Saturday, October 26, 2013

Toons Around The World: Canada - Eh!

Alas, Mr. Blogmeister, unable to think of a damn thing to write, has submitted for your approval a selection of incredibly cool Canadian cartoons. Of course, had the Canadians only brought us the Second City theatrical troupe and TV show, that would have been more than enough to deserve the love and gratitude of millions around the world, not just comedy geeks.

The National Film Board Of Canada preceded the often devastatingly funny SCTV by decades and produced creative animation in all imaginable genres. Several NFBC classics (in this posting) from the otherwise moribund 1980's can be found on the following DVD, which is out of print, but available via Amazon.

Among the studio's funniest and very best films: the following by NFBC granddaddy and stop-motion animation innovator Norman McLaren.

Here's Norm as the perennial emcee in Opening Speech.

Among the first post-McLaren directors to make a big name with a series at NFBC was the prolific Dutch animator Paul Driessen. I can never explain just how or why Paul Driessen cartoons make me laugh - have an easier time explaining Andy Kaufman - but they do, every time. His graphic design, dark sensibility, minimalist conception, animation style and timing are wholly original. Cat's Cradle and Oh What A Knight are two of Driessen's best.

Following Mr. Driessen will be two very funny films - the second a classic twisted take on Pinocchio (only surpassed by the even more satiric and subversive Jay Ward Productions spoof from the Fractured Fairy Tales series) - directed by NFBC stalwart John Weldon.

Next up, two indescribably funny films. The first is Richard Condie's cartoon with the euphemistic title The Big Snit. The second, The Cat Came Back, a hilarious piece by Cordell Barker, is very likely the only case in animation history of a cartoon being much funnier than another one made by Friz Freleng with the exact same title.

Even the NFBC's animated instructional films, such as this fire safety piece created by Don Arioli and former Zagreb cartoon director Zlatko Grgic, are extremely entertaining and serve those lessons up with plenty of humor.

Weldon, Barker and Condie have enjoyed something anybody working in U.S. films and especially animators would gladly sell their first born male, female or hermaphrodite children for. . .job security. They are to NFBC animation what John Hubley, Robert "Bobe" Cannon and Pete Burness were, rather briefly, to the UPA studio and have continued to make top-notch animated short subjects and television series for NFBC in the decades since.

We'll wrap up this very Canadian posting, of course, with some SCTV, which, more than any other sketch comedy program other than The Ernie Kovacs Show, could get pretty darn cartoon-like (unfortunately, the infamous Quincy - Cartoon Coroner sketch has been pulled from YouTube and Daily Motion). The sight gag brilliance and cartoony qualities extend to the visual presentation and comic timing of the SCTV show openings.

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