They stopped making cartoons with Clarabelle Cow. Why? Because Walt Disney realised there isn’t an awful lot you can do with a cow.
Former Disney director Burt Gillett realised it, too. But not until after he made four shorts featuring Molly Moo Cow, shorts that Gillett tried to load up on Disney-like charm and action.
Thus in Molly Moo Cow and the Butterflies (1935), we’re treated to smiling insects dancing as if they were in a Silly Symphony, and the bad guy (who really isn’t very evil) bringing the cartoon to a standstill for a minute and eight seconds while he sings an original tune.
Some of the animation is quite good. Considering the Van Beuren staff included Jack Zander, Carlo Vinci and Bill Littlejohn, it should have been. And considering Molly was in a series called “Rainbow Parade,” Gillett and cohort Tom Palmer took advantage of full Technicolor. But I’d still rather watch the inconsistently-drawn Van Beurens of 1930 with skeletons-as-xylophones and a quartet of turtles whose mouths join together as they sing.
The uncredited animators tried to put some emotion into the old cow. There’s an expression of bliss then curiosity as Molly wonders what her new-found butterfly friends are doing. Why, they’re putting on a show, just like they would at Disney! They even create a stage curtain in rainbow colours. And the filtered light on the dancing butterflies is created by the colour of the wings of the butterflies overhead. Molly clasps her hooves in joy.
Look, boys and girls! See how Molly is pleased. She claps her hoofs. She waves her cowbell.
Molly had one more cartoon to go at Van Beuren. The studio closed a few months later. A bunch of Van Beuren artists moved immediately to Terrytoons and a cow, suspiciously resembling Molly, appeared in two black-and-white Terry cartoons before being put out to animated pasture.