Friday, November 25, 2011

Backgrounds by Maurice Noble

Daffy-blogging, essay 10 of 15 blog entries on
Duck Dodgers in the 24 ½th Century

Backgrounds by Maurice Noble

The landscape of Planet X, designed by Maurice Noble and painted by
Philip De Guard.  The planet surface is pink, the sky a deep sea green,
and the trees and clouds form giant letters X.

The eye was Maurice Noble's idea.  It's probably the
single most famous design element in the cartoon.
Maurice Noble’s background artistry floors me every time.  Consistently across dozens of cartoons, his background layouts are wonderfully playful and beautifully designed.  Duck Dodgers in the 24 ½th Century offers a thrilling series of futuristic alien landscapes, perfectly supporting the comedy in the forefront while capable of 
being viewed as remarkable stand-alone works of art.

Here’s a sampling of eye-boggling art that was designed by Maurice Noble and, in most cases, painted by Warner Bros. background painter Philip De Guard.

Who needs 3D when perspective is used this effectively?
Haunted houses recede into the background in Claws for Alarm (1954),
designed by Maurice Noble and painted by Philip De Guard.

Another Maurice Noble background from Claws for Alarm (1954).
I love the purple shadow of the staircase, falling diagonally
across the bright pink wall (and Door #13 of this haunted house,
of course!).

Daydreaming youngster Ralph Phillips imagines that he's a fighter
pilot who captures a squadron of UFOs in Boyhood Daze (1957).
For this heroic moment, Maurice Noble frames the action inside a
dreamy cloud with the same type of radiant aura that Noble employs
when Duck Dodgers announces his name.

Another image from the delightful Boyhood Daze (1957).  The
strong colors and lines of Maurice Noble's background perfectly
complement the tiger in the foreground (he's something of a
Calvin and Hobbes precursor, as he transforms from a
stuffed animal into a jungle tiger in Ralph Phillips' dream).

Maurice Noble cleverly plays with perspective in Bewitched
(1954).  The fire is flat on the floor, the mirror hangs impossibly
from the ceiling, and the sofa is an image on the wall.  This cartoon
featured the first appearance of popular Chuck Jones' character
Witch Hazel.

Modern art meets Warner Bros.  Art doesn't get much more abstract
than this background that Maurice Noble slipped into the climax of
the classic Duck Amuck (1953).

Frequently regarded as Maurice Noble's masterpiece (and I'm not
about to argue with that), What's Opera, Doc? offers one startling
landscape background after another.  This magnificent image is
just one among many.

(Both this entry and tomorrow’s blog entry are particularly indebted to Hollywood Cartoons: American Animation in its Golden Age by Michael Barrier and Stepping Into the Picture: Cartoon Designer Maurice Noble by Robert J. McKinnon, two of the finest works written on classic Hollywood cartoons.)

Reference Sources
Chuck Amuck by Chuck Jones
Chuck Reducks by Chuck Jones
Hollywood Cartoons by Michael Barrier
Looney Tunes: The Ultimate Visual Guide by Jerry Beck
Warner Bros. Animation Art by Jerry Beck and Will Friedwald
7 Minutes by Norman M. Klein
That's All Folks by Steve Schneider
Stepping Into the Picture by Robert J. McKinnon
Looney Tunes Golden Collection, Volume One DVD set, Duck Dodgers commentary by Michael Barrier
Friends at the IMDb Classic Film message board including Rollo Treadway, Chloe Joe Fassbender, Illtdesq, and Fish Beauty
... and an occasional sneak glance at Wikipedia entries (but always double-checking everything!)

Watch Duck Dodgers...
Purchase Looney Tunes Golden Collection, Volume One DVD set at Amazon or Barnes & Noble.
Rent Disc Two of Looney Tunes Golden Collection, Volume One DVD set at Netflix or other rental service.

© 2011 Lee Price

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