October 31, 2013 posted by

Halloween!! How about a few Midnight Frolics?

midnight-frolics-poster300I’m a big fan of the Columbia Rhapsodies produced by the UB Iwerks Studio. They are odd films, but then again, so many of the cartoons Columbia produced were odd.

Midnight Frollics is one of my favorites. It’s not a ‘great’ cartoon really, but still quite enjoyable. This is a transfer of an old 16mm IB Technicolor print that I’ve had in my collection since the early 80s. I’ve been told by a few collectors that the reason most of the Columbia Rhapsody prints in 16mm are so beat up is that Columbia 16mm rental prints of features started out with a cartoon, and of course the cartoon would take the lion’s share of abuse, thereby protecting the feature from less skilled projectionists. There’s a splice during one of the jokes..those of you with good ears will recognize it as a Fibber McGee and Molly joke…

There was a whole flippable scene from this cartoon at Howard Lowry’s in LA in the mid 90’s. I bought a few drawings from the scene… the last shot in the film with the mouse being scared by the ghost dust….

This cartoon was a favorite among friends that I used to show these to…and always makes an appearance on Halloween (I show 16mm cartoons on Halloween outside on a big screen to the neighborhood kids in my Mother’s neighborhood thoughout trick or treating.. a tradition that dates back to the mid- 80s).

Since it’s Halloween, you can’t forget all the great cartoons that are spooky in one form or other… here’s a few of my favorites- of course there’s so many more- feel free to add to the list!

Fraidy Cat (Tom and Jerry/ MGM, 1942)

Trick or Treat (Donald Duck/ Disney, 1952)

Betty Boop’s Halloween Party (Fleischer, 1933)

The Mad Doctor (Mickey/ Disney 1933)

Woody’s Spook-a-Nanny (Walter Lantz Productions/ TV Special, 1964)

Skeleton Frollic (Columbia (Iwerks Studio), 1937)

The Haunted House (Mickey Mouse/ Disney, 1929)

Happy Halloween!


  • Some favorites of mine:
    SHIVER ME TIMBERS, Max Fleischer Popeye, 1934 – Beautifully animated and scary-funny
    THE FRESH VEGETABLE MYSTERY, Fleischer, 1936 – Colorful, curious cartoon whose principal premise employs a really clever ruse
    MIGHTY MOUSE IN JEKYLL AND HYDE CAT, Terrytoons, 1943 – Genuinely terrifying Bill Tytla “monster transformation” scene – One of the most memorable Terry cartoons
    TERROR ON THE MIDWAY – Fleischer Superman, 1942 – Remarkable use of color, light and shadow, with a giant gorilla that is one of the most frightening monsters in the history of cartoondom
    THE CASE OF THE SCREAMING BISHOP – Columbia, 1944 – Weird but funny cartoon about a missing dinosaur skeleton and a most unlikely thief. The film is more amusing than scary, but the thief is really over the top — one strange and manic dude.
    MYSTERY IN THE MOONLIGHT – Terrytoons, 1949 – Simple plot (if I recall): Canine character encounters strange happenings in a haunted house. I haven’t seen this cartoon in well over 40 years, but one of its characters — a memorably creepy little guy with weird eyes — has remained etched in my mind forever. (When will we again see this cartoon in its entirety?)

  • I always considered 1936’s “Play Safe” to be a Halloween Cartoon:

  • Yay! Steve, we still project 16mm Halloween cartoons in our front yard every year for trick or treaters. And, yes, we too have been doing this since the 80’s!

  • “Spook-A-Nanny” with its then-contemporary Beatles reference must mark the last time Walter Lantz bothered to comment on current events in a cartoon.

  • Well, for no real reason, I’ve always been partial to “THE OLD HOUSE”. Maybe it was just the camera angles or the way action was filmed…or just the beautiful detail–all those shadows and light shots that Hugh Harman used to add to their HAPPY HARMONIES series back then. Most public domain prints seem so dark and I’m never sure whether or not this is because of print quality or Hugh Harman intended the whole short to appear so dark and grainy until Bosko, Honey and Bruno appear in a heap outside with the radio revealing finally that all the noises that spooked them near the cartoon’s climax came from a murder mystery radio show as it announced “…and don’t forget to eat Goody-Goodys for breakfast!” There are also some FLIP THE FROG cartoons that Eiworks created that had a spooky theme to ’em, too, but I don’t know exact titles well enough to give a specific example. The 1930’s were the best for surreal and spooky!

    • There’s a Happy Harmonies cartoon titled BOTTLES that, when I was a kid, seriously spooked me every time I saw it.

  • “This cartoon was a favorite among friends that I used to show these to…and always makes an appearance on Halloween (I show 16mm cartoons on Halloween outside on a big screen to the neighborhood kids in my Mother’s neighborhood thoughout trick or treating.. a tradition that dates back to the mid- 80s).”

    What a fun idea! For those of us without film and projectors, I wonder how this might go over with a digital projector and a DVD player/computer? (I’d thought about incorporating some kind of setup like this as a looping “decoration” for either Halloween or Christmas, but I’ve never followed through.)

  • A great lesser-known Halloween cartoon is the Fleischer Screen Song The Boo Boo Theme Song.

  • How about “A Ride For Cinderella” (1937)? One of my favorites! 😉

  • Can you tell us anything about Iwerks’ crew while at columbia? The drawing style and timing style is so different from the work from his own studio. Did Iwerks have directors working under him or was the true director of these films?

  • No love for the Jones/Maltese Porky & Sylvester horror trilogy?

    • Agreed! Scaredy Cat is easily the best Halloween-themed cartoon, in my opinion (I also like the Gossamer duo)

  • Oh, yeah, those Flip the Frog scare-cartoons! SPOOKS, CUCKOO CLOCK MURDER CASE and TECHNO-CRAZY were huge favorites with my family (especially my son Alex!)

  • I really like the early Iwerks films in that they really feel like anything could happen..the early Flips feel like early Silly Symphonies to me. When Iwerks left his own studio it stayed open; by that time the operation was called Cartoon Films, Limited. It continued to produce mostly animated theatrical commercials, but also some propaganda shorts for the US government (like HOW WAR CAME and others..). Paul Fennell seems to have led much of the production of the Iwerks Columbia Rhapsodies along with quite a few other notable animators.. Paul Etcheverry has a nice blogpost about the Iwerks toons today:

    Funny- Leslie Iwerks is supposed to come to Detroit tomorrow for a talk about her Grandfather, though with the events at LAX today it’s hard to say if she’ll make it. Let’s hope!

  • I always loved Ghost Wanted!!

  • Don’t forget Lonesome Ghosts from Disney.

  • Look at about 2:05 in Midnight Frolics — is that, or is that not, Snow White in the picture on the wall?

  • While I enjoy “Midnight Frolics”, I can’t watch the TOTALLY TOONED IN version where some of the original music has been dubbed over apparently for “copyright reasons”.

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