merry christmas! i've only one short for you today. and its a good one. after Harman and Ising were fired from MGM in 1937 (see the past two posts), they setup their own in-house studio. work was scarce though and they ended up doing a one-shot for Disney called "Merbabies" in his Silly Symphonies line. Disney had promised two more such cartoons, in exchange for Harman and Ising lending their own ink and paint team to Disney in order to help complete Snow White and the Seven Dwarves for Christmas. however, he reneged on his deal, and the animators were free agents once again, eventually selling the ideas to Fred Quimby at MGM who hired them back. Rudolph Ising created the character Barney Bear, a sleepy-eyed character based on himself, while Hugh Harman worked on what would eventually become the Oscar-nominated, post-apocalyptic Christmas short Peace on Earth (1939). its power is undeniable still today.
Harman was quoted as saying, "I'd say that I made about three good pictures. I'm not kidding." this was one of the three.
the contrast between the human portions and the animal portions are delineated by the animation styles (amongst other things) -- the animals are very cartoony while the humans are rotoscoped to great effect. i think this is probably the best use of rotoscoping i've perhaps seen. the utilization of the technique is perfect -- in Bakshi's cartoons its often just distracting, but here it adds to the story that's told.
here's Harman's own recollections on the short. see if you agree:
"It made more money than any picture we ever made. Fred Quimby, who was sort of a business manager at MGM tried to stop it. Then when it was finished, I think he wanted to take all the awards for it himself."
"Peace on Earth was a tough one to animate and to write. We shouldn't actually have made that as a one-reeler, we should have made it in about three to five reels. We cut it and cut it and cut it; we didn't cut footage that was animated—nobody in his right mind does that, unless it's bad. But cutting the storyboard and switching around. It has some flaws. I just got tired of it near the end. That's always been a weakness with me, that I get so fed up on it at the end of a picture that I would just as soon turn it over to the Girl Scouts to make. Unless it were a feature that would warrant going on with costs forever. I've observed that as a weakness in myself, that I often end up with a weak, insubstantial ending for a picture."
(all from the Michael Barrier interview)