toy Story? A Monsters Inc Prequel? A Finding Nemo sequel?? Finding Nemo! Did anyone ask for that?

But still, there are people who love the company and everything it does. They'll stand there with a giant grin on their face and no sign of life behind their eyes. They'll go to the parks and the stores and buy every ounce of merchandise they can. They'll act like Pixar just keeps getting better and better even when they inevitably release Cars 3 and 4 and 5 and whatever countless TV shows, spin-offs and live action role playing games they decide to make with it.
This doesn't do Pixar a service. It doesnt help anything. All it does is encourage the company to keep chasing the dollar.
Don't worry about quality guys just keep making stuff, we'll buy it! We don't care, we just want stuff!!

And when you send that kind of a message our there, this is what you get.

Look at it!

If you really want to be a true fan of something you have to realize that things grow and evolve. You have to be open to change but don't be such an apologist that you're blind to things going horribly wrong with the property that you love. All the studios have to gauge the public's response to change is money. And when you start throwing cash around like a drunken action figure collector these companies think they're doing a good job. Next thing you know theyre making a third in the live action Smurfs series! Is that what you want?

Some things are just bad. Transformer was a great cartoon and a fantastic toy line. The Michael Bay movies were bad. Don't pretend they weren't  Were not going to think your less of a Transformers fan. Were all friends here. Calm down.

Sesame Street was a great show, one of my favorites as a kid! It had a kind of homemade feel that kids could really relate to. It was like you really knew the you really LIVED on Sesame Street. But please for the love of Muppets, don't pretend that the too slick, over produced CGI infested spectacle that's on TV right now has anywhere near the heart and soul that the show started out with. Please.

I mean Mr Rogers was a legendary TV program but after it finally left television you didn't see them making some poor excuse for a-OH MY GOSH! PBS WHAT HAVE YOU DONE!?!?!

I'm not trying to stand behind you with my hands on your shoulders like Emperor Palpatine trying to get you to embrace darkness and feed the negativity inside you, I just want you to use a little common sense. Love what is good and don't pretend to love what is bad. Seems simple enough right? We stood up to the Alien Ninja Turtle Movie! We stood up to the Star Wars Prequels! Let's just use this power toward everything, even the properties we love! Who's with me?


Oh well.

Monday, December 17, 2012

My dream job: an animated plan.


      I’m not going to lie or, as the kids say, “front.” This post about my Dream Job has an ulterior motive. It’s going to read like “Oh gosh, gee! I wish I could have this job! If Only!!”


      It’s going to be wistful, maybe some self deprecating humor etc; but in reality, it will be a cleverly crafted, finely honed appeal to some mysterious shadowy animation executive out there to actually give me a shot. I’ll add tags that will attract the attention of high-powered animators and show runners. I’ll shamelessly name drop animators and creators in a way that seems TOTALLY natural but will really reveal how hip I am as to who’s who in “the biz.” I’ll @message actual industry professionals when I “drop” this post on twitter AND there is at least a 75% chance that I will do the following:

      Sneak into an animation studio, disguised as a clumsy and awkward temporary secretary and will strategically plan a random encounter. With mousy hair, over-sized glasses, a frumpy skirt and a partially tucked in (and miss-buttoned) blouse. I’ll walk, head down, holding a large pile of papers and “accidentally” run right into an animation exec. I’ll start apologizing profusely while making no eye contact (they hate that) and during the confusion, I’ll make “the switch.” Grabbing one of her folders containing executive-type paperwork possibly the most recent, really impressive raise for a valued employee such as…

      Aliki Theofilopoulos Grafft; who’s broad experience in film and TV animation has made her one of the most respected talents in the industry! Want to know why? Treat yourself to her Emmy nominated work on the hit animated TV show “Phineas and Ferb!” And after that, be sure to check out her latest project Millie Gorgon!
      An original series about the daughter of Medusa and Poseidon living the life of a modern (ancient greek) teenage Gorgon. It’s full of fantastic writing and character development so charming it’s sure to turn even the stoniest heart to…well, stone… Anyway it’s going to be huge!

      …The executive will have me thrown out of the building of course; not because I spilled her papers and not because I’m obviously a man in drag but because I bumped into her and executives never allow themselves to be touched by anyone “beneath” them. I’ll be tossed out onto the street but the switch will already have been made and she will eventually read this post; captivated, and impressed with how easily she had walked into my perfectly laid ruse. I’m a weirdo who can get things done! …Like Babe Ruth calling his home runs.

      But this is only the most recent step in my 8 step plan that has been two decades in the making.

      To start with, I watched cartoons. I hear you all out there, “lots of kids watch cartoons” you say; to which I reply with a hardy “Pfffffff”. Those amateurs might have THOUGHT they were watching cartoons, but I was REALLY watching them. I stared so deeply into my television set that I gained a more profound understandings of the colorful characters on the screen than anyone should have a right to. From Snagglepuss to Count Duckula, I really got to know what makes those characters tick! Eventually, for some reason, other people stopped watching cartoons and “grew up” but that concept has always been pretty foreign to me. Why stop watching something that’s still so entertaining? Occasionally a coworker will bring up the fact that their kid watches Spongebob and I have to restrain myself from going into a half hour long explanation about how sophisticated the sight gags are on that show. How the world is incredible and the humor is so broad it could span three generations. I don’t even tell them how amazed I was when I spotted a Jack Benny reference in an episode because apparently other people don’t thing about cartoons. Ever. But I do.

      Beginning in elementary school, I took matters into my own hand. Rather than just be a consumer of cartoons I decided to create! The story is an inspiring one and I think it would best by told by myself 8 months ago (from a post on April 29th)

      “When I was 12, the weirdness that up untill then and been subtle, sleeping just beneath the surface, finally became the dominant force in my personality. In 5th grade, I created my first comic book with my friend Brandon. It was called Pizza Man! (Pizza was pretty big in the early nineties, thanks Ninja Turtles!)

      Pizza Man was a lazy and carefree pizza cook working the night shift in a local pie joint. Next store to the pizza place is a bank which, on this night happens to be being robbed. The bank robber sets of explosives to blow the safe which causes an unforeseen chain of events, fusing our hero with the power of pizza. Flat and powerfull his head torso and arms were all made of pizzas and his fingers were pizza cutters! Pizza cutters… Anyway the explosion also shot the bank robber through the wall of the bank and into the pet store on the other side. Merging the criminal with a cat and creating the terrible villain Cat Man-Drew! Pizza Man and Cat Man-Drew would be forever locked in a comment with some kind of vague outcome that I never pinned down as it never got past issue one.

      The following year I kicked my career up a notch by founding “The Quick Witt Cartoon Company! Acting on information (that turned out to not be true) I was inspired by the story of three teenage girls who created a fun cartoon and actually sold it to Warner Bros, creating Tiny Toon Adventures!

A few of the beloved members of the Quick Witt Cartoon Company Family

      I thought “If they can do it, you can too!” And I set to work creating my own television animation masterpiece simply titled “Rover” It was about a Houdini dog that could escape from any leash, fence or yard. The story followed the lives of his owners and their interaction with their faithful escape artist dog. Once he inevitably got away, we would find ourselves in a brand new world full of talking animals…stray cats, a bully dog (owned by the female love interest of Rover’s owner) an extreme sports goose and a bevy of oddball animal characters. The show would constantly shift back and forth between these two worlds both existing at the same time.

A rare, early "napkin sketch" of The Hit Animated series Rover.

      I didn’t just dream up this cartoon and walk away I put in some real work. Using the unique talents of several of my friends, we created character sheets with personality information…drawings of each character…background shots of commonly used scenes…everything! 

      I even got out my trusty cassette recorder and had individual voice recording sessions with my friends for each individual characters. This was the information I thought you had to put together to sell a cartoon to a major studio (as a 12 year old!) I was obsessed with the project and would put my friends to work every time we got together. I must have been a blast to hang out with!!”

      Coming fresh off the frantic joy of creating a comic book then a cartoon and finally an animation studio, I took the next logical step. I became a dark moody “artist” started listening to underground rock and enrolled in Art School as a fine art major (re: future homeless person). At school I learned a ton of stuff I had no interesting in knowing. And the thing I learned most of all was that I didn’t want to be at art school. I soon left, turning my back on art and artists as a whole.

      I wandered the earth, everywhere I went I did no drawing. Like a gunslinger that hung up his holster, refusing to ever kill again. I destroyed my palettes and put all of my artsy clothes in storage so I wouldn’t be identified. With no creative outlet; I began a sharp, downward spiral, at one point I sank low enough to watch a sporting event. Inevitably I returned to the world of artistic expression but this time I was doing something I actually loved. Had always loved. I was writing.

      Though I love the art of animation (hand drawn and stop motion in particular) such as the amazing character design work of animation pros like Kris W and Alex Deligiannis.  All of my years of getting into the heads of Jem and the Holograms and He-Man as well as creating my own toons as a kid had all been leading up to one thing; writing for animation.

      Unfortunately without the ability to actually create animation, the opportunities are non existent but my ridiculous story ideas and dorky sense of humor would not be contained: The Claymation Werewolf Digital Digest was born. With blogging I had the whole of animation history to work with. I could combine characters, practice my humor and meet fellow nerds. Most importantly I was writing and writing a lot. Setting deadlines and meeting them. It was one of the single funnest projects I have ever worked on and the writing only inspired me to write some more. I even started to consider the idea of returning to the world of cartoon creation and screen writing, as a result of encouragement (whether intentional or not) From Brian at Cool and Collected!

      Through the blog (and the geek community it introduced me to) I learned about a project called Amazon Studios that actually allowed for open submissions to create a film or an animated series. Working against my lifelong system of avoiding rejection by never trying anything, I began to actually put together a submission. As I worked on my “pitch bible” I began to fall in love with the entire process. Creating characters, writing a script, story summaries; world building. I sought advice from everyone I could think of and read every website and listened to every pod cast I could find on the subject of “pitching a cartoon” I recruited friends online to read my drafts and give advice and I wrote and re-wrote. Found an amazing online illustrator named Christopher Tupa to produce my cover image and finally submitted my animated series.
Park Land: A workplace comedy where the office is nature and nature is BIG business.

      In the end my project, “Park Land” was added to what Amazon Studios calls Notable Projects. It amounts to about 35 projects from 700-800+ received. It didn't win but that was just enough encouragement for me to keep my ludicrous dream alive. As we speak I am hard at work on my next submission and at the same time wracking my brain trying to figure out how I can gain the attention of a studio that would allow me to submit a project the old fashioned way. SO far I’m thinking the “pretend to be a secretary and sneak into a studio” thing might be my best bet! Even if I never get my dream job as a writer on an animated project, it’s going to be a blast trying!

      Some folks will try to tell you that breaking into the animation industry is all about going through the proper channels. Going through animation school (preferably The California Institute of Arts or “CalArts“) making contacts and “networking and first and foremost living in Los Angeles but I’m here to tell you that the best path is definitely wacky hijinks, cobbled together into a nonsensical, decades long plan that only you are aware of. But hey, that’s showbiz.

Meanwhile, at League of Extraordinary Bloggers Headquarters!

ShezCraft has a goal I greatly admire; doing nada.

HenchGirl produced my absolute favorite post this week!

Jamie at Q The Adult sends Uhura to the unemployment line and takes her rightful place in Star Fleet

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Monday, December 3, 2012

I Can't Believe It's Not Christmas: The 7 Greatest Festively Fictional Holidays.

People come up to me on the street almost daily this time of year and it’s always the same old thing.
“Claymation Werewolf, I keep trying to go to Christmas parties and then, only after arriving, do I realize that the party is in fact actually for some fictional holiday that has no bearing on reality whatsoever!” “with everyone constantly using the code word HOLIDAY instead of Christmas, how can I possibly distinguish all these different celebrations. I want to get my Christmas groove on CW! My Christmas groove!!”
My response is usually pretty standard. As I remove their clenched hands from the lapels of my overcoat (an overcoat I might add that is far to classy and expensive to be touched by the sorts of people you run into outside of private clubs) My answer is this: “I’m workin’ on it!”

Well friends, the work (and the wait) is finally over! As a public service to all you Yuletide rump-shakers out there I have created a sort of field guide that should allow you to easily sort out one December holiday from another. I’ll give a short background on the holiday in question as well as what you might expect to see in regards to the party (and party-goers) associated with it.

*Note* I will not be discussing “Festivus” so all you hardcore Seinfeld fans can go ahead and add this blog to this year’s airing of grievances. = )

Life Day:
(Origin: Star Wars Episode   “The Holiday Special”

Apparently beginning as a fake Thanksgiving this geek holiday was quickly transformed into a fake Christmas, and over the years has become probably one of the most famous Wookie holidays on the Wookie calendar.

Background: Celebrated every three years on the planet of Kashyyyk, Life Day celebrates life. The various and plentiful forms of life on the Wookie Planet itself as well as the lives of Wookies who have fallen that year. Also, the new lives that have been brought into the world (they sort of shoe-horn a lot of things in here…) Wookies gather at the Great Tree Of Life, arriving from all over the galaxy to exchange gifts and sing traditional Wookie life day carols. On Life Day it is also traditional to enjoy the musical stylings of the late great Beau Arthur and to produce and air animated shorts. Little is known about the origins of these two traditions but they add, in their own way, to the rich cultural significance of Life Day.

If you are invited to a Life Day party, there is a very strong chance that you are on the planet of Kashyyyk there is also a chance however that you are in the midst of HARDCORE Star Wars fans. Either way you will find yourself in an extremely uncomfortable situation with strange hairy beings using unintelligible grunting instead of speech. Your surroundings will be very alien and incomparable to those you might experience among “humans.“

The red robes however are stunning and people should really be listening to Beau Arthur music and producing animated shorts anyway so, it’s not all bad!

Hogs Watch
Origin: “The Hog Father” by Terry Pratchett  

Hogs Watch is very difficult to distinguish from Christmas itself. There are traditional treats; cakes candies etc… Hogs Watch carols and of course a jolly toymaker who flies through the world, going down chimneys and delivering toys to all the good boys and girls.

The differences of course being that The Hog Father is a pig like being transformed from an ancient god of death and renewal who lives in a palace made of bones, who’s sleigh is pulled by four terrifying wild boars and who leaves the bad children bags of bloody bones.
If you stumble upon a Hogs Watch party try to go with the flow. It really is a beautiful holiday and the similarities with Christmas should make adapting to it fairly easy. A few helpful hints however will make your Hogs Watch, one to remember!

-Hogs Watch is December 32nd. So mark your calendars accordingly!
-Remember to leave out ALCOHOL (not milk!) as a worktime treat for the Hog Father and don’t forget turnips for his boars!
-… This man

Mr. Teatime (Pronounced: Teah tahmei) is NOT part of the traditional Hogs Watch celebration. He is in fact a extremely sociopathic member of the assassin’s guild. He has been hired to Kill the Hog Father (something he’s given a lot of thought to) He would kill you and anyone else around him that he doesn’t have any use for at the time. Do not approach him regardless of how much he sounds like Johnny Depp’s Willy Wonka!
-Have fun! Hogs Watch is only once a year!

Yak Shaving Day
Origin: The Renn and Stimpy Show

Yak Shaving day is one of the most unique holidays on our calendar. Incorporating a series of seemingly nonsensical activities it can be a little hard to follow for those who have never been introduced to the customs.

On Yaksmas Eve, the Gilded Yak travels the world rewarding all of the good kids with gifts.
Other Yak Shaving Day traditions including hanging diapers on the wall and filling your uncle’s boot with coleslaw. You also set out shaving implements around your sink in the hopes that the Great Gilded Yak will find your sink the most sincere sink of all and have himself in it. Waking on Yak Shaving Day morning to a shink full of Yak Shaving Scum is the greatest Yak Shaving Day gift of all.
If you have arrived at a Yak Shaving Day Party than you are probably a John Kricfalusi cartoon character in which case you’ve got much bigger problems than deciding what party to attend. At any rate Yak Shaving Day can be a lot of fun especially if you enjoy bizarre and somewhat disgusting holiday traditions (and who doesn’t) As an added bonus you might consider dressing like Stinky Wizzleteats and arriving at the party behind the wheel of a souped up sausage cart. A good time will be had by all.

The Gratitude Festival
Origin: Star Trek Deep Space Nine

The Bajoran Gratitude festival is strange and mysterious even by the standards set on this list. While it is hundreds of years old very few people can tell you exactly what is involved. Through in-depth research here are some things that we have learned.

During the Bajoran Gratitude Festival, your troubles or “grievances” are written on papers (a tradition borrowed from festivus) and the papers are burned signifying you leaving your troubles behind (also, signifying a love of fire) to continue the merry pyromania, bateret leaves are also burned. This doesn’t signify anything at all, bateret leaves just burn real good.
They also get around to celebrating gratitude as everyone stands around being thankful after they burn stuff.

Only the bravest souls would dare stay in attendance at a Bajoran Gratitude Festival. The celebration relies so heavily on darkness, strange laser lights and smoky, smoky rooms, the holiday is really best summed up by the Three Dog Night song “Mamma Told Me Not To Come.” Light up those leaves and rolled up paper! And if you do decide to stay however make sure you always remember to pass the “gratitude!” Nobody likes a Bajoran Bogart man!!

Hearths Warming Eve
Origin: My Little Pony, Friendship Is Magic

Hearths Warming Eve revolves almost exclusively around the pageant. The play itself tells the story of the founding of Equestria as the vastly different groups The Earth Ponies, The Unicorns and The Pegasus’s learned to finally start working together in friendship.

As legend tells it, disharmony between the various pony groups summoned Wendeegos and caused the land of the Ponies to descend into cold and famine. Leaders of the three tribes journey to find land which can provide them with food and warmth. Their continued fighting on the journey eventually causes another attack by the wend egos and soon the three become litterally frozen. To try and keep warm, the three begin to talk abd laugh and eventually to sing. The harmony of their singing chases the windeegos away and eventually brings the three leaders and eventually the three groups together. The carols created on that night are still sung today.

To celebrate Hearths Warming Eve you need a very large party. A solid group of friends to help you act out the pageant and a much much larger group to serve as the audience. You’ll experience the Joy of the season, the magic of friendship and the glory of the stage!! I never attend a Hearths Warming Eve party without putting on my full body Fluttershy costume.

It isn’t an actual tradition of the holiday. It’s just something I enjoy.

The Festival of the Bells
Origin: Fraggle Rock

In the winter Fraggle Rock begins to slow down (whatever that means) and the Fraggles hold what the call The Festival of the Bells, in which they ring bells and celebrate to awaken the bell at the heart of Fraggle Rock and make sure it keeps moving.

They pay homage to the traditions of the day by dressing as Weebabeast the former gaurdians of the Great Bell back in the first days of the rock.

Despite the fact that a Festival of the Bells party will mean that you’re in a room full of Muppets, it won’t necessarily be a good time. The Fraggles as a people have a tendency to get a bit on the “heavy” side. Do you have any relatives that are those especially preachy kind of hippies? Yeah. It’s kind of like that. The trick is to try to keep the room in the singy dancy Kermit arms flailing kind of Muppet mood and keep it low on the message. One good tip is to make sure to invite a heavy contingent of Dozers and Gorgs. Those guys are a blast!

Also, don’t bother going on a brave and foolhardy quest to the heart of Fraggle Rock to prove (or disprove) the existence of The Great bell…it isn’t there. The bell in the heart of Fraggle Rock is in the heart of all of us and yadda yadda yadda…
And in the end we all learned an important lesson. Right?

Refrigerator Day
Origin: Dinosaurs

Refrigerator day is really my kind of fake holiday. A day in honor of the storage and preservation of food is quite an idea. It’s creation allowed Dinosaurs to begin to set up permanent communities and no longer travel the world staying where good was plentiful and in-season.

This revolutionized Dinosaur society. In honor of the invention of the “keep it cold box” Dinosaurs celebrate with several time honored traditions.
Dinosaurs decorate their entire house for “fridge” day but pay special attention to the decoration of the Refrigerator itself. They exchange gifts, sing jolly Refrigerator Day carols to celebrate commercial products and have a Refrigerator Day feast, marking the end of the two day fast that leads up to the celebration. The center piece of the Refrigerator Day celebration is the annual pageant put on by each household where families revel in the warmth of the season by acting out the first Refrigerator day.

Refrigerator day is a family holiday and if you are invited to participate in the celebration you should consider yourself honored. Refrigerator is a day of peace, of spiritual contemplation and togetherness.

A triumph of the human (or dinosaur) spirit prevailing over hardships and finding the ability to discover such warmth during a holiday created to celebrate cold storage. A time to pay homage to the past, to appreciate what we have and to strengthen those bonds that hold us all together.
If you have a choice though, I’d skip the family party and head to the one at the department store. They have an orchestra and lasers!

And there you have it. I hope that this list will help you with your festive party planning this year. Maybe as a sort of cultural experimentation you can try to partake in the merryment of several of these parties after all this world won’t be hurt by all of us understanding each other just a little bit better. Just please, for the love of everything good in the world don’t accidentally stumble into a Fraggle Festival of the Bells in a My Little Pony costume! Those two groups absolutely HATE each other.

Merry Christmas Everybody!