Human “Jitterbugs” Pose For Cartoons

NOBODY ever knows what a jitterbug will do next. Even those masters of miracles, the Hollywood animated cartoonists, who can make pigs dance and ducks talk, couldn’t figure out the jitterbugs.

When the jitterbug craze started in U.S.A., says Cartoon Producer Walter Lantz, we started out to make a jitterbug cartoon. But after making many hundreds of drawings, we realised it was impossible to follow the intricate steps conceived by these dizzy dancers unless we could work from actual jitterbugs in action.

So Lantz rounded up jitterbug teams, turned them loose in front of a camera, then had animators study them on the movie screen. Even then, the timing problem was too difficult. Finally, each frame of action was projected and a tracing was made of it. Animators then drew the cartoon bugs over the tracings of the dancing teams.
Some of the human models and the cartoon scenes they inspired for “I’m Just A Jitterbug” are shown here. The cartoon required 12,000 individual drawings, but it takes only seven minutes to show it on the screen.

This is how step in picture below looks when insect actors break into their dance. Note positions of hands and copied creep of “Snookie’s” skirt.

“Snookie” Bishop And Roy Damron demonstrate for the Hollywood cartoon experts, who take notes of all steps used.

Grandpa and Grandma put the same sprightliness into their steps as their human models

Cartoon Insects Are Given A Lesson in “Tumble Rhumba” by Mary Herron and Jack Conlogue. Note similarity of position in photograph and cartoon.

Courtesy of PIX magazine Vol. 3 No. 12 (25 March 1939) at the National Library of Australia: https://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-448995263/view?partId=nla.obj-449123584#page/n11/mode/1up

Walter Lantz is probably best known for his cartoon character ‘Woody the Woodpecker’.

Here’s the finished product – with its surprisingly violent ending – Walter Lantz productions’ ‘I’m A Jitterbug’ (Jan 1939).


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