Decidedly not animated, but based on a beloved Maurice Sendack illustrated book, and once-upon-a-time optioned by Disney, I couldn’t resist posting this delightful live action trailer:
I don’t keep up with the world of limited edition animation art – in fact, I’m not sure how large that market is anymore. Chris Jackson of Acme Archives just sent me some information on their latest offerings and I like what I see. My favorite pieces are these two black and white silent era limiteds – the first (above) from Plane Crazy (150 of those) and an Oswald Rabbit from Rival Romeos (pictured below, only 95 of those). I can’t afford them, but they are cool.
Tomorrow, Acme is launching DisneyStudioArt.com, but the site is up and running now. There they are offering original production art from The Jungle Book, Robin Hood, The Little Mermaid and several others. Acme is also producing two extremely limited (only 23 pieces each) hand-painted cels, offered through the new D23 site. One from the 1933 Mickey Mouse short, The Mad Doctor and the vaulted Song of the South. It’s just nice knowing the company is aware of these titles.
In response to Amid’s earlier post on Oscar Winning shorts, Tom Knott located the extremely rare Oscar winning John Hubley cartoon, A Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass Double Feature (released by Paramount in 1966). Written and Produced by John and Faith Hubley and animated by Gerard Baldwin, Phil Duncan, Emery Hawkins, Barrie Nelson, Rod Scribner and Ed Smith. Enjoy!
(Thanks, Tom Knott)
Starting today, Warner Bros. begins opening their film vaults by making hundreds of previously unavavilable movies available on DVD. For $19.95, Warner’s will ship a made-to-order DVD, in a shrink-wrapped case with cover art, to customers within five days of purchase. These films will only be available through Warner’s website, WarnerArchive.com – not on amazon, not at Wal-Mart, nowhere else. The first 150 feature films in this initiative are now listed. You can also order each film as a computer download for $14.95. More details on this “movies-on-demand” project are discussed in today’s LA Times.
What does this have to do with classic animation? Warner Home Video Sr. VP George Feltenstein is behind this project. I’ve been told Warner’s will eventually make available its shorts (Joe McDoakes, anyone?), TV series (Marine Boy, perhaps?), and cartoons (Happy Harmonies??) in this program. Plans for animation collections are being brainstormed now… Any suggestions?
Los Angeles Filmforum is a local organization that regularly screens experimental and avant-garde films, documentaries, and animation. They’ve just announced two programs of animated documentaries, April 5 & 13, presented in two different locations.
Part 1 is on Sunday night April 5, at 7:00 pm at the Egyptian Theatre (6712 Hollywood Blvd at Las Palmas) and deals with biographical profiles and interviews. It features recent animated shorts by Marie-Josee Saint Pierre, Nanette Burstein and Bob Sabiston, among others.
Part 2 is on Monday April 13, 8:00 pm at the Silent Movie Theatre (611 N Fairfax Avenue), and will present The Sinking of the Lusitania (1916) by Winsor McKay, Enter Life (1982) by Faith Hubley, Disney’s Toot, Whistle, Plunk and Boom! (1953), Never like the First Time (2005) by Jonas Odell, among others. More info here.
Cartoon historian David Gerstein has been rummaging through the Library of Congress and has come up with the dialogue cutting continuities for several MGM cartoons and has noticed discrepancies between the films as they exist today, and these original copyright documents. As noted on Cartoon Brew back in June 2005, MGM not only retitled their cartoon shorts for reissue, but would go in and edit out or reanimate topical gags for rerelease. These copyright cutting continuities are important because they describe scenes and gags which no longer exist. Due to a vault fire in the 1970s, the original negatives for the pre-1951 MGM cartoons no longer exist. Unless rare nitrate projection prints are found, these documents are now the only record of the original films.
Thad Komorowski has just posted the continuity for Avery’s Dumb Hounded. Compare it to the re-release version of the cartoon itself to note the differences. Apparently a whole new opening sequence was added. Thanks to David, for sharing his diligent research with the animation community. Now I’m wondering if that fabled “marriage ending” to Red Hot Riding Hood is in the original release?
This month our foul mouthed puppet companion, Dumpster Diver Dan (above right), has negotiated co-hosting deal with Moodsy the Clinically Depressed Owl (above left), much to the dismay of Compost Brite (not pictured). Yup, this is another plug for our live and local monthly laff-fest, Cartoon Dump. We’ll have a bunch of funny skits, new songs, awful old animated films from the 1950s and 60s and special guest comedian Lizzie Cooperman — Tuesday March 24th, 8pm at the Steve Allen Theater, 4773 Hollywood Blvd. (two blocks west of Vermont). Map here, reserve tickets here.
If it’s Saturday, it must be time for another obscure 1960s cartoon that, for one reason or other, was never released to TV. Today we have another Paramount Modern Madcap that showcases an adult vice – in this case, gambling.
From Dime To Dime is the story of a Las Vegas loser who listens to his “conscience” (personified as a little green man) and gambles his last dime, to have seemingly the luckiest day of his life. There is almost nothing really funny in this cartoon – it’s more of an anti-gambling morality play than anything else. The background designs by Robert Owen are worth noting, because that’s the best thing in it. Harvey Comics acquired this picture from Paramount for use on their ABC-TV New Casper Cartoon Show but, like The Plot Sickens and In The Nicotine, felt it was inappropriate for kids. A suicide gag at the conclusion didn’t help its chances for Saturday morning broadcast.
Only a short excerpt from this film appears on the Harveytoons: the Complete Collection dvd set – so, for the sake of animation history, here is the entire cartoon:
Last night I had a great time catching up with one of my favorite animated features of all time, Max Fleischer’s Gulliver’s Travels (1939). However, it was not to the newly released Koch restored version we mentioned in this post last month.
I started watching the Koch DVD (they sent me a review copy) and I must admit, for a minute or so I was delighted with the crystal clear soundtrack and the brighter picture. But right away, during the opening shipwreck sequence I could tell something was wrong. I pulled out my one-dollar public domain copy to compare — and upon examination here’s what I concluded: #1 The Koch version squeezed the original 1:66 screen ratio to a 1:85 “letterbox” picture. All the picture information is there, but flattened – all the characters are squat, fatter. #2 The Koch restoration removed frames from the animation. The characters move less fluid in the Koch version. This is particularly noticeable in any fast moving action or dancing sequences. Like the Ladd “colorization” shorts, it must have been cheaper to “clean up” less frames, and digitize the movie “on threes” (to keep sync with the soundtrack). #3 The DVNR has softened the picture, particularly blurring the elaborate background paintings.
I don’t have a perfect copy of the film to compare this “restoration” to – but I do have production stills (in black & white). These are photographs of the original cels and backgrounds, released for publicity purposes in 1939. Below (click thumbnails to see enlarged images) compare the black & white still of a cel (center, below) with a color frame (left, below) from the Koch DVD. Note how everything in the color frame is now squat and fuzzy.
If you want to see more frame grabs and the technical specs from the Koch version, head on over to DVDbeaver/HD Sensei, or get a second opinion over at The Blu-Ray Blog. Me – I’ll keep enjoying the copy I bought for a buck, and hope that someday the original neg is restored by the corporation that holds it. In the meantime, while I’m in my Gulliver mood, I’ve taken the occasion to post an excellent four page publicity story from Good Housekeeping (click thumbnails below to read). Enjoy!
It’s only a matter of time before they cut these scenes from your favorite Disney films:
Going on sale sometime within the next month is the fifth volume (our last, for now) of my and Leslie Cabarga’s Harvey Comics Classics from Dark Horse Books. Previous volumes were devoted to Casper the Friendly Ghost, Richie Rich, Hot Stuff and Baby Huey. The latest one is entitled The Harvey Girls and features the exploits of Harvey’s famous female trio: Little Audrey, Little Dot and Little Lotta.
The book contains more great artwork from animator Steve Muffatti and cartoonist Warren Kremer. Personally, I think it’s some of the best comic art ever produced. Speaking of which, I’m coming to New York on Friday April 17th to give a lecture on the history of Harvey Comics and it’s connection to Paramount’s Famous Studios. It’ll be at MoCCA, on the final weekend of the Harvey Comics exhibit there. Mark the date, though I’ll do another post when we get closer to remind you. In the meantime, check out our great new book, The Harvey Girls.
New Yorkers, here’s a heads-up on a free program this week at The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center. Forever Young: Dance Stars of American Animation will be discussed this Thursday night, March 19, at 6 p.m. at the Bruno Walter Auditorium, 111 Amsterdam Avenue (south of 65th Street).
Mindy Aloff, author of Hippo in a Tutu: Dancing in Disney Animation, will discuss the subject of dancing in historic American animation with dance legend Marge Champion and animation historian (and Oscar-winning director-animator) John Canemaker. Among their topics will be Ms. Champion’s early work as a live-action reference dancer and choreographer for Walt Disney’s animated features Snow White and Fantasia, Gene Kelly and Jerry Mouse’s duet in Anchors Aweigh, and Betty Boop’s Poor Cinderella for Max Fleischer. Film excerpts will be shown. Admission is free and on a first come, first served basis. For additional information and program updates, telephone 212.642.0142 or visit the New York Public Library website.
Post Script: I’ve neglected to mention Aloff’s book, Hippo in a Tutu, before now – and that’s been my mistake. It’s an entertaining, excellent read and I recommend it highly. Lavishly illustrated and well-researched, Aloff focuses in on an important, but critically neglected, part of the classic Disney features and shorts. Deserves a prime spot on your bookshelf.
Toronto live-action screenwriter Denis McGrath imagines what kind of notes today’s industry executives might give to Chuck Jones’ classic Warner Bros. cartoon One Froggy Evening. They are all too real. Samples from his blog:
re: the frog. Have you done research on Frog’s lifespans? Does it track that this frog could survive from 1892 to 2056? Is his long lifespan tied into his ability to sing?
Do they allow mental patients to keep pet frogs? Is it a companion animal thing? Will have to explain this, I think. The audience will want to know.
Read the whole piece on McGrath’s Dead Things On Sticks blog.
(Thanks, Warren Leonhardt)