Ub Iwerks (1930)
Animated by Ub Iwerks, Fred Kopietz, and Tony Pabian
Backgrounds by Fred Kopietz
Fiddlesticks is a 1930 Celebrity Producitons theatrical cartoon short directed and animated by Ub Iwerks, in his first cartoon since he departed from Walt Disney’s studio. The short features Iwerks’ character Flip the Frog. It is the first complete sound cartoon to be photographed in color.
Fiddlesticks was the first film in the Flip the Frog series. The sound system was Powers Cinephone, the same system used for Disney’s Steamboat Willie in 1928.
The unnamed mouse in the cartoon bears a striking resemblance to Mortimer Mouse, the original concept behind Mickey Mouse, both of whom were first animated by Ub Iwerks.
I wonder who Iwerks’ musical director was. There are pieces, especially in the section with Flip accompanying the mouse violinist, which are parodic “inversions” of the “Souvenir” by Franz Drdla, “Narcissus” by Ethelbert Nevin, “Hearts and Flowers” by Theodore Moses-Tobani (during the passage where both the mouse and Flip weep), the “Serenade” by Moritz Moszkowski, and the final “can-can” section from the “Orpheus in the Underworld” overture by Jacques Offenbach. The cartoon’s harmonies are the same as those in these pieces, but the conductor wrote similar but different melodies over them – it’s quite clever. (Earlier, the orchestra plays bits similarly adapted from the overtures to “Raymond” by Ambroise Thomas and “Poet and Peasant” by Franz von Suppe as well.) Also, the Cinephone system here sounds a bit better than usual – it was a terrible system, with Phonofilm’s faults and none of the improvements that Case and Sponable did with it to bring out Movietone. It doesn’t sound quite as “wobbly” as some other Cinephone tracks I’ve heard.
I’ve read bits and pieces about Disney and most of it not good.
At the start they were more partners, but as time went on Disney was treating Ub more like a cog-in-the-machine animator so he left basically for a more important role as a main animator. Disney really does have a screwed up history. Treated women unfairly and his workers went on strike for better working conditions.
Interesting article, thanks.
Ah! The guy is very talented. Makes me wonder why he and Disney parted…
Yes. Not the first sound or first color but first sound with color:)
Thoroughly delightful! So this was the first color sound cartoon? Amazing!