Tag Archives: Rudolf Ising

Puss Gets the Boot (1940, William Hanna and Joseph Barbera)

Until the exceptionally racist caricature of “Mammy Two-Shoes” arrives, the most distinguishing thing about Puss Gets the Boot is the exceptional cruelty of the cat. Puss is the first Tom and Jerry cartoon, before Tom is named Tom (he’s Jasper here) and Jerry doesn’t get an onscreen name.

For the first two minutes, it’s just Jasper–sorry, no, it’s just easier to call him Tom–it’s just Tom tormenting Jerry. Jerry can’t run away faster enough or smart enough; the awkwardly cruelest moment is when Tom revives Jerry with some water after knocking him unconscious. I’m sure cats can be this evil playing with their prey but… not sure I have any interest in seeing it.

And it doesn’t really play for slapstick laughs because, until this point, it’s just the cat beating up on the mouse.

Then Mammy shows up and Puss gets gross and then grosser. It’s not just how the cartoon portrays the character, voiced by Lillian Randolph, it’s how Joseph Barbara writes the dialogue. He goes out of his way to be more racist about it all.

At that point, there’s no real way for Puss to save itself–later versions of the cartoon lightened Mammy’s skin and redubbed her–but, even so, the cartoon doesn’t do anything special or even interesting. Randolph tells Tom he’s out on his furry behind if he breaks anything else in the house. Jerry tries to get Tom break stuff. On and on it goes. There’s some amusement when Tom turns the tables on Jerry for a moment, but it’s far from significant.

The animation is fine, though it dips in quality as the cartoon progresses. Tom gets too loose. The direction’s all right too. Nothing special. Just racist.

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

Written and directed by William Hanna and Joseph Barbera; animated by Carl Urbano, Tony Pabian, Jack Zander, Pete Burness, and Robert Allen; edited by Fred McAlpin; music by Scott Bradley; produced by Rudolf Ising, Jack Petrik, and Bill Schultz; released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Starring Lillian Randolph (Mammy Two-Shoes).


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Alice’s Wonderland (1923, Walt Disney)

Depending on the process director Disney used to marry live action with animation, Alice’s Wonderland is either mediocre or just plain bad. If it’s the latter, Disney has no concept of perspective or, you know, shadows.

The first three minutes are awesome. A little kid (Virginia Davis, in an awful performance–it’s probably Disney’s fault) visits an animation studio and is amazed at how the cartoon characters come alive on the animators’ panels. Disney’s conception of the studio is something technology still hasn’t produced (and probably never will). It’s spellbinding.

Then it becomes about Davis and gets bad. All the little cartoon animals love her and applaud her lame, poorly directed dance. The technical wonders of the first few minutes become lame and cheap tricks, a couple of shocking incompetence.

The animation’s mostly lame with occasional exceptions. Unfortunately, a couple great gags can’t make up for all of Alice‘s failings.

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

Written, directed and produced by Walt Disney; directors of photography, Rudolf Ising and Ub Iwerks; animated by Hugh Harman, Ising, Iwerks and Carman Maxwell; released by Margaret J. Winkler.


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Congo Jazz (1930, Hugh Harman and Rudolf Ising)

Congo Jazz is a great example of how old Hollywood racism works. Having Bosko, the lead in the cartoon, be a little black kid isn’t really overtly racist… until Harman and Ising have him meet a couple monkeys.

Guess who looks like who?

And then, sort of confirming racists are morons, it turns out the monkeys’ father is a gorilla. So apparently species were unknown to Harman and Ising too.

Strangely, once the cartoon becomes a musical number–and Bosko acts the minstrel role–it becomes a lot less offensive. The last half is Bosko and the jungle animals playing a song and there are a couple almost successful moments.

The problem is the lack of ambition. Harman and Ising put more attention into Jazz‘s backgrounds than the animation.

Without a story, the lazy animation can’t make Congo Jazz succeed. Instead, it putters out, just stopping without a real ending.

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

Produced and directed by Hugh Harman and Rudolf Ising; animated by Carman Maxwell and Paul J. Smith; music by Frank Marsales; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Johnny Murray (Bosko).


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Bosko the Doughboy (1931, Hugh Harman)

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.

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

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.


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