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.


  1. Surprisingly (or maybe not so, considering how much more cost-conscious their bosses were), Famous Studios had done an even more elaborate version (in terms of backgrounds) of this scene (left-to-right pan, check; destroyed kitchen, check; grammatically troubled black woman commenting on said destruction, check) in 1944's "Lulu Gets the Birdie". We're not talking "Cat Concerto" vs. "Rhapsody Rabbit" level drama here, but the similarities are interesting.

    (Robert Connavale's backgrounds in the Lulu effort don't seem as vivid as Gentle's, but despite the original titles, it is an un-restored print off the NTA package, which probably accounts for a lot of the dullness.)

  2. Don't forget that Art Heinemann was an uncredited layout artist at MGM in the early 50s.