December 23, 2006

Shanty Where Santy Claus Lives (1933)


A big problem with many cartoons is that they seem to think having a theme and moving around is enough to make a cartoon. They're probably right; it's just that it's not enough to make a GOOD cartoon. Even with some little good things to point to, being incredibly boring overall can ruin a cartoon.


Monkey's around the tree. They are repetitive and moving too fast, but they ARE monkeys.

Cool background homes.

Seusseian reindeer.

Santa's prison windows. German expressionist/Caligari style windows, even.

The many toys. That all move in rhythmic little cycles, but there's a lot of them and they don't do anything stupid like keep them going for 46 seconds...

Windup sambo jazz band. Sweet. That's the place to use the folk instrumentation, not as a stand in for the church organ...

Doll going "mama" falls into coal bin, comes out in black face, says "mammy", and a mammy type says "Sonny Boy" (Al Jolson ref)

Tulip wall.

DNA ball guy. Stretch your self to kick some shmo.

Little girl blows up a balloon, uses it to blow herself up into a big fat woman, then sings "Good Night Harvest Moon"; Scotty dogs say "are you listening?"; a reference to Sophie Tucker, possibly; it is at least clearly a reference.

Switching to bagpipe music when using bagpipe to put out tree fire is inventive.


The music starts nicely with bells and an orchestra; then it switches to ugly folk instrumentation (accordian) to represent the church of all things; then it goes back to the orchestra. Is it a subtle commentary on the nature of religion? I think maybe it's just general crappiness...

There are good looking stocking and fireplace and house details; but it's all over on the side, leaving huge amounts of useless empty space in the shot. The shot, incidentally, lasts for 46 seconds! You see the protagonist approach from outside, enter the house, go to the fireplace, stomp to the chair, cry on the chair, see Santa Claus approach, say Santy Clause, wait for Santy, Santy enters, and only then does the shot end. All with this big boring background.

The lame sad sack of a protagonist. He's boring, ugly, and irritating. Super.

Rhythmic bending at the knee and rhythmic lock step fist (pumping? As good a word as any I suppose).

The cartoon just ends. Santa made a cameo, took the protagonist to the shanty, then disappears. A fire starts and gets put out, everyone cheers, and it's over. Maybe they wanted everyone to really like the feature, which would look better in comparison to a craptacular short.


Don't mistake the many individual good things about the cartoon as an endorsement of the entire cartoon. It's lame.

November 15, 2006

Do or Diet (1953)

Also on the Harveytoons box set is this Casper cartoon. It is much much better than Voice of the Turkey, altho watching the two of them, the later project owes a lot to the earlier (of course, it wouldn't surprise me if there was a much larger group of cartoons made in a formulaic manner of which these are but two examples). I wonder if Harvey itself just got better, or if they just had their A-team working on the Casper franchise. It appears in the same listed episode of the TV show as Voice of the Turkey and the Toon Take involving the pilgrims, so I'm thinking it was shown around Thanksgiving. The cartoon between Do or Diet and Voice of the Turkey is just about overeating, so it's not appearing here in this series of seasonal posts. Did I mention the box set has a pleasingly strong cover? Because it does, even if it's a bit short on information on the packaging...


There is a formulaic reaction to Casper, but it comes from pilgrims in a calendar picture, which is different. Said picture is a tasty painting as well. (Did they have page a day calendars in the '50s? If not, Harvey may have invented something great.)

Donkey shoes running sans donkey. It sounds lame, but looks surprisingly ok.

Casper demonstrating thinner. It's actually visually appealing; Casper's blue outline, transparency, and impossible thinness end up looking really good; especially as his stupid eyelashes are gone for the shot.

"Pepper, salt, mustard, cider; skipping rope will make you lighter." Now that's a lyric.

Thin turkey via corset. Thin gags work in this cartoon...

The sound effects of the corset popping off are well done.

Moron tongue take. Not much better than the eye take in Voice of the Turkey, yet it works much better; better timed, better sound effects, better framing maybe. Then he runs into his house and runs away with it, but his chimney has to run by itself. So much better than the last cartoon...

"Do or Diet" also ends with the turkey eating corn like a typewriter, but Casper catches him and ties him up, WHICH IS WHAT SHOULD HAPPEN WHENEVER ANYONE TRIES TO DO THAT LAME GAG!


Casper's lame niceness. Lisa Simpson may find it sad, but what can I say; he's a little Milktoast (there is a cartoon on this set where he wails on the ghostly trio pretty well, tho; it sure isn't this cartoon). It's hard to relate to him, and he's the company's star. Such a bad sign...

Weird gurgly whining sounds of Timothy Turkey. I think this was hate. I can't actually tell from my notes...

Recycling the moron sharpening the axe. He's got a different accent, but my pain from "Voice of the Turkey" remains, and the cheating of it all is offensive...

November 14, 2006

Voice of the Turkey + (1950)

Classic Media and Sony Wonder have put out a four double sided disc box set (about 19 hours) of Harvey cartoons. The set came to me for correctly and quickly answering a question from Jerry Beck of Cartoon Brew and Cartoon Research, who was involved with the compilation of these cartoons as a show some time ago (altho he was not directly involved with assembling the DVDs). "Voice of the Turkey" can be found on side 2A, chapter 19 if playing all.


Great calendar painting.

Inexplicable mints. That's kinda cool.

Tricking the turkey into putting his neck on the block by looking for something is cool.

Turkey with goosepimples. That's funny. But it comes across looking kinda badly, and it's hamfisted since the visual gag is introduced with a verbal gag (either by itself would have been less lame).

Axe murdering farmer. He's pissed. And even tho he isn't as well animated or designed as Fudd in Bugs Bunny cartoons where Fudd plays a similar role, his dilated pupils give the impression that this guy is throat slitting nuts.

Skin and bones. The visual on the Turkey is great. Tho his dialogue is lame. And the joke goes nowhere afterwards. It creates an awkward pause in the action that then just cuts to a slightly wider shot and then gets going again.

Farmer helping the turkey to stop sneezing then using his open mouth to pump him full of stuffing. It's done very smoothly and nonchalantly, and works quite well.


The music is big and obvious, like most Harvey music. That's kinda bad, kinda good. The music really pushes itself out there. I don't remember that as a kid, but as an adult, it's irritating. The repetition of the music's sound in many Harveytoons isn't exactly a pleasing thing either.

There's a very static plate of food in this shot; it looks creepy. It must have saved about 30 individual cels of the plate. And looks like crap due to it.

The moronic voice on the moron. Extremely grating. The makers seem to be from the "irritating is inherently funny" school of comedy. I wish their school would burn to the ground. The accent on the turkey, which seems to be some flavor of NYC accent, sucks as well, although it is not as bad.

Lame food gags. Shuffling a sandwich like cards is a crappy gag here, done in a way that just looks unnatural; the food moves of its own volition, violating physics in an uncomfortable way. Eating the corn like a typewriter (basically all by sound effect) is an old gag, presented here in a boring manner. There's a winning combination. Then the turkey jacks open its beak. Sigh. Stuffing its beak to fullness is actually the most interesting thing involved in the gag, and shows a bit of visual interest.

Sucker gag; by 1950, we can officially say the sucker gag was played out. It even says "sucker" on the sucker. It's like the company was saying "hey morons, you're morons!".

Remember how I complained about the painted escape route gag in Jerky Turkey? It's worse here. Maybe it's the angle of the shot, maybe it's the music, but it just feels worse here. And that's in spite of the fact that I like some aspects more (the paint coming off is a little funnier, the impact marks look a little better, and the camera moves with the impact resonance).

Off frame gag. You know how it's good in Looney Tunes or MGM cartoons? Not here. The sprocket holes don't move, it looks, well, fake. The animation going off frame isn't smeared and is very stiff, and the camera moves smoothly out and back.

The farmer inexplicably has a plunger gun all of a sudden (it doesn't work here, altho it might in some other film) and knocks the turkey's feathers off with it. This shot actually looks cool, like the turkey is releasing his evil seed, but it doesn't look all that good animated. I also kinda like his turkey gloves and human boxer shorts.

"Listen boss, let's talk toikey". Shudderingly bad.

Poorly done eye take. Very slow, doesn't work. The veins and the puckery sockets look good in a still tho.

Ghost turkey (including transparent effect shot) asking for wings is funny. But then they ruin it by dumping the effects shot for a solid white turkey who takes off a sheet. Ending on cannibalistic ghost turkey would have been much better. Then they keep going and end on a lame punchline ("I fool him this way every Thanksgiving") and then go back to the lame typewriter corn gag. Gah!


Immediately following this cartoon is a "Toon Take", which has gutted some other cartoon for some laughs. It has a segment on the pilgrims, and that's much funnier than the "Voice of the Turkey". So you get a bonus backup review in this post.


Priscilla, in the courtship of Miles Standish, has giant hips and legs. I guess two fisted butter churning only keeps the top svelte.

Then we get another lass big in the, er, hips, with the Pocahontas/John Smith story. John prefers death over big boned women, for some reason.


Not especially attractive island photo of "Dorothy"; I think it's an ugly picture of Dorothy Lamour. It's still funnier than "Voice of the Turkey".

And so the discontinuous blackout gags make a better go of it than a continuous cartoon. Not tied down I suppose. The visuals are more streamlined as well.

November 10, 2006

Jerky Turkey (1945)

Jerky Turkey (1945)

Directed by Tex Avery

A short appropriate for Thanksgiving. That was released in April. Maybe they rereleased it in November, or maybe they just had to ration common sense during the war... (My screencaps are from a $1 public domain DVD ("Toon Factory: Scrap Happy Daffy"), where in their packaging they misspell it "Jerkey Turkey"; sorry, it looks like their print was suffering some color problems; better contrast than the Daily Motion video tho.)

Download at:


Double titles! More than one image in titles is a good thing. At least when the art is good. And it is here.

Transposing WWII battleship guns onto the Mayflower. Cartoons sure went to war...

Plymouth rock stone chicken gag. Painting gags are usually cool, and this is no exception. It's followed by a pan over to a WWII gag sign: "was this trip _really_ necessary?"

Partisan politics gag. It is part of the overuse of "ye", but it's good to know partisan rancor isn't new. Imagine, in a time of war, it was an accepted popular notion that not everyone was on exactly the same team...

Turkey Call with bill and a hand to whistle and call the words "Hey Turkey!". Double gag; it's a duck, and it's a duck that calls like a human.

Black market building. The turkey exposes it from behind camoflauge. It's a great big black building. Out of place, nicely designed, playing off the name black market. Cut out the "ye"s and we'd really be in business.

Turkey giftwrapping himself. Ludicrous and therefore funny in and of itself (even tho he uses his positioning to get around to blowing up the pilgrim), using the scissors to make the ribbon curl up is a pleasing attention to detail.

The bear's musical theme. Slow flute music punctuating the thrilling chase music dominated by strings. Everything has to stop for him, too; bringing the cartoon to a total halt works as a piece of comedy. It's an aspect of what made Droopy work, I think.

Halfbreed. Visually interesting, in line with a lot of the pastiche visual jokes Avery did. Too bad it's inserted inappropriately; it just feels like an interruption. As an 1/8th breed myself, let me assure you this should not be condemned as racism; the palefaces are just as shnozzy as the redskins, and halting English is probably better than one would expect in the local people of 17th century Massachusetts. This scene is listed as censored at

The multiple pilgrim; as there are multiple possible hiding spots, the pilgrim splits into 4. The music really makes this particular gag.

Tree angle. The turkey in the tree is a pull out shot that basically couldn't be done (at least not without a ton of work) in real life. It's cool. unfortunately the next shot is very normal and feels impoverished from the great angle shown just previously.

The denoumount has the bear eating the pilgrim and turkey; this is marred by "I'm Joe" written on the bear's back, but his face is great; he looks contented while he is picking his teeth. The cutaway to the stomach isn't the greatest thing since sliced bread, but it's an acceptable way of underlining the protagonist(s) discontent with becoming food.


Overuse of "ye". Let it go. Combined with crows nest gag overuse, it really sucks. The lookout's giant mouth is kinda interesting tho. See also: ye hollywood, we vine, ye cigarettes today, ye cut rate drug store, with the interesting character line up:
Panning over the crowds (look to be painted on cels, not part of the background) is good for a change, not everything needs to be animated up the ass. But even the pilgrim says "ye", and it sickens me.

Ugly pilgrim, ugly turkey. The turkey is based on Jimmy Durante, who did lend himself to the beak. But the design is still ugly. Not nearly as ugly as the pilgrim tho. Incredibly ugly. Unpleasantly ugly. "Why did they design this schmuck to be so damn ugly" ugly. And this isn't his only cartoon! Fuckers. I wonder how much the kids know about Jimmy Durante now. My primary exposure to him was through cartoons stealing his act and look, but since there were only 6 channels when I was a little kid, I saw the actual guy on the show that showed movies during the day. Since classic cartoons are mostly consigned to the cold dark obscurity of Boomerang on TV now (and three cartoons on Cartoon Alley once a week on TCM), I wonder if kids are even getting exposed to the cartoon version...

Old gags: (were they old by then?): painting a background on a wall so the adversary will smack into it, the adversary runs into it as if it is real, the painter hits the painted wall. I wonder if there was actually a precursor gag where the adversary hit the wall, or where both ran into it. Then the mechanical gag; the turkey shakes his hand, the pilgrim's head goes up on a jack. They feel realllllly old now; I remember seeing the painting gag in roadrunner cartoons as a kid, and even though those were after this cartoon, I can't help but find it no longer funny. The mechanical gag was supposedly created by Iwerks at Disney, so that was in some form old by this cartoon.

On the whole a fine cartoon.