Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Beary Family

It's no secret to animation fans that the Walter Lantz shorts directed by Paul J. Smith are not exactly the finest the theatrical animation had to offer. Poor animation, inconsistent sizes, slow timing...basically list any animation defects you can think of and the chances are the Smith shorts have it.

It didn't seem to matter what artistic staff was behind these cartoons. For a brief while Michael Maltese was writing on some of the late fifties Lantz cartoons, many of which were directed by Smith, and while they wern't awful, story-wise, the cartoons would've been much much better if someone like Chuck Jones directed them.

Possibly the worst of the bunch were the Beary Family cartoons. Jack Hannah directed the first two, but all subsequent shorts were Smith's entries.

It wasn't all bad, though. The early ones with the pet goose were actually somewhat funny, although they were nothing to write to home about. But as the formula got put in place, it was all downhill from here. The series actually lasted 10 years, 1962-72, although there were only 28 shorts made (they only released like three shorts per year, on average).

To bring back into the subject of the cartoons being subpar no matter the talent behind it, here's a good example. The entire first half of this cartoon (up until the scene where Charlie answers the phone after the dog ate the ham) was animated by Virgil Ross, one of the best animators from the theatrical age, mostly known for his work at Friz Freleng's unit back in the Warner days. Note the characters are drawn more "gruff" than in the second half of the cartoon, animated by Al Coe*. Despite having one of the best animators in the industry working on this you can't tell from this picture, making Smith's hack-work more magnified. Imagine if someone like Jack Hannah or Sid Marcus was still around.

* - The other credited animators, Tom Byrne and Joe Voght, are actually assistants.

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