I started Monkey Rag with the idea that it would just be something amusing to do during my downtime between freelance gigs. I had loved the music of the Asylum Street Spankers for years, and this song was a particular favorite. My favorite cartoons were always musical, like Friz Freleng's "Pigs in A Polka" or the Disney short "All The Cats Join In", and this song just suggested so much to me that I had most of the cartoon mapped out in my head before I even put pencil to paper. Once I got the band's approval to embark, "Monkey Rag" quickly grew into something much larger and more important than I ever could have imagined. With traditional drawing becoming less and less a part of my animation work, it became a real pleasure, and sometimes a solace, to sit at my old-school animation disc and sketch out Mitzi skipping and dancing. Over the course of working on"Monkey Rag", there was precious little time to work on it exclusively,which meant a lot of late nights, a lot of hermit-like behavior, and a lot of cold ravioli dinners. But even when I had other work to do, it was always in my periphery, imploring me to "give a little bit of what I got." This cartoon has been in my head for four years, and I'm very excited to finally unleash it into the world.
Of the filmmakers working today, whose talent do you most want to steal?
I think it would be Brad Bird for his story-telling mastery and keen understanding of what makes a compelling character.
Name three films you consider to be under-appreciated and explain their hidden genius.
The Red Shoes - This is the film I'm most comfortable singling out as my favorite of favorites. The genius isn't really hidden, and its only under-appreciated in that most people have not seen because its a foreign film from the 40s. But it is one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen. I can't even talk about it more than that because I don't have time to write an essay right now. I mean, the ballet, the music, the grandeur, the imagination, and the COLORS, man, the colors...
Mr. Peabody and The Mermaid - Another film from the 40s, a fairy tale about a mid-life crisis starring William Powell, whom I find irresistibly charming. The screenplay is so smart- it is a tender, bittersweet character study framed as a funny romantic fantasy. Plus it has a mermaid!
The Ghost and Mrs. Muir - I'm beginning to notice a pattern- I guess I'm just in the mood for 40s fantasy right now. I don't usually go for straight up love stories, but I can't get enough of this one. Its as much about a woman taking charge of her life and asserting her own independence as much as it is about star-crossed supernatural lovers. The gentle, restrained tone makes it feel so sincere that it makes me a little weepy every time I watch it. Gene Tierney is gorgeous and Rex Harrison is boss, plus George Saunders open his mouth and sounds come out and thats always an aural feast.
The Great Chipmunk Adventure - Throwing in a monkey wrench because I just realized I haven't got a single animated movie on here. Remember this movie from the 80s? Granted, it is pretty terrible at times, and hardly makes any sense, but it has animation by masters like Glen Keane and Dan Haskett, and also contains the one of the greatest moments of animated awesomeness ever to be rerun endlessly on the Disney Channel when I was eight: The "Girls of Rock and Roll." I have the karaoke track to it. Don't make me break it out.
What are your three favorite ways to eat potatoes, and what's your favorite dinosaur?
The only form of potato that is not my favorite is raw. Archaeopteryx.
Monkey Rag screens as part of the Animation block on Tuesday, April 1 at 5:00 PM at 7 Stages Theatre.