Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Gloom Chasers!

Oh man, this is a good one: Scrappy in 'The Gloom Chasers' animated by Art Davis and Sid Marcus and released January 18, 1935. Okay, I know all you Warners fans out there see this stuff as kind of squishy and pointless. Maybe even the artists who drew it felt that way (tho Marcus & Davis certainly had help) but that's not what I see on screen. In fact, the quality of the animation is quite exceptional in my opinion. Lively stuff. Plus the sort of weird touches that one might expect of a studio in New York. Mintz Studios was, after all, a transplanted NY studio and, at various times, employed artists migrating west from that city. It's hard to believe a year later the series would crash against the rocks with stuff like 'Scrappy's Camera Troubles'! . I've read that Sony is now in the process of making their library available on-demand. Let's hope someone over there likes cartoons! Ya all know a blown out 16mm (though I'm glad to have anything) in crummy Blog-O-Vision is no match for the fine grain of a 35. Ah man, I need a spit cup just to think about it!

Fruity children are here to dance your blues away ... four times!

"Take that teeny tiny twubble". Sure it's annoying but after the third pass you'll be humming it all day. But stick it through ... bizarre stuff is gonna happen!

I love the incidental characters in Mintz cartoons. Davis' style was a tad blander than Huemer's (he began as Huemer's assistant) but still interesting to look at. Oh, and Scottish people are cheap (even though they are probably quite generous).

A similar set-up a la Huemer era Scrappy (Sunday Clothes, 1931).

Of course, the dust bowl was no laughing matter during the depression. People in that area of the country were giving up. Suicide was rampant and people just starved to death. I think, after living through something like that, I might want a little triteness. Or perhaps the whole thing was a gag. Culhane wrote in his auto-bio that people in Florida laughed at 'The Grapes of Wrath'. Who knows?

and speaking of ... haven't we been here before? Y'know I'll agree we see too much of this cycle but you know what else: It's a really nicely animated cycle. I love the perspective as the boys draw their fingers across the plane of the camera pointing right at the audience. These were the days when audiences might sing along in a theater if they liked the song!

Hillbillies are enraged by fruity children (leatherface not pictured)

'Gloom Chasers' answers the question: "Yes, but what of the pitchfork?"

Sweaty horses are aroused by young boys.

The cow transforms from hideous ... hideous!

and the clouds do their auto-erotic cellulite dance.

What more could you ask for?


paul etcheverry said...

When I collaborated on a the first article about the Mintz Studio's Scrappy cartoon series eons ago, I wanted very much to see this one before deadline, but didn't. Thanks - glad I lived to see it!

One doesn't find many instances of specific references to the Dust Bowl in Depression-era cartoons, but that brutal scene from 2:38 to 2:51 is that and then some.

Seeing yet another wonderfully weird piece of work by this studio makes one wonder if Charles Mintz ever actually watched these cartoons.

paul etcheverry said...

Still have yet to see Marcus' 1935 Color Rhapsody Neighbors, by all accounts another good and unusual cartoon.

Wasn't virtuoso animator Emery Hawkins (Lantz, Warners, Tashlin-era Screen Gems, John Hubley and Richard Williams Studios, etc.) among the young artists in the Sid Marcus-Art Davis crew at this time?

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

I know Hawkins did the later Color Rhapsody 'Little Match Girl'. You might try asking Thad. 'Neighbors' does not appear on the Garage Sale discs that I know of though the later 'Peaceful Neighbors' does. That first run of the Rhapsodies is pretty creepy but I like some of 'em okay. I see Iwerks' Rhapsodies as the best of the series as I'm sure you agree. 'Gloom Chasers' is a film not out of place with that other bit of cartoon verite: 'Prosperity Blues'. Interesting how each studio dealt with subject of the depression from slightly different angles!

Uncle Billie said...

I'm not getting any sound with your videos...

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

The soundtrack of this one is quite low - a quirk to some 16mm prints. You may have to crank it almost to the top. Plays okay on this end.

Kirk said...

God love the wretched!

Kirk said...

The profoundly bizarre exploitation of animals in this picture-play is entirely incidental.

paul etcheverry said...

All these weeks after your original posting, I now remember that I wrote a blog entry about the Iwerks Studio.

The Mintz Studio cartoons seemed to take a dive as the 30's progressed. I think the Marcus-Davis crew did much better as a odd missing link between the Fleischer and Warner Bros. styles - in films like The House That Jack Built, and The Mad Hatter - than as a strained variant on the Silly Symphony formula (which worked fine for Disney and occasionally Harman and Ising, but proved a losing proposition for just about everyone else who tried).

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

Hi Paul,

Cool Iwerks post! Yeah, the Rhapsodies are a motley bunch but, as you point out, weird ideas which might not have seen fruition at an 'A' studio were able to slip by unnoticed in the harsher, more Disney-centric, world of the late 30's. Curious to hear Mel Blanc's voice in so many. Personally I prefer The Color Classics series but, for instance, 'Mr. Elephant Goes To Town' - genius!