Animation Magazine

10 Car­toons Ev­ery An­i­ma­tion Stu­dent Must Watch!

- By Jerry Beck

Icur­rently teach an­i­ma­tion his­tory at two col­leges in South­ern Cal­i­for­nia: CalArts in Va­len­cia and Wood­bury University in Bur­bank — two dif­fer­ent schools with pretty sub­stan­tial an­i­ma­tion pro­grams. I show over 150 an­i­mated shorts each se­mes­ter, and I feel all of them are cru­cial must-see films. Pick­ing a Top Ten of Ab­so­lute Musts is a bit dif­fi­cult. The list below is only my sub­jec­tive opin­ion – ev­ery other an­i­ma­tion pro­fes­sor I know would surely have a dif­fer­ent se­lec­tion. Since I lean to­wards Hol­ly­wood char­ac­ter an­i­ma­tion, my list es­sen­tially re­flects that. How­ever, a well-bal­anced his­tory course of this type must cover the whole spec­trum: An­i­mated fea­tures, Ja­panese anime, stop mo­tion, the silent era, tele­vi­sion car­toons, com­mer­cials … and yes, even a few lesser ef­forts to give the stu­dents some proper per­spec­tive. Not ev­ery­thing pro­duced in the golden age was a gem. But these are. Here are my top 10 es­sen­tials ev­ery an­i­ma­tion stu­dent needs to see be­fore they grad­u­ate, in my hum­ble opin­ion:


Ger­tie the Di­nosaur (1914). Not the first anid short, but a re­mark­able pi­o­neer­ing by a sin­gle artist. And what an ! Win­sor McCay, in gen­eral, should be ed and ad­mired for the whole of his ca­reer. How­ever, his Ger­tie was both an in­spi­ra­tional film and a game changer. In­spi­ra­tional, be­cause it gave a glimpse of what an­i­mated films could be — a mov­ing draw­ing that could make us laugh, and make us feel. The film it­self in­ter­acts with a live per­former — pure magic, which led to the game chang­ing as­pect: Sud­denly, news­pa­per car­toon­ists (and other car­toon­ing wannabes) of ev­ery stripe saw an op­por­tu­nity to make a ca­reer with an­i­mated films. Thus the stu­dio sys­tem was born, and car­toons be­came a sta­ple of ev­ery movie pro­gram.


Plane Crazy (1928). Plane Crazy is the first use cartoon – and al­though the Steam­boat Wil­lie, is more sig­nifi­his­tory of things, Plane Crazy is a ce of silent era rub­ber hose an­i­ma­tion. Es­pe­cially re­mark­able is that it is the work of es­sen­tially one man, Ub Iw­erks. Plane Crazy es­tab­lishes the scalawag per­son­al­ity of early Mickey Mouse – and, of course, his lady love Min­nie Mouse. This Pre-Code pi­lot film in­tro­duces Mickey as more of a rogue, and Min­nie with a lot more spunk. Walt Dis­ney and Iw­erks con­structed the story to show off the spec­ta­cle and per­ils of air­plane flight. It’s fast, funny, vis­ually ap­peal­ing – and the be­gin­ning of a cre­ative and busi­ness em­pire.


The Lit­tle Pigs (1934). Per­haps the sin­gle lar an­i­mated short of the 1930s, in sev­eral ways. Ut­most among film cracked the char­ac­ter an­i­maThree iden­ti­cal char­ac­ters, each with a dif­fer­ent per­son­al­ity. This caused rip­ples amongst the an­i­ma­tion com­mu­nity — and de­lighted au­di­ences at the time. The film’s story echoed cur­rent events as movie­go­ers treated the film as an “editorial cartoon” — the pigs rep­re­sent­ing the De­pres­sion Era pop­u­lace, the wolf re­flect­ing their op­pres­sors (the land­lord, the boss, the bankers, etc.). The song, “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf” be­came a huge hit and be­gan a trend of orig­i­nal songs be­ing cre­ated for an­i­mated films. Iconic!


The Old Mill (1937). Well, you just have to see his was Dis­ney’s first use of the

which added di­men­sional ually flat an­i­mated screen. But, non-nar­ra­tive Dis­ney short — there is no story be­yond our ob­ser­va­tion of birds and an­i­mals tak­ing refuge in a ram­shackle wind­mill dur­ing a thun­der­storm. The di­rec­tion, by Wil­fred Jack­son and Gra­ham Heid, is pow­er­ful, and the score by Leigh Har­line is un­for­get­table. A su­pe­rior piece of Dis­ney an­i­ma­tion — per­haps the pin­na­cle of Dis­ney’s work in shorts (Walt would soon devote his full at­ten­tion to his fea­ture films). A mas­ter­piece.


Su­per­man (1941). Max Fleis­cher is best known ye and Betty Boop car­toons, his work with sound car­toons, three sets, and the fa­mous “bouncing ball”. But my one choice from the Fleis­cher canon on this list is his adap­tion of the comic­book su­per­hero Su­per­man. Con­sid­er­ing the pop­u­lar­ity of comics in the movies these days, this 1941 film was the first-ever su­per­hero

story to reach the screen. It was also faith­ful to the orig­i­nal comic art, trail­blaz­ing a new style of ad­ven­ture an­i­ma­tion. (Be­fore this film, all an­i­mated car­toons were funny an­i­mals or fairy tales.) Us­ing dark “film noir” set­tings and real­is­tic an­i­ma­tion (later entries uti­liz­ing the Fleis­cher in­ven­tion, the ro­to­scope), this se­ries of Su­per­man car­toons in­spired later gen­er­a­tions in fu­ture at­tempts at se­ri­ous, dra­matic sto­ry­telling, in­clud­ing the work of Bruce Timm ( Bat­man: The An­i­mated Se­ries) and Hayao Miyazaki ( Castleas­tle in the Sky).


A Text Avery Cartoon. There are too many good e to se­lect only one. Fred “Tex”

the cartoon world in the an­i­ma­tor for Wal­ter Lantz (on e Lucky Rab­bitt car­toons for Univer­sal), then joined Warner Bros. as a di­rec­tor, cre­at­ing Daffy Duck and sig­nif­i­cantly con­tribut­ing to the cre­ation of Porky Pig and Bugs Bunny. At MGM be­tween 1942 and 1954, he cre­ated over 60 short mas­ter­pieces and char­ac­ters such as ul­tra-zany Screwy Squir­rel, sexy Red Hot Rid­ing Hood and the dead-pan dog, Droopy. But his one-shot won­ders — King Size Ca­nary, Bad Luck Blackie, Lucky Ducky, Mag­i­cal Mae­stro, Sym­phony in Slang, etc. — still in­spire to this day. Take your pick. Each one con­tains wild “takes”, fast-paced chases and bro­ken four walls ga­lore. Avery’s car­toons per­son­i­fied the wacky 1940s Hol­ly­wood cartoon, the ones given homage in Who Framed Roger Rab­bit.


Ger­akd NcBo­ing Bo­ing (1950). UPA’s Os­car­reak­through film, with a story by was an­other game changer. It’s the it­tle boy who speaks via sound ef­fects (the orig­i­nal con­cept was de­signed for a chil­dren’s record), with mod­ern art-in­spired de­sign that broke the Dis­ney mold for what a cartoon — heck, what an an­i­mated film — could look like. This in­spired artists around the world to try an­i­ma­tion, now that the no­tion that it had to look like Dis­ney (or Bugs Bunny or Tom & Jerry) was dis­pelled. UPA’s de­sign sense worked its way into all car­toons of the decade — in­clud­ing Dis­ney’s — as well as TV com­mer­cials and the bur­geon­ing TV car­toons of the late 1950s. This first McBo­ing Bo­ing film is de­light­ful as it is, but its in­flu­ence is deep and long lasting. A must-see.


One Froggy Evening (1956). Among the many cre­ated by Chuck Jones is which is not known by its ti­tle, rred to as “the cartoon with the singing frog.” A con­struc­tion worker finds a box con­tain­ing a rag­time-croon­ing toad and sees him as a key to fame and for­tune. Ex­cept the frog will only sing for the poor guy when he’s alone. The story (by Jones’ long­time col­lab­o­ra­tor Michael Mal­tese) is told with­out di­a­logue, with Jones’ comic poses and fa­cial ex­pres­sions mas­ter­fully car­ry­ing the show. The Golden Age of the Hol­ly­wood cartoon at its finest and the Warner Bros. Cartoon fac­tory at the height of its pow­ers (and that’s say­ing some­thing). El­e­gant and sub­lime.


The Ad­ven­tures of Rocky and Bull­win­kle and . This may be far afield of my

I think car­toons made for in the ‘50s and early ‘60s dee. The bud­gets were small, the an­i­ma­tion was lim­ited and the an­i­ma­tors had to re-in­vent them­selves for this new medium. Hanna-Bar­bera had blazed a trail and cre­ated a new in­dus­try — which cer­tainly thrives to­day. Among their com­peti­tors you can dis­cover a few nuggets of gold, none bet­ter than the car­toons and char­ac­ters from the Jay Ward stu­dio. Es­sen­tially made up of cast­away an­i­ma­tors from the bril­liant UPA, Ward and his crazy crew — in­clud­ing artists like Bill Scott, Pete Bur­ness, Bill Hurtz and oth­ers — came up with Mr. Pe­abody and Sher­man, Ge­orge of the Jun­gle, Dud­ley Do-Right, Su­per Chicken and many more. Rocky and Bull­win­kle were Ward’s sig­na­ture su­per-stars, and I show the first episode (“Jet Fuel For­mula”) in my classes. The art­work (an­i­mated, barely, in Mex­ico) is all over the place, but that adds to its charm. The voices and di­a­logue re­ally make it work. What we learn is: funny is funny no mat­ter what your age, or how you an­i­mate it.


The Dot and the Line (1965). Two by Chuck s one is com­pletely

from most of of a clever pic­ture e film ex­plores the ro­man­tic re­la­tion­ship be­tween two geo­met­ric shapes, a “dot” and a “line”. This sim­ple lit­tle premise is so beau­ti­fully ex­e­cuted (and nar­rated per­fectly by ac­tor Robert Mor­ley) it earned Jones an Academy Award. But more sig­nif­i­cantly, the short shows that get­ting emo­tion and hu­mor out of two es­sen­tially face­less out­lines is achiev­able and worth­while — and that ex­per­i­men­tal an­i­ma­tion can be very en­ter­tain­ing. Witty di­a­logue, gor­geous art di­rec­tion (by co-di­rec­tor Mau­rice No­ble) and a taste­ful score (via Eu­gene Pod­dany) com­plete the pack­age.

That’s not all, folks! There is no room here for me to add the es­sen­tial work of di­rec­tors such as Bob Clam­pett, Osamu Tezuka, Friz Fre­leng, Frank Tash­lin, Ward Kim­ball, Ge­orge Pal, John Hub­ley, Gene Deitch, Bruno Bozzeto, Richard Wil­liams, Ray Har­ry­hausen, Lotte Reiniger, Nor­man McLaren, Hanna-Bar­bera or Hayao Miyazaki (and dozens more…). You’ll just have to take my word for it. The his­tory of an­i­ma­tion is filled with great works that can in­spire the stu­dents of to­day to cre­ate the an­i­mated mas­ter­pieces of to­mor­row. This ”top 10” is only the be­gin­ning.

Jerry Beck is an an­i­ma­tion his­to­rian and cartoon pro­ducer and for­mer stu­dio exec with Nick­elodeon and Dis­ney. He has writ­ten nu­mer­ous books on an­i­ma­tion, in­clud­ing The An­i­mated Movie Guide, Looney Tunes: The Ul­ti­mate Vis­ual Guide and The 50 Great­est Car­toons. He teaches an­i­ma­tion his­tory at CalArts and Wood­bury University in Bur­bank. Beck is also the pres­i­dent of ASIFA-Hol­ly­wood.

 ??  ??
 ??  ??

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA