Beef Sumo Needs Your Help!
Austin children’s book author Keith Graves re-animates
By Raoul Hernandez,
4:20PM, Fri. May 1, 2015
“The stop-motion version of Frank Was a Monster Who Wanted to Dance cackles and prances with a Tim Burton-esque dark glee. As its narrator dulcets his best Boris Karloff, this two-and-a-half minute ‘work in progress’ roars to life with its star Batmobiling it down to the danceteria on a twangy crest of Shadowy Men From a Shadowy Planet surftones.”
So I wrote 14 years ago next month in a cover story on local children’s book author Keith Graves. At that juncture, his first title, Frank Was a Monster Who Wanted to Dance, was only 2. Meanwhile, its copious siblings – Petboy (2001), Uncle Blubbafink’s Seriously Ridiculous Stories (2001), Loretta: Ace Pinky Scout (2002), and Three Nasty Gnarlies – queued up like first graders getting on a school bus.
The driver, as it turned out, had bigger ambitions:
“Graves’ agent at Michael Ovitz’s Artists Management Group mentions a teleplay titled Sammy Finkelman’s Search for His Imagination, plus a ... Sony pilot titled Rednecks in Space, not to be confused with another trial ’toon Graves fires up at home, Thunderpig, a cartoon noir following the exploits of a porker who loses his best hair (‘I’m just a hog with an unruly coif’) ....
“The No. 2 most likely candidate for a screen near you goes to: Young MacDonald, a book/television series about a genius super-kid who bio-engineers animals.”
Last fall, when Graves and I met up for the first time since the story – on the occasion of new title The Monsterator, appearing at the Texas Book Festival – that’s what inquiring minds wanted to know. What had become of those projects? For all that we the cable-impaired knew, one of more of them could’ve already be a hit on Adult Swim.
“Crashed and burned,” Graves shook his head – the lot of ’em.
And yet today, when the author’s Kickstarter campaign to fund webisodes of Beef Sumo begins, his example all those years ago of Young MacDonald’s bio-engineering prowess betrays a ring of familiarity:
“Like, for instance, the bull is a beatnik that drinks espresso.”
Obviously Sumo’s no beatnik, but he’s suddenly first in line of Graves’ prodigious characters to whiff animation. When his creator screened for me that stop-motion detail of Frank Was a Monster Who Wanted to Dance in 2001, it appeared a foregone conclusion that an illustrator with Graves’ gifts would leap to the next level of artistic evolution. Benevolence and belief will make it so.
Raoul Hernandez, Oct. 23, 2014
Jan. 15, 2021
Jan. 8, 2021
Keith Graves, Beef Sumo, Tim Burton, Boris Karloff, Frank Was a Monster Who Wanted to Dance, Petboy, Uncle Blubbafink’s Seriously Ridiculous Stories, Loretta: Ace Pinky Scout, Three Nasty Gnarlies, Adult Swim, Michael Ovitz, Texas Book Festival, Shadowy Men From a Shadowy Planet