Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Slang Surprise

Symphony in Slang was, in a number of ways, a risky experiment for Tex Avery and his crew.

The cartoon is really one gag—that colloquialisms can have a double meaning. Avery and gagman Rich Hogan had to find a way to keep doing the same gag and fill six minutes of screen time without losing the audience. Some attempts were hokey. Some were pretty imaginative. But Avery and Hogan succeed simply by the pace of the cartoon not letting up.

The other risk was on a more aesthetic level. In this cartoon, Tex decided to chuck the Disney-style characters that Preston Blair and others drew so beautifully for him, as well as a lot of the Disney-style animation. Tex decided to try limited animation. There are scenes that are simply a background drawing with a punny drawing. There are other scenes that are nothing more than one body part in cycle animation or eye blinks, something that came to dominate TV animation a few years later.

It all works very well.

Here’s a scene which is pretty much standard animation. You can see the anticipation in betweens before the take.

Then the pun, drawn in full animation. “Mary had a bunch of little ones.”

Walt Clinton, Grant Simmons and Mike Lah animated on this cartoon, released in 1951.


  1. You can see in the opening minute or so of "The Cuckoo Clock" that Avery already had shown an interest in taking colloquialisms and trying to milk them for their gag potential before dropping it in favor of the more standard cat-vs.-bird storyline.

    That cartoon has a far more standard MGM look, even though the animation at the outset is just about as limited as "Symphony In Slang". So in Tex's mind, the set-up of taking phrases literally may have been the ideal place to try out some of the stylizations that UPA already was well into by 1950 (and while Avery doesn't go as far as UPA would in extending the abstract ideas to even the very concept of walls, streets or other backgrounds simply being defined by lines or colors, he gets more comedy here out of the new look animation and poses than UPA would get in a year of some of their later cartoons).

  2. I loved these cartoons, where can I find it?