Thursday 24 December 2020

Celebrity Toys For Little Boy

Columbia tried pulling heart strings in its lavishly-animated 1937 holiday season short The Little Match Girl. But before that, it tugged a little in Gifts From the Air, released January 1, 1937. (Why a Christmas cartoon would be released in January is something only Columbia could explain).

But besides a poor, ragged boy who lives in a clapboard shack, what do we get? Because it’s a 1930s cartoon from the Mintz studio, it can mean only one thing—celebrity caricatures!

In an ingenious shot, Santa and his bag of toys comes through the round loudspeaker for the radio (yeah, the kid can’t afford an untattered blanket, but he has a radio). And St. Nick brings your favourite stars in toy form.

He’s riding a duck. And he’s selling it! It must be Joe Penner.

The roly-poly toy is Paul Whiteman on one side and Kate Smith on the other. Hello, everybody!

Yowsah! Ben Bernie is speaking into a microphone.

So-oooooe, Graham! It’s Ed Wynn, the fire chief.

One toy claps his balls (ie. hands) together just like Eddie Cantor. He bumps into a jack-in-the-box, though it’s more like a Mad Russian-in-a-box. Dave Rubinoff pops out of the Russian’s beard.

Bing Crosby is a goat. He’s run down by Wynn and dies. They sure didn’t like Crosby at Hollywood animation studios, did they?

No Laurel and Hardy or Jack Benny. Maybe next time.

The short was re-issued December 18, 1937 (The Little Match Girl appeared in theatres in November) and again November 25, 1955.


  1. The way films were distributed back then, it really didn't matter that "Gifts from the Air" was released in January. Even if it had been released before Christmas, it wouldn't have reached most theaters until sometime the next year, anyway.

    Some of the celebrity caricatures must have puzzled many people seeing this cartoon when it was reissued in 1955. Kids and younger adults who had no idea who somebody like Joe Penner was.

  2. I know I asked my mother more than once who some of the Hollywood caricatures were, and for some reason the only time I've never forgotten is when she ID'd Ned Sparks.

  3. As with Friz' He Was Her Man (1937) having a Blue Ribbon reissue in 1949, one has to wonder if post-war audiences felt cheated by having what are clearly Depression-era cartoons passed off as current releases.