John K. Analyzes The Hep Cat (1942)

Hep cat

John Kricfalusi’s visual analysis of Bob Clampett’s The Hep Cat offers interesting ideas about why this particular cartoon works so well:

“It’s not Clampett’s funniest cartoon, although it is pretty funny. It doesn’t have any star characters in it. What makes it stand out, then? This cartoon is a mood piece. It’s an experiment in atmosphere and emotion…I think the best cartoons revel in goofiness and achieve a kind of gorgeous beauty not attainable in any other medium. Clampett takes the wacky surrealism natural to cartoons and places it in a lush atmosphere.”


  • http://thad-k.blogspot.com Thad Komorowski

    Lookie! I can use the IMDB to prove points too!

    http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v91/looneythad/IMDB.jpg

    Tit for tat.

  • Matt Sullivan

    Oh great. Just what we need. Another lecture by John “know-it-all” K. His constant bashing of CalArts students is a major irritation to me.

    Also, I’m one of the very few people who think the cartoons of the 1940′s, while entertaining, weren’t very creative OR entertaining.

  • http://thad-k.blogspot.com Thad Komorowski

    Also, I’m one of the very few people who think the cartoons of the 1940’s, while entertaining, weren’t very creative OR entertaining.

    Make up your mind.

  • uffler mustek

    “Also, I’m one of the very few people who think the cartoons of the 1940’s, while entertaining, weren’t very creative OR entertaining.”

    Classic. You blew it dude.

  • Bob

    Nobody did lousy work in the 1940′s. Today nearly everyone is forced to do lousy work due to no budgets and corporate idiocy.

  • http://www.bishopanimation.com Floyd Bishop

    Does anyone know if the colors in the image are the same as those from the original short? If so, it’s pretty poor color choice. You can’t really see the black cat’s body against the sky, and that branch on the right could almost pass for an arm or something. I didn’t read the analysis of the cartoon to see if the coloration has been mentioned.

  • http://pupick.blogspot.com/ PCUnfunny

    “Also, I’m one of the very few people who think the cartoons of the 1940’s, while entertaining, weren’t very creative OR entertaining.”

    I feel the same way. The 1940′s cartoons weren’t entertaining at all. They were just entertaining.

    Anyway, I like John K.’s analysis of this cartoon. The Hep Cat had a Saturday night on the town type atmosphere which makes it enjoyable. A cat just wanting to have a good time and probably get some.

  • http://pupick.blogspot.com/ PCUnfunny

    Bishop: I don’t agree on your POV. Everything in the screenshot is perfectly defined. I have no trouble seeing the cat’s body or the branch the bird is on.

  • http://www.animationarchive.org Stephen Worth

    The colors on this cartoon looked much better on the laserdisc release.

  • http://Incoherent-thought.blogspot.com Vincent

    FB it might be a monitor issue. Im seeing a clear silhouette on my screen.
    Otherwise I found this article to be yet another informative read.

  • http://www.awprunes.blogspot.com/ Larry Levine

    I love 1940′s cartoons, especially Warners & MGM.

  • http://www.bishopanimation.com Floyd Bishop

    It must be a monitor issue then. The cat’s right ear (on our left) is pretty much invisible.

  • http://www.dltad.blogspot.com A.M.Bush

    Floyd, I agree that the colors in the cartoon are a little too dark and muted for my taste, but in the actual animation the blue is not as dark as it appears in the screenshot.

  • Brian D. Scott

    This is one of my favorites from that time, along with Back Alley Oproar and Hush My Mouse.

  • Matt Sullivan

    As I tried to write earlier, I meant to write “Amusing”, not entertaining. ( which for some reason, that comment wasn’t approved )It was a brain fart.

    And, by amusing, I meant in a visual manner. They looked very funny, but I just didn’t find them as entertaining as other animated programs.

  • http://geritopiablogspot.com GeeVee

    40′s Cartoons are superior.

    One reason I assert this is that you’d have a very hard time making a cartoon that looks like these ever again. Most would aim at the slapstick elements and give it an abundant homage flavor, like Roger Rabbit. But that unrelenting hyperactivity is not the true soul of these cartoons, when it comes down to the subtle blend of 40s culture, music and voices

    To pick apart and fault some color issues completely obfuscates the overall comedic effect of the work. I’d rather stick with work that hasn’t been so over-analyzed that it becomes perfect-ly stale. This is an art that you SET IN MOTION and the great thing about cartoons of the era is that they have a tight relationship to music and jazz. They are distinctly musical. They just had all the right elements going in an unconstrained, freewheeling way. That’s the miracle right there.

    Oh and they were funny in a way Disney couldn’t touch (although I still love Disney for completely different reasons —It doesn’t have to be a contest for supremecy).

  • http://www.goldenagecartoons.com Matthew Hunter

    Clampett’s one-shots like this were great because the characters were so memorable, even if they never appeared again. This cartoon is better and more fun than any cartoon John K. has ever done.

  • Norty

    Swing music hit its lively peak from about 1940-45. Gee Vee’s words about music intertwining with animation of the day make sense.

  • http://www.awprunes.blogspot.com/ Larry Levine

    “Swing music hit its lively peak from about 1940-45. Gee Vee’s words about music intertwining with animation of the day make sense”

    Plus Carl Stalling & Scott Bradley were on top of their games in the 1940′s.

    Overall the 40′s was a great era for cartoons, the unique styles of Chuck Jones, Clampett & Avery blossomed, Lantz was at his peak & even Famous had some pretty good output.