Thursday 3 December 2020

Approaching the Mysterious Planet

When pretty well all of Leon Schlesinger’s directors were treating frames of film like an audience looking at a stage, newcomer Tex Avery used techniques you’d find in feature films, albeit in some cases he was doing it as a parody. You’ll see “shots” at various angles, with the layouts sometimes being overhead or looking up at the action.

He seems to have done it less after getting settled in at MGM, perhaps because he wanted nothing to draw attention away from the gag. But here’s a cinematic effect treated quite straight in The Cat That Hated People (1948).

After the cat’s rocket ship treats the planets as a pinball game, Avery has the camera move up and in on the world where the ship crashes. He fades into three different background drawings by Johnny Johnsen; the only thing animated is a thin stream of smoke.

It’s done very straight. The same thing was done cleverly and as a joke in the 1946 Warner Bros. cartoon The Mouse-Merized Cat (“Hey, Babbitt! The people are here!” says the Costello mouse in what sure seems like a Bob Clampett cartoon, but isn’t.)

Walter Clinton, Louie Schmitt, Grant Simmons and Bill Shull are credited on this cartoon as animators.

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