Friday, October 09, 2009

Just a Big Kid: Tex Avery

One of the ironies of LA being the film capitol of the world is that we've never had a world class film festival. In all my years of asking people why this was, I've never received a satisfactory answer; the closest I got was that the buyers want to get out of town. Thus, Europe (Cannes, Berlin) and North America (Montreal, Sundance) have come to dominate mass distribution. But I digress.

The closest LA came to a world class fest was Gary Essert's Filmex. Through all of its faults - and there were many - Filmex was a special time in LA, dominating the westside and the now gone Century Plaza Theaters, next to the Shubert. It was through Filmex's animation sections that I first realized that animation was more than cartooning. Among those I remember; Paul Driessen (who worked on The Beatles' "Yellow Submarine"), Ian Emes's "French Windows" (which I saw either at Filmex or "The Fantastic Animation Festival" in Laguna Beach), Marv Newland's "Bambi Meets Godzilla" (which made us laugh every time probably because we were stoned each viewing), Frank Zappa's, "Baby Snakes" which featured the claymation of Bruce Bickford who was superior to Will Vinton, and Mike Jittlov, whose "Wizard of Speed and Time" was always a showstopper but which I found really corny. As usual, they're probably all on you-know-where-tube.

It was this reckoning that made me re-assess classic studio animation, and the capper was when I read about the reverence for which the Surrealists held Tex Avery. As a kid I loved Tex. His cartoons usually had a level of lunacy beyond anything else that more often than not peaked in delirium. One of his classics, "King Size Canary," cracked me up as a kid.

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Another of my favorite Avery characters was Droopy, a laconic, slow talking lil hound dawg who pulled some of the most outrageous stunts. Like being able to appear anywhere...

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Droopy the foil takes a back seat here to the two main characters, placed in a tough situation...

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Another Avery favorite, Chilly Willy the penguin who, like Droopy, is a foil full of trickery.
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Tex Avery, much like Hitch's "Vertigo" is proof that even the studio system back in the day couldn't suppress personal visions. He still makes me laugh.