September 17th, 2018

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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.

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Posted by admin @ 12:11 pm

September 14th, 2018

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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.

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Posted by admin @ 12:48 pm

September 13th, 2018

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Illustration: Gustaf Tenggren and the Genesis of the Golden Book Style

Gustaf Tenggren Tell It Again Book

Gustaf Tenggren Tell It Again BookGustaf Tenggren Tell It Again BookIn the twenties, Gustav Tenggren had been paid handsomely for his work. At Disney, his position guaranteed steady work. But the wartime economy changed all that. Publishers were no longer able to pay him to work a week or more on a single painting and jobs were scarce. He was forced to simplify his style.

While at Disney, Tenggren chaffed under the bit of anonymity. It’s said that Walt instructed his artists, "If you’re going to sign a name to your artwork, spell it ‘Walt Disney’." But Tenggren defiantly maintained his individuality, signing many of his key paintings for Pinocchio. He left the studio under unhappy circumstances, and was bitter about the whole episode. But he had learned one thing from Walt… the power of branding one’s self.

Gustaf Tenggren Tell It Again Book

Gustaf Tenggren Tell It Again BookGustaf Tenggren Tell It Again BookTenggren resolved that he would never again waste his skills building a reputation for someone else. He boldly built his name into the masthead of his first major publication after leaving Disney. No longer was it Andersen’s Fairy Tales or Tales By The Brothers Grimm… It was The Tenggren Tell-It-Again Book. This led to a series of self-titled books sprinkled throughout his career… Tenggren’s Story Book, Tenggren’s Jack & The Beanstalk, Tenggren’s Bedtime Stories, Tenggren’s Farm Stories, and many others.

This particular book is amazing, because it shows Tenggen’s thought process and refinement gelling into what would become the classic "Golden Book style". (Click on the Three Little Pigs images above for a vivid example.) He simplifies by going back to his roots… combining the character designs of his mentor John Bauer with the colored pencil and watercolor style of his successor on the Bland Tomtar Och Troll series, Einar Norelius. It’s fascinating to compare this new streamlined style with the techniques of traditional golden age illustration. See how Tenggren has distilled the essence of the earlier attempts into a clear and simple presentation that still has plenty of beauty and balance.

Gustaf Tenggren Tell It Again Book
Gustaf Tenggren Tell It Again Book
Gustaf Tenggren Tell It Again Book
Gustaf Tenggren Tell It Again Book
Gustaf Tenggren Tell It Again Book
Gustaf Tenggren Tell It Again Book
Gustaf Tenggren Tell It Again Book
Gustaf Tenggren Tell It Again Book
Gustaf Tenggren Tell It Again Book
Gustaf Tenggren Tell It Again Book
Gustaf Tenggren Tell It Again Book
Gustaf Tenggren Tell It Again Book
Gustaf Tenggren Tell It Again Book
Gustaf Tenggren Tell It Again Book
Gustaf Tenggren Tell It Again Book
Gustaf Tenggren Tell It Again Book
Gustaf Tenggren Tell It Again Book
Gustaf Tenggren Tell It Again Book
Gustaf Tenggren Tell It Again Book
Gustaf Tenggren Tell It Again Book
Gustaf Tenggren Tell It Again Book
Gustaf Tenggren Tell It Again Book

For inspiration, Tenggen goes all the way back to his roots… the work of his mentor, John Bauer. Here is one of Tenggren’s illustrations…

Gustaf Tenggren Tell It Again Book

And here is one by Bauer from the Swedish Christmas annual, Bland Tomtar Och Troll

John Bauer

He also appears to be familiar with the work of his successor on the Bland Tomtar Och Troll series, Einar Norelius. Here is Tenggren…

Gustaf Tenggren Tell It Again Book

And here is Norelius…

Einar Norelius

Gustaf Tenggren Tell It Again BookGustaf Tenggren Tell It Again BookBut halfway through Tenggren’s Tell It Again Book comes a huge breakthrough in design. Instead of the full page plates, Tenggren begins to float his characters over the white of the page, wrapping the text around the compositions. Background elements are reduced to small islands on the page, rather than extending out to the edges of a square bounding box. When I first got this book, I wondered why Tenggren had changed format halfway through. Clearly one reason was to save time and streamline the work of producing so many illustrations for a single book. But there was an aesthetic precedent to it as well. The answer has been hanging on my bedroom wall since I was a little boy!

Like Tenggren, my Grandmother was Swedish. In the early 1920s, she took my father to Sweden to visit his Grandparents. It was the only time he was able to meet them, since he lived in Peterborough, Canada, a very long sea voyage away from their farm in Goteborg, Sweden. My great grandparents gave my father a gift to take home with him to remind him of the visit- this Swedish folk art picture…

Gustaf Tenggren Tell It Again Book

When I was born, my father gave it to me to hang in my bedroom, and it’s been there ever since. Notice the similarity between the forward pitched perspective, the staging of the characters in clear profile silhouettes, and the simple rendering of the figures over the white of the paper on this print and the Tenggren illustrations that follow…

Gustaf Tenggren Tell It Again Book
Gustaf Tenggren Tell It Again Book
Gustaf Tenggren Tell It Again Book
Gustaf Tenggren Tell It Again Book
Gustaf Tenggren Tell It Again Book
Gustaf Tenggren Tell It Again Book
Gustaf Tenggren Tell It Again Book
Gustaf Tenggren Tell It Again Book
Gustaf Tenggren Tell It Again Book

Gustaf Tenggren Tell It Again BookGustaf Tenggren Tell It Again BookTenggren had discovered a way to simplify and refine his illustrations even further. Instead of busy backgrounds full of details, he used just enough information to place the characters, and focused his attention on composing the figures. Immediately after publishing this book, Tenggren produced The Poky Little Puppy, the book that was the model for the hundreds of Little Golden Books that followed over the next seventy years. By going back to his roots and synthesizing his Swedish cultural upbringing, Tenggren invented a style that now seems to us to be quintessentially American.

This is a perfect example of how immigrant artists of all kinds suited their artistic voice to their new lives in the United States in the first half of the 20th century. Carlo Vinci’s Italian heritage resulted in a superhero mouse who sang opera. Bill Tytla’s Eastern European roots helped him summon a devil in Fantasia. And Milt Gross’ Jewish upbringing expressed itself in comic celebrations of the ethnic vitality of New York City.

The melting pot of American culture sure is rich with cartoons!

Stephen Worth
Director
Animation Resources

IllustrationIllustration

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

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Posted by Stephen Worth @ 12:48 pm