Saturday, 30 March 2013

Saturday Morning Cartoons - Easter Sunday Morning Cartoons

Tomorrow is Easter! Are you excited?

Well, I'm not sure how any-bunny can be with such a lack of quality Easter cartoons. Maybe they're just really well-hidden?

I mean, have you seen that movie Hop? It's eggs-cretable! Like they crapped out a script as they went along. And there is no way I'm even considering watching this...

That doesn't look fun at all! Those eyebrows scare me!

I feel bad for your kids! They deserve more than this! Mind you, I don't think we had much better to choose from growing up. There were a lot of rotten eggs that both we and our parents sat through. I hunted for some of them, and unfortunately was taught to always share, so you'll find a few of them below. But there's a delicious creme egg or 2 in here if you're patient, so don't hop on down the bunny trail just yet.

Let's begin with the ultimate sugar rush, courtesy of Disney in 'Funny Little Bunnies'. (1934)  So sickly sweet, you'll contract diabetes upon a single viewing.

The original character of Bosko, which started at Warner Bros., looked like this...

Bosko was already heard as a racial stereotype when he spoke for the first time in 1929's 'Bosko The Talk-Ink Kid'. But when he was moved from Warner Bros. to MGM, he would later be redesigned into more of a physical stereotype to match. Here's an unfortunate example of this in 1937's 'Bosko's Easter Eggs'.

In 1967, 'The Easter Bunny' was robbing banks and brandishing a gun, but was no match for Super Chicken. Super Chicken was a segment featured in Jay Ward and Bill Scott's George Of The Jungle, and featured one of the best theme songs ever made.

Rankin/Bass OWNED Christmas, but also had a fondness for Easter. It started in 1971 with their stop-motion, 'Here Comes Peter Cottontail'. Notable voices include Danny Kaye, Casey Kasem, Paul Frees and Vincent Price as January Q. Irontail.

Then in 1976, they released the fully-animated 'The First Easter Rabbit', which featured narration by Burl Ives.

Then a year later, they released the stop-motion 'The Easter Bunny Is Comin' To Town'. Note the parallels to Rankin/Bass's Christmas special of a similar name. This features the same newsreel-style opening and the same narrator as 1970's 'Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town', again played by Fred Astaire.

Warner Bros. put out 'Bugs Bunny's Easter Funnies' in 1977, but like many of their TV specials, the thematic bridges to the cartoons they showcased became a bit of a stretch.

Weirdly, the only cartoon that SHOULD have been included, wasn't - Bugs Bunny in 1951's 'Easter Yeggs', directed by Robert McKimson.

For being so anti-holiday at times, it's surprising the Charlie Brown gang starred in so many holiday-themed TV specials. 1974's 'It's The Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown' is a real treat! It's funny and fun to look at. I love the continued use of those great backgrounds - the pink horizons and sometimes-trippy skies reminiscent of the ones seen in 'The Great Pumpkin'. Those backgrounds later become the star of the show, as they make distracting and hilarious statements on consumerism as the gang wanders through a shopping mall. I've included a full upload of the special below from a VHS transfer, but keep in mind you can watch a cleaner version of this tomorrow (Sunday) night on ABC, who have aired the special annually since 2001. Prior to that, CBS ran it for 26 years.

Here's a rare Easter egg courtesy of Conan O'Brien, who recently "unearthed" a never-before-seen director's cut of 'It's The Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown'...

Another lesser-known comic strip-to-cartoon creation was Bil Keane's "The Family Circus", who were inserted into 3 Hallmark holidays - 1978's 'A Special Valentine With The Family Circus', 1979's 'A Family Circus Christmas' and 1982's 'A Family Circus Easter'. Who wants to watch them? Not me!

Rare is the occasion I will acknowledge ANYTHING post-1970's when it comes to Yogi Bear. I've never been able to fully accept the watering down of a once perfectly-flawed character. I meant to include 1994's 'Yogi The Easter Bear' as a fleeting Family Circus-like footnote, but must admit I rather enjoyed it. It was the last time Ranger Smith and Boo Boo would have their original voices, provided by Don Messick, who passed away in 1997.

The Simpsons have desecrated Easter on several occasions. In Season 10's 'Simpsons Bible Stories', Homer inserts a chocolate bunny he found in a dumpster into the church collection plate on Easter Sunday. In Season 17's 'The Last Of The Red Hat Mamas', Homer steals Easter eggs from children at Mayor Quimby's mansion, and kicks the cotton out of Hugs Bunny. And in the last new episode from Season 24 called 'Dark Knight Court', the Springfield school band brass section is implicated in a mass egging, set-up by Bart's devious hand. But perhaps most famous for me (and not entirely related to Easter) is Homer's imaginary visit to The Land of Chocolate, where he gleefully prances after half-price Easter bunnies in his mind...for 10 front of a VERY understanding pair of German safety inspectors.

You may not know this, but Homer made a return visit to The Land of Chocolate in 'The Simpsons Game', released in 2007, where he was tempted and taunted by a different chocolate.

In 1992, The Simpsons were up for a Primetime Emmy in the category of Outstanding Animated Program, but lost to Will Vinton's 'A Claymation Easter'. I'd say that upset was well-deserved, because even though The Simpsons were in their heyday back then, 'A Claymation Easter' is a better testament to the craft. You can see the painstaking detail that must have went into making this film. At times you question how it can possibly be clay-based! And like The Simpsons, it's snappy and clever to boot.

Will and his studio also made Christmas and Halloween specials, but are most famous for creating The California Raisins in 1988.

But enough about egg hunts and...pigs with pet sharks. What about the true meaning of Easter? What does it all mean? Kyle asks that same question in 'Fantastic Easter Special' from South Park Season 11.

To clarify, the true story of Easter is about Jesus! It's actually pretty interesting. Maybe when I have more time, I'll invite you over for dinner to tell you about it.

Hoppy Easter, meester!

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Saturday Morning Cartoons - UFC (Ultimate Fighting Cartoons)

With the announcement of the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) coming to Winnipeg, June 15th, people are now prepping themselves for their own fight - to get tickets. It's incredible the command this franchise has over us! Apparently we love to watch people wail on each other! Which I guess has been a common appeal for many of the cartoons we've watched over the years. That's why this morning we're showcasing the UFC - Ultimate Fighting Cartoons. Not wrestling! We've already covered that. I'm talkin' no-holds-barred, dust-up, beat-down, hand-to-hand combat! A clean square upper-cut to the jaw in the name of fun!

We'll get to official UFC-inspired fighting later on. But before we do, we must recognize that before we even had UFC, there was only boxing, karate and World War II.

Let's start with a history of violence, courtesy of the always-manly Goofy, in 1941's 'The Art of Self Defense'.

Boxing has been consistently popular for years, and has been the subject of many a cartoon.

In this corner...Flip The Frog. Flip was created by animation legend Ub Iwerks after he left Disney. These cartoons, like many for the time, rely largely on cutesy antics and gags timed to music. Flip faces off here against one of his greatest opponents...known only as 'The Bully'. (1932)

It was hard to narrow down a Popeye cartoon to post, as the entire series was built upon a foundation of fighting. Most of them involved Popeye vs. Bluto, brawling for the affections of Olive Oyl. But here's an interesting role reversal in 'Never Kick A Woman', where Popeye takes Olive for self defense training, and lets his own defences down for a flirty fight coach, which results in a rough-and-tumble love triangle. Considering this was released in 1936, it's surprising to see women showcased this way - as the stars of the vehicle, just as fierce and funny as Popeye is. It's awesome to see Olive hitting on (quite literally) that male slut, Popeye. Which of course Popeye seems to enjoy, the pervert.

A disgruntled Daffy "Good-To-His-Mother" Duck challenges sportsman Elmer Fudd to a "fair" fight in 1943's 'To Duck...Or Not To Duck'.

Bugs Bunny takes on "The Champ" in 1951's 'Rabbit Punch'. "Champ" appears to be related to "The Crusher" who Bugs would later crush in wrestling cartoon, 'Bunny Hugged', which you can watch here again if you'd like.

Here's a fun cartoon from Paramount's Harveytoon series, also called 'Rabbit Punch'. (1955)  In it, Tommy Tortoise pummels Moe Hare in the squared circle, and punches up the script a bit too.

Sylvester gets an unwanted sparring partner in Hippety Hopper, the kangaroo he always mistakes for a mouse, in 1950's 'Pop 'Im Pop!', directed by Robert McKimson.

Donald Duck is an "uncle", but refuses to say it in 1953's 'Canvas Back Duck'.

Yogi Bear practices "fisticuff stuff" for free meals in 1959's 'Prize Fight Fright'.

Roger Ramjet enlists the help of his friend Punchy Peter Everlast in convincing his nephew Doodle to get out of prize fighting and back into pig brain science.

In the 1970's, TV networks would make a cartoon about pretty much anybody in the hopes of luring children to sit in front of their Saturday morning pablum. That included Muhammad Ali, who headlined a short-lived series in 1977, modestly titled I Am The Greatest: The Adventures of Muhammad Ali. Here we get to see what Ali did when he wasn't boxing, which included space exploration and saving railroads. Ali provided his own voice for the series, which was cancelled after just 3 months. Maybe not "the greatest" after all.

Here's another celebrity who felt it a good idea to voice his own Saturday morning likeness in 1986. I hear he also animated the entire series by himself...with his mind! Try and count how many times you hear his name in the opening credits.

Speaking of karate, someone also thought this was a good idea...

None of the original cast is heard in this. There is also a distinct lack of karate, which I will apologize for on everyone's behalf, and then fight whoever was responsible.

Canadian radio fans will know of The Champ, a creaky short-tempered former fighter who is prone to "snap" whenever he misinterprets those around him. The creator of that bit, Jake Edwards (Brother Jake to those in the radio-know) tried to launch an animated series about the character back in the 90's, but ran out of money before it could become a reality. The Champ reigns on in radio bits, a new iPhone app and this clip, which was animated by the app creators, Natterjack.

Here's an epic battle in South Park between Timmy and Jimmy, in an episode entitled...ahem...'Cripple Fight'.

Interestingly, the sequence recreates a fight (and some of the soundtrack) from 1988 sci-fi flick, They Live, starring Rowdy Roddy Piper.

Peter Griffin's battles with Ernie The Giant Chicken in Family Guy are just as long as the above and always initiated by something similarly inane. Here in Season 10's 'Internal Affairs', Peter starts the fight this time by backing into the chicken's car, which results in a drawn-out battle through time. Whatever, just go with it.

Speaking of whatever, here's a fight in reverse from Season 11's 'Yug Ylimaf'.

Daffy Duck starts a chicken fight of his own in 'The Foghorn Leghorn Story' from The Looney Tunes Show.

Let's take it from the streets now and move to The Octagon.

I think I first learned about UFC from Ren and Stimpy creator John Kricfalusi, who during the mid-90's, was showcasing caricatures he had done of UFC originals like Randy Couture, Brock Lesnar, Tank Abbott, and even colour commentators like Joe Rogan.

Seriously, this man LOVES Ultimate Fighting - or "human entertainment" as he calls it. Click this if you need additional proof. In the material, John talks about how he predated Spike TV's The Ultimate Fighter, while working for them on a Ren and Stimpy revival. He also makes mention of wanting Ken Shamrock to voice Stimpy's dad!

Here are 2 clips that also very publicly revealed John's love of UFC. The first is from a special he made for Cartoon Network in 1999 called 'Boo Boo Runs Wild'. In it, Yogi Bear tries to save his friend Boo Boo by attacking Ranger Smith with a surprise barrage of MMA-style manoeuvres. On his blog, John K. says the moves were built around a combination of Royce Gracie's Brazilian jiu jitsu and Mark "The Hammer" Coleman's "ground and pound" wrestle/punch techniques. I like the fact that if you watch this closely, it initially seems like Yogi is scared to use his training on Ranger Smith, but later loses himself in the fight.

Here's a quick clip that encapsulates John's thoughts on the OTHER John's thoughts about the UFC. Back in the late 90's, Senator John McCain rallied for the banning of the UFC, denouncing it as "human cockfighting". Here was John K's response to this, filtered through his all-American, George Liquor.

By the 2000's, UFC had established itself as an official mainstream sport. You have to be mainstream if The Simpsons are paying attention. Here's an episode from Season 21 called 'The Great Wife Hope', which featured a guest spot by retired fighter Chuck Liddell.

Dana White, president of the UFC, didn't like the episode. In a 2009 interview, he said...

"Did you see that Simpsons episode? Chuck Liddell signs an autograph for somebody, and he says, 'That will be $45, please'. The sport isn't like that at all."

"Then the promoter of the show fights Marge Simpson in The Octagon, sucker-punches her in the face, and then says, 'You're the only woman I've ever hit that I didn't love'.

"That's the way mainstream looks at us and thinks of us, and I know that. I'm always arguing with everyone else telling them we're not mainstream yet. You know what the positive side of that is? That's how much room we've got to grow. This thing, as big as it is, we've got a lot more room to grow."

If wrestling's pop-culture trajectory was any indication, I take this to mean we're about 5 years away from UFC: The Animated Series. Maybe UFC Babies? Somebody call John Kricfalusi about this! Or Chuck Norris! In fact, I heard he already created the series!

Alright, time for me to tap out.

Saturday, 16 March 2013

Saturday Morning Cartoons - Craic O' Dawn

Top o' the Saturday mornin' to ye! 'Tis St. Patrick's Day tomorrow, but let's have a wee bit of craic a day early! Steal ye'self a bowl of pink hearts, blue moons, purple horseshoes and yellow hip flasks, and let's watch some Irish-inspired cartoonies, me boy-os! (and girl-os)

Let's start with something more traditional and true to Irish folklore - more traditional than say, a Lucky Charms commercial. These are 2 cartoons from Paramount's Noveltoon series - 'The Wee Men' (1947) and 'Leprechaun's Gold' (1949).

Porky Pig went to Dublin in 1951's 'The Wearing Of The Grin'. This was Porky's last solo venture. He played straight-man to Daffy and Sylvester throughout most of his later career. Similar to how the French were slagged in their PepĂ© Le Pew shorts, Chuck Jones and writer Michael Maltese embellish regional dialect throughout. ("Now, isn't this sight enough to set the heart crossways in ye?")  Some of the music samples well-known traditional folk songs.

Droopy has a 4-hour layover in Ireland and decides to visit a castle where he encounters the "Mad Duke". Seemed fitting to have his rival Spike in Irelend for at least one episode, seeing as he always spoke with a brogue. 'Droopy Leprechaun' was the last theatrical Droopy cartoon to be released in 1958.

Hanna-Barbera had just broken into television when The Ruff & Ready Show was released on NBC in 1957. Each episode within the show was about 4 minutes long, and continued week-to-week in a serial style. Each story lasted 13 episodes, which worked out to about an hour's worth of animation per. During Season 2 in 1959, one story arc revolved around Ruff and Ready's capture of a leprechaun, who explains all in Episode 3, 'The Goon of Glocca Morra'.

Felix The Cat had several encounters with leprechauns in his 1958-1961 TV series. Here he has the last (and very forced) laugh in 'The Capturing of the Leprechaun King'. Jack Mercer provided that laugh. He was also providing Popeye's laugh at the time.

Lippy The Lion (always seeking a get-rich scheme) and Hardy Har Har (always depressed) travelled to Ireland on a balloon bike in 1963, but their quest for gold went to pot in 'Sham-Rocked', from an episode of The Hanna-Barbera New Cartoon Series.

The Beatles encountered a leprechaun of female persuasion as they toured Ireland in 1965, as part of their crappy Saturday morning TV series.

Speaking of crappy, check out the "prize" in this cereal! We chased around that little gobshite for THAT?!

Ahem. Sorry about that. Where were we?
Rankin/Bass, who were responsible for classic stop-motion Christmas fare like Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer and Frosty The Snowman, injected a little more green into the holidays of 1981, with The Leprechans' Christmas Gold.

Johnny Bravo, a 1990's Cartoon Network series, was about a brash ladies' man who sounded like an Elvis impersonator. Johnny was spun off from shorts showcased on Cartoon Network's World Premiere Toons. Seth MacFarlane of Family Guy fame (and Oscar infamy) was a staff writer. Here's Johnny in 'Blarney Buddies'. Note the emerald-stained colour scheme on everything, including sheep, chickens, etc.

Dexter's Laboratory was also spun-off from World Premiere Toons. In 'That Magic Moment', we meet Dexter's Magic Uncle Fergel O'Reilly, voiced by Mark Hamill. Aye, THAT Mark Hamill.

Adult Swim had a fondness for leprechauns. The cast of Aqua Teen Hunger Force fell prey to a leprechaun's email scam, with typically meandering results in 'Escape From Leprechaunopolis'.

Harvey Birdman: Attorney At Law introduced us to rival lawyer, Shado The Brain Thief. Peter Potamus was not impressed.

The Simpsons have their own leprechaun living in Springfield named O'Reilly. He's made several appearances, probably most famously as Ralph Wiggum's pyromaniac voice of reason.

The Irish have had a spotty history throughout The Simpsons' now 24-season run. Whacking Day was originally an excuse to beat up the Irish ("Aye, but it was all in good fun!"); Ned Flanders doesn't allow use of the "I-word" in his house; and Bart got drunk at a St. Patrick's Day parade in Season 8's 'Homer Vs. The 18th Amendment', which resulted in a town-wide prohibition.

Here's another St. Patty's Day parade gone awry from Season 20's 'Sex, Pies & Idiot Scrapes'.

Family Guy has also taken the piss out of the Irish. Here's a drunken ditty about one of 'Peter's Two Dads'...

Okay, enough with these "yank" stereotypes! I'd like to take a paragraph or 2 to quickly tell you about legitimate Irish animation.

The industry has had its ups and downs. For example, a downward trend occurred in the 1990's when Dublin-based Sullivan Bluth Studios (co-owned by Don Bluth, who had mainstream success in movies like An American Tail and The Land Before Time) was forced to shut down operations after the popularity of traditional cel animation had waned, and resulted in film flops like A Troll In Central Park and The Pebble And The Penguin.

Currently, Ireland's animation industry is in the midst of another upswing. The Irish Film Board donates significant money to new and upcoming projects distributed domestically, many of which have been successful of late without losing their "Irish".

We'll conclude with 3 of those projects. Irish-made projects that the Irish can actually be proud of. I'm talking to you, Family Guy.

Two of them gained popularity in 2010, which was a great year for Irish animation.

Tomm Moore's The Secret of Kells was nominated for Best Animated Feature at the 82nd Academy Awards. Cartoon Saloon, who developed the beautiful film, is an animation studio in Kilkenny. Tomm Moore and his crew are currently working on a new film called Song Of The Sea.

Also in 2010, the very funny Granny O'Grimm's Sleeping Beauty was nominated for Best Animated Short. Brown Bag Films of Dublin produced this.

Brown Bag Films also received an Oscar nomination in 2001, with an episode of their Give Up Yer Aul Sins series. The audio for these cartoons came from a schoolteacher's old tape recordings of children giving interpretations of Bible stories. To provide incentive for learning, Peig Cunningham lied to the children (or so she thought), saying if they did a good job, they'd end up on the radio. Thirty years after they were recorded, they DID end up on Irish radio and became a huge hit. An animator at Brown Bag Films heard one of them in his car, and convinced his co-workers to adapt it into a film. The Oscar nod and new found popularity resulted in the commission of 6 additional films. The end result is a pure and humourous flashback to Ireland of 50 years ago.

Here's the episode about St. Patrick, which seems a fitting, if not completely accurate, close to this post.

Well, certainly more fitting and accurate than this...

Erin Go Blech!

Saturday, 9 March 2013

Saturday Morning Cartoons - Cat and Mouth (The Many Voices of Thomas "Tom" Cat and Jerry Mouse)

Tom and Jerry were famously mute. At least, that's how I remember them. But when you look back at the series, you realize just how vocal they were.

And I'm not talking about THIS poor excuse for Tom and Jerry...

That was a clip from the ill-advised 'Tom And Jerry: The Movie', a 1992 theatrical release where the duo talked throughout as if they were FRIENDS (!), trying to help an orphan or some shit.

No, I'm talking about Hanna-Barbera's original punch/kick/waffle-maker-to-the-tail theatrical shorts, where this is mostly what you heard...

Or this..

Or this...

Sometimes the screams were a little higher pitched...

Sometimes they weren't screams at all...

Most of the sounds Tom and Jerry made over the course of Hanna-Barbera's 114 cartoon run were made by their co-creator, William Hanna. Every yell, laugh, gulp and exhale were his, except for a few more elaborate sounds, which we'll get into below.

Later in the series, when Chuck Jones took over, Mel Blanc of Bugs Bunny fame provided vocal effects.

But these are still just sound effects, really. I'm talking about actual talking.

Well, in the case of Tom, he had many different voices.

Here's Tom as dumbass, evidenced by a brief spelling lesson heard at the end of 1946's Trap Happy...

Tom was a dumbass previous to that, in 1945's The Mouse Who Came To Dinner. Other voices in this include Mammy Two Shoes, a series regular (and unfortunate reflection of the times) voiced by Lillian Randolph, and Sara Berner as Tom's unimpressed date.

Tom's voice in 1944's The Million Dollar Cat shifts between dumbass and shrieking lunatic.

At times, Tom could sound more gentlemenly. His tones are quite pleasing in 1950's The Framed Cat, during his attempts to distract Spike the Bulldog. Wiki tells me Daws Butler did both Tom and Spike's voice for this. Daws Butler would work with Hanna-Barbera most of his life, creating dozens of other famous voices including Yogi Bear and Snagglepuss.

Here's an insane and hilariously dated cartoon called The Zoot Cat (1944), where Tom can be heard as 1930's hipster, horn-dog Pepe Le Pew impersonator, and...uh, that guy! (who shows up at the 5:15 mark) Wiki says Billy Bletcher voiced Tom in this one. Billy also voiced Spike. He did so up until 1949, until he was replaced by Daws Butler. Sara Berner can also be heard as "Toots". William Hanna portrays the radio announcer.

Sometimes Tom's voice turned downright creepy and menacing. Here are 2 lines that used to scare me as a child, and I still don't know the official meaning behind them. The first clip is from 1944's The Bodyguard...

And this is from 1944's Mouse Trouble...

That last line also shows up at the end of 1953's The Missing Mouse, after Tom kicks an exploding rodent in the butt. Yes, I just typed that with a serious face.

Sometimes the voices came from Tom's head, which may have been causing his violent tendencies all along. ("X marks the spot.")

Sometimes Tom sounded like Droopy. Oh wait, that's not Tom.

Sometimes Tom adopted an entirely different voice when he sang.

Here he is as jazz singer in Solid Serenade (1946). Ira "Buck" Woods provided the voice.

Here's his nod to the country/western genre, as seen in Texas Tom (1950). Although lip-syncing accusations have put this performance into question.

Here's Tom as opera virtuoso in Chuck Jones' The Cat Above and The Mouse Below (1960). Jerry's not bad either.

Speaking of Jerry, where's his voice in all of this? Well, he had his highs and lows. His voice was extremely high (and provided by Sara Berner) in his cameo with Gene Kelly in 1945's 'Anchors Aweigh', which was recently replicated on an episode of 'Family Guy'.

Then his voice couldn't have been lower in 1956's Blue Cat Blues, with smooth, dulcet tones provided by Paul Frees. Don't think his spirits could have been any lower in this either.

What a depressing way to end a Saturday morning! Not as depressing as that movie they made in the 90's though.

Still, I think we've heard enough. Tom, Jerry - Quiet Please!

Saturday, 2 March 2013

Saturday Morning Cartoons - The Official Dr. Seuss Birthday Sounding-Off Place

Exactly one year ago, when 'The Lorax' movie starring Danny Devito came out, I read an interesting article about Dr. Seuss' widow Audrey Geisel, overseer of her late husband's estate. It was about quality control. "I'm not one to go commercial very easily", she told USA Today. "I like my little creatures kept in their little circle". Thankfully that "little circle" is now strictly an animated one. Mrs. Seuss, so underwhelemed by live action stink-stank-stunk like Jim Carrey's 'How The Grinch Stole Christmas' (2000) and Mike Myers' 'The Cat In The Hat' (2003), decided (thankfully) that all feature film output from then on in would be animated. Subsequent releases, which so far have included 2008's 'Horton Hears A Who' and 2012's 'The Lorax', have been steps in the right direction. Certainly more worthy of the Dr. Seuss brand, that's for sure. There's even a new CG 'How The Grinch Stole Christmas' now scheduled for 2015! 

I'm with Mrs. Geisel. I can respect Jim Carrey for trying. But Dr. Seuss' world was meant for cartoons!

Dr. Seuss, born Theodor (Ted) Seuss Geisel exactly 109 years ago today, was a skilled cartoonist in addition to being the most unlikely poet ever. His distinctive drawing style is recognizable even without the rhyme scheme to accompany it. And because that style is so distinctive, it's interesting his work was left to be interpreted by so many other talents. But that's partly because he inspired so many who wanted to work with him. 

Prior to writing his first books, Dr. Seuss was an illustrator for both newspapers (he created a comic strip called Hejji in 1935) and advertising, mainly for an insecticide called Flit, which he worked on for 17 years. 

There's a rumour that 2 lost cartoons he worked on during this time for Warner Bros., may have been advertisements for Flit - 1931's 'Neath The Badaba Tree and Put On The Spout, which I guess kinda sounds insecticide-esque. Little is known about these cartoons except that Dr. Seuss seems to be credited for the stories, and they don't exist.

By 1940, Dr. Seuss, the author, was making a name for himself, with the release of his book, Horton Hatches The Egg. Two years later, the cartoon was released as a Warner Bros. Merrie Melodie, directed by animation legend, Bob Clampett, who was a fan of the book. The story remains relatively faithful to the source material, except for a few creative flourishes you probably didn't see on television...

Dr. Seuss would work with Clampett again, along with other famous Looney Tunes directors, for a series called Private Snafu between 1943 and 1945.

'Snafu' (an acronym meaning Situation Normal: All F*cked Up) was for military only - an educational series commissioned by the United States army. Disney was given first crack at creating the series, but was underbid by Leon Schlesigner, who was overseeing the Warner Bros. animation department at the time. Good thing he did, because his creative team is what gave these cartoons the edge and personality to stand out, with heavy-hitters at the helm like Seuss and Clampett, Chuck Jones, Friz Freling and Frank Tashlin. You can watch some of these as bonus features on the Looney Tunes Golden Collection DVDs. Here's one that wasn't included, featuring a special guest star you may recognize...

During this time, 2 stop-motion Puppetoon cartoons were also released, based on published Dr. Seuss books - The 500 Hats Of Bartholomew Cubbins (1943) and To Think I Saw It On Mulberry Street (1944). I haven't seen them, but as you can tell from this pic, the stretchy and more abstract Dr. Seuss-style would have been harder to pull off with this type of filmmaking.

One of Dr. Seuss's most well-known contributions to the cartoon world was based on a record he wrote and illustrated for Capitol. Gerald McBoing-Boing is about a 2-year old who can only speak in sound effects. The cartoon, which won an Academy Award in 1950, was made by UPA (United Productions of America), and would come to represent an animation movement. The UPA-style of cartoon was considered to be the anti-Disney. Simplistic designs, basic backgrounds and experimental use of colour would typify UPA's output. It was a process that abandoned realism for style, and proved a great cost-cutting measure through the use of limited animation, unfortunately to the detriment of many cheapie cartoons to follow.

The popularity of the character resulted in Gerald headlining 3 more cartoons, which Dr. Seuss had no involvement in. He also had his own series, 'The Gerald McBoing-Boing Show', which aired from 1956-1957, and then again from 2005-2007.

Now to the most famous Dr. Seuss cartoon of all - How The Grinch Stole Christmas (1966). Dr. Seuss was reluctant to turn The Grinch into a cartoon, despite having worked with Chuck Jones before on 'Private Snafu'. Additions and updates had to be made in order to turn the book into a half-hour feature. And perhaps the biggest acceptance that Seuss had to come to terms with was Jones' decision to make The Grinch green. In the original book, it's hard to believe The Grinch didn't really have a colour, aside from the Santa suit he puts on. Now it's hard to imagine him being anything BUT green!

Dr. Seuss was also apparently concerned the characters would become more "Chuck Jones". And they did. But one can safely say now, it was for the betterment of the cartoon. Still, Chuck Jones, even though adding his own signature flair (like that bad-ass toothpick), still stayed true to the book's story, layout and design.

In addition to inserting new scenes like the descent down Mount Crumpit, the story was also expanded with songs, which Dr. Seuss wrote himself. As if anyone else could have made a "three decker sauerkraut and toadstool sandwich" part of a holiday standard!

That song, "You're A Mean One, Mr. Grinch", was performed by Thurl Ravenscroft, who was also the voice of Frosted Flakes' Tony The Tiger. Upon first broadcast, many people assumed it was Boris Karloff, who performed the sing-songy "sounds of The Grinch". Aghast at this, the good Dr. reportedly apologized to Thurl and wrote numerous letters to newspapers to try and set the story straight, giving Thurl credit where credit was due.

The Grinch is a classic. And thanks to repeated TV showings every holiday season, it's now difficult to differentiate between the book and the cartoon. It's like the two were meant for each other though - the perfect coupling between two geniuses and their two very different mediums. The cartoon needs the prose, but the prose only gets better with stuff like this...

Chuck Jones also partnered with Dr. Seuss for a version of Horton Hears A Who in 1970, featuring most of his original crew from The Grinch, including Thurl Ravenscroft, who obviously accepted Dr. Seuss' apology.

Dr. Seuss then worked with Warner Bros. director Friz Freling at his new animation company with David H. DePatie. Starting with 1971's The Cat In The Hat, they would crank out a new Dr. Seuss special on an almost annual basis, continuing with The Lorax (1972), Dr. Seuss On The Loose (1973), The Hoober-Bloob Highway (1975), Halloween Is Grinch Night (1977), Pontoffel Pock, Where Are You? (1980) and ending with 1982's The Grinch Grinches The Cat In The Hat. Children and Dr. Seuss fans may enjoy these faithful adaptations, which have a look more consistent to Seuss's books. But if you're like me, the distinct lack of personality in both direction and design make for some very long half-hours.

Three more TV specials came after that, made at different studios.

I guarantee you haven't seen the first one - a 1986 adaptation of Thidwick, The Big Hearted Moose. That's because it was Soviet-made and officially called Welcome in English. I can't tell how faithful the dialogue is to the book, as I wasn't able to learn Russian this week. But it's a beautiful film made with paint-on-glass, directed by Alexai Karayev. Visually and stylistically, it's night-and-day compared to other Dr. Seuss adaptations. The ending, the lack of animal names and an absense of narrator are the other main differences. Dr. Seuss had no direct involvement in the film. Although he probably could have. Dr. Seuss seems to speak in his own language anyway. What's Russian for Winna-Bango?

There was an adaptation of Daisy-Head Mayzie put out in 1995 by Hanna-Barbera, but 1989's The Butter Battle Book was the last animated feature that Dr. Seuss was directly involved in. And what a way it was to close out a very "storied" career! Butter Battle was produced by animation legend Ralph Bakshi, who made cartoons for VERY big kids - notorious adult-fare like the X-rated 'Fritz The Cat' and 'Heavy Traffic'. The Butter Battle Book, both book and cartoon, makes very adult allusions to the Cold War, and Bakshi retains that edge (not to mention an open ending) in his cartoon, without losing an overall sense of charm throughout. This is another great example of two gifted artists, making one another's work even better. And it's nice to finally hear some stand-out songs by Seuss again, on par with the ones he wrote for The Grinch. This is my second favourite Seuss adaptation next to The Grinch, and a great way to end on a high note.

Dr. Seuss passed away at the age of 87 on September 24, 1991. But obviously he'll live on forever in his books and cartoons, which are still released with great frequency.

Caught myself enjoying an episode of 'The Cat In The Hat Knows A Lot About That' awhile back with my nephew. Martin Short has a great voice for The Cat! Classy, with a hint of insanity! My nephew would probably agree but he gets tired of hearing me talk about cartoons all the time, so I try not to pry.

Happy birthday, Dr. Seuss! “Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You."