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Archive for the ‘animation history’

Make Mine Martians

February 4th, 2009

This excerpt from Mars and Beyond is one of the oddest cartoon sequences ever produced by Disney. A bizarre bevy of fantastic and imaginative Martians cavort in a speculative exploration of what might lurk on Mars. Too bad it didn’t turn out that way; I’d be first in line to visit if these silly creatures were actually in residence. The animation was aired in 1957 and directed by Ward Kimball.

The entire program is available on the DVD set Walt Disney Treasures - Tomorrowland: Disney in Space and Beyond.

And for a timely connection: check out this great piece of Ward Kimball Martian art which is up for auction in February at Heritage Auction.

Anne D. Bernstein

Need some post celebration relief? Maybe Speedy can help!

January 1st, 2009

Happy new year! If you had a crazy night of celebration, maybe Speedy can help. Radio Actor, Dick Beals was the voice of Speedy Alka-Seltzer on the Alka-Seltzer commercials. Speedy Alka-Seltzer was originally known as Sparky, but the name was changed by a sales manager, Perry L. Shupert, to reflect that year’s promotional theme, “Speedy Relief”.

The Speedy Alka-Seltzer character was created at the Wade Ad Agency in 1951. The original working model was 6 inches tall and sculpted by Duke Russell. It appeared in more than 200 commercials over a 10 year period from 1954-1964.

I really like these types of ad campaigns.  Today’s mascots can all trace their roots back to Speedy and his peers.

-Floyd Bishop

When Auld Acquaintances Were Young

December 30th, 2008


The Screening Room was a public television program that aired in the Boston area back in the 1970s. Its purpose was to give exposure to independent filmmakers. It lasted ten years, and during that time, host Robert Gardner interviewed some of my favorite animators, back when they were dewy and young and full of enthusiasm.

In the past, it was very expensive to buy or rent copies of obscure programs like this. But now, in the age of digital downloads, the cost has come down to a reasonable level. It’s $6.99 for a 24-hour rental or $15.99 to buy an individual episode. So, on the verge of entering the New Year of 2009, let’s time travel back to the days of polyester shirts and cel-vinyl. You can watch a short sample of each show for free on its respective Amazon page:

George Griffin (1976)

John and Faith Hubley (1973)

Derek Lamb (1973 and 1975)

Caroline Leaf and Mary Beam (1975)

Jan Lenica (1973)

Suzan Pitt (1975)

John Whitney, Sr. (1972)

After the jump, a few screen grabs of AWESOME 70s fashion! [Read more…]

Hippity Hoppity Over To The Film Forum

December 29th, 2008


This week The Film Forum is completing a run of the flighty Fleischer feature Hoppity Goes to Town (also known as Mr. Bug Goes to Town); screenings are Monday through Thursday (New Year’s Day) at 1 PM.

Such a fine occasion gave The Villager website an opportunity to post this great article about Sammy Timberg, a musical director for Fleischer Studios in the 1930s and early ‘40s, who quite famously penned “Don’t Take My Boop-Oop-A-Doop Away” for Betty Boop.

For more on Timberg, go to the Timbergalley Website. The site is run by Sammy’s daughter and granddaughter. The pair are currently trying to get a Timberg Broadway musical off the ground. This idea really should take flight. Ahem.

Here’s the opening sequence of Hoppity, for your approximately-5-inches-across viewing pleasure. Just think how much better it would look on a real movie screen!

Anne D. Bernstein

Happy Birthday Mark Twain

December 1st, 2008

Mark Twain was born on this day (November 30th) in 1835. Born Samuel Langhorne Clemens,Mark Twain went on to write and inspire generations of artists.

The above clip is from the 1985 film The Adventures of Mark Twain, created by Will Vinton. Chuck Jones is another of animation’s Mark Twain fans.

Chuck Jones segment on Mark Twain and his inspiration for Wile E Coyote

Perhaps the biggest Mark Twain fan in animation was Walt Disney, who created a steam boat in his honor, which circles Tom Sawyer Island in Disneyland.

-Floyd Bishop

Tex does Tex: Remakes of cartoons

November 26th, 2008

In 1952, the Tex Avery directed a short Rock-A-Bye Bear premiered. The short, written by Heck Allen and Rich Hogan featured a simple premise: Spike has a job running a house for a hibernating bear, who insists on quiet. Tex was strained by the amount of work, so he left MGM shortly after completing the piece (the film was actually completed in 1950, but not released until two years later due to the backlog of cartoon shorts).  In Tex’s absence, his unit was directed by former Walter Lantz director, Dick Lundy.

Tex returned to MGM in 1951,  where he took back his animation unit. He went on to direct eleven more cartoons. Most of these had a similar look to the UPA cartoons that were gaining popularity at the time. In March 1953, MGM closed down Tex’s unit, believing that 3D films that were quickly taking theaters by storm would end the [Read more…]

Daws Butler

November 17th, 2008

You may not know the name, but you most likely know his voice. I found this great segment over at Spike.

With so many celebrity voices in cartoons lately (I’m looking at you, Miley Cyrus) it’s nice to look back to a time when it was the norm to have real voice actors do the voices for cartoons. At that time, celebrities were pretty much only used for guest star roles or brief cameos.

-Floyd Bishop

“Fantasia” premieres (and it’s my birthday)

November 14th, 2008

On this day in 1940, Walt Disney’s 3rd feature film, “Fantasia” premieres at New York’s Broadway Theater (formerly known as the Colony where Steamboat Willie debuted). The film introduces stereophonic sound to the motion picture via a special sound system dubbed “Fantasound”.

November 13th is also my birthday. I’m 33 today: 16 on the left, and 17 on the right.

 -Floyd Bishop

Bakshi’s Gotten Back to Me

November 10th, 2008

When I wrote about the new Kanye West video for “Heartless” earlier this week, I wondered what Ralph Bakshi was thinking about the fact that his feature American Pop was cited as the source of its inspiration. Well, I received an email from Bakshi and it seems that he is definitely pleased:

First of all I absolutely loved the video for its color, strength, and music. I appreciate your writing about it, and the honesty of its original inspiration. We are all so excited about Obama, I am doubly proud that West also did the Obama song.

You can watch the trailer for American Pop on this page, which is part of the official Ralph Bakshi website. The site features an extensive store, where you can buy DVDs, production art, T-shirts, and even original clown paintings.


After the jump, a link to “The Obama Song” mentioned above (I think!)… [Read more…]

Bakshi’s Got Back

November 9th, 2008

Kanye West got my attention this week because his latest video is animated and greatly influenced by Ralph Bakshi. Also, The Jetsons make a cameo appearance.

This statement is from Kanye’s blog:

“This video was rotoscoped. We recorded real people and then had 65 animators in Hong Kong hand draw over every cell. Inspired by the movie American Pop. Hype [Williams] showed me the movie and I was sold.”

The question on every animation fan’s mind is, of course, did he also show him the controversial Coonskin? And what does Bakshi think about this tribute? Did they throw any bling his way?

(For more on Bakshi, check out the comprehensive book Unfiltered: The Complete Ralph Bakshi by Jon M. Gibson and Meathaus publisher Chris McDonnell.)

Anne D. Bernstein