For our last installment of Fairy Tale February, here’s an Oscar-nominated cartoon from the Harman-Ising studios!
Throughout the 1930s, the animated films nominated for an Academy Award, up against Disney’s cartoons, bore inclinations to their competition to utilize that appeal. The cartoons’ Disney-esque fantasias seemed to appease the Academy voters, though it appears animation studios whose cartoons proliferated with eccentricities, like Ub Iwerks’ outfit and the Van Beuren Corporation, never received a nomination. Individuality from the non-Disney studios, which veered away from the norm, was an anomaly— the two 1936 nominees Popeye Meets Sindbad the Sailor (Fleischer) and The Old Mill Pond (Harman-Ising), along with Tex Avery’s Detouring America (Warners, 1939) are such examples. In the case of Harman and Ising’s studio, their former association with Disney was necessary to compete with him—more so for Harman.The settings in Ising’s The Calico Dragon—filmed in the two-color
The start/finish dates for scene assignments are incomplete, but the animation for Calico Dragon occurred, at least, from January 17 through February 14, 1935. Much of the footage for this film is given to animator Bob Allen, who handles two extensive portions, among his other credited scenes. He animates the little girl reading her storybook aloud to her dolls in the opening, and the lengthy song sequence from the three-headed Calico Dragon later in the film.Jim “Tony” Pabian animates much of the boy doll and his horse on the girl’s quilt, before they embark on their quest. Pabian later handles the boy and horse charging after the dragon with his peppermint candy lance during the fight sequence. Pete Burness animates most of the scenes with the terrier dog. Burness handles the dog joining the boy and his horse to their journey, and later, during the battle scenes, he animates the dog being scared off by the dragon’s tongue, which uncoils like a party horn. Burness animates the dog re-entering the fight, twisting their three heads into a knot, and being swallowed by the dragon.
Cal Dalton animates the dog chasing after the “little rag bunnies” early in the film, and being spanked by their ears to the tune of Johann Strauss’ “Blue Danube Waltz.” Other animators on this film, credited on the draft, are Bob Stokes, Tom McKimson, Carl Urbano, Gil Turner, Frankie “Franswaw” Smith, and Joe D’Igalo—credited for only one scene, of the dog scaring the dragon back to its castle with its detached tongue.
The Calico Dragon was released March 30, 1935; given the film’s short period between animation and its release date, there are no existing story notes to discern when production began, or if the Cinecolor film process, after the photography, took up much of the schedule. The film was nominated along with Disney’s Who Killed Cock Robin, and lost to another Silly Symphony, Three Orphan Kittens. In the draft, scene 6 is credited to Jim Pabian and Bob Stokes, but it’s unclear if there is an animation switch in the midst of the sequence, or if Pabian and Stokes worked together. If anything, the scene is more consistent with Pabian’s drawing/animation in the rest of the finished film.
Hope you’ve all enjoyed “Fairy Tale February.” After this post, I will be taking a brief hiatus from Cartoon Research. It might give me some extra time to do some additional research, and engage in certain artistic endeavors I’ve held off on for a long time. (As a creative person with maybe too many passions, I’ve had many script ideas, notions of making a comic book series and looking into writing a different series of articles for CR, of which will need much assistance.)
It’s been almost two years since I’ve shared my posts on here, and I always look forward to the reactions from all of you every week. Two posts after this week’s installment will be my 100th post—counting the animator breakdowns and comic book profiles—so it might be necessary to prepare something special during the hiatus.
Enjoy the video! I’ll be back before you know it…
(Thanks to Michael Barrier and Frank Young for their help.)