Archive for Fleischer Bros

Ark Shadows

Posted in FILM, MUSIC, Mythology with tags , , , , , , , , on January 20, 2018 by dcairns

Are thirties cartoons strange because the sensibilities attracted to motion picture cartooning at that time were inherently odd people, or because the years have aged the films in unexpected ways, or because the medium was still in its relative infancy and so rampant experimentation predominated, or something else, or some combination of all three.

At the Fleischer Bros studio, we seem to have a peculiar worldview that’s beautiful to watch (as long as they stayed with shorts: GULLIVER’S TRAVELS and HOPPITY GOES TO TOWN exhibit a very different manner), whereas the lesser studios, it seems to me, often produced work that’s bizarre but doesn’t seem to WORK.

Witness Terrytoons’ jug-band rendition of the deluge, purportedly as Aesop’s Fable according to some title cards, while others (the film has been released with various hot-spliced main titles over the decades since its manufacture) don’t bother with this band-aid alibi and leave the blasphemy to stand on its own merits.

I don’t think the Old Testament mentions anything about a mouse playing a toenail xylophone, so the picture gets off to a flagrantly apocryphal start. Noah’s modern dress overalls suggest this is an updating of the apocalypse, something like TAKE SHELTER.

Then we get a plotless stretch of musical farm animals which is disturbing in a classic early thirties way, especially the la-la-la cow who ought to be rendered into sirloin ASAP to preserve sanity. So things are already a bit upsetting before the single black storm cloud starts a storm that engulfs the entire planet. The giraffe with windows in his neck, and down his right leg, is an unwelcome invention also. Co-star him with the Frankenstein monster from VAN HELSING, the only other character I can think of with windows in him, so I can avoid both at the same time.


Mouse seems to be riding a toy horse, it has puppet-like joints on its legs and is too small to be a real horse, but then it gets struck by lightning and becomes a skeleton. What. And then it gets chopped in half but keeps running, like Baron Munchausen’s steed. (Terry Gilliam had to leave this passage from the novel unfilmed, due to budget problems on THE ADVENTURES OF BARON MUNCHAUSEN: “I cut the thing that made me want to do the movie in the first place.”)

Various equally appalling gags show more exotic animals boarding the ark two by two. Toons of this vintage often have a nice/scary quality of BLACK GLOW, where the ink-lines are somehow underexposed or badly duped, resulting in an antimatter aura of darkness bleeding from the dark figures. This one is kind of washed out, but the lightning bolts are interesting: they’re so over-exposed they just look like some kind of print damage or error, blinding fluctuations in the brightness.

But the ending is the thing that makes this one worthwhile. You should really watch it before reading further, but I do want to write it down so I can see the words in cold black and white. So stop reading now and watch at least the last minute of the toon if you haven’t already, then come back and read on after this happy image ~

YES. Like the freed prisoners of Bunuel’s THE EXTERMINATING ANGEL, the happy menagerie give thanks to the Lord for their deliverance — and He strikes them down again, for no reason. Noah ends up with a frozen lightning bolt through the seat of his dungarees, as it rains cats and dogs (more than two by two, them critters breeds FAST). In a cartoon, God is a capricious, cruel, infinitely destructive demiurge, like Bugs Bunny tormenting Daffy Duck in DUCK AMUCK with nightmarish metamorphoses in a cel-painted Beckettian torture-show. The cartoonist hits on the perfect metaphor: if there were a God, this is the kind of guy He would have to be, randomly dishing out surreal punishments before returning us to the darkness of the inkwell.

And the Lord sayeth, “Ain’t I a stinker?”



Posted in FILM with tags , , on April 23, 2016 by dcairns

Pretty amazing digital restoration job on the kind of film we’re used to hearing through a rainstorm of pensive crackle, the image fuzzed and degraded — here, only the occasional winking sparkle hints at an analog origin. Am I churlish to slightly miss the intimations of mortality, in particular the way the black tones in old Fleischer movies used to GLOW from beyond their outlines, a physics-defying obsidian effulgence?

Still, the films’ hallucinogenic horrorshow qualities appear undimmed. Long Live Bimbo!

Birth of Boop

Posted in FILM, literature, Television with tags , , , on August 3, 2012 by dcairns

Interesting Fleischer cartoon. It has a TRANSFORMERS style car that turns into a robot, and an early use of television — really a Skype call — for peeping purposes.

The star is Bimbo, who looks a bit different from later toons when he’s Betty Boop’s canine boyfriend. But Betty looks different too. She started life as a poodle, only gaining a name, a personality, and a species of humanity later. In this toon the gf mostly human but has a black dot nose. Her head is much smaller than Betty’s. She doesn’t have the dangling poodle ears, which eventually mutated into Betty’s big hoop earrings, but she does wear a chic hat with little flaps on it which match Bimbo’s ears.

And she has a fairly obnoxious personality, forcing the love-sick Bimbo to fight for her hand with a giant pugilist. The Fleischer vision of a he-man is quite something, by the way.

But there’s one scene, as pointed out by uploader parker Taibi, where Betty acquires both human compassion and a big, Boop-like noggin, as she emerges from the prizefighter’s tent to offer Bimbo’s robo-car a replenishing drink of water (like Esmeralda!).

30s toons often went off-model, depending on who was drawing them that day, but this little transformation is fascinating — Betty leaps forward millions of years of evolution in one cut, but as Dr Moreau observed, “the stubborn beast flesh creeps back,” and her cranium deflates to more dog-like proportions by her next appearance.