Doctor Bluebird -- Scrappy in Happyland...
Posted: May 07, 2011
Whatever The Title It's The Cartoon That Matters!
I have only recently started to become more familiar with Columbia Studios' animation, at least as far as the Thirties and Forties, and while Warner Brothers and Disney may have led the field, there are times when Columbia produced some very striking work. 'Scrappy in Happyland' could be considered a fine example of that.
The plot is a basic one. The protagonist is Scrappy, a dark haired little boy who cannot be considered one of the more recognizable cartoon icons, and it is doubtful that if ten or twenty characters in animation history were named, he would make the list. But he is prominent in this feature which is centered on him as a child with a broken leg, sitting by his bedroom window and watching the spring or summertime go by without him. It especially hits home when he sees a friend on the way to go fishing, an action which sends him into a deep depression and has him drawing the shades so as to sit alone in the dark. What he does not realize is that all of this has been observed by the bluebird population, creatures which were introduced at the very beginning of the cartoon and in such a beautiful way that you almost hate that the story breaks away to show Scrappy's dilemma. And it is these lovely winged animals that take pity on Scrappy, causing them to decide that there must be something they can do to lift his spirits. But will it work?
The birds are elegantly drawn to the point of realism, so that when they are performing out-of-the-ordinary actions (such as riding in a merry-go-round type contraption so as to catch a worm; popping out of a row of flowers in order to play in a band; or bathing in sunshine so that they can shake the rays down upon the depressed child), it almost seems natural. You find yourself thinking that bluebirds could actually do such things! Unlike Warner Brothers animation with its' incredible humor and hysterical "violence", there is a certain poignancy to these Columbia cartoons, an almost bittersweetness in which you are unsure if there will be a happy ending. You may not be laughing your head off as you would watching Bugs and Yosemite Sam, but you find yourself simply enchanted and perhaps smiling as you watch the depth, beauty and care taken to draw these birds, even to nearly giving each one their own personality! The cartoon also manages to insert some of the well-known comedians of the time, featuring Laurel and Hardy, three of the Marx Brothers, and Chaplain's Little Tramp as bluebirds, while a buxomy Mae West butterfly makes a cameo, silently inviting her fellow "movie star" birds to come on up and see her sometime! (Harpo Bluebird is definitely interested). This cartoon does not look cheap or assembly line manufactured. It is multi-layered, like a classic live action motion picture, so that your eyes quickly scan each frame, trying to catch every movement and hoping you haven't missed a thing.
By the time it was over, I was wishing some bluebirds like these would pay me an occasional visit. These birds not only represent happiness, but they are some of the most talented, loving and creative animated birds to come along in a long time. Here's hoping you enjoy 'Slappy in Happyland' as much as I did.
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