Friday, October 18, 2013

Tony Benedict's "The Last Cartoonery"

If you grew up loving Huckleberry Hound, Yogi Bear, or The Pink Panther, you may find this new documentary very interesting.  Legendary animation writer Tony Benedict has a pet project about his days with Hanna-Barbera and DePatie Freling, called The Last Cartoonery. He is going the Kickstarter route for funding, and talked to FLIP about the project and the good old days.
Joe Barbera and Tony Benedict with Yogi Bear storyboard.
Photo from Benedict's The Last Cartoonery site.
FLIP:  The Last Cartoonery - Who is doing this?

Tony: The Last Cartoonery is being done by me as producer, writer, animator and director. Music by Alan Bernhoft.

FLIP: Is there much film footage from your Hanna Barbera days?  Are you looking for material (film, photos, artwork, stories) for the film?

Tony: In the glory days of early Hanna–Barbera, fellow cartoon guy Jerry Eisenberg and I shot a lot of film and still photos around the studio. We also drew lots of gags and caricatures. Lots of photo and film restoration. We have designed caricatures of Bill and Joe to animate along with caricatures of other studio folk. We are animating gags created nearly sixty years ago. It's a labor of love. No one will get rich off this film but among animation fans I feel it will be well received.
Promotional artwork by Tony Benedict
FLIP: You worked with so many super-talented veteran artists from MGM, Warner Bros, Disney, and UPA.  Who would you say most influenced you, and who did you most enjoy working with?

Tony: Working with Friz Freleng was the most fun. He was hilariously sarcastic about anything. He, like Bill Hanna, was a master of timing. A few frames added or deleted could make a gag work.  

Friz worked with Walt Disney back in Kansas City days. After Walt came to California he brought Friz out. Friz and Walt had a spat, and Friz moved over to MGM with Bill and Joe. Working with Joe and Friz was pretty much the same experience. Lots of laughs when coming up with stories and gags. Bill was more no bullshit, production oriented.

FLIP: When you started at Hanna Barbera, they were just starting out.  What was the atmosphere like at the studio - were they excited to be part of a new studio, or was it just another job?

Tony: It was not just another job. It was a cartoon Camelot - only about 1500 people in the entire Hollywood animation business.  The major studios had closed down their animation units, throwing most out of work, but Bill and Joe streamlined the production process to a point where TV advertisers became interested.  The best talent flocked to H&B grateful to have a job. The atmosphere was energetic, loose and relaxing. We never saw or met anyTV or advertising people. The stories we wrote arrived on the tube very much like they were written.

FLIP: What was DePatie-Freling like?  How was it to work for Friz Freling compared to Bill and Joe?

Tony:  DePatie Freleng was a lot of fun also. It was still a cartoonery in the sense that it was not ruled by corporate overlords.

FLIP: And how hard was it to write for the Pink Panther, a mute character?

Tony:  Writing Pink Panthers was no problem. Animation writers traditionally were trained in animation and were able to draw well.  After all, the Tom and Jerry cartoons set the pace. Posing, acting, timing and animation did it.

FLIP:  What is your favorite project, and what project was the most FUN but not necessarily the best outcome?

Tony: The first year of The Jetsons was my favorite gig, but a cartoon about a World War I aircraft with the voices of Jonathan Winters (The Early Birds) was the most fun - and it never went anywhere.

FLIP: Are there any ideas you always wanted to do, but never got a chance?

Tony: The Last Cartoonery has been my dream idea for many story, briefly told. That's my story and I'm stuck to it. 

Check out Tony's Kickstarter page and lend your support....

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