Saturday, March 27, 2010
Title: Happy Tots (it may be "The Happy Tots"; without the original title, I'm relying on BoxOffice, which lists it as simply "Happy Tots", and the notice on the backs of cels; note this print has renamed the cartoon "Hot and Happy")
Credits: None listed on viewed print
Series: Color Rhapsody
Running time (of viewed version): 6:03
Synopsis: It's time for the town/kingdom to dance, and for the star girls to rain down stardust. (Not much of a synopsis, but there isn't much story to speak of.)
Comments: This cartoon marks the 25% complete for the year mark for this blog. Only 118ish cartoons to go. There is an odd transition in the viewed version from the Color Rhapsody intro to a later animated title card with what looks like video text. This has yet another self referential "Movies are your best entertainment" banner. I think this still counts as a jitterbug cartoon, tho the word isn't used, while the Charleston is (and the Charleston seems to be agreed to be a predecessor to jitterbugging, not part of it); perhaps it was just the squares at Mintz's studio doing their best to understand those dern kids. (Actually, as Screen Gems appears in the pretitle, I suppose Charles Mintz may have been out by the time of this release; however, the cel notices credit him still for cels from this cartoon.) I'm assuming they were trying to capitalize on the fad just like Lantz and MGM (tho MGM's Jitterbug Follies only used it in the title), and the several other studios that mention it in passing in the cartoons. This is far more successfully as a story that has no story than the Lantz jitterbug installment, although the characters are much uglier in this; they also have a more antiquated look than the Lantz characters, which is par for the course for these '39 Columbias. The cartoon switches from dancing music to sleepy music near the end tho; even this does not make it feel more slapped together than the Lantz jitterbug cartoon. There is identical movement in the group of almost identical trumpeters; this is a bad thing, and it isn't limited to the trumpeters, tho it's less problematic when people are (line) dancing. The town flag looks like it could almost be a modern Japanese merchandising mascot. The king's retainers have a very Stooges relationship, with their face slapping, eye gouging and three of them being. There are some interesting shots right in a a row from odd angles; the drawings are also of much higher quality than most of the cartoon (in both how they look and how they move). I wonder why they put the extra effort in for two consecutive shots. The king becomes grumpy and cruel, slapping his jesters at the end to get them to take his train for no given reason. The end title rings are reminiscent of some other rings, I think. If they derive from a common source, I wonder what it is.
There are many cels from Happy Tots online, properly identified to the cartoon. I assume there are many more out there that have never touched the internet or have but have lost their attribution (or no longer show up; I was aware of another one that I can no longer find; anything sold on eBay not going into an online gallery meets that criteria after a few weeks). There are many cels from the Color Rhapsody series on the market, tho they tend to be centered around a few cartoons (there will be a similar note to this later in the year for another instance of the phenomenom); presumably Screen Gems grabbed a clutch from a few cartoons and got them out there (unfortnuately, the selection seems almost random; there are some terrible cel choices). These commonly had the following on the back of their frames, helping them to be easily attributed now:
"This is guaranteed to be an original painting used in the actual production of the Charles Mintz Color Rhapsodies cartoon "HAPPY TOTS"; is certified as being the original and only copy of this particular painting in existence and is sold pursuant to a license from Screen Gems, Inc.
Copyright by Screen Gems, Inc"
Two unpictured at http://www.thegremlin.com/miscellaneous.html
Other studios also released cels in a similar manner (Disney's Courvoisier releases being the most well known), but the Columbia releases seem to have the best level of self attribution.