Font Size

This issue of FILM COMMENT changed completely my thinking on Hollywood Cartoons.

7pm Saturday, February 9, 16, 23.

The Cineforum, 463 Bathurst below College. 416-603-6643. Donation $20. $10 under 24. More if you can. Less if you can’t. 17+.

 

Until I read the issue of Film Comment at left I thought of animated cartoons as bagatelles. Bagatelles are things of little importance.

They might appear that way to many however they are not.

It is one thing to preach a sermon in a church where people have no choice but to pretend to listen because they look bad if they walk out. It is quite another thing to grab and hold the attention of an audience that has no qualms about walking out if what we have to say does not hit a chord with them.

Once I began to realize that a 6 1/2 minute animated film is bound by the same film making rules as as ninety minute (or, for that matter, four or five hour) film than I wanted to learn as much as I could from the acknowledged masters behind these motion pictures.

While there exists today a feast of books on and about animated films and their creators in the 1970s there was no such bounty.

Nor were the films I wanted to see available.

I had a few animated cartoons in my archive. They led to my first screening. Some of the people who came to those screenings were very knowledgeable. More importantly, they were eager and willing to share what they knew.

I have  a reputation for speaking. What I don’t have a reputation for except among the few who have discovered it is for listening.

Among my early patrons was Greg Duffel of Toronto’s Lightbox Animation. Greg talked. I listened. Then Dave Mruz in Minneapolis published his fanzine MINDrot.

In 1979 I brought Bob Clampett and his wife Sody to Toronto for a three day animation symposium I called “ANIMAFEASTIVAL…A Feast Of A Festival Of Animated Cartoons” to which people came from around the world.

Dave put out a request for illustrative materials (this was in the days before the web). I sent him a ton of stuff. He gave me a lifetime subscription. In the pages of MINDrot I met Jerry Beck, Jim Korkis and a host of others.

In 1979 I brought Warner Brothers Animation director Bob Clampett to Toronto. With Bob came his wonderful wife, Sody.

Bob was one of the most generous people I ever met. That is true of his family. Through Bob I was introduced to Tex Avery, Friz Freleng, Chuck Jones, Grim Natwick and motion picture sound pioneer Bernard B. Brown. Through Grim I was introduced to his landlady Mrs. French (mother-in-law of animation director Richard Williams), Tisse David, Shamus Culhane and his wife Juana.  We all became friends.

A television interviewer said to me live on camera, “Mr. Hartt those Bugs Bunny cartoons are incredibly violent. How can you possibly justify the violence in those cartoons?”

She thought she had me.

I replied without missing a beat, “How would you feel if the entire world wanted you for a stew or one of your feet for a lucky charm?”

At that her jaw, as in a Tex Avery cartoon, hit the floor while the camera operator laughed so hard he lost control. His camera was aiming the ceiling.

Yes, there is violence in these classic cartoons and rightly so. We live in a violent world running over with bullies.

The thing people seem to forget or ignore is that Bugs, the early Daffy, Popeye, Woody Woodpecker, Jerry the mouse, the Roadrunner, Mighty Mouse and others like them do not initiate the violence (as most of us do not).

What they do (and wonderfully do) is reveal the Elmer Fudds,, the Blutos, The Tom’s, the Coyote, Oil Can Harry and the rest as the fanatical fools (all fanatics are fools) they are.

What about sex? How can you justify sex in cartoons?

Well, Northrup Fry in THE GREAT CODE defines human beings as “Crazy Monkies.”

Actually, by comparison, the monkeys are sane.

Frye writes monkeys will engage in hysterical discourse at the end of which they will engage in a massive orgy of copulation. They are not particularly concerned about whether or not the partner they engage with is the same or the opposite sex.

Human apes on other hand engage is hysterical discourse which culminates in a massive orgy of destruction which we call war. Those wars get pretty big. I don’t think we can afford another one.

Betty Boop is the movie’s first female animated star. Boy, is she animated!

Her first films from 1930s DIZZY DISHES through to 1934’s RED HOT MAMA are wonderful. He co-stars include Max Fleischer’s first animated star Koko The Clown, Bimbo, Cab Calloway, Louis Armstrong, The Mills Brothers, Ethel Merman, the pantheon of musical artists of the day.

Betty lives in the real world we all share. That world is filled with bullies who will stop at nothing to get what they want. What bullies want most is sex. Everything else they go after is a means to getting sex. Betty was until the censors stepped in the average girl fending off one potential rapist after another. Shamus Culhane, who animated on those films, said, “Betty had a cast iron hymen.”

After the censors stepped in the fun went out of Betty’s life. It also went out of her films. She had to drop Koko, Bimbo, Cab Calloway and the rest. She now had to straight things like baby sitting, baking, house cleaning and being a role model for the next generation. She got a pet dog named Pudgy who more and more took over the films as the artists could do so little with Betty now that she was a “good” girl. The lest said about Pudgy the better. Myron Waldman boasts that he created Pudgy. That’s nothing to boast about. Betty was good that Uncle Max stopped making movies with her.

There’s a lot to be learned from watching animated cartoons of this period. There is much more to be learned from them than there is from more recent animated cartoons (anything made for TV or made for theaters after The Pink Panther and the early films on Nickleodeon before John Kricfalusi got fired and the “good” boys took over.).

That is because the more recent stuff has been made safe so that mother’s won’t boycott the sponsor’s product.

Chuck Jones said of SPACE JAM, “That’s not the real Bugs Bunny in SPACE JAM. The real Bugs Bunny would have needed not 88 minutes but 7 and he would not have needed help from basketball stars or anyone else.”

That is 100% true. As the poem says, “Truth is on the scaffold. Wrong is on the throne.” Always has been. Always will be. By the way Chuck Jones made that statement when he was invited to speak to Ivan Reitman and the folks responsible for SPACE JAM at a special event on the Warner lot. No sooner had the words left Chuck’s mouth  than he was “escorted” off the lot by security guards.

Yes, SPACE JAM was the highest grossing basketball film ever made. All that proves is how powerful the name Bugs Bunny is.

The American people have given massive endorsements to men who turned out to be their worst presidents. We have done the same in this country with our leaders. Maybe it’s time to vote for the person we think can least do the job.

You can learn a lot from Bugs Bunny, Popeye, Tweety, the Roadrunner and the rest. They are the best teachers I know of.

At the end of the day what it comes down to is that I love to watch animated motion pictures. I have one of the largest archives of them in the world. There will be a different batch of them every week.

Join me.

Bring your own “carrot juice” (there is a “carrot juice store” across the street).

–Reg Hartt 1/31/2019.

 

 

 

« »