May 30, 2013 posted by

“Barking Dogs” (1933)


A revisit to Cubby Bear!

Cubby has been one of my favorite characters for some unknown reason, and this is easily one of my favorite Van Beuren cartoons. I first saw this short on some late night in Chicago, visiting Bob Koester’s movie night. Bob runs the Jazz Record Mart in Chicago – and is a national treasure of knowledge on blues and jazz, having also run the Delmark label for the better part of his life.

Barking Dogs (1933) is early in the Cubby cartoon series, and maybe one of the best, though Van Beuren did have another year and a half of production before quality improved drastically under Tom Palmer and Burt Gillett. Just as the Fleischer cartoons lost of some their exuberance around this same time, some wonderful things were left behind as the companies’ output became more Disney-esque in approach.

This cartoon offers a strange lesson in social justice, indeed, and proves that you can do basically nothing and still somehow be the hero (to be fair, Cubby does at one point punch himself in the face, so he does do something). In some states, Cubby and Honey would be locked up at the end of the cartoon for larceny and murder, but somehow we’re
still rooting for them.

I’ve been revisiting some of these cartoons as I work on putting together new HD collections. This new transfer (from a 16mm printdown from 35mm) featured one thing I didn’t suspect I’d see – a shadow on the far left side, moving up and down, seemingly to the beat of the music. Look closely and you’ll see it too in many of the shots of this film. This is a shadow or printover from the ‘Rufle Baton’ method used for scoring these cartoons. Animator/director George Rufle invented this to aid in timing a score to the action of the characters and pace of the animation. It was a mechanical device (a black baton) that would move up and down as each frame of animation was photographed. The space that the Rufle ‘baton’ appeared in was replaced later by the optical soundtrack on the 35mm print. Usually this shadow would get printed out I’m guessing, but here it is right at the edge of the frame on this 16mm print.

Barking Dogs appeared on the first DVD set we put together, The Complete Adventures of Cubby Bear. With Cubby having his 80th birthday this year – here’s the perfect way to celebrate it.


  • Cubby Bear, although a bit Mickey Mouse-like, was certainly an improvement over some of Van Beuren’s earlier work, like their low budget Tom and Jerry shorts. Thanks again, Thunderbean for putting these obscure, but often interesting cartoons back into the limelight. Any plans for restoring some of The Fox and the Crow cartoons? I’m not sure about the copyright status of them, but they have never been fully released together or restored in a box set collection.

    • I agree it’s great that Thunderbean is bringing these out but, much as I like Cubby, I have to disagree. Tom & Jerry are my favorite Van Beuren characters.

  • Oh, Cubby! How I love you and your low rent antics… right down to the last ear stubble! Always got a kick out of those spooky-not-quite-right dialogue inserts in these early Van Beurens like Honey’s doleful moan “It’s too late.” Great stuff, Steve!

  • Thanks, Steve! Good stuff as always. The Rufle baton was previously unknown to me.

    Moral-wise, funny how history repeats. Real estate bubble-burst, mortgages underwater. The cartoon certainly makes kill-the-bankers look like an immediate, viable solution, but I’m sure there’s some kind of catch.

  • A lovely and vibrant transfer. The patent application for the Rufle Baton can be found on-line without much fuss or bother. It’s interesting to see it at work. That’s an easy way to help musicians keep in rhythm!

    And, yes, it was hard not to think of the Koch Brothers while watching this eerily prescient cartoon.

  • From The Film Daily, May 1, 1931:
    A new invention, designed to achieve perfect synchrony in animated cartoon subjects, has been perfected by George Rufle, an animator on the staff of Van Beuren’s Aesop’s Fables cartoon department. The new device, which is now being used by Fables cameramen, consists of a small white ball affixed to the side of the photographic frame. A chart representating various music speeds, or beats per minute, is affixed beneath the ball. Following the selection of the tempo desired by the musical director the cameraman has merely to select the proper chart and move the ball up and down the required distance, according to the chart, each time a frame or exposure is made. When the work is projected on the screen the ball bobs up and down in perfect rhythm with the action or musical score. The ball is photographed on the negative on the space ordinarily reserved for the sound track. For the final print, the ball is masked off the negative and the sound track printed in its place.

  • Fan-tastic!

  • I agree, this is lots of fun. Forgive me if I’m belaboring the obvious, but I love the idea of using “Willow Weep for Me” on the soundtrack — and then following it up, right on cue, with a weeping tree! Hats off to Thunderbean.

  • I was not aware of CUBBY BEAR (at least, I think I wasn’t) until I started collecting the wonderful Thunderbean Animation disks. If CUBBY BEAR was ever part of the Early Bird Cartoon Show on our WABC-TV affiliate here in New York, I am merely forgetting his look. The Van Buren cartoons were shown amid the various cartoons that were in regular rotation, and these included MGM classic toons as well. Glad Steve Stanchfield is there to keep these early and surreal and dark cartoons alive.

  • Like the music in this one. Reminds me of Stalling’s work for WB.

  • I love that climactic fight scene when the andiron dogs fight (and squeeze) the wolf character to death. I wonder if that was Muffatti’s work.

  • You should make a new Cubby set with this new transfer, and the edges exposed. The sets are so much better without the edges covered.

  • LOL at the stereotypically Jewish turkey money-lender, complete with klezmer music.

  • Don’t know if this is the appropriate place to ask, but I thought I’d give it a shot.
    I noticed on Amazon that there are 2 versions of the dvd set listed: One marked 2004, and one marked 2008. Are there any differences between the two?

  • they’re delinquent on a mortgage, so they beat up the lender, steal his car and leave him naked in the street.

  • The “Rufle Baton” application was approved on July 26, 1932 and registered as patent number 1,868,993.

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