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Archive for the ‘Animation’ Category

Happy Birthday, Ray Harryhausen!

I’ve been a fan of Ray Harryhausen, who turned ninety-two today, ever since my Dad bought the 8mm Columbia Pictures Home Movie version of The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad. One day, returning home from second grade, I was met at the bus stop by my Dad who said he had a surprise for me. It was the first reel of Sinbad, the one with the Cyclops. Dad couldn’t afford to buy all five reels of the film at once, so we saw the film one reel a month.

It was an odd way to watch a film. Even the classic cliffhanger serials were shown one chapter a week. Furthermore, this was a digest version which included only about two thirds of the film; B&W instead of the original’s color; silent with titles instead of sound; and, since our projector only ran at 18 fps rather than 24 fps, everything appeared to move in slow motion.

None of this mattered! I was spellbound.

Years later I met Harryhausen at a signing at Laser Blazer in Los Angeles. When he saw the box for Sinbad he spoke of the problems with that version. I told him that none of that mattered to a seven year old. Despite the lack of sound, the lack of color, and the lack of proper projection speed, his magic came through.

Long live Harryhausen!

A clean version of the signature above

Sometime in the near future I hope to post the 8mm version of the scene above.

Written by pronountrouble2

June 29, 2012 at 11:00 pm

Cartoons: Themes and Variations

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This post is part of The Short Animation Blogathon.


Hollywood cartoon director Frederick “Tex” Avery, was born February 26, 1908, in Taylor, Texas. At Warner Brothers’ Termite Terrace in the late Thirties and early Forties, Avery helped define such characters as Porky Pig, Elmer Fudd, Bugs Bunny, and Daffy Duck, but, more importantly, he helped create an alternative to the dominant Disney world of sentimental cartoon realism:  a wacked out, yet logically consistent world where an escaped convict wolf can run out of the film frame or an ocean liner can fall from the sky.

Here are two of Avery’s best films. “Northwest Hounded Police,” released by MGM five years after “Tortoise Beats Hare,” one of the last films Avery made for Warner Bros., is a re-working of some of the themes found in the Bugs Bunny short. A re-working, but not a re-make. Just as Avery like to structure individual films as variations on a theme, he also liked to develop even more variations on these same themes from film to film. Avery had a degree of control of his films that would have made other film directors envious, if they had not been prejudiced to dismiss the cartoons as not really being films. But for those of us who understand that cartoons can be art just as much as any live action film, Avery was a film auteur in the best sense of the word. If only the system allowed more like him to exist.

Written by pronountrouble2

February 26, 2012 at 9:50 pm

Bob Clampbett’s John Carter of Mars Cartoon

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A lot of people are just discovering that animation great Bob Clampbett worked on an aborted John Carter of Mars project way back in 1935,  thanks to the Youtube test footage for the cartoon, which originally appeared on the 2000 Beany & Cecil DVD (which, by the way, happens to be one of the all time great DVD’s).

However, many of us learned about this project way back in 1976, courtesy of Jim Steranko’s Mediascene. Issue #21 of the mag was a “special animation issue” which included articles on Chuck Jones, Winsor McCay, Max Flieischer, and other titans of Hollywood cartoons. But the real eye opener for most of us was a giant two page article by Carl Macek which fueled our imaginations with one of the great “what ifs” of animation and film history. As a pull out quote in the article put it:  “Had the John Carter series been filmed, the entire focus of animation might have been altered significantly.”  It made us realize that just because someone has a great idea, it does not mean that Hollywood will help it become a reality. The story of John Carter made us wonder what other great films remained just dreams in the Hollywood Dream Factory.

Here’s the article. Feel free to click on the images to make them legible.

And here’s the test footage, which, as I already said, originally appeared on the great Beany & Cecil DVD.

Written by pronountrouble2

January 30, 2012 at 12:41 pm

Animated Films: “Kick Me” by Robert Swarthe

“Kick Me,” by Robert Swarthe, is an animated film made by drawing directly on celluloid. Most such films, as exemplified by Norman McLaren, are usually mostly abstract works, but this is a comedy with a central character.

“Kick Me” was apparently Swarthe’s only animated film or personal work, after which he has credits on a few Hollywood type films including Close Encounters of the Third Kind. However, his IMDB credits end in 1983, with Coppola’s The Outsiders, although he makes an appearance in a 2001 released doc on the making of Close Encounters. What happened to him?

Written by pronountrouble2

January 26, 2012 at 10:54 am

Animated Shorts: Watch “To Be” Instead of The Prestige

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Just watched Christopher Nolan’s overly serious, and a bit tedious, version of Christopher Priest’s novel, The Prestige. My recommendation is that everyone instead watch John Weldon’s National Film Board of Canada animated short, “To Be,” which exploits similar ideas. It’s witty, clever, and provocative; and it didn’t need a multi-million dollar budget and 130 minutes to work its magic.

Written by pronountrouble2

January 18, 2012 at 1:13 am

The Origin of Ren & Stimpy; Or How Do TV Shows Get On TV?

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Ever wonder why some TV shows get made while others never see the light of day? The latest issue of Hogan’s Alley (#18), a magazine about comics, cartoons, and the like, includes “An Oral History of Ren & Stimpy” which is especially interesting if read in light of that question. Take, for example, these quotes from Ren & Stimpy executive producer Vanessa Coffey:

My first interaction with [Ren & Stimpy creator John] Kricfalusi was at a hotel in Los Angeles, where I was taking pitches from creators for Nickelodeon. I was an independent producer at the time, consulting for Nickelodeon to help them get into the animation series business with original projects. I clicked with John right away and thought he was very original, to say the least, and I wanted to work with him. I decided that it was worth the risk to set up a meeting for him to meet Nick executives…. Even though it was a very high-level pitch meeting and scared some, John was throwing himself around the room to such an extent that his Certs came flying out of his pocket; it was great!

I wanted to work with him, but was not sure on what because I didn’t love any of his projects–not yet, anyway. After a wild pitch, Nickelodeon execs all agreed that he was a great talent, but [were] not sure what to do together. (my emphasis; Hogan’s Alley #18, p. 45)

So, Vanessa Coffey didn’t like anything that John K. did, but wanted to work with him.  She liked him, but not his ideas. In other words, it was all about personality. Is this a new twist on the auteur theory?

Written by pronountrouble2

January 16, 2012 at 2:59 pm

The Cartoon Collector’s Companion

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The Cartoon Collector’s Companion is a periodically revised, corrected, updated version of The Animated Film Collector’s Companion.

It is a source for animated films on VHS, LD, and DVD, but the focus of updates is on pre-internet information that didn’t make it into the first edition. Corrections. Missed releases. Especially foreign releases. Why? Because information about releases since the book was published can be easily googled.

You can view it here.

Written by pronountrouble2

October 3, 2011 at 12:00 am