Sunday, 29 November 2009

Speaking of elephants...

...which I was... um... depending on which order you read the posts. This is the Fleischer studios "Color Classic" titled "An Elephant Never Forgets."

I didn't put this up online, I just discovered it one day when I was browsing a few years ago. It would be great if there's a version of it out there in "Popeye Meets Sinbad" quality but even this copy is *much* better looking than the one I found back then.

There are still a lot of great things about this cartoon to enjoy though...

- The unmistakeably adult voices of this group of, presumably kids. It sounds like Mr Elephant is Jackson "Bluto" Beck and Gus Gorilla is Jack "Popeye" Mercer.

- The opening skipping song. "Rock-a-diddle-di-do-one-three-three"? What does that mean?

- The fact that, when Ferdie Frog pretends to be both himself and his sister, he uses the exact same voice for both of them.

- The names of the characters... usually alliterative, or just plain "Mister", then we have a cockerel named "Rooster Joe."

- The fact that the (swan? goose? stork?) teacher has absolutely no problem with the fighting that's broken out. My sister says she comes across as another kid who's only playing at being a teacher, and given that all the kids sound like adults, who's to say she isn't?

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Ken Glennedy

So, John Kricfalusi has posted up some of "Uncle" Eddie's Tiny Toons drawings on his blog. Interesting how he refers to the characters by the names of their Golden Age counterparts, and as being "babies" despite the fact that they are meant to be age 12-14 or so. I guess the Tiny in the name is kind of confusing, heck, before I saw any episodes, I thought the characters were called "Baby Bugs", "Baby Porky" etc. because that was the convention I knew about. Since I assume John K. knows better than this, I guess he's suggesting that the characters are rip-offs and immature, or something.

Fitzgerald was one of the first directors of the series (along with Ken Boyer, Art Leonardi and Art Vitello), and his name appears as a director on three of the earliest episodes, before his unit is taken over, first by Gerard Baldwin, then by promoted character layout / storyboard artist Rich Arons. After that Fitzgerald continued to serve as a writer and storyboarder (usually for the same unit, now under Rich Arons) and occasional director.

The subject of Kennedy animation crops up a lot in the comments. It has a bad reputation among TTA fans but I personally think it was just sometimes misused. Glen Kennedy himself animated (the majority of?) the first episode "Hare Today, Gone Tomorrow" and the segment "One Minute Til Three". (Sadly neither episode is available on YouTube, but you can find screengrabs at the above links)

In "Hare Today, Gone Tomorrow" the characters are not fully defined yet, and so a more "on-model" animation style might have helped to ground them as in some way consistent characters. "One Minute Til Three" on the other hand, is almost entirely devoted to Plucky's frantic mental state -- there is very little physical movement for the characters - and so Kennedy's wild distortions really make Plucky's feelings come across visually - it would be a pretty bland segment if Plucky stayed on-model the whole time. This is a similar situation to that described by Mark Mayerson in his 1980 article on Jim Tyer (and if you don't know who Jim Tyer is, then read this article and I guarantee you'll be seeking out certain Famous and Terrytoons shorts!).

Actually, Glen Kennedy (or at least Kennedy cartoons), Jim Tyer and John Kricfalusi do intersect in one TTA episode. The villain of the episode "Who Bopped Bugs Bunny" is a rival cartoon star named Stanley the Elephant, designed by John K. (his only connection with TTA) and based on the Terrytoons character Sidney the Elephant, originally animated by... Jim Tyer. Now, Glen Kennedy is only credited as a timing director on that episode, with Namcook Lee as animation director, but the scene where Stanley throws a diva fit with his director looks to my admittedly inexpert eyes like Glen might have animated it. It does look like it was animated by the Silver Age answer to Jim Tyer.

(Feel out of the loop because I'm talking about TTA episodes you've never seen? One solution to that: buy the DVDs! No, I don't get paid to write this, but it would be nice if I did.)

25/11/09 Edited to add: Jenny Lerew, another TTA charater layout / storyboard artist, has posted some of John K's Stanley the Elephant drawings on her blog, The Blackwing Diaries. Could anyone other than Kennedy have brought these to animated life?

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Train of thought

Ever been to the Museum of Transport in Glasgow? As a kid, obviously the preserved steam engines are the highlight. As a former kid, they still look impressive and are still, along with the other exhibits, great as a way of looking back to a past age, but their bright colours of blue, yellow and green somehow make it hard to imagine them being real. Maybe it's because most times one sees a steam train nowadays is in an old black-and-white film or photo, it's as if they really were monochromatic.

I know that pretty much every kid has at least a passing acquaintance with certain brightly coloured fictional locomotives, but I guess, subconsciously if not consciously, it seems as if their bright colours are as much a fantasy as their big grey faces.

Now, despite some momentary lapses on the part of some of my fellow students of 18th century Scotland, I think most people would think if a train showed up in a film set in 1745 they'd realise this was wrong. And yet, there was a railway *line* near Edinburgh from 1722, and one of the battles of the 1745 Jacobite uprising was fought along one! The line was used not by locomotives but by horses pulling wagons.

So, if someone made a film which included the battle, it would be more *accurate* to include the railway line, but it would be more *believable* not to... unless the film also included a scene with a horse pulling a wagon along the line. Which is more important? To portray history as it really was and risk people being pulled out of the film when they think you've made a mistake, or to change the facts so the audience will think you're remaining historically accurate?

Sunday, 8 November 2009

You are getting Sleepy... Sleepy... no... not Sleepy, some other guy

The Disney EverNotice site was a favourite of mine in my younger days, until it shut down. Fortunately, with the help of the wayback machine at, it is (sometimes) able to be seen again. And thanks to Paul Reiter providing a link over on A.FilmL.A., I was able to re-read an odd theory that was put forward on that site.

Visit the EverNotice Snow White page here, and scroll down the post by "Polar Bear" which begins "I've not seen the movie in a few years..." Basically, what the post says is that the character of Sleepy was a last-minute replacement for a different character, and that the evidence to support this is that Sleepy only appears for "a few minutes".

The strangest part of the theory is this: "Polar Bear" identifies another dwarf who appears in most scenes, with "a hatchet face and a red vest" who gets the lines "Goldenrods!" "Do you have to wash where it doesn't show?" and "Was it hard to do?" (in the lead-up to Someday My Prince Will Come).

The implication is that this other dwarf (with at least three lines of dialogue!) is a mysterious un-named character who appears in most scenes *in place* of Sleepy, but that's not really borne out by the film: the description matches Grumpy, Bashful says "Goldenrods" and "Do you have to wash..." and Sneezy (surprisingly, not Sleepy himself) asks "Was it hard to do?"

Incidentally (or not), Michael Barrier says the last dwarf name to be chosen was Sneezy, but that for a few days they were still considering "Deafy" instead. This was before animation began though. Still, you do have to wonder though: Sleepy and Bashful can look almost identical except for the facial expressions, there's a point at the beginning of the "Spooks" sequence where Sneezy seems to turn into Sleepy (scenes 5 and 7 on the draft), and scene 14, described in the draft of the "Entertainment" sequence as "Happy and Doc push Bashful forward" actually has Doc and Sneezy. One wonders if there were any points where one dwarf was redrawn as another...

Sunday, 1 November 2009

A closer look at Snow White sequence 4A and 4B: the Heigh-Ho sequences

The drafts for sequence 4A Dwarfs At Mine and sequence 4B Dwarfs March Home From Mine are on A. Film L.A. here.

Apparently, these sequences were nearly cut from the film (Barrier p.225), in
which case the dwarfs would have been introduced in the following sequence when the animals hear their singing in the distance and hurry to watch.

One advantage of keeping them in is the fact that the diamond mine is a good and memorable set-piece. I'm not sure if the individual dwarfs get a better introduction than they would in their next appearance. They are in small groups rather than all at once, but only Dopey and to a lesser extent Doc (and Sleepy I suppose) get a chance to show their personalities. Although Grumpy, Happy, Bashful and Sneezy are introduced in close-ups with individual singing lines, nothing they do or sing indicates what types of characters they are... it was up to the animators to convey personality.

For the close-ups, Bill Roberts introduces Happy and Grumpy, Marvin Woodward introduces Bashful and Sneezy, Les Clark introduces Sleepy and Art Babbitt introduces Doc. Group shots, particularly of the four digging dwarfs, seem to have been fairly arbitrarily cast, with the same group of characters animated by Al Eugster, Marvin Woodward and Shamus Culhane.

Eugster complained that very little of his footage remained in the film. (Barrier p.224) He does have the glory of having animated the very first dwarf scene to appear in the film, but as of the washing sequence (the most recent draft sequence to have been posted up) that seems to be all. We shall see whether any more of his work survived...

Of course, it's supervising animator Fred Moore who gets the main character stuff here, with Doc inspecting the gems and Dopey as his comical assistant, who tries to amuse Doc by placing diamonds over his eyes, accidentally throws himself into the vault and hangs the key up right next to the entrance where anyone can find it!

Frank Thomas' one scene is also of these two characters: a brief shot where Doc calls "Heigh-Ho!" to the other dwarfs to let them know it's time to go home. Thomas was apparently the first of the non-supervising animators to be assigned to the dwarfs (Barrier p.212) and, as with his first assignment in scene 5A where they first meet Snow White, he seems to have been given the material that Fred Moore didn't have time to do and wasn't important enough for him to do -- like a stand-in for a leading actor!

Shamus Culhane leads the dwarfs out of the mine and into the next sequence where the dwarfs return home. Perhaps in an attempt to acquaint the audience with their individual appearances, the first scene of sequence 4B: Dwarfs March Home From The Mine was to be close-ups on each dwarf, animated by the other dwarf supervisor, Vladimir "Bill" Tytla. The scene did not survive into the film, and the numbering (it is numbered 3 but placed before scenes 1 and 2) suggest that the directors weren't sure exactly where to place it anyway. Some nice scenes by Shamus Culhane, but unfortunately the effects animator responsible for the waterfall is not identified on the draft.