Saturday, April 3, 2021

Some Cartoons For Saturday Morning #117

 Hello my friends and happy Saturday Morning, once again it is time for some more classic cartoons.

Since Easter is tomorrow, what better way to start this post than with an Easter cartoon. Today's first film is a Silly Symphony called Funny Little Bunnies (1934). This cartoon does not feature much of an actual story beyond the idea of bunnies getting ready for Easter. However people at the time did not seem to mind this at all. The following is a review from The Film Daily, "This is a likely entry for the best short of 1934. While it may appear that its vogue would be more or less limited to the Easter season because its purely imaginative substance deals with the manufacture and decoration of Easter eggs and bunnies by a colorful rabbit crew, the splendor and variety of coloring and the highly diverting action lift it far above any seasonal appeal. Musical accompaniment is pleasing." The following is a review from The Motion Picture Herald, "Unusually clever, highly entertaining, especially for the youngsters but potentially equally enjoyable for adults, this number of the Walt Disney Silly Symphonies pictures in the inimitable Disney cartoon fashion the manner in which the bunnies, in their woodland workshop, carve out Easter statues of themselves, paint the Easter eggs, with various colors obtained from the end of the rainbow. In this spring season despite the fact that Easter has passed, the subject is highly appropriate and can not fail to meet with the favor of the entire audience, anytime, anywhere." The cartoon also won the gold medal for "Best Animated Film" at the Venice film festival in 1934. Still as is always the case not everyone was impressed. An exhibitors review from The Motion Picture Herald was not very positive stating about Walt Disney, "He'll never make another 'Three Little Pigs.' In 1935 this movie was part of a four week run of Disney cartoons. Here is The Film Daily talking about that, "Starting April 4, Walt Disney productions, released through Untied Artists, are being featured on the Trans-Lux Theater program for four consecutive weeks. Opening with 'The Tortoise and the Hare,' the next three programs feature the following Disney productions: 'Mickey's Man Friday,' 'Funny Little Bunnies,' and 'The Band Concert,' Disney's first Mickey Mouse subject in Technicolor." One thing I love about the color Symphonies is that they never take color for granted but instead always make sure it is used to full effect. That is definitely true of this cartoon. This movie was reissued to theaters on April 7, 1950.

From 1976 to 1982 Warner Brothers made a series of 16 TV specials featuring the Looney Tunes characters. Some of these specials were brand new half hour stories, others featured clips for or whole classic cartoon shorts and still others featured a set of brand new cartoons. Daffy Duck's Easter Special (1980) featured three brand new cartoons with bridging sequences inspired by Duck Amuck (1953). Here is one of the new cartoons from that special, The Chocolate Chase (1980). This short is very much in the mold of the mid to late 1960's cartoons which pitted Daffy Duck against Speedy Gonzales. 

Now for something completely diffrent here is a completely serious cartoon short of the 1950's, The Tell-Tale Heart (1953). This film is not surprisingly from the UPA studio. The UPA studio at this time sought to move away from the violent slapstick of Warner Brothers or MGM cartoons, or the more realistic "illusion of life" featured in many Disney cartoons. They often experimented with what could be done with the color and design in animated films. These films often experimented with flat backgrounds, purposely limited animation and abstract color schemes that reflect the emotion of a scene rather than what something would really look like. As is true of all cartoon studios that do a lot of experimenting, sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn't. Tell-Tale Heart is one of the most successful and one of the most extreme experiments. Most American audiences at this time had never seen an animated short quite like this and many would never see something like this again. When a 1954 article in Home Movies talking about the Cannes Film Festival got to Disney's Toot, Whistle, Plunk and Boom (1953) winning a prize, the writer had this to say, "It is unpardonable however that Disney should so openly and fully steal the style of the cartoon developed by the most excellent groups of artists, Steven Bosustow's UPA. It was no secret this was the case among those as the festival as UPA is well known and well respected in France. It is a shame that UPA recent and excellent 3D cartoon, The Tell-Tale Heart could not be shown at the festival, for it most certainly won the prize awarded to Disney." This cartoon is placed at 24 in Jerry Beck's book, The 50 Greatest Cartoons

Next we get back to Easter with the MGM short, Bosko's Easter Eggs (1937). Some of you may be thinking, isn't Bosko the earliest Looney Tunes character? Why is he in an MGM cartoon? Well Bosko was created by Hugh Harmon and Rudolph Ising, who made the earliest Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies. When the two left Warner Brothers, they took the rights to the character with them. When the two moved to MGM, they made a few more Bosko films there. The earliest of these kept his original Mickey Mouse like design, but soon his design was changed into a more realistic little boy. Reviewers for The Film Daily and Motion Picture Daily either didn't recognize the new Bosko and, or didn't know them to begin with as they referred to them simply as "pickaninnies" (a term that a reviewer would never use today). Both reviewers praised this cartoon's use of Technicolor. A review in the Motion Picture Herald calls Bosko by name but follows that with "...a cute pickaninny." (this was 1937 after all) The same reviewer stated, "A combination of some clever comic situations, brightly colored animation and a bit of a catchy tune makes the subject gay and diverting." 

Next we join Gandy Goose and Soupuss in Aladdin's Lamp (1943). As was common in the duo's World War 2 cartoons, they are in the army here, however this has little to do with the actual story. This cartoon (directed by Eddie Donnelly) is a rather typical story for one of these cartoons but is still quite enjoyable. 

 Now we visit Popeye the Sailor in Lil' Swee'pea (1936). Unlike the later Famous Studio cartoons, the earlier Fleischer Popeyes would try to incorporate characters from the Thimble Theater Comic strip (for which Popeye was created) that were not part of the trio of Popeye, Olive and Bluto. Some of these characters were barely used and some made quite a few appearances. The most successful of these were Poopdeck Pappy and Swee'pea, who were both welcome presences to the cartoons and allowed Popeye to get away from the formula of fighting Bluto for Olive. Unfortunately when the Fleischer studio closed and Famous Studios took over the cartoons characters like Swee'pea, Poopdeck Pappy and even Wimpy would be used very rarely. 

Today's cartoon selection ends with one of my personal favorite Pink Panther cartoons, Dial P for Pink (1965). 

     Thank you for joining me come back next week for another selection of classic cartoons. Until then may all your tunes be looney and your melodies merry.   


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