To Spring is a 1936 animated musical short produced by Hugh Harman and Rudolf Ising for the MGM cartoon studio’s Happy Harmonies series. Although the production credit goes to Harman and Ising, this short was actually the first cartoon to be directed by the future cartoon giant William Hanna, along with animator Paul Fennell.
The title is a play on words used to represent the season of spring and action the gnomes must take to wake up and get to work. This cartoon uses the bold and vibrant colors synonymous with springtime, and is an excellent example of the Technicolor process that was very popular at the time.
Congo Jazz is a Looney Tunes cartoon starring Warner Bros.’ first cartoon star, Bosko. The cartoon was released in September 1930. It was distributed by Warner Bros. and The Vitaphone Corporation. Congo Jazz was the first cartoon to feature Bosko’s falsetto voice that he would use for the bulk of the series’ run. It has the earliest instance of a “trombone gobble” in animation.
In 1927, Harman and Ising were still working for the Walt Disney Studios on a series of live-action/animated short subjects known as the Alice Comedies. The two animators created Bosko in 1927 to capitalize on the new “talkie” craze that was sweeping the motion picture industry. They began thinking about making a sound cartoon with Bosko in 1927, before even leaving Walt Disney. Hugh Harman made drawings of the new character and registered it with the copyright office on 3 January 1928.
After leaving Walt Disney in early 1928, Harman and Ising went to work for Charles Mintz on Universal’s second-season Oswald the Lucky Rabbit cartoons. April 1929 found them moving on again, leaving Universal to market their new cartoon character. In May 1929, they produced a short pilot cartoon, similar to Max Fleischer’s Out of the Inkwell cartoons, Bosko, the Talk-Ink Kid that showcased their ability to animate soundtrack-synchronized speech and dancing. The short, plotless cartoon opens with live action footage of Ising at a drafting table. After he draws Bosko on the page, the character springs to life, talks, sings, and dances. Ising returns Bosko to the inkwell, and the short ends. This short is a landmark in animation history as being the first cartoon to predominantly feature synchronized speech, though Fleischer Studios’ Song Car-Tune My Old Kentucky Home was the first cartoon to contain animated dialogue a few years earlier. This cartoon set Harman and Ising “apart from early Disney sound cartoons because it emphasized not music but dialogue.” The short was marketed to various people by Harman and Ising until Leon Schlesinger offered them a contract to produce a series of cartoons for the Warner Bros. It would not be seen by a wide audience until 71 years later, in 2000, as part of Cartoon Network’s special Toonheads: The Lost Cartoons, a compilation special of rare material from the WB/Turner archives.
In his book, Of Mice and Magic, Leonard Maltin states that this early version of Bosko:
“was in fact a cartoonized version of a young black boy… he spoke in a Southern Negro dialect… in subsequent films this characterization was eschewed, or perhaps forgotten. This could be called sloppiness on the part of Harman and Ising, but it also indicates the uncertain nature of the character itself.”
A train rolls along the tracks in a rhythmic pattern. The train engine blows its whistle three times. The wheel turns into a hand and chokes the whistle to make a honk noise. The two-car train has a stowaway outhouse tied to the back. Inside one of the cars, Bosko and a pig with a banjo are hobos on a train, having fun. Bosko and the pig start playing “Cryin’ for the Carolines” with Bosko scat-singing and the pig on the banjo. He then begins to scat-sing a sorrowful part of the song even causing the pig to tear up.
The boxcar turns to an angle sliding the pig and Bosko toward the wall of the boxcar. The pig is knocked out and unresponsive while the train is climbing up a steep hill. It reaches the top and goes into a dark cave and begins another climb up a steeper hill. It rides like a caterpillar up the hill, inching along until it reaches a section where there is no track. It grabs a sheet of land but pulls down the mountain’s “pants”. The mountain pulls up his pants and the train journey continues. The boxcar carrying Bosko and the pig breaks off, plunging downhill at such speed.
Bosko ventures on top of the oxcar and repeatedly screams for help. The boxcar goes through a series of bumps while Bosko hangs onto a lever. The boxcar goes through three tunnels, at the third one, Bosko screams “Mammy!” The boxcar splits in two but regroups after a few seconds. A low tunnel launches Bosko off and onto a cow on the tracks. A second tunnel launches Bosko back onto the boxcar. A rock launches Bosko into the air. Fearing he might fall off, Bosko holds onto the lever until it collapses onto the train track and again like “Sinkin’ in the Bathtub” getting an array of trees. The cow bellows on the track in fright before Bosko gets a telephone pole to the crotch repeatedly.
Getting back on the car due to a rock, Bosko retreats inside the car. The tracks lead to a tree and the cow is caught in the middle. The boxcar smashes the cow into the tree who walks away outstretched and frustrated while Bosko and the pig land on a small board with wheels, distraught. The two dodge the debris from the boxcar falling from the sky as the pig grabs an umbrella to shield them. When it appears safe, the pig closes the umbrella but then his banjo clocks him in the head provoking the pig to screech in pain and start to whimper. Then Bosko pushes the small cart and plays the banjo before entering a dark tunnel.
Smile, Darn Ya, Smile! is a Merrie Melodies cartoon short and also the title of the song performed in the cartoon. This is one of only three Merrie Melodies cartoons to star Foxy; the other two are Lady, Play Your Mandolin! and One More Time. This short is a remake of Trolley Troubles, a Disney short featuring Oswald the Lucky Rabbit in whose creation Hugh Harman had once been involved.
A colorized version was produced in Korea. It was made by re-drawing the cels and backgrounds. The animation in this version is inferior, since many drawings were left out, causing jerky movement.
Produced by Hugh Harman, Rudolf Ising, and Leon Schlesinger. Animated and by drawn by Friz Freleng, Carman Maxwell, and Larry Martin.
In 1928, when Walt Disney lost control of his Oswald The Lucky Rabbit cartoon series, producer George Winkler hired away several of Disney’s animators to continue producing the Oswald cartoons for Universal Studios. These animators included Hugh Harman, Rudolf Ising, Isadore “Friz” Freleng, Carman “Max” Maxwell, Norm Blackburn, Paul Smith, and Rollin “Ham” Hamilton. Universal later chose to produce the Oswald series using its own in-house animators headed by Walter Lantz, which left Winkler’s animators out of work. The unemployed animators decided to produce their own cartoons and made Bosko, The Talk-Ink Kid as a demonstration to show to distributors. Rudolf Ising appeared on-screen as himself in the short and Carman Maxwell performed the voice of Bosko. Harman and Ising shopped for a distributor, but were turned down by both Paramount Pictures and Universal. Leon Schlesinger, head of Pacific Title & Art Studio took an interest in Bosko and used his connections with Warner Bros. to get a distribution deal for a cartoon series that Harman and Ising later named Looney Tunes, a play on the name of Walt Disney’s Silly Symphony series.
Sinkin’ in the Bathtub is the first Warner Bros. theatrical cartoon short as well as the very first of the Looney Tunes series. The title is a pun on the 1929 song Singin’ in the Bathtub.
The short was produced, directed, supervised and co-animated by Harman and Ising, with animation by a very young Friz Freleng and his friends. Leon Schlesinger was credited as an associate producer, and the title card also gave credit to the Western Electric apparatus used to create the film.