Thursday, 8 April 2010

Hagiwara's Review of Culchah

Okay, they were power sweeping and repainting the lines in my building’s parking garage today, so I had to move the car and keep it out all day. So I went to breakfast, did some work, went shopping and decided to take myself to the Winnipeg Art Gallery to see the “Art of Warner Bros. Cartoons” exhibit.

Not a huge exhibit, given the prolific production of Leon Schlesinger’s classic WB cartoon unit (Termite Terrace). Every cartoon, directed by, among others, Bob McKimson, Friz Freleng, Chuck Jones, and so on, involves model sheets, storyboards, animations sketches, background sketches, background paintings, cels and promotional art for every production. Occupying three of the six galleries on the third floor of the WAG, the space is sparsely populated and wide open. But then that lets you appreciate each piece close up. 

On the other hand, for animation geeks and WB nerds, like moi, it was still amazing. There were a number of title cards and lobby cards. There were many character sketches and model sheets comparing, say, early figures of Daffy, Porky, Bugs from the 30’s to the more familiar forms from the 40’s and 50’s, to the unit’s closing in 1963. Several feature more obscure characters like Egghead and Bosco. There are several linked images showing the progression from ‘concept art’ to ‘animation art’ to final paint. Most of the images are the size of a standard sheet of paper, which is sort of odd. Somehow they seem so much bigger in memory, even if, like me, you grew up watching them on television rather than in movie theaters.

For anyone who knows anything about classic animation, not a lot to be learned, but to those of us who revere these cartoons (and decry the butchery modern censors commit against them), there’s just a lot of fun, familiar stuff. It’s like rediscovering a beloved childhood toy or book.

Character cels placed over original background paintings are all over the place. The highlights for me were the background paintings. Some are instantly recognizable, like the landscape of Planet X from “Duck Dodgers in the 24th ½ Century” were just a joy to come across.

That and having classic cartoons projected two stories high in gallery six (and the two rabbit holes, plain black circles painted on the floor, surrounded by half-chewed carrots). I sat for about half an hour watching classics like “Rabbit of Seville” (perhaps the best cartoon ever made) and “One Froggy Evening”. “Long Haired Hare” was playing when I entered the gallery, and I had to restrain myself from running back to watch it. After all, I was an adult, in a museum. But once I sat down, I had a hard time getting up again.

So go just for the cartoons, if you like. But this wasn't a bad way to spend a couple hours.

Now to dig out my Looney Toons DVDs.