Sunday, June 8, 2014

Warner Bros. Production Art, Part Three: Cels

For part three of this series showcasing rare Warner Bros. art that has surfaced recently, let's take a look at some cels. These are highly sought after by collectors, and for the most part, very rare. Cels are inked and painted on sheets of clear plastic, called celluloid, traced from the animator's drawings. The inking is done on the front, while the paint is applied on the back, allowing for the cleanest lines possible. The cels are then laid over the background and shot frame by frame under the camera. The reason for their rarity is twofold: at the time, they were thought to be useless after a cartoon was made. With thousands needed for one 7-minute film, purchasing the amount of celluloid needed was expensive, and to save money, they were wiped clean and reused. Several Golden Age animators, notably Chuck Jones, got their start at various studios as cel washers.

The cels that still exist today were saved by the animators and producers themselves, often given away as gifts and promotional material. The Disney studio, for example, would offer them for cheap sale at Disneyland. Leon Schlesinger signed them and gave them out. Tex Avery recalled giving cels to local kids. Mel Blanc used them to sign autographs. As evidenced by a couple of the cels I'm presenting here, animator Virgil Ross would sign them and give them as gifts. So they ARE out there, and while they fetch thousands of dollars on the collectors' market today, they're an incredible glimpse into the history of animation...and thankfully, photos of them on the internet don't cost a dime!

Cel from "Johnny Smith and Poker-Huntas" (Tex Avery, 1938).

 Cel from "The Hair Brained Hypnotist" (Friz Freleng, 1942)

Cel from "My Bunny Lies Over the Sea" (Chuck Jones, 1948).

Cel from "The Cat's Bah" ( Chuck Jones, 1954).

 Cel of the Road Runner from "Zipping Along" (Chuck Jones, 1953)*.(Possibly misidentified. This looks to be from a later Jones short. the Roadrunner became more streamlined as time went on, and "Zipping Along" features a more detailed, earlier design.)

* Confirming my suspicion is cartoon expert Chase Pritchard, who identified this cel as being from "Rushing Roulette", a Robert McKimson cartoon from 1965. Here's a frame from the actual cartoon to prove it. Good eye, Chase! (the background, on the other hand, is definitely from a '50's Jones effort.

Cel from "To Hare is Human" ( Chuck Jones,1956). Signed by Mel Blanc!

Cel from "Jumpin' Jupiter" (Chuck Jones, 1955).

Cel from "The High and the Flighty" (Robert McKimson, 1956).

 Cel from "Greedy For Tweety" (Friz Freleng, 1957). 

Cel of Miss Prissy from "Of Rice and Hen" ( Robert McKimson,1953) paired with a cel of Foghorn Leghorn from "Weasel While you Work" (McKimson, 1958).

 Cel of Sylvester from a 1950's McKimson Hippety Hopper short. * Thanks to the keen eye of reader Matthew Yorston, we know that this cel comes from "Lighthouse Mouse" (Robert McKimson, 1955).

* Here's the frame from the actual cartoon to prove it. Thanks, Matthew!

 Cel from "West of the Pesos" (Robert McKimson, 1960).

Cel from "Trip For Tat" (Friz Freleng, 1960).

Cels of Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck from "The Bugs Bunny Show" (Circa 1961). Note the Daffy Cel: Heads and bodies were often painted on separate cels in later years to save time and money.

Cel of Sylvester Junior from "Birds of a Father" (Robert McKimson, 1961).

Cel from "A Sheep In the Deep" (Chuck Jones, 1962).

Cel from "Adventures of the Road Runner" (Chuck Jones, 1962).

Cel from "Louvre Come Back To Me" (Chuck Jones, 1962).

Cel from "Mexican Cat Dance" (1963).

Cel from "Dr. Devil and Mister Hare" ( Robert McKimson, 1964).

Cel of the Road Runner disguised as Wile E. Coyote, from a 'Road Runner Show" TV bumper directed by Robert McKimson, circa 1965.

Cel of Wile E. Coyote from an unidentified 1960's cartoon short.

A pair of Daffy Duck cels from a Robert McKimson Daffy/Speedy Gonzales short, mid to late 1960's. * Thanks again to the keen eye of Chase Pritchard, we know these cels come from "A Taste of Catnip" (McKimson, 1966). Frames included below for comparison. Notice that the second cel is missing Daffy's was animated on a separate cel.

That's all for now, folks!

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Warner Bros. Production Art, Part Two: Drawings

As a followup to my last post, Here are some rare animation drawings that have surfaced online for auction recently. These are actual drawings used in the making of the cartoons, before they were traced onto cels. I've also included some drawings that were concept sketches, and one that was drawn for a theatrical lobby card.

Animation Drawings of Elmer Fudd's flea-plagued dog from Bob Clampett's "An Itch In Time" (1943).

Animation drawings (trimmed, sadly) from "Yankee Doodle Daffy" (Friz Freleng, 1943).

Animation drawing from "Scrap Happy Daffy" (Frank Tashlin, 1943).

 Animation drawing from Chuck Jones' "Angel Puss" (1944).

 Animation drawing of Daffy Duck from "Duck Soup to Nuts" (Friz Freleng, 1944).

 Animation drawings from Chuck Jones' U.S. Army training film 'Private Snafu Vs. Malaria Mike" (1944).

 Animation drawing from "From Hand To Mouse" (Chuck Jones, 1944).

Animation drawing of Sylvester from "Peck Up Your Troubles" (Friz Freleng, 1945).

 Animation drawing by Virgil Ross from "A Hare Grows in Manhattan" ( Friz Freleng, 1947).

 Animation drawing of Bugs Bunny and Cecil Turtle by Hawley Pratt from "Rabbit Transit" (Friz Freleng, 1947). 

Lobby card sketch for "Two Gophers From Texas" (Arthur Davis, 1948).

Animation drawing of Yosemite Sam from "Southern Fried Rabbit" (Friz Freleng, 1953).

Animation drawing from 'The Abominable Snow Rabbit" (Chuck Jones, 1961)

Chuck Jones sketch of Wile E. Coyote, late 1950's

Animation drawing from an unidentified Friz Freleng Sylvester cartoon, early 1960's.

 Animation drawing of Speedy Gonzales from "The Bugs Bunny Show" (Circa 1961).

 Animation drawing of Sylvester from an unidentified Robert McKimson short, circa 1961.

Animation drawing from "Claws in the Lease" (Robert McKimson, 1963).

Production sketches of Yosemite Sam from "Devil's Feud Cake" (Friz Freleng, 1963). 

Soon to come: Cels!

Friday, June 6, 2014

Warner Bros. Production Art, Part One: Backgrounds

We haven't updated this blog for quite a while, but there really hasn't been much worth mentioning to share with you. Well, I think this will make up for that.

There has been a flood of original Warner Bros. cartoon production art turning up on auction sites lately. These one-of-a-kind pieces generally fetch thousands of dollars when sold and are prized by collectors, but their value to historians and fans is immeasurable. I don't have the deep pockets to purchase even a single one, but I can save a photo to my hard drive! Here is part one in a series of posts that will share some of these gems for internet posterity.

Let's start with a few backgrounds.

These beautifully rendered paintings were usually on screen in a film for only a few seconds, with the actual animation laid over them on clear cels for filming. Some were wider or taller than the standard frame size, so that the camera could perform the illusion of a pan shot, or depict a character covering a large amount of ground in a short time.

From "The Awful Orphan" (Chuck Jones, 1949). Layout by Robert Gribbroek, painting by Pete Alvarado.

From "Ain't She Tweet" (Friz Freleng, 1952). Layout by Hawley Pratt, painting by Irv Wyner.

From "The Long Haired Hare" (Chuck Jones, 1949). Layout by Robert Gribbroek, painting by Pete Alvarado.

From "The Scarlet Pumpernickel" (Chuck Jones, 1950).  Layout by Robert Gribbroek, painting by Pete Alvarado.

From "Scent-Imental Romeo" (Chuck Jones, 1951). Layout by Robert Gribbroek, painting by Pete Alvarado.

From "Zipping Along" (Chuck Jones, 1953). Layout by Maurice Noble. Painting by Phil DeGuard.

From "What's Up Doc?" (Robert McKimson, 1950). Layout by Cornett Wood, painting by Richard H. Thomas.

From an unidentified Chuck Jones Roadrunner short, circa 1960. Layout by Maurice Noble. 

 Concept painting by Maurice Noble for a Chuck Jones Roadrunner short, 1950's.

From "Martian Through Georgia" (Chuck Jones, 1962). Layout by Maurice Noble, painting by Phil DeGuard.

Be sure to keep an eye out for the next post, showcasing animation drawings and sketches.

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