MGM Studio.doc - MGM Studio by suchenfz


									                                MGM Studio
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer was born in April of 1924 when three production companies,
Metro Pictures, Goldwyn Pictures and Mayer Productions, made the decision to
become the largest conglomeration of movie makers in the industry. Although MGM
was an immmediate success in the film industry, they were reluctant to venture into
the animation sector until Walt Disney made his splash. Even then, they entered the
                                                                animation realm
                                                                through the side door by
                                                                agreeing to distribute a
                                                                series entitled "Flip the
                                                                Frog" by Ub Iwerks, an
                                                                animator who worked
                                                                for Disney at the time.
                                                                Then, in 1934, MGM
                                                                signed Hugh Harmon,
                                                                Rudolf Ising, Carmen
                                                                Maxwell, Rollin
                                                                Hamilton, Norm
                                                                Blackburn, Larry
                                                                Martin, Robert Stokes
                                                                and Robert and Tom
                                                                McKimson, to form the
                                                                Happy Harmonies team.
                                                                Creating Happy
Harmonies allowed MGM to gain a foothold in the animation field, without actually
having to risk the potential failure of creating their own in-house animtion studio. The
intent behind the formation of this team was to follow closely in Disney's footsteps.

Harman and Ising, the leaders of the Happy Harmonies team, decided to produce one-
shot stories about cute, innocent animals that would personify a particular theme.
Early endeavours produced animations like "Poor Little Me", a story about a skunk
that partly followed the 'ugly little duckling' story and the "Calico Dragon", an
adventure story about a toy horse and a rag doll. Both series were immensely popular
as well as overnight successes. As a result, Harman and Ising directed their focus to
developing endearing characters with lovable personalities. In pursuit of this goal, the
next two series involved two playful puppies and an adorable mouse. Unfortunately,
as good as the initial series were, Happy Harmonies sooned earned a reputation for
polished, yet repitious work, due to their limited variation in themes. This and the
rather high costs Happy Harmonies was charging, led MGM to decide to create their
own in-house animation department.

MGM launched themselves full force into their latest endeavour and hired a slew of
people. Among the force they hired were: Bill Hanna, Max Maxwell, Bob Allen,
Emery Hawkins, Jack Zander, Joe Barbera and Friz Freleng. To lead all of these
animators, MGM chose Fred Quimby, a man who was reputed to have little or no
sense of humor. Then, against the opinion of their animators, the MGM honchos
bought the rights to a popular comic strip called "The Captain and the Kids." This
series, the newly formed studio's first project, was a failure. Disappointed with the
results, MGM decided to hire Milt Gross, a popular comic artist of the time. Gross led
the staff to produce an animation about two characters, Count Screwloose and his
Wonder Dog. Quimby balked at releasing them, but release them they did. The
animations were huge successes, but MGM decided to replace Gross with Harry
Hershfield, which only turned out to be a huge mistake.

                        Fred Quimby, at wits end with a failing animation
                        department on his hands, turned to Harman and Ising for
                        help. In the process of getting the studio back on it's feet,
                        Friz Feeling went back to his old job at Warner Brothers.
                        The new cartoons produced by the studio under Harman and
                        Ising were similar to their old projects. However, the
                        revamped team put out two animations during this time that
                        are of particluar note. The first was "The Bear That Couldn't
                        Sleep", which introduced the character of Barney Bear, a
                        huge, lovable bear with a very tangible personality. For the
                        next couple of years, Barney Bear starred in a slew of
                        engaging cartoons, but they seemed to lack a certain sense of
                        story necessary to keep the animations in the limelight. The
second animation of note, "Peace on Earth", was about animals living on the earth
after humans have annihilated themselves with numerous wars. "Peace on Earth" was
nominated for an Academy Award and was acknowledged as a work of art with a
powerful theme and entertaining characters. Following these successes, MGM's
animation studio produced many more animations, one such entitled "The Milky
Way", won an Academy Award, thus breaking Disney's seven year winnning streak.

                                   Finally, in the early 1940s, the studio created an
                                   animation that literally defined the future of MGM
                                   animation. This cartoon, "Puss Gets the Boot",
                                   directed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera, was about a
                                   cat and a mouse, who eventually became Tom and
                                   Jerry. In addition to solidifying MGM's place in
                                   animation, Tom and Jerry brought together Hanna
                                   and Barbera,
                                   who became an
                                   powerful team.
                                   For the next
                                   sixteen years,
                                   the duo worked
                                   on producing
                                   Tom and Jerry
exclusively, of which an average Tom and Jerry
cartoon took over a year and a half to complete.
Over the years, Tom and Jerry garnered seven
Oscars and seven Academy Awards. Tom and
Jerry's fame can be attributed to great stories,
hilarious gags and an overwhelming existence of
personality. In 1944, MGM introduced the concept of human and cartoon character
interaction with a scene where Gene Kelly is dancing with Jerry. This led to many
other Tom and Jerry episodes with actors like Esther Williams and Dave O'Brien.

Soon after the advent of Tom and Jerry, Harlan and Ising, both of whom originally
frowned upon the Tom and Jerry cartoons, left MGM as Tex Avery arrived. MGM
was fertile ground for Avery, and as a result, the studio soared to new heights. Avery,
a master of the visual pun, added the certain zest the studio needed to create its future
master- pieces. Avery also brought with him the idea of charcters interacting with
their world as if they truly existed. For example, characters would walk out of the
frame or talk to the artists drawing them. Many of Avery's creations were simply
vehicles for his jokes, like Droopy, a dog that existed only to foil evil-doers plots, and
lacked sufficient personality. The Wolf, Droopy's main adversary existed as a display
of excess libido, he was constantly chasing women and
drooling. In fact, the Wolf's libido is the driving force
behind Avery's "Red Riding Hood" creations, the first
to give an almost tangible sexuality to a female
character. This series also brought the drawing artistry
of a man named Preston Blair to the force.

Avery's next pet project was about a goofy squirrel
named Screwy, a take-off on the recent hits, Bugs
Bunny and Woody Woodpecker, of other studios.
However, Screwy was so extremely brash and
obnoxious that he died after four episodes. In 1950, Avery took a breather but
returned a year later, just in time for the advent of CinemaScope which changed
cartoons to the wide screen. This led to the develpoment of simpler character design
and smoother backgrounds. In 1954 Avery left MGM and Micahel Lah took over.
Avery's legacy for MGM was the effective use of visual impact, a sense of the absurd
and the idea of comic timing.

                                              Fred Quimby retired in 1955 and Hanna
                                              and Barbera took over. 1956 saw the last
                                              of the Tom and Jerry cartoons by Hanna
                                              and Barbera. In 1957, MGM closed its
                                              animation studio, ending over twenty
                                              years of animation and retiring Tom and
                                              Jerry. However, in the early 1960s,
                                              MGM decided to produce cartoons for
                                              the theater and hired Gene Deitch who
                                              produced 13 new Tom and Jerry
                                              cartoons. It is generally considered that
                                              these productions fell way short of the
earlier renditions, but they served to demonstrate that money could be made in
cartoons for the theater. MGM then signed on Chuck Jones and Les Goldman (of the
company Tower 12 Productions) to produce more Tom and Jerry cartoons, which
resulted in some of the best animations in the 60s. Unfortunately, these productions
are generally considered not very funny, but beautifully done. MGM brought Tower
12 Productions under their wing and renamed it MGM Animation/Visual Arts. At this
point, MGM chose to end the production of Tom and Jerry cartoons and instead
produced some Dr. Suess shorts and some other cartoons. Again, MGM decided to
close their animation department, but this time it was for good.

                                 MGM Studios

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