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.
Puttin’ 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.
The 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!