Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Schlesinger Gremlins

I've always admired the Bob Clampett  cartoon Russian Rhapsody with it's comedy use of US propaganda back in World War II; and I just appreciate the bizarre humour that is in it. The cartoon is well known for it's use of references of the Leon Schlesinger staff in here. Of course Friz Freleng and Henry Binder got the honor of being mentioned in Hitler's speech; but what makes the cartoon really interesting is the gremlins attacking Hitler's plane are caricatured staff.

Many thanks to those who provided internet sources here; and also to Mark Kausler who provided the DVD commentary for this short I feel the need to post a few of the frames here and base about it. Of course; you might know that the designs of the staff were done by T. Hee who caricatured the staff in 1936 at a Christmas party and Bob Clampett used his designs for this short. It feels to me that Bob Clampett used the gremlin caricatures maybe because to show the staff are against of Nazi propaganda and to support the Soviet Union from being attacked from the Germans as they were defeated by the Soviet Union troops in 1941.

Drawing  courtesy of Michael Sporn Animation.
Here is the Xmas title card that I've found a copy from Michael Sporn's splog site; and thanks to him for sharing this with us. How many could you identify in the dark; I can spot Leon, Ray Katz, Henry Binder, Clampett, Ted Pierce, Friz Freleng, Tex Avery, Chuck Jones, Tubby Millar, etc. - who can you find? ;-)

I'm going to start off with a few of those gremlin scenes from what is a matter of interest to me:

The first few Gremlins that are shown on Hitler's plane here are a bit of a mystery to me but as it's been identified; the gremlin with the huge hooter  and a  blue beard is a caricature of Ted Pierce who seems to be caricatured with a sharp face.

I'm unsure if that would've been Tom McKimson model sheets or even actually based on T. Hee's caricatures although Pierce was with the staff at the time the caricature would've been done. I'd say it's from the model sheets for this cartoon since it's different from the Xmas Christmas card from at the top. I wonder if the Ted Pierce nose joke was used here (since it's a sexual innuendo from the blue gremlin from top) since Pierce was a drunken womanizer. ;-)

There is a pretty well known frame that shows quite a bit of the crew. Henry Binder is recognizable her as he is seen trying to chew off parts of the plane as they caricatured him with the bushy hair that's like Groucho Marx. Mike Sasanoff who was Clampett's layout man at the time is the gremlin with the blue hair taking bits and pieces off. Friz Freleng is the little green gremlin with the torchlight; since he stood about 5 foot 2. Bob Clampett is the naked gremlin with the funny hairdo (like Elvis) holding the hammer. These are Mark Kausler's IDs but the green gremlin with the saw nose; I'm willing to think that this is probably a caricature of Rod Scribner. Although this is just me being uncertain because Greg Duffell told me that Scribner disliked being caricatured and never wanted anyone being caricatured so it could be someone else. I like the cycle animation here being shown.

This scene of the big gremlin trying to smash Freleng gremlin (well Mark Kausler says that it's Chuck Jones as the fat gremlin) although I recall reading an online source that said it was Lou Lily (who wrote the story for this short by coincidence). Since I've not seen any photos of Lily then I'm not willing to say it's him.

I'm going to go by with Mark's words in this caricature since Chuck Jones apparently used to be heavy back them but his hair and face look a little different; as he has the facial parts and hair shown on the cute, purple gremlin (that I haven't got pictured). What do YOU think?

Leon Sclesinger is even caricatured himself although he doesn't look too much like a gremlin other than a miniature version of himself. It's not like Roald Dahl's gremlin or the one in "Falling Hare" but Clampett got to at least have some fun. I do quite like that small scene in which Schlesinger hammers Ray Katz who is sitting on top.

The Schlesinger caricature would've been from the T. Hee caricature card on top that I've seen but I imagine that the Ray Katz caricatured was done by model sheets. In fact; I imagine that all of Hee's caricatures would've been redrawn in Clampett's style but also with influence from T. Hee's caricatures.

Friz Freleng pop up again and also the Henry Binder caricature. The caricature of the gremlin on the right screen grab is a mystery to me as it must have been a staff from Schlesingers; as it's caricatured with the glasses but I just can't say who the same is.

After the entire song has finished; we have seen much of the Gremlin staff - but there's still more to be seen. Mark Kausler has identified the gremlin with the pin on top of his head as Tubby Millar who wrote Tashlin's cartoons in that era.

I imagine that Clampett used that Millar caricature for the gremlin jumping trying to pin Hitler off his seat because of his weight and with the exhaustion that he suffers in which it does come to me that it looks like Tubby Millar. I like the detailed use of him here that works well.

The next scene focuses on the Johnny Burton caricature in which he has the snore and almost cuts off gremlin Henry Binder's hair off. The Johnny Burton caricature is heavily based from the T. Hee caricature from at the top since it shows the wide cheeks that Burton is caricatured as. The Johnny Burton caricature has been used again for the "A" card switch for Hitler's plane which is a funny, executed shot.
The next part with the tiny gremlin smashing up the speed limits and glasses with the mallet saying "I'm only three and a half years old". Kausler has identified that as Bobe Cannon. That is a great eye to identify that as a Cannon gremlin since it's such a caricature on Cannon's height; and the voice as well since he was a pretty quiet person from what I've heard. I love the circular eyes that are drawn on. Bobe Cannon was also caricatured as tiny in "Page Miss Glory" - as you've seen it from my review.
Following the scene of the Mike Sasanoff gremlin holding the box of termite (termiteskies - unless that's was a Russian word for termites - as make belief). I'm a little unsure about who the termite gremlin is but I think it could be Tom McKimson.

From the photos I've seen; it has the shaped head of Tom McKimson but I'm unsure if he had that few hair; but can anyone support me on that?

Okay; this is going to be the last screen grabs with the caricatures. The only two gremlins her that are  identifyed (and probably the only two caricatured here) are Henry Binder (as he's pretty easy to tell) and the green gremlin with the beard is Art Davis.

Art Davis evidently wasn't  at Schlesinger's in 1936 when the caricature was done so this was a caricature done by somebody else I presume. There's probably still loads of the gremlins unidentified but these are the ones that we know of and ones that I'm quite sure on.

I have left out the purple cute gremlin that we all think is Chuck Jones but I left it out since I went with Mark's words that the fat gremlin trying to smash Friz was Chuck; and I didn't want to repeat it with the purple gremlin to make it more confusing. So; I'll leave it to that. It feels to me as though Bob Clampett created this cartoon for his own amusement and probably US propaganda with the term "gremlins" wrecking planes in which the caricatured gremlins wreck Hitler's plane before reaching Moscow. I find this a fun idea to use them which makes the cartoon even more enjoyable to watch, but for someone watching this that doesn't even care who the director/animator/artist on Looney Tunes are won't understand they're caricatures and probably think they're doodles.

I hope you've enjoyed here what I've posted and I hope this wasn't so boring. I was just writing what I thought interested me.

1 comment:

  1. Awesome! I've always loved the cartoons that have the Termite Terrace gang characterized. And I love, love, love the gremlins. I'm so glad someone else is as interested in this as I am!