Monday, June 26, 2017

Dorothy and the Wizard of OZ on Boomerang

For those of you who have not heard Boomerang now has a streaming service online. On this service you can watch a great variety of cartoons including Looney Tunes, Popeye cartoons, Droopy and many of the early Hanna-Barbera TV shows. However as well as this the streaming service will introduce new shows. Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz is an Australian nd New Zealand co-production which premieres today on the Boomerang TV channel in Australia. However in the U.S. this show can currently only be found on the Boomerang streaming service. This show liberally combines elements of the OZ books, the 1939 movie and other OZ lore.

 The first episode (now up for streaming) is called Beware the Woozy and is written by Jack Ferraiolo (WordGirl, Home Movies) and directed by Jeff DeGrandis (God, The Devil and Bob, Dora the Explorer).   

-Michael J. Ruhland

Popeye and Donkey Kong

Did you know that if it wasn't for Popeye we may not have the characters of Donkey Kong and Mario? Well t this time Nintendo was trying to get the rights to make a game based off the Popeye characters. This game would have been much like the original Donkey Kong game. Bluto would have kidnapped Olive Oyl, and Popeye would have fought through various obstacles to save Olive (also instead of the hammer there would have been a can of Spinach).. However when the company was not able to get the rights new characters had to be created. Shigeru Miyamoto, a video game designer working for the company created Mario, Donkey Kong and Pauline as replacements for these characters. So if the idea for having a Popeye game actually happened when it was supposed to or if the idea have never come up at all, none of the Popeye or Mario games would exist.
While Donkey Kong came out in 1981, Nintendo would actually be able to make an actual Popeye arcade game just a year later.

Here is that game:

and here is Donkey Kong:

-Michael J. Ruhland

Friday, June 9, 2017

Happy 83rd Birthday Donald Duck

Today is the birthday of one of Disney's best and most iconic animated characters, Donald Duck. Though these years his quick temper and love of fun have entertained us all (as well as his trademark voice provided originally by Clarence Nash) So it is only natural to pay tribute to him here.

Donald's film debut was in a 1934 Silly Symphonies cartoon called The Wise Little Hen. The Silly Symphonies were a series of musical cartoons that usually starred one shot characters. Donald was one of the very few characters from this series to really take off and get his own series. In this debut cartoon Donald was animated by Art Babbitt and Dick Humer. This also marks one of the few times where Donald's sailor suit actually makes sense. Donald's friend Peter Pig was also voiced by Clarence Nash and this cartoon was directed by Wilfred Jackson.

Despite this though Donald's real breakthrough as a cartoon star was as a supporting player in the 1934 Mickey Mouse cartoon Orphan's Benefit. In this film directed by Burt Gillett, Donald as animated by Dick Lundy does his first angry pose. With this quick little bit of animation the character was fully formed. As Mickey Mouse was becoming much more viewed as a role model for kids, he could no longer engage in any negative behavior making him harder to write as a comedy character, however Donald, who could never be confused for a role model, could get away with this stuff, allowing much more comedy to flow out from him. This cartoon also introduced the character of the hen Clara Cluck. It was remade shot for shot as a color cartoon in 1941, but here we have the original Black and White short.

Next up comes one of my favorite Disney cartoons of all time, a 1943 wartime film called Der Fuher's Face. This short was originally to be called Donald Duck in Nutzi Land. The title was changed when studio musician Oliver Wallace wrote a catchy song called Der Fuher's Face. This film was directed by Jack Kinney, who was a master at slapstick comedy and probally Disney's greatest answer to the wild crazy and very funny cartoons coming out of Warner Brothers and MGM at this time. While many people refer to the Disney cartoons as cute while Warner Brothers cartoons are truly funny, Jack Kinney (as well as Jack Hannah and Ward Kimball) proved that that wasn't always the case. This is one of the fastest paced, cleverest and all around funny cartoons to ever come out of the Disney studio.

Last but not least we have another wild and crazy Disney cartoon, that easily stands against the crazy comedy coming from other cartoon studios at this time. We are going to look at Clown of the Jungle. This film was directed by Jack Hannah, who was also a master of fast paced wild slapstick. Donald's adversary in this film is the wild and crazy Aracuan Bird, who had previously appeared in the Disney feature, The Three Caballeros. This cartoon released in 1947 is a very funny short that never fails to make me smile.

-Michael J. Ruhland

Monday, May 29, 2017

The Three Stooges and Telvision Cartoons

I have a special fondness for The New Three Stooges Saturday morning cartoon series. The low budget for animation may be a bit too obvious at times, and The Stooges were showing their ages in the live action parts, but the series has a very nice and unique charm that I love.

However even though this was The Stooges' first TV series, it was not the first on planed. A lot of you may be aware of a live action TV pilot starring the Stooges that was never picked up called Jerks of all Trades as it has shown up on a lot of public domain DVDs. However the team also had some other animated series planned before this one. One of these was called Stooge Time, and it would have opened up with a 7minute live action sketch featuring the team after this for about 30 seconds the team would have spared each other with seltzer bottles, and that would have magically turned them animated and this would lead into a cartoon. The animation would have been achieved on this show through an invention of Moe's son in law, Norman Maurer, called Artiscope. Artiscope was a system that would film live actors and from there would create animation that would look like it was hand drawn, but really have no animators working on it. This device can be seen briefly in The Three Stooges feature film The Three Stooges in Orbit (Norman Maurer was a writer for the movie). Another animated TV show with the Three Stooges that never became a full series was The Three Stooges Scrapbook. A pilot was made for this series. Because the Stooges were becoming much more popular with children due to TV, parent groups were complaining about the violence of their films however cartoons with equal amounts of violence were also popular with children and there were (at this time at least (by the 1970's this would have changed drastically)) far less complaints about children watching these. So the show would open in live action and then Segway into an animated cartoon. The cartoons would feature more slapstick violence than the live action segment would. Unfortunately the cartoons were of very poor quality and because of this the series would never be released. However some brief clips of the pilot (including animated ones) do appear in The Three Stooges in Orbit.

Luckily in 1965 with The New Three Stooges the team finally had a Saturday Morning TV cartoon. Like The Three Stooges Scrapbook this series featured live action wraparounds with the Stooges introducing cartoons where the Stooges would provide their own voices. The first cartoon was called Little Bomb Maker Me and was done by Jay Ward Productions (famous for Rocky and Bullwinkle) and was done in a different style. However after this Cambria Pictures took over the series and did the rest of the cartoons. The live action segments were often directed by Edward Bernds, who directed many of the Stooges best shorts of the 1940's. Often appearing in these live action segments was Emil Sitka, who already had a long career as a supporting player for The Stooges. The main director and writer for the animated segments was David Detiege, who had previously been a writer for Humphry Bear shorts (for Disney) and Looney Tunes.

-Michael J. Ruhland   

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Old Town Music Hall: Vintage Animation Festival

Hello everybody and welcome to Back to the Drawing Board your home for Animation history, news and much more. The perfect way to start off this blog is with a festival that perfectly shows what we are about here, a love of animation.

At the Old Town Music Hall in El Segundo, California this weekend was a fantastic film festival of 1930's cartoons. Now like many of you I grew up watching these cartoons on TV and loving them, but to see them in a movie theater (where they were originally meant to be seen) is a whole different experience and an even better one. When viewing these on a big screen and sharing the experience with many people who love these cartoons just like you do, somehow a different and even more addictive energy runs through one's body.

 Before the cartoons began a very talented man named Bill Field played The Mighty Wurlitzer Organ, this was an organ specifically made to accompany silent films. It has many moving parts behind it and different from what you would see in a movie theater back then, we were actually shown these moving parts colored and on full display, no need to mention it was an incredible experience. After this we were lead in a sing along of many old standards.

After this animation historian Jerry Beck introduced these cartoons and gave great introductions to them supply us with many facts about the making of these films. Then the cartoons began. The set list included such classics as Betty Boop for President (1932), The Gorilla Mystery (1930, Mickey Mouse), Sinkin in the Bathtub (1930, the first Looney Tunes cartoon), I Love to Singa (1936, Merrie Melodies) Funny Face (1933, Flip the Frog),  Let's Get Movin' (1936, Popeye), Hold it (1938, Color Classics), Page Miss Glory (1936, Merrie Melodies), Katnip College (1938, Merrie Melodies) and You Outa Be in Pictures (1940, Looney Tunes). Each of these cartoons are fantastic and deserve a post of their own. Seeing them with an audience only made them better.

Afterwards I got to talk to Jerry Beck and he signed a couple of books (he worked on) that I had and overall this was an incredible experience. The Old Town Music Hall does this annually, so if you love cartoons look for this, it is a real treat.

-Michael J. Ruhland

Dorothy and the Wizard of OZ on Boomerang

For those of you who have not heard Boomerang now has a streaming service online. On this service you can watch a great variety of cartoon...