Monday, 7 October 2013

Shock of the Seven Chickens

Animated cartoon characters in the silent days sprouted question marks and exclamation marks on appropriate occasion, just like their counterparts in the newspapers. The practice died out on all but rare occasions in the sound era.

A really neat exception is in a very unexpected place—a Jay Ward cartoon. In the Fractured Fairy Tale “The Seven Chickens,” the narrator’s words “The prince was shocked at what he saw” are followed by the prince showing it on the screen by turning into punctuation. You can see the third and fourth drawings have question and exclamation marks in different thicknesses. They’re shot in a little cycle so the punctuation appears to be vibrating.

I wonder if Gerard Baldwin animated this cartoon. The mouth movements remind me of the work he did at Hanna-Barbera prior to coming to the Ward studio.


  1. It's Baldwin. Animated in Hollywood.

  2. That would mean that there would be some background music as well, either from one of the several house composers like Dennis Farnon of Capitol (this happened as many know with both "Cinderella" episodes and with "Ugly Duckling", and also elsewhere at Ward with "Aseop and Son" as well and many others.) Edward Everett Horton is the narrator and Daws Butler ALWAYS did the voice of the princes, and ALWAYS with that "fey" voice..) Steve.

  3. On a semi-related topic, I'd love to know who directed "Beauty & the Beast".

    It has character impact abstractions, match cut dissolves, Vinci-style stretch exits. A unique installment of this series. I hope you feature it sometime, Yowp.

    What a shame Boomerang apparently has ceased airing Rocky & Bullwinkle.

  4. TCJ, it's remarkable you should mention that cartoon. I did a short post on it. It's banked for next month.
    Anon, thanks for your confirmation.

  5. Beauty And The Beast was made at Jay Ward Studios, not in Mexico. Can't say who was director on it.

  6. Regarding the old silent practice of animating punctuation marks, etc.: one similar use from the sound era that really surprises me is in Tex Avery's JERKY TURKEY (1945). At one point the pilgrim moves around so quickly while searching for the turkey, he splits into several parts. Then, when he finds where the bird is hiding, he whistles to summon his counterparts and they fuse together again. But when he whistles, in addition to the sound there's an animated musical note. It just seems out of place in such an otherwise wild, modern, fast-moving (i.e., typical Avery) piece.