Animation History
November 13, 2017 posted by Jerry Beck

Cartoons Considered For An Academy Award 1975

This week: 1975

The nominees were:

KICK ME Robert Swarthe [View]

MONSIEUR POINTU Bernard Longpre and Andre Leduc (NFB) [View]

SISYPHUS Marcel Jankovics [View]

And the Oscar went to:

GREAT Bob Godfrey, director. [View Trailer]

Another fascinating year for nominees – with the strengths of hand-drawn animation on full display. Not sure I agree with the choice of the winning film, but it confirms my belief that the Academy voters choose “Heart” or “Laughs” over craft. Godfrey’s Great takes a funny look at being a Brit (interesting that a similar film, looking at being Canadian (Zlatko Grgic’s Who Are We? – see nominees below) was also submitted this year). Similarly, the branch had a choice of two ‘drawn-on-film’ shorts, opting for Robert Swarthe’s delightful Kick Me.

Jankovics’ Sissyphus is a classic piece of power and strength that needed to be visualized via animation; the NFB’s Monsieur Pointu is a classy piece of pixilation. Beautiful films, all. But in the end – the ‘laughs’ won out.

On March 29th, 1976 at the Dorothy Chandler Pavillion, presenters O.J. Simpson and Marisa Bernsen present Bob Godfrey the Oscar for Short Film (Animated) for Great at the 48th Academy Awards. Here’s the video, below:


And so we continue our ongoing research into what other cartoons were submitted to the Academy for Oscar consideration but failed to make the cut. In 1975, there were 24 entries. Submitted, screened, but NOT nominated were:

Academy_Award_trophy175ARABESQUE – John Whitney
THE BEAST OF MONSIEUR RACINE – Gene Deitch
BOOBS A LOT – Leonard Ellis
CHOICE STAKES – Stan Phillips and Pat Oliphant
CONEY – Frank & Caroline Mouris
CRUNCH BIRD II – Ted Petok
L’EMPREINTE (The Footprint) – Jaques Cardon
GUBECZIANA – Dusan Vukotic
HIGH IN THE SADDLE – Steve Sharon
ONI (The Demon) – Kihachiro Kawamoto
OPTIMIST AND PESSIMIST – Zlatko Grgic
PERSPECTRUM – Dorothy Courtois and Ishu Patel
QUASI AT THE QUACKADERO – Sally Cruikshank
RED BALL EXPRESS – Steve Segal
SOOPERGOOP – Chuck Swenson
UNICEF IS SHARING – Paul Fierlinger/Jacques Danois/Harry Cannon
WHAZZAT? SIX BLIND MEN AND THE ELEPHANT – Tedd C. Determan
WHO ARE WE? – Zlatko Grgic
W.O.W. (Women Of The World) – Faith Hubley
YIN HSIEN – Michael Whitney

Here’s the documentation:

With these posts we ask that you put yourself in the place of the nominating committee – which of the films submitted would you have nominated? Which cartoon should have won? For your edification and viewing pleasure, here are as many of the cartoons we could find that the Academy screened, but didn’t make the cut. Enjoy the show!


ARABESQUE – John Whitney

Another pioneering computer animation film, created at IBM, when John Whitney was an “artist-in-residence”. Programming by Larry Cuba. Quoting from Tom Sito’s excellent book Moving Innovation:

“Arabesque is a beautiful meditation on the complex geometric patterns of Moorish-Arabian Art… a triumph of victor graphics and oscillation.”


THE BEAST OF MONSIEUR RACINE – Gene Deitch

This is one of those wonderful children’s book adaptations by Gene Deitch, for Weston Woods, based on a Tomi Ungerer story. Good solid little film.


BOOBS A LOT – Leonard Ellis

Leonard Ellis made this “animated psychedelic sing-along” while he was a student at CalArts. You can watch it here.


CHOICE STAKES – Stan Phillips and Pat Oliphant

Produced by the US Enviromental Protection Agency (remember that?), directed by Stan Phillips (later of Captain Planet), designed by Pulitzer Prize winning editorial cartoonist Pat Oliphant, animated by Bruce Woodside and Mike Sanger.


CONEY – Frank & Caroline Mouris

Pixiliation of Coney Island images by previous Oscar winners Frank & Caroline Mouris.


CRUNCH BIRD II – Ted Petok

Sorry Ted. Once was enough.


L’EMPREINTE (The Footprint) – Jaques Cardon

Symbolic story of a child who, since birth, has a “footprint” impressed onto his back, maintained by straps on his forehead and chest. One day, finally rid of this device, he crosses the door opening on his adult life. Get it?


GUBECZIANA – Dusan Vukotic

Based on what I know this is essentially a live action production with some animated paintings come-to-life. IMDB lists it as a “short documentary”, with this synopsis:

The insurrection of the Croation peasants and the tragic end of their leader Matija Gubec is represented through paintings and sculptures.


HIGH IN THE SADDLE – Steve Sharon

“Rotoscoped cowboys over photos” is all Mark Kausler recalls about this one. I suspect it was a student film.


ONI (The Demon) – Kihachiro Kawamoto

A classic short from Japanese puppet animator Kawamoto.


OPTIMIST AND PESSIMIST – Zlatko Grgic

An optimist and a pessimist meet and are in conflict throughout the whole film. The optimist tries to cheer up the pessimist, but the latter relates everything to the state of the world and of cinema today.


PERSPECTRUM Ishu Patel

A beautiful abstract experimental film by Indian-born, Canadian-based Ishu Patel, using simple geometric forms; flat shapes animated so a sense of perspective is conveyed. The visual effect is somewhat like a kaleidoscope; forming and re-forming constantly to the music.


QUASI AT THE QUACKADERO Sally Cruikshank

Underground comic artists and their art had been making in-roads toward animation since K-9000 and Fritz The Cat a few years back. But nothing captures the underground sub-culture aesthetic of the time more than Sally Cruikshank’s Quasi At The Quackadero. Another film that blew my mind when it first appeared (I distinctly recall first seeing this at an Asifa-East Awards judging session). Quirky, inspirational and still funny after all these years. Love the musical soundtrack and voices as much as I do the animation and imagination. Thanks for making this one, Sally.


RED BALL EXPRESS – Steve Segal

A joy to behold. Okay, I’m biased – I love this film by my friend Steve Segal. If all independent animators made shorts as entertaining as this, more people would be turned-on to experimental film and towards alternative animation techniques.

Steve reads this blog, so I hope he’ll send in a little more info (in the comments below) about how and when he made it – and anything else he can remember about qualifying the film for this screening. I would suspect that the preference by the Shorts Branch for Kick Me, aced out your chances for nomination this year. Who would have thought TWO excellent “drawn-directly-on-motion-picture-film” shorts would be submitted this go-round.

Sorry you didn’t get a nom, Steve, but you’ll always be a winner here on Cartoon Research.


SOOPER GOOP Charles Swenson

A humorous look at the downside of “kids’ cereals” and hard-sell marketing, through the fictional brand Sooper Goop; an overpriced, overprocessed, candied, chemically-enriched, bad excuse for nutrition.

I believe this was made for the educational 16mm market, distributed to schools and the like. Chuck Swenson, Bill Wolf and Jim Duffy handle the animation (Fred Wolf helped out – and provided a voice). A tad long – but entertaining nonetheless.


UNICEF IS SHARING – Paul Fierlinger/Jacques Danois

Paul Fierlinger is a distinguished independent animator of shorts and features (My Dog Tulip, 2009), especially noted for his animated documentaries. He is best known for his many Sesame Street spots, including the ones with Teeny Little Super Guy. Jacques Danois was the director of information at Unicef. Beyond that, I can’t find anything on this film.


WHAZZAT? SIX BLIND MEN AND THE ELEPHANT – Art Pierson

Arthur Pierson of Chicago made this film for the Encyclopedia Britannia, using clay animation to retell an 11th-century Arabic folk tale about six blind men.


WHO ARE WE? Zlatko Grgic

Another film by Zagreb-based Zlatko Grgic, this time a beautifully produced (by the NFB) funny little film about Canada and being Canadian.


W.O.W. (Women Of The World) Faith Hubley

Faith Hubley’s first solo project. Using ritualistic Goddess imagery from different ancient civilizations, she creates a new history of the world – from a feminist point of view.

 


YIN HSIEN Michael Whitney

I have no idea what this experimental film by Michael Whitney is about, or what it looks like, or what it is beyond it being a live action/special effects combination mishmash… this is the ONLY image related to it I could find on the internet:


The earlier posts in this series: 1948, 1951, 1952, 1953, 1954, 1955, 1956, 1957, 1958, 1959, 1960, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1967, 1968, 1969, 1970, 1971, 1972, 1973 and 1974.

(Super Special Thanks to Chris Sobieniak)

28 Comments

  • A lot of great stuff this year. I especially like the Encyclopædia Britannica Films claymation piece WHAZZAT? Again, we forget that the 1970s marked the peak period for highly creative 16mm experimental and educational film that dominated the school room pre-VHS.

    • I’m sure this was certainly a golden age all to itself.

  • Re. YIN HSIEN, here are some snippets:

    “Michael Whitney in Yin Hsein begins with a brown-clothed Chinese dramatic dancer, and somehow “smears” this moving image into graceful brushlike designs resembling Chinese calligraphy.” – American Film, July 1, 1976.

    “…Michael Whitney’s ‘Yin Hsien’ [is a] breathtakingly beautiful experiment…in streaking color. [I]n ‘Yin Hsien’ (which means “appear-disappear”), James Wing Woo’s martial arts exercises blur into images that recall Chinese calligraphy.” – Los Angeles Times, Feb. 15, 1977, reporting on an exhibition of experimental films by John, James, Mark, Michael and John Whitney Jr.

    The film picked up a $100 prize at the Bellevue Film Festival near Seattle in August 1977. It was also shown in a shorts programme at the Cooper-Hewitt Museum in NYC in October 1977.

    • Ignore the typo in the first quote; American Film has the correct spelling of the film.

    • Thanks, Yowp!

  • The Oscars totally missed out by not nominating Bruno Bozzetto’s Self Service (1974), truly one of the craziest and funniest cartoons that came out around this time. With its Boogie Woogie opening score using a kazoo, to the mosquito’s quest in trying to get the blood from a “human giant”. It ends with disastrous results, with the “giant human” waking up screaming (sounding like Mel Blanc), thinking that the end of the world was happening. Truly, this animated cartoon should have been either considered or nominated for the
    Best Animated Short of 1975. Too bad it was never submitted.

    • The film certainly calls attention (yet again) to the Energy Crisis using the allegory of mosquito with a human’s blood supply as their commodity. I especially love the ending with them all going to their little church to be chewed out by their Lord despite the deaf ears of one who just couldn’t help himself!

  • “Frank Film” minus the French subtitles: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Orftuw8Q-w0

  • Thanks, Jerry, for your nice comments. Until now it was just a rumor. One of the Academy members told me it was shown to the committee and that it made the top ten, but I was never officially notified. Now the shortlist is widely publicized, but not then. I suspect it was the inclusion in the 10th Tournee of Animation that made it eligible. And there is a story there: Tournee creator Prescott Wright called me at my home in Virginia to tell me it was accepted and to ask if Ward Kimball could buy the 16mm print. Imagine my exuberance, my favorite animator liked my film. Of course, I gave it to him for free. He called to thank me and casually said, “if you’re ever in LA come and visit me”. I was practically on the next flight! I saw his toy and train collection and stood on his full-size train (it didn’t go anywhere) and Betty (Mrs. Kimball) made me a sandwich.

    Now about the film details: This was drawn directly on 35mm film stock. I had seen several of Norman McLaren’s films done in that technique, and I loved them. I did one in super 8 when I was about 18, then one in 16mm when I was in art school, then I made a film in 35mm to a Rimsky-Korsakov melody, then I decided to make a new film using Bach on synthesizer (Switched-on Bach was popular then). I actually hired a keyboardist to transcribe The Little Fugue for synthesizer and animated about 30 seconds before I realized it was pretty boring. So I got a recording of a bluegrass tune Th3e Orage Blossom Special (Dueling Banjos from Deliverance was popular). And starting drawing. I drew in india ink using a 000 rapidograph pen and colored on the opposite side. My previous direct films which were colored using permanent markers. For this I had the film processed so it had a clear emulsion, then I used Dr. Martian’s dyes for the color. It was much more vibrant.

    There are more stories but this is enough for now.

    • I didn’t realize you yourself didn’t enter the film – that it qualified and was submitted by Prescott Wright. This might also explain why so many other entries were screened in 16mm – and why there was a bump in submissions after 1973. It now seems I need to further research the connection of Wright’s Tournee of Animation and the Academy Shorts branch. Thanks, Steve!

    • At least it appears we have a lead in this case. I suppose Mr. Wright might have been responsible for getting a lot of these films on the shortlist for the Academy to see.

  • Are you going to do 80’s and 90’s submissions or end on 1979-80?

    • I do not know how far I can keep this series going. Would you like me to do the 80s and 90s?

    • WOULD I? 😀 Perhaps after this year’s Oscars are over – Also 2000-2008.

    • Jerry: I would like to see these posts continue up to the present day. If you don’t have the time to research what all the submitted films were like or look for them online, that’s understandable. But even if you just post the list of submissions for each year, there are commenters here who may be able to supply additional information.

  • I can’t believe the Academy skipped on “Quasi” for the final nominations. It was a rather surreal loose homage to the early Fleischer shorts. Once again, the short somehow got even: in 2009, it got inducted to The Library of Congress’ National Film Registry.

    Which reminds me, since it’s right around the corner, anyone want to predict what animated related films (if any) might make it to the list this year? I say “Closed Mondays”.

    • Be interesting if it does. Glad to know Sally’s film was inducted.

  • One thing I’ve noticed in the last batch of entries is the significant number of student films submitted.

    (1) Is this unique to the animated short subject category, the number of student films? Did live action short subjects (to your knowledge, of course) have a similar total? I would find it difficult to believe many categories would be open, as a practical matter, to student films.

    (2) As with the discussion of Segal’s film above, would these (to your knowledge) have been submitted with or without the student’s input? In other words, a function of a teacher proud of his students pushing the nomination?

    (3) Has this trend of student films in the short-subject category being submitted for Oscar nomination continued to this day, or did it die out? I would imagine you might have some insight as to recent years.

    • It seemed like it varied from year to year, the Academy already had a student version of the awards that was started in 1973, though some student work found their way to the main awards like Jon Minnis’ “Charade” (produced at Sheridan College in Oakville, Canada) which took the Oscar for ’84.

  • Kick Me was one of those films that would show between shows on cable TV in the eighties. I always get a kick out of seeing it (pun not intended). Really fun and ingenious.

    Too bad Quasi at the Quackadero wasn’t nominated, seeing as it was later listed as one of the 50 greatest cartoons. Like many of the shorts seen on these posts, I guess it was too “out there” for the Academy.

    Interesting that the NFB would choose a Yugoslavian to make a cartoon about what it’s like being a Canadian. Really run cartoon, though.

    I actually saw Arabesque at the Museum of Modern Art a few years ago. Imagine watching this mesmerizing film playing on a flat screen hanging on the same wall as Warhols and Lichensteins.

    • Kick Me was one of those films that would show between shows on cable TV in the eighties. I always get a kick out of seeing it (pun not intended). Really fun and ingenious.

      I recall it being on Nickelodeon at some point in the early 80’s, sometimes along with Jittlov’s “Good Grief” and another of Sally’s films’ “Fun on Mars”.
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BMZJHUEEssk

      I think Steve’s film “Red Ball Express” was another piece of time waster Nick used to air. I’m guessing a lot of early cable channels were really desperate to fill up those slots pretty quickly when there wasn’t anything to show, especially after movies. Channels like Showtime and HBO would be dedicating these times to playing a lot of short films I remember seeing a lot.

      Too bad Quasi at the Quackadero wasn’t nominated, seeing as it was later listed as one of the 50 greatest cartoons. Like many of the shorts seen on these posts, I guess it was too “out there” for the Academy.

      Maybe, though I think the premise was pretty grounded as far as story is concerned (Anita wanted Quasi to take her to this place, he acts all disinterested and ignores her and she ditches him in the best way possible). It’s pretty classy as far as cartoon endings are.

      Interesting that the NFB would choose a Yugoslavian to make a cartoon about what it’s like being a Canadian. Really run cartoon, though.

      I think at the time, Zlakto Grgic had been working for a while in Canada as he had done a film with Don Arioli for the NFB called “Hot Stuff” in ’71. I guess much like with Dutch animator Paul Driessen who also made films for the NFB, he considered Canada his second home. He would also teach animation as a professor at Sheridan College. I know a few people who had him as their teacher there.

      I actually saw Arabesque at the Museum of Modern Art a few years ago. Imagine watching this mesmerizing film playing on a flat screen hanging on the same wall as Warhols and Lichensteins.

      I recall the film showing up in a TV documentary of sorts about Computer Animation back in the 1980’s that brought up early pioneering efforts like John Whitney’s work.

  • Thank you for doing this series. Of the ones submitted but not nominated, Quasi, Red Ball Express and Oni are the best of them which I’ve seen. I absolutely love GREAT!

  • I only saw Quasi At The Quackadero for the first time last year on Youtube. I thought it was an interesting & amusing mixture of the surreal Fleischer cartoons of the early 30s with the psychedelia of Yellow Submarine.

    Crunch Bird II looks like it could easily been made for Sesame Street, except for the frog’s ‘No Sh*t!’ at the end.

    • I first learned of Quasi via Jerry Beck’s “The 50 Greatest Cartoons” book personally. Later Cartoon Network did a similar marathon of the “50 Greatest Cartoons” and included Sally’s film among what they could acquire to use, so that’s how I got to first watch it.

  • Next week 1976. Two Words: THE STREET

  • Interesting not to see much discussion over SUPER GOOP. I will say it is an educational film as I saw it in the 7th grade (I think Churchill Films preferably dealt with distributing films of that sort). Back then, I remember enjoying the silliness of this, but didn’t realize the truths contained in how such products as a sugar-laden cereal is manufactured and marketed to unsuspecting children. Super Goop’s view of admen as vile scoundrels as the villains in classic literature is certainly cranked to 11 here with their tactics and other planned gimmicks. As the magnificent actor Rodney states, “I can make you want something you never heard of before.”, such a powerful statement when discussing the role of advertising mascots and their impact on the viewers, especially children. Now I know how that mom felt through all this (as I’m sure most mothers have gone through the same mess as well). I suppose to today’s eyes such a film could be seen as a cynical take on an industry that would’ve ended before it started, yet this film was being pretty blunt and obvious of an issue decades before such cynicism became standard in comedy. And to think, it was produced by the same studio that often did the same sort of ads like this!

    Being off-topic, I like noticing the other cereals on those shelves at the opening including the often missed Fruit Brute!

    I wish I knew more about UNICEF IS CARING, but the best I could find is this web entry from a French page.
    http://www.planete-jeunesse.com/fiche-2190-l-unicef-partage.html

    • I’ll bet Robert Smigel had seen SUPER GOOP once and appreciated it’s blunt earnestness about how the advertising business pandered to children so much as to compel him onto his own subversive crusade to reveal other stark truths about the world we live in, as evidenced in some of the J.J. Siedelmaier-produced “TV Funhouse” animated shorts he wrote for (One example being the “Conspiracy Theory Rock” short “Media-opoly”, which takes a visceral introspection at how large corporations that own media empires use their influence to control every aspect of the American way of life and direct their collective profits to benefit special interests. Incidentally, the feature was banned from rebroadcast by NBC following it’s premiere run on SNL.)

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