Sunday, April 17, 2011

Swing You Sinners!

"Were I called on to define, very briefly, the term Art, I should call it 'the reproduction of what the Senses perceive in Nature through the veil of the soul.'"~ Edgar Allan Poe

Oh Boy! What has Bimbo gotten himself into now?

(For those of you who don't know, Bimbo the Dog was one of Fleischer Studios leading characters who paved the way for Betty Boop. With her first on screen appearance as Bimbo's girlfriend, Betty was soon transferred to a leading role while Bimbo became her side kick. You can read all about him here. )

This is a great cartoon for a number of reasons. First of all, its everything a cartoon should be: hilarious, mischievous, a little risque', and incredibly entertaining to watch. I love the way every single little detail is alive and plays some role in the overall display of Bimbo's guilt-ridden fear. Another reason why this cartoon is a great display of the Gothic genre is that, much like the characters within Edgar Allan Poe's writing and Freud's description of the Uncanny, it takes every day objects and transforms them into co-conspirators working with Bimbo's paranoid thoughts.

Anthropomorphism-Say it out loud. Ann-throe-Poe-moooorph-iiiiiiism
What a great word. One of the reasons why I love language is because of words like this. It defines multiple ontological states attached to inanimate objects and its made up of a lot of different words in itself. You can do a lot with it. I digress...anyway...

Anthropomorphism is key to these types of cartoons: A) to bind the story together B) to physically narrate whats going through Bimbo's head. Although these cartoons do have sound, creating an actual dialogue I would assume was pretty expensive seeing as you had to pay the voice talent. If you could get the animators to say indirectly as much as voice talent could say directly, I'm pretty sure you would stick with your animators to not blow the top on the studios budget.
Anthropomorphism also shows us how ridiculous the human mind is. When you think of a gravestone with eyes, a talking tree, or locks which eat up keys, you may think of a child's drawing. I know when I was a kid every single thing I drew had a little face on it and played some sort of role in every story I made up (although, now that I think about it, I watched a whole lot of these same cartoons and probably pilfered my ideas from them). However, although childlike, the anthropomorphic elements display how the human mind constructs its environments of fear.
As stated in Poe's Tell-Tale Heart and The Fall of the House of Usher:

t is impossible to say how first the idea entered my brain, but, once conceived, it haunted me day and night." ~Tell-Tale Heart

" I know not how it was - but, with the first glimpse of the building, a sense of insufferable gloom pervaded my spirit. I say insufferable ; for the feeling was unrelieved by any of that half-pleasurable, because poetic, sentiment, with which the mind usually receives even the sternest natural images of the desolate or terrible. I looked upon the scene before me - upon the mere house, and the simple landscape features of the domain - upon the bleak walls - upon the vacant eye-like windows - upon a few rank sedges - and upon a few white trunks of decayed trees - with an utter depression of soul which I can compare to no earthly sensation more properly than to the after-dream of the reveller upon opium - the bitter lapse into everyday life - the hideous dropping off of the veil. There was an iciness, a sinking, a sickening of the heart - an unredeemed dreariness of thought which no goading of the imagination could torture into aught of the sublime. What was it - I paused to think - what was it that so unnerved me in the contemplation of the House of Usher ? It was a mystery all insoluble ; nor could I grapple with the shadowy fancies that crowded upon me as I pondered. I was forced to fall back upon the unsatisfactory conclusion, that while, beyond doubt, there are combinations of very simple natural objects which have the power of thus affecting us, still the analysis of this power lies among considerations beyond our depth. It was possible, I reflected, that a mere different arrangement of the particulars of the scene, of the details of the picture, would be sufficient to modify, or perhaps to annihilate its capacity for sorrowful impression ; and, acting upon this idea, I reined my horse to the precipitous brink of a black and lurid tarn that lay in unruffled lustre by the dwelling, and gazed down - but with a shudder even more thrilling than before - upon the remodelled and inverted images of the gray sedge, and the ghastly tree-stems, and the vacant and eye-like windows."~ The Fall of the House of Usher

Anyway, I hope you enjoy this cartoon as much as I do.

P.S. Sing You Sinners was a song written and composed by Sam Coslow and W. Franke Harling
Another reason why "Swing You Sinners" is so great is that it featured popular music from the time.

Duke Ellington and the Harlem Hot Chocolates also performed their own version of the tune in 1930.