Directors: Rollin Hamilton & Tom McKinson
Release Date: November 3, 1933
Stars: Cubby the Bear
Rating:
Review:

The Gay Gaucho © Van Beuren‘The Gay Gaucho’ was the second of two Cubby Bear films made by the California-based Harman-Ising studio.

Like the first, ‘Cubby’s World Flight‘, it looks back, not forward, bringing back in mind the first Merrie Melodie, ‘Lady, Play Your Mandolin‘ (1931) and the early Mickey Mouse cartoons ‘Gallopin’ Gaucho‘ (1928) and ‘The Cactus Kid‘ (1930).

The setting is Argentine, and Cubby (Bosko, but in a different design) is a gaucho. He visits a canteen, where his girlfriend is a dancer. Then a Peg Leg Pete-like character enters, kidnapping the girl, with Cubby pursuing him. This story already was uninspired and routine, but Harman and Ising top its triteness by revealing it was all just a dream.

‘The Gay Gaucho’ is well-animated (by Friz Freleng and Paul Smith), but utterly forgettable, and it only proves that Cubby was so devoid of character, he couldn’t inspire at all. The result is one of the most forgettable films of 1933.

Watch ‘The Gay Gaucho’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘The Gay Gaucho’ is available on the Blu-Ray ‘The Complete Animated Adventures of Cubby Bear’ and on the DVD ‘The Complete Adventures of Cubby Bear’

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Director: Dave Fleischer
Release Date: February 2, 1934
Stars: Betty Boop
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

Red Hot Mamma © Max FleischerIt’s a cold winter night, and to get warm Betty lights a fire.

Soon, however, it gets too hot, and the fire roasts her two chickens. Betty herself soon dreams she’s in hell, dressed only in her nightgown. In a short scene the fires of hell reveal her legs through her nightgown. Later, when the devils watch her perform a sexy dance to a jazzy score, they get hot. But Betty gives them the cold shoulder (literally), which causes them and all hell to freeze completely over.

‘Red Hot Mamma’ is one of the last Betty Boop cartoons to glorify her sexuality, and to have a jazzy score. However, the humor is already much less compelling than from the 1931-1933 cartoons, lacking the weird surrealism of that period. As a result ‘Red Hot Mamma’ is amusing, but far less funny than it might have been, were it produced only a few months earlier…

Watch ‘Red Hot Mamma’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Betty Boop cartoon No. 25
To the previous Betty Boop cartoon: She Wronged Him Right
To the next Betty Boop cartoon: Ha! Ha! Ha!

‘Betty Boop’s May Party’ is available on the Blu-Ray Betty Boop: The Essential Collection Vol. 2 and on the French DVD Box Set ‘Betty Boop Coffret Collector’

Director: Dave Fleischer
Release Date: May 12, 1933
Stars: Betty Boop, Bimbo, Koko
Rating: ★★★
Review:

Betty Boop's May Party © Max Fleischer‘Betty Boop’s May Party’ is one the Fleischer studio’s most surreal cartoons, and one of the last ones containing this type of weird humor, so typical for the studio in the early 1930s.

The short starts with Betty Boop on a boat trip to her own amusement park. There we watch her perform ‘Here We Are’, a hit song made famous by Annette Hanshaw in 1929. The rest with the cartoon is filled with pictures of animals frolicking in the amusement park. Little of the cartoon makes any sense, but there are surreal gags all over the place, like a boat climbing down a ladder while descending a waterfall, a jetty walking towards the arriving boat, and somebody on a swing changing passing elephants into camels.

However, the cartoon runs totally berserk, when an elephant accidentally hits a rubber tree. The sprouting rubber turns everything in sight rubbery, including the moon and the whole scenery, with weird and wild consequences. For example, Bimbo and Koko perform a bizarre dancing scene, and when Betty joins in the trio completely twist the background around. Meanwhile we can hear the intoxicating jazz of Duke Ellington’s ‘It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing’ in the background. Most of the cartoon is fun to watch, but this finale is on a league of its own, and turns ‘Betty Boop’s May Party’ into a near-classic.

Watch ‘Betty Boop’s May Party’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Betty Boop cartoon No. 15
To the previous Betty Boop cartoon: Betty Boop’s Birthday Party
To the next Betty Boop cartoon: Betty Boop’s Big Boss

‘Betty Boop’s May Party’ is available on the French DVD Box Set ‘Betty Boop Coffret Collector’

Director: Dave Fleischer
Release Date: December 17, 1933
Stars: Popeye, Olive Oyl, Bluto
Rating: ★★½
Review:

Seasin's Greetinks! © Max Fleischer‘Seasin’s Greetinks!’ is Popeye’s first Christmas cartoon. It must be one of the least typical Christmas cartoons around: we watch Bluto and Popeye clobbering each other, while wishing each other ‘Merry Christmas’ and ‘A Happy New Year’, respectively.

Most of the time we watch the trio skating. When Olive gives him the cold shoulder, Bluto cuts off the ice on which she sits, and she immediately drifts towards a waterfall. Luckily, Popeye saves her in a rather bizarre way. The cartoon ends with Olive and Popeye watching a Christmas tree, decorated by the stars from the blow Popeye gave Bluto.

‘Seasin’s Greetinks’ is the first mediocre Popeye cartoon. Compared to earlier entries this cartoon is rather low on gags, and the love triangle already becomes predictable. Luckily, the Fleischers came up with enough variations to keep the series fresh, even if not in all its entries.

‘Seasin’s Greetinks!’ is noteworthy for introducing the skating-near-a-waterfall plot, which Disney would copy in ‘On Ice‘ (1935) and the ‘Once upon a Wintertime’ sequence of ‘Melody Time’ (1948).

Watch ‘Seasin’s Greetinks!’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Seasin’s Greetinks!’ is available on the DVD Box Set ‘Popeye the Sailor 1933-1938’

Director: Dave Fleischer
Release Date: November 17, 1933
Stars: Popeye, Olive Oyl, Bluto, Wimpy
Rating: ★★★½
Review:

I Eats My Spinach © Max Fleischer‘I Eats My Spinach’ is the first cartoon in which an instrumental version of Popeye’s theme music accompanies the opening titles.

The short opens with the very walking cycle with which Popeye appeared for the first time on the screen in ‘Popeye the Sailor‘. He walks towards Olive’s house, and together they go to a rodeo to watch the “Great Bluto” perform. Immediately, Popeye challenges and outperforms the bearded brute. He wrestles a badly drawn bull, and fights another one. The cartoon ends with Popeye knocking a bull into a meat market in a rather shocking metamorphosis gag.

The designs in this short are more primitive than in other Popeye cartoons, making it look rather old-fashioned, even when compared with contemporary Popeye cartoons like ‘Blow Me Down!‘ or ‘Season’s Greetinks!‘. Surprisingly, this cartoon marks a return to the animal world of Betty Boop’s earliest cartoons, being the last short to do so.

Popeye would fight a bull again in ‘Bulldozing the Bull’ (1938), but now most unwillingly and without harming the animal. By then Popeye had become on example to youngsters, both in comics and on film, and his aggression was toned down, luckily without losing its spunk.

Watch ‘I Eats My Spinach’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘I Eats My Spinach’ is available on the DVD Box Set ‘Popeye the Sailor 1933-1938’

Director: Dave Fleischer
Release Date: October 27, 1933
Stars: Popeye, Olive Oyl, Bluto
Rating: ★★★★½
Review:

Blow Me Down! © Max FleischerLike the previous two cartoons, ‘Blow Me Down!’ (another of Popeye’s oneliners from E.C. Segar’s comic strip) opens with Popeye singing his own theme song, now while riding a shark to Mexico.

In Mexico Popeye visits a canteen, where Olive is a dancer, performing a dance, that’s taken straight from Segar’s strip from March 1932, including the gag in which she lands with her feet into two spittoons. Then Bluto enters, shooting everything in sight, and within seconds, Popeye is the only other person in the canteen. The two engage into a strange duel, then Bluto tries to harass Olive, but like in ‘I Yam What I Yam’ she appears pretty much in control when Popeye comes to rescue her. In a spectacular finale, Popeye knocks Bluto around the world.

‘Blow Me Down’ covers no new story grounds, its premise harking all the way back to ‘Gallopin’ Gaucho‘ (1928). Yet, it’s by all means a delightful cartoon, and it’s over before you know it. It contains a very original bird-eye shot of Popeye ascending the stairs. Olive’s voice is by Bonnie Poe, and very different from Mae Questel’s later version.

Watch ‘Blow Me Down!’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Blow Me Down!’ is available on the DVD Box Set ‘Popeye the Sailor 1933-1938’

 

Director: Dave Fleischer
Release Date: September 29, 1933
Stars: Popeye, Olive Oyl, Wimpy
Rating: ★★★½
Review:

I Yam What I Yam © Max Fleischer‘I Yam What I Yam’ was the second cartoon starring Popeye, and the very first in his own series, taking its title from one of Popeye’s most famous lines in E.C. Segar’s comic strip.

The short opens with an original opening tune that would only last two cartoons: ‘Strike up the band for Popeye the sailor’. After ‘Blow Me Down!‘ this peppy leader was replaced by Popeye’s own song, which he also sings in the opening scene, with Olive Oyl rowing a bark to an unknown island. When they’ve washed ashore, Popeye punches a bunch of trees into a log cabin.

This film introduces his famous sidekick from the comic strip, the gluttonous freeloader Wellington Wimpy. In his first dialogue, Wimpy quotes a classic line from Segar’s strip “Come on in for a duck dinner. You bring the ducks”. So, Popeye goes forth in search of ducks. However, within seconds Olive and Wimpy are threatened by Indians. Luckily Popeye comes to the rescue. In a spectacular finale Popeye knocks down every Indian in sight, even their gigantic chief, whom Popeye punches into Mahatma Gandhi…

Interestingly, before Popeye arrives, Olive appears very much in control, knocking down Indians by the minute, while crying for help. It’s nice to watch a female cartoon character being portrayed so strong and independent, far from the cliched damsel in distress, as portrayed by e.g. Minnie Mouse.

Popeye’s and Olive’s designs are still rather unstable in this short, but Olive’s voice sounds much more familiar than in ‘Popeye the Sailor’. The cartoon makes little sense, but is very enjoyable, nonetheless. Its joy is enhanced by an excellent musical score.

Watch ‘I Yam What I Yam’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘I Yam What I Yam’ is available on the DVD Box Set ‘Popeye the Sailor 1933-1938’

Director: Dave Fleischer
Release Date: July 14, 1933
Stars: Betty Boop, Popeye, Olive Oyl, Bluto
Rating: ★★★
Review:

Popeye the Sailor © Max Fleischer1933/1934 marked a watershed for American animated cartoons: not only had the sex and horror rich cartoons of 1933 have to make way for the much more prudish content  of the Hays code era – during the same period many studios traded their old stars in for new ones.

In this period Iwerks dropped Flip the Frog in favor of Willy Whopper, Warner Bros. saw the departure of Bosko, and introduced Buddy, Van Beuren said farewell to Tom & Jerry and welcomed Cubby the Bear and The Little King. Even at the Walt Disney studio Mickey Mouse, the biggest star of all, would steadily lose popularity to the 1934 newcomer Donald Duck. The relay race was most visible at the Fleischer studio. In their 1933 cartoon ‘Popeye the Sailor’ Betty Boop literally gave way to Popeye.

True, like Mickey, Betty would keep on starring cartoons after 1933, but due to the Hays code, her sexuality, her biggest feat, was toned down, and by 1934 her heydays were clearly over. Popeye, on the other hand, would grow into arguably the most successful cartoon star of all, starring more than 200 cartoons, and lasting well into the 1950s, before embarking on a career in television.

Of course, Popeye already had been a star before he was introduced to the animated screen, having quickly grown into the leading character of Elzie Segar’s Thimble Theater comics since his introduction in 1929. But when the Fleischers started their films, he quickly became one of the most familiar cartoon stars of all time, still recognizable to present day audiences, where Buddy, Willy Whopper and Cubby Bear rapidly fell into oblivion.

In their pilot Popeye cartoon, officially part of the Betty Boop series, the Fleischers appear very well aware of the potentials of their new hero. It opens with a newspaper announcing that Popeye now is a movie star. The accompanying illustration immediately comes to life, and then we watch an iconic scene: Popeye singing his own new theme song, while socking things into tiny little things, in a string of metamorphosis gags. Popeye’s theme song is irresistably catchy, but who would have thought at the time that it would be still a familiar tune in the 21st century?

During the main section of the film it’s shore leave, and Popeye, Bluto and Olive visit a carnival. Because it’s de facto a Betty Boop cartoon, the human trio is oddly staged in Betty’s animal world, which she, too, would abandon within a few months. Betty’s role is minimized to that of a sexy hula dancer, in reused footage from ‘Betty Boop’s Bamboo Isle‘ (1932). Popeye joins in, sharing Betty’s rotoscoped movements.

The cartoon introduces the basic story arc that would be varied upon in many years to come: Popeye and Olive are sweethearts, but Bluto craves for Olive, too, creating friction between the two strong men. There’s a lot of clobbering, and at one point Popeye grabs for a can of spinach to give him extra strength. This premise is very different from Segar’s Comic Strip, with its melodramatic stories which could easily last for month.

Both Bluto and spinach were taken from Segar’s strip, but there they had played minor roles. Bluto, in fact, only appeared a couple of weeks in September/October 1932, never to return to Segar’s comic strip. In the Fleischer cartoons, however, he was promoted to one of the three starring roles, easily eclipsing Wimpy. During his first cartoon, Bluto’s theme music is ‘Barnacle Bill’, extensively used in the cartoon of the same name from 1930. Unlike Popeye’s tune, this theme music would not return in later Popeye cartoons. The love triangle, of course, was far from new, and had been employed in e.g. several Oswald and Mickey Mouse cartoons. But the Fleischers managed to keep this premise surprisingly fresh, delivering several of the funniest cartoons of the 1930s.

The importance of Popeye’s move to the movie screen for cartoon history cannot be overestimated: for the first time in the sound era a comic strip star was successfully put to the screen, for the first time a strong idiosyncratic character appeared on the animated screen, for the first time cartoon violence was not incidental, but a vital part of the series. Strong characters and cartoon violence would recur more often and often when the 1930s progressed, and would become essential to cartooning during the 1940s. Indeed, other characters, most notably Donald Duck and Daffy Duck, contributed to the evolution of a brassier style, but it was Popeye who had shown the way.

Watch ‘Popeye the Sailor’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Betty Boop cartoon No. 18
To the previous Betty Boop cartoon: Mother Goose Land
To the next Betty Boop cartoon: The Old Man of the Mountain

‘Popeye the Sailor’ is available on the DVD Box Set ‘Popeye the Sailor 1933-1938’

Director: Tom Palmer
Release Date: September 23, 1933
Rating: ★★★
Review:

I've Got to Sing a Torch Song © Warner Bros.‘I’ve Got to Sing a Torch Song’ was the first Merrie Melodie of Leon Schlesinger’s erratic fledgling studio after Harman & Ising quit making cartoons for him.

The short is the second of only two cartoons directed by Tom Palmer, the other being ‘Buddy’s Day Out‘. Like in ‘Buddy’s Day Out’ Palmer is completely at loss as a director, delivering a completely aimless and meandering cartoon. So, soon Schlesinger fired him. Palmer went to Van Beuren where he (co-)directed eighteen more cartoons.

‘Ive Got to Sing a Torch Song’ is a blackout gag cartoon on radio. It features numerous caricatures of radio and movie stars, like Bing Crosby, Ed Wynn, Joan Blondell, James Cagney, and even of Benedetto Mussolini and George Bernard Shaw. The title song only kicks in after five minutes, introduced by the Boswell sisters, and sung by Greta Garbo, Zasu Pitts and Mae West. Garbo even says ‘That’s All Folks!’ at the very end of the cartoon. This last gag undoubtedly is the funniest of the complete short, despite the presence of some typical Warner Bros. gags, like a conductor conducting a phonograph. The complete film makes no sense, but at least it’s well animated, thanks to Jack King, whom Schlesinger had hired away from Walt Disney.

Watch ‘I’ve Got to Sing a Torch Song’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘I’ve Got to Sing a Torch Song’ is available on the DVD-set ‘Looney Tunes Golden Collection Volume Five’

Director: Walter Lantz or Bill Nolan
Release Date: November 27, 1933
Rating:  ★★★
Review:

The Merry Old Soul © Walter LantzThis short opens with Oswald sitting in a dentist’s chair. The dentist knocks Oswald out to be able to pull his sore tooth.

Then the radio announces that Old King Cole has the blues. Oswald immediately runs off to warn all Hollywood entertainers, a.o. Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Joe E. Brown, Laurel & Hardy, Ed Wynn, but also Wallace Beery and Greta Garbo. They all hurry to the depressed king. Old King Cole looks quite similar to the same character in the Silly Symphony ‘Old King Cole‘ from four months earlier, proof of how close the rival studios followed the Disney output.

Paul Whiteman plays a tune for him, and Oswald sings a song about Mother Goose, assisted by a.o. Joe E. Brown, W.C. Fields, Al Jolson, Mae West, and a stuttering person I don’t recognize [this is Roscoe Ates – thank you Don M. Yowp  for the info]. This immediately cheers up the old king. Then Laurel & Hardy enter with a pile of pies, which soon results in a large pie throwing battle, featuring a.o. Charlie Chaplin, Jimmy Durante, Harold Lloyd, and the Marx Brothers. Meanwhile, Old King Cole’s old jester grows jealous of Oswald’s success. The jester kidnaps Oswald and takes him into a dark cellar. Soon Oswald awakes, revealing it all has been a dream…

Despite the trite dream ending, ‘The Merry Old Soul’ is a quite entertaining cartoon. The short follows a trend that really caught on in 1933 of simply stuffing cartoons with Hollywood stars. Earlier examples are the great Mickey Mouse cartoon ‘Mickey’s Gala Premier‘, and ‘Soda Squirt‘ featuring Flip the Frog. Five years later, Disney would also mix Mother Goose and Hollywood stars in ‘Mother Goose goes Hollywood’ (1938), which owes nothing to this Oswald short.

Watch ‘The Merry Old Soul’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘The Merry Old Soul’ is available on the DVD set ‘The Woody Woodpecker and Friends Classic Cartoon Collection’.

Director: Walter Lantz or Bill Nolan
Release Date: September 4, 1933
Rating:  ★★★
Review:

King Klunk © Walter Lantz‘King Klunk’ is a surprisingly faithful, if silly retelling of the 1933 hit movie ‘King Kong‘.

The short stars Pooch the Pup as a film maker, who enters the jungle to film the monster King Klunk, accompanied by his girlfriend. In the jungle they soon meet a savage tribe offering a young girl to King Klunk. Of course, the giant ape takes much more interest in Pooch’s girlfriend, and abducts her instead.

Imitating Tarzan (made famous by Johnny Weissmuller in ‘Tarzan the Ape Man’ from 1932), Pooch rescues his girlfriend and together they floor the giant ape with a giant rotten egg. Like in the live action film, the duo takes the monster home to New York to display. And in the final scene, King Klunk, too, falls from the skyscraper, but in the cartoon he immediately catches fire and burns to a skeleton…

It’s weird to watch such a tight parody of a movie as this one, and the cartoon’s close satire is without precedent. However, this also means that the film is lower on gags than it could be, and Pooch the Pup is as bland as ever, never becoming near star potential. In the opening scene we hear him whistling ‘Kingdome Coming’, familiar to many as the wolf’s whistling tune in Tex Avery’s ‘Three Little Pups‘ (1953). Tex Avery worked at Lantz during the production of ‘King Klunk’, so it may very well be he remembered the tune from this cartoon when he used it twenty years later. In any case, ‘King Klunk’ features a dinosaur having a double-take that is surprisingly Tex Averyan. This is probably the first classic double-take to enter the animated scene.

Watch ‘King Klunk’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘King Klunk’ is available on the DVD set ‘The Woody Woodpecker and Friends Classic Cartoon Collection’.

Director: Walter Lantz or Bill Nolan
Release Date: July 31, 1933
Rating:  ★★★½
Review:

Confidence © Walter LantzThis cartoon opens with a jolly dance scene at a farm, which appears to be Oswald’s.

Then suddenly, the ghost of depression appears, haunting the world. This scene is a nice mix of the animated ghost and a live action globe. The ghost of depression also affects Oswald’s farm. What follows, are scenes of sheer panic, with Oswald running from psychedelic circles, and snapshots of people, bankers and stock markets panicking – depicting the 1929 Wall Street Crash and the Great Depression in a nutshell. Meanwhile, Oswald runs to a doctor for help.

The doctor tells Oswald “There’s your doctor”, pointing to a portrait of Franklin D. Roosevelt, who had taken office in March. So, Oswald flies on a bizarre contraption to the White House, where he meets the president himself. F.D.R. starts singing the title song “Confidence, and lick the old depression”, and gives Oswald a pump sprayer full of confidence. Oswald returns to his farm on another strange flying machine, and revives his farm with his pump sprayer full of confidence.

‘Confidence’ is probably the most famous of all Oswald cartoons by Walter Lantz, and it’s clear to see why. It’s highly entertaining, and surprisingly gag rich, despite the propaganda. Even the propaganda message itself is surprisingly joyful. I mean, how often do you see a president singing a jolly tune? In any case, the short is a prime example of how Roosevelt’s new deal was marketed to the audience. As the depression seemed to hit an all time low in 1932-1933, Roosevelt’s message must have been a very welcome one.

However, unlike the similar Little King cartoon ‘Marching Along‘ from three months later, there’s no mention of the National Recovery Administration (or N.R.A.), effected on June 16. So the cartoon makes it seem that confidence alone will revive the American economy… a little too naive, perhaps, but the sheer joy with this message is brought makes ‘Confidence’ well worth watching.

Watch ‘Confidence’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Confidence’ is available on the DVD set ‘The Woody Woodpecker and Friends Classic Cartoon Collection’.

 

 

Director: Rudolf Ising
Release Date: September 24, 1933
Rating:  ★★★★½
Review:

The Dish Ran Away with the Spoon‘The Dish ran Away with the Spoon’ was the last Merrie Melody Harman & Ising made for Leon Schlesinger, before they quit over a dispute on money.

Like other later Merrie Melodies it shows how Harman and Ising could imitate Disney, compete with Disney, but at the same time produce films that Disney somehow would never make. It opens with a very Disneyesque rain scene, which brings us through a window into a kitchen. There we watch kitchen tools frolicking and dancing.

In tune to earlier Silly Symphonies like ‘The Bird Store‘ and ‘Bugs in Love‘ (both 1932) halfway a ‘story’ develops, when a dough monster kidnaps a female dish, but is destroyed by a hero spoon and the rest of the kitchen tools.

The designs in this cartoon are elaborate and elegant, of a high quality and unmistakeably Warner Bros. Of special notice is the convincing animation on the dough villain.

After Harman & Ising’s quit, it would take Schlesinger’s own fledgling studio quite some time to match Harman & Ising’s quality, and only with help from some of their former animators, like Bob Clampett, Robert McKimson and Friz Freleng.

Watch ‘The Dish ran Away with the Spoon’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘The Dish ran Away with the Spoon’ is available on the DVD-set ‘Looney Tunes Golden Collection Volume Six’

Director: Hugh Harman
Release Date: September 18, 1933
Rating:  ★★½
Review:

Bosko's Picture Show © Warner Bros.‘Bosko’s Picture Show’ was one of the last Bosko cartoons Harman & Ising made for Leon Schlesinger.

The short nicely parodies a typical cinema evening of the time. Bosko himself plays the organ in a cinema, inviting the audience to join him in singing ‘We’re in the Money’ from the Warner Bros. musical ‘Gold Diggers of 1933’ . Then we watch some nonsensical news items.

The most disturbing of these is about Jimmy Durante being on holiday in Germany: we watch a scene of Adolf Hitler chasing the comedian with an ax, supposedly because the actor’s big nose makes him look Jewish. This gag wasn’t really innocent in 1933, but nowadays is appallingly shocking. It does show, however, that already in 1933 the fierce antisemitism of the freshly installed dictator was widely known. In any case, it might very well be the earliest caricature of Hitler in animated cinema.

Then we watch a Laurel and Hardy short (sort of) called ‘In Spite of Everything’. Somehow Laurel and Hardy are dressed as little boys, trying to steal a pie, but the caricatures are neither convincing, nor really funny.

Then we can watch the main picture ‘He Done Her Dirt (And How!)’, an obvious take on the Mae West vehicle ‘He Done Her Wrong’ from earlier that year. The feature stars Honey, who’s dressed like West in that picture, but that’s it. No other reference to the great comedienne is shown. Instead we’re treated on pure melodrama, with Bosko making a rather unconvincing end to it.

‘Bosko’s Picture Show’ somehow painfully shows the lack of appeal Bosko actually has. Unlike Harman & Ising’s last Merrie Melodies, which show a Disney-like quality, the Bosko cartoons were disappointingly devoid of ambition. Bosko just ‘does’ things. He lacks either motivation or purpose, and belongs to an era that by the end of 1933 had pretty much ended.

However, Schlesinger’s answer to Bosko, Buddy, would become anything but an improvement. Luckily, in 1936 Warner Bros. finally found its own style, and so, in 1937 could cover similar grounds in ‘She was an Acrobat’s Daughter‘ (1937) with much funnier results.

Watch ‘Bosko’s Picture Show’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Bosko’s Picture Show’ is available on the DVD-set ‘Looney Tunes Golden Collection Volume Six’

Director: Tom Palmer
Release Date: September 9, 1933
Rating: ★★
Review:

Buddy's Day Out © Warner Bros.Early 1933 Hugh Harman demanded more money for their cartoons, but Leon Schlesinger refused it. This led to a break between the two, and Harman & Ising quit in June 1933.

This event left Schlesinger with a contract with Warner Bros. to deliver cartoons, but without a studio to make them. Moreover, he was without a cartoon star, as Harman & Ising had taken Bosko with them. Schlesinger quickly set up a studio of his own, at the old Warner Bros. lot at Sunset BLvd. He quickly signed several people to man his brand new studio, including Jack King from Disney, and Bob Clampett from Harman & Ising.

However, somehow he first trusted his new studio into the hands of a guy called Tom Palmer, tipped by his sound engineer, Bernard Brown. Palmer and his associate quickly came up with a brand new star called Buddy, whom Bob Clampett described as “Bosko in whiteface”. This is not entirely true, however, for where Bosko was devoid of personality, he was at least cheerful, and nicely drawn. Buddy, on the other hand, had an ugly design, and was bland as hell.

In ‘Buddy’s Day Out’, Buddy’s first film, even his makers were not sure what to make of him. He’s obviously drawn like a boy, but he drives a car, and has an all too clearly erotic relationship with his girlfriend Cookie. Added to these ‘stars’ are a little baby brother called Elmer and a dog called Happy, which is almost a copy of Terry from Disney’s ‘Just Dogs‘ (1932). As you may notice Buddy, Cookie and even Elmer follow a trend that had existed since the dawn of the sound era of creating a star and giving him a girlfriend. Obnoxious baby brothers are nothing new either, and appear in e.g. Fleischer’s ‘Let Me Call You Sweetheart‘ (1932), Van Beuren’s ‘In the Park‘ (1932), and in Columbia’s complete Scrappy series.

In their very first adventure the quartet go on a picnic, but problems soon start when Elmer runs away with the car. This part is absolutely action rich, but the complete cartoon lacks anything that resembles a gag. Palmer was not much of a gag man, let alone a director, and after ‘Buddy’s Day Out’ he directed only one more cartoon (‘I’ve Got To Sing A Torch Song‘) before Schlesinger fired him.

‘Buddy’s Day Out’ thus was the first cartoon of Leon Schlesinger’s very own studio, and it shows. Compared to the Harman & Ising Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies, ‘Buddy’s Day Out’ is clearly of a lesser quality. Especially the thin lining of the characters is subpar, as is the rather erratic animation on them. That said, the animation on ‘Buddy’s Day Out’ is still far better than practically any animation at Paul Terry or Van Beuren, and the short at least showcases a nicely animated train. However, the cliched blandness of Buddy and friends, and the lack of anything resembling humor make ‘Buddy’s Day Out’ a far from promising start for Schlesinger’s new star.

Nevertheless, Buddy was a child of his time, for in 1933/1934 cartoons moved away from the world of sex, booze and horror to a more childish world of fairy tales, nursery rhymes etc. It was Disney who had made the first move, but also Iwerks and Van Beuren had already drifted into that direction. Thus at Warner Bros. the supposedly black, somehow mature Bosko was replaced by the white, somewhat childish Buddy. The Hays code sealed the trend by banning sex, drugs etc. By 1934 cinema had entered its most infantile stage. And it was Buddy who would be Warner Brother’s epitome of this low point in early cartoon history, which would last until the end of 1935, when a guy called Tex Avery came along…

Watch ‘Buddy’s Day Out’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Buddy’s Day Out’ is available on the DVD-set ‘Looney Tunes Golden Collection Volume Six’

Director: Dave Fleischer
Release Date: December 1, 1933
Stars: Betty Boop
Rating: ★★★
Review:

Parade of the Wooden Soldiers © ParamountBy the end of 1933 Betty Boop’s heydays were pretty much at their end.

Bimbo had left the screen in September, and Koko would soon follow in March 1934. Moreover, it had become clear that Betty Boop was in fact a sort of one-trick pony: apart from singing and being sexy, she couldn’t do little else, and in this period she’s kidnapped in almost every cartoon (apart from ‘Parade of the Wooden Soldiers’, also in ‘Betty Boop’s Big Boss‘, ‘Mother Goose Land‘, and ‘Betty in Blunderland‘. Worse, the hot jazz of August’s ‘The Old Man of the Mountain‘ was replaced by the harmless sweet orchestra music of Rubinoff and his orchestra in ‘Morning, Noon and Night‘ and ‘Parade of the Wooden Soldiers’.

In this cartoon Rubinoff plays the title song, a novelty hit from the early 1920s, accompanying a tale about a factory-made Betty Boop doll landing in a toy store. There the Betty-doll gets a warm and grand welcome, she sings ‘I’m Glad I’m here’ and is crowned queen. Like in ‘Betty’s Hallowe’en Party’ the festivities are disturbed by a brutal (toy) gorilla. He destroys many toys and like many before him he kidnaps Betty. Interestingly enough, however, the gorilla’s intentions are not sexual, heralding the new sexless era. Instead, he wants to decapitate Betty as he needs a head for another broken doll. Luckily, the wooden army comes to the rescue, and the parade continues with the captured gorilla and many damaged toys. In the final shot we can see Betty’s panties from behind.

‘Parade of the Wooden Soldiers’ is one of those Fleischer cartoons of 1933/1934 that clearly began to show a Disney influence, in this case from the Silly Symphony ‘Santa’s Workshop‘ (1932), which also features a toy parade. It’s most clear that the Fleischer’s animation had become more ambitious: the mechanical toys behave surprisingly toy-like, and even the Betty Boop doll is clearly mechanical in some scenes.

The Fleischers add some spectacular stagings, and the prologue to the theme song is no less than stunning, with the camera swooping from scene to scene, and zooming out to reveal the complete toy shop. Nevertheless, the funniest shot is typical Fleischer: in the opening scene we watch a giant factory deflating while producing the single package that will contain the Betty Boop doll.

Watch ‘Parade of the Wooden Soldiers’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Betty Boop cartoon No. 23
To the previous Betty Boop cartoon: Betty Boop’s Hallowe’en Party
To the next Betty Boop cartoon: She Wronged Him Right

‘Parade of the Wooden Soldiers’ is available on the French DVD Box Set ‘Betty Boop Coffret Collector’

Director: Dave Fleischer
Release Date: November 3, 1933
Stars: Betty Boop
Rating: ★★½
Review:

Betty Boop's Hallowe'en Party © ParamountBetty Boop invites a cold scarecrow to her Halloween party.

The scarecrow helps Betty with the preparations, decorating the walls with “witch paint” and “cat paint”. The party itself is very merry until a bullying gorilla arrives. When Betty pulls out the lights, however, suddenly some scary ghosts appear, and together with the painted witches they beat the gorilla out of the house.

‘Betty Boop’s Hallowe’en Party’ is an uneven, all too loosely composed and a little boring cartoon. It is noteworthy, however, for its most inspired score, which makes a clever use of Betty Boop’s theme song. When Betty’s answering door, one can see her panties from behind.

Watch ‘Betty Boop’s Hallowe’en Party’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Betty Boop cartoon No. 22
To the previous Betty Boop cartoon: Morning Noon and Night
To the next Betty Boop cartoon: Parade of the Wooden Soldiers

‘Betty Boop’s Hallowe’en Party’ is available on the DVD ‘Betty Boop: The Essential Collection, Vol. 1’, and on the French DVD Box Set ‘Betty Boop Coffret Collector’

Director: Dave Fleischer
Release Date: June 23, 1933
Stars: Betty Boop
Rating: ★★★½
Review:

Mother Goose Land © ParamountThis short opens with Betty Boop reading a Mother Goose book in bed.

As soon as she wishes she were in Mother Goose land, the Mother Goose from the cover grows full-size and takes Betty to ‘Mother Goose Land’ on her broom. Here we meet many nursery rhymes, while Betty is threatened by a giant spider. When she’s kidnapped by the spider, an army of crows come to the rescue. They carry the spider on its own web, in a remarkable birds-eye scene, in which the spider’s shadow is visible on the ground.

‘Mother Goose Land’ seems to herald a new era in The Fleischer Studios: the animation appears to be more ambitious and more complex than before, showing a slight Disney influence, at least from the Silly Symphony ‘Mother Goose Melodies‘ (1931).

Typical for Fleischer, however, Betty Boop is still sexy, and kidnapped by a spider whose intentions are clearly sexual. At same time, Betty is now featured in more infantile material, highlighted by the sugary close harmony music, something that would become worse in 1934, when the Hays code toned down her character.

Nevertheless, the growing infantility can be seen in all studios, and this transgression from the adult world of sex and violence to an innocent children’s world is typical for the 1933/1934, with ‘Mother Goose Land’ being just an example.

Watch ‘Mother Goose Land’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Betty Boop cartoon No. 17
To the previous Betty Boop cartoon: Betty Boop’s Big Boss
To the next Betty Boop cartoon: Popeye the Sailor

‘Mother Goose Land’ is available on the DVD ‘Betty Boop: The Essential Collection, Vol. 1’, and on the French DVD Box Set ‘Betty Boop Coffret Collector’

Director: Dave Fleischer
Release Date: January 7, 1933
Stars: Betty Boop, Koko the Clown, Bimbo
Rating: ★★★
Review:

Betty Boop's Crazy Inventions © ParamountIn this short Betty Boop organizes an invention show in a circus tent, assisted by Koko and Bimbo.

The trio demonstrates different machines, which leads to unrelated spot gags featuring the silly elaborate inventions: a spot remover, a cigarette snuffer, an egg producing machine, a soup silencer and a sweet corn regulator. Then Betty sings ‘Keep a Little Song Handy’ into a recording machine, which turns out to contain two animals.

The gags are mild, and none of the machines is really hilarious. Highlight is the runaway sewing machine, which sows everything together, including the complete tent and even rivers. Unfortunately, this great idea is hardly worked out and when a stork takes the complete tent into the sky, the cartoon ends abruptly.

The film is noteworthy, however, for some original stagings, and for the opening shot of Betty playing the organ, a surprisingly complex and convincing piece of animation, rarely seen at the Fleischer studio. ‘Betty Boop’s Crazy Inventions’ looks forward to the early Donald Duck film ‘Modern Inventions‘ of four years later, which is by all means the better product.

Watch ‘Betty Boop’s Crazy Inventions’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Betty Boop cartoon No. 10
To the previous Betty Boop cartoon: Betty Boop’s Ker-Choo
To the next Betty Boop cartoon: Is My Palm Read

‘Betty Boop’s Crazy Inventions’ is available on the French DVD Box Set ‘Betty Boop Coffret Collector’

Director: Steve Muffati
Release Date: October 6, 1933
Stars: Cubby the Bear
Rating:
Review:

Cubby's Picnic © Van Beuren‘Cubby’s Picnic’ is a cartoon vaguely set in a park. It starts with Cubby, our bland and practically emotionless hero, directing a bandstand, with all members drinking all the time.

Later we watch Cubby and his girlfriend watching a magician at a festival, later we see them in a loving mood, and going on a boat trip. We watch a school of fish singing, then several mosquitoes attacking our heroes. The cartoon, surprisingly, ends with Cubby returning to the bandstand.

‘Cubby’s Picnic’ is remarkably plotless, even for a Van Beuren cartoon. Things are just happening, without any logic or story arc, resulting in probably the worst cartoon of 1933

‘Cubby’s Picnic’ marks Steve Muffati’s debut as a director. Unfortunately, with this cartoon he only proved that he couldn’t direct at all. Nonetheless, Muffati directed five other cartoons for Van Beuren before the studio closed down. Despite his lack of direction talent, Muffati proved to be a talented animator, and he later turned up at the Fleischer studio/Famous Studio, animating for Superman, Popeye and Little Audrey films. He also drew comic strips featuring Famous characters like Little Audrey and Caspar the Friendly Ghost.

Watch ‘Cubby’s Picnic’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Cubby’s Picnic’ is available on the Blu-Ray ‘The Complete Animated Adventures of Cubby Bear’ and on the DVD ‘The Complete Adventures of Cubby Bear’

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