Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Early NY Animator Profiles: Rudolph L. Eggeman

  Rudolph L. Eggeman was born August 15th, 1889 in Switzerland. According to the 1940 US Census, he had only an 8th grade education. The Eggeman family immigrated to the U.S. in 1894. In 1910, the family was living in the Bronx and young Rudolph’s occupation was listed as artist at a fashion company. By 1920 the family was living in Weehawken, Hudson, New Jersey and Rudolph’s occupation was listed as “Animated Cartoonist”.       

    Otto Messmer recalled Eggeman animating at the Pat Sullivan studio as early as 1916, and on June 5th 1917 he signed his draft card “Artist- Sullivan Studios”. His next confirmed job in animation didn’t come until 1930, when he and animator Alexander Cruickshank copyrighted a cartoon called “Smellot Bones, the Dog Detective”. According to information found on the Library of Congress website, in 1925 Cruickshank was operating a studio known as the “Screen Sketching Service” in NY, which also employed Sullivan prodigal Walter E. Stark. I’d imagine Eggeman may have animated here as well. 
   Later in 1930 Eggeman joined Fleischer studios as an animator, where he received his first screen credit on the Screen Song “My Gal Sal” (released October 18th, 1930). Grim Natwick recalled that Eggeman had a reputation for producing crude, messy work, and this is supported by surviving studio gag drawings that ridicule his draftsmanship. Despite his limited technical skill, Eggeman had a natural flair for funny expressions and movement. His last screen credit at Fleischers’ was on “Stopping the Show”, released August 12th 1932.

                                                     Eggeman scene in "Dizzy Dishes"

                                                    Some Eggeman scenes in "Barnicle Bill"

     Eggeman's Magician scene in "Silly Scandals" (wow, watch that pup's head grow.... kinda like magic!!)                    

                                                  Eggeman scene in "Stopping the Show"

                              Eggeman's take on the redesigned Bimbo (from "Admission Free")

            If Eggeman worked in animation after 1932, I’ve yet to find any evidence supporting it. On the 1940 census, he was listed as unemployed, living with his sister Lillian’s family in North Bergen, New Jersey. He died in Teaneck, New Jersey in October 1975.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Print Cartoons by Pioneer Animators: The Sports Cartoons of H.M. "Jerry" Shields

             Hugh Michael "Jerry" Shields (1884-1939) was the king of the "crude but funny" style among the first gen. animators in NYC. He had a lifelong reputation as a hard drinker, fast worker, and talented cartoonist. However, he was actually one of the very first men working in the animation business, and an important and tragic figure in the Terry brothers story.

                                                           Oakland Tribune, 1/16/1910
                                                            Oakland Tribune, 1/15/1910

           Born and raised in Oakland, California, Shields was the son of Irish immigrants and grew up a farm boy. On the 1910 Census, he was listed as a lodger in an apartment in Alameda County. His occupation was listed as newspaper cartoonist. At the time, he was drawing sports cartoons and some more realistic illustration for the local Oakland Tribune.

                                                             Oakland Tribune, 2/23/1910
                                                               Oakland Tribune, 2/27/1910

            Around 1911, Shields met John Coleman Terry (1880-1934) and began experimenting with animation. Art Babbitt, who worked with both men in the early 1930s, recalled their early process:  “Original drawings were laid flat on the ground and shot in sunlight. There were no pegholes for registry. The period of Jerry Shields was about 1911". Terry and Shields formed the Movca Film Service in September 1914, claiming to possess “an invention that is claimed to be a great improvement over present methods in the manufacture of comic cartoon films.”

                                                          Oakland Tribune, 2/6/1910
                                  This one (above) actually stars a caricature of Shields. Cool!

                                                         Oakland Tribune, 3/27/1910
             In 1916, John Terry moved Movca to NYC and brought along Shields and fellow San Fransisco newspaper cartoonist Gustavo Bronstrup as animators. Bronstrup returned to California when Movca folded, but Shields and Terry stuck around New York, incorporating a new studio with the properties and staff of Hearst's recently defunct International Film Service in late 1918. In the early 1920s, John Terry's little brother Paul hired Shields away to animate for his new Aesop's Fables studio. He stayed with Paul Terry for the remainder of his career.

                                                            Oakland Tribune, 4/30/1910
                                                        Oakland Tribune, 5/8/1910
          In 1929, Paul Terry left Fables to found the Terrytoons studio with partner Frank Moser, and Shields was one of the few animators who followed. As the 30s wore on, young animators at Terrytoons such as Bill Tytla, Jack Zander, and Connie Rasinski came into their own, turning out complex footage utilizing then new animation principles such as overlapping action. In contrast, Shields' Terrytoon footage of the 1930s seems frozen in the early 1910s style, and looks more and more out of place every year. While some would call his work sub par, others such as myself find Shields' style of drawing and timing funny, personal, and expressive. I tend to think of him as something of a "funky folk animator".

         Sadly, the aging Shields of the late 1930's seemed to take his percieved inferior abilities as an artist quite hard, and this, coupled with his alcoholism, led to a deep depression. Note that in the February 6th 1910 cartoon Shields draws himself jumping off a tall building, something he actually did on May 31st 1939. Spooky.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Monkey Doodle 2: Horse Cops

Horse Cops (Van Beuren, 1931) is one weird cartoon. It's the only fable/VB cartoon to give Director credit to John McManus, who'd been at fables since the Terry era.  Most interesting though, is that the last minute appears to have been farmed out to his brother in law, Les Elton. It even seems to include the same voice actor who did the Yiddish monkeys in "Monkey Doodle".  My guess: this was some kind of contractual obligation that VB had to turn out quickly, explaining the short run time as well as the odd credits. 

                                 Watch it here :

Friday, March 1, 2013

Heavy Press for Fables Cartoons in 1921/1922

        Newly formed U.S. distributor Pathe Exchange began releasing Paul Terry’s Aesop’s Film Fables in May 1921, and seemed determined to make sure it would be a successful series that would run for many years. This was ensured through payoffs to theater managers of the Keith Albee chain, and heaving advertising, particularly in New York papers. Some of these press snippets portray Paul Terry as a sort of wise cracking character, likely the work of freelance gag writers that were kept on the Fables payroll, a tradition that lasted into the John Foster era.

                                                          NY Tribune 6/19/1921

“Mice in Council” is the second offering of the animated cartoon series of “Aesops Fables Modernized” created by the cartoonist Paul Terry and produced by Fables Pictures. It has been set for release by Pathe June 26. The marvelous skill of the artist in animating his subjects is further enhanced by his sense of humor, giving the animals human attributes, and having them perform antics of a highly imaginative sort.

NY Tribune 6/26/1921

“The Rooster and the Eagle”

Owing to the great interest due to the approaching international bout between Jack Dempsey and Georges Carpentier, Pathe has scheduled “The Rooster and the Eagle”, of the animated cartoon series, “Aesop’s Fables Modernized”, for release July 3, the day following the big fight. The offering, produced by Fables Pictures, has a boxing bout, cleverly conceived by cartoonist Paul Terry, and settles the fistic championship in the animal kingdom. “The Rooster” is the Georges Carpentier of the picture, showing France’s national bird, Chanticleer, in action in the squared circle of the barnyard. Jack Dempsey, America’s champion, is represented by “The Eagle”, and enters the fray with triumphant results.

(As the cartoon predicted, Jack Dempsey easily won his fight against Carpentier, which took place July 2nd 1921 at Boyle’s Thirty Acres in Jersey City, a huge wooden arena built especially for the fight- CJ)

NY Evening World 10/31/1921

Just the Name!

Paul Terry, cartoonist, encountered a chemist friend recently. “You’ve cartooned a lot of insects in your film fables,” said the chemist. “GIve me a name for my new compound. It is a terror to insects.” “Why not call it Bugaboo?” asked Terry.

NY Evening World 11/5/1921

Screenings, By Don Allen

Paul Terry, the cartoonist who draws all the funny animals and humans for “Aesop’s Film Fables” is called upon to answer many queer questions every day. The average film fan knows nothing whatever about the mechanics of animated cartoons, so he asks Terry. “Some one asked me the other day why I put more animals than humans in my drawings” said Terry. “I answered in the words of the butcher, who was asked how much horse meat he put in his rabbit sausage and said “Fifty-fifty - one rabbit and one horse.” “That’s as near as I could come to answering that questioner”.

NY Evening World 3/10/1922

Screenings, By Don Allen


Ran into Paul Terry, the film cartoonist, who draws all sorts of things for Aesop’s Film Fables, yesterday, and he proudly handed us the following essay on Geese. He says it was written by a young nephew. Judge for yourself: “Geese is a low heavy-set bird composed mostly of meat and feathers. His head sets on one end and he sets on the other. A geese can’t sing much on account of the dampness of the moisture. There ain’t no between to his toes and he carries a toy balloon in his stomach to keep him from sinking. Some geese when they get big are called ganders and have curls to their tails. Ganders don’t have to set and hatch, but they just loaf and go swimmin’ and eat. If I was a geese I’d rather be a gander.”

NY Evening World 6/24/1922


Paul Terry, who draws those clever “Aesop’s Film Fables” and Major Jack Allen, the wild animal roper, were casting repartee back and forth in the studio yesterday. “I suppose you’re a native son of Terryville, Conn.” opined the Major. “No” answered Terry, “I’m from a different Terry-torry.” “I’m from Baltimore” quipped Major Jack. “Oh,” shot back the cartoonist, “I thought they named Allentown, Pa., after you.” Then the radios became crossed and we heard no more.

NY Evening World 7/5/1922

Paul Terry, who pens “Aesop’s Film Fables” for the screen, acted as best man for Herb Roth, the newspaper artist, when Herb stepped into double harness recently.

NY Evening World 7/13/1922

Paul Terry, the screen cartoonist, has drawn so many of Aesop’s Film Fables that he
talks in epigrams.

NY Evening World 10/6/1922

Oh! Oh!

Paul Terry, the film cartoonist, was yesterday joyously showing about the copy of an essay on “The Frog” written by a Chicago school boy, and sent to the artist by a school teacher friend. Here’s what the boy wrote: “What a wonderful bird the frog are! When he stand he sit, almost! When he hop he fly, almost. He ain’t got no sense, hardly! When he sit he stand, almost!” Reads something like a subtitles, doesn’t it?

Next: NY animation pioneer profiles: John Foster 
                            Above: Henry Cat and the Pathe Rooster celebrate their anniversary in a 1925 ad.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

A Terrytoon Xmas

Here are some rare christmas cards by various Terrytoon artists, some better known than others. These were copied from originals owned by animator "Red" Auguston, who received them while animating at Terrytoons in the late 1930s and early 40s. Thanks Red!

                                                                         Bill Bailey 

Bill Weiss 

Director "Connie" Rasinski

Storyman Don Figlozzi

Animator Jose Carreon

John Phelps

Rocco Alietto

Conductor and Composer Phil Scheib

Storyman Al Stahl 

Two Studio Cards

Paul Terry (the lettering on the tags on the tree looks like Paul's handwriting)

Carlo Vinci (dated 1937)

And one more from the Terrys.