YouTube user ‘VidResidue’ has uploaded a couple of rare 1950s animated commercials worth sharing. The first is a Kool-Aid spot directed by Tex Avery and designed by Ed Benedict. I think it’s amazing that Avery’s last theatrical cartoon–Sh-h-h-h–was released in 1955 when he was only 47 years old. Tex’s flame burned out prematurely. As much as I enjoy his TV commercials (of which I’ve only seen a dozen or so out of hundreds that he directed), it’s disheartening that one of animation’s greatest directors has a late body of work that is comprised entirely of lightweight advertising jobs and cheap TV shows. (Earlier this year I did a lengthier post about Avery’s late-career.)
Next is a Peter Pan Peanut Butter spot designed by Tom Oreb. I’m guessing the director of the spot is Charles Nichols.
Here is the model sheet that Tom Oreb created for the TV version of Peter Pan characters (click for bigger version).
We’re sticking around in the Thirties today for the Van Beuren short Pals (aka Christmas Night) starring Soglow’s The Little King. A creepy Santa and two hobos complete the package. Jim Tyer animated on this film as well.
I’ve discovered over the years that studying a studio’s movie advertising and film promotion collateral is often a good way of gauging the studio’s overall health. For example, compare this coloring page that Sony Pictures Animation created for the first Open Season:
to what arrived in our email yesterday from a PR company promoting Open Season 2:
This is a fairly significant lapse in quality control. How hard is it to have an artist spend a couple hours whipping up a proper illustration of the studio’s franchise characters? Instead they created the line art by tracing the contours from a CG model resulting in an awkward, wonky, tangent-filled piece of crud. Infer what you want from this little promotional piece, but I don’t see successful studios like Pixar and DreamWorks making these type of bush-league mistakes.
For the record, the PR company also made us this offer: “We are happy to offer DVD giveaways with this coloring page as well.” I think we’ll take a raincheck on that offer.
When I presented my 2008 animation picks last week, I didn’t offer up any student shorts on my list. That’s not because I didn’t see any good student work during this past year. Far from it, I saw quite a few nice pieces. Nothing blew me away though to the extent that I had to include it on the list. That’s all changed now because I’ve just seen Story from North America, an awesomely excellent film animated by Kirsten Lepore and Garrett Davis, with music written and performed by Davis. Created at the Maryland Institute College of Art, it is a combination of surprisingly poignant song-driven storytelling and some of the most crazily inventive and funny hand-drawn animation I’ve seen in recent times. The short may have less polish and sheen than other student films, but its originality and creative use of the animation medium makes it one short I won’t be forgetting anytime soon.
We’re looking back all the way to 1932 today to see Santa’s Workshop, a Disney “Silly Symphony” directed by Wilfred Jackson. It’s lighthearted Disney fluff at its best–charming, entertaining and lots of fun to look at.
The official Rankin/Bass website has a disturbing front page story that alleges Warner Bros. is witholding millions of dollars owed to Arthur Rankin and Jules Bass, creators of classic holiday specials like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Frosty the Snowman. More details about the situation can be found in this article printed in Rankin’s hometown Bermuda paper The Mid-Ocean News. According to that piece:
The dispute arose when popular 1980s cartoon ThunderCats was re-released recently as a DVD box set by Warner Bros, which owns the distribution rights to that and 21 other Rankin/Bass titles. The box set went on to sell over a million copies, prompting Mr. Rankin to wonder about profits owed to him and his colleagues. “Sales were jumping off the charts,” said Mr. Rankin in an exclusive interview with the Mid-Ocean News.”But Warner Bros said they didn’t have any accounting on it except that they’d sold a million copies. My legal team started investigating and found out that for the last 20 years they’ve been deducting handling fees of $200,000 annually.”
Mr. Rankin explained that while Warner Bros readily admits an accounting error resulting in $2.6 million of improper deductions, they claim he caught the mistake too late. “They knew it was wrong, but said that because it has been so long, the statute of limitations has kicked in. You would imagine that Warner Bros, which makes an awful lot of money with our productions would say, ‘We’re sorry about our mistake. Here’s what we owe you’.”
This Spanish blog is a one-stop source for Freddie Moore animation drawings, girlie sketches and photos filched from around the Internet. There’s two Moore drawings I posted a while back on Cartoon Brew which still haven’t been added to the collection.
And here’s a question I have for all you Fred Moore historians out there. In some recent research I’ve been doing, I discovered that Moore was freelancing outside of Disney between 1942 and 1943 for Swan Soap. He apparently created a character called “Betty Lou” as well as some gag cartoons. Does anybody know what these are? I’ve looked online at Swan Soap ad campaigns of the period and can’t find anything that suggests Moore’s artistic involvement with the company.
I saw Compost a few months back and was really pleased to discover that it’s online. It’s a beautiful piece of work. Husband-and-wife filmmaking team Jim and Diane Downer talk about their filmmaking process in this interview with Rooftop Films:
“It wasn’t apparent to me at first, but now looking back on the project I see it as a documentary, a record of all the walks Diane and I took together with our four dogs to collect specimens. Things go by so quickly on the screen, when in reality they took months to collect and assemble. There’s a lot of wonderfully peaceful memories associated with this film. Also, along with being entertaining the film also has scientific value. It represents a cross section, a sampling of Rochester’s biomass. Grade-school children always seem to make that connection when they watch the film.”
The CG animated feature Delgo opened last weekend and nobody went to see it. According to Box Office Mojo, Delgo had the worst opening ever for a film that opened in more than 2,000 theaters earning just $511,290 or $237 per theater.
Moments like this really make one pause and reflect. What is the world coming to when an animated film with the voices of Freddie Prinze Jr., Jennifer Love Hewitt, Chris Kattan, Anne Bancroft, Eric Idle, Val Kilmer, Lou Gossett Jr, Malcolm McDowell, Michael Clarke Duncan, Burt Reynolds and Kelly Ripa isn’t a box office blockbuster? A story that makes sense and visuals that don’t make you want to heave are quaint touches, but the filmmakers behind Delgo understood where it really counted: celebrity voice actors. They hired every B- and C-list actor this side of Dancing With the Stars and somehow still failed. You know the recession is affecting Americans deeply when they no longer want to see Chris Kattan and Kelly Ripa voicing their CG characters.
Here’s a little taste of what all of America missed last weekend.