31 October 2009

An Oswald Trick (Or Treat)

Little time to blog today; big Halloween doings. But I couldn't let the holiday pass without a special Ramapith commemoration.

When Walt Disney's Oswald the Lucky Rabbit staff moved on in 1928, that wasn't the end of Disney's 26 Oswald cartoons. Some were reissued with sound by Universal in the 1930s. Others survived in a less direct way, as former Oswald staffers remade them—or remade elements of them—with other star characters. Oswald's Harem Scarem (1927) became Disney's later Mickey in Arabia (1932). Oswald's Rival Romeos (1928) became Ub Iwerks' Flip the Frog short Ragtime Romeo (1931).

But no one did remakes quite like Hugh Harman and Rudy Ising did remakes. Their early Looney Tunes boasted so much Oswald mimickry that Bosko himself might as well have been a lucky rabbit minus the ears. And Disney's Ozzie of the Mounted (1928), in particular, was a source of gags and story like none other.
Here's the silent Ozzie now with a rather suspicious... soundtrack (!). Can you use the plot elements to tell us where it comes from?

I'll update this blogpost later with the answer(s). Happy Halloween!

Update, November 18: As some of you guessed, Hugh and Rudy's Looney Tune Big Man From the North (1931) provided most of my score because it's the most direct Ozzie of the Mounted remake—in part, anyway. Let's have a look at it now; while the opening is virtually identical, the plots diverge some of the way through. Pete's sled dogs in Mounted become Bosko's dogs in Big Man. And lots of Big Man's action takes place inside the saloon, whereas Oswald and Pete stay outside. (My pet theory is that Honey already worked there, and Oswald didn't want Bosko to catch him with her. Stop looking at me like that.)

One Mounted element that didn't make it into Big Man was the robot horse, because Hugh and Rudy decided to give him a Looney Tune of his own. (Or rather "its" own? This four-legged Dalek is the least sentient cartoon robot I've ever seen...) Here's Ups 'n' Downs (1931), from which more of my soundtrack came:

Finally, I'd be remiss not to cite our friend Mark Newgarden, who noted that my Mounted revamp "syncs up too well." Doesn't it? But I won't take the credit. When researching these cartoons for this blogpost, I found that Mounted reflected a then-new trend at Disney: to animate repeating action in regulation 6-, 8-, 12-, or 24-drawing cycles, as evidenced also in Bright Lights and Rival Romeos (if not, oddly, the contemporary Sky Scrappers). These actions could thus conveniently be timed out by the second—and Harman-Ising continued the practice at Warner once the sound era began, extending it to house musician Frank Marsales in the form of a one-second beat. Adding Marsales' scoring to Ozzie of the Mounted meant the fast-action sequences had to match.

Additional pieces of my Mounted score came from H-I's Box Car Blues and Congo Jazz (both 1930); in the latter, even a triple-meter motif is built on that one-second beat.

Was Disney the first studio to effectively animate silents to a rhythm, however basic? Who initiated the practice there? (It's not in Harman-Ising's earlier Aladdin's Vamp [1926] or Disney's earlier Great Guns [1927], for instance.)


Mark Newgarden said...

This syncs up TOO well...

The Jerk said...

funny, it was the "that's all folks" at the end that gave me the clue... soundtrack is from Big Man From the North, the 1931 harmon & Ising Bosko cartoon, also about a mountie, and as you say, nearly identical in execution!

The Jerk said...

that is, the opening is nearly identical, not the entire short :-)

Frank Cifaldi said...

At least Oswald doesn't jam a sword up the dude's butt, like Bosko did. That scene makes me wince every time.

Thad said...

Oswald sucks.

Mac said...

Like how you've reinstated the "Get Your Man" titles – making it slightly more complete than the DVD.