A Year in Shorts Day 237: "Here's Nudnik"
Not all cartoon characters are created equally. While some, like Bugs Bunny or Tom and Jerry, go on to become timeless icons, many simply fade away. When was the last time you heard someone talk about Fox and Crow? What about Andy Panda? And similarly consigned to the ash pile of obscurity is Nudnik. Despite starring in fifteen shorts throughout the sixties, Nudnik is more or less forgotten by the public at large, mostly remembered only by animation aficionados interested in the works of Gene Deitch and Rembrandt Studios. But, thanks to his Oscar-nominated debut Here’s Nudnik, Oscar Baiters like you and me know a little about Nudnik too.
Originally (and rather confusingly) titled Nudnik #2, Here's Nudnik was released in 1965, the same year as Deitch's similarly nominated (but significantly better) How to Avoid Friendship. It follows the titular Nudnik, a lovable sad sack with no job, no money, but an endless supply of optimism. Gene Deitch considered Nudnik his greatest creation, but felt that he was a victim of bad timing. You see, studio-produced, theatrically released shorts were more or less on their way out by the 60s. That's part of the reason why so many Oscar-winning animated shorts from that time period were independently produced. By being released in this time period, so Deitch believes, Nudnik just didn't have an opportunity to catch on and develop into a version of the character who'd be beloved by all.
And he may be right. But I would argue that, even under the best circumstances, Nudnik wouldn't have had much staying power. At least, not if Here's Nudnik is any indication. There's nothing wrong with it, really. It's amusing, Nudnik is pretty easy to root for, and the animation is pretty good (in that uniquely cheap way we associate with Rembrandt). But there's nothing which really sets it apart either. If I'm being honest, the short feels pretty generic. And "generic" is not a word I'd typically use to describe Gene Deitch's work. The best shorts released by Rembrandt were clever and satirical, aimed more for an adult audience than for children. Here's Nudnik, by comparison, has a lot more in common with the slapstick heavy shorts produced by the major studios. Presumably that's what Paramount wanted, and that's perfectly fine. Lord knows I love a lot of slapstick shorts. But it's not really what Rembrandt was good at, as is evidenced by their regrettable tenure animating Tom and Jerry. While it seems that Gene Deitch put his heart and soul into Nudnik, I think his talents were put to better use elsewhere.
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