Saturday, 29 June 2013

Saturday Morning Cartoons - Frame And Mountie

Happy July 1st Long Weekend, eh?

When you think of Canada, what comes to mind? I always consider something proud and majestic, symbolically strong in both culture and country. That's right, I think of Alan Thicke. But when I don't think of Alan Thicke, I think of our Mounties!

Truthfully, the official officers of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police were far better dressed than Alan Thicke ever was! They too are a symbol of Canadian pride, much of which has been on display in the cartoons we watch!

We begin with the most famous animated Mountie of all time - Dudley Do-Right.

Dudley first appeared in segments during The Rocky & Bullwinkle Show, but later received top billing in his own program on ABC called The Dudley Do-Right Show. (also known in syndication as Dudley Do-Right and Friends)

Dudley was always successful in getting his man (namely Snidley Whiplash), but most of the time it was completely by accident. He was a bit of a dumbbell, which is culturally inaccurate as it's a well-known fact that all Canadians are born brilliant. At least he was polite though, which is true to Canada.

By the way, sorry for bragging about how smart Canadians are. It was pompous and inappropriate. Thank you for still reading this. I really appreciate it.

Dudley was a parody of the old time Mountie serials that Americans made, where officers on dog sleds veered dangerously in and out of sudden avalanches. Many of the Mountie cartoons would parody these short films.

Here's Dudley is in his first cartoon called 'The Disloyal Canadians'.

Here, Dudley tries recruiting a 'Mountie Bear', which features cartoon cameos by 2 other very famous Canadians.

Apparently the Americans loved the idea of bears posing as Canadians. But apparently the U.S. Forest Service didn't love the idea of a pyromaniac posing a police officer. Here's a segment that was banned for many years, called 'Stokey The Bear'.

Besides Dudley, many other cartoon characters have suited up north of the border.

Oswald The Lucky Rabbit became 'Ozzie Of The Mounted' back in 1928.

Bosko became 'Big Man From The North' in 1931.

Elmer Fudd attempted to get his rabbit in Friz Freleng's 'Fresh Hare' from 1942. As evidenced at the 7:12 mark, you'll know why you've never seen this on TV before. Yeesh. Unacceptable. And quite random as is, so would've been a tough edit to try and make natural. Apparently there are cuts to this where they fade out before "Camptown Races", and another where the song is left intact, but footage of Bugs dancing in a different cartoon replaces the racist images.

Sgt. Droopy McPoodle is probably the second most well-known animated Mountie of all time, as seen in 1946's 'Northwest Hounded Police', directed by Tex Avery. This is basically a remake of Droopy's first cartoon, 1943's 'Dumb-Hounded', but with better gags.

Sgt. Huckleberry Hound (played by Daws Butler), stout fellow and all that, is assigned to bring in Powerful Pierre in 1958's 'Tricky Trapper'.

The similarly-voiced Smedley (also voiced by Daws Butler) is a melon-headed Mountie, who mistakes Chilly Willy for the nefarious Caribou Lou in 1959's 'Yukon Have It'.

The New 3 Stooges are assigned to bring in a delinquent bear. What is it with Mounties and bears?

This was from a series that ran from 1965-66, featuring cartoons built around new bridging sequences that starred the then-60-year old Stooges. They would introduce the animation as part of separate live action vignettes.

Ren and Stimpy proudly wore women's clothing in 1993 as members of the lesser-known 'The Royal Canadian Kilted Yaksmen'. Why did they do it? For the great reward of "probably going to hell".

Here's a bland and unfunny entry into Cartoon Network's What A Cartoon! pilot program from 1995, called 'Yoink! Of The Yukon'. Thankfully the awful adventures of Sgt. Thumbsworth Tharplung and his sidekick, Yoink, were not picked up to be a series.

Cow and Chicken (which WAS picked up to be a series via What A Cartoon!) encountered a previously unheard-of "Canadian Office Mountie", played by The Red Guy in 1999's 'The Full Mounty'.

Rick the Mountie is one of many colourful Canadians the gang from South Park encounters in a 2003 Season 7 episode called 'It's Christmas In Canada'.

There! How's that for patriotism? You feelin' it? Ready for the long weekend? Well if not, here's Sgt. Wiggum to sing us out...


Happy Canada Day, eh!

Saturday, 22 June 2013

Saturday Morning Cartoons - Roger Rabbit Redux

P-p-p-p-please, don't argue with me! Who Framed Roger Rabbit is one of the greatest films of all time!

Released 25 years ago today (June 22, 1988), Who Framed Roger Rabbit is still a marvel to look at, regardless of whether you're a cartoon buff or not. The animation is obviously stunning, which kick-started a cartoon revolution for Disney and tons of other studios who suddenly realized the artform could still be bankable. Not only that, but every time I watch it, I realize that Bob Hoskins (Eddie Valiant) and Christopher Lloyd (Judge Doom) are cartoons in themselves, seamlessly morphing into a world they shouldn't. To get a better idea of just how amazing they are, watch Brad Pitt in Ralph Bakshi's god-awful Cool World for comparison. In fact, save yourself the disappointment and just trust me on this. 

Anyway, if you're like me, you've probably watched Roger Rabbit millions of times. But if you're a casual fan, here are 25 facts in celebration of 25 years, that you may not have realized re: this (partially) animated classic.

1)  Canadian animation director Richard Williams was vocally "anti-Disney", and designed a character that was not meant to invoke cutesy, but more of the classic cartoon characters from the 1940's. Watch here as Dick describes the amalgamation of animated characters that Roger represents, and sketches him as such for a British sock puppet. Gawd, I wish I was the kid who won this! 

2) Richard Williams had to "audition" for the role of lead animator on the film. Here's the first test he submitted to get the job. Charles Fleischer, is heard here early on, as the voice of Roger. That scare take near the end would be pretty much replicated later on in the actual movie.

3) In earlier test footage from 1983 before Richard Williams was involved, a preliminary version of Roger Rabbit was voiced by Paul "Pee Wee Herman" Reubens and looked nothing like the Roger we came to love.

A preliminary version of Jessica Rabbit is also unrecognizable. And Eddie Valiant has a beard! Apparently this is how he is described in the book the movie was based on, Gary K. Wolf's "Who Censored Roger Rabbit".

4) The role of Judge Doom was originally offered to Christopher Lee, which would have been awesome now that I think about it.

He was supposed to have an animated series of 12 kangaroos with joeys who would help him to decide judgement by spelling out YOU ARE GUILTY - 1 roo per letter, you see. He was also supposed to have an animated vulture. Both were cut for budget purposes, but the vulture turned up as a companion piece for the Judge Doom toy. 

5) If you read my Mother's Day blog, you'll also know that Judge Doom was supposed to be revealed as the hunter who killed Bambi's mom. But Disney didn't go for it. 

6) There are 5 weasel gang members in the film as hired for Judge Doom's Toon Patrol -  Greasy, Wheezy,  Psycho, Stupid and Smart Ass. Originally there was supposed to be 7 weasels to parody Snow White, but 2 were cut to save money - Slimey and Flasher, who sound exactly as they were supposed to appear.

7) Of course, you know that Mel Blanc performed all of the Warner Bros characters in one of his last roles. But did you know that voice legend June Foray performed Lena Hyena? And Nancy Cartwright, the voice of Bart Simpson, performed the squeals of the dipped shoe.

8) Kathleen Turner provided the voice of Roger's wife, Jessica Rabbit. She didn't receive a credit for it in the movie, but she did in the Roger Rabbit shorts that followed. 

9) There were 3 Roger Rabbit cartoon shorts released to theatres after the success of Who Framed Roger Rabbit. They were the first that Disney attached to films since 1965's 'Goofy's Freeway Trouble'. There was 1989's 'Tummy Trouble' (released in front of Honey, I Shrunk The Kids), 1990's 'Rollercoaster Rabbit' (released in front of Dick Tracy) and 1992's 'Trail Mix-Up' (released in front of A Far Off Place)  I watched all of these in the theatre. In fact, I may have been the only person who bought a ticket for A Far Off Place. And I didn't even stay to watch the movie!

10)  Roger watches a Goofy cartoon in a movie theatre while hiding out with Eddie - specifically 1949's 'Goofy's Gymnastics'. Filmmakers knew that technically the cartoon didn't exist yet, as the movie took place in 1947 - but went with it anyway as it was the wackiest thing they could find in Walt's vault.

11) There is a lot of filth to be found in Who Framed Roger Rabbit, some of which isn't obvious. In 1994, when the movie was released on laserdisc, reports came out that indicated if certain scenes were slowed down frame-by-frame, they revealed brief nudity on the part of Jessica Rabbit - specifically in certain versions of the Benny the Cab car crash sequence. I think they've since been edited out, but you can see where the offending bits may have once occurred.

12) Another infamous scene is near the beginning when Baby Herman is angrily exiting the scene of the 'Somethin's Cookin' set, and reaches up under a woman's dress. Slow motion will reveal that Baby Herman has a finger extended. Richard Williams animated most of the Baby Herman sequences himself, the perv.

13) Speaking of fingers, slo mo on the sequence featuring Mickey Mouse and Bugs Bunny reveals that the rabbit is giving the mouse the bird.

14)  The animator responsible for that above piece, Dave Spafford, told Animation Magazine in 2011 that at one point, he almost snuck in a sequence in the Daffy/Donald piano duet, where in addition to a dead chicken, Daffy was to play the piano with a dead baby. Not surprisingly, it was discovered and forced out. But the chicken remains intact at the 1:08 mark below.

15) That above piano sequence was storyboarded by Richard Williams with assistance by Chuck Jones. Chuck Jones has a credit in the film as Animation Consultant, but isn't proud of it. He denounced the movie in his book, "Conversations", saying the sequence he worked on was butchered and that the director, Robert Zemeckis, creatively stymied Richard Williams.

16) Let's go back to more perversion for a sec! I would be remiss not to reference Jessica Rabbit's boobs...BUT ONLY AS IT RELATES TO ANIMATION! Animation is about exaggerated movement, which left Roger Rabbit's animators with the task of trying to make a cartoon cartoon-y without affecting sex appeal. They came up with the idea of reversing the bounce of Jessica's breasts, to move upward instead of downward.

Honestly, I did not expect this post to get so dirty! Honestly!

16) Did you ever watch that above sequence, and wonder why Eddie Valiant leaves the bathroom without a shirt on? (revealing quite the sweater underneath, I might add!)  That's because it relates to a sequence that happened just before this scene, which was deleted from the final film. It's referred to as the "pig head" sequence. This isn't a very good quality version below, but you can find it on the extras of both the Who Framed Roger Rabbit Blu-Ray and DVD.

17)  The merchandising bonanza around Roger Rabbit also yielded a bit of bonus, seldom-seen animation. Not sure if Richard Williams' team is behind it?

18)  Most of the cartoon cameos in the film were personally arranged via the clout of Steven Spielberg. But there were some rights and licences that couldn't be acquired, like Tom & Jerry, Casper The Friendly Ghost, Popeye, Superman, Little Lulu and Felix The Cat - although Felix's likeness is still briefly seen on top of the bridge leading into Toontown.

19) All of the above characters who weren't in the film were supposed to be featured in an abandoned sequence showcasing R.K. Maroon's funeral. 

20) Some of the cartoon characters who cameo in the film, shouldn't have due to historical inaccuracy. I mentioned the events of the film take place in 1947. Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote, who appear in the end sequence, were not created until 1949. Ditto Speedy Gonzales, who didn't appear on screen until 1953. Filmmakers knew this was the case, but Steven Spielberg pushed for them to be included.

21) Talk of a sequel to Roger Rabbit has been on-and-off for over 2 decades, but never came to fruition. Progress was made with a screenplay called Roger Rabbit 2: Toon Platoon by Nat Maudlin, which was a send-up of wartime cartoons featuring Roger on a quest to find his mother. The script ended with him successfully finding both mother AND father, who just happens to be (***SPOILER ALERT***)...well, let's just say the last line of dialogue is "Gee, ain't I a stinker?"

I read that Spielberg rejected the script, because after doing Schindler's List, felt he couldn't take on a project that made light of the Nazis.

22) A rewrite of that rejected script was done by Animaniacs scribes Sherri Stoner and Deanna Oliver, who ditched the war plot and refocused the story to revolve around Roger's rise in Hollywood. They also left in the search for his mother. The working title was Who Discovered Roger Rabbit, and composer Alan Menken even wrote 5 songs for the project. This is one of those songs...

23)  The prequel was ultimately abandoned because of budget, which at the time was estimated at around $100 million. There were also debates as to how to animate the film. A CGI approach was considered, in so far that actual test footage was created. It's not terrible, but doesn't have the warmth of traditional 2D animation. And apparently Disney execs agreed, forcing the development team to go back to the drawing board - quite literally.

25) In 2010, Robert Zemeckis said that a sequel/prequel was still in the works, and if it went ahead, it would be animated in traditional 2D with digital effects. This is good news, but is it worth the risk of sullying a great film by trying to force lightning to strike twice? I'd be surprised if it was greenlit, especially when recent attempts to return to 2D didn't prove as profitable for Disney as the Pixar product. (Treasure Planet, The Princess and The Frog)  I doubt they'd take that risk. I mean, they may act idiotic, but they're not stupid.

Saturday, 15 June 2013

Saturday Morning Cartoons - Super Saturday!

I declare this a Super Saturday! So grab some super sugary cereal, pull up a laptop and let's get naked!

Sorry, Super Bear is a bad influence.

Anyway, as I was watching the very impersonal Man Of Steel yesterday, I started thinking about Superman, superstar of much better cartoons. Ever since he burst onto the scene in Max and Dave Fleischer's wonderful, colourful Superman series from the 1940's, he's pretty much been an animation constant over the years in various forms, from solo series, direct-to-DVD films and of course, far too many variations of Super Friends.


But enough about him. He gets enough attention. What about the other super men, women and beasts who have suited up in cape and occasional codpiece to fight for truth, justice and the disposable income of impressionable nerds everywhere? Well, today we acknowledge these unsung heroes. And I'm not talking about Superboy, Supergirl or any of the other officially super-sanctioned DC snobs. No, I'm talking about...


Chuck Jones directed this in 1943, as a jab to the Superman Fleischer cartoons of that same period. According to the commentary on Volume 3 of The Looney Tunes Collection DVD (done by Paul Dini, a driving force behind Superman: The Animated Series), the U.S. Marine Corps was so thrilled that Bugs Bunny became a marine in this cartoon, that they officially inducted him as a private! With dogtags and everything!


Never to be outshone by his counterpart, Daffy donned a big 'S' on his chest as well (which stood for something far less flattering) in this 1956 Robert McKimson cartoon.

He attempted to rebrand himself 40 years later in Chuck Jones' 'Superior Duck', but would once again be superseded by "the other guy".


Just as Bugs derived super-powers from a super carrot, Popeye gained powers after consuming spinach. So while every Popeye cartoon technically counts as worthy of this post, this one in particular is an actual parody of Paramount's Superman cartoons, produced by the same Superman studio (at the time), using some of the same Superman music cues. 


That was his original name. He starred as such in 7 cartoons between 1942-43.

Then in 1944, when Paul Terry (namesake for the Terrytoons brand) found out there was already a Super Mouse comic book featuring a different character of the same name, he dropped the 'Super' to make far better use of alliteration.  


The Pink Panther tried to be noble back in 1966, but just ended up harassing the elderly. But not for long.


Little Lulu of comic strip fame saved her father from the clutches of a burglar, a giant and pretentiousness in this short from 1947. 


Continuing our trend to provide strong female role models (and indirectly, a few Spanish lessons), Cow And Chicken asked 'Who Is Super Cow?' in this 1997 Season 1 episode.


It's a bird!

Sticking to a barnyard theme, this famous segment aired within episodes of 1967's George Of The Jungle. I may still put this theme song on my iPod this summer.


Flying under the radar like only the leader of the free world can, President James Norcross would become Super President when a phone call just wouldn't do. This short-lived series ran Saturday mornings between 1967-68, and is another blot on the esteemed career of Friz Freleng, who produced the series.


1989's Super Mario Bros Super Show combined two of my favourite things - rap music and Italian stereotypes, as delivered by wrestling legend Captain Lou Albano. Good thing they inserted that laugh track so you can tell where the jokes are!


I could've sworn I had better material for this blog. People are now leaving this page faster than a speeding bullet.

But just wait until that Justice League movie comes out, when we expand our scope to include famous super groups! Like this...

This will also be the unfortunate centrepiece of a March Madness post in early 2014. 

Saturday, 8 June 2013

Saturday Morning Cartoons - Accelleratii Incredibus Editioncus

This cereal never came to be. But if it did, it would've been all I consumed as a kid.

This commercial never came to be either, other than the preliminary filmed storyboard you just watched. Apparently focus groups didn't connect to either cereal or the spot like I would have. True, the "beep" was all wrong (more on that below), but we could have fixed that in Post! Get it? Post? Cereal? Breakfast?

Oh, never mind.

By the way, that reminds me of other wasted breakfast endorsement potential!

But I digress...

Chuck Jones' Road Runner and Coyote series is cartoon perfection to me. They've been my favourites since I can remember.

See that kid below in the cap? That's me. Still is.

By the way, this cartoon will also provide you with refreshing clarification as to why Wile E. seemingly wastes his time chasing a solitary scrawny bird.

Every Saturday, my dad would attempt to move our antenna on top of the house, using a high-tech antenna mover in the basement, so that I could watch that solitary, scrawny bird by accessing a signal from Grand Forks, which on the occasional cloudy day, would reveal a broadcast of The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Show at 5 p.m. Most of the time, I'd watch with squinted eyes through layers of "snow", trying to make out the goings-on. And I was always stressed because the Road Runner came on at the end, closer to 6 - and I would pray it'd finish before my mom called me for supper. But if it didn't, my mom would always tolerate my temporary absence, knowing I'd react at precisely 6:01 on the dot.

As a kid, I wouldn't just watch any ol' Road Runner cartoon. I knew the difference between a Chuck Jones and a non-Chuck Jones Road Runner. I knew the violence isn't what made them funny. It was the quiet moments before the mayhem. The comic timing. The facial expressions. The fine sign making.

Chuck Jones and his writer, Michael Maltese, created the Road Runner and Coyote in 1947, when chase cartoons were all the rage. Inspired by Mark Twain's inclusion of a coyote in his book, "Roughing It", Jones and Maltese intended their first outing to be a satire of the chase genre. But instead they personified it.

Note the Coyote's original "punny" name from one of the first model sheets. 

1949's 'Fast and Furry-ous' revved up a never-ending chase that lasted 48 official cartoons to date - 29 of which were directed (or co-directed) by Jones.

Note the Coyote's sleeker, thicker-chested look early on in the series.

The Road Runner's famous "beep" was provided by Warner Bros. artist, Paul Julian, who used to make that noise at work in the hallway as a way of getting people to move out of his way. Editor Treg Brown recorded several different versions of that "beep" (which always sounded more like a "meep" to me) and it was used from thereon in as the only sound the Road Runner ever made - a sound which Julian never received screen credit for.

According to Chuck Jones' book, "Chuck Amuck", it was apparently decided early on to establish ground rules for the series. Those rules were...

1. The Road Runner cannot harm the Coyote except by going "beep, beep".
2. No outside force can harm the Coyote - only his own ineptitude or the failure of the Acme products.
3. The Coyote could stop anytime -- IF he were not a fanatic. (Repeat: "A fanatic is one who redoubles his effort when he has forgotten his aim." -- George Santayana).
4. No dialogue ever, except "beep, beep!"
5. Road Runner must stay on the road - otherwise, logically, he would not be called Road Runner.
6. All action must be confined to the natural environment of the two characters - the southwest American desert.
7. All materials, tools, weapons, or mechanical conveniences must be obtained from the Acme Corporation.
8. Whenever possible, make gravity the Coyote's greatest enemy.
9. The Coyote is always more humiliated than harmed by his failures.
10. The audience's sympathy must remain with the Coyote.

It seems like a very complex way to simplify things, doesn't it? - for the benefit of making it more accessible to a wider audience. Many of those decisions, including eliminating dialogue, is the reason this series has played so well for so long - in all languages, in any country. Limitations considered, it's amazing the characters still possess the personality they do.

Wile E.'s reliance on the questionable Acme company was based on real life. Chuck Jones' sister was obsessed with the word 'Acme', as she found it hilarious that dubious advertisers would use it in their title as an obvious way to be listed first in the phone book. Of course the irony was that the word meant "the best", which Wile E. never received.

Freeze framing these product shots always revealed a hilarious sell line. 

By the 1950's, the Road Runner series was so well-established that it would seem it could almost "run" itself. But that was never the case. They were carefully crafted and calculated experiments in timing.

The Coyote's appearance changed to become more streamlined and less animal-like.

By the 1960's, cartoons became less "classic" looking, which for some reason was well-suited to the Road Runner's universe. This period marks my favourite look for Wile E. - kinda mangy, as you'd expect a coyote to be.

While I love all of Chuck Jones' Road Runners, I consider the best of the bunch to be from this "mangy" period of 1960-1964, when the cartoons became weirder, less polished and a lot funnier in my opinion. Upon losing his regular gag man, Michael Maltese, Chuck Jones began writing a lot of these episodes himself. And it's like he purposely started messing with the timing and format all over again. Set-ups you kinda-sorta expected from earlier cartoons were never reapplied. Single gags now became stretched out over a larger majority of the cartoon. Some of the violence was themed to particular kinds of products, like this infamous showcase of faulty catapults from 1963's 'To Beep Or Not To Beep'.

I also love the backgrounds from this period, which became more abstract and experimental, like the cartoons themselves. This was courtesy of artist Maurice Noble.

Noble gets a lot of credit for his Warner Bros. backgrounds, but not enough for making the desert so interesting in the Road Runner series.

Here's what the desert looked like pre-Maurice Noble.

And here's what it would become...

If you can look past the constant violence, you'll see that many of the Road Runner backgrounds follow a different colour scheme in each cartoon, from yellows and blues to pinks and purples. Definitely not always a palate you would commonly associate with the desert.

Here is one of my favourite cartoons of all time (not just Road Runner, but cartoons in general) - 1962's 'Zip N' Snort'. Not only is it an excellent showcase for the artwork described above, but it's a prime example of how Chuck Jones could keep taking the jokes you've seen a million times, and somehow rework them to be as fresh and funny as ever. That longevity is another reason why I admire this series so much.

If you're looking to get me something for Christmas, you can buy me the animation cel that contains the image seen at the :33 mark. That, to me, is Wile E. at his mangy best. In fact, there's great cel material throughout! (1:59, 4:14, 5:09, etc.)

'Zip N' Snort' also prompts me to praise Warner Bros. composer Milt Franklin, who revealed his understanding of comedy by choosing not to score certain scenes, instead allowing the sound effects to shine through. This is particularly effective at 1:23, and the sequence that begins at the 3:57 mark.

To me, 'Zip N' Snort' is the perfect culmination of comedy - from all sides. You can tell these guys were definitely in sync with each other. And it's that understanding that has proven difficult to replicate.

When Chuck Jones left Warner Bros. in the mid-1960's, the Road Runner was at his peak of popularity. After the studio cobbled together 2 shorts from an unreleased TV pilot that Chuck Jones directed called Adventures of The Road Runner (one of those shorts, 'Zip Zip Hooray', was included above), other directors started cranking out their own cheapie (and unfunny) Road Runner cartoons. I didn't even want to acknowledge them here, as they're embarrassing. But I'll include one for comparative purposes.

I couldn't even finish watching it, so I certainly hope you didn't feel obliged to.

Rudy Larriva handled the majority of the late 1960's series, but Warner Bros. legends Friz Freleng and Robert McKimson also took a stab at it and failed miserably.

Here's a pathetic example of what Warner Bros. was cranking out at the time, in 1965's 'The Wild Chase', which features a not-so-wild race between the Road Runner and Speedy Gonzales. Sylvester also cameos. Should you decide to view it, you may notice bright spots featuring the Road Runner and Coyote. Seem familiar? It should because they're scenes directly lifted from previous Chuck Jones Road Runner cartoons, in an attempt to save the studio money. It includes the entire smoke screen sequence you just watched above in 'Zoom And Bored'! For shame, Friz Freleng!

Speaking of cameos, did you know that another Warner Bros. star was once used as a fill-in for the Road Runner? In fact, he and the Coyote developed quite a history, but this is the only part of it that ever took place in the world of the Road Runner. We'll cover more on these mortal enemies in a separate blog.

But anyway, as evidenced by Freleng and McKimson's work, a proven track record wasn't important for a series like this - it was to have a basic understanding of the characters and the world they inhabited.

The Road Runner and Coyote are Chuck Jones's children. Several attempts have been made to resurrect the series, but don't compare. Nobody seems to "get" the dynamics as Chuck Jones understood them. Those rules above read pretty simple, but it still only seems like a world that existed in Chuck's head.

Chuck Jones returned to direct a few later Road Runner offerings, as part of TV specials in the 1970's and 80's. He also directed segments for early episodes of TV's The Electric Company.

His final theatrical short, 1994's 'Chariots of Fur', came out in front of screenings of Macaulay Culkin's Richie Rich. Chuck Jones would've been in his early 80's (!) while making this cartoon, and it contains more life than anything done on his behalf 30 years prior. Note that Maurice Noble also returned as background designer.

The Road Runner and Coyote recently reappeared in theatres again, this time in 3D/CGI form, without Chuck Jones at the helm. While not terrible, the cartoons certainly take some getting used to. Still, it's nice to see these characters alive and well after all these years - even if you have to pay for 3D glasses and a screening of Cats And Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore to see it. By the way, before you judge me, I will say that I left about 10 minutes into the actual movie. The movie I paid full price for - not even on half-price Tuesday. Okay, now you can judge me. I think I even ordered popcorn for some reason. Like, 3 minutes worth.

Road Runner and Coyote also appeared in CGI form on the first season of the new 'The Looney Tunes Show' on Cartoon Network. They appear to have been dropped from Season 2 though. 

Like that kid above, people who question my taste in judgement always ask the inevitable - "don't you wish that Coyote would catch the Road Runner, just once?" Well, no! For the same reasons above! And if you knew your cartoon history, you'd know that Wile E. DID in fact catch the Road Runner - in a TV cartoon that Jones directed in 1980 called 'Soup or Sonic'. Unfortunately, it didn't go the way Wile E. intended.

He also caught him in this Cartoon Network bumper, but only in his mind.

Wile E. has probably captured the Road Runner many times in his mind.

But here's hoping Wile E. still gets plenty of chances to continue the chase in years to come, overseen by obsessive types like myself who understand the sheer, unadulterated genius behind it all.

Beep, beep! Zip-tang!

Saturday, 1 June 2013

Saturday Morning Cartoons - iToons (The Rock And/Or Roll Playlist)

One of my favourite bands, Queens Of The Stone Age, have always recognized the marketing allure of using cartoons to sell music. Here's how they convinced me to buy their last album...

To promote their latest release, '...Like Clockwork', which comes out on Tuesday, they've been releasing creepy, but stylish animated clips set to numerous tracks from the new album.

While certainly not the greatest videos ever made, I can appreciate their cohesive sense of style, and the fact that these are musicians who still give a damn about creating an interesting visual to accompany the music they're peddling.

Are they even called music videos anymore? Remember those? Music videos? They used to be vital back when music television still played music. Now they're no longer a necessity. Music and videos share the same cyberspace but don't have to co-exist. Now a good video has just as much chance as going viral as the music does independently. And as the Internet makes our attention spans shorter and shorter, I think concept videos like these will have less chance of being seen. Because there's a lot of (shorter) competition out there. Your Harlem Shake's and what-have-you. Which is too bad when it's obvious a lot of thought and skill have gone into these other works.

In celebration of the creative individuals who still give a damn, I thought we'd take a look today at 12 great animated music videos. And before you start bitching that MC Skat Kat has been skipped over, keep in mind that today we are focusing on the genre of rock and/or roll. Oh yeah, and you won't find The Killers on here either because they suck.


Obviously, I'm well aware this doesn't hold up to today's technological standards. It's quite quaint to watch now. But at the time it was mind-blowing - like that movie, The Lawnmower Man. For trend-setting alone and helping to set the standard for out-of-the-box creativity, 'Money For Nothing' must be acknowledged.

Dire Straits frontman Mark Knopfler was not interested in making a video at the time, but was eventually convinced to proceed by his progressive girlfriend. The video was directed by Ian Pearson and Gavin Blair, who went on to form Mainframe Entertainment in Vancouver, the studio that produced one of the first computer animated TV series, called Reboot

"Weird Al" Yankovic had his way with both song and video in his 1988 film, UHF, which featured a computer generated Buddy Ebsen. With recent technological advances, surely a Buddy Ebsen hologram can't be far behind!


That's 'Harlem Shuffle', kids. Not 'Harlem Shake'.

This 1986 video kinda set the stage for MC Skat Kat, combining a bit of animation with live action. It was directed by adult cartoon legend, Ralph Bakshi, and Ren & Stimpy creator, John Kricfalusi. Bakshi and Kricfalusi would later team up for CBS's Saturday morning reboot of Mighty Mouse. 


While we're on the subject of Mr. Kricfalusi, here's another great (but awful) clip his former company, Spumco, oversaw with Gabe Swarr at the helm, showcasing the well-intentioned (?) romantic advice of an animated Jack Black and Kyle Gass. With a title like this, do I REALLY need to tell you it's NSFW? It's NSFA (anywhere), to be perfectly honest.

Don't say I didn't warn you.

Kricfalusi himself directed another one of The D's NSFW videos called 'Classico'.


'Paranoid Android' is no less NSFW than the above, but it's surprisingly bright for a Radiohead clip. And that's exactly why Radiohead wanted it. They tapped Swedish cartoonist Magnus Carlsson to create it, because they were convinced that people would be once again expecting something dark and brooding from them. Band members were fans of a TV series that Carlsson was doing called Robin, and asked him to come up with a concept for the video based on the music - just the music, no lyrics, as they didn't want his interpretation to be too literal.

The result is a cartoonish, but deranged look at a city gone mad. The video's nudity has been edited out in some versions. 

Robin is the main character as evidenced by his initialed toque. Radiohead appears in a scene, surrounding a table-dancing man with a second head protruding from his stomach. Because where else would they be?

Radiohead have released other animated videos, but nothing as mainstream or accessible as 'Paranoid Android'. And yes, I realize I just said a video featuring a table-dancing man with a second head protruding from his stomach was accessible.


From "Gucci little piggies" to 'Three Little Pigs', Green Jelly songs are a lot easier to interpret than Radiohead songs. I was hesitant to include it because it's one of the stoopidest songs ever written. But damn it, if it's not fun! If you can't appreciate the song craft, you can certainly appreciate the amount of effort that someone put into making Sly Stallone out of clay.

The video was directed by Fred Stuhr, who would go on to do far more popular, but far less fun work.


Continuing our look at coolness in clay, I've always enjoyed this Marilyn Manson video by MTV's Celebrity Deathmatch guys. This song was featured on the show's soundtrack album. I'm assuming it's Marilyn Manson's finest performance. I also like monkeys.


This is always on everyone's 'Best Video Ever' list, but for good reason. What is it? LEGOmation?

Director Michel Gondry filmed LEGO frame-by-frame to make the movements. Apparently lead singer Jack White approached the LEGO company about the possibilities of including mini sets with copies of the single, which would form LEGO versions of Jack and Meg White when built. LEGO refused at the time, but when the video became a hit, they approached Jack again about revisiting the idea. Jack then refused.


It's a little dated, and really only funny with the visuals, but it works. I wish Mike Judge (who created Beavis & Butt-head) would take on more music videos. This isn't the right post for it (we're currently rocking out, you see), but you need to watch his video for Zac Brown Band's 'The Wind'.

Here's another musical pairing for Beavis & Butt-head - this time with Red Hot Chili Peppers from the 1996 feature film soundtrack, 'Beavis & Butt-head Do America'. It's a nice reminder of when RHCP used to be fun.

From that same movie, I need to include mention of this sequence, which was based on the designs of Rob Zombie, and set to a song he did for the soundtrack called "Rat Finks, Suicide Tanks and Cannibal Girls". The sequence was directed by Chris Prynoski, who has worked on lots of other cartoons, some of them music-based like Metalocalypse and Freaknik: The Musical. He won 'Best Animated Sequence In A Feature Film' that year from the National Cartoonists' Society for this 2 minute bit. It would've made this list of favourites, but isn't considered an official music video.


Comic book artist, Todd McFarlane, co-directed this awesome video for Pearl Jam with Batman: The Animated Series director Kevin Altieri. Now I'm not a big PJ fan, but I can certainly be persuaded to be with compelling visuals like this.

McFarlane also directed Korn's video for 'Freak On A Leash'.


Back to Batman and comic books for a second. Here's a song/video done for 1995's Batman Forever. Similar to the movie, the video is about duality, namely within Bono as he transforms between 2 characters he invented for U2's ZooTV tour - The Fly and the Joker-like MacPhisto. Amid clips from the actual movie, an animated version of The Riddler makes an appearance, as does Batman(s) in the orchestra. 


More famous comic characters make cameos in this wonderful video from Wilco. All the credits are at the beginning of this, so I don't have to list them here. If you don't watch anything else on this post, at least view this one. They don't make videos like this anymore. So fun!


I'm going to end this post with a very descriptively-titled tune by Blur. I love the song, but the accompanying clip by Shynola makes it one of my favourite music videos of all time. It's equal parts touching, horrifying and eventually, one of the funniest things you've ever seen. Hope you enjoy it enough to consider coming back again next week. 

PLEASE come back next week! And bring milk! I barely had enough to get through 4 cereal bowls this morning! Pretty sure that was on the rider!