Saturday, July 6, 2013

"I'm Just a Jitterbug" - Oswald Rabbit (1939)

I love this cartoon for its musical ensemble; composed of various critters; most notably the frogs, and their wonderful harmonies; as well as the humans, in this Cab Calloway inspired performance. It’s reminiscent of Cab’s swinging, storytelling style of delivering his particular brand of music, which by the time this cartoon was released, had overrun America and even Europe. It was the era of the big band and the sound of swing, be-bop, and jazz; all of which would coalesce into rock and roll in about 15 years after this cartoon was first seen.

Also of note is that this is a Walter Lantz cartoon, which is evident the moment you see his hand drawing the opening of the feature, which is kind of a trademark of his work. Later on, after the advent of Woody Woodpecker, this is the same hand which occasionally would stuff Woody back in the ink bottle when he got too wild to control. I always loved that mixture of reality and the cartoon. The Oswald Rabbit series was a definite attempt to compete with Warner’s new cartoon characters, which included a fellow named Bugs Bunny. Bugs won, but Oswald lives on, with a good many fans of his own.

I know this cartoon has a politically incorrect ending for these times, perhaps anytime for that matter, but it is only a cartoon and not in any way a suggestion on how to solve your differences. It seems sad that I must point this out.

Check out all of the crazy characters and their swinging dance moves. The turtle is very good as he slides his partner beneath his shell; only to have her fly from her own shell; as the dogs dance, and the octopi become entangled in their own arms. Only the cuckoo in the clock has enough sense to finally call an end to the evening’s festivities when the clock strikes twelve.

The cartoon was a combination of winning ideas from an in-house contest Walter Lantz ran in his studio with the rest of his crew to furnish gags for the production. The prizes ranged from $2 to $10, which was pretty good for 1939! Actually, the cartoon was begun in September of 1938 and released in January of 1939, just a little less than 4 months’ time. Try that with today’s animation! You might get the credits done.

The “Cartune” series predates the “Swing Symphonies” series which came out in the early 1940’s. The music in this cartoon was inspired by the Ella Fitzgerald smash hit of 1938- “I’m Just a Jitterbug.” You can listen to it here;

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