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Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Where Nitrate Makes a Paul Terry Cartoon Look Good


From New Zealand Comes Happy-Go-Luckies (1923)

If you're turning out a cartoon every week, how can they be any good, right? Paul Terry did it through the twenties and toted up an amazing 450 of his Aesop's Fables during that decade. Historians think less of them than cartoons made by the Fleischers, Otto Messmer (Felix The Cat), others. I've been allergic to Terry since growing up on his later stuff that stank up television. But hold on --- if his Fables were so wretched, how come theatres kept using them when there was plenty of silent-era alternative for animated coin? And what about the fact that Walt Disney regarded Terry effort as models for his own nascent effort at cartoon-making? The latest DVD Treasures From the National Film Preservation Foundation may have an answer in Happy-Go-Luckies, a Terry/Aesop that happily survives on crispy nitrate (via New Zealand archival rescue), not crisp as in burned like most else on that perishable stock, and now I'm thinking it's time to revisit surviving whole of the Aesop's series to determine if Paul Terry has some due coming. The Fables weren't linked by anything other than "morals" tacked onto ends, being otherwise factory work with Terry forever after a next short-cut to completion. Was this cynical means of making cartoons? May-be, but honestly, weren't they all, other than Walt's? Terry would not have been at the business long otherwise, results judged by Happy-Go-Luckies not half bad despite PT's need for speed. The set-up is hobos (a cat and dog ... or some such indistinct animal combination) trying to crash pure-bred contestants at a ritzy dog show. We might care less were this not derived from rescued 35mm --- well, they say rescue dogs make the best pets, after all. All of what's on this newly released Treasures disc came from the New Zealand find that yielded Greenbriar's latest rave, Lyman Howe's Runaway Train. I could say that Happy-Go-Luckies is alone worth DVD price, but I've only begun watching what's here. Based on descriptive notes, everything aboard looks great, and for $19.99 at Amazon, amongst best bargains of the year.

2 Comments:

Blogger Dave K said...

First of all, I have to admit to a pretty high tolerance for Terrytoons in general, never thought they stunk my house out (was there ever a more 'meta' toon than 1948's POWER OF THOUGHT? How about the fascinating oddness of 1942's ICKLE MEETS PICKLE?)But more to your point, I LOVE the silent era AESOP'S FABLES. A lot of them seem like just stream of conscious deals, then suddenly they double back at the end and almost kind of make narrative sense (kind of). Worth chasing down!

9:10 AM  
Blogger opticalguy said...

Dave K is right about Terrytoons having something to offer. I found 1948's POWER OF THOUGHT on YouTube and have to agree about that one. I was unable to locate 1942's ICKLE MEETS PICKLE but I hope to find it based on Dave K's recommendation. There were a number of dream-based Terrytoons (often, I seem to remember, that featured Sourpuss and Gandy Goose) that were genuinely weird and would be worth another look. Any of these available on DVD?

1:21 PM  

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