Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Famous Felines in Animation 2

Last year I started a few articles about Famous Felines in Animation and I thought I would continue this during the production of this project.

The most popular cat and mouse animated cartoon series has to be "Tom and Jerry" created by Jack Hanna and Joe Barbera. The cat and mouse duo first premiered on Feb. 20th, 1940 MGM cartoon "Puss gets the Boot" and was nominated for an Academy Award.

Tom was referred to as Jasper in this cartoon and his character design changed over the years.From Hanna and Barbera (1940 -1958), to Gene Deitch (1961-1962) and Chuck Jones (1963 -1967). Here you can see how much his design has changed.

Feb. 23, 1940, another cat had a bit part and made its debut in Walt Disney's Pinocchio. This was the kitten known as "Figaro", animated by Eric Larson which he base on his nephew's personality. Figaro is also featured in several Pluto cartoons as Minnie Mouse's pet cat.  

A much nastier cat character from Cinderella (1950) was Lucifer, animated by Ward Kimball.

1957 MGM closed its cartoon studio in a panic over diminishing audiences due to television. William Hanna and Joe Barbera formed their own company and began making cartoons for TV. The Hanna-Barbera TV cartoon program "Ruff & Reddy" began.  

Also in 1957, Dr Seuss's "Cat in the Hat" was published, became an animated TV special in 1971 and an awful feature film in 2003.
Then around 1970, Disney released the Aristocats featuring the hit song, "Everyone wants to be a Cat." I remember seeing this as a kid, but I wasn't very impressed with it at the time.

The 1970s, was a decade where a lot of different cat characters emerged to become famous, others had a brief success and some are even still around today. 

The Pink Panther had several feature films named after him, but only appeared in the animated opening credits, one of the best done by Richards Williams.


Fritz the Cat was the first X rated adult cartoon first created as a comic by Robert Crumb and later made into a feature film by Ralph Bakshi. Crumb hated the movie so much, that he killed Fritz in one of his later comics, just to make sure more movies didn't come out. Oddly enough a sequel "The Nine Lives of Fritz the Cat" was made, however without Bakshi or Crumb's involvement. 

 About the same time, a real orange tabby tom cat named Morris debut in a Robert Altman feature called "The Long Goodbye" and later "Shamus" starring Burt Reynolds. Morris soon became the spokescat for 9Lives catfood and appeared in many tv spots like this one.

Then around 1975, Bernard "Hap" Kliban, the cartoonist known as B Kliban drew up a whole bunch of cartoon cats based on his unique cat design. His artwork was soon on everything from mugs to calenders to t-shirts and beyond.

Then Jim Davis created Garfield which in41 newspapers in 1978. The character designed changed over time as the stripe grew in fame. Here is an early version Garfield.

Garfield's design evolved into the fat cat we know and love. From 2D cartoon to 3D computer animation. Here's a sample of my animation from the first Garfield movie done at Rhythm and Hues, don't blink. 

Garfield has been a very successful character and also became a balloon character in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade in 2003.


I've discovered that all cartoon characters tend to evolve over time to find their final style. Notice how Tony the Tiger began as a simple graphic back in the 1950's and now is a three dimensional muscle bound tiger of today.

And maybe one day our cat will join this famous group?

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