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Mickey Mouse

Arts Days: November 13, 1940: Animation as Art
This artful melding of classical music and animation, Fantasia is perhaps one of the most interesting experiments in the history of feature animation. Walt Disney, fresh from successes like Snow White and Sleeping Beauty, wanted to stretch animation beyond its traditional cartoon roots.

The film interpreted classical music through short bursts of animation, creating such classic sequences as Mickey Mouse’s star turn in The Sorcerer’s Apprentice and the fire and brimstone dance of Night on Bald Mountain. At this premiere, audiences listened to the film through Fantasound, a sound system that enriched the music by making it fuller and more dynamic. In 2000, Disney released a sequel of shorts with similar pairings of music and animation, including Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue.
Cartoons, Comics, & Animation, Innovators & Pioneers, Movies & Movie Stars, Music, Popular Culture

The Sesame Street Muppets

Arts Days: November 10, 1969: Street Smarts
Breaking new ground in the realm of children’s television, Sesame Street was one of the first shows to combine entertainment and education for young viewers. With a mix of appealing actors of all ethnicities, plus puppets created by Jim Henson, the show uses songs, dances, skits, animated sequences, and other vehicles to help kids learn about letters and numbers.

Moral messages—the importance of being kind, why it’s always best to tell the truth—are also communicated to audiences by the human and puppet stars of the show. From Big Bird, Elmo, Bert, Ernie, and Oscar the Grouch to Bob, Gordon, Maria, and Mr. Hooper, the cast has taught and continues to teach generations of children “the basics” while strolling down Sesame Street.
Innovators & Pioneers, Television, Education, Puppets, Cartoons, Comics, & Animation, America

Steamboat Willie

Arts Days: July 29, 1928: The Mouse That Roared
When Steamboat Willie debuted, it was the third cartoon to feature an early rendition of Mickey Mouse. In this seven-minute animated short directed by Walt Disney, Mickey is steering a steamboat, whistling a happy tune, sassing Captain Pegleg Pete, and trying to impress Minnie Mouse. Most of the short features Mickey creating an impromptu orchestra with a bunch of animals on the boat.

For its significance as a milestone in animation, Steamboat Willie is one of 25 films added to the National Film Registry in 1998.
Cartoons, Comics, & Animation, Movies & Movie Stars, Popular Culture, Innovators & Pioneers, Animals

A Wild Hare Title Card

Arts Days: July 27, 1940: Whatta Wabbit!
That irrepressible bunny named Bugs first popped out of his hole during a showing of The Wild Hare, only to ask the bumbling hunter Elmer Fudd the immortal question, “What’s up, Doc?”

As originally voiced by Mel Blanc, this rabbit has a wisecracking persona, a Brooklyn accent, and a knack for getting out of tough spots.  And let’s not forget, a penchant for carrots, which he gnaws on contentedly with his enormous buck teeth.

According to TV Guide, Bugs Bunny and Mickey Mouse are the top two cartoon characters of all time.
Cartoons, Comics, & Animation, Movies & Movie Stars, Popular Culture, Animals

Dr. Seuss

Arts Days: March 02, 1904: Doctor of Rhyme
Perhaps no author of children’s books is better loved around the world than Theodor Seuss Geisel, whom you probably know simply as Dr. Seuss. Whether it’s The Cat in the Hat or Green Eggs and Ham, Dr. Seuss’ many books combined fantastic creatures with fun, often made-up words set to rhythmic patterns that were designed to teach children how to read through simple repetition.

You might think his books were easy to write, but Dr. Seuss often used a form of poetic rhythm called “anapestic tetrameter.” This is a fancy way of saying that in the phrases he dreamed up, two unstressed syllables were followed by one emphasized one. Read these lines from The Cat in the Hat out loud and you might hear what we mean: “Have no fear, said the cat/I will not let you fall/I will hold you up high/As I stand on a ball.” The bolded words are naturally emphasized as you read them aloud.
Cartoons, Comics, & Animation, Innovators & Pioneers, Literature, Poetry, Popular Culture

Uncle Sam

Arts Days: March 13, 1852: Say Uncle
Within the printed pages of the daily New York Lantern, a certain patriotic fellow made his debut on this day. You know the guy: wears a tall hat printed with stars, a pair of red-and-white striped pants, a white beard, a somber expression. Give up? We’re talking about Uncle Sam, who in editorial cartoons and advertisements over the years has come to be the personification of the United States. Here’s the back-story: A man named Frank Henry Temple Bellew was the first to draw Uncle Sam for the Lantern.

Bellew’s drawing was based on a real person named Samuel Wilson, who helped feed U.S. troops during the War of 1812 with meat packed in barrels bearing the initials “U.S.” It was meant to indicate government property, but the folks unloading the beef joked about “Uncle Sam’s” latest shipment. Later, a political cartoonist named Thomas Nast conceived of the stars-and-stripes outfit in which we are most accustomed to seeing Uncle Sam today.
America, Cartoons, Comics, & Animation, Folklore, History, Military

The Phantom

Arts Days: February 17, 1936: The First Masked Man of Mystery
This disguised “ghost who walks” first began rescuing people from the clutches of the bad guy back before Batman, The Lone Ranger, and every other masked crusader that followed. For decades now, Lee Falk’s mysterious masked Phantom has captivated readers around the world with his incredible strength, his trained falcon Fraka, and his unshakeable pursuit of justice for the wronged.

On this day, the Phantom strip was kicked off in print with a story called “The Singh Brotherhood.” It was written and drawn by Falk for two weeks, then taken over for a while by an assistant. In fact, an army of other writers and artists contributed to the strip over the years, mimicking Falk’s style so closely that readers seldom suspected anyone but Falk was doing the work. Even Elizabeth Falk, Lee’s wife, stepped in when he died to finish the stories Lee began before his death: “Terror at the Opera” and “The Kidnappers.”
Cartoons, Comics, & Animation, Innovators & Pioneers, Popular Culture

Porky Pig and Daffy Duck

Arts Days: January 06, 1936: Be-Be-Be-Before the Bunny
Moviegoers were introduced to an adorable pink, pudgy, stuttering, Porky Pig in the Warner Brothers cartoon Gold Diggers of '49. Porky was the first animated character created by the studio and was featured in numerous cartoons and shorts, including regular roles in both the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies series. He is best known for his signature line that closes all of his cartoons, "Th-th-th-that’s all folks!"
Cartoons, Comics, & Animation, Comedy, Movies & Movie Stars, Popular Culture

Action Comics #1

Arts Days: June 01, 1938: A Superhero is Born
To readers’ delight, the Action Comics June 1938 issue featured a cover illustration of a certain dark-haired, muscled fellow lifting a car over his head. This was our first peek at Superman, also hailed as “The Man of Steel,” a handsome young man clad in blue tights, a red cape, and a yellow shield bearing the letter “S”—a costume that hasn’t changed all that much in the decades since.

One year later, Superman had a comic book series named after him. Readers, movie buffs, radio junkies, television viewers, and others—have never stopped devouring stories of Superman and his alter ego, Clark Kent.

The character was created by Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel, who imbued Superman with a mission to rid the world of evil using his superhuman strength, X-ray vision, and ironclad moral code.
Cartoons, Comics, & Animation, Popular Culture, Science Fiction & Fantasy, America

Mel Blanc

Arts Days: May 30, 1908: Toon Talker
Porky Pig, Bugs Bunny, the Roadrunner, Foghorn Leghorn, the Tasmanian Devil—all famous cartoon characters, right? Well, they have another thing in common. The same fellow, Mel Blanc, supplied their voices in thousands of cartoons from the 1930s through the 1980s.

Working for Warner Brothers and the animation house Hanna-Barbera, Blanc delighted generations of children with his boundless range of cute, silly, or booming voices that gave life to dozens of animated animals and people. He kicked off his career in 1927, working on a radio show called The Hoot Owls. As his career soared, he pushed for recognition of his work in closing credits of the cartoons (voice actors typically were not mentioned). He also practiced techniques for keeping his voice healthy, such as minimizing the amount of work of voices that were hard on his vocal cords.
Cartoons, Comics, & Animation, Movies & Movie Stars, Television

Multiplane Camera

Arts Days: May 01, 1940: Animation Toon Up
When Walt Disney invented the multiplane camera, the art of animation took an official giant leap forward.

This special camera used stacks of glass. The lower stack was painted with objects that do not move, such as furniture, and the upper stacks displayed figures that do, including a certain famous Mouse. When these elements work together, the result was a screen filled with detailed characters that moved realistically, scenery that cast “shadows,” and the visual richness we’ve since come to take for granted in today’s animation.

In 1937, the short, The Old Mill, became the first animated work created with the multiplane camera. But because it was so expensive to use, from then on Disney and his staff reserved the multiplane camera for feature film projects only.

By the way, the American Film Institute has named Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs the greatest animated film of all time.
Inventions, Cartoons, Comics, & Animation, Innovators & Pioneers, Movies & Movie Stars, Popular Culture

Momotaro's Divine Sea Warriors

Arts Days: April 12, 1945: Anime Nation
Anime, a special kind of movie animation unique to Japan and often inspired by Japanese comics called manga, has a huge following these days among kids and grownups alike all over the world. But on this day, when Momotaro’s Divine Sea Warriors was screened for the first time, director Mitsuyo Seo had just followed the orders he was given by the Japanese government: make a film promoting the heroic exploits of the Japanese navy.

Seo’s 74-minute movie, which features a character named Momotaro— an important figure in Japanese folklore whose name translates to “Peach Boy”—was full of talking animals wearing military uniforms and spouting propaganda. But his creation planted the seeds for decades of anime to come, created now by hand or more often with computer software.
Movies & Movie Stars, Popular Culture, Cartoons, Comics, & Animation, Japan

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