Friday, 17 June 2016

Hypnotic Hick

3-D was, for a number of months in 1953, deemed a possible saviour of the film industry from that dastardly, spreading electronic weed—television. It was doomed to failure. People got quickly bored with the gimmick.

But for a very brief time, cartoon studios were pretty much forced to get into the 3-D business. Disney, Famous (Paramount), Warner Bros. and Walter Lantz all released cartoons with an extra dimension (MGM, interestingly, did not). Lantz assigned his best director, Don Patterson, to helm Hypnotic Hick, which was scheduled to go out with a 3-D Universal feature Wings of the Hawk. Lantz reportedly spent $60,000 on it and the cartoon was rented to theatres on a percentage basis instead of a flat rate to try to make back the negative cost.

Bill Garity, formerly with Disney, came up with the technology Lantz employed to make the cartoon and received a screen credit for it.

Patterson came up with some creative ideas to take advantage of the format. New opening titles were designed with wood chips spelling “Woody Woodpecker” and then the title character himself coming toward the audience.

The opening titles were creative, too. Patterson came up with excellent angular layouts to maximise the 3-D effect, with the cartoon’s name spelled out in letters that come closer to the viewers.

Lantz abandoned 3-D after the one cartoon, along with the rest of the film industry. The extra cost involved in colour stock simply wasn’t work the money spent.

Not only did 3-D disappear, so did Patterson out of the director’s chair. He was replaced several months later with Tex Avery and went back to animating.


  1. It seemed as if there was something of a Beta vs. VHS type battle that went on in the 1953-54 period, with Warners, Paramount and Lantz opting for just 3-D cartoons, while MGM and Terrytoons went with just CinemaScope shorts. Only Disney and UPA tried both, before coming down in the widescreen camp (Warners', Paramount's and Lantz's concession to the format was merely to vertically compress their opening and closing titles, so cropped versions could be paired with widescreen features.

  2. Judging by Variety, 3-D was the first craze, with wide-screen formats following a few months, though there was some overlap of the two. I presumed MGM and 20th went with wide-screen because they were developing processes.