Saturday 16 July 2016


Walter Lantz constantly cried to the trade papers about the small sums of money that exhibitors wanted to pay for his cartoons. In a way, you can’t blame him. Though he personally never seemed to be hurting for cash, the Lantz studio closed twice before 1950 and ideas had to be put on the shelf, presumably due to a lack of capital.

Lantz had proposed opening a studio in Mexico. It never happened. He talked about a cartoon feature. It never happened. And he and producer Edward Nassour proposed creating four-reel pictures combining live action and clay figures. It never happened, either.

The trade papers talked about the latter plan, and so did United Press in this story from early 1945. Considering the success of George Pal’s Puppetoons (Sutherland and Morey were also working on stop-motion shorts), it’s too bad Lantz wasn’t about to bring the plan to fruition.
'Humanettes,' New Movie Medium, Being Perfected

HOLLYWOOD, Feb. 14 (UP) — Cartoonist Walter Lantz, the gent who fathered "Woody Woodpecker" after some of the long beaked birds dug holes in his studio roof, is working on a new cartoon medium—"Humanettes."
Lantz, who has been giving legs and voice to pen and ink figures for more than 15 years, thinks the new medium will go places.
"It's a natural for entertainment cartoons, definitely something new," he predicted; "but it's even better as a device for turning out top notch, highly interesting educational films."
Educational films. Those two words are in the back of Lantz' mind in practically all his activities now.
"We'd done only a few educational shorts before the war," Lantz recalls.
"But since then we've turned out 20 educational pieces for the navy, illustrating better methods of doing a lot of business with planes and torpedoes."
Making those pictures—combinations of cartoon figures, plastic models and live talent—has taught Lantz and his 50 artists—more and more of them women, incidentally—a lot of lessons.
"These educational films can teach more in two reels than can be put across in a two-hour lecture or in half a dozen books," he contended. "So they're really going to be the thing after the war."
There's a strong possibility that before the war is over, Lantz will be given the task of -turning out some cartoons on American life for government release to South American and European countries. That's where the Humanettes will come in.
What are they? Well, we saw the one experimental reel that Lantz and his staff already has made. It's a process discovered by a young artist named Edward Nassaur and perfected by the new team of Nassaur and Lantz.
The figures are clay models, carefully sculptured according to scale. In orthodox cartoons, a drawing is made for each frame of film. For the Humanettes, a separate group of clay figures will be turned out for each frame. That's a lot of figures for the seven minutes of the average cartoon.
"It's a complicated, painstaking and expensive process," Lantz admitted. "But with these figures we get much more depth and perspective.
We can place the lights better behind these figures than we can with flat drawings.
"With the clay figures modeled for each frame, we can achieve a smoothness of action that's impossible with puppets, the only similar medium that's been tried."
The reel we saw had definitely achieved that smoothness, and the colors—it was a technicolor job—were much more distinct than in most cartoons.
Lantz hopes to start turning out Humanette cartoons, for entertainment, before too long. He's just arranged for new studio space.
"We'll probably combine, with the aid of a process screen, the Humanette figures and live talent," he said.
"Some of the figures undoubtedly will be some of our old established—'Swing Symphony Cartune' personalities."
These personalities are led by Andy Panda, Oswald the rabbit—and Woody Woodpecker.
Despite the announcement, the Humanettes were put on hold. Temporarily, at first. Lantz talked about them in another U.P. story that year. This came out of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette of May 16, 1945. This is another column where Lantz explains why Pat Matthews’ great Miss XTC character from “Abou Ben Boogie” and “The Greatest Man in Siam” suddenly vanished from screens.
Lantz Says Don't Go Saying Those Characters Are "Drawings"
By Virginia MacPherson

United Press Hollywood Correspondent
Hollywood, May 15.—Walter Lantz, who’s been making animated cartoons for 30 years, gets mighty indignant if you refer to his characters as "drawings." They're real people, he says. And he plans their careers as carefully as if they were Clark Gable or Hedy Lamarr.
"There's no reason why a cartoon character has to make a big splash and then fizzle out," Lantz insists.
"If you're careful with the type of roles and billing you give 'em, they can live for 15 or 20 years. Look at the funny papers, he says. "Bringing Up Father" has been going for something like 50 years. And "The Katzenjammer Kids" are tickling their third generation of readers.
That's the kind of career Lantz has in mind for Andy Panda, Woody Wood pecker and Oswald the Rabbit.
"Animals can be made just as real as humans," he said. "Give 'em natural gestures and expressions and put 'em in real-life situations and first thing you know people forget all about the pen and ink stuff."
That theory backfired on him once, though. Seems he made a cartoon character too real and the censors told him it was too sexy. The drawing was of a shapely young lady named “Miss X-T-Cy.” And the Hays office objected to the voluptuous way "Miss X-T-Cy" wiggled her hips when she walked.
Drawn From Life
"The funny part about it," Lantz explained, "was that the drawings were made from a real live actress. She walks that way on the screen all the time. But we had to remake a third of our cartoon to calm down the lady’s hips." And when you think how it takes four months to make a cartoon that's a lot of fuss over a lady's hips.
The censors give him trouble on some other items, too. Never, again they told him, can he draw a Mexican peon without shoes. The government of Mexico, mindful of its growing importance in the world, is afraid people will think their country is poverty stricken. "And wouldn't a Mexican peon look silly with shoes," Lantz snorted. "So now I just don't draw Mexican peons any more."
He's careful about putting train sequences in his cartoons, too. Can't have any porters. At least, not colored ones. Says the Negro race got together and decided they were being ridiculed in cartoons.
"Yep, the Hays office watches us like hawks," Lantz said. "Even the real movies can do things we can't. Maybe that's because we cater to the kids."
Lantz started making animals walk and talk in 1916, some six years before Walt Disney began experimenting around with his barnyard characters.
“But Walt got the jump on us all a few years later," he said. "He got exclusive rights to put out his cartoons in color. And the rest of us had to wait around three years and gnash our teeth until his contract with Technicolor ran out."
Lantz has been making the kids happy and their moms and pops too ever since. And it keeps him busy thinking up new characters.
"But we stumbled on a dilly the other day," he said. "We haven't thought up a name for him yet, but he'll be based on the goony bird our soldiers and marines have been finding on the Pacific islands."
He's got another idea that's going to have to wait until after the war, but he thinks it'll start a tricky new third-dimensional process. He calls these characters his "Humanettes."
"They're thousands and thousands of clay figures," he said. "Only instead of animals they're human beings. And we can really make 'em look natural."
Says he wouldn't be at all surprised if he discovered a new Lana Turner in clay. Only he's gotta think up some way to let her wiggle her clay hips without bringing the censors down on his neck.
The goony bird made it into one Lantz cartoon, but the Humanettes never made it into the studio’s release schedule. Eddie Nassour didn’t give up on the idea of Humanettes. Whether they actually appeared on screen in unclear, but Variety in 1954 reported that Nassour had shown them off two years earlier—“full blown puppets operated from an electronic panel board” is how the trade paper described them—but did nothing with the concept afterwards. In the meantime, Lantz carried on making cartoons, losing a great staff when he was forced to shut down for almost a year and a half around 1950, and augmented his theatrical cartoons with a TV show before finally closing shop in 1972.

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