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


How “Embarrasskin'”….Correction On Tyer Post

26 Mar

Though these particular frame grabs are Abner Kneitel’s work, the gag was Tyer’s: the first instance of a Tyer “shrink take.” (Thanks to Bob Jaques for the information). Click to enlarge.

by Rachel Newstead

Well, I learned two things today. One, my powers of observation are not quite as sharp as I thought they were, and two, when I’m wrong, I’m spectacularly wrong.

After reading this post on animator Bob Jaques’ blog last night, I began to worry about the accuracy of my “Freeze Frame Friday” post from last week on Jim Tyer. After writing Jaques for confirmation, it seems my fears were justified:

Hi Rachel,

The frame grabs you posted from Anvil Chorus Girl and Service With A Guile are not Tyer’s work. The examples from Service With A Guile are the work of Ben Solomon. Tyer’s work doesn’t show up until later in the cartoon.

He followed that up with another note adding:

BTW, Tyer did not have Clampett-like nervous energy–it was his own style, completely different and as far as I can tell pre-dated Scribner’s energetic work at WB.

I’ve always prided myself on being as accurate as I can–if at all possible, I back up my statements with a quote from a well-respected animation author/blogger. I could not find any definitive information on which scenes Tyer did in which cartoons, and therefore had to rely on my best guess.

Unfortunately, I didn’t say it was my best guess. Jaques is rightly critical of such people, those who make an outright statement of fact without checking, thereby spreading misinformation like a virus.

I’m shocked and embarrassed to find that I, in this case, was actually part of the problem. I can assure you such incidents will not be repeated.

The stills I posted will remain, as they are indeed an example of why I love the Popeye cartoons of that period, the early Famous period. The poses and expressions, misattributed though they were, are priceless.

That said, a true example of Tyer’s work–or at least, work under his direction–can be seen above. Bluto reacts to the sight of Popeye in drag with a trademark Tyer “shrink take”–the first use of such a gag, according to  (appropriately enough) Bob Jaques, in his commentary track for the cartoon Too Weak To Work. (It can be found on the DVD set Popeye The Sailor, Vol. 3, 1941-43).

The misinformation ends here and now, at least on this blog.

(Information added attributing frames to Abner Kneitel, 3/26/10)

Freeze Frame Friday 3/19/10: Tyer The Popeye Man

19 Mar

Olive fends off Bluto's advancesSecond in the series

by Rachel Newstead

(Update 3/26/10): I’ve discovered, to my humiliation, that the information in this post is actually incorrect, according to animator Bob Jaques.  More details in the correction here. )

Famous Studios never quite reached the same level of artistry and innovation as its predecessor Fleischer, but it did achieve a sort of “mini-Golden Age” in the period between 1942 and 1947.

I’ve always had a particular liking for the Famous cartoons of this period, the Popeyes especially, without understanding why. But I understand now.

Those years–from You’re a Sap, Mr. Jap in 1942 to The Royal Four Flusher in 1947–correspond to one Jim Tyer’s tenure at Famous Studios. Though often criticized for his “off-model” animation poses, Popeye and company never looked handsomer than in the years Tyer was animating them. There was a certain solidity, a dimension in Popeye, Bluto and Olive then than in any cartoon made after Tyer’s departure.

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“Flickers” Addendum

17 Mar

by Rachel Newstead

Frame From Fractured Flickers, ©VCI Entertainment

Our weak-headed hero, Jack Headstrong. It's obvious where Jay Ward and company got the idea for the Bull winkle "Wossamotta U" segment. Image ©VCI Entertainment

Good news for fans of Jay Ward and Fractured Flickers: this morning I received permission from VCI Entertainment to post an entire sequence from the Fractured Flickers series. This segment, “Cornell Goes Wilde” is one of many I recorded with my trusty cassette recorder in those bygone years of the ’70s. It’s the story of Jack Headstrong, star football player for downtrodden Scrooge University (and all-around lunkhead) and his passion for…drop kicks, something he loves far more than he loves his fianceé, Rosa Picardy. Will Jack keep the team from going down in total humiliation during the big game? Will Rosa learn to love drop kicks? Since this is a Jay Ward program, you can probably guess the answer to those questions….

And Now, Direct From Muncie, Indiana….

16 Mar
Hans Conreid next to photo of Theda Bara with moustache

The long-suffering host of Fractured Flickers, Hans Conried, and friend... Images ©VCI Entertainment.

by Rachel Newstead

When I was fourteen and school had ceased for the summer, I’d escape the heat of those blistering southern Arizona days by sitting in the comfort of my parents’ air-conditioned living room…and recording television programs. But not quite in the way you’re probably thinking.

Home video recording in 1976 wasn’t exactly within the price range of the average consumer, so kids like me, if they wanted to do the unheard of and save a favorite program for later, were limited to recording the audio.

So I’d bring out my brand-new Admiral audiocassette recorder, plop myself in front of the set, and hold the microphone to the speaker until my arm went numb. I’d record any program that interested me, from sitcoms to documentaries to cartoons. It didn’t matter so much that I wouldn’t be able to see what took place on-screen–in a sense, listening to these homemade tapes was a bit like listening to a good radio show. Which, as anyone who reads this blog should know by now, is something I grew to appreciate very early.

One day while searching the channels for something new to record, I came across something I’d never seen before, yet which looked strangely familiar. It carried the stamp of one “Ponsonby Britt”, the unmistakable sign that the lunatics at the Jay Ward asylum were on the loose again. But despite the animated opening titles, this was not a cartoon.

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Freeze Frame Friday 3/12/10: You Can’t Keep A Good Animator Down….

12 Mar
Bugs Bunny registers extreme fear while standing at edge of cliff in Gorilla My Dreams

Wild poses like this one show that however much Robert McKimson may have wanted to calm down his animators, in the early years he didn't (or perhaps couldn't) restrain them that much. From Gorilla My Dreams (1948)

by Rachel Newstead

Fans and historians alike usually classify Robert McKimson–unfairly, I Gorilla landing on top of Bugs Bunny--frame 1 think–as a superb animator, but a poor director. Granted, his cartoons don’t appear to contain even a fraction of the insanity of those of the man for whom he once animated, Bob Clampett;  still, the cartoons of his earliest years as a director (1946-1950) rank as some of the funniest to ever come out of the studio.  Easter Yeggs, Daffy Doodles, Boobs In The WoodsHillbilly Hare–theseImage 2 in the sequence made me hold my sides with laughter when I first saw them, something even the funniest Bob Clampett cartoons never quite managed to do. Continue reading

“And A Little Child Shall Lead…”? Learning About Music (And, Hopefully, Lending that Sense Of History In Return

11 Mar
Frame from Lady Gaga's "Paparazzi" video

Lady Gaga, from her "Paparazzi" video

by Kevin Wollenweber

Well, I’ve actually spent all day, today, listening to Shokus Internet Radio and their new lineup, beginning with what is called The DJ And Hip-Hop Show With Lisa Shostak. Lisa Dorothy Shostak is the daughter of the internet station’s main programmer, Stuart Shostak, and she plays the big tween hits, from Lady Gaga to Snoop Dogg to the Jonas Brothers to…well, even a classic Beatles song gets thrown in the mix, but I smile to myself and think that this is Daddy prodding his daughter to give her audience that history lesson.  As much as I enjoyed hearing “Here Comes the Sun” and have hailed the new Beatles remasters even on this weblog, George Harrison’s fun little tune really felt out of place amid the louder, bass-heavy beats of hits by the other younger acts here.  As I listened, the music fan in me took over, and, although my crude equipment probably did not allow me to send good copies, I ended up rushing around trying to find certain music that I thought Lisa should hear and even include on her show. Continue reading