Tuesday 1 December 2015

You Killed Him

Van Beuren cartoon characters in the early ‘30s were poorly and inconsistently drawn—and that’s a good thing. It adds to the odd and impossible things that take place in their cartoons.

One of my favourites is Gypped in Egypt from 1930 featuring Don and Waffles. The opening is great. Our stars are skipping along the desert sand with a weirdly-drawn camel.

They spot a little oasis. The camel tries to get some water but first his head is tied up, then he’s punched to death by Waffles.

A bizarre-looking bird drinks the water while all this is going on then flies away. The animator gives us swirling lines and flashing exclamation marks.

Then the best part. From the distance, the sphinx moves into the midground. Then his head stretches into the foreground (all in perspective) and says “You killed him.”

The sphinx fades out then swirling pyramids fade in and are double-exposed over our heroes. Is it desert madness? No! It’s a Van Beuren cartoon. (As usual, Waffles is petrified. Don couldn’t care less).

That sets up more nightmarish sequences that are, at times, poorly drawn but fun to watch (on the West Coast, heads and bodies were spherical shapes. I think the Van Beuren artists had trouble drawing a circle).

John Foster and Mannie Davis get a screen credit for “by,” while Gene Rodemich puts together another of his neat scores.


  1. Despite the abysmal animation, 'Gypped in Egypt' just might have inspired Disney's 'Egyptian Melodies' as it covers remarkably similar grounds.

  2. This would have been from about the same time Joe Barbera started his animation career with the Van Beuren studio, which he discusses at some length in his 1994 memoir My Life in Toons.

    Of course, rank-and-file animators never got on-screen credit back then.

    Still, though, Mr. Barbera fondly recalls where there were no model sheets for the likes of, say, Molly Moo Cow (one of Van Beuren's stock stars in the day), translating into serious inconsistencies of character in several films.

    1. Actually, there were plenty of model sheets from Van Beuren cartoons at the time Barbera was there (which wasn't any where near 1930). They've circulated on-line for years. There's no way someone like Burt Gillett would have worked without one.
      Barbera's recollection is false.