Puppetoons

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George Pal's Puppetoons were a series of animated puppet films made in Europe in the 1930s and in the U.S. in the 1940s. They are memorable for their use of replacement animation: using a series of different hand-carved wooden puppets (or puppet heads or limbs) for each frame in which the puppet moves or changes expression, rather than moving a single puppet, as is the case with most stop motion puppet animation.

The series began when Pal made an advertising film using "dancing" cigarettes in 1932, which led to a series of theatrical advertising shorts for Philips Radio in the Netherlands. This was followed by a series for Horlicks Malted Milk in England. These shorts have an art deco design, often reducing characters to simple geometric shapes. A typical Puppetoon required 9,000 individually carved and machined wooden figures or parts.

Pal came to the U.S. in 1940, and produced dozens of Puppetoons for Paramount Pictures, seven of which received Academy Award nominations, including "Rhythm in the Ranks" (for the year 1941), "Tulips Shall Grow" (1942), "The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins" (1943), "And To Think I Saw it On Mulberry Street" (1944), "Jasper and the Beanstalk" (1945), "John Henry and the Inky-Poo" (1946), and "Tubby the Tuba" (1947). (Info source: AMPAS Animated Short Film Oscar archives.)

The series ended due to rising production costs. They had rose from 18,000 dollars per short in 1939 to almost 50,000 dollars following the war. Paramount Pictures, Pal's distributor, objected to the cost. Per their suggestion Pal went to produce sequences for feature films. [1] In 1956, the Puppetoons as well as most of Paramount's shorts, were sold to television distributor U.M.&M. T.V. Corp. National Telefilm Associates bought out U.M.&M. and continued to syndicate them in the 1950s and 1960s as "Madcap Models".

Pal also used the Puppetoon name and the general Puppetoon technique for miniature puppet characters in some of his live-action feature films, including The Great Rupert (1949), Tom Thumb (1958), and The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm (1963). In these films, the individual wooden figures were billed as The Puppetoons.

In 1986, film producer-director-archivist Arnold Lebovit, a friend of George Pal, collected several Puppetoons and released them theatrically and to video as "The Puppetoon Movie" re-introducing them to contemporary audiences. A feature length documentary on the life and films of George Pal followed. Both films, along with the almost-lost "Great Rupert", are still in print in video formats. (Info source: Sci-Fi Station Web Site maintained by Lebovit.)

Jasper[edit]

Some controversy exists in modern times, as the black character, Jasper, star of several Puppetoons in the 1940s, although innocently conceived at the time, is considered somewhat of a stereotype in these more politically correct times. Pal described Jasper as the Huckleberry Finn of American folklore. [1] Already in 1946, an article of the Hollywood Quarterly protested that the Jasper shorts presented a "razor-totin', ghost-haunted, chicken-stealin' concept of the American Negro". [1]

A 1947 article on Ebony pointed that George Pal was a European and not raised on racial prejudice. "To him there is nothing abusive about a Negro boy who likes to eat watermelons or gets scared when he goes past a haunted house". The article, though, pointed that this depiction touched on the stereotypes of Negroes being childish, eating nothing but molasses and watermelons, and being afraid of their own shadows. Finding that Jasper was objectionable to American Negroes struggling against these stereotypes. [1]

Filmography[edit]

1932

  • Midnight

1934

1935

  • Sleeping Beauty
  • The Little Broadcast
  • The Magic Atlas
  • World's Greatest Show
  • In Lamp Light Land
  • Sinbad

1936

  • Ether Symphony
  • Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp
  • Ali Baba
  • On Parade!

1937

  • What Ho, She Bumps
  • The Reddingbrigade
  • The Big Broadcast of '38

1938

  • Southseas Sweethearts
  • Hoola Boola
  • The Ballet of Red Radio Valves
  • Sky Pirates

1939

  • Love on the Range

1940

  • Dipsy Gypsy
  • Captain Kidding
  • Date with Duke
  • Gooseberry Pie
  • Friend in Need

1941

  • Rhythm in the Ranks
  • Western Daze

1942

1943

1944

1945

  • Jasper and the Beanstalk
  • Jasper's Booby Trap
  • Jasper's Close Shave
  • Jasper's Minstrels
  • Jasper Tell

1946

1947

1971

See also[edit]

Sources[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d Cohen (2004), p. 58

External links[edit]