Mid-Century Modern Animation - Thur. Jun 26 - 8PM

Oddball Films and curator Kat Shuchter present Mid-Century Modern Animation, a program of stylish, clever, and award-winning cartoon shorts that are unmistakably mid-century with a color, feel and shape all their own. The mid-century modern style began in the late 1940s with John Hubley's UPA cartoon shorts in which he began straying away from the established realism of early animation, opting instead for a style of "limited animation" influenced by the art and design of the times, especially atomic-age design.  Detailed backgrounds gave way to minimalist shapes and blobs of colors, human characters became more prevalent over animals, faces became more stylized, and jazz music and hepcats were everywhere.  The other studios began to follow suit and soon the whole animation world was going "modern", even Di$ney.   John and Faith Hubley's  Adventures of an * (1956) features a stunning experimentation of imagery and a soundtrack from the great Benny Carter.  From UPA-the studio that started it all- we have four (count 'em four!) shorts including Hubley's last Magoo, the hilarious Fuddy Duddy Buddy (1951), 1940s racial equality primer The Brotherhood of Man (1946), a delightful adaptation of James Thurber's A Unicorn in the Garden (1953), and the short-tempered Pete Hothead (1952).  The Zagreb School of Animation produced some of the greatest atomic-age cartoons, including the first international short to win an Oscar; the delightfully anti-materialistic Ersatz (1961) from Dusan Vukotic; Vukotic's space-race charmer The Cow on the Moon (1958); and Zlatko Grgic's alien encounter Visit from Space (1955).  From England's Halas and Batchelor studio, there's the succinct and wryly witty The History of Cinema (1957). From the NFB, discover The Romance of Transportation in Canada (1952). Revel in the Technicolor mermaids of the Phillips-sponsored Pan-Tele-Tron (1957). And finally, from the behemoth - Di$ney - the Oscar-winning Toot Whistle Plunk Boom (1953), the Technicolor dazzler Blame it on the Samba (1948), and an excerpt from the future of car travel with Magic Highway USA (1958).  Early arrivals will learn from an atom-headed scientist in the atomic-age primer for A is for Atom (1953).

Date: Thursday, June 26th, 2014 at 8:00pm
Venue: Oddball Films, 275 Capp Street San Francisco
Admission: $10.00 Limited Seating RSVP to RSVP@oddballfilm.com or (415) 558-8117
Web: http://oddballfilms.blogspot.com

Highlights include:

Adventures of an * (Color, 1956, John and Faith Hubley) 
The first film John and Faith Hubley produced together commissioned by the Guggenheim Museum, with music by jazz great Benny Carter. “They violated all the rules”, remembered once animator William Littlejohn, “They threw dust on the cels, and they worked with grease so the paint would run. It came out beautifully: everybody was awestruck that such a thing would work”.

We decided to do a film with music and no dialogue and to deal with abstract characters. We wanted to get a graphic look that had never been seen before. So we played with the wax-resist technique: drawing with wax and splashing it with watercolor to produce a resisted texture. We ended up waxing all the drawings and spraying them and double-exposing them. We did the backgrounds the same way. It photographed with a very rich waxy texture, which was a fresh look” – John Hubley 

Four from UPA!

Brotherhood of Man (Color, 1946)
Sponsored by the United Automobile Workers, this short aims to teach about prejudice and racial equality.  Not without its cringe-worthy moments of political incorrectness (by today's standards), this forward-thinking cartoon was years ahead of its time in message and style.

Pete Hothead
(Color, 1952)
Pete Hothead was a short-lived UPA character.  Short in stature but long on anger-management problems, Pete has a mix up with a parrot, a department store and a radio and everyone gets a piece of his temper.  The department store scenes will have vintage-o-philes swooning!

Mr. Magoo: Fuddy Duddy Buddy (Color, 1951) 
Mr. Magoo's first starring role and John Hubley's last Magoo cartoon before being blacklisted for not naming names during the era of McCarthyism. Mr. Magoo heads to the country club for a game of tennis when he mistakes a walrus for his tennis partner.  Meanwhile, a zoo detective is hunting down the walrus to bring back to the zoo.  By the end of the day, Magoo and the Walrus have unwittingly outwitted the detective and become the best of friends.

The Unicorn in the Garden (Color, 1953)
A UPA cartoon based on writer and cartoonist James Thurber’s beloved domestic fable.  When a middle aged man delightedly reports finding a unicorn eating roses in the garden outside his house, his unpleasant wife nags that mythical creatures do not exist, before, finally, attempting to have him confined in a strait jacket and taken to “the booby trap.”  This film brings to life Thurber’s wonderfully bubbly animation style, in brilliant Technicolor, with lurid blues, yellows, and greens.  It’s no accident that Thurber was commonly regarded as a ‘horse-sense’ humorist.

Two from Academy Award-Winning Croatian animator Dušan Vukotić!

Ersatz (AKA Surogat) (Color, 1961) 
This Croatian animated short from the legendary animator Dusan Vukotic was the first foreign animated film to win an Oscar. A fat man goes to the beach and inflates everything he needs; like a boat, a tent, and a shark. He manages to have a fine time until he inflates a girlfriend for himself and realizes that even inflated women would rather hang out with hunky lifeguards. Clever, anti-materialistic and a gorgeous example of the fabulous shapes we love to think of in the mid-century style.

The Cow on the Moon (Color, 1958)

Another stunning charmer from Dusan Vukotic.  A little nerdy girl is trying to build a rocket to the moon when the town bully decides to trash her model.  She sees the opportunity to trick the dim-witted boy and pretends to send him to the moon where he encounters some strange "alien" beings.  

Pan-tele-tron (Technicolor, 1957)
Animated promotional film made for the Phillips Corporation stunningly illustrates the history of telecommunications with humor and panache in glorious Technicolor.  Produced by Pearl and Dean (with animation from the great Vera Linnecar), this won the BAFTA award in 1957.

The Romance of Transportation in Canada (Color, 1952)

Directed by Colin Low, animated by Wolf Koenig and Robert Verrall and narrated by Guy Glover “Romance…” was the National Film Board’s first attempt at a UPA style of animation for an educational film. Despite the rather dry subject, it has generous humor a beautiful mid-century style, and features a great bop/cool jazz soundtrack by Eldon Rathburn.

The film offers a humorous account of the history of transportation in Canada, looking at how Canada's vast distances and obstacles were overcome, beginning with Canada's First Nations. It also recounts the experiences of early pioneers, the construction of the Trans-Canada Railway and modern travel.

History of the Cinema (Color, 1957)
The History of the Cinema is an undeniable classic of animation, very British in its humor and very tied in with its period. With an irrepressibly optimistic narrator and great wit it takes us from the cavemen daubing on the rock, the pinhole camera, through the early silent movie era, and eventually to the rise of television. John Halas' 1957 movie also manages to convey facts in an amusing way. Thus we learn why Hollywood was so good for film-making (sun, dependable sun) and the vital role the censor paid in movie history - essentially he snipped away all the good bits of film and left the audience with the rest - and even the fads designed to withstand the impact of the little box in the home.

Three from Di$ney!

Blame it on the Samba
 (Color, 1948) 

An unforgettable and mesmerizing Technicolor film mix of live action and animation featuring Ethel Smith, the Dinning Sisters and a dizzying array of animated characters. Produced by Walt D*sney.

Magic Highway, U.S.A. (Color, 1958, excerpt)
A stunningly beautiful mid-century animation from D*sney examines the past, present (circa 1958) and paleo-future of transportation (*note* a small portion of the end of this wonderful otherwise unavailable film has been lost no doubt to a hungry high school film projector).

 “As father chooses the route in advance on a push-button selector, electronics take over complete control. Progress can be accurately checked on a synchronized scanning map. With no driving responsibility, the family relaxes together. En route business conferences are conducted by television.”

Toot, Whistle, Plunk, Boom (1953, Color)
This Academy Award winner is in stunning Technicolor and a “beatnik” classic of mid-century animated design. It’s been ranked one of the top 50 greatest cartoons of all time. 

Curator’s Biography
Kat Shuchter is a graduate of UC Berkeley in Film Studies. She is a filmmaker, artist and esoteric film hoarder.  She has helped program shows at the PFA, The Nuart and Cinefamily at the Silent Movie Theater and was crowned “Found Footage Queen” of Los Angeles, 2009.

About Oddball Films
Oddball films is the film component of Oddball Film+Video, a stock footage company providing offbeat and unusual film footage for feature films like Milk, documentaries like The Summer of Love, television programs like Mythbusters, clips for Boing Boing and web projects around the world.

Our films are almost exclusively drawn from our collection of over 50,000 16mm prints of animation, commercials, educational films, feature films, movie trailers, medical, industrial military, news out-takes and every genre in between. We’re actively working to present rarely screened genres of cinema as well as avant-garde and ethno-cultural documentaries, which expand the boundaries of cinema. Oddball Films is the largest film archive in Northern California and one of the most unusual private collections in the US. We invite you to join us in our weekly offerings of offbeat cinema.