Saturday, August 13, 2011

Farewell to the Bouncing Ball!

I have learned so much about Screen Songs in the last 3 weeks that I have written another blog article about it for the Bijou Blog and am considering starting a new website. This entry may be short, as I will send you to the other blog down below.

Paramount made 5 Screen Song color cartoons before they were called that. Then from 1947 to 1951 they made 38 in the Screen Song series that opened with this title card and music (although that Paramount Mountain is incorrect). In 1951 the series name suddenly changed to Kartune Musical Shorts producing 12 under that banner through 1953, then two late entries again called Noveltoon:

Candy Cabaret, 1954, was directed by Dave Tendlar who had animated Betty Boop and Screen Songs for Fleischer from 1932, and ranks among the most charming Screen Songs.  A sugar cube leads the orchestra in a night club where the patrons, band and dancers are all pieces of candy.  The girl singer is a cute candy heart, and the catchy song "Ain't She Sweet" is a real crowd pleaser.  You can enjoy it HERE.  

Then out of the blue nine years later (1963) came Hobo's Holiday, directed by Seymour Knietel, an equally experienced animator who worked on the first Popeye cartoon in 1933.  The animation is "limited" like the Popeye, Casper and Beetle Bailey TV cartoons that Kneitel also directed.  The single gag involves a hobo stealing a fresh pie from a bulldog.  "Big Rock Candy Mountain," about a paradise for hobos, is fun to sing but many audiences may have gaped in silence, not knowing they were supposed to unite in song after so many years.  Let's say kids might have been in the dark; adults had long memories and still join in on sing-alongs at select revival showings today.  The tradition of the hobo hopping on words that turn into animated images remained.  You can pay a fond farewell to the Bouncing Ball HERE.

I put a few Screen Songs and Kartunes on Youtube and found there is a fan following.  This gave me the idea that a website devoted entirely to Screen Songs might be useful to fans.  I could send out an SOS looking for original 16mm and 35mm prints, from which better video transfers might be made.  I could list them all and post a link to the best quality versions currently on Youtube.  One goal would be to find all of them.  The 1948 color Screen Song "Readin', Writin' and Rhythmetic'" seems to be missing at the moment even though it is in the public domain, and there must be many of the 108 Max Fleischer sound ones currently unavailable for viewing.  Any encouragement out there?

Take a look at Time on My Hands from 1932.  Ethel Merman sings the title song, but the main attraction is a comely but topless Betty Boop (voiced by Mae Questel) as a mermaid.  Also the first color Paramount in the Screen Song series -- The Circus Comes to Clown.  Then one of the Kartune series from 1951: Fresh Yeggs with the theme of animals in prison.

To read more from me about Screen Songs, plus a list of the 12 Kartune Musical Shorts, please visit The Bijou Blog. I have been associated with the Bijou folks for the last 6 or 7 years. Among many active projects, we are trying to bring back the hit 1980s PBS series "Matinee at the Bijou" in new episodes in Hi-Def or in DVD releases of the original series only with the complete features re-mastered. We hope to announce concrete plans soon! 

Visit my website at Festival Films

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