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Western Animation / Gerald McBoing-Boing

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"The best way to identify United Productions of America is to say "They're the people who made Gerald McBoing-Boing." And the best way to identify the quality of their product is to say that every time you see one of their animated cartoons you are likely to recapture the sensation you had when you first saw "Steamboat Willie", the early Silly Symphonies, "The Band Concert" — the feeling that something new and wonderful has happened, something almost too good to be true."
Gilbert Seldes

Gerald McBoing-Boing was a 1950 seven-minute Animated Adaptation of a Dr. Seuss record of the same name (originally narrated by Harold Peary, in character as The Great Gildersleeve). It was about a young boy named Gerald McCloy who only spoke in sound effects. Unlike other cartoons at the time, this used a more wacky, simplistic style and Limited Animation, although this was more a stylistic choice than a way to save money. It became the first successful theatrical cartoon produced by UPA. Three more Gerald shorts would be produced over the next six years. The complete list:

There was also a short lived primetime animated cartoon (the first ever, too, predating The Flintstones by 3-4 years) in 1956. Aside from a few appearances in a couple of Mr. Magoo shorts, and playing the role of Tiny Tim in Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol, Gerald would fade to obscurity soon afterwards.

In 2005, he returned in a new series that aired on the Canadian channel Teletoon, as well as on Cartoon Network's short lived pre-school block, Tickle U. Joined by his family, two speaking friends, Janine and Jacob, and a dog named Burp. It featured short sketches with him interacting with the world around him and his friends, sound checks (with animals and other objects switching sound effects) and fantasy tales in between featuring him, Janine, and Jacob, being told in Seussian Rhyme like the original shorts. However, unlike the UPA shorts, Gerald is instead praised for his sound-making abilities.

Gerald McBoing-Boing provides examples of:

  • All of the Other Reindeer: Gerald is initially met with scorn and ridicule by the neighborhood children for his being able to speak only in sound effects.
  • Bedsheet Ladder: When Gerald is running away.
  • Charlie Brown Baldness: As part of the simple style of the cartoon, Gerald has only a squiggly lock on his forehead to indicate hair. He appears to have inherited it from his father.
  • Deliberately Monochrome: The shorts use the Limited Palette variation, using only two or three colors per scene. The characters' skin was colored the same as the background, and in some scenes the cels were kept clear so the background color would show through the outlines.
  • Limited Animation: one of the Ur Examples.
  • Minimalism: These were the shorts that introduced this approach to animation in the public mind. Characters drawn with as few lines as possible, sparse backgrounds, limited color palette, everything pared down to the bare essentials.
  • Rhymes on a Dime: All the dialogue and narration on the first three shorts is in rhyme, Gerald McBoing-Boing on the Planet Moo being the lone holdout.
  • The Runaway: Gerald in the first short.
  • Suddenly Speaking: As Tiny Tim in Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol. Though it is unclear if it is actually his voice, or if Gerald is lip-synching.
  • The Unintelligible

Tropes found in the second and third "McBoing-Boing" cartoons:

  • Driven to Suicide: Professor Joyce in How Now, McBoing-Boing is so despondent by his failure to cure Gerald that he considers drinking poison.
  • Script Swap: In Gerald McBoing-Boing's Symphony, Gerald is asked to stand in for an orchestra for the premiere of a new symphony. Unfortunately, some of the pages from his sound effects script get mixed in with the score, and so the music is often interrupted by sound effects. At first Gerald is fired for his mistake, until messages come pouring in praising this new piece of "avant-guard" music.
  • Short-Distance Phone Call: In How Now, McBoing-Boing, it's discovered that Gerald's sounds are translated when he speaks through the phone. Thus he is able to communicate with his parents by calling them from the same room.
  • Thumbtack on the Chair: Prof. Joyce pulls it on poor Gerald in How Now, McBoing-Boing, in an attempt to make him speak involuntarily. Instead of saying "Ouch!" as Prof. Joyce hoped, Gerald instead makes the sound of a car tire blowing out, then gives the professor a Death Glare.

The 2005 animated series has examples of the following.

  • Ambiguously Brown: Janine.
  • Bumbling Dad: Gerald's dad, who also doubles as a Bungling Inventor.
  • Cool Big Bro: Jacob to his little sister.
  • Costumer: The fantasy tales have the three kids in costumes depending on the setting of the story.
  • Free-Range Children: Most of the time, Gerald and his friends can go to places like the baseball stadium or the movies alone, although on some occasions, Gerald's parents are with them.
  • Gasshole: His dog, Burp.
  • Hiccup Hijinks: Episode 16 has Gerald get hiccups. His father invents a machine to get rid of them. While Gerald's hiccups go away, his parents get them.
  • Idiosyncratic Wipes: Gerald and Burp passing the screen as the scene dissolves on behind them.
  • Meaningful Name: Guess why the dog is named "Burp."
  • One of the Kids: Gerald's parents.
  • Phrase Catcher: Someone saying "excuse me" whenever Burp burps (usually Gerald's mom).
  • The Prankster: Gerald does this sometimes with his sound effects. It's usually in good fun, though.
  • Reality Warper: Gerald can do this with his noises, to an extent. It's more pronounced in the fantasy tales; in one instance, he managed to summon a giant cat by making meowing noises.
  • Running Gag: Whenever Burp, well, burps, Gerald's mother always says "excuse me!" on his behalf, even offscreen.
  • Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: Gerald's dad is a rather scruffy and homely man, while Gerald's mom is an elegant and beautiful woman.
  • Voice for the Voiceless: Jacob and Janine are this to Gerald, as are his parents.