Sunday, December 7, 2008

Popeye Pencil Test over at CB

Over at Cartoon Brew you can see a pencil test out take from 'Lumberjack and Jill' from a scene animated by the amazing John Gentilella.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Roland Crandall Pencil Drawings in Motion

For those of you who aren't regular readers of Cartoon Brew here's a link to see a sequence of pencil drawings in motion from 'Sock-A-Bye Baby' - animation by Roland Crandall. Note how rough the drawings were back then (1934) - the inkers had to invest more time and thought into doing their job.

Also note that there's a drawing shot out of sequence.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

A Balmy Swami Anecdote - John Gentilella

Below is a clip from the 1949 Popeye cartoon ‘A Balmy Swami’ animated by maestro Popeye animator Johnny Gent. (John Gentilella) I love the amazing feeling of power Gent could get into his animation as illustrated by this clip. He knew the exact amount of displacement to put between each drawing to get the maximum effect of power and impact in the action.

When I met him back in the 80’s Johnny recalled working on this cartoon. He said that de facto director Tom Johnson gave him this construction elevator section (I may have cut it a bit short) of the cartoon to animation direct. The first thing he did before starting work was to meet with composer Winston Sharples and discuss the music and tempo for the animation. In hindsight I wish I had asked Johnny about the technique of choreographing animation and music. Today that method of timing animation is a lost art.

For those that have this cartoon and the ability to single frame, you can see that Gent has used a Jim Tyer technique in his animation. (Trivia moment – Tyer and Gentilella were close friends) As Popeye goes to punch out the building girder he pops off the screen for 1 frame. It's not a shooting error. It's done with purpose - the popping effect creates a feeling of shock on the screen and the flash effect animation further enhances the feeling of impact. Tyer used that technique in his animation in some of the Famous Studio cartoons that predate this one. Some modern animators hate this sort of thing - I say as long as it feels right it works for me. I’ve always thought it was a cool technique.

Too bad Cartoon Network had to poo in the corner of the screen.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Tom Minton on Jack Ozark

In response to
this post Writer/Producer Tom Minton kindly offered the following anecdotes about Popeye animator Jack Ozark. Thanks Tom!!

I was one of those people who worked with Jack Ozark at Filmation and have at least one story involving the man. Jack was a colorful guy full of boundless energy who seemed ageless, not at all like many of his contemporaries in that place. Jack preferred doing cartoony stuff, but sometimes got stuck on realistic things, and was less happy. Filmation was a factory but on one occasion, during the early sequences of their feature "Flash Gordon: The Greatest Adventure of All", they attempted something more difficult than their Saturday morning product. In early 1978 I was hired there to shoot pencil test on one of the first Lyon-Lamb rigs until something better opened up and in that position I got to know the work of every animator and director in the studio. The new video pencil test device was welcomed by some but feared by many - it quickly exposed a given animator's skill levels. Jack's stuff was fun because he really enjoyed animating and that usually came through. However, there was one scene that gave him considerable trouble. It was a pan shot of someone pulling Dale Arden by both arms through what looked like mud and though it involved some rotoscoped reference, it required a great deal of realistic, anatomical animation. Jack wasn't totally comfortable with the results, as he couldn't make the thing the least bit cartoony. Sure enough, the producer looked at it and demanded more realism than Jack was able to impart on that first attempt. Jack reworked the scene again, then again. Jack ended up fighting the work but eventually battled his way out of it. I remember this shot thirty years later because it took at least eight attempts (many more than usual for Filmation) for Jack to get it to where the producer finally approved. Looking at the shot in sequence, none of the pain involved shows. Jack admitted in the aftermath of the scene's final acceptance that realistic anatomy wasn't always fun for him to animate. A few years later, at Ruby-Spears, when I was working with Doug Wildey, he mentioned a "certain animator" on Jonny Quest who had a hell of a time getting that style, due to all of its the anatomical demands. I asked Doug who the animator was. Doug, of course, wouldn't say. But he quoted the animator as telling him that he "was never very good at anatomical stuff." Wildey added "Right then, I knew the guy was a dead pigeon!" I don't know for certain if this had been Jack, but he is credited on the original Jonny Quest as an animator. It's too bad guys like Jack aren't around anymore. Maybe it's because there aren't any guys like Jack.

When it comes to Jack Ozark, his personality comes through stronger than his work. Jack was one of the few older animators at Filmation who heartily welcomed us young people aboard, and shared tidbits of information that, without his memory, would have been completely lost to time. For example, once someone (it may have been Jeff Etter, I recall him being in the room) brought in and showed a super 8mm Fleischer Superman cartoon during a break. It was "The Arctic Giant" from 1942. Jack watched it with us (any snippet from animation's golden age was prized in that pre-video-on-demand era) and immediately recalled how the Fleischer Studio had paid a lot of money to hire ex-Disney effects animator Stan Quackenbush, who apparently was responsible for the tons of melting ice footage in that picture. Jack recalled that Quackenbush was also involved in "The Electric Earthquake" and "Volcano", all released the same year. It's indeed a pity that more guys from the golden age didn't write such things down.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Abner Kneitel in Action

I've put together some clips of Abner Kneitel's work - maybe they'll solicit a better response than the frame grabs. The clips are from cartoons produced by the Famous Studio - 'Too Weak To Work', 'A Hull of a Mess', and 'Alona on the Sarong Seas' - all included on the upcoming Popeye Vol.3 DVD set.

Friday, June 27, 2008

More Abner Knietel

It's been awhile since the teaser I posted on April 19th. So without further delay -

As with many of the Popeye animators, Abner Kneitel is a mystery to me. I do know that he was a cousin to Seymour Kneitel and according to whatever records I could find, spent his early years at the Fleischer Studio working in Seymour's crew. I have a feeling he was animating on Popeye from the beginning but cannot verify that fact nor can I identify his work from that period. (I'm working on it though)

After Seymour Knietel suffered a heart attack it looks like his crew was inherited by William Henning, who defacto directed a few cartoons before returning to the position of animator. After Henning's directorial stint the crew seems to have been disbanded with the animators assigned to other crews until Seymour's return. At that time it looks as though Abner Kneitel became a utility animator for the studio (much like George Germanetti), being shifted from crew to crew as needed. I don't know that for a fact - it's speculation based on credits and observation.

Shortly after the changeover of the Fleischer to the Famous Studio his name disappeared from the credits. Anybody know what happened to him??

Goonland - 1938

Customers Wanted -1939

Stealin Ain't Honest - 1940

Baby Wants a Bottleship -1942

Alona on the Sarong Seas -1942

A Hull of a Mess -1942

Spinach Fer Britain - 1943

Seein' Red White 'n' Blue - 1943

Too Weak To Work - 1943

Happy Birthdaze - 1943

The Marry-Go-Round - 1943

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Abner Kneitel Teaser

Here are some frame grabs of Abner Kneitel's animation done for the Fleischer Studio Popeyes. More on him later.

My Pop My Pop - 1940

Olive's Sweepstake Ticket - 1941

Olive Oyl and Water Don't Mix - 1942

Thursday, April 10, 2008

It's an Eagle, It's a Rocket, It's a Meteor...

It's Popeye the Sailor!!

Here's a clip from the 1944 Popeye cartoon She-Sick Sailors. I love when a director has assigned a number of scenes in sequential order to an animator - it really helps to highlight their ability and skill. Here's a stretch of scenes done by the amazing Johnny Gent courtesy of de facto director Jim Tyer. (who, even though credited as animator, has no animation in this cartoon) Apart from the first scene, all of the animation in this clip is Gent's.

Thanks to Thad K. for the copy.

Monday, March 24, 2008

George Rufle Part 2

Clips of George Rufle's animation from 'A Balmy Swami' (1949), How Green is My Spinach (2 clips - 1950), and Popeye Makes a Movie (1950)

Monday, March 17, 2008

George Rufle

Here's another obscure (although credited) Popeye animator. George Rufle animated Popeye for a couple of years at the Famous Studio in Tom Johnson's crew on cartoons released from 1948 to 1950.

Rufle's drawing style in some Popeye cartoons comes very close to that of John Gentilella's (known as Johnny Gent by his peers). During an interview I did with Johnny I asked him about Rufle, noting that I had observed that similarity. Johnny told me when Rufle started on Popeye he had tutored Rufle on drawing the characters. (there's nothing like learning from the best) Even though there are superficial similarities, Rufle could not match the flair and style of Gentilella's drawing and animation.

Symphony in Spinach - 1948

A Balmy Swami - 1949

Silly Hillbilly - 1949

How Green is My Spinach? - 1950

How Green is My Spinach - 1950

Beach Peach - 1950

Popeye Makes a Movie - 1950

Popeye Makes a Movie - 1950

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Gordon Sheehan

Fellow blogger and animation aficianado Mark Mayerson has been transcribing an interview done in the 1976 with Fleischer animator Gordon Sheehan. I haven't been able to crack Sheehan's animation style yet - there are few credits for him and none on Popeye cartoons, making it doubly hard to ID his animation. I do know from a published interview that he worked primarily for Willard Bowsky's crew.

Here's a quote I found on the web from an interview done by Leonard Kohl with Gordon Sheehan:

"Dave Fleischer was showing some visitors around the studio one day as I was drawing my pencil animation for this action. As was his habit, he would pick up some animator's drawings from someone in the group, and 'flip' them for his guests. This day, he picked up my scene of Popeye violently wiggling his posterior to extricate the can of spinach. After flipping my drawings, he seemed to get a little 'shookup,' and put my drawings back on my desk without comment. Later that day, Dave Tendlar, the director, told me, Dave told him that my scene was too violently 'suggestive' and that the action would have to be 'toned down' to avoid any promiscuous sexual implications. This was something that never entered my mind, but I did as I was told, and modified the 'offending' actions. At the time, the Will Hays censorship office had the pants scared off movie producers (even cartoon producers) regarding sexual promiscuity. The office carried plenty of 'clout' and could exert their authority sometimes at considerable expense to producers. Evidently, Dave Flesicher was well aware of this, in 'censoring' my animation."

I believe the cartoon he was talking about is Aladdin and His Wonderful Lamp. I speculate (because I don't know for sure) that the scenes below are those animated by Gordon Sheehan. Following are my reasons - see what you think.

The Popeye in the frame grab above looks like it belongs in a Bowsky directed cartoon - not a Dave Tendlar directed cartoon.

The wiggling posterior/spinach extricating action described in the quote above.

Another scene in the same drawing style as the first frame grab. The animation of Popeye chewing looks the same as chewing animation seen in other Bowsky directed Popeye cartoons. (see clip for action)

Same style of drawing and animation as the above frame grabs.

There you go. Anybody know for sure??
And don't forget to check out the interview on Mark's blog.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Ben Solomon Follow-up

Important news flash - Ben Solomon's daughter Lois left a message yesterday with some additional information about her father. Check out her comments in the Ben Solomon part 2 post. Thanks Lois!! - and if you're reading this, we would love to know more about your father and his work.

Following an idea of fellow blogger and animation aficionado Thad K., I've put together some clips of Ben Solomon's animation. They're from (in order) 'We're on Our Way to Rio' (2 clips), 'Movin' Aweigh', 'She Sick Sailors', 'Service with a Guile', and 'Shape Ahoy'. Unfortunately some of the video source materials are from old TV recordings and of poor quality. Now is a good time to start praying for Popeye Vol.4 to happen otherwise we may never see great prints of these cartoons. All of the clips are from cartoons with Jim Tyer as the de facto director.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Ben Solomon - Part 2

I think of Ben Solomon's work as that of the quirky, gritty New York style of animation. It's not polished like Hollywood animation but has a great cartoony feeling to it – no frills, just fun to watch. That said…

The earliest mention I could find of Ben Solomon was in the first issue (December 1934) of Fleischer’s Animated News. Max Fleischer wrote in the forward to that issue ‘Ben Solomon of our Inbetween Department suggested the Studio News, which you are now reading’. I couldn't find any information regarding Solomon’s employment prior to the newsletter, but knowing he was an inbetweener tells me he may have spent some time at the studio working his way up through the ranks. (as was typical in those days)

Shamus Culhane in his book ‘Talking Animals and Other People’, writes of Solomon working as his assistant during Gulliver’s Travels. He was promoted to animator status sometime in 1939 working in Roland Crandall’s crew and received his first screen credit on the Popeye cartoon ‘Shakespearian Spinach’ (released Jan.1940)

After working for Crandall, Solomon became a regular member of Tom Johnson's crew, animating on Popeye, Stone Age Cartoons, and Animated Antics. When the switch-over from Fleischer to Famous took place, Solomon became the property of Jim Tyer's crew starting from 1943 until he left Famous in 1946. (with the odd departure to animate in another crew – in particular ‘Ration for the Duration’ for Dave Tendlar) After 1941, for reasons unknown, Solomon only animated on the Popeye cartoons with one exception – a Noveltoon released in 1946 titled ‘Cheese Burglar’.

Solomon came into his own style once the Popeye cartoons switched from black and white to Technicolor. While other animators at Famous were more conventional in their extremes of movement, Solomon was not afraid to twist and turn a character into whatever position he saw fit regardless of whether the drawing was successful or not. His style was unique among the Famous Studio animators.

Years later after leaving Famous, Solomon worked for Topps Chewing Gum Company in the art department and was co-creator - with ex-Famous colleague Woody Gelman – of bubble gum comic character Bazooka Joe. You can read more about Topps and Solomon here.

Solomon's first Popeye credit was on 'Shakespearian Spinach' - 1940

Following are some examples of the way Solomon would torque a character's body while anticipating a punch.

You're a Sap Mr. Jap - 1942

Puppet Love - 1944

Peep in the Deep - 1946

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Edward Nolan

Here's an animator that seems to have no history beyond his work at the Fleischer Studio. I have posted frame grabs from all the Popeye cartoons that I've been able to ID with Nolan's animation. He worked primarily in Myron Waldman's crew during his time at the Fleischers except for a period starting sometime in 1935 and ending sometime in 1936 when he worked for Willard Bowsky's crew. As tight as the Bowsky crew was in terms of drawing, Nolan's Popeye sticks out as being slightly different - most notably in the way Popeye's hat sits on his head and the wider than normal bell bottom pants.

After 1937 there are no other credits that I can find for Ed Nolan. I wonder if he left the business. (And no - I don't know if he was related to Bill Nolan)

Can You Take It? - 1934

I Ski Love Ski You Ski - 1936

Let's Get Movin' - 1936

Popeye the Sailor Meets Sindbad the Sailor - 1936

Nolan cover for Fleischer's Animated News
(click on image to enlarge)