Archive for October, 2010

BOOO!!

Saturday, October 30th, 2010

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Hi Everyone! Happy Halloween! Do you remember when big city dailies had LOCAL cartoonists to decorate their pages? In St. Louis in the 1930s through the 1970s we had “Vic Vac” (Victor Vaccarezza), the “Chief Artist” of the St. Louis Globe-Democrat. That’s a picture of him up there in the Globe-Democrat art dept. in 1931. He’s in the middle of the photo, near the trash can. He was very adept at funny “crowd” cartoons, and usually did the holiday front covers for the “Sunday” magazine section of the paper. His aerial perspective reminds me of Dudley Fisher’s “Right Around Home with Myrtle” Sunday pages. He had a great Halloween imagination, I like the little green ghost shoving the moon aside so that the haunted house can be moved. In St. Louis, it was a relatively common occurrence for an older home to be moved from one lot to another, sometimes rolling there on large logs placed under the first floor. This cover is from October 28, 1962.

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Also from 1962 is this “mystery” daily drawn by Wally Bishop. I saved a few of these because I like dachshunds (sorry, cats). Our first family dog was a dachsie named Schatzie. One day she ran away from us and never returned! My brother and I loved her, and this strip reminds me of her. The dachshund is called “Junior”, here. Anybody know what the strip’s actual title was?

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Felix this time is from 2-24 to 3-1-1936. Felix continues to foil Fooy Tu Yu’s gang, and sits on the chimney to their hide out twice, once to warm himself, and once to “smoke” them out. I love Messmer’s dialog in the 2-29, “Again, I laugh at the villains.” That could be the title of a Felix strip collection. In the Sunday (3-1), Felix says Messmer’s favorite word, “Fine”, and Noah says “So!” in the last panel. Where would Otto be without “So and Fine”?

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Krazy this time is from 8-12 to 8-17-1940. The strip’s mostly “for the birds”, featuring three days of bird themed gags. In the 8-15, Krazy takes the term “Watch your step”, literally. Krazy’s strict interpretation of stock phrases also is the basis for the 8-17, in which Krazy reads a barometer.

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In Patrick, from 5-16 to 5-21-1966, Patrick is true to form, hitting little Suzy, his most ardent admirer, and getting close to Charlie Brown territory as the baseball game is rained out. Godfrey isn’t called upon to do the “rain, rain, go away” gag, that Linus did so well. Speaking of Peanuts, maybe some of you watched “It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” on ABC last week. I enjoyed seeing old friend Bill Littlejohn’s appealing animation of Snoopy and Lucy. I liked the staging of Snoopy’s emergence from the pumpkin patch as one cel just slides north with an eerie sound effect. If this was an ideal world, ABC would have dedicated the hour to Bill Littlejohn, who passed away just a few weeks ago. The Peanuts specials wouldn’t have been as lively without Bill’s funny drawings. Not so very long ago, we used to look forward to animated specials on television. Now they are very rare critters indeed. And I, for one, don’t look forward to them anymore. Now go out and raid your neighbor’s storehouses, that’s what Halloween is for.

More Comics

Saturday, October 23rd, 2010

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Hi readers! There seems to be at least some interest in the Felix comics I’m posting, so here’s some more: 2-17 to 2-23-1936. Felix continues to elude the menacing men of China by running away with the diamond. The men fight among themselves and Felix throws onions at them causing a tear gas effect. The way is clear for Felix to escape through the roof. Another Messmer characteristic is to substitute “home remedies”, such as onions, for more lethal things like tear gas bombs. Sort of like making an airplane out of a dachshund and some oxygen balloons. In the Sunday, Felix mucks about with the Professor’s time machine to the Noah’s Ark era, and is rejected from the ark! This page must have looked beautiful in color with all the Messmer animals, but I don’t have it that way.

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In the Krazys this time (8-5 to 8-10-1940) Mimi goes on a vacation leaving the principal cast devastated (they are all in love with her). In the 8-10, they learn she has a boyfriend, and revert to type. You will notice in strips such as the 8-8, Herriman put a lot of care into the rugs in Ignatz’s house that change in every panel. A lot of papers ran the strip severely cropped at the bottom, to save space. Because of this parsimony on the part of newspapers, cartoonists had to cram the dialog and the main figure action in the top two-thirds of the strip. Chester Gould’s Dick Tracy was designed that way in the early 1940s and so the Kat was truncated as well. These strips are the full size, top to bottom, so we get to enjoy all of Garge’s beautiful designs.

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Patrick in the strips from 5-9 to 5-14-1966 enjoys mistreating Elsa and yelling at a bubblegum machine, while Godfrey eats several of Elsa’s mud pies to avoid hurting her feelings. I’ll bet Patrick grows up to be a spousal abuser.

Thanks for all the great comments on my last post! I will have another BAMBI reading posted soon.

Falling Leaves by the Salten Sea

Saturday, October 16th, 2010

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Hi everyone.  We’ve been on a Felix Salten kick lately. I bought a copy of Salten’s JIBBY THE CAT for my wife Cathy’s birthday, and we both read it. It was not the children’s book it seemed to be, but a rather sober and grim look at a cat’s life from both the wild and domestic side. Salten doesn’t spare the blood or the death, and we both laughed and cried reading the book. I had never read Salten’s BAMBI. JIBBY whetted my appetite for more Salten to the point that I checked out BAMBI from our public library. I love the Disney cartoon feature version of the story very much, but Salten’s novel is a very different deer from the Disney version. It’s not so much “love is a song”, but “Can’t you stay by yourself?” Disney’s subtext is the “circle of life”, but Salten’s is that all creatures, including man, are mortal and there is a higher power over us all. I have continued the oral tradition this time by reading one of my favorite deleted scenes from Disney’s BAMBI, the “Leaf Scene”, and also reading Salten’s original version of the scene from Chap. 8 of BAMBI. The Disney script used many of Salten’s lines from the book, but rearranged them and assigned a definite sexual identity to the leaves. In Salten’s book,  once a leaf is severed from the limb, it loses all power of speech and life, but in Disney’s script, the leaves seem to have life even as they fall and wind up next to each other on the ground, giving a hopeful quality to the scene. The sketches above are from Robert D. Field’s book “The Art of Walt Disney”, as is the text of the “Leaf Scene”. Early treatments for BAMBI, anthropomorphized not only leaves, but even the raindrops, the original version of the “Little April Shower” song was called “I Like Falling” by Frank Churchill. In it, the raindrops are actually singing about how they enjoy falling from the sky. The screenplay of BAMBI evolved to the point that only the animals were anthropomorphic, and a lot of the proposed cast was dropped, such as a chipmunk and a squirrel character. Disney made major characters out of Thumper the Rabbit, “Friend Hare” in Salten’s version, and the owl, a Screech Owl in Salten’s version. The major change is that the Disney script is a matriarchy, with Bambi’s mother being very central, versus Salten’s patriarchy, with the Old Stag, Bambi’s father, becoming his son’s chief adviser and role model (“Can’t you stay by yourself?”) Here is a link to my audio on Chapter 8: http://www.archive.org/details/LeavesChap.8 . In future posts, I’ll read a bit more from Salten’s BAMBI, it is a remarkable and very affecting book, and really NOT for children.

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Felix is from 2-10 to 2-16-1936. Felix and Danny Dooit run from the cobra and it turns on Punk Chow and Fooy Tu Yu. Felix becomes a high wire artist to retrieve the diamond from a clothesline. I like Messmer’s control of graphics to suggest Fooy Tu Yu’s change of mood in the 2/13, in panel one, he has rounded hands and rounded fingers as he talks to Danny, in panel two, Fooy’s hands and fingers change to menacing points as he chases Danny and Felix. In the Sunday, Felix is a hero again, as he retrieve’s the Professor’s radio from a thief. In the next to the last panel, a favorite Messmer word shows up in Felix’s speech: “Fine! It Worked” Messmer used “Fine” over and over again in dialog both in the strip and the comic books. Maybe Otto was a fan of the “Vic and Sade” radio show of the 1930s, one of the characters from that show, Uncle Fletcher (Clarence Hartzell) always said “Fine!”, when he wanted to cover up for his ignorance of a topic.

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Krazy is from 7-29 to 8-3-1940. Ignatz is in trouble with his wife for bringing Mimi so many apples, and when Mimi sets up a private school of her own, the principal cast play hooky.

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Patrick is from 5-2 to 5-7-1966. Godfrey, Elsa and Suzy wind up on the fuzzy end of an ice cream cone and a baseball bat, and Patrick is on the wrong end of a hypodermic needle.

I completed the scene of animation I mentioned last week. The characters were Private Snafu and the Technical Fairy, for Steve Stanchfield’s upcoming DVD with upgraded copies of all the Private Snafu cartoons, including a few that didn’t make it into “The Complete Private Snafu” videotapes of years ago. I really found myself enjoying drawing the characters, they were designed by Art Heineman to be fun to animate, and they are! Steve liked my animation and the drawings have been shipped to him. I was afraid I couldn’t animate or operate the test computer after such a long time, but it all came back to me. Maybe I’ll get to do another scene someday, maybe not. Experience counts not for a thing in today’s “animation” marketplace. Great working with you, Steve!

Animating again!

Wednesday, October 6th, 2010

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Well, thanks to a good friend, I’ve come out of a three year retirement to try animating another scene. The scene is only six feet long, but fairly involved with two characters, plus effects. I’m still doing it with pencils and paper, I’ll tell you if it’s worth bragging about after I shoot a test. I was really scared to try animating again, I admit it, but getting back on the horse was the hardest part. I’m trotting along again, and I’m enjoying drawing for animation.

Felix is from 2-3 to 2-9-1936 this time. Felix and Danny continue to explore Phooey tu Yu’s eerie Chinatown diggings. Keep an eye on that diamond on top of the cobra’s head in the 2-8, it’s going to be very important to Danny. In the Sunday, Felix continues to assist the Professor, but gets blamed for the Prof’s bad luck after a sharpster robs him of his radio. Felix never earns lasting respect from anybody!

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Krazy is from 7-22 to 7-27-1940 this time. We continue the story of Mimi’s little red schoolhouse, as a strong streak of vaudeville takes over the strip. I am intrigued with the names of the games in the 7-22, what is “prisoner’s base” and “dug on a rock”? I could look them up, but I prefer to be educated by my readers, anyone know?

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Patrick is from 4-25 to 4-30-1966, and is usual the mean little kid is beating up Suzy, Godfrey and his Mom, in that order. What does Suzy see in a brat like Patrick?

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Perhaps Jim Tyer drew this picket sign in 1947, the last of our series of Terry picket signs from the strike. Thanks to Charlie Judkins for supplying some of the history behind the strike. I’m chagrined to say I’ve never read all of Tom Sito’s history of trade unionism in animation, “Drawing The Line”. I looked at Jerry Beck’s copy, and there is a whole chapter devoted to the strike, with great photos of Jim Tyer and Eddie Rehberg painting picket signs as only cartoonists can paint them. Jim was not only one of the three greatest animators of all time, in my opinion, but he cared about his fellow artists enough to paint signs and march! Very few Union members today would do that. So many studios, big and small, promise their employees Utopia, pension and health plans that evaporate as soon as the job is over, unpaid overtime, and promises of continued employment that never materialize. Unions are all we really have to help each other, make them better, people! Don’t work overtime (or straight time) for free!!!