Vintage Cartoon Scares: ‘Skeleton Frolic’ (1937)

On Halloween a few years back, I posted an early Disney cartoon with the title The Skeleton Dance (see below). This 1937 short, although not in Disney’s Silly Symphonies canon (it was released as part of Columbia Studios A Color Rhapsody series of cartoons instead), appears to be very close to a remake in colour, with a number of sequences which are almost identical to the earlier cartoon.

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Vintage Cartoon Scares: ‘Hell’s Bells’ (1929)

Here’s another early Walt Disney pre-Code animated short from the long-running Silly Symphonies series. Released just before Halloween 1929, Hell’s Bells was directed by Disney himself, drawn by his frequent collaborator Ub Iwerks, and distributed by Columbia Pictures.

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Vintage Cartoon Scares: ‘Felix The Ghostbreaker’ (1923)

Today’s spooky/silly cartoon features one of the most popular (and still recognisable) animated characters of the silent film era – Felix the Cat. First introduced to the big screen in the immediate aftermath of World War One, and possibly based on an earlier animated version of Charlie Chaplin, this cheeky and slightly surreal black and white cat was an immediate success with critics and the cinema-going public alike.

In this 1923 short, Felix encounters a ghost who is up to no good. Following the spook, he sees it scare an unsuspecting householder and the man’s livestock. The householder calls out the reserves to rescue his property from the ghost, but that doesn’t work – so Felix offers to try to lure the ghost away with a bottle of rum! Once the phantom is off the property, Felix pulls a gun on it and, in a reveal worthy of Scooby Doo, we discover it is really a human rival of the householder who is trying to scare him into selling his home…

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Vintage Cartoon Scares: ‘Le Squelette Joyeux’ (1897-8)

This is the first in a slightly belated series of spooky (and slightly silly) seasonal posts. All Hallows Eve may have come and gone, but the clocks have gone back and the nights are drawing in. The end of the year is not far away, which makes this the perfect time to be telling tales of ghostly apparitions around the fire – indeed, Christmas ghost stories are a genre unto themselves.

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Happy Valentine’s Day!

It’s Valentine’s Day, and love is in the air…

Or perhaps not, if you’re me!

But because I’m a soppy old romantic (no, really, I am), I thought I’d share this very educational newsreel clip with you. Going by the clothing and design shown, this piece of film was probably made sometime in the 1960s – and it compares Victorian and Edwardian Valentine’s cards with the mass-produced romantic greetings of the mid 20th century, showing how the latter are made (with the high-tech, ultramodern help of a computer, no less).

The centrality of this ‘masculine’, modern industrial technology, and the mention of “this year’s sweetheart” being “next year’s wife” makes me wonder if this report was, at least in part, designed as a half-hearted (and somewhat stereotypical) little reminder of the date for the male population of the UK at the time!

Whether you’re on a date tonight, having a cosy night in with a significant other, or on your own (especially if you’re on your own), I hope you have a lovely evening  – and always remember to tell the people you love that you love them, whatever the day…

You can find more romantic goodies and other interesting things at the British Movietone channel on YouTube.

Christmas on Film: ‘The Insects’ Christmas’ (1913)

This wonderful early example of stop-motion animation was made in Russia just before the First World War. A charming and quirky film, this is the work of the relatively unknown animation pioneer Wladyslaw Starewicz (1882-1965). Starting work in animation at least ten years before Walt Disney (who, as we know, grabbed all the headlines) and almost by accident, Starewicz produced films in Lithuania, Russia and France over a long career that lasted until his death in the mid-1960s.

His interest in insects ran alongside his interest in film, eventually resulting in works like The Insects’ Christmas. In 1910, he became Director of the Museum of Natural History in Kaunas (Lithuania), where he studied various bugs and beetles by filming their activities. This obviously inspired him, and these creepy-crawlies became insect puppets after their short lives were over, transforming into his stars in imaginative works like this.

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Rugby on Ice (1950)

As with many things in life, I came across this somewhat bizarre little newsreel clip while I was looking for something else entirely (I was actually searching YouTube for videos of football being played in extreme weather – you can find my playlist of that here). When I saw this  frankly odd snippet of film, I couldn’t resist posting it here for your enjoyment too!

Since we are in the midst of the Rugby Union Autumn Internationals and the Rugby League World Cup (England have reached the final!), it seemed like the perfect time to share this quirky look at what has to be one of the most unpleasantly cold and uncomfortably violent crossover sports imaginable (and I’ve played actual rugby. In the actual mud).

Filmed at the Streatham Ice Rink in south London (I honestly can’t see this type of game being played on the beautiful green reaches of the Twickenham pitch!), and, according to the narrator “a mixture of rugby and American footer”, this 8-a-side match between the Senators and the Royals  doesn’t actually seem to have much in the way of tactics going on – unless you count falling over in a heap and shoving the opposition off the ice at 25mph as tactical play!

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Vintage Animal Magic: ‘Dog Fashions’ (1958)

The world is a thoroughly horrible place at the moment. Every day it seems to get worse and worse. I don’t know about you, but I’m spending a lot of time looking at pictures of cute animals in an attempt to bleach my brain of the terrible things that appear on the news daily. It works – for a while, anyway. So here’s a newsreel snippet of some very trendy 1950s doggos in their designer outfits for you. I hope it makes you smile!

For more from British Pathé (including some fascinating film on vintage fashion for humans), follow their YouTube channels here and here.

Vintage Cartoon Scares: ‘The Skeleton Dance’ (1929)

Are we feeling spooky? If not, here’s a creepy treat for you this Halloween night. This funky little cartoon is an early Disney animation, and the first of their long-running Silly Symphonies series (reputed to have inspired Warners to call their equivalent Loony Tunes). The plot (what there is of one) is simple but effective: four skeletons cheerfully dance round a graveyard in the dead of night, only stopping their leaping, skipping and jumping when dawn begins to break.

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