Thursday, October 31, 2013
Although Steve Stanchfield has the last word on Halloween cartoons in today's Cartoon Research posting, here's one more, from the Toby The Pup series, created by Dick Huemer, Sid Marcus and Art Davis for release by RKO Radio Pictures.
And what would Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog be without an SCTV clip?
We close with Bill Cosby's The Chicken Heart, one brilliant sendup of old time radio, specifically the super-scary LIGHTS OUT show by Arch Oboler. Enjoy!
Tuesday, October 29, 2013
Saturday, October 26, 2013
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.
Friday, October 25, 2013
Film historian, author, mentor to numerous scholars around the world and general good guy Leonard Maltin now has his own YouTube channel.
We look forward to further postings and insights, Leonard! Check him out on Leonard Maltin.com and Twitter.
Wednesday, October 16, 2013
If there's one this blogger likes more than 1940's B-studio cartoons it's WEIRD AND BIZARRE 1940's B-Studio cartoons.
Like this one.
And this one. . .
And this one. . .
Here's a video aptly illustrating a response that ONLY Your Blogmeister has to Columbia cartoons, the most loathed animated antics in silver screen history - yes, even more than the Fleischer Studio's wretched Animated Antics series.
Since even animation historians would gleefully volunteer to transfer Columbia Color Rhapsodies and Phantasies TO nitrate film, Your Blogmeister may be the only person on the face of the earth, including the guys who actually who made these cartoons, to respond to them as the individuals in the following Monty Python's Flying Circus clip do.
Described by animation historian Jerry Beck as "the little studio that couldn't", the ragtag outfits of Charles Mintz and Screen Gems produced cartoons for Columbia release from 1929 to 1946.
The Screen Gems studio enjoyed a brief blaze of glory under renegade producer/director/storyman Frank Tashlin, after he literally hired dozens of skilled animators off the picket line in front of the Disney Studio.
Alas, like any love affair, THAT one didn't last long. After the abrupt departures of Tashlin and such young ex-Disney animators as John Hubley, Zack Schwartz and Dave Hilberman, the Screen Gems studio's product got cheaper - and, in some cases, exponentially weirder, especially in the studio's last year. The Fox & Crow series continued through the 1940's while the Color Rhapsodies and Columbia Phantasies went further and further off the rails.
There are, however, such isolated films as The Herring Murder Mystery, director/writer Dun Roman's sendup of the hit radio show Information Please, in which the trademark Columbia bizarreness works quite well. There's an original style of cartooning here that's quite different from both the Tex Avery/WB/MGM approach and The Disney Way. Too bad Mr. Roman, years later among the staff members who ran the Val-Mar Studio in Mexico for Jay Ward Productions, did not get the opportunity to head his own production unit at Screen Gems and stick around awhile. Unfortunately, the door was ever-revolving at Screen Gems.
Sometimes even good directors for some reason turned out terrible cartoons there, as if possessed by "bad cartoon" demons or thunderstruck by some sort of George Romero style soul-sucking zombieism in the middle of a storyboard session.
Case in point: this late period Screen Gems opus Pickled Puss. This was directed by Alex Lovy, later a mainstay at Hanna-Barbera Productions and responsible for directing some decent early Woody Woodpecker cartoons in 1941-1943. Is it possible to write a story starring a drunk-off-his-butt feline and, unlike Otto Messmer's Felix Woos Whoopee, a dozen other cartoons along similar lines or any sketch featuring Foster Brooks on The Dean Martin Show, do absolutely nothing with the premise and have NO GAGS? NONE? Unfortunately, the answer is . . . yes, although the cartoon remains Good Weird Fun nonetheless.
The following Incredibly Strange Cartoons all date from the very end of the Screen Gems studio's existence. Some are so off-the-wall, one wonders if marijuana and LSD were dispensed in storyboard meetings. WARNING: this one is in bad taste, very bad taste. In other words, if easily offended, please, grab a cup of coffee or go watch The Sound Of Music!
Several 1945-1946 Columbia cartoons featured ultra-wacky stories by gagman Cal Howard and/or were written and directed by Sid Marcus as if he was swilling generously from a fifth of single malt Scotch at all times. Here's one starring "Flippy", the rather brazen Screen Gems ripoff of Tweety Bird (and especially the Friz Freleng version of the WB cartoon star).
There is, if one can set aside the largely accurate "this isn't anywhere near as good as even a 1946 clunker from Warner Brothers" observation for a moment, the strangest inspiration, as well as genuinely imaginative moments, can be found in every one of these Screen Gems Studio train wrecks. And, no, dear readers, Mr. Blogmeister is not on drugs except prescription medications for diabetics.
During the studio's dying days, Looney Tunes director Bob Clampett had a cup of coffee there between stints with Warners and his own studio. The result: Incredibly Strange Cartoons!
At one point, Clampett and Sid Marcus were in the same crew. It was simply not meant for two such idiosyncratic, eccentric and happily subversive gag minds to work together. In fact, it's amazing Marcus stuck around beyond Day One. Yes, these cartoons are weird, all right - and how!
Many of the oddest and most delirious Screen Gems cartoons were written by Cal Howard, yet another legendary character (noted for possessing a wild sense of humor) who worked in many studios and places in animation.
Granted, next to the very best work of Tex Avery, Frank Tashlin and Chuck Jones, they can be found wanting, but by comparison to the auto-pilot stuff from Disney, the godawful late 1940's - early 1950's crap from Famous Studios and the astonishingly artless assembly-line drek of the latter 1960's and 1970's, well, they just don't look all that terrible to this cartoonologist.
That said, the only parting bon mot Monsieur Blogmeister can come up with is "whatever that guy at the Screen Gems Studio's drinkin', give me a shot and a chaser."
Saturday, October 05, 2013
Plunging yet further into the world of inept children's entertainment, today's posting begins with a magnum opus that qualifies as both the worst Christmas film ever made and the worst excuse for "sock puppets" in the history of Western Civilization - the one, the only Santa In Animal Land.
And then there's the biggest thing on TV other than Uncle Miltie and the biggest thing in showbiz at the time other than Dean Martin & Jerry Lewis: The Howdy Doody Show. Here's Howdy and the gang, followed by a hilarious spoof, Howdy Deedy, from The Ernie Kovacs Show.
Again, as with Jay Ward, Alex Anderson and the Crusader Rabbit series, enterprising animators and puppeteers devised ways to crank out TV shows that entertained children but were also genuinely funny enough to NOT provoke grownups to bolt the room in abject terror and revulsion.
First there was puppeteer Burr Tillstrom, not inept in any way, shape or form - and the creator of the Kukla, Fran & Ollie Show. While it's unfair to lump this pleasant, likeable and amusing program in with reeking Cartoon Dump style disasters, the show's success did inspire a barrage of sock puppet programming.
The former director of the wildest Warner Bros. cartoons, the looniest Looney Tunes, animator-raconteur Bob Clampett, no doubt cognizant of Kukla Fran & Ollie's popularity, brought his sock puppet characters, Beany & Cecil, to the small screen in Time For Beany and promoted the show with zeal. The program boasted fans as illustrious as Albert Einstein and its top-notch writing staff included Stan Freberg, Daws Butler, Charlie Shows and (before UPA hired him to collaborate with Phil Eastman in their story department) Bill Scott.
Ultimately joining in the sock puppet brigade with tempered enthusiasm: the Jay Ward Studio, producers of Crusader Rabbit, Adventures Of Rocky & Bullwinkle, Fractured Flickers, Hoppity Hooper and George Of The Jungle). For awhile, the aforementioned Bill Scott did a sock puppet version of Bullwinkle Moose - unquestionably, the most subversive sock puppet ever, and soon yanked off the airwaves with extreme prejudice!
Mr. Blogmeister's favorite sock puppet show ever - sorry, Bob, Burr and Fran (still love you) - is unquestionably The Kapusta Kids In Outer Space from The Ernie Kovacs Show.
And then there's the dark side of sock puppet-dom, the indescribable Andy's Gang. The host is Andy Devine, who took over hosting duties from Smilin' Ed O' Connell, who originated the children's program on radio. The TV version comes across as happy 1950's kidvid - but directed by David Lynch. Could PETA sue retroactively for the wanton abuse of Squeaky The Mouse here?
We at Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog have yet to determine what's more infamous, Andy's Gang or Jerry Lewis' never-released The Day The Crown Cried!