Mendelssohn’s Spring Song on a hot summer day!
Here is a brief introduction to a short that really deserves a longer one. I first saw this film in a black and white print in 1988. I transferred it for one of the ‘Snappy Video’ collections I was putting together. Two of those first collections, Cultoons 1 and Cultoons 2, were featured in an advertisement in animation magazine back in 1989. The exact contents of one of those Cultoons VHS tapes was copied by one of the suppliers of Dollar DVDs, so there’s a lot of copies of this film in Black and White floating around.
Mendelssohn’s Spring Song was produced by animator Cy Young as an independent film, using the studio set up at Audio Productions in New York. The film was made in Brewster color, an early two color process similar to Cinecolor. Clips from Spring Song appeared on a Brewster color Demo reel; my guess is that Brewser color commissioned the short. It’s hard to read who released it in the title card- the print starts as the title is fading out, so I held on that first frame and lighted it for this version.
Lillian Friedman, the first female animator at Fleischers, said that she did ink and paint on this film; it was the first production she worked on.
Paul Terry also used the setup at Audio Productions in the early 30′s- there appears to be some partnership with the studio.Young was an animator at various silent studios in the late 20s, though it’s not clear what studio he started at. One of the other curios that has shown up as well is a short commercial he produced at Audio productions for Aetna insurance.
I owe a debt of gratitude in obtaining the color print to my friend, author and animator Ken Priebe. He turned an email I sent to him into a webpage in the late 90′s, talking about some of the films on the Cultoons VHS tapes. Someone was clearing out their father in law’s collection of 35mm films, and in searching the internet for information found Ken’s page. I hightailed it to Cleveland when he said he’s selling everything on a first come first serve basis. I beat another collector to his house by about an hour in getting this print! It’s now preserved at the Library of Congress.
Notice that Young has spelled his name ‘Sy’ instead of ‘Cy’. My guess is that it was to hide his Chinese heritage in a time where that would be less acceptable. Disney saw this short and hired Young to head the newly formed special effects department at Disney, so it is noteworthy for several reasons, and a fun little film as well..in a way it’s a New York Silly Symphony. It appears on the Thunderbean DVD, Cultoons, Volume 1, and will be in HD the upcoming BluRay Technicolor Dreams and Black and White Nightmares.