Classic Animation In Prime Time

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by Leonard Maltin
October 18, 2012 1:00 AM
6 Comments
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When I was growing up, TV was a living museum of animation. Every day I was exposed to everything from silent Terrytoons to Looney Tunes from Warner Bros. I learned the name Ub Iwerks from the main titles of Flip the Frog and Willie Whopper shorts I saw every morning, and became familiar with such now-forgotten characters as Molly Moo Cow. What’s more, Walt Disney and Walter Lantz showed me how animated films were made on their weekly shows.

Today, the only home for vintage animation is DVD, which offers film buffs a vast array of material. But no one is regularly programming these short subjects any more, and young people are coming of age without being exposed to Betty Boop, Bugs Bunny, and Popeye. To my mind this is a cultural crime.

That’s why I’m so glad my friend and colleague Jerry Beck is being featured with Robert Osborne on Turner Classic Movies this Sunday night, introducing archival prints of Max Fleischer’s Gulliver’s Travels and Mr. Bug Goes to Town, a selection of UPA cartoons, Lotte Reiniger’s extraordinary silhouette feature The Adventures of Prince Achmed, and a program of New York-produced cartoons from the silent and early-talkie era.

The Adventures of Prince Achmed

Jerry hosts the invaluable site Cartoon Brew (www.cartoonbrew.com) with his partner Amid Amidi, and has high hopes that this evening will not be a one-time event. It’s not a matter of ego for Jerry: he is a True Believer who cares deeply about the fate of these films. As he writes on his blog,

“The six hour spotlight on classic animation coming this weekend is a test. Will TCM’s traditional viewers respect and understand these are classic films? I’m betting they will. As far as I’m concerned, animated shorts and features – especially those produced for theatrical showing – from 1906 to umm, let’s say 1970 – are ‘classic film.’ They are not ‘old kids fodder’– which is how they are perceived by their parent companies. They do not get the proper respect they deserve. The TCM broadcast is a rare opportunity for the medium; a great place to expose more people to the art, entertainment and legacy of animation.

“I want to see TCM do this again. In fact, I’d like to see a regular place for vintage animation on the channel. Because TCM doesn’t read ratings, the only way they monitor feedback from their viewers is by response on their forum pages – or in written letters. I guess I’m urging you to send them a note, drop them a line; let TCM know you appreciate the telecast of these rare animation gems – and you’d like to see more.”

For a detailed look at the TCM schedule for Sunday, click HERE. There are first-rate program notes for each segment of the evening.

Farmer Al Falfa in Paul Terry's 'Springtime' (1923).

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6 Comments

  • alan aperlo | October 23, 2012 10:53 PMReply

    Thinks to TCM. It was a great night for toon fans. alan aperlo

  • JLewis | October 18, 2012 8:01 PMReply

    Knew we could count on you to give us our "reminder" for Sunday night. TCM even included my favorite UPA cartoon, the often overlooked FUDGET'S BUDGET, among the more famous titles. Also we are getting some real rarities among the silents. I didn't even know any Paul Terry cartoons survived from 1915.

  • John | October 18, 2012 5:42 PMReply

    And by all means get a copy of Leonard's "Of Mice and Magic", a definitive history of the golden age of theatrical animation!!!

  • Norm | October 18, 2012 4:31 PMReply

    As long as Robert Osborne is at the helm, TCM maintains a bold standard of being the forerunners of the film industry in introducing various types of mediums. The UPA cartoons are cutting edge of art creativity. Their introductions on TCM just exponentiate their exposure to the masses.
    Much continued success. Looking forward with much interest to the event(s).
    Disney continues to reinvent history with their shell mentality. Walt is turning over...

  • Richard | October 18, 2012 3:53 PMReply

    Disney has ruined many of the old cartoons with Have a Laugh re-edited shorts and deleting Walt Disney from all intros and not releasing Wonderful World of Color on DVD.

  • Walt Mitchell | October 18, 2012 9:57 AMReply

    I was thrilled when I learned of this project! Like you, I saw these gems myself on TV when I was a child! (I'm a few years older than you are.) I have some cartoon shorts in my (relatively small) 16mm film collection and I am delighted that this special entertainment format is to be spotlighted (spotlit???-LOL!) this Sunday night! May it be a mighty success, prompting slots of historic animation by TCM on a regular basis! :-D!

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