Just released on Warner Archive’s on-demand line of DVDs is Gene Kelly’s ambitious ballet film Invitation to the Dance. The film’s third segment, “Sinbad the Sailor,” is a half-hour combination of live-action and animation, the latter directed by MGM’s team of Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera. The film has never been on DVD before, and if not necessarily a classic, the combination of Kelly, Hanna and Barbera makes for some fun moments.
The delightfully grouchy Ed Benedict, who I interviewed in 2002 for Animation Blast #8, spoke about his involvement in the film and why he disliked it:
“That was a miserable project. I was at home…[Fred] Quimby called and briefly described this project that he wanted me to come over and work on. I got the impression that I would be designing this so I was excited. I was quite enthusiastic about it and felt challenged. I went over and started fumbling around, making scribbles, trying to find a style. But they weren’t the designs that I originally did. I just turned my back away from the whole thing as much as I could. I got Don Driscoll, a friend of mine who worked at Paul Fennell’s, to paint the backgrounds. He had the ability but he wasn’t the painter. Anybody could have painted the backgrounds because they didn’t have anything on them.
“Invitation to the Dance was a farce and I was shocked because if you look at a lot of the old MGM musicals, they used Lautrec, Cezanne and a lot of different styles of backgrounds, just great stuff. Gene Kelly is running the show more or less on those type of decisions and he’s over there making the approvals on this stuff. There’s samples coming from the art department on the main lot, others besides myself were handing in ideas, and nothing took place.”
See some of Ed’s development art from the film HERE.