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Give Him That Medal!

Perhaps the most famous “fur-suiter” on the planet has left us. Peter Mayhew, best known as the human inside the massive “walking carpet” Chewbacca in the Star Wars series of films, passed away on April 30th at the age of 74. Interestingly, before Mr. Mayhew came to the attention of director George Lucas he appeared as another anthropomorphic character: The minotaur in 1976’s Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger. Peter Mayhew played Chewbacca the 200-year-old wookie from the first Star Wars film in 1977 (Episode 4, aka A New Hope) until 2015’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens, when he passed on the role to former basketball player Joonas Suatamo. But Peter Mayhew will always be known as the warbling roar that announced Star Wars to the world.

image c. 2019 The Verge

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

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

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

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

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

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)

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.