Friday, 31 August 2012

Baby Boogie

Faux children’s drawings. A story that doesn’t quite make sense. Visual effects for the sake of visual effects. For me, that pretty well sums up “Baby Boogie,” a 1955 effort by UPA.

It’s too bad. I like Jack Easton’s score. And I get what designer Paul Julian was trying to do. “I’m drawing a picture and this is me,” says a little girl as a drawing appears on the screen. The problem is the drawings don’t look like kids’ drawings. They look like an adult trying to mimic how kids draw, which undercuts the whole purpose. How many kids do you know draw like this?

There are bits of humour in the cartoon, but it’s a little hard to get emotionally involved with ugly-scrawls-as-humans. And the basic purpose of this cartoon doesn’t appear to be making the audience laugh or chuckle, it’s to show the world how creative the artists can be with design and colour (Julian was in charge of both).

Little Susan goes out to play with her friends but she gets in a depressive funk. How can you tell? It’s indicated by a line that suddenly swirls around her. It’s representational! It’s creative artistry!

The story is this—Susie keeps wailing to her parents that she wants to know where babies come from. Her dad finally tells her “Babies come from the hospital.” So as she jumps up and down the background changes behind her to a “Hospitl” and she steals a child. Why is she a common thief? “I just got a baby brother at the hospital, like daddy said.” Writers Abe Liss and veteran Leo Salkin have messed up the continuity. There was no mention of a brother. And her father never suggested she become a kidnapper; would any normal child’s mind think that way?

As Susie runs down the stairs from the paediatric ward, the steps form in front of her. Why? It’s creative!

After Susie jumps into a transparent cab, the taxi suddenly develops a yellow body. Why? Because it’s creative!

And when the cars chasing the cab turn on their headlights, all the colours in the drawing change. This isn’t like “Gerald McBoing Boing” where colour augments the mood of a scene. All the change does here is draw attention to itself. It’s more interesting than entertaining.

The ironic ending is fine. Susie gets a brother. “He asks the silliest questions,” she says. He wants to know where babies come from. Though Julian has decided a format change is in order. The two aren’t drawings now. They’re now two still photos with captions.

Fred Grable gets the sold animation credit. Ann Whitfield, the voice of one of Phil Harris and Alice Faye’s daughters on radio, plays the girl. The dad and Faye-soundalike mom aren’t credited but the father sounds familiar from radio.


  1. Yowp,I had the same reaction to "Porky's Preview" and Popeye's "Cartoons Ain't Human"-the drawings/animation still possess too high a degree of slickness and professionalism to support the concept that these cartoons were produced by rank amateuers.Even though I believe the animators spoil their own joke, I still think they're enjoyable cartoons.

  2. I don't mind the 40s 'child-like' efforts, because (and despite listing Porky's age as 7 1/2 in the titles), we're never pushed to believe this is a child's work, just that of a really, really bad artist.

    Once you stick a child's voice in as a narrator of the bad drawings, you really have to walk a fine line between trying to show child-like humor and being overly cloying. I think Howard Post and Jack Mendelsohn handled it best with their "Story of George Washington" -- their follow up and Culhane's two attempts at the same type of cartoon 18 months later at Paramount to me suffer from the forced narrative problem, as did McKimson's "Bartholomew Versus the Wheel". Kids have child-like thoughts that can be incredibly focused at one moment, and in a totally different place a moment later. Do a whole cartoon as if some hyper-organized toddler's explaining it, and it's bound to come across as cloying.

  3. "Porky's Preview" works for me because it's a gag cartoon and the drawings are mere drawings. In this cartoon, there are no real gags. It's all about the art.
    "Bartholomew" is hit-and-miss. Dunn's story is part of the problem and I'm afraid every time Blanc barks, I hear Dino and it's too distracting. I like the scraggly cat design, though.