FUNKY FUN THING #3: MCKINLEY HIGH SCHOOL BUMPER STICKER

I got the following fan-created item on May 13, 2000 at the Museum Of TV and Radio (now known as the Paley Center For Media) in Beverly Hills.  A few folks (super fans of the show we were about to see) were handing them out to everybody as mementos from the event.  I've taped it up in every office and cubicle I've ever inhabited, and now I post it for you...

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For those of you who think that William McKinley High is the fictitious school from the television show "Glee" you're correct.  But not for the purposes of this blog.  McKinley is the name of the high school in "Glee," but their mascot is the Titans and their colors are red and black (as opposed to the green viking).  If you think McKinley is the school from "The Wonder Years" then congratulations!  You're also sort of right.  Except my bumper sticker is actually from another show.  This bumper sticker is a reference to the amazingly amazing television show, "Freaks and Geeks!"  By the way, if you're wondering, "What's the deal with all the McKinleys?", you're not alone. According to Judd Apatow, William McKinley's name "was the only president's name that was legally clearable."  

I've been friends with the fun folks at The Paley Center since 1997 when I drew pictures for kids at their International Children's Festival. Because of that, I've had the privilege of attending a number of sold out events, one of which was a special screening for the public (along with the cast and crew) of the final six unaired episodes featuring a live Q & A with both Paul Feig and Judd Apatow.

FUN FACT: The special screening was one of the only times they ever publicly showed the episode, "Noshing and Moshing" using the song "Only Love Can Break Your Heart" by Neil Young.  For me, that song was used so well in the show, that when the episode finally made it to air in the summer, it was jolting (not to mention disappointing) when the Dean Martin's song, "You're Nobody Till Somebody Loves You,"  played instead of Neil Young.  Unfortunately, they couldn't get the licensing rights to the song which is too bad because it made that particular scene really poignant and memorable.

By now, you're probably thinking, "So how does 'Freaks and Geeks' apply to Van's career in animation?"  Or you're thinking, "I could go for some Cheez-It's right about now."  Either way, I'll tell you (as you enjoy your mid-blog snack).

It was during Judd and Paul's panel, that I was inspired to pursue a career as a writer.  I don't remember exactly what they said, but I remember how they made me feel (exactly like the Maya Angelou quote!).  They made me want to write about my life experiences in a way that touched audiences the way they did for me.  It wasn't that long before I started on the Christmas Special of Johnny Bravo and the subsequent fifth season.  Not only did I write two Johnny Bravo holiday specials (my first full-on scripts), but I also ended up writing almost half the episodes of the 13 episode order.  After that, I wrote several full length features (both animated and live-action) not to mention several other television scripts.  And I haven't stopped since.

And because I was such a fan, I had to spread the gospel of F & G. Since I had all the episodes recorded on VHS tapes, I brought the uninitiated into the fold by having weekly screenings at Cartoon Network.  On top of that, I was still casting and recording episodes during these marathon screenings so, of course, I had to get some of the actors from the show to do voices!

First off, was Samm Levine in the episode, "Back From The Future."

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Back Row: Pete Oswald (Production Assistant now working character designer), Danny Strong (actor, Buffy The Vampire Slayer), Samm Levine (actor, Neal Schweiber), Jeff Bennett (actor, Johnny Bravo), Amanda Foreman (actor, Felicity), Craig Bartlett (creator, Hey Arnold!)  

Front Row: Robert Serda (recording engineer), Collette Sunderman (VO Director), me, Dee Bradley Baker (actor, Perry The Platypus) 

The next actor I got to work with was Biff Tanner himself, Tom Wilson!

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Back Row: Jeff Bennett (actor, Johnny Bravo), Tom Wilson (actor, Coach Fredricks), Collette Sunderman (VO Director), Catherine Cavadini (actor, Blossom on Powerpuff Girls), Tara Strong (actor, Bubbles on Powerpuff Girls), Lea Salonga (actor, Miss Saigon), Lou Fagenson (composer)

Front Row: Pete Oswald (Character Designer), me, Diana Ritchey (Line Producer)

Both actors were a joy to work with and it was fun "Freaks And Geeks" bonding with them.  It was Tom that told me that they did some commentaries playing their actual characters for the upcoming DVD release.  If you haven't heard it yet, it's pretty awesome.

Finally, as a treat, before I end this post, I thought I'd elaborate on my number 3 "cool thing" and share a few of the items that went up on Ebay after the show was cancelled.  I didn't have the money to buy them, but I'm positive that these items were bought by true fans who gave them a good home.

So, to reiterate, I don't have any of the actual items, but I downloaded the low-res facsimiles of them from Ebay back in 2000.  Now, without further adieu, I give you...

3.1. THE LEISURE SUIT

Does it look familiar?  Maybe if you saw it in context...

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BILL:  I heard my mom say to her girlfriend, "Any guy with feathered hair is foxy."

3.2 CINDY SANDER'S CHEERLEADER OUTFIT

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BILL:  Sam, don't worry. It's just a game. I mean, I'm good at Mouse Trap, and you're really good at Kerplunk.
SAM:  No. No no no, it's not that. It's just this thing with Cindy. She's kind of, she's kind of boring.
BILL:  Really?
SAM:  It's weird hanging out with her friends. And, I mean, all she ever wants to do is make out and stuff.
NEAL:  I'd kill to be that bored. 

3.3 SHIA LABEOUF'S VIKING MASCOT COSTUME

If you were the one that bought this item on Ebay, please write in and let me know.  I'm just curious because I wouldn't even begin to know what to do with it.

3.4 TWO PICS FROM THE FAMILY ROOM

In the words of Neal Schweiber, "Friday night - always a good night for some Sabbath."  So until next time, shine on you crazy diamonds!

FUNKY FUN THING #2: THE HP PAVILON MEDIA CENTER

This past weekend, I put a call out to a few of my friends to see if they had any old television sets or computers lying around their house, waiting to be recycled.  Not that I was on a recycling binge, but I needed something for a particular soiree I was going to that night. Luckily, my friend, Ryan, happened to have a computer tower that he had been meaning to get rid of for a few months now...

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Now this may look like an ordinary computer tower, but it was actually my ticket to pure unadulterated aggression: The 8th Annual Titmouse Smashing Party!

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What is a Smashing Party you ask?  Well, according to the invitation, "We supply the tools, you supply the items to smash."  The event has been going on since about 2004 and I always had something going on that kept me from coming.  But this weekend was different.  This weekend I was going to see what all the hubbub was about.

Besides food trucks, live bands, and free booze, the activities included "Smashing stuff (like TV monitors, computers, pictures, vases, plates, statues, and things you hate) with one or more of the following implements: hammer, baseball bat, axe, brick, golf club, lead pipe, 2 X 4, bowling ball, and sledgehammer."

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I brought the HP Pavilion Media Center.

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What you can't see, are all the people in the bleachers sitting beside the cage and the crowd of people watching on the ground, surrounding the cage behind the yellow tape.  It was like a scene out of "Fight Club."  People were cheering, holding up their phones, capturing the moments.  Before I went in, people were smashing old tube TV's (they made the biggest explosions), toilets, and one guy even smashed a Teddy Ruxpin doll.  The crowd cheered like crazy with every hit (fueled by the fact that the majority of them were enebriated).

It was my first time out, so I was kind of nervous going in.  First of all, you have to gear up with hand and face protection.  I went for the safety goggles and full "Dexter's Lab" gloves.  When you first enter, there's a bucket filled with a number of instruments for smashing.  I bypassed the samurai sword and settled on the hybrid ax/sledgehammer.  I thought about using the bowling ball, but knew that I needed to take out more aggression.

I figured I wasn't going to get a huge crowd of people watching me since I had a simple computer tower (no expectant crowd-pleasing explosion).  But as I walked in the cage, the founder of Titmouse, Chris Prynoski, went on his bullhorn to make an announcement to the crowd. As the crowd thickened, I waited my turn to hear what Chris had to say.  At one point during his call for people's attention, he turned to look inside the cage and saw me.  I playfully waved over to him and, to my surprise, he yelled into the bullhorn, "Hey everybody!  Let's watch Van Partible smash something!"

The crowd cheered and, with all eyes on me... it was on.

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My years of untapped anger unleashed itself for a little under a minute until I swung my last swing and walked off, thug appeal intact.  And just so you know, it felt REALLLY COOL!   There's something about holding an ax/sledgehammer with a crowd cheering you on that feels kind of... "demented and sad, but social."  (Big thanks to my manger, Schuyler Evans, for capturing my inner "Rick Grimes" on camera.)  

Just so you know, it wasn't all smashing (although, it was smashing in a Thurston Howell III kind of way).  There was also a lot of waiting. There were about a thousand people there (which you can't really tell from my pictures) and I had to wait about an hour and a half to smash my tower.  Some people waited over two hours!  But I got to meet some really cool people in line so the time went by pretty fast.  Luckily, the party lasted from 5 to 11:oo that night so just about everybody got to smash something.  Afterwards, I got to catch up with old friends from all the different studios.  A fun run-in I had was with Maxwell Atoms (creator of The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy) whose Kickstarter campaign literally ended that morning!  He is now in the process of creating a new web series about a reimagined puppet apocalypse called "Dead Meat!"  Definite cause for celebration!

So now I'm looking forward to next year when I plan on bringing a tube TV.  Maybe then I'll use the bowling ball.  But only for starters.  I really liked the feeling of using the ax/sledgehammer.

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 I need to go watch some "Leave It To Beaver" now.

FUNKY FUN THING #1: MY FARRAH FAWCETT SHAMPOO BOTTLE

Since 1995, I've been teaching an animation class off and on at Loyola Marymount University.  And whether I teach beginning animation or character design, the thing I always stress is character.  Sure, there are tons of amazing artists out there, but it takes a lot more than great technical skills to create a character that can make an audience "feel."  So (transition to blog topic), since I'm constantly trying to help students find ways to flesh out seemingly ordinary characters, I thought, why not do the same with this blog?  Why not write about seemingly ordinary objects that have special significance to my career in animation?  Thus began my excavation through the "boxes of stuff" that have survived my countless office moves from studio to studio.  (The experience was fun, but it made me feel like I was on an episode of "Hoarders!")

At first, I called these posts, "Fifty Cool Things" (nice round number), but since I've got this new website, I've decided to loosen things up, make it more open-ended (it could be 50, it could be more), and call these posts, "Stories About Funky Fun Things!"  So, without further adieu...

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Like most kids who grew up in the 70's, I had a huge crush on Farrah Fawcett.  But as much as I was crushing on her, I didn't feel the need to use her shampoo to make my hair feel soft and bouncy.  (Filipinos don't do soft and bouncy.)  I actually bought this after it was discontinued.  The funny thing is, I didn't spend hundreds of dollars at some collector's show for it.  I actually found the bottle on a shelf at a neighborhood San Francisco drugstore in the 90's! (I'm guessing that restocking wasn't one of their strong points.)

The bottle usually sits on my shelf at work, nestled in between all the happy meal toys and photo frames.  As far as the autograph goes, it wasn't me who got it from her.  My friend, Robert Ramirez, actually directed her on "The Brave Little Toaster Goes To Mars" and had her sign it for me.  On the bottle, she wrote, "Van, I have another one for you.  Love, Farrah Fawcett.  1995."  I was like, "What does that mean?"  Robert told me that, at the time, I guess she was thinking about releasing a new line of hair care products.  If you Google it, I'm sure you'll find that that never happened, but it's fun to think that it was in the works.

Anyways, knowing that she was willing to voice a cartoon, it dawned on me: working with Farrah Fawcett was an attainable goal!  After writing her a nice letter and sending her a tailor made script, we ended up working with both Farrah and her son Redmond on the episode, "Johnny Bravo Meets Farrah Fawcett."  In the episode, Farrah shows up at her cousin Suzy's birthday party to work the kissing booth.  The whole afternoon was a whirlwind, but one of the things I remember her saying was, it was the script that really convinced her to do the part (Thank you Michael Ryan!).  After she got into the studio, everything went so well, that I got her to pose for a "Charlie's Angels" picture with us!

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From left: John McIntyre (director), Michael Ryan (writer), Farrah Fawcett (Jill Monroe), & me

For this photo, she positioned her fingers like a gun, held her arm out straight with her palm facing down, and said, "I've always wanted to hold a gun like this."  Apparently it made you look more tough.  As you can see from the photo, she was the only one that held her gun that way.  And she looked the toughest.  (I also notice that it was a big sweater day.)  She capped off our time together by autographing one of my Charlie's Angels photos...

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Thus ended my afternoon with Farrah Fawcett.

FUN FACT: Farrah's assistant videotaped segments of the session to use for her upcoming special, "All Of Me," where she showcased her painting talents.  I never saw it, but I hear that none of the footage from our recording session made it into the special.