Early 1930s cartoons are all singing and dancing, with things coming to life and gags in between. Cartoons made on the West Coast were like that, and cartoons made on the East Coast were like that, but you’d never really mistake one for the other.
A case in point is the Tom and Jerry musical “The Tuba Tooter” (1932). You can’t mistake the New York look in this, the kind popularised by the Fleischers. But the Van Beuren shorts weren’t drawn as well or nearly as imaginative as what Max and Dave were doing. In this cartoon, the best little gag is a throwaway; Schultz’s dachshund is in a dog carrier that’s so teeny, the dog’s long front and back stick out either end.
There’s all-black cat with a Felix-like round head and pointed ears, with mice with semi-circular ears near the top of the head. At Fleischer’s, the ears sometimes had little points on them.
I love the all-head parrot. I’m not sure if those are wieners in a tray beneath him, but they come to life. There’s wide-open mouth singing. They loved showing mouth movements in the early ‘30s, especially at Van Beuren.
Tall buildings? You won’t find those all that often in the West Coast cartoons. Women in New York City all seemed to go to Olive Oyl’s seamstress.
The best-looking drawings are the twin dancers. Apparently women in Van Beuren cartoons didn’t have combs. The scrawny, Helen Kane-sounding dancing maid in “Piano Tooners” later in the same year has hair all over the place.
Ah, the pie-eyes that scream early ‘30s. Why is a pig living in an apartment building with children? Who knows? It’s a Van Beuren cartoon! The boy in the centre looks like a rejected drawing of Scrappy at Columbia (drawn by three ex-New York animators).
Hey, a march of characters at an angle, just like in a TerryToon! Tom and Jerry don’t look much like they did earlier in the cartoon. This is just plain ugly drawing. There sure was a quantum leap in quality by the time the studio was making the Rainbow Parades a few years later.
There actually is a thread of a story in this cartoon. Much like Warner Bros. cartoons were based around songs owned by Warners Bros., this song is based around the 1927 tune “Schultz is Back Again” written by Ed Nelson, Saul Bernie and Harry Pease. Van Beuren would have had to fork out money for the rights to use it. Schultz arrives back in New York on a boat. His oompah band greets him. They play. Everyone and everything sings and dances to their music. Apparently, they’re too raucous as the police raid an office building where they hide. Up top. There’s an impossible size-expansion gag.
Schultz’s band is non-violently arrested and placed on a paddywagon that’s actually a flat bed truck. Do they run away? Of course not. They keep playing. The bell of the tuba grows. Look! Tom and Jerry are inside it, singing. How can they fit? Don’t ask. It’s a Van Beuren cartoon.
John Foster and George Stallings get the credits, along with musical director Gene Rodemich. The singers are a mystery, at least to me.
This isn’t the best Tom and Jerry cartoon, or even the most fun, but there’s enough happening to please their fans.