Dark and Deranged Classic Animation

Prompted by this recent article from Cracked, I’ve decided to post a thread dedicated to all the surprisingly dark and twisted cartoons from the Classic Era (1920’s to about 1960).

For the record, the cartoons mentioned and linked in the Cracked article are:

  1. “Swing, You Singers!” featuring Bimbo (Fleischer/Paramount)
  2. “Balloon Land” (Ub Iwerks)
  3. “Blue Cat Blues” featuring Tom & Jerry (MGM)
  4. “The Little Pest” featuring Scrappy (Charles Mintz/Columbia)
  5. “Bimbo’s Initiation” featuring Bimbo and Betty Boop (Fleischer/Paramount).

Of these, I’d seen three before (“Balloon Land”, “Blue Cat Blues”, and “Bimbo’s Initiation”). I was really surprised at “Swing, You Singers!” It made “Bimbo’s Iniation” look sane and sober in comparison.

Anyway, let’s discuss. What are your favorite wacked-out, surely-under-the-influence-of-controlled-substances cartoons from this era?

Ignore this post.

Well, it’s not surreal but is disturbingly dark: Chow Hound, a Chuck Jones 'toon from 1951.

youtube link, if you dare

It belatedly occurs to me that one of the most WTF? sequences in toon history is a bit of filler from Rocky and Bullwinkle. youtube version, with Simpsons parody thereof

I started a thread way way back to inquire about this. It got few replies, none of them particularly illuminating.

#1 above - “Swing, you Sinners” - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PqVP8a5C0V0

Betty Boop, Minnie the Moocher. In part it was the song – about a prostitute with verses about drug use and abuse.

And Snow White as well, featuring a similar performance of “St. James Infirmary”.

Oh yes, Balloon Land (1935) is famously weird! Balloon people are menaced by the Evil Pincushion Man!

Also: Tubby The Tuba (1947) a stop-motion short film featuring animated musical instruments from an orchestra - no musicians, just the instruments. And Tubby and a frog. And a melancholy discordant score. (I googled this just now and somebody had put it up on google and said it was the scariest thing he’d ever seen, so its not just me.)

Both of these were on a cheapie videotape at a videostore my little daughter and I used to go to. I rented a lot of bland kids stuff and some really old Disney cartoons from the 30’s, too. Then I picked up Balloon Land and Tubby The Tuba for a buck.

They have haunted my dreams for years. They are just so strange! I asked my now grown daughter if she remembers them, and she shuddered and said, yeah, they gave her the creeps. Then and now. Almost as bad as that damn singing orange on Sesame Street.

Disney’s Fantasia–a night on bald mountain…

“Red-Headed Baby,” 1931. Not exactly “dark” – toys coming to life and dancing – but, just what is the nature of that spider’s interest in a doll?! She’s got no blood, and what else . . .

"Hittin’ the Trail For Hallelujah Land, " 1931 – one of the notorious “Censored Eleven,” BTW.

“Porky in Wackyland,” 1938 . . . tries too hard.

Wow, I did not remember that one, most likely as it was not shown often because of the darkness and implied very violent end.

“She messed around with a bloke named Smokey / He loved her, though he was cokey / He took her down to Chinatown / And taught her how to kick that gong around.” “Kicking the gong” or “kicking Old Buddha’s gong” = doing heroin or opium. And that’s why she had a dream 'bout the King of Sweden . . .

Funny, that wasn’t my first impression.

Swing Wedding is almost more racist than weird, but not quite. I love the MGM and Harman-Ising cartoons, but hadn’t seen this one before about two weeks ago.

It’s extremely strange and bizarre, but with a bit of an element of fun: I like to name the celebrities who are lampooned in the 'toon.

You certainly can find some strange stuff on those dollar-store DVDs. Here’s one, maybe not as dark and deranged as some of the others in this thread but still odd:

Greedy Humpty Dumpty (Fleischer)

I remember this one growing up. My friends and I still remind each other not to forget the gravy.

Yep, it referred to smoking opium, at least at the time. (See the background on the song.) I think it expanded/shifted to heroin later, as in the “Ricky’s been kicking the gong” line in “A Junkie’s Lament”. It’s also mentioned in one of the follow-ups to “Minnie the Moocher”, “Minnie the Moocher’s Wedding Day”, but not in “The Ghost of Smokey Joe”. (Smokey was a cokey, you see, though he was still looking for Minnie.)

I remember one from when I was a kid that was a Merrie Melodies about a pig that gets ?kidnapped? and strapped into a contraption that force feeds him until he basically explodes. I think it was supposed to be a morality tale (Don’t be greedy for dinner), but it really freaked me out.

eta: I think it was this one, Pigs is Pigs: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kkW3XQKBy1M

Coincidentally, I just saw*** Swing, You Sinners ***Saturday night on youtube.

Yeah, it’s wonderfully subversive - and the residue of sketchwork in the animation makes it look surprisingly modern. I would have guessed it was a 60’s or 70’s homage to the Fleischers rather than the real deal.

I’ve also seen Bimbo’s Initiation, and Betty Boop in Snow White and Minnie the Moocher.

Koko’s Earth Control is nice and dark and weird, and Private Snafu’s Booby Trap is straight up ribald.