Connect with us

General

Lost Cartoons: The Animated “John Carter of Mars”

Jim Korkis returns with another exciting new column for JHM readers. This time around, Korkis talks about the time that animation legend Bob Clampett and “Tarzan” creator Edgar Rice Burroughs almost got an ambitious series of cartoons off the ground.

Published

on

One of the advantages of growing up in the Los Angeles area was the opportunity to meet so many amazing people who had been involved in creating some of the animated classics that still entertain and enchant me today. One of the people I got a chance to meet and interview several times was Bob Clampett. By the time I met Bob, he was a controversial figure in the animation community. Even today, it is difficult for me to reconcile the image of the enthusiastic, articulate, generous, helpful and caring Bob Clampett that I knew with the unkind remarks about him made by others who I admired and loved in the animation field. However, that is a story for another column.

Knowing that at the time, most people were only interested in talking with Bob about his career at Warner Brothers, I decided to interview Bob about some of his other animated projects, fearing that the information might be lost to future generations. I spent a great deal of time talking with him about the animated version of BEANY AND CECIL but during the course of the interviews, the discussion would veer off in other directions including other animation related projects that for one reason or another never developed.

The story of one of those lost cartoons is our topic for today.

The world of science fiction is filled with strange tales of alternate futures where one minor event reshaped the entire history of the world. In our world, one minor event in 1935 could have changed the world of animation and science fiction ushering in an era of adult animation. But, alas, that did not happen and is the topic of our sad story today.

Bob Clampett is perhaps best remembered as the creator of the popular BEANY AND CECIL and the director of some of the wildest Looney Tunes shorts this side of Tex Avery. Unlike many other animators, Clampett spent most of his life experimenting with different concepts for animation.

Whether it was developing a pilot for the popular comic strip NAPOLEON AND UNCLE ELBY (in which a trained dog wore a special puppet mask designed by Clampett to achieve the semblance of a variety of facial BLOCKED EXPRESSION or a pilot for an Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy show (where the famous ventriloquist dummy would be animated in slow motion so it could walk from one spot to another), Clampett was never content to just produce funny stories with cute little animals.

Clampett was born in San Diego, California in 1913. When he was quite young, his family moved to Hollywood and for a while, they lived next door to Charlie Chaplin and his brother Syd. While Clampett developed his cartooning skills, he watched some classic movies being filmed on the streets of Los Angeles.

At age ten, he watched the varsity football team practice at Glendale’s Harvard High School which Clampett would later attend. The football team was coached by James Pierce who later played the role of Tarzan in movies and on radio and ended up marrying Edgar Rice Burroughs’ daughter, Joan. Like most children his age, Clampett’s imagination had already been captured by the adventure stories of Burroughs.

When he graduated high school in 1931, Clampett got a job at the Harman-Ising Studio which was turning out cartoons for Warner Brothers. Clampett even got to work on the very first MERRY MELODIE. For a few years, he was content to learn the craft of animation and to work himself up to a position where he was not only animating, but contributing story ideas for the various cartoons.

However, Clampett was ambitious and wanted to take the next step up into directing animated shorts. At the time, there seemed to be only a slight possibility of this dream occurring at Warners so Clampett decided to use his spare time to develop a project on his own.

In a bold move, he arranged a meeting with Edgar Rice Burroughs himself who lived in a small community named Tarzana (named after his famous jungle king character) in the nearby San Gabriel Valley.

“I had been fascinated with the Burroughs books since I was a youngster, especially the Mars books,” Clampett once mentioned in an interview. Years before the Fleischer Studio would consider producing the justly memorable SUPERMAN series of shorts, Clampett realized that animation didn’t need to be just the limited domain of wild slapstick and funny animals.

“An animator can take a pencil and put the city of Rome or a strange planet on a small piece of paper and have a character do anything that comes to his imagination. There is no other medium that allows you to exert such control over every frame of film,” Clampett told me in 1978, “Realizing the potential of a fantasy series of cartoons based around Burroughs’ characters, I went out to Tarzana to see Burroughs himself and tried to convince him that I could film and sell a series of cartoons based on his JOHN CARTER OF MARS stories.”

Most fans don’t realize that the very first story that Edgar Rice Burroughs sold (for four hundred dollars in 1911) was UNDER THE MOONS OF MARS which was later published as a novel entitled A PRINCESS OF MARS. This was the first John Carter story and it appeared one year before the more famous first Tarzan story. In the tale, American John Carter, while fleeing from Indians hides in a cave where he has an out-of-body experience. He literally finds his spiritual self drawn to the planet Mars (which Burroughs calls “Barsoom”) where he encounters an extremely strange civilization.

There are fifteen-foot tall green savages with fur arms who are equipped with swords and firearms. They ride ten foot tall eight-legged beasts and they live in magnificent cities. There are also some more human-looking inhabitants and Carter woos and wins a Martian princess named Dejah Thoris. Before his death in March 1950, Burroughs churned out eleven novels about the adventures of John Carter on Mars.

Clampett was surprised to find Burroughs so receptive to the idea of animation. Burroughs wanted to see his characters receive further exposure, perhaps because his other creations were currently being overshadowed by the enormous success of Tarzan. Burroughs also realized that the medium of animation would allow for special effects and an outer space setting that might be cost prohibitive or poorly done if translated to existing live action film techniques.

Although Burroughs had some experience with movies (even organizing his own film company at the time), he was less familiar with the world of animation. As Clampett remembered, “As far as animation was concerned, he was completely in the dark.” Still, Burroughs was definitely interested and gave Clampett tremendous artistic license.

“Edgar was smart enough to understand that one couldn’t just literally translate his Mars books page by page into animation; it just would not be cinematic. So, he gave me a great deal of freedom to dream up and be inspired by his writing and develop a cartoon story on my own,” Clampett recalled.

At the same time, Burroughs’ son, John Coleman Burroughs (sometimes known as “Jack”) had recently graduated college. He became interested in Clampett’s revolutionary animated series. John set about sculpting several articulated models so that Clampett could more easily see how the animals and other important objects might look and move.

Several of those sculptures still exist today including the head of Tars Tarkas (the four-armed thark) who becomes the friend of John Carter and a sculpture almost five feet long of John Carter’s sword.

John also did a series of sketches with detailed notes. For example, his notes on the Martian creature known as the “thoat” are as follows: “Thoat. Description. A green Martian horse. Ten feet high at the shoulder with four legs on either side; a broad flat tail, larger at the tip than at the root which it holds straight out behind while running. Devoid of hair, dark slate in color, and exceedingly smooth and glossy. White Belly; legs are shade from slate at shoulder to a vivid yellow at the feet. Feet are heavily padded and hairless.”

These detailed notes along with colored sketches and sculptured models were invaluable in trying to achieve a sense of reality in an unreal setting. John later illustrated several of his father’s books, including some of the JOHN CARTER OF MARS stories. At one time, he also attempted to do a comic strip using the characters for newspapers. Obviously, the amount of research and work he put into the animation research paid off on these later projects. A publicity photo from 1941 shows him with an articulated model of a thoat that he used for visual reference.

Alex Raymond’s Flash Gordon which first appeared in newspapers in 1934 was destined to become a movie serial in 1936 but with all this research in place and the active support of Burroughs himself, it looked like John Carter would be the first outer space fantasy hero to grace movie screens. Clampett immediately got to work to put together a test reel of footage and soon animation history would be made.

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

General

Jens Dahlmann of LongHorn Steakhouse has lots of great tips when it comes to grilling

Published

on

Sure, for some folks, the Fourth of July is all about fireworks. But for the 75% of all Americans who own a grill or a smoker, the Fourth is our Nation’s No. 1 holiday when it comes to grilling. Which is why 3 out of 4 of those folks will spend some time outside today working over a fire.

But here’s the thing: Though 14 million Americans can cook a steak with confidence because they actually grill something every week, the rest of us – because we use our grill or smoker so infrequently … Well, let’s just say that we have no chops when it comes to dealing with chops (pork, veal or otherwise).

So what’s a backyard chef supposed to in a situation like this when there’s so much at steak … er … stake? Turn to someone who really knows their way around a grill for advice. People like Jens Dahlmann, the Vice President and Corporate Executive Chef for Darden Restaurant’s LongHorn Steakhouse brand.

Given that Jens’ father & grandfather were chefs, this is a guy who literally grew up in a kitchen. In his teens & twenties, Dahlmann worked in hotels & restaurants all over Switzerland & Germany. Once he was classically trained in the culinary arts, Jens then  jumped ship. Well, started working on cruise ships, I mean.

Anyway … While working on Cunard’s Sea Goddess, Dahlmann met Sirio Maccioni, the founder of Le Cirque 2000. Sirio was so impressed with Jens’ skills in the kitchen that he offered him the opportunity to become sous-chef at this New York landmark. After four years of working in Manhattan, Dahlmann then headed south to become executive chef at Palm Beach’s prestigious Café L’Europe.

Jens Dahlmann back during his Disney World days

And once Jens began wowing foodies in Florida, it wasn’t all that long ’til the Mouse came a-calling. Mickey wanted Dahlmann to shake things up in the kitchen over at WDW’s Flying Fish Café. And he did such a good job with that Disney’s Boardwalk eatery the next thing Jens knew, he was then being asked to work his magic with the menu at the Contemporary Resort’s California Grill.

From there, Dahlmann had a relatively meteoric rise at the Mouse House. Once he became Epcot’s Food & Beverage general manager, it was only a matter of time before he wound up as the executive chef in charge of this theme park’s annual International Food & Wine Festival. Which – under Jens’ guidance – experienced some truly explosive growth.

“When I took on Food & Wine, that festival was only 35 days long and had gross revenues of just $5.5 million. When I left Disney in 2016, Food & Wine was now over 50 days long and that festival had gross revenues of $22 million,” Dahlmann admitted during a recent sit-down. “I honestly loved those 13 years I spent at Disney. When I was working there, I learned so much because I was really cooking for America.”

And it was exactly that sort of experience & expertise that Darden wanted to tap into when they lured Jens away from Mickey last year to become LongHorn Steakhouse’s new Vice President and Corporate Executive Chef. But today … Well, Dahlmann is offering tips to those of us who are thinking about cooking steak tips for the Fourth.

Photo by Jim Hill

“When you’re planning on grilling this holiday, if you’re looking for a successful result, the obvious place to start is with the quality of the meat you plan on cooking for your friends & family. If you want the best results here, don’t be cheap when you go shopping. Spend the money necessary for a fresh filet or a New York strip. Better yet a Ribeye, a nice thick one with good marbling. Because when you look at the marbling on a steak, that’s where all the flavor happens,” Jens explained. “That said, you always have to remember that — the higher you go with the quality of your meat — the less time you’re going to want that piece of meat to spend on the grill.”

And speaking of cooking … Before you even get started here, Jens suggests that you first take the time to check over all of your grilling equipment. Making sure that the grill itself is first scraped clean & then properly oiled before you then turn up the heat.

“If you’re working with a dirty grill, when you go to turn your meat, it may wind up sticking to the grill. Or maybe those spices that you’ve just so carefully coated your steak with will wind up sticking to the grill, rather than your meat,” Dahlmann continued. “Which is why it’s always worth it to spend a few minutes prior to firing up your grill properly cleaning & oiling it.”

Photo by Jim Hill

And speaking of heat … Again, before you officially get started grilling here, Jens says that it’s crucial to check your temperature gauges. Make sure that your char grill is set at 550 (so that it can then properly handle the thicker cuts of meat) and your flattop is set at 425 (so it can properly sear thinner pieces of meat).

Okay. Once you’ve bought the right cuts of quality meat, properly cleaned & oiled your grill, and then made sure that everything’s set at the right temperature (“If you can only stand to hold your hand directly over the grill for two or three seconds, that’s the right amount of heat,” Dahlmann said), it’s now time to season your steaks.

“Don’t be afraid to be bold here. You can’t be shy when it comes to seasoning your meat. You want to give it a nice coating. Largely because — if you’re using a char grill — a lot of that seasoning is just going to fall off anyway,” Jens stated. “It’s up to you to decide what sort of seasoning you want to use here. Even just some salt & pepper will enhance a steak’s flavor.”

Then – according to Dahlmann – comes the really tough part. Which is placing your meat on the grill and then fighting the urge to flip it too early or too often.

“The biggest mistake that a lot of amateur cooks make is that they flip the steak too many times. The real key to a well-cooked piece of meat is just let it be, “Jens insisted. “Of course, if you’re serving different cuts of meat at your Fourth of July feast, you always want to put your biggest thickest steak on the grill first. If you’re also cooking a New York Strip, you want to put that one on a few minutes later. But after that, just let the grill do its job and flip your meat a total of three or four times, once every three minutes or so.”

Of course, the last thing you want to do is overcook a quality piece of meat. Which is why Dahlmann suggests that – when it comes to grilling steaks – if you’re going to err, err on the side of undercooking.

“You can always put a piece of meat back on the grill if it’s slightly undercooked. When you over-cook something, all you can do then is start over with a brand-new piece of meat,” Jens said. “Just be sure that you’re using the correct cut of meat for the cooking result you’re aiming for. If someone wants a rare or medium rare steak, you should go with a thicker cut of steak. If one of your guests wants their steak cooked medium or well, it’s best to start with a thinner cut of meat.”

Photo by Jim Hill

As you can see, the folks at Longhorn take grilling steaks seriously. How seriously? Just last week at Darden Corporate Headquarters in Orlando, seven of these brand’s top grill masters (who – after weeks of regional competitions – had been culled from the 491 restaurants that make up this chain) competed for a $10,000 prize in the Company’s second annual Steak Master Series. And Dahlmann was one of the people who stood in Darden’s test kitchens, watching like a hawk as each of the contestants struggled to prepare six different dishes in just 20 minutes according to Longhorn Steakhouse‘s exacting standards.

“I love that Darden does this. Recognizing the best of the best who work this restaurant,” Jens concluded. “We have a lot of people here who are incredibly knowledgeable & passionate when it comes to grilling.”

Speaking of which … If today’s story doesn’t include the exact piece of info that you need to properly grill that T-bone, just whip out your iPhone & text GRILL to 55702. Or – better yet – visit  ExpertGriller.com prior to firing up your grill or smoker later today. 

This article was originally published by the Huffington Post on Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Continue Reading

General

Brattleboro’s Strolling of the Heifers is a sincere if somewhat surreal way to spend a summer’s day in Vermont

Published

on

Some people travel halfway ‘around the planet so that they can then experience the excitement of the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona. If you’re more of a Slow Living enthusiast (as I am), then perhaps you should amble to Brattleboro, VT. Where – over the first weekend in June – you can then join a herd of cow enthusiasts at the annual Strolling of the Heifers.

Now in its 16th year, this three-day long event typically gets underway on Friday night in June with a combination block party / gallery walk. But then – come Saturday morning – Main Street in Brattleboro is lined with thousands of bovine fans.

Photo by Jim Hill

They’ve staked out primo viewing spots and set up camp chairs hours ahead of time. Just so these folks can then have a front row seat as this year’s crop of calves (which all come from local farms & 4-H clubs) are paraded through the streets.

Photo by Jim Hill

Viewed from curbside, Strolling of the Heifers is kind of this weird melding of a sincere small town celebration and Pasadena’s Doo Dah Parade. Meaning that – for every entry that actually acknowledged this year’s theme (i.e. “Dance to the Moosic”) — …

Photo by Jim Hill

… there was something completely random, like this parade’s synchronized shopping cart unit.

Photo by Jim Hill

And for every piece of authentic Americana (EX: That collection of antique John Deere tractors that came chugging through the city) …

Photo by Jim Hill

… there was something silly. Like – say – a woman dressed as a Holstein pushing a baby stroller through the streets. And riding in that stroller was a pig dressed in a tutu.

Photo by Jim Hill

And given that this event was being staged in the Green Mountain State & all … Well, does it really surprise you to learn that — among the groups that marched in this year’s Strolling of the Heifers – was a group of eco-friendly folks who, with their  chants of “We’re Number One !,” tried to persuade people along the parade route not to flush the toilet after they pee. Because – as it turns out – urine can be turned into fertilizer.

Photo by Jim Hill

And speaking of fertilizer … At the tail end of the parade, there was a group of dedicated volunteers who were dealing with what came out of the tail end of all those cows.

Photo by Jim Hill

This year’s Strolling of the Heifers concluded at the Brattleboro town common. Where event attendees could then get a closer look at some of the featured units in this year’s parade…

Photo by Jim Hill

… or perhaps even pet a few of the participants.

Photo by Jim Hill

But as for the 90+ calves who took part in the 2017 edition of Strolling of the Heifers, once they reached the town common, it was now time for a nosh or a nap.

Photo by Jim Hill

Elsewhere on the common, keeping with this year’s “Dance to the Moosic” theme, various musical groups performed in & around the gazebo throughout the afternoon.

Photo by Jim Hill

While just across the way – keeping with Brattleboro’s tradition of showcasing the various artisans who live & work in the local community – some pretty funky pieces were on display at the Slow Living Exposition.

Photo by Jim Hill

All in all, attending Strolling of the Heifers is a somewhat surreal but still very pleasant way to spend a summer’s day in Vermont. And that’s no bull.

Photo by Jim Hill

Well, that could be a bull. To be honest, what with the wig & all, it’s kind of hard to tell. 

This article was originally published by the Huffington Post on Sunday, June 4, 2017

Continue Reading

General

Looking to make an authentic Irish meal for Saint Patrick’s Day? If so, then chef Kevin Dundon says not to cook corned beef & cabbage

Published

on

Let’s at least start on a positive note: Celebrated chef, author & TV personality Kevin Dundon – the man that Tourism Ireland has repeatedly chosen as the Face of Irish Food – loves a lot of what happens in the United States on March 17th.

“I mean, look at what they do in Chicago on Saint Patrick’s Day. They toss all of this vegetable-based dye into the Chicago River and then paint it green for a day. That’s terrific,” Kevin said.

But then when it comes to what many Americans eat & drink on St. Paddy’s Day (i.e., a big plate of corned beef and cabbage. Which is then washed down with a mug of green beer) … Well, that’s where Dundon has to draw the line.

Irish celebrity chef Kevin Dundon displays a traditional Irish loin of bacon with Colcannon potatoes and a Dunbrody Kiss chocolate dessert. Photo by Tom Burton. Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

“Green beer? No real Irishman would be caught dead drinking that stuff,” Kevin insists. “And as for eating corned beef & cabbage … That’s not actually authentic Irish fare either. Bacon and cabbage? Sure. But corned beef & cabbage was something that the Irish only began eating after they’d come to the States to escape the Famine. And even then these Irish-Americans only began serving corned beef & cabbage to their friends & family because they had to make do with the ingredients that were available to them at that time.”

And thus begins the strange tale of how corned beef & cabbage came to be associated with the North American celebration of Saint Patrick’s Day celebration. Because – according to Dundon – beef just wasn’t all that big a part of the Irish diet back in the 19th century.

To explain: Back in the Old Country, cattle – while they were obviously highly prized for the milk & cheese that they produced – were also beasts of burden. Meaning that they were often used for ploughing the fields or for hauling heavy loads. Which is why – back then — these animals were rarely slaughtered when they were still young & healthy. If anything, land owners liked to put a herd of cattle on display out in one of their pastures because that was then a sign to their neighbors that this farm was prosperous.

“Whereas pork … Well, everybody raised pigs back then. Which is why pork was a staple of the Irish diet rather than beef,” Dundon continued.

So if that’s what people actually ate back in the Old Country, how then did corned beef & cabbage come to be so strongly associated with Saint Patrick’s Day in the States.? That largely had to do with where the Irish wound up living after they arrived in the New World.

“When the Irish first arrived in America following the Great Famine, a lot of them wound up living in the inner city right alongside the Germans & the Jews, who were also recent immigrants to the States. And while that farm-fresh pork that the Irish loved wasn’t readily available, there was brisket. Which the Irish could then cure by first covering this piece of meat with corn kernel-sized pieces of rock salt – that’s how it came to be called corned beef. Because of the sizes of the pieces of rock salt that were used in the curing process – and then placing all that in a pot of water with other spices to soak for a few days.”

And as for the cabbage portion of corned beef & cabbage … Well, according to Kevin, in addition to buying their meat from the kosher delis in their neighborhood, the Irish would also frequent the stores that the German community shopped in. Where – thanks to their love of sauerkraut (i.e., pickled cabbage) – there was always a ready supply of cabbage to be had.

“So when you get right down to it, it was the American melting pot that led to corned beef & cabbage being found in the Irish-American cooking pot,” Dundon continued. “Since they couldn’t find or didn’t have easy access to the exact same ingredients that they had back in Ireland, Irish-Americans made do with what they could find in the immediate vicinity. And what they made was admittedly tasty. But it’s not actually authentic Irish fare.”

Mind you, what Kevin serves at Raglan Road Irish Pub and Restaurant at Disney Springs (which – FYI – Orlando Magazine voted as the area’s best restaurant back in 2014) is nothing if not authentic. Dundon and his team at this acclaimed gastropub pride themselves on making traditional Irish fare and then contemporized it.

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

“Take – for example – what we serve here instead of corned beef & cabbage. Again, because it was pork – rather than beef – that was the true staple of the Irish diet back then, what we offer instead is a loin of bacon that has been glazed with Irish Mist. That then comes with colcannon potatoes. Which is this traditional Irish dish that’s made up of mashed potato that have had some cabbage & bacon mixed through it,” Kevin enthused. “This heavenly ham – that’s what we actually call this traditional Irish dish at Raglan Road, Kevin’s Heavenly Ham – also includes some savory cabbage with a parsley cream sauce as well as a raisin cider jus. It’s simple food. But because of the basic ingredients – and that’s the real secret of Irish cuisine. That our ingredients are so strong – the flavors just pop off the plate.”

Which brings us to the real challenge that Dundon and the Raglan Road team face every day. Making sure that they actually have all of the ingredients necessary to make this traditional-yet-contemporized Irish fare to those folks who frequent this Walt Disney World favorite.

“Take – for example – the fish we serve here. We only used cold water fish. Salmon, mussels and haddock that have been hauled out of the Atlantic, the ocean that America and Ireland share,” Kevin stated. “Not that there’s anything wrong with warm water fish. It’s just that … Well, it doesn’t have the same structure. It’s a softer fish, which doesn’t really fit the parameters of Irish cuisine. And if you’re going to serve authentic food, you have to be this dedicated when it comes to sourcing your ingredients.

Copyright Mitchell Beazley. All rights reserved

And if you’re thinking of perhaps trying to serve an authentic Irish meal this year, rather than once again serving corned beef & cabbage at your Saint Patrick’s Day Feast … Well, back in September of last year, Mitchell Beazley published “The Raglan Road Cookbook: Inside America’s Favorite Irish Pub.” This 296-page hardcover not only includes the recipe for Kevin’s Heavenly Ham but also it tells the tale of how this now-world-renown restaurant wound up being built in Orlando.

On the other hand, if you happen to have to the luck of the Irish and are actually down at The Walt Disney World Resort right now, it’s worth noting that Raglan Road is right in the middle of its Mighty St. Patrick’s Day Festival. This four day-long event – which includes Irish bands and professional dancers – stretches through Sunday night. And in addition to all that authentic Irish fare that Dundon and his team are cooking up, you also sample the fine selection of beers & cocktails that this establishment’s four distinct antique bars (each of which are more than 130 years old and were imported directly from Ireland) will be serving. Just – As ucht Dé (That’s “For God’s Sake” in Gaelic) – don’t make the mistake of asking the bartender there for a mug of green beer.

“Why would anyone willingly drink something like that?,” Dundon laughed. “I mean, just imagine what their washroom will look like the morning after.”

This article was originally published by the Huffington Post on Friday, March 17, 2017

Continue Reading

Trending