…and Congo Jazz a speciality.

I find the restored version of this cartoon, which is also on YouTube, TOO restored, personally. It’s lost its BLACK GLOW. So I’ve gone for a medium-decayed copy. 

CONGO JAZZ is a ridiculously early Harman-Ising Loony Tune, which means it’s weird in ways not really comparable to the acceptable weirdness of the later, more developed Warner Bros style.

Bosco or Bimbo or Bunco or whatever this off-brand Mickey is meant to be called is hunting — somewhat timorously — in the jungle. “Be vewwy quiet, I’m hunting something-or-other,” he doesn’t say. A tiger appears behind him and LICKS HIS BACK. In fact, it’s worse than that. When I frame-grab that image, I detect about a foot of feline tongue snaking between the little cel-animated critter’s thighs.

Burpo is so scared he retracts into his own trousers.

Coming up for air, he shoots at the tiger but his limp-dick rifle merely discharges a black dot which describes an impotent parabola before falling to earth, an expired full stop. Shooting blanks.

An exciting chase scene! Banquo and the tiger run repeatedly past the same clump of trees. Nightmare logic. (Shirley MacLaine keeps running past the same doorway at the start of THE APARTMENT but that’s OK because all doorways on a street look the same.)

Burpo gets bitten on the ass and his upper torso is spaghettified by him straining to escape. He’s now eight feet long, his little spherical fists waving in understandable dismay.

There hasn’t really been much jazz so far.

Bilbo’s stomach, a long black piece of tubing, is dragging behind him as he runs, so he scoops it up and stuffs it down the front of his pants.

The tiger swipes at Bonzo and his head comes loose, swinging about on the end of a thread that was formerly his neck. When I was little, I had a Casper the Friendly Ghost doll that did this. As his head wound back onto his shoulders, the passage of the thread through his insides would make him talk, squeaking things like “Will you be my friend?” He had about four sentences he could utter, and they rotated randomly. He was totally non-poseable, and after about five minutes, the worst doll in the world.

When I thought about him just now, I at first presumed that his vocalisations were somehow encoded on the thread, and read by an apparatus in his stomach as he wound himself in. But the thread was pretty normal. Didn’t have any grooves on it. So, let’s face it, he had little tapes inside him, triggered randomly by a spring which was tightened by his head being tugged off, and whose uncoiling retracted the loose ghost cranium and played the recording. I think that’s it.

I should have smashed him open to find out for sure.

A friend had an astronaut with a cord on his back, and he could say “Mission accomplished! Returning to ship!” among other bon mots.

Bongo produces some kind of rudimentary musical instrument from his pants and begins to play. Jazz! And possible crotch-to-mouth contamination. The tiger, at first unimpressed, starts to cavort merrily, flapping his thick, rubbery arms to the tune, and even allowing Banjo to pluck a melody from his whiskers, which is awfully tolerant of him. Having confused his foe musically, Bungalow then pantses him, exposing the spotted underwear he has on beneath his skin, and kicks him off a convenient cliff.

Bluto then spots two monkeys playing leap-frog to the Battle Hymn of the Republic, a common enough arboreal sight. He approaches, grinning. I don’t think I’ve ever been so worried for a fellow living creature as I am for those monkeys. One flees immediately, the other lingers, apparently paralysed with terror. I could have cheered when the little fellow spits in Bobo’s eye.


Bisto proceeds to pull down the monkey’s furry back-flap (he has an obsession with pantsing wild beasts, a great white hunter who doesn’t bag animals, he debags them) and spanks the little fellow’s tiny pallid bottom over his knee. And then a gorilla appears behind him. Of course — the little monkey is in fact a great ape, or anyhow a great ape-to-be. Biffo puts the monkey down, bare-assed, then delicately restores its back-flap to the upright, locked position, but this does not seem enough to appease the gorilla, angered by the usurpation of parental authority implicit in Bingo’s spanking the monkey.

Bilko attempts a nonchalant whistle, and then the monkey fetches him a well-earned, chalant kick in the shin. The gorilla rolls up his sleeves, revealing hairy arms, though not as hairy as the actual hair he just rolled up. Cartoon biology is screwy. He’s just rolled up his SKIN. His arms, underneath, should look like those of Frank in HELLRAISER. It wouldn’t be much more disturbing than what we already have here.

To appease this pen-and-ink Kong, Bubo produces a pack of gum, again from inside his pants. “Have some g-g-gum, Mister Ape?” he asks, his only line so far. A catchphrase that did not catch on, so far as I’m aware. Bumbo chews a stick himself, to demonstrate the correct use of pants-gum. Soon, he and the forgetful parent are strumming long strands of gum drawn from between their teeth, making beautiful jungle music together. The monkeys dance a ballet. Three generations of pelicans emerge from one another’s mouths. An ostrich and a kangaroo join the dance, unaware that neither of them belongs on the same continent as a tiger or each other.


And then, all musical hell breaks loose, as Boudou has succeeded in bringing jazz to Africa.

A tree spanks itself rhythmically. Only thirty seconds left of this abomination but I’m not sure I can take it.

One of the tree’s breasts — I mean coconuts — flies off and beans Beano. The jackals laugh at him. He joins in. Iris in on his happy, concussed features. The End. Sudden shot of a plank.

4 Responses to “…and Congo Jazz a speciality.”

  1. bensondonald Says:

    A lot of this was standard operating procedure in early cartoons, including:
    — Spaghettifying and other random body distortions. I’m quite sure Mickey Mouse spaghettified at least once before Walt Disney began pressing for realism.
    — Animals wearing boxer shorts or long johns beneath easily removed or destroyed fur or feathers. Daffy Duck once informed the audience he kept his feathers numbered against such an incident.
    — Insecure flaps. It was okay for kid characters to go commando; adults had to display aforementioned boxer shorts.

    Bosko, by the way, was meant to be an African-American human. Later, Herman and Ising moved to MGM and re-introduced Bosko as a realistically drawn African-American child, analogous to Walter Lantz turning Oswald the Rabbit into a cute bunny.

  2. Apparently there was debate in the early 30s, even among cartoonists, as to whether cartoonists, as to whether Bosco was a black kid or a monkey. I’d say he’s a worrying combo. Felix the Cat has an Al Jolson white mouth, as do Bimbo the Dog (boyfriend of the human Betty Boop!) and Mickey. This certainly serves a design function, making the mouth visible, but I like the idea of embarrassing Disney so I’m going to maintain Mickey Mouse is a racist stereotype.

  3. chris schneider Says:

    I believe that spanking oneself, as the tree with coconut breasts does, was a recognizable “Charleston era” dance move. Not *just* pathology. Sort of a passing slap of lubricious good cheer.

  4. The Clash lyric reference in a Looney Tune article. I love you, Mr Cairns.

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