Tuesday, 11 June 2013

The Circles of Abou Ben Boogie

Emasculation meets stylisation in Shamus Culhane’s “Abou Ben Boogie,” one of his fine musical cartoons for the Walter Lantz studio. It’s his version (through writers Bugs Hardaway and Milt Schaffer) of Tex Avery’s wolf-reacts-to-sexy-girl shorts.

In one scene, harem girl Miss X arouses two sultanic types that they both want to kiss her. Instead, she bashes their heads together so they kiss each other.

What follows is a stylised representation of the wooziness of the violent impact. Culhane’s animation comes up with circles and other geometric shape, some of which are used several times. Solid colour cards are inserted for a frame to add a “flash of light” effect to emphasize the impact; it’s something Culhane did in other Lantz cartoons.

We’ll leave it to Freudians to analyse the sexual symbolism here.

Pat Matthews and Paul Smith receive the animation credits; Art Heinemann came up with the layouts.


  1. Pat Mathews is one of my favorite Lantz animators. Culhane really changed the timing and pacing of Lantz cartoons overall and by the time Dick Lundy took over as a director completely, the flawed inbetweening and shifting volumes issues that were prevalent in earlier cartoons from the studio were ironed out!

  2. While Miss X definitely is derivative of Avery's Red, the timing, look and motion of the other characters in the short definitely has a Chuck Jones-unit vibe going for it, due no doubt to Shamus' recent stay over at the Schlesinger lot (in fact, some of the designs, particularly the opening title graphic and animation, anticipate some of the look of Jones' more stylized cartoons of the 1950s).