Yeah I know...I'm OLD! I'm not sure when it happened. I must have been looking the other way, paying attention to something that anyone under 40 probably has never heard of...but it happened.
Recently I was on YOUTUBE and watched a minute or two of one of the CLASSIC(Not OLD!)Max Fleisher SUPERMAN cartoons from the 1940s. It had been all beautifully digitally restored and I have never seen any of these great fun old cartoons ever look this good! I was impressed. For YEARS, those old Superman cartoons were only available on low quality VHS and those tapes were made from very contrasty poor quality 16mm films originally released for television use in the late 50s early 60s. By the time the tapes were created, the old 16mm TV films were so beat up and abused, as to be almost unwatchable. With the advent of DVD, some minor clean up was done on these, and they did look better on DVD, but the fact remained that the original source material was pretty bad to start with. There was only so much anyone could do, no matter how technologically talented they were.
But recently better quality 35mm source prints have been made available and with digital restoration being what it is today, these great old films have been restored back to their original release quality. They look amazing!
Now some of you have probably never heard of these cartoons because they are OLD! And when you hear the name Superman, at best you MAY think WAAAAAAY back to the Christopher Reeve Superman in the long ago late 70s and 80s, and his "classic" Superman movies...I have actually heard people refer to these films as "classics" and that just blows my mind! Those films seem like yesterday to me. A quick run down for some of you younger folks: Superman was first brought to the screen with the aforementioned Fleisher cartoon series in the 1940s, and then later as a live action "serial" with Kirk Alyn as the Man of Steel. And then in a theatrical movie with George Reeves and then again with Reeves in the first Superman TV series. But these days it seems not many young people have ever heard of any of these.
But I digress...the point of this journal is a COMMENT I read on the YOUTUBE Superman post regarding the quality of the Fleisher animation. He said something to the effect, "that he had no idea they did such GOOD animation back in those days."
Okay...I was dumbfounded buy that comment. I don't know how old this person is who made the comment. He may be 14 years old for all I know. But I did not get the feeling that he was that young. I did, however, get this sneaking feeling he was an anime fan...but in all fairness, I do not know that for a fact either. My point is that, arguably, animation is considered one of the few art forms more or less created and perfected by Americans. Now having said THAT, someone will be quick to point out that the Japanese have embraced animation and done much with it. Yes, that is a fact, but a lot of what they have created does not hold much interest for me personally, but I am not fool enough to deny that they, sadly, have taken animation much further than we have in America. And over the last 20 years their style of animation has become very popular with Western youth. And apparently, judging by the comment made on YOUTUBE, to the extreme where these American fans are not even bothering to find out where the art form originated. If is wasn't for Walt Disney, Japan might never have embraced animation the way they have, but I am not going to go into a history of Japanese animation, you can learn about that on your own.
When I was a kid we did have some Japanese animation on American TV. Not much...shows with titles such as ASTRO-BOY, GIGANTOR, MARINE BOY, SPEED RACER. The term "anime" did not even exist in the English language. These were all just cartoons made in Japan, and I would guess a lot of American kids who enjoyed these shows had no idea in what country they were made, nor would they have even cared. And I was one of them. Only later did I discover what culture had originally spawned these syndicated shows.
Now while many of my school mates also watched these shows, as I recall we were all at least somewhat aware of the fact that they were not created in FULL ANIMATION. These shows had a stiffness or jerkiness to the animation. By the time I was in Junior High Japanese animation had a real reputation for being cheap looking and was VERY limited in it's "animation". And that LIMITED aspect was a BIG part of what we thought of and about Japanese animation. Much like the questionable English dubbing done on some Japanese movies...where the lips of the characters and what their dialogue did not always line up just right. It was just what you came to expect from it. Japanese animation was limited...plain and simple. Often, judging their shows by some of their more realistic character design, suggested that the Japanese creators might have inspired to do better animation work, had the budget allowed it. But I fear that in some cases seeing more realistic character design in limited animation may have only brought more attention to the limited style, and made the show look worse for it. American animation studio Hannah-Barbera used limited animation for their TV work too. BUT with few exceptions, they stuck with much more cartoon-style character design and I do think that design concept helped the shows look, if not BETTER, at least more appropriate for the style of animation.
But now decades later Japan has done much with animation. And some Western fans feel that they actually do better quality work than ever came out of the United States. When the Japanese started out, most of what they created was for television and on very LOW TV budgets, even lower budgets than Hannah-Barbera had to create their limited TV animation in the U.S.A. But even Bill Hannah and Joe Barbera came out of the classic theatrical animation of the 30s and 40s. That was indeed the Golden Age of Animation. Most, if not all animation historian would agree. That was when and where Full Animation was invented. Disney will always be the Tiffiny's of Golden Age animation. But most all of the other Hollywood studios did great quality animation as well. Metro-Goldwyn-Meyer, the studio where Hannah-Barbera honed their skills years before they opened their own studio, had some of the best animators in Hollywood. Warner Brothers too...but that is a story in it's own right, and the Fleisher Studios, working for Paramount Studios. Really, it was but a handful of artists and creators in HOLLYWOOD U.S.A. who practically invented animation as we know it today. But today some people feel that American animation is just the simple stuff they see on TV now or the mediocre shows they may have watches as kids...stuff like HE-MAN, Fat Albert, and other super-limited animation shows.
Interestingly, we Americans started out doing full animation for theatrical cartoons and films, but over the years were forced because of costs and a sad lack of support and interest by the studios, to slowly step down to limited animation, most of which was done eventually for television. And today virtually NO commercial animation is done in the U.S.A. its all shipped overseas to Korea. On the other hand, the Japanese did it in reverse. They started with limited animation for television and then over the years they managed to ascend and develop their own style of Full Animation for theatrical films. However, they too now have much of their animation done in Korea as well. The more things change, the more they stay the same.
But now so many years later, there are people who have come to believe that "GOOD" animation is somehow a recent development....? Perhaps they think it the creation of the now Hip and Cool high end Japanese studios such as Studio Ghibli, which has received so much attention in recent years. No, I am sorry but we Americans created it...yes we did. You just have to take the time and go back and see what it was like in the "Old Days", see where it started. So much of this classic American animation is now available on DVD, and even for free on the internet. Yeah, I know you won't find many androgynous, green-haired sword-swinging anime boys in classic American animation...but we did have a crazy red-headed woodpecker with a wild laugh, and a determined bald-headed hunter who never quite got that wabbit he was hunting...and all in full animation. Check it out people, check it out.
Listening to: The TV in the living room...
Reading: the writing on the wall
Watching: my life slip away
Playing: the odds
Eating: my heart out
Drinking: it all in.