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Director: Boyd La Vero
Release Date:
 1931
Stars: Marty the Monk
Rating:
Review

Marty the Monk © Associated FilmsThe work of Steve Stanchfield from Thunderbean Animation cannot be praised enough. His tireless work to unravel lost or forgotten animation films from the golden age has resulted in many great finds. Many of the films discussed on this blog can be found on Thunderbean Animation DVDs only.

However, there are times when Steve Stanchfield unravels something that is hardly worth unraveling. Boyd La Vero’s Marty the Monk series is one of those. The series, made for Associated Films, apparently only comprised three known episodes. These three shorts are typical products of the rubberhose animation era, but they are all hampered by erratic storytelling, poor animation, slow timing and hardly any sense of gravity.

In the first cartoon we watch several animals, including Marty, riding a streetcar to ‘Parade Grounds’, where Marty starts to conduct an orchestra, while a fashion show of bathing beauties is going on. One of the beauties is a female monkey, and the two dance together in what’s the only interestingly animated scene of the entire cartoon. Next there’s a diving contest, and the female monkey falls into the pond, to be rescued by Marty or is she?

There’s extremely little to enjoy in ‘Marty the Monk’, and to me it’s no wonder the character and his maker are forgotten today. So, who was Boyd La Vero? I have no idea. The only person telling us something on the internet is historian David Gerstein, who reveals that animator Cal Dalton (of later Warner Bros. fame) worked for him… Perhaps he can tell us a little bit more?

‘Marty the Monk’ is available on the DVD ‘Cultoons! Rare, Lost and Strange Cartoons! Volume 3: Monkeys, Monsters & More!’

Director: Dave Fleischer
Release Date: December 12, 1931
Stars: Betty Boop, Bimbo
Rating: ★★★★★
Review:

Dizzy Red Riding Hood © Max FleischerFollowing Van Beuren’s ‘Red Riding Hood‘ earlier that year, the Fleischer’s did there own take on Perrault’s famous fairy tale.

In this short Betty Boop is a particularly sexy Little Red Riding Hood. Bimbo wants to accompany her on her journey, but she rejects him twice. Nevertheless he follows her secretly. He disposes of the wolf first, reaping its skin off to disguise himself as the wolf to win Betty over.

This short simply bubbles over with surrealism and strange animation cycles. The cartoon is brought as a children’s story, but rarely did a cartoon have such strong sexual content. The best part in that respect is a close-up of Betty Boop’s legs, while her garment falls off several times.

The original mix of sex and surrealism makes ‘Dizzy Red Riding Hood’ a highlight of the pre-code era, and it certainly deserves to be seen.

Watch ‘Dizzy Red Riding Hood’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Dizzy Red Riding Hood’ is available on the French DVD Box Set ‘Betty Boop Coffret Collector’

Director: Dave Fleischer
Release Date: December 5, 1931
Stars: Betty Boop, Bimbo
Rating: ★★★★½
Review:

Jack and the Beanstalk © Max FleischerOnly three months after Van Beuren’s ‘The Family Shoe’, the Fleischer studio released their retelling of the fairy tale in ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’.

Despite being released after six cartoons featuring Bimbo in his final design, ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’ features Bimbo with his old, less memorable look. Bimbo plays the part of Jack. He is prompted to plant some magic beans, after a giant in the sky has dropped a cigar on him. The beans soon sprout into a giant beanstalk, which takes Bimbo to the clouds. There he discovers Betty Boop, who’s the giant’s prisoner, making pea soup for him. Bimbo ties the giant and flees with Betty on the magic hen, which changes into a car when hitting the road. But an obnoxious mouse releases the giant who follows them using cars as roller-skates.

‘Jack and the Beanstalk’ is a very enjoyable, but weird and highly surreal version of the classic tale. It was the last Talkartoon to feature Betty Boop with dog ears. In all her subsequent films she would be fully human.

The short features ‘Sweepin’ The Clouds Away’ as its theme song, which had been a huge hit for Maurice Chevalier in 1930. Two years later Disney would visit similar grounds in ‘Giantland‘, which is, as you may expect, way less surreal, but much better animated.

Watch ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Talkartoon No. 29
To the previous Talkartoon: Mask-a-Raid
To the next Talkartoon: Dizzy Red Riding Hood

‘Jack and the Beanstalk’ is available on the French DVD Box Set ‘Betty Boop Coffret Collector’

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: Wilfred Jackson
Release Date:
 November 10, 1931
Rating: ★★★
Review:

The Fox Hunt © Walt Disney.jpg‘The Fox Hunt’ is the most atypical Silly Symphony of the black and white era. It’s not devoted to music at all, and it features human characters.

These human hunters ride rather cartoony horses, and much of the fun comes from the silly ways the hunters ride their horses. One even rides a cow, a pig, a porcupine and a log with four dogs in it. The cartoon opens most spectacularly, with the morning sun’s beaming rays lighting a few forest scenes. A little later there’s a beautiful scene of the hunters and their horses casting long shadows on a hill. A scene like this looks all the way forward to the Ave Maria sequence of ‘Fantasia’ (1940).

The human figures are a bit of a mixed bag, but generally more convincing than those in ‘Mother Goose Melodies‘ or ‘The China Plate‘ from earlier that year. Thus, ‘The Fox Hunt’ is one of those films showcasing Disney’s ambition, even though it’s by no means a classic.

The fox hunt theme was revisited nine years later in the Donald Duck short of the same title (1938), which uses the same skunk end gag, which itself was copied from the Oswald cartoon ‘The Fox Chase‘ (1928).

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

This is Silly Symphony No. 24
To the previous Silly Symphony: The Spider and the Fly
To the next Silly Symphony: The Ugly Duckling

‘The Fox Hunt’ is available on the DVD ‘Walt Disney Treasures: More Silly Symphonies’

Director: Wilfred Jackson
Release Date:
 October 13, 1931
Rating: ★★★½
Review:

The Spider and the Fly © Walt DisneyAfter ‘The Cat’s out‘ of three months earlier ‘The Spider and the Fly’ is the second silly symphony focusing on a story instead of a musical routine.

In this short a mean spider lures two flies into his web by playing harp on it, recalling a similar scene in Max Fleischer’s ‘Wise Flies‘ from 1930. The female fly is captured, but the male fly summons all the other flies to help him rescue her, which they do in a long battle scene on the music of Franz von Suppé’s overture ‘Die leichte Kavalerie’ and Franz Schubert’s Erlkönig. Here we watch flies riding horseflies and using dragonflies as bombers and shoes on caterpillars as tanks. There’s also a spectacular scene in which the flies set fire to the spider’s web, with the poor female fly still in it. Ironically, the spider’s finally captured with flypaper.

‘The Spider and the Fly’ is more melodramatic than funny, but there’s a lot going on, and one doesn’t get the time to get bored. The basic story line of this cartoon would be followed in two other Silly Symphonies: ‘Bugs in Love‘ (1932) and ‘The Moth and the Flame’ (1938), also featuring insects.

Watch ‘The Spider and the Fly’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Silly Symphony No. 23
To the previous Silly Symphony: The Clock Store
To the next Silly Symphony: The Fox Hunt

‘The Spider and the Fly’ is available on the DVD ‘Walt Disney Treasures: More Silly Symphonies’

Director: Wilfred Jackson
Release Date:
 September 16, 1931
Rating: ★★
Review:

The Clock Store © Walt Disney‘The Clock Store’ was the last of the Silly Symphonies solely devoted to a dance routine.

This time, the traditional dance routine is performed by clocks and watches to Frank Churchill’s music. The cartoon ends with two alarm clocks fighting each other to pieces. Unfortunately, before this final scene there is no story, whatsoever, and by now the dance routine had become very tiresome, indeed.

Nevertheless, the short is beautifully made: the opening scene shows a lamplighter lighting the street lights to stunning effects. Furthermore, halfway the cartoon we watch two 18th century human figures dancing an elegant minuet. This short dance scene was the studio’s most realistic take on the human form, yet, and a spectacular sight for a 1931 cartoon.

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

This is Silly Symphony No. 22
To the previous Silly Symphony: Egyptian Melodies
To the next Silly Symphony: The Spider and the Fly

‘The Clock Store’ is available on the DVD ‘Walt Disney Treasures: More Silly Symphonies’

Directors: John Foster & Mannie Davis
Release Date:
 September 14, 1931
Rating: ★★★★★
Review:

The Family Shoe © Van BeurenBy 1931, Van Beuren’s ‘Aesop’s Fables’ had become the studio’s answer to Walt Disney’s Silly Symphonies, being the first studio clearly trying to copy Disney’s format (Warner Bros’ Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies were only variations on the Silly Symphonies in name, being very different otherwise).

Given the studio’s animation output up to 1931, ‘The Family Shoe’ is a remarkably consistent and forward-looking product. With its consistent storytelling ‘The Family Shoe’ actually predates Walt Disney’s breakthrough short ‘The Ugly Duckling‘ by three months.

Merging the nursery rhyme of the old woman who lived in a shoe with the fairy tale of Jack and the beanstalk, the film anticipates Mickey’s ‘Giantland’ (1933) by two years, and the cute and childish cartoons of the Hays code era by three years. Also, the opening scenes, with hundreds of brats running around and causing mischief predate similar scenes in Walt Disney’s ‘Mickey’s Orphans‘ (December 1931) and ‘Mickey Nightmare’ (1932).

The cartoon retells the story of Jack and the beanstalk quite faithfully, and the cartoon may be a little low on gags. Yet, there are some typical Van Beuren throwaways present, like the bean planting itself, and the ending, in which the golden eggs transform the old lady into a classy aristocrat overnight.

Van Beuren is often described as merely an also-run studio, but this short shows that at least in 1931 it was more ambitious and more capable than one would expect.

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

‘The Family Shoe’ is available on the DVD ‘Aesop’s Fables – Cartoon Classics from the Van Beuren Studio’

Director: Walter Lantz or Bill Nolan
Release Date: May 27, 1931
Stars: Oswald the Rabbit
Rating: ★★★
Review:

The Bandmaster © Walter LantzIn ‘The Bandmaster’ Oswald is the leader of a three-piece brass band.

This idea is dropped after three minutes, however, and after that there’s some kind of story with Oswald trying to comfort a crying hippo baby with music. This part features dancing flowers, rag dolls, and musical notes. The latter dance to the song ‘Happy Feet’, a huge hit for Paul Whiteman in 1930. The cartoon ends with the mother hippo hitting Oswald hard, and the baby hippo laughing.

Several animators worked on ‘The bandmaster’ who would later become famous in the field, like Clyde Geronimi, Tex Avery and Pinto Colvig. Could it be possible that the baby hippo’s laugh was provided by Tex Avery himself?

The cartoon contains some lovely flexible animation in a style also fashioned at Walt Disney and Warner Bros. The cartoon doesn’t make any sense, however, and the gags pop in almost randomly. Thus the Walter Lantz cartoon falls short in matching the quality of those other studios.

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

‘The Bandmaster’ is available on the Blu-Ray ‘Technicolor Dreams and Black & White Nightmares’ and the DVD ‘Lantz Studio Treasures Starring Oswald’

Director: Rudolf Ising
Release Date: October 31, 1931
Stars: Piggy, Fluffy
Rating: ★★★★½
Review:

You Don't Know What You're Doin'! © Warner Bros.With Foxy gone, Harman and Ising conceived a new star, Piggy, who, like Foxy is exactly Mickey Mouse (including the trousers), but now in Pig form. As with his predecessor, the plagiarism is most visible in Piggy’s girlfriend Fluffy, who is as Minnie as Piggy is Mickey.

Piggy was even more short-lived than Foxy, lasting only two cartoons, of which this is the first. In it we watch Piggy and Fluffy visiting a theater. At a certain point Piggy hits the stage to perform ‘Silver Threads Among The Gold’, a 1873 hit song that by 1931 had become synonymous with old-fashionedness. No wonder he’s booed away. At that point three drunkards burst into the title song. Piggy gets drunk, too, and leaves the theater and his girlfriend.

Outside he provides his car with some booze, a story idea borrowed from ‘Traffic Troubles‘ (Mickey Mouse) and ‘The New Car’ (Flip the Frog) from earlier that year. Unlike the earlier two films, though, this leads to a wonderfully drunken scene, in which the whole background becomes wobbly. This is one of the most memorable scenes of all early Warner Bros. cartoons, making ‘You Don’t Know What You’re Doin’!’a must-see, despite the rather mediocre scenes preceding it. Moreover, the cartoon features some particularly hot jazz music, provided by Gus Arnheim’s Brunswick Recording Orchestra.

Watch ‘You Don’t Know What You’re Doin’!’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘You Don’t Know What You’re Doin’!’ is available on the DVD ‘Looney Tunes Golden Collection Volume Six’

 

Director: Rudolf Ising
Release Date: October 3, 1931
Stars: Foxy
Rating: ★★★½
Review:

One More Time © Warner Bros.‘One More Time’ is an aptly titled short, as it marks the third and last cartoon to star Foxy, Warner Bros.’ fox-like Mickey Mouse rip-off.

In this cartoon he’s a police officer, fining a hippo lady for driving too fast, and rescuing his Minnie Mouse-like girlfriend from some thugs. He does so riding a mechanical horse, a relic from the Oswald the Lucky rabbit cartoons (e.g. ‘Ozzie of the Mounted‘, 1927), on which Harman and Ising had worked previously. Strangely enough, Foxy is machine-gunned by one of the gangsters in the end. Perhaps this is why he never returned to the animated screen…

The short has a strong urban setting, uncommon in the Hollywood cartoons of the time, and it features some dazzling perspective animation, but otherwise it’s just another mediocre entry in the early Merrie Melodies canon.

Watch ‘One More Time’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘One More Time’ is available on the DVD ‘Looney Tunes Golden Collection Volume Six’

Director: Rudolf Ising
Release Date: September 5, 1931
Stars: Foxy
Rating: ★★★
Review:

Smile, Darn ya, Smile © Warner Bros.‘Smile, Darn Ya, Smile!’, the second of the Merrie Melodies, is also the second to feature that short-lived early star of Warner Bros., Foxy.

The film is practically a remake of Oswald’s first cartoon, ‘Trolley Troubles’ (1927), on which Harman and Ising had worked themselves: Foxy rides a trolley, inviting his very, very Minnie Mouse-like girlfriend along. Like in the former Oswald film, the ride ends with Foxy losing control of the trolley, which leads to some spectacular perspective animation. Unlike the earlier film, however, ‘Smile, Darn ya, Smile!’ ends rather cornily, when it’s revealed it was all a dream.

The title song is sung several times during the cartoon, e.g. by four hobos. It was revived more than fifty years later in ‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit?‘ (1988), when Eddie Valiant enters Toontown.

Watch ‘Smile, Darn Ya, Smile’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Smile, Darn Ya, Smile’ is available on the DVD ‘Looney Tunes Golden Collection Volume Six’

Director: Oskar Fischinger
Production Date:
 1930-1931
Rating: ★★★★★ ♕
Review:

Studie Nr. 7 © Oskar FischingerIn Fischinger’s study No. 7 , made in 1930-1931, the shapes of Study No. 6 move to the 5th Hungarian dance by Johannes Brahms.

Like Study No. 6 Fischinger made this film with charcoal on paper. In this short the synchronization of music and movement is even better than in Study No. 6. Fischinger uses less diverse shapes than in No. 6, making the film more consistent. Some of them look like fluttering and folding pieces of paper.

According to William Moritz this particular film prompted four film makers into animation: Norman McLaren, Alexandre Alexeieff, Claire Parker and Len Lye. These four all became major players in avant-garde animation. This fact makes Study No. 7 one of the most important animation films in history.

Watch ‘Studie nr. 7’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Studie nr. 7′ is available on the DVD ‘Oskar Fischinger: Ten Films’

Director: Burt Gillett
Release Date:
 August 7, 1931
Stars: Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Horace Horsecollar, Clarabelle Cow, Pluto?
Rating: ★★★★★
Review:

Blue Rhythm © Walt Disney‘Blue Rhythm’ is a genuine concert cartoon, in the vain of ‘The Opry House‘ (1929), ‘The Jazz Fool‘ (1929), ‘Just Mickey‘ (1930) and ‘The Barnyard Concert‘ (1930).

Something has happened however, for now Mickey and the gang are not performing for their own fun or at the barnyard, but they are giving a concert in a large theater. It thus predates similar concert cartoons like ‘The Band Concert (1935), Bugs Bunny’s ‘Rhapsody Rabbit‘ (1946), and Tom & Jerry’s ‘The Cat Concerto‘ (1947), introducing several piano and conductor gags.

This is one of those rare Disney cartoons in which the music performed can be unmistakably identified as jazz (in the earlier ‘The Jazz Fool’ this is not the case, despite the cartoon’s name). In fact, the cartoon is one great rendering of the St. Louis Blues (and not ‘Blue Rhythm’, a composition also popular in 1931, and recorded by Fletcher Henderson and Mills Blue Rhythm Band).

W.C. Handy’s classic song is first performed by Mickey on the piano, borrowing some tricks from Chico Marx. Then it is sung by Minnie, followed by some scatting by the both of them. Then Mickey and Minnie leave the stage, the curtain opens to reveal a big band, to which Mickey returns to conduct. And finally the blues is performed by Mickey on the clarinet, imitating bandleader Ted Lewis, complete with the entertainer’s typical top hat.

Minnie’s blues singing resembles contemporary female vaudeville blues singers (e.g. Gertrude Lawrence, Ethel Levey and Victoria Spivey) and the pig trumpeter performs in the growling jungle style of Bubber Miley, who was a trumpeter in Duke Ellington’s band. Mickey shows to be an all round entertainer, performing as a stride pianist, a scat singer, a conductor and a clarinetist. Horace Horsecollar and Clarabelle Cow, on the other hand, are clearly a percussionist and flutist, respectively, roles they would also have in ‘The Band Concert‘ (1935), the greatest of Mickey’s concert cartoons. Also featured in Mickey’s band is a dog who may or may not be Pluto, and who plays the trombone, disturbing Mickey while doing so.

Blue Rhythm is a great cartoon, from the opening scene, in which Mickey casts a huge shadow on the curtains to the grand finale in which the excited performance makes the stage collapse. This cartoon may have few gags, it is a delightful ode to music, and to jazz in particular.

Watch ‘Blue Rhythm’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Mickey Mouse cartoon No. 31
To the previous Mickey Mouse cartoon: Mickey Steps Out
To the next Mickey Mouse cartoon: Fishin’ Around

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

Director: Hugh Harman
Release Date: October 17, 1931
Stars: Bosko
Rating: ★★★
Review:

Bosko the Doughboy © Warner Bros.In ‘Bosko the Doughboy’ Bosko is a soldier during World War one.

The cartoon opens spectacularly with several war scenes, including an enemy soldier firing his automatic gun at the audience. The cartoon is completely plotless, and Bosko actually only does three things:

  1. trying to cook a meal and kissing the picture of his sweetheart, before both are bombed (echoing the Oswald cartoon ‘Great Guns‘ from 1927 on which Hugh Harman had worked as an animator);
  2. helping an officer to get rid of his flees;
  3. saving a hippo, who has swallowed a bomb, by zipping its body open.

The cartoon is remarkably violent, and there’s a lot of killing going on. For example, we watch literally a dog being shot to pieces. Because all the animals involved still have mechanical bodies (a legacy of Harman and Ising’s work on Oswald the Lucky Rabbit), pain is never suggested, and the violence remains cartoony. For example, the dog, after being shot, just walks away much shorter, while a bird with a hole in his body only collapses because he’s supposed to, not because he’s in pain.

Nevertheless, there’s little to enjoy in Bosko’s World War I cartoon, and even when fought out by practically invulnerable animals, it remains a disturbing event.

Watch ‘Bosko the Doughboy’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Bosko the Doughboy’ is available on the DVD ‘Looney Tunes Golden Collection Volume Six’

Directors: John Foster & George Rufle
Release Date:
 September 5, 1931
Stars: Tom and Jerry
Rating: ★★
Review:

Polar Pals © Van BeurenIn the opening scene of ‘Polar Pals’, Tom & Jerry’s second cartoon, the duo is apparently shipwrecked at sea.

Fortunately they land at a Pole (which one never becomes clear), where they encounter a walrus and a penguin. Then four creatures order Tom to play some music on a piano, which he does in jazzy fashion, making all animals dance.

But somehow they provoke the animals’ anger, and in the end we watch them fleeing on a polar bear’s belly. This final scene sets the tone for several Tom & Jerry cartoons to come: Jungle Jam’ and ‘A Swiss Trick’ end with them fleeing, too.

Apart from the jazz-scene ‘Polar Pals’ is far from interesting. It’s less elaborate than ‘Wot a Night‘, its designs are poor and the animation often terrible. Van Beuren clearly hadn’t hit its stride, yet…

Watch ‘Polar Pals’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Tom & Jerry cartoon No. 2
To the previous Tom & Jerry cartoon: Wot a Night
To the next Tom & Jerry cartoon: Trouble

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

Directors: John Foster & George Stallings
Release Date:
 August 1, 1931
Stars: Tom and Jerry
Rating: ★★★★½
Review:

Wot A Night © Van BeurenIn 1931 the Van Beuren studio was strengthened by two new staff members, both veterans of the New York animation scene: George Stallings (1891-1963) and George Rufle (1901-1974).

The two transformed Waffles and Don into two new characters that became Van Beuren’s first real stars: Tom & Jerry (not to be confused with the later, much more famous cat and mouse duo). Unfortunately, Tom & Jerry are as bland as their models, sharing with the cat and dog their only character traits: in ‘Wot a Night’ Tom clearly has inherited Waffles’s fear, while Jerry remains calm. However, already after ‘Wot a Night’ these basic character traits evaporated. Yet, with their cheerful looks, the duo was more sympathetic than Waffles and Don ever were.

Tom & Jerry lasted until 1933, starring 27 cartoons, but ‘Wot a Night’ remains their finest film. It borrows a good dose of surrealism from the neighboring Max Fleischer studio, and it’s much better animated than any Van Beuren cartoon before the coming of Burt Gillett. Already in the opening scene there’s a lot of flexible animation when we watch a train coming in at a station. Moreover, there’s a great deal of rain and water effect animation not seen before at Van Beuren.

At the station Tom & Jerry are taxi drivers, picking up a couple of strange bearded men, whom they drop at a castle. Because the bearded men didn’t pay the ride, Tom & Jerry follow them inside the castle. Inside the two have a typical horror cartoon experience, similar to  ‘The Haunted House‘ (Mickey Mouse, 1929) and ‘The Haunted Ship‘ (Waffles and Don, 1930).  The story is not any more consistent than other Van Beuren cartoon, but there’s much to marvel at, like a cloud playing organ on the battlements of the castle, a skeleton taking a bath, while whistling, and another skeleton painting piano keys, on which it starts to play. There’s also a shot of four black skeletons singing a gospel song. The ending is extraordinary, when Tom and Jerry discover they’re nothing but skeletons under their clothes, themselves…

‘Wot a Night’ is a marvelous cartoon, one of the best of the surreal movement of the early 1930s. Unfortunately, only a few of Tom & Jerry’s lived up to the premise of their debut cartoon (‘Pencil Mania’ from 1932 arguably is the best contender). Their future cartoons were quaint at best, to downright poorly animated. It is as if ‘Wot a Night’ was given some extra effort that was not put into the subsequent cartoons.

Stallings stayed at Van Beuren until 1935, when he joined Walt Disney to work on the stories of the studio’s animated features. Rufle’s career is more unclear: he seemed to have left Van Beuren in 1933, but only pops up at Famous Studios in 1948. He animated until his death, working on several television series in the 1960’s and 1970’s. But what did he do between 1933 and 1948? I haven’t got a clue…

Watch ‘Wot A Night’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is the 1st Tom & Jerry cartoon
To the next Tom & Jerry cartoon: Polar Pals

‘Wot A Night’ is available on the DVD ‘The Complete Animated Adventures of Van Beuren Studio’s Tom and Jerry’

 

Director: Dave Fleischer
Release Date:
 November 14, 1931
Stars: Betty Boop, Bimbo
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

Mask-A-Raid © Max FleischerIn ‘Mask-A-Raid’ a very sexy Betty is queen of a masked ball.

The king, a dirty old man, fancies her, but she prefers Bimbo. Nevertheless, she makes Bimbo and the old guy fighting each other. Suddenly knights pop up from nowhere and everybody is fighting.

In ‘Mask-a-raid’ some of the random surrealism of ‘Barnacle Bill‘ and ‘Mysterious Mose‘ (both 1930) returns to the screen. The cartoon is full of weird images and odd gags, and at times should be seen to be believed. It ends with some great scatting by Bimbo himself.

This is Betty’s first cartoon as a human being (apart from the Screen Song ‘Kitty from Kansas City‘ from only one week before), with her dog ears having changed into large earrings. It’s also the first to give her starring credits. It introduces the new story idea of old men fancying Betty, and harassing her against her will. This story element would also be featured in e.g. ‘Boop-oop-a-Doop‘ (1932) and ‘Betty Boop’s Big Boss‘ (1933).

Watch ‘Mask-A-Raid’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Talkartoon No. 27
To the previous Talkartoon: In the Shade of the Old Apple Sauce
To the next Talkartoon: Jack and the Beanstalk

‘Mask-A-Raid’ is available on the French DVD Box Set ‘Betty Boop Coffret Collector’

Director: Dave Fleischer
Release Date:
 November 7, 1931
Stars: Betty Boop, Rudy Vallee
Rating: ★★★
Review:

Kitty from Kansas City © Max Fleischer‘Kitty from Kansas City’ is a Screen Song in which Rudy Valley sings his famous hit from 1930 about his dumb girlfriend Kitty.

This short starts with Kitty (whom we can recognize as Betty Boop) waiting for the train, until she’s picked up by a mail hook. Enter Rudy Vallee in bowler hat and with old-fashioned mustache, singing the title tune, accompanied by the bouncing ball. The cartoon ends with a particular fat Kitty involved in random events.

‘Kitty from Kansas City’ is important for two reasons: it’s the first cartoon in which Betty Boop is completely human, and second, it introduces a new story element, which was to be used frequently in the years to come: that of an old man fancying her. This time it’s an old station master.

Watch ‘Kitty from Kansas City’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Kitty from Kansas City’ is available on the French DVD Box Set ‘Betty Boop Coffret Collector’

 

Director: Dave Fleischer
Release Date:
 October 10, 1931
Stars: Betty Boop, Bimbo
Rating: ★★½
Review:

Minding the Baby © Max FleischerBetty Boop, who lives in an apartment across the street, invites Bimbo over, but he can’t come, because he has to attend his little baby brother Aloysius.

Nevertheless, he does abandon the mischievous little brat and goes to Betty’s house to skip rope. However, Aloysius sucks them back into his own house, using a particularly powerful vacuum cleaner.

Aloysius is seen smoking a cigar and reading the paper, not unlike Baby Herman in ‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit?‘ (1987). The cartoon establishes Bimbo and Betty as lovers, but it doesn’t make much sense, and its gags feel random and misguided.

‘Minding the Baby’ was the last cartoon featuring Betty with dog ears. in her next cartoon ‘Mask-A-Raid‘ she became fully human.

Watch ‘Minding the Baby’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Talkartoon No. 25
To the previous Talkartoon: Bimbo’s Express
To the next Talkartoon: In the Shade of the Old Apple Sauce

‘Minding the Baby’ is available on the French DVD Box Set ‘Betty Boop Coffret Collector’

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