3-D Rarities

Boo1

And of course, my plans to continually update my blog fell flat. It’s not easy juggling some three or four different gigs, I’ll tell you that.

One of the projects I’ve been involved with for the past several months is 3-D Rarities, a joint release from Flicker Alley and the 3-D Film Archive. Producer Bob Furmanek invited me to do audio commentary and liner notes for Boo Moon, the Casper cartoon Famous Studios produced in 3-D in 1953. Naturally, I jumped at the chance to pontificate about Famous Studios—even if it is Casper. I will say that the cartoon is a hoot properly presented, and the preview of the restoration at the Museum of Modern Art went over big with the audience.

The Blu-Ray will also feature some of my earliest digital clean-up efforts on several of the shorts and trailers. Thanks to Steve Stanchfield’s generosity, I’m now able to do studio-level work out of my home, and I’m looking forward to repeatedly showing the big corporate boys that competent work doesn’t require a monstrous budget, just care.

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John Stanley’s First Lantz Comic

NF79-coverI had posted this story years ago on my now dormant site Golden Age Funnies. Like every niche website, both the proprietor and audience lost interest. My scans from at least ten years ago are long gone, and all to the good, because my skills at getting archival material online have increased tenfold.

It was a bit of a dilemma, though, scanning New Funnies No. 79 (September 1943), because my copy is in such nice shape. This copy was a bargain that I nabbed in my more volatile days. Early Dell comic books have never been plentiful at cheap prices in the last 30 years, and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to get Charlie Chicken’s first appearance as a baby chick. (He was a full-grown rooster in the next issue.)

I wasn’t aware that this Andy Panda story is one of the first John Stanley illustrated, period, for Dell until I read the draft for Mike Barrier’s Funnybooks last January. Some Stanley stories in Our Gang Comics precede this one. Gaylord DuBois is the writer, with embellishments by Stanley (presumably with editor Oskar Lebeck’s encouragement).

It’s certainly funnier than the vast majority of Dell Comics at the time; Charlie’s belligerent retorts are far more pointed than youngins were used to. Some of the “animation staging” that hampered Carl Barks’s first year of Donald Duck is prevalent even here, though not to that degree of detriment. The final page is sublime comedy, period.

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“A banana is a banana is a banana is a banana is a banana!”

FC14-coverSome old comics are classics. Some old comics are just old. Some old comics are just stupid.

This one is kind of all three.

Just as Jim Davis’s cozy little comic shop for criminal publisher Benjamin Sangor was shut down in the summer of 1948, Sheldon Mayer retired from editing for DC to do full-time cartooning. Under Mayer’s example, the DC “funny” titles soon adopted a bombastic personality that at times can seem forced, but ultimately shows a self-referential wit that was usually foreign to these “animated comics.” The meta-element is often in the form of Tex Avery-style fourth wall breaking where the characters are aware they’re in a comic-book story, although it sometimes runs deeper in the knowingly ludicrous plots. It’s as if they said: “We can’t be as wry or smart as Barks or Stanley, but we can be wackier!”

As the Superkatt post shows, some cartoonists were more than capable. Most of the cartoonists that worked for DC weren’t, and Mayer’s Bo Bunny, Doodles Duck and Dizzie Dog features were rarely topped. One exception was Jim Davis, who had already been producing comics with the Columbia characters for DC. He soon found a niche drawing the same comics again with writers Hubie Karp (and later Cecil Beard) and got a kind of principled brilliance out of the deceptively thin premise of Fauntleroy Fox versus Crawford Crow. Reoccurring characters never appeared beyond the titular two, yet the stories’ hilarity was certainly reoccurring from roughly 1948-54.

The Davis-drawn stories with the Columbia characters proved rather popular, and by the end of 1951 they were appearing in four titles: Real Screen Comics, Comic CavalcadeThe Fox and the Crow, and Flippity and Flop. The cat-and-canary team also had its share of funny moments, with the two (and Sam the dog) fulfilling their animal roles almost obligatorily, in a way foreshadowing the Chuck Jones/Mike Maltese sheepdog and wolf series at Warners.

Given the number of stories needed, the steam ran out rather fast. The sharper stories began appearing in The Fox and the Crow and those in Real Screen Comics lost their edge. The [alleged] tactic to give the new title a boost appears to have worked. In 1954, The Fox and the Crow switched from bi-monthly to monthly publication.

The Fox and the Crow no. 14 (Feb. 1954) was the first monthly issue, and therein is one story that has nothing to do with Crow’s standard chiseling escapades. They say there’s nothing inherently funny about slipping on a banana peel. But if you can prolong the setup of said banana peel slip to a ridiculous six pages—and shove in a direct plea to the kid readers to read something else besides this stupid comic-book—it can be very funny indeed.

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Mark Kausler on ’70s Dizknee

I don’t want to take discussion of late Disney to any insane lengths, but as a follow-up to my review of Steve Hulett’s Mouse in Transition, this highly enjoyable piece from almost 40 years ago warrants a web posting.

Mark Kausler tends to shy away from reviewing animated works, even if he’s always capable of thoughtful commentary based on his decades of industry experience and passionate knowledge of American animation history. I think everyone will agree that The Rescuers and Pete’s Dragon are not the finest examples of the Disney empire (“lame” is the word that comes immediately to mind). I also think everyone will agree that Mark’s joint review and assessment of the studio in that period for Funnyworld No. 18 (Summer 1978) is entirely mild, fair and astute.

 

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(Posted with permission from Misters Kausler and Barrier.)

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