Oswald the Lucky Rabbit presents Great Guns (1927), which leaps out of the gate with a hysterical paperboy offering a paper with the headline "Extra War!"
Originally a silent film with sound added in re-release, the paperboy, though looking mainly like a dog, is squawking like a scared duck.
The music & other sounds were added in 1932 after Walter Lantz took over the Oswald character. The sounds are often quite effective & may well have emulated what was heard even in the better silent film houses, since the more skillful organists had an array of special sound FX from their instruments.
All the animal-people are lining up to join the armed forces. Oswald, mostly designed black in the present case, hurries off to join the war effort, needing first to go brag to his bunny girlfriend that he's joining up.
Numerous animated war images follow, not funny or pleasant for the most part, just putting animals in the roles of soldiers for gory action.
Oswald gets in an aereal dogfight with a mouse in a bomber. They crash & Oswald begins to beat up the little enemy.
A military police dog or bear (doubtlessly Oswald's recurring nemesis Pete) attacks Oswald with a canon.
So Oswald turns an elephant into a canon to fight back, but accidentally blows up the elephant from inside & then Oswald gets bombed to little bits.
The fate of the elephant is to just be dead, but Oswald's girlfriend scrapes up his remains, puts them in a seltzer bottle or jigger, & oozes him out into a restored Oswald.
The cruelty of events in these early cartoons is sometimes startling given the mood of innocence. As with all the earliest Oswalds, the animation is quite primitive, but considering the budgetary restraints, cleverly done.
Ocean Hop (1927) begins with a posted sign that promises "$25,000 Prize for First Ocean Hop, New York to Paris." The silent cartoon was made the same year as the Lindbergh flight, & would've been shown in theaters together with newsreel footage of Lindbergh.
Some very excited fat little airplains at the airstrip are leaping in place eager to start the race. Pegleg Pete the one-legged bear is oiling his airplane, which lifts its wheels to be squirtted underneath.
Oswald the Lucky Rabbit rides in on what appears to be a horse with its head sticking out of a big blanket. But when Ozzie whisks off the blanket, it was a false horse head, & two mice were carrying the tiny airplane, which is made out of washtub, a couple of boards for wings, a broom for tail, plus propeller & wheels.
When he fires it up, a wing falls off, & Pete laughs raucously. But Ozzie fixes it, not noticing that Pegleg Pete chewed a stick of gum then stuck one of the wheels of Oswald's plane to the ground.
Initially a silent cartoon, with sound-words occasionally appearing on the screen (like "tick tick tick" for a pocket watch or "Boom!" for the starter gun), it was re-released by Walter Lantz in 1932 with a musical soundtrack, & some sound effects such as buzzing of airplanes & Pete laughing like a horn, squeeky sounds for Ozwald's wordless voice, & suchlike.
The planes take off but Oswald's plane is left behind struggling against the gum. Pete is getting ahead of the odd airplanes & his chances look pretty good of winning.
Oswald's cute plane, alas, broke apart & the wings flew away without Oswald or the rest of the plane. So he tries quickly to make a new airplane out of a dachshund, a paper fan, a board, & balloons. He's assisted on the ground by three bunnies one-third Oswald's size & perhaps to be regarded as his Huey Louie & Dewy.
Pete meanwhile continues to cheat & it looks like he's going to win. After several more flying gags, Pete gets out a rifle & pops Oswald's baloons. He & the weaner-dog go plummetting toward earth. We don't see where the dog lands, but Oswald lands safely at the finish line & is declared the winner even without a plane.
Oswald is riding along in an automobile that appears to have been made from a barrel or a short length of pipe. He's got a bouquet of flowers, so obviously on his way to visit his girl, who is a kitty.
A bigger animal character, apparently a bear in a tophat, but slim with a wolfish snout, is also driving along that road, having a vehicle approximating a limosine.
This is the recurring nemesis Pete again but his design changes as radically as does Oswald's. He's sometimes peglegged, but not this time; usually fat, but not this time, rarely well dressed as here.
He is in any case Oswald's rival at love in Rival Romeos (1928). He honks for Oswald to get out of the way with his slower car. The word "Honk!" appearing over Oswald's head, since it's a silent film. He puts his nose in the air & ignores highway courtesies.
Sundry visual gags involving the autos & road rage carry the tale forward. The rival's car doesn't want to drive across a muddy patch in the road, but Oswald's car leaps in the mud & splashes around.
Oswald's first to arrive at the home of the beloved, a pretty kitty, & prepares to play the banjo for her. The kitten peers lovingly from a window.
But then a goat eats Oswald's sheet music & his banjo. Oswald berates the goat demanding he spit out the banjo, then begs him to do so, then fights him for it. That's all to no avail, so he cranks the goat's tail to make music, which wakes up the kitty-girl's father who gets annoyed with Oswald.
The rival meanwhile shows up with his cool car, apparently having had to go the long way round when his car refused to go down the muddy part of the road.
The beloved kitten stands between them her two suitors, letting them yank her one way & the other, until they yank too hard & she decides she doesn't like either one of them that much. So she goes on a date with a dog instead of either of them.
Another "standard" setting for early cartoon characters is in Canada's frozen north, the key character frequently a Canadian mountie.
Such is the case with Ozzie of the Mounted (1928) opening on a snowy scene outside the log cabin headquarters of the Mounted Police.
Inside the cabin a dog smoking a pipe strides back & fourth with an angry look, a pot bellied stove in the background.
The door opens & in blows Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, instructed by the chief to capture Peg Leg Pete, Alias Putrid Pete, as shown in the frightful portrait of the Wanted Dead or Alive leaflet.
Pete, by the by, is the oldest named & continously used Disney character, first seen in an Alice comedy in 1925, last seen in A Goofy Movie (1995), & in between a nemesis for Mickey & Donald.
His nature was never very stable during his seventy year career, as he st arted out evidently a bear, but now & then rather like a dog, & in Mickey cartoons he has transmuted into a fat aggressive cat.
Additionally, he was only temporarily one-legged, & having grown it back perhaps he was part axolotyl. A curiosity of Ozzie of the Mounted is that the wanted poster identifies the villain as Pegleg Pete but when he turns up he doesn't have a pegleg at all.
Equally curious, contemporary production records identify him not as Pete but as Foxy Wolf, which may represent a preliminary character intended by the script but never made it to production. He's most certainly not a gigantic Fox, & though in some of the cartoons he's as dog-like as he is bear-like, it is nowhere else intimated he might be a wolf & he's certainly a bear in this one.
Though terribly afraid of his mission, Oswald the mountie sets out to track down Peg Leg, riding his wind-up robot horse.
Pete is snow-shoeing across the countryside toward a saloon. Oswald pulls a gigantic handgun out of his tiny pocket & tries to arrest Pete, but Pete soon has the best of him, & takes off with a mush team.
Only at this point does the story diverge from what was a partially recycled script for the Bosko cartoon Big Man from the North (1930). But Bosko ended his adventure inside the saloon, whereas Oswald never went inside at all.
His horse has sprung a spring & he has a series of gags with the problem vehicle, but finally sets off after Pete.
Gags with the robot horse continue, with gags to match for Pete & his three-dog team. Both Pete & Oswald end up pursued by a bear, with no intended irony that Pete, a bear, is afraid of a bear. He is quite willing to run for safety inside the jailhouse, though Oswald rather cruelly lets the bear get inside too.
The nonstop orchestral piece for this silent cartoon was composed & conducted by Robert Israel with the Robert Israel Orchestra.
copyright © by Paghat the Ratgirl