February 20th, 2007
“Daffy Duck and the Dinosaur” —early Daffy Duck. Early Chuck Jones, too. About the time this one was released, other directors like Bob Clampett and Tex Avery were bending time and space, trying to figure out just how fast and outrageous you could make a cartoon. Meanwhile, Jones was over in the corner, trying stuff that was completely different —films with humor based on anticipation, rather than surprise. Relaxed. Deliberate. Unhurried. We’re talkin’ SLOW here. Laurel and Hardy slow. Jack Benny slow.
So, it’s not surprising Casper Caveman talks like Benny in this one. In fact, the whole cartoon kinda has a Jack Benny radio show vibe going for it; everything is leisurely paced, with the big laughs grounded in solid characterization. And the voice impersonation is pretty good too (years later, the real live Benny did his own voice for a Warners cartoon, but I think the guy doing the impression here is [Read more…]
February 14th, 2007
Perhaps the greatest innovation of the Fleischer Studio: a cartoon that tells a dramatic story. A science fiction story.
Whereas cartoons were previously the domain of funny animals, fairy tales and parodies, the SUPERMAN cartoons pioneered a new genre for animated films.
The series was unequaled for decades, and has inspired today’s generation of superhero animators, live action directors and auteur Japanese animators.
February 13th, 2007
For successful transfer from funny papers to movie screen, Popeye certainly takes the cake… or spinach quiche if you prefer. In 1929 Elzie Segar introduced the squinty sailor in his pre-existing comic strip “Thimble Theatre.” and Bam! — an instant hit. Just four years later the character became a major movie star overnight, thanks to the wonderful cartoons produced by Max Fleischer and directed by his brother Dave.
The Fleischers never tried to imitate the long curlicue narratives of the Popeye’s newsprint existence, but the animators borrowed a lot from the original, including Segar’s flavorful cast of characters (Wimpy, Poopdeck Pappy, the Jeep, the Goons, et al. )
Today’s Comic Strip Week installment is a classic from 1936, “Popeye with Little Swee’ Pea”, the first onscreen appearance of the tough little baby, Swee’ Pea. In the funnies, Swee’ Pea was Popeye’s adopted son, but the animated versions were always a little vague about the kid’s [Read more…]
February 12th, 2007
Hot Damn! We’re continuing the world’s first daily classic cartoon podcast! For the next few days ReFrederator will be throwing the spotlight on films based on popular comic strips.
We kick things off with a real curio from 1936, “Happy Days,” a one shot pilot for a proposed series based on funny paper favorite “Reg’lar Fellas.” Well, it WAS a favorite back in the twenties and thirties — kind of a comic strip version of “Our Gang,” only without the ethnic diversity (most of the characters had last names like Duffy, Riley and Flynn.)
The Ub Iwerks studio produced this first film incarnation of the strip, carefully adapting their distinctive house style to reflect some of creator Gene Byrnes’ own look and technique. Byrnes drew his cast of characters (Jimmie Dugan, Pudd’nhead, Pinhead, Bullseye the Dog, et al) in a sort of pleasant correspondence school manner that is surprisingly well mimicked here. [Read more…]
February 9th, 2007
We say goodbye to Just Plain Weird Week with something called “The Devil’s Ball”, which is actually a fragment from a much longer French film called “The Mascot” created by the great Russian animator Ladislas Starevish. Don’t look for any plot — most of that has been edited away in this version (although, for the record, the original is about a toy dog saving a little girl from scurvy, so rest assured this clip is just the tip of the iceberg as far as refined oddness goes.)
If the elegant creepiness of the animated puppets seems eerily familiar, you may be a child of the eighties. This same clip was rerun relentlessly on the old cable TV standby “Night Flight” (does anyone else remember that weekend goulash of rock videos, documentaries and stock footage?)
February 8th, 2007
Today we witness the tragic spectacle of Flip the Frog denying his noble amphibian heritage. By time he made “Funny Face,” one of his last films, the once proud puddle jumper had all frog references in his movie credits removed — now he was just plain Flip (”Flip” — how catchy! How trendy! How sad!) Then he underwent excruciating cosmetic surgery to have a talking Halloween mask of a human boy attached to his own God given slimy head — all in pursuit of a forbidden inter-species romance with a little girl. Oh, call me old fashioned, but this whole affair makes me r-e-a-l-l-y uncomfortable. And besides, by this point, it’s not like he was looking all that much like a frog in the first place!
February 7th, 2007
Just Plain Weird Week trundles on at ReFrederator with “The Snowman,” a 1932 classic from Ted Eshbaugh. This is the cheerful story of a jolly little boy and his jolly pet seal who live above the jolly arctic circle, having a jolly old time with all the other jolly animals until one day when they build a snowman who comes to life AND BECOMES A HIDEOUS, FLESH EATING MONSTER WHO WILL HUNT YOU DOWN AND DEVOUR YOU ALIVE EVEN IF YOU HIDE IN A CHURCH, BECAUSE HE’S EVIL!!! EVIL, I TELL YOU!!!
Yeah, well, this is the same Eshbaugh who gave us “The Sunshine Makers”, so you knew the ride was gonna be a little twisted. No telling how many baby boomers sought therapy in their middle years as a direct result of multiple childhood veiwings of this golden oldie.
And things just get weirder tomorrow.
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February 6th, 2007
Today’s Just Plain Weird Week installment, “It’s A Bird,” comes direct from our Wotthehell Department. It’s the story of a guy looking for a metal eating bird, using a worm dipped in aluminum paint as bait. Sounds plausible.