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Director: Hugh Harman
Release Date: April 10, 1933
Stars: Bosko, Honey
‘Bosko in Person’ is to Bosko what ‘Just Mickey‘ (1930) was to Mickey: a cartoon devoted solely to the star performing on stage.
Where Mickey was completely alone, Bosko gets help from Honey in an extraordinary song-and-dance extravaganza, including Bosko playing the piano, Honey dancing, Bosko tap-dancing, Bosko’s glove(!) reciting ‘Mary had a Little Lamb’, Honey singing a blues and doing a Greta Garbo imitation, and Bosko imitating both Maurice Chevalier and Jimmy Durante. The cartoon ends with a celebration of the end of the prohibition, which after 13 years ended in effect when on March 22, low alcohol beer and wine were legalized again.
Unfortunately, ‘Bosko in person’ is over-the-top, trying much too hard to make Bosko an appealing personality, which he isn’t. Indeed, when turning into Maurice Chevalier and Jimmy Durante he loses himself completely. Moreover, the cartoon is stuffed with repetition as some gags appear not once, but twice. The result is tiresome and desperately unfunny. In the end, the short is only noteworthy because of the caricatures of Hollywood stars.
Watch ‘Bosko in Person’ yourself and tell me what you think:
‘Bosko in Person’ is available on the DVD ‘Looney Tunes Golden Collection: Volume Six’
Director: Hugh Harman
Release Date: January 16, 1933
Stars: Bosko, Honey, Rudolf Ising
Bosko enters a saloon in Red Gulch, immediately starts a dance and goes on playing the piano. Meanwhile his girlfriend Honey rides a stagecoach, which is chased by three vicious bandits. This chase scene is simply stuffed with animation cycles. As Bosko is busy entertaining, it takes quite a while before Bosko rides off to rescue his sweetheart.
The complete cartoon is rich in action, but surprisingly low on gags (there’s one about a homosexual). It ends surprisingly however. Suddenly we cut back to three animators. Rudolph Ising asks “Say, how does Bosko save the girl?”, an animator replies: “I don’t know.”, and another: “Let’s go home”, leaving Bosko on his sheet of paper. This gag is pretty unconventional, but one cannot but feel a bit of laziness and disinterest in this scene, as if the animators didn’t care much for their own star themselves. Even so, Bosko would star in fourteen more Warner Brothers films, before Hugh Harman and Rudolph Ising took him with them to MGM.
Watch ‘Ride Him, Bosko!’ yourself and tell me what you think:
‘Ride Him, Bosko!’ is available on the DVD ‘Looney Tunes Golden Collection: Volume Six’
Director: Wilfred Jackson
Release Date: July 9, 1932
The two cubs eat the bees’ honey, but luckily it’s the old mean bear who gets all the stings, in an elaborate battle scene, comparable to those in ‘The Spider and the Fly‘ (1931) and ‘Bugs in Love‘ (1932).
The story of ‘The Bears and the Bees’ is consistent, but remarkably boring. The two little bears look like early forerunners of Mickey’s nephews Morty and Ferdy, who would make their screen debut two years later in ‘Mickey’s Steamroller‘ (1934). It’s interesting to see how the animators tried to render these two cubs partly as animals and partly as little brats. This way of animating animals halfway anthropomorphism would become a Disney specialty, leading to masterpieces like ‘Bambi‘ (1942) and ‘Lady and the Tramp‘ (1956). In this short it can be watched in its embryonic form.
Watch ‘The Bears and the Bees’ yourself and tell me what you think:
‘The Bears and the Bees’ is available on the DVD ‘Walt Disney Treasures: More Silly Symphonies’
Director: Ub Iwerks
Release Date: May 2, 1931
Stars: Flip the Frog, Honey
‘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
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: Hugh Harman & Rudolf Ising
Release Date: April 19, 1930
Stars: Bosko, Honey
Harman & Ising’s pilot ‘Bosko the Talk-ink Kid‘ lead to a succesful contract with Leon Schlesinger, and in April 1930, the young studio could release their first film for Warner Bros.: ‘Sinkin’ in the Bathtub’.
‘Sinkin’ in the Bathtub’ is the very first of the Looney Tunes, Harman and Ising’s first of three series which name was an all too obvious variation on Walt Disney’s successful Silly Symphonies. In 1931 they would launch the Merrie Melodies, and in 1934, when at MGM, the Happy Harmonies.
Schlesinger had sold the series to Warner Bros. with the prospect of selling their sheet music, and music would be an important part of both the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies until the end of the 1930s. Apart from the title song, one can hear ‘Forever Blowing Bubbles’ when Honey turns her bath tub into Bosko’s saxophone, making him blowing bubbles with his instrument.
Animated by Friz Freleng, ‘Sinkin’ in the Bathtub’ features Bosko, the star of ‘Bosko the Talk-ink Kid’, and Warner Bros.’ sole star from 1930 to 1933. Bosko invites his girlfriend Honey for a ride in his anthropomorphized car (which he finds on the toilet(!)). On their journey they experience problems with a cow and a steep hill. The ride ends in a pool.
The cartoon is well-animated and cheerful, but surprisingly boring at the same time, even though it lacks the endless song-and-dance-routines of contemporary Mickey Mouse cartoons. Bosko and his girl behave like Oswald and his girlfriend, and are only different in design, being clearly black stereotypes. They are totally devoid of any personality. In fact, Bosko would never develop one, and eventually it became even unclear what Bosko actually was, as exemplified by the following anecdote from Jack Zander, quoted by Leonard Maltin in ‘Of Mice and Magic’ (page 225):
One Day a porter at the studio said to young animator Jack Zander, “I want to ask you something about that character you’ve got. I know Mickey Mouse, and Krazy Kat, and Oswald the Rabbit… but Bosko the what?”
Watch ‘Sinkin’ in the Bathtub’ yourself and tell me what you think:
‘Sinkin’ in the Bathtub’ is available on the DVD ‘Looney Tunes Golden Collection Volume Three’ and on the Blu-Ray ‘Looney Tunes Platinum Collection: Volume 2’
Release Date: June 11, 1928
Stars: Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, Honey, Peg Leg Pete
Like the later cartoon, ‘Sky Scrappers’ opens spectacularly with a fantastic opening shot zooming out of Oswald’s excavator. Both feature Honey/Minnie bringing Oswald/Mickey lunchboxes and Pete kidnapping Honey/Minnie. Like in ‘Oh What A Knight’ Honey is shown without her pants.
The opening shot shows a lot of animation cycles, effectively suggesting a lot of working on the building. There’s also a great perspective gag with Pete punching right into the camera. However, the most remarkably animation achievement is that of Oswald pulling up a heavy barrel. The idea of weight and muscle stretch is very convincing, and stands out amidst the more formulaic animation of the rest of the cartoon.
Watch ‘Sky Scrappers’ yourself and tell me what you think:
Release Date: May 28, 1928
Stars: Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, Honey, Peg Leg Pete
‘Oh What A knight’ can be regarded as an early forerunner of the Mickey Mouse cartoon ‘Ye Olden Days‘ (1933).
Both shorts feature a medieval setting and both Oswald and Mickey are minstrels courting their love in a castle. However, where in ‘Ye Olden Days’ Goofy is the unlikely villain, Oswald’s opponent is Pete, who wears an anachronistic high hat.
Oswald serenades his sweetie Honey with an equally anachronistic accordeon. Soon, Oswald and Pete duel in grand adventure film-like manner, with Oswald kissing Honey between the fights. One scene in particular has beautifully animated shadows. In the final falling scene Honey loses her pants, and is shown naked. All characters are animated very flexibly: there’s a lot of stretching, falling apart etc.
‘Oh, What a Knight’ is a very entertaining entry in the Oswald the Lucky Rabbit series, and shows that Disney already went for high quality before the advent of Mickey.
Watch ‘Oh, What a Knight’ yourself and tell me what you think:
This is Oswald the Lucky Rabbit cartoon No. 20
To the previous Oswald the Lucky Rabbit cartoon: Hungry Hoboes
To the next Oswald the Lucky Rabbit cartoon: Sky Scrappers
Release Date: March 5, 1928
Stars: Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, Honey, Pete
Pete and Oswald both ride in their cars to her house in a scene looking forward to the early Mickey Mouse cartoon ‘The Barn Dance‘ from later that year. Oswald serenades her until a goat eats all his sheet music and even his banjo. Then he turns the animal into a hurdy gurdy, like Mickey would do later that year in ‘Steamboat Willie‘. When Pete arrives, he and Oswald fight over Honey, almost tearing her apart. Honey gives them the cold shoulder and leaves with a third guy into the distance. Then our rivals kick each other in remorse, like Donald Duck and Peter Pig would do six years later in ‘Wise Little Hen‘ (1934).
As you may notice, ‘Rival Romeos’ contains quite a lot of embryonic gags that Walt Disney would reuse later in other cartoons. Because of these prophetical gags ‘Rival Romeos’ is a highlight among Disney’s Oswald cartoons.
Watch ‘Rival Romeos’ yourself and tell me what you think:
This is Oswald the Lucky Rabbit cartoon No. 14
To the previous Oswald the Lucky Rabbit cartoon: Africa Before Dark
To the next Oswald the Lucky Rabbit cartoon: Bright Lights