Thursday 11 October 2018

Plane Dumb

Plane Dumb is plain dumb.

I’m referring to the 1932 Van Beuren cartoon which is almost close to unwatchable.

Okay, I understand the plot. Tom and Jerry are disguising themselves to go into Africa. But why do they have to speak with those stereotype voices to each other when they’re not in Africa yet?

Well, the answer is the cartoon was supposed to star a black vaudeville team named Miller and Lyles. The plan got scrapped because Aubrey Lyles became ill (he died on July 28th that year), but the Van Beuren studio didn’t scrap the soundtrack; it just changed the two to Tom and Jerry. Of course, the theatre audience watching the cartoon didn’t know any of this and may have been puzzled if they had any interest on what was happening on the screen.

Even worse, Tom and Jerry don’t say anything funny. It’s as if their sound was the gag. The trouble is, there was nothing novel about the voices; they’re not much different than Amos ‘n’ Andy who had been on the air for about four years at this point; Miller and Lyles themselves were in vaudeville before World War One.

And then there’s a scene with an octopus. Why is he kissing Tom? And why is there no impact when Tom hits him. The less-than-skilled Van Beuren cartoonist simply has the arm sweep down, and there’s a sound effect and a few lightning bolts and stars. Oh, well. Van Beuren is not your sign of quality.

The octopus turns into a spanking wheel, spinning in mid-air. That may be the funniest thing in the cartoon. He dives into the ocean and the plot jerks along.

For added weirdness, the opening title animation is superimposed over cycle footage of a waterfall. Why? Who knows. It’s a Van Beuren cartoon.

John Foster and George Rufle get screen credit. Gene Rodemich again supplies the background music. I’ve drawn a blank naming the songs in it (see the comment section).


  1. Hurrah. Thanks so much. I blanked out on the second one but I didn't know the title of the first. Thanks for the links, too.

  2. Even if you're not taken aback by the blackface minstrel schtick, the entire story is a mess. On their way to Africa, Tom & Jerry decide "We won't be safe in Africa". Their solution is to paint their faces black in order to blend in with the natives one assumes. Not only does it seemingly take forever to get to Africa, once they're there the natives try to kill them regardless of how their faces are painted. The whole story was a big waste of time.