Thursday, February 28, 2008

CARTOONS FROM CANADA

Okay, we JUST got done with our film submission for this July's Comic-Con film fest. SO, I now have time to get back to other things! Like here, I thought I'd do a nice and hopefully-interesting post about one of my favorite things provided by our friends up North.
CANADIAN CARTOONS!



What's interesting is I really haven't seen a lot of animated films from Canada. There just hasn't really been a lot of exposure of it in the United States.
Much earlier this decade, and the latter half of the 1990's, when Cartoon Network was THE network to visit for all your cartoon-watching needs (makes sense, right?), O Canada! was an original program they aired which was a half-hour block of cartoons from the National Film Board of Canada. Sometimes it was an hour long!


I remember its only time-slot was Sunday nights at like 1am. Well, so not really Sunday nights, more like Monday early mornings. I remember it airing right after Space Ghost: Coast to Coast, which I never missed. So when SG ended and I was getting into bed for the school week starting up the next morning, this strange little O Canada! show came on.

Sure, I grasped that it was animated shorts from Canada, but I was still a tad confused because every cartoon was SO WEIRD and BIZARRE. Most of them were in some form of Squigglevision, and they were all very dry humor. I know that "they felt very British" isn't really a feeling, but you automatically know what I mean when I say that. They were just so different from what I was used to seeing! Some quaint and quiet. Some insane and raucous. Some not containing humor as its primary function, rather, extremely artsy or dealing with mature situations (the Bob and Margaret "pilot" being about Bob going through a mid-life crisis on his birthday).

Is there ANYONE ELSE watching this right now besides me?, I thought. There was a huge appeal to this for me. I felt like it was a show the network put on just for night owls like me. That nobody else would understand if brought up in conversation.

Watching this late-nite block of cartoons was like being in a little secret club!


Alas, Cartoon Network eventually became the place it is today. And in order to do that, they got rid of a lot of their good programming.

And as with all television shows that make you WANT to switch on the TV, O Canada! fell into even more obscurity than it was already in and was replaced with... I am now checking the listings here for what currently airs on Sundays at 1am...... Darkplace. I have no idea what that is. But it's part of the [adult swim] block so I'm not exactly eager to find out.

Anyway. There's a little history of how I came into the know-how of these, albeit small amount, great cartoons that O Canada! introduced to me. Extra credit is given to them for being so cool because most of them seem to be produced in the 1980's, one of the past few decades that has been absolute hell on the American animation industry. Leave it to Canadians to be the best at entertainment!


So, a couple years ago I remembered a lot of these cartoons and searched around on eBay, Amazon, wherever, to see if I could obtain any myself. Luckily I found a bootleg-type DVD set of a lot of the shorts the show aired that I remembered being some of the WEIRDEST of the weird; a.k.a. my personal favorites!!!
Three of them in particular are included in it, so it's this very DVD set that I'll use to create the screencaps and clips for this blog post.


Directed by Cordell Barker

This is my favorite short from Canada. It's relatively new (1988), but it's just a classic. I actually remember seeing it BEFORE O Canada!, on TV as a kid. I remember it creeped the hell outta me! Mainly because it's pretty dark humor, and way more cartoony than mostly anything that was being made at the time.
I guess a cartoon being cartoony was so foreign to what audiences were used to that that's the way it originally made me felt.


Crazy!!!!

There are so many strange jokes in this one that just inexplicably fit. The man going up the mountain to get rid of the cat, and the amount of ladies tied to railroad tracks is just hilarious!




Below is another favorite...

Directed by Richard Condie
This one is so bizarre, but human at the same time. We witness 10 minutes where this lovely older couple is having a snit. One shakes their eyes too much. The other has an obsessive fetish for sawing.



Why are YOU always shaking your eyes all the time??!

You're always shaking your eyes HERE, and shaking your eyes THERE!!

Despite the strangeness of everything, it's a very sweet cartoon in which we somehow find we can relate to, one way or another.
It's also RICH with real human awkward silences. I must admit that this cartoon is a bit of an inspiration for my cartoon project that I'm working on right now!


A YouTube embed of it below. Definitely give it a watch if you haven't.


--------------------------

Directed by Brad Caslor

This brilliant short is the ultimate tribute to the cartoons of the Fleischers, and maybe even Clampett!
Everything is extremely fun and rubbery. Each character design is creative and exaggerated- floppy muzzles, lots of wrinkles, HUGE schnozzes.
Maybe best of all, almost the whole thing is timed to music!! A wonderful artistic element that's barely been done since animation's heyday.




Another great thing this cartoon uses: Crazy animal crowds! Crazy animal crowds are essential to stories like this.




Great alley cats! This is definitely a nudge to Clampett. Probably Bakshi too.

Bob Dog is a funny little guy. Did the director ever make more cartoons like this? This seems to be the only piece of anything by him that I know of.




OH-kay,
I think that's gonna do it for now. If I am missing something really great, or anyone has anything to add, shoot me a comment and discuss!
Again, I'm no expert on the subject, as I've barely been exposed to anything since I don't live in Canada. But thanks for reading nonetheless!

9 comments:

Bruce said...

Hey Nico

'Get a Job' was Brad Caslor's first & last cartoon. Afterwards, he went back to being a storyboard artist, up to this very day.

For me growing up in Vancouver, most of the Elementary and Secondary school teachers had shown "The Big Snit," "Neighbors," and a whole slew of shorts from the NFB. I was in heaven; school assignments AND watching cartoons. Plenty of Shakespeare & Short story assignments, though.

Anyway, if you want to learn more about Canada's Animation history, with profiles on some of the brightest stars that were born and raised in the great White North is Karen Mazurkewich's Cartoon Capers: the Adventures of Canadian Animators. (One of your heroes is profiled, and I’ll give you a hint: He’s in his 50’s, lives close to you, and had met a number of legendary artists in his day.

Still Cloudy? Ok then, last clue. He highly admires Bob Clampett.

Bah! You’re hopeless. Go find out yourself.

It's worth it to find a copy of the book, guaranteed.

Have a good one.

From an inspiring animator/ cartoonist

amir avni said...

Great post Nico!

The Cat Came Back has a story structure suitable for Tex Avery: Set up: introducing the characters, Body: excelerating crazy gags, payoff: topper gag "It couldn't get any worse!" this cartoon is so musical.

More great cartoons from the NFB:
KING SIZE, WHAT ON EARTH, I KNOW AN OLD LADY WHO SWALLOWED A FLY by Kaj Pindal (our animation history teacher)

POT-POURRI bumper shorts by Jeff Hale, Austin Campbell, Derek Lamb, Kaj Pindal, Grant Munro, Cameron Guess, Rhoda Leyer

HOT STUFF by Zlatko Grgic

BALABLOK by Bretislav Pojar

What on Earth! is available online at:
http://media.putfile.com/NFB-What-on-Earth-by-Les-Drew-and-Kaj-Pindal

Balablok is available online at http://www.nfb.ca/animation/objanim/en/films/film.php?sort=title&id=10784

Josh said...

Only very tenuously related to this post---I remember in 2nd grade at Catholic school, my teacher kept bringing her husband in to entertain the class whenever she was too exhausted to administer a lesson. He would always sing the song "The Cat Came Back", and it kind of creeped me the hell out too.

J Cola said...

That was fantastic.

J Cola said...

I also want to say that I love the organic feel of these cartoons. I hate hate hate cartoon today. they are one of two styles. They are CGI or they are 2-d limited animation that's all boxy and straight-edged.
examples include stuff like Dexter's Laboratory, Johnny Test, Fairly Odd Parents, Power Puff Girls hopefully don't know these, and if you know one of them then you know what kind of style I'm talking about.
no curves or squiggles, or anything. but I guess children are easily amused by big bright solid basic shapes and colors.

Trashy said...

Pretty much with J cola with this one...sigh...if only cartoons were like this now. Great blast from the past. I love cartoons like this!

Nice blog by the way Nico:)

Corey said...

I believe Marv Newland worked on the Get a Job one.

Tanya said...

Hi Nico, thought I'd let you know about one DVD collection that I recently discovered amongst my boyfriends array of art books and movies. We're Canadian and both fondly remember the cartoons you've described in your post. See if you can track this DVD down "Leonard Maltin's Animation Favorites From the National Film Board of Canada (1994)". We had a blast watching it with my 5yr old son, my favourite being "The Sweater".

Enjoy!

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