Archive for September, 2011

A Book Review

Tuesday, September 20th, 2011

krazy-yoe-book-2.jpg This photo is the main reason to buy “Krazy Kat & The Art of George Herriman: A Celebration” by Craig Yoe, published by Abrams Comicarts, New York in 2011. It is on page 160, and is a portrait of Garge with the family cat: “Kat Herriman”, one of the most charming pictures I’ve ever seen of the maestro. There are many things the book has to offer: the classic writings on Herriman and Krazy Kat by Gilbert Seldes, E. E. Cummings and Tad Dorgan. Newer essays by Bill Watterson, Craig Yoe, Craig McCracken, Richard Thompson and Jay Cantor, among others. Many beautiful color illustrations from the Krazy Kat strip, including some of Herriman’s hand-colored originals, several examples of “The Family Upstairs” strip which weren’t in the “Complete” Family Upstairs book edited by Bill Blackbeard some years ago.  Craig has reprinted the rare DUST JACKETS from Don Marquis’ Archy and Mehitabel books which Garge illustrated. There are many photos of George Herriman (with and without his hat), and even the last two Krazy Kat strips found on his art table after George passed away in 1944.  I tried to decipher Garge’s handwriting on the strips: krazy-kat-dice-1944.jpg (click to enlarge) 1.: Pupp: “Two ones, who threw them?” Krazy: “Ignatz” 2.: Pupp: “They call them snake eyes-” Krazy: “No” 3.: Krazy: “Smoke eye” Pupp: “Baf”. Note how Garge turned Pupp’s exit direction in the third picture to panel right, the original pencil shows him exiting panel left. krazy-azzeller-1944.jpg This is the second unfinished strip found on Garge’s drawing board: 1.: Krazy: “Hotty Kulcher” 2: Krazy: “A azzaler, (Krazy’s way of saying “azalea”) I’d say-” 3: Krazy: “No” Ignatz: (as he closes the flower pot lid) “Of Course Not-“. That’s as close as I can come to decoding Garge’s handwriting.  There is even a photo of the house that Garge designed on Marravilla Drive as it looked before all the mansions clustered around it: krazy-yoe-book-3.jpg

This book is highly recommended for those who don’t have many of the previous Krazy Kat collections. Much of the material in this book is reprinted from Patrick McDonnell’s “Krazy Kat: The Comic Art of George Herriman”, published by Abrams in 1986, and various volumes of “Krazy and Ignatz: The Complete Full Page Comic Strips”, published by Fantagraphics between 2002 and 2010. If you only get one book on Krazy, you could do worse than this one. The only really negative thing I could say about this Craig Yoe/Abrams effort, is that is was printed and bound in CHINA. For a book about an American icon, Krazy Kat, to be printed in China, in these times of few jobs for American citizens, is a crying shame. Surely there are a few companies left in the United States that could do a high quality color printing job on a book like this, much better than Chinese printers can do. With jobs so scarce, the costs should be negotiable. Craig Yoe is a dedicated devotee of old American strip cartoonists, he has also done a fine book on Milt Gross’s comic book work, which was printed in KOREA by IDW publishing in 2009. With a little more digging, I’m sure that Mr. Yoe could have found an American printer for this book as well. I hope he will change his production model in the future, so that I can recommend his books without any reservations. krazy-yoe-book-1.jpg

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Speaking of KK, let’s look at this week’s batch from 1-13 to 1-18-1941. In the 1/14 strip, you will note a joke similar to the one that Frank Tashlin used in his “Porky’s Spring Planting” animated cartoon in 1938, q.v. “I’m called a watchdog, cause I’m fulla ticks.” In the 1/15, Ignatz is given a very appropriate conveyence to the jailhouse, a hod (for carrying bricks, see “Bringing Up Father” if you don’t know how they are used). There are star gazing gags in the 1/16 and 1/18 strips, and Krazy makes another brick-worthy pun in the 1/17 involving “shell fish”.

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Felix is from 3/4 to 3/10/1935 this time. Felix tries to assist the crew in their hunt for the rare Dodo fish, but he is called a jinx by the sailors, then Felix’s catch of a prize Dodo fish is broiled by the Chinese cook. Felix then finds another Dodo fish as he holds his breath for a couple of days undersea! In the Sunday page, Felix continues his adventures in Dreamland, riding on the Nightmare. It turns into a very funny dragon wearing a top hat, and a shark, putting Felix undersea again. Felix is caught by a fisherman who wants to cook the cat for the King. Felix gets out of that situation with two kernels of giant popcorn.

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Patrick is from 11-14 to 11-19-1966. Patrick’s crib-bound little brother is named in the 11/14 (“Nathan”, reminds me of Fanny Brice’s hit, “Oy, How I Hate That Fellow, Nathan”) and Patrick and his Mommy are at daggers drawn over his need for a dog. In the 11/19, Partick rips Elsa’s favorite movie magazine to shreds at her birthday party, what a guy! We’ll see y’all next time.

Norm, I hardly knew ya

Thursday, September 8th, 2011

calvin-1.jpgNorm Gottfredson, who had the upstairs office when he was part owner of Fred Calvert Productions calvert-stationery.jpg, earned my awe and respect. I didn’t realize until later that he was Floyd Gottfredson’s son, or I would have been even MORE impressed with him. You see, I lived at Fred Calvert’s studio for a couple of months in the summer of 1968, when his studio was in North Hollywood. I talked to Norm about animation a little bit, and I’m sure he saw how starry-eyed I was about the business. Norm wouldn’t let me talk very long to him, and indicated that time was money, he was doing layout on some sub-contracted George of the Jungle episodes, and they needed to be done quickly. Norm’s office was beautifully decorated with many storyboard drawings, character roughs, and colorful paintings, that made me want to stay and browse! Fred Calvert Productions was a non-union shop in the midst of union studios, which sub-contracted a lot of work from Hanna-Barbera, Jay Ward and the Children’s Television Workshop. Fred’s wife, Kimi, also had an office there and worked very diligently and hard for the studio. Floyd Gottfredson, in an interview with Malcolm Willits in the early 1970s, said this about his son: “My oldest son is an art director, artist, and part owner of Fred Calvert Productions, in Los Angeles. They produce industrial films, commercials, and animation entertainment films, among which are some sub-contracted Bullwinkle cartoons. (Actually, Floyd assumed that working for Jay Ward meant Bullwinkle, but by then George of the Jungle was the going series.)” This is the only mention I have in print of Norm’s career by his famous dad. If I had been a little bit more bold, I would have asked Norm if Floyd approved of his going into the animation business, how they got along when Norm was a kid, and whether Floyd got Norm any summer jobs at the Disney studio. (Maybe one of my readers will know the answers.) Norm had quite a long resume, evidently starting at TV Spots, Inc. in 1951 as an art director! He evidently started at the top. He art directed King Leonardo and His Short Subjects in 1960, Calvin and the Colonel in 1962, both for TV Spots. By 1963, he was doing layout on the Funny Company series where he probably worked with John Sparey, and in 1966 did storyboard and layout on the “Super 6” series for Depatie-Freleng, their first TV cartoon. By the time I met him when he was partners with Fred Calvert, Norm was doing layout on anything that Fred rounded up, George of the Jungle, Wacky Races, Three Musketeers, etc. Norm was an all-around artist who could draw practically anything and did! One of the last series he worked on with Fred was Emergency Plus-4, where he did layout, with Kimi Calvert doing the art direction. After 1973, Norm worked on an odd series called Drawing Power, a strange live-action/animation combination show, produced by Kim and Gifford in New York. Norm was an animator on the show, in which an actor named Bob Kaliban played “Pop”, an old animator who entertains children with his magical drawing board, and thus encourages youngsters to draw. It had very crude, chroma-key special effects, but was a novel-toon series. Norm when on to work as a timing director on Disney’s Adventures of the Gummi Bears in 1985, Galaxy High School in 1986, Denver, the Last Dinosaur in 1989 and Widget the World Watcher for Bill Kroyer in 1991, where he was animation director. In addition, Norm did layout and design on many TV commercials for all sorts of clients, including of course, the Kellogg’s Leo Burnett stable, Green Giant, etc. Norm, Kimi, Iwao Takamoto and Fred Calvert were all very serious-minded people to whom animation was a nuts-and-bolts kind of business, in which a Sally Sargent, Emergency Plus-4, I Am The Greatest or George of the Jungle, were all pretty much the same thing. Just get ’em out, get ’em done and do ’em non-Union so we don’t have to pay benefits or health and welfare. When I met Duane Crowther at Fred’s studio, he was just the opposite of all the rest of the studio. Duane seemed to have a good time with his animation, and was easy to talk to.

I wish I could have talked to Norm Gottfredson a lot more, but being a real neophyte at the time, I was not encouraged to “take up his time”. He was a real talent, and admired by many people, but became part of the faceless army of TV animation enablers. As a timing director and animation director, he no doubt greased the wheels for the ultimate non-Union production, “overseas”. Norm, I hardly knew ya, but I was saddened to read of your passing on July 16th, in the Union paper. It’s interesting that The Pegboard only printed your activity with Union shops for the most part, never mentioning Fred Calvert.

I noticed that Joan-Ellen “Joanie” Gerber passed away on August 22. Joanie was a voice-over actor who did some of the “Lady Bugs of the Evening” voices on “Shinbone Alley” back in 1969, the feature film where I got my first scene of professional animation to do. She did voices on a lot of the same shows that Norm Gottfredson worked on, such as “Super 6”. One of her first jobs was on the TV cartoon version of “Beany and Cecil” for Bob Clampett in 1959. She did voices on “Heidi’s Song”, for Hanna-Barbera, the “Jokebook” show for H-B, Tex Avery’s “Kwicky Koala” for H-B, the revived Chipmunks series in 1984 and many many more. Read her career listing on IMDB. Her most recent credit was for Tony Cervone and Spike Brandt’s “Duck Dodgers” series.  I never had the chance to work closely with Joanie, but she must have been in demand, she worked a long time in one of the few animation jobs that can’t be out-sourced, the voices! She did a lot of baby voices, old lady voices and teenage girls as well. Maybe she will get a longer obit later on. This one:joanie-gerber-obit.jpg seems so puny.

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Felix from 2-25 to 3-3-1935, has Felix once more defending his reputation as a good luck mascot by rescuing the sailors from their marooned diving-bell under the ocean. After fighting off monster fish for days, Felix is presented with still ANOTHER fish for his dinner! In the Sunday, Felix is still in Dreamland, and in another Winsor McCay swipe, rides away on a “Night-mare”!

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Krazy is from 1-6 to 1-11-1941 this time. Ignatz tries to take a flower in a pot to Krazy a coupla times, but the Pupp manages to keep the pot. In the 11-8, Ignatz suggests improvements to the “Jail”, which he is imprisoned for suggesting. “Boorjwa”, exclaims Ignatz, one of my Grandma’s favorite words. Mrs. Kwakk-Wakk figures in the strips for the rest of the week, nearly getting caught in her own web of gossip.

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Patrick is clearly labelled this time, from 11-7 to 11-12-1966. Patrick is quite a “biter” this week, sinking his teeth into Elsa and Godfrey. The 11-11 strip features the debut of Patrick’s new little brother in his playpen. He will make several more appearances in the strips to come, always confined to the pen. Watch for him! Soon!

Special Post to “Yowp”

Thursday, September 1st, 2011

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If you click on the link to Yowp’s blog on the right hand side of the screen, you will see that the cartoon dog has posted the September, 1961 Yogi Bear Sunday comic strips, all drawn by Harvey Eisenberg.  His scans lack color and the top tier, since these were all originally half-page strips. I delved into the old clipping files and came up with the same strips, clipped from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch fifty years ago. They were published on Sept. 3rd, 10th, 17th and 24th, 1961. Please click on the thumbnails above to see them at larger sizes. Please excuse the slightly mismatched halves of the strips. These were pretty large, so I had to scan them in two parts and piece them together, sometimes I don’t get it perfect. The strip from 9-24 with Augie Doggie has some masking tape stains in the 5th panel. That’s a good tip for all you strip collectors, don’t repair your strips with highly acid tapes like Scotch cellophane or masking tape, they will discolor the material they are holding together. If you like the early Hanna-Barbera characters, you will enjoy Yowp’s blog. Yowp has some good background comments on these strips, so go over there and read them. If any visitors from Yowp’s blog are reading this, stick around! Go through the archives and enjoy some old strips, as well as some articles on animated cartoons of the past.  I hope to be back soon with a “regular” post.