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.