Saturday, 6 May 2017

Making Bosko

Mickey Mouse and Walt Disney got plaudits aplenty in the earliest part of the 1930s, but they weren’t the only cartoon studio getting attention in the papers.

Once Bosko began appearing on screens in mid-1930, someone’s publicity machine started getting into gear and a few articles praising the Harman-Ising cartoons began popping up in newspapers. I presume Leon Schlesinger was behind it, as opposed to Hugh and Rudy. Leon was fairly press savvy. If Warner Bros. had been behind the press campaign, the studio would have made sure its name got into the stories, but it’s not mentioned in the following article.

This piece appeared unbylined in the Washington Post of April 5, 1931. It outlines how the cartoons and praises the story construction, though the Bosko Looney Tunes strike me as being fairly plotless and similar to each other. Still, they’re energetic and fun to watch, and that’s the main thing.

I presume Welsh rarebit must have been something cheap and common way-back-when, unless the writer is making a reference to the Winsor McCay comic series. Does anyone even eat it any more? I’ve never seen it on a restaurant menu. And it isn’t like you can go to the drive-thru to satisfy your last-minute McRarebit pangs.

When the collaborators of the “Looney Tunes” animated cartoon foregather to plot plots—movie ones—reason flies out of the window. A topsy-turvy atmosphere is created similar to that which comes from reading “Alice in Wonderland.”
A group of serious men meet to hold a story conference before a new “Looney Tunes” is begun. They toil for a time like any body of sober literary men to construct a logical plot—action, adventures and tunes, in which they can involve Bosco, Honey, the animals and objects which people these Vitaphone song cartoons. Then suddenly—the logical plot once constructed—they take leave of all sanity and become like a group of demented men as they put the “looney” into “Looney Tunes.”
They abstract from the logical plot all logic sense and reality, so that the final result is a nightmare of nonsense. Yet through the Welsh rarebit dream appears the story plot originally devised—a plot originally plausible—which makes the fun of the resulting animation all the more effective. Producer Leon Schlesinger, cartoonists Hugh Harman and Rudolf Ising, the musical director, Frank Marsales, might easily be mistaken for a group of men who had taken leave of their senses as they vie with each other in suggesting ideas that will make the original story plot more ridiculous. Alice and the Duchess and the Queen of Hearts had nothing on them. Nor had the March Hare.
At last, when no more nonsense can be injected into the once plausible plot, the continuity and the original drawings of the various characters and objects are turned over to the animators and the photographers who work from four to six weeks on a one-reel animated cartoon.
Ten thousand tiny pictures are drawn or traced and photographed for less than 1,000 feet of finished film. Twelve artists do the work of animating the figures and inking in the outlines. Then these are turned over to the photographers who photograph each of the 10,000 drawings with an overhead camera which “shoots” one frame at a time.
Time and expense are saved when a part of the body—the head, say—moves and the rest doesn’t, by using the same drawing of the body and different positions of the head. This is done by laying the celluloid showing the body on the background and placing the celluloid showing the head on top of the two, keeping the relative proportions, of course. The camera then “shoots” through the celluloid, picking up the complete image, background and all.

1 comment:

  1. As aide-memoire, folks, Welsh rarebit is essentially melted cheese over toast.