Saturday, April 1, 2006

Tom & Jerry Animators (Pt. 2)

Yesterday I highlighted the four animators that worked the longest on the series. Today I highlight some of the other guys.

Jack Zander worked on the earliest entries in the series, and specialized in wonderful expressive faces for Jerry. It fits in quite well with the Harman-Ising feel of the early pictures, but was still able to fit in with the direction Hanna and Barbera were taking with the characters. We're often reminded Jerry's a tiny little guy, as Zander always indicates that he's having some trouble standing on two feet (tripping, waving arms to stay standing up). Some examples of his Jerry scenes are at the beginning of FRAIDY CAT (1942), when they are listening to the horror story on the radio, or at the end of PUSS N' TOOTS (1942) with Jerry stealing a kiss from the girl kitten. This is my personal favorite scene of his, from THE LONESOME MOUSE (1943 ; also my personal favorite of series). If you don't find it enjoyable for Zander's animation, you'll at least get a kick out of hearing Jerry talking like James Cagney.

Pete Burness worked on several of the early-mid 40s Tom & Jerrys. His style was quite conservative, with his characters jerking from pose to pose, similar to what Ed Barge would do later on. He's often described as a sloppy animator by some, particularly during his stint as an animator for Friz Freleng and Bob McKimson at Warner Bros. in the late 40s. He then became a director of the Mr. Magoo series at UPA. Some of his scenes include this opening from ZOOT CAT (1944) and Tom and Jerry reading the "How to Catch a Mouse" book in MOUSE TROUBLE (1944).

Michael Lah packed a lot of energy into his work. He was a stand-in of sorts for Irv Spence during his absence in the mid-40s on Tom & Jerry (anyone have any theories for why he was absent?), moving on to be an animator for Tex Avery's unit (and for Dick Lundy's Barney Bear shorts). He also gets co-direction credit on Tex's last two films, DEPUTY DROOPY and CELLBOUND (both 1955). Mike handled this great energetic scene from SALT WATER TABBY (1947).

Don Patterson was also another energetic animator, one with such a kooky style that it almost seemed TOO wild for Tom & Jerry. This may explain his presence on only two cartoons, A MOUSE IN THE HOUSE and THE INVISIBLE MOUSE (both 1947). He moved on to be a director of some of the best 1950s Woody Woodpecker shorts at Walter Lantz, including TERMITES FROM MARS (1952) and WHAT'S SWEEPIN' (1953). Unfortunately his stint as a director was short-lived and was demoted to animator again at Lantz (why it wasn't Paul Smith who was demoted is one of the biggest mysteries in the history of animation). Here is a particularly kooky scene he did for A MOUSE IN THE HOUSE.

Come back tomorrow for a special highlight on two of Chuck Jones' best animators, Bob Cannon and Ken Harris!

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