Thursday, 13 May 2021

Bottled Stars

The Van Beuren studio loved the idea of a pencil that draws things that become alive so much, they used it twice in 1932. The first cartoon was Magic Art with an anonymous cat and dog, and the second was the Tom and Jerry short Pencil Mania.

The last two minutes of Magic Art have an extended stream-of-conscious gag. The dog draws footprints which go marching off the screen to the right.

Cut to the cat. The footprint approach him, stop, some boots rise of them, and then a bum with a bottle of cheap hooch (possibly the kind Van Beuren animators drink) rises from them.

The bum leaves the bottle, descends back into the boots, which march away. But the cat can’t open the bottle!

Problem solved. The cat draws a pig with a curly tail that can be used as a cork screw. The pig is not happy. It bolts down a road, with the cat holding onto the bottle stuck in the pig’s tail, the dog holding onto the cat.

The pig breaks free. Cut to the cat trying to get something out of the bottle. He gets smoke. The bottle sails into the air and stars come out of it.

The cat and dog are delighted. Then the bottle crashes on the cat’s head, then the dog’s. The two are unconscious are stars swirl around them to end the cartoon.

This is why I like the early Van Beuren cartoons. They’re just so warped. Who would come up with a plot like this? A bum sprouting out a boot and leaving a bottle behind? What would Walt do? Not that!

Much like Tom and Jerry (the human ones), these two characters have no personality. They’re just there to be part of the bizarre proceedings.

John Foster and Harry Bailey get the “by” credit. Gene Rodemich adds another highlight—he has an uncredited girl jazz singer belting out “I Ain’t Got Nobody,” which the Mills Brothers did in a Screen Song the same year at Fleischer’s. Hear a version of it below.


  1. The Van Beurens are good examples of cartoons that, the slicker they got, the less interesting they were. Some of the later ones are tough to sit, through--for me, anyway--despite all the TLC they've gotten from Steve Stachfield.

    1. I'd agree with that, Randy. I'll take the disjointed ones from the early '30s. Any Rodemich mood music is a plus, too.