UPA Week: Twice the Boing-Boing for your internet dollar.

As tends to happen with these things, life got in the way and interrupted UPA Week a bit, but I figured we could still go out on the note (or, as the case may be, weird onomatopoeic noise) we came in on with the final two original Gerald McBoing-Boing shorts, 1953's The Gerald McBoing-Boing Sympony, and 1956 Academy Award Nominee Gerald McBoing-Boing on Planet Moo.

UPA Week: When Magoo Flew

Alright, I admit it's pretty weird to follow The Tell-Tale Heart with a Mister Magoo short, but: a.) you can't really talk about the output of UPA without bringing up Jim Backus' near-sighted codger; and b.) this one actually has a quick, clever sight gag (sight gag... Mister Magoo... these are the jokes, son!) relating to Tell-Tale Heart and its director, so look for that.

Also, this one actually did win the Academy Award for best animated short. Go figure. Anyway, it's Mister Magoo in "When Magoo Flew," which is pretty much everything you expect from the Magoo formula, but still pretty clever and blissfully free of his Chinese houseboy Charley.

R.I.P. Nicholas Courtney and Dwayne McDuffie

In the last 24 hours or so we lost two people who loomed large in the hearts and minds of fans everywhere, Nicholas Courtney and Dwayne McDuffie.

Courtney was best known as Brigadier Sir Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart on Doctor Who, arguably the most famous supporting character in the history of the series (only Sarah Jane Smith challenges the Brig for the title, I'd say). He was primarily known for his adventures with the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th Doctors, but thanks to guest appearances, anniversary programs, and spin-off media, he had at least one adventure with each of the first 8 Doctors, got named checked by the 10th Doctor in Season 4, and made one final in-continuity appearance in the second season of The Sarah Jane Adventures. And besides being a memorable character, I hear he was a hell of a nice man to boot. Five rounds rapid, sir. You were a splendid fellow.

And Dwayne McDuffie, well, wow, here was a guy who had success in writing and production for comics, animation, video games, and all manner of other media. He's probably best known in comics for being one of the driving forces behind Milestone Media and their stable of characters like Static (later adapted into the Static Shock cartoon and used in Justice League Unlimited a few times) and Icon, but he did a lot to to help improve the use and treatment of African-American and other racial minority characters in comics besides. McDuffie liked to make sure the Powers That Be realized that black characters were more than just Black Characters, they were, you know, characters, with powers and motivations and whatnot above and beyond their color or heritage. And every now and then, the Powers That Be seemed to listen. No small feat. Damn shame he never lived to see that Static action figure he waited and waited for, just as its a damn shame we'll never see more work from him. He leaves an impressive legacy, but he leaves it for us far too soon.

Best wishes and condolences to the family, friends, and fans of both men. They'll both genuinely be missed.

UPA Week: The Tell-Tale Heart

Today's selection takes things in different directions in terms of both tone and style: 1954's " The Tell-Tale Heart," directed by Ted Parmalee, adapted by Bill Scott and Fred Grable from the Edgar Allen Poe story, and narrated by James Mason. This was not only an Academy Award nominee (losing out to Disney's famous "Toot, Whistle, Plunk, and Boom," which is pretty great, but come on!), but was also named to the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress in 2001.

It's good, is what I'm saying, and I'm betting you haven't seen much like this before.

UPA Week: The Unicorn in the Garden

Today's UPA Week selection is a 1953 adaptation of James Thurber's 530 word short short story "The Unicorn in the Garden," directed by William T. Hurtz. Considering the source material was so spare and yet still kind of profound, UPA was probably the perfect choice to animate it. Enjoy!

(But be warned, some of the "Suggestions" links that YouTube offers for additional viewing at the end seem... off-message, we'll say, with the flavor of this particular video, and this entire blog as well. I suspect it has to do with the phrasing of the story's moral, which didn't have quite the connotations in 1953 that it does today. The cartoon itself is perfect work and home safe. Some of the suggestions? Maybe not so much. Stupid interwebs.)

UPA Week: Rooty Toot Toot

Now here's just about the best example of that "visual jazz" UPA style I was talking about, and an Academy Award nominee to boot: 1951's "Rooty Toot Toot," the story of Frankie, on trial for shooting her lover Johnny "rooty toot toot, right in the snoot." It's directed by John Hubley, and written by Hubley and Bill Scott (who'd later be head writer, co-producer, and voice for Bullwinkle, among many other credits), loosely adapted from the traditional song "Frankie and Johnny."

Enough history. Cartoon!

UPA Week: An Introduction

Last night's posting of Gerald McBoing-Boing sent me on a quest looking through the Tubes of You for more UPA animation gold... some familiar, some I knew through reputation alone (mostly due to Jerry Beck's great book The 50 Greatest Cartoons), and some entirely new to me. And it was too much to not share, really, so I'm making this UPA Week (and retroactively making the Gerald post the "zero issue" of the series, so to speak).

In case you're not familiar, UPA, or United Productions of America, was a studio founded by ex-Disney animators after a strike in 1941, and one that generally broke with the "realistic" style that Disney and the Fleischers, among others, employed. UPA cartoons tended to employ looser, spare designs and limited animation (it wasn't such a dirty word back then), and definitely took a "less is more" approach to their work. They began making animated shorts for the government, and then theatrical ones with Columbia Pictures, and then finally cartoons for television before getting out of animation altogether. And in their heyday, they involved a host of true auteurs, including animators Chuck Jones and Gene Deitch, and writers like Dr. Seuss and James Thurber. They're probably best remembered today for Mr. Magoo and Gerald McBoing-Boing, and maybe even that unfortunate Dick Tracy TV series that barely involved Dick Tracy and instead featured a series of progressively worse racist caricature stand-ins, but their legacy is so much greater. At their best, their animation work was visual jazz.

If you're interested in reading more, the Wikipedia article is probably an okay place to start (standard caveat about Wikipedia accuracy applies, as is the entry at Don Markstein's Toonopedia.

Saturday Night Cartoons: Gerald McBoing-Boing

You never see enough of the old UPA studios cartoons anymore. Well, you don't really see enough of any older, theatrically released cartoons anymore, but even still, the Looney Tunes/Merrie Melodies crew and the Disney characters get trotted out for TV showings at least a few times a year, and on DVD, too. UPA, though, not so much. Thank Kirby for the inter-ma-webs, though. Here's one of their very based, written by Dr. Seuss his own self, Gerald McBoing-Boing.

Oh, and hey, did I mention?

A holiday message (and obvious joke) from Angel Love.

It's Valentine's Day, and who better to speak about the day and the subject of love in general than the 1980s comic book character who bears the concept's very name as her own, Ms. Angel Love.

So tell us, Angel, what is Valentine's Day all about?

Ms. Angel Love, everybody!

(Look, I said the joke was obvious, right up in the title and everything.)

Well, I suppose codependency is better than slaughter, but still. (Or, the strange case of the Nauga)

Oh, Naugahyde. Advertising geniuses figured the public would be hesitant to accept a synthetic fabric, so they invented an animal for it to come from... one that would willingly shed its skin rather than be killed for it, admittedly, but still, that's just weird, man.

The past is another planet.

Lego Wampa wants to hug you and cuddle you and squeeze you and name you George*

When I saw The Empire Strikes Back in the theater when I was 4, the wampa attack left me crying and demanding to be taken home (luckily my older sister wouldn't listen to me). This guy here, though, I would've wanted as a pet.

*In case you need some context. But honestly, shame on you if you do.

Friday Favorites: R2D2

When it comes right down to it, I think we could use an R2D2 in our lives. For one thing, the little guy can fix anything, even when literally under fire, and speaking as the sort of guy whose own fix-it technique involves the judicious applications of duct tape, super glue, and physical violence, that's reason enough. But R2 has a lot of other fine qualities going for him, too. He's loyal, brave, cool in high-pressure situations, and I bet if you asked, he'd even go get you a beer.

He has his faults, sure. There's the obvious language barrier, though he can get his point across if he needs to thanks to the timing and inflection of his beeps (besides, C3PO does nothing but talk, and look often that got him into trouble, or shut down, or blown to pieces). He has a nose (wait... maybe a sensor?) for trouble that has on several occasions, and on at least one literal one, gotten him in over his head (luckily that swamp monster on Dagobah didn't like the taste of him). He's a little impulsive, and will roll off his own into the desert night without really thinking it through, Sand People or not. And he has the knack for picking up the weirdest human habits.

But all that aside, R2 seems like the kind of droid you not only need in your life, but would probably choose to share a life with, too. Lucasfilm's own Bonnie Burton certainly thought so, and married him in front of the Force, two Sith lords, an America's Next Top Model winner, and fandom assembled at Star Wars Celebration V last year.

And you know, who can blame her? For a little guy often physically compared to a rolling trash can, he's kind of a catch.

At long last, an entire O-rama for my Weins!

I kid. Wein-O-Rama is both a landmark and institution here in Rhode Island, and I love the kitschy charm of both the sign and the name. I've yet to eat there, though. I'll get around to it one of these days, I'm sure. I just need to make sure my always dicey digestive system is prepared for diner food and the mysterious substance RI lifers call "weiner sauce."

Straight from the pages of Gallifrey Today, this awesome Doctor Who infographic!

(Click to make TARDIS interior-sized.)

Looking for a crash course in Doctor Who? Then artist Bob Canada is your man, seeing as he created the above Doctor Who infographic guide to the Doctor. Use it to cram for that first quiz you have coming up in your WHO 101 class. (via Nerdist)


Here's the thing they don't tell you on Career Day about jobs in print media: a lot of them don't pay well. No wonder Kal-El has had to supplement his income with so many TV spots:

Not to mention his brief foray into the snack food industry: