Thursday, 28 November 2013

A Columbia What?!

Cartoon fans lament that Blue Ribbons have replaced original title cards on Schlesinger/Warner Bros. shorts and Fleischer cartoons exist without the Paramount footage at the opening. Happiness abounds when discoveries are made of the titles that once appeared at the start of MGM cartoons.

Yet nothing is said about the generic drawings that took the place of the originals that opened cartoons released by the Columbia Screen Gems studio. Where is the outcry?

There isn’t one because the term “Columbia Favorite” seen on one of these reissue title cards is a contradiction in term for most old-time cartoon lovers.

So which of these Columbia characters are your favourites? Can you even name them?

Actually, my favourite Columbia is represented here. On the bottom left corner you’ll notice the dog and cat from “Flora” (1948). Gerald Mohr does a great job narrating a story where the words have a different context than what’s appearing on the screen. In the other corner are the duck and hunter from “Wacky Quacky” (1947). There’s a gag I really like where the hunter rests up from the chase while the duck runs around, then resumes the chase on his own while the duck catches his breath. Just above the ersatz Elmer Fudd are the moose, turkey and native from “Topsy Turkey” (1948). I think. To the left of the Indian is one of the stars of “Lo, the Poor Buffal” (1948). Your guess is as good as mine who the pig and rooster (is the rooster wearing spurs?) are, as well as the mouse in the basket at the bottom. Any Columbia experts out there? Please weigh in on the IDs.

Columbia’s Screen Gems studio seems to have been in constant upheaval and the cartoons it made in the last few years before it closed are awkward to describe. They’re pretending to be Warner Bros. and Tex Avery cartoons (even down to character design) but don’t quite make it. Some gags just come out of nowhere, like a kangaroo eating the main characters in “Kongo-Roo” (1946) who have shrunk themselves to bug size through willpower.

Mike Barrier has found a story announcing in the closure in Variety of May 28, 1947. Cartoons in the can continued to be released until 1949 until a ten-year marriage with UPA.

Here’s one that probably owes the most to other studios. A cat that looks like Sylvester engages in festivities that you may recognise from elsewhere (like the multiple door gag that Tex Avery liked to use). And because it’s a “Columbia Favorite,” you wouldn’t know Sid Marcus directed this cartoon because the credits have been taken off.


  1. It did have some nice gags in it and was nice to see...But as you say loads of Looney Tunes references..

  2. The pig in the title card comes from the L'il Abner series - his name is Salomey.

  3. I've seen dozens of these cartoons (don't ask me why, Yowp, I'm takin' the 5th) and still can't identify the pig, the rooster and the lil' mouse in the "Columbia Favorite" titles - pretty certain they're not from the late 1930's Color Rhapsodies MOTHER HENS HOLIDAY and LUCKY PIGS. I find this twisted Screen Gems variation on WB in UP N' ATOM funny and straightforward. Sex jokes - BOB CLAMPETT. Weird jokes - SID MARCUS. Is the "doors" riff that ends the cartoon Sid's joke or Avery's? I don't recall seeing that doors gag in any of Tex' films for WB and MGM, but could be, perish the thought, wrong - or, frankly, just starting to get old and lose my total recall of stuff I have seen in cartoons and Three Stooges comedies.

  4. Based on the research I did in Box Office magazine for the Blue Ribbons piece at my blog, Columbia Favorites were released beginning in October 1947 into the late 1960s. Did they end up using every Color Rhapsody and every other color Screen Gems cartoon up to the UPA era? I've never seen one that DIDN'T have that opening. Even the UPAs were not excluded from the "Columbia Favorite" program, although it looks like only end titles were impacted.

  5. Paul, I was thinking of 'Little Rural Riding Hood' but 'Lonesome Lenny' has a multiple door gag. Avery just doesn't use it as a closer.
    Michael, I don't think anyone's really compiled a list of "Favorites." People care about Warners cartoons (thanks, AAP). No one really cares about poor old Columbia. With the Boxoffice issues on-line, it'd be easy enough to do.

  6. Actually most (if not all) of the Fleischer Popeye shorts have their titles restored (or at least very accurately recreated), now the Popeye shorts from Famous Studios, that's a different story.