- I remember in 1962 going to the movies to see Gay Purr-ee, the very first showing – a late morning matinee. It was a bus ride away, but I was a fan big fan of UPA at the time. A 15 year old child who knew a bit about the impressionists and had read a lot about the early incarnation of this animation studio. The only shorts I’d seen were on the original Gerald McBoing Boing show, back in the fifties (when I was much younger.)
1001 Arabian Nights with Mr. Magoo had impressed me in some of its parts, but the notion of animating in impressionist art was more exciting to me.
I remember being impressed with the voice cast and soundtrack (which I quickly bought), some of the imagery and some bits of the animation. I loved the thick/thin outlines of the characters. I went back the next day to see the film again at a closer theater. This time I went late afternoon, which was a mistake. The kiddee matinee had brought a glob of ice cream melting down the center of the theater’s screen. It was hard to enjoy the beautiful painting with this dark, moving scar gracing the middle of the screen.
Despite seeing the film another half dozen times, since then, I didn’t really know much about the film’s production other than the credits I was able to view on screen. The Abe Levitow site offers a number of background paintings by the original designer, Victor Haboush, as well as Corny Cole and Bob Inman.
Here are two by bg’s Victor Haboush that are featured on the Levitow site.
I just earned from Tom Sito‘s blog that Mr. Haboush died on May 24th at 85.
He was a gifted designer and artist.
.The paragraph written on that site tells about the layoffs at Disney after Sleeping Beauty and how this brought an influx of talent to UPA. Many had worked on the Dick Tracy and Mr. Magoo tv cartoons that were produced but the feature better utilized their talents.
This isn’t much different than the story Jack Kinney tells in his book, Walt Disney and Other Assorted Characters. After he was pushed out of Disney, he ended up directing Magoo’s Arabian Nights. (He talks so little of it that he gives the impression he didn’t enjoy the experience.)
This is a Corny Cole model of the “Money Cats” from the film.
This is an animation drawing I have of one of them.
It’s not as angular or graceful as Corny’s drawing, but I still like it.
And this is an animation drawing I have of
Meowrice, the film’s villain.
I have lots of the press material from the period stuffed into a scrapbook I have in storage. Not much of this is available on line, but I did find these two pieces in the NYTimes:
(Click any image to enlarge.)
Here’s the review that was published in the NYTIMES
- GAY PURR-EE
By BOSLEY CROWTHER
December 6, 1962
MOVING (for the second time) into the animated feature domain created by Walt Disney, U.P.A. Productions has contributed a pretty, pleasant, seasonal package for family audiences called “Gay Purr-ee.” The contents of this Warner release, which opened yesterday in neighborhood theaters, should make anybody’s mouth water, including Mr. Disney’s.
Consider: Judy Garland, no less, and Robert Goulet providing the singing and speaking voice tracks for the leading cartoon roles in a cute fable about a little country cat who goes to Paris. Add a battery of technical wizards who create a fetching color canvas that blends some truly lovely pastels with classical works by art masters. Add also eight new tunes by Harold Arlen, including one knockout. But the picture, hélas, is not.
At the risk of sounding like Scrooge, one U.P.A. fan feels that the film has everything but real wit. And what an opportunity, especially with Mewsette, the dainty little fugitive from Provence (Miss Garland), naïvely involved with some purring city slickers before being rescued by hel stalwart country swain, a champion mouser named Juane-Tom (Mr. Goulet).
Now, with all due respect to the film’s good-natured tone and diverting backgrounds, the first half is rather studied and even familiar, as directed by Abe Levitow and written by Dorothy and Chuck Jones. In contrast to the pictorial wizardry—rearranged Von Gogh landscapes and a tilted, spangled City of Light flavored with Toulouse-Lautrec, Modigliani, Matisse, Cézanne and others—the characters almost pale by contrast.
Mewsette, a nice enough little lady cat, is most interesting when Miss Garland is warbling — superbly — such ballads as “Roses Red” and “Take My Hand, Paree.” The same goes for the villainous Meowrice (Paul Frees), a fairly standard menace with a fine, jazzy theme song, “The Money Cat.” Furthermore, the snug, simple plot is needlessly stretched. Even with little Mewsette pining away in Paris, her would-be rescuer and his sassy, furry sidekick Robespierre (Red Buttons) are way off in Alaska.
The nearest thing to spice is the heroine’s jowly, pink “chaperone,” a shady lady named Mme. Rubens-Chatte (drolly spoken by Hermione Gingold). Even with the songs and the brilliantly stylized backgrounds, one can’t help wondering what a Disney crew would have concocted in earthy slyness and spontaneity.
In the final reel, though, things hit high gear in an old-fashioned chase scramble, against a superbly imaginative panorama of Paris, while the cats prowl the quays and the Notre Dame gargoyles toward a final, funny free-for-all. This portion also contains the film’s visual highlight, as Miss Garland sings one of Mr. Arlen’s great blues numbers written for the screen, “Paris Is a Lonely Town.”
So who needs eggnog for Christmas? “Gay Purr-ee” is a nice, soft drink for all the family.
‘Gay Purr-ee’ Cartoon , screenplay by Dorothy and Chuck Jones; directed by Abe Levitow; produced by Henry G. Saperstein for U. P. A. Productions; presented by Warner Brothers.
At neighborhood theaters. Running time: 86 minutes.
Mewsette . . . . . . . . . . . Judy Garland
Juane-Tom . . . . . . . . . . Robert Goulet
Meowrice . . . . . . . . . . . Paul Frees
Robespierre . . . . . . . . . Red Buttons
Mme. Ruben-Chatte . . . . Hermione Gingold