Good morning, welcome to the Phile, kids. It's summer time! You hoo! Let's start off with the story about Melania Trump wearing an offensive jacket on her way to visit a child detention center. WTF? What was she thinking? Melania Trump went to Texas to visit a detention center for migrant children... not one of the converted Walmarts that houses children who were yanked away from their parents under the Trump administration's "zero tolerance policy," but a detention center nonetheless. "Nice! She cares about children!" you may think, but her jacket literally says otherwise. According to The Daily Mail... and later confirmed by her spokesperson... the First Lady wore a green jacket with "I REALLY DON'T CARE, DO U?" written on the back. This raises the questions... what the actual fuck? What is she thinking? Is she sending us a message? Is a Trump finally telling us the truth? Is she giving Marie Antoinette a run for her money? Does she not speak English? Does she not have a publicist? Did somebody point out in the air how ridiculously insane this is? Are fuck you jackets the new "hurricane heels"? The First Lady's spokesperson confirmed that yes, her jacket did say such a thing, but NO, don't even think about it. I REALLY DON'T CARE, DO U?
Mike Huckabee is an unfortunate combination of things: a racist old man who thinks he's a comedian, but without the kind of daughter (or son) who would call him out for these things. Which is why when the former Arkansas Governor was compelled to tweet this at 8 a.m. on a Saturday morning, someone should have called him to say "DAAAAD! TAKE THAT TWEET DOWN RIGHT NOW! YOU'RE EMBARRASSING ME AND AMERICA," but, sadly, no one did...
For some context, ICYMI: President Donald Trump has been ripping families apart at the border and keeping children in cages. To help justify his actions, he continues to lie, including pushing a fake narrative that he's trying to protect the country from Mexican gang MS-13, with the Democrats' help. Cool lies, bro. Huckabee, who has been a vocal supporter of Trump ever since his daughter became the president's professional lying mouth-piece, is clearly trying to tie Nancy Pelosi to Latin American gang members due to her support for softer immigration policies. The tweet is racist, false, and insulting to Latin American refugees and immigrants, the vast majority of whom come to the U.S. to seek a better life, often escaping brutal poverty and violence back home. We should hardly be shocked by Huckabee's racism at this point. On Cinco de Mayo, he tweeted a racist (and lazy) joke...
"For Cinco de Mayo I will drink an entire jar of hot salsa and watch old Speedy Gonzales cartoons and speak Spanish all day. Happy CdMayo!" Ah, yes. Racism, separation of families, refusing help to refugees and putting children in cages... just what Jesus would have done!
In 2014, Paul Servat, 35, met Barbara Bienvenue, 37, online and after dating just two months, Bienvenue had a surprise for Servat... she was pregnant. As weeks went by, the news became even more shocking. Beinvenue announced she was having twins, then triples, then quadruplets, and finally, quintuplets. There was no way the couple could afford five babies so they started a Facebook page to ask for donations. Their friends, family, and the local community came through with furniture, diapers, and clothing. People around the couple became suspicious because Bienvenue’s belly didn’t look large enough to hold five babies. "I gave her tips on how to handle it, where to get financial support, where to get sponsors for diapers," Genevieve Laflamme told CTV, before saying she noticed many holes in Bienvenue's story. But Servat was completely oblivious to the truth. Soon, the big day came and Servat rushed his pregnant girlfriend to the hospital, but the doctors had bad news for him. "She told me she was not pregnant," he told the Toronto Sun. "The doctors told me it was a phantom pregnancy.” Servat was completely devastated. "She let me choose the names," Servat said between sobs. "I lost everything, it was my whole life." Bienvenue’s family weren’t shocked when they heard the story. She had faked several illnesses in her past, including leukemia. “She cut ties with us in recent months,” said the relative. “She didn’t want us to know about her game.”
A new article published on Politico.com detailed the life of several Trump staffers in Washington D.C., the ways in which they've been heckled on the street, made to feel unwelcome at hip bars, and largely socially isolated by their politics. One section of the article bemoans how it's nearly impossible for millennial staffers to online date in Washington D.C. while working for the administration, that is, if they tell the truth. "When it comes to disclosing their affiliation with Trump, no ground is more fraught than courtship. 'Trump supporters swipe left'... meaning 'don’t even bother trying'... might be the single most common disclaimer on dating app profiles in Washington." The way Trump staffers act as if their chosen politics are a scourge causing persecution only feeds the feelings of schadenfreude around their empty sex lives. Needless to say, people have been dragging the staffers after reading the article. People got pretty brutal about it, which I support given the fact that the Trump administration is currently holding upwards of 2,000 kidnapped immigrant children as political ransom. While we really don't need more articles giving Trump staffers a platform for their petty grievances, this shot of schadenfreude is just what I needed to power through the weekend.
Self care is important, and when you're as busy as Chrissy Teigen is, it can be vital. For some, self care looks like a relaxing bath. For others, it may be a long walk or yoga class. For Teigen, it is a nice vaginal-steaming session in the middle of her living room. Sounds moist! Between raising two young children, making large donations to the ACLU, and being the funniest woman on Twitter, Chrissy found a little time to unwind and treat herself to an at-home vagina steam. What is a vagina steam, you may ask? Well, it is when one squats over a steaming pot of steeping herbs and hot water and lets the steam "rejuvenate" your bits, of course! Fortunately, a "dissolving vagina" is not one of the side effects of vaginal steaming (or v-steaming), which boasts benefits like relieving stress, headaches and stopping fatigue. I am very confused. But does v-steaming actually work? Ehhhhhhhhh, science is not too sure on this one. Some seem to think it's harmless, but according to OB-GYN Dr. Jen Gunter’s website, vaginal steaming can actually be dangerous. But all you really need to know is that ritual became popularized when it was recommended on Gwyneth Paltrow’s website Goop, so take this one with a grain of salt, folks.
So, it's summer and the Phile has a new sponsor...
Ha. You can buy it at your local store. Hey, do you remember Bill from the cartoon "Little Bill"? This is him now...
Feel old yet? I was thinking, if I had a TARDIS I would go to California where they filmed "Battle of the Network Stars" and meet these three ladies, and go on a date...
It'll be fun... I think. So, do you guys like scary stuff? Like ghosts and shit? Check this out...
The image captured here looks to be straight out of a horror film! This photo was allegedly taken as a still from surveillance camera footage. According to many healthcare professionals, ghostly apparitions are not uncommon in a hospital setting. Yeesh. Do you have bad luck? I hope it's not as bad as this the person this happened to...
So, I love the summer, the beach, Star Wars and Slave Leia... well, this picture has it all...
I LOVE that pic. Did you ever meet a celebrity and what you are wearing has something to do with that celebrity and it's a coincidence. It happened to this guy...
If you can't see what his shirt says, it says "Milk, I'm your father." Haha. Marvel does a real good job matching the stunt doubles with actors. Check it out...
You can't really tell here though, can you? So, there's still Royal Wedding souvenirs out there like this
Turns out you can support women's rights AND wear a bra. Some seniors killed it with their senior year book quotes this year.
Haha. Good job, Khalil. If you are thinking about cheating on our loved one you might wanna think twice after seeing this...
Damn. You heard about Trump's Space Force, right? Well...
Hahaha. You know, some people strayed too far from God's light...
Hahahaha. So, my son and I were talking about how we used to watch "Sesame Street" together when he was a kid. Man, that show sure has changed since then...
"I tried to blow my brain out with a shotgun, but didn't realize Muppets don't have brains. Laugh all you want."
If you spot the Mindphuck let me know. Now for the pheature titled for no particular reason...
Giant tarantulas keep tiny frogs as pets, insects will eat the burrowing tarantulas' eggs... so the spiders protect the frogs from predators, and in return the frogs eat the frogs eat the insects.
Hahahaha. Okay, so, a "friend" of the Phile was asked to leave a restaurant. She is very mad and wanted to come on the Phile and talk about it. So, please welcome back to the Phile...
Sarah: Oh, my darling, oh, my darling, oh, my darling Clementine. Hi, Jason. I'm so mad.
Me: So, apparently on Friday night, a server at The Red Hen in Virginia posted on Facebook that you, Trump's press secretary/lying-liar-mouth ate at the restaurant "for 2 minutes" before the owner asked you to leave and you complied. Is that what happened?
Sarah: Yes! Friday night I was told by the owner of Red Hen in Lexington, Virginia to leave because I work for the president and I politely left. Her actions say far more about her than about me. I always do my best to treat people, including those I disagree with, respectfully and will continue to do so.
Me: Sheesh. If I rolled my eyes any harder I would literally BECOME Stanley from "The Office."
Sarah: I don't know who that is.
Sarah: That looks nothing like you, Jason.
Me: I know. Never mind. Sarah, I'm not sure exactly how this works, but if a cake company can legally decide not to serve a couple for being gay, then can't a restaurant can refuse to serve a presidential mouthpiece for enabling a humanitarian crisis??!?!? SEE THAT POINT I JUST MADE?!
Sarah: No, I can't. Don't yell!
Me: Well, Sarah, shortly after the story went viral, The Red Hen’s Yelp and Facebook pages blew up with reviews... both positive and negative. None of them related whatsoever to the food. The majority of the reviews are thanking the restaurant for taking a stand against you who is on the side of prisons for refugee children.
Sarah: But, Jason, others are swarming to the restaurant's page to leave one-star reviews and comments like this one... "Rude, bigoted, hateful staff and owners. What a disappointment," wrote Valarie Waskom.
Me: Of course, this is America, and every restaurant has the right to refuse to serve you! They also have the right to serve you, but only if they sneeze in at least one dish. Haha.
Sarah: Yuck. I'm leaving now.
Me: Okay, see you back here soon. I wish I was on the way to The Red Hen.
I am officially sounding the #jacketgate alarm once more, as Trump himself has now officially weighed in on Melania's offensive choice of jacket while visiting a child detention center. This would honestly be a weird thing for a First Lady to wear NO MATTER WHAT. However, wearing the jacket on a day she's visiting a detention center full of immigrant children is next level villainy, or a distracting PR stunt, which is basically the same thing at this point. At first, people thought it might be a photoshop fake. But it was in fact confirmed as a real outfit choice by none other than Melania's spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham. Unsurprisingly, Grisham got sufficiently trolled after she posted a statement blaming the media for daring to notice Melania's outfit. Just when we thought the mess of #jacketgate couldn't elevate any higher than the hashtag #SheCares, Trump himself decided to weigh in with this precious tweet...
Excuse me while I ponder over what an enormous stretch this tweet is. This tweet is such a stretch its done YEARS of Pilate. If this tweet was a person it would be trying out for Cirque Du Soleil right now. Anyways, as much as it's fun to make fun of #jacketgate, the real life implications behind the Trump administration's sociopathy is terrifying for not only these detained children, but all of us opposing him.
The 82nd book to be pheatured in the Phile's Book Club is...
Kip will be the guest on the Phile next Sunday. Now for some...
Phact 1. Even though almost all planes were grounded during 9/11, there was one nonmilitary plane flying after the FAA ordered all planes to land. This one plane was carrying snake anti-venom to Florida to save a snake handler’s life after he had gotten bit by a Taipan snake.
Phact 2. There is a bullshit asymmetry principle that says the amount of energy needed to refute bullshit is an order of magnitude bigger than to produce it.
Phact 3. A 38-year-old woman named Joyce Vincent died in her London flat watching TV, and her body lay undisturbed until almost 3 years later when city officials came to repossess the apartment due to unpaid rent.
Phact 4. Due to a typo, the Japanese company Mizuho Securities tried to sell 610,000 shares for a yen each (less than a penny) instead of 1 share for 610,000 yen (around $5,000). Despite three separate attempts to cancel it, the Tokyo Stock Exchange processed it anyway, costing the company $225 million.
Phact 5. In 2007, the science advocacy group Sense About Science contacted the manufacturers of 15 “detox” products. When pressed, not a single detox peddler contacted could come up with a definition of what they meant by detox.
Today's guest is a director and producer of animated films. He has won an Oscar for his work, and several Emmy Awards and Clio Awards for his studio's work. Please welcome to the Phile... Will Vinton.
Me: Hey, Will, welcome to the Phile. How are you?
Will: I'm good, Jason. Good to be here.
Me: I love that mustache by the way.
Will: I'm conscious of it. I always hope it goes in the right direction. Haha.
Me: You live in Portland, Oregon, right? You've been there a long time. I always wanted to go there. What do you like about it?
Will: Yeah, I'm still here. I really enjoy the lifestyle more than anything. It has good music scene and a lot of artists around. It has a good filmmaking scene back then which was pretty cool.
Me: Man, looking at your resume I don't know where to start. Were you creative when you were a kid, sir?
Will: Well, I was one of those creative kids. I grew up in a small town so you have to understand in McMinnville in Oregon it was kind of cool I guess that them for a short period of time we did all kind of things. For a small town I was jock, and a pretty good student. I had two older sister's that were a strong influence on me, they were pretty artistic and danced and played piano and stuff. I have to give my parents a lot of credit because we had living room absolutely filled to the gills with musical instruments... a piano of course, a vibraphone, a sax or two, trumpet, two accordions, banjo, guitars. It was just kind of a music room in a formal living room that my mother seemed to not mind collecting all this stuff around. They were real supporters of artistic stuff. Anyway, I really wanted to play drums when I was young and my sister's somehow got the ear of my parents and they would go into Portland for dance lessons on evenings and weekends and they thought I really needed dance lessons. Actually in the end I took tap dancing. It was like of I was going to do the drumming I was going to do dance lessons as well was their point of view I think. I ended up really liking tap dancing, I wish was good enough to be like Fred Astaire. If I get drunk enough I guess I could "Fred Astaire" across a bar somewhere. But I haven't yet gotten that drunk I guess. I played in bands as a drummer through my junior high school years in the Rhythm Blades and the Henchmen, Lord Jim and the Counts. I played a little piano, I played saxophone a little bit.
Me: When did you get into art and stuff, Will?
Will: I was kind of into art and stuff more at that time. I was really a product of Sputnik. As anybody knows anybody who has any math/science capabilities when I was going into college was being pushed into going into math/science physicist or chemist, whatever it is to help the U.S. get ahead of the Russians who clearly were ahead of us in the space race. I dutifully became a student of that and matched off to be a physicist at the University of California in Berkeley. There I ran into unbelievably smart 18-year-olds that used me as a stepping stone. I did make it all the way through being a junior in physics, that was probably the most grueling two years of my entire life just because it was such intense of math and science work. It was great school and I was surrounded by brilliant students. I'm so glad I'm surrounded by people like that. I wasn't cut out for it and I was constantly looking over my shoulder at my art student friends work. I was deciding to go and finish getting my degree in architecture because I kind of took some art history classes because I just loved being in the architecture department. That worked out pretty terrific because I already did all the hard stuff in architecture... all the map and engineering.
Me: Didn't you start to do some filmmaking at Berkeley. sir?
Will: Yeah, I started to do projects for term papers and things like that. At the end of an architectural project I started using film and that was my first introduction in a big way. I started designing with plasticine clay. That was really my introduction in a serious way... when I was a little kid I made little clay models that I put firecrackers underneath them to see what would happen and stuff like that. It was interesting to me because I did have this other life and some of my other jock friends I played football with and track gave me a little bit of a hard time about all the music stuff and dance. I really enjoyed doing a lot of different things. I have to say that's something about being a film maker in general and an animator overseeing animated projects. All the different disciplines that I sort of get into and I pull in from who knows where in my past to do certain projects. There's no project that I have ever doe that was really similar to the one before it. In fact I kind of made it less interesting for me and also for the colleagues I nurtured and worked with me. We all kind of felt the same way. Everybody that I gravitated to and hired were really renaissance people as well as being great artists and animators.
Me: Your first film was Closed Mondays, right? I just watched it on YouTube and the detail on that characters face was amazing. I have to show a screenshot of it.
Will: Closed Mondays feels like it was my first film but it really wasn't the first film because I made probably 8 or 9 experimental films in college, particularly in the architecture department. Because I was at Berkeley in the 60s I carried a camera with me to classes when we were protesting to get the U.S. out of Vietnam. I got some amazing footage. One of the better films I did was called Some For a Better Deal which ended up being a lot of valuable footage that ended up being in films in Berkeley in the 60s almost as liberty footage. My first love I guess was doing these experimental things, a lot of it was pixelation. I took a human and basically moved them around one move at a time and create these funny fast action things. Sometimes I'll do it with just objects. One of the most fun things I did was I was always sharing houses and things with artists and architects. Early on the stop motion camera got used a lot to set up on the table top with lights... it was a basic kind of set up. Using the plasticine as a medium we would do it sort of like entertainment. I might have people working on several different things. If I remember correctly some of them were pretty strange. It was like everybody we are going to shoot a shot now and everyone backs away and we shoot a frame, and we're back in, take a sip of beer on the side. We would spent one evening doing it and unlike today we had to wait until the next day because we had to have it processed and printed because it was all film. There was some real magic in some of those early crazy experiments. A lot of it was pornographic as what you could expect by the people who were involved.
Me: When you were doing these films did you know it was something you wanted to keep doing?
Will: Yeah, because I thought there was some magic in some of what happened with the clay. When the clay moved, if it was done subtlety, was not unlike flesh in a kind of strange wonderful sort of way. I was intrigued enough that I promised myself to do some more of that. After college I finished up a documentary on counter-culture called Gone For a Better Deal, and then settled back in the Portland area and then started working just to make a living. I did editing and camera work and some directing of industrial documentaries and commercials. I did a lot of editing and I feel I learned a lot about filmmaking through editing puberty just about anything else. There was about five years where I was doing little projects on the side and in the basement on my own while doing these jobs and learning a lot of great skills.
Me: When did you first meet Bob Gardiner, Will? He was a big help for you, right?
Will: It was about '73 when I called Bob, who was a great sculptor. He was in California and wasn't doing much and I said come on up, stay at my place and we'll make a film. We'll make a proper little short to show off some of the clay. He came up and we did some experimenting first, trying to get armatures to work and trying to get characters to walk, learning to mix clays and colors and different kind of things. This was all done in weekends and evenings because I was working full time at a couple of different companies. With Bob the goal was to make a film, and what we did was kind of decided what were the best techniques that we've been experimenting with to show off and put into this film. The point of it was to show off what this stuff could do because we really haven't seen anything like it.
Me: There were other stop motion stuff before your films, Will. Is there any of them that were an influence of yours?
Will: There was some other stop motion stuff for sure especially from eastern Europe and some clay, usually it as monochromatic. There was a great film that I loved by Eli Noyes called Origin of the Species which is a wonderful film but was all black and white or monochrome done to jazz music. I loved that, that was done several years before I got into this stuff. I wanted to use full color, I wanted to use all of the techniques that I learned as a filmmaker... using close-ups, using rack focusing to create interesting places where your eye is forced to focus, one place or another. I used a lot of cutting techniques. In a way to felt to me before that time animation often times was done like theater. The characters would run in and there was all this action and so forth, they would run out, take off in other directions. It felt to me that a lot of stuff was done without the incredible vocabulary we had developed with just general filmmaking. Some of that comes in the cutting, the way things are cut, but also a lot of it is camera movement and a whole range of things that we didn't have in much animation.
Me: Was Closed Mondays an easy thing to write and film?
Will: It was an easy script to write in a way. We had so much trouble with armatures and getting the characters to stand straight and walk very well. We decided without hesitation was he would be a drunk. Haha. He had to be, he just couldn't stand up very well. The other thing I liked a lot was the idea that he was a kind of a critic if you will... a doubter of art. He wanders into an art museum presumedly when its closed on Monday. Each of the various pieces of art he runs into says something to him I guess. Importantly they were each a different technique that we kind of wanted to show off. It was in way a list strung together of these little techniques with hopefully a nice arc hopefully with kind of a twist ending.
Me: So, what did you do with it and what did Bob do?
Will: I did all the filmmaking and some of the animation and so forth, especially the technical animation. Bob was a master at doing these facial things. We actually tried and wanted to get a lot of detail into the expressions. We actually went out and got from a local hobby store a full size skull that we built an enormous armature for and shoulders and covered it in clay and used prosthetic eyeballs that we got from the eye bank. They were spooky, with the skeleton with these eyeballs. We had it in the basement of my house and we would go down there and thought my God, it was like he was looking at us. It was very bizarre. We found that we really could use that for a great deal for extreme close-ups and get great shots. Having said that, leaping forward it was an enormous amount of clay material. We went just using fingers to sculpt, we were using tools wrenching on things, pounding on things. It was hard to try to get this mass of clay to mover around. We actually found later on working in a smaller scale and having it not be full sized. There's no question really because all this massive clay it has finger prints all over the thing, and there's something wonderful about it. With Bob's sculpting he couldn't really do something refined like a beautiful woman, his thing was this sort of craggy thing. This weathered wino character was sort of perfect.
Me: Is there anything you avoided to do in all your films?
Will: Mixing mediums. That was one of the reasons I gravitated to all clay on everything. When you take the movie like Adventures of Mark Twain, 12 years later, everything was done in clay. The idea was there was no materials, where you see a weave that isn't sculpted.
Me: Closed Monday won an Academy award, sir. That must of been cool, right?
Will: Yeah, and it was a bit of a mile stone. We were up against Disney and Warner Bros., so it was really cool because it was we realized early on we were breaking some very cool ground which had not been touched much. It made those times very fun and it spurred us on to wanting to do something that was creative and original for a decade which is what we did.
Me: So, what's with those California Raisins and how did you get involved with it? When we moved from England to Florida it was just at the end of that craze I think.
Will: This was actually after of course of 15 years of doing clay stop motion. In '86 we were approached by Foote, Cone & Belding in San Francisco which was an advertising agency. The California Raisin Advisory Board wanted to do some commercials. They had a tiny media budget which was 5 million dollar for a year or so. You have to compare it in those days Coca-Cola would spent 500 million on their media buys. Five million sounds like a lot of money I suppose but it was for that kind of thing. It sounded like a really good concept and we've done a few commercials like Domino's Pizza Noid, and a few for Kentucky Fried Chicken. They were pretty good and I enjoyed doing commercials. This came from the creative director, Seth Werner, they wanted to personified the raisins and they wanted they knew they wanted to use "I Heard It Through the Grapevine" already, which was brilliant. It sort of sent the tone for everything, the choreography, the designs, the story telling... it had the Motown looks and attitudes, the music was really well done. It was a pretty interesting project and we actually bought in some dancers to do some sort of pre-hip hop dance moves that were still in the Motown feel and the Motown dancers. We shoot the dancers as a reference film of them and studied a lot of the moves. They started playing the first spot in various regions, and within about 10 days the thing was amazing talked about and was a hit. It was hardly seen but everyone knew about it. It spurred on making more commercials, and it was just amazing how it took everybody by storm. It got a lot of press and it was kind of what put claymation on the map for a period of time. We struggled with that after that for a long time because it was almost like raisins are claymation as opposed this body of work we've been doing with all kinds of techniques and all. It was great fun, great projects.
Me: You worked with Ray Charles on one of the commercials, am I right?
Will: Yeah, we worried with some celebrity entertainers. We did Ray Charles first. We shot Ray in the studio singing the song live and we photographed him, again using the reference film of him doing his version, a very Ray Charles version of "I Heard It Through the Grapevine," again the Raisins came out and backed him up. We tried forever to do one with Whoopi Goldberg, I designed her but for whatever reason just didn't hit, just didn't work.
Me: And you worked with Michael Jackson? What was that like?
Will: Yeah, one of the best ones was we were working with Michael Jackson on his Moonwalker. I got acquainted with him a but, and this was at the top of Michael's career. Its kind of a good story... I was working at the studio in Portland and my assistant comes in and Michael wants to talk to me, my assistant says. I said I'll call him right back after my meeting. My assistant was kind of persistent saying he really wanted to talk to me right now, it was really, really urgent and something important. So, I went to talk to him for a little bit and I realized that after a bit we were shooting the breeze on just small talk. I hadn't yet figured out what he was fishing for until we got on the subject of the California Raisins. I finally said to Michael let's make you a California Raisin. That's kind of what he was going for. So it led to a brilliant project, really one of my favorites actually that we did, that was really Michael Jacksonesque inspired and it was done as a 6o second commercial. It was done for theaters primarily when theaters were doing some commercials. It was really an amazing experience. He told me he had a terrible experience with Pepsi Cola a month before. He earned 10 million dollars just to do this spot and in he process of the production he had all this terrible arguments with the advertising people. He also caught his hair on fire, the whole thing was an awful experience for him. He told me with no uncertain terms, "Listen, Will, I'll do it free, I'll do it gratis, if I don't have to meet the agency people." The agency people were MY bosses so it put me in an awkward position for sure to even tell them. In the first meeting it was like, "Great news, guys, we got Michael Jackson for free. He wants in on the creative. That's the good news. The bad news is he doesn't even want to meet you." They agreed but they thought he wouldn't actually stick to that. He did and they were disappointed in that part of it. For me it was a dream because he had set it up that he and I would do the creative on it. That led to a really great experience with Michel personally because I would go down several times to Neverland and stay in his guest quarters for a few days, just working with him one on one. My wife went with me a few times and we'd take these golf carts out to see the zoo. The whole thing was just outrageous. He couldn't see the forest for the trees sometimes and I would say he couldn't see the forest for the bark on the trees. He was so focused on the details and as long as someone was looking out for the forest that worked beautifully.
Me: That's so cool. Did you like working with celebrities, Will?
Will: Well, I found out with working with celebrities in a stage or a shooting setting if they have a lot of entourage around them.. attorneys, agents, family, and often times these guys do. I found out that I have a theory that they have to really keep up a facade and it's not much fun with all these people around because it makes the person clam up.
Me: You worked with Eddie Murphy on something called "The PJs," which I vaguely remember. What was it like working with him?
Will: One on one it was wonderful, but again frankly it was a pain when his entourage was around. It was just like headaches all the time.
Me: You also did the M&M commercials, but they are CGI. What was that step for you like? Did you miss the clay work after that?
Will: Really we began to see especially in the early 90s we always had an interest in digital tools but in the early 90s computer animation was just beginning to get to where it was artist accessible. You had to be a programmer to even touch the stuff and the stories that were being made in the early 90s were dreadfully awful with what a computer geek might come up with. There was a transition that happened in the early 90s where software began to be really pretty usable. At the same time what we were doing was less about claymation per say and more about great characters. We slightly took a different twist where everything in the past had been all clay to do everything now in CG. We had a lot of commercial work in those days, especially after the California Raisins and we began to offer it either way. You can do it in claymation or you can do it in computer animation. We kind of maintained a look and a style with the approach to the characters. The M&M's was an interesting case because the agency in New York City kind of bought the word of I remember right to all the key animation companies, ILM was included in that and maybe Pixar early on. Many of the companies that were really focused on computer animation were very interested. They had put the word that they had wanted to make the M&M's 3D. M&M's had a campaign 70 years ago now where they were just little drawn characters. Everybody knew about M&m's and the little chocolatey characters, but no one really knew them. What we did was actually, and I suggest this to other people that might be pitching ideas, we were up against the ILM's of the world, brilliant stuff and they showed off gorgeous CG stuff. We took a different tact, we said its not about technique, we could do CG, no problem. What's really important is the characters and attitude of the characters. So we showed them so really lovely drawings that was focused on attitude and the persona of each of these different characters. They had this whole backstory and who they were. Red always wanted to be the center of attention, but the trouble is if you're a candy coated candy being the center of attention can be dangerous. It's really what sold this agency on us was we really were telling them, and they agreed I think, what's more important.
Me: What was it like when you got the M&M contract? Those characters have not changed in all those years.
Will: When we were awarded with the project we had limited experience with computer animation. It was agreed that was the better way to go and I think the agency wanted to go. We really had to jump all over it. I think we succeeded in those commercials just by brute force. There was a lot of post work in all that as well.
Me: I read that you lost your own company and couldn't use your own name. That's fucking insane. What happened?
Will: Well... it's a kind of a long story. Once we had done the TV shows, we did "Gary & Mike" after "The PJs," the company had really gotten large. At one point we had 450 employees. I was a huge company and I was trying to get back into where it was just tiny and I was just a filmmaker. As it grew we had really good people but there was still an awful lot of business stuff to have to deal with. I found I was less and less involved. I tried to help out because we'd bring in other budding directors so we could do multiple projects and multiple episodes. For me personally it was sort of unsatisfying with the joy I had with. I would create the whole thing the way we wanted to. I was sort of looking to get back to a kind of form like that. I thought maybe hiring a CEO for the company to run the company and take us presumably to another level would be the answer. I tried that and in a way that backfired and we ended up spending a lot of money on the CEO and his people, and they felt we could grow, grow, grow and they didn't understand the business that we already created. We were successful but not really a huge growth. We had a few investors and one of the key investors was Phil Knight who came in with a small investment and a small piece of the company. He had an interesting thing whereas we lost some money which we never had. He had an army of attorneys and was able to take control of the board because we had lost money a couple of years in a row right around 2002. It was just becoming more and more of a headache personally for me so I kind of sold out. The only kind of dispute I feel I had it wasn't a fair market value at all. That's another story. It's really water under the bridge as far I'm concerned. Truth is I succeeded. The silver lining in all that was I really did succeed in getting to go out and do my own thing again.
Me: Was it hard for you afterwards to kinda restart?
Will: For a few years they kept the Will Vinton Studios name and that made it hard for me to do other things but then they changed it to Laika not to soon after that. That wasn't a huge problem but it was kind of a thorn I guess in the side a little bit. But since then I really had a lot of fun.
Me: What are you working on now?
Will: I actually been doing a lot of different things. I did graphic novels for Darkhorse. We may make a movie out of that. It's called Jack Hightower. I am writing a lot of screenplays for animated movies. I actually got into theater and am working on a musical with fantastic songwriter. We have been working on one for a while called The Kiss, which is kind of an adult version of The Frog Prince. I have a couple of others that are on the back burner.
Me: You love music, right?
Will: Always have. So to do musicals is like a dream come true.
Me: Okay, so, you have done so much, is there a project you hate and wish you could go back and do it again?
Will: That's an interesting question. There are a few of them that never got finished because I hated them and fortunately got rid of them before we spent money to do post production work on them.
Me: Ahhh. So, didn't the California Raisins have an animated TV show?
Will: Yeah, when the California Raisins were really popular CBS wanted to do a Saturday morning show. Everything we did prior to that was kind of for adults, it was all prime specials. The problem was that CBS's Saturday morning budget as so small and we were really cheap in our work as well, they were even tighter. There was a system already built up with cell animation as to how those were done. We kind of followed that model and decided to do them in cell animation. We did the storyboard and audio here and sent them over to Korea at that time to one of the companies that did the characters. We had really good Motown songs in the episode and we envisioned this thing to be really pretty cool. We got back this animation that was so stiff and jerky. Not that it wasn't smooth it didn't have any finesse about it. What we kind pf realized was the Korean animators, at least at that time did not know what it meant to be cool. I'm just this white guy and not inner city black here but I really grew up on great Motown entertainment. We realized it was going to be a pretty tough thing and we went out and finished that whole season out but there's a really lot of dorky animation. If I could go back I'd redo that whole thing in claymation.
Me: Will, thank you so much for being here on the Phile. This was one of my favorite interviews I did on this stupid little blog.
Will: It's a pleasure, thank you so much. It's not a stupid little blog, it's a cool thing you are doing here.
Me: Thanks, Will. Take care. You're welcome back any time.
That about does it for this entry of the Phile. Thanks to Will for a great interview. The Phile will be back tomorrow with... get this... Yusuf/Cat Stevens. Yup. I can't believe it. Spread the word, not the turd. Don't let snakes and alligators bite you. Bye, love you, bye.
Not if it pleases me. No, you can't stop me, not if it pleases me. - Graham Parker