Wednesday, September 21, 2016
Monsieur Blogmester a.k.a. Paul F. Etcheverry, happy in NYC
Due to a death in the family, this blog and blogger are officially on hiatus for an indeterminate period. Cannot overstate the extent to which condolences received thus far are very much appreciated.
Mary Ellen Hubbard Etcheverry (April 7, 1924 - September 19, 2016)
Have no clue how long this hiatus will be. There are uncompleted posts in the pipeline and it is possible I will recycle/revise/rewrite older posts I liked a great deal.
Whenever the weekly blog posts resume, without a doubt, there shall be - in the inevitable Shameless Self-Promotion department - items plugging upcoming old school 16mm film shows, a program That Darn Blogmeister will be doing with Jeff Sanford's Cartoon Jazz Septet in Felton, CA as well as the upcoming (and as of yet unannounced) KFJC Psychotronix Film Festival on December 3, 2016 at Foothill College in the Los Altos Hills, CA.
Mostly, it's sayonara, baby . . . for awhile. Friends of Paul the Blogmeister know what to do, but it bears repeating - please call or e-mail him, as he will be largely staying away from that ongoing ugly, sickening tire fire known as "social media" . . . unless it's to follow a cool tweet about music by Van Dyke Parks, of course.
Friday, September 16, 2016
One week from today in beautiful downtown Redwood City (as opposed to beautiful downtown Burbank), on Friday September 23, vintage silent movies produced 100 years ago will be accompanied live by the music of Jeff Sanford's Cartoon Jazz Septet.
From the official press release:
Angelica's and Montuno Productions present Jeff Sanford’s Cartoon Jazz Septet in a live performance of delightful and whimsical music of the classic cartoons, which will be accompanied by silent films, comedy, and magic.
The Septet is a smaller version of the Cartoon Jazz Orchestra, which Jeff Sanford organized in 2003 to play the eccentric, highly entertaining and challenging music of American composer Raymond Scott.
This music is known to millions around the world — it was the soundtrack to 120 classic Warner Bros. Looney Tunes cartoons.
The first public appearance of the Cartoon Jazz Orchestra was at the 2003 Stanford Jazz Festival, and the group has been performing regularly ever since.
They appeal to young children who love the great variety of instruments and sounds, older adults who remember the original cartoons, and music lovers of all ages who appreciate the sophisticated, out-of-the-box compositions and performances. Audiences everywhere are blown away by their virtuosity. And the musicians have as good a time as the audience does.
The vision of the Septet extends far beyond Raymond Scott’s music these days. Among other icons, Jelly Roll Morton and Duke Ellington are represented, as is Charlie Shavers, the brilliant trumpeter, composer and arranger who “jazzed the classics” for the John Kirby Sextet in the 1930s.
Since 2009, Lenny Carlson has been composer-in-residence for both the Septet and the Orchestra, composing more than 30 original pieces in a variety of styles.
Lenny has taken the spirit of Raymond Scott and updated it, combining classical and jazz elements with klezmer and folk styles from around the world.
He has also composed a number of Latin-flavored pieces that are part of the Cartoon Jazz Septet repertoire.
The show will also feature a comedy and magic performance. Old school 16mm films will be presented by the fellow responsible for Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog, writer and film historian Paul F. Etcheverry, co-founder of the KFJC Psychotronix Film Festival.
The Date: Friday September 23, 2016
Showtime: 8:30 p.m.
The Place: Angelica's, 863 Main Street, Redwood City, CA 94063
Bell Stage Main Dining Room
Buy Advance Tickets here
Tickets at the Door $35.00
Premier Seating while available on line $35.00
Regular seating while available on line $27.00
Phone: (650) 679-8184
For more info, see:
Cartoon Jazz Orchestra official website
Cartoon Jazz Orchestra Facebook page
Sunday, September 11, 2016
This writer and animation buff, for reasons he will never, ever entirely understand, possesses a deep and profound affinity for B-studio cartoons.
This affinity is as strong as his love of 2-reel comedies, as well as B-movies (and sometimes C, D, E, F, F# and Gb movies) in the science fiction and film noir genres. Some of it is directly due to constant exposure to massively phantasmagorical animated mayhem on television in glorious black and white during the late 1950's and early 1960's.
Of the various B-studio cartoons, it's a tossup between the Charles Mintz/Screen Gems Studio, which produced series for Columbia release, independent producers Les Elton and Ted Eshbaugh, and the Van Beuren Studio, which cranked out Aesop's Fables, Tom & Jerry, Cubby Bear and Little King cartoons for release by RKO Radio Pictures (note: the Van Beuren cartoons have, fortunately, been well served by DVD releases from Steve Stanchfield's Thunderbean Animation).
First and foremost, before getting into those 1930's Columbia cartoons, we shall start with something most of you animation buffs reading this blog already know: a bit of Machiavellian film history, familiar to all who saw the Pixar movie Up and found themselves the sole individual in the theatrical audience to chortle loudly upon hearing that the evil bad guy's name was Charles Muntz.
Charles Mintz is known in the annals of animation history as the Universal Pictures producer of the Walt Disney Studio's popular silent era starring character, Oswald The Lucky Rabbit. Publisher and author David Gerstein has told this story of the break between Disney and Mintz at length in his article, Of Rocks & Socks: The Winkler Oswalds on Jerry Beck's Cartoon Research website, as has writer Don M. Yowp in a post from his excellent Tralfaz website, That's Oswald.
Mintz was married to pioneering animation producer and businesswoman Margaret J. Winkler. Also involved in the studio, from silent days to its closure in 1941: production manager George Winkler, whose job description was "crack the whip".
Winkler Productions, distributors of Otto Messmer's Felix The Cat and Walt Disney Productions' Alice In Cartoonland series, enjoyed great success with Disney's cartoons featuring Oswald The Lucky Rabbit and the sprightly animation of Ub Iwerks.
Disney was working as Mintz and Universal's employee and wanting a budget increase for the next season of Ozzie cartoons. Mintz countered by giving Walt an ultimatum: accept a budget AND a pay cut or be fired.
Mintz won this gambit and successfully took control of both the studio and the Oswald The Lucky Rabbit character. Having successfully wrested control of the popular character and hired animators Hugh Harman, Rollin Hamilton, Paul Smith and Ben Clopton from Walt's staff, Mintz finished the remaining Oswalds on the Disney contract and then organized a new studio to produce the next series on May 5, 1928.
Except for Ub Iwerks and apprentice animator Les Clark, the Walt Disney Productions staffers jumped ship to work for Mintz. You know the rest of the story: Ub joined Walt in California to create a new flagship character for the Disney Studio. . . and that would be Mickey Mouse.
Charles Mintz started his association with Columbia Pictures as the executive producer behind the New York animation studio, led by Ben Harrison and Manny Gould (1904-1975). Both had been animating on the silent Krazy Kat series that Bill Nolan had been making in 1925-1927, then began directing and producing them with Tired Wheels, released on October 8, 1927. Winkler Productions cranked out silent Krazy Kats and much of this crew would follow Mintz to the new studio in California.
By the time the Harrison and Gould crew started making Krazy Kat cartoons, the character was in at least its second movie incarnation, the first closer to the George Herriman comic strip character than those that followed (at least until Gene Deitch's made-for-TV series for King Features in the 1960's). While these cartoons advertise themselves as being based on the comic strip, that would be a tenuous connection at best. The look is there, but Herriman's minimalist universe and essential concept is not. Only one entry from the subsequent "talkie" Krazy Kat series, Lil Anjil (1936), attempted to tackled the George Herriman version of the character.
These initial entries in the Krazy Kat series were the first films Charles Mintz produced for Columbia release. The following, the first "talkie", released theatrically on August 15, 1929. . . well, it's pretty darn crude and not anywhere near the level of the Fleischer Studio's Inkwell Imps series.
That said, soon after those first few talkies, the Krazy Kat series hit its stride. The series improved rapidly and began delivering striking and original ideas, with that wonderfully distorted imagery of "rubber-hose" era animation. Here's a 1930 entry The Apache Kid, seen provoking a rousing audience response more than seven decades later.
In particular, the Great Depression tale Lambs Will Gambol and the gritty gangster movie sendup Taken For A Ride, like The Apache Kid, are imaginative and memorable cartoons.
Once having hit their stride, the Krazy Kat series delivered the "all talking all singing all dancing - and almost all bizarre" job description of early 1930's cartoons at times exceptionally well.
At their best, this series could, with some panache and originality, equal anything produced by Disney and Fleischer at the time.
The second crew that brought a certain East Coast sensibility to sunny California turned out to be several artists formerly with none other than the Fleischer Studio - and actually did contribute animation to the aforementioned Inkwell Imps cartoons: the legendary Dick Huemer, previously known for his stellar work on Fleischer's Koko The Clown (and subsequently a key storyman with Disney, in collaboration with Joe Grant), gagman par excellence Sid Marcus and the great Warner Bros. animator and director Art Davis.
This crew's first series with Mintz was the, not surprisingly, quite Fleischer-like Toby The Pup cartoons, produced for RKO Pathe release in 1930-1931.
The next series to be produced by the Huemer-Davis-Marcus crew starred a little city kid named Scrappy.
The first in the series, Yelp Wanted, is an astonishingly dark cartoon; Scrappy is on the mean streets and surrounded by danger. There's astounding animation by Dick Huemer throughout.
Unlike Disney's Mickey Mouse, Hugh Harman & Rudy Ising's Bosko and the Walter Lantz version of Ozzie The Lucky Rabbit, all three emotionally and spiritually in sunny California, the first Scrappy cartoons definitely have an urban New York City flavor.
Without a doubt, both our protagonist and the bullies that bedevil him are definitely NOT from Park Avenue.
These initial opuses de Scrappy are truly twisted, often wildly push the 1931 "squash and stretch"envelope to its limits and look like they were drawn by R. Crumb - in short, everything we at Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog adore about early 1930's cartoons!
Not to be outdone, the Harrison and Gould crew produced a good number more highly inventive Krazy Kat cartoons at the same time. Several feature a creative use of music throughout.
As ace animator Dick Huemer's work on the first two seasons of Scrappy made for quite a few unbeatable classic cartoons, the animation of Manny Gould, Preston Blair, Al Eugster and others contributed lively pen-and-ink flair to the Krazy Kat series.
Other Krazy Kat entries - The Disarmament Conference, Prosperity Blues and the aforementioned Lambs Will Gambol - are distinguished by how they incorporate surprisingly stark social commentary about current events and the Great Depression into the cartoony landscape.
Meanwhile, the 1932-1933 Scrappy cartoons add a double shot of very goofy, anarchic humor into the mix.
In such cartoons as The Flop House, the results are hilarious.
With high hopes to emulate the Fleischer Studio's success with Popeye, the Mintz Studio bought the rights to Billy DeBeck's comic strip Barney Google in 1934. Unfortunately, the series, produced in 2-strip Technicolor, folded after four films.
What little this 1930's animation fan has seen of the surviving Columbia Barney Googles indicates that they may have, after working with the characters for a bit, settled in and produced very good work.
While unlikely to have reached the high level of the Fleischer Popeyes or the two Milt Gross MGM cartoons starring his own characters, Count Screwloose and J.R. The Wonder Dog, these cartoons definitely have their moments.
There's considerable promise in quite a few individual scenes, as this reconstruction of the first Barney Google cartoon, Tetched In The Head, from the handful of surviving 50 foot silent 16mm home movie prints indicates.
The Mintz/Columbia Barney Googles are somewhat comparable to the MGM Captain And The Kids (a.k.a. Katzenjammer Kids) cartoons, very good in segments and occasionally an entire cartoon but never quite hitting the mark overall, Friz Freleng's fine work directing the latter series notwithstanding.
With that observation on silvr screen efforts to translate comics to animated cartoons, we close today's post. The "rest of the story", what happened to the Color Rhapsodies as the 1930's wore on and how this affected the B&W Krazy Kat and Scrappy cartoons, will be in Part 2.
Acknowledgements go to Milton Knight, Craig Davison, Don M. Yowp, David Gerstein, Pietro Shakarian, Mark Kausler, Lee Glover and Jerry Beck. For more on Scrappy cartoons, check out the Scrappyland site by journalist and vintage animation expert Harry McCracken. See the aforementioned Tralfaz website and the Uncle John's Crazy Town comics and animation blog for more about the Charles Mintz Studio, Margaret J. Winkler and Krazy Kat. For more on Dick Huemer's career in animation, read the fascinating and incredibly thorough oral history conducted by author Joe Adamson.
Saturday, September 03, 2016
Some extravaganzas on the short list of favorite movies here at Way Too Lazy To Write A Blog also feature favorite animated main title sequences. Hitchcock's Rear Window is remarkable on both counts.
Always got a big kick out of seeing Terry Gilliam's animation in the Monty Python's Flying Circus and Marty Feldman Comedy Machine television series.
It was a foregone conclusion that when the Pythons transitioned to features, naturally there would be main titles drenched with Gilliam's distinctive stamp.
Considered Paramount as in both all-time favorites and Paramount Pictures, here are the wonderful animated titles from The Lady Eve, singular in the category of "movie in which Preston Sturges, Barbara Stanwyck and Henry Fonda are ALL involved."
Now who animated the splendid title sequence for this splendid Sturges opus remains a bit of a mystery, as the smiling serpent does not stylistically resemble animation by the Fleischer Studio, producers of numerous cartoons for Paramount Pictures. It has been credited to Leon Schlesinger/Warner Brothers, but does not look like anything from Tex Avery and Bob Clampett, either. That leaves Chuck Jones and Friz Freleng. Perhaps an individual animator on staff was given the job of animating the titles.
Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein, one of the comedy team's best movies, starts with a very creative and beautifully executed main title segment. One would assume it was created by the ace animators from the Walter Lantz Studio, who had been cranking out cartoons for Universal release for almost two decades by then. Then again, the Lantz Studio did close in the late 1940's due to financial difficulties and was not operating when A&C Meet Frankenstein was made (the studio subsequently re-opened in 1950).
Author and animation expert Jerry Beck noted in the February 13, 2013 post on the Cartoon Research website that Dave Fleischer was at Universal Pictures at that time. Fleischer, in collaboration with the studio of former Disney and Screen Gems animator Howard Swift, was responsible for providing animated titles to Universal Pictures features in the late 1940's.
While the following YouTube copy is a 12th generation dupe, a far superior transfer can be found on the fascinating Art Of The Title website.
This writer, an enthusiastic fan of the Second City Television (SCTV) program, misses comedian and character actor supreme Rick Moranis tremendously, Rick's occasional comedy albums (My Mother's Brisket And Other Love Songs) notwithstanding.
Here's the animated opening to a flick Rick starred in that made a gazillion bucks for Disney and proved a fabulous choice for an excursion to a movie matinee back in 1989, Honey I Shrunk The Kids.
Back in the early 1950's, Disney's bête noire (full of former Disney animators), the UPA Studio, riding high from the critical success of their high design Jolly Frolics "cartoon modern" series, not to be outdone, created equally stylish main titles for The Four Poster, as well as the following animated sequences in the body of the film.
UPA would follow this up with the extremely atmospheric titles to arguably their best film, an adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe's The Tell-Tale Heart. While not a feature film, it never feels like a short subject or cartoon and the viewer is led, without any graphic violence onscreen, into Poe's madness. The graphic design, expressing a foreboding The Cabinet Of Dr. Caligari quality throughout, adeptly conveys the underlying terror.
On the other hand, such feature films possessing a very cartoony feel as Blake Edwards' Pink Panther series, starring Peter Sellers as dunderheaded Inspector Jacques Clouseau - a live-action cartoon if there ever was one - also have clever animated main title segments, in this case produced by the De Patie-Freleng studio.
Animated features, especially those produced by Walt Disney Studios, were no slouch either in the "very cool animation throughout the main titles" department.
Vintage cartoon shorts also featured character animation in their openings. We say this noting that both the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies from Warner Bros. generally did not include character animation in the openings but did offer surprises aplenty for the closing "That's All, Folks!" The last 10 seconds from Tex Avery's Looney Tunes manifesto Porky's Duck Hunt (1937) would be a prime example of this.
Note - the following compilations of Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies openings and closings also confirm this. Pardon the use of titles from godawful "colorized" B&W cartoons.
Lively opening titles, featuring character movement galore, begin the Columbia Phantasies, Color Rhapsodies and Fox & Crow cartoons from the 1942-1943 season. Alas, the following Columbia Phantasy, Mass Mouse Meeting, is just one of several which makes one wish the cartoons actually delivered something remotely resembling the zaniness, invention and energy seen in the opening titles.
A personal favorite and fitting closer for today's post is the charming main title segment, animated by Rod Scribner, for UPA's musical Ham and Hattie series. Here are the imaginative titles, then a complete Ham & Hattie short subject, Trees & Jamaica Daddy.
Friday, August 26, 2016
Completing a trifecta that has thus far spotlighted Jay Ward Productions, Bert & Harry Piels ads voiced by Bob & Ray, Tom Terrific, Nudnik, Q.T. Hush and Roger Ramjet, today's tip of a top hat worn by either Jay Ward or Bill Scott goes to (drum roll). . . Aardman Animations!
While this writer often finds current CGI animation - with the exception of those features made by Pixar - a bit too snarky and dialogue-heavy (and lacking the saving grace of Jay Ward Productions/Stan Freberg style witty repartee), the films of Aardman, from their first music videos and short subjects to the latest efforts, delight this lifelong animation fan. That certain indefinable but welcome element of genuine whimsy - a quality not seen at all in the overwhelming majority of American movies and TV shows - delivered with intelligence and nuance, permeates the Aardman films and has since the very beginning.
Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog does not cover much along the lines of 21st century pop culture, but shall make an exception here, given how much we like the Shaun The Sheep movie.
And also the splendid 21st century Aardman Animations features that preceded Shaun The Sheep: Chicken Run and Wallace And Gromit: The Curse Of The Were-Rabbit (note: have not seen the 2006 Aardman CGI feature Flushed Away).
Nick Park created the dynamic and Wensleydale cheese-fueled duo.
A Grand Day Out, the first Wallace & Gromit adventure, originated as a student film.
Indeed, the very British world of Wallace & Gromit possesses a knack for hitting this animation buff's sweet spot every time. We at Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog are not alone in this assessment, as Wallace & Gromit have their own YouTube channel.
Aardman Animations was founded in the 1970's, made their reputation as creators of wonderful short subjects and commercials in the 1980's. Many of us first encountered the model animation of Aardman in the 1986 Peter Gabriel music video Sledgehammer.
Not long afterwards, in such touring feature-length compilations as The Tournee Of Animation and Spike And Mike's Festival Of Animation, the Aardman Animations short subjects would premiere on the big screen in America. Audiences went nuts over the good humor, invention and, most importantly, the whimsy in such Aardman productions as Creature Comforts.
Subsequently, the first Wallace & Gromit adventures would be on the Tournee and Spike & Mike programs - and frequently were the runaway hits.
Ranking high on the short list of this writer's all-time favorite films is Wallace & Gromit in The Wrong Trousers.
The followup, A Close Shave, would introduce another Aardman Animations stalwart, Shaun The Sheep.
The three short subjects, A Grand Day Out (1989), The Wrong Trousers (1993) and A Close Shave (1995), were followed by a TV series, Cracking Contraptions, the Curse Of The Were-Rabbit feature, the featurette A Matter Of Loaf & Death and the Wallace & Gromit's World Of Invention TV series.
The studio has survived much hardship, including a fire in the Aardman Animations warehouse, to re-emerge, most recently with the Shaun the Sheep movie. After the October 10, 2005 fire, the hope was that the company would eventually be able to return from the damage. The blaze wiped out just about all the original sets for the Wallace and Gromit films and panels of original storyboards.
The studio made it back from this adversity, rebuilt and would launch the Shaun The Sheep TV series, as well as the children's show Timmy Time.
Wallace & Gromit returned to the big screen with the half-hour short subject, A Matter Of Loaf & Death (2008).
These would be followed by Wallace & Gromit amusement park rides, video games, an association with The National Trust and TV commercials.
We close with behind-the-scenes clips direct from Aardman Animations - and, last but not least, a cracking good concert from The Royal Albert Hall paying tribute to our heroes.
To paraphrase Wallace, "cracking good cheese - Gromit!"
Sunday, August 21, 2016
Watching Jay Ward cartoons in the last post got this writer thinking of other animated series designed for what Ernie Kovacs called "the orthicon tube" in the late 1950's to mid-1960's.
Ace animator, writer and animation historian Mark Kausler beat us to the punch with a well-written and comprehensive article on the Cartoon Research website about a very good show Your Correspondent liked a great deal, Ed Graham Jr.'s Linus The Lionhearted.
There were some odd 1-shot syndicated series that transcended low budgets with clever ideas and a bit of style. Q.T. Hush, produced in 1960 by Animation Associates - readers may recognize the name of Lou Zukor from the credits of Fleischer and Famous Studios cartoons - was a serialized sleuth series that many children of the early 1960's still remember fondly (note the sound is extremely low on this clip).
It's a tough call to select the funniest of the latter 1950's and 1960's TV cartoon series not produced by Jay Ward. Certainly the animated version of Beany & Cecil (many entries directed by former Walt Disney Studio "duck man" Jack Hannah) featuring a winning, funny and likable cast of characters backed with fine voice work, would be in the running.
Chuck Jones termed many of the made-for-TV toons "illustrated radio" - and there were positive and negative examples of this. It all started in the late 1940's, when Jay Ward and Alex Anderson figured out how to make entertaining cartoons on no budget; write exceptionally funny scripts - and spend the budget on damn funny voice actors. Voila - the first cartoon series produced specifically for TV, the witty Crusader Rabbit.
The first made-for-TV cartoon, Alex Anderson and Jay Ward's Crusader Rabbit basically was still frames. Except for a moment in the opening, there really wasn't any animation. Still, the comedy writing and storylines by Anderson, the voice work and central characters were very funny.
Besides Crusader Rabbit, other than the Tele-Comics series – quite literally comics – in the early days of TV, daily puppet shows as Kukla, Fran & Ollie and Time For Beany were the rage.
In animated commercials, the quintessential example of the new breed would be the Bert & Harry Piel ads produced by Gene Dietch at the New York wing of the UPA studio. The Piels were voiced by two of radio's finest, Bob & Ray. It was a very successful campaign which combined limited animation with stylish graphic design and winning yet understated humor.
Dietch would go on to be hired by Terrytoons, write and directed a group of fascinating theatrical cartoons (the best designed specifically for the wide dimensions of CinemaScope) and then create the series Tom Terrific that aired on CBS-TV’s Captain Kangaroo show. While Tom Terrific is not of the same satiric or subversive cloth as the TV shows by Jay Ward, it remains a prime example of designing a series specifically for children which also offers great entertainment value for all ages. Much of this is due to the contrast between ever-plucky Tom and phlegmatic Manfred The Wonder Dog - and how the minimalist pen-and-ink design and soundtrack music fits the storylines and series concept beautifully.
The series Gene subsequently produced at his Prague studio featuring a little nebbish named Nudnik might have also made a wonderful TV show.
And then there was our favorite at Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog, the both silly and satiric Roger Ramjet.
The series creator, Fred Crippen, previously worked at UPA and subsequently made some excellent indie animation short subjects; Network Awesome has paid tribute in a Films Of Fred Crippen collection. Other key figures in the series went on to work on the Carol Burnett and Bob Newhart shows, while radio great Gary Owens, not long after contributing stellar voice work to all 185 Roger Ramjet episodes, joined the cast of Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In.
What happened? It's pretty clear that as the 1960's progressed and vast numbers of individuals across the nation were dropping LSD-25 tabs as if they were peanut M&Ms, the TV cartoon world was getting . . . well, more conservative. Among the last series that Jay Ward and Hanna-Barbera would launch in the 1960's, George Of The Jungle (17 episodes) and Scooby Doo, Where Are You? ended up establishing the direction for the next decade. The former, often hilarious albeit not as satiric as Rocky & Bullwinkle, ended up not getting renewed and would being the last show produced by Jay Ward - subsequent pilots did not sell - while the latter, which recycled plots and animation ad nauseum, would prove a harbinger of series after series after series produced by Hanna-Barbera and Filmation.
The writing was on the wall. The labor-saving, budget-lowering techniques and, most importantly, storyline repetition of Scooby Doo were the polar opposites of the blueprints for how to do entertaining limited animation series for TV established by Jay Ward Productions, Bob Clampett Productions and other studios - and would usher in the Saturday morning Dark Ages.
Much of this could be attributed to Action On Children's Television. These were well-meaning folks who saw the growing and alarming violence in our society and thought that ACME anvils dropping on Wile E. Coyote may have been a determinant that led to Charles Whitman shooting people randomly on a tower in Texas.
For two decades, stringent rules were placed on cartoons made for TV. Producers of Sesame Street for PBS worked within those rules as best as possible, as did the Schoolhouse Rock series, but nonetheless these would be dreary days for Saturday morning television - and the end of the trail for such imaginative producers of content as Jay Ward Productions. The Action On Children's Television era is also where the idea that cartoons were entertainment designed for children and, unlike Tom Terrific, ONLY for children - a concept that must have made Tex Avery cringe - truly took hold with a vengeance, leading to two decades of terrible animation for TV.
The one thing that can be said for the unending recycling and repetition of Scooby Doo and countless other animated series from the 1970's and early 1980's - besides the fact that it gave animation artists employment - is that the Saturday morning formula ended up inspiring some pretty wonderful parodies, all very much in the spirit of Rocky & His Friends, Fractured Fairy Tales and Roger Ramjet, decades later.
Scooby Doo, Scrappy Doo and Dippity Do (but not Hüsker Dü) would be the norm until those very first glimpses of The Simpsons on The Tracy Ullmann Show, ushering in the next era. These initial efforts were darn near as crude as the early Crusader Rabbit shows, but on the right track.
The Ralph Bakshi produced Mighty Mouse: The New Adventures would soon follow, debuting in the 1987-1988 season - and a new and far less rigid era was at hand.
Friday, August 12, 2016
Having just made a cross country trip involving trains, planes and automobiles, the gang at Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog has enough energy to. . . well, watch Planes Trains & Automobiles but even more likely relax on a Friday with some cool cartoons.
The series of Jay Ward Productions, starting with Crusader Rabbit in the late 1940's, are a perennial favorite.
I'll admit it - I'm a sucker for the cartoons of Jay Ward Productions, even to the extent of having tracked down Bill Scott in November 1981 and interviewed him at length.
Jay Ward Productions' incredible roster of character actors/voice talents - Scott, June Foray, Bill Conrad, Daws Butler, Edward Everett Horton, Hans Conreid, Charlie Ruggles, Walter Tetley - combined with the studio's satiric edge, still gets Mr. Blogmeister laughing after all these years.
In the TV cartoon field at that time, the Jay Ward cartoons were only equaled - in comedy mojo and voice work - by Pantomime Pictures' Roger Ramjet series.
Even the second string Jay Ward shows - Fractured Flickers and Hoppity Hooper - have much to offer in the way of big time belly laughs, in large part due to all of those incredible voice talents and the consistently brilliant comedy writing by Lloyd Turner, Allen Burns, Chris Hayward, Chris Jenkyns, George Atkins and head writer Bill Scott.
As far as the Jay Ward Productions commercials for Quaker Oats go, they were frequently wonderful and superior to the programs they sponsored.
The Jay Ward studio's last series, George Of The Jungle, also featuring Super Chicken and Tom Slick, certainly had moments of serious hilarity. Alas, the two decades after this went off the air, the 1970's and 1980's, would be a dark, dreadful, arid, awful and worst of all, boring stretch for American cartoons. . . a bombed-out wasteland.
June Foray's career in radio, recordings (Stan Freberg), movies and in the cartoons of Warner Bros. and Jay Ward Productions has been responsible for a gazillion laughs. Here she is with animator and writer Darrell Van Citters, author of The Art Of Jay Ward.
For more info, by all means get a copy of the Jay Ward Studio history, The Moose That Roared, A.S.A.P. The story of Jay Ward, Alex Anderson, Bill Scott and the multi-talented animators and voice artists involved in these shows has been painstakingly researched and very entertainingly written by character actor/voice artist/impressionist and film and radio historian Keith Scott.