342. Flebus – Ernest Pintoff, Gene Deitch

song-of-the-prairie

SUMMARY: Flebus is an affable, accommodating chap who everyone likes. But one day he meets Rudolph, who for no apparent reason dislikes him. His obsessive quest to find out why drives him to seek psychiatric help.

WHY IT’S HERE: Terrytoons is a cartoon studio which has received very little praise over the years. Working with extremely low budgets, founder Paul Terry acknowledged his low quality output as being like the Woolworths to Disney’s Tiffanys. Although Terrytoons cartoons were largely unremarkable, there was an admirable ambition behind some of their efforts to imitate the higher quality cartoons of the other studios. They managed to create some star characters such as Mighty Mouse, Heckle and Jeckle and Deputy Dawg but the cartoons themselves were of very little note at all.

Most critics agree that if there is a Terrytoons cartoon worth seeking out it is ‘Flebus’. ‘Flebus’ is a later era Terrytoon from when the studio had changed hands and Gene Deitch had been put in charge. Deitch was a former UPA animator and he brought this new angle to ‘Flebus’, which is a minimalist cartoon in the extreme. Deitch had even smaller budgets to work with than Paul Terry had so here he attempted to make up for it with a witty script and modernist designs. The resulting film is somewhat baffling, dryly entertaining and completely uncharacteristic of the studio. It is fondly remembered as the standout Terrytoon but Deitch’s style was clearly not suited to the studio and he was fired the following year.

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