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

Animation and Gaming Today

          It is no surprise that as technology has improved, the graphical capabilities of computers and video game consoles has als...