THUNDERBEAN THURSDAY
April 14, 2022 posted by Steve Stanchfield

“Everybody Sing” (1937) and Sparks’ “Mickey Mouse” (1982)

It’s been a pretty quiet week in moving things forward in Thunderbeanville since I managed to catch a cold and have been down for the count since Saturday. On a positive note, I did manage to see some great work from the animation students today as well as hand out the last assignments of the semester in that class – a reminder that the semester is almost done.

I’m really looking forward to being back to my usual in the coming days since three projects are nearly done and just need those few extra things. Hopefully at this point next week I can report that the Van Beuren Aesop’s Fables, Volume 1 blu-ray is happily on its way to replication.

Since Easter seems to always have bunnies associated with it, it seems like an appropriate day to run a Lantz Oswald cartoon— so here’s “Everybody Sing” (1937).

BUT — before we talk about rabbits:

I was lucky enough to see the band ‘Sparks’ a few weeks back here in Michigan. They hadn’t been to Michigan since the early 80s. They’re probably the most influential musical act you’ve never heard of. A documentary called The Sparks Brothers was released last year and it’s a really fun watch. It’s now on Netflix.

This song was going through my head today — so here is their animation-related song ‘Mickey Mouse’ from 1982, accompanied by some classic Disney footage:

And, here is the lyricist, Ronald Mael, more recently reading his lyrics from the song. I find this pretty enjoyable:

Now — back to a Lantz cartoon!

I always feel like the Lantz cartoons from the mid-30s are close kin to what was happening at Warner Brothers in terms of both quality and growing pains. Both studios continued to make plot-driven musical shorts that often have better parts than the whole, with Warners growing faster in the comedy and timing into the late 30s.

In this short, Oswald is in Birdville for some reason. In fact, he’s the *only* non-bird in the whole place. He seems to have a regular gig at the Songbird Inn. Is it possible he managed to get kicked out of Rabbitville? Is birdville some sort of special exile for specific wrongdoings in Rabbitville? We’ll never know.

It’s a pretty simple plot, or, rather, almost no plot as many musical cartoons are—but at least Oswald is the hero in his own cartoon. That’s at least comforting since he isn’t in much footage otherwise. Still, it’s an enjoyable 7 minutes of decently animated entertainment and more singing birds than in any other cartoon I can think of. One scene I think is of special note and easily missed. While there’s a stereotype aspect to the ‘black bird’ preacher and congregation, his song lyric is about unity: “Lilly white or black as night, we all look much the same”. Pretty rough around the edges in terms of messaging, but I don’t think a sentiment like this is heard in any other 1930s cartoon that I can remember. Sadly, it’s followed by a pretty unfortunate Chinese stereotype. Progress will have to wait, sadly.

Have a good week all!

15 Comments

  • I’m so excited for the Aesop’s Fables Blu Ray!

  • A bit of history about that Sparks song – it was intended for the Splashdance album produced by Michael Silversher for Disney, with a new wave sound that was the trend in 1983. But the lyrics of Mickey Mouse were a bit too ironic for uncle Walt and it was refused. So they published that song on their Angst in my Pants album and made another one about Minnie Mouse for Splashdance, that is almost equally enjoyable (if a bit more harmless). So in the end we have two Sparks songs about those mice ! Isn’t life great ? http://youtu.be/_q8SHlyaedY

    • I’d heard the Minnie Mouse song before but not this Mickey one.

  • What a delightful cartoon, and completely new to me! As a percussionist, Oswald had the good sense to recognise the utility of the lion’s roar held by the scarecrow. A lion’s roar is a small drum with a cord (coated with rosin for extra friction) running through the membrane. When the cord is pulled tight and stroked between the fingers, it produces the characteristic roaring sound. I’ve seen a few — they’re seldom used in symphony orchestras — but we’ve all heard them many, many times in cartoons!

    As for the Birdville/Rabbitville speculation, well, Birdville obviously isn’t a segregated community, so Oswald would be perfectly welcome there. But if the birds were smart, they’d draw the line at cats.

    Unlike their cousins the rabbits, hares don’t dig burrows but nestle in shallow hollows called “forms”. A kind of large plover called a lapwing doesn’t build a nest but lays its eggs in any convenient spot, and disused hare forms are ideal for this purpose. Ancient hunter-gatherers knew from long experience that lapwing eggs (which apparently are very tasty) can be found in old hare forms in the spring. Thus the bunny/egg/springtime connection has existed time out of mind. Say what you will about the resurrection of Christ, but it’s only a Johnny-come-lately to our venerable Easter tradition.

    Happy Easter, everybody! Ya-dee-ya! Ya-dee-ya!

  • How much longer until the Flip the Frog Blu-Ray is Completed and really to be sold ???

    • This is purely speculation. But as both it and Aesop are both slated for quarter 2 and he says in some posts there are few last touches I’m guessing somewhere in June near the end of the quarter. Of course a delay is possible. Again, speculation.

    • Steve is waiting on me for some background research and special features, and has been kind enough to give me extra time due to some family illnesses and related emergencies. Trust me, it’ll be worth it—it’s not anyone’s fault but the germs.

  • Saw Sparks early 1980s at Clutch Cargos in Detroit!!!

  • Steve,

    Two of my most recent Thunderbean discs have died. The discs are TOON CLUB and TERRY/LANTZ/FAMOUS. Both discs were fine when I received them last year. I watched both more than once. They played perfectly. No problems. Got them out the other night to watch them again – – – and nothing. Neither disc will read. I tried them in three different players and two drives. Both discs as dead are as can be.

    I’m really not happy about this. Discs shouldn’t die after less than a year. Maybe the discs were defective. The playing surfaces of the discs are kind of cloudy looking in areas.

    This is why I don’t like CD-Rs/BD-Rs/DVD-Rs, but I understand that if you had to do all these as pressed discs, we wouldn’t be getting them.

    Still, though, after less than a year . . . no, that’s not acceotable.

    • I sympathize. I had the same issue (with a different disc) a year or so back, and got a “gee, that’s a darn shame,” reaction instead of the, “let’s see what we can do about this,” reaction I was hoping for. Lesson learned here. I now back up all BD-R and CD-R discs to a hard drive, on the theory that a recordable discs can (and likely eventually will) stop working.

  • Love Sparks! Saw them in Seattle last month and it was one of the best shows I’ve ever seen. So entertaining and joyous.

  • Steve, can’t wait for your upcoming Blu-ray releases, which will take a proud spot between the outstanding documentary “Summer Of Soul” the 1926 Marion Davies vehicle “Beverly of Graustark”, “Out Of The Past,” “Curse Of The Demon” and “Tex Avery’s Screwball Classics volume 3.” I love Sparks! Off-topic, I am very, very saddened by the passing of Gilbert Gottfried and already miss his podcast.

  • Lantz’ Oswald are great. I especially love Spooks and that “Headin’ for the Desert” one (whatever its called). A black splotch of surreality!

  • Anyone who wastes their blood pressure being offended by an innocuous 86-year-old cartoon like “Everybody Sing” is seriously disturbed.

  • The folks at Disneyland didn’t have a problem with Sparks singing ‘Mickey Mouse’ at their 1984 Grad Nite. I was present when they did a perfect, unaltered rendition of the song, complete with Ron Mael doing a little dance-skatting during one of the bridges.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.