Friday, May 5, 2017

MGM Animation/Visual Arts

MGM Animation/Visual Arts, otherwise known as Sib Tower 12 Productions, got its start in 1962. Founded by Chuck Jones and Les Goldman, the studio came to be when Jones was fired by Warner Bros. after working there for 30 years. Sib Tower 12 Productions gained a contract from MGM to make new Tom and Jerry cartoons and they soon took in animators that Jones had worked with at Warner Bros., including Mel Blanc. The shorts did well and MGM bought the company outright and changed the name to MGM Animation/Visual Arts. The Tom and Jerry shorts continued until 1967. In addition to Tom and Jerry, the studio created the Academy Award winning short, The Dot and the Line, and also produced the Dr. Suess TV specials, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and Horton Hears a Who! Looking back it’s easy to see that these are Chuck Jones products, namely because his animation has a very distinct look to it.

MGM Animation/Visual Arts only made one film, and that was The Phantom Tollbooth. Yes, this is a live-action/animated film and I said I wouldn’t cover these, but the live-action is very short and just used as bookends. Plus this was another rental favorite of mine as a kid so I knew I wanted to cover it. I also haven’t seen this one in a very long time and only remember the part about the Doldrums. The author of the book, Norton Juster, had previously let MGM Animation take on his book The Dot and the Line, so it’s not too surprising that he let them do The Phantom Tollbooth. Like most authors, however, he came to hate the movie version of his book. He hated it even more because it ended up being critically well received, though that didn’t translate to movie sales. MGM decided to get out of the animation business for good and closed the studio in 1970, the same year as The Phantom Tollbooth and Horton Hears a Who! came out.

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