Monday, 16 May 2016

Cartoons! Fah!

It’s easy to read something into the Warners cartoon A Ham in a Role, written by Sid Marcus, where a bit-player dog gives up a life in animated cartoons for Shakespeare. After all, there were animators who had worked at Warner Bros. who shared the dog’s view about the “low comedy” contained in the studio’s cartoons.

Anything involving phoney title cards is fun, and Marcus has used one in this short as the dog emerges to lambast theatrical animation’s penchant for cat-and-mouse slapstick. There are some neat drawings in here.

Ironically, Bill Melendez animated this scene. He soon bolted for UPA, where the Warners cartoons were looked upon as odoriferous (vid. Shakespeare’s King John, Act III, Scene IV). Say! That little stagehand in the background could be a cousin of the early Mr. Magoo. Emery Hawkins, Chuck McKimson and Phil De Lara are the other animators, along with an uncredited, UPA-bound Pete Burness. Bob McKimson received the directorial credit after the Art Davis unit put the cartoon into production.


  1. It's a wonderfully self-aware opening, from a time period when the attacks on the Warner cartoons really hadn't reached the point to where lesser entertainment (such as the post-Hubley UPA efforts) were praised to the sky by critics simply because of what they were not more than what they offered the audience as far as keeping their interest. The public was going to have their candy taken away and was going to eat their animated spinach whether they liked it or not.

    Had this cartoon been made post-McBoing Boing, it could have been seen as sour grapes on the part of the Warners crew due to UPA's critical and Oscar success. As it is, Marcus' script shows that the staff were aware of the complaints about their work in the late 1940s (both inside and outside the animation industry) and decided to use those complaints as a starting point for another cartoon (and a fitting sendoff for the Shakespearean dog that had been used in the Gophers' first two cartoons).

  2. He would be really pissed if he was crawling from under a "Seven Arts" title card.