Sunday, April 11, 2010

Sunday morning toons: Special "Why Will You Say That I Am Mad?" edition

Our theme today is that sometimes-fine line between (on one hand) being exceptionally principled, surprisingly stubborn, boldly innovative, or annoyingly eccentric and (on the other hand) having the cheese slip off your cracker, being out past where the buses run, not having elevator service to the top floor, or being downright evil.

For example: On this side of the line: Pursuing the next round of START agreements with Russia, or forking over hundreds of bucks for an iPad. On the far side of the line: White-washing a 250-year history of slavery in America, allowing the deaths of over two dozen miners for the sake of spite and corporate profits, and covering up the crimes of pedophile priests.

We begin, as we traditionally do, with Daryl Cagle's toon round-up for this week.

p3 Picks of the Week: Mike Luckovich, Daryl Cagle, Pat Bagley, Mike Keefe, Bob Englehart, Jimmy Margulies, Steve Sack, John Cole, Steve Breen, Bill Day, Bill Schorr, Steve Benson, Jim Day, and Monte Wolverton,

p3 Best of Show: Nate Beeler.

p3 Legion of Merit: Joe Heller.

p3 Certificate of Harmonic Toon Convergence: Bob Gorrell and Jeff Darcy.

p3 World Toon Review: Tjeerd Royaards (The Netherlands), Cam Cardow (Canada), Stephane Peray (Thailand), Ingrid Rice (Canada), Dario Castillejos (Mexico), Pavel Constantin (Romania), Frederick Deligne (France), and Sergei Elkin (Russia).

Ann Telnaes (at her new, easier-to-use WaPo page!) muses on playground insults.

Mark Fiore presents one of his best: Hierarchy Complicitus. Listen closely.

Disturbing: A friend got me started reading the Preacher comics. I'm through four of the nine books. It's good, but man, is it messed up.

Looks like somebody owes someone an apology: At The K Chronicles, Keith Knight looks at the danger of above-the-law corporate entities.

NYTimes illustrator Barry Blitt nicely captures the moment in this week's Frank Rich column about (among other related moral failures of the last generation) Alan Greenspan's insistence that he--a man who, as chairman of the Fed from 1987 until 2006, could make the stock market go up or down 200 points simply by his choice of adverbs--bears no responsibility for the Wall Street meltdown that has left us where we are.

Portland homeboy Jack Ohman puts a recent diplomatic achievement into some kind of perspective.

True--I'm nervous; very, very dreadfully nervous. But why will you say that I am mad? The work of the UPA studio in the late 1940s and 1950s isn't remembered today in any proportion to the quality of its work. It grew out of a consortium of animators--most of whom had track records with the big animation studios--who made training films during WWII and then industrial films after the war ended. They threw out the treacly visual realism of Disney and replaced it with a limited animation style that more resembled the visual style of post-war New Yorker cartoons. They also eschewed the gag-driven, ultraviolent style of Warner Bros. animation in favor of material that was more literary. (UPA attempted to get the rights to James Thurber's "Fables for Our Times," although in the end they produced only one.) Unfortunately, the UPA approach to limited animation, which was driven by a set of thought-out aesthetic innovations--as you watch the short below it may take a second viewing to realize how much they accomplish simply by moving the camera over a still drawing--was soon overrun by the Hanna-Barbera use of limited (constricted?) animation driven only by shrinking production budgets. UPA cartoons were beloved by critics but the studio struggled financially. Even UPA's owner, Columbia, seemed to have trouble getting UPA's cartoons. A typical example: The darkly beautiful 1953 short "The Tell-Tale Heart"--which is at the other end of the planet from, say, "Duck Amuck," a Chuck Jones/Daffy Duck classic released the same year. "Tell-Tale Heart" was directed by Ted Parmelee, narrated by James Mason, and co-written by Bill Scott (who would later write and co-executive produce "Rocky and Bullwinkle"). It was rated X (adults only) by the British Board of Film Censors, and nominated for an Academy Award, but lost to Disney's "Toot, Whistle, Plunk and Bloom." (I'm sure you all remember "Toot, Whistle, Plunk and Bloom," right?) "Tell-Tale Heart" was rarely seen outside of festivals for fifty years, until it was included as an extra on the DVD release of "Hellboy."

"The Tell-Tale Heart" was ranked #24 on the list of the 50 greatest cartoons ("Toot, Whistle, Plunk and Bloom" came in at #29. Nyah.)

p3 Bonus Toon: Are they mad? Jesse Springer marvels at the UO athletic program throwing money around like a drunken sailor:

Remember to bookmark: Slate's political cartoon for the day and Time's cartoons of the week.

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