Throwing the Bull: Heckle and Jeckle in The Intruders

Until the mid 40s, Fox had many issues with the Terrytoons Studio, and over the years complaints were regularly sent. Particularly, the lack of true star characters. The likes of Farmer Alfalfa and Kiko the Kangeroo (who only lasted one season to begin with) were not enough for Fox's liking. This all changed in 1942, with the surprise hit of "The Mouse of Tomorrow" introducing the first major hit for the studio, Mighty Mouse! Of course, Terry didn't stop there, further promoting Gandy and Sourpuss as stars, and developing new ones. In 1947, Paul Terry released his new set of characters, and the ones he considered his best, Heckle and Jeckle!

The Story team at Terrytoons figured out their star Magpies quick. The film I'm talking about, THE INTRUDERS, is only the 4th cartoon staring them, and introduces a new character to their series, Chesty, or Clancy, or whatever name was pulled in the rotation for that day (see how much Terry cared about branding his characters?). Eitherway, let's get into the cartoon! 

Heckle and Jeckle are two homeless magpies looking for a spot to stay. They find a nice, lush mansion and describe with GREAT detail over a panning BG. Terrytoons, being a budget studio, needed these kinds of moments to produce the cartoons quick, but at least the pleasant scenery is still there. After noting the silence, we see Chesty chase out the critters from the yarn, warning them for the last time. With his temper and grungy nature, Chesty serves a role similar to Farmer Alfalfa's in THE UNINVITED PESTS, but is made a little more intelligent, and less hot tempered. 

Per usual, Heckle and Jeckle don't listen, and go in without interference. After Chesty threatens to skin the next trespassers alive, the NY speaking Magpie agrees with him out loud, and as they run off, Chesty thinks he just hears something as he sits down to have a drink, with gags of the Magpies assisting him out of course. Right before its bottoms up, he gets back up after hearing obnoxious singing. 

This cartoon, while fun, is admittedly a little hard to talk about, so the rest of this article shall server more so as a gag highlight than anything. My apologies if it disappoints, but this cartoon does present some fine touches. 

-Chesty doesn't even care that Heckle hit him with a mallet, and his ego insists on more. It backfires of course, with a funny pose. Terrytoons often used broad, vaudeville slapstick where characters quickly got back up and without any pain shown more than any other studio, and this is a good demonstration of it. Chesty is only down for 8 seconds

-After a few bits such as the favorite "removing the window from existence" gag used often, we get to a repeat from their first appearance (the aforementioned UNINVITED PESTS) of Heckle and Jeckle looking to frantically undo their own mayhem with saving Chesty from drowning. Though, after getting him out from the pool, they decide its best to put him back in once he's alright. Instead of letting him go from the crane, Chesty is kicked, sinking the rowboat in the process. Another funny example of broad slapstick, as the kick is absurd and funny alone  

And what would a good cartoon be without some nice character animation? Another classic Terry joke was unexpected gifts causing harm, where Carlo Vinci animates Chesty being fooled by a bomb that shoots out a box, that pops out a bone that's actually an atomic bomb! You'll notice how expressive he is in moment, and how clear his emotions are read from pose to pose, changing with each phase of the bomb to box to bone to a-bomb. 

In a ending similar to Lantz's Ration Bored, Heckle and Jeckle were also killed from the explosion, and managed to make it past "The Pearly Gates". When Chesty realizes, the chase continues into the Iris out! 

Overall, a fun Terrytoon, full of everything that makes them fun: vaudevillian slapstick, good acting from Dayton Allen, and excelling timing that only gets wilder in pacing. Old tricks are used, as are some new ones. Heckle and Jeckle continued to appear more and more over 1947, proving quick stars, as humor was naturally executed well. The best of them are usually in line with other studio's bests with their screwball characters. 

While a rather short article this time, I hope some articles related to elements behind them show up soon that I've been planning. Next week's cartoon should be more in detail too!

With that in mind, See you next week! 


Inbetweens returns with the Missing Link, with Lantz's Tail of the Monkey

 Apologies for the over 4 month interruption. I didn't intend to be gone so long, just a week or two during a period of tests. Then, unexpectedly my laptop needed to be replaced, which took far too long for various reasons. Now that I have a much better laptop, I'm hoping, with school over, to get back to weekly posts. With this out of the way, let's back to what Inbetweens is supposed to be about, underlooked cartoons of the theatrical days! 

I've been giving more of my attention to silent era animation since I've been attending Tommy Stathes' Cartoon Carnival, viewing the Bray Animation Project site, and buying the CartoonsOnFilm Blu-rays! I've found them not only historic and novel for what they are, but genuinely entertaining! In my opinion, it seems silent animation peaked around 1925-27, with the New York studios creating funny, creative, and well done cartoons. But with the studios on the verge of progressing to sound by late '28, one mainstay of the silent era had dismantled their cartoon unit; Bray Pictures.

The Bray Studio was one of the first studios devoted to animation, and the first to succeed, hiring many talented artists with a variety of series, and figuring out over the 1910s what cartoons the audience liked best. By 1926 though, things were different. All of the major directors from the 1910s had left, Bray was focusing on two reeler comedies and education, and distribution had changed for the worse. With that said, the cartoons from then and now were consistently entertaining, and getting better! By now, a young Walt Lantz was the head of cartoon making, and had been completely helming three series that were doing well. After finishing work on the second series of Colonel Heeza Liar, he began the Dinky Doodle cartoons, which maintained a more refined version of the formula of the Liar series; Lantz would interact with Dinky and Weakheart, morph the action into the animated world, and end back in the real world. Of course, this was to emulate Out of the Inkwell, while cutting costs with live action. 

After nearly 2 years, Lantz refreshed the idea by introducing the "Hot Dog Cartoons" with Pete the Pup. These only lasted one year, as Bray decided to close down the cartoon department. Between Dinky and Hot Dog, was the series we are discussing today; The Unnatural History Cartoons! These followed the same combination of live action and cartoon, but were kept separate, minus some small pieces unrelated to the two worlds. The animal action (about how a animal obtained a trait they are known for) was similar, and most definitely trying to appeal in the way Paul Terry's Aesop's Film Fables had been doing during the decade. But I think I have explained this well enough, let's enjoy one of these, thanks to Tommy Stathes! 

The Tail of the Monkey
(1926), is directed by Lantz and co-directed by David Hand(!), who joined briefly during this time, but seems to of left just as quick. The role of the co-director was to film Lantz and the live action, and as head animator. But again, sidetracked, and back to the cartoon! (Apologies for any poor image quality, but Tommy will be getting to restoring it someday!) 

The Film opens up with Walt Lantz playing an Italian Organ Grinder (with a real Spider Monkey assistant), for these two children, though one disappears after the opening shot. The one we focus on (I think a boy) gets giddy with the show going on, but the Spider Monkey's animated tail steals his lollipop, and starts crying. Lantz gets mad at his "Monk" and cheeps us the kid by telling him a story; why the Monkey uses their tail as an additional arm so much 

We transition from the cute live action set-up to the cartoon action. We see the first Monkey running a blacksmith shop, whose tail gets in the way a lot, a little too often perhaps. David Hand's animation takes step here, and while not as rubbery as Clyde Geronimi's (the main co-director of this period), its still full of life and charm, and gets good expression out of the face and poses. 

After some mishaps with the Monkey's tail, we see her cub helper polishing some horse shoes using a fake horse foot. Eventually, the cub is called over to maintain the Monkey's tail, until a customer shows up! Its a cat in need of a repaired mousetrap. Of course, one would only need it repaired if he still a mouse problem, as we very quickly find it. Some more slapstick ensues. 

The humor around here shows well the "Fables wannabe" aspect best. Pesky Mice causing harm on other critters was essentially, the whole schtick of Terry's cartoons by 1926, but that doesn't make these any less charming. This is not the pinnacle of entertainment, but it does the job of giving a good run for its runtime. I wouldn't call it disposable either; a lot of late silent animation tends to cross parallels with ideas that would become popular when sound took over. Here we see Lantz trying to do something of a faster gag, and while not the best executed, its something that would improve over the next few years 

Back to the cartoon though, with the mouse and cat going off on their own, our hero the Monk and the cub get a little laugh out of it. All the sudden, another job from a bird! Its from King Hippo, but like any important jobs, it has be quick, as its currently 4:57. Take a look for yourself! 

The Monkey and the Cub quickly get to work producing a big enough ring in 15 minutes, but its 5:00! The Cub checks out of work for the day, leaving the situation grim for producing it. However, the Monkey sees the potential of its tail for the first time, besides as a sag to get hurt, of course. She finishes the giant ring in time and the bird carrier comes to take the ring, with the Monkey now ranked as King Hippo's Jeweler. 

The cartoon section, and we get a brief sendoff to our story (I nearly forgot it began as a live action story when we got here). After the Hurdy Gurdy man is done proudly explaining why monkeys are so active with their tail, his own monkey destroys his gold watch! He gets so upset and mad he leaves, and the cartoon is over! 

Apologies if this post came off a little inconsistent in tone, it was written on and off over the past few months. It should be better from here. This film may not be the cream of the crop, but I like it, and hope to see more from this series someday (which will happen, thanks to CartoonsOnFilm!). I'll be back to regularly scheduled posting next week, see you then! 



Lantz being Lantz: Henpecked

Hello all, after a week of some heavy work, it's great to be back writing this little startup blog. Admittedly, I may only have more weeks to come due to school, and eventually work where these breaks happen and I may not set it from "Every Tuesday" to "Once sometime in the Week". Happily, this isn't the case yet, and I have even begun work on some bonus pieces documenting other stuff, including the animation work of someone better known as a director! But let's get back to the main point of this piece! 

The Lantz/Nolan Oswalds from 1929-35 are some of my favorite black and white inkblot cartoons, and the ones from 29-31 are a particular interest. They start out very crude in draftsmanship, and a sketchy backgroup to compliment this, with the earliest cartoons being dominated by Bill Nolan's work in animation and backgrounds, which I suggest was necessary for the "one every 2 weeks" schedule, common for many cartoon studios during the silent and talkie era. 

Henpecked was the last of the first season of Oswalds that never made the original TV Package of B&W Lantz, which has caused some to unfortunately become lost, but luckily this one is a survivor. Compared to the earliest reasons, it shows substantial improvement in Lantz's efforts of creating sound cartoons; gags take advantage of sound, and the overall art has become more polished, thanks to an increase of employees. 

We open up (after hearing what sounds like James Dietrich shouting "Alright" to the orchestra in the opening titles) with some fun Bill Nolan animation of Oswald playing piano, singing a song called "My Baby and Me". It's got some fun scat and is carried well by Nolan's energetic animation. Pete, the manager of the apartment complex Oswald is living at, comes down to complain about the noise. It begins to get weird in the way only a Lantz Cartune does, with the unexplainable and unexpected happening of course! Pete speaks with a French-Canadian accent ("FROM YOU ANUTHER PEEP GONT") done by Pinto Colvig, who seems to be doing every voice in this sort. Afterward, a French Frog with the same accent tells Pete not too, and he relents and lets him go, but not without a harsh warning, even throwing out his piano! 

I think you can see where the story goes 

Immediately afterwards, the phone rings for Oswald and he quietly picks up. It's his nephews, wanting to come over and play, as the kid says slowly to a metronome beat (hey, everybody was doing it that way then!). Oswald gives a hard no, but unfortunately, the hoard of kids decide to come right away! They sing a really funny chant about seeing their Unk'Ozzie, helping to change the speed and sound of the cartoon into something snappier and funnier, as Dietrich gives his all with the score, incorporating "The Gang's All Here" into the score during a funny scene of Oswald disturbing Pete's bath! 

It's here where my favorite part of the early Lantz Oswalds shines, using Bill Nolan's eccentric, loose, but intelligent animation to pull off outlandish gags! After Oswald falls back to the room level, one of the nephews shoves an umbrella into him, causing him to float around the room, allowing for Nolan to animate Oswald weightless, perfect for the gag! 

The film then goes to a quick gag of the nephews jumping on a bed and bedbugs coming out. Funny little way to grab your attention after the sluggish scene (in a good way!). We get too what appear to be Oswald's only niece causing trouble for Pete's Wife. I must question: why are his nephews and niece cats, are they on Kitty's side?
Anyways, we get some some funny noises from Colvig again giving a few strings of Goofy, whose voice shows up in small doses in this era of the Lantz Oswalds. It's honestly really fun seeing Pinto do a variety of fun voices in these ones, as it shows he would more than just the Goof and Pluto. 

Since the footage quota is almost fullfilled, the film begins to connect the gagstrings to each other, having Pete come down from the bath, the kids step on him (animated by the small animator who stands out in a few films from the later part of the first season) and, well, you watch it and enjoy it. Bill Nolan gets more footage towards this part in some of the most fun of his animation that survives, my god is it beautiful! The only thing I will note is I like the way it ends, and James' piece of brass band fanfare at the end. Here's some photos (and a Film Daily review) if you can't watch it yet! 

Originally, I was going to make an instrumental for this post, as it seems to share apart of the soundtrack with "Hell's Heels", but alas I'm out of time. Eventually, when I cover that cartoon I will make it. Also hoping to do more Lantz pieces with that same title, as it kinda fits for any Cartune he produced. Hopefully this post is good enough for all here! 

I hope you all enjoy that cartoon, and I'll see y'all next week! 


What's Okay is Good Enough: The Calico Dragon

There's something appealing for me in 2 strip color palettes. Perhaps their cheery, but limited designs make a nice look when they aren't over saturating and make the most of their colors? I don't know, but there is something nice when watching this week's cartoon, "The Calico Dragon", directed by Rudolph Ising, that even if I think despite it's impressive animation, it's far from perfect.

See, no film will ever be perfect imho, and nor should anyone try to make THE perfect film. And even for films that just okay or meh, there is stuff much to appreciate and respect. Sometimes the best of animation can be well animated and just tell a story that's pretty bad. Sometimes, a cartoon may have a great soundtrack and funny gags, but the timing and drawings hold back the potential. The Calico Dragon, like many Happy Harmonies, is quite flawed in story, but has enough charm & likability to make it worth watching. 

Harman-Ising really had a bit of a struggle when it came to story in particular. After leaving Leon Schlesinger/WB and moving to Metro, their cartoons often dedicate too much time to the pure lavishness of the animation, and just decide to end once they write themselves out, leaving many plotholes loose. We will see this happen here, but it isn't a dealbreaker in some regards, as the visuals do leave enough for good watchability, as long as you don't binge watch these cartoons, otherwise they get annoying really quickly. But enough bickering, let's cover the cartoon itself! 

We open with a little girl reading a bedtime story to her plushes before going to sleep. It helps to open the cartoon well and the zoom out down in the first shot is a nice touch. I must address one thing already: the design of this girl, and most of the designs of the characters for the first two film seasons of the Happy Harmonies are REALLY UGLY! I get that they wanna push in a more realistic move, but like Disney, struggled to get towards that goal right away, causing this wonky look that I can't describe any other way but ugly. With that said, the dolls, and most of the plush characters have really nice designs! 

As we move towards our hero, the little doll boy, deciding he should go save the Princess in the story, with his Polka Dot Horse & Scotty Dog, the true star of the cartoon emerges: the fabric look. Besides the little girl, every character are dolls with various textures, drawn to the best degree, very impressive for 1935! This little post could do no justice to these animators, so I link Devon Baxter's Cartoon Research Post highlighting the animators using the original studio draft. You can learn the names of each animator & what scenes they do, and I suggest you read it before continuing! 

Back on track, our hero begins his adventure and a song kicks in to describe the forest around him as he travels to the castle to slay the dragon. It's here where the storytelling first becomes flawed. Ising decides to spend a full minute dedicated to some side pieces of the rabbits playing happily (with the most impressive textures animated on them!), and then going into them heckling the Scotty Dog, but unfortunately it doesn't connect to anything in the main story, becoming pointless. It seems they got carried away in a little of the song just by highlighting them.

Luckily after this we focus back with the boy progressing his journey to the castle to defeat the Dragon, passing overly a river and a bridge that wisely use the texture theme very well (as well as the sky in the horizion, being a window cloth). We are then introduced to the 3-Headed Dragon in a charming song, also highlighting a noisemaker tongue that the middle head, before the battle commences. Our Hero is initially unprepared in some ways and struggles, but luckily the Scotty Dog manages to save the way and do most of the heavy lifting to defeat the Calico Dragon (using the noisemaker tongue) once and for all!

Our final issue comes into play here as we have a letdown ending with the little girl waking up after being scared from the wind, under her bed. It does leave a lot of things left out, such as the boy actually rescuing the princess, which I hoped would happen, and if it was all a dream (you only really assume that with the way it transitions back to reality).

That said, it's easy to appreciate other elements even with a loose story, but even then, considering you only were supposed to see for a few minutes once in a 70 year life, it's a good piece of entertainment for just that one or second watch. The animation and usage of cloth textures and patterns is highly impressive for 1935, and probably shined on screen very well on. I do hope eventually Warner Archive restores the Happy Harmonies to allow people to appreciate these things in a more clearer view than the typical copies floating around. Film Daily seems to of agreed with these points in mind, giving two reviews; one in April that is really in love with the way it's animated, and another in October that still promotes the draftsmanship, but overall seems to more explain the plot than anything.

Regardless of these shortcomings, The Calico Dragon managed to gain an Academy Award for best animated short, but lost to Three Orphan Kittens, a So-So Silly Symphony (imo) from Disney. Eventually, Ising would win an Academy Award in 1940 for his own Kitten short, The Milky Way

Tally-Ho all, I hope you have enjoyed this read! 


A Itchin' to Fly: Howard Post's The Itch

It's amusing to me, compared to last week's cartoon of pick, this week I'm going to be giving some thoughts of something the complete opposite! Think about it, 30s to 60s, B&W to Technicolor, Inkblot to Modernism. A bit inconsistent, but I fear overtime I will fall into certain repeats between series and times based on what I watch, but I won't be able to help that if it occurs.

  The Itch is one of those 60s Paramount shorts after Seymour Kentiel passed where it quickly went through 3 quick leader changes all trying different things, each more unique than the one before. I am up to the opinion that when the shorts of this era are good (because a lot of them get just as bland and hard to watch as the Famous Studio Shorts before), they are some of the best the 60s offer! With that said, let's dive into this one off oddity. 

Per usual at Famous (see The Plot Thickens & In the Nicotine), the married couple presented has issues, with the wife being overbearingly nasty towards her naïve, and undercut husband. It presents us a nice exchange to show us his life at home, just so happening to be in England. This also gives us some nice accents throughout, done by (among others) Hermione Gingold. I do think this film gets a bit carried away in the dialogue but it's understandable, as almost every film of this period used excessive dialogue for budget reasons (even the earliest Pink Panthers). Despite this, a lot of the lines are funny and creates some funny lines (like when the wife says she's "watching an important exchange program from America" and it shows us a typical western) 

 After some mishaps with our hero on the bus and some belittling by his wife, he eventually gets an itch that eventually grows him some wings! The use of an itch did come off interesting to me, most writers would've had a standard backpain before the wings grow. He immediately tries them out, and hilariously, on a reused BG from a Superman cartoon! 

I do like how the film also doesn't fall into just him flying, getting into trouble flying, and ending there (I feel like some Hanna-Barbera cartoons around this time used a plot similar to this, but I do know Terrytoons occasionally did their barnyard flying 'ventures as late as 1940 with Plane Dumb!), and we get our protagonist in a bit of trouble, but quickly working things out to get a license in order to continue flying (though nobody questions how his wings came from a simple itch in the back), and is off to figure things out with it. You can tell during the scenes of him flying that the budget was a struggle to commit too, but again, typical of the era, I won't hold it down too hard

From here, we get some more English-humor with the exchange between two hunter types accidentally shooting the star of the picture into the grow, losing his wings, there and done. So you think. You would expect it to stay sad, and have some harshness in him going back to normalcy, but I won't quite spoil what happens, just take the image below as an idea of what happens

It doesn't seem like many to got this see this one in theaters sadly, as by the 60s most theaters weren't regularly booking cartoons, and were mostly booking the reissues from other studios, so this little odd gem was already by the B-Side then. As noted on this Cartoon Research Post on Academy Submissions, it was submitted to contend for best Animated Short, along with "A Leak in the Dyke" (another good short from Post's time), but alas was not nominated. A Shame, I think either would've made a good nomination

Admittedly, due to a flood of schoolwork I felt like this post was a bit rushed, but I'm happy with it. I promise next week's post will be with a film that's less talky, maybe not much better, but definitely one that'll be fun to watch 

Cheerio, see you next Tuesday!


A Beginning with Meaning: Krazy Kat in The Restless Sax

 When I was elementary a while back, I played the saxophone for music class (being in band was required for most, including me). I remember not being that good and just syncing in most performances when I ran out of air. So when I saw The Restless Sax for the first time, it got a bit of a personal laugh for me, as it reminded me trying to play the instrument and being just as good as Krazy.

For one interesting note, it credits Gould only instead of both him & Harrison. Would this mean Gould solely directed this one? Then again, the "By Harrison & Gould" credit would return eventually, and Al Euguster said that this credit was a bit misleading: Harrison wrote the stories & handed out scenes while Gould just animated. I do suspect Gould would eventually do layouts and may have contributed to timing, but I have no lead to prove this.

One interesting part is the beginning, how it shows Krazy receiving his sax through a early animation montage, perhaps the first of its own kind? Compared to montages in later Columbia Cartoons & Frank Tashlin's montages, it plays out slower. I also wonder how audiences would've seen such a montage in 1931, because it does make a big impression on me, but maybe that's just for me. 

From here, we see various gags of people reacting to Krazy's poor rendition of "The Old Oaken Bucket", and Krazy refusing to accept he's a mere beginner. Hell, even his own saxophone rips his diploma (which the audience in this video reacted to well), and he goes on with a solution: honey to make it sweet! Also to appreciate is how Krazy doesn't even try to follow along to the street band playing "O, du lieber Augustin", who aren't playing that much better than Krazy is. 

Perhaps my favorite gag is this cartoon (which was hard to pick!) with the 2 deaf guys, the timing works out really nice for it. We first get curious why they don't react in anyway, and then the realization dawns on you a little, then they play out the gag, with some hilarious noises for the fingers included! I also really like how it ends with Krazy doing an impression of Rudy Vallée, singing "I'm just a Vagabond Lover". You can hear the real deal preforming it here.

And with that comes an end to the cartoon, with a nice iris to the end title, surrounding by some nice ribbon. Overall, a really funny one with well timed gags and pleasant music (when Krazy isn't on the sax!). I hope all reading this enjoyed this cartoon as much as I did! 


A Welcome to Inbetweens

Hello to all, and welcome to the beginning of the Inbetweens blog! I'm hoping to use this little space to talk about those little oddities that slip out of focus, cult or not, that have some value, at least to me. I'm hoping to put out a post each Tuesday, and the occasional post talking about things surrounding these cartons. Eventually, I'm also hoping to create some custom art to make the layout look nicer. This may not be much of a first post, but more to come this Tuesday! Try to guess with this hint: 2979

                                                    Until then, so long folks! 

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