Thursday, 16 May 2013

Molly Flips

The Van Beuren cartoon studio lay in obscurity until Leonard Maltin wrote “Of Mice and Magic.” It really deserves to be the subject of a book, especially now that Steve Stanchfield has beautifully restored a number of the Van Beuren cartoons so people can get a good look at them.

The cartoon division—Van Beuren made live-action shorts for RKO as well—went through several distinct eras, starting in the silent period and ending when Burt Gillett was hired to duplicate his success (which can be charitably described as one—“The Three Little Pigs”) with the Silly Symphonies at Disney. He didn’t quite get there. He duplicated Disney, all right. He came up with animal characters that twisted and turned and emoted like silent film stars but weren’t really funny.

Molly Moo-Cow was one of them. She appeared in four cartoons released almost in a bunch before and after the start of 1936. In “Molly Moo-Cow and the Butterflies” (1935), our heroine terpsichores her way through a meadow. She leaps and turns over in mid-air. Here are some of the drawings.

The animation’s good, but there’s no point to it. Gillett and co-director Tom Palmer have it in the cartoon because they want to show the world they have an animator who can make a character frolic in nature just like those guys on Hyperion Street. You can hear the collective yawn from the audience. That isn’t why they watch cartoons.

The pixilated, public domain video of this cartoon (as opposed to the fine restorations Steve has done on the earlier Van Beuren black and whites) doesn’t show off the impressive Technicolor of the cartoon which, in 1935, probably still passed for entertainment itself.

None of the artists are credited, but Van Beuren had fine people like Carlo Vinci, Jack Zander and Dan Gordon animating at the time. By mid-1936, they were gone. There was no more Van Beuren studio. RKO got real Silly Symphonys instead.

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