Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Toons Around The World: Blunders From Down Under

Mr. Blogmeister has been seeking - and for the most part not finding - examples of Down Under cartoon goodness.

Best known was the Eric Porter studio, which debuted with Waste Not, Want Not, a 1939 educational cartoon promoting saving for a rainy day and starring the ravishing big spender Willie The Wombat. The Porter cartoons at times demonstrate that certain bent synthesis of primitive animation and startlingly off-the-wall ideas rampant (and much beloved) in the early talkie Aesop's Fables and Don & Waffles series by New York's Terrytoons and Van Beuren studios.

Curiously, Eric Porter's Color Classics share a series title and main character name (Bimbo) with another New York cartoon studio of note, Fleischer's, although the anthropomorphized car in the following cartoon, Bimbo's Auto may well have been inspired by a viewing of Friz Freleng's 1937 WB cartoon, Streamlined Greta Green.

More lucrative for the studio: a series of ads for Aeroplane Pure Fruit Jellies, featuring the ever-plucky Bertie.

Since the technique in Bimbo's Auto is definitely less advanced than the following animated ad starring the iconic Bertie The Jet, the theatrical cartoon's frequently cited 1954 production date seems a tad suspect. Perhaps the Australian equivalents of The Motion Picture Herald and Harrison's Reports would yield the answers regarding when these cartoons were released theatrically. Even the excellent Animation In Australia piece from the Australian government website is primarily an overview.

The following Eric Porter Studio opus, Rabbit Stew, at least at the moment appears to be only available on YouTube and Daily Motion in the following silent print. Blackhawk Films struck prints of it and Bimbo's Auto for the home 16mm and 8mm market. Unfortunately, the third Porter Color Classics cartoon, Bimbo's Clock, was never completed. Again, Rabbit Stew, said to have been produced in 1952, looks like a cartoon made in America around 1939.

Porter himself frequently shifted over to directing live-action movies and television programs between his studio's projects thoughout his career, but in 1972 returned to animation with the epic fantasy feature Marco Polo Vs. The Red Dragon. The story goes that the ambitious film did very poorly at the box office and lost so much money that the studio was forced to shut down. Although your correspondent has never seen it, perhaps the film (A.K.A. Marco Polo, Jr.) is available on DVD in Australia and New Zealand.

Last but not least, for various clips in today's posting, Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog thanks the outstanding film preservationists at the National Archives Of Australia, the National Film And Sound Archive, and those who authored the Australian Film Institute website. Cheers, mates!


Cam Ford said...

The article about Eric Porter has a few mistakes; the "Waltzing Matilda" short was made by Rowl Greenhalgh Productions. It was later re-titled "A Woodland Dream" and released as part of a series called Krazytoons, a bootlegged film package, mainly pirated copies of 16mm home-movie cartoon prints. Greenhalgh had previously been a background artist for Porter.
Contact me at if you'd like more info.
Cam Ford

Paul F. Etcheverry said...

Thanks, Cam - I've corrected the error!

Christopher Sobieniak said...

You can trust Cam, Paul, he knows what he's talking about, he's been through it!

Reminded one of those archives down under had this interesting interview recorded with Porter back in the mid 70's with him being glad for the work they had been doing for US studios during that time than for it to be sent over to Asia.