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March 30th in LA: “UPA Day!”

As far as I’m concerned, there can’t be enough praise and recognition for United Productions of America (UPA). They may be long gone and (by some) long forgotten, but their influence is still felt in every nook and cranny of the animation craft.

On March 30th in Los Angeles, I will be curating a special selection of UPA cartoons at LACMA (The Los Angeles County Museum of Art) in conjunction with their ongoing exhibit, California Design. We will be celebrating the studio with ten newly restored 35mm prints courtesy of Columbia Pictures/Sony (titles will include ROBIN HOODLUM, ROOTY TOOT TOOT, THE JAYWALKER, GERALD McBOING BOING and others). Not only will I introduce the show, but my colleague Adam Abraham will be on hand to sign copies of his hot-off-the-press UPA history book, When Magoo Flew. We will also have copies of TCM’s new DVD collection, UPA Jolly Frolics on hand for purchase. The event, titled Madcap Modernism: Mid-Century Cartoons from UPA and Beyond will start at 7:30pm on Friday, March 30, 2012, in LACMA’s Bing Theater. General admission is $10. ($7 for LACMA members, seniors (62+), and students with valid ID; $5 LACMA Film Club members). Advance tickets are now on sale: call 323 857-6010 or purchase online. For more information visit the LACMA website. Several other surprises are being planned. Mark your calendar now – don’t miss this special cartoon event.

  • I really like the style of “When Magoo Flew”!

  • This looks like a hot event, Jerry. One of the few times I wish I could be in LA. I’ve ordered the book and the video, but I wish I could be there to see the projected versions. I’ll have to live vicariously through whatever comments can be offered from you and readers.

    Keep putting on such great shows; you’re part of the backbone.

  • UPA changed my views about animation…after reading everything i can about the studio (with great help from Amid’s book)it somehow “matured” and gave me a refreshing look about animation as a branch of the Arts..

    “They may be long gone and (by some) long forgotten, but their influence is still felt in every nook and cranny of the animation craft.”

    How true!! so very true!!

    Thank you UPA!

  • And I just moved to CA…cool!

  • Kevin

    Personally, I don’t care for UPA’s flat, abstract style(I guess Wikipedia didn’t get the memo that stylized animation is high quality) I’m of the opinion that UPA’s influence has been exaggerated. The truth is that the other studios starring characters weren’t suited for that style(the farthest they could go was in the form of stylized backgrounds)Hardly the revolution it’s portrayed as.The one individual who really influenced the art of traditional animation in the 2oth century: Walt Disney.In my humble opinion,UPA was barely a blip on the proverbial radar screen. That’s the way it oughta be.

    • I respect your opinion Kevin, Disney did improve the process of animation but to my opinion Disney only focused on a certain aspect of the craft which is animating in a “realistic” way or copying life. For me that’s not a bad thing at all and i praise Disney for that.

      But on the other hand i see it as only embracing or exploiting an area or part of the craft and again that’s not a bad thing. The only thing that i don’t agree with Disney is their mantra in animation which they say that it is THE only way to animate (copying life, realistic animation) which should not be. I share John Hubley’s view that animation is an ART FORM and by that term it encompasses everything, Disney’s method is only part of the ART FORM and is not the art form itself.

      UPA broadend the horizons of animation by showing us what else animation can do other than what Disney had done. It’s like classical painting where the brush strokes are hidden and shouldn’t be obvious and realism should be thoroughly emphasized. Here comes the Impressionists, bold, daring and expressive in their strokes and has completely given us a refreshing look at the art of painting. Now if you ask people what do they call Van Gogh’s and Raphael Sanzio’s work..probably you’ll get the same answer, it’s a painting.

      I don’t want to assume anything negative about your post but what UPA did was worthy to be called revolutionary so revolutionary that it squirmed its way into Disney in the form of a short called “Toot, Whistle, Plunk and Boom” i am not assuming that Disney created the short out to answer UPA’s “blip” in the radar win with the Academy Award winning Gerald Mcboingboing short. Sorry for the long post but i felt compelled to reply to your post. Have a good day.

      • Kevin

        Lloyd: Whilst I concede that my opinion isn’t popular,I felt compelled to express my point of view all the same. As far as I know, Disney wasn’t the only one to regard animation as a storytelling medium (Chuck Jones is quoted as saying “the way we used it was to invoke life”) I disagree that Disney “only focused on a certain aspect of the craft”, the entire point of high quality animation is to simulate or recreate realistic,plausible movement(which is why their referred to as “mini masterpieces”.) The lush realistic style isn’t the only style HQ animation could be done in, it does represent the best quality animation ever produced though.

      • Kevin: Oh i see it seems that you already have a fixed notion about animation and it is copying or invoking life or emulating life-like gestures and movements. As for me, I see animation as a blank canvass that you can use to express your ideas whether the characters/elements move in a life-like fashion or in quirky limited animation manner. Life-like animation for me isn’t the Alpha or Omega in terms of animation techniques.

        Chuck Jones loosely invoked the realistic style of animation, you can see that in most of his work. High quality animation as you’ve defined it is only limited to how the characters move?..if they’re moving in a realistic way then you’d consider it high animation or any movement that is related to realism? Well we do have our own opinions but certainly for me, i don’t see it that way. For me your term and description of “High-Quality” animation is somewhat biased if we only base our criteria for a “high-quality” animation to your standards.

        Oh well, we all have our own biases and preferences and the only thing we could do is agree to disagree. Thanks Kevin for the lively discussion.

      • Personally I love the style of the UPA studio and I agree with Lloyd that they broadend the horizons of animation at the time.

        Though, I feel that the Western animations UPA was influenced by are often forgotten. Everyone is always talking about Disney/Warner Bros/UPA/etc. but for example the awesome Zagreb School films are often forgotten here, or at least that’s my feeling.

  • Brandon Lyon

    This sounds like a great event. Assuming gas isn’t $5.00 by then, I might just make it ;).

  • James Fox

    I already preordered my copy of TCM’s UPA Jolly Frollics set
    and since it’ll be release a week after the release of Shout! Facotry’s complete collector’s edition set of “Tennessee Tuxedo and His Tales”, it’ll be loads of fun! ^^

  • Jim Roebuck

    I must agree with the opinion of the late, great Charles Martin “Chuck” Jones: I think the work of UPA is over-rated. No, it isn’t bad… it just isn’t any better than the work of any other studio and, I think, not as good as the Warner Bros. or Disney cartoons. Mr. Jones’s big complaint was that the studio’s representative _said_ that they were “anti-Disney,” and that was insulting to all the people who worked there.

    But that isn’t my only problem with the UPA stuff. Their stuff just isn’t particularly interesting. They established one big cartoon star: Magoo. OK, fair enough. I’d rather see Bugs Bunny. (Or Porky Pig, or Daffy Duck, or Foghorn Leghorn, or…)

    The artwork in UPA cartoons? Fooey. – Jim Roebuck