Just wanted to let everyone know that there’s a new Scooby Doo DVD that’s flying off the virtual shelves of Amazon.com. It was ranked #556 as of 9:20 AM (which is pretty good for an 8-disc set of a show from the 70′s!). It’s enough sales to beat Tom Selleck’s “Jesse Stone: Night Passage” at # 2,899 but still not enough to beat “Jesse Stone: No Remorse” at #399. Well played Mr. Selleck. Well played.
Besides being a big fan of Scooby Doo, I’m mentioning it because I did an on-camera interview for the DVD featurette, “Scooby-Doo The Whole World Loves You” which, according to Amazon.com, “focuses on Scooby’s continued popularity and fans continued love of the character. Features interviews with various writers, directors and actors who have worked on Scooby TV and Movie projects over the last 40 years. (20 mins)” For me, it was a tremendous honor to be a part of it because I’m such a huge fan. I can’t really say I’m the “ultimate” fan because I don’t dress like anybody from the show and I haven’t named my kids Velma or Fred. But I have been known to say “Jinkies!” so I got that going for me.
For the DVD, I mostly talked about my work on our “Bravo Dooby Doo” episode and Mr. Barbera’s involvement in the show. The most random anecdote about my interview is that I wore a shirt with green stripes for the interview. Why is that interesting, you ask? Well, whenever they do these interviews, they do them in front of a green screen so they can lay down whatever images they want to in the background by altering anything that’s green on camera. (I don’t want to go into too much technical details when we have Wikipedia for that.) Anyhow, I ended up changing shirts with one of the crew members who happened to be my size. It was just another reminder of why it’s important to shower before you leave the house. So, if you’re watching the featurette and thinking, “Man, that Van sure is a fancy dresser,” then I apologize for misleading you into thinking I’m so fancy.
That was really the only anecdote I have from the recording session. Besides the fact that they put some man makeup on me before the shoot. At least that’s what they said it was.
No. I didn’t have a press conference with, or about, monkeys. The title was my eyecatcher for those of you who love both press conferences and monkeys. But before you skip this post because you don’t see any monkeys (I didn’t hide any in the above picture either), you may be pleasantly surprised by the end of this post.
Above is a stitched picture pan of the lovely people from the press in Malaysia. The group included representatives of The Star, The Sun, NST, Berita Harian, Superkidz, K-Zone, Gempak, New Man, TV2, HOT, and RTM News. Interesting note: the majority of them were female journalists. I don’t know if it’s because that’s the way things are in Malaysia or if they thought that they were going to meet somebody that actually resembled Johnny Bravo. Either way, it was fun chatting with them all.
We officially announced the start of Cartoon Network Asia’s Malaysia specific Snaptoons initiative. We kicked it off with a talk from Silas Hickey of Cartoon Network Asia, then Kamil Othman, Vice President of MDEC (Multimedia Development Corporation), and myself. Beforehand, we got our talking points and press briefing, which made me a tad nervous because I tend to talk off the top of my head with a lot of nervous energy. But then again, it’s not like we were trying to hide a scandal or anything. Everyone ended up being very cordial and the whole event made the morning that much more fun.
Afterwards, I spent my final day at Inspidea Animation Studios drawing pictures and hanging out with the crew. Again, it’s just like any other animation studio in the States. On their free time, they play video games…
And hang out in front of the studio playing guitar and smoking cigarettes.
I spent my final night with the staff at a fantabulous dinner where I got to know them all a little better. Who’s dating who, what they do in their spare time, what their favorite movies are, why they’re ranked number one in countries that spend the most hours on Facebook and have the most number of friends. Bonding stuff like that. It was a fun way to end my time in Malaysia.
So now is the part where you say, “Can we get to the monkey portion of the post already?” Wait for it…
Before I hopped on my plane to LAX, CJ See brought us out to the Batu Caves where you can climb 272 steps and see… you guessed it…
Monkeys! They’re just all around you frolicking the way monkeys do.
From Mongkok to Malaysian Monkeys, thus ends my time in Asia. Ni Hao America!
I downloaded the above picture from my camera, looked at it, and thought, “That just doesn’t look real.” But it is. It’s the view from my hotel of the Petronas Twin Towers, which were the world’s tallest buildings from 1998-2004 (before Taipei 101). Whatever it’s height credentials, it’s still massive! Every time I look out my window, I imagine myself as Big Man Japan tromping around the downtown area.
So with that, you may have been able to guess that I’m in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Yesterday, I went and visited the lovely animation studio, Inspidea. They’re the ones that are doing the heavy lifting for our upcoming TV special, “Johnny Bravo Goes To Bollywood.” For those of you that have never been to an animation studio in Asia, I thought that I’d give you a mini-tour of the place.
First off, I wanted to share my lunch with you.
(I love makeover shows, so I had to fit in some sort of before and after shot somewhere.)
Anyhow, Inspidea was founded by four guys, two of whom are still there, Andrew Ooi and CJ See. Terrific to see them. We worked together on another Snaptoons project a few years back. I didn’t know what to expect, but I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised by the outfit they run here in Malaysia. The outside of the building is rather unassuming. Below is a picture of Silas Hickey, the Creative Director of Asia Pacific Animation Development, Turner Entertainment Networks Asia, Inc. (Whew! Long title!) waiting for them to buzz us in.
The first thing I noticed was the most obvious cultural difference: we had to take our shoes off.
From there, it was just like any other independent animation studio in the states. There were several floors of artists, all working on computers, but in different areas of production.
Again, the only differences were cultural. For example, you weren’t really allowed to shake the hands of some of the females due to religious beliefs. More interesting to me though, was the average age of the people who worked there. At Inspidea, they were a predominantly young lot. It may have been due to their Asian skin, but it felt like I was walking amongst a group of university students. I’m used to seeing veterans who had been around for decades peppered in with a few younger folks. I was told that it was because there isn’t a huge pool of talent to pull from in Malaysia so a lot of their talent come straight out of the schools. Below is a group shot of all the people that are going to be working on my show.
I gave a talk, similar to the one I gave at CNAsia, where I introduced myself, talked a little bit about my background, and expressed my gratitude and excitement for the project they’ve agreed to undertake. I’m really looking forward to seeing what they can bring to the table and excited about their potential of being a major player out here in Asia.
So that’s day one in Malaysia. I’m hoping to get a picture of the monorail that runs through all the major parts of the city.
If you’ve been missing my day-to-day posts, fear not, I’m still here. I’ve most recently been working on an international Johnny Bravo project with Cartoon Network Asia that should be finished some time next year. It involves Johnny Bravo and Bollywood. Then hilarity ensues. In different languages, even. (That last sentence should be said using Snagglepuss’ voice.)
We just finished a whirlwind recording with some amazing voice artists this past week in Los Angeles. The show was directed by the multi-talented Charlie Adler and we went from 8 in the morning to 5:30 in the evening, non-stop, with one five minute break. It was like a crazy rollercoater ride! But even though we went at a breakneck speed, Charlie was able to yield every ounce of direction from his being and make sure that the performances ended up being top notch.
Below, from left is Lou Fagenson (composer), Sharon Muthu, me, Cree Summer, Tara Strong, and Charlie Adler.
Charlie, Tabitha Kumar, me.
From top: Me, Guy Hector, Charlie, Brenda Vaccaro, Jeff Bennett
From top: Eric (the engineer), Sheetal Sheth, Lou, Charlie, me, Amir Talai
Me, Mark DeCarlo, Ajay Mehta, Sunil Malhotra, Tom Kenny
Having finished that, I’m now in the middle of my trip overseas. My first stop was to visit the offices of Cartoon Network Asia in Hong Kong. I was finally going to to meet the folks across the Pacific to say “Thanks!” and poke my head in their offices. So after my fourteen and a half hour flight, I hopped in a taxi with Silas Hickey and Ivy Lau from CNAsia, ran to a boat, and took a bus to a golf course where CNAsia’s creative services team was having a retreat. I was told that many of them never leave work earlier than midnight so when you talk about dedication, props to them! I put on an improptu presentation, met a number of folks, took pictures, and drew a few drawings.
The following day, I was able to venture around the offices and meet some more fun folks. I got to see their crazy offices and spent some time in the massage room (a little room with electronic massage chairs!) From there, it’s been a lot of meetings mixed in with sight seeing. And scary taxi rides. All in all, it’s been a fun and cultural experience visiting here. If I had to sum up my experience in Hong Kong, I would have to say that it’s an eye catching, fast paced city, filled with lots of color and beautiful architecture. A few random observations:
Hong Kong is a very vertical city.
The hotels have a 13th floor.
It’s daunting to see bamboo used as scaffolding.
At 8:00, the skyscrapers put on a light show. So it’s like Disneyland. Without the churros.
The escalators in the subways move twice as fast as the escalators back home.
Random people tend to unabashedly burp in your face without saying “Excuse me.”
I now know what a real “pungent” smell smells like.
And if you’ve never been to Mongkok, the Guinness Book of World Records calls it the most densely populated area on the planet. Mixed with the heat and the smells, let’s just say it’s an experience and a half.
Next stop: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia! But before I go…
Big Hug to Hong Kong!
P.S. My new friends, Tim and Tina, took this picture to make sure the kid didn’t pickpocket me.
For me, comedy is something very personal and unexplainable. The moment you find a rule for it, it says, “Oh really? You’re not the boss of me!”
I’m often asked the question, “How did you come up with…(fill in the blank)?” A humorous anecdote usually follows about some odd occurrence in my past. Sometimes, I explain to them how my ideas are a mixture of my life experience, the media that I absorb, and divine inspiration. If I really think hard, I can usually trace back the pedigree of my ideas to that one “Aha!” moment which is usually something accidental or something I was fortunate (or unfortunate) enough to observe.
When I was teaching a class at Loyola Marymoungt University, I had my students talk to someone they normally wouldn’t talk to and journal about it. For those students who actually did the assignment, they got a taste of what it’s like to overcome their fears and open up their world of experiences. It was a step towards opening up their lives to other experiences besides the ones in their own bubble.
As I try to develop new stories and properties, I try to keep my eyes open for inspiration by changing my life experiences, constantly searching for knowledge about things I know, things I don’t know, and especially for things I don’t know I don’t know.
During this time, I often go back to the following quotes below to put me in a mindset. They’re about comedy and they’re from John Cleese and Michael Palin. This is but one source of my inspiration, but it’s a good one:
John Cleese: You can always inject a bit of energy into something by introducing anger, shouting, bad language, or simply shocking. Young comedians know this, and that is why very frequently. they seem to be thrashing around, because if the material isn’t very good you have two alternatives: one is you die, and the other is you thrash around – and on the whole, thrashing around is less humiliating.
David Attenborough, a man I much admire, said to me after the first series of Python, the best advice I ever had: “Use shock sparingly.” If you start using it too much, then it becomes the norm and it’s not shocking anymore, and then you just seem to be thrashing around. The great thing is to use it very, very sparingly, like that wonderful conversation in The Life Of Brian, with all that stuff about, “Tell us Master, tell us!” Brian says, “I’m not the savior!” Somebody says, “Only the savior would deny his own divinity.” So he says, “All right, I am the savior!” They all go, “Ahh, he is the savior!” And he says, “Now f*%# off!” That’s a wonderful use of real shock; we weren’t using bad language before so that really hits you.
I do remember an extraordinary experience: the first time we showed And Now For Something Completely Different, there was hilarious laughter up to fifty minutes, then the audience went quiet for twenty, twenty-five minutes, and then they came up again and finished very well. So we took all that middle material, put it at the beginning, and it all worked beautifully up to about fifty minutes, and then [the] audience got quiet! We discovered that whatever order we put the material in, at about fifty minutes they stopped laughing. And in order to get people to go with you past the fifty minute mark they have to want to know what’s going to happen next. In other words, you have to have characters that they care about and a story they can enjoy and believe in. There’s a huge learning curve.
Michael Palin: A strand which I think is in a lot of Python humor, from all the various sources but perhaps particularly from Terry and myself, is human inadequacy – the fact that things don’t always work out right. The grander magnificent scheme which is set up by mere humans, you know, will go wrong. And in a sense the characters which John and Graham have written, like in the “Dead Parrot” sketch, is just a man giving lots of excuses, and somebody who knows what he wants and not being able to get it. That’s a similar kind of humor: you set something up and then some tiny little thing destroys it completely, because that’s the way human beings are. I mean you can be in a solemn occasion where trumpets play, something like that, [then] somebody farts at the back, and immediately the atmosphere collapses. Because we are all on the edge of the awareness of absurdity. It’s just a nice vein we used to tap.
In Holy Grail that’s constantly happening to Arthur and his troupe; they’d be very kingly and yet something would happen, they’ll talk to some toiling peasant in this very hail-fellow way:
“Old man, tell us the way.”
“I’m thirty-seven, I’m not old.”
“Yes, okay, we don’t want to get into that…”
I think that’s a great strand of humor, which is dragging all those pretensions down to a certain level.
Last week was the annual San Diego Comic-Con. If you like anything that has to do with pop culture, you may have heard of it. If you haven’t, it’s literally the biggest comic book / sci-fi / fantasy / anime/ television / movie / animation / video game / toy / publishing / cosplay / stand in long lines next to people who decided not to take a shower / eat cafeteria food because the nearest restaurant is too far to walk to in the heat / convention of the year.
But let’s step back into the wayback machine for a moment shall we? Let’s say, hmmmm… 1986.
I was fifteen years old, taking my first road trip from Central California to Southern California with my brothers and our friends to spend a week attending “The Con.” That was the year it was held at the Convention and Performing Arts Center and Hotel San Diego. If you loved comic books, that was the place to be. It was there that I had my first brush with comic book royalty and got some of my first autographs.
Clockwise from Left: Ray (Fahrenheit 451) Bradbury, Jack (Fantastic Four, X-Men) Kirby, Sergio (Mad Magazine, Groo) Aragones, Dave (Cerebus) Sim, Archie (The Greatest Comic Book Editor Ever) Goodwin, and Kevin (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) Eastman.
Everybody was very down to earth. Even Jack Kirby, the reigning “King of Comic Books,” who was mobbed by everybody on the floor when it was announced that he was going to do a signing. Bottom line: it was exciting to see the faces behind my favorite comics and just be in the same air space as them.
Being 15, I wasn’t completely enthralled by many of the panels. I spent most of my time picking up freebies, looking at the original art, gawking at the old back issues, and watching the various artists draw sketches for their fans. Back then, the freebies were usually flyers, trading cards, buttons, stickers, mini-posters, and exclusive preview comics. At the end of every day, we would dump out our bag of schwagg and compare “our stuff” with one another. If we didn’t have something, we made sure we got that something-something the next day.
When we weren’t at the con, we would drop off our bags at our hotel room and hide our badges so as to not be associated with the other “geeks” at comic-con. It was like being in a super secret society that you loved but knew others wouldn’t understand and make fun of you so you kept it all on the down low. So while most of my friends were going camping or to the beach on their summer breaks, I was looking forward to my week at comic-con. But only in certain social circles.
Fast forward to today. The con has grown from 6,500 attendees in 1986 to over 126,000! Instead of Jack Kirby being the big draw, it’s every A-list actor from Angelina Jolie to Robert Downey Jr. and every A-list director from J.J. Abrams to Joss Whedon. As for freebies, you got a gigantic tote bag from Warner Brothers (which many broke from the amount of freebies people were carrying). It’s now being called “Hollywood’s Cannes for Blockbusters.” So, now it’s “kinda cool” to go to the San Diego Con. But only in certain social circles.
So if you haven’t been to the San Diego Comic-Con, it’s takes place every year in the summer. It’s an experience. And if you go, be prepared to be overwhelmed. If not by the sheer magnitude of the convention, than perhaps by the over-the-top culture of it’s participants. Excelsior!
When I was developing my senior thesis film at Loyola Marymount University, I ran into a huge problem. With my storyboard set and my models ready to go, I had to try and figure out how to animate my 5 minute project, by myself, in a few months, while keeping up with the rest of my schoolwork. My animation professor, Dan McLaughlin suggested that I watch “The Dover Boys” and freeze frame the inbetweens to study Bobo Cannon’s usage of blur animation. (For those of you who are wondering what I’m talking about, the blur animation starts at about 3:02 with the introduction of Dan Backslide.)
I was completely enthralled. I saw things moving that only had three inbetweens between them. “I could do that!” I thought to myself. Watching the cartoon, I knew that all I had to do was move the shapes of the characters and stretch the masses from one pose to another. According to what I was freeze framing, I simply had to make sure that the predominant masses and colors were represented in the blur. No antics needed. No overshoots or cushions. Who would’ve guessed that there was such an untapped time-saving style of animation? All I had to do was create strong poses to smear into and I was home free. In short, the technique grew from my college-aged need to do things cheaper, faster, and easier.
The sequence below is from my first Johnny Bravo short. The layout is by Ginny Hawes, the clean up by Miriam Goodman, and I did the inbetweens. In it, Johnny has just slid up to a fine looking zookeeper and proceeds to check his armpit fragrance.
Scenes like the one above were always fun to animate. The only problem we ran into was making sure the masses were colored correctly. Otherwise, the movement would pop. The colorist had to consistently refer to the sequence of drawings to make sure they were keeping the masses consistent.
This type of animation was a key ingredient in helping me create the unique persona of “Johnny Bravo.” I think that it may have had a lot to do with the selling of the show. It made it stand out from the rest of the other projects being pitched by creating a character trait based on the way the character was animated.
It also made for some surreal Dali-esque cel set-ups.
When I got the series, I realized why blur animation wasn’t used very often. It was a special type of animation that had to be called for overseas. Most producers weren’t going to take the time to call for it on the sheets every time (although, I did catch them using it on “Sonic The Hedgehog” when it was still in production). Whatever the reason, I feel fortunate to be able to capitalize on a technique developed by Robert Cannon and Chuck Jones in their original Warner Brothers short.
If I had to name one major influence in my life as a model for the type of entertainment I strive to create, it would have to be Jim Henson. Most notably, I stand in awe of his amazing work on Sesame Street. They did everything from puppets to animation, parodies to heart-warming specials, and if that weren’t enough, they created music that stuck in your head. What I admire most about Jim Henson is that he did it in a way that was accessible to both kids and parents. If you were a child born after the 70′s, then you were a child influenced by Sesame Street.
From day one, Sesame Street enlisted the talents of some of the top names in independent animation. Back in 1996, Linda Simensky, the current senior director of programming for PBS and former president of ASIFA-East, put together a two hour program to celebrate 25 years of animation made for Sesame Street. It was like watching Sesame Street in a whole new light because I never knew that the people behind the shorts were some of the most cutting edge independent animators of their time. Now that I know what I know, and can see them in retrospect, I have a greater appreciation for them. The works in the show included the Hubley Studios, Buzzco, Michael Sporn, Will Vinton, Dan Haskett, Bill Davis, Pixar, and Mo Willems. The one below is by Maurice Sendak.
I still hold onto my dream of someday joining the ranks of these esteemed artists by animating an interstitial for one of their upcoming seasons.
Much to my delight, when I took my first animation class back in college, my animation professor, Dan McLaughlin, showed us how to work the university’s giant Oxberry camera by demonstrating a pan with a 2-field cel and background from a short film he did for Sesame Street. Needless to say, I was totally in awe of this piece of artwork! You may remember the film. It was the one where the backgrounds were black and white and these kids were sitting on the steps outside their front door. Suddenly a man pushing a fruit cart starts yelling, “Fruit! Fresh fruit!” He walks on, the kids get some fruit, and the man continues on his way. It was also shown on the Spanish PBS show, Villa Allegre, with the man yelling, “Frutas! Fresca frutas!”
Fast forward a few years. I have my own show and I thought, “That would be awesome if I could recreate even a little bit of the fun and insane comedy that Jim Henson and his cohorts were able to do week after week.” (Not exactly in those words, but that was my intention.) Jim Henson had been such an influence on my life that I wanted to pay tribute to him somehow. The only question was, “How do you extrapolate the genius of Sesame Street and infuse it into a show about a twenty-something slacker/womanizer?”
The answer: you do your best.
Like Jim Henson, I always tried to make sure that Johnny wasn’t mean spirited. He was just ignorant and naive. Most of all, I tried to capture his silliness. If I had to describe the Muppets in word, it would have to be “silly.” Silly humor is what I always try and strive for. It always trumps rude and obnoxious for me.
In our first season, we were unable to come up with a proper send up of Sesame Street that would do it justice. It wasn’t until our fifth season that one of our writers, Craig Lewis, came up with the idea for the episode, “Hunk At The End Of This Cartoon” which was a parody of “The Monster At The End Of This Book.”
I thought it was the perfect Muppet piece to translate into Johnny’s world. Craig kept it silly and ridiculous, just the way the book was. So we did our best.
Now. There’s probably someone in Birmingham, Alabama thinking, “That’s great and all, but wasn’t the title of this post, ‘How to get to Sesame Street?’ You didn’t really tell us how to get to Sesame Street.”
I’m getting there.
When I was a kid, I never really grasped the concept that Sesame Street was on a soundstage. During the opening credits, they showed all these kids wandering the streets of New York City with it’s gravel streets and tall buildings, until the final shot where they got to Sesame Street and the roads and sidewalks suddenly lost all their grit. And it wasn’t as sunny and bright as the park they just showed. But it looked fun! And I always wondered, “Why is it so hard to find? Isn’t it on a map or something?”
Back in 1998, my wife and I decided to plan a trip to New York City. Knowing how much I loved the Muppets, my agent arranged for us to visit Sesame Street. What I thought was going to be a quick ushering through the soundstage by a tour guide, turned out to be a dream come true. They were actually filming an episode when we arrived on the set! As long as we kept out of the way of the cameras, we got to wander the street and explore everywhere from Mr. Hooper’s Store to Big Bird’s nest. We even got to visit Elmo’s World!
The most surreal moment of the day was meeting Caroll Spinney, the Muppeteer behind Oscar The Grouch and Big Bird. The crazy thing was, I didn’t know how I was supposed to react when I came face to face with a Muppet. When it was my turn to take a picture with Carroll, he held Oscar up to my face and said, “Hi. What do you do?” I froze. I wanted to tell him what I did, but I also wanted to tell him how much he’d touched my life and how the show helped shape my world view of imagination and creativity. I wanted to tell him all kinds of things. But in the moment, I couldn’t figure out if I should talk to Oscar or Carroll. I completely blanked. I was so flustered that the only thing that came out of my mouth was a giggle.
I giggled like a little boy when I shook his hand while my wife took a picture of us. I remember thinking, “Boy, Oscar has a manly grip for a grouch.” After the flash went off on my camera, Caroll made Oscar blink as though the flash somehow affected his eyesight. I don’t even remember if I said anything to him (I hope I didn’t come across rude) but I had my moment. Sadly, the moment quickly passed and another person came up to him to take their turn to meet him. Or them. Honestly, I felt as though Oscar and Carroll were two separate entities.
Everybody we met on the set that day was so nice. I could have stayed there all day. In fact, one of the crew said, “If you stick around, we’re gonna be filming with Sully in about an hour so you can see how Oscar gets around.” But we didn’t want to overstay our welcome. We watched them film a scene with Susan and Oscar, took a few more pictures, and ended up staying for about two hours before we took the subway to see the rest of the city.
So if you ever find an “in” or can get a job working for the Sesame Workshop, I highly recommend a visit to “the street.” And be prepared to address a Muppet.
I forgot who told me this, but a few years ago, I got this great piece of advice about doing interviews: Try and keep your answers down to a few choice words because, chances are, the reporter only needs a sentence or two from your interview for their story. So try not to give rambling answers that go nowhere.
I wish I had learned this when I first started speaking in public.
I mean, honestly, who ever thinks that they’re going to be interviewed by the media? Not I. And how do you really prepare for an off-the-cuff question so that you come across poised, knowledgable, and competent? I shrug my shoulders.
I have to preface this blog by saying I, like so many others, was afraid of public speaking. I did drama in high school, but that was me being a character. Me being me was nerve-racking. I couldn’t even raise my hand to say anything in my interpersonal communication class in college because I was so dumbstruck. (For 20% of our grade, we were given a choice between joining in the class conversation or doing a 30 page paper. I opted for the paper.) I eventually got over this fear because I had to. It was in my job description to talk to the media. Fortunately, the interviews got easier and I’ve now grown fairly comfortable in my skin that I’m able to speak on a dime. I’ve breezed through dozens of interviews, taught at Loyola Marymount University for several years, given seminars at several universities, and done a number of public speaking engagements in front of some pretty diverse audiences. Mostly because I have something to say and I’m confident in my content. On the other hand, throw me into a room alone, full of strangers, and I head straight towards something to lean on.
I wanted to share this with you upfront so you can fully appreciate all the nervousness and anxiety that lie in between the lines of the transcripts you’re about to read. That is, if you’re still reading. You are? Cool. The following is from my first public speaking engagement to the media. It took place in July of 1994 at the Television Critics Association Press Tour at the Universal Hilton Hotel. The panel consisted of Betty Cohen, the Executive Vice President of Cartoon Network, Mike Lazzo, the Vice President of Programming, Fred Seibert, the President of Hanna Barbera, Ralph Bakshi, and three new cartoon directors: Butch Hartman (who went on to create The Fairly Odd Parents), Craig McCracken (creator of The Powerpuff Girls), and myself. The audience consisted of about 75 print journalists, Turner executives, and guests who were basically there to report and judge the programs we worked so hard to produce.
Beforehand, we were given a potential Q & As/Talking Points folder which we were to familiarize ourselves with if someone asked us a question. Which I fecitiously say, did little to prepare me for sitting in front of all those people staring at me. The following is an excerpt from the actual transcripts. This was my first recorded line of publicity:
QUESTION: This is a question for Van, what cartoon have you created? Tell us about your character and how you did it.
VAN PARTIBLE: The character I created is called Johnny Bravo. It’s this guy. (laughter) And he looks a little bit like James Dean kind of thing, but he talks like Elvis. And he’s picking up on people at the zoo, women at the zoo. And he finds this animal trainer girl, and she realizes that the gorilla’s escaped from the zoo, and basically he tries to pick up on the girl and all kind of stuff ensues. It takes off from there and it’s pretty funny. It doesn’t sound funny from what I’m saying, but it’s funny. I think it’s funny.
To highlight the absurdity of my existence in this panel and show how unequipped I was at public speaking, here’s another excerpt from the actual transcripts:
QUESTION: Van, I have a question for you. I’d like to know how it feels having just graduated from college working next to such veterans as Bill Hanna, Joe Barbera, Ralph Bakshi. What does that feel like?
PARTIBLE: It’s really neat, because the job I had before this, I was working at a school. And so I’m like — I mean, I tried applying at all these other animation places and nobody liked me because I didn’t have anything to show them.
And finally they had this talent search. I guess Hanna-Barbera had this talent search. And they saw my film and I guess they liked it because they called me back in. Because I did this student film back in college, which was last year. (laughter)
And they said, develop something. I developed something and beyond that and I was like wow. So it kind of like hasn’t really hit me, because I basically don’t feel myself on that level. So it’s really neat.
QUESTION: Ralph, you’re shaking your head. How does it feel to be sitting next to someone who just graduated from college? (laughter)
Ralph went on to say how he thought the program was “sensational” and how “these kids are coming in and being allowed to be themselves,” while I sat there thinking, “I just said, ‘It’s really neat.’ A lot.”
It’s been a long road, but I’m happy to say that I’m now able to take a breath and answer questions without rambling so much. I mean, I still ramble at times, but I always try to make sure and conclude my statements with a breath and a few choice words.
I recently did an interview for The Loyolan, the newspaper at my old alma mater, Loyola Marymount University. Fortunately, they e-mailed me a list of questions that I could ponder and answer in my own time. You can find it at:
I was a TV junkie growing up. I watched as much TV as I possibly could in between my comic book reading and drawing. Sesame Street. The 3 O’Clock Movie. The Brady Bunch. Bonanza. If there was something fun and frivolous onscreen, I was there. I would even sit and watch the Spanish show, Villa Allegre, just because it was on. (It also helped that they showed Spanish versions of Sesame Street interstitials.)
Like most kids, I had my rituals of breakfast on the couch every Saturday morning when I would wake up early and watch cartoons on our 18″ Zenith television set. In between shows, I would rush up to the TV and manually flip the channel switch, back and forth from channel to channel, trying to absorb as many cartoons as I could, doing my best to bypass the live action jingles for Green Machines and interstitials like CBS’ In The News.
Naturally, one of my favorite magazines growing up was TV Guide. We didn’t have cable TV, but I could see what was on and read the synopses. So it was kind of like I had cable.
You can only imagine how geeked out I was when I first saw Johnny Bravo mentioned in TV Guide. Pretty geeky.
Unfortunately, when Johnny Bravo first premiered, there wasn’t even a grid for the Cartoon Network, so I don’t have that issue. But I do have copies of the other times it was mentioned.
In the December 1, 2001 issue, our Christmas special got a shout out in the Cheers And Jeers section. Although it was neither a “cheer” nor a “jeer,” it still got it’s own special box. To quote:
“…the pairing of Donny (Osmond) and Johnny might help kids understand why Mom and Dad know all the words to ”One Bad Apple.”
In 2003, when Spike Lee threatened to sue Spike TV for using his name, I got an actual call from TV Guide! They wanted to do a story about Johnny Bravo wanting to sue Bravo the network. So thank you Spike Lee. The following is the unedited interview that was published on TV Guide Online:
SEVEN SILLY QUESTIONS FOR… JOHNNY BRAVO
Filmmaker Spike Lee may have given TNN the green light to rebrand itself Spike TV, but the case will likely pave the way for similar lawsuits in the future. Case in point: Johnny Bravo – Cartoon Network’s ego-trippin’ Elvis type – is considering a lawsuit aginst the TV network that shares his name.
TV GUIDE ONLINE: Do you think you have a case?
BRAVO: Are you kidding? Bravo’s got Bravo written all over it! I mean, they might as well change the name of The It Factor to Who Wants To Be Johnny Bravo?
TVGO: What tipped you off that Bravo might be taking advantage of your image to attract viewers?
BRAVO: When that (James) Lipton guy started wearing sunglasses and calling his female guests “hot mamas.”
TVGO: Spike Lee hired Johnny Cochran as his attorney. You’re going to need a heavy hitter, too. Have you spoken to Harvey Birdman?
BRAVO: I don’t know if he’s the right person for the job. I’m thinking more along the lines of the chick from Legally Blonde. Is she available or is she in the middle of another sequel?
TVGO: So what’s your legal strategy?
BRAVO: Strategy? Isn’t that a disco song by the Bee Gees?
TVGO: Uh, okay. Spike agreed to compensate TNN if he loses the lawsuit. What are you willing to offer Bravo in the event you lose?
BRAVO: I can give hair tips to some of their people – and believe you me, they need it.
TVGO: Would you consider dropping the lawsuit if they offered you James Lipton’s job?
BRAVO: Only if we changed the show to where actors came into the studio and asked me about my life. Then, I’d think about it.
TVGO: Any suggestions for what Bravo might change their name to?
BRAVO: If they gave Mr. T his own show, they could call it the Lipton T Channel. Ha hah!
BRAVO: How about The Channel Where People Like To Talk a Lot?
TVGO: Better. One last question. If Heaven exists…
BRAVO: If Heaven exists, I’d like to hear God say, “You’re right. You were my gift to women.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: When asked about the potential lawsuit, Bravo issued the following statement: “We are not worried about a lawsuit from Johnny Bravo, considering we’ve been around since 1980. And we are not trying to capitalize on (his) noteriety.”
The following year, we got a great review for our final episode of the series:
“In a savvy Queer Eye parody that also makes smart sport of cartoon and sitcom conventions, clueless Elvis wannabe Johnny gets a reluctant makeover from a deranged trio: Don Knotts (sitcom expert), ”Weird Al” Yankovic (fashion consultant), and mock-superhero Blue Falcon (cartoon culture advisor). Johnny gets a wacky robot neighbor, a laugh track and flashy new duds, including square pants: “the look that appeals to the 6 to 11-year-old demographic,” Knotts insists. Funny line, yes – possibly also true. MATT’S SCORE (0-10): 7”