Monday, October 30, 2006

Professor Small and Mr. Tall

For Halloween this week, here's a clip from one of my favorite Columbia cartoons, Professor Small and Mr. Tall (1943), directed by John Hubley and Paul Sommer. This one got a pretty harsh review in Maltin's book, and I can't really see why. That ghost is funny as hell!

The most eerie aspect of this clip is how the characters resemble something out of Chuck Jones' The Dover Boys (1942) (John McLeish even doing a voice), and both cartoons came out within a few months of each other. We know Jones was moonlighting with the UPA guys for Hell-Bent for Election (1944), but was he also doing some work on these Screen Gems shorts?

You can watch this great cartoon (minus the bit with the ghost as Hitler shooting himself... Hmm, guess they predicted the future...) at Pietro's great site.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Johnny's Power Emphasis

As mentioned in the previous blog entry, I feel what Gentilella did better than anyone was emphasizing power. The fight scenes he animated are some of the best animation from any New York studio in the 40s and 50s. Here are two scenes that I know he did from Pop-Pie Ala Mode (1945) and Wotta Knight (1947). Both are wonderfully timed, and show why I think his animation has more punch (pun intended) than any other animator's. (Thanks to Bob J. for identifications.)

Pop-Pie Ala Mode
Uploaded by thadk

Wotta Knight
Uploaded by thadk

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Musical Timing: Johnny Gent

To somewhat tie-in with Kevin's post on timing to music, here is a scene from Famous Studio's Moving Aweigh (1944). This was John Gentilella's first piece of animation at Famous... Only a genius could come up with a scene like this on their first day on the job!

This piece also showcases Gent's emphasis on power, an aspect I feel he was better than everybody at. I'll be talking about this in future posts this week.

Moving Aweigh
Uploaded by thadk

Friday, October 20, 2006

Good Ol' Fashioned Cartoon Plagiarism: Winner By a Hare

Today's edition of cartoon plagiarism (or "How did they not get sued?!") highlights Famous Studios' Winner by a Hare (1953).

You probably remember the old Harveytoons logo with a rabbit, reclining on the letters of the logo in a Bugs Bunny fashion, thinking "Wow, what a cheap knockoff!" Well, your guess was pretty much on the mark.

This was the first cartoon with Moe Hare (voiced by Jackson Beck I believe) and dopey sidekick Tommy Tortoise (voiced by Sid Raymond). While the likeness of Moe to Bugs is bad enough, the short knocks-off the successful (?) Bugs Bunny/Cecil Turtle trilogy from the 1940s. It seems to be going for the sadistic nature of Bob Clampett's entry, Tortoise Wins By a Hare (1943 - wow even ripping off the title), though failing with the usual "1-2-3" 1950s Famous gag structure.

This cartoon does feature some great animation by Marty Taras though, particularly towards the middle of the short where Moe uses his ears as propellor.

The one thing that's more disturbing than the ending of this cartoon, is that its head animator (the real director) is Myron Waldman, the guy responsible for giving us all those great Pudgy and Casper cartoons! This might be one of those cases where the writer had more creative input, in this case, Irv Spector (Famous' best storyman, in my opinion), since he seemed to have more insight on the Warner writing style, as his name is on Famous' best shorts of the 50s (Mice-Capades, Fido Beta Kappa, L'Amour the Merrier).

Moe and Tommy were in three more cartoons that weren't as much of Warner knock-offs, other than the characters' likeness. They were Rabbit Punch (1955), Sleuth But Sure (1956), and Mr. Money Gags (1957).

Winner by a Hare
Uploaded by thadk

Monday, October 16, 2006

Good Ol' Fashioned Cartoon Plagiarism: How to Relax

One of my favorite opening titles ever!

Welcome to the first installment of "Good Ol' Fashioned Cartoon Plagiarism"... or "How Did They Not Get Sued?!"

It's so much easier to take a successful, exisiting idea and put a face-lift on it... Which is exactly what the Terrytoon studio did when they gave the Heckle & Jeckle foil, Dimwit, his own short-lived series!

Jack Kinney's Goofy at the Disney studio was the victim of the pilfering... It's blatantly obvious what Terry was trying to immitate (David Gerstein also claims that it's such a knock-off, that the opening music tries to copy the Goofy theme!)

Of course, I severely doubt Kinney would have had Goofy... Um, well you'll have to wait and see! (Though the way things were going at Disney in 1954, I wouldn't be surprised.)

Without further ado, here is the Terry classic How to Relax (1954). There is some crazy Tyer action in the first 1/4 of this one!

How to Relax
Uploaded by thadk

Saturday, October 14, 2006

The Legend of Rock-a-Bye Point

I think it's high time for a new animator breakdown, and I think everyone will enjoy this one. Mike Kazaleh broke this one down for me awhile ago.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Funny Columbia Animation - Grant Simmons, Frank Tipper, & Roy Jenkins

Here's a piece of animation at one of the "squarest" studios that really surprised me. The Columbia directors Bob Wick and Howard Swift obviously didn't give much freedom to their animators which is why it's so hard to spot any individual style. This scene, from the Flippy short Cagey Bird (1946), is an exception.

EDIT: Grant Simmons animated the bits with Flop (the cat) going through the pillows and falling down the stairs and screaming. Frank Tipper animated Flop getting tripped and trying to put Flippity in his mouth. Roy Jenkins animated Flop escaping Sam's (the dog) bite, getting bashed on the head, and diving into the trashcan. Jenkins did some really funny looking 'silly putty' animation in this scene!

This is about as wild as Columbia got for the time period.

Cagey Bird
Uploaded by thadk

Friday, October 6, 2006

Funny Lantz Animation - Don Patterson

I never really caught on why the later Lantz cartoons are unpopular. I definitley like the ones directed by Alex Lovy and Sid Marcus more than any other studio's contemporary product (save a few by Jones and Freleng). Maybe it has something to do with the 'look', which I happen to love. Though disgracefully knocked down to animator in favor of Paul Smith, Don Patterson still did a fantastic job on Lovy's shorts, often doing both animation and the layouts.

Here is some really funny animation by him from the Doc the Cat (voiced by the great Paul Frees) short Space Mouse (1959).

Space Mouse 1
Uploaded by thadk

Space Mouse 2
Uploaded by thadk

Tuesday, October 3, 2006

Woody Dines Out

One of my all-time favorite cartoons is Shamus Culhane's Woody Dines Out (1945). To me, the character in this film really is Woody Woodpecker. He is obsessed with food and sex, making him the Anti-Christ of sorts among cartoon superstars.

It has the simplest plot... Woody is hungry and all of the restaurants in towns are closed (probably because they've had his patronage in the past), except for one, which is really the shop of a feline taxidermist wanting the $100K prize for a "King-Size Stuffed Woodpecker".

That sounds like a pretty generic plot, but this cartoon, as all cartoons under Culhane and Dick Lundy's direction, contains fantastic animation and timing that make it unique. It is this piece below that I feel Pat Matthews is at his zenith. Woody's reaction to the concoction is incredible, his head spinning into all sorts of shapes, changing colors, then his neck stretching skyward and crashing down again.

Sex is a regular source for gags in Culhane's shorts, and the cat's hilarious fantasizing is no exception. Matthews also animated that scene, showing off his tremendous girl drawing abilities. (He and Marc Davis are my favorite 'girl animators' from the Golden Age.)

Plus, only Woody is enough of a gluttonous bastard where he'd eat something handed to him with such a cryptic warning. (The cat is voiced by the tremendously talented Hans Conried by the way.)

Woody Dines Out 1
Uploaded by thadk

Later in the cartoon, there is a fantastic piece by (my favorite) Emery Hawkins with the cat falling down an elevator shaft. This is another great example of his use of delay timing, particularly when the cat comes to after the fall.

Woody Dines Out 2
Uploaded by thadk

This short also has one of my absolute favorite endings. Only Woody is the kind of pervert who'd invade another character's fantasy to get the last laugh (literally) before the fade-out. Matthews animated this scene as well, with the great bit of Woody smashing the cat's skull in with the champagne bottle.

Woody Dines Out 3
Uploaded by thadk

Sunday, October 1, 2006

Tom & Jerry "Friends" Modelsheets

I'm really scratching for ideas for new posts and don't really like going for days at a time without an update, so here are some modelsheets to tide you over. These are all of "assorted" characters from the Tom & Jerry series, and were stolen from Cartoon Network's D.O.C. website before it folded up (which is why even these have the CN bug).

Sufferin' Cats (1943)

Zoot Cat (1944)

A Mouse in the House (1947)

Kitty Foiled (1948)

Hatch Up Your Troubles (1949)

Little Runaway (1952)

Push-Button Kitty (1952)

To tie-in, here's a great scene from Zoot Cat... The first half is animated by Ken Muse, and then it does a cut to Irv Spence.