follow us in feedly
Cringe at ‘Uncle Tom’s Bungalow,’ the Merrie Melodies ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin’ parody
07.11.2014
07:50 am

Topics:
Animation
Race

Tags:
Tex Avery


 
There’s nothing intrinsically significant about racism in a Merrie Melodies cartoon. “Uncle Tom’s Bungalow” (1937) is actually one of the “Censored Eleven”—a group of cartoons so racist, they were banned 1968 by United Artists, who owned the Looney Tunes film library at the time. What makes “Uncle Tom’s Bungalow” exceptional is its parody of much-beloved piece of abolitionist literature. Uncle Tom’s Cabin wasn’t really particularly radical—rather than a dignified depiction of black humanity, it attempted to appeal to white benevolent paternalism by portraying black people as child-like—but still it was pretty damn revered to become the butt of a Tex Avery lampoon.

Regardless of racism, the cartoon is kind of weak, and I say that as a Looney Tunes fan. In 1947 Avery would create “Uncle Tom’s Cabaña, which wasn’t actually a parody of the book so much as an attempt at a retelling. It’s not any less racist than its predecessor—it makes similar (though way less relentless) use of racist caricature, and the punchline is that Uncle Tom is a liar—but it’s a far superior cartoon, both in animation and writing.

In"Uncle Tom’s Bungalow,” the gags are a little rote (even for Merrie Melodies), and the jokes aren’t particularly clever. For example, there’s an anachronistic “bad guy gets electrocuted” sequence that was clearly just an excuse to use a cool animation effect. At one point the escaped slave Eliza is described as “the dark horse in this race”—geddit?!? In its stronger moments, the cartoon appears to be taking aim at the schmaltz of Uncle Tom’s Cabin. The saccharin “white angel” character of Little Eva is depicted as cloying cute, and if you’ve ever read the book, you might remember rolling your eyes at her saintliness.

Perhaps aiming for a big finish,  “Uncle Tom’s Bungalow” reaches its nadir at the finale, where we see Uncle Tom pull up in a Rolls Royce—he bought his freedom playing craps. Watch if you don’t mind cringing—this cartoon serves up some vintage racism, folks!
 


Posted by Amber Frost | Discussion
follow us in feedly
Cheech & Chong’s classic ‘Basketball Jones’ cartoon
07.09.2014
05:25 pm

Topics:
Animation
Music

Tags:
George Harrison
Cheech & Chong


 
“Basketball Jones” was a song/routine/character from Cheech & Chong’s 1973 Los Cochinos (“The Pigs”) record. The original album cover had a secret compartment where you could see how they smuggled pot, sandwiched in their car door. I bought this LP at a garage sale when I was about ten years old and just starting to get into comedy albums. I only half understood the idea of what “drugs” were at the time, I’m pretty sure, so I can’t imagine that a Cheech & Chong album made much sense to me at such a tender age. But I loved the routine “Basketball Jones” by Tyrone (as in “tie your own”) Shoelaces & Rap Brown Jr. H.S. and would go around singing the musical part of it like ten-year-olds do.

The song is about teenage Tyrone and his love of basketball sung in a falsetto voice by Cheech Marin. It’s catchy as hell, but small wonder, dig the backing band: George Harrison, Klaus Voorman, Carole King, Nicky Hopkins, Tom Scott and Billy Preston. The Blossoms with Darlene Love, Ronnie Spector and Michelle Phillips were the backing cheerleader’s voices.

Cheech Marin:

“George Harrison and those guys were in the next studio recording, and so Lou (Adler) just ran over there and played (it for him). They made up the track right on the spot.”

Producer Lou Adler:

“That was a wild session. I probably called Carole (King) and told her to come down, but with Harrison and (Klaus) Voorman—I didn’t call and say come in and play. Everyone happened to be in the A&M studios at that particular time, doing different projects. It was spilling out of the studio into the corridors.”

The “Basketball Jones” animation is by Paul Gruwell and was made in 1974. This cartoon has also made some impressive Hollywood cameos over the years, in Robert Altman’s California Split (which was never released on VHS due to Columbia Pictures refusing to pay royalties on the song, Altman had to cut the music—but not the animation—for the DVD); Hal Ashby’s Being There (it’s what Chauncey Gardiner is watching in the limo); and in the 70s underground comedy Tunnel Vision. It was parodied in a 2011 episode of The Simpsons (”A Midsummer’s Nice Dream”) guest-starring Cheech & Chong.
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
follow us in feedly
‘Eveready Harton’: The world’s first animated porno?
06.30.2014
07:05 pm

Topics:
Animation

Tags:
Eveready Harton


 
Because there are so many competing stories about the provenance of “Eveready Harton” (AKA “Buried Treasure”) the animated short that is perhaps the earliest example of a pornographic cartoon made in the US, it’s hard to take any one of them as definitive. The entire truth will probably never be known. It apparently dates to either 1928 or 1929 and might have been produced for a party honoring Little Nemo creator Winsor McCay. (As a huge Winsor McCay buff, I’d like to believe this version is true.)

According to one source, Disney animator Ward Kimball who told Karl F. Cohen in Forbidden Animation: Censored Cartoons and Blacklisted Animators in America

The first porno-cartoon was made in New York. It was called “Eveready Harton” and was made in the late 20’s, silent, of course—by three studios. Each one did a section of it without telling the other studios what they were doing. Studio A finished the first part and gave the last drawing to Studio B [...] Involved were Max Fleischer, Paul Terry and the Mutt and Jeff studio. They didn’t see the finished product till the night of the big show. A couple of guys who were there tell me the laughter almost blew the top off the hotel where they were screening it.

The credits identifies “E. Hardon” as the director (probably a pseudonym). Fast forward nearly 50 years later and the culprits were identified in the program notes of a late 70s San Francisco screening as Vernon Stalling (a “Krazy Kat” and later Disney animator), George Cannata (Spider-Man, Scooby-Doo), Rudy Zamora, Sr. (Smurfs, Super Friends) and “Woody Woodpecker” creator Walter Lantz. [Lanz seems a likely suspect: I used to have a snippet of vintage animation where Woody is reading a newspaper and his eyes pop out of his head when he realizes that the headline reads “Woody is a fag!” but the Woody character wasn’t created until 1940.]

In 2002 “Eveready Harton” was given its first “legit” theatrical release in the French documentary/compilation The Good Old Naughty Days.
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
follow us in feedly
Wild animated music videos for Joni Mitchell, Kinks, Coven and more
06.25.2014
12:21 pm

Topics:
Animation
Music

Tags:
Cher
Joni Mitchell
Kinks
Coven


 
John David Wilson, an English animator who died last year at the age of 93 was the proprietor of his own animation house Fine Arts Films. Among Wilson’s many, many credits are Disney’s Peter Pan and Lady and The Tramp, various Mr. Magoo shorts, Shinbone Alley the animated “jazz adventure” of Don Marquis’ archy and mehitabel (made with Mel Brooks, John Carradine and Carol Channing), the opening for Grease and an animated version of Igor Stravinsky’s Petrushka made for television in 1956 with the maestro’s participation. For an innovative body of work mostly seen on The Sonny and Cher Show in the 1970s, Wilson is considered to be the father of the conceptual music video.

I saw this animation for Joni Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi” when it originally aired on The Sonny and Cher Show. Like The Lorax, I never forgot it:
 

 
Jim Croce’s “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown.” This originally had Sonny and Cher singing, but was re-tracked with the original song here (which is why, when Sonny and Cher are seen singing behind the bar that their lip-sync is off):
 

 
Sadly, although this animation was originally done to The Kinks’ own version of Muswell Hillbillies’ “Demon Alcohol” this version is sung by Wayne Carpenter:
 

 
Cher’s own “Dark Lady”:
 

 
An unexpectedly powerful take on “One Tin Soldier” by Coven, made famous in Billy Jack:
 

 
Helen Reddy’s somewhat sinister “Angie Baby” hit given a more light-hearted prime-time TV touch by Wilson:
 

 
Cher covers Melanie’s “Brand New Key”:
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
follow us in feedly
‘Yellow Submarine’ style short depicts a jaunty stroll through a bad trip (set to Tiny Tim!)
06.24.2014
08:54 am

Topics:
Animation
Drugs

Tags:
Tiny Tim


 
Whether you find it nauseatingly cheerful or hyperactively sweet (and I’m partial to the latter), Tiny Tim’s “Livin’ in the Sunlight, Lovin’ in the Moonlight” is the perfect backdrop to this ironically dark piece of animation from the Layzell Bros. Our down-and-out protagonist, played by English comedian Adam Buxton, takes a huff off a cheerful cartoon pipe, and is transported to a Yellow Submarine-style wonderland where his antics are rendered childishly delightful—nevermind his wanton destruction of property and growing troubles with the local authorities.

At one point the psychedelic dreamland becomes a little too ominous for our hero, but no matter! His magical pipe friend makes quick work of the darkness! Just say no to drugs, kids! Or just say yes if that’s what you want…
 

 
Via Juxtapoz

Posted by Amber Frost | Discussion
follow us in feedly
If Quentin Tarantino directed ‘Ghostbusters 3’

0stgfys
 
This could be a highly watchable cinematic mash-up of blood, guts and spooky goings-on: Quentin Tarantino directs Ghostbusters 3, as imagined by claymation wizard Lee Hardcastle.
 

 
Via Popbitch

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
follow us in feedly
Lars von Trier made a cute stop-motion cartoon when he was 11. Somehow it’s still super creepy
06.16.2014
08:04 am

Topics:
Animation

Tags:
Lars von Trier


 
My introduction to the work of Lars von Trier came by way of his brilliant supernatural mini-series The Kingdom—a kind of a Twin Peaks-style hospital drama in which Udo Kier has a terrifying role as a doomed baby from the netherworld. Still, Turen til Squashland… En Super Pølse Film , or Trip to Squash Land… A Super Sausage Film strikes me as an even creepier chronicle of childhood… maybe it’s the music?

The two-minute stop-motion short was created by von Trier (the “von” was adopted later) on a Super-8 camera when he was eleven. It’s technically quite impressive for a kid that age and ominously cheerful. There’s a bunny abduction and a sausage super-hero who I just don’t entirely trust. It seems worth noting that Trier had a non-normative childhood. His parents—who were lifestyle nudists—didn’t believe in punishment, but still managed to keep a distinct emotional distance from him. The controversial Danish director’s mother also told him on her deathbed that he was the product of an affair.

I’m not saying that’s the kind of upbringing necessary to produce a film like Antichrist, I’m just saying, it probably don’t hurt. And no, the final scene is not a prelude to Nymphomaniac, either. “Slut” means “The End” in Danish.
 

Posted by Amber Frost | Discussion
follow us in feedly
‘Russian Rhapsody’: Gremlins from the Kremlin battle Hitler in this insane 1944 cartoon
05.30.2014
08:38 am

Topics:
Animation
History

Tags:
Hitler
Stalin
Merrie Melodies


 
Depictions of Russia in American propaganda had some wild vacillation before the Cold War. The first Red Scare followed the Russian Revolution, and anti-communist sentiment really found purchase around 1919. Leftists in the US (many of them immigrants) became a force to be reckoned with, and bitter labor conflicts (plus some radical terrorism) seemed to suggest a Bolshevik revolution was imminent in the Americas. There’s the period however, during World War II, before Truman decided to wave his nuclear dick at Stalin, when Russians were still our Nazi-fighting Allies, and 1944’s Merrie Melodies production “Russian Rhapsody” is a fascinating artifact of that ambivalence America had towards the Soviets.


 
Of course, the cartoon doesn’t quite portray Russians as “dignified.” Rather than some cartoon-friendly version of Red Army soldiers fighting Nazis in the snow, they’re literal “gremlins”—tiny things that are only really capable of sabotaging a plane. (The title was originally “Gremlins from the Kremlin,” but Disney was developing an animated version of Roald Dahl’s The Gremlins at the time and Roy Disney pressured Warner Brothers to change the name.) Regardless, the gremlins are clearly the good guys, whipping out a mask of Stalin to frighten Der Führer.


 
In addition to being a really beautiful (and profoundly weird) piece of animation, “Russian Rhapsody” has some great dog whistles. The cartoon starts out with Hitler delivering a speech that’s a direct reference to a scene from Leni Riefenstahl’s Triumph of the Will. As an inside joke, some of the gibberish German Hitler spouts is actually the names of animators and studio staff. The gremlin faces are actually based on caricatures of Warner Brothers legends like Chuck Jones, Robert Clampett, Friz Freleng, and Leon Schlesinger. The berserk musical score was provided by the great cartoon composer Carl Stalling.
 

Posted by Amber Frost | Discussion
follow us in feedly
‘Toys’: Grizzly GI Joe stop-motion animation from 1966 takes a dark look at war toys
05.29.2014
07:58 am

Topics:
Animation

Tags:
toys
Grant Munro


 
Last week Donald Levine, the man who brought GI Joe to millions of little boys, died at the age of 86. A Korean War veteran, Levine introduced the first-of-its-kind action figure to the market in 1964 while working for the company that would later become Hasbro. While GI Joe was initially a runaway success, the Vietnam War soon soured much of public opinion on war toys and sales quickly took a hard hit. Production was actually halted in 1976 and it was six years before GI Joe was relaunched.

There’s little evidence to suggest that war toys encourage violence and far more to suggest that dolls socialize children. When you consider the fact that GI Joe still has the distinction of normalizing doll-play for millions of little boys, it could be argued that he is inherently transgressive, maybe even feminist. For many adults though, the idea of war toys is at least vulgar, if not insidious, and “Toys,” the 1966 short by Grant Munro, articulates those feelings with brilliant GI Joe stop motion animation.

The film begins with a nauseating cacophony of childhood cheer, as the kiddies gaze into a window display of toys. Then there’s a switch—the kids become as static as the playthings they covet and the GI Joes come to life, reenacting gory scenes of a brutal war. It’s pretty evocative stuff especially considering it’s all plastic toys staged on simple diorama sets.

It’s difficult to say whether or not the film is directly condemning war toys, but I suspect the ambiguity is purposeful and that Munro intended to inspire critical thought rather than propagandize directly. Like Levine, Munro was a Korean War veteran, and as a member of the Canadian Forces, he even received the Presidential Unit Citation for his service in the Battle of Kapyong. It’s interesting that the film came out only two years after the release of GI Joe—“Toys” was, ironically, the very first GI Joe animation, proceeding even the Saturday morning cartoons that doubled as half-hour commercials for this iconic toy. 
 

Posted by Amber Frost | Discussion
follow us in feedly
The psychedelic ‘coffee-based’ hand-drawn animations of Jake Fried
05.22.2014
11:24 am

Topics:
Animation
Art

Tags:
coffee
Jake Fried


 
Boston-based artist Jake Fried creates these incredible, trippy, hand-drawn animations, or as he calls them “moving paintings,” by repeatedly layering on top of an original drawing with white-out, gouache, ink and coffee. Each animation shows the drawing process from original sketch lines to finished picture.

Fried’s animations are described as “psychedelic” and “spiritual,” and have been screened at the Tate Modern in London, Sundance Film Festival, and during Cartoon Network’s late night Adult Swim programming bloc.

See more of Jake’s work here.
 

 

 

 
Via Neatorama

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
follow us in feedly
Page 2 of 30  < 1 2 3 4 >  Last ›