Archive for April 14th, 2011

We have quite a few pileated woodpeckers that call our woods home.  They’re a very large bird, about the size of a crow, and the clatter of their pecking echoes loudly through the forest as does their distinctive cackle.  They do a hell of a lot of damage to the white pines but I love seeing and hearing them, which  always reminds me of the Woody Woodpecker cartoons from my childhood.  I was a big fan for a short time but moved on eventually to what I felt were more sophisticated cartoons, such as the Warner Brothers work of Chuck Jones and Tex Avery.  But I still have warm memories when I hear that crazy woodpecker laugh clatter through the trees.

I was also reminded of Woody when my friend Brian recently sent me an interesting link to a New York Times article that talked about one of his animators, Shamus Culhane.  During a scene depicting an explosive moment, Culhane inserted cels into the film that contained art that more resembled that of the abstract expressionists that that of a traditional studio cartoonist.  There is a multimedia link on the page that shows the sequence in a frame by frame breakdown and amid the very smooth edged cartoon rendering there suddenly appears a  short series of frames with raw, rough brushstrokes.  When you see it in slow-motion, you realize how different htis was for normal cartoon fare. 

The article points out that this was not Culhane’s only foray into the edgier side of cartooning, describing other cartoons where other abstract imagery is inserted and a prankish few that contained bawdy hidden humor such as doorways  in an Eastern castle being phallic shaped.  Maybe theose caartoons really were a bad influence after all?

Anyway, it was an interesting article and one that will come to mind whenever my pileated woodpeckers send their shrill laughs through my woods.

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