Month: July 2012
At long last, it’s back to the strips! Here’s Barker Bill from 7-11 to 7-21-1955, courtesy of the Greensburg Daily Tribune. It’s lucky that the strip was mostly gags by this time, as the Greensburg Trib. only used four strips a week! Some of the regulars like Perkins, Col. Whetwhistle and Phyllis the strong lady are back. I’ve got enough strips for two more posts, then Barker Bill vanishes into comic strip oblivion.
From the Los Angeles Junior Times in Oct. 1926, we have more “Fido Bark” strips by Bob Wickersham. He really kisses up to Aunt Dolly, but you will notice that she runs the strips out of order (the rule against continuity, you know), so buttering her up didn’t help. I. Ellis really worked hard and produced a couple of one shot strips, a ten dollar cover, and started a new strip called “Dunk Dank”. We also have strips by Lee Morehouse, who later became a top Donald Duck animator (“Hockey Champ”, “The Autograph Hound”), Phil DeLara, who became an animator for Bob McKimson at Warner Bros. in the 1940s and 1950s, “Louie” (Leo) Salkin, Manuel Moreno (another Keen and Feeble Tat, where the characters visit fellow Times cartoonist, Al Perez), a strip by Fred Moore and a portrait of True Boardman, who did some acting on stage in Aunt Dolly’s theatre parties and later became a great radio announcer (Chase and Sanborn Hour), radio actor (Famous Jury Trials), and wrote on the radio series “Lux Radio Theater”, “Silver Theater” and wrote on the cartoon series: “The Famous Adventures of Mr. Magoo”! I’ve also put in the first “Pit and Pat” strip by Eddie Schultz. I KNOW I’ve seen his credits on some animated cartoons, but can’t find the titles, any of you experts know about them?
Felix, from 8-26 to 9-1-1935 continues Felix and Danny’s excavation of the ancient city. They find a newspaper column 5000 years old, and get caught in a cave-in! The Sunday (9-1) episode continues Felix’s adventures in Dreamland. He helps a poor clerk named Mr. Pluggin to survive a boring speech by his boss. I’ll bet Otto survived many a boring speech in his life by dreaming of Felix!
Ignatz is hiding in a long box in the Krazy strips from 7-7 to 7-12-1941. Offissa Pupp can’t stifle his curiosity about Ignatz’s hiding place and in the 7-12, he gives in to temptation. Note the elaborate stage decoration on the 7-12, as Garge fills the space with his unique designs. I’m sorry the strip for 7-11-41 is not here, do any of you great collectors have it?
Myrtle this time from 3-24 to 3-29-1947 is full of springtime shenanigans! First Hyacinth has a litter of kittens, followed by Sampson’s Easter Bunny and then Mytle’s goldfish Wilbur has a bunch of guppies! It’s amusing to see how the fathers of the neighborhood deal with the animal and fish progeny. The 3-24 is a very endearing look at Myrtle’s sassy kid personality. She blurts right out at her Mother that she’s getting “FA-AT” and gets spanked AND has to stand in the corner. I love the last panel as she learns the meaning of “tact”. Well, this was another labor-intensive post, sure hope you enjoyed the “stripz”.
As a continuing tribute to my friend Manon Washburn, here is the text of a letter from Harold (Hal) Ambro, Animator at Disney, Format, Hanna-Barbera and m0re. Manon did all the legwork to approach Hal on the job and ask him to write a letter to my Mother about my potential career in animation. He really came through and wrote quite a long letter, giving his opinions about the business, and about the kind of education he thought a young artist would need. Hal was a fellow St. Louisan, born there in 1913. He came to California in 1932 to study drawing, and wound up working for Charles Mintz on Scrappy and Color Rhapsodies, until he was employed by Walt Disney Productions in 1939. This letter was written about a year before he left Disney in 1966. After that he worked on many projects, such as “The Alvin Show” for Herb Klynn and many Hanna-Barbera projects, such as the feature “Heidi’s Song”, and some of the Scooby-Doo shows. I never got to know him well, said hello a few times. I saw him most often when he was working at the Sunset-Vine tower for Chuck Jones on “The White Seal”, “Mowgli’s Brothers” and “Rikki-Tikki-Tavi” in the 1970s. Hal was a wonderful draftsman, as you can see by that appealing drawing of Wendy, above. He couldn’t really advance to “Nine Old Men” status at Disney, imagine the politics he had to navigate there to stay as long as he did! But like, Hal King, Bob Youngquist, Ken Hultgren and many other talents, he was a true Disney alumnus. Here’s the letter that maybe persuaded my Mother to think that animation wasn’t such a bad career choice after all:
Hal Ambro’s Letter to my Mother March 29 1965
Dear Mrs. Kausler,
It’s nice to hear about a young fellow who has decided what he wants to do. Animation as its used in Advertising Commercials will probably be around for a long time. The theatrical cartoon may someday cease to exist, due to high production costs.
Industrial and Educational films may replace the theatrical production, but here again cost is always important. Television may offer ways to help market animation features in the future.
As far as schooling goes, my opinion would be this; Training in layout, design, color, draftsmanship (figure and animal), Story ideas, would help to prepare one for a career in this field.
There are many ways to be a value in a small studio, and all the training you can get will be put to use, and you would be more valuable. The large Studio (Disney or Hannah(sic)-Barberra) still keep the work areas separated, i.e. animation dept., layout and background dept., Story dept., etc.
Any good art school that prepares you for advertising art would supply the necessary training. Chouinard is very fine school, Art Center in Los Angeles is an excellent Commercial Art and Industrial Design School. Chicago Art Institute I don’t know about, but undoubtedly is excellent.
The field of teaching, I think might offer some long range advantages. Teachers seem to have at least the prospect of good steady employment over the years. However I’m sure that in preparing for a teaching career in art, a student would necessarily have to study, if not produce the samples of fine arts. There is very little need for teachers in the animation industry.
Chouinard Institute has the qualified instructors as well as the University of So. California. So any teacher training would have to be in an academic art capacity and I’m sure there are many opportunities from the Elementary school level through the College level.
You asked about where I received my training. The only formal training I had was obtained at Art Center School in the early 1930 years. I went to night school and weekends to study figure drawing, composition. Even at that time the animation business was frowned upon by the Art Schools. The opportunities for a creative person, even now, may be far greater in possibly industrial design (designing of Automobiles, boats, packages, etc.) than the opportunities available in the animation field. And one thing I can vouch for, from 30 years of experience, is that the animation industry at the present time and for the past 5 years or so, has not been a growing business.
Regardless of the allure that surrounds the Disney Studio’s, their animation product is gradually diminishing in volume. The work force needed to-day at Disney’s to produce animation product is about 25% of what it used to be. This doesn’t mean that the artist can’t find a job there, but it does show that there are not many jobs available. This also means that the Studio can be very discriminating about the quality of the artist to-day and therefore it’s tougher to qualify. However, there are a few other studios (Playhouse and H-B notably). Playhouse, by the way, has had a practice of hiring the Animator on a free-lance basis. That means only when they have work, do they hire an animator. There is another aspect of this business that might present some possibilities, the ability to think up ideas for commercials and be able to present them in a graphic manner. By that I mean, draw up what I’ll call a story board and show just what the commercial will look like when its finished.
Actually, the ideas are the most important part of the commercial, so if Mark has a flair for ideas, he might find a spot in some Ad agency.
Educational T.V. may develop into a large field some day, but it hasn’t been exploited much up ‘til now. The cartoon industry in T.V. is limited to simple animations. The cost of productions and the time consumed in making a picture has put limitations on the T.V. cartoon product. As an example, “Rocky and his friends” (a T.V. weekly show of cartoons) (similar to Yogi Bear of H. & B. fame) is actually conceived and planned here, but animated and finished in Mexico City. And then after productions of any sort are finished, the producer re-sells the product 2 or 3 times. The H-B studio besides Disney is the only one that really keeps operating on a large scale, but even they are re-using material. I have worked on the “Alvin Show”, a cartoon show about 3 chipmunks, about 4 years ago. The “Alvin Show” is still being re-run. The T.V. networks buy these packages of pictures and keep selling them to advertising clients. Its smart business for the networks, but unfortunate for the cartoonists. This is why I personally feel that animated commercials, with all the ideas, story-boards, layout needs, and possible use of color, present the biggest opportunity to-day. This does not mean that opportunity is not in the theatrical cartoon, but I feel that advertising offers more. Even so the training one needs is the same for both fields.
If Mark has already been working with a commercial studio this is fine. He might find a valuable spot with that studio. He’s certainly getting a young start.
Well, I hope I have not thoroughly confused you with these thoughts on the business and as far as schooling goes, I really can’t say what is best. I know that to-day the versatility of one is important, so I feel that a well-rounded background of ideas, story-sketch ability, draftsmanship, layout or design, color, are equally needed.
Good luck in all your efforts, Mark and keep studying
Sincerely, Harold Ambro
Notably, Hal comments on the Disney studio’s decreasing volume of animation by 1965, and his hopes for the use of animation for education. It’s interesting that the prospects for employment in 1965 were so limited. Hal also makes a profound statement about TV series work when he says that the network’s ability to sell the same shows two or three times was “unfortunate for the cartoonists”. This was very true, especially when you consider that no cartoonist was paid any TV residuals, and had to be content with his hourly or piecework rate for the TV series work done. Both Manon and Hal were very hopeful about the use of animation for educational purposes. Of course, the reality of the situation was that most educational animated films were produced for a low price. Hugh Harman dabbled in them, but couldn’t produce much more that pose reels. Coronet films, Wilding Films and a few other companies made quite a few educational pictures, many of them being distributed on 16mm for schools and free loans, such as the Bell System Science Series, perhaps the best achievement in educational animation to date. That educational market has almost disappeared now for traditional animation, replaced by digital “animation”, such as Dr. Oz currently uses to show feces trapped in a colon (that’s entertainment)!
Hal became a teacher at Cal Arts in 1982, and passed away at his home in Woodland Hills in 1990.
We explore the L.A. Jr. Times from Sept. 1926 this time. It’s another tribute to Bob Wickersham and his funny animal strip “Fido Bark” from 9-5 to 9-26. There’s also a photo of Bob and Fido, and a strip by Bob’s friend Alex Perez about a visit to Bob’s house. Alex falls in love with Bob’s sister at first sight and tries to romance her through his comic strip! There’s also a Bill Zaboly cartoon about how a cartoonist submits work to the T.J.C.; Bill steals a bit from Clare Briggs here as he quotes “Ain’t It A Graaanndd and Glorious Feeeling!” There’s also a caricature of Manuel Moreno, an editorial cartoon by Frank Tipper and a comic strip by Larry Martin called “Billie Jean”, which he drew on 8-6-26.
Barker Bill this time consists of mostly “hat raising” spot gags that ran from 6-27 to 7-8-55. The 7-8 seems to be out of order, but I can’t read the date! It seems to be from the earlier stories about the Gelt. Little May is the subject of two strips this time.
Felix, from 8-19 to 8-25-1935, continues Felix’s exploration of the 5000 year old city he found on the Ape’s Island. He discovers a petrified bulldog and an ancient blow-gun. One of the sailors in the 8-23 is assigned to be a letter carrier back to the ship. What he anticipates to be an easy job is a hard haul because the letter is chiseled in 5000 year old stone! This gag anticipates the Fleischer “Stone Age” cartoons and of course, “The Flintstones” TV show. In the Sunday page, the little blond kid in the Bobby Dazzler topper resembles “Vontzy” from the Scrappy cartoons quite closely, in the main strip, Felix (still in Dreamland) helps a cop apprehend some burglars while he’s still asleep.
Krazy, from 6-30 to 7-5-1941 is a six-part story about “blondeness”. You see, Krazy Kat gets her hair lightened in the Coconino Beauty Parlor, which causes a chain reaction of mistaken identity gags. In the 7-5, a little porter comes out of the Beauty Parlor with a blonde brick!
Dudley Fisher’s Myrtle this time is from 3-17 to 3-22-1947. I thought that Slug’s dialog in the third panel of the 3-19 was a real hoot, if you imagine him talking like Joe Besser. In the 3-20, there is a bit of a radio reference (radio drama was still big in 1947) as Myrtle says “I suppose I should carry a trunkful of sound effects!” In the 3-22 I like Sampson’s reaction to his ring winding up on Bingo’s tail, as he flys through the air in a big “take”.
In anticipation of Yowp’s monthly dose of Yogi Bear Sunday pages, here are all the strips I have from July, 1962. They are from 7-22 and 7-29 respectively, the 7-22 might be the work of Gene Hazelton, note how Yogi keeps calling Boo-Boo, “Boo” throughout the strip. The 7-29 gag looks like Harvey Eisenberg’s work, especially the lettering on the mailbox and the Ranger’s sign, as well as the use of silhouette in the second panel. I know I’ve seen that “bees in the filing cabinet” joke before, but can’t remember where. Do any of you faithful readers recognize it?