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Cartoon Brew TV #25: Depth Study (1957)

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.”

  • Jay Sabicer

    A great little film– lively, well designed and animated and informative. Hard to believe an industry that what was once so booming and vibrant, now is rapidly spiraling towards extinction, along with radio, magazines and newspapers. Clearly, TV is a victim of its own success, by spawning hundreds of channels, most of those working with smaller and smaller budgets and crasser and baser ideals.

    The Internet killed the video star.

  • I think that’s the general viewer on the internet crashing through the ceiling at the end.

    I never really stopped to think how much of an impact TV had on the way people consumed media back then. It must have been magical.

  • top cat james

    Reminds me a bit of those Sloan Foundation underwritten Looney Tunes from the Fifties. Nice little time capsule of post-war prosperity that due to today’s harsh economic enviroment, really does look like ancient history. Another terrific find, Jerry. Thanks.

  • Allen Swift does a terrific job on this.

    Why is there a woman at the start of the film countdown?

  • That’s the “China Girl,” a standard image used for color blance for printing films. It was still in use in the 1970s and added to some of my own films.

  • That was terrific! Thanks for “digging” it up.

  • Polyvios Christoforos

    Wow! what an amazing film!

    A clever concept and modern character designs are the best i’ve ever seen.

    Speaking of the concept, television used to be the best of the buisness, but now intenet is the best in the buisness. Now some animator should make an industrial film about how the internet made a boom in the buisness.

    Now the internet is forever ’cause it gave us blogs and youtube and such and that’s all I can tell you all about it