Sunday, 9 June 2013

Dover Boy Harris

Plenty has been written about the significance of Chuck Jones’ cartoon “The Dover Boys” but animator Greg Duffell raised something on-line the other day I didn’t realise.

Bobe Cannon gets the sole animation credit on this cartoon, somewhat meaningless as all Warner cartoons only gave credit to one animator then. Cannon has a reputation during his time with the Jones unit as a smear animator, where there are two normal poses but the drawing in between them looks like a stretch of a character from one drawing to the next. There’s smear action all over the place in “The Dover Boys” but Duffell points out that Cannon wasn’t responsible for all of it.

I’ve posted some fine smear work by Ken Harris from “No Barking” here before. Greg explains that Ken’s smears are in the “Dover Boys,” too. He writes:
The sequence I'm thinking of Ken's in THE DOVER BOYS is when Dora Standpipe is counting at the tree, and Dan Backslide (Ken Harris caricature) rips up the whole tree, puts in the car, realizes his mistake, puts the tree back and extricates Dora straight into the car. Ken uses a combination of traditional animation, with the more radical blurring. It's quite impressive to watch frame-by-frame, and I've used it in as an example in my timing lecture. . . . [D]efinitely the take Dan does in the car is Ken's work, and everything else lines up to that standard. It's my impression that Ken is very carefully mixing the radical approach of Cannon's with a traditional sensibility.
Here’s the rubbery Backslide at the tree.

And here’s part of the scene of Backslide at the car. I like how he divides himself in two but the action’s so fast, you’d never notice.

Thad Komorowski has remarked that Cannon’s smears were wilder than Harris’. I suspect he means a drawing like this one.

Rudy Larriva was animating for Jones during this time but I’ve never read that he tried any of this kind of animation (until now; see the comments).


  1. The tree gag's timing -- especially the reaction in the car by Dan when he discovers he's sitting next to an uprooted elm along with Dora -- is fantastic, and really the first example of the back-and-forth shift from realistic movement to smear action for comic effect that Jones would perfect in the 1950s.

  2. Actually Rudy Larriva did work on this cartoon, and he used "smears" in his animation even into the television era.

  3. Is there a way of telling Rudy's smears from the others, Mike?

  4. Rudy's smears tended to be of the type where the character was pulled like taffy, not as much of the multiple image type. Normally he didn't use them as often or as blatently as they are used in the Dover Boys (neither did Cannon or Harris.)