MorphToons: October 2015

Halloween found me wishing happy birthday to the one and old only Ralph Bakshi, whose anti-sermon shook the toonscape.


I Love Animators, I Just Want Them to Wake Up: A Birthday Interview With Ralph Bakshi

Legendary animation outsider Ralph Bakshi celebrated his 77th birthday yesterday with a defiant cartoon comeback called Last Days of Coney Island.

“I did 98 percent of all of the animation, and all of the backgrounds and in-betweens, which was hard for a 77-year-old guy,” Bakshi told me of his transgressive comeback. “At my age, I wouldn’t release it if I thought it didn’t work.”

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MorphToons: September 2015

My continuing bow to The Iron Giant, Brad Bird’s timeless masterpiece of war and peace, commandeered my September.


Ken Duncan On Creating New Scenes for The Iron Giant: Signature Edition

The Iron Giant: Signature Edition, director Brad Bird’s remastered masterpiece of war, peace, and paranoia, returns at last to theaters, with new scenes courtesy of Duncan Studio.

“Working with a director who understands character, and is supervising from the standpoint of how a character should work, isn’t always pleasant,” Duncan told me. “Sometimes it doesn’t even result in a good film. But working with Brad was pretty amazing.”

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MorphToons: August 2015

From Banksy’s tragicomic Dismaland to Studio Ghibli’s vault, my birthday month was an arty head trip.


Look Inside Dismaland, Banksy’s Bleak New Theme Park

Art provocateur Banksy has transformed a derelict English seafront lido called the Tropicana into his largest art project to date, a phantasmagoric installation called Dismaland — with the help of artists including Damien Hirst and Jenny Holzer.

Although Banksy’s Dismaland nakedly skewers whimsical Disney iconography and theme park culture, the artist told The Guardian that his show wasn’t a direct takedown of Disneyland. “I banned any imagery of Mickey Mouse from the site,” he said.

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MorphToons: July 2015

I bowed to Bugs Bunny’s 75th birthday, dove into Oculus’ VR hole, and more, before absconding for Canada. Worth it.


Happy 75th Birthday, Bugs Bunny! Here’s 7.5 Times You Changed Cartoons Forever

Whether he’s the destabilizing force of Merrie Melodies and Looney Tunes’ glory days, or more centered in contemporary reboots that can’t measure up, Bugs Bunny remains a towering cartoon influence.

Monday marks the immortal character’s 75th birthday, so to speak: Although Bugs evolved from previous incarnations in form and style, Tex Avery’s Wild Hare premiered on July 27, 1940, marking the first time The Rabbit uttered his lasting catchphrase, “What up, Doc?”

And while the argument where the resilient, respected trickster truly begins and ends is definitively subjective, there is never a bad anniversary for memorializing our favorite cartoons in which Bugs takes over the frame. Here are 7.5 times that Bugs Bunny transformed animation culture and industry.

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MorphToons: June 2015

Going with my Geek the Beatles flow, I kicked off my first month as Cartoon Brew’s associate editor with an exclusive on the late, great John Lennon.


John Lennon Sketchbook Makes Official Online Debut

Created six years after John Lennon’s assassination in 1980, Yoko Ono and Oscar-winning animator and historian John Canemaker’s cartoon short John Lennon Sketchbook has finally appeared on YouTube. Executive produced by Ono and designed, directed, and animated by Canemaker, it is a poignant peek into the fertile mind of a Beatle whose prodigious talents extended well past creating immortal music.

“It was created from original drawings by John Lennon and a soundtrack that I also edited together, consisting of snatches of conversation between John and Yoko and song excerpts,” Canemaker told me. “It is the first time a large general public has seen it (on YouTube).”

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HALT! WHO DARES ANALYZE MY CARTOONS?

Did I mention that I was an associate editor for Cartoon Brew?

New Orleans Fights For Solar

Louisiana has a choice to make on solar.

With budget holes to fill, does it want to slash the state’s paltry $57 million solar subsidies and 3,600 jobs? Or would it rather stop giving excessive annual tax breaks to local oil and gas power players which number in the hundreds of millions of dollars, ultimately blowing well past a cool billion in a couple of years?

It’s embarrassing to be asked to do that math at this late stage of global warming, no doubt helped along by Louisiana’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill, which recently celebrated its five-year anniversary of soiling the Gulf coast. It gets even harder once you calculate that Louisiana boasts some of the most polluted waterways in the U.S., while New Orleans rarely fails to make annual “Most Polluted Cities in America” lists.

One imagines these sobering tragedies recently inspired the New Orleans City Council to unanimously adopt a policy resolution (PDF) in support of a “robust local solar industry.” Noting during the adoption that Environment America had named New Orleans one of the United States’ “Top 10 Solar Cities” — for a change — resolution co-sponsor and council-member Susan Guidry explained that she looked forward to the famed port metropolis eventually becoming number one. And there’s no popular reason that New Orleans can’t do exactly that, according to Gulf States Renewable Energy Association president Jeff Cantin, who noted after the resolution that 87 percent of Louisianans want more solar, not less.

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Why is U.S. Energy Efficiency Stalling?

Why are more Americans relaxing energy efficiency? Maybe because they’re too comfortable setting their sights too low.

The venerable polltakers quizzed over 2,000 Americans for a week in February and found less of them are turning off lights, replacing appliances, going low-watt and taking shorter showers than in years past. They still constitute a majority over those who do no such things — 75 percent this year versus 79 percent last year and 82 percent in 2012 — but it is nevertheless a “diminishing” one.

Filtered by gender, women beat men in reducing hot water 46 percent to 33 percent, while men have taken more pains to seal inefficient floor gaps and buy smart TVs. Variations also occurred regionally, notably in the drought-ridden West, which installed way more low-flow showerheads than their less parched American compatriots in the East, Midwest and South. Yet still all of the Americans that Harris polled “would appear to have their wires crossed,” because 62 percent considered themselves literate in energy and efficiency, despite the fact that a paltry 11 percent of them have actually conducted an energy audit or evaluation.

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The Next Jobs Boom: Energy Storage

Unleashing the solar power industry has helped added jobs to the American economy at 10 times the national average. The energy storage wave will do the same.

JuiceBox Energy recently inaugurated a storage installation class for its 8.6 kWh system (pictured at left), job-training Northern Californian installers on lithium-ion batteries, multiple PV configurations and a “hands-on” site design. Earlier that month, Juicebox installed its first solar battery system in a California home, financed through the property-assessed-clean-energy program (PACE).

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EnergySage Expands Its Online Solar Marketplace

Partially kickstarted by an incubator fund from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Sunshot Initiative, online solar marketplace pioneer EnergySage recently secured $1.5 million in private funding, on the heels of a fiscal year that tripled its revenue and registrations. Not bad for a renewable energy upstart.

The new round of seed funding, which brings the Boston-based comparison shopper’s overall haul to $4 million, comes from Launchpad Venture Group, which adds its Gail Greenwald to EnergySage’s board of directors. That should be enough to expand its online solar marketplace beyond the 30 states in which it now has a footprint by the end of this year.

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