Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Arctic Oops

Hanna-Barbera cartoons were known for repeating backgrounds. How many times did you see Pixie and Dixie running past the same living room table over and over, or Quick Draw McGraw chasing someone past the same cactus? While such a thing has been ridiculed by some, or warmly loved as nostalgia by others, it wasn’t something invented by Hanna-Barbera, nor a cost-saving measure. After all, background drawings can only go a certain length. The idea is to be able to match two ends of a background so it can be repeated in a pan shot.

The practice was observed even at the venerable Walt Disney studio and an early example is in “Arctic Antics” (1930). There are cases at Hanna-Barbera (and I can think a really egregious example at Walter Lantz) where the background ends didn’t quite match and the scene would seem to jump on screen.

Note the ice floes and the thick edge of ice rising from the water in these two consecutive frames. It isn’t a matter of the film being contrasty; you can clearly see they’re different (though similar) drawings.

And this is a good example of a mismatched background from frame to frame. It’s noticeable on the screen, unless you’re spending your time wondering why Mickey Mouse is now a polar bear.

There’s a really jerky piece of cycle animation in this cartoon that looks like a drawing was misnumbered. And there’s a part of the cartoon where a penguin disappears (the scene is animated on twos, so the penguin vanishes for two frames). Likely the average viewer didn’t notice the on-screen blip.

The cartoon is little more than animals walking, sliding or dancing to the beat of the music. There’s absolutely no plot and only the very mildest humour. Meanwhile, in New York, the Fleischers were making funny, warped cartoons. You know which ones I’ll take.

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