Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy Birthday, Crack Monster!


According to my sources, Sesame Street's elusive "Crack Monster*" cartoon debuted thirty four years ago today, freaking out the few Generation X kids who saw him.  Then we grew up and wanted to see him again.
As I've written elsewhere, I got a chance to see it again this year, though I still know nothing about its history- who wrote/directed/animated it.  I'd sure like to know!
About once a month I'll get an email  like this:
"I remember that cartoon!  It freaked me out when I was a kid but now I'd like to see it again.  Except nobody seems to remember it and I couldn't find much about it but then I saw your blog..."
Yesterday I posted about Quasi at the Quackadero, another 1975 cartoon.  It was added to the National Film Registry  by the  Library of Congress  recently (to qualify, the film needs to be  "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".)  
I imagine the Crack Monster character is crumbling with envy, possibly thinking Why couldn't it have been "Crack Monster at the Crackadero?"  I coulda been a star!  An icon!  Grrrr....!

*The character, though described as "the monster," refers to himself as "Crack Master"  For continuity I've been calling him "Crack Monster".  Neither is the real name of the clip.

 

31 comments:

Sally said...

HAPPY♪♫•* NEW♪♫• YEAR♪♫•
Your post cracks me up. Your blog is wonderful, and you know I'm not saying that just because you said nice things about my film.

Namowal said...

Hi Sally,
Happy New year to you too!
Thanks for calling my blog "wonderful." Yours is wonderful too!

Linda said...

"Crack Monster at the Crackadero"
ha, ha!

Namowal said...

Hi Linda,
I would like to see Crack Monster's thoughts painted. At least I think I would...

ElysianDreaming said...

I found your posts about this elusive cartoon through TVTropes, and am wondering if the culprits could have been the Hubleys? John and Faith did a LOT of very creepy/ingenious toons for SS in the early days and much of their work has that indelible sort of quality. I have a great interest/obsession with stuff like this, particularly the animated bits....though I'm too young to know the Crack Master (I was born in 1979, so I wouldn't have been alive when he wreaked his psychological havoc). :(

Namowal said...

Hi ElysianDreaming,
Thanks for the comment. I originally considered the Hubleys to be the "prime suspects" behind the cartoon too. Then I found out that their contributions are well documented- and this film, ostensibly called isn't on the list. It still drives me a bit batty that there's so little info about it (and who created it) online.

ElysianDreaming said...

Hmmm....a long stretch, but I think your answer may lie in the human and animal characters. Can you recreate the styles of those? I think they may give more stylistic clues. There were so many animators that contributed to early SS, and a lot of them did some creepy stuff. Irra Verbitsky and Gahan Wilson come to mind, but I think the greatest key to the creator is the human character. Did her design resemble any other animations from the Street?

ElysianDreaming said...

....sorry, me again. I am almost convinced looking at your sketches that it is the damned Hubleys. Just compare to the "Mistrust" cat in "Everybody Rides the Carousel" and the cat in an early Hubley cartoon on SS where a little girl is chasing a cat around trying to pick it up....the angles and the way the faces are drawn look so much like your sketches of this crack thingie. I've also heard that the Hubley children are very protective of their parents' work, so if there was a lot of nastiness resulting from this particular cartoon resulting in all the secrecy surrounding it, it wouldn't surprise me if the owner of the rights is one of them. GAH I'm all obsessed with this now and I never saw the damned thing!!! LOL

Namowal said...

ElysianDreaming,
No worries about the extra post- I meant to comment about your earlier one too.
When I started combing the internet about the cartoon, I also thought the Hubleys might be behind it too. After all, they did a lot of work for Sesame Street and the style was different than most T.V. and movie cartoons.
The more I looked into it, the more I began to suspect it was another studio (or done independently).
Here's my reasoning:
1. Oodles of Hubleys Sesame street cartoons are available on You-Tube, for years, even though they could be yanked due to copyright violations. Why would the owners allow the other cartoons, yet be protective of this one?
2.According to Jon, the person who did get a copy of the cartoon (and eventually showed it to me)claimed that his source told him that it was the creator's "only contribution to Sesame Street."
3.The animation, as I remember, is more stiff* than most of the Hubley's cartoons. For example, look closely at this Kangaroo** cartoon, you can see that, while the character is simple, it's animated nicely (note the follow through with the ears and tail).
The animation in the "crack" cartoon is much stiffer and simplified. My impression (which could be wrong!) was that it was made by someone who knew how to draw and wanted to experiment with animation.

So the search continues!
I have a hunch that whomever owns this cartoon has probably seen my blog- because it shows up if you google something like "Sesame street, animation, cracks".
I'm afraid they don't think very highly of the attention I bring to the old cartoon, because otherwise I'd have heard from them.

*I'm not saying I'd do any better.
**I couldn't confirm if the kangaroo 'toon is from the Hubley's but it looks like something they'd do.

Namowal said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Oh NOW I know why I was afraid of so many things as a child. I think I blocked out the details of this sketch, but I would not be surprised if it was the basis for all my fears of things like: light shining off the laundry room door (which was in the line of sight from the den where I spent a lot of time), forming a pattern which I was convinced was the face of something evil; shadows in my room that I swore moved around the room as though they were shilouettes of people who were within the walls, etc. This was all probably between the ages of 3-6 years old. I always wondered what put such crazy thoughts in my head; now I know it was from watching stuff like this.

A said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
A said...

Actually, I was wrong. Although the name of the "crack master"'s animator, Cosmo Anzilotti, was correct, I found that out on a website somewhere, not on the phone.

Namowal said...

Is that so, A?
How/why did he contact you? Does he know of the cartoon's cult following?
I hope all my drawings and references of the character didn't annoy him. :)

A said...

I just found that out on a website six years ago - I can't remember what it was called.

But I still stand true.

And, Cosmo A. died in 2000, so you didn't annoy him.

Karen said...

There is one possible idea.

If finding this cartoon is so important to you, you could all offer what you remember from it.

And then maybe you can make a rendition of it based on the collective memories.

It might not be the exact thing you remember, but it could be an interesting effort while you are looking for the real cartoon.

If someone remembers the script, or at least part of it, they could post it.

rdfox said...

Someone at the CTW Archives dug up the storyboard for episode 0979, first aired 10 February, 1977, and it included a segment described as "A girl lying in bed imagines she sees a crack in the wall. (DIVERGENT THINKING) (TIME 1:29)"

Reputedly, that's the first appearance of the Crack Monster on the show. The scanned four-panel storyboard (which is not what I'd normally call a "storyboard," but hey) can be seen at http://images4.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20081024153549/muppet/images/a/ac/SS_Crack_in_Wall.PDF

Namowal said...

Someone at the CTW Archives dug up the storyboard for episode 0979, first aired 10 February, 1977, and it included a segment described as "A girl lying in bed imagines she sees a crack in the wall. (DIVERGENT THINKING) (TIME 1:29)"

Reputedly, that's the first appearance of the Crack Monster on the show. The scanned four-panel storyboard (which is not what I'd normally call a "storyboard," but hey) can be seen at http://images4.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20081024153549/muppet/images/a/ac/SS_Crack_in_Wall.PDF

Thanks for the link. I'd heard about the 1977 appearance but had never seen the paperwork before. My friend with the copy of the cartoon (he actually showed it to me in 2009) says it aired for the first time in late 1975. I'll have to check with him as to how he learned this detail.

Ann said...

Thanks for sharing all your research. The whole situation is strange and the extent of secrecy over a short cartoon is kind of suspicious. I wonder if they were once trying to avoid a lawsuit for traumatizing so many children back in the day? I can't imagine why one would otherwise want to keep it so secret, especially now that it's been forgotten by most. I doubt there's even a notable profit to be had from having a real copy of the clip. If it's not that, there must be some profound personal reason behind it. (as profound as my speculation!) It's a shame because there seems to be so many people that could put their mind at ease by seeing it. Silly, really.

Namowal said...

Thanks for the comment Ann. I agree it's odd that the clip has been so hard to find. One speculation is that whomever owns it is keeping it under wraps in case they can make money off it... ...but I've also heard that Sesame Street owns the rights to its cartoons. The fact that a few people have obtained copies (but not me) floors me even more. Waah.

dycaite said...

Are you serious??? Source? I was planning to write to him :(

dycaite said...

^ comment in regards to Cosmo Anzilotti dieing in 2000

Anonymous said...

Can't find any death records for Cosmo Anzilotti... Pretty sure he's alive.

dycaite said...

I just received a written reply back from Cosmo Anzilotti regarding the short.. He didn't create, or even work on it.

You can read his full response at lostmedia.wikia.com

Namowal (Jennifer Bourne) said...

I'm not sure who came up with the "Cosmo Anzilotti" did it theory. I've never found any evidence to back it up. For a while there was a wikipedia blurb crediting him (in the Ralph Bakshi article) but if you checked the sources it went to the comments section of this blog, where an anonymous commenter floated the notion.

dycaite said...

Yeah, I know.. Unfortunately that was the only person who was ever even RUMOURED to have been the creator >.> Sesame Workshop are suspiciously hesitant to reveal any more info to me for some odd reason, when questioned...

dycaite said...

Did Jon ever end up giving you a copy of the 9 minute audio documentary, Namowal?

Namowal (Jennifer Bourne) said...

No copy of it yet. But I'll keep you posted.

dycaite said...

Thanks :)

Mary Pesik said...

http://tarasuzizi.deviantart.com/

Mary Pesik said...

Crack Master is 38!!!