For The Love Of Cartoon Animation
December 23, 2019 posted by Gene Deitch

Gene Deitch on NUDNIK (Part 2)

So here we are with the second half of Nudnik releases from 1966-67.

HOME SWEET NUDNIK

I consider that Home Sweet Nudnik is the iconic Nudnik film. In it I managed to get the entire Nudnik schtik, including an image of his mother. When you read the book version of this Nudnik reincarnation you will even be surprised to meet Nudnik’s Daddy, the infamous ragged roué, “Satcha Nudnik!”


NUDNIK ON THE BEACH

I am always surprised that many people think making cartoon characters speak must be so difficult, when it’s in fact the easiest animation. When Hanna-Barberra had their first big success on TV in the 1950s, they showed that if you have bright smart-ass dialog, voiced by top-banana comedy actors, you could get by on TV with minimum animation. Their characters hardly moved at all. But to get humor across without dialog takes real animation! Even on a tiny budget, our Nudnik cartoons were far too expensive for the TV market of the 1960s!


NUDNIK ON A SHOESTRING

By the time got to the production of Nudnik No. 9, Nudnik On A Shoestring, Paramount raised their voice once again, reminding me that we were making talkies. They were actually worried that audiences in movie houses would feel cheated if movie cartoons didn’t have a voice. It’s much more DIFFICULT to make movies without dialog or narration; how hard work it is to make everything clear without the redundancy of telling people what their seeing! But Paramount didn’t see it that way, they insisted that I at least add narration to the rest of the series.

In Hollywood talk it’s called “Peeing in the soup,” so it will taste even better!


NUDNIK’S NUDNICKEL

Each episode of the original series brought out the main elements of the Nudnik idea: that he was a foreigner on Planet Earth, where all living creatures instantly hated him on sight, and that his additional enemies were everyday things. Anything from his shoe laces, a simple can opener, or a door knob rebelled against his use.


GOOD NEIGHBOR NUDNIK

Harpo Marx was another inspiration for Nudnik, Harpo could pull out a wide range of objects from his many pockets. I carried over this idea with Nudnik’s bloomer like pants, into which he stashed all of his gear, and like Harpo, Nudnik never spoke; he was a pantomime character. Silent movie comics HAD to be pantomime characters, but the idea carried over into the talkies. Snow White’s dwarf buddy, Dopey didn’t talk, “He just never tried!” explained one of the other dwarfs. Many of the silent movie comic contnued to be silent even after sound films became standard. Pantomime is an art. Nudnik could have talked I did the sighing for Nudnik, but I didn’t think he needed to say anything.


I REMEMBER NUDNIK

The final film in the original project was titled, I Remember Nudnik. It was an obvious cheat. The fact is that with a major studio theatrical release, we tried to go where our Czech animaors “had never gone before!” Our budget for 12 films went down in flames by the time we animated the 11th. So I resorted to the standard ploy use by the animators of Disney, Warner Brothers, and all other studios doing cartoon shorts in those years: make the last film of the year a walk down Memory Lane! I tried to weave various gags from the previous 11 films together, into some sort of a story, with some minor enhancements, in such a way as to look like one new film.

We got away with it because the chances that movie audiences would have seen any of the previous installments was near to zero. As it happened, even Paramount didn’t recognize that the entire film was a rehash! We actually improved the older shots, correcting colors and adding bits that we didn’t get right the first time around; using plenty of Elmer’s Glue.

Disney, MGM and Warner Brothers , Universal, all did this almost every year. We all ran wild with our budgets and had to fake the final film at the end of the season.


NUDNIK IMPOSSIBLE

The original Paramount contract was for just 12 Nudnik films, which had the bad luck of coming out just at the time when U.S. movie theaters stopped showing cartoon shorts. Feature length cartoon films became the only animation that was financially viable. So the long-suffering Nudnik became reundant. The lttle hobo had to seek another line of work. He had to wait 20 years for another chance, when TV syndication became an option. We made one more Nudnik film, the 13th, needed for TV syndication. “Gene Deitch Presents The Nudnik Show” went on to syndication, but there wasn’t enough money in that to finance further episodes. 13 was not a lucky enough number.

Episode 13 is also part patchwork. With a cut-rate budget. I had to weave a new story out of some older older bit of animation, framed within a new story. All of doing this kind of work know, that even making cartoon movies is a hokus-pokus juggling act! We still had dreams of Nudnik-mania But alasalasalas, so far it hasn’t come to pass. Whatever. We had fun with number 13, It was like reliving nostalgia.

There’s one truth about show business, that if you survive in it long enough, you’re called “LEGENDARY!” So both Nudnik and I are now “legendary,” just because we’ve both been around for a long time. I can’t leave off with my Nudnik memories without paying tribute to the man who was Nudnik’s godfather. William L.Snyder was the man who believed enough in my Nudnik concept to immediately agree to finance the pilot film, and then to act as Producer for the original 12 episodes. Bill’s son Adam Snyder picked up the torch for number 13 and the later productions, and I thank him for that.

5 Comments

  • NUDNIK ON THE BEACH was the first one I ever saw and remains a sentimental favorite!

  • I’d always liked the idea of a voiceless character. I’d liked it ever since discovering the original theatrical run of TOM AND JERRY cartoons (a cat and mouse chase that did not include dialogue? What a concept!). Friz Freleng would also do this kind of thing with the PINK PANTHER series, and now I realize that you also did this with NUDNICK. Terrific stuff. Were there stories or even story boards devised ahead in case the NUDNICK idea continued into the TV age forther? Narration is good if you were out to parody the “how to” films as did Warner Brothers, MGM (under the direction of Tex Avery mostly). Even some talking characters into the TV age did this, as did Hanna-Barbera with HUCKLEBERRY HOUND in cartoons like “SKEETER TROUBLE”.

  • The Foofle cartoons at Terrytoons seem to have been the antecedents for Nudnick. Would have been interesting to see how that would have played out in terms of the theatrical run if Bill Weiss hadn’t won the power struggle (and where Ralph Bakshi’s Sad Cat cartoons of the mid-60s at Terrytoons traveled in the same vein of making the lead character a chronic loser, albeit not as much as Nudnick or Foofle and with a lot more talking).

  • Some very funny slapstick. Also as somebody with Fun Rockets and Silver Hawk level of bad luck, sometimes painful to watch.

    So what’s with the handkerchief? It make me think of the loudly stupid Monty Python Guys. At least Nudnik came earlier….

  • I have seen some mention of these three Nudnik shorts. Are these erroneous?
    –Goodnight Sweet Nudnik
    –Nowhere With Nudnik
    –Nudnik on a Showcase

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