Articles on Animation &Books 04 Mar 2013 05:49 am

The MGM Cartoon Studio

cartooning- When I was a kid the only animation books available were few and far between. Fortunately, I lived near a local library that stocked many of these books (6-10 of them, including the great book by R.D. Feild, Art of Walt Disney). One that I loved was this book by Gene Byrnes, The Complete Guide to Cartooning. It had a full chapter on the MGM cartoon studios and credits Fred Quimby as writer of the chapter. The book was a strong inspiration for me when back then, and it still sends a chill up my back and gets me wanting to animate when I look at a couple of those images.

The cartoon Cat Concerto is featured. Obviously the studio was pushing it for the Oscar, and a bit of publicity, appearing in this book, didn’t hurt. It did win the Oscar. The other five nominees included:

    Musical Moments from Chopin (Lantz, Dick Lundy dir)
    Walky Talky Hawky (WB, Rob’t McKimson dir)
    Squatter’s Rights (Disney, Jack Hannah dir)
    John Henry and Inky-Poo (Par, Georg Pal)

3 cartoons featuring classical piano performances by the star cartoons character. Very interesting. This is the subject of the debate on-going at several sites.
Thad Komorowski brought up the controversy and discusses it n full. The debate of whether one short ripped off another actually started back in 1946.
Michael Barrier discusses the discussion adding some information.
Jerry Beck offers some historic material. just now. Watch the cartoon on Thad’s site.

If you recognize anyone in the photos and can identify anyone , please leave a comment.

(Click any image to enlarge.)
Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera are on opposite sides of the table.
Producer, Fred Quimby is in the middle.

#3 Upper right: Preston Blair / #4 Bottom: Asst Animator Tom McDonald


#8 Upper: Max Maxwell head of checking / #9 Bottom: Irv Spence, animator


#13 is Johnny Johnson, BG painter

#16 Middle: (standing) Tex Avery with (seated> composer Scott Bradley

#19 Upper left: (standing) Animator, Mike Lah at movieola



I’m enlarging the photo of the storyboard. Without the benday pattern and at a higher res, it’s a little easier to read blown up.

This book also includes some pretty great (non-animation) cartoonists. I still remember every page from my childhood when I borrowed this book countless times from my local public library.

8 Responses to “The MGM Cartoon Studio”

  1. on 04 Mar 2013 at 6:52 am 1.Tim walker said …

    Hi Mike,
    Here are some names,
    #3 is Preston Blair
    #4 is Tom McDonald assist. Animator
    #8 is Max Maxwell checker
    #13 is Johnny Johnson BG painter
    #19 Mike Lah is on the lt.
    Hope this helps.
    Tim Walker

  2. on 04 Mar 2013 at 2:45 pm 2.Thad Komorowski said …

    One small, significant correction: RHAPSODY RABBIT was not actually nominated, it was only screened as a candidate. It’d be interesting to see what the other candidates were.

    I’m under the impression Warners never pushed their cartoons at the Academy very hard, which accounts for their astonishingly few wins. For example, for the 1953 shorts, Warners only submitted one, FROM A TO Z-Z-Z. Compare that to Disney, Lantz, MGM, and UPA, all of whom routinely submitted two or three cartoons for consideration. Paramount submitted five that year, though that only establishes the studio had no concept of reality.

  3. on 04 Mar 2013 at 4:07 pm 3.Michael said …

    You were right, Thad, Rhapsody Rabbit was not nominated. The others I’ve listed were all the nominees.

  4. on 05 Mar 2013 at 9:00 pm 4.Harry McCracken said …

    I never heard of this book until I found a copy at an antique store a couple of weeks ago — which is weird, because I own a LOT of old how-to-cartoon books. It’s a wonderful snapshot of cartooning as of its date of publication.

  5. on 06 Mar 2013 at 11:41 pm 5.Frank Young said …

    On p. 245, the woman who’s checking colors is looking at a cell from Tex Avery’s HOUND HUNTERS!

  6. on 09 Mar 2013 at 11:58 am 6.Don Cox said …

    I am having trouble finding a copy of this book. Could somebody tell me the publication date?

    I do have a book by Gene Byrnes called “Complete Guide to Drawing, Illustration, Cartooning and Painting” (1948). But this has nothing about animated cartoons, although it is a good collection of help and examples on drawing and cartooning.

  7. on 09 Mar 2013 at 3:00 pm 7.the Gee said …

    Hi Don,

    A couple of sources. One will make you go, Oh. And,the other will make you go, Ooo Boy!

    There is a copy on ABEBOOKS for $650.00. If Harry McCracken’s discovery is normal then you might look around used books stores and try to get the best deal on a copy.

    I found that by first going to Steve Worth’s Animation Resources site and saw that he is excerpting parts of the book. I’d search that site to see what else is shown from the book.

    The publication date I found, is 1950.

  8. on 10 Mar 2013 at 6:38 am 8.Don Cox said …

    “The publication date I found, is 1950.”

    Thanks. That tells me which of Byrnes’s “Complete Guide”s this is.

    I found a copy on Abebooks for much less than $650. Hopefully it will not turn out to be a modern reprint – the “print-on-demand” sellers are getting more devious.

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