This week’s breakdown is a deliciously sweet Silly Symphony!
After director Burt Gillett’s contract expired at Disney’s in March 1934, he left for the Van Beuren Corporation in New York. Ben Sharpsteen, previously a supervisor to a group of new, young animators, was promoted to director. One of his first directorial assignments was Hot Choc-late Soldiers, intended as an insert for the MGM feature Hollywood Party. The outline for a similar story, set in a world of made from, and populated by, candied sweets, cakes, and other various desserts, circulated around the studio on July 20, 1934.
In a production memo, written by story artist Bill Cottrell around the same period, Sharpsteen specifically requested this idea to direct. There is no definite credit for the story director of Cookie Carnival. Cottrell mentioned that Pinto Colvig, the voice of the hobo cookie in this film, was involved in those stages during production. The week after the story outline was distributed, Van Beuren released its first color cartoon with similar confectionary settings, Pastry Town Wedding, processed in Cinecolor,
The Cookie Carnival is Chaplin-esque in nature—a tramp takes pity on a poor woman, and selflessly helps her succeed in her wishes. United Artists, the distributor of Disney’s cartoons, was co-founded by Charlie Chaplin, along with Mary Pickford, D.W. Griffith and Douglas Fairbanks. Elements of the small, telling details in Chaplin’s acting are present in the film; before the hobo cookie comes to the crying girl’s aid, he fashions a candy button on his shirt-front to appear impressionable. Near the end of the film, after he is “crowned” by the cookie guards and proclaimed king by the new cookie queen, the guards and the judges stand to attention, much to his confusion. He acquiesces to the announcement and strikes a regal pose, pleased with his new status.
Bill Tytla and Grim Natwick were hired at the studio in November 1934, during this film’s production. They received their first Disney scenes for this film; Natwick’s scenes were assigned on November 30, shortly after his arrival. Tytla animates the first scenes with the hobo cookie and the girl, as he comforts and assures she will be the cookie queen. Tytla also animates the scenes featuring the Angel and Devil Food Cakes, two potential “candy-dates” on stage for the cookie queen’s hand in marriage.
Natwick animates most of the scenes of the girl’s makeover. In his animation, there are still traces of his timing from the early sound Fleischer cartoons and Ub Iwerks’ films. The draft indicates that the girl’s transformation was originally assigned to Natwick as a single 81-foot scene; the sequence in the finished film is broken into sectioni wans, assisted by Eddie Strickland and Frank Thomas. (Strickland is credited for a shot of the new cookie queen being escorted to her throne.)
For a film set in a community with baked goods, a large number of animators are credited in the draft. Some of the artists are given one scene; Don Towsley animates the marching band in the opening, Nick George handles a brief scene of Miss Licorice, one of the selections for the cookie queen, and Paul Allen animates the jolly rum cookies, the last in the line-up of suitors. (The draft credits him as “Paul”; the exposure sheet for the scene confirms that it is Allen.)
Others are mostly cast by character; Jack Kinney animates most of the scenes with the hobo cookie, and Fred Spencer handles the judges of the pageant. Ferdinand Horvath performed triple duty for this film—he animates some brief sections of the pageant in the opening, and the pages rolling up the jelly roll rug leading to the new queen’s throne; he also designed the characters (with Albert Hurter and Grim Natwick) and painted the backgrounds.
There’s an odd camera cut during scene 3, credited to Horvath, in which there is a nomination for the cookie queen seen at the right, named Miss Peach, indicated by the parade float. However, the action abruptly cuts to scene 4. The background pan continues from the previous scene, but with different characters. In scene 12, a muffin standing at the end of the parade walks behind Miss Orange Crush; she is identified but the figure isn’t shown during the sequence. Concept drawings of these contenders could have made during production, yet it’s interesting they aren’t fully shown on-screen.
The draft was approved on February 5, 1935. The action description in the draft is more succinct than other Disney drafts, which are written in great detail, often including the dialogue. Scenes 15A (“girl through lane of soldiers”) and 22 (“girl reacts”) aren’t present in the finished film; scene 29 is shifted to substitute scene 22, in order to keep much of the focus on the hobo cookie whom introduced her to the masses. Two other candy-oriented cartoons were released in 1935─ Walter Lantz’s Candyland, which preceded Cookie Carnival by a month, and Columbia’s The Bon Bon Parade.
Enjoy the breakdown video! (I’d advise you readers to get a snack for this, since everything looks so tasty…)
(Thanks to J.B. Kaufman and Michael Barrier for their help.)