Tuesday, 26 July 2011

3. Congo Jazz (1930)

I know that I've posted my Sinkin' in the Bathtub just earlier on today - but I do feel about trying to post two short reviews a day, and post as regularly as I can - on days where I'm at school - I could only post maybe once or twice during Monday and Friday - but I can't promise anything. But I'm able to post well at the moment.

Warner cartoon no. 2.
Date released: August 1930.
Directors: Rudolf Ising and Hugh Harman.
Starring: Johnny Murray (Bosko)
Produced by: Hugh Harman, Rudolf Ising and Leon Schlesinger (associate).
Animation: Carmen Maxwell and Paul Smith.
Musical Score: Frank Marsales.

This is the second ever Looney Tunes short - and it's the first time we find Paul Smith and Carmen Maxwell animating here. I've always noticed how that Bosko's voice always varies in the shorts. Johnny tends to give a Bosko a more type of falsetto voice, but there also appears to be various other unknown voice actors impersonating Bosko, too.

The first scene starts off with Bosko who appears to be a hunter in Africa hunting after wild animals that reside in the jungle and the congo area. As he's looking out for some animals, he screams with fear. It shows the audience that he is scared, and afraid that an animal would eat him. For quite a while, I've always thought that it should show some scary animals maybe popping out of the trees and to scare Bosko and that's why he would scream with fright. Not just screaming when there's nothing to be seen - otherwise it gets confusing, slightly.

As he continues to go by hunting, there is a rather peckish-looking tiger that sneaks up behind Bosko and tries to sneak up on Bosko and eat him, as Bosko noticed the tiger (by feeling his slobbery tongue licking him), he gets scared that he hides under his own trousers, and hides under there.

There's a piece of animation which I do actually quite like - and it would be later used as a popular gag - when a person is aiming the shotgun at an antagonist. Bosko pulls the trigger, and as the gun goes off - only a speck of smoke rises out from the gun, leaving a helpless bullet drop off the gun - and Bosko is helpless in that situation. So, there is a climax between Bosko and the tiger. So, the tiger has the power now.

Bosko runs away in panic from the tiger, and the tiger only manages to grab Bosko in the rear, which Bosko reacts to the pain, and squash and stretch is required for the animation, in which is body gets looser, and longer, and the tiger tries to get his claw out and rip off a part of it, but misses, and Bosko grabs the loose part of the body and tucks it back into his trousers and his normal body is revealed again. I admit, that I do actually quite like that scene. Animation could do anything back in those days, and Hugh Harman and Rudy Ising really followed that - they just did what they wanted in terms of gags and extreme ones, too. The animation of Bosko's body loose was similar animation reused from the classic Steamboat Willie.

From all the panicking and chasing going through in Bosko's mind - he somehow pulls in "imaginary" flute out of his pocket and plays with it - and discovers that the tiger doesn't fight back at all, and dances to the music and joins in with Bosko. It's a very unscientific theory, but that it is cartoons though. Bosko then mimng to the music "Here We Go Round The Mulberry Bush" that he prances around with that tiger.

Ah, moving on ever so slightly. It's shown that Bosko played the flute and sang with the tiger as a trick to get him out of his sight. As you can see Bosko dancing, there are times when the tiger interrupts and tries to kill Bosko, but gets distracted with the music, and allows Bosko to plunk the tiger's whiskers and stripy tail. He tricks the tiger by causing him to stand in front of Bosko at an edge of a cliff, and Bosko kicks the tiger out of scene, and laughs to the rhythm of the song.

Moving on slightly, Bosko discovers two small monkeys that are playing with each other. As Bosko approaches, one of them runs out of scene, and the other monkey remains. Bosko tries to pet the monkey, but the monkey doesn't appreciate it and spits in his eye. Bosko gives him corporal punishment by smacking him in the bottom, like parents used to do to their children a long time ago (some still do today). As an ape approaches in vengeance against Bosko, the ape appears to be the father of the children. Bosko, who didn't realize that their parents were nearby - and the ape is about to beat him up - and Bosko manages to find some chewing gum in his pocket, and nervously says, "Have some gum, Mr. Ape?". So, as they both share a piece of gum, another musical rhythm starts.

In this finale part of the cartoon, Bosko starts to plunk his piece of chewing gum that's grinded into his teeth, and the ape joins in, and they start to perform a piece of When the Little Red Rose Get the Blues For You in the jungle, that involves the other animals joining in and start dancing around and then a music beat enters the jungle - which turns out to be a "congo jazz". Ostriches, elephants, giraffes and EVEN kangaroos are joining into the music beat - and plants too. Huh, if this is a congo, there is a geographical problem here, what are hangaroos doing in Africa?

Like what I found weird with the bathtub coming to life in Sinkin' in the Bathtub, I find the same thing weird in this scene. Where a palm tree is dancing, and is sort of a stereotype on Hawaii dancers - with the coconuts, moving around - with the coconuts moving around like a Hawaii dancer - couldn't that be censored in that cartoon - because the coconuts sort of represent - breasts. But that is just me.

The short ends with one of the coconuts falling out and hitting Bosko on the heads, and the hyenas laugh with him, and Bosko laughs with the hyenas, which I suppose is meant to be a gag, considering they don't look close enough to a hyena - and that's all folks.

What I did think of the cartoon, Congo Jazz was that I actually preferred it to the very first short. The cartoon had that feeling where the characters did have some character there, and that we saw more of Bosko. What I liked a lot was that we saw Bosko tricking the tiger into dancing and kicking him off the edge of the cliff. The story is very simple there: it shows Bosko in the congo hunting for some dangerous animals and when he's at risk - he manages to put a stop to that by playing with musical equipments to prevent him from being killed. The short is just meant to be quite fun, and it is quite entertaining in it's ways.The animation in that cartoon was very appealing to me (particularly that very first scene of Bosko and that tiger) something I wish I could do as practice animation. The timing is wonderful - when a tiny bullet falls out.

[2014 update: With not too much to update from when I wrote the review three years ago, I do still generally agree this is an all-round entertaining cartoon. The gags were inventive, and the animation felt fresh and it was the perfect environment of a cartoon made during the Depression era. From this short onwards, the Negro stereotype of Bosko becomes less obvious, as instead he is given more of a falsetto voice, making him another addition of Mickey Mouse wannabes. The earliest Bosko cartoons, from 1930-1931, to me, are the most inventive, surreal shorts with some great imagery before they started to become more mundane]. 

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