Friday, 5 July 2013

We Want 3-D in 1934

Isn’t this a great drawing? This may be the only time the cartoon stars of 1934 gathered together in one place. It’s from The Film Daily’s spring short subject quarterly, April 7, 1934.

The reason I’m posting it is two-fold. One is just to let you know that about another ten years worth of copies of The Film Daily have just been put up on line, going up to 1948. I’ve already gone through previously available editions to summarise the animation news and reviews in them. Now there’s a whole new batch where I’ll have to find time to do the same thing. They document some interesting things—a rush order on a second Bugs Bunny cartoon in 1940 after the success of the first (“A Wild Hare”), the demise of the Fleischer studio, Bob Clampett’s pact with Republic for four cartoons and a 90-day shutdown at the Walter Lantz studio (one of a number, I suspect) after he left Universal, temporarily, for United Artists.

The second reason is because of the attractive drawing. The artist is Ed Fourcher. At the time he drew this, he was at Van Beuren but was one of countless people who never got credit on a Van Beuren cartoon. Fourcher was a native Californian who was at Disney by 1938. He had the misfortune to be involved in the “Bucky and Pepito” cartoons that Sam Singer foisted on unsuspecting kids on television just after the mid ‘50s. The poor Van Beuren cartoons get short shrift but the studio did have people who could design and draw. Ed was among them. There’s some irony in the picture. Cubby Bear’s days were numbered at Van Beuren. Burt Gillett had arrived at the studio and immediately plastered his name on two new series designed to show the world he could make Disney-type cartoons away from Disney. And the Code has been partly credited with Betty Boop’s taming from the fun and occasionally bizarre cartoons she appeared in during the early ‘30s.

The drawing accompanies an article by Fourcher which we reprint below.

Cartoons Cop the Spotlight
Increasing Resources and Talent Make Animated Comedies the Most Popular of Short Subjects.

Van Beuren Animating Staff

NOTHING has aroused greater interest in the short subject held than the animated cartoon comedies. These ingenious creations have passed three definite stages, each time adding to their extensive work, as well as their popularity.
When cartoons first appeared they were received as a novelty. Many efforts were made during this period to simplify the process, but short cuts impaired the quality and so were discarded. Because of its intricacy, the cartoon's future was thought to be limited, but complications were offset by increasing resources and talent. Novelty itself held public interest, until sound was introduced, presenting an entirely new style of picture.
Sound was like a gold mine for gags. There was humor in dialogue, funny sound effects and synchronized music, which emphasized and greatly enhanced the animation. The projectors were speeded up during this period which required many more drawings to slow the action to normal.
The opinion about this time, although it involved more work and expense, was generally accepted that better results could be obtained by putting the character action on celluloid, and the background on paper, instead of the reverse system. This was the stage of "The Barnyard Orchestras," comic operas, and musicals.
Color was the third stage, which added tremendously to the cartoon's appeal and opened an entirely new field of ideas. Once more added expense and additional work confronted the producers, but again they have the public a superior product and finer entertainment. Color has been accepted and is being generally used.
A most important and ever-present change in the gradual improvement in animation and drawing. The animators have made great strides toward the betterment of this art. and have achieved something which seemed humanly impossible. The cartoon characters actually live and act with personality.
Considering the progress of the films in the past four or five years, it is not much to expect that we shall soon see third dimension instead of the flat pictures we have now. This will again open a new field of ideas and gags. With the colorful, interesting and novel subject we have now. What the animated cartoons will he able to do under third dimension is a very interesting subject for speculation.

So it seems that some cartoon studios felt since the problems of sound and colour had been conquered, 3-D was next on the list. Thus Fleischer developed the extremely effective and enjoyable sets-on-a-turntable system, Disney and Iwerks came up with a multiplane camera and Burt Gillett’s brother spent 1935 developing a 3-D system for live action Warner Bros. films (the Warners cartoons were satisfied with overlays panned at different speeds, giving an effect of depth).

You may have notice in the drawing above that no characters from the Iwerks studio are represented. However, Ub Iwerks’ distributor, Pat Powers, wrote what boils down to an ad for his cartoons on the same page. We reprint it below, along with two short, unbylined squibs.

Entertainment Value of Cartoons Entitles Them to Rank as Feature Attractions in Billing.
President, Celebrity Productions

THE success of the "Comic Color Cartoons" series on the independent market has proved three things:
First, that good product need not beg for a market — it will be immediately found and promptly booked by a gratifying majority of theaters of all sizes and classes,
Second, that cartoons — especially color cartoons — are headline attractions and are, therefore, "features" in point of actual box-office value,
Third, that cartoons are in a class by themselves and should he marketed separately for the mutual advantage of the exhibitor and the producer.
Footage doesn't make "features" — the length of a picture doesn't make it an "attraction" — the high point of entertainment on any bill is the real "feature" of the program, regardless of its length. Picture for picture — week in and week out — the cartoon is consistently the high point of entertainment on the vast majority of programs. They are commercial life savers that prevent audience disgust with programs over-stuffed with weak ''features." and there is no doubt that the cartoon, in many cases, has rescued the box-office from desertion.
That showmen recognize the high importance of the cartoon is proved by two fads. First, the growing tendency lo show two cartoons on the program, and second, the tendency of distributors to "tie" features to the cartoon, instead of cartoons to the "feature" as heretofore.
Observing these fads, and considering the possible effect of the code on short subject sales through major organizations during the coming season. Celebrity Productions plans lo release its entire output of color cartoons for 1934-35 on the independent market.
Through independent distribution, the "ComiColor" series and an additional series of six special color cartoons will be offered for appraisal as "feature attractions," free of any entanglements, to go out and sell seats for exhibitors on their entertainment merits.

Animators Must Go Through Long Training
ALTHOUGH main comic-strip newspaper artists have joined the ranks of sponsors for animated cartoons, few if any are concerned with the actual drawings of the releases. Original sketches of the characters to be used are generally supplied by the artist to the animators, who in turn re-create them for the screen. Few "strip-cartoon" artists become good animators. It is an art in itself. The foremost animators of our present screen cartoons, worked their way up from tracers, to fillers-in, to in-betweens and to assistant animators.

Black and White Cartoons May Pass Entirely
THE demand for color in animated cartoons has reached such proportions that black-and-white cartoon releases will be a thing of the past within the next two years. Sales resistance to the latter type of cartoon was severely felt last year by producers and distributors. It is known that two of the most popular cartoon releases will take on color for the new season. Although the production cost of making color cartoons has nearly doubled the cost of the black-and-white type, film rentals for the short subjects have not increased in proportion. The black-and-white cartoon can be made by an organized compan} for about $12,500. Added cost necessitated by color not only includes expense at the production studio but increased print cost. Previous to sound, animated cartoons cost about $1,500 each to make.

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