Monday, 20 August 2012

Rocket-bye Baby Exteriors

Ernie Nordli worked on several cartoons for Chuck Jones at Warner Bros. when the cartoon studio re-opened after being closed in the second half in 1953. Jones liked stylised backgrounds in the early ‘40s and he started going for them again in the early ‘50s with Maurice Noble as his layout man.

One of the cartoons Nordli laid out is a one-shot called ‘Rocket-bye Baby’ (copyright 1956). Here are a few of the settings he designed and handed off to Phil De Guard to construct.

It appears this is the third-last Warners cartoons Nordli worked on. It has Production number 1395. His final cartoon was number 1399. Noble was back to do layouts on number 1400 (“Deduce, You Say”). He also came up with designs for number 1397 but Noble tossed them out and started over. The cartoon was “What’s Opera, Doc?”.


  1. Barrier's critique that Jones' mid-50s cartoons lost something while Maurice Noble was off in St. Louis has always puzzled me, since most of the work done by Ernie Nordil -- and Tedd Pierce -- in the Jones unit while his two leading assistants were gone are all pretty good, and "Broomstick Bunny" is actually considered to be the best of the Bugs-Witch Hazel trilogy.

    Nordli may have a been a little more derivative of the UPA style than Noble was in breaking new ground with his layouts and background colors, but in hindsight, Jones might have benefited a little by 1959 with a less aggressive designer, since once Michael Maltese hightailed it over to Hanna-Barbera, Noble's designs and the excessive cuteness factor that Maltese had helped contain while working with Chuck really exploded in just about anything not featuring Wile E. Coyote.

  2. And as usual, people really dig those parabolic antenna arrays!

  3. So, J.L., in your estimation, do you think Jones told Nordli what kind of designs he wanted or vice-versa? Because the impression I'm left if is when Noble came back, he basically told Jones what designs he was going to get because it looks like he was given carte blanche.

    1. That's pretty much of how I see it -- Chuck wanted his pre 3-D shutdown unit back, and got Mike a raise to get him away from Universal, while Maurice was given greater control over the look of the cartoons. It wasn't a problem as long as Maltese was providing Chuck with scripts that kept the audience focused on what was happening in front of the backgrounds, and not just on the design itself. But once Maltese departed we started to see more and more of the "Snifflization" of Jones' stories come out, as he slipped back towards his late 30s roots story-wise, and gave over the cartoons more to Noble's designs (there's actually almost a symmetry between Chuck's first Sniffles short, where he's both cute and stinkin' drunk, and Maltese's last cartoon at Warners, which features a highly-stylized Chuck Jones mouse who's cute, stinkin' drunk and then hung over. But in the former the focus is more on the character; in the latter the focus is more on the designs around the character).

  4. By "toss out", you mean "make sure no one will see them"?