Saturday, October 9, 2010

Halloween: The Nut Factory

Well, we're coming up again on probably my favorite pseudo-holiday all year long. No religious affiliation required (unless you're one of those wackos who run around in the woods) - everybody can join in! As a kid I couldn't believe there was actually a day dedicated to Frankenstein. It was as though the contents of my head were suddenly appearing in department store windows and shelves everywhere! Cartoons benefitted greatly from this coincidental 'holiday' and, in fact, many of the best cartoons ever made (in my opinion) were those which in some way revolved around the supernatural. It was ready made material for animation. I've covered a number of these in previous years and, although the list is dwindling, I hope to get a few more examples up this year. Enjoy!

One of the things that I love so much about the New York school of animation was their total misunderstanding of cuteness. Cubby Bear, the unforgettable star of the Van Bueren Studios from 1933-1934, was just such a creature. A look at the only existing poster (that I know of) for Cubby reveals two glaze-eyed characters, mid twirl, punctuated psychotic animals and the disembodied head of an expressionistic horse!

The merchandise from Van Beuren wasn't much better. Can you imagine any kid wanting to snuggle with these? Talk about Halloween Horrors! "Mommy, my stuffies smell like ashtray and yelling!"

'The Nut Factory', which was released Aug. 11 1933 and directed by future Terrytoons animator Mannie Davis, perhaps owes a mild debt to the earlier Fleischer cartoon 'The Herring Murder Case' but is so completely off the wall that you really have to see it to believe it. While the similarity to Mickey is obvious so too is the similarity to Bimbo: star of just-across-the-street Fleischer Studios. In terms of narrative (?) structure if there ever was an heir to 'The Male Man' at a studio other than Fleischers this is it! It's all about the dentures!

How do you top a ladies room gag? Follow it with an outhouse gag!

Oh, by the way, there's a haunted house. The logic is sound: ladies room + out-house + haunted house=perfection. Class dismissed.

Bats and another Fleischer influence: the multiple doors of 'Bimbo's Initiation'! Van Beuren rain is great isn't it? Moody and wonderful.

and fantastic ghosts!

A forgettable character maybe but an unforgettable cartoon. Watch and be mystified...


rev.andy said...

"like Ashtrays and yelling!"
Too funny. I love these cartoons. Cubby is one of my favorites. On a side note. I know this young lady who's a budding cartoonist. Real talented. But she grew up on stuff like Sonic the hedgehog. So I've been showing her all these great old cartoons. She loves them. Cant get enough. She's more into Oswald though than Bimbo. Loves the Lantz/Nolan Oswalds more than the Disney ones! Lol There is hope!

Belle Dee said...

YAY! Halloween at Uncle John's!! Best Halloween treats EVER! I hope you're able to post some more spooky goodies before the month is out!

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

Hi Belle, thanks for stopping by. I'll try and get up some interesting stuff but, like i said, the list is dwindling. And keep those Over-The-Mountain relatives of yours out of my bread!

Michael Sporn said...

Hi, This series, of course, was begun by Harman and Ising right after they left Warners and opened their own studio. The relationship with Van Buren didn't last long and they were out the door leaving other Cubby films to be done.

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

Hi Michael-

OM&M quotes Mannie Davis as the creator of Cubby yet, the film you are referring to, 'Mischeivous Mice', was evidently made (but unreleased) the same year (1933) as the first released Cubby, 'Opening Night'. Mysterious. Both 'Mischeivous Mice' and the H&A Cubby's which followed in 1934 do owe quite a debt to Bosko which, for me, is probably the least appealing character of the 30's. Even in NY the series ran hot & cold but, at it's best (in films like 'The Nut Factory'), the Cubby series proved that VB cartoons could be as inventive, if technically lagging somewhat, as any of the best cartoons of those early years.

Thanks for stopping by!

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

A quick breeze through the Thunderbean disc revealed a typo in the dates for 'Mischievous Mice'. In the main menu it is listed as 1933 but, in the notes which appear in the still gallery, Stanchfield gives 1934 as the date.