Sunday, June 15, 2008

MACK HAMMER Productions

Jon has a new company and a new website!

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Meet Lily!

Hey all ... meet my granddaughter. Lily. Born to Heather and Jess on Feb. 18 of this year. Kinda looks like a Smurfette, doesn't she? Anyway Chris, Vince, and I are going out there to give the kid some well-overdue grandparent-type attention.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

More staff pictures

Here are a bunch of pics from Marco. Thanks for sharing!
Vince at his "ivory tower" desk
Djordge at the community internet computer. It's scary to think that this was our only connection to the WWW at the time.
Mike Feeney in his cozy cube
Kurt on the community phone. All the animators and assistants shared one line.
Doug, Andy, and Adrian. This was the layout department, where Doug did almost all our animation layouts at the time.
Caroline and Katie

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Little Go Beep!

If you haven't seen it in a while, you can check it out here! Fun stuff.

Monday, September 3, 2007


The very first project i worked on at Startoons was "THE FAT CATS." (A short done for Cartoon Network.) It was a very exciting time for me and i was thrilled to be working on an actual cartoon, assisting the fantastic animation by John McClenahan and Dave Pryor.I learned a ton and we all had alot of laughs.
Anyway,...after the first Fat Cats wrapped i thought i would pitch some concepts for a follow up in case there was to be one.One of the ideas was for Louie and Elmo to become plumbers. Lots of comedy possibilities when toilets and raw sewage are present.The episode was to be entittled "CLOGGED BRAINS." Above are a few of the sketches i did of possible trucks and a tittle card to sell the idea. Dave Pryor saw what i was doing and added his own Visual development. AH,...GOOD TIMES. Let's get "the band" back together and make this baby.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

In the hall of Startoons

Here's a happy picture of Me behind Kurt and Caroline - drinking (hic!). This is right outside John Griffin's office, and I like to play the game of trying to remember exactly what was up on the walls at the time. Mostly a bunch of in-jokes and caricatures of workmates getting hurt in some humorous way. I can't make out the three hanging items in the foreground on the left, but right behind them is a foam board poster for a show that Startoons Pitched called "Mixed Nutz". This was created right before I started working at Startoons in '92 or '93. It was a slew of characters with their own shows combined into one series - very much like Animaniacs in a way - like the one off Rita and Runt stuff (but way better). I think most of the characters were designed by Spike. Maybe someone can remember the names. What I remembered the most was a Ray Rayner type of dog that would have a show about building things, and a detective show featuring a Girl named Cindy and an old magician rabbit. Maybe someone can step in here and fill in the details. On the right side is a poster for the Tommy Nelson/Fancy Monkey show "Little Dogs on the Prairie". The third and unfortunately final show in the series.

Monday, August 13, 2007

West Coast Trip

Just got back from the west coast where I visited some old StarTooners and made some new friends here at Pixar Studios. What an INCREDIBLE place!!! They even have a bar just like we did. Got to see Tony Cervone at WB and Heather McC at Disney. Still lookin' fine Heather!

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Chicago's Wizard World

Had a fun time as always this Saturday at the Wizard world convention.

Here's Startoons Alum Kurt Kanellos standing next to his new best friend from the upcoming "Bioshock" video game.

Kurt Mitchell was in the artists section - here you can see him signing for his "Cannonboy" comic.

Also spotted was Adrian Puente, and Phil Gullett was part of our mini entourage. We liked spotting really bad Hulk toys and documenting them for prosperity.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Pinky and the Brain

I sure don't have much from the Warner Bros. stuff we worked on - just a couple poses or rough drawings I saved along the way. Here are a couple cute sad drawings of Pinky and the Brain from the episode Ron directed - "Brain's Apprentice"

Monday, August 6, 2007

Ron & Jon Pix

Jon and Ron's cameo from "The Brain's Apprentice"

Jon and Ron at the pre-Emmy Awards show dinner in NYC

Screen Magazine (Feb 11, 1991)

An article I saved from Ruth's rag... did that broad ever get anything right?

The Monkey Speaks (Part One)

Hi everyone. I used to work at StarToons too... at least I thought I did until I started reading these blogs ; )

So I'm here to set the record straight... well okay, maybe just a bit crooked, because my memory ain't what it used to be, but then again what is?

I first met Jon, our fearless leader, when I was working as the Technical Director at Kinetics (1983-1990), a small but prolific animation house located in downtown Chicago. I shot and assembled the very first pencil test of "Dudley the Dinosaur" for Jon and he seemed to be impressed with my creative way of putting it all together. Kinetics was seeing its last days as most of the motion graphic stuff that we were doing was now all going to computers being rendered on a new toy called a "Paintbox". I knew that my days at Kinetics were numbered and so I tagged along with Jon and company to LA (my 1st trip there) to try to sell myself and find some work. I was in that infamous elevator ride where we coincidentally ran into Tom Ruegger which certainly changed our destiny. Some things are just meant to be I guess. Anyway, as you already know, Jon got a contract to animate some Tiny Toons bumpers and I guess that I did such a good job trying to sell myself to the LA crowd that it impressed Jon enough to hire me himself.

Hired as a Technical Director, my 1st duties were to shoot the new Tiny Toons bumpers (all shot on film under a motion-controlled Cinetron Oxberry). I also did checking, track reading, and eventually devised a creative way to shoot pencil tests on hi-con film, exposing each level one pass at a time (as opposed to backlighting multiple paper levels which resulted in distracting grain movement and blurry lower layers). I also edited one of the 1st StarToons demo reels which consisted almost entirely of Jon's previous work. In the early days we all worked out of the McClenahan's basement but our sudden growth forced a move to our Ridge Road basement headquarters (still couldn't get up above ground level, perhaps to prevent window-leaping suicides).

Ruegger was so happy with Jon's work on the Tiny Toons bumpers that he gave us an entire episode to work on, "Henny Youngman Day". I remember Jon laid out on the floor (more roomy than the minimal office furniture that we had) timing out the board for this show while I looked on, feeding him hot cups of coffee about every half hour. I've never seen anyone do anything like this before (the board slugging, not the coffee ingestion) and he seemed eager to share the process with me, which I eventually caught on to. I believe that all of the animation was sent off to LUK Films in Korea (yeah... good LUK getting it right) which was headed by a fellow named Tae Kim (later nicknamed Tae Kim out and Shoot Him!). Everything was "no problem" with these guys yet all we had were just that... problems! It was so exciting, and terrifying, getting the 1st dailies back from them which I edited together with the slugged dialogue tracks (another one of my duties along with track reading) on our newly purchased 8-plate 35mm Kem. Almost every shot needed to be redone, not because of the animation but mostly painting problems. All of the shading on the characters was wrong and almost all of the teeth were painted red (inside mouth color) making it seem like the characters had bloody mouths when they were speaking. Our rule of thumb for them became, "If you don't see a tongue, then paint the damn opening as TEETH!" Needless to say we were a bit disappointed that all of the cels were "top painted" in order to be corrected, but as the Koreans' say, "No problem." Tom and WB loved our episode and decided to give us some "special" scripts to work on, ones with a lot of cultural and comic references that would undoubtedly be lost in translation. "Thirteen Something" (a parody of the then-popular "40 Something" TV show) was one and it was actually quite funny. Our staff was growing rapidly and we finally moved above ground level to occupy the 1st floor of the building.

The next show on our agenda was the brand new "Taz-Mania" series starring you-know-who, his family, and a cast of regulars. The 1st thing I did was shoot the kitchen-sink opening title sequence which was no small feat... definitely one of the big camera challenges of my career and I recall Jon passing me cels on one of our 1st attempts at it. This was all done as one long shot with no edits. In fact, one of my responsibilities was to shoot all of the complicated shots the overseas studios couldn't handle or just kept screwing up like the split screen shots in "Thirteen Something", bi-pack and optical shots for Taz-Mania, and so on.

We were under a terrific crunch to finish 2 Taz-Mania episodes and farmed them off to LUK films (Korea) and Philcartoons (Manilla... run by Jon's Aussie buddy Wayne Dearing) in order to get both into production at the same time. Rodney Whitham (another... cough, cough... early StarToons supervisor) was sent to Korea while I was sent to Manilla to supervise production. On the day I arrived so did Bill Hanna who brought the studio the great news that they would have work for a long time because Mr. Jane Fonda had just purchased Hannah Barberra. Bill was a terrific man who cried at the drop of a hat. The emotional crowd really set him off. For the next few days we got to know each other and I think I eventually wore him out talking about timing direction (he taught Jon his technique of using a metronome) and his history with HB. An extremely nice guy that you couldn't help but like. Besides working on Taz-Mania, the studio was also working on the original "Ren and Stimpy" episodes and I made friends with John K's overseas supervisor Howard Baker, who was also gearing up for "Rugrats". Howard invited me to work on an episode with him and we cut and called retakes on the "Untamed Wilderness" episode. Howard also gave me a couple of original cels as a thank you for my help... pretty cool stuff! Manilla was a surreal experience. Guards with automatic weapons were everywhere including fast food joints like Burger King (they also cleaned the windows) but they seemed very friendly despite the fire power. Everyone, and I mean everyone, loved the Bulls and Michael Jordan and coming from Chicago held a lot of weight. The studio itself was like a sweatshop but the kids that worked there all enjoyed what they did. The most surreal thing occurred each day when the entire studio stopped working and laid their heads down on the desks for a half hour of nap time. Wandering around the studio during this period reminded me of the surreal sci-fi film "Dark City" where all of the inhabitants fall asleep each day at midnight. On the trip home I stopped in Japan to wait for my fight connection and had the giddy notion of running through the airport screaming "Godzirra!!" at the top of my lungs. The next stop was LA where I handed off the workprint to someone from WB and then finally home to Chicago.

Jon soon entrusted me to time/slug boards for Taz-Mania as WB was sending us many boards for shows that we weren't even working on. I think I ended up doing at least a dozen shows and started earning a reputation for being a timing director as I was soon freelancing and slugging these shows for WB in my spare time.

Since I never did any of the drawings or animation I saw myself as the nuts-n-bolts (but mostly nuts) of the operation. I would time all the dialogue, slug the boards (some of the time), edit and read the track, timing direct the x-sheets (or transpose director's notes), basically feeding the hungry animators who were waiting to get started. I'd then edit together all of the dailies, synch it all up to my slugged track, ship it to LA and coordinate the retakes.

Then "Animaniacs" hit the studio and things changed once again....

(to be continued...)

Monday, July 30, 2007

Startoons at Comic Con

It was great to see some of the old Startoons gang. In attendance were Spike Brandt, Tony Cervone, Kirk Tingblad, Kurt Mitchell, Kevin Barber, Jason Peltz, John Griffin, and myself. Above are some of the pictures.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Emmy Pic

Here's a cool pic of Jon with his Emmy award - coutesey Doug Rice. Thanks Doug!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Comic Con Panel

Those of us going to Comic Con this year, be sure to check out this panel on Thursday July 26th. Startoon alums Spike and Tony will be there!

2:45-3:45 Hanna Barbera Retrospective—Take a look back at the lives and times of two of the greatest characters in the history of animation, Bill Hanna and Joseph Barbera. Former colleagues and friends examine the toon titans’ nearly 70 years of creating some of the world’s most beloved animated characters. Animation author/historian Tom Sito moderates a panel that includes longtime Hanna-Barbera director Andrea Romano, the renowned Gary Owens (Space Ghost), Hanna-Barbera Cartoons author Michael Mallory, plus Spike Brandt and Tony Cervone, the producer-director team of the upcoming Tom and Jerry: A Nutcracker Tale, Joe Barbera’s final animated project. Room 6B

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Arthur T Cock

Up with the Chickens was a property Jon Developed with Kevin Matthews. It was to take the form of a morning news show. The hook was that the title was a literal description, as the program was written and produced by barnyard animals. That would have been a lot of fun to work on, since animals aren't good at producing TV shows. It would have had that "little rascals" look, with improvised equipment, shoddy sets and inept personnel. Kevin Matthews was to provide most of the primary voices for the characters, including the host - pictured above - Arthur T. Cock. Additionally, there would have been a cooking segment with a cajun crocodile, also voiced by Matthews. No wait. Maybe he was a dinosaur? Anybody know? Beuhller?

Found it on my hard drive

Friday, June 29, 2007


One of the last WB series that Startoons worked on, Histeria was an odd cast of characters that seemed to change personalities all the time. I believe they would even change their race if the script called for it. This image was one of the golden moments from the show - where we got to animate a classic WB character. This scene is from "The Wild West" if I'm not mistaken (judging by Miss Information's getup). Bugs Bunny was skillfully handled by Director John Griffin, delivering his classic line I'm assuming - I can hardly remember since I probably last saw this show only when it aired. I'm sure John could help fill in the details. "The Wild West" was the first Histeria show Startoons worked on, and the show that was in production when Startoons moved from 900 Ridge Road to the VFW building on Harwood.

Update: Posing by Jon McClenahan, Animation by John Griffin

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The Three Stooges

Here's a picture of Me, Kevin Barber, and Jay Peltz back around 1995. Kevin is as crazy as ever, and Jay just would never shut up ;) Kevin and Jay graduated from Startoons and went on to work on several feature films at Disney Orlando (Lilo and Stitch among my favorites).

I'm happy to say I work with Kevin again, and I'm looking forward to a reunion with Jay at Comic-Con this year.

Here's a picture of Jay hiding in a bowl of apples. He sure was a sneaky guy.

Steve barf

Let's see if the animated GIF in my Yahoo briefcase works...



Sunday, June 24, 2007

Key People - Dave Pryor

Molliter Pryzberowski (or, as he is known by those in the Tinkerer's Guild, "Old Tinkey") is, as they say in the Tinkerer's Guild, "A bit of a Tinkerer". Ever fascinated with thwarting small creatures attempts to fit through tiny holes in things, there was a small movement on the part of the Tinkerer's Guildmembers to change his monniker to "Old Strainey", but "Old Tinkey" was already embroidered on his Tinkerer's apron.

Birthed in Poland by a mother of Polish lineage and a father of German origin, he soon realized that America was where he had to go. Six weeks after his seventeenth birthday, he set sail for the New World in a boat that he built out of pamphlets. Nine months later, he set off again in a boat that he made out of trees. One and a third years later, in the fall of 1890, he was released from the Iverson Hospital in Lafayette, Maryland. He was finally an uninvited Guest of the American People!

Over the next Seven Years, Molliter (or, as he was known by legitimate citizens, "that filthy Tramp") worked his way toward the Midwest, which was, as he had been led to believe, "the heart of a booming Storm Door market," which was false. Along the way, he learned what he could about animation from the hobos, drifters, angry loners, and bums that he failed to avoid. One of the many technological developments he learned of was a thing called "Motion Picture Film." His intrigue at this news would lead him to one of his Greatest Innovations.

Falling off a train and breaking his leg in Home-Wood, Illinois, he walked to the local Physic's house using a Cane he had made from Bread. Later, he hobbled the rest of the way using Crutches he made from Shovels. There, he learned of an animated photo-play studio in Home-Wood that was in need of a screen man.

In his travels, Molliter had seen the Suspicion, Fear, and Violence with which the Public had expressed their fascination with the new science of Motion Picture films. The Terror, he reasoned, stemmed from seeing Photo-pictographs of actual Humans in Motion. Pryzberowski postulated that this Horror could be allayed with Humor. This led to his first series of Short Films produced at Star-Toones in which moving Actors were got-up in suits made of boxes and rubber steam-hoses, making them seem less Real and more Drawing-like. In fig.2, we see a drawing from his early work, "Mr. Hobart's Boomful Blast".

This technique, while a Motion-Picture Failure, proved to be a postitive boon for Animated Photo-Plays (saving the animator the troublesome drawing of Elbows and Knees), and now promises to be one of the Most-Favored Trends in the coming century of Photo-Play Entertainment.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Classic WB Characters

Here are the Warners characters that everyone remembers in their glorious splendor on the sides of carnival rides. These really cracked me up when I saw them - so I had to take a picture for prosperity. What? you don't recognize your favorite character Wile E. Coyote? I love these rip-offs. Even the Animaniacs make a showing in one of the carnival games!