Monday, October 15, 2007

Enough Is Too Much!

I got my Looney Tunes Replacement disc today. For those who don't know what I'm talking about: disc 4 of the Looney Tunes Golden Collection Volume 2 had a transfer glitch that caused several cartoons to receive "interlaced" transfers, which makes them choppy and shuddery on many TVs and computer screens. They corrected it and you can get a replacement copy by calling 1-800-553-6937. Anyway, I now can watch "I Love To Singa" without it looking like crap on my TV, coincidentally just in time for a DVD set of The Jazz Singer that also includes "I Love To Singa" (since it's a cartoon takeoff on that movie).

I think this is one of those cartoons that's been elevated to historical classic status by popular opinion. The critics and animation historians rarely mentioned "I Love to Singa" as a seminal Warner Brothers cartoon, but anyone who ever watched the pre-1948 cartoons on local stations recalled "Singa" as one of the best cartoons they'd ever seen. I remember seeing it in the middle of one of those dispiriting blocks of pre-1940 Merrie Melodies, the type that gave pre-1940 cartoons a bad name (after twenty minutes of round, bouncy characters singing songs you'd never heard of, you'd long for a Daffy/Speedy cartoon). I was hooked; this was clearly an "early" cartoon yet it grabbed my attention, made me laugh and sing along, and just felt totally fresh and modern in a way that most '30s cartoons did not.

If you go through the archives of alt.animation.warner-bros you'll find that seemingly every other week there was someone writing in to ask "what's the name of that cartoon with the owl who sings 'I Love To Singa About the Moon-a...'", and of course the first episode of South Park refers to this cartoon and the song. It is, really, the first Warner Brothers cartoon that needs no historical excuses: it's not great for an early WB cartoon, or great because it broke new ground, it's just great because it never fails to be a huge hit with audiences.

As for why this cartoon grabs so many people, I think it's a cartoon that combines strong storytelling (even if the story is largely cribbed from The Jazz Singer) with a modern satirical style. It's not a gag cartoon, like most non-Disney cartoons in the '30s, and it's not a purely musical cartoon, like a lot of the Merrie Melodies; it's a story/character cartoon like "The Three Little Pigs," but with a Tex Avery edge to the humor.


Bill Peschel said...

It doesn't hurt that the song's an earwig. I can still sing portions of it, and I haven't seen it in, um, many, many, many ... years.

J Lee said...

In the history of the WB studio, it's also interesting that Leon Schlesinger and/or Ray Katz and Henry Bender hired Tex Avery to do black & white cartoons, but almost immediately moved him above former Disney animator/future Disney director Jack King to share directing responsibilities with Friz Freleng on the color Merrie Melodies series.

"I Love to Singa" was really the first MM cartoon by Avery to include some of Tex's signature gags, like the radio talking back to Mrs. Owl or the obese Bernice Hanson-voiced chicken being gaveled through the trap door opening. But even the earlier "Page Miss Glory" shows someone in the studio's hierarchy knew what they were doing when they promoted Avery over King (even if in that one, it's the technical work on the art deco style that stands out more than any individual gags).

Jon Delfin said...

There's also a blooper of sorts, for folks who like that sort of thing. After Papa Owl wears a rut in the floor, we see the master shot of him pacing again -- but they didn't adjust that image to compensate for the lower floor, so he appears to be levitating.

Callaghan said...

Thanks for the heads up on the defective disc. I hadn't noticed it on my old-school TV, but it would have bugged me forever once I upgraded to a plasma.

Rich said...

Thanks for mentioning the replacement disc. Hadn't heard about it. Hopefully it will show up sooner than the Tom and Jerry replacement disc Warner sent me. One week short of four months after I had called and requested it, the disc turned up in my mailbox. I had written it off and decided it wasn't coming.

Anonymous said...

One of the extras in WB's 80th anniversary DVD set of "The Jazz Singer" -is- "I Love to Singa"!
I just got it in the mail today ...
WB superbly restored both films - both Jolsons [Al and Owl] never looked so good ...
you ain't seen nothin' unless you get this DVD set.
It's history. It's superb film preservation. And it's a lot of fun.

Anonymous said...

^^ nice blog!! ^@^

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