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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: Bob Clampett
Release Date: June 9, 1945
Rating: ★★★★★ ♕
She tells them that she’ll go out with the first who brings her a little bird. Enter Tweety, who, despite his cute and helpless appearance, finishes with the two cats in no mild manner. On the contrary, ‘A Gruesome Twosome’ is probably the most violent of all classic cartoons. It’s also very beautifully animated, full of wild and zany action, and simply hilarious. The highlights are a dog, who “doesn’t actually belong in the picture” and a very silly pantomime horse costume.
With ‘A Gruesome Twosome’ director Bob Clampett made one of his most extreme cartoons. Its outrageousness splashes from the screen in every scene. Its theme of sex and violence is executed in a much wilder way than Tex Avery would do, let alone any other director of the era. The cartoon’s sheer energy still impresses today. In this way, ‘A Gruesome Twosome’ may be viewed as the ultimate Bob Clampett film.
‘A Gruesome Twosome’ was the last of the three Tweety cartoons Bob Clampett directed (the other two being ‘A Tale of Two Kitties’ from 1942 and ‘Birdy and the Beast’, 1944). The character would reappear in a redesigned, less grotesque and much cuter form in 1947 in ‘Tweety Pie’ to start a much better known career with Sylvester, as directed by Friz Freleng.
Watch ‘A Gruesome Twosome’ yourself and tell me what you think:
Director: Burt Gillett
Release Date: September 29, 1934
Stars: Mickey Mouse, Pluto
Mickey Plays Papa’ reuses the concept of Mickey receiving orphans from ‘Mickey’s Orphans‘ from 1931. But this time he has to deal with only one orphan mouse, called Elmer.
The film is particularly noteworthy for its scary opening: while Mickey’s reading a scary novel titled “the cry in the night” in bed, someone’s laying the orphan on his doorstep, whose cries startle Mickey and Pluto. When Mickey and Pluto discover that these cries are caused by a cute little baby, they both try to comfort him. These attempts include a nice Charlie Chaplin imitation by Mickey. This cartoon also contains a gag in which Mickey’s being attacked by numerous kitchen tools, which was copied in ‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit?‘ (1988).
But most importantly, the cartoon contains long character-based solo sequences, like Mickey’s trouble with a rubber nipple and Pluto’s antics with a toy bunny and a fishbowl. This type of elongated solo scenes, alternating between the two characters, appear for the first time in this cartoon, but unfortunately they’re not very funny here. Nevertheless, they would become a dominant style element of the Mickey Mouse cartoons of the rest of the 1930s, especially in the Mickey, Donald and Goofy trio outings, luckily often with way more hilarious results.
‘Mickey Plays Papa’ ends when Mickey’s released from the rubber nipple and he finally succeeds in making the baby laugh, by doing a Jimmy Durante imitation with his elongated nose. It would be the last cartoon directed by Burt Gillett before he left Disney in March 1934 for the Van Beuren Studios, only to return in 1937 to direct two other cartoons, the excellent ‘Lonesome Ghosts’ (1937) and ‘The Moth and the Flame’ (1938).
Watch ‘Mickey Plays Papa’ yourself and tell me what you think:
Director: Wilfred Jackson
Release Date: March 28, 1936
‘Elmer Elephant’ is a beautiful cartoon. It’s full of cute animals, but despite its cuteness it never becomes cloying. Based on an idea by story artist Bianca Majolie, its storyline is very straightforward and really heartfelt, like the best of Disney’s works.
Elmer visits the birthday party of one of his jungle friends, the extremely cute girl tiger Tilly. He appears to be her favorite guest, but all the other animals (including some non-tropical foxes) mock him because of his trunk, singing “your nose is like a rubber hose”. Moreover they bully and taunt him and send him away.
Unhappy, Elmer wanders through the jungle, but then he encounters even stranger-looking animals: an old giraffe and three Jimmy Durante-like pelicans, who comfort him a little. Then, suddenly, there’s a fire in Tillie’s tree hut. Elmer comes to the rescue, and with help of his nose and of his new odd friends he saves Tillie from the anthropomorphized flames. Thus being the hero of the day he wins Tillie’s love, displayed by a kiss.
Elmer Elephant has the looks of a storybook. It’s beautifully animated, with lots of shadows, and it has well-designed characters. Especially the hippo, who has an absurdly low voice, is a wonderful character. It’s both surprising and a shame that no other cartoon has been made with these cute characters in their beautiful jungle forest, although Elmer and Tilly have a cameo appearance in ‘Toby Tortoise Returns‘.
Of course, the idea of a kind elephant being mocked for a handicap would later return in ‘Dumbo’, making ‘Elmer Elephant’ its immediate predecessor.
Watch ‘Elmer Elephant’ yourself and tell me what you think:
This is Silly Symphony No. 59
To the previous Silly Symphony: Broken Toys
To the next Silly Symphony: Three Little Wolves
Director: Burt Gillett
Release Date: April 14, 1934
Stars: the three little pigs, the big bad wolf
It was undoubtedly made to satisfy the masses who, after the huge success of ‘Three Little Pigs’, demanded for ‘more pigs’. As one can expect, it’s not as great as ‘Three Little Pigs’, but it’s fun to watch.
The title card shows the main characters as if they were playing their parts. The cartoon, however, is named after the wolf, and deservedly so, because not only is he drawn better than in the original cartoon, he’s also the star of this sequel. Clearly being the greatest actor, he not only impersonates grandma, but also “Goldilocks the fairy queen” in a ridiculous and aimless costume, and even Jimmy Durante! Furthermore, he alone shows to be aware of the audience: he often looks into the camera, and even addresses the audience with a Mae West-like “how’m I doing?”.
‘The Big Bad Wolf’ might be the first “fairy-tales mixed up” cartoon. It may very well have inspired Tex Avery to make similar, yet more hilarious cartoons like ‘The Bear’s Tale’ (1940) and ‘Swing Shift Cinderella’ (1945), both starring Little Red Riding Hood.
Watch ‘The Big Bad Wolf’ yourself and tell me what you think: