Thursday 22 August 2019

The Cupboard Was Bare (In the Next Frame)

Ub Iwerks cartoons went out of their way to suck out any humour.

Here’s an example from Old Mother Hubbard (1935). You know the lines from the nursery rhyme. Mother Hubbard and her dog go to the cupboard. All there is in the cupboard is a spider.

If this were a Fleischer cartoon, the spider would come out with some kind of non sequitur. Even in a mid-‘30s Friz Freleng cartoon, the spider would say or do something silly.

But no. Not in an Iwerks cartoon. Not even a “Can you direct me to Miss Muffet?” The spider being there is the gag. That’s it. Are you laughing yet?

Below are consecutive frames.

“No bone,” gestures Mother Hubbard. Or maybe “No spider.” Where did it go? It was just there a frame ago. Maybe Ub is jumping into the future (and wondering how fast he can get back to Disney).

There are other spots in the cartoon where it looks like a gag is being set up and nothing happens. However, the dog mouths the word “Damn” twice (this is an Iwerks cartoon after all) and does a weak Maurice Chevalier impression.

Iwerks and his people seem more interested in loading up the cartoon with songs than humour. I love Carl Stalling, but as an operetta, this short is third rate.

The studio was only making these ComiColor cartoons by 1935; Willie Whopper had been kicked out by MGM the year before.


  1. Maybe the dog ate the spider. XD!

    1. Heh. Pretty fast dog. I couldn't even see him do it!