Tuesday 2 May 2023

Black Beauty Explodes

The Happy Harmonies staff writers used venerable old “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” as a starting point for The Old Plantation (released Sept. 21, 1935).

There are a couple of gimmicks. For one, all the characters are actually children’s toys in a home. For another, Simon Legree is after the mansion of Colonel Julep who, after being threatened with foreclosure on his mortgage, decrees “Black Beauty must win the race!”

Race? What?!

Yeah, the second half of the cartoon involves a horse race around a race track that’s actually an oval throw rug. The implication is the prize money for a win will pay off the mortgage.

Black Beauty is a wind-up horse. Simon Legree steals its mechanical innards. When the race starts, a little girl doll, who is the jockey, realises something is wrong and loads the horse with fireworks to get it going.

Now we get effects animation. It is animated on ones, which must have consumed a lot of time. Try to ignore the digital fuzz in these frames.

Of course, Black Beauty must win. By a neck.

Scott Bradley digs out every possible clichéd song of the South, except “Dixie”—“Swanee River,” “My Old Kentucky Home,” “Camptown Races,” “Old Black Joe,” “The Year of Jubilo,” “Come Where My Love Lies Dreaming” and one about picking cotton, as we watch a perma-smiling mammy-type doing just that. And because a horse race is involved, he adds “The Old Grey Mare” and “Camptown Races.”

The cartoon was the first released by MGM in the 1935-36 season and the first to use full Technicolor. As usual, there are no screen credits.

1 comment:

  1. Eric Costello2 May 2023 at 16:58

    In this context, interesting to compare to H-I's "Ups 'n Downs," from 1931.