HB MGM Unit question

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Cartoonfanatic201
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HB MGM Unit question

Postby Cartoonfanatic201 » Fri Oct 14, 2011 9:20 pm

was there any point in there history where the HB unit at MGM got sick of doing T&J cartoons? (considering that's pretty much all they ever made with a couple of exceptions)

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Postby zavkram » Sat Oct 15, 2011 5:31 am

In interviews, Joe Barbera reportedly said that the decision by MGM to close down the cartoon department was unexpected and a complete surprise. From his comments, one gets the impression that he and Bill Hanna had expected to continue making the T&J theatrical cartoons for many more years to come.

Veteran animator and director, Jack Hannah, has been quoted as saying that he had gotten sick of doing Donald Duck cartoons; so the notion of Ken Muse, Ed Barge, et al having gotten sick of doing T&J cartoons isn't implausible.

One question to ask is: if they had gotten sick of them, was this somehow reflected in the cartoons themselves? By the time of the closure Tom and Jerry had become, in the words of Leonard Maltin, "caricatures of themselves". Maltin uses "Blue Cat Blues" as an example of how the series itself had somehow lost its way. So, maybe the overall quality of the last batch of T&J's is an indicator... or maybe not.
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Postby Bobby Bickert » Sat Oct 15, 2011 9:09 pm

Though by the end of the run, Ken Muse was the only "familiar" name in the animator credits. I know that Ray Patterson left to form Grantray, but what happened to Irv Spence and Ed Barge?

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Postby zavkram » Sun Oct 16, 2011 12:14 am

It always seemed to me that when Lewis Marshall, Carlo Vinci, James Escalente, and others had joined the unit; that was the point when the overall look of the cartoons foreshadowed that of their TV cartoons.

This may sound crazy, but there seemed to be a point when the Tom and Jerry's stopped looking like MGM cartoons and more like Hanna-Barbera TV cartoons... does that make any sense?
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Postby J. J. Hunsecker » Sun Oct 16, 2011 3:32 am

zavkram wrote:It always seemed to me that when Lewis Marshall, Carlo Vinci, James Escalente, and others had joined the unit; that was the point when the overall look of the cartoons foreshadowed that of their TV cartoons.

This may sound crazy, but there seemed to be a point when the Tom and Jerry's stopped looking like MGM cartoons and more like Hanna-Barbera TV cartoons... does that make any sense?

Yes, that does make sense. The last years at MGM seem to foreshadow the look of the Hanna-Barbera cartoons of the early sixties. Obviously one reason is the hiring of Ed Benedict as designer and layoutman at both companies. The influence of modern graphics ala UPA is another reason. The cartoons become more stylized: the characters were streamlined and simplified (it also helped keep costs down, too), and the backgrounds were flatter, with less rendering and bolder colors. The animation was less aggressive and exaggerated, and relied on stock walks and movements.

I think a cartoon like Busy Buddies really fits that bill. The baby reminds me of Ed Benedict's and Gene Hazelton's designs for The Flintstones.

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Postby Fibber Fox » Sun Oct 16, 2011 4:08 am

Cartoonfanatic201 wrote:was there any point in there history where the HB unit at MGM got sick of doing T&J cartoons? (considering that's pretty much all they ever made with a couple of exceptions)


I guess you'd have to ask the people responsible. I've never read anything one way or another and certainly Jerry Eisenberg never suggested anything like that when I chatted with him about the H-B unit.

When Hanna and Barbera were elevated to producer status, MGM announced that the studio was going to make, and I can't remember the exact wording in Boxoffice, cartoons based on popular stories. For whatever reason, this never happened.

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Postby Fibber Fox » Sun Oct 16, 2011 4:16 am

J. J. Hunsecker wrote:Obviously one reason is the hiring of Ed Benedict as designer and layoutman at both companies. The influence of modern graphics ala UPA is another reason.


I guess you can add up the names, J.J. You had Bick doing layouts with Bob Gentle, Monty and Art Lozzi for the Hanna-Barbera unit and then at the Hanna-Barbera studios. The main difference was the time to make them.

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Postby The Spectre » Sun Oct 16, 2011 5:17 am

zavkram wrote:It always seemed to me that when Lewis Marshall, Carlo Vinci, James Escalente, and others had joined the unit; that was the point when the overall look of the cartoons foreshadowed that of their TV cartoons.

This may sound crazy, but there seemed to be a point when the Tom and Jerry's stopped looking like MGM cartoons and more like Hanna-Barbera TV cartoons... does that make any sense?


Well, this is when Hanna and Barbera became producers.

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Postby J Lee » Sun Oct 16, 2011 8:27 am

The CinemaScope requirements played a part in the look of the H-B cartoons starting to foretell the early TV stuff. But you really have to get to the final handful of releases before you get scenes like Nibbles attempt to get the key in "Robin Hoodwinked" that look distressingly like the made-for-TV work. Earlier cartoons from the 1957-58 release season like "Barbecue Brawl" or "Mucho Mouse" still retain more of a theatrical look, and you can see where at least some of the $$$ is being spent.

It's interesting that, even with Ed Benedict's layouts on a cartoon like 'Dixieland Droopy' the early MGM CinemaScope releases still look as or more plush than their contemporary Warner's equivalents, but by the time we get to the final releases in 1958, the movement and backgrounds are well-below Warners, and on the backgrounds at least, hovering in Lantz/Famous Studios territory. Going off to play with the Screen Gems people may not have been the worst thing in the world for Bill & Joe (especially since no studio handled the new realities of television worse in the end than Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, so the financial situation there was never going to even stabilize)
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Postby Bobby Bickert » Sun Oct 16, 2011 6:48 pm

J Lee wrote:The CinemaScope requirements played a part in the look of the H-B cartoons starting to foretell the early TV stuff.


I remember that someone here said that the MGM cartoon budgets were cut to compensate for having to pay royalties to Fox for the use of CinemaScope.


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