Friday 29 January 2016

Jasper's Derby

CBS wasn’t among the networks covering the 67th running of the Bluegrass Classic in the George Pal Puppetoon Jasper’s Derby (1946). NBC and Mutual were. The Blue Network was there, too, even though the name had been discontinued on June 15, 1945 by the American Broadcasting Company (which couldn’t use “ABC” for a number of months because a smaller radio chain had that identifier).

The Puppetoons are striking pieces of work, thoughtfully laid out and technically dazzling. Boxoffice magazine reviewed the animated short in its edition of May 18, 1946, about four months before it was released by Paramount
Excellent. Striking Technicolor and skillful manipulation of puppets are combined to make this an outstanding one-reeler. In addition there is the amusing story of the violin-playing Jasper, who discovers that his music can reconvert a retired, broken-down race horse into a Kentucky Derby winner. The horse, Hi-Octane, not only wins the derby, but earns enough money in that race to provide Jasper and himself with a comfortable home and long, cool mint juleps.
Former Disney scribe Webb Smith came up with a fine story which builds nicely to a climax. Jasper’s violin playing becomes so intense, the strings break. But he quickly substitutes the horse’s tail for strings to keep the underdog animal zooming on the track. The race announcer says “But here comes something up from behind running in circles.” The perspective of the scene is from overhead and animator Herbert Johnson uses a cycle of eight drawings to have the old grey horse run around the young competitors. Notice the shadows. An incredible amount of work went into these stop-motion shorts.

The horse may be grey, but he has a stereotyped old Southern black man voice, while Jasper (played by Sara Berner) speaks in dialect as well.

Roughly a year later, Pal stopped making shorts. They became too unprofitable.

1 comment:

  1. That's quite unusual. While one saw many references to KFWB in the Warner Bros. cartoons, references to the real-life radio networks were rare (leaving aside occasional G-E-C chime usages).