Thursday, June 19, 2008

Mike Kazaleh on Duck Dodgers, Jr. and Maurice Noble




The following comes from Mike Kazaleh, one of the co-writers of the "Duck Dodgers, Jr." short from "Tiny Toon Adventures" we featured earlier. Special thanks to Thad K. for contacting Mr. Kazaleh and asking him about his work on the show and with Maurice Noble.

MK:
"Yes, I have lots of stories about that particular cartoon. It was not Maurice's first work sans Chuck, as in the early to mid seventies, he worked with Hawley Pratt at DFE (and in the mid fifties, he worked at John Sutherland.) It was the cartoon that put him back into cartoons, though, as he went into fine art prints about eight years earlier (beautiful hand made silkscreen prints.) We immediately became close friends, and we were friends until his death. Maurice came up with all the crazy landscapes and machines seen in the beginning of the cartoon. He originally designed the settings in nice, flat colors, but the background artists at Wang Films in Taipei (where this episode was produced) couldn't believe we wanted them flat, so they used airbrush instead. Owen Fitzgerald did some layouts in this picture. I met Kent Butterworth in the mid eighties, and we first worked together on Bakshi's Mighty Mouse. Kent and I are still friends, and we've worked on a lot of projects together. I wrote this cartoon using Wayne Katz's idea of a machine that sucked up planets. I also was told that I had to put in Marvin Martian's daughter. I also did the storyboard and the character models. This may be hard to believe, but at the time, the studio only had one model sheet of Marvin the Martian, and it was one that Chuck drew in 1980, which nobody wanted to use. Steve Spielberg was very stoked on this story. In fact, he asked me to add all that stuff at the end of all the crap getting sucked in (including sucking up the background ala "The Yellow Submarine".) I needed to come up with a new punch line, as the cartoon was originally going to end with an angry cube martian chasing an cubed Daffy Duck. Steve also added a few things, like Daffy's gearshift moment. The picture was about a minute over length as a result, so Kent shortened the other pictures in that half hour.

Best,

MK-"

5 comments:

Larry Levine said...

Very hard to imagine ANYONE could misinterpret Maurice's Noble layouts!!!

Nick said...

Wow that really is an eye opener to how difficult it must be to work with an animation studio located half way across the world. I've always felt that the designs on "Tiny Toons" were really not suited for overseas animation at all, and is it really that much cheaper?

Jenny Lerew said...

Maurice actually worked on two cartoons for TTA, one for Kent and one some months later, for Eddie Fitzgerald-the latter a segment I also worked on doing character layouts; I was so in awe of him and he so intimidated me that I barely spoke to him, though we became fast friends later when we worked together at Turner feature development.
His memories when I met him again at Turner of the WB experience weren't happy ones, but he was glad for the opportunity to make some extra bread towards one of the overseas trips he loved to take. I'm not surprised he made friends with Kazaleh, and as I recall he liked working with Kent.

I remember vividly how sharp and right his work for the Eddie cartoon was, both in design and color styling; alas, that one wasn't translated decently either. I think it went to Akom-bottom of the overseas barrel at the time-so that's hardly surprising.

Jenny Lerew said...

Nick, you're right on all points imho: the designs were too difficult for those studios to do-(although at least one of the studios did have a really earnest and smart animation director working there to make sure the stuff was made as intended). All the overseas places were doing multiple shows for different studios all at once, and I heard that often we'd be getting the "C" crew at some place while a rival company with a bigger budget and an exclusively dedicated american manager working for them overseas, got the "A" crew.
"Much cheaper"-than what? Than doing it here? You bet it was. But in WB's favor and to their credit they did what was then a really radical step, one not done at Disney TV(our main competition in the high end TV market): they had a "unit system" and more importantly used character layout artists who were to do the extreme poses full size on aniamtion paper, working from the storyboards, to enhance and expand the ideas of the scenes, put more oomph and expression on the characters, etc. The timing for the episode was also to be done working from and written on the layouts rather than simply timing the storyboard pages(the usual way for TV), which are by necessity much more general.
For instance, I might get a scene to do in layout that was but two or three board panels, but my scene could be many more drawings than that to get the action across.
The layout step is always done-has to be so the animators have a specific plan, but usually overseas they do them themselves. Doing that step here in L.A. was to give us more control. As far as timing, unfortunately, some studios would ignore the sheets-which for a WB-style action or scene is frankly deadly to the final effect.

Christopher Sobieniak said...

"Very hard to imagine ANYONE could misinterpret Maurice's Noble layouts!!!"

Well it was a studio across the Pacific that was mostly doing the same thing over and over without much deviation, I've seen enough back then to realize why that is. The whole flat backround thing took a few years to take hold in the 90's as I'v enoticed.

"Wow that really is an eye opener to how difficult it must be to work with an animation studio located half way across the world. I've always felt that the designs on "Tiny Toons" were really not suited for overseas animation at all, and is it really that much cheaper?"

Ask the former executives! :-P

"All the overseas places were doing multiple shows for different studios all at once, and I heard that often we'd be getting the "C" crew at some place while a rival company with a bigger budget and an exclusively dedicated american manager working for them overseas, got the "A" crew."

Wouldn't surprise me.

"The layout step is always done-has to be so the animators have a specific plan, but usually overseas they do them themselves. Doing that step here in L.A. was to give us more control. As far as timing, unfortunately, some studios would ignore the sheets-which for a WB-style action or scene is frankly deadly to the final effect."

Every time I hear of a studio shutting down a layout department, I cry!

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