Guillermo del Toro refused to insert a ‘Poochie’ into ‘Wind in the Willows’

The Itchy and Scratchy and Poochie Show!
For my money, “The Itchy & Scratchy & Poochie Show,” episode #14 in the 8th season of The Simpsons, ranks as one of the most effortlessly resonant episodes they ever did. If you recall that one, the TV execs, worried about slipping ratings for “The Itchy & Scratchy Show,” decide to insert an “extreme” dog character named “Poochie” into the program. The surfboard-toting Poochie wears sunglasses, a backwards baseball cap, and torn shorts and generally behaves like the parody of edgy youth behavior he was intended to be. Eventually the kids start to hate Poochie because he always drags down the action, and they kill off the character. In a “meta” point to drive the point home, in the episode an additional, sassy Simpsons sibling named “Roy” materializes, whom all the characters acknowledge as always having been there.

The episode is studded with great dialogue, but here’s a bit in which all the relevant nonsense about Poochie is laid out in detail:

Network Executive Lady: We at the network want a dog with attitude. He’s edgy, he’s “in your face.” You’ve heard the expression, “let’s get busy”? Well, this is a dog who gets “biz-zay!” Consistently and thoroughly.

Krusty: So he’s proactive, huh?

Network Executive Lady: Oh, God, yes. We’re talking about a totally outrageous paradigm.

Writer: Excuse me, but “proactive” and “paradigm”? Aren’t these just buzzwords that dumb people use to sound important? Not that I’m accusing you of anything like that. [pause] I’m fired, aren’t I?

Roger Myers Jr.: Oh, yes.

The whole episode is a stone classic, and (in my mind at least, and I know I’m not alone) the word “Poochie” ever since has always been synonymous with gratuitous attempts to pander to audiences.

Everybody gets that Poochie-type behavior is a daily occurrence in Hollywood—but surely the makers of The Simpsons were exaggerating, right? To judge from the experience of Guillermo del Toro, apparently not!

Around 2003 del Toro was attached to a Disney animated adaptation of Kenneth Grahame’s 1905 children’s favorite The Wind in the Willows. In an interview from Rotten Tomatoes’ “Dinner and the Movies” series, del Toro revealed that he had to leave the project because of the Disney execs’ request to “Poochie” up the character of Toad:

Wind in the Willows, which I adapted to do animated. ... “The Piper at the Gates of Dawn” and all that - it was a beautiful little book, and then I went to meet with the executives and they said, “Could you give Toad a skateboard and make him say, ‘Radical, dude!’ things,” and that’s where I said, “It’s been a pleasure!”

The section with the Wind in the Willows stuff is embedded below, but you can watch the entire interview (12 files) if you like.

All in all, del Toro’s decisions to walk away from material—which happened often, apparently—seemed to work out well. He’s one of Hollywood’s most inventive and sought-after directors, and he just published a terrific book called Cabinet of Curiosities which we posted about a month ago.

Thank you Mark Davis!

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
Animation cels from ‘Yellow Submarine’ to be auctioned off soon
09:31 am


The Beatles
'Yellow Submarine'

On November 20 & 24, Heritage Auctions in Beverly Hills will be holding a huge event, the Animation Art Signature Auction. The sale features a ton of truly amazing items—there are animation cels from classic Disney films (plus some Disneyland concept art paintings), Mr. Magoo, Dr. Seuss, Peanuts and many more. The public can walk through the items starting on the 19th. All in all, there will be 126,980 lots for sale.

But what is of special interest are the 80 pieces from The Beatles’ Yellow Submarine film, which are expected to collectively sell for over $125,000. Still, at this point, with the auction two weeks away, some of the Yellow Submarine cels are pretty cheap. Some haven’t even been bid on, while others are ranging from $20 to a few thousand dollars.



More cels after the jump…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
Henry Rollins goes to Walmart and tells us what we already know
05:06 pm

Pop Culture

Henry Rollins

Henry Rollins ain’t no George Carlin or Lenny Bruce. He takes aim at sitting ducks like people who shop at Walmart and he isn’t particularly funny and his insights are hardly revelations. But for some reason people really dig him. I don’t get it. I personally don’t turn to rock singers for their analytical thinking or wisdom. Not even the smart ones like John Lennon or Frank Zappa. They may be remarkable musicians but their satirical writings tend to be obvious and sophomoric.

Listening today to my old Mothers Of Invention albums, the stuff that seemed so outrageous and cool to me when I was a teenager seems trite to me now. Zappa’s targets were sitting ducks, too, but at least the ducks were relatively fresh. On the other hand, Henry Rollins’ rants seem tired and cliche-ridden. It’s easy to make fun of the defenseless slobs who work at Walmart or hipster douche-baggery, the military and frat boys. We did that shit back in the Sixties. So when I hear Rollins going on about the culture of greed and the idiocy that surrounds us it all sounds tired and worn out. We know this stuff already. It ain’t funny. In fact, at times, I think it’s cruel and hipper-than-thou classism. Rollins may consider himself some kind of edgy philosopher but I find him to be a dim-witted meathead with a slightly better than average vocabulary and a bunch of half-baked ideas who takes on subjects that have already been beaten to a pulp by superior humorists like the genuinely funny Bill Hicks.

Here’s Rollins in his perfect setting as a cartoon character…

Posted by Marc Campbell | Discussion
Have we all forgotten Lou Reed’s remarkable turn as Mok in ‘Rock and Rule’?
11:03 am


Lou Reed
Rock And Rule

Rock and Rule
This video clip comes from Rock and Rule (1983), a kind of follow-up to 1981’s legendary animated sci-fi anthology movie Heavy Metal directed by Gerald Potterton. Both movies were Canadian, but there appears to be no official connection between them.

As with Heavy Metal, Rock and Rule was able to cobble together a very impressive musical lineup, including Reed, Iggy Pop, Debbie Harry, Cheap Trick, and Earth, Wind, & Fire. Mok, who is an ageing rock musician who in search of a particular voice that can unleash a fearsome demon from a different dimension, was voiced by Don Francks (who also did voice work in Heavy Metal), but his visual look was clearly inspired by Iggy Pop, even if his song was sung by Lou Reed. It’s all a little reminiscent of a certain T-shirt we heard about recently.

Thank you Wilder Selzer!

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
Get your Halloween on with Emily and the Strangers: ‘Calling All Guitars’ world video premiere
12:19 pm


Emily the Strange

Alt comics’ goth heroine Emily the Strange has formed her own band. Emily—who’s been a 13-year-old for twenty years now—and the Strangers are releasing their first single “Calling All Guitars” in time for Halloween, on October 29, 2013. The song and clip will be downloadable through iTunes, with a limited edition 7” 45rpm etched vinyl single available at the Emily the Strange online store.

The song and video were supported by a Kickstarter campaign that raised almost $65,000 from over 700 Emily the Strange fans. The people you see in the audience shots are folks who donated over $250.

“Calling All Guitars” was written by her creator Rob Reger, “Dust Brother” John King (Beastie Boys, Beck), Money Mark, and Morningwood’s Chantel Claret. Speaking of guitars, Emily is the only non-human to have her very own custom Epiphone guitar.

An Emily the Strange feature film is currently in development at Universal Pictures with Chloe Grace Moretz attached to star as the outcast icon. Rob Reger promises an eventual Emily album and even a live show, where Emily would be a hologram. How massive of a hit would that be? Both the movie—Chloe Grace Moretz would be perfect casting—and the live show, I mean. Kids would love them, it would be like printing money.

Thank you kindly Susan von Seggern!

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
Serge Gainsbourg’s science-fiction cartoon ‘Marie Mathématique’

Incroyable! Hosting the legendary French pop show Dim Dam Dom in 1965, Sandie Shaw introduces the first installment of “Marie Mathématique,” an animated short made by “Barbarella” creator Jean-Claude Forest. Serge Gainsbourg wrote the music and sang André Ruellan’s lyrics.

On Halloween, several dozens of Gainsbourg-related items—including nail clippers and cigarette butts—will be auctioned off in Paris.

In total, there were six installments of “Marie Mathématique,” the rest follow after the jump…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
‘Food Will Win the War’: Disney’s most surreal war propaganda cartoon, 1942
07:36 am


World War II

Food will win the war
Not just a potato twice the height of the Rock of Gibralter… a sexy potato twice the height of the Rock of Gibralter

You may be familiar with Disney’s most famous World War Two propaganda, Der Fuehrer’s Face, in which Donald Duck dreams of an alternate life under Nazi rule. It’s weird, but not nearly as weird as Food Will Win the War. During both World War One and Two, the slogan, “Food will win the war,” was bandied about to both discourage food waste and encourage an increase in agricultural yields; the idea was that the U.S. needed to remain war-ready with a food surplus. In the film, however, the slogan is invoked more as a morale booster, and the result is a confusing mish-mash of messaging.

Instead of telling farmers to produce more and families to waste less, the narrator emphasizes our current glut of food, which is really counterintuitive to a message of prudence and industriousness. It’s as if the writers got so carried away with nationalist boasting, that they forgot the actual purpose of the film. Even more strangely, they demonstrate our surfeit of food by means of very strange scale comparisons.

For instance, did you know that if we had made all our wheat from 1942 into flour, we could bury every German tank in it? And if we had made it into spaghetti, we could weave from it a fashionably nationalistic sweater-vest to clothe the entire Earth! Why would you aspire to do such a thing, you ask? Why would we knit a celestial spaghetti sweater?!? Who cares! We’re America, fuck yeah!

Posted by Amber Frost | Discussion
Watch the Second World War unfold across Europe in 7 minutes
08:46 am


Second World War

This is quite incredible: every single day of the Second World War in Europe as mapped out by YouTube user EmporerTigerstar.

Starting with the German invasion of Poland (1 September, 1939), the invasions of Norway (April 9, 1940), France (May 10, 1940), Yugoslavia and Greece (April 6, 1941), to the invasion of the Soviet Union (June 22, 1941), through to the Battle of Moscow (November 25, 1941), the Battle of El Alamein (October 23, 1942), the German surrender at Stalingrad (January 31, 1943), the Allies capture of Rome (June 4, 1944), the Normandy Landings (6 June, 1944), the liberation of Paris (August 25, 1944), the Soviets enter Berlin (April 23, 1945), and Victory Europe Day (8 May, 1945).

EmporerTigerstar has previously mapped the First World War, and is planning to create a map for the Second World War including all the battles.

Via i09

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
Before ‘Fantastic Planet’ there was the surrealist short, ‘The Snails’

Marc Campbell’s post yesterday on the Jodorowsky’s Dune documentary—he was even more effusive in his praise of the film on the phone—reminded me of something that I wanted to post here:

Before their collaboration on the classic 1973 animated sci-fi feature, Fantastic Planet, René Laloux and Roland Topor made “Les Escargots,” (“The Snails”) an exquisite stop-frame animated short in 1965. (If the Jodorowsky link isn’t clear, in the early 1960s, Fernando Arrabal, Roland Topor and Jodorowsky mounted entrail-covered Hermann Nitsch-like theatrical performance art happenings as “the Panic Movement” in Paris.)

Here’s how IMDB describes this little-known mini-masterpiece:

A gardener tries his best to make his salad plants grow. It is only when he cries that his tears finally water the field and the salads grow huge. The incredible size attracts a multitude of snails that quickly become giant too, causing disasters and panic in the nearby city.

I think that about says it all… The film’s message is a bit ambiguous, as you’ll see. “Les Escargots” won Special Jury Prize at the Cracow Film Festival.

Fun facts: Roland Topor wrote the novel of the same title that Roman Polanski’s creepy as fuck psychological thriller, The Tenant was based on and he played the role of “Renfield” in Werner Herzog’s movie Nosferatu the Vampyre.

The year before “Les Escargots,” René Laloux and Roland Topor collaborated on “Les Temps Morts” (“Dead Times”) an anti-war meditation on what it means to be human.

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
In ‘The Butterfly Ball and the Grasshopper’s Feast’ cartoon, that singing frog is Ronnie James Dio!

You learn something new every damned day. My TIL? Remember “The Butterfly Ball and the Grasshopper’s Feast,” that great cartoon many of you reading this—perhaps the majority, even, since it’s had such a very long shelf-life—will recall from when you were a kid? Why that’s Mister Ronnie James Dio hisself who was doing the frog’s singing.

Good god! (or “Hail Satan!” if you prefer) Imagine if the Christian Right would had known this at the time: The evil genius heavy metal master many say was personally responsible for introducing the “devil horns” salute into the culture was worming his evil way into the ears of millions upon millions of kids from 1976 onwards! What kind of backwards-masked Satanic subliminal messages were inserted into this childhood classic?

What will Alex Jones say when he hears about this???

Yesterday when I was posting about the CIA-funded animated Animal Farm, I did a search on the couple, John Halas and Joy Batchelor (”Halas and Batchelor” was the name of their revered production company) who made it, to see what else they had produced (short answer = tons of stuff) and I took particular note of one of them: The almost psychedelic animated short they made to accompany “Love is All,” a track from The Butterfly Ball and the Grasshopper’s Feast, an ambitious rock opera by Deep Purple’s Roger Glover and some of his famous friends. (When the show was staged—and filmed—for a one-off 1975 performance, the cast included members of Deep Purple, Twiggy, the guy who later played “Sgt. Apone” in Aliens and it was narrated by Vincent Price.)

The short film, part of what was intended to be a full-length project, was widely seen on television the world over for over fifteen years. In America, we saw it on The Electric Company and Nickelodeon from the 1970s well into the 1990s, and it was frequently seen in France, Australia, New Zealand, and especially in the Netherlands, where the song went to #1 and evokes such strong childhood associations that the Christian Democrats used the cheerful ditty for their 2006 general campaign ads.

It was directed by Lee Mishkin and based on the work of famed illustrator Alan Aldridge, who had previously put out his own 1973 book (based on the famous poem by William Roscoe, one of history’s first abolitionists) that served as the inspiration for Glover’s project.

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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