Friday, 8 April 2016

Abner Walk Cycle

Leon Schlesinger told columnist Alice L. Tildesley in 1937:
“Not long ago, we decided to do something definitely different. A girl from Chicago showed me some ultra-modernistic sets she had designed which she thought could be used as backgrounds for a sophisticated cartoon. In order to show off the sets, we had to use human characters and have the camera shoot the sort of angles Busby Berkeley made famous. The idea was novel and the result original, but somehow it was not so funny as if animals, fowls or insects had been used.”
The cartoon he’s talking about is Page Miss Glory, made by the Tex Avery unit the previous year. The backgrounds were by Leadora Congdon, the only person besides title song composers Harry Warren and Al Dubin to get screen credit. There’s an interesting clash of styles when hick town bellhop Abner falls asleep and dreams of an Art Moderne world. What’s around him is blue-grey and stylised but Abner himself is standard-issue, mid-‘30s animated character in full colour, symbolising how he’s really out of place in the urban world of modern high society.

Still, Abner is a little stylised himself. Here’s a 24-drawing walk cycle. Notice the curved legs. A lot of attention is paid to the fingers, too. He’s strolling to that great tune “Lullaby of Broadway.”

This scene features four different walk cycles—Abner’s, the stylised waiter’s (slower than Abner’s), the short waiter’s (faster) and then the short waiter’s after he drinks a bottle of champagne (slower than the earlier cycle).

Judging by the caricatures at the end of the cartoon, we are left to presume the animators are Bob Clampett, Chuck Jones, Sid Sutherland, Virgil Ross and Bobe Cannon. Which one animated this scene is anyone’s guess.

I’d love to know the name of the song that opens the cartoon after the credits. “Rural Rhythm” by James Cavanaugh, Dick Sanford and Frank Weldon is the tune when Abner sits down on the bench by the front desk.


  1. Yowp, my notes don't indicate the music cue which plays after the opening titles (it only notes licensed songs.) That leads me to believe this was an original cue by Norman Spencer.

  2. I remember, even when we were weeee tots, we know that this film was very special and different!!!

  3. In some ways, I've always thought that the cue that is played while the townsfolk are setting things up was a little like "Buffalo Gals." ("Come out tonight, come out tonight...")

    I have always had a strong liking for this cartoon, and seeing restored versions shows just how lovely it really is. I'm sorry that Avery didn't think much of the cartoon. I think had Schlesinger not been boycotting the Oscars, this would have won a nomination.

  4. If nothing else, the cartoon shows a much higher level of focus and skill in drawing style on the part of the Avery unit than in your typical early 1936 Schlesinger cartoon -- most studios of the time period simply developed a 'house' style and stuck with it. The art deco segment of the cartoon required Tex's crew to draw not in their style but in Leadora Congdon's style, and they pull it off quite nicely (the closest equivalent of the period probably would have been the East Coast studios licensing characters from King Features, but in the case of something like Popeye, it was Segar's characters being placed into pretty standard Fliescher studio setting, while the center section of "Page Miss Glory" created an entire Art Deco dream world).