THUNDERBEAN THURSDAY
February 10, 2022 posted by Steve Stanchfield

UPA’s “Trees and Jamaica Daddy” (1957)

It’s been another good organizing week here at Thunderbean, and my lunch periods at the school have often including cleaning up Noah Knew His Ark. Seeing the final stages of the first Blu-ray Aesop’s disc is exiting; we’re looking forward to more volumes as time allows. Three special sets were mostly sent out this week, with the slightly delayed Cartoon Grab Bag dubbing again at some point tomorrow after fixing a sound issue. We also hope to post the “Cartoons Most Wanted” survey next week.

As some materials have been slowly becoming available from archives again, one of the Van Beuren Little King cartoons, Marching Along, is available to scan from its original camera negative. This is the only existing camera neg on a Little King that I know of. We’ve been working on an ‘official’ Little King Blu-ray for a little while now, and half the films for the set are now cleaned up – so we’ve decided to offer the pre-order (with bonus disc) now on the Thunderbean shop.


Today’s Animation III class (with students working on drawn animation) evolved into a primer on some Mid-Century Modern Design. When a student that I hadn’t had before in a class asked what UPA was, I really had no choice but to stop everything else we were doing and talk a little about — and more importantly show — some key UPA films as well as other Mid-Century modern shorts — along with some 50s modern art, magazine illustration and concept work by Mary Blair and others. Having uploaded that nice IB Tech print of Rooty Toot Toot some time ago for Cartoon Research really paid off today. I also showed A Smattering of Spots, a late 50s showreel from John Hubley’s Storyboard, Inc, also posted here a while back. Flebus (by Ernest Pintoff and Gene Deitch) also made an appearance today, courtesy of a nice IB tech print in scope posted by our own Jerry Beck a little while back.

I think it’s easy to forget how essential it is for the next generations of artists to have exposure to some of the wonderful films from the last hundred years. While some of us know these cold and are familiar with the techniques and ideas, many of the college students are now born *after* 2001- and their memories of this ancient things called video stores date back to their *childhoods*. A lot of the opportunities that existed for us to be accidentally exposed to so many things we still love do not exist in the same way for them as they did for us, even with the films hiding in plain sight in front of them. There’s simply too much media and no clear path to be exposed to them unless they’ve been lucky to have caught an interest. I have to wonder if I hadn’t been exposed to the black and white Popeyes and other classic cartoons as a kid if I would have ever pursued any of these things.

I would have loved to have run UPA’s Trees and Jamaica Daddy, directed by Lew Keller and Fred Crippen. I had thought of it since it has a very different approach than some of the other things I showed. Sadly, there wasn’t a really good copy uploaded- and since the film was designed to run both at 1:85 and 1:33, I wanted to make sure the 1:33 version was available to watch. We ran this 35mm IB tech print at the Redford Theatre a few months back, and the audience really seemed to enjoy it. The pace and music seemed to have a somewhat disarming effect on the people I talked with afterwords.

The Ham and Hattie shorts are unique in theatrical cartoon history since each one is composed of two seemingly unrelated musical shorts. Lew Keller’s Trees starring “Hattie” (with animation credit to Fred Crippen and color by Jules Engel and Ervin Kaplan ) is a wonderfully gentle little film, with music by Mel Leven. The second short is Jamaica Daddy. It has no animator credit, but has a design credit to Jim Murakami, with Engel and Kaplan again for color. Crippen’s work at UPA seems rarely talked about, but it had some wonderful qualities. Anyone familiar with Roger Ramjet will recognize some of the same layout and art direction ideas, many years earlier here. It’s also a cute little short with cleaver designs and layout. While creative and enjoyable, I can see how some of the ideas in song and visuals could be considered stereotypical in this short.

Have a great week all!

8 Comments

  • I had never seen these cartoons before and I find them delightful. Thanks for sharing. There is something gentle and healing about them and the music.

    Yes, I have run into the same situation trying to talk about Disney history with college students. Before the pandemic several universities hired me to talk to their students who as you note were born after 2001 and have no context or experience with what came before they were born which I guess is why I got hired to talk about it.

    Thanks for keeping the history of animation alive and your extraordinary efforts in preserving it. I loved giving a presentation at the Redford and meeting you in person.

  • Delightful! Who are the musical performers?

    • The songs were credited to Mel Leven. I wonder if that’s him singing – the sort of not- quite on key voice that nevertheless suits the material.

      • Yes – that’s Mel Leven singing.

  • Interesting you should post this now because just a couple of weeks ago I was watching the Jolly Frolics DVD again (such a miracle that came out after the DVD boom had died out and ambitious animation reissues seemed a thing of the past) and I was somewhat confused about what the original aspect ratio was for some of them. It seemed pretty likely that a number of them were created to work in either format. The three trumpets UPA logo really clarifies what that is supposed to look like in the narrower format.

    My little joke when talking about The Tragedy of Macbeth was what a ripoff it was that my local theater was showing the pan-and-scan version.

  • It was a decent short. I like the second number more. I should point out that this film was nominated for an Academy Award for “Best Animated Short Subject”, but it lost to “Knighty Knight Bugs” (1958).

  • Fun fact: Rod Scribner animates the opening sequence of the 3 trumpeters.

  • During my Sony days, I found a couple of H&Hs in Canada, brought them down and gave them some rep house use. Alas, my plans for a complete UPA DVD box set was nixed, but fortunately TCM and Shout! stepped up to the plate and licensed them.

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