Category: animated cartoons
I had an article appear this Monday on Cartoon Research: http://cartoonresearch.com/index.php/mark-kausler-on-ed-graham-jr-s-linus-the-lionhearted/ . I made a lot of frame grabs from my 16mm prints of the Linus the Lionhearted show for illustrations, more than Jerry Beck had space for, so I’m posting them on my blog. The frames above are from the wraparound episode called “Sunken Treasure”. Gerard Baldwin animated it, and his cousin George Cannata, Jr. designed the characters. The action of Linus tying up the octopus’s tentacles and then popping to a “presenting” pose is in two successive frames! Gerard animated with great economy, using effects animation, in this case the bubbles and some painted streak lines, to show the action path that Linus takes over to the bottom corner screen right. The effects helped “cushion” the abrupt action “pop”, in the same way that Gerard used smooth mouth action to cushion his “holds”. I love that parallelogram whale, too, not sure if Cannata designed it or not.
In the description I made of Gerard’s animation in the Linus episode: “What’s On Third?” I talked about how he just popped from an anticipation drawing of the elephant pitcher, to the extreme pose above. The elephant doesn’t waste a lot of drawings curling his trunk to pitch a screwball, his trunk is already in that position and the effects of the baseball taking a twisted path carry the action and make the held drawing of the elephant look like it’s in motion. This looks terrific “at speed”. We’ll have more Linus frame grabs soon, he is a “cat”, after all.
Here’s Felix, from 2-5 to 2-11-1933. The Sunday page has chapter two of “Felix in the Year 2000”, an automated brick (steal from Garge), and a kind lady treats Felix to a Roast Beef dinner that turns out to be a Chicken dinner food pellet. In the dailies, Danny Dooit continues his career as a messenger boy, but a jewelry store crook decides to keep him prisoner. The 2-8 stars Danny and Felix doesn’t make an appearance in his own strip! Note the resemblance to “Jerry on the Job” in this sequence.
In Myrtle, from 11-8 to 11-14-1948, it’s revealed that Myrtle’s mom used to wish “that Myrtle was a boy” in the 11-9. Myrtle is a real tough this week, scrimmaging in football, beating up Sampson with one glove and jumping fences to eat Sampson’s candy. I really like the Sunday strip this week, as the whole gang tries to help Myrtle with her homework, only to be foiled by Sampson.
Krazy is from 2-15 to 2-20-1943 this time. A seldom used member of the Coconino cast shows up for 5 strips, Don Kiyoti. The whole week is spent in gags trying to decipher “coded” messages that may be English, musical notes or Spanish. They sometimes turn out to be Krazy’s poetry (2-18) or a brick that is really a love letter that’s 2692 years old (2-20). Note that Garge doesn’t sign his strips very much at this point, more about that later on.
Hi Everyone! I’m very pleased with the high quality of response I got to my last post on John Sparey. Thanks to Charles Brubaker, Daryl Boman, Bob Jaques, James Tim Walker, Bruce Woodside, Scott O., Keith Scott, Bronnie Barry and David Nethery, the comments were really good! Bruce Woodside had the most meaty essay, refer back to the comments on the last post to read it.
The cartoon above was drawn by John Sparey in response to an embarrassing incident that happened to me on my 21st birthday, that summer of 1969. Mike Sanger and I went to a local bar at lunch to get my first legal drink to celebrate. I didn’t have a driver’s license yet, since I didn’t know how to drive and didn’t learn until 1970. When the barkeep asked to see some photo ID, the only card I had to show was my Mickey Mouse Club card which I got in 1955 (picture above). I flashed the card, and the next thing I knew, I was out on the pavement. Of course, Sanger got a tremendous laugh out of it, and when we got back to the studio, made sure everybody knew what an ass I’d made out of myself. As I recall, John didn’t react at all, but an hour or so later, presented me with the cartoon above. I wonder if John ever tried to crack the humor magazine market, he really had a talent for the one-liner gag cartoon.
In this letter he wrote in 2004, John talks about his final job in animation, his retirement, and then proceeds to critique the last 6 or 7 Disney “flat”, as he called them, animated features. John could be quite an acid critic, and I can still hear his tone of voice as I re-read his letters. He always sounded almost unemotional, yet sophisticated, as if wearing an invisible lorgnette on his nose, with his head held high, looking down at you. Remember, none of the opinions expressed are mine, nor necessarily of this blog, but Mr. Sparey’s alone: (By the way, Bruce, John mentions you in this letter.)
April 7, 2004
I saw the L.A. Times article in which they firmly planted their tombstone on the history of flat animation, but I waited to see “Home On The Range” before making any kind of response. When Bill Schultz, at Film Roman, put me on a “call when needed” status, (like never) I mentally summed up my M.P. retirement benefits, social security, IRA and 401K savings (yes, Film Roman had a 401K plan) and began retirement wheels rolling. However, the Union put me on their “available” list. I got one phone call from a company I had never heard of. And they had never heard of me. They asked me to bring in my portfolio. Portfolio?!! My last portfolio when I started at Disney was a scrapbook of my college cartoons. The rubber cement holding them in place had dried up decades ago. Most of my jobs since then linked from one to another. Our conversation was brief.
I got another call from Richard Rich (Nest Anim.). On the recommendation of Bakshi alumni such as Steve Gordon and Bruce Woodside, I was asked to help finish “The Swan Princess”. So my last three months of work were on the board, rather than telling others how to do it. June 30 will be the tenth anniversary of my final work day. “Swan Princess” had seemed like a worthy contender, but Disney took care of that by reissuing “The Lion King” on its opening day. Sadly, although the first two sequels escaped briefly into a few theaters, neither came up to TV standards. A few years later, Rich came out with another disappointing feature (which I forget) made in partnership with another company (which I forget). This was followed by the preschooler parody of “The King and I”, in partnership with Rankin and Bass.
Incidentally, for all I know, “Swan Princess” may have been the last animated feature to have all of its animation completed in the L.A. area. The crew included people from every decade of my career, dating back to Gordon Bellamy and Sheila Brown from the Disney fifties.
From my Bakshi days, I have though of Rankin and Bass as “Rank and Base”. When “The Hobbit” turned up on TV while “Lord of the Rings” was still in production, Ralph found the precise Arthur Rackham illustration that they had used for their ugly Bilbo model. (Where is Paul Coker when you need him?)
But enough about me.
It was good to learn from the article that some of the “good guys” such as Floyd Norman and Tom Sito, are still in there trying. You probably know the story of how Floyd almost got into the B.G. Dept for “Sleeping Beauty” on the strength of one painting—until somebody got a look at him.
I made a point of seeing “Destino” during its brief December release. If the final rendition was anything like the original concept, I think that Walt made the right decision. I noted that its copyright was 2002. When I spent time in the Art Props Dept. at Disney between features, I came across photostats of Dali storyboards, but all I remember is the image of ants crawling out of a hand. Yes, that was in the short, but without any Dali look. Overall, the picture looked as if it had been done on several different continents, without much coordination. My primary after image is of figures flitting off into the distance. And of course it contained some of Roy’s required computerized BG movement. But I hope that Roy will still win his duel with Michael Eisner.
If “Home On The Range” is truly the end of the line, at least the genre didn’t go out with a whimper. I thought it was far better than much of the recent crop. I only objected to all those sharp points on the cows’ muzzles. In the crowd of names in the credits, I only managed to snag two onetime co-workers: Dale Baer and Renee Holt. If you don’t know (but you probably do) Renee was once one of Rudy Gernrich’s shaved-head Unisex models. I also spotted a couple of names that could be younger generations: Hester and Aardal.
If I ever have a chance to see “It’s The Cat”, I trust that my reaction will not be as negative as it was to “Destino”. But then I only know your personal style from over thirty years ago.
For me, the last truly satisfactory Disney flat was “Tarzan”, even though each of the lead characters appeared to have been designed for a different project.
Hedda Hopper’s newspaper column once made reference to “Monstro, the Singing Whale from ‘Fantasia’”. Of course, “Fantasia” was whale-free until the invasion of the space whales in “Fantasia 2000”. Incidentally, I find the current United Airline commercials more diverting than the Hirschfeld-influenced “Rhapsody In Blue”, which seemed like an effort. Not knowing your contributions to the feature, I shall refrain from further comment.
Other features? “Treasure Planet” was the “Ishtar” of animation. The grotesque animation was overwhelmed by those massive sailing space ships. “Atlantis: The Lost Empire” was for lovers of mechanical contraptions. “Lilo and Stitch”? Sort of mushy. “Brother Bear” seems hardly worth making—in the spirit of “Spirit”. “Ice Age” was nice. If “The Road To El Dorado” was meant to evoke Hope and Crosby, the corporate choice of voices seems to be disastrous.
Judging from the trailers, “Shrek II” looks like the giant gorilla for the year. The computerized “Garfield” moves his lips. That used to be a Jim Davis No-No.
I thought that “The Triplets of Belville” was Oscar-worthy.
I could go on.
Sadly, I don’t think John ever got to see “It’s ‘The Cat'”, he probably would have been critical of it, but he liked me, so he would have pulled his punches. I have many more letters that John wrote, mostly describing his retirement adjustments and his ordeal when he passed out in his apartment for several days, unable to call anyone on the telephone for help. We’ll post those as we go along. The response to the last post would indicate that you would like to read the letters, and I’m sure John would have appreciated being recognized.
In Felix this time, from 4/27 to 5/3/36, you could call the story line, “the cat came back”. Felix eludes the racketeers several times, with the old reliable tail substitute and balloon escape gags, but winds up back in the racketeers’ clutches, courtesy of Snobbs the butler. Meanwhile, Danny Dooit is frantic, and wants Felix back home. In the Sunday, I love the extra cats that Otto creates here, “Copy Cat”, who is a ringer for Krazy, and “Fraidy Cat”, a cute little white cat. Otto must have liked “Copy Cat”, as he brings him back for an encore in the last panel.
In Krazy, from 10/14 to 10/19/1940, Offissa Pupp is a pooped cop and his doctor prescribes “a rest” for him. Herriman has a field day with the pun, “arrest” and “a rest”, and gets a whole week’s worth of strips out of it. Even Krazy lands in jail.
Patrick seems to be channeling his inner Lucy this week, in the strips from 7/18 to 7/23/1966. “You’re Standing on my Shadow!”, etc. seem to be appropriate for Lucy to scream at Charlie Brown, at least the early Lucy. In the 7/23, Elsa’s deadpan remark: “One seldom sees such dedication”, seems to strike a Linus tone. Overall, though, Patrick seems as Mack Sennett to Schulz’s Hal Roach. There is a lot of hitting (WAP), screaming and general mayhem that Schulz used extremely sparingly. More next time, many Patrick strips yet to come. Thanks again, folks, for your great comments, enjoy reading!
Hi Readers, sorry for the long absence. Cathy and I have been doing some more location painting, two weeks ago we sketched and drew an alligator, many dogs and a cackle of hens and roosters at the Pasadena Humane Society. We would have drawn and painted some cats, but they had a lovely air-conditioned enclosure all to themselves and didn’t have enough space around them to house painters. The Humane Society has had the alligator for almost 10 years. She has her own generous space, complete with bamboo wall, a waterfall and her own splash pond. No wonder she’s always smiling! Two weeks ago, we visited Ports O’Call in San Pedro, near Long Beach. Cathy did a nice oil of an old boat house with a sail boat anchored nearby. I did a WC of an old kid’s merry-go-round. I concentrated on two goofy-looking pink and magenta rabbits with saddles on them. Our crit-master Walter laughed at my painting and remarked that I could do a merry-go-round anyplace, why didn’t I do a marine subject, since I was in San Pedro harbor? I replied that I suggested a cabin cruiser in the background, but I don’t think that satisfied Mr. McNall. On July 5th, Cathy was invited to be an “artist-in-residence” for an afternoon at the Huntington Hotel in Pasadena. She set up her easel right near the tea room and did a study of water lillies in oil. She based it on a beautiful smaller painting she did some time ago. She also displayed several of her recent paintings, a Flamenco dancer, the wildflowers in Borrego Springs. The hotel helped her get set-up, and I put down the tarp on the floor. It was a delightful afternoon, like being in an elegant salon with live piano music in the background, and brides, grooms and wedding guests filing past (there were about three weddings going on that day). No paintings sold, but Cathy wants to go back soon and paint in the Huntington again. The Huntington loves oil paintings, many old canvases adorn its walls. We loved being there.
A few weeks ago, I got the sad news that the Cartoon Brew Films website is being discontinued. I found out when I tried to log on, I was just directed back to the Cartoon Brew website. Brew Films was certainly a noble experiment in the marketing of new animated short subjects, Bert Klein and I were among the first to be on it. It seemed to get a lot of hits initially, but then interest tapered off. I was surprised that so few cartoon makers were using the site. Here was a chance to have new cartoon shorts on view to the public for only two dollars a download, how could it miss? The answer, You Tube and its many cousins offering loads of new “animated” shorts for free! I was hoping that “It’s ‘The Cat'” would have a chance to earn back some of its negative cost on Brew Films, but it wound up paying very little. The failure of Cartoon Brew Films means that the Internet has not yet found a way to market new short films in a way that returns any significant income to the creators. It is my fervent hope that some day there WILL be a way to bypass theaters and television and create an Internet cartoon theater that will be healthy both creatively and FINANCIALLY. Brew Films just wasn’t it. Right now, “It’s ‘The Cat'” does not have a home on the ‘net. Eventually, I would like to see it embedded in the www.itsthecat.com website, bracketed with ads for our merchandise. Maybe that time will be not too far away. For the present, however, the concept of the paying customer for new short cartoons on the Internet has proven a dead end. It was fun, and an honor to have “It’s ‘The Cat'” be part of the experiment. Thanks to Jerry and Amid for trying it. Thanks to all of you viewers who paid to see my little labor of love. Anybody want to invest in my next cartoon? I want to continue to make them and I could really use the help. Write me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Comics this week include page two of Cathy Hill’s “The Legend of Mangy”. I love the panel with Mangy’s BIG EYES and running off with an entire Thanksgiving dinner in her tiny mouth. This story means a lot to Cathy and me, we loved Mangy and enjoyed having her with us. The “Corporal Crock” story in L’IL ABNER concludes this week, it originally ran from April 30th through May 3rd, 1973. Bullmoose thaws out, and the FBI confiscates all the comic books! Abner won’t be back on the Catblog for awhile, look for a new feature starting soon! MARVELOUS MIKE continues the cat food campaign storyline, from August 6th through 11th, with August 8th missing. The Post-Dispatch failed to print the strip on that date, anybody got it? Felix the Cat by Jim Tyer ends the comics this week with the last two pages of “There Auto Be A Law”, from FELIX THE CAT #4. Next week, there will be the start of a “Rock and Rollo” story by Tyer, don’t miss it friends!
Whelp, I didn’t receive any comments on my wife’s “Mangy and the Worm” page. Those who wish to continue to see new or unpublished comics continue, please let me know at email@example.com. Last Tuesday night, Jerry Beck did a show of “Pre-Code” (actually pre-code ENFORCEMENT) cartoons at the old Silent Movie Theater on Fairfax in West Hollywood. I hadn’t been in this picture palace for over 30 years! The current management, “Cinefamily” has re-done her inside and out, with a new marquee (see photos above), new Simplex and Elmo projectors in the booth (including a (gulp) digital projector), new photos on the wall, new popcorn machine, in summary, a nice place to watch old movies in. The theater seats about 100, in brand-new seats with cushions (!) and a couple of soft huge leather couches in front. A Hammond organ and a baby grand piano are on either side of the screen for the real silent movie evenings. The Silent Movie is now a rep house, that’s why we could run sound cartoons last Tues. We ran THE BEER PARADE, SOUTHERN EXPOSURE and BETTY BOOP’S PENTHOUSE in 35mm and several early 1930s cartoons in 16mm as well, such as ROOM RUNNERS, I’LL BE GLAD WHEN YOU’RE DEAD YOU RASCAL YOU, BOOP OOP A DOOP, PLANE DUMB, BIMBO’S INITIATION, SINKIN’ IN THE BATHTUB, YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT YOU’RE DOIN’ and finishing up with SWING WEDDING in color. There were so many people that they had to do a second show to accommodate the overflow crowd. The “overflows” had to wait more than two hours to see their show. The presentation was good, with good lumens and good sound. The audience reactions were very good, they laughed a lot, applauded some of their favorite cartoons and didn’t gasp and cry at some of the racial sterotypes and comedy, like some contemporary audiences will do. Maybe the Silent Movie will host another cartoon program sometime featuring (maybe) SILENT CARTOONS! I think a good program could be created showing the influence of silent comedy on the animated cartoon, both silent and sound. Think about that, Jerry! (By the way, that’s J. Beck himself in the photo up there with the projectionist cutting 16mm reels together.) The Silent has come a long way since the hard wooden bleachers and the one old 16mm projector (under-lit) that I remember. It’s wonderful that the Cinefamily people have chosen to renovate the Silent Movie, rather than sell it for Condos. Come out and support them if you’re local!
This week’s comics are L’il Abner from 4/16/1973 to 4/21. Barney Oldgoat dies from too much partying, but reveals to Bullmoose that Pappy Yokum owns a copy of “Corporal Crock” number one! Wait ’til you see the General’s reaction to that! In MARVELOUS MIKE, from 7/23/1956 to 7/28, Mike and Merrie foil the “Adoption Racketeers”. I wonder if there really were such operators in the mid-1950s, anybody know? To finish up, we have the next two pages of “There Auto Be A Law” from Felix #4 by Jim Tyer. The jokes about women drivers seem lifted from Cap. Billy’s Whiz Bang, but the drawings are very funny. I love the splash panel with Kitty’s car chasing dogs, funny chickens and running pedestrians up a telephone pole. This story reminds me of the Popeye cartoon, “Women Hadn’t Oughta Drive”, which I believe Tyer DIDN’T work on. I’m posting early because Cathy and I will be plein air painting a lot next week in San Clemente and I won’t have time to blog. She has a “quick draw” (actually a quick PAINT) to do on Saturday the 14th, for which she is already keyed up. I love the ocean and am looking forward to being with her in the lovely town of San Clemente, near San Juan Capistrano. I’ll be bringing you more material both old and new (?) soon!
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.