Recycled Disney

It’s not unusual for cartoonists and animators to reuse previous work as a shortcut. Here are two compilations of scenes from classic Disney films showed how detailed movement animations were redrawn with new characters.

The great comic book artist Wally Wood (Mad Magazine, Two-Fisted Tales, Daredevil, etc) had this written over his drawing table:

“Never draw anything you can copy, never copy anything you can trace, never trace anything you can cut out and paste up.”

Remember When Artists Had Courage?

Now we’re taking orders on what we’re allowed to watch from North Korea? That’s how brave Hollywood stands by their principles? (As if they have any principles other than devotion to the almighty dollar and contempt for their audiences.)

I’m not saying a Seth Rogen movie is worth risking lives. Heck, just the idea that “Seth Rogen” and “international incident” are in the same news stories is proof of our deeply odd times.

But if any nation on earth is demonstrably evil, it is the prison-nation of North Korea, run by a murderous and delusional dynasty that gets crazier in each successive generation. If creative people can’t stand up to crummy little tyrants like this and poke them in the eye, then what possible use are they? Even the lowest court jester of the nobility would mock the king.

Is it worth risking a single life for the possibility of a terrorist incident?

That’s entirely the wrong question. The studios and theaters are making a decision based on the potential for lost revenue if people get scared by the threats of terrorist action against theaters and stay away. And, given that we live in a climate of fear generated by one manufactured crisis after another, some people may indeed stay away. The film industry might even have to face a 10% reduction in box office returns during the lucrative Christmas season, and that’s how executives lose jobs.

Remember when Walt Disney and Warner and Charlie Chaplin mocked evil men like Hitler with vigor and courage? Now studios cringe in fear. It’s easy to do what Hollywood usually does: mock conservatives and Christians. Given the fallout from The Interview, we’re almost certain to see more of the villain that dominates headlines with his relentless cruelty and terrorism: the white male Methodist.

It’s almost a metaphysical certainty the The Interview is a terrible film, but if Seth Rogen and James Franco are the bravest member of the entertainment class, then they’re in good company.

Language Warning for these, obviously:


The Retro-Cartoon Stylings of Cuphead

If this game plays half as amazing as it looks, we’re in for a treat. 

Cuphead in ‘Don’t Deal With the Devil’ is a side-scrolling action game hand-animated in the style of a 1930s Fleischer Brothers cartoon.

Here’s how the designers describe it:

Cuphead is a classic run and gun that centers around 1-on-1 fights (2-on-1 in two player mode). With Cuphead, we aim to evolve the genre by adding new features such as: super arts, infinite lives, a playable world map and hidden secrets. In addition to that, we will have refined controls, additional boss patterns on harder modes and balanced weapons to equip (that you don’t lose!). We plan to release 10-15 bosses per episode and end up with over 30 bosses. If all goes as planned, we will defeat the current “Guinness World Record for Most Boss Battles in a Run and Gun Game”[25 total]).


See How Mel Blanc Did All Those Voices

Courtesy of OpenCulture, here’s a look at the voice of Mel Blanc, whose amazing vocal range and skill at characterization brought most of the Looney Tunes characters to life.

How do you “see” a voice? You stick an optic laryngoscope down Mel’s throat and have him talk, which is just what one clever ENT did. The result is an oddly fascinating look at a man who had complete mastery of his instrument. Each voice has a different shape and motion, and Mel’s control is as absolute as that of any great singer.


Also from OpenCulture: if the title Walt Disney’s The Story of Menstruation makes you snicker, think again. This is a fine educational film from the 1940s, with good narration, excellent animation, and a very light touch of humor.

And ladies, remember: avoid constipation!



A Short Christian Film From a Master Animation Director

Frank Tashlin tends to be largely overlooked in the history of both animation and live action film, but Looney Tunes buffs will recognize his name from some of the classics of the Golden Age. His animation style is almost always easy to spot. No one in the Warner Brothers stable was quite like Tash: angular figures, hyper-fast editing, exaggerated motion, and strange angles. Along with Tex Avery, he was the major influence on the Warner Bros. style.

He left animation and made a successful transition to film, working with Jerry Lewis, Bob Hope, and Doris Day. His live action work wasn’t well-regarded at the time, but films like The Glass Bottom Boat hold up much better–and appear more innovative–than a lot of mainstream fair of the same period.  Tashlin has been getting more respect lately thanks to the Looney Tunes DVDs and boosters like Leonard Maltin, John Waters, and Joe Dante.

I was happy to see this appreciation of Tash at Cartoon Brew on the centenary of his birth, and surprised to learn that his peripatetic nature brought him even further afield from his roots. In 1947, with the backing of the Lutheran Church, he made a short film called “The Way of Peace,” about human violence and rejection of God, the coming of Christ, and the dangers of the nuclear age in a world without God.

The strangest thing is that it’s stop-motion, with a bit of straight puppetry and stock footage mixed in. There’s some first class talent involved, including narration by Lew Ayers, George Pal’s Oscar-winning special effects man Gene Warren, and Wah Chang, a modeler best known for his work on Star Trek. (He designed the communicator, the Salt Vampire, the Bird of Prey,and other iconic props and creatures. Yes, even the Tribbles.)

Here is the entire film. The print quality is a bit dodgy, but it’s worth your 18 minutes:

A Note From Your Proprietor: I’m sick and on deadline this week, so updates will be sporadic.

Little Nemo in Googleland

Google’s animated tribute to Little Nemo

Animation and cartooning legend Winsor McCay is honored in Google Doodle today for the 107th anniversary of the publication of his strip, Little Nemo (also known as Little Nemo in Slumberland). McCay’s cartooning work is rich in detail and invention as it explores the dream world of a little boy named Nemo (Latin for “no one”). Kids can certainly enjoy them (I introduced my daughter to them over the summer and she loved them), but adults will be entranced the complexity of the images and the dazzling level of invention on display. The Little Nemo collections appear to be out of print, which is just insane for a work of art this important. You may, however, be able to find some of them in your local library system.

McCay’s newspaper strip would have been enough to make him a legend, but he was also a pioneering animator. His Gertie the Dinosaur is a charming bit of work, completely hand-drawn by McCay himself, and part of a live vaudeville act he took around the country. The cartoon was drawn so that he could interact with Gertie: she appears to respond to his voice, eats an apple he throws to her, and even let’s him climb on her back to ride off the stage. It may look a little primitive in 2012, but 1911 this was dazzling stuff for an audience.

We take slick animation for granted now, but the work of the early animators (McCay, the Fleishers, Disney, Starewicz, Iweks, Terry) have a rough-hewn handmade quality that’s a charm all its own. Sure, advances in animation techniques and technology make things look better, and that’s great. But look at Skeleton Dance, remember that it was largely animated by the hand of one man (Ub Iwerks), and then tell me it doesn’t have more charm and personality than the entire running time of Madagascar 3 or Happy Feet Whatever. Rango was one of the most beautifully designed works of animation I’ve seen in a while. It was also dead inside. Gertie’s little squiggly lines may look rough to us now, but in the right hands that simple pen line is capable of more heart and wit than an army of CG animators with nothing to say. Just because an animator can make something look better doesn’t mean he has something better to say.

The Youtube version of McCay’s Gertie the Dinosaur below is pretty poor quality, but there’s a DVD edition of McCay’s work that looks much better.

h/t Steven Greydanus.