Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Canadian Animation - The Beginning

These cartoons are the earliest Canadian made commercial animation (as opposed to the NFB independent films) that I remember. These are meant to be entertaining.
The Wizard Of Oz is actually pretty clever, considering it was made for 10 bucks an episode. It's obviously influenced by UPA, but has its own interesting ways to do limited animation. It was animated at Crawley films, who also subcontracted some Roger Ramjet cartoons. The studio had its own unique style, and you can see it in The Wizard Of OZ and in the Ramjet shows they animated.

The Wizard Of OZ has one of the greatest cartoon theme songs. I sing it all the time.

Here's a puppet animated series that played in Canada all through the 60s. I don't know if it was made there, but every Canadian grew up with it. It also has a great theme song.

I like the designs a lot. Very original and appealing.

Rocket Robin Hood
This show had the best theme song ever.

It also must be the cheapest cartoon ever made. Each half hour episode consisted of about 3 minutes of new footage, and the rest was filled up with recaps of what you just saw before the commercial and the same short bumpers that explained the characters' personalities to you. Those bumpers were the best part.

There were 2 seasons of it. The best one was made by Shamus Culhane. I say "best" because it was so badly drawn and clunky. The designs were such that you didn't know whether it was supposed to be serious or not.

Learn about realistic hero Little John and His Barney Rubble eyes. Nice belt design too.

The 2nd season was taken over by Ralph Bakshi, who ruined the show by bringing good artists on to do the layouts. Then it wasn't as funny anymore.

Rocket Robin Hood is basically Canada's version of Filmation cartoons. It's comic book art dumbed-down in the theory that animation drawings need to have nothing specific about them so you can animate them. (Ruby Spears in LA actually had Jack Kirby designing and creating shows for them in the 80s, but they would never use his style, on the grounds that "you couldn't animate it". ---as if you could animate the crappy designs they did actually use.)

I always wondered about cartoons that tried to imitate comic book art, but then would completely tone down everything that we liked about comic books. They'd take out the individual styles that comic artists had, take out the violence and then have crappy stiff animation on top of it. What is the point of superhero cartoons?

Rocket Robin Hood is at least funny in its unabashed badness.

None of these cartoons influenced what became the "Canadian Animation style". Most animators who grew up with these cartoons thought of them as embarrassing garbage and swore to rebel against them and bring back "quality animation" when they grew up....me included. We all found "Art Of Walt Disney" book and were inspired to became a nation of the next Walt Disneys.

The Canadian style really started with the combination of the Sheridan College Animation Program and the early Nelvana specials.

Believe it or not, Nelvana began with what was supposed to be a rebellious bunch of guys bringing new ideas to cartoons. And they did it behind a stinky cheese factory.

I'm trying to find images of these Nelvana holiday specials and some early Sheridan college animation, like "Green Onions". If you can help me out, I can illustrate my next post on Canadian Style cartoons better. Send me some links!

This wasn't made in Canada but aired every day at lunchtime. It was made in England, which to Americans, might as well be the same place because you can fold Canadian money to show the Queen's butt.

They sure knew how to make theme songs in the 60s!

Bonus 2The image “http://doubledeckerbuses.org/blog/media/blogs/new/hercandnewt.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.

They ran this cartoon back to back with Dodo in Ottawa in the 60s. I would race home from school every day on my mustang bike with the banana seat to watch the lunchtime cartoon shows. The theme songs would send me into a frenzy. Then the cartoon would stink.

Hey do any of you fellow Canadians collect old Canadian commercials? I'd love to do a post about them:

Kraft Theater Recipes
Famous Canadian William Shatner for Loblaws "where more than the price is right"
The Dominion song: "Mainly Because Of The Meat"
The Kraft Teddy Bears
Beaver Lumber


Bitter Animator said...

Canada now seems to be the Flash center of the Universe. I've never been there but I picture it to be a huge urban sprawl of Flash studios, a futuristic Flash paradise.

Vanoni! said...

"They sure knew how to make theme songs in the 60s!"

Man. . .and how!

- C

Anonymous said...

Hey John, great posts about the Canadian style! I'm looking forward to learning more about it.

lastangelman said...

WNEW-TV & WPIX-TV in New York City used to show all those programs (damn, I haven't seen that Wizard of Oz cartoon in over thirty years!), these independent TV stations were always showing any stuff like Puppetoons, anime(Gigantor, Speed Racer, Simba, the White Lion), uncensored versions of Warner Brothers toons, Popeye cartoons, Three Stooges, Little Rascals, Famous/Paramount toons, Yogi Bear/Huckleberry Hound, all the great Terry Toons, not just the Mighty Mouse/Heckle & Jeckle/Li'l Roquefort stuff, The Mighty Heroes, Dodo The Kid From Outer Space, The Beatles, The Monkees, sheesh there was even an English import for deaf kids called Vision On (early Aardman claymation)- howcum all these independent stations HATE kids nowadays - now they show Jerry Springer-like exploitation shows, courtroom shows, infomercials - nobody likes kids anymore - and that includes PBS!

Allyn said...

i remember years ago seeing rocket robin hood posted in a forum comparing it to the ripping friends. personally the only comparison i could see was the bare legged heros.

Frank Macchia said...

great post john
cant wait to read more

your examples are hilarious...little john laughing at the squirrel was priceless....and i love how every statement ends with the phrase "in the fantastic years to come"...just to remind you its robin hood...in the FUTURE!

good stuff

David Gale said...

Interesting stuff! I had no idea any of these shows were Canadian.

Wizard of Oz theme song is a friggen masterpiece! I also love the end credits music with the hilariously dissonant end note.

diego cumplido said...

amazing! the answer keeps growing!! great post this one.

Jack Ruttan said...

This was a brilliant post. I also hate how cartoons today are either selling things to kids, or trying to be edifying and PC. No more fun, anywhere.

Except a little in adults' cartoons.

Cory and Tashina said...

oh Canada!

pappy d said...

Thanks for reminding me of "The New Adventures of Pinocchio". It's one of the few childhood shows that brings back fond memories.I used to think "Do-Do" was the worst animation ever made, but there's probably worse. Hercules had a great theme song. I remember that feeling of excitement & anticipation as though you were going to witness the might & passion of the ancient demi-god. Instead, you get 22 minutes of blinks & head bobs. Most of the screentime belongs to the centaur because he repeats the last part of each sentence so they can recycle the artwork.

Why do more Canadians shop at Dominion
...than at any other store?
Why, it's mainly because of the meat!
Mainly because of the meat?
Yes, it's mainly because of the meat! Because of the meat?
Yes, mainly because of the meat!
(continue & fade out)

This jingle launched a meat war.

The tenderest meat anywhere
or double you money back then & there
& Loblaws absolutely guarantees it!

Paul B said...

Hey John, That horse in the puppet show was the inspiration for your Mr. Horse in Ren & Stimpy?

JohnK said...

No, Mr. Horse is a generic horse.

Anonymous said...

"This is very true of Canadians who all think we talk like American newscasters."

We do, damn it...
Anyway, I'm no authority on Canadian cartoons. I avoid Teletoon like the plague. Interesting posts though!

Chris_Garrison said...

In the Dodo cartoon, I like how Compy (?) complains about how dusty the moon is. What a jerk.

David Nethery said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sven Hoek said...

It wasnt just theme music that was better, ALL music was better in the 60s. The creativity back then was amazing relative to today. Then the exec's took over and pissed all over everything. "I don't hear a hit there",

Same problems that exist in the animation world also exist in the music world. Bottom-line-robots wringing out any creativity and originality. So you get a bunch of junk that all sounds the same. Now artists are taking their art straight to the internet so they can retain some control of their work.

Long live John K.
Long live the King of Cartoons

Bill Perkins said...

Hi John. Great stuff, keep it up, loved the line about finding the "Art Of Walt Disney" book and being inspired to became a nation of the next Walt Disneys. Thats exactly what happened. Crawleys had a interesting history, a lot of good talent worked on "The Wizard of OZ" - Bill Mason, Blake James, Barrie Nelson, list goes on and on. Also Atkinson Film Arts grew out of Crawleys in the mid 70's and provided a lot of work over the years in Ottawa.

Jeffrey said...

Every year at (San Diego) Comic Con there is a hilarious evening event called "Worst Cartoons Ever!" hosted by cartoon archivist Jerry Beck. A lot of those Canadian cartoons (rocket robinhood, hercules, etc.) are fan favorites every year. Great stuff.

I always found the Canadian cartoons I saw as a kid in the 70's left me feeling somewhat disturbed and claustrophobic. So did some british cartoons (danger mouse) and japanese (jack and the beanstalk), so maybe it was a 60's/70's style, rather than a Canadian thing.

lastangelman said...

Was The Mighty Hercules really Canadian? I thought this studio, that also produced the first teevee The Felix The Cat cartoons, was American. Perhaps their partner, Adventure Cartoon Productions, was Canadian?

The Hercules theme song is sung by Johnny Nash, a Johnny Mathis wannabe.

JohnK said...

No, Hercules was American. I just put it up because of the theme song and that it was on in Canada every day when I was a kid.

David, thanks a lot!

I will definitely use those images in my next post!


Jim Rockford said...

I had no idea that these were Canadian cartoons!

I know that both the tales of the wizard of oz and new adventures of pinocchio were the earliest Rankin-Bass produced cartoons.

You're right about the theme songs,they were often times better than the actual cartoons.

Anonymous said...

This might be after your time, but didja watch Mr. Dressup?

I grew up with those NFB cartoons and weird Canadian live-action cartoons like Sharon, Lois and Brahm, and this puppet show that was filmed in this library I visited in Toronto all the time, and always hated them. The ugly thin lines with gaps in them everywehre pissed me the hell off.

Zoran Taylor said...

"No, Mr. Horse is a generic horse."

FINALLY, we have SOMETHING of John's work that could be called generic. Rules cannot exist without their exceptions.

As a fellow Canadian, I just have to laugh at these posts, because they are just so dead-on. I met a guy who worked at Nelvana and pretty much hated it. And when someone who stuck around Gracie Films until at least a year AFTER Mike Scully took over complains about a studio, you KNOW it was bad!!!!!

Gabriele_Gabba said...

Gosh this is so interesting to me, not being and American or Canadian, and yet both seem to influenced me and my youth.

I wonder if anyone has suggested you take this blog and make a book? I gotta say though, the beauty of this is that like minded people gather and discuss.

Bill Perkins said...

John, Michael Barrier posted some pics I had - the Sheridan Instructors in 1976 with Bob Clampett none the less, on his website - May 22 of this year. Check it out.

Mitch K said...

To David Nethery: I heard that Sheridan actually started its animation program because the studio that produced Rocket Robinhood went under, and was selling off all of their stuff for cheap. I don't know if it's true that that's the reason Sheridan started its program but, it's almost common knowledge that the Sheridan's equipment came from Rocket Robinhood, at the time.

David Germain said...

Hee Hee! I watched all of those shows while growing up in Canada. (I don't remember Dodo though). And just look how good I turned out. (Umm, nevermind)

Thanks for posting these, John.......... posting these, John.

tanuki suit said...

hi john. i'd love to buy some art from you--a colored sketch or painting. thanks! -casey

David Nethery said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
SoleilSmile said...

Thanks for the post, John. I mainly think of the NFB when Canadian animation comes to mind. Now you've opened new ideas for me to explore in Canadian animation studios.

Have you thought of doing something for the NFB? I would be a great honor for you.

The Butcher said...

I've never seen any of these. I'd have to say Hercules wins for both best theme song and shittiest cartoon.

Hercules! Hero of song and story!
Hercules! Winner of ancient glory! Fighting for what's right!
Fighting with his might!
With the strength of ten
Ordinary men!

Charlie said...

What about Uncle Chichimus?

Guilherme said...

In your last two posts about canadian style, you dont include the National Film Board.

What do you think about what have been produced there?

You probably know Cordell Barker with his great short features:
- The Cat Came Back
- Strange Invaders


J Lee said...

Hercules was part of the "New York style", which came out of Famous Studios in the mid-50s (mainly started by Al Eugster). Combine that with the familar use of the Winston Sharples music and you had Paramount, Hal Seeger and Joe Oriolo cartoons all looking the same, while the cross-breeding in the 60s between Paramount and Terrytoons had those cartoons looking pretty similar by the time both studios closed (action shows just were not New York's thing, as Hercules and the later Marvel Super-Heroes efforts showed).

Raff said...

For the benefit of your next post...

TVO's Eureka!


By the way are we going to dare bring up Brian Lemay?

Patrick Seery said...

Thanks John, now I'm humming the theme song of Rocket Robin Hood :P

Lisa_mynx said...

Hey, John...
He wasn't Canadian of course, but I wanted to mention the passing of Bill Melendez on Tuesday.
I did a minor tribute on my blog.

SoleilSmile said...

OMIGOD< Raff! I LOVED those cartoons!

I was a wiz at science largely due to them and 321 Contact. I wish they had the same type of shows for Algebra!

Ryan G. said...

Hey John.



lastangelman said...

Awwww! Another great animator passes away. He had great stories about working in Clampet's unit.

HemlockMan said...

The only one of those I saw as a kid was HERCULES. I really enjoyed it when I was in grade school. Especially the opening, after which, as you say, it would suck. Great theme song, though.

The rest of those are just bizarre.

jim said...

We watched Hercules on Channel 44 out of Chicago when I was a kid. We had to be dedicated to watch it -- we were 50 miles away, so we could get that station only on a clear day and if we tilted the antenna just so. And when the show would start, we would sing our own version of the lyrics:

Hercules, he was an ancient phony
Hercules, made of cheese and baloney
Fighting for his life
With a rubber knife
With the strength of ten
Plastic army men
Oh, the mighty Hercules!!

Joel Bryan said...

Holy cats! Hercules! That's the theme song I used to walk around singing almost nonstop when I was a kid.

Tomorrow, I unleash the Hercules theme song on class after class of unwitting ESL students!

Hero of song and story
Winner of ancient glory!

The rest of it gets kind of sexual.

He murders the sun and condemns us all to frigid death in order to glorify his show's logo!

Thanks for jarring that hidden memory loose...

Zoran Taylor said...

Lisa's right - John, you gotta do a post on Bill. We know you knew him and we wanna share some memories! Of his work, of him....I'd be interested, for example, to hear your perspective on how A Charlie Brown Chirstmas fits into the history of animation as seen by an insider. I've always been fascinated by the contradicitons: Animation that stands out for the drawings themselves being made in 1965 is amazing in itself, but then there's the fact that a serious jazz combo signed on to do a cartoon, or the fact that it was apparently scripted BY SCHULTZ, who was actually a cartoonist and thus could have boarded it, the paradoxically nuanced and believable use of untrained child actors for the voices, or the way Scribner pulled off such a relatively non-cartoony style while still drawing like himself......but now I'm writing it for you, so I'll shut up.

michael valiquette said...

I watched all these shows here in Ottawa as a kid in the seventies. By that time, most of them were part of the afterschool lineup of programming that also included old Little Rascals movie serials. There was another one on at lunchtime in the mid seventies, "Max, the 200) Year Old Mouse". Very limited animation, and too educational to keep me interested for long, but I'm pretty sure it had the same narrator as Robin Hood and maybe even some trippy Bakshi art direction.
My favourite(spelled the Canadian way), though, was an early Nelvana Christmas special, Cosmic Christmas, featuring 3 strange, alien wise men and and accident on thin ice that overcomes fear and prejudice. To my knowledge, it hasn't aired in decades.
Here's the image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:CosmicChristmas-Nelvana-1977.png
I love the design on the guy at far right.

Gerard D. de Souza said...

The Canadian connection with The New Pinnochio (as with its follower Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer), King Kong (ten times as big as man), Hercules, Speed Racer, (Rankin Bass and Trans-lux respectively) is that the voices were recorded in Toronto with Canadian actors. Dodo has that Canadian voice feel too. Heck, The Beatles series got farmed partially to Vancouver. I don't know if we had Cancon or something like that back then, but that might be why we saw so much of the cartoons you mentioned.
Of course Wizard Of Oz was animated at Crawley's but was a RB production.
Ya just don't here accordian like that no more, eh?

Gerard D. de Souza said...

Oh yeh.....
The RB animagic puppet animation was done inKorea Afaik....or so I heard Burl Ives say in an Ottawa Radio interview

Anonymous said...

Now those are what I call theme songs. -CBC

Paul said...

Thanks so much for the "DoDo"! I thought I was the only one that remembered this, channel 7 from Buffalo IIRC.

Anonymous said...

FYI - the Rocket Robin Hood animator went on to do a rare early 'music video' for Jethro Tull - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6qcPS-J0HTg

Thanks for the link to my youtube channel Comicvajra/Friar Tuck. A pleasure to cross paths with folk who appreicate animation.

Howlinoldowl said...

Am I imagining things or did Pinocchio and Oz shorts play in a half-hour show with another short that I can't remember? They used to rotate, and I think it ended up with two or three of each series per show.

Watching these clips has left me with a lingering feeling of nostalgia that's quite nice...except now I want to be 5 again!

Howlinoldowl said...

Am I imagining things or did Pinocchio and Oz run in a half-hour show with one other short? They used to rotate, and I think there ended up being 2 or 3 of each series per show.

Watching these clips made me all nostalgic, which feels great except I want to be 5 again!

Howlinoldowl said...

Am I imagining things or did Pinocchio and Oz shorts play in a half-hour show with another short that I can't remember? They used to rotate, and I think it ended up with two or three of each series per show.

Watching these clips has left me with a lingering feeling of nostalgia that's quite nice...except now I want to be 5 again!

Howlinoldowl said...

Am I imagining things or did Pinocchio and Oz shorts play in a half-hour show with another short that I can't remember? They used to rotate, and I think it ended up with two or three of each series per show.

Watching these clips has left me with a lingering feeling of nostalgia that's quite nice...except now I want to be 5 again!