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2011 Brew Holiday Gift Guide #1

As part of their Library of American Comics series, IDW Publishing just released Chuck Jones: The Dream That Never Was, a spectacular must-have book reprinting all (and more) of Jones’ ill-fated 1977-78 newspaper comic strip, Crawford. It’s an absolutely beautiful volume that recounts the story behind this character, which apparently Jones felt very close to. Editors Dean Mullaney and Kurtis Findlay reprint every strip, published and unpublished, of the daily and Sunday feature – mostly scanned from original art loaned by the Jones estate. Additionally, there is a complete storyboard to an unproduced 1969 Crawford TV pilot, and lots of rare photographs and Jones art that accompany Findlay’s introduction – which discusses in fine detail Jones’ post Warner Bros. experiences with Tower 12, MGM and ABC – new information overlooked in previous histories, including those by Jones himself! Crawford wasn’t one of Jones’ great creations, but it was a concept he never gave up on because the character was essentially a younger version of himself. This volume is essential for those who admire Jones as an artist and it will add to your understanding of his creative process. Highly recommended. Get it.

That “Mad, Mad” Rankin-Bass historian/enthusiast Rick Goldschmidt has done it again! After already throughly examining the “Enchanted Worlds” of Rankin Bass via books, websites, dvds and CD compilations, Rick has just self-published another volume that is the last word on my second-favorite R-B production (Rudolph will always be first): Mad Monster Party. It’s not so much a history as it is a celebration of all things Animagic, containing the entire MMP script (co-written by Harvey Kurtzman), chapters devoted to artists Jack Davis and Don Duga, voices Alan Swift, Gale Garnett, and Boris Karloff, musician Maury Laws, a b/w reprinting of the entire Dell comic book (above), the pressbook, lobby cards, posters and stills. It’s everything EXCEPT the movie itself (which Goldschmidt had a hand in restoring). You’ve seen the movie – now read the book. It’s also a great gift for the stop-mo maniac on your Christmas “chopping” list.

  • Ben

    Cool! My friend would LOVE this book! He’s the only reason I even knew this special existed. They didn’t air it, well, at least I never saw it, growing up. Now, I really like it a lot, but he just loves it.

  • eeteed

    I don’t have the Dell Mad Monster Party comic.

    Does anyone know who the artist was on it?

  • mike fontanelli

    @eeteed: Yes, I have the 1967 Dell Mad Monster Party comic, but it doesn’t give any artist credits. The insides are disappointing, frankly. If you were expecting Jack Davis and Harvey Kurtzman, forget it! Actually, the best thing about it is the cover; the adaptation is uninspired and crude. (This coming from a BIG fan of both MMP and Dell/Gold Key comics in general.) You’re better off buying Rick’s book instead. (I already pre-ordered mine on Amazon.) He’s very conscientious, and respectful of the material. Rick did a superb job on his other Rankin-Bass books.

    I wish more studios would restore and release vintage stop-motion puppet animation to DVD. I’ve been waiting for Rankin-Bass’ New Adventures of Pinocchio TV show for years, not to mention the Holy Grail: George Pal’s Puppetoons. I’d give my eyeteeth for a complete collection of those! I’d settle for the “Jasper & the Scarecrow” cartoons for starters, (Bugs Bunny makes a gag cameo appearance in Jasper Goes Hunting, 1944) along with the two Dr. Seuss adaptations. How long do we have to wait for those?

    • eeteed

      @ mike fontanelli

      much thanks for the info! it sure would have been great if kurtzman and davis had worked on the comic.

      and thanks for recommending rick goldschmidt’s book. i’ll be looking forward to it!

    • swac

      Mike, I’ve found grey market DVD copies of New Adventures of Pinocchio and the (mostly) complete George Pal Puppetoons that are quite watchable. It shouldn’t take too much hunting to track them down (I suggest going to

      I’d prefer to buy official copies from the rights owners, but since they don’t seem to have any interest in selling them, I’ll take what I can get.

  • As long as it doesn’t have Phyllis Diller’s voice in it, it will be better than the actual animated program.

    • You beat me to it. MAD MONSTER PARTY is quite good, but once Phyllis’ character is introduced, she emits her “Ha HA hahaha!” approximately ever thirty seconds. I didn’t mind it as a teen, but now it drives me up a wall.

      And for more about the MAD MONSTER PARTY funnybook (the first version; Michael Swanigan published a three-part adaption in the 1990s), go to this page at my ODDBALL COMICS website:

  • I think the Jones book is good, very revelatory of his mindset in the Tower 12 era. However, if you read “Crawford”, you will know why it ran only 5 months. It suffers from lack of personality in the children and the two dogs who inexplicably take over the strip for days at a time. The dialog is extensive, sometimes amusing, sometimes not. The conversations feel like dialog that almost any characters might say, not specific enough to Crawford and the rest of the kids. If you compare it with Percy Crosby’s “Skippy” or Schulz’s “Peanuts”, you’ll see how much better a kid strip can be when the personalities of the characters are vivid. Mad Monster Party is OK, but George Pal it will never be. End of criticism.

  • John A

    With all the talent involved in this production, made right at the time when the old Universal Monster films were being turned into 60s camp, you’d think that the movie would be better than it turned out. It has a few funny bits, but the choppy animation and the awkward pacing (and those horrible songs!)make it awfully hard to sit through. The monster models are nice, I always wished they had made toys or collectible figurines of them.

  • Rick’s Mad Monster Party is a must-have for Rankin/Bass, Tim Burton and Pixar fans alike. I’ve read it and there’s just no other way to get all this great information — plus the script!

    My favorite line in MMP comes from the lovely (yet complicated) Franceska, who after wearying from being chased by all the monsters, says something like, “Felix! I can’t go on any longer! You go ahead. Just leave me something to read.”

    Rick’s other two books, THE ENCHANTED WORLD OF RANKIN/BASS and the making of RUDOLPH, THE RED-NOSED REINDEER are also on his website, along with other cool R/B stuff.

    • eeteed

      my favorite gag in the film goes something like…

      felix (after lifting franceska) “you’re heavier than you look!”

      franceska “well, i didn’t want you to think that i was an easy pickup!”

  • I’ve gotten a look at the Chuck Jones book and it’s really top notch through & through, definitely worth a buy! Great job Kurtis!

  • Dave

    Does anyone remember a Rankin Bass special from the 70s entitled Mad, Mad, Mad Monsters? I believe it was cell animated, and featured great Paul Coker, Jr. designs. It concerned the Frankenstein monster getting married. I’ve been looking for this on a DVD or online for years.

  • Dave

    Thanks Greg!