I hope that sooner-than-later the Scrappy cartoons are released on DVD or BluRay. They remain some of the hardest of series to see, along with the Krazy Kat’s produced by Columbia. The first Scrappy I saw was Holidayland. I bought from an ad that from 16mm dealer Cliff Thomas had in “The Big Reel” , a film collector’s newspaper, sometime around 1982. I used to call Cliff as soon as the The Big Reel arrived, usually not beating out the handful of other cartoon collectors. Cliff always had cartoons cheap, especially the more common titles.
I would love to hear about other collector’s experiences in collecting cartoons. I’m sure many of you have some great stories… and I’m sure some of your stories go back much, much further than mine! Whenever I went to a film show, I always felt like the ‘young’ person there!
I bought the first 16mm cartoon I ever had from Cliff, Christmas Night starring The Little King. Borrowing the projector at my high school, I was amazed at how much clearer a 16mm image was than the super 8 that I often struggled to focus.
The collectors all seemed to be very familiar with the Scrappy cartoons already. Every month, with the issue of Animania next to me that featured reviews of many of the Scrappy’s, I would pour through The Big Reel, hoping to find a few I didn’t have that were cheap enough to buy on a teenager’s budget. One of the first I got was Scrappy’s Art Gallery, an odd and unique short from 1934.
I’ve an advocate of having viewed a majority of a studio’s output before making a blanket judgement about the films that studio made. One writer dismissed the whole series of Scrappy cartoons as ‘largely unwatchable’. Now, there are some that are a little rough to get through, but that’s sort of like saying I’m never going to try another pie after a bad visit to Marie Callender’s.
So many fine artists ended up in the animation and film industry in the 30s, and it makes sense that some of that education would end up in the films. I’m sure many would have gone onto other careers had the economy been better. A group of core animators that worked at Mintz had come out from the East Coast, bringing both the sensibilities and experiences of New York with them as Mintz’s studio moved west. Artists making films about Art Galleries are not as common as one would hope, though there are a few.
The Scrappy cartoons I like best at the earlier ones that former Fleischer animator Dick Huemer directed, as well as the ones that his animator Sid Marcus directed soon after Heumer left for Disney.
Scrappy’s Art Gallery is an ambitious little film, taking great pains to be as technically good as they were more than likely rushing to make it under the budgets at Mintz. It features techniques in cel painting that don’t show up in any other Mintz cartoons to my knowledge, utilizing a simple idea in a series of clever gags. Sometimes it succeeds, sometimes not as well, but the best moments in this short (the painting melting and the surprise soon after with Whistler’s Mother) offer the kind of magic that makes 1930s animation so fantastic. The ‘hot licks’ near the end is a personal favorite of mine; I really want those scenes near the end to be as great as some of the earlier scenes….
If you haven’t seen this one, I hope you like it.