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Director: unknown
Release Date: July 12, 1933
Stars: Cubby the Bear
Rating: ★★★★½
Review:

Fresh Ham © Van BeurenIn ‘Fresh Ham’ Cubby sets up a talent agency, looking for a vaudeville act.

Cubby is immediately visited by candidates, although talent is hard to find among them. There’s a lady who mimics a great voice with help of a phonograph, a mother with a baby brat who refuses to perform, and four Chinese duck acrobats. They are all topped, however, by a remarkably persistent duck who cites Shakespeare throughout the picture. This duck is a wonderful character, easily outshining Cubby and his anonymous little cat friend. The duck forms a running gag, elevating this Cubby cartoon to arguably the best short of Cubby’s short-lived career.

Watch ‘Fresh Ham’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘A.M. to P.M.’ is available on the Blu-Ray ‘The Complete Animated Adventures of Cubby Bear’ and on the DVD ‘The Complete Adventures of Cubby Bear’

 

Director: Dave Fleischer
Release Date:
 April 16, 1931
Rating: ★★★½
Review:

Any Little Girl That's A Nice Little Girl © Max Fleischer‘Any Little Girl That’s A Nice Little Girl’ is a Screen Song about a cat who’s dating several girls at the same time.

First we watch him dating his girls through the telephone, then he goes through a bunch of photographs and chooses to visits hot Lulu Belle. When he tries to sneak out, Lulu Belle hits him with the couch. Enter the Screen Song, which is accompanied with images of e.g. a naked woman in a bath(!) and a picture of Betty Boop, who otherwise does not appear in this cartoon.

Only the first scene features lip-synch, and the scene with Lulu Belle also features an excerpt from the 1929 hit song ‘What Wouldn’t I Do for That Man’, popularized by Annette Hanshaw and Ruth Etting. This excerpt is much more interesting than the 1910 vaudeville title song. The last chorus features some nice interplay between the words and the animated characters, typical for the Screen Songs of this era.

Watch ‘Any Little Girl That’s A Nice Little Girl’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Any Little Girl That’s A Nice Little Girl’ is available on the French DVD Box Set ‘Betty Boop Coffret Collector’

Director: Robert McKimson
Release Date: June 17, 1950
Stars: Bugs Bunny, Elmer Fudd
Rating: ★★★★★ ♕
Review:

What's Up, Doc © Warner Bros.‘What’s Up, Doc?’ starts very much like Friz Freleng’s ‘A Hare Grows in Manhattan‘ from 1947: Bugs Bunny is a Hollywood star, interviewed by the press.

However, Writer Warren Foster and director McKimson’s take is much funnier than Freleng’s: instead of turning to an ordinary chase sequence, the duo retains the idea of Bugs being a real actor throughout the picture. The cartoon shows his erratic career in the vaudeville scene.

The most absurd take is when Bugs Bunny is down in the dumps. We seem him hanging out in the park with actors, who, by 1950, belonged pretty much to the has-beens: Al Jolson, Jack Benny, Eddie Cantor and Bing Crosby. At this point, it is Elmer, “the famous vaudeville star”, who turns Bugs into a star. We watch the duo performing in what must be the most terrible vaudeville act ever put on screen. But when Bugs utters “what’s up, doc” the duo hits the jackpot.

This loony, self-satirizing from-rags-to-riches story is entertaining throughout, and leads to a great finale. It may well have inspired the equally tongue-in-cheek opening sequence of ‘Singin’ in the Rain’ (1952), which shows some similarities to McKimson’s short.

‘What’s Up, Doc?’ is without doubt one of McKimson’s best cartoons. Sadly, the film more or less marks the end of McKimson’s most inspired era, for during the 1950s the quality of his cartoons steadily declined, becoming more and more routine, and less and less funny.

Watch ‘What’s Up, Doc?’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘What’s Up, Doc?’ is available on the DVD set ‘Looney Tunes Golden Collection, Vol. 1’

This is Bugs Bunny cartoon No. 72
To the previous Bugs Bunny cartoon: Big House Bunny
To the next Bugs Bunny cartoon: 8 Ball Bunny

Director: Unknown
Release Date: March 19, 1928
Stars: Oswald the Lucky Rabbit
Rating: ★★★½
Review:

Bright Lights © Walt DisneyAlthough broke, Oswald tries to enter a vaudeville theater where Mademoiselle Zulu performs her shimmy dancing.

After we watch some cat chorus girls dancing the can-can, Mll. Zulu, a female cat character, is shown doing her erotic shimmy dance, probably inspired by Josephine Baker. Oswald manages to enter the theater by hiding beneath a man’s shadow(!), but he is discovered. He tries to hide in a cage, which contains a fierce leopard. When the leopard breaks loose, and later a couple of lions, the whole theater is emptied.

This rather plotless, yet entertaining short contains many surreal gags and a very flexible use of body parts. Oswald’s body is deformed even more than normal, and in one scene we watch him without his pants on.

The best scene is when Oswald pantomimes his love for Mlle. Zulu. This scene is acted out very well, and this embryonic character animation is far more sophisticated than the animation surrounding it.

Watch ‘Bright Lights’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Oswald the Lucky Rabbit cartoon No. 15
To the previous Oswald the Lucky Rabbit cartoon: Rival Romeos
To the next surviving Oswald the Lucky Rabbit cartoon: Ozzie of the Mounted

Director: Friz Freleng
Release Date: April 30, 1949
Stars: Bugs Bunny, Yosemite Sam
Rating: ★★★★★ ♕
Review:

High Diving Hare © Warner BrothersBugs is presenting a vaudeville show in some western town.

Yosemite Sam especially visits his show to see the high diving Fearless Freep. Unfortunately, Freep is delayed by a storm and can’t come to perform. The disappointed Sam urges Bugs to take Freep’s place.

What follows is a masterful series of gags, which all end with Sam falling from the ridiculously high platform. At one point Freleng doesn’t even bother to point out how Bugs makes Sam take the plunge once again. As if it’s a natural law, Sam will fall anyway. Bugs, on the other hand, defies the law of the gravity. But you know, he tells us at the end, he never studied law…

Penned by storyman Tedd Pierce, this wonderfully hilarious cartoon takes a single idea from Freleng’s earlier ‘Stage Door Cartoon‘ (1944) and milks it brilliantly to a superb finale. Freleng’s timing rarely was so effective as in this cartoon, and it must rank among his all time best.

Watch ‘High Diving Hare’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘High Diving Hare’ is available on the DVD set ‘Looney Tunes Golden Collection, Vol. 1’

This is Bugs Bunny cartoon No. 59
To the previous Bugs Bunny cartoon: Rebel Rabbit
To the next Bugs Bunny cartoon: Bowery Bugs

Director: Winsor McCay
Release Date: September 14, 1914
Stars: Gertie the Dinosaur
Rating: ★★★★★ ♕
Review:

original drawing from 'Gertie the Dinosaur' featuring Gertie and a small mammoth‘Gertie the Dinosaur’ was Winsor McCay’s third animation film, and it certainly is his most famous one, still capable of entertaining new audiences.

The film follows a same story idea similar to that of ‘Little Nemo‘: during a visit to a natural history museum Winsor McCay bets the famous comic strip artist George McManus that he can make a dinosaur move. After these long nine minutes of slow live action introduction, we finally see McCay’s creation: Gertie the dinosaur.

McCay’s dinosaur appears to be a girl dinosaur. She behaves like a trained animal: she listens to what McCay is telling her, she eats a whole tree, she bows to the camera, she lifts her feet, she’s being startled by a small mammoth, which she throws into te lake, she dances, and she lifts McCay himself on to her back.

The captions in between replace dialogue, which must have been part of a vaudeville act with Winsor McCay talking to Gertie and she listening to him. This vaudeville show, with which McCay toured, has been recreated in the Disneyland special ‘The Story of Animated Drawing‘, which aired on November 30, 1955, and which is available on the DVD set ‘Behind the Scenes at the Walt Disney Studio’. At the 2014 Annie Awards Ceremony Bill Farmer also reenacted McCay’s vaudeville performance (included below). The reenactment makes the experience of the original film much more vivid, and watching this version is highly recommended.

The short is impressive because of its fine animation and command of perspective, but what it really makes a milestone of animation is that Gertie the Dinosaur is the first animated cartoon character with personality. She’s not just any dinosaur, she’s a female dinosaur, behaving half like a trained animal, half like a small spoiled child. Watching the interaction between her and (the off-screen) McCay is impressive, but it’s also delightful and fun. ‘Gertie the Dinosaur’ had a huge impact at the time, and inspired a whole generation of animation film pioneers (e.g. Paul Terry, Frank Moser, Pat Sullivan, Otto Messmer and the Fleischer Brothers). The film truly is an all time classic, and enjoyable to this very day.

‘Gertie The Dinosaur’ was followed by the unfinished and much less successful film ‘Gertie on Tour‘, of which McCay completed only two scenes.

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

Here’s the original vaudeville show reenacted by Bill Farmer at the 41st Annie Awards Ceremony (2014):

This is Winsor McCay’s third film
To Winsor McCay’s second film: How a Mosquito Operates
To Winsor McCay’s fourth film: The Sinking of the Lusitania

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