These have continued to be busy weeks! The new Blu-ray as well as a new DVD title will both be back in the coming weeks from mastering, finally. New projects have sprouted up, with several of them giving the possible opportunity
to do some animation of old characters. As I thought about it, if I had the chance to bring one of these characters back from the cartoon purgatory, I have a much greater desire to animate one of the lesser known characters rather
than a more popular one, with a few exceptions.
So, that said, here are favorite lesser-known characters, in no particular order, and a cartoon to boot for each. For those that are died-in-the wool among you, this is old hat, but for those who haven’t seen as many of the older films, here are some characters that have never been on a tee shirt most likely. Maybe there should be.
Pooch the Pup!
I think poor Pooch is the least remembered of any of Lantz characters, not even memorable enough to ever even put on one of those Lantz publicity stills where he’s surrounded by other characters you’ve mostly never heard of. Pooch really doesn’t deserve such a bad rap- most of them are pretty great little cartoons. This one is my favorite: The Lumber Champ. It’s a more surreal cartoon than the classic Axe Me Another with Popeye. I find Lantz cartoons to be particually sadistic to their characters. This one has trees being shot, and even a character being painfully ripped in half, all in the name of humor. (thanks to Milton Knight for posting)
Toby the Pup!
Maybe Pooch was really trying to buy some of the fans Toby lost when he decided to take a permanent retirement after his first year and a half of stardom. I always wondered what happened to Toby. At least director Dick Heumer when on to make the Scappy cartoons at the same studio. The Toby cartoons seem to be well-received at the time-it’s a bit of a mystery why they stopped the contract, though there are theories…
Halloween is a really fun one, though this copy isn’t quite as fun as it should be. Maybe someday, someone will have enough love for the Tobys that they track them all down and put them out on a DVD. Who knows, crazier things have happened – someone put out all the Cubby Bear cartoons! Funny enough, whoever put this up stuck that drawing from the title card we did in 1988 on this… if I had known someone would do that we would have done a better job!
Kiko the Kangaroo!
I always get the feeling that studios in the 30s would muddle their way through lists of animals to try and do something different. Kiko the Kangaroo doesn’t seem to have ever taken much of a foothold in the public sphere, though there was at least this nifty doll made (at right). Wish there was a Scrappy or Cubby Bear.
Kiko’s first cartoon has him saving Farmer Al Falfa from going to the poky for keeping a “Kangaroo”. The character is mildly entertaining, as are many of the cartoons.
I get the feeling that the studio didn’t want to over manage expectations in the character’s theme song, even as they’re telling you how likable and fun he is. The song talks about all the things he can do, but never mentions what they are.
By the time you get through the first cartoon, you know he’s good at making Farmer Al Falfa mad and beating up policmen, but that’s about it. No wonder they say kids merely ‘like’ him rather than ‘love’ him…. at least with Casper, they TELL you what he does (“he always says ‘hello’…”).
Waffles and Don!
Still the best names for any cartoon characters. The Van Beuren studio seemed bound and determined to not have us remember who they are- they’re not even named in their own cartoons! Here is my favorite of the handful of Aesop’s Fables that feature them: Gypped in Egypt. By the way, there are Waffles and Don dolls…
ANY cartoon that starts out with ‘I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles’ in the title music has me already hooked. I think some of the Fleischer inkers must’ve moved across the street to VB- some of the scenes are as beautifully inked as the Fleischer films, others not. When Cubby dresses up to rescue Honey (sorry to spoil that) I feel like he needs to tell us he’s Cubby, not so honey knows, but because the designs are so simple that it would be easy for the audience to not know!
Bubble and Squeak!
The short-lived British cartoon series ‘Bubble and Squeak’ features odd stories about a man and his taxi! They are honestly some of the strangest of any cartoon ever made. They’re directed by former Lantz/ Fleischer animator George Moreno.
Here’s a neat newsreel clip showing the making of a Bubble and Squeak. Only four were made.