Saturday, 8 June 2013

Cartoons of 1931, Part Two

Colour cartoons? 3-D cartoons? In 1931? Well, they were on the drawing board in the second half of the year, but animation studios came out with more of the same old stuff—lots of music, animals frolicking, stars being heroic in the scintillating climax.

Let’s continue our series of cartoon reviews and news from the pages of The Film Daily, a New York-based trade magazine. There isn’t much when it comes to news; Leon Schlesinger got ink mainly because he announced a series of live-action one-reelers (in “multicolor” called “Odds and Ends” and an expansion of his movie trailer business (neither of which is included in the news items below). Sadly, there’s no mention of Ted Eshbaugh and his West Coast studio.

Perhaps the most interesting thing revealed in the publication’s pagers is the difference in attitudes between the Walt Disney and Van Beuren studios. Disney looked ahead, speculating about colour cartoons. The studio was a year away from “Flowers and Trees,” the first commercially-released film in three-strip Technicolor. But the people at Van Beuren, all of whom had been around while in the silent film era, wrote it off as impractical. Disney is still around today. Van Beuren died in 1936 when RKO decided it would rather release cartoons—by Walt Disney.

One review that’s puzzling is for something called “Betty Boop and Bimbo.” I have no idea which cartoon it may have been. Note that “Boop-Oop-a-Doop” is reviewed; the short is generally thought to have been released in 1932.



July 3, 1931
Ralph Wilk column
Walt Disney, who has just completed a new studio and office building on Hyperion Ave., for the production of his Mickey Mouse cartoon subjects, has installed RCA Photophone sound reproducing equipment in the projection rooms that are used to review the daily “rushes” and the completed product.

July 5, 1931
British Cartoon Series
London—First of a series of fairy tale cartoons have just been trade shown by British Lion, entitled “Dinkie Doodle” cartoons, they are stories of an ingenious youngster in the form of an enterprising comedy cartoon kid. The cartoons strike a new angle, and are built up with new ideas, new treatment and original trick photography. They are in combination of cartoon work with straight photography.

July 12, 1931
Cleve. Exchange Merger Leaves Only 3 Indies
Cleveland — Closing of the deal whereby Selected Pictures takes over the physical distribution of all product handled by Independent Pictures brings the number of local independent distributors down to three. Nate Schultz and Arthur Simon, heads of Selected, will hereafter handle the Syndicate westerns, the Chesterfields and the Alice cartoons in Northern Ohio.

Coming and Going
CHARLES B. MINTZ, producer of the Krazy Kat and Scrappy cartoons released by Columbia, returns to New York today from Hollywood after an absence of eight weeks.

July 27, 1931
Cartoon Animating Costs Reduced by New Method
Present cost of animating pictures promise to be greatly reduced under a new method patented by F. Lyle Goldman of the Audio Cinema studios. The system consists of a combined printing and double exposure process. Full rights have been transferred to Audio Cinema.

July 29, 1931
Ralph Wilk column
Roy C. Disney, general manager for Walt Disney, is back from an extended eastern trip and will spend the summer at the Hyperion Ave. studios where the "Mickey Mouse" and "Silly Symphony" cartoons are made.

August 5, 1931
"Five Year Plan” at Cameo
Amkino's "Five Year Plan," which played a run at the Central, returns to the Times Square district on Friday for a pop engagement at the RKO Cameo. On the same program will be "Mail," first Russian sound cartoon with music.

Largest Animated Cartoon Staff
Van Beuren Corp. has added 20 artists and assistants to its staff and now claims the world's largest animated cartoon staff, having 131 artist-animators and assistants. Floor space at the Van Beuren studio has been almost doubled.

August 7, 1931
Van Beuren Corp. Sees Color Cartoons Ahead
Although it does not consider the industry ready for color cartoons at this time, the Van Beuren Corp. is conducting laboratory experiments so that it will be ready to offer Aesop Fables in color when the time is ripe. Meanwhile the Fables studios are being enlarged for experimentation in developing novel ideas for new RKO Pathe cartoon camera effects.

August 30, 1931
Chicago—Walt Disney's Mickie Mouse Clubs have now been organized in all of the Publix-Great States houses in the Illinois-Indiana-Ohio-Kentucky division and are proving excellent business stimulators, according to Madeline Wood publicity chief.

September 3, 1931
Phil M. Daly’s column
DID YOU know that Dick HUEMOR is chief artist on Charlie Mintz's "Scrappy" Cartoons . . . much as we deprecate this abhorrent practice of punning, we cannot refrain from calling your attention to the fact . . . that Dick's huemor is mintzing matters for ya.

September 6, 1931
9 Series of 13 Reels Each on Columbia Program
Diversified Subjects on Company's 1931-32 Schedule

Columbia is offering for 1931-32, nine series of 13 reels each including four cartoon series and a diversified number of other releases. The four animated cartoon series will be "Mickey Mouse," "Krazy Kat," "Disney Silly Symphonies," and "Scrappy" ... "Scrappy" is the first animated cartoon to feature a human character. It is the product of Charles Mintz, who also makes "Krazy Kat." The first two "Scrappy's" ready for release are "Yelp Wanted" and "The Little Pest." Krazy Kats will continue to be released alternately with "Scrappy."
Walt Disney is considering the advisability of bringing "Mickey Mouse" to the screen in colors. His latest release is "Blue Rhythm" a travesty on jazz orchestras.

"Mickey Mouse" Parade
In conjunction with a Fanchon and Marco presentation of a "Mickey Mouse Idea," Bill Thomas, publicity director of the Pantages, Hollywood, organized a parade of the female "Mice" through the main streets of the film city. Certain tie-ups were effected, such as a stop at a well-known restaurant for a huge ration of cheese for the "Mice" and a peek at the inside of a nationally advertised electric refrigerator. Transportation was taken care of by a local auto dealer.

8,000 Terry-Tooners
With an enrolled membership of 8,000 boys and girls and new units being formed in key points throughout the country, The Terry-Tooners Music and Fun Club, sponsored by Educational, has won the support of leading executives of the industry's major circuits.

Betty Boops to Stardom
"Betty Boop," the pouting, baby-talking, animated vamp in Paramount's "Talkartoons," has been elevated to stardom by Max Fleischer. In the future the cartoons will be built around Betty with the other characters "also in the cast."

Ideal Producing 42 Shorts For American-Foreign Sale
With 42 one-reelers on its 1931-32 schedule. Ideal Pictures Corp., will re-make the descriptive talk of all subjects over into three languages for foreign distribution.
The Ideal line-up includes ... 6 "Film Fan Biographs," a new series of surprise cartoons drawn and animated by Eddie White.

September 8, 1931
Plan Milt Gross One-Reelers
Milt Gross, cartoonist and humourist of the Hearst papers, has been signed by M. J. Kandel, of Ideal Pictures, for a series of 12 one-reelers to be known as "Gross Exaggerations." Tom Johnston, formerly cartoon and "strip" editor of the "N. Y. World," will write the gags and stories for the series and the dialogue will be composed by Frank Dollan who was recently connected with the "Movie Memories" shorts released by Paramount. Gross will collaborate with Johnston in "gagging" the reels and will add sequences of animated cartooning to each. The shorts will burlesque various subjects, the first being a satire on travel films. It will be ready next week and titled "The Isle of Jazz."

September 16, 1931
Ralph Wilk column
Harman-Ising Studios, which produces "The Merry Melodies" series, in association with Leon Schlesinger, has completed "Red-Headed Baby." Harman-Ising and Schlesinger also sponsor the "Looney Tunes" series, of which "Bosco, the Doughboy" is the newest subject. Frank Marsales, musical director for the producers, agrees with Sherman that "war is hell," as "Bosco" is the noisiest subject he has handled.

September 23, 1931
Krazy Kat Cartoon Picked for Television
One of Columbia's Krazy Kat cartoons, "The Stork Market", made by Charles Mintz, has been picked for television broadcast in the Sanabria demonstration at the Radio-Electric Fair in Madison Square Garden.

October 11, 1931
Harry N. Blair column
Harriet Lee, chosen as Radio Queen of 1931-32, is featured in a cartoon comedy titled "You're Driving Me Crazy," soon to be released by Paramount. Olive Shea, previous Radio Queen, has also appeared in Paramount shorts and features.

October 20, 1931
Ralph Wilk column
In five leading Los Angeles theaters, Walt Disney's sound cartoons will be featured simultaneously this week through the selection of "The Spider and the Fly." the latest "Silly Symphony." to be screened with "Consolation Marriage" at the Carthay Circle. Of the five Disney cartoons, four are screened in long run playhouses.

October 23, 1931
Two New Cartoon Series Planned by Fleischer
Two more series of cartoons are being planned by Max Fleischer for Paramount release. They will be ready for next season's program and will supplement his two groups now being handled by Paramount.
Cartoon grosses generally are making a better showing under present business conditions than other pictures, declared Fleischer yesterday. This type of picture is only off between five and six per cent as compared with greater drops suffered by other kinds of screen entertainment receipts, he said. His organization is concentrating its publicity effort on Betty Boop, Talkartoon star, who rose from minor parts to a stellar position in his productions.

October 26, 1931
Pun
When Frank Marsales, musical director for Harman-lsing Studios, which produces "Looney Tunes" and 'Merry Melodies," declared he was too busy to go to football games and did all his playing in his studio, Robert Edmunds, the cartoonist, was an interested listener. "However, Frank does a lot of scoring in a day," Frank [sic] commented.

October 29, 1931
Jack Alicote column
We Visit Mr. M. Mouse
Regardless of how frivolous this Mickey Mouse Mugg may be on the screen, he sure is serious when at home. It was with due politeness and extreme consideration that he conducted us through his compact, attractive and modern studio which was built by his guardian and severest critic, Walt Disney. In order to get caught up with our Mousie home work, we learned that it takes from six to eight weeks to complete a Mickey Mouse cartoon, that between 75 and 80 people work on it, that 8,000 to 12,000 drawings go into each subject and that this Mickey Mouse guy has some 8,000 customers in these United States. Next year's schedule from the Disney studio will consist of 18 Mickeys and eight Silly Symphonies.

Third Edition of Fable Books
Two 75,000 printings of the Aesop's Fable Book, published by the Sonnett Publishing Co. and prepared under the supervision of the Van Beuren Corp., producers of the RKO Pathe Aesop's Fables Cartoons, have been exhausted and a third edition of 100,000 is now on the presses to fill the holiday demand for this popular juvenile novelty. The Fable Books are on sale at all leading chain and department stores.

November 1, 1931
Sound Doubles Work
Although the number of pictures being produced this season by Van Beuren for RKO Pathe release is not as large as the number made in silent days, the greater amount of detail incident to making sound pictures far overbalances any production this company has attempted heretofore. This holds true particularly in the Cartoon Department. Fifty-two silent Aesop's Fables were produced each season, a staff of approximately 25 animators and tracers maintaining this schedule nicely. Now with 39 cartoons to the season (26 Fables and 13 Tom and Jerry) the staff has been more than tripled not counting the extra help needed to handle the preparation of music, etc.. and still this department is forced to work at top speed. The same holds true with the Grantland Rice Sportlight, 52 silent issues formerly being made each season. With the coming of sound the Sportlight manpower was more than doubled and the number of releases cut in half in order to maintain the entertainment standard of this release.

November 8, 1931
Walt Disney Increasing "Mickey Mouse" Program
Walt Disney will increase his "Mickey Mouse" series from 13 to 18 single reels and reduce his Silly Symphonies from 13 to eight on his 1932-33 program, which goes to United Artists in April under a distribution contract signed some months ago.
J. W. MacFarland, Eastern representative for Disney, and Hank Peters, studio representative with headquarters in Chicago, expect that there will be 1,500 Mickey Mouse clubs functioning by February. Total of 750 are organized at present. Four representatives have been engaged to carry on the organizing work afield. They are: H. E. Nichols, with headquarters in Dallas and working in Southern states; Eddie Vaughn, Chicago, handling Middle West; George Giroux, Chicago, working on territory east of that city, and Edward Whaley, in either Philadelphia or Atlanta, handling Atlantic seaboard territory.

Harry N. Blair column
Van Beuren studios are so busy turning out the RKO Pathe Aesop's Fables that it was necessary to have some extensive alterations made at night. Improvements include a new battery of cameras especially designed for cartoon work.

November 10, 1931
Mickey Mouse Stage Show for Roxy
Tying in with Walt Disney's cartoon star, the Roxy will put on a Mickey Mouse stage show within six or eight weeks. Characters will double for those who appear in the short.
Fanchon & Marco has successfully tried out a Mickey Mouse unit, which is termed one of the biggest draws these producers have ever put out. They are planning to make a second Mickey Mouse unit for the road.

November 27, 1931
Introducing New Dubbing Process
International Projector Corp. is negotiating licenses with several major producers for use of its new dubbing process, The device, which simplifies dubbing foreign languages to American pictures, eliminates costly screening and rehearsals, according to Herbert Griffin, in charge. Griffin also claims equal success with the synchronizing of cartoons, music and effects.

November 29, 1931
New Ideas Injected in Paramount Shorts
Big Names and Novelties Bring Favorable Reactions
Adoption of several new ideas in the making of Paramount shorts this season has resulted in the company's one and two-reeler meeting with a more favorable reaction than any other short subject program ever produced by the company. . . .
Another stunt which bids fair to make the Talkartoon one of the outstanding Paramount comedy series was the elevation to stardom of young Betty Boop, the damsel who sings, dances and foils the villain in those Fleischer cartoons. Betty has even broken into the fan magazines and been interviewed over the radio since receiving her new honor. . . .
The fifth innovation was the introduction of well-known personalities as master of ceremonies for the monthly "Screen Songs" produced by Max Fleischer's studio for Paramount release. The original Mr. Shean of "Gallagher and Shean" fame, Cab Calloway of the Cotton Club and Rudy Vallee are among those who have appeared in these one reelers. So successful was Rudy in inducing audiences to follow the Bouncing Ball and sing with the characters on the screen that he has been signed to do a series of his favorite numbers for "Screen Songs."

Aesop's Fables Dolls Popular Store Tie-Up
Attractive window displays are being featured by leading theaters throughout the West in connection with special showings at which the Aesop's Fables dolls, replicas of the famous cartoon characters, are given away free to holders of lucky numbers.
These contests are arranged by the W. R. Woodard Co. of Los Angeles, manufacturers of the dolls under special license granted by the Van Beuren Corp. There are six dolls in all, "The Countess," "Waffles Cat," "Don Dog," "Mike Monk," "Al Fox" and "Puffie Bear."
The large doll, an exact replica of "The Countess," measures more than four feet in height, is prepared specially for lobby and window exploitation only and is not included in the contest. The smaller dolls form an extremely attractive and colorful gift and are proving efficient crowd getters wherever the idea has been used.

7,000 Drawings in a Fleischer Cartoon
In the production of a screen cartoon, 100 artists and technicians produce 15,000 hand-made drawings of which 7,000 are used and approximately seven or eight thousand discarded, according to Max Fleischer, originator of Paramount's "Screen Songs" and "Talkartoons." "From eight to nine weeks are required to complete a cartoon and the whole thing is run off in the theater in less than seven minutes," Fleischer declares.
"Although seven minutes may seem to be too short a space of time to warrant so much thought and labor," the cartoonist continues, "it is In reality considered a long period in the amusement field. To convince yourself of this, assume that you are about to entertain an audience for seven minutes and that each minute you stand before your audience you are to be as entertaining and as amusing as possible. Take out your watch and put on your act. Before seven minutes have passed you will find you have plenty of time to hem and haw, blush, choke up and probably run out of ideas."

December 2, 1931
Mickey Mouse's Xmas Special
For holiday programs, Walt Disney has produced a special Mickey Mouse cartoon entitled "Mickey's Orphans." It tells a Yuletide story, with appropriate musical accompaniment.

December 11, 1931
Phil M. Daly column
Incidentally, the Mickey Mouse comic strip goes into every Hearst paper starting next month under a deal just closed.

December 15, 1931
Powers Making Third-Dimension Cartoons
A series of 13 third-dimension cartoon shorts are being produced by P. A. Powers in his Seventh Avenue Cinephone studios. The cartoons are being made under the supervision of Emil Velazco, who Is also handling the organ synchronization and effects. The first release will be completed next week.

December 28, 1931
Cartoon Comedies Gaining New Importance, Says Terry
Commenting on the result of the annual exhibitor questionnaire conducted by Harold Heffernan, motion picture editor of the Detroit News, which brought out the consensus that "cartoon comedies are the most important short subject," Paul Terry, who with Frank Moser, producers the popular "Terrytoons" for Educational release, declares that animated cartoons are fast coming into a new position of importance. Far from being merely a diverting spectacle designed for juvenile minds, animated cartoons combine all the various arts such as music, drawing, acting and writing, besides the rhythmic flow which is the basis of all dance movements.
Few people, Terry claims, realize the amount of research which enters into the preparation of Terrytoons. In the matter of costumes, backgrounds and dances, everything must be authentic, down to the last detail. In addition to this, all music is especially composed by Philip Schieb, Terrytoon's staff composer and musical director. "Terrytoons" have had much influence in educating people to enjoy musical films by giving them the highest type of music against the element of the cartoon, thus affording the two extremes which are bound to please everyone, Terry believes.
"Peg Leg Pete," just completed, has specially composed music which is decidedly in the Gilbert and Sullivan manner, even a trifle heavier, perhaps. Another, "The Black Spider," incorporates modern music of the most advanced type to express its eerie theme. In preparing "Terrytoons," an effort is always made to confine the humor to the action which, Terry feels, should be of sufficient worth to carry itself, irrespective of music.



July 5, 1931
"Pale Face Pup"
RKO Pathe .. Time, 8 mins.
Fair Cartoon
The Aesop Fable hero appears as a Pale Face with his girl in the wild Indian country. They are captured, and he gets himself in wrong with the Indian chief. The hero escapes, and calls on his pals, the Northwest Mounted, to help him. Finally, with the help of his trusty mount, he succeeds in destroying the redskins with their own arrows.

"That Old Gang of Mine"
Paramount .. Time, 7 mins.
Singing Cartoon
A Max Fleischer singing cartoon telling the animated story of the cat who mourned for her old pals. It goes into the song number with the dancing white ball skipping over the lines of the old song, "That Old Gang of Mine." They have a very fine quartette singing this, which makes it an entertaining number.

"North Woods"
Universal .. Time, 16 mins. [sic]
Good Cartoon
Burlesquing the Northwest Mounted, Oswald has a tough time trying to capture the bandit, who finally escapes after he has been handcuffed. Several cartoon devices are employed to work up chases and counter-chases, with Oswald's horse playing a prominent part. This is well up to standard for this type, moves fast, and has a good sprinkling of comedy gags.

July 12, 1931
"Making 'em Move"
(Aesop Fable)
RKO Pathe .. Time, 7 mins.
Neat Cartoon Novelty
The system and tricks employed in producing animated cartoons are more or less divulged in this novelty. It has the animals themselves in the roles of cartoonists, models, musicians, cameramen, etc., and the action is well sprinkled with gags to maintain the comedy vein. It is not exactly an expose of the secrets of the cartoon comedy art, hut it shows enough to interest as well as amuse the fans. A neat little number for any program.

July 19, 1931
"The Busy Beaver"
(Silly Symphony)
Columbia .. Time, 8 mins.
Great Cartoon
Walt Disney made a "knock-out" when he produced this Silly Symphony. Gags that are really new, animation that is smooth and clever and synchrony that never misses a beat. Disney has taken a theme which shows beavers building a dam as only cartooned beavers can do it. It finishes with a flood and one lone beaver attempting to save the dam from destruction. The reel is fast, funny and fine.

July 26, 1931
"The Stone Age"
Universal .. Time, 7 mins.
Action Cartoon
This is a strange mixture of the Stone Age with modern Austins and circus side shows. Oswald, the hero, goes calling on his girl in her cave but the villain, Pegleg, comes along and in true Stone Age fashion, wins the lady with a swat over the head with his club. So Oswald learns the right technique with the ladies, and starts out to be a devil with women via the big club method. There is plenty of action in this cartoon.

"Her First Egg"
Educational .. Time, 7 mins.
Lively Cartoon
A Paul Terry-Toon cartoon, being a barnyard fable of the hen who hatched her first egg, and then all the barnyard folks held a festival in her honor. But a flock of hawks swoop down and steal the chicken, and then the hero gets into action with his airplane and defeats the marauders single handed. Lively cartoon gags with good incidental music.

August 9, 1931
"Put on the Spot"
Warner Bros. .. Time, 5 mins.
Sponsored Cartoon
Fantastic cartoon in undersea locale, with the entire fish family beating it for cover when the warning is sounded that a dangerous insect is approaching. The intruder gives the whale a merry chase, until the cue, "Quick, Jonah, the Flit," is given by a human voice, whereupon the insect is sprinkled and squelched—and those of the audience who didn't know it before are put hep to the fact that they've had a piece of advertising inflicted upon them. No matter how good the short is, this closing revelation puts a curse on it.

"Smile, Darn Ya, Smile"
Vitaphone 4825 .. Time, 6 mins.
Fine Song Cartoon
An excellent example of the song cartoon, with a good idea and synchronization. It's one of the Merrie Melodies series featuring Foxy and Honey. Foxy is the pilot on trolley car that travels a fantastic track system and does the usual tricks. After a comic experience with a hippo passenger, he takes Honey aboard and rides her through tunnels and up and down hills in roller coaster fashion to the smash finish. Abe Lyman's band supplies the music, which is excellent.

"Fun on the Ice"
(Aesop Fable)
RKO Pathe .. Time, 8 mins.
Just Fair
There is little in this cartoon comedy to lift it out of the ordinary class. Not one new gag is chalked up. It is all about the Fables animals making whoopee on the ice, skating, playing hockey and breaking through the ice. The musical score and synchronization are well done, as is the animation, but those three requisites are not sufficient to put the picture over as a laugh number.

August 16, 1931
"Mail"
Amkino .. Time, 20 mins.
Novel Russian Cartoon
First animated cartoon from Soviet studios to be shown here is a curiously interesting product, with novel technique as its main asset. The drawing, instead of being in lines, is of the poster and light-and-shadow variety, with music being an especially vital part of the picture. Movement of the characters is in staccato fashion, and the story is not easy to grasp unless one understands the accompanying Russian dialogue. The system, however, seems to have possibilities.

"Radio Rhythm"
Universal .. Time, 6 mins.
Flat
An Oswald cartoon, that goes over all the old stuff, and falls pretty flat. The musical stuff is worked to death at the expense of action and story values. It also falls flat on comedy, for the same reason. The theme centers around a broadcasting program, with Oswald as the announcer, and the animals listening in.

August 30, 1931
"One More Time"
Vitaphone 5602 .. Time, 9 mins.
Cartoon Cutups
Foxy and Honey, new entrants in the field of animated characters, are featured in the third of a series of "Merrie Melodies," music for which is supplied by Abe Lyman and his band. The characters sing "One More Time" and an underworld plot has been given the action. It's entertaining stuff, aided by some new pen and ink gags.

September 6, 1931
"Love In a Pond"
RKO Pathe .. Time, 8 mins.
Average Cartoon
An Aesop Fable, overemphasizing the musical angle at the expense of story interest. But this has become such a common fault with all the cartoons, that it must be accepted as a matter of course. The theme is that of a frog pursuing his courtship and marriage, with all the other inhabitants of the pond joining in the festivities.

September 13, 1931
"Mother Goose Melodies"
(Silly Symphony)
Columbia .. Time, 8 mins.
Great
Walt Disney and his assistants have turned out a synchronized cartoon comedy that will be hard to beat. It has all the Mother Goose rhymes worked into the story and the transposition from one to the other is accomplished by turning the pages of a huge story book. Drawings on the pages come to life and perform real laugh-making antics. Gags are new and plentiful. This one will make audiences laugh plenty.

September 20, 1931
"Screen Biographs No. 1"
Ideal .. Time, 8 mins.
Clever Novelty
Maurice Chevalier, Norma Shearer and Ernst Lubitsch are drawn in succession by Eddie White, cartoonist. In each case White endeavors to withhold the identity of the subject until the finish of the drawing. White's work is neat and results in excellent likenesses of the subjects. Only White's arm and hand with the pencil, are shown but a descriptive chatter, breezily delivered by Ray Vox, holds attention and creates several laughs. It's a good short.

September 27, 1931
"Kentucky Belle"
(Oswald Cartoon)
Universal .. Time, 6 mins.
Good Gags
It all takes place at the race course and the popular and pretty local belle promises a kiss to the winner. Oswald on his trusty steed is out to win but discovers that it is more of an obstacle race. He wins, however, and both he and the horse receive the prize. Animation and synchronization are fine and the gags have been cleverly arranged and planted. A good filler.

"Betty, Boop and Bimbo" [sic]
Paramount .. Time, 6 mins.
Good Cartoon
Measures well up to the best in the animated cartoon line. Many of the antics are new ideas and the comedy, as well as the art work and musical accompaniment, are of fine quality.

"Fly Hi"
(Aesop's Fable Cartoon)
RKO Pathe .. Time, 8 mins.
Mild
There is an abundance of clever animation and careful synchronization and too little comedy in this cartoon. It is practically devoid of gags. The picture starts out with a pup playing on the piano and singing to his sweetie over the telephone. She replies in song. Then there are more songs and finally a long piano solo played by a bad spider. Fingering on the piano keys closely matches the notes sung and played, but fun and gags have been sacrificed for technique.

"Hot Feet"
(Oswald Cartoon)
Universal .. Time, 6 mins.
Just Fair
Oswald opens this release as a lemonade vendor and sings a number reminiscent of the "Peanut Vendor." The pup meets up with some racketeers. Finally at the "headman's" house Oswald rescues a beautiful girl from the clutches of the gangster. The cartoon runs along smoothly but is short on really funny gags.

"Little Annie Rooney"
(Fleischer Song Cartoon)
Paramount .. Time, 6 mins.
Neat
Among the best of the Fleischer song novelties based on popular old tunes, with the audiences invited to join in the choruses. Good art work and synchronization, along with the comedy, make it a neat filler.

October 4, 1931
Mickey Mouse in "Blue Rhythm"
Columbia .. Time, 5 mins.
Good Cartoon
Neatly executed and thoroughly entertaining cartoon comedy. Mickey Mouse is seen at the opening as a pianist pounding away on the theme of "St. Louis Blues." Minnie Mouse enters and indulges in some animated vocalizing, after which there are musical bits by an animal orchestra with plenty of comedy as well as melody.

October 11, 1931
"Trouble"
(Tom and Jerry Cartoon)
Radio Pictures .. 8 mins.
Fair
Fairly amusing animated cartoon. Tom and Jerry, the "human" characters, are not specially funny in appearance nor is there much humor in what they say or how they say it, but one gag, where a fellow tries to anchor a dirigible to the top of the Empire State building, rouses quite a few laughs.

"The Family Shoe"
Good Cartoon
RKO Pathe .. 7 mins.
A neat Aesop Fable cartoon, with a combination of the fairy tales of the Old Woman in the Shoe and Jack in the Beanstalk. Hero Jack starts out to help his poor old mother living in the shoe, climbs the beanstalk to the clouds, and steals the goose that lays the golden eggs from the Giant. It is a fine mixture of fantasy and cartoon comics, and is above the average animated.

October 18, 1931
"The Hunter"
Universal .. 7 mins.
A Repeater
An Oswald cartoon, with the hero rabbit out fox hunting to secure his sweetie a nice winter fur. It follows the routine formula, with the bear appearing to scare both Oswald and the fox, with the rabbit the eventual victor over both. Just another cartoon from the formula files.

"You're Driving Me Crazy"
Paramount .. 6 mins.
Good Song Cartoon
Fastest moving Fleischer song cartoon. Main background is a jungle, with the animals scurrying around for cover from a rainstorm. For the singing portion, there is a non-cartoon sequence in which a feminine vocalist appears and calls upon the audience to join in. Plenty of action and comedy.

October 25, 1931
"Fairyland Follies"
(Aesop's Fables)
RKO Pathe .. 8 mins.
A Dandy
Animators John Foster and Harry Bailey have turned out a snappy, peppy and interesting cartoon. It all has to do with Mother Goose, who, as teacher of all the characters in her rhymes, manages to hold them in order until they strike up a jazzy air with a host of instruments. Then Mother Goose turns modern and shows the children and animals how to "step on it." The kids will like this one and so will the grown-ups.

"The Black Spider"
Educational .. 7 mins.
Class Cartoon
At last they have made a cartoon in this Paul Terry-Toon that gets away from the routine of the musical stereotyped stuff that has been dished up so monotonously for months. Here there is a clever idea worked out with a lot of animated technique that in spots is beautiful and artistic. The Spider is a terrifying creature who invades the castle, imprisons the king, and disguises himself in his clothes so he can pursue his designs upon the king's fair daughter. The cartoon conceit is handled with fine imagination and ranks 'way above the average current cartoon.

November 1, 1931
"Bosko the Doughboy"
Vitaphone 5402 .. 7 mins.
Average Cartoon
Vitaphone's new animated cartoon character, Bosko, here disports himself in the role of a doughboy. Nothing specially new or novel about the affair, but it is sufficiently diverting to serve its purpose as a short fill-in.

"Jailbirds"
(Flip the Frog)
M-G-M .. 9 mins.
Dandy
This amusing cartoon will garner plenty of laughter. Flip, as a jail guard, has his troubles with a giant who escapes from the prison. The animators have turned out clever drawings and some new and humorous gags. Scenes of convicts at the stone pile, of the jail break and the resulting chase, work up to a snappy climax. Synchronizing is well done.

"In Wonderland"
Universal .. 7 mins.
Old Stuff
An Oswald cartoon that is a dead ringer for another just released in a competitive series. It employs the same idea of the hero mixed up in the two fairy tales of Jack in the Beanstalk and the Old Woman in the Shoe. Oswald climbs the beanstalk to the castle in the clouds, steals the goose that lays the golden eggs from the Giant, and brings it back to the old lady in the shoe. It's a fair cartoon, if you haven't run the other one first. Then it's just a repeat.

"China"
Educational .. 7 mins.
Average Cartoon
A fanciful adventure in the land of the pigtails by Hero Mouse, in which they drag in all the well known legends associated with the country. The cartoon work is up to average, but like all the current crop of animateds, there is a sameness about the technical treatment. Some day one of these cartoon artists is going to hit on a new idea, and it will be possible for us reviewers to tell you something definite about them.

November 8, 1931
"Jack and the Beanstalk"
Paramount .. 6 mins.
Fair Cartoon
Nothing specially out of the ordinary in this animated. The title just about explains what it's about, the hero of the action utilizing the beanstalk to ascend up into the clouds and rescue the girl from the menacing clutches of the giant. Art work and score are okay.

Krazy Kat in "Bars and Stripes"
Columbia .. 6 mins.
Fair
A fairly amusing animated based on a combination musical and military idea. First Krazy trots out a company of musical instruments, which go on parade, and then the tooting horns begin to spout cannonballs at a supposed enemy. The music is lively.

"Ya Don't Know What You're Doin"
Vitaphone 5603 .. 7 mins.
Poor
Just an ordinary animated song cartoon in the "Merrie Melodies" series. Has nothing about it to lift it out of the commonplace rating.

November 15, 1931
"Stormy Seas"
(Flip the Frog Cartoon)
M-G-M .. 8 mins.
Usual Stuff
Flip the Frog goes through the usual animated cartoon antics on a ship at sea. A storm comes up and he saves a girl on another boat which is sinking.

November 22, 1931
"Bosko's Soda Fountain"
Vitaphone 5403 .. 7 mins.
Good Cartoon
A better than average musical cartoon. Bosko is depicted as a soda fountain clerk who can mix irinks in many novel and acrobatic ways. The action is lively and the musical accompaniment is good.

"The Lorelei"
Educational .. 7 mins.
Good Cartoon
A Paul Terry-Toon, with the animated hero doing a burlesque of the famous "Lorelei," being vamped by the beautiful sea siren, and going through some hectic adventures in a terrific storm. A German quartet singing the "Lorelei" adds musical atmosphere. Good animated technique.

Krazy Kat in "Hash House Blues"
Columbia .. 6 mins.
Good Cartoon
In the role of a dancing waiter in a restaurant, Krazy Kat hands out another batch of his amusing antics in this animated subject. It is well up to the average of such shorts and will serve its purpose as a filler very nicely.

November 29, 1931
"Bosko's Fox Hunt"
Vitaphone .. 6 mins.
Fair Cartoon
A Looney Tune that follows the familiar routine and is just mildly entertaining. Bosko and his gang go fox hunting and there is a lot of chasing through the woods, across ponds, around trees, etc., with the fox coming out best.

"Cowboy Cabaret"
RKO Pathe .. 7 min
Lively Cartoon
An Aesop Fable, proving a good burlesque on the old frontier days out West. The hero finds himself in a saloon where various entertainers sing the old ballads, moving the hardboiled cowpunchers and miners to tears or else to throwing beer glasses. The finale has the tough outlaw coming in for a holdup, but the gang is too smart for him. Good animation, with lots of tricky cartoon work.

Flip the Frog
"The Village Specialist"
M-G-M .. 8 mins.
Fair Cartoon
Flip takes the part of a plumber and sees to it that a leaky pipe is repaired in his own original way. Before Flip is through, the whole locality is inundated and the house down to the skies atop a geyser, Flip's friend the cat also has some trouble with a goldfish, resulting in the fish eating the cat and meowing. Good gags and a fair number of laughs.

December 6, 1931
"Kitty from Kansas City"
Paramount .. 8 mins.
Novelty Cartoon
A Max Fleischer cartoon with Rudy Vallee doing a song as part of the animated plot. It is a clever combination of the cartoon characters, with Rudy worked into the developments as he waits for the animated heroine at the railroad station. His song is all about the dumb sweetie from Kansas City, and Rudy appears disguised as an old timer with a mustache and brown derby.

"Hare Mail"
(Oswald Comedy)
Universal .. 6 mins.
Good Carton
Oswald plays the part of a real hero in this comedy. While selling papers he hears screams from a nearby house. Investigating, he finds the villian threatening a golden-haired beauty. A battle ensues. The girl is captured by the robber. The old saw mill stunt is pulled to advantage. As the girl nears the revolving saw, Oswald goes for help. The reel ends with an airplane chase. Gags are good and laughs aplenty.

"Hitting the Trail for Hallelujah Land"
Vitaphone 5604 .. 7 mins.
Neat Cartoon
A better "Merrie Melodie" than the average animated cartoon that has been coming along lately. It has an amusing little plot yarn, involving some heavy melodrama on a river boat, with the villain being 3ent up against the circular saw for the climax, and both the drawing and the synchronized sound are up to snuff.

December 20, 1931
"Mickey's Orphans"
Columbia .. 7 mins.
Swell Holiday Cartoon
A Walt Disney Mickey Mouse production designed as a Christmas short and one that fills the bill. It will delight all children and get many a laugh from their elders. It is Christmas Eve and Mickey is decorating the Christmas tree, while Minnie Mouse plays "Silent Night, Holy Night" on the organ. Outside, in the raging blizzard, a lone, slouching figure approaches the house, leaves a basket on the steps and rings the doorbell. Pluto, the dog, brings in the basket which is found to contain twenty or more orphan kittens who swarm all over the house. Mickey and Minnie decide to give the orphans a Christmas party. Mickey, dressed as Santa Claus, comes in on an improvised sleigh drawn by Pluto, disguised as a reindeer. The kittens help themselves to the toys and begin to play. The house is soon a complete wreck, including the Christmas tree. A Mickey Mouse short that is filled with many hilarious moments for children, and fun for adults who have ever staged a Christmas party for the youngsters.

"The Spider and the Fly"
(Silly Symphony)
Columbia .. 7 mins.
A Knockout
This Disney cartoon is one of the best to come along in moons. For basic idea, ingenious workmanship and effective sound and musical accompaniment it is hard to beat. It shows a flock of flies, and a couple of loverbird flies in particular, disporting themselves in a kitchen. A villainous spider lures a lady fly to his net, whereupon her hero rushes to the rescue, finally calling in the assistance of the entire fly army, which vanquishes the spider. Can't miss with any audience.

"Africa Squeaks"
M-G-M .. 8 mins
Neat Cartoon
A Flip the Frog cartoon, covering the adventures of the cartoon character in the wilds of Africa, where he gets in the clutches of the cannibals and is put in the pot to boil for the evening meal. Flip performs magic stunt with the flames transforming them into little demons who pursue the cannibals, and all the deserted wives make Flip their new king. Cleverly executed, and with good comedy slants.

"The Fisherman"
Universal .. 7 mins.
Fair Cartoon
An Oswald cartoon, with the rabbit and his sweetie in an adventure on a pirate isle. It goes through the usual routine of the heroine in distress, with Oswald finally saving her by a clever ruse, and winning a diamond necklace from the pirate loot.

December 27, 1931
The Street Singer in "Russian Lullaby"
(Screen Song)
Paramount .. 8 mins.
Very Good
A very amusing Max Fleischer song cartoon, with added entertainment values by reason of the inclusion of the Street Singer (Arthur Treacy) [sic], popular radio singer, as vocalist. Part of the reel is devoted to cartoon work, and the other portion shows the Street Singer delivering the well-known lullaby, with the words and dancing ball double-exposed at the lower part of the screen. The cartoon bits are clever, while the singing by Treacy is of the best. A fine subject of its kind.

"Boop-OOP-A-Doop"
Paramount .. 6 mins.
Snappy Cartoon
A Max Fleischer Talkatoon cleverly executed with some novelty animated tricks that are new and amusing. The Boop-OOP-A-Doop heroine leads the hero into some dizzy adventures, but he comes through in great style and qualifies easily as her Hero. It will please the youngsters, and likewise their elders.

4 comments:

  1. Mark Newgarden8 June 2013 at 13:26

    The "Tom Johnston" referred to in the Gross piece is Tom Johnstone.

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  2. The "Betty, Boop and Bimbo" cartoon reviewed on Sept. 27, 1931 may be referring to "Minding the Baby", which was released the day before (Sept. 26) and featured Bimbo and a still-prototypical Betty. See http://www.bcdb.com/cartoon/1660-Minding_The_Baby.html (...Not to be confused with the Scrappy cartoon with the same title, released by Columbia on Nov. 16 that year.)

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  3. Interesting to see the intense reviewer dislike for "You Don't Know What You're Doin'", which at least to me, comes across as one of the wilder and more inventive of the early H-I Merrie Melodies (given that the entire cartoon revolves around two characters and a car being three sheets to the wind 18 months before Prohibition was repealed, I can't help wonder if that might have been one of the main factors in the bad review).

    Also interesting to see the note on the ratio of releases at Disney in connection with the new United Artists contract. I've never seen anything written about the change, but it seems like part of the agreement Walt made with UA was to bump up the number of Mickey cartoons to roughly one every three weeks from once every four, while dropping the number of Silly Symphonies to just one every 6 1/2 weeks from one every four weeks. That probably speaks more of Mickey's huge popularity by 1931 than any problem exhibitors were having with the one-shot Disneys, but it might have helped nudge Walt towards the color Silly Symphonies a bit faster.

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  4. An item you've missed is the advertisement, published 18th October, for Mickey's Birthday.

    One of a series of ads placed during the autumn, apparently by the Studio's new publicity manager Harry Hammond Beall, that variously promoted Mickey, the Silly Symphonies, and the Mickey Mouse Club, it Minnie and Mickey holding a birthday cake with three candles and bearing the message "Happy Birthday Mickey". The text ran:

    Surely Your Theatre
    will be celebrating
    MICKEY MOUSE'
    3rd BIRTHDAY
    Saturday, October 24

    The choice of a Saturday was for the sake of Children's Matinees, and I presume the whole thing was tied in with the Mickey Mouse Clubs. I guess the date would have been chosen to suit those Theaters that ran Clubs. This is the first print reference to Mickey's birthday that I know of. I suspect that the short "The Birthday Party" (released 4 Jan 1931) with its 2-candle cake had been intended to be the centerpiece of a 1930 Mickey Mouse Club celebration that failed to happen (lack of time or lack of organisation) although I've found no published evidence for this.

    Mickey's 4th Birthday would be a big splash, with all the backing of United Artists - and held on Oct 1st, the Saturday closest to September 30th: the anniversary of the recording of the soundtrack to "Steamboat Willie", when Disney's first Mickey Mouse Sound Cartoon was completed, and the Mickey we know was 'born'.

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