Animation Artifacts &Commentary &commercial animation &Layout & Design &Models 12 Mar 2013 03:43 am

Larry Riley Recap Plus

In celebration of the new season of baseball I have a couple of model sheets from a Paramount cartoon.

Larry Riley, a story writer, gave me these drawings back in 1972, but he never told me the film’s title. Thanks to Thad Komorowski and Bob Jaques – both left comments when I originally posted hese in 2007 – we know the drawings come from Heap Hep Injuns (1950).

______________(Click images to enlarge.)

Larry Riley was a wild guy. On my first commercial job at Phil Kimmelman & Ass. he and I were the inbetweeners working side-by-side on some of the Multiplication Rock series. Larry had had a long and busy career in animation.

He had been an asst. animator at Fleischer‘s, a story writer at Paramount, an animator at many studios. Like many other older animators, he ended up doing anything – including inbetweening at Kimmelman’s for the salary and the u-nion benefits.

The stories Larry told me kept me laughing from start to finish. There was no doubt he had been a writer for years. In a not very exciting job, it made it a pure pleasure for me to go to work every day to hear those hilarious stories. I can’t see Lucky 7 without thinking of laughing. It wasn’t the stories per se that were funny, it was his take on it.

Larry told me of his years at Fleischer’s in Florida where he was an assistant. He and Ellsworth Barthen shared a room, and, according to Larry, had lined one of the walls of their room with empty vodka bottles. Now, I’ve heard of frats doing this with beer cans, but doing it with vodka bottles requires some serious drinking. One of the many times I got to work with Ellsworth, I asked him about the story, and he reluctantly backed it up telling me what a wild guy Larry was.

Ellsworth3SM

Ellsworth was an interesting character in his own right. There were a group of lifetime Assistant Animators in New York when I started out. This is what they did and all that they aspired to do. They liked the steady work and didn’t want heavy pressure. Those I can name, off the top of my head, were: Helen Komar, Jim Logan, Gerry Dvorak, Tony Creazzo, Eddie Cerullo, Joe Gray, and Vincent Barbetta. They all have interestng stories I could tell. Maybe another time.

Ellsworth Barthen was one of these permanent Asst. Animators. He had his work life and he had his play life. Ellsworth lived in New Jersey with his brother and spent much of the time in his garden growing orchids. He had specialty breeds of orchids that he’d grow and enter in flower shows. Ellsworth loved it.

The other thing he loved was performing as Franklin D. Roosevelt. Just about everywhere he went, he took his pince-nez and would pop it on his eyes and go into character. Now I was born after Roosevelt had already died, so I couldn’t tell you if Ellsworth had been doing an accurate impersonation, but I saw him do it pretty often.

Ellsworth2SM
Ellsworth appearing on the Joe Franklin Show in NY
as Franklin D. Roosevelt. Joe Franklin is bottom left.

At Grim Natwick’s 100th Birthday Party in LA, Ellsworth came in character and stayed there all night. He was basically a big and shy guy, but this Roosevelt impersonation would bring him out and loud. Very curious character.

Back to Larry Riley:


________Forgive the racist pictures, but I guess they’re a product of their times.

Larry also told of a 3D process he’d developed for Paramount in the 50′s when the movies were all going 3D. I believe there were two Paramount shorts done in this process: Popeye: The Ace of Space and Casper: Boo Man. Larry offered to give me the camera on which he shot these films – he had it stored in his basement. He was afraid it would get thrown out when he died. I didn’t have room for it.

My regret; I still hear the sadness in Larry’s voice.
(When I originally posted this in 2006, Larry’s grandson, John, wrote to tell me that another collector took possession of the camera and kept it from destruction.)

The animator who drew these is Tom Johnson (he signs the second one), and they were approved by the director Isadore (Izzy) Sparber per the first one.
The drawings are deteriorating, obviously. The pan above uses a lot of glue to hold it together, and that’s eating away at the paper.)

– This is the final model I have from Heap Hep Injuns a 1950 Paramount cartoon. Tom Johnson drew this image, prior to animating it, and Izzy Sparber directed the film. I’d heard some stories about I. Klein regarding this film, though he’s not credited, so I suspect he may have had something to do with model approvals, as well. Actually, he may have been the “Izzy” referred to on the pan posted yesterday.

______________(Click images to enlarge.)

I was never a big fan of the Paramount cartoons. Growing up in New York, we’d always get Paramount or Terrytoons shorts playing with features in the theaters. Only rarely did a Warners cartoon or a Disney short show up. (I don’t think I saw a Tom & Jerry cartoon until I was 17 when they started jamming the local TV kidshows with them.)

Saturdays there was always the placard outside the theater advertising “Ten Color Cartoons”. A haughty child, I naturally wanted to know why they didn’t show B&W cartoons – that’s what we saw on television, and I usually liked them more. I must have been insufferable for my siblings to put up with me.

MightyMouseStarburst

The starburst at the beginning of the Mighty Mouse cartoons always got an enormous cheer in the local theaters. I don’t remember ever hearing that for the Popeye or Harveytoons.

(I love that if you go on a “Google search” for images of Larry Riley, you get dozens of title cards from Paramount cartoons. Go, Larry.)

2 Responses to “Larry Riley Recap Plus”

  1. on 12 Mar 2013 at 9:51 am 1.John said …

    Riley and Bill Turner’s names disappear off the Paramount story credits right about 1950, which coincidentally or not is when the studio’s output really fell into a rut (the Screen Songs revival, including “Heep Hep Injuns” pretty much started in a rut a couple of years earlier and never left there, since they were just spot gag cartoons with little or no character personality development).

    The studio’s cartoons from the 1942 takeover through about 1948-49 are worth another look — they’re not that bad, but the reputation has been spoiled by taking some of the one-shot characters from that period and turning them into continuing series with repetitive story lines in the 1950s. Paramount’s best cartoons in the ’50s were mainly the one-shot efforts where formalistic repetition wasn’t possible, especially those shorts written by Irv Spector.

  2. on 12 Mar 2013 at 11:02 am 2.Kevin Hogan said …

    If Mighty Mouse produced loud cheers from your local theater, I have some simpathy for you. You truly were at a disadvantage- Famous Studios and Terrytoons as your only options… yuck!

    I have always had more simpathy for Terrytoons than I have had for Famous/ Paramount. Paul Terry simply did not care if the cartoons were good or not, so there is an almost refreshing lack of pomposity in his films. Famous/ Paramount has the feel of a studio that could easily been better- As if the studio cared enough to make the cartoons look good, but not enough to make them stand out or be interesting.

    I guess I prefer no ambition at all to minimal ambition…

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