Andrea/Duck Dodgers here. I friendly welcome every fan of animation at my blog. The goal is to support the love and rediscovery of Classic Theatrical Cartoons from the Golden Age of Animation, keeping meanwhile an eye on Golden Age "Funny Animals" Comics as well as on modern animated productions! Every SUPPRESSED ethnic caricature to be sometimes presented here is just for HISTORICAL and EDUCATIONAL purpose and NOT to offend anyone. Stay Tooned and Enjoy the place !

Friday, August 03, 2007

Oswald the Lucky Rabbit in "Hell's Heels" and "Spooks"

Perhaps the biggest surprise of the recently released "Woody Woodpecker and Friends" DVD box set is the inclusion of several Oswald the Lucky Rabbit cartoons produced by Walter Lantz between 1930 and 1934. These cartoons, unseen by many decades and unavailable on home video, have reached the strong cult status among the small circle of initiated cartoon fans. With the recent reacquisition of character rights by Walt Disney studio, there was a fear that Lantz Oswald cartoons might remain forever in a legal limbo. Luckilly, that's not the case, and I hope that more of these cartoons will eventually become available, because in my opinion they belong among the most unique and inventive cartoons of the early 30s (and much further).
You can read the whole turbulent history of Oswald the Lucky Rabbit on the excellent The Walter Lantz Cartune Encyclopedia web site.

The man who's most responsible for peculiar qualities of these cartoons was animator/co-director Bill Nolan, a veteran from the pioneering days of animation (he started in 1912). Nolan worked at Barre, Bray and Hearst studios, animated on Felix the Cat for several years, and also served as a director and producer on Krazy Kat cartoons during the second half of 20s.
Nolan was a fast and skilled animator, often compared with Ub Iwerks. He was also a fearless experimentator, a real early 30s precursor of Rod Scribner and Jim Tyer. His style can be described as the most extreme version of rubber-hose animation, and many of his scenes assume an almost abstract quality.
Despite being produced on the West Coast, Oswald cartoons boosted a strong New York influence (courtesy of Nolan). However, Lantz and Nolan almost immediately developed their own particular kind of nightmarish surrealism, quite different from anything produced at New York or Hollywood studios. These "stream of consciousness" cartoons had absolutely no real plots, just the most basic premise that served as an excuse for some of the strangest and most bizarre gags and drawings. Another interesting element is the sketchy background style, unseen in other cartoons of that time. Some of the background drawings remind me of George Herriman's Krazy Kat comics, or Cliff Sterrett.

I hope you'll enjoy these screenshots from "Hell's Heels" and "Spooks" (both cartoons from 1930). Perhaps they will inspire some young aspiring cartoonists... I would really love to see somebody today trying to adopt and further develop this fascinating and forgotten animation style.

Beside the titles included on Woody DVD set, I've seen only 12 Oswald cartoons so far. Does anybody have a larger quantity of these cartoons and wants to trade them for some other rarities? Anybody who's interested can contact me by using the e-mail address on my blog profile (look for Hammerson).

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Blogger Kevin Langley said...

I had only seen a few Oswald shorts before the Woody set came out and I don't recall them being as good as the ones just release. Every second of them is pure fun and entertainment.

4:11 pm

Blogger J. J. Hunsecker said...


Try going to this "Garage Sale" and ask Jerry about THE LOST CARTOONS project. It includes 21 DVDs of cartoons. I have 4 discs that contain Oswald cartoons. They have timecodes, though.

11:36 pm

Blogger Hammerson said...

Kevin: The earliest Oswalds are really the best. What I wrote in my article mostly applies to the 1929-1930 cartoons. After that, they began to lose their experimental edge, though they remained to be good and enjoyable (at least until the re-design of Oswald in mid-30s). I really loved all Oswald cartoons that were included in Woody set.

J.J.: Thanks a lot! I will contact Jerry.

4:57 am

Anonymous Anonymous said...

When the surviving Disney Oswalds are released this fall, you'll find that the outrageous tone effectively began during the first season. Watching it created by a team that includes Iwerks, Harman, Ising and Freleng is nothing short of stellar!

11:21 pm


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