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Director: unknown
Release Date:
 January 1, 1933
Stars: Flip the Frog
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

Coo Coo the Magician © Ub IwerksWhile ‘The Goal Rush‘ anticipated Disney’s ‘Touchdown Mickey‘, ‘Coo Coo the Magician’ clearly follows ‘Mickey in Arabia‘ from six months earlier. The setting and the story are too similar to ignore, making ‘Coo Coo the Magician’ quite a rip-off of Mickey’s wonderful cartoon.

Like Mickey, Flip visits some vague Arabian country with his sweetheart. There they meet the magician. When Flip challenges him, the magician makes his sweetheart disappear. While Flip gets lost in an Egyptian tomb, his girl comes in the clutches of a sultan. Flip comes to the rescue, battling several stereotyped black servants, which the cartoon unfortunately also inherited from Mickey’s cartoon. In the end the couple manages to escape on a magic carpet. There’s a short erotic scene of Flip falling into a harem.

Maybe just because it is a copy of ‘Mickey in Arabia’, ‘Coo Coo the Magician’ is an enjoyable cartoon. The exotic setting clearly inspired the makers to make other gags than usual, making this short standing above the average Flip the Frog cartoon.

Watch ‘Coo Coo the Magician’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Flip the Frog cartoon No. 32
To the previous Flip the Frog cartoon: Funny Face
To the next Flip the Frog cartoon: Flip’s Lunch Room

‘Coo Coo the Magician’ is available on the DVD ‘Cartoons That Time Forgot – The Ub Iwerks Collection Vol. 2’

Director: unknown
Release Date:
 December 24, 1932
Stars: Flip the Frog
Rating: ★★★½
Review:

Funny Face © Ub IwerksBy the end of 1932 the Flip the Frog cartoons had turned in genuine gag cartoons, full of action.

‘Funny Face’ starts with a new title card, with an updated Flip the Frog design, showing his more boyish persona he had received the last cartoons, but retaining the bass voice of his earlier incarnation.

In ‘Funny Face’ Flip is typically boyish. He has a date with a girl, but she prefers someone else. So he visits Dr. Skinnum to get a new face. When Flip enters the place, ‘Funny Face’ follows Disney’s ‘King Neptune‘ in the new operetta format, with several masks hanging on a wall singing to him. While Flip gets a new face, his girl is kidnapped by a bully. With his new (human) face, Flip attracts seven girls, who start following him, so he hides in the very house the bully has captured his sweetheart. He rescues her, loses his new face, but gains her love, after all. What becomes of the other seven girls, we’ll never know.

‘Funny Face’ is a strange mix of a gag cartoon and pure melodrama. Its story is erratic, and Flip being a frog among humans becomes more and more problematical, and watching him with a human face is pretty weird to say the least. Notice the strange, rounded backgrounds, however, which are unique to the Iwerks cartoons.

Watch ‘Funny Face’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Flip the Frog cartoon No. 31
To the previous Flip the Frog cartoon: Nurse Maid
To the next Flip the Frog cartoon: Coo Coo the Magician

‘Funny Face’ is available on the DVD ‘Cartoons That Time Forgot – The Ub Iwerks Collection Vol. 2’

Director: unknown
Release Date:
 November 26, 1932
Stars: Flip the Frog
Rating: ★★★
Review:

Nurse Maid © Ub Iwerks‘Nurse Maid’ is a typical cartoon from the Great Depression era, depicting small jobs and poverty.

The short starts very well with Flip as a newspaper boy facing a lot of bad luck destroying his trade. Broke, he sits down on the street to worry. Luckily a woman offers him a dollar if he minds her big-nosed baby. The rest of the cartoon is devoted to Flip’s troubles with the baby, which start immediately when the baby swallows the coin. Thus Flip conjures an unhealthy plan to retrieve it from the baby’s mouth with a fishing rod (!). While Flip sets out to get one, the baby swallows a potion which makes the little fellow strong…

Like ‘The Goal Rush‘, ‘Nurse Maid’ is as gag rich as it is unfunny. Luckily, Carl Stalling’s music is very inspired, following the action so closely that most of the tunes are reduced to snippets (for example, when during a chase a Scotchman is encountered, Stalling inserts a few bars of a Scottish tune before resuming the chase music). In fact, the cartoon is recommended for Stalling’s music only, which is a marvel to listen to.

Watch ‘Nurse Maid’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Flip the Frog cartoon No. 30
To the previous Flip the Frog cartoon: The Music Lesson
To the next Flip the Frog cartoon: Funny Face

‘Nurse Maid’ is available on the DVD ‘Cartoons That Time Forgot – The Ub Iwerks Collection Vol. 2’

Director: unknown
Release Date:
 October 3, 1932
Stars: Flip the Frog
Rating: ★★★
Review:

The Goal Rush © Ub Iwerks.jpg‘The Goal Rush’ was released only twelve days before the Mickey Mouse cartoon ‘Touchdown Mickey‘ and covers the same ground.

It’s interesting to compare both cartoons, because they’re both lively gag cartoons full of action. Unfortunately, Mickey’s cartoon is better designed, better drawn, better animated, better timed, and better told than Flip’s. So where ‘Touchdown Mickey’ is one of Mickey’s greatest films, and one of the best cartoons of 1932, ‘The Goal Rush’ never really comes off. The gags are often trite, the timing is terribly sloppy and the story meandering.

We watch a football game between Burp University (a bunch of bullies) and Nertz University (Flip and some nerds). Flip’s frog design becomes more and more problematical among the human characters, especially as his love interest is a human girl. The human characters now all have their typical Iwerks designs, except for a very Betty Boop-like farmer girl Flip unveils under a haystack while riding a pig.

There’s a lot going on in this cartoon, but it’s difficult to indicate a good gag. There’s at least a surprising one in which a bandleader shoots a clarinet player who plays off key. The best gag may be the football (pigskin) joining a pig family.

Watch ‘The Goal Rush’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Flip the Frog cartoon No. 27
To the previous Flip the Frog cartoon: Circus
To the next Flip the Frog cartoon: Phoney Express

‘The Goal Rush’ is available on the DVD ‘Cartoons That Time Forgot – The Ub Iwerks Collection Vol. 2’

Director: unknown
Release Date:
 October 29, 1932
Stars: Flip the Frog
Rating: ★★
Review:

The Music Lesson © Ub IwerksIn ‘The Music Lesson’ Flip returns to his schoolboy days from ‘School Days‘, and this short also stars the teacher and dog from the earlier cartoon.

‘The Music lesson’ starts with Flip having to stay inside for one hour to practice his piano lessons. But his human friends signal him from the outside to come outside and swim. Flip tries to sneak out three times, and he succeeds the third time, but at the pond he’s caught by both his piano teacher and a gamekeeper, and in the last scene he’s seen practicing his piano in jail, guarded by the two authority figures.

‘The Music Lesson’ is a genuine attempt at a continuity of gags, but the short is severely hampered by erratic animation and sloppy timing. None of the gags really comes off, and the finale is anything but that. It seems that by the end of 1932 Flip’s short-lived heydays were already over.

Watch ‘The Music Lesson’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Flip the Frog cartoon No. 29
To the previous Flip the Frog cartoon: Phoney Express
To the next Flip the Frog cartoon: Nurse Maid

‘The Music Lesson’ is available on the DVD ‘Cartoons That Time Forgot – The Ub Iwerks Collection Vol. 1’

Director: unknown
Release Date:
 August 22, 1932
Stars: Flip the Frog
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

Stormy Seas © Flip the FrogIn ‘Stormy Seas’ Flip the Frog is a sailor, playing and dancing merrily with his fellow sailors, until their ship is caught in a thunderstorm. Soon Flip receives the S.O.S. of another boat in need, and he runs off to rescue a Honey-like female kitten in a long rescue scene.

There’s practically no dull moment in ‘Stormy Seas’, but the cartoon also demonstrates that Iwerks was looking back for inspiration, instead of forward. The scene in which Flip swims right through the waves is borrowed straight from the Mickey Mouse cartoon ‘Wild Waves‘ (1929), and the rescue scene borrows the lifeline gag from the Mickey short ‘The Fire Fighters‘ (1930). This type of gag borrowing would become worse in Flip’s next cartoon, ‘Circus’. Nevertheless, it should be mentioned that it had also occurred occasionally in the early Mickeys themselves, as they reused several gags from Mickey’s predecessor Oswald.

There’s a great deal of anthropomorphism of lifeless objects in this cartoon: the cloud, the radio and even Flip’s chewing tobacco become humanized. However, the cartoon is most noteworthy for its very inspired music. It’s undoubtedly by MGM composer Scott Bradley, for it displays his unique style of intertwining several melodies in a classical way, mixing the hornpipe and ‘My Bonnie’ with Richard Wagner’s ‘The Flying Dutchman’ to great effect during the storm scene. This is the first testimony of Bradley’s mature style known to me, and it anticipates his celebrated work of the 1940s.

Watch ‘Stormy Seas’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Flip the Frog cartoon No. 25
To the previous Flip the Frog cartoon: Room Runners
To the next Flip the Frog cartoon: Circus

‘The Office Boy’ is available on the DVD Cartoons that Time Forgot – The Ub Iwerks

Director: unknown
Release Date:
 August 13, 1932
Stars: Flip the Frog
Rating: ★★★★★♕
Review:

Room Runners © Ub Iwerks‘Room Runners’ starts with Flip trying to sneak out of his apartment block to escape six months of arrears. Unfortunately, he’s discovered by the landlady, and a long chase starts, which also involves a policeman and a running gag of a man with a tooth ache.

‘Room Runners’ takes the eroticism introduced in ‘The Office Boy‘ to heights that even surpass the sexual references in Fleischer’s Betty Boop cartoons. Already in the first scene we watch a young lady (the secretary from the previous cartoon) wandering in her night gown. Flip then runs into a bathroom, where a naked woman takes a shower, and he spies on naked ladies twice. Finally, the landlady falls into a painting of a naked woman, with bare breasts.

The cartoon is gag packed, but the animation is erratic, and the visual language sometimes straight from the silent era – something typical of the mid-1932 Flip the Frog cartoons. Both this strange mix of styles and its strong erotic content make ‘Room Runners’ a unique short. If one should watch just one Flip the Frog cartoon, this one should be it.

Watch ‘Room Runners’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Flip the Frog cartoon No. 24
To the previous Flip the Frog cartoon: The Office Boy
To the next Flip the Frog cartoon: Stormy Seas

‘The Office Boy’ is available on the DVD Cartoons that Time Forgot – The Ub Iwerks

 

Director: unknown
Release Date:
 July 16, 1932
Stars: Flip the Frog
Rating: ★★★★★
Review:

The Office Boy © Ub IwerksIn ‘The Office Boy’ Flips applies to be an office boy, and he’s hired on the post, after he has washed away all his competitors with a fire hose.

Once at work he accidentally starts a record player, and he and the sexy secretary start to dance to some rumba music. Later, a cat and a mouse cause havoc, leading to the secretary losing her dress, and Flip being fired.

‘The Office Boy’ is a gag-packed cartoon, the best of which is the one with a face Flip paints on a dirty window. Flip’s voice is remarkably Mickey Mouse-like in this cartoon, but most of the humor would not fit Mickey, at all, as many gags involve the sexy secretary, repeatedly revealing her underwear.

The secretary would be used again in Flip’s next cartoon, ‘Room Runners‘, which is even more erotic. The secretary is also shown chewing bubble gum, in one of the first animated depictions of this 1928 invention (another contender is the Mickey Mouse film ‘Barnyard Olympics‘ from April).

The erotic secretary seems proof that Iwerks wanted to compete with Fleischer’s sensual Betty Boop cartoons. However, it may also be an example of an increased amount of sex references employed by Hollywood in 1932 in general, for a stronger sexual content can also be noted in live action movies from the era.

This higher level of eroticism in Hollywood cinema remained extant until 1934, when the Hays code kicked in with a vengeance, and the tables were turned exactly the other way: for most of the 1930s cartoons often became ridiculously goody-goody and childish, reaching a low point around 1935/1936.

Watch ‘The Office Boy’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Flip the Frog cartoon No. 23
To the previous Flip the Frog cartoon: The Bully
To the next Flip the Frog cartoon: Room Runners

‘The Office Boy’ is available on the DVD Cartoons that Time Forgot – The Ub Iwerks Collection Vol. 2

Director: unknown
Release Date:
 June 18, 1932
Stars: Flip the Frog
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

The Bully © Ub Iwerks‘The Bully’ is a Flip the Frog featuring Flip’s little human child friend from ‘The Milkman‘ and ‘What a Life‘. However, unlike those two cartoons it’s not sentimental, but a gag-packed cartoon.

When a bully destroys the child’s balloon with his cigar, Flip and him start a fight. A passer-by suggests they continue their fight in the ring, which leads to a long boxing match scene that belongs to the most entertaining of the era, outplaying the similar ‘The Robot‘ (Fleischer, 1932) and ‘Mickey’s Mechanical Man‘ (1933), not in the least because Flip has to face the bully himself instead of letting a robot doing the work for him. The boxing scene is even more interesting than the one in the Laurel & Hardy short ‘Any Old Port’ from three months earlier, which is a more valid comparison.

The highlight of the fight is the knockout in which the bully hits Flip into orbit around the earth only to get floored by Flip falling on his head. The boxing match features some interesting and very vivid backgrounds of constantly moving spectators. It also features strong stereotypes of Afro-Americans and a homosexual.

At this point in Iwerks’s career his studio could produce cartoons with strong stories consisting of a continuous string of gags. In 1932 only Disney could tell more consistent stories. Unfortunately, the studio’s cartoons were hampered by silent era visual language, erratic animation, inconsistent designs and sloppy timing. In other words, Iwerks’s style was as modern as it was old-fashioned.

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

This is Flip the Frog cartoon No. 22
To the previous Flip the Frog cartoon: School Days
To the next Flip the Frog cartoon: The Office Boy

‘The Bully’ is available on the DVD Cartoons that Time Forgot – The Ub Iwerks Collection Vol. 2

 

Director: unknown
Release Date:
 May 13, 1932
Stars: Flip the Frog
Rating:
Review:

School Days © Ub IwerksIn most of his films Flip the Frog, like Mickey Mouse, is somewhat of a young adult. Yet, in ‘School Days’ Flip suddenly is young enough to have to attend school, where he gets music lessons among human kids.

Unfortunately, Flip’s dog (introduced in the previous cartoon, ‘Puppy Love’) has followed him to school, and battles with a skunk, which has popped out of nowhere, making all people, including the desks, flee the building.

‘School Days’ is a very weak and terribly unfunny cartoon, anticipating many childish cartoon of the later 1930s. Its story is less consistent, but also less sentimental than that of ‘The Milkman‘ or ‘What a Life‘ from earlier that year. Unfortunately, it doesn’t exchange the sentimentality for anything, rendering a bland, forgettable cartoon. To illustrate this: the ‘best gag’ is when the teacher accidentally picks up an erotic magazine instead of a schoolbook.

Watch ‘School Days’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Flip the Frog cartoon No. 21
To the previous Flip the Frog cartoon: Puppy Love
To the next Flip the Frog cartoon: The Bully

‘School Days’ is available on the DVD ‘Cartoons that Time Forgot – The Ub Iwerks Collection Vol. 2’

Director: unknown
Release Date:
 March 26, 1932
Stars: Flip the Frog
Rating: ★★★
Review:

What a Life © Ub Iwerks‘What a Life’ is a genuine cartoon from the Great Depression era.

In the opening scene Flip and the little brat from ‘The Milkman‘ are poor musicians performing on the street to no avail. Being hungry, they pawn their instruments, only to lose their money to a swindler. Later they have to flee for a cop, and find food and shelter at a house, whose owner turns out to be the cop’s wife.

‘What A Life’ is a sentimental film, akin to the Laurel & Hardy film ‘Below Zero’ (1930), and ‘Mickey’s Good Deed‘ from later that year. Even more than ‘The Milkman’ it plays at sentiments more than laughs, and it looks ahead to the sentimentality that would dominate the years 1934-1938. Nevertheless, because it’s so typical of the darkest days of the Great Depression, it’s more interesting than most of those films. Moreover, it features a remarkably sexy and adulterous woman in the cop’s wife.

One of the spectators in the opening scene is a clear caricature of someone, but of whom?

Watch ‘What a Life’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Flip the Frog cartoon No. 19
To the previous Flip the Frog cartoon: Fire! Fire!
To the next Flip the Frog cartoon: Puppy Love

‘What a Life’ is available on the DVD ‘Cartoons that Time Forgot – The Ub Iwerks Collection Vol. 2’

Director: unknown
Release Date:
 February 20, 1932
Stars: Flip the Frog
Rating: ★★
Review:

The Milkman © Ub IwerksIn ‘The Milkman’ Flip is both a farmer with a dairy farm and a milkman.

The cartoon features an extraordinary scene of Flip delivering milk, which uses an animated background, with an original curved perspective. Unfortunately, most of the screen time is devoted to Flip trying to deal with an annoying little brat he finds in a trashcan. The brat causes Flip quite some trouble, but at the end of the cartoon Flip and the brat become friends. Indeed, one month later we watch them together in the sentimental ‘What A Life‘.

The antics of Flip and the boy anticipate similar cartoons of ca. 1934-1938, when the Hays code had hit Hollywood hard, and most studios turned out remarkably childish, goody-goody cartoons. ‘The Milkman’ is an early example, playing on sentiments instead of laughs.

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

‘The Milkman’ is available on the DVD ‘Cartoons that Time Forgot – The Ub Iwerks Collection Vol. 2’

Director: unknown
Release Date:
 December 21, 1931
Stars: Flip the Frog
Rating: ★★★★★
Review:

Spooks © Ub Iwerks‘Spooks’ opens with Flip seeking shelter from a rain storm in an old mansion.

There he encounters a skeleton who invites him to dinner of a skeleton of a roasted chicken. Later Flip dances with a female skeleton, while the deceased owner of the house plans to add flip to his skeleton collection.

‘Spooks’ is one of the best of the Flip the Frog cartoons. Featuring a much more consistent story than the earlier ‘The Cuckoo Murder Case’, the cartoon manages to provide a genuine feeling of horror, only matched by Disney’s ‘The Mad Doctor‘ (1932). When confronted with the homicidal skeleton, Flip is in real peril. Moreover, outside the mansion the nightmare continues, when even Flip’s own horse has turned into some living bones.

The scenes inside the haunted house feature distorted angles, which add to the claustrophobic feel. Strangely enough the curved backgrounds can also be seen in subsequent Flip the Frog cartoons, like ‘The Milkman‘ and ‘What A Life‘, where they don’t contribute to the atmosphere, at all. In fact, they would become a unique style element in the Ub Iwerks cartoons.

The complete cartoon is well-animated, with the opening scene, in which Flip and his horse battle the elements, being particularly outstanding.

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

This is Flip the Frog cartoon No. 16
To the previous Flip the Frog cartoon: Africa Squeaks
To the next Flip the Frog cartoon: The Milkman

‘Spooks’ is available on the DVD ‘Cartoons that Time Forgot – The Ub Iwerks Collection Vol. 2’

Director: Ub Iwerks
Release Date:
 August 29, 1931
Stars: Flip the Frog
Rating: ★★★
Review:

Movie Mad © Ub Iwerks‘Movie Mad’ starts with Flip the Frog reading a book titled ‘How to be a Movie Actor’ and imitating Charlie Chaplin.

With his newfound talent he tries to enter a film studio, but he’s thrown out again and again by the guard. Flip even reuses an Oswald trick from ‘Bright Lights‘ (1928), trying to sneak in under a man’s shadow. When he finally’s inside, the cartoon actually fails to deliver its premise. Flip gets caught in a Western, in some 1001 Arabian Nights setting, and in a Russian drama, but that’s pretty much it. The Russian drama scene is undoubtedly inspired by the 1915 Charlie Chaplin comedy ‘His New Job’.

Although the cartoon fails to make full use of its Hollywood setting, it contains a great corridor scene. This scene expands on the one in the Mickey Mouse cartoon ‘The Gorilla Mystery‘ (1930), adding more zaniness to it. It is a direct ancestor to the marvelous corridor scene in Tex Avery’s ‘Lonesome Lenny’ (1946). Besides this there are some great caricatures of Laurel and Hardy, depicted as dogs. These may very well be the first animated caricatures of Laurel and Hardy ever put on screen. They would return in the very last Flip the Frog cartoon, ‘Soda Squirt’ (1933), along with several other Hollywood caricatures.

‘Movie Mad’ may turn out to be rather disappointing, it does feature great music by Carl Stalling, and it lays out the story plan for both the Donald Duck cartoon ‘The Autograph Hound’ (1939) and the Looney Tune ‘You Ought To Be in Pictures‘ (1940).

Watch ‘Movie Mad’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Flip the Frog cartoon No. 12
To the previous Flip the Frog cartoon: The New Car
To the next Flip the Frog cartoon: The Village Specialist

‘Movie Mad’ is available on the DVD ‘Cartoons That Time Forgot – The Ub Iwerks Collection Vol. 2’

Director: Ub Iwerks
Release Date:
 May 2, 1931
Stars: Flip the Frog, Honey
Rating: ★★★
Review:

Ragtime Romeo © Ub Iwerks‘Ragtime Romeo’ initially seems to revisit a theme that Ub Iwerks had explored before with Walt Disney in the Oswald the Lucky Rabbit film ‘Rival Romeos‘ and the Mickey Mouse short ‘The Barn Dance‘ (both 1928), when we watch both Flip and a Pete-like character ride their anthropomorphized cars to Honey’s house.

But when Flip starts to serenade Honey, events take a different turn. Flip serenades her on a guitar, while yodeling and whistling, and on a piano, waking up all the neighbors. Surprisingly, they all respond enthusiastically, urging Flip to play more, except for one, who desperately tries to block out the noise. In the end she calls the police, which arrests the still performing Flip and Honey.

This short contains a piquant scene, in which Flip’s portrait watches Honey undressing. Later, the real Flip watches her naked silhouette through the window curtains. Iwerks’s studio would add more of these risque moments in future shorts, like ‘What a Life‘,  ‘The Office Boy‘ and most notably ‘Room Runners‘ (all from 1932).

Watch ‘Ragtime Romeo’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Flip the Frog cartoon No. 10
To the previous Flip the Frog cartoon: Laughing Gas
To the next Flip the Frog cartoon: The New Car

‘Ragtime Romeo’ is available on the DVD ‘Cartoons That Time Forgot – The Ub Iwerks Collection Vol. 2’

Director: Ub Iwerks
Release Date:
 January 31, 1931
Stars: Flip the Frog
Rating:
Review:

The Village Smitty © Ub IwerksIn this cartoon Flip the Frog is a blacksmith in a farm-like setting.

Flip replaces a horseshoe of a horse that belongs to a female cat character. This kitten looks exactly like Honey, who was Oswalds’s girlfriend in the 1927-1928 Oswald the Lucky Rabbit cartoons, which Disney and Iwerks had made together. When the horse gets stung by a mosquito he runs off with “Honey” helpless in her carriage. Luckily, Flip saves the day, and wins “Honey”’s kiss.

‘The Village Smitty’ is much more interesting on paper than on the animated screen. Its even pace and its scarcity of gags makes the cartoon virtually endless.

Nevertheless, ‘The Village Smitty’ profits from Carl Stalling’s inspired music. Stalling had left Disney together with Iwerks, thinking that without Iwerks the Disney studio would have no future. After a while he joined Iwerks in his new studio. Stalling would stay with Iwerks until the studio collapsed in 1936. He then moved to Warner Bros., where he would become the most famous cartoon composer of all time.

Watch ‘The Village Smitty’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Flip the Frog cartoon No. 8
To the previous Flip the Frog cartoon: The Soup Song
To the next Flip the Frog cartoon: Laughing Gas

‘The Village Smitty’ is available on the DVD ‘Cartoons That Time Forgot – The Ub Iwerks Collection Vol. 1’

Director: Ub Iwerks
Release Date:
 January 31, 1931
Stars: Flip the Frog
Rating:
Review:

The Soup Song © Ub IwerksIn ‘The Soup Song’ Flip works at a café, although his real occupation there remains rather obscure.

We watch him as a bandleader (imitating Paul Whiteman), as a purser, a cloakroom boy, a waiter and a cook. He dances with a cat on stage (who looks very much like Oswald’s girlfriend, Honey), while a hungry customer eats his cutlery, a gag clearly stolen from the Max Fleischer cartoon ‘Dizzy Dishes’, released five months earlier. In ‘The Soup Song’ the gag is much less well executed however, and it lacks the zany imagination of the Fleischer cartoon. In no sense ‘The Soup Song’ is a classic, and although the animation is good, the cartoon pales even when compared to ‘Dizzy Dishes’, which isn’t all too remarkable itself.

Watch ‘The Soup Song’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Flip the Frog cartoon No. 7
To the previous Flip the Frog cartoon: Little Orphan Willie
To the next Flip the Frog cartoon: The Village Smitty

‘The Soup Song’ is available on the DVD ‘Cartoons That Time Forgot – The Ub Iwerks Collection Vol. 1’

Director: Ub Iwerks
Release Date:
 September 27, 1930
Stars: Flip the Frog
Rating: ★★★
Review:

The Village Barber © Ub IwerksAfter two films Flip the Frog was redesigned to be a sort of a young man, living in town. Thus in his fourth cartoon Flip is a barber.

This cartoon contains only two scenes: in the first scene we watch Flip polishing his barber pole, which is then stolen and replaced by Flip out of a cat’s tail. In the second scene Flip cuts a hairy dog customer, accompanied by a nail polisher and a shoe polisher. The four of them sing a song together, with which the cartoon ends.

‘The Village Barber’ is typical for the early Ub Iwerks cartoons, in which everything is sparked with life. Even the chair, the razor, and the furnace are autonomous beings, dancing to the musical beat. The Ub Iwerks shorts lack the metamorphosis and spontaneous generation so typical of contemporary Fleischer Talkartoons (e.g. ‘Barnacle Bill‘ and ‘Mysterious Mose‘). Yet, together with the rhythmical Disney-like animation, the abundance of life give the Flip the Frog cartoons a very distinct character. Unfortunately, ‘The Village Barber’ is as low on gags as other Flip the Frog cartoons, and a little boring.

Nevertheless, it’s cartoons like these that ultimately sold the Flip the Frog series to MGM, making it the lion studio’s first venture in cartoon business. Iwerks’s contract with MGM lasted until 1934, when the company exchanged Ub Iwerks for Harman & Ising.

Watch ‘The Village Barber’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Flip the Frog cartoon No. 4
To the previous Flip the Frog cartoon: Flying Fists
To the next Flip the Frog cartoon: The Cuckoo Murder Case

‘The Village Barber’ is available on the DVD ‘Cartoons That Time Forgot – The Ub Iwerks Collection Vol. 1’

Director: Ub Iwerks
Release Date:
 December, 1930
Stars: Flip the Frog
Rating: ★★½
Review:

Puddle Pranks © Ub IwerksAlthough released after four other cartoons, ‘Puddle Pranks’ is Flip the Frog’s second cartoon. It was made before Pat Powers had sold the series, and it’s the last in which he’s portrayed as a real frog, small in size and acting in nature. Powers was dissatisfied with this version of Flip, and in the subsequent films he would, like Mickey Mouse, be boy-sized and living in towns.

‘Puddle Pranks’ starts with a very Mickey Mouse-like scene, in which Flip drops by his girlfriend’s house to take her for a ride in a grasshopper-chariot. Soon they’re followed by a pelican, which eats the grasshopper(!), and threatens to eat the two frogs. Flip disposes of the pelican, and the two go for a swim. But suddenly, the pelican is back, and they are only rescued because the pelican is eaten by a large fish.

‘Like ‘Fiddlesticks‘, Flip’s first cartoon, ‘Puddle Pranks’ is well animated and joyful, but low on gags and rather boring. The short is almost evenly paced, which makes it rather tiresome to watch.

Watch ‘Puddle Pranks’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Flip the Frog cartoon No. 2
To the previous Flip the Frog cartoon: Fiddlesticks
To the next Flip the Frog cartoon: Flying Fists

‘Puddle Pranks’ is available on the DVD ‘Cartoons That Time Forgot – The Ub Iwerks Collection Vol. 1’

Director: Ub Iwerks
Release Date:
 August 16, 1930
Stars: Flip the Frog
Rating: ★★
Review:

Fiddlesticks © Ub IwerksIn January 1930 Pat Powers, Walt Disney’s distributor, hired away Disney’s star animator, Ub Iwerks, the man who had created Mickey Mouse.

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’

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