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Laundry Blues (1930)

Well, I don't think we ever presented a Van Beuren cartoon on this blog, so here's the first one (and several others will follow next month). As many of you probably know, Van Beuren was one of the three main New York cartoon studios of the 1930s (the other two were Fleischer and Terrytoons). All the cartoons produced by Van Beuren were distributed by RKO Radio Pictures.

The initial output of this studio ranks amongst the strangest cartoons made during the early sound era, and it is in many elements comparable to the Terrytoons of the same period. These early Van Beuren cartoons from the "Aesop's Fables" series were raw, unpolished and very inconsistent in quality. Nearly every cartoon from the 1929-33 period had some solid animation and artwork, casually mixed with incredibly crude and incompetently drawn scenes. Added to such careless approach to animation
are some non-sequiturish storylines and occasionally truly deranged gags. The final results are weird and fascinating, while certainly not for everybody's taste. It's no wonder that Van Beuren cartoons enjoy a strong cult status among some animation fans. Another important element of these cartoons were the consistently good and entertaining musical scores provided by Gene Rodemich.

Van Beuren cartoons will eventually grow more competent and professional, and some series like "Tom & Jerry" (not the cat & mouse duo) and "Cubby Bear" became rather popular with the audience. "Cubby Bear" cartoons are particularly good, and probably the best ones ever produced by Van Beuren. Year 1934 brought some massive change to the studio, with the switch to color production, and new production supervisor: Burt Gillett - one of the main Disney directors of the early 30s. Cartoons from that last period were pleasant, but also rather unexciting and hardly distinctive among the output of the other competitive animation producers. Studio was finally closed in 1936, after RKO's decision to exclusively distribute the Walt Disney cartoons.

After being totally forgoten for a decade or two, these cartoons enjoyed their second life on the television, during the 50s and early 60s. They were also strongly present on the home movie market, through the distributors like "Official Films" and "Commonwealth". Because of that, most of Van Beuren cartoons have survived, though mainly in 16mm prints. 35mm prints are rare, and the original negatives are sadly lost for many years.

Cartoon I'm going to present today is "Laundry Blues", released on 08/17/1930. It's a funny cartoon, filled with some bizarre and outlandish gags, certainly a solid example of the typical early '30s Van Beuren production. It is also one of the "banned" and censored cartoons, really difficult to see in its original form. The reasons for that are some particularly shocking and outrageous ethnic stereotypes. Here's a rare occasion to see the screenshots from the complete and uncensored print.

Note: we at Classic Cartoons blog are not supporting the use of these and similar ethnic stereotypes. They are presented here for historic and educational purposes. However, despite the content that can be considered as unacceptable today, it's our personal opinion that these vintage cartoons must be available in complete form, at least to historians and animation fans.

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