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THAT'S ALL FOLKS!: THE ART OF WARNER BROS. ANIMATION

Basically Warners' equivalent of The Illusion of Life, except not written by a big insider (Chuck, an author himself, would've been nice), but by animation lover Steve Schneider.

The book is mainly a history of the studio from Harman-Ising to the closing in 1964. After that is a breakdown of all the characters, and then a complete filmography excluding (rightfully) the DePatie-Freleng and Bill Hendricks post-mortem blots. 

First off the pictures are great. Not as beautiful as the ones in Warner Bros. Animation Art (this book is actually that one in fact), but lots of fun. 

The main problem with the book is the text. Steve most obviously favors Bob Clampett over every other director, spending long paragraphs blathering about his so-called "genius". Bob was a great director but was hardly a genius or super original. In fact the opposite was true: Bob steals heavily from Tex Avery in structure and in gags. Notice how no one has ever said Bob's work was funny. It's that his cartoons are this-way-animated and that-way-nice-looking. What's funny about them is their freneticness and violence, rather than gags. In fact, his gags are downright poor, such as the numerous-again-steals from Tex, such as "Isn't it?" remarks and big signs announcing something. But this Schneider guy says barely a thing about Tex but a lot about Mr. Bugs-Bunny-Creator, So-Called!

Sadly, in replacement for Bob-discussing there is virtually nothing in the book on Friz, despite saying that he is the Warner Bros. cartoon studio. Friz is absolutely underrated as a director, and Steve does nothing to help this unfortunate situation. 

What time he spends on Chuck are good, though. Talking at length about Chuck makes more since than about Clampett, since the most famous Warner cartoons were his.

There is also plenty of Disney bashing. This is ironic, because Bob exemplifies Disney principles more than any other Warner director (Coal Black and the Sebben Dwarfs and Tin Pan Alley Cats' filmic aspects are some good proofs). A Corny Concerto was a parody of Fantasia, but What's Opera, Doc? was not, especially not from a guy who, like Bob, admired the Disney work.  

I was disappointed, but for information and eye candy, go put it on the bookcase.

C+



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2 comments:

  1. Bob Clampett spent the last twenty years of his life, not making cartoons, but traveling to college campuses and animation festivals to talk about his work. By all accounts he was a man of great personal charm and wit. Chuck Jones and Friz Freleng, on the other hand, were running their own animation studios during this time and consequently spent less time making personal appearances. So the first generation of cartoon historians tended to lionise Clampett at the expense of Jones and Freleng. Robert McKimson, who died in 1977, was unfairly dismissed out of hand in most early animation histories; Lenburg's "The Great Cartoon Directors", for example, barely mentions him in passing.

    "...no one has ever said Bob's work was funny." I hate to contradict you, but people say it all the time. Not me, though. I agree with you that much of Clampett's work is derivative (how's that for heterodoxy?). It's not just the gags taken from other cartoonists -- Jones accused him of picking through other cartoonists' wastebaskets after hours -- but things like his heavy reliance on radio catch phrases. All cartoonists did that, of course, especially at Warners, but Clampett really took it to an extreme. The idea being that if you use a line that people laugh at in a show they listen to every week, they will laugh when you use it as a sort of Pavlovian response. It's a cheap way to get laughs, like the class clowns of my own generation when they mimicked Fonzie or Horshack or Steve Martin. In the Betty Boop cartoon "Judge for a Day", an offender is locked up in a cage with a bunch of parrots who endlessly utter radio catchphrases. Clearly there were people ever then who found it annoying in the extreme.

    Clampett was a class clown, no question. But a comic genius? "Well, now I wouldn't say that!"

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    Replies
    1. I don't DISLIKE Clampett. Many of his are my favorites (the first times I saw many of his later ones, like The Great Piggy Bank Robbery, Kitty Kornered, and Baby Bottleneck and Wagon Heels, are some of my fondest entertainment memories), I just think many make him out as something he isn't.

      McKimson's cartoons benefit from Foster and Pierce more than anything else, so that leaveout is somewhat understandable.

      The next article is on Wagon Heels, where I'll dish out more praise for him...but honesty too...

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Dedicated to Winsor, for starting it; to Walt, for refining it; and to Tex, for expanding it.