In this weeks breakdown, well see whats the buzz is all about in this Harman-Ising Happy Harmonies cartoon!
Disneys contract to use the full three-strip Technicolor process in his films expired in September 1935. In that same time, the Harman-Ising studio released The Old Plantation, their first Happy Harmonies released in full Technicolor. (Ted Esbaughs adaptation of The Wizard of Oz, in production around 1932 and released in 1933, was intended as a test for the color process before Disney negotiated his deal with the corporation with Flowers and Trees.) Honeyland was released to theaters the following month, in October. In the first half of the film, a colony of busy bees gather nectar from various flowers to manufacture honey in their beehive factory – all in rich, vibrant Technicolor splendor.
Harman and Ising had produced the Happy Harmonies for MGM for over a year by the time this film went into production. The print cost from a number of their films was one factor that led to the termination of their agreement with the studio. Honeyland runs ten minutes in length; the activity scenes with the bee colony, as they collect and produce honey, detracts from the boy and girl couple, who are not seen until four minutes into the film. As a conscientious story editor – though, on occasion, his short cartoons would be hindered by similar problems – Walt Disney would have excised much of these sequences to focus on the main characters. In Harman-Isings case, it could be presumed director Rudy Ising believed these lavish components were too valuable to waste, no matter how superfluous.
The draft for Honeyland lists dates for each scene assigned, but doesnt reveal the month in which they were assigned. Like other Harman-Ising cartoons, the draft is parceled out in blocks of scenes to the animators, one after another, with only a few artists given extended sequences. In the interior scenes in the beehive, with the exception of scene 16 (animated by Cal Dalton), two animators are jointly credited within one shot; scene 12, alone, is credited to three animators. Since a few of these scenes are crowd shots, it could be assumed each animator worked on different groups of bees within the same sequence. Scene 14, with the chef bee taste-testing his honey, is credited to both Tony Jim Pabian and George Grandpre. The scene is closer to Pabians drawing style, but both names are inserted in the video.
Ten animators are credited for their work on this film, though Frank Tipper, Gil Turner and Pete Burness are each listed in only one scene in the draft. Tom McKimson, Joe DIgalo, Cal Dalton, Jim Pabian and George Grandpre handle the abundance of scenes with the bee colony before the first scenes of the couple. Pabian animates the boy and girl bee outside of their hive, and standing in a daisy field. Three more animators, Carl Urbano, Pete Burness and Bob Allen are given scenes shortly after the couple is established in the film, as they play a game of hide-and-seek and chase each other around a mushroom.
Bob Allen and Jim Pabian, arguably the two strongest animators during this period at Harman-Ising, are given lengthier sections during the climactic scenes in the film. Allen animates the fight between the boy and the spider, set to the accompaniment of Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakovs Flight of the Bumblee. Jim Pabian handles the fight that continues inside of the junk pile, and the girls escape to make a distress signal to the colony, who immediately fly out to the rescue. (Scene 36, with the bees forming in the shape of a siren – credited to George Grandpre – must have been a difficult scene to animate, and certainly a strenuous task for the ink and paint department.) Allen animates the army of bees and their battle with the spider, with Pabian animating the final scenes with the boy and girl couple.
Thankfully, this photocopy of the handwritten draft is much easier to read, compared to other Harman-Ising titles used in this column. Interestingly, the animators credited to each scene are noted, but the assigned dates for the start and completion, along with the hours required for each scene, are left unfinished. The document reveals the process of how the animators approached their work; scenes 2 and 3 of the worker bees collecting pollen from sunflowers (animated by Pabian and Grandpre), required 12 hours from Pabian and 30 hours from Grandpre.
Next Week: a McKimson Porky/Daffy cartoon…
(Thanks to Michael Barrier and Steve Stanchfield for their help.)