March 24th, 2014


Animation: John Sutherland’s Rhapsody of Steel

John Sutherland Rhapsody of Steel

Today we scanned a read-along storybook adaptation of John Sutherland’s industrial film, Rhapsody of Steel (1959). Sutherland’s studio was very influential in the mid-1950s, employing some of the best designers in the business. This film is no exception. Legendary stylists Eyvind Earle (Sleeping Beauty, Pigs is Pigs) and Maurice Noble (Duck Dodgers, How The Grinch Stole Christmas) collaborated on Rhapsody of Steel, and you can see evidence of both their hands everywhere in these pages. (Earle in the landscapes and textures, Noble in the bold primary and secondary colors…)

Time Magazine said of this film…

Rhapsody of Steel, a 23-minute animated cartoon that cost $300,000, is one of those rare industrial films with enough specific quality and general interest to play the commercial circuits. In the next few months it will be shown as an added attraction in several thousand U.S. movie houses. Made by former Disney Staffer John Sutherland, Rhapsody sets out to tell a sort of child’s history of steel from the first meteor that ever hit the earth to the first manned rocket that leaves it, and most of the time Moviemaker Sutherland proves a slick entertainer and a painless pedagogue. Unhappily, the music of Oscar-Winning Dmitri Tiomkin, who is probably the world’s loudest composer, bangs away on the sound track like a trip hammer. But the picture’s pace is brisk, its tricks of animation are better than cute, and the plug, when the sponsor slips it in on the final frame, is modestly understated: “A presentation of U.S. Steel.”

I have included a Quicktime of Rhapsody of Steel at the bottom of this post, and you can find many other John Sutherland fIlms at Archive.org. This book suffers from little tiny pictures and oceans of white space, so I’ve enlarged a bunch of the pictures so you can see them better.

John Sutherland Rhapsody of Steel
John Sutherland Rhapsody of Steel
John Sutherland Rhapsody of Steel
John Sutherland Rhapsody of Steel
John Sutherland Rhapsody of Steel
John Sutherland Rhapsody of Steel
John Sutherland Rhapsody of Steel
John Sutherland Rhapsody of Steel
John Sutherland Rhapsody of Steel
John Sutherland Rhapsody of Steel
John Sutherland Rhapsody of Steel
John Sutherland Rhapsody of Steel
John Sutherland Rhapsody of Steel
John Sutherland Rhapsody of Steel
John Sutherland Rhapsody of Steel
John Sutherland Rhapsody of Steel
John Sutherland Rhapsody of Steel
John Sutherland Rhapsody of Steel
John Sutherland Rhapsody of Steel
John Sutherland Rhapsody of Steel
John Sutherland Rhapsody of Steel
John Sutherland Rhapsody of Steel

Courtesy of Animation Resources supporter, Kevin Kidney, here
is a video of the film for you to view…

Rhapsody of Steel (Sutherland/1959)
(Quicktime 7 / 22 minutes / 50.5 megs)

Here’s a great post by Michael Sporn on Eyvind Earle.

Stephen Worth
Director
Animation Resources

Animated CartoonsAnimated Cartoons

This posting is part of the online Encyclopedia of Cartooning under the subject heading, Animation.

Posted by admin @ 3:04 pm

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March 14th, 2014


Animation: The History of the Chipmunks

Alvin Show

I got my start in animation at Bagdasarian Productions producing the NBC Saturday morning Chipmunks series, so I’ve always been interested in the history of the Chipmunks. It’s a real-life rags to riches story.

David Seville

Ross Bagdasarian Sr. (who went by the stage name "David Seville") was an actor who appeared in Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window and on Broadway in William Saroyan’s Time of Your Life. He wrote novelty dialect songs, including Rosemary Clooney’s huge hit "Come On-A My House", and released a few records but his successes never seemed to result in very much money in his pocket. He bought a tape recorder with his last $200 and played around with shifting the speeds, coming up with a novelty song titled "Witch Doctor". He got the single released and two weeks later, he found himself appearing on the Ed Sullivan Show performing the song.

Chipmunk SongChipmunk SongThe success of "Witch Doctor" gave him the idea of creating characters with sped up voices, so he quickly knocked out a Christmas demo titled "The Chipmunk Song" and took it to record executives Simon "Sy" Waronker, Theodore "Ted" Keep and Alvin "Al" Bennett at Liberty Records. The label was close to bankruptcy, but Bagdasarian convinced them that they might as well press Chipmunk singles with the leftover vinyl pucks and labels in their warehouse rather than just turn the unused stock over to the bank when the business went under. Production commenced and in just a few months leading up to Christmas of 1958, the record shot to the top of the charts, becoming one of the best selling singles of all time. Bagdasarian won two Grammy Awards, Liberty Records was saved from bankruptcy, and the Chipmunks became a household name with children all over the world.

Chipmunk LP

In 1962, the string of successful Chipmunk LP records led to a television series produced by Format Films. Story man Leo Salkin was the Associate Producer, working closely with Bagdasarian and a team of story artists to sketch up animated adaptations of the record routines and new stories featuring the characters. In his youth, Bagdasarian would take road trips across country with his cousin William Saroyan, singing songs and coming up with wild stories the whole way. One eccentric character they came up with on one of these trips was Clyde Crashcup, an inventor who only invented things that had already been invented. Salkin expanded on the premise and created a regular feature for it on the show.

Record Cover

Ross Bagdasarian Sr. sat alongside Music Director Johnny Mann on the piano bench humming out tunes for Mann to pick out on the piano and write down as musical notation. Jules Engel was the Art Director for the series, creating simple stylized backgrounds that set the tone for the whole series. Alan Zaslove, Gil Turner, Rudy Larriva and Osmond Evans directed the series, substituting clever rhythmic timing and spirited poses for inbetweens and smooth animation.

Jules Engel The Alvin Show

Even though it only ran for one season, The Alvin Show was one of the best television cartoons of the era. It was unique because it didn’t rely on the crutch of dialogue to make up for the limited animation. Instead, the show was built around music, clever timing and design. Like UPA’s Gerald McBoing Boing Show, many of the musical segments featured abstract animation and modern background paintings. But unlike the Gerald McBoing Boing Show, The Alvin Show always remained entertaining and fun- never didactic or self important. The voice cast included Bagdasarian as David Seville and the Chipmunks and Shepherd Menken as Clyde Crashcup. along with June Foray, Don Messick and Joe Besser as incidental characters.

Alvin Show

Ross Bagdasarian Sr. retired the Chipmunks in 1969, but by then he was a very wealthy man with a booming grape growing business. At one point, Bagdasarian’s fields were the largest supplier of grapes to Gallo Wines. He passed away from a heart attack in 1972. His son, Ross Jr. took over the franchise in 1980, creating more records- including the album "Chipmunk Punk", an NBC television series, prime time specials, and an animated feature- The Chipmunk Adventure. The character designs have varied widely over the years. The current CGI models look similar to the first incarnation of the characters, which appeared on record covers in 1958 and 1959. This Christmas, Fox will be releasing a new Chipmunks movie, Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel.

"Are you all ready, Chipmunks?" "OOOOOoooooKAYYY!"

ALVIN SHOW PRESSBOOK

Alvin Show
Alvin Show
Alvin Show
Simon may have read the dictionary,
but he still can’t spell "incidentally" correctly!

Alvin Show
Alvin Show
Alvin Show
Alvin Show
Alvin Show

ALVIN SHOW GREETING CARDS

Alvin Show
Alvin Show
Alvin Show

Stephen Worth
Director
Animation Resources

Animated CartoonsAnimated Cartoons

This posting is part of the online Encyclopedia of Cartooning under the subject heading, Animation.

Posted by admin @ 6:07 pm

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March 13th, 2014


Illustration: Bozo And His Rocket Ship

Bozo And His Rocket Ship

In 1946, a young producer at Capitol Records, Alan Livingston was assigned the task of developing a children’s line for the fledgling record company. He came up with the idea of a read-along record and book set featuring a circus clown named Bozo. The album, Bozo At The Circus sold over a million copies, and helped to push Capitol to the top of the sales charts.

Pinto Colvig As BozoPinto Colvig As BozoLivingston went on to create read-along sets featuring DIsney, Lantz and Warner Bros characters, but the most successful line was the Bozo series. Voiced by Disney story and voice man, Pinto Colvig with music by Billy May, Livingston wrote and produced Bozo On The Farm, Bozo And The Birds, Bozo Under The Sea, and this one… Bozo And His Rocket Ship. All of the sets were re-released in the LP era, but this one was heavily edited, for obvious reasons. In this album, Bozo makes a survey of just about every ethnic stereotype imaginable. But that isn’t the reason we’re presenting it here. We’re featuring the wonderful work of the illustrators, Norm McCabe and Cecil Beard.

Bozo at the CircusBozo at the CircusMcCabe was an animator at Warner Bros in the 30s and directed in the early 40s. After the war, he turned to commercial work and illustration. He returned to cartoon animation in the mid-1960s, animating the titles to The Pink Panther. He continued to work in the business until his death in 2006. Cecil Beard was an animator and story man at Disney and Columbia. He worked on the Fox & the Crow comic books with Jim Davis in the late 40s, and as an illustrator for Western Publishing in the 1960s. He passed away in 1986.

The most striking thing about these images are the compositions. Notice how the white of the page is used and how small windows in the backgrounds open onto other environments. There’s some really clever use of perspective and depth cues here. Enjoy!

Bozo And His Rocket Ship
Bozo And His Rocket Ship
Bozo And His Rocket Ship
Bozo And His Rocket Ship
Bozo And His Rocket Ship
Bozo And His Rocket Ship
Bozo And His Rocket Ship
Bozo And His Rocket Ship
Bozo And His Rocket Ship
Bozo And His Rocket Ship
Bozo And His Rocket Ship
Bozo And His Rocket Ship
Bozo And His Rocket Ship
Bozo And His Rocket Ship
Bozo And His Rocket Ship
Bozo And His Rocket Ship
Bozo And His Rocket Ship
Bozo And His Rocket Ship
Bozo And His Rocket Ship

Stephen Worth
Director
Animation Resources

IllustrationIllustration

This posting is part of a series of articles comprising an online exhibit spotlighting Illustration.

Posted by admin @ 3:01 pm

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