Posts Tagged ‘ruffus the dog’

RIP – Robert Sherman – Songwriter

Tuesday, March 6th, 2012

Robert Sherman was a songwriter who, along with his brother Richard, wrote some of the most memorable tunes for Walt Disney pictures.

One of my favourites of his (and reputed to be Walt’s most favourite song of all) was Feed The Birds from the film Mary Poppins. Mary Poppins was the first film I ever saw in a theatre and, despite Dick Van Dyke‘s execrable Cockney accent, it left a deep and lasting impression on me.

Robert Sherman died yesterday at the age of 86.

Thank you, Mr. Sherman.

P. S. The role of the “bird woman” was played by Jane Darwell, perhaps best known as “Ma Joad” to her son “Tom” as played by Henry Fonda in 1940′s The Grapes Of Wrath. Disney himself insisted on her for the part.

Understanding PIPA / SOPA

Friday, January 20th, 2012

If you don’t pay attention to any other information out there about PIPA and SOPA you must watch this – and then share it with others – and talk about it amongst your friends and family – and yell in the ear of your elected representatives.

This isn’t just a US issue – it affects ALL of us.

I’m especially pissed at the moment because of the US government twisting the arm of New Zealand to arrest the owners of Megaupload, seizing their property – and then subsequently shutting down the Megaupload site, without the benefit of PIPA/SOPA. The Justice Department claims about “massive copyright infringement” ring hollow when you consider what preceded these actions: Megaupload was poised to become a serious business competitor to the established music industry. Universal Music Group makes a call – badda-bing.

So why should I be so pissed?

Our online video production, Ruffus The Dog’s Christmas Carol was being distributed for download via Megaupload. We, like may other legitimate businesses, have been using Megaupload (and other sites similarly targeted by the large media corporations) as a practical means of distributing our content. It allows us to bypass exorbitant bandwidth costs and negate the need for any usurious deals with established media distributors.

In the coming weeks you will see more heavy-handed legal actions like this – and increasing vitriolic responses from those affected – as big media and corrupt government take off their gloves and masks and come out swinging for open and undisputed control of the internet.

The net is more than a series of tubes, more than just another top-down distribution system and much more than just a thorn in the side of the dying music, film and television business models. The net has become an extension of our nervous system; it is how we hear and see and speak in this world – and it is being forcibly taken over by entrenched powers who don’t like it when we stop listening to them and choose instead to talk amongst ourselves.

Fuck them.

New Stuff Coming

Friday, January 13th, 2012

I’ve been busy over the holidays doing the usual things: wrestling with trees in the living room, eating too much, enduring overlapping fractured conversations in rooms full of simultaneously speaking family members and stuff like that.

tired santa

During that time I’ve also been reorganizing my office/edit suite and lining up my production agenda for the coming year.

One of the first things I want to do here on these pages is summarize the entire process of making Ruffus The Dog’s Christmas Carol and the ongoing work involved in promoting and distributing the project.

This will include all the upcoming efforts I’ll be applying to the Ruffus Project as a whole – including a slate of new episodes made exclusively for release on the web and a series of print-to-order books based on the original shows. That post will be put up here soon – I promise.

I’m also in the process of setting up a whole new blog site at which will – eventually – take over from this site. Millsworks will fade away and get archived somewhere but I’m not going to worry about that right now.

On the horizon for the coming year are numerous web-based productions I’m involved in and will enjoy sharing with you here as they become more presentable. These will include Rubber Chicken Players and Fred Stinson’s My Fuzzy Bunny.

Both of those projects evolved from our creative incubation process with the Rhino Group – a semi-weekly gathering of our core colleagues at Parkdale’s Rhino Bar & Grill.

More ambitious plans lay in wait for some longer form projects and I’m looking forward to being able to reveal them as they get closer to reality.

On top of all that I’m also looking for some kind of job because none of these works are paying my salary – yet.

There’s a lot of commentary I want to offer up since we are entering the year where the War On The Internet truly erupts. The Occupy Movement which sprang from the Arab Spring is just the tip of the iceberg of the disruptive nature of social media and the new ability of citizens to bypass traditional corporate and state controlled media to receive and disseminate information and culture. The interwebz hold the distinct possibility to make fundamental changes in how not just our individual lives are lived but how we as human beings think, operate and interact with each other and the planet we share. That’s big stuff. And believe it or not, kids puppet shows – and other offerings from indie producers like myself – have a place in all that. We are at the cusp of “use it or lose it” with respect to the Net – and also, believe me, of “defend it or die”.

That material will have a better home on the new RobboMills site.

There are many others playing in the same cultural media sandbox as yours truly. I’m privileged to know and work with quite a few remarkable people here in Toronto who are increasingly active in establishing what we do online as a serious industry. You’ll be hearing more about them too. They are awesome.

But – between now and then I have to get all the shit in the boxes on my office floor up on the shelves, all the spaghetti of wires under/over/across my standing desk organized into a reasonable facsimile of a non-combustible electrical array, all my outstanding contracts and other legal documents vetted and signed, and I think there’s also this little thing called back taxes.

Blah blah blah. There’s always going to be something to do.

Soooooooo – bear with me as I get my proverbial shit together and we’ll have a fun and entertaining ride in Robbo’s culture bucket from now to the end of 2012. What happens after that is between you and your local faux-Mayan bullshit distributor.

Predictions for the coming year? Everything is going to get very dark and scary and mean and bloody – and there will be puppets. Keep smiling, tell the ones you love that you love them, and speak out loud against lies, intolerance and hypocrisy. And eat more vegetables.

And now – here’s a video of a crow tubing on a rooftop.

video source

Welcome to the New Year.


Ruffus The Dog’s Christmas Carol – Finally

Tuesday, December 20th, 2011

Ruffus The Dog’s Christmas Carol is now online and available for the world to see and share. You can even watch it here:

It would help a lot if you go to the YouTube site to Like and Comment on the show. That kind of audience engagement – *cough*buzzwords*couch* – really does make a difference.

We’ll also be posting it to our channel and a bunch of other sites very soon – as in: as soon as I can get my shit together to do so.

I promise to write a whole bunch more about how we made it, with photos and clips, and what our next steps will be for the Ruffus project – but for now you can check out what other people are saying by checking out their posts and leaving comments:

Please share this show with as many others as you can. It’s our gift to everyone for the holidays.

Download links will be posted soon – and if you want to watch the earlier Ruffus episodes you can find them on the official Ruffus web site.

And if you really really like JP Houston’s song “Merry Merry” you can find it on our Bandcamp site as a free download. It’s an immensely catchy tune and deserves to be heard over and over again. Enjoy!


P. S. Comments here are also appreciated. Tell me what you think of the show – I’d really like to know.

Merry Merry – Music Video From Ruffus The Dog’s Christmas Carol

Monday, December 5th, 2011

This is one of JP Houstons’ amazing songs from our production of Ruffus The Dog’s Christmas Carol – it’s called Merry Merry.

The full production will premiere online on December 17th. We’re also having a screening at the Revue Cinema that day where Ruffus will appear in person to answer questions. I’ll probably be there too.


We Have A Poster! – And A Release Date

Saturday, November 5th, 2011

It’s official! On December 17th we will release Ruffus The Dog’s Christmas Carol online.

On that same Saturday we will also be hosting a public screening at the historic Revue Cinema here in Toronto. Showtime: 11:00 am.

Here’s the poster for the show.

Ruffus Poster

Not bad, huh?

Limited copies of the poster will be printed, signed and sent to our generous Indie Go-Go donors. There’s still time for you to get yours by visiting our Indie Go-Go campaign page and making a donation.

If you are in the neighbourhood – that would be Parkdale, west end of Toronto – and if you’re up for a family friendly matinee screening of a Christmas classic then come on by. After the screening there will be a brief Q&A with Ruffus – live on stage! The pay-what-you-can box office proceeds will be donated to the Toronto Public Library Foundation.

For more information on the screening, visit our Facebook event page. The official Ruffus The Dog web site will also have updates about the online release.

Tell your friends. Thanks.


Ruffus Christmas Carol – Help Us Get It Done

Wednesday, October 26th, 2011

The holidays are fast approaching and I made a promise last year that our Ruffus The Dog’s Christmas Carol would be finished and released by then. Here’s how you can help make it so.

When we started the project we attempted, through Indie Go-Go, to raise the full $8,500 we expected we could scrape by on to make the whole thing work and release it to the world. We only managed to achieve $2,090 but that generosity from our supporters convinced us to carry on and go ahead with the shoot. I’ve blogged about that before – here and here and here – and here’s our original Indie Go-Go pitch.

If you’re unfamiliar with the Ruffus show itself you can find all the original episodes on the official Ruffus The Dog website or on our YouTube channel.

Well now, after almost a year of gradually, inexorably (if not continually) working on the post production of the show we are coming down to the wire. The many favours and dedicated sweat equity contributed, in addition to the much needed cash, have carried us almost to completion but once again we find ourselves in need of real money to ensure the project gets finished at the level of quality it deserves and to enable us to release it to the world on time for the holiday season.

So we have launched this 2nd round of Indie Go-Go funding.

We’re trying to raise at least $3,000 to cover further post-production costs, DVD and bandwidth expenses, and a pantload of promotional work.

There’s going to be a screening at the Revue Cinema (I’ll be posting more info on that later) with the proceeds going to support the Toronto Public Library Foundation.

The show will be released online for free streaming and downloading with the option to buy DVD copies, songs, posters, calendars, t-shirts and (hopefully) a graphic photo-novella. But it’s gotta all be done and ready for release before December 15th.

Our clock is ticking.

If you can contribute that would be freaking awesome. If you can’t you can still help us with word-of-mouth, just telling people about the project.

Mention us and link to our Indie Go-Go page on your own blog, your Facebook wall, your Twitter account, or maybe just stand on the street corner with one of those sandwich board signs whilst ringing a bell and wearing a funny hat. Whatever it takes.

Full Disclosure: When I refer to “we” on this project I am mostly referring to “me”, since I’m the guy who has always chosen to wear too many hats. Hey – I got a fat head – might as well use it, right? But I always say “we” because I am not a one-man-band; I rely upon and have benefited from the extraordinary generosity of my friends and family – all of them colleagues and collaborators in this work with me. I couldn’t do a thing without them.

Thanks in advance for your generosity. If you have any comments or suggestions or if you have any questions please feel free to post them here or via email.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to get back in the basement and keep working on the show.


Wordstock, Foodstock, Taking Stock

Saturday, October 22nd, 2011

I’ve been meaning to blog about these things for a while now and it kept getting put off. This is just a recounting of some of the things I did recently and not-so-recently.

First up was Wordstock, a festival in Collingwood that celebrates the written word. I was invited by Janet Fairbridge (a friend and colleague from my CBC days) who, in concert with Silann Kaduc, produced their Off The Page cabaret night. It was a blast!

Sean Cullen hosted the event which included readings from Lee Maracle, music from John Somosi and a great band called Snack!, the Toronto Poetry Slam Team, and in the middle of it all was Césan d’Ornellas Levine painting up a storm. Césan’s finished canvas was auctioned off at the end of the night with the proceeds going to support the Wordstock Festival.

I was there as Ruffus and got to engage in some wonderfully silly banter with Cullen before giving the crowd a sneak peek at some clips from our Christmas Carol. Sean is always hilarious and he had me snorking into my microphone or hooting loudly from the back of the room throughout the night.

The whole thing was a lot of fun and I got to meet up with a lot of great people and later at a party Stuart Ross and I had the opportunity to reminisce about the late bp nichol, whom I had known from my days on Fraggle Rock.

So thank you, Janet and Silann for including me in the festivities.

The other event I attended recently was Foodstock, organized by Chef Michael Stadtlander and a host of about 100 other great chefs from across Canada in support of the efforts to stop th edevelopment of a mega-quarry that threatens to destroy 2,316 acres of prime agricultural land in Dufferin County.

What better way to draw the support of the people than to feed them.

The lines of hungry activist citizens wound through the trees of this beautiful landscape and we indulged in a seemingly endless stream of delicious cuisine based on the foods grown and raised locally.

We also met up with a bunch of friends we hadn’t seen in a while.

Good food and a good cause. And a shit load of mud.

The taking stock part of this blog post is my lack of attendance at the ongoing #OccupyTO action which has taken up residence in St. James park and continues to grow. I haven’t been wholly neglectful of our local Occupy protests, I just haven’t shown up in person – yet. I’ve tweeted my ass off (for what that’s worth) about #occupyTO and #ourwallstreet and I WILL be getting out there soon. This is part of a much larger global movement that holds the promise to change our world for the better.

Yeah right. Words. Don’t mean a thing without action.

Sometimes just showing up is the support that’s needed. We can write our rage in tweets and blogs and clever signs but in the end it is physical presence that defines any movement. You gotta show up.

And that’s what I’ll be doing. Not camping out – I’m too old and creaky and selfish to do that – but I’ll give whatever material and moral support I can. Small potatoes for some but for an agoraphobic curmudgeon it’s a relatively big deal.

So, whatever changes you want to see in the world you have to become that change yourself. Get out there. Make a sign. Make a noise. Put on a show. Show up.

And now – speaking of stock – I gotta get my ass back into my own kitchen and finish making some soup.


P. S. Another thing we did a little while back was take part in one of the Nuit Blanche works.

It was called Ride The Rocket and was put together by Kurt Firla and his colleagues.

My wife Karen and I provided and performed a bunch of puppet characters for part of their immersive and surreal streetcar ride.

It was easily the best presentation of the entire festival and that would have been true without our involvement but it was certainly a pantload of fun to play with Kurt and his team and then on the night ride the finished work.

UpDate: Yo Mills, What Are Ya Doin’?

Wednesday, October 19th, 2011

I’m at the cusp of a very busy time which, of course, means I am procrastinating wildly (like writing this blog post) in a nonsensical effort to kick away all the tasks I have set for myself.

Silly monkey.

The editing on the Ruffus The Dog project continues. Our version of The Christmas Carol is nearing completion and the work of promoting it is already gearing up in anticipation of our December 17th release. We’re even planning on having a theatrical screening here in Toronto to mark the occasion and celebrate with everyone who worked on it. I’ll post more on that later.

Also as part of the overall Ruffus Project we’ve been working on a series of illustrated graphic novellas based on the original shoes. These are going to be really cool and colourful publications for young readers. Sort of a mix between Classics Illustrated comics and Fractured Fairy Tales – but with a dog in the middle of it all.

Another part of the Ruffus Project is the beginning of a new web series based on the original episodes called Ruffus Rhymes. These are going to be similar to the original fairy tale episodes we’ve been posting online, just as silly and irreverent, but shorter and using classic nursery rhymes from around the world as fodder for our fun.

The Rubber Chicken Players is another web series we shot this summer. It originated from the minds of Jim Taylor and Fred Stinson and then snowballed into a collection of movie, book and theatre parodies featuring – yep – rubber chickens. The full edit on that won’t begin until the Christmas Carol work is completed but some preliminary episodes have been cut together and they are incredibly stupid – which is a good thing. When that is ready to come out I’ll be sure to holler.

My wife, Karen Valleau, has her own web series in development, a delightfully sweet project called My Kitteh! for young audiences. It’s entirely her project but I’m acting as the tech monkey for her vision.

My pal, Fred Stinson, is diligently working on his own web series with Alyson Court called Fuzzy Bunny. It’s definitely not for kids but it is all sorts of juicy, dirty, goofy fun. Fred’s writing all the episodes. I’ll be directing. I think we might be shooting next month; I’m not sure – ask Fred.

All of the above work is pretty much self-financed, with the exception of The Christmas Carol that has been partially funded through the generous support of our Indie go-Go donors – so while it takes up the majority of our time it doesn’t provide a pay cheque. You win – you lose – it’s all good. By the way, we’re going to start another round of financing through Indie Go-go to ensure the timely completion of our Christmas Carol. More on that later.

So what is it with all these fucking web series?

Hey, I’m not the only one.

Toronto boasts a very large Web Series Community creating shows like Jason Leaver’s Out With Dad, Jill Golick’s Ruby Skye P.I. – both award winners – and many others including: Tights & Fights, Microwave Porn, and Pretty In Geek. What we’re doing with Ruffus and our other projects are just a small part of a growing seachange in the development, creation and distribution of entertainment within the interwebs, spearheaded by (among others) Felicia Day’s phenomenal success with her own production The Guild.

I’ll be blathering on more about that when I have time to collect my thoughts. Eventually, as I alluded in earlier postings here, I want to redesign this site – and even change the URL – so this blog becomes a combination news aggregator and creative space with an extra little corner for the occasional rant. I know what I want it to be and how I want it to look, I just haven’t found the time to sit down and code the new pages yet. Soon.

Meanwhile, I’m going back down to the basement to work on Ruffus and take the occasional break to work on my separate adult graphic novel project, that long overdue feature screenplay I want to shoot next year and a batch of pitches for television series my agents hopes I get finished before anything else. I didn’t mention those? Yeah. More stuff.

Silly monkey.

P.S. The other thing I have to do is find a paying gig so I can continue to finance all this work and deal with the bills that are piling up. Maybe I’ll buy another lottery ticket. Yeah. That’ll do the trick.

Silly monkey.

Ruffus The Dog – A Christmas Carol Update

Sunday, July 31st, 2011

I know – I know – it’s been months since I last posted anything about our online holiday special: Ruffus The Dog’s Christmas Carol. What can I say? I’ve been busy. I had to pay the rent. My car had a flat tire. My suit was still at the cleaners. My dog ate it. Insert applicable lame excuse here.

Actually, I have been working on it and as it slowly nears completion I eke out small portions to share with other people to get their opinion and to just generally let folks know I’m not neglecting the task at hand.

Here’s a few more.

As you may recall from previous posts about the production and some behind the scenes footage – this production of Charles Dicken’s classic is just a tad out of the ordinary.

We shot this thing in my living room. We used green screen in a very small area with no prepared background elements prior to shooting. It was all very much a seat-of-your-pants kind of shoot. Everyone who worked on it wore several hats and helped out with everything that needed to be done. It was a lot of fun.

All the backgrounds – our virtual sets – are being constructed after the edit was completed. We had to get the timed cut done so JP Hosuton, our composer, could record the soundtrack. He worked with a lot of rough images, layered un-composited green screen shots and a lot of frames with just text describing what the hell was supposed to be going on.

The task of creating the CG virtual sets has fallen to me and I now find myself esconced in my basement edit suite working on a Hackintosh (thank you, Mark!) with just Final Cut Pro, PhotoShop and Cinema 4D to craft and piece together the necessary elements for all 230 separate shots – most of which contain 4 to 10 layers of footage. Wheee!

Sounds like work – but it is fun.

I am liking what is coming out. It looks good. I wish it was going faster. I wish I had some staff to do things for me – like get another beer. I wish – well – as they used to say: “If wishes were horses, beggars would ride.” Wishing won’t get me closer to completing the work. All there is for me to do is to just fucking do it.

And that I am.

Here’s a song clip for you. It’s one of JP’s great tunes – it takes place during the visitation from the Ghost Of Christmas Past where she shows Scrooge how his lust for money lost him love for Alice.

Let me know what you think.

There’s more to come. Much more.


P. S. It is definitely odd to be spending the dog days summer cutting together snow scenes.

P. P. S. And I’m still looking for a paying gig.