WORLD OF KNIGHT
January 1, 2014 posted by Milton Knight

The Shock Of The New

Motion picture visuals worldwide underwent a transformation with the emergence of the popular styles of Art Deco and Art Moderne. Art Deco held sway during the 1920s and early 1930s; its appearance relying on the bold shape, suggesting the luxurious and ‘chic’. Art Moderne (the mid 1930s to the early 1940s) represented the ‘streamlined’ look, less organic and suggesting a mechanized yet elegant future. The styles are similar and the terms are often used interchangeably. Both styles changed the look of live action musicals, melodramas and comedies, and the occasional cartoon.

LA JOIE DE VIVRE (1934)

The financial half of the team was Hector Hoppin, from the US; the artistic half, Anthony Gross (1905-1984), an English painter settled in Paris. Together, they formed the small studio Animat in 1932, and had produced two films before getting to this one. LA JOIE DE VIVRE was based on a series of etchings by Gross, and was called a “cine-ballet” in some promotions; an exercise in wedding the arts of dance and animation. The film is an odyssey in high Art Moderne style, a tribute to a glorious Tomorrowland, with angular electrical wires and curvy streamlined trains serving as visual motifs.

The film became a favorite in “art houses” that normally shunned mere “cartoons”. Even though it was misunderstood by some American animators as “crude” (as cited by Shamus Culhane), Gross saw effects in Disney’s FANTASIA as influenced by this film, and I’d be the last to doubt that.

THE FOX HUNT (1936)

Hoppin and Gross’ immediate follow-up, and done in a cozier style remindful of the stylized illustrations in such magazines as VOGUE. The “Shock of the New” is softened, as more traditional settings and situations are interpreted. Some of the music is jaunty jazz of a type heard in US cartoons.

In 1937, Hoppin and Gross started work on what was to be an animated feature, AROUND THE WORLD IN EIGHTY DAYS. Production was interrupted by WWII, and Gross finally finished the project as a short in 1955, then abandoned filmmaking for painting.


PAGE MISS GLORY (1936)

Crossing over to Hollywood, the Leon Schlesinger studio was surprisingly “friendly” to Art Deco inspirations, most consistently in Frank Tashlin’s “books-come-to-life” entries, where the characters are surrounded by strong Deco lettering. It is natural because Tashlin’s own drawing style has the style’s round forms and smooth lines.

However, the best known of WB’s Deco/Moderne cartoons was directed without great love by “Tex” Avery (so he said). PAGE MISS GLORY was based on the designs of Leadora Congdon, an artist from Chicago. The hope was to develop a new, more sophisticated approach, an impressive goal for its time. The cartoon has the whimsical wit and drawing of period cocktail paraphernalia. Its styling is “rationalized” as the dream of a very traditional Li’l Abner type (named Abner). Unlike the future-friendly LA JOIE DE VIVRE, PAGE MISS GLORY’s designs represent an alien and ultimately dangerous environment.



LEARN POLIKENESS (1938)

The “foreignness” of the style is personified in this Max Fleischer Popeye entry. The sleek Professor Bluteau’s office, introduced in one of Fleischer’s eye-popping stereoptical pans, is a striking and elegant Moderne layout, used only to mask the professor’s personal slovenliness, lechery and brutality. This is contrasted with the gauche but “honest” American heroes lured into his web.

Glabrously Yours, MK


Milton Knight blogs regularly at World Of Knight.com

10 Comments

  • Thanks for these, Milton. I’d never heard of Hoppin and Gross.

    It’s not always about cats chasing mice.

    • That is the first lesson when it comes to appreciating animation as an art form as I’ve witnessed.

  • love tex…but paging miss glory is and was one of the creepiest cartoons i’ve ever seen….

  • Happy New Year to all at Cartoon Research! Milton, that’s a great post – love all those cartoons. Honorable mentions: my favorite of the Fleischer Color Classics series, All’s Fair At The Fair and the Ub Iwerks Studio’s entry in the Columbia Color Rhapsody “let’s have a parade” genre, Merry Mannequins.There are probably more Art Deco cartoons I have not seen, but can’t think of any more offhand from Disney, Harman-Ising, Lantz, Van Beuren, Mintz, Terrytoons, etc.

    • Terrytoons entered the game more than 10 years late with the Gandy Goose POST-WAR INVENTIONS.

  • Intriguing stuff. Obviously no rotoscoping, but wonder if the various dance moves were modeled on film or performers. Or perhaps the animators were simply ballet fans who translated their impressions of performances remembered.

  • How about ‘The Little King’ and ‘Sentinel Louey’??

    • I thought of those as precursors after this article went up!! But those series were really a hybrid of styles; the BGs in them are in no way the ‘Moderne’ style.

  • For many years, I have been trying to find a copy of ‘The Fox Hunt’ to view online without success, after seeing a small clip of it in a British TV documentary about the Daily Express cartoonist Carl Giles broadcast not long after he died in 1996 or thereabouts (my own father being a cartoonist and heraldic artist was keen to see it). As some people may or may not know, Carl Giles worked uncredited on this film and some others prior to his career in the press and I am sure that many of his legions of fans are not aware of his contribution to British animation history. What a delight it was to finally see this film in its entirety!

    I have thanked Jerry Beck for posting the film on YouTube and it was his suggestion that I post part of my message to him as a comment on the article above-some interesting things to add to my own knowledge and some films I am not familiar with!

    • Thank you: so glad to know this! I’m a pleased owner of several Giles annuals (I’m sure many people here are).

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