Assorted Animation from the 1960s

The 1960s featured two landmark anime both released in 1963, Astro Boy and Gigantor – the latter is particularly notable for being the first televised mecha series, with the eponymous robot being operated via remote (subsequent mecha featured units controlled via a pilot in a cockpit). In the United States, Warner Bros. dissolved their animation department, although it briefly revived between 1967 and 1969 – said department’s closure occurred as a result of a significant 1948 Supreme Court case that determined the studios violated antitrust law through their block booking practice. Terrytoons and Walter Lantz Productions would continue for a while, with both closing in 1972; television emerged as a new medium for animation, with studios initially providing their respective libraries to broadcast networks and TV-specific productions such as The Flintstones and Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! debuting in the decade. The Soviet Union produced the popular series Well, Just You Wait!, which debuted in 1969; running until 2006, the work told the story of a wolf attempting to capture a rabbit. Numerous animated productions were released in the 1960s, ranging from the final classic Looney Tunes shorts (which ended with the 1969 Cool Cat work Injun Trouble) and the 1960 feature-length film Saiyuki (released as Alakazam the Great in the Unnited States); this post will explore some of these releases, showing some of the various international works that debuted at the time.

To start off, the first Looney Tunes short of the 1960s was Fastest with the Mostest, released January 9, 1960; this features Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner, both introduced in in 1949’s Fast and Furry-ous. One of the coyote’s schemes includes four signs that imitate a famous advertising campaign by Burma-shave – the company (which produced shaving cream) produced an iconic series of rhyming signs placed alongside streets, which originated in Michigan in 1926. That same year, Famous Studios released From Dime to Dime, part of its Modern Madcaps series; this short follows a man as he meets with initial success in gambling, thanks to intervention of a smaller man who encourages him, but loses his new-found fortune (with him committing suicide via gunshot at the end). Famous Studios notably released animated shorts featuring Casper the Friendly Ghost, Popeye (whose series began with Fleischer Studios), and Baby Huey; the studio operated from 1942 to 1967. Another 1960 short, The Interview, was directed by Ernest Pintoff – this work depicts a reporter speaking with a jazz musician, with Woodrow Leafer and Henry Jacobs providing the voices. Pintoff later received an Oscar for his 1963 short The Critic; this work features Mel Brooks’ voice, as he plays a member of an unseen audience commenting on an abstract film he’s watching.

To highlight one more production from 1960, Fashion by Yōji Kuri is a rather abstract short combining photographs of people (sometimes cutouts, like eyes or lips) and drawn animation; Kuri is a significant figure in independent animation in Japan, a member of the Animation Association of Three, and he would go on to produce more animated works such as 1964’s Love and 1977’s Manga. In 1961, Polish animator Witold Giersz released Mały Western, which involves two outlaws (one depicted in blue paint, the other in white) ambushing and capturing a cowboy (a figure in red) for their gold; the short ends with a clever gag where the cowboy makes himself larger through adding more red paint to himself, defeating the outlaws and their green-painted associate. Also in 1961, René Jodoin released Dance Squared through the National Film board of Canada – this features various shapes (rectangles, triangles and squares) performing a dance, arranging themselves into patterns. The following year, 1962, had the Disney short A Symposium on Popular Songs; this stars Ludwig von Drake (voiced by Paul Frees), who debuted on The Wonderful World of Color the previous year, explaining how he composed various songs. He begins with a ragtime tune, stating that he coined the term ragtime during a period of his life when he was destitute; Ludwig performs his Rutabaga Rag on a player piano operated by pedals. Von Drake follows “Rutabaga Rag” with other songs representing different genres, including a love ballad reminiscent of Bing Crosby; the boogie woogie segment features a rather stereotypical depiction of a man who makes fortune cookies. John and Faith Hubley’s short The Hole was released the same year – the work includes the voices of Dizzy Gillespie and George Mathews, as two construction workers in a conversation that leads to the subject of disarmament.

Directed by Bruno Bozzetto, Mr. Rossi Goes Skiing was released in 1963; the short features the character of Signor Rossi (the creation of Bozzetto), who goes on a skiing trip. This happens to be the second Mr. Rossi short, out of seven total – the first appeared in 1960, and was titled An Award for Mr. Rossi. Robert Balser, famous for being an animation director for Yellow Submarine, produced El Sombrero for Estudios Moro in 1964; containing no spoken lines, the short follows an unnamed man who desires a hat, and who encounters various other individuals (each with their own hat). Lawrence Jordan’s 1964 short Duo Concertantes is a fairly surreal work, with seemingly disconnected images such as butterflies emerging from a projector; Jordan would later produce Our Lady of the Spheres, released in 1969 and currently in the National Film Registry. The first Pink Panther animated short, The Pink Phink, appeared in 1964 – the eponymous cat interrupts a man as he paitns a house, ultimately leading to an entirely pink world (thanks to paint cans buried by the man). As a historical note, the shorts spun off from the 1963 film The Pink Panther, starring Peter Sellers; said film contains a diamond with a panther-shaped pink spot, which led to the animated character of the same name.

Many other animated works debuted in the 1960s, including the 1966 short The Musical Pig by Zlatko Grgić; in this film, people attempt to kill and eat a pig with an extraordinary singing talent, with one succeeding at the end. A more bizarre short of the decade was Ward Kimball’s Escalation (1968), satirizing Lyndon Johnson – Johnson’s nose becomes erect, eventually exploding into a mess of images such as food, cigarettes, military medals and even Superman. Another 1968 short, known as Kitten, was an early demonstration of computer animation; this work depicts a cat in movement, and is rather brief. To give one more example, Osamu Tezuka directed the 1965 short The Drop, about a sailor stranded at sea – he is thirsy, but fails to retrieve water droplets from the tattered sail on his raft. The productiosn highlighted here give an impression of what animation was like in the 1960s – as mentioned, numerous others were made around the world, enough to cover in a subsequent post. While the theatrical short declined considerably by the end of the decade (with Looney Tunes ceasing in 1969, and Disney releasing the sporadic short and feature-length animated film), television became a prominent place for the medium to continue, and other countries had their own animation industries; Japan, in particularly, emerged as a major developer of animated television series and films, with significant examples such as Astro Boy illustrating the country’s dedication to the craft.

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