A Long, Drawn Out Trip: The "lost" animated short that introduced Pink Floyd to Gerald Scarfe

[Video Link: "A Long, Drawn Out Trip"]

Last night I watched (and greatly enjoyed) the Pink Floyd "The Story of Wish You Were Here" documentary Richard Metzger turned me on to last week (buy it here, and my earlier post about that documentary is here).

I ended up going down one of those internet-rabbit holes where you search and watch a bunch of related stuff online. Among the rabbit-holes I fell down: the story of how the band hooked up with the now-legendary illustrator and caricaturist Gerald Scarfe. He and the band later teamed up on "The Wall," and Scarfe's visual style is now a kind of icon of that era of Big Rock and Roll. I am not a big fan of the later, big budget, grand spectacle school of rock music visuals for which they became known, but I am fascinated by the earlier material.

UK native Scarfe created "A Long, Drawn Out Trip" in 1971 after traveling to the US. As the story goes, Roger Waters and David Gilmour saw the 18-minute short when it was aired on the BBC in 1973 (only once in its entirety! remember, this is before YouTube!), and said, "That's the stuff!" The stream-of-consciousness short pokes fun at symbols of American culture. In one sequence, Mickey Mouse gets high and morphs from the Disney character we all know, to a stoned-out hippie.

Cartoon Brew did a post a couple years back about this historically significant animated film:

The film's lack of distribution is largely due to the fact that Scarfe didn't obtain clearances to the music he used, which included everything from Jimi Hendrix to Neil Diamond. (Shades of Nina Paley's problems with Sita Sings the Blues). It's unlikely he would have ever been able to make the film either had he pursued legitimate channels. Try asking Disney for permission to use "When You Wish upon a Star" when your film has an extended sequence of Mickey smoking a spliff.

The Lost Continent blog has a bunch of screengrabs, and more on the copyright issues that got in the way of this film finding a larger audience.

[T]he short came about when the BBC sent him to Los Angeles to try out the "Dejoux" animation system, which was designed to allow sequences where one image dissolved into another. Scarfe made the film in LA using the system and added a soundtrack back in Britain, where it was screened on TV and caught the eyes of Pink Floyd, who recruited Scarfe to provide animation for their film The Wall.

The soundtrack that Scarfe put together was to prove troublesome, as it consisted of copyrighted clips from various sources ranging from a Cheech and Chong stand-up routine to John Wayne films. "In order to re-show it, they would have had to pay so many royalties to so many artists… it's not likely that it will ever be shown again," says Scarfe in the interview. "So it's a lost piece."

If you're into Scarfe's work, there are a few books here you might enjoy picking up.