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Directors: George Stallings & Frank Tashlin
Release Date: April 28, 1933
Stars: Tom and Jerry
Rating:
Review:

ook & Ladder Hokum © Van BeurenIn ‘Hook & Ladder Hokum’ Tom and Jerry are fire fighters.

The cartoon opens with the two playing checkers and preparing for bed. As soon as they’ve lain down, the fire alarm rings, and the two rush to the burning house. However, Tom, Jerry and their horse are remarkably incompetent in extinguishing the fire, and the horse even manages to destroy the house completely.

‘Hook & Ladder Hokum’ marks Frank Tashlin’s first and only direction billing at Van Beuren. Tashlin had been an animator and story man at the studio. Tashlin later would improve cartoon directing at Warner Bros., and would become a successful live action director for e.g. Jane Mansfield, and Martin and Lewis comedies. It’s very difficult to detect any of his talent in this cartoon, as most of the action is still silent as if it had been made in the silent era. For example, there’s a scene in which Tom & Jerry gesture the horse to hurry, and later the flames spell the words ‘help’ and ‘hurry’.

In some of the close-ups the duo look better designed than normal, however. This just may be Frank Tashlin’s influence, but who knows? In any case, ‘Hook & Ladder Hokum’ compares unfavorably to the Mickey Mouse cartoon ‘The Fire Fighters‘, even though the Disney short is three years older.

Watch ‘Hook & Ladder Hokum’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Tom & Jerry cartoon No. 23
To the previous Tom & Jerry cartoon: Puzzled Pals
To the next Tom & Jerry cartoon: In the Park

‘Hook & Ladder Hokum’ is available on the DVD ‘The Complete Animated Adventures of Van Beuren Studio’s Tom and Jerry’

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Directors: John Foster & George Stallings
Release Date: February 7, 1933
Stars: Tom and Jerry
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

The Magic Mummy © Van Beuren‘The Magic Mummy’ is one of those typical nightmarish cartoons of the early 1930s.

It opens happily enough, when Tom and Jerry, as policemen, listen to the police radio, which broadcasts two rather gay officers singing and playing the piano. The merry song is soon interrupted, however, when a mummy has been stolen from the museum. Tom and Jerry soon discover the thief and follow him into the graveyard and into a grave. There the thief, a magician, unwinds the mummy, revealing it to be a woman who he orders to sing and to perform for a skeleton audience. She does so with a Betty Boop-like voice, which starts a jazzy score. In the end Jerry runs off with the mummy’s coffin, only to discover it contains Tom inside.

‘The Magic Mummy’ is one of the more enjoyable of the Tom and Jerry cartoons in its delightful lack of pretense, its rather surreal images, and joyful atmosphere.

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

This is Tom & Jerry cartoon No. 20
To the previous Tom & Jerry cartoon: Tight Rope Tricks
To the next Tom & Jerry cartoon: Happy Hoboes

‘The Magic Mummy’ is available on the DVD ‘The Complete Animated Adventures of Van Beuren Studio’s Tom and Jerry’ and the Blu-Ray/DVD-set ‘Technicolor Dreams and Black & White Nightmares’

Directors: Frank Sherman & George Stallings
Release Date:
 March 31, 1933
Stars: Tom and Jerry
Rating: ★★★
Review:

Puzzled Pals © Van Beuren‘Puzzled Pals’ opens with a stork trying to deliver his baby, but finding every home hostile to him.

The bird finally manages to drop the baby at Tom & Jerry’s doorstep. They take the baby in, but he turns out to be a tough brat, kicking everybody’s face in, and being a complete nuisance, while Tom and Jerry try to solve a jig-saw puzzle. At one point the brat gets hold of a giant vacuum cleaner, sucking almost everything in the house, including the clothes on Jerry’s tattoo, until Tom saves the day. In the end the stork incomprehensibly returns and takes the baby away.

Vacuum cleaners were still a luxury in the 1930’s, and this cartoon may contain the first animated gags on this domestic device.

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

This is Tom & Jerry cartoon No. 22
To the previous Tom & Jerry cartoon: Happy Hoboes
To the next Tom & Jerry cartoon: Hook & Ladder Hokum

‘Puzzled 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:
 December 9, 1932
Stars: Tom and Jerry
Rating: ★★★★½
Review

Pencil Mania © Van Beuren‘Pencil Mania’ arguably is Tom and Jerry’s most inventive short of all.

In this short Jerry has a magic pencil with which he can draw things in mid-air, which immediately come to life. This leads to some surreal gags with a lot of metamorphosis being involved. It’s for example fascinating to watch a saxophone change into a duck.

Unfortunately, as soon as Jerry has drawn three melodrama figures, the short turns to their antics. Nevertheless, the finale is mesmerizing: a complete train disappears into nothing, and Jerry breaks through the paper to make the heroin return to his pencil before Tom can kiss her. Gags like these, breaking the 4th wall, were extremely rare in 1932, making ‘Pencil Mania’ pretty unique. At any rate it’s very enjoyable to watch, even though the train is the only well-drawn thing in the entire short. One can only guess what more able hands could have made out of a story idea like this.

Eight years later Terrytoons would use the same idea in the Gandy Goose cartoon ‘The Magic Pencil’ (1940). No doubt the Terry animators had seen ‘Pencil Mania’, because not only do the two cartoon share a melodrama sequence, the magic also starts with the same gag: that of the Jerry/Gandy Goose drawing an egg, which falls on Tom’s/Sourpuss’s head. Moreover, both Jerry and Gandy Goose turn a door into a car, and like Jerry, Gandy makes the heroin flow back into his pencil.

‘Pencil Mania’ features three songs: Rudy Wiedoeft’s Saxophobia (1919), the 1923 hit ‘Yes, We Have No Bananas’, and ‘You’ve Got Me in the Palm of Your Hand’.

Watch ‘Pencil Mania’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Tom & Jerry cartoon No. 18
To the previous Tom & Jerry cartoon: Piano Tooners
To the next Tom & Jerry cartoon: Tight Rope Tricks

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

 

Directors: John Foster & George Stallings
Release Date:
 October 7, 1932
Stars: Tom and Jerry
Rating: ★★
Review

A Spanish Twist © Van BeurenSomehow Tom and Jerry are shipwrecked and plagued by an evil octopus. Lucky for them they’re washed ashore in Spain, where they immediately go to a Spanish cafe.

At the cafe they encounter two female dancers, and an angry guy who orders them to take part in a bullfight. In the arena Tom and Jerry defeat a battalion of bulls with their bare hands. Then a telegraph arrives to tell them the 18th amendment has been lifted, and immediately Tom and Jerry head home again on their raft…

The 18th amendment, abolishing alcohol, was not lifted until December 5, 1933, more than one year after the release of ‘A Spanish Twist’ , making this cartoon strangely prophetic. Unfortunately, it’s hardly enjoyable otherwise. The Spanish dancers are extremely badly drawn, and the bullfight is anything from entertaining. In fact, ‘A Spanish Twist’ is arguably the worst bullfight cartoon before the equally dull Pink Panther cartoon ‘Toro Pink’ (1979).

Watch ‘A Spanish Twist’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Tom & Jerry cartoon No. 16
To the previous Tom & Jerry cartoon: Barnyard Bunk
To the next Tom & Jerry cartoon: Piano Tooners

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

Directors: John Foster & George Stallings
Release Date:
 July 23, 1932
Stars: Tom and Jerry
Rating: ★★★
Review

Redskin Blues © Van BeurenImmediately after having insulted the black part of the population in ‘Plane Dumb‘, Tom and Jerry turned their attention to the native Americans.

‘Redskin Blues’ opens without delay: Tom & Jerry are riding a stage coach, surrounded by Indians on horseback. The fight is severe, and soon their coach is destroyed completely. Tom & Jerry manage to escape to the top of a large cliff, but the Indians use their feathers to fly(!) after them. Soon Tom & Jerry are captured and tied to stakes. But with their feet the two play a lively xylophone tune on the wood surrounding them, prompting a dance scene.

When Jerry blows a horn for help, the cavalry arrives, and the navy, and the air force, and a battalion of tanks. Needless to say, the Indians flee, but a Buffalo Bill-like type catches the chief, who turns out to be Jewish and who scares everyone away with a single mouse.

‘Redskin Blues’ is a fast, and action packed cartoon. The rescue scene is one of the most inspired gags within the complete series, and would prompt similar scenes in the Marx Brothers film ‘Duck Soup’ and the Fleischer cartoon ‘Betty Boop’s Big Boss‘ (both 1933). Nevertheless, the film’s highlight is a short sequence during the dance scene in which some sexy squaws dancing in a circle.

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

This is Tom & Jerry cartoon No. 13
To the previous Tom & Jerry cartoon: Plane Dumb
To the next Tom & Jerry cartoon: Jolly Fish

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

Directors: John Foster & George Stallings
Release Date:
 June 4, 1932
Stars: Tom and Jerry
Rating: ★★★
Review

The Tuba Tooter © Van BeurenIn ‘The Tuba Tooter’ Schultz, a tuba player, returns to his homeland Germany, accompanied by his yodeling Dachshund Fritz.

This event is heralded by Tom & Jerry, which fills everyone and everything with joy, including inanimate objects like sausages and cheese(!). Have you ever seen cheese being enthusiastic? Here’s your chance! Soon the whole town is singing and dancing to Schultz’s oompah music, and yes, this includes the buildings themselves. But then the police arrives and arrests Schultz…

‘Tuba Tooter’ is a very joyous cartoon, but also rather empty and nonsensical. After all, Schultz’s arrival is actually the only event in the whole cartoon. The animation is erratic, and at times very poor. Worth of mention is a very risque, yet rather freaky scene of two young women dancing in their underwear.

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

This is Tom & Jerry cartoon No. 11
To the previous Tom & Jerry cartoon: Pots and Pans
To the next Tom & Jerry cartoon: Plane Dumb

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

Directors: John Foster & George Stallings
Release Date:
 April 23, 1932
Stars: Tom and Jerry
Rating:
Review:

Joint Wipers © Van BeurenIn ‘Joint Wipers’ Tom and Jerry are plumbers who desperately try to fix a large leak in a woman’s house.

The duo only manages to drain the lady of her own house, together with her pets, and followed by several other animals. Meanwhile the apartment gets flooded, and at one point the whole building washes away.

Like other Tom and Jerry cartoons ‘Joint Wipers’ suffers from bad animation and an absence of timing. The cartoon’s highlight, if there is any, is when Tom & Jerry celebrate their profession in song, while drops of water play the piano.

Watch ‘Joint Wipers’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Tom & Jerry cartoon No. 9
To the previous Tom & Jerry cartoon: In the Bag
To the next Tom & Jerry cartoon: Pots and Pans

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

Directors: John Foster & George Stallings
Release Date:
 February 27, 1932
Stars: Tom and Jerry
Rating: ★★½
Review:

Rabid Hunters © Van BeurenIn ‘Rabid Hunters’ Tom and Jerry are hunters, who try to catch a rabbit with their semi-anthropomorphized dog and horse.

The rabbit appears to be an early forerunner of Bugs Bunny, outwitting all four characters to a jazzy upbeat score. This soundtrack, by Gene Rodemich, is the absolute highlight of this otherwise erratic, boring and terribly poorly animated short. Also noteworthy is a hallucinatory scene at a tree branch that has to be seen to be believed. Like the Silly Symphony ‘The Fox Hunt‘ from a year earlier, the cartoon ends with a skunk.

Watch ‘Rabid Hunters’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Tom & Jerry cartoon No. 7
To the previous Tom & Jerry cartoon: Rocketeers
To the next Tom & Jerry cartoon: In the Bag

‘Rabid Hunters’ 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’

 

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