Tuesday, 26 July 2011

2. Sinkin' in the Bathtub (1930)

I've heard from that Bosko, The Talk-Ink Kid wasn't really part of the Looney Tunes era since it was unreleased and not made under the title of Looney Tunes. However, I still felt I had to review it - since it started it off. Now, I'm going to review the first "official" Looney Tunes cartoons - Sinkin' in the Bathtub.

Warner cartoon no. 1.
Date Released: 19 April 1930.
Directors: Hugh Harman and Rudolf Ising
Produced by: Hugh Harman, Rudolf Ising and Leon Schlesinger (associate)
Animation: Isadore "Friz" Freleng
Musical Score: Frank Marsales

The short opens up with some cheerful music beats from the title cards, as we iris in we find Bosko singing in the bathtub, and he's enjoying himself in his own privacy time, playing with the shower sprays as if it was a strings instrument, and plunks it like a harp, and even plucking his feet and his nose as instruments - I suppose, it's meant to be a type of 1930's gag, so I don't have much to complain about that.

 What baffles me a lot is that for some strange reason - the bathtub COMES to life! That's weird and I find the animation on that quite creepy. I don't see on how the bathtub would just come to life, and starts prancing around the bathroom and grabbing a piece of toilet paper and throwing it around the room like as if it was a wedding day. Considering that I never felt gags were that bizarre back in the 1930's - but you'll only find those bizarre gags mostly in cartoons.

Oh, I should point out that this is another recurring gag where Bosko pulls a piece of his hair string and his trousers roll up. I admit, that I'm starting to quite like that recurring gag.

What, he actually bends the shower spray at a 90 degree angle? How does that work - I know that cartoons have gags that are crazy and funny, but I never think of gags that don't scientifically make sense. Critical, I know - but gags like these that don't make sense at all - really put me off in a way.

Meanwhile, as Bosko's fully dressed and he slides out the window. He goes to his garage, where he rides on his car (that has character), and Bosko wants the car to take him to his sweetheart's house - Honey. While on the way, Bosko picks up flowers for her date, and to surprise her with a sweet present. Inbetween when Honey has a bath and Bosko is about to give her the flowers and says, "Guess what I've got for you, Honey", a goat walks by and eats the flowers that upsets Bosko - so Honey forgives him by saying "Don't cry, Bosko", and they go on a day out instead. Bosko plays the saxophone to Honey, while she's up at the balcony. Huh, that sounds quite similar in Romeo and Juliet - the balcony scene. Except, this is Bosko playing music.

 Whilst watching this cartoon, I've managed to notice that there are two scenes of Honey where she's naked. The first shot is of her is when she's in the bathtub and you can see her through the window enjoying herself in the tub, and while Bosko notices her; she pulls the blinds down and we see her nude in silhouette with her taking her clothing from the washing line. Gee, I wonder how that got away with the censors. I suppose, that's because we don't really see any private parts - and that got away with the censors - but I still feel it should've been censored, considering that this was from the 1930's.

You see her again - where she's dancing to Bosko's saxophone sounds with bubbles piling out from bathtub foam. As she is dancing, her skirt and knickers fall down and she swings her hips nude. That still does put me off in a way - and I wonder why she would do that in public. Well, we did see Bosko nude when he came out of the shower - and I suppose we didn't complain too much because there's wasn't really much to complain as it's just a cartoon body - but for a female in this cartoon doing that, sounds kind of wrong to me.

A Bosko and Honey are enjoying their date out by driving around the countryside, and making a joke towards a cow as it was blocking it's way. They suddenly go up a very steep hill, and as they are going downhill - Bosko and Honey are in peril. As they are going downhill, Bosko tries to halt the car by braking with his feet, but he ends up bumping into a lot of big rocks and trees crashing onto him.

The only known censor on that short (as far as I'm concerned) is that when Bosko is crying for help, he cries "Mammy", of course - "Mammy" is a slang word that stereotype black maids who served in houses for richer families. Bosko, was told to be portrayed as a black child (and he dose), and he cries for "Mammy", which I think is meant to be a complex structure gag. It was censored later on when it was first shown in Nickelodeon.

So, as Bosko and Honey are still in peril, their fate turns out to be where they end up in a pond, and are in their and they reverse the song Sinkin' in the Bathtub and playing with lilypads as drums, and that's all folks.

Considering the fact that this is the very first "official" Looney Tunes cartoon, and we all know that known of the stars that we know today like Bugs Bunny, Elmer Fudd, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, etc. are all in the very first. Bosko was the very first star that reigned Looney Tunes for roughly three until Harman-Ising left Warner Bros. and took the rights of Bosko with them. After Bosko's final cartoon appearance for Warner Bros. in Bosko's Picture Show - he's pretty much been a forgotten character, that no-one really talked about since then - until when television arrived - they would show a variety of Bosko cartoons and plenty of other old cartoons. Bosko did get some attention from historians, and today we only vaguely know Bosko as the first ever Looney Tunes star from that standpoint.

[2014 update: For those who may realise the sudden appearance of these added comments, I've decided I will be adding at least more coherent and personal thoughts on the cartoons, to make up for, personally, my unfair interpretations of the Harman-Ising cartoons.

Indeed, it was the cartoon which would un-intentionally become a great legacy in the history of American animation as well as entertainment in general. Though my previous comments concerning of the surrealism in the Harman-Ising cartoons come across as somewhat shocking, its clearer to me that the cartoons (or novelties) were still new towards audiences, and a 1930 audience enjoyed watching surrealism with inanimate objects coming to life, and as far as entertainment standards goes in animation, that was entertaining enough for them. The short doesn't capture the spirit of the earliest Disney cartoons which was what they competed for, it is a charming little cartoon to start off their originally proposed series of characters singing and promoting popular songs.

The opening shot is a great way to establish the gist of the entire series: Bosko is singing in the shower, and he plucks his fingers towards the shower strings like a harp, as well as his nose, and its greatly executed in terms of the rubber-hose, surrealistic spirit. Note the subtle pieces of suggestive nudity of Honey is evident with scenes of her in the bathtub, as well as her body jumping out of her skirt as she dances, which years later, would be considered blasphemy under the Production Code endorsement four years later. Honey dancing to the bubbles in synchronisation to I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles, animated by Friz Freleng, is jumpy and enjoyable. The climax sequences, feel somewhat parallel towards the Oswald climax sequences which were produced during the Disney years]. 


  1. James Ciambor: Wanted to mention that animation is about trying to bend the rules of reality. When Bosko turns the shower to a 90 degree angle, what there trying to attempt to stretch what animation is capable of. Which as of 1930 the industry was very limited in what they could technically accomplish.

    I also noticed they dropped the African American dialect relatively early on in attempt to emulate Mickey. My style of thinking is why? They could have had a distinctively different character with Bosko. Unlike Van Beuren, Harman and Ising had the ability to deliver distinctively different characters from Disney.

  2. Offhand, I can only think of one maid with a "mammy" moniker, and that was only on an MGM model sheet and never in the actual cartoon.

    "Mammy" refers to "mother" and you only have to listen to the lyrics Al Jolson's music of the '20s to discern that.

    Inanimate objects temporarily coming to life date back to the silent days. To me, it's always lots of fun (especially in the Fleischer cartoons) and was a pretty standard cartoon concept until Disney evolved away from it and everyone copied him.

  3. This short is made for kids to enjoy, not theoretically piece apart and understand. Its to be enjoyed and leaving kids with the whimsy and curiosity of all the actions made. There's nothing funny or enjoyable about a sensible cartoon, you might as well have a kid watch the news

  4. "Sinkin' in the Bathtub", the very first Looney Tune ever, had a series card which was only used for that cartoon. It was preceded by the text "Presented by Vitaphone, a subsidiary of WARNER BROS. Pictures, Inc. Produced with Western Electric apparatus".

  5. What, no mention of the car coming out of the outhouse with its trunk door left conspicuously open? I think this may have been one of the earliest examples of toilet humor in cartoons. Also, I've noticed a lot of Bosko cartoons show naked butts. I wonder if this really annoyed the Warner brass?

    1. Indeed!!! LOL! I noticed that too. I'm sure Warner didn't care about bare butts as long as the cartoon made cash, who knows? One note, these cartoons were forced to use the top song of the day by Warner's Archives, I'm glad this didn't last too long.