Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Gordon Sheehan

Fellow blogger and animation aficianado Mark Mayerson has been transcribing an interview done in the 1976 with Fleischer animator Gordon Sheehan. I haven't been able to crack Sheehan's animation style yet - there are few credits for him and none on Popeye cartoons, making it doubly hard to ID his animation. I do know from a published interview that he worked primarily for Willard Bowsky's crew.

Here's a quote I found on the web from an interview done by Leonard Kohl with Gordon Sheehan:

"Dave Fleischer was showing some visitors around the studio one day as I was drawing my pencil animation for this action. As was his habit, he would pick up some animator's drawings from someone in the group, and 'flip' them for his guests. This day, he picked up my scene of Popeye violently wiggling his posterior to extricate the can of spinach. After flipping my drawings, he seemed to get a little 'shookup,' and put my drawings back on my desk without comment. Later that day, Dave Tendlar, the director, told me, Dave told him that my scene was too violently 'suggestive' and that the action would have to be 'toned down' to avoid any promiscuous sexual implications. This was something that never entered my mind, but I did as I was told, and modified the 'offending' actions. At the time, the Will Hays censorship office had the pants scared off movie producers (even cartoon producers) regarding sexual promiscuity. The office carried plenty of 'clout' and could exert their authority sometimes at considerable expense to producers. Evidently, Dave Flesicher was well aware of this, in 'censoring' my animation."

I believe the cartoon he was talking about is Aladdin and His Wonderful Lamp. I speculate (because I don't know for sure) that the scenes below are those animated by Gordon Sheehan. Following are my reasons - see what you think.

The Popeye in the frame grab above looks like it belongs in a Bowsky directed cartoon - not a Dave Tendlar directed cartoon.

The wiggling posterior/spinach extricating action described in the quote above.

Another scene in the same drawing style as the first frame grab. The animation of Popeye chewing looks the same as chewing animation seen in other Bowsky directed Popeye cartoons. (see clip for action)

Same style of drawing and animation as the above frame grabs.

There you go. Anybody know for sure??
And don't forget to check out the interview on Mark's blog.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Ben Solomon Follow-up

Important news flash - Ben Solomon's daughter Lois left a message yesterday with some additional information about her father. Check out her comments in the Ben Solomon part 2 post. Thanks Lois!! - and if you're reading this, we would love to know more about your father and his work.

Following an idea of fellow blogger and animation aficionado Thad K., I've put together some clips of Ben Solomon's animation. They're from (in order) 'We're on Our Way to Rio' (2 clips), 'Movin' Aweigh', 'She Sick Sailors', 'Service with a Guile', and 'Shape Ahoy'. Unfortunately some of the video source materials are from old TV recordings and of poor quality. Now is a good time to start praying for Popeye Vol.4 to happen otherwise we may never see great prints of these cartoons. All of the clips are from cartoons with Jim Tyer as the de facto director.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Ben Solomon - Part 2

I think of Ben Solomon's work as that of the quirky, gritty New York style of animation. It's not polished like Hollywood animation but has a great cartoony feeling to it – no frills, just fun to watch. That said…

The earliest mention I could find of Ben Solomon was in the first issue (December 1934) of Fleischer’s Animated News. Max Fleischer wrote in the forward to that issue ‘Ben Solomon of our Inbetween Department suggested the Studio News, which you are now reading’. I couldn't find any information regarding Solomon’s employment prior to the newsletter, but knowing he was an inbetweener tells me he may have spent some time at the studio working his way up through the ranks. (as was typical in those days)

Shamus Culhane in his book ‘Talking Animals and Other People’, writes of Solomon working as his assistant during Gulliver’s Travels. He was promoted to animator status sometime in 1939 working in Roland Crandall’s crew and received his first screen credit on the Popeye cartoon ‘Shakespearian Spinach’ (released Jan.1940)

After working for Crandall, Solomon became a regular member of Tom Johnson's crew, animating on Popeye, Stone Age Cartoons, and Animated Antics. When the switch-over from Fleischer to Famous took place, Solomon became the property of Jim Tyer's crew starting from 1943 until he left Famous in 1946. (with the odd departure to animate in another crew – in particular ‘Ration for the Duration’ for Dave Tendlar) After 1941, for reasons unknown, Solomon only animated on the Popeye cartoons with one exception – a Noveltoon released in 1946 titled ‘Cheese Burglar’.

Solomon came into his own style once the Popeye cartoons switched from black and white to Technicolor. While other animators at Famous were more conventional in their extremes of movement, Solomon was not afraid to twist and turn a character into whatever position he saw fit regardless of whether the drawing was successful or not. His style was unique among the Famous Studio animators.

Years later after leaving Famous, Solomon worked for Topps Chewing Gum Company in the art department and was co-creator - with ex-Famous colleague Woody Gelman – of bubble gum comic character Bazooka Joe. You can read more about Topps and Solomon here.

Solomon's first Popeye credit was on 'Shakespearian Spinach' - 1940

Following are some examples of the way Solomon would torque a character's body while anticipating a punch.

You're a Sap Mr. Jap - 1942

Puppet Love - 1944

Peep in the Deep - 1946