Month: May 2007
Here are the K.K.s from 7-29 to 8-4-38. I love Garge’s bug characters, note how similar the “boll weevil” in 8-1 to 8-4 is in appearance to archy in the illustrations Garge did for Don Marquis books. One of the happiest assignments I had in my early years in the animation game was animating a few scenes in the ‘Archy declares war’ sequence in John Wilson’s “Archy and Mehitabel”. I did these under the great Frank Andrina’s tutelage, as I was his assistant on the picture. Sam Cornell did the layouts in a combination Garge/Sam cartoon style. I haven’t posted much lately, Cathy and I just got back from Santa Catalina island, where we participated in a plein air “paint out” last week. Avalon was not damaged from the recent brush fires. Catalina is an ENORMOUS island, so a 4000 acre blaze would only burn a small part of the brush there. I was lucky enough to sell a small watercolor of the Casino and harbor there to a kid from Oceanside. Paid for a meal there anyway. I will do a photo post of the trip later on this week. Have a GREAT Memorial Day and remember our poor, overextended military at this sad time in history!
I was reading the Pennysaver (a local adzine) on Weds. and noticed an ad: “Estate Sale: Residence of Ollie J., Disney animator…” It was almost as if the organizers of the sale were trying to keep it a secret! Poor Ollie, I thought, he must have decided to sell everything and go to assisted living. As it turned out, Ollie has gone to Oregon to live with his family, as Don Hahn, Disney producer, (pictured above gesturing toward a chair) told me. (Don is working on a documentary about his friend, Joe Grant.) I went to the estate sale both Friday and Saturday (May 18th and 19th). I didn’t see too many people I knew besides Don. All the household effects, dishes (see above), clothing, tools, garden equipment, books were all for sale. I took my wife to see the house on Saturday, and she suggested I buy one of Ollie’s hats and a plaid shirt to remember him by. I’m glad I did (see above of me relaxing in Ollie’s back yard wearing one of his hats). There was a bit of Disney memorabilia of course, mostly research material that Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston assembled for their books. Piles of photocopies of Disney animation drawings and story sketches, some loose, some mounted on illustration board. There was a whole box full of large photostats of Disney drawings, mostly storyboards. The stats must have been done recently, as they would combine Jungle Book Bill Peet story sketches with drawings from Donald Duck shorts like “Donald’s Gold Mine”, for instance. Probably material assembled for the book “Too Funny for Words”. At any rate, they were priced at $100.00 apiece (see above)! Ollie’s signed copy of Mike Barrier’s “Hollywood Cartoons” book was available for $60.00, as were things like some drawings that Nancy Beiman sent to him (there were a lot of things like that in the sale). Some of Ollie’s engineer caps were available from his live steamer train days at $75.00 a throw, including a photo of Ollie on board his engine. They all sold. Ollie collected Bing Crosby 78s, I bought one for $3.00 that had Bing on one side and Russ Columbo (his rival), on the other side! There was a whole box of scripts and story conference notes from the Disney films (photocopies). They wanted $10.00 a page for them, but that turned out to be negotiable. I found some notes from the Soup sequence from Snow White, as well as “Night on Bear (sic) Mountain” from Fantasia, mostly Walt, Dave Hand and Perce Pearce trading ideas, fun stuff to read. Ollie had a lot of books, some of which are pictured above. The prices for most of the hard backs were between $60.00 and $150.00. In a room covered with train wallpaper was an antique engineer’s lamp made over into a ceiling fixture, price: $2000.00! On Saturday, a very nice lady was getting quite emotional over that lamp. All of Ollie’s miniature trains were either sold or donated to the live steamers exhibit in Griffith Park. If there was any original art, most of it was not at the sale. I found one watercolor that was very nice, but not by Ollie.
It was a sad occasion, yet happy too (for me). The neighborhood Ollie lived in (La Canada) was and is absolutely beautiful. Both Ollie and Frank Thomas bought a lot of land to build their respective rambling ranch style homes on, probably in the late 1930s. The oak, eucalyptus and sycamore trees on the properties are stately and in prime condition. It was fun to see the remains of Ollie’s famous backyard railroad (see above). The little yellow train barn was charming and Ollie’s trestle in front of the house was a miniature masterpiece of construction. As you can see by my expression sitting in Ollie’s back yard, I finally came to the party! It felt so good just to BE there! I always wanted to visit the famous pair of animators at their homes, but never was invited. This was the last chance for me (heck, the last chance for ANYBODY). It’s interesting that Peter Schneider, who used to be the president of the animation division at Disney, owns the Tudor style mansion right next to Ollie’s house! Ollie was very nice to me on at least one occasion, when I put together a film tribute to Fred Moore at ASIFA Hollywood a few years ago. As feeble as he was, Ollie took time to answer letters about Fred Moore’s family, and talked by telephone with me about Fred’s auto accident and other things. Evidently, Mrs. Thomas is still living in the house next door to Ollie’s. Cathy and I walked around the neighborhood on Saturday and looked at the Thomas home from the outside, it too is beautiful, very big ranch style home with teal green trim and on a big lot surrounded by California oaks. The documentary, FRANK AND OLLIE, doesn’t begin to convey just how impressive these homes were. The neighborhood is now filling up with mansions, one was under construction. Cathy and I noticed that one of the homes across the street had a miniature train trestle in it’s front yard, but the tracks had been removed. Evidently, Ollie’s train inspired the sincerest form of flattery from some of the neighbors as well. Imagine what that area was like when Frank and Ollie bought the land. Probably an oak grove that had to be cleared for ground breaking. La Canada is the essence of old California ambiance. What a great couple of days at Ollie’s house!
Here are some more “Kats” for you. I love all the “Ko-Stars” in the strip like the auctioneer in 7-23, the pipe smoking bear in 7-25, the sun peeking from behind a black cloud in 7-26 and the confused snake emerging from the hole in 7-27 (yet another hole in the Coconino Kanvas for something to stick through). It was a great week, on Monday, 5-14 I was invited to do audio commentary for two of the Oswald cartoons in the Disney Treasures DVD series release coming soon. I won’t tell you exactly which cartoons I did, but here’s some hints, one of the cartoons was inspired by Lindbergh’s flight to Paris and the other cartoon features schoolyard antics by Oswald and a rival cat. I got to use my cutting continuities for these films, and gave credit to Rollin (Ham) Hamilton, Hugh Harman’s co-animator on the Oswalds. Hugh called Ham “one of the greatest animators who ever lived”, or words to that effect, crediting Ham with finding Oswald’s inner character. See the next pose for more fun from this past week.
Welp, here’s 7-15 and 7-16-1938, followed by 7-18 through 7-21. 7-17 was a Sunday page. Herriman seems to be doing two-strip continuities here, 7-14 and 7-15 use a barrel, 7-18 and 7-19 show Krazy waiting for Ignatz to “come”, 7-20 and 7-21 ring changes on a “benjo”. 7-16 trots out Offissa Pupp’s thought detector once more. I think that Krazy feeling “fit as a banjo”, goes right to the heart of his jazz age origins; Krazy was a musical cat!
Alright, cartoon lovers! Go to www.thunderbeananimation.comand order copies of “The Little King” and “Cultoons Volume 2: Animated Education” right NOW! Got em? Good! My friend Steve Stanchfield put these together, and they are a true labor of love. Who thinks much about Otto Soglow’s merry monarch these days? You can see 1940s Sunday Little King pages on line at dailyink.com, but the animated cartoons? Now Steve makes it easy for you to see all 10 Van Beuren “Kings” uncut and restored with the original titles (wherever possible), plus the two “Sentinel Louey” Cartoons and the Max Fleischer “Betty Boop and The Little King” thrown in as a bonus! Wait until you see and hear all the text extras that Milton Knight and Chris Buchman put together for this DVD, including a recording of the tune “Zombie”, which is heard in “On the Pan” and in my favorite Van Beuren Aesop Sound Fable: “Rough On Rats”. Milton wrote a wonderful essay on Jim Tyer that explains just why the design in his animation transcends the thirties and was contemporary all the way into the late 1950s! Milton, you should write Jim’s biography. The Little King was one of my childhood favorites, not because his cartoons were funny, but because they were scary! Jim’s animation of the catacombs that scare the fat lady tourist in “Art for Art’s Sake”, are an indelible scary delight, as is the “mad bomber” in “The Fatal Note”. Jim animated a lot of the bomber’s acting scenes, as well as the crazy chase where the bomber’s arms rotate like pinwheels as he shoots at the King. Wait until you see “Marching Along”, essentially a commercial for the NRA, a true time capsule which shows how volatile commodity investing was (and still is). This one was not on TV that I remember, well worth buying the DVD to get!
Cultoons Volume 2 features a lot of obscure and rare educational cartoons from the 1930s to the 1950s. It includes “A Desert Dilemma” bu Cy Young the great Disney special effects animator (audio commentary by Milton Knight, Steve Worth and Jerry Beck), “See How They Won”, an Ub Iwerks cartoon featuring The Microbe Army for Boots Chemists in London, “Finding His Voice” by Max Fleischer and “The Family Album” by Paul Terry, both made for Western Electric. “The Family Album” is actually a sequel to “Finding His Voice”, so the grouping is appropriate and long overdue. Steve Worth does audio commentary for “Voice”. Also on the DVD you will find a very early John Hubley Navy UPA production: “Swab Your Choppers”, and a beautiful color print of Hugh Harman’s “Winky the Watchman”. “Winky” is the little guy with the lantern on the box cover drawn by the late Brenda Bailey, to whom the DVD is dedicated. She did a great job in drawing Winky, he looks very appealing. Pinto Colvig does his voice. I did the audio commentary on this short, with info culled from Hugh Harman’s papers. I made a really embarrassing mistake, not in the cartoon notes, but in the info I supplied on live action films. See if you can spot it. Steve even threw in an extra audio reminiscence of Hugh that I recorded for the DVD.
Steve is a tireless collector of the rare and the obscure in vintage animation, so we who love this material have an obligation to support him! Buy several copies and give them away to friends, relatives, or the next person you meet on the street! Donate a copy to your local public library! Let’s make these cartoons FAMOUS! Then, with the profits (?), Steve can do more DVDs of the unusual and forgotten in cartoon history. I has spoken!
Also in today’s blog is the next installment of “Lane Allen’s Diary”, which I saved as a kid from some religious weekly or other. The strip is not really religious, but I think it’s almost as good in it’s own way as Walt Kelly’s “Our Gang” comics. Just look at the attitudes in the last panel. The mom and dad’s poses tell us so clearly what their attitudes are toward Lane and his fishing trip with “good ol’ worms”. I love the drawing in this strip, a combination of illustration and cartooning. The facial expressions are refreshing to look at. To repeat from previous posts, if any of ya’ll know anything about this strip, please let me know!
I did an interview and two commentaries today on Looney Tunes Golden Collection Vol. 5, coming soon. You know, it’s interesting how much I still love the black and white Looney Tunes fifty-two years after I was first exposed to ‘THE DAFFY DOC’, the earliest one I can remember seeing. In St. Louis, Mo. where I was an infant, we had a TV program called “The Wranglers’ Club”, featuring a man named Harry Gibbs, otherwise known as “Texas Bruce”. He must have run that cartoon a hundred times. I was honored to do the commentary on THE DAFFY DOC today, as well as LITTLE RED WALKING HOOD , and to talk about Mel Blanc, Bob McKimson, Hugh Harman, Rudy Ising, Art Davis, Irv Spence and many other hero cartoonists. Thanks to David Gerstein for helping me to decipher Daffy’s sign with the Hebrew/Yiddish lettering that he holds up in the operating room sequence of THE DAFFY DOC. In means “shah”, which is the word for “quiet”. Time for that mystery to be cleared up!
Here are the next four episodes of KK. 7-6 through 7-9-1938. I love that “Weezie” cat in the 7-9. Looks like Krazy after an elephant stepped on his head. The schoolteacher is an interesting new character as well. In 7-6, once again Garge reveals that Coconino is a stage with stage hands providing the audio just behind the backdrop (in this case, the fence). Again a hole in the wood plays a part, this time to let the words to “O, Solo Mio” seep through.