Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Who Needs Paint Anyways?

Let’s see. Characters that are outlines. Cigarette-shaped heads. Walls represented by a signs in the background. If it’s a 1950s commercial, it could be just about any studio. But if it’s a theatrical cartoon, you can pretty well guess which one it is.

Here’s an example of the limited animation of UPA. This background is from “Gerald McBoing Boing’s Symphony” (1953). The heads are on cells. They turn to follow Gerald as he comes toward the camera from the buildings in the distance, turns and then proceeds across the drawing. The bodies don’t move.

If you’re curious, the pastel blue sign in the background reads ‘Carmel.’

The designs are by T. Hee, while the colour schemes were worked out by Jules Engel and Michi Kataoka.


  1. I've always loved this little sequence. To me, its to illustrate how the extraordinary Gerald stands out from the run-of-the-mill crowd.

    Terrytoon's "Tom Terrific" segments also eschewed the use of opaque, although that was more of a budgetary rather than aesthetic measure.

  2. I say it was at least an effective way to have Gerald stand out like that the way it was handled.

  3. Heresy, perhaps… but, when compared to the best of Looney Tunes and MGM– much less Disney, why was this bizarre, sketchy style so revered and considered so innovative?

    To me, it just looks low-budget, in a way even Hanna-Barbera would not be until the seventies. It’s magazine cartooning, not theatrical animation.

    I know I’m the one who is out-of-step here – and I’ll confess to having little to no background in UPA cartoons – but this is something I just “don’t get”!

    Perhaps someone here can help me out...

  4. James and Chris, yeah, I think that's the intention, though I don't like reading too much into cartoons. The sequence shows Gerald is not only different than the rest of the crowd, but he's more colourful.
    Joe, to me it's not a question of style, but what one does with it. The problem with the UPA cartoons, for me, is they became nothing *but* style, like looking at wallpaper. There was nothing amusing or whimsical; it was simply artists screaming "We're different." Of course, they weren't different at all; TV ads used stylised drawings and the animation was real clever at times.