Saturday, December 29, 2007
If you haven't been by Jim Capobiano's blog lately you might not yet know that there's a new Little Golden Book out that's going to be a must-have. It's a companion piece to his wonderful short film "Your Friend The Rat" that debuted on the "Ratatouille" DVD release.
I snagged the above image from the Amazon website, which is where I suspect Jim got the cover shot he posts on his blog; he says the color is off and he'll soon post a more accurate one(it's really got to annoy when one works so hard on these things to see wrong color advertising it anywhere). For more information about it, hie yourselves over to Jim's blog pronto.
He's been busy putting up some very interesting posts with behind the scenes tidbits about the making of his film-this is really gold.
photo of Scott Morse by Jim Capobianco, courtesy of his blog
I love seeing the process and reading about what people go through at work. Jim had a special added investment, something usually extracurricular to a director/story person's normal plethora of jobs: he cowrote the song that ends the short film. That little song, sung in character by "Remy" and "Emile" was so charming...also pretty darned clever--and the visual accompaniment a tasty treat.
I'm sure the short needs no touting from me to entice anyone to watch it, but honestly, along with the feature itself(a film that I think plays better with repeated viewings-what a pleasure that is to say), it was such a great gift to put it on the DVD. Superior work by everyone, and lots to be inspired by.
Friday, December 28, 2007
Tuesday, December 25, 2007
Monday, December 24, 2007
It's been 18 months since these were first posted, and as it's the right time of year and I haven't a new post ready, I repost them here for your enjoyment.
Have a lovely holiday, everyone.
all the rare material here appears--as before--through the generous courtesy of James Walker
...and here's one more for the road, from my house:
Saturday, December 22, 2007
A million things to do, and with work steaming along right up to the brink of the break, posting has become an intangible dream at the Blackwing factory. Just for kicks I'll post a few of the entries of Christmas past this weekend; fun graphics and perhaps entirely new to more recent visitors.
Hope everyone's doing their duty in the malls and byways of the planet, taking time to breathe--and enjoying the filmic qualities of this most noisy/twinkling time of year. My own (early 20th-century street designed)street has transformed into Bedford Falls lately--the happy version.
Are you a die-hard lister? Have you ever fretted about the impacts on the environment of chasing birds around your State in a gas-guzzling pickup or SUV? Well, fret no more, as Sparroworking in Quebec has come up with one of the coolest ways for birders to be green and still enjoy the fun of competitive birding: the Big Green Big Year, or BiGBY for short.
Two types of BiGBY are recognized:
To learn more about the BiGBY and to sign up to do your own Big Green Big Year, go to the “Bigbying” Web site. You’ll get to know the birds of your neighborhood better, improve your health, and do something positive for the environment and the birds.
The Walking BiGBY – Includes all species seen in areas reached by foot by walking from home. This is like extended Backyard Birding. The Self-Propelled BiGBY- Same as above except that cycling, boating (i.e., by canoe or rowboat), skiing, and snowshoeing are included as acceptable modes of transportation.
Friday, December 21, 2007
In mid-September 2007, Tom announced that he was “quite bored with the current Ivory-bill hysteria” and was changing the name of the blog to Tom Nelson, leaving him “free to post about anything that interests me.” Since then, the focus of the blog has gradually switched over from Ivory-bills to the debunking of anthropogenic global warming, as revealed by the following statistics showing the percentage of monthly posting that were specifically about Ivory-bills:
Tom’s Ivory-bill postings are increasingly being lost amongst his growing blather about global warming. He would have done those of us interested in continuing to follow Ivory-bill events, especially the skeptics among us, a great favor by creating a second blog for his rants on global warming.
August 2007 – 97.5 percent (39 of 40) September 2007 – 46.4 percent (26 of 56 postings) October 2007 – 37.1 percent (33 of 89 postings) November 2007 – 11.6 percent (29 of 250 postings)
Martinson Collinson made a similar argument (here) about the Ivory-bill Skeptic/Tom Nelson blog, noting that 37 posts about Ivory-bills in November 2006 generated 450 comments while 247 posts in November 2007 (“nearly all on climate change”) generated just 12 comments. Sadly, while Tom has continued to post about Ivory-bills at only a slightly diminished rate (i.e., 29 in November 2007 vs 37 in November 2006), his focus on global climate change has caused his loyal Ivory-bill skeptic readers to desert him.
Because Tom continues to post occasionally about the Ivory-billed Woodpecker, but especially because of the vast amount of Ivory-bill information still present in his archives, I have decided to retain Tom Nelson on the list of known North American bird blogs.
Thursday, December 20, 2007
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
This update (a) adds 34 blogs and (b) deletes
Criteria for inclusion on this list are found here.
(a) New Blogs (n=34):
- Arkansas Birding – “Birding & photography of Arkansas birds,” by J. Karl Clampit in Arkansas (June 2007)
- Avian Tendencies – by Caleb Putnam in Grand Rapids, Michigan (January 2007)
- Bird Year Blog – “a year-long, 12,000-mile fossil-fuel-free journey in search of birds,” by 15-year-old Malkolm Boothroyd and his parents (April 2007)
- Biological Ramblings – “Your source for the latest science musings straight from my brain,” by Nick Sly in New York (April 2007)
- Colder by the Lake Birding – by Mike Hendrickson in Duluth, Minnesota (August 2007)
Craig’s Birds– “Birding and photography of Minnesota birds,” by Craig K. Marble in Minnesota (April 2006)
- Ecobirder – “Birding, Wildlife, Environment,” by Ecobirder in St. Paul, Minnesota (April 2007)
- Fledging Birders Blog – “Reflections and stories of sharing the appreciation of birds and nature with kids,” by Dave M. in southern New Jersey (April 2007)
- Fort Jefferson Dry Tortugas Birding Blog – by Debra Hess (August 2007)
- From My Perch – “Birdwatching photos and stories,” by Maria Bajema in Michigan (February 2007)
- International Bird Rescue Research Center – “News, views and photos from IBRRC on the San Francisco Bay oil spill response,” by Russ Curtis in San Francisco, California (November 2007)
- Iowa Voice – “Speaking through the camera,” by Moe in the Quad Cities, Iowa (January 2007)
- Life, Birds, and Everything – “Blogging about wild things that make my heart sing,” by Sherri Williamson in Arizona (August 2007)
- Minnesota Birdnerd – by a high school science teacher in the Twin Cities, Minnesota (June 2007)
- My Birds Blog – “A selection of birds who visited in my backyard and left a lasting digital impression,” by Abraham Lincoln in Brookville, Ohio (September 2007)
- Nature Knitter – “Stories and pictures about birds and nature mostly in my backyard, with occasional bits of pets, knitting, weather, food and family thrown in for variety,” by Ruth Johnson in Rochester, Minnesota (March 2007)
- NCIOS – North Central Illinois Ornithological Society – the blog of the Rockford Bird Club in Rockford, Illinois (February 2007)
- Neo Birding – by Jim McCarty in Cleveland, Ohio (July 2007)
- Nervous birds – “One should leave the world they experience not as they found it…they should leave it better,” by Dan Haas in Annapolis, Maryland (April 2007)
- OC Warbler – “Birding (mis)adventures in Orange County, California, and beyond,” by Felicia in Costa Mesa, California (May 2007)
- Ornitheologisms – by Ornitheologist (September 2007)
- Ortego Birds – “Where Big Bird comes to nest,” by Brent Ortego in Texas (May 2007)
- Pish – by Bennet in Massachusetts (November 2007)
- Roger’s Blog – “Bird observations primarily western Oregon,” by Roger in Oregon (April 2007)
- Sibley Guides Notebook – “Bird identification and more related to the Sibley guide to birds,” by David Sibley (August 2007)
- The Backyard Birdman – “Who wants to learn more about how to attract wild birds to your backyard,” by Larry Jordan in northern California (September 2007)
- The Drinking Bird – “Birding and whatnot,” by N8 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina (July 2007)
- The Feather and the Flower – by Noflickster in Horseheads, New York (March 2007)
- The Houston Birder – “Random tales and thoughts of a birder in Houston,” by Carey in Houston, Texas (April 2006)
- The Nightjar - “Where the ancient world meets the modern world,” by HoaryRedpoll in New York (April 2007)
- The Zen Birdfeeder – “focuses on the birds and other nature we find in our own yards and the principles of attention, acceptance, and responsibility,” by Nancy Castillo in Saratoga Springs, New York (April 2007)
- Vermont Center for Ecostudies – “News and notes from the Vermont Center for Ecostudies” (January 2006)
- Vulture Cafe – “Picking up bits and pieces from the side of the road,” by Dawn in the Pacific Northwest of the United States (October 2007)
- WBU’s Birding Blog – by the owners, staff, and customers of Wild Birds Unlimited in Tallahassee, Florida (August 2007)
- Weekend Shooter – “A Photo Blog,” by John Mikes in Woodbury, Minnesota (June 2007)
- 2007 Big Year Blog
- Bird the Planet
- BirdBlog – Ruffling Feathers
- Birding Watching in South Florida
- Chicago Bird Watching
- Eric’s Birding Blog
- Hamilton Birding
- Illinois Birding Blog
- Ohio Birding Blog
- TrumbullBirders’s Bird Blog
- VINS Conservation Biology Blog
- Fluid Five Birding
Ivory-bill Skeptic (now re-titled Tom Nelson, it focuses on climate-change issues)Note: I have decided to retain Tom Nelson on the list of known North American blogs because of it's large archive of material on the Ivory-billed Woodpecker.
- “Witchities” World Series of Birding Blog INACTIVE
- 10,000 Birds
- A DC Birding Blog
- A View from the North INACTIVE
- Aimophila Adventures
- Alan's BirdCam Blog INACTIVE
- Alis Volat Propiis
- Andy Wraithmell's Birding Blog
- Antshrike's Bird Page
- Arkansas Birding
- At the Bird Feeder
- Avian Tendencies
- B and B - Birds
- Backyard Birder
- Backyard Birding
- Badbirdz - Reloaded
- Bay Area Birding INACTIVE
- Beakspeak - The Big Bird Blog
- Beginning to bird
- Bell Tower Birding
- Betsy's Bird Journal
- Big Country Blog
- Big Spring Birds
- Bill of the Birds
- Biological Ramblings
- Bird Advocates
- Bird Blog
- Bird brained stories!
- Bird Couple - Love ... birds
- Bird Notes from West Houston INACTIVE
- Bird Photos
- bird QUIZ
- Bird Traveling
- Bird Treatment and Learning Center
- Bird Watchers Notebook
- Bird Watching for Birders INACTIVE
- Bird Watching in Westcliffe
- Bird Watching: How to Study Birds INACTIVE
- Bird Year Blog
- BirdBreath Blog
- BirdChick Blog
- Birders on the Border
- Birdfreak Birding Blog
- Birding and Mountain Biking
- Birding Bytes
- Birding in Chico
- Birding in Maine
- Birding is NOT a crime!!!!
- Birding Life
- Birding Notes
- Birding on Broadmeade
- Birding Sonoma County
- Birding Virginia
- Birding/Wild Birds
- Birds and Climate Change
- Birds Etcetera
- Birds of Plymouth Gardens
- Birds on the Brain
- Birds, Bats and Beyond
- Birdwatch INACTIVE
- BirdWatchers Blog
- Birdwatchin' Buzz
- BirdWatching INACTIVE
- Bloomingdale Village
- Blue Lizard Birding Blog
- bootstrap analysis
- Boreal Bird Blog
- Born Again Bird Watcher
- BPBO Research Station Blog
- Brandon’s Birding Blog
- BRDPICS - Bill Schmoker's Birding Blog
- Brinkley Birding INACTIVE
- Bur Oak
- California Birding
- Carolina Ivorybills
- Central Park Wildlife Photography
- Chickadees, Juncos, and Jays Oh My!
- Citizen Science Projects - Ornithology
- Colder by the Lake Biridng
- Coastal Georgia Birding
- Coffee & Conservation - Birds
- Craig's Birds
- DC Audubon Society
- Drew's Birds
- Duncraft's Wild Bird Blog
- East Bay Birders INACTIVE
- Eureka Nature
- Fairfax Birding
- Feather Weather
- Feathered Ghosts
- Field of View
- Fledging Birders Blog
- Florida Big Year
- For Elect Eyes Only INACTIVE
- Fort Jefferson Dry Tortugas Birding Blog
- From My Perch
- Greensboro Birds
- Gulf Crossings
- Home Bird Days INACTIVE
- Home Bird Notes INACTIVE
- Home Conservation...for the Birds INACTIVE
- I and the Bird
- Idaho Bird Observatory
- Illinois Birds
- In a Cabin by the Woods
- International Bird Rescue Research Center
- Introduced Birds Weblog
- Iowa Voice
- It's a bird thing
- Ivar's Birds
- Ivory-bills LiVE!!
- Jeff Gyr Blog
- John C. Robinson's Birding Blog
- Julie Zickefoose
- Laura’s Birding Blog
- Life, Birds, and Everything
- Little Big Year
- Lord Garavin's Bird Blog
- Lovely dark and deep
- Mad Birders
- Magnificent Frigatebird - North America
- Maine Birds
- Marie Winn's Central Park Nature News
- Midwest Birder
- Mike's Birding & Digiscoping Blog
- Minnesota Birdnerd
- Mobile Search Team Travel Log - IBWO
- Mokka mit Schlag - Birding
- My Backyard Birds INACTIVE
- My Birding Journal
- My Birds Blog
- Natural History Artwork
- NaturalVisions - Birds
- Nature Knitter
- NCIOS - North Central Illinois Ornithological Society
- Nebraska Birding
- Neo Birding
- Nervous Birds
- News from the 2007 Search - IBWO
- Night of the Kingfisher
- North Coast Diaries
- Notes from soggy bottom
- NYC Nova Hunter
- OC Warbler
- Ocellated (Birding)
- Ohio Birding Blog
- Omar's Birding
- Operation Migration - In the Field
- Ornitholature INACTIVE
- Ornithology INACTIVE
- Ortego Birds
- Osprey Project
- Outdoors MaineToday
- Prairie Ice
- Quebec year list 2007
- Ravens in Hollywood
- Recent Bird Reports from Quebec
- Remembering New Jersey
- Roger's Blog
- San Diego Birding and Photography
- Saskatchewan Birding, Nature, and Scenery
- Search and Serendipity
- Semipalmated Llama
- SE Colorado Birding
- Sibley Guides Notebook
- Sitka Nature
- Southwestern Birding Tales INACTIVE
- Sparroworking in Quebec
- Stokes Birding Blog
- Susan Gets Native
- Tails of Birding
- The Backyard Birdman
- The Bird Nerd
- The Birdchaser
- The Birdist
- The Brownstone Birding Blog
- The Choctawhatchee Search
- The Chronicles INACTIVE
- The City Birder
- The Drinking Bird
- The Egret's Nest
- The Feather and the Flower
- The Firefly Forest - Arizona Birds
- The Flycatcher
- The Hawk Owl's Nest
- The Houston Birder
- The Incorrigible Birder INACTIVE
- The Leica Birding Blog
- The Nemesis Bird
- The Nightjar
- The Origin of Species
- The Plover Warden Diaries
- The QUBS Review
- The Rookie Birder INACTIVE
- The Shore Bird Project
- The Tiny Aviary
- The Urban Pantheist - Birds
- The Zen Birdfeeder
- Thoughts of an Iowa Birdwatcher
- Tick Magnate
- Today in NJ Birding History
- Tom Nelson
- Toronto Bird Observatory Blog
- Towhee.net Birding Blog
- Updates from Florida - IBWO
- Urban Birder
- Urban Hawks
- Veracruz Hawkwatch
- Vermont Center for Ecostudies
- Vulture Cafe
- WBU's Birding Blog
- Weekend Shooter
- West Coast Birding
- Whooper Happenings
- WildBird on the Fly
- Windy City Birder INACTIVE
- Winged Wonders
- Woodsong - Avian
- Words on Birds
- Xenospiza INACTIVE
Known North American Bird Blogs #6 (06/02/07) Known North American Bird Blogs #5 (04/20/07) Still More North American Bird Blogs—An Update (03/14/07) More North American Bird Blogs—An Update (12/07/06) List of Known North American Bird Blogs (11/21/06) North American Bird Blogs (05/08/06)
Monday, December 17, 2007
One such “little thing” that turned the art of birding, or birdwatching (as it was known in the early decades of the 20th century), on its head was described thusly by Scott Weidensaul in his 2007 book, Of a Feather: A Brief History of American Birding:
All his life, [Roger Tory] Peterson made a point of crediting those whose encouragement and ideas were crucial to his development as a birder and a field guide author. At the head of the line stood Blanche Hornbeck.And the rest, as they say, is history.
Although she only taught in the Jamestown, New York, schools for a single year, beginning in the fall of 1919, the pretty, red-haired Miss Hornbeck changed young Roger’s life. He’d always been interested in nature, but when Miss Hornbeck started a Junior Audubon Club in her class, distributing the illustrated leaflets from the National Association of Audubon Societies, Roger Peterson fell hard for birds.
Peterson himself described Hornbeck’s influence in a 1996 article in International Wildlife (excerpt):
Had it not been for Blanche Hornbeck, my seventh-grade teacher in Jamestown, New York, my life probably would have gone in a different direction. Who knows? She was a red-haired lady of about 30; I was a rebellious kid of 11.In his 2007 biography, Roger Tory Peterson, Douglas Carlson writes of Miss Hornbeck’s lasting influence on Peterson:
She started a Junior Audubon Club. Students paid a dime to join, for which we received a button with a Red-winged Blackbird [Agelaius phoeniceus] on it and 10 leaflets, each with a colorplate of a different bird and an accompanying outline to be colored in with crayon. Miss Hornbeck decided this was not the way to learn to draw, so the next day she gave each of us a little box of watercolors and a colorplate by Louis Agassiz Fuertes, one of the leading bird illustrators of his day, from his portfolios of the birds of New York. She gave me the Blue Jay [Cyanocitta cristata], which I copied with care.
Our efforts were put up on the blackboard. I thought I did pretty well, but my Blue Jay was credited to Edith, the girls who sat across the aisle. Discovering my distress, Miss Hornbeck soon put things right. The Blue Jay will always rank among my favorites because it was the first bird I drew.
Peterson and Miss Hornbeck would rediscover each other in an exchange that clearly reveals his sincerity concerning the importance of the Junior Audubon Club and provides a rather touching footnote to the story. In 1950, Miss Hornbeck read a magazine profile of Peterson in which he acknowledged his debt to her. She wrote him enthusiastically to say that she had discovered “that a former pupil was the great and honored Roger Peterson! My joy and satisfaction in your wonderful achievement is unlimited and I am more happy than I can tell you to have played some small part in helping you to discover your life’s work.” She remembered a rainy morning bird walk when she expressed surprise that anyone came. “I can still hear you say, ‘You can count on me, no matter what the weather.’” Peterson sent her two inscribed books, including his collection of birding recollections, Birds over America, which prompted her to write about her joy in “participating vicariously in events which I would like to have had.” Peterson continued to send books to her until he learned of her death.How many of todays birders have had similar, if not quite so dramatic, tipping-point moments as children: a seemingly uneventful learning moment with a teacher, a fleeting encounter with an adult mentor, or perhaps an influential book that caused them to be turned on by birds? We all owe a collective debt of gratitude to the unsung Blanche Hornbeck's of the world.
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
Like most of my ilk, every year I save those holiday cards that are either sentimentally precious or very appealing-or both.
The thing is, after I put them away I rarely know exactly where I've put them. Here's an example from lo, these many years past(1994 actually); it just fell out of a pile of saved paper.
The artist is the prodigious and wonderful Nico Martlet. He handmade and painted all his cards that year-lucky me!
Tuesday, December 4, 2007
Bruce Barcott, a contributing editor at Outside magazine, wrote an excellent essay in the December 2, 2007 issue of the New York Times Magazine that examines in detail both sides of the feral cat issue. A copy of this article is available in full at David Quintana’s Lost in the Ozone blog (see Kill the Cat that Kills the Bird).
Much of the article focuses on Jim Stevenson, founder of the Galveston Ornithological Society and “the most notorious cat killer in America,” and the nationwide controversy he caused when he shot a feral cat that was preying on Piping Plovers (an endangered species) near Galveston Island. An excerpt:
Much of the controversy focuses on the nation’s population of 50 to 90 million feral cats (exact figures are impossible to ascertain), former pets and their offspring that live independent of humans. Feral cats may not have owners, but they do have lobbyists. Alley Cat Allies, a national organization founded by an ex-social worker named Becky Robinson, harnesses a fierce coalition of celebrities, cat experts and feral-cat-colony caretakers to fight for the rights of wild cats. Her allies include Roger Tabor, a leading British naturalist; Jeffrey Masson, the outspoken author of “The Nine Emotional Lives of Cats” and “When Elephants Weep”; and, fittingly, Tippi Hedren, the actress best known for starring in the 1963 Alfred Hitchcock thriller, “The Birds.” Which, as you will recall, was a film in which Hedren spent two hours dodging attacks by murderous birds.
Both sides weighed in on Stevenson’s shooting. Cat advocates called him cruel and criminal. The blog Cat Defender (“Exposing the Crimes of Bird Lovers”) labeled him the Evil Galveston Bird Lover. The president of the Houston Audubon Society condemned Stevenson’s “illegal methods of controlling these animals,” but other bird-watchers hailed his actions. One Texas birder, a fourth-grade science teacher, suggested that Stevenson be given a medal for his actions.I wouldn't go quite so far as to praise Jim Stevenson for his actions, but I do find them to be far more ethical, humane, and ecologically sound than those of the feral-cat lovers. Feral cats need to be removed from the wild in a humane manner, and by "removed" I don't mean live-trapped and relocated elsewhere.
Monday, December 3, 2007
...is my new hero.
She's just started a sketchblog and it's a visual feast--already full of beautifully observed work.
As if her own drawing wasn't enough, she's also gone to the trouble of posting quite a few illustrations from Ronald Searle's must-have Paris Sketchbook, a task I'd intended to do but not yet got around to.
Pay her a visit:
Sunday, December 2, 2007
click to view at a decent size
I've been tidying my drawing area trying to cull the unnecessary stuff, and just for fun I thought I'd share this keen pencil box, a birthday gift from my friend Elinor. I've had it on my desk for ages, propped up where I can look at it--the colors and general fun of the thing are a nice bit of eyecandy for the workspace.
Saturday, December 1, 2007
- BLOG POSTS:
- BEN—Bama Environmental News – “Kid Birding” in Birmingham
- Daily Dolan Geiman – Shop Talk: Ornithological Love
- English1001interviews – My Interview with an Ornithologist [Fredrick Sheldon]
- First 50 Words – Birders
- G-Trove > Journal – Birding out at sea [off Sydney, Australia]
- Histomat: Adventures in Historical Materialism – Marxism and ornithology
- Little House in the Paddy – ‘Tyro’ Ornithologist
- PhiloBiblos – McCormick Ornithology Sale Sets Record
- RedV – Audubon: artist, ornithologist, odd duck
- The Common Room – The Barred Owl and Education [Frank Chapman]
- The Heroine Next Door – Nikon Birding Catalog [birding and sexism]
- The San Diego Beat – Birding in San Diego County [interactive map]
- Pet Bird – Bird Watching in Your Backyard
- Too Many Cooks – Ornithologist
FOUND BIRD BLOGS:
- Gallicissa (Asian)
- Mark Lewis’s birding blog [European]
- Teach me about birdwatching!!! [South American]
- Warwickshire Birding [European]
- Frederick [Maryland] News Post – Tracking the elusive saw-whet owl
- Kitsap [Idaho] Sun – Arizona Birding Jaunt Good for Both Body and Soul [by Joan Carson, the Bird Lady]
- Los Angeles Times – Glass wall has birders seeing red
- MinnPost.com – ‘Birders’ changing Minnesota’s outdoor image
- Outdoor News Daily – Competitive Birding at Bernardos [New Mexico] Big Day
- The Independent [U.K.] – The labour exchange: The fisherman and the birdwatcher
- Brightcove.tv – Wild Bird Banding [Ron Canterbury at the New River Birding and Nature Festival]
- Unorthodox Atheism – New Dance Craze: The Ornithologist
- A DC Birding Blog – Loose Feathers #126
- Birding in Maine – Bird Feathers #3
- Blog Carnival – I and the Bird #63 (via The Greenbelt)
- Living the Scientific Life – Birds in the News #107
Friday, November 30, 2007
I had pulled into the driveway of my girlfriend’s parent’s house early one evening to pick her up for a date. I was immediately greeted by one of her younger brothers who was in the front yard plunking away with a BB gun at the omnipresent sparrows (Passer domesticus) and starlings (Sturnus vulgaris) that are the hallmark of any farmstead. Knowing of my love for birds, he challenged me to shoot one.
At that point, my adolescent male hormones must have kicked in. To put what happened next into context, you have to understand that I had not been brought up in a family of hunters, so the thought of killing things was rather foreign to me. Heretofore, my experience with “hunting” had been limited to shooting at the ground squirrels (we called them “gophers”) (Spermophilus tridecemlineatus) that burrowed beneath the tombstones in the local cemetery, an activity engaged in by several of the neighborhood boys.
Well, I grabbed that BB gun and said something like “Sure, I can shoot that bird,” as I pointed the barrel at a nearby sparrow perched on an overhead wire. Aiming in the general direction of the bird, but not really knowing how to sight down the barrel and knowing full well that I would soon embarass myself with a wildly inaccurate shot, I pulled the trigger. To my utter shock and amazement, that sparrow fell from its perch and plummeted straight to the ground—dead. I recollect feeling shock, sadness, and remorse at this senseless deed, even if it was only a sparrow.
Needless to say, the brother was astounded at my incredible display of marksmanship. I think I went up a couple of notches in his eyes. My girlfriend, on the other hand, was chagrined that her kind, gentle, bird-loving boyfriend would be so cruel as to shoot an innocent bird. It took more than a bit of coaxing from me to convince her that I really never intended to kill that sparrow, that it was merely a lucky shot—lucky for me, but not so lucky for the poor bird.
Monday, November 26, 2007
Saturday, November 24, 2007
There are dozens of blogs dedicated to birds and bird-watching, but if you only look at those you’ll miss an abundance of good writing on birds that’s scattered elsewhere in the blogosphere. Birds Etcetera provides an excellent compilation of recent posts about birds, mostly from sources other than the mainstream bird blogs.The other blogs featured are Bill of the Birds, BirdChick, and I and the Bird (brainchild of 10000 Birds).
Recent posts include links to a discussion of the role pigeons may have played in the Minnesota bridge collapse, an item on the mutually beneficial relationship between birds and pine trees, an entry on avian intelligence and essays about personal encounters with birds. There are also photos and videos.
In making note of the WSJ article, Terryorisms (a blog billed as “a collection of flotsam and jetsom from trolling the World Wide Web”) went so far as to call Birds Etcetera a “mainstream bird site,” a gross exaggeration if ever there was one.
Truth be told, there are many other bird blogs out there far more deserving of mention in the WSJ than my modest contribution, but I’ll humbly accept the compliment.
Friday, November 23, 2007
We apologize for the confusing statement in our previous report (Pranty et al. 2006) that we had not “decided” whether to vote on the recent reports of Ivory-billed Woodpecker persistence in the ABA Area. The CLC will evaluate the claims and counter-claims of Ivory-billed persistence in the ABA Area, but we may wait another year or two before we do so, either after formal surveys in some areas cease, or at least after another year or two of data have been gathered. We have received copies of the deliberations of the Arkansas Bird Records Committee, which voted in September 2006 to accept the claim (see Fitzpatrick et al. 2005 [.pdf], 2006; Rosenberg et al. 2005) that at least one Ivory-billed Woodpecker persists in the “Big Woods” of Arkansas, but some of the Arkansas votes were cast before alternative hypotheses were published (Jackson 2006, Sibley et al. 2006, Jones et al. 2007). To date, the Florida Ornithological Society Records Committee has not accepted any claims of recent occurrences along the Choctawhatchee River (see Hill et al. 2006) or elsewhere in the state. In the opinion of the CLC, none of the data presented to date proves the continued persistence of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker in the ABA Area. For now, we will continue to treat the Ivory-billed Woodpecker as a Code 6 species that definitely or probably is extinct.Citations:
Fitzpatrick, J. W., M. Lammertink, M. D. Luneau, T. W. Gallagher, B. R. Harrison, G. M. Sparling, K. V. Rosenberg, R W. Rohrbaugh, E. C. H. Swarthout, P. H. Wrege, S. B. Swarthout, M. S. Dantzker, R. A. Chariff, T. R. Barksdale, J. V. Remsen, S. D. Simon, and D. Zollner. 2005. Ivory-billed Woodpecker (Campephilus principalis) persists in continental North America. Science 308:1460-1462.
Fitzpatrick, J. W., M. Lammertink, M. D. Luneau, T. W. Gallagher, B. R. Harrison, G. M. Sparling, K. V. Rosenberg, R W. Rohrbaugh, E. C. H. Swarthout, P. H. Wrege, S. B. Swarthout, M. S. Dantzker, R. A. Chariff, T. R. Barksdale, J. V. Remsen, S. D. Simon, and D. Zollner. 2006. Clarifications about current research on the status of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker (Campephilus principalis) in Arkansas. Auk 123:587-593.
Hill, G. E., D. J. Mennill, B. W. Rolek, T. L. Hicks, and K. E. Swiston. 2006. Evidence suggesting that Ivory-billed Woodpeckers (Campephilus principalis) exist in Florida. Avian Conservation and Ecology 1(3):2-11.
Jackson, J. A. 2006. Ivory-billed Woodpecker (Campephilus principalis): hope, and the interface of science, conservation, and politics. Auk 123:1-15.
Jones, C. D., J. R. Troy, and L. Y. Pomara. 2007. Similarities between Campephilus woodpecker double-raps and mechanical sounds produced by duck flocks. Wilson Journal of Ornithology 119:259-262.
Pranty, B., J. L. Dunn, S. Heinl, A. W. Kratter, P. E. Lehman, M. W. Lockwood, B. Mactavish, and K. J. Zimmer. 2006. Annual report of the ABA Checklist Committee: 2006. Birding 38:20-24.
Pranty, B., J. L. Dunn, S. Heinl, A. W. Kratter, P. E. Lehman, M. W. Lockwood, B. Mactavish, and K. J. Zimmer. 2007. Annual report of the ABA Checklist Committee: 2007. Birding 39:24-31.
Rosenberg, K. V., R. W. Rohrbaugh, and M. Lammertink. 2005. An overview of Ivory-billed Woodpecker (Campephilus principalis) sightings in eastern Arkansas in 2004-2005. North American Birds 59:198-207.
Sibley, D. A., L. R. Bevier, M. A. Patten, and C. S. Elphick.. 2006. Comment on “Ivory-billed Woodpecker (Campephilus principalis) persists in continental North America.” Science 311:1555a.
Thursday, November 22, 2007
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
Monday, November 5, 2007
A quick heads up to let readers know that Clay Kaytis has just posted a new episode of his Animation Podcast, this one an interview with Disney veteran Dale Baer. He's a man with a long and distinguished history as well as an enormous amount of goodwill in the industry; I've known dozens of people who worked with or for Dale and not one had anything but very happy memories.
an example from the pen of Dave Pimentel
And on Drawings From a Mexican there's some very good tips about drawing an uninspiring model. Dave Pimentel has been even busier than usual lately, so an update from him is always welcome.
And one more [technical] thing: although I like the "new" template that you currently see here(in particular its organizing sidebar that directs the reader to just how obsessive I am about Fred Moore and other subjects), the interface for adding links is a huge pain; they must be done one at a time, laboriously. Anyone who has a way around this, give me a tip, won't you? I cringe at losing all my links to blogs I love and want to point the reader to...but this one-by-one thing is for the birds.
Sunday, November 4, 2007
Thursday, November 1, 2007
Lou Romano" "The House"
The mailman just now brought my household the Nov. 5 issue of the New Yorker. Flipping it open, I am looking at a page of artwork, all by various artists. One is obviously a John Currin...William Wegman's costumed weimaraners on the opposite page, and--what's this one at the top? Another lovely painting by--Lou Romano! With a cute character sketch underneath!
Lou's work is in the magazine again(he did a cover for them a while back) as part of a portfolio of artists' variations on the theme of Hansel and Gretel, to celebrate the Met's remounting of that opera in New York. All the art will be on display, the magazine tells me, at the Metropolitan's Gallery Met(I didn't even know they had a gallery, but it makes sense) from November 16 through February. I'd scan it but maybe you should buy the New Yorker and check it out. It's a good magazine.
As Steve Jobs would say "Pretty cool, huh?".
ETA: The New Yorker's online edition has much more from the exhibition posted on its website; there are two more of Lou's paintings there, including the image I linked to at the top of this post. Check it out by all means.
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Thanks to an alert by John Canemaker, I know that today, Halloween 2007, is Ollie Johnston's 95th birthday.
Really, what can be said about a man on such a day when he's lived so long that he's influenced millions--both professionally and personally--and it's all been said before, often by people who knew him well, worked with him and love him dearly?
It's a tough one. I met Ollie just once at his home many years ago, shortly before "Illusion Of Life" was published. I saw him speak at festivals and animation events; mostly I know him through his animation, which has always entertained and touched me, and always, always expertly fooled me into completely and utterly believing his drawings were alive.
Happy Birthday, Master Animator!
It's hard to find an image of Ollie alone in a shot--of course, for virtually all of his working life he's most often pictured with his dearest friend, the late Frank Thomas, as above. From David Nethery's blog I swiped the other shot of Ollie at his desk at the very beginnings of his illustrious career. Three guesses who's giving some guidance while Ollie looks on.
Sunday, October 21, 2007
Here's a wonderful photograph: Disney animator Fred Moore, his first wife Virginia (for the record, his second wife was also named Virginia) and one of their two daughters, probably taken about 1938 or so.
Of course all we animation fans love the glimpse into the private, candid life of a legendary Disney animator, but as someone else (someone not in the business) pointed out upon seeing it: "it's great to see these kinds of images of people from seventy years ago. It's so vivid and casual-it's as if you're in the moment with them and makes you see them as real people, not caricatures, not just names on the credits or in a book." Indeed. The scene looks strikingly contemporary--the young Mrs. Moore could easily be my mom 30 years later, Fred one of my friends in the story department mugging with their own babies.
When's this insouciant artist going to get his own book? Until then, I'm grateful to be able to pass this happy snap along to Diary readers.
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
Here's some good news for lovers of animation and film history-and theme parks that could most certainly be a lot better:
Disney's California Adventure will be vastly rehabbed, including a reproduction of the long-demolished Carthay Circle theater.
From the article:
"Favorite California Adventure attractions -- including the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, one of several added in an effort to address criticism that the park had too few blockbuster rides -- won't be dismantled. A host of new attractions will include several based on Pixar animated films such as "Cars" and "Toy Story."
The entrance plaza will be redesigned and iconic structures reminiscent of old-time Hollywood will be added, including a replica of the Carthay Circle Theatre."
The Carthay was where "Snow White" had its lavish Hollywood premiere; in a generous gesture--considering that A list stars like Marlene Dietrich and Shirley Temple were crowding the theatre for the unveiling of Walt's 'folly'--Disney had arranged for all his key artists to be invited to the black tie occasion.
Years later, several of them recounted what it felt like to be there with the creme de la creme of the movie business going nuts over the film they'd slaved on for the longest couple of years of their lives: incredible.
What a neat idea to do this. I can only imagine who came up with it. Thanks, whoever you are.
Sunday, October 7, 2007
Miss Mary Pickford catches up on her correspondence, circa 1917
I just wanted to note that in choosing a new template for the Diaries, I've inadvertently wiped out all my links. This after sagely counseling someone else that it was possible to put it all right again/not lose links. Uh, yikes. Well, I did save a text file with all the raw linkage so as soon as I'm on that computer I'll do my best to restore the good stuff.
The thing I like about this differently-written template is the ability to organize posts by tags(although I'm chagrined at all the tags being represented at right; there are quite a few that aren't that important). Now the "Fred Moore" and "story" posts can be accessed easily, instead of by searching.
So, just an FYI. More anon.
Sunday, September 16, 2007
It's dated 1940; 20 pages, a first edition--although I'm pretty certain there weren't any other, later editions. If I remember correctly, this was published for a specific purpose.
Way back in 1981 I was visiting the Disney Archives, hosted by Dave Smith(still there, I believe). Then as now the Archives were filled to bursting with all kinds of rarities on display. There was no Frank Wells building then--but there was a much bigger backlot instead(all the much-filmed Disney homes were there: Fred MacMurray's, Hayley Mills', Zorro's street, etc.).
The archives were on the first floor of the Roy Disney Building that also housed Buena Vista and other corporate divisions.
Things were awfully quiet on the lot then. It was easy to wander around the manicured grounds, meeting no one save the occasional "traffic boy" on a bicycle delivering interoffice mail, and daydream about the great animators of yore as younger men and women.
So back to the archives: I'd look throught the tip of the iceberg of material there, bookshelves with all sorts of rare volumes of Disney publications. There was a series of slim picturebooks, each with a title relating it to one of the segments of "Fantasia". I believe Dave told me these were published to establish the copyright to Disney's version of what were public domain musical compositions. The book itself wasn't meant for big sales, just to exist in the marketplace as token objects. Without them, presumably, any producer could have rushed out a short with elephants and alligators, say, dancing to ballet music(after all, those animals were public domain too--and Henrich Kley's drawings were available as freely to anyone as they were to the Disney Character Model department)...but with the book, the exact actions and look of the whole thing could be protected. And thus the books are all filled with lovely character art too.
I'd never owned one of these books before now, and reading the text I think I remember the story correctly. This isn't so much standard storybook style at all--it's a literal recounting of the sequence--exactly the way a story man would pitch it to Walt. The resulting writing makes for curious reading.
The chorus forms a semi-circle around the pool. One elephant comes to the center, dips her trunk in the water and drinks deep. Then she lifts her trunk high and blows a bubble of tremendous size, far larger than any of the others. Gently she breaks it from the end of her trunk, and then, as it floats slowly across the stage she runs quickly after it, leaps in the air and lands astride the bubble. It carries her gently about the stage as the other elephants blow it from one side to the other. Suddenly the bubble breaks, and the elephant lands on the floor, as gracefully as possible under the circumstances.
It goes on like this--loads of minutely descriptive text while the accompanying pictures seems almost randomly chosen from the film's visual development. There's also (as you can glimpse in the text reproduced here) a hint of what may have been originally intended to be animated, but was cut. It was ever thus!
If there's interest I'll post more of the pages, adding them to this entry.
EDIT: Okay, here's more:
There's plenty more, but it's the weekend and the day is waning. Later!
Saturday, September 15, 2007
A lot of artists love to moonlight with girlie drawings, and many are superb at it. Few do the same with guys, likely because 99% of the artists are guys themselves and they'd prefer to work with a little more curvature when they're goofing around having fun.
Don Shank is tops with both genders on the pages of his sketchbooks. Back in the Turner development days Don had a fat sheaf of his girl drawings so choice that he was always granting requests for copies; I have one (and I wish I knew where I pu the darn things); they're completely wonderful--great designs and attitudes.
But since his blog has been up I've enjoyed his character Kurt even more than the ladies. Here's a guy I feel I know, who'd fit right in at a party, bar or in a 1961 film kibitzing with Bobby Morse or someone. It's definitely worth a trip to Don's blog to backtrack and vist the various Kurt posts--but be warned: the vast majority are rated G but a few aren't family-friendly.
Here's another still I picked up from the same dealer as the last one(at Cinecon a couple of weeks ago--all of you in this area should get on their mailing list for next year, by the way). It's from the reissue release in 1949--you can tell by the numbers along the bottom there on the lower right: 49/278.
Judging from the overall look of the image I don't think it's a scene still that's exactly corroborated in the film--I'll check later. Not as cool as a story or rough sketch, but what the hey.
Friday, September 14, 2007
This is a publicity still dating from the original release of "Make Mine Music". The caption is still affixed to the back and reads in part:
"THE JOINT IS JUMPIN'---These 'ickies' and 'alligators'[?] cut a rug when the jam session gets under way[sic] with musical and vocal backgrounds supplied by Benny Goodman's orchestra and The Pied Pipers. The scene is from "All The Cats Join In" sequence, one of the highlights of Walt Disney's latest full length comedy musical in Technicolor "Make Mine Music".
I wonder if this is an actual story sketch from the boards, rather than something drawn just for publicity? It looks like the former. I was just rereading Michael Barrier's biography of Disney; in an interesting anecdote it's mentioned (by one of the story men) that Walt looked at a pitch of the early rough boards for this sequence and was singularly unimpressed, telling them to "tighten it up", try again or something along those lines.
Instead, the guys had Joe Rinaldi take the drawings down and trace over each one, inventing nothing new but making everything look a heck of a lot better. When Walt next saw it, he approved the "changes" and this great number was good to go. This does look as if Joe Rinaldi drew it.
Wednesday, September 5, 2007
Here of course is a lovely, interestingly unfinished Fred Moore painting. I appears courtesy of the generosity of Pete Emslie, cartoonist, collector, caricaturist, blogger, Sheridan Collge teacher(animation) and all-around nice guy, judging from his posts.
He's a very thoughtful man as well as a prolific artist, and I can't recommmend regualr visits to his blog too emphatically. Here's a sample of a recent post's illustration(by Pete):
Pete's gesture drawings of model Heather
In addition to the Moore above, he posted yet another painting by Fred he's acquired, as well as several centaurette cleanups that are a must see. Really lovely.
Thanks for sharing, Pete!
Monday, September 3, 2007
Hie yourselves over to the blogs of Shane Prigmore and Shannon Tindle to see stuff from their new film pilot, "Gilroy".
These two guys have so much energy and vim(okay, redundant perhaps-but I like "vim")...how they managed to do this pilot and everything else they've been doing the last couple of years--currently including full-time visual development at Dreamworks--I don't know, but it sure sets the bar.
I haven't seen more of "Gilroy" than the images on the blogs, but they're terrific: crisp, beautfully styled, appealing and make me want to see it. I hope it doesn't stay in TV development limbo for long. It's currently half animatic and half full color, finished animation: 22 minutes. I hope Cartoon Network decides to air it.
It still boggles the mind that not too many years ago it would have been pretty unthinkable for two young guys not already producers--and moreover, artists--to get a film like this made. Off the top of my head I can remember a couple of anomalies from the old days, pre-'97 or so:
Bruce Timm and Eric Radomski pulled off a fast one, literally--using very little downtime between seasons of Tiny Toons to make a drop-dead cool trailer to try and sell their own take on Batman.
Back then it was a huge shot in the dark--WB was anything but a risk taking company, and Bruce's style was completely out there as far as the then-currentl look of an animated show was concerned(thank God)...but they did it. It was a case of its just looking too damn good not to greenlight it. That entire franchise and a whole lot of other shows that followed came from those two guys basically doing it on their own (with some top artistic help and a good writer friend on baord, Paul Dini) within the studio framework.
Later when I was at Turner, Charlie Bean(another ex-TTA artist), and Don Shank(met him during Batman days) finished "Buy One, Get One Free" under the banner of Turner/H-B's short program. Don was at Turner Development too, and he and Charlie screened their finished pilot. It was simply beautiful. This again was a watershed as far as I was concerned: the styling, the music--the whole shebang was done just right. It was in effect a very high-end personal film, not a series but a one shot. But when we were toiling on Tiny Toons(Charlie was about 18 then), managing something in that style and getting it made was a pipe dream.
Of course, Spumco was doing it and did it first. But that situation was the grandaddy of anomalies and had behind it years of John Kricfalusi's sweating, berating, taking a lot of pummeling and his unique personal reputation before it got to the point where he and his closest friends became "Spumco" and sold the Ren and Stimpy pilot. Its success and continuing influence really has made the latter-day openness to better style possible--but an artist has still got to have his or her ducks in a row ready for launching when he gets a chance. And meanwhile, mouths must be fed and rent paid...it's a tough task to juggle a job and a life--forget about two or three jobs.
These newer projects are really fascinating to me because they've come about because young guys without the old-timey clout have worked their behinds off selling themselves, and putting the show where their pitches were.
Thursday, August 23, 2007
Thursday, August 16, 2007
This is one of my Comic Con purchases: one of many Christmas cards designed by the superlative Marc Davis (with a self-caricature).
I'm not sure when this was done--how young would he have been to have looked as slim as he's depicted here? It's a wonderful drawing and I was glad to find it at the Van Eaton Galleries booth.
Since I never seem to remember to ask my friends when I talk to them(and since those I do remember to ask don't know): what in the world are those placards placed over at WED advertising? What sort of show is it?
I apologize to non-locals for the crytpic nature of this post and promise I'll post something of less arcane interest soon, but I've really just got to know. Whatever it is, it's only for employees of the Disney Company.
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
What's your story, buddy?
ETA: Jeff's toy just received an excellent review at the Plastic and Plush blog. Congratulations again to Jeff for garnering such kudos.
I've been catching up with a lot of the blogs I link to lately--ones I mean to visit regularly but too often procrastinate checking in on. Since the Comic Con, however, I've had a new motivation: what did all those fellow travelers I missed seeing there think of it, and how did the sellers I know of do?
So I've been making the rounds and enjoying the stories and pictures. One entry particularly stirred me up enough to begin a post about it the other day, though I put it aside until I'd have more time. Oddly, an article in today's New Yorks Times offered a quote that fit the old post perfectly...so here it is--the post, first:
* * *
Jeff Pidgeon blogged about an encounter he had at the Comic-Con involving the vinyl "Happy Beaver" toy he designed and was offering there. Apparently a vendor expressed interest in this appealing orange guy, and asked him what the character's story was. Jeff was forced to admit that...well...he didn't have a story, exactly; he had drawn a fellow he liked the looks of and wanted to see as a toy(Jeff is one of the animation world's preeminent cool toy collectors, by the way--more on that in a minute).
This woman was kind of amazed that Jeff didn't follow the toymaker's script--how could he have bothered to commission a sizeable retail toy with no story for it?
He was nonplussed at the expostulating from this stranger...after all, he is a story artist of long experience(at Pixar, no less). Wasn't it okay for him to indulge himself in a fun project of three-dimensional toy design? Does every figural thing with eyes, nose and tail have to have a backstory?
* * *
Well, that was as far as I got the other day. I put it aside and reflected on whether or not I was making too much of this little anecdote, but it did needle me for some reason. Then I read this in this morning's paper an article about the over-management of children's play--of adults inserting themselves and their notions of what "play" should be into a private world where children would otherwise think and invent and fantasize spontaneously. Here's the passage that really popped out at me--the article is reported by Patricia Cohen. She's quoting a professor at Brown who's written a book about children's play throughout history:
"Mr. Chudacoff...explain[ed] that with so much commercial licensing, toys have become more of an offshoot of the television and film industries than elements of play.
One result is that a toy comes with a prepackaged back story and ready-made fantasy life, he said, meaning that “some of the freedom is lost, and unstructured play is limited.”"
Now, Jeff's vinyl toy isn't meant specifically for children, it's a fun object designed for adults like Jeff(and myself, and a passel of other animation people and artists)who enjoy fun objects around our environment for various reasons. Call it whimsy, maybe. But I think part of the reason that we do enjoy these things is that they both please our sense memories of childhood play and at the same time keep striking those synapses that we use all the time in our work. Stories beget characters--but also, very often characters beget their own stories--ones we couldn't tell until we get to know their players a little better. That's what I'd surmise about Jeff's character--why it isn't a boo-boo to have gone so far as to create him without The Story at hand, readymade, to reel off to a wholesaler or bystander. Jeff might well disagree, however.
Anyway, there is no hard and fast rule to this. It goes back to that old question" "where do your ideas come from?" Where? It's part nature, part nurture, part--who knows what?
And speaking of toys, for anyone with a passing interest in the glory days of strange and wonderful, make-your-own-backstory toys of yesteryear, have a look at Jeff's Flickr pages.
We had this around the house when I was a preschooler; I thought it was the most magical thing in the world.
a bootlegged toy knocking off a character from the Disney film "Chicken Little"
all the images are by and appear courtesy of jeffpidgeon.com
Sunday, August 12, 2007
Michael Barrier has quite a few interesting emails and links lately; one that pushed one of my animation hot buttons grew out of his and others' reactions to "Ratatouille". It involves the handling of animals as characters in animation. Mike links to a post by caricaturist, Sheridan College instructor and blogger Pete Emslie. Pete's thoughts are fairly brief but clear and pointed, and as he says, there are many permutations to the types of characterizations he lists in his post.
Barrier himself writes something I couldn't put any better:
"To me, anthropomorphism like that in so many Hollywood cartoons has most often been a sign not of infantilism—the common accusation—but of an openness to the potential of artistic devices that more fastidious minds reject out of hand. You can do things in animation and the comics with animal characters that you can't with human characters; and as Pete's handout suggests, the more alert the artist is to the possibilities and limitations inherent in the different kinds of animal characters, the better the odds that something exceptional will result."
Boldface is mine. The misuse or dismissal of this truism Barrier mentions has frustrated me in the process of doing story on a couple of projects in the past, before my present job.
There were instances where opportunities to add something special were missed, involving animal characters that while able to "talk" didn't ever speak to human beings and were supposed to be real animals in a "real" environment.
Those projects worked from a script, but there was (supposedly) ample room for some visual, physical interpretation and ideas from the story artist. In some cases, however, I found myself thinking that the characters--instead of being birds or dogs--could have been mice, cats, horses or buffalo and virtually nothing but the character design would have changed.
There was literally no thought given to how a dog would react to a situation versus a parrot. It was all plot and dialogue, all the time. The fact that a story might revolve around a canine in a human household was only a gloss, not the crucial factor it should have been.
As someone who's lived with dogs, parrots, horses, fish and cats(to name a few), this really drives you around the bend in its waste of potential animation gold just sitting there waiting to picked up, drawn and presented to the audience. So, whether it makes it into the film or not, you continually try to insist on not just having a character get from A to B, but have him get there the way a puppy would. This doesn't mean cramming all kinds of diversions and asides into a scene but being judicious about where, when and how much depending upon that character at that moment.
Few films achieved this as brilliantly as in the handling of all the animals in "Lady and the Tramp". It's a lesson in thinking along those lines, and in the process turns scenes that might be a heck of a tough sell today("they put the puppy to sleep in the kitchen with a newspaper, but she won't stay put") and turns it into the universal, lovingly familiar experience that everyone who's ever raised a dog has experienced--and as a bonus we get to see it from not only the humans' but the puppy's point of view. It's scenes like that, just as much as the old "Bella Notte" number or "He's a Tramp" that make this a classic. Incidentally, those musical numbers are both examples of the story crew really pushing the limits they've set for themselves in terms of how anthropomorphized the dogs are--but (in my opinion at least) they get away with it as they do all through the film by never leaving out the "dogginess" they need to sustain the fantasy and tether it to reality.
This isn't to say that degrees of "faithful" anthropomorphism can't be mixed within a film with success in the best efforts of animation. I stumbled on a bit of "Dumbo" on TV yesterday, and the crows, Timothy Mouse and the Stork have little relation to their real life counterparts other than the use of their wings-those that have them-and the fact that they have beaks or tails. In "Dumbo" the brasher characters are also "free"--free of the strictures of being working circus animals, they can come and go as they wish and boss about or rag on human beings and animals alike, acting as a Greek chorus. They exist in a kind of limbo between the "real" elephants and kangaroos and tigers and the full-on humans such as the ringmaster. Timothy would gain little or nothing to push more elements of real mouse onto him--he doesn't need it. He's more [Fred]Moore than Mouse.
images courtesy of this site
Obviously one could go on about this all day--"Ratatouille" offers a lot to chew on on this subject, and I've already written a bit here and elsewhere about how well I thought those animals were handled, with attention paid to extreme subtleties of rats that made for an almost subliminal layer of reality to Remy and the others(but especially Remy). I don't know how much was instigated by the animators, but knowing Bird I would surmise that there are no accidents in anything on that score; the phrase "with a gimlet eye" was invented for Brad Bird, believe it.
Still, there are some shots where I'd sure like to wring that animator's hand.