Release date: July 18, 1936.
Series: Merrie Melodies.
Supervision: Tex Avery.
Producer: Leon Schlesinger.
Starring: Tommy Bond (Owl Jolson speaking), Billy Bletcher (Father Owl/Bird singing 'Laugh Clown Laugh'), Martha Wentworth (Mother Owl), Lou Fulton (Stuttering Bird), Bernice Hansen (Fat Bird). Ted Pierce (Jack Bunny) and Jackie Morrow (Owl Jolson singing). (Wow! What a cast)
Musical Score: Norman Spencer.
Animation: Charles "Chuck" Jones and Virgil Ross.
Sound: Treg Brown (uncredited).
Synopsis: An owl family that only like classical music reject their crooner son, Owl Jolson who loves to swing; until his family change their minds once he's discovered doing auditions on radio.
"I love to singa; about the moon-a, and the June-a and the spring-a". Here is a review that I'm sure many fans would appreciate and this is probably one of the greatest Warner Bros. cartoons of all time. The song is probably the best used for the 'Merrie Melodies' in this period and Tex Avery certainly made a great one.
Once upon a time in the deep woods there lives a tree where the an owl couple live. There are butterflies flickering around the oak tree they live in. The music heard in the background is 'A Great Big Bunch of You'. The owner of the oak tree is "Professor Fritz Owl" who is the Teacher of "Voice, Piano & Violin" as it's shown on the sign at the top that is carved like a violin. BUT, what Professor Fritz Owl doesn't teach and probably his most hatred ban is jazz; as the sign reads in huge red letters
I really like that setup with the camera showing us that "jazz" is probably going to be the main part of this cartoon since the owl couple don't teach jazz at all; and the red letters tell us that it's strictly banned and only stick to classical music, ballet or opera since jazz back then is probably like the hip-hop of its time for parents which means their personalities would be cold. This is a pretty long background scene and I do like that huge close-up zooming onto the "No Jazz" sign. As the camera then starts to slide down to the doorknob of where Professor Fritz. Owl lives; we view inside the doorknob to see what is happening; and look at hat lovely perspective shot of the doorknob that is animated to see what is going on inside.
Professor Owl then starts to walk up and down again with the camera angle only focusing on his feet. It appears to be a while later the same position of the carpet he's working on is already worn out since we can see the wood, which is a funny gag with only backgrounds needed to change - a trait of Avery. The husband owl walks up to his wife to check if any luck has happened. The wife looks under her skirt and nods her head since it tells us that the egg hatching is a success.
Professor Fritz Owl then starts to tap on the eggs with his conducting stick in which the first three bells make church bell chimes in which he loves the sound of. He taps on the last egg which turns out to be a sound of some cymbal clash; the parents go into shock as they listen to the sound of it again which is the sound they dislike. This tells us that one of the baby owls would be the odd one out.
The background pans for the nest sequence with the animation is amazing and the whole animation is about a minute long; Avery liked to use that for his short those pans.
The owl then starts to go into song singing; I love to sing-a, about the moon-a, and the June-a and the Spring-a. I love to sing-a, about a sky, or blue-a, or tea for two-a-- The singing is interrupted by Professor Owl's comments which turns negative "A jazz singer! A crooner. Stop! Stop! Stop!!" Professor Owl almost rips off his hair in which the mother faints over listening to jazz music since they can't take the sound of it. Brilliant character personalities here. The father tries to wake up the mother waving his hand suggesting; "Listen Mama, if he must sing; we will teach him to sing the way we want him to".
This definitely would've gotten a laugh since since the first three baby owls showed serious singing and instrument playing; while Owl Jolson (the name is an obvious reference to entertainer Al Jolson) is more lively and cheerful with his performances which is complete opposite personalities to his parents. I imagine that this scene required strong character animation in it too in order to make the gag funny. I wish I knew who animated that scene since it was probably hard to do; but since Chuck Jones got screen credit and one of the more ambitious animators - could it be him? I'm not going to go anymore since it could've been anyone. The parents' reactions are pretty funny since it went from positive comments to almost thunderstruck as though it's a huge disaster. This entire sequence there is so subtle that it's sort of hard to analyse but it's a very good sequence where it went from serious, classical music to jazzy, lively music in which the parents have an opposition to.
Owl Jolson is certainly not enjoying himself singing the song which is very boring and not what he can sing. Every time Mama Owl turns the page for the next part of the song; Owl Jolson sings 'I Love to Singa' without Ma noticing as he only has some few seconds to sing it. It's pretty weak character animation but we know what is happening; as it's still enjoyable watching Owl Jolson sing with a great facial expressions of the young owl looking very disgusted. Owl Jolson continues to sing 'I Love to Singa' briefly every time Mama turns the page around; and gets caught during Professor Owl's account. The take of the Professor listening to jazz again is so funny and even his personality is so funny as he's as shock as though someone has committed a crime.
Professor Owl: Enough is too much; out of my house you hotcha. You crooner! You falsetto! You jazz singer! You...you. (Slams door; opens it again) Phooey.
That was a pretty funny scene that's typical Avery with the Owl shouting at the door with rage as his face turns red of anger but opens the door calmly shouting "Phooey" but still has the red face. Owl Jolson turns to the audience saying "That's my pop!" as he walks down the woods not caring about his parents as he sings 'I Love to Singa' again. Papa storms out of the door fuming as Mama looks out of the window unhappy of Owl Jolson tossed out of the house weeping; "Papa, I think you were a bit too hasty". A bit? More like very hasty.
Meanwhile back at home Mama is on the phone to the police asking about her missing child. Why didn't she just run after her child and not beat her husband for tossing their child out of the house abandoning him. The Mama describes to one of the officers about what Owl Jolson looks like; "Yeah, Mr. Officer - just a little fellow with big eyes and a little red coat". This cartoon so far has proved to be very fun to me as this is just fun from the very start; and definitely one of Avery's best.
Inside the radio station shows a line of birds queueing and the judge of his "amateur hour" is called Jack Bunny (a reference to comedian Jack Benny). The Jack Bunny judge seems to be such a stickler for talent that he rejects everyone who is close to it. A bird plays the saxophone to "Nola" but gets rejected as Jack Bunny hits the gong with the mallet and pulls down the rope leaving with a trap door. A bird with an accordion plays "Turkey in the Straw" but is also rejected as we zoom in to the trap door with the accordion finishing. A bird with a deep voice then sings his version of 'Laugh, Clown, Laugh' but is also rejected. The next part shows a fat bird voiced by Bernice Hansen singing 'I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles' but gets rejected but her fat body is jammed on the trap door but gets whacked down by a mallet - a funny Avery gag.
Police officer: Calling all cars. Calling all cars. Report to your stations for further instructions. That is all.
Mama: I wonder if they've found my little boy.
Police officer: No we didn't, lady.
Definitely an Avery gag/line that he would use for these type of gags since it really makes no sense but it's so appealing and funny in its context that it would count as a great gag since it shows Avery is having a lot of fun making these cartoons. I like the take when the Mama and Papa look at each other as though "Did that radio just speak to us?!".
A telegraph boy then hands a secretary bird a telegram who announces via radio, "We just received another telegram. Station G-O-N-G. Stop. Your program is coming in great. Stop. Think it's fine. Stop. Like to hear your amateurs. Stop..." we pan towards Owl Jolson who is standing on stage as Jack Bunny watches them but we pan back where she reads the telegram becomes a type of subtle pun where every time she reads the letters at the end of a short sentence saying "Stop"; she tells the telegraph boy to "STOP" in his attempt to seduce her until she pushes him out of the way. In telegrams they would read out "Stops" for end of sentences; and that's the gag being presented here. Here is the rest of the quote after the PAN back from Owl Jolson and Jack Bunny; "They're all very funny. Stop. Keep up the good work. Stop! Good luck. Stop! The Gang. STOP!" then smacks the telegraph boy.
The song is brilliant and a brilliant choice made by Avery who turned it into a great cartoon. I love the animation of Jack Bunny about to smack the gong until he realises that he likes Owl Jolson's singing and turns into a grin. Meanwhile back at home, Mama hears Owl Jolson on radio singing immediately recognising him since he sings the song regularly shouts out "Come Papa, come children it's him at the radio station!" Mama grabs Pa with the three little owls that they accepted when hatched. I love how they rush out of the door with the baby owls dangling. Cute.
Owl Jolson continues to sing his favourite song until he looks out the window and almost flies out of his skin to find his parents. Knowing about how strict his parents are with music; he thinks that he is doing singing lessons with Mama as he starts to switch song to 'Drink to Me Only With Thine Eyes' singing horribly that puts off Jack Bunny as he places the trophy on the floor. The family notice that Jack Bunny is about to reject Owl Jolson and for the child's benefit; they rush inside the studio stopping from Jack Bunny banging the gong.
Jack Bunny walks up to Owl Jolson as he hands him the First Prize trophy to him; and walks off satisfied. The cartoon finishes with Owl Jolson singing off the last verse of the song with the family doing the dance routines backwards. They all finish altogether singing "We loves to sing". We iris out; but only the trophy is left on the black screen; Owl Jolson opens up the iris to fetch his trophy.
I think what's important is that Avery and his crew enjoyed what they were making and got to do what they like with this short as it showed the more they enjoyed and had fun with them it would appeal to an audience; while for Friz Freleng with his Merry Melodies he doesn't seem to enjoy making them or even changing anything. This cartoon sort of displays the real world in a way; since it shows a father abandoning his child by kicking him out of the house, and even a judge with cigars tell us that. The sexual harassment gag was amusing to look at even though it's probably dated. The greatest Warner Bros. made so far from this standpoint - no question. Even one of Tex Avery's greatest cartoons, as well as one of the greatest Warner Bros. cartoons of all time. Back then when the 'Merrie Melodies' were just a series to promote new songs coming out; Friz Freleng had to do a lot of it and most of them flawed; but Tex Avery certainly made it work! This is what we should've seen a long time ago in the Harman-Isings or 1934-1935 Merrie Melodies - Avery and the writers found a way to make an appealing story, with great characters combined with the song that is sung throughout the entire cartoon since that song is the theme of the cartoon. I liked the long pan of the nest sequence very much which appealed to me. The story I think was well written and planned and it's a shame the writer is unknown (probably Avery or Tubby Millar). Well; what can I say? This is a big breakthrough for Warner Bros. cartoon and definitely the best cartoon of 1936.