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Old 02-24-2017, 09:50 AM   #31 (permalink)
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UnAmerican Animation: Rockin' Outside the USA
Of course, this is not just going to be the history of American animation, and while the USA was the forerunner and leader for a very long time in animation – both on film and later TV – there were others working in the field, and we will of course be examining their work. However, at this stage I can only find a small handful of animations produced outside of America (if you can trust Wikipedia) so I'm going to talk about them now, before I refer back to Disney.
Timeline: 1917-1937

Argentina is not the sort of place you immediately think of when you think of animation, but believe it or not, that's where the recognised very first animated feature film is supposed to have originated. Lost to the mists of time now, sadly, it was called The Apostle (El Apostolo) and though you might think it from the title (as did I) it is not in fact a religious film chronicling the lives of Jesus's disciples in the Bible. Rather, it is a satirical film lampooning the President of Argentina, who ascends into Heaven (I'm not sure if he dies) and uses the thunderbolts there to cleanse Buenos Aires of its corruption. As a result, the entire city burns. It might be ironic to reflect that the only copy of this important and historic film was lost to a fire in the studios of Quirino Cristiani, who directed it, and who is seen as one of the original fathers of animation. Nothing survives of the film, but there was a documentary called Quirino Cristiani: The Mystery of the First Animated Movies, which attempted to recreate the film. All I can get of that though is this one-minute clip. It's interesting to note that Cristiani is hailed as one of “the men who foreran Disney”, which not only acknowledges Walt's position as the first true animator, but claims that Cristiani and his people were doing this almost a decade before Mickey Mouse came to the big screen. Amazingly, this feature film was over seventy minutes long, which, if it wasn't already accepted as being the first feature animation, would certainly give it the honour of being the longest.

Oh, I also found this:

Whether any irony was intended or not, Cristiani's next feature, released the following year, was titled Without a Trace (Sin Dejar Rostros). This too was a political film, based around the exploits of Baron von Luxburg, a German commander who tried to blame the Allies (known as the Entente) in World War One for the sinking of an Argentinian ship which he himself had arranged, and thereby draw Argentina into the First World War on the side of the Germans. Unfortunately for von Luxburg, there were survivors and they all clearly identified the attacker as a German ship.

The only other information about this film is that it was confiscated by the War Ministry, on the orders of the President, who presumably did not wish to have it cause an international incident, particularly as the war was by then winding down and would end that year.

Cristiani's only other major work was Peludópolis, another political satire, but events conspired against him, both with the ousting of the President halfway through, the arrival of the Great Depression and the death of the former President, all resulting in his withdrawing the film from circulation. This, too, vanished in the fire that consumed the film laboratories, though I read now this did not happen until the fifties, which kind of negates the possibility of any irony in the title of his second movie. With the rise of Disney and the eventual domination of Mickey Mouse, Cristiani gave up animation and he died in 1984.



Although, as we'll see later, with Hitler in power the Nazi propaganda machine was not above using grossly caricatured cartoons to defame its enemies and promote its ideals, I can only find one animation that was created by a German prior to the rise of the Nazi party.

Die Abenteur des Prinzen Achmed (The Adventures of Prince Achmed) was, in traditional German manner, a fairytale, though the subject of the animation looks to the Arabian Nights for its substance (unsurprising, given the name of the eponymous prince!) and was created by Lotte Reiniger. She was a pioneering animator whose work went on to be recognised even by Disney himself, who used her camera techniques to animate part of his famous Fantasia sequence, and indeed her influence extends even to today, with the Harry Potter franchise utilising her mode of animation.

If you've ever seen Japanese shadow puppet theatre, or even the old advertisement for Metz schnapps, featuring the angular Judderman, you'll have a decent idea what to expect here. It's dark-on-light, with the characters moving stiffly, jerking around the screen, the former black while the latter changes colour, though only per scene: in one scene it is green, the next blue, a third orange and so on, so that the background, though changing, is static when a figure is upon it (static as in, the colour does not change) and only changes for the next scene, presumably to give some interest to an otherwise black animation. Her style was called silhouette animation, and involved cardboard cut-outs and figures of lead manipulated before a camera. It allows little in the way of variation, but considering the time we're talking about here must have been seen as pretty inventive. Still, it's clear to see the yawning gulf between what was happening in Europe (what very little there was) and the revolution going on in America. In every possible and conceivable way, the USA was light-years ahead of any other country.

It's kind of hard to get a feel for what's going on, given that you're basically looking at shadows, and the fact that the text is, of course, as you would expect, all in German doesn't help either. There's no speech, just music as a background, though I do note one figure (a genie perhaps, as Aladdin is mentioned?) does manage to look quite scary, so that's quite a feat in and of itself. Nevertheless, I find myself unwilling to sit through the whole thing, but you can if you want, as I have dropped the video in here. You can also read the full story, including the plot, here. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Ad..._Prince_Achmed


Although Wiki has this under the Nazi banner – presumably because they were in power when it was created – I can find hardly any information about it, never mind anything to suggest it was part of Nazi propaganda, so I'm keeping it under the general German flag, and not under the Swastika, as I will be categorising later actual Nazi propaganda films. This was released in 1937 and is called The Seven Ravens (Die siebe Raben) but other that that, and the fact that it was a stop-motion animation, based on the fairytale by the Brothers Grimm, I got nothing.


Based on Goethe's tales of the cunning fox, Le Roman de Renard (The Tale of the Fox) was French animator Ladislas Starevich's first full-length animated feature, and though completely unknown outside of France at the time, beat Snow White and the Seven Dwarves to the spot of first full-length animated film by eight months. Unlike Snow White though, Renard made use of puppet animation, and unlike our German friend, Starevich's tale is played for laughs, with the ever-cunning Renard convincing the hangman to loosen his rope, right at the opening of the cartoon, as it is, quote, too tight. The animation is really quite spectacular, even if it is puppets and not drawings. Take a look.

Luckily, this one has English subtitles, so the wit of the fox is not lost on us non-Francophiles. I have to admit though, I find myself wondering if this is somehow retouched or redone in some way, as it seems years ahead of its time. Decades, even. If this is typical of what the French were putting out in 1926, how did they not become a force in animation much earlier? Just staggering, and shows that the Americans weren't the only ones who could bring a story to life on a screen. Amazing.

Yeah, sorry: my brain just returned from the cleaners, and now I can think straight. Idiot. Of course that wasn't the original: look at the quality of the animation. Nobody, not even Disney, was doing that so early. That's obviously a remake. I can only get a few small clips of the original, but guess what? It's in black and white. I really must remember to ring that guy about buying the Brooklyn Bridge: sounded like a good deal!

(At least watching the “new” version does, as I say, allow you to follow the story if you don't speak French). The film was completed in 1930 but problems adding a sound track led to its release being delayed till 1937, but still pre-empting Disney's full-length film.



Not to be outdone, those crazy Russians were also at it. Well, technically they were Soviets back then, as Russia was part of the USSR, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, and the world's biggest bastion of Communism. Small wonder then that when Alexander Ptushko and his team of animators reimagined the classic story Gulliver's Travels they would put a Communist twist on it. I've no intention of going into the skewed politics of it all – where capitalism was, typically, seen as the evil enemy and glorious mother Russia the hero etc etc – but if you want to sit through over an hour of it, here you go.

What is important is that it was the first animation to make extensive use of puppetry, before even Ladislas Starevich above, coming out in 1935, two years before Le Roman de Renard although apparently only begun two years after the French film. I guess that's what happens when you can call on the might of the Kremlin to provide your musicians and your technology. Maybe. Anyway it made it first, and so has gone down in history as the first full-length puppet animation.


Although there is no surviving copy of The Adventures of Pinocchio (Le Avventure di Pinocchio), because it was never completed, it deserves a mention not only because it would also have beaten Snow White had it been released, but it takes as its subject matter another fairy tale that Walt Disney would make famous, the puppet who longs to be a real boy, Pinocchio. Production issues bedevilled the project, which had a budget (surely undreamed-of at the time) of one million (and that's Pounds, not Lira!) and it was abandoned. All I can offer you are some stills from its Wiki page, the only frames that survived this ill-fated attempt to be the first Italian feature-length animation.



The only other example of early Italian animation seems to have been based on the Three Musketeers, (for whatever reason it was called The Four Musketeers ([i[I quattro moschettieri[/i])though sadly, again, this has not survived or is at least not known to be available. Interesting though, as it was another puppet animation and apparently used over eight thousand actual puppets! Talk about pulling a lot of strings to get things done! Sorry...

That more or less covers it for non-American full-length animated movies before 1940. Most of the forties was of course dominated by America, mostly Disney's works, but there were a few who worked outside of the US. However, given that after the release of Snow White there wasn't too much interest in non-American animation, I'll stop this section here for now, and then pick it up later, when we've paid proper tribute to Walt and his team.
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Old 02-24-2017, 02:12 PM   #32 (permalink)
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From 1929 to 1939 Disney ventured into the era of the emerging technology known as “Technicolor”, which allowed him to move beyond the boundaries of black and white cartoons and into the vibrant, bright and more realistic world of colour. Technicolor, a process of saturating film with colour to make it look more real, actually had its genesis way back in 1916, but only became really popular and widely-used from about 1922, becoming the standard for Hollywood studios for about thirty years. It was used in such classic live-action movies as Gone With the Wind and The Wizard of Oz, and of course by Disney as soon as he was able to integrate it into his animation process.

This resulted in some of the first colour cartoons, a series of seventy-five mostly unconnected shorts that if anything would be mirrored mostly by the likes of Looney Tunes and Merry Melodies in the 50s and 60s, all going under the umbrella of "Silly Symphonies" (more alliteration, you see?). These shorts were not only important due to being the first actual colour cartoons as we came to know them, but also for introducing, in The Wise Little Hen, a certain duck, who performed a sailor's hornpipe and danced his way into audience's hearts, later becoming the second favourite Disney character, rivalling (sometimes literally; they had several face-offs) Mickey Mouse himself.


Donald Duck (Created 1934)

I've always preferred Donald personally. Unlike Mickey, he's not a goody two-shoes (or in his case, I guess, two-feet!) and he tends to get into, and cause, the kind of trouble you expect from a cartoon character. He's the disruptive influence, the one who disagrees with most things, the sulker, the complainer, the one who loses his rag most. And yet he's an amazingly sympathetic character. I think it's because he has flaws, and doesn't try to hide them, that we (or at least I) love him so much. His iconic voice, provided by actor Clarence Nash (1934-1985) and later Tony Anselmo, says everything about his personality. He talks like someone with a kazoo in their mouth, and when he loses his temper it's hilarious to watch, not just his voice but also the way he dances in rage.

For whatever reason, Donald was conceived as wearing a sailor's suit, though to my knowledge he has never been to sea nor served in the navy. Donald was introduced to Mickey in "Orphan's Benefit" (1934) in which he tries, unsuccessfully, to sing Mary Had a Little Lamb and Little Boy Blue, but is heckled by the orphans and flies into what would become one of his characteristic fits of rage. Donald Duck had arrived! A few years later he was starring in his own film series, premiering with Don Donald, which, despite its title, was not a gritty expose of Donald's time with the Sicilian Mafia, but instead portrayed him as a Mexican duck, who tries to win his lady love, Donna Duck, soon to be recast as Daisy Duck. Although the movie was tagged as “Mickey Mouse presents...” it was clear this was a star in the making, and Donald would go on to star in over fifty short and feature-length movies, as well as become a mascot for the armed forces during World War II, and eventually making the leap to the new medium of television. In 1938, only four years after he had been introduced and one since his second appearance on film, Donald was rated more popular with audiences than Mickey.


Destined to change the face of film animation forever, and despite the few other, mostly unknown to the general public, movies that predate it, Walt Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is – mostly deservedly – accepted as being the first full-length feature animation. Certainly, it was the first to use colour and sound, and unsurprisingly it became a massive hit. With an original budget of just under one and a half million dollars (surely the biggest budget for an animation at that period?) it has so far made back over four hundred times that figure. The movie was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Musical and snagged Disney his first Oscar. It was also the beginning of a, shall we say, more gentle or friendly interpretation of fairy tales and other stories, emphasising the good things about them and encouraging children who went to see the movies to sing along with the many songs that would be written specially for them. This was no retelling of the Brothers Grimm's fairy story, but what would later become known as the Disneyfication of the tale.

With its own specially-written soundtrack – and not just music, but actual songs too, that the characters sung, such as Heigh Ho, Some day my Prince will come and Whistle While You Work – this movie made further history by being the first to have its own soundtrack. Such a thing had not been even considered before. The further anthropomorphisation of animals took a huge leap forward here, where even birds sang and performed human-like tasks (I can't recall, as I was apparently so scared by the Wicked Witch that I had to be taken out of the cinema – hey! Give me a break! I was thirty-four at the time! I mean, like, five. Yeah, five – but I think they tied up Snow White's hair with ribbons?) and forest creatures helping Snow White and the dwarves. Creatures and animals were beginning to be seen, at least in cartoons, as people and not just animals, a trend that would continue, with Disney, Hanna-Barbera and Looney Tunes among others, all personalising their animal characters.

For the time, the animation was superb, ground-breaking. It was said (though can't be confirmed) that many of the audience, watching the characters for the first time, forgot they were watching an animation. The early days of struggling to match up voice and mouth movements were long gone now, almost in a quantum leap of improvement; what relationship does Snow White bear to Steamboat Willie, released less than ten years previous? The animation was completely fluid, everything perfectly synchronised, including the music, and the overall effect was just stunning. As a child, seeing the movie I could not of course appreciate this (also, as I mentioned above, I had to be removed from the cinema before the end: what a wimp!) but looking back on it now I can see how staggeringly real it looks, especially compared to the efforts of the others we just looked at outside of the USA. A true masterpiece, and deserves its place in cinematic and animation history.

Disney took serious liberties and artistic licence with the original story. The Grimm Brothers did not ascribe personalities or even names to their dwarves, yet here each one is named according to his character traits or disposition – Sneezy, Sleepy, Happy etc – or his perceived role, as in Dopey and Doc. In fact, Doc is the one of only two of the Seven Dwarves whose name does not end with a “y”, and the only one whose name is not an adjective. In the tale, three attempts are made by the wicked Queen on Snow White's life, but Disney only used the final – ultimately, essentially successful – one, with the poisoned apple, and the queen's death is handled differently too. Nonetheless, you have to admire and respect the man, who mortaged his house to finance the movie, a chance I'm sure he, and the world, ended up being glad he took.

As this was the first recognised full-length animated film, and it was nominated for (but did not win) an Academy Award, I guess it's safe to infer from that that it was the first animated movie to do so, and therefore has yet another place in history. It was also later added to the Library of Congress, a singular honour. Not bad for a movie many in Hollywood had sneeringly described as “Disney's folly”!

But there was a rival for his crown, and though he never quite made it as big as ol' Walt, Max Fleischer would at least make history himself by creating the first full-length animation outside of Disney, two years later.
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Old 02-27-2017, 10:13 AM   #33 (permalink)
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I think it's incumbent upon me to pause here for a moment and talk a little about not only the movies and their creators, and characters, but also the techniques which have been used in animation down the decades. As already mentioned, the first, original film animation – by Winsor McCay, back just after the turn of the century – was a simple idea based on the flicker book, whereby a series of drawings was rapidly filmed and one by one built up a moving picture. For something like this, thousands of hand-made drawings were required, and though this suited early methods it was obvious this was not going to be the standard. Who has time to draw thousands upon thousands of drawings? How many drawings would have been needed to animate something like even Steamboat Willie, never mind Snow White? This technique was vastly simplified and improved with the introduction of cel animation, which allowed the tracing of outlines onto sheets of cellulose acetate, which could then be coloured, to cut out that tedious hand-colouring required previously.

Rotoscoping, still in use today (it was used to make the lightsabers in Star Wars seem to glow) involves the tracing and removal of images called mattes – essentially silhouettes – to be used in another frame, in another scene, perhaps on a different background. Many animators frowned on this process though, as it was time-consuming and, in the early years, not particularly accurate or precise. There's also stop-motion animation, in which real objects – often puppets – are moved each frame and rephotographed to give the illusion of movement. Early stop-motion animation was not the fluid operation we see today, and could be quite choppy. Of course, virtually all of today's animation is created on computers, but we're not concerned with that here.

I hope that's made things as clear as mud for you. I'm a little confused personally about the different animation processes, which seem very complicated, but perhaps that will give you a basic idea. Anyway, on we go.


In direct response to the unexpected and overwhelming success of and popularity of Snow White, Paramount Studios were eager to hit back, and commissioned Max Fleischer, who we met previously, he having invented the “follow the bouncing ball” animation that was used on My Old Kentucky Home, and who would later go on to create favourites like Betty Boop and Popeye, to create their own full-length feature. For his subject, Fleischer looked to the works of Jonathan Swift, creating his own take on the famous classic Gulliver's Travels, released in 1939. Like its famous antecedent, this movie liberally interpreted Swift's satirical work, making it more of a love story and of course adding specially-written songs, a precedent that Snow White had begun and which would continue throughout not only Disney but most animated movies, even up to today.

An interesting point I note as the movie begins: this seems to have been the first animated movie with music where the singing was not necessarily performed by the actor who played the part. In Snow White, Adriana Caseloti played the title role and also sung all the songs Snow White had to sing, but here, at least in the case of the male role of Prince David, one actor acts and another sings. I don't know whether it was that Jack Mercer couldn't carry a tune in a bucket, wasn't allowed to sing by his union, or didn't want to sing, but his songs were performed by Lanny Ross, who was a singer.

The animation is very good, though you would still at this point give it to Disney for vibrancy and colour, and the fact that the first half-hour or so of the movie takes place at night and in the dark makes it a little hard to really rate the animation, but once you can see it in daylight it's very decent indeed. Fleischer also took on the Disney model of adding humour and comedy to the story, imbuing the movie with a pretty good incidental soundtrack apart from the actual songs. Still, even in the light, things like Gulliver's face (pictured below) show a certain sense of indefinition, and it almost looks like he's carved from stone and painted or something. Also, don't the Liliputians look suspiciously like Disney's dwarfs? Fleischer still had a way to go to catch up with his rival.

Nonetheless, given that he was only allowed an eighteen-month window from start of production to finish, I think he did very well, and the movie was a hit. Not surprisingly, really, as surely cinema-goers at this point had had their appetites well and truly whetted by Snow White and were eagerly awaiting a new animated movie. Disney would not produce another one until 1940, when he would again take the world by storm, but Paramount were savvy enough to have Gulliver's Travels hit just before Christmas 1939, and so were pretty much assured of a receptive audience.

Fleischer didn't really attempt another full-length animation for some years, running into trouble with Paramount and then the outbreak of the Second World War, but as I already mentioned, he is famous mostly for Betty Boop, Popeye and later Superman, and in due course, before we move away from film animation, we will be doing a more in-depth feature on him.
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Old 02-27-2017, 11:00 AM   #34 (permalink)
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Fleischer did the Superman cartoons from the 40s? I haven't watched much of them just cause I'm not a big enough Superman fan to deal with just how dated they are, but I know they're immensely highly regarded in the realm of superhero cartoons, and are even now regarded as having some of the absolute best animation in a superhero cartoon.
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Old 03-22-2017, 10:58 AM   #35 (permalink)
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Timeline: 1940-1941

We're back with Uncle Walt, who, fresh from his groundbreaking success with the world's first full-length animated feature, based on a fairy tale by the Grimm Brothers, decided to look again to children's tales for his next outing, this time to Italian storyteller Carlo Collodi, and his most famous story, The Adventures of Pinocchio. Having read the book while in production with Snow White, Disney loved it and immediately declared it would be the third movie they would work on, Bambi at the time being the second he intended to unleash on the public. But problems realistically animating animals in Bambi led to it being delayed, and so dropping all but the puppet's name for the title, Pinocchio was pushed to the forefront.

The original story does not make the title character as sympathetic as Disney's film did. In the story, he kills the cricket who would become Jiminy, his conscience, and is later attended by its ghost. He is very precocious, as you would expect, but quite unlikeable, and the story is, as these things invariably were before the likes of Disney got their hands on them, quite dark. This would of course never do for an American cartoon film audience, and so many aspects of the story were changed, such as the introduction of the genial Jiminy Cricket, a more endearing aspect being given to the puppet and the role of the blue fairy, who features only slightly in the original story, being upgraded to a companion of the puppet. Obviously, many songs were also written for it, as would become the norm for Disney cartoons.

In addition, due to the unexpected but very welcome success of his first feature, Disney wanted to have known celebrities voice his characters, and so Pinocchio became the first animated movie to have stars do the voices. Names which of course at this point in time mean nothing to us but who were big stars in their day were recruited: Frankie Darro, Walter Catlett, Evelyn Venable and the creator of the first ever million-selling record, “Ukelele Ike”, Cliff Edwards, were all signed up, while the voice of Pinocchio himself, due to Disney's insistence on it being a child who voiced him, went to Dickie Jones, only twelve years old but already having worked with legendary director Frank Capra (not not Franz Kafka!), though sadly the voice that would become synonymous with later cartoons (including that of Bugs Bunny), Mel Blanc, was deleted out of the movie after it was decided that his character would be a mute.

Pinocchio became the first animated feature to utilise proper effects animation, such as the sparkles from the blue fairy's wand, and the incredible underwater scenes, which were highly praised. Despite however winning two Academy Awards (the first animated movie to achieve this feat) it was not the huge box office success Disney had expected and hoped it would be, recouping less than half of its budget by 1947. Some of this was due to the onset of World War II, which left people with more important things to do than watch movies, and less money too, but though Walt was reported to have been very depressed about the initial box office returns, it of course picked up steam and to date has made over forty times its budget, earning a place in the National Film Registry and when the American Film Institute compiled their top ten best films ever in 2008, Pinocchio came second in the animation genre, beaten only by its predecessor. It is now considered one of Disney's best films.

In comparison to many of Disney's later films, which could mostly be labelled under the terms “twee”, “cloying” or “sentimental”, Pinocchio is a genuine morality tale, and though there are songs that we remember from it – mostly “When you wish upon a star” - which make it fit into what would later become unofficially known as the “Disneyfication” idea, it tends not to rely too much on jokes and clever lines, instead espousing the need for honesty, friendship and a strong work ethic. If Pinocchio wants to become a real boy, he has to work for it, and accept all the baggage that comes with that.

I couldn't say for certain, not being sufficiently knowledgeable about early Hollywood films, but as far as animated movies go, this would seem to be the one that started off a trend which would mostly continue through Disney – and other animated – movies, that of the hero and the sidekick. There's a very clear relationship established between Pinocchio and Jiminy Cricket, and whether it was Baloo and Mowgli in The Jungle Book or Charlie Brown and Snoopy, from this point on a huge percentage of animated movies would feature this dynamic. For animated films at least, Walt Disney had scored yet another first.
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Old 03-22-2017, 12:58 PM   #36 (permalink)
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And yet again Disney broke new ground, as the idea of the Silly Symphonies was extended into full feature format to encompass The Sorcerer's Apprentice and bring Mickey Mouse into the public eye. The gloved rodent's popularity had declined somewhat with the attention being taken up by Snow White and then Pinocchio, and Disney felt it was time to remind people of his earliest creation. Moving away, for the first time, from the idea of having songs written for the movie and returning to the Silly Symphonies format of setting cartoon sequences to classical music, Fantasia was born.

The idea was quite courageous. Given that his audiences had so far seen the happy tale of a young woman living with seven dwarfs, followed by a puppet discovering how to be a real boy, and that even the previous shorts had all followed some sort of definite storyline or plot, the plan to have a series of separate “longer” shorts, all set to classical music (which might be a turn-off for younger audience members, you would think) that really never meshed to tell one cohesive story, must have seemed a pretty big gamble, but it would pay off. Securing the services (for free!) of the conductor of the Philadelphia Orchestra, Leopold Stokowski, Disney was ready to create a real extravaganza, and though I've seen it once and was not terribly impressed, you can't argue with box office returns of between seventy and eighty million, for an initial outlay of just over two.

There would be no real cast for this outing, as there was no speech, only music, and one narrator, but that didn't stop the budget equalling the previous movie. Again, World War II would restrict the distribution of the movie, and combined with the expense of fitting out theatres with Disney's new Fantasound state of the art stereophonic sound system, would lead to slow uptake on the movie, but Disney insisted on the new system, as the movie stood or fell as much on the audience's enjoyment of the music as the animation. Fantasia thus became the first feature film to use stereo sound. It was also the longest animated movie at the time, clocking in at a somewhat attention-challenging two hours and six minutes.

Fantasia also became, if not the first animated movie, then the first full-length one, to mix live action and animation, as the opening sequence is live action with the orchestra tuning up. Personally, I think this takes from it, but that's just me. A brief rundown of the various sections follows.

Opening with, as mentioned, the narrator introducing the film against the background of the orchestra tuning up, we get Toccata and Fugue by Bach. This is a pretty abstract piece, moving on to a scene of growth and flowering, the changing of the seasons in Tchaikovsky's The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy, with fish, flowers and mushrooms all dancing, then the most famous sequence, where Mickey Mouse is reintroduced to cinema audiences for The Sorcerer's Apprentice followed by Stravinsky's Rites of Spring, showing the birth cycle of our planet.

A scene from Greek mythology plays out against the backdrop of Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony before Dance of the Hours takes us into a comic ballet scene with hippos and elephants, and finally Night on Bald Mountain features a danse macabre as the Devil summons forth the dead from their graves. An odd one to end on, though the dead are sent back to their rest at the end and it finishes with the Ave Maria and a procession of monks.

In essence, it has to be accepted that Fantasia was an animated movie – perhaps the first one ever – if not actually intended for then definitely aimed at adults. It's hard to see what children would have got out of it, other than the dances and the flashing lights, and of course Mickey Mouse and his unruly mop. But over the course of two hours, you could see kids very easily getting bored, and the music would likely have done little to assuage that boredom. So really, Fantasia sets the most precedents, at this point, for an animated full-length movie:

1. It has, basically, no cast
2. It has no speech save that of the narrator
3. It survives entirely on classical music as a soundtrack
4. It was the first to use stereo sound
5. It was the longest featured animation at that point
6. It was the first to try to reintroduce an old (perhaps even, at this time, in danger of being forgotten) character and succeed in raising him back to, and then astronomically above, the original level of his popularity
7. It was the first animated film made primarily for adults
8. It was the first full-length animation to mix in live action (Winsor McCay did this of course, but his movie was much shorter and more basic)
9. It was the first animated movie not to follow a definite, planned storyline and to use different sequences (Lotte reiniger's Die Abenteure des Prinzen Achmed uses sequences, but they're all from the same source)

That's a lot of firsts. Disney was always a man to take a gamble. They laughed at his plans for Snow White in the same way as Winsor McCay's associates laughed when he claimed he could make drawings move, and both proved their doubters completely wrong. RKO worried about his insistence in installing his Fantasound system in theatres, and the length of Fantasia, and they were proved wrong too.

Inevitably, much of the staid and stuffy classical music community railed and sniffed at the movie, declaring their music was being debased, and arguing over which parts had been changed or omitted. Stravinsky, the only living composer at the time of those whose music was used, was unimpressed. I suppose when you've created serious music it's a bit of a culture shock to see hippos dancing to it! Lighten up, guys!

With or without these objections, it would seem that Walt Disney was unstoppable, and his studios would certainly dominate cinema animation for decades to come, though soon enough others would get in on the action, as we will see. Nevertheless, for now everything Disney touched, while not initially turning to gold, would turn out to be a winner. And that would be doubly true of his next two outings.
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Old 03-22-2017, 06:45 PM   #37 (permalink)
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While Disney is the unchallenged king of animated movies, certainly in the forties and fifties, I don't intend to explore all his movies, as initially this began as an examination into television animation, ie cartoons, and though it quickly became apparent to me that I couldn't ignore the genesis of these cartoons, ie animated films, I have no intention of recounting the history of Disney. I've acknowledged his rightful place in the history of animation, and in all likelihood I'll come back to him later, but I'd like to just set him aside for now and look at what else was happening in the 1940s in terms of cinema animation.

Before I do, though, one final accolade to Uncle Walt. With the release of Dumbo (1940) and later the already-mentioned and long-delayed Bambi (1941), Disney introduced the idea of anthropomorphism, in other words, the assigning of human emotions, actions and thoughts to at first animals but later even inanimate objects, as we have seen with the likes of Pixar's Cars and Planes. Up to then, with the exception of Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck, animated movies had featured humans, or human-like creatures such as dwarfs (they're in some small animated movie released around 1937, you probably haven't even heard of it) and while things like squirrels, birds and other animals were in this movie they acted as squirrels, bird and other animals. They didn't talk, they didn't show any real sense of reasoning. Rabbits ran if trouble threatened, birds flew away. Birds tweeted, squirrels, well, did whatever squirrels do. Honest John and Gideon did certainly make a case for anthropomorphic creatures in Pinocchio, as did Jiminy Cricket to an extent, but Dumbo was the first animal to star in their own movie and have it built around them, and as fae as I remember, though that had some humans in it Bambi, which followed (though it was written before Dumbo) had none at all, so you were really taken into a different world, the forest the animals lived in.

But Disney was breaking down so many barriers and winning awards left right and centre, and setting the standard for the genre, what was left for those who would be his competitors to do? Well, I'm glad you asked.

Remember this guy?

Though his last (and first) real full-length animation, Gulliver's Travels had been released in 1939, and it might seem he had not done much since, nothing could be further from the truth. Sure, he had yet to produce another full-length animation, but as I mentioned in a previous entry, he was already very popular for two cartoon characters who would challenge the dominance of Mickey and Donald, and who are both known to just about everyone reading this, if only by reputation.

Betty Boop (Created 1930)

Originally created as an anthropomorphic poodle figure as part of a series of shorts created by Fleischer called Talkaroons, Betty appeared in the fifth instalment as a companion to another popular character, Bimbo. Very quickly, as her own appeal became obvious, her form was changed into a far more human woman, and Bimbo, who had been positioned as the star and a potential rival to Disney's big guns, especially Mickey Mouse, faded out. Supposedly based on singer Helen Kane, Betty was depicted as a 1920s “flapper” girl, and it is perhaps ironic that while her male companion Bimbo was named as such because at that time, the word meant a man ready to fight, she would come to encompass what we would call today the characteristics of a bimbo. If I hadn't known better, I would have thought she had been based on Marilyn Monroe, though of course at this time Norma Jean Baker was a child of four years old. At any rate, Betty soon progressed beyond her role in the Talkaroons and acquired her own strip, becoming one of the most loved and well-known cartoon characters ever.

Although originally designed by Grim (seriously? A cartoonist called Grim?) Natwick, the transformation from canine to human was mostly attributed to five men – Berny Wolf, Seymour Kneitel, “Doc” Crandall, Willard Bowsky and James “Shamus” Culhane. I honestly can't think of another cartoon character so expressly sexual and attractive until 1988's Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (in which she has a cameo herself), when Jessica Rabbit made us lads all lust after a cartoon woman. She really is proportioned (other than her head) as a totally sexy woman, and her “Boop-oop-de-doop” line is maddeningly sexual too. Fleischer would create firsts of his own, rivalling Disney for the honour of presenting the first properly-proportioned sexy female cartoon character (and this in an age where sexual attitudes were still very repressed) and indeed be the first to portray sexual harassment onscreen in a cartoon, when in Boop-Oop-a-Doop (1932) she is threatened with rape by a villainous ringmaster and only saved by another character. That's strong, strong stuff for eighty years ago!

Betty's cartoon series lasted from 1932 to 1939, but the interference of that bastion of the guardians of public morality, the censor, particularly the National League of Decency and the Production Code, both forced Betty into a more conservative, less sexy role, and she began to be eclipsed by her support characters from about 1935 on. Though there were two television specials, in 1985 and 1989, Betty did not make the same transition to the small screen as did Fleischer's other, more popular character.


Popeye (the Sailor Man) (Created 1932) *

The first of his characters not to be created by his own studios, Popeye was licenced by Fleischer in 1932 from King Features, the publishing firm owned by William Randolph Hearst, in whose New York Journal daily comic he had starred since 1929, having been created by Elzie Crisler Segar as a bit-part player in her series Thimble Theater. He instantly became so popular that not only was he brought back quickly, he took over the series and became one of the best known cartoons at that time. His appeal still lasts today, where his cartoons are regularly played all over the world.

Unlike Walt Disney's cute creatures and cuter people, Max Fleischer preferred to draw his characters in a more abstract, caricaturistic way, and with more down to earth settings reflecting the Great Depression through which he lived. Working in black and white a lot longer than Disney he used the medium to his advantage rather than feel restricted by it. I suppose you could perhaps call his cartoons a sort of film noir, certainly compared to Disney's more kid-friendly, happy and uplifting style. Or to put it another way (and anyone familiar with his work and/or film in general, correct me if I'm wrong, as I may very well be) if Disney was animation's Spielberg then Fleischer was its David Lynch. His cartoons were rougher drawn, more symbolic and surreal, and often contained hidden (or sometimes not so hidden) messages of sexual innuendo. They were also, in general, darker in content than Uncle Walt's stories of happy forest creatures or flying elephants. This in itself I guess probably prevented Disney from really seeing Fleischer as a threat (even though they were personal rivals); they were almost working at opposite ends of the spectrum, and with Disney moving on to full-length features while Max was still producing Betty Boop shorts, it seemed unlikely the one would ever challenge the other.

Popeye however did become immensely popular, starring in his own series of movies. Fleischer's last ever full-length feature, Mister Bug Goes to town (1941) was a complete disaster. Apart from the fact that a rift had developed between Max and his brother Dave, to the point where they only communicated in writing while working on the movie, it was released two days before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor signalled the US's entry into World War II, and Paramount lost their shirts on it. They demanded the resignation of both brothers, which they duly got, and moved in to take over the studios.

Under new management and in really what amounted to a new world now, Popeye became a war hero, starring in shorts in which he dealt out American justice to the Nazis and the Japanese. The studios were renamed Famous Studios, and in 1943 Her Honor the Mare became the first Popeye short to be released in colour. Although he was now gone, Fleischer's long association with black and white cartoons was forcibly over, and Popeye was dragged into the world of colour cartoons. In 1957 Paramount sold the rights to Popeye and three years later he made his debut on the television screens of America, but we'll pick that up when we get the the TV era in this history.

Popeye was of course a sailor (more of a sailor than Donald Duck, as he actually did go to sea) and had average strength until he ate spinach, which increased the size of his muscles and allowed him to take on whatever foes he was facing. Whether the idea of using spinach was a marketing ploy or just coincidental, it did succeed, as American (and later British) kids started eating more spinach so as to be just like the cartoon sailor. So influential was he on the sales of spinach that several statues to him were erected, including one in Chester, Illinois, home of his creator, Alma, Arkansas, said to be “the spinach capital of the world” and Crystal City, Texas. Popeye had an entourage of supporting characters, originally the main ones in the Thimble Theater series, such as his girlfriend Olive Oyl, Wimpy, The Sea Hag and Bluto or Brutus, his eternal nemesis and rival for Olive's affections.

Prior to their forced departure and the takeover of their studios, the Fleischer brothers had reluctantly accepted a commission to bring the comic book character Superman to life on the screen, and though they quoted what they believed to be an exorbitant price per episode, citing the difficulty of working in Superman's world and bringing Metropolis alive, they were bargained down and ended up being stuck with the project. Although Superman ran for a total of seventeen episodes, the Fleischers only created nine. The remaining eight are generally considered inferior to them, as the original ones had a more science-fiction theme, while the later ones leaned more in the direction of WWII propaganda films, and were created by a team of animators made up of Seymour Kneitel, Isadore Sparber, Sam Buchwald and Dan Gordon. Kneitel had worked on the humanisation of Betty Boop for Fleischer, if you remember, so he was obviously kept on by Paramount/Famous.

One thing the Fleischers apparently are credited with, rather amazingly if it's true, is the power of flight for Superman. In the Action Comics, he was only able to leap from building to building, but when the brothers originally animated this it looked silly, and they decided to have Superman fly instead. Action, and later DC, okayed this and had the ability written into the character's canon. I think I'm also correct (though admittedly I've not researched it) that the Superman cartoons were a) the first time a superhero had been depicted onscreen b) the first time a superhero had been animated onscreen and c) the first time a character had appeared onscreen in an animation which had originally taken place in comics (as opposed to a newspaper strip, a la Popeye). So again, keeping up with Disney by pioneering the way and planting a few milestones of their own, these guys.

Later on of course, the series would follow Popeye across the divide to television, where it would entrance a whole new and younger audience, and reawaken interest not only in Superman but in superheroes, leading to such series as Batman: the Animated Series, Spiderman and others, and writers such as The Dark Knight's Frank Miller would quote the cartoons as a major influence on his writing. DC would honour the Fleischers by naming tje as one of The Fifty Who Made DC Great in 1985. Max himself would succumb to Arterial Sclerosis of the brain and pass away in 1972, earning himself the title of “the dean of animated cartoons.” Dave would survive him by seven years, taken in 1979 by a stroke. Both would outlive Walt Disney, who passed away in 1966.

* Refers to the creation of the character for animation purposes; Popeye was originally created in 1929
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Old 03-24-2017, 06:37 PM   #38 (permalink)
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UnAmerican Animation: Rockin' Outside the USA (Part II)
Timeline: Approx 1930 - 1945

So what was happening while Walt Disney, Max Fleischer and their contemporaries in the USA were working their magic? Well, quite a little actually. In Britain, where animators were restricted mostly to writing advertisements, a few ideas were thrown about. Anson Dyer tried to animate the adventures of Sam Small, a soldier who was always getting into trouble (perhaps a precursor to such later favourites as The Sad Sack and Beetle Bailey?) and whose deeds had been described by comedian Stanley Holloway in stage monologues, but his ideas didn't really fit with the drawled, slow vocal style of Holloway and his first attempt, Sam and His Musket (1935) was a failure. You have to give him some credit for ambition though: a full four years before Walt Disney would produce the world's first full-colour animation feature, Dyer was using colour in his failed venture. His next attempt, 1937's The King with the Terrible Temper fared better, but I can find no footage of either. Meanwhile, a cartoonist working for the Daily Express newspaper tried to animate one of his characters, a horse called Steve, but was unequal to the task.

Britain may not have had much in the way of indigenous animators, but for whatever reason it became a focal point for many foreign ones, among them Lotte Reiniger, of whom we have already heard, Hector Hoppin, John Lye and John Halas, the last of whom would become famous for his Halas and Bachelor cartoon studios. It was, however, the influence, however backdoor, of Disney that kickstarted British animation, when David Hand, who had worked on and directed both Bambi and the iconic Snow White joined the newly-formed GB Animation and produced the short-lived series Animaland. Unfortunately, though able to animate, Hand was no genius at giving characters personality, so that the squirrels who starred in his series were wooden and uninteresting, and he returned, despondent, to America in 1949.

In fairness, this is what I read, but looking now at one (entitled The Cuckoo (1948)) I don't agree at all. Yes, the narrator is very English and it's treated more as a nature documentary in the way a lot of later live-action Disney films would copy, but these birds have character. I also note this may be the first time that feet-running-in-a-circle to indicate a character about to run (you know the one, accompanied by someone banging coconuts or something) had been used, at least outside of the USA. Then again, I suspect Hand would just have brought that in his “bag of tricks” to be used 'cross the water. Nevertheless, I don't consider this cartoon bad. You can watch it yourself below.

Another who tried and failed was George Moreno, an American who had studied under Max and Dave Fleischer. His series, Bubble and Squeak, about a London taxi driver and his anthropomorphic taxi, though it only lasted five episodes, is possibly the first example of an inanimate object being given a personality – his taxi is born as a little tiny car as he waits anxiously outside the delivery room, and has a happy face and does that concertina-movement that would again become some popular later on, and that had been somewhat pioneered already by Disney in both Plane Crazy and earlier when Oswald the Lucky Rabbit had his Trolley Troubles. An interesting aside here, not important but hell, I'll mention it anyway cos I'm that anal: as his mates celebrate the birth of Mister Bubble's taxi in the pub, they all sing For He's a Jolly Good Fellow, but the American final line in this song is different to the British one. We sing “And so say all of us” and you guys sing “Which nobody can deny.” Now, for reasons I can't work out – surely he could have just asked an English person how they sing it? - he obviously didn't want to use the Americanised version but didn't know how the English one went, so made up a new line: “A jolly good fellow is he.” Odd.

Anyway, the cartoon looks to have been well made if the colour is slightly washed out and the drawing sketchier and more two-dimensional than Disney, and the humour is well handled. In one scene (the same singing scene in the pub) a huge taxi driver with a dangerous-looking eyepatch sings one of the lines in a high falsetto! Unexpected, and the kind of thing cartoons would do so well for decades. You can definitely see the influence the Fleischers had on Moreno; his characters are more exaggerated, move more almost to music, swaying, seeming to dance most of the time as opposed to Disney's often more realistic movement, and the proportions are pretty exaggerated too. Nevertheless it's a good cartoon with a clever idea and it's a pity it didn't catch on.
Len Lye (1901-1980)

Len Lye was born in Australia and spent time in beautiful Samoa (“I couldn't do much work there: it was too wonderful for a young person”) and eventually found himself in England, where with the help of grants from the London Film Society he made some animated films, among them Brith of a Robot, which is basically a puppet animation, and Rainbow Dance, which mixes a sort of cut-out silhouette of a human figure with animated sparkles, lights, colours and of course rainbows. Given that this is 1936 we're talking about it's impressive enough, but again light-years behind the USA. Even his 1939 Swinging the Lambeth Walk is a poor relation (a very poor one, almost bankrupt) and shows Lye's focus to be more on creating effects to music rather than true character animation. What would seem to have been his last proper animation before he returned to being a kinetic sculptor in 1949, Free Radicals, was clever but really only from a sense of curiosity as to what could be done with single white lines on a black background to music. It's hardly what you'd call a cartoon in any sense.



1935 saw the first of the proper animations based on the Disney system come out of France, with Mimma Indelli's La decuverte de a'Amerique (The Discovery of America), but she only had one other film produced in the forties before changing her mind and deciding instead to study art. Andre Rigal was another who worked in the field of animation but I can't find any of his material online, however it is known that he produced some short films while France was under German occupation during the Second World War, mostly about the hero, Cap'taine Sabord, and a Russian emigrant, Bogdan Zoubowitch produced Histoire sans Paroles (Songs without words), clay figure animation was tried by Jean Painleve for Barne-Bleu (Blackbeard) in 1938, but few of these are available to me so I can't comment on them. I'm not even sure if this is Zoubowitch's cartoon below, as that phrase brings up rather a lot of results, some of which are obviously incorrect, but this one looks about right, so you know, maybe it's it.


Paul Grimault (1905-1994)
What appears to have been the first proper colour animation to come out of France, other than Mme Indelli's effort, which I was unable to track down and so can't critique, comes from Paul Grimault, with the imaginative Les Passengers de la Grand Ourse (1941) and seems to feature the rather fantastical idea of a ship being lifted up by a great many balloons in order to fly. The book I'm reading describes Grimault's use of colour as “sobre” and I think I would have to agree. It's mostly shades of almost sepia, with blacks and whites, but it's not monochrome: it is definitely colour, but almost washed-out colour, not as vibrant as the likes of Disney or Flesicher. The cartoon also works with the idea of the sidekick started by Fleischer, and interestingly both uses a child as the main protagonist (something which I don't think had been done before, though I could be wrong as I'm a little cartooned out, researchwise) and gives him an animal, a pet dog, as his sidekick. The dog becomes more than a pet, becomes a trusted companion and one that will both get into trouble and help get its master out of trouble, something that would develop into a running theme in many cartoons. In one scene (again, I believe this is the first time but don't drag me to court if I'm wrong – I have no money anyway) Grimault seems also to invent what we would come to see as a typical cartoon trope, though it's probably taken from real-life comedy movies, where two people back away until they bump into each other, turn around and realise they have met up. The dog here, too, certainly looks like an early base for later, better-known cartoons dogs such as Droopy, Snoopy and even to an extent everyone's favourite ghost-chasing hound, Scooby-Doo.

Actually, it's not quite balloons that help the Grand Ourse (Great Bear) to fly; it's more a kind of an almost gyroscopic arrangement. The balloons turn clockwise around their centre, small ones on the outside and one huge one in the middle. Quite clever; almost presaging the helicopter/autogyro idea. I have no idea what the crewman they meet is meant to be though: he's long and sort of flexible with a wide midsection and almost stick-thin legs and arms, wide bulbous feet, Mickey Mouse-style white gloves and a clown's face, with what appear to be headphones or earmuffs on his head. Something that perhaps Disney based the Cards on in Alice in Wonderland some time later, perhaps? He also never opens his eyes, so you don't see them, just his closed lashes, making him look either sleepy or benign, even when he chases the pair.

There is no speech in the cartoon, only music, though the dog barks, and it's well made, though I believe the limitations Grimault put on his drawings – the constant and in my extremely humble and uninformed opinon, overuse, of browns, yellows, terracottas, lessens its impact and makes it a little boring on the eye. The animation's pretty first-class though, apart from that, especially the scene near the end where a vulture pursues the boy. The dog is definitely the hero, saving the boy, and again beginning a precedent in which heroic animals would save their (often dim-witted) human owners.

Anthony Gross (1905-1984)
But while many foreign animators were making their way to England, some of the traffic went the other way. Anthony Gross was an Englishman who practiced his art in Paris, helped and financed by Hector Hoppin. Their Joi de Vivre (1934) is really more typically French in style than English, with rather realistic-looking statuesque girls running, dancing and almost flying, including an impressive section where they walk along telephone wires. Though their dresses billow up and their long legs are exposed, nothing else is, not even underwear, in what might be surprising for one of the most sexually permissive societies of the twentieth century (though bear in mind, of course, that it was being drawn by a comparatively repressed Englishman!) and it's all done, as Kenny Everett used to say, in the best possible taste. It's also all done in black and white.

There's clever usage of the location. As it's a power plant they're close to (hence all the wires and transformers) when one of the girls' shoes flies off and a boy finds it, the word on the door he opens to discover the shoe, and then set off after the girls to return it, is DANGER. While this obviously is meant to warn of high voltage, you have to wonder if there wasn't a double meaning for the girls: danger in meeting boys? The two girls – though depicted as quite adult, maybe in their late teens or even early twenties – seem the spirit of innocence and carefree fun, dancing with each other as if they have not a care in the world, and as noted, there is no reference to any sexual undertone: no flash of knickers, no stocking tops, nothing titillating at all. So are these two girls, the soul of purity, about to be corrupted by the rough male presence entering their little world? They, of course, run off, thinking he is after them when all he wants to do is return the shoe, and there follow some very intricate and clever (and quite beautiful) sequences involving butterflies, wind and flowers. There's also great use of perspective here, where at one point the girls seem to have shrunk to the size of a bee, yet we see as they come closer it's just that they are, or were, far away.

You also have to wonder if famous British animator Gerald Scarfe (remember his work on Pink Floyd's “Another brick in the wall” video?) got some of his inspiration from Gross? Certainly, the way the boy walks is very reminiscent of the way the hammers walk in that video. Further on in the video, the girls strip off to take a dip in a pool, but again, there's more suggested than shown; very little in the way of actual nudity and more a basic idea of shape. In the typical disregard for logic and physics that would soon become endemic to cartoons, the boy simply rides his bike across the river to go in pursuit of the now once again clothed girls, who very cleverly use their billowing skirts to make them look like flowers, and so escape his attentions for the moment.

Eventually though he catches them, explaining that all he wants to do is return the girl's shoe, and having taken refuge in a signal box, the three then spend a frantic time choreographing the paths of various trains, a lot of clever superimposition of the trains over the hectic trio before the boy fits the shoe to the girl's foot and all three fly off into the clouds on his bike, fifty years before Spielberg thought of the idea, and again you wonder ...

There's certainly an element of Cinderella in this short, with the girl losing her shoe and being pursued by the boy, but it's mainly quite innocent and perhaps an object lesson to women that men are not always after the one thing. Well, not in cartoons anyway! Gross's most famous film was actually produced in London, as he was invited back there after producer/director and founder of London Films, Alexander Korda had seen the movie, so technically it's not a French effort but let's keep it here anyway. The Fox Hunt, shot in colour, is supposedly wonderful but unfortunately efforts to locate it have proven fruitless. Once again, Hitler ruined a good animator as WWII prevented Gross from working on his own material, as he was given the role of official war artist and saw action in Egypt, Syria, India and Burma among others, and though he tried to pick up his career after 1945, was only able to create a short from the original intended feature of Jules Verne's Around the World in 80 Days, which he had been working on before war was declared. He retired from animation and like Mimma Indelli, chose a career in art instead, becoming a painter. He died in 1974.

Berthold Bartosch (1893-1968)
Born in the Czech Republic, (then part of Austia-Hungary and later Czechoslovakia), Bartosch moved to Berlin and met Lotte Reiniger, with whom he worked on the already discussed Die Abenteur des Prinzen Achmed and later moved to Paris, where he was approached by author Frans Masereel with the idea of turning one of his books into an animated film. When he got down to it though, Bartosch found that the wood engravings made by Masereel did not respond well to animating, and he had to actually invent a whole new way of filming them, including using plates of glass with soap on them, to provide a murky, surreal effect. On the face of it a political film, L'Idea (1931) is in fact a triumph of the human spirit over the forces of evil and coercion, it says here. But it's not my cup of tea. It's very dark, the constant shimmer makes it hard to work out what's going on much of the time, it's all in black and white and this thing Bartosch did with soap doesn't work for me, but then, what do I know? Much of the time it reminds me of a prehistoric ancestor to the work of Terry Gilliam on Monty Python's Flying Circus.

Failing health would dog Bartosch after the end of World War II, in which his native country would all but disappear, and though he worked on an anti-war film/poem just prior to the outbreak of hostilities, the film was all but destroyed in the war, and he leaves us with these words of wisdom: “It must be simple. It is difficult to be simple, but it is necessary.”

Alexandre Alexieff (1901-1982)

Originally of Russian descent, Alexieff moved to Paris in 1921 where he met his future wife, Claire Parker, and invented the idea of the pinscreen, creating his first animated movie, Une nuit sur la mont chauve (1932), based on the same Mussorgsky classical piece Disney would use to end his 1940 Fantasia, “A night on Bald Mountain”. It's another affair of light and dark (though that actually suits the subject matter in this case) and you can see the almost primitive morphing effects the use of the pinscreen allowed Alexieff to achieve. It's impressive, but you can't help but notice the massive gulf between what was happening in Europe and over in the US. I mean, at this point Disney had already completed Oswald's adventures and moved on to Mickey Mouse, and each of these (even Oswald) are vastly superior to the majority of the work I've seen so far from Europe, which had a long way to go to catch up.

Disappointed at the amount of films he was told he would have to produce in order to make a proper living at animation, Alexieff and his wife decided to go into advertising instead, and produced some apparently very good animations there, but sadly again I can't find any examples. During the war, the couple fled to America, returning to Paris at its end, however they don't seem to come back into the animation story again until the fifties, and as I'm currently limiting this timeline to 1945 or thereabouts, I'll leave them here for now. I may come back to them later.
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Old 03-24-2017, 06:59 PM   #39 (permalink)
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A quick note on timelines (Yawn! Shut up, Trollheart! You woke me up!) Sorry...


In the revised edition of this journal, since I realised I'd have to go pretty deeply into cinema animation before even getting to the TV stuff, I'm trying to keep two basic timelines: one is based exclusively on material produced in the US of A (Mostly Disney and Max Fleischer for the early periods) and one to then cover any country outside of the USA. As a result, I might post a timeline of, say, 1920-1930 for the USA but then find the timeline for Spanish (say) animation goes back to 1910 or something, so they may not always completely tally. But they'll never be that far apart.

Also, I may make generalisations from time to time, so don't bother posting "Dude! Your timeline says 1940-45 but X cartoon was 1945!" or suchlike.

Okay, you can go back to sleep now.
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Old 03-24-2017, 07:02 PM   #40 (permalink)
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Location: Beating GNR at DDR and keying Axl's new car
Posts: 48,199
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Never woke up.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by J.R.R. Tolkien
There is only one bright spot and that is the growing habit of disgruntled men of dynamiting factories and power-stations; I hope that, encouraged now as ‘patriotism’, may remain a habit! But it won’t do any good, if it is not universal.
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