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


Duck Dodgers said...

Very interesting.
Thanks for sharing.

Thad said...

Great history! Thanks for sharing.

Courtesy of Milton Knight, we know Ben Solomon animated the following in "Cheese Burglar"...

- All scenes from opening to cat saying "The mouse was right!" and jumping
up with knife: Ben Solomon.
- Herman gloating ("The cat's death rattle!"), then walking out of hole
- Final shot of drunken trio

Lois said...

My father, Ben Solomon, died October 3, 2005 at the age of 91. He was often known as the man who drew Popeye. He did come up through the studio. He was an inker at one point I believe. He also worked on Mr. Bugs Comes to Town. In between working for the studio and becoming the Art Director for Topps Chewing Gum Company, he and Woody Gelman had their own studio, Topps was one of their biggest clients. They moved over to Topps when Topps decided to open their internal art department. My father was the Art Director there until he retired. Lois Grabash

Bob Jaques said...

Hi Lois -

Thanks so much for your comments!! Your father did some of my favorite animation in the Popeye cartoons and was one of the first animators whose style I was able to identify. I'd love to hear more about him and his work.

Duck Dodgers said...

I second Bob's request!