Wednesday 30 June 2021

Shaking a Building the Fleischer Way

There’s a real neat effect that the Fleischer studio used in some of its cartoons in the late ‘30s.

To emphasize the pounding Bluto is taking in the Organ Grinder’s Swing, the background setting becomes angular, like the buildings are shaking. The drawing is alternated every other frame with the regular building setting.

You’ll notice Olive Oyl swinging her spaghetti arms in a window in the background.

This 1937 cartoon was from the Dave Tendlar unit, with Bill Sturm getting an animation screen credit.

Tuesday 29 June 2021

Boom Boom Backgrounds

Background artists and scenic layout men were never identified for the first dozen-plus years on Warner Bros. cartoons, so the screen doesn’t tell us who is responsible for these settings in Boom Boom, a 1936 cartoon directed by Jack King. I believe Elmer Plummer was in charge of the background department at this time.

There’s an inside joke that is tough to detect. On the bed at the left is a partially-written word: “Hardaway.” This, of course, refers to story man Bugs Hardaway.

This cartoon is a bit of a rarity. It was released on February 29th.

Monday 28 June 2021

Chase in Slo-Mo

The sign says “SLOW,” so that’s what a bird and cat do during a chase in Tex Avery’s The Early Bird Dood It (1942). Then when the next sign says “RESUME SPEED,” that’s what they do.

I like the cat’s expressions.

Scott Bradley plays a slow, wowwing version of “The William Tell Overture” while this is going on.

The animation in this cartoon is by Irv Spence, Preston Blair, Ray Abrams and Ed Love.

Its start and finish are typical Avery. The cartoon opens with a left to right pan of the outdoors, with an overlay in front for added depth, and ends with a sign reading “Sad Ending Ain’t It” as the cat has eaten the bird after the bird ate the “Costello” worm.

Sunday 27 June 2021

Cheap, Cheap

Have you gone to the store and think “I’m not paying that much for THAT”?

That’s why we laughed at Jack Benny.

Saving money makes sense. But Jack did it to such a degree that it was ridiculous. And, so, we laughed.

Here are two short items on Jack from columns ten years apart. Jack is cheap in both of them, though the second one refers to it only in passing. Both columnists think it’s funny.

First, from December 3, 1956, and then December 2, 1966. The second is, more or less, a review of a Benny TV special. I believe it is on video-sharing sites on-line.

Old Jokes the Best Jokes
HOLLYWOOD (NEA) — There's nothing Jack Benny won't do to save a buck. He's even dancing with Ginger Rogers now because Fred Astaire "wanted too much money." It's the plot of a forthcoming Jack Benny show on CBS-TV and its one of the reasons why Jack remains daisy fresh after all these years. Too many cooks spoil the broth and too many jokes spoil the comedian. Jack sticks to one joke—Mr. Tightwad—and America howls.
You need Jack’s auditor to count the number of comedians who have failed to survive in television, but the comedy character Jack created on radio is humming right along in the home screen age. Why, kids who weren't even born when Jack was Mr. Radio stop page boys at Hollywood's Television City these days and ask: "Tell me, where does Jack Benny park his Maxwell?"
Even Jack will tell you now that he likes TV better than radio.
"I'd better like it," he grinned, "because radio doesn't mean anything any more."
Several of Jack's shows this year were filmed last summer in Europe. In one chapter, made in Rome, Mary finds him standing beside a fountain — the one used in "Three Coins in a Fountain."
Jack's comedy is as simple as that—and I'm laughing already.

‘Miss America Pageant’ Spoofed by Jack Benny
NEW YORK (AP) — Jack Benny turned up on NBC Thursday night in his annual special and, for a lot older viewers, it was a happy reunion with a friend of long standing.
In the whirling world of television, Jack Benny does not change, even though his show does, slightly. There were the anticipated "cheap jokes," any number of the long Benny takes, a little violin playing—and some smooth help from his guest stars.
Trini Lopez and his guitar were there for some songs; the Smothers Brothers did a variation of one of their routines.
The big number was a spoof of the "Miss America Pageant." Jack, in a horrendous black wig, presided over "The Miss Northern and Southern Hemisphere Pageant," and introduced 10 very pretty girls as finalists. Phyllis Diller was on hand for comedy contrast.
It was all good, comfortable fun, more like a visit than an extravaganza. Maybe Jack Benny could increase his television visits -- three or four a year would be about right.

Benny died in 1974. How did the Associated Press’ Bob Thomas open his story about the passing? “Jack Benny, the make-believe miser....”

Jack was cheap in everyone’s minds even at the end.

Saturday 26 June 2021

Squirrel Animator Sal

There were problems aplenty at Val-Mar Productions, so many that even an heroic flying squirrel couldn’t solve them.

It was the studio set up in Mexico to handle a lot of the artwork for Rocky and His Friends in 1959. The cartoon series was going to be sponsored by General Mills, and someone in its ad agency told the cereal maker it could save half-a-million dollars a year by having it animated outside the U.S. (where unionised labour would have to be employed). The contract with Jay Ward Productions set the budget for each half-hour at a ridiculous $8,520. By contrast, Hanna-Barbera was getting $21,000 for a half-hour of The Quick Draw McGraw Show.

Keith Scott’s book The Moose That Roared outlined some of the problems, including the fact the studio didn’t have a phone. Film was held up at the border. Rookie artists were hired, and they only spoke Spanish. Ward responded by getting some Americans to work out of Mexico—Bill Hurtz, Dun Roman, Gerard Baldwin (briefly) and the man who is the subject of our story. It appeared on newswires on July 22, 1961.

'Rocky' Animator Works in Mexico
Sal Faillace is an American artist with a Mexican ink bottle.
South of the border, where they munch tortillas, ole to bulls and matadors, and palaver in Spanish, this ex-New York area resident cha chas with brush and palette to animate the characters for ABC-TV's "Rocky and his Friends."
Sal Faillace does all this animated nonsense on a drawing board in Mexico City. He is production supervisor for Gamma productions, an outfit that employs 150 people and does both the story lines and animation for "Rocky and his Friends." The studio will also do the animation for "Rocky" when it hits the South American market — in Spanish.
"When I first came to Mexico nine months ago," said Sal, "my biggest problem was the language barrier. There were 12 animators in the department, and only myself and the Mexican interpreter could speak English. So I used hand signals and expressed what I wanted to say in my drawings. It worked out fine. Besides, an animator is like an actor; instead of acting on stage he acts on paper."
In New York recently to attend his brother's wedding, Sal, 31, recalled his childhood doodling days in Larchmont, N.Y.
"I always liked to draw cartoons," admitted Sal. "I bought comic books and copied all the Disney characters. I learned by experience."
Sal, who never had any formal cartoon schooling, ventured into whut he calls the "play for pay" ranks when he graduated from high school a dozen years ago. He bundled up his art work, kissed mom goodbye, and bought a one-way ticket to New York and the Famous Studios.
"I guess I was lucky," said Sal. "The director of Famous liked my stuff and put me on the payroll as one of the animators for Popeye."
But Sal finally tired of Wimpy, Olive Oil and other Popeye personalities and expanded into animated commercials for television. His journey across the Rio Grande was prompted by information that Gamma was looking for an animator.
Unmarried, he plays the role of an American tourist in metropolitan Mexico City. "Sometimes I get homesick," said Sal. "But never lonely. Besides, I'm too busy learning Spanish."

After Bullwinkle wrapped up, Sal worked on the Underdog Show. He also animated on Schoolhouse Rock in New York in the mid-70s.

What happened to Sal after that is difficult to say. There was a Salvatore Fallace who died in Laramie, Wyoming last July who would be our Faillace’s age, but there’s no confirmation it’s him. No biography is in his obituary (this Sal’s brother was a professional magician in New Jersey). He’s one of the countless people who animated in the Golden Age and even managed to get credit on the small screen. Their talents deserve recognition.

Friday 25 June 2021

Celebrities Love Scrappy

Scrappy is calling everyone, inviting them to his party.

What’s that?

Oh, it’s Joe E. Brown.

Roscoe Ates stutters his affirmation that he’s coming.

You know who they are. In the ‘30s, apparently only men could be in the same bed together.

Even Zeppo’s invited (with Groucho, Chico and Harpo).

Durante and, I guess, Marie Dressler.

She vants to be alone with her deco living room wall.

Haven’t a clue. Well, maybe I do. John D. Rockefeller? He throws coins onto the floor later in the cartoon.

Einstein is a genius. His phone is in his hair.

They loved Ghandi jokes in ‘30s cartoons. He’s on roller skates later in the cartoon.

World leaders. Wait! He’s inviting Mussolini?

Aw. Al Capone can’t make it.

It’s a shame this version of Scrappy's Party (1933) is so digitally fuzzy. There are people you can’t make out, and a nice line of them moving left, facing the camera, coming through Scrappy’s door. We get Will Rogers twirling a rope and Babe Ruth swinging a bat to “Hold That Tiger”.

Sid Marcus and Art Davis are the animators and Dick Huemer gets the story credit, though there really isn’t a story. Learn more about Scrappy at Harry McCracken’s site.

Thursday 24 June 2021

Deputy Droopy Swirls

Time to see the drybrush work of the MGM cartoon department in Deputy Droopy, as the bad guys tie up the title character.

The next two frames are consecutive.

The next two frames are consecutive.

Daws Butler and Tex Avery supply the voices. The cartoon was started by Avery in 1953 and then his unit was shut down. Mike Lah took over directing and Walt Clinton joined members of the Hanna-Barbera unit in animating the short from Ed Benedict’s layouts.

Wednesday 23 June 2021

Today's Bat Bulletins (Okay, They're From 1966)

Someone who was Batman didn’t want to be, and someone who wasn’t Batman wanted to be.

The huge, sudden fad that exploded in 1966 when Batman became a hit resulted in all kinds of things. First is this wire story from April 3, 1966. It appears (are you ready for this one?) Batman had it with jokers!

Mrs. Batman Lives With Cat in Detroit

Associated Press Writer
DETROIT (AP) - You won't believe this but Batman is a woman with a Southern accent. And her Robin is a gray cat named Smokey.
"I'm not going to change my name, but I am going to get an unlisted telephone," Ann Batman, 29, said Saturday.
"Ever since that television program started I've been getting about 10 telephone calls a day. But I figure this Batman stuff will die out in a couple of months and then they'll leave me alone."
Mrs. Batman, a divorcee, is the only Batman listed in the Detroit telephone book.
"When these kids first started calling me and asking to talk to Batman I went and looked in the telephone book for other folks named Batman," she said.
"I wanted to see if they were being bothered, too. But I was the only one and I get all the calls."
Mrs. Batman, whose Batmobile is a red 1964 sedan, is a restaurant manager. She lives alone in an apartment with her cat. She said she came to Detroit from Fayetteville, N.C., about eight years ago and that her 9-year-old daughter was staying at Fayetteville with Mrs. Batman's mother, Mrs. Beulah Worrell.
"It's mostly little kids that call and ask for Batman, but I've had a few teen-agers call. I hang up on the older ones because I know they're kidding me.
"The little ones I just tell that Batman isn't in at the moment. I tell them I'll tell Batman they called when he gets in and that seems to make them happy.
"One boy called me and said he had a picture of Batman and could he bring it over and get it autographed. I told him Batman wasn't in and I didn't know when he would be. He never called again."
Mrs. Batman said she takes a lot of kidding about her name.
"Whenever I go somewhere I have to give my name, the people give me that 'are you kidding?' look. It happens at the laundry, at the bank and all over," she said.
Mrs. Batman said her name never had caused any difficulty until the Batman television program went on the air.
"I do not watch Batman," she said firmly. "And I never will. I've been kidded so much because of him that I never want to see his program."

I have not been able to trace Mrs. Batman past this particular story. There’s only one man, Chief O’Hara, who can find her and free her from the notorious vines bearing the evil fruits of crime... sorry, I got into a 1966 flashback there.

Now the story about another woman. This appeared on the wire November 11, 1966. Some you will be disappointed there is no photo accompanying this one as it’s about a topless waitress. I hope she got her acting career together. I wonder if “Ruby Diamond” was a stage name.

N.Y. Batgirl Undraped Crusader
NEW YORK (AP)— A girl who wore a Batman mask and nothing much else above her waist joined two other topless waitresses in an East Side Manhattan supper club Thursday night.
The latest addition to the newly-emerged ranks of topless waitresses here identified herself as Miss Anita Batgirl and said, "I've been in show business for eight years and I want very much to become a dramatic actress."
A capacity-crowd of about 150 persons — mostly middle-aged men — were on hand in the Crystal Room on East 54th Street to be served drinks by the three waitresses who wore only silver-dollar size pasties and some costume jewelry above the waist.
Two of the waitresses Wednesday night showed up in the club in their topless uniforms and quickly were given summonses to appear in court Monday to answer to charges of a city administrative code violation.
They were identified as Ruby Diamond, 27, and Mery Rooney, 24, both blondes.
The subpoena servings only briefly interrupted the girls on their rounds, and they continued working after the incident.
"We started taking reservations for Thursday night an hour and a half ago and we're sold out already, a club spokesman said early Thursday afternoon. The club is owned by a woman.
Meanwhile, the police declined to say what they were up to.
"We're looking into the situation — from a distance," said Chief Inspector Stanford Garelik.

We can only guess whether the waitresses served while doing the Batusi.

These were mere minor Bat-blips that barely showed up on the radar in 1966. Kids were paying more attention to the show.

Tuesday 22 June 2021

Little Boy Blue, Starring Someone Else

Mash together Little Boy Blue, the Big Bad Wolf, Mary and her Little Lamb and a freelance scarecrow and what do you get? An Ub Iwerks ComiColor short. The second-to-last one, in fact.

Little Boy Blue (1936) has almost nothing to do with Little Boy Blue. We get to the plot about half-way through. The wolf kidnaps a sheep of the standard Iwerks design, and a scarecrow tries to rescue it. The scarecrow has its head ripped off in the fight, but a mounted ram head lands onto of him (!) and he butts the wolf out of the cartoon.

In the first half, we get a black sheep dancing because, well, it’s a musical cartoon. Then he decides to scare the other lambs by disguising himself as a wolf. He winks at the camera in case anyone watching isn’t in on the coming gag.

He frightens them all right. But they laugh after he reveals himself. The first time. The second time, they’re still afraid. Why? This cartoon is enough of a mess that it’s best not to think about it. The sheep doesn’t even get a comeuppance. He is scared by the wolf and runs away, never to appear again in the cartoon.

The same haystack you see in the above scene is used earlier in the cartoon. The Boy Blue and Mary designs are re-used from earlier ComiColors. Even the Philadelphia Exhibitor pointed out the sameness of the ending.

I like some of the anonymous background art at Iwerks. This old house is typical for an Iwerks fairy tale but it looks fine, other than this is taken from a beat-red public domain print.

The ComiColor shorts are on Thunderbean’s lengthy list of cartoons it has rights to restore. How long it’ll be until you see Little Boy Blue in real blue could be some time. But if the cartoons look as good as the remainer of Thunderbean’s stock, then the wait will be worth it.