Archive | July, 2008

"Swing Out, Now": My Take On L'IL OL' BOSKO AND THE PIRATES (1937)

28 Jul

Review-synopsis by Rachel Newstead

L'il Ol' Bosko and the Pirates

L’il Ol’Bosko and the Pirates

Release Date: May 1, 1937

Director: Hugh Harman

In short: Little Bosko’s imagination runs wild, conjuring up a boatload of musical pirate frogs who show him–and us–just what “wild” means…

There is, I admit, an undeniable advantage to watching cartoons in the internet age.

When I was a child, TV programmers ruled. Cartoons came on when the programmers wanted, however often they wanted–and could be yanked off the air just as arbitrarily, for weeks or even months. Or for that matter, forever.

On the one hand, it made cartoon-watching an event, something to be eagerly anticipated. And yet…

I never knew when a favorite cartoon would reappear. Were I to miss it, I’d have to wait until it came up again in the rotation, however long that may be. Consequently, it could take years of repeat viewing to catch all the subtleties, the inside jokes, the individual “fingerprints” of each animator’s style.

Now, armed with DVDs, YouTube and the ability to instantly view nearly anything I desire, as many times as I desire, that same process can take days or even hours.

“L’il Ol’ Bosko and the Pirates” was not one of those cartoons I was fortunate enough to see in my childhood–it and cartoons like it had pretty much faded from TV by the time my interest in animation reached full flower–but the rule still applies.

I first had the privilege of viewing a copy some two years ago. Then, as too often happens, I misplaced it, and much of its wonderful detail faded from my mind.

When finally able to see it again–and again and again–about a week ago, what I found was a revelation.

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How’s that again, Sally?

20 Jul
maybe this time I'll get the lyrics right

Swing it again, Sally: maybe this time I'll get the lyrics right

by Rachel Newstead

I’ve often joked that Kevin and I make the perfect team, as I hear about as well as he sees; he’ll pick up subtleties in the sound track of a cartoon that I might have misheard (or missed entirely) while I provide the visual information he can’t. There are, however, some instances in which Kevin can’t save me. I give you Exhibit A below…

Since establishing the new blog, Kevin and I haven’t quite made a clean break from the old, which remains intact. Perhaps it’s just as well, since it looks as if we received a comment on the Sally Swing review I posted in May. A fellow who calls himself “ramapith” left the following comment on the old blog recently:

Hey, guys!

After seeing Sally Swing’s modern-day reappearance on Stephen DeStefano’s blog, I did some looking for more on her and bumped into this page.
What a great review (and Sally is a great character, too… pity no more shorts with her ended up being made).

Don’t wanna mosey around with Mozart,
He wrote a symphony; so what?
Don’t want to beat it out with Beethoven;
I want my music and my biscuits hot…

So we’re no longer rhyming “hot” with itself, and the lyrics more accurately show Sally’s tastes.

Well, that’s what comes of rushing to put content up, I suppose. This was a cartoon with which Kevin was unfamiliar–I hadn’t even heard of it until a day or two before posting the review–so he didn’t have the luxury of teasing out those dodgy areas on the somewhat muddy sound track. Thus, I was flying blind–or deaf, as it were.

Perhaps the most mortifying thing for me is in thinking that a musician the caliber of Sammy Timberg would have done something so amateurish as rhyme “hot” with itself. Of course he wouldn’t.

I’d like to thank “ramapith” for commenting, and I encourage any other loyal readers to do the same. My ears will thank you.

Orphan Toon Musings–“Follow The Ball”: Max Fleischer’s Forgotten Sound Cartoons

19 Jul

review by Rachel Newstead

For the animated cartoon, sound arrived not with a bang, or a whimper, but a bark.

The scene: a movie palace of decades ago. The lights go down. On a grainy black-and-white screen, the audience sees a black cartoon dog in an iris shot a la the MGM lion. Several barks issue forth from the screen.

from "My Old Kentucky Home"

The bark that changed the history of animation: from "My Old Kentucky Home"

A series of mildly amusing gags follow: the dog enters his home, where he removes his coat and hat. Cartoon magic transforms a statue in the corner into a water pump, while the dog’s hat becomes a washbasin. His coat, which he has thrown over a chair, does double duty as a towel, then a tablecloth as he prepares to eat his meal. While sharpening his dentures, the dog pauses to replace a loosened tooth, knocking it back in place with a mallet to the tune of “The Anvil Chorus.”

Disdaining the meat he’s selected for his evening meal for the juicy bone inside, our canine friend doesn’t consume it, but pulls and stretches it like putty, until the soup bone resembles a trombone. (OK, you try coming up with a better pun in the wee hours of the morning.) He plays a few notes of a familiar tune–“My Old Kentucky Home”. Turning to the audience, with a voice not quite in synch with the mouth movements, he says, “Follow the ball, and join in, everybody!”

That audience didn’t know it then, but they’d just witnessed cinema history. The cartoon they saw–with sight and sound gags so typical of the “wide-eyed ’30s”–premiered not in the thirties, but 1926.

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