May 28, 2007

Norm Ferguson, Webb Smith, and the Pluto flypaper sequence

An absolutely fascinating and must-read article by Michael Barrier examining some rare Pluto drawings.

Thanks to an anonymous collector(I think I know who that might be--and if I'm right--email or call me, you-who-shall-not-be-named! I need to talk to you), Barrier has posted some wonderful pages of sketches of Pluto, studies for that famous stuck-on-flypaper sequence in "Playful Pluto"--not only a very funny cartoon bit in itself, but exceptional enough that none other than Preston Sturges chose to feature it in the climax of his masterpiece "Sullivan's Travels"(Joel McCrea's Sullivan is a prisoner in a chain gang, taken for a rare "movie night" at a local black church; when he sees the desperate, beaten, dead-end prisoners laughing their guts out at Pluto's antics, he has an epiphany that stands as Sturges' own personal and professional credo).

Here's just one page--go to Barrier's blog to see more:

image courtesy of

I personally don't believe that these are gag drawings, but agree with John Canemaker's assessment that they look much more like they'd come from the animator himself(Ferguson, the great Pluto expert). That said, they are more finished than one might expect of 'Fergie', so perhaps Barrier's other suggested possibility is true--that it's the work of yet another, third party studying the Ferguson sequence.

In any case, It's just great to be able to see rare material like this. Many thanks to Barrier and his generous contributor.


Ward Jenkins said...

One way to tell is to check the handwriting styles of this series and with known handwriting of Fergie. I say this only because that's how I usually have to find out about various illustrators who do not get credit in their work sometimes.

To me, it does look like animator studies for that particular sequence (I do this all the time), although the one telling item for me is when on Page 2 where it says "Might roll completely over" -- a person studying this sequence wouldn't say "might" since it has already been done. This could be Fergie's sketches/studies then. However, how different are the poses and silhouettes? I would think that if these were drawn by someone actually looking at the film then the drawings would be almost identical to what was already done on film. Fergie's drawings could be slightly off since he would be trying to get the poses down right. Maybe?

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

Jenny, sorry to be off-topic but what about your trip to Paris? Aren't you going to write anything about that? I'm dying to hear about what you saw there!

Jenny Lerew said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jenny Lerew said...

Hmmm...Ward(I get sucha kick out of writing that name, btw--if I had a boy that'd be a top contender), I think you're probably right. I'd better stay current on Mike Barrier's blog to see how people weigh in. You should email him your thoughts.

Eddie: off topic?! How could you?
Oh-of course that's okay! I definitely have Paris thoughts bursting through my breast and brain, but as I didn't get to Gobelins as planned(the marvelous animation school there), I am a little leery of such a digression--purely travel-culture-oriented thoughts on what I try to keep an animation blog--Charles Nelson Reilly eulogies notwithstanding. ; )
But I so want to write about it that I will post something on my Sketchbook blog anon. We're just kind of swamped here lately...Paris deserves the best composition I can manage! Thanks for asking, though--I'm tickled you still want to know.

Anonymous said...

"...although the one telling item for me is when on Page 2 where it says "Might roll completely over" -- a person studying this sequence wouldn't say "might" since it has already been done. "

Although in the days before the vcr, the person could be drawing this sequence from memory.

They might be trying to draw out the whole sequence after being in the screening room... They could be unclear over whether Pluto rolls completely over at that point or not.


Oh my god those are fantastic!