Hi-de-hi-de-hi, Cartoon Creeps! Today’s Terror Toon is a real swingin’ wake from the cats at Fleischer Studios and the Hi-De-Ho Man himself, Mr. Cab Calloway! The short is Minnie the Moocher and it’s a trip! And when I say “trip,” I sure-as-heck mean it! Released in 1932 by the aforementioned Fleischer Studios, MInnie the Moocher represents everything Fleischer was and everything Disney wasn’t, Disney made (for the most part) safe, friendly cartoons for good little boys and girls. However, Fleischer’s toons were aimed at rowdy adults with a taste for the weird. Fleischer Studios was basically a dollop of Dali for animation admirers. Minnie the Moocher is the quintessential example of that Fleischer surrealism. A rotoscoped Cab Calloway ghost walrus(!) leads the ever-popular Betty Boop and Bimbo through a nightmare world inhabited by inebriated skeletons, death row inmates in spectral form, and grotesqueries with little use for logic and physics. It seems like a drug-fueled nightmare, and it very well could be! You see, Minnie the Moocher is named for the Calloway song that plays throughout the short… and it is unquestionably about drugs! The word “cokey” in the song means exactly what you think it does and “kicking the gong around” here refers to smoking opium, although it was later applied to smoking marijuana.
This short was one of three shorts Fleischer Studios made with Cab Calloway. While the other two (Snow White and The Old Man of the Mountain) are fantastic in their own right, they don’t have the same whacked-out magic of Minnie the Moocher. There really is no other cartoon of the era that is a masterfully wackadoo as this grand work of weird. Even as a ghost walrus, Cab Calloway is just the coolest cat around. Cab’s radness and the exquisite insanity of the whole thing make this one of the true clas-sicks of animation. 🙂
For a bit o’ Hi-De-Ho-rror delivered the Fleischer way, check out the short below:
In almost any given situation, Bugs Bunny is just about the smartest smartass in the room. He’s Groucho Marx in a world of Margaret Dumonts. Bugs would almost always beat the odds, no matter how the stacked the deck was. That Looney Toon was the underdog you just knew was going to come up on top. Yet despite his remarkable winning streak, there’s one ghoul he just couldn’t lick… In 1955’s Hyde and Hare, Bugs Bunny was pitted against the most two-faced of all classic monsters… Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. In a rather unusual situation for the hilarious hare, Bugs is the victim here and remains so. Of all the monsters and madmen he’s encountered, Hyde was one he couldn’t do away with gags and pranks. There are no pies in the face or dynamite explosions… only a rabbit on the run from fiend. In a way, this makes this the closest thing to a true Looney Tunes horror film. Most of the action is Bugs trying to elude the mad monster. But as Bugs quickly discovers, there is nowhere to run and nowhere to Hyde…
The ending of this short is particularly fascinating. After having drank all of Dr. Jekyll’s infamous formula, Bugs turns into a hideously green monster. However, unlike the good doctor, Bugs Bunny’s personality remains intact! Dr. Jekyll has a hidden side and an inner evil that’s brought out by the potion.. but Bugs only changes physically. Bugs Bunny is, and always has been, a monster! For a game of Hyde and Shriek, check out the cartoon below:
For a creature who seldom ventures away from the Paris Opera, The Phantom of the Opera certainly gets around! While not quite as popular as Dracula or Frankenstein, The Phantom does have a highly respectable number of adaptations and spoofs to his name. The Phantom has haunted slasher films, monster movie crossovers, Mexican parody films, and even cartoons! In fact, The Phantom has starred in a great number of cartoons over the years! Some are scary, some are silly, but all are a testament to the hypnotic hold The Phantom has had on audiences for decades.
In 1930, Universal had made a killing off of a re-release of 1925’s The Phantom of the Opera with a brand-new score and dialogue recorded for the film. Once again, the Opera Ghost scared up a lot of money for Universal, proving that the Old Ghoul could delight audiences in the sound era. With The Phantom’s “phantastic” success, it made a great deal to capitalize on this with a crossover with another universal property: Oswald the Lucky Rabbit.
The result of this pairing was Spooks, a creepy cartoon caper and an absolute gem. There are few things I love more than a spooky old cartoon, and this short is just rich with the kind of imagery that reminds one of the glory of Halloween. The animation on display is a bit on the sketchy side, but that only adds to its charm. Our Phantom is very Chaney-like in appearance, complete with a surprisingly gruesome deformity. At the very least, he’s creepier than Gerard Butler.
(He-Man counts as a superhero, right? Let’s say yes… 😉 Regardless, it’s Saturday, and to us 80s kids that means cartoon time!! Here’s some cl-ass-ic He-Man heroics to get ya feelin’ pumped for the weekend, as well as a Master-ful review by Prince Adam of Eternia…though, he might be a bit biased on this one. 😉 Have a Super Saturday, Masturbators of the Universe!! 😉 xoxo)
“The hordes of Hordak attack Eternia! Eternia is under attack and a woman named Despara is at the lead. When He-Man discovers her true identity, one closely connected to him, it will take all of his power to stop her from destroying everything and everyone he loves. No one in Eternia is safe!” (DC Comics)
So far I’ve read two He-Man and the Masters of the Universe graphic novels, which I have reviewed for this site. Both times, I came away extremely happy. Well, I’ve read another volume and absolutely LOVED it. This is most definitely my favourite story of the three so far. It picks up from the previous volume, at the funeral of the sorceress Zoar, aka Teela’s mother and namesake. Teela is still reeling and furious from the revelation of her maternal parentage. She is angry with her father for withholding this secret, and is resentful to her mother, for not being a mother to her. I was pleased to see that these story points carry over. I was also a little surprised, since I’m so used to the cartoon and its typical one and done episode format. While all the royalty of Eternia and Masters of Eternia are attending Zoar’s memorial service, Hordak’s army attacks the capitol city Eternos, led by Despara. The attack was so unexpected, surprising and forceful. The fact that this attack happened in the midst of a crowd of people, in a very peaceful and serene environment, hit very real chords. Most real life terrorists attacks occur when unexpected and in the midst of a large crowd. Maybe I’m more sensitive to this stuff, given the world we live in today, but these pages hit me harder than expected. For a brief moment, it made this fantasy world real. You can’t help but get emotionally invested, and want He-Man and company to kick some Hordak ass!
When reviewing the first volume, I noted how it expanded and fleshed out the mythology. This volume takes that even further. I don’t remember much of Hordak from the cartoon but I like that in this book, he’s described as a vampire who’s exited long before even creation itself. There’s plenty of intrigue revolving around Hordak’s horde commander Despara. Despara is really Adora, who was a childhood friend of Teela. Their friendship was secret, because Adora was venturing to the gardens of Eternos from Etheria, which in this telling, is essentially the underworld of Eternia. Adora thought she was the human daughter of Hordak, but it is revealed that she is the daughter of King Randor, and twin sister of Prince Adam. She came to Hordak’s control because he believes that the children of King Randor were the literal manifestation of Eternia’s power. So he makes a deal with King Randor’s brother. In exchange for power, which transforms him into Skeletor, he would kidnap the children. Zoar managed to intercept him, saving Prince Adam, but not Princess Adora. The reason Adam and Randor don’t remember Adora, is due to Zoar erasing their memories. Writer Keith Giffen is clearly a fan of the property and borrows from the 80’s cartoon, the newer adventures from 2002, and putting his own conceits in to the mix. I thought a flashback to Adora’s origin being mixed in with the main story was a smart move. The juxtaposition between her past and present self is quite different. As a child, Adora was sweet and innocent. Picture one of the Olsen twins, or Lindsey Lohan, before they went batshit crazy. Her present self as Despara is a mix of Faora from Man of Steel and a dominatrix. What I find really smart about this story, is that it doesn’t have a completely happy or joyful ending. Hordak and his minions gain a stronghold on Eternia, and blow up Castle Greyskull. That and the continuous war make things very bleak for our heroes. The only positivity in the end, is He-Man saving Teela, Adora realizing her true parentage and joining He-Man and Teela to repel Hordak, at least temporarily. I compared the first volume to Star Wars: A New Hope. This volume is more along the lines of Empire Strikes Back. Despite being a more serious book, they have humor in the banter between Prince Adam and Teela! If you thought their interaction was hilarious in volume one, it’s even more funny the first time around. Another great choice was not to have Adora become full on She-Ra in this story. It’ll be better served when the character has fully come to terms with who she is, and the legacy and role she must assume. It makes no sense for the writer to blow this load all in one story.
Pop Mhan brings this fantastic story to life with his drawings. He’s been a part of the art team on both of the other two He-Man stories I’ve read. With the other two books, he’s only drawn parts of the story, while here he’s the main man. I think the more he’s drawn these characters, the better his work has gotten. We get to see more of Eternia in this book. Two locations highlighted are Eternos and Etheria. Eternos looked like a blending of ancient Greece, ancient Rome and Asgard combined. Meanwhile, Etheria is very dark, technological, and sterile. Hordak looks somewhat like a giant bat, surrounded by some mechanical elements. He shares more in common with his 2002 animated counterpart. For the first time ever, I noticed that Hordak’s army looks a bit like cylon’s from Battlestar Galactica. If you want to see how fierce and violent Adora is as Despara, the page where she stabs Teela who is in a cage is all the proof you need. In my previous review, it was clear that Pop Mhan is great at depicting action. There’s a great page featuring a full page spread of Eternia under attack with He – Man falling from a building above, towards all the chaos. It’s a spectacular piece of art. Seeing Castle Greyskull blown up broke my inner childhood heart. Over the course of reading 3 volumes of this title, I’ve seen Prince Adam hold up his sword and proclaim; I have the power”, many times. The depiction of it in this book is easily the best so far.
I really hope that the filmmakers behind the Masters of the Universe reboot use this iteration as reference. It tells a story that appeals to all ages of He-Man fandom, and treats the franchise as something more than a tool to sell action figures. The art is very cinematic and already looks like highly detailed storyboards. If you’re not reading this series, you’re missing out on a fascinating story, and one of the best examples of fantasy super heroics being told today. (“Well, I guess that answers my question…” 😉 -D.P.)