Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Horse On The Merry Go Round

This Week: "The Horse on the Merry Go Round" (Columbia Color Rhapsodies 1938). I've written earlier on this forgotten and possibly misunderstood film farmed out by Charles Mintz to the then thread bare Iwerks' Studio and thought maybe it was time to post it. I had remarked on the films daring design and watching the film again one could perhaps even make a case for the use of color and pattern anticipating, though in a much subtler less ham fisted way, UPA cartoons that came much later. I should remark that there is a disturbing stereotype at the 43 second mark. I have no idea as to the cultural origins of such a hateful practice but a similar type midway attraction appears in the first Popeye cartoon so I assume such things did happen. There is no questioning the film was made in sociologically primitive times. Regardless, it is a film with tremendous atmosphere and even lyricism I would say. All the elements that say "Iwerks Studio" are there: a quality not as apparent in, for example, the Warner Brothers' cartoons similarly farmed to Iwerks.

Okay, I'm goin' all marshmallow this week but I promise I'll be back with hardened criminals, tobacco chewing hoboes and perverted chess pieces soon enough ...


3 comments: said...

Indeed, this game, a more brutal version of that in which hitting a target caused a person to be dumped from a stool into water, used to be a common offering at carnivals at the like. Both it and the dunking game typically featured either a black man or a man in black-face, who would taunt the thrower and passers-by. You can see a further cinematic reference to it in Dante's Inferno (1935). One common name for this grotesque game was “African Dodger”, which name was used by Vonnegut in Breakfast of Champions (1973).

(The dunking game survives, stripped of its racist content, because it doesn't normally entail physical injury.)

J.V. (AKA "White Pongo") said...

Thanks for the info.

paul etcheverry said...

Thanks for posting this - it's one of my favorite cartoons ever made, as well as, with Stratos-Fear (1933), Balloon Land (1935) and Merry Mannequins (1937) an excellent example of just what was unique and wonderful about the best Iwerks Studio films.

Last Sunday, Leslie Iwerks was signing copies of her book about Ub at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival and I mentioned this cartoon to her.

The Iwerks-produced Columbia Color Rhapsody cartoon that really anticipates the UPA style is Blackboard Revue (1939). While it isn't anywhere near the masterpiece these aforementioned cartoons are, the whole thing involves red stick figure characters animated on a blackboard. Also features lots of voice work by Mel Blanc.