Previously in Krazy Kat cartoon adaptations:
- Krazy Kat and Ignatz Mouse At The Circus, 1916 sometime.
- Krazy Kat in Love’s Labor Lost, January 30, 1920.
- Krazy Kat: The Stork Exchange, December 17, 1927.
- Krazy Kat in: Weenie Roast, September 14, 1931.
- Krazy Kat: Li’l Ainjil, March 19, 1936.
- Krazy Kat: The Mouse Exterminator, January 26, 1940.
So, television. After decades of anticipation, and a false start just ahead of World War II, and a couple rounds of confusion about various technical schemes that among other things took Channel 1 off the air, television finally became a successful mass medium in the 1950s. And more than anything else it needed programming, or as we call it these days, content. Movie libraries were the obvious cheap stuff to program, and they were raided with a vengeance, resulting in jokes about all the rotten old movies you caught on TV that filled up non-television mediums through the decade.
Programmers quickly figured out that kids would watch cartoons, and concluded that kids needed new cartoons, because apparently they had never met any kids and didn’t realize that they are actually pretty much fine with watching the same cartoon every day for what feels like a century. King Features Syndicate, in a rush that looks to me strikingly similar to their attempt to make every comic strip they had into a cartoon in the 1910s, decided in the early 60s to raid their comic strip properties and make lots of cartoons. Thus we got a new series of Popeye cartoons, as well as Beetle Bailey and Barney Google and Snuffy Smith, and for that matter Krazy Kat.
Fifty of these were made, between 1962 and 1964, animated by the legendary Gene Deitch and his studio in Prague, which you may remember as the studio that produced those really weird Tom and Jerry cartoons that sound like they were recorded in a bathroom and play out like fever dreams (I think they’re great, or at least a good step ahead of the Cinemascope cartoons). Deitch’s studio brought the mid-century modern feel and style of UPA cartoons to what it drew, and while I do not know for a fact that he was a fan of the comic strip, I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that of course he was. The animation style is on-model for George Herriman’s comic strip in a way not seen since Li’l Ainjil:
Even more remarkably, in this, the debut of the series, the characters are on-model. The basic relationship of cat-mouse-brick-dog is made plain early on, and the characters stick to it. I don’t know that the first two scenes, of Krazy walking past Offisa Pupp with a door and a window, are drawn from the original comic strip, but they have to me the feel of them, particularly in the curious way the dialogue is both sparse and rococo. It builds into a wonderfully weird scene of Krazy’s imaginary house in the midst of a surreal landscape. I can see someone who liked this cartoon going to the comic strip and seeing something that may be different but is at least compatible, and probably more easily than someone could go from the 1930s Popeye cartoons to the comic strip.
So finally, and in a medium, and in an era for that medium, that gets no respect, we finally see what might be the best adaptation of Krazy Kat into a cartoon.
And yet …