Storm over Disneyland
Jahsonic’s recent finding of The Tell Tale Heart reminded me of the UPA post that I planned to do for quite a while.
The cartoons done by this company were among the most cherished by Surrealist film critics Ado Kyrou and Robert Benayoun. The two rejected the realist approach and anthropomorphisms of Disney’s films. Kyrou thought that:
Disney and his studios, after their promising beginning quickly foundered, became facile and remainded mired in bourgeois sentiment. Disney has been called the ‘La Fontaine of the cinema’ and he surely deserves this ignominious title.
(Le Surréalisme au cinéma)
It’s for these reasons that they welcomed the stylized, expressionist animation and not to forget the nonconformist content of the UPA productions.
We can see in the Wikipedia entry on United Productions of America that Kyrou’s sentiments regarding Disney were shared by its animators and that they very intentionally pursued ideas along these lines.
UPA was founded in the wake of the Disney animators’ strike of 1941, which resulted in a number of long-time employees of Walt Disney leaving the venerable studio for greener pastures. One of the animators taking part in the Disney exodus was John Hubley, an artist who disagreed with the ultra-realistic style of animation that Disney had developed and championed… Chuck Jones’ 1942 cartoon The Dover Boys showed that animation could present an artistic vision that did not have to obey the laws of reality, and a number of animators in the industry, including Hubley, were interested in producing animation of this sort: animation that defied logic and reality for the sake of art. more…
Robert Benayoun’s Le dessin animé après Disney is a whole book on post-Disney attempts in animation and it’s a still from John Hubley’s Rooty Toot Toot that graces its cover.
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