Ub Iwerks’ cartoons could be really imaginative at times and one of them is that favourite of public domain cartoon DVDs—Balloon Land (1935). The concept of a land of living balloons in the sky is a good one.
This is not a cartoon comedy. There isn’t much humour in it, other than the opening balloon caricatures of Laurel and Hardy and Chaplin and the comic relief character with the gooney toothy face seen in a few other Iwerks cartoons. But the design of the villain, the Pincushion Man, is terrific, the backgrounds are imaginative and there’s a great climax where the balloon army fires the rubber that makes the balloons and sends him plunging to his death. So instead of the Pincushion Man killing the balloons, the balloons kill him. The sequence is heightened by a great dramatic score by Carl Stalling. I wonder if the background cue is by J.S. Zamecnik; his music is found in Stalling’s early cartoons at Warner Bros. just a year later.
The Pincushion Man, perfectly voiced by Billy Bletcher, tries grasping at the balloon flowers (which pop in his grip) and then at the edge of the balloon world to stop from falling. One last blast of rubber does him in. I love the change in perspective before the death drop scene.
It’s a shame the artists were never credited on this cartoon. We do know what the tune is over the opening scenes. It’s Buffoon, written by Zez Confrey (copyright Jan. 23 and 30, 1932). You can hear his version of it below.
Sorry for the oversaturated colours on the frame grabs. They’re the best I can find.