Wednesday, October 24, 2012

In praise of TCM's recent animation showcase

UPA's Rooty Toot Toot (1952)
There does seem to be a disconnect between what I am writing about lately and what I am actually watching on TV. To that end:
Kudos to TCM for showcasing classic animation last Saturday night. Robert Osbourne welcomed animation historian Jerry Beck and the two presented six hours of vintage animated gems. Beyond the rarely-seen Fleischer features Gulliver's Travels and Hoppity Goes to Town there was an hour of UPA Jolly Frolics cartoons from the '50s and an hour of some early examples of animation, including the primitive sketches of J. Stuart Blackton and silent cartoons produced in New York, some of it over 100 years ago.
The UPA cartoons remain inspirational and modern 60 years after their release, especially Rooty Toot Toot. Stylistically, they share many attributes with the National Film Board of Canada animated shorts at the time (which would be worthy of their own TCM salute). The silent cartoons from J.R. Bray, Earl Hurd, Paul Terry and Max Fleischer were presented with new musical scores thanks to the restoration work of collector Tom Stathes.
Terry's Farmer Alfalfa in Springtime (1923)
I grew up watching the great Warner Bros. Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies of the '30s, '40s and '50s which were all over TV at one time. My first TV memories are of getting up at the crack of dawn and watching the original, black and white Max Fleischer Popeye cartoons with the opening door ship titles. Besides being great fun and always entertaining, those films were an insight into 20th century history and culture I otherwise would never have gained. 
It is a shame you never see those cartoons on TV anymore, as well as the best of Walter Lantz or MGM's great Tex Avery cartoons or Tom & Jerry in their theatrical prime. Crazy, too, that the brilliant Disney shorts are no longer showcased on any Disney channels. In a digital age when content is King, these animated gems should be considered a King's ransom.
So kudos to TCM for bringing these animation rarities out of the vault. More please, and if you agree, go to the TCM message boards and join the many people hoping to see animation showcased as a monthly feature on the Turner network.
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