Thursday, January 12, 2012

A Cartoon Diamond in the Rough...or Sand Trap

Hanna-Barbera was the king of TV cartoons for three decades, 1960s-1980’s. After winning 7 Academy Awards for the “Tom and Jerry” theatrical cartoons at MGM from 1940-1958, the duo of William Hanna and Joseph Barbera saw the writing on the wall. MGM was going to close its cartoon studio, and Hanna and Barbera quickly rallied their troops and went into the wild frontier of TV animation.

Despite the cheap, stiff animation, H-B’s early stuff was great. They had great writing, great graphic design, and great voice acting in their arsenal. To learn more about that stuff, check out the blog “Yowp”.

Anyway, H-B started to lose its creativity and artistry by the late 1960’s, churning out Saturday morning crap that repeated itself over and over again and got lousier with each “new” series. Bill and Joe sat back and watched the assembly line make garbage on a shoestring budget and for meager pay, while they counted their money. If you want to see how bad their cartoons were by the 1970’s, watch Boomerang at 2AM.

Anyway, There is a show Hanna-Barbera made in 1969 entitled “The Catanooga Cats”. How’s this for a concept: a group of hillbilly hippie cats form a band and go on crazy adventures and do trippy musical numbers, with backup segments involving a sheep-hungry wolf voiced by Paul Lynde and a cat and mouse who ride motorcycles. Yep, it was 1969. And the show was terrible.

BUT…there is a segment from it that I think is a masterpiece of modern art. It’s a musical segment featuring a song called “Merry Go Round”. I don’t know anything about the artists involved, musicians or animators. But it’s perfect. It’s a diamond in the rough…no…a diamond in the sand trap. It’s as if the folks at H-B said “Let’s take a break from sucking ass and make a work of art.”

As you view it below, look at the design of it, and listen to the lyrics of a seemingly bubblegum song. As the female singer warbles about a merry-go-round, it seems happy at first…but it becomes a metaphor for loss of innocence. In a way, if you read your history books, that’s what 1969 was all about. That year changed America forever in many ways. Taking a cue from artist Peter Max, who inspired the Beatles’ “Yellow Submarine”, and playing like a limited-animation music video, here’s Hanna-Barbera’s Catanooga Cats gem, “Merry-Go Round”.

No comments:

Post a Comment