September 8, 2022 posted by Steve Stanchfield

Oswald in “The Bandmaster” (1931)

It’s an Oswald cartoon this week with lots of Bill Nolan animation- but that’s not unusual for a 1931 Oswald at all – in fact, it would be unusual if there wasn’t.

I’m looking forward to next week since this one has been busier than usual as the first week of school – and lots of other things too. I need a big recliner to turn into butter on. Lots to report soon, but I’ll wait until I manage to get out of that recliner.

These first few days a the school always end up turning into mini-history lessons, from information about the evolution of character animation to some conversation about the hostile takeover attempt of Walt Disney productions in 1984. I really enjoy seeing the next generation of students dive deeper into the things they’re most interested in. This next group has a lot of students that draw beautifully and I also enjoyed seeing some of the quick sketches of various characters as things were shown. I especially love seeing their reaction to animation that we all know like the back of our hand but they’ve never seen. Having 18 students that had never seen a Koko the Clown or Bimbo’s Initiation seemed unlikely to me since they’re interested in animation, but no one had… but now they have!

And, onto our cartoon!

If you’re a fan of Bill Nolan’s work, this Oswald is for you. I always feel like Nolan doesn’t ever get as much recognition as he should- but I’ve said that recently enough. The Bandmaster (1931) is primitive is many ways, but it’s a tight 6 minutes of enjoyable animation action and music. That is definitely what it is meant to be, so it’s successful. The lot basically doesn’t exist, except for an ongoing story of an unhappy hippo-boy. Nolan’s enjoyable shots throughout make it one of my favorites of the early Oswalds. The credits also include Clyde Geronimi, Ray Abrams, Les Kline, Manuel Moreno and Fred (Tex) Avery.

It’s easy to dismiss the Oswalds from this period since they’re not-so fancy, but maybe the best thing about these films is that they remain really entertaining. This one is now 91 years old. I can’t recall if this print was mine, Mark Kaulser’s or Mark Mayfield’s since I didn’t write it down- but if it wasn’t mine thanks!

Have a good week all- I’m off to sleep!


  • A fun cartoon. Lantz would later release another cartoon titled “The Bandmaster” in 1947, starring Andy Panda.

    The cartoon ends with “Happy Feet”, which was a big production number in Universal’s “King of Jazz” the year before, featuring Bing Crosby with the Rhythm Boys. The music that accompanies the scene with the dancing dolls is something I’m sure I’ve heard in a Van Beuren cartoon, but I can’t offhand remember which one.

    The thing that gets me about these early Universal Oswalds is that “Bill” Nolan’s first name is always in quotes, as if “Bill” were a bizarre and out-of-the-ordinary nickname for a man to have, as opposed to, say, Pinto.

    • For that matter, you can hear “A Bench in the Park” and “Ragamuffin Romeo” from the same film before that.
      (I wonder if that’s Avery doing the brat’s voice at the end…)

  • Love Bill Nolan’s cartoons, and Oswald cartoons! Much better then the Disney ones at their peak, and provide funny, strange entertainment. Seeing Avery’s evolution as a gagman is also fascinating, where here he animates that scene with the Tuba Player’s Tuba giving a raspberry, followed by the dogs jumping out

    • Actually, that scene is by another animator (seems to be Geronimi from examining the early films bearing his name and the style’s absence after his departure). Avery animated the final two shots of the cartoon, as well as approximately the first five seconds of the scene at 4:58 in the embedded video.

    • (And since someone will rightly question: yours truly spent way too much time a while back studying Oswald cartoons and the unusually-broad screen credits thereon to deduce what IDs he could, until he finally had had enough of them for a while—“that’s all I can stands, ’cause I can’t stands no more”. 🙂 And while there’s ones I didn’t reach certainty on, Avery’s style is one I was able to pin down…)

  • What a great cartoonist start my day! I remember this one from that one Walter Lantz disk that you created so many years ago. Any chance of a Blu-ray update on that one? The cartoons you chose were wonderful on that one as I remember it. I will have to pull that out and play it again. The best of luck to you on projects and the school year. Oh, and as far as turning into butter, well, I hope you find that cool out zone real quick! Have a good week yourself.

  • Boy, you are sleepy! Your old pal Mark kaulser here! Get back to the Laz-Z-Boy!

    • I always remember my pals and since I’m up from my Lazy Boy now I’ll apologize. Your pal, Streve Stanhcfeild

    • Hey there Mark! I just watched you talk about your letters to Tex with Screwy on the cover!

  • One of the few Lantz Cartunes that are in the public domain.

  • Nolan was an absolute master. He was the only one who gave 3D quality to these types of characters. I actually wrote my own tribute to him a few days ago:

  • Steve, I seem to remember the print was Mark’s. Dang, it’s been 9 years since that project happened !

  • Favorite movie memory: seeing an audience of 200 clap enthusiastically to Oswald’s song in THE FOWL BALL (1930), a cartoon full of wonderfully way-out Bill Nolan animation.

  • Sparse, poorly timed sound effects mixed with snazzy jazz orchestras are awesome!

  • Check out that utterly gorgeous background painting at 4 minutes into that Utoob video. Rembrandt? LOL

    That xylophone song has to be the most insipid melody that I’ve ever heard, and I’ve watched my share of Walter Lantz cartoons.

  • Walter Lantz cartoons…Well Walter was no Walt, but you gotta give the dude props for carrying on the legacy of the generic black and white collection of circles called Oswald the Luckiest Rabbit in the Solar System, after Charlie Mintz put the old kibosh on Ozzie and Walt’s (the Diz’s not the Woody Woodpecker dude’s) relationship. And then making a bunch of random, derivative animal cartoon characters that only caught on the fuzzy edges of the Silent Generation/Early Boomer’s collective cultural consciousness. I mean, did Woody W. and Chilly W. have any actual fans, like people who didn’t only vaguely and mildly approved of their being present at the theater (or TV set) on the occasions that they flashed on screen at any given time, but ,like actual engaged fans. I can’t imagine…

    The Oswald cartoon is kind of lame in almost every way. Wacky, yes, funny, no, interesting, kind-a, amusing, definitely at times, historically important, i mean not really but i guess you could say so, original, nah.

    • I really disagree there. Seriously, I thought Lantz produced some fine cartoons (that is until the Paul J. Smith only era, where that director developed extremly poor eyesight which resulted in, ahem, poorly sighted shorts).

      Go watch “The Barber of Seville” or “The Legend of Rock-a-Bye Point”.

  • Bill Nolan is awesome and deserves more credit when talking about pioneers of animation. After all, he created rubberhose animation, an animation style still used to this day!

    • Not to mention had Walt (Disney, not Lantz) in one of his classes.

  • Love that floppy baton in the beginning and the all around complete silliness! This is before cartoons took themselves seriously, they just strove to entertain. Every scene has at least one gag in it!

  • The absolute funniest Oswald in my opinion is Henpecked. I probably haven’t laughed that much at a cartoon since I discovered Magical Maestro. Oswald has to not make noise (Rock A Bye Bear?) in his apartment, so then of course a million Felixesque not-yet-fertilized clones be as loud as possible. It’s hysterical, and still relevant!

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