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Director: Oskar Fischinger
Production Date:
 1930
Rating: ★★★★★
Review:

Studie Nr. 6 © Oskar FischingerIn this short study we watch white shapes moving on a black canvas to upbeat dance music (‘Los Verderones’ by Jacinto Guerrero).

Made with charcoal on paper, the result looks like a filmed sketch by Wassily Kandinsky. The only recognizable shape is an eye, which reoccurs a few times.

The twirling shapes are elegantly drawn, their movements match the jolly music perfectly, and there’s a feeling of gaiety that transcends the film’s abstraction.

In 1931 Oskar Fischinger’s friend Paul Hindemith and some of his students made new scores for this film, but unfortunately they were all lost in World War II.

Watch ‘Studie nr. 6’ yourself and tell me what you think:

http://www.tudou.com/listplay/R8qsaMltb9Y.html

‘Studie nr. 6′ is available on the DVD ‘Oskar Fischinger: Ten Films’

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Director: Neil McGuire
Release Date:
 December 1930
Rating:
Review:

Cryin' for the Carolines © Warner Bros.‘Cryin’ for the Carolines’ was the first of the so-called Spooney Melodies, a short-lived series, produced by Leon Schlesinger, using semi-abstract images set to organ music.

Only five are known, and only this one has survived. The short features Milton Charles, ‘the singing organist’, singing and playing the sugary tune. Neil McGuire provides the classy, but static art deco art, e.g. of a sailing ship and a city skyline.

There’s practically no animation involved, although there is some movement on the screen. The images have an avant-garde quality, but as almost nothing happens, the complete film fails to satisfy. Schlesinger followed the series with the much more successful Merrie Melodies.

Watch ‘Cryin’ for the Carolines’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Cryin’ for the Carolines’ is available on the DVD ‘Looney Tunes Golden Collection Volume Six’ and the Blu-Ray ‘Looney Tunes Platinum Collection: Volume 2’

Directors: Hugh Harman & Rudolf Ising
Release Date: October 1930
Stars: Bosko
Rating: ★★½
Review:

Congo Jazz © Warner Bros.‘Congo Jazz’, Bosko’s second official cartoon, is Harman and Ising’s answer to Disney’s ‘Jungle Rhythm‘ (1929).

Like Disney’s cartoon, it hasn’t aged very well. The cartoon opens with Bosko wearing a pith helmet and exploring a supposedly African jungle. When confronted by a tiger (a species not endemic to Africa), Bosko immediately loses the pith helmet.

He appeases the tiger with music, and then kicks it over a cliff. Then he has to sooth a large ape, which he does by giving it some chewing gum. Together they play some plucking string music with their gums, while a few monkeys dance. Soon, other animals join in, e.g. a kangaroo, another rather un-African animal. Bosko directs all the animals into an upbeat tune.

The cartoon is low on gags and feels endless, especially during the musical part. The most extraordinary scene is that of a palm tree shimmying to Bosko’s music as if it were a woman. The animation of Bosko is still very rooted in the Oswald-era: Bosko’s body is very flexible, and almost mechanical.

Watch ‘Congo Jazz’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Congo Jazz’ is available on the DVD ‘Looney Tunes Golden Collection Volume Six’

Director: Svend Noldan
Release Date:
 1930
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

Hein Priembacke in Afrika © Svend NoldanHein Priembacke was a cartoon character conceived and animated by Svend Noldan. Noldan had his origins in the German dadaist avant-garde scene, something that is not visible in this cartoon.

‘Hein Priembacke in Afrika’ is a silent film and uses German title cards in rhyme. Hein Priembacke is a sailor who’s washed ashore an African desert. Being hungry he first tries to retrieve a coconut, which turns out to be a wallaby. Later he goes to a settlement (which was visible in the background all the time), where he pulls two turnips, which turn out to be Negroes (forgive me the word – it’s used as such in the film itself). The angered cannibals soon chase our hero (“Jetzt wird’s bedenklich, lieber Christ. Der Neger ist kein Pazifist” reads the title card, which translates as “Now it becomes questionable, dear Christ, for the negro is no pacifist“), but he manages to escape to his homeland, hanging on the legs of a stork.

The animation is surprisingly well done, although the action is at times ridiculously slow. The film’s highlight are the animation of the waves and of the landscape on Priembacke’s flight back home. Done with cut outs, the landscape moves stunningly realistically under our hero, creating a great sense of depth, predating Disney’s multi-plane camera by seven years.

Indeed, special effects turned out to be Noldan’s expertise. His star rose when the National Socialists came to power in 1933, and many film makers left Germany. He later provided special effects for German propaganda films, like Leni Riefenstahl’s ‘Triumf des Willens’ (1935), and ‘Der ewige Jude’ (1939). During World War II he worked for the German war industry. Although his role in Nazi Germany is dubious to say the least, he survived the war unscathed, and returned to making films, which he kept on doing until the end of the 1960s.

Watch ‘Hein Priembacke in Afrika’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Hein Priembacke in Afrika’ is available on the DVD ‘Uncensored Animation 2: Cannibals!’

Directors: Harry Bailey & John Foster
Release Date:
 July 6, 1930
Stars: Waffles and Don
Rating: ★★★
Review:

Jungle Jazz © Van Beuren‘Jungle Jazz’ features that unsung duo, Waffles and Don, introduced in three months earlier in ‘The Haunted Ship‘. This time we watch the tall cat and the small dog walking through a jungle.

In this cartoon the duo’s ‘personalities’ are well-established: Waffles is continually scared, while Don remains unimpressed. The film’s highlight is an early scene in which Waffles and Don encounter all kinds of bizarre, psychedelic animals. Waffles and Don hide from these in a cabin, where they find an organ, which Waffles starts to play immediately. This prompts the cartoon’s obligate dance routine, with all kinds of (normal African) animals dancing.

Then, suddenly, they’re surrounded by cannibals! Don even helps them lighting the fire under their cooking pot. But he also somehow manages to scare them away, and the last scene is for four animals forming a barbershop quartet.

‘Jungle Jazz’ is a loosely jointed and erratic short, and it’s a pity the animators didn’t elaborate on the psychedelic animals in the beginning of the cartoon.

Watch ‘Jungle Jazz’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Jungle Jazz’ is available on the DVDs ‘Uncensored Animation 2: Cannibals!’ and ‘The Complete Animated Adventures of Van Beuren Studio’s Tom and Jerry’

Director: Burt Gillett
Release Date:
 December 16, 1930
Rating: ★★★★½
Review:

Playful Pan © Walt DisneyWith his double pipe, Pan makes all animals and plants, yes, even trees and clouds move and dance. The latter cause a fire with their lightning, but Pan lures the flames away to the lake, as if he were the pied piper.

Like ‘Springtime‘ (1929) ‘Playful Pan’ can be regarded as a forerunner of Disney’s groundbreaking cartoon ‘Flowers and Trees‘ (1932). The short is especially interesting for the introduction of the anthropomorphized flames, so typical of cartoons about fire. ‘Playful Pan’ is more entertaining than earlier Silly Symphonies, because half way the dance routine gives way to some kind of story, in which fire threatens the forest. This fire sequence is actually rather exciting. The fire itself is well animated, and the flames form a real threat: they do kill a humanized tree, and make all the animals flee.

The story formula of ‘Playful Pan’, in which the second half has some kind of story, was explored in many more Silly Symphonies from 1931 (e.g. ‘Birds of a Feather‘, ‘The China Plate‘. ‘The Busy Beavers‘). One had to wait until ‘The Ugly Duckling‘, from the end of that year, to watch a Silly Symphony to feature a concise story from start to end.

Watch ‘Playful Pan’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Silly Symphony No. 15
To the previous Silly Symphony: Winter
To the next Silly Symphony: Birds of a Feather

‘Playful Pan’ is available on the DVD ‘Walt Disney Treasures: More Silly Symphonies’

Director: Burt Gillett
Release Date:
 October 22, 1930
Rating:
Review:

Winter © Walt DisneyAmong the earliest Silly Symphonies there was a cycle devoted to the four seasons. ‘Winter’ is the last of these four season cartoons.

Following the artistic success of ‘Autumn‘, ‘Winter’ is unfortunately as dull and plotless as the earlier ‘Springtime‘ or ‘Summer‘. The cartoon both starts an ends with a winter storm. In between we watch animals skating and dancing on Emile Waldteufel’s Skaters’ Waltz. This scene features some deer, which are a far cry from ‘Bambi‘ (1942), but who are more comfortable on ice than Bambi would ever be twelve years later. The cartoon ends when a groundhog sees his shadow again, and cold and snowy winds drive the animals back to their hiding places.

Luckily, ‘Winter’ formed the end of an era. Already with the next Silly Symphony, ‘Playful Pan‘ the Disney studio would aim to exchange the endless dance routines for more experiment, and this level of experiment would only increase from 1931 onwards…

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

This is Silly Symphony No. 14
To the previous Silly Symphony: Monkey Melodies
To the next Silly Symphony: Playful Pan

‘Winter’ is available on the DVD ‘Walt Disney Treasures: More Silly Symphonies’

Director: Burt Gillett
Release Date:
 September 2, 1930
Rating: ★★
Review:

Monkey Melodies © Walt Disney

The Silly Symphonies were to be a series of great innovation, but in 1930 this was not so clear, yet, as the entries of that year were mostly preoccupied with dance routines.

The ‘innovation’ of ‘Monkey Melodies’, for example, is the embryonic story of its second half. But only with ‘Playful Pan‘ from the end of the year, some real experimentation was to kick in.

‘Monkey Melodies’ opens with monkeys, apes and parrots frolicking in the jungle in a long dance routine. After several minutes we follow two monkeys in love, who frolic to the tune of Rudy Wiedoeft’s Narcissus. The two go on a boat ride on a log, and manage to escape a crocodile, a hippo, a snake and a leopard.

‘Monkey Melodies’ is a very standard Silly Symphony, typical of 1930, the ‘story’ of the second half notwithstanding, and to be frank, the short is rather dull. Its highlight may be the effect animation of a crocodile swimming under water.

Watch ‘Monkey Melodies’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Silly Symphony No. 13

To the previous Silly Symphony: Midnight in a Toy Shop
To the next Silly Symphony: Winter

‘Monkey Melodies’ is available on the DVD ‘Walt Disney Treasures: More Silly Symphonies’

Director: Wilfred Jackson
Release Date:
 July 28, 1930
Rating: ★★
Review:

Midnight in a Toy Shop © Walt Disney

1930 saw a string of Silly Symphonies featuring animals performing endless dance routines. In ‘Midnight in a Toy Shop’, however, the dancing is being done by toys and dolls. Not that it makes a difference…

‘Midnight in a Toy Shop’ introduces the small spider, who would also be the hero of ‘Egyptian Melodies‘. To escape the freezing cold the spider enters a toy shop. First he’s afraid of everything, but when he’s playing the piano, the dolls and toys come to life, dancing to his tunes. This results in a very, very long dance routine, rendering ‘Midnight in a Toy Shop’ a rather dull short. However, in the first scene the spider leads the viewer into the scenery, and we as an audience, explore the toy shop with him. This story idea would be perfected in the intro of ‘Pinocchio’ (1940), of which the intro of ‘Midnight in a Toy Shop’ is an embryonic version.

‘Midnight in a Toy Shop’ contains a strange mixture of primitive and more advanced designs and animation. It starts with some stunning effect animation of snow, and ends when a candle lights some fireworks, making the spider flee the shop.

Watch ‘Midnight in a Toy Shop’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Silly Symphony No. 12
To the previous Silly Symphony: Arctic Antics
To the next Silly Symphony: Monkey Melodies

‘Midnight in a Toy Shop’ is available on the DVD ‘Walt Disney Treasures: More Silly Symphonies’

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’

Director: Burt Gillett
Release Date:
 November 20, 1930
Stars: Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse
Rating: ★★½
Review:

Pioneer Days © Walt DisneyIn ‘Pioneer Days’ Mickey and Minnie are pioneers travelling in a caravan through the Midwest.

After an all too long sing-and-dance-routine they are attacked by vicious wolf-like Indians. These bring in some spectacular animation: a dance with long shadows around a bonfire, a complex attack scene, and an impressive shot taken from one of the horses circling the encampment, showing a moving background of wagons in perfect perspective.

Most spectacular is the fight between Mickey and a horrible Indian, who has kidnapped Minnie. The fight is shown in close-up, and contains quite some complex movements between the two. It’s scenes like these that show that Disney kept taking the lead in the animation field, ever pressing forward.

Of course, our hero saves the day: when he and Minnie pretend to be the cavalry all the Indians flee.

‘Pioneer Days’ is Mickey’s first of only a few films clearly set in another time period, and thus the precursor of ‘Ye Olden Days‘ and ‘The Nifty Nineties’. The film recycles some footage from ‘The Fire Fighters‘ of two dogs holding a bed to catch falling people.

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

This is Mickey Mouse cartoon No. 24
To the previous Mickey Mouse cartoon: The Picnic
To the next Mickey Mouse cartoon: The Birthday Party

‘Pioneer Days’ is available on the DVD ‘Walt Disney Treasures: ‘Mickey Mouse in black and white’

Director: Burt Gillett
Release Date:
 August 18, 1930
Stars: Mickey Mouse, Peg Leg Pete, (Pluto)
Rating: ★★½
Review:

The Chain Gang © Walt DisneyIn ‘Gallopin’ Gaucho‘ Mickey had been depicted as a bandit, but it still comes as a surprise to see him being a prisoner in ‘The Chain Gang’. We’re sure some injustice has been done, and that Mickey is in fact innocent…

Mickey is imprisoned in a mixed prison (one of the inmates is a cow), where Peg Leg Pete is one of the guards. When Pete goes to sleep Mickey brings out his harmonica, like he did in ‘The Shindig‘ one month earlier, and starts playing Vernon Dalhart’s 1924 hit ‘The Prisoner’s Song’.

This leads to an unremarkable sing-and-dance-routine, which abruptly ends in a massive jailbreak. Mickey escapes, but is followed by two bloodhounds, possibly the most elaborately designed dogs hitherto. Animated by Norm Ferguson, these bloodhounds would become the prototype of Pluto later on. Indeed, the animation of the blood hound approaching and sniffing into the camera was reused for Pluto as late as 1939 for ‘The Pointer’. The real Pluto would appear on the screen two months later in ‘The Picnic‘, and even then he still was called ‘Rover’.

The ‘birth’ of Pluto is the single most important feature of this cartoon, although it’s also noteworthy for the presence of gags involving recurring characters (something pretty new at the time), and for the chase scenes, which contain some nice perspective effects.

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

This is Mickey Mouse cartoon No. 21
To the previous Mickey Mouse cartoon: The Shindig
To the next Mickey Mouse cartoon: The Gorilla Mystery

‘The Chain Gang’ is available on the DVD ‘Walt Disney Treasures: ‘Mickey Mouse in black and white’

Director: Burt Gillett
Release Date:
 June 20, 1930
Stars: Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Horace Horsecollar
Rating: ★★★★★
Review:

The Fire Fighters © Walt DisneyIn ‘The Fire Fighters’ Mickey is a fire chief who rushes to a burning building, losing almost his complete team on the way.

Together with Horace Horsecollar he rather pitifully tries to extinguish the fire. But he saves the day when he rescues Minnie from the flames.

‘The Fire fighters’ is the first Mickey Mouse cartoons since ‘The Gallopin’ Gaucho‘ to tell a straightforward story. The cartoon is simply packed with gags, which lead to an exciting finale, showing Mickey’s heroic character.

Among Mickey’s team mates is a primitive Horace Horsecollar who is only half anthropomorphized. ‘The Fire Fighters’ is also notable for its use of animals as objects (an ostrich as a pole, a cat as a siren), while objects are very much alive, indeed, most notably the ladder, which is shown sleeping in bed.

The cartoon makes clever use of animation cycles, especially in the scenes depicting the burning building. Some of the gags are quite unique, like Mickey milking a fire hydrant and a ladder that climbs itself down, a gag that has to be seen to be believed.

In all, ‘The Fire Fighters’ is one of the best of the early Mickey Mouse cartoons, and certainly Mickey’s best short of 1930.

Mickey would fighting fire again five years later in the equally inspired ‘Mickey’s Fire Brigade‘ (1935).

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

This is Mickey Mouse cartoon No. 19
To the previous Mickey Mouse cartoon: The Cactus Kid
To the next Mickey Mouse cartoon: The Shindig

‘The Fire Fighters’ is available on the DVD ‘Walt Disney Treasures: ‘Mickey Mouse in black and white’

Director: Dave Fleischer
Release Date:
 September 24, 1930
Stars: Bimbo?
Rating: ★★★★★ ♕
Review:

Swing You Sinners © Max Fleischer‘Swing You Sinners!’ is an early Talkartoon, and a wildly imaginative one, too.

We watch a thief (probably Bimbo, but his appearance in the early Talkartoons is so inconsistent, one can’t be sure). The thief tries to steal a chicken, but runs into a cop. The thief then flees into a graveyard, where he has a particularly nightmarish experience. First the gate locks itself, then turns into a stone wall, and then the graves start to sing…

Soon all kinds of inanimate objects start to haunt him. And although the soundtrack is very jazzy, ‘Swing You Sinners!’ remains a bad trip throughout. At one time the walls close into him, at another a ghost promises him to give him a ‘permanent shave’.

The animation is extremely rubbery, and even insane. For example, when we watch a chicken do some scatting, both the chicken and the background are very wobbly, to a hallucinating effect. In the end we watch countless ghosts marching, followed by even more ghostly images when the thief starts to descend into hell. The cartoon ends with a giant skull swallowing the thief, a surprisingly grim ending for a cartoon with such swinging music*.

In any case ‘Swing You Sinners!’ is a testimony of the sheer creativity, which was the Max Fleischer Studio in the early 1930s, and should be placed among the greatest cartoons of all time.

Watch ‘Swing You Sinners!’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Talkartoon No. 10
To the previous Talkartoon: Barnacle Bill
To the next Talkartoon: Grand Uproar

‘Swing You Sinners’ is available on the French DVD Box Set ‘Betty Boop Coffret Collector’

*It may be interesting to note that this is one of the earliest mentions of swing, predating for example Duke Ellington’s song ‘It Don’t Mean A Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing)’ by two years, and being miles ahead of the swing craze of the second half of the 1930s.

Directors: Harry Bailey & John Foster
Release Date: August 31, 1930
Stars: Waffles and Don
Rating:
Review:

Frozen Frolics © Van Beuren‘Frozen Frolics’ is the third of four cartoons featuring the obscure duo Waffles & Don. In this short they are on their way to the North Pole to steal the pole, which looks like a barber’s pole.

After they lose their sled due to an obstinate rabbit, we suddenly cut to arctic animals dancing, much like Walt Disney’s ‘Arctic Antics‘ from two months earlier. Only after a while we return to the duo, whom we watch being exhausted, and trudging through a snow storm. When Don seems to be dead, Waffles steals his money, and eats his shoe. Luckily, Don is alive after all. But later Waffles doesn’t hesitate to throw his little friend to an angry bear. Don beats him up for that, with which the cartoons ends.

The animation in ‘Frozen Frolics’ is wildly uneven, and more often than not rather out of sync with the music.

Watch ‘Frozen Frolics’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Frozen Frolics’ is available on the DVD ‘The Complete Animated Adventures of Van Beuren Studio’s Tom and Jerry’

Directors: Harry Bailey & John Foster
Release Date: November 23, 1930
Stars: Milton Mouse, Rita Mouse
Rating: ★★
Review:

The Office Boy © Van Beuren‘The Office Boy’ is yet another Van Beuren cartoon featuring Milton Mouse and Rita Mouse, Van Beuren’s sloppy copies of Mickey and Minnie Mouse, indirectly showing the mouse’s enormous popularity.

This time Milton is an office boy, where Rita is a secretary. The story involves Milton getting jealous of Rita when the boss flirts with her. So Milton invites the boss’s wife to catch her husband red-handed. In the end we watch Milton and Rita jumping into a painting on a train to sing their end duet.

The designs and animation of Milton and Rita are terrible, but too close for comfort, and some of Mickey’s mannerisms have clearly been copied. As was the case in ‘Circus Capers‘, Milton and Rita are more vulgar than their Disney counterparts, despite the similar looks, and most of the fun of the cartoon lies in the rude behavior of these pseudo-Mickey and Minnie. The cartoon’s best gag, however, is when Rita starts typing frantically even when her boss hasn’t really dictated anything.

But Milton’s and Rita’s days were numbered. In 1931 Disney sued the Van Beuren company, and on April 30, 1931 the federal court prohibited the Van Beuren studio to display any of his Mickey Mouse-lookalikes. The Walt Disney company never asked for money, however. They simply wanted the plagiarism to stop.

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

‘The Office Boy’ is available on the DVD ‘Uncensored Animation from the Van Beuren Studio’

Directors: Harry Bailey & John Foster
Release Date: September 28, 1930
Stars: Milton Mouse, Rita Mouse
Rating: ★★★
Review:

Circus Capers © Van Beuren‘Circus Capers’ features Milton Mouse and Rita Mouse, Van Beuren’s Mickey and Minnie-like mice, whose resemblance to Disney’s originals is so striking, it’s pure plagiarism.

The Van Beuren Studio comes nowhere near Walt Disney’s high quality standards, however, and ‘Circus Capers’ can be used as a good counter-example to show how good contemporary Mickey Mouse cartoons (e.g. ‘The Shindig‘, ‘The Chain Gang‘ and ‘The Gorilla Mystery‘) actually were.

In ‘Circus Capers’ Milton (pseudo-Mickey) is a clown, while Rita (pseudo-Minnie) is an acrobat riding a horse. An evil circus master shoots Milton away as a human cannonball, meanwhile courting an all too willing Rita. When Milton discovers this, he’s heartbroken, and sings “Laugh Clown Laugh” from the 1928 musical of the same name. However, when the circus master becomes too insistent, Rita flees from him, back to Milton, who gives her the raspberry, making her pass out.

‘Circus Capers’ is hampered by primitive, crude animation, unsteady designs, and odd staging. Its curious story is enjoyable, however, for the real Mickey and Minnie would never behave like Milton and Rita, who seem to be their cruder cousins.

Watch ‘Circus Capers’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Circus Capers’ is available on the DVD ‘Uncensored Animation from the Van Beuren Studio’

Directors: Mannie Davis & John Foster
Release Date: August 17, 1930
Rating:
Review:

Laundry Blues © Van Beuren‘Laundry Blues’ is one of those cartoons that’s very hard to watch today.

This short features some extreme stereotypes of Chinese people, in animal form, plus one caricature of a (human) Jew. The Jew has his beard washed and ironed, only to fall into the mud with it shortly afterwards.

Apart from the vicious stereotyping, the short suffers from a lack of direction: things are just happening on the screen. The backward racism, the total lack of plot, and the scarcity of gags make ‘Laundry Blues’ endless. It’s everything but a classic, indeed. And yet, the part of the four Chinese ironing was reused in its entirety in ‘Chinese Jinks‘ from 1932.

Watch ‘Laundry Blues’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Laundry Blues’ is available on the DVD ‘Uncensored Animation from the Van Beuren Studio’

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