Friday, August 31, 2012

Check It Out: THE UPA JOLLY FROLICS COLLECTION (Part The Last - I Promise)






Paul Julian took one of his few directorial credits (while also doing his usual work as designer and colorist) on the 1955 entry Baby Boogie.  Ann Whitfield provides the voice of a little girl asking one of the most loaded questions a parent can hear:  "Where do babies come from?"


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The Jaywalker was released by Columbia pictures the same year (1955) as The Man With The Golden Arm.  Frank Sinatra and Kim Novak are nowhere to be seen -- not even Arnold Stang.  But like Otto Preminger's film, Robert Cannon also tells a Shocking Story of a Pitiless Addiction.  There's even a great jazz score, this time by bandleader Billy May.  May the tale of Milton Muffet stand as a warning to the ages . . .


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Based on a short story by the writer Percival Wilde, The Rise of Duton Lang is the story of a French scientist whose career would be more successful if he devoted less time to eating.  It's also the story of the fellow telling the story while cadging drinks off an American tourist.  He's not quite as successful as usual . . .


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Trees/Jamaica Daddy was the first of four UPA cartoons featuring the characters of Hamilton Ham (a world-traveling shape-shifter) and Hattie, a sweet little girl in a straw hat.  It was also the last of the studios cartoons to be nominated for an Oscar.  Within two years of its release in 1958, UPA, following the poor performance of its first feature-length film, 1001 Arabian Nights (featuring Mr. Magoo), was sold by Stephen Bosustow to producer Henry Sapirstein.  Sapirstein led the company away from the dwindling theatrical market and into television (except for the very nice 1963 film Gay Purr-ee, featuring great voice work by Judy Garland and Robert Goulet), resulting in two well-received television specials (Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol and Uncle Sam Magoo, both for NBC), a syndicated Mr. Magoo series that didn't do as well, a syndicated series based on the Dick Tracy comic strip (not a big success, and hardly an artistic triumph, but at least free of Warren Beatty and Madonna), and The Famous Adventures of Mr. Magoo for NBC, which was cancelled after one season.  About this time, UPA dropped out of animation altogether and became the American distributor for Toho Studio's giant-monster epics, which they continued to be until at least, I think, the film Godzilla 2000.  This relationship with Toho allowed Sapirstein to get American distribution rights to a Bond rip-off called Key of Keys.  Sapirstein handed it over to Woody Allen, who applied a new English soundtrack, some songs by The Lovin' Spoonful, and a new title; What's Up, Tiger Lily?  Since then, the company has drifted through various corporate hands, landing most recently in the animation division of Dreamworks, which is a subsidiary of Paramount, which is a subsidiary of . . .  Not a happy ending, exactly, but at least we have some beautifully restored memories.


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