S. C. MacPeter
a year ago
The University of California, Santa Barbera, hosting the DAHR (Discography of American Historical Recordings) has a large collection of the Victor Record Ledgers (original recording documents), including ones for the first few Krazy Kat cartoons recorded at Victor in Camden, New Jersey (as mentioned in the original credits). This goes from the first one Ratskin and Slow Beau (more on this below) up to Desert Sunk, giving us information on some from the first season that do not circulate widely. There are plenty of interesting notes to take from these

-The Great Billy Murray is credited for the sound effects on each cartoon. Listening to the soundtracks, it is clear that Murray does vocal effects on them (Native Americans in RATSKIN, Captain in PORT WHINES, Hippo in SLOW BEAU, along with mumbles and small bits of dialogue in the rest), along with the cat moaning for Krazy and singing. Me and David Gerstein had debated this a little bit on Facebook when I pointed out the ledgers, but when listening to an early sound Screen Song, YOU GREAT BIG BEAUTIFUL DOLL , where a cat doing the same thing sings the song at the beginning, Murray introduces the bouncing ball, and does the cat voice midway, confirming it as him!

-RATSKIN  and SLOW BEAU  were both recorded the 2th of July, just a week after the studio signed with Columbia to distribute the 1929-1930 season of sound Krazies. Interesting, SLOW BEAU is re-recorded the 4th of December (the same day that THE KAT'S MEOW  is recorded), the only time one of these has a second recording date. Watching the cartoon  shows compared to those surrounding it a much more primitive, silent look then the new way of drawing that came when Friz Freleng and Ben Clopton joined the studio. With this in mind, and some odd cuts in the beginning, that this appears to be the first sound cartoon the studio made and was reworked, perhaps originally rejected or held back due to a primitive original soundtrack. It was likely this one that Culhane remembered as being "a disaster" when the first recording job was done for the series.

-CANNED MUSIC  was recorded by LeRoy Shields, known for his work at Hal Roach's studio, on the 12th of August. He was another freelance guy doing these before they hired Joe De Nat for the series. Having heard the track, it is unusually jazzy for any cartoon. I've not seen the cartoon, but it is about Krazy babysitting two kids and trying to put them to sleep, and when he destroys the music instruments a German streetband plays outside, the instruments of a nearby music store, witness this, go to war with Krazy, using music notes as their ammo. I hope to see it someday, the war idea was remade in BARS AND STRIPES in 1931

-Speaking of Joe De Nat, he is listed as an assistant for the one first crediting him, PORT WHINES  (recorded 30th of August). Perhaps Rosario Bourdon (credited as director) appointed him? We may not know, ever

-The first recorded in California seems to be AN OLD FLAME, considering how the ledgers end after DESERT SUNK, but since the following release from FLAME, ALASKAN KNIGHTS, features Freleng animation (who left in January 1930, a month before the studio re-located to California), and because cartoons were recorded post-animation, the recordings for a few animated in New York were recorded in California first (which would explain why Murray's distinctive vocal effects are missing in KNIGHTS).

For cartoons I haven't singled out, here are links and recording dates

-SOLE MATES, 2nd of October  
-FARM RELIEF, 4th of November 
-SPOOKEASY, 30th of December  
-DESERT SUNK, 27th of January, 1930 
FoxInAFix
a year ago
Did you find a copy of Cat's Meow?
S. C. MacPeter
a year ago
To say that there are lost sound Krazy Kats is not a truth at all. For that particular title, the masters exist at LOC (as with almost all of them), and I’m aware of two Italian 17.5mm prints in other hands, albeit not complete
nickramer
a year ago
I did not realize all the "missing" Columbia Krazy Kat cartoons are known to still exist. I know some Columbia Screen Gems shorts (such as complete color versions of the Barney Google series) are still considered lost.
S. C. MacPeter
a year ago
Columbia's masters are in a messy state, so the list Jerry provides isn't what's lost, but what doesn't exist within the masters. Since that list has been publishing, multiple have been found within Columbia's masters (like LIONEL LION), though not all (Barney Googles and HE CAN'T MAKE IT STICK). In the case of the Barney Google series, their never being found; KFS' contract had them destroyed in 1946, so all that Columbia has are 16mm silent b/w negs used for producing cutdowns. One has shown up in 35mm color nitrate, in recent times. I've yet to seen it
HectorJeckle
a year ago
A big congratulations to you for bringing all this new information, Mr. MacPeter !

I really appreciate these first "pre-Toby" Krazy Kat from Colombia because in addition to having the most original gags, the character designs are also the most interesting and never seen in any other studio. I always thought that it was due to the arrival at Mintz of the animators Dick Huemer and Sid Marcus but you are right to mention the important roles that Fritz Freleng and Ben Clopton, among others, played in the evolution of the designs of the characters towards something more round and smooth. Unfortunately, after Huemer and Marcus formed their own team to produce Toby The Pup cartoons, Krazy Kat gradually started to become bland Disney imitations, which is a shame because I would have preferred the series to go its own way.

Turning to the conductors, I don't think Rosario Bourdon worked on Port Whines because I don't recognize his style. Bourdon's soundtrack is much more diverse and dynamic while Joe De Nat's is more monotonous, plus he tended to focus on synchronizing the music with the movements of the characters, something that Rosario Bourdon did not do.
S. C. MacPeter
a year ago
Thanks Hector. I'm trying to save a lot of information on the cartoons themselves for a book I've begun researching for on the transition to sound in cartoons, but I felt since much of the first season of Krazy Kats have alluded the general public since their original release, this was something that had to be shared. I think the Krazys from 1929-1932 tend to be very, very strong, and funnier compared to the Mickeys of the same point. They've sadly been overlooked, something I hope to change in my book, which mainly focuses on 1927-1932. Until then, here are a few other thoughts:

-It definitely was Freleng specifically who brought a lot of organization to the Krazy Kat Studio, which saw no visual evolution from 1927-1929. I got to see a 1929 Paramount Krazy Kat recently (they have been surfacing in Europe every now and then...), and it shows no visual distinction from 1927's STORK EXCHANGE . It also wasn't very good, it had inspired comedy but nothing remarkable, which sadly seems to be the case with both Nolan and Harrison-Gould's silent Krazies! Freleng seemed very unhappy with the way things were done at Mintz, he seems to of brought a lot of ideas from his previous work in California (exposure sheets, timing cycles to match the fps which creates a more lifelike timing, etc), that immediately show once the 3 key animators at Mintz (Art Davis, Manny Gould, Allen Rose) began picking up on them. Krazy evolved from a monkeylike design (show below from RATSKIN) to a Oswald like design (show below in ALASKAN KNIGHTS) almost immediately. That said, Davis was always on par with Freleng in terms of draftsmanship and accomplishing better in the Krazies (seen in PORT WHINES), and I think Harrison preferred him over the H-I guys because he seemed to of gotten more of the key lip sync, singing scenes. Freleng and Clopton do A LOT of footage in each cartoon until they depart. After this it feels like they begin to try and do things like Davis and Huemer, with most realistic, expressive facial features. This is evident in JAZZ RHYTHM , the first without Freleng or Clopton, where animators besides Davis pick up on Dick Huemer's style.

-I actually do think Rosario composed PORT WHINES now that I listen to it. I don't think either were repetitive during this period, but the material given didn't really provide room for an interesting score (quite a few 1930 Krazies suffer from the issue of devolving into dull amounts of dance footage, but this one takes the cake). De Nat used some violin and had a "sweeter" sound in his arrangement compared to something like RATSKIN and PORT WHINES which use more of a horn score. That said, being stuck in a primitive state when it came to creating sound cartoons ends right after PORT WHINES, where, in my opinion, Krazy Kat miraculously becomes the first studio to create sound cartoons using the sound element on par with Disney. Even Fleischer wasn't as sharp when using sound at the studio in late 1929/early 1930. I do hope more of the later silent Krazies, and more so the early sound ones, become more available in the future. As I said, it doesn't seem like the Nolan or Harrison-Gould Krazies were completely remarkable, but the sound ones definitely are

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S. C. MacPeter
a year ago
Oh! And since I forgot, here are other important dates for this period of the studio. I would love to turn to the original Film Daily source, but since I don't have time, I'm using Yowp's posts of the Film Daily news pieces

-25th of June, Krazy Kat is officially signed under Columbia.  Recording is done a week later on RATSKIN and SLOW BEAU; they were likely already animated by this point. The order is originally 26, shortened to 13 by the time Columbia is in talks with Disney about the Silly Symphonies, which gave the crew more time to plan out their shorts, a very good thing

-22th of July, De Nat is officially hired as studio composer.  Clearly both Rosario and LeRoy were being used as freelance until a permanent solution was found with De Nat. I still think that Rosario had more to do with the PORT WHINES score given his credit on the Ledger

-23th of January, 1930. Carl Edouarde, who did the initial recording of STEAMBOAT WILLIE, a few freelance cartoons, and the AESOP SOUND FABLES, is hired.  This is rather odd, as he does no scores to my knowledge, and had recently been severely harmed in a fire at Pathe. Perhaps this was Edouarde trying to get back into show biz after the fire? I'm not sure, I think he ended up retiring and died in '32. His scores were a bit slower and raggier compared to De Nat, I'm kinda glad he didn't take over

-9th of Feburary, the staff prepares a move to California on the 15th . By this point the four key animators are Mannie Gould, Art Davis, Allen Rose, and Freleng's assistant, Harry Love. The staff actually had to animate while on the train ride to California, according to other reports. Huemer and Marcus join the staff the following month and Davis leaves the Krazy unit to begin work on the Tobys.

-6th of May, the Toby series is officially announced.  Work would've begun fully on this point on the series, eventually though the Pathe-RKO merger bringing a preference to the Van Beuren product, and along with production to profits cost (the Tobys didn't bring in as big as numbers as RKO may of hoped), the series got killed off after one season of really good cartoons
Will Tragus
a year ago

Oh! And since I forgot, here are other important dates for this period of the studio. I would love to turn to the original Film Daily source, but since I don't have time, I'm using Yowp's posts of the Film Daily news pieces

-25th of June, Krazy Kat is officially signed under Columbia.  Recording is done a week later on RATSKIN and SLOW BEAU; they were likely already animated by this point. The order is originally 26, shortened to 13 by the time Columbia is in talks with Disney about the Silly Symphonies, which gave the crew more time to plan out their shorts, a very good thing

-22th of July, De Nat is officially hired as studio composer.  Clearly both Rosario and LeRoy were being used as freelance until a permanent solution was found with De Nat. I still think that Rosario had more to do with the PORT WHINES score given his credit on the Ledger

-23th of January, 1930. Carl Edouarde, who did the initial recording of STEAMBOAT WILLIE, a few freelance cartoons, and the AESOP SOUND FABLES, is hired.  This is rather odd, as he does no scores to my knowledge, and had recently been severely harmed in a fire at Pathe. Perhaps this was Edouarde trying to get back into show biz after the fire? I'm not sure, I think he ended up retiring and died in '32. His scores were a bit slower and raggier compared to De Nat, I'm kinda glad he didn't take over

-9th of Feburary, the staff prepares a move to California on the 15th . By this point the four key animators are Mannie Gould, Art Davis, Allen Rose, and Freleng's assistant, Harry Love. The staff actually had to animate while on the train ride to California, according to other reports. Huemer and Marcus join the staff the following month and Davis leaves the Krazy unit to begin work on the Tobys.

-6th of May, the Toby series is officially announced.  Work would've begun fully on this point on the series, eventually though the Pathe-RKO merger bringing a preference to the Van Beuren product, and along with production to profits cost (the Tobys didn't bring in as big as numbers as RKO may of hoped), the series got killed off after one season of really good cartoons

Originally Posted by: S. C. MacPeter 



It should be noted that Toby The Pup was an evolution of a character created by Sid Marcus in Fleischer and who appears in the Screen Songs "Bedelia" and "Prisoner's Song", I have seen many people describe him as a prototype of Bimbo but in reality he has nothing to do with this character.

It's a pity that this first design was not chosen for Toby because I find it much more interesting, besides being quite original, even if the final version of the character has the merit of being the cutest.
S. C. MacPeter
a year ago
About that. Well, Sid Marcus really created Bimbo too, at least his earliest iteration in HOT DOG where the earliest dog has similar features body wise (Marcus also animates the key song scene, so I consider him the main animator of the short). He also did the two Screen Songs you named, where the prototype for both has a lot of Toby's features, especially the hairstyle. Later in 1930, Marcus directed TOBY AT THE MUSEUM (the 1st Toby), in which Huemer and Davis followed his way of drawing for that short. From that short on, whether or not a Toby was directed by Huemer or Marcus, it seems Huemer's cute way of drawing is how the series progressed, giving Toby a smaller body and a larger head for more expression. It's quite interesting to see the progression from the half survivors.

(There is another white pooch in I'M AFRAID TO GO HOME IN THE DARK, a Huemer Screen Song, but the character is drawn much more like the Inkwell Fritz than Bimbo, so I don't count this dog in the evolution towards both)
Zachary
a year ago
Thanks for posting about the ledgers, Strumm. I've long been aware of the LeRoy Shield credit in the entry for Canned Music (which, curiously enough, credited Bourdon onscreen according to the copyright catalog) but hadn't otherwise paid much attention to those records and their other credits. Port Whines unfortunately didn't have its onscreen musical score credit recorded in the copyright catalog.

I concur that Slow Beau must be one of the first ones made picture-wise (if not the first), and hadn't made the connection to Culhane's recollections. As with Ratskin, it has some animation that's apparently by none other than Sid Marcus, who is in a photo of the silent-era crew and was soon working at Fleischer (and his early work there has noticeably more in common stylistically with the early Krazy Kats than the fancier cartooning the Fleischer artists had been doing).

There's some good insight being shared here, but also some things I have to comment on. I'm wondering what the basis is for stating that Ben Clopton does "A LOT of footage in each cartoon until [he and Freleng] depart." In the first-season films I've had access to (i.e., those included on the Garage Sale discs), I actually don't see much animation at all that seems to be Clopton. Even Judkins and Baxter didn't ID anything as his in their "Complimentary Mintz" article. I have always had a feeling about the brief shot in (as it happens) Jazz Rhythm of the mouse hitting the dog as the "bell": it doesn't really look like any of the New Yorkers' styles, and doesn't seem to be Freleng either, but does look in line with how a former Oswald animator would draw. It may be that Clopton contributed more to the entries that haven't been accessible, and their absence is certainly an inhibiting factor in one's studying.

Not disputing that Freleng left a mark to some extent during his time at the studio; it's long appeared to me that Manny Gould in particular picked up on aspects of his style. But let's be careful and not overlook other factors in the series' evolution. The primitive appearance of the silents is hardly surprising when their release schedule was 26 cartoons per season—twice that of the final Columbia contract—and it's said the budgets were even tighter than Nolan had (as low as $900 a picture, I. Klein recalled being told). With more generous deadlines and budgets, and the adoption of cel animation in place of slash-and-tear, it only figures that Harrison and Gould—veteran animators both—and their crew would soon be producing more detailed, better-moving work going into the sound era, not necessarily due to taking after one artist or another.

Dick Huemer told Joe Adamson that during the time of the Disney Oswalds, he, Harrison, and Gould would go to theaters and study them, and the films have always seemed to reflect this to me. Apart from being drawn more simply, with sharply-cornered leg shapes, the design of Krazy in Ratskin is actually basically the same as it was later, already having an Oswald-esque round head and body shape compared to the Herriman-derived design in Nolan's films. Certain animators in this early period at times drew him less consistent with how he appears in later films, but others are already quite comparable with how they drew him later, detail level notwithstanding.

The 1930 news item about Carl Edouarde doesn't involve Charles Mintz's studio. The M. J. Mintz referenced therein is Moses J. Mintz, another figure in the film industry on the music side of things who had patented the "Thematic Music Cue Sheet" and headed Cameo Music Service Corp.

As for Toby, it's worth pointing out that The Museum was evidently already completed by May 1930, as implied by a May 10 blurb and May 24 full-fledged review in Motion Picture News. I'm curious what the source is for Huemer and Marcus arriving in March, as both Grim Natwick's and Huemer's memories point to their departure from Fleischer being in February around the time Mintz moved his studio to Hollywood. And as a reminder, the films credited Huemer and Marcus as co-directors, consistent with Huemer's own recollections of how the team worked, and what I've always found in studying them is pretty consistent with Huemer's memory. What proof is there otherwise?
S. C. MacPeter
a year ago
Some notes for you, Zachary. I meant to do a reply earlier in the week but final projects blocked me

-What did Marcus do on RATSKIN? I think you are thinking of that scene where the Native chases Krazy and shoots bows at him, which Krazy turns into a harp, but I'm not entirely sold, mostly because it seems a bit too angular, and Marcus' timing doesn't exactly seem there. If it is him, it may of been freelanced or something he did before going to Fleischers. I wish Culhane had noted when Marcus was at Krazy Kat, but it seems he didn't remember. The 1929 entry I saw (not SLEEP HOLLER) didn't have footage that was by him, almost entirely Gould, with small bits by Rose and Davis

-I have some belief that at Mintz, it seems Freleng's and Clopton's styles were near 1:1 (I may be wrong). I'd love to know more about Clopton in NY, especially since he didn't go to H-I like Freleng, he went to Iwerks to work on Flip, it would be nice to know a little more. I agree that may be him on RHYTHM, but again, not entirely sure as that cartoon makes a visual step forward after Freleng goes back to California

-You're not wrong about Gould picking up on what Freleng did, but it doesn't stand out as much to me as it does for Freleng and Davis until after Freleng leaves. Since my post reflected titles during Freleng's tenure, I wasn't making light of this, even though I should of to some extent. Titles that do not circulate do not have Gould as the footage hog he was during the silent Krazys.

-To me, the biggest improvement is in how the animation reflects in the timing. Davis picked up on that WAY before the other two animators (the scene in RATSKIN where Krazy is burning to MEAN TO ME stands out most like this), so they definitely did study, but the look is still much more angular than anything done at Winkler during this period. Content wise, the Krazys aren't as creative either, but that's probably from the extreme budget crunch Harrison and Gould did (900 dollars!).

-Thanks for noting about the Carl note. I haven't had time to investigate it further, thanks for that. Mind citing the other Mintz a little better?

-Again, I didn't have time to get an earlier announcement. I'm not even sure if there is one, but it seems that they completed the short in April 1930 and sold the series to RKO with that one cartoon sometime near May 6th
S. C. MacPeter
a year ago
Okay, I took another look at RATSKIN. It does seem that Sid Marcus does two scenes (where he is being chased by the Native, and where he dodges arrow from the other ones on top of the stake), though I'm not sure if he was there as an employee at this period or doing it freelance. I had the impression his stay was earlier in the silent run, around mid 1928. I wish I knew for certain, but I don't right now

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