This Saturday, the archive video guru, Eric Graf sat down to begin digitizing an amazing collection of Fleischer Bouncing Ball cartoons. These were among the most popular cartoons of their day; however, taken out of their original theatrical context, it isn’t quite the same experience viewing them today.
Each cartoon consisted of an animated introduction, followed by an invitation by the narrator to "Follow the bouncing ball…" A singalong section designed to get the whole audience singing was followed by an animated singalong where the characters interacted with the words of the song. If you’ve ever seen any of these films projected on the big screen, you know what fun it is to be singing along, and suddenly have the cartoon characters start cavorting with the words you’re singing.
This film is interesting, because it includes some early attempts at lipsync. The rabbit conductor speaks to the audience in stilted speech, obviously designed to be understood over the primitive theater sound systems of the time. But the stilted speech and the bizzarre drawings create a truly weird and wonderful effect. Drawings this strange don’t happen by accident! Still frame through this scene and check them out. John K theorizes that this scene might be some sort of animation equivalent of exquisite corpse. Marc Deckter has provided lots of great frame grabs of the crazy lipsync at his blog, Duck Walk.
An interesting side note is that the narrator who refers to the rabbit as “funny boy” is none other than pioneer recording artist, Billy Murray, disguising his natural tenor as a baritone. He narrates many of the Fleischer cartoons of this era, and provided the original voice for Bimbo.
We are fortunate to have over ten hours of Fleischer Screen Songs on Beta tapes. With your support, we have assembled a video digitization station where we can capture video. There’s literally hundreds of hours of cartoons waiting to be digitized… the entire Terrytoons syndication package donated by John Kricfalusi. The Warner Bros and MGM laserdisc box sets, the complete run of Format Films’ Alvin Show, and classic television commercials from the 1950s and 60s. As time and funding allow, we will be adding this material to our database.
This posting is part of an online exhibit entitled Grim Natwick’s Scrapbook.