Tag Archives: Freeze Frame Friday

Freeze Frame Friday 4/9/10: Ripples Of Tiles, Waves of Wheat

9 Apr

Grandpa Mouse "swimming" in a flood of grain

Fantastic effects: A cantankerous old mouse swims desperately against literal "amber waves" of grain, the highlight of the occasionally confusing THE FIELD MOUSE (above); meanwhile, the Wallace Beery-inspired Papa Bear holds his own against a similar "tide" in A RAINY DAY ( below, right)

by Rachel NewsteadPapa Bear fights a "tide" of roofing shingles

If ever there were an argument for the full restoration of the Harman-Ising MGM cartoons, it can be found not only in that favorite of  Kevin and mine, Circus Daze, but in the two cartoons we’ll be discussing this week: The Field Mouse (1941) and A Rainy Day (1940). The grainy images I’ve included here hardly  do them justice; I can’t begin to image how they must have appeared on movie-theater screens. 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 2/26/10: A Flintstones “Missing Link,” and A Scooby Mystery

26 Feb
Picture of unnamed caveman character playing wooden "bass"

Is this unnamed fellow playing the Stone Age bass a Fred Flintstone that didn't make the cut?

by Rachel Newstead

Researching cartoons can sometimes raise as many questions as answers, and on this edition of Freeze Frame Friday, we have a mystery worthy of Scooby-Doo and the gang. Fitting, really, as part of this week’s entry concerns them–sort of.

If there’s one book that can be considered the authority on all things Flintstone, it’s the one by T.R. Adams–if only for lack of competition. I truly regret getting rid of my copy so many years ago, as a vague memory of something in that book has both intrigued and nagged at me for years.

It states, as I did in my recent review of “The Swimming Pool”, that one can see early, discarded designs of the main characters (Fred especially) in certain scenes. That much is obvious, but I’m almost certain they went further, by mentioning a specific scene: the “pool warming”/birthday party that gets Fred run in for “dunking an officer”.  I couldn’t for the life of me imagine at first which anonymous character in the scene they might have been referring to (as the known characters don’t look all that different) until–after about the third or fourth viewing on VHS–I happened across our bass player above.  And promptly did a double-take.

He looks for all the world like Fred–granted, a pointier-nosed, relatively chinless version of him, but enough to be a close “relative.” We know that isn’t actually Fred in that scene, but there’s  good reason to suspect the design of this character could have been taken from a rejected concept drawing of Fred,  fished from the wastebasket and re-purposed as an “extra.” Continue reading

Freeze Frame Friday 2/12/10: Smear Animation–in 1937?

12 Feb

Still from Fella With A Fiddle

Is this the first instance of "smear" animation? From THE FELLA WITH A FIDDLE (1937)

by Rachel Newstead

Unless they’re truly serious in their devotion to animation, fans seldom take notice of the single frame:  even the more serious-minded sometimes complain that single images in a blog don’t do an animation sequence justice. Perhaps, but they can reveal things about a cartoon we never realized were there, Another still from FELLA WITH A FIDDLEand can sometimes change our presuppositions about the cartoons of a certain period.

When Kevin and I discussed possibilities for future Freeze Frame Fridays recently, one cartoon kept coming up: The Fella With A Fiddle. I’d always considered it a pleasant enough cartoon, from the era of upbeat little musical numbers and goggle-eyed mice, and an average one for Friz Freleng. It never occurred to me that it might make suitable material for this column, until Kevin reminded me of one scene in particular. A scene I’d always liked–but now, I realize why.

A parable of greed told by a wisened grandpa mouse to his grandkids, The Fella With A Fiddle features a blind “beggar” mouse–in fact quite rich and quite able to see–who sings the title song on the street corner as he plays a fiddle, naturally. (In this transitional era, the Merrie Melodies directors had to at least pay lip service to the directive that a Warner song be featured).

The mouse’s scam is never actually exposed in this cartoon, but he does spend a considerable portion of it trying to confuse a skeptical sourpuss of a tax assessor (voiced, of course, by all-purpose villain Billy Bletcher.) It’s these scenes that elevate the cartoon above the typical mid-thirties cartoon, and earn it a place in our gallery of stills.

The mouse, whose home appears to the outside world as a tumbledown little shack, actually lives in impossible splendor inside. Through a series of levers and revolving trick walls, he can hide his opulent furnishings once the mean old tax assessor comes by.

In the stills shown here, the trick walls and furniture appear to be possessed, changing back and forth faster than the poor tax assessor can blink. The confused official whips his head back and forth at the goings-on, not quite sure what to make of the situation.

A funny scene, and a rather fast one for 1937, but something else caught my eye when I saw it in freeze frame. As the tax assessor mouse’s head goes back and forth, he smears from pose to pose. Just as in Dover Boys, or any of the other Chuck Jones cartoons of the decade to come. This didn’t make any sense, until I found there was a common factor between this cartoon and those later ones.

Ken Harris.

I don’t take much stock in information I glean from YouTube, usually, but the person who uploaded the copy I used for today’s post referred to this as the “first screen credit of Ken Harris.” I have to admit I was skeptical, as I don’t remember reading anything about Harris having worked for Freleng, but seeing the frames above convinced me. They’re too similar to what he would later do for Jones not to be his, and if they are, he in those few frames took animation a giant step forward. And far sooner than most of us might have imagined.

(Added more images to better illustrate scene.)

Freeze Frame Friday 2/5/10: The “Muse” Of Animation

5 Feb

First of a series of shots of Tom transforming in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Mouseby Rachel Newstead

Even in the most factory-like of animation studios, good animation will tell. In the better ones, it can soar.

In the mid-forties, other than the Disney studio, no animation house could boast a more talented roster of animators than MGM’s.   Then again, many of  them had, in fact, come from Disney: Preston Blair, Michael Lah, Ray Patterson, Ed Love, Grant Simmons. And that’s only a partial list.

Second shot of series of Tom transforming

Yet even among this distinguished group, one animator stood out–the subject of this week’s Freeze Frame Friday, Ken Muse.

There’s probably a bit of truth to the bad pun in my post title: the frames shown at left will no doubt inspire any young would-be

Third in the series: Tom transforms

animator.  In this series of stills from Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Mouse (1948),  Tom has just swallowed the home-brewed “super strength” potion Jerry had concocted for himself. Tom appears to swell to gargantuan size, and the evil emotions churning within seem to increase in proportion. Little does he know that it will all soon Fifth in the series of stills: Tom dissolving into colorbackfire, as he finds himself reduced to flyspeck size.

As the formula takes effect, Tom looks as if he’s being taken apart molecule by molecule, his form dissolving into an explosion of abstract color reminiscent of–appropriately enough–the “Pink Elephants On Parade” sequence of Sixth in the series of stills--Tom starts to come togetherDisney’s Dumbo.

Muse, if my less-than-perfect memory can be relied upon, was used for the more expressive scenes, and just why can be easily seen in these few frames.  Muse  exaggerates Tom’s malevolent grin, of course, but at the same time it’s frighteningly real, enough to rival any horror-movie Last in the series of stills--Tom re-formsmonster.

Muse would later join his MGM colleagues Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera at their newly-formed independent studio in 1959; he would animate most, if not all, of the debut Flintstones episode “The Swimming Pool.” His expressions, despite the much simpler drawing style, went a long way toward establishing the characters and their personality traits. The Flintstones was by necessity a dialogue-heavy series, but in “The Swimming Pool,” one didn’t need words to know in an instant what kind of person Fred Flintstone was. You knew just by looking at him.

I’ve often, when I sit and look at what passes for animation these days, felt something was missing; these few images remind me what that “something” is. In a word, expressiveness. The animators on Family Guy and The Simpsons make characters move. Muse made them think.

Now more than ever the animation industry could use a “muse” like him.

Freeze Frame Friday 1/22/10: The Other MGM Lion Roar

22 Jan

Jerry "roaring" at Tom in climactic scene of "The Milky Waif"

by Rachel Newstead

Somewhere, deep in that vast, labyrinthine archive of visual memories that is my co-blogger Kevin’s mind, lies one of countless indelible images–the one you see above. One which had barely made an imprint on my own brain cells until now.

Not because I didn’t notice it–how could one miss a “money shot” like that?–but because I, having seen so many Tom and Jerry cartoons so many times, took it for granted.

It’s a funny scene, taken from the climactic moment in The Milky Waif . Jerry, having discovered Tom had struck Jerry’s young charge “Nibbles” with a flyswatter, literally roars with a rage that could only come from a parent whose child has been harmed. Or surrogate child, in this case.

Further, he expands to three times his size, making the scene all the funnier. But to me,  it didn’t seem that out of the ordinary for a Tom and Jerry cartoon: just one of a blur of funny poses I’d long since come to expect. Yet as so often happens, it would take Kevin (never one to take visual memories for granted) to pull that image from the blur and in the process, make me realize something I hadn’t before.

Continue reading

A Day Late, But…

19 Jan

….I hope, not a dollar short.

The plain fact of the matter is, some reviews require more background and research than others, and I was a bit taken aback at how much I didn’t know about the cartoon I’m going to review, and the men behind it.  It’s fascinating, and any blog post on the subject deserves meticulous care.

I do intend, however, to keep true to my pledge to myself–namely, to put some sort of content up every day, to at least let our readers know we’re still out there. With that in mind, I take you back to last week’s Freeze Frame Friday image. First, the frame is taken from the Beetle Bailey cartoon “The Jinx” from 1964, a cartoon which, as you’ll see later, managed to turn up at several of the more pleasant times of my life. Not bad for something produced, I’m sorry to say, on the cheap, leading to errors such as the one below:

Beetle Bailey and his "clone" from "The Jinx" (1964)

Either the artists goofed, or the military's been doing secret cloning experiments...

The cartoon is part of the “Comic Kings” series, produced by Al Brodax of King Features Syndicate in association with Paramount/Famous. (Yes, the same person who gave us the infamous made-for-TV Popeyes in the early 60s–which, I have to say, aren’t quite as bad as they’re made out to be).

50 “Beetles” were made in all over a period of two years–a downright relaxed pace compared to the Popeyes, but still hectic enough to cause errors like the “Beetle clone” seen above.  An error I’m willing to overlook in the case of this cartoon, overall one of the better ones in the series. I’ll get a review of the cartoon up as soon as I can–bear with me. Your patience will be amply rewarded.–Rachel