Scrappyland: An Interim Report

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Despite all appearances, I really am working on a major update to my Scrappyland site. I hope to have it up by the end of the month. Part of the problem is that every time I turn around, I discover more bizarre Scrappyana that needs documenting.

Besides a report on April’s Scrappyland event in Hollywood, the update will include a look at Scrappy’s Own Magazine (an astonishing 1935 publication), correspondence from Columbia’s Scrappy Franchise Department, more photos of child stars I’ve never heard of brandishing Scrappy products, and additional Scrappyana.

Thanks for your patience. And if you’ve got any Scrappy-related items I should know about, please contact me at the e-mail address to the right. Knowing Scrappy, I suspect I’ll be updating the site with new discoveries for a long time to come.

Looney Tunes Golden Collection Volume Three

The third DVD box set of Warner cartoons is due on October 25th. Jaime Weinman has an annotated list of everything on the four discs.

They’ve sort of run out of obvious cartoons to put in these sets–and that’s good news, since this collection includes lots of cartoons from the thirties and forties, lesser-known but worthwhile shorts, and a reasonable Clampett quotient. I can’t wait.

Shrek Takes a Fall

Here’s a New York Times story on Dreamworks Animation SKG’s stock drop and general financial woes, due in part to sluggish DVD sales of Shrek 2 and Shark Tale. There seems to be a CGI-on-DVD malaise at the moment: Pixar has also been disappointed with The Incredibles’ performance.

I’m not sure if this is all a blip or an indication that folks are losing interest in computer animation. Clearly, the gigantic profitability of Dreamworks and Pixar’s films is predicated as much as them doing well in home video as at the box office. If they’re starting taper off on DVD, it could cause the studios to greenlight fewer features and slash the budgets of the ones they do make.

And one wonders how less surefire upcoming films–Disney’s Chicken Little, say–will fare if hits like Shrek 2 and The Incredibles disappoint.

Then again, maybe Dreamworks and Disney just stuffed too many copies of these discs into the channel. Anybody out there have a guess what’s going on here, and whether it’s a trend?

Arriola on the Air

Gus Arriola, creator of Gordo, may the the most underappreciated of comics’ greatest artists–his best work is as well-designed, warm, and funny as any newspaper comics I can think of. Arriola has been retired for years now, following a long career, and I was delighted to stumble across a radio show called Latino USA yesterday, which interviewed him on the current controversy (well-covered on Cartoon Brew) over Mexican postage stamps featuring a stereotyped character named Memin Pinguin.

You can listen to the Arriola interview at this page, which also features a worthwhile segment on someone who I assume has already been honored with any number of Mexican stamps: Cantinflas.

If you’re not well-acquainted with Gordo, you need to get your hands on R.C. Harvey’s wonderful book Accidental Ambassador Gordo, available here.

Scrappy Sighting

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Golden Age Cartoons’ Columbia Crow’s Nest site has a fabulous freebie at the moment: a Real Player version of The Flop House, one of the greatest Scrappy cartoons.

If you haven’t seen this short, you don’t have a full understanding of what 1930s animation was all about. Click here and look for it on the right-hand side of the screen.

RIP, Selby Kelly

Mark Evanier has reported the sad news that Selby Kelly, Walt Kelly’s widow and a talented cartoonist and writer in her own right, has left us.

I never got to meet Walt Kelly–my favorite cartoonist, no question–but I’m pleased to say that for a time in the mid-1970s Mrs. Kelly was a regular at Boston-area comics conventions…and so was I. She showed off Kelly work (like the handmade We Have Met the Enemy cartoon), promoted the Okefenokee Star fanzine, and generally spread the Word of the Possum. (Looking back, it’s startling to realize that Walt Kelly had been gone just a few years.)

I’d say that meeting her was the next best thing to spendng time with Walt, but that would be selling the experience short–it was a pleasure in and of itself. She was a gracious and intelligent lady who took good care of Pogo and friends, then and in the years to come.

In 1977 or so, I asked Selby to autograph my well-loved copy of Pogo Parade #1, whose inside front cover featured a letter from Walt with a (printed) signature. Their names look good together, don’t they?

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Another Vertical Original

I kind of liked the way the Bullwinkle strip original I ran sideways looked, so I’m going to dig into my original art stash every now and then and run more pieces this way. Tilt your head and enjoy…

Here’s an example of Vi and George Smith’s The Smith Family, an unjustly obscure strip that ran for decades. (This one is undated, but I’m guessing it’s from the late 1970s or 1980s.) Vi Smith had a unique, highly animated style, and the strip was reliably funny, often in a somewhat dark manner. I’m not sure what George Smith’s involvement with the strip was, but much of the time (not in this example), it was done from a woman’s point of view.

I read it for years in The Boston Globe–where it ran every day, then every Sunday…and then, it seemed, only when they had unexpected space to fill. I’m not sure when the strip died altogether, but it ran into the late 1980s, at least.

I would wonder if I’m the only person on earth who remembers The Smith Family, except Shane Glines’ Cartoon Retro has a discussion going on about it, with more examples.

Update: This comics index says that the strip ran from 1951 until 1994. I’m not sure if I’d buy a Complete Smith Family series, but I’d love to see some sort of best-of collection. It’s a strip that’s thoroughly worthy of rediscovery.

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Will Eisner and Scrappy

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Every time I’m foolish enough to think I’ve discovered all the important facts about Scrappy, something comes along to remind me how little I really know.

The latest example is a humdinger: I’ve just learned (from comic-strip expert Allan Holtz) that the 1937 Editor & Publisher Yearbook included a listing for a Scrappy comic strip (credited, of course, to Charles Mintz) that was syndicated by Eisner & Iger Associates…the Eisner in question being a very young Will Eisner.

It’s unclear whether this strip ever saw publication–or, in fact, if it was ever actually produced. And we don’t know whether Will himself had a hand in writing and/or drawing it. If I’d learned this a year ago, I would have tracked down Eisner at the San Diego Con and asked him myself; sadly, that’s no longer an option.

Oh, one other thing: This was the second Scrappy newspaper feature. The first, Scrappy Sayings, appeared in small papers in 1935. I haven’t seen that one either. Like I say, I’m humbled by how much there is left to learn in the world of Scrapology…