Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Marc Gallery

As I've mentioned on this blog once or twice before, I'm fascinated by the work of "Marc", the illustrator of cheap cartoon videos in the 1980s. His depictions of the Japanese cartoons that came via America to Krypton Force can be seen here, but he seems to have really come into his own when drawing the covers for collections of public-domain American cartoons from the 30s and 40s, packaged by a company called "Vidage".

Vidage might well have been the same people as Krypton Force, or maybe they just also chose Marc from the usually-anonymous ranks of cheap-video-cover-artists, I don't know. But I've only got a couple of their videos, and the BBFC website tells me that there were actually quite a lot more, all seemingly with covers by Marc!

Here are the two examples I do own:

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Betty Boop Noveltoon One - containing three Betty Boop cartoons ("Betty Boop and Grumpy" is actually called "Betty Boop and Grampy", and he isn't at all grumpy), a Porky Pig (the 1960s Korean-produced colorized version of the black-and-white original), Ub Iwerks's "Jack Frost", and a Little Audrey. The latter was a Noveltoons cartoon - the name given to the cartoons made by Paramount after they bought out the Max Fleischer studios - but the rest weren't. Nonetheless, the Vidage people seem to have liked the name, and applied it to a number of 'sequels' to this video.

But just look at that wonderful cover, proudly signed by Marc! His technique was to pause the video at carefully-selected points, and carefully copy the pictures, then combine them all into one big scene. So we get Porky in his nightshirt, with a slice of cake drawn into his hand to fit the general theme, and the cat in a singing pose that cleverly matches Little Audrey's delighted expression and the Candyland background. There's a lot of work gone into this!

The BBFC tells me that there are the following other tapes in the "Noveltoon" range by Vidage - two of them are available second-hand on Amazon:

Sport Champion Noveltoon Two
Mutt Jeff Noveltoon Three
A Kick In Time Noveltoon Four
Ding Dong Daddy Noveltoon Five
All's Well Noveltoon Six

"Sport Champion", which I'm guessing included the cartoon "Sport Chumpions", although maybe I'm wrong, got a PG rating for some reason - I wonder what other cartoons were on it? It's more normal to say "Mutt and Jeff" rather than "Mutt Jeff", which surely someone would have noticed by watching the cartoon, but perhaps the person who named the video collection thought it was about a mutt called Jeff. The cover to volume 3 is signed by Marc, volume 4 doesn't seem to be, but it's clearly his work. Again, they're real masterpieces!

And then there's Fun Parade:

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Now this is really ugly, but you've got to admire the way the characters are grouped together so that Marc has to draw as few hands as possible. He also seems to have decided against trying to draw Bugs Bunny, perhaps because he couldn't find a pose to copy that would fit into the Christmas get-together theme he'd chosen for the cover.

The BBFC lists eight volumes of Fun Parade, with no further detail except that volume two is directed by "Seymour Kneitel/i. Sparbar/others", which suggests it might actually contain some more Noveltoons (Seymour Kneitel and Isadore Sparber also worked for Fleischer before Paramount took over, but the complex sibling politics there meant that Dave Fleischer was always credited as director on Max Fleischer cartoons).

I want to know more, and assemble a gallery of Marc's work for the world to see! Anyone finding one of these old tapes in a charity shop or attic is urged to please let me see it!

There might be more out there - the BBFC list omits one of the Sci-Bots tapes and the mysterious Mission Promete (which I'm increasingly convinced came from an alternate universe, because nobody else has ever heard of it). And Marc may have worked for yet more companies producing cheap artwork. I must put on an art exhibition some time...

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