Thursday, April 30, 2009

COOGY: Avalanche Country

From February 29, 1953:

I don't know the exact terminology but this is a sort of "proof" that the Herald-Tribune sent my father before the color was added. Unfortunately I don't have the original for comparison, and something tells me that this inked-only version might be nicer than what was published.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Paramount Cartoon: Mike The Masquerader (Modern Madcap, 1959)

In my previous post I asked if anyone knew the title of the cartoon that the initial model sheet (the elephant) was related to. In that, J Lee and Ken Layton answered the call: Mike The Masquerader. Bob Jaques took it one step further, and not only suggested that I post the cartoon, but then he actually had the nerve to send it to me (and thereby welcome me into the 21st Century, film clips online -- what a concept). Big thanks to all.

I did notice a bit of anachronistic chicanery: the model sheet is signed and dated 1960, yet the animation itself is copyrighted 1959. I went back and looked at the model. Although it's a stat, it appears that my father's signature and date are not. My guess is he received the model back from the studio the following year and signed/dated it then.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Stray Model Sheets I Have Known

Okay you Paramount junkies, which cartoon is the above stray model sheet from?: 1960, production number N-18-10. Gee, another smoking character by my dad. Looks to be a ratty cigar. I think I'm beginning to see a pattern here.

Below, we have another dobie model sheet drawn on Oct. 3, 1961 (not only a year, but day and month too) by the legendary Iwao Takamoto (at least the initialed signature constitutes a consensus of three people who say it probably is Takamoto's, but add the disclaimer, "Don't quote me on it.") Touche and his sidekick Dum Dum were part of the The New Hanna-Barbera Cartoon Series (1962-63).

I now give you a model sheet from Tubby The Tuba, OK-ed by Sam Singer and brought to you by the New York Institute of Technology. Why would I be in possession of it? Michael Sporn speculates that Johnny Gentilella farmed some work out to my dad (Johnny G. and my dad knew each other from way back, at least to the Paramount/Famous days.) Michael himself worked on this production, and when I read about his utter disgust with it, it makes me fall-on-the-floor laugh. Have you ever been witness to that in person? When someone hates something so much they can go on and on, practically cussing it in all sorts of venomously creative ways? I'm laughing right now! It only endears him to me more. Here is but one post of several where he's commented upon it. I always read between the lines.

Finally, here are two model sheets of Porky and Granny from my dad's singular directorialship when DePatie-Freleng were producing the Warner Bros cartoon characters: this one titled Corn On The Cop. Granny and Porky, an odd pairing for sure.

Years ago, on a cartoon forum, I'd read a comment on a hit-or-miss poll about it. The commenter stated that, to loosely paraphrase, "...the cartoon came out so miserable that Friz must have yanked Spector from the directorial ranks then and there and forbade him to ever direct again."

Well, everyone is entitled to their opinion, so I didn't then necessarily feel the need to comment. But I guess it must still be sticking in my craw these years later. All I would like to say now is, "And you my friend, what wonderful piece of animation have you produced lately?"

Damn! That felt great!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Paramount: Abner The Baseball - Script by Eddie Lawrence

Here's Eddie Lawrence's complete script for Paramount's Abner The Baseball. You'll be better served by clicking on his name (above) to learn about his career than whatever I can tell you, although I do know of several Spectorphiles who will likely be leaving additional comments about him and Abner.

I'll include Wiki's entry on the cartoon below. Wiki states the cartoon is actually sixteen minutes; certainly it's a two-reeler -- but not a full two reels -- it clocks in at 12:30 (as shown in the Academy's screening list at the end of this post):
The extended-length title was among the earliest, Abner the Baseball, a 16-minute special seen in November 1961, based upon a tale which was among the tracks on The Kingdom of Eddie Lawrence LP. It is a first-person account by an anthropomorphized baseball describing its experience of being hit out of Briggs Stadium by Mickey Mantle in a September 10, 1960 home run against the Detroit Tigers. Bizarre whimsy, as usual, was the order of the day.

By 1961 my father was freelancing cartoons for Paramount. In the cartoon's credits he's listed under animation design. However, in his personal ledger he billed and received for $1,950. I believe that would have been an unusally high amount just for the animation design, even for the abbreviated two-reller. Unfortunately, he didn't itemize his billing.

Addtionally, here's a letter that animator Johnny Gentilella wrote to my father, in which the final paragraph refers to Abner.

Abner was Paramount's submission for an Academy Award, although I don't know if it actually made the final list of nominees.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Coogy: Earth Day Along Route 66

Earth Day isn't until this Wednesday, April 22, but I thought I'd get a jump on the matter. No difference, since this Coogy is from July 12, 1953, long before the official Day began in 1970. Go get your kicks.

Route 66 holds a romanticized appeal for certain folks. It was the first paved highway, way back when, that ran from Chicago to Los Angeles. Via that route it went right through Arizona Coogy territory. My dad, by his own reckoning, drove across the country 13 times. and whether traveling back and forth from either New York or Florida to Los Angeles, eventually ended up on 66; that was all before this strip ran. Don't confuse the historic Route 66 with the modern interstate. These days it's unlikely you'll even find it on a map .

Thursday, April 16, 2009

MGM: The Adventures of Mr. Crippen

No drawings in this post, only writing. Hence, if you are the type who would rather not visualize images of what might have been, look away and all is forgiven.

My recent intentions have been to move away from my dad's MGM years, yet I continue to be compelled to spin freefall down the rabbit hole. Here's my latest semi-obsession: The Adventures of Mr. Crippen.

First of all, what about that title!? Most of you will undoubtedly glom onto the surname Crippen, for although it neither common or uncommon, there can be only one Crippen known to my dad, and that would be the animation industry's inimitable Fred. For the uninitiated, I'll provide a link to his imbd listing, but that hardly provides any real detail of the man's career. Why my dad chose the name, I don't know; but who cares? Perhaps a little inside joke.
In this character overview, my dad cuts a very broad path of Mr. Crippen's preternatural abilities. All but the title page are xeroxed, so I assume this got passed around the MGM offices.

Below is a story based on the above. What strikes me about this is that the idea does not seem to be conceived as a typical MGM half-hour one-shot, but rather as an episodic show. Can you imagine MGM doing a Saturday morning cartoon show at the dawn of the 1970s? What if my previous post, M. Flamingo was intended as such as well? And with the talent at the studio at that time, those of us young enough to remember might have had something substantial to bite on as an alternative to Filmation (which Anonymous commented upon in the previous post.) I can't say that if this were the case there would never have been a Filmation, but my dad might have been spared from writing "Sieze them!" a half-dozen times per episode.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


For several weeks now I've had an MGM folder with the title M. Flamingo And Others sitting next to my scanner. For a while the artwork mystified me. For my father, the drawing line is unique. Alternately, I kept thinking I either wanted to put this online or put it back in the box, because I couldn't quite put my finger on what was going on here.
It finally hit me yesterday and I kicked myself for not coming to the conclusion earlier. The somewhat squiggly and scratchy lines, drawn on MGM stock, do not really lend itself well to animation. But those long lean limbs that taper at the wrists and ankles, along with the pointy feet and the way the hands are (mostly) drawn, finally convinced me. My father, often a cartooning chameleon, is copping the style of a famous cartoonist, playwrite and screenwriter (to name just a few attributes) that he admired greatly.

You may disagree with me, but I've no doubt that in all these drawings my father is riffing somewhat on Jules Feiffer. In the 1960s-70s my father thought Feiffer had the best thing going, particularly as far as a newspaper strip was concerned. In the L.A. Times -- at the time -- the paper didn't even publish the strip in the usual comic strip pages; Feiffer had his own space near the editorial section, if I recollect correctly.

Below, even my father's penmanship seems to mildly take on
Feiffer's own calligraphic quality.

I find no online record that MGM ever made any Feifferesque animation. Coincidentally, Feiffer illustrated Juster's Phantom Tollbooth, which of course you know became an MGM production. My own take on all of these drawings is that, in an admittedly indirect way, they seem to take on Feiffer's spin on the middle-aged man dilemma...although maybe I'm just projecting out here.

Below, a pack of Tareyton cigarettes, probably atop
my father's drawing desk at the time, infiltrate their way into the picture.

In 1971 my dad, using his Academy card, took me to see Feiffer's Carnal Knowledge at the La Reina theater on Ventura Blvd. in Sherman Oaks. (This was before the La Reina was turned into a mini-mall several decades ago.) Boy, did that movie ever do a number on my adolescent libido!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Miscellaneous MGM

While I still have the MGM Animation/Visual Arts file handy, what do you make of this? It's drawn by my father, some of it on official MGM board paper. To my own knowledge MGM never issued a B.C. animated cartoon, although some of you might know different. Maybe it was a test that B.C.'s creator, Johnny Hart, vetoed. In this era MGM was co-opting the material of others -- Ted Geisel (Seuss), Tashlin (Bear That Wasn't) and Juster (Phantom Tollbooth), to name a few. In any event, to my memory, some of it looks like a straight rip from the actual strip.

Here are the type of drawings dear to my heart. Again at MGM, the inside innuendo stuff that cartoonists pass among themselves. Not knowing exactly what was happening at any particular moment which caused one cartoonist to playfully jab another, it's tough to say who drew what, and for what reason...but who cares. You'll notice a couple of recurring artists depicted.