Sunday, July 29, 2007

"Schvinger? Vat is a schvinger?"

I would argue that you cannot be a parent of small children, and thus an ancillary consumer of the culture aimed at them, without becoming something of a connoisseur of animation, old and new.

I can't stand the crappy pre-Pixar Disney movie animation of, for example, The Rescuers or Fox and Hound. The way Mowgli's feet don't appear to make contact with the ground in Jungle Book makes me crazy. And spectacularly uneven films such as Bedknobs and Broomsticks, with the inventive undersea scenes balanced by the relatively mediocre jungle soccer match, just leave me shaking my head.

Now that animation is once again held to a higher standard, I feel like the phenomenal art geeks that make movies such as The Incredibles and Ratatouille throw in super-stylized credit sequences that are entirely superfluous but totally appreciated by the grownups who have sat through these movies for the sake of a couple hours' peace.

Yesterday's brief look at Too Many Cooks, illustrated by Nate Wragg, the Pixar guy who did the end credits for Ratatouille, led to a short exploration of the world of vintage cartoons and animation. Interesting stuff.

I know a lot about "comic book artists" like Peter Kuper and Charles Burns, the Pander Brothers, etc., but the cutie little hepcat illustrations like the ones that adorned my mom's late-1950's cookbooks and jazz albums never registered as art to me. You put them all together, though, as Amid Amidi, the author of book and blog Cartoon Modern, has, and by god you've got an oeuvre!

I remember these images and cartoons from my childhood, but I kind of can't remember where. Logos on Milton Bradley board games? Cartoon shorts on PBS? In any case, they absolutely stick out in my memory. Even as an idiot child, they somehow felt to me smarter, more avant garde... they were the Ernie Kovacs to the Flintstones' Milton Berle. Nowadays, I tend to snap up books featuring them when I spot them at Salvation Army or Goodwill. And at the drive-in movie theater, the intermission shorts are ALL "Brush-a brush-a brush-a / Try the new Ipana," so much so that they have again become trite.

As I scroll through Amidi's blog, I am not too surprised to learn that Mr. Magoo is "modern". The colors in 101 Dalmatians are. That owl from our niece's hand-me-down "Disney Sing-along Songs". Tom & Jerry, Scooby Doo, and the Flintstones are basically not.

Here's to more Bullwinkle, less Hunchback.