What lingers in the mind is the color. A reddish-pinkish hue, the hue of dying embers. And the glow of the fireflies who rise up with a dreamy slowness like sparks floating upwards. The fireflies die quickly—their lifespan may be a season—and they are easily crushed even by a small child, which is a giant to them. Children, like the fireflies, are also the victims of forces much larger than them—war, hunger, the banality of bureaucracy, the general indifference of the adult world.
Winsor McCay, center, in the prologue to Little Nemo.
I’m willing to bet that many of my generation first discovered the work of Winsor McCay in the same way that I did: through Bill Blackbeard and Martin Williams’s important catalog of artistry known as The Smithsonian Collection of Newspaper Comics. Presented amongst dozens of other comic strip creations, both forgotten and celebrated, the full page colorful splendors of “Little Nemo in Slumberland” stood out even alongside such luminaries as Gottfredson’s “Mickey Mouse” or Segar’s “Thimble Theatre.”
Can’t write about cartoons without an anvil, right?
In 1949, the Warner Brothers cartoon studio was at their peak. They had established most of their enduring and beloved stable of characters, and were building on the legacy of legendary directors such as Bob Clampett, Tex Avery, and Frank Tashlin. The post war years saw the establishment of a more settled arrangement of working relationships in the four (reduced to three in 1947) units under the direction of Friz Freleng, Chuck Jones, Bob McKimson, and Art Davis. They still had the fantastic decade of the 50s ahead of them, but around this time sees where the comic formulas, peculiarly witty dialogue, and animation designs really crystallized into the most recognizable feeling, before suffering a very slow decline through the late 50s and into the 60s. And the biggest star of the Warner stable, capturing all of these traits in the many films he starred in, was Bugs Bunny.
Here’s a brief departure from my usual content: a very short cartoon created by my son, Leo, on his Nintendo DS. I’m pretty impressed by the animation!
Take 30 seconds and enjoy the most efficient ways to climb a wall.