You can’t go home again…

Posted in Uncategorized on October 2, 2011 by dorselanpher

Waterford Township High… the school is gone.

In my memoirs, Flyin’ Chunks and Other Things to Duck, I wrote about those excursions when my folks moved our family from California to Michigan and back again. The trip in 1951 was California to Michigan where I started my high school experience in the tenth grade at Waterford Township High School.

I neglected to mention in Flyin’ Chunks that I took an art class at WTH and by 1953, as a senior, I was ask to design the cover of the school year book, The Waterlog, as well as  do a few sketches for the books interior. I appreciate that Jerry Gaultney, now of Bethesda, Maryland, was the Editor-in-Chief of the 1953 year book and posted a comment on my blog reminding me of my year book designing experience.

Unfortunately, my parents decided to move back to California that year.  I reluctantly had to leave WTH in the middle of my senior year and found myself back in California at Burbank High School. Although I designed the 1953 year book cover for WTH and was elected senior class treasurer; my picture doesn’t appear in the yearbook. But I am mentioned as having to relinquish my position as senior class treasurer.

During the 1980’s the Township built two new high schools in the area, apparently the WTH buildings were no longer sufficiently useful. The last class to graduate from Waterford Township High was the class of 1983. Waterford Township sold the property in 1999 and the school was demolished to make room for a shopping center.

My last home in Michigan was the little house my dad built on Highland Road, state highway M59. At some point in the past our tiny house was torn down, as were all of the houses along that road and today bustling business’s line highway M59 and have erased my rural past.

Thomas Wolfe wrote it, “You can’t go home again.” and John Steinbeck made it true.

The following from “Travels With Charley” by John Steinbeck

“The place of my origin had changed, and having gone away I had not changed with it. In my memory it stood as it once did and its outward appearance confused and angered me. …Tom Wolfe was right. You can’t go home again because home has ceased to exist except in the mothballs of memory.”

The Lion King experience

Posted in Uncategorized on September 19, 2011 by dorselanpher

The weekend of September 16/18,  2011, The Lion King 3D, (a 2D film made 3D by technological wizardry), was number one at the domestic box office. In 1993 I was honored to have been assigned to work on The Lion King as an effects artist and am proud of the film as a work of art. The success of The Lion King does illustrate the animated film process, from first story pitch to the successful final film, and displays the results of the enormous effort by the many talented artists required to create such a beautiful finished film.

The following excerpts are from Flyin’ Chunks and Other Things to Duck

Chapter 17  My Pride With the Lions

Long before Vera and I moved to Glendale, we were invited to the first pitch of The Lion King story to the crew and far from being impressed, we were both disappointed. We discussed the story on the way home and both felt the story needed a lot of work. But the history of that movie illustrates that making an animated feature is usually more of a process than a live action film. Instead of starting with a script it starts with an idea for a story, no script. And because the art is so important in the telling of the story, the picture develops as a series of story board sketches. After thousands and thousands of sketches are pinned up, the story ideas pitched, thousands of sketches taken down, pinned up, taken down and thrown away a movie begins to take form……….

……….The Lion King was directed by Rob Minkoff and Roger Allers. It was an enormous success when it was released on June 24, 1994. It won two Oscars, Best Music, Original Score and Best Music, Original Song, Can You Feel the LoveTonight, by Elton John and Tim Rice. After The Lion King was finished we had a huge wrap party in Pasadena at a vacant mansion. It was an elaborate affair and I remember it well. Jeffrey Katzenberg and his wife Marilyn, along with Roy Disney and his wife Patty, were stationed on the patio where they were greeting everyone after we had wandered through the mansion to get to the backyard patio and a very large backyard. There was an abundance of food and many dancers and singers, all in African style outfits, entertaining in the spacious yard……….

………After that party Vera and I were invited to go to New York for the The Lion King opening in the Radio City Music Hall at Rockefeller Center. We sat in the first row center of the balcony with a few other Disney folks along on that trip and watched a stage presentation followed by a screening of our movie. We had a wrap party after the screening in what was the ice rink, in the winter, across the street from the Center……….

……….When all the festivities had ceased Vera and I checked out of the hotel wearing our Lion King hats. As we approached the cab which would scurry us to JFK the cab driver noticed our hats and began raving about them so Vera took hers off and gave it to a very gracious cabby. Our schedule called for us to be in Florida for The Lion King wrap party there, so off we went, JFK to Orlando Florida. The date was June 17, 1994. I know because when we got to our hotel at Disney World I turned on the TV to catch the news. OJ Simpson was taking a drive in Al Cowlings white Bronco on a Los Angeles freeway……………

……..The Florida wrap party for The Lion King was in an enormous building somewhere around the Yacht Club Hotel. That part of Disneyworld seems to be deceptive for there are large buildings that aren’t visible until you’re in one. The entrance to the building was decorated with jungle foliage and a big tree with a very large lion model, which looked real, lying in the tree over the doors. The party was different from most for there were games with Velcro suits. One would put on the Velcro suit then throw one’s self against a Velcro wall to see how high one could stick. There were many games of that nature and of course lots of food and beverages. Even Jeffrey Katzenberg was there participating. After that party our feelings of special-ness had to be put on the back burner until we finished another successful movie. This time we had a Native American waiting for us with the name of Pocahontas.

Holly Conrad…a motion picture credit!

Posted in Uncategorized on September 12, 2011 by dorselanpher

Last Sunday evening, September 11, 2011, my grand-daughter,  Holly Conrad, returned from Toronto Canada. She had been invited to the Toronto International Film Festival by none other than Morgan Spurlock, the director of his latest documentary film, Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope. The film is a display of what Comic Com is all about and was screened there at the festival on Saturday. The film is being released in theaters this fall.

There’s already positive reviews out for the movie, and Holly says it’s “awesome.”

In my book of memoirs, Flyin’ Chunks and Other Things to Duck, I wrote the Afterword about Holly and her future.

An excerpt………

………Her interest in writing and the Harry Potter series inspired her to get a degree in Medieval Studies. She is a very good writer and writes very clever copy for the products she designs, constructs, and sells on her Internet store.  She is employed in the animatronics field helping to fab

ricate the creatures one sees at Disneyland, and other parks and museums.  She has won costume design contests and received awards for her efforts. A few months ago Holly rounded up a few friends to help her design and build costumes for the skit they performed for  the costume contest at the 2010 San Diego California Comic Con Convention in July, winning the Judges Award.

Holly was very excited to have been chosen to appear in the Comic Con feature-length theatrical documentary, Comic Con Episode Four: A Fan’s Hope.  Directed by Morgan Spurlock and produced by Stan Lee, Joss Whedon and Harry Knowles. 

The film follows several Comic Con fans up to their participation at the convention. Holly and her troop was filmed during the construction of their costumes and Holly’ sculpting the head for “Grunt”, a main creature of the skit which  is a sequence from the video game, Mass Effect II. As an artist, her passion fills her days and I have no doubt that she will have a life, not devoid of struggle, but one which will bring her much joy.The Force persists, ever onward.

 And now Holly has a screen credit for participating in the making of a movie,

Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope.

Comic Con Episode IV Fan's Hope

Quiting Disney

Posted in Uncategorized on July 20, 2011 by dorselanpher

I had finished my work on One Hundred and One Dalmatians when Disney  demoted me and reduced my pay.  I was an assistant effects  animator with master effects animator, Dan McManus, when I was  re- assigned to the character department. I would be working on The Sword and the Stone with Cliff Nordberg, a character animator. Even though I was disappointed by the demotion and cut in pay, Cliff was great to work with and life was still good. One day I received a call from Bob Hyskell. Bob had worked at Disney in effects with me but had quit the studio to work for an industrial film company on Redwood Avenue in Venice, a long drive from my home in Canoga Park. Bob complicated my good life by offering me a job doing  technical animation and illustration for a film  he was working on for the Navy; he would need me for about three months, with a nice increase in salary from my Disney pay. It would be a great learning experience and  fun stuff to work on, illustrations and animation, but it would require some serious thought before making the decision to leave the security of my union job at Disney. And I wasn’t sure three months of work would be worth taking the chance.

 The following excerpts from

Flyin’ Chunks and Other Things to Duck

Chapter 5…A short stop at Disney

Wow, but I couldn’t leave the security of Disney for a promise of three months of non-union work. I had a wife, a daughter, a dog, a car and a house, and a lawn. I was now a twenty-seven year old man of responsibility. Several weeks later Bob called and said it looked more like a six-month project. After thinking about it for about two minutes I took the job. Again, resigning from Disney, I went to work for The Lytle Corporation…..

…It turned out that The Lytle Corporation was at one time a huge company doing technical films and manuals for large defense contractors all over the country. But now the company was in its last struggles with corporate death, having suffered what seemed to be a typical natural, corporate evolution of birth, life and death….

…It seems companies become successful because of the inspiration and hard work of a few…..

…To make it easier on people, assistants are hired for the managers, then secretaries for the assistants…..and on and on until the bureaucratic bloat gets in the way of business

…The guys who started it all are fat and want to kick back with a golden parachute and who can blame them. So the corporation sputters without the original inspiration and eventually goes bankrupt.

Not all companies follow this trajectory. The Walt Disney Company has been up and down, but mostly up; the company changes, grows and struggles but never dies, the trend has always been up. But I had left Disney animation for a company whose trend line was definitely going down fast, not smart. I should have learned about trend lines before leaving Disney….

….Eventually we finished the Navy work and the result was we had worked ourselves out of a job. Well, not quite. While we were finishing up our work, a company called EMC Corporation in Minneapolis, Minnesota, took an interest in us as a film unit.

Dorse: On a healthy life style:

Posted in Uncategorized on June 23, 2011 by dorselanpher

If I could die without my knowledge of the event, death would be nothing to fear. The avoidance of illness and pain, not the avoidance of death, is what motivates me to live a relatively healthy life style. Of course, death will eventually overcome me but knowing that my death will occur sometime in the future is not useful information unless I can make an effort to postpone it. Aware of the fact that I can maximize my health by exercising, eating properly, and taking nutritional supplements is information which can help me to prevent illness and pain. That action has the potential to enhance the quality of my life and possibly extend it as well. Further more, a healthy person is more capable of minimizing pain and speeding recovery from accidents which are physically damaging, additional benefits of good nutrition and exercise.

In ancient Rome there was a group of three men who, together, were responsible for public administration and civil authority in the government system. The three men were called the triumvirate. We all have been appointed with our own triumvirate. Body, mind and spirit are the three, inseparable, facets of the human quality, our personal triumvirate. All require proper attention. All are inexplicably entwined. The body, without proper nutrition cannot support the other two. The mind, without the curiosity of the thinker, cannot tend the body or spirit. The spirit, not having the healthy support of the others will wither in hopeless despair.

So I eat my fruits and vegetables, I’m curious enough to search for helpful advice, and I exercise every other day. OK, so this makes me a goody two shoes. But  not to feel too good about it, or just to feel really good, I have a shot of Vodka every once in awhile.

In the photo, Me, Mitch Rochon, and Dave Brain, at a John and Marianne Tucker party, workin’ on our health.

Holly and her Ah Ha experience

Posted in Uncategorized on May 13, 2011 by dorselanpher

My grand daughter, Holly Conrad, is a self reliant, self taught artist. The other night I had dinner with her at the Tallyrand restaurant in Burbank. We were talking about her art show which will be at The Secret Headquarters, 3817 Sunset Blvd, 8:00 pm Friday, May 20th, 2011.

She was telling me that, a few weeks ago, she had been struggling with a direction for her show.  She said, with excitement, that at one point she did a drawing which she liked, a drawing that she couldn’t believe she did. She was awed by her own drawing, her own creation. This wasn’t arrogant of her; she was just seeing the magic and mystery of it all. That drawing boosted her enthusiasm and gave her the motivation to work late into the night and continue in a direction for her show that she was satisfied and happy with.

I think this is an occurrence with most artists. This being amazed at the creation of our own art has nothing to do with ego or self admiration; it’s more of a connection to the big unknown which I’ll call the mystery of the universe. An ah ha experience, which seems to just occur on its own, while your brain is seemingly in neutral.

Now if we could, just occasionally, all have an experience such as that, a moment where we are awed by our own thought or creation, amazed by our own self when no one is looking. I’m happy that Holly can do that, she’s a better, more aware person for it.

Artists, Gurus, and Other Animals

Posted in Uncategorized on April 16, 2011 by dorselanpher

It is said that the trait which sets human beings apart from all other animals is an algebraic mentality. That is the ability to formulate, share and comprehend abstract symbols. Artists are good at that, an arrow pointing in a specific direction to follow, a green light indicating that one is to move forward, or the little silhouette of a man or woman on the restroom door, are examples of abstract symbols. These are just a few of the many. Even the letters you are reading here are abstract symbols, just squiggles in your eye, which as a part of our culture; we have learned to understand that the squiggles combine as an expression of ideas.

I’ve wondered if animals really lack the ability to work with symbols. Chimpanzees seem to have a kind of culture of their own. Some of them use sticks to dig termites out of the termite mound. That stick, as it lies on the ground, is not useful to the chimp unless that chimp sees it as more than a stick lying on the ground. Can a stick be a symbol? Does the chimp see the stick as an abstract symbol? Are the chimps teaching each other? That chimp has to connect all of the thoughts of food, termites, and tools useful for obtaining termites as food. It must mentally convert that stick on the ground from a stick idea to a tool idea. Is the tool a symbol for food? Other animals, including birds, and sea otters, also have the ability to discover objects to use as tools.

I find this all so interesting that it has inspired me to work with my cat, Maryann. I’m trying to teach her to learn an abstract symbol. I’ve been trying to teach her to look in a particular direction when I gesture by pointing with my index finger; in this case my finger is an abstract symbol, an arrow. I want to say she is a slow learner but I think cats know what they want to learn and not learn. They seem to have a lot going on in their little heads and are very discriminating.

Each time I begin Maryann’s lesson on abstract symbols, I call her name, and using my manly right index finger, I sternly point in a particular direction and announce a verbal clue, “Look”! Each time I do this, every time, rather than to make an attempt to understand my abstract symbol and look in the direction that my pointing finger indicates, Maryann insists on sniffing the  end of my finger. I guess she is trying to teach me that my pointing finger is her symbol to sniff.

That reminds me of the philosopher Alan W. Watts. To paraphrase Watts from one of his many books, my memory has lost the exactness of his words; he spoke of a spiritual leader who pointed The Way, The Way being a virtuous path to follow for a useful, fulfilling life. Watt’s used the pointing finger as a symbol when speaking of pointing the way and said the people choose to suck the spiritual leader’s finger for comfort rather than follow The Way. Watts point was, to have a belief, to be aware of the way, was enough for the followers, to put the belief into action, to learn to live honorably required some work. Much like Maryann sniffing my finger, which is less work than actually trying to figure out what I meant by pointing. And it must be comforting for her to sniff my finger, secure in knowing that I’m on the other end of it, able to meet her demand to feed her and scratch her tummy.

In his book, The Road Less Traveled, written by M. Scott Peck, M.D., Scott makes the point that “the road less traveled” is a metaphor for the self discovery that we, as people, must do to assure ourselves a fulfilling and useful life, and he felt there were fewer people on that road. Scott’s book is his symbolic finger pointing down that road, the road which requires hard work for achieving results and a rewarding life.

I have participated in therapy groups where it seemed to me that a larger percentage of the people there, rather than being honest in an effort to improve their position in life, were there to enjoy the immediate gratification of the comfort the social life provided,  to symbolically suck the pointing finger, so to speak. Fewer people seemed to take the hard, road less traveled, for solving their problems than those who were there to socialize. The social folks seemed to be lacking the honesty, discipline and motivation, to do the work required to learn the reasons for the chaos in their lives. They appeared unable to discover a fulfilling life and seemed intent on avoiding the work required  to learn what would keep them from becoming someone else’s burden.

Now my cat Maryann, as a cat, seems to know what she needs and doesn’t need. I don’t think she feels a need for abstract symbols or to know The Way, she already knows her way so she sniffs my finger. Her life is complete without the symbols. Maybe, rather than bother her, I should just make sure I’m one of those folks on the road less traveled. Doing the work which assures me of a life fulfilled, so I’m useful to myself and others, including Maryann. And Maryann will just continue to be everything she needs to be for herself and me, an innocent spirit; a cat.