Films by Jove, owners of the Russian Soyuzmultfilm Studios film library, has invested more than $3 million to digitally restore the 1,500 animated films in the collection to their original splendor. Now the company has opened a website, russiananimation.com, making this amazing library of rarely seen films available on DVD. Among the highlights: Animated Soviet Propaganda.
From 1924 to perestroika the USSR produced more than 4 dozen animated propaganda films. They weren’t for export. Their target was the new nation and their goal was to win over the hearts and minds of the Soviet people. Anti American, Anti Capitalist, Anti Fascist, some of these films are as artistically beautiful as the great political posters made after the 1917 revolution. A unique series. With a unique perspective. Includes commentary by a leading Soviet film scholar.
Larry Loc on the ASIFA-Hollywood blog posted a bunch of photos he snapped at last night’s UPA TRIBUTE at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood. Two of Larry’s pix are posted above, one an image from the landmark 1945 film, BROTHERHOOD OF MAN (left), and the other of Bill Melendez and Willis Pyle (at right).I’m not very good at doing followup reports, but I’ll say I had a very good time. I was surprised at the huge crowd that turned out for the event, coinsidering the lack of publicity (outside of this website) for it. Just a couple of notes: My old friend, animator/director/teacher Howard Beckerman came in from New York. I wish I spent more time talking to him last night, my only regret; I want to thank Dave Bastian for bringing two vintage UPA posters for display (a Jolly Frolics “Ragtime Bear” one sheet and a MAGOO MERRY-GO-ROUND compilation show poster from 1953); Thanks to Mark from BOING BOING for interviewing me for an upcoming podcast – I hope I made sense. Thanks to Tee Bosustow for making this event happen – and to everyone who came out to make it quite a night. If anyone else posts a report on the screening, let us know.
The image above is a black-and-white still from one of the last non-Magoo UPA theatrical shorts, THE JAYWALKER (1956). It’s a strange film – not quite successful – but a good looking picture that introduced a new character, Milton Muffet, who tried to endear audiences with his pedestrian (pun intended) humor about his jaywalking obsession. Bobe Cannon directed the film, the last of a small set of adult social comedies (which included the superior FUDGET’S BUDGET and CHRISTOPHER CRUMPET) which really defined UPA’s contemporary attitude (moreso than the popular Mr. Magoo cartoons that UPA is best known for).FUDGET’S BUDGET (1954) is one of the UPA classics that isn’t shown much these days, but if you’re in LA tonight you have a rare chance to see it on the big screen and meet some of the members of UPA’s legendary crew. 6:00 pm at the Egyptian Theatre. See you there.
After posts about Disney’s forays into VD prevention and gonorrhea drugs, I’d be remiss to not post Disney’s 1946 film THE STORY OF MENSTRUATION. The film is available on YouTube, something that was kindly pointed out on We-Make-Money-Not-Art.com. While not exactly a classic piece of animation, its kitsch value is unsurpassed.
UPDATE: Disney historian Jim Korkis wrote in with some interesting info about STORY OF MENSTRUATION. Here’s what he says:
Disney’s “The Story of Menstruation” was originally delivered to the International Cellu-Cotton Company on October 18, 1946. It has been estimated that the film has been seen by approximately ninety-three million American women. Neither sexuality nor reproduction is mentioned in this influential film, and an emphasis on sanitation makes it a more a hygienic crisis rather than a maturational event.
In fact the entire film is very quiet, subtle, formal and clinical. “Menstruation is just one routine step in a normal and natural cycle that is going on continuously in the body,” soothes the narrator while she reminds us that there is an accompanying free book available in case the information supplied by this film is so overwhelming that a viewer isn’t able to retain it all.
That booklet was entitled “Very Personally Yours” and was filled with promotional material for Kotex brand feminine products and included Disney artwork from this educational short. The 1947 edition has a cover that features a somewhat sophisticated female hand holding an engraved card that says “Very Personally Yours” with no hint what the contents might be. My copy (thanks to eBay) is approximately 5 by 7 inches, small enough to slip into a purse, with twenty pages of text. In the side margins are drawings from the film but interestingly, there is no Disney copyright in evidence anywhere in the book. The final text pages are very directly aimed at promoting a variety of Kotex products for feminine hygiene. Since the Disney film was run for at least two decades after its creation, the booklet was updated over the years and I don’t know how much of the Disney artwork remained in later editions.
Ray Pointer just informed us that film director, Richard Fleischer, son of animation pioneer, Max Fleischer, passed away in his sleep last evening. He was 89. Mr. Fleischer, who had just released his teling of his father’s career in OUT OF THE INKWELL: MAX FLEISCHER AND THE ANIMATION REVOLUTION, in June had been in failing health for the better part of a year. He leaves behind a most impressive body of work in films including 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA, BARABBAS, FANTASTIC VOYAGE, DR. DOOLITTLE, TORA, TORA, TORA, SOYLENT GREEN, THE JAZZ SINGER (with Neal Diamond), CONAN THE DESTROYER, and RED SONJA.
Everyone is getting into the anime act. Anime is cool among the kids and teens (thus its presence on Kids WB, Cartoon Network, Toon Disney, Nicktoons, etc.), sci fi fans (Sci-Fi Channel), tech nerds (G4TV), and classic film geeks (TCM). I half-expect to see an anime series start appearing on The Weather Channel soon.Starting April 1st, The Indepedent Film Channel will begin running Akira Kurosawa’s SAMURAI 7 (do you think it was the name “Akira” or “Kurosawa” that attracted them to pick up the show?). To help promote this series, filmmaker Dan Persons has created several “Anime in the USA” mini-documentaries (3 minutes each) for the IFC website. Animation director Kevin Alteri (BATMAN: TAS), producer Frank Gladstone (IDT), anime historian Fred Patten and yours truly (that’s my talking head in the frame grab above) participated with our comments and observations. You have to work a bit to find these mini-films, but here are the directions:Go to IFC.com (or, if for some reason you have trouble bringing that page up, try ifc.com/news); and click on “UNCUT ON DEMAND” at the top of the page. Once the viewer pops up, click on pause to stop the startlingly loud promo clip, click on “SERIES” on the right, then click on “SAMURAI 7.” The two episodes of “Anime In The USA” should be at the very top of the list.
I didn’t think there was any way to top today’s post about Disney’s venereal disease film.Alex Kirwan, art director of MY LIFE AS A TEENAGE ROBOT, proved me wrong, by sending over this hilarious 1944 LOOK magazine ad wherein Mickey Mouse fights gonorrhea by experimenting on other mice, and then ends up taking the gonorrhea drug himself. It looks like there’s a second page to the ad, based on the numbering, but you’ll get the idea. Fridays just don’t get any better than this folks.
I used to think the most bizarre Disney film was THE STORY OF MENSTRUATION. That was, until I saw VD ATTACK PLAN (1973), an educational short about that most Disney of subjects: venereal diseases. The film was directed by Nine Old Man, Les Clark, and animated by Charlie Downs, who manages to create some really interesting movement for a main character who has no arms or legs. Here’s a short article about the film. And you can watch the film below, in its entirety, courtesy of Google Video:
I guess there is no escaping the fact that it’s UPA week here at CARTOON BREW and on Amid’s CARTOON MODERN (Mike Sporn’s Splog has even jumped on the bandwagon).
We will be screening UPA’s classic THE TELL TALE HEART (1953) on Sunday evening at the Egyptian. It’s a masterpiece for several reasons – the storytelling in limited animation, James Mason’s powerful vocal track and, of course, Paul Julian’s incredible colors, layouts, and paintings. THE TELL TALE HEART was filmed in 3-D, but for reasons lost to time, was not released this way. (No 3-D prints or dual negatives have ever been found – I suspect they never got to Columbia Pictures in the first place. Perhaps some unopened UPA storage locker in Burbank contains the missing negative.) By 1953 the UPA studio was at its height artistically, and was the darling of the critics (and the Academy) for starting an artistic revolution – moving Hollywood cartoons away from rounded Disney animals to angular human characters and modern design. THE TELL TALE HEART was certainly something different. Not since Fleischer’s SUPERMAN series had animated shorts tackled a dramatic story. This was not only a drama – it was an Edgar Allen Poe horror film. And the media took notice – most notably with a four-page story in Time Magazine and a four-page color spread in LIFE. Columbia gave it a full scale publicity push, with newspaper advertising (above) and a modest trade campaign for the Oscar. THE TELL TALE HEART was nominated for an Academy Award, but lost to Disney’s “UPA-influenced” TOOT WHISTLE PLUNK AND BOOM. The casting of a major A-list Hollywood actor, James Mason, was certainly a coup for UPA, and speaks to the studio’s status as an industry player at that time. Only Disney had used such stunt casting in the past, and mainly for their feature films.TELL TALE HEART built on the innovations of GERALD MCBOING BOING, ROOTY TOOT TOOT, and the creation of Mr. Magoo. While it didn’t lead to further dramatic Hollywood cartoon shorts, its influence is still felt in numerous ways, in numereous international and independent films produced since. And that’s why it’s a classic.
The film can be seen this Sunday at the UPA Tribute at the Egyptian Theatre in LA.
In addition to discounts and/or free admission to local animation events, ASIFA members (of any chapter in the U.S. or worldwide) also recieve a great new magazine edited by the Ottawa Animation Festival’s Chris Robinson. The second issue of CARTOONS, The International Journal of Animation (published by John Libbey, dated Winter 2005) has just arrived in my mailbox. This new edition has 64 color glossy pages of worthwhile articles, reviews and images, including excellent pieces on Dana Parker by John Canemaker, Bob Clampett by Martin Goodman, and a review of Mind Game by Andre Coutu. There are informative articles about animation in Agentina, Israel, China, stories about filmmakers Jean Image, Zagreb’s Bordo Dovnikovic and much much more.Kudos to Libbey and Robinson for creating such a superb package. It’s another great reason to join ASIFA. With seven local chapters in the U.S., and twenty more groups internationally, ASIFA sponsors international festivals (like Zagreb and Annecy), the ANNIE Awards, an animation archive, informative websites, and a worldwide linked community. Local Hollywood members get free DVDs and exclusive screenings of virtually all new animated features. The price of the yearly membership pays for itself. Now with CARTOONS, a free first class publication not available for sale anywhere, a membership in ASIFA seems vital. For more information on joining your local area group, click here.
Just a quick note to follow-up on Jerry’s post below. Prior to the screening, there will be a private reception at the Egyptian Theatre from 4:30-5:30. If anybody wishes to mingle with the UPA veterans in a more intimate setting, you can attend the reception by RSVP’ing by this Saturday to Tee Bosustow: bosumedia [at] yahoo.com. The cost is $15 and can be paid at the door.
You all probably know this already (and I’m sure we’ll remind you once again over the weekend) but Brewmasters Jerry and Amid will be participating in the big ASIFA-Hollywood / American CinemathequeUPA Tribute this Sunday at the Egyptian Theatre on Hollywood Blvd. The fun begins at 6pm when we will be screening 35mm prints of rare commercials, industrials, TV productions, behind the scenes footage and Scope prints of classic theatrical cartoons (including ROOTY TOOT TOOT and TELL TALE HEART). We will have panels featuring UPA veterans (Bill Melendez, Willis Pyle, Alan Zaslove, Fred Crippen, Sam Clayberger) and guest animators (Mark Kausler, Pixar’s Lou Romano). ASIFA members will recieve a discount on admission. Advance tickets are on sale at the box office now. See you there!
Jenny Lerew has posted some wonderful rare photos of master animator Fred Moore. She writes that she’ll soon be posting a lot more Moore-related goodies on her blog Blackwing Diaries. To do my part, here’s a late-1930s gag drawing by Tom Oreb of Ward Kimball (left) and Freddie Moore, documenting some long-forgotten moment at the Disney studio:
The Annecy International Animation Festival announced this week their film selections for the 2006 edition, which takes place June 5- 10. Two hundred and sixty films were selected for competition and panorama screenings out of 1732 films submitted. A complete list of selected films can be found HERE.