Sunday, June 5, 2011


Yesterday morning I saw the cartoon on in the lobby of an apartment building. I wondered what episode it was, and if I worked on the book adaptation of it yet.

What's cool about Busytown is that everyone drives. Even the characters that call themselves kids. It also has art that's very busy.

The first Busytown book I worked on was The Missing Apple Mystery. It's a really cute book, but I learned that it can be kind of a nightmare picking up stills from the television show. Some things are just wrong or not detailed enough or too lo-res to be blown up on the page. This book in particular has lo-res art that was blown up. But it was approved by EVERYONE before it went to press. Still we got some complaints. I think it was fixed for reprints, but I'm not really involved in reprints.

Anyway, it's kind of a mystery about how these books are approved by the licensor. (I just know that I'm always asked for more time that I allow because, well, there's a schedule to follow people.) It's unclear whether the licensor has to give the Scarry estate approval. For Mr. Fix-it's Lucky Day, someone asked Huck Scarry (Richard Scarry's son) for approval. I've been told that Huck Scarry has font-like penmanship. (We assume it's his European upbringing--since most American's handwriting is atrocious.) He is also quite meticulous with his text and art notes. The thing is, I think someone needs to tell him that while we appreciate his notes, the story and art are based on the television's script and animation stills. In short, it's not the book and the people who are pulling it together that suck.

For Mr. Fix-it's Lucky Day, we learned how to spell Mr. Fix-it's name correctly--oops for the first few books; maybe they got fixed in reprints. We also had an illustrator for the interior who was able to add a lot of detail that Huck wanted, which was nice, but not something we can do for all the Scarry books.

In any case, what's also interesting is that before digital art, illustrators used to have to send in their art to be scanned or set up by the printer to be made into plates. (I'm still kind of foggy about this process since even with digital art, production and my boss talk about switching out plates for reprints. So I guess it's not a giant ink printer? It's still plates?) Apparently Richard Scarry's books used to come in smelling like a million cigarettes or cigars. I believe that since even just a few years ago I received some sketches and a manuscript from a cookbook writer in Paris that smell liked rancid cigarettes or cigars. (European/Asian cigarettes smell so strong sometimes it's hard to tell what they're smoking.)

And so great handwriting and stink cigarettes plus great stories about a cat in lederhosen is what I want to emphasize here. Vive la Busytown!
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