Nothing says animated fun like a good old beheading. And that’s what we get in the very first Cubby Bear cartoon, “Opening Night” (1932).
The cartoon involves an opera on stage at the Roxy Theatre in New York. There’s a huge sword-fight scene at one point. Like in a number of New York cartoons of the era (mainly at Terrytoons), there’s a large crowd shot in cycle animation.
The hero cat is engaged in sword-play with a devil cat (second from top). He’s shocked when his head his sliced off and the head flies, shouting, past the camera.
What makes the beheading even more touching is a quiet version of “Silent Night” is heard over the opening credits and then the iris opens to reveal Santa and his reindeer in the sky.
Cubby’s involvement in his debut cartoon is conducting the animal orchestra in the pit at the Roxy. Devon Baxter points out good portions of the cartoon are lifted from the 1931 Fable Melody Mad, including the sequence above.
One of the problems with the Van Beuren cartoons is they weren’t packed with gags like a Fleischer cartoon, which had stronger gags to begin with. But Cubby’s best cartoons aren’t all that bad and they have some surprising bits in them. Like a head being cut off.