LAIKA:Life in Stop Motion

MoMI welcomes LAIKA for new stop-motion exhibit

Photo Credit: Christos Katsiaouni / Museum of the Moving Image

The Museum of the Moving Image (MoMI) has begun its latest exhibition, “LAIKA: Life in Stop Motion,” which is set to run through Aug. 27, 2023. Housed on the second floor, the exhibit features the props and dolls used in the five stop motion films created by LAIKA, an award-winning feature film animation studio.

Inside the exhibit,  puppets that were used in the production of each film are found tucked behind glass for admiration. For a hands-on experience, guests will find a table in the center of the room that allows them to create their own “stop motion” film. 

The stop motion technology that is available for guests to create their own short clips was provided by LAIKA, and it is the first time anything of its kind has been made available for visitors of the museum.

What is Stop Motion?

Stop motion is a filmmaking technique in which objects are physically manipulated in small increments between frames so that they will appear to exhibit independent motion or change when the series of frames is played back. This process takes a tremendous amount of time to create a film — from start to finish, it is around five years, according to LAIKA’s Marketing Production Manager Daniel Pascal.

Pascal has worked with LAIKA since it opened in 2005, and was involved in the production of its early films — including “Coraline,” their first film that has since become one of their most renowned. Since then, the studio has released four more films:  “Paranorman (2012),” “The Boxtrolls (2014),” “Kubo and the Two Strings (2016)” and “Missing Link.” 

What’s next for LAIKA

The studio is now working on their sixth film, “Wildwood.” The voice cast was recently announced, and there has been no release date yet announced. Pascal described how the movie has an “epic” scale, and that they will be building on their success and skills from previous movies in the newest film’s production. 

“Every movie we have to learn a different skill set. For ‘Kubo and the Two Strings,’ we didn’t know how we were going to do long fabrics or long hair or fun — all the things you typically stay away from in animation,” Pascal said. “Being a full time studio, [you have to ask,] ‘How can I add to that box of tricks.’”

LAIKA is a full-time studio, working in a studio based in Oregon year-round to create different stop motion films. This dedication, Pascal describes, makes the studio a pleasure to be part of.

The Director of Curatorial Affairs, Barbara Miller, worked collaboratively with Pascal to create the interactive exhibit. 

“It was always our dream to have stuff here like it is, and it’s finally happening,” she shared. “So we are very excited.”

The exhibit is complemented by screenings of LAIKA films throughout the duration of the exhibit. 

“LAIKA: Life in Stop Motion” is part of the museum’s core exhibition, “Behind the Screen.” For more information on the exhibit or to purchase tickets, visit

Porcelli: The Other Side of Education (9/8)


By Mike Porcelli

Welcome to the second chapter of “The Other Side Of Education,” a title that was inspired by my appearance last month on my friend Frank Morano’s WABC radio show, “The Other Side Of Midnight,” because trade education is the OTHER alternative to the academic education path that’s promoted by most secondary school systems.

Since the time my high school tried to discourage me from taking shop class 60 years ago, I’ve known that trade education, now CTE, is a viable alternative to the costly, “college is the only path to success,” that’s been promoted by the education establishment.

Career and technical education is not only an equally effective route… for students with the aptitude and desire, CTE offers opportunities for faster entry into high-paying, very satisfying jobs that are in high demand — with little or no debt.

Last week I again appeared on Frank’s show to discuss the extremely positive feedback we both received from our first discussion on education.

Many of his listeners called or wrote to express their support for restoring trade education. Some reported their own regrets about not being offered CTE programs. Others expressed their support for expanding those programs for current students, and their dissatisfaction with the slow pace of bringing shop classes back for those who want them.

Some people reported that because they were denied the opportunity for trade training in high school, they were forced to seek out and pay for career training on their own.

In all cases, that training provided them with highly successful careers, often with higher earnings than their classmates who were burdened by college debt.

Reactions to the first chapter of this column were much the same… great support for expanding CTE programs now, and regrets that they have been diminished for half a century.

The two sides of the education coin, academic and trade training, are NOT mutually exclusive. I took advantage of both while in high school and college.

Many others have also enjoyed the benefits of the two sides of education and gone on to earn all levels of college degrees during their careers — mostly without debt.

Others who went directly to college and could not find satisfying employment, later turned to trade schools to learn useful skills, providing them with successful careers.

For our economy and society to continue to prosper: schools must develop each student’s individual natural abilities and talents — whatever they are.

Academic & Trade Education are Two Sides of a Coin. This column explores the impact of CTE programs on students, society, and the economy.

Mike Porcelli: life-long mechanic, adjunct professor, and host of Autolab Radio, is committed to restoring trade education in schools before it’s too late. 

Joe ‘the Dancer’ Ferrante, the true star of local concerts

By Jessica Meditz

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Joe ‘the Dancer’ Ferrante of Flushing attends nearly every community concert or event.

If you live in the area and have attended a free, local concert or parade, chances are you’ve seen Joe Ferrante in action.

Ferrante, 72, who calls himself “Joe the Dancer,” has an appearance you just can’t miss: usually sporting a bright yellow muscle tee and denim shorts along with his long ponytail adorned with colorful hair ties from start to finish.

He can be spotted easily at the front of any public event that has music, truly dancing like nobody’s watching.

A resident of Flushing since 1958, Ferrante travels across the five boroughs and Long Island to attend free concerts.

In true New Yorker fashion, Ferrante does not drive, and uses his own two feet and a MetroCard to get around — with the occasional ride from his many friends.

“I started gathering information about free things to do in New York and found out about all the parks, like Eisenhower Park and Bryant Park,” he said. “I said to myself, ‘Why would people pay when there’s so much free stuff to do in New York?’” 

“Now I have people that have computers and send me print outs sometimes or they call me. I keep my ears open,” Ferrante continued. “Every single day I find new things to do.”

One of Ferrante’s personal goals is to attend as many free events as he can.

Before the pandemic wreaked havoc, he attended 321 free events in 2019. This year, he’s already up to 165 events.

Although Ferrante has never taken formal dance lessons, he has been freestyling his moves at shows for as long as he can remember. He also learns from watching other people dance.

A die-hard fan of the Rolling Stones and Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band, Ferrante lived through the time where Motown and doo-wop classics were big, as well as the golden era of classic rock.

In fact, he attended Woodstock in 1969 while he worked for the U.S. Postal Service as a mail carrier.

“Festivals were a new thing at the time and nobody knew what was going on. That was the first time I did acid, which I did for three days, and I still was good to go to work on Monday,” Ferrante said.

“I didn’t see every band that was there, and there was a lot of stuff going on…you wandered around, you went to the lake,” he continued. “I remember Santana, The Who, Jefferson Airplane, Joe Cocker and Ten Years After. It was excellent.”

Ferrante attended Woodstock a month before he was drafted to the Army.

He served in Texas from 1969 to 1971, and feels “lucky” that he wasn’t sent straight to Vietnam, like many men were at the time.

“I lucked out because I took typing in high school and went into a company which had over 90 percent college graduates. I got hired because I knew how to type and they said they were losing the guy from New York, so they got another guy from New York,” Ferrante said. “My job was in Congressionals, and I was a fact finder. I would find information about what really happened…you really could hardly help anybody, but once in a while, you actually got to help someone out.”

After he came back from serving in the Army, Ferrante continued to attend concerts and other places where he could dance, such as the Dr. Pepper Music Festival in Central Park, clubs during the disco frenzy and at various locations in the Hamptons, where he and his friends would rent houses for cheap.

Ferrante busting a move in Juniper Valley Park at a concert featuring band Half Step.

Today, his moves range from one best described as the fish swim, where he puts his arms together and swirls them around as if he’s swimming, to skipping around the front of the stage.

“I love to skip because it’s so much fun. I think I started doing the skip a few years ago,” Ferrante said. “It makes you feel young. When you’re standing in one spot and you skip around, you get more refreshed because you’re in a brand new spot.”

Ferrante said that many people have come up to him over the years at shows to compliment his routine and even join him while he dances.

His signature look, along with his moves, symbolize his free-spirited personality.

Ferrante has not had a haircut in about 15 years, and underneath all the rainbow scrunchies on his ponytail is his own hair. He’s been sporting the look for around eight years.

“It was just so dark and dreary, I had to add some color to it,” he said.

Although he’s probably one of the most positive people in the borough, Ferrante didn’t always have the best outlook on life.

In the past, he suffered from alcoholism and drug addiction, and is now almost 20 years sober.

When Ferrante first became sober in 2005, doctors discovered he had esophageal cancer.

He also experienced cirrhosis of the liver as a result of drinking, which left him unable to walk for quite some time.

“I had to use a walker to walk, and eventually graduated to a cane. Now look at me. I’m 16 years cancer-free,” Ferrante said.

He added that after he got sober, he was in a 10-year slump, but eventually realized he had to turn himself around.

“My whole life, I always felt like I should have died many times, and God has given me something to do,” Ferrante said. “He must want me to inspire people.”

As an Italian-American, Ferrante’s Catholic faith is important to him and brings him peace, along with his own spiritual readings and meditation.

He has been retired for the last 19 years and is very happy to live a blissful life with no cell phone or computer.

As he gets closer to his 73rd birthday in October, Ferrante encourages younger folks to be more optimistic and see the good in their day-to-day lives, as you never know when your last day will be.

“When I go to sleep at night, I ask myself ‘Did I do the best I could today?’ And 95 percent of the time, the answer is yes,” he said.

He went on to debunk the typical “glass half empty or glass half full” question that’s supposed to determine if someone is an optimist or a pessimist.

The glass is always full,” Ferrante explained. “Even if it’s only half filled with liquid, the other half is still filled with oxygen. So it’s always full.”

Volunteer group keeps Forest Hills clean

Forest Hills & Rego Park Graffiti Cleanup Initiative helps businesses

By Times Staff

[email protected]

Volunteers cleaned up graffiti in various locations in Forest Hills, including Andre’s Hungarian Bakery.

A grassroots community group took to the streets of Forest Hills last week to restore the curb appeal of various local businesses.

The Forest Hills & Rego Park Graffiti Cleanup Initiative was founded in 2020 by Michael Perlman, a columnist for this newspaper, and Michael Conigliaro, the Republican candidate for the upcoming State Assembly District 28 election.

The group’s formation was inspired in part by the suspension of the Graffiti-Free NYC program by former 

Mayor Bill de Blasio, combined with an increasing number of local establishments tagged by vandals.

“Our community group’s mission is to restore and enhance commercial and residential properties by eliminating graffiti to foster civic pride,” Perlman said. “It’s our community, so we have the power in our hearts and fingertips to take it into our hands when we see a problem that needs to be addressed, rather than thinking that someone else will always pursue it.”

The initiative is powered solely by volunteers, and their work involves painting, scrubbing or power-washing properties that have been graffitied.

Group members conduct outreach to local businesses who may need help cleaning up and by posting about their efforts to social media.

These interactions have led to the recruitment of additional volunteers as well as donations from local businesses, including Ggny Painting Plus, AZ Painting & Refinishing and J&B Paint & Wallpaper.

Businesses that would like the Forest Hills & Rego Park Graffiti Cleanup Initiative to remove graffiti must first sign a consent form, and many are grateful for the positive impact the group has left in the community.

“If graffiti and other quality of life issues are not addressed in a timely manner, it often multiplies, but we are committed. As a case in point, it is a shame that some properties are tagged again, but it’s a matter of us to come forward and emphasize our commitment by maintaining them routinely,” Perlman said.

“I remember how the owners of YouTube 99 Cents on Queens Blvd in Forest Hills would thank me with a warm smile for volunteering, whenever I patronized their shop. We will soon be repainting their three gates.”

In addition to helping local neighborhoods and businesses on a larger scale, the initiative sets out to foster civic pride, teamwork and friendships.

“Volunteering has helped me understand my community, its history and I’ve met some great people from all walks of life throughout the process,” Kevin Sanichara, a Forest Hills resident and volunteer, said. “An area not being maintained leads to others not caring, which causes crime to go up and with the recent uptick in crime across New York City, it’s best we do our part as a community to keep the neighborhood pure and clean.”

Michael Perlman, Naima Sultana, Clifford Rosen and Kevin Sanichara help cover up a neighborhood eyesore.

Last Thursday, the group covered up eyesores tagged on numerous properties, including Andre’s Hungarian Bakery, Tu Casa Restaurant, Empire Liquors and NY Hot Bagels & Bialys in Forest Hills.

This Thursday evening, they plan to get together again and assist more businesses with graffiti removal.

Some group members feel it is their calling to volunteer.

“By working together in our community, we can bring lots of positive change. It could be graffiti cleaning, it could be preservation, it could be helping other neighbors who are in need. Our actions have a positive impact,” Naima Sultana, a volunteer and Forest Hills resident, said. “We all should have a purpose in our lives. My purpose is to help others,” she continued. “When I see my work bring a smile and joy in people’s lives, that is the greatest satisfaction of my life.”

The Forest Hills & Rego Park Graffiti Cleanup Initiative is proud to recruit new volunteers.

Those interested in participating can join the Facebook group “Forest Hills, Rego Park, Kew Gardens – ‘Our Communities’” and contact Michael Perlman.

Flight attendants say, ‘Assault Won’t Fly’

By Jessica Meditz

[email protected]

Photo Courtesy: Twitter, Transport Workers Union.

Last week, flight attendants from around the country gathered at one of the top destinations, John F. Kennedy International Airport in Queens, to educate fellow workers and passengers about airline assaults.

Transport Workers Union’s “Assault Won’t Fly” campaign was launched in response to a drastic rise in assaults by unruly passengers during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has recently been fueled more by increasing flight delays and cancellations.

This outreach was conducted in preparation for Labor Day weekend, a time where airline workers see increased amounts of travelers — opening the door for higher tensions. 

In fact, the New York Post reported that on Sunday, hundreds of flights in and out of the U.S. were delayed and dozens more canceled.

“We’re worried about Labor Day weekend, but we’re really worried about any time where there’s going to be increased travel,” said Thom McDaniel, a flight attendant for Southwest Airlines and TWU International Vice President.

“We’ve seen that people will go after whoever’s in front of them. It is against the law to interfere with a crew member’s duties, but it’s seldom enforced,” he continued.

McDaniel said that in 2021, there was a stark increase in airline assaults with nearly 6,000 assaults. Only 1,300 of those were taken through and prosecuted.

“This year, there’s still been over 1,800 assaults, and this is without a mask mandate,” he said. “They were happening before, they’re happening after…the law has always been there, but no one’s ever enforced it. The extent of it has been that you take someone off the plane, just so that they can walk across the hall and get on another plane.”

TWU supports the Protection from Abusive Passengers Act – legislation introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives this April to ban abusive airline passengers from flying.

The union continues to call on politicians to enact the first-ever Flight Attendants Bill of Rights to secure universal safety protocols, reporting guidelines for assaults and self-defense courses for all flight attendants.

“We don’t even get self defense courses every year,” said Raychel Armstrong, a flight attendant for Allegiant Air. “The last time I was fully trained was 11 years ago. I want to be able to defend myself against someone that’s trying to assault me sexually, or even threatening my life, but most of the time we’re just out of luck.”

Armstrong said that because her line of work is female-dominated, she and her colleagues are often questioned whether or not they are exaggerating what they go through.

“A lot of the people who are assaulted won’t speak out about it because they’re so embarrassed,” she said. “We are trained to be empathetic and understanding, and that is also used against us. I would constantly question the legitimacy of my own experience. A lot of times, they take the passenger’s side.”

Armstrong said that not only are unruly passengers a threat to airline workers, but passenger on passenger violence is also common.

For this reason, TWU encourages folks to be vocal about the presence of airline assaults, write to legislators to co-sign the Protection from Abusive Passengers Act and of course, be kind to your flight attendants.

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