Vintage Holiday Cartoon Art Roundup

A few nice collections of holiday-themed cartoon artwork to keep you entertained during the cold weather…

Disney artwork

Beautiful drawings by “Walt Disney Staff” illustrating a short story by Pearl S. Buck that appeared in a 1956 issue of Family Circle.

Jingle Bells

Illustrations from Jingle Bells, a Little Golden Book by the great J.P. Miller.

Disney artwork

An incredible collection of Disney Studio holiday cards from the 1930s-’50s.

Life magazine

Delightful and humorous holiday imagery from the early-20th century published in Life magazine.

Littlest Snowman

Holiday comic art including some great Frosty comics, as well as the creepy Littlest Snowman cover above.

Fleischer Superman on DVD

Warner Bros. is finally releasing the classic Paramount Superman cartoons (1941-43) on a stand alone DVD set. These are the nine Max Fleischer sci-fi adventures and eight Famous Studios World War II flavored action epics as you’ve never seen them before. The two-disc collection will go on sale April 7th and will retail for $26.99 (and be available much cheaper on Amazon, at Best Buy, Target and Wal-Mart).

Warner Bros. and DC Comics own the master negatives to these cartoons and the new restorations here are truly breathtaking. Warner Home Video previously released these only as bonus material on several Christopher Reeve Superman DVDs, but are releasing this special set due to popular demand. Throw away your Dollar Store dupes. This is the ultimate collection of these cartoons.

(Thanks Dave Lambert at TVshowsondvd.com)

New Years Looney Tunes marathon

Looney Tunes make a return appearance to television on New Years Day when Cartoon Network is scheduled to broadcast an all-day 14-hour marathon of classic Warner Bros. cartoons.

95 shorts, spanning four decades, begin on New Years Day (January 1st) at 6am with Freleng’s The Wabbit Who Came To Supper (pictured above). The final hour at 7pm highlights Chuck Jones masterpieces like One Froggy Evening, Duck Amuck, Duck Dodgers and What’s Opera Doc?. Jon Cooke posted the exact schedule on the Termite Terrace Trading Post forum.

But note, this is a one-time-only stunt. Perhaps overwhelming ratings will convince the network to return these treasures to the regular line-up. Whatever happens, this sounds like the perfect way to start 2009.

Hornswiggle

Well, imagine my surprise when I sat down to watch Saturday’s installment of Random Cartoons (10:30am/1:30pm on Nicktoons Network) and up popped my own cartoon Hornswiggle. Had I known it was going to run this weekend, I would have let you all know.

I was very disappointed I couldn’t give Brew readers advance notice. The good news is that someone posted the broadcast on YouTube – not quite the way I wanted you to see it, but it’ll have to do. Enjoy!

Rooftop Films Call for Submissions

Rooftop Films

Rooftop Films, the yearly film festival that takes place across the rooftops of New York City, is currently accepting submissions for its 2009 summer series. Next year’s festival, the 13th anniversary of Rooftop, runs from May through September. The early submission deadline is January 5, 2009. Submission fees are a reasonable $9, and everybody who submits receives two free passes to any Rooftop Films show. They’re a solid filmmaker-friendly organization that I hear only good things about and should be commended for supporting both animation and live-action filmmakers. Complete submission info can be found on the Rootop Films website.

The Hangman

Joe Dante’s Trailers From Hell is down for Christmas week, so instead of trailer commentaries he’s running The Hangman, a rarely-seen 1964 short subject designed by Paul Julian and co-directed by Julian and Les Goldman, based on Maurice Ogden’s classic poem. If you are only familiar with Julian’s work through his years of background design for Warner cartoons or UPA’s version of “The Tell-Tale Heart” (1953), you know you are in for a treat. Haunting and moody – believe it or not, they used to show this to us in public school in the 1960s!

Thanks, Joe!

The Twelve Animated Days of Christmas, #9

Today’s entry from the UK is more curio than classic: the 1959 Halas and Batchelor cartoon The Christmas Visitor, directed by John Halas, designed by Ted Pettengell, and animated by Harold Whitaker and Tony Guy. The cartoon, like a lot of Fifties work by Halas and Batchelor, is an uncomfortable mix of ‘cartoon modern’ styling and traditional animation movement. Its rarity makes it worth a view.


(via the excellent Saturday Morning Blog)

Cartoon Dump News

Chris Hardwick is our guest comedian for Tuesday night’s live Cartoon Dump show in Los Angeles. If you don’t know him, he’s a very funny writer/actor/comic who is currently a regular on G4′s Attack Of The Show, blogs on Nerdist.com and provided the voice for the hero Green Arrow on the The Batman (2004), the villain Glowface on Nickelodeon’s The X’s, and stars as Otis the Cow on Back To The Barnyard.

It’s our Christmas Special – and Mighty Mr. Titan will be one of the chestnuts we’ll be roasting in a open fire. Join us on December 23rd at 8pm at the Steve Allen Theatre in Hollywood.

P.S. Good news for our friends and fans in the Bay area – we are coming to the Eureka Theatre on January 31st. Cartoon Dump will be part of the San Francisco Sketchfest – with guest comedians Andy Kindler and Mary Lynn Rajskub (“24″). Join us there at 8pm. Tickets available now!

Laika Lays Off 65; Scraps Jack and Ben

Laika

The big animation layoff news of the past week came out of Oregon-based Laika. The Oregonian reported that the studio laid off 65 people and cancelled their post-Coraline followup, Jack and Ben’s Animated Adventure. The CG film had a troubled production history and had been in development at Laika since 2005. Last year, the film’s original writer and director, Jorgen Klubien, left the project over “creative differences.” Mulan director Barry Cook was the new director when the studio pulled the plug. According to a Laika spokeswoman, the studio will make announcements about new projects early next year. My only observation is that if a film still has the words “Animated Adventure” in its title after four years of development, then it’s probably a wise bet to can the idea. Seriously, who’d ever go watch a film titled The Dark Knight: Live-Action Adventure.

(via Mark Mayerson)

The Twelve Animated Days of Christmas, #8

Der Schneemann (The Snowman) is a delightful 1943 animated short directed and animated by Hans Fischerkoesen in Nazi Germany. Fischerkoesen was arrested after the war accused of being a Nazi sympathizer but was eventually able to prove that he had been a member of an underground resistance group of artists. Read more about his life and work in this article by William Moritz.

Rare Commercials by Tex Avery, Ed Benedict and Tom Oreb

YouTube user ‘VidResidue’ has uploaded a couple of rare 1950s animated commercials worth sharing. The first is a Kool-Aid spot directed by Tex Avery and designed by Ed Benedict. I think it’s amazing that Avery’s last theatrical cartoon–Sh-h-h-h–was released in 1955 when he was only 47 years old. Tex’s flame burned out prematurely. As much as I enjoy his TV commercials (of which I’ve only seen a dozen or so out of hundreds that he directed), it’s disheartening that one of animation’s greatest directors has a late body of work that is comprised entirely of lightweight advertising jobs and cheap TV shows. (Earlier this year I did a lengthier post about Avery’s late-career.)

Next is a Peter Pan Peanut Butter spot designed by Tom Oreb. I’m guessing the director of the spot is Charles Nichols.

Here is the model sheet that Tom Oreb created for the TV version of Peter Pan characters (click for bigger version).

Tom Oreb model sheet

Open Season 2‘s Coloring Page Clumsiness

I’ve discovered over the years that studying a studio’s movie advertising and film promotion collateral is often a good way of gauging the studio’s overall health. For example, compare this coloring page that Sony Pictures Animation created for the first Open Season:

Open Season coloring page

to what arrived in our email yesterday from a PR company promoting Open Season 2:

Open Season coloring page

This is a fairly significant lapse in quality control. How hard is it to have an artist spend a couple hours whipping up a proper illustration of the studio’s franchise characters? Instead they created the line art by tracing the contours from a CG model resulting in an awkward, wonky, tangent-filled piece of crud. Infer what you want from this little promotional piece, but I don’t see successful studios like Pixar and DreamWorks making these type of bush-league mistakes.

For the record, the PR company also made us this offer: “We are happy to offer DVD giveaways with this coloring page as well.” I think we’ll take a raincheck on that offer.

Story from North America

When I presented my 2008 animation picks last week, I didn’t offer up any student shorts on my list. That’s not because I didn’t see any good student work during this past year. Far from it, I saw quite a few nice pieces. Nothing blew me away though to the extent that I had to include it on the list. That’s all changed now because I’ve just seen Story from North America, an awesomely excellent film animated by Kirsten Lepore and Garrett Davis, with music written and performed by Davis. Created at the Maryland Institute College of Art, it is a combination of surprisingly poignant song-driven storytelling and some of the most crazily inventive and funny hand-drawn animation I’ve seen in recent times. The short may have less polish and sheen than other student films, but its originality and creative use of the animation medium makes it one short I won’t be forgetting anytime soon.


(Thanks, Kelly Toon)

Help Select the 100 Greatest Looney Tunes

I’m working on a new book project with Insight Editions (the same folks who published The Hanna Barbera Treasury) – and I need your help.

The concept is similar to my long out-of-print book, The 50 Greatest Cartoons (1994), only this time its all Warner Bros. Cartoons and we will highlight the top one hundred. I am personally contacting some of the top historians, animators, critics, filmmakers and authorities for their opinion. But why stop there? In 1994, for my previous book, we didn’t have the Internet to do the poll (nor did I have a blog). It should be exciting to see what the consensus of the online world is.

I’m asking all participants to list their “greatest” nominees in the comments section below. You can list your top ten, twenty or fifty – but please, no more than that. List them in order of greatness, #1 being the most important. I’ll cull the final one hundred out of what titles we receive by January 9th. Please include your real name if you wish to be acknowledged in the book.

This is open to the 1001 (or so) theatrically released Warner Bros. cartoons (Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies) created between 1930 and 1969 (though I tend to doubt we’ll receive too many entries from the 1960s). No government sponsored films (sorry Snafu), industrial or made-for-TV animation accepted. The classic shorts. You know what I mean. Here’s the complete list of eligible film titles.

What defines greatness? That’s up to you. I’m throwing the door wide open. Historical significance, biggest laughs, greatest character animation, important milestones… make a list and check it twice. And post it below.