Saturday, September 27, 2014

"Seal Skinners" - Captain and the Kids Cartoon (1939)

In 1938 MGM launched a series of cartoons based on the characters featured in the comic strip “The Captain and the Kids” which was originated by Rudolph Dirk. The strip was actually just another version of his highly popular classic “The Katzenjammer Kids.” Dirks was that strip’s original creator and Harold H. Knerr did the drawings. “The Captain and the Kids” cartoons would number 15 in all; released during the years 1938 and 1939.

For some reason the series didn't catch on with the public and was relegated to the back shelves until the advent of television. As more and more households purchased TV sets there was a serious lack of new shows to fill the time. As the 1950’s rolled around the television became the first thing many children saw in the mornings; even before their parents woke up. I remember waking up many a day and seeing the test pattern still on the tube, waiting for start of the broadcast day with the Star Spangled Banner and sometimes even a morning editorial. Then came the cartoons.

This series is interesting because it was produced by William Hanna; later of Hanna-Barbera fame; and the voice over genius of Mel Blanc. If Lon Chaney was the Man of a Thousand Faces, then surely Mel Blanc was the Man of a Thousand Voices. He would go on to become the voice of every character heard in a thousand Looney Toon cartoons. In this cartoon he is the voice of John Silver. The Captain was done by Billy Bletcher.

The plot for this cartoon is relatively simple; a seal has escaped from the circus; Jingling Brothers; and a reward of $100,000 is offered for his return. Bad guys John Silver and the Captain both show up as cabdrivers, offering to take him home. Of course their motives are less than honorable, and soon the seal finds himself in a battle of wits with the two witless ones.

But, fear not; as in most cartoons good triumphs over evil; the beauty is in the way that it gets accomplished. I had forgotten all about these cartoons and was pleasantly surprised to find them while scrolling around on You Tube. You can expect that I will be running the remaining 14 in the weeks to come.

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