In this month's column, Martin Goodman compiles a personal wish list that doesn't include BD-Live.
In a perfect world, we get our wish every time out. The scratch-off ticket always reveals at least five thousand bucks under "Your Number," your football team unfailingly nails the winning field goal as time expires, and Brad Bird puts an animated film out every two weeks. If only our lives worked that way. Well, we don't have a perfect world, but we still have our ability to wish. Since animation has always been romantically regarded as a "magic" medium, here's what I wish my fairy godmother could do. (Note: The sorcerers' union still insists on just three wishes, but I was given more on the condition that I did not wish for any more episodes of Assy McGee. Good deal and an easy one to make.)
1. Someone finally writes a biography of Bob Clampett. The family controls massive archives of all the material Clampett collected throughout his career, enough to fill a small library; a great book is just waiting to happen. So many seminal (and lesser) figures in animation have had biographies written, but the story of Bob Clampett's life remains untold. Still a controversial and revered figure nearly twenty-five years after his death, Clampett deserves to have his due. Come on now -- isn't this a book you would add to your library?
2. Ralph Bakshi finds the backers and the money to make The Last Days of Coney Island. Love him or hate him, Bakshi may be American animation's greatest maverick. If his work isn't always great, it is always notable and influential. This landmark animator needs a better legacy than bowing out with two shorts on Cartoon Network done 11 years ago and a short-lived cable show that nobody even remembers. I wish somebody would pony up and let Ralph make one last great artistic statement. This guy can play, and he'd show us all what a storyteller he still can be.
3. I wish I could get the heads at Comedy Channel and FOX together on this one: A TV special featuring a Simpsons-South Park crossover! No censorship, no boundaries, no holds barred! Do it all in one consistent style of CGI. We just have to get Bart and the SP gang together, not to mention those large casts of hilarious supporting players! Look, if DC and Marvel could figure out how to do this sort of thing and share the revenues back in the 1980s, the network execs can iron out the details too. Admit it -- you loved their separate features and you would watch this one.
4. It's the 20th anniversary of Who Framed Roger Rabbit, perhaps the most important film in America's animation revival of the 1990s. There still isn't a sequel, even though the film grossed nearly $330 million -- and that's in 1998 dollars. I have chronicled the sad story behind the death of the sequel, and I'm still unhappy. Eisner's gone. Spielberg's moved on. I wish that the powers that be would iron out the kinks and get this done; no time is better than now. So? What would you rather see, Shark Tale 2?
5. When John Kricfalusi and Ralph Bakshi were on the same team, they kicked around the idea of reviving the Terrytoons TV series Deputy Dawg. Wouldn't it be great if John K. could pick up the rights (which I'm sure would not be extravagant at this late date) and run with this himself? The character still has great appeal, and you can bet that Kricfalusi's version would not be very predictable or formulaic. In fact, it would likely be so warped and bizarre that Muskie's own mother wouldn't recognize him. Neither would Larz Bourne for that matter. I miss John K. It would be good to have him back on the airwaves, or even putting this up on his site. I'd watch/download it faithfully.
6. The end of Live-Action Animated Features (which I have been appropriately calling LAAFs for years now). Perhaps one out of every 10 is merely passable; most are stomach-turning garbage. I have detailed the reasons why in many of my columns, and rather than reiterating them again, I simply wish they would stop. Hollywood studio execs, please stick to live-action comic book adaptations. Even the least of them has been vastly more entertaining and translatable than wearisome efforts to adapt animation to live action. As I have pointed out, most of these gaggers are created by people with little (or no) experience in the animation medium. If you don't know a storyboard from a surfboard, go take a long swim. And, sorry, Wachowskis -- don't forget to take your execrable Speed Racer movie with you.
7. I wish for an end to runaway animation production. Well... it's a good wish, anyway. Kind of like wishing for a swimming pool on Mars. OK, let's get real. I wish for a sequel to The Iron Giant. The ending of the film does sort of set one up... maybe this time whoever distributes the film will give it publicity and an advertising budget! Yeah! Throw that into the wish as well, kind Fairy Godmother. No, wait -- didn't The Incredibles kind of end with...
8. I wish that the advertising pros would come up with just one more unforgettable animated character that advertises breakfast cereal. Oh, how I remember the '60s and early '70s when those commercials dominated Saturday morning and those eye-popping colored boxes lined the grocery shelves! Who was the last great cereal star, anyway? Wallace the Waffle-Whiffer? The Cookie Crisp Bandit? Who is the next Sonny the Coo-Coo bird, Tony the Tiger, or Trix Rabbit, that's what I want to know! Who shall assume the mantle of Lucky Leprechaun? Is there even so much as a Sugar Pops Pete on someone's storyboard somewhere? (I really should start wishing for a life... )
9. If I could have my wish, Adam Reed and Matt Thompson would do a follow-up to Sealab 2021. This time, however, CN could give them one of the really trashy old Hanna-Barbera (not so) "funny animal" bombaroos to play with. I for one would love to hear Punkin' Puss and Mushmouse, for example, re-dubbed to sound like a Quentin Tarentino movie, a bad 1970s porn film, or a frat house on pledge night. I want to hear Breezly and Sneezly sound like the reincarnations of Richard Pryor and Sam Kinnison, with some Andrew Dice Clay thrown in. Harvey Birdman just didn't take it far enough for me. Ah, Dr. Toon... if only your wishes could have been used for good instead of evil...
10. My wishes are dwindling? OK, I need to be less frivolous. How about this: I wish that, along with "The Art of" books that now seem to inevitably accompany every new major animated studio release, some publishing company buys into the idea of doing a beautiful coffee-table book on "The Art of" some classic film that has never had a book devoted to it. It could be an older Disney film like Peter Pan, which was in production for years and has a wealth of material still sitting in the Disney archives. No one left alive to interview? Stay with a light, expository approach, play up the historical facts, and let the visuals carry the book. How about an old, classic non-Disney film like Mr. Bug Goes to Town? I seem to recall a back issue of AniMato! in which G. Michael Dobbs wrote a detailed article on this film. Jerry Beck could certainly do such a book as well. Here's a wish for coffee-table history!
11. I wish they could make just one major animated feature without a cast of celebrity voices! One big movie in which the voice parts are cast from the people who are working so hard to make a living in the business today, toiling on both popular and nondescript animated series and scratching out a freelance living. You know, those hard-working voice artists who don't have a "second job" making $10-$20 million per picture? Just one time, Hollywood Heads, take a chance. Before you make a move to sign Bruce Willis, Susan Sarandon or Eddie Murphy in the mistaken belief that their presence will put an animated picture over the top, limit your casting calls to the voice artists who've toiled for decades (yeah, you know who they are; we all do) and the voice artists who are hoping to become the next generation of greats.
12. If I could wish for one animation festival, it would be this one. There should be a joint effort by all divisions of ASIFA to produce a festival consisting exclusively of female animators. Animation's answer to Lilith Fair! Never before has animation had more (or more talented) women producing their art, both in the mainstream and independently, in a medium that was once largely closed to them. Highlighting and spotlighting their work would have taken up, oh, a whole afternoon back in 1970; today there could easily be a week-long symposium with numerous keynote speakers, a judged competition, and a full schedule of viewings both day and evening. They ain't just "ink-and-paint" girls anymore; let's give 'em a showcase.
13. Special baker's dozen wish: Home theater 3D holography. The technology exists, but is not yet suitable for home use. Researchers at the University of Southern California have put a few good years of work into this, and I have no doubt that the public will be able to access it down at the local Best Buy within the next decade or so. I don't really care whether a 3D Lindsey Lohan or Pierce Brosnan strolls around on my floor, but I would absolutely love to see Disney characters cavorting about my living room. What I would give to see Ren slapping Stimpy in 3D or Ryuk leering down at Light and his lethal notebook as if he had taken up residence atop my entertainment center! That's the entertainment technology we really need, not those BD Live gadgets I lambasted last month. Yeah! I wish toons could be flitting around in my own home!
14. Sudden death overtime penalty kick shootout wishes: The complete UPA cartoon collection on DVD; the appearance of all formerly "banned" and "censored" theatrical cartoons on future DVD releases, since we all know that the cat is already well out of the bag; a Venture Brothers feature film (why they gave that green light to Aqua Teen Hunger Force I'll never know); a cartoon pin-up book by Katie Rice; another animation prime-time wave like the one that was attempted in the late 1990s, except that this time the network execs will actually let animation people pitch them, have animation professionals work on them, and let animation people produce them.
Martin "Dr. Toon" Goodman is a longtime student and fan of animation. He lives in Anderson, Indiana.