Thursday, 8 September 2016

A Harman-Ising Pipe Dream

The MGM cartoon “Pipe Dreams” (released 1938) has everything you’d expect in a Harman-Ising cartoon—creative character designs (some extremely over-rendered), perspective and effects animation, an awful lot of movement, protagonists that sing with cutesy voices and no credits to tell viewers today who did what. It was in production when Metro decided to cut its ties with the Harman-Ising studio and, instead, establish its own cartoon division.

Three little monkeys suck on a pipe and are cast into various lands of characters made up of things associated with smoking—cigarette packs for railway cars, horses made of pipe cleaners, and so on. A lot of imagination was employed. One sequence lands the monkeys in front of a copy of the book Tobacco Road and things switch to a rural scene, complete with square dance. Here are some of the designs. The horse’s body is made up on chewing tobacco which the horse chews on.

Maybe the best characters are some cigar hoboes who engage in a little explanatory song and dance.

Variety reported on Jan. 26, 1938: “Metro will release the Harman-Ising cartoon short reeler, 'Pipe Dream,' on Feb. 5. Number is 10th in the series of cartoon releases of the company for 1936-37,” then on April 23rd: “Three Metro shorts, 'Pipe Dreams,' 'Little Bantamweight' and 'Rocky Mountain Grandeur." were selected for Queen Elizabeth and King George as the screen fare for 12-year-old Princess Elizabeth's birthday party, according to a cable yesterday from Metro's London office to studio execs.”

The cartoon was titled “Smoke Dreams” during production in April 1937; one wonders if the intention to feature the song Smoke Dreams which Arthur Freed and Nacio Herb Brown wrote for the 1936 MGM movie After the Thin Man, but I don’t believe it’s on the cartoon’s score, which sounds like a Scott Bradley original.

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