Beef Sumo Needs Your Help!

Austin children’s book author Keith Graves re-animates

Beef Sumo Needs Your Help!

“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.

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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

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