August 13, 2014

Dale McRaven, A Natural Treasure Chest of Creativity


  Born in 1939 on a farm in Southern Illinois near the town of Polasky, Dale was the 5th of 6 children from Raymond and Ella McRaven. At 2 years old the family moved to Chicago and then a few years after to Phoenix, Arizona. Growing up in a large family, get togethers were times when the entertainment’s high point was Raymond and his brothers joking around for hours with loads of family laughter and inspiration for Dale.
Dale’s beginnings in comedy...

GrissyG: "What inspired you as a kid to be a Comedian?"
Dale: "I think a lot of people get their sense of humor as a matter of self defense."

   As a small kid, Dale recognized that bullies seldom hit you when you made them laugh, hence a great self defense tool. The first creative project written and drawn in 7th Grade was a comic strip called Super Stupid, about a dumb super hero who couldn't do anything right, he would break body parts crashing into walls doing stupid stuff. At 14 years old, Dale had his first business card in high school advertising himself as a  magician and comedian, "Entertainment for any Occasion." Together with his best friend, Tom Milstead, they performed at a bunch of birthday parties. Dale’s humor made him known as the local wise ass. With his reputation, he requested to write a column called "McRaven Ravin's" in the Camelback high school newspaper, “The Spartin Blade,” where he was allowed to write down his smart ass comments about high school life. It was a hit with students. Dale was also in the Quill and Scroll, a honorary journalism Society still functioning in high schools today.

   Determined to be a writer, he left with $100 to reach Hollywood in 1957. Before his writing career launched, Dale met his first wife and had two children, David and Renee McRaven, who not only inherited their dad’s last name but also his sarcastic wise-ass humor. Renee made Dale a grandfather first with her son, Justin, who now is proudly inspired by his granddad to be creative in film, writing, acting and more. David later added his son, Mathew, to be Dale’s second grandson.

Hollywood Career

   Dale sold his first script by sneaking onto “The Steve Allen Show,” a big variety show in the 1960’s. Dressed in a coat with a clip board in hand to blend in with the backstage crew, Dale waited until the show was done. He then approached and handed his script to Steve Allen, who was caught by Dale's courage and gave him some cash for the script.

   His First real job at age 24 in show business was on the “The Joey Bishop Show.” He was hired by Garry Marshall who found Dale and partner, Carl Kleinschmidt to be the staff writers. “The Joey Bishop Show” had a reputation for going through writers fast but the two created a writer’s bond writing half hour scripts with complete rewrites daily for the last year and a half of the show. Dale and Carl’s reputation grew because everyone on the studio lot knew how difficult Bishop was to work with.



   At the time all the shows produced at the Desilu Studios were owned by T and L Productions, who were Danny Thomas and Sheldon Leonard. One day on the street in the studio lot, Leonard grabbed Dale and Carl and said "I want you boys to follow me cause I am going to change your lives." He introduced them to Carl Reiner who wanted them to write for “The Dick Van Dyke Show.” The show won a Writer's Guild Award for their first script and earned them 8 more scripts out of 28 shows in the final season of “The Dick Van Dyke Show.” The show’s writers also won an Emmy Award, for Outstanding Written Comedy Series, 1965-1966.

   Together, Dale and Carl continued writing pilots and scripts for “The Odd Couple,” “Gomer Pyle,” “Bill Dana,” “Hey Landlord,” and other hit shows at the time. Dale and Carl shared an office on Sunset Boulevard with 2 other writing teams since “The Joey Bishop Show.” Garry Marshall and Jerry Belson worked together and later on Jim Parker and Arnold Margolin joined them. To this day every 5 years, the writers alive take a picture in front of their old Sunset office.

   Eventually Dale and Carl split up as a writing team and Dale went on to produce “The Partridge Family.” To have control over the material, like certain jokes or situations, it was a necessity for writers to become producers. As a first time producer, Dale went through every script and kept his view focused on the jokes and characters. “The Partridge Family” television show was about creating real life family situations where family members fought but had each other's back, something that was never really done before. The family were also musicians and had several hit songs. 1970-1974 , ABC aired the show for 4 seasons producing 96 episodes and 8 music albums with actors such as Shirley Jones, David Cassidy, Danny Bonaduce and Susan Dey.

   Dale sold his first created show, “Texas Wheelers,” to ABC in 1974, a situation comedy about a good for nothing father who returns to take care of his 3 kids after their mother died. As Executive Producer, Dale's choice was to record the show without a laugh track, something not done at the time. The theme song was "Illegal Smile" by John Prine. The show received rave reviews from critics before it aired. With a great cast starring Jack Elam playing the miserable, lazy, get rich quick scheming father, Gary Busey playing responsible big brother and Mark Hamill as little brother. “Texas Wheelers” was Dale’s favorite show of the four shows he created, wrote for and produced. After the show, Busey got the Buddy Holly role in “The Buddy Holly Story” and Mark Hamill went on to act in “Star Wars” as Luke Skywalker.


   Constantly writing and receiving offers to also produce other shows, he first turned down Garry Marshall's offer to write and produce “Mork and Mindy” because as Dale replied, "I don't do martians!" After Garry's coaxing, he finally took the job. Pam Dawber played the earth woman who befriended Mork from Ork, played by Robin Williams. The show aired 1978 to 1982 winning a People's Choice Award in 1979 and Writer's Guild Award Nomination in 1978.



   Dale created another show, “Angie,” then in 1986, “Perfect Strangers” which also became a hit TV sitcom based on the relationship between two distant cousins where one was a foreigner and new to America and the other was a social disaster, it was like watching two stooges. Bronson Pinchot played Balki, the foreigner and Mark Linn-Baker played Larry,  the American cousin. After a couple years, Dale stepped away from the daily production life to sending in notes on every script.  “Perfect Strangers” ran eight seasons, 150 episodes, then it came to an end in 1993.

   Apart from all the above sitcoms written, created and produced by Dale he also wrote movie scripts, a book and other pilots. He decided to retire from the over consuming busy life of TV sitcom producer when he found out he had throat cancer and prostate cancer at the same time.

Photography

   Despite all odds Dale came through and aware of his recovery time being months at home, he found out about Photoshop, a computer photo editing program, and thought he would play with it using his photographs. Dale seriously took up photography starting from his early Hollywood days during “The Joey Bishop Show.” A friend encouraged Dale to get a professional camera and learn to use it, especially since Dale loved traveling. Always a nature and animal lover, with his camera, he caught amazing moments in life. He traveled whenever he could, driving alone on any back road he found or with other photographers. Dale photographed wildlife and weather in America's South West and most National Parks throughout the world in Africa, Bali, Indonesia, South Pole, and many other places. His biggest thrill ever was in a tall grass meadow in Congo when a silverback gorilla, caught off guard, charged at the tour guide and Dale. The gorilla knocked over the guide and stood staring down Dale in the face. Since told not to move if an encounter happened, Dale stood still and the angered gorilla left him in one piece. Wanting more control over the colors in his photos, he learned how to develop film in his personal dark room making enlargements of his favorite photos. His animal portraits won two awards in the LA Zoo Photo competition. He is known in his Photography group as the weather man because he looks for stormy weather instead of perfect days to photograph. His landscape photography captures amazing storms filling the environment scene.

Digital Art

   Dale's creative touch naturally continued as he started taking his photos to the computer and Photoshop. A big fan of photographer, Jerry Uelsmann, who was creating Photoshop-like effects all in the darkroom, Dale was curious to see what Photoshop had to offer. He began playing with family portraits and creating abstract painterly compositions. Dale advanced from portraits to elaborate costume dresses and surreal backgrounds built around models. With his Art online at DaleMcRaven.com, he felt that his detailed work did not show well online and that lead to several Art series where he did minimal compositions such as “Nudes,” “Pairs,” “Nudes Wearing Masks,” “Stripes,” “Bars” and “Dream Girls.” Growing bored with figures, he progressed to transforming flowers with a sense of mystery in his series, "The Secret Life of Flowers." His love for the Sierras and South West scenery then lead him to create his version of these beautiful landscapes. His last Art series posted online is a 3D anaglyph series where he took Art pieces from his landscape and flowers series to add perceived depth to the layers. It's a mystery to where Dale's Art or his creativity will take him next.


Author’s words

   Writing Dale McRaven's amazing creative journey is a joy because he is the coolest, down to earth, modest and giving person. It is easy to be inspired and in awe of Dale and his accomplishments, from his writings, TV Producer career, amazing photography, wonderful Art, and to his triumphs over the hurdles of his health. These are a few of the gold doubloons from Dale McRaven’s treasure chest of life. I am Dale’s niece, GrissyG, an artist, animator, and author, and have always connected on a creative and personal level with Dale. I have lived with Dale since 1998 when I came from Belize, Central America, to study Art and MultiMedia. I modeled for his digital Art and went on nature photography trips through backroads in the middle of nowhere looking for the next amazing photo. These adventures are a part of my life I will always cherish. In 2004, I married artist, animator and author, Dismas, who has joined us in the creative madness and driving on some of the back roads in Northern California for fantastic photography. Dismas and I, as GrisDismation, produce original Art and Animations that entertain, inspire and fascinate. To see our work visit GrisDismation.com
    
   To us, Dale is family, a good friend, and a great mentor who inspires us. It is always a beloved and endless learning experience hanging out with Dale and listening to his encouraging words, learning from his wise or not so wise ways, and his professional constructive critiques. For now he is enjoying his retirement and mentoring our 3 year old daughter and princess, Nefertina. They play pirates with swords from empty wrapping paper cardboard tubing to full out chase through the house. That is Dale and we love him. With Dale, his cool little Yorkie dog named "The Mighty Kong", Nefertina, Dismas, and me, GrissyG, yo­u could say, we all found each other and together we are “Perfect Strangers.”


Visit DaleMcRaven.com to view his Digital Art Series, 17 Galleries total, and some of his Photography consisting of animals, trees and landscapes in 4 Galleries. Feel free to contact him or leave a comment from his website.

March 5, 2013

“If I didn’t Have A Brain” (The Anti-Drug Song)

In the “Wizard of Oz” the Scarecrow didn’t have a brain. Now, Imagine if the Scarecrow was on drugs. “If I didn’t Have A Brain” (The Anti-Drug Song) is a wild take on the “Wizard of Oz” with the Scarecrows enthusiastic but unfortunate words of realization of what drugs has done to him. See the Animated music video “If I didn’t Have A Brain” (The Anti-Drug Song) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LSnixWeb-Qw

December 30, 2011

GrisDismation's Ongher's Gift

Ongher, the modern day clown, finds the perfect gift but has a little trouble wrapping it.

October 17, 2011

Escape from the Xtabai


The still darkness of the midnight hours through thick jungles and inside an ancient Ceiba tree that overlooks a dirt road, awakens the seductive spirit of Xtabai who hunts for unsuspecting souls.

            In Belize, Central America, a tale is passed on through generations of a beautiful seductress known as Xtabai, pronounced ish-ta-buy. She is said to live in large and old trees called Ceiba. According to Mayan legends of Xtabai the Ceiba tree is believed to be a portal between the dead and the living and is where the spirit of Xtabai dwells. Although Xtabai is known to appear as an irresistibly beautiful woman, she is feared by many who believe in the myth because the seductress is known to cause pain, mental breakdown and ultimately death. Stories are shared about the evil seductress and her ability to seduce and trick victims by shape shifting into animals, people or someone familiar.  A tale told to me by my grandfather about his personal account with the Xtabai begins on an eerie dark moonless road. He recalls that night as being especially dark. My grandfather, his cousin and a couple of friends all headed through a dark lonely short stretch of jungle road to a local bar for drinks and a good time.

Later on, at the bar, my grandfather, his cousin and friends sat around and told silly jokes to each other. My grandfather decided to order another round of drinks when without a word his cousin abruptly gets up and walks over to the far end of the bar. My grandfather and friends couldn’t help but notice his cousin being seduced and taken to the dance floor by an amazingly beautiful young woman who never looks at any one. As if time stood still, the beautiful woman took a few dance spins with the cousin and there after headed out the door.

My grandfather and friends all commented about how lucky his cousin was to have hit it off with a stunning beauty, as they went on drinking, joking and laughing.  Before they knew it, the bar was closing and morning was quickly approaching. Since my grandfather and friends saw his cousin leave with the beautiful young lady they didn’t think much of them and headed home. Back then it was more convenient to walk so they walked home stumbling and laughing down the same lonely stretch of jungle road they came from. My grandfather recalls that while they joked a loud cry followed by terrified whimpers halted their laughter. They all had an eerie feeling run through their veins but together they went to investigate where the cries came from.

As grandfather and his friends got closer to the cries it begins to sound like his cousin. They yell for him and find that the cries get louder as they approach an amazingly large Ceiba tree overlooking the road. My grandfather and friends heard the cries coming from the tree top. They looked up to see his cousin high in the tree hanging on for dear life and crying like a traumatized baby.  With help from his friends my grandfather managed to bring his cousin down. The cousin appeared disheveled and in bad shape. He had a high fever and bloody lash wounds all over his back. After they took the cousin home he would not allow anyone to leave him alone. For weeks, the cousin shook with terror chanting, “She will come back for me.” My grandfather and friends new right away that his cousin had all the symptoms of an encounter with the evil spirit of the Xtabai. The local herb doctor was summoned to perform a cleansing ritual, which is a process to rid evil spirits. The cousin stopped drinking for a while and if questioned about what happened that night, he is said to react terrified and respond angrily to never ever ask him again.

             My grandfather warned us about the terrifying spirit called Xtabai. One of his warnings to me that I will share with you is to always inspect the feet of anyone who calls you to follow them into the jungle late at night. Xtabai is known to be a shape shifter and has a distinctive trait that she is unable to hide. That trait is one large bird foot with talons for her right foot and a hairy goat like hoof for her left. As in the case of my grandfather’s cousin, it never occurred to any of them to look at the beautiful woman’s feet for they were all intoxicated and blind from the hypnotic beauty of Xtabai. This should serve as a lesson to all to never follow into the lustful unknown, for evil can appear in many forms and living a responsible life may just save you.

             
Copyright © GrisDismation.com

Authors: Dismas and GrissyG Lizárraga,
Dismas and GrissyG are Artists and Animators born in Belize, now residing in California. Together they document and share their interpretation of the Belizean myths through a series of Art titled Legends of Belize. To learn more about the fascinating and eerie myths of our culture we invite you to visit our website: http://www.grisdismation.com/

August 5, 2011

A Love Story of Classical Art and Modern Animation.

 Robin Wilding from Animation Career Review interviews Artists and Animators GrissyG and Dismas about their love for Art and Animation. Click the link to read the interview and learn a bit more about the GrisDismation behind the scenes action that goes on. Also feel free to leave a comment on the interview. A love story of Classical Art and Modern Animation.