NickMom vs. Winsor McCay: A Fanboy Diary in NYC

Posted by Joe Strike on Feb 14, 2012 in Animation |

Winsor McCay 'toon, The Flying House

A double-header today: Late afternoon Nickelodeon treats us to a mini-upfront for their new “NICKMOM” brand, and early evening Bill Plympton premieres his restored and colorized version of a classic Winsor McCay ‘toon, The Flying House. Not much in common between them except for two factors: my presence… and free food. (Nick gets the edge, thanks to their open bar.)


Did you know that ‘wow’ is ‘mom’ upside down, and ‘boob’ likewise turns into ‘poop’? (‘Dog’ spelled backwards is ‘god,’ but that’s an irrelevant tangent.) Snark is the new sincere, according to NICKMOM. We’re in the post-boomer era (no! no! anything but that, cries this boomer; my g-g-generation is the crown of creation, Grace Slick told me so herself) and the ‘millennium moms’ who watched Nickelodeon in their childhood are now raising families of their own. June Cleaver, Beaver’s mom (hardcore boomer reference, look it up) has passed on and the moms of the future, I mean of today, are using humor to cope with the pressures of running the homeshow.

Onstage comediennes and funny giant-screen graphics helped convey the message that NICKMOM will be there for the maternal unit, “celebrating momdom one funny moment at a time,” Tee-Em. (Don’t get any smart ideas about bootlegging that slogan onto T-shirts, pardner.) Those funny moments will drive an evening block of original programming on Nick Jr. (reality shows! stand-up! scripted comedy! etc!), with tons more on the requisite companion website (A little dyslexia there folks, sorry.) There’ll also be a lot of actual help/advice on this “new multiplatform content destination,” (don’t you wish you could talk like that?) undoubtedly conveyed with a knowing chuckle or three.

Most interesting factoid of the evening (apart from moms running their homes “like business CEO’S”) – those millennium moms wield $2.1 trillion worth of spending power. That caught the attention of General Mills, Target and Reckitt Benckiser (who the hell are they?), who jumped on board early as “charter sponsors” of the multiplatform content destination. Speaking of which, and in case you didn’t figure it out already, the whole shebang was to psych up the invited advertising industry crowd to throw a few ad dollars nickmom’s way as well. (And the curried-chicken-on-cracker hors d’oeuvres were delicious – thanks, mom!)

From thence I scurried uptown to East 63rd Street and the Society of Illustrators-hosted world premiere of Bill Plympton’s revivified, restored and revised “Rarebit Fiend” cartoon The Flying House. (Full disclosure and/or shameless self-promotion: the Society has hosted several of my Interview with an Animator events – next up a sit-down with R.O. Blechman on March 7, read all about it at, hooray for me!)

Bill’s fix-up of Winsor McCay’s classic cartoon, 90 years after its creation is a charming miniature, a labor of love lovingly consummated in a beautiful watercolor pallet. Bill did a before and after, showing us the original cartoon in its advanced state of decrepitude prior to screening his revised scratch free version. The original’s comic-strip word balloons were gone as well, replaced with dialog spoken by Matthew Modine and Patricia Clarkson. Several moments of repetitive time-padding animation cycles were likewise eliminated from Bill’s revise, giving the film a peppier pace.

Not everyone was pleased however; certain big muck-a-mucks in the animation history field were offended at Bill’s perceived desecration of the original and refused to be associated with his efforts. For my money (not that I put any of it into the film, unlike the 550 people who pitched in via transforming something that looked like it was dragged out of dumpster into an actually viewable film seems more a noble endeavor to the Miscweant. If it turns some of the offspring of those millennial moms into McCay enthusiasts (wait until they see his Little Nemo pages!), those kids will owe Mr. Plympton quite a debt.

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