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!