Tuesday, 8 June 2010

The Great Cartoon Stars: A Who's Who!

As well as his comprehensive British animation filmography, the prolific Denis Gifford wrote another book which is worth covering on this blog: The Great Cartoon Stars: A Who's Who!, published in 1979.

The book does what it says on the tin, providing an alphabetical overview of cartoon characters both well-known (Bugs Bunny, Mickey Mouse, Fred Flintstone) and somewhat obscure (John Doormat, Little Cesario, Willie the Whale). But there's a twist - Gifford made the unusual decision to cover two countries, the US and the UK; although the emphasis is very much on Hollywood, the book is still one of the few to cover British animated theatrical shorts in any detail. It's also the only book that I know of to include illustrations of little-known characters such as Spick & Span and 'Orace the 'Ound.

The most interesting tidbit in the book is the entry for a character named Elmo, who appeared in a comic strip by entertainer Charles Cole and may or may not have made the jump to animation:
Elmo, the Famous Film Lion, so claimed his creator Charles Cole, of 'Magic Chalks' renown. Every history needs a mystery, and this is ours. A weekly strip and a couple of comics perpetrated Cole's claim but no actual film has ever been traced. Cole changed his act to balloon bending and his name to Windy Blow.

Here is the full list of British characters covered in Gifford's book:

Animaland ("England's only full-blown series of technicolor cartoons... A star was developed in Ginger Nutt, who featured in four films"; the book also lists several individual Animaland characters: Chester Cat, Corny Crow, Cuckoo, Dinkum, Ginger & Hazel, Loopy Hare and Zimmy)
Bingo (A singing dog. "Norman Cobb produced the first British series of sound cartoons... Later Bingo's films were sold through Woolworth's for the Bingoscope home movie")
Beatles (Well, why not?)
Bonzo (George E. Studdy's creation. "the only British cartoon hero to sustain a full series of 26 films")
Brer Rabbit (the entry focuses mainly on the Disney character, although Gifford acknowledges Anson Dyer's silent adaptations of the Remus stories which I touched on here)
Bubble & Squeak (A taxi driver and his anthropomorphised cab. "[D]espite some merchandising, including a series of 'Bubble & Squeak' annuals, the characters failed to click")
The Colonel ("Monocled mouse created by George Moreno Jr for his British Animated Productions")
Charley (star of Halas & Batchelor propaganda films)
Cheerio Chums ("Two ex-service comrades created by early English animator Dudley Buxton. Three adventures in civil commerce where included in the Phillips Film Phables series"; discussed here)
Elmo (see above)
Foo Foo (see Toonhound's entry)
Napoleon (Animal Farm)
'Orace the 'Ound ("the star of the first sound cartoon made in Britain")
Pip, Squeak and Wilfred (from the early comic strip, adapted for animation by Lancelot Speed)
Rollo (Squirrel War)
Sam (the Stan Holloway character)
Sammy & Sausage (Joe Noble's boy-and-his-dog team)
Slim & Pim ("England's somewhat feeble answer to Mutt and Jeff", discussed here)
Spick & Span (A Genii and a Genius, also discussed here)
Steve (Come On, Steve!)
The book also contains entries for the people behind the cartoons, although somewhat oddly the only UK names listed are Anson Dyer and Gerard Hoffnung.

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