Tuesday 31 August 2021

Fighting the Mouse

Why, look! It’s a sort-of familiar mouse watching the champ work out in time to the music in The Big Cheese, a 1930 Van Beuren cartoon.

The champ smacks a punching ball, then does the same thing to “Mickey’s” head. The head spins around and becomes a phonograph record. The champ puts the mouse’s tail on the record, and music comes out. The mouse sways in time to the hot clarinet jazz. The champ has a good laugh.

The mouse’s head spins back into its normal shape. The dizzy mouse staggers out of the scene.

Actually, Mickey the mouse isn’t done yet, but we’ll save that scene for another time.

The Exhibitors Daily Review of November 5, 1930 said: "There are some tough guys in this one — square-jawed eggs that might have been reared in the stockyards district of Al Capone’s bailiwick. Tough is no name for ’em. They’re animated cartoons but, tough just the same — and funny, and well done and all that sort of thing. They’re a prize fight, too. A good number."

The cartoon was part a Van Beuren fest on the Great White Way, judging by this story in the Review, December 12, 1930. What’s really cool is these 90-year-old cartoons are (at last check) all available to watch on-line. I’ll bet Harry Bailey and John Foster never thought their work would be seen today. I still love Gypped in Egypt and its goofy-looking camel and angry sphinxes, while Hot Tamale has some good timing and what looks like Jim Tyer wobbly-eye animation.

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