Friday, 31 October 2014

The Mysterious Screen of Black

The 1930 Walter Lantz cartoon “Spooks” has an ingenious opening, very much in line with what Walt Disney did in “Plane Crazy” a couple of earlier later when a black scene reveals itself to be a cow.

In this cartoon, curtains close on a title card, blackening the screen. Slowly, the black recedes and we learn it’s a rubbery tree branch blowing in the wind.

Could cartoons be any weirder than they were in 1930 and 1931? This one’s disjointed, with an owl growing bizarre designs in its eyes and poking toward the camera, a skeleton putting out the cat, a couple of guys in a theatre shouting months at each other, a Phantom of the Opera setting for a bit, and finally a riddle, with the bad guy disappearing for some unknown reason and the cartoon coming to a stop.

Pinto Colvig provides the voice of a hippo and is credited on the artistic staff along with Bill Nolan, Ray Abrams, Manny Moreno and Clyde Geronimi (no Tex Avery).


  1. There's some nice background art in that film.

  2. I really like the early Lantz sound cartoons. All the West Coast studios seemed to be flailing around a bit by the mid-30s.

  3. Sadly, it took WWII to get the studios out of the creative doldrums.