Saturday, September 23, 2017

Favorite Psychotronic Cartoons

Back when this blogmeister started Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog in 2006, the mission was to spotlight favorite films that even classic movie buffs would deem too rare, obscure, off-the-beaten path and downright odd for DVD.

Was the objective to write erudite, thoughtful and penetrating essays about said films? No. To enjoy them? Yes - and especially animated cartoons!

Especially close to this blogger's foolish heart: Incredibly Strange Cartoons. Among numerous favorites: the Fleischer Studio's "follow the bouncing ball" Screen Songs, which did not get the frequent TV airplay of the Popeyes and Betty Boops and still have not received a proper Blu-ray/DVD release. Boilesk (1933) is a great one from the series and blends burlesque (featuring cartoon hippos) and vaudeville in the form of live-action guest stars The Watson Sisters.

The primitive yet extremely goofy Van Beuren Studio cartoons of the early sound era have their charms. It's as if random concepts from Disney and Terrytoons were thrown in a blender. . . Press the frappe button, shake well, pour and something funny, strange and different from both the cartoons of Uncle Walt and Uncle Paul Terry oozes out. Are we guilty at Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog of liking Don & Waffles, Tom & Jerry, Sentinel Louey and The Little King? Yep.

This starring vehicle for Otto Soglow's The Little King, Marching Along, is atop the list of imaginative and topical Great Depression themed cartoons, the ethnic stereotypes - rampant in films and especially cartoons through the 1930's - notwithstanding.

The Ub Iwerks Studio presented barbed commentary about prohibition in the delirious Willie Whopper cartoon Hell's Fire, released theatrically on February 17, 1934.

Lesser-known cartoons can be most entertaining and wonderfully hallucinogenic.

While a fair number of these wild and sometimes randy early 1930's cartoons are out-of-print or have not made it just yet to an official DVD release, and others are well into the process of being restored for Blu-ray and DVD, they are all over YouTube.

In stop-motion: the absolutely indescribable but fun Hector The Pup.

At least the following way-out entry from the Van Beuren studio's Tom & Jerry (a.k.a. Dick & Larry) series made it on to one of the Thunderbean DVD releases.

And, speaking of wonderfully hallucinogenic, here are cartoons from the Charles Mintz/Columbia Studio.

In particular, the early sound cartoons of the Walter Lantz Studio, starring the former Disney silent era headliner Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, are bold, inventive and form-bending, partly due to the ever-rubbery animation of Bill Nolan.

While the visual wildness and ultra-cartooniness of the Lantz cartoons toned down as the 1930's progressed, there were still some fun entries in the series such as the King Kong spoof King Klunk (which, dear readers note, is in 1933 style bad taste, no, make that very bad taste - no harm intended 84 years ago).

The new Porky Pig 101 release is out on DVD and we shall see it shortly. Bob Clampett, Tex Avery and Frank Tashlin in particular are patron saints of the "psychotronic cartoon."

The 5-DVD set remains something we are awaiting with Termite Terrace-bated breath.

While reviews of the transfers and overall pictorial quality on Porky Pig 101 range all over the map, from raves to pans, the cartoon-crazed individuals at Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog love the inspired black & white gems produced by the crazy gang at Termite Terrace just the same.

The "Termite Terrace" boys in the summer of 1935: (clockwise, from left) Virgil Ross, Sid Sutherland, Tex Avery, Chuck Jones, and Bob Clampett

There are 101 cartoons, beginning in 1935, on the set. Don't have a portable 35mm projector and safety prints struck from the nitrate negatives on hand, so we're cool with this, even if transfers and restorations on some titles are better than others.

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