Friday, February 19, 2010

Frank "Tish Tash" Tashlin - Cartoon-y Director

Born this day in 1913, cinematic cartoon director and cartoony live action director Frank Tashlin would be 97 years old today!

Frank Tashlin was the guy who's mind was always on his next job. He was never complacent in any position he held, but rather was thinking of the things he wanted to do next.

I kind of understand this. Sometimes it takes so much effort and work to get somewhere, that by the time you get there, you've expended all the energy you have for that thing and your interest falls to what's coming next.

Tashlin went to work for Van Beuren animation studios in the early 1930's. Van Beuren was the knock-off version of Fleischer Brothers, the work there was cheap, hurried and uninspired. In this field though, he gained a reputation as being a very fast animator and was soon heading for Warner Brothers Cartoons in Hollywood.

While working for Leon Schlesinger's Merrie Melodies/Looney Tunes unit, he began moonlighting, doing a newspaper comic strip called "Van Boring", a jab at his old boss Van Beuren in New York, and was moderately successful. Then one day Leon (who was as sticky fingered a business man as you ever met) told Frank he wanted to get a piece of the action as well, since Frank officially worked for him. Frank told Leon where to go, and left Warners.

After a couple of years, Warners lost director Tex Avery to MGM, and Schlesinger (sleezeball though he was with money, he still knew talent...that's how he MADE money after all) hired Tashlin back, this time as a director.

Here's some of Tash's work from this period:

Termite Terrace (as the Looney Tunes animation facility was nicknamed) was right on the Warner Brothers movie lot, so during the day as Frank was working on cartoons, he would see the live action movie stars passing by and would often step out and chat with them. You'll also see an odd thing in Tash's cartoon's not cartoon camera angles he's using, but rather more cinematic shots like you'd see in a live-action film.

That's right, while Tash was a successful cartoon director, his mind was moving on to being a film director.

So he moved on too.

The ironic thing is, while his cartoon style was styled after dramatic angles you'd get in live action, once he got into directing films, he was a cartoonist all the way. The gags he wrote were pure cartoon over the tip fun and the situations he created were bigger than life. Which is why cartoons are better than life.

Here's a trailer for a Tashlin film made in the first years of a new music the kids are calling "Rock and Roll". Cartoon and Rock and Roll fun!

Below is the first segment of a Martin and Lewis film (their last) directed by Tashlin. It's really worth viewing the entire thing and YouTube has it all if you just continue to follow the links at the end of each segment. In this modern age of "huge event comic book" movies, this may be the best live-action-cartoon-about comic books ever made. Pure fun and inventiveness. It also got Shirley MacLaine (as The Bat Lady) a permanent spot in my "Spank Bank", all thanks to Frank's leg fetish! She's been there since I was a kid and first saw this gem.

Of course while Tashlin was working as a big budget feature film director...his mind was on his next task. He wrote and illustrated a few books, such as "The Possum That Didn't" and "The World That Isn't". While oft thought of as children's books, these are the best kind, one's where it takes an adult mind to fully understand what's being said.

In the early 1960's, while at MGM, former co-Termite Terrace director Chuck Jones directed a cartoon based on Tash's best known book "The Bear That Wasn't".

Tash passed away in 1972, after a long career...or should I say careers? career, doing everything that interested him. Animation, Cartooning, Directing, Writing, Illustrating (putting really good looking actresses in leg-revealing outfits), I'm very jealous.

Thanks Frank, for having fun with your life and doing some really great work while you were doing it!

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