Training Pigeons is a 1936 Fleischer Studios animated short film featuring Betty Boop and Pudgy the Pup.
Betty and Pudgy are on the roof of their tenement building, trying to get her pet pigeons back in their cage. One stubborn bird refuses to return to the roost, despite Betty’s pleas. Pudgy, imagining himself a might hunting dog, attempts to catch the bird, with little success (at one point, Pudgy spots the pigeon on top of a flag pole, and as he tries to climb up the pole, the flag spanks Pudgy). When the pigeon gives Pudgy the slip, the little dog eventually wanders into the forest, where he falls asleep from exhaustion. The pigeon takes pity on Pudgy, and flies him back to Betty’s home. When Pudgy wakes up on the roof, he tears up the picture of the hunting dog in frustration.
Animated by Myron Waldman and Edward Nolan
Mae Questel as Betty Boop
“You come on down! I said come on down, you nutsy-doopsy!”
Unlike other studios, whose characters were anthropomorphic animals, the Fleischers’ most successful characters were humans. The cartoons of the Fleischer Studio were very different from those of Disney, both in concept and in execution. As a result, they were rough rather than refined and consciously artistic rather than commercial, but in their unique way, their artistry was expressed through a culmination of the arts and sciences. This approach focused on surrealism, dark humor, adult psychological elements, and sexuality. Furthermore, the environments were grittier and urban, often set in squalid surroundings, reflecting the Great Depression as well as German Expressionism.
Screen Songs are animated cartoons featuring the famous “bouncing ball” produced by Max Fleischer and distributed by Paramount Pictures between 1929 and 1938. The cartoons are sing-alongs featuring popular song hits of the day along with the ethnic stereotypes and humor typical of the era in which they were produced. In the 1930s, the series began to feature current popular musical guest stars such as Cab Calloway, Rudy Vallee, and Ethel Merman.
Fleischer Studios was an American corporation that originated as an animation studio located at 1600 Broadway, New York City, New York. It was founded in 1921 as Inkwell Studios, Inc. and Out of the Inkwell Films by brothers Max Fleischer and Dave Fleischer who ran the pioneering company from its inception until Paramount Pictures, the studio’s parent company and the distributor of its films, acquired ownership. In its prime, Fleischer Studios was a premier producer of animated cartoons for theaters, with Walt Disney Productions becoming its chief competitor in the 1930s.
Fleischer Studios characters included Koko the Clown, Betty Boop, Bimbo, Popeye the Sailor, and Superman. Unlike other studios, whose characters were anthropomorphic animals, the Fleischers’ most successful characters were humans (with the exception of Bimbo, who was a black-and-white cartoon dog). The cartoons of the Fleischer Studio were very different from the Disney product, both in concept and in execution. As a result, the Fleischer cartoons were rough rather than refined, consciously artistic rather than commercial. But in their unique way, their artistry was expressed through a culmination of the arts and sciences. This approach focused on surrealism, dark humor, adult psychological elements, and sexuality. Furthermore, the environments were grittier and urban, often set in squalid surroundings, reflecting the Great Depression as well as German Expressionism.
Wizards is a 1977 American animated post-apocalyptic science fantasy film about the battle between two wizards, one representing the forces of magic and one representing the forces of industrial technology.
Director: Ralph Bakshi Producer: by Ralph Bakshi Writer: Ralph Bakshi Starring: Bob Holt, Jesse Welles, Richard Romanus, David Proval, Steve Gravers Narrator: Susan Tyrrell Music: Andrew Belling Cinematography: C. Bemiller Editor: Donald W. Ernst
The film is notable for being the first fantasy film by Bakshi, a filmmaker who was previously known only for “urban films” such as Fritz the Cat, Heavy Traffic, and Coonskin. The film has since become a cult classic.
Ralph Bakshi had long had an interest in fantasy, and had been drawing fantasy artwork as far back as 1955, while he was still in high school. Wizards originated in the concept for Tee-Witt, an unproduced television series Bakshi developed and pitched to CBS in 1967. In 1976, Bakshi pitched War Wizards to 20th Century Fox. Returning to the fantasy drawings he had created in high school for inspiration, Bakshi intended to prove that he could produce a “family picture” that had the same impact as his adult-oriented films.
The film is an allegorical comment on the moral ambiguity of technology and the potentially destructive powers of propaganda. Blackwolf’s secret weapon is propaganda, used to incite his legions and terrorize the fairy folk of Montagar; but Avatar’s willingness to use a technological tool (a handgun pulled from “up his sleeve”) destroys his evil twin. Bakshi also states that Wizards “was about the creation of the state of Israel and the Holocaust, about the Jews looking for a homeland, and about the fact that fascism was on the rise again”.
British illustrator Ian Miller and comic book artist Mike Ploog were hired to contribute backgrounds and designs. The crew included Vita, Turek, Sparey, Vitello, and Spence, who had become comfortable with Bakshi’s limited storyboarding and lack of pencil tests. Artist Alex Niño signed a contract with Bakshi to work on the film, and was granted a work visa, but was unable to gain permission from the Philippine government to leave for the United States until two months afterward, and later found that by the time he had arrived in the United States, not only had the film’s animation been completed, but Niño’s visa did not allow him to submit freelance work on any other projects.
The film’s main cast includes Bob Holt, Jesse Welles, Richard Romanus, David Proval, and Steve Gravers. Bakshi cast Holt based on his ability to imitate the voice of actor Peter Falk, of whom Bakshi is a fan. Welles, Romanus, and Proval had previously worked with Bakshi on Hey Good Lookin’, where Romanus and Proval provided the voices of Vinnie and Crazy Shapiro, respectively. Actress Tina Bowman, who plays a small role in Wizards, has a larger role in Hey Good Lookin’. Actor Mark Hamill auditioned for and received a voice role in the film. Bakshi states that “He needed a job, and he came to me, and I thought he was great, and Lucas thought he should do it, and he got not only Wizards, he got Star Wars.” Bakshi had wanted a female narrator for his film, and he loved Susan Tyrrell’s acting. Tyrrell performed the narration for the film, but Bakshi was told that he couldn’t credit her for her narration. Years later, Tyrrell told Bakshi that she got most of her work from her narration on the film, and that she wished she had allowed him to put her name on it.
John Grant writes in his book Masters of Animation that “The overall affect of the animation is akin to that of the great anime creators – one has to keep reminding oneself that Wizards predates Miyazaki’s The Castle of Cagliostro (1979), not the other way round. The backgrounds are especially lovely, even the simplest of them; and in general the movie has a strong visual brio despite occasional technical hurriedness.” Notable artists involved in the production of Wizards include Ian Miller, who produced the gloomy backgrounds of Scortch, and Mike Ploog, who contributed likewise for the more arcadian landscapes of Montagar.
Bakshi was unable to complete the battle sequences with the budget Fox had given him. When he asked them for a budget increase, they refused (during the same meeting, director George Lucas had asked for a budget increase for Star Wars and was also refused). As a result, Bakshi finished his film by paying out of his own pocket and using rotoscoping for the unfinished battle sequences. According to Bakshi, “I thought that if we dropped all the detail, it would look very artistic and very beautiful. And I felt, why bother animating all of this? I’m looking for a way to get realism into my film and get real emotion.” In his audio commentary for the film’s DVD release, Bakshi states that “There’s no question that it was an easier way to get these gigantic scenes that I wanted. It also was the way that showed me how to do Lord of the Rings, so it worked two ways.” In addition to stock footage, the film used battle sequences from films such as Zulu, El Cid, Battle of the Bulge, and Alexander Nevsky for rotoscoping. Live-action sequences from Patton were also featured.
Vaughn Bode’s work has been credited as an influence on Wizards. Quentin Tarantino describes Avatar as “a cross between Tolkien’s Hobbit, Mel Brooks’ 2000 Year Old Man, and Marvel Comics’ Howard the Duck” and Blackwolf as physically similar to Sergei Eisenstein’s Ivan the Terrible. In Jerry Beck’s Animated Movie Guide, Andrew Leal writes that “The central figure, Avatar sounds a great deal like Peter Falk, and clearly owes much to cartoonist Vaughn Bodé’s Cheech Wizard character.”
As War Wizards neared completion, Lucas requested that Bakshi change the title of his film to Wizards in order to avoid conflict with Star Wars, and Bakshi agreed because Lucas had allowed Mark Hamill to take time off from Star Wars in order to record a voice for Wizards.