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Clutch Cargo was a handsome and charming writer and pilot, who flew his aeroplane into dangerous situations with his young apprentice Spinner, pal Swampy, and dog Paddlefoot.
Using the “Synchro-Vox” system patented by Cambria Studios, Clutch Cargo gained popularity for its not-exactly describable type of not-exactly animation. Each character was drawn as a still picture, and where the mouth was supposed to be, a real, human mouth was superimposed.
The mouth would move, and suddenly, the cartoon character was speaking. In order to accommodate this style, both women and men had to wear bright red lipstick to match the cartoon colour.
If characters were supposed to run, or even move, the drawing would be shown from the waist up. If additional motion was required, the camera, or even the drawing itself, would shake. Real smoke was used for explosions and cigarettes, and real balloons for chewing gum.
It may sound bizarre in retrospect, but much of it was actually quite impressive for the time, and the show enjoyed a successful run. The technique was also employed in Space Angel (1962) – another production from Cambria Studios.
More recently, Late Night host Conan O’Brien used a similar process to animate likenesses of Bill Clinton, Elvis, Mike Tyson, and other celebrities.