May 25, 2017 posted by

The Little King in “Art for Art’s Sake” (1934)

Taking a quick break from what is a flurry and dubbing and packing things here related to Thunderbean…

The Cinevent Film show is in Columbus Ohio, starting today. I’ve been debating going down this year since things are so busy with orders. It would be the first time I’ve missed it since 1983! It’s nice to see old friends though, and you never know when a rare 16mm cartoon shows up! If you’re near, it’s a great show to see films (ALL shown in 16mm) and a great dealer’s room. If I end up going I’ll be selling Thunderbean DVDs and showing some sneaks of stuff we’ve been transferring…

Here is info on the show:

It’s nice to get a look at a film you like and haven’t seen in a while; The Little King cartoons, for some reason, don’t make it off my shelf often, so they’re always a nice surprise. I just watched my old 16mm print of this tonight and smiled throughout.

The second to last of the series, Art for Art’s Sake (1934) is a surprisingly fun cartoon. The King takes a break from his kingly duties to (which seem to entail holding a string & skating behind his royal limo) and heads to an unnamed art museum. There, he seems determined to tease a large woman throughout the rest of the cartoon. Later, back at the palace, he reveals to her a portrait of himself, then terrorizes her by chasing her through the palace, even into the basement, where a growing a shrinking skeleton scares her even further.

One of the most interesting things about this cartoon is the Little King’s much more aggressive personality. Instead of his somewhat gentle and passive nature, (as seen in both Soglow’s original strip and the rest of the series of cartoons), he is more of a mean trickster, enjoying building each assault on top of the last. I wonder what Soglow thought of this portrayal of his hero? It is one of the more enjoyable of the series- so maybe the Little King’s personality is a factor in the minimal success of the series.

On the animation side of things: While varied, I think that some shots in this cartoon have some of the best animation of the series. The posing is especially fun, and the timing, while a little floaty and even at times, is generally well executed. The shot layout is especially dynamic here; often the approach seems very reflective of the original strip. The inking on this short is especially nice as well- there must have been a lot of former Fleischer inkers coming to VB and working to raise the bar.

As in the strip, the charm and humor are often in both the drawing and the idea combined. There’s a fun sequence a little more than halfway through the film where the King hides behind the women he’s teasing, leading to a whole series of funny poses and action. I especially enjoy the attempt to follow the original look of the comic strip closely.

The direction (by George Stallings) features a cross dissolve at the conclusion of some of the gags, often slowing down the after gag moment- and softening the impact of the scene rather than allowing it to conclude sharper and making the film feel more like a series of short vignettes.

This was on the Complete Animated Adventures of the Little King Thunderbean DVD. When we produced this set, my friend Chris Buchman did a nice series of bonus features, including some shots of where the strip likely inspired the animated short. Here is one related to this cartoon.

I think this print of ‘Art’ was either my 16mm or my Chris Buchman’s print. Mark Kausler provided a rare print that, even though dark and contrasty, had the original title sequences- the only copy I know of on this title. We’ve been debating going back and redoing some of these sets for HD, but there’s nothing in progress on this one as of now.

There’s actually a Fred Ladd ‘Redrawn’ version of this cartoon- and someone was kind enough to put it up on line. The original back and white version is below it.. I suggest watching the real one first!

The recolored version:

The original:

Have a great week everyone!


  • I’m sorry you are not going to be at the Cinevent this year, Steve. I always looked forward to buy your DVDs from you. That’s was my most anticipated things do at the event (besides the animation screening, of course). I’m still going to be there on Saturday, though. It’s close to where I live.

  • I have to admit it was a fun cartoon, but how are things going with Mr. Bug? It has stalled for long enough………

  • The Little King is probably my favorite of all the Van Beuren cartoon series I’ve seen. It has a lot of charm, and the animation looks unique enough to stand on its own. Any chance a Blu-ray upgrade is planned for “The Complete Animated Adventures of the Little King” in the future? 🙂

  • What a total joy. Thank you. I always loved the Little King. I guess because he is mute and all!

  • Fred Ladd… You see? This is why we can’t have nice things.

  • I wish I knew more about the comic strip, but your description of this whets my appetite, and I imagine him to be a little mischievious “brat”, a la the darker side of Scrappy, and I do have the complete ADVENTURES OF THE LITTLE KING collection that you released way back when. If you ever do that blu-ray upgrade, I’ll purchase it for nothing else than to get that print of this cartoon with its original titles intact.

    Good luck at Cinefest; boy, do I wish I were among the privileged who can travel through these events and come away with an armload of treasures. I’d love it, now, if my collecting could come full circle back to strictly animation, the way all my video collecting started! I know those promised titles are coming, but the wait is excruciating (No need to hurry, though).

  • Please reissue The Complete Animated Adventures of the Little King as resellers are jacking the price

  • I do have a fondness for The Little King, although my exposure is limited. I don’t remember the character being in the funny papers in the early 60s. I love the one Little King with Betty Boop the Fleischer Studio did.

    • The Little King spoke in that Betty Boop cartoon, didn’t he? After the success of Popeye, the Fleischers were pairing Betty with other comic-strip characters, like the Little King, Henry and Little Jimmy. (At least Henry remained silent in his outing.)

  • IDW’s collection of Little King strips (“Cartoon Monarch”) is still available. The jokes are variable; it’s a bit like vintage Nancy with its odd visual puns and gentle mischief. He chases girls from time to time, but it’s usually about getting away with some minor foolishness, or trying something that looks fun. Sometimes he just witnesses something odd.

    A favorite Sunday has the king visiting a female Arabic ruler. She gives him a tour of her palace. Last panel is her harem: a bunch of men scattered and posed in semi-seductive manner.

  • This is one of my favorite Little Kings. I don’t think the King is being mean to the Fat Lady tourist, he just wants to draw a mustache on her. This would be a good cartoon paired with “Daffy Doodles”, don’t you think? That’s Jim Tyer’s scene with the spooky basement and the skeleton-ghost, of course .I also like the sequence where the King is playing peek-a-boo with the Fat Lady at the Turnstile. You can really feel her weight when she sits on him quickly, accompanied by that toy horn sound effect. I wish I knew who animated that shot. I saw the Fred Ladd “Entercolor” version as well, obviously a worn VHS transfer. Some of the scenes weren’t bad, he has almost all the frames in a few, but most scenes were missing frames, the colors are poster-bright and obvious, and the camera work is simplified from the original, with characters on the wrong cel levels, etc. You know, if Fred Ladd wasn’t already serving time in Cartoon Hell, I think we should put a Cartoon “Hit” out on him! What a destructive character!

    • His only claim to fame is having adapted familiar Japanese cartoons at all (going on up to Sailor Moon I think). Anything else just seems bargain basement for him.

      He even colored one Japanese-produced TV special from Mushi Productions for no apparent reasons other than needing color content to sell in the 70’s.

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