Thursday, December 31, 2009

Abner Matthews = Abner Kneitel??

I recently had an enlightening phone conversation with Abner Kneitel’s daughter Betty, talking with her about her father and what little she knew about his animation career. During the call Betty dropped a critical bit of information - that Abner’s middle name was Matthew. At that point I had an epiphany. Were Abner Kneitel and Abner Matthews the same person?? Abner Kneitel had practically the same middle name as the last name of the other Abner working for the Fleischers at the same time and in the same crew. Betty then dropped another critical tidbit - Abner's mother had misspelled his middle name on the birth records – instead ‘Matthew’ she wrote ‘Mathew’. I instantly recalled one Popeye cartoon - ‘Leave Well Enough Alone’ - where the name is spelled incorrectly. That pivotal comment of Betty's made me think that the two Abners could have been the same animator.

I didn't want to believe there was no Abner Matthews. I also had a hard time believing that nepotism was not an accepted practice at the Fleischer Studio since the Fleischer family clearly practiced it. But there was still the mystery of why Seymour Kneitel and Abner Kneitel were never credited together on the screen considering Abner Kneitel's animation style is dominant in many of Seymour's cartoons - thereby qualifying him for a credit. It seems plausible that he may have used 'Matthews' as a pseudonym, because of possible nepotism restrictions, so he was eligible to get screen credit.

There's a part of this puzzle that doesn't work with my conjecture and that's the Matthews credit outside of the Kneitel crew. I can only speculate that as long as Abner was part of Seymour's crew, even if inherited and headed by William Henning (when Seymour was recovering from a heart attack), that he would continue using the Matthews pseudonym.

Credits for Leave Well Enough Alone with alternate spelling.

So what did happen to Abner Kneitel??

Abner served in the navy during WW2. After his discharge he decided to leave the animation business. Abner loved the Florida lifestyle and did not want to return to New York where the Famous Studio had relocated. For a while he operated a small gift shop then worked as an insurance salesman for Peninsula Life. Betty figures he regretted leaving the animation business - Abner became an alcoholic and in her words, he 'pickled himself to death'.

Following is a letter from business manager Sam Buchwald to Abner in response to his resignation. It's a bit fuzzy - taken from a photograph and the best quality that I have.

Click on image to enlarge
(Thanks to Renee for the photo)

A big thanks to Betty and her daughter Renee for their recollections of Abner.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Martin Taras Reel

Below is a QT with some Taras animation from Mess Production, Rodeo Romeo, and Snow Place Like Home. Even though I'm not sure he did all the exterior scenes of the whale I have included them for continuity sake.

More on him later.

And in a moment of spontaneous self-promotion - here's a cartoon I animation directed for multi-talented creator and director Chris Reccardi as part of the stillborn Cartoonstitute shorts program at Cartoon Network.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

More on Ben Solomon

It's always great when you can put a face to a name in the animation credits.

Here's a shot of Ben Solomon (more on him here and here) that was clipped from a 1939 group photo of the Johnson crew taken at the Fleischer's Miami studio. (I'll post the complete photo at a future date) Note he has autographed his name beside his picture in light blue pen.

Biography from Fleischer's Animated News

Following is a clip of Solomon's animation from a fan favorite and arguably one of the best Popeye cartoons produced by the Famous Studio - 'We're on Our Way to Rio' . (de facto directed by Jim Tyer)

Lois Grabash - if you're reading this could you please contact me through my email address in the About Me section.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Abner Kneitel at Work

Photo courtesy of Abner's grand daughter Renee

That's him on the left - well, part of him. The other animators pictured are unknown.

Possibly as rare or rarer than hens' teeth are photos taken of animators at work inside the Fleischer Studio. I'd like to think they were working a Popeye cartoon when this photo was taken. Note the Popeye and Bluto models sheets on the desk tops.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Tom Golden

Those of you with a keen eye for animators will recognize the work of Tom Golden, ace animator responsible for arguably the most recognizable piece of Popeye animation - the spinning star opening of the color Popeye cartoons from 1943 to 1957. (the animation also had an afterlife, re-used as the opening of the King Feature TV cartoons)

Golden's credits start appearing in the later Fleischer cartoons, where he animated for Dave Tendlar's crew. He moved to Al Eugster's crew for a few cartoons that were released in 1942, animated for one cartoon - 'Seein' Red White 'N' Blue' - for Jim Tyer's crew that was released in 1943, and then spent time in Nick Tafuri's short lived crew animating on 2 Popeye cartoons released in 1944 and 1946. Golden then returned to Tendlar's group, with his animation in the 1946 release 'Rodeo Romeo'. He later became a de facto director of his own crew.

The clips below are from - in chronological order - 'Fleets of Stren'th' (1942), 'Pitching Woo at the Zoo' (1944), 'Abusement Park' (1947), 'Popeye and the Pirates' (1947), and 'Pre-Hysterical Man' (1948).

Note in the last clip that Jack Mercer was still ad-libbing as late as 1948. There are a couple other cartoons from the mid Famous Studio period where Popeye ad-libs - debunking the myth that Mercer stopped completely once the Popeye cartoons started being produced by Famous.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

O.T. - Interlude of Shameless Self-promotion

I’m preparing a few posts that are taking longer than expected.

In the meantime – to fill the gap - here’s the hanging song from the Ren and Stimpy cartoon 'Out West' , unedited for those fans out there that have not yet seen it in this form. I animation directed this cartoon and it was animated by an amazing group of animators at my studio Carbunkle Cartoons.

Note that Stimpy is out of sync as he says ‘hoedown’. For some reason there were 2 versions of the song - using the broadcast version threw Stimpy's animation way out of sync. I've included a piece of the pencil test that has the track we used for animation. (it's slightly out of sync too but closer than the broadcast version) Why it was changed I don’t know. Hey Bob Camp - if you’re reading this, can you shed some insight on why that happened.

Contrary to some opinions circulating the internet, animating Ren and Stimpy was not just the act of doing inbetweens. Any of you who have tried this style know that it (generally speaking) takes a lot of skill, is time consuming, requires more drawing than regular limited animation, and involves a lot of problem solving.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Marty Taras Bio...

... from the National Cartoonist Society Album 1960 - 61.

Click on image to enlarge

Courtesy of Paul Spector. Thanks Paul!! Check out more stuff from the NCS at Spectorphile.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Abner Kneitel Drawing

It's extremely rare to see a signed and personalized Popeye drawing done by a Fleischer animator - especially a great one like Abner. Blog reader Paul Narcisse is the lucky owner of one such drawing and gave me the story behind it:

'I was wondering if you could help me with more information about Abner (Kneitel) since I have a sketch from him. My Grandfather was a doctor and Abner was a patient of his. I have a pencil sketch of Popeye signed by Abner dated 12/3/1935, with a personal thank you written on the 8x10 picture.'

I am glad that I saved it from my aunts who wanted to sell it, the monetary value could not replace the sentimental value.'

Click on image to enlarge

Thanks to Paul Narcisse for the photos and allowing me to post his drawing.

More on Abner soon.