Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Animation Doing Its Job


Here's one of Friz' best cartoons. I'm trying to figure out the date. it says 1949 on the title card, but 1951 in his Flimography online. Oh well, the clip here is in a very 40s style of animation.
Friz' drawings tend to be very conservative - they aren't obviously wacky like Clampett's or Avery's, but in a few of his cartoons the animators breathe a lot of life into the characters just by the way they move them. This isn't very typical of Friz' cartoons, especially if this is really from the 50s. Friz usually makes his animators animate within the confines of a tight invisible box.

I feel like the characters can't stretch their gestures out far enough without hitting a wall. Ever have one of those dreams where you are trying to move or run, but some force is pushing back against you? That's how I feel when I watch a lot of Friz cartoons. But not this one.This is a funny anticipation for Sylvester's take. The top of his head floats above his other head for a frame.

This run is really funny and beautifuly animated. No limited animation, comic book, strip, live action or any other medium can give the audience this kind of satisfaction. This is purely dependent on the animator's skill and sense of humor.

This is the thing that only animated cartoons can do and that everyone refuses to even try for any more. Even when they have the money.
I love how Sylvester is scrambling along the floor and begging for the can opener by opening and closing his outstretched hand.

This post is the beginning of a little series about 40s style animation. It's my opinion that the 40s was the period that most took advantage of what animation is really capable of. It never got any better.

Even 3rd string directors and studios in the 1940s turned out animation that was brilliant compared to anything from the last 40 years. Animation that was entertaining completely on its own level, regardless of the context of the story or the quality of the sound track.

Canned Feud happens to be a funny story and well directed, but the great animation brings it to a whole other level.

Studios like Walter Lantz, Terrytoons and even Famous managed to turn out cartoons in the 1940s that were entertaining in spite of the lack of direction or point of view. I promise to prove it.

http://www.cartoonthrills.org/blog/Friz/49CannedFeud/1SylvesterScramble.mov

Next: Great acting in a Foghorn Leghorn cartoon.

48 comments:

Zoran Taylor said...

Wait, y-you.....you posted a FRELING cartoon?! YOU TRAITOR!!! Haha...no, I agree, this one is great. With the original colours, too! Freling could be as good as all the rest, he just didn't have the same magic touch. But his best cartoons are some of Warner's best cartoons.

patrick said...

I'm glad you did a post on this film, I've always thought the animation was beautiful.

Have you seen "Dog gone cats" by Art Davis? There's some brilliant stuff in there!

lastangelman said...

Hey, I betcha' this sequence was drawn by Art Davis.

Larry Levine said...

Friz Freleng's output was great throughout the 1940s. Though he wasn't on the level of Chuck Jones' artistry, his Mike Maltese period produced many of the greatest cartoons of that decade.

Sadly, his tired paint by the numbers '50's output is what people usually think of & the main reason his best work is often overlooked.

SoleilSmile said...

As a kid I loved Freeling's cartoons. I still do, despite the fact that they never pushed the envelope in design. A few years ago, a friend of mine named Eric Wiese told me what the magic was: TIMING.

Friz was friggin' brilliant at it. His timing is what makes those cartoons watchable. That and I love the dance sequences. I love to watch the disproportionately small feet on his characters cut a rug! I wonder who the animator was? Do you know John?

Anyhoo, I will definitely pay closer attention to Friz' timing and try to incorporate it in my future films. The man was an inspiration although a subtle one. Saddest thing for me is that he died the weekend before my first day of my WB internship, so I never got to meet him.

Sniffle...


...Carry on Dearies

Niki said...

wow, nobody here could have known that, I've got to learn how to make these kind of analysis. I'll go watch it again now.

Miguel said...

One of my favourites cartoons. Quite a humble but brilliant piece.

Look at these scenes:
http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x1pjkc_canned-feud-1

mdouglas said...

I love the franticness of that run. I always look forward to these little analytic tidbits. Thanks!

Niki said...

Hey john, I just got this in my head but, are there any golden age animator's that the others may have thought was particularly bad? or maybe an oddball that just avoided the rules sometimes?

Sven Hoek said...

Beautiful cartoons. The forties really were the best in animation, better than anything in the past 40 years (except of course for John K. cartoons).

Can't wait, I say, I can't wait for the Foghorn Leghorn post.

JohnK said...

"I just got this in my head but, are there any golden age animator's that the others may have thought was particularly bad? "

They all thought all the others were bad, Niki.

Malcolm said...

Correct me if I'm wrong, that friz freling's biggest concern in his cartoons was musical timing. That might be why he didn't experiment with other things like the other directors.

I love this cartoon!

Deniseletter said...

Hi John,I love the drawings and movement of this Sylvester cartoon also I consider the the beginning title that reads "Canned Feud" by Paul Julian.These elaborated background titles are impressive to me they give something more valuable to the cartoon,they look like a quality poster.Could you put an article about the beginning titles of cartoons? That would be very interesting

JohnK said...

Malcolm: They all did musical timing back then.

Denise: There is a site that has lots of cartoon title cards. Search "Dave Mackay" and Looney Tunes title cards

Deniseletter said...

John,many thanks!I'll see it.

craigp said...

i love the layot of that take, how sylvester is the middle where counter meets the back wall.
it's funny how even though he's a cat he's almost as tall as the counter but the action and emotions are so believable that it doesn't even matter.

so what do these cartoons in contrast with the 1930s cartoons that makes them take "advantage of what animation is really capable of"?

Raff said...

>> The top of his head floats above his other head for a frame. <<

Are you sure that wasn't a mistake at the checker or the camera department? I imagine that if it was on purpose, they'd smear or elongate the bottom of the floating head down for a zip-tween of sorts.

Mitch L said...

This is great information. Thanks!

Caleb said...

I love that floating head frame! That's a perfect example of what's been missing from most cartoons for 50+ years. They're focused on how the eye will perceive the movement, not how it looks as a static image. This is how cartoons can always move faster than any frame rate.

"No limited animation, comic book, strip, live action or any other medium can give the audience this kind of satisfaction."

Amen.

saru said...

I don't understand the Sylvester antic. Was the floating head a mistake or was this an animation trick?

saru said...

nvm caleb answered my question... lol! Thanks Caleb!

Caleb said...

Saru: It's painted onto a cell, so I don't think it's a mistake. Sylvester's head dips down (anticipation), before leaping back up in excitement. Imagine what it would look like if he just jumped up from the first standing position, without using anticipation.

The ghost images and blur are another way to trick your eyes into thinking it's happening faster than 24 frames per second.

trevor said...

Friz was friggin' brilliant at it. His timing is what makes those cartoons watchable.

I'm getting just a little tired of hearing over and over again that Friz was a master of timing. The fact is, there wasn't a single director or animator at Termite Terrace that WASN'T a master of timing... and Friz wasn't the best of them.

Chuck was good at timing as it pertained to storytelling. He knew just how long to withhold a reveal moment, or to keep an expression.

Clampett's gift for timing was an extension of Tex Avery's. Tex proved that you didn't have to be slow so the audience could take everything in and that you could do things viscerally.

Tashlin's experiments with speed broke new ground in timing, and that leaves McKimson who, being arguably the best animator ( notice I said 'arguably' ) for the longest time had probably the best understanding of frame rates to motion.

My feeling about Friz is that he did a number of really good cartoons, but didn't do anything that really stood out. My personal Friz fave is 'Birds Anonymous', a cartoon that, while funny and beautifully acted, does little to take advantage of the artistry of the medium ( except for those great still poses of Sylvester trying to sleep ).

I get the feeling that since he has a longevity with the studio, plus that he started in Kansas with Disney, that people don't feel right about pointing out that he was not the most apt of the group.

Since he had a unique way of working out the timing on the musical bar sheets I think people use that as an excuse to give him credit above his countrymen. It may have been a unique way to do it, but as John pointed out, all the directors timed out their cartoons to music anyway, so what's so special?

Friz is a capable director, but let's look at it this way: incapable directors didn't work at Warners'. And his timing was little more than a job requirement that he fullfilled.

- trevor.

JohnK said...

Bob Clampett, Bill Hanna and many other cartoon directors also worked out their timing on bar sheets.

Roberto González said...

I agree with Trevor,I don't really see Freleng being better at timing than any other director. One thing we could probably give to Freleng is Sylvester's personality? I don't know for sure who created Sylvester but most of his cartoons were directed by Freleng (and some of them, later, by McKimson). The more I watch those cartoons the more I like Sylvester as a character. He's kind of an underrated Looney Tune. Sure, he's popular but most of the people like Tweety more than him. Freleng ruined Tweety but Sylvester is always great. He's also great in McKimson's cartoons, but probably Freleng is the one who developed him more?

Yes, this cartoon is pretty funny. Another one I really like, talking about Freleng, is Slick Hare, though it probably doesn't have this type of cartoony acting in it.

trevor said...

Thus making Friz even less unique.

- trevor.

David Germain said...

John Carey may have something to do with the exuberance of Canned Feud. He did animate in Clampett's unit when they were cranking out those Porky Pig cartoons. I'm sure the more energetic scenes were done by him (along with Art Davis as lastangelman pointed out).

HemlockMan said...

I think you're right on target with your comment concerning cartoons of the 1940s. I don't think I've seen the "Feud" cartoon since I was a very little kid. I only vaguely recall it as a cartoon where Sylvester desperately needed a can opener.

(Are you going to mention how the studio ripped off Kenny Delmar? I wrote a brief essay about that in my own blog.)

J.R. Spumkin said...

...I just saw this cartoon. Personally, I like Friz Freleng's cartoons (when my parents first showed me a Looney Tunes cartoon in my wee early stages, he was the first name other than Mel Blanc's that I memorized), but I never felt they were at all that wacky and out there.

Still...this is pretty awesome.

What is this mystery of timing I hear so much about? I cannot even fathom how someone can understand timing in a cartoon.

Maybe it's because I'm inexperienced and know nothing about animating other than drawing characters. Or it could be that for years up till I found your blog that my eyes have been saturated in the fattening clogging sugar coated crap shoot known as Disney cartoons.

Someone: link me to a John Kricfalusi post on timing as to enlighten my feeble brainmeats.

SoleilSmile said...

Trevor, when I mention timing, I mean the pacing of the entire cartoon. There's room to make timing mistakes even when the cartoon is set to music.
My sense of timing hits a brick wall as soon as I don't have a track to use as a guide when I slug my films, hence the reason why all my films are musicals. So, I can appreciate Friz'cartoons like Bugs Bunny Rides Again and Jekyl and Hyde hare. That scene in the closet is both funny and frightening. I just love it!

saru said...

That was very helpful! I watched the cartoon, I see now that the floating head helps with the surprised emotion of Sylvester after he finds out that the sneaky mouse has his can opener. lol! It's interesting to think that without the floating head Sylvester would not have looked as excited as he was. Thanks! I couldn't find the vid on youtube so I looked it up on google: Canned Feud

trevor said...

Roberto:

Clampett created Sylvester, although he didn't have a name and his nose was black.

Soleil:

"Well my friend, this is just where you and I defer".

It wasn't until I got my first Looney Tunes book in '87 ( "That's All Folks" by Steve Schneider ) that I pieced together that I hadn't enjoyed most of Friz's cartoons passed the 1940's.

I'm sure Leon Schlesinger leaving the studio had something to do with it. He was constantly telling the other guys to be zanier like Tashlin, Clampett and Avery.

- trevor.

Elana Pritchard said...

I look forward to hearing more...

Cartoon Crank said...

Great animation and great cartoon. Definitely at the top of Freleng's best ones.

Clampett created Sylvester, although he didn't have a name and his nose was black.

This is an interesting lie that seems to be immediately disproved when pointed out that Freleng and Mike Maltese used the character (and the voice) twice a full year before Clampett did. Clampett did create Tweety and had the idea to pair the two characters (though his ideas for the film were scrapped when he left).

Caleb said...

Doctor Spumkin: Here's a sweet-ass post by John on timing.

and for anyone who wants to know, here's a candy-ass post I did on making a link in your comments

JohnK said...

"This is an interesting lie that seems to be immediately disproved when pointed out that Freleng and Mike Maltese used the character (and the voice) twice a full year before Clampett did."

I don't see how that proves anything.

I also don't see how anyone who wasn't there would really know who created what. Unless you have a time machine.

Tom McKimson told me definitively that Clampett created Sylvester and that Tom did the very first drawing of him.

Everyone who was there has a different story about the creation of every character, so there's no way today that anyone can possibly know who is telling the truth.


All we know for sure is that they made some damn good cartoons back then and that each guy had his own style.

Cartoon Crank said...

It proves that there was a gap between production on Freleng's Sylvesters and Clampett's. Both of the Freleng Sylvesters have earlier production numbers than Clampett's. Unless I'm horribly mistaken, at least the first of Freleng's shorts was completely finished before Clampett even started his!

Of course, in the end who cares who created what. What matters is that the cartoons turned out great and they all had funny and unique takes on everything.

Raff said...

Nope, floating head isn't a mistake, I see on the Google video it happens twice. In the mov file it looks glitchy.

I think Freleng liked the staircase-to-the-basement schtick. It crept up often in the Pink Panther cartoons.

C. A. M. Thompson said...

I get the feeling Friz might have given him the name "Sylvester", perhaps rather than created the entire character. I remember hearing the name in a lot of Friz cartoons that predate the creation of the character. Just speculating though, it probably doesn't matter.

I think Art Davis was great as both an animator and director for WB, you should do a post on one of his cartoons.

Bruce said...

Which reminds me, didn’t you mention at one time you had once worked with Friz? Maybe in a future post, could you tell us about your personal experience when you were working for him?

I hope you reply and thank you for the analyst for this funny cartoon.

From an aspiring animator/ artist

SoleilSmile said...

Oh, the Pink Fink. A gorgeous Pink Panther cartoon--largely due to how it's paced and boarded:)
Oh, the great cartoon with Spike, Chester and the escaped panther.
HiLARIOUS!

I'll always champion Freeling. I love him just as much as Jones. The other WB directors I'm kind of even on. They made cartoons that were out of my range of understanding, but, still appreciate them. So, I watch the remaining directors for draftsmanship.
IMHO

Roberto González said...

Heh, I forgot about Kitty Kornered. I love that cartoon, too. It's odd that Sylvester's nose was black in that one, after other cartoons with his red nose.

David Germain said...

I took the liberty of presenting this confusion over who created Sylvester and when to one Michael Barrier. Here's what he had to say:

Owen Fitzgerald told me (in a 1991 letter) that his last layout work for Friz was in early 1944; he remembered that Hawley Pratt took over for him on
a "Sylvester & Tweetie Pie" being made around the beginning of that year.
That "Sylvester & Tweetie Pie" could only have been Life with Feathers, which was production-numbered as the second Merrie Melodie in the 1944-45 release season. (Hare Trigger was Friz's next Merrie Melodie, and Pratt has screen credit for layout--the first such credit on a Freleng cartoon.)

Peck Up Your Troubles, also with Sylvester, was production-numbered as the tenth Looney Tune in the 1944-45 season. Kitty Kornered was
production-numbered as the first Looney Tune in the 1945-46 season. As you've noted, it wasn't released until June 1946, but the release dates for
all the Warner cartoons were slipping by then because of war-related delays in color processing.

It seems very unlikely, to put it mildly, that Kitty Kornered was actually in production before Life with Feathers, when the limited evidence available
points to its going into production about a year later, in early 1945. (It was the last Looney Tune Clampett finished before he left the studio; The
Big Snooze was next.)

Best,

Mike


Also,

Tom McKimson told me definitively that Clampett created Sylvester and that Tom did the very first drawing of him.

Wouldn't that make Tom McKimson the creator of Sylvester instead of Clampett (assuming Tom's account is correct)?

JohnK said...

It doesn't matter what carton went into production first. It matters who actually came up with the idea and design for the character first.

But who knows who is telling the truth? Everyone claims they invented everything at WB and everyone bad mouths everyone else.

It's hard for me to imagine Friz ever inventing a character. I worked for the guy. He basically followed what the other guys did and did it blander.And if something by some fluke worked, he did it agin a hundred times. He was a formula guy.

PCUnfunny said...

There is a God. John compliments a Friz cartoon. Can Feud is definetly one of the best Slyvester toons and ironically, it again proves that he was a hell of alot funnier without Tweety.

PCUnfunny said...

"It's hard for me to imagine Friz ever inventing a character. I worked for the guy. He basically followed what the other guys did and did it blander.And if something by some fluke worked, he did it agin a hundred times. He was a formula guy."

Now I never knew Friz but why is it so hard to imagine inventing a character ? His work shows that he was conservative but not un-creative.

PCUnfunny said...

"This is the thing that only animated cartoons can do and that everyone refuses to even try for any more. Even when they have the money."

Because cartoons aren't about animation silly ! It's about clever dialogue from writers who had never left the suburbs until then went to college.

Grant said...

I think this cartoon is amazing, the way they move is incredible! I love the colours too. Its pretty cool overall, a classic. I agree that the timing in this one is pretty amazing too.