Friday, September 12, 2014

Little Red Walking Hood: Mojo Once Again In Good Working Order for the Avery Unit

RELEASE DATE: November 6, 1937 (according to the Big Cartoon Database; IMDb says December 23, 1937)
Looney Tunes Golden Collection, Vol. V(Warner Brothers DVD 112172)

You can watch a restored version of this cartoon (with commentary by animator Mark Kausler) HERE. Enjoy!

We've recently examined the brief but painful down period for the Fred Avery unit at Leon Schlesinger's cartoon mill.

The mid-to-late 1930s were not great times for Hollywood animated cartoons. Significant breakthroughs in animation, color and film technique occurred, many of them pushed forward by Walt Disney and his technical staff. These would benefit the artform's decade-long peak in the 1940s. With a focus on improving the visual aspect of animation, the core content of studio releases faltered.

Disney's innovations sent shock waves through the animation industry. Studios indifferent to change, such as Paul Terry's, showed striking improvements in the quality and personality of their animation. Disney's visual improvements over-emphasized technique and de-emphasized content. That negative influence spread like cancer in cartoons of 1934-1940.

The cartoons Leon Schlesinger produced for Warner Brothers particularly suffered. Liminal cartooning, stuck in the Art Deco style of the earlier '30s, with an occasional tiptoe towards a new look, makes these cartoons seem stale and awkward to our 21st-century eyes. Timing, humor and characterization tend on the dull side, despite some forward-thinking flashes.

Tex Avery and Frank Tashlin consciously strove to break through this barrier of mediocrity through clever technique and, most vitally, a focus on the content of their pictures.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

I Wanna Be a Sailor: The End of a Dry Streak of Hide-And-Seek

RELEASE DATE: 9/25/1937 (according to the Big Cartoon Database; IMDb concurs)

DVD/BLU-RAY AVAILABILITY: Kid Galahad DVD (part of WHV's Gangsters Collection, v.4)

You can view a fuzzy but acceptable print of this cartoon HERE.

Thanks to our good bud Devon Baxter for hosting this cartoon. Devon has a great collection of classic cartoons online, and a visit to his DailyMotion account will yield hours of enjoyment.

Two weeks after the release of Porky's Garden comes this, the last of the Avery Unit Depression of 1937. After this, Avery's output will become more bold, daring and funny. Even when the cartoon itself isn't so hot (e.g., The Sneezing Weasel), its first attempts at ideas Avery will later perfect at M-G-M make the work more vital and important.

As with Avery's prior Merrie Melodie, A Sunbonnet Blue, I Wanna Be a Sailor lacks the intense commitment that we saw in Avery's 1936/7 pictures, right up to Uncle Tom's Bungalow, and scarcely exhibits its creator's personality. With this the fourth mediocre film in a row, it would appear that Avery was either burned out or prevented, in some unknowable way, from giving his work 110%.