The cross-pollination of the cartoony animated world with the live action film has very old roots in the film world. Long before the advent of WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT (Amblin Entertainment/Disney/Buena Vista,1988) and SPACE JAM (Warner Brothers, 1996) we had good examples of this technological and format crossover.
First off we saw Max & Dave Fleischer's OUT OF THE INKWELL Series began in 1918. In its usual 1 Reeler length, these cartoons featured the adventures or rather misadventures of one Coco the Clown. After his escaping "out of the Inkwell" the animated Coco would interact with the live action people in the real World. In a typical story, the little clown (being only inches tall as compared to the normal sized humans) would find himself in a bad situation with the bad guys closing in; when he'd rush back to dive into the safe sanctuary of the bottle of India Ink. Coco's Ink Well antics continued right up through the Silent Era to the Talkies; where he was featured a as supporting 'player' in the Betty Boop Series.
Fledging Animators Walt Disney & partner, Ub Iwerks took the same mixed animation-live action concept and stood it on its ear. Rather than the diminutive Coco venturing into the Real World, Disney and Iwerks had the real girl, Alice, entering into the land if the animated. In it she usually helped the "Toons" with a specific problem or set of problems. She would normally be the biggest one in any scene. The series ran for about 52 installments, from 1924-1927, and to the time right up to of the emergence of Mickey & his Pals!* From there, we jump ahead to the late 1950's, syndicated Television and the most bizarre mixture of all that gave us "CLUTCH CARGO", with his pals, Spinner & Paddlefoot! It was certainly a 'frugal' method of rendering the cartoon story; and indeed a new high (or is it a "low"?) in limited animation. The producer, Cambria Productions, was the same Studio that gave us "SPACE ANGEL" (1962), "THE NEW 3 STOOGES (1965) and "CAPTAIN FATHOM" (also 1965). They apparently had a brief "Golden Age" in the Syndication Business, then went away or were absorbed by some other company.** As "CLUTCH CARGO", we remember watching it with some curiosity when it was first introduced by Mr. Frazier Thomas on the "GARFIELD GOOSE & FRIENDS" show on our local WGN TV Channel 9, here in Chicago. Even as kids, we were sort of fascinated with their photographed moving-mouth gimmick; fascinated, but never fooled. It was just that obvious.
The rest of the animated movement consisted of an occasional rapid change of "SURPRISE", Paddlefoot's ears rapidly rising in the opening intros and Clutch and a group "moving along a road, with their legs 'cleverly' concealed by a low growing thicket of shrubbery. (In reality, the multi-character drawing was being hand moved along, simulating the group's walking; albeit in a highly close-quartered drill team style, in appearance, anyhow!) Call it a fond recollection, nostalgia, or maybe even 'Camp', but in retrospect, "CLUTCH CARGO", Spinner, Paddlefoot and even 'old Swampy have managed to assume a position at the very pinnacle of our nostalgic yearnings for the cartoon favourites of vanished childhood.
Well, until we meet again; "THAT'S All FOLKS!"
NOTE: * We've seen some of these early Disney cartoons, not on DVD, nor on VHS, nor on Beta; but rather on Super 8! (Remember Projectors?) The first one, ALICE'S EGG PLANT (1925) concerns her operating a chicken farm, and not that dark, purple Mediterranean veggie.They face opposition from a Communist agitator, a Rhode Island Red!! ALICE'S ORPHAN (1926) features efforts by her and her cat in raising a foundling kitten. This one we have in Super 8, Magnetic Sound, featuring obviously post synchronized music and sound effects. We bought it from old Niles Films, South Bend Indiana,ca. 1978.
NOTE: ** The way things go in both the Banking World and the Animation Industry, mergers and take-overs are the norm; rather than being the exception.
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