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Santa Claus

Merry Christmas, everyone! I thought about drawing Santa Claus for today but I had already drawn him just a few days ago and I wanted to draw something different focusing on one of the less-known Christmas present givers. Today I did a drawing of the Christkind, an angel who delivers presents to children on Christmas Eve. (The name literally means “Christ Child” in German.) In many parts of Germany and Austria children believe that it is the Christkind who delivers the presents instead of Santa Claus.

Even though the Santa Claus imagery can be found all over the world, there are people in some parts of the world who have rebelled against it by insisting on believing in the Christkind instead of Santa Claus.

When I was in the second grade my school did a unit in December called “Christmas Around the World,” where I was briefly exposed to other figures who brought gifts instead of Santa (such as Befana and the Three Kings). That was the only time that this subject was even discussed when I was in elementary school. (By the way the Wikipedia has a list of all of the Christmas and winter gift-bringers listed by country.) Last year I went to the Christmas Village in Baltimore on opening weekend, where I got my first-ever glimpse of the Christkind, who was brought over from Nuremberg, Germany to help with the Christmas Village’s opening ceremony.

It was pretty refreshing to draw something different for Christmas Day. I hope you enjoy it! 🙂

Since today is Christmas Day, I’d thought I would once again embed an animation that I did last month called The Gift of the Dinosaur. I originally made this animation with the expectation that it would be shown on the video screens of the Greenbelt Makerspace that are located in the front windows so any passers-by would see it. Except the video screens currently aren’t working and no one has found a way to fix them so my animation was never shown. Anyway, here is The Gift of the Dinosaur. Enjoy!

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Last month I wrote a post about the 90th anniversary of Steamboat Willie (featuring Mickey Mouse) while posting pictures of the various related products that are currently for sale. After I posted it online, I saw more 90th anniversary Mickey Mouse-related stuff that arrived in the stores. I wrote another post about it while saying that I wasn’t going to write any more posts about the 90th anniversary Mickey Mouse unless I see something that’s incredibly unique and interesting.

After that post went online I saw something on sale at Giant that inspired me to buy it and write another post about it.

That’s right, it’s a special 90th anniversary package featuring Eggo waffles with Mickey’s face on them.

This package reminded me of the time when my then-husband and I went to one of our many trips to Walt Disney World (the last time was in 2011 before my marriage abruptly ended with my husband’s walkout). On that particular trip we stayed at a hotel located on Disney property. We ate breakfast in the hotel restaurant where I ordered waffles. I was served this large waffle with Mickey’s face on them. I was surprised to see a waffle like that. I remember the waitress telling us that on the previous morning a three-year-old child received the same waffle and he cried because he couldn’t bear to cut into Mickey’s face.

I don’t know if I’ll ever go to Walt Disney World since I’m currently financially struggling and I’m currently trying to find steady work. Even if I do find work, I have debts to pay off so my desire to visit Walt Disney World is a very low priority in my life right now. I’m just going to have to make do with these Eggo waffles. At least the waffles are pretty cute.

Here’s is what they look like after I poured maple syrup on them.

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I finally finished my latest animation on the day before Thanksgiving. For the past year-and-a-half I’ve been attending the animation meetups that are held on Sunday afternoons at the Greenbelt Makerspace and we decided to do some special short Christmas animations that would run in the monitors that were recently erected in the windows of the makerspace. Even though our animations aren’t due for another few weeks I decided to take advantage of this week’s enforced downtime due to Thanksgiving Day (it’s hard to find work because so many people are currently out of town) and get mine done early so I can focus on other things. So here is my latest animation, The Gift of the Dinosaur.

Here’s the story behind The Gift of the Dinosaur. I had participated in Inktober for the first time in 2017. On the day I was leaving for the Washington, DC chapter of Dr. Sketchy’s Anti-Art School I did a quick drawing featuring the event’s emcee, Reverend Valentine. She is a burlesque performer and she loves dinosaurs. Recently Build-A-Bear Workshop had started carrying dinosaurs that one could choose to have stuffed and take home instead of a teddy bear and it had a blue t-rex dinosaur. So I drew this scenario where Reverend Valentine gets the blue t-rex from Build-A-Bear Workshop while wearing her pasties and thong while adding a fantasy scenario of what if that stuffed dinosaur was real. (LOL!)

For my animation I loosely based the girl on what I imagine Reverend Valentine might have looked like as a child but I basically made a more generic child. Since the main human character is a young child I had to replace the pasties and thong with a nightgown since, like many children around the world, she would be opening her present on Christmas morning soon after waking up.

I’ll admit that I ripped off the original premise of the Jurassic Park movies (dinosaurs cloned from the blood drank by mosquitos that were preserved in amber for thousands of years). For the record, I saw the first Jurassic Park movie and I really enjoyed it. I saw the second movie and, while it had its moments, I felt it was just a retread of the first one. I haven’t seen any of the other Jurassic Park or Jurassic World movies since the first two were released mainly because going to the movies have become so expensive that I’m not willing to pay a lot of money to see the same storyline being rehashed over and over again. It would be cheaper to just buy the DVD of the first movie and watch that one over and over again.

I was also inspired in a way from reading a series of graphic novel reprints of the comic book series Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur, which I checked out of the local public library. As you can tell from the title, it’s about a girl and her dinosaur. It’s a really well-written series and I enjoyed them. If I ever earn a decent income to the point where I can afford splurges, I will buy that series because it is that good. My animation focuses exclusively on the dark side of getting a pet dinosaur. (LOL!)

For the software I decided to try this free graphics program that I downloaded a few months ago. It’s from Autodesk and it’s called SketchBook. The free version has a lot of features including doing a rough flip book animation. I took a course on Lynda.com (which I’m able to access for free through my public library) on SketchBook Pro and I found that the main difference between the free and paid pro versions is that the latter has more brushes to choose from.

I did the vocalizations and sound effects using the free open source program Audacity. I basically pushed my voice into the upper ranges in order to have the girl say things like “ooooohhh” and “wow”. I decided to do my own sound effects instead of spending time doing Internet searches for the proper sounds. I did the unraveling of the ribbon by taking a roll of toilet paper and unraveling that. I ripped up a sheet of paper in order to simulate the sound of the girl ripping wrapping paper. I did the rattling box effect by dropping a box full of unbreakable stuff then putting that sound on a loop. I ripped velcro to simulate the dinosaur emerging from the box. For the falling Christmas tree I knocked over a padded guitar case with the guitar still inside. For the final scene I purchased a bag of pretzels and recorded myself eating them. I recorded my own burp after I ate a meal that’s heavy in gas then drank down a glass of water mixed with baking soda.

As for the music, it’s the song “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies” from Tchaikovsky’s famous Christmas piece The Nutcracker Suite. I downloaded this version for free from YouTube’s collection of songs that creators can use for free in their videos.

I did most of the drawings but, to save time, I turned to OpenClipArt.org for the Christmas tree, the wallpaper, and the couch. All three were basically background elements so I didn’t feel the need to spend the time drawing them and it left me free to focus on what really mattered, the girl and the dinosaur.

For those of you who have been following my animations over the years, you’ll probably recognize a painting in the background hanging over the couch. It’s the final scene from my earlier animation The March of Liberty, which is the same animation that was shown outside on a giant screen at the 2017 Light City festival in Baltimore.

The animation wasn’t too bad except I found that animating the opening of the present to be a bit tedious and it drove me crazy at times. But it was worth it at the end when I saw the litter girl eagerly opening her present. If someone was paying me, I would have been more obsessive about accurately showing the girl opening her present to the point of doing a live action filming of myself unwrapping a box so I could use that as the basis of doing a very accurate gift opening. But I’m not being paid to do this. I really need to focus more on finding work that pays money so I could pay the bills so I had to simplify it to the best that I could. It was still tedious to animate the opening the gift part despite trying to simplify it as much as possible. The rest of the animation was less tedious and I was able to enjoy the process better.

I basically exported the animation and sound effects from the separate programs and assembled them with the music together in iMovie.

Thankfully I was instructed to make a short animation so I had no problem with doing this one by myself within a week. I decided to upload this animation online since not everyone will be able to go to the Greenbelt Makerspace and see it in the video windows.

I’m basically happy with the way the animation turned out. It’s a short animation that has a coherent story and I was able to make it run in just under one minute. I’m glad that I finished this animation so I can move on to other things.

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Ninety years ago today a struggling young animator named Walt Disney released this groundbreaking cartoon called Steamboat Willie. The rest is history.

It can be pretty hard to fathom how groundbreaking it was and it can also be pretty hard to fathom a time when Mickey Mouse wasn’t the biggest cartoon character. While there were animated cartoon shorts before Steamboat Willie, they were silents, which meant that there were no recorded music or dialogue. They were played in movie theaters where a piano player or organist would play the soundtrack live in the theater, just like they did with live action silent films. During the silent era the biggest cartoon star was Felix the Cat.

Many people think that Steamboat Willie was both the first sound cartoon ever made and Mickey Mouse’s first cartoon. It turns out not to be the case on both counts. There were some earlier attempts at making sound cartoons, most notably Max and Dave Fleischer’s Song Car-Tunes series and Van Beuren Studio’s Dinner Time but they didn’t catch on in the way that Steamboat Willie did.

Steamboat Willie was actually the third Mickey Mouse cartoon ever made. His first two cartoons, Plane Crazy and the Gallopin’ Gaucho, were made as silent animation films but they had failed to impress audiences and Walt Disney was unable to get a distributor for those two. Walt Disney came up with the idea of making a sound Mickey Mouse cartoon after the ground-breaking live action talking movie The Jazz Singer was released and it became a huge hit.

Had the people behind Felix the Cat gotten into making sound cartoons immediately after The Jazz Singer was released, it’s highly likely that Felix would’ve permanently quashed that cartoon rodent upstart Mickey and Steamboat Willie would’ve become a footnote in the history of animation. After all, Felix was the biggest cartoon star in the world while Mickey Mouse was a relative unknown. It’s very likely that Felix’s animation domination would have carried over into the sound era and Felix the Cat would have remained the biggest cartoon star today. People would be spending the day at a Felix the Cat theme park, visiting related Felix websites online, and buying all kinds of Felix the Cat merchandise ranging from clothes to toys to high-end designer handbags.

But the people behind Felix the Cat underestimated the potential of sound cartoons and talking pictures in general. They felt they already had a winning formula with Felix so why alter it? The fact that studio head Pat Sullivan suffered from alcoholism so bad that it affected his decision making and it ultimately took his life at an early age didn’t help. By the time there was an effort to start making Felix the Cat sound cartoons, Mickey Mouse had already overtaken him in popularity and the original studio folded. While there were short-lived attempts to revive Felix the Cat in the 1930’s (as a series of color cartoons with sound) and 1950’s (as a children’s TV cartoon show), Felix the Cat had never quite regained the immense popularity he lost from that disastrous decision to delay making sound cartoons. Next year is the 100th anniversary of the first Felix the Cat cartoon so we’ll see if there are any attempts to put Felix in the public eye again.

Earlier this year I realized that this year was the 90th anniversary of Steamboat Willie when I saw these specially marked Pepperdige Farms Goldfish Crackers on sale. I purchased a couple of them and I wrote this blog post about these special crackers (which featured crackers in the shape of the usual goldfish and special ones in the shape of Mickey Mouse’s head).

If it weren’t for these crackers I would have completely missed this anniversary. But this is Disney, a giant multinational corporation, and it wasn’t going to let people forget that this year is another one of those important anniversaries where the number ends in either 0 or 5. Since buying those crackers I’ve seen other Mickey stuff in the stores. At the local Giant grocery store there was this display of Little Golden Books featuring Mickey Mouse.

The same store had special Mickey Mouse Oreos for sale. I purchased one of those packs for the heck of it. Here is what the outside package looked like.

I opened the package and noticed how the chocolate part of the cookies were designed. One side of the cookie had the usual Oreo stamp on it.

The other side had one of three special designs that were especially made for this package. One design had Mickey Mouse wearing a party hat.

Another design had a megaphone surrounded by tiny Mickey Mouse heads.

A third design had the number “90” surrounded by tiny Mickey Mouse heads.

The cream in the cookies was a special flavor known as “Birthday Cake.” Basically the cream tasted like vanilla frosting and I found it to taste far sweeter than the normal Oreo cream. While I found the taste to be passible, I personally prefer the regular cream.

If that wasn’t enough, Giant also had this special issue of Life magazine on sale, which was full of photos of Mickey Mouse over the years.

The closer it got to the anniversary, the more 90th anniversary Mickey stuff came out at a rapid rate. Here’s what I found at Target.

Of course there would be a Mickey Mouse Bluray DVD featuring “Steamboat Willie” and other seminal Mickey cartoons.

There were some special Funko Pops featuring cute versions of Mickey Mouse in his famous cartoon roles. While I didn’t see a Steamboat Willie Funko Pop, I saw ones based on other cartoons like The Brave Little Taylor and “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” sequence in Fantasia.

There were some large plush stuffed animals based on the opening sequence in Steamboat Willie when Mickey was steering the steamboat.

There were smaller plush stuffed animals as well, which not only featured Mickey as he appeared in Steamboat Willie but as he appeared in other cartoons.

There were special blind boxes shaped like Mickey heads.

The list on the label shows the Mickey figurines that one could get inside of blind box. Of course you won’t know which Mickey you got until after you purchased this special box and take it home with you.

If buying blind boxes aren’t your thing, you could spend $24.99 and buy the complete set of Mickey Mouse figurines.

I saw some special Mickey Mouse fabrics from Jo-Ann’s Fabrics & Crafts, some of which feature Minnie Mouse as well. You could make yourself a special outfit with these special patterns.

There were other Mickey fabrics as well but I only wanted to highlight the ones that had the Steamboat Willie-era Mickeys.

There were 90th anniversary Mickey Mouse Christmas ornaments and housewares available for sale at CVS.

A couple of days ago I made a return trip to Tyson’s Corner Mall. I went to The Disney Store where I saw this sign featuring Mickey and Minnie announcing that its Black Friday sale was going on right now. (By the way, my various store apps on my smartphone were pushing notifications all this past week announcing “Black Friday Preview Sales” and stuff like that? Is having pre-Black Friday sales a thing now in retail? God help us!)

There was a sign announcing Mickey Mouse-inspired activities at The Disney Store all weekend long. I showed up on Friday but I didn’t see anything out of the ordinary. Today they have a thing where the first 90 customers to make a purchase will get a special commemorative Mickey key. I’m financially struggling too much to go for something like that. Even if I could afford to buy something, I think I can live without a special commemorative Mickey key.

The back of the store was having continuous showings of Steamboat Willie with seats small enough for young children to sit on.

There was just one small area of the store that had the commemorative 90th anniversary stuff, most of which were geared towards adults, such as paperclips and business portfolio covers.

The Disney Store wasn’t the only place that had 90th anniversary Mickey Mouse stuff. The Build-A-Bear Workshop had a couple of special 90th anniversary Mickey plushies that one could have stuffed. One is Mickey wearing his “Sorcerer’s Apprentice” outfit.

The other one was a regular Mickey Mouse wearing his usual red shorts. Like the other Mickey, this one had special soles on his shoes that were marked 90th anniversary. (The Mickey in this photo was unstuffed.)

Lolli and Pops had imported Mickey Mouse candy with the packaging written in some Asian language. (I couldn’t tell which language it was. I think it was either Japanese or Korean.)

Macy’s had these special 90th anniversary Mickey Mouse Ray-Ban sunglasses.

The only thing about these sunglasses that I didn’t like was the fact that Mickey Mouse was visible from inside of the sunglasses frames—the frames that other people wouldn’t normally see. What’s the use of paying more money for something that can’t be seen by other people? I might as well buy regular black-framed sunglasses without Mickey Mouse lining on the inside.

Sugarfina is an upscale candy store that had 90th anniversary Mickey Mouse candy on sale. I thought about buying a Mickey Mouse dark chocolate candy bar only to find out that their candy bars cost $9.50 each. And that’s the starting price of the candy in that store.

There was a store that sold 90th anniversary Mickey Mouse watches, clocks, and backpacks.

There were a lot of stuff for the 90th anniversary that one could buy. I can only imagine what it will be like 10 years from now when the 100th anniversary comes up in 2028. While we’re on the subject, here’s one fact that frequently gets overlooked: This year is also the 90th anniversary of Minnie Mouse, Mickey’s longtime girlfriend. That’s right, she appeared in the first two silent Mickey cartoons and she also appeared in Steamboat Willie. She’s been a regular in most Mickey Mouse cartoons since.

UPDATE (December 3, 2018): Over a week after I wrote this post, new 90th birthday Mickey Mouse stuff arrived at my local Target that I haven’t seen before. You can check them out right here.

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A video about creature prop restoration, including restoring the puppets used in the Gremlins 2 movie.

Black women challenge the “white feminism” of the Women’s March.

This “bee-dimensional” printer creates some sweet looking prints.

A look at the deportation machine that President Obama built for President Trump.

Egyptian mummy’s secrets revealed.

Is everything you think you know about depression wrong?

The Alt-Right is taking over Renaissance Fairs.

You can now watch all of MTV’s Liquid Television, the launching ground for Aeon Flux, on the Internet Archive.

Young Patriots and Panthers: A story of white anti-racism.

Even insured Americans flock to Mexico for low-cost, high-quality health care.

The most radical digital upskilling is now occurring in middle- and lower-level jobs.

22 insane individuals that need to be banned from social media.

Donald Trump is a military coward—but that hasn’t kept him from insulting America’s troops.

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I’m currently in this position where I’ve finished the previous freelance projects for others and I’m in the early phases of a short new project for someone else that involves animation. The temperature had been dropping to freezing for the past couple of days and today all hell broke loose as a storm that combined rain, ice, and snow hit my area. I decided to stay indoors at home today because of the ice.

These days I’m very cautious when it comes to ice ever since I went through two falls a week apart in early 2011. The first happened when I was in Florida with my then-husband and I missed a step going down into the hotel’s lobby bar. The second happened one week later when I was in Annapolis and I slipped on an icy patch on the sidewalk. That second fall was enough to snap my hip replacement completely out of alignment and I ended up undergoing hip revision surgery later that year. (That was the first in a chain of hellish events in 2011 where I had the hip surgery then my husband abruptly walked out on me just three months later and he made such an abrupt 180 degree turn from loving husband to being totally nasty towards me. I also discovered that he left me for a severely mentally ill woman, which totally shocked me and many of our longtime friends. I barely survived the insane drama that year.)

I tend not to go out when there’s ice on the ground unless I absolutely positively have to. I take a cane with me if I have to go out in icy weather. I just don’t want to go through another hip revision surgery, especially since I no longer have the economic security of being married to a NASA employee with a decent paycheck and great health insurance. Not having government-funded health care like so many other nations do (such as Japan, Norway, Sweden, Germany, and Canada) totally sucks.

Today I really didn’t have to go out anywhere so I opted to stay inside. I spent the enforced weather-related downtime working on this latest project that I’m doing for someone else. It involves making a short animation. I don’t want to go any further into this project at the moment. I’m just going to share a rough drawing for my animation project that I did today. I did the initial drawing using a 4H drawing pencil then I outlined it and colored it using ink. I did the drawing in the same notebook that I used when I participated in Inktober (which ended a few weeks ago). Well, without further ado, here it is.

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UCLA has a digital archive of over 1,800 children’s books dating from 1728-1999.

Americans are receiving unordered parcels from Chinese e-criminals and they can’t do anything to stop them.

An explanation on what is an animation pipeline.

A study shows that most artists make very little money, with women faring the worst.

Galapagos finches are caught in the act of becoming a new species.

Why incompetent people think they are amazing: An animated lesson from David Dunning (of the famous Dunning-Kruger Effect).

True self-care is not salt baths and chocolate cake, it is making the choice to build a life you don’t need to regularly escape from.

Time capsule letters from the 18th century found in the butt of a Jesus statue.

Check out these crochet amigurumi toys based on video game characters like Plants vs. Zombies and Super Mario Bros.

Everything you always wanted to know about the Krampus but were afraid to ask.

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Here are some random photos from my smartphone that I recently took, starting with this unexpected product I found at a local Giant supermarket. On the shelves in the organic food section are organic junk food. I kid you not. There are now organic versions of Doritos and Cheetos. What’s more, each bag costs twice as much as their non-organic counterparts.

Organic Junk Food

I was visiting a local public library not too long ago when I saw this chair that’s covered in parrot fabric. I have no idea how old this chair is but it definitely looks very kitschy.

Parrot Chairs

Parrot Chairs

Here’s a bumpersticker I found on a car with this interesting slogan: “Kitten thinks of nothing but murder all day.” Uh, well, okay, whatever, nevermind.

Bumpersticker

Earlier this month I went to the local movie house where I saw a recently restored version of The Beatles’ classic animated feature film Yellow Submarine. The color and music were very excellent. The story itself is a bit weak but the music makes up for it. I took a photo of the movie poster after the movie ended.

Movie Poster

The last three photos I took with the Hatsune Miku smartphone app. I was visiting my friend, Phil Shapiro (he’s at the computer wearing a hat in the background in the last two photos) at his workplace when I took these quick snapshots featuring the virtual international pop superstar.

Hatsune Miku

Hatsune Miku

Hatsune Miku

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Baroque-inspired portraits of black girls highlight their amazing natural hair so other girls would stop hiding it.

Millennials born in the 1980s may never recover from the Great Recession.

Retro ads reveal sky-high prices of now archaic technology.

White people should be more afraid of other whites than they are of people of color.

Couple have been using same 1950s appliances for more than a half a century—but they’re finally ditching them.

The Goler clan spent years in their isolated, inbred town until the cops showed up.

Why the coming collapse will happen in the United States.

Tech investors are increasingly investing in midwest tech companies instead of Silicon Valley.

Why does Donald Trump normalize corruption? Because Bill and Hillary Clinton normalized it.

MIT economist warns that the U.S. has regressed to a developing nation status.

Disney and Pixar offer free online animation and film classes.

How Sears CEO Eddie Lampert may come out ahead even if his retailer goes out of business.

22 things you won’t believe are in the Bible.

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The new female dragon in “How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World” illustrates a sexist trend in children’s animation.

How Donald Trump got his inspiration for his new border policy from Australia.

How upcycling can enhance your life.

Puerto Rico is a “Playground for the Privileged”: Investors move in as homes foreclose and schools close.

Native Americans remember the trauma of children taken from their parents.

Murder with impunity: Where killings go unsolved.

Lavender lemonade is the best and most natural way to get rid of headaches and anxiety.

Immigrants describe the horrors that made them flee Latin America for the U.S.

The origins of America’s unique and spectacular cruelty.

Five reasons why Linda McCartney is a fierce role model.

Why the face of immigrant family separation is a white woman.

Woman’s obituary takes a dark turn over a long-ago extramarital affair.

Six of the worst “work for exposure instead of money” stories seen online.

Remembering the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy 50 years later.

Study estimates Hurricane Maria killed nearly 5,000 people but barely makes the news.

This German children’s book is the creepiest thing you’ll see today.

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