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This issue of FILM COMMENT opened my eyes to animated cartoons not only as cinema but also as an art forum unto itself.

I did not give much thought to THE HOLLYWOOD CARTOON until I read the Winter 1975 issue of FILM COMMENT magazine.

After reading it I wanted to see the films I had read about. Unfortunately the 16mm film libraries in Canada did not have them. It cost more in paper work to rent them than the films could bring in. They had been junked. Disney has a collection of short films that gave only the barest glimpse of what the studio had done.

A chance purchase of a library of 16mm cartoons brought about my first screening. Only a few people showed up. When I scheduled a second screening the people then working with me said, “You only got eight people last time. Why are you doing another show?” I replied, “They were eight interesting people.” They said, “You are crazy.” After they asked, “How did you know you would get fifty people?” When I scheduled a third screening they asked, “How did you know you would get three hundred people?”

Of course, I did not know. I was just doing something that interested me. I wanted to learn.

As a result of the posters I put up and the various articles on my animation programs published in various media people contacted me with libraries of 16mm copies of old cartoons their fathers, brothers or  uncles had died leaving. I bought them. Soon I went from not being able to see anything to being able to see just about everything I wanted.

I wanted my audience to know as much as I could give them about the making of the films as well as their importance. I did this with spoken introductions before the films. This encouraged others to speak with me sharing what they knew as well.

In 1979, for one week, Bob Clampett and his wife Sody came to Toronto for the first of several “ANIMAFEASTIVALS” (A FEAST OF A FESTIVAL OF ANIMATED CARTOONS). Bob was largely unknown at the time outside animation circles. While most credit the wild anarchy of Warner animation to Tex Avery I have to place Bob Clampett on equal footing. His work demonstrates an exuberance that is exhilarating.

Bob and Sody were treated in Toronto to an audience literate in Bob’s work.

Faced with a Toronto audience largely not interested in my work I reached out to the world through a two page ad in the fanzine MINDROT/ANIMANIA, The Journal Of The Animated Cartoon that cost me all of fifty dollars. I made the event “Admission By Donation” so that everyone who wished to could afford to come. I asked for $25 per day. Over the three day weekend that was the climax of the week I promised to show 200 animated cartoons.

As a result of the ad people flew in from all around the world. They came from Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Russia, Japan, New York, Miami, all over. Some even came from Hollywood. While most of the handful from Toronto groused that I was asking too much by requesting a donation of $25 a day the people from around the world were astounded I had been able to offer so much for so little. People farther away often value what we do much more than do those close by.

I had observed that every time someone I wanted to see was introduced to the public institutional events at art galleries, colleges, museums, theaters and universities the hosts kept we the audience away from the proceedings while at the same time asking the questions that had been answered in interview after interview.

I decided on something completely different.

I had someone from the Toronto scene welcome Bob Clampett each night. Jane Jacobs, author of THE DEATH AND LIFE OF GREAT AMERICAN CITIES, welcomed Bob the first night. John Leach (WITCHES NIGHT OUT) welcomed Bob the last night. I forget who the others were. I did a brief intro. Then I got completely out of the way. I moved to the back of the room. The audience had full access. My friend Jaan Pill was given exclusive journalist rights. Jaan recorded everything on cassette tape.

One session, Sunday afternoon, was an exclusive session for young animators and animation students only. It was their chance to sit at the feet of and to learn from one of the acclaimed giants of THE GOLDEN AGE OF HOLLYWOOD CARTOONS. During that session (which was recorded by Jaan Pill) Bob went through the complete nuts and bolts process of making a Warner Brothers Cartoon under his direction. It took me five years to transcribe that session (Jaan gave me the complete tapes he had recorded when he found no Canadian publisher interested). In the process of transcribing those tapes I learned perhaps more thoroughly than anyone ever would I how Bob Clampett went about making a film.

Bob Clampett introduced me to Warner Animation and MGM  animation directors Tex Avery, Friz Freleng and  Chuck Jones, to the legendary animation artist Grim Natwick (creator of Betty Boop, principal artist on the character of SNOW WHITE for Walt Disney), and to motion picture sound pioneer Bernard B. Brown [who had begun his career at 16 playing first violin through the first year run of D. W. Griffith’s THE BIRTH OF A NATION for its premiere Hollywood engagement–as THE CLANSMAN–at Clune ‘s Auditorium.  Mr. Brown’s credits included directing the sound on 1927’s THE JAZZ SINGER with Al Jolson and pioneering multi-track recording with 1939’s ONE HUNDRED MEN AND A GIRL with Deanna Durbin, Leopold Stokowski and The Philadelphia Philharmonic, assisting Walt Disney on the sound for FANTASIA  (1940). He served as head of sound at Warner Brothers until he became head of sound at Universal. On retiring he taught film and film sound at UCLA. His work got him eleven  Oscar nominations and two Academy Awards).

I brought Mr. Brown, Friz Freleng and Grim Natwick to Toronto in 1980. Mr. Natwick returned in 1982. Every year after 1980 I made a point of alerting the animation world to Grim’s birthday (August 17, 1890) as we had celebrated his 90th birthday in Toronto. Through the efforts of myself, Tisse David, Tom Sito and others the entire animation world celebrated Grim’s 100th birthday. Mr. Natwick became a great personal friend and a mentor. Through him I met and learned from animation legend James “Shamus” Culhane whom I brought to Toronto for a week in 1986.

This program has many parts. They include;

Bob Clampett, The Mad Genius Behind Warner Animation,”

Friz Freleng, The Animation Master who did Ralph Bakshi when Bakshi was in diapers, ”

Tex Avery, King Of The Hollywood Cartoon,”

Chuck Jones the master of getting almost fired for doing what was new “The most common phrase I heard was expressed as one word, ‘thatsnewtakeitout’‘”

GRIM NATWICK, The legendary Master Of The Animation of The Female Form and Character,”

Shamus Culhane, the Irishman who saw animated cartoons as art,”

and many, many more including

THE GIANT FOUR HOUR BOWDLERIZED HISTORY OF WARNER BROTHERS CARTOONS and the legendary

Got a mortage you want paid? This program will do it.

SEX & VIOLENCE CARTOON FESTIVAL.

The great films from Hollywood’s Golden Age of Theatrical Cartoons (1920 to 1960) wee cut to bits by scissor happen censors. Many of the very best are banned. In my programs people see them as their creators meant us to.

Friz Freleng was wonderful. In Toronto he met an audience which regarded him as they would have regarded Salvador Dali and Pablo Picasso. They saw him not as a man who made funny cartoons but as what he was, a real artist working in the medium of his choice. Mr. Freleng is one of animation’s great unsung heroes. His use of music in animation is peerless. Two of his best films, CLEAN PASTURES and GOLDILOCKS AND THE JIVING BEARS are among the fabled Censored Eleven Warner Animation classics. While these films certainly don’t belong on regular television they are mature works which should command the respect they deserve. They are adult in the best sense of that word. Freleng did Ralph Bakshi (FRITZ THE CAT, COOKSKIN, etc.) when Bakshi was in diapers.

 

CLEAN PASTURES (1937) Friz Freleng. This film does Ralph Bakshi when Bakshi was in diapers. It demonstrates a tremendous understanding and fusion of music with film. It is idiotic that the film can not be seen. America was created by the bold and the free. It has been inherited by the cowardly and the timid.

Tex Avery introduced a resounding sexuality to the Hollywood Cartoon. This is the girl from his series that began with RED HOT RIDING HOOD (1943).

Betty Boop was created by Grim Natwick for the Max Fleischer Cartoon Studios. Here she was animated doing a bare breasted hula by the great Shamus Culhane.

Betty Boop was created by Grim Natwick. While everyone else keeps her in the 1930s Grim brought Betty into the 1980s. This painting, a gift from Grim, hangs in my home in Toronto. I had the great pleasure of killing a bottle of scotch with Grim in his home after a tribute in Hollywood at The Motion Picture Academy of Arts & Sciences. In his youth Grim had been a lumberjack. Then 97 he could still drink like one. It was one helluva inspirational night. I learned much.

The best book one read on the process of making an animated feature film was written by veteran Shams Culhane.

The year before this book came out, 1986, I hosted a week long tribute to Shamus Culhane in Toronto. There he told us many of the stories to be found in this book. Luckily I have recordings.

Bob Clampett modeled the original Tweety, a naked baby bird, on his own nude baby picture. Tweety became the first Warner animation star to win an Oscar. He did it twice.

The original Tweety as designed by Bob Clampett.

Friz Freleng getting the Picasso treatment in Toronto.

Grim Natwick in Toronto 1982. Shamus Culhane came up from New York for this.

Bob Clampett being interviewed by Joyce Davidson in Toronto. I was and am determined the world know the full extent of Bob’s artistry.

I have always loved Paul Terry’s cartoons with Mighty Mouse especially the operettas. “Here I come to see the day!” When you visit The Cineforum look up in the screening room. You will see Mighty Mouse.

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