Animation History
April 22, 2013 posted by Jerry Beck

Krazy Kat Storytime

krazy_kat_comp

If you thought the Charles Mintz version of Krazy Kat was a unique visual reinterpretation, wait’ll you see this. From the collection of animator Mike Kazaleh comes this oddball Krazy Kat story he found tucked away in an old children’s book.

My Book House, Story Time was published by The Book House for Children in Chicago. Mike says, “The book is filled with children’s stories and rhymes, all profusely illustrated. It has a dual copyright date of 1937 and 1950. I’m assuming that the book was originally printed in 1937 then reprinted in 1950.”

Click the thumbnails below to enlarge and read. Enjoy!

Krazy-Kat_Story-Time-1-small Krazy-Kat_Story-Time-2-small

10 Comments

  • Yow.

    Question is, were the artist and writer totally unfamiliar with the comic strip?

    The footnote describes the source as a “jazz pantomime,” which sounds British — I’ve only seen it referred to as a ballet. And the whole thing reads as if it were extrapolated from stage directions, perhaps from a published score. The writer appears to be inventing anything that’s not actual action (the stage directions probably assumed a familiarity with the characters and didn’t get into Krazy’s undefined gender or the love of thrown bricks). Either that or the writer “sanitized” it all for young readers, to the point of disapproving the ballet costume on a boy cat.

    I’d guess the artist is a yankee, based on “Officer” Pup’s hat and the backgrounds. But it could be a British artist consciously setting it in America. And why does that one tree look like Herriman but nothing else? A random drawing or set image from the published score? Possibly they discarded actual Herriman art in favor of matching the rest of the book.

    Finally, what’s this doing in the book in the first place? If it were simply a ripoff they wouldn’t have bothered to credit the composer and the cartoonist, even in the eccentric way they do here. The names would very probably be changed. And if it were authorized, why so off-model in every way?

    Be interesting to know if the rest of the book is existing material, adapted or not. Perhaps a Hearst archive of children’s newspaper features which happened to include the Carpenter score.

    • “Either that or the writer “sanitized” it all for young readers, to the point of disapproving the ballet costume on a boy cat.”

      For a children’s book, I could see why they probably went that direction with the characters/plot.

      “I’d guess the artist is a yankee, based on “Officer” Pup’s hat and the backgrounds. But it could be a British artist consciously setting it in America.”

      I suppose we’ll never know for certain who this “Gordon Heath” was or where he’s from, but that is pretty interesting to note the illustrations used.

      “Finally, what’s this doing in the book in the first place? If it were simply a ripoff they wouldn’t have bothered to credit the composer and the cartoonist, even in the eccentric way they do here. The names would very probably be changed. And if it were authorized, why so off-model in every way?”

      That’s a baffler. I see they bother given Herriman credit anyway in the footnote so at least they’re acknowledging the original source for this story.

  • The drawing’s a little too anticeptic for the regular Herriman fan,but it has a basic knowledge of the regular storyline,meaning it’s just warped enough to be entertaining.

  • The cat in the storybook looks nothing like the original Krazy Kat!

  • The original ballet was indeed billed as a “A Jazz Pantomime.” It was also performed as a puppet show and there were plans in the early 1940s for a version on ice. Herriman died in 1944, so if this was published in 1937, I wonder if he saw any money from this, or every thumbed through the book. Here is a little note I wrote for a recent re-staging. http://blogs.princeton.edu/toykat/2010/03/exclusive-historical-tidbit.html

    • I found myself feeling sad for a guy who just missed seeing the Krazy Kat ballet sitting next to Herriman.

  • Hell, those early 60s KFS cartoons were better than this dreck.

  • Did any of the animated interpretations of KRAZY KAT match the vision of Herriman? If not, I wonder why someone isn’t unearthing KRAZY KAT with the full intention of making a movie that genuinely follows the creator’s vision. Okay, I did like the King Features animated cartoons, but since I didn’t get the chance to read the original comics, I just wondered how a strip of this sort could be brought to film, voices and all.

  • I don’t know the story of this particular book, but John Alden Carpenter was a once prominent but now forgotten American composer. He wrote a ballet based on Krazy Kat (in 1921, not 1922 as stated below), apparently with Herriman’s approval. Here’s the entry from the Krazy Kat article on Wikipedia:

    “Despite its low popularity among the general public, Krazy Kat gained a wide following among intellectuals. In 1922, a jazz ballet based on the comic was produced and scored by John Alden Carpenter; though the performance played to sold-out crowds on two nights[19] and was given positive reviews in The New York Times and The New Republic,[20] it failed to boost the strip’s popularity as Hearst had hoped.”

    There’s a copy of the piano score at IMSLP, and even if you don’t read music, you can read the description of the ballet above the music.
    http://imslp.org/wiki/Krazy_Kat_%28Carpenter,_John_Alden%29

    The only recording of Krazy Kat ever made is still in print an available here, and even if you don’t buy/download it, you can download the liner notes to read more about the ballet (on p. 12-13 if you want to skip right to them)
    http://www.newworldrecords.org/album.cgi?rm=view&album_id=80228

  • It’s also worth noting that the storybook version of Carpenter’s pantomime above deviates significantly from the original pantomime. There, Krazy Kat inhaled the catnip, gets high, and does a ragtime dance, at the end of which Ignatz knocks him out with a brick, Officer Pup strolls by, sees Krazy apparently sleeping, and sighs “All’s well!” I suppose taking drugs and outwitting the police are not appropriate lessons for children!

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