Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Boxing With Spaghetti

For all the talk about flat characters in UPA cartoons, I was a little astonished to see a couple of things in the 1951 Jolly Frolic “The Wonder Gloves.” Like many people interested in theatrical animation, I had never seen a number of the non-Magoo UPA cartoons, including this one, until the newly-released UPA discs came out.

It shows a descent from the rubber-hose animation of the ‘30s with plenty of rubbery animation of spaghetti-like arms and legs of the principal characters.

But there’s also perspective animation, something you wouldn’t expect to find from a studio bragging about flat designs. At one point, the janitor turns around 180 degrees while sweeping the floor. In one scene, he and then a pair of boxing gloves run at an angle past the camera. And in another, he sends a punch toward the camera (on twos).

I plead ignorance about “modern” classical music of the 20th century and even music composition itself, so I don’t want to say much about the score of this cartoon by Lou Maury. To my ear, it’s full of dissonant bridges between musical effects accenting the action on the screen, except at the very end. And that’s another astonishing thing. There’s a take by the dad that registers surprise when the boxing gloves come to life, a take that signals to the audience that his story about his boxing career that made up the whole cartoon was BS. But there no stab of horns, no musical augmentation of any type of the climax gag; the score is already playing off like the cartoon is over. So the take gets a little lost when the music could have made it stand out more, just like the music was doing during the rest of the cartoon.

I wish I could tell you I laughed during this cartoon. I didn’t. In fact, I couldn’t even feel the pain of the punches on these spaghetti men and even the evil expressions of the bad guy boxer (in medium shot) were weak. I’ll take Bugs Bunny’s “Rabbit Punch” instead, thanks.

Paul Julian designed the cartoon, the credited animators were Bill Melendez, Frank Smith and Roger Daley, and the great Marvin Miller supplied several voices.


  1. "Yowp-Yowp" Dodsworth,

    This short was directed by Robert Cannon.

  2. Yes, I know. And your point?

  3. Leonard Maltin was a little circumspect in his chapter on UPA while noting that music wasn't the studio's strong suit, in part because UPA never had a full-time composer on staff. I suppose if your ethos is to snobbishly denigrate the work of the Disney, Warners and MGM directors and writers, you're probably going to take the same attitude towards the work of people like Carl Stalling, too, and attempt when possible to get a 'non-cartoony' sound into your shorts' musical scores (Mitigating circumstance -- They and Columbia did have access/cash to support the option of fuller musical orchestrations in the early 1950s than J.L. allowed after Milt Franklyn's death, so that UPA's William Lava scores on a Magoo effort sound better than the Warner Bros./D-FE William Lava ones).