Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Bob Clampett's John Carter of Mars (1932)

The year 1912 was a banner year for Scientific Romances, seeing the publication of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's The Lost World as well as the two classics for which Edgar Rice Burroughs is best known: Tarzan of the Apes and A Princess of Mars. Those same properties begat some of the great films of Hollywood's Golden Age, such as the 1925 version of The Lost World, 1932's Tarzan the Ape Man and 1934's Tarzan and His Mate. John Carter did not fare so well, with a feature film held off until Disney's live-action version of 2012.

However, as early as 1935, animator Bob Clampett approached Burroughs to create a series of animated serials featuring the adventures of the Civil War veteran on the red star. By 1936 a test reel was completed but the project left to sink into development oblivion. There, it became one of the great "what ifs" of animation and cinema history. What was made shows a series that might well be overestimated by nostalgic eyes, but at the very least would compare quite favourably to the great Max Fleischer Superman cartoons a few years later.


Bill Hillman said...

Bill Hillman

Willow of the Trees said...

It's crazy how smooth the animation is for the time. I wish animation in this style was done more often today.

grouchomarxist said...

The first thing that's so amazing about this tantalizing hint of what-might-have-been is the realism of the animation. Especially since I'm only familiar with that outrageously manic and distorted, almost surrealistic sensibility Clampett brought to the later Looney Tunes. (I have only the vaguest of memories of Beanie and Cecil.) You're quite right that this is reminiscent of Fleischer Studios' Superman series. (Which, IIRC, were some of the most expensive cartoons ever produced, especially the first one.)

The second thing is that Clampett was thinking in terms of an animated serial, two years before Disney came out with Snow White. Which leads to an interesting question: What would qualify as the first animated serial?