Baal Shem Tov & Tawd Dorenfeld


My mother teaches at Santa Rosa Junior College in Northern California. It being a typical community college, she has all kinds of students - would-be firefighters, cowboy types, football players, and housewives. She has a soft spot for the mad geniuses.

One of her very early students was a guy named Tawd Dorenfeld, who named a punk rock band after her. A mad genius if ever there was one. Tawd now works as an animator - he's done animations for people as diverse as Serj Tankian (of System of a Down) and Rosanne Barr. His animations are beautiful and subtly twisted.

His latest project is a series of animated versions of the stories of the great Rebbe Baal Shem Tov. As Tawd describes him, "The Baal Shem Tov was the first Rebbe of the Chassidic Jewish Movement who reinvigorated Judaism in the mid 1700s across Europe. His style of Judaism was that of a Joyous religion and culture instead of the dreary fearful Judaism of the past. He is recorded to have 100s of stories untapped by the Film Industry, until now."

You can find out more about the project at Holy World Productions.

Chris Ware for This American Life


Quimby The Mouse from This American Life on Vimeo.

Real American Hero Chris Ware made this cartoon for the live This American Life that ran in movie theaters a week or so ago. Give its creator, you will not by surprised to learn that it is A) spectacularly beautiful and B) heartrendingly sad.

If you missed the first showing, it will run again in theaters on May 7th.

Kids Today


Kids today are an embarassment. Where's the respect for real sports? (Butt racing.)

Via BB

Art Spiegelman's "Be a Nose"


A beautiful animated trailer for Art Spiegelman's next book, from McSweeney's.

Art was a wonderful TSOYA guest some years ago; his interview is worth a listen.

Neil Gaiman and Henry Selick on "Coraline", an interview on The Sound of Young America


Neil Gaiman is an award-winning writer in a number of forms. He broke ground in the world of comics with his 1980s series Sandman, which followed the god of sleep through a series of beautiful and sometimes terrifying adventures in the world of dreams. His books of prose include the acclaimed adult novel American Gods and the recent Newbury Medal-winning young adult book The Graveyard Book.

Gaiman's 2002 novel Coraline is the basis of Henry Selick's film of the same name. Selick is the master of stop motion animation behind the films The Nightmare Before Christmas and James and the Giant Peach, as well as the animated sequences in Wes Anderson's The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. He filmed Coraline in 3D, and talks about creating the movie's immersively beautiful visuals, and about adapting the book for the screen.

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Interview: Casey Willis and Christian Danley, writers for Frisky Dingo.


Casey Willis and Christian Danley are both writers for 70-30 Productions, an animation production house that has produced such classics as Sealab 2021 and Frisky Dingo. Their new spin-off series,"The Xtacles," premieres November 9th on Adult Swim on Cartoon Network. Casey O'Brien got a chance to talk with the writers about their new show and their lack of qualifications for their jobs.

How did you both get started in the world of animation, and in particular, "Frisky Dingo?"

CW: Christian and I both attended the Atlanta College of Art. After I graduated, I was teaching English in Japan when Christian started working for 70-30. When I returned to the states, he greeted me at the airport with a Sealab t-shirt and a smile. I thought he had the coolest job on earth. A few months later I asked him if I could try out for an internship at 70-30. That internship eventually led to a full-time position.

CD: I was an improvisor at a local theatre here in Atlanta called Dad's Garage. Matt Thompson came and saw an improv show shortly after 70-30 Productions had finished the first couple episodes of Sealab 2021. He asked me to come in and help write on a script. That was about 7 years ago.

You have both worked on the show "Frisky Dingo" and are now moving onto the spin off, "The Xtacles." What is it about working and writing for an animated series, as opposed to a live action sitcom, that you find most appealing?

: Because of our style of animation, we can make changes to the show very late in the process. I think that is a freedom you might not have on a live action sitcom, especially one filmed in front of a live studio audience.

: Working on what we'd call a "real TV show," as opposed to our semi-fake one, would probably dictate a much larger crew. Our shop is small, there are only 8 of us who make this whole cartoon. That means we all have a hand in just about every aspect of the process. The illustrators and animators comment heavily on our scripts (they are always jerks), and we offer feedback on their drawings and animations (we are always supportive). I couldn't imagine we'd have that same luxury in a larger production company.

Why did you guys decide to do a spin off of "Frisky Dingo" and how is it going to be different?

: Cartoon Network was interested in doing a Frisky Dingo spin-off and the Xtacles seemed like a natural choice. One of the biggest differences between Frisky Dingo and The Xtacles is the Xtacles will be taking off their helmets and you'll finally be able to see what they look like. One Xtacle did take his helmet off in Frisky Dingo but we only saw the back off his head before he was dismembered by Awesome-X.

: Before Frisky Dingo we did Sealab. Almost every episode of Sealab ended with it blowing up, and the world re-setting. Frisky Dingo was heavily serialized where some jokes don't payoff for 3 or 4 episodes (if ever). Our goal is for The Xtacles to be something comfortably in-between.

This new breed of cartoons with adult content is still a relatively new phenomenon. What are some of your influences in writing for this program?

: I like to watch The Soup and Best Week Ever and if the same joke is made on both programs I know it must be funny. Then, I steal those jokes and write them a third time because I have been told that the third time is a charm.

: I love television, I have watched it my whole life. Also, technically we shouldn't be allowed to write for a living, as we have no training in it. So we write television for people who grew up watching television. The jaded, cynical, and smart assed jerks who think they know everything about television, not because they went to television school, but because they've studied it all their lives just by watching. This group of people is notoriously hard to please. (apparently... they're jerks)

The show is obviously not meant for children. Do you ever have trouble getting certain jokes on the show or is there an inherent understanding when it comes to programming on Adult Swim?

CW: In Frisky Dingo we really wanted Xander Crews to say "god dammit" without censoring it. We were told there had to be a full one second pause between the words "God" and "Dammit". On that day I learned a full second is the difference between righteousness and blasphemy.

: Because we're on Cartoon Network there is always the potential that a kid could tune in. So they really go over our scripts with a fine tooth comb. We like to use any "offensive precedents" set by other shows as leverage to get our own offensive jokes on the air. This has varying degrees of success.

Go check out The Xtacles, which premieres on November 9th at Midnight on Adult Swim on Cartoon Network.

Podcast: TSOYA Classic: Dog Days

Demetri Martin

We continue our journey into The Sound of Young America's vast audio archive with this program from The Sound of Young America Classics.

H. Jon Benjamin has an unmistakable voice. You might recognize him as the voice of Ben on the animated show Dr. Katz, or coach John McGuirk from Home Movies. He's also written for shows such as Late Night with Conan O'Brien and Human Giant among others. What you don't know, is what he does with the proceeds. Demetri Martin is a stand up comedian and and also a former writer for Late Night. Dimitri, a Yale graduate, explains why he decided to drop out of NYU law school and how he found the path to comedy.


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I used to go to Spike & Mike's Festival of Animation every year as a kid, at the Castro Theater in San Francisco. This was without a doubt my all-time number one favorite. 8-year-old Jesse laughed and laughed and laughed and laughed.

Thanks to Chris Hardwick for reminding me of it.

Duck Amuck

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As MaxFunster PlumberDuck correctly identified in the "cartoons" thread, Duck Amuck is one of the greatest things ever in the history of anything.

"Thanks for the sour persimmons, cousin."

Podcast: TSOYA Classic: The Movies


We continue our journey into The Sound of Young America's vast audio archive with this program from The Sound of Young America Classics.

In this classic episode we speak to the creator of Adult Swim's animated series "Home Movies" Brendan Small, and the directors of "Twin Falls Idaho" and authors of "The Declaration Of Independent Filmmaking" Mark and Michael Polish. Also Peter Molyneux creator of the groundbreaking games "Populous" and "Black and White" stops by to talk to us about his game "The Movies".

Please share your thoughts on the show in the comments section!

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