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Director: James Tyer
Release Date: October 27, 1933
Stars: The Little King
Rating: ★★
Review:

Marching Along © Van BeurenOf all animation films dealing with the Great Depression, the Oswald cartoon ‘Confidence‘ and the Little King short ‘Marching Along’ are the most obvious ones.

‘Marching Along’ opens with the kingdom of the Little King in dire straits. The song describes its miserable state, which we can watch with our own eyes: everybody’s broke, roads and buildings are broken and even the Little King himself is robbed of his furniture and clothes, because he can’t pay his debts.

Then the queen announces the N.R.A., lifting everybody’s spirit. Soon everything works again (composer Gene Rodemich quotes Jack Hylton’s optimistic 1930 hit song ‘Happy Days are here Again’ during this section), and the cartoon closes with the Little King bombarding an angry mob with food.

The N.R.A. stands for National Recovery Act, an important part of fresh president Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal. It was raised to stop a competitive race to the bottom, and negotiated with the industry to have minimum prizes, minimum wages and maximum weekly working hours. Unfortunately it also endorsed monopolies and cartels, and it was poorly administrated.

The National Recovery Act lasted until 1935, when it was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. By 1935 it had achieved little of its promises, and it’s generally viewed as a failure, making its high praise in ‘Marching Along’ extra sour in hindsight.

‘Marching Along’ is even more removed from Otto Soglow’s source material than its predecessor ‘The Fatal Note‘ was. The designs are a mixed bag, sometimes copying Soglow’s style, at other times being genuinely Van Beuren. The Little King himself has only a small part in the story, which is slow and tiring, and in fact only interesting because of its historical value.

Watch ‘Marching Along’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Marching Along’ is available on the DVD ‘The Complete Animated Adventures of Otto Soglow’s The Little King’

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Director: unknown
Release Date: September 29, 1933
Stars: The Little King
Rating: ★★½
Review:

The Fatal Note © Van BeurenAfter two films featuring Sentinel Louey, the Van Beuren studio turned to Otto Soglow’s greatest creation: The Little King.

It was clearly the studio’s intention to cash in on this charming character. But unlike the two Sentinel Louey cartoons, which copied Soglow’s silent comedy style very well, ‘The Fatal Note’ is much less faithful to the source material. For example, it starts with an elaborate song, not unlike Walt Disney’s ‘Father Noah’s Ark’ from earlier that year.

Apart from the Little King it also stars a cloaked terrorist, whose design has nothing to do with Soglow’s style, but which is the Van Beuren studio’s most ambitious attempt at human design, yet – another example of the studio’s attempts to keep up with Disney in human design. The terrorist introduces himself in song, but the rest of the cartoon is done in silent comedy.

The villain tries to kill the Little King, e.g. with a bomb inside a piano, a gag that gives the film its title. Eightteen years later Friz Freleng would use the same gag for the Bugs Bunny film ‘Ballot Box Bunny’ (1951), but with much, much funnier results. In ‘The Fatal Note’ the gag is just one of the terrorist’s numerous attempts to kill the king, which involves numerous bombs, anyway. The chase partly takes place on a spectacularly animated spiral staircase, which must have been the animators’ pride scene, as it is used no less than three times in the cartoon.

Because it lacks the charm of the source material, it is difficult to call ‘The Fatal Note’ a success, but it’s a great testimony of the studio’s ambitions even before Disney-alumnus Burt Gillett came along.

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

‘The Fatal Note’ is available on the DVD ‘The Complete Animated Adventures of Otto Soglow’s The Little King’

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