Saturday, 17 September 2016
Half Man, Half Dog?
The year was 1930 and musical cartoons were in vogue. Not only was Bosko musical, but he sang and danced to Warner Bros. tunes. Bosko cartoons might just popularise Warners songs, which would make Leon’s buddies, Jack and Harry Warner, very happy. And the success of the cartoons might just launch Schlesinger into other movie ventures (It did. He make a series of short Western films with John Wayne which died due to lack of theatre interest. He later optioned the rights to Death Valley Days but made no films).
A contract between Schlesinger and Hugh Harman and Rudy Ising was dated January 28, 1930 but, for whatever reason, the first announcement that the Looney Tunes series was being made didn’t appear until April 16th (two short lines in Variety). However, once the cartoons hit the screen, Schlesinger’s publicity machine started churning. For about a year and a half, there were a number of articles about the cartoons. We’ll reprint one from the New York Herald Tribune of March 1, 1931.
A few things may be of interest. “Bosco” seemed to be an accepted spelling in the early months of the series. This story has the only reference I’ve seen about him being “half man and half dog;” one wonders if this was the conclusion of the authoress and not the studio. And the surprising thing is the presence of Bernie Brown—and doing character voices! The general perception amongst animation fans is Brown didn’t arrive until 1933 when Harman and Ising (and Bosko) left and Schlesinger hired a whole new staff for a brand-new cartoon studio; that’s when Brown’s name first appeared on screen. But Brown was there earlier. In fact, at the start of 1932, Schlesinger, Brown and Norman Spencer, a San Franciscan who was later the composer at the Schlesinger studio, set up a soundtrack company together. Both Brown and Spencer left Schlesinger in 1936.
Animated Cartoons In Person
By Marguerite Tazelaar
BOSCO and Honey, stars of “Looney Tunes,” get fan mail from such distant points as Australia and Germany. Their admirers want autographs, ask how they do their tricks and demand that photos be forwarded by return mail. Bosco, as you probably know, is that curious little fellow, half man and half dog, who frisks his way through Vitaphone Song Cartoons. Honey is his girl friend, and all the animals in Kingdom Cone are alternately friends and foes.
Bosco will be a year old April 1. During his short life he has burlesqued, with fine subtlety, of course, such luminaries as Richard Barthelmess, Winnie Lightner and Noah Berry. To do this successfully, so successfully that today he holds the high regard and affection of these stars, he finds it far more satisfactory to be an animated cartoon, than to be made of flesh and blood. For he never knows the anguish of professional jealousy. He keeps out of scrapes and scandals—though the Will Hayes office has censored parts of his pictures—and he is accepted socially in Hollywood’s choicest circles.
After the staff group has thrashed out a story, drawings are started. Mr. Harman and Mr. Ising are the chief animators, that is they draw the principal movements of Bosco and Honey. Fillers-in or artists who draw the in-between movements now depict the actions of the principals in relation to others in the “cast;” they give continuity to the story. Finally the background man adds his drawings—trees, houses, barns and so on.
The film when completed measures 600 feet, which is one reel in length. It takes about four weeks to make and includes as a finished product approximately 10,000 tiny pictures, first drawn by the cartoonists, then traced on celluloid from which they are photographed on film. Twelve artists do the work of animating the figures and filling in the outlines, and there are sixteen action drawings to every foot of film.
The photographers take each of the 10,000 drawings with an overhead camera that shoots one drawing at a time. Expense and time are saved when a part of Bosco’s body, the head, for example, moves and the rest doesn’t by using the same drawing of the body and different positions of the head.
In order that the musical accompaniment and the sound effects may correspond exactly to the film’s movements, the musical director and his assistants work simultaneously with the artists. They write the score on a basis of so many sounds and so many beats to each foot of film, giving a rough chart of their work to the animators as they go along. This procedure, it was explained, is the secret of perfect synchronization and the success of the later talking cartoons.
Sound effects are very important in “Looney Tunes”—in any animated cartoon for that matter. They often express the humor of the piece more vividly and pungently than the characters themselves, or plot situations. These effects range from gunshots to baby cries. Mr. Bernard Brown, known better as “Brownie,” is the official voice of the “cast.” He gives to Bosco his beautiful tenor and bestows upon the “heavy” his frightening bass. He contributes Honey’s soprano and he whistles for everybody. He can also laugh like a hyena. In short, he is a fellow of many talents. Mr. Brown is a violinist by profession, but gives all of his time now to providing “Looney Tunes” with voice and song. The drummer, too, is important in supplying odd noises to these little comedies. He has a veritable menagerie of sound devices at his disposal—automobile horns, all kinds of whistles, fire sirens, a scheme for producing an airplane whirr, saws and mechanical imitations of falling rain, an elephant’s sneeze or a horse’s neigh.
“Looney Tunes,” as noted before, reach far-flung audiences. They make people laugh in Japan, in the Dutch East Indies, in Egypt, Syria, all of Europe, Palestine and Brazil. Mr. Schlesinger, the producer, says that their popularity, particularly in England and Germany, has increased in great strides during the last few months. These funny little caricatures who take off human being with such wit and good humor find a universal audience in every part of the world, evidenced by letters received from all corners of the earth inquiring about Bosco, Honey and their pals.
So successful have “Looney Tunes” been during the last few months of their distribution that the producer is about to start a new series of animated short subjects which he will call “Merry Melodies.” They will be cartoons, but will take exclusively popular song hits as their subjects. The “Looney Tunes” series will continue to be released, with the new series an additional attraction. “Lady Play Your Mandolin” will be the first “Merry Melody.”