Sunday 18 November 2012

Cartoons of 1928

1928 was the start of a transitional period for animated cartoons. The year began with Paul Terry (Aesop’s Fables), Charlie Mintz (Krazy Kat), Winkler (Oswald, made by Walt Disney), Fleischer (Out of the Inkwell) and Pat Sullivan (Felix the Cat) making silent shorts. The year ended with the introduction of sound, a new studio (Disney) and a cartoon character about to eclipse anything seen on the screen before (Mickey Mouse). Thanks to Mickey, everyone started clamouring for sound cartoons and new studios popped up with their own Mickey knock-offs.

Mention’s been made on animation blogs that this is Mickey’s birthday. At least, in public. “Steamboat Willie” debuted at New York’s Colony Theatre on this date in 1928. And that makes it as good a time as any to post some cartoon news and reviews from The Film Daily from July to December of that year.

“Steamboat Willie” garnered attention in the trade press but not because it was any of kind of “first.” Of more interest to the industry than a Terryesque-looking mouse playing a cat like a musical instrument was the method of sound being used. There were a variety of sound recording/playback systems jockeying for business from the newly-wired theatres. Pat Powers used “Steamboat Willie” to push his Cinephone system and, more importantly, its compatibility. Articles in The Film Daily pointed out Cinephone was compatible with the Western Electric system.

The newspaper had not one, but two reviews of “Dinner Time,” the Terry short that’s become barely a footnote in sound cartoon history. Walt Disney, of course, surpassed it a couple of months later with “Steamboat Willie.” You can see “Dinner Time” for yourself below, including a commentary by Jerry Beck and Mark Kausler, who provides an added bonus by singing. Thanks to Cartoon Brew for allowing me to pilfer it without asking.

I admit the reviews make for encyclopaedic and dull reading if you’ve never seen the shorts. But posting them makes them a little more accessible on the internet. The Fleischer cartoons are conspicuous by their absence.

One extra note: Sid Glenar, mentioned below, ended up at the Mintz studio in the ‘30s. Read about him on the Scrappy site.

July 8
"Outdoor Indore"—Pat Sullivan
Animal Fun
Type of production..1 reel animated
Felix finds himself suddenly in India, where he starts to play around with the wild animals. He does some highly original antics with the wild beasts, such as taking the stripes from the tiger, building himself a ladder with them, and scouting the country for an elephant. After a long walk he succeeds in corralling his elephant, and after some amusing adventures lands it at the custom house in New York. Cleverly done, and carries the animal pranks which are bound to please the youngsters.

July 15
"The Baby Show"
Animal Antics
Type of production. . .1 reel animated
The animals run a baby show, and Al Falfa and his cat Henry dress up Milton Mouse against his will and enter him as their contestant. A lot of clever burlesquing is done on the baby show idea with the various animals and their fond parents. The judge picks Milton as the prize baby, but just as he awards the prize Milton's family of kids arrive and call him "Papa." Then the animals rise up in wrath at the deception and chase Al, Henry and Milton over the countryside. Carries the usual comedy kick of this series.

"The Early Bird"
Type of production..1 reel animated
The adventures of Willie Bird are set forth amusingly. He starts out early in the morning to snare a worm, but it is too wise for him. Finally Willie hits on the idea of a disguise, and succeeds in trapping the morsel. He sells the worm to a fisherman, deposits the dime in the bank, and then proposes to his sweetie. Then the villain Henry Cat comes along, kidnaps sweetie, and after a chase the big finish fight is staged just like in the regular mellers. Good burlesque, and clever cartoon work.

July 23
Fleischer on Air

Beginning Aug. 3 and every week thereafter. Max Fleischer, producer of Out-of-the-Inkwell cartoons, will deliver a talk on motion pictures over Station WLTH, Brooklyn.

July 29
"Futuritzy"—Pat Sullivan
Fortune Telling
Type of production...1 reel animated
Felix has his fortune read by a gypsy, and she sees nothing but grief in the cat's palm, and tells him so. Felix gives her the laugh, and visits an astrologer who reads his fortune by the stars. Then you see unfolded all the good fortune that the soothsayer predicts for Felix. The cat starts out to collect his good fortune, and as soon as he steps outside the door all sorts of tough things happen to him. Disgusted and sore, Felix visits the astrologist and vents his anger upon him. Verv quaintly cartooned, and done with a lot of class that carries nice comedy.

"Hot Dog"—Oswald
Circus Fun
Type of production....1 reel cartoon
The circus comes to town, and Oswald the rabbit tries all sorts of schemes to get into the big top without paying. He experiences a series of exciting adventures as the cop chases him. He takes refuge in the lion's cage without realizing what he has done, but when the lion sees his membership card in the Lion's Club he treats him like an honored guest. Finallv as the cop chases him he gets a hitch on a wagon—but it turns out to be the patrol wagon, and poor Oswald is pinched anyway. The kids will like this one.

August 5
Type of production..1 reel animated
Old Al does a dizzy reel with the most of his Cartoonatics, they being in this instance a swarm of mice who rise hob and come near destroying old boy's peace of mind for good. His pal Henry Cat tries to subdue the mice. but they run him around in circles until he is dizzy. It winds up with Old Al getting real mad and chasing the gang clear over the hill and out into the open spaces.

Type of production..1 reel animated
Oswald gets a chance to show his skill as a construction hand on a new building. Walt Disney has worked up some exceptionally clever cartoon material with a steam shovel and a donkey engine that are almost man. In fact they look like live creatures, and their expressions and actions are highly amusing. This Oswald cartoon is a good number featuring some fine cartoon ingenuity.

August 10, 1928
Pathe Offering First Cartoon in Sound

Pathe pioneers in the offering of the animated cartoons in sound through completion of the RCA Photophone recording of "Dinner Time," one of Aesop's Film Fables, as announced by Amedee J. Van Beuren, of the Van Beuren Enterprises, producers of this Paul Terry pen creation.

August 12
Felix, the Cat—Educational
Amusing Cartoonantics
Type of production . . 1 reel cartoon
Felix, the Cat, in another pleasant number. The cartoon work is very good and the gags, as usual, clever. Felix, as keynoter at a national convention of "dem-o-cats" swings the crowd to a decision to live on Mars because cats lead "a dog's life" on earth. So Felix makes a tour of inspection first before bringing the crowd up to join him. His adventures are funny. This number will click—no doubt of it.

"A Cross-Country Run"
Aesop Fables—Pathe
Black and White Fun
Type of production . . 1 reel novelty
The menagerie cuts loose for a cross-country race in this number. There are plenty of illegitimate methods indulged in by the funny-looking contestants. Old Al, the farmer, comes through the winner when an ungentlemanly mule kicks him for several cartoon miles. The picture contains a few new touches and ought to please fans who like this type of material.
August 19, 1928

George Winkler, supervisor of Winkler cartoons arrives in New York today from the coast to confer with Charles B. Mintz on plans for the use of sound in Winkler cartoons.
The Mintz organization plans a series of one reel novelties in sound, using what Mintz described yesterday as a brand new character in motion pictures.

August 19
"Sunny Italy"
Aesop Fables—Pathe
Amusing Cartoon
Type of production...1 reel novelty
This offers the much-cartooned business of the kidnapping with Maria Mouse as the sweet young thing who is abducted while out in a gondola with her boy friend, Antonio. Our hero pursues the villain to his lair. The heavy flees with the maiden, and our hero, on board of a seahorse, overtakes them and effects the rescue. This Aesop Fable subject is cleverly done.

August 22, 1928
First Cartoon in Sound
Playing at Mark Strand
"Dinner Time," the Pathe Aesop Film Fable which claims the distinction of being the world's first animated cartoon subject in sound, is currently being seen and heard at the Mark Strand, New York. The cartoon was made with the Photophone process, and is being shown at the Mark Strand on Western Electric equipment.

August 23, 1928
Paul Whiteman and his band have made a Columbia record of "Felix the Cat," the song and instrumental number which was inspired by the Felix the Cat animated cartoon comedies released by Educational.

August 25
Paul Terry—Aesop Fable in Sound
This first sound animated cartoon which has found so much favor with fans throughout the world in silent form will add even more adherents with whistles, screeches, howles, voices, bells and comedy effects synchronized perfectly.
This picture is a distinct laugh-hit with the audience all the way through and there are many new and distinct gags. Exhibitors cannot go wrong on this one and any more like it.

August 26
"Mississippi Mud"
Type of production. . . .1 reel cartoon
Oswald is deck steward on a Mississippi river boat, and when the villain kidnaps the beautiful heroine and takes her away on the boat, then the fun begins for all hands. The cartoonist has evolved some very clever cartoon gags and sketches for showing the antics of the animated rabbit, and of course it winds up with the hero rescuing the girl and proving his right to her love. Well up to the high standard of this series.

"In the Bag"
Type of production..1 reel animated More country fun, with old Al taking his gang to the Farm Hands picnic. Al tries his hand at all the games, and generally comes off second best in his experience with the roller coaster, the chutes, the greased pig and the sack race. The cartoon is lively, and has all the animal antics that appeal to the kids.

September 2
"Dinner Time"
Aesop's Fables—Pathe
Type of Production...Sound Cartoon
Here it is, the first cartoon in sound. All of the well known Fables characters including Billy-Bird, Waffles, Pat, Danny, Al Falfa and others appear in it with sound effects to enhance the entertainment values of what is ordinarily a right diverting reel. The sound effects were concocted by Max H. Manne, the incidental music conducted by Josiah Zuro and the RCA Photophone system used. A good job was done by all.

September 9
"Panicky Pancakes"—Oswald Winkler
Type of production. . .1 reel animated
Oswald is running a concession at the county fair, when various animals start to interfere with his business. First the elephant drains his lemonade bowl through his trunk, and then a pup steals his pancakes as he flips them in the air. Finally the bandit mice steal his cash register and Oswald has some exciting time before he recovers it. Good gags put over at a lively pace. Hamilton and Palmer are now handling the work on this cartoon series.

September 17, 1928
Oswald, the Lucky Rabbit, has made a departure in his amusement program. Heretofore there has been nothing topical in the cartoons in which Oswald is depicted. But the imagination of Oswald's creator, the Winkler Company, was so fired by Commander Byrd's determination to reach the South Pole, that they have made and will release in a very short time a picture entitled "The South Pole Flight."

September 23
"Jungle Bungles"—Bijou
Good Cartoon
Type of production..1 reel animated
Felix, the Cat, gets an idea to shoot motion pictures of the animals in the jungle wilds, and sets forth alone on his adventure. This results in some of the cleverest cartoon work that this series has recently produced. One stunt in particular is worthy of special mention. Felix is pursued by savages. He develops his film, and projects it against a large rock, showing the wild animals coming rushing toward the savages, who flee in terror, leaving Felix safe.

"Fiery Firemen"—Winkler
Type of production..1 reel animated (silent)
Oswald, the funny rabbit, turns fireman, and proves himself a hero when he tries to save Miss Hippo, but she falls on him and flattens him out. Some tricky stuff is worked in by having the firemen sleep or mechanical beds that are almost human and answer the fire alarm and do almost everything that the fire-men do.

Glenar Going to Coast
Sid Glenar, who has been working on trick photography on "Out of the Inkwell" cartoons, has resigned to leave Oct, 1 for the Coast.

September 30
Animal Fun
Type of production..1 reel animated
This time Oswald, the rabbit finds himself a trainer for the bull that is picked to do his stuff in the bull ring. Before Oswald realizes what has happened, the bull has him in the center of the ring, and a real scrap is staged that the crowd didn't expect. Oswald finally escaped by a narrow margin. The audience consists of all the various animals, who arrive for the fight by transportation methods and vehicles that are laughable and original. Cleverly animated, and with lots of comedy action.

October 2, 1928
Disney Makes Sound Cartoon
Walt Disney, who animated many of the Alice cartoons for Winkler Pictures, has completed a cartoon subject in sound. Peerless Exchange will distribute.

October 7
"Felix in the Last Life"
Bijou Films
Tvpe of production..1 reel animated
This is the last of the Pat Sullivan cartoons to be handled by Educational. Felix the Cat takes up aviation when his girl turns up her nose at the old-fashioned way of traveling in auto. The reel deals with the adventures of Felix as he tries to learn how to master the new device. Fortunately he had his life insured before he started, and when he gets through collecting insurance, he has collected for eight of his nine lives. Then he wisely decides to quit aviation, and marry and settle down with his last life still intact.

October 14
"Panicky Pancakes"—Oswald
Funny Cartoonantics Type of production cartoon
A diverting bit of nonsense involving pancakes, bandits and a lively chase over pen and ink mountain peaks in an effort to secure Oswald's stolen cash register. The cartoon work is excellent and the gags through the animal characters cavort are amusing.

"Rocks and Socks"—Winkler
Type of production..1 reel animated
Oswald, the rabbit starts out for a day's shooting. He tackles a little tiger, and is lambasting it when the mother comes along and makes things hot for Oswald. Escaping finally from the tiger, he encounters other strange monsters of the jungle, and is glad to call it a day. The cartoon work is very unique and some clever technique is employed. It carries the laughs also.

October 21
"Sidewalks of New York"
Paramount Inkwell
Very Amusing
Type of production. . . .Sound cartoon
A clever and amusing cartoon, made by the drawing and animated via the apt pen of Max Fleischer and nicely synchronized with sound. The cartoon work is marked by an originality typical of this series. The added musical score helps it considerably. As a whole: a pleasing and diverting release. Time, about 5 mins.

"Gridiron Demons"—Fables
Good Kidding
Type of production . . 1 reel animated
Here is given an animated cartoon conception of an Army-Navy football ball game. The mice represent the Navy team while Alfalfa and his friends line up for the Armv. They start practice by using Al for a dummy. Then the game itself is staged with the Goat scoring the only touchdown with his well known butting tactics. Done in the usual sprightly and original Aesop manner.

October 24
Scott Reports on "Fables"
Harry Scott, short subject sales manager of Pathe, back from a sales trip that took him to seven cities, reports considerable interest in the first syncronized Aesop Sound Fable, "Dinner Time," which is to have early first run showings in Detroit, Tulsa, Oklahoma City and Cleveland. Other cities visited by Scott were Dallas, Chicago, St. Louis and Cincinnati.

October 28
"The Laundry Man"—Fables
Type of production..1 reel animated
In this one Alfalfa decides to be a laundry man and has a gala opening with all hands celebrating. But when he starts out with his first delivery his troubles begin. The cats and dogs start to muss things up and chuck all the laundry out of the wagon. The usual mixup with the old farmer and his animal friends and enemies, that will measure up to the average of this cartoon series.

"The South Pole Flight"
Winkler Cartoon—Universal
Type of production. . 1 reel cartoon
These lucky Oswald rabbit cartoons provide a real kick for any kind of audiences. They are exceedingly clever, and some of their exaggerated silliness is good for real guffaws. This one shows Oswald making a dirigible flight to the South Pole, and the difficulties he encounters, only to land at the desired spot, to place an American flag at the Pole.

November 13, 1928
First Four Cinephone Cartoons Under Way

Four of a series of 26 new all sound animated cartoons to be made by Walter Disney, creator of the Oswald cartoons are now in work at the new Powers Cinephone studio in New York. The new series is tentatively titled "Micky Mouse." The first subject has been completed and three others will be ready for screening within the next week or ten days.
Each of the 26 subjects will have a distinguishing title. The first will be known as "Steamboat Willie" to be followed by "The Barn Dance, The Galloping Gaucho" and "Plain Crazy."

November 18
"Nicked Nags"
Krazy Kat—Paramount
Type of production. .. 1 reel cartoon
Krazy Kat and his cartoon antics are always amusing. These animated bits of nonsense have a happy faculty of inducing chuckles so cleverly done are they. This release was caught at the Rivoli, New York, at the tail end of the bill. The hour was quite late, but a very good percentage of the crowded house waited to see Krazy and his latest crazy stunts. Which speaks much for the series and their drawing power.

November 19, 1928

Oswald, the Lucky Rabbit of the Universal cartoon comedies, is to be synchronized or whatever they do to rabbits to make them talk and make funny noises. The cartoon comedies henceforth will appear with full Movietone sound and music effects.
The first Oswald with sound will be called "Oswald's Ragtime Band." It will be made as both a silent and a sound picture, since thousands of theatres are running the Oswald cartoons which do not have sound picture apparatus and who probably will not get it during the next year or longer.
"Oswalds" are made for Universal by the Winkler productions, Inc., headed by Charles Mintz.

November 19, 1928
"Cinephone" Precedent Set by Colony Show

A precedent in the question of "interchangeability", exactly the opposite of the Hagerstown case, is set this week at The Colony Theatre on Broadway, New York, where the Walter Disney animated sound cartoon, "Steamboat Willie" with sound recording by Powers Cinephone, is being presented and reproduced on a Western Electric device.
The Colony Theatre is equipped with Western Electric sound on film and disc reproducers. The Powers Cinephone recording is on the film and its reproduction at The Colony is on the same machine used for Movietone.
The Colony showing of the Disney cartoon also marks the first public presentation of the Powers Cinephone system. Film tests of the Powers Cinephone leading to the perfection of the machine have been going on during the past three years but they have all been shown privately.
The presentation of the Disney cartoon is also the premiere of a new series and a new comic character. It is also the first animated cartoon made especially for sound production, and as such it illustrates the perfection of synchronization that is possible when pictures are constructed especially for sound accompaniment.

November 21, 1928
The Third Day
Rounding out its 15th exhibition, "Steamboat Willie," a sound cartoon recorded via Powers' Cinephone yesterday played its third day at the Colony, New York over W. E. equipment without interruption, thus demonstrating complete interchangeability between these systems.

November 22, 1928
The Fourth Day
Powers' Cinephone subjects demonstrated interchangeability with Western Electric reproducing equipment for the fourth successive day when a cartoon subject on the bill of the Colony, New York last night rounded out its 20th performance. The picture, "Steamboat Willie," will be held over for a second week.

November 25
"Steamboat Billie"
Walt Disney Cartoon
Real Entertainment Type of production Cartoon in sound
This is what "Steamboat Willie" has: First, a clever and amusing treatment; secondly, music and sound effects added via the Cinephone method. The result is a real tidbit of diversion. The maximum has been gotten from the sound effects. Worthy of bookings in any house wired to reproduce sound-on-film. Incidentally, this is the first Cinephone-recorded subject to get public exhibition and at the Colony, New York, is being shown over Western Electric equipment. Distribution has not been set.

December 2
"Farmyard Follies"—Oswald Cartoon
lype of production. .1 reel animated
Artists Hamilton and Lantz put a lot of clever animation into this one. They show in their work that they are striking out along new lines, and the hue of gags they develop for the bunny rabbit Oswald are amusing. Oswald attempts to take charge of things on the farm. He washes the lone pig, and tries to milk the cow, but with poor success. His chief trouble is with a sassy young chicken that insists on mixing things up generally till Oswald applies the ax to her neck. A very enjoyable cartoon comic for old and young.

"The Fishing Fool"—Fables
Type of production. . 1 reel animated
All about a fishing trip indulged in by Waffles the cat and Al Falfa. As usual, the cat has all the luck while Al finds nothing but trouble on the end of his line. He goes through a series of remarkable adventures with a turtle, a mermaid and a walrus. Finally he is pursued by a monster fish which catches Al violating the fishing rules by angling with a mouse trap on his hook. Up to the Fables standard.

"The Yankee Clipper"—Oswald
Clever Type of production. . 1 reel comedy
Oswald, the funny rabbit goes through his cartoonatics in great form. This time he is a barber with a very up-to-date establishment. The animated barber pole picks up pedestrians ofif the street and shoots them into the barber chair. This helps trade a lot. The climax shows Oswald made up as a manicurist in order to please the villain wolf whom he has kept waiting. Wolf takes him for a necking party in his car, and when he discovers that Oswald ain't that kind of a gal, he throws him out with a pair of roller skates.

Exhibitors Daily Review
December 6, 1928

Harry Bailey, long with Aesop Fables and one of the pioneer animated cartoonists in the business is handing cigars around this week because of the arrival in his family of Miss Phyllis Anne Bailey . . Show some animation, Harry.

December 16
"Stage Struck"—Aesop Fable—Pathe
RCA Photophone
Type of production.. 2 reel cartoon comedy
Farmer Al Falfa at last finds a voice, and so do most of the animals who accompany him on his adventure. The old farmer insists on taking part in an amateur theatrical that is given down on the farm. He comes out on the stage for his various acts, but some hard luck always interposes to earn him a razzing from the animal audience. The sound effects are good comedy effects, and make the popular cartoon subject more entertaining than ever. Here is one place sound belongs without any arguments. No matter how poor the effects may be, the kids will always interpret it as part of the comedy and kidding. But in this case, the RCA outfit have done a fine job which should add new friends to the large following this subject enjoys.

December 19, 1928
Stanley Gets Cinephone Series

Pre-release contract for the new series of Walt Disney Cinephone sound cartoons, "Mickey Mouse," has been closed today with the Stanley Company of America by Charles Giegerich, eastern business manager for Disney.


Charles J. Geigerich, business manager for Walter Disney, animated cartoon producer, yesterday closed a deal for the new series of 12 sound cartoons for the entire Stanley chain of theatres. The cartoons are being synchronized by Powers Cinephone.
The first booking on this deal will open at the Strand Theatre in New York week of January 1st.