Today we are going to talk about monkeys and how, despite many attempts by many different people, there were never any successful monkey cartoon characters. This sad fact was brought into focus by the recent release of the new THUNDERBEAN DVD, "Cultoons Volume 3: Monkeys, Monsters & More!"
THUNDERBEAN head honcho, Steve Stanchfield, has been putting together these wonderful cartoon compilations for twenty years, now. His specialty is dredging up long-lost, forgotten or never seen (!) cartoons and arranging them into entertaining home videos. Isn't that nice of him, boys and girls?
Let's take a look at some of these weird monkey cartoons Uncle Craigeroo mentioned, shall we? Go and ask your Mother if it is OK for you to look at cartoon monkeys, first. Be sure to say, "please" and "thank you."
GRAN'POP MONKEY appears in three cartoons that were produced by Ub Iwerks' "Cartoon Films Inc." studio in 1939. Based on these three titles, it looks like the gist of the series was that Gran' Pop and his nephews attempt some sort of enterprise and somehow can't pull it off. These are nice looking cartoons, and if I hadn't been tipped off that they were from Iwerks' studio, I have never guessed it as they look nothing like his earlier cartoons. Apparently they were released by MONOGRAM PICTURES here in the United States. Ub re-joined the Disney Studio shortly after and stayed there the rest of his career. Yes, boys and girls, Gran' Pop was a Gran' Flop!
MARTY THE MONK appeared in 2-1/2 cartoons produced by Boyd La Vera. Who? What? Mr. La Vera comes off as a Max Fleischer Wanna-Be as he appears in live action at the beginning of two of the cartoons included here doing the "out of the inkwell" bit sans inkwell. His first cartoon, simply entitled "Marty The Monk" is recycled as "Mere Maids" a year later.
I'm really impressed by the third cartoon, "Mexically Lilly." Not only because is it the best of the three, but Mr. Stanchfield assembled it from bits of 8mm and 16mm home movie versions and then added a completely creditable new soundtrack! Bonus points to this cartoon for the steamy bedroom scene between Marty and Lilly, the fan dancer!
Now, children, the next monkey is a stop-motion pipe cleaner monkey! It is a short bit of experimental footage created by Len Lye in 1935. Many people find this the scariest monkey ever committed to film (take that, King Kong!) My daughter and I find him cute and engaging, though.
In this fragment, the monkey sings the "Peanut Vendor" song, removes his tail to do the rumba and a palm tree dances. Now, really, boys and girls, does that sound so scary?
Uncle Craigenstein would be remiss if he didn't mention two other monkey cartoons before we go today.
One cartoon actually has three monkeys in it! Their names are Meany, Miney and Moe. They were a creation of the Walter (Woody Woodpecker) Lantz studio and starred in a series of cartoons in the second half of the 1930s. The title included on THUNDERBEAN'S "Return of the 30's Characters" DVD is "House of Magic" from 1937. The cartoons shows what happens when three monkeys take refuge in a Magic Shop during a rain storm. Doesn't that sound exciting?
Uncle VonCraigenhooper has saved the best monkey cartoon for last! It is from the CULTOONS V.1 disc and it is "Monkey Doodle" (1931) by Les Elton. Yes, boys and girls, Uncle McCreggy remembers watching this confusing cartoon as a very young child on WGR in Buffalo, NY. The passage of time has not revealed what, exactly, this short is "about." Simon the Monk and his friend (slave?) Winthrop the dog wake up in the morning and do stuff all day long until the sun goes down. Things happen, but nothing really seems to make sense. Bonus points, again, to Mr. Stanchfield for "restoring" missing scenes from various home movie prints. And once again, there is a hot monkey bedroom scene!
Well that's it, for today, boys and girls. Dry your tears. These were only cartoon monkeys. They can't hurt you. Except in your feverish monkey nightmares that you all are sure to be plagued with for the rest of your lives.
And remember; today is another "Be Kind To Mothers Day!"