Warner “cartoon craze”. The Golden Age of animation started

Warner Bros were one of the many successful animation studios during the Golden Era. They bought the studio from Leon Schlesinger in 1944 who founded it in 1933. Together they made Looney tunes and Merrie Melodies. During the time that the Warner Bros finally got their own studio, sound and colour cartoons were introduced. Sound cartoons existed before but they were more music and tune based rather than giving sounds to respective actions. Warner Bros are currently not as famous as Walt Disney or 20th Century Fox but between 1930 and 1960, Warner Bros and Walt Disney were almost at the same level and that is because of the ‘Golden age’. 

Before the Golden Age there was a silent age of animation. This period lasted between 1900s and 1920s. That is the time when animation started to get noticed by people. Budgets for these animations w rather low however people thought they were still important and original. Those animations consisted of comic strips and speech bubbles, so the audience could somewhat understand what was happening on the screen even without the sound describing the action. “The earliest known/existing cartoon as we know it is the 1908 French short film Phantasmagorie by Emile Cohl”. 1 There were many experiments with stop motion as well as drawn animation, however Phantasmagorie was plainly and successfully drawn by hand. The animation itself was really well presented and gave an illusion of it being a chalk drawing but actually it was an inverted drawing on glass instead. Thanks to the chalkboard illusion, this animation was a huge success during the Silent Age. During this Silent Age many other cartoon industries started to expand because of the “cartoon craze”. 

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The Golden Age of animation started in 1928 and lasted until 1969. “Golden Age of animation solidified its place in history as culturally relevant to what was happening in America”. 2 For the people viewing the animations, they seemed mature. This allowed the animations to have bigger audience because people thought animations were only for children, however after realising that cartoons can also be for adults more people begun to enjoy them. The reason that people stopped viewing the animations as childish was also because WW2 was going on during that time. This was one source of entertainment and happiness that allowed people to stop and not think about the bad things that were happening around America, around the world. It was their escape from the reality. The American government used animation as a way to advertise. These sort of animations encouraged people to donate things like metal, which allowed the government to create tanks and weapons. 

The Golden Age lost its popularity in the late 1950s. This was because the medium of television animation started to become popular. This meant that people preferred to watch cartoons and animations on their television at home, rather than paying a lot of money to watch it in theatres. Not every animation studio could afford to have their cartoons played on a television so eventually they went bankrupt and had to close their studios. Many characters from their animations lost their popularity. Only a few recognisable characters managed to survive such as “Mickey Mouse, Bugs Bunny, Mr. Magoo, and Tom and Jerry”. 3 Just after the Golden Age started to loose it’s popularity, few longer animations became recognised by the public. Unfortunately those longer animations were Disney creations which is understandable because Disney was more successful with his animations and had a bigger team to help him out with all frames. 

Merrie Melodies was a huge success for Warner Bros. during the Golden Age. This series didn’t have characters that appeared continuously but was really popular with the audience.  In 1943, the Warner Bros started to re-release some of their original series with colour onto their Blue Ribbon program. “All Blue Ribbon cartoons were released as Merrie Melodies cartoons regardless of the original series”.  4 With all their previous animations, the Warner Bros decided to add them to the Merrie Melodies series. The Merrie Melodies was a series that had short episodes that didn’t necessarily link with each other. That way it made it easier to put other short films together with the Merrie Melodies because the Blue Ribbon program had its own title cards and the other cartoons had to have theirs taken out if they wanted to be featured in the program.  

Warner Bros stuck with black and white animations. When animation was first introduced, it was an expensive medium. Not everyone could afford creating long, high quality animations, only successful studios could. Adding colour to the animation was time consuming and expensive. In order for Warner Bros to at least have some profit out of their animations, they decided to just stick with black and white. Warner Bros were not the only animation studio that decided to stick with black and white. Other studios that didn’t add colour to their animations were Fleischer and 20th Century Fox. Regardless how they did their animations, they were still popular with the audience. 2 

Just like with any other animation studio, Warner Bros also used cel animation as their way to animate. Cel animation is a technique which allows the animator to have layers of drawings on top of each other. They are hand drawn on a transparent sheet and each represent a different function or part of the animation. There will be one for the background, one for the objects and one for the characters. Animators tend to not do much work with the backgrounds of their animations since they don’t need to constantly change, however few animation studios like Warner Bros add depth to them. They add perspective and shadows to create a believable illusion of the scenery. “Stretch and squash”, is a way to add humour to the characters by stretching and squashing them when they get thrown at something or drop down. This kind of distortion has a narrative to it. If it’s humour or sadness the stretch will somehow explain it by showing the movement of the character. From the Warner Bros film Draftee Daffy, the character’s head is squashed down. The reason for his action is because he is surprised or upset about Daffy falling down from a bomb blast. Just by looking at the distortion, we can tell his emotions therefore it shows a narrative. Not every character’s distortion had a narrative to it. It can be purely for abstract reasons, however it caught the audience attention better if there was a meaning and narrative behind it. 5

Although Warner Bros are not so popular right now, during the Golden Age they managed to be almost on the same level as Disney in popularity. They had showed that there can be amazing and successful animations even if they are just black and white. Warner Bros helped viewers to understand and appreciate what the Golden Era was about. Between 1930 and 1960, the Golden Age was an age where short and happy animations with sound and colour were popular. They were popular because the people needed that little bit of happiness in their lives as well as a distraction from World War II. Even after the Golden Age started to become less popular, the Warner Bros still managed to stay on the top list with the other animation studios, they have even added colour because their budget allowed them to which, as a result, gave them higher profits in the end

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