Worst Cartoons Ever AND The Birth of Pixar, in a Single Post!
November 16, 2007 9:50 AM   Subscribe

Sometimes called "The Ed Wood of Animation", director Sam Singer had an interesting career. He was responsible for some of the most godawful cartoons ever produced, and through his work on 1975's Tubby the Tuba, was present at the birth of Pixar.

Some further reminisences from animators Mark Mayerson and Michael Sporn. And here's a link to Jerry Beck's The Worst Cartoons Ever!, which is probably where all that youtubery originated.
posted by maryh (43 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Your first two links are broken.
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:51 AM on November 16, 2007

They're only broken if you don't consider MetaFilter to rank among the most godawful cartoons ever produced, and most animation scholars believe that it does.
posted by Faint of Butt at 9:54 AM on November 16, 2007 [3 favorites]

On the front page, the first two links refer to http://www.metafilter.com/
Inside this thread, they refer to http://www.metafilter.com/66612/Worst-Cartoons-Ever-AND-The-Birth-of-Pixar-in-a-Single-Post
posted by jmd82 at 9:55 AM on November 16, 2007

Oh Man! Link One
Link Two
posted by maryh at 9:57 AM on November 16, 2007

Tubby was being produced by a crew of semi-retired animators headed by Chuck Harriton and John Gentilella

John Genitalia? Didn't he work on Fritz the Cat?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 9:58 AM on November 16, 2007 [1 favorite]

The third link is, as advertised, godawful. I love how everything appears to move in slow motion, looping each action five or six times. Cost savings, baby!

No, that's what happens when you make an anchor tag with a blank href, it just winds up pointing to the current page.

posted by ook at 10:00 AM on November 16, 2007

Is that Killer Bean thing his?
posted by Artw at 10:06 AM on November 16, 2007

Holy Smokes! Thanks for reminding me of Tubby the Tuba.
posted by Sticherbeast at 10:07 AM on November 16, 2007

posted by Uther Bentrazor at 10:12 AM on November 16, 2007

The two Paddy Pelican cartoons really make a good case for the "Ed Wood of Cartoons" label.

Here's the only Tubby the Tuba clip I could find. Unfortunately, the kids who posted it felt that it could be improved upon with a ridiculously inane "commentary".
posted by redhanrahan at 10:14 AM on November 16, 2007

Mod note: fixed links
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:19 AM on November 16, 2007

Thanks Jessamyn!
posted by maryh at 10:21 AM on November 16, 2007

Chuck Harriton! I took cartooning classes with him on Long Island when I was little, maybe 11 years old. It's good to know that I learned from the worst. (Actually, he was a really, really, really, nice guy and I idolized him at the time.)
posted by JBennett at 10:22 AM on November 16, 2007

That theme song is hard to get out of your head.

Haaaaaaa haaaaa, ha ha ha hahahahaha
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:34 AM on November 16, 2007 [2 favorites]

Tubby the Tuba's ok, but one of those links brought me closer to Courageous Cat and Minute Mouse, which totally made my day. I loved that show. Even as a chipper young 7 year old, I loved watching it, and dreaming of doing acid one day.
posted by psmealey at 10:40 AM on November 16, 2007 [1 favorite]

Those are undermined more by the voicing than the animation.
posted by Wolfdog at 10:54 AM on November 16, 2007

Thanks for that link, psmealey. Singer was responsible for that mess, too! Minute Mouse looks awfully familiar... I guess the Disney lawyers weren't as ruthlessly efficient about copyright infringement back in the sixties.
posted by maryh at 10:56 AM on November 16, 2007

It's on DVD in the $1 bins around here. Mine's still got the plastic wrapper on it on the assumption it works better as a collectible than a movie. Having observed the process and fallout of making it, I'll give it a viewing on my death bed.

Maybe hexatron would like to weigh in on this?
posted by StickyCarpet at 10:57 AM on November 16, 2007

Those are undermined more by the voicing than the animation.

I agree. Bad writing and bad performances, not bad animation.

Kind of like the opposite of South Park.
posted by Rykey at 11:44 AM on November 16, 2007

Well let's be fair here, they reuse a lot of shots in Paddy Pelican, cycle half-seconds of animation over and over, refuse to lip sync anything, and it's pretty badly done.

And that theme song sounds sounds like a toilet bowl gurgling affection for its user.
posted by JHarris at 11:48 AM on November 16, 2007 [1 favorite]

Oh, and some of the cartoons on the Jerry Beck DVD can be seen in the Cartoon Dump shorts on the Cartoon Brew website.
posted by JHarris at 11:51 AM on November 16, 2007

not bad animation

Skip to about 1:24 or 2:10 (or really anywhere else) and look at all the weird floppy looping motion. Unless this is supposed to be a cartoon about an epileptic on the moon, this is bad animation.

I agree that the voice performances and writing are beyond crappy as well.

in other words I love this
posted by ook at 12:04 PM on November 16, 2007 [1 favorite]

I would have said, "kind of like South Park with better animation", but I'm probably a minority in that opinion.
posted by Wolfdog at 12:05 PM on November 16, 2007

(Also watch that haydrift floating around at 2:10, and the pitchfork leaves tracers when he picks it up -- I changed my mind, this is a subtle and brilliant precursor beatnik trip-flick. Those aren't "tomatoes" in that "tomato patch".)
posted by ook at 12:10 PM on November 16, 2007

I'm not much of an artist, but this is one art job I can do. It's just a matter of copying.
posted by designbot at 12:15 PM on November 16, 2007

refuse to lip sync anything

It looks like the Paddy shorts were basically pencil tests, so I doubt there was even a soundtrack. These were originally shown on a live action kids' puppet show in Chicago, so I suspect the guy doing all the voices (and that astonishing theme song) was being recorded live as the film played.
posted by maryh at 12:17 PM on November 16, 2007 [1 favorite]

I always thought that the Hercules cartoon was the worst animation I'd ever seen, with lots of re-use and looping. This actually doesn't seem much worse to me.
posted by jmcnally at 12:20 PM on November 16, 2007

By Hercules, of course, I mean The Mighty Hercules from the 1960s, not the Disney version.
posted by jmcnally at 12:23 PM on November 16, 2007 [2 favorites]

A pity Singer got hold of Tubby the Tuba. It was a charming orchestral piece for kids, by George Kleinsinger, who also wrote the wonderful Brooklyn Baseball Cantata. I grew up with the Tubby recording that featured Victor Jory as the narrator. It's available here.
posted by QuietDesperation at 12:26 PM on November 16, 2007

Hercules! Only the evil fear him!
Hercules! Goodness is always near him!

I am going to kill you for putting that song back in my head, jmcnally. Start running.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 12:54 PM on November 16, 2007 [1 favorite]

I watched the Paddy the Pelican cartoon. Now I know where Joss Whedon learned to write dialogue.
posted by dobbs at 1:38 PM on November 16, 2007 [2 favorites]

The mention of the Hercules cartoon reminds me to ask, what is it with these bad old TV cartoons and the unusually high production qualities that go with their theme songs?

Have a look at the cartoons in some of the Cartoon Dump episodes linked above. It's almost a common feature among all of them: snappy, engaging theme song leading into horrible, corner-cutting, repurposed animation.
posted by JHarris at 1:41 PM on November 16, 2007

I'm with maryh in opinion about those Paddy shorts. They looks more like pencil tests (perhaps ashcan editions?) then finished product. I guess only the creator would know... however I don't believe that those are actually finished reels.

That third link is far more polished, though definitely craptastic. As above though, it's mainly due to the terrible voicing and sound production.

BTW. The Mighty Hercules rules! My wife didn't grow up with that cartoon and thus a good portion of my siblings' in jokes pass right by her. I can still imitate each of the awesome stock monster sounds... all three of them.
posted by C.Batt at 1:49 PM on November 16, 2007

The best line in Tubby was what a potential backer said when leaving a screening of it:
"The sound track was so load I could hardly fall asleep!"

The film had lots of problems. In other hands it could have verged on not-too-bad.

Johnny Gentilella was an animator on the 50s Popeyes. The animators were not to blame--they were pretty wonderful, and wonderful people too. Animation at that time was 'in transition' as a business, and quality didn't just suffer, it disappeared. One animator told me that, towards the end of its run, he animated and entire Spiderman by pulling scenes from earlier episodes--it didn't have a single new drawing in it!

Shamus (Jimmy, James, Seamus) Culhane's biography Talking Animals and other People is a great history of animation from the 1920s to 1980s. He saw it all.

I just looked up Gentilella on IMDB to get the proper spelling.
The movie listings reminded me of what he said about the animation credits from that time. The union got the producers to credit two animators for each cartoon. But the names were picked pretty much at random. All the animators worked on all the cartoons.

And he did work on Fritz the Cat.
posted by hexatron at 1:52 PM on November 16, 2007 [1 favorite]

And I messed up the quote:
"The sound track was so LOUD I could hardly fall asleep!"
posted by hexatron at 1:53 PM on November 16, 2007

Alexander Schure was giving a tour of his graphics lab to Gordon Bell, and walking through the machine room full of vaxes they come upon a loan figure hunched over on a a high stool, inputting animation drawings using a green oscilliscope-style display. The animator, Howie, happened to weigh about 400 lbs. Dr. Schure (as he was known,) gestures to this huge man, and over the roar of the air conditioning, practically screams, "that's Tubby over there."

Only he knew that he was referring to the poster for the movie that was in in his line of sight. Gordon Bell nods, takes on a strange countenance, and continues on the tour.
posted by StickyCarpet at 2:05 PM on November 16, 2007

You'd think that they would have at least stopped the looping dialog animation when a character wasn't talking. Or maybe they could have made chewing sounds.
posted by tehloki at 2:13 PM on November 16, 2007

That coyote fucking loves tomatoes.
posted by thatswherebatslive at 4:48 PM on November 16, 2007

Having briefly watched two of the Paddy the Pelican shorts, I'll still take him over Hammerman. Let's just say the the stories were not up to the high quality of animation and storytelling as the intro.
posted by L. Fitzgerald Sjoberg at 8:39 PM on November 16, 2007

One thing I don't get -- from the "Tubby The Tuba" link:
Thus, it marked the first time that computers were ever used in the making of an animated feature. But when the film wrapped up production, the first test screenings did not do as well as the crew had hoped it would. As a result, Catmull removed Sam Singer's name from the final prints, taking a credit in Singer's place.

...wait, what? "Man, everyone hates this! I TOTALLY gotta take credit for that!"
posted by Rev. Syung Myung Me at 10:22 AM on November 17, 2007

The only real problem here I see is that lack of funding so they can:

1. Stop looping everything.

2. Get real actors and scripts.

The character design is just gorgeous. It has that wonderful cartooney animal Disney thing going on. As freeze frames they make a lot of the better modern cartoonists look like amateurs.

Its kind of depressing. How much money has Disney and Pixar wasted on digital eye-lash rendering? I'm sure 1 one millionath of the cash there costs 100x more than all these cartoons.

Different time. Different economics. Shame the creative types get blamed for everything.
posted by damn dirty ape at 12:05 PM on November 17, 2007

Then again who am I to disagree with a published author. Clearly the artistic geniuses of our generation are busy on yet another episode of Bratz, Kim Possible, Care Bears, My Little Pony Tales, He-Man, Justice League, etc.
posted by damn dirty ape at 12:22 PM on November 17, 2007 [1 favorite]

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