Gerald McBoing-Boing, the boy who speaks through sound effects

Gerald McBoing-Boing (1950) is an animated short film about a boy, Gerald McCloy, who speaks through sound effects. The film is based on an audio story by Dr. Seuss originally published as a record for children.

The film was created for cinemas, moving away from the realistic animation style popularised by Walt Disney. The main concept was that cartoons don’t have to obey the rules of the real world. This, besides being original, reduced costs, because they didn’t need realistic drawings, but something more creative and expressive.

The animation studio behind Gerald McBoing-Boing was United Productions of America (UPA). The UPA had been founded after a strike by Disney workers in 1941. During its years of existence, which spanned the 1940s to the 1970s, its biggest success was Mr. Magoo.

As I said before, Gerald McBoing-Boing’s plot focuses on Gerald McCloy, a 2-year-old boy that, when he begins to speak, uses sound effects rather than words. The first thing that comes out of his mouth is “boing boing”, the sound of a spring bouncing.

Doctors can’t find a solution, and the other children make fun of him, leading his family to despair. Then a radio talent scout discovers Gerald and hires him as a foley artist—the person who creates sound effects for film and radio.

The short was so successful, even winning an Oscar, that the UPA produced three sequels. Years later, in 2005, Cartoon Network launched a cartoon TV show based on the same characters. In this show, Gerald still speaks through sound effects, but he has two friends that use standard words.

Some notes about the production

Gerald McBoing-Boing’s creator, Bobe Cannon, and its designer, Bill Hurtz, wanted to create a minimalist cartoon with little dialogue. For the original film, first, they sketched the actions. Then, they composed the soundtrack and they animated all the actions using the sound as a guide. Finally, they added flat and flashy colours.

The style is far from the realism of other cartoons of the time. The backgrounds have only a few lines, some of them are almost abstract. These drawings are influenced by modern painters like Picasso and Matisse. The composition uses forced perspectives and extreme angles, achieving striking shots reminiscent of German expressionist cinema.

Cannon had started his career working with well-known characters, such as Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck. He was one of the founders of the UPA and vice president of the studio from 1949 to 1957, a job that he combined with collaborations with Disney and Tex Avery.

Cannon loved ballet and he saw cartoons as a form of dance. When he designed his films, he thought of animation as if it were choreography. Maybe that’s where the idea of creating a character who expresses himself through sounds, rather than words, came from.

Cyberpunk moments where I live. Just warming you up.

Blade Runner cyberpunk GIF tears

Blade Runner (1982)

All those cyberpunk moments where I live. Just warming you up. Walking alone. Walking alone when all of a sudden you look down. Doesn’t make any difference. Maybe you wanna be by yourself. I understand what you mean.

You reach down. It’s a test designed to provoke an emotional response. A new life awaits you in the Off-world. Custom-tailored, genetically engineered humanoid. Climb and maintain. Over the landing threshold.

Sit down, cyberpunk.

Blade Runner cyberpunk GIF sit down

Walking the streets. Stop right where you are. Reaction time is a factor where I live. Three nights ago they tried to break through an electrical field crawling towards you on intergalactic runs. Incept date: 2016. Optimum self-sufficiency.

A basic pleasure model in the outer colonies to copy human beings. Fail-safe device. Go put the machine on it. Fluctuation of the pupil. Involuntary dilation of the iris. Just relax.

Plus the killing cyberpunk.

Blade Runner cyberpunk GIF smoking

I’d take him to the television. I’d kill it. He likes it so much he hangs it on your bedroom wall. A banquet is in progress. Commerce is our goal here. An experiment, nothing more. A strange obsession.

emotionally
inexperienced

Video teasers for syn3rgy, ket3m’s new ep

Some time ago, Ket3m (Shay Nassi aka Mise En Scene & Tom Kemeny aka Darmock) asked me if I would like to do a promo video for the release of their new ep, entitled syn3rgy. Ket3m involves experiments in minimalism, abstraction and the deconstruction of acoustic mathematical patterns. The ep is yet to be released, but you can listen to one of the tracks in The Wire Tapper 32, included in The Wire 354 August issue.

Ket3m sent me two one-minute excerpts of a couple of tracks and, as I’m obsessed with the relationship between sound and image, I thought that it would be interesting to translate the sounds directly into images. I mean a real transposition, not an arbitrary interpretation. In order to achieve that, I chopped the tracks in very short fragments and I saved all that tiny sound files as jpg to use them as frames. The result are this two videos in which what you see are exactly the same files that what you hear.