Monday, 25 July 2011

1. Bosko, The Talk Ink Kid: Review

As I started off my challenge yesterday, I do feel that I should include the pilot Bosko the Talk-Ink Kid which was an unreleased short made in 1929.

Directed by: Hugh Harman
Produced by: Leon Schlesinger, Hugh Harman, Rudolf Ising
Starring: Rudolf Ising, Carmen Maxwell (voice of Bosko)
Animation: Friz Freleng and Rollin Hamilton (uncredited).

The cartoon was originally made as a pilot by Rudy Ising and Hugh Harman when they purchased the rights to Bosko in 1928. It was originally created by Hugh Harman in 1927, when he wanted to try and make "talkie" cartoons after the success of "talkie" motion pictures like The Jazz Singer or Disney's Steamboat Willie. This 4-minute short is sort of a test type cartoon to try and get the producers in the industry interested in "talkie" cartoons. So, they made Bosko the Talk-Ink Kid which was sort of a parody of Max Fleischer's Out of the Inkwell cartoons.

The cartoon opens with Rudy Ising who appears to be in his daytime job and he's illustrating a drawing that appears to be the creation of Bosko - who is an African child looking - with a chimp-looking face (I've always thought of Bosko's design stereotype looking, but this is the 1930's mind you). Bosko, magically comes to life and greets Rudy Ising - (casted as a cartoonist).

Bosko appears to be somehow mischievous in that pilot when he says some stuff to the cartoonist and laughs at him - although mind you, I find it hard to understand the opaque dialogue. The cartoonist asks him what particular talents he has - and Bosko tries dancing, and even asks the artist to draw a piano for him, so he can play music. While he's playing the piano, he keeps on pressing the keys, and hearing a horrible note in one of the keys, and throws it away.

There's a gag, that I've seen in early Bosko cartoons before, when either Bosko is too long, or parts of his body is too long. He takes his bowler hat off, and there's one piece of hairstring that sticks out, and he pulls it - and as the string stretches, Bosko goes back to normal size. I admit that I always find the gag odd. It's not impossible for it to be in a cartoon - but I suppose the timing baffles me a little bit.

The scene where Bosko's neck goes into a twist - is quite amusing, but I don't think it works very well - because Bosko holds onto a note while singing for quite a while, and then his head goes upwards, and into a twist - like a slinky. The gag is not very clever, but I still think it's quite funny in a way. But the animation timing was quite good, but that's all I'm going to say.

As Bosko continues to aggravatingly sing - and it constantly annoys Rudy Ising. He sucks Bosko and the piano board back into his fountain pen. (Notice how that when Bosko sings, his body just gets thinner and thinner - that's a gag used regularly in Harman-Ising cartoons). Rudy dips the ink back in the inkwell, and places the lid on top.

Bosko, comes out of the inkwell - saying "Well, so long folks - see you all later," and blows raspberries at the cartoonist and goes away.

From my point of view in this cartoon, it was only made as a special test Bosko shot - in order to please the producers in the industry. The cartoon felt quite rushed in a way, because Bosko's antics in that short aren't too clever, and it seems quite dull as a cartoon. But, back then in 1929 - cartoons like this one - where characters come to life were considered impressive back then because it created an atmosphere that hasn't been done before - transferring live-action into animation. The first time it was probably done was on Gertie the Dinosaur back in 1914. Walt Disney's Alice Comedies were popular back then - and had that type of live-action. I think that this short was probably good for its time back in 1929 - but not as good in today's standards.

Bosko's voice (voiced by Carmen Maxwell) was voiced very differently in this pilot (well, in most pilots there are differences), but his voice in this short had a much deeper voice, but the laugh was still the same. Even the design was slightly different - Bosko was much cruder looking here, and more ape-looking.

Well, I didn't think it was that great - quite mediocre in a way. But, it did impress Leon Schlesinger enough to give Harman-Ising a contract to produce more more of those cartoons "within 60 days" - and this led to the creation of Looney Tunes. Although, this short isn't an "official" Looney Tunes - as it's only titled Bosko, the Talk Ink Kid - but I do think it's important to review it as it led to the creation of the series.


  1. James Ciambor: Hello just stumbled upon this blog. Its great to see someone doing an ode to Looney Tunes. Ted's right, I admire you taking on such a feat but its hard to specify which films came first even when there are noticeable differences.

    In analyzing this film Bosko had a lot of under realized potential he could have been distinctly different from Mickey albeit much more irritating but that could have worked against characters who were his foil.

    According to Michael Barrier Harman and Ising while working at Disney in 1927, were thinking of converting Bosko to sound prior to Disney's idea for Mickey Mouse. Just a testament to how innovative they were.

  2. James Ciambor: And that Bosko in all due liklihood was not a pale imitation of Mickey. Even when they began emulating Disney there are still distinctive differences.

    Also keep in mind that everything practically seen in here as already accomplished in Out Of The Inkwell which aired from 1919 - 1929. Also Lee De Forrest and Max Fleischer had been innovators in sound animation prior to this and Disney but the impact was minimal.

  3. Linked from GAC Forums: Termite Terrace Trading Post..

    Good luck...just so you won't make the same oft-repeated dates as far as release dates are concerned, here are some of those:
    "Billbhoard Frolics"-incorrect release date:
    January 4, 1936/Real release date: November 1935
    "Plane Dippy"-incorrect release date: April 30, 1936/Real release date: January 1936
    "(Page) Miss Glory"-incorrect release date: June 9, 1936/Real release date: March 7, 1936
    "The Up-Standing Sitter"-incorrect release date: July 13, 1947/Real release date: July 3, 1948
    "House Hunting Mice"-incorrect release date:
    October 7, 1948/Real release date: October 1947
    "A Horsefly Fleas"-incorrect release date:
    November 1948/Real release date: November 1947
    "Two Gophers From Texas"-incorrect release date:
    December 20, 1948/Real release date: January 1948
    "A Hick, A Slick, and a Chick"-incorrect release date: December 27, 1948/Real release date: March 13, 1948.
    "I Taw A Puddy Tat"-incorrect release date: 1949/Real release date: April 1948.

    Many of the above are from Leonard Maltin's "Of Mice and Magic", though Joe Adamson III's "Tex Avery: King of Cartoons" is also a reason for the inaccuracies.

    In both cases, the authors simply culled copyright dates, not knowing of month/day release dates, let alone in many cases years, and that struck in Adamson's 1975 and Maltin's 1980 book [uncorected for the 1987 update!]. Dave Mackey,(one of the most reliable sources on this) among others, has correct release datges [navigate to Warner Bros.Animation.] Bosko was voiced by these: Max Maxwell for the 1929 pilot, and announcer Johnny Murray for the series [another error is "Maxwell as Bosko"].

    (Jeff Lenmburg can be blamed for listing a 1948 Tweety, "I Taw A Puddy Tat", as 1949!)

  4. Thanks Anonymous and S. Carras,

    S. Carras - I'll correct the dates on my list - thanks so much.

    1. Just found your blog. REGARDING Bosko, another sad figure that started out great but morphed in appearance like Bosko, was Flip The Frog. Shucks! Even in the later Flip The Frog's, they still used the original opening up to the later epsiodes when he changed appearence for the worst! This pilot, to me is probably the only intersting of his, the rest are painful. Thank God they changed later on to the ones "I never get tired of!"