Imagine producing an animated children’s TV show in the late 1950’s. You don’t have the same budget to make the theatrical cartoons that Disney and Warner Bros. and MGM had. You have to cut corners. You have to be creative.
And from this, I bring you Cambria Studios and their budget-basement invention. Synchro-Vox.
Synchro-Vox gave the illusion that characters were talking with real mouths and lips on the screen, instead of using an animated pattern of mouth-open-mouth-closed drawings. Now, the rest of the cartoons looked as stiff as a starched collar, which makes things look rather surreal.
I give you an example. This is one of Cambria Studios’ animated series, Clutch Cargo. It’s balanced with a rather strong storyline, despite the extremely limited animation. Heck, even when the Synchro-Vox lip movements are in play, the characters’ heads are totally static.
Clutch Cargo was actually very well-received during its time, so much so that Cambria Studios produced two more Synchro-Vox productions. Here’s an episode of the second one, Space Angel.
Here’s an episode of the third Synchro-Vox program, Captain Fathom, which also incorporated what appears to be live-action submarine footage – well, “live action” if you consider a plastic submarine model submerged in water as “live action,” but your mileage may vary.
As you can see, the whole appearance of live lips on an animated face is completely surreal. And damn, everybody looks like they applied a few coats of lipstick for each episode.
So yeah, a unique twist on children’s programming. Something to entertain you for a few moments during the day.
Clutch Cargo was on in 1959, so that was my prime TV watching period, and of course I watched it. It was surreal even then.
Cambria got away from Synchro-Vox in time to do an animated 3 Stooges series, which, admittedly, got more mileage.
I wonder if the creators had any idea – 1950s, moving lips –> 2021, “deepfakes.”
I love this stiff! Still, the effect is creepy, but maybe less so on a small black and white 1960s-era TV.
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