July 18, 2013 posted by

“Mendelssohn’s Spring Song” (1931)

Mendelssohn’s Spring Song on a hot summer day!


Here is a brief introduction to a short that really deserves a longer one. I first saw this film in a black and white print in 1988. I transferred it for one of the ‘Snappy Video’ collections I was putting together. Two of those first collections, Cultoons 1 and Cultoons 2, were featured in an advertisement in animation magazine back in 1989. The exact contents of one of those Cultoons VHS tapes was copied by one of the suppliers of Dollar DVDs, so there’s a lot of copies of this film in Black and White floating around.

Mendelssohn’s Spring Song was produced by animator Cy Young as an independent film, using the studio set up at Audio Productions in New York. The film was made in Brewster color, an early two color process similar to Cinecolor. Clips from Spring Song appeared on a Brewster color Demo reel; my guess is that Brewser color commissioned the short. It’s hard to read who released it in the title card- the print starts as the title is fading out, so I held on that first frame and lighted it for this version.

Lillian Friedman, the first female animator at Fleischers, said that she did ink and paint on this film; it was the first production she worked on.

Paul Terry also used the setup at Audio Productions in the early 30’s- there appears to be some partnership with the studio.Young was an animator at various silent studios in the late 20s, though it’s not clear what studio he started at. One of the other curios that has shown up as well is a short commercial he produced at Audio productions for Aetna insurance.

I owe a debt of gratitude in obtaining the color print to my friend, author and animator Ken Priebe. He turned an email I sent to him into a webpage in the late 90’s, talking about some of the films on the Cultoons VHS tapes. Someone was clearing out their father in law’s collection of 35mm films, and in searching the internet for information found Ken’s page. I hightailed it to Cleveland when he said he’s selling everything on a first come first serve basis. I beat another collector to his house by about an hour in getting this print! It’s now preserved at the Library of Congress.

Notice that Young has spelled his name ‘Sy’ instead of ‘Cy’. My guess is that it was to hide his Chinese heritage in a time where that would be less acceptable. Disney saw this short and hired Young to head the newly formed special effects department at Disney, so it is noteworthy for several reasons, and a fun little film as a way it’s a New York Silly Symphony. It appears on the Thunderbean DVD, Cultoons, Volume 1, and will be in HD the upcoming BluRay Technicolor Dreams and Black and White Nightmares.


  • Oh, Steve! The dancing girl clouds! The ‘2001’ train tunnel! The vibrating violin strings! This has been one of my absolute faves for years. And that opening gag with the sun always makes me laugh… a treasure for the ages. Thanks so much for perserving this one.

  • I also think Cy Young would not want confusion with the retired baseball pitcher….

  • Loves all the angle shots.

  • This is something that’s always confused me about this: the quotation marks and the size of the lettering makes it appear that the actual title is “Jingles.” Thoughts?

    • I would assume “Jingles” was meant to be the title to the series itself, had they continued to produce more cartoons based around different music pieces like this one.

  • This is my first contact with Brewster Color. It seems more interesting with better reds than the oxblood tinged Cinecolor. Thanks for this, and all postings.

  • Great post Steve! I believe the name featured in the top left corner of the faded title card is Fairmount Productions/Pictures. According to this Film Daily Trade ad, the cartoon was made by a company named Fairmount. 🙂
    (Look under the name “Jingles”)

    • Great find! I examined the title card after receiving my copy of one of Steve’s IAD special discs containing this cartoon, and it indeed looked like “Fairmount” or possibly “Farrmount” on the title card. Great to know which one it is.

      It’s also interesting that that Film Daily review lists “Jingles” as the actual title of the cartoon, not “Mendelssohn’s Spring Song”.

  • I, for one, was very pleasantly surprised by the cartoon, and the flashes of style it showed.

    • I pulled off not seeing this cartoon for the longest time after it hit the Dollar DVD bin simply because I knew I wasn’t going to enjoy it in it’s intended state until now, and it was worth it. Certainly light on premise but makes up for with attention to unique concepts in design and artwork to work within the limits of it’s color technique.

  • That is the reason why collecting Thunderbean DVDs is worth your money and time. But most importantly its fun seeing all those strange and obscure titles.

  • Thank you for posting this. I saw it, in black-and-white, on a cheap DVD, and wondered who made it, why, where, etc. Thanks for the information. It’s nice to see that a color print has survived.

  • I own this in black & white on a dollar DVD. This print is WAY better though!

  • WOWSA! Google sent me here when i looked up Spring Song—jeezlouise, this is the best library ever!
    And this clip and history are just fantabulous! Thank you.
    BTW, I was wondering when Disney used this piece in his early cartoons?

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