use “magicHelmet” to see.
Watching cartoons is time well spent.
Healthier than apples.
The craft of film and animation are tightly linked.
Having collected animation for quite awhile, I wanted to share some particular note-worthy examples.
Many of these are high quality from my personal collection and are reference for educational purposes only.
“Greedy Humpty Dumpty” by Dave Fleischer (1936)
The Fleischers’ take on the classic story. In typical fashion, they set your expectations on their head. Here Humpty (or perhaps better referred to as Dumpty) is a greedy tyrant king. Happily, we all know how this ends.
Fleischer’s Stepback Camera
Fleischer studios were great innovators of the early animation craft. They invented the Rotoscope (1917) as well as this amazing technique called a Setback Camera (1934). Unlike the Disney Multiplane camera, introduced a few years later in 1937, this technique involved creating a miniature set on a turntable carousel placed in back of the drawn cels of the characters. The results are so incredibly convincing, that they can be easily missed if not watching carefully.
“The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus” directed by Jules Bass and Arthur Rankin, Jr. (1985)
Hoo boy this is an odd one. The story was written in 1902 by L. Frank Baum, famous for the Wizard of Oz. This film centers on a meeting of the great council in the Forest of Burzee chaired by the Great Ak. They discuss whether to bestow the Mantle of Immortality upon Santa Claus. Certainly a departure from other xmas fare.
“Rooty Toot Toot” by John Hubley. (1951)
Fun musical court drama in beautiful, sparse mid-modernist style.
Academy Award nominee.
“Dixieland Droopy” by Tex Avery. (1954)
Droopy as John Pettybone, a jazz-loving dog. Somewhat sedate by Tex Avery’s standards, but a fun watch.
“Broomstick Bunny” by Chuck Jones. (1956)
Bugs goes trick or treating at Witch Hazel’s house, while she’s busy preening in front of her Magic Mirror.
Apparently, Chuck Jones admittedly got the idea for the witch from Disney’s 1952 film “Trick or Treat”.
“Dimensions of Dialogue” by Jan Švankmajer (1982)
Jan Švankmajer is the Czech master of stop-motion animation.
Making his distinctive surrealist films since the 1960s, his influence is wide-spread in popular culture, from music videos to inspiring film-makers including the Brothers Quay and Terry Gilliam.
“Aeon Flux: Pilot” by Peter Chung (1991)
Aeon Flux was released on Liquid Television, an early program for MTV.
Peter Chung’s weird, post-apocalyptic, spy thriller is fascinating, disturbing and unrepentantly lacks dialogue or explanation.
The result is an edgy All-American/Anime mashup that is at turns repulsive and captivating.
The series didn’t adhere to a linear/logical timeline, and our heroine dies in most of them.
“Episodes” could be as short as a couple minutes to almost a full half hour.
“Surogat” by Dušan Vukotić. (1961)
Very odd Yugoslav film about a man and the inflatable world around him.
Beautiful execution of a mid-century modern aesthetic.
Academy award winner 1962.
“Gorilla My Dreams” by Robert McKimson. (1948)
Bugs gets adopted by Mr and Mrs Gruesome, a couple of large apes.
Fun mayhem all around.
“The Old Man Of The Mountain” by Dave Fleischer. (1933)
The third of the Cab Calloway collaborations with Betty Boop cartoons. Another great film from the Fleischers. Considered pretty racy for it’s time, it led to the phasing out of jazz music and toned down the “sexy” attitude that Betty was known for.
“The Snowman” by Ted Eshbaugh. (1933)
For all the peeps who are tired of winter.
This is a really odd film. Who knew a heartwarming snowman short could go so awry?
“An Optical Poem” by Oskar Fischinger. (1938)
Another musical meditation by Oskar Fischinger.
“Allegretto” by Oskar Fischinger. (1936)
Another musical abstraction by Fischinger.
“Komposition in Blau” by Oskar Fischinger. (1935)
Oskar Fischinger did early experimental films to capture the essence of music. His films are whimsical and abstract. He even helped years later with one of the pieces for Disney’s Fantasia but left the project after the studio decided to make his piece more representational. Very interesting work.
“Tin Toy” by John Lasseter. (1988)
One of the first Pixar films I ever came across. Even though the technology is incredibly crude by today’s standards, the film still holds up well. For me this is when Pixar made the jump from a tech novelty to it’s signature story-driven films that represent the craft at it’s best. The horrifying baby haunted my dreams for years. Enjoy.
“Thru The Mirror” by David Hand. (1936)
Wonderfully surrealist Mickey short. Weird and fun.
“Can’t Drag Race With Jesus” by Bill Plympton. (2000)
This one is a hoot.
“More Sex & Violence” by Bill Plympton. (1998)
A no hold-barred madcap meditation by Plympton, so you’ve been warned.
Once again, the title says it all.
“The Exciting Life of a Tree” by Bill Plympton. (1998)
Bill Plympton’s work stands out for lots of reasons. They are very funny and entertaining. Economy of production combined with his amazing drawing skills allow him the unconstrained freedom to translate his wacky vision into films. Not all of his films contain nudity, but labeled them all “mature” since Plympton enjoys being racy and its common to get an unexpected body part thrown in your face.
“The Exciting Life of A Tree” is a fun film. The title says it all.
“The Wrong Trousers” by Nick Park. (1993)
Nick Park’s Wallace and Gromit films are stop-motion perfection. Their exquisite craft is easily overlooked because of the fantastic storytelling and timing.
In this short, our duo take on a devious tenant named Feathers McGraw.
Well deserving of it’s Oscar for Animated Short.
Academy Award winner 1993.
“Bambi Meets Godzilla” by Marv Newland. (1969)
Although this film is a one-note gag, I do think it successfully captures a glimmer of the spirit of similar counter-culture media from the time period such as art posters and comix. The brazen DIY attitude opened the possibilities to anyone who wanted to invest the time.
#38 on The 50 Greatest Cartoons: As Selected by 1,000 Animation Professionals 1994.
“Vincent” by Tim Burton. (1982)
Tim Burton created this film shortly after graduating from Cal Arts, while he was a concept artist at Disney. He was able to enlist the help of his childhood idol, Vincent Price, to provide the narration. Vincent Price later said that Vincent was “the most gratifying thing that ever happened. It was immortality — better than a star on Hollywood Boulevard”. A fantastically crafted film that showcases the formation of Burton’s trademark visual sense.
“The Dover Boys at Pimento University” by Chuck Jones. (1942)
Odd but entertaining film by Chuck Jones. Centers around a trio of brothers who attend Pimento University. (PU) The boys attempt to save their (???) fiancee from the dastardly Dan Backslide. They needn’t have worried since Dora Standpipe was more of a handful than our villain had planned for.
#49 on The 50 Greatest Cartoons: As Selected by 1,000 Animation Professionals 1994.
“Betty Boop’s Penthouse” by Dave Fleischer. (1933)
Koko and Bimbo are busy creating intoxicating potions when they notice Betty sunbathing on the building next door. While they are distracted, their creations somehow manifest into a Frankenstein-like monster, who also shows interest in Betty. Luckily, our heroine beats back his advances w a shot from her sprayer.
“The Three Little Bops” by Friz Freleng. (1957)
Another fun jazzy piece with a fresh telling of the tired old tale.
Has the distinction of being one of very few Warner Brothers cartoons to NOT use Mel Blanc.
Isadore “Friz” Freleng was another of the early titans of animation.
Started in the toon business in 1923. Worked for Disney before The Mouse. Introduced Bugs, Porky, Sylvester, and Yosemite Sam, among many others. After WB went on to create Pink Panther, etc.
5 Oscars and Three Emmys.
“I Love To Singa” by Tex Avery. (1936)
Another great film from Tex Avery. Owl Jolson is a big disappointment to his classical musical family by being a jazz singer.
South Park “visitors” were obviously fans.
“The Scarlet Pumpernickel” by Chuck Jones. (1950)
Daffy tries to sell his script to a Hollywood executive. It’s an uphill battle for our hero, despite the all-star cast.
#31 on The 50 Greatest Cartoons: As Selected by 1,000 Animation Professionals 1994.
“The Barber Of Seville” by Shamus Culhane. (1944)
Walter Lantz was another of the early animation greats. Woody Woodpecker was one of his highest profile creations. This short is obviously centered around the opera of the same name. Although it has many similarities to Chuck Jones’ short film that would be released 6 years later, this one retains a much edgier feel. Which barber would you prefer, Woody or Bugs? (Easy call for me. I’d pick the Wabbit.)
A fun fact: Woody’s signature laugh was recorded by Mel Blanc and was kept even after his departure to work at Warner Brothers.
#43 on The 50 Greatest Cartoons: As Selected by 1,000 Animation Professionals 1994.
“Symphony in Slang” by Tex Avery. (1951)
A 1950’s hipster finds himself at the Pearly Gates where his life story is interpreted literally by the angels in charge. Lots of crazy fun.
“Davy Jones’ Locker” by Ub Iwerks. (1933)
Another far-fetched tale from Willie. This time he has a run in with King Neptune and the pirate Davy Jones himself. I’d like to take particular exception to his poor treatment of a helpful octopus.
“Hell’s Fire” by Ub Iwerks. (1934)
Willie Whopper is a boy who tells very tall tales. In this film, Willie and his dog travel to hell itself and meet Satan, Napoleon, Nero and worst of all: The Ghost of Prohibition. The film was shot in Cinecolor process which used red and blue to give the impression of full color. This film also is notable for the ugliest MGM lion card that I have ever come across.
This was just one of many series of films that Ub Iwerks did after he had a falling out w Walt Disney over lack of recognition of his creation of many characters that helped Disney’s early success, including Mickey Mouse. He also did stints at other studios, including working on Warner Brothers shorts featuring Porky Pig, before later resolving his differences with Disney. Apparently he gave Chuck Jones his first job as well.
“Water, Water Every Hare” by Chuck Jones. (1952)
Similar story to “Hair-Raising Hare.” This time the Evil Scientist wants Bugs for his brain to power his robot. It ends up w everyone getting a hit of intoxicating gas. Enjoy.
“Hair-Raising Hare” by Chuck Jones. (1946)
An evil scientist ensnares Bugs for his giant red monster who would later be named Gossamer by Marvin the Martian. A similar film was made 6 years later called “Water, Water Every Hare. Both have been etched into the collective consciousness of our popular culture.
“Magical Maestro” by Tex Avery. (1952)
Another madcap film from Tex Avery. This time a magician creates mayhem for an opera singer by taking over for the conductor.
“Balloon Land” by Ub Iwerks. (1935)
After he left Disney, Ub Iwerks did a series of shorts called ComiColor Cartoons. This one imagines a world of people made up of balloons. Who would be the evil villain in such a scenario? Why, the Pincushion Man, of course. Even to those of us not made of balloons, Pincushion Man is scary. Well worth a watch.
“Feed The Kitty” by Chuck Jones. (1952)
Very funny film that has been widely referenced since it’s debut. Marc Anthony the bulldog tries to hide his pet kitty from his mistress. The sentimental tone of the film makes the moment where he’s given the cookie is both shattering and hilarious.
#36 on The 50 Greatest Cartoons: As Selected by 1,000 Animation Professionals 1994.
“The Dot and the Line” by Chuck Jones. (1965)
A very eloquent film. It takes a simple story and makes it bigger than the sum of it’s parts. One of the aspects I find fascinating is how this “feels” like a Chuck Jones short. How is this so evident when there is so little drawn? I guess the Hairy Squiggle has some Chuck Jones line quality, but I think it has more to do with the tone of the film. Incredibly deep results from very modest means.
Academy Award winner 1965.
“Hell’s Bells” by Ub Iwerks. (1929)
Early Silly Symphonies film from Disney.
Weird, creepy and great fun.
“The Wizard of Oz” by Ted Eshbaugh. (1933)
Ever wonder what would happen if some animators dropped acid and watched Judy Garland follow the yellow brick road? It might be something like this crazy film.
Here’s the rub: this short was released 6 years before the feature film and 5 years before Albert Hofmann created his psychedelic wonder. Go figure. Maybe they were drinking Ether.
The film starts out on a familiar track, but by the time they get to the Emerald City and meet the Wizard, it’s full on crazy town and all bets are off. This is also the first time that Kansas was seen as a monochrome world and Oz as one of multicolor brilliance.
One of the first films to use the Technicolor process, although legal distress caused this to be initially released in monochrome, since Disney had exclusivity for distribution.
“The Mechanical Monsters” by Dave Fleischer. (1941)
This fantastic series is old. So old that Superman couldn’t fly yet.
Instead of supervillains, he saves the world, and Lois Lane, from mad scientists, killer robots and dinosaurs as well as WW2 villains later in the series. Great moody deco styling that comes off both quaint and cool.
The first nine films were done by Fleischer Studios and the last eight by Famous Studios. The series was a financial disaster but these cartoons are some of the crown jewels of animated films and well worth a watch.
Although they are in public domain, it’s still hard to find great transfers of these. YouTube has beautiful 1080p copies to purchase (few bucks apiece), and well worth checking out. I’ve bought them all, but they make it difficult to share.
“Schoolhouse Rock: Rufus Xavier Sasparilla” by Bob Dorough, Kathy Mandary and Jack Sheldon. (1976)
A second selection from the Grammar series.
What an incredible mouthful of words.
“Schoolhouse Rock: Verb – That’s What’s Happenin’” by Bob Dorough & Zachary Sanders. (1973)
From the Grammar series.
This film has really great energy. Guess that’s the point w “VERB”.
“Schoolhouse Rock: Naughty Number Nine” by Bob Dorough & Tom Yohe. (1973)
Another selection from the Multiplication series.
“Schoolhouse Rock: Three Is a Magic Number” by Bob Dorough & Tom Yohe. (1973)
When I was growing up, these were used as interstitials for Saturday morning cartoons on ABC.
Their mission was to help educate an increasingly TV-focused youth. Even today, they retain their inspiring, upbeat, positive vibe. Since they are short and catchy, figured I’d link a few to check out.
They dealt w topics such as:
Multiplication, Grammar, America (how govt works), Science and Money.
“Three is a Magic Number” was the first song recorded. De La Soul’s hip hop cover of the song is also worth a listen.
“The Cat Came Back” by Cordell Barker. (1988)
Hilarious short. That cat is bad news.
Another production from the National Film Board of Canada. Produced and voiced by Richard Condie who created “The Big Snit”. Similar late-1980’s edgy look.
Academy Award nominee 1988.
#32 on The 50 Greatest Cartoons: As Selected by 1,000 Animation Professionals 1994.
“Rabbit Fire” by Chuck Jones. (1951)
The Autumn season variant of the Hunting Trilogy.
“Duck! Rabbit, Duck!” by Chuck Jones. (1953)
The Winter season variant of the Hunting Trilogy.
“Rabbit Seasoning” by Chuck Jones. (1952)
Classic film that pits Bugs against Daffy for Elmer’s attention. Spoiler alert: It’s not a good day for Daffy. One of three similar, seasonal cartoons. This is the Spring seasonal variation. The other two are “Rabbit Fire” (Autumn) and “Duck! Rabbit, Duck!” (Winter).
#30 on The 50 Greatest Cartoons: As Selected by 1,000 Animation Professionals 1994.
“Toot, Whistle, Plunk and Boom” by Ward Kimball & Charles A. Nichols. (1953)
Fun film which explores the roots of musical instruments.
Apparently the first Disney cartoon shot in Cinemascope.
Academy Award winner 1953.
#29 on The 50 Greatest Cartoons: As Selected by 1,000 Animation Professionals 1994.
“Northwest Hounded Police” by Tex Avery. (1946)
When I was growing up, I didn’t really like Droopy cartoons. What I’ve found since then was that the deadpan dreary character is the perfect compliment to Tex Avery’s wackiness. In an odd twist, we feel empathy for the escaped convict wolf rather than the tireless Mounty who is hot on his trail.
#28 on The 50 Greatest Cartoons: As Selected by 1,000 Animation Professionals 1994.
“Clock Cleaners” by Ben Sharpsteen. (1937)
Classic Disney film. Nice balanced tension of comedy and danger as the gang is employed to clean a clock tower. Mickey battles a sleepy stork, Donald battles an unruly clock spring and Goofy gets his bell rung.
#27 on The 50 Greatest Cartoons: As Selected by 1,000 Animation Professionals 1994.
“The Brave Little Tailor” by Bill Roberts. (1938)
Beautiful example of Disney quality of the late 1930’s. Mickey is a tailor who gets enlisted by the king to save the city from a wandering giant. Top notch craftsmanship on all levels.
Academy Award nominee 1938.
#26 on The 50 Greatest Cartoons: As Selected by 1,000 Animation Professionals 1994.
“Peace on Earth” by Hugh Harman. (1939)
This film shows concern for the fast-approaching second world war. Heart-warming and post-apocalyptic holiday fare. A mashup of Chip and Dale meets Planet of the Apes that predates both of them. Its unfortunate that it retains it’s resonance 78 years later.
Academy Award nominee 1939.
#40 on The 50 Greatest Cartoons: As Selected by 1,000 Animation Professionals 1994.
“The Gallopin’ Gaucho” by Ub Iwerks. (1928)
Another very early Mickey Mouse cartoon. Mickey and his drunk ostrich have to save Minnie from a desperado.
“The Big Snit” by Richard Condie. (1985)
Holy crap this is a funny short. During the mid to late 1980’s the National Film Board of Canada helped produce animated shorts. This was also when animation festivals such as Spike and Mike’s started popping up, which would cobble together a bunch of edgy films to make a feature length offering for audiences. I’ve watched this short over a dozen times and it makes me laugh every single time.
It centers around a married couple who obviously drive each other crazy. In the end, they find that there is no need to sweat the small things and live happily ever after. Ok, not quite accurate, but you’ll see what I mean.
Academy Award nominee 1985.
#25 on The 50 Greatest Cartoons: As Selected by 1,000 Animation Professionals 1994.
“Ha! Ha! Ha!” by Dave Fleischer. (1934)
Of similar ilk to my last posting which involves animated characters under the influence. Betty gets a strong dose of nitrous oxide at the dentist. Very weird to say the least, but lots of fun.
“Mickey’s Garden” by Wilfred Jackson. (1935)
Very odd and fun Disney film. The 30’s were my favorite time period for Disney, since they are not strictly focused on children and were still open to crazy shenanigans.
“The Tell-Tale Heart” by Ted Parmelee. (1953)
Very interesting short based on the Edgar Allan Poe story. It’s minimalist approach, which was common for films produced by UPA, somehow manages to convey the appropriate victorian angst and horror. James Mason’s narration definitely helps give the film its required gravitas. It took me awhile to find a clean copy, but the visuals were well worth the effort. I’d guess this film could have had an impact on Tim Burton’s early animated efforts.
Academy Award nominee 1953.
#24 on The 50 Greatest Cartoons: As Selected by 1,000 Animation Professionals 1994.
“Little Rural Riding Hood” by Tex Avery. (1949)
Another variation of Avery’s earlier Red Hot Riding Hood. This time he pits a “country” wolf against his apparently refined “city” cousin.
Wacky, zany fun as you’d expect.
#23 on The 50 Greatest Cartoons: As Selected by 1,000 Animation Professionals 1994.
“Der Fuehrer’s Face” by Jack Kinney. (1942)
Certainly a lot less fun than yesterday’s controversial offering.
One of many propaganda films Disney made during WW2. The majority of the animation studios pitched in with the war effort. Among them, Bob Clampett and Chuck Jones helped w the Private Snafu series which was used to educate soldiers with a bit of comedy. The Disney war films tend separate from the pack by striking a much more serious tone where fun was sacrificed for “the message”. Obviously, not all films during wartime, or any other time, have a primary goal of humor. That said, it’s hard not to feel these are intended to compete directly with Goebbels’ media machine. With all it’s heavy-handed dogma, even this film doesn’t achieve the grim tone of another Disney offering of the time: Education for Death.
This film centers around Donald Duck dealing with the reality of living in Nazi Germany. Conditions are terrible, but luckily it turns out to be just an awful dream and he wakes with great appreciation of living in the USA.
The one part of this film that I really enjoy is that when the strain of daily life becomes too overwhelming, Donald has a break from reality before waking from the nightmare. This sequence is an incredibly surrealistic descent into insanity which is pretty rare for Disney fare. This crazy sequence is what makes the film worth a watch for me personally, aside from the historical significance of the use of animated films.
Academy Award winner 1942.
#22 on The 50 Greatest Cartoons: As Selected by 1,000 Animation Professionals 1994.
“Coal Black and de Sebben Dwarfs” by Bob Clampett. (1943)
Ok. A lot of cartoons from the early 20th century need to be viewed with the understanding that they simply don’t match up with what is considered current cultural standards. This one asks for a bit more explanation than average.
This was among the eleven animated films that were notoriously banned from broadcast. All the studios had fare of this ilk and some are worth defending, while others less so. There are a whole bunch of substandard Looney Tunes films where Elmer Fudd’s character had been recycled with a replacement black character named Inki. I try to look at these films through a lens of intent. Some are mean-spirited but others, including this one, are decidedly not that way. Yes, this cartoon is chock full of stereotypes that wouldn’t be allowed today. However, the reason this film is on the list is not because of it’s offensiveness, but despite it. I think that films like this should be viewed as a bridge during a transitional moment in popular culture. This isn’t a film where black characters are invisible or background filler, the story puts them front and center. The Dwarfs seem to be a military company, which would be inconceivable in popular culture before WW2. Bob Clampett doesn’t use this film as a vehicle for hate of black culture, rather he uses it to showcase his embrace of it.
Here’s the thing. It’s a really fantastic cartoon. It’s electric. The music is great and adds to the zany fun. This showcases Clampett as a perfect hybrid between his mentors Tex Avery and Chuck Jones. Clampett is largely responsible for the tone of “looniness” within Looney Tunes, filling a needed gap when Avery moved over to MGM. This film is the obvious inspirational roots of Jon Kricfalusi, the creator of Ren and Stimpy, who donated his personal print of this film to animation archives. This is an important milestone in animated popular culture. I hope to see a restored HD transfer available someday, but not holding my breath for it to happen any time soon.
#21 on The 50 Greatest Cartoons: As Selected by 1,000 Animation Professionals 1994.
“Minnie The Moocher” by Dave Fleischer. (1932)
Another great Betty Boop cartoon and a personal favorite. The footage at the head of the film is apparently the earliest known film footage of Cab Calloway. It’s fun to compare this to Cab’s performance almost 50 years later in the Blues Brothers movie. Although the song was recorded a year or two earlier, this short helped bring it’s attention to a wider audience. Great imagery throughout, especially the ghosts on death row in the spooky cave. Cab Calloway’s signature dance moves are applied to what appears to be the ghost of a walrus? Weird and fun.
#20 on The 50 Greatest Cartoons: As Selected by 1,000 Animation Professionals 1994.
“Snow-White” by Dave Fleischer. (1933)
Betty Boop was a huge financial success for Fleischer Studios. She was a culturally significant character in the genre. She captured a bit of the feminist streak of the Flapper movement and combined it w a vampy, seductive innocence. Looking at her from the current lens of popular culture, it’s easy to want to dismiss her as a “stupid girl” type trope, but it should be noted that she wasn’t a sidekick and acted independently and confidently.
This film is a great example of the craftsmanship that they were known for. The Fleischers are credited with creating the Rotoscope, which involved tracing over filmed footage for realistic character performances. They also had a love for early jazz, and Cab Calloway is portrayed with his singing as well as evidenced in some of the characters with his signature shuffling dancesteps. At least two other Betty Boop shorts featured him, one of which is on the list for tomorrow.
#19 on The 50 Greatest Cartoons: As Selected by 1,000 Animation Professionals 1994.
“The Skeleton Dance” by Ub Iwerks. (1929)
One of the very first Silly Symphonies. Fun spooky film drawn by Ub Iwerks, who was one of Walt Disney’s most prolific collaborators in the early years. Even tho it lacks the polish of later Disney fare, you can sense the entertaining novelty of testing what the medium was capable of achieving.
#18 on The 50 Greatest Cartoons: As Selected by 1,000 Animation Professionals 1994.
“Sindbad the Sailor” by Dave Fleischer. (1936)
Finally we get to the Fleischer brothers, Max and Dave, who were among the greatest innovators of early animation. This double-length film was produced in Technicolor and is beautifully rendered. One of the Fleischers’ great tech of the time is showcased in this piece. Sometimes referred to “StereoOptical” their process was an incredible response to Disney’s use of multiplane cameras. Multiplane involved a complicated camera rig that would appear to introduce parallax and depth with layers of flat imagery. The Fleischer’s took a completely different approach which involved making a giant carousel with miniatures that mimicked the style of their drawn elements. This painstaking process gave them a jaw-dropping impression of true parallax and believable 3D. A mind-blowing feat, especially in the 1930s.
Academy Award nominee 1936.
#17 on The 50 Greatest Cartoons: As Selected by 1,000 Animation Professionals 1994.
“The Great Piggy Bank Robbery” by Bob Clampett. (1946)
Daffy is a big fan of Dick Tracy comics.
Fun and weird.
#16 on The 50 Greatest Cartoons: As Selected by 1,000 Animation Professionals 1994.
“Bad Luck Blackie” by Tex Avery. (1949)
Another very funny film by Tex Avery. An early version of his Spike the Bulldog character make life difficult for a small kitten. Then the kitten employs the help from a black cat to change his luck. Abandon all logic and enjoy the mayhem.
#15 on The 50 Greatest Cartoons: As Selected by 1,000 Animation Professionals 1994.
“The Old Mill” by Wilfred Jackson. (1937)
Beautifully rendered film. Another example of the Silly Symphonies series which took musical pieces as their inspiration. A bit sentimental for my personal taste, but well worth your time. You can see examples of Disney’s multi-plane process here. Exceptional work on the lightning and the reflections in the water.
Academy Award winner 1937.
#14 on The 50 Greatest Cartoons: As Selected by 1,000 Animation Professionals 1994.
“Steamboat Willie” by Ub Iwerks. (1928)
Where the Mouse began. Although this was the third film to feature Mickey Mouse, it’s the first to have been distributed and also the first Disney cartoon to use synced audio. Apparently Walt did all the voices himself.
#13 on The 50 Greatest Cartoons: As Selected by 1,000 Animation Professionals 1994.
“Rabbit of Seville” by Chuck Jones. (1950)
Another operatic masterpiece from Chuck Jones. Always a crowdpleaser.
#12 on The 50 Greatest Cartoons: As Selected by 1,000 Animation Professionals 1994.
“Three Little Pigs” by Burt Gillett. (1933)
Worth a watch for it’s craftsmanship alone. This cartoon is well-crafted and it’s insidious song will get stuck in your head for days. Personally I find it sickly sweet and a harbinger of the mind-numbing, child-oriented tone of later Disney fare. One of it’s interesting accomplishments was to clearly portray three similar, but distinct characters.
Note for those sensitive to stereotypes, when the Wolf tries to trick the pigs in the house of bricks, he dresses up as a brush salesman. Originally, he sported a thick dark beard to make him appear “jewish” but was later sanitized to make him a more generic hobo-looking salesman. My copy of the short is the “clean” version, since that’s what was included on the dvd, but the original can still be found on the web. In general, it’s good to keep an open mind concerning the humor of the first half of the 20th century when confronted by things that would be unacceptable to current norms.
Additional note on this one. This was one of the first animated shorts to be wildly successful financially. This is likely where the idea of a cartoon “industry” had it’s roots.
Academy Award winner 1933.
#11 on The 50 Greatest Cartoons: As Selected by 1,000 Animation Professionals 1994.
“King-Sized Canary” by Tex Avery. (1947)
Another crazy short from Tex Avery featuring medications and magic potions. An episode of the Simpsons’ “Itchy and Scratchy” borrows heavily from the one-upsmanship of this film.
#10 on The 50 Greatest Cartoons: As Selected by 1,000 Animation Professionals 1994.
“Gerald McBoing-Boing” by Robert Cannon. (1951)
Fun adaptation of an early Dr. Seuss story. A young boy deals with the difficulty of communicating only
thru sound effects. Great art direction featuring minimalist modern styling that became a popular alternative to the extensively detailed work from Disney.
Academy Award winner 1950.
#9 on The 50 Greatest Cartoons: As Selected by 1,000 Animation Professionals 1994.
“Porky in Wackyland” by Bob Clampett. (1938)
This film is on the short list of my personal favorites.
Bob Clampett was apparently a fan of the surrealist painters. It was later repurposed into a similar color cartoon that had Salvador Dali-style melted watch backgrounds: Dough for the Do-Do (1949). Clampett collaborated with Tex Avery and Chuck Jones before directing his own films.
This was a fun anecdote from Wikipedia:
Clampett felt encouraged after early successes, and began writing in more story contributions. After Schlesinger realized he needed another unit, he made a deal with Tex Avery, naming Clampett his collaborator. They were moved to a ramshackle building used by gardeners and WB custodial staff for storage of cleaning supplies, solvents, brooms, lawnmowers and other implements. Working apart from the other animators in the small, dilapidated wooden building in the middle of the Vitaphone lot, Avery and Clampett soon discovered they were not the only inhabitants – they shared the building with thousands of tiny termites. They christened the building “Termite Terrace”, a name eventually used by fans and historians to describe the entire studio. The two soon developed an irreverent style of animation that would set Warner Bros. apart from its competitors. They were soon joined by animators Chuck Jones, Virgil Ross, and Sid Sutherland, and worked virtually without interference on their new, groundbreaking style of humor for the next year. It was a wild place with an almost college fraternity-like atmosphere. Animators would frequently pull pranks such as gluing paper streamers to the wings of flies. Leon Schlesinger, who rarely ventured there, was reputed on one visit to have remarked in his lisping voice, “Pew, let me out of here! The only thing missing is the sound of a flushing toilet!!”
#8 on The 50 Greatest Cartoons: As Selected by 1,000 Animation Professionals 1994.
“Red Hot Riding Hood” by Tex Avery. (1943)
Tex Avery sets the bar for “Over the Top” and “Screwball”. His works are easily identified by their frantic timing and madcap tone. This film was clearly aimed at adults and was very popular with the active military for obvious reasons. Avery set himself apart from his contemporaries by pushing the boundaries of plausible reality, even in the fantastical world of animated films. His influence is pervasive in popular culture, animated and otherwise. Strap in for a wild ride.
#7 on The 50 Greatest Cartoons: As Selected by 1,000 Animation Professionals 1994.
“How a Mosquito Operates” by Winsor McCay. (1912)
Here’s another one of McCay’s early efforts.
“Gertie the Dinosaurus” by Winsor McCay. (1914)
Although not the first animated film, the impact of McCay upon the craft of animation cannot be overstated. His work shocked and inspired the later greats of animation, including the likes of Max Fleischer, Walter Lantz, and Walt Disney. Gertie was originally performed as a Vaudeville act, with McCay talking to and interacting w his gigantic friend, then for a finale he would walk offstage, then appear as an animated character to ride off on his monster. W.R. Hearst apparently disliked that the popularity of these performances distracted McCay from his “day job” as a cartoon illustrator for his newspapers. This version of the film adds a dramatized “bet” between McCay and his friends instead of the live show at the beginning, and was widely distributed after he was no longer able to do the performances live. McCay was somewhat of a belligerent character who went so far to challenge others by saying: “Any idiot that wants to make a couple thousand drawings for a hundred feet of film is welcome to join the club.” McCay’s work stands out for bringing strong personality to his animated creations. Another somewhat disturbing early film of his worth checking out is How a Mosquito Operates. His drawing skills remain jaw-dropping to fans of the craft and are also well represented in his printed works: Little Nemo in Slumberland and Tales of the Rarebit Fiend.
#6 on The 50 Greatest Cartoons: As Selected by 1,000 Animation Professionals 1994.
“One Froggy Evening” by Chuck Jones. (1955)
Steven Spielberg called this the Citizen Kane of cartoons. Brilliant short w no dialogue aside from the singing frog.
#5 on The 50 Greatest Cartoons: As Selected by 1,000 Animation Professionals 1994.
“Duck Dodgers in the 24.5th Century” by Chuck Jones. (1953)
Chuck Jones continues his domination of the top of the list. The high quality of his work spans decades and not only for his time at Warner Brothers. This cartoon captures the spirit of 1950’s modernity in it’s style as a backdrop for a radio-style episodic hero. An early performance of the unnamed character who would later be known as Marvin the Martian.
#4 on The 50 Greatest Cartoons: As Selected by 1,000 Animation Professionals 1994.
“The Band Concert” by Wilfred Jackson. (1935)
This is a great Disney cartoon. Personally I prefer this era for Disney, 1930s thru mid 1940s, where they were a lot less saccharine than later releases. At the time cartoons were not seen as specifically aimed at children and many were seen in-between more adult focused fare at movie houses. Here Mickey tries to conduct a concert that is barely in his control. Donald Duck does him no favors by trying to steer the music to his liking.
#3 on The 50 Greatest Cartoons: As Selected by 1,000 Animation Professionals 1994.
“Duck Amuck” by Chuck Jones. (1953)
This one is at the top of my personal list. Daffy Duck gets into an argument w his animator. Breaks the fourth wall and pretty much all the rules and norms. Brilliant in concept and execution.
#2 on The 50 Greatest Cartoons: As Selected by 1,000 Animation Professionals 1994.
“What’s Opera, Doc?” by Chuck Jones. (1957)
One of the few films I’ve had the pleasure of seeing projected on 35mm film. One of the finest that Warner Brothers ever put out. High art meets popular culture.
#1 on The 50 Greatest Cartoons: As Selected by 1,000 Animation Professionals 1994.