TCM Movie Camp: Do Your Homework

Jun 15, 2015, Movie Camp
TCM’s “Movie Camp” hosts William Joyce, left, and Brandon Oldenburg.

I tuned in to TCM’s “Movie Camp” over the weekend, not to watch these two fellows, but to catch “Hoppity Goes to Town” also known as “Mr. Bug Goes to Town,” by the Fleischer studio.

I like some of the TCM hosts, particularly David Edelstein’s presentations of Francois Truffaut and Orson Welles, and Eddie Muller’s “Summer of Darkness,” although I can do without the commercial tie-ins of fedoras and cocktail shaker sets.

But these guys, William Joyce and Brandon Oldenburg, not so much.

Here’s a quote from their introduction to “Mr. Bug Goes to Town” by Max and Dave Fleischer.

Oldenburg: There was a technique used in this film called rotoscoping, which we call the poor man’s motion capture,  which is a technique where you film actual people but then going back and painstakingly hand drawing over every frame. But what’s so beautiful and unique about that is that we hadn’t seen this before in animation up to this point.

Did he just say that? I had to replay it twice just to be sure.

This is totally wrong. Not even Wikipedia gets it this wrong.

In fact, prior to “Mr. Bug” (1941) Max Fleischer had patented the Rotoscope in 1917 and the technique was used in the Fleischers’ “Out of the Inkwell” series. Here’s Cab Calloway rotoscoped as Koko the Clown in Betty Boop’s “Snow White” (1933).

And, of course, Disney’s own “Snow White” (1937) also used the technique.

The Fleischers also used rotoscoping in “Gulliver’s Travels” (1939).


So no, “Mr. Bug” was hardly the first film to use rotoscoping. C’mon guys, do your homework. Even TCM’s own notes on the film would be an improvement.

About lmharnisch

I am retired from the Los Angeles Times
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8 Responses to TCM Movie Camp: Do Your Homework

  1. remember tcm’s documentary, “a history of hollywood-moguls & movie stars?” remember when the narrator mentioned samuel arkoff & james nicholson and the accompanying photo was of sandler & young? i loved that part.


  2. Dewey Webb says:

    Or when they were advertising a book about Greg Bautzer and announced he had been married to Joan Crawford? Must have gotten a lot of flak on that one because they eventually corrected it.


  3. Benito says:

    Thanks for busting these guys. TCM usually does better than this.


  4. E. Yarber says:

    Talk about someone missing the point. The major conclusion one learns from studying animation from the Fleischer studio, as well as Warner Brothers and especially Disney, is that the development of technical achievements was made in slow incremental steps over many years, each short building from lessons learned in previous projects. It’s certainly easier to ignore the process entirely and claim that innovations simply appeared at once, but while that saves a lot of time in explanation, it’s like claiming someone simply decided to become a marathon runner overnight without training and reached 5 K on their first attempt. The part you’re skipping, of course, is everything that went into making that goal a reality.

    A particularly awful example of this can be found on the Laurel and Hardy DVD box set. These discs cover their sound films only, omitting the period of 1927-28 when the pair made over a dozen films together playing wildly different characters from the classic combination they eventually developed with director Leo McCarey. Since the box set began with L&H already in their familiar mode, Jerry Lewis was allowed to claim at length in a bonus documentary that Stan concocted the entire framework in an afternoon after deciding to mold an overweight crew member into a comic foil (omitting that Laurel got into movies a few years AFTER Hardy, and that Mr. H. had been involved in at least two other comedy teams beforehand, one of them featuring an early version of the Ollie character) .

    It doesn’t take long to see that Lewis’s actual agenda is to present Stan as the genius making an incompetent partner look good, just as poor super-genius Jerry had been saddled with some barroom singer. What’s lost is any understanding of why Laurel and Hardy were so wonderful on screen.


  5. Eve says:

    I have been stunned at how uninformed Sally Field and Drew Barrymore come off in their The Essentials intros. Neither of them are stupid, by a long shot, but it seems they have never seen the movies they’re talking about, from the comments they make. Do they not take the trouble to watch a DVD before filming those segments? How did Drew Barrymore not know that Mildred Pierce had been a book before it was a movie?


    • lmharnisch says:

      I suspect they intentionally keep it very light and superficial. Drew Barrymore comes off as a rather skanky lightweight (though in the later episodes she at least combed her hair) and Sally Field really adds nothing to the conversation, nor did Cher, for that matter. Eric Goldman on the Jewish experience in film was disappointingly superficial.

      About the only guest session I enjoyed was with Dick DeBartolo of Mad magazine, who was very funny. I think David Edelstein on Truffaut and Hitchcock was about the best. Deborah Nadoolman wasn’t bad. I refuse to watch Ben Mankiewicz. Except for the name, he has nothing going for him and I think he gets all his “facts” from Wikipedia.


      • Eve says:

        I wouldn’t mind if I just disagreed with the hosts’ opinions, but . .. Well, after “The More the Merrier,” Sally Field described a scene she loved, and completely misstated what happened in it. Why wouldn’t they edit that out, unless they were trying to make Sally Field look like an idiot, or no one at TCM had watched the film themselves?


  6. Mary Mallory says:

    Ben doesn’t get all his facts from a wikipedia, I know someone who writes his intros and outros and is a film historian. That doesn’t mean they’re not edited. I found out why these guys are hosting the Movie Camp, they created the short film that won the Academy Award two years ago that was basically a digital animation version of Buster keaton. I guess they’re reaching out to young, uninformed fans with young, uninformed hosts.


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