Van Beuren cartoons in the early ‘30s, at least the best ones, featured creepy creatures coming at the camera, skeletons, things coming to life, jumpy scores by Gene Rodemich and bizarre plot twists that sometimes don’t make a lot of sense. Fleischer did the same kind of thing with more finesse, but some of the Van Beurens can be fun.
‘Wot a Night!’ is the first cartoon featuring Tom and Jerry (not the MGM cat and mouse that stole their names) and it has an imaginative opening. The pair are taxi drivers waiting at rail station during the middle of a huge storm.
Forked lightning appears in the sky. The directors (John Foster and George Stallings) could have just left it at that, but they went for an effect that’s really effective. It appears they had the cameraman open the aperture wider and wider for a few frames to let more light in, thereby giving the effect of a flash of lightning.
I don’t know if other studios tried this before 1931. Perhaps they did, but it’s a pretty cool effect.