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.

Harmony was a capitalist plot to sell pianos

—Do you perform often?
—Only at poor attended concerts for postgraduates.
—That’s a shame, why do you think that is?
—Because once you move away from tonality and harmony the audience is very small.
—That’s because harmony is science. Harmony is physics.
—Harmony was a capitalist plot to sell pianos.

(Untitled) (2009).

Pillow Talk (1959)


When I started watching Douglas Sirk’s melodramas last week, Rock Hudson made me think of those old romantic comedies with Doris Day. When I was a kid, in the Eighties, Spanish television repeated a lot that kind of films, and I loved them, but I haven’t watched any of them since then. I thought that maybe right now this kind of films could seem too innocent, or even reactionary, but the truth is that Pillow Talk is still funny, and not so naive as I remembered it.

English As She Is Spoke

English as She Is Spoke is the common name of a 19th century book written by Pedro Carolino and falsely additionally credited to José da Fonseca, which was intended as a Portuguese-English conversational guide or phrase book, but is regarded as a classic source of unintentional humour, as the given English translations are generally completely incoherent. Carolino added Fonseca’s name to the book without the latter knowing about it. Fonseca had written a successful Portuguese-French phrase book, which Carolino adapted.

The humour appears to be a result of dictionary-aided literal translation, which causes many idiomatic expressions to be translated wildly inappropriately. For example, the Portuguese phrase chover a cântaros is translated as raining in jars, whereas an idiomatic English translation would be raining buckets.

Mark Twain said of English as She Is Spoke that “Nobody can add to the absurdity of this book, nobody can imitate it successfully, nobody can hope to produce its fellow; it is perfect.”

Wikipedia
Complete facsimile of English as She Is Spoke (1883)

Watchings

Half Nelson (2006)
Ryan Fleck

Lars and the Real Girl (2007)
Craig Gillespie

Sound of Noise (2010)
Ola Simonsson, Johannes Stjärne Nilsson

The Shock Doctrine (2009)
Mat Whitecross, Michael Winterbottom

How I Met Your Mother, Seasons 1-6 (2005-2011)
Carter Bays, Craig Thomas

Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008)
Nicholas Stoller

True Blood, Season 4 (2011)
Allan Ball

The IT Crowd, Seasons 1-4 (2006-2010)
Graham Linehan

Drive (2011)
Nicolas Winding Refn

Fiction and paper on a summer’s day

[just ten, in no particular order]

The Toy Collector, James Gunn.
The Buddha of Suburbia, Hanif Kureishi.
The Monk, Matthew G. Lewis.
Vurt, Jeff Noon.
Tales of the Unexpected, Roald Dahl.
Notes from Underground, Fyodor Dostoyevsky.
On Murder Considered as one of the Fine Arts, Thomas De Quincey.
The Cutting Room, Louise Welsh.
If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler, Italo Calvino.
Leviathan, Paul Auster.

Mis problemas con Amenabar

comic

Nunca he sido mucho de leer cómics, pero “Mis problemas con Amenabar” lo tenía pendiente desde hace tiempo por una razón muy simple, pero como no soy muy dada a soltar improperios contra nadie que cada cual saque sus conclusiones. Hacía tiempo que no me reía tanto yo sola…

Los autores del susodicho son Jordi Costa y Darío Adanti y está editado por Glénat.

Watchings

• Arduino The Documentary (2010) [watch]

Dead Set (2008)
Charlie Brooker

Misfits, Season 2 (2010)
Howard Overman

Sherlock, Season 1 (2010)
Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat

Dexter, Season 5 (2010)

Breaking Bad, Seasons 1-3 (2008-2010)
Vince Gilligan

Sons of Anarchy, Season 3 (2010)
Kurt Sutter

How I Met Your Mother, Seasons 1-5 (2005-2010)
Carter Bays and Craig Thomas

The Big Bang Theory, Seasons 1-3 (2007-2010)
Chuck Lorre and Bill Prady

Self Portrait as a Drowned Man

“This photograph, shot in 1840 and titled Self Portrait as a Drowned Man, is not of a drowned man, and if it had been it would be far less interesting or important. This humble image, so far as anyone knows, can claim all of the following honorifics- First instance of intentional photographic fakery. First photographic practical joke. First use of a photograph as propaganda / protest. And, quite possibly, a result of the world’s first reliable photographic process, direct positive or otherwise.” [read complete text at the nonist]