2002: The Year of the Demise of Hand-Drawn Animation

News, Cartoon History

March 25, 2002 - A date remembered by some as the day an art form was greatly impacted. On that day, more than 200 Disney artists working at Disney’s Feature Animation Department in Burbank, California were told they were losing their jobs. They were part of a 75-year era when Disney’s animators were considered at the top of their tier. But, new technology, new business leaders, and a new business model changed the way feature animation was created.

After the Lion King became such a huge success, Jeffrey Katzenberg, who was recently hired on at Disney, began seeking out artists in a big way. Artists began getting agents, managers, and lawyers to help them get more money for the work they put into animating the mega-million dollar works. Soon, Disney began to employ the help of “Creative Executives” and producers in charge of making every animated feature they produced a blockbuster hit.

But in the 1990’s into the early 2000’s, animated features began to saturate the market, and moviegoers began to become more inclined to stay RE-clined at home. Disney pushed for their upcoming film Treasure Planet to be the next big thing, but in the meantime allowed the creators of Lilo and Stitch to work their magic under somewhat less regulated conditions than the Treasure Planet crew.

Lilo and Stitch, which was produced in Disney’s Florida studio, enjoyed great success over Treasure Planet, which was largely considered a flop.

By 2000, hand-drawn animation had begun to take a back seat to the newfound technological wonders of computer animated films, including the smash hit Toy Story. Disney had decided to hire in freelancers when they were needed, and to employ the help of Asian animators for much less money (A now widely popular business practice known as “offshoring.”)

These things all led up to the world saying “goodbye” to one of the most important eras in animation history, where BambiSnow White and the Seven Dwarfs was born, along with Dumbo, Pinnochio, Cinderella, and a slew of others.

There was a film made documenting the day the animators were sent on their way. It is called Dream On Silly Dreamer, and it acts as an homage to the age of hand-drawn animation and a documentary filmed in the last days. You can read more at: http://www.dreamonsillydreamer.com/.

It's the Gummi Bears' 25th Anniversary, Celebrate Online!

News, Cartoon History

What’s cooler than a Gummi Bears reunion? Attending one! According to Jymn Magon, writer/story editor for Disney’s Adventures of the Gummi Bears, only 50 tickets area available to lucky adventurers interested in being present as many of the cast from the Gummi Bears appear and share stories, sketches, photos, and more in a live web meeting. Registered users can ask the cast questions, as they reply live.

One such story, as the Jim Hill Media website states, was from Magon as well. He told of his original concept in where a character named Scummy Gummi, a “piece of candy that worked for the villainous Licorice Whip.” They soon dropped the idea and went for a medieval setting, where Gummi Berry juice was the bears’ passion and the terrible Duke Igthorn was constantly out to get them.

According to jimhillmedia.com, the show was to be conceived just a week after Michael Eisner took over at Disney, and he based it on the candy his son was obsessed with while he was away at summer camp. Luckily, Magon said, Eisner was able to sell Disney’s first attempt at producing an animated television series, as far-fetched as it was, to NBC.

According to Jymn Magon and Jim Hill, there will be many stories shared at the reunion, and you may be able to sit in. So be there, be square, or be a Gummi Bear!

Bugs Bunny - How That Waskally Wabbit Got His Name

News, Cartoon History

We all know who he is: Bugs Bunny, that infamous waskally wabbit who always finds trouble wherever he goes, but always gets the last laugh. He was always characterized as a wild and mischievous hare, sometimes sharing qualities of mythological tricksters of lore. But, how did he come about, and who was the mastermind behind his creation?

Bugs as we know him today was actually more of a collaborative creation than some might think, having been redesigned by several creators by the time he became the funny bunny we know him as today. In his first personification some animation historians believe Bugs was influenced by another animated character named Max Hare, a Disney character who first appeared in the Silly Symphony “The Tortoise and the Hare” and was designed by animator Charlie Thorson. Thorson appears to be the only link between Max and Bugs, however, due to Thorson being responsible for Bugs Bunny’s redesign from a white rabbit to a gray rabbit in his third film, “Hare-um Scare-um.”

Bugs Bunny’s first on-screen appearance was on April 30, 1938 with the release of his first cartoon short, “Porky’s Hare Hunt.” This historical cartoon was directed by Cal Dalton and Ben “Bugs” Hardaway, and featured Porky Pig, who was set on catching a rabbit. But, this particular rabbit was no easy prey. In this cartoon, he first uses the phrase “Of course, you know, this means war!", a quote from Groucho Marx in the movie “Duck Soup.”

The nameless rabbit appeared one more time in “Prest-O Change-O” before the animators of Termite Terrace, Warner Bros. in-house animation studio, coined the name “Bugs.” During the production of Bugs’ third film, “Hare-Um Scare-Um,” animator Gil Turner wrote “Bugs’ Bunny” on his model sheet to indicate which character he was sketching, referring to co-director Ben “Bugs” Hardaway’s creation. The term “Bugs” or “Bugsy” was a popular term at the time to describe someone who was crazy or looney. From this point on, the name caught on for the crazy rabbit, and that is what Bugs Bunny is referred to as today!

Tom and Jerry: Cat and Mouse, or Tall Guy and Short Guy?! (And some Tom and Jerryisms)

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Link: http://www.toonjet.com/cartoons.php?id=260

I have watched some of Van Beuren’s Tom and Jerry cartoons, and I keep finding myself wondering, “Why on earth would Hanna-Barbera use the same name for their cartoon series that was used for a previous series 10 years prior?” Were they just not aware of the series before they created the cat and mouse duo? Or, were they doing it to show how prominent their studio was in the cartoon industry?

At first, it seemed to me like the good old cat and mouse we all know was starting to look like a big rip-off, using the name from another cartoon.

Director John Foster of Van Beuren Studios was saddled with the task of competing with Disney’s Mickey Mouse, among other cartoon heavy hitters, after Van Beuren lost Paul Terry and others in 1929. During the development of the original Tom and Jerry cartoons, the two were originally envisioned as a pair of mice, but were too close visually to Mickey Mouse, so they were changed to a cat and dog. Still lacking the success they needed to stay afloat, George Stallings and George Rufle helped Foster develop the human pair that appear in the Van Beuren cartoons.

The two odd characters constantly got into bizarre situations while working in different occupations. The world they lived in was an imaginative cartoony world, where everything was alive.

Van Beuren was located across the street from Fleischer studios, and the two held certain similarities in their work.

The phrase “Tom and Jerry” is actually a phrase which refers to fighting, drinking, and causing trouble, first referred to in Pierce Egan’s book, Life in London, published in 1820. SO, the title was not only a title, but an expression.

Also related is the fact that Joseph Barbera started out doing animation and working on scripts for the Van Beuren Tom and Jerry Cartoons, and nearly a decade later in 1940, moved on to MGM to create another cartoon series under the same name.

It seems to me that Barbera may have taken to the idea of using “Tom and Jerry” as the name for a whimsical cartoon with characters who fight and get into a lot of trouble. And, when the first series failed to garner a lot of media attention, he figured, “why let a good thing go to waste?” and used it once again, perhaps as an homage, or maybe to reuse something that never quite caught on. Maybe one day I’ll find the answer I’m looking for, but until then, I’m gonna watch a more of both series until my brain explodes. :D

Van Beuren Studios: Lost Cartoon Treasures

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If asked what Van Beuren Studios was famous for, most people today would probably look at you with a blank stare. Other than being vaguely known for the re-releases of the infamous Charlie Chaplain series, the little known production company also helped lead the pack when it came to classic cartoons of their time.

Van Beuren Studios was started by an upstart named Amadee J. Van Beuren. Paul Terry was also involved in the studio’s history, but later left to start his own production company, called Terrytoons. Van Beuren’s most recognized characters were called “Tom and Jerry,” but bear no relation to the cat and mouse characters released by MGM Studios eight years later. Their success was modest, yielding 26 cartoons in all. Aesop’s Fables, the studio’s other front runner gave rise to the now not so recognizable Cubby Bear, one of the series’ stars.

Walt Disney Studios had already made a splash with music and sound effects in their early toons, and Van Beuren promised to follow suit and do the same later on. The producers hired Tom Palmer, who had actually worked with Walt Disney Studios, along with Leon Schleisinger Studios, and Universal Pictures cartoon studio, to create a new series in hopes of jump-starting the B-list studio’s reputation. The somewhat well-received series was called “Rainbow Parade.”

Despite the studio’s mild successes, it was forced to closed its doors when RKO Radio Pictures decided to release Walt Disney cartoons, rather than those produced by Van Beuren.

The now little known toons were shown on black & white television sets throughout the nation, but their popularity was always overshadowed by the Disney giant.

RKO pictures promotional comic strip, featuring Cubby the Bear

Watch Van Beuren Studios’ “Molly Moo Cow and the Butterflies”

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