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 Pepé 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!

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