Friday, April 27, 2007

My Favorite Carl Barks Stories

Carl Barks' Disney Duck stories are (of course) some of the greatest comic books ever made. His Golden Age, IMO, was roughly 1945-1956. After that, with few exceptions like Magica DeSpell, his heart clearly wasn't in it.

My favorite Barks stories are a string of very powerful "Ten-Pagers" in the late 40s and early 50s issues of the greatest comic book series ever published, WALT DISNEY'S COMICS & STORIES. This Donald Duck is more alive than he ever was in most of the animated cartoons. This was when Barks was expanding the Duck Cast to include other loveable assholes like Scrooge McDuck and Gladstone Gander. This 'universe' is followed religiously by a lot of Barks zealots these days.

This first one is a little earlier, from WALT DISNEY'S COMICS & STORIES #77 (February 1947).

Scrooge was a regular by the time of this story from WALT DISNEY'S COMICS & STORIES #134 (November 1951). This is the first appearance of the Beagle Boys.

Gladstone was originally just a smarmy foil for Donald until Barks added his mystical luck in the Four Color "Luck of the North" (1949). This story, from WALT DISNEY'S COMICS & STORIES #140 (May 1952), was the very beginning of Barks' universe taking shape. It's also Gyro Gearloose's first appearance.

Can you believe Barks fit these kinds of stories into TEN pages?! Any writer today would have done meaningless exposition, but Barks is always brisk yet satisfying. Duck Man forever!

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

B-Day: Irv Spence

A tradition I'd like to start is whenever one of my animation heroes' birthday comes along, I'll post some of my favorite pieces of their work.

Irv Spence was an animator who obviously loved what he did. Every scene he ever animated is a sheer delight. I might post some more this week, but these are some of my favorites that I had ready.

Little Red Walking Hood

A Sunbonnet Blue

The Early Bird Dood It!

The Framed Cat

Little Runaway

Monday, April 23, 2007

Uncle Wally

I was in Boston this week and picked up a copy of Mike Barrier's new book "The Animated Man: A Life of Walt Disney" at the Barnes & Noble in the Prudential Center. I had to pay the full price (I'd say cover, but it's nowhere listed) but it was worth it.

I actually enjoyed this book more than "Hollywood Cartoons". No offense meant to Barrier, but I always find his criticism on the cartoons to be overbearing and missing the mark frequently. I was told by others that this is what dominates this book, much like "Hollywood", but it didn't at all.

I found most of the early and later portions of the book to be boring, but that's because it covered Walt's childhood and his escape from animation, parts of his life I'm not exactly interested in. Reading about Disney's relationships (many of them failed) with his best artists was fascinating.

This is an unbiased view of Walt's life, which does nothing to candyass events in his favor. I was disappointed, though, that the 1941 strike was not covered more thoroughly.

When it comes to pure facts, Barrier can't be beat, and this is the best biography of Disney to date. I sincerely hope a biography of Chuck Jones is coming from Barrier in the future, as I feel that he is probably the most significant figure in the history of animation after Walt.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Canned Feud - Funny Freleng Animation

Freleng's "Canned Feud" is one of his best. It was part of a long string of films showing the versatility of Sylvester as one of cartoondom's greatest characters (others include "Stooge for a Mouse", "A Mouse Divided", "Tree for Two"). Sylvester's turmoil over obtaining a can opener to save himself from starvation is some of the best acting done in a Warner cartoon.

This also has some of the funniest animation in any Warner cartoon.

Dig that crazy shooting error!

What was Friz smoking when they did this one?

And what the hell exactly is all of this about?

The scene of Sylvester searching and ripping out the drawer was animated by John Carey, a regular in the McKimson unit and who later became a regular artist at Western Publishing. (Thanks to Greg Duffell for this identification.) Art Davis animated the scene following with Sylvester begging for the can opener.


Did Dick Bickenbach layout this scene or something? This was hilariously animated by Davis as well.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Got Woody?

It's a joy to see that cartoon historian numero uno, Jerry Beck, has performed what Christ couldn't have: Getting the classic Walter Lantz cartoons released on a legitimate DVD.

Having consulted on this set, it's going to be the DVD release of the year (sorry, Popeye). The best cartoons the studio did are on this set (which are among the greatest ever made), and Jerry reports that they are uncensored and un-DVNRed.

Most of the cartoons before Woody showed up, except for choice Oswalds, are pretty pedestrian. The character gave a jumpstart the studio needed, and was furthered with the arrival of Shamus Culhane in a few years.

Here's the pecker's second picture, directed by Lantz himself. Call me crazy, but I love the grotesque design of Woody. The exact kind of imagery you'd want to give to the Antichrist of cartoon stars. (Though my favorite design is the slick Dick Lundy one in the late 40s.)


Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Are You There God? It's Me, Elmer.

One of the most idiotic arguments regarding a Bob Clampett cartoon I've ever seen on the Internet has arisen (I will spare those folks the embarassment and not provide a link) so I'll let a film clip settle it... Is Elmer Fudd talking to Jesus' Daddy at the beginning of "The Old Grey Hare"?

Bob McKimson did the scene in question, followed by some hilarious animation of Gran'pappy Elmer and Bugs by Rod Scribner (there is a quick cut back to McKimson when Bugs strangles Elmer).

Monday, April 2, 2007

I am a charlatan

In case you didn't know for some reason, yesterday's post was a joke.

As to why the cartoons highlighted in yesterday's post are a textbook example of 'animated rape', I'll let this clip answer.


Sunday, April 1, 2007


I have to admit, I have grown extremely fond of the Road Runner cartoons. Yeah, I know they're not on the same level of Chuck's, or any of the Warner shorts of the 40s and 50s, but these are some of the nicest looking and most entertaining cartoons of the 1960s.

There's lots of reasons to like these films, in addition to their excellent timing and gag structure.

The backgrounds in these films were done by Tony Rizzo, and he is one of my favorite painters. I like the use of colors in these films. They read good and scream happy. A lot of Road Runner backgrounds in the Jones films are bland but these are superb in every way.

I love the animation in these things too. There is a lot of great "smear" animation in them, with wonderful phrasing of actions.

This scene was animated by Bob Bransford. It is a really excellent piece of animation and is specific and not generic like a lot of 40s Tom & Jerry and Disney animation. Virgil Ross did a lot of animation on these films too and I think it's better than anything he did for Friz.

I thought now would be a good time to do a montage of all the best Larriva Road Runner gags. I hope you enjoy watching this as much as I did making it.