Tuesday, 5 March 2013

If Gene Deitch Worked at Warner Bros.

Gene Deitch’s Tom and Jerry cartoons are, if nothing else, distinctive. Oddly-proportioned characters, overly-reverbed sound effects, jerky animation, it’s all there. His Popeye cartoons made for television were the same (and seem to have used the same three tunes in the background over and over). No one would mistake them for the work of Hanna and Barbera or the Fleischer studio.

Deitch’s crew never got a chance to animate the famous Warner Bros. characters. But if they did, their cartoon would probably look like this TV commercial from Italy. The animation takes up the first minute and 18 seconds.



Reader Charles Brubaker posted this on his Facebook page, and got some background from Alfons Moliné, which I copy:

This belongs to "Carosello", a program block made up of commercials -live or animated- which used to run on RAI (the public Italian TV) each evening from the late 50´s to the mid-70's. Most great names in Italian animation, including Bruno Bozzetto, did a lot of work on "Carosello". Most of the "Carosello" commercials had original characters, but a few starred American cartoon characters -under license, but nevertheeless animated in Italy- such as Sylvester and Tweety, Speedy Gonzales, The Flintstones, Popeye, etc.

Calimero debuted in commercials in the "Carosello" block and later was spun off into his own cartoon series. Another character having debuted in "Carosello" commercials and later also obtaining his own series of 5-minute cartoons was Osvaldo Cavandoli´s "La Linea" (seen in the U.S. in the 80´s on "The Great Space Coaster").

10 comments:

  1. The animation may be just as bad as Gene Deitch, but I think the gags are better!

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  2. Four of Dietch's Popeye cartoons actually were made in Italy -- farmed out there apparently when his Prague studio couldn't keep up with the pace, in the same way Halas and Bachelor in England were given some of Gene's Popeyes to animate. Here's one of them, dubbed for foreign broadcast (albeit, in Portugese, not Italian) -- Spoil Sport. The animation's actually fuller than Dietch's other KFS efforts, and whoever did the backgrounds here actually put some work into the effort (including some fuzzed images giving the shots a bit of a 3-D effect -- nothing close to the Fleischers' table top diaramas, but at least someone was trying).

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    1. "Spoil Sport" always did seem very awkward animation-wise and how the dialogue was animated, since it does feel a lot like Speed Racer in that department (also of note the misspelling of "Syndicate" in the copyright).

      This one, "Have Time, Will Travel" felt like it was done by the Prague studio but I wasn't sure, the animation felt more like what you would see in the T&J's at the time. Because many of these never went beyond Snyder and Detich's names, it's hard to tell (at least the ones Halas & Batchelor did give them credit for animation).
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Brh7cBOSxo

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    2. It's interesting that on his webpage, Gene indicates that he and William Snyder got the Tom & Jerry contract first, but the Popeye shorts made it to television before MGM began releasing the theatricals. They must have really been pushing to get those things done ASAP, which may explain why pretty much anyone with a pencil and paper in Europe in the winter of 1960-61 apparently was doing a Popeye cartoon.

      The Zagreb Popeyes to me feel like something in-between what Dietch's Prague animators were doing and the 'look' of the TV Spots efforts, while the Italian ones have a look all their own, mainly due top the far more detailed backgrounds and background effects than any of the other studios were doing in the KFS package (or for that matter, what more of the theatrical cartoons by 1961 were doing).

      Gene also says on his webpage that he felt more comfortable working with Elzie Segar's characters than he did with Hanna-Barbera's duo, and it shows on screen -- some of the Dietch efforts are decidedly off-beat, but off-beat in the carbon-copy world of early 1960s television animation wasn't a bad thing. With the Tom & Jerrys, it seemed like he was halfway through the series before he finally wasn't mad at the characters and about the type of chase-and-violence action he was having to direct to make ends meet.

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    3. I'm sure he got use to it like a hot tub but then MGM decided to part ways with him and it was over before it started.

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  3. The Italian animators responsible for this ad are brothers Toni and Nino Pagot. They're famous creation is the aforementioned "Calimero", a baby chick who appeared in commercials before being spun-off into his own animated shorts.

    The cartoons were distributed all over, even in English speaking countries (don't think it ever made it to USA, though). There even made two anime series based on the character.

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    1. It certainly would've been fun having it here too if it had happened. I was amused at noticing how the opening of every episode in that early season was in English anyway, they really did have an eye opened to a global world with this character, yet Japan was the only country that made the later TV shows happen.
      http://www.calimero.com/

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  4. Two of Deitch's cartoons were animated at Zagreb Film; "Intellectual Interlude" and "Have Time Will Travel"

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    1. Wow, Gene really globe-trotted on his set.

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  5. Alfons Moliné7 March 2013 at 16:04

    The Popeyes made at the Halas & Batchelor studio (seven of them: "Potent Lotion", "The Billionaire", "Model Muddle", "Weight for Me", "Dog-gone Dog Catcher", "Witch is Witch?" and "Matinee Idol Popeye") are probably among my favorites of the whole KFS package, one could say that they too have a look of their own. The animation is quite fluid (despite being TV limited animation) and some of the key poses and expressions are really dynamic. It is worth noting that, around the same time, Halas & Batchelor were producing another series of 5-minute TV cartoons, "Foo Foo and Go Go" (Britain´s first made-for-TV animated series) featuring a chaplinesque little man and a bearded bully (echoing Popeye´s and Brutus' rivalry) and their experience on that job is reflected on their Popeyes. The (uncredited) key animator on them was Tony Guy, a veteran name of the British animation scene for over 40 years.
    Here is one H&B Popeye, "Matinee Idol Popeye": http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=atzujgeCOIY

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