Friday 5 May 2023

Plugging Paint

Friz Freleng made cartoons in time to symphonic music. So did Dick Lundy the same at the Walter Lantz studio. Naturally, this meant the studio that stole ideas from everywhere also gave it a try.

Thus it was that Connie Rasinski directed Paint Pot Symphony at Terrytoons.

This should have been a high point for the studio’s musical director, Phil Scheib. After all, Scheib was not only classically trained, he was a violinist. Unfortunately, the Zampa Overture (also used at Lantz) and some Strauss waltzes get mired down in typical Terrytoons arrangement with saxophones tooting away (Scheib told Gene Deitch this was something Paul Terry demanded). It doesn’t sound symphonic and there are no orchestral nuances like you’d find in a Carl Stalling/Milt Franklyn score or one by Darrell Calker at Lantz. I’ll bet Scheib would have loved to have worked with a full orchestra on this one.

Rasinski tries his best directing the Terry Trio, or whatever the three starring characters were called. He and whoever handled layouts go for angles and some perspective animation.

Writer John Foster tosses in his version of the plug-the-ears-to-stop-something gag. In Tex Avery’s Lucky Ducky, it was water. In this cartoon, it’s paint.

The cat's ears plug his ears.

With nowhere to go, the paint backs up into the can.

The cartoon was released in 1949, but I've seen ads for it playing in theatres in 1952. It was re-issued in 1956.


  1. What's the source of your information that Scheib was a violinist? It was always my understanding that he played the piano. In the same reminiscence you cited above, Gene Deitch said that Scheib had been a silent film pianist and organist before Terry hired him, and I've seen several photos of Scheib composing at the piano.

    Of course, none of that proves anything. Many composers use a piano regardless of their primary instrument, and it's possible that Deitch was mistaken. Deitch also recounted that when he needed a romantic melody for a Clint Clobber cartoon, Scheib sat down at the piano and immediately came up with a perfectly appropriate song for the situation, "It must be love I'm dreaming of, it must be love!" Evidently Deitch was unaware that Scheib had composed that song many years before, for the 1940 Gandy Goose cartoon "It Must Be Love".

    I've come to respect Scheib more in recent years. Those incessantly noodling saxophones used to bother me too, but the boys in the orchestra really had some serious chops to pull off those passages so cleanly. Some of the more arty Terrytoons from the early '40s, such as "A Day in June" (1944), are exquisitely scored. Scheib also brought some subtle humour to his scores with clever selections from the classics. My favourite example is in "Might Mouse and the Wolf" (1945), when a scene of sheep in a meadow is accompanied by a jazzed-up rendition of the aria "He Shall Feed His Flock Like a Shepherd" from Handel's Messiah!

    1. Eric O. Costello5 May 2023 at 17:05

      The New Rochelle Standard-Star, in a February 7, 1982 article on Terrytoons, says that Scheib was a child prodigy on the violin.

    2. Eric O. Costello5 May 2023 at 17:12

      Also, Scheib's obit in the April 14, 1969 Mt. Vernon Argus notes that he studied (among other things) violin at the University of Berlin, and he'd been a traveling violinist for the Edison recording studio.

    3. You can start with the Brooklyn Eagle, May 19, 1915

  2. Where did you find such a good print?