Saturday, April 30, 2011

Killarney Blarney (1973)

When I was researching the DePatie-Freleng theatricals few years back there were two titles that drove me crazy: Nippon Tuck (1973) and Killarney Blarney (1974), both part of the Blue Racer series of shorts. At the time these two were left out of the list of BR cartoons and I didn't even know these two existed until Jerry Beck gave me his list (before that I found a German copy of Killarney; at the time BR was very hard to find and thus I used any little material I could get my hands on)

By the time Blue Racer came out Hawley Pratt pretty much stopped directing shorts. He did a couple of Hoot Kloot and Dogfather shorts later but he eventually retired from the animation business. Art Davis stuck around for a while and did a handful of BR shorts that were actually pretty good (Camera Bug, Blue Racer Blues, and Support Your Local Serpent are my favorites in the series). Gerry Chiniquy's entries were either shrug-worthy or just not good, but I felt he got one out of the park: The Boa Friend.

Then eventually Art Davis left the studio to Hanna-Barbera. While there were occasional guest directors such as Roy Morita, Art Leonardi, Bob McKimson, and Sid Marcus, the only real director left at this point was Chiniquy and he really went downhill as the seventies went by.

I think this BR short is the the point where the downhill sets in. While the animation in DFE shorts were always low-budget and limited, they were at least livelier looking than the works of their competitors such as Filmation, Hanna-Barbera, or even Walter Lantz, mainly due to the presence of Pratt. However by this point the animation had downgraded to the point that it looks no different than the Saturday Morning schlock that was on contemporary TV.

The animation of the Racer is scrappier-looking than usual. The one part that gets to me is where he tells the leprechauns "Well what do I look like? I'm a snake!". The Racer, for some reason, has a very brushy eye-brow in this scene. After he says that line, however, the brushy eyebrow suddenly disappears and returns back to his usual floating eyebrow seen in the rest of the series.

And just to add to the seventies-ness of this short, they got Paul Winchell to guest voice the two leprechauns.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Don't touch that dial

Paul J. Smith must be so proud.

I'll be back to regularly talking about old-school animation (ya'know, the stuff that really matters) and less about Flash-animated Technicolor Ponies on this blog tomorrow.

But until then, read the AV Club's review of Friendship is Magic.

My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic isn’t just kids TV that won’t make parents want to kill themselves; it’s legitimately entertaining and lots of fun. The best word to describe it is probably “relentless,” in that it’s relentlessly cute, relentlessly happy, and relentlessly entertaining. In its own way, it reminds me of a movie like Singin’ In The Rain, in that both properties aim to overwhelm any cynicism directed at them via sheer and utter joyfulness. It seems like it should be easy to watch either property with an ironic sneer of detachment, but both utterly wear down all defenses. I think I realized this around the time I was giggling maniacally at a tiny cartoon pony being dragged against her will toward a giant rock, adorable frown affixed firmly to her face. She was such a cute little pony! Yes she was!

If you're wondering why a half-hour toy commercial about girly ponies is so damn popular, that link pretty much explains it.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Ponies!

Why not? Everybody's doing it.







Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Piquette Poquette of Paris (1966)

The one director that DePatie-Freleng studio had that I'm curious about is George Singer (1923-2002). I don't know much about his animation career as whole, but before his brief stint at DFE he worked at Jay Ward, and after that he seemingly spent many years at Hanna-Barbera. In 1988-89 he was a producer on Film Roman's Garfield and Friends.

His career at DFE was short. He was only credited on five Inspector films (The Pique Poquette of Paris, Sicque! Sicque! Sicque!, That's No Lady - That's Notre Dame, Unsafe and Seine, and Le Cop on Le Rocks), plus the Saturday Morning shows The Super 6 and Super President. It's a shame his time at the studio was short because the Inspector shorts he directed were among the funniest in the series. His shorts had more broad animation compared to the rest, and the timing is snappier than much of the Chiniquy-directed entries.

Here's one of the shorts he did, The Pique Poquette of Paris. This cartoon has an example of what we in the internet age refer to as the Brick Joke. This is when an element of a joke is delivered in the beginning, but before the punchline comes something else kicks in and the element introduced is promptly forgotten. In the end, after everything else is said and done, the joke element finally returns, delivering the punchline. This was used a few times in the Road Runner shorts directed by Chuck Jones, where a failed trap by the Coyote would return later in the cartoon after the audience had forgotten about it to deliver a blow to the Coyote.

I believe this was Singer's first Inspector short, and he did a good job, althoug the funniest from him is either Sicque! Sicque! Sicque! or That's No Lady - That's Notre Dame.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

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.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Pink at First Sight

Just noticed this was up. Pink at First Sight was a Pink Panther TV special directed by Bob Richardson. It was a Valentines' Day special although it was originally broadcast three months later on May 1981 on ABC. This was produced after DePatie-Freleng split up, when much of the studio's crew was transferred to Marvel Production with David DePatie as producer.



If you can't view the video you can see it on YouTube here.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Osomatsu Kun

Osomatsu Kun
(Little Osomatsu) was a comic created by Japanese cartoonist Fujio Akatsuka, which ran in Shonen Sunday magazine from 1962 to 1967. There were various revivals and remakes of the comics from the 1970s to all the way up to the early 1990s.

The comic was a hit and gave Fujio Akatsuka the mark as a cartoonist, later creating many more titles. You can read English translation of the very first story here

The basic premise is that it's about a misadventures of a family with identical sextuplets. One of the running gags in the early story was that noone can tell which is which because all six looked exactly alike (clothing, hairstyle, etc.) This was later dropped as the comic went on.

However, Fujio went into a rut because the characters didn't have much personality, aside from them being sextuplets. He later introduced side characters Chibita, a tiny bald kid that loved to play pranks on them, and Iyami, whose designs can be described as a Japanese parody of American stereotype of the Japanese (does that make sense), complete with squinty eyes and buck teeth. He like to present himself as being from France even though its hinted that he never even went there.

The two characters were a hit with fans, though, mainly because they were actually interesting. As time went by more and more stories were dedicated to them, to the point that they took over the series. Osomatsu and his siblings barely appeared and eventually were relegated to being side characters. At this point they might as well should have changed the name of the comic to Iyami and Chibita.

This trait went into the two animated series, a black and white one from 1966-67 and a color revival from 1988-89.

The 1960s series were more faithful to the comic and many episodes did at least try to feature Osomatsu and his siblings prominently.

This series was thought to be lost for years. It wasn't until the early 1990s when 16mm prints of every episode were found in a TV station warehouse. The cartoons are an interesting oddity and many are even funny, but the poorly done animation makes it hard to watch sometimes. It was done at Studio Zero, which at the time was one of the most shoddy animation studios in Japan.

Here's one with Osomatsu being prominent (until Iyami shows up half-way through)



Unlike most Japanese cartoons Osomatsu Kun didn't take strict character setting seriously. Many stories were stand-alone and in some cases there were a few where Chibita and Osomatsu would meet for the first time, despite interacting alot in other stories. Sometimes they would do things like making Chibita a businessman, a political leader, or a former safecracker who got released from prison after many years. It didn't matter to Fujio that Chibita is a kid, if he thinks of something interesting with the character, he'll do it even if its impossible.

Here's another black and white episode illustrating the above statement. This one is better-done than the others from the series although it's still shoddy in places.



In the color revival the lack of focus on Osomatsu was very evident. They barely made an appearance in the THEME SONG, the studio opting to focus it entirely on Iyami instead.



The 1980s episodes were wackier than the 1960s show. While it had its problems the animation was better done here. Here's one of the episodes:




EDIT: I'd figure that I'd post a page from the (later) comic. Not too many online, but I found this, the original comic version of one of the black and white episodes I put up.