Saturday, 27 June 2015
The World of Animation, 1930
With the coming of sound, the rise of Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse and the expansion of animated cartoon studios, in spite of the Depression, sparked a number of newspaper feature stories about the industry in 1930. One we haven’t reprinted here, until now, is from Billboard of July 12th. The paper was very much an entertainment publication in those days; it didn’t decide to focus exclusively on music until rock and roll came about. It gives a pretty good summary of the theatrical cartoon situation at the time. The trade ads accompanying this story are from Variety.
Cartoon Film Demands Increased Productions
Comedy featurettes so heavy in making that they become an industry with an industry—demand for children’s entertainment has numerous producers in field.
NEW YORK, July 7—The increased popularity of animated cartoons, among exhibitors and patrons of motion picture houses in this country, has developed to such an extent that marked activity of the producer’s part to turn out this product is noted. There are no less than five of the major-producing firms today which are producing from one to three different sets of series of the cartoon short subjects. Independent producers add about seven more to the catalog of animated cartoons available to exhibitors today.
The popularity of this type of entertainment with the youngsters who read the Sunday comic sheets, and with a large percentage of grownups in motion picture audiences, is said to be responsible in part for their increased production. A new and enlarged medium of humor expression has been developed via the cartoon talkies, some producers even making them in four languages, introducing Technicolor sequences and stressing their important to exhibitors almost as much as the feature-length productions.
The growth of animated cartoons, since the experimental days of the silent with the Inkwell series and the Max Fleishman [sic] Felix the Kat [sic] cartoons, has been contemporaneous and equally as remarkable as the growth of the sound and dialog films from the nickelodeon days. Large plants and enormous staffs, devoted exclusively to the making of animated cartoons with sound, color and dialog, have been established for production in various parts of the country. Considerable technical equipment has been evolved for the making of these cartoons, and today it has become an industry within an industry. Writers, artists, technicians, cameramen, sound engineers and directors are engaged with nearly a score of companies in manufacturing these short subjects, not to speak opf clerical, sales and laboratory help required to make and market the product.
Among the major producers actively engaged in making animated sound cartoons are Pathe, with its Aesop’s Sound Fables, known since the silent era as Aesop’s Fables, and today developed to a high degree by the Van Beuren Corporation thru the Pathe release; Paramount with its Talkartoon Series; Warner Bros. with a Looney Tunes Series, created by Hugh Harman and Rudolph Ising, and designed as special song pluggers for the feature picture theme songs; Universal, with three distinct series, including Oswald the Rabbit, Fanny the Mule and a series known as Strange as it Seems, created by John Hix and released thru “U” by special arrangement with the McClure Syndicate, and Education, with its series of Paul Terry-Toons. The chief independent producers of the cartoons are Columbia, with two series, the Disney Silly Symphonies and the Krazy Kat Kartoons, and among the State-right producers, Celebrity Productions, releasing the Micky Mouse Cartoons; Copley Films, releasing Felix the Cat series, and Cinema Cartoons, releasing Bonzo the Puppy Dog, created by George E. Studdy.
Sound and dialog cartoons have necessitated a new technique in originality of design, selection of subject matter, musical accompaniment, distribution and exploitation. As to originality, many of them were born in motion pictures in the days of the silents and have merely been improved upon with sound and dialog. Others were inspired from or deliberately purchased from the newspaper cartoon strips, while some were conceived purely as competitive invitations.
Selection of subject matter has been developed to a high degree thru various stages of experimentation with audience reaction and novelty of plot. Many are intended merely as mediums for song plugging, others for humorous program fillers and some even for advertising purposes. Occasionally suggestive matter is injected into the continuity, but public taste is gradually eliminating this practice by protesting to exhibitors. It is reported that the public demands the producer keeps cartoons clean because of their special appeal to children and minors. For the most part, musical accompaniment has been of the popular variety, with occasional classical masterpieces burlesqued in the synchronized action. Distribution and exploitation have been largely left to the exchanges, with their facilities for that purpose, tho many of the major producers have given special attention to these matters.
In line with the development of cartoons, another allied branch of the novelty short-subject field appears to be growing space. These are the variations of what may be called “Idea Offshoots” of cartoons, such as the modeled clay novelties distributed by Fitzpatrick Pictures in their Holiday Series Marionettes, created by Tony Sarg; Animated Toys, such as the Spark Plug and Katzenjammer Kids dolls, and the MGM shorts which have only dogs as the chief characters of the story. While the distribution of this last type of novelty shorts is not so large as the sound and dialog cartoons, there is said to be considerable demand for them among exhibitors and their patrons, as evidenced by the results obtained through exploitation on the existing ones.