Friday, December 31, 2010

Private Snafu: Golden Classics



If there's one animation DVD that I consider to be the best from 2010, it's the Private Snafu Golden Classics, which just came out few days ago.

All of the Snafu shorts was released on VHS and DVD from Bosko Video, but Steve Stanchfield went all the way with this one.



This is probably the best video quality I've ever seen of Snafu cartoons. Unlike other video companies, which sourced Snafu cartoons from worn out 16mm prints, Steve used 35mm negatives from the National Archives, and what a big difference that made.

While the picture is near perfect some shorts do have visible wear (particularly Goldbrick); apparently some of the negatives were in bad shape and Steve either had to do some clean-up or work with other materials. Despite that the picture quality for all the shorts is crisp and miles ahead of other Snafu releases over the years.



The cartoons themselves are propaganda, but still entertaining to animation fans like me. Majority of the Snafu shorts were done at Leon Schlesinger Studio under the direction of Chuck Jones, Friz Freleng, Bob Clampett, and Frank Tashlin, with some of the later ones done at other studios, including Harman-Ising, MGM, and a studio that later became known as UPA.



And of course, there's the one area that most DVD collectors pay attention to the most: the bonus materials, and it's there all right. There are audio commentaries for 12 of the cartoons (Jerry Beck, Mike Kazaleh, Eric Goldberg, John Kricfalusi, Mark Mayerson); a brief documentary hosted by Jerry Beck, complete with a newly animated title by Mark Kausler; and finally, still galleries, a collection of production artwork and Snafu's magazine cover appearances.



It may be past Christmas, but that's no excuse to not buy this DVD. Get it from Amazon NOW!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

David H. DePatie interview, final part

Read part 3 here.

Did The Grinch Grinches the Cat in the Hat start production at the original studio, then completed at Marvel?
Yes, that was in mid-production when Friz and I shut down so I took it over to Marvel and basically it was the same production team because when I started the Marvel studio, it was kind of like when we started DePatie-Freleng, I reached in and took as many DFE personnel as I could and brought them over to Marvel when we started up at that studio.



And Pink Panther continued production right until the studio shut down?
That's right, and actually it went on a little beyond that because at Marvel we did a Pink Panther Valentine special for ABC called Pink at First Sight. That was done entirely when I was at Marvel.



Friz had no involvement with that special?
We got together on the original storyline and that was about it. The rest of the animation process we did entirely at Marvel.

To go back a bit, was Dr. Seuss, Ted Geisel, heavily involved with the TV specials?
Very much so. He was a very hands-on guy. He lived down in La Jolla and he would fly over here. During the course of the production it wasn't unusual to see him once a week. He was very instrumental in the creation of the series. Friz and I had a very good rapport with him. We enjoyed working with him and he enjoyed the studio and it was a far-cry from the bad experience he had with Chuck Jones on the earlier Christmas special.



So he enjoyed the specials the studio did.
Oh yeah. It was a very good relationship and everybody was pleased. I have sitting here front of me three Emmys that we won for Dr. Seuss specials, with Friz and I as producers. Yeah, it was a very successful operation and I often think of it as an important contribution to entertainment in general as we did with the Pink Panther. It was a very successful operation.

It's still on TV from time to time.
It's kind of convoluted because some of them were made for CBS and some of them were made for ABC and you never know when they're gonna pop up. And of course some of them were syndicated and I think I even seen one on Cartoon Network.

In the 1990s there was a new Pink Panther series where he talked.
We received a call from MGM that they wanted a new 16 or 17 half-hours of Panther for syndication. The only problem is, in order to get financing for it, is he's gonna have to get a voice. None of us wanted to do this. Finally, MGM persuaded everybody, our partners the Mirisch company, I assume you know the Panther copyright is owned by myself and my two partners, DePatie-Freleng and Geoffrey Productions, which is Blake Edwards company, and the Mirisch Company, which was the original producers. The three of us owned the copyright of the Pink Panther. So naturally we called the shots, but in this particular instance we were prevailed up to give the character a voice and the voice ended up being a fellow by the name of Matt Frewer. It was okay. To this day I prefer the pantomime version but the production was good. MGM, to accommodate this production, opened up a little animation unit over at MGM and it was the first time they had anything like that since the Tom and Jerry days. So that's where we did everything and it was renewed for the second year and I think we did another 16 or 17 of them, and that was it.



To go back to the studio, do you remember any of the musicians, like Bill Lava?
Going back to the Warner Bros. days, Bill Lava was the guy and the original Pink Panther theatrical shorts, Bill Lava did the music for alot of them. It was a mixed-bag with music because we insisted upon most of the music being the Mancini theme. So the rest of the background music that someone like Lava would do was minimal, because if you sit down and look at it, there was a liberal use of the Pink Panther Mancini theme. Another fellow that we used, quite liberally, was a fellow by the name of Doug Goodwin. You'll see his name all over the music credits.

Interview © Charles Brubaker
Pink Panther © Mirisch-Geoffrey-DePatie Freleng
Dr. Seuss specials © Dr. Seuss Enterprises

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

David H. DePatie interview, part 3

Read part 2 here.

On the theatrical side The Blue Racer came out in 1972.
That'll be about right. He was very successful. People really liked that blue snake, the way he became involved, so it was a compliment to the rest of our library



Blue Racer chased the Japanese Beetle around. Did that character cause any complaints?
Not really. I will say this, though, on the ethnic subject. You are familiar with the original Tijuana Toads?

Yeah.
When they went on television, we had to completely change them around and the series became known as the Texas Toads, and we had to redo all of the tracks that had any type of ethnic content and it really watered down the series down. We all thought it was a hell of a lot more funny when it was the Tijuana Toads, but at the time we had to do it in order to bring the thing on television. However, I do not recall having that problem with the Blue Racer and the Japanese character. That one I don't remember. I think he went on just as he was in the theatrical cartoons.



And when the Blue Racer was still in production Hoot Kloot came out.
Hoot Kloot, to my recollection, was the last of the contractual theatrical cartoons we did for United Artists under the original 156 cartoon contract. Of course that was another one that went on to television. At one time we had a 90-minute show on NBC that lasted for a couple years, called the Pink Panther Laugh and a Half-Hour and a Half. Of course, 90 minutes, that really consumed alot of stuff and I think that's when we decided we needed another series and there came Hoot Kloot.



Several of the shorts were animated overseas. Do you remember any details of that?
Like so many of our competitors the time came when we financially had to move a certain amount of production overseas which we did. We worked primarily in Seoul, Korea. We had a studio over there run by a gentleman by the name of Nelson Shin. That's where we did most, if not all, of our overseas productions.

Nelson Shin was in Korea at the time?
Yes. Actually, he was an American but he was involved in a studio in Korea.

One of the Blue Racer shorts was done in Australia.
I don't remember that. It seems to me that we did experiment on Australia and it didn't work out for us. You may be correct there was one done there, but I don't remember except we did not have a good experience there. If we did anything, it would've been one or two at the most.

Some of the Hoot Kloot were done in Barcelona, Spain with Bob Balser.
Yes. Balser originally worked for us and he was [later] in Barcelona. We had a director by the name of Art Leonardi and we sent him over to work with Balser and we did do some work there.

After Hoot Kloot there was one more theatrical series called The Dogfather.
Yes, there was the Dogfather and Misterjaw that really concluded the series. I said earlier that it was Hoot Kloot but it really wasn't. It was Dogfather and Misterjaw, as I recall.



At this time Joe Ruby and Ken Spear came to the studio with The Barkleys and The Houndcats.
We negotiated a contract with Ruby and Spears. They have been writers at Hanna-Barbera and they were quite knowledgable in Saturday Morning programming. So I hired them and brought them over and you're right, the first thing they did for us was the Houndcats and the Barkleys, and I'm trying to remember what they did after that, but they were with us for several years.



Bailey's Comets?
Yes, that's the other one.

There was also the Marvel series, with Spider-Woman and the Fantastic Four.
Yes. I negotiated a deal with the Marvel Comics management to get the rights to these two shows and we did them. And I don't want to get ahead of myself but subsequently when Friz and I decided that we made enough cartoons we decided to shut down the studio and I founded Marvel Productions and was their first president and CEO for four years after Friz and I shut down our operation.



The studio also did several Dr. Seuss specials, starting with The Cat in the Hat. How did that deal came about?
Well, the first Dr. Seuss special was How the Grinch Stole Christmas and that was made by Chuck Jones at MGM. The second one was the Cat in the Hat [ed. note: actually the third, the second being Jones-directed Horton Hears a Who]. Jones and Dr. Seuss, Ted Geisel, did not get along. They were at each-others throats. Geisel and I were both represented by the International Creative Management (ICM) and my agent asked if we would be interested in taking over the work on The Cat in the Hat. We did, and we did all of the remaining specials. I think we did six in all. And that's how that got started.

Interview © Charles Brubaker
Blue Racer, Tijuana Toads, Hoot Kloot, Dogfather © MGM/UA
The Houndcats © Viacom
The Cat in the Hat © Dr. Seuss Enterprises

Part 4 tomorrow

Monday, December 20, 2010

David H. DePatie interview, part 2

Read Part 1 here.

How did you and Blake Edwards get in touch with the Pink Panther titles?
We need to turn the clock back to around 1963. I had known Blake throughout the years on a friendship basis. And I got this call one day to come over and see him and I did and he handed me this script and I looked at it, and it's called The Pink Panther. He went on to say "I'm going to Rome to shoot this movie very soon and although it's a live-action movie, the idea of a Pink Panther really makes me want to have an animated character and I don't know what I'm going to do with it, but can you guys come up with an idea?"

So I went back to the studio and got together with Friz and...actually, one of our very important layout men, his name was Hawley Pratt. Hawley was the most instrumental in creating the original Panther. We must have come up with a hundred or more different drawings, variations, on what the Pink Panther is. We took these drawings over to Blake's house and laid them all out for him. He's a very decisive guy and he walked over and he said that's the one I want and he picked that particular drawing and the Panther was born. He went off to Rome to shoot the movie and the only thing he used the Panther on was on the letterheads and business cards and that sort of thing.

Friz and I didn't have any idea of where it was going to go from there. After the picture was completed I got a call from Blake and he said "I have a film in the can now and I would like to tell you what my thoughts are, so come on over". So I went over to see him and he said "now I know exactly what I'm going to use with this character. I want you to create a main title sequence for my movie where the Panther will come involved and work with the different credits." That's exactly where the Panther was born. We went on to create a storyboard with the character involved in all of the main title credits and he thought it was great. He had to take it over to the Mirisch Company, which was the production company for the film, and had to get the budget OK'd. It was quite an expensive operation. To my knowledge it was the first time that there had ever been an animated main title that featured complete, full animation throughout the title itself. It was expensive, but he got the budget cleared and went ahead and made the main title.



What was the reception with the title?
The reception was magnificent. We took the picture out to preview at Village Theatre in Westwood and when the titles came on, people got up and they were jumping around and screaming and yelling and at the end of the title sequence they had to turn off the projector and turn on the house lights because people were just going really crazy about it. So it came off with a very, very good start. I had the idea that maybe there was life in this Pink Panther after this main title sequence. To make a long story short I was able to convince the Mirisch Company and United Artists to give us a contract for Pink Panther shorts. You have to remember that this time in the animation business the cartoons were theatrical cartoons. The theatre owners ran a cartoon and a newsreel with the feature picture so that was the format. I was able to get a very large contract from United Artists that surprised me at the time. We got a contract for 156 six-minute theatrical shorts. So we were in business and moving right along so that really basically how it all got started.

Then the Inspector series came along.
The Inspector was the second. After we had started, we probably made around 13 different Pink Panther cartoons and we were asked by United Artists to come up with another character to work in conjunction with the Panther and that's when we decided upon the Inspector Clouseau character in animation. I would say that was probably a year to 18-months after the creation of the Pink Panther himself.



Then you would enter Saturday Morning, starting with The Super 6.
We made the decision to get into Saturday Morning television and you're right, the first all-new show that we made for NBC network was Super 6. That was our first effort into television itself. Now of course, later the networks, primarily NBC, bought the Panther for Saturday Morning television and it was on the networks for 12 to 15 years continuously in various formats. The existing theatrical cartoons with bridge materials, very much like what Warners had done previously, and some of the television shows were new, where we actually made Pink Panther cartoons for television.



How did the studio expand with the production of both the TV series and the theatricals?
Well, we had alot of materials going through. At the high point of the studio in production, we had close to 400 people in the studio so it really went from nothing to quite a large operation. Not as big as Hanna-Barbera but it was there.

After the production of The Inspector ended there was an introduction of new series with Roland and Rattfink, Tijuana Toads, and The Ant and the Aardvark.
Yes, and The Blue Racer. These were all different cartoons that our distributor, United Artists, asked us [in order] to vary our production. And they were all quite successful...We're getting to the point where I have to tell you that the theatrical cartoon persay, had really died. It was in the early '70s when the theatre people said we want to run the feature continuously. We don't want any interruptions with a cartoon or a newsreel. So my point here is, at that time, basically everything we were doing was directly for television.



John Dunn was responsible for most of the stories.
John was our head writer. He and I worked very close together. I was involved with the so-called literary end of animation while Friz was involved with the actual drawing part so I worked very close with John Dunn and he, probably, was the best creative mind, story-wise, that I had ever worked with. He was responsible for the success of the Pink Panther and it was one of his original ideas that we keep the Panther as a pantomime character. As you probably know, up until more recently the Panther never had a voice. This was a conscience decision that I made with along with John Dunn early on in the process.

At start, the directors were Hawley Pratt, Gerry Chiniquy, and Bob McKimson.
That is correct. Pratt, as I said earlier, was a layout artist and we promoted to directing once the Pink Panthers got underway [...] he was mostly the director on the Pink Panther for many years.

Warner Bros. eventually decided to re-open the studio in the late '60s.
I didn't really have anything to do with that. At this point in time our lease on the Warner studio has expired and in about 1970-71, DePatie-Freleng moved into its own studio away from the Warner lot. There was a period where the Warner Bros. was still dormant but they made the decision to get back into business and we had nothing to do with that.

Bob McKimson would briefly leave the studio to work at the new Warner studio.
Well, I don't remember that being accurate. If it was, it was a very short-period of time because he was working at DePatie-Freleng up until the day he died. And that's my recollection, I don't recall him working back to Warner's. If he did, that was a very short period of time. [ed. note: McKimson retired from animation in 1969, but went back to work in early 1970s to direct on the television series, where he stayed until his death in 1977]

Well, he only directed half-a-dozen cartoons there, so yes, it was short.
He would've been the only one available of the original Warner directors because Chuck Jones was off on his own and of course Friz was with me, so McKimson was it.

Art Davis would eventually become director.
Artie was an animator and eventually the production grew in volume and we needed an additional director and Artie was it.

Interview © Charles Brubaker
All images © MGM/UA

Continue to Part 3

Sunday, December 19, 2010

David H. DePatie interview, part 1

David H. DePatie was the last manager of the original Warner Bros. Animation Studio before its shut down in 1963. This led to forming his own studio with Friz Freleng where they produced many cartoons including the Pink Panther, the Dr. Seuss specials, and numerous other shorts and series.

I interviewed DePatie on December 14 by phone. The following is part 1 of the conversation.


You were the producer of the Warner Bros. Animation Dept.
I was the last manager of the Warner Bros. Cartoon Division before we closed it down. I was the head of that division for three years prior to the decision being made by Warner Bros. to get out of the cartoon business.

Who was the previous manager before you?
His name was John Burton.

The cameraman?
John Burton the cameraman was his son, and it was his father who was the previous head of the cartoon division before I took over.

And one of the films made under your watch was a live-action/animation hybrid Philbert.
Philbert was a pilot television show that was made for ABC Television Network. It was a combination of live and animation. Unfortunately it did not sell and the pilot was the only film we ever made.



And also at this time there was the The Bugs Bunny Show.
The Bugs Bunny Show was a combination of many of the old Warner Bros. cartoons involving most all of their characters and for half-hour television we took three of these cartoon shorts and put them together with new animated bridging material to form a half-hour show for television. And again, this was for the ABC network.



And Chuck Jones and Friz Freleng were mostly in charge of that show.
Well, there were all three of them involved. There was Friz Freleng, Chuck Jones, and Bob McKimson.

They would take turns directing the bridging materials?
That is correct. That's how it worked.

When did Warner Bros. shut down their animation division?
Well I'm going to say it was approximately 1960. I received a call from management telling me to come to New York for a board of directors meeting. I flew into New York and attended this meeting of the Warner Bros. board and was told at the time that a decision was made to close the studio and get out of the cartoon business. As I recall, it was around 1960, '61, in that era.

And that led you forming your own studio with Friz?
Yes. It was a painful process, having to notify everybody that they were going to be out of work. But it took a year, a year in a half, to actually close the studio down because we had shows that were in production and we also were in the middle of an animated/live-action feature called Mr. Limpit, starring Don Knotts. [...] As I said earlier it took probably a year-in-a-half to close the studio down and it was over this period of time that personnel were gradually let go until we finished all of the production.

How did DePatie-Freleng Enterprise begin business?
I was offered a job to go up into the Warner Bros. Television division. At the time Warners was just getting started in television with shows like Maverick and 77 Sunset Strip, and I was offered a position up there to work as an executive producer. So I was not going to be out-of-work, but thought occured to me that I would like to go into business for myself. The Hanna-Barbera studio was just getting started at the time and I thought it would be a good time to get into this business. So I needed to have an animation director to work with me and during my years at the Warner Bros. Cartoon Division I had developed a very good rapport and friendship with Friz Freleng, so I offered Friz the opportunity to go into business with me to form an animation company and he accepted the offer and that that's when DePatie-Freleng Enterprises was born.

In the beginning, it was mostly commercials with Charlie Tuna.
I had a quite a good rapport with a number of advertising agencies that we had made commercials for when we were still at Warner Bros and they really helped us get started. That was how our initial work in the new studio was, television commercials. And you're right, Charlie the Tuna was one of the them, "Put a Tiger in your tank" [was] another one, Post Cereals. There were a number of animated commercials that really kept up going in the early stages of the company.



How many animators did you have on staff at the time?
When we started out, Friz and I were very fortunate because we literally had our pick of the best because people that had been laid off at Warner Bros. we picked up. I think we probably started out with four animators and four assistant animators, probably two or three layout people, a background artist, and a certain number of the ink-and-paint girls as well as John Burton Jr., who became our cameraman. To back up a little bit, I had been able to negotiate a deal with Warner Bros. management to take over the cartoon studio because obviously they had nothing to do with it, it was empty, and I was able to negotiate a very favorable lease on the studio, including all of the equipment and everything. That's where DePatie-Freleng was originally housed, in the existing Warner Bros. Animation Division building.

And the new studio would eventually make new Looney Tunes.
It's quite ironic. Friz and I had been in business for probably a little over a year, and we had already started with the Pink Panther. I got a call from the Warner management saying that because of the needs of television that they wanted more shows and we did produce for about 26 to 30 six-minute shorts with Daffy, Road Runner, some Bugs, Tweety. We did do some work for them initially.



Why Daffy Duck and Speedy Gonzales, mostly?
I don't know that it was mostly but Warner Bros., they were of course catering ABC network and I suppose that it was the ABC Network Programming people that really specified what characters they wanted in these new cartoons.



And some of the Road Runners were contracted out to Format Films.
There was a gentleman by the name of Herb Klynn who had been a director at one time or another at Warner Bros and Herb had this company called Format. We were, of course, very very busy at that time with the Pink Panther production and we really didn't have the personnel to do all of the Warner work in-house. Yes, some of it was indeed farmed out to Format Films under the direction of Herb Klynn.

Interview © Charles Brubaker
Philbert, Looney Tunes characters © Warner Bros.
Charlie the Tuna © StarKist Co.

Continue to Part 2

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Clobber's Ballet Ache (1959)

As you can see below, this copy of Clobber's Ballet Ache is in CinemaScope with original titles. It was transferred from my 16mm print by Tom Stathes and he did a great job.

This is the next-to-last Clint Clobber cartoon and also one of only two where Clobber's skin is flesh-colored as opposed to solid white. Jim Tyer animated the beginning scene where Clobber is watching television. Allen Swift did all the voices.

In earlier Clobber cartoons the theme music actually has lyrics, which was written by Gene Deitch ("It must be love, I think it of, it must be love...", which he hums in the beginning of this cartoon), but towards the end they opted for the instrumental version of the song instead.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Tiny Tree (1975)

With the success of the Peanuts and Grinch Christmas specials from the 1960s just about every other animation studio tried their hands at one, and DePatie-Freleng was no exception. In fact they made three, this being one of them.

The Tiny Tree was first broadcast on NBC in 12/14/1975 at 7:30 pm Eastern and was sponsored by the AT&T as part of their Bell System Family Theater. It was produced, written and directed by Chuck Couch, who worked at Disney as an animator and storyman in the late '30s/early '40s; he would spend his final years writing at Hanna-Barbera's sausage factory.

Buddy Ebsen narrated the special. Other voices include Paul Winchell, Frank Welker, Lucille Bliss, and Janet Waldo. This special also features a couple of songs sung by Roberta Flack with music by Johnny Marks. You may be familiar with Marks for Rudolph the Red-Nose Raindeer. The animation is done by the usual DFE guys (Bob Richardson, John Gibbs, Nelson Shin, etc.), although it also has some other names like veteran animator Ed Love, who did a couple of works for the studio in the past.

Despite not airing for years it's still remembered by the people who watched it. Indeed, when I was updating the DePatie-Freleng site for GAC (still up here) I used to get emails after emails about the whereabouts of this special. AT&T currently owns the rights to it, but because they're not exactly known for producing movies and TV works don't expect a DVD release yet. In the meantime, though, here's the special from YouTube in three parts.





Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Ads part 2

Here's the flier I talked about in the last post, distributed for potential TV stations on airing the DePatie-Freleng shorts package. It was given to me by Jerry Beck when we met a while back.



None of the scenes were taken from the actual shorts. They basically took old drawings and photographed them. The cels and backgrounds don't even match! Here are my IDs:

The Dogfather
Cels: Deviled Yeggs (1974; for the cat) and Eagle Beagles (1975; for Dogfather)
Background: unknown

Hoot Kloot
Cels: Pay Your Buffalo Bill (1973)
Background: Phony Express (1974)

The Blue Racer
Cels: Wham and Eggs (1973)
Background: Fastest Tongue in the West (1971)

The Ant and the Aardvark
Cels: Hasty But Tasty (1969)
Background: Scratch a Tiger (1970)

Roland and Raffink
Cels and Background: The Great Continental Overland Cross-Country Race (1971)

Tijuana Toads
Cels: unknown
Background: Fastest Tongue in the West (1971)

Ads

Some ads for animated shorts that ran in the BoxOffice magazine in the mid-1960s. By then some studios started closing their animation division due to a rise in television, but the success of the Pink Panther cartoons may have led to other studios keeping it alive for few more years, hoping to duplicate the success.


(Ran November 21, 1966)



(above two November 29, 1965)

Alas, it wasn't to be. Paramount quit animation in 1967 and MGM shortly after (again). After Walter Lantz closed in 1972 only DePatie-Freleng remained as the producer of theatrical cartoons. By the 1970s BoxOffice pretty much stopped covering shorts and very few articles and ads appeared regarding them.

I've yet to find any advertisements for the later DFE stars like "Blue Racer" or "Dogfather" that was targeted to theaters. I do know of a flyer that advertised them, but they were through United Artists' television arm (I'll put it up later).

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Jokebook

I'm going to have to confess that I'm not a big fan of the Hanna-Barbera output as a whole and never really cared for them. The only one that I really liked is probably Top Cat, and even then it's because of the voice acting (especially from Arnold Stang). That said, I can't resist putting this up.



I'll admit to knowing alot of HB shows, even the stupidest ones, but this one stumped me. Looking around, it turns out that Jokebook was Hanna-Barbera's attempt at prime-time animation in 1982. After the Flintstones was canceled HB tried to do more prime-time cartoons. In 1970 they did Where's Huddles, which aired as a summer replacement show for only 10 episodes. In the wake of the success of All in the Family HB did an adult-oriented series for syndication called Wait 'Till Your Father Gets Home (1972-1974) which managed to last two whole seasons for a total of 48 episodes. After that, nothing until this came along.

Jokebook was actually a compilation show where it showcased independent and student animation, bridged together by HB-produced sequences featuring Eve & Adam, The Lovebirds, The Nerd, and so forth. These characters were designed by Marty Murphy (who also designed the characters in Wait 'Till...), although The Nerd looks like Howard Beckerman's work (can't say if he was involved or not).

In what is not surprising to some, the show bombed in ratings. Indeed, only four episodes were actually broadcast on NBC; the remaining three never aired. It's very unlikely that the show will see the light again; in addition to just being too obscure there's the issue of clearing the rights for the indie shorts seen in the program.

Prime-time cartoons did not achieve success again until the introduction of The Simpsons.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

I guess even in Germany...

...there were public domain cover artists working.



From a German package of American cartoons consisting of Snuffy Smith, Casper, Tijuana Toads, and Hoot Kloot.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Recommended comic: Bug



Here's a comic that I just discovered: "Bug" by Adam Huber. It's a gag comic with cockroaches depicting our human nature. Seems fitting, really. I've read every comic posted to date (it started about a year ago), and I've laughed at every one of them, which doesn't happen much even with the greatest of the comic strips.

Read it here.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Sorry Charlie

Anyone ever wondered why Charlie Tuna wanted to be caught, chopped up, and processed?



Phil Monroe directed these commercials.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

United Artists

Transamerica Corporation, an insurance company, purchased United Artists in 1967. Any UA releases afterward had a version of this title.



Just about anything UA released had this title, including the DePatie-Freleng cartoons. Any DFE cartoons released to theatres after 1967 (or '68) had this title appear before the credits. They were still present when they were syndicated to television until 1981 when Transamerica sold United Artists to MGM. The logo was replaced with a "spinning UA" logo and that got spliced into the 16mm negatives for the cartoons that was still available for syndication.

It's relatively hard to find a 16mm print of a DFE cartoon with this logo intact (it's either the spinning UA logo or the logo is spliced out altogether), although I did find a few over the years.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Guard Dog Global Jam

A while back I participated in Bill Plympton's Guard Dog Global Jam, where dozens of different artists took their hand at animating a scene in Bill's film Guard Dog.

Recently Bill put up a rough-cut of the animation jam. My scene's at 58 seconds in.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Aches and Snakes (1973) and Lucky Lydia (1999)

I talked about DePatie-Freleng and outsourcing a while back, so you can just go there for more info, but to recap DFE subcontracted several theatrical Blue Racers and Hoot Kloots to overseas studios, mostly in Spain. I already linked to Little Boa Peep, so here's the other BR short done overseas.

Aches and Snakes was animated in Australia at the Filmgraphics Studio. David Denneen (misspelled in the credits as "Deneen"), the animator who founded the studio, directed it. Sometime back I contacted Mr. Denneen and asked questions about the short. Admittingly he remembered very little about it, but according to him he was contacted by David DePatie with the deal of doing some animation at his Australian studio.

The BR short was basically a test, and if successful they would subcontract several Pink Panther shorts to him. Unfortunately for him the heads in charge did not like the results and cut off all ties after this one cartoon.

The animation here is not as ugly as in Bob Balser's entry but it's just as crude. And I'm personally very perplexed by the backgrounds here, done by Richard Zaloudek (credited as "Roman Hans"). Zaloudek did many backgrounds on Hanna-Barbera cartoons outsourced to the southern hemisphere and it does not look as odd as what's seen in this cartoon.

The embed below is a Croatian dub. You can see the English version here.



As far as I know that was the last time Filmgraphics did any work for American studios...until 26 years later, when they got involved in Bob Camp and Art Filloy's pilot, Lucky Lydia. Camp and Filloy are both Ren & Stimpy alums (Filloy directed his episodes in Australia at Mr. Big Cartoons) and they teamed up to do this pilot. They both directed, with the animation being done at Filmgraphics, where Filloy was working at the time. It's not a great cartoon, but the animation is very well done, especially for a made-for-TV cartoon (by comparison, the BR cartoon above was theatrical).

Cartoon Network passed it on but they did air it (along with other failed pilots) as part of the Cartoon Cartoon Show. You can watch it below.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

"Calvin and the Colonel" color clips



MCA-Universal syndicated "Calvin and the Colonel" worldwide all the way up to mid-1980s. Despite being available for so long, however, not many stations ran it.

Most bootleg copies in circulation came from black and white network prints so even today it's hard to find color footage. However somebody recently started selling color copies, which you can buy from this site. I bought one of the discs, which is where the following clips came from.

Here are the opening and closing. In ABC these were only used in the first six episodes but MCA decided to slap them into all 26 of them for syndication. The names in the credits are more or less the same in every episode (in the 2nd closing fewer artists were credited) but this practice made it seem that Joe Connelly and Bob Mosher did all the scripts. While they wrote most of the episodes there were a handful written by others, including Bob Ross and T. Hee.





Here's an actual episode clip, from The Colonel's Old Flame (first broadcast February 17, 1962). It was adapted from an Amos & Andy radio script Kingfish's Old Flame, Boo Boo Winters.



And finally, an assortment of screenshots.





Saturday, October 30, 2010

Random thought of the day...

Of the three Seth MacFarlane shows I think I like American Dad! the best. Proves you can be funny without resorting to cutaway gags.

The main character, Stan, can be too much of an asshole, though...

(I'll have some real posts up soon...someday)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

More on "Calvin and the Colonel"

Since I wrote about Calvin and the Colonel, I thought I'd share some of the buzz the show got during its broadcast. The following article ran on the Toledo Blade in October 1, 1961, on the debut of the show (which occurred on the following Oct. 3).



'CALVIN AND THE COLONEL'
by Ray Oviatt, Blade Entertainment Editor

FAME AND anonymity have gone hand in hand for Freeman Gosden and Charles Correll.

What's more, the paradox seems destined to continue even as they prepare their personal television debuts.

These partners, whose many voices were as familiar to most of us as our next of kin when they were radio's Amos 'n' Andy, are used to going unnoticed in a crowd. At the height of their radio popularity Gosden recalls being pushed aside unceremoniously at a Hollywood premiere by an autograph seeker in hot pursuit of Roscoe Ates.

This season the 40-year veterans of broadcasting is finally make their entry of the television scene. Actually, they don't really make the scene, but they will supply the voices for the leading characters in the new animated series, "Calvin and the Colonel," premiering Tuesday at 8:30 p.m. on ABC-TV.

***

EVEN IN Romanoff's, a prestige beanery for the Beverly Hills crowd where we had gathered recently for a luncheon interview, Gosden and Correll would not have been picked out as show business stars. Their appearance might suggest that they were successful businessmen - investment brokers perhaps - and members of the governing board of an exclusive country club. Ant this impression is not entirely amiss.

A good share of the early conversation was devoted to a discussion of new developments in electronics as they relate to stock market quotations. Gosden, normally the spokesman for the team, seemed to command particular respect as an investment counselor. And, during the course of the meal, he excused himself to confer with a gentleman at a nearby table on some country club board business.

Gosden and Correll are still showmen, though, and admittedly are hoping for a little more recognition from the TV series, even though they will not be seen in person. A video version of "Amos 'n' Andy," still running in some areas, brought financial rewards to the radio creators of the characters, but the roles were played by other performers. "Maybe by the time we're 90, we'll be recognized at Forest Lawn," said Gosden

Basically, though, the two millionaires were lured back to business of performing because they live in a town where other wealthy veterans keep on working and are not available for a golf game. Then, too, they are reunited with Joe Connelly and Bob Mosher, former Amos 'n' Andy writers, and among the most successful producing-writing duos for TV ("Leave it to Beaver," "Ichabod and Me" and "Bringing Up Buddy")

***

GOSDEN INSISTS that characters and voices of "Calvin and the Colonel" will not be the same as those of Amos 'n' Andy, although making the distinction is something of a problem. As the Colonel, a sly fox from the piney woods of Dixie, he'll use a southern accent acquired by him long ago in his native Richmond, Va. However, he'll avoid malapropisms, mispronunciations and slurs and he will keep his voice somewhere between Amos and the Kingfish.

Correll speaks for Calvin, a lumbering bear with an eye for ladies. He wears a straw skimmer which he habitually tips to passing females with a lilting, drawn-out "Howdee doo." The partners believe it is highly likely that this greeting will become a national craze, rivaling some of the catch phrases made a part of the national idiom by Amos 'n' Andy.

"It will be a modern show," say the team. "We even use an electronic storyboard with flashing dots. You should see it. I don't think there's anything quite like it in the cartoon business."

***

FROM THIS automated animation line will come, we are promised new and adult approaches to the cartoon humor. The pair was chuckling over a sequence recently completed in which Calvin was trying to remember some telephone numbers, a street address and several other figures, which become jumbled in a series of tabulations picturing his mental confusion. "It's hard to explain, but it's something which hasn't been done before and I think it will be very funny," says Gosden.

Their entry on the TV scene (or soundtrack) is not a terribly strenuous chore, they confess. It entails primarily an hour or two per week recording the dialogue for an episode.
------------------------------------------------------
The following ran on November 6, 1961 in the
Pittsburgh Press, following the show's dismal ratings.

Calvin, Colonel Bite Dust
By Vernon Scott

HOLLYWOOD, Nov. 7 (UPI) - That splash you just heard was the first new TV series of the season hitting the water like a dead duck.

The casulties, however, are a bear and a fox, the cartoon stars of "Calvin and the Colonel". And the characters aren't really dead, just badly wounded.

As of Nov. 14 the program will be off the air.

But come next January, after major surgery - perhaps a prefrontal lobotomy - "Calvin and the Colonel" will return for another try.

The animated cartoon show was one of four such to invade the nation's living rooms this fall, the others being "Top Cat", "The Bullwinkle Show" and "The Alvin Show."

They came in a rush after the success last season of "The Flintstones." But, fittingly, they have been received with something less than all-out enthusiasm by viewers.

There is a small tragedy in the temporary demise of "Calvin and the Colonel" in that two of the country's most beloved entertainers are involved - Freeman Gosden and Charles Correll.

Gosden and Correll originated and portrayed "Amos and Andy" on radio for 30 years and provide the voices for Calvin (the bear) and the Colonel (the fox) on the troubled series.

Gosden, a golf buddy of former President Eisenhower, said his series was tailored for adults and at the same time disagreed with critics who think cartoon shows are for kids, low-brows and the mentally retarded.

"If we're good we'll survive. If not, we won't. It's that simple."

Gosden went on to say that one of the other new cartoons had won a 33 percent share of the audience in its time slot. This information seemed to cheer him.

But it will take more than that to keep "Calvin and the Colonel" from being shot down for good next spring.


The show returned in Saturday evenings at 7 PM (not mornings as some sources state) in January 27, 1962 and stayed there until it was taken off the air the following September. It's interesting how networks treated failed shows back then. Today, any sitcoms that fail are taken off air and never seen again, regardless of how many unaired episodes are left.
------------------------------------------------------
The following appeared in the Pittsburgh Press in January 24, 1962. Considering that Top Cat aired the same season, you'd think people would complain about that show...

Gosden Defends 'Calvin And Colonel'
Replying to criticism that "Calvin and the Colonel" was simply an animalized, cartoonized version of Sgt. Bilko, Freeman Gosden has this to say:

"Sure, The Colonel is a schemer. So was Bilko. But don't forget before Bilko, The Kingfish was a schemer, too. Down through the years, comedy teams often used a team of a conniver and his foil. After all, there's nothing new under the sun."

Gosden, you'll remember, did the voice of The Kingfish (as well as Amos) on the old Amos 'n' Andy radio show.

Monday, October 25, 2010

The best anti-piracy video ever

This made me laugh. Thought I'd share it with you.



More blog posts coming soon this week.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Calvin and the Colonel

Calvin and the Colonel (ABC 1961-62), to me, is probably one of my favorite animated sitcoms. Maybe that's not a fair assessment; they literally took old Amos 'n Andy scripts and drew over it with talking animals, but it's a still a great example of a well-written animated sitcom, maybe on-par with the best Simpsons episodes (talk about an odd comparison!).

After its one season run on ABC it entered syndication and stayed there up until the late 1970s. It was also distributed internationally; Japan, for example, aired the show around 1967 as OK! Calvin, while Australia aired it for quite a while, at least until the late 1980s.

Most video copies in circulation came from 16mm black-and-white network prints although somebody is offering DVDs of episodes in color (I'm guessing it was transferred from the syndication prints).

In the meantime, here's one of the episodes in b&w, Nephew Newton's Fortune (first aired April 21, 1962). Features voices by Freeman Gosden (Colonel), Charles Correll (Calvin), Virginia Gregg (Maggie Belle), Beatrice Kay (Susan), and Paul Frees (Judge Clutch), with June Foray voicing Calvin's ex-fiancee. No clue on who voiced Newton, the doctor, and the taxi driver.



EDIT: Joe Flynn did Newton's voice and Paul Frees did the doctor and the cab driver. In addition, much of the animation was done by Phil Duncan. Thanks to Yowp and Mike Kazaleh for the infos.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Lupo the Butcher (1985)

I'll admit that I enjoyed Ed, Edd n Eddy as a kid. It wasn't the best of the Cartoon Network shows (that would be either Dexter's Lab or Courage the Cowardly Dog) and at times a little TOO meanspirited, but the rubbery animation was pretty good and it had alot of cartoon gags that I liked.

The show's creator was Danny Antonucci, an animator based in Canada. He actually made a name first in the independent animation community with a short called Lupo the Butcher, which was produced by Marv Newland (Bambi Meets Godzilla) at his International Rocketship Limited studio in Vancouver.

Unlike EEE, this is very much not a kid-friendly cartoon. Which is apparently the point, according to an interview with Antonucci where he said he was tired of animation being seen as kids stuff, resulting in the production of the cartoon.

Of course now there's a whole slew of adult cartoons, but Lupo was part of the first that sparked the trend in the first place.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

One more can't hurt

Since I've been asked about it...

Here's the Honey Halfwitch pilot Poor Little Witch Girl, released in 1965 as part of the Modern Madcap series. Not much difference from this short and the subsequent cartoons that followed. The only major changes are the character being known as just "Halfwitch", as well as her British accent which they thankfully got rid of.

One animation quirk I've noticed in many Howard Post-directed Halfwitch shorts is that whenever the characters bob their head up and down they don't actually animate them doing that; they just simply tilt the still drawing under the camera. An extreme cost-cutting move if I've ever seen one. On the other hand I do like how Cousin Maggie blinks one eye at a time.



Some of the traits from this short continued into Shoeflies, the first of the actual Honey Halfwitch series, which includes Honey's British accent, Cousin Maggie's one-eye-at-a-time blink, and also the character still being called "Halfwitch" despite the series finally getting a name. Note that some of the animation from Poor Little Witch Girl is reused here with new dialogue.



According to the copyright database the song is "I'm Polishing My Shoes" by Howard Post (words) and Winston Sharples (music) and its copyrighted to Famous Music Corporation.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Here I come to save the day

Early this year a DVD containing every episode of Mighty Mouse: The New Adventures came out. If you haven't gotten it yet, check it out. Pretty good, actually, even if the animation is spastic.


Below is the original cover design drawn by Mike Kazaleh. (posted with his permission)


Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Portfolio

I created a second blog for the purpose of showcasing my cartoon portfolio. Nothing much, but if you're interested...

Saturday, September 25, 2010

A Bridge Grows in Brooklyn

Alot of the Paramount cartoons made under Culhane reflected the 1960s counter-culture movement in some ways. To give an example, one of the Honey Halfwitch cartoons made under his reign featured Honey and Cousin Maggie having to disguise themselves as humans so they can go to the city and have their magic broom repaired. They do so by dressing up as hippies!

Then there's this: A Bridge Grows in Brooklyn (1967). A construction worker that keeps getting distracted by a flower and falls in love with it? Yep, it's a 1960s cartoon alright.

And it's one of my favorites.

It was directed by Chuck Harriton, who has his own directorial quirks. Cartoons by him tend to have faster-pacing, giving energy to the otherwise limited animation. Doug Crane and Nick Tafuri did a wonderful job animating under his direction.

Sorry about the video quality. This was captured from my 16mm print being projected on the wall.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Nudnik

Paramount, in need of a new cartoon star, decided to distribute the Nudnik films alongside their own studio's cartoons in the 1965-67 period.

Nudnik, produced by Rembrandt Films and directed by Gene Deitch in Prague, was a pantomime cartoon about a scrappy hobo who tries to do good, only for his extreme bad luck to backfire on him. The series in a way is a callback to the silent comedies, complete with slapstick action not far off from Charlie Chaplin's Tramp character and the rag-time music playing in the background (in the pilot Here's Nudnik a jazz music was used instead).

Deitch had high hopes for Nudnik, considering them to be his favorite of all the characters he created. Unfortunately they came out at a bad time, literally right when Paramount decided to stop distributing cartoons to theaters. 13 cartoons were produced and that was it...

...until the early 1990s, when the cartoons were packaged into a half-hour show (mixed in with other cartoons Rembrandt Films owned) and syndicated worldwide by Sunbow as Gene Deitch presents The Nudnik Show.

The theme song is "Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams" by Harry Barris, Ted Koehler, and Billy Moll.



Thursday, September 23, 2010

Honey Halfwitch

I have a soft spot for the Honey Halfwitch cartoons. The main character is bland and a strong reminiscent of the 1940s kiddy cartoon characters with limited 1960s animation. On the other hand they did have Stanley the Sorcerer, probably the only character in the series with actual personality. The later re-imagining by Chuck Harriton and Shamus Culhane (with the new design by Howard Beckerman) are actually pretty funny.


Before and After

Not surprising, considering Howard Post's background in comic books, Honey Halfwitch feels like it was originally written for Harvey Comics. I'm surprised they didn't buy the rights like they did with all the other Famous Studios characters.

From Nags to Witches (1966)


Trick or Cheat (1966)

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Swifty and Shorty

When it comes to the cartoons produced under Seymour Kneitel's reign at Paramount's animation studio, the best were either the Irv Spector-penned cartoons or Swifty and Shorty, created and voiced by comedian Eddie Lawrence (aka "The Old Philosopher"). The funny voice acting and clever writing made the series stand out from others, and it's a darn shame that its so obscure.

12 shorts were made under Kneitel, all released in 1964; Howard Post made four more in the following year. By then Lawrence had stopped doing the voices and was replaced by Bradley Bolke and Jack Mercer, voicing Swifty and Shorty respectively.

These two are from Post's reign. (Click here for the Kneitel/Lawrence short)

Ocean Bruise (1965)
This one has some similarities to the Gene Deitch Tom and Jerry short Dickie Moe. Not much of a coincidence, since both cartoons are written by Eli Bauer.



Getting Ahead (1965)

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Sick Transit (1966)

One thing I find interesting about the 1960s Paramount cartoons are the writers involved. In an attempt to find new ideas they got just about anyone from standup comedians (Eddie Lawrence) to print cartoonists to contribute stories for the struggling animation studio. So you have a lot of freelance writers walking in at the time.

Sick Transit, one of those "chase" cartoons, featured three (!) writers credited: the film's director, Howard Post, Frank Ridgeway and Bud Sagendorf. William B. Pattengill animated it.

Bud Sagendorf made his mark as an assistant to Elzie Segar on Popeye, eventually taking over the strip in the 1960s. As far as I know, this is Bud's only animation work.

Frank Ridgeway did a strip called Mr. Abernathy for King Features, which ran from 1957 until his death in 1994. Ridgeway did have some animation experience after this short; he was a writer in several Saturday Morning shows produced by Hanna-Barbera and DiC in the '70s and '80s.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Looka Me

Jerry Beck sent some 1960s Paramount cartoons to me this week. Lots of neat finds there, so expect some highlights on this blog.

Under Howard Post's reign, the only character to take off, and I use that term loosely, was Honey Halfwitch, which continued into Shamus Culhane's reign the following year (with some changes, of course).

The following is a song from the pilot film Poor Little Witch Girl (1965), which was released as a Modern Madcap and the character being simply known as Halfwitch.

The copyright database lists the song as "Looka Me" with credits to Howard Post (words) and Winston Sharples (music) under the Famous Music Corporation label. Shari Lewis does the voice and singing, with the character having a stronger British accent than in subsequent cartoons.

If you thought the theme song was horrible, then wait 'til you hear this!