This year marks the 76th anniversary of the Warner Bros.’ The Dover Boys at Pimento University, an experimental theatrical short directed by Chuck Jones that pushed stylized animation in new directions.
Dover Boys (1942) has long been recognized as a seminal film in the development of commercial animation, but only in the last decade has it been rediscovered and memefied by a younger generation who have been drawn to the film’s quirky imagery, including its outrageous use of smears, and its over-the-top dialogue, performed by John McLeish, who was also the narrator of the Goofy “how-to” shorts.
The renewed popularity of the film has now culminated in the ultimate recognition: a re-animation project in which 90+ animators re-made every shot of the film in their own personal styles. The diversity of graphic approaches, visual ideas, and designs used in the short is an especially fitting tribute to a film that in its own time was revolutionary and challenged the graphic conventions of the era in which it was produced.
The Dover Boys Reanimated Collab debuted online last Monday and has attracted over 340,000 views in its first full week online:
Cartoon Brew spoke with the project organizer, who goes by the online handle “Zeurel,” about why he decided to re-animated the film and how he managed to put it all together in just four months.
Cartoon Brew: When did you first discover the short Dover Boys?
Zeurel: I first discovered the short waaaaaay back in 2008-2009 during Skype calls where a friend of mine (Chris Zito) would always quote Dan Backslide. After pressing him as to where it came from he showed us the original short.
What specifically stood out to you about Dover Boys — compared to thousands of other vintage theatrical shorts — that made you want to re-animate this film?
Zeurel: I’ve always loved Dan Backslide (thanks to friends memeing his ‘I’ll steal it’ line) and just the overabundance of smears. The writing in the short also feels surprisingly modern despite it being produced all the way back in 1942; it’s still a joy to watch today.
How/where did you promote the project to gather 90+ animators? How long did it take to find all the artists?
Zeurel: I discussed the project with a close group of art buddies about how to go about promoting it since a few of them had already taken part in some re-animated projects. Most of them suggested Tumblr, but since I don’t use Tumblr, I resorted to using Twitter instead. I created the DoverBoysReanimated Twitter account and posted all links to the required information via that Twitter on the 23rd of April  and retweeted/promoted it with my main account. After the first few retweets from followers I received a cascade of application emails; it took little under four hours to have all the slots filled.
What technical/creative instructions were provided to the participating artists, and how closely did artists have to follow the frame count/scene layout/action for each shot?
Zeurel: Since this was my first attempt at managing something this large I decided to keep the rules and technical aspects simple. Basically the artists had to stick to the 1920×1080 aspect ratio and 24 frames per second and to have the files rendered in either mp4, mov or swf. Artists had to follow the frame count exactly unless they had a scene with a swipe or fade transition as they would have to extend the scene by 20-30 frames so I could do the transition in post, OR the artists could co-ordinate the transition with the adjacent scene to give it a nice little effect, like with PitiYindee and Biffimator’s transition between the scouts sending the message and the mailman entering the saloon.
The only other restraint was that the artists had to follow the original flow of the scene, though they could experiment with a very static scene to breathe more life into it, like the credit sequence at the start. When it came to the characters, I encouraged the artists to interpret them in their own style to help give their scenes their own unique flair. I don’t think the collab would have been as successful as it has been if we didn’t have the bizarre and wacky interpretations from some artists like Gooseworx’s psychotic Dan, Simon Beed’s fleshpile Dan, and Ashley Nichols’ anime inspired Dora.
What do you hope this remake accomplishes — creatively, culturally, or in other ways?
Zeurel: I had three main goals for this collab: 1) To see if I was able to manage something of this size, 2) To get some relatively unknown animators into the spotlight, and 3) Something fun for people to work on. There have been a lot of re-animated projects I’ve seen lately that have a very high bar for entry and to me, personally, that’s no fun. With Dover Boys Reanimated I hoped to get a whole slew of people from all different skill levels and media expertise to participate and have fun, and we certainly achieved that! We had stop motion and someone even used puppets! Hearing that some of these relatively unknown animators are now getting their work noticed is also a huuuge plus – giving them the attention they deserve and a huge confidence boost to boot really makes me glad the collab is having the result I set out for.