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Arts and Entertainment

Four Questions for Animation and Cartoon Historian Jerry Beck

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Still from the Columbia cartoon The Puppet Murder Case / Courtesy of Sony.

Still from the Columbia cartoon The Puppet Murder Case / Courtesy of Sony.
Jerry Beck is an LA-based animation and cartoon historian who's authored or co-authored many books on the subject, including Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies: A Complete Illustrated Guide to the Warner Bros. Cartoons, The Art Of Bee Movie, The Hanna Barbera Treasury and Nicktoons.

Beck currently has a regular monthly gig with writer/performer Frank Conniff to produce a live comedy show, Cartoon Dump, at the Steve Allen Theatre in Hollywood. But tonight, he curates a very special evening of animation at the Silent Movie Theatre: "Juvenile Mindrot: Inappropriate and Disturbing Kids' Cartoons" (as mentioned in our Pencil This In column). He's bringing shorts that were once deemed suitable for kids -- but certainly aren't now. They're sick and twisted, in a mostly unintentional way.

LAist did a quick e-mail interview with Beck about tonight's show:

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Tell us what's in store for people who'll come to see "Juvenile Mindrot: Inappropriate and Disturbing Kids' Cartoons"?
We are showing several cartoons, created as theatrical cartoon shorts in the 1930s and 40s which, though aimed at kids back then are no longer suitable for our children today. For example "No If's And Or Butts" finds Buzzy Crow (a black stereotype) trying to help his friend Katnip the cat kick his nicotine habit. It's extremely violent, promotes smoking and is racist! Several of tonight's cartoons are films that were personally disturbing to me. For example, the Max Fleischer Color Classic "Ants In the Plants" which concerns the battle of an army of ants against a hungry anteater. The anteater's snout looks like a giant male sex organ and it is shown chasing the ants through their ant tunnels... the whole thing is like a bizzarre sex dream.

How did you foster your love of cartoons and animation?
I was the classic nerd in high school who went home after class to read comic books and watch old cartoons. When I discovered how cool the old cartoons were -- pre-television era -- I became a champion for them. First it was a hobby, then part-time and now I spend full-time writing books, my blog ( and consulting to the studios on what classic cartoons to release on DVD.

What are your all-time favorite series/movies/ and/or characters?
Bugs Bunny and the Warner Bros. cartoons are the best... but I love so many of the older films from Disney, MGM and the Max Fleischer (Paramount) studio. It's hard to pick!

How has animation changed over the decades? Technologically and plotwise?
Animation was more fun in the old days when the artists actually drew the cartoons and were allowed to create the stories, not "writers." Pixar still does it the old way, and that's one of the secrets to their success.

Juvenile Mindrot: Inappropriate and Disturbing Kids' Cartoons
Silent Movie Theatre
611 N. Fairfax Ave.
Tickets $13
8 pm

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