Thursday, 3 January 2013

Outlining Woody

“The Screwdriver” is as about appropriate as you can get for the title of a cartoon about the early version of Woody Woodpecker being a menace on the road. This is the wonderful wide-legged, Mel Blanc-voiced version of Woody who drove someone insane at the end of a cartoon (writer Bugs Hardaway brought the plot device over with him from Warner Bros.).

Woody occasionally popped from pose to pose in 1941, but his body parts were never stretched in between poses. Instead, the animators (or their assistants) used lines or outlines to show Woody’s movement. Here are a few examples at the outset of “The Screwdriver.”

Alex Lovy and Ralph Somerville are the credited animators. Ralph Jay Somerville was born in Oskaloosa, Iowa on December 6, 1905 (at ten pounds) to Rev. Jay Wilbur and Jessie Meredith (Burdick) Somerville. His father and maternal grandfather were both ministers in the Methodist Episcopal Church, his mother died about two months shy of her 101st birthday. The family moved to Bloomington, Ill. in 1907; Wichita, Kansas in 1910 and were in Fulton, New York by 1920. Somerville graduated from high school in Warrensburg, N.Y. in 1923, went to work at the Fleischer Studio in New York City by 1930 and was in Los Angeles by 1935. Around the time this cartoon was made, he was pulling down $3120 a year at Lantz. Somerville was also married to the former Xenia Beckwith as of May 27, 1938. The two divorced on June 7, 1943 (Somerville was a sergeant with the U.S. Army Air Forces in the China-Burma-India theatre) during the war) and Xenia went on to marry Lantz animator Ed de Mattia (who also saw military service) on April 5, 1945. That marriage ended in divorce. All three worked at the Hanna-Barbera studio in the early ‘60s. Somerville later spent time at Filmation and was one of many old-timers who animated the stiff Spider-Man series for Grantray-Lawrence. He retired to Weed, California in 1974 and died on February 13, 2000.

1 comment:

  1. "Everybody thinks I'm crazy..." (Woody voiced by Mel Blanc)