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Irv Spector storyboards

It seems like suddenly everyone has just discovered animator, cartoonist and director Irv Spector. I’ve been a fan of his comic books for years, and now his son Paul has dedicated a new blog to his work, Spectorphile. I look forward to whatever goodies he posts from the family archives.

One of my prize finds, several years ago, was an original Spector storyboard for a Famous Studios cartoon Fido Beta Kappa (1954). I’ve been meaning to put it online for sometime and have finally posted it below (click on thumbnails to enlarge).

People have knocked Famous Studios for many things. In my opinion, the problem wasn’t the animation nor the stories – it was the direction. Here’s a perfect example. First read the Spector storyboard below and think about how you would pace the gags and time the animation. Irv’s sketches are great and poses are perfect. Next watch the finished film (You Tube video embed below; note the changes to the opening sequence). Almost every gag falls flat. The revised character designs don’t help.

  • Thad

    Great boards, and it’s a shame they weren’t utilized to their full potential (imagine what Jones, Freleng, or Avery would have done with someone like Spector on their team). I don’t think the designs were sacrificed much though; it looks like they were what Eugster wanted to go for, a flat, ‘jagged’ look in its earliest stages (that came through stronger in later pictures like “Mr. Money Gags”).

  • For those fans in the San Francisco area there is a display of Harvey comic art until the end of the month at The Cartoon Art Museum. I don’t recall seeing any Spector work. But some very nice Richie Rich, Wendy and Spooky art; and I had completely forgotten about Stumbo the Giant until I saw the show.

    In animation they have their regular gallery which contains two McCays. Gertie and Lusitania, and Peter Pan pencils (probably Reitherman) Cinderella cel & BG, and much more.

  • John

    The cartoon’s opening actually does improve on the storyboard, in making the master’s anger at the dog more understandable (you’d be mad too if you were trying to shoot a bear with a stick), which explains the “Discard” writing on image No. 1. But you’re right about the cartoon’s pacing muffling the comedy, even if Eugster’s use of UPA-like angles for the master’s reaction shots does give the pacing a little more bite than your normal early 50s Famous Studio cartoon.

    Still, Spector’s one-shot Noveltoons from 1953-62 were overall the best cartoons Famous/Paramount did during that period, and deserve to be looked at separately from all the repetitious Caspers, Audreys, Baby Hueys and Herman & Katnips they’re lumped in with. Next to the one-shot work Jones and Maltese were doing at Warners, the Spector-written cartoons were the most adult audience-geared efforts of the period.

  • Tom Minton

    The S.F. Cartoon Art Museum also showcases several nice Marty Taras original coloring book cover paintings. The antique Acme animation camera stand on display in the lobby was used to shoot “Crusader Rabbit” in the late 1940’s. Most of us have used Acme pegs but not many today have seen the nearly extinct, once ubiquitous, cast iron Acme animation camera rig. The museum is on Mission Street, just south of the financial district, where several public electronic readouts display the market tanking by the minute.

  • When Michael Sporn first published some of Irv Spector’s work from Paramount, I almost couldn’t get my head around it. The story and layout sketches are Spec-tacular. The actual films are mostly mush. Jerry, I agree about the pacing and designs; I also smell some pretty perfunctory animation and assistant work ruining whatever other energy might have been retained.

    Mr. Spector must have been a mighty gifted guy. I am glad Paul is willing to share more, and thank you Jerry for the nifty scans of this board.

  • Some of this Famous bashing comes from the “objective” history injected in too many animation history books.

    They actually were capable of good cartoons, having used some ideas never used at other studios.

  • David Breneman

    I remember this cartoon from when I was a kid. I found the ending gag shockingly violent at the time, and my opinion hasn’t changed. I still think many of these Famous cartoons just plain suck because of gratuitous mean-spirited violence, repellant characters, no sense of fun, and of course the fact that they just aren’t funny.

  • Gerard de Souza

    “The revised character designs don’t help.”

    Yes. I get the impression as to keep up with UPA influenced trend yet didn’t fully understand the design theory: As if they said “Just animate the same as ever and we’ll throw some angles and curves on it.”

    Then again some Disney shorts of this era didn’t “get it” either…..I’m thinking of that one with LAmbert the lion in the city….of course Ward Kimball and others “got it”.

    I think as a whole the former Fleischer personnel sort of sold their cartoony souls when the cartoons became refined as to compete with Disney, WB and MGM, etc at their game.
    I wonder what if the animation refined but they continued on the cartoony cartoon, surreal, urban route? They really didn’t seem to grasp as well the suburban, rural , domestic cat and mouse chase stuff.

    But I always temper a criticism like this to acknowledge I am an ant peeing on a giant. We watch these cartoons with others from other periods and compare. I’m sure it made a pleasant evening at the movies.

  • These boards are beautiful! I am so thankful to see them!

    Irv Spector was the best writer Famous Studios had. I agree with Thad; it’s a pity that so much of Spector’s concepts were watered-down, simplified and flattened out.

    The cartoons he wrote still stand out from their peers. When the cartoons turned out really well, as in CHEW CHEW BABY, the results are mesmerizing.

    Spector would have made a great writer at Warner Brothers. Seeing his original boards, then a very measured, conservative rendering of his story, I’m reminded of Freleng’s methods.

    Spector would have been an ideal writer for Friz Freleng. Whatever blandness Freleng had as a director would’ve been given a welcome boost by Spector’s offbeat, vivid characters and concepts.
    Another animation “what if…”

  • “Spector would have been an ideal writer for Friz Freleng. Whatever blandness Freleng had as a director would’ve been given a welcome boost by Spector’s offbeat, vivid characters and concepts.
    Another animation “what if…”

    Well, there was one cartoon that was DIRECTED by Spector and WRITTEN by Freleng. “Corn on the Cop,” one of the Looney Tunes short made at DePatie-Freleng.

    Over at DFE he’s also credited for story on two “Ant and the Aardvark” cartoons – Technology Phooey and Scratch a Tiger, a “Roland and Rattfink” cartoon “Flying Feet” and a Pink Panther short “Gong with the Pink.”