This new set of posts is a bit of an experiment. It contains a wealth of intriguing information, but not as much to make it into a regular series.
A few years ago, I acquired a dissertation written by music historian/instructor Daniel Goldmark, which evolved into his book Tunes for ‘Toons: Music and the Hollywood Cartoon. Besides Daniel’s astute observations on the importance of classical music and popular songs in animated short cartoons, the document itself contains ASCAP cue sheets from almost every animated theatrical short from Warner Bros. The only exceptions not included in his research are six titles that featured stock music from John Seely’s Capitol Hi-Q library–which resulted from a musicians’ strike in 1958–and side projects such as the Private Snafu and Seaman Hook shorts for the war effort.
Many animation buffs are aware of Warner Bros.’ elimination of the main titles from several of their cartoons from 1935 to 1948 under the “Blue Ribbon” banner. This practice excised the credited artists in the films, though that information can be found through easily available copyright entries. Warners also spliced the “Blue Ribbon” titles onto the original negatives when they junked the original main credit sequences. As another casualty, Carl Stalling’s music underneath the main titles was deleted.In the past decade, a good number of Warner Bros. cartoons previously given the “Blue Ribbon” have had their original main titles re-instated on home video, and others have surfaced from various film collections. As for original titles that have not yet surfaced picture or music element, the ASCAP cue sheets in Daniel Goldmark’s dissertation list each song used in each Warners cartoon, which leads to a big question that can now be answered: just what music did Carl Stalling originally use for these main title sequences?
First, I would like to share three examples of music cues that can be heard today, but no picture element has been available to the public as of this writing.
In the early 1990s, Greg Ford and Hal Willner produced two CD volumes of The Carl Stalling Project, which featured musical excerpts from Stalling’s career at Warners. One of the prominent tracks on the first volume was the score for Chuck Jones’ The Good Egg (1939), which included the original main title cue, “(Ho-dle-ay) Start the Day Right” (Charles Tobias/Al Lewis/Maurice Spitalny), which starts abruptly after the re-issue titles.
Here is a comparison from the Blue Ribbon titles to the original version for you to listen:
Around the same time The Good Egg was released, the studio produced its second gag reel featuring various staffers, intended to be shown at their annual Christmas party. The first gag reel, from 1938, featured a musical underscore from Bob Clampett’s then-upcoming Porky’s Tire Trouble, released in early 1939. The music in the second gag reel was sourced from the orchestration for Tex Avery’s The Early Worm Gets the Bird, released in early 1940. In the opening inter-title of the gag reel, Carl Stalling’s original main title cue for Avery’s film is played in the background. Here is another comparison between the two soundtracks:
The first volume of The Carl Stalling Project contained a medley of soundtracks from the war period (1942-46). One of these included the original main title cue for Bob McKimson’s The Mouse-Merized Cat (1946), a sequel to Frank Tashlin’s Tale of Two Mice, released a year earlier. Several years ago, the main title card for the film–sourced from a 16mm B&W dupe on eBay—was revealed, but the original film elements in color have not. Here is Stalling’s main title cue for the cartoon—a jazzy, dynamic rendition of “Three Blind Mice”.
For next week’s post, I’ll unearth a few music cues from other Warner Bros. cartoons under the “Blue Ribbon” banner, including songs that Carl Stalling used only once during the main credit sequences.
(Thanks to Daniel Goldmark, Andrew Gilmore and Yowp for their help.)