5 Animated Shorts: National Classic Movie Day

1950s animators, hard at work. Image: Hollywood Historic Photos

Did you know May 16 is National Classic Movie Day?

To celebrate, we’ve joined Classic Film and TV Café in highlighting five films from the 1950s. Our choices today are shorts from the final years of the Golden Age of Animation.

Although animation appears early in film history (one famous example is Gertie the Dinosaur from 1914), animation’s golden age began in the 1920s with the introduction of sound and popular characters like Mickey Mouse. The era ended in the late 1950s when animated shorts began to migrate from movie theatres to television.

According to the Library of Congress, about nine percent of American households owned televisions in 1950; that number jumped to ninety percent by 1960. During this time, animated shorts (or cartoons) saw a shift in audiences, so animators began appealing more to children than adults.

Today, we’ve chosen a (very) random sampling of 1950s animated shorts, presented here in no particular order. Of course, these films aren’t a comprehensive overview of the decade; these are just a few we like.

1. Gerald McBoing-Boing (1950)

Gerald is a boy who speaks only in sound effects, much to the chagrin of his parents and the annoyance of his classmates at school. But when a radio executive discovers Gerald’s talents, he makes the lad a Star.

This Oscar-winning* film is based on the book by Dr. Seuss, and it was selected for preservation in 1995 by the Library of Congress for being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.

2. The Sleeping Beauty (1954)

Animator Lotte Reiniger became the most prominent pioneer in silhouette animation when, in 1919, she began making animated films. Wikipedia describes her cut-out animation (a form of stop motion) as “figures cut out of paperboard, sometimes reinforced with thin metal sheets, and tied together at their joints with thread or wire which are then moved frame-by-frame on an animation stand and filmed top-down”.

Her work is exquisitely beautiful, as evidenced in The Sleeping Beauty (1954).

3. The Tell Tale Heart (1953)

The Tell Tale Heart (1953) is another animated short selected for preservation by the Library of Congress. It’s a psychological horror film, narrated by the fab James Mason, and based on the 1843 story by Edgar Allen Poe.

Rumour has it this film was intended to be shown in 3-D, but it wasn’t released as such. It was, however, given an “X” rating in Britain, which meant it could only be shown to adults.

The animation here is unique, and Mason’s narration is riveting.

4. Gumby: Moon Trip (1956)

Ah yes, Gumby, that weird, green-clay boy.

Gumby was a creature specifically made for TV; the first 12 stop-motion Gumby shorts aired on the children’s program, Howdy Doody. These were so popular they became their own television series, The Gumby Show, beginning in 1957. According to Gumby Wiki, Gumby shows and specials were produced – either regularly or sporadically – until 2002.

We’ve included Moon Trip (1956) on our list because (a) it’s strange, yet (b) it has an odd charm.

5. Duck Amuck (1953)

The Warner Bros. animated short, Duck Amuck (1953), features Daffy Duck in a ridiculous predicament: He and his environment are constantly erased and re-drawn by his animator, which causes him no end of frustration.

It’s a delightful bit of deconstruction. According to Wikipedia, “[Chuck] Jones (the director) is speaking to the audience directly, asking ‘Who is Daffy Duck anyway? Would you recognize him if I did this to him?…What if he had no voice? No face? What if he wasn’t even a duck anymore?’ In all cases, Daffy is still Daffy; not all cartoon characters can claim such distinctive personality.”

Happy National Classic Movie Day!

Notes

  • *Best Short Subject, Cartoons.
  • Click HERE for more on the history of animation.
  • We intended to provide a link for each film above, but WordPress went ahead and embedded actual videos. Hopefully this doesn’t cause copyright upsets.
  • This post is part of NATIONAL CLASSIC MOVIE DAY: 5 FAVORITE FILMS OF THE ’50s hosted by Classic Film & TV Café.

Advertisements

40 comments

  1. I started watching these as I put in some cinnamon rolls to bake annnnnnnd damn near forgot the cinnamon rolls! I didn’t know any of these existed and I’m so glad you introduced them to me. I loved them!

    Holy crap, James Mason, who generally creeps me out anyway, is scary in Tell Tale Heart! Magnificently scary! And that darn Bugs, he can be so naughty 😊. These are just great, thank you so much for them. Like a Gumby said, “I was on the moon.”

    Happy Classic Movie Day! What a terrific way to celebrate it.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Isn’t James Mason utterly fabulous in “The Tell Tale Heart”? He’s the right amount of creepiness + intelligence + insanity.

      As for Bugs & Daffy, I love that short. I live how free-wheeling it is, and how the animators did whatever they felt like.

      As for those cinnamon buns… mmm! I can smell them from here. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • That’s it exactly! He IS the right amount of all three of those things! Always!

        I do know what you’re saying about Daffy’s turn. It feels like they were uninhibited and it was wonderful. I had so much fun with these today…

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Ah, Gumby–I loved watching that show as much as my son loved watching Pingu! Speaking of animation though, I just finished watching the Netflix show Love, Death, and Robots–all the episodes are different styles of animation, and some of them are extremely realistic (and not for children either!)

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This is a fun twist on the original theme. I love the Daffy Duck short. He is one of my favorite Warner Bros. cartoon characters (and let’s face it, Warner Bros. made the smartest cartoons!). I hadn’t seen THE TELL-TALE HEART since I was a kid. It was a blast watching t again…and listening to James Mason’s narration.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Daffy Duck is my fave, too, and I love how exasperated he gets sometimes.

      The Tell-Tale Heart is a relatively new discovery (to me), and it became an instant favourite. James Mason is so talented!

      Like

  4. What a cool selection! I’ve seen the Daffy Duck one many times, but I’m so glad you introduced the others to me. Funnily enough, I included a version of Sleeping Beauty on my own list — great minds think alike? 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Such delightful choices. The variety gave me especial pleasure. The creativity in each impresses and entertains. It shows the versatility in animation. We could call it “true cinema.”

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Original approach to the ’50s Favorites blogathon! What a nicely curated array of creative/quirky/fascinating animated shorts. I’d forgotten all about Gerald McBoing Boing, one-time animation superstar…the Sleeping Beauty silhouette-work so suits a fairy tale – and thanks for the intro to Lotte Reiniger. The Tell-Tale Heart with James Mason’s narration and the Salvador Dali-esque imagery is quite a show-stopper. That voice! Gumby is just plain off-the-wall and so very ’50s…and the Daffy short is a fitting finale…Th-th-th-that’s all, folks 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Ruth, what a great idea for a post. It’s fabulous we can watch these right here. I will admit to not being a big fan of animated storytelling, although as a kid I certainly enjoyed them on TV on Saturday mornings. I need to fill in this big gap of knowledge, so I appreciate your curating some selections for me!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Love it. I’m not sure I could have chosen just 5 animated shorts, but I love your reasoning and choices, which include two new-to-me titles. CHEERS!

    Aurora
    Once Upon a Screen

    Liked by 1 person

Start Singin', Mac!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.