October 29, 2015 posted by

“Puttin’ Out the Kitten” (1937)


Halloween is almost here! Even though this is the first year I won’t be showing cartoons outside on Halloween this year, the films are going to a friend’s neighborhood to show…. and this one is included. It’s one of my favorites, though I know over the years it’s probably confused audiences as much as anything else.

kitten-fishbowlPuttin’ Out the Kitten (1937) is easily one of the oddest golden age Columbia cartoons. 1937 was a high point for Columbia in having the stars of a cartoon die (the other, The Little Match Girl, is polar opposite of this film however). Art Davis gets story credit here, with Sid Marcus taking animation (and really director) credit. The usual animation team is on the film, including Art Davis.

As is the custom in this period, Scrappy has trouble deciding if he has pie eyes or pupils as he tries to put his somewhat docile kitty outside for the night (in a blizzard). The kitten goes from usual kitty behavior to singing (albeit in meows). After falling from the fence into the snow, the cat dies (yes, dies) and his 9 lives (as ghosts) carry its dead body into the house. After sliding on some piano keys, the kitty magically comes back to life, and is tormented by dancing wallpaper as well as a series of comical events, including falling victim to various toys and a mean fish. Scrappy sleeps all the while, and, as it turns out, he’s dreaming the whole thing. Upon waking up, Scrappy realizes the err of his ways and rescues the poor frozen kitten on his porch. The film ends with a gag that makes less sense than any in *any* Columbia cartoon, and that’s really saying something.

scrappy-kittenThe character design of the Kitten is somewhat art deco inspired, and it transitions from some very graphic poses to a more cartoon approach throughout the film. The background layout and painting is really outstanding in this particular short. When you watch, make sure you’re watching it in HD if your computer is capable of doing so. I especially love the well timed, clever animation in this particular cartoon, though care less for Scrappy’s design at this point in the series. Highlights for me include Scrappy tossing and turning in bed, the kittens sloppy kisses and dead poses directly afterwords, and the sequence where the kitty finds a bucket attached to his bottom, and musically runs around trying to remove it. The film is full of inventive, fun poses, with the little kitty becoming a pantomime star though the cartoon. Joe De Nat’s score is well done in this short, especially nicely leading into the dream sequence.

There is a little resused animation from the earlier Columbia Rhapsody A Boy and His Dog (1936).

Columbia’s often curious choices of film transitions (especially wipes and cross dissolves) actually works really well here, adding to the bizarreness of the whole endeavor. Scrappy would survive a few more years, with only a few more highlights. Perhaps him taking a back seat in his own films was a harbinger of things to come.

Happy Halloween everyone!


  • Yup, this cartoon sure sounds surreal. I certainly would never let my cats outside, even as much as they sit on a perch near a picture window, looking longingly outside at anything that moves. Great post as always, Steve. I look forward to the arrival at my door of the two copies of the THUNDERBEAN THURSDAY set as I got one for a friend, and maybe one day, we’ll get a whole lotta SCRAPPY on DVD; wishful thinking I know, but…

  • I wish my wallpaper was like that…

    Thanks Steve.

  • Had I seen this in my childhood, the kitten’s death scene would have traumatized me for days! (It still does.)

    Love the atmospheric layouts in the opening shots. Such depth of space is not commonly seen in cartoons.

  • Yoouuuu stay where yoooooo arrrrrreeeeee……

    True to fashion, Steve’s description of the cartoon is just as funny and strange as the cartoon itself. 🙂

  • >The film ends with a gag that makes less sense than any in *any* Columbia cartoon, and that’s really saying something.

    The cat gives a quick razzberry to the no-longer moving Humpty Dumpty, so maybe it wasn’t Scrappy’s dream after all.

    • As Lewis Carroll would say… “Which dreamed it?”

      The same pseudo-Dukas score from “Toby the Pup in Halloween” returns!

  • Remembering this from childhood. KTVU Oakland ran pre-UPA Columbia cartoons on the Captain Satellite show in the early 60s; don’t remember seeing Columbias anywhere else for decades.

    “We gotta go! We gotta go!” and “When you’ve gotta go, you gotta go” were grade school catchphrases. Not sure if everybody I knew got it from the same cartoon. And the soap box elevator stuck with me. One of those things my unformed mind assumed was based on a real-world object of some sort.

    The nine ghosts — Is that an idea that existed before animated cartoons, or do they all trace back to some early toon where somebody did it as an original gag on the nine lives cliche?

  • Although I only watched the cartoon once, my take on it was that the cat really didn’t die. One of the cat’s 9 lives left, leaving 8 left and it was this remaining 8 that carried the creature up to the window and placed him on top of the open part of the window. Any one else see it that way?

  • “the kittens sloppy kisses and dead poses directly afterwords”

    This. Haha! Good selection this week, Steve!!

  • Defiantly a weird “was it a dream or was it” cartoon. Columbia seemed to have trouble figuring out how to tell a story well.

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