THUNDERBEAN THURSDAY
June 11, 2020 posted by Steve Stanchfield

Forests of Cartoons – and ‘Any Rags’ (1932)

It’s been a few really good weeks with Thunderbean projects. I had hoped to announce the Popeye set is done – but not quite. It’s in authoring right now and will likely be in the can tomorrow. Chances are I’ll be writing all about it next week. Rainbow Parade Volume 1 will be wrapping up this month as well, with others following closely on their heels. In addition, I’m on the cusp of being done with nearly all the projects I’m helping others with too—and am excited to move into projects that haven’t had as much attention for a while. Some new films showed up for ‘Mid Century Modern 3’, and a green light for scanning on more of the Bunin set happened too this week. We’ve finished work on all but one of the film for ‘Stop Motion Marvels 2’ and my friend Stewart McKissick has agreed to do the cover (he did the Illustration and design for Volume 1 years back). If I’m confident enough in the progress we’re making in getting things out the door, I’ll start the journey to get the biggest and most expensive of the projects back on the plate. We started work on that project in 2011, and it’s been like a black cat crossing my path almost the whole time. A few road trips are in order in the coming weeks to get this or that or to hand off this or that. All good news.

You can buy this shirt on Amazon. Perfect for any experience with Black Cats!


A few years back, one of my students taking the animation history class said that films that get lost were mostly in that category ‘for good reason’ and suggested that Les Elton’s Monkey Doodle probably deserved to be. Later that same semester, for her final paper, the same student wrote the exact opposite opinion, noting that there’s a much greater understanding of the history of all film and media by following the trail of films that individuals and studios produced that lead to various innovations. I think that’s a pretty valid idea from a research standpoint. To me, though, its more of forest of trees of various widths and heights, and that walking through that forest from any given angle gives you both a view of large and smaller trees that make up that particular journey, complimenting each other.

The forest in Tim Burton’s “Nightmare Before Christmas”

I think what is attractive to a lot of us old cartoon fanatics is that it’s a different forest for each person, and you can surround yourself with different trees frequently. I myself especially love seeing the trees that were out of view most of the time— hidden by the much bigger trees or really off the path.

This website, in so many ways, is a continuous and fun dive into some of the more esoteric aspects of classic animation. While I do enjoy studying and learning about so much of this material, sometimes I just want to enjoy it instead. The best part of this period of time is that there’s a lot of things starting to be available that look much, much better than we’ve been able to see them for decades- including things that haven’t or have barely been seen at all. I’m hoping it continues further, and that there’s enough demand for material, convincing some of the larger companies to dust off lesser-seen properties, or allow others to access them to do it.

Animated commercials are really an area that will never be very organized or complete, but that’s also part of the fun in seeing them. I wonder how well archived the materials from the current period of time will be. Probably not much better.- but that’s the nature of the beast. Seeing so many spots these last few weeks that I’ve never seen has been a really cool experience- and there’s always more!

I’m hoping (as I’m sure you are!) that the economy around the world improves sooner than is being predicted. I can only imagine what it felt like to be on the lower end of the economy in the early 30s in New York. This week, there was a print of a great 1932 Betty Boop on eBay that, sadly, I didn’t win, but watching it again on youtube reminded me of why the Fleischer cartoons are so great: so many of them are timeless regardless of the topical moment the were created in. The characters that populate them are never ashamed of their social standing at the moment, and remain (generally) optimistic in the face of impossible or difficult circumstance. Most examples (except perhaps Swing You Sinners) allow our heroes to escape the worst outcomes in the end, but there’s generally a lot of comic pain on the path to that momentary happy redemption. I think Any Rags (1932) is a great example of this. Bimbo goes on a musical salvaging journey and ends up happy with a little money, a house (albeit made of trash) and a new girlfriend in Betty Boop. It’s one of my favorites personally for its non-stop musical happiness and continuous gags. Poor Betty has momentary trouble keeping her dress on in one scene. I can picture the mostly young animation staff finding this sophomoric gag hilarious… and I wonder what audiences thought of these kinds of moments in these cartoons. Being one of the best of 1932, I have no understanding of my it was left off any of the Blu-rays.

I think it’s noteworthy that the cartoon features a gag that’s easy to miss the (at the time) a cultural reference. Koko makes a bid on some of Bimbo’s wears in a very effeminate manor, wearing a bow-tie. Bimbo responds by saying “Sold to the man in the Red Tie” with the usual “whoops!” afterwords as he’s ‘goosed’ by a goose. It’s a fast gag, but making a reference that doesn’t show up in any other cartoon of the period. In New York (and presumedly other places), gay men would wear a red bow tie to be able to identify each other, making it easier to solicit another gay man in a much less open time. They’re in and out of the gag super fast, so whether you understood the reference or not, it was over before it could be given a second thought. This gag was pointed out to me by my friend Chis Buchman many years back- and it’s something I had missed before that.

Here’s a youtube copy from the older VHS and Laser disc set. It neat in that it has the original titles, but also includes the pretty heavy DVNR from the time that erases lines on the characters! If you haven’t seen this cartoon, I hope you enjoy it, and let’s hope a better copy becomes more available sooner than later!

Have a great week everyone!

23 Comments

  • The title music (“Here comes the old rag man”) sounds like a re-working of “Stick out your can, here comes the garbage man.”

    • Oops, now that I watched the whole cartoon, I see that “Garbage Man” is also sung.
      I will also note that Bimbo seems to be flat-out stealing stuff, not just collecting trash.

  • I’m glad your student came around to the view that all these early films have value, and when they’re lost, it’s our loss. Films are lost for reasons that have absolutely nothing to do with their quality or historical importance.

    Music history has many examples of works that were lost or neglected for many years, only to become wildly popular when rediscovered. The famous Pachelbel Canon in D major was composed in 1694 and then lay forgotten in an archive for over 200 years, unplayed and unheard anywhere in the world. It was discovered in 1919 and published in a music journal, where it failed to make much of an impact, and was not recorded until 1970. It was only in 1980, when Marvin Hamlisch used it as the basis for his score to the Oscar-winning film “Ordinary People” (Robert Redford’s directorial debut), that you started hearing it on classical radio and in concert, and today it’s the most frequently performed work from the Baroque era.

    It’s interesting that many of the classical works familiar to us from old cartoons, like the Liszt Hungarian Rhapsody or the overtures to “Poet and Peasant” and “Zampa”, are rarely heard nowadays; while the overplayed standards of today, like Vivaldi’s Four Seasons and Mozart’s “Eine Kleine Nachtmusik”, are never, and I mean NEVER, heard in old films.

    • Why Is it those classical pieces from old cartoons are played less frequently nowadays?

    • Basically it’s a case of familiarity breeding contempt. It’s not uncommon for a work or a composer to fall into neglect after a long period of popularity. Beethoven’s “Wellington’s Victory” was a great success in his lifetime and made him a lot of money, but today it’s rarely heard and widely regarded as the worst piece he ever composed. Felix Mendelssohn, who visited England ten times and had a tremendous influence on its musical life, was the favourite composer of Queen Victoria and her husband Prince Albert; as such, he was by far the most frequently performed composer in England during the 1800s, to the point that by the twentieth century everyone was thoroughly sick of him. (Early 20th-century British music history books are full of Mendelssohn-bashing. Some of it is pretty funny.) It wasn’t until the Nazis banned Mendelssohn’s music because of his Jewish heritage that it was revived in England as a point of national pride, but to this day there are an awful lot of English musicians who really don’t like it. (Mendelssohn, by the way, during his lifetime led a revival of the music of Johann Sebastian Bach, which had been neglected for some 75 years following the composer’s death.)

      Then, too, the popularity of a given piece or composer can vary from country to country. I have loved the “Poet and Peasant” overture since childhood, but in a long career as an orchestral musician I have played it only once, on a concert recreating a radio broadcast of light classics and popular songs from the 1940s. However, when I was in Mexico in 1985 I attended a civic ceremony commemorating the 175th anniversary of Mexican independence and the 75th anniversary of the Mexican Revolution that began with a military band playing, of all things, “Poet and Peasant”, and it was all I could do to keep from laughing out loud. It seemed so incongruous that this corny old comic opera overture, that I had heard in so many cartoons, should be played on such a solemn occasion. But when the first speaker took the podium, he began by talking about the music. He said that “Poet and Peasant” is a very important and meaningful work in Mexico, because it honours the poets and peasants who brought about the Revolution. Later a young girl took the stage and gave a dramatic recitation of some Revolution-era poetry, and it was really quite moving. That experience led me to look at that overture in a different light; and its status as a symbol of Mexican patriotism certainly strikes me as less ridiculous than the American custom of playing Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture — a piece composed to commemorate a Russian military victory over Napoleon — at the annual Fourth of July fireworks.

    • What about Franz Liszt and Johann Strauss (I’m looking at you, Cat Concerto, Tom and Jerry and the Hollywood Bowl,, The Gumball episodes The Wicked and The Understanding, and Johann Mouse!)

    • I can’t speak for Liszt’s piano music (which is extraordinarily difficult, and you need a bold personality, big hands, and a fair degree of physical strength and stamina to pull it off), but his orchestral music is certainly less often played than it once was. Just yesterday I was watching an old Terrytoons cartoon from the fifties that contained an excerpt from Liszt’s first piano concerto, and I had to wonder when was the last time I heard that piece; it must be thirty years. The piece heard at the beginning and end of “Tom and Jerry in the Hollywood Bowl” is “Les Preludes”, the best known of Liszt’s symphonic poems (a genre that Liszt created) and long a mainstay of the orchestral repertoire. It was used as the theme music for the Flash Gordon movie serials, and Carl Stalling used it in several of his Warner Bros. scores, though I can’t offhand remember which ones. But I haven’t played it since I was a kid at music camp, and recently I was quite surprised to find out that most of my younger colleagues had never even heard of it.

      In Nazi Germany, the fanfare from “Les Preludes” was always played on the radio before the latest news from the front was announced. The piece became so associated with fascist militarism that after the war there was a de facto ban on it in Germany for many years. It probably didn’t help that Liszt’s three grandchildren, who were also the children of the composer Richard Wagner, and their spouses were all prominent propagandists for the Nazi regime and its race theories. On the other hand, I assume that Liszt’s music is still regularly performed in Hungary, where he’s a national hero and the main musical conservatory is named after him.

      Also, the “light classics” format of orchestral concert programming that was popular when these cartoons were made has in recent years given way to more contemporary fare, especially film music.

      As for Johann Strauss, his music appears to be as popular as ever, for example forming the foundation for the career of Andre Rieu (who, like Strauss, leads the orchestra with his violin). The Vienna Philharmonic’s annual New Year’s Eve concert of Strauss favourites sells out years in advance and is widely imitated. I’ve played many Strauss concerts over the years, and they can be fun if you’re in the right frame of mind. But the only one of his operettas that is regularly staged nowadays is “Die Fledermaus”, whose overture is heard (in its entirety, I believe) in the “Hollywood Bowl” cartoon.

    • What about Wagner and Rossini?

      Kill the Wabbit and HI-YO SILVER!!!!!!!!!!!

    • “Ride of the Valkyries” isn’t exactly a cartoon standard; besides “What’s Opera, Doc?” I only remember hearing it in the Disney Silly Symphony “Music Land”. But it’s a popular concert piece and is frequently requested in audience surveys, and “Die Walkuere”, the opera from which it was taken (where it occurs at the beginning of Act 3) is regularly produced all over the world. Initially Wagner refused to let the Ride be performed as a separate concert piece, but he kept getting so many requests for it that he eventually relented. Other works like the overtures to “Tannhaeuser”, “Rienzi”, and “The Flying Dutchman”, the Prelude to Act 3 of “Lohengrin” and the Prelude to “Die Meistersinger”, all of which were often quoted in classic cartoons, are widely played by symphony orchestras to this day.

      As for Rossini, the “William Tell” overture is not heard nearly as often as it used to be. By the time I played it in my first year in youth orchestra (which I enjoyed immensely), it had become an overplayed cliche, too closely associated in people’s minds with the Lone Ranger radio program and movie serials to be taken seriously. The opera “William Tell” has rarely been staged because of its length (four hours) and other factors, such as the unusually high tessitura of the lead tenor role, but it contains a lot of beautiful music. Many of Rossini’s other overtures, like “The Barber of Seville”, “La Gazza Ladra”, “La Scala de Seta”, “L’Italiana in Algieri”, “Semiramide”, and “La Cenerentola”, are often heard in concert and are great fun to play.

    • What about Chopin? It was used in old cartoons, too!

    • Chopin only wrote for the orchestra in his two piano concertos. They’re both standard repertoire, especially the first, but I don’t recall ever hearing excerpts from either of them in any cartoons. As for his solo piano music, not being a pianist myself, I’m unable to say whether any specific works are more or less popular now than they were in the past.

    • Musical Moments From Chopin (‘47) and Snowbody Loves Me (‘64) come to my mind.

    • Also “Arts and Flowers” (1956), but neither of Chopin’s piano concertos is quoted in any of those cartoons, only solo piano works. The orchestrations would have been done by the studio composer or his assistant, not Chopin himself.

  • Well wasn’t worth the winning the worthless um&m print it didn’t have the original Paramount titles on the Um&m print you try to get on eBay

  • I just have one remark the “Garbage man sequence” the first part is a song from around 1903 called “Any Rags” followed but “Here Comes the Garbage Man” this is repeated but they are 2 separate songs.

  • I wonder what coaxed your student into her new appreciation of the film that she, at first, cared nothing about, and I wonder how much animation history the current generation cares to learn.

    I grew up with this stuff all around me, and it became the first thing that grabbed my viewing attention when we got a TV set. On Saturday mornings, I was alive and interested as long as there was something animated, especially if it came from previous generations; I don’t need to tell you how micro-managed it became when it became a medium aimed solely at children, not that this move was completely awful, but cartoon festivals across the country kept the curiosity alive.

    If I hadn’t gone blind in 1976, I probably would have eventually attended many more events that I unfortunately missed, just like the rest of you who compose these great articles each week. I’m so glad that you find so many classic animated commercials. My assumption is that the reason those ads have been salvaged is because there were collectors out there who worked at television stations who, when asked to get rid of prints of commercials that were no longer being shown, kept the films instead and made sure that they suffered as little decay as humanly possible. I’m still always hoping that I find those ads that I know existed and were so entertaining for whatever reason, mostly for the pure craft of visual brilliance, but, alas, I think that there are far too many memories that will have to remain thus, and that means that I cannot show others just what bit of technique in the ad really appealed to me.

    Those of you who do the archeological dig in the right places, I wish you so much luck in finding anything, especially from the mid-to-late 1960’s, when there were even some handling the cameras who would go on to major fame as editors or camera people on major motion pictures. Some of these techniques couldn’t possibly be replicated today, because modern equipment isn’t as easy to manipulate or any number of reasons. Please let us all know when some of these goodies are up for sale on all websites. Therer are many that I await, as you well know.

    • I wonder what coaxed your student into her new appreciation of the film that she, at first, cared nothing about, and I wonder how much animation history the current generation cares to learn.

      Well, knowing Steve, I’m sure his student was “coaxed into her new appreciation” of lesser known cartoons by the kind of films he showed and Steve’s particular enthusiasm in showing those films on the big screen in his class.

      Based on my own experience teaching animation history in L.A., contemporary students are inspired and amazed at seeing the classics (and obscurities) we grew up with, and took for granted. “Blowing their minds” by showing Fleischer, Disney, Clampett, Jones – even UPA and Hubley, to name but a few – is the most satisfying part of teaching. It’s like hooking them on drugs – they can’t get enough!

  • The Paramount logos on the copy on YouTube aren’t original; only the rest of the opening sequence is original.

    • What makes you say so? It looks like one complete print to me.

    • “Any Rags” was the first Talkartoon release in the calendar year 1932.

      While it was common for films to change the style of their credits at the beginning of a season more often than at the beginning of a calendar year, a change in titling definitely occurred at Fleischer somewhere in mid-season this year, as the fourth release from 1932, Minnie the Moocher”, has long existed intact on the “Special Collector’s Edition” VHS release by Republic Home Video, and depicts the opening titles not with a stationary art card as is shown in “Any Rage?”, but with the full moving clouds behind the dark Paramount Mountain that was customary for the Studio’s live-action shorts and many features.

      Likewise, the ending uses the moving clouds, with superimposed “The End” lettering in the same style of the live action films. The giveaway that “Any Rigs?” is not intact is the sudden jump cut from Paramount logo fade out to main title.

      In “Minnie the Moocher”, the transition is smoothly made from one to the other by a dissolve, which is absent here from the print. Somebody at UM&M still wanted to remove the full studio logo, and cut the negative to remove any trace of the dissolve with multiple-exposed frames that would give away the logo’s presence. As all known appearances of the still logo with white clouds and border (which presently appears on the print) have the logo fade entirely to black rather than dissolve, there would have been no need for the editor to cut into the main title footage if that logo design had originally appeared on the cartoon – as the main title would have in such case merely faded in from black rather than used double-exposed frames showing the logo in a dissolve.

      In other words, a simple cut from a UM&M card fade-out to a main title fade-in would have completely removed the logo without an artifact. The awkward jump cut without a fade thus indicates that “Any Rags?” should have used the moving Paramount clouds and a cross-dissolve to titles, exactly the same as “Minnie the Moocher”. Why the re-release didn’t figure this out, and just fake a dissolve from a moving Paramount logo to title to get things more accurate, is beyond me.

      Incidentally, UM&M’s accidental preservation of the Paramount copyright indicia at the base of the surviving title card isn’t at all out of character with the inconsistent ways it edited these cartoons. Many of the official Betty Boop series releases from following seasons have partially survived the UM&M cuts in identical fashion, with telltale jump cuts from black to credits where a dissolve should be, and Paramount copyright remaining unaltered. Among these notables, to name a few, are “I’ll Be Glad When You’re Dead You Rascal You”, “Snow White”, “Mother Goose Land”, “Parade of the Wooden Soldiers”, and “I Heard”.

      Sometimes these survivors resulted because UM&M couldn’t figure out how to superimpose their own copyright indicia into Fleischer’s trademark sweeping or windshield-wiper wipes, pivoting title cards, etc. – and other times seemed to happen only because the editors just got plain lazy! Just for positive proof of the above practices, check out uploads of French 9.5 mm home move prints which have surfaced in recent years on the internet of “Parade of the Wooden Soldiers” and “I Heard”, each of which are uncut transfers from the original releases, both featuring dissolves from the clouds in place of UM&M’s jump cuts from its own titling.

  • What about shipping uncensored volume 2 that I paid for back in November 2019. My numerous emails go unanswered. I know of quite a few collectors that you have taken funds from and never shipped the dvd. Why haven’t you shipped or given me a refund?

    • The Uncensored 2 set is still in progress. I can refund you if you’d like. Please email me at swat_thefly@yahoo.com. My thunderbean email is currently spammed to deal and not usuable until fixed.

  • I’m really glad the big project is finally on the tracks and I’m sure you’ll do justice to the cat. Take your time – it’s a big challenge but you’re the most qualified for that task, no doubt about that.

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