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Do Not Fold, Spindle, Mutilate, Stretch Or Squash Me: The Spirit Of My Favorite Cartoons Realized As Flesh-and-Blood Personalities….

11 Apr
CGI version of Yogi Bear

Need there be any better example of why "updated", live-action versions of our favorite cartoons don't work? From http://www.filmschoolrejects.com....

by Kevin Wollenweber

There has been talk on so many cartoon or classic movie-related websites coming from disgruntled fans of older animated characters who justifiably wince at these beloved older characters being reinvented as live action figures, in some way believable by a more sophisticated movie-going audience.  I know I cringe at the possibilities on the table of yet another reincarnation and reinvention of Tom & Jerry, now as CGI figures, along with Yogi Bear, with Booboo being rumored to receive the voice talents of Justin Timberlake!!  Huh?

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More Sound and Vision Of An Innocent Quality From The “Wide-Eyed” Age

1 Apr
March Of The Wooden Sodiers

The wooden sodiers come alive, in Hal Roach's 1934 film BABES IN TOYLAND (a.k.a. MARCH OF THE WOODEN SOLDIERS)

by Kevin Wollenweber
Well, obsessing as I often have far too much time to do over comments I’ve made about memories of visual effects in movies or cartoons, I think I figured out what is so surreally humorous or interesting about “under-cranked” or time-lapsed photography used in comedy or to enhance action.  First of all, the best such photography occurs when the subjects can be taught to play along with the effect.  If, for example, you’re trying to convey unbridled chaos in a crowd situation, you could slow the camera down and have the actors in the crowd move at regular speed, but they should do so as if oblivious to their surroundings.  In so doing, if, say, the situation is for crowds of frantic shoppers to move along tightly populated  aisles of merchandise, grabbing at things over and around other shoppers also grabbing at things, they should do so as if they were “programmed” to do what they are doing, like the wooden soldiers in the Stan & Ollie version of “BABES IN TOYLAND/MARCH OF THE WOODEN SOLDIERS”. Continue reading

“Step Right This Way, Ladies and Gentlemen”: Last Few Flea Bites, And Other Toonified Musings

5 Mar

The clown conductor from Circus Daze, as he's being attacked by fleas

by Kevin Wollenweber

NOTE FROM RACHEL: There will be no Freeze Frame Friday this week; my illustrious co-blogger Kevin was so inspired by yesterday’s review of Circus Daze that he sent a few words of his own off into the computerized ether. As I felt it to be the perfect companion piece, his post really needs to be right above mine:

Well, as usual, I thank my co-blogger, Rachel Newstead, for doing such a magnificent job of reviewing, in full detail, the HAPPY HARMONIES cartoon, “CIRCUS DAZE”, starring, as she pointed out, the fully humanized Bosko and Honey.

I’d always said that the humanized Bosko, especially in the final three cartoons in the MGM-distributed series, felt more connected to the Hal Roach OUR GANG comedies, moreso than almost all of the other toons under the HAPPY HARMONIES banner, more typically dedicated to bringing to life notable fairy tales or cute little musicals.  In some cases, you could actually imagine some of the antics that happen within the first few cartoons in the MGM collection of titles starring BOSKO as having been directly inspired by the antics of the OUR GANG kids. Continue reading

Bumps and Carrot Grind: More Toonified Musings

23 Feb

by Kevin Wollenweber

In further anxious anticipation of the forthcoming single disk LOONEY TOONS SUPERSTARS releases in late April or early May, I wanted to open this bit of casual observation with an acknowledgment of the fact that I sat through a late night showing, on Turner Classic Movies of course, of the Oscar-winning film, “IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT”.  Would you believe I’ve *NEVER* physically seen this film?  Pity, but there’s the unfortunate fact.

Bugs Bunny chomping on a carrotYup.  I’ve never, ever seen the famous hormone-stirring close-up on Claudette Colbert’s lovely leg that she , in character, dangled before an on-coming car, hoping to hitch a ride to where she and Clark Gable were going, but I’ve got to tell you, I absolutely love her comeback line when Gable’s character seems surprised at her unabashed bravado:  “Sometimes, the limb is mightier than the thumb!”  Hear, hear!! Continue reading

Before He Was “Tex”: Avery at Lantz (1930-35) Part One

7 Feb
Tex Avery's first fairy-tale grandma

Tex Avery's first fairy-tale "Grandma," from GRANDMA'S PET (1932)

Every Avery fan knows this gag. But this was the first time Tex used it. From THE SINGING SAP (1930)

by Rachel Newstead

I’ve always been fond of essay-style posts, where I can discuss a cartoonist’s body of work, or even a single cartoon, in-depth. This one had been germinating for quite some time;  originally intended for the old Orphan Toons blog back in 2008, this series will take a look at a period of Tex Avery’s career that’s often overlooked or glossed over by historians, the period from which the ideas that won him fame originally sprang. It’s my pleasure to bring the first part to you now.

It’s ironic, I suppose, that a man who disdained established, continuing characters as much as Tex Avery would be so inextricably linked to so many of them: the lecherous Wolf, the red-hot Red. The addlepated Egghead. The deceptively languid Droopy. George and Junior and Screwy Squirrel. Then, of course, there’s his long association with a certain rabbit.

No, not that rabbit.

If they bothered to take enough time to glance at the credits, theater audiences on Sept. 8, 1930 watching a fairly typical early sound cartoon called The Singing Sap might have noticed the name “Fred Avery”. And just as quickly forgotten it. Yet unknown to those unsuspecting theater-goers, a revolution was brewing, and young Frederick Bean Avery would one day be its standard-bearer.

To understand the Tex Avery of King Size Canary, Dumb Hounded, A Wild Hare and Red Hot Riding Hood requires us to carefully sift through the archaeological layers, back to a time when the studio he worked for was run by a fellow named Walter Lantz, and the rabbit he worked with was named “Oswald.” A time before he was “Tex.”

Circus juggler goes through brick wall

Tex Avery makes his mark on the world of animation--but not quite like this guy. From TOWNE HALL FOLLIES (1935)

Animation historians, with more than a hint of romanticism, often look for the source of Tex Avery’s humor in the tall tales of his Texas upbringing, and the backwoods hyperbole of his ancestor, Daniel Boone. It makes for good copy, all right. But those wishing to find the real source of his humor need look no further than his earliest days at the Walter Lantz studio. Continue reading

Love Business As Usual, Or Blinded By The Pixel Light

4 Feb

Ex-Disney artist Louis Schmitt's cute crooner skunk causes a rabbit audience to experience some very un-Disneylike feelings in L'IL TINKER (1948)

by Kevin Wollenweber

I hate this time of year!

I disregard it the way some folks have been known to disregard Christmas or the onset of summer and its weekly fun beach parties.  I smile when I hear Dishonest John sneer “I hate love!”  No, I wouldn’t quite put it like that; I don’t “hate love”, I just hate not being in it!

However, animation over the years has glorified love, predominately from the male point of view, so that is what I pick up on when I watch the classic impressions.  There are the love triangles so often seen in classic cartoons.  We’ve seen Tom, the cat in the TOM & JERRY cartoons constantly finding himself there, especially in the cinemascope classic, “BLUE CAT BLUES” in which both Tom and Jerry commit suicide over a love so hopelessly lost despite all the material presents they lavish on their intendeds.  There’s the

A depressed Tom sits on the railroad tracks awaiting the train in Blue Cat Blues

BLUE CAT BLUES (1958)

love unwanted, as in the POPEYE cartoon in which he’s hounded by extremely handsome women who just won’t take “no” for an answer (one time in a gymnasium and the other, in the Famous Studio days, while vacationing in the mountains), and there are the regrettable marriages so often outlined in Warner Brothers cartoons, from Daffy Duck in “HIS BITTER HALF” to Foghorn Leghorn’s feeling that he’s demeaning himself by sitting on the egg while his own bitter half is out with the hens of the barnyard.  One could almost guess that the animators were venting against their own romantic and marital “bliss” situations, but I won’t over-analyze, here. Continue reading

“Take Two…Hi, Kids!”: Or, “How Did I Get In THIS Mess??”

3 Feb

Kevin Wollenweber in 1995, during his stint as host for a day on Cartoon NetworkAnother pose of Kevin, from 1995

Another shot of Kevin as host, outdoors in hat

The many moods of blog co-contributor Kevin Wollenweber in his stint as host for a day on Cartoon Network, 1995

by Kevin Wollenweber

Ever find yourself disgusted with the sound of your own voice?  No, I’m not just pontificating about spending way too much time with myself in my own self-imposed hermitage or being out of work and having to face reinventing myself for the next horrible 50 years.  I’m referring to my one and only opportunity to learn how the broadcast medium of television works and be part of it for a day on a then fledgling network.

Yes (sigh), I was again viewing the recorded results of “KEVIN WOLLENWEBER DAY”, the albatross around my neck, the embarrassment and realization that I don’t have talent!!  If I’ve ruminated about this in the past, please forgive me, but I threw one of the disks on my player this morning and relived the day in flashbacks.  Oh, those flashbacks!

To recap, at some point, in mid-1995, while working at my boring day job, I got a call from someone connected with Cartoon Network, back when they still aired animation of the distant and beloved first golden age.  The pleasant woman’s voice on the other end of the phone asked me if I wouldn’t like to be “host” of a day on the network.

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