Monday, September 29, 2008

Smokey The Pectoral Bear Raises Your Children Right

Well Mike Fontanelli has switched obsessions. He's abandoned his role as champion of Native Americans in favor of spreading the lore of Smokey The Pectoral Bear.

Smokey the "Bear" is a misnomer. He is actually half man /half bear. He has pectoral muscles, walks bipedally, talks and will not wear a shirt. He teaches his son all-American man morals too: "Son, always remember to never wear a shirt while patrolling the forest. Bare your naked breast with manly pride."

You might think you already know everything there is to know about Smokey The Bear. But you're wrong. - Unless you have read this mysterious freak of nature's gripping ethical adventures in Dell Comics.

Smokey does more than just put out forest fires. His role is much more all-encompassing than merely ridding the wilds of arsonists. He has many surprising responsibilities.


Smokey is revolted by the natural order of things.
He needs to stop carnivores from eating cute things.

Eating an ugly old Mom is just fine though.

Smokey is always on the lookout for wounded animals so he can end their misery with his missile of mercy. "Hey Mr. Racoon. Is that a limp?"
"Uh, no sir, Mr. Smokey! It's just a little scratch! I stepped on a burr! Nothing serious at all." "Tsk, tsk" says Smokey. If there's one thing I can't stand; it's to see a poor ignorant beast in pain."
"Oh, please, Mr. Ranger Bear, sir, don't cock that rifle! Honest, it doesn't hurt a ..."


Smokey is a good bear. There is an evil bear though. His name is GIMP. He tries to kill everyone - even animals without scratches, nicks, wounds or blemish. Smokey stops the killings with mixed martial arts. Here Gimp tries to kill Smokey and his baby.
Then Smokey pushes Gimp's car over a cliff. It lands and bursts into flames. Smokey pulls his burning cousin out of the mangled melted metal hulk, eager to put him out of his misery.
But when the whole forest catches fire he makes a deal and promises to not kill Gimp, if Gimp will just help him put out the fire. Gimp always lies and tries to kill Smokey and his baby in every issue, but Smokey is so good that he believes the 3 time loser every time. Dell comics feels that this message of trusting your most vicious enemies will comfort Moms. I find comfort in it myself.

After Gimp betrays Smokey for the 57th time, our hero decides to give him a lesson in Greco-Roman wrestling on a floating log.Smokey is also quite adept at American fisticuffs. Fighting fair is the best way to take care of murdering hairy blue monsters.
Smokey knocks out the killer and gives him another chance in the next issue, hoping that Gimp might pick up a scratch so he can without guilt put him out of his pain.



Smokey never forgets to give the recipients of his mercy killings a decent burial. Here he is waving to Moms from the cemetary. "You can trust me with your kids" he seems to be saying.

There are many more Smokey thrills to come.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Icons In Balloons

I have just discovered a balloon genius.

They kinda look like the construction models at Filmation, when they would redo old classic cartoons like Tom and Jerry or Mighty Mouse in the 80s.
This is my favorite.

If you can tell me what this last one is, you are a genius too.

50s Woody, Conservative Control and Style

Lantz cartoons are not only fun; they are very interesting to study. The different period styles offer different kinds of entertainment.The first Woody had the most unique and funny design. The animation tended to be loose and unstructured. the direction was even more haphazard.

When Lantz was imitating the Looney Tunes Avery and Clampett cartoons, they missed the point. The timing was mushy and the gags were mostly executed without much conviction. But they are still fun, lively cartoons. I had "The Screwball" on a silent 8mm film when I was a kid and I ran it a million times.
The poses in the early 40s were wacky, but not too carefully planned to balance against each other.

MID 40S - Dick Lundy Tightens The Tools

In the mid 40s Dick Lundy came in from Disney and tightened everything up. He streamlined the posing and gave the timing much more control and variety.
These poses are extremely principled. No extraneous details. The style - or aesthetics of it come straight out of the 40s West Coast animation principles. Lantz had been imitating that style superficially before Lundy brought the real thing over from Disney. It's a style built amost solely of principles.

Perfect line of action. The forms flow around the line of action.
The details-clothes, hair, color separations wrap around the forms.

Perfect hierarchy.

In this quest for perfect principles, Lundy created a beautiful style for Lantz, but also lost some of the wackiness of the earlier sloppy style.

Unlike Warner Bros., Lantz really never quite got all the elements that make a good cartoon working together at the same time. But each period, even up to about the mid fifties has some good stuff in it.
I bought the 2nd Woody DVD and found out that most of the cartoons were from the 50s and I groaned. Though Lantz completely changed Woody's design and made him cute instead of zany, you can still find some pretty good animation in some of the early 50s films . The design of most of the cartoons is really bland and conservative, and sometimes just plain drawn badly - but not in all of them.
I was looking for some cartoons that have crummy drawings but good animation - because that is a very intersting combination, and then was surprised when I found one where I actually kind of liked the design.

I really hate what they did to Buzz in the 50s - even more than Woody! After seeing those great 40s Buzz Buzzard cartoons animated by Ed Love, I sure wonder what they were thinking when they evened him out and took away all his nasty appeal.
40s Buzz

Yeesh Buzz
This degree of conservatism is evil.

But I like these...

I like the way Woody is drawn in Buccaneer Woodpecker. It's conservative, but very stylish.
He has very controlled poses and subtle stylish angles bending around his classic cartoon principles.

I like conservatism when it is stylish and very controlled. This animator has a neat way of drawing hands. It reminds me a bit of John Sibley.
You can see the great control in these poses. They are very direct and non-ambiguous.
All the separate shapes that make up the character are carefuly put together to make a whole statement. No arbitrary corners, no erratic details sticking out of his silhouette to distract you from the overall pose.
If 40s cartoons are your standard for high quality animation - as they are for me, then these don't stand up. But if you had never seen 40s cartoons, and grew up on 90s cartoons, these would seem positively brilliant.

The poses are still lively - unlke today's disjointed talking corpses.

There is still much entertainment created from what only can happen in cartoons. The animators are so used to bending the laws of nature, that even when they are going through their conservative stage, they just take cartoon magic for granted. They haven't yet got so conservative that they stop animating things that "don't make sense". That did happen in the late 50s.
That's a beautifully conservative stylish pose there.

Interesting to see just slight stylization. I like it. It must take some self control, not to go further with it.

This animator has a lot of natural appeal. I'm not sure which one it is. Maybe someone can help me out here. La Verne Harding?

When you draw small, you have to get rid of more details, and just go for the basic pose. This animator still manages to squeeze out some style.

Look how well planned these poses are in relation to each other. Everything about Woody's pose draws us down the line of his sword right know.

Compare these to modern cartoons. Characters don't relate to each other visually anymore. They are merely in proximity to each other. Just close enough to say their one-liners.
Butt stabs were still essential to cartoon humor, even as the 50s started to calm everything down.

This would be considered completely wild today. How many times have you been scolded for drawing "too cartoony" at work?

I'm not opposed to conservative styles, as long as they are not so conservative that they throw out the essentials of cartoon quality- skill, style, control and butt stabs.

The Viewmaster Woodies are much more appealing than Lantz' own cartoons from the late 50s.

It's a good thing Woody couldn't see the future.