Saturday, 25 February 2012

118. Billboard Frolics (1935)

Warner cartoon no. 117.
Release date: November 9, 1935.
Series: Merrie Melodies.
Supervision: Friz Freleng.
Producer: Leon Schlesinger.
Starring: Billy Bletcher (Dave Rub-Em-Off) and Cliff Nazarro (Eddie Camphor / Worm).
Musical Score: Bernard Brown.
Animation: Cal Dalton and Sandy Walker.
Sound: Treg Brown (uncredited).

This is the first WB cartoon to use the song Merrily We Roll Along by Eddie Cantor; which would later become the anthem to the Looney Tunes.

 Our cartoon begins at some city street where it's full of billboard signs. We come across different billboard signs with these references such as It Floats - Soap. The billboard sign that the audience are to focus on is Eddie Camphor in Person and Rub-Em-Off and his Wioleen. See Them and Hear Them. Evidently; this is a spoof name of popular singer at the time Eddie Cantor and the other is a spoof of violinist David Rubinoff.

Eddie Cantor then starts to roll his eyes (it appears to be a personality trait of his; as I've seen it on Shuffle Off to Buffalo (1933). Eddie Cantor is going into song singing Merrily We Roll Along that we ALL know - of course. The impression was by Cliff Nazarro and it's not bad; I guess. The music and song is very good; that we get to hear it for the next 30 years of the Merrie Melodies. Billy Bletcher is doing the Russian voice of "Rubie" as he is singing a verse; and I do quite like that Russian accent. They both walk together to finish off that verse of the song.

 The next part appears to be an immediate cut in terms of the music timing (I could be wrong on that part) but The Coolest Drink poster with a kettle (look-a-like) is shaking to Mexican music. While Mexican music is being played in the background by a Cuban girl in a Visit Cuba poster. The music and dancing looks pretty good although the animation feels a little sloppy as well as the design on the girl. The 1930s cartoons will suffered with those bland,, huge round, ugly eyes on the characters that were used by Avery, Freleng, Tashlin etc.

These Mexican tamales then go into song as they are singing like barbershop singers. One of the tamales has a pitchfork to use to play the guitar. I don't know what the song is as IMDB doesn't provide information in the Soundtrack part of this cartoon.

The next sequence involves these Dutch ladies that belonged in a can. They step out of their cans to do clog dancing to the song Merrily We Roll Along. There are these two pieces of bread with the billboard sign reading Russian Rye. These Russian breads are also dancing the Hopak but are also dancing over to Merrily We Roll Along, too. The caption at the bottom reads Baked on the Five Year Plan which is referring to Stalin's  Five Year Plan in Russia back in the late 1920s. So, it appears to be that throughout this cartoon so far it's a bunch of billboard signs with illustrations coming to life; one of Friz's ideas back then where it would seem pointless to create today. I mean; who'd come up with the idea of ceramic figurines to life; laundry clothes, etc. - Friz was just making attempts to carry on the Merrie Melodies in the Harman-Ising formula so I can't blame him.

The pan sequence for the penguin is pretty good although you only focus on the dance and not the words that read Smoke Old Colds and it considers re-watching of the scene. The dance is pretty good although why do the penguins have mannequin feet. The caption at the bottom reads They Are Fit For Man. Of course this shows about how folks were unaware of bad health can be caused by smoking.

The mannequin feet on the penguins DON'T work on the penguins but at least their skating movement to the Sleeping Beauty musical piece has fine timing. But I don't see why mannequins. It would've worked better if it included mannequins I guess or ducks with roller skates. A lady in another billboard sign above shakes powder down to create a snow effect.

The next animated dance sequence comes out of nowhere; and it's in animated long pairs of underwear just near the billboard posters that are doing a dance. I know that it takes place in the streets; but since when should a pair of underwear should join in? They're not part of the billboard sequences. That's not all; I recognised that this sequence is reused animation from The Girl at the Ironing Board. The only difference is that it's done in color.

As this is basically the same dance; the sound effects and music are different - if I recall. They use their pants flap to play some fun drum sounds and Arabian music by using a barrel. which if some fine music but the problem is...if it's the same barrel then how come they're different sounds if they're tapping it?  A female clothesline then starts to come up to life which is evidently the same design from "Ironing Board" but this is new animation. There is a wobbly gelatin desert - is that he correct spelling? The animation isn't bad of the female clothesline who appears to be attempting belly dancing.

This is the ending of the belly-dancing sequence with the clotheslines that didn't need to be there. It was probably added to add more time to it; to keep at a minimum budget. There is a bird that steps out of a poster and into the real world. The tiny bird spots a worm inside an apple and attempts to bite the worm out of the apple but the worm spanks the bird's behind.

The bird does a chirpy yell and the worm's chuckle is also by Cliff Nazarro. The bird then starts to walk back to the scene to try and get revenge on the worm. The worm then starts to blow silly faces at the bird. The bird starts to tug at the worm's skin like a game of tug of war. The worm pulls the apple off in which the bird flies off being hit on the head by the apple.

There is a chase sequence which is the same animation that was from early Bosko cartoons where the worm forms into a loop. I'm sure the worm is reused - or the same animation but the bird is different animation. The bird then reaches the junk where the worm is hiding but is clinging onto a pumper.

The stick that is attached to a door then moves off with the bird all pumped up with helium and now looks like a balloon. That was some pretty neat timing on that. The gag reminds me of that goat in Hold Anything is the same concept.

Meanwhile there is a cat that approaches the scene in which the cat is on top of a billboard sign meowing. Okay, I noticed how that everything in this cartoon seems to go out of place. First, we saw billboard signs singing; and it moves onto a clothesline sequence - and NOW it's focusing on a cat and canary? It's like as though they've got earlier storyboard productions and placed it in there; and tried to fit it into the segment to "make it work".

The cat approaches the scene and notices the canary bird. The cat walks through the moon in which we see X-ray vision of him which is a gag reused from Sittin' on a Backyard Fence and I SWEAR that it's the same model cat from It's Got me Again! or just a coincidental design. The cat then closely approaches the canary in which the bird is frightened of the close-up but the canary tries to walk away innocently or sneakily. The canary is then frightened of the cat and the chase begins. Mmm, this reminds me of an early Sylvester & Tweety prototype - if you really think about it.

 A bellboy inside the billboard signs inside the Calling for Philmore cigarette billboard shouts "Calling all cars!" numerous times. I imagine that the animation of the bellboy is rotoscoped animation from the standards I'm looking at. The "Police Chief Gasoline" billboard sign then wake up and drive through their scenery inside the billboard and fire bullets out to shoot the cat.

So, now the cartoon is focusing on the billboards again - the story of this cartoon really doesn't make much sense and just adds random parts. An electric hand inside a billboard meets up with it's neighbour billboard which is a dog that resembles the His Master's Voice (HMV) logo. The dog is zapped by the electric hand and is ordered to go and stop the cat from chasing after the canary.

The 'His Master's Voice' dog is therefore chasing after the cat hiding behind a soup box but they then go through a type of pipe. The cat is cunning enough to enter inside the pipe and out. The cat turns the switches of the pipe upwards in which it blocks the billboard puppy from escaping and the dog is yelping inside yelping for help.

Now that is a type of scene that I really don't like looking at. Poor dog. That dog doesn't deserved to be trapped in there forever. This is kind of sadistic gags to me.
The canary then walks through the corner of the pipe but makes a 'take' when he sees the cat chasing after him. As they are being chased; the canary ends up being cornered by the wall. The cat is not doing anything but just blocking the canary out of the way and meowing quite a lot.

Luckily the canary is saved - by a billboard poster that comes to life. A billboard poster of a hand holding a mallet comes to life by whacking the cat on the head. The canary then jumps on top of the knocked out rather satisfied.
and that's all folks!

Overall comments: This cartoon was a rather bit of a mess in my opinion. Of course the choice of music did improve the cartoon with the famous Merrily We Roll Along song but the cartoon itself suffers apart from that. There were too many reused materials; and yes - the audience aren't going to know but for someone reviewing and reflecting the cartoons it's shown as a production that is rather flawed. I dislike how that the short seems to be all over the place at times with story points that hardly make sense. It was one of Friz's cartoons at the time to focus on "the impossible things" where it doesn't work too well in these concepts. I seem to notice that in this short; it starts off rather creative at first; but then it gets a little lazy with the reuses and rather bad. Of course, Avery arrived and gradually paced things up but Freleng and the other directors didn't immediately get influenced yet. 


  1. "This is the first WB cartoon to use the song Merrily We Roll Along by Eddie Cantor; which would later become the anthem to the Looney Tunes."

    Not Looney Tunes, but Merrie Melodies. Also, Charles Tobias and Murray Mencher wrpte the song with Cantor.

  2. Hey you skipped cartoon #117. Are you still going to review it?

  3. The "Police Chief" gag is referencing Texaco's brand of regular gasoline, dubbed "Fire Chief", which the company used up until the 1970s. Also, for movie-goers on the west side of the pond, the HMV symbol was used by the Radio Corporation of America, and dates back to the RCA Victor record players (the dog was dubbed "Nipper", which I believe applied to both its U.S. and British usages).

  4. The canary is actually a chich and it's yet from another source, "Pop~ Goes Yoiur heart" from 1934, and the cat closeup is traced apparently form "My Green Fedora"! Ironic that we'd have to wait a year for the Merrie Melodies themee yet here it is in the cartoon, sung by Nazarro as Cantor as Bletcher as Rubinoff.[On radio another cartoon connection-Alan Reed did the speaking of Rubinoff.]

    Steve C.

  5. Nic Kramer: I haven't skipped #117. I started off reviewing "Bosko the Talk Ink Kid" in which I reviewed it as "#1" while "Sinkin' in the Bathtub" is actually #1 in the Warner cartoon output. I just put the numbers "one number forward" but I haven't missed any reviews.

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