Our special series “The Modern Art of Gene Deitch” continues this week with Depth Study, a 1957 sales film for CBS Television. The film is a rarely seen masterpiece of modern design. Deitch said in the book Cartoon Modern that the film represents, “Cliff Roberts at his absolute peak of film design for me.” The film’s animation director Ray Favata (b. 1924) recalled that many of the old school Terrytoons animators were unable to maintain the sophisticated shapes of Roberts’s designs; the responsibility for fixing the animation fell on Favata’s shoulders. “It was a disaster, believe me, [the anmiators’ drawings were] a complete departure,” Favata said. “If they had been close at all, I would have been able to go along with it, but they were crazily off the mark. I started off by taking home just one or two scenes to redraw because it was easier to redraw them than to try and salvage them. After a while, I didn’t even think twice about it; I just took all the scenes home and redrew them.”
Gene Deitch, who was responsible for the film’s creative direction, has shared additional details with us below and will be participating in the comments section:
The double-meaning title sort of goes with the fact that Depth Study was a double-studio amalgam. By this time, I was Creative Director of Terrytoons, owned by CBS Television. CBS had previously commissioned sales promotion films from UPA, but now they owned their own animation studio. As I was a former UPA man, I promised them a UPA-quality film, and was able to get the assignment for CBS-Terrytoons. To ensure the UPA look, I brought in my already long-time designer, Cliff Roberts, and another UPA era colleague, Irwin Bazelon, to compose the music. Actually several of the better Terrytoons animators took to Cliff’s complex characters, and gave me some classy animation.
Because the film’s story was the post war emergence of television as the prime advertising and sales medium, I used the term “Bronze Age” in the story to symbolize the immediate post-war period. For those old enough to remember World War II, we discharged soldiers each received a little bronze eagle honorable discharge lapel pin. So it was just a cute idea to refer to the post-war period as “The Bronze Age.”