The Chuck Jones Tom & Jerry cartoons of the 1960s are a mixed bag. There are a couple of good ones (I really like The Cat Above, The Mouse Below and The Cat’s Me-Ouch for example) and a whole bunch of mediocre ones. But one thing that most agree is that the films themselves look great thanks to Maurice Noble’s layouts, Jones character designs and the first rate professionalism of his crew. MGM/UA released a laser disc boxed set of these back in the 1990s (which was marred by awful DVNR clean-up technology, which essentially ruined the cartoons one redeeming value: the animation). Now Warner Bros. is making up for that with two-disc DVD collection of digitally remastered cartoons. Tom & Jerry: Chuck Jones Collection features 34 Tom & Jerry shorts and two bonus documentaries: Peggy Stern’s Chuck Jones: Memories of A Childhood (which airs March 24th at 8pm on TCM) and an original doc, produced by our friends at New Wave Entertainment: Tom and Jerry… and Chuck. It goes on sale June 23rd.
For more information on Chuck Jones check out the new blog devoted to the director, by his grandson Craig Kausen: Chuck Redux blog
The cartoon below isn’t very good, but it’s been rarely seen — and that’s usually good enough for me. And it’s somewhat historically important, as it represents the last of a series of animated shorts that began in 1924 by Max Fleischer.
Fleischer began sing-along Song Cartunes in 1924 and it was an immediate success. His gimmick was a bouncing ball atop the lyrics on screen, to help audiences keep up with the song. In the sound era, Fleischer added popular singers and big bands (in live action). The original run ended in 1938. Famous Studios, Paramount’s successor to the Fleischer operation, revived the bouncing ball series in color, in a Noveltoon When G.I. Johnny Comes Marching Home in 1945. Paramount released bouncing ball cartoons through various Noveltoons, Kartunes and Screen Songs series for the next nine years (Candy Cabaret (1954) was the last).
In the 1960s, with Paramount having sold off their most well known creations to Harvey Comics, the studio was desperate for ideas. They began remaking earlier shorts; they tried adapting comedy records (“Abner The Baseball”), they even reinvented Casper as “Goodie The Gremlin”. Nothing caught on. The only thing they owned with audience recognition was “sing-along with the bouncing ball”.
Hobo’s Holiday (1963) was the last Paramount Bouncing Ball cartoon short. It was released in 1963 and hasn’t been seen since. Morey Reden, a Fleischer/Famous veteran animator, wrote and animated the film. He used The Big Rock Candy Mountain, a public domain song from the (1930s) Depression era, arranged here with a 1950s rock beat. It’s pretty lame. With references to “streams of alcohol” and “cigarette trees” the cartoon was naturally omitted from showing on Nickelodeon when the rest of the 1960s Paramount cartoons were shown on that network from 1989 through 1992.
So here it is. If you ever wanted to know what a Screen Song short might look like if they kept the series going into the TV era, here’s your answer:
Ralph Bakshi and his Mighty Mouse crew in a TV news piece circa 1988. John K., Jim Reardon, Eddie Fitzgerald, Tom Minton and Kent Butterworth can be spotted. I don’t know what show this is from or who posted it, but it’s priceless.
The Van Eaton Gallery is holding a special event on Saturday March 14th, a tribute to Iwao Takamoto. The exhibit not only showcases original character designs and artwork (non-Animation and Animation) by Takamoto, but other work found in his estate, including pieces by Alex Toth (original Model Sheets), Ray Aragon (Last Of The Curlews) and Floro Dery (The Last Halloween).
The event will also serve as a publication party for the new biography, Iwao Takamoto My Life with a Thousand Characters, copies of the book be on hand and will be signed by the author (Michael Mallory), as well as Willie Ito and Barbara Takamoto. You can check out the exhibit’s artwork online and pre-order books beginning March 5, 2009. The event is open to the public, March 14th from 5pm to 9pm, however you must RSVP because space is limited. The gallery is located at 13613 Ventura Blvd. in Sherman Oaks, California. The RSVP number is (818) 788-2357. For more information contact the Van Eaton Galleries.
The Oscar winners were announced tonight. The winner for BEST ANIMATED FEATURE FILM was Pixar’s WALLâ€¢E. For BEST ANIMATED SHORT, the winner was: La Maison en Petits Cubes – Kunio Kato. Jennifer Anniston and Jack Black presented the awards, and introduced an confusing montage of clips from animated features released in 2008 (which included scenes from Space Chimps and The Clone Wars, two films which their producers deemed unfit to submit for Oscar qualification – had they done so, five animated features would have been nominated instead of three).
This crazy image above is from a vintage Japanese jigsaw puzzle, currently being offered on ebay. It’s one of several nifty items recently listed by Japanese seller kenta_jpn.
There are several rare vintage books featuring classic “western” cartoon characters (and some 1960′s anime titles) featuring many wonderfully-off-model illustrations within each. There’s also a very cool Huckleberry Hound board game (aka “The Unique Dog Huckle Game”) made by Nintendo(!) in the 1960′s. These items are all “Buy It Now” listings — so I’m unsure how long they’ll remain available for sale or viewing – so go there now!
No, it’s not a bunch of crazed furries. It’s Frank Conniff and the cast of Cartoon Dump, our monthly live comedy and cartoons showcase in Hollywood. This month we will have guest comedian Dana Gould (The Simpsons) adding to the madness. Join Moodsy, Compost Brite, Cue Card Goddess and me, Jerry Beck, Tuesday, February 24th at 8 PM, for an evening of hilarious comedy, demented songs, and really, really awful cartoons — at the Steve Allen Theater, 4773 Hollywood Blvd. (two blocks west of Vermont). Map here, reserve tickets here. See you there!
Wanna have fun? Check out the paintings of animation artist Nouar Boldy (aka Noir Nouar). Even better, check them out and meet the artist in person, Saturday night at the Jonathan LeVine Gallery in New York. The opening reception is tomorrow, February 21, from 7 – 9 p.m. The gallery is located at 529 W. 20th Street, suite #9E, between 10th and 11th Avenues. For more Nouar check her interview in Juxtapoz magazine and her delightfully designed website.
The 14th Annual International Family Film Festival starts next week in Los Angeles. It’s a kids movies and children’s television conference with competition screenings, industry panels and opportunities to network with filmmakers.
On Friday February 27th at 1pm, there’s an animation panel with guest Phil Roman and on March 1st the festival gives an annual Friz Freleng Award for Excellence in Animation (which Mr. Roman will receive this year). There will be several outstanding animated shorts and features shown, including Kyung Hee Shon’s La Lune (pictured above) on 2/28 at noon, and Gili Dolev’s The Happy Duckling (pictured below) on 2/26 at 2:30pm.
For more information on this festival, screening showtimes and admission charges, check the festival website.
Emily Hubley swings into L.A. to screen her feature film, The Toe Tactic, at the Aero Theatre in Santa Monica, California, on Friday night (2/20). The program begins at 7:30pm with several classic films by John and Faith Hubley including restored prints of The Tender Game and Windy Day. A Q & A moderated by yours truly follows, and then the screening of her new live action/animation feature film at 9pm. For more information on this screening check the Aero website.
UPDATE: David Moniger posted a video of my Q&A with Emily on Facebook.
Look who made it to the front page of this week’s Village Voice! Animator Jake Friedman just spotted the latest issue on the news stand, snapped this pic and sent it in to us. The cover portrait illustrates an article on the despicable treatment of ducks bred for food. But what we want to know is: who painted this wonderfully unauthorized homage to our favorite water fowl?
Steve Stanchfield is back, doing the Lord’s work at Thunderbean Animation, restoring and releasing rare cartoons from the 1930s on DVD. This time it’s Uncensored Animation from the Van Beuren Studio, featuring outrageous pre-code animated cartoons from the obscure New York studio that was Max Fleischer’s biggest east-coast rival. The prints, as always, are from best available 16mm and 35mm sources. In addition to the politically incorrect Laundry Blues, and several classic Aesops Fables and Tom & Jerry cartoons, the highlight of the set (for me) is the inclusion of the only two Amos and Andy cartoons ever made, featuring the voices of the original cast (I even do an audio commentary on one of them)! Milton Knight Jr. drew the cool box art. Support the cause – buy it from Steve directly at Amazon.com.
Opening May 1st, from Lionsgate, is Battle For Terra (formerly known simply as Terra). This film actually won the Best Feature award at the 2008 Ottawa International Animation Festival. It’s no Delgo… but that’s not saying much.