Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween!

In the spirit of Halloween and Time Fishing, here are five animated shorts from the golden age of animation (and theaters), in chronological order. Beware of haunted houses, grinning ghosts, and dancing skeletons!

1. Haunted House (Disney, 1929)

This is a classic tale of a gimmick-laden gag haunted house, complete with a lengthy skeleton dance number. But the main reason to watch this is for the joy of seeing the mouse prince of commercialism having the crap scared right out of him.

2. Hittin' the Trail to Hallelujah Land (Warner Bros., 1931)

This is one of my all-time favorite cartoons. I originally found it on one of those dollar store 6-hour cartoon tapes, sandwiched between some of the lamer color Popeye material and the 1970s Three Stooges 'toons. It's mainly known as one of the Censored Eleven, a group of Warner Bros. cartoons that have not aired publicly since the 1960s on account of their racist content. Frankly, I never really saw what was so racist about it, especially when viewed alongside cartoons like . I love it for its eerie graveyard sequence, catchy tune, and twisty-mustachioed villain. Also keep an eye out for the overt ripoff of Steamboat Willie.

3. Minnie the Moocher (Max Fleischer, 1932)

Here is one of the all-time weirdest Betty Boop shows. And if you've ever watched a Betty Boop cartoon, you know that's saying a lot. Betty gets upset with her parents, grabs Bimbo, and flees her house, running headlong into a cavern inhabited by a ghostly rotoscoped Cab Calloway disguised as a dancing walrus, while ghoulish creatures frolic in the background.

4. Skeleton Frolic (Columbia, 1937)

Admittedly, this film is more or less an outright plagiarism of Disney's 1929 short The Skeleton Dance. They were both directed by the same animation genius, Ub Iwerks, also known as the guy who actually created Mickey Mouse. But it is, to me, a more evolved and nuanced version of the earlier subject. It's also in color and brimming with frightful gags and moody color schemes.

5. Jasper and the Haunted House (1942)

The last cartoon on here is also one of the most unusual. It's a George Pal Puppetoon, a stop-motion feature from a series of other subjects also starring the young black child named Jasper. George Pal was accused of racism for his cartoons, but I think those were overblown claims from an overly sensitive time. This one I love just for how extraordinary is. Plus, the scarecrow and his raven are some of my favorite cartoon villains I've ever seen.

My favorite line from this one: "I SHO GOT ME A MESS O' PIE."

Happy Halloween!


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