Friday, 30 August 2013

Maurice Noble's Africa

Chuck Jones never lost the penchant he had when he began as a director in the late ‘30s and early ‘40s for cutish characters and stylised designs. For a number of years through the mid and late ‘40s, Jones seems to have concentrated more on humour and gags, but then his cartoons got all designy again.

“Boyhood Daze” (released in 1957) features little boy Ralph Phillips (the cute element) and the work of Maurice Noble (the design element). Since Phillips is living in a fantasy world, the abstractness works pretty well. Here are some of Noble’s background designs in the jungle sequence, painted by Phil De Guard.

The stylised natives (writer Mike Maltese has dubbed the tribe the “Daquiris”) run away with only their feet moving. The masked bodies are lumped together in a drawing on one cel.

And Jones’ roaring tiger has stylised movement, with the open mouth simply popping from pose to pose.

Ken Harris, Dick Thompson and Abe Levitow receive animation credits here. Mel Blanc doesn’t get a voice credit, but you can hear him supply native grunts. Other voices are provided by Dick Beals, Daws Butler and Marian Richman.

1 comment:

  1. Maltese noted how they had to bring Jones back at times from his penchant for getting too philosophical with his cartoons -- he never specifically mentioned the in-love-with-its-own-cuteness factor that started resurfacing about the time the UPA stylization by Noble entered the picture, but Mike (and even Tedd Pierce during Maltese's Lantz period) still provided enough substance to the stories to keep the cartoons anchored.

    But once Maltese and then Pierce were gone, there were no writers left on staff who were there from back in Chuck's early cuteness period that nearly got him demoted by Schlesinger. That's when Jones' old instincts, combined with Nobles graphics to make the cartoons the early 60s versions of Bobe Cannon's 1950s UPA shorts -- great to look at, but with stories as thin as rice paper.