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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

Chuck Jones takes over Las Vegas

Well, at least the Circus Circus Hotel and Casino… We want to thank the folks at Cartoon Brew for turning us on to this new press release: “For generations of animation fans there is no greater legend than Chuck Jones. The creator of the famed Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies shorts for Warner Bros., Tom & Jerry cartoons, the TV version of Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas and many other well-known classics, Jones was a pioneer in the art of animation and a fine artist in his own right. His life and legacy will be celebrated on January 19 with the official grand opening of The Chuck Jones Experience at Circus Circus Las Vegas… The Chuck Jones Experience is a nearly 10,000-square-foot destination that provides kids and animation fans of all ages with an extraordinary place to not only learn about the art of animation, but to discover the creativity and magic that’s inside us all. Designed to ‘Educate, Inspire & Entertain’, The Chuck Jones Experience takes visitors on a unique journey through Jones’ life, engaging guests with interactive exhibits, displays and learning experiences along the way. The Chuck Jones Experience is also home to the largest collection of original Chuck Jones animation and fine art anywhere in the world with more than 250 pieces on permanent display.” Check out the rest of the press release at Cartoon Brew to find out more details about this new exhibit, including features like the Chuck Jones Center for Creativity Learning Center, Animation Alley, the Acme Workshop, and more.

image c. 2012 Circus Circus Hotel & Casino

The Dragons are sad…

Word has come out of Ireland that Anne McCaffrey, one of the grande dames of science fiction writing, passed away on November 21st after suffering a stroke at her home. She was 85. Ms. McCaffrey was of course best known for her Dragonriders of Pern series, likely the first science fiction stories to treat dragons as serious characters. Not to mention telepathic dragons who shared everything, even their love lives, with their human riders! But furry fans should also know Ms. McCaffrey for her Decision at Doona series, which featured humans interacting with the cat-like Hrubban species. On a personal note, your humble ed-otter had the honor of visiting Ms. McCaffrey at her home in County Wicklow, Ireland, in 1996. One of the great ones has left us. Read her obituary here from the Los Angeles Times.

image c. 2011 by Michael Whelan

He was the Ace, he was Fantastic

News out of the UK: Mark Hall, one half of the production team Cosgrove/Hall, passed away from cancer this week at the age of 75. From 1971 until their retirement in 2000, Mark Hall (the quiet business-oriented one) and his partner Brian Cosgrove (the crazy artistic one) created numerous award-winning, world-famous, and financially successful animated programs and productions. Chief among them: Danger Mouse, the super-hero/super-spy spoof that’s still in repeats around the world. The pair were also well-known for The Wind in the Willows, a stop-motion animated series based on the books and stories of Kenneth Grahame. Furry fans might also want to seek out the company’s adaptation of Gerald Durrell’s fantasy novel The Talking Parcel from 1978. The Guardian UK has an obituary for Mr. Hall up on line, which discusses many of the shows that Cosgrove/Hall produced.

Mark Hall (left), Brian Cosgrove (right), and Mr. Toad

A Farewell to Redwall

News has come out that Brian Jacques, creator and writer of the wildly-popular Redwall series of anthropomorphic fantasy novels, died on February 5th. He was 71. First published in 1986 (initially by Beaver Books), the Redwall series tells the tale of Redwall Abbey, a medieval monastery run by mice, which also includes a host of other species common to England and much of Europe (such as rabbits, otters, squirrels, and badgers). The main story arc follows the adventures of a young mouse named Matthias, who discovers that he is in fact the descendant of a great mouse hero known as Martin the Warrior. This knowledge comes in handy when Matthias learns he must help defend Redwall against all manner of “evil” creatures, such as rats, ferrets, foxes, and so on. (Species tend to be either “good” or “bad” in the Redwall universe, with little or no individual exceptions).  From that first book, the series has gone on to achieve international acclaim and awards, with a new book coming out almost every year. Brian Jacques was famous for his background as a member of the working class in Liverpool, England. Among his many jobs was driving a milk delivery truck, and one of his stops included a boarding school for blind students. It was during his visits there that Mr. Jacques began to tell the stories that would become the Redwall series — making the details especially vivid to entertain his young, blind listeners. The Rogue Crew, which will be the last Redwall book written and published by Brian Jacques, will be on the shelves this May.

Goodbye to Fission Chicken

Word is slowly making the rounds that John Patrick Morgan — better known in fandom by his initials as J.P. Morgan — passed away from a heart condition at the end of December at the age of 53. J.P. was a cartoonist and illustrator for many years. His best known creation, the comic book series Fission Chicken, made him a star among the “funny animal” segment of furry fandom. Fission Chicken saw the light of day in funny animal fandom publications like Rowrbrazzle before being picked up by Fantagraphics Books. The Fission Chicken on-line story arc concluded in late December last year — a few days before Mr. Morgan passed away. His web site is still there, along with his Deviant Art site. An official obituary is also on line.

image c. 2011 by Jim Groat (Rabbi Tom)

Restless Nights and Disney Afternoons

In his post from Friday, August 6th on jimhillmedia.com, Jim Hill interviews Jymn Magon about his upcoming series of “webinars” recalling his long career making TV series for the Walt Disney Company and others in Hollywood. If you didn’t already know, Jymn Magon is the creative mind behind such shows as The Gummi Bears, Tale Spin, and Goof Troop — as well as the writer of A Goofy Movie. He has also, if you didn’t know, been a Guest of Honor at his share of furry fandom conventions, starting with ConFurence 3 in 1992. Now he’s presenting the first of his webinars, “Restless Nights and Disney Afternoons”, on Saturday the 7th of August. In it he plans to discuss the fine art of “Creating Hit Shows”. Both this presentation and future ones will feature question-and-answer sessions as well. If you’d like to sign up for this or any future webinars, visit Jymn’s web site to find out more.

RIP, Frank Frazetta

Folks who consider the art of the fantastic to be true art were saddened when world-renowned fantasy artist and painter Frank Frazetta passed away from a stroke on Sunday (May 9th) at the age of 82. Never a “furry artist” so to speak, he nevertheless managed to sneak a few anthropomorphic characters into his works. No, what gave Mr. Frazetta his fame were his book-covers featuring big, muscle-bound heroes defending scantily-clad (but often well-armed) women from terrible monsters and barbarian hordes. Perhaps more-so than even the writers themselves, Frazetta’s painted covers came to define the image of such characters as Conan the Barbarian (from Robert E. Howard), Tarzan, and John Carter of Mars (both from Edgar Rice Burroughs). Since the 1960’s, Frazetta painted hundreds of well-known book covers, as well as album covers for groups as diverse as Molly Hatchet, Nazareth, and (most recently) Wolfmother. More than anyone else, Frazetta was the one who came to define fantasy heroes and heroines as sexy. He was an inspiration to an entire generation of artists, the most obvious being Boris Vallejo, Richard Corben, Rowina, and The Dark One.

Goodbye Gumby

Art Clokey, creator of the world-famous claymation character Gumby, has passed away this last week after a long battle with infection. He was 88.

Mr. Clokey (born Arthur Farrington in Detroit, before he was given up for adoption at age 11) and his wife Ruth created an avant-garde claymation short film, Gumbasia, in the early 1950’s. Clokey said he took the term from “gumbo”, a common rural term for sticky mud that is heavy with clay. Soon after that film had a successful run on the film festival circuit, Art created the green character Gumby, with an asymmetrical head based on a photo of his own father’s sculpted hair. Soon Art was animated short Gumby films and packaging them together as TV shows. Along the way he created characters like Gumby’s “pony pal” Pokey, their friends Prickle (a cranky dinosaur/dragon) and Goo (an optimistic shape-shifting whatsit), and the villainous blockheads. Later on in the 1960’s, Clokey was hired by the Lutheran Church Council to create a TV series called Davy and Goliath, in which a young boy and his talking dog studied the Bible and learned about Christian values.

Art Clokey is survived, of course, by his creations — who have since become cultural icons in past few decades. Gumby himself has more than 100,000 fans on Facebook.