Friday, September 14, 2007

Cult Cartoons, Part III: More B-Studios

First and foremost, there's the Van Beuren Studio. Animation fans say "God bless Amadee J. Van Beuren", who was the personification of the absentee producer, off somewhere else while his animators churned out delightfully crude Aesop's Fables, Tom And Jerry, The Little King, Amos N' Andy and Cubby Bear cartoons. His office wasn't even in the same building as the studio!

To this day, many decades later, the Van Beuren cartoons manage to be simultaneously inept, saucy and hilarious.

Here are a few great and indescribably bizarre examples of animated mayhem from the New York "B" cartoon studio that resided just down the block from Fleischer's:

And then there was Columbia Pictures sales executive turned cartoon producer Charles Mintz (1889-1939). . .In the 1920's, businessman Charles Mintz tried to show Walt Disney who was boss by taking his starring character and most of his staff. Could the thoroughly maligned outfit known as the Screen Gems Studio have been God's revenge on Mintz for screwing Walt Disney out of his studio and rights to the beloved Oswald The Lucky Rabbit back in the 20's? Or was the fact that Universal Pictures subsequently won rights to Oswald and sent Mintz packing retribution enough?

In any case, after Universal ate Mintz' lunch, he retreated to a more hands-off approach - so it's very likely that Mintz' disinterest enabled the preponderence of bizarre cartoons that emerged under his watch in the 1930's as head of the Columbia/Screen Gems Studio. Another factor was the presence of the unique, imaginative and royally twisted gag mind of director/storyman/animator Sid Marcus. At one point, both the looked-down-upon Mintz cartoons and those of Ub Iwerks' struggling studio were released in the Color Rhapsodies series. Both meet all of the criteria for cult cartoons!

Here are some 1931 Krazy Kat and Scrappy cartoons produced by Mintz, the former by the production crew headed by Manny Gould (yes, the same guy who contributed stellar animation to Bob Clampett and Robert McKimson cartoons at Warner Bros.) and Ben Harrison, the latter by Sid Marcus, Dick Huemer and Art Davis.


sattvicwarrior said...

i love your blog. you have REALLY wonderful clips.
thanks for sharing:)

paul etcheverry said...

Much appreciate the compliment!

Steve Stanchfield of Thunderbean Animation has put together some very good DVDS of the Van Beuren cartoons: go with the early 30's stuff, as they (like everybody else) got more conservative when the animation and production values improved later on. . .