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John Kricfalusi, Mike Van Eaton, Rita Street, Jorge Garrido, Andreas Deja, John Canemaker, Jerry Beck, Leonard Maltin, June Foray, Paul and John Vinci, B. Paul Husband, Nancy Cartwright, Mike Fontanelli, Tom & Jill Kenny, Will Finn, Ralph Bakshi, Sherm Cohen, Marc Deckter, Dan diPaola, Kara Vallow
Janet Blatter, Keith Lango Animation, Thorsten Bruemmel, David Soto, Paul Dini, Rik Maki, Ray Pointer, James Tucker, Rogelio Toledo, Nicolas Martinez, Joyce Murray Sullivan, David Wilson, David Apatoff, San Jose State Shrunkenheadman Club, Matthew DeCoster, Dino's Pizza, Chappell Ellison, Brian Homan, Barbara Miller, Wes Archer, Kevin Dooley, Caroline Melinger
Gemma Ross, Milton Knight, Claudio Riba, Eric Graf, Michael Fallik, Gary Francis, Joseph Baptista, Kelsey Sorge-Toomey, Alexander Camarillo, Alex Vassilev, Ernest Kim, Danny Young, Glenn Han, Sarah Worth, Chris Paluszek, Michael Woodside, Giancarlo Cassia, Ross Kolde, Amy Rogers
Every other month, members of Animation Resources are given access to an exclusive Members Only Reference Pack. These downloadable files are high resolution e-books on a variety of educational subjects and rare cartoons from the collection of Animation Resources in DVD quality. Our current Reference Pack has just been released. If you are a member, click through the link to access the MEMBERS ONLY DOWNLOAD PAGE. If you aren’t a member yet, please JOIN ANIMATION RESOURCES. It’s well worth it.
DVD QUALITY VIDEO:
The Peanut Vendor
Down By The Old Mill Stream
Fleischer Studios (1933)
Max Fleischer’s Screen Song cartoons are among the rarest and most underrated cartoons ever produced at the studio, but at the time they were made, they were extremely popular. When these cartoons began to be distributed to television in the mid-1950s, the Screen Songs became something of a “white elephant”. It isn’t hard to understand why. In a packed movie theater, it’s a lot of fun to “follow the bouncing ball” and sing along with the rest of the crowd. But no one in their right mind would sing along with their TV set. On top of this, the live action celebrity segments featured acts who were considered dinosaurs by the mid-1950s. Television stations often clipped out the live action segments, jumping straight from the end of the first cartoon segment to the animated bouncing ball segment at the end.
Animation Resources is fortunate to have a nearly complete collection of Screen Songs, thanks to the late Dave Butler, owner of Bosko Video and a major film collector. Derived from TV syndication prints, many of the Screen Songs in our collection aren’t complete and the quality of the source elements varies. But the animation itself is pure gold. Dave had the foresight to transfer these on a Rank-Cintel, so you will be able to still frame through the cartoons and study the unique and imaginative work of the Fleischer animators. I have selected two Screen songs from 1933 to share with you this time. These include the live action segments so you can see how the bouncing ball cartoons were originally formatted. There is an awful lot to learn from these deceptively simple looking cartoons.
It isn’t often that a drop-dead genius sits down to speak directly to students. It’s even rarer for these special events to be recorded for television. My musical pal, Skip Heller tipped me off to a real treasure… a TV program from 1966 titled, "The Universal Mind of Bill Evans".
I’m a big believer in interdisciplinary study. An artist is an artist, and an animator can learn an awful lot from musicians, actors, dancers and performers in all of the other fields of creative endeavor. Here, we have the opportunity to learn from one of the giants of Jazz, pianist Bill Evans.
Evans was normally a quiet sort of person, and didn’t speak a lot about his work. But he had studied to be a teacher, and his brother who was also a teacher convinced him to sit down and address the fundamental principles of his work. As I first listened to this interview, I was amazed to hear many of the same theories I had heard from the great artists I have had the opportunity to work with in animation. I’ve broken the video into four YouTube movies, and I will make note of the most important quotes below each segment.
I believe that all people are in possession of what might be called a “universal mind”. Any true music speaks with this universal mind to the universal mind in all people. The understanding that results will vary only insofar as people have or have not been conditioned to the various styles of music in which the universal mind speaks. Consequently, often some effort and exposure is necessary in order to understand some of the music coming from a different period or a different culture than to which the listener has become conditioned.
Bill Evans argues that style, for better or for worse, eventually comes of itself- out of that mysterious interior well of creative inspiration that nourishes everyone to one degree or another. It’s much more important, Evans feels, to master fundamentals both in theory- so you understand what you’re doing, and in active practice- developing one’s musical muscles… not just technical dexterity, but the brain connection. Developing that facility to the point where the subconscious mind can take over the basic mechanical task of playing thus freeing the conscious to concentrate on the spontaneous creative element that distinguishes the best Jazz- and the best in all human activity.
Jazz is the only form of art that America has created and given to the world… but I think it’s more of a revival in a different form than what went on in classical music before. In the 17th century there was a great deal of improvisation in Classical music, and because of the fact that there were no electrical recording techniques to permanize or to “catch” music and to record it, the music was written so that it could be permanized that way. Slowly but surely the writing of the music and the interpreters of the music gave way to more and more interpretation and more and more cerebral composition and less and less improvisation. So finally, improvisation became a lost art in Classical music and we have only the composer and the interpreter.
I feel that Jazz is not so much a style as it is a process of making music. It’s the process of making one minute’s music in one minute’s time. Whereas when you compose, you can make one minute’s music and take three months… We tend to think of Jazz as a stylistic medium, but we must remember that in an absolute sense, Jazz is more of a certain creative process of spontaneity than a style… Any good teacher of serious classical composition will always tell a student that the composition should sound as if it’s improvised. It should have a spontaneous quality, so actually, the art of music is the art of speaking with this spontaneous quality.
The person who succeeds in anything has the realistic viewpoint at the beginning in knowing that the problem is large and that he has to take it a step at a time and he has to enjoy this step by step learning procedure.
It’s better to do something simple that is real. It’s something you can build on. because you know what you’re doing. Whereas, if you try to approximate something very advanced and don’t know what you’re doing, you can’t build on it.
No matter how far I might diverge or find freedom in this format, it only is free insofar that it has reference to the strictness of the original form. That’s what gives it its strength.
The whole process of learning the facility of being able to play Jazz was to take these problems from the outer level in- one by one and to stay with it at a very intense conscious concentration level until that process becomes secondary and subconscious… Then you can begin concentrating on that next problem which will allow you to do a little bit more.
I don’t consider myself as talented as many people, but in some way that was an advantage. I didn’t have a great facility immediately. I had to be more analytical. It forced me to build something.
Most people just don’t realize the immensity of the problem and either, because they can’t conquer it immediately, think they don’t have the ability; or they’re so impatient to conquer it that they never do see it through.
I remember coming to New York to make or break in Jazz and saying to myself, “How do I attack this practical problem of becoming a Jazz musician- making a living and so on… Ultimately, I came to the conclusion that all I must do is takke care of the music- even if I do it in a closet. And if I really do that, somebody is going to come to the closet and open the door and say, “Hey, we’re looking for you!”
When you begin to teach Jazz, the most dangerous thing is you begin to teach style… If you’re going to try to teach Jazz, you must teach principles that are separate from style. You have to abstract the principles of musi which have nothing to do with style. This is exceptionally difficult.
Lest you think that Bill Evans’ ideas only apply to music, scan over those quotes up above and try to apply them to animation…
Animation in its purest form follows the rhythms of music and speaks to the same universal mind. Think of the funniest walk cycle you have ever seen and try to put it into words. You can’t. It doesn’t matter what language you speak. Great poses and pure movement speaks to our humanity- the part of us that operates below the verbal level.
The difference between acting for animation and acting on the stage is the difference between composition and real time improvisation. Yet the goal is the same… a feeling of spontaneity.
Deviation and exaggeration is best when it reflects the strictness of the form of the idea. Angles on characters for no reason other than to put angles on them, arbitrary exaggeration and deliberately wonky perspective don’t have the same strength as exaggeration based on the original form you’re depicting.
Style is something that comes from within after the abstract fundamentals are mastered and absorbed. If you try to learn to draw by learning a style- be it anime or Spumco or Disney- you are building upon a foundation that won’t support your artistic growth.
Learning to draw and animate is a huge undertaking and the way to do it is to break down, analyze and practice the principles one by one- from simple to more complex- just like the way the Preston Blair Course is organized. As you master the principles, they become second nature and you can move on to learning new principles.
It can be daunting to imagine how one is going to create a career in animation, but ultimately, one just has to serve the artform- even if there is no audience for your work yet. Eventually, if you serve the artform well, the audience will come.
Every other month, members of Animation Resources are given access to an exclusive Members Only Reference Pack. These downloadable files are high resolution e-books on a variety of educational subjects and rare cartoons from the collection of Animation Resources in DVD quality. If you aren’t a member yet, please consider JOIN ANIMATION RESOURCES. It’s well worth it.
This e-book faithfully reproduced the first volume of The Land and Water Edition of Raemaekers Cartoons. It is set up ready to be printed double sided on two sided 8 1/2″ by 11″ punched paper, and is optimized for viewing on iPads with retina screens.
“The cartoons of Louis Raemaekers constitute the most powerful of the honorable contributions made by neutrals to the cause of civilization in the World War.” -Theodore Roosevelt, 1917
Louis Raemaekers was born in the Netherlands in 1869. He led a quiet life, painting landscapes while studying and teaching in Amsterdam and Brussels. In 1906 he was asked by a newspaper in Amsterdam, Het Handelsblad, to produce a series of cartoons. His initial attempt at a comic strip was a complete failure, so he turned to politics.
Raemaekers’ interest in international affairs led him to speak out about German ambitions for expanding their territory into Holland and the Allsace region of France. This got him into trouble with the editors of Het Handelsblad. The Netherlands was neutral and Germanic aggression was a hot issue, so they started cutting back on the number of cartoons by Raemaekers in their pages. When a rival paper, De Telegraaf offered him more editorial freedom and as much space as he could fill, he jumped at the chance.
“I was in prison for life, but they found I had many abilities for bringing civilization to our neighbors, so now I am a soldier.”
At the beginning of the First World War, Germany invaded Belgium. The Netherlands was neutral, so refugees streamed across the border. With them, they carried stories of German atrocities against the Belgian people. Raemaekers secretly crossed the border into Belgium to see for himself if the stories were true and returned outraged at what he had witnessed. He began to produce fiercely Anti-German political cartoons that burned with the passion of personal conviction.
The Massacre of the Innocents in Belgium
“All in good order. Men to the right, women to the left.”
Raemaekers’ cartoons were picked up for distribution by the British government in a series of propaganda pamphlets. The campaign was so effective, the Germans used their influence in the Netherlands to have Raemaekers tried for “endangering Dutch neutrality”. The charges were eventually dropped, but Kaiser Wilhelm II put a bounty of 12,000 marks on his head. When his wife began to receive anonymous threats, Raemaekers realized that his family was in great danger. He relocated to England, where his cartoons were celebrated in books and museum exhibitions, and syndicated to newspapers across France, Canada and the United States.
The German Tango- “From East to West
and West to East, I dance with thee.”
Raemaekers cartoons were instrumental in fighting against deeply entrenched American isolationism, and in 1917 the United States entered the war. Raemaekers quickly organized a lecture tour of the US and Canada, rallying the allies to support the French and mobilize against the Germans. The Christian Science Monitor said of Raemaekers, “From the outset his works revealed something more than the humorous or ironical power of the caricaturist; they showed that behind the mere pictorial comment on the war was a man who thought and wrought with a deep and uncompromising conviction as to right and wrong.”
Von Bethmann-Hollweg And Truth
“Truth is on the path and nothing will stay her.”
After the war, Raemaekers withdrew from international affairs, spending the last 25 years of his life quietly in France and Brussels. By the time he passed away in 1956, the world had pretty much forgotten him. But in his obituary, the New York Times summed up his career, saying, “It has been said of Raemaekers that he was the one private individual who exercised a real and great influence on the course of the 1914-18 War. There were a dozen or so people (emperors, kings, statesmen, and commanders-in-chief) who obviously, and notoriously, shaped policies and guided events. Outside that circle of the great, Louis Raemaekers stands conspicuous as the one man who, without any assistance of title or office, indubitably swayed the destinies of peoples.”
The Harvest Is Ripe
Today, Raemaekers is remembered more by students of the First World War than by cartoonists and artists. His work has been looked down upon with scorn by certain revisionist historians who argue that some of the more extreme atrocities depicted in Raemaekers’ cartoons never took place. It is always difficult in wartime to know what is happening behind enemy lines. Although Raemakers made several clandestine research trips to Belgium during the war, he also depended on second hand accounts, some of which have since been proven to be untrue. But no one denies that Raemaekers himself believed his cartoons to be completely factual.
A Fact- The brutalization by Major Tille of the German Army on a small boy of Maastricht was verified by an eye-witness.
This sincerity is what makes him important to cartoonists today. He deserves to be remembered, not as just a propagandist, but as an artist who stood up for what he believed. His passion carried him from being a provincial landscape painter to becoming one of the most powerful and influential individuals on the world stage. There is tremendous power in the art of cartooning. It’s not just “ducks and rabbits” and mindless children’s entertainment. It can change the world. No cartoonists should ever forget that.
The Future- “For freedom’s battle once begun,
though baffled oft, is ever won.”
For more detailed information on Louis Raemaekers’ life and career, see John Adcock’s excellent article at Yesterday’s Papers.
Animation Resources depends on your contributions to support its services to the worldwide animation community. Please contribute using PayPal.
Animation Resources is a 501(c)(3) California non-profit corporation. We are providing self-study resources and training material to animation professionals, cartoonists, designers, Illustrators, students and researchers. Animation Resource's Director, Stephen Worth can be reached at... firstname.lastname@example.org.
I would like to thank the membership of The International Animated Film Society: ASIFA-Hollywood for sponsoring my efforts to get this project off the ground during its first few years. In particular, I owe a debt of gratitude to ASIFA-Hollywood's president, Antran Manoogian. Without his unwavering support and valuable guidance this project would not exist. -Stephen Worth