Dick Van Dyke. The star of Mary Poppins, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Bye Bye Birdie and Diagnosis Murder. He was “Chairman of TV LAND”, loaned his voice to the animated Curious George (2006) and Tubby The Tuba (1976) and was, of course, Rob Petrie of the classic The Dick Van Dyke Show.But in 1956, Van Dyke was a struggling actor making his way in New York. One of his early breaks was signing a contract with CBS, and the opportunity to host a CBS network prime time TV series. However, the program in question turned out to be a showcase for the network’s newly acquired animation library, with Van Dyke playing straightman to a collection of vintage Terrytoons.CBS CARTOON THEATRE was a summer replacement series, which debuted on Wednesday June 13, 1956 and lasted three months in primetime (it aired from 7:30 to 8pm). It was clearly aimed at kids. CBS has purchased the Terrytoons studio and cartoon library in 1955 and was in the midst of revamping the operation. CBS was also competing with ABC, who had a big gun – Walt Disney – winning the ratings on Wednesday nights . CBS CARTOON THEATRE was offering new cartoon entertainment directly opposite Disneyland reruns. But having an appealing host in an office setting (the same set-up as the Disney hour), didn’t fool anyone. These were lowball Terrytoons, not Disney mini masterpieces. Thankfully they had the personable Van Dyke – could you imagine Paul Terry himself hosting this cheap knock off?These clips are from the seventh broadcast, from July, 27th 1956, almost 50 years ago exactly. The show was never rerun, but thanks to the miracle of You Tube we are able to present excerpts from this rare show.I have no doubt Van Dyke’s conversing with Dinky Duck and Gandy Goose gave his dancing with Penguin waiters in Mary Poppins more depth.Below is the final segment – including end titles animated by Jim Tyer.For the record: CBS-Viacom still owns the Terrytoons today. And they could still run the 13 episodes of CBS CARTOON THEATRE on Nick-at-Nite or TV Land if they wanted to.
Did you know Warner Bros. animator Ken Harris has a website dedicated exclusively to his work? Me neither. The site is MasterAnimator.com and there’s an interesting variety of goodies there. It seems to have been put together by somebody who knew him towards the end of his career while he was working for Richard Williams in the 1970s. There’s a lot of stuff on there that’s probably not Harris’s best work, but look around and you’ll find some cool things like these walk cycles from THIEF AND THE COBBLER or this expressive Jones model sheet from MUCH ADO ABOUT NUTTING (1953).
A number of the winning films from this year’s Annecy animation festival can be seen on-line in their entirety. Here’s links to the ones I’ve found:
Special Distinction award: Run Wrake’s RABBIT
Annecy Cristal (the top short film prize): Regina Pessoa’s HISTOIRE TRAGIQUE AVEC FIN HEUREUSE (TRAGIC STORY WITH A HAPPY END)
Best graduation film: Matthew Walker’s ASTRONAUTS
(Note: download film to your desktop for best results).
Special Distinction (Graduation Film): Tony Comley’s ABIGAIL
A while back we reported on various art swipes from the Preston Blair animation book, found on things like lottery tickets, and in places like restaurants and high schools. Brew reader Devlin Thompson recently found this vintage example:
I was filing away a bunch of random old magazines, catalogs, and the like that had piled up in the last couple of years when I rediscovered this 1956 Dremel pattern book that, like so many others before and since, steals liberally from Mr. Blair’s animation book. Just one more thing to throw on the pile of Blair swipes, but I thought you might find it of interest.
Cynthia Petrovic has added a nifty flash animated intro (animated by Scotty Arsenault) to her fun Tangoland website. Petrovic is an animator who has gone into business for herself, licensing her cute designs and selling products based on her Red Tango characters. Petrovic’s website offers cool downloads, a well written blog, an intriging family photo gallery and an interactive drawing board. I didn’t know she was related to wrestler, football player and Hollywood bit player Sammy Stein (pictures of him with Charlie Chaplin, Abbott & Costello, and John Wayne are featured under her “Vintage Dreams” section). Her website is a lot of fun and well worth exploring.
Dave Fleischer left Miami based Fleischer Studios in 1942 and bolted to the west coast where he was offered the job of producer, replacing Frank Tashlin, at Columbia’s Screen Gems studio. Two years later, Fleischer would be out of that job. He went on to spend the rest of his professional life as an in-house trouble shooter at Universal Pictures. But briefly, between jobs in 1944, Fleischer surfaces in two obscure B-movies released by Republic Pictures.He first appears, on screen, in a gag cameo appearence in Trocadero (which was released April 24th, 1944). This dreary low-budget melodrama centered around the famed Hollywood night club. This being a Republic picture, the film stars Ralph Morgan along with future kiddie-show host Johnny Downs, and is stocked with several low-level celebrity cameos.This first clip (below) introduces Dave, who happens to be sitting alone at the club (a shabby set on the Republic Pictures lot), minding his own business. The clip begins with comic M.C. Eddie Bartell and band leader Eddie LeBaron introducing Dave. Band leader Bob Chester and Cliff Nazarro also appear in this segment.
The next clip features double talk comedian Cliff Nazarro in conversation with Dave. Dave utters his only syllable of dialogue here. Nazarro was a well known radio personality and mimic who can be heard in several Warner Bros. cartoons, including BELIEVE IT OR ELSE (as Ripley), SLAP HAPPY PAPPY (as Eddie Cantor) and PORKY’S PREVIEW (as Al Jolson). It seems clear from this clip that Trocadero’s producers had hoped to get someone like Walt Disney, or Max Fleischer himself, thus the gag involving a “Koko the clown” like character – credited in the opening titles as “Snippy”!
This final bit (below) is the last scene in the film! Dave gets to close the film with “Snippy” (unfortunately this TV print obliterates the original end title – but you get the idea).
After Trocadero Fleischer became an associate producer (and provided a brief animation segment) for another “B”, That’s My Baby! (released by Republic on 9/14/44). But that’s another story for another time.
In honor of the opening of SUPERMAN RETURNS today, we pay tribute with a rare clip of one of our favorite animated superheroes: a 1965 cereal commercial featuring Underdog (Wally Cox), Polly Purebred (Norma McMillian) and Simon Bar Sinister (Allen Swift).
Haven’t done this in a while so here’s a look at some artist blogs that I recommend…
Samuel Michlap has some mighty incredible paintings on his blog. The one at the top of this post was for the DreamWorks feature ROAD TO EL DORADO. Must I make a comment comparing this to the finished product?
Curtis Jobling: designer, book illustrator, novelist, series creator…and he still has time to blog. I’m not sure how he does it all, but among other things, he’s the designer of the hit British children’s series BOB THE BUILDER and the creator of FRANKENSTEIN’S CAT, soon to be the first 2D animated series produced by British puppetmakers Mackinnon & Saunders.
Conversations on Ghibli is pretty much what it says. If you’re a fan of Studio Ghibli, Miyazaki and Takahata, then chances are you’ll enjoy this blog.
Mark Kennedy is a storyboard artist at Disney, and his posts offer superb pointers on drawing, design, composition and boarding. And there’s also drawings by Bill Peet and Milt Kahl. I’m satisfied with that.
Canadian animation artist Nick Sung has been working on a personal project called ONE MAN BAND (not to be confused with the Pixar short of the same name). It’s not a film, but a portfolio book/leica reel that was produced in a very limited run of two copies. He explains the genesis of the project HERE and HERE. Nick’s art is beautifully drawn and designed, and the large number of posts over the past three months offer a valuable insight into his working process.
The Brewmasters need your help. We’re redesigning our blog template – it’s about time for a change after two years – and as part of that, we’d like to switch our site’s blogging software from MovableType to WordPress. We want to preserve all of our old posts when we make the switch. Neither of us are technical whizzes, and if somebody out there is familiar with this type of blogging back-end stuff, we’d appreciate your assistance. If you can help out, please contact us at jbeck [at] aol [dot] com and amid [at] animationblast [dot] com.
Who says they don’t make ‘em like they used to? Everything old is new again… Over at Ain’t It Cool News they’ve got some nice pics from the N.Y. Licensing Show of a new vinyl toy of Oswald Rabbit (above, left), displayed at the Disney Booth. I’m still trying to figure out what rights Disney got to Oswald. In addition to the 26 Disney silent cartoons, they also got the merchandising rights. I assume that Universal still owns the Lantz and Winkler Oswald films… which pretty much dooms them to obscurity forever.Speaking of Lantz, Electric Tiki continues to make some great mini statues and maquettes of classic characters. This Andy Panda (above right) is based on Dick Lundy’s 1946 cartoon, The Wacky Weed, though the design is styled after Freddy Moore’s later model. And take a look at this mini-maquette of the early, psychotic Woody Woodpecker! I’m ordering mine today.(Thanks, Thad)
The newest Animation Podcast, posted this morning, is part one of an interview with Disney legend Burny Mattinson. He started working at Disney in the 1950s and is still there today. I’m sure he’s got some good stories and I’m looking forward to hearing them.
SMILE is an impressive 2005 student film by Yuval Markovich and Noam Abta produced at Bezalel Academy of Arts & Design in Jerusalem. Horror films are all too rare in animation, and this short does a solid job of buiding the tension and creating a mood of paranoia and uncertainty. Technically, it looks like the film was shot in live-action, with oversized CG heads placed on the live bodies. It’s a surprisingly effective technique that adds to the film’s uneasy mood. Watch a Windows Media Player version of the film HERE and find out more about the filmmakers at their personal website LionInZion.com
WOW – this totally made my morning! Sheridan student Alan Cook has been posting on YouTube the Disney “Family Album” TV shows. Each of these half-hour documentaries profiles a different Disney legend, including a lot of the Nine Old Men, but also artists like Ken Anderson and Harrison and Peter Ellenshaw. They originally aired in the early-1980s on the Disney Channel. So far Alan has posted the documentaries about Frank Thomas, Marc Davis and Ward Kimball. Check them out HERE. Even though the Kimball one is incomplete, it’s my favorite of the bunch. Ward is a natural in front of the camera, and his antics are laugh-out-loud funny. The two parts of the Kimball doc are below:
UPDATE (NOV. 25, 2010): If you came here via the Nostalgia Critic’s review, welcome to Cartoon Brew. Take a moment to browse around the site, read our interview with the creator of the Recobbled Cut below, and head over to this YouTube video to watch The Recobbled Cut.
Most readers of the Brew are no doubt familiar with the saga of Richard Williams and his legendary unfinished film, THE THIEF AND THE COBBLER, which he worked on for over thirty years. And if you’re unfamiliar with the film’s production, its story is well-documented on-line in numerous articles.
During the past year, somebody on the Internet undertook the thankless task of creating a new, not-for-profit, version of the film. That somebody was filmmaker Garrett Gilchrist and his recently completed version – THIEF AND THE COBBLER: RECOBBLED CUT – incorporates footage from a variety of existing sources. It’s also of a much higher quality than the famous Williams workprint that has been floating around animation circles for years. It’s currently available, in seventeen parts, on YouTube, and hi-res versions are available on BitTorrent sites like Demonoid.com and Mininova.org.
I wasn’t 100% clear on what the intent of this restoration was so I got in touch with Garrett and asked him some questions about this project. Our email interview is below.
Cartoon Brew: What is it specifically about the THIEF AND THE COBBLER that inspired you to invest so much of your time and money to restore this film?
Garrett Gilchrist: When I was seven years old, I read an article in COMICS SCENE magazine, and in it, Williams said he was trying to revolutionize animation, that he was trying to create the greatest animated motion picture ever made, and that he’d been working for twenty-three years on this one film called THE THIEF AND THE COBBLER. Now at the time I was sleeping on Roger Rabbit bedsheets, I had Roger Rabbit bendies, a Jessica PVC, so if the man who animated Roger Rabbit says that, you better believe I was interested. Richard just had a way of talking about this film. He made it seem uniquely magical. He exaggerated like P.T. Barnum, but you could tell he really believed in the project.
I was about fourteen when I actually saw a trailer for ARABIAN KNIGHT in the theater, and I thought it looked awful. But it stuck in my mind that this was from the animator of Roger Rabbit, long-lost memories came unstuck. Somehow this was the same masterpiece he was talking about when I was a kid. But something’s gone horribly wrong here. It wasn’t until I was in high school that I read the actual story of how the movie was destroyed and never finished as intended.
Now he’s known as the master animator, the animator’s animator. He’s written THE ANIMATOR’S SURVIVAL KIT, which is now THE textbook for any animator. It’s the best book ever written on animation. His Animation Masterclasses were huge events, always sold out. People who took them became teachers themselves. A lot of the great animators today learned from Richard, or they owe a lot to Richard. But people have never seen his masterpiece. You can’t rent or buy or watch Richard Williams’s THIEF AND THE COBBLER. It doesn’t exist as it was meant to be seen. I think that’s a pretty damn good reason to restore the movie!
It was rumored some years ago that Roy Disney had been trying to convince Disney to do an official restoration of the project. Do you see this as a replacement to any eventual official restoration that Disney might do, a companion piece, or something completely different?
GG: God, I really hope Disney does restore this film some day. The latest I hear is that Don Hahn is (or was) working on it with Richard. So it’s in good hands. I don’t think they’re scared of the film anymore, as certain people were for awhile after ALADDIN. Roy Disney tried to get a restoration done for almost a decade. But it’s impossible to get those two sides to come together. Richard doesn’t trust Disney with this film – or trust anyone with this film after what happened! – and Disney can’t quite play ball with Richard. The story I heard was that they just weren’t spending the money to do it right, that they’d let Richard be involved but wouldn’t pay him to have a staff. He’d have to do it alone.
I’m not trying to step on Disney’s toes. I’m hoping that what I’m doing will help their cause. For one thing, my goal is to prove that there IS a market out there. I said on-line that I was doing a restoration of the THIEF AND THE COBBLER and people went nuts. It’s such a legendary film among people who really know animation. They would sell a lot of copies. They could do it with much better picture quality than I ever could, and people who have seen my version would want to buy Disney’s version in a second.
It looks like you’re also compiling some amazing DVDs of supplementary materials like documentaries, interviews, and other Williams animation projects.
GG: Yeah. Ten DVDs so far, which is pretty remarkable. Everything about this project has been larger than life, which is appropriate since Richard is a larger-than-life figure and this is a larger-than-life film. We’ve collected lots of documentaries, including a whole bunch recently from 1969 and 1970! We’ve collected rare short films, commercials, promo pieces, lots of things you just can’t find on video, all in good quality. There’s also the matter of all the artwork, images, interviews, articles. I recently scanned a thousand pieces of original THIEF artwork. We’ve scanned about five hundred pages worth of interviews and articles.
How much involvement have original crewmembers had on this project, and who are some of the artists that are helping out?
GG: The guy who really kickstarted this proect was a fellow named Simon Downes, who was layout assistant to Roy Naisbitt on the film. I kind of mused out loud on a message board that I wanted to restore THIEF AND THE COBBLER. Simon contacted me saying, “Hey, I worked on this film, here’s some rare stuff.” He sent me the widescreen DVD version of the THIEF from Japan, which is pretty rare, a beautiful copy of a 1980 documentary about the film and some really rare camera tests he’d saved from the film. I just ran with it from there, and I’ve been hemorraging money on this project ever since.
Roy Naisbitt was also great. I called him up. A very nice man, and a genius at that. He was Dick’s assistant and layout man for nearly three decades. He sent me some really rare stuff – documentaries from the 1960s and television commercials. I visited Alex Williams, Richard’s son and a primary animator on the film (he did Tack and the opening). Andreas Wessel-Therhorn, who animated the lackeys, has been very nice. He lent me his vast collection of THIEF artwork. Tony White, Holger Leihe, Steve Evangelatos, Greg Duffell, Jerry Verschoor and Beth Hannan are others who have helpd. I’ve been such a fan of this beautiful film for years, and now I get to see it from the inside, and in a lot of ways touch a piece of it. It’s beautiful, it’s such an honor. I hope more people get in touch.
If anyone is reading this who worked on the Thief, my email is tygerbug (at) yahoo (dot) com. What we’re doing is we’re putting together a scrapbook. I’m collecting everyone’s memories, good, bad and otherwise. If anyone has saved artwork, video or anything else, I collect it and I send it to EVERYONE, so that everyone involved in the film can share in it. I’m planning on writing a book about the THIEF and doing a documentary. It’s an insane story, a story of obsession and the desire for perfection in art. I’m primarily a filmmaker; I’ve directed seven features and thirty shorts, which you can see at OrangeCow.org. I once spent three years on one feature so I know a few things about obsession in art.
There’s already a rough ‘director’s cut’ by Richard Williams that has been floating around the animation biz for many years. How does your version differ from the existing Williams’ cut that many in the industry have seen?
GG: Yeah, that bootleg. That’s the whole inspiration for this project because it’s terrible, isn’t it? I mean, it’s beautiful to watch because it’s a great film, but the quality is terrible. You can’t see anything. And half the film isn’t finished. My goal is to take everyone who has that crappy bootleg, and quietly replace their terrible copies with a gorgeous DVD-quality copy. This is why I’ve been giving it out for free so much, because I want this version of the film to spread enough so that Disney says, “Hey, we’d better get on to restoring this film.”
I noticed that you’re doing some really ambitious things like compositing frames from two different sources to create a widescreen effect. Can you tell us what other types of things you’re doing that’ll make this the definitive version of the film?
GG: We spent a few months searching for the best version of the workprint we could find. First, I edited the whole film with a poor quality workprint, and I released that as the “Recobbled Rough Cut,” which a lot of people have. But better quality copies of the workprint kept turning up. I wound up re-editing the whole damn movie twice! Finally a REALLY good quality copy turned up on Emule of all places. I have no idea who originally posted it there. I’m sure it was someone who worked on the film. So I’m starting all over again. The crappy Miramax version is available on DVD in widescreen, and I’m using that, so you can see 80% of the movie in glorious widescreen. The audio is from the workprint mostly, and has been noise-reduced and restored. Anything they cut out, we take from the workprint, which has been restored by Chris Boniface.
The workprint is matched to appear in the same place as the DVD material, so it transitions seamlessly. It’s all color corrected. More music has been added that wasn’t there before to make it feel more like a finished film than a workprint. I’ve added back a few scenes Dick originally cut out, and I’m actually using a lot of the stuff Fred Calvert animated, even if it’s kind of cruddy, because it tells the story better than storyboards. Some of the film is still unfinished, and you’ll see storyboards, but you’ll see a lot less of them than you used to. Also, there are some really important scenes that are in Fred Calvert’s PRINCESS AND THE COBBLER version of the movie but not in the Miramax cut, which is much worse. These include the old witch, the entire march of the One-Eyes, a lot of the best stuff in the film. I wish I had PRINCESS AND THE COBBLER in widescreen but it was never released in widescreen. So, what I’m doing is pasting the really clear pan-and-scan image over the less clear widescreen image from the workprint. It works great, because the pan-and-scan image contains the important part, like the witch herself, and that’ll be really clear.
I’m also using a lot of trickery to make it work better. I’ve created my own backgrounds for some pan-and-scan shots so the whole picture can be clearer. I’ve composited parts of shots over clearer backgrounds. In one shot, the Thief is really tiny in it, so I just composited The Thief over a really clear background from the DVD, and reanimated the FX elements around him myself. I did the same with a shot of the One-Eye War Machine: I created a background and animated it with rain. My main goal is to create something Dick would like too. I don’t know if I’m capable of that, but I hope so even though my cut is not the same as his cut.
Since this whole thing is obviously a non-profit fan-driven project, how will the average reader of Cartoon Brew be able to get their hands on this material?
GG: The final “Recobbled Cut” is available for free via torrent at Demonoid.com and Mininova.org. There’s already an old torrent there somewhere which has a terrible version of the workprint and some good specials on it, but the real “Recobbled Cut” will almost certainly end up there. I don’t know about the ten-plus special feature discs, but we’ll see. They’ll certainly be spreading around. I’ll make sure of that.
For more info about anything related to this project, contact Garrett at tygerbug (at) yahoo (dot) com.