BAXTER'S BREAKDOWNS
July 13, 2016 posted by

Harman-Ising’s “Toyland Broadcast” (1934)

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Here’s a special “Christmas in July” post for this week’s breakdown!

Toyland Broadcast, released December 1934, was the fifth Happy Harmony produced by Hugh Harman and Rudy Ising for MGM. Ising directed the bulk of the 1934 releases, while Harman directed only Bosko’s Parlor Pranks. Because of Disney’s monopoly of full three-color Technicolor, the first few Happy Harmonies would be processed in two-color Technicolor (a red and green process).

Trade advertisement - click to enlarge

Trade advertisement – click to enlarge

Toyland Broadcast, like many of the early entries, bears a strong likeness to the cartoons Harman and Ising produced for Leon Schlesinger. There are several instances here of re-used animation from the earlier Merrie Melodies—including a doll blowing up a balloon, which then inflates her to resemble radio singer Kate Smith is partially lifted from The Shanty Where Santy Claus Lives, released a year earlier. (The Apache dance is lifted from 1932’s It’s Got Me Again, switching from mice in the Schlesinger cartoon to French dolls; the beaded toy on the xylophone is loosely based on scenes from 1933’s We’re in the Money, the last Merrie Melodie released by Harman-Ising.)

The character voices sound similar, as well—the probable voice of the toy emcee could be Johnny Murray, who provided the voice for Bosko and other squeaky vocals. The doll trio at the start of the film is sung by the Rhythmettes, whom were favored by Ising and MGM sound editor Fred MacAlpin, as they were heard in several Harman-Ising cartoons for Schlesinger. An interesting detail about the animator records for this film: its assignments are written on an exposure sheet from Schlesinger’s — it even bears a “Merrie Melodies” designation. The resources from their former studio clearly came in handy before Harman and Ising prepared their own stationary.

toyland-broadcast-title600Animator Bob Stokes mainly handles the close-ups of the toy soldier emcee. Cal Dalton animates the key song sequences in Toyland Broadcast, including the singing doll trio, a violinist toy resembling David Rubinoff, and the Mills Brothers’ performance of Howard Dietz/Walter Donaldson’s “Jungle Fever,” from the 1934 film Operator 13, with Gary Cooper and Marion Davies. (The Mills Brothers in this film are harmonized by The Four Blackbirds, also heard near the end of 1937’s Clean Pastures, from Warner Bros.) Some assignments are composed of featured caricatures; Jim Pabian animates the Bing Crosby jack-in-the-box and the Kate Smith doll and Tom McKimson animates the roly-poly Paul Whiteman toy and his jazz band (touted as “The Old Maestro” by the emcee—in a voice spoofing bandleader Ben Bernie, who held the nickname on radio airwaves) and the stuffed dog resembling popular crooner Rudy Vallee.

Frankie Smith, brother of animator Paul Smith, handles the Apache dance in the film. The draft here credits him as “Franswaw,” a phonetic spelling of the name Francois. Apparently, it was a studio in-joke to refer to Frankie as “Francois”; even surviving exposure sheets listed him as “Francois Smith.” He worked at the Lantz studio by 1944-45, while his brother animated there, as the head of the animation department, overseeing the artists’ work. By 1948, he served as an animator at UPA. He later worked for Bill Melendez on the Peanuts television specials.

toyland-broadcast-boxPortions of the draft for Toyland Broadcast, photocopied from Ising’s collection in the mid-‘70s, are hard to decipher, given its handwritten notations. However, by magnifying the document pages, the names have all been credited in the video. One perplexing aspect of the draft is the assignments on scenes 27 and 28, which seem to credit two animators; it could mean two animators animated on different characters, as seen on the video (Bob Stokes on the calico dog/Jim Pabian on the calico puppies in sc. 27; Frankie Smith on the applauding toys/Tom McKimson on Rubinoff in sc. 28).

As for the re-used scenes from the earlier Merrie Melodies, it’s not known if the animators credited on the scenes in the draft were the artists responsible for the scenes they originated, since no drafts from Harman-Ising’s Schlesinger period are known to exist.

Enjoy the Toyland Revue, fellers!

Toyland Broadcast-draft600

(Thanks to Michael Barrier, Keith Scott, Frank Young, Don Yowp and J.B. Kaufman for their help.)

20 Comments

  • Someday, I’d like to see all the cartoons with French apache dancers in them, all strung together. I sure didn’t get what that was all about, seeing them on TV as a kid.

    Oddly the cartoon versions seem more violent, because you don’t get the acrobatic aspect of a real performance, where two live dancers are interacting, and it’s obviously an act – whereas, in a cartoon, it just looks like a mean guy throwing a poor woman around (albeit in a cartoonish way).

    • The Apache dance, depicted in this film (and used in other live-action films and cartoons), was originated by street toughs in the Parisian slums around the turn of the century. The dance itself re-enacts a pimp’s domination of a prostitute; the man picking her up and throwing her around would render her a “limp noodle.” In some instances, as in this film, the woman could fight back.

    • I remember kind of understanding what was going on because of an “I Love Lucy” episode. Looking it up on Google, I see that the episode is called “The Adagio”.

    • If this was a Terrytoon, she’d have given him a razzberry!

    • If this was an Ub Iwerks cartoon, she’d have given him the finger!

    • If this was an Ub Iwerks cartoon, she’d have given him the finger!

      The mark of quality!

  • Toyland Broadcast was one of my very favorite cartoons from my childhood.
    Fun fact: when the toy soldier announcer announces “This is ABC” this predates both ABC (either The American Broadcasting Company or the Australian Broadcasting Company).
    Sadly today’s broadcast of Toyland Broadcast is now censored with the Sambo Jazz Band scene and the Jungle Fever sequence. Luckily the uncensored version of Toyland Broadcast is now available on YouTube as well as the LATAM Spanish version of Toyland Broadcast (even though it’s the heavily censored version).

    • WABC at this time was the flagship station of CBS. Likely ABC was picked because of nursery associations.

    • I’m sure that was the intention. Building blocks often in iconography get seen with those letters as well.

    • >Sadly today’s broadcast of Toyland Broadcast is now censored with the Sambo Jazz Band scene and the Jungle Fever sequence. Luckily the uncensored version of Toyland Broadcast is now available on YouTube as well as the LATAM Spanish version of Toyland Broadcast (even though it’s the heavily censored version).

      I remember Cartoon Network aired a severely edited version of Toyland Broadcast on a ToonHeads Christmas special back in the early 2000s. I knew what parts were gone because I watched this one a lot on video as a child.

      >The Apache dance, depicted in this film (and used in other live-action films and cartoons), was originated by street toughs in the Parisian slums around the turn of the century. The dance itself re-enacts a pimp’s domination of a prostitute; the man picking her up and throwing her around would render her a “limp noodle.” In some instances, as in this film, the woman could fight back.

      I remember hearing about that on the audio commentary for the Pepe Le Pew cartoon “Scent-imental Romeo” (1951).

  • I laughed at the fact that the broadcasting outfit, here in Toyland, is ABC; well, that was the broadcast network here in New York that carried the classic MGM cartoons on TV when I was a kid. Did I think this cartoon was specially produced at the TV station? I don’t remember, but I’m sure this cartoon was aired, especially around the Holiday Season. Perhaps the whole first year of HAPPY HARMONIES had a LOONEY TUNES or MERRIE MELODIES look to it. Bosko would not change appearance, I believe, until “RUN, SHEEP, RUN” and, by that time, the animation had gotten even more full than the MERRIE MELODIES and even more colorful than they appeared in 1934…and, in some cases, so full of action and activity from one corner of the screen to the other that it would take a theater screen to truly appreciate the films. Thanks for posting this. It is among my favorites merely because of the music! I know that “CLEAN PASTURES” is widely available on DVD, even with commentary, but I wonder if the other film with the Mills Brothers is available as well

  • I’ve always wondered why Leo the Lion, as shown in the trade ad, doesn’t have a mane. It makes him look like a cousin to the Pink Panther.

  • A curious error occurs in Sc 37. When the pan across from the skipping zebra to the gorilla jumping on the kangaroo’s bulb comes to a halt, the colour elements fall out of sync – the “blue” exposure belonging to the frame preceding the “orange” exposure. I presume that each frame’s set-up was exposed twice, on black & white stock, with the two alternative colour filters. So either the cameraman lost the plot and missed one exposure, throwing the sequence out of step, or he made an error and indicated a cut back (i.e. the editor was to remove the indicated erroneous frames from the sequence and carry on with the correct new frames) and the editor removed the wrong number of frames. Either way this would mean that in the printing, where the two filtered frames on the negative were printed onto one frame of the colour stock, there was a sudden misstep. This is an error that might be expected to occur a lot, but this is the only example I’ve ever noticed. Was it missed in the viewing, or considered to trivial to be worth the reshoot?

    • I suppose that’s a mystery we’ll never know the truth to.

  • Very interesting post, Devon. Specially for the forgiven great Harman-Ising cartoons not released yet on DVD in its entirely ….
    I had the opportunity to acquired the original program shown in the first picture, among others from the Harman Estate. I do hope to see more on them.

  • I really like the look and movement of Bob Stokes’ scenes. He’s an underappreciated animator!

  • Looking at this cartoon I don’t think it was done in two-color Technicolor (red and green) I think it was done in Cinecolor because I can see a lot of red and blue

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