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1943 article on Pal’s Puppetoons


From Collier’s magazine (January 16, 1943), an interesting article on George Pal and hisPuppetoon shorts for Paramount Pictures. Click on pages below to read at full size.

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  • Dan Varner

    In the picture at the bottom of the first page of the article note the presence of Ray Harryhausen and Willis O’Brien working at the animation table.

  • I remember watching George Pal’s Puppetoons when I was a kid. I was surprised they never really caught on, because after all, they were dimensional, and often appeared more realistic on screen.

    However, the public gravitated back to traditional hand drawn animation for animated entertainment. I still wonder if drawings have an edge over “puppets” — be they stop motion or CGI?

  • This is great! Are you guys going to add a stop-motion category to the archives?

  • To be honest, I was more interested in the gag cartoon on the second page–this article came out in the golden age of magazine cartooning.

    If I may take a stab at Floyd Norman’s question, while I can’t speak for everybody, I can say I never really warmed up to “puppet” or clay animation because it usually lacked the fluidity, the “squash and stretch” of hand-drawn: the motion was jerky.

    George Pal is an interesting exception to this–those rigid figures of his manage a rubberiness one would think wouldn’t be possible in that medium, and I have no idea how he did it.

  • Puppetoons have been always been grossly underrated. Pal’s sensibilities introduced a alternative visual style and raised the profile of replacement animation. What I particularly liked about the series was the willingness to go slightly surreal and how music was a narrative partner driving the animation. By the time they were being shot in Technicolor, Puppetoons just looked great –being the insanely meticulous undertakings that they were. Pal had that sort of commitment to detail that paralleled Disney, which paid off by making Puppetoons unique and timeless.

  • Cool! Thanks for posting that Jerry.

  • Pal was certainly a singular genius (I’m using that word an awful lot lately, it seems, but what the hey). I don’t think anyone expected the unusual style he pioneered to catch on to any large degree — it was then as now much too painstaking a method, I think. In fact, much more so then than now, as Pal did his frame by fame work without the aid of instant playback, which is incredible.

    Anyway, he had his contracts to produce the shorts he did just as Schlesinger or others did. Short subjects didn’t have to pay for themselves as they were part of an already-purchased set of films thst included newsreels and features.

    As to how he got the fluidity–I don’t know if Ms. Newstead means literally “how”, but if so: Pal used elaborately carved replacement heads with expressions that were actual inbetweens, resulting in a three-dimensional squash and stretch that belied the hardwood solidity of the materials his characters were made from. This was done for facial expressions as well as for walk cycles, where legs of various lengths were fashioned to make it appear that the characters’ legs were “stretching” to reach the ground. Beautiful technique.

  • Part of the “How” is mentioned in Shamus Culhane’s autobiography “Talking Mice and Other People”. Pal sometimes hired former (post strike) Disney animators to make pencil tests of things like walk cycles. The modelers would use these as the basis for sculpting the various poses that might make up an action. I haven’t read Culhane’s book in years, so I may have some particulars wrong, certainly not every animation was fully pencil tested in advance, but that’s the jist of it.

  • John A

    I’ve seen pictures of Pal posed with an assortment of his replacement figures all laid out in a line, and I always wonder, What happened to all these figures? There have to be thousands (hundreds of thousands?) of them out there somewhere. I’d like to think some of them survived and are sitting in a collection that could be put on display.

  • Love to see another compilation of Puppetoons on DVD to compliment the Puppetoon Movie disc. Terrible shame to have them languishing on a vault shelf (then again, the same could be said for so much Golden Age animation…)

  • Paul Merrill

    Re Dan Varner’s comment of Harryhausen being (remarkably) in the article pic, i remember in early 1972 having gone thru several 1930s-50s shopcraft magazine back issues (the earlier smaller-size Popular Mechanics type; dont remember the actual titles) while researching the Puppetoons at a library and having found another similar old article, also featuring a COLOR pic with Harryhausen (seated with a few other young people at a table, working on Puppetoon parts) …. Does anyone know what magazine /issue this article is (or may be) in ?