Monday 26 March 2018

George White's Cartoon Cavalcade Part 1

Been watching more.

Delving into Tex Avery's stuff. Familiar with his characters mainly through 1990s dire Hanna-Barbera nonsense Tom and Jerry Kids. Rural Riding Hood - influence on Simpsons' Brandine. Red Hot Riidng Hood - same. The Wolf cartoons the most formulaic, at least when Droopy appears, he livens them up but he is the hero. Screwball Squirrel is annoying, and then they give us what we want, as if Avery knows what the audience want. Little Red Riding Habit - for once different. The Hick Chick - fun, idiot chicken. And sub-Daffy gangster duck. Droopy - Dumb-Hounded - chases Wolf to the North Pole, then uses a boulder, looks genuinely tired.  Bad Luck Blackie seems a normal cavalcade of cartoon violence but the black cat in the white hat being revealed as the true mastermind is neat.  Barney Bear's Polar Pest - a wonder of ice-sculpture.    Tex Avery's Who Killed Who is a winning spoof of 1930s crime movies, complete with Edgar Lustgarten-type host, transvestite gangsters, secret passages and Hooded Thugs. King Size Canary - bootleg Tweety  and Sylvester Hulk-out. Features a mouse-novel called the Lost Squeakend, but forgets where the canary goes. Jerky Turkey (1945) begins with limited animation, i.e. the queue of static pilgrims, but then proves to be far from limited - with pleasingly anachronistic caravan-dwelling Human Droopy and the civilised pre-colonial community full of sandwich-men bears and Um Indians whose half-breed status being lampshaded as a corny gag shows the inventon of Avery, and that's before Super-Turkey and a traffic light appear. Warning - Don't Eat at Joe's. Avery's Batty Baseball is fun, with its setting at W.C. Field, even though sports slapstick never quite appeals to me. The Cuckoo Clock shows all MGM-universe cats do chase animals, but some are quite nervous. The banquet in Out-Foxed is an extraordinary piece of symmetry, and Screwball Squirrel wears a monocle to shut him up. Northwest Hounded Police features some unusual, somewhat Britoid Canadian accents from dogs, and Droopy's surname is revealed as McPoodle. Its designs are somewhat basic because it moves to Manhattan and a desert island (yes, off the Canadian coast), but it gets meta with Droopy appearing in the city cinema's short.
MGMs The Calico Dragon (1935), an early colour cartoon is very cutesy but  storybook inventive, with its three headed dragon. See also Ising's MGM short The Homeless Flea, almost more like comics like Pogo than Droopy and co. 
Peace on Earth (1939) - Epic sentimental funny animal post-apocalypse from MGM.

Porky in Wackyland (!937) -Warner fun, both uses and subverts (Dark Africa - Darker Africa - Darkest Africa) the racist Um Bongo tropics.
God   What's Opera Doc (1957) is fantastic. Especially the ending.
Sniffles and the Bookworm (1939) - Cutesy but attractive WB Merry Melody, a Fievel-esque mouse and an elderly bespectacled worm lead various characters out of their books [ from Robin Hood to Frankenstein's monster, in a Karloffian design. See also the Wacky Worm.

Also watching Disney's 1937 short The Old Mill, which is a moving painting essentially, as different to the humour of MGM and Warner.

UPA's The Unicorn in the Garden is charming and feels initially like it was made thirty years later by a Canadian company.  Then, it gets more 50s. The plot by James Thurber is basically a Tale of the Unexpected.  John Hubley's UPA short Rooty Toot Toot (1951), a jazz thing looks like an unfinished animatic, such is its style. UPA's The Miner's Daughter (1950) shows how the UPA style looks when not succumbing to stylistic laziness. It looks great, when there have a colourist, all angles and curves and realistic non-transparent skin. And it features hallucinations of living food. Warner copied this style, seen in 1955 Looney Tune Hare Brush (the one with Elmer Fudd outwitting Bugs by dressing as a bunny, not to be confused with Rabbit Rampage - the lesser Duck Amuck).

The National Film Board's Man Who Planted Trees - serious nostalgic NFB from 1987, narrated by Christopher Plummer. Less fun, more reflective and literary, but well-done.

Havoc in Heaven (1965) - Chinese animation, strange but impressive and nonsensical in a  Western context. Shown on BBC in 1981, presumably to cash in on Monkey. A lot of flying monkeys. Incredible animation,though.

Watched Tallinnfilm's grotesque industrial supermarket/ Hamlet ad Breakfast on the Grass (1987) - an unsettling but mind-expanding mix of styles from the Uncanny Valley to photomontage to Klasky-Csupo style. It becomes something astounding and malleable - full of faceless and then one-eyed metaphors for the Soviet Union, holding umbrellas. And then it turns out to be about Manet. Lots of fat women as objects of attraction too. Featuring a bootlegged recording of Hooked on Classics.

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Aeg Maha (1985), also from Tallinnfilm, about a zany male cat who speaks word balloons with pictures. Features the animator's hand, and  teleportation via whirlwind and Estonian reggae that sounds like the Pigeon Street theme, plus cowboys, crows, police and general fun. Astounding. Also saw Klaabu, a less impressive Tallinnfilm from 1978  about eggs in a garden romancing each other I think.
Porgu (1983) - a documentary-like vision of Hell, full of burning tea dances, melting dance bands, and clockwork soldiers whirring as gasmasked troopers leak in. Also from Tallinnfilm, the creepy adult Estonian Noggin the Nog that is Suur Toll (1980), the child-ruining-an-announcement film fun of Exercises In Preparation For Independent Life (1980) and Ja teeb trikke (1978) - experimental gun using notebook paper as background about a crazed shape-shifting, ice cream licking panda, and a dog whacking trees to the Pink Panther theme. Very strange fun.

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Soviet hauntology
nichut ne strashno (1981) - Cutesy Soyuzmultfilm ghost story.

Also watched Oscar winner Ference Fofusz's Hungarian shorts the Fly (1980 - a first person journey of a fly through a house before the inevitable window-crash) and the less impressive uncanny valley apples of Gravity (1984).

Son of the White Mare (1981) - Trippy Hungarian post-apocalyptic animation - like a 90 minute title sequence.

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Eggs not breasts.
Luncheon (1980) - Hungarian short from Varga/Pannonia - a clay sunflower creature makes a dish. Simple but energetic fun.
Also watched some of Ferenc Cako's work, an ex-Pannonia animator, but now more of a performance artist.

Watched the Polish 1980 Oscar winner short Tango - which is interesting but not much of a film - but the effort in it - it's a lot of people in a room bumping into each other - that looks like an FMV video cutscene, thanks to being shot on loops via a static camera.

Czech animator/Trnka associate Jiri Barta's work is quite uncanny valley, all dummies, old aristocrats,   his A Ballad About Green Wood (1983) is charmingly Oliver Postgate-esque, with its winged branch, though. A little serious, overall.
Some animation is more art than film - i.e. TVP Poland's Witold Giersz's childlike paintings. and TVP/Annecy festival associates like Stefan Schabenbeck, Daniel Szczechura, the scratchy b/w stuff of Piotr Dumala, Jerzy Kucia, Jan Lenica (an associate of Borowcyzk), and the Norman McLaren-esque Julian Antonisz (whose studio helped on Bluth's Thumbelina), all Gilliamesque, more style, less substance, no story, though Lenica's Monsieur Tete from 1959 is fun.

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