Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Springtime for Guitar Whacking

Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera showed they could be as adept at using colour for effect as anyone else in ‘Springtime for Thomas,’ a 1946 short where Tom falls in love with a fickle female (aren’t they all in cartoons?) and then try to get some alley-cat competition out of the picture.

Toward the end, Barbera comes up with yet another violence gag as we get swing in more ways than one. Scott Bradley has the MGM orchestra’s brass section blaring away in ‘40s hipster style, while Tom is on a swing set, arcing back toward the ground. Butch decides to play baseball with Tom’s butt, taking a healthy bash at it with a guitar (over a convenient pillow standing in for home plate).

Here’s where colour comes in.

The animation’s on twos. You can see Bob Gentle’s background drawing.

After impact, there’s a new drawing and the background changes to a solid yellow. One frame later, the drawing remains but the background in now a solid red. The background stays red in the next frame while the pose changes. Then the pose remains and the background is yellow again. The next frame, we get a new pose over a yellow card, then one frame later it’s the same pose but Gentle’s background returns. Hanna and Barbera are using the solid, alternating colours to accent the action, though it happens pretty quickly.

I’ve skipped some of the frames, but you can see the drawings and the backgrounds I’m referring to.

The animators given credit were Ken Muse, Ed Barge and Mike Lah but my untrained eye wonders if Ray Patterson worked on this as well.


  1. Colour flashes are always fun to study frame-by-frame!
    They used a simmilar effect on a car crash shot in Disney's 101 Dalmatians;

  2. Bob Clampett also used flashing solid color backgrounds to good effect in "Baby Bottleneck" when Daffy is struck by a tiny mallet.

  3. This is Ed Barge's animation in the frame grabs you've presented. He's sort of like Irv Spence but not in the same fluidity or looseness in animation at all like Spence. Mike Lah doesn't animate anything in this short despite recieving credit. Ray and Irv Spence do a lot of animation without credit:

    Opening; Tom in love looking at Toots: Ray Patterson
    Toots drops napkin; (UP TO) Tom whacked by cupid with mallet: Ken Muse
    Devil Jerry pops up with Jerry; Jerry writes fake letter: Patterson
    Butch in alley-way; (UP TO) Butch thrown in pool, gets up: Muse
    Croquet (UP TO) Butch whacked by swing: Irv Spence
    Swing sequence; Tom and Jerry are friends; Tom looks off-screen: Ed Barge
    Jerry in love; Ending: Muse

    It's mostly Ken Muse on that short. Patterson and Spence put in more footage than Ed Barge.