Saturday, February 24, 2007

Chicken Little

This is one of my very favorite cartoons and one that I feel deserves a lot more attention.

Mike Barrier was kind enough to share with me the animator's draft for the Disney cartoon "Chicken Little" (1943), and I have done an animator's breakdown from it. I am sure most of you will be a mystified by these identifications as I was.

One note I should address: the draft of this cartoon does indeed verify that what Milt Gray has been telling us for years is true. Foxy Loxy does indeed consult the book "Mein Kampf" to tell him how to manipulate the chickens. This was changed in most reissue prints that survive today (Milt claims he saw the original at a kiddie matinee in Burbank in 1965).

So what Leonard Maltin says on the DVD is wrong, and it makes perfect sense with the context of the story. A normal book on psychology would not be a source of pure evil in a Hollywood cartoon made in 1943, but a book by Adolf Hitler most certainly would be. So this is just a shout out to everyone to be on the look-out for this rare 'alternate' version.

Onto the cartoon now...


These drafts are highly illuminating as it adds to the already impressive resumes of the Nine Old Men and other animators. Ollie Johnston is always remembered for soft but effective animation like Bambi or Mr. Smee, yet he animated the wildest take in any Disney cartoon here! I had always thought that to be Kimball's work.

That's not to say Ward Kimball's animation isn't anything short of amazing in this film. Everyone (myself included) attributes Kimball to anything wild and crazy in any Disney film. But here he is capable of some wonderful subtlety with his scenes of Foxy Loxy. He may seem like a typical Disney villain, but he's enriched more than that stereotype, with Kimball's superb acting skills, because the fact of the matter is is that he is pure evil.

As it did with Kimball and Johnston, the film shows Milt Kahl's versatility. We always associate Kahl with literalism, yet the birds in this picture are hilarious looking while remaining human. I find it horribly ironic Kahl can help me relate and identify more with Chicken Little than he would with practically rotoscoped characters like Cinderella. This type of funny animation was apparently Kahl's favorite kind and I'd love to know more of what he did like it.

When we all first saw this cartoon (unprepared of course), our first impression of Foxy Lovy is the feeling of "Oh, this is just a typical cartoon moron, he'll probably lose out" (Frank Graham's terrific vocal work helps 'ensure' us of this presumption). The giant twist on the ending gives us all a shock, but it also gives us the message (most likely intended, and not thrown in our face like other films) that evil comes in many forms and to always be prepared.

To put this all into context with the normal tone of this blog... Who else wishes the recent CGI version ended this way? ("Noooo! Now what'll we do for the DTV sequel?!")

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Tom Oreb Ducks

Somebody posted this on DailyMotion. Jon Cooke (who sent the link to me) says he'd like to see a full-length Duck cartoon done in this style.


Now how about someone uploading one with Alice?

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Pinocchio Drafts

In case you haven't seen yet, Hans Perk has been posting the animator's draft of possibly the Disney studio's greatest film, "Pinocchio". Thanks, Hans. It's great to see who did what on this masterpiece.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Wee Willie Wildcat

ZOMG! An MGM cartoon breakdown without Tom & Jerry!

Dick Lundy briefly took over Tex Avery's unit from 1950-51, for a final attempt at reviving Barney Bear. Lundydidn't think too highly of his shorts, but in my opinion, the best ones are some of the funniest and slickest shorts the MGM studio ever made. "Wee Willie Wildcat" is one of them.

Thanks to Matt Yorston for helping me confirm a few styles I was uncertain with. I'm not sure who the best animator on this film is. Ray Patterson's animation is beautifully done, Grant Simmons' is fluid and lively, and Mike Lah's is hilariously timed and painful.

Unsual for Lundy, animation was lifted from previous films that Avery directed (they are noted in the breakdown). Perhaps, in the case of the camera scene, he was stuck for a gag, as it makes no sense as to why Barney would be the one taking the photo if the advice is to give the brat a hobby.

I apologize for the Cartoon Network logo in this breakdown... How about a DVD set of these and other assorted MGM products, huh?


Saturday, February 17, 2007

A Letter from Johnny Gent

In response to my hunt for all-things related to John Gentilella, arguably the greatest NY animator (and definitely overall) in animation's Golden Age, Paul Spector sent over a letter of his dad's, Irv Spector (another great NY talent), from Johnny!

The cartoon Gent is referring to in this letter is most definitely "Abner the Baseball" (1961). It looks like Joe Barbera (as per usual) knew talent when he saw it. This letter was written when Gent was working on the King Features Popeyes for TV.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Tom & Jerry in the Hollywood Bowl

I normally wouldn't post such a lackluster short ("missed chance" perfectly describes this one) to analyze, but I thought folks would like seeing the original titles. I bought a 16mm print of "Tom and Jerry in the Hollywood Bowl" last summer, and it was great getting it with the original opening.

Ray Patterson is the star animator of this cartoon, handling most of the establishing shots and the ending. The scene towards the end, with Tom having one of the orchestra members flatten Jerry with the cymbals, is possibly Ed Barge's funniest scene ever.


Friday, February 9, 2007

Destination Moon

Here's a nice piece of history.

The Lantz studio's very first project when they re-opened their doors in 1950 was a segment for George Pal's feature, "Destination Moon". This scene was apparently done on the cheap (see the shot at 2:42 for proof).

The first half of this is most certainly animated by Verne Harding, and I believe the second half is by Paul Smith (Mike Kazaleh will know once he sees this). While Smith's animation is kind of crummy looking, Harding's is absolutely great and shows what a talented artist can do on a very limited budget.

This was also Grace Stafford's first time voicing Woody. I guess she couldn't get the voice down right away, as you can plainly hear, and Woody does not talk in the bulk of his cartoons from 1951-52.


Monday, February 5, 2007


The Big Game is tonight, so go get out your copy of THE COMPLETE GOOFY (I'm unsure how you've lived for 4 years without owning it) and watch the greatest football cartoon ever made, "How to Play Football" (1944). I could only get a clip from it, a hysterical piece of John Sibley animation.


Saturday, February 3, 2007

Which is Witch

Okay all you Friz bashers, let's hear what's wrong with this cartoon.

"Which is Witch" is one of the very best of the Warner studio's output. There is sharp timing and hilarious gags, beautiful backgrounds and paintings by Paul Julian, and some decent animation. And hey, a pretty off-color gay joke at the end too!

I screened this last September and while I had some problems with the projector throughout the short, it got agreat reaction.

I'm not 100% positive of attributing the whole first quarter of the short to Art Davis, but I don't see anything else in the cartoon that looks like his work, and I'm uncertain if it's Pete Burness. I'm certain someone will correct me.


- Dr. I.C. Spots mixing potion to Bugs leaving with camera : ART DAVIS
- Bugs walking away with camera to getting lead to hut : VIRGIL ROSS
- Bugs sees boiling pot to running out of hut : GERRY CHINIQUY
- Bugs ducks into hut, dresses as Zulu, and gets chased again : ROSS
- Bugs stops at River to Spots jumping out of bag : KEN CHAMPIN
- Bugs final look to the camera : CHINIQUY (his best piece of animation ever, IMO)