Thursday, December 31, 2015

Swing You Sinners! (1930)

[Editor's note: This post is a completely rewritten article that was originally published on January 24, 2006. In those early days of the blog, the pieces were less detailed and in reviewing the article recently, I decided to expand upon it greatly, feeling I had not given this cartoon as much coverage as it deserved, including deciphering as many of the song lyrics as I could. The first comments at the bottom are from its original posting, but I hope more people take part in the discussion in figuring out this strange classic. This cartoon is a real treat, especially if you like weird or scary animation. Enjoy!]

Swing You Sinners! (Max Fleischer Talkartoons, 1930) 
Dir: Dave Fleischer
Animators: Ted Sears; Willard Bowsky; Grim Natwick; Seymour Kneitel; Shamus Culhane; William Henning; Al Eugster; George Cannatta
Cel Bloc Rating: 8/9

For the first two and a half minutes of Swing You Sinners!, a rather shocking Fleischer Brothers' Talkartoon short from 1930, you might be forgiven for just thinking this is a generic "cutesy" cartoon and giving up on the whole enterprise. Not that the rubbery animation isn't fun and silly and interestingly done, but in detailing the misadventures of a would-be hen thief who is pursued by a bulldog policeman, it is still rather generic.

If you gave up on the cartoon at the two-and-a-half minute mark, you could then surmise that the Fleischer Brothers' Talkartoon series, which ran for about four years from 1929 through 1932, was by turns both routine but slightly inspired. You might think they have the look and feel of having been both professionally animated but somewhat amateurishly rendered. And you would not be wrong on these counts. While the product is fluid in its motion, there is a roughness in their design that is applicable to their New York origins, and not quite as polished (until a few years later) as that of their West Coast competitors.



But to give up on Swing You Sinners! at that early point is to miss a true adventure in displaying the massive scope of animation. Like many of the early Fleischer films, Sinners! can be at times both sneakily commonplace but also “knock your socks off” surreal, even in the same scene. In this particular Talkartoon entry, what starts within a rather average scenario of a small-time criminal attempting to rob a henhouse turns almost literally into a walk into Hell itself. And, as always, one can never be sure of up or down within the oddly contoured world of Max and Dave Fleischer, whether walking down a street or trapped in the underworld of one's guilty imagination.



At the start of Swing You Swingers!, we meet Bimbo, a dog character who was the first talking pictures star for the Fleischer Studios (and was also, for a short time, Betty Boop's official "boyfriend”). Bimbo stands biding his time and acting coyly near a henhouse. When a hen chances to pass by him, Bimbo follows it to the house and tries to steal it. A series of tussles begin between the two, with first the hen ending up in most of Bimbo's clothing, then the two are back to normal, then the two of them ending up switching half of their bodies, and then are back to normal again. At one point, their combined bodies turn into a strange globular mass that twists and contorts until they spring out in a new formation.

As Bimbo reaches into the henhouse to grab the chicken, his wrist is nabbed by a disapproving policeman, who Bimbo pulls all the way through the henhouse. When he sees the badge on the policeman's uniform, Bimbo immediately imagines himself first on a chain gang, and that fear transforms in his head into a date with the electric chair. Desperate, Bimbo replaces his own wrist with the neck of the chicken, placing it gently in the cop's meaty paw, and tries to makes his escape. The cop throws the chicken and it lands on Bimbo's head just as the dog was making a break for it.



Bimbo's carefully struts away, but the chicken grabs his nose and pulls it out as if it were on a spring. Bimbo reels his nose back into place by pulling out his tongue. The policeman, following behind, bellows with a series of noises out of his own enormous mouth, but Bimbo keeps moving, all the time punching the chicken so it will go away. But the chicken playfully jumps onto Bimbo's back and crawls down into his clothes, coming out at the top of Bimbo's pants, and looks back at the policeman. With the chicken's feet sticking out Bimbo's pants as well, the bird takes a few steps to send Bimbo moving backwards, as the cop's baton turns into a bugle, which the cop blows in their direction. Finally, the chicken leaps out of Bimbo's pants, as do several baby chicks, who peep like mad and give chase to their mother. (I don't even want to know if they were implying something here.)



Finally losing both the chicken and the cop, Bimbo runs into a generically forbidding-looking cemetery. At this point, any relation between normalcy and this cartoon totally dissolves. Upon entering the cemetery, the gate closes on its own behind Bimbo, the key turns in its lock of its own accord, and a mouth opens around the key and lock and swallows them both. The gate melts and transforms into a wall section much like the others, and a large stray stone sprouts feet and crawls into an open space in the wall.

Bimbo finds himself trapped as the tombstones start swaying about him while a mournful dirge begins playing on the soundtrack. The tombstones moan all around the petrified and quaking dog. Bimbo becomes so petrified that a block of ice materializes around his feet, trapping him in place as the tombstones begin swaying to the music. [Note: I originally thought it was a block of stone, until reader Howard – see comments below – recognized that Bimbo must be suffering from cold feet due to fear, thereby creating a block of ice. Thanks Howard! Totally missed that one.] The ice melts into a puddle of water – though it appears to have eyes in it and then crawls away. As Bimbo's knees knock, the tombstones sing their mournful dirge:

"Goodbye! This is your finish, brother!
You're never going to get away!"

As they sing, Bimbo hides his head in the dirt but it comes back out on top one of the graves balancing a bone on his nose, he develops what I believe would be a yellow streak down his back if this film weren't in black and white, and the ground next to him turns into a giant mouth that tries to bite him. Bimbo frantically shimmies up a flagpole, and screams, "Oh, no!" but a tombstone with a face makes itself as tall as the flagpole and answers, "Oh, yeah!" Bimbo falls to the ground, but another tombstone sprouts arms and softly catches him, releasing him to be tortured further. A ghost pops out of a nearby grave and sings:

"You'll never rob another's henhouse!"

The plot of grass on the grave shoots up to look like the hair on top of a face made of dirt, who adds:

"You've sinned, and now you must obey!"

[Note: I think the last word is "obey," but may be wrong. I am fairly certain he sings "must" but the last two syllables could be "go pay" as well, but that sounds clumsy to me. Shoot me a note if you believe otherwise.]

Once more, Bimbo cries out, "Oh, no!" and this time a chorus of female ghosts and the grave plot sing back, "Oh, yeah!" The chorus sings:

"Oh, no, you never rob your brother!"

A ghost who looks like Monroe Silver, a popular comedian of the day who employed a Jewish dialect in his routines, turns his palms upward and says, "Ya needed it!" And then the chorus sings:

"And now, we'll haul your bones away!"

At the song's close, a skeleton puts a "For Rent" sign on an open grave, causing Bimbo to shiver with fright. As the ground tries to drag Bimbo under the cemetery, another section of music begins, and various creatures and objects sing of his litany of crimes, while Bimbo tries to defend himself:

Bat: Chickens you used to steal!
Bimbo: I don't steal no more!
Tree: Craps you used to shoot!
Bimbo: I don't shoot no more!
Shadow: Gals you used to chase!
Bimbo: I don't chase no more!
Tree: Get ready, brother --
All: Your time has come!!!



Bimbo desperately tries to escape as the walls of the cemetery march toward and close in about him until he is tight in their embrace, but he squeezes out at the top, avoiding their spikes, and zipping away. He runs to a nearby barn which creates a mouth that swallows Bimbo inside, where a large black hand continually tries to grab him, and ghosts and all manner of monsters sing, play, dance and threaten him through song...

"Stand up, you sinner!
We've got you at last!
You can't get away,
there's no time to pray,
your finish is g'wine to be fast!

Brudders and sisters,
come on, get hot!
'Cause I'm gonna take your vo-do-de-o
and tie your bones in a knot!"



While Bimbo continues to elude a haunted haystack, the various ghosts, and the black hand, a chicken takes over in the second verse, and then does some scat singing before starting to dance. It's body gets more and more rubbery and its legs stretch out until it is several sizes taller than it once was, filling the screen. Two ghosts with top hats do a quick dance routine, slapping their rears from side to side, and then a strange figure that appears to be a pair of pants with eyes joins in. It splits into three bean shaped figures with legs that strut for a while. An empty pair of shoes clops down some stairs, then the boards from the stairs march away, revealing a pair of ghosts in each step, who sway from side to side.


Bimbo's soul seems to leap out of his body, and splits into two white figures on either side of him. He jumps back into one of them, and then the other slides over to join them. Bimbo runs for it, leaving the barn through a door and slamming it, but the doorknob slides to the other side of the door. When it opens again, Bimbo is marched back into the barn by ghost playing a trombone. The ghost follows Bimbo around while playing an extended solo, hitting Bimbo in the rear with the horn, and at one point pulling out his underwear, which march in step between the pair. At the last second, the underwear turns into another ghost.



The second ghost (that sounds somewhat like Cab Calloway) produces a noose and hangs it in front of Bimbo. It sings...

"Brother, you sho' gonna get yo' face lifted --"

...while the trombone ghost whips out a straight razor and adds...

"-- and a permanent shave!"

All the ghosts gather around Bimbo and add "Ha! Ha! Ha!" Bimbo runs in circles around one ghost, and it spins and spins with his motions until the ghost becomes a barber pole. The straight razor ghost steps from behind the pole and with a terrifying grimace, threatens Bimbo. It takes a swipe at the dog with its razor and cuts the top part of his hat off, but Bimbo's ears reach up and pulls the hat back down in place.

Bimbo runs out of the barn and runs down a road where the telephone poles throw a row of shadow crosses in his path. The barn sprouts legs and gives chase. The ghosts pour out of the windows in the form of giant faces, including one that looks like a crazed Uncle Sam with incredibly long hair (though this might be another Jewish stereotype), and continue singing behind the back of the fleeing Bimbo. Dragons and horrid tentacled creatures join in the chase, and what seems to be a mile-long chain of ghosts wave their arms and pursue poor Bimbo up and down over hills until he runs with the full cadre of evil breathing down his neck as he runs into a dark cave. Swing You Sinners! breaks out in its full gory glory, with all manner of dancing, frightening creatures swaying and jumping to the deviant music. All hell breaks loose...

"You can't make any excuse!
Oh, get square with your goose*
'til we've picked up your noose!
Swing, you sinners!

You'll make a chicken 'scalope!*
You're at the end of your rope,
so just give up all hope!
Swing, you sinners!

We'll stretch you like a giraffe,
maybe cut you in half!
Just you give up that laugh,
Swing, you sinners!"

[*Note: once again, if you feel strongly about changes to these lyrics, plead your case in a comment. I am fairly certain of the other lines, but the ones marked with asterisks are iffy to me. It does however, make sense to me that they would threaten to turn him into a chicken escalope, since it is a piece of meat that has been pounded really thin and he is acting like a chicken (and is a hen thief to boot). And also because it sounds that way.]

A skeleton hand with a giant knife takes a swing at Bimbo, which he evades, but he is finally eaten up by a huge flying skull. With that gulp, the cartoon ends both shockingly and abruptly, in what I feel is one of the greatest finales in animation history.

There is so much that jumps out at you in such a crazed flurry of images that it is extremely hard to recount (or remember) all that occurs in this film without, as I have writing it all down. Even then, I left out many details and bits. 

As sharp as some of the imagery is, there is also a very sketchy quality to some of the characters, and it comes as no surprise to discover the huge amount of famed animators that actually worked on this film, including the incredible Shamus Culhane and Grim Natwick (though only Ted Sears and Willard Bowsky receive screen credit.) Dave Fleischer's tremendous regard for gags piled on top of gags fulfills itself to the extreme in this marvelously freaky short.

As someone who is always on the lookout for great Halloween material, I find this cartoon aces the creepiness test. In fact, with the fact that there is no escape from Bimbo's tragic fate at all, no matter what he does, this might be the ultimate in "scary" cartoons. (At least he gets to go out with a party!) Where most horror related cartoons kind of soft-pedal the scarier images with cuteness, this film and its humor is clearly aimed at adults, and acts that way to boot. 

What I really like are some of the wilder characters such as the long-haired hat wearer and a couple of the goons shown in the finale that have a touch of Basil Wolverton to them. It does make me wonder if this film, or at least the Fleischers' output overall, was an influence on the famous Powerhouse Pepper, Lena the Hyena, and MAD Magazine artist?

As for the oft-touted "surrealism" of Fleischer's early shorts, while it is an often misused term -- where people apply it just because something seems weird or dreamlike to them -- for much of this cartoon the description is most apt, with many of the gags coming completely out of the blue and having no real connection to what came before or what would be coming next.



As for poor Bimbo, he ran into all sorts of problems. Betty Boop, introduced in 1930, gradually became the breakout star of the Talkartoon series, which went away so that the Fleischers could concentrate on Betty's own series. This pushed Bimbo and former silent star Koko the Clown, who jumped from Out of the Inkwell into the Talkartoon shorts, into the background. Bimbo would eventually disappear from the cartoon world, possibly due to the Hays Office. Apparently, they had a little problem with bestiality. (This is odd, since his girlfriend, Betty Boop, did start out as an actual dog character! Look at her earliest appearance and you will notice she has long dog ears.)



This is reaching for it, but I've often wondered if perhaps Bimbo, despite his white face, was also seen by some in the censorship office as a black character, too; while he doesn't have the outrageous physical stereotypes that most black characters were imbued with in the 30's and 40's, he is black in hue. (Of course, so are Mickey Mouse and Goofy, but they are generally living the WASP dream in their cartoons, especially the later ones in the '50s, and I have never heard anyone with a serious argument that they are represent black characters.) After all, Bosko, who started out at Warner Bros., was generally seen as a black character, and he is not much different from Bimbo. When Bosko went to MGM, Harman and Ising, who created the character, turned him fully and definitely into a small black boy for several more films.


So maybe with Bimbo, it wasn't just bestiality that was the concern, but miscegenation as well. The music and references that abound in Bimbo's world also play off of common stereotypical behavior such as crap-shooting, gin joints, robbery, and jazz. If this theory holds, this would imply that he and Betty's relationship was one of a racially mixed couple. If so, I would bet that in the '30s, that would have been almost more of a no-no than just a little dog lovin' to the white establishment.

Whatever the reality for Bimbo: Cartoons he used to act in! He don't act in 'em no more!

RTJ


*****

And in case you haven't seen it:


Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Movie Madness (1952)

Movie Madness (20th Century Fox/Terrytoons, 1952)
Dir.: Connie Rasinski
Cel Bloc Rating: 6/9


Movie madness? Yeah, I've got it. Had it for quite some time, in fact, and I would bet that nearly anyone that has happened upon these words on this page is likely to have movie madness as well. If you care enough about the movies to the point where you are looking up random titles and clicking on links to rather obscure films and cartoons, you must have some form of movie madness equal to mine. Welcome to the club, pals and gals!

Heckle and Jeckle? They don't just have movie madness. They are pretty much generally insane, or at least their behavior would tend to lead one to believe such is the case. You could look at any one of their films and simply add the word "madness" to any title and no one would blink. They could just have titled Heckle and Jeckle films, one after the other without any real thought behind it, "Golf Madness," "Thinking Madness," "Ocean Madness," "Hula Madness," Dancing Madness," "Fox Hunting Madness" (just in amending one slice of films from their catalog), and everyone would have just thought, "There's those crazy talking magpies that actually look like crows. Boy, are they mad!" When lunatic behavior is your stock in trade, who is going to question your methods?

Movie Madness, released pretty much in the middle of Heckle and Jeckle's theatrical career in 1952, the 34th of their 52-film output, and is fairly representative of their work. The boys (the birds, that is) find themselves right away, without any other buildup, outside the gates of Wacky Studios. Jeckle says to Heckle in his affected British accent, "I say, old bean. A cin-em-ah studio!" Heckle is equally excited by this prospect, adding, "That's where we belong. We're a couple of hams at heart!" They link arms and walk right through the gates.They are caught immediately (and offscreen) by a studio watchdog, in security uniform though he is a dog, who tells the pair to "Get out and stay out" and thrusts them by the scruff of their necks into the camera. We see them lying all disheveled on the sidewalk, and the we see the watchdog attempting to settle himself down in his chair to relax. However, the frantic honking of a car horn sends him scurrying to his feet and looking to see who it is.

A fancy red sports car chugs into view, with one of the magpies behind the wheel dressed as a chauffeur, and the other sitting in the back of the convertible in the disguise of a big deal movie director, complete with monocle and cigarette holder. The watchdog holds the door for the bird, who steps out, slowly pulls one glove off his own hand, and then tips the ashes from his cigarette into the watchdog's open hand. Thinking it is a tip without looking, the watchdog replies, "Thank you, sir!" The bird wanders off, and the watchdog looks down at the ashes, and realizes quickly he has been had. The watchdog leans against the sports car, but all he does is cause it to fall over, revealing itself to be nothing but a plywood facade of a car.



As the fake chauffeur catches up to the fake director, they spot the watchdog running after them, and they shoot so fast from the frame that their disguises are left in their wake. They run into a building marked "Wardrobe Dep't." and the watchdog follows suit. As a matter of fact, he runs right up to a suit -- a suit of armor. Wonder who is in it? As he turns away from the suit, the arm rattles and he turns back swiftly. Then the visor opens up and a black hand sticks a seltzer bottle out of the helmet and sprays the watchdog fully in the face with carbonated water. The suit of armor starts to run away, and the watchdog grabs a prop sword and takes several swipes at the suit. The torso section keeps leaping up at the right instant while the legs continue to keep pace below. Finally, the halves (each containing a different bird) separate and run into different folds in a five-part changing screen. In various combinations, the magpies and the watchdog run in different directions using the folds and sides of the screen as hiding places. At one point, the watchdog runs across the front of the screen with the magpies behind him, with one of them waving a handkerchief at the audience.

Finally, the watchdog comes around the side of the screen with a shotgun, and he seems to have Heckle and Jeckle trapped for sure. He sticks the barrel tight up against their beaks and tells the pair to "put 'em up!" Out of nowhere, Heckle spins his hand and is suddenly holding a very large pistol with a cork plugged into its barrel. "You put 'em up, pal!" he growls back in his Brooklyn accent. This action causes the barrel of the watchdog's shotgun to grow a pair of eyes and then faint dead away after screaming out loud! As the watchdog stares down at the limp end of his shotgun, Heckle pulls the trigger and shoots the cork right into the watchdog's eyes.

On the run again, the magpies duck into a soundstage where Romeo and Juliet is being filmed. The watchdog hesitates to enter, but then he hears Heckle's voice mangle some Shakespeare. "But soft," the bird entreats, "what light from yonder win-der breaks?" Going onto the soundstage, he sees Heckle standing on the stage in Romeo's garb, and up on a balcony stands Jeckle, dressed up as Juliet. The watchdog wanders on to the balcony as Jeckle/Juliet continues her lines. As he acts, Jeckle tickles the watchdog's chin and he gets very shy and embarrassed. However, as the scene continues, he ends up standing on Jeckle's dress. When a safety pin becomes undone, the dress is pulled off of Jeckle's without his knowledge. The watchdog saunters up calmly, the dress behind his back, to corner his prey. At the last second, Jeckle sees the fabric hanging down behind the watchdog, grabs the dress, pulls it over his enemy's head, and zooms off the balcony.

Jeckle climbs high up a ladder into the rafters of the soundstage, and walks stealthily across two wires high in the air. The watchdog follows, but when he gets to the end of the wires, it turns out they are electrical... and Jeckle is about to pull the switch. When the bird does, the electricity chases the watchdog back across the wires, where he jumps out of harm's reach onto a hanging sandbag. However, Heckle is sitting in the window of a castle facade and reaches out with a pair of scissors. He cuts the sandbag free, and the watchdog and the sandbag crash into a dressed living room set below. When the sandbag hits the rug on the floor, the hole it creates pulls all of the furnishings in the living room into the hole right after the watchdog, crashing on top of him and clearing the entire set. The watchdog crawls out of the hole with a lampshade on his head and a lightbulb glowing intermittently in his mouth.



The birds wander into another set titled "Arctic Adventures." When the watchdog goes in, he sees a line of penguins waddling across the wintry landscape of the set. The last two penguins, even with their best efforts at aping the flightless birds, look very much like Heckle and Jeckle. The watchdog is not fooled and walks right up and grabs the birds by their throats. "I say, old boy!" says Jeckle, "I believe we are caught!" "You can't throw us out!" protests Heckle. "We've got talent! Why, look --!!" They both tear themselves out of the watchdog's grip, and he is left holding what amounts to a pair of white paper dickies.

At a piano, with his back to the camera, one of the birds starts rearranging his face until he turns out and looks like Jimmy Durante. He wanders forward shouting, "Start the music! We're puttin' on an act! And who strolls across the planetarium but..." The camera pans left and the other bird struts across the stage, smoking a cigar and imitating Groucho Marx. "Well, that boy will certainly go a long way..." he says, "...and the farther he goes, the better I like it!" The camera zooms in for an extreme, eyebrow-wriggling closeup of the fake Groucho. "They say he's got talent, but how does talent feel about this?"

The watchdog seems to be enjoying the show, but then he is confronted by one of the birds putting on a tough-guy act (it could be generically either Cagney, Robinson, or Raft, but no one definite), chewing on a cigar out of one side of his beak while holding a revolver on the watchdog. "I don't have to take it anymore, see! You're through, finished, washed up... so there!" he says variously, and distracts the watchdog as the bird makes him walk backwards. The watchdog doesn't realize that he is walking onto a pair of skis, and the other bird pulls him until he is falling backwards down a long snowy hill on the arctic set.

Our hapless studio guard skis completely backwards down the hill, overcoming several obstacles such as a split in the set, while the magpies sit in a camera chair high above and mockingly direct his actions, telling him to "get more personality." The action ends when the skis hit the wood of a stage and the watchdog ends up face-first on the floor. Dazed, he barely has the presence of mind to escape when Jeckle holds a clapper reading "Scene 3 Take 2" under his chin and with the cry of "Cut!" from Heckle, tries to clap it down on the watchdog's neck.

The birds run away again, and straight into a dressing room. When the watchdog opens the door, one of the birds is wearing a wig and a girdle, and screams at the dog. He slams the door shut, gets red in the face, and says, "Pardon me!" Then one of the birds opens the door and slams the watchdog into the wall next to it, until he has been pancaked flat. Then the other bird comes through the wall, using the watchdog as a door. 

They run to an exit, and close a gate behind them. Jeckle mocks the watchdog by saying, "Toodle-oo, old bean! We enjoyed our visit!" Heckle adds, "You must come and see us sometime!" But the last laugh is on the birds, because the room they have run into is actually the back of a Police Patrol vehicle. The watchdog laughs loud and says, "With pleasure! With pleasure!" The birds hold the bars of the cage and look at each other as the police wheel them off to jail. Fade out.

For me, Heckle and Jeckle represent the same style of humor that has always attracted me to cartoons. I have always been drawn to the most anarchic elements in humor -- the Marx Brothers are the gold standard for me, and from my love for their early comedies (especially Groucho) sprang my deepened interest in Bugs Bunny, who in most cases had full control of any situation, and went with any means necessary to drive his foe or foes crazy by the end of a cartoon. Heckle and Jeckle are right there, though they have never seemed as cool as Bugs was.

Regardless of the cool factor, in Movie Madness, it is fun to watch the nutty birds simply march into a "cin-e-ma studio" and just take it over completely. Sure, there are repercussions, as there often are by the end of their cartoons, though I am sure that by the time the Police Patrol car arrives at the jail, Heckle and Jeckle would have either escaped readily (as only they can) or would have used the opportunity to simply start another wacky adventure where they run amok in a prison. (I can't even begin to imagine what they would employ for a shiv.) The gags run fast, and if it is not one of their best shorts, it is at least what you expect when you happen upon a Heckle and Jeckle cartoon. 

It is the watching of their cartoons where the problem lies, for both me and the civilized world in general. I have, when compared to other cartoon characters from the major studios, had relatively little exposure to the Terrytoons characters, including Heckle and Jeckle (not counting the bad original cartoons that they made in the '70s where the birds were cleaned up for toddlers). The talking magpies got a pretty good head start in my memories. I fondly recall an afternoon or three or two dozen in my youth after I discovered that there were such things as UHF channels in Anchorage, Alaska in the '70s, and spent some free hours discovering Mighty Mouse, Heckle and Jeckle, Gandy Goose, and Sourpuss cartoons. The problem was that I saw some cartoons at that tender age that I have never seen again.

This is because there has been a scarcity of old Terrytoons shorts on DVD (or VHS, too, for that matter). The copyrights to most of this material are apparently owned now by CBS (once Viacom), and while the occasional rumor gets passed around that something might be released, they usually turn out to be just that. Hell, we can't even get a halfway decent Tex Avery set to come out from Warner Bros./Turner Entertainment (who own those copyrights, and they put out everything on the Warner Archives. What chance do you think the release of a box set of Terrytoons will have without some massive public outcry? (that will never come...) 

Which is a shame, because the history of Terrytoons goes all the way back to the silent era in 1917, continues straight through the growth and popularity of cartoons in the sound era, marches right into the early television era wth Tom Terrific, introduces Ralph Bakshi to the world in the 1960s. As I mentioned before, some of their characters were retooled for Saturday morning television in the '70s, and then Bakshi brought Mighty Mouse back in a big way in the late '80s. There is a chance here to add a nice collection for fans of animation with even a partial overview of their output on a Blu-ray or DVD set, that would give a sense of appreciation and history. 

The biggest problem is that the audience for such a release is relatively small in comparison with a normal video release, making the cost of remastering these older cartoons a less attractive option to the rights holders. I always ask if holding the rights to something is worthwhile if you just let your supposedly prized material sit and moulder for decade after decade. And my second ongoing question is always: in this age when you can stream just about any form of entertainment online, why not just make these old cartoons available, scratched up as they might be, for the audience that wants to see them without putting out a DVD set? Then you can see the size of your audience based on their views, and determine if it might be worthwhile to take the extra step in cleaning up the shorts and releasing them in a wider way. And the longer you wait, as your fanbase gets increasingly older, the less of an audience there will be that remembers the likes of Farmer Al Falfa, Gandy Goose, Dinky Duck, and Sourpuss.

At this late date in the game, we are talking about a niche audience, and it's a niche that won't be scratched any time soon. Talk about being driven crazy with "movie madness". I might be up all night with this...

RTJ

*****

And in case you haven't seen it (and you want to see a really downgraded copy, the same way that I had to...)