Steve Younis wrote:It has been well documented that when Paramount Pictures approached Fleischer Studios about producing a series of animated shorts dedicated to Superman they were less than enthusiastic about taking on the project, quoting a figure of $100,000 per episode (four times the going rate of the time), thinking the price would be too high for Paramount to accept and that would be the end of that. However Paramount said, "Okay, go ahead" and the rest (as they say) is history.
While the Fleischer Superman would obviously be based on the character drawn by Joe Shuster as seen in "Action Comics" and "Superman" comic books, they employed a technique known as "Rotoscoping" in which real-life figures were traced in ink, frame by frame, making the animated figures more believable.
Whether he was used in this fashion or not is unknown, but professional wrestler Karol Krauser was used as the male model by the Fleischers to aid in their portrayal of Superman for the animated shorts.
Born August 24, 1912 in Hollyoke, MA, Karol is best known as one of the Kalmikoff Brothers, Mad Russians, in the wrestling world of the 1950s and 1960s. In 1939 or 1940 Krauser modeled for the Fleischer Studios in Florida for the Superman animated shorts.
Interestingly, Stan Laurel (from Laurel and Hardy) was best man at his Krauser's wedding.
Karuser died of a heart attack immediately following his wrestling match in Salt Lake City on September 12, 1964.
Andy Khouri wrote:We were big fans of Superman Classic, the animated fan film created by Rob Pratt, when he released it online early last year. Inspired by the old live action Superman serials and Fleisher Studios cartoons of the 1940s, the one-minute short was produced in traditional hand-drawn animation and depicted a Superman adventure that was equal parts action and charm, exemplifying the character's classic style.
Pratt, an animator for Disney, has finally returned with his next installment: Bizarro Classic, which comes with even more of everything we loved about his first short.
[Via Cartoon Brew]
Brendon Connelly wrote:Robb Pratt‘s Superman Classic was a lovely tribute to the Fleischer Superman toons, filtered heavily through the director’s Disney-trained sensibilities. It was a lovely indication of how the classic Superman characters and tone would, even still, translate to the screen.
He’s now followed up with Bizarro Classic. You can watch the clip here, plus a little explanation of how it was put together
There’s a bit of a mismatch between styles when the acting gets really eye-popping, but Pratt’s onto something here. Something that I very much doubt Warner Animation will ever get too close to. And that was a neat bit of backwind in Bizarro’s music cues, not to mention his line of dialogue.
Thanks to Cartoon Brew for the embed.
And here’s the 3D version. It doesn’t make use of YouTube’s stereo options, unfortunately, but anybody with anaglyphic specs can join in.
Neil Cole wrote:The Superman Super Site recently had the opportunity to talk with veteran animator Robb Pratt about his two original animated shorts, "Superman Classic" and "Bizarro Classic" which debuted yesterday.
In the following exclusive interview, Pratt talks about such topics as his childhood desires to be an animator, working for Walt Disney Animation Studios and his inspirations for creating the animated shorts based on the Man of Steel.
SuperSite: When did you first realize you wanted to become an artist/animator and what inspired you pursue it as a career?
Pratt: I knew very young that not only did I love drawing, but seeing the drawings move and combining it with sound and paintings just seemed like magic to me. Even in kindergarten, I was telling my friends that I was going to be an animator when I grew up! I loved the classic Looney Tunes shorts and the Fleischer Popeye's, as well as the old Tom & Jerry's and that was just IT for me!. Growing up in North Hollywood, California, I remember whenever my family and I would drive by the Disney Studio in Burbank, I knew that I wanted to work there someday.
SuperSite: You have worked on many animated films for Walt Disney Animation Studios including Pocahontas, Hercules, Tarzan and Fantasia 2000. What has been your favorite project and why?
Pratt: Regardless of how any of the projects came out, they were always a thrill to be on because I totally believed in them while I was working on them. Also, at Disney, each project always had animation superstars that I idolized, so it was a pretty amazing experience. I'd have to say that my favorite, though, was animating Kerchack on "Tarzan". The studio made a deal with the local zoo, so for a couple months leading up to production we could go there to study the gorillas and draw them. It really felt like all those old-timey Disney documentaries that showed the classic animators study deer for "Bambi" or elephants for "Dumbo". It gave me this sense that I was carrying on this wonderful Disney tradition.
SuperSite: In 2011, you put together a wonderful animated short entitled "Superman Classic". What were your inspirations & reasons for creating a short based on the Man of Steel?
Pratt: To say that I am an avid Superman fan is a gross understatement! It's an obsession that, well, I'd be embarrasssed if you knew just how deep it went! Because I'm so close to this character, it's often a frustrating experience for me to watch any movies or shows because I always think of how I would like to do it. Sure, there are things I love in pretty much every incarnation of him, but then things I'm not crazy about. I felt that if I were to ever do it, I could combine all the things I love together, like the Fleischer art style, but with the Christopher Reeve take on Clark, and so on. I had a period of time about a year and a half ago that it looked like I might be unemployed, or maybe a better way to look at it, "inbetween jobs", so I figured I wouldn't waste any of this downtime, but instaed be productive with it. I figured I'd wake up every morning like I would if I had a job, and start working on my own version of Superman! Fortunately, I never did get laid off at work, but once I started running with the concept, I had to see it through! It was just so fun!
SuperSite: Former "Adventures of Superboy" actor, John Haymes Newton and his wife Jennifer provided the voices of Superman & Lois Lane in the animated short. What led to your decision to cast them in their respective roles and how did they react when initially asked to voice the characters?
Pratt: Right about the time I was just describing, I ran into John and Jennifer at a Halloween kids' gathering. I recongnized John and elbowed my wife saying "That guy played "Superboy"! I went up to him and introduced myself, asking if I could get a picture with him, and we immediately hit it off and became good friends! When I started to conceptualize my short, I had John and Jennifer over to my house and pitched them the idea. Before I could even ask, John offered to voice it and that sealed the deal! I got lucky to get Jennifer in it, too, because I think she's the obsolute perfect Lois Lane!
SuperSite: "Superman Classic" has received overwhelming critical acclaim and positive reviews. Did you expect that type of reaction and were you at all worried about how the animated short would be received?
Pratt: Whenever you display your art, you fantasize that people will embrace it, but after laboring over it for months it was nerve-wrecking to finally post it. I remember being up late that night, thinking "this has been just for me and my close friends and now the WHOLE WORLD can see it!" I'm not ashamed to admit that I downed a big glass of vodka just to knock me out so I could get some sleep, but that only worked for a couple of hours! By six in the morning, I woke up and dashed to the computer. It's hard to descrie the feelings I had when I saw the first few comments and they were all so positive! It's one of the greatest feelings I've had in my whole life, and it makes me want to make more to get that feeling back again once in a while.
SuperSite: As a follow-up, you have just debuted another animated short entitled "Bizarro Classic". Was it your initial plan to do another short?
Pratt: I didn't intend to make another one. I felt that it was A LOT of work, but it was a good portfolio piece that may someday get me more work. If I was going to work that hard again, I should probably put it into another thing to showcase other skills that I may have. Flash Gordon comes to mind. I think I have a very clear vision of what I'd do with that character, so I thought maybe I'd do that next. I even have a design that I'm happy with. Then, I saw the wonderful adulation I got from "Superman Classic" and thought I'd love to see one of the classic villains in that Fleischer-style setting, since the Fleischer shorts don't have any supervillains (the concept of a supervillain had not yet been invented).
SuperSite: With all the various villains in the Superman rogues gallery, what led to your decision to focus the new animated short on Bizarro this time?
Pratt: I love Bizarro because I think he's been underused. He was so popular in the 1960s that he had his own title, but he's not been in any of the movies. Whenever he's been animated, it's always been in limited form for TV, and I wanted to animate all those cracks in his face with the old squash and stretch technique. I also wanted to show him as something more of a threat to Superman, and not the clunky, silly Bizarro that was on Saturday morning shows. It's great to combine one's passions as I had in making "Superman Classic". Not only do I love Superman, but I love art deco buildings and old cars and old music, so that was a way of combining everything that I think is cool. Well, although I'm not much of a horror fan, I do love zombies! So making Bizarro like a creepy, zombie version of Superman sounded very appealing to me.
SuperSite: Your rendition of Superman in both "Superman Classic" and "Bizarro Classic" features a mix of traits from various actors who have portrayed the Man of Steel over the years. Which actor(s) are your favorites and your greatest inspiration when creating the two animated shorts?
Pratt: I think George Reeves made a fantastic Superman. He was so charismatic and confident, and a real slice of mid-century America. Nothing comes even close to Christopher Reeve's Clark Kent. He really embodied the concept of the empowered nerd that for me, is the basis of the entire superhero idea. If I were to do a whole series of Superman, I'd use Clark as the comedy relief, and Superman for the action/adventure. He'd barey speak in my version, and be more of a mysterious good guy that shows up and saves the day, then flies away without getting attention. I love his costume, but it is a bit silly (although I would never change it!) and it's made for ACTION. He should never stand around in it making speeches - it's then that the costume looks silly. It looks fine when it's in action.
SuperSite: From initial idea to final product, how long did the process take in creating "Superman Classic" and "Bizarro Classic" and can fans expect to see another original animated short in the future?
Pratt: Each one took about a year because I work full time and am a family man. I try not to let it interrupt my time with my wife or kids, so I only work on it late at night when everyone is sleeping. That means for the year I'm only getting 4 or 5 hours of sleep each night, and right now after just finishing up on "Bizarro", I'm EXHUASTED! Everyone's responce to "Bizarro Classic" has been extremely positive, so it would be fun to do more, so long as I can make it different (yet the same) as the other two. There are people that I would love to have work on it with me to be sure that the next one is new and exciting, and if that could come together, that would keep me engaged.
SuperSite: Thank you for your time in participating in this interview. Both of your animated shorts are truly a feast for the eyes and a wonderful entry into the animation universe of Superman!
Pratt: Thank you! It's always a pleasure to talk about Superman!
View Pratt's latest animated short, "Bizarro Classic" at YouTube.com.
In 2011, Superman Classic caught the online community by surprise. The traditionally animated short breathed new life into many of the hallmarks associated with the iconic superhero. But most impressively, it had been created by one man in his spare time, in one year: Robb Pratt. He followed that success with last year’s well-received sequel, Bizarro. Now, in an Animated Views exclusive, Pratt is thrilled to announce his next project: Flash Gordon Classic.
AV: Let’s talk about your next big project: Flash Gordon Classic. What do you have in store for fans of the character?
RB: Flash Gordon is amazing! You asked if I had planned on doing another Superman short after Superman Classic. Well, I was not going to do another Superman short right away – Flash Gordon Classic was what I wanted to do next. It is very much in the same passion and love for that kind of World War II/1940s/Saturday matinee/pulp feel that I’m trying to get out of Superman. Flash Gordon is just the coolest, and I see a lot of parallels with the Superman projects, where this retro/futuristic setting could be so exciting. I love the ’80s movie; I think it’s really fun. But I thought, “Wow, what an opportunity it would be to do it in more of a retro setting!”
Also, I’m a big Star Wars fan. Superman is my favorite character, but Star Wars is my favorite movie. I’ve always known that Lucas got a lot of his inspiration from the Flash Gordon serials. So, immediately, that made me want to investigate the serials. Now that I’ve watched them, I just adore them. There is just so much coolness going on in them. The fan in me sees any Flash Gordon project, like a cartoon or that ’80s movie, but then sees it doesn’t have that pulp/’40s feel to it, and I’m like, “Wow, I wish somebody had done that.” Well, I’m going to be the one to do it! I think it will be a lot of fun to do. The more research I do on the character, the more it seems like he’s such an untapped – well, I say “untapped,” but really Lucas has tapped a lot of it. Still, Flash Gordon seems like a character that has really been underused lately. I’d like to shine a spotlight on him and how cool he is.
AV: You got John Newton for Superman Classic. Should we expect any actors associated with previous Flash Gordon projects to voice the hero?
RB: That would be my dream. I haven’t secured it yet, but I definitely will make every effort I can to get someone from the Flash Gordon “family” involved. Absolutely, that is a goal.
AV: Can you reveal which characters will appear? I’m guessing one of them will be Flash Gordon, of course.
RB: [laughs] You know what’s great? This sci-fi writer who’s been corresponding with me mentioned something that’s stuck in my head. He said, “There’s almost a ‘kitchen sink’ approach to writing for Flash Gordon: Anything that sounds cool, throw it in!” So, reptiles holding laser guns? Throw them in! Winged hawk-men? Throw them in! Women who are chained up while a monster is trying to eat them? Throw them in! Anything that sounds cool – because Flash Gordon’s universe is so big.
The challenge now is that I can only animate so much. I’m going for two and a half minutes on this one, whereas Bizarro was a minute and a half. Flash Gordon will be a longer short, because of the challenge to make it Flash Gordon Classic – trying to find the “classic” essence of this character within two and a half minutes.
With that said, I’d be cheating the public if I didn’t have at least his five main characters: Flash Gordon; his girlfriend, Dale Arden; his sidekick, Dr. Hans Zarkov; and then you have to have Ming the Merciless and Ming’s sexy daughter, Princess Aura. I’m also going to sneak in other references and anything I can in this two and a half minutes.
AV: How long have you been working on Flash Gordon Classic?
RB: Not very long. It’s been in the back of my mind for years and years now. But I’ve really only sat down and drawn on it for the past three months, to put the animatic together. I’ve begun animating, but I’m only about three shots in. But the animatic is together.
AV: Do you have a release date?
RB: I don’t. I’ll be racing to do it. The other two shorts took about a year each. I’m guessing this one will take about a year, even though it will be longer in length. I’m hoping to get Flash Gordon done in a year or sooner. I’m going to see if I can get a little bit more help on this one than I have in the past. Of course, if I were working on it full-time, it would be done much quicker. But it’s just finding those hours in the middle of the night to get it done.
AV: Whenever the short comes out, it’ll probably get a couple thousand hits just from Seth MacFarlane.
RB: That would be so cool! In a way, he stole a lot of my thunder. My favorite part of Ted is seeing Sam J. Jones, the Flash Gordon from the 1980 movie, make an appearance. I was laughing my butt off! It’s my favorite part of the movie. At the same time, I was like, “Aw! I wanted Sam J. Jones to work with me on Flash Gordon Classic!” I’ll still definitely try to hit him up. But he may be harder to get since he was in that giant-hit movie.
AV: You wrote in YouTube’s comment section for Superman Classic: Bizarro that you’re storyboarding Lex Luther Classic and a Batman/Superman teamup. Can you talk any about those?
RB: Sure! Like I mentioned, when Superman Classic did so well, I storyboarded several adventures. So, I do have one with a Batman/Superman teamup – and Batman in that ’40s setting is just the coolest thing ever! I’ve even gone as far as taking that storyboard and synching it with a lot of sound effects and music from the old Batman serials.
As for Lex Luther Classic, it’s great because there’s so much debate in the comics world about Lex Luther. There are two versions of Lex Luther: the “mad scientist on the run” Lex, and the industrialist Lex. For the Classic Lex, I have an idea on how to handle it in a way that I’m happy with, and I hope other people would be happy with it, too. It has fun references that span different eras of Superman. I have not storyboarded that one, although I have scripted it.
A friend of mine helped me script Lex Luther Classic. Through all of this Superman stuff, I’ve made friends with this kid in Ireland named Emmet O’Brien. Emmet has always volunteered, “Hey, if you want help writing stuff…!” So, I had an idea for Lex Luther, but I didn’t have it all the way. Emmet gave a more fleshed-out version of the idea. Then we went back-and-forth a couple of times, and now we have a version of the script I’m really happy with. We’ve been corresponding over the internet. I’ve never met him face-to-face, but I feel like we’re quite close now.
I said to him, “I also want to do Flash Gordon Classic, but I don’t know Flash like I know Superman.” Well, Emmet is just a nerd for Flash Gordon, and he knew all the ins and outs of the character. Whenever I had an idea, I could run it by Emmet and go, “Is this ‘classic’ Flash Gordon? Would this really represent him well?” He was a good guy to sound off for that. He helped me write a little bit of Flash Gordon.
Anyway, that’s where we have Lex Luther Classic and the Superman/Batman teamup. They’re sitting in my computer. I hope to get to them someday. When I look to the future, I could have done three Superman Classics, or I could have done two Superman Classics and a Flash Gordon Classic – the second choice sounded like the better way to go. But I can’t deny my friendship with John Newton and his availability to do the voice. I can’t deny Superman forever. I hope to get back to those someday.
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