An Evening with Jerry Beck and History of Looney Tunes

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BY DARRYL MORDEN

The Hollywood Heritage Museum will present “An Evening @ The Barn with Jerry Beck and the history of Looney Tunes” Wednesday, November 10, 7:30 p.m.  Doors open at 7:00 p.m.

The night will include screening of select Looney Tunes shorts and Beck signing his latest book, The 100 Greatest Looney Tune Cartoons. Beck is an animation historian and cartoon producer who has written 15 books, which include The Animated Movie Guide, Looney Tunes: The Ultimate Visual Guide and The 50 Greatest Cartoons. He’s a former studio executive with Nickelodeon and Disney, and is currently a consulting producer to Warner Bros., Universal Studios and Disney for classic animation DVD compilations.

“People forget that these cartoons were made for movie theatres, long before television was commonplace,” he said. “And they look differently and in some cases better than on TV. Among the films we’ll be seeing will be the Art Deco ‘Page Miss Glory’ from 1936 by Tex Avery and the 1957 Chuck Jones masterpiece, ‘What’s Opera, Doc?.’  You know – ‘Kill da wabbit’!”

Beck is a fan of all animation studios, from early 20th century to the here and now in the early 21st.  So what’s better, Warner’s Looeny Tunes or Disney?

“Looney Tunes are the funniest, hands down. Disney told stories and had characters with depth. Nothing wrong with that,. But humor cuts through to everyone and Warners had the best writers, directors, artists, voice talent and music. the cartoons they produced between 1935 and 1960 were put together by a team I liken to The Beatles,” he said. “ They existed at a particular time and place, spoke to a generation – and generations to come.”

Contemporary cartoons are far-ranging these days, from the sophistication of Pixar to television channels devoted to a wide variety of animation styles, to Fox’s long-running Sunday night block of cartoon geared first to adults.

“I love what Pixar is doing in features. They are making classic films, not kiddie films,” Beck said. “As for kid’s shows, Adventure Time on Cartoon Network stands out, and Spongebob is classic. I still love The Simpsons, too.

Beck’s latest book about the 100 greatest Looney Tunes took about a year to write. He asked readers of his blog, Cartoon Brew, and also Boing Boing to submit their 10 favorite cartoons.

“We got thousands of responses,” he said. “I also asked a blue ribbon panel of film critics, animation historians, filmmakers and animators to submit and we asked them to say a few words in the book about their favorite cartoons.”

Beck started his career in film distribution, working at MGM/UA, Orion Classics, Cannon Films and Expanded Entertainment (Tournee of Animation), before starting his own company, Streamline Pictures in 1989. Streamline was the first U.S. distributor to import landmark anime features such as Otomo’s Akira and Miyazaki’s Laputa: Castle In The Sky. He was instrumental in launching Animation Magazine, and has written for The Hollywood Reporter and Variety.  Beck was also the West Coast Bureau Chief for Kidscreen magazine in 2000.  He’s created, written and produced animated films for various clients and his most recent animation project, Hornswiggle, aired on the Nicktoons Network in 2008.   So where did it all begin for him?

“I recall watching The Flintstones with my parents,” he said. “That’s when I learned that cartoons weren’t just for kids, they can be for anyone or any age.”

Beck has programmed animation retrospectives and animator tributes for the Annecy and Ottawa Animation Festivals, The Museum of Modern Art and The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences.  He has taught animation history at NYU, SVA, the AFI and UCLA.  He is currently teaching Animation History at Woodbury University in Burbank, California. Beck is also the host/producer of the annual “Worst Cartoon Ever” screening at the Comic-con International in  San Diego.

The Hollywood Heritage Museum is located across from Hollywood Bowl at 2100 N. Highland Avenue, Hollywood, CA 90068. There is free parking in lot D;  Admission is $5.00 for Hollywood Heritage members, $10.00 for non-members with tickets sold only at the door. Seating is limited, so early arrival is strongly suggestion. From more, visit www.hollywoodheritage.org

Darryl Morden has written and produced for syndicated radio, is a music critic for the Hollywood Reporter and multi-hatted Music/Family editor for Buzzine.com. He lives with his wife and their son in Valley Village. He can be reached at rockusa@earthlink.net

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Karen Young is the founder of My Daily Find.

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