Ub Iwerks
December 17, 2006 4:38 AM   Subscribe

He had an awesome name for an animator. He created Mickey Mouse. He won two Academy Awards. He invented rotoscoping. Now he is mostly forgotten, except among cartoon aficionados. Also forgotten: Flip the Frog. He was Ub Iwerks.
posted by Astro Zombie (27 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
But you can see Flip the Frog here and here on YouTube. Other topics tackled by Iwerks: Balloons. Dentistry. Pirates. Giants. Poverty. Folk tales (warning -- racial caricaturing!). Winter. And here he is, Oswald, Disney and Iwerk's first big success, the rights to which they lost when they started their own studio, leading to the creation of Mickey.
posted by Astro Zombie at 4:46 AM on December 17, 2006

Ub rules. I have a DVD compilation of Iwerk's stuff that I watch from time to time with my 6-year-old daughter, who really likes it as well. For me, he's right up there with Dave and Max Fleischer (Koko the Clown, Betty Boop, et al) for inventiveness and creativity. Certainly one of the key figures and early geniuses of animation. Thanks for the post!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:41 AM on December 17, 2006

flip. flip. flip. Ub rocks!
posted by Busithoth at 6:19 AM on December 17, 2006

His original name was even more awesome: Ubbe Ert Iwwerks. Wikipedia says: "His name is explained by his East Frisian roots — his father, Eert Ubbe Iwwerks, emigrated to the USA in 1869 from the village Uttum in East Frisia (northwest Germany)."
posted by languagehat at 6:21 AM on December 17, 2006

i just like to say Ubbe Ert Iwwerks.

Ubbe Ert Iwwerks! Ubbe Ert Iwwerks! Ubbe Ert Iwwerks!
posted by quonsar at 6:23 AM on December 17, 2006

Great post Astro Zombie, thanks!
posted by madamjujujive at 7:13 AM on December 17, 2006

Here's an relevant tidbit: around 6 years ago, when I was living in Marin county, CA, I saw a fabulous documentary about Iwerks at The Rafael theater, "The Hand Behind the Mouse: The Ub Iwerks Story". It was directed by Iwerks' granddaughter, funded by Disney, and she was in attendance and answered questions after the screening. To my knowledge, it never received wide distribution, and contrary to what I just read on wikipedia, does not appear to have been released on video.
posted by dbiedny at 7:42 AM on December 17, 2006

About that Iwerks documentary: looks like it was released on VHS video, no DVD. Rats!
posted by dbiedny at 7:48 AM on December 17, 2006

Ub was an amazing animator. He animated some of the early Mickey shorts by himself- that's seven minutes at 24 drawings per second, and I remember reading a story about distribution deadline that forced him to an entire cartoon in a week. I get carpal tunnel chills just thinking about it.

Thanks for the Ub love, Astro Zombie!
posted by maryh at 8:16 AM on December 17, 2006

Great post! Thanks, Astro Zombie.
posted by buggzzee23 at 8:27 AM on December 17, 2006

hooray for flip!
posted by SmileyChewtrain at 9:10 AM on December 17, 2006

Doggone dang good post, Astro Zombie!
posted by mongonikol at 9:16 AM on December 17, 2006

This is great, thanks for the cartoons. Just a quick FYI, the Fleischer brothers got the patent for the rotoscope, which they were using back in 1915. I think you meant that Iwerks created a way to mix live action and cartoons in the same final frame, which isn't quite the same thing as rotoscoping.
posted by mediareport at 9:22 AM on December 17, 2006

That is what I meant.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:29 AM on December 17, 2006

Anybody who ever bought a bunch of those cheap VCR tapes or CDs of very old cartoons to amuse their very young kids (and then watched 'em themselves) knows all about Ub. Massive props to him.

Slight tangent: I know the Donald Duck cartoons and others from Disney are just as good as Warner's Bugs and Yosemite Sam and Marvin the Martian and all those guys, but huge numbers of kids don't know it because they've never seen them. Disney made an idiot move keeping great their cartoon collection behind the premium-cable-service wall. Warner made no such mistake. Result: my kids think of the Warner collection as "the best cartoons." What time do the best cartoons come on, mom? But Disney? That's just the little mermaid, right?
posted by jfuller at 9:35 AM on December 17, 2006

That is what I meant.

Cool. The Fleischers had mixed animation and live-action before Iwerks as well, going back to their 1919 Koko the Clown shorts, so the phrasing in that "invented" link - "it was Iwerks who developed the technology that allowed for the combination of animation and live-action in Disney classics such as The Three Caballeros, Song of the South, and Mary Poppins" - is a bit misleading. Iwerks must have come up with a new way of doing it, but ways of combining the two had been invented much earlier.
posted by mediareport at 10:43 AM on December 17, 2006

He had an awesome name for an animator.

Truer words were never spoken. Nice post.
posted by LeLiLo at 10:52 AM on December 17, 2006

Awesome post! I did not know that Disney did not invent or create Mickey Mouse single-handedly, and I'm (unfortunately) no slouch when it comes to Disney trivia.

However Astro Zombie 3 would have done this post better, and by better I fully mean he would have mailed me my monthly bribe of single malt Scotch and illicit Cuban cigars.
posted by loquacious at 11:02 AM on December 17, 2006

I never know exactly what Astro Zombie 3 is up to anymore.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:12 AM on December 17, 2006

my kids think of the Warner collection as "the best cartoons."

The Warners are, in fact, the best cartoons. Not to slight the great early Disneys.
posted by languagehat at 11:17 AM on December 17, 2006

languagehat: "my kids think of the Warner collection as "the best cartoons."

The Warners are, in fact, the best cartoons. Not to slight the great early Disneys.

Lets not forget Tex Avery's work at MGM either. Often better, IMO, than his earlier work with Warners.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 12:29 PM on December 17, 2006

Flip The Frog in Fiddlesticks (1930) is available for download at archive.org
posted by beerbajay at 2:06 PM on December 17, 2006

Awesome post.

Can you guys recommend any good DVD sets of early Disney, Warner, and MGM cartoons? Do they exist? I've seen some Looney Tunes collections, but that's all really. Although, I can't say I've really looked all that much.

Well, I didn't know much about Ub Iwerks, and now I do. Gotta love Metafilter...

posted by defenestration at 7:41 PM on December 17, 2006

The Warners are, in fact, the best cartoons.

Psshh. The early Fleischer Bros. Betty Boops are insanely good. Nothing else from that animation era comes close to the consistent manic brilliance of those cartoons, with Cab Calloway, Louis Armstrong and all kinds of other insanity.
posted by mediareport at 9:56 PM on December 17, 2006

defenestration, as far as the Looney Tunes go, the Golden Collections they've been doing the last few years are really top-notch. They seem to be putting one out each fall/winter, and they make swell gifts. I'm pretty sure they've done restoration work on all of the films, and they really do look pretty great. The Wikipedia pages have lists of which cartoons are in which sets, and each set also includes other archival material and some nice material to give the cartoons some context. Great stuff.

As far as the Disney cartoons go, they've been putting their stuff out in these somewhat pricy collector's tin editions. They call it the Walt Disney Treasures line, and I'd definitely give them the same recommendation as the Looney Tunes collections, though they're probably harder to track down. The sets are manufactured in a limited run, and some of them are scarcer than others. I spent the last year catching up on them via Ebay, and the Goofy collection in particular was tough to find for a price I could afford (but well worth the wait in my opinion. These sets have introductions by Leonard Maltin and other documentary material to give the stuff some context.

I'm pretty sure that in both cases, Warners and Disney are putting smaller collections of cartoons out in single discs that are cheaper (and easier to find, in the case of the Disney stuff). But the bigger sets seem well worth the difference to me.

Not sure about the MGM cartoons. I'd LOVE to get a set of Tex Avery's stuff for them.
posted by Nathaniel W at 10:25 PM on December 17, 2006

Many of you early animation buffs here might've already seen this cartoon, from a MeFi post while back. It's an amazing Japanese cartoon from 1933, and just in case you didn't see it, it's definitely worth a look. Some Japanese animator was definitely onto the Iwerks/Fleischer wavelength back then.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:09 AM on December 18, 2006

Wow, how did I miss that? It's great. Thanks, flapjax at midnite.
posted by mediareport at 4:29 PM on December 18, 2006

« Older SID-licious   |   On your mark ... get set ... drawer Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments