THUNDERBEAN THURSDAY
August 17, 2017 posted by

“Let’s Go!” (1937)

Thunderbean News:

Im sitting here, after a whole day of attempting to sit here, evaluating cleanups on Flip the Frog cartoons. On my mind are the many, many fixes. The newest: my good friend David Gerstein had a British 16mm print sent to me of one of the shorts and asked me to compare it to the fine grain scan; I did, and to my surprise, it had one extra shot in it that’s missing from the 35mm material!

Now I have to debate to look at all the other 35 materials not the film (at UCLA) in search of that single shot or pull that one shot from the fairly good 16mm print. Oddly enough, there doesnt seem to be *any* reason this shot would be missing from the fine grain – perhaps it was just because of damage to the original material at some point. There’s no neg on that one and no original release fine grain (just a 1942 Powers reissue).

The Flip project is *full* of things like that – little cuts, a missing piece from this one or another, a soundtrack that’s different in three versions, a fine grain that looks better in some shots and worse in others. Perhaps this little series of cartoons suffers from more cuts that any other, but I could be wrong. The fascinating thing to me is that, with some detective work (and, honestly, more than a little help from my good cartoon friends) its pretty possible to identify what versions different folks have seen- and what seems to exist and what doesnt. First world problems.

I cant spend too much time on them tonight, because the master for Fleischer Rarities needs to be finished sooner than later- and its so close now that I just want to spend all the time on it. The extras have to be finished, but most of the films now look really good (or as good as they will look for now!).

This whole summer at Thunderbean has been an attempt to get all of the projects done *well* as quickly as possible. The hard thing is that theres always something right now that needs more attention: Friday Ill be working with the Blu-mouse Studio folks on a Blu-ray upgrade of Grotesqueries, a really neat Blu-ray upgrade to the set that was out on DVD years back. Ive felt bad that I havent been able to spend much time on it until now.

While Flip continues to be the major project in progress right now, more scans are in process on so many things, and cleanup is going quite well. Im hoping to expand the freelancers working on cleanup in the coming weeks and look forward to less on the table at the same time!


On The Cartoon Front:

I was surprised today to see I’ve never written about one of my favorite Columbia Rhapsodies, Lets Go! (1937). It was one of the first of the series I ever saw – part of a big reel of super beat up 16mm Technicolor prints I bought from an ad in the Big Reel. That reel was $100, and I remember spending basically my whole paycheck on it in High School (I was working at Chuck E. Cheeses, spending days being shocked while fixing the Skee-Ball machines in-between having to dress up in the giant rat costume). I was thrilled to have a reel of IB Columbia’s. Many years later (in the very early days of Ebay) someone put the print you see here up, and the auction ended at 7 in the morning on a Sunday. There was no sniping in those early days, so I got up and happily won the print for more than I had paid for the whole reel this many years earlier. It was a fantastic print; an excellent example of how nice IB Tech looks in 50s reprints of 30s cartoons!

As for the cartoon itself: it shares a kinship with Van Beurens Sunshine Makers in its war imagery to remake and fix depression – but the Glooms in Sunshine Makers dont want their culture destroyed. Thinking about ‘Sunshine’, I always feel bad for the glooms, especially since the sunshine milk seems to have both a physical and a mental effect and has wiped out anything good or bad about their original culture. I wonder if the history books in ‘Gloom land’ blame the Sunshine Makers or Ted Eshbaugh directly.

Lets Go is, of course, a take on the Aesops Fable The Grasshopper and the Ants, with Bees as the productive characters. A down and out Grasshopper sings and plays his violin, describing his sad circumstances about the grips of the depression, leading to a montage of how truly bad things are in the grasshopper town. Moved to a single tear, the Queen bee immediately rallies the bee-soldiers, who march in a typical Ben Harrison parade before they gather honey bombs to bombard the ghetto, transforming everything with their aerial assault. Not only are their lives improved by the wealth the honey seems to have created magically, but when they are hit directly with the stuff, it makes them seriously productive, changing their attitudes and giving them super-grasshopper energy, so much so that they are able to plant whole fields in seconds, and build a full town of art-deco skyscrapers before the bees can even finish the bombing.

Clearly there is a strong NRA (National Recovery Administration) message in the film, and, interestingly, theres more than a subtle suggestion that the grasshoppers here are African-American, in both design of the characters and the settings. I always enjoy showing this in the history of animation class I teach. Of course, there are two major messages in this film: The first is that changing your attitude toward the depression will somehow be a major catalyst for improving the economy, and the second being that magic honey will drop from the sky, along with picnic baskets featuring still piping hot roast chicken.

Considering how small Grasshoppers and Bees are, I wonder exactly *what* that roast chicken really is. Other than wanting to help and dropping food and honey-bombs,the Bee’s don’t have any real interaction with the Grasshoppers as they radically change their surroundings; that seems to me a strange idea since its all about helping poverty and giving the grasshoppers a leg-up.

I wont read further into the politics here – its seven minutes of entertainment that was, honestly, meant to be forgotten along with almost all the other films in the months following its theatrical showing; the thought that the next generation will see it was, at best, a small one. In some ways, its nice to leave this film at face value – but if you’re interested in further analysis, it can be a historically fascinating document.

By sure to watch it in HD if your computer is fast enough. Have a good week everyone!

10 Comments

  • “I was working at Chuck E. Cheeses, spending days being shocked while fixing the Skee-Ball machines in-between having to dress up in the giant rat costume”
    No way…..Steve that is so cool! I grew up going to Chuck E Cheese as a kid (never was at Ann Arbor though nor was I born in the 80’s). Great to see a Thunderbean connection with The Big Cheese

    • My town didn’t get a Chuck E. Cheese until the 90’s, though we had similar ‘clones’ during my childhood like “Razz-Ma-Tazz” and “Major Magic’s All Star Pizza Revue” so the feeling is mutual.

  • Oh, I feel your agony regarding the discovery you pinpoint in that FLIP THE FROG cartoon. When you think of it, as you pointed out regarding the “LET’S GO” cartoon included here, no one at any of the major studios ever expected that there would someday be such a mass interest in these old cartoons; but, let’s face it, folks, there is such an interest so I say to all the bigger studios, learn to take advantage of the opportunities, as grueling as they might seem now. Getting back to the grueling task at hand, though, I understand the pain you must be going through when you groan at having to yet again recheck all the source material you have on a specific print of a cartoon, wondering exactly which one is the definitive version of the film instead of having to actually rebuild the film from frame one! Ouch! It reminds me of part of the discussion on “STU’S SHOW” last night regarding a vintage PORKY PIG cartoon. It was believed that there was a discarded gag somewhere, similar to the now believed missing end gag of Tex Avery’s “HOLLYWOOD STEPS OUT”. It pains us, either as animation fans or, especially, animation historians, that such curious pieces of animation history are lost forever so that we could fill in those blanks and find out, ourselves, what must have disturbed studio executives enough to make them chew these bits from the negatives, if that is indeed what happened to the missing gag. Warner Brothers isn’t the only culprit–there are some Tex Avery cartoons that had gags or references excised because someone at the studio at the time thought it was too dated! Sadly, these wonderful and strange time capsules have gone through so many irritating hands and changes that we may never, ever know what happened. The afore-mentioned PORKY PIG cartoon, which will now be available for anyone to enjoy, will be featured on a forthcoming set from the Warner Archive called PORKY PIG 101.

    But, Steve, when it comes to these kinds of restorations and the frustration over that one particular FLIP THE FROG cartoon, that is partially why there are reissues of certain titles. Your blu-ray on PRIVATE S.N.A.F.U.” is stunning, so much warmer in sound than the standard DVD, and the missing pieces filled in were worth spending the bucks to upgrade. For now, probably so much of the FLIP THE FROG cartoons are so near perfectly complete, no doubt sounding and looking better than they did on the CARTOONS THAT TIME FORGOT collections. You should feel so proud of how far you’ve come, and how it makes David Shepphard proud that the cartoons that he unearthed now look so close to what theater-goers would have seen in the 1930’s if they were at all as enraptured as we are now. Finding new bits of history is still worthwhile, even if they show up moments after the disks are going out the door to whoever bought ’em. You reproduce a new master on the cartoon and make note that, whenever you do another reboot on FLIP THE FROG, or if the cartoon is featured in a potpouri of 1930’s cartoons under a rebooted title like ATTACK OF THE 1930’S CHARACTERS, VOLS 1 AND 2, people will still be able to own the revised edition of the cartoon without the previous version suddenly seeming antiquated and discardable. Whatever you choose to do, believe me, your hard work is not in vain. Even as I check out those mystery disks that you sent out to those of us who subscribed, I marvel at what you included. Thank you for all that, and I hope that the other reboots and new titles are equally as marvelously intriguing. I enjoyed the cartoon you included here, and I’m sure there is a whole sociological book that could be written on how animators reinterpreted the accepted politics of the day. Things like that are why we want to revisit the classic cartoons of the theatrical era. There are hidden thoughts going on amid the dazzling spectacle that is animation overall.

  • Hope you’re not too stressed out. I thought you were taking on an awful lot of projects at once. Hey, I say take your time and when something is as good as it’s going to be, then release it. Wishing you all the best with these treasures. We’ll get them when we get them.

  • The interesting thing is, by the time the cartoon was released, the NRA had been dead and gone for two whole years, having been gutted by a U.S. Supreme Court decision in 1935. While the efforts like the CCC, WPA and PWA were still going on in 1937, there was a definite sense that the momentum of the New Deal was slowing down, a sense that would increase with the failure of the “Court Packing” plan, the short, sharp recession that broke out in 1937, and the reverses the Democrats suffered in the 1938 off-year elections.

    The cartoon was, literally, released a few days before the Nationalists in Spain bombed Guernica, in the famous event that gave rise to Picasso’s painting; also after Mussolini’s forces had bombed Ethiopia. (April 16th versus April 20th, 1937) I don’t think such aerial bombing would have been viewed so cheerily after that.

    I got more of a “Grapes of Wrath” type of vibe from the grasshopper’s tale to the Queen Bee, myself.

    Amusing to see the lever-filler type fountain pens being used for the honey-bombers. A type of technology that’s virtually extinct, 80 years later, except for pen collectors!

    Have you ever paired this cartoon with “Sunshine Makers?” There does seem to be a similar dynamic in both cartoons.

    • FDR’s Supreme Court was referred to as “The Nine Old Men”… which inspired the nickname for Disney’s core group of animators.

    • Nice bit of info there from a historic point.

  • Disney’s version was smaller and simpler, but it was internally consistent and clear (and wasn’t really a depression-beater story; laziness was the issue). Likewise the Sunshine Makers, which made no claim to a moral (nice elves whup gloomy elves, period). Other cheer-up cartoons with Oswald, the Little King, Krazy Kat, etc. were hardly realistic, but the silly magic had internal logic.

    This was good looking and fun to watch, but it evidently wants to be a message film as opposed to a straight gag cartoon about wish fulfillment. Some of the gags work against it.

    I found myself thinking — as I would have back when I was literal-minded kid — those bee-built cars would be a scam in anybody else’s cartoon. The vibrating Jello only created the illusion of an engine, the chewing-gum tires would stick to the street, and the guy at the cash register would be making a run for it.

    And the circle of grasshoppers feeding their welfare slices of whatever into a slot machine. The arrival of the bees doesn’t make them energetic and productive — it just makes their gambling pay.

  • On a smaller scale than Schlesinger’s studio, but similarly, the Color Rhapsodies cartoon series occasionally plugged music that was from the Columbia Pictures feature films. In this case, “Let’s Go!” was a popular song sung (and recorded) by top nightclub entertainer Harry Richman in one of his few screen appearances, the Columbia feature THE MUSIC GOES ROUND from 1936, a year before this cartoon’s release. The music is handled very well by Joe DeNat and his orchestra. The Rhapsodies soundtracks are the equivalent of any of the competing studios as very catchy mini-musicals or operettas, and DeNat regularly contracted excellent chorales of Hollywood’s top session singers. (Another example of a feature film song used in a Rhapsody was the Grace Moore hit “One Night of Love” used in, I think, BIRDS IN LOVE in 1936. However, many Rhapsodies commissioned original numbers by studio contract songwriters.)

  • more columbia rhapsodies, please!

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