Apr 27, 2012

The Short Animation Blogathon: Random Picks

This post is for the Short Animation Blogathon at Pussy Goes Grrr this week. There have been some diverse, fascinating entries this week. Check out the site for more shorts.

I didn’t have a theme in mind when I compiled my clips for this event. These are simply the films that have grabbed me and which I rewatch on a regular basis:

Fantasmagorie (1908)

In this short created by French artist Émile Cohl (1857-1938), actions flow from one to the other, as smooth as running water, but wild as a summer squall. Cohl stumbled into animation at the age of fifty, following decades of work in a series of mostly creative pursuits, including caricatures, journalism and the theater. This is one of the first animated films (some say the very first), and I think it’s still one of the best.

Betty Boop and Cab Calloway

I love all the pre-code Betty Boop cartoons created by Fleischer Studios. They are wild, surreal and naughty in a playful way that seems to have died in that era. My favorite Boop cartoons are the ones featuring Cab Calloway and his band. His wild style and slinky movements fit the loopy spirit of these toons. He was sort of a living Fleischer character. There were three Boop/Calloway collaborations:

Minnie the Moocher (1932)

The animators rotoscoped movements from footage of Calloway dancing so he could make an appearance as a ghostly walrus in this short. According to Max Fleischer’s son, he was so amused to see the cartoon version of himself that he fell off his chair laughing.

The Old Man of the Mountain (1933)

Calloway gets to dance again as the titular rascal of this slightly naughty toon.

Snow White (1933)

This time Koko the Clown dances for Calloway as he sings St. James Infirmary Blues.

The Tell Tale Heart(1953)

This gloomy, unsettling version of the classic Poe tale always sets me on edge. The discordant music scrapes away like an angry cheese grater, and the spare, shadowy animation makes me afraid to look into the darkness. James Mason’s performance as the smooth-voiced, but clearly unhinged narrator always gives me goose bumps. I can see why this was the first animated film to be rated X by the British Board of Film Censors. It certainly could sow the seeds of many childhood nightmares.


  1. Max Fleischer and Betty Boop are some of the most enjoyable and darkly twisted stuff any of us will ever see. Great stuff!

  2. Great entry!

    Oh my goodness, The Tell Tale Heart! I haven't seen that since I was a kid, I guess in about 1981. I loved it even though it freaked me out, but I'm shocked that our school showed it since it was considered so upsetting by the British Board. Of course, this is the same school that had a teacher turn on the TV during a rain day indoor recess and leave it a cable channel showing Fritz the Cat (1972), so they weren't paying much attention.

  3. Thanks!

    I keep hearing that people saw that Tell Tale Heart short in school. Didn't those teachers realize they might have to send a bunch of kids home to change their pants? Of course, my English teacher showed us the Roman Polanski Macbeth that was produced by Playboy. It was all bloody violence, rape scenes and Lady Macbeth walking around in her birthday suit. They really don't pay attention.

  4. Almost missed your comment Laura! I knew I had to feature those Boop 'toons when I first heard about the blogathon. I've watched them so much, and I never get tired of them. There always seems to be some surreal detail that I've missed.

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