Director: Ub Iwerks
Release Date: August 16, 1930
Stars: Flip the Frog
Iwerks was to set up his own studio, with animators quickly hired with help of a newspaper ad. ‘Fiddlesticks’ was his pilot film, launching Iwerks’s own new star, Flip the Frog. According to David Gerstein in ‘Animation Art’ the origin of Flip can be found in the Silly Symphony, ‘Night’, which features a dancing frog. Apparently, Iwerks wanted to make a star out of this frog, but this idea was vetoed by Walt Disney. Now, with his own studio, he could launch Flip the Frog as his sole new star, which the likable if bland amphibian remained until 1933.
Surprisingly enough, ‘Fiddlesticks’, was made in Technicolor, making it the first sound cartoon in color, predating Walt Disney’s first color cartoon, ‘Flowers and Trees‘, by two years. A milestone, one would say, if Walter Lantz had not already made a Technicolor cartoon sequence for the feature ‘The King of Jazz’, released in April. Moreover, in 1930 Technicolor was still a two-color system, only showing greens and reds, and Iwerks fails to do anything with the colors, which are less impressive than the later full color technicolor, anyway. Indeed, the following Flip the Frog cartoons were all in black-and-white.
Not only does ‘Fiddlesticks’ fail as a color cartoon, it is also disappointingly boring. The animation is good, and there’s a lot of rhythmical movement, perfectly synchronized to the soundtrack, but the cartoon is devoid of any story, and low on gags. The main body of the cartoon features a concert performance with Flip dancing and playing the piano, while a rather Mickey Mouse-like mouse plays the violin. The duet reuses some gags from earlier Mickey Mouse cartoons, like ‘The Jazz Fool‘ (1929) and ‘Just Mickey‘ (1930).
Unfortunately, ‘Fiddlesticks’ shows the problems of many Flip the Frog cartoons to follow: the animation is fine and the atmosphere is joyful, but the cartoons are surprisingly low on gags and the stories never really come off, mainly due to sloppy timing and the absence of a build-up.
Watch ‘Fiddlesticks’ yourself and tell me what you think:
This is Flip the Frog cartoon No. 1
To the next Flip the Frog cartoon: Puddle Pranks
‘Fiddlesticks’ is available on the DVD ‘Cartoons That Time Forgot – The Ub Iwerks Collection Vol. 1’