Animator Nate Pacheco has posted two must-see episodes of the early-1960s cartoon series JOT. He calls it one of his biggest sources of inspiration. JOT is certainly one of the most underrated cartoon shows ever produced and it’s nice to see it getting some attention online.
What is most striking about these JOT episodes is how the storytelling is driven by the graphics and animation. For example, in the episode where Jot steals the toy, notice how the story is told almost entirely through visuals. The limited dialogue in the cartoon is integrated fluidly into the action and drives the story forward. Furthermore, the animators create personality through the animation, not through dialogue. Note the little Irish jig that Jot does after he gets out of school – completely unnecessary from a story standpoint, but a perfectly expressive moment that puts across Jot’s happy mood while going home from school. Watching the graphic storytelling in JOT reminds one of the anemic state of TV animation nowadays. Most contemporary shows produced by Nick, Cartoon Network and Disney look good superficially, but they rarely take advantage of the animation medium to tell stories visually, instead relying on the ‘talking-head’ TV animation formulas of Hanna-Barbera and Filmation with characters garrulously explaining every bit of action to audiences.
The production backstory of JOT is also pretty interesting. The reason the cartoon has such a strong religious theme is because it was produced for the Southern Baptist’s Radio and Television Commission. The show was created by Ruth Byers and Ted Perry. More history about the show can be found here and here. The company that produced the show was Keitz & Herndon, an animation studio located in Dallas, Texas. The studio was started in the early-1950s and the crew was comprised primarily of self-taught animators. Below is a photo of the studio founders, Larry Herndon (left) and Roddy Keitz. Herndon dealt primarily with the business aspects of the studio, while Keitz was the artistic director. Both of them still live in Texas.