Friday 2 December 2022

Chinese Jinks Backgrounds

One of the good things to come out of restoration of cartoons from B-list studios like Van Beuren and Iwerks is you can get a better look at some of the artistry.

I quite like the Chinese-evoking background art in the 1932 Van Beuren short Chinese Jinks, even unrestored.

These frames are a little murky but you can still get the idea of what the anonymous background artist was trying to accomplish. Are they watercolours?


The cartoon is pretty much what a non-slapstick cartoon of 1932 was supposed to be—music, romance, bad guy shows up, bad guy is quelled, happy ending. Being a Van Beuren cartoon, though, means having the quirks we come to expect from the studio, like a male quartet of animals whose mouths join together while singing.

John Foster and Mannie Davis get screen credit (the copyright catalogue has Harry Bailey instead of Davis) along with musical coordinator Gene Rodemich. Cartoons released by Warners and Paramount got to use songs owned by the studios’ music publishers. Van Beuren had to pay to use popular tunes. The one the sailor sings to the girl on the bench is “Is I in Love? I Is” by J. Russell Robinson and Mercer Cook. Here’s a version from the year the cartoon was released. Fran Frey was usually a vocalist with George Olson (on the Jack Benny Canada Dry show) but he’s with Bennie Krueger here, and sounding more resonant than usual.


  1. Okay, okay, but look at it this way. This was made decades before television brought the world into your living room, less than 10% of the population had ever ventured more than a few miles from home, and people's understanding of other cultures was, shall we say, limited.

    1. Did someone have a comment that got deleted? I don't know what in the post you're trying to address.