August 23, 2018 posted by Steve Stanchfield

Van Beuren Studios “Panicky Pup” (1933)

It’s a simple one today; in the last few weeks of having time off from the College, I’m scrambling to get as many projects touched as possible…

In Thunderbean news: It’s a busy ‘virtual’ shop, with films being worked on with six freelancers right now, and a few people here working on packing orders and helping me with various tasks. Things have never been busier in terms of all aspects; I’m trying the idea of getting additional space in the coming weeks again. When I started the DVD sets up again I never imagined the company to have as many things going on at once. The material on the Flips and Rainbow Parades this week continue to amaze me; I may give a sneak preview of some of this stuff next week, or wait a little! Since I can’t resist, here’s a little piece of really cool title music from The Village Smitty (1931). The music edit is somewhat abrupt, but this is how it appears on the original master positive material. I put this up from my friend David Gerstein, so forgive the ‘for Dave’ on the listing!

Cool things keep coming in, and growing pains continue, but the marks on the wall of growth are gratifying. A hard drive crashed earlier today that seems survivable in terms of potential loss, but it’s affecting the Grotesqueries and Noveltoons projects at the moment. I’m hoping it’s recoverable.

Getting the new sets and the finished pre-orders out the door is a continuous task here right now. Thanks to all who have helped support all this stuff.

I hadn’t had a chance to sit down and just watch some cartoons until recently, so I took a little time to watch a few of my favorites, and thought I’d put this one up for today — Panicky Pup (Van Beuren, 1933).

In this little short, a farmyard watchdog removes his constraint, and watches a love-struck cat blow up his inflatable girlfriend to have a dance partner. The mean spirited dog yells at the cat for having too much fun, popping his newly found love accidentally with a stick. Seeing an opportunity, the dog barks at the cat while it sits on the edge of a well, causing it to fall in. He can now mark on his list another dead kitty. A group of animals consisting of a rabbit, pig and duck point the finger of guilt at the dog, in song.

From this moment to almost the end of the film, the dog is racked by guilt, either being haunted by ghosts or hallucinating (or both?). He ends up back by the well, saving the kitty by pulling up the bucket. The ungratful kitty then spits water at the dog, ending both of their movie careers.

I feel like this cartoon is easy to define as “Budget Fleischer”, and there are elements that are very similar to Fleischer shorts like Swing You Sinners – clearly present here. The saucy soundtrack tries hard to be part Cab Calloway and part “Kicking the Gong Around” (from the Big Broadcast of 1932).

Nick Pozega posted a little piece from another Van Beuren short, Fly Frolic (1932) that also uses this song.

I always thought this cartoon was particularly fun in story, even though it’s somewhat meandering in the first half of the film. It’s an enjoyable little romp, and unpretentious and unapologetic in its execution. The Harry Bailey and John Foster shorts in particular all sort of feel like this short; Unlike the ambitious (for Van Beuren) Mannie Davis Cubby Bear shorts, there doesn’t seem to be a concern to raise the bar in any way here; I almost wonder if this and a few other shorts were made earlier and just not released for a while. That isn’t to say it isn’t enjoyable, but it looks much less polished than many of the shorts surrounding it. Still, it accomplishes its goal just fine: enjoyable animation for a 1933 audience.

This version of the film is from the Thunderbean DVD Uncensored Animation from the Van Beuren Studio It has a not-so-convincing faked title card we did back when that set was put together. The print is courtesy of Mark Kausler, who always has prints of films I wish I had— and has made so many of them available for us to enjoy.

Have a good week everyone!



  • This was pretty cool although it’s not as good (or surreal) as Swing You Sinners. Although giving this animation gem credit it’s hard to top a masterpiece. Thanks for sharing this Steve!

    I wonder what the result would’ve been if Disney would’ve tried making this kind of cartoon?

    Oh one last thing Swing You Sinners and other surreal 30s ‘toons would be pretty cool in VR. I’ve tried VR but don’t have a headset but there has to be a way to watch Youtube videos in VR, right? I’d love to try that with these kinds of cartoons.

    • This cartoon should definitely make the playlist for spooky cartoons to enjoy around Halloween!

      Regarding the VR question – you can get an affordable headset where you insert your smartphone inside a front panel to enjoy a VR experience. I believe all videos watched through the YouTube app can be enjoyed this way, but only content created with a 360 degree camera (or at least 180 degrees) will be immersive. Watching this cartoon would merely simulate looking at a large television.

    • Thanks for the info. Probably someone will eventually make an app or whatever that’ll convert regular videos into VR cameras and thus allowing these wonderful cartoons to be experienced in VR. It’s only a matter of time, really, and I’m excited.

  • Steve,

    Save up some money and buy an LTO-6 tape drive and backup weekly. Store a copy offsite. You’re one electrical surge away from losing all your work.

  • I enjoyed Panicky Pup, especially the ghost characters drawn without outlines. It might have been a bit better if the cat had chased the dog at the end, & if some of the beginning was cut out; you don’t get to the story’s complication till halfway through.

  • I just wanted to pop in and say how much I’m enjoying the Betty Boop & Popeye set. I absolutely hate the Famous Popeyes of the mid-1950s but that Rio cartoon on here, which is ’44 I believe, is simply gorgeous. Not up to prime Fleischer, of course, but a disc of cartoons from this era would be definitely appreciated by me.

    I just finished the Willie Whopper set and I thought the cartoons were not good but the prints and transfers were outstanding. (And since I’m also making my way through the Kino Tijuana Toads set, ANY other cartoons would look like li’l seven minute masterpieces compared to THOSE things.)

    I’m also savoring the Fleischer rarities set and have just started the enjoyable Cubby Bear set.

    Keep ’em comin’.

    • Willie Whopper cartoons not good? Aw gee, I quite like them! So glad that Steve put out such a nice set of them!

  • Seems like almost direct plagiarism of “Swing You Sinners”, most noticeably the shot of the endless procession of ghosts chasing the dog just as they do Bimbo in the earlier short. The ghost cat and kittens also look strikingly similar to those in 1932’s “Minnie the Moocher”. You’d think Van Beuren would be more careful about this sort of thing considering they got slapped with a cease and desist from Walt Disney just a few years before this.

    • So people were inspired by Swing You Sinners (and other super surreal cartoons) BEFORE Cuphead, huh? I do know that Porky In Wackyland was inspired by Piccassio paintings but I’ve seen allegations online that Bob Clampett took inspiration from Fleischer cartoons. I’ve never read him saying so but although he’s mostly known for really wacky, cartoony stuff he could actually get pretty surreal as well.

    • Wackyland takes its inspiration from Salvador Dali rather than Picasso. But the latter could have been a hoot, too!

    • As Clampett told it on-record in 1969…

      “That same year I made Porky in Wackyland, which the critic on the LA. Herald called “a masterpiece of preposterous fantasy.” I designed the backgrounds in the manner of surrealistic, Picasso-like modern art, and it got all sorts of critical attention. This was the first of its kind.”

  • Wow. That thing (‘Panicky Pup’) is nuts. What were they on when they made these?

    • Usually probably just the mindset of “let’s draw a bunch of wacky stuff.” This was before you had more defined animation “rules” and character animation (Yes I know early Mickey Mouse kind of was and Popeye came in 1934.) In such a situation just drawing wacky imagery was good enough for a cartoon. While some folks like Ub Iwerks, Ted Esbaugh and Bob Clampett seemed to use surreal or nonsensical imagery and plots intentionally (and of course in modern times with Cuphead and rubberhose animation) a lot of these cartoons seemed to be on accident. In some ways you can say some of these early animators made works that would become as distinctive and praised as 40s and 50s Looney Tunes and anime unconsciously and accidentally.

      Also wondering if someone is “on drugs” because they make a surreal work is insulting to genuine creativity that requires no mind alteration or toxic substances. And if you do want cartoons actually “on drugs” maybe you should check out Ellis Holly Chambers comics.

      I hope I cleared some things up!

  • “Also, wondering if someone is “on drugs” because they make a surreal work is insulting to genuine creativity that requires no mind alteration or toxic substances”

    Just an interwebs comment, man.

    • I apologize. Such a comment wasn’t directed towards you but more so was just a clarification as I suspect some people really have thought these cartoons to be under the influence of drugs, which creativity certainly doesn’t require. Again I apologize if I came off as being angry at you. It’s just some people seem to really be serious when they ask the question “what were they on” when it comes to these wacky 30s cartoons.

      As an apology, here’s a comic by the Ellis Holly Chambers I mentioned: (Needle Noggin, hmmmm)

  • Thanks for your response.
    I should’ve rephrased my comment.

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