Friends, for this week’s Toon In offering we are not going with the traditional cell animation for this go around, but a classic 1947 bit of “stop-motion” animation courtesy of the George Pal Studio. One of his popular Puppetoon series of theatrical shorts, 8 of which you might be interested to learn were Oscar nominations. That includes Tubby the Tuba which was originally released to movie theaters back on July 11th of 1947, although I must point out that the Academy Award went to Tweetie Pie, which happened to be the very first Merrie Melodies animated short to feature the characters of Sylvester and Tweety Bird.
To be fair, the Puppetoon series was a subgenre of stop-motion animation called replacement animation. A technique where the animator uses multiple premade parts on the stop-motion model, many time those will involve facial features, with the artist just snapping them on and off. For a fantastic example of the replacement animation style, one need only recall the exceptional The Nightmare Before Christmas from back in 1993 or Coraline from 2009.
When all was said and done, around 70 Puppetoon shorts were created between 1932 until 1948, George Pal would have done more however but the cost of making them soared after World War II. As I have read online it has been reported that a theatrical short animated this way would take thousands and thousands of carved parts. Although the ceasing of making such animated shorts ended up being a boon for Pal, as he would go on to become a director of such live action films as 1960’s The Time Machine – which did in fact feature stop-motion animation.
In Tubby the Tuba we are introduced to a cast of characters that make up an anthropomorphic orchestra. The titular character is not happy though as he feels left out of the fun of playing beautiful melodies like those his fellow instruments provide. All seems lost for Tubby until he happens to come across a very helpful frog, who on seeing how depressed he has become gifts him with a tune that is appropriate for a tuba. The question of course is will this be enough to impress the conductor of the orchestra?
You might be interested to know that Tubby the Tuba was based off a 1945 song of the same name by Paul Tripp and George Kleinsinger, with the Puppetoon short featuring narration by Victor Jory (Gone with the Wind).