As these difficult days continue world-wide, it’s becoming clear to me that we’re only at the beginning of what will likely be a prolonged period of everyone trying to make sense of both the current situations and how to move forward. I’ve been thinking about the relatively small ‘cartoon community’ we have here and all those small groups formed over the years that so many of you were a part of, and what both animation and, especially, the classic cartoons have meant to us. I think back to my childhood sometimes when thinking along these lines and how wondrous these films were to me; lunch at home with my mother watching Popeye cartoons was one of the best of these memories, and on the especially hard days, those black and white Fleischers gave me something to look forward to, as did the cartoons after school. Perhaps the most wonderful thing about these old films is the ability to escape into them, even for juts a little while, and enjoy something of pure fantasy.
I think about how the Private Snafu cartoons must have been a wonderful break for the troops; something magical made just for them in the face of a terrible and unpredictable war. As a nation and as a whole world, we are very much facing a war, and it is requiring everyone to try and hold societies together through collective decision making. In the worst moments in these coming weeks, I hope that you all can find some solace in the wonderful entertainment from the past as well as more recent endeavors.
Mary and I sit here, in the south-east corner of Ann Arbor, hunkering down as you most likely are. We’re all apart, but together as a world in trying to combat this horror. If there’s anything positive about this terrible situation,maybe this solidarity and how we resolve it can, in some positive way, help to heal the various divisions in this country as well world-wide, at least a little. I have great hope for that.
I know many if not most of us are finding ourselves at home more than usual, and I thought this week might be fun to put together some thematic play lists for the coming weeks. Here’s a few ideas for mine — a sort of recipe for ‘animation nights’ in this period. What are some of your ideas or what are some of the shows you’ve curated, either for friends or bigger?
Animation program ideas:
An ‘after school’ show based on a local UHF station’s lineup in the 60s, 70s or 80s.
I haven’t done this yet, but I’d love to do a show based on a cartoon lineup I saw as a kid on Television. Getting an old TV guide is a good place to start for identifying an order to show cartoons in, maybe picking one cartoon from each show. Youtube is wonderful for finding station IDs and old ads from many local stations as well as commercials from the vintage year you pick to help add flavor for a show. Vintage Toledo TV has put up some TV guides. Here’s a page from 1977, showing the lineup I remember very well in Detorit. I would have been 9 years old at this time. What lineup do you remember well as a kid?
Other TV Guide pages are here from various years.
A show based on a specific (and maybe pivotal) year in animation. There are some years that are pretty fascinating to look at in terms of the history of the medium. The 30s are always super fun for me, but the 40s are fascinating as well when comparing. It’s fun to mix in studio shorts with independent and even some live action if you have some. I have done some shows like this before. Would love to see your lists.
A show based around a specific animator’s career. This can be especially fun if the animator worked at lots of different studios since it’s interesting to see how their worked changed through the years. Happily, there is renewed interest in this subject and in sharing reels on the internet (many by people in the small ‘family’ here) and those are sometimes great places to start. There’s of course a lot of ‘favorite’ animators that many of you have, so start with one of those, and share the show, perhaps without sharing the theme!
An animal-specific show: All cats or all dog themes are the easiest in this pursuit, but it’s fun and challenging to put together a list or a show of one particular animal that shows up as a star in many cartoons. I did a show of all Monkey cartoons years back, and of course have themed some discs a little in that direction.
Your ‘All time Favorites’ list: I think it would be impossible to do a show with all my top picks, but if I had to do just six films and a feature, this is my desert island show.
(In no particular order):
Let’s Go (1937, Columbia). A cartoon about saving the disadvantaged that you’ve ignored while building your society. Of course, this is a wonderful little short that follows the relief efforts of the United States, but it’s hard to ignore the fact that they’re ‘Bombing’ them with some sort of magic honey that completely transforms them.
Northwest Hounded Police (1946, MGM/ Avery) To me, this is one of the most perfect cartoons ever made.
The Sunshine Makers (1935 RKO/ Van Beuren) Another society destruction story that I’ve seen a too many times in recent years, but it sure is a fun little film. This left my latest animation history class baffled. What left me baffled is that no one in the class had ever seen it. Then again, they also do not know who W.C Fields is or Laurel and Hardy.
Scrappy’s Art Gallery (1934 Columbia/ Mintz) To me, there’s rarely anything better than a bunch of artists making fun of classic art. In this case, it’s a firm thumb-to-the-nose and a loving tribute to art.
Feed the Kitty (1952). There are so many things to like in a Warner Brothers cartoon, but I think the particular mix in this specific short does a pretty good job of covering many of those things in one films.
Rooty Toot Toot (1951 Columbia/ UPA). I think this is another perfect film, and perhaps, along with Gerald McBoing Boing, the finest thing the studio created. Here is a brand new HD scan of this short. I wasn’t planning on sharing this here, but we all deserve a little treat. We really *should* be seeing this IB Technicolor print in a beautiful movie theatre, surrounded by animation fans. Seeing this in HD was the closest I’ve seen the film looking as I think it should since I saw an IB tech 35mm print in a theatre years ago. It’s unlisted on youtube, here just for readers here for a little while.
Wishing the best for you and yours through this crisis, and make sure to post your lists!