Archive for the ‘walter lantz’ Category

Tuesday, July 13th, 2021

REFPACK040: Two Oswald Cartoons By Lantz

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REFPACK 040
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June-July 2021

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Walter Lantz Oswald

Walter Lantz’s Oswald
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"In Alaska" (1930) / "The Candy House" (1934)

Most cartoon fans are aware of Disney’s Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, but not many are familiar with Walter Lantz’s version of the character. At the Disney Studio, Ub Iwerks was the animator supervising the Oswald Cartoons. In New York Bill Nolan was performing the same duties on the Krazy Kat and Felix the Cat cartoons. Both animators were instrumental in refining the technique of rubber hose animation, even though they had never met. Iwerks was aware of Nolan’s work would go to the theater to see the latest Felix and Krazy Kat films when they were released. Likewise, Nolan made a point of seeing Iwerks’ Oswald and Alice in Cartoonland cartoons. A friendly transcontinental rivalry developed.

Margaret Winkler and Charles Mintz pulled the rug out from under Walt Disney, signing a distribution deal with Universal for a new series of Oswald cartoons, and hiring Walter Lantz to replace Disney. And as fate would have it, Carl Laemmle pulled the rug out from under Winkler and Mintz putting Lantz in charge of the Universal Cartoon Studio. Lantz chose Bill Nolan to supervise the series, and Nolan found himself directing the character Ub Iwerks created.

Walter Lantz Oswald


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Walter Lantz Oswald

Nolan was a master of rubber hose animation. One of the earliest Oswald cartoons at Universal, In Alaska, shows how much further he took the character than Iwerks ever had. His animation is loose, rubbery and sometimes surreal; but most of all, it is laugh-out-loud hilarious. As you still frame through this cartoon, check out the funny drawings. Even the incidental characters are amazing to look at.

Lantz and Nolan were partners at first, but Lantz had aspirations to become an independent producer with his own studio. Lantz and Nolan parted company in 1935 and Walter Lantz Productions was established to supply cartoons independently to Universal as a distributor. Lantz negotiated ownership of the characters, including Oswald and proceeded to shift the personality of the character to a blander disposition, more resembling Mickey Mouse.

Walter Lantz Oswald


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Walter Lantz Oswald

The Candy House is a transitional cartoon at the end of Nolan’s tenure at the studio. The difference between this cartoon and In Alaska is stark. The focus has shifted from funny drawings and movement to elaborate backgrounds and fairy tale themes. Once Nolan was gone, the Lantz cartoons struggled to find their own style for a while. Oswald was getting a little too tired to be the cartoon star of the studio, so they set to work developing new characters, like Pooch the Pup, a monkey trio named Meanie Miney and Moe, Baby Faced Mouse and Li’l Eight Ball; but none of them caught on. The Walter Lantz Studio finally found its legs when they started producing color cartoons, and the introduction of Andy Panda and Woody Woodpecker eclipsed Oswald, relegating him to the role of a side character.

Walter Lantz Oswald

Rubber hose animation doesn’t deserve its reputation of being primitive and old fashioned. It’s a valid style of animation that focuses on simple shapes and rhythmic movement, rather that realism and complexity. This simplicity allowed the animators to focus less on how the character looked and more on how they moved. Today, we associate rubber hose with the 1930s, but there’s no reason that modern ideas couldn’t be put across with simple shapes and rhythmic movement. The efficiency and freedom the style allows makes it a good model for internet animation.

REFPACK040: Oswald In Alaska
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REFPACK040: The Candy House
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Monday, January 25th, 2021

Animation: A Drawing Lesson From Walter Lantz

Walter Lantz

Walter Lantz was one of animation’s pioneers. His career in animation went all the way back to 1917, when he was an assistant working at the Hearst cartoon studio under the supervision of Gregory LaCava. He became a director for Bray, creating the Dinky Doodle series, where he appeared in live action alongside the animated title character.

He moved to Hollywood in 1927 and worked for a time as a gag man for Mack Sennett and Hal Roach. A friendship with Universal studio chief, Carl Laemmle led to Lantz heading up his own studio at Universal. For the nearly half a century, Lantz produced great cartoons starring Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, Andy Panda, Woody Woodpecker and Chilly Willy. He won ASIFA-Hollywood’s highest honor, the Winsor McCay Award in 1973.

Animation Resources supporter, Rich Borowy has been hard at work digitizing vintage television tapes from his personal collection for the Archive Database. Here is an example of the treasures he is contributing. This is an episode of the prime-time Woody Woodpecker Show from 1964. In this episode, Walter Lantz gives the kids in the audience a basic drawing lesson by showing a few of his staff artists at work. Included in this clip are Paul J. Smith and one of the few female animators from the golden age of animation, LaVerne Harding.

Walter Lantz Woody Woodpecker Show

Walter Lantz Woody Woodpecker Show

Walter Lantz Woody Woodpecker Show

The best part about this program is that it includes the original commercials… and they are all animated! There are Kellogg’s spots by Lantz’s own studio starring Woody, as well as examples from Hanna-Barbera and Jay Ward.

Walter Lantz Woody Woodpecker Show

Walter Lantz Woody Woodpecker Show

Walter Lantz Woody Woodpecker Show

Walter Lantz Woody Woodpecker Show

Click on the link below to see a clip from this great TV program. Many thanks to Rich Borowy for sharing this with us!

Walter Lantz Woody Woodpecker Show

Woody Woodpecker Show (Lantz/1964)
(Quicktime 7 / 13.8 megs)

Stephen Worth
Director
Animation Resources

INSTRUCTIONINSTRUCTION

This posting is part of an online series of articles dealing with Instruction.
Animated CartoonsAnimated Cartoons

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

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Tuesday, May 12th, 2020

Exhibit: Grim Natwick- The Greatest Animator Who Ever Lived

Grim Natwick

Grim Natwick with his "kid assistant",
Chuck Jones (Iwerks/1933)

PART FOUR: GRIM’S STUDIO GAG DRAWINGS AND CARICATURES

Like most animators, Grim Natwick had a unique sense of humor. He was famous for his limericks, scribbled in on the margins of his animation drawings. Here are a couple of doozies by Grim…

CaricatureCaricatureI’ve broken my friendship with Babbitt
Because of his slovenly habit
Of eating out loud
And I’ve never been proud
Of his nibbling bones like a rabbit!

"It’s true!" said the painter to the prude
"I sketch all my ladies in the nude
A dress is OK
For a window display
But on my girls, it wouldn’t improve."

A nail sitting Hindoo said "I
Have perched here and gazed at the sky
Till I’ve punctured my hide
Fillagreed my back side
I’m damned if I’ve ever known why!"

Grim Natwick

Grim prized his studio gag drawings above all the others in his collection. He described how they came to be for me one day…

Grim Self CaricatureGrim Self Caricature"At Lantz, we all worked very hard. But occasionally, we would need to take a break and have fun. One of us would draw a quick caricature of one of the other animators, or do a cartoon on a funny situation that had taken place. He’d tiptoe out into the hallway and pin it up on the board and sneak back to his desk. Pretty soon, someone else would come along and see the drawing and run back to his desk to answer the gag, pinning up their sketch on the board alongside the other one. By the end of the day, the board would be covered with funny drawings. We’d pull them all down and start all over again the next day."

Lu Guarnier
Grim’s most treasured folder of drawings was the gag
sketches involving Lu Guarnier’s window at UPA New York.

THE ANIMATOR & HIS ASSISTANT
A Series Of Studio Gag Drawings From UPA NY (ca. 1955)

As an "animation historian", I’ve never been as interested in the dates and figures related to animation as much as the process- and how it felt to be a part of a golden age studio. These sketches give a clear indication of that, better than words could ever tell…

Animator and Assistant UPA NY
Animator and Assistant UPA NYAnimator and Assistant UPA NY
Animator and Assistant UPA NYAnimator and Assistant UPA NY
Animator and Assistant UPA NYAnimator and Assistant UPA NY
Animator and Assistant UPA NYAnimator and Assistant UPA NY
Animator and Assistant UPA NYAnimator and Assistant UPA NY
Animator and Assistant UPA NYAnimator and Assistant UPA NY
Animator and Assistant UPA NYAnimator and Assistant UPA NY
Animator and Assistant UPA NYAnimator and Assistant UPA NY

CONCLUSION

CaricatureCaricatureWell… It says "conclusion" up there, so I better get to telling you why Grim Natwick was the greatest animator who ever lived. I don’t know how many readers of this blog have had a chance to digest all of my articles from this week. It certainly has been very difficult to summarize a career as long and varied as Grim Natwick’s. I had always intended to write a book on Grim, but the weblog may actually be the best format for telling his story.

Books on animation history are usually organized by studio. If you read Leonard Maltin’s great book, Of Mice & Magic, Grim Natwick’s name is sprinkled throughout six chapters. That might give you the idea that Grim was a marginal figure who moved around a lot. But when you read his life story chronologically- not inserted into six separate chapters- you realize that Grim’s life story IS the story of the history of animation. The history of animation isn’t the story of studios and characters- it’s the story of the artists whose talents created the magic up there on the screen.

Grim Natwick was the greatest animator who ever lived. But I still haven’t told you why yet!

CaricatureCaricatureGrim loved to tell long, convoluted stories that would inevitably ramble back around to his point. Here’s a story like that…

Antran Manoogian, president of ASIFA-Hollywood heard that Grim was in town and was celebrating a birthday, so he threw a party for him. As he was blowing out the candles, Grim announced that he was pleased to spend his 100th birthday in such fine company. Everyone in the room gasped. No one had any idea that it was Grim’s 100th birthday. The room burst into applause. Antran drove Grim home after the party. In the car, Grim was uncharacteristically quiet and sheepish. He finally said, "Young man, I have a confession to make… I told everyone that I was 100, but I’m only 97." Antran laughed and promised Grim that ASIFA would throw him an even better party in three years- the best birthday party ever.

Antran kept that promise. when Grim turned 100, ASIFA threw a huge celebration at the Sportsman’s Lodge in Studio City. Hundreds of people attended, including co-workers from every studio Grim ever worked with. Grim described it as "the most illustrious gathering of animators since Winsor McCay’s testimonial dinner in the late 1920s". At the end of the evening an announcement was made for all of Grim’s former coworkers and assistants to gather on the stage for a photo. Animator, Michael Sporn recently posted this photo…

Grim Natwick's Birthday Party
Grim Natwick's Birthday Party

Grim By ChuckGrim By ChuckThree of Grim’s former assistants were chosen to address the audience that evening… Walter Lantz (Hearst), Chuck Jones (Iwerks) and Marc Davis (Disney). All three spoke of Grim’s generosity and friendship. They credited Grim with teaching them their trade and inspiring them to become better artists. Those three men weren’t alone in that. Dozens of other great animators… Bill Littlejohn, Irv Spence, Willard Bowsky, Berny Wolf, Tissa David, Shamus Culhane- too many to mention- all traced their own accomplishments back to Grim’s example when they were just starting out. Grim’s "kid assistants" went on to form the artistic core of every major animation studio in the United States.

Grim is the greatest animator who ever lived, not just for his own accomplishments, but for what he shared with the people he worked with. Animation was never just a job to him. It was his passion. He instilled that passion in his assistants, and those assistants went out into the world and became great themselves. Grim Natwick was the catalyst who made the entire history of animation possible. That’s why he is the greatest animator who ever lived.


EXHIBIT CATALOG: GRIM NATWICK’S CARICATURES & GAG DRAWINGS

Grim Natwick
Top Row: Caricatures of Grim (left to right) Self caricature* (ca.1926/Hearst) / Self caricature with assistant, Chuck Jones* (1933/Iwerks) / Caricature of Grim on studio outing to Catalina by Chuck Jones (1933/Iwerks) / Caricature of Grim in his fancy suit (ca. 1942/Lantz) / Caricature of Grim at his "studies in Vienna" possibly by Art Heinemann (UPA ca.1955)

Middle Row: (left to right) Two sketches depicting the love/hate relationship between Emery Hawkins and Grim Natwick* (ca. 1944/Lantz) / Bill Nolan at the Krazy Kat Studio* (ca. 1926) / Studio gag drawing (ca. 1959/Robert Lawrence) / Studio gag drawing* (ca. 1936/Disney)

Bottom Row: Tony Sgroi and "Bugs" Hardaway (ca. 1947/Lantz) / Manny Gould* & Sammy Stimpson* (ca. 1926/Krazy Kat Studio) / Bill Nolan with a cold* (ca. 1919/Hearst) / top: Dick Lundy* (ca. 1936/Disney) bottom: Freddie Moore* (ca. 1936/Disney) / Studio gag drawings* (ca. 1929/Fleischer) / Caricatures of Jack Carr* (ca.1923/Krazy Kat Studio)

* denotes a drawing by Grim Natwick


Grim Natwick Exhibit
Assistant Archivist, Joseph Baptista views the exhibit.

GRIM NATWICK’S SCRAPBOOK

This travelling exhibit has appeared at the ASIFA-Hollywood Animation Archive in Burbank, CA and at the South Wood Historical Society Museum in Wisconsin Rapids, WI, birthplace of Grim Natwick.

Stephen Worth
Director
Animation Resources

TheoryGrim Natwick

This posting is part of an online exhibit entitled Grim Natwick’s Scrapbook.

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