Uncle Tom's Bungalow manages to be both appallingly racist and a little progressive. Director Avery turning the slave trader into the devil, poking a little fun at the angelic white girl, general mocking of Southern cultural all around….
But Bungalow just isn't a good cartoon. Ben Harrison's script–with Tedd Pierce obnoxiously narrating–doesn't even include a bungalow. It's just for the title. The first two or three minutes is setting up the characters and setting up the characters is the cartoon being both racist (with the black characters) and condescending (of the Southerners). The wrap-up even has the cartoon taking inexplicable pot shots at social security, which make it more significant historically than anything else about it.
The gags are trite and predictable. The slave trader turning into a snake and getting electrocuted felt way too familiar.
I kept expecting it to be worse, but it could never be any better.
Directed by Tex Avery; written by Ben Harrison; animated by Virgil Ross and Sidney Sutherland; edited by Treg Brown; music by Carl W. Stalling; produced by Leon Schlesinger; released by Warner Bros.
Starring Tex Avery (Uncle Tom), Mel Blanc (Hound), Billy Bletcher (Simon Simon Legree), Bernice Hansen (Little Eva) and Lillian Randolph (Topsy / Eliza); narrated by Tedd Pierce.
Russian Rhapsody is a strange–and very funny–cartoon. First, as a historical document, it's a Hollywood cartoon mocking Hitler (before the end of the war and the extent of his atrocities became clear). In Rhapsody, he's an obnoxious windbag and there are a bunch of good jokes at his expense.
But once the first act is done–Hitler is going to fly a bomber himself to Moscow–Rhapsody takes a different turn. It's about the gremlins attacking the bomber. They're funny little creatures, destroying the plane in creative ways (though director Clampett never actually shows the specific effects of their sabotage) and they have a great song.
There are a lot of contemporary pop culture references; some still work, some don't. The Stalin one probably didn't work even back then if you knew anything about foreign affairs.
Until the final gag flops (it's another pop culture reference), Rhapsody is a very funny cartoon.
Directed by Robert Clampett; written by Lou Lilly; animated by Rod Scribner, Arthur Davis, Manny Gould and Robert McKimson; edited by Treg Brown; music by Carl W. Stalling; produced by Leon Schlesinger; released by Warner Bros.
Starring Mel Blanc (Adolf Hitler / Gremlin from the Kremlin).
Watching Bosko the Doughboy, I kept thinking, “too soon.” It’s a comedy cartoon about World War I, specifically trench warfare. In the cartoon, Bosko is the only human. The rest of combatants are animals–dogs, cows, a pig or two, a lot of birds. The battle scenes are graphic and, one has to assume at the time of its release, traumatic to veterans of the war.
The cartoon has three significant parts. First, the introduction with all the trench warfare “humor.” Second, a strange musical number so Bosko can show off synchronized sound. Finally, Bosko and his friend get into trouble and Bosko saves the day.
While Bosko’s appearance is a bad racial stereotype, the character in Doughboy is incredibly heroic. During the final sequence, it’s as though the cartoon is working against itself.
It’s technically pretty strong (except the lame musical number), but Doughboy feels wrong on multiple levels.
Directed by Hugh Harman; animated by Rollin Hamilton and Carman Maxwell; music by Frank Marsales; produced by Harman, Rudolf Ising and Leon Schlesinger; released by Warner Bros.
In the last minute and a half of The Hep Cat, Clampett finally comes up with some really interesting shots. The short’s a cat and dog one. It follows the standard. Dumb dog versus a mean, vain and not much smarter cat.
The titular hep cat breaks out into a song routine, but it’s not enough to separate him too much from all the rest.
They chase each other around (the dog’s smart enough to put on a pussycat puppet and tempt the cat) but at the end they end up on the city rooftops. All the animation is solid, but once they’re on the rooftops, it all of a sudden gets a lot more visually compelling.
Otherwise, there’s nothing to recommend it. The cat isn’t much of a character, even with singing and various voices, and the dog’s even less of one.
It feels long too (at six minutes).
Directed by Robert Clampett; written by Warren Foster; animated by Robert McKimson; edited by Treg Brown; music by Carl W. Stalling; produced by Leon Schlesinger; released by Warner Bros.
Starring Mel Blanc (The Hep Cat / Rosebud) and Bea Benaderet (Bird).