Welcome back, friends. With today being the 4th of July it seemed like we should obviously focus on something patriotic for this Toon In. So today we are going to be sharing the Schoolhouse Rock Fireworks animated short. An entertaining musical history lesson. This is a series that I look forward to covering on the upcoming Toon In podcast. Furthermore, Schoolhouse Rock Fireworks originally debuted the Saturday morning of March 6th, 1976. Maybe.
All of us of a certain age probably recall the Schoolhouse Rock shorts with fondness. Or at the very least might find themselves busting out singing I’m Just A Bill during our workday.
Schoolhouse Rock was the brainchild of David McCall. One half of the advertising agency known as McCaffrey and McCall. The creation of the entertaining educational shorts was said to be thanks to David’s Son. McCall said that he noticed while his child could remember the lyrics to popular songs of the day, he was struggling with math.
So he talked it over with a copywriter at the agency, George Newall. Who just so happened to be a jazz pianist to boot. Newall hired Bob Dorough who was famous for being a composer as well as a jazz bebop artist. With the aid of a slew of other musical artists the animated shorts were sold to ABC. The very first short produced and aired was Three Is A Magic Number which debuted on February 3, 1973.
Multiplication Rock presented shorts following the multiplication table. Naturally starting with the numeral 2 and ending up with 12. The next series was Grammar Rock. Beginning in 1975, to coincide with America’s bicentennial was America Rock. Which is of course where Schoolhouse Rock Fireworks was included. Now for what it’s worth, the debut date of the short is in question. I have found other sites that state it actually aired on July 3rd, 1976. Which feels far more correct in this case, right?
Friends, for this particular Toon In offering, we are heading back to 1933. With the Fleischer studios animated short Betty Boop in Snow-White. If you are looking for something akin to Disney’s Snow White and the Snow Dwarfs. You must not have seen a Betty Boop animated short film before. Well, there is in fact one or two similarities between the two. On the other hand with Betty Boop in Snow-White you have Cab Calloway as the singing voice of Koko the Clown!
There are some who feel that the popularity of Betty Boop in Snow-White is what inspired Disney to make his 1937 animated feature film. While I cannot provide proof either way. I certainly do know there appears to be a character that very much resembles an early Mickey Mouse.
While Max Fleischer produced this short and it was directed by Dave Fleischer. The animation was handled by Roland Crandall, who completed it within 6 months. This was an apparent reward for his loyalty to the Fleischer Studios over the years. While I am not sure if he shared in the profits of this short. I can certainly say that in 1994 it was inducted into National Film Registry. As well as being voted #19 in the 50 greatest cartoons of all time by those in the animation field.
Just a heads up, of course with this being a 1933 cartoon. There are things that might be considered a racial stereotype. Although you know I would never share such a short if I felt it crossed the line. I know that you will indeed enjoy the wonderful music as well as the charming animated gags.
As for the story regarding Betty Boop in Snow-White. When Betty pays a visit to her wicked Stepmother her life is deemed forfeit. For being the fairest in the land of course. So it is up to KoKo and Bimbo to escort Betty to the woods to have her head lopped off. Thanks to a stubborn tree stump, Bimbo and Koko are knocked out of commission. This doesn’t mean our Betty is free and clear…in fact she winds up being frozen in a block of ice.
Will Koko and Bimbo rescue Betty Boop in Snow-White? Let’s find out together!
If you are a fan of classic animation or the likes of the Toon In posts. You probably are quite familiar with the work of Alex Toth. An absolute legend in the animation as well as comic book industry. Just the other day while talking to the Retroist during our lunch break. I made mention that I had in fact not come up with a post for today. Which is when the Retroist was kind enough to suggest taking a look at some Fantastic Four art by Alex Toth.
All Alex Toth animation sheets courtesy of The Alex Toth Archive.
Obviously as you can tell, he wasn’t referring to the comic work for Marvel that Toth did. He was of course pointing me in the direction of the Alex Toth Archives. To share with you all some of the design work the illustrator did for Hanna-Barbera on 1967’s Fantastic Four.
Now the animated ABC series only produced 20 episodes. One season in fact although it was aired from 1967 until 1970. While it was of course not the first animated series featuring Marvel characters. That honor goes to the 1966 syndicated The Marvel Super Heroes series. It was the first Fantastic Four animated show. In addition as you can see in the Fantastic Four art by Alex Toth. There is a huge difference, the 1967 series featured traditional animation!
As beautiful as Alex’s work is when guiding the animation style of the Fantastic Four series. Seeing these work sheets in black and white is even more amazing. Check out some of the character he tackled, like the infamous Doctor Doom.
Or there is also the planet-devouring entity whose name the Universe fears. The terribly cosmic Galactus.
Of course there is also the all-seeing Uatu the Watcher.
Not that he didn’t also come up with original characters such as Von Lenz aka The Deadly Director.
It wasn’t just Fantastic Four art by Alex Toth that shaped early Saturday morning animation. Toth also worked on 1973’s Super Friends!
Friends, this Toon In offering is a little different. To say the least. 1979’s The Wizard of Speed and Time is not traditional animation. Nor in fact is it even stop motion, well, not completely. Of course it is in fact all manner of visual tricks that are used to make The Wizard of Speed and Time so absolutely charming.
The titular character of the 1979 short is Mike Jittlov. As well as being the Director, Animator, Special Effects Maestro, and Chief Dreamer.
Jittlov got his start in animation in the 70s at UCLA. With many of his short films making it into festivals. After designing his own multiplane animation system he caught the eye of the Walt Disney Studio. Where Mike would appear in the Mickey’s 50th two-hour TV event. Entitled Mouse Mania it features Jittlov as he visits a psychiatrist to discuss his mania of Disney related collectibles.
Besides the astounding stop-motion work that Jittlov and his partner Deven Cheregino put into the short. That 1978 short film also is wonderful to watch just because of the amount of vintage Disney merchandise is shown in it. Another thing to keep in mind while watching it, is every single effect was done in-camera.
The Wizard of Speed and Time was introduced on another Disney episode. In this case on an December 1979 airing of Disney’s Wonderful World. For a special episode entitled Major Effects. A documentary of sorts of how films and movies use all sorts of special effects to bring magic to life. By the way the special was released around the same time as The Black Hole!
This is where I actually was able to first catch The Wizard of Speed and Time. I can also say in all honesty that this was one of those TV specials that made me want to become a filmmaker in the first place. I think after you watch the short film for yourself you will certainly see why I was so captivated by the idea.