Saturday, March 27, 2010

Early Terrytoons: The Champ!

I would be lying if I said I was a huge fan of the Terrytoon cartoons produced early in the sound era. Like the early Van Bueren studio cartoons (Waffles & Don anyone?) they are best viewed one or two at a time as opposed to, for example, Fleischers' who can sustain over a lengthy viewing of multiple cartoons. I still like 'em though and I will say that perhaps no other series of that time has ellicited from me the kind of belly laughs as those early Terrytoons. Okay, not all of the laughs are necessarily intentional. Even in their day, Terry was threatened to clean up his act or face termination. However, there still remains a fluid, frenetic energy (and violence) which is genuinely funny and, perhaps thanks to Terry's philosophy of just getting on with it, a freeness of gags that drew from just meeting the schedule by any (and I do mean any) means necessary. There's some funny expressions too!

Regarding the copious amount of re-use I have been told that the Terrytoons of this vintage, as they were released to theaters, were somewhat different in content and that the 16mm company which released the cartoons to the Barker Bill television show (the BB theme is heard at the beginning) cut in some of the re-use to cover what they considered offensive material. Whether this is true or not I have no idea. I've never been able to compare two different versions.

Which bring us to today's film 'The Champ' (released September 20, 1931): a scathing expose of professional boxing and payola. Okay, it's not quite that. Actually, I don't know what this cartoon is about. It has lots of mice though!

A stadium infested with vermin - how could this be anything other than a Terrytoon?

"Damn, that monkey looking at his watch is amazing - we gotta find a way to stick it in a couple more times"

I'd love to have been a fly on the wall at Terrytoons.

"Waitasecond, somebody might notice. I got it: add a cat!"

What the hell just happened?

If you need a chicken to lay an egg in a hat while at a boxing match you should always remember to take your mallet.

I like the photo of himself Farmer Al hangs over his bed. Nicely covers the hole in the plaster and reminds him of happier times.

Good morning, rage!

More infestation. More rage.

Now they're stealing the food? I thought they were after the bag of money?

And now they're stealing the house? Well, I guess that contains the food and the bag of money (not to mention a snappy portrait of Al) but I'm still confused. Farmer Al and the Champ celebrate their victory with a catatonic stare into space.

The end ... or is it just the beginning?

3 comments: said...

Some of the boxing sequence borrows from a Chaplin film, City Lights. (See the video “City Lights - S17 Boxing” on YouTube, starting at about 1:17.)

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

You may be right-both films were released the same year. Interesting to compare & contrast the divergent qualities of both. As I touched on in my previous post there were things those silent comedians did that could never be replicated, except clumsily, in animation. Likewise there were cartoon gags (i.e. metamorphosis, decapitation etc.) which would be difficult and never look right in a live action comedy. 'The Champ' may reference 'City Lights' (punching around the ref) but just as quickly dispenses with it in favor of the outrageous cartoon gags. Thanks for stopping by!

Dave K said...

I, too, love those early talkie Terry cartoons. Energy is a good word for the studio during the depression years. Not particularly big on story, logic or actual jokes per se, but these things move. If thousands of mice with little stick arms just doesn't turn your crank, then stay away! Otherwise, a big bunch of fun!