Friday, 6 April 2012

144. Toytown Hall (1936)

Warner cartoon no. 143.
Release date: September 19, 1936.
Series: Merrie Melodies.
Supervision: Friz Freleng.
Producer: Leon Schlesinger.
Starring: Bernice Hansell (child).
Musical Score: Carl W. Stalling.
Animation: Bob McKimson and Sandy Walker.
Sound: Treg Brown (uncredited).
Synopsis: A baby child wants to listen to radio but during his sleep the toys come to life as they use radio entertainment all through the night to entertain the child.

Carl Stalling's first Merry Melody that he has composed. This is the last cartoon to use the regular theme to the Merrie Melodies I Think You're Ducky which was used since 1933 after Harman-Ising left until the very famous theme Merrily We Roll Along would be the regular theme - sort of the anthem to the 'Looney Tunes' franchise. Merrily We Roll Along is sung in this cartoon, too.

Remember folks, following Yowp's great discovery about voice actress (who we used to call her as Bernice Hansen) was in fact called Bernice Hansell; which I will use for future reviews when her voice is heard. I don't make changes from "Hansen" to "Hansell" in previous reviews as it takes too much of my time and to show that this was written before Yowp's post.

The cartoon begins with what looks like a real-life radio set and on the radio is Ben Bernie speaking. There is a baby child who is lying on the carpet listening to the glorious of radio as Bernie says his "Yowsa" phrases which he often used to say.
The mother then turns off the radio as it's bedtime for her child. "Come on, Sonny - it's way past your bedtime" the mother tells her son. The baby then starts to wail in a Bernice Hansell voice "I wanna hear the radio!" The animation of the baby is very good and solid drawings and I'm quite sure this is Bob McKimson who could draw very realistically; and I can't imagine this scene was done by anyone else apart from McKimson. Meanwhile in the bedroom; the child is still wailing about wanting to listen to radio; but the mother replies "No radio tonight. Now close your eyes and go to sleep. Goodnight." The mother tucks her child to bed as he goes to sleep. Notice how the weather outside the window starts snowing as he sleeps.

As time flies by very fast as it shows on the cuckoo clock. We see a group of toy soldiers that walk into the centre as they blow with their trumpets using up their breath to play it as their pumped up bodies but as they play their bodies get thinner and thinner and they use too much energy. All of the toys then start to clap after the
This animation is exactly the same from the 1934 cartoon Those Beautiful Dames. Yes; I am aware that this is still the Great Depression (or least coming to the end of it when this cartoon was made) but this cartoon had a lot of reuses from earlier Freleng productions that I'll post to show the similarities.
Here is the similarities here. (Those Beautiful Dames frame on the right) and the only difference shown here is the backgrounds, obviously as the backgrounds in 'Toytown Hall' are much more detailed and interesting to look at. The scene in Toytown Hall of the soldier's face turning red was just repainted from the Inking and Painting department. No new animation was submitted for this cartoon whatsoever but you'll see it a lot in this cartoon. I'm not saying it as though I'm against it but it just seems painful to look at reuses that I've reviewed in the past that are clearly visible (only to Warner Bros. fans).

A jack-in-a-box then pops out as it turns out to be a caricature of Fred Allen who was a host of his radio at the time called Toytown Tonight as he is holding onto the ABC station microphone as he is telling us about what is going on at 'Toytown Hall'.

The next sequence then turns up as it is a scene of soldiers marching and dancing. The soldiers are leading a parade of caricatures riding on toy horses with wheels that include Eddie Cantor and Rudy Vallee that are celebrity toys in this short. Now; as for the soldiers marching; have we seen this animation before? Yes we have:

The soldier marching animation was reused from an earlier cartoon Beauty and the Beast. Despite the heavy reuses in the short; at least it shows some advantages. The layouts shown here in the cartoon I'm reviewing has better backgrounds and better colour since
'Beauty and the Beast' was filmed in Cinecolor.
The Fred Allen jack-in-the-box is about to announce the next act to perform but a doll interrupts the Fred Allen jack in the box character when she admires him.

Doll: "Oh, Mr. Allen, Hello".
Mr. Allen: I'll be switched. You here again?
Doll: Tally-ho.

The doll then leaves in which Fred Allen jack-in-the-box then shouts "and now, introducing". There is an elephant toy that jumps on an armchair that turns on the light. This is also reused animation from the same cartoon; Those Beautiful Dames. Which I've pictured down of course. I'm not going to analyse any more of the reuses - I'll only show the pictures to show you to see what I mean.

The next sequence that is being sung is not at all reused animation as it's new animation but it's the same concept and song - there is a Bing Crosby bird (after the curtains open) that sings to Let it Be Me with the microphone. It's the exact same singing from that cartoon released earlier; if you listen to both of them carefully.
It appears to be that Friz Freleng definitely had Bing Crosby in his mind for cartoon ideas when he was directing the 'Merrie Melodies' since now he's used him three times. Nothing against the idea but you can tell that he's been influenced by the crooner and the swoons he's used in that year. The next act to be out of the curtains is a mini version of Eddie Cantor singing 'Merrily We Roll Along' it's the same animation and same singing from 'Billboard Frolics'. Here's the comparisons:

The Fred Allen character then announces the next act; "The Rubinoffs - and their violins", a reference to David Rubinoff the violinist also referenced in 'Billboard Frolics'. It turns out the "Rubinoff" are these three jester people inside a 'Mother Goose Book' and it's the same characters from 'The Merry Old Soul'. I won't make a print-screen they're simiar from that cartoon but I think it's new animation. They're definitely not singing silly songs but playing violin.

There is now a Rudy Vallee toy that walks into the scene who has his speaker out (that Vallee used in performances) as he sings his Ballard. Rudy Vallee was pretty popular when it comes to being caricatured and used a couple of times in Warner Bros. cartoons. After the song has finished; the Fred Allen jack in the box character then responds, "Wait a minute; that's not all. I want you to meet that little Lady in Red".
The next sequence is reuse animation of 'The Lady in Red' as it's also the same songs and the same dance routines with these Mexican cockroaches. It just feels very badly placed in this cartoon since what would cockroaches want to be doing in a little baby's bedroom. Come to think of it; the baby isn't shown much at all in this cartoon.

Once again it does look better in this cartoon  since it's in 3-strip Technicolor compared to in 'The Lady in Red' as it's in 2-strip. The lady girl cockroach dancing her way to the stage is also reused animation. Although the dress that the ladybug is wearing is more of an orange dress than a red dress. Anyway the re-used Lady girl is dancing her way on the spotlight as she delights the toy audience. The baby is joining in the audience shaking the rattles like maracas.

There is a balloon that is a member of the toy audience that puts some helium on a spout on the woodwork part of the floor. As the balloon is full of helium; he is able to play the flute with it on top. Is it me or is the balloon's grin kinda creepy.

It continues to play the flute until the balloon starts to get less helium from playing. The lady bug in an orange dress then walks up to the balloon is flirting with him. The balloon is flattered by her looks, beauty and flirtation that he lets all of the helium go out which is some pretty good timing there.

The toy characters then start to clap as they enjoyed the show (not me; as I've seen them - not once but twice). There is a present in the middle of the child's bed as it crashes around. It opens as it reveals to be a stuffed rabbit doing a Joe Penner impression, sung by Tommy Bond and singing 'My Green Fedora'. Oh yeah; I've seen that before.

Since it's the same audio; I think the animation is different. The definite difference here is the colours of the stuffed rabbit is different. The skin of the rabbit is polka-dot blue with a different coloured derby fedora and jacket from the other cartoon 'My Green Fedora'. The baby child even does the Joe Penner chuckle which was what the baby brother Elmer did the 'Fedora' cartoon. The rabbit then finishes off singing the rest of the cartoon. I have to say but this is very hard for me to review this damn cartoon because of the re-uses and I really don't know what to say about them since I'm afraid that I'm disrespecting the crew on this short and probably the reasons why it was reused. This is just my opinion at the end of the day.

There is a group of toy band bugs that are also playing music to some clink music. At least the animation is pretty good of those music boxes that it makes me feel slightly better.

All of the toys are dancing to the music box playing band music here. I notice a little bit of perspective animation of the toy ducks dancing with good motion. The clock then starts to move forward very quickly as the night goes past since all of the toys and even the baby child have had a blast. The clock starts to fast-forward to 8 in the morning where the child would have to be woken up by that point.

All of the toys have then gone back to their stuffed positions as stuffed toys. The boy is still snoozing as he would've hardly gotten much sleep. The sun rises after a dark and snowy night there was. The child is interrupted as he hears the sounds of his mother shout "Wake up, Sonny, wake up Sonny. It's time for breakfast".

 The baby was probably influenced by radio talk or entertainment as he talks rather rudely to mother as he impatiently shouts "Al right, all right" as he whacks the hammer. If I wouldn't be mistaken; did Bob McKimson animate all of the scenes with the baby child? I wouldn't be surprised if he did.

Overall comments: This cartoon runs at roughly 6 minutes and 30 seconds; and I have to say that I didn't enjoy reviewing it at all. Of course; a member of the audience isn't going to notice any reuses from old productions since hardly anyone ever saw them or cared to notice. Also the fact that this is still the great Depression - I'm aware of THAT. But I just don't find it rather healthy that it's just reuses all over this entire cartoon throughout the entire toy party sequence. I would only notice them since I've seen a number of the early WB cartoons and it's painful to look at if you're a fan wathcing them and analyzing them. What I find rather strange is that in 1936 was the improvement era; Friz Freleng, Tex Avery and Jack King were making better shorts and Freleng wasn't reusing much at all but it makes he think - why is he doing it again in this short? Did his last shorts lose money or something and had to cut a lot of budget? The story to me was rather pointless as it was just a bunch of toys doing entertainment stuff adding celebrities with recycled animation to make the short add to 6 and a half minutes. I imagine the backgrounds were done from photography traced to drawings. Overall; I have to say that I didn't find this short enjoyable and it's tedious to look at; although I liked the baby animation but that's about it. I'm just entitled to my opinion; and I admit I found it hard to review since I didn't want to say reusing is all a bad thing (even though it's not always that bad).


  1. The animation comparisons are great. Schlesinger one compared the re-use of animation to live-action film studios having stock footage.
    The guy doing the KFWB announcer at the outset did the same Ben Bernie impression in 'The Woods are Full of Cuckoos.'
    Fred Allen's show (at that time) was 'Town Hall Tonight.' The girl interrupting is doing the same bit that Portland Hoffa did on Allen's show at the time (including the "Tally Ho!" line.
    Is that Martha Wentworth as the mom?
    We get the NBC chimes at the start of the cartoon.
    I suspect the cartoon was to quickly fill out the release schedule. Schlesinger may have been running behind because he kept changing directors.

  2. This is the first Merrie Melodie to seqgue while the credits are still onscreen into a background, though dissolve/crossfading the bluew rings, the credits in the rigns continues till Jones's 1939 "Daffy Duck and the Dinosaur". THe credits on background would begin in earnest on MM's next year, with "Egghead Rides Again"!!

    The actor doing "Ben Birdie" aka Ben Bernie here and in both "The Woods are Full of Cuckooes", 1937, and 1936's "The Coo-coo Nut Grove" is said* to be Peter Lind Hayes.
    *By Graham Webb, "Animated Filom Ecycloipedia" but then as Keith Scott's said, that book has many mistakes on voices and others..Yowsah, as Ben Bernie would have said..

    This is the ultimate animation reuse at , at least, the WB studio;not even the handful of recap cartoons like "His Hare Raising Tale" and "This is a Life",. both 1950s shorts, also from Friz Freleng, could top "Toytown Hall'! Fred Allen was posthumously imitated by Daws Butler for a 1958=[-1959 season Huckleberery Hound, "Skeeter Trouble:[already covered in Yowp's Yowpo blog].His nasal voice and speech reminds me of Ed Sullivan.:)

    Steve J.Carras.

  3. What does that mean - the baby with the hammer at the end of short? Was something cut out?

  4. Is there another cartoon that features similar characters? I remember a scene where two toys do a tango on a piano

  5. The final tagline "Wake up, sonny!" was also heard in PIGS IS PIGS (1937).