Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Visiting Neil Part IV,
Escape! and More...

Ah, so many things we didn't get into with our formal interview time with Neil -- but so much we soaked up via our downtime with Neil and Lorraine. It's important to note that the American and UK releases and critical responses to both of this year's Neil flicks, Stardust and Beowulf, are quite different from one another, and Neil got into that during our time together. Having known Neil for over two decades, this whole new life phase he's into is compelling (to say the least), and I'll get into my observations on that as time permits in the days ahead.

But first, a little catching up before I wind up my overview of the trip's last day, below. Read on --

Home Agin, Home Agin, Jiggedy-Jig

Our first snowfall of the season is upon us this morning in Windsor VT, and it's really coming down. I love it, but I'm counting Hank's and my blessings on the weekend at Neil's. Though there was a brief snow squall on Saturday morning at Neil's, nothing stuck and it was a sweet weekend weatherwise -- my heart goes out to all trying to drive/fly to or from Thanksgiving gatherings this week. Good luck, one and all!

Mike Dobb's New Book Escape...

...was waiting for me on our dinner table when I got home Sunday night a little after midnight. After kissing a sleepy Marge and saying my kitty-cat howdy-dos to Tuco and Lizzy and then unpacking the car, I jumped into reading Mike's book, and it's a sweet read. I'll be posting a full writeup later this week or weekend, but suffice to say for now Escape! How Animation Broke Into the Mainstream in the 1990s is worth picking up now, and worth picking up as gifts for any animation fans you have in the household or family/friend karass.

Constructed around a selection of the one-of-a-kind interviews and articles Mike scribed for his tenure as editor on Animato! in the late 1980s and '90s, and his own zine Animation Planet in the '90s, the tidy tome Escape! provides the first comprehensive overview of the major changes the animation medium and industry enjoyed in the last decade. Mike's chapters conscientiously lay a foundation for its cumulative portrait, via in-depth interviews and essays with/about the key practitioners of the art, of all facets of that transformation: the venues (kicking off with the launch of Cartoon Network), the industry, the creators, the animators, the independents, the voices, and more. Mike winds up Escape! with a potpourri of reviews of 1990s videos, DVDs and programming, the whole sweetened with behind-the-scenes photos and some shots of Mike and his own industry-related travels of the '90s.

Order your copy and/or gift copies now --
  • here's the Amazon.com link for Escape!,
  • the Buy.com venue for Escape!,
  • Oldies.com's sales page for Escape!,
  • and the Amazon.com UK venue for those of you reading this on the other side of the Atlantic.

  • Highly recommended, folks, and more later!

    Visiting Neil, Part IV

    So, mere minutes after I posted on Sunday AM, Hank called me downstairs to join he and Neil for breakfast. Man, homemade flapjacks by Neil for breakfast Saturday, and Neil-made omelots on Sunday -- sweet morning meals, both. Neil's formula for omelets includes a tip he picked up from a British cooking show he watched when he was a mere lad: after melting the butter in the pan, you pour the extra butter melt into the egg omelet mix. Ya, I know, it's not good for me, but it's so goooooooood. It made the omelet one of the tastiest I've ever enjoyed, not to mention the generous amount of local cheese folded into the center of the omelet.

    Also mere moments after I hit the blog 'publish' button Sunday AM, the gunshots from the surrounding woods echoed with a sporadic, almost rapid-fire multiple-shot discharge. Then, silence.

    After breakfast, Neil, Hank and I moved into 'The China Room' to continue the interview, and we'd no longer begun than we heard the 'chop chop chop' of a helicoptor outside -- distant, but close enough to register even in the house.

    Neil looked over at Hank and said, "That would be the day's first hunter being airlifted to the hospital."

    laughed, and I added, "No, really. Why else would a 'coptor be out here on a Sunday morning?" Any marijuana harvest is long gone; deer-hunting season in the Midwest, folks.

    We had a solid interview session, finally getting into some of the writing nuts-and-bolts I was hoping we'd get into, when the arrival of a couple of Neil's amigos derailed our final session. Good people and a timely meeting, for reasons that may manifest later, but it was too bad we got derailed -- and we got into other things. Still, we came away with over seven hours+ of interview tapes and much more, so it was a trip well worth taking in terms of the book project.

    With the interview session essentially over and only a little over an hour left to our weekend with Neil, I took advantage of the disruption to tuck into a cup of coffee and catch up with Mary Gaiman. Mary and I first met and bonded when I visited their UK home in Nutley back in 1990 or so, and it was great to spend some time together. Our half-hour chat turned into an hour of conversation -- again, it's been years! -- and by the time I re-engaged with Hank and Neil, it was time to go.

    I had packed early in the morning, but it took Hank a bit to get his bags together. By the time we were out the door, Neil was standing resolute in the doorway, like some black-bellied poppa: "You don't have time to say goodbye, you have to go or you'll miss your plane, Steve!" He was no doubt happy to see us go, with a full day ahead of him and his own plane flight to prep for, but still, I insisted upon proper farewells all around -- and then we were off.

    The drive to the airport was uneventful, but Hank was sweating the time more than I -- if I missed my plane, I'd catch the next one. Big deal, I didn't have to be anywhere until Tuesday, really. Still, with a 3:25 departure, it was 2:50 when Hank dropped me at the Northwest departures entry -- luck was with me, though, as there wasn't a line. "Can I possibly make a 3:25 departure?" I asked the blonde woman at the Northwest desk. She smiled, "You're fine," and within seconds she had my boarding pass in my hand and I was off to the gate. The plane was already boarding, but the flight wasn't full, and my seat was waiting with ample luggage space overhead.

    I flew back to Boston sitting aisle seat amid a family with six daughters from age four to teenagers, all en route to Beantown. The kids were incredibly well-behaved the whole way, and thanked me profusely when I shared my $5 snack-pack with the clan. The littlest one had a Care Bears backpack -- Dreamcatcher, coincidentally enough, given the Sandman-heavy weekend -- and I was amazed that my own daughter Maia's beloved pop culture debris had come back around for the 21st Century.

    We arrived in Boston ahead of schedule and Chris Golden was waiting for me at the airport. Off we went (I travel only with carry-on these days), and the rest of the evening was sweet, too. Connie Golden had a great plate of grub waiting for me, Chris and I sat up talking for a couple hours (and Chris loaded me up with copies of his latest books, so plenty of winter reading ahead), and I was wide awake enough to head home, arriving in Vermont a little after midnight after a pleasant two-hour drive with Steely Dan music and thoughts of the weekend spinning.

    There's much more to tell, and that I'll do in the days to come. Neil covered a lot of ground with Hank and I, and I've just given the teeniest tip of many icebergs with these posts -- more to come!

    A busy Center for Cartoon Studies day ahead of me -- so, see you here tomorrow. The snow is still pounding down outside, but I've got my snow tires on, so it's all good -- have a great Tuesday, one and all...

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