Sunday, December 17, 2006

Truly Obscure Animated Cartoons #6



Piano Tooners is a classic 1932 cartoon by the Van Beuren Studio, a ragtag group of ex-Paul Terry-toon staffers located just across the street and down from the Fleischer Studio. While they never quite hit the gloriously surreal heights of Fleischer (it's OK - practically nobody else did, either), Van Beuren cartoons - blending primitive animation, sick humor and elements of the bizarre - remain quite funny. My take is that the Van Beuren staff took full advantage of getting out from under Terry's influence and had the collective thought "Hey, Terry's not here to say no - we can do crazy #!&$^* now! Yippee!"

4 comments:

sattvicwarrior said...

iTOTALLY LOVE YOUR SITE > !!!!! the CARTOONS ARE BRILLIANT THEATER THAT SHOULD BE VIEWED SIMPLY FOR THEIR INNOCENCE AND CONTENT.
IT WOULD BE A GREAT THING FOR STUDENTS IN THE ARTS OF ANIMATION TO SEE HOW SUCH SIMPLE WORKS CAN BE SO REWARDING.! I LOVE YOUR SITE!!!!!!! LOVE IT LOVE IT LOVE IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!! THANKS FOR SHARING.

paul etcheverry said...

Thanks for the kind words! Anybody who suggests that Disney was the only studio making anything worthwhile in the 30's is wrong, wrong, wrong! The "New York style" of animation, by Fleischer, Van Beuren, Ted Eshbaugh, the transplanted New Yorkers at Mintz/Screen Gems and (to a lesser degree) Paul Terry, definitely created simple but absolutely wondrous work in the early 30's. Whatever these films lack in technique, they compensate for with sheer outrageousness, as well as a deep intuitive understanding of the essence of cartoons and comedy.

The "Pre-Code" era was a treasure trove for both animated and live-action comedy. Seems like darn near every film made by Fleischer, the Hal Roach Studio and the Mark Sandrich and Harry Sweet "two-reeler" units at RKO in 1932 was a masterpiece.

sattvicwarrior said...

you said something quite profound there. " THE ESSENCE OF CARTOONS AND COMEDY". contemporary animation for the most part totally miss's that..
In fact a recent documentary on cartoon comedy that i saw, showed how DISNEY stole most of the format for cartoons from these other studios to promote his brand of animation.
thanks:)

paul etcheverry said...

While there are surreal moments in early Mickeys and Silly Symphonies (the great ending of EGYPTIAN MELODIES with the heiroglyphs, the striking imagery in KING NEPTUNE and THE MAD DOCTOR), but Disney was largely after something else entirely than making funny cartoons or doing wild, uninhibited and crazy stuff.

Walt Disney thought kittens playing with string was funnier than anything a gagman could make up, while at Fleischer's and other studios, the m.o. is realizing the wildest, most far-out cartoony idea imaginable in this moment. At Disney's - Pluto getting stuck in flypaper, etc. - comic sequences are showcases for virtuoso personality animation.


I saw a program of Silly Symphonies in 35mm recently (still prefer Fleischer cartoons); didn't laugh much, but was dumbfounded by the highly sophisticated synchronization of music and sound effects to image. Other studios made funnier films, but Disney really had the sound-to-image stuff down.

Sometimes, as in such films as WHO KILLED COCK ROBIN and THE BAND CONCERT (both from 1935 - after the Pre-Code era), the mixture of personality animation, story and gags really clicks and it's superb.

There was one director at Disney's who made very funny cartoons - Jack Kinney, who ran the "Goofy" unit in the early and mid-40's. He also wrote one of the best memoirs about working in animation.