Animation Trails
April 26, 2023 posted by Charles Gardner

Unpredictable as Weather (Part 3)

The talkies continued to sweep the nation. Animation continued to slowly struggle in search of sophistication, with several characters we’ve seen before continuing to provide battles against the elements in weather-related episodes. Other newcomers would join in the struggles against storms, including Fleischer’s Bimbo, Charles Mintz’s Toby the Pup, Ub Iwerks’ Flip the Frog, and Van Buren’s Tom and Jerry. Humor was still crude and rudimentary, but better days loomed on the horizon, as we track our trail’s action through 1931 and into early 1932.

Shipwreck (Lantz/Universal, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, 2/9/31) – The title of this film is a bit of a misnomer, as we begin the episodes a bit late to witness any wreck. Oswald is already adrift at sea on a raft consisting of six logs roped together, with a small mast stuck in the center. From the mast flies a distress flag – well, actually, it’s someone’s long johns. The waves rise and fall between periodic claps of thunder, and play a few tricks on the wooden raft. First, it stretches the rope bindings between the logs, adding a distance of about three feet between one log and the next, forcing Oswald to demonstrate his rabbit hop to keep himself atop one log or another. Next, the logs regroup, but seem to have lost their bindings entirely, causing Oswald to run in place atop them while they each rotate with the speed of a lumberjack log-rolling competition. Then, two waves split the logs apart down the middle, into two groups of three logs apiece, sailing in opposite directions. Oswald stretches a point by attempting to straddle the two separating mini-rafts rather than leaping onto one of them. Finally, a low ceiling descends upon Oswald, seeming determined to squash him into the sea – but the lowering cloudbank encounters the tip of Oswald’s mast, which punctures the whole storm front like a popping balloon, instantly transforming the waves and skies into smooth, clear sailing.

The sound disk that accompanied the cartoon “Shipwreck”

The remainder of the film is not weather-related, but includes some unusual sights, such as five gulls working as a team to lift from the sea a giant fish. The fish looks upward and inhales, swallowing four of the five gulls. But the fifth gull copies the feat, and singlehandedly swallows the fish whole, bloating to the mammoth proportions of his meal. The action then moves underwater, as Oswald fashions a fishing line out of the cotton in his tail, and a parrot who is using the long johns as a crow’s nest assists as bait, to snag a huge fish below. The fish is not cooperative, and instead drags Oswald into the briny. He decides he’s not hungry right now, but makes Oswald promise to return at 3 o’ clock, when he will be. Brainless Oswald makes no attempt to return to the surface in the meanwhile, but merely bides his time in the hold of a sunken ship, playing “It Ain’t Gonna Rain No Mo’” on an old pumper organ for the local sea creatures. The fish returns at precisely three, and takes a chomp on the parrot’s tail feathers. Oswald tugs to pull the parrot free, and in so doing, turns the fish inside out, removing his bony skeleton and dentures. Oswald finishes his song by plucking at the skeleton bones to produce musical notes, but the fish’s bones still have some life to them, and snap a painful chomp on Oswald’s tail for the sudden fade out.

Tree Saps (Fleischer/Paramount, Talkartoon (Bimbo), 2/21/31 – Dave Fleischer, dir.) – This film is an important discovery. Though forgotten today, it succeeds in taking a little luster off a renown Disney classic, by demonstrating that many of its ideas were in fact derivative from this work. This perhaps marks the first animation from inside the vortex of a tornado (predating Ted Eshbaugh’s “The Wizard of Oz” by several years). More notably, it does so by setting the action to the score of the Storm movement of the William Tell Overture. Sound familiar? Yes, it’s virtually the same setup as Mickey Mouse’s immortal “The Band Concert”! Set in a lumber camp, the first half consists of spot gags and some musical rehearsing by Bimbo of a lumberjeck glee club/band. A running gag has a large seal perform his work for Bimbo only when fueled by fish. Bimbo’s supply of seafood eventually runs out, with his pockets empty. The brute seal won’t take this lying down, and pursues Bimbo, intending to inflict bodily harm upon him for holding out. Suddenly, a funnel cloud looms over the horizon. The shot of its initial approach is almost identical in setup to the first appearance of the tornado in Mickey’s epic, with buildings being swallowed up in the mouth of the cone, and the countryside being left a twisted mess. The lumberjacks take refuge in their bunkhouse, bit the whirling wind lifts the whole building off its foundation, taking the crew and their musical instruments into the sky (much like Mickey’s bandstand years later). At least two more shots within the eye of the storm are framed nearly identically to shots from Disney’s film, with one animal comfortably seated in a chair while playing his instrument, his music stand following in place with the chair so that he can easily read his part in the arrangement. A tuba-tooting lumberjack parallels the portly pig from Mickey’s band. Fleischer adds two more lumberjacks on a bass fiddle, who provide alternating bowing with their tails. The seal lumberjack becomes finally satisfied, when a king-size fish is swept up from some body of water below. The seal exits the cartoon, pursuing the fish upwards through the cyclone’s cone. Finally, the force of the storm begins to dissipate, and Bimbo and the others are returned to earth. Bimbo lands within the foundation lines where the bunkhouse had stood, and the building reconstructs itself around him, finally slapping down the roof over his head. Bimbo appears out the chimney, blackened with soot, and gives the audience the usual stereotypical Al Jolson blackface line, “Mammy”, for the iris out.

While Disney certainly perfected and polished his competing product a few years later, inaugurating Mickey Mouse’s move to color, it has to be admitted that the creative credit for the original concept for his classic finale actually belongs to the Fleischers. Imagine an alternate parallel universe, in which the Disney cartoon was never made, and Max Fleischer sat down to a business lunch with Leopold Stokowski, to discuss the idea of a “concert feature”. Perhaps “A Car-Tune Portrait” would have been expanded to a full symphony orchestra, and a two-hour running time!

Toby the Milkman (Charles Mintz/Radio Pictures, Toby the Pup, 2/25/31 – Dick Huemor/Sid Marcus, dir.). Toby cartoons could be incredibly loose in structure. This one plays as if it is three unrelated short cartoons merely strung together. Part one simply follows the delivery route of Toby and an old farm horse, as they deliver farm fresh milk (consisting of equal portions of cow juice and well water) by wagon, in a few ways that are visually inventive. For example, Toby’s aim of a bottle at a doorstep is somewhat off, causing the bottle to hit the doorstep and bounce back to conk Toby on the head. Toby makes the bottle stay where it belongs by tossing it again, with the bottle tied to a ship’s anchor. At a given time (indicated upon the horse’s wristwatch), the steed knows that the work day is over, and curls up on the pavement for a siesta. Toby has entirely different plans for the evening, and redresses himself in fancier gloves, top hat, spats and cane, topping off his “class act” by puffing on a black cigar. He attempts to signal the horse to take him to his destination – but the horse’s eyelids open partway, revealing the irises of his eyes comfortably tucked into beds of their own, snoozing beneath the covers. Toby leaves the horse where he is, and rides out from the rear of the wagon in a small, single seat auto The film abruptly shifts to chapter two, as the shies turn instantly dark and cloudy, with high winds blowing numerous dry leaves across the landscape, along with a pair of trousers with suspenders loosened from a clothesline. A black cloud with a menacing face grimaces with all his might, squeezing himself from within to deposit a cloudburst upon the countryside. Toby approaches the edge of the storm front, and quickly shifts his car in reverse, attempting to stay one jump ahead of the raindrops. When he needs a little extra speed, he sticks his feet through the car’s floorboards, and picks up the vehicle around his waist to run with it. A lightning bolt strikes the first in a row of tall trees at its root, causing it to topple the row like a line of dominos (the last tree in the row jumping out of the way just in time to avoid being toppled, then forming a face to stick its tongue out at the others). Toby’s car is now running on its tires as if the legs of his horse, at a full gallop, when he meets the edge of another storm front in his path. He times his travel to stay within a narrow space of dryness between the two fronts, then turns his car sideways to escape from the gap, before the two fronts meet in a thunderclap. Toby reaches the rear door of his destination, squeezing himself and his car under the door – then emerges out a window to retrieve a dime that fell out of his pocket on the doorstep while he was doing the squeezing. As a charitable gesture, he also admits inside a small tree, who also wants to get out of the rain as the precipitation hits. (I though plants love water?) Part three suddenly begins, with Toby now at a barn dance in full swing. This portion of the film is nearly a visual plagiarism of a Disney cartoon from a short time before, Mickey Mouse’s “The Shindig”. It uses the same music as the Disney original (Wilbur Sweatman’s “Down Home Rag”). It features an extended dance by a cow in a dress, paralleling Clarabelle Cow. And it includes another extended dance between Toby and a hugely overweight female pig – the climactic moment of Mickey’s performance in the earlier work. In an excuse for a closing, Toby stumbles over a spittoon/ash tray, and two cigar butts with arms and legs complete the dance atop Toby’s back, then take bows for the iris out.

The Cuckoo Murder Case (Ub Iwerks/MGM, Flip the Frog, 4/27/31) – A pelting rain and lightning flashes provide atmosphere outside the windows of a sinister mansion. The shadow of a hooded figure points a flashlight around in the darkened interior of the parlor, until it comes to rest upon a cuckoo clock on the wall. As the mechanical bird emerges to perform his time-keeping task (erroneously heralding 13 o’clock), several shots ring out. One bullet goes directly through the side of the ball-shaped torso of the bird, and he inspects the damage by sticking his own head through the hole to look – then grabs a decorative lily off the woodwork of the cuckoo click, and keels over off his perch as the film’s “victim”. The clock’s “face” has witnessed the murder, and drops numbers off its face into the speaker of a wall telephone, to dial a call to Detective Flip the Frog. Flip gathers up an armful of his detective equipment, then hops into a small open car, hot-footing it to the mansion. Behind him follows a wagon full of policemen, using the tail of a howling cat on the wagon’s hood to produce a wailing siren effect, Thee black clouds creep along on tiptoe through the sky, merging to form a larger cloid, as two bolts of lightning form into the shape of spiny-fingered hands, and wring the cloud out like an old towel to deliver pouring rain onto Flip. Flip swipes a gag from Mickey Mouse and Pluto’s “The Picnic”, removing a mouse poised atop his radiator cap (in a pose approximating the decorator caps of the Pierce-Arrow auto), and tying the mouse’s tail to the upper frame of the car’s windshield. Letting the mouse fall like the swing of a pendulum, Flip uses the rodent as a living windshield wiper. Arriving at the mansion, Flip opens his car door, releasing a small flood as a full load of trapped water flows from the driver’s cab. He marches toward the house, but swipes another gag from Disney’s “The Haunted House”, as lights from inside the house’s windows and door make the abode appear to have a jack-o-lantern face, attempting to take a bite at Flip with each gust of wind. Flip reverses direction and tries to run, but the wind keeps driving him back toward the house, finally forcing him through the “mouth” of the front dooe. The backlit features of the house’s ‘face” transform expression into an evil satisfied smile. Flip spends the next four minutes in investigation of the scene of the crime. Though the cuckoo is definitely deceased, his legacy lives on, as the clock discovers two hatching eggs left behind inside it, producing a pair of newborn cuckoos to carry on in their parent’s footsteps. As for Flip, he encounters the killer in the basement – the specter of Death himself, who completes his record-keeping in a book, rubber-stamping a picture of the cuckoo with the word “Out”. Death then turns a page of the book, revealing his next intended victim – a picture of Flip! The film abruptly ends, as Flip races down a corridor toward escape out an upper-story window, jumping out into the blackness of night as the camera also engulfs itself in blackness.

Bosko Shipwrecked! (Harman-Ising/Warner, Looney Tunes (Bosko), 9/19/31 – Hugh Harman, dir.) – It’s going to be a bumpy ride for Bosko. We know things look rough right from the start, as the credits are washed off the screen by an ocean wave. A ship in distress is revealed from the dramatic angle of directly ahead of her bow, as she rides the crest of the relentless waves, rising so high as to point her nose skyward, then nearly topple into the lens of the camera. The usual thinder and lightning fill the darkened shy to add further menace. Bosko mans his post at the wheel of the square-masted vessel – or at least tries his best to. A wave splashes across the deck, making him lose his footing, and get flipped by the force of the current on the rudder over the top of the wheel to the other side. Then a lightning bolt nearly strikes him. For good measure, repeat the action from the other side. (While animation of the opening sequence is impressive, budgetary short-cuts lead to the usual pattern of virtually every shot being repeated at least once, either verbatim or in flipped form.) The wheel spins wildly, out of control, tossing Bosko into the ratlines. He runs at double-speed, trying to regain the wheel, but only makes the forward-progress of a snail, due to inability to maintain traction on the slippery deck. An old-salt mariner (the captain?) yells to him indecipherably from the forward deck, but nearly winds up overboard, as the wind catches inside his trousers, billowing them out like a drag-chute, with the sailor barely managing to hang onto a hawser line to keep from being cast adrift. Bosko undergoes another toss by the wheel into the ratlines, this time rebounding off them to the opposite side of the ship, where he grabs an untied rope hanging from the mast (a sure sign in itself of poor seamanship), and swings back to center-deck Tarzan-style. He dangles helplessly over the spinning wheel, taking a painful paddling on his rear end from the handles. Finally, as he regains the deck, waves crash at him from both sides simultaneously, and he is washed directly into the camera lens, and overboard as the scene turns to black.

We rejoin Bosko on the sandy beach of an unknown island. In the fashion of Gulliver, he lies exhausted on the beach. Two small monkeys observe him, ad steal his hat, temporarily squabbling among themselves as to who will retain possession. Their commotion in the tree above topples an egg from a bird’s nest, along with the hat, both of which land on Bosko below. “Where am I?” says the groggy Bosko, wiping the sticky henfruit from his eyes. A parrot nearby cracks himself up by endlessly repeating the old punch-line, “The yolk’s on you”, but loses his footing in his fit of laughter, falling into one end of a curved hollow log, and coming out the other end scalped of his feathers. (He predicts Foghorn Leghorn by picking up his feathers, and zippering them up around him like an old suit.) Bosko doesn’t have time to enjoy a return horse-laugh at the parrot, for along comes a lion. Bosko is pursued in a POV shot from just ahead of him looking back, which appears to copy Bill Nolan’s shot of a lion pursuing Paul Whiteman in “The King of Jazz”, with the paws of the lion so close, they extend beyond Bosko as he runs. The scene adds the further perspective of reversing direction for a POV tail-away shot, then reverses to the original angle again. Bosko reaches a riverbank, about to leap in, when he spies a crocodile waiting with open jaws ahead of him. Instead of jumping forward, Bosko jumps up, onto an overhanging tree branch. The lion can’t stop in time, and winds up in the crocodile’s jaws. Bosko grabs the still-protruding tail of the lion, and ties it to the tree limb, temporarily suspending the croc in the air. The next shot seems out of place, as Bosko discovers a rowboat – not a native canoe, but of conventional design as one would see in modern maritime use. What stranger has been here before him to leave such a craft? Bosko rows across the river, then tosses out an anchor on what he thinks is a rock. No, it’s not a rock, but a hippo. Some days you can’t win for losing. The hippo, with the anchor still stuck in its back, tows Bosko onto land, then disappears along with the rowboat down a hole. (Wouldn’t it be more natural for the hippo to just submerge into the water?) Bosko continues to roll forward, directly into the side of a cooking pot in a cannibal village. He is surrounded by natives, who respond to the tom-tom beat of one of their members upon his own pot-belly. A skeleton rises out of the pot water to shake Bosko’s hand, and tells him, “Come on in. The water’s fine.” (An odd animation error here, as a studio usually known for state-of-the-art synchronization allows the dialogue line to be delivered with a distinct hesitation, as if badly post-synched to a mis-timed shot already photographed). The chief issues gibberish orders to one of his men to bring Bosko to him, adding in English, “And make it snappy.” Looking Bosko over as a tasty morsel, he orders, “Boil him.” Bosko defends himself by pulling out a pistol – but the weapon is only loaded with a harmless cork (a reused gag from “Big Man From the North”). He runs for the beach, where he is again fortunate enough to find what appears to be a rubber raft. He leaps in, but the “raft’ closes on him, it being in reality the open lips of a submerged rhinoceros. The beast swims away, leaving the natives on shore – but Bosko emerges between the armor-plates on the beast’s body, unharmed, then pulls off the rhino’s horn, to jeer the natives he’s left behind with the notes of the future Private Snafu theme, “You’re a horse’s a–”

Wot a Night (Van Buren/RKO, Tom and Jerry, 8/1/31 – John Foster/George Stallings, dir.) – In their debut appearance, Tom and Jerry (the Mutt and Jeff-style human duo) man a lonely taxi stand at a rural train depot on a stormy night, waiting for the time to tick by before the arrival of the evening train. The wind howls, blowing into stretched extensions the depot structure, trees, telephone poles, and the taxi itself. The very boards of the train station flooring are nearly ripped from their nails with every passing gust of wind, and our heroes’ taxi develops a face, and a case of the sniffles. The boys hear a train whistle approaching, and emerge from their cab to peer down the tracks. They are immediately struck by a bolt of lightning, then splashed with a wave of rain that leaves them performing swimming strokes in mud-air to regain the seat of their taxi. A perspective shot shows the train approaching the station, as the locomotive encounters a flash flood, deluging the tracks. With its cars up to their window lines deep in water, the passengers produce a line of oars from the car windows, and row the train into the station. Although many oars were seen, it appears the train carries only two passengers – a spooky duo in tall mortician-style hats, with long black beards that roughly resemble the old box illustrations from Smith Brothers’ Cough Drops. Tom and Jerry anxiously herd these prospective passengers into the taxi, and push on down the road. They soon encounter the same resistance as the train, as the road plunges to a depth that leaves the passenger compartment of their cab largely submerged in flood water. The two mystery men take it in stride, without uttering a word of complaint, as they are briefly visited inside the cab by a passing swimming frog. Tom, however, has the cab equipped for just such emergencies, and a pair of lifeboat davits emerge from the cab’s roof, which lower a pair of lines into the water behind the cab’s rear window, then raise the passengers above the water line aboard a life boat. Still expressionless, the passengers at least muster up something of a courteous “thank you” to their drivers by tipping their hats to them.

The cab pulls up to the gates of a mystery castle. The lifeboat is lowered to the ground and the two passengers wait as the gates open without visible human aid, then walk inside. Tom and Jerry point to their palms, demanding to know where the money is for the fare. They follow just inside the gate, only to have it close upon them, snapping shut a padlock to keep them inside. Above, at the edge of the upper walls surrounding the castle, a large bloated rain cloud appears, looking down with a puffy face at the castle wall, dotted with raised stone blocks like the edges of a rook in a chess set. Developing a pair of cloudy hands, the cloud presses down on several of the stone blocks as if they were keys of a keyboard, producing the sounds of a pipe organ. Pleased at the result, the cloud takes a time out to entertain us with an organ solo, the torrents of the castle towers transforming into organ pipes to accompany the arrangement. A pair of leafless trees join in from the nearby woods, playing holes in their hollow limbs like flutes. Inside the castle, Tom and Jerry find everything “bone dry”, discovering not only a large vampire bat (which Jerry checks out by feeling how sharp claws at the end of its wings really are), but an entire community of living skeletons, similar to Mickey Mouse’s “The Haunted House”. A painter skeleton only has to paint the image of a set of ivory keys on a stone ledge to convert it into a piano. When a piano stool won’t stay put to rise to the level of the skeleton’s rear, he compensates by twirling his own hip bone until it lowers to the level of the seatm then plays a minuet for a room full of skeleton dancers. He changes the mood to Latin, to provide backing for a female skeleton Spanish dancer (a bit of an innovation, as Ub Iwerks had used no female skeletons in “The Skeleton Dance”, and would borrow the idea from Van Buren a year later in his own production, “Spooks”). Then, the musical mood changes again, as Tom and Jerry encounter in the shadows the eyes and lips of a quartet of singing black skeletons, who sing a spiritual about being “Ready When the Great Day Comes”. Finally, Tom and Jerry catch up with the Smith Brothers. Instead of making payment to the boys, the two creepy fellows nod to each other in agreement that a transformation has taken place, and point to the boys to take a look at themselves. Wondering what all the pointing is about, Jerry raises his shirt to look at himself – and discovers his torso has no meat upon it, but has been reduced to skeleton bones by association with the castles’ inhabitants. A raise of Tom’s shirt reveals the same phenomenon. The two race out the now-open gate of the castle into the night, Tom moaning and screaming in fright, but Jerry seeming to have a good time in being a spook, for the iris out.

The Lorelei (Terrytoons/Educational, 11/29/31 – Frank Moser, Paul Terry dir.) – I’m not sure if this one ever made CBS’s telecasts, as I have only known it from uncut theatrical form. It is possible CBS felt it included a little too much imbibing of lager in a Bier Garten, so chose not to show it. Set in a Germanic seaport and vicinity, a young sailor mouse, piloting a small sailing craft with inscription on the bow reading “No Riders”, encounters a Lorelei – what we would call a sea siren, in the form of an attractive female mermouse atop a rock, with a mesmorizing singing voice. She swims out to flirt with the boy, singing her own English lyric to the German folk standard, “Du Du Liegst Mir Am Herzen”: translated as “Come, come, come be my boyfriend.” The boy sticks to his post at the ship’s wheel, extending one arm to smack the flirtatious female over the side. But the girl is not a siren for nothing, and won’t accept a refusal. She returns to her rocky perch, producing a telephone, and phones up a sky wizard, residing in the clouds above. In German, she orders up one storm, to go. The wizard turns on the water works inside one cloud, flits over to another and starts hammering on an anvil atop it to produce thunderbolts, then flies over to a third cloud, atop which is mounted a washing machine wringer. He feeds a line of small clods into the wringing rollers, squeezing out more torrents of rain. The skies are now dark below, and the wind whipping at substantial speed, making the sea choppy. The Lorelei, an old pro at this sort of thing, laughs confidently, and somewhat sadistically, at the boy’s fate. The boy’s ship is tossed from the crest of one white cap to another. The wizard continues to pour it on, engaging in a game of bowling above to produce more thunderclaps, then manning the handle of a pump atop another cloud, to cause water to squirt out showerhead nozzles around the cloud’s sides. A bolt of lightning finally hits the ship, reducing it to one floating mast, atop which clings the sailor, his tail radiating out the distress signal of “S.O.S.” The wizard drives around in a cloud shaped like a car, rain water pouring out of its exhaust pipe. A lighthouse on the rocky coast develops a face and arm, and blows a squawking horn to sound an alarm. Several mice attempt to man a longboat, but the lightning blasts them back into their boathouse, then knocks the boathouse off its foundation. The mice pick up the building from within, and beat it with the structure over the rocky bluffs. The Lorelei takes command of the situation, drawing the sea waves up to her rocky knoll with sheer will power and a few waves of her hands, and the sailor is washed up on the shore with her. The girl transforms herself from a mermouse into full dress and shapely legs, and tells the “big boy” to open his eyes. She suggests a local spot with good beer and dancing, to get better acquainted. From nowhere, she produces a wheeled dachshund with hollowed-out back, who serves as a car, getting them to their destination. From this point on, the tale becomes more routine, with some dancing to German music, a bully in the form of a military officer who tries to cut in on the girl, and the young boy’s valiant victory over the villain. The Lorelei and boy ride away in their dachshund-mobile into the sunset.

Noah’s Outing (Terrytoons/Educational. Farmer Al Falfa, 1/24/32 – Frank Moser/Paul Terry, dir.) – Terry is at it again with the Noah story, though this time without the aid of John Foster – so no skunks. It’s hard to pass full judgment on this film – as we’ve seen so little of it. CBS, in its infinite wisdom, apparently determined at least three of the sequences of this episode to be too much for the kiddies, and engaged in an absolutely aggravating habit which plagued many a release of the black and white Terrytoons to TV. Realizing that what was left to view probably ran under four minutes, CBS “filled” the running time of the excised sequences with obvious repetitions of entire scenes twice in the same reel. It is highly doubtful any child was fooled by the substitutions – you can even see the splice marks in the dupe negative. Thus, modern viewers cannot be sure whether this was just another routine Noah tale, or if the original contained some of Terry’s most creative and daring gags, now lost somewhere in the archive of negatives housed at UCLA.

What we currently have left seems nothing special. An opening shot has a mouse playing a xylophone solo on Noah’s (Farmer Al Falfa’s) bony toes. Perhaps this was meant to lead up to a new variant on the “corns on the toes” gag from “The Big Flood”. Lighting strikes into a cloud above, and it again “rains cats and dogs”. A giraffe provides an interesting exit route for a monkey perched high in a tall palm tree. The giraffe opens his mouth to admit the monk, who travels in a straight line past a row of viewing windows built into the giraffe’s neck and down one of his front legs like an express elevator. An incongruous gag has a mouse riding astride one of Terry’s infamous mechanical horses, when the horse is struck by lightning. The result of the bolt reveals the bony skeleton of a horse within – an anatomically accurate, living horse skeleton! Go figure! Noah packs up his things, then loses them all as his horse-cart takes off without them – another gag from “The Big Flood”. More dinosaurs help with the loading of the ark, as in earlier cartoons. The ship sets sail, with a sail rung up on the giraffe’s neck as a mast, and a tow by a giant fish. A new effect is used for lightning, possibly rigged up in ultra-cheap but photographically-effective fashion, by what appears to be the spotlight of a small flashlight, aimed at a portion of the background, photographed in alternating frames of “on” and “off’ position, then gradually moving the beam in various directions across the screen. The sun breaks through, singing a chorus of “It Ain’t Gonna Rain No Mo’”, which is joined in by Al and the animals, in a copycat of Van Buren’s “Noah Knew His Ark”, as the shup rests atop Mount Ararat. But the film closes with a surprise ending, as the weather prediction is considerably premature. A bolt of lightning shatters the ark, hanging up Noah by his pants on the bolt’s jagged form, leaving him stranded and struggling, as the clouds pour down another dose of cats and dogs upon him, for the iris out.

More unsettled forecasts from the almanac year 1932, plus a brief detour into 1934, next time.


  • I love these early ’30s cartoons!

    The legend of the Lorelei is associated with, not the sea, but the River Rhein. The song heard at the beginning of the cartoon, a setting of a famous poem by Heinrich Heine, mentions the Rhein specifically. The Lorelei itself is a steep rock in an area of treacherous currents, where sailors could easily come to grief if they weren’t careful. So the Biergarten where the mice go on their date wouldn’t have been in a seaport, but in some river town in the vicinity such as St. Goar, Bacharach, or the delightfully named Assmannshausen.

    There is a Lorelei fountain in the Bronx, built in the late 1800s as a memorial to Heine. It wound up in New York after several German city councils promised to pay for it and then changed their minds. It’s quite possible that a Terrytoons cartoonist from nearby New Rochelle might have noticed the fountain along the Grand Concourse and thought the Lorelei might make a good subject for a cartoon.

  • NOAH’S OUTING might be a direct retelling of the story unlike the previous Fables, but I really like the orchestra in it– a lot, and the gags, timing, and execution do nicely to accompany it. Shame that for the next season onwards, the orchestra gets very flat, and full of wahs; that was around the time that Terry moved from Bronx to Harlem and stopped their partnership with Audio-Cinema, and Educational sent them critical quality complaints that wrecked them hard! If NOAH’S OUTING is at least good, ROMANCE is so mediocre that you would watch a Krazy Kat.

    The situation doesn’t get better until later in the year, and such a pitfall wouldn’t happen again until 1935. Having a full Terry collection won’t come in a long time, but I’d like to see at least a sample of the full history of the studio’s early years.

  • “In the Shade of the Old Apple Tree” (Fleischer/Paramount, Screen Songs, 18/1/30 — Dave Fleischer, dir.) ends with a sudden downpour. A bolt of lightning strikes the old apple tree, blasting away its leaves to reveal two lovers nestled in its branches and smooching passionately.

  • I am a big fan of 1930s cartoons, or cartoons in general in the early days sound. I especially like the way storm sequences were filmed, and these are some of the best.

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