Will Ryan asks illustrator, cartoonist, animator, director Milton Knight about his worldwide artistic influences.
With many thank-yous to the endless efforts of Daniel Goldmark, a former staff producer/researcher at Rhino Records, the civilized world welcomes this long-planned collection of music. It is quite a package indeed.
I will begin my review with the very package itself -- a one-hundred-page hardcover mini-book containing tiny Warner Bros. cartoon art and several essays. First among the reading materials are the notes from the producer of the project, setting the CD contents in context. Next is a condensation of an earlier published writing by Jerry Beck and Will Friedwald which gives an overview, if slightly Friz Freling-tilted, on the history of this studio's cartoons.
Most impressive (because it has not before been published) is the essay by Keith Scott on the voices you can hear on this recording. Scott is one of the few voice actor professionals who also qualify as animation historians. His notes reveal for the first time to the general population the names of many of the talented individuals whose vocal gymnastics were either credited to or presumed by even "experts" to be "Mel Blanc." Mr. Blanc was a gifted performer who received sole credit in several films for which he provided no voices whatsoever. (Make that "many films," if you count the all the Roadrunner s for which he provided neither of the celebrated beeps.)
But you will enjoy his performances on this disc as well as those of many previously-uncredited singers. Carl Stalling and his many uncredited arrangers also shine. But who are his many uncredited arrangers? Sadly they remain precisely that -- uncredited. We know that Milt Franklyn was one of these anonymous music men, for he later ascended to the position formerly held by his credited supervisor, Stalling.
As for the artwork, some of it you have seen before and some of it you have not. It is a very tiny package, and thus the pictorials no matter how vital or rare cannot live in their full glory. This artwork was not designed as miniature paintings, which hold their own delight.
I cannot say too much about the music on this compact disc, as you, if you are a Westerner, have probably heard it all of your life. There are several fine medleys of singing and there are six complete cartoon soundtracks, including a personal favorite of mine, Book Revue (1946). In this film Daffy Duck sings in the style of Danny Kaye. But since the director, Robert Clampett, sped up the voice of Daffy to such a great extent, the resulting effect is one of superhuman vocal rapidity. This is most risible, as you may well imagine!
The sound quality of this recording is probably as good as it can be, and by that I mean that there is some distortion to be heard on some of these tracks. We must presume that only the finest quality source materials were employed and that, sadly, this is the best that remains from recordings originally made over sixty years ago. As the years draw closer to our own, the sound quality is noticeably improved.
I will conclude by stating that Mr. Goldmark has done a judicious job of selection and is to be commended, not only for his wise editing, but for his perseverance in seeing this project through before accepting a teaching position with a distinguished American university. He has provided the world with a great service by using his political skills and musical knowledge to make this CD available. My congratulations to his many future students. May he inspire them to follow his own noble path!
That's All Folks! Cartoon Songs from Merrie Melodies & Looney Tunes, compilation produced by Daniel Goldmark. Warner Bros./Rhino Records. 2 discs with 100-page booklet with black-and-white and color illustrations.
G. P. Gotsu is a published poet and filmmaker. His family's Manhattan-based restaurant is a popular dallying spot for artists, animators, high-powered ad agency executives and the occasional dissipated flaneur.