“Mummy’s Tomb” Meets “Clutch Cargo”

A screen shot from Jim Sweet's "Mummy's Tomb" Youtube video, utilizing basic animation techniques reminiscent of 1960s "Clutch Cargo" cartoon serial.

6 years ago, GIjOE fan and animator, Jim Sweet, wanted to make a video representation of one of his favorite childhood possessions—the 1960s Peter Pan book and record, GIjOE and the Secret of the Mummy’s Tomb. But Sweet also wanted to take his project one step further, and rather than merely photograph the pages of the comic, he decided to add original elements utilizing his own animation skills. The result turned out to be a unique and imaginative retelling of the classic story.

A screen shot from the opening of a Clutch Cargo cartoon. Each daily episode was only 4 minutes long, with a weekend recap episode of 30 minutes.

Clearly drawing inspiration from another childhood favorite (the crudely-animated 1960’s adventure serial, Clutch Cargo), Sweet decided to animate the mouths of all Tomb characters while leaving the rest basically static. This was very similar to what was done in Clutch Cargo. Back then, in order to meet tight production deadlines and even tighter budgets, the characters were very simply drawn, rarely moving, with only their mouths animated by a then-new “Synchro Vox” animation method.

Synchro Vox later became known simply as the “Talking Lips,” process, and its unusual look gave Clutch Cargo’s already extremely minimalist animation an even stranger, off-beat appearance. Modern-day audiences continue to see it employed on television, primarily by comedians such as Conan O’Brien. (Personal note: I distinctly remember as a kid, being so “creeped out” by Cargo’s weird, “talking lips,” that I would JUMP at the TV to change the channel as quickly as possible! And let’s face it, Jonny Quest made Cargo look like he was standing still. Which he usually was.)

While not using Clutch Cargo’s exact Synchro Vox method, Sweet’s own style of animation still has the same retro-appeal of ol’ Clutch. According to Sweet…

Sweet's animation, as in the classic Clutch Cargo serial, moves only the mouths of the characters, leaving the rest of the artwork to stand on its own.

“The ‘Secret of the Mummy’s Tomb’ is the best kid’s book and record EVER. First, I took my old GIjOE book and record and scanned in all the pictures. Then, I made the mouth move for each picture by drawing them in on Paint Shop Pro. Finally, I laid each frame into the Movie Maker program and mixed it with the audio from the record.”

So…on this lazy, modern-day Saturday, why don’t you take a few moments to reminisce what it was like when you were a kid, watching all those cool, Saturday morning cartoons? Start by rewatching Sweet’s entertaining Mummy’s Tomb VIDEO. Then, switch over to this (hilariously bad) 4-minute Clutch Cargo episode. When you’re done, sit back and remember what the old wise man once said…”Well, there’s another 15 minutes of my life I’ll never get back.” HA


3 thoughts on ““Mummy’s Tomb” Meets “Clutch Cargo”

  1. JiM SWEET says:

    Testing. 1 2 3. This is Jim Sweet testing to see if my comment will take or do I have to sign up or something.

  2. JiM SWEET says:

    Well I did a test comment and now I’m not sure if the real comment I wanted to leave is actually getting through. Oh well I tried anyways. Let me know if you got it if you get this.

  3. I found your comment on the Patches of Pride Facebook page, Jim. Here it is in its entirety…

    “I was trying to leave this comment on the write up someone did about my GIjOE record animation, but I guess it was too long so I’ll leave it here instead and hope it gets to the right person.

    I just want to say thanks a lot for this write up on my GIjOE record animation. I really appreciate it. I actually never heard of Clutch Cargo until right now, although I do recognize it from Pulp Fiction.

    I was born in 1969 so that show was probably a little before my time. The GIjOE record is also actually a 1973 record. I can see the reason it would seem similar to the Clutch style of animation, but the way I did it seemed the only way I could add any animation to the drawings while still using the original art work.

    The Clutch animation was created for the TV with original drawings and, like you mentioned, I’m sure they wanted to save time and money doing it that way, but for me, not having to create the images, I wanted the original artwork to stay the same and using minimal animation to keep it that way seemed to be the only logical choice.

    So that’s the only reason I animated that way, but it works then to fit the style of the times I guess now that I read this article, even though the style probably only came about for the reason of saving money. I was familiar with Jonny Quest though and I know Hanna-Barbera Productions had to do minimal animation too to pump out their animation also.

    I liked the drawing style of those old cartoons like Jonny Quest. It was almost like an old comic book style. I wish I could take credit for the drawing style of GIjOE. I think that’s why it looks similar to Clutch and Jonny more then the animation style itself.

    The animation is only very close to being similar because you can either animate a little or animate a lot and that’s more of just a choice of how much work you want to, but for me that was a choice, like I said, only to keep the original drawings from changing to much.

    In my teens, I started to think the old Saturday morning cartoons weren’t animated very well and I didn’t have much respect for them since I was really starting to be inspired by more fluent animation by Don Bluth and later Disney animators.

    I appreciate the old cartoons more now. I realized the Saturday morning cartoons did a lot with what they had to work with and now I like that too. It’s was a great way to do things and still get a story across. No one should limit there ways of doing things and no way is better or worse. It all depends how you want to see it.

    Some time I’d like to animate another GIjOE record. When I was young the Mummy’s Tomb was the only one I had out of the GIjOE collection. With e-bay around, I’ve acquired all of them now and the other ones are good too. This time I’d like to do most of it the same way I did before and add in a few scenes of flowing animation, but still use the still image within the frames that I animated. So there would be some full animated scenes mixed in with the still image minimal animation stuff.

    Last thing I want to say is one scene in the animation I did for Mummy’s Tomb was inspired by the old Rudolph animation specials and what those animators did. The scene when Joe says, “WHO’S THAT?” and his eyes go funky was a rip off or homage to those scenes in Rudolph when they’d see or hear something outrageous or got hit on the head. Ok that’s it for now. Thanks again for writing that. It was cool to come across it.”

    Jim Sweet

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