Magic Mummy (1933)

Magic Mummy (1933)
Article 6022 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 10-16-2021
Directed by John Foster and Vernon Stallings
Featuring the voice of Margie Hines
Country: USA
What it is: Van Beuren cartoon

Two cops investigate the theft of a mummy from the museum.

Despite the fact that this cartoon is consigned to the “various” section of the dvd set upon which I found this one, the two cops look and act an awful lot like regular Van Beuren characters Tom and Jerry (not the MGM cat and mouse) who have their own section.  It’s a bit of a shame that it’s not included there; it’s easily the best of the T&J cartoons I’ve seen.  Granted, part of it is that it has lots of fantastic content; most of the action takes place underground in a cemetery, the main villain is reminiscent of the phantom of the opera, and there’s a whole audience full of skeletons.  And, of course, there’s a mummy as well; she looks a bit like Zita Johann and sings like Betty Boop.  This one is fun and would make for good Halloween viewing.

The Mechanical Cow (1927)

The Mechanical Cow (1927)
Article 6021 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 10-14-2021
Directed by Walt Disney
Featuring the voice of King Lawrence
Country: USA
What it is: Disney, pre-Mickey

Oswald the lucky rabbit has a mechanical cow which distributes milk around the neighborhood. When Oswald’s girlfriend is kidnapped by thugs, Oswald and his cow come to the rescue.

Given that Disney’s first talking cartoon was STEAMBOAT WILLIE, and given the fact that Mickey Mouse was created as a replacement for Oswald after Disney lost the rights to the character, I can only conclude that the various voices and sound effects here were added on a rerelease of this one. At any rate, this is a fun if not outstanding early Disney effort. For the most part, the mechanical cow acts pretty much as I’d expect any (cartoon) cow to act, though his mechanical nature does allow a few gags to come through. It has a couple of good laughs, but it doesn’t really stand out a lot from the pack.

Two for the Zoo (1941)

Two for the Zoo (1941)
6020
Date: 10-13-2021
Directed by Dave Fleischer and Shamus Culhane
Featuring the voice of Pinto Colvig
Country: USA
What it is: Gabby cartoon

Gabby takes over the delivery of an animal known as a rubberneck kango to the zoo. He is unaware that there are actually two of them; a full-sized adult and her baby.

This cartoon gets by on fantastic content thanks to the existence of the strange anima; it’ something like kangaroo with an elephant’s trunk. But when you consider some of the outrageous creations the Fleischers gave us over the years, this one is a disappointment. But then, I’ve never been a fan of Gabby; he’s more irritating than funny, and his cartoons are fairly mediocre. You’re probably better off with the studio’s other stars at the time, Popeye and Superman.

Spooking About Africa (1957)

Spooking About Africa (1957)
Article 6019 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 10-13-2021
Directed by Seymour Kneitel and Myron Waldman
Featuring the voices of Jack Mercer, Sid Raymond and Cecil Roy
Country: USA
What it is: Casper the Friendly Ghost cartoon

Casper befriends a sneezing elephant in Africa. He cures him of his affliction, but what happens when a sneeze is really needed?

By this time, Casper was a lot less angsty than he initially was. Even when he inadvertently scares a zebra, he takes it with what amounts to a shrug and moves on. Without the angst, this cartoon avoids the tear-jerking of most of his other cartoons, but it never quite succeeds on its on new terms; despite trying for bigger laughs, it falls flat. And without his angst, there’s just not a lot of character to Casper; in fact, I think the whole cartoon would have worked better if they just jettisoned Casper from the story. This one isn’t particularly memorable.

A Haunting We Will Go (1949)

A Haunting We Will Go (1949)
Article 6018 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 10-12-2021
Directed by Seymour Kneitel and Myron Waldman
Featuring the voices of Frank Gallop, Jack Mercer and Mae Questel
Country: USA
What it is: Casper the Friendly Ghost cartoon.

Casper manages to befriend a baby duck. But can he protect his new friend during duck season?

It’s a Casper cartoon; time to cry! Or time to do whatever it is you usually do when faced with a Casper cartoon (yawning is an option). There’s a couple of moments here where Casper or the Narrator talks about protecting the baby duck with his life. The first time I wondered if the writers were aware of the ironic joke they just perpetrated; however, the second time it’s made clear they were aware. It’s the usual Casper combination here; whimsy with tear-jerking, and if that doesn’t float your boat you’ll be glad it’s only eight minutes long. And once again I’ll point out that Casper has no qualms about scaring people if it suits his own ends.

Neptune Nonsense (1936)

Neptune Nonsense (1936)
Article 6017 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 10-10-2021
Directed by Burt Gillett and Tom Palmer
Featuring the voices of Paul Tetley and Gus Wickie
Country: USA
What it is: Felix the Cat talkie

Felix goes fishing to catch a companion for his lonely goldfish, but is pulled underwater and eventually must go on trial before Neptune.

The main trouble with Van Bueren cartoons is that they are singularly short on laughs. This is not to say they don’t try, but the jokes come off as odd and weird rather than funny, and Felix is given very little chance to demonstrate the creative problem-solving skills he showed in the silents. The Felix cartoons are certainly better than the same studio’s Tom and Jerry cartoons, but they’re not any funnier than those, either. This one mostly consists of fish jokes, and if Neptune didn’t show up near the end of the cartoon, I wouldn’t have qualified it for fantastic content.

Bold King Cole (1936)

Bold King Cole (1936)
Article 6016 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 10-10-2021
Directed by Burt Gillett
Featuring the voices of Walter Tetley and Gus Wickie
Country: USA
What it is: Van Beuren cartoon

Felix the cat seeks refuge from a terrible thunderstorm in the castle of Old King Cole, whose bragging has upset the spirits that inhabit his paintings. The latter take Old King Cole hostage in order to teach him not to brag so much. Can Felix save the king?

Felix lost a lot of his appeal after he made the transition to sound, and the fact that his cartoons were made by Van Beuren (the weakest of the cartoon studios) only makes things worse. That being said, this one is a little better than usual for the series at this time, though it seems to spend less time with Felix than with Old King Cole. The plot is a bit novel at any rate, and with a whole gaggle of ghosts running around, it at least has some horror content. Still, this only a mediocre cartoon.

Going Places (1948)

Going Places (1948)
Article 6015 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 10-2-2021
Directed by John Sutherland
Voice cast unknown
Country: USA
What it is: Propaganda designed to encourage the entrepreneurial spirit.

A young boy is kept from fishing by having to help his mother make soft soap. He decides if he comes up with a more efficient way to make soap, he can find the time to fish, but instead it leads him down the road to the world of business.

It’s not the invention that puts this one in the realm of the fantastic; bar soap is hardly a novelty. Nor is there a fantastical character leading the protagonist by the nose, a prevalent type of character in the realm of file ephemera like this animated short. Rather, it’s the appearance of our old friends, the good and evil doppelgangers who try to tempt the protagonist into evil or keep him on the path of good; they pop up when the main character is tempted to join a monopoly and fix the prices. And therein lies the biggest problem here; it whitewashes the business world by presenting a rosy but not entirely accurate view of capitalism. But then, what do you expect of a short intended to encourage more people to go into business? Still, it’s an interesting and useful short in its way, though I will point out our hero never does get to go fishing.

The Mite Makes Right (1948)

The Mite Makes Right (1948)
Article 6014 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 10-2-2021
Directed by Bill Tytla and George Germanetti
Featuring the voices of Mae Questel, Sid Raymond, Izzy Sparber
Country: USA
What it is: Noveltoon

When he begins to feel unwanted at home, Tom Thumb runs away with his pet mouse, vowing to do big things. Can he accomplish his goal at a passing circus?

As inspirational whimsy, this variation on the Tom Thumb tail is uninspired but passable. It is predictable; it doesn’t take a lot of imagination to figure out how Tom Thumb might make a big splash in a circus. Nor does it take a lot of imagination to figure out what will happen when the acrobatic elephant act runs into his pet mouse. Still, that latter incident did provide for me the biggest laugh in the cartoon when an elephant tries to seek sanctuary by hiding in a sousaphone. The rest is just your typical “outcast makes good” story.

Spring Song (1949)

Spring Song (1949)
Article 6013 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 10-2-2021
Directed by Izzy Sparber and Myron Waldman
Featuring the voices of Jack Mercer and Mae Questel
Country: USA
What it is: Another opportunity to follow the bouncing ball

Spring is here! The sun wakes up, the woodland nymphs play their flutes, and we all get a chance to sing along.

I’ve covered several of Famous studio’s Screen Songs before. If this one varies the formula at all, it’s that instead of opening with a series of blackout gags on its subject, it goes for a series of spring-inspired whimsy. It’s like a shortened version of the Pastoral Symphony sequence from FANTASIA, but that was the dullest section of that work, and this one is little better. There’s quite a few fantasy elements to win its inclusion here, but this is one of the weakest of the series.