One of the “Holy Grails” amongst us cartoon historians is the series of four Barney Google cartoons produced in Technicolor by Columbia Pictures’ Screen Gems cartoon unit in 1935.
King Features had it in their contracts with Hollywood studios that the films adapting their comic strip creations would be destroyed after ten years (popular demand allowed exceptions to the rule for the Popeye cartoons, Flash Gordon serials and Blondie movies). Thus, many of King Features movie adaptations were considered lost for many decades (luckily prints of King’s numerous serials – The Phantom, Mandrake The Magician, Secret Agent X-9, etc. – have surfaced in recent years). However, Google still remains on the “Most Wanted” list by cartoon buffs and comic strip historians. (A 1946 Paramount Snuffy Smith cartoon, Spree For All is, as far as I know, still non-existant).
British film collector Lee Glover has tracked down several 50 foot rolls of black and white silent Barney Google 16mm home movies versions (excerpts of the Columbia Google cartoons were sold to home movie enthusiasts of the era). He has virtually reconstructed Teched In The Head (1935), the first of the series. It’s no classic, but it’s a treat to see one of these, just to get a taste of what we’ve been denied all these years. Check it out on his website. Thanks Lee, nice job!
(Cel set-up above is from the final Google film, from 1936, Spark Plug)
New week, new film on CartoonBrewFilms. This week, it’s Vaudeville by Chansoo Kim. The film’s subject matter is heavyÃ¢â‚¬”the Japanese occupation of KoreaÃ¢â‚¬”yet Kim manages to create a film of unexpected beauty with an abstract, highly personal approach to the material. The film, produced as a graduate thesis project at USC, has been extremely popular on the festival circuit over the past few years and for good reason: Vaudeville is easily one of the more fully realized student films I’ve run across in recent times and it represents the arrival of an important new voice in animation. Since graduation, Chansoo has been working at CG studios like Rhythm & Hues and ILM but tells me that he hopes to return to short filmmaking soon.
It was just a couple weeks ago that I was lamenting on the Cartoon Modern blog the unavailability of the UPA commercials. Today I have some good news to report. I just got word that animation legend Tissa David has contributed her collection of rare UPA-NY TV commercials and original artwork to the Museum of Modern Art’s Film Study Center. David, age 86 and still animating, donated a dozen pristine 16mm and two 35 mm b&w films of TV commercials for products such as Piels Beer, Cheer, Cannon, and Windex.
Also in the donation are original animation production folders for UPA TV commercials (Nescafe, Chrysler, The Danny Thomas Show, Ford Edsel, Grape Nuts and Coca Cola, among others) containing designs, character models, layouts, exposure sheets and hundreds of sequential animation drawings (in rough and cleaned-up versions). The drawings are by both by Grim Natwick, and Tissa David, who was Natwick’s chief assistant for many years. A huge thanks to John Canemaker for orchestrating this donation and helping Ms. David prepare the material for transfer to the museum.
In two weeks, the Platform International Animation Festival will commence in Portland Oregon. Amid and I will both be there, and I urge you to attend as well. We’ve both been asked to host several panels and screenings, and we are happy to do it. I’ll even be a juror for the television animation competition.
The festival will have four venues with separate tracks of programming – all of it worthwhile. We will be posting several times in the next ten days about some the incredible events planned (or you can explore the programming grids now). First up, here are the two panels I’ll be moderating:
On Friday, June 29 from 2:30pm to 4 pm at Winningstad Theatre, I’ll be hosting a tribute to cartoonist extraordinaire Basil Wolverton. I’ll be discussing his influence on cartooning and animation with panelists Marv Newland, Kenny Scharf and Basil’s son, Monte Wolverton. Rare film and video will be screened.
On Saturday, June 30 from 4 pm to 5: 30pm at the Northwest Film Center: Whitsell Auditorium / Portland Art Museum, I will moderating a panel in tribute to William Hanna and Joseph Barbera. We will taking a good look at some of the earliest of their TV cartoons and talking about what made them so much fun. Animator Ward Jenkins (Laika), exec Michael Ouweleen (Cartoon Network) and again, artist Kenny Scharf will join me to discuss their life and work.
Brewmaster Jerry Beck will be broadcasting again, live on Shokus Internet Radio this Wednesday June 13th from 4pm to 6pm Pacific time (that’s 7pm to 9pm for you in the Eastern Time Zone).
Stu Shostak and I will be discussing cartoon history, animated TV shows, and the upcoming DVD releases of classic animation. If you have a specific question you want answered, call in during the broadcast toll free (888) 746-5875. If you miss the show, it’ll be rerun for the next seven days at the same time. Tune in!
Andreas Deja is not only one of the best of the current generation of Disney animators, he’s one of the most passionate voices on the subject of drawn character animation and an enthusiastic spokesperson on the history of the art.
Andreas will be speaking at the Van Eaton Galleries Thursday June 21st, a benefit lecture for Asifa Hollywood’s Animation Archive. If you haven’t heard Andreas speak, you are in for a real treat. If you’ve ever been to the Van Eaton Gallery space in Sherman Oaks, you know seating is extremely limited. To purchase tickets and for more information, call 818-788-2357 or visit vegalleries.com
John Dyson, the grandson of master animator Ken Harris (1898-1982) started a website last year to post artwork, photographs and ephemera Harris had saved. Dyson wrote in to report a new find:
When my grandmother died a few years back, I recieved a big box of “old stuff” of Ken’s. In this box was a bunch of old animation. He didn’t really keep much of the production cels or drawings, but there was almost 150 drawings in a big envelope labled “Schlesinger days – keep”. They all seem to be from the animators around that time that were just drawn for fun around the studio. Many of these drawings also seem to be around inside jokes, so we really don’t understand many of them.
The newly found Schlesinger era material is posted here. Clearly some of them are drawn by Chuck Jones. If anyone can help us identify artists (or the cartoonists being caricatured) you can contact Dyson directly through the website. It’s well worth browsing the whole site. I particularly like this 1941 Seein’ Stars clipping referencing Harris (without credit).
I was speaking to June Foray today and was surprised to find out she isn’t in the cast of the currently-in-production CG Horton Hears A Who.
Foray, of course, was cast in the original 1970 Chuck Jones TV special playing Cindy Lou Who and Jane Kangaroo. IMDB lists Carol Burnett as voicing the role of Jane Kangaroo in the current production. Gosh, I know it’s way too late to change anyone’s mind at Blue Sky or Fox, but couldn’t Foray – a living legend and the only surviving member of the original cast – at least play a bit part in the new film?