Photo Courtesy: jcm51.com
Every so often I usually take a walk back in time and re-live the good old day. Today, while rummaging on old stuff, I was hit by the nostalgia of John Clark Animations. Do you remember them? Well, after bumping into an episode of Frog and Toad and Friends, it brought back all the memories of the 90s. I couldn’t help but review the entire John Clark Animation series right from the 80s.
If you were lucky to have been a teen back in the 90s, then you must have at least watched one of the shows when it premiered. I remember it like yesterday, when Frog and Toad were premiered, I was still a kid then, but the humor and the wit that John Clark put on these animations was on a whole new level.
We would gather in the house on Saturday and watch endless episodes of Frog and Toad, and Uncle elephant without even taking a bathroom break. It was that exciting. Every so often, I would repeat watching an episode, just to catch up with what I might have missed the first time. That way, you would be found unawares in the storytelling time at school. The visual effects of the animation were not as crisps as the animations are today, but it was enough back then when the concept of animation was just slowly catching up.
Back in the 80s, the technology was rapidly evolving with a lot still uncovered. Right from proper voice-over, lighting, and general production. The animations were a little rough on the edge, but thank God, the story behind them was always intriguing, thanks to the producers and directors.
Let us dig into the history behind the John Clark Animation, and how they came to be.
The Background History of the John Clark Animations
John Clark Matthews is an animator, artist, director, musician, producer, and voice-over actor based in the United States of America. In the ‘80s and early ‘90s, he worked with Churchill Films on Stop-motion shorts based on famous children’s books. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, Matthews worked for Imageworks on films such as The Polar Express and Stuart Little.
Who is John Clark Matthews?
Born in Pasadena, California, John Clark Matthew (most likely in the late 40s). He was a high school student at Pasadena High. Cark was always an artist from his young age, and after winning his senior year’s home design contest, he finished his first year at the Pasadena City College with a Major in architecture.
When he always found himself sleeping at the drawing table, he chose to pursue his passion to become an artist. He finally graduated with an Honors Extraordinaire in Fine Arts after two years. He spent two more years as a major in music and two more as a major in film production. He again graduated with another Honors Extraordinaire. He acquired the skills of traditional animation while studying film production. He was influenced by Oskar Fischinger and his early animations that explored visual music.
In 1976, Matthews married Niki and they began making puppets and became professional puppeteers. He intentionally targeted children and children-related content because he believed that children were the most honest audience. After a couple of days working on the project, he changed to stop-motion animation.
in 1980, Matthew began to work for Churchill Films in Hollywood. This 12-year project. During this time, Matthews had produced and directed 24 films, including Curious George, Frog and Toad, The Mouse and the Motorcycle, Rotten Ralph, Morris, and Moose among others.
Matthew received over 150 awards that included 5 Emmies, a George Foster Peabody Medal, and a Carnegie Medal while working with Churchill. He also won 150 awards during the same period. Later on, Matthew started working on projects such as Sturt Little, Hollow Man, The Astronaut, Hollow Man, The Astronaut’s Wife, The Matrix Reloaded and the Polar Express in 1995 for Sony Pictures Imageworks.
John Clark Matthews (JCM) and ASCAP are members of the Guild of Screen Actors. He currently lives in the mountains, around Cedar Glen, Arrowhead lake, California. He has four sons. His passions include: riding Mountain Bikes, sailing, skiing, and diversion. He also plays the Piano and the 5-string banjo in his mountain atelier. He is also a lover of writing music.
List of John Clark Matthew’s animations
Right from the 80s, John worked tirelessly round the clock to produced and release awesome animations for the kids. Luckily, his animations were not only loved by kids, but also adults alike. They were a good general family show.
Here is a list of some of his animations:
- Curious George Goes to the Hospital – First showed in 1982, it was based on the Curious George goes to Hospital that was released in 1966 by Margaret Rey and H. A Rey.
- Curious George – released in 1984. It was based on the same 1966 release.
- Frog and Toad and Friends – Released in 1985 and was based on Frog and Toad are Friends of 1970 by Arnold Lobel.
- Frog and Toad Behind Scenes – Release 1985 and was based on Frog and Toad by Churchill Films.
- The Mouse and the Motorcycle – It was released in 1986 and was based on The Mouse and the Motorcycle story by Beverly Cleary.
- Frog and Toad Together – It was released in 1987, and is based on Frog and Together by Arnold Lobel.
- Runaway Ralph – Released in 1988 and is based on Runaway Ralph of 1970 by Beverly Cleary.
- Stanley and the dinosaurs
- Ralph S. Mouse
- Uncle Elephant.
- Mouse Soup
- Commander Toad in Space
- Morris Has a Cold
- Three Little Pigs Sing a Gig
- Goldilocks and the Three Bears Sing Their Little Bitty Hearts Out.
- Pocahontas: The Girl Who Lived in Two Worlds
- Curious George Checks out the Label.
- Rotten Ralph: The taming of the Ralph
- Rotten Ralph: Not so Rotten Ralph – Jurupa.
- The Astronaut’s Wife
- Stuart Little
- Peter Rabbit Screen Test: Bad Habit Rabbit.
- Hollow Man – Alley Oop development.
- Quiet as a ..... (This was a dodge commercial).
- Papa Nogood.
- Stuart Little 2
- Stuart Little (Series)
- The Matrix Reloaded – released in 2003, CG Character Animator.
- The Polar Express – This was released in 2004. John was the lead Character animator.
- "Toad's Dream" from Frog and Toad Together (1987)
- "It's My Lucky Day" from Morris Goes to School (1989)
- "I Wonder Why" from Stanley and the Dinosaurs (1989)
- "Wake Up, Stop Your Sleeping" from Stanley and the Dinosaurs (1989)
- "Count to Ten" from Uncle Elephant (1991)
- "Do-Di-Da-Dingo" from Mouse Soup (1992)
- "Stone's Song" from Mouse Soup (1992)
- "Got' a Boo Boo" from Mouse Soup (1992)
- "Feeling Good" from Mouse Soup (1992)
- "Hey Did" from Three Little Pigs Sing a Gig (1994)
- "Little Baby Does the Mambo" from Goldilocks and the Three Bears Sing Their Little Bitty Hearts Out (1994)
- "Goldilocks Solo" from Goldilocks and the Three Bears Sing Their Little Bitty Hearts Out (1994)
Frog and Toad: Undeniably the most Popular John Clark’s Animation of all time.
I loved all John Clark’s animations, but Frog and Toad stood out for me. The two never ceased to amaze. Well, sometimes the jokes could be dry or cliché, but they still remain one of my most-watched John Clark’s animations.
A look into Frog and Toad and why they were the most popular reptiles
Every book has 5 easy and humorous stories that chronicle the adventures of the anthropomorphic frog and his companion toad, often poignant. Some of their adventures are to try a kite, to clean Toad’s dirty home, instead of delaying the tasks, and to discover several reasons to isolate himself.
In the animation, the Frog appears to be taller than the toad. He is also larger, greener, and cheerier, more restful than Toad. Toad is short, stout and with a brown shad, and the duo’s more serious and uptight though loving and cheerful like Frog.
Three uncolored unpublished books from Arnold Lobel’s Frog and Toad were found in 2008 on a property sale. They were later colored and consolidated in two books by Adriann Lobel’s daughter.
Curious George Goes to Hospital
This was the first book to be adapted to animation by John Clark. It is a children’s novel, written and illustrated in 1966 by Margret Rey and H.A Rey. It is seventh and last book in the original Curious George series and tells the story of George in the hospital after a puzzle piece had been swallowed from a jigsaw puzzle.
This book was an inspiration by an employee of Boston Children Hospital who reached out to Reys to help develop a book that would help prepare children to go to the hospital. The book has a very simple and easy-to-understand plot.
The following day, George develops a bad stomachache and is unable to eat. Worried, the man calls Dr. Bakers. The doctor cannot determine the issue, and therefore suggests going to the hospital. The man reassures George at the hospital that he is here until he breaks his leg (as referred to in the earlier story). George gets a barium dinner from the nurse and he is brought to the radiography room through a long corridor where he puts on a special apron. The X-ray reveals the jigsaw fragment stuck in George’s stomach. The man with the Yellow hat discovers that George swallowed it by mistake the night before, hence it was missing and it also explains his frequent stomachache.
The doctor informs George that they will be required to do a small procedure to remove the piece, and it will take some days for him to recover. He shows him a tube that will be used to extract the jigsaw puzzle piece from his stomach.
Mouse Soup: An Arnold Lobel adaptation.
Mouse Soup is another popular picture book that dates back in the 70s. It was also adapted as one of John Clark’s animations. The book starts with a simple phrase: “A Mouse sat under a tree”, the book goes on to tell the story of a mouse who has a trick Weasle to turn Mouse into Mouse soup. And he tells the tale, Two Large Stones, The Crickets and the Thorn Bush, and tells Weasel to put it into his soup. The assumption is then that Mouse is gone and Weasel has been stung.
In the story, a male mouse leaves her house with a book to read under a tree. A weasel expectedly caught him as he reads. The weasel returns the mouse home to make Mouse Soup with the mouse. The rodent even tells the crafty weasel, like the weasel places the mouse inside and the jar, that the soup doesn’t taste good without a story. The weasel is starved, but the mouse managed to convince him that he will tell him four stories that will go in the pot.
A Second male mouse walks abound in the first story, while a nest of bees comes down on her head. He tries to reason with the bees to leave, but the bees like his head for a home. The mouse then plans to go to a mud hole thinking that the bees are his home. As he goes deeper, the bees were still on his head until they hate his bed (the fact that the mouse was submerged in mud) and eventually go away allowing the mouse to go and take a bath at home.
John Clark Animations literally brought the old children’s books to life. Animation of the books just made the books more interesting to read and comprehend. I remember reading Frog and Toad in one sitting, after watching its animation. It just made it easy and smoother to read.
Which John Clark Matthews’ animation did you love most? How do you remember them?