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To put it simply, lately animated reboots and I have a weird relationship.  In fact, I feel that this is actually true for most people who have been paying attention to what Warner Bros., Illumination Entertainment, and Sony have been regurgitating lately.  While many justly gripe and moan about productions such as The SmurfsYogi Bear, and Alvin and the Chipmunks, there have been a few bright spots as well.  For example, while I wouldn’t say they deserve any sort of fanfare, The Lorax and, of course, Space Jam, deserve some credit to their names as they do not completely tarnish the name of their original brand.  Heck, The Lorax kept me locked in and engaged throughout the duration, whereas I don’t anticipate The Smurfs 2 will have the ability to even hold down my lunch.

So this puts us in a very unstable relationship in terms of these reboots featuring the characters of bygone eras once again on the big screen, trying sometimes helplessly, sometimes with mild success, to entertain today’s restless, demanding audiences.  However there is something that all of these reboots lack: a story that has been defined as a classic in books, on television, and in theaters.  The one series that does meet this description is Dr. Seuss’ Christmas classic, How the Grinch Stole Christmas which will be released by Illumination in the coming years, according to variety.com  In the article, published Thursday, February 7th, 2013, the reboot will be helmed by new director Pete Candeland (animator on Balto, “Aladdin: The Animated Series”).  Though much is uncertain (writers have yet to be named, and a release date is yet to be confirmed), it seems that the studio will stay true to the book’s three-act structure, which it had to partially create for The Lorax.  What I find most interesting however is that the film will focus on “underlying tones of the book” and also the extreme attitudes of Cindy Lou Who’s optimism and the Grinch’s pessimism.

These statements give me hope.  From them we know that, if the production is actually carried out focusing on these aspects, we won’t be seeing Chuck Jones’ cartoon remade with modern technology.  And this isn’t to say I dislike the Jones version, rather I find it to be the baseline from of which we can judge the reboot.  While Jim Carrey’s 2000 How the Grinch Stole Christmas provides a few laughs during the holiday season, I see the film as being merely a surface adaption of the original book.  What could potentially happen with Illumination’s reboot is an exploration of relationships.  If Illumination explores Seuss’ symbols rooted in the characters and leaves most of its gags at the door, the studio could ultimately find that they have the ability to create a modern adaption of a classic without embarrassing the originals, those being the Chuck Jones television special and the original storybook.  I for one am excited for this.  You can see glimpses of high-caliber storytelling in The Lorax and Despicable Me, but it just ends up being clouded over too quickly by cheesy jokes or gags.  If they hone in on their story and the relationships they display, we will see an animated film that has the ability to rival Pixar’s productions, causing everybody in the industry to step up their game, which right now is gradually becoming needed.

Connections are important.  They are the supply lines of careers that can often act as a springboard for up-and-coming talent in any profession.  In film especially, connections can provide a strong basis on which you can begin a career.  The best way to form these when you live in the middle of nowhere is through email, and over the years, that is exactly what I’ve been trying to do.  I’ve come across some very valuable advice from a woman who has worked as an animator on The Princess and the Frog and Winnie the Pooh.  Just recently, according to iMDb.com, she worked in the visual development of Wreck-it Ralph.  This woman is Sarah Airriess whose blog you can find here.

Following the release of The Princess and the FrogI found Mrs. Airriess’ name listed in the credits as an apprentice animator.  Hoping to find how she had made it to this stage in her life, I emailed her a few questions along the lines of “What advice do you have for a kid who wants to do what you do some day?” I also couldn’t resist asking her what parts she animated.  The response I received was fantastic, and her advice was surprisingly simple.

First of all, she recommended some materials to learn from, specifically a website this website:  The Temple of the Seven Golden Camels .  It is a goldmine in terms of explaining various aspects of storytelling.  The author(s) has posted articles ranging in subject from costumes to character arcs.  Whether you want to better understand movies, or simply add to your writing, this blog will help out invaluably.  In addition to this, Mrs. Airriess recommended the practice of “stop-framing,” as she described it.  Basically, she explained that by playing back animated classics like Snow White or Tarzan frame by frame, a viewer can study character movements and understand better the idea of what animation should look like in the individual drawings.  Through the method of “stop-framing,” you really can get a first-hand look at what animation legends put into their drawings to bring out the life.  I’ve even tried it with Looney Tunes cartoons.  When “stop-framing” a Looney Tunes cartoon however, if it is directed by Chuck Jones, you will find that every few frames contain one of his own key frames, as he would draw out the keys for many of his cartoons, including all three episodes of The Hunting Trilogy.

I also found that Mrs. Airriess animated in The Princess and the Frog many background and crowd shots, as well as a few scenes with Dr. Facilier.  The lesson to be learned from all of this is that a simple email is possibly the most empowering tool for any adolescent looking towards his or her future.  The worst that can happen is your contact may decline or forget to respond due to a heavy work schedule.  All of this valuable advice has come straight from a professional.  It’s safe to say that connections are pretty powerful stuff, and coincidently, they’re in the name of my blog.  (I didn’t mean to do that at all).

Sarah Airriess created this pencil test of Dr. Facilier.  Notice how much energy and flexibility she gave Facilier in this shot, even though the camera angle was in an unfamiliar position.  It’s impressive how visible the energy is in the character, despite the rough form it is presented in the video.  ( http://www.penciltestdepot.com/2011/03/bruce-smith-facilier-patf.html )

Let’s say you’re like me, a high school kid who finds the monotonous routines in school to be, well, dull.  You look forward to that day when you work for one of the largest entertainment companies in the world.  If you had the chance, you would stay at home for a full week and watch all of the Looney Tunes Platinum Collections both with and without commentary.  Once finished with those, you might speed read through Fantagraphic’s Popeye comic strip collections so that you could have time to browse through Dave Smith’s Disney A to Z.  Maybe you’d even pop in a Walt Disney Treasures DVD so that you could watch the unveiling of the Matterhorn in the 1959, or the classic Oswald cartoons of the 1920’s set to music of the time.  If any of this at all applies to you, I have your cure for those days of endless boredom and unhappiness.

It’s the brilliant combination of victory and animation memorabilia in these two auction websites  that generally gets me through the day: those being Theme Park Connection  and Mouse Surplus.  From these two websites, I’ve amassed several authentic, one-of-a-kind Disney Parks collectibles.  For example, for just $40, I won 3 operation manuals for Disneyland rides dated back to the 1960’s.  In addition, I’ve also won authentic uniform patches that cast members wore at Walt Disney World during the 1970’s.  However there have been major auction losses along the way, such as when I lost the auction for a Mickey Mouse flag that flew over the Disneyland Main Street train station.  Quite frankly, it was a heart-breaker.

You may think at this point, “Hans, I don’t see the advantage to your websites!  I already can find the specific collectibles I am looking for by just searching them on ebay.”  Well, silly reader, the problem with your method is it is irregular, sporadic, and unorganized.  In order to get the good stuff, you need to have consistency, and both Theme Park Connection and MouseSurplus provide this in their ebay stores!  It is true, my fellow fan, they have their own sections of the internet reserved specifically for selling Disney memorabilia.  The integrity of the two sellers gives them the connections with Disney that give them a first shot at selling anything the company is throwing out, such as ride vehicles, signs, or other various park decorations.

Now, before beginning to browse, you have to know what your selection will be.  While MouseSurplus has a smaller collection of items, they possess more valuable products.  Often you will find here authentic cels, full uniforms, and occasionally something as special as a ride vehicle or store decorations from Main Street U.S.A. shops.  On the other hand, Theme Park Connection auctions off the smaller collectibles, such as patches, limited edition park give-aways, employee gifts, and maybe sometimes rare park signage.

And so, now we come to a decision you must make.  Let’s say you’ve found that rare Disney Cruise Line cast member uniform on the Theme Park Connection eBay store.  You’d love to have something unique, something that is un-purchasable elsewhere, but before you click the “bid” button, a voice in your head continually advises you not to bid on it.  “It’s too expensive; it’s a waste of money; you’ll never have a use for it; it’s gross, someone else wore it; you don’t really need a Disney employee uniform,” the voice claims.  My advice to you: shut that voice up and hit bid!  Perhaps it’s expensive (around $300), but who cares?  Wouldn’t you like to fill your day with the excitement of an online auction, instead of working until your head blows off?  It’s the thrill of the competition, the thrill of the final few minutes in which you and five other bidders try to pound in your final offers, the thrill of winning and knowing you beat somebody who most likely wanted it just as badly as you did!  These are the rewards of online bidding.

If you find yourself, like me, to be an animation fan, fascinated with the prospect of owning a 1970’s horticulture patch worn by Walt Disney World gardeners, but looking to spice up your dull, daily routine, I recommend the online auction sites of Theme Park Connection and MouseSurplus.  In a business as competitive as animation, both fans and employees alike can find enjoyment in the high tension competition provided by the final few minutes in an auction for a patch somebody wore 40 years ago to work.  It works even for Christmas shopping as the rare items here up for sale easily guarantee there will be no embarrassingly awkward gift duplications.  The roller-coaster of emotions these auctions can take you on are sure to add a little zest to your currently average life.

Examples of the incredibly rare, classic pieces you can purchase from online auctions. Often items range from full cast member uniforms to park signage to vintage patches These two patches are specifically from Theme Park Connection