Monday, November 14, 2011

The Ant and The Aardvark Part One

One of my favorite cartoons growing up was The Ant & The Aardvark, which was a part of the Depatie Freleng Pink Panther show that ran on NBC for something like a gazillion seasons. Actually the show started with a half hour in the late 60's, expanding to an hour and then an hour and a half in the early 70's!
The cartoons felt hipper than the older Looney Tunes stuff, even though the Depatie Freleng staff basically reused a whole lot of old Warner Bros gags. The thing about these cartoons though was the unique voice characterizations of John Byner doing impressions of Dean Martin (The Ant) and Jackie Mason (The Aardvark) in the guise of two odd ball cartoon stars. What really made these cartoons special was the great line reads by Byner. They're simply not your standard cartoony cartoon voices. It's really hard to believe that Byner did all these characters because you don't hear his vocal voice print (Even with some of the classic voice artists like Paul Frees, Mel Blanc and Daws Butler, you could tell who was doing those voices). To top off the uniqueness of these cartoons, the jazzy music by Doug Goodwin creates what I call a drunken type of music that really works. Everything adds to the fun! In Technology Phooey (The cel above is from that very cartoon) the Aardvark has to deal with the Ant and a computer (also voiced by Byner doing a pseudo Paul Lynde impression) who gives him very bad advice. It's one of my favorite Ant & The Aaardvark cartoons!  Even though it seemed like they produced a lot of these shorts, in reality only 17 were made between 1969 and 1971. Art Leonardi, who was a Warners guy back in the late years of that studio, moved to DFE and was a key guy there doing lots of different things. I later worked with him on Tiny Toon Adventures in the late 80's. He's credited as animator on this particular short and did all 17 of the cut out titles.  Take a look at the short below...
Somewhere over the last twenty years, I started collecting animation art from Depatie Freleng's early years and stumbled across a bunch of original cels from The Original Ant & Aardvark series (many from this short). Because I had never seen too many originals ever offered through the years, I decided to buy whatever I could. Fast forward to now and a lot of these cels are just sitting in a closet where they will probably never be displayed the way they should. So I decided to let a few go on ebay so that other people might enjoy them. I will post some of my other original Ant & The Aardvark art over the next couple of weeks.

7 comments:

Brubaker said...

I talked to John Byner on the phone a while back. He remembers having a blast doing the voices. It was Friz Freleng who called him into his office to audition for the role. He showed him the drawings and John did the voices on the spot.

Special credit should also be given to John W. Dunn, who created the characters before even joining DFE, and Corny Cole, who did the character designs.

Brian Mitchell said...

Yes, Corny Cole designed the characters, but in my book John Dunn was the heart and soul of DFE and these cartoons. The giant ant stamper (a big shoe) seems like a Dunn inspired design and gag.

Chris Sig said...

I'm so glad to see an Ant and Aardvark blog post after so long - something I've covered briefly in the past, actually, albeit with the new shorts from the "Pink Panther and Pals" series. Ever got to see them, perchance?

As for Art Leonardi's work, I've been wondering this myself - which scenes does he animate here? Would make recognising his work much easier if I go through the DFE library again =)

Brubaker said...

I do know that the shadowboxing scene in the Panther short "In the Pink" was animated by Leonardi.

That was one of the few times an animator improvised a scene; the gag played out differently in the original storyboards. Hawley Pratt loved the pencil test so much that they decided to use it in the finished film.

Brian Mitchell said...

Art Leonardi ended up working on a lot of different things at DFE. He was still very young when he came over from Warners (Actually it sounds like he made some sort of trip to get to DFE. In reality, DFE took over the Warner Cartoon Departments facility on California Street in Burbank!)
It seems like they spread him out on a bunch of different cartoons doing multiple job functions. He was DFE's Jack Of All Trades! I'm sure he had a big hand in developing new cartoons as well. I'm not exactly sure what he animated...I'll leave that to all of you to figure out.

Brubaker said...

Yeah, when I talked to Art he said that he was essentially the studio's troubleshooter. Any work that they needed in time and no one else was available (whether animation, layouts, character design, directing, fixing other artists' mistakes, washing Friz Freleng's car, etc.) he would do.

Almudena said...

Almudena....comment from Germany. My three brothers and I grew up with the Aardvark which is called blue Elise here. Just yesterday we sat and were reciting scenes from it breaking out in laughter. One of my brothers uttered the wish that he would love to have a picture for after his move into a new home after divorce. So I went looking ...nowhere could I find a piece online. He then suggested I paint it, which I really may do...but I just wanted you to know that there is folks far away who to this date cherrish the delicated verbage, the voices and the fun stories of the ant and the aardvark. Kind regards from Bavaria. Almudena