A 1950s Animation Lover’s Must-Have

Cartoon Modern: Style and Design in Fifties Animation is a fantastic hardback book from Amid Amidi — founder of Animation Blast magazine and editor-in-chief of the CartoonBrew blog — presenting rare and classic examples of mid-century modern cartooning. Amidi showcases the art, the artists, the production companies, and the stories behind them that make us long to see all of these trend-setting animations in their entirety. Cartoon Modern is wonderful as a coffee table book and as a reference work, and no matter how many times we have leafed through it before, we can’t help picking it up again. Here is a sampling of the stylish jewels Amidi has included in his book:

Giddyap (1950, UPA)
Woodpecker from Mars (Walter Lantz Productions, 1956)
Pigs is Pigs (Walt Disney Productions, 1954)
Gerald McBoing Boing (UPA, 1951)
Stage Door Magoo (UPA, 1955)
The Matador and the Troubador (UPA, 1956)

Yesterday’s House of Tomorrow

The House of Tomorrow is one of a series of cartoons directed for MGM by the influential animator Tex Avery in 1949. He pokes fun at the technology of the future as well as at the live action promotional films common in mid-20th century theaters. With one gag after another (typical of Tex Avery’s work), this cartoon previews what a modern home and its appliances would look like in the middle of the 21st century. Most inventions are customized for mom, dad, junior, and the ill-fated mother-in-law, who bears the brunt of the cruel jokes. Avery’s work wasn’t known for being politically correct, but then again, many animators and directors in his day produced cartoons that would raise eyebrows today. Of course, not all cartoons produced today are politically correct, either, for that matter.

In any event, this one is an amusing look at the future as seen from the past. Other short films in the series include The Car of Tomorrow, The Farm of Tomorrow, and The T.V. of Tomorrow.

A whimsical example of Modern cartooning: Destination Earth

Petroleum industry and anti-communist propaganda aside, the 1956 industrial cartoon Destination Earth produced by John Sutherland is a whimsical example of Mid-Century Modern cartooning and space age illustrative stylings. Directed by Carl Urbano and designed by Tom Oreb and Victor Haboush, this 13-minute clip is a fascinating view of the future from the past, gushing with irony and humor like oil from a Texas drill rig.