Friday 30 November 2012

Banana Duck of Tomorrow

If there’s a Tex Avery cartoon of the ’50s that gets bashed, it’s “Farm of Tomorrow.” While his “Car of Tomorrow” makes fun of the increasingly outrageous design of autos of the decade and “TV of Tomorrow” spoofs technology and banal programming, “Farm” is a string of puns that doesn’t really go anywhere.

Still, there are nice little poses, as good as anything Chuck Jones tried with the coyote at Warners. For example, when you cross a duck with a banana, “you don’t have to pick him, girls. You just peel him.”

This is another one of Tex’s limited animation specials. Lots of static background drawings made by Joe Montell, a buddy of Ed Benedict’s, who was Tex’s main layout artist. Montell was on his way to the John Sutherland studio and went on to work in Mexico on Rocky and Bullwinkle after a brief stop at Hanna-Barbera. Mike Lah, Walt Clinton, Grant Simmons and Bob Bentley are the animators.

Thursday 29 November 2012

A Chinese Goulash

Shamus Culhane brags about the climax of the Woody Woodpecker short “The Barber of Seville” (1944) where he quickly cuts from pose to pose, but the audience keeps up with the action because they all know the famous opera lyrics “Figaro! Figaro! Figaro!”

Culhane recalled how writer Bugs Hardaway yelped that the scene looked like “Chinese goulash” during pencil testing but Walter Lantz himself figured it would look fine when animated and painted.

Here are the cuts as Woody yells “Figaro!” Remember, these aren't static poses as Woody is singing; the mouths and bodies move. 24 frames equal a second.

Six frames.

Six frames.

Five frames.

Ten frames.

28 frames, as the “o” is elongated.

La Verne Harding and Les Kline get animation credits, but Emery Hawkins is in here, too. Woody pokes his head toward the camera, sprouts multiple eyes in a speedy head-poke take and the customer’s butt backs into the camera, all things you’d find in Lantz cartoons around this time.

Wednesday 28 November 2012

Hello, Folksies

If Bill Comstock wasn’t radio’s first female impersonator, he was radio’s best-known, at least before World War Two.

Comstock decided to make fun on radio’s home economy shows of the 1930s and created a hostess named Tizzie Lish. Tizzie achieved national fame when the character joined “Al Pearce and His Gang,” one of the top shows of the ‘30s that petered out in the ‘40s. As far as I can tell, it’s the only thing Comstock did on the show. Tizzie was so well known, she was even parodied as Tizzie Fish in the 1937 Warner Bros. cartoon “The Woods Are Full of Cuckoos”. Tedd Pierce, as Fish, captures the screwiness of character beautifully. His inflections are bang-on and so is the dialogue.

Evidently Comstock’s press agent was working hard in 1937. Several news articles about Tizzie hit the papers.

Radio’s Typical Old Maid Is Amusing Young Fellow
So Tizzie Lish Has to Turn Down Marriage Proposals

(NEA Service Radio Editor)

NEW YORK, Nov. 18. —The old maid ain’t what she used to be. The traditional spinster who led a secluded life with her pet cats and memories of love affairs that didn’t jell, has become as popular as Mae West at an American Legion smoker. Bill Comstock of the Al Pearce program is responsible for the transformation.
Bill is radio’s “Tizzie Lish,” the typical old maid. Tizzie is tall, gawky, coy, romantic and gossipy, with a high-pitched giggle. She airs fantastic cooking recipes and puts her friends through muscle-bound setting-up exercises. She chews gum incessantly and labors under the delusion that some five or six thrilling men are in love with her.
Yet “Tizzie,” in spite of her ways, is a knockout with radio fans. They're always sending her gifts, letters, valentines, clothes of all sorts from silk stockings to expensive fur pieces, and jewelry. She has also received at least a dozen real proposals of marriage.
Bill Comstock’s “Tizzie,” who cavorts on the Columbia airwaves every Tuesday night at 9:15, is a composite of his falsetto voice, an outlandish outfit and the memory of a real woman. The original inspiration for “Tizzie” was a cooking expert Bill used to listen to on the air. He thought her style so unique he began mocking it.
Even today “Tizzie” still uses many of the phrases coined by the cooking expert, who has since given Bill permission to impersonate her on the Al Pearce show. One of the most famous is “Good morning, folks, are you ready for lots of goodies?”
“Tizzie” hasn't always posed in women’s clothing, in the old days, Bill used to get himself into the mood without the aid of a costume. He finally was forced to dress up for a personal appearance at the popular Cocoanut Grove in Los Angeles.
He found that “Tizzie” improved so much behind a hat and a polka-dotted veil that he has worn her outfit since.
Her outfit is the same as the one Bill first adopted for her. He hastily borrowed it from the girl who is now his wife. “Tizzie” still wears the same black, tight-fitting skirt hat, veil, brown cotton stockings and brown drop-earrings she lent him. He even wears the same feather boa. It once was white, but from long usage it has become practically black. He doesn’t bother to have it cleaned.

Tizzie Lish wasn’t Bill’s only accomplishment in life, nor was it his start in show business. William Herbert Comstock was born in Oswego, New York on November 11, 1889, the third child of Fred M. and Mary Comstock. His father had worked for a Saskatchewan railroad (his mother was Canadian) and later became a box maker. He was named for his uncle.

Comstock enlisted in service for World War One at the beginning of 1918 and was discharged before the end of the year. He spent part of 1928 in a tuberculosis sanatorium for veterans at Sawtelle, California. His wife, Theodora Belle Comstock, was an actress and 16 years his junior.

This biography is from the Los Angeles Times, April 13, 1937.

Tizzie Lish, Al Pearce’s “Cooking and Health Expert” . . . Real name is Bill Comstock . . . Born and educated in Syracuse, N. Y. . . . Played drums in Keith vaudeville theaters for seven years, until the World War broke out . . . Wounded in action and sent to Saranac [a TB sanatorium in New York] where he was active in promoting benefits for injured soldiers. Bill studied music at Syracuse and in the early days of radio appeared as a member of a Pacific Coast singing trio . . . Rapidly getting nowhere as a vocalist, he decided to try his hand at comedy . . . His high-pitched voice was an asset . . . Earl, the Coffee King, his first act, was just so-so . . . Then came a turn with a partner and they called themselves Null and Void . . . Tizzie was introduced first on a small Los Angeles station . . . No one was more surprised than Bill at the success of the characterization. Writes his act two days in advance of the broadcasts . . . Takes him three hours to bat it out . . . He’s a shade past 40, stands five feet eight inches and has blue eyes and graying black hair.

Comstock’s first appearance as Tizzie was on the Tom Breneman morning programme in 1931. Phil Harris and Helen Gahagan Douglas were featured on the same show. He joined Pearce in 1933.

Pearce’s radio show slowly descended from its peak of the late ‘30s. By 1946, it was on during the daytime and Pearce decided to retire and run a prune farm. Comstock went to work for a talent agency; newspapers reported one of his discoveries was Gloria Henry, who later played Dennis the Menace’s mom on TV. But television beckoned Pearce in 1952 and he assembled part of his old gang, including Tizzie Lish. The show survived seven months (and Pearce took time off during the summer). Comstock took Tizzie to the Garry Moore show for a bit around the same time and even cut an audition radio show for ABC in December that year. Listen to it below, courtesy of Rand’s Esoteric OTR. Comstock’s voice is raspier than it was 20 years earlier when Tizzie first appeared with Pearce.

Tizzie soon became someone of the past, a name evoking someone’s parents’ generation. And Bill Comstock was forgotten. One of Earl Wilson’s columns in 1971 asked readers if they knew who played Tizzie Lish. He gave the answer next day as “Al Pearce.” One California newspaper story reporting on Arlene Harris declared she had played Tizzie (Harris had her own segment on the Pearce show).

Comstock died in Los Angeles on June 22, 1979; I haven’t found a newspaper obituary. His wife died December 14, 1984.

Pearce’s show is really a mixed bag, at least if you listen to any of the few broadcasts that have been preserved. But it deserves a second look. Perhaps we’ll do that here next week.

Tuesday 27 November 2012

Hare Ribbin' Cut

Bob Clampett’s “Hare Ribbin’” is noted for two things—most of it takes place underwater and two endings were made for it. But it’s got a really jarring edit at the beginning.

Suddenly it jumps from the imitation-Bert Gordon-as-the-Mad Russian dog sniffing on the ground to snorting away next to Bugs Bunny in mid-chew.

You can tell by the trumpet in Carl Stalling’s score that something was taken out because it leaps head by a couple of bars.

Well, the answer was provided to me by Thad Komorowski moments after this was posted. Clampett was never accused of being demure and tasteful. He’s got a gag where the dog sniffs Bugs’ underarm, turns to the camera, and lets’ out with the Lifebuoy radio slogan “Beee…O!” There’s a stretch in-between. The portion cut is the dog spending more time examining the effluviant area.

Bob McKimson gets the sole animation credit. Rod Scribner and Manny Gould would have been in the unit at the time.

Monday 26 November 2012

The Two-Shoes Kitchen

Somewhere in some forgotten filing cabinet, I hope, rests archival material that shows who worked on animated cartoons but never got screen credit.

Layout people like Harvey Eisenberg and Gene Hazelton worked on Tom and Jerry cartoons. You never saw their names. Ernie Smythe drew the backgrounds for the the first Oscar-winner “Yankee Doodle Mouse” (1943). His name never appeared on screen. And such was the case for the layout and background people into the early ‘50s.

It’s too bad because I’ve always like the MGM settings of the ‘40s and the artists responsible for them should be known. I don’t know how many people worked in Metro’s background department during that time, but the primary artists were Bob Gentle, in the Hanna-Barbera unit and Johnny Johnsen in Tex Avery’s.

I strongly suspect this is one of Gentle’s backgrounds. This kitchen is seen near the start of “The Mouse in the House” (1947), when the camera quickly pans to the right, stops at the fridge, then quickly pans again and stops at the cake. You’ll have to click on it to enlarge it.

There are colour-changing highlights on the floor which look abrupt in this snipped-together digital version. It’s a basic drawing that sets up the action nicely.

The pans take up 11 seconds of animation-less, cost-saving screen time.

Gentle was born in Norfolk, Nebraska on February 15, 1914 and arrived in Los Angeles at about age 13. He got a job at the Harman-Ising studio. When MGM dumped Harman-Ising and started making its own cartoons in 1937, Gentle make the jump and stayed there for the full 20-year life of the operation. When Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera opened their own studio in 1957, he made the jump again, working on all the early TV cartoon series. Gentle died January 24, 1988.

Sunday 25 November 2012

Selling Krazy Kat

We’ve posted some reviews of cartoons from the second half of 1928 from The Film Daily. Charlie Mintz had been pushing his Oswald cartoons in box ads in the trade paper but he also took out space to let everyone know about his studio’s Krazy Kat cartoons, more than once a week. Here are the first eight from July 1st onward.

Interestingly, all the ads mention the names of the animators as well as Mintz’s. Not seen anywhere is George Herriman, the creator of the character. Nor is his drawing style.

Ban Gaslight!

The film industry has always had a boogie man, living in fear over something it feels will kill it or, at the very least, take away potential profits. At one time, it was television. Studios even banned their stars under contract from the small screen (which delayed Red Skelton’s move from radio to TV). Finally, they realised how short-sighted this was and how there was money and publicity to be made from television. In between those years, Jack Benny got caught in the stupidity.

Before it became, more or less, a sitcom in the late ‘40s, the Benny radio show used to parody movies. One of them was “Gaslight,” the 1944 Ingrid Bergman thriller. Bergman re-enacted her role in Benny’s send-up a year later. When television rolled around, Benny’s writers handily lifted material from old radio scripts and re-worked it for the small screen. And that’s where Jack ran into trouble because of paranoia coupled with legal opinion.

Here’s a column from the National Enterprise Association dated December 27, 1958 about how a Benny TV broadcast was delayed almost six years. Can you picture such a thing happening today?

Jack Benny Finally Ready for TV Satire on ‘Gaslight’

HOLLYWOOD — TV comedians have taken their problems to psychiatrists, sponsors, network bosses, censors, joke writers, sympathetic wives and, on occasion, to bill and tax collectors.
But Jack Benny is the only comedian who can say he has had a problem presented to the United States Supreme Court. And, reflecting TV’s own confusion these days, the Supreme Court couldn’t even solve the problem.
There was a 4-4 split decision when only eight of the nine justices voted on the matter. But no one really cared any more.
Big Cause Celebre
So the Jack Benny CBS-TV program Jan. 11 should be viewed as television's first big cause celebre as well as a very funny, but very dead, corpus delicti, filmed in 1953.
After six years of standing by with a typical “Well —,” Expression on his face, Jack will unreel his controversial 15-minute satire of MGM’s 1944 movie “Gaslight.” Jack is the husband and Barbara Stanwyck is the wife he’s driving to insanity. Bob Crosby plays the Scotland Yard inspector. Just about everyone, I guess, knows the plot.
Issue Clarified
And just about everyone believes, wrongly, that the long battle between the MGM film studio and CBS-TV over Jack’s film was based on the right of a TV comedian to satirize a motion picture.
Well, it wasn’t.
The legal battle was over the invincibility of Hollywood and its film against TV competition. Hollywood was putting up quite a fight in 1953, you may remember, and caught in the middle was Jack Benny.
MGM really wasn’t concerned about Jack’s spoof of the movie. In 1952, Jack presented a “Gaslight” satire on his live show.
Before that, on his radio show, there was a Benny “Gaslight” satire. Grateful for the publicity
MGM even loaned Jack a print of the picture so his radio writers could study the scenes and the dialogue.
What MGM suddenly worried about in 1953 was something cherished passionately by Hollywood, motion picture studios and — MOVIE FILM.
Legally Important
So for reasons legally important to Hollywood in 1953 it became a big life or death struggle. Spoofing “Gaslight” on radio, even on live TV, was just dandy with MGM. But when Jack put it on film—WOW! Leo the MGM Lion, roared.
Film WAS Hollywood. Film WAS the movie theaters of the world. MGM film—all of Hollywood’s film — had been copyrighted long ago by a task force of lawyers who spent months on the project, leaving no loopholes, they thought. But then Benny filmed 15 minutes of “Gaslight” satire.
Critical Situation
It was the loophole MGM’s lawyers didn't think about in the TV-less long ago. Left unchallenged, it could set a precedent.
Left unchallenged by MGM, the studio’s customers, the theatre men, would have a nice “you done us wrong” argument about aiding the TV “enemy.”
The Hollywood winds were blowing in a different direction in 1953 and Jack and his film were caught in the legal gust.
So a lawsuit put Jack’s satire on the shelf. Privately, Jack was told by an MGM executive
—“No matter what the decision may be. Jack, you can show the film on TV. Just ONCE, you understand, and only because of our friendship with you.”
To Prove Point
Hollywood wanted to prove a point in 1953.
No MGM movie in ANY FORM ever would be shown on TV, said the studio.
So with MGM winning all the way, and with CBS appealing all the way, the case went to the highest court in the land.
But when the court’s split decision came down, MGM films, leased to TV, were making millions; MGM was in TV production, MGM’s customers, the theatre owners, no longer had exclusive right to showing film. It was a whole new world. So the Hollywood cause celebre of ‘53 didn't mean a thing in ‘58.
After Jack unreels the “Gaslight” satire on Jan. 11, I’m sure people will be asking:
“What was all the fuss about?”
Well, now you know.

The show was broadcast January 11, 1959. William Ewald of the Associated Press reviewed it the next day and said it had several very funny moments, but much of the parody was lost because the movie was so old.

And, as it turned out, the delay was all for nothing.

Saturday 24 November 2012

He Helped Make Tom Scream

Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera liked to tell the story about how all the main people involved with them in making cartoons at MGM merrily joined them at their new TV animation studio. Well, not everyone tagged along with them in 1957. Animators Jim Escalante and Ken Southworth did not and neither did the unneeded assistant animators. Of course, musician Scott Bradley didn’t for obvious reasons. And another one who didn’t was Lovell Norman.

Norman spent a good 20-plus years in the animation business but his credits are few. That’s because he was in the sound department and the sound guys never did get credit at MGM. It’s a shame because Fred MacAlpin, who started the department in 1937, Jim Faris, Greg Watson (who did go to Hanna-Barbera) and Norman were the ones who built the studio’s sound effects library, some of which found its way into the old Hanna-Barbera cartoons. He’s credited on an occasional Chuck Jones-produced Tom and Jerry (on compilation shorts using old MGM footage) and on the seemingly-immortal “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.”

The Kingman Daily Miner in Arizona published a feature story on Lovell and his wife Estelle on September 2, 1992. It’s a shame you can’t see the early ‘50s-era Tom and Jerry model sheets being held up in the photo accompanying the story.

Couple built career on cartoons
By K.M. Hall
Miner Staff Writer

Kingman residents Lovell and Estelle Norman get a Christmas card every year from Bill Hanna from Hanna and Barbera cartoon fame.
No, they aren’t relatives of the Tom and Jerry creator, but they did work for him for years in Hollywood.
As a matter of fact, Lovell put in almost 40 years working for such companies as Columbia and MGM, doing a variety of jobs, including drawing, photographing and editing cartoons and creating sound effects.
When he worked with Hanna, Hanna and Barbera worked under the auspices of MGM, Lovell, 79, said.
“When they closed the cartoon department at MGM, Hanna and Barbera started on their own and I got an offer to work for them. I got a job in sound effects on the main lot at MGM instead,” Lovell said.
Lovell’s whole odyssey in the business began in 1934 when his good friend and animator Emery Hawkins got him started in cartooning.
According to Lovell, Hawkins was one of the best animators in the business and his work is still looked up to.
Coincidentally, famous movie actor and Kingman resident Andy Devine used to baby sit Hawkins when Devine lived here, Estelle, 74, said.
Lovell got Estelle a job painting the cartoons onto transparent cells after she graduated from high school. It was a career she kept for at least eight years, including years spent working for Hanna-Barbera and MGM.
Some of the cartoons the Normans worked on together included Tom and Jerry, Droopy and Barney Bear. Estelle also worked for the company that created Woody Woodpecker.
Surprisingly enough, the career Lovell enjoyed the most was not the cartooning, but doing sound effects.
“It was the most fun and the most challenging because we had a very efficient crew and our services were sought out,” Lovell said. “I don’t know anything about sound, though. I just know how to make it.”
A lot of times his services were sought by other film companies to make noises many thought impossible to make.
In Rod Taylor’s movie “The Time Machine” Lovell helped design the sounds of the creatures. The sounds are actually the squealing of pigs slowed down and put into a reverb chamber.
The Normans had a great deal of fun when they worked at the studios.
The Normans have souvenirs of their Hollywood years, including sheets of Tom and Jerry Cartoons, but they also have two Oscar-type awards for best sound editing that Lowell helped win for his work in two classic motion pictures—“Ben Hur” in 1959 and “Mutiny on the Bounty” in 1962.

Lovell Burch Norman was born in Oklahoma in November 12, 1912 to Lester Claude and Margaret March (Mallet) Norman. By 1920, the family was living in Spokane and seven years later, they were in Los Angeles where his dad was a mailman. After retiring, Lovell and Estelle apparently had a place in Florida. He died in Lincolnville, Maine on August 5, 2000.

Friday 23 November 2012

The Oyl Neighbourhood

The background art in the old Fleischer cartoons is a real treat. Let’s look at a few of them from the start of the Popeye “The Man on the Flying Trapeze” (1934). Everything in an early Popeye is warped and bent, of course, including the streets.

By the way, it wasn’t out of the realm of possibility to have a ramshackle house on a lot with a picket fence in a downtown core. I’ve seen pictures of downtowns with tall buildings, car dealerships, and so on, that have expanded and taken over what were residential areas. But not all the homes have been pushed out and a few still sit on what has become prime commercial real estate.

My favourite part of this operetta is the neighbourhood kids and cat, all doing kind of a clog dance in unison and singing. The cat is as human as the kids, and it sings and dances.

It’s not a great Popeye. The conflict is contrived. The bad guy is mute and it’s not his fault Olive’s being a won’t-go-all-the-way tramp again and dumps Popeye to run after him. There’s a nice cycle animation of a rolling ship to open the cartoon and, of course, the singing, dancing neighbourhood cat.

Willard Bowsky and Dave Tendlar get the animation credits.

Thursday 22 November 2012

Bashing Baby Droopy

There’s a conflict of design going on in “Homesteader Droopy” (1954). The opening is almost three dimensional, with overlays of rocks with the cartoon’s credits on them. The fenced-in, anxious cow is a typical late-1940s design. But the bad guy wolf and the Droopy clan are all flat, angular UPA-esque characters by Ed Benedict. Ignore that, and you have another fine western cartoon.

The big climax scene has the wolf (voiced by Avery) inflating a confused-looking cow like a balloon as it supplies milk to little Droopy. The kid’s not happy. He beats the crap out of the wolf. The kid’s fist gets huge before impact; I don’t know if Avery tried that before at MGM.

And the kid punches the wolf against the wall in some cycle animation.

The conjoined eyes and little off-centre mouth on the wolf remind me of Mike Lah’s work. Lah, Walt Clinton, Grant Simmons and Bob Bentley get animation credits here. The cartoon was released after the Avery unit was disbanded and Avery moved on to the Lantz studio.

Wednesday 21 November 2012

Fred Allen Still Sees Oblivion

When last we left unhappy radio satirist Fred Allen on this blog, he was being interviewed in December 1949 by Herald Tribune columnist John Crosby in New York, giving a State of the Allen address on radio and TV. Five weeks later, he was on the West Coast, doing the same thing to the Associated Press’ movie columnist. And he’s added his thoughts on the film business.

This was published January 13, 1950, when Allen was still on his doctor-ordered sabbatical from his radio show. He never went back to it.

Hollywood, Radio Hit by Fred Allen

HOLLYWOOD, Jan. 13.— (AP)—Fred Allen, a man with high blood pressure and a low regard for Hollywood, arrived here in a rainstorm.
His comment:
“I thought God was weeping over the state of the movie business.”
The Boston wit added that the rain looked good after coming from drought-ridden New York.
“The water shortage is really serious,” he remarked. “When you take a room in a hotel they don't give you a towel. You get a rubber eraser.”
Allen is here briefly to guest on some radio shows. There is no chance that he will settle in Hollywood, however.
“This is no place for an actor to live,” he said. “They come and go too fast. The first time I was out here, Laura La Plante was the rage. The next time it was Harry Langdon, and so on.
“Everybody lives in somebody else’s house. James Mason is living in the house that once belonged to Buster Keaton. Somebody else is living in Marguerite Clark’s old house.”
Allen cited his receptions to illustrate the fickle nature of Hollywood:
“When I came out here to do a picture a few years ago, my hotel room looked like a funeral parlor with all the flowers. When I came out last fall there were several bouquets.”
He then pointed at his current gifts: two small clumps of flowers and two baskets of fruit.
“Next time I’ll get one tangerine,” he predicted.
The comedian is off the air this season on doctor’s orders. He feels that radio is dead, anyway.
“It was doomed from the start,” he said. "The networks cared only about selling their time, the advertising agencies about getting their 15 per cent commission and the sponsors about selling their product. Nobody cared about entertainment.”
New Yorkers talk only about television now, he told me.
“Everything is Hopalong Cassidy,” he said. “"Kids run around in cowboy suits. Even women in the drug stores ride the stools sidesaddle.”
Allen himself will plunge into TV next fall. NBC has given him free rein for whatever he wants in the new medium. But don’t get the idea that he predicts a rosy future for TV.
“People sit in one room all evening and peer at a little screen!” he commented. “It won’t be long before the art of conversation is dead.”
The trouble with TV entertainment, he added, is that “programs are designed in terms of vaudeville, not video. People like Milton Berle play to a bunch of indigent morons who attend free television shows, not to viewers in the homes.”
Allen’s pessimism extends beyond TV.
“I predict,” he said with a long sigh, “that the morons of this country will eventually take over intelligent people and establish some kind of Cretin civilization as their pie in the sky.”

Considering Allen’s comment about the art of conversation, we can only imagine how he would have viewed today’s common sight of a group of people at a table, all texting someone else.

Tuesday 20 November 2012

Tangled Travels

There was never a more misnamed cartoon studio than Screen Gems. It rarely put any gems on the screen. The biggest laugh Columbia’s studio of the ‘40s can muster is over the audaciousness in which it ripped off Warner Bros. cartoons, right down to cat and duck character designs.

But Columbia never had any idea what made the Warners cartoons funny. A really good example is the wretched travelogue “Tangled Travels” (1944). When Tex Avery made travelogues at Warners, he was making fun of travelogues and corny gags. When Al Geiss made a travelogue at Columbia, he treated the corny gags like they were really funny. And “Tangled Travels” has the added bonus of narration in an annoying and inappropriate George Givot-like Greek dialect by Dave Barry, who is ususlly very good.

Highlights are few. The studio gets points for using photos for backgrounds. There’s a nice bit of perspective animation of a horse going over a waterfall (there’s actually some pretty good animation in the later Columbias). But the best part comes when the cartoon’s over—in more ways than one.

The narrator delivers the travelogue we’ve been watching to the Surprise Pictures studio. Cut to a scene of a silhouette of a yokel-looking narrator and a chubby film studio boss (voiced by John McLeish). It turns out we haven’t really been watching a travelogue. We’ve been watching a travelogue being screened for the film studio guy. The camera pans over to a screen with a shot matching the one we’ve just been watching. The narrator asks how the film boss likes it (his lips don’t even move during the dialogue) and gets shot, with the smoke from the gun forming the words THE END.

The credited animators are Volus Jones, formerly with Disney, and George Grandpr√©, formerly with Lantz. I believe this was Grandpr√©’s last cartoon at Columbia before moving on to John Sutherland and then to Warners.

Columbia knew it was making unfunny cartoons. A deal in February 1944 to bring in Bob Clampett to oversee the creative end of the studio fell through (the studio had fired Dave Fleischer and replaced him with musician Paul Worth, who had no experience in making films). So management went with Plan B: to hire Webb Smith, ex-Disney and MGM (Avery unit), as a story writer because its directors didn’t understand “true comedy gags” as one member of the executive clan put it, and then hope for the best. Clampett, by the way, ended up at Columbia a couple of years later in an uncredited story capacity after yet another management change. (My thanks to Thad Komorowski for background on this).

And, no, I can’t find a movie named “The Devil’s Doorway” that was released around the time this cartoon came out.

Monday 19 November 2012

Porky Jumps Out of His Skin

A unique take from “Bye Bye Bluebeard.” The drawings are on twos.

And down he goes.

This was the Art Davis’ unit last cartoon. Animation credited to Bill Melendez, Basil Davidovich, Emery Hawkins and Don Williams.