Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Mercedes Benz SSK, Fiat 500, and Lupin III

Lupin's vehicle of choice just so happens to be the world's rarest car.   

One of the most notable things about the anime and manga franchise, Lupin III, is the insane amount of detail put into drawing various cars, guns, motorcycles, and other mechanical contraptions, particularly in Lupin's earlier outings (i.e: The 1971 'Green Jacket' series, The Mystery of Mamo, The Castle of Cagliostro, certain episodes of the second series, and The Fuma Conspiracy). While Monkey Punch's original Mad Magazine influenced manga did contain some detailed images of machinery, the anime incarnations listed above really narrowed in on the technical side of drawing. This was heavily due to the involvement of Yasuo Otsuka. Otsuka is renowned throughout the animation community in Japan. Although he retired after directing the animation for The Fuma Conspiracy in 1987, Otsuka continues to influence generations of animators not only through his work, but also through a prestigious animation school, which was featured in the documentary Joy in Motion (2004). A humble man, Otsuka stated that directing was not his strong point, and he mentored both Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahada.  

Monkey Punch's loose, zany, sketchy style.  

Highly technical production drawings for Cagliostro by Yasuo Otsuka.

Out of all the vehicles featured throughout Lupin's numerous incarnations, the titular character's two primary cars of choice are a yellow Mercedes Benz SSK and a 1957 Fiat 500. The Mercedes Benz SSK is a German racing automobile built between 1928 to 1932. 'SSK' stands for Super Short Kurz (Cut), as it had a shorter wheelbase than its precursor, the Mercedes Benz S. Able to produce 200-300 horsepower, the SSK was extremely fast for its time. It could reach speeds up to 120 mph, making it the ideal getaway car. Unfortunately, as with many early race-cars and motorcycles, the SSK was very hard to steer. Only about 40 were ever manufactured, most of which ended up being crashed and subsequently cannibalised for their parts. The car is thus very rare. Only five complete models are known to exist today. Indeed, one SSK sold for a record breaking 7.4 million in 2004!

A replica of an SSK that is similar to the one Lupin drives.

The fact that Lupin drives a Mercedes Benz SSK is one of the greatest in-jokes in animation. The vintage car is constantly wrecked, blown up, cut in half, or completely totaled during chase sequences. Perhaps Lupin III is thief not just for personal enjoyment, but also to pay for all the damage his SSK endures! (Or else Lupin has been buying out or stealing all of the other SSKs...)

Neither Inspector Zenigata or the audience saw this one coming.

Lupin's 1957 Fiat 500 is more reliable than his SSK, but not as quick. Lupin typically uses it to squeeze into smaller spaces or perform actions his heavier car cannot, such as driving up walls or jumping over gorges. Fiat 500s are popular little cars, being relatively inexpensive, having good steering, and having good mileage. Initially produced in Italy from 1957 to 1975, Fiat has recently released a new 500 model in 2007, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the original city car's launch. Often seen as Europe's equivalent of the Volkswagen Beetle, the 500 has steadily become popular outside of Italy since its conception.

A sunny yellow Fiat 500.

Lupin first used a Fiat 500 in the iconic chase scene in The Castle of Cagliostro (1979), and ever since then the car has appeared from time to time in the thief's later adventures. Apparently, giving Lupin a 500 was influenced by the fact that Otsuka owned one himself (and perhaps as a nod to Lupin's large Italian fanbase). The scene from Cagliostro is commonly homaged and praised. So much so in fact, that there have even been special edition Lupin themed Fiat 500s sold in limited quantities! And sometimes, Lupin has even been used to sell cars with no relation to what he drives what so ever.

The most exciting car chase ever animated (and in any movie). 

Thursday, June 20, 2013

The Best Red Jacket Lupin Episodes (Series II)

155 episodes of varying quality are hard to watch all at once. So here are the 10 greatest.

After reviewing the first (Green Jacket) Lupin the Third series, I figured that I should post about the second (Red Jacket) series sometime. Lupin III: Part II (or Shin Lupin as it is known in Japan), is the best known version of Lupin abroad, being successful enough to run for three years and is still fairly popular today. Its opening theme and score by Yuji Ohno have practically slipped into the public subconsciousness. In fact, Lupin Part II holds a couple of unique distinctions: It was the third anime ever made to run over 150 episodes (only after Astro Boy (1963-1966) and Dokaben (1976-1979). Most animes at the time ran for about 30-60 episodes on average.), and its 99th episode was the first anime to ever be broadcasted in stereo.

Of course, churning out a new episode weekly for several years means that not every episode is a winner. The overall quality of the show itself is decent, but the quality of the animation and storylines can be highly variable and some of the episodes are so out there or sloppily put together that they are best avoided all together. (The worst offenders being perhaps "Lupin's Grommet Heaven" and "Frankenstein Attacks Lupin".) However, Lupin Part II does tend to improve in quality over time and is best described as more lighthearted and carefree take on the franchise than the original Green Jacket series. This second series isn't really worth watching all the way through unless you happen to be a die hard fan. Really, Lupin Part II is perhaps best described as a causal anime, as the episodes can be literally watched in any order as the show has little to not interrelated plots (except for a few special two part episodes). But the thing is, the great episodes of this classic anime are absolute must sees for not just Lupin III fans, but any anime fan period.

Below, I have put together a list of the ten best Lupin III: Part II episodes based upon popular (and my own) opinion. You can watch each episode listed by clicking on the their titles highlighted green. (To watch the dubbed version instead, click on the name of the dub listed in the entry). Enjoy!*

Lupin may be a great thief, but he's a terrible babysitter.

Director: Kyosuke Mikuriya
Season & Episode #: 2 - 27
Studio: TMS
Dub Name / Dubber: "The Little Princess of Darkness", Geneon

What It's About:

In a museum, the famous Cinderella Stamp is on display. The stamp is one of the only 12 ever made and all of its former owners have either been a princess or gone on to become one. However, when Lupin and his gang try to steal the rare stamp, they find themselves stuck with a little girl named Alice. Alice also wants the stamp, in hopes of becoming a princess herself. She proves to be nuisance, as she refuses to leave Lupin until he gives it to her. Alice is determined and Lupin is charged with kidnapping! This leads up to a climatic chase at a theme park with Inspector Zenigata hot on Lupin's tail. What will Lupin do?

Why It's Great:

This episode is rather unconventional compared to most Lupin III fare. Kysouke Mikuriya directed the most Lupin Part II episodes (83 in total), and while not all of them were great, he loved to throw off the audience's expectations once in a while. Having Lupin's rival be a non-threating but smart little girl, instead of a large cooperate boss or gang member, is pretty funny. It puts the thief in an awkward position, as he does certainly not want to harm a kid or upset one. Lupin's lack of experience with children is very apparent when he is easily tricked by Alice and reluctantly obliges to let her tag along. The last part of the episode is also memorable, as it is a very strange but entertaining tribute to many classic Disney films (keeping with the princess theme of course).

Lupin tries to get some Christmas 'spirit' by stealing wine.

Directors: Kyosuke Mikuriya & Kazunori Tanabashi
Season & Episode #: 1 - 12
Studio: TMS
Dub Name / Dubber: "The Sleight Before Christmas", Geneon

What It's About:

A bottle of wine that Napoleon made for Josephine is going to be given as a Christmas gift from the French government to the U.S. president. Lupin and co. head off to Bordeaux. They manage to enter the winery by hiding in some barrels, but are confronted by Zenigata. Later, they attempt to steal the bottle by sneaking on Zenigata's plane and switching it out with cheap wine. At the end of the showdown, who will get the present and the last laugh?

Why It's Great:

"A Present for the President" is very entertaining, as it manages to be a holiday episode that doesn't explicitly play out like most other Christmas themed titles. Having Lupin play the part of the 'Grinch' when he steals the wine (and later 'Santa' when he accidentally realizes that he stole dolls that were supposed to be donated to underprivileged children), is an entertaining way at poking fun at popular tropes. Even though this an early episode, the backgrounds and exaggerated character animation are well drawn. The characters themselves have a lot great interactions with one another, such as when Zenigata argues with a carefree French policeman who can never get his name right, and when Lupin's gang floods the wine cellar. But the best part of this outing is its surprise ending.

One of the funnest things about this show is seeing how all of the crazy heists get pulled off. 

Director:  Kyosuke Mikuriya
Season & Episode #: 2 - 48
Studio: TMS
Dub Name / Dubber: "Vault Assault", Geneon

What It's About:

Lupin plans to take the till from the Kentucky Derby, but the truck he stole actually contains Zenigata. Lupin, Jigen, and Goemon jump into the river, only to be apparently shot by a policeman. However, it turns out this is all just a ploy to throw off Zenigata. Lupin's next target is the Metropolitan Bank's vault. Lupin and Jigen manage to sneak in when Fujiko delivers them in a safe-box. Then the real challenge begins. How can they possibly steal the money without setting off an alarm system that activates at the weight of a handkerchief?

Why It's Great:

Seeing Zenigata trick Lupin once in a while is really important, otherwise the show gets too predictable or Zenigata ends up looking too stupid. Likewise, showing Zenigata getting really upset when Lupin supposedly dies gives a nice insight on the friendly rivalry the two share. It's also pretty amusing to watch Lupin, Jigen, and Goemon fight over which genre of music is best while they are listening to the radio, which is probably something every family or spouse can relate with. This is one of the episodes that best demonstrates how Lupin and his friends can organize elaborately complicated schemes, while running circles around the security and the police. In fact, Lupin makes theft look a lot funner than it should!

7. Will it Be the Computer or Lupin?

Zenigata and Lupin, sworn enemies and occasional allies.

Director: Kyosuke Mikuriya
Season & Episode #: 3 - 57
Studio: TMS (with Yuzo Aoki)
Dub Name / Dubber: "Alter-Ego Maniac", Geneon

What It's About:

Located in a VTOL aircraft in Hawaii, there is a highly sophisticated safe that can be programmed to outsmart any of its potential opponents. Professor Hunt declares it to be his masterpiece and scoffs at the idea that Lupin could rob it. But when Zenigata notices that Hunt's collection contains a throwing coin owned by his Edo-period ancestor, he steals it on a sudden impulse. Overcome with guilt, Zenigata goes over to Lupin and begs for his assistance. Now the unlikely duo must team up to return the coin (and Lupin plans to also take the loot).

Why It's Great:

Yuzo Aoki's somewhat demented art style and free form character animation is in stark contrast to that of Telecom's polished style. This is not a bad thing, however, but actually a compliment. Aoki had long been involved with the Lupin franchise and went on to be the character designer for the (love it or hate it) third Lupin series. He was heavily involved with bringing his own unique brand of visual humor to some of the more bizarre or wacky episodes. This episode is a great showcase of his work. Not only that, but having Lupin and Zenigata work together for differing motives is a nice change of pace. Having Lupin outfox an over pompous criminal expert or a high ranking official is always guaranteed a laugh. And how surprising it was to have a very determined Zenigata take down all of Lupin's gang before convincing the thief to help him!

It's the best ill-fated romance episode starring Jigen.

Directors: Yasumi Mikamoto & Yagi Ishikura
Season & Episode #: 3 - 58
Studio: TMS
Dub Name / Dubber: "Gettin' Jigen With It", Geneon

What It's About:

Lupin and Jigen are in the Soviet Union where they plan to steal the Aurora Drop, a valuable diamond. The diamond is adorned on a ballerina's forehead. Both Lupin and Jigen manage to successfully snatch it with a remote controlled net, but Jigen is wounded, the diamond turns out be a fake, and Lupin is forced to move ahead. In an unexpected twist, the ballerina, Monkia Ivanov, rescues Jigen and he ends up helping her cross the border so she can defect and escape to America. Can Jigen and Monkia get past the Communist Block? Will Jigen's heart be broken when he discovers Monkia was using him?  

Why It's Great:

Breaking up the cops vs robbers pattern, there have been a couple of side character centered episodes, usually about a rivalry of Goemon's or some tragic love story with Jigen. (The later which may explain why Jigen is untrusting of most women). "The Border is the Face of Farewell" is perhaps the best of these episodes due to its focused plot and intense emotions. The fact the it starts off like a regular Lupin episode also throws off the audience a bit. Despite that Monika leaves Jigen, she does seem to respect him and has valid ambitions of her own. "The Border is the Face of Farewell" is also notable for starring Ikeda Masako (best known for playing Maetel in Galaxy Express 999 as well as being the Japanese dub voice for Audrey Hepburn) and for including a homage to the British film noir The Third Man.

How do they escape this time? It's ridiculous. Watch it.

Director: Shigetsugu Yoshida
Season & Episode #: 3 - 85
Studio: TMS (with Yuzo Aoki)
Dub Name / Dubber: none

What It's About:

 Two troubled lovers, the blind Maureen and the hooligan Stefan, come over to Lupin's gang for assistance after stealing a diamond from them. They want to use the diamond for their honeymoon before Maureen passes away from illness. Fujiko is so moved by their plight, that Lupin, Jigen, and Goemon all agree to assist the couple. But Lupin and his friends have all fallen into trap set by the ICPO! It turns out that Maureen and Stefan, are actually the bureau chief Jasmine and Inspector Zenigata. Ecstatic with their success, Maureen proposes to a bashful Zenigata, while Lupin and co. are placed in a sinister cel with spiked mobile grating. Can our anti-heros escape without becoming impaled? Will Lupin ruin Zenigata's marriage plans?

Why It's Great:

Shigetsugu Yoshida may have directed the most awful Lupin III film in existence, The Gold of Babylon (1985), and produced a few dud episodes (such as one involving Lupin moving penguins from the South to North Pole. Yes, you heard that right, penguins). But he also directed his fair share of funny, well written episodes and acted as the assistant director of the most famous Lupin film, The Castle of Cagliostro (1979). "ICPO Secret Directive" is one of his best ones. It is a riot from start to finish with all of its dramatic irony. There are just so many great sight gags in this episode. Jasmine is an interesting side character. She's less of blunderer than Zenigata, but somehow seems to be rather charmed by him never the less. It's always nice to see a competent female character, considering that Fujiko's personality and set of skills seem to vary widely depending on the writer. Speaking of Fujiko, her interactions with Lupin are particularly memorable in this episode, and somehow she holds the 'key' to escaping the cell.

Lupin and Zenegata are captured and must flee, while tied together!

Director: Kyosuke Mikuriya
Season & Episode #: 2 - 30
Studio: TMS (with Yuzo Aoki)
Dub Name / Dubber: "Morocco Horror Picture Show", Geneon

What It's About:

Lupin is separated from his friends while he is in Morocco, after being lured away by an attractive girl. Suddenly, he is stuffed away into a bag and brought to a desert encampment. Zenigata is also captured. Both are being forced into the Foreign Legion, an armed antiestablishment sect. Neither of them want to join the involuntary army, and things only get worse when Lupin causes trouble. Both Lupin and Zenigata are shackled together by the neck, but manage to escape into the desert. Now, they must run for their lives, with the legion in pursuit.

Why It's Great:

"The Wind is Hot in Morocco" is where Aoki's style perhaps shines the most. The situations which Zenigata and Lupin get into are very outrageous, like when they disguise themselves as an Arabic couple to avoid detection (only to have Zenigata get hit on by the legion's commander!) or when both hide in large vats of colorful paint. The pure lunacy of this episode shows off the Lupin franchise's goofy side, but still has enough of a plot to hold itself together. The beginning of the episode is a great bait and switch, because its narrative flow and animation looks fairly average at first, but then steadily become more loose and wacky. Lupin and Zenigata pretty much define the term 'friendly rivalry,' constantly fighting but willing to risk each other's safety to help one another. Both certainly are rash in their own ways and are very determined to achieve their own goals.

This is about as good as TV animation gets.

Director: Shigetsugu Yoshida
Season & Episode #: 4 - 151
Studio: Telecom
Dub Name / Dubber: none

What It's About:

Lupin and Fujiko are carrying out a plan to steal an entire shipment of South African diamonds. Unfortunately, they bump into Zenigata (who else?) and Fujiko is taken hostage. Zenigata is unusually calm about failing to catch Lupin. He has set up an elaborate trap utilizing a collapsing mechanism set to go off at a certain point on the highway. Fujiko tries to warn Lupin, and both Jigen and Goemon are leery. Zenigata has never been so sure of himself or so smug, but Lupin never backs down to a challenge. As they say, pride comes before the fall...

Why It's Great:

Telecom is a very talented animation studio. The quality of the work produced by Telecom is practically theatrical. Its staff gained much experience from working on the production of the first two Lupin III films (The Mystery of Mamo and The Castle of Cagliostro). Really, I could have just as easily listed all of the other episodes produced by this company in place several other entries, but that wouldn't represent this show very accurately. "The Arrest Lupin Highway Operation" is expertly paced and leaves its viewers on their toes. Much more emphasis is put on the drama and action than most Lupin episodes, but this one is consistently funny as well. (Otherwise it wouldn't really be Lupin III, would it?) Another interesting thing about these Telecom episodes is that Fujiko is frequently shown to be less of sex symbol and more as 'one of the gang.' Sure, Fujiko, being a femme fatale archetype, is supposed to be sexy, but a woman who can fight for herself and stand her own ground, is more appealing than one that shouts, "Save me!" all the time and only exists to provide fan service.

The final Lupin episode went out with a dramatic bang.  

Director: Hayao Miyazaki
Season & Episode #: 4 - 155
Studio: Telecom
Dub Name / Dubber: "Aloha Lupin", Streamline

What's It's About:

A jewelry store in Tokyo is raided by an armored robot. Maki Oyamada, daughter of the robot's inventor, is piloting the machine, believing that she is working for Lupin III. Maki wants to show the world how dangerous the robot can be, so her father's inventions do not end up being used for military purposes and people will remain unharmed. Little does Maki know that she is actually being used by the enemy herself. Zenigata arrives to examine the robbery, but where is Lupin and his gang? Will Lupin's name be tarnished by the impersonating crooks and what will happen to Maki once she learns the truth?

Why It's Great:

This episode practically plays out like a feature film. Hayao Miyazaki directed "Farewell My Beloved Lupin" (along with "Albatross: Wings of Death") under the pseudonym Teruki Tsutomu. Both episodes marked his final involvement with the Lupin franchise, before he moved on to directing his own feature films and establishing Studio Ghibli. "Farewell" is somewhat like Cagliostro, but is perhaps a bit more serious in mood. Many of Miyazaki's trademark elements can be seen on display here: the strong anti-war and pacifist themes, the 'Superman' robot that would later reappear in Castle in the Sky (1986), and, of course, the iconic red headed heroine wearing blue (voiced by the great Sumi Shimamoto). The sense of tension and unease (balanced out by bits of humor) thrown in the earlier half of this episode, attention to detail, and bittersweet ending make "Farewell" an appropriate finale to the Red Jacket series. It also marks the beginning of a new chapter for many of the animators' careers.

How is it humanly possible to pack so much action and fun within 25 minutes?

Director: Hayao Miyazaki
Season & Episode #: 4 - 145
Studio: Telecom
Dub Name / Dubber: same as Japanese title, Streamline

What It's About:

Lupin, Jigen, and Goemon are preparing dinner in a trailer while waiting for Fujiko to arrive. Fujiko bursts through the door, gunning at her pursuers, and completely ruins Lupin's sukiyaki (and his car). Fujiko is captured but manages to leave Lupin something, a small detonator to an atomic bomb. Lupin goes off to inspect a suspicious looking aircraft museum. He discovers that it is housing a newly restored Albatross, a gigantic flying machine housing many bombs. The plane's pilot, Lonebach, is also trying to seduce Fujiko in hopes of making her his wife. Neither Fujiko or Lupin will let him get away with that!

Why It's Great:

Lupin fans, you probably saw this one coming. Everything about "Albatross" is perfect. The comedic timing, interpretation of the characters, the climatic airship battle, just everything. Anybody can go in watching this episode and not know a thing about Lupin (or Miyazaki) and enjoy it. Although, if you plan on watching Lupin III Part II, I recommend that you save this one for last, so you are not disappointed by the rest of the series. A great part of this outing's success owes to animator Yasuo Otsuka, who was a mentor to Miyazaki and later went on to establish his own animation school. If Otsuka hadn't retired in the late 1980s, who knows what the man would have gone on to create. Fujiko is very assertive in this episode. She manages to break out of confinement and bring down most of Lonebach's crew, wearing little more than the top half a dress and a tablecloth tied around her waist. The witty banter between her and Lupin is also entertaining. Fujiko and Lupin certainly share a strange, inconsistent, but somehow enduring relationship. The original manga's author, Monkey Punch, apparently based this on his own relationship with his wife, which is interesting to say the least.

Miyazaki's Fujiko kicks the most ass. Just saying.

* For those who got a kick out of this article and would like to know more about this series, I highly suggest that you check out Anipage's post on Lupin III Part II. It's very in depth and describes the different companies behind each episode.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

The Lasting Legacy: Post-Modern Examples of Rubber Hose

Despite being largely abandoned by the late 1930s, rubber hose animation remains commonly tributed and occasionally even employed.  

Why does rubber hose style animation continue to be used once in a while? It certainly has not been the norm since the mid-1930s. But there is something appealing about the free form movements, exaggerated expressions, fluid simplicity, and bizarre plotlines of early American cartoons. Some of the longest running cartoon series and most famous characters originated over 70 years ago, and still continue to influence pop culture today (i.e: Felix the Cat, Betty Boop, Popeye, Mickey Mouse). Animators John K and Michael Sporn, although having differing tastes, have often praised the early innovations (and boundless creativity) of old cartoons, on their blogs. Likewise, these older cartoons are becoming more commonly seen again, after being taken off of TV airings for many years, thanks to video sharing sites on the internet, such as Youtube and Blip. Rubber hose may be outdated or be deemed primitive, but when used creatively it can still prove entertaining. For this reason, animation today continues to make references to the style, and certain modern TV series and movies draw great influence from it as well.

Of course, most modern examples of rubber hose are done purposely to invoke nostalgia and for appealing to animation junkies. Recent episodes of The Simpsons and Futurama have parodied the style. The lead characters in The Animaniacs (1993-1998), were 1930s cartoon stars who had been locked away in the Warner water tower for many years, and were initially created to replace WB's bland character, Buddy. Foxy, Roxy, Bosko, Honey, and Goopy Geer were also featured in another Warner Brothers cartoon, Tiny Toon Adventures (1990-1995), in the episodes "Two-Tone Town'' and "Fields of Honey." Reboots of long lasting cartoon characters, utilizing a more retro rubber hose style and modern sensibilities, have also been made. The Twisted Tales of Felix the Cat (1995-1997) was certainly a far wilder take on the franchise than the more kiddy '60s cartoons. Disney has recently produced two productions based off of the classic version of Mickey Mouse: "Get a Horse" (a short in the vein of the character's original cartoons), and a new TV series, blending rubber hose with newer styles, set to premie on Disney Channel.

The Animaniacs's lead characters were inspired by early cartoon characters, and the show combined classic conventions with modern humor. 

Recently, Disney announced that it will be releasing new Mickey Mouse shorts more in vein of the character's original interpretation.

Not all studio output consists of simply tributes or reboots of old theatrical shorts, however. Sometimes rubber hose animation may be used for humorous effects. Elastigirl from The Incredibles (2004), has the superpower of being extremely stretchy and is able to contort her body in a wide variety of odd ways. While being based on comic book characters such as Mr. Fantastic of the Fantastic Four and Plastic Man, Elastigirl certainly owes some of her movements to the tradition of the loose limbed animation from yesteryear (as does the anime character, Monkey D. Luffy, from One Piece). Spongebob Squarepants, being a well...sponge can also sometimes move his body in weird ways and has noodly arms and legs. Perhaps the best known of example of 'modern rubber hose', would be Adventure Time. All of the show's characters possess tube-like limbs and are simply drawn. Adventure Time's frequently bizarre, sometimes rather unsettling storylines also seem to be heavily influenced by the works of the Fleisher Brothers and Ub Iwerks. Due to Adventure Time's popularity (and perhaps as a way to make animation fluid enough for TV but keep the budget under control), several other recent series have adopted the usage of rubbery physics, including Regular Show, Sanjay and Craig, and the upcoming Wonder Over Yonder.

Strange and loose limbed, Adventure Time is clearly influenced by the physics of rubber hose. 

In the independent film making crowd, rubber hose has also been utilized by many different people. Sylvain Chomet's The Triplets of Belleville (France, 2003), featured a memorable sequence in its beginning were the titular characters and certain period singers and stars are drawn in an old fashioned black and white style, which is perfectly appropriate given that the triplets were music hall singers from the 1930s. The ska band Squirrel Nut Zippers made an excellent homage to the Fleisher Brothers in their music video for the song, "Ghost of Stephan Foster" (1999). A short by animator Fernando Miller, "Flea and Fly in City Troubles" (2012), was made to look like an old, worn print of a theatrical cartoon for a rather different purpose. It is used to boldly portray the real world issues of poverty and homeless childern living in the streets of Brazil. Nina Paley also seems to like rubber hose animation. The lead of her film, Sita Sings the Blues (2008), seems to be modeled off of Betty Boop. Sita also sings Annette Hanshaw jazz numbers in a similar way to how many 1930s characters incorporated popular songs into their plots.

If the above don't scream retro, nothing does.

Rubber hose animation hugely impacted the development of anime, particularly through Osamu Tezuka ('the God of Manga'), who brought us such classics as Astro Boy, Jungle Emperor Leo, Princess Knight, Black Jack, and Phoenix. Tezuka had a fondness of creating young characters with large eyes and small noses, and sometimes wrote rather strange or wacky storylines to counterbalance his more dramatic and serious ones. These elements remain fairly common in modern anime today. Tezuka even outright tributes rubber hose and plays with the audience's perception of film reality in his experimental short, "Broken Down Film" (1980). The influence of American cartoons on Japanese animation can be seen from very early on. For instance, the anime shorts "Ugokie Ko Ri No Tatehiki" (1933) and "The Routing of the Tengu"(1934), show a unique glimpse at the blending of Western and Eastern artistic styles. The video game character Sonic the Hedgehog seems to be heavily based on Western funny animals, having arms and legs that move with little regard to articulation, large conjoined eyes, white gloves, and shoes. Even Hayao Miyazaki acknowledges his love for Fleshier Studios and considers its existence one of his inspirations for becoming an animator. Miyazaki distributed the company's last film, Mr. Bug Goes To Town (1942), through the Studio Ghibli Museum library and his Laputa robot owes a lot to the Superman short, "The Mechanical Monsters" (1941). In Porco Rosso (1992), Miyazaki makes a tribute to Fleshier's rubber hose fare, when Porco is watching a cartoon in a theater that could easily be mistaken for a 1930s short.

Osamu Tezuka was clearly influenced by the style of early American cartoons.

Miyazaki is a huge Fleischer Brothers fan. Here, he tributes them in a clip from Porco Rosso

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Technicolor Realism: The Decline of Rubber Hose and Emergence of the Golden Age

How did animation go from this to...

...this within eight years?

During the 1930s, animation began to evolve as artists gained more experience and companies were allowed to make cartoons on a larger budget as the medium continued to grow in popularity. With the adoption of the Technicolor process in the earlier half of the decade, Walt Disney decided to push for more realism in the medium of animation, which had practically been unseen since the earlier work of Winsor McCay. His studio was thus the first to abandon the weightless, 'more cartoony' style of rubber hose and adopted several technical innovations to allow for a sense of realism (i.e.: the multiplane camera, detailed backgrounds, refinement of the studio system). Other companies soon followed, some reluctantly, others shamelessly copying in order to survive. As a backlash to the Disney style, 'wise-guy' and wacky, slapstick cartoons also became common, such as Looney Tunes's Daffy Duck and Walter Lantz's Woody Woodpecker. Short comedic cartoons were also common outside of Disney due to the financial risks that other companies faced in making feature length animated productions.

Disney Leads the Way

"The Tortoise and the Hare" (1935), was made only a year after "The Goddess of Spring," but is far superior technically and story-wise. 

While Disney's Mickey Mouse shorts became hugely popular due to their use of sound, his Silly Symphonies series had a harder time standing out as they did not feature a consistent cast of characters, each installment being based on a different popular story or folktale. In order to garner more viewers (and to deal with the loss of animator Ub Iwerks), the company bought out the exclusive rights to have their cartoons filmed in Technicolor for several years. Disney's decision proved to be a wise won, as their first three-strip Technicolor short, "Flowers and Trees"(1932), won the first ever Academy Award for a Animated Short Subject. The use of color added a splash of realism unseen in any productions before. This pushed the company to begin focusing on more believable character animation. "The Three Little Pigs" (1933) put great emphasis on creating distinct personalities and featured heavy use of character interaction through dialogue, which no doubt contributed to its off the charts popularity. Equally important was "The Goddess of Spring" (1934), Disney's first, if rather awkward, attempt at realistic human animation. Within a year, Disney had improved their draftsmanship drastically. So much that the short, "The Tortoise and The Hare"(1935) was practically not rubber hose anymore! Perhaps the best Silly Symphony short that demonstrates this is "The Old Mill" (1937), which made great use of the multiplane camera to create a sense of depth and further believability of the cartoon's environment. Animation at Disney had become fully evolved and was ready for its next stage, feature film.

"The Pointer" (1939) marks the first appearance of Mickey's 'modern' design.  

Although animated films had been made before, none of them had been made by a major Hollywood studio or filmed in color. At Hollywood, many believed that no one would be able to sit through a long cartoon, as it was thought that audiences would grow bored of slapstick gags and get annoyed with the lack of realism. So when Walt Disney announced that his studio was going to produce a film based on the fairytale Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, critics dismissed it, stating that Snow White would ruin his career and dubbed the film, "Disney's Folly." Fortunately the critics proved wrong. When the movie premiered in 1937, after three long years in production, it was widely praised for its marriage of cartoon physics and realism. Snow White proved that animation could be used to tackle a wider range of subjects than previously thought and set the trend for all other animated features to follow. Disney's projects then became even more ambitious. Pinocchio (1940) refined everything that was done previously in Snow White. Pinocchio is definitely a stronger film: its animation still holds up remarkably will today, it featured a more complex plot, and it is widely considered to be one of the company's finest productions. Within the same year, Fantasia was released. It experimented with a wide range of animation styles and artistic influences, separated by different musical interludes. Unfortunately, neither of the two films did very well financially due to the outbreak of WWII. Thus Bambi (1942), was the last true feature length animated film released by Disney up until 1950.

A Trailer for Pinocchio (1940).

And Others Follow

In order to stay competitive we must copy Disney! 

Disney's success certainly did not go unnoticed by other studios. After the Silly Symphony shorts started to become commercially and critically successful, many companies began to put out their own suspiciously similar cartoons. Ub Iwerks, after leaving Disney for personal reasons, produced his Comicolor Cartoons from 1933 to 1936, which, while bland, did have artistic merit. Van Beuren, however, was largely ignored for its Rainbow Parade Cartoons (1934-1936), which largely came off as blunt Disney ripoffs and made a rather disappointing attempt to revive Felix the Cat. Harman and Ising perhaps made the most expertly crafted cartoons outside of Disney after leaving WB. Their Happy Harmonies (1934-1938) failed to be successful, but still have small sect of appreciative fans to this day. The Fleischer Brothers were reluctant to enter the 'Silly Symphony' fray, but did so with their Color Classics (1934-1941) due to executive meddling. Columbia Pictures is perhaps the most forgotten Disney imitator, as their Color Rhapsodies (1934-1939) tended to be very low budget, and the company lacked any longtime talented directors.

Of course, not all cartoon series released at the time outright copied Disney. However, every animation studio did begin to train their staff to animate more realistically and abandon rubber hose principles. An excellent example of this would be the artistic evolution that took place in Porky Pig's Looney Tunes shorts. Early on, his appearances were marked with less articulated character movements. Porky was initially a very fat young child, not the slimmer adult pig that he later became known as. His redesign increased the character's appeal and believability. Because Porky debuted in 1935, his cartoons rapidly dropped the physics associated with rubber hose, but still utilized exaggerated movements for humorous effects. Another example of a character's evolution towards 'realism' would be the Walter Lantz version of Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. Lantz first redesigned Oswald to be cuter, have more detailed attire, and a personality more in line with that of Mickey Mouse. By the 1940s, the rabbit became completely unlike his former self. He was aged down considerably, lost his black and white color scheme associated with the outdated rubber hose style, and drawn with consideration to realistic weight and proportions.  

Walter Lantz's Oswald from the mid-1930s. 

A more rabbit-like Oswald from the early 1940s. 

Resistance to the Movement & The Screwballs Emerge

Popeye refuses to be like one of those 'bland Mickey cartoons' !

Not every animation studio was quick to abandon the wackiness of rubber hose, in favor of the 'cutesy,'  detailed style embraced by Disney. Ub Iwerks did adopt color for his Comicolor Cartoons and pioneer the usage of the multiplane camera (which Disney later adopted). However, the characters in his shorts retained their exaggerated yet simplistic style, and the cartoons themselves were less sentimental and idealistic than Disney's Silly Symphonies were. The Fleisher Brothers held out longer than Iwerks did. Even though they abandoned Betty Boop after the implantation of the Hayes Box Office Code, the company kept making Popeye shorts which continued to perfect its own brand of rubber hose. Likewise, Fleisher's Superman series (1941-1942), while certainly different from Popeye, approached animation with a more graphical style than Disney, focusing more on fast paced action and drama. On the other hand, Looney Tunes began to increasingly refuse to make Disney clones. Instead, they opted for cartoons focusing on slapstick, parodying the cute animal character archetype common at the time. Daffy Duck (1937), Bugs Bunny (1940), and Bob Clampett's early incarnation of Tweety Bird (1942) all followed this trend. 

"I'm wooking for wabbits."

Other companies soon did the same due to WB's success with zany and smart aleck funny animals. After leaving for MGM, Tex Avery gave us Screwy Squirrel (1944), a short lived, literally 'nuts' character who frequently messed with his antagonists' (and the audiences') minds when he broke the fourth wall. Avery also made many one shot cartoons, most notably "Blitz Wolf" (1942), which was a parody of Disney's "Three Little Pigs" and the war against Nazi Germany, and "Red Hot Riding Hood" (1943), which similarly parodied fairytale cartoons popular at the time by updating one for modern audiences. Avery's only consistent recurring character was Droopy Dog (1943), whom Avery loved to use to contrast deadpan humor with other worldly gags. Also at MGM, William Hannah and Joe Barbara created their comedic duo, Tom and Jerry, who first appeared in the 1940 short, "Puss Gets the Boot." Walter Lantz likewise replaced his cute star, Andy Panda, with the zany Woody Pecker, who debuted in "Knock Knock" (1940). Columbia also jumped on the bandwagon when they hired a Warner Brothers employ, Frank Tashlin, to create The Fox and the Crow in 1941. Even Terrytoons, the "Woolworth's of animation," managed to create a few icons such as Mighty Mouse (who started out as a funny animal parody of Superman), and Heckle and Jeckle, two wise cracking magpies.

Tex Avery was the opposite of Disney: wacky, over the top, and sometimes sensual.

What Happened to the Feature Film Outside of Disney?

Why was this film the last major American animated film to be released outside of Disney for many years?

Back in the late 1930s, the only animation studio rivaling the power of Disney was Fleischer Studios. Once Disney met great success with the release of Snow White, Fleischer decided that it had enough resources and the capabilities to do the same. Fleischer first released three Technicolor Popeye Specials between 1936 to 1939, each running around 15 to 20 minutes. The specials had elaborate animation and gorgeous backgrounds that where at the level of what Disney produced at the same time. The experience gained allowed Fleischer to produce its first true animated feature, Gulliver's Travels (1939). Gulliver proved to be financially successful even though it relied very heavily on the use of the rotoscope in order to animate its lead. Encouraged by their success and nomination for two Academy Awards, the Fleischer Brothers put out a second feature in 1941. Mr. Bug Goes to Town is now generally recognized as being the stronger film. It had the artistic merit equal to any of Disney's features, relied far less on the rotoscope, and had an original storyline to boot. Sadly, Mr. Bug proved to be the death knell of the studio despite all of it improvements over Gulliver. It was released two days before the attack on Pearl Harbor. This led to the film being a financial disaster and the rest of its market was cut off overseas. Fleischer Studios could not deal with the debt and thus was shut down. It was bought out by Paramount and then replaced with the lower budget Famous Studios in 1942.

Before the tragedy of Fleischer Studios, several other animation companies considered making feature films. However, they became too scared after what happened to Fleischer, many had to deal with impending production costs, and their was that little issue called WWII. (The later resulted in many propaganda cartoons being made up until 1945.) Thus, competing studios adapted by making more anarchic/humor based shorts than Disney. To say that American cartoons during the 1940s-50s were nonexistent in feature film outside of Disney is not entirely correct though. Popular characters from short subjects did make the occasional cameo in live-action film (in a similar manner to Disney's Song of the South [1946]). Jerry made a memorable appearance when he danced with Gene Kelly in Anchors Awiegh (1945), and would later appear alongside Tom in Dangerous When Wet (1953). Bugs Bunny similarly popped up in a dream sequence in Two Guys from Texas (1948) and in the following year in My Dream is Yours alongside Tweety Bird. Woody Woodpecker appeared in cartoon within Destination Moon (1950) due to producer George Pal being a friend of Walter Lantz.

Most non-Disney cartoons were reduced to cameos in feature film.

The only exception to this rule during the early 1950s was the stop-motion feature Hansel and Gretel: An Opera Fantasy (1954) which remains little known today, and sort of a cult oddity. Non-Disney American animated movies did not really start to appear again until 1959 (with the release of the Mister Magoo film, 1001 Arabian Nights) and did not really become common until the 1980s-90s (thanks to Don Bluth and the Animation Renaissance). Foreign features were slightly more common. China garnered much attention with Princess Iron Fan (1941), which while technically simplistic compared to American features of the time, greatly influenced future anime directors. Several European features were made as well, such as: Tintin's The Crab with the Golden Claws (Belgium, 1947), The King and the Mockingbird (France, 1952),  Animal Farm (Britain, 1954), and The Snow Queen (Russia, 1957). It is also worth noting that Japan released its first significant animated production, Hakujaden, during this period in 1958, hinting at the country's future in the industry.  

Overseas, a few quality animated films were made during the 1940s-50s. 

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Spaghetti Limbs, Bouncy Movements: The Age of Rubber Hose

What is Rubber Hose?

What is rubber hose? Oswald the Lucky Rabbit will demonstrate for us.

The first standardized animation style to be adopted by Hollywood studios is still quite recognizable today. Rubber hose animation refers to the bouncy, rubbery way that characters were animated primarily in American cartoons during the 1920s to approximately the mid-1930s. It was not only adopted for its efficiency, but also to avoid the issue of stiffness. These cartoons featured stars with noodly limbs having little to no articulation. They had many sight gags and frequently utilized surreal plot lines. Several of these early cartoons had a good dose of adult humor (i.e: prohibition and sex jokes, mild profanity) as the Hayes Box Office Code was not fully adopted until the later half of the 1930s. Theatrical cartoons were not originally intended just for childern. Sound rubber hose cartoons also were commonly synchronized with popular music of the time. Although most were produced in black and white to keep down production costs, color began to be used in animation beginning in 1930 with the Flip the Frog short, "Fiddlesticks." It became standard by the end of the 1930s as rubber hose gave way to realism.

The Cat That Kept on Walking

Perhaps the first cartoon series to popularize the rubber hose style, was Felix the Cat, created by Pat Sullivan and Otto Messmer. Debuting in 1919 in the short "Feline Follies", Felix was the biggest cartoon star of the silent era. The character's happy-go-lucky but short tempered personality, ability to use his wits (or magical tail) to get himself out of difficult situations, and fourth-wall jokes made him a hot commodity. So hot, in fact, that other funny animal characters modeled after him became the norm. Felix eventually became overshadowed by other series, however, due to difficulties switching over to sound. By 1930, audiences had moved on. Felix, however, would arise to popularity again when he was re-invented (made more 'kid friendly') for TV audiences in 1959. The cat may be a former shadow of his glory days, but still regularly appears on merchandising.

In 'Feline Follies' Felix is far more angular. He was designed to be cuter and easier to draw by Bill Nolan in the mid-1920s.

Some sketches of Felix's later design. 

The Fleischer Brothers

Another major Hollywood player was Fleischer Studios. Although the company eventually went under due to financial troubles in the early 1940s, its importance to the animation industry can not be stated enough. The two Fleischer brothers, Max and Dave, made their first big break with the character Koko the Clown in their Out of the Inkwell series (1918-1924), which was notable for its very surreal humor (which became pretty much a norm for all rubber hose Fleisher productions) and use of the rotoscope. The Fleischers were also among the first of animation studios to experiment with musical interludes in their Song Car-tunes and Screen Songs (1924-1929), and invented the 'follow the bouncing ball' technique.

The company's first major sound cartoon character was Bimbo the Dog (1930), a rather foolish character who often wound up in bizarre or life threatening situations and had a weakness for attractive women. Speaking of which, Bimbo would quickly become eclipsed by his girlfriend, Betty Boop, who was modeled off of the popular flapper persona of the time. After Betty Boop's cartoons were forced to tone down their innuendos and humor by the Hayes Code, she in turn was eclipsed by another star: Popeye the Sailor, who first appeared as a guest character in 1934. In this regard, Fleischer Studios was rather unique, as their biggest stars were not funny animals, but human characters.

Betty Boop and Bimbo in 'Snow White' (1933). It's perhaps the best example of how bizarrely creative rubber hose animation could be at times. 

"I yam what I yam."

Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks

Walt Disney and his partner Ub Iwerks first entered the animation business in 1921 when they opened their Laugh-O-Grams Studio located in Kansas City. However after facing financial difficulties, the two men left for Hollywood. Here Disney and Iwerks continued to produce their successful shorts, The Alice Comedies until 1927, which featured the adventures of a live-action girl (portrayed by Virginia Davis) in 'Cartoon-land.' Alice was then replaced by Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, who proved to be even more successful, but Disney lost the rights to the character after less than a year, due to conflicting interests with producer Charles Mintz.

Neither of the men were discouraged. Iwerks drew up Mickey Mouse for Walt, and Disney decided to synchronize the third Mickey cartoon with sound (Steamboat Willie, 1928) and let's just say the rest is history. Shortly after, Disney began producing Silly Symphonies, which relied less on dialogue and more on musical interludes to tell various stories, many of which were based off of popular childern's stories or fairytales. The Silly Symphonies were stand alone shorts and became the first major Hollywood cartoons to utilize Technicolor beginning in 1932, with "Flowers and Trees".  

Disney may have lost his rabbit, but his mouse ended up doing better anyway.

 Ub Iwerks's 'Hell's Bells' (1929) shows how Disney mastered synchronizing sound to its cartoons.    

However, Ub Iwerks would later leave Disney for a period of time, due to conflicting interests with Walt and feeling overburdened with work. On his own, Ub was less successful, but still managed to produce some memorable series, such as Flip the Frog (1930-1933) and Willie Whooper (1933-1934). Ultimately, Iwerks lost finical support and did contract work for other studios before making amends with Walt and returning to Disney. To this day, Iwerks remains largely overlooked for his enormous contributions to animation.

Ub Iwerks's expresses his dissatisfaction at Disney in this drawing.  
Oswald, Walter Lantz, & Charles Mintz

Meanwhile...what happened to Disney's Oswald the Lucky Rabbit? Charles Mintz ultimately ended up handing over the character to Walter Lantz at Universal Studios. Walter Lantz long had been in the animation industry, beginning in 1924 when he made his half cartoon / live-action Dinky Doodle series at Bray Studios. Lantz's Oswald, by Mintz's demand, was far more cheaply produced than Disney's version. Initially, Lantz put Bill Nolan in charge of the Oswald shorts. Nolan's Oswald was the most surreal version of the character and also included a young Tex Avery on its staff. After his Pooch the Pup failed to garner audience's attention, Lantz would take over the Oswald series himself. Lantz's version of Oswald changed the character even further from his original incarnation. The rabbit largely lost his mischievous streak, was aged down, and given a more childlike persona.

Walter Lantz's 'cuter' version of Oswald.

Charles Mintz likewise went on to produce several series for Columbia Pictures before he passed away in 1940. Although not the first to adapt the comic-strip character Krazy Kat to animated form (there were numerous earlier attempts), Mintz's version is perhaps the best known. Mintz inherited Krazy Kat's film rights from Winkler Pictures in 1929. His Krazy Kat was the first to utilize sound and ran for ten years, but was criticized for being to much like Felix the Cat and Mickey Mouse, and unlike the original strips. Mintz also hired three former Fleshier animators (Sid Marcus, Art Davis, and Dick Huemer) in 1930. The first project given to the men was to create another funny animal character. Toby the Pup was the ill-fated result. The series only generated 13 shorts, half of which are lost today. Perhaps, this was because Toby failed to stand out from the crowd, resembling Fleischer's Bimbo, and even starring in a cartoon suspiciously similar to Disney's Steamboat Willie. However, Toby's cartoons were expertly crafted and are highly sought out by collectors today.

Fortunately, the threesome did manage to hit the nail with their next project, Scrappy, which managed to run for just as long as the Krazy Kat cartoons. Scrappy, although largely forgotten today, was rather unlike any other popular cartoon series of the 1930s in a few ways. Instead of an animal, its star was an average human boy. (Well, average expect for the fact Scrappy had a massive head.) Scrappy was frequently about Great Depression related problems, but put in a humorous light. Likewise, his cartoons were one of the very few series made at the time that focused on a child's perspective of the world.

The first and most famous Scrappy short, "Yelp Wanted" (1931).

Warner Brothers Gets Looney

When most people think of Looney Tunes, they think of the likes of Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, and Tweety Bird. However, the series's history goes all the way back to 1929. After seeing the success of Disney and others, Warner Brothers decided that they should jump into the fray and use animation as a way to promote their musical library. The company hired the duo Hugh Harman and Rudolph Ising, who formally worked for Disney and Mintz, to create them a star to rival the fame of funny animals belonging to other companies. Harman and Ising went the other route at first, with Bosko, a caricature of an African American boy. Although Bosko may not be very politically correct in some regards today, he was a generally positive character who was capable of solving his own problems. (Harman and Ising also replaced his stereotypical 'blackface' voice, with a falsetto one in later cartoons). Bosko's series was so popular that his creators quickly abandoned their Mickey look-alike, Foxy, after only three cartoons. Harman and Ising's other, less frequently featured characters created for Warner Bros were Piggy (a short lived replacement for Foxy), and the one-shots, Goopy Gear and Freddy the Freshman.

Bosko was Warner Brother's first cartoon hit.

Unfortunately, for the rest of the Warner Brothers staff, Harman and Ising left the company in 1933 and took the rights of Bosko with them. After a dispute over budget costs with Leon Schlesinger, the two left for MGM. The company attempted to deal with their major loss in the meantime by producing cartoons staring Buddy up until 1935. Buddy was basically a bland, whitewashed version of Bosko and is largely forgotten today. After Buddy failed to appease audiences, long time employee Friz Freleng directed the cartoon, "I Haven't Got a Hat." It introduced the studio's meant-to-be new star, Beans the Cat. However, a certain stuttering pig stole the show, and Beans was retired after only nine cartoons. The pig's name? Porky, of course.

Paul Terry and Van Beuren

Paul Terry had a very long career in animation, spanning from 1915 all the way up to 1955. Like many early animators, Terry began work as a newspaper cartoonist, and became inspired to bring his work to life after seeing Winsor McCay's "Gertie the Dinosaur" (1914). In 1916, he was offered a job at the Bray Studios, were many of the other people in this article also began their careers. Here, Terry created his most enduring character, Farmer Al Falfa, a cranky and bumbling old man, who often fell victim to ridicule of the antics of barnyard animals or while trying to impress women. Terry's early work was of exceptional quality for its time. He pioneered the usage of cels in order to speed up production and keep costs down, and even a young Walt Disney admired his work.

However, Terry was unhappy with his tenure at Bray Studios and left after producing only 11 cartoons.  In 1920, he entered a partnership with Amadee J. Van Beuren. Here the two began a series called, Aesop's Film Fables, which stared Farmer Al Alfa and a wide menagerie of cartoon animals. Initially, each cartoon would end with a moral that often had little to do with the rest of the film (which became sort of a running joke). While the series was popular early on, the production costs of the studio began to slide and Terry's work began to look less refined in comparison to other cartoons of the period. In 1928 Terry directed "Dinner Time", the first sound cartoon, released a month before Disney's "Steamboat Willie." However, "Dinner Time" was widely dismissed by critics (and Disney himself) due to its cruder animation and poorly synchronized sound. Ultimately, Terry and Van Beuren split their relations in 1929 and Terry would go on to create cheaply produced, but often fondly remembered series such as Mighty Mouse and Heckle and Jeckle.  

The sad thing about Paul Terry is that he made high quality shorts early on, but then resorted to producing cheaper cartoons in order to survive. 

 On its own, Van Beuren Studios did not last as long. The first series the studio made stared Waffles the Cat and Don the Dog, who came off as generic funny animals, with little personality of their own, and acted as vehicles to take the audiences on odd adventures to far off lands. They were quickly replaced by Tom and Jerry (1931-1933), which tended to come off as a low budget version of Bray Studio's earlier Mutt and Jeff cartoons (1916-1925). Pretty soon, Van Beuren realized that in order to stay competitive, they would have to increase the quality of their cartoons. Eventually, Cubby Bear (1933-1934) emerged as the company's new star, before he too was replaced in order to make way for Hollywood's newest novelty, color cartoons. This reflects American animation's next phase: an age of 'Technicolor Realism' pioneered by Disney.

Although a bit of a Mickey Mouse ripoff, Cubby Bear was definitely an improvement over Van Beuren's Tom and Jerry (No not the more famous cat and mouse duo.)