Apr 20, 2006

Wikiied Day of Birth

In a moment of deviation, I saw this post at And We Shall March. Now, I'm not a fan of chain letters, surveys, and other sorts of drivel I see on these blogs because they're time killers. So, I had a little time to kill in the middle of the radical upgrade to TXB (which will be online in the coming weeks), and it seemed kind of cool.

Do you Wiki? Well, if you do, wiki your birthdate (in my case, January 21) and add the following: five events, three births, and three deaths.

Sounded simple enough. Here goes:


1911: The first ever Rallye Automobile Monte Carlo race is run
1915: Kiwanis International founded in Detroit, MI
1924: Lenin dies of unusual causes
1968: The Battle of Khe Sanh begins in Vietnam
2000: Kevin Mitnick, a famous hacker, is released from prison. Three years later, he was allowed to use a computer again.


1924: Telly Savalas (actor) and Benny Hill (comedian)
1942: Edwin Starr (musician, best known for song "War")
1953: Paul Allen (entrepreneur and co-founder of Microsoft)


1901: Elisha Gray (the TRUE inventor of the telephone and the electronic musical synthesizer)
1950: George Orwell (author, 1984 and Animal Farm)
1959: Cecil B. DeMille (director) and Carl "Alfalfa" Switzer (Our Gang actor)

Apr 17, 2006

The Truth Hurts

Did you watch Saturday Night Live this past Saturday? You didn't? Wow, guess you figured that it was going to be yet another lame celebrity trying to do lame sketch comedy, which it was. However, if you did miss it, you missed one of the most scathing pieces of animation since, well, Conspiracy Rock. And if you did miss it, you're never going to see it again. Not on NBC, not on E!, not even on You Tube anymore.

This week, Robert Smigel lampooned the ridiculous practice The Walt Disney Company continues of putting films in the mythical Disney vault, a place where classics are locked away. You know, classics like Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, Cinderella, Bambi, The Lion King, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and 101 Dalmations as well as "classics" like Cinderella 2, Bambi 2, The Lion King 2, Beauty and the Beast 2, Aladdin and the Return of Jafar, and 101 Dalmations: Patch's London Adventure all rest for a period of 10 years.

How did the guy who introduced the world to Triumph the Insult Comic Dog do this? Simple. He made two little fans of Disney films join Mickey Mouse to a journey to the Disney vault in a movie called, um, Journey to the Disney Vault. Mickey showed the two kids some of their favorite movies, including Beauty and the Beast: Hawaiian Vacation, but curiousity gets the better of them as the kids discover the frozen head of Walt Disney. It's been an urban legend for decades that Walt Disney was frozen beneath his Florida theme park. It's so in our subconscious that a network that used to be all-animation is using it as a thesis for a live-action/animated movie that's a backdoor pilot of sorts.

But wait, it gets interesting. The kids also discover the head of Vivian Leigh, whom Mickey said was going to be reanimated along with Disney so they could be married. Then, the boy found files from Disney's HUAC testimonies. He discovered that Disney ratted out numerous animators for being communists, to which Mickey, with edited out images of movies like the Ursula wedding scene from The Little Mermaid, the nude woman in the window from The Rescuers, the "pickaninny" centaur from Fantasia, and Jessica Rabbit's "Basic Instinct" pose from Who Framed Roger Rabbit behind him in frames, said that they were rabblerousers trying to unionize or something.

Then, the kids found a film they've never heard of, Song of the South. But it wasn't the original theatrical version of the film, but rather the one Disney played at personal parties, which is really racist. After seeing that, and looking at the kids' reaction to that and everything else they've witnessed, Mickey Mouse says that Walt Disney was who he was, but they have to remember all of the laughs his greatest creation, Mickey Mouse, has given to generations of kids.
The little girl asks something that is perhaps the unspoken truth in the animation industry about Mickey Mouse.

"You're supposed to be funny?"

FINALLY! Somebody said it. Mickey Mouse is the most bland cartoon character on the planet, and he has basically become a living logo rather than a character. That single question is something that many companies, not just Disney, have never admitted needed to be answered. Kids aren't as stupid or as innocent as these companies think they are. The kids, though enlighted about the truth, aren't completely ready to accept it, but they're definitely a lot smarter than they were before.

Sure, it was a short cartoon, no more than three minutes, but it definitely shed a new light on the state of the animation industry, at least from Disney's side. Perhaps it was a little too close to home as Disney (or somebody representing a part of Disney) are trying hard to make sure it'll never be seen again. If you haven't seen it, you probably never will again. Just like Conspiracy Rock before it (which mocked how media conglomorates try to hide their dirty little secrets and dealings with the government from public view by the news outlets they own), NBC, who was skewered in that segment themselves, will likely never repeat Journey to the Disney Vault, and neither will E!, who owns cable rights to SNL and, coincidently, majority owned by Disney.

Guess they can't handle the truth sometimes.

Apr 12, 2006

Speak Loudly

I like dialogue.

The fact that in this free society that we can converse about everything. However, dialogue works when both sides are willing to talk to each other. Cartoon Network, for some reason, refuses to be a part of dialogue when it comes to their recent programming decision of airing live-action shows. They hide behind the term "live-action cartoon" to justify airing live-action fare. Of course, there is only so many times one can use that term (which is an oxymoron like virtual reality, permanent guest host, genuine imitation, soft rock, and Microsoft Works), and the statute of limitation has expired. There's cartoony live-action, but no such thing as a live-action cartoon. I mean, they could almost get away with a Zack and Cody-like show by attaching that "live-action cartoon" label on it with a smile on their face, insulting longtime viewers everywhere.

And discussion won't help either. Why? Because while a lot of people can complain, Cartoon Network just wipes that criticism from their minds and carries on with business as they see fit.

When the animation industry at large, animation critics, anime fans who don't like American animation, American animation fans who don't like anime, Spumco fans and haters, Adult Swim fans and haters, and people who have seen networks like MTV and G4 completely deviate from the script all agree that this whole "live-action at Cartoon Network" situation is a bad, awful, horrendous idea, then gee golly, it's a bad idea. And if anybody that criticizes Cartoon Network for doing so, like our dear lead webmistress has done as pointed out by the network last month, then The Network will just give them a cookie and push them aside.

We're just viewers in their opinion.

Alan Moore once wrote that "People shouldn't fear their government. The government should fear their people." I'm not saying that Cartoon Network is a government, but they ARE a service, like the government.

Viewers like us help keep Cartoon Network on the air. We aren't completely powerless as we are assumed to be. People grow intimidated and give up before they even fight back. By fight back, I'm not talking about petitions to keep Cartoon Network animation-only or boycotting products seen on the network as a protest against their newfound policy of instituting live-action on an outlet originally perceived as an all-animation channel.

Petitions are bullscat, and boycotts only work when people truly boycott products on a wider basis.

If you're unhappy with the direction Cartoon Network is heading, contact your local cable (unless your cable operator is Time Warner Cable) and satellite operators. If you contact the network directly, chances are you're either going to get a form letter or have your response deleted from the servers, no matter if it's coherent and clear or "feeled wit teh 1337-speak ore gramatikal errorz." Tell cable operators that you unhappy with the direction of the network. If they get enough of these letters, then somewhere in their minds, they'll probably think that, geez, something is wrong at Cartoon Network.

And because Cartoon Network is at a more vulnerable position than, say, Nickelodeon and The Disney Channel (years ago, when DirecTV threatened to pull the Turner networks from their lineup, they basically pointed out that a suitable network replacement for CN is Nickelodeon), cable operators are not totally beholden to Cartoon Network.

Here, I'll get you started:

Comcast Corporation
1500 Market St.
Philadelphia, PA 19102-2148
Chairman/CEO: Mr. Brian L. Roberts
EVP/COO and President, Comcast Cable: Mr. Stephen B. Burke

Time Warner Cable
290 Harbor Dr.
Stamford, CT 06902-6732

Non-Executive Chairman (wha--?): Mr. Don Logan
Chairman/CEO: Glenn A. Britt
COO: Landel C. Hobbs

Cox Communications
1400 Lake Hearn Dr.
Atlanta, GA 30319
Chairman: Mr. James C. Kennedy
President: Mr. Patrick J. Esser

Charter Communications
12405 Powerscourt Dr., Ste. 100
St. Louis, MO 63131-3660

Chairman: Mr. Paul Allen
President/CEO/Director: Mr. Neil Smit


2230 East Imperial Hwy.
El Segundo, CA 90245
Chairman: K. Rupert Murdoch
President/CEO/Director: Chase Carey

EchoStar Communication (DISH Network)
9601 S. Meridian Blvd.
Englewood, CO 80112
Chairman/CEO: Mr. Charles W. Ergen
EVP/Director: Mr. James DeFranco

I think any discussion would be great. But in the meantime, I'll carry my megaphone (my BIGGER stick [instant kudos and much respect to anyone who gets THAT reference]).

CKX: Bigger Than Elvis (and they own 85% of him)

You know, I think I strayed too much from my original intent for this site, which was to talk about things other than animation. I think the world can survive without me kvetching about Cartoon Network's lack of direction for a moment. I do have this question I have to ask:

How in the hell did a group who was originally conceived to operate miniature golf courses and sports entertainment facilities become the majority owner of two of the 20th century's biggest icons and a company that owns that overrated karaoke sing-off every week on Fox?

Seriously, a company called CKX, Inc. (short for Content is King [the X makes them sound, um, cool or something]) bought 85% of Elvis Presley Enterprises (including the singer's name, likeness, and image as well as all of Graceland) and all of 19 Entertainment (owners of the IDOLS "music" format that spawned Pop Idol in the UK, Canadian Idol up north, and some stupid show on Fox whose name eludes me). Today, CKX bought 80% of all likeness, name, and image rights of Muhummad Ali, someone who a lot of people (including myself) feel is one of the greatest sports figures in history. Greater than any athlete playing sports today, greater than that baldheaded egotist with a certain arrogant Air about him.

Wow. I don't know who this CKX is, but they're buying more icons and idols than anybody these days. Don't know if I should be intrigued or scared.

Apr 10, 2006

In Danger of Getting Kicked Off Cable

Cartoon Network has done some dumb things in the past six months, mostly airing live-action programming, trying to attract the audiences who watch live-action fare on Disney Channel and Nickelodeon, and getting rid of everything that made Cartoon Network Cartoon Network.

Of course, in spite of all these changes, Cartoon Network feels that they're doing a great job with minor increases, compared to major ones in the same period a year ago.

But you know who doesn't think Cartoon Network is doing a good job?

Cable operators.

Yeah! Cable operators, the people who actually place these networks on their lineups. Apparently, and color me crazy for suggesting this, they believe that a network that calls itself Cartoon Network should, um, show cartoons and not stray from that intent. Otherwise, you're getting into G4/OLN territory. More people are getting rid of OLN (formerly Outdoor Life Network) because that outlet is straying away from its outdoor recreation roots in favor of fare like NHL Hockey. G4, once a video-game news and info outlet, merged with the tech-driven TechTV, but trashed both formats in favor of a Spike TV-esque outlet.

Cartoon Network is trying to become a neo-Nickelodeon, Kinescope as you will. And cable operators are worried. Don't believe me? Here's something I read at Television Week earlier today (no ownership is implied)

Cartoon Network has an innovative solution for boosting its sagging ratings. Producing better cartoons? Nope. Producing non-cartoons. The network announced last week it has begun taking pitches for live-action programming and hired Ramsey Naito as VP of long-form development.

Only problem: Networks that significantly alter their programming or format run the risk of angering cable operators for deviating from their agreed-upon programming mission. "This is going to be a problem," said cable distribution consultant Cathy Rasenberger. "To add live action to a network that's defined by cartoons may be impossible to do given the content restrictions in their agreements. Allowing this is totally up to the operators. It just sounds like a major deviation."

But cable operators were split on whether such changes could cause a conflict. "We always closely watch what programmers do, especially if they make changes that take them away from how they sold us the service," said David Grabert, spokesman for Cox. "This is the first we've heard of these plans, but if we feel like they're going too far, we'll let them know."

A spokesperson for another multiple system operator said Cartoon shouldn't worry.

"Their contract with us doesn't stipulate against live action," the spokesperson said. "As long as the change doesn't alter the spirit of the channel, they're fine."

So . . . the whole "cartoony spirit" excuse they've been giving isn't fooling everybody afterall. Let's hope the cable operators keep Cartoon Network honest. I'd certainly would like to see them push their muscle a little more.