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Monthly Archives: March 2013

March 31

March 31, 1945 – Ed Catmull, President of Pixar Animation Studios and Walt Disney Animation Studios, is Born

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“I drew a lot; I wanted to be an animator. I wanted to be an artist. But at the same time, I believed that I wasn’t good enough to be an animator, so I switched over to physics and computer science. As soon as I took the first class, I just fell in love with it, it just blew everything else away.”

On March 31, Edwin Earl Catmull was born on March 31, 1945, in Parkersburg, West Virginia. Although he loved to draw from an early age and dreamed of becoming an animator, he believed early on that he didn’t have the talent necessary, and decided to study physics and computer science at the University of Utah. Around the country at that time, funding was given to select universities to pursue computer science, and Catmull participated in one of the first labs in computer graphics. In this lab, Camtull created a short computer-animated film of his own left hand, which ultimately helped in the development in creating curved surfaces and eliminating jagged edges. This film was inducted into the National Archives in December, 2011 as a ground-breaking work. In 1974, Catmull graduated with his PhD. Soon after graduation, Alexander Schure, founder of the New York Institute of Technology, hired Catmull as the head of the computer graphics department in the hopes of creating new tools and products to create computer animation. There, Catmull met Alvy Ray Smith, who became a close collaborator and friend for many years. At NYIT, Catmull and his research group developed several tools that would allow animators to draw and paint directly into the computer, including Tween, Paint, and SoftCel.

The work being done by Catmull and his team was noticed by George Lucas, who hired Catmull to form a new computer division at Lucasfilm. Catmull accepted the offer, and in 1979, he became the Vice President of the computer graphics division. Catmull and Smith, however, were still working toward the goal of a completely computer animated full-length film. Tom Porter, technical director at Pixar noted that, “…Ed and Alvy realized, in order to get in the game, we’ve got to put characters up on the screen, and that meant character animation, and that changed everything right there.” As luck would have it, Catmull ran into John Lasseter at a conference, and Catmull jumped at the chance to bring a real animator to Lucasfilm to help realize the dream of a computer animated film. With Lasseter, the group created the short film The Adventures of Andre and Wally B., along with new software to replicate the squash and stretch movements of traditional animation, which was well received at the 1984 SIGGRAPH conference. Catmull and the team also developed the most powerful graphics computer of the time: the Pixar Image Computer. However, sales of this computer were stagnant, as the software was only sold in limited markets. Catmull and Smith, with Lucas’ blessing, spun off the computer division as Pixar, and struggled to find an investor.

Catmull (L) with the rest of the Pixar team from Lucasfilm

Catmull (L) with the rest of the Pixar team from Lucasfilm

In 1986, their prayers were answered when Steve Jobs heard of Pixar. “That was the first time I met Ed [Catmull], and he shared with me his dream to make the world’s first computer-animated film. And I, in the end, ended up buying into that dream, both spiritually and financially,” Jobs shared in an interview. He launched Pixar, and Catmull was named as Chief Technical Officer. He also helped develop the RenderMan system used in Toy Story and Finding Nemo. In 2006, when Disney acquired Pixar, Catmull was then named the President of Pixar and Disney Animation, and with Lasseter, the two were put in the prime position of bringing the art of 2-D animation back to life. “Everybody at Pixar loves 3-D animation, you know, we helped develop it. But we also love 2-D animation, and to think that 2-D was shut down, and that [Pixar was] used as an excuse to shut it down was awful,” Catmull said about the decision of most animation studios shutting down their traditional animation studios. “We saw this art form being thrown away, so for us, it was just, it was a tragic time.” Bob Iger, CEO of the Walt Disney Studios, wanted to take the studio back to the glory days of animation, and knew that Pixar had the right people to do that. “While we will make 3-D movies, we’re also going to make 2-D movies, cause it’s part of this wonderful heritage that we’ve got here, and it’s a beautiful art form,” says Catmull. “It feels like this [partnership between Disney and Pixar] is the true culmination of the building of Pixar and this amazing company into something which will continue on and continue to make waves in the future.”

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March 30

March 30, 1945 – The Donald Duck Short Film The Eyes Have It is Released to Theaters

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“Instructions: select a subject of low intelligence.”

On March 30, 1945, the Donald Duck short film The Eyes Have It premiered in theaters. It was directed by Jack Hannah, with story by Bill Berg and Ralph Wright.

Donald receives a hypnotism kit, opens the book of instructions. The first step is to find a subject of low intelligence. Donald looks around to see Pluto sleeping nearby and calls the dog over. Donald pretends to be friendly, but quickly slips on the hypnotism goggles and makes Pluto think he’s a mouse. Pluto begins to scamper around the house like a mouse, and Donald calls out like a cat, making Pluto scamper into a mouse hole for safety. Donald then finds Pluto eating some cheese left out on the counter.

Pluto turns into a turtle thanks to Donald's hypnotism

Pluto turns into a turtle thanks to Donald’s hypnotism

The next animal Donald hypnotizes Pluto into is a turtle, and he walks slowly across the front yard, with a worm passing him in speed. Donald then decides to make Pluto a chicken, and Pluto runs after the worm he’d just seen, and starting pecking at it. He tears up Donald’s flower garden and is chased into the hen house. The rooster, angered by the squawking by the hens, goes in an grabs Pluto painfully by the tail. Donald, excited by the fight, gets a wicked idea to turn Pluto into a lion. Pluto chases the rooster around the hen house, and as they burst out the hen house door, they bump into Donald, who falls and breaks his hypnotic goggles.

The rooster grabs Donald’s head for dear life, and “lion” Pluto turns his attentions to the duck. Donald tries to protect himself using the furniture, and wonders how he’s going to break the hypnosis. Donald and Pluto break through the ceiling of the house during the pursuit, and fall to the ground heavily. Due to the fall, Pluto’s hypnosis is broken, and he licks Donald’s face in an attempt to wake the duck up. Donald, seeing Pluto’s smile, thinks he’s baring his teeth, and flees, leaving a very confused Pluto.

March 29

March 29, 2011 – Body of Proof Premieres on ABC

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 “The answers are all here. Because that’s what we do. I honor the body for what it tells me about Angela Swanson’s life, and how that life came to an end. The body is the proof, and will tell you everything you need to know, if you just have the patience to look.”

On March 29, 2011, the new medical series Body of Proof premiered on March 29, 2011, with its pilot episode. The series is about Dr. Megan Hunt, a talented medical examiner, who tries to juggle her personal life with her new job after a serious car accident forced her out of her old position as a neurosurgeon. The series currently is on its third season, and has been met with mixed reviews. It was created by Christopher Murphey, and stars Dana Delany as Megan Hunt, Jeri Ryan as Kate Murphy, John Carroll Lynch as Detective Bud Morris, Nicholas Bishop as Peter Dunlop, Sonja Sohn as Samantha Baker, Mark Valley as Tommy Sullivan, and Elyes Gabel as Adam Lucas.

The episode begins with Dr. Megan Hunt getting a CAT scan, who has been pressuring people for more medical tests for her condition, but the doctors inform her that they can’t find anything wrong with her. Megan had been in a horrible car accident four years prior, and her career as a neurosurgeon is over. She has a new career as a medical examiner, and is soon called to a crime scene, as a body of a female jogger is pulled out of a river. Her partner, medical investigator Peter Dunlop, helps her with the scene, and she meets Detectives Bud Morris (with whom Megan does not get along) and Samantha Baker, who seems impressed at Megan’s skill from the initial meeting.

Many members of the medical center ask Megan for her advice with their cases

Many members of the medical center ask Megan for her advice with their cases

Megan arrives back at the Philadelphia County Medical Center, where she is highly regarded by the staff for her expertise. She calls her daughter’s cell phone, and it is revealed that she is estranged from her daughter and ex-husband, and is not even invited to attend her daughter’s birthday party. She then heads to the autopsy on the runner, where she frustrates Detective Morris again. Detective Baker then questions Megan as to why, if she used to be a big-shot neurosurgeon, is she working as a medical examiner. Megan replies simply that you can’t kill someone if they’re already dead.

Megan and Peter head to see the study of the brain samples, and finds that Angela has been hit on the head before, which could lead to several conclusions. It turns out that Angela had been pushed down a flight of stairs by her ex-boyfriend and put her in a coma a couple of years ago. When questioning the ex-boyfriend, Megan determines that the ex-boyfriend didn’t do it, once again annoying Morris. Megan and Peter head to Angela’s parents house, and find that her personality did change after her coma. Hearing about how Angela became loving to her family as she had been when she was younger makes Megan miss her daughter all the more, and reveals to Peter that everything spiraled out of control after her accident. Peter advises her to try and have some fun with her daughter rather buy her love, but Megan gets angry and dismisses Peter’s advice. Megan continues to study the body, looking for clues, and finds finger impressions on Angela’s neck. The also find that Angela did have sex before she died, and that the man in question had to have been married.

Morris is annoyed at Megan questioning the suspect, particularly because they don't have any proof about the suspect's alleged affair

Morris is annoyed at Megan questioning the suspect, particularly because they don’t have any proof about the suspect’s alleged affair

Megan has lunch with a friend an colleague, asking for his help to find the identity of the mystery lover. He then asks her if this “New Megan” that cares for the dead is for real, or is she just trying to work off the guilt of accidentally killing someone on the operating table. Megan responds weakly that it’s both, and he agrees to help without breaking doctor-patient confidentiality. When they question the man Bradford Paige, Megan jumps into the question of if he slept with Angela. Paige is furious and Megan is thrown out of his office. The case takes a turn when it is revealed that Angela had recently made partner in the law firm after a high-profile case, and Angela had given her client privileged information, which ties in with the personality change from after the coma.

Back at the medical center, Megan is pulled into the chief’s office, where her methods of asking for expensive medical tests are called into question, but Megan once again proves her worth and that she was right. Late at night, Peter finds her still in the lab, and he once again tries to help her see how to reach her daughter. However, the conversation is cut short by a phone call informing the two that Angela’s ex-boyfriend has been taken into custody for Angela’s murder. While he admits that he was in the park at the same time Angela was there, he says he only wanted to confront her about the incident that landed him in jail. Detective Morris, however, thinks he’s guilty. When Megan tells Morris that he has the wrong guy, he angrily suggests that Megan return to her old profession, and the truth of why Megan quit neurosurgery is revealed. When Peter asks her about it, she tells him she learned more about the woman she’d killed on the autopsy table than she ever did while she was alive, and that means a lot to her.

Megan heads to her ex-husband's to give her daughter a special birthday present

Megan heads to her ex-husband’s to give her daughter a special birthday present

Once more at the medical center, Megan works on a hunch and asks some tests be done on Angela’s stomach contents for prescription drugs, and then attends her daughter’s birthday party, invited or not. The present she gives her daughter was a key to Megan’s apartment, telling her daughter she’ll always be welcome there if she just wants to escape from the world. Without really waiting for a response, Megan walks away and heads back to work. The tox screen reveals that Angela has ingested amoxicillin, when she was supposed to be taking another drug. The detectives, Megan, and Peter head to Paige’s house to test Megan’s theory. While Paige finally admits that he did have an affair with Angela, Megan reveals that it was Paige’s wife that killed Angela, who found out about Paige’s affair thanks to Paige passing on strep throat to Angela after catching it from his son. She poisoned Angela’s sports drink with amoxicillin, which Angela was deathly allergic to, causing Angela to go into anaphylactic shock and drown in the river. Detective Morris begrudgingly acknowledges that she was right. Back at the morgue, she is met by Kate, Megan’s boss, who is impressed with Megan’s dedication, but warns her that if she lets every case get too personal, she’ll burn out quickly. Megan then heads home, and finds that her daughter left her some birthday cake on the kitchen counter. Megan samples the cake with a smile.

March 28

March 28, 1953 – The Goofy Short Film Father’s Day Off is Released to Theaters

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“Can I handle everything? Ha! What’s a little housework?”

On March 28, 1953, the Goofy short film Father’s Day Off was released to theaters. It was directed by Jack Kinney, with story by Brice Mack and Dick Kinney.

It’s another day in suburbia, and Goofy stands with his son, George, at the door of their house while his wife is preparing to head off in the car for the day. She asks if he’ll be able to handle everything while she’s away, and he scoffs at her question, thinking housework is easy. She leaves, although not without causing major damage on the way out. He starts with giving George breakfast, but spills George’s milk and gives him a rather strange haircut around the rim of his baseball cap. The doorbell buzzes, sounding the arrival of the milkman, who gives Goofy a kiss as he delivers the milk (not noticing that it is not Goofy’s wife), leaving Goofy stunned, although he brushes it off a being friendly. He then shoves the milk in the already overstuffed fridge, which causes the food to bulge out everywhere.

Goofy proclaims housework to be easy, but he only thinks so because he takes shortcuts and does a subpar job

Goofy proclaims housework to be easy, but he only thinks so because he takes shortcuts and does a subpar job

George is then sent off to school, but George informs his father that it’s Saturday. Goofy then laughs this off, and says that George will be a lot of help to him around the house. His first efforts at housecleaning are rather terrible at best, but he thinks it’s simple. He catches George drawing on the wall, but when he goes to clean it, he wipes off the paint from the wall, leaving the drawing unscathed, and decides to fix it by placing the radio in front of the scribble. The radio switches on, and Goofy gets caught up in listening to a melodrama. As he cries at the storyline, the doorbell buzzes again, this time with the grocery delivery man, who also gives Goofy a kiss (also not noticing that it is not Goofy’s wife). As groceries are thrust into a flustered Goofy’s arms, George runs through the house, and a baseball is tossed to him, breaking the window in the process. He then breaks the other half of the window throwing it back to his friends. The family dog then traipses through the living room, covered in mud.

The laundry is sent flying through the air thanks to another mishap, and Goofy decides to run it through the washing machine. He suddenly notices that his son was in the washer, and quickly retrieves him. The family dog, brought back inside, starts tearing up one of the pillows. When Goofy tries to find the vacuum cleaner in an overstuffed closet, he just creates a larger mess, and George ends up stuck in the vacuum bag. Goofy sends George to take a bath, and floods the house. As he goes to lecture his son, the cleaning man arrives at the door, preparing to give Goofy’s wife a kiss, when he is doused in the bath water, which shrinks the delivered dress. Goofy becomes more and more overwhelmed with everything he needs to do, and accidentally leaves the phone off the hook. The melodrama on the radio takes a violent turn, and the operator, thinking that she’s hearing a real murder, calls the police in a panic.

The iron Goofy left on falls through the ceiling, landing square on his head

The iron Goofy left on falls through the ceiling, landing square on his head

Goofy’s wife arrives home, and Goofy quickly tries to act like nothing happened. The fire department then arrives and starts tearing up the house, along with the police, who demand to know where the body is. The iron that Goofy had left on burns a hole through the ceiling and knocks Goofy out, while the press is there to take pictures.

March 27

March 27, 1901 – Cartoonist and Disney Legend Carl Barks is Born

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“I want to thank the Disney Studios for this [Disney Legends] award, not only for myself, but for all those comic book fans: the kids who used to buy those comic books for ten cents and now sell them for $2,000.”

On March 27, 1901, Carl Barks was born in Merrill, Oregon. His passion for drawing showed at an early age, and he would try to improve his style by copying the comics from the newspaper. After spending his teenage years and his twenties drifting from job to job, he decided to apply to the Disney Studios in 1935, and was hired as an inbetweener with a salary of $20 a week. He started submitting gag ideas, and was then moved over to the story department. As the Donald Duck short film series began to develop, Barks worked closely with Jack Hannah in creating several story ideas for the character, including such shorts as Donald’s Nephews and The Vanishing Private. However, the legend goes that Barks was having allergy problems from the air conditioning in the studio, and wanted to find work elsewhere within Disney that wouldn’t require him to be at the studio full time. In 1942, Barks and Hannah created a one-shot comic for Donald called “Donald Duck Finds Pirate Gold,” which became the first original Disney comic book. This was the start of Barks’ career with the Donald Duck comics.

Barks was able to flesh out not only Donald’s character through the comics, but also the characters of Donald’s nephews; he also created new characters Gladstone Gander, a rival for Daisy’s affections, and his most famous creation, Scrooge McDuck. Scrooge’s first appearance was in “Christmas on Bear Mountain.” Other characters came along, including the Beagle Boys and Morgana, which are seen in the animated series Ducktales, based on Barks’ work. Barks’ stories were epic adventures, and he was known for doing thorough research on the regions in which the stories were set. It was also said that the opening sequence in the film Raiders of the Lost Ark was based on Barks’ work. Barks retired from the comics in 1966, and in 1991, Barks was awarded as a Disney Legend. He passed away in 2000 at the age of 99.

March 26

March 26, 1955 – “The Ballad of Davy Crockett” Hits Number 1 on the Billboard Hit Parade Ballad

“Born on a mountaintop in Tennessee, greenest state in the land of the free, raised in the woods so’s he knew every tree, killed him a bear when he was only three. Davy, Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier.”

On March 26, 1955, the theme song of the “Davy Crockett” serial “The Ballad of Davy Crockett” hit number one on the Billboard Hit Parade, and remained on the chart at the top position for sixteen weeks. The single was written by George Bruns and Tom Blackburn, and was recorded by Bill Hayes. Although it was soon recorded two other times, once by Davy Crockett actor Fess Parker and the other time by Tennessee Ernie Ford, Hayes’ version of the song was the most popular. The song, one of the most popular songs every from a Disney production, has been covered many times since then, although not with nearly as much success as the first recording.

March 25

March 25, 1956 – Child Actor and Disney Legend Matthew Garber is Born

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“…he’s indelibly printed in all of our minds; he’s eternal from those pictures, Mary Poppins especially, and…what a cute little boy. An amazing little soul.” – Karen Dotrice

On March 25, 1956, Matthew Adam Garber was born in Stepney, London, England. Roy Dotrice, father of Karen Dotrice, was a family friend and he recommended Garber to Disney Casting. Garber was hired at the age of seven to play the role of Geordie in The Three Lives of Thomasina alongside Karen Dotrice. The film was a moderate success. In 1964, Garber was cast in the role of Michael in the smash hit Mary Poppins, making him and other members of the cast famous. In 1967, Garber was teamed up with Dotrice for a third time in the film The Gnome-Mobile. After traveling in India in 1976, Garber contracted hepatits, which quickly spread to his pancreas. He passed away at the young age of 21. In 2004, Garber was awarded as a Disney Legend, along with Dotrice.