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Cartoon Culture

Animated Manhattan

Animated New York

Inspired by the book Celluloid Skyline, which examined the depictions of New York in live-action film, the blog Ironic Sans has a delightful on-going series of posts called “Animated Manhattan” which looks at how New York City has been represented in cartoons throughout the years. So far, they’ve documented an eclectic assortment of animated pieces including features like Fritz the Cat and Madagascar, TV series including The Critic and Futurama, and one-off projects such as the Tom & Jerry short Mouse in Manhattan and the opening titles to Late Night with Conan O’Brien.

(via Animated News)

  • Ah yes THE CRITIC. I really,really, whish that show came back.

  • Chuck R.

    I give this guy a 9.0 for documentation (he omitted Peter Jackson’s King Kong, which features an entirely digital reconstruction of 30’s Manhattan.) I give him a 4.0 for his reviews.

    He’s obviously more impressed with “The Critic’s” use of postcard tracings than I am. And unless he’s a really old dude, how can he comment on how “Mouse in Manhattan” captures the “spirit” of the city. A really fun read nevertheless — Thanks!

  • What!? A site about animated Manhattan without a mention of the Fleischers? Hopefully, this oversight will be corrected in time. From Betty Boop and Popeye to Superman and Mr. Bug backgrounds, the Fleischers and their background department kept Manhattan animated even when they were planted in Miami. Famous Studios’ backgrounds continued to keep Manhattan landmarks visible with Casper scaring the stone lions in front of the NY Public Library being one of many highlights.

  • red pill junkie

    Man! this guy has never given a 10/10 rating on all of the movies reviewed. I wonder what would it take apart from a VR tour of Manhattan?

  • by the way, the Conan titles were originally much more low-tech. cutouts of postcard images which were 95% NYC. there was also a cutout of a familiar building in White Plains, NY tossed in. . . . our studio.

  • John A

    Both “The Rescuers”and “The Rescuers Down Under” have scenes set in Manhattan.

  • Chris Sobieniak

    > Ah yes THE CRITIC. I really,really, whish that show came back.

    True. Still, the joke with the Brooklyn Bridge collapsing wouldn’t fly well with today’s world. :-)

  • Andrew

    You can’t assume he’s going to cover ALL animated pieces depicting Manhattan (there must be tons). The Fleischers’ cartoons are a huge oversight, though. He’s pretty tough with what he wants to see and what should be there in the landmarks. I disagree that Madagascar is boring.

  • Thanks for everyone’s comments on my little project. My animation knowledge isn’t quite as deep as some people’s, so I’m sure I’m just scratching the surface. Unfortunately, one of the limitations I have with this series is that I can only do screen captures from cartoons I actually have available. The only Fleischer cartoons I own copies of are the Superman ones. I haven’t watched them in a while, but I’ll go back through them looking for Manhattan backgrounds. But to avoid having to buy every Betty Boop or Casper DVD available, can anyone specify the titles of some shorts that you know feature Manhattan, or the DVDs on which they can be found (or public domain archives if they’re old enough to have fallen into pd)?

    Any other specific episodes, short films, or features anyone wants to recommend are welcome, too!

  • John

    While the Fleischer’s urban scenes were definitely New York-inspired, in terms of specific identifiable NYC settings and backgrounds, there aren’t as many candidates (i.e., in a short like “King of the Mardi Gras” on the new Popeye DVD, the action is set at Coney Island, but it’s more of a generalization than any exact recreation of Steeplechase or Luna Park).

    “Riding the Rails” — one of the better of the Pudgy cartoons in the Betty Boop series — features some pretty accurate renditions of the interior of a circa 1938 NYC subway car, and some of the Screen Songs parody things like the big Times Square movie houses of the 1930s.

  • Danielle

    Great blog, David! I’ll be showing this to my fiance today– he’s not an animator, but he is an NYC buff, and I’m sure he’ll get a kick out of it.

    As far as the Fleischers go, there are plenty of shorts to work with, but there’s also their second feature “Hoppity Goes to Town” (aka “Mr. Bug Goes to Town”), which Art has also mentioned. An entry on this film would be great!

    The inclusion of “Red Garden” was interesting; got any plans for more set-in-NYC anime entries? The only other one I can think of off the top of my head is “Gravitation”, which features NYC setpieces late in the series.

  • Nic Kramer

    Well, there’s the Bugs Bunny cartoons, “A Hare Grows in Manhatten”, “Hurdy Gurdy Hare”, and “Bowery Bugs”. After all, Bugs has a Brooklyn/Bronx accent.

  • Chuck R.

    David, I admire your quest for comprehensiveness! If you include every short that depicts the Statue of Liberty, you have you’re work cut out for you. I’m thinking about Baseball Bugs (“That’s what the man says, you heard…”) and The Tex Avery classic, “Little Johnnny Jet” —where the baby jet flies past Manhattan so fast that Miss Liberty’s copper gown flaps in his wake.

    Baseball Bugs is on Vol. 1 of the LT Golden Collection. I’m not sure if LJ Jet is available on DVD.

  • amid

    Mike Sporn had a post about Manhattan appearances in Hubley shorts like Dig and Harlem Wednesday.

  • Russell H

    To be fair this seems to be an “ongoing” project, so if they haven’t mentioned certain films or shorts we should maybe give them the benefit of the doubt that they may be covered in future entries.

    Also, they may be doing cartoons for which they can easily obtain screen-grabs, stills, etc. and some of the things mentioned here may not be available to them.

    And some of the things mentioned here are in the way of short gags; perhaps their criterion is that the New York City setting must be significant to the cartoon’s action or plot to be included.

  • Jake

    There is at least one Terrytoon classic Mighty Mouse cartoon involving the Empire State Building. There are probably several Terrytoons using at least a smattering of Manhattan locales, as that studio was located in New Rochelle.

  • Having gone over some of the Popeye cartoons in new DVD collection and others, I realized that John is right about specific landmarks in NYC not being mentioned but serving as inspirations. On some of the Superman cartoons Metropolis and Manhattan seem to be interchangeable. In Casper’s “Ghost Of The Town”, he actually shows up at Ed Sullivan’s theater (does this mean the David Letterman show is haunted?). I’ve sent a number of frame grabs to David and he’s happy for the assistance.

  • Nice to see The Critic here – severly under-rated.

  • Thanks for everyone’s help. It will be a few weeks before I’m able to make use of these suggestions, but I’m definitely going to make use of all this information. Thanks so much!

  • top_cat_james

    What about “A Boy Named Charlie Brown”? The city the spelling bee is in is unnamed, but that is definitely Rockerfeller Plaza where Snoopy has his skating/hockey sequence.

  • My first thought was Disney’s “Oliver and Company.”