Monday, 30 July 2012

Oompahs Backgrounds

Let’s see...

Outcast child?
Accepted by the adult world at the end?
Stylised designs?

Must be a Bobe Cannon UPA cartoon.

Yes, but in this case, it’s not “Gerald McBoing Boing.” It’s “The Oompahs” (1952), another effort from Cannon and designer and storyman Thornton Hee.

The story is really a warmed-over version of the basic plot of “The Jazz Singer”—child wants to play jazz, traditional father says “no” but capitulates in the end. At least Marvin Miller, as the dad, doesn’t shout “I haff no zonn!” in this.

The idea of humans transposed as musical instruments is clever but, let’s face it, how much sympathy can you have for a trumpet? Even if he does wear a beanie with a propeller (which should make this “A Bob Clampett Cartoo-oooon!”).

There are some other imaginative concepts, too. The doctor (didn’t “Gerald McBoing Boing” feature one of those, too?) uses a metronome as a thermometer. And the wallpaper in six-year-old Orville Oompah’s room is sheet music.

The art also emphasises the plot. The cartoon’s second shot is a background drawing of the Oompah house. The home is Victorian, and stands next to a modern glass-windowed house topped with TV antennas. The contrast already tells the audience Mr. Oompah is living in the past.

Jules Engel may be making his own subtle statement about the old-fashionedness of the Oompas by his use of colour. The interiors have painted walls and furniture, which makes their antiqueness stand out. Unlike “McBoing Boing,” the home doesn’t have blocks or swaths of colour to represent things. It’s as if Engel is saying the home is outdated by using the old “cartoon realism” idea of colouring everything within the lines.

Ray Sherman is responsible for the score, which switches from a ponderous solo tuba for the dad to a swinging Dixieland combo for Orville and his buddies. I don’t know who the musicians are, but they’re damned fine, especially whoever’s on trumpet.


  1. Michael Sporn noted last week that Cannon also was riffing a bit off Avery's "I Love To Signa" with this one, which he definitely worked on an Hee may have worked on at Schlesingers in 1936. This one's interesting for its design aspects, but as far as repeat viewing enjoyment, Bobe probably should have thought about having someone gong a bass drum and drop it through a trap door at some point in the cartoon.

  2. And this is also reminiscent to me of Disney's "Music Land" though that lacked the "Jazz Singer" part, but still had the differences in music preferences between parent and son music instrument, and between the two music worlds.Steve C.

  3. 10/29/12 Wrote:
    Craig McCracken must have been paying attention to the furniture backgrounds when he saw this cartoon as a child. They look almost exactly like the furniture in the backgrounds of "Foster's Home For Imaginary Friends" episodes. Mr. Cannon was modern, even for the early-50's in style & design.