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)

Well, I’ll Be a Monkey’s Uncle!

Hmm, this one leaves us wondering why a song entitled “The Monkey’s Uncle” wasn’t part of the Beach BoysPet Sounds record! While this theme song from the 1965 Walt Disney movie of the same name starring Annette Funicello is certainly more standard Beach Boys cheery, surf-beat fare than the experimental tunes on Pet Sounds, tell us which you like better — the kooky or the critically acclaimed. The movie itself smells like a, well, you get the picture. But regardless of the cheese factor, who wouldn’t go bananas over cute and perky Annette Funicello? She was enough to make anyone one to be a monkey’s uncle. RIP Annette, April 8, 2013. You were one of a kind.

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.

This is… Miroslav Sasek

Miroslav Sasek was a Czech painter, author, and illustrator of the “This Is…” series of books that introduced children to iconic cities (and countries) around the world. What we like most about his work, other than the international flavors he was able to capture so well, is his stylized treatment of architecture, vehicles, and people. From the Twiggy-like blonde model in the “This is London” book to the pipe-smoking, beret-bedecked sidewalk chalk artist in “This is Paris,” his Mid-Century Modern depiction of people and places is simply delicious. It makes us want to acquire his entire series for our library, and then pack our suitcases for a round-the world adventure. Here are some examples of his work:

Lounge Lizard in the Desert

lounge lizard

Do blondes have more fun? Maybe when a lounge lizard picks up the tab. And where better to find a lizard than in the desert? The setting for this original illustration (and for my blog banner) was inspired by the quintessential desert playground from the mid-century, downtown Scottsdale’s Valley Ho. This modern architecture jewel of a hotel was built in 1956 but lost a bit of its shine in the 1970s. Happily, it reopened in 2005 after extensive restoration and is now as gorgeous as ever — just like our barefoot blonde sipping summer cocktails. Be sure to check out happy hour at the ZuZu Lounge.

Jetta, Teenage Sweetheart of the 21st Century

A full 10 years before the Jetsons arrived on the scene, Jetta was a little-known comic by Dan DeCarlo, illustrator of Betty and Veronica from the Archies comics, Josie and the Pussycats, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, and others. The buxom, redheaded star is typical of DeCarlo’s sexy but wholesome female characters with a space-age twist. This one is a rarity. Jetta first appeared in December 1952, and Standard Comics published only three issues of Jetta collections with three stories in each issue. Interestingly, the first issue was marked as No. 5 instead of No. 1 so as not to appear to newsstand dealers as an untested debut publication.

If you liked the teenage antics in The Archies and love mid-century modern futurism, you’ll go positively into orbit over Jetta! Scroll down for more images from The Good Girl Art Library’s book, Dan DeCarlo’s Jetta, with an introduction by Craig Yoe and renderings by 37 master pin-up artists.


What Cool America Looked Like in the Late 50s

American Look is an awesome Technicolor short film commissioned by the Chevrolet division of General Motors in 1959 celebrating American mid-century lifestyle and design. The film showcases design of everything from dinnerware and furniture to automobiles and public art murals. Produced by the Handy “Jam” Organization, this film is fabulous right down to the music, the hairstyles, and the narrator’s voice. The evocative video and audio will make you wish you had a time machine to go back and live in the mid-century era. Enjoy!