Howdy Doody and his Magic Hat
June 4, 2010 10:30 AM   Subscribe

". . . all of us bright young hotshot UPA stars absolutely hated the Howdy Doody show, and felt that the puppet itself was gross—a ten on a kitsch scale of one to ten. We determined to “improve” the Howdy Doody character to the level of our hallowed UPA design standard. After all, we were already the toast of New York animation, raking in the prizes and publicity. We simply couldn’t lower ourselves to something so crude, even if the client was paying us to do just that. So we just blithely went ahead with transforming Howdy Doody in our own image."

The legendary Gene Deitch and the United Productions of America's original interpretation of Howdy Doody. Feel whimsical at your own risk. (Via)
posted by Think_Long (27 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
Beautiful! A lot of the UPA stuff was considered a bit too artsy at the time, but the style has really held up over the years.
posted by Atom Eyes at 10:39 AM on June 4, 2010


I watched Howdy as a kid...

And, once, when I was really sick and running a fever of about 104 for days, I had dreams..strange, strange dreams.

This was one of them....
posted by HuronBob at 10:40 AM on June 4, 2010


It's weird that the only contemporary show I can think of that is somewhat analogous to the UPA style is South Park.
posted by Think_Long at 10:41 AM on June 4, 2010


That was the worst spongebob squarepants episode I've ever seen.
posted by jeffkramer at 10:42 AM on June 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think its awful, and I hated UPA cartoons when they were rerun when I was a kid. It's like they didn't know or care that they were making cartoons for children.
posted by empath at 10:58 AM on June 4, 2010


I don't know why, but I strongly and immediately disliked that video. Most likely it is a personal failing.
posted by 2bucksplus at 11:29 AM on June 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


That was fantastic. Thanks.
posted by dobbs at 11:41 AM on June 4, 2010


I think that's a very cool animation style. But as a kid, my reaction would probably have been, "What the hell is this shit? I'm gonna watch DuckTales."
posted by castlebravo at 11:41 AM on June 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


empath: how is this not interesting or appropriate for children? I really enjoyed finding older stuff like this when I was young, it was a nice break from the heavy handed cuteness and pandering of 1980s children's programming. As far as I am concerned, that something my contain subtleties you may not appreciate until older is a positive point, not a negative.
posted by idiopath at 11:43 AM on June 4, 2010


Oh, I just loved that.
posted by mr_crash_davis mark II: Jazz Odyssey at 11:47 AM on June 4, 2010


I had no idea that Cartoon Brew web site existed. I loved the cartoon and I hated Howdy Doody as a kid.
posted by immlass at 11:55 AM on June 4, 2010


As far as I am concerned, that something my contain subtleties you may not appreciate until older is a positive point, not a negative.

The Warner Bros. cartoons, for example, are appreciated for both their artistic merit and their entertainment value by the entire spectrum of ages. I can't see anyone appreciating this other than a design student or animation enthusiast. I had a visceral dislike of these kinds of cartoons as a kid as well, although I didn't identify them as by UPA, as an adult I think I know why: they just exude 1950s three-martini hubris, and seem like they were made by joyless men in fashionable suits who were really into themselves. The style just isn't *fun*. The people that made them should have been making corporate logos, not cartoons.
posted by DecemberBoy at 11:59 AM on June 4, 2010 [10 favorites]


as a kid, my reaction would probably have been, "What the hell is this shit? I'm gonna watch DuckTales."

This is pretty much my response to Godard films, now.
posted by Greg Nog at 12:02 PM on June 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


Whoa, I never noticed before that this style is a dark foreshadowing of Flash animations. I kept waiting for Howdy Doody to do sick skate board tricks and fight a stick figure.
posted by TwelveTwo at 12:06 PM on June 4, 2010


The hat is a cruel mistress, indeed.
posted by redsparkler at 12:17 PM on June 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


that something my contain subtleties you may not appreciate until older is a positive point, not a negative.

I think this is entirely true, but i kind of agree with empath re: stuff like this. As a kid, i always hated shit like this. As someone else said upthread, that's probably a personal failing, since I still pretty much hate it. I get the point of the style and the charm of the technique, I think. And that someone was doing this back in the first days of television for an audience that was otherwise confined to listening to shrill shrieking kids howling "IT'S HOWDY DOODY TIME" isn't lost on me. I can't speak for empath, but for me that doesn't change the fact that as a member of an audience that's too young to remember those days and who isn't informed about the history of animation and all that, it's not entertaining. It is intensely boring and the art style, while doubtlessly innovative, feels rushed and amateur-ish.

NOTE FOR THE NOTE TAKERS: I AM NOT SAYING THEY'RE AMATEURISH OR THAT THEY RUSHED THIS. I AM TRYING TO DESCRIBE AN IMPRESSION THAT SOMEONE IN MY POSITION GETS.

ahem. anyway, yeah. it's the kind of a thing where, as a young viewer without an understanding of the general theory behind the style, you're just gonna say "why isn't anyone speaking? why is the animation so jerky? why is the music so weird? why does it look like they just slapped lines on weird shapes?" that some people will just immediately like the style without understanding its theory is doubtlessly true. but that some people won't is equally true. I can't stand it. never could. to my mind, if an average joe needs outside knowledge to get why something is interesting, then it's not made for average joes. and that's totally fine.

on the other hand, kids are mostly average joes, you know? I get why they'd hate it. I get why Buffalo Bob'd hate it. I don't, however, get why he'd have it destroyed.
posted by shmegegge at 12:18 PM on June 4, 2010


. . . they just exude 1950s three-martini hubris

I hope to God someone describes me as such someday.
posted by Think_Long at 12:19 PM on June 4, 2010 [3 favorites]


DecemberBoy: "The style just isn't *fun*."

To each their own, I guess. I hated the emphatic insistence on *fun*, and found it manipulative (though I did not know any words for this until I was older). We don't live in a cage of staid joylessness any more, so much as one of repressive desublimation.
posted by idiopath at 12:21 PM on June 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


If the battle is UPA vs. Warner Brothers, obviously this cartoon loses. But if the battle is UPA's Howdy Doody vs. the real Howdy Doody show, this cartoon wins, big time. Few products of American culture are as empty and obnoxious as the "Howdy Doody Show" (the 1950s Will Elder "Howdy Dooit" parody in Mad Magazine tells you everything you need to know).
posted by Faze at 12:27 PM on June 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


Totally agree with DecemberBoy, I couldn't stand the UPA look as a kid. I think being a child of the late 60s and early 70s kind of predestined me to liking psychedelic art and colors, pretty much the opposite of the UPA look. The UPA look was part of the 50's mindset that the 60s counterculture was counter to. My favorites as a kid were the Warner Bros. cartoons and the early B&W Fleischer Bros. Popeye (with the cool rotoscoped 3D backgrounds). When I saw Yellow Submarine for the first time when I was 7 or 8, it was pure magic.
posted by doctor_negative at 12:33 PM on June 4, 2010


I thought this was just kind of weird and avant-gardish for the sake of being weird and avant-gard. As a kid, I hated that kind of thing. There were elements in it that I really liked, though. I thought the horse was rendered in a particularly beautiful, almost Picasso-ish way, for example. I am surprised I didn't turn it off before that point, though.

If the battle is UPA vs. Warner Brothers, obviously this cartoon loses

Yes, but Warner Brothers and even UA cartoons seemed to (subjectively) go in this same direction (less melodic, more artistic, both literally and figuratively) the longer they went on. Sometimes the result was funny, sometimes not. But on the whole, would you rather take the Warner Brothers filmography from 1950-1959 or from 1960-1969? This was made in 1953, but it feels like a Warner Brothers from about 1967. So I'll just offer that as a compliment to the maker. His weirdness was ahead of its time.
posted by norm at 12:41 PM on June 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


I was always kind of scared of the Hanna-Barbara "DICKY MOEEEEEEEEEEE" Tom & Jerry Moby Dick adaptation.

The above statement would be more accurate if you replaced "kind of" with "really".
posted by neuromodulator at 12:43 PM on June 4, 2010


I see that doctor_negative just pretty much disagreed with my entire take there, which is fine; my comments are strictly my own subjective rambling. As a reasonably big fan of the Warner Brothers oeuvre, I will say that the best Warner Brothers work was pretty much the 50s. That these cartoons have stayed active in our consciousness since then is a monument to their genius. The 70s and early 80s belonged to Hannah-Barbera, cartoon-wise, and that was as much a rip-off as the Space Shuttle program being the successor to Apollo. I recognized as a kid that our generation got the shaft on both counts.
posted by norm at 12:46 PM on June 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


The 70s and early 80s belonged to Hannah-Barbera, cartoon-wise

And, I've just learned, UPA was essentially responsible for all those horrible 10-frames-per-second "kids and a wacky sidekick solve mysteries" cartoons we were subjected to as kids as well:

The UPA style of limited animation was adopted by other animation studios, and especially by TV cartoon studios such as Hanna-Barbera Productions. However, it was implemented as a cost-cutting measure rather than an artistic choice. A plethora of low-budget, cheaply made cartoons over the next twenty years effectively reduced television animation to a commodity, despite UPA's original goal to expand the boundaries of animation and create a new form of art.
posted by DecemberBoy at 12:54 PM on June 4, 2010 [3 favorites]


I absolutely adore the graphic style: if I had tattoos, I'd be covered in stuff like that. I would kill to get my hands on some of the cels; I'd display them proudly on my walls.

But as an animated cartoon, it's totally unwatchable. And if I have these guys to thank for Hanna-Barbera, then I wish they'd been drowned at birth.
posted by padraigin at 1:52 PM on June 4, 2010


And, I've just learned, UPA was essentially responsible for all those horrible 10-frames-per-second "kids and a wacky sidekick solve mysteries" cartoons we were subjected to as kids as well.

Now, now, DecemberBoy. Isn't that a bit like saying Boticelli is essentially responsible for the existence of those Precious Moments figurines? Sure, a lot of trash was produced in cheap imitation of the UPA house style; but you could just as easily point to a lot of good stuff that it inspired, like the TV work done by Jay Ward, and much of the 1960s Space Age aesthetic.
posted by Atom Eyes at 2:30 PM on June 4, 2010


Wow. That was really… UPA.
posted by egypturnash at 7:07 PM on June 4, 2010


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