Jolly Little Elves
Posted: November 18, 2002
An Early Triumph for Walter Lantz
Jolly Little Elves was the first "Cartune Classic" made by the Walter Lantz unit at Universal. Although he had produced the color sequence in the feature film "The King of Jazz" (incidentally the earliest use of technicolor in any animation) Lantz had not been able to return to color in his regular shorts due to the expense involved. For his first color short Lantz and Bill Nolan produced a deluxe version of the Shoemaker and the Elves story (in eight minutes rather than the customary six) and sprinkled it liberally with modern elements and a dose of light, but pointed, contemporary satire. This approach worked, and "Jolly Little Elves" was hugely successful. It was nomintaed for an Academy Award in 1935. This reportedly scared Disney, who felt he least of all needed competition from his old nemesis Walter Lantz. But Disney had nothing to worry about, as Universal wasn't about to pony up and allow the Lantz unit to covert to all-color cartoon shorts. Rather the "Cartune Classics" series would only be allowed a limited number of color subjects per year, and would basically peter out by 1937. Nonetheless, "Jolly Little Elves" was a major achievement for the Lantz studio, and may have been the best cartoon produced in all of 1934.
While Tex Avery is not officially credited in connection this cartoon, he certainly had some share in it, as Tex remade it, with certain gags lifted verbatim, as the "The Peachy Cobbler" (1950) for MGM.
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