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Goodbye to a Couple of Bears

Over the past few days two gentlemen passed away. Two gentlemen with very different but both very interesting connections to furry fandom. Stan Freberg, 88, was a man who “wore so many different hats throughout his career that he may as well have been a hat-maker. Satirist, songwriter, comedian, commercial producer, recording artist, actor, puppeteer, and voice artist only scratch the surface.” Among the myriad of voices he created some of the most memorable might be Cecil the Seasick Sea Serpent (in both the puppet and animated versions of Beany & Cecil), the beaver in Disney’s Lady & the Tramp, and (from a very young age) Junior Bear, the lunk-headed young son of short-tempered Papa Bear in a series of cartoons by Chuck Jones.  (“C-A-T, dog… D-O-G, Rhode Island…”). Meanwhile Bob Walker also passed away, at the age of 54, apparently from a heart condition. Mr. Walker will best be remembered as co-director (with Aaron Blaise) of Disney’s 2003 2D animated film Brother Bear, but prior to that he had worked as a layout artist on numerous Disney animated projects including Rescuers Down Under (1990), Beauty and the Beast (1991), Aladdin (1992), The Lion King (1994), Mulan (1998), and Lilo & Stitch (2002). A native of Canada, Mr. Walker started his career working for Nelvana Animation on TV shows like The Raccoons. [Thanks to Cartoon Brew for providing this info.]

image c. 2015 Walt Disney Animation

image c. 2015 Walt Disney Animation

 

image c. 2015 Warner Brothers

image c. 2015 Warner Brothers

From Panda to Paired Up

John Stevenson co-directed the first Kung Fu Panda movie (along with Mark Osborne), and for that he received an Annie Award and an Oscar nomination. Now a relatively small film company, Unified Pictures, has hired Mr. Stevenson to direct their first foray into CGI animation: A feature film inspired by the story of Noah’s ark. According to an article in Variety, “The animated comedy adventure tells the story from the point of view of the animals and follows an outcast aardvark who becomes the reluctant leader of a ragtag group of misfit animals”. (Hmm, have these folks heard of El Arca?) The as-yet-unnamed film is being written by Philip LaZebnik (Disney’s Mulan and Pocahontas) and Glen Dolman (a writer of several TV series). It’s currently slated for completion in 2016.

image c. 2014 Variety

image c. 2014 Variety

Bye Eddie

The world  of movies lost another big name this week when actor Bob Hoskins passed away at the age of 71. Though he was known throughout much of the world for his dramatic roles (and earned award nominations for several of them), here in the United States he will perhaps forever be best known for his role as gumshoe detective Eddie Valiant, playing opposite a crazed toon bunny in the groundbreaking 1988 live action/animated film Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, which went a long way towards putting animation back on the American landscape after a long slump in the previous decade. But not even counting that, Hoskins had numerous roles in movies with more than a bit of Furry Fandom interest. Some of them cringe-worthy (Mario Brothers, anyone?), some of them wonderful (like the voice of Boris the goose in Balto), and some of them rather obscure (he played Badger in a 2006 British TV movie of The Wind in the Willows). Check out his page at the Internet Movie Database to find out just how diverse his career was. He will be missed.

image c. 2014 Walt Disney Pictures

image c. 2014 Walt Disney Pictures

Help for the Creator of Rocket Raccoon

With all of the attention that Rocket Raccoon and his fellow Guardians of the Galaxy have been getting, some attention has also begun to shine on a nearly forgotten name: Bill Mantlo. Back in 1976, Bill teamed up with Keith Giffen to introduce the original Rocket Raccoon in the pages of Marvel Preview #7. Not long after Rocket would team up with the Incredible Hulk, of all things, before moving on to his own comic book miniseries. In 1992, Bill Mantlo was struck by a car while he was out roller-blading, and he remained in a coma for many years after the accident. He has since regained consciousness, but he suffered brain damage from the accident and now requires full-time medical attention. Many Marvel fans and comic book professionals are urging Marvel (and Disney, Marvel’s parent company now) to contribute part of the likely sky-high profits from the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy movie towards Bill’s medical needs. Comic book writer Greg Pak has a web-site devoted to the cause of raising money for Bill’s care. Meanwhile, if you haven’t seen it: Marvel has released a new mini-preview of Guardians that includes a bit of Rocket’s voice, Bradley Cooper. It’s interesting to hear the film’s director James Gunn describe Rocket as “the heart of the movie in a lot of ways”.

image c. 2014 Marvel Comics

The Creator of Samurai Cat — RIP

Word came out recently that one of the originals of Furry Fandom, Mark E. Rogers, passed away this past weekend while out hiking with his family. Some might even call him a patron spirit of anthropomorphics. In 1984 (back when a certain group of Ninja Turtles were making their very first appearance) mark published his first book chronicling the adventures of Miaowara Tomokato, the Samurai Cat. Almost every other page of Rogers’ Samurai Cat books featured a black and white or full-color illustration by the author, connected with the action on the previous page. Through a series of five such books of historical satire, Mark was one of the first to take anthropomorphics away from “funny animal” silliness and into something completely new, in a big way. Ron Miller has a detailed obituary of Rogers which he posted up on I09. Sayonara, Mark-san.

image c. 2014 by Mark E. Rogers

Help for a Famous Furry (Creator)

Stan Sakai is world-famous as the creator, writer, and artist of Usagi Yojimbo, a multiple-award-winning funny animal comic. He has given a lot to our furry fan community, not only from his creation but from his appearances at furry conventions around the country. Now, Stan needs some real help. His wife Sharon has been battling cancer, and she has been in and out of hospitals for some time — basically needing 24-hour care even when she is at home. The couple have insurance, but the bills have been piling up far past what their insurance will cover. The Cartoon Arts Professional Society have set up a site asking for donations to help Stan and Sharon cover their medical expenses.  Please visit and contribute this holiday season if you can. Give back to someone who’s given us great characters and great art!

image c. 2013 by Stan Sakai

Control Those Animals!

Jordan Reickek is an animator and storyboard artist with a long and storied career to his name: He worked on the original Ren & Stimpy series as well as The Simpsons early on; he directed the pilot episode of Invader Zim for Nickelodeon; and he worked on storyboards for DreamWorks films like Monsters vs Aliens, Megamind, and Kung Fu Panda. Cartoon Brew recently interviewed Jordan, and he spoke about his newest creation: Animal Control, which he produced for Cartoon Network Asia. The series follows the adventures of a pair of hapless and not-too-bright game wardens as they try to keep a lid on the silliness of their animal charges. The premier episode is up on Vimeo as well. Recently Jordan re-launched his production web site, Perky Pickle, which includes production art from many of the projects he’s worked on over the years.

image c. 2013 by Jordan Reickek

Goodbye Gobo

Muppet fans around the world were recently saddened by another loss: Jerry Nelson, who had one of the longest careers of anyone in the world of Jim Henson’s Muppets, passed away on Thursday the 23rd at the age of 78. He was best known by legions of children around the world — including many who are now adults — as the voice and puppeteer of Count von Count, the beloved Sesame Street character who loved to count things as much as he loved to laugh maniacally. He was also the voice of the seldom-seen mammoth-like Mr. Snuffleupagus, Herry Monster, and Robin — Kermit the Frog’s young nephew.  More recently he was the voice and hands behind Floyd Pepper, bass player for The Electric Mayhem on The Muppet Show and subsequent movies. And after that, he brought to life Gobo Fraggle, the leader of the band of colorful characters on Fraggle Rock. So far, there’s no word on how Mr. Nelson’s passing might affect any plans that Jim Henson Productions (or their current owner, the Walt Disney Company) might have for a Fraggle Rock movie. As for Mr. Nelson… as Floyd Pepper might say, Rest in Peace my man.

image c. 2012 Jim Henson Productions

 

Off to Meet the Wild Things

Your ever-lovin’ ed-otter was taking a work-related trip to Nashville, TN for a few days. Now it’s time to get caught up…

The literary world (heck, the world in general) was saddened recently by the death of Maurice Sendak on May 8th at the age of 83. By far he was best known as the writer and illustrator of Where the Wild Things Are, which revolutionized what a “children’s book” could be — and gave us all some cool monsters to befriend — when it was first published in 1963. But that is far from Mr. Sendak’s only legacy to Furry Fandom. Prior to Wild Things he was the illustrator of the Little Bear books by Else Holmelund Minarik. (Nelvana used his Little Bear designs when they created the animated Little Bear TV series and feature film in the late 1990’s.) In the 1980’s Mr. Sendak was often hired to be a production, costume, and art designer for East Coast opera productions, including the 1981 production of The Cunning Little Vixen by Leos Janacek — possibly the most anthropomorphic opera ever, and certainly the most anthropomorphic thing on stage before Cats came along. Most recently, Maurice Sendak had his works translated for the big and little screen: Where the Wild Things Are was adapted into a feature film by Spike Jonze in 2009, and that same year Sendak’s short story Higglety Pigglety Pop was adapted into a short film (starring the voice of Meryl Streep) using  a combination of live-action and puppetry. If you want to find out more about Mr. Sendak’s wide body of work, check out his Wikipedia page. But be warned: There are Wild Things there.

image c. 2009 Warner Brothers Pictures