Saturday, 11 May 2013

1929: Disney Rises

Walt Disney found a recipe for sound cartoons that audiences loved. They loved it so much, Disney came up with a second series in 1929 that did the same thing—and audiences loved it, too. Disney simply had characters dance around in time to the music and sound effects in the background. Add gags. Serve.

In leafing through the 1929 editions of The Film Daily, a New York-based trade paper, it seems almost all the talk when it came to cartoons was about Disney. “Talk” is perhaps an appropriate word as silent cartoons had practically become obsolete by the latter part of the year. The September 1st Daily lists the following release roundup for 1929-30:

Cartoons 151 (sound/synchronized), 52 silent.

Bollman and Grant
Whoopee Sketches (cartoons) 12

Krazy Kat Cartoons 13
Silly Symphonies (cartoons) 13

Disney Cartoons
Powers' Pow-Wows 12
Mickey Mouse Series 18

Paramount Screen Songs 18
Paramount Talkartoons 6

Pathe Exchange, Inc.
Aesop’s Sound Fables 26
Aesop’s Film Fables 26

Bonzo Cartoons 26

Sound Film Dist. Corp.
Whoopee Sketches (Cartoons) 12

Universal Pictures Corp.
Oswald the Lucky Rabbit 26

The Bonzo cartoons were British imports. The dogged researcher David Gerstein tells us about the “Whoopee Sketches” in this blog post. As for the Powers’ Pow-Pows, Richard Koszarski’s Hollywood on the Hudson reveals Pat Powers had a Cinephone studio on 40th Avenue in Long Island City where “Harry Delf was said to be filming a dozen ‘Powers Pow Wows’ here, but there is no record of their release.” The list doesn’t include the Kolortone cartoons made in New York nor the Felixes that would be released by Copley.

So let’s look over the animation news and reviews for the last half of the year. You’ll see the last of Oswald cartoons made by Hugh Harman, Rudy Ising et al at the Winkler studio in California were released; Universal had announced in April it would make its own cartoons with Walter Lantz and Bill Nolan in charge. The Winkler (Mintz) studio in New York (which moved west in 1930) began making Krazy Kat sound cartoons for Columbia after a contract with Paramount ended. “Ratskin” was the first and features Harry Kerr and Mel Kaufman’s “Me-ow!” and the hit “Mean to Me” on the soundtrack by Rosario Bourdon (later a musical director at NBC). Columbia also picked up Disney’s Silly Symphonys and would later distribute the Mickey Mouse cartoons. Paul Terry and Frank Moser’s studio hadn’t quite formed yet; there’s a blind item about Moser’s personal tragedies in one of the December columns mentioning he was about to get back into the cartoon business. The cartoons would be made in conjunction with a new company called Audio-Cinema. And if you’re wondering about Leon Schlesinger, he wasn’t negotiating cartoon deals yet. Film Daily revealed on July 19th he was making plans to sail to Europe (after a stop in New York City) and reported on November 18th he was back in California after sailing home via the Panama Canal.

July 7, 1929
Roxy Books Disney Short
"The Skeleton Dance," one of the series of Walt Disney sound cartoons known as "Silly Symphonies," has been booked by the Roxy where it opens Saturday or July 14. This subject made its debut in a four weeks' run at the Carthay Circle, Los Angeles, and is playing the opening week at the new Fox, San Francisco.

July 10, 1929
West Coast Bureau, THE FILM DAILY
Hollywood — Twenty-six feature talkers, ten of them designed as specials, 26 Talking Screen Snapshots, 26 Columbia Victor Gems and 20 Krazy Kat cartoons, comprise the Columbia line-up for 1929-30.

July 16, 1929
Disney Cartoons in 5 B'way Houses
Walt Disney sound cartoons are now playing at five Broadway, New York houses, they are "The Skeleton Dance" at the Roxy; "The Plow Boy" at the Strand; "When The Cat's Away" at the Hippodrome and Cameo while "The Opry House" is featured at the Carnegie Playhouse.

July 16, 1929
Cherniavsky Claims a New Sound Device for Cartoons
West Coast Bureau, THE FILM DAILY (Note: some words are missing)
Hollywood—A new device called rhythmical Drawings," a method to be used for the sounding of animated cartoons, has been developed and copyrighted by Joseph Cherniavsky, director general of music at Universal. The method claims to make [] of the most intricate sounds and dialogue and to synchronize these with the animated drawings.
The experimental short using the Cherniavsky method, was shown a few days ago, showing a horse doing a tap dance. Every break and tap was heard and timed even the []rtone of the tap sounds, being allowed for in the execution of the []ce by the drawn figure of the animal. Other bits shown were the animals playing various musical instruments.
Complete details of the method are being held a secret by Cherniavsky. He does explain that the scorings of recordings are made before the drawings are, but that the artists work with a cue sheet and listen in [] the reproduced recordings while inking the drawings.

July 22, 1929
De Nat to Handle Scoring for Krazy Kat Cartoons
Charles B. Mintz, president of Winkler Film Corp., producers of Krazy Kat cartoons, has arranged with Joe DeNat, composer and orchestra leader, to take charge of synchronization and scoring of Krazy Kat cartoons. With installation of this department, DeNat will write a special score for every instrument to be used in the final synchronization so that the scoring will be done simultaneously with the production of each picture. The music and effects are to be written before the cartoons are made so that at the completion of the picture there will be a co-ordination between it and the musical score. DeNat has just returned from a six months sojourn in Hollywood where he made a study of sound.
The synchronized Krazy Kat cartoons will be distributed by Columbia Pictures.

July 22, 1929
Six Novelty Subjects Acquired by Empire
Maurice A. Chase, president of Empire Prod., has acquired for his company six novelty cartoons in natural colors, synchronized with music and sound effects. David Broeckman wrote the scores and directed his 17 piece orchestra at the recording studios.
Empire will release the subjects soon. All of them are completed, the titles being "Boney's Boner," "Wanderin's," "An Egyptian Gyp," "Kriss Krosses," "A Pikin' Pirate" and "Hector Hectic." The pictures will be booked through Empire's franchise holders and to chain theaters direct.
Empire recently completed its first production in the East, The Wishbone, with Franklyn Farnum. This picture is being released as a part of 26 subjects known as "Empire Talkies."

August 6, 1929
New Disney Series Is to Be Handled by Columbia
Columbia has acquired distribution in the United States and Canada of Walt Disney's "Silly Symphonies" series of sound cartoons, under terms of deal closed by President Joe Brandt and Charles Giegerich, Disney's representative. The first picture of the series, "The Skeleton Dance," was given a prerelease showing at the Roxy three weeks ago, and has been rebooked for a return engagement, setting a precedent at the Roxy. There is to be no change in releasing arrangements of Disney's "Mickey Mouse" series, handled by the Disney office and independent exchanges.

August 13, 1929
116 Short Subjects on New Columbia Schedule
Short subjects on the 1929-30 Columbia line-up now total 116 following deal for distribution of the "Silly Symphonies" series of 13 Walt Disney cartoons.

August 22, 1929
New Series of 18 Mickey Mouse Cartoons Planned
Walt Disney plans a new series of 18 Mickey Mouse sound cartoon subjects for the 1929-30 season. Like the current season series, the new group will be released independently. Disney also is producing a series of 13 Silly Symphonies, for release by Columbia.

October 4, 1929
Audio-Cinema, Inc., known until recently as the Carpenter-Goldman Laboratory, Inc., has under consideration plans to film theatrical productions presented in New York. Conferences to this end are being held by Joe W. Coffman, president and general manager of the concern, with Broadway producers, including The Theater Guild, Erlanger, A. H. Woods, Arch Selwyn and L. Lawrence Weber. The banking firm of Noah MacDowell & Co., is said to be financing the project. The firm has started construction of a studio near Queensborough Plaza, Long Island City. It is to be finished in January.

October 8, 1929
Adolph Phillip and Eugene Roder have written the music and dialogue for a series of Bonzo Cartoons, recently synchronized at Chromotone Studios.

October 25, 1929
Screen Classic Exchange, has acquired the rights for United States and Canada on a series of 12 Whoopee Sketches cartooned by Walt Disney and synchronized with sound effects. Four are ready for release.

October 25, 1929
Gaumont Gets Cartoons for U. Kingdom Release
Twelve one reel Pat Sullivan sound cartoons distributed by Copley Pictures, New York, have been secured by Gaumont Co. of London for distribution in the United Kingdom. Copley Pictures are state righting the product in United States with Artlee Pictures controlling the foreign rights.

November 21, 1929
Walt Disney, with his "Mickey Mouse" and "Silly Symphonies" series, is paving the way for a bigger and better year. Grauman's Chinese, Carthay Circle, Fox Palace, and Criterion theaters have signed for the product. The Disney boys are making rapid headway with their creations, adding new sound effects with each new cartoon.

December 15, 1929
Short Shots from New York Studios
He used to make animated cartoons for which he earned good money. Last summer, due to slackness, he was laid off. On top of this his favorite child contracted a dread disease and suddenly died. With Christmas approaching, this, coupled with her husband's unemployment, weighed on the wife's mind and he came home the other day to find her dead, by her own hand. Now there is a new job in view and he is going back to the business of making other people laugh. A new angle to the "Laugh, Clown, Laugh" motif and, in this case, all too true.

December 27, 1929
Settle Bray Cartoon Infringement Suits
Six concerns are now licensed under Bray Hurd patents, covering processes by which animated cartoons are made, stated Bray Hurd Process Co., Inc., yesterday, is announcing that suits for infringement brought against certain companies have been settled. Parties involved in the actions have taken out licenses, said the company.
Producers now operating under these licenses are: Bray Pictures Corp., Aesop Fables, Inc., Max Fleischer, Winkler Pictures, Inc., Windsor McKay [sic] and Paul Terry.

December 29, 1929
Set Felix Cartoons
Screen Classics Exchange has acquired the rights to 12 Felix the Cat cartoons by Pat Sullivan. This is a new series synchronized with on film and disc. Two are ready for booking now.


July 7, 1929
"Jungle Jingles"—Oswald
A Pip
One of the cleverest cartoonatics that has ever breezed across a screen. Oswald the funny rabbit gets into wild Africa and starts to ride a dizzy ostrich which stops to lay an egg with disastrous results to Oswald and the animal. Then the hunter discovers a trick elephant rolling around queerly. Oswald almost chokes it to death, just as the mother elephant appears. Oswald runs for his life, but pulls a fast one with his tame mouse that scares the elephant almost unconscious. Finally Oswald meets up with a lion, and it looks like curtains as the beast rushes toward him with open mouth. But Oswald steals his molars, and chases him with the lion's own weapons. The comedy sound effects are a scream, and the cartoon conceits a real novelty.

"By Land and Air"
Van Beuren
A musing
Old Al Falfa gets air-minded with the animal world around him who are all sailing by above him on various contraptions. So Al drags out his air bike and goes for a dizzy ride, which ends disastrously when a bird yanks the propeller off and Al does a personally conducted nose dive. The kids will enjoy this one, and the sound effects of squeaks and squawks build this cartoon up immensely in entertainment value.

July 21, 1929
"The Skeleton Dance"
Classy Novelty
Here is one of the most novel cartoon subjects ever shown on a screen. Here we have a bunch of skeletons knocking out the laughs on their own bones, and how. They do a xylophone number with one playing the tune on the others spine. All takes place in a graveyard, and it is a howl from start to finish, with an owl and a rooster brought in for atmosphere. Time, 11 mins.

July 28, 1929
"The Plowboy"
Mickey Mouse Cartoon
The Disney studio is clicking right along on with its Mickey Mouse cartoon series. The animation is not only clever but packs an idea as well. The adventures of Mickey are not particularly important, but they are funny. A fine subject, replete with fun and laughs. Time, 6 mins.

"When the Cat's Away"
"Mickey Mouse Cartoon
Mickey and his relatives crash their way into the cat's home while the latter is hunting. The result is a music festival which proves genuinally amusing. As usual in this Disney series, the cartoon work is well thought out and intelligently and divertingly presented. Sure-fire for any audience. Time, 6 mins.

"The Op'ry House"
Mickey Mouse Cartoon
Perfectly Swell
Even the piano takes on life in this Mickey Mouse release. Walt Disney is maintaining the high standard established with "Steamboat Willie." "The Op'ry House" demonstrates this fact in view of the amusing kinks injected into the animation and the funny situations thereby created. One of the best sound shorts on the market, this release merits attention as a laugh-provoker. Time, 6 mins.

August 4, 1929
"The Enchanted Flute"
Aesop's Fables—Pathe
Fair Enough
Milton Mouse does a Pied Piper of Hamlin act with his magical flute in this member of the Aesop's Fables series. With his sweetie, Rita, he is captured by a flock of hungry cannibals. But his trusty flute charms the wildmen into a dancing mood which allows Milt and his gal to make a getaway, with the usual fantastic pursuit. An airplane figures in the escape. There is nothing much new in this cartoon.

September 1, 1929
Paramount Screen Song
Exceedingly Clever
Usually there is an idea behind Max Fleischer's cartoon antics. "Smiles" again proves the truth of this observation. The well known popular ditty is submitted to skilled animation and clever treatment. The results make for a diverting, pleasant bit of nonsense that looks sure-fire for audiences or this reviewer no longer remembers his onions. Time, about 7 mins.

"The Big Scare"
Farmer Al Falfa decides to go on an airplane trip, and takes his family of animals along. Among those present are the household pets, the skunks. They decide to climb out of the trailer and ride with Al. When he gets a few whiffs, things start to happen, and he blames the goat. A general spill follows, and as Al lands on the ground, and the skunks turn up alongside him, he decides on another change of location. The sound effects are funny, and the number carries several laughs. One reel.

"Oil's Well"
Oswald Comedy—Universal
Oswald in this sound cartoon sees his gal stolen by villain Bear. Some ingenious animated sketches show how Oswald finally rescues the girl only to be pursued through the air by the Bear. Oswald travels on the back of a goofus bird, which the Bear finally shoots to earth. The villain makes our hero dig his own grave but Oswald strikes oil, and the shake hands as partners in the newly found fortune.

"Race Riot"
Oswald Cartoon—Universal
Good Cartoonantics
Mopey, the mare, faces the yawn of the big race day without much enthusiasm but Oswald finally gets her up and in action. During the race Oswald, who seems to have dirty characteristics, repeatedly tries to win by foul means, like burning the elephant and puncturing the hippo. And for at least once in screen history such a villain wins. He is blotted out, however, when Mopey, in her final leap for the wire, jumps on him. This is excellent cartoon entertainment. Time, 5 mins.

"The Karnival Kid"
Walt Disney Cartoon
Very Good
Mickey Mouse does his cartoonatics as a hot dog vendor at the circus grounds. The hot dogs come to life and the cartoonist gets a series of clever and funny gags that will make anybody laugh. Winds up with a serenade by two cats assisting Mickey win his gal. Clever, in the way that this series has grown to have a habit of being quite consistently.

"A Stone Age Romeo"
Aesop's Fables—Pathe
Good Cartooning
Charley Caveman, who seems to be the original tough guy of the Prehistoric Age, does his wearin', tearin stuff in this Van Beuren short. He swings a wicked club with a flock of has-been animals and knocks the spots off a leopard. Along comes the sex-appeal of the period and he chases her home. After capturing the lady, who is also tough, he drags her to her papa. Just as papa congratulates Charley the girl friend kayoes him with her shilaleh. Somewhat discouraged and temporarily "off" women, Charley retires to his cave. This is an excellent number containing new cartoon ideas.

"Wash Days"
Aesop's Fables—Pathe
Funny Enough
All this idiotic but amusing excitement starts when the mice steal a pair of drawers which Old Farmer Al is washing. The old hayshaker fills a pig with yeast and goes floating after the elusive garment until a bird punches his air-steed and he lands in a laundry wagon. When Al returns home he finds that the mice have converted his house into a recreation field and he calls out the police, thousands of 'em, to clean house.

September 29, 1929
"My Old Kentucky Home
Alfred Weiss
Song Cartoon
This one reel series gets over the old community singing idea in a modern way. Pinkie the Pup is the cartoon animal who acts as master of ceremonies. He is down in his old Kentucky Home slicing a ham, and having a tough time with his bum teeth till he manages to sharpen them. Pinkie then goes into his animated song, with the verses of the pop melody thrown on the screen with animated highlights done in a good comedy vein. The dancing white ball used in the old Inkwell subjects is used to time the singing. Carl Edouarde did a good job on the scoring. Should be a popular number in the neighborhood houses.

October 20, 1929
"Down in Jungle Town"
Alfred Weiss
Good Song Cartoon
Pinkie the Pup is featured as the comic cartoon doggie. He pays a visit to the jungle with his camera, and has all sort of funny adventures with the monkeys, who try to make a monkey out of him. But he gets them singing "Down in Jungle Town," the words and tune being very catchy, and put over with animated comedy accompanied by the little dancing white ball. Carl Edouarde did the scoring, and there is a beautiful tenor voice to lead the audience if they care to join in.

November 3, 1929
Walt Disney [Distributed by Columbia]
Pip Cartoon
This is called a Disney Silly Symphony, and it is a corker. The cartoon work is about the best that has never been seen in the animated field, the expressions and general antics of the animals being unusually clever as well as true to life. A series of gags graduating in size are swallowed by each other in turn, till only the last big frog is left. This one in turn is swallowed by a long-legged bird, who is so weighted down that it flops in a pond and is drowned. The clever conceit is a fine satire on the survival of the fittest in the animal world. The synchronized music accompanying the dancing music of the frogs adds greatly to the laughs, which come easily.

"Tuning In"
Just a fair number in the Aesop series, with the cartoon character, old Al, listening in on his radio. Hearing report of a bull fight in Spain, he gets excited and starts doing the toreador stuff with the old cow on the farm. Develops some funny situations that carry a fair amount of laughs.

"A Stitch in Time"
Fair Cartoon
Telling the story in animated form of the cat who lost eight of its nine lives in a frantic effort to sew its trousers which had become torn in a mixup. The cartoon work is good, and it rates average of its type.

November 17, 1929
"Hell's Bells"
Ace Cartoon
Another of the Silly Symphony series, with the cartoon work outdoing previous efforts in its ingenuity. With Hades as the scene of action and a set of grotesque animals of all sizes as the performers, the reel is continuously amusing as well as fascinating. The graceful contortions and rhythmic gyrations of the dumb caricatures evoke both laughter and wonder. Appropriate sound effects by Cinephone. Six minutes.

Oswald in "Amateur Night"
Good Cartoon
Oswald, the rabbit, promotes some laughs with amateur theatricals in which a group of vari-shaped animals disport themselves in amusing manner. Rates with the better class of animal cartoons. (Five minutes).

November 24, 1929
Krazy Kat in "Sole Mates"
Comic-strip Clicker
Holding to the Krazy Kat's established standard, this item clicks 100 per cent. The coterie of animals puts on a singing and dancing festival, with ballroom numbers by a pair of elephants, a hippo and a cat. Then Krazy himself does a knockout imitation of Joe Frisco. Synchronized score, sound and talk. Eight minutes.

"The Barnyard Melody"
Van Beuren—Aesop
Snappy Cartoon
The adventure of Milton Mouse and Alfalfa Al, who joining up with the Pig and the Dog in a harmony team. They are going pretty good until Al gets kicked by a mule, and the harmony team is busted. Carries some fair gags, with a reasonable amount of laughs. Good number for the kids.

December 1, 1929
Krazy Kat in "Ratskin"
Columbia ... Time, 8 mins.
More Feline Fun
That talented feline, Krazy, contributes another fun fest in this account of his hunting trip on Indian land. He is captured by the Redskins, who proceed to burn him at the stake, but the invincible cat escapes himself and turns the tables on his captors, whom he charms and soothes with music. Hits the intended spot.

Krazy Kat in "Farm Relief"
Columbia ... Time, 8 mins.
First-rate Cartoon
Down on the farm offers a fertile field for the mirth-provoking tricks of Krazy Kat and his animal pals. After doing the barnyard chores by fantastic methods of efficiency, there is an animal quartet selection that stops the show. Synchronized score, sound and some dialogue are part of the works, Hits the bull's eye.

December 8, 1929
Mickey Mouse in "Jungle Rhythm"
Walt Disney ... Time, 10 mins.
Mickey, Master Musician
The jungle beasts serving Mickey as musical instruments. His playing is such as to set the whole animal population a-dancing. In fact, it is his musical ability alone that stands between him and annihilation. The little fellow is fully aware that "music soothes the savage breast." He reveals an amazing mastery of every instrument. Again Mickey shows that he is a performer to be relied upon. Plenty of fun, especially for the young.

December 15, 1929
"The Merry Dwarfs"
Disney—Columbia ... Time, 11 mins.
Snappy Cartoon
Here is one of the Silly Symphony series that will cop the glory from a number of features. Synchronized splendidly the picture portrays the merry dwarfs in a series of dancing steps which trickle along with peppy rhythm. Don't consider it filler even though its short for many are the laughs it will register with any type of audience anywhere. Truly entertainment for children from six to sixty.

December 29, 1929
"El Terrible Torreador"
Walt Disney ... Time, 6 mins.
Cartoon Riot
This latest number in, the Silly Symphony cartoon series is almost a continuous riot from start to finish. It has a Mexican locale, mostly in the bull ring, where the torreador, instead of setting in to kill his animal, does a "you chase me and I'll chase you" with the playful creature. A filler that can't miss.

"A Close Call"
Van Beuren ... Time, 8 mins.
Fine Animated Cartoon
Aesop fable based on "All's Well That Ends Well." A villainous cat makes off with Milton Mouse's Toots. Off to the sawmill he goes with her. Milt breaks the door and comes to grips with the feline badman, but loses the fight and is tied down to a log to be cut in two by the buzz-saw. Just as the blade is about to touch him in comes the Northwest Mounted and out goes the villain. For an animated cartoon it succeeds in creating considerable suspense.

Oswald in
"Kounty Fair"
Universal ... Time, 7 mins.
Oswald reveals himself quite an accomplished musician. He discovers that the animals at the fair are potential musical instruments. He plays on the teeth of this and the tail of that and gives himself a good time withal. He enters the dance contest with his sweetie and cops the cup The kind of stuff that makes audiences laugh unrestrainedly. Strange to say, these creatures of pen and ink are more genuinely funny than many a comic of flesh and blood.

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