Cubby Bear isn’t screamingly funny but he’s a pleasant enough cartoon character and doesn’t deserve obscurity.
Cubby was the product of New York’s B animation studio, Van Beuren. The Fleischer cartoons made in the early ‘30s were funny with bizarre little bits tossed in to briefly interrupt the main plot. The Van Beuren cartoons were just odd at times. But the best of them are fun and, occasionally, imaginative.
In “Croon Crazy” (1933), Van Beuren gives us their version of the celebrity-caricatures-and-a-radio-show cartoon. It’s actually better than the Tom Palmer debacle “I’ve Got to Sing a Torch Song” made for Warners the same year. For a while, Cubby impersonates famous personalities of the day.
Paul Whiteman (billed as “Sol Reitman”). Cubby’s wearing a Whiteman mask.
Kate Smith (billed as “Kitty Schmidt”). The Code enforcement of 1934 took care of future breast jokes. Cubby’s singing “The Moon Went Over the Mountain,” Smith’s radio theme.
Al Jolson. That microphone seems to move around a bit.
Cubby does his hand-on-hip Mae West routine. There’s a cut to people listening to the radio before they jump into it in a sexual frenzy. Two of them look suspiciously related to Van Beuren’s Tom and Jerry. Tom is showing Jerry what he thinks are Mae’s assets. Whoever Van Beuren hired to sing for Mae is good; actually, the ersatz Columbo and Crosby are good, too.
The cartoon then does a little jaunt around the world for a series of really lukewarm animal gags and pretty good drawings of some pretty girls. Oh, and the usual appearance in these kinds of cartoons by Mahatma Ghandi. You’ll notice the drawing’s at a bit of an angle. Steve Muffatti, who directed this, got the idea of spinning the drawings as a way to make a transition into the next scene. And animator Eddie Donnelly has Arctic girls morph into South Seas girls (at least he gets the animation credit). Both Muffati and Donnelly were long-timers on the New York animation scene.
Cubby had a short life span. He appeared on screens in 1933 and left in 1934, perhaps due to the arrival of Burt Gillett at the studio (Muffatti’s name disappears at the same time). Gillett wanted to make faux Disney cartoons. He brought Tom Palmer along. Poor Cubby never would have had a chance.